• Published 10th Aug 2016
  • 669 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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Second Night: A Diamond's Magic

By the time it finally stopped raining, Coco had already been gone for hours, and from the way Diamond Tiara watched the other two members of the household approach the situation, she realized that maybe things here weren’t so different from back home after all. She’d certainly noticed from the beginning that the condo itself wasn’t anywhere near as cramped or as cluttered as she’d always expected Manehattan residences to be, and there were some occasional luxury decorations around it. While she still had no idea just how rich Bambi and Coco were, a place like this certainly couldn’t have come cheap, and more likely than not, it probably didn’t come from a newsmare’s salary. A designer’s, maybe, but even Coco was fairly new at her job.

Then again, from what little she knew of the situation, maybe that was half the reason Coco seemed to vanish so often in the first place. Diamond had at least some concept of ponies marrying and getting into relationships for money; that was what the rumors had always said about her parents, after all. But considering the way Bambi had reacted about Coco going off to meet this mysterious stallion, that didn’t seem quite right.

Besides, she had to remind herself that, no matter what she’d faced in her life, the ponies here were completely different from that. Coco didn’t seem to show any interest in conning her way up the social ladder like her mother had, for one. She was just a parent who was never around, probably spending all that time just working herself to death and using the relationship as a release. In the end, though, she only ended up even more confused about how the two mares managed to pay for such a nice place, and her mouth dropped almost to the floor when she saw what Bambi held in her mouth as she considered this.

The tickets she was holding were nowhere near the kinds you would normally see in Ponyville; they were navy blue and shimmered with starry sparkles. If she didn’t know any better, Diamond would’ve thought they were for the Grand Galloping Gala. And here this mare was, just casually examining the time written on them and checking the clock like she was about to go to a movie, completely unfazed by their appearance.

“I was hoping she’d be able to make it tonight,” Bambi muttered to nopony in particular. “She was supposed to be off early, but of course, somepony had to throw a wrench into things…”

At this point, most of what she was saying had turned into either incomprehensible grumbling or conversation about things Diamond didn’t understand, so she just kept staring at Babs’ sister oddly as if she had nothing else to do.

“Right,” Bambi said, finally noticing the pink filly. “I guess it’s a good thing she’s busy tonight, then. Wouldn’t want to leave you behind, after all. Sorry if I didn’t come off all that excited.”

“It’s fine,” Diamond replied. “You guys didn’t exactly plan for me to come over here, anyway. So I could always buy a ticket for…whatever this thing is if Coco could go.”

Bambi finally took her eyes off the tickets and faced the two fillies.

“One, it’s a magic show. Two, it’s sold out already. And three—“ The mare shook her head repeatedly and placed a hoof to her face. “Three is that even if it wasn’t opening week at her show, I wouldn’t expect Coco to be there. Ever since she met that stallion, it’s been like this for us. It’s not her fault, really. She’s been under a lot of pressure, and he really hasn’t been helping, and—let’s just forget about that and have a good night out.”

“She doesn’t sound all that convinced ‘bout that,” Babs muttered, whispering in Diamond’s ear almost like they were close friends.

And, judging from the look on Bambi’s face, Babs had pretty much read her sister’s mind. She still looked exasperated from the whole situation, her eyebrows still drooping low on her face as if she was about to tear this stallion to pieces. And so, Diamond figured it was about as good a time as any to ask her question.

“How did you end up getting all this?”

“The tickets?” Bambi answered. “The show’s in Coco’s theatre. So, you know, perks of the job and all. Nothing really fancy.”

Diamond wanted to bang her head against her table and show just how annoyed she was by this answer. At least, that’s what she would’ve probably done a few months ago. But now that she was trying to be a better pony, and especially with Babs around to potentially judge her, she instead sighed deeply and thought about how her statement could’ve caused misunderstanding.

Though the tickets were worth quite a bit, the attire was relatively simple compared to what she was normally used to. And with Coco’s designs, there was a free range of things to borrow. But still, even though she wanted to keep herself out of this family’s affairs, the same question rang through her mind, the same one that wouldn’t be satisfied tonight.

