• Published 4th May 2012
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Secrets and Lies - SaddlesoapOpera



A gripping and emotional tale continuing the story started in the Pony Psychology Series.

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What You Sow

SECRETS AND LIES
By Saddlesoap Opera
Part Seven: What You Sow


Twilight Sparkle’s pulse pounded in her ears as she sat on the side of the street and took in the sight of Ponyville’s descent into chaos. Conflict and misery were mounting by the second, the residents were at each other’s throats, the weather was worsening…

And it was all her fault.

“I… I…” Twilight tipped over onto the muddy ground and hugged her tail. “I don’t know what to do!”

Pinkie Pie sat in her red wagon nearby, stock-still and unmoved by Twilight`s cry.

Twilight curled up into a fetal position as the rain pattered on her hide. She squeezed her eyes tightly shut.

“I let you down, Princess! You trusted me with the Elements, and I…”

“…You crapped the bed! Hee hee!”

Twilight opened her eyes; a leering skull stared down at her. Topsy Turvy was there, her lean body intact but her face a fleshless horror.

Twilight frowned. “Enough, Twilight,” she muttered bitterly. “Enough hallucinating and imagining and obsessing. What’s the point? It’s over. You lost.”

“Couldn’t a’ said it better myself!” chirped Topsy’s animate corpse. “But you’re not quite done yet, Twily!”

Twilight sighed. “Oh? Okay, subconscious – what’s left for me to mess up?”

“Twilight, Twilight, Twilight.” The late Topsy shook her head. “Don’t you see? You’re still ALIVE!”

Twilight raised an eyebrow. “What?”

Topsy’s remains giggled, her jawbone chattering. When she spoke again, it was in Twilight’s voice: “I’ve ruined my life, failed the Princess, lost all my friends, and doomed Equestria! Now all I can do… is die.”

Twilight shivered. “N-No… no, I can’t. Even if I… if I wanted to… the Element of Magic, it… it won’t…”

“Aww, that’s no biggie!” The ghoulish Earth Pony tilted her head and mimicked Princess Celestia: “You will live as long as you care to.” She grinned as much as her lipless face would allow. “You’ve done enough, my most disappointing student. Better to cut your losses and end it all now, before you live to see the full extent of your complete and utter failure.”

Tears welled up in Twilight’s eyes. Her heart sank. “I did. I f-failed. I’m so sorry…”

Topsy’s corpse sat down and nodded sympathetically, returning to her usual sing-song voice. “I know. It’s sad, really. You tried, you did your best, but in the end you just weren’t good enough.”

Twilight sniffled. “I r-ruined everything…”

Her hallucination sighed. “Yeah. Only a matter of time before You-Know-Who gets out, now. And you KNOW you can’t face that again. All alone, your friends turned against you, the one sane Pony in a world gone crazy…”

Twilight shook her head fiercely and choked out a sob. “I can’t! I can’t face it alone! Not again! I’m s-so tired…”

Twilight’s victim backed away, giving her room. Her mocking voice turned as soft and soothing as a warm bath. “So tired. No use. No hope. Can’t go on. It hurts so much. Please… it’s better this way. Just let go… let go… let go…

“L-Let go…” Twilight relaxed, letting herself sink in the cold mud. She felt her pulse begin to slow. Her sidelong view of Ponyville’s storm-greyed streets lost still more of its colour. Her eyelids fluttered and closed.

The imagined Topsy leaned forward, her eye sockets fixed on the weakening rise and fall of Twilight`s ribcage in silent anticipation.

“Twilight?”

“…Spike?” The little Dragon’s voice had partially roused Twilight from her decline. She half-opened one eye.

Spike was standing next to Pinkie’s wagon. He was staring in confusion.

“I, uh, I tried to talk to Rarity, but she’s still really upset. So… how come you’re lying in the mud? And who’s that?”

Twilight shifted slightly; her thready pulse was hardly moving any blood. Her limbs felt like they were pinned down with iron chains. “Tha’ss jusst P-Pinkie, Spike,” she slurred. “You’ll hafta take care of her, okay?”

Spike raised a scaled eyebrow. “Well, yeah, I know who Pinkie is. I meant, who’s the Pony in the skull mask?”

Twilight’s eyes opened fully; she raised her head and gasped. “Wha–”

Topsy Turvy smashed an exceedingly solid and shod front hoof across Twilight’s jaw, forcing her head back down into the mud.

“Oh, Spike, Spike, Spike…” said Topsy with a rueful chuckle. “I’m the Pony who’s gonna kill your mommy!”

She lunged forward, bringing her hooves down on top of Spike before he or Twilight could react. Topsy’s right hoof crushed Spike’s fallen sunglasses, and her left hoof landed on his right arm.

Topsy peered over her shoulder at Twilight and then jerked her leg downward in a twisting stomp.

Spike let out a strangled scream, sparks and greenish smoke escaping his mouth with the sound. Once Topsy shifted, Spike lay on his side in the mud. He cradled his fractured limb and whimpered.

Topsy turned to face Twilight and then slipped off her carved wooden mask and tossed it aside.

“For peat’s sake!” she said in mock frustration. “Trust a Dragon to mess up a good joke, amirite? Guess I’ll have to do a little dragon-slaying before I go back to work on you!”

She turned back to Spike and raised her front hooves for a deathblow.

“NO!” Twilight raised her head and ignited her horn.

• • • • • • •

The pale green Earth Pony stallion brushed a lock of his sweaty brown mane out of his eyes and then peered through the narrow window on the hospital room’s door.

Inside the room, a silver-maned blue Earth Pony was sitting in the middle of the room, howling like a lonely coyote.

“Number twenty-two… minor agitation,” he said to himself. He turned to the clipboard hanging from a nail next to the door, grabbed the string-tied pencil hanging there with his teeth, and made a quick note calling for a doctor to investigate. “At this rate, we might actually get the place back to normal!”

He straightened his guard’s uniform and trotted on to the next room, where the newest arrival had been put. He looked inside.

“Oh, CRUD!”

Inside, the pink-maned yellow Pegasus was sprawled on the floor with her back to the door, her restraints twisted and her mane and tail in disarray. A crimson puddle surrounded her head.

The stallion hastily unlocked the door and galloped to the Pegasus’s side.

“Hay! Hay, can you hear me?” he asked. He reached down with his front hooves and rolled the Pegasus over.

Her eyes were closed, her mouth was splattered red and flecked with chewed-up seed husks, and a drinking straw was stuck between her lips.

The stallion raised an eyebrow. “What happened to your bridle?” He dabbed a hoof in the red stain and cautiously sniffed it.

“Wait… this isn’t bl–”

The Pegasus’s eyes snapped open, and her cheeks ballooned. With a barely-audible ftt, a small, red-stained yellow feather shot out of the straw and embedded itself in his neck.

The stallion jumped backward in alarm. “Ow! What the…?”

He staggered; the floor swayed. “I n-need to get the… I need t-to…” A warm, syrupy numbness crawled its way through his limbs.

“… g-get the n-n-nu-ur-r-r-s-s-s…” He collapsed.

Fluttershy spat out the last of the chewed-up berries and cracked seeds and licked her numbed lips.

She leaned forward and grabbed the key ring off the guard’s belt with her teeth. Once her hitch was unlocked, she got to her hooves and pressed her ear to the guard’s ribcage. He groaned. She patted him on the side with a hoof.

“Hush, now,” said Fluttershy softly. “You’ll be okay in a couple of hours.”

She turned to the window, and whistled a short, sharp note.

A pair of squirrels appeared at the windowsill and then slipped between the bars and hopped down into the room. They skittered up onto Fluttershy’s back and gnawed at the remaining straps restraining her.

The bindings soon fell away; Fluttershy spread her wings.

One of the squirrels chittered.

Fluttershy smiled an off-kilter smile. Her eyes gleamed. “Oh, I’m going to go into town now,” she said airily. “I need to find Twilight!”

She crept over to the room’s open door and then took to the air, her wing-beats making no more sound than a passing breeze as she hovered through the halls.

• • • • • • •

Twilight Sparkle shakily stood, the rain sizzling on her still-glowing horn as the smoke occupying Spike’s former position cleared.

“You’re alive…” she growled. “You’re ALIVE! You were alive THE WHOLE TIME!”

Topsy Turvy chuckled. “Yup! I won’t spoil it, but it was a real simple trick, too. Pretty funny, huh? You shoulda seen the look on y–”

“DO YOU KNOW WHAT YOU PUT ME THROUGH?”

A wave of purple-red magic bashed Topsy off her hooves. She landed in the mud with a surprised grunt.

Twilight stomped forward, bearing down on her.

“This week has been PONY HELL!”

Another surge of magic sent Topsy whirling through the air; she landed on a public water trough, smashing it to pieces.

The Earth Pony rolled onto her belly and looked up at Twilight between the strands of her sodden mane. She let out a sputtering giggle.

“Awww, now don’t be that way, Twily,” she said with a smile. “You really expect me to believe that you didn’t ENJOY turning the town into this?” She gestured expansively with her front hooves. “You Twinklers LOVE power trips!”

“SHUT UP!” Twilight magicked up a nearby vegetable cart and brought it down on Topsy with a deafening crash. “I didn’t want this! I didn’t want ANY of it!”

The orange-maned yellow Earth Pony mare who had been minding the cart backed away in alarm.

