• Published 10th May 2016
  • 1,661 Views, 78 Comments

Reincarnation or Immortality - Chinchillax

As Pinkie Pie lies on her deathbed, Accord makes plans for her and all of Equestria to become immortal. But the true creators of Equestria have a different say on the matter.

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Hope reached further and further, extending its grasp as far as the number of souls in the interface could be stretched thin. Every day more Kings and Queens were accepted into the collective. Truth be told, they needed every soul they could get. There was so much information to analyze and so many possibilities to uncover. Everything had to be learned to the finest detail. Rare Trillion was sought after and given memory covers with precision before passing them off to the Kings and Queens.

Hope farmed for more souls to add into the queue on the border universes of that hexagonal prism at the end of the multiverse. There was such a high quantity of Trillion there.

At that moment, one hundred million Kings and Queens had just had the last star go out in their universes, signaling their judgment on whether they would join Hope or be added into some other King or Queens reincarnation queue. Memories of the lifetimes of hundreds of billions of worlds were parsed in fractions of seconds. Each one carefully recorded and remembered in the memory universes Hope inhabited, external storage for them to continuously adapt and understand the new information.

Every single soul, without fail, had their memories wiped and their instruction began for them to become new Kings and Queens.

All of this was occurring as Galaxia entered into one of Hope’s domains.

“Hello Galaxia,” reverberated some of the nearby members of Hope to the Queen. She was still in a pony form. Every memory from her last visit with Hope was retrieved from the memory universes and analyzed again in the time it took for a few members to reach out and touch her soul’s memory cover.

Her fresh memories rippled across the collective and reverberated throughout the cosmos.

For the briefest of moments, all activity across the multiverse stopped. Every single soul in the collective took a breath at the news of the solving of one of the oldest mysteries in the multiverse. They finally knew what was inside the hexagonal prism they had thought had been the edge of the multiverse. The prism that they had circumnavigated had an owner that was still alive, and he had left that massive universe to live a life on one of their planets.

Hope had always wanted to meet a new race, some form of existence that had sprung up randomly without their direct control. The fact that it was an individual and not a collection of souls affirmed to Hope most of their experiments.

“We have a guest,” was the only warning they gave Galaxia before they reached out, grabbed her, and zoomed to her universe. Souls streamed from every part of Hope to form the new branch, diverting millions of Kings and Queens from their constant exploration of the edges of the multiverse. Instead they paved Hope’s path to Equestria.

The souls that had first reached the wall were the most keen to visit whoever this Accord thing was. Hundreds of millions of souls were making their way toward the branch, a massive unneeded migration unprecedented in the entire history of Hope, but they had never had the opportunity to meet a being that could be older than they were.

There was foreign knowledge there. No matter how much diversity Hope fostered, there were still ideas that could never spring from their work. Something was new in the multiverse and needed to be investigated immediately.

Like a snake slithering his way in between and around loose pebbles, Hope slid its way to Galaxia’s universe, the race only impeded by the conquest of empty universes. Hope never went anywhere without making dead things come alive. Each universe had all the atoms ordered to break down to hydrogen, new Kings and Queens assigned quickly to their new universes as Hope raced to Galaxia’s universe. The only nearby one that was alive belonged to King Cosmos. Hope plucked him out of his universe and dragged him along with them.

They entered Galaxia’s spacetime, forming a giant hole in her universe for more of Hope to come through, navigating their way to the planet.

The first task was to order all atoms on the planet to stop their current tasks, effectively stopping time. Hope sent the instructions to the nanomachines, each one ordered to send the message onwards and halt until further instruction. After a few short moments, an eternity by Hope’s standards, they realized their instruction had been disobeyed. The planet continued to spin, each and every sapient soul continuing as normal, as if the entire planet was protected by a layer of glass.

“Looking for me?” asked a gray alicorn standing on the shield below.

⬡ ⬡ ⬡

Accord watched as a long arm of sapience reached out and touched his head, searching for a memory cover to his soul that they wouldn’t find. He felt confident that the probing would yield them no results, as the vastness of his memories couldn’t be so easily confined to a simple memory cover.

“I must say, I wasn’t expecting all of this,” said Accord looking at the white mass of sapience. “What brings you to such a fine planet today?”

Queen Galaxia landed in front of him, what must have been King Cosmos on the other side, and in the middle the mass coalesced into something that slowly resembled a pony.

Hooves and legs formed, the entirety of its temporary body shimmering from all the souls that made up itself. Its mane and tail remained as the flood it had arrived as, the rainbow of colors from the souls coalescing into a brilliant white. They flowed in and out at regular intervals, trading around with the ever migrating, constantly moving river that was still entering above Equestria.

“We wished to meet with you, Accord,” Hope began. “We have searched long and hard, for trillions of years, for something sapient besides ourselves. This is a special occasion for us.”

Accord stared at them, perplexed. Perhaps they weren’t going to be his enemies after all. “It’s nice to meet you too, Hope.“

“We only gleaned a little bit of information about you from Galaxia,” said Hope. “Is there any way we could get some kind of memory transfer from you. We wish for complete understanding and these primitive words will not do our exchange of ideas justice.”