“No,” she told Bambi. “What I meant was, how do you have such a nice house and decorations, and all that? I’ve never seen you at gatherings or galas or anything.”

The orange mare just gave her a wistful smile as she listened to the question.

“So you really have made your way in society, considering how you already know so many rich mares from other cities. I wish I’d had your opportunities growing up.”

“But how did you three end up getting all that money to begin with?”

“We’re not thieves, Diamond,” Bambi replied with a chuckle as her mood changed yet again. “I just happen to be an heiress who doesn’t like playing all those games rich ponies usually play. I’d rather be with a family and keep my own secrets, because that’s my way of staying safe here. So, I assume you’ll won’t tell anypony, either?”

Diamond just nodded her head, realizing that this was the kindest family of mysteries she ever knew.

****

The sense of disappointment only continued when she noticed the name on the marquee. On the bottom of the list was a show set to start five nights from now, Spellshock, the one she assumed Coco was in. On top was a name that could barely even fit onto the sign.

The Rich family had never been known for being cheapskates, but they could at least smell a scam when they saw one.

“They’re charging how much for these?!” Diamond yelled, losing her composure for a second.

“Two hundred bits for the cheap seats, miss,” the pony at the ticket booth replied civilly. “Why you askin’, kid? Not enough in your piggybank?”

Even though any decent pony would end the conversation then and there, the worker’s trademark Manehattan sass was what really nailed it for her. This wasn’t a complaint about her not being able to afford it, but one of a lazy mare charging higher prices in a higher-demand community.

“I’ll have you know that your ‘Great and Powerful Trixie’”—she rolled her eyes and spun her hooves in a circle in imitation of casting a spell—“routinely performs in Ponyville for twenty bits. No bits at all sometimes, even. And you think that just because you put her in some fancy theatre, ponies are going to fall for it. Well, I’m not.”

“I’d say you’re the first one not to,” the ticket pony said. “Point is, it’s not just the venues we’re payin’ for here. It’s a popularity charge. More ponies have been wanting to see her, and if that means stayin’ in their Manehattan proud hometown and not traipsing through some folksy tourist trap, then so be it.”

“Tourist trap?” Diamond replied. “Please. This whole city is more of a tourist trap than Ponyville will ever be!”

At this point, though, she found herself being pulled by the tail by an annoyed Bambi, who’d already turned their tickets in to the box office.

“Now, now, don’t get into it with him too much,” Bambi muttered. “It isn’t worth it. If you ever really want to protest ticket scalping, I’d definitely start with the higher-up ponies.”

Though Diamond was at least a bit surprised at how casually they seemed to be taking a situation that would’ve resulted in some serious punishment back home, her surroundings shocked her even more. While it’d only been a day since Coco first found her in this theatre, she hadn’t really had a chance to examine it from the front, and seeing it now, it looked far larger than even her recent memories knew. It was certainly bigger than any she’d ever been in before, though she never would’ve admitted it to anypony’s face. The lobby was fully stocked with all sorts of booths selling everything from concessions to magic sets to souvenirs for other plays. Before she could get a closer look at anything, Babs had already cantered straight over to the souvenir booth, almost knocking Diamond’s tiara off with her enthusiasm.

“Look!” she cried out, waving towards Bambi with her hoof. “They’ve already got the Spellshock stuff out!”

“We should come by again opening night,” Bambi advised. “It’s only five nights away, and we’d probably get a discount from being with the crew.”

Nopony had been paying much attention to the play memorabilia anyway, probably questioning why they had it out so early like the three of them had. But she could already see that there was a particular emphasis on the show’s costuming, with replica capes and dresses adorning the booth. It was a little strange, seeing how most of the plays she’d been to had more general merchandise with the play’s name printed on it, but she figured it was a Bridleway thing.

Though she tried to appear undistracted as she entered the theatre, when Babs mentioned the booth again, Diamond couldn’t help but ask about some of the things on display.

“Yeah, Bambi says most of ‘em aren’t normal,” Babs admitted. “The acting company who does shows here wants to be the most popular one in Manehattan, so they’re going all at it with this one. They were pretty close before, but Coco was able to take advantage of that. She got into this place completely by chance and got a very powerful ally from the Oranges, one of the big head honcho families here. They’ve got a lot of stake in Bridleway too, so as long as things go well with her and them, she’s on the path to becoming the hottest new designer on stage. But enough about that.”

