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Trick Question

Here, feel this.  (Patreon / Book on hold!)


While in the market, Fluttershy witnesses a strange pony appear out of thin air. Fluttershy and her friends want to help the stranger, but the mare's problem goes far beyond anything they've encountered before. It might take a unique perspective on friendship to solve the problem.

As it turns out, Fluttershy has one of those.

Written for The Writeoff Association's "Look, I Can Explain..." contest.

Chapters (5)
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Comments ( 55 )

I came because I met you at Bronycon and was curious. I stayed because I became even more curious. There are all kinds of interesting tidbits and I just have to know more.

Is this story connected to a wider storyverse? The Name stuff, and focus on "lessons," even in minor situations, speaks of a deeper reality than I think is being actively explored. I can't wait to see though.

I bet it's the mud. It's the mud, right? It's everywhere, and I mean Everywhere, and Twilight just gave herself a firsthoof shock of it.


No, that would be silly.


While I'm tempted to push this into a wider setting, the idea is primarily there to explore the underlying theme of the story as it pertains to the framework for a person's perception of reality. So I'm not planning anything further right now, but I frequently recannibalize my own ideas since it doesn't count as plagiarism. :raritywink:

Ah, yes. "Look, I Can Explain..." was my very first Writeoff. I've come a long way since then. *shudders*

As such, Mission of Mercy was the second Writeoff story I ever read. However, if this version at all follows the flow of the Writeoff version, I'm not emotionally prepared to read it just yet. It's been a rough transition back to school this semester, and right now I'm a Moondancer expecting a phone call from Twilight Sparkle. (Why are there no Moondancer emoticons?) I've added it to Read Later.

Sounds like a good point at which to go ask other ponies for help - ponies who've had experience "outside." One was even mentioned.

I changed this from Sad to Drama because I think the new version is a little more palatable, in the end. But the subject matter being discussed is the same.

I like the notions of "nomenmancy" and of "anti-fame" enchantments.

Part of the fun in fanfiction is retconning things so they actually make sense. :twilightsmile:

"Beg pardon for the interruption, sugarcube. But, well, is 'she' really the right word...?" asked Applejack, her muzzle scrunched up.

Why are they doubting the gender of 'Mercy'? Both Fluttershy and Rarity confirmed that Mercy is female in the earlier chapters and Mercy has made no corrections. Is there a reason for this or am I reading this wrong?

...jfc this is certainly something. :rainbowderp:

So I'm guessing that Mercy came from a world rather like ours (she may even have been Human, and a fan of the Show -- big clues here is that she has a nudity taboo and claims to "love" Equestria even though she just got there) but she was severely depressed, possibly for biochemical reasons. You're assuming that this Equestria is an incredibly nice place -- even nicer than it looks on the surface of the Show, in that there is some sort of continual mass magic field projected by the Ponies that ensures that all suffering has a purpose.

Mercy's problem is that she is still suicidal and fears that her self-loathing will infect Equestria (which is supported by the fact that Mercy's madness nearly drives Twilight Sparkle insane when Twilight tries to mind-meld) so she wants to go off into the Everfree (away from the psychic niceness field that would otherwise restrain her) and kill herself. This is not clearly understood by most Ponies because Ponies simply aren't suicidal (though they can choose to give their lives to save those of others, as in my version of Applejack's parents in At The Gorge).

The Mane Six postpone (but can't solve) her problem by casting a renewable amnesia spell that breaks her out of the cycle of depression -- her Pony body isn't chemically-unbalanced the same way as her Human (?) one was, so she won't spiral into depression again unless she focuses on her memories of her previous state. This is understood by Twilight (and especially Applejack, who as always is Twilight's conscience) to be a sub-optimal solution (Mercy is cut off from her previous identity) but one which permits Mercy to keep living mostly free, and with the possibility of an eventual true cure for her suicidal compulsions.

First of all, this is considerably nicer than my Equestria, which is simply a somewhat nicer-than-modern-America culture in an otherwise standard kind of science-fantasy world. You postulated what would be necessary to make a world in which true evil and deep suffering would be rare and temporary, and I really like what you managed to accomplish here. (This would be possible in my world as well if the Paradise Entity were wiser and more powerful and had a personal link with everypony; it's one of the possible outcomes of the Shadow Wars).

Secondly, "Mercy" is something of a mystery -- we never learn her real past: who she really was, and whether her despair was purely-chemical, inflicted by horrible experiences, or a bit of both. I was curious about this, though I understand artistically why you chose to be vague about her -- you want her to be an Everywoman. You handled this way better than is common in such tales. She's kind of an anti-Charlie Yu.

