• 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.

  • ...
0
 31
 669

Fourth Day: Between a Diamond and a Hard Place

The first few hours of the morning went past like a dream—barely remembered except for someplace within the recesses of the mind. Diamond rushed through what was quickly becoming her daily routine, guided herself through the steps, yet the plan was the only thing that really had her full attention.

She and Babs hadn’t had a whole lot of time to contemplate it the night before, or even to really get to know the stallion. All she knew about Mosely Orange came from her friend’s stories and, of course, from the gossip grapevine. Whether it was from his Bridleway productions or his family’s orange empire, everypony knew he was a pony everypony should know. And yet, why was everything about him, even the reason he went bad in the first place, such a mystery?

Diamond Tiara shook those thoughts out with the bathwater, though, once she realized what an oddity she used to be to the Ponyville population. Any number of ponies could’ve tried to pin her down back in the day, and that proved all the more reason to keep going with this odd quest. Not just to reunite Babs with a lost family member, but maybe even to find another kindred spirit. To figure out just how many ponies in high society were doomed to fall under the weight of their own corrupt teachings. Those were the thoughts that crossed her mind as she plowed through the book Cheerilee had assigned for the break, the one excuse she had for going out so late, the one thing that gave her time to collect her ideas.

For now, though, against her better wishes, the Reformation Society’s plans were on hold, as Bambi had insisted on accompanying them to the Statue of Livery that day. On any other day, seeing such a landmark would’ve fueled Diamond’s Manehattan fantasies more than ever, but now, all she thought about was some way she could sneak off with Babs and figure this whole thing out.

Thankfully, Bambi was spending so much time in front of the statue’s pedestal, reading all the signs around it like she hadn’t seen it a million times already, that both fillies might have a decent chance of conspiring without her noticing. Diamond gave it a good five minutes or so before realizing the older mare had absolutely no sense of what was going on around her and was too wrapped up in whatever historical fantasies the displays were trying to evoke.

“So how are we gonna do this, anyway?” Babs finally asked, just as Diamond was about to open her mouth. “We can’t traipse around stalkin’ Momo, and if we try to meet him in the theatre, Bambi’ll get suspicious.”

Placing a hoof to her chin in thought, it took the pink filly all of ten seconds to devise a plan. Granted, she could cook up a scheme much more quickly on one of her better days, but the idea behind it was nevertheless good enough to try.

“If your mother’s dating Mosely, and Bambi’s still suspicious of him, we could tell her we’re sneaking up on one of her dates. I’d say she’d be all for it, but…”

Making sure the aforementioned mare still wasn’t listening in, Diamond still found herself struggling to collect her thoughts into words. As eager as she’d been about this whole idea last night, the world of sleep had brought doubts into the equation. In truth, she’d barely rested once the chilling concept flowed into her mind.

For all she knew, admitting it to the filly she still couldn’t believe saw her as a friend would bring her even more sleepless thoughts. It took a few seconds to collect herself, to tell herself that considering this was part of the equation, before she could finally tell Babs.

“I think we need to update our tactics if this is going to work,” Diamond finally spoke, giving Bambi one last glance before moving into her business speech. “I mean, think about it. We were both reformed, obviously, but what makes him different from us?”

Babs banged her two front hooves together in what had to be the most exaggerated gesture of realization Diamond Tiara had ever seen. Her face lit up likewise, as if the young Apple had made some amazingly Equestria-shattering scientific discovery.

“Of course! It’s because Momo’s a stallion, right?”

To say that Diamond facehooved incomprehensibly hard would’ve been an understatement.

“No! I mean, yes! I mean, yes, but that’s not what I meant!”

With a barely audible annoyed sigh, she continued, “Both of us were lucky enough to be reformed when we were still fillies. But if somepony’s stayed bad for long enough, I feel like it’d be a lot harder to get them to change. Normally, when older ponies change, it involves a lot of magic blasts and the occasional Element of Harmony. But seeing as we have neither of those things, we need to figure out a way to get to him that goes a bit deeper than what we’re used to.”

