• Published 10th Aug 2016
  • 668 Views, 31 Comments

Light Pollution - Quillamore

When her mother drops her off on the Manehattan streets to fend for herself, Diamond Tiara takes the opportunity to mend ties with Babs Seed...and to regain just a bit of the light she had always kept herself from.

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First Day: Melancholy of a Diamond Princess

She could almost see the cab graze the skyline as it sped across Manehattan. Even within its heart, she could still see sprawling skyscrapers in the distance, almost as if the city was some endless maze waiting to be explored. Maybe, if she stared at it long enough, she could will her mother’s stern glance away and make everything else dissolve with the rain, so that it would only be her and the place she’d always wanted to see.

Then again, this sort of view was far from unfamiliar to Diamond Tiara. Whether with her mother or with her father, she’d had to travel all across Equestria to cities just like this one either to mingle with fellow rich ponies or to watch from the distance as her parents gave their latest sales pitches. Everypony else told her they all looked the same, and to be honest, they did after a while. But she always knew that this one would be different. Something about it just made it feel like it was hers every time she saw it, even if it was just in a picture. It was the type of feeling ponies would get when they claimed something had happened in a past life of theirs.

Perhaps, in hindsight, that was why she’d gotten involved with her in the first place.

She shook herself out of her daydreams and went straight back to her plan. Diamond had to shake her mother off somehow if she had any hope of making it to her destination by sunset—or at all, for that matter. Spoiled had never liked, nor had she trusted, the pony her daughter had met up with a year or so ago, and if word ever was to get out that Diamond was still dwelling on her…

Well, with the way she was used to these sorts of shenanigans, that wasn’t going to happen. She had to protect herself, one way or another, and she had a feeling that the address on the piece of paper was the first step towards that. Towards becoming the pony she wanted to be, and towards mending one of the worst mistakes she’d ever made.

The entire ride there, her mother had done nothing but gush over this new coltfriend of hers. Though Diamond had hoped to read some more of the book Cheerilee assigned for spring break, an odd one about spiders and pig-eating ponies, even she had to admit that this side of her mother was far better than what could’ve been. She seemed to have let the whole class president thing slide for the last few days, at least.

Anyways, it was just another step closer to shaking Spoiled off for good—watching as she got so involved with another stallion that she forgot about everything else. Then the custody battle would be gone—just like that. Then, at least, she wouldn’t have to live in fear any more.

The rain piled up and the cab’s wheels kept rolling for blocks and blocks, barely giving the two enough time to take everything in. Instead, there was a quiet distance between them, even though Spoiled had nothing to hide, much less mull over. It could’ve just been boredom, but with the way the older mare had been talking her up on the train, Diamond could already tell something was suspicious here.

For the first time in hours, she met her mother’s glance. All she could see was the same sort of cold fire that she’d been met with after the election.

And then, it happened in a split second.

The cab screeched to a halt. The door swung right open. Out of the corner of her eye, Diamond could see somepony’s hoof try to push her out.

She shoved them right back.

She couldn’t defend herself any more than that.

Her back hit the pavement. Her paper flew to the wind.

All she could see was her mother cantering away with a yellow blob. Trying to focus on anything else about the coltfriend made dots pop up in her eyes.

Drenched in rain, aching all over her body, all she could remember were two phrases. “Welcome to Manehattan.” “Enjoy your independence.”

Her eyes drooping along with her spirit, she couldn’t help but realize that maybe her mother had never really forgiven her for everything after all.


“Ugh,” a mare muttered to nopony in particular, “what is with him? He knew we were supposed to do inspections today, and off he goes to who knows where.”

Diamond’s eyes squeezed open, and right away, she knew that she was in a very different place. It wasn’t so much a room as it was a cluster of dresses and sparkles, with only a sofa, a dresser, and a few chairs, and she could barely imagine trying to walk through all this mess. Glitzy posters lined the walls, only further completing the overpowering impression this room gave.

She scanned them over, hoping for some hint as to where she was. Most of them were glossy prints of actors and playbill-like posters, but then again, those were probably everywhere in Manehattan.

Her doubts, however, were quickly cleared when she turned to the blanket she’d been wrapped in, which was really a star-studded magician’s cape.

“Oh, sorry,” the mare whispered, this time addressing her. “I just couldn’t find any blankets in the back. We don’t really plan for this sort of thing here.”

She gave Diamond a nervous smile as she spoke, which swept into a genuine one when she finished. As pretty as she was, it was clear that she hadn’t gotten anywhere near enough sleep the night before, with tiny strands of her light blue mane out of place and bags under her matching eyes.

“Are we…in a theatre?” Diamond asked. It wasn’t exactly the most intelligent question in the world, but she was still barely in any condition to think straight.

“Yep,” the mare replied. “It’s a bit crazy in here, since we’ve got a play premiering next week, but I wanted to make sure you were all right. I’ve seen fillies left out to the streets here before, and whenever I find one, I make a goal of helping them out. Not sure I’ve ever seen that happen to any fillies with fancy tiaras on their head, though.”