They weren’t losing any time in their information gathering, Accord was beginning to like them. They wanted to know everything as much as he had used to. “I am afraid I do not have a memory cover, and if I told you all I know then whatever storage method you are using would not be able to contain it.”

Hope looked disappointed, “Very well. We shall limit ourselves to words. Please tell us who you are, why you are here, and why you have not made contact with us sooner.”

Accord stood a little taller; if they were going to be this direct, he would too. “When I tell you all of that, will you allow me to make everypony on this planet immortal?”

Hope’s mane straightened for a small moment; Galaxia and Cosmos visibly flinched, but said nothing,

“Why would you wish this? Only sadness can result from immortality,” said Hope, their tone turning mournful.

“If you had asked me fifty years ago, I would have said the same thing, but I know better now.”

Hope stared at him, confused and intrigued. “We wish to understand your perspective. How have you solved the problem of immortality?”

He closed his eyes and concentrated on crafting an illusion of the library, all of them appearing as if they were inside a hallway that extended left and right for infinity. Only Hope’s mane trailing outside broke the illusion of actually being there.

“I have been alive for a long time. When I thought I had experienced everything, I created a library that housed every single understandable book that could possibly exist. I have spent most of my lifespan reading it.”

Hope reached out and grabbed a book using Equestrian magic, eyes narrowing at the realization of how random such a library would be. “Is this structure you were in a giant hexagonal prism?” asked Hope, returning the book and looking back to him.

Accord shifted the illusion to the middle of the library, placing them in the center of the hexagonal shaft.


Hope smiled. “We had been so happy to have found that wall at the end of the multiverse, only to discover that it wound around again on itself,” Hope frowned. “How long have you been reading, Accord?”

“10^82740 universe cycles.”

Hope stopped and stared, processing the duration but unable to comprehend it fully.

“And in all that time, you never noticed us?”

Accord looked sheepish, his ears drawing back. “I don’t get out much.”

“You must have noticed us trying to teleport inside your library. We were actively repelled from entering it.”

“Those were precautions I took when I made the extension to my mind. If it has a soul, it was banished and not allowed in. I didn’t want the later floors of my library filled with evolved book creatures. The random nature of atoms might cause my books to eventually break down and reassemble, but my spells keep the library intact. ”

“So you’ve been alone—in your mind—for eternity?” asked Hope.

“That about sums it up,” said Accord. “How about you then? How do you choose to spend infinity?”

They stared at him before responding. “We are Hope, we have many desires. We are information farmers with the goal of finding the ideal existence.” An illusion appeared around them, and several dozen worlds and various sapient creatures floated past.

“To reach that goal we are employing trillions of Kings and Queens, each with millions of their own worlds. We search in those souls ideas on creation, understanding life in all the forms it can take. One day we hope to find the ideal existence, erase all our memory of our time here, and reincarnate into that perfect state.”

Accord’s eyebrows furrowed, “Erase? Why would you ever erase your memories?”

“Memories are not a burden we will need once we have found the ideal state of being. We desire to reach a state that does not demand desire, to be at peace and live comfortably. We want a rest not only from all the work we’ve done to reach that state, but a rest from having to remember it. Starting with a clean slate is the perfect way for this once we’ve found it.”

“Is what you’re doing to souls that much of a burden?”

Hope paused, bringing up scenes of hundreds of lives, watching them play out in fast forward. “We would prefer not to put them all through these ordeals. We learn from them out of necessity, but ideally we will only need to learn from one format, one species that souls will inhabit, and one template of worlds to choose from. All the souls in our care are subject to this experimentation. Until we find the ideal solution, the experiments and tests for a utopia must continue. When that ideal existence is found, then we can proceed to fill the rest of the multiverse to the boundaries of infinity with that perfect blissful state.”

Accord looked over at the various forms that Hope had been experimenting with. “So in this ‘ideal existence’ are there Kings and Queens that interact directly with the souls?”

“Absolutely not. For the sake of freedom, we allow our Kings and Queens that privilege now. But most of them follow our guidance and do not touch planets after a sapient race appears.”

Accord stiffened, watching as the societies of world after world eventually crumbled in on themselves, stories he didn’t know the details for flashing by. “So you create these planets, but never touch them afterwards?”

“We try not to, the ideal existence would not involve a higher being to keep it functioning.”

Accord bristled at this, the idea somehow making him uncomfortable. “I’m afraid I do not understand your goal. ‘Ideal existence,’ what is that exactly?”

“A state that is universally loved by every soul. We have tried many forms to understand which ones souls like to control the best.” A couple hundred planets of various sizes and various inhabitants slowly moved past. “We have tried many different aspects of planets and forms of existence for them to play around in.”

Accord watched as hundreds of planets were sampled, with a select few promising planets copied atom for atom millions of times, tests to see how long they would last with minor variation. Several hundred books in Accord’s library were dyed blue in that moment, the ideas clicking into place and confirming the information. “And what has been the results of the experiment?”