Babs paused as the three took their seats, looking straight at the other filly.

“You sure seem interested in our family. If I didn’t know you better, maybe even a bit too interested.”

“I guess I just want to understand you guys more,” Diamond replied. “Or at least, I hope that’s why. I just keep getting this feeling that there’s something off here. Not about you guys, but about…”

“About what then?”

“About how you came into Ponyville and didn’t seem all that different from the other fillies. But then somehow you have a family as rich as mine.”

“Not quite as rich as yours,” Babs answered. “I wouldn’t go that far.”

“It’s just strange, how you guys act like you’re so normal one minute, but then you get all mysterious and weird.”

Babs gave her an understanding smile in response, waiting several seconds before finally choosing to chime in.

“That’s just how you are when you’re with a new family. I get ya there. Just…don’t overthink it so much, I guess. Like with the cards and everything.”

It was the first time she’d realized that maybe the mysteries seemed so surprising to her because they weren’t there. That maybe things seemed so different because everypony seemed so affectionate towards each other and nothing more. Not everything had to be such a big revelation, and yet she still couldn’t shake the strangeness she felt about this family.

But the show was about to begin, and so the conversation quickly shifted elsewhere.

“So you said you’d seen this show in Ponyville?” Babs asked.

“I never said I’d seen it,” Diamond admitted, “but yeah, the other foals seem to like it when it comes. I always thought it was too cheesy and pointless to even bother showing up.”

“So in other words, your parents didn’t let you see it?”

“Well, my mother wouldn’t, at least. But even if I did get to go, I wouldn’t have wanted to. I mean, she’s already a unicorn, and she’s making a show out of doing magic? If I wanted that, I could’ve just asked anypony in town.”

Realizing she was getting out of line yet again, she quickly corrected herself.

“But I’m sure if a venue like this booked her, it’ll probably be better than it sounds. Thanks for inviting me, by the way.”

Just before Diamond was about to finish talking, however, an incredibly loud voice pierced the stage. One that she’d heard throughout Ponyville a few times before, but was somehow made even more obnoxious by the acoustic magic that surrounded the area.

“Good evening, Manehattan! Why wait for a performance with inferior fake unicorns when you can feast your eyes upon the talents of the infinitely Greater and Powerfuller Trixie!”

As the sound blared throughout the auditorium, Diamond could only say, “’Powerfuller’ isn’t even a word,” in the weakest and quietest voice ever before being assaulted with it again.

“The fire exits are to the left and right of the theatre,” another voice uttered from the loud speaker. “In case of explosions, please run directly towards the stage, where you will find a secret passageway into our gift shop and a button that says ‘I survived a theatrical explosion.’ Strobe lights will be used in tonight’s performance. If you wanted something less stimulating, you should have gone to the Saddlespeare theatre down the street. I hear they’re playing A Midwinter Day’s Delight there. I love A Midwinter Day’s Delight…”

For her first trick, Trixie muted the loudspeaker, which had been rambling for minutes. Everypony stood and applauded.

“Does…this usually happen here?” Diamond asked in confusion.

“Only when they let that guy run the P.A. system,” Babs replied, shrugging and shaking her head before turning to the stage. “But look! She’s making that table levitate.”

Sure enough, the blue unicorn was managing to do so without a single glow of her horn, making it look almost as though she was doing it through pure will alone. However, Trixie was still very slightly touching its tablecloth, something that seemed so obvious, yet something that nopony seemed to notice.

“She’s still grabbing it,” Diamond said, almost without thinking. “If she could really levitate it without her horn, she wouldn’t be grabbing onto it.”

“She’s got a plan for everything, though,” Babs answered, already enraptured by the show. “I’ve seen her a few times before. There’s a reason she’s not letting go.”

And, as much as Diamond would’ve liked to have believed this, she still didn’t see anything resembling a reason for her clutching it. Even as she switched to slightly more believable acts, she would go back to that same table every couple of minutes or so just to do another trick with it. The table could dance around in midair, go through loop-de-hoops, and even catch on fire without burning. But her hoof was always on the tablecloth.