Twilight’s horn flared. Topsy emerged from the wreckage surrounded in a magical glow, limply dangling in midair. Twilight hesitantly trotted closer.

Topsy Turvy lashed out with a hind leg, clipping Twilight’s horn.

Twilight grunted in pain, jerking back on shaking legs. Her magic field winked out, and Topsy dropped to all fours in a ready crouch.

She chuckled. “Ya know, Twilight, it makes sense that you live in a library. I can read you like a BOOK!”

She pressed her advantage, surging forward to unleash a fierce left-right pair of front-hoof strikes to Twilight’s jaw. The force of the blows made Twilight skid left and right in the mud.

Twilight staggered, dazed.

“It’s so EASY to get under your skin!” Topsy whirled around, whipping out a hind leg to kick Twilight in the shoulder.

Twilight yelped and tumbled onto her side.

Topsy grinned a sinister grin. “You Screwheads are all the same – underestimating the big, dumb Mudhooves who grow your food and pull your carts and take out your trash. Well, Buzzards mighta got the wings, and you mighta got the horns, but we… GOT EVERYTHING ELSE!”

She reared up and bounded forward on her hind legs, unleashing a lightning-fast punt that sent Twilight exploding out of the mud and smashing through the front wall of the Ponyville Day Spa.

Nearby, the Earth Pony who’d lost her cart to Twilight’s magic turned and galloped off.

• • • • • • •

Rainbow Dash pulled open the library’s front door with her mouth and trotted inside. She shook out her head, tail and wings, taking perverse satisfaction in showering the bookshelves with rainwater.

She lay down in the middle of the room and sighed.

“Hope you don’t mind me stayin’ here until the rain gets dealt with, Twilight,” she said to the empty room. “Well, good. You BETTER not. ‘Cause it’s kinda, you know, YOUR FAULT that I can’t go home?”

She got to her hooves.

“And it’s your fault that I can’t do my JOB anymore…”

She kicked the room’s Pony-bust centerpiece, toppling it.

“Your fault that I can’t RACE anymore…”

She galloped around the room, one wing outstretched, pushing out what few shelved books remained.

“Your fault that I WON’T EVER! BE! A WONDERBOLT!”

She let out a hoarse, furious scream, stomping her hooves and squinting against the hot tears stinging her eyes. She fell to her knees, tipped onto her side, and wept.

Moments later, a bright purple-red flash briefly illuminated the room behind her.

Dash tensed. “I’m not b-bucking crying!”

The only answer was faint, laboured breathing.

Dash lifted her head and looked over her shoulder; she gasped.

Spike was there, cradling a broken arm. His scales were caked with mud and soot and his eyes were reddened and teary.

“H-Help…” he whimpered. “It hurts…”

Dash leaped to her hooves and raced over to the little Dragon.

“Omigosh! Spike, what happened?”

“S-Somepony’s attacking Twilight!” he said. His lower lip quivered. “… You gotta help her!”

“First thing’s first! We gotta get that arm fixed up!” Dash ducked down to examine the injury. “Rrrgh! Why didn’t I pay more attention in first-aid class at Flight Camp?” Her eyes widened. “Wait! I know! Twilight must have a book about–”

Dash turned to the bookshelves… which were currently emptied in unsorted piles on the floor. She pressed her hooves over Spike’s ear-holes and bellowed out a curse.

“P-Please,” said Spike, “you gotta help Twilight!”

“Are you KIDDING?” shouted Dash. “You should be worrying about YOURSELF! If somepony’s after Twilight, it’s probably her FAULT! Do you KNOW what she did?”

Spike swallowed; the muscles in his neck tensed against his pain. “I don’t care what she did! She’s in trouble, and she needs help! But I couldn’t do anything… I’m just a b-baby…” He sat down heavily, wincing as his arm shifted. “I’m really scared, Rainbow Dash. That Pony said she was gonna KILL Twilight, and I wanna save her, b-but I’m not big enough, and I… I...” Tears slid down his cheeks. “I don’t want her to die!” Sobs drowned his attempts to say more.

“I…” Dash gritted her teeth. Starting at her multi-hued mane, a wave of brighter colour began spreading down her body.

“I’m…” She flexed and folded her wings as they brightened. Her features hardened into a determined glare.

“…I’m NOT gonna let that happen!”

• • • • • • •

Twilight Sparkle awoke to the feeling of a brutal stomp forcing her right hip out of joint.

She screamed.

“THERE we go!” said Topsy gleefully. “Back in business!”

She scooped up Twilight with her front legs, leaned, whirled, and then tossed her back out through the hole she’d made entering the Spa.

“Don’t mind me!” said Topsy to the horrified blue Earth Pony standing at the reception desk. “Just passing through!” She winked cheekily and then bounded out after Twilight.

Twilight slid to a stop in the rain-soaked street. She groaned through gritted teeth as her hip popped itself back into place. Before she could gather her thoughts, Topsy unleashed another hoof-strike to her jaw.

“Wow! You’re mending already! This is gonna take a while!”

Topsy kicked Twilight in the stomach. The Unicorn let out a pained gasp.

“We might hafta keep this up all day! Maybe all NIGHT!”

She stooped to head-butt Twilight in the cheekbone.

“Won’t that be FUN?”

She hopped into the air and brought all four hooves down on Twilight’s ribcage.

Twilight coughed out a mouthful of fresh blood. “D-Doesn’t.. m-matter…” she wheezed, giving a strained half-smile as she struggled to crawl away from Topsy.

Topsy raised an eyebrow. “Oh? How come, Twily? Ya got a death-wish already? Did my little speech work after all?”

Twilight shook her head. “I don’t w-want to die… but even if you do manage to kill me, there’re still five more Elements. They’ll be h-horrified when they realize what you did. Disgusted. They’ll band together. And th-that’s more than enough to stop you… and to keep him bound.”

Topsy tapped a hoof to her chin in thought. “Hmm. Yeah, you might be right. You’d be some kinda, like, martyr to those five, or whatever.”

A leering grin slowly sliced across her face. She bent down, leaning so close that her lips tickled Twilight’s ear, and mimicked Fluttershy’s soft, anxious voice:

“Um, so I guess it’s lucky for me there are only FOUR left, huh?”

Twilight’s eyes widened; sickening realization spread through her like nightfall, draining the last of the colour from her hide.

• • • • • • •

“Why her, ‘Shy? Why’d ya hafta pick Dash?”

Applejack tipped back her wooden cider-tankard, draining it for the fourth time.

“W’looks like yers, ya coulda h-had yer pick o’ Ponyville an’ Cloudsdale, both!”

She fumbled with the spigot on the barrel she’d tapped, clumsily refilling her mug.

“An’ now you go an’ make me feel like a s-sack o’ manure, too! Some friend!”

She took a long pull of cider; her face creased in anguish as she swallowed. She dropped the mug and hid her face in her hooves.

“Dang it, I’m so buckin’ s-sorry!”

Just then, there was an urgent knock on the cider shack’s doorframe behind her.

Applejack scowled, rubbing her eyes with a foreleg. “I warned ya, ya big galoot!”

She staggered to her hooves and turned around to meet the gaze of a far smaller Pony than she’d expected.

Carrot Top caught herself staring and half-turned away, blushing.

“… Oh,” Applejack said awkwardly. “L-Listen, Carrot… I didn’t mean fer ya t–”

“I ain’t here about that,” said Carrot, cutting her off. “I just thought ya might wanna know that right now yer
friend Twilight is tearin’ up downtown in a ruckus with some Earth Pony. An’ she’s losin’ the fight – that Earth Pony ain’t holdin’ back her strength!”

Applejack’s eyes widened, but her alarmed expression quickly wilted into a frown. “I can’t. I’ve done enough ta help lately. Look what I did last time – she’s better off without me!”

Carrot top frowned back. “What, so yer gonna let some outta-control Pony beat yer friend ta DEATH ‘cause yer too busy drownin’ yer sorrows?”

Applejack inhaled for a defensive rant, but found herself at a loss for words. She sat down.

“Not in so many words, n-no,” she muttered sheepishly.

Carrot Top sighed. “You an’ yours have got some real serious issues, ya know.”

Applejack silently nodded.

Carrot Top rubbed the back of her neck with a front hoof. “Look… I don’t want ya ta take this the wrong way, but… I don’t need ya.”

Applejack’s brows knitted; her lower lip trembled.

Carrot Top waved her front hooves in a conciliatory gesture. “Hold on! W-What I mean is, yer nice. Real nice. Ya make me feel… special. But I ain’t gonna up an’ DIE if ya aren’t in my life. An’ right now, it seems like maybe some o’ yer friends WILL.”

Applejack scuffed the ground with a hoof. “M-Maybe…”

Carrot Top looked down. “We might have only been seein’ each other a short while, but I’ve lived next-door to ya my whole life. I know ya like things clear n’ simple, an’ there’s a whole lot o’ troublin’, terrible things goin’ on in yer life. Even though I wanna be there with ya, I think maybe I’m one carrot more’n a bunch for ya.”

Applejack’s eyes shone. “N-No! I’ll do better! I promise! Don’t give up on me, Carrot! Don’t–”

Carrot Top cut Applejack off with a kiss. Their eyes met as their lips parted.