“The simple answer we seek, the one size fits every soul solution, has not reached a conclusion. Souls love and hate the worlds they are assigned to, and forcing them to enjoy something has been unwise. We have run many universe wide trials. One successful planet will pop out to us as having possible qualities for continued exploration, but when we stick souls on identical worlds, not all of them like it. They are too complicated. Despite how similar in structure souls are to atoms, these nanomachines do not compare to their baser elemental forms, they are sapient and nothing applies everywhere.”

Accord watched as Hope’s worlds flickered out, a long line of failed experiments. “I’ve also pondered on those questions, Hope. I’ve probably even read the answer you’re looking for,” Accord said, several books coming to mind he was anxious to validate.

“If you’ve read it, then what is it?” asked Hope.

“It doesn’t work like that, I’ve read everything, but whether it is correct or not I won’t know until I can confirm it. Due to the word permutations, anything could be answer to what you want,” He paused, a little embarrassed. “It’s a very slow method of obtaining ideas.”

Hope looked at Accord as if its perception on the intelligence of him had dropped significantly. “If reading proved so useless, why did you do it for so long?”

“Time is infinite. It spans backwards and forwards for forever. I also had a misunderstanding of what I could do, of alternate ways I could live. I can be anything I want to be. I misunderstood the vastness of time as something I should let fly by. I know better what I can do and what it is I want, and for now I want to continue my friendships.”

Accord looked at Cosmos, Galaxia, and Hope. “I would like to ask your permission to make the souls of this world—all of them—immortal, at least as immortal as Celestia for a time.”

Hope stared at him, its mane switching out the souls that were in its body with those in the rest of the river.

“You have spent too long in your library, Accord. Despite your age being higher than the combined ages of all members of us, you don’t know the basic rules of existence.”

“Rules?” Accord repeated skeptically. “Rules don’t exist here. Space and time go on infinitely, there are plenty of places where there are no rules.”

“We say ‘rules’ because we have done enough sampling to find certain patterns that are guaranteed to occur. The main problem with what you are asking is that we have never had a successful world with entirely immortal souls.”

“What do you mean, never?” asked Accord, his face remaining stoic, while inside his heart sank. They had data, true data that could be confirmed as having actually happened, while all he had were books with all possible happy continues he wanted to see.

“We have run billions of worlds where everyone was immortal, and every single one has broken down.” Hope changed the illusion to a planet inhabited by bark-eating crab-like creatures, fast forwarding as the creatures continued to populate their planet.

“Take, for instance, this race. They were the first with whom we explored the idea of living forever. A lot of the early generations of us come from this stock of souls. But immortality was not kind to them, and their technological advances were incredibly slow.”

Accord watched in fast forward as the crab-like creatures shambled around eventually gaining enough intelligence to learn how to write. Elsewhere during that same time period, many other races had had a nuclear holocaust, destroyed all life on their planet, and then had evolved to the point that they had another nuclear holocaust.

“Because they were immortal they only considered space travel when their nearby sun had grown so large it was greeting them on their doorsteps.”

The ever expanding sun next to their world slowly encapsulated the entire planet. But as they were completely immortal, they merely continued on with their lives and got used to being covered by the fusion of elements.

“Only a select few even imagined moving off world. They didn’t want to create. They had no desire to increase in knowledge. They had so much time they squandered it, and treated it like it was worthless.”

“But time is infinite, anything you have an infinite quantity of can be considered ‘worthless’ in that sense,” said Accord.

Hope stared at him, and the quiet reflective tone they had been using turned colder. “We see this stagnation in you quite clearly, Accord. An infinite amount of time in a library with worthless information, the few gems of knowledge tucked few and far between the mundane and useless—nothing worthy of trust. Only you could defend such a lazy race.”

“But were they happy?” asked Accord.

“No, they simply existed. They stayed in the same pattern and did not evolve like the races that had a time limit imposed on them.”

The scene shifted again, this time taking Accord to a completely blue planet covered in reptilian, web footed creatures. “We kept the sun from expanding for this group and they stayed in their same social structures for billions of years. Everyone secretly hated each other. Everyone remembered the detailed gossip from stories millions of years old, haunting every member of that society. They could not forgive each other.”

Accord watched as everyone on the planet eventually drifted into private virtual environments of their own choosing. The blue surface was slowly encompassed by continents of encroaching gray processors. “This stagnation and escapism is not what we want in an ideal race. If they were escaping into worlds they actually learned how to create on their own we would be excited for them, but they were content with imitations.”

The scene shifted again to two cyborg quadrupedal creatures, the last members of a race that had shut themselves off to sleep and ordered that no one turn them on. “6462 and 9413 was our favorite love story, we rooted for them to stay together for so long. They loved each other in every sense of the word they learned together, and they did what we hope all of our souls would do: figure out how to manipulate the elements to change the shape of anything into anything else, instructing the nanomachines to build and create.”