A half hour into it, Diamond had finally had enough of this nonsense. As much as she hated to admit it, everything else about that show was stunning except for that table gimmick, and she was going to make sure that everypony there knew just how duped they really were.

“Let go of the tablecloth!” she finally yelled without thinking. The blue unicorn only gave a smile and a chuckle in response.

“Trixie was waiting for somepony to say that! Fair enough, I shall let go of it, and you shall see that—“

With every movement of the tablecloth, Diamond could see the table gradually disappearing, while the items on top floated in midair.

“Why should the Great and Powerful Trixie reduce herself to a mere tablecloth trick when she can do that and more? Not only does everything remain tethered to its invisible surface, but the table itself has vanished to the abyss of time.”

To further exaggerate the effect, a spotlight crept right into Trixie’s face as the mare gave off a few ghostly wails and waved her legs around. Then, she levitated the tablecloth itself without holding onto it or activating her unicorn magic, further proving her heightened abilities, and when nopony expected it, the table reappeared behind her in a puff of smoke.

“See,” Babs said, “Told ya she wasn’t faking it. Like I said, sometimes things are only weird ‘cause you make them out to be.”

This certainly wasn’t the sort of thing Diamond was supposed to be excited over, and even without her mother’s presence, she was all too aware of that. She had to maintain at least a bit of skepticism and distance if she had any hopes of not making a fool out of herself. So, as impressive as these acts seemed, and as much as Bambi and Babs wanted her to enjoy herself, instinctually, she still acted as if they were trying to catch her off guard.

“Fine, fine, so maybe she’s kinda good at this,” she admitted hesitantly, trying to hide the fact that a corner of her gaze was still directed towards the stage. “But this is a theatre; they probably just took that other table from a prop closet or something. Point is, I’ve had to deceive ponies before, and somepony with my experience in this sort of thing can clearly see—“

The last ‘e’ of that sentence was drawn out even more by panic and surprise. After seeing what was occurring on stage, she could barely think of anything else except the one squeal coming from her mouth.

“S-she just cut that mare in half!” the filly yelled, almost loud enough for the surrounding ponies to hear. “And she’s alive, and not even bleeding, and—“

“You’re some master of deception, aren’t you?” Babs replied teasingly.

But by then, Diamond was too caught up in the impossibility, and in all the other impossibilities occurring on stage, to even care about embarrassment. She just let herself be taken in like everypony else, not even holding herself back from reacting at the sights. When the two sisters turned and looked, they saw a certain shine in Diamond’s eyes that they hadn’t seen for all of two days, even since they’d met her, for that matter.

“You shouldn’t keep bein’ so serious all the time,” Babs whispered, almost too low for anypony to hear. “When you’re not, as much as I hate to say it, it’s almost…cute.”

****

Yet even then, Diamond didn’t know that the most memorable part of that night wasn’t going to be found at the show, or even in the auditorium. Still in a slight daze from the sheer fascination she was feeling, she could still tell that she needed to go out into the lobby and relieve herself, and so she found herself alone once more.

The lines for both restrooms were rather long, even in the middle of a performance, and so after waiting a few minutes, she almost felt tempted to go back to the auditorium and forget about it. She’d already missed so much of the show, she reasoned, and it didn’t seem quite so bad after walking around. So for her, breaking through the line and moving onward seemed like the only response.

Surprisingly enough, though, she’d noticed that a stallion from the other line had randomly chosen to excuse himself right after she did. Though it was probably a coincidence, ponies would have enough reason to follow her for some sort of unscrupulous purpose, especially assuming they knew about her wealth in this town. She figured that the best course of action was to ignore it, hoping he was too stupid to keep himself from getting distracted by the other attractions in the theatre.

When he ended up calling her by name, the alarm bells started to go down in her head. After all, she realized, in an establishment like this, a foalnapper probably wouldn’t bother paying high ticket prices just to steal some rich filly away. Even as she still failed to recognize him upon sight, she remembered that many of her parents’ closest allies were ones she barely knew to begin with.

“How do you know my name?” she asked, still choosing to be skeptical just in case.