“I ain’t givin’ up on ya,” said Carrot with a smile. “You’ll get yer head together. Help yer friends. Sort it all out. I know ya will. And when ya do… I’ll be waitin’.”

Carrot Top turned away, glanced briefly over her shoulder, and then trotted off.

Applejack stood in stunned silence for a long moment, her blush seeming to bring colour to her entire body.

She turned to retrieve her fallen Stetson from under a pile of empty cider jugs.

• • • • • • •

“NEXT!”

When a few moments passed and no new customer stepped through the curtains into the rear half of her Boutique, Rarity took the opportunity to quickly trot over to a mane-washing sink and run her horn under cold water.

She hissed in a breath and let it out slowly as steam rose from the graceful spire; she’d barely let her glow fade for the past hour or two, numbly churning out dresses ex nihilo and doling them out to the starry-eyed masses.

Work was good. Work kept her busy. Work pushed her dreadful, unpleasant, messy feelings down to a place where she could let them quietly fester without them giving her wrinkles.

Upon returning to the main room, Rarity found that there was still nopony there.

“Next…?” she asked the empty foyer.

Filthy Rich trotted into the Boutique from outside and shook the rain out of his charcoal-coloured mane.

“It’s just me, I’m afraid,” he said. “It seems you’ve saturated the market.”

Rarity frowned. “What do you mean?”

Rich chuckled softly. “You sold so many of those mass-conjured dresses that you ran out of customers.”

“Oh... I see.” Rarity cleared her throat. “So, why are you here, then, Rich?”

“Well, this is a dress shop, isn’t it? I’m here for a Rarity original.”

Rarity raised an eyebrow. “But you already got one! Surely Diamond Tiara doesn’t need another – they all look the same.” She sighed. “Exactly the same.”

Rich pointed a hoof for emphasis. “And that’s exactly the problem! Now that nearly everypony’s wearing them, those dresses just don’t seem as… special as they did before. So I’m here to get my little princess something unique.”

Rarity rolled her eyes. “I don’t mean to offend, Rich, but does she really DESERVE it? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard about the trouble your little princess has gotten herself into. Why spoil her even more?”

Rich shrugged. “I know Diamond can be a hoofful at times, but confidence and ambition are important for a filly – and I discipline her when she crosses the line.” He sat down and adjusted his tie with his front hooves. “Besides… generosity isn’t about who deserves it, is it? That’s more like… salary.”

Rarity turned away, keeping an eye on her visitor`s reflection in one of the room`s many mirrors. “How do you mean?”

“I don’t give my little princess gifts because she EARNS them, or because I expect her to pay me back. I do it because it makes me happy to share the prosperity my hard work has built.” Rich smiled. “And because, no matter how foalish and troublesome she can be at times, I love her with all my heart.”

“I… th-that’s… that’s beautiful!” Rarity swallowed down the lump tightening her throat. She watched her reflection’s washed-out mane liven to a lustrous royal purple.

Just then, the Boutique’s front door burst open as a frantic pink-maned pastel-blue Earth Pony mare skidded to a stop inside.

“Rah-rity!” She gasped. “You h-haff to help! The Earth Po-nee from across tha street’s gone crazy! She’s trying to keel Tvy-light Sparkle!”

Rarity’s expression hardened. She magicked up a small hairband and tied back her mane into a queue.

“Like PONY HELL she is!”

• • • • • • •

On the fourth impact with the corner of the Joke Shop’s outside wall, Twilight Sparkle’s horn cracked.

She let out a strangled shriek; purple-red motes of energy dribbled from the fracture.

Topsy Turvy bent down to examine the wound, still holding Twilight’s head between her front hooves in a vise-like grip. “All-RIGHTY then!” she whooped excitedly. “NOW we’re gettin’ somewhere!”

She pulled Twilight’s head back from the wall and jerked it to the side, sending the Unicorn sprawling.

Twilight’s ash-grey body was speckled with cuts and bruises. Blood oozed from her split lower lip, and her left eye was reddened and squinting. None of the injuries were fading.

“Guess I shoulda told you that you killed your little Buzzard buddy sooner, huh? It woulda saved a lotta time!” She reared up and swung Twilight up and over by her head, slamming her body down onto the muddy ground.

Topsy stood, shook out her shoulders and craned her neck. “Oh – in case you were curious, she died alone. And terrified!” She giggled.

“F-Flu-uttershy-y…” sobbed Twilight, her face a mask of guilt-stricken agony. “I’m so-or-ry!”

Topsy smirked. “Heh. Little late for that, doncha think?” She straightened and tipped sidelong onto Twilight like a falling tree, landing in a reclining pose and letting the Unicorn take her full weight on her already-fractured ribs.

Twilight let out a muted, wheezing scream as the breath caught in her seizing lungs.

Topsy patted Twilight’s head. “You know, you really never stood a chance.” Topsy punctuated her words with an occasional hoof-slap against Twilight’s fractured horn.

“You Screwheads think you can do anything with a few SPELLS,”

Slap.

“but we Earth Ponies have to take care of OURSELVES.”

Slap.

“I taught myself to sew with my MOUTH so I could make those dolls.

Slap.

“I climbed your tree with my bare HOOVES so I could watch you.”

Slap.

“I read your diaries and your letters and set things up just RIGHT to buck with your head.”

Slap.

“I broke you, Twily. And I did it FAIR. AND. SQUARE.”

Slap-slap-slap.

Twilight shuddered, tensed, jerked half-upright and then finally screamed:

“FINE! YOU WIN! Are you HAPPY now, you bucking PSYCHOPATH? You’ve taken EVERYTHING from me! Your twisted scheme is going to DOOM the whole WORLD, everypony I know HATES me, and one of the first friends I ever made is D-DEAD!” Fresh tears cut clean tracks down her muddied, bloodied cheeks. “I have nothing left…” Twilight fell back down into the mud. “N-Nothing…”

Topsy got to her hooves. “You silly filly! I already told you. You still have ONE thing –” Topsy’s high-pitched voice turned low and menacing. “A PULSE.” She hovered a hoof over Twilight’s neck. “Lemme just take care of that for you.”

• • • • • • •

“Stop right there!” Rainbow Dash trotted toward Topsy Turvy and Twilight Sparkle with a firm, purposeful stride. Spike sat on her back, his arm crudely splinted and bound.

“S-Spike? R-Rainbow…?” Twilight’s cracking voice held a faint shadow of hope.

Dash frowned. “Don’t get the wrong idea, Twilight,” she said as she drew closer. “I’m still mad at you. But that doesn’t mean I’m gonna let some nutcase KILL you!” She came to a stop a few yards away. “Besides… if I don’t leave you hangin’ – then I didn’t break my promise!” She spread her wings proudly.

“Awww. That’s just a-bucking-dorable.” Topsy rolled her eyes and stuck out her tongue in a silent retch. “But you don’t know what you’re messing with, here, Buzzard.” Topsy angled her shoulders, releasing ominous cracks. “You think you can take me? You ever faced an Earth Pony who wasn’t holding back?”

Topsy fixed her stance, wound up a hind leg, and then stomped down hard. Mud exploded out behind her, taller than the surrounding rooftops, and then rained down like so much chocolate.

Rainbow Dash’s wings drooped slightly. She gulped. “U-Uh, well…”

“Actually… she has.” Applejack’s steel-shod hooves left deep tracks in the muddy street as she approached.

Twilight struggled to lift her head. “AJ…?”

Topsy turned to face her fellow Earth Pony. “Gee! If it isn’t everypony’s favourite filly-fooler! How ya been?”

Applejack narrowed her eyes. “Honestly, I’ve been a mite bit tense. I’m lookin’ ta blow off some steam. A good, clean fight oughta do th’trick, I reckon.”

Topsy smirked. “Fat chance, nag. I fight dirty. I’ll smash your joints until I LAME you.” She chuckled. “Plus, you’re barely upright! You’ve probably been up all night drinking, amirite?” She shot Applejack a sly sidelong glance and winked. “At your best you just might take me.” Her voice took on a twanging drawl. “Aww, but yer a darn sight from top form. Ain’tcha, hayseed?”

Applejack stayed silent, but the sheen on her forehead was as much sweat as rain.

“I’ll have you know that I would rather have that hayseed at my side than a THOUSAND of Canterlot’s best and brightest!”

“Rarity!” A note of genuine resolve crept into Twilight’s voice. The merest hint of colour returned to her hide.

The elegant white Unicorn reared into a martial stance. “I’m here, Twilight. This ruffian won’t hurt you anymore.”

Topsy’s gaze passed from Pinkie’s immobile form, to Twilight, to the trio of newcomers. “Well, gee! The gang’s all here!” Her smile widened. “Oh, except for Fluttershy. ‘Cause she’s dead.”

Applejack, Rainbow Dash and Rarity shared a collective gasp. Rarity dropped back down onto all fours.

Twilight lost what little composure she’d regained. She hid her face in her front hooves.

Topsy laughed. “Aww! So sad! Twilight was no good at killing me, but that little Barehoof was dead a few HOURS after you roped her in! Go figure!” She once again copied Fluttershy’s voice: “Go out of my head… end up dead!” Topsy laughed harder, wiping a joyful tear from the corner of her eye with a hoof.

Applejack gritted her teeth in disgusted horror and slowly shook her head.

Rarity dropped into a sitting position and covered her mouth with her hooves.