Thirdly, I would suspect that the Ponies who have come closest to serious existential despair in vanilla canon are probably Fluttershy, Pinkie Pie, and Rarity. All three of them have or have had severe mismatches between the world in which they want to live and the world in which they are living.

Fluttershy was originally a misfit Pegasus, who cannot live up to the athletic and martial ideals of the Pegasi -- a lot of her love for Rainbow Dash comes from the fact that Dashie is an ideal Pegasus and yet from fillyhood has cared for her. Fluttershy is also somepony who thinks about natural science, and the problem of reconciling predation as a necessary part of life with the desire for the world to be good was precisely the one which depressed Charles Darwin, who was both a good man and a keen observer of Nature.

Pinkie Pie is extremely cheerful and outgoing to a degree that marks her as an insane extrovert even in a species cheerful and outgoing by Human standards, and when she was young her family was by Pony standards dour and private. She has found a niche which satisfies her in life, but she had to leave her home and family behind to find it, and sometimes she misses them.

Rarity -- Rarity is a driven artist. She wants everything to be beautiful, and it can't always be that way. Even canon Rarity has something brittle about her, something that was broken and healed in her, and it's why I give her the backstory of an early-teens bastard miscarriage (though it really could have been any serious emotional trauma). Rarity eventually developed enough skills and earned enough resources to let her create and spread the beauty she sees in her head.

I'm guessing that the reason why Fluttershy understood Mercy's problem the best is because she'd seen "Nature red in tooth and claw" more closely than any of the others, and could relate it to herself. Unlike Pinkie Pie, she's introspective; unlike Rarity, she spends time out in the Wild where she gets to observe how animals behave when not cared for by Ponies.

In any case, this was a great story. Thank you for writing it.

I question Fluttershy's focus on - and conclusion to - finding the lesson in everything. That subtly speaks of some trauma between her worldview and what she actually experienced, especially considering how The Wild is different, as everypony seems to know and accept. Though it's a minor flaw overall. And at least it helped in this case.

I greatly enjoyed reading what seems to be the other side of the coin of an HiE transplant and transformation. Most stories don't even touch on how crazy that would sound from anyone's view, even if handwaving acceptance through "it's magic!" has become the norm. Hopefully Mercy can adjust to being in a reality that is fundamentally different, without fully losing herself.

Also, it makes me wonder if another story was inspired by yours, or vice versa. I can't remember the title, but a soldier ends up in Equestria and his first reaction is to try an kill himself. He's quickly realised that he's in an alternate reality, and fears that he may seriously upset everything by continuing to exist.



EDIT: Huzzah! 10th vote!

The intended implication is that the reason Mercy wanted the full-body covering was not only because of the nudity taboo, but also because she's transgender (her genitalia are not female). There are several hints to this throughout the story.

No. The inspiration for this one is how I imagine that I, personally, would react if I ended up in Equestria. There's a new tag for that sort of thing, but I chose not to use it because the message of the story has little to do with its inspiration.

I tried to avoid developing the whole "outsider is a cancer" angle, but you do see just a hint of that from Applejack in the third chapter.

Interesting. I had planned on releasing a fic like this next week... I had written out Fluttershy to be in it too. How odd. :derpyderp2:

7872990 Ah, so male to female then? The choice to keep that subtle was certainly an interesting one!


I, uh, did not pick up on the transgender aspect at all. I assumed the confusion on the ponies' parts was due simply to Mercy's transformation from human. Hell of an assumption, I guess.

I enjoyed it well enough at the writeoff, particularly the worldbuilding and character voicing aspects. I wasn't as much of a fan of the resolution, but fortunately that is greatly improved in this draft. While still not an easy ride, it was powerful and engrossing. Lots was left unanswered, but it does cover a complete story arc, and I'm not left unsatisfied.

It's intentionally subtle, but it's in there. I considered leaving it out, but I like to include unusual things that match my real-world experiences because, as long as there are hints left in the text, it makes the situation feel more real to me. This doesn't always work as a design element, though. Sometimes it adds something jarringly non sequitur to the story, like the scene with the first crystal pony Twilight meets in Flash in the Pan.

As for where Mercy comes from, it's kind of implied she never tells them prior to the amnesia.


Yeah, I was under the assumption that she never told them anything, and understand I'm just assuming she's a former human. In fact, I've gone so far as to assume that in the human world, she succeeded at what the ponies stopped her from doing, which is why she popped in like that in the first place. It makes sense to me, whether its actually true or not.

I liked this story. I've heard that there is a similar one in the write-off so I guess I liked this version of the story. I really can't add much to the praise that it's already getting. Though, I suppose I should at least tell you why I liked it.

I liked the subtleties and hints that where in the story, like why Flutters is going to the market early in the morning or the mud just rolls off her legs. (because there wasn't a lesson to be learned.) and of course the hints of Mary's transgenderism. I love reading a story and get that "wait what?! hold on, what did it say? then that means...oh!