Instead of adopting some sort of threatening stance, the stallion just cocked his head in minor confusion before suddenly bursting into a slight smile.

“Sorry for bothering you,” he spoke. “I must’ve given you quite the scare, coming up to you like that. But I’d heard that you and your mother were in town, so I figured that if I saw you, I might as well get to be on some footing with you here. To be honest, while I’ve seen your mother around, I haven’t seen you, so I was a bit worried for the sake of my new clientele.”

“It’s a long story,” Diamond replied. “And it’d be better if it stayed within the family.”

The stallion made a quick pull on his suit collar, all the while still looking as confident and composed as he had from the beginning. Emitting, in a way, the same sort of air her father always had when he was completing a deal, even though he was only talking with a filly.

“Understandable,” he answered. “And if you’re wondering about my side of the story, your family and mine have been making trips back and forth to make sure everything is in its place. You see, my family has been seeking to expand throughout Equestria, and we think Barnyard Bargains is a proper start for that. Ponyville’s population is expanding, and yet our name is barely known there. Through these dealings, I aim to change that.”

While Diamond understood the diplomacy behind her father’s contracts and the leaps ponies took to make a good impression towards him, she was still more than a little confused about the issue in general. Watching the clock tick by and losing opportunities to see the show by the minute, she somewhat wished the stallion would even leave her alone, especially considering that the information he was giving her would probably be parroted by her father at home.

“So why come up to me?” she asked. “If it’s my father you’re looking for, I mean.”

“I have a point of getting to know the families behind businesses,” he responded. “There’s no particular reason behind it, but it sort of solidifies the alliance to me. You just happened to be the only one I hadn’t seen yet, and I felt like you ought to know about what was going to happen with your parents’ business. I’ve already talked to your father and, well, let’s just say I’ve gotten to know your mother very well in Manehattan.”

That last comment barely registered in her mind when she first heard it, already hurried by thoughts of magic and spectacle. Yet, thinking about it later, she realized that this could be at least the first lead in the mystery she’d been trying to piece together from the moment she was first taken in. And all she had to do to get more was to let the stallion keep talking.

“You’re wondering why I’m in this theatre?” he continued after just the slightest of pushes on her part. “That’s part of the reason I want my family name to reach out more, actually. In Manehattan, you wouldn’t even need to ask why I was here. As a part owner of this very theatre, they just know. But that sort of knowledge can only go so far, and when the theatre gets far enough away, we can’t just rely on one celebrity. So although I don’t actually work in the same division as the rest of my family, this at least is my way of giving back to them.”

Finally noticing that the filly was starting to lose attention from all the business talk, he chimed in, “But who am I to keep somepony like you from enjoying the events here? After all, this does happen to be this show’s final night here.”

“So what happens after that?” Diamond asked. Even though she knew about Trixie’s status as a traveling performer, she’d never really processed it much for herself. Where would she end up going, and what would end up taking her place?

“This place will be closed for four more days, and then the play I produced performs here. I intend for it to be one of the most long-running plays here, and I have every intention of seeing your family there. Just seeing all of you in the seats should make it my most successful opening night yet.”

Already trotting towards the auditorium door and barely paying attention otherwise, a statement from before finally crossed Diamond’s mind. She was already beginning to realize that this pony could be the start to everything.

“What exactly was your name?” she asked. “So I can know who my parents are talking about when they make the offer, I mean.”

The offer was only the beginning, though, as she saw how much the tidbit of information from before lined up with just who this stallion really was.

“Mosely Orange,” he finally replied just as he trotted away. “You may have heard of me.”

Author's Note:

Babs is still pals with Trixie like in comic canon, and she means "cute" in a completely platonic way. If anything, Diamond would be the one to have a crush on her. Yeeeepppp...

Also, I presume the choruses of "goddammit, Quillamore" will start in this section due to a particular sentence (you know the one). I've never actually had that said to me after a plot twist, and would actually welcome the opportunity. Authors are weird like that. ;)

DISCLAIMER: Mosely shenanigans will happen only in one very, very short mini-arc, and this story will not become a more serious one like If You Give a Little Love. Just to make things clear.

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