Accord watched the couple, their creations becoming more beautiful as time drew on. Ever more intricate machines, creatures, planets, and galaxies were created and made more fantastic with each iteration. “But less than ten universe cycles into their relationship, they had an argument and broke apart.” Accord watched horrified as 6462 left 9413, flinging himself through space and getting stuck at the edge of the universe, waiting for his internal battery to die. “They still remembered all the mistakes they had made against each other, and after a certain point they stopped forgiving each other.”

He stared at the couple. They were in a form not too different from a pony, but they didn’t last forever. Accord thought of Fluttershy, desperate to do anything to stay with her for as long as possible.

“We thought we had hit a huge breakthrough with the idea of ‘heavens.’”

The scene changed to other worlds, some with fluffy white clouds, and some similar to the ones made previously.

“The theory was to have souls go through a death process and then construct ideal environments for them to live in,” continued Hope. “But heavens are too boring and lead to the same problems that direct immorality has. The maximum amount of time we’ve had a heaven last was less than a hundred universe cycles. An impressive jump in duration, but an ending is still an ending. And the unsettling methods by which they often end their eternities cannot be allowed to occur.”

Hope removed the illusion, the world below coming back into focus. “Eternity is too long, Accord. You can’t have anyone living forever, at least not with anyone else.”

All of Accord’s ideas, all of his books, everything he had ever wanted seemed so far out of reach. Hope had tried very hard to find a perfect solution for everyone, and they had failed. But they kept going anyway. “And so reincarnation is your ideal solution?” Accord asked.

“We don’t want it to be, but after all the data that has been gathered, some of us feel that a lifetime should most likely last less than one universe cycle. That configuration could be the most optimal.”

Accord kept his face stern and rebutted, “Dying is what isn’t natural, Hope. There’s no reason for it. Souls are immortal, why not the forms that souls take as well? What is the point of existence if not to continue to increase in knowledge?”

“We have plenty of reasons for it. We can show you the billions of worlds that have broken down due to guilt and lack of forgiveness.”

“That’s not a good enough reason, Hope,” Accord said. “Helping souls live forever is the most important thing that can ever be done. Even if it takes an infinite amount of time to find out how, reaching a point where we can be comfortable with the idea of living for an absolute forever is something that must be sought after.”

“Is that what you too have been seeking after, Accord? Is that something you’ve been trying to find in your random words?” asked Hope.

Accord’s eyes shifted, “Not exactly,” he hesitated before adding more. “I’ve been trying to figure out a method for synthesizing the base elements into the highest element, Trillion.”

“You can not make souls from scratch either? That is unfortunate news. But why is that your goal?”

Accord thought about the trilogy of books in the fear section, weighing whether to say all of his thoughts out loud, and finally agreeing to let the words come. “I have reason to believe that I may be at fault for the multiverse being like this. Originally, there might have only been Trillion, but there is a possibility I may have cast a spell that went out across the multiverse and deconstructed Trillion into the base hydrogen that makes up the multiverse.”

Hope’s flowing wings shifted, “And what evidence do you have of that, Accord?”

“None but ideas I can’t stop thinking about. I can not confirm that this is the case, but until I do I have to keep trying to find a spell to put them all back together.”

Hope almost laughed, “Are you saying that you feel responsible for something that you might have done in the past?”

“Of course,” said Accord.

“The past is done,” said Hope. “We can use it to create better futures, but you cannot be responsible for something you don’t know if you did or not. You’re wracked with guilt, the same thing that prevents the souls in our universes from ever being truly immortal. If everyone was able to forgive each other and, more importantly, themselves, we might see an increase in the duration of time that souls enjoy being alive. But here you are, using that same guilt that drives other beings to reincarnate and using it to keep yourself alive.”

Accord had started to slump but caught himself and stood straight, keeping focused and trying to remember the books that had spoken of this.

Hope stared at him, the collective’s eyes piercing Accord. “Despite what you say, we think you would really like to reincarnate, Accord. You’ve been avoiding it for so long, plaguing yourself with guilt that we can remove for a time. We could give you a memory cover and back up every experience you have ever had. If you don’t end up liking being without memory, you could always restore from a backup. Can you think of anything more freeing than to be away from your past? You could reread your favorite books for the first time. You could start over someplace new. You could change to be something completely different. You could get valuable data on how your soul without your memories naturally behaves. You could—“

“Never,” Accord cut them off, fuming, his eyes narrowed.

“Never?” asked Hope.

“NEVER!” Accord flared.

“Why, there are so many reasons to—“

“None is good enough to lose all trust I have in myself,” Accord said through gritted teeth.

Hope stared at him, expecting an explanation.

“I don’t have any evidence for a mass deconstruction of souls, but I do know my previous incarnation kept something from me.” Accord manipulated an illusion around them to show his first memories: a large empty place with a white floor eventually curving in on itself. The entire pocket universe was a white sphere with a single small sun floating in the center.

“My first memories were of growing up in a controlled environment, with no one there but myself and a soulless AI. I learned how to read, speak, and create from videos and books that would play automatically, until I learned how to manipulate them. I figured out that I had created that room before I had erased my memories, a perfect place to allow myself to learn and start over from scratch.