“Trademark Diamond Tiara manipulation?”

In any other case, Diamond might’ve been offended by the other filly’s implications, but for a few blissful seconds, she realized how easy everything would be if she did just that. But then, just like everything else in this case, that sense of security faded away just as quickly as it’d appeared.

“I appreciate your faith in my abilities, but I highly doubt I can outcon a bigshot producer. Believe it or not, my cutie mark only gets me so far, and I daresay yours would be more effective in this case. I feel like shaving a famous stallion’s mane straight off his head would get him to do some pretty drastic things.”

Once she saw the horrified expression on Babs’ face, however, she soon backtracked and clarified that such a strategy was only to be used as a last resort. Both fillies erupted into laughter at the misunderstanding, looking more like innocent friends than ponies conspiring to change another’s heart. But they knew better than anypony else that such a moment couldn’t possibly last.

Thankfully, the laughter had been the first thing Bambi noticed as she gestured for the fillies towards the statue’s entryway, and for the time being, their cover was safe. And yet somehow, almost as if they were twins themselves, they both came to precisely the same conclusion at precisely the same time: something would happen that day that would change their operation and their lives forever.

****

Their chaperone was far more diligent this time around, always peeking around the nearest corner to ask if the two of them were enjoying themselves. And, for their parts, both let their bodies become marionettes, taking on the image of excited fillies at a field trip even as Diamond told herself she probably wouldn’t remember a thing about it by the time the day was over. The sound of the tour guides’ voices melded into one alongside the various historical plaques, turning the statue into a place of incomprehensible cacophony. Fact of the matter was, the two couldn’t have heard each other plan things out even if they’d wanted to.

The statue itself was a series of stops leading up to a tall spire, just like Diamond had watched Button Mash play as she’d learned to socialize more with her classmates. She could pick up on bits and pieces of the information, like how the landmark had been a gift from some town in Prance to honor its sister city, but for the most part, her eyes stayed firmly fixed on the windows. Partially to experience the feeling of looking out through a pony’s legs or belly or torch, but mostly as if some figure in her quest could pop up at any moment.

Diamond rubbed her head in annoyance and muttered a few choice words at the realization. Going on like this really was making her think like she was in a video game, and she wasn’t sure she liked the feeling.

Meanwhile, as she turned to her companion, it seemed as though Babs had gotten completely caught in the moment. Her eyes shown with a kind of rapture that couldn’t be faked as the tour guide went on about the sailors that would cross nearby, and Diamond doubted the tour would end without the filly begging the docent for some sort of pirate story. Yet again, Babs was perplexing beyond even Diamond’s own belief, as it almost felt like the filly had never been to the monument in her life, not even on a field trip.

Babs’ mysterious foalhood—or rather, her mysterious lack of one—was something that’d always perplexed her friend, and the concerns were only beginning to become more frequent. Sure, Diamond had never had much of one herself, but Babs had a family who cared for her, even after the misunderstanding with Mosely. The pink filly made a mental note to herself to finally ask about it later, but judging from the way the other foal had reacted just last night, something told her no answer would come.

In any case, time moved by far quicker than she’d expected, even as she plowed through stairwell upon stairwell to reach the top of the statue. Even though the tour guide was certainly taking her time—and the tourists felt the need to stop at every single checkpoint to take pictures—Diamond barely noticed the sun traipse through the sky, and by the time they were finally at the top, it was already four in the afternoon. While the trip up took only two hours for ponies to complete, she’d made sure to stop at every museum exhibit, watch every video, and for the most part, Bambi had complied.

Yet it wasn’t even that she was interested in this place. It almost felt as if the nearby sea was calling her and urging her to stay there as if she’d find the answers to everything, and so she’d stretch it out for however long it took. And yet somehow, after a half-hour on the top staring out at the Manehattan skyline, she saw an all-too-familiar figure cross the corner of her eyes.