Rainbow Dash spread her wings and charged the cackling Earth Pony with a howl of rage, leaving Spike to tumble to the ground in surprise.

Topsy reached out her front hooves to meet Dash’s as the Pegasus streaked into range. The echoing impact stopped Dash dead in the air, leaving her to drop down to the muddy ground.

Topsy stomped a hoof on the back of Dash’s multi-hued head in a brutal rabbit punch. Dash let out a dazed grunt and sagged, senseless.

Uh-oh! Too bad AJ wasn’t close enough to grab your tail this time, huh, Dashie? Ya really just never learn, do ya?”

The Earth Pony stooped down over Dash. She gripped the Pegasus’s right wing between her front hooves.

“You’re so hot-headed… you need a BREAK!”

Topsy closed her jaws on the wing’s leading edge and then bit down until she felt a crack.

Dash shrieked herself awake, digging at the ground with her hooves and gasping for breath as pain forced the air from her lungs.

Topsy spat out a puff of fuzzy blue down. She started giggling. “Hee hee hee! Get it? A BREAK?” She laughed harder, the sound of her mad cackling rising up over the hiss of the rain and Dash’s tortured sobbing.

“That’s not funny.”

All of the assembled Ponies save for Dash turned to face where the voice had come from: the corner where Pinkie Pie’s wagon sat.

The wagon was empty.

“Wh-Whuh…?” Topsy raised an eyebrow, and then shivered as a pink shadow rose up behind her.

Pinkie stared Topsy Turvy down like a rose-hued executioner. Her eyes blazed like blue flames between the poker-straight strands of her mane.

“Being mean to Ponies… hurting them… KILLING them…” Pinkie narrowed her eyes. “That’s. Not. Funny!”

Topsy gulped, but held her ground. “H-Hay, speak for yourself, nag! I think it’s buckin’ HILARIOU–”

A lightning-fast streak of pink pushed Topsy back into the front door of the Joke Shop, smashing the thin wood like spun glass.

Pinkie’s furious voice echoed from inside the shop:

“YOU DON’T LAUGH WHEN PONIES GET HURT!

Bangs and crashes shook the shop’s foundations.

“YOU LAUGH WHEN EVERYPONY’S HAVING A GOOD TIME!”

The sounds of a circular saw, a jar of marbles spilling, a slide-whistle and a panicking chicken rang out. Beneath the din, Topsy screamed and gurgled.

“YOU LAUGH WHEN THINGS TURN OUT OKAY!”

A pneumatic ratchet’s staccato rattle mixed with a cat’s yowl and the warbling of party horns. Topsy wailed, and then choked out: “Oh, n-no, not… NO-O-O-O!”

“YOU LAUGH! TO MAKE THE BAD THINGS! GO AWAY!”

The sounds of a loud bang, a breaking spring, a cuckoo-clock chime, and Topsy’s shrieking propelled a burst of confetti out of the front door.

By then, even Rainbow Dash had turned her tear-blurred gaze to the Joke Shop.

Pinkie Pie trotted back into view, dragging Topsy Turvy by the end of a lengthy spring-snake coil tied around Topsy’s hooves and gripped in Pinkie’s jaws.

Topsy groaned, her bruised, heavy-lidded eyes straining to point in the same direction. She spat out a loose tooth.

Pinkie let go of the spring-snake. “She isn’t f-funny,” she said softly.

Applejack and Rarity hastily nodded in agreement. Their pupils were tiny pinpricks in the wide white seas of their eyes.

Rainbow Dash let herself fall back down, her broken wing held high and immobile. She whimpered softly.

Of all of them, Twilight Sparkle was the only Pony not staring at Pinkie and Topsy.

Instead, she was staring at the yellow Pegasus trotting down the street toward them.

• • • • • • •

Fluttershy’s pale yellow hide was marked with angular friction burns from her bindings, and her mouth was still stained crimson. Her tangled pink mane half-hid a stare fit to make a Dragon cringe.

She headed toward Twilight Sparkle with an even, heavy-hoofed gait.

Her other friends rushed at various speeds to meet her – crying and laughing and shouting all at once – but she kept her gaze fixed on the Unicorn beyond them. The group’s enthusiasm shriveled.

“F-Fluttershy…?” Pinkie Pie moved aside an unruly lock of her freshly-refrizzed mane as she stared at the approaching Pegasus.

“Oh, my,” said Rarity softly, tears silently spilling down her cheeks as her smile of relief battled with her anguished wince.

Applejack swayed unsteadily and remained silent, too overcome to speak.

Rainbow Dash’s legs started shaking from the effort of staying upright. “She s-said you were…!”

Fluttershy trotted past them all.

Like her friends, Twilight Sparkle wore an expression of elation that soon gave way to dismay as the Pegasus slowed to a halt before her.

“Fluttershy…” she squeaked, exhaustion draining the volume from her voice, “I’m so sorry!”

Fluttershy narrowed her eyes.

“Look what you did,” she said flatly. “Look. What. You. Did!”

She lunged forward, skidding to a halt behind Twilight and reaching down to seize her in an iron-hard grip; a grip that could pull a grizzly bear’s spine into alignment.

Twilight squirmed in Fluttershy’s grasp. “P-Please,” she whispered “I never meant–”

Fluttershy cut her off:

Ohhh, yes. You thought you were helping. You thought you knew what to do, didn’t you? You thought you’d make it all okay again. Well, you didn’t. And it wasn’t you who paid for it, was it?” Her grip tightened. “WAS IT?”

“N-No.” The word was almost noiseless, but it carried with it the last of Twilight’s endurance. There had been too many shocks; too much pain and stress and too many sleepless nights. She went limp in Fluttershy’s hold, afraid of what was coming but unable to bring herself to resist.

Spike staggered toward Twilight and Fluttershy, raising his good arm to reach out to them.

On the far side of the pair, Applejack, Rarity, Pinkie Pie and Rainbow Dash crept closer to them as well.

“DON’T!” shouted Fluttershy as loudly and suddenly as a thunderclap. “Don’t you DARE try to tell me she hasn’t earned this! Don’t you DARE try to tell me she doesn’t DESERVE this!”

Fluttershy’s blazing cyan gaze passed over each of the objectors, and the weight of it seemed to silence and repel them.

“Do it…” wheezed Topsy from her vantage point on the rain-soaked ground a few yards away. “Do it, you bucking Buzzard. She’ll let you. Do it. DO IT!”

Fluttershy adjusted her hold on Twilight, her limbs snaking tighter still around the Unicorn’s forelegs and neck.

“Sometimes, Twilight Sparkle,” she whispered in Twilight’s ear, “sometimes, the kind thing to do can be the hardest thing to do...”

Twilight swallowed and then closed her eyes. She nodded as much as Fluttershy’s grip would allow.

Applejack and Rainbow Dash looked on in grim, pained silence. Rarity and Pinkie Pie turned away, afraid to watch.

Fluttershy took a slow, deep breath, adjusted her hind legs’ stance, and…

“I forgive you.”

Twilight’s eyes snapped open. “Wh-What…?”

Fluttershy’s deathgrip melted into an equally-tight embrace.

“I f-forgive you. I understand. You were s-so hurt and so tired, and you thought it w-was my fault. You weren’t mad… you just wanted it to be over. For it to end. You never… y-you…” Her voice cracked; she shuddered. “I just wanted to help you, M-Mommy!” She buried her head in Twilight’s shoulder and bawled.

Twilight turned around and hugged Fluttershy back, the pain of the past few days leaving her in her tears and grateful sobs. As the two Ponies held each other, Twilight’s injuries began to mend.

Spike and the remaining Elements of Harmony came forward and joined in the hug. The last vestiges of grey in their hides boiled away in the warmth of their embrace and the sincerity of their words.

In front of the Joke Shop, Topsy Turvy laughed in mockery.

“That’s it?” she scoffed. “You think that’s it? You think you can have a stupid lil’ love-in and Discord won’t get out?” She guffawed. “It’s happening already, idiots! Take a look around!” Topsy pointed a loose-shoed hoof down the street.

Less than half a block away, three formally-dressed little fillies were still fighting.

The three young Ponies pummeled and kicked and shoved and shouted, the whirling brawl slowly taking them down the street.

Topsy giggled. “Think you can get the whole TOWN to make nice before He finishes getting loose? Huh? DO YA?” She laughed until the motion made her wince in pain and hold her bruised sides.

Rainbow Dash frowned. She backed out of the hug and sat down, taking care not to move her wing. “She’s right. Everypony’s acting really messed up already. How do we talk to them all? I can’t even–” She tried to flex her wings by reflex, and cut herself off with a pained moan.

Twilight furrowed her brows; fatigue still made it so hard to think clearly. “I don’t know! M-Maybe an emotion spell like Cadance’s? Something to remind everypony how much they care?” She sagged. “But I don’t think I’m up to affecting all of Ponyville…” Twilight gingerly touched her still-hairline-cracked horn with a hoof.

“Well,” said Rarity, “we have to do something!

She galloped over to the three fillies. “Sweetie Belle!” she shouted at the brawling trio. “You and your friends stop that this INSTANT! I just conjured those dresses today, and you’re making a mess of them!”

The Crusaders ignored her.

“Conjured?” Twilight frowned in confusion. “You didn’t sew them?”

