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On the Sliding Scale Of Idealism Vs. Cynicism, I like to think of myself as being idyllically cynical. (Patreon page.)


This story is a sequel to Cutie Mark Crusaders Alpha Pack Leader

The Crusade has costs. When materials can't be "borrowed," they have to be paid for. And after adding in the reparations which have allowances something close to permanently docked -- well, the Crusaders are finally broke. So in order to fund their next mark-finding attempt, they're going to hold a sale during Ponyville's next market day.

The Crusade also has consequences, and part of that bill is about to come due.

(Part of the Triptych Continuum, which has its own TVTropes page and FIMFiction group: new members and trope edits welcome.)

Now with author Patreon page.

Chapters (1)
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Comments ( 136 )
Estee #1 · Dec 28th, 2016 · · 1 ·

Author's Very Public Note: in addition to being a sequel to the linked story, this takes place a few moons past Scootalift, shortly after Snowflake Shoe-Hare, and is set during the events of Triptych. It also uses the events of Season's Bleatings, Permanent Record, Applejack's chapter of Sick Little Ponies, and A Confederacy Of Dunce Caps.

It doesn't mean you need to read all of that to know what's going on, but it does indicate two things:

* This is another one of those AU division point stories, where the 'verse moves that much further away from the mainline.
* I couldn't call this a standalone with a straight face.

garfan #2 · Dec 28th, 2016 · · 13 ·

You know, it's funny. I keep meaning to leave a comment for Anchor Foal, but never get around to it. But this. I have to post this.

They are children. Fuck Ponyville and every pony in it for behaving like this to children. The Bearers are away, I wish the Everfree would just explode and let some beasts tear the place to the ground.

You haven't made me sad for the Crusaders you just made me hate everyone around them.

I also don't believe it was every about getting matching Cutie Marks

I love how you don't even show the crash, its such a forgone conclusion.

"If you trot away now," Scootaloo softly told her, "you can't come back."

Part of me wants to point out that its her farm, but that's hardly the point.

So, wow. The Crusaders are going through their own version of Triptych now, and it's got just as many painful truths. I didn't realise how important this one was going to be.


You haven't made me sad for the Crusaders you just made me hate everyone around them.

I obviously have no right to police feelings, but I would like to say that only two people were actively mean: Nameless Manager and Nameless Necklace Wearer. Both Big Mac and Snowflake trusted the Crusaders more than they really deserved, and the rest of the town simply wished to avoid doing business with them.

I also don't believe it was every about getting matching Cutie Marks

That is in not a real sentence. It's possible you are referring to the idea that the Crusaders want matching Cutie Marks- to which I have to reply Of course it was. They were all doing the same thing, and while they weren't actively trying to get the same Mark, the fact that they were all trying the same thing at the same time logically leads to a fear of one of them getting a Mark and the other two not, and the resulting difference leading to them not being friends.

Garfan If there wasn't so much demand for tolerance & forgiveness.... As it is, it's out of stock & back ordered

And no part of that idea had appeared in reality, for such was boring, and boring would end them.

True, but probably not in the way Apple Bloom means. Not consciously, anyway.
... Ah. Or she's barely able to keep refusing to admit it to herself.

This may be one of the most painful ways there is to teach the sunk cost fallacy, but it was necessary. This mechanism isn't working. It's long past time to dismantle it. On the bright side, even after all the abuse the parts took, they're still in good enough condition to work in more suitable circumstances.

Also, I can't help suspect that Scootaloo has yet to receive any inkling of her true talent. That, or she's just that desperate for companionship or that gifted at deluding herself. She seems to have more invested in the Crusade than either of the others.

Definitely a fascinating divergence point. I can only imagine what will come from it. I can only hope it turns out well. Should Apple Bloom ever embrace the boring, she may just drill a hole through her friends' denial.
... Oh goodness. Wouldn't it be terrible if one or more of them manifested before Discord's mission ended?

This really was sad. In an inevitable way.

In a way though, I'm glad to have it. It means they can finally begin to progress through lives artificially put on hold. They can truly find the things that make them whole. Maybe one day they'll even be able to be friends again. I truly hope so. It's this kind of story that makes me want to immediately jump to the sequel that doesn't exist yet.

Great job as always, Estee. :twilightsmile:

No, no, no, this is way too sad for me; I don't think I can handle it... :applecry::pinkiegasp::raritydespair::fluttershysad::fluttershbad::ajsleepy::rainbowderp:

But the one slightly-lighthearted moment was with Diamond and Cameo. Heh, Cameo made a cameo. :pinkiesmile:

Seriously, though, Estee, this cannot go without a sequel! There must be something! Anything! I can't see my favorite trio being torn apart like this! Or maybe... I'm just grasping at straws, and nothing can be done...

7824032 that kind of avoidance is very mean. And Bloom is able to see the hostility from them,

There's a lot of times I dislike the ponies in the Triptych verse, this is one of the worst ever

Do you think you could do a timeline for all your stories in the Tryptych universe? (If you haven't already, I mean.)