Diamond quickly turned away from the window, hoping against hope that what she’d seen was just a trick of the eye. There was absolutely no way in Equestria that the pony she’d seen would ever be caught dead in a blatant tourist trap like this one, even if it was a historically significant one. But here she was, less than fifty feet in front of her, the absolutely last pony she’d want to find her.

Her mother, Spoiled Rich, was on the observation deck of the Statue of Livery, cantering with an inexplicable urgency towards some unknown location. By the time Diamond managed to hide behind one of the viewfinders, Spoiled was already too far away to spot her. However, whatever moments of initial relief her daughter had had were soon replaced with utter confusion. One image in particular had stood out—before the Rich mare had run off towards wherever she needed to go, she’d stood in place, refusing to take in any of the scenery.

Almost as if, Diamond presumed, she had been waiting for something.

She pondered over this possibility for a few more seconds until somepony grabbed her by the tail and gently tried to nudge her away from the viewfinder.

“What were you doin’ behind there?” Bambi asked, seeming more entertained than upset at this odd behavior. “You’re supposed to look at it from the other end, y’know.”

Without thinking, Diamond launched into a quick and panicked explanation of the situation, but since Spoiled herself was out of sight and seeing as it would’ve been impossible to pick her out of the large crowd anyway, all Bambi could do was stare at her skeptically.

“You’re sure? You said yourself that she’d probably have better things to do than sightsee. Don’t get me wrong, I’d never advocate abandoning your foal to a city like this, but if she was just going to do this all this time—“

“I know, something’s not adding up,” replied Diamond. “But I know what I saw. And I also know she wouldn’t come to a place like this without a good reason.”

Babs, suddenly catching wind of the conversation, trotted towards her two companions and shot Diamond a glare nearly identical to her sister’s.

“Okay, something my mother thinks is a good reason. Which is almost never what other ponies would consider one.”

Both sisters gave sudden nods of understanding and began to weigh the possibility that Diamond’s mother was, in fact, less than a few blocks away from them. What had seemed like a fillyhood irrational fear only minutes before now became all too clear to them, and so all three felt as if the statue was about to fall on them at any moment. All they could do was take in the details, figure out what the wealthy mare was doing inside the statue, and (preferably) take measures to avoid her.

“Do you remember which way she was going?” Babs questioned, her voice taking on more authority than usual. Though such an occurrence could have been chalked up to her love of mystery solving, Diamond almost preferred to believe that Babs really did want to protect her that much. Granted, it was more than she deserved, but at the time, it was nothing if not comforting to hear.

“Left, I think.”

After saying this, Diamond rummaged through her saddlebag to find the statue map she’d been given earlier. It took a few minutes of struggling to figure out which direction “left” would be on a map, but soon found that the only thing near that area was a very swanky café, one that even the tour guides admitted very few ponies ever visited.

Every ounce of instinct in her was telling her to move forward and forget the incident had ever happened now that she knew her mother wouldn’t cross her path, but somehow, she found her hooves moving towards the café. That same inexplicable feeling that’d been guiding her to this place all along was taking her there, telling her there was something important she needed to see.

Sure enough, she’d managed to blend into the crowd when Bambi was distracted, but she knew the older mare would catch up to her soon enough. All she had to do was catch a glimpse of what was going on in there, get at least some closure on why she’d been stranded in Manehattan with this family in the first place—

Diamond stopped short, realizing that she’d been followed all this time. Not by an enemy or one of her mother’s confidants, but by Babs. The other filly flashed her a mischievous look, almost as if she knew exactly what Diamond was up to.

“So, I guess if you’re so willing to help me reconnect with my family, I might as well help ya reconnect with yours.”