Rarity looked up from surveying the ongoing brawl and turned to face Twilight. “W-Well, not as such, no. You see, I was quite upset with how you kept nitpicking the dress I made you, but then somepony else wanted a copy, and then another, and…” She gestured at the feuding fillies.

Twilight’s eyes widened. “Rarity!” she shouted, “That’s it!”

Rarity stared. “Beg pardon?”

Twilight shakily stood up. “That’s it! We ALREADY have emotion magic all over town – YOURS! You’ve been triggering the Pathetic Fallacy!”

Rarity stared blankly; the others did likewise.

Twilight sighed in frustration. “You know, the Pathetic Fallacy! When Unicorns let stress and upset push their feelings into their magic?”

Rarity cleared her throat. “Ah. Yes. Of course.”

Twilight trotted closer to her fellow Unicorn. “The townsponies aren’t falling to Chaos… they’re feeling as upset and unappreciated as you were when you conjured all those dresses! We just have to undo the spell!” Twilight paused, and then looked down sheepishly. “Oh, but sorry, Rarity – the magic will destroy the dresses.”

Rarity raised an eyebrow and then deadpanned: “I am willing to make that sacrifice.”

The two Unicorns faced each other and ignited their horns, bending their heads down to bring the two glows into contact. A wave of purplish-blue energy spread out from them, expanding faster and faster as it moved.

• • • • • • •

As the wave struck the Cutie Mark Crusaders, a sudden bright flash from the middle of the brawl threw Apple Bloom, Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo back; as they got to their hooves, their disheveled dresses sparked, rippled and then burst, the conjured fabric evaporating into motes of bluish magic and raining down onto them.

The trio staggered and shook their heads.

“I… I’m never gonna fly!” whimpered Apple Bloom scratchily. “You must think I’m so pathetic!”

“I keep messing everything up!” squeaked Scootaloo. “Rarity makes it look so easy to be generous!”

“You two are fightin’ all the time, an’ I’m stuck in the middle!” drawled Sweetie Belle. “I feel like I’m jus’ gonna split in half!”

The swarm of magical motes flickered brighter for a moment, then began to fade.

“I’m so fat and useless!” lamented Sweetie Belle. “I don’t DESERVE great friends like you!”

“I feel so darn helpless!” added Scootaloo. “Ya both mean so much ta me, an’ I can’t do anythin’ ta help!”

“I’m so dumb! I wish I could make us happy again!” said Apple Bloom sadly. “You’re the best friends I’ve ever had!”

As the last of the glowing motes disappeared, the three fillies’ faces twisted in confusion, which then gave way to tearful shock, and then bittersweet smiles. They jumped forward and all but tackled each other, their words of sympathy and regret and apology all jumbling together.

• • • • • • •

The counterspell struck Berry Punch and Cheerilee as they fought a tug-o-war over a heavy jug of cider. Their dresses ignited harmlessly and exploded into a shower of sorcerous twinkles.

“Every year, another class full of w-wonderful, bright little colts and fillies,” said Berry Punch, her voice full of borrowed regret, “and never one of my own! Why? It’s not fair! I have so much love to give…”

“One r-roll in the hay, and I’m s’posed to magically know what I’m doing?” slurred Cheerilee. “I love my little girl so much… but I’m so, so s-scared o’ messing everything up! I can’t even get through the day w-without… without…”

As the spell faded, the two mares stared into each other’s eyes and then pulled each other into a hug.

• • • • • • •

The Doctor caught up with Ditzy Doo near the Library.

“Ditzy! Wait!”

“Flow!” shouted Ditzy, her upset still mangling her diction. “Through wink time plum!”

Before the Doctor could respond, the magical wave passed through them.

Ditzy’s dress sublimated into enchanted sparks that doused them both.

Ditzy staggered under the weight of the emotional link. “S-So many,” she whispered, her voice unnaturally low and clear. “I’ve lost so many. Too many to count. They trusted me, and I failed them. I can’t bear to let it happen again!”

“All I know is how to hurt Ponies,” said the Doctor. He sat and pressed a front hoof to the imagined scar on his forehead. “Either I’m dumb, or I’m dangerous. No wonder you don’t want me.”

The pair turned to face each other, and in perfect unison, said:

“I wish I was good enough for you.”

They both widened their eyes, fought back a surge of feeling too deep to express, and then embraced as they surrendered to it.

• • • • • • •

Topsy Turvy’s mocking grin melted into a furious scowl as forgiveness and friendship erupted throughout Ponyville.

“No… NO!” She tore free of the spring-snake, stumbled to her hooves and then charged Twilight Sparkle.

Twilight’s horn flared, and Topsy rose into the air surrounded by a purple-red aura.

“You made me do some terrible things, Topsy Turvy,” said Twilight. “You almost killed me, and you nearly cost me what I cherish most – my friends.”

She paused to look to each of her companions.

“I’m not sorry, FREAK!” said Topsy, her legs galloping fruitlessly. “I’d do it again!”

“And we’d beat you again!” shouted Twilight. “I’m not perfect, and I know it. I’m anxious and obsessive and awkward…” She paused to compose herself. “But this isn’t just about me. It’s about us. ALL of us. Not just my amazing friends, but every Pony who cares about doing right. You may WANT us to be cruel and hateful and selfish, Topsy… but we aren’t. And I’ll prove it.”

Twilight turned to address her friends.

“Ever since Celestia took me back to Canterlot during that argument last year, I’ve been scared to admit something to you all. I was afraid of what you’d think of me. But I trust you, and I’m not going to hide anymore.” She took a slow, deep breath.

“Go on!” jeered Topsy. “Tell your little friends what a MONSTER you are!”

Twilight ignored her as she continued. “The Element of Magic changed me. As long as it’s with me… I’ll live forever.”

A long and heavy silence hung in the air. Finally, Pinkie Pie was the first to speak:

“That’s it?” She tilted her head in confusion. “But that’s great! You’ll get to go to SO MANY parties!”

Rarity smiled. “Think of the fashions you’ll see!”

“You can help me through my awkward teen decades after all!” said Spike.

Applejack nodded. “Ya can tell Apple Bloom’s great-grandfoals all about the fun stuff we’ve done!”

Rainbow Dash chuckled, then winced as the motion shifted her wing. “And tell every new team of Wonderbolts about all of my racing records!”

Fluttershy hung her head, her unkempt mane hiding her face. “Y-You won’t forget about us when we’re gone, w-will you?”

Twilight smiled a teary smile. “Oh, never! Not ever! Not even if I live a thousand years!” She raced forward to hug Fluttershy.

Topsy gagged. “SPARE me.”

Twilight scowled. She released Fluttershy and stomped over to the hovering Earth Pony.

“You know what, Topsy?” she said. “Nearly half of Ponyville is Unicorns and Pegasi. And we all live together happily. If you hate us so much, maybe we aren’t the problem. Maybe it’s YOU. Maybe you need to let go of all this… this poison inside you. Did you ever think of that?”

“BUCK YOU, SCREWHEAD!”

Twilight sighed. “Okay, then. I tried.” Her horn flared brighter.

“Twilight!” said Rarity. “You aren’t going to…!”

Twilight shook her head. “No. I’m not.”

Applejack raised an eyebrow. “So, uh, whut…?”

Twilight turned back to Topsy. “Just a little spell my brother and my new sister-in-law cooked up!”

Twilight’s horn blazed. Her eyes glowed white.

A sphere of reddish magic rose up from the ground beneath Topsy.

“I’ll KILL you!” she bellowed. “This isn’t over, Twilight! I’ll kill you DE-E-A-A-AD!” The sphere rocketed outward, propelling Topsy up and into the horizon in the blink of an eye. Her vengeful wail shrank into the distance.

The six Ponies and one Dragon watched the sky for a long, silent moment, and then turned their eyes to each other.

• • • • • • •

Dear Princess Celestia,

This week, somepony made me confront the worst of my fears and doubts. She tortured me within an inch of my life, and I came closer than I ever have to giving up –

No, that’s not true.

Honestly… I DID give up. I felt lost and alone and helpless, and I was so scared of failing my friends that I pushed them away without realizing it.

When Discord was free, he turned them all against me. Maybe I never forgot that feeling of having nopony on my side. Maybe I was scared of giving them the chance to end up that way again.

And I gave up.

But then, when I was at my worst, when I truly expected to DIE, they came to my rescue.

Rainbow Dash teetered precariously in a sidelong stance on the wooden scooter, her one unbandaged wing propelling her in fits and starts.

“Rrgh… come on, you stupid thing! MOVE!”

She rolled forward smoothly for a few yards… and then tumbled to the ground for the eighth time as her front wheel struck a half-buried pebble.

She growled in frustration and stomped a front hoof.

An orange blur streaked past, curved, and then returned to stop before her.

“…Hay,” said Scootaloo nonchalantly, hopping off of her scooter.

Rainbow Dash dusted herself off. “Uh, hay.” She avoided meeting the little Pegasus’s gaze.

“Say…” said Scootaloo, “you look a little banged up. Did you get in a fight?”

Dash chuckled dryly. “Maybe.”

Scootaloo scuffed the ground with a hoof. “There was some pretty big stuff going on lately, huh?”

“Kinda, yeah.” Dash adjusted her new helmet. “Guess you sorta got stampeded by it all, huh?” She frowned apologetically.

Scootaloo’s eyes turned up to peer at the formerly-dyed, freshly-scrubbed forelock peeking out from under her helmet. “Kinda, yeah.”