There are a lot of things that I cannot properly articulate that I feel about this story. Sadness for sure, that seems to be part of the point, but I think the largest is just the crushing feeling of inevitability pervading the whole story. From the moment the shed gets opened, you know exactly where this story leads, whether its written out or not, and yet it still hits just as hard if not harder.

And it only makes me want to keep reading. Great work as always, Estee.

I always figured that the first one to realize it all would be SCOOTALOO. Failing over and over would generally make the most success oriented give up soonest, not the most determined and level headed one...

I'd argue that its a very logical form of avoidance; after all, in the prologue these fillies stole several hundred dollars with of equipment and then crashed it through sheer stupidity. Not because of outside factors; they were simply and bluntly dumb. And this story also mentions that they've become numb to the damages caused, to the point where they cannot remember everyone they've wronged and the full extent of what they've done.

It's a little mean, certainly, but it's exactly how this would play out in real life and in no way is unreasonable.

7824121 well, Equestria is supposed to be better than real life

This makes me think back to Chapter 28 of Dans_Comments' Cultural Artifacts, when the Big Guy arranged his own banishment. All of Equestria cheered, save for the princesses, element bearers, and a few of their friends. I can picture the town celebrating when they find out that the crusaders are at least down by one. When the girls come back from their trip...

"They're gonna throw a big party," Pinkie said, then threw herself on Twilight hugging her as she sobbed, "But I don't want that kind of party!  I'm so confused!"

It will probably just like that, but even worse for Applejack (and maybe Rarity and Rainbow).



I want to jump on that and say your wrong- but you're right. Kind of. Like two-thirds right.

My Little Pony, unlike most fandoms, isn't married to the show's cannon. It's more like the kids that left home and is sorta independent now, while still receiving a lot of support from Mom an' Pop. The show is supposed to be better than Earth, and a lot of stories reflect this optimism. The Other Side of the Horizon, by Rambling Writer is a good example of stories that are smart, realistic, and aren't drenched in angst and drama.

The thing about Triptych is that I'm not sure it was meant to be better than Earth. It's a real place. Some of the stories make you feel uncomfortable, and tell truths you don't want to hear- because it's a real place. Everything about it, from the technology and magic and language- it feels so real. Lived in. Like it's a place you can go too. And no, it isn't perfect, because perfect doesn't exist. But it has people, wonderful people that do their best to make it worth living in, and that's more than a lot of places have. They're flawed here: Applejack is almost racist, Celestia still hasn't told Twilight she's immortal or that she's dying (Keep in mind that her dying is a WMG and may not be true) and Discord is much of a sociopath as can be without turning into Bill Cypher. But their flaws are brought to the surface, and they face them. They overcome them. They become better people.

That's why I look up to her and this series so much. There is just so much love and thought put into every little detail, it's the kind of world I want to create. It's one of the reasons I haven't published yet; I'm halfway through my first real story and I want it to be as good as this. (And I want to finish the other half. That's important too.)

So anyway, I guess what I'm saying is that you can like whatever you want, but those things you pointed out are a part of why I and so many others hold Estee and Triptych in such regard. If don't care, that's fair. But I love this show a lot, and holy crap where did I get this soapbox.

Well there is a timeline in The group's forum but it is a little out of date. Someone should probably get to updateing it.


Then you probably should look for story's other than the tripich continuum, where a defining feature of the 'verse is how Reality ensues hits frequently and without mercy.

If you go on the TV Tropes Recap page the stories are in rough chronological order with little notes explaining a few of them. It's quite useful.

7824185 I like Estee's writing, I hate his world building. In fact in a lot of ways it doesn't feel lived in to me,. Like the language. One tenth bit. Device. The way things are named, or more like described without being named feels wrong to me. I like his sidestories better than the Triptch verse multi- chapter ones and mostly ignore they're a shared universe

And I know Equestria isn't perfect. But it's a world that's supposed to be built on friendship, while this one feels like it's populated by a bunch of ponies barely tolerating each other

If they couldn't borrow or scourge fabric,

Scrounge? Though now I'm picturing Sweetie Belle going to town on some fabric with a whip. "Dumb FABRIC!" :angrysweetie:

It hadn't spotted the manager from verbally kicking in all directions


Man, Scoots, if that's what you require in order to be friends, then maybe you never truly were.


I think Scootaloo is suffering from Sunk Cost Fallacy. She is going to keep going down this path until she either dies or gains her mark. Apple Bloom just choose to fold em'. I feel the worst for Sweetie Belle for being stuck in the middle of her two friends.


And here I was wondering how that episode would come into play somehow. A trace of Diamond niceness and the CRUSADE COLLAPSING.

I don't usually comment twice on the same short story, but there's a lot of "Oh, everybody is being SO mean to the Crusaders. The CMC are just kids, cut them some slack"

May I point out "It's been 3 -ING YEARS, people!"
Rewatch Heats and Hooves Day rewatch Ponyville Confidential. If lthey ain't in jail, they shouldn't complain.

But, as Popeye says "That's all I can stand, I can't stands no more!"