I like not being told everything. Like why Marry is there or where she came from. I might be in the minority but I find that a lot of times explaining out the why's and where's of something just gets in the way. I mean do I really need to know where Mary came from? just that Fluttershy found it odd that an earth pony appeared with no flash and should investigate.

And most of all I like how you leave the resolution open ended allowing me, the reader, to continue with the story in the world you've created.

For Ponyville, a typical Summer day meant perfect weather: a few clouds for decoration, enough sunlight to raise the air slightly above room temperature, and a light breeze to tickle your feathers. Days like these generally made Fluttershy nervous, because they were the only kind of days on which monster attacks would occur.

In LA, this type of weather is called earthquake weather.

Having followed your blog posts, I recognize how highly personal this story is (in fact, I got genuinely worried part way through the fic), so thank you for writing it. I'll echo the previous comment that is neat to see a HIE story presented from the pony perspective. I also really enjoyed how you made the pony perspective and philosophy somewhat alien to us with their somewhat Panglossian view that every event must have some deeper lesson.

Also, although it is left somewhat open ended, my interpretation is that Fluttershy was not actually bluffing.


Mercy is transgender. The odd muzzle shape is a clue, and the reason she's panicking about clothes in chapter one is down below still has the, ah, dangly bit.

Hmm, so you invented the poni equivalent of ECT, eh? Makes sense given, well, you know, who Mercy truly is and all.

And it can get better. The hard part is finding the how.

I think I see what's going on here...the horrible sense of offness, the particular vocabulary, the fact that Fluttershy is viewed as a familiar face while Twilight is to feared, the fact that everything being fine is a danger...
We wouldn't happen to be in a brainwashed tyranny enforced by the Royals, would we?

Oh god, this is bringing to mind all the horrors of dystopian brainwashing...just a horrible, horrible malaise...

And then everyone explodes because Mercy didn't finish her mission.

Okay, I'm sorry, but am I missing something here? When did we learn that she came from the human world?

"Yes, please. How much for a dozen cherries?" she asked.

"Two bits," said Crafty Crate.

What an asshole! (Literally just saw this episode again this morning lol) One cherry was 2 bits, now it's 2 bits for a dozen? Talk about price gouging.

Princess Celestia's anti-fame enchantment.

*sigh* Headcanon dump paragraph. :ajbemused:

said in a horse and raspy voice


then this is almost certainly a friendship lesson, not an adventure quest.

So meta. :twistnerd:

I like it so far. But uh... not really my taste in humor, but it looks like it's all going somewhere. Will read more tomorrow.


Okay, I'm sorry, but am I missing something here? When did we learn that she came from the human world?

The story doesn't imply that. I think some commenters are assuming that Mercy was human because HiE is a ubiquitous trope in the fandom, but the story doesn't imply anything beyond Mercy being sapient and from a world similar to Fluttershy's unique experiences.


But uh... not really my taste in humor, but it looks like it's all going somewhere.

It's not actually a comedy. It may seem that way in the first chapter, but the comedy quickly disappears once the second chapter begins, and it becomes obvious that the elements which seemed comedic in the first chapter were actually serious.


Welp, I think I've waited long enough. Here goes...

or perhaps a giant rampaging muffin.

This is why we can't have nice things. :derpyderp2:

Roseluck blushed, even though Fluttershy hadn't intended it as a compliment.

Oooo. Flutterluck. There's a new one... :yay::heart:

When Twilight Sparkle became an alicorn, her ascension broke Princess Celestia's anti-fame enchantment.

Well, that and the fact that she was literally almost a model for Photo Finish. An interesting take nonetheless, and a pretty good excuse for the entire nation not recognizing their saviors of a dozen crises.

No amount of nip and tuck can give a person the natural leg-to-barrel proportions of a pony.

Not quite sure about the use of "person" here. Is it a slip of writer or of character? If it's the latter, then that implies other people have found their way to Equestria. But then, why to the ponies act so surprised when Mercy wants clothes? Or maybe I'm reading too much into it. I'm just analytical like that, I guess. :twilightblush:

So far, the story seems to be following the one I'm familiar with over on the Writeoff site, so no need to recap. On to Chapter 2.

Well, that was straightforward enough. Nothing there was overly distracting, so that's a plus. The progression of the plot was very familiar to me, having read the Writeoff version a few months back. Moving right along.

Ok, this is relevant to my reviews, but unrelated to the story. I can't finish reviewing chapter-by chapter at this time. Out of the blue, some social media drama blew up concerning the bullying that made me suicidal. (This is happening in real-time.) Basically, some uninformed jerks are telling me and my friends it's not as bad as I've made it out to be. Therefore, I'm postposing my reviews until later. So sorry I started and then didn't finish. It's not your fault; it's not because of the story you've written; it's just--I just can't right now. I need my music...