Hoping she would’ve been able to hide her wealth in case the other pony couldn’t be trusted, Diamond blushed and replied, “It’s a long story.”

“You don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to. I just have one thing I want to ask, though.”

A solemn silence crossed the room, almost as if the walls themselves anticipated what the mare was about to ask.

“That mare who pushed you out of the cart,” she whispered, “was she your mom?”

Deciding she didn’t want to get into all the complicated matters her family had been going through lately, Diamond simply nodded.

“I did kinda make her mad last week. School didn’t go as well for me as she wanted it to. Typical foal issues.”

“Still,” the mare continued, “what makes you think she can treat you like that?”

As soon as she said this, she shook her head as if doing that would sweep the thought away.

“Actually, I think I know. You probably got used to that sort of thing over the years. My parents—they never did anything like that—but my old boss was a lot like that, cutting me down to size and all. I’m still getting over it now, to be honest.”

Just realizing she’d forgotten something, the mare blurted out, “My name’s Coco, by the way. Coco Pommel, actually. I’m the new costume designer here.”

“I’m Diamond Tiara,” the filly replied. “Mother and I were supposed to come here to meet up with her new coltfriend, but you can probably tell how that went.”

She gave Coco a nervous shrug, still not quite sure what to think of the new pony. Granted, she at least knew now that she was rested up enough to defend herself in case things didn’t pan out well here, and she at least somewhat trusted the mare who’d saved her. But she’d also heard that the glamorous life was even more cutthroat in Manehattan than it had been back home. If she shared too much, who’s to say nopony would overhear it and bring the news straight back to Ponyville? Or worse, laugh about it straight in her face and make her the laughingstock of the city already.

Diamond gave a tiny gulp and tried her best to change the subject.

“Shouldn’t you be working?”

After realizing her voice had come off as being a bit too abrasive, she added, “Just out of curiosity.” Even after saying this, she was internally facehoofing at herself for the insensitive comment.

“Actually, most of the things I still have to do are pretty small,” Coco answered. “I prepared a lot for this sort of thing a couple of months before so opening week would be easier on me. The only outfits I still have to make are spares in case anything were to happen, and I just need to repair some of the costumes that got damaged during dress rehearsal. I made the capes a tiny bit too long, and some of the actors tripped on them.”

Seeing the uncertain look on the older mare’s face, Diamond stared at her in confusion and suspicion.

“Okay, half the actors did,” Coco admitted hesitantly. “But hemming them will be easier now that most of the excess got torn off anyway.”

Diamond finally started to dig herself out of the cape she’d been wrapped in. Her body heat was picking up quicker than she’d ever remembered before. After rolling herself out, she examined the piece of cloth, looking for any telltale signs of tears or other flaws.

“Wow,” she muttered sarcastically, “looks like I got one of the good ones.”

The diamond-and-star pattern on the pink cape was darkened with her sweat and a little bit too gaudy for her tastes anyway, but other than that, nothing else seemed to be wrong with it.

“I figured you deserved it,” Coco replied. “Having to put up with all that, it was the least I could do to help. Besides, it suits you, and…”

Coco let out a slight giggle after saying this, almost as if she was in on something that the filly wasn’t.

“…And what?” Diamond asked indignantly. After a while, the paranoia of high society could make a pony forget that this sort of situation could be completely harmless. If they laughed without reason, they were doubting your authority and they wanted to see you fall. That was the first lesson any decent rich foal learned: never give anypony else an opening, and they would never be able to stab you.

Hypothetically, that should mean that you would never get hurt. But really, Diamond knew that that just meant you’d end up getting hurt in other ways.

“What I meant to say that the filly that had that costume originally always complained about it getting too hot on stage,” Coco clarified. “So I made one out of a lighter fabric for them, but I figured that I could still get some use out of this old thing.”

Just when she looked like she was about to stop talking, though, her face darkened and her eyes fell to the ground.

“But why did you make those faces when I laughed like that? For a minute there, you almost looked like you were scared of me. And, well…I don’t want that.”

“It’s nothing,” Diamond muttered.

Normally, the ponies in her house would’ve just let her off then and there. But when she saw the stern look in the costume designer’s eyes, she couldn’t help but be reminded of the way other foals’ mothers would look at their children. More skeptical than angry, in a way.

“It’s not nothing,” Coco answered. “Something got to you there, and I’m not going to stop asking about it until you tell me.”

She sat down with a tiny pout, and everything about the situation was so rehearsed that Diamond doubted the mare was even trying to be serious.

“You’re enjoying this whole thing, aren’t you?” the filly finally spoke.

“Hey, I don’t get very many chances to act like a mom on set,” Coco protested. “Most nights, I work so late, my filly’s already asleep by the time I get back.”

“It really is nothing. It’s just that, well, when a pony laughs without warning where I come from, and you don’t know why, you kind of assume the worst.”