“But after learning and creating and figuring out every scrap of existence I could, I found a way to escape that universe and go to a different one, leaving behind my prison paradise. From my readings, I understood Trillion and how precious it was. That was the one thing I know the me from before I lost my memories wanted me to understand. But the odd thing was that I couldn’t find any Trillion in any of the universes I visited.

“After many millions of years of wandering I found a universe with soul in it, only the rarest of suns housing the element.

“But why had the universe I had been raised in been devoid of soul? I took samples of the elements from billions of universes, and they all remained consistent except for the couple hundred surrounding where I had originated. Those universes were completely void of soul.

“What that means... I can only guess. Maybe no one liked me and just wanted to get away? Or perhaps I was so enraged I banished all the souls away from me? Or, it’s as I suspect: I figured out a way to break down Trillion into hydrogen, permanently causing them to turn as close as they can to cease to exist. And then that deconstruction spell weakened over time to the point that only souls far from the shockwave survived.

“Whatever I did,” Accord said with resolve, “I want to know. I want to know every detail, every moment, every mistake. If I figured out a way to break down souls, I want to put them back together again.

“Losing memories is not a method to forgive yourself. It is merely hiding one’s own actions.” Accord finished speaking, stopping the illusion, the planet of Equestria returning below with the moon slowly peeking over the horizon.

“If you figured how to break down souls, then we agree, that was an atrocious act,” Hope said. “But we also believe that the decision you took to erase your memories was necessary.”

“Necessary!? I have been searching in that library for a way to put them back together for an eternity!” Accord seethed. “I seek forgiveness for a crime I will never know if I committed or not, but until I put them back together I will feel like I failed them.” Accord was losing respect for Hope: here was a being that should understand his predicament and desires, but their problem solving method was as despicable as Accord’s past self must have been.

“This is exactly why you need reincarnation, Accord. You messed up on your first time and it turned you off to the entire experience, but your second try will be done better. You’ll rearrange Trillion more uniformly across the multiverse, and leave no evidence. In fact, we can set you up very nicely. Many of our number regularly take breaks from being us to enjoy a lifetime or two on a favored world.”

Accord glowered at Hope, rage filling his eyes, thinking of all the memories and friendships he had that would cease to be should he ever so much as give those thoughts power over himself. “You’re talking about suicide!”

“Is it really suicide if you can reverse the consequences when you feel like it?”

“Yes it is!” shouted Accord.

“If you are so against the idea, why did Galaxia’s Cutie Mark allocation algorithm leave you with the symbol for infinity?” Hope brought the symbol into the space between them. And a small sphere raced along the figure eight track and grew bigger and bigger until it reset in size upon completion of a circuit. “Can’t you see that this cycle continues onward? That it all merely repeats on the same path you will tire of eventually? You can’t live for an absolute forever, Accord.”

“If my soul lasts forever, then why not me?” Accord said to Hope, and the infinity symbol on his flank wiped away and was replaced with a single line with a small arrow at the end, the mathematical symbol for a ray.

“You think a memory reset is the only way for sapient beings to really change. I disagree! We are constantly changing, constantly making ourselves better, and I will never, ever commit suicide again.”

Accord glowered at Hope. The glass shield around the planet enlarged and flashed colors as it strengthened further. Auroras ricocheted around the spell and knocked into each other, the peak energies colliding and forming deep electric purples.

A book entered Accord’s mind, the energies of the spell calming as a smile crossed his face. “If you are so sure that reincarnation is the answer, have you ever thought of the idea that you are already living in your own ideal configuration? Just think—the last group you were in found the ideal configuration, but got so bored with it that they decided to start over. They left it to be rediscovered again and again by you, their future selves. In reality, the ideal configuration is the multiverse you see and create around you, it is the diversity and the wonder of life.”

Hope glowered at him, their souls in their mane shifting as billions teleported back up the river at once and billions more replaced them.

“Let’s get back to the start of this whole matter. The only reason you want to make everything on this world immortal is because of Pinkie Pie?” Hope called up some of Celestia’s memories that showed Pinkie Pie hosting a party. The laughter and activity of the projection was jarred against their topic of conversation. “What makes her so special that you have to keep her in this incarnation?"

“I can’t bring myself to let any of my friends die, and she happens to be the first. There’s no reason why she has to go.”

“Then why not just your friends? Why do you need the whole planet immortal?”

Accord looked up at the stars, pointing out one solitary star in the distance. “I used to think that I was the only thing that could be immortal in this multiverse, but look—” Accord highlighted another star, a path forming between the two “—my friend Fluttershy is also okay with being immortal, that makes three immortal ideas in the multiverse: me, Fluttershy, and our relationship.”

“What if Pinkie Pie, Rarity, Twilight, Applejack, Rainbow Dash, and Spike agreed to be immortal?” With each name mentioned, Accord highlighted another star and brought connections to each other star, filling a small section of the sky with a glowing mesh of connections. “If those six are immortal, then so are all the relationships between them as well. That’s thirty five immortal things in the universe! And if we add their spouses and all their kids—”

“We know basic math, Accord.” Hope interrupted his plotting and star connecting, the mess of points and connections continuing to be added to as Accord thought of more ponies he would like to be friends with forever.