Dash turned her gaze downward. “…Sorry.”

A long silence passed between the Pegasi.

“So…” Scootaloo climbed back onto her scooter. “… do you want a few pointers, or what?”

Rainbow Dash’s expression brightened. She grinned and nodded vigorously.

I gave them every reason to leave me to my fate, but they stood by me anyway. Even after dozens of Friendship Reports to You, they keep surprising me. And teaching me. I can’t imagine better friends.

Rarity trotted through the streets of Ponyville, her overladen saddlebags jingling with every hoofstep.
Nearly every citizen she passed by received a small cloth bag of coins.

Several hundred bits later, she came to Rich’s Barnyard Bargains. Filthy Rich was out front adjusting some signage.

Rarity magicked up a coin-bag and gently tapped him on the shoulder with it.

“Hmm? Oh! Hello, there!” he said. He eyed the coin-bag. “You’re really doing it, eh? Giving out full refunds?”

Proper dresses do NOT explode,” she said. “And besides, like I said before – they didn’t cost anything to make, anyway.”

Rich picked up the money-pouch with his mouth and hefted it; he set it back down. “I didn't even pay you for Diamond's dress. Why give me a refund?”

Rarity smiled. “Consider it… salary. A payment for some highly valuable advice.”

Rich smiled back.

Above them, a pair of newly-drafted weatherworkers kicked at the stubborn few rain-clouds left in the sky.

One ice-blue-maned lilac Pegasus mare turned to her similarly-coloured co-worker and sighed in frustration. "Sheesh! This is, like, hard!"

When it was all happening, there were times when I wanted to beg You for help. There were times when I wished You would come and save me from it all. But now, in hindsight, I can see why You didn’t.

When Discord broke free, You told us that the Elements belong to us now. When Equestria was in danger You were right there at our side, but You can’t just swoop in and fight all of our battles for us. If You did, we’d never learn to stand up for ourselves.

Davenport adjusted his navy-blue waistcoat and then trotted into the back room of Quills and Sofas.

A group of Ponies sat in a semicircle in the beige-painted room.

Berry Punch sat fidgeting nervously next to Cheerilee, who held one of her hooves between her own.

Thunderlane sat to their right. The dark circles under his eyes were somewhat smaller now.

Pinkie Pie sat next to Thunderlane, the platter of baked goods she’d brought with her placed temptingly in front of her.

The dun-coloured Earth Pony stallion in the doorway headed over to a well-cushioned settee and sat down. Before he could speak, however, a late arrival trotted in.

“U-Um, is th-this the… the group f-for…” Fluttershy trailed off into inaudibility under the weight of five Ponies’ gazes. She cringed.

Pinkie Pie nodded, and patted the empty cushion next to her.

As hesitantly as a mouse leaving its burrow, Fluttershy crept into the room and sat down next to her Earth Pony friend.

“I… I’m not…” she muttered. She started shaking.

“These meetings are completely voluntary,” said Davenport. “That door doesn’t close. If you don’t feel comfortable – if you don’t feel safe – you can leave whenever you like, no questions asked. That goes for all of you.”

Fluttershy looked at Davenport, at Pinkie, and at the others.

“M-Maybe I’ll just stay a little while,” she said.

Pinkie smiled and nuzzled against Fluttershy reassuringly.

Davenport nodded, and prepared a quill and notepad. “Now… who’d like to go first?”

And my friends stood up for me. More than I deserved. No matter what may happen, no matter what we face from here on, I’m not alone. I don’t ever want to forget that again.

Applejack kicked the bounty from a last tree in the orchard-row, and then paused to wipe her brow with a foreleg. She turned to survey the fruits of her labours: several dozen full tubs of apples.

Big Macintosh trotted over, pulling a wagon similarly-laden with fresh harvest.

He nodded at Applejack.

She nodded back.

“You awright?” he asked.

Applejack took a deep, sighing breath, and turned her gaze to the neighbouring Carrot Clan land.

“Eenope,” she said, “but I’m gettin’ there.”

This is where I would usually tell You what I’ve learned about friendship, but I suppose the best way I can put it is the way I did above: I learned to never forget that I have friends. We may have our differences, but no matter how dark things become, no matter what happens to us, nopony – nothing – can break the special bond we share.

Your faithful student,

Twilight Sparkle

Twilight set down the magicked quill, looked out at the view of Ponyville from the Library’s balcony and sighed contentedly.

Spike hopped out of his basket nearby and approached her. He now sported an ensorcelled cast and sling, as well as a pair of empty-lensed, sticky-tape-covered sunglasses.

“I coulda done that for you, you know,” he said. “I’m getting pretty good at writing south-claw!” He held up a parchment covered in indecipherable blotches.

“That’s okay, Spike,” Twilight replied. You just focus on getting better for now. Besides – I still need my assistant to help me send it!” She rolled up the letter and magicked it over to the little Dragon.

He snatched it out of the air, took a deep breath, and then sent it on its way in a burst of green Dragonfire.

Spike ambled over and sat down next to Twilight. After a moment, he spoke:

“So… where did you send that Pony to, anyway?”

Twilight looked skyward. “I really don’t know. Far away. If she ever finds her way back, I hope she learns some tolerance on the trip.”

Spike shifted his bound right arm. “You can say that again!”

• • • • • • •

Topsy Turvy staggered through the broken, barren, red-skied landscape in a haze of thirst, fatigue, and simmering rage.

“Choke you with your stripey mane,” she muttered. “Put your eyes out with your own horn!”

Just then, a long, snaking shadow passed over; her heart leaped into her throat. Shakily, she turned around and looked up.

There He was. Sneering and slithering in all His serpentine supremacy, staring smugly and smiling.

Topsy fell to her knees. “I… I knew You’d get out! I KNEW it!”

“Yes… it was touch-and-go for a while there, but I managed to sque-e-e-e-e-eeze my way free!”

Topsy crawled forward and nuzzled his reptilian claw with her cheek. “We’ll show her, now! We’ll show Twilight Sparkle!” She cackled a mad cackle.

“Oh, you bet your beanie we will!” Her lord and master waved a leonine paw, and the blasted desert became a checker-patterned carnival. He picked her up and swung her around, dancing for joy.

Topsy giggled like a school-foal.

Her savior held her up to an oozing butterscotch fountain; she gurgled hungrily as she gulped down the sweet, sticky goo.

Queen Chrysalis smiled as the vicious little Earth Pony swallowed down mouthful after mouthful of the swollen nectar-drone’s secretions. It wouldn’t do to let her starve before she was completely drained.

The Queen of the Changelings winced; the Pony’s love was sour, weak, unpalatable fare compared to the ambrosia she’d tasted so recently, but for now, it was enough to keep her alive.

“We’ll show her, my little Screwball,” she repeated in Discord’s voice, “We’ll show them all!”

THE END

Comments ( 103 )

That's one freaky ending. Awesome story, from start to finish. I'm kind of sad that's it's over though.

Not quite an end, but getting close. Where one see's the end of the road all I see is the new beginning

Yikes, so Topsy is dead? Should have probably just arrested her.

Still excellent ending and everypony needs therapy now!

How can anyone not like this story?
Honestly, you are probably the best writer on this site! This story was crafted with such care, having a clear conflict, one HELL of a crisis, and a resolution that actually made sense. You kept everypony in character when most other writers (myself included), would have just thrown in a OOC moment to justify an ending.
You also tell so little, in a good way. It means you show us more of what happens than anything else, allowing us to really bring ourselves into the story. I tracked this story and I tracked Pony Psychology (Also an amazing read), but I wonder why I haven't watched you yet? I should fix that.
Thank you again for such an amazing story. Please, continue to write more.
Should you ever have the ambition to publish a book, let me know. I'll buy it!

I bet even Discord himself would have appreciated the sweet irony of that end. :pinkiecrazy:
Great story! A bit gruesome but fine reading nevertheless.

On the fourth impact with the corner of the Joke Shop’s outside wall, Twilight Sparkle’s horn cracked.

Did Twilights horn break off at this point? Because she uses magic afterwards and I have a hard time accepting magic from a unicorn with a broken horn.

That was fucking beautiful.

Whoa. That was pure awesome.

What a conclusion, Saddlesoap! Epic, jolting action sequences. So many chills and heartwarming epiphanies. For some reason, your depiction of Filthy Rich was especially relieving. I loved how he's more of a friendly character and resparked Rarity's true nature. The cinematic presentation of Twilight's letter sprinkled with sigh-worthy resolves was excellently organized. So very well done! I'd expected no less.

And, of course, a fitting end for such a wicked villain--by the holey hooves of yet another.

And now... Ditzy Doo: Muffins 2: FRIDGE! After Canterlot Gardens, of course... :twilightsheepish:

Damn, fuckin justice, yo. Great story, I liked it!

1354736 Don't forget, she's effectively immortal, only stopping regenerating once she gives up. That's why her hearing about Fluttershy broke her so badly; she just gave up.

Once her friends returned, and she regained a bit of hope and faith, her regeneration returned.