Even though Babs seemed so cynical at times, Diamond always swore she could still see a tiny trace of naïveté in her from time to time. The kind she herself had never been allowed to have as a member of the Rich family, something many of her wealthy peers saw as nothing but shameful. Yet, then and there, Diamond almost felt like crying just from that tiny sentence. It’d only been a few days since their paths had crossed, but somehow, Babs really did care.

“There’s no reconnecting to do,” she admitted. “My father divorced her a few months ago, and they’re already trying to decide who’s going to get to keep me. Right now, I just want answers.”

“So why not go for them? Bambi told me this whole thing’s about givin’ you the fillyhood you never had, and what’s more filly-like than spyin’ on your parents?”

Those words would be the ones that echoed throughout Diamond’s mind for the next hour or so, as the two friends approached the café with the quietest steps imaginable. Wordlessly, they approached the nearest empty table and hid underneath it, and even though they saw Bambi at the entryway, neither of them worried.

This was, after all, the mystery that brought them together in more ways than either of them could have imagined.

Wait staff aside, the café was serving all of two ponies at the moment, both at the same table and both staring deeper into each other’s eyes than Diamond and Babs had ever seen before. Even from a distance, their faces were crystal clear, ones that each filly had seen on all too many occasions.

What was more unpredictable than Spoiled Rich showing up at the Statue of Livery? As the two fillies struggled to piece this scene together, they found that the answer to this question was her showing up at the Statue of Livery with Mosely Orange.

“This…is not good,” Babs finally muttered, barely able to keep her voice below a whisper.

As Diamond stared at her friend, she couldn’t help but notice that her green eyes shone with a fire even greater than when she’d implied Coco wasn’t her mother just the day before.

“Because my mother’s a terrible pony, and being around her will keep him on the wrong path?”

Just as Babs was about to open her mouth, the bits and pieces Diamond heard of Spoiled’s conversation told her all she needed to know.

The blue-maned mare who’d just marched into the café told her all the rest.

By the time Diamond had had the time to register the full intensity of what was going on, other ponies were already beginning to fill the tables, providing the newcomer with a perfect audience. For a slight moment, Diamond Tiara’s face poked out of the tablecloth, long enough to catch the mare’s eye.

Coco gave the filly a sad sort of smile as she peeked underneath the table.

“I know I’ve been gone a while,” she whispered, “and there are a lot of things I’ve been meaning to tell you about Babs and everypony else. Things that might be all too relevant now that he’s getting involved with your mother. Tell Bambi and Babs to leave right now, and meet me at the exit in a half hour.”

Stroking Diamond’s hoof gently, she finished, “Before I tell you any of this, though, I just want you to know one thing.”

The words shook through Diamond’s mind as she scrambled through the staircases, bringing the biggest mystery she’d had to face in this city. That, and what few glimpses she’d managed to get of the drama that unfolded in the café.

That day, she’d learned that stallions weren’t supposed to be involved with more than one mare, and since Coco and Mosely were a publicized couple, Spoiled lacked the upper hand for once. Mosely had insisted that the meeting was unplanned, that Spoiled had snuck up on him without him knowing, that it was just another case of a business partner trying to seduce a wealthy stallion. Everypony in the café seemed to believe it, anyway. But Diamond was a master when it came to wearing a mask, and she could tell just from the way the scene had unfolded that something was amiss.

Coco played the scorned mare as well as anypony could, but deep inside, Diamond could see fear permeate her seemingly fierce glare. She threatened to storm off and cancel the date, yet still looked expectedly at nothing in particular as if questioning if this was what she ought to do. And above all, Diamond remembered the way she was so close to tears when she’d breathed the last words she’d say to the filly before this whole drama was over.

“I’m sorry.”

Author's Note:

The next part will explain a lot about this mystery and why Coco's been gone for so long. It may be familiar material for people who read this and IGYALL, but there's still gonna be a few surprises thrown in.

Also, I realize this might be the last controversial plot twist I get with this idiot Orange. I'm gonna miss coming up with them.

Join our Patreon to remove these adverts!
Join our Patreon to remove these adverts!