“What are you after?”

“I’m admitting that I was doing immortality wrong,” said Accord, still turning every single star in the sky into his own personal relationship graph. “There is always something new to learn because every being is different, and just how they are different from each other is a subject that actually can fill up all time. These relationships, the bonds that strengthen an acquaintance to becoming a friend to becoming someone you love and understand, all of this—” Accord gestured to the grand starscape, every star glowing and interconnected with every other star, “—fractals out to infinity.

“Understanding those relationships and how they interact is something that will take up all of my infinite time. I’ve grown to love them all more than any book that could be written about them. I want to continue to get to know them, forever.”

The weaving stars completed their connections. Accord stood transfixed at his own connected starscape and all the possibilities it represented. A look of joy spread across his face.

“But is that what they want, Accord?” asked Hope.

Accord stared at them.

“You have been alone for too long, Accord, that much is for sure. You don’t even stop to think if all of your friends and the innocent bystanders on that planet, on which you want to unleash the worst kind of curse, would even want to be immortal. You’re selfish. You only care about your perspective on it.”

Accord stood there, his face slacked to neutral, listening to Hope.

“Have you even considered the voidwishers? Those that consistently don’t want to exist? They commit suicide on most worlds we place them on, hoping that death will end everything, but their desire for nonexistence cannot ever be granted, it is beyond the power of any being. The theoretical idea of breaking down a soul to base hydrogen is speculation, not even you can break down or put together souls. Reincarnation is the perfect method for helping them. Voidwishers can truly experience non-existence because their soul is off someplace else, already living life. That former self gets to be forgotten. It’s the only solution we’ve been able to come up with that will satisfy them.”

“That... can’t be all that common,” said Accord, trying not to think about one of the book of fears that had mentioned voidwishers.

“Pinkie Pie was one of them,” said Hope.

A chill ran down Accord’s spine, and the bright glow of all the fractals in the stars slowly dissipated and dimmed into the normal cosmos. He grew uneasy, several hundred books about the subject coming to his mind, none of them with adequate answers.

“But... she’s so happy,” said Accord.

“I’m sure she is, but her behavior across all previous lifetimes proves that this world is an outlier for her. You cannot let a voidwisher—even a former one—ever get their hooves on immortality.”

“Why not?”

“They lose hope, Accord! Their only desire is to cease to exist, but their souls are immortal, their memories are immortal. They do not have an avenue to escape once they know they will never cease to exist.”

Hope started showing a universe filled with hydrogen and Trillion, a completely lifeless, starless universe. “Do you see this, Accord? This is what resulted of our trial runs on true immortality, the ones that got to above fifty universe cycles in length before things went terribly wrong.

“You’re aware that at the edge of each universe is a thick, galaxy wide layer of nonfusing hydrogen, and that is what keeps universes separate from each other. But what we’ve found is that the same method used to create that barrier can be replicated.”

Accord watched as a simulation of a universe had each and every star and higher element dissemble and revert to hydrogen. The usually beautiful method of reviving a dead universe was corrupted when he realized that the hydrogen refused to form suns. “This is what happens when voidwishers take their desires too far, when they understand that destroying their body will never destroy their soul. They eventually desire to destroy all souls in the multiverse. If they left any soul alive, that would risk the chance of someone putting them back together again. And so they leave instructions for the hydrogen here to repel from each other, preventing suns from forming.

“The ones in those universes failed, of course, but their philosophy—that idea when thought about for too long—can drive a being insane enough to try to do it. Reincarnation protects against destructive thoughts like that. We know how precious souls are, that’s why we want to find a configuration that satisfies everyone, including them.”

Accord stared unnerved at the dead universes.

“All of our experiments with immortality—all of the best heavens we could create—led to universes like these, Accord. We don’t know the specifics because they thankfully only broke the memory cover we gave them and not their base soul. But souls are too precious to allow them more than a few universe cycles of time.

“How about you, Accord? Are you willing to protect voidwishers by letting them stay reincarnating?”

Accord stared at his shield he had been protecting Equestria with, the seeds of self doubt forming in his mind, slowly eroding at his resolve. He thought about all the worlds that had failed. He thought about Pinkie Pie and all of the wonderful parties, all of the great memories and how much she loved her grandfoals. She was the happiest grandmother in Ponyville, always baking treats for everypony. She was always helping and was the greatest example Accord had ever met of being a friend to everyone.

“You said Pinkie Pie was one of them,” Accord said, “Why did you say ‘was?’”

“Because Galaxia and Cosmos here did everything in their power to ensure that Pinkie’s life was a great one.” Hope moved around the illusion to show Cosmos manipulating Rainbow Dash’s rainboom into having extra magic inside of it, the extra boost making a filly Pinkie Pie smile. “They interfered much more than we would prefer, but their goal was to help her find a place she wanted to stay.”

Accord watched as the rainboom shockwaved across Equestria, manipulating some of his best friends, causing Spike to be willed into existence, the magic permeating his friend’s lives. Accord looked at Galaxia and Cosmos, “You did this?”