Take care of yourself first. :heart:

Author Interviewer

Boy, there's a lot to unpack from this. c.c I'm not even sure what my takeaway is.

The takeaway might be, "Maybe Fluttershy is right." Or, it might not be that at all. :pinkiesmile:

This was a very personal piece. I didn't label it Self-Insert because I don't think that knowledge benefits the reader, but to those who know me it's kind of obvious.

When I write something this personal it's less a message to the reader than a message to myself that the reader is invited to get something out of from listening to it. If it made you think, then it was successful in the way I wanted it to be.

Author Interviewer

I honestly like the way you inserted yourself into this. I don't think it's so much through Mercy as through the ways the ponies are portrayed. I'll have a lengthy meditation on it when I post my review. :B

Huh. Well, that was a stark departure from the original. Having read that adds quite the layer to this version. This remains a fascinating tale from a very alien Equestria. Thank you for bringing it to Fimfiction, and I'm sorry it took me so long to finally read it.

No problem! (And don't be silly, you're under no obligation to read my stories. I just hope you can enjoy some of them okay.)

Sorry again about TSJ. I guess I managed to uncover the hidden sliver beyond "MostEverything". :trollestia:

This brings up an important point I want to share in a future blog entry, about the nature of characters and the psyche. I'll wait until my flood of "must do crap first" abates, though, so I don't bury it in other blog entries.

First thing she does after arriving in Equestria is flop down into the mud and lie there refusing to move, then complains a bit and requests a tarp to wear. This is truly a mare after my own heart.

A very deep piece. Chapter 1 shows the universe working to keep the ponies lives fluid and wholesome (two bits dropping out when she needed exactly two), so we know that the universe has rules to help ponies live their lives. Ponies interpret these bits of cause and effect as lessons, but it is unclear whether this is an accurate interpretation or one that is merely adequate most of the time. Fluttershy is particularly masterful in applying her lessons and coming up with interpretations other ponies would not, to the point she is essentially lying to other ponies, herself, or both, at the end of the fic.

But by far the most interesting part of the fic is when Applejack is talking about her parents. She says that she has tried very hard to see a lesson there, but failed. AJ and maybe PP are the most likely to overlook something that may be obvious to other ponies about lessons, but lets say that no one but maybe fluttershy would be able to come up with a 'friendship lesson' for parents dying. One possibility is that Applejacks parents' deaths were caused by another out of universe phenomenon, since this is only the second time AJ has experienced not seeing a lesson. The other is that the universe killed her parents to accomplish some other goal, like the bluejay. I think it's the former because in the same scene Applejack whispers a harsh truth that comes from a place outside herself. A big part of tradgedy in equestria is caused by out of universe trespasses. A very unsettling conclusion, but one that mirrors the arbitrary nature of our reality.

Dang. This was really, really good.

Fluttershy stood up. Since the mud had only touched her briefly and she had no lesson to learn from it, simple physics caused it to slide smoothly off, leaving her legs perfectly clean.

Wow, Equestrian laws of nature are nice! I wonder who designed them?

"Her muzzle looks a bit crooked, too. Imperfect plastic surgery, or else she had it broken during some unusually valuable lesson."

Taking previous point into account this phrase about lesson makes perfect sense, but I have a hard time not perceiving it as a high level cynicism.

This is so sad, even worse than in the story about Diamond Tiara: not just a bit of motivated cognition, but what seems very direct optimization towards self-destruction with complicated plans including modelling and manipulating mental states of others. The only "lucky" thing here is that her state is too detrimental to successfully design and implement complicated plans. Yeah, so much lucky.

"I mean, there isn't even a word for it in the dictionary!" said Twilight, throwing her hooves up in frustration. "It just doesn't add up. It goes against evolution, against horse sense, against pony nature itself! What friendship lesson could that possibly teach us? What could it teach her?"

Evolution? Even that horrible monster is nice to ponies?

However, for the blue jay and for me, the lesson was about kindness.

I think one should try very hard to find kindness here. Although Fluttershy could get right insight from wrong example, but it kinda guarantees that it would be vague and actually mostly got from other sources.

"Of course," Fluttershy said softly, with a blank but serene look upon her face.

Was Fluttershy intended not only to kill her in that case, but to do it by feeding her to Everfree beasts? Uh-oh. This is very painful way to go.

I was hoping this would have a happy ending, but I can see how it would be hard to write one without it being jarring. It didn't have an unhappy ending though. I trust that they will find a way to solve Mercy's friendship problem in time, without amnesia.

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