Her tail drooped ever so slightly as she tried to keep her poise. Somehow, she had ended up in the city that had always fascinated her, and yet as soon as she took two hoofsteps there, every hair on her mane was on end. She’d always thought she could handle the toughness Manehattan ponies had, but now that she was there, she feared that everypony was hiding a little of that, and that nopony could be trusted.

“Sorry about that, then. I really didn’t mean to startle you, and I’m sorry for setting you off.”

“You just apologized twice,” Diamond observed.

“Well, it just means I’m twice as sincere about it, I guess. But anyway…where exactly do you come from? If you’re okay with answering, that is. It sounds even tougher than this place, and sometimes I swear Manehattan takes pride in being the harshest town in Equestria.”

“I’m from Ponyville.”

The second she said it, she could already see Coco’s eyebrows widen in confusion.

“Wow, things must’ve really changed there,” she said solemnly. “A pony from there gave me this job, and she was really nice. And last time I visited, everything seemed pretty friendly.”

“It is,” Diamond answered. “But in my parents’ crowd, not so much. My father’s probably the only decent one in the whole rich clique.”

“Then it sounds like what you really need is a good family. One who you know won’t get you riled up into thinking everypony’s out to get you.”

“Well, at least I’m halfway there.”

For a second, Diamond barely realized what Coco was getting at. But once she did, she jumped up with a start.

“What you’re doing is really nice,” she admitted. “But…are you trying to adopt me or something?”

In that moment, she started to realize that maybe this mare took the whole “helping needy foals” thing a bit too seriously, and she was already looking for the quickest exit out of the building.

“Of course not,” Coco answered. “I meant more of a temporary family, if you will. Some ponies to take care of you while your mom is off somewhere else. Besides, adopting the filly I have now was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, but to be honest, one of her relatives is already trying to bury all of us into the ground. The last thing any of us, including you, need is to have your mom turn out the same way.”

“I guess. But I thought you were going to be busy with finishing up the play this week.”

As she gathered her things into a small saddlebag, Coco gave Diamond a knowing smile. The filly knew when somepony else was planning something she wasn’t in on, and she wasn’t sure she liked the feeling.

I may be busy, but I know who won’t be.”


Now that Coco’s meeting with the mysterious pony who never came back to practice had been cancelled, both her and Diamond left the theatre early and trotted towards the dining district. Coco hadn’t told the filly much about what they were about to do or why they were there, but somehow, they’d ended up at a large castle-like restaurant made out of orange bricks. Diamond had tried to make a remark about how ugly the color was, hoping she’d get a laugh out of the fashion-minded mare, but Coco remained silent and very much serious.

In fact, it wasn’t until they’d walked into the place, which looked much fancier on the inside, that Coco cracked any semblance of a grin. But as soon as Diamond saw a pair of unfamiliar-looking ponies on a waiting bench, she noticed that Coco was suddenly all smiles. She’d waved her hooves over from the other side as soon as she saw the older of the two, an orange mare wearing a newspony’s cap.

“Hey, Bambi!” Coco yelled. “How’s your spring break going?”

“I still can’t believe it myself,” the orange mare said with a chuckle. “I just walked right over to my boss, told him my home life wasn’t so good, and he just gives me a week’s vacation to sort it out! And here I was, afraid of asking this softy about it ‘cause I thought he was too tough.”

“Oh, come on,” the filly accompanying her muttered. “You don’t have any right to call anypony a softy, sis. You’re just as much of one yourself.”

When she first heard it, Diamond had thought the other foal had meant it as some sort of threat. But when her older sister playfully shook the filly’s hair in response, she saw that she’d been taking things far too seriously again. She’d heard about siblings teasing each other, but she’d never quite understood how it was any different from what she used to do at school with the Crusaders. To be honest, for the longest time, it’d actually kind of creeped her out when they did that.

However, it didn’t creep her out near as much as what she was just about to see. The filly, turning her head towards the other ponies, wasn’t nearly as unfamiliar as she’d thought. She still hadn’t noticed Diamond yet, but it’d only be a matter of time.

Back in Ponyville, when Diamond had still been looking forward to everything, she’d thought this would be easy. She’d even wanted to see this filly, to pour her whole heart out to her so that she’d finally understand.

But daydreaming about her from a distance and assuming the best would happen was one thing. Seeing her face-to-face was another.

Just like the city itself, everything about the other filly was overpowering, and when she looked at her, she felt like everything about her was collapsing, drowned out only by fear and unintelligible noise.

All she could focus on was one thing.

“Diamond,” Coco began, “these are Bambi Byline and Babs Seed. My family, and the ponies who are going to be taking you in this week.”

Diamond could already feel the grudge in the air coming straight for her.

She had never liked coincidences, and she especially didn't like this one.

Author's Note:

Just trying out a new kind of story here, and I hope you enjoy it! The title's all about how Diamond Tiara's light has been "drowned out" throughout her life, and how the city, someplace that should drown it out more, only polishes her more. It's going to be a bit lower-key than If You Give a Little Love, so I hope you enjoy it!

Title taken from this song.

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