1354921
I can see that, but that's only revealed later in the story, after Topsy has already be stopped. Or did I forget something from earlier chapters?
And even if the element of magic keeps her alive, Wolverine-like regeneration of a broken-off horn should have been worth a mention.

blingcheese.com/graphics/greetings/thank-you/00ithankyou7.gif

Dear Saddlesoap,

Y'know, a fanfic like this only comes once in a while. I don't know if this was featured on EqD, but it sure as hell deserves it. This is, in my not-so-humble opinion, the best fanfiction I have ever read. This is sadder than My Little Dashie. This is more intense than Fallout Equestria, (cringe) and this is FAR more entertaining and straight to the point than Eternal.

This is more than a fanfic, it's a character study. I simply loved every moment of this fic. I truly did. Seriously, words don't do this fic justice. Maybe it's because this is the first story I cam across relating to MLP, earlier this summer. (when I became a pegasister) You don't know how it feels for this to have such a satisfying, albeit brutal, ending.

-Terry:scootangel:

P.S.
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A staccato thrumming briefly bursts into the Hive and Chryalis finds herself flung into a wall. Coughing, she blinks blearily at the strange biped standing before the insane earth pony mare she'd been feeding upon. About to stand, a commanding, cold and ruthless voice echos around her as the very air trembles, "Move not, lest I destroy you as well, insect."

The figure lifts Topsy by the neck. "As I said, once this story was over, you would be mine," the voice says, with an emotionless tone. "There is no rage, no wrath. Only justice in my true form. Ma'at must be served."

A hand rises and holds an open palm in front of Topsy's head. One word is spoken, "Cero." And in a blinding flash, her head vanishes. The figure simply drops the pony's body to the cavern floor while Chrysalis shrinks against the wall in sheer terror, the power she feels from this thing more horrible than any she has ever known. The head of the creature turns toward her and two golden white eyes in the brow of a leonine silhouette burned a single thought into her mind. "Trolololo!"

The creature vanished with the same noise accompanying as when it arrived, leaving Chrysalis utterly confused.

Far away in Canterlot, Celestia shuddered, reminding herself never to become Tyrantlestia with that thing lurking at the edge of every Ponyverse. For she alone knew that the Deux Ex Insert had struck again! :trollestia:

(Revenge at last!) :flutterrage:

new chapter??
Damnit, & I don't have a gif of Twilight saying "yesyesyesyesyes":fluttershysad:

Now for the readening!



EDIT: *slow clapping*
Very nice, and so worth the wait. I can hardly wait for your next tale.
Also, Fluttershy was so BUCKING epic in this chapter!
:yay::yay::yay::yay::yay::yay::yay::yay::yay:

1355044 EDIT: This story really was something else. But... Dear GOD! It felt so... canon. Like, disturbingly canon. :rainbowlaugh: I think I'm gonna curl up in a ball and watch the happy episodes. (Shiver) Seriously, I don't think I'll look at Discord the same ever again.

Thus ends the epic sequel to Pony Psychology. New sequel plz :twilightsmile:

That fight between Topsy and Pinkie was awesome! :yay: Reminds me of the mansion fight from the first Secret of Monkey Island. :rainbowlaugh:

An awesome fanfic. Definitely upvoting now that it's finished (you wouldn't believe how many fanfics start out great only to nosedive at the end). It also seems like you've set up a sequel hook at the end. Interesting...

So, so glad that this was a happy ending. After the last chapter, I was worried things would get worse before they got better. Seriously, it made me feel like I ate a rock.

How very appropriate an ending this was. Chrysalis might not be getting all that good a meal but, hey, food is food no matter how bad it tastes. (Seriously, it's probably like eating Elly Patterson's cooking.)

I wonder if that's really TT wearing a Nightmare Night mask.

Topsy’s right hoof crushed Spike’s fallen sunglasses, and her left hoof landed on his right arm.

He was wearing glasses?

And to be frank, I'm surprised TT is keeping her cool since I seriously doubt this was part of her plan and she hasn't had time to adapt.

“NO!” Twilight raised her head and ignited her horn.

This time, Twilight is going to have ZERO regret to vaporizing this psychopath.

And I think TT has forgotten that she's dealing with the most powerful unicorn alive FOR REAL.

“… g-get the n-n-nu-ur-r-r-s-s-s…” He collapsed.

The poison isn't THAT intense! It took RD gorging herself to get that level of poisoning. Okay, right into his blood stream I know, but it can't be that lethal.

I have just one question. Where did she get the straw?

And I figured ironically she'd use her talent for talking with animals to have an intelligent discussion with Barking Mad to get help.

"but it was a real simple trick, too."

Trap door?

“You Twinklers LOVE power trips!”

Call in The Elite and make sure Superman is on Pluto at the time.

– underestimating the big, dumb Mudhooves who grow your food and pull your carts and take out your trash.

Considering how much of Canterlot's elite is made of Earth Ponies, that is utter insanity. It's Pegasus besides wonderbolts and guards you never see in Canterlot!!!!

“Your fault that I WON’T EVER! BE! A WONDERBOLT!”

How does she figure that?

How come, Twily?

You have no right to call her that you nag.

She pulled Twilight’s head back from the wall and jerked it to the side, sending the Unicorn sprawling.

For an immortal, Twilight isn't even trying to fight back.

I imagine RD taking TT and flying her above the cloud layer, as far as she can as the atmosphere begins to thin . . . and drops her. The look of FEAR on her face would be golden!

isn’t everypony’s favourite filly-fooler!

Now that's just gratuitous. Her racism was enough thank you very much. This feels like extra.

Rainbow Dash let herself fall back down, her broken wing held high and immobile. She whimpered softly.

Wonder how poor Spike is holding up.

And I admit Earth Ponies are tough, but has been shown in boxing, wrestling, and in Underdog vs Overcat, that strength means nothing if you can't hit your target. I could imagine RD driving TT insane(r) with after images and showing her just why raw strength isn't everything she thinks it is.

“Do it…” wheezed Topsy from her vantage point on the rain-soaked ground a few yards away. “Do it, you bucking Buzzard. She’ll let you. Do it. DO IT!”

Moron. They can never resist keeping their mouth shut. They never realizing that trying to FORCE a point of view or action on someone will always make them reject it.

Topsy giggled. “Think you can get the whole TOWN to make nice before He finishes getting loose? Huh? DO YA?” She laughed until the motion made her wince in pain and hold her bruised sides.

If there ever a time to see if the power of music can come through as a tool of the power of friendship in the Pony verse, it is now. Yes I know the Ponies and Buffaloo incident, but the buffaloo have a completely different cultural heritage.

they’re feeling as upset and unappreciated as you were when you conjured all those dresses!

There's no way TT was able to plan that. And it feels really like, dumb luck it happened at the same time. Sorry.

“Oh, but sorry, Rarity – the magic will destroy the dresses.”

To be frank, while it IS saving the world, this would DESTROY the trust of Rarity's customers! I mean REALLY DESTROY IT! A business survives not just on quality but on REPUTATION as well! And I know they don't have CHOICE since they have a world to save, but seriously, this is going to kill Rarity's business, whether she offers a free custom replacement dress to her angry customers OR NOT!

Rarity's going to known as the mare who gave out dresses that went poof! And since they were only HER dresses, they can't come up with some BS lie to screw with the heads of the average pony.

Why did the CMC channel each other like that? How the heck did that happen?! 0-0

The sphere rocketed outward, propelling Topsy up and into the horizon in the blink of an eye. Her vengeful wail shrank into the distance.

Uh. Killing her by sending her thousands of miles through the air at hundred miles per hour? Or just 'making the problem go away?'
Uh. Dude. Sorry. Bad solution. Very bad solution. Should have just turned over the lunatic to either the mental ward or the royal guard. Sorry. This just doesn't work for me. I am very very VERY sorry. :-(

Twilight looked skyward. “I really don’t know. Far away. If she ever finds her way back, I hope she learns some tolerance on the trip.”

Sorry. That just wasn't good writing. For Chrysalis and her army it was a matter of getting hostile enemies out of the city. For TT, the LOGICAL AND SANE thing to do would have been to hand her over to the mental ward or city guard. It just feels, out of character for Twilight, sorry.

All in all. This was a brilliant piece of writing worthy of praise. One or two threads were left hanging, but unlike me you managed to write this BEFORE the new season came out. Congrats dude for doing what I've never been to do: Stay on track. While we have our difference, you are a magnificent writer, and are simply better than me. Congratulation.

This deserves to be featured for the next ten years! :derpyderp2:

Your storytelling style reminds me of an actual cartoon episode. A really well written one, but still has the same general feel. Especially your solution to Topsy Turvy and the ending.

1354965
I never wanted to suggest it broke OFF -- just that it got a big ol' crack in it (see the title graphic).

1355534
To answer a few of those concerns:
*Spike has been toting around Rarity's gift-shades ever since he got them.
*FS got a straw from the beverage that came with the death-meal: "A small bowl of applesauce and a paper cup of juice with a straw flanked a plate covered by a spread-out napkin."
*That Barking Mad idea is clever. Dammit. : p
*Yes, Topsy's racism is irrational and venomous.
*If Dash's broken oath bans her from using her wings, she can't be on an aerial display team.
*Twilight could have fought back harder, but she'd been awake for about six days and was broken in Spirit. Think of it as "When Ponyville is... ashes... you have my permission to die."
*Spike is a tough little critter with a splinted fracture. Dash is a semi-avian with a fresh break.
*Nope, no direct plan, there. Topsy planned for "Make TS feel like crap, let TS ruin everything FOR me."
*Rarity may get some mild flak, but cheerful full refunds and a general lingering sense of warm fuzzies may go a long way.
*On that note, the counterspell gave feuding parties a POV-blast; they briefly felt how their opponent felt, creating empathy and understanding. With the CMCs, that was a three-way sharing of perspective.
*It might not be a perfect solution, but Topsy had proven herself unrepentant, cunning, resourceful, strong, deadly and overflowing with hate. Exile seems kinder than leaving her to rave in impotent fury in some dungeon.