Galaxia stayed silent, waiting for Hope to reply instead. When they didn’t, she said, “Yes, I did everything in my power to help Pinkie Pie want to stay.”

“What do you mean, stay?”

Cosmos responded, “She never selected a place she was happy to be. She’s been through forty-seven other lifetimes—a long time to never have a world she liked—that’s why we worked at trying something that hadn’t been tried before.”

“And it worked,” Galaxia said. “As far as I know, her base soul was able to physically change itself, altering her behavior.”

Accord took this in, several thousand books coming to his mind, ideas that had comforted him, but he hadn’t understood why. “Hope, maybe that’s your ideal configuration? Why not have some higher being actually help the souls on the worlds you make.”

“No, the ideal configuration would require no maintenance,” Hope disagreed. “Souls are better off without having their freedoms infringed upon by an always watching, always judging being above them. We try our best to avoid that at all costs.”

“But... how else would you help a soul like Pinkie? Wouldn’t it be a better situation to have a protector and a friend for everyone, always ready to help or have a conversation at a moment’s notice? Someone omniscient and omnipotent that understands them.”

“We’ve had rogue Kings and Queens intend to behave like that before, Accord. They get power hungry, demand too much of the souls they are in charge of, and rarely stay the benevolent beings they started off as. The perspective difference between a King or Queen and the souls they are put in charge of are too great.”

“So you’re saying that it hasn’t been tried?”

“It’s been tried, but it wasn’t sanctioned by us.”

“Perhaps that was the problem. A King or Queen that would try to directly control the souls after they had made a world against your wishes would also be terrible at keeping other rules.”

“We don’t have rules, Accord. We explore every possibility.”

“Then there’s a possibility I would like to explore: I want everyone to be immortal. I have a lot of ideas for how I could make it work.”

“Do you really?” said Hope, taking a step forward and looking at him. “Are you prepared for when widows ask for their dead husbands back, only to find that they have already reincarnated elsewhere?”

A smirk crossed Accord’s muzzle, ecstatic to have thought that through long ago. “I’ve actually been keeping deceased souls from reincarnating for fifty years now.”

Hope’s eyes narrowed. “That only compounds your problems, Accord. Which souls will you permit to be raised from the dead? And once they are raised, won’t they want their friends and families too? You’re going to hit that fifty year limit incredibly fast.”

Accord stared at the planet below, self-doubt edging in and clouding his judgment. Book upon book, idea upon idea pelted him with possible answers while books from the fear section attacked every solution. Accord frantically rifled through more books in his mind, hoping that a solution would emerge. He felt like he had been backed up to the point that all he had left to hold onto was hope.

“Hope...” Accord said aloud. “Why did you choose that name?”

Their sapient swirling mane stiffened for a moment, as if processing the question throughout the entirety of the distant collective. “We Hope that there is a solution. That everyone can live forever. We’re still figuring out what configuration that might be, but we Hope that we will find it.”

Accord sat down, thinking about the response, staring at his hooves. He shoved books and possibilities out of his mind, concentrating on what was important, not letting randomness dictate his thoughts, but focusing them on this one effort. It was several moments before he brought his head back up and stood straight and tall.

“If that’s really what you Hope for, why are you so against me trying?”

Hope looked at Galaxia and Cosmos, hesitating for a moment before their companions were frozen, the King and Queen’s flowing manes and breathing stopped. Hope looked back to Accord. “Because you have caught us in the middle of one of our grand experiments.”

Hope’s mane took a hold of the still Galaxia for a moment, making a scene play out in front of Accord.

Galaxia appeared in front of a tan earth pony that had a cutie mark of a smoothing plane on a piece of wood. Accord recognized her as Fluttershy’s first life.

Hope spoke behind the memory. “The minimum we require our Kings and Queens to do is to ask souls a question after their first lifetime.”

“What did you like about life?” asked Galaxia.

“You haven’t had the pleasure of seeing these interviews before, Accord. We keep them hidden and encrypted in case our races get technologically advanced enough to read our memory covers,” said Hope.

The carpenter pony sat on her haunches, raising a hoof to her head in thought. “I... umm... I guess I liked creating things.”

The Galaxia in the memory smiled before dismissing the soul, the entire scene fading.

“There’s a reason we require them to ask this question, Accord. We want our Kings and Queens to leave their worlds engineered for conflict. We want pain. We want the souls under experimentation to be as uncomfortable as possible,” Hope said.

“But at the end of their lives, we want them to still have hope, to still see the good when things are bad, to be able to handle any kind of pain and suffering.

“Our first set of experiments—immediate immortality—failed. As did one life followed by immortality in specially crafted heavens. The current experiment we are working on is reincarnation until immortality.

“After lifetimes upon lifetimes spent reincarnating, we want the souls of the multiverse to become so fed up with death, so completely enraged at the very idea that souls have to die, that they seek immortality by themselves. They reincarnate into a society that has learned how to alter themselves to become immortal. They learn the true nature of atoms, especially Trillion, and conquer death itself. The hard work that led them to seek to live forever will cause them to stick with their decision, to stay immortal for trillions of universe cycles and beyond, an absolute forever.