Well done. I've been wanting a fic where, basically, Screwball was a terrorist for Discord (aren't they all?), and this does well for what I imagined.

1354965 It's been an established fact since the last story. Plus, I don't think it actually broke off, just got some cracks in it, like a cracked windowpane.

So in the end Twilight actually did murder Topsy Turvy after a fashion.

This was awesome! Definitely lived up to the first installment!

One thing, though:

The counterspell struck Berry Punch and Cheerilee as they fought a tug-o-war over a heavy jug of cider. Their dresses ignited harmlessly and exploded into a shower of sorcerous twinkles.
“Every year, another class full of w-wonderful, bright little colts and fillies,” said Berry Punch, her voice full of borrowed regret, “and never one of my own! Why? It’s not fair! I have so much love to give…”
“One r-roll in the hay, and I’m s’posed to magically know what I’m doing?” slurred Cheerilee. “I love my little girl so much… but I’m so, so s-scared o’ messing everything up! I can’t even get through the day w-without… without…”
As the spell faded, the two mares stared into each other’s eyes and then pulled each other into a hug.

I think you mixed up Cheerilee and Berry here, Cheerilee is the teacher, right?

“You can help me through my awkward teen decades after all!”

Spike has the best answer.

1356320
Nope. (spoilers)
All of the names in those scenes are intentional. The spell is granting them insight into each other -- they are speaking each other's lines as they share their emotions. So Berry is saying what Cheerilee thinks, and vise-versa. Note the phrase "borrowed regret".

1356385

Alright. That bit wasn't really all that clear to me. All I got was that the spell made everyone feel depressed due to Rarity's stress or something.

You left out also her burying her head in the sand when face to face with magic that contradicts her experience with it. (Like most scientists and new theories. Einstein's theories actually CONTRADICTED Newton! ).

And TT is being hopelessly arrogant with the idea that an average Earth Pony with military training what so ever could mop the floor and murder the most powerful alive. She had completely drained Twilight's magic BEFORE HAND! It's like tying a guy's hands behind his back and then challenging him to a boxing match.

And I strangely was thinking of Superman Vs The Elite I watched last night:

The Elite (a gang of four 90s Anti-Heroes) completely DESTROYED Superman when fighting him . . . then Superman decided halfway through the fight to play by THEIR rules. And it quickly turn gruesome. "Bye."

TT was fighting the Twilight who Discord created, broken, and alone. If TT had been fighting the Twilight who caused the Want-It-Need-It disaster. She'd have already been dead.

In short, if TT ever faced psychotic Twilight, it would quickly turn into a brief Mook Horror Show.

I wonder what the love impulse showed Silver Spoon and Diamond Tiara.

And I wonder if anything will come of Sweetie Belle short stint with Diamond Tiara. Likely not. But one can hope.

And then Fluttershy became Macguyver and saved the world by forgiving a friend.

1356422
Oh HELLS yes. Topsy fought so dirty she'd make a wallowing hog barf. Rested and focused and challenged on open ground, Twilight would have been able to turn Topsy into a decorative credenza without breaking a sweat.

...Which is, of course, why Topsy cheated like a motherbucker. :pinkiecrazy:

1356407
Ah, okay. A little more clarifying:
There are two magical effects. The DRESSES echoed Rarity's shallow upset, bruised ego, and desire for attention, while the COUNTERSPELL used that woven magic as a power source to unleash the emotion-sharing effect (destroying the dresses in the process). Essentially, Rarity had been "stockpiling" her magic for DAYS all over town!

1356523
Yeah, I got the bit about the dresses; it just wasn't made clear by what I read what effect the counterspell had beyond reversing all the negative emotions and vaporizing the dresses, that's all I'm trying to say.

I love how Fluttershy did absolutely NOTHING wrong in this story... brilliant ending!!!

Geez, the picture ALONE gave me chills...

And it just kept coming more and more during the chapter. I mean, how often do we see PINKIE PIE well and truly PISSED OFF.
Followed immediately by the dragon-breaking, cockatrice-crushing, sh*t-spewing HORROR that is FLUTTERRAGE

This has just been a roller-coaster of psychological horror from start to finish. And we wouldn't want it any other way.
EPIC work!

Really enjoyed the story throughout! I did feel bad for poor Twilight, however... Yes, her friends all came back to her and stood up for her in the end, but it really didn't seem like they gave her much slack or sympathy even after it was revealed that there was an outside antagonist who had physically and mentally tortured her and manipulated things to drive them all apart, even framing Fluttershy as the mysterious pony who was in league with and trying to release Discord (a "paranoia" of Twilight's that was entirely true.) They all seemed to treat it as a magnanimous act that they wouldn't allow Topsy to finish beating Twilight to death (or in the case of Fluttershy, break the unicorn's neck herself). I liked the moment of forgiveness, but as a result it did lack some of the warm fuzzies I was kind of expecting from them all coming back together.

That said, the epic final (and brutal) battle was a great read, and the clever twists of the resolution were much appreciated. I liked Fluttershy's escape and Rarity's seeding of magic throughout the town via her dresses. The final twist at the end was pretty inspired as well, I thought. Great job, and I look forward to whatever comes next!

Damn. That was intense. A fantastic story through and through.
Though I'll admit a tiny part of me wanted it to end in terrible tragedy.

Bad ass Pinkie was best Pinkie. So Pinkie and Fluttershy are together with a group to talk. SOunds like a good idea.

So I guess you could say that, in the end, Topsy got...

*Throws on sunglasses*

...Served?

:moustache:

"Team Chaos is blasting off agaaainnnnnnn!"

Bravo. this ans pony psycology are easily my favorite fics.

I'm not really a big fan of the whole manipulative villain setup. They tend to start out as perfectly flawless manipulators, who never make the slightest mistake and never have any bad luck, because that builds the tension. And then, at the appropriate dramatic moment, either - *CLICK* - the deus ex machina switch is flipped from helping-the-villain to helping-the-heroes, or - *CLICK* - the villain suddenly turns into a boastful, ranting, mustache-twirling idiot. With the combined subtlety of the Great and Powerful Trixie and Iron Will.

So Topsy Turvy wasn't quite right in the head in the first place. So she had good reason to believe she had already won. Fine. But it feels too easy for Twilight. The villain reveals herself, beats Twilight around a bit, and then Twilight basically gets a free pass for everything she's done, and everypony hugs and goes home.

The whole thing just feels a little unsatisfying. Fluttershy's big moment was great, but would have been a bit more meaningful without Topsy Turvy setting the stage. I'd really like to see Twilight answer for her mistakes without an evil Discord worshiper standing over her broken body.

Or maybe I'm just overthinking this. I dunno. :rainbowhuh:

1357537
It can be a tough balance, yes -- maintaining realism vs. maintaining an engaging story.

I think what happens with villains like this is that their arrogance and sadism take over. They want proof of their total dominance, and if the hero never realizes what happened, they never know WHY they were beaten. When they think they've won, the villains want the hero to fully grasp the extent of their defeat, so they can watch the hero's despair as it descends. "I... killed... Mufasa!"

Also, in this case, Rarity's mass-produced dresses created the illusion of a much more thorough spiral into Chaos than was actually there -- a mistake Topsy made quite early on. Assuming her victory was mere moments away, she stepped up into torture-and-gloat mode.

As for Fluttershy, I felt that making Topsy watch the displays of friendship and trust and forgiveness was almost a heroic version of that very same villainous gloating. A total and undeniable proof that their heads are bloody, but unbowed.

Ah, the end of the sequel to the very first MLP fanfic I read, the one that solidified my career as a brony. How I love it.
Don't make another one. I think it's best to leave it off here.

All of my :yay: for this chapter.

This was an absolutely amazing fic! This is coming from me, a person who's such a wimp that she can barely read any darkfics whatsoever! And I loved Pinkie's roll in the fight. Sorry, I really don't have any long, drawn-out speech or anything like this, because there's not much more that I have to say.

I guess this really wraps up the whole "Pony Psychology" just perfectly, with even smaller plot threads from previous installments well wrapped up. I was worried how you could finish with a happy (or not disturbingly dark) ending after last chapter, but in the end the happy ending was really earned, and while Rarity's magic was "Deus ex Machina"-ish, it kinda made sense in retrospect.

Anyway, you managed to use previously established things, which made the ending quite beautiful and bittersweet, while not feeling forced.

I just have one question - Was Topsy's plan part Discord's or her own? I mean, was she some kind of Discord fanatic, or were those ideas planted by him in order for him to break free?

That was amazing. I think my favourite part was the Pinkie beat down, especially the off-screen part. That was inspired. I have only seen Windfall/Earth&Sky try to tackle the same sort of cartoon violence, which is very hard to do (and there to, it works really well.) The counter-point of the silliness to the seriousness of the moment just made it even better.

Stupendous work, just stupendous. I will look forward to what ever you come up with next.

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