“We, as a collective, cannot yet grasp the sheer duration of forever. Just in the course of this conversation, five billion of us have chosen to reincarnate,” Hope sighed. “They’ll be back as a part of us after a few cycles anyway. What we want is to reincarnate into a better form that can handle an absolute forever.”

Accord remembered a few books, trying to see an answer.

“We are still in the data gathering phase,” Hope shifted to view Equestria below. “If you really loved Equestria, you would wait until they hated death enough to conquer it. The ponies would demand to know how to become immortal, overthrowing Celestia and Luna if they were determined enough.”

“You want me to wait until they figure out how to become immortal?” asked Accord.

“Of course. You can’t thrust it on them without them demanding it first.”

“The ponies of Equestria aren’t going to demand immortality,” said Accord. “They accept death! Just like how I accepted it as something that happens to others. You cannot fathom the amount of time it has taken me to warm up to the idea of making others immortal.”

“If this world was not meant to be immortal, then so be it. Only a fraction of a percentage of our worlds end up with a population that seeks immortality, much less finds out how to do it.”

“Have any succeeded?” asked Accord.

“Yes. Actually, a few have lasted about one hundred cycles now. We’re quite proud of them,” said Hope.

“A hundred cycles!? Why don’t you reincarnate into them?” asked Accord.

“Because we can’t seem to replicate it. Souls on the individual level are different. Perhaps that batch of souls was simply more in tune to want to demand immortality.”

Accord’s eyes narrowed. “Hope, I applaud your efforts, but I think I have a better chance of finishing reading my library before you pick an ideal configuration to reincarnate into.”

Hope’s mane straightened and started moving erratically.

“Please, just let me try. Let me stop the infinite quest for perfection and just choose to live. Let me do everything in my power to make everyone on this planet’s existence happy enough that they’ll want to continue it forever.”

Hope’s mane flowed back to normal before they looked at the still frozen Galaxia and Cosmos. They stopped whatever spell they were using and the King and Queen’s manes started to flow once more, completely unaware that they had missed a part of the conversation.

Hope looked at them. “Galaxia, Cosmos, what do you think? We always allow complete freedom. Shall we allow this being, Accord, to use his freedom to run an experiment on a planet you both created?”

Galaxia stood still before moving forward and next to Cosmos, locking her horn to his, exchanging information wordlessly.

“We have one condition, Accord,” said Galaxia after a few moments. “We’ll allow you a trial run on this planet and so we’ll be monitoring your first ten million years. You have complete freedom, but we’ve heard too many stories of improper management to allow you to act without observation.”

“You’ll watch, yes, but can I get your advice too?” Accord asked.

“Advice?” Cosmos repeated, the word conveying an almost unfamiliar concept.

“My method will involve direct involvement with the souls here. I’m going to affect everything. And I’m going to want some advice every so often. If there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that I can’t do anything by myself. If you’re observing, can you at least offer me feedback and answer my questions?”

Cosmos stared at Galaxia and then back at Accord, “That’s acceptable.”

“Great! Then I’ll go ahead and make Pinkie Pie and everyone immortal now.” Accord stepped back, preparing to leave.

“Not so fast, Accord,” said Hope. “Before you do this, Pinkie Pie should decide herself if this switch in power takes place. She must review all her previous lifetimes to make the decision. She was a voidwisher before, and that way of thinking is going to resurface given the amount of time we’re dealing with. She’ll have to remember all of her past lives and then choose between reincarnation or immortality.”

“I don’t understand,” said Accord. “Why would she even consider reincarnation?”

“She won’t be tempted to pick reincarnation, Accord. That’s the problem with voidwishers, they will always seek for a third option—non-existence. If she seeks that, she must reincarnate.”

Accord gaped at Hope. “What kinds of lifetimes did she lead?”

“They were normal lives across a variety of constructs. But she hated each one of them.”

Accord stared down at Equestria. The planet was docile and kind in whatever way he looked at it.

“Why does she have to make that decision?”

“There has to be somepony allowed to disagree, it might as well be one of your best friends. She can judge your character and see where this is going. And besides, if there’s anyone who would have objections to your plans, it would be Pinkie’s past lives.”

“No...” Accord said, his eyes drooping. “I don’t see why she needs those memories back if they are going to be so painful.”

Hope shot a glare at Cosmos.

“I, umm...” began Cosmos. “I gave Pinkie Pie a lot of power. I went all in on trying to get her to like life. But if she ever wanted to cease to exist, she has plenty of ability to construct spells that would break things down quickly, possibly to the destruction of this universe.”

Hope cut back in. “We are giving you millions of years to work with. Those previous lifetimes will resurface during that duration in one way or another. It would be best to make sure the very nature of her soul has changed enough to handle those ideas and be able to live with them.”

Accord sighed. The arrangement was a compromise that was not as simple as he would have liked.

“Pinkie Pie loves her life here in Ponyville,” Accord affirmed to himself. “She’ll choose immortality.”

“We hope so, Accord, for your sakes,” said Hope.