7824189 sadly, as I've said I like Estee's writing in general

7824350 don't care, they're still just kids. And frankly, I'm a fan of schadenfreude so the more they hate on the CMC the happier I am for the CMC to make them miserable

Comment posted by Galaxina-the-Unicorn deleted Dec 28th, 2016

Scootaloo, in this world, seems to have no support structure outside of the CMC. The other two have families to fall back on, but the Crusade seems to be all Scoots has. It looks like she can't see any other options.

I'm both happy and sad here. Happy because I'm proud of Applebloom. Damn Proud. I'm also sad because this could either break a friendship permanently. But this was needed for all of them. Seeing the consequences and either choosing to, ironically, move forward and learn or not. From this series the problem with the CMC is at the faults of two groups. First is Scootaloo, but her problem is due to the second group, her single-mindedness and inability to think about her actions is the reason they can't get their marks. The second is their sisters, hero, and teacher not explaining how the cutie marks work. From what I understand they simply told them that it was their talent without going into any other important details. And at this point the only people that could convince them on thinking differently, besides Applebloom, would be Celestia or the Mane Six. Instead they get angry, worried, punish the kids, and do nothing to actually stop it besides getting angry at the problem. Which is entirely realistic and makes sense here.

I'm looking forward to their future. And maybe the CMC ending is the best thing to happen. More than anything I want these three to be happy, to be friends, and to find their marks. In that order. It's time for them to grow up and I think we'll all be surprised by the ponies they become.

An unenjoyable day, a fic I wasn't in the mood to read... what was the point of it all?

Emil #34 · Dec 28th, 2016 · · 1 ·

You obviously haven't dealt with children all that much if you've never met ones who make you think that you just don't have any viable options for interaction other than STAY AWAY. These aren't even particularly young children anymore. They're probably getting close to their teen years in human terms, and they're astoundingly stupid and immature for their age. There comes a point where a tween's refusal to learn from their mistakes (despite repeated attempts at adult guidance), coupled with a complete lack of remorse about the damage they cause (the Crusaders are actually lucky that they've never permanently injured a bystander), means that the only sane thing an unassociated adult can do is avoidance.

Let's say these were three real-life children. The first time you interacted with them was when you tried their "car washing service" and they broke your windshield. The second time you interacted with them, it was because you just found out that they stole your car and totaled it. The third time, they crashed someone else's car into you and broke your leg. I bet you'd be avoiding them too, before a fourth encounter leads to your maiming or death.

Also...wow, Estee. I know your universe is the most cynical around, but it's hard to imagine this level of stupidity, even in the Crusaders.


Agreed that appeals to "realism" are frankly pony feathers. The thing is, saying "oh, realistic stuff is always grey and grim" is often bullshit even in the real world, which can and, in various times and places, be better than, say, the rather irrational republic myself and fellow American fans currently inhabit. I however, give the author a break here: while Estee's Equestria brims with assholes, some do eventually get their comeuppance while some redeem themselves, and the Good Guys do seem to be staying ahead, at least on points, so far. This is not the nihilism of Deep Cynicism, or even Hardboiled Detective level Cynicism. [1]

However, I have some problems with the _current_ story, because the author stacks the deck against the Crusaders here. Outside of HHD, how often has the show shown them causing massive property damage? How often does the show have them stealing from other Ponies? Becoming town pariahs is the author putting their thumb on the scales to establish a desired outcome, not a "realistic" outcome of the crusades, and again it is the Writer's Phalange's at work when they are shown to be _utterly_ irrational in comparing inputs to expected outputs, and lacking in anything like realistic remorse for the people whose lives they disrupted. Twilight, etc. don't explain Talents on the show very well, but it's again an authorial choice to assume they never got a better answer off-screen. If we leave out the show's "solution", which, after all, was an asspull and pretty clearly not what was intended initially, then the notion that the Crusade is fundamentally self-defeating is a perfectly good armature to hang a story from: that the story is so ferociously downbeat is a dramatic choice. Presumably the Crusaders will eventually get their marks, but Estee clearly means to put them through some George RR Martin Lite stuff [2] before they get them, because there's a lot more story to be had there than, say, Sweetie Belle being persuaded to sing by herself at a talent contest and getting her Mark. :unsuresweetie:

{1] Still can't figure what "idyllically cynical" means, tho.' :pinkiecrazy:
[2] Main characters aren't killed off, but made to feel really bad. :raritydespair:

7823932 The problem with the Cutie Mark Crusaders is that they exist in the context of a children's TV show, which frames their behavior as cute and entertaining while also demonstrating a strong tendency to make long-term negative consequences simply not happen. In any more realistic context, the Crusade itself can only be described as dysfunctional, irrational, addiction-driven behavior verging on monomania.

The Crusaders are genuinely regretful that their actions cause harm to other ponies, but they don't care enough to stop, or even to try to restrain their actions in any way. That is very clear from their behavior in the show and this story spells it out explicitly: they fully understand that they are committing a years-long spree of vandalism, theft, burglary, and assault, and they do it anyway because their mindset is Crusade uber alles.

The entire point of this story, as I read it, is that the Crusaders finally hit a point where they are forced to see the fruit of their behavior, and one of them has finally started growing up to the point where she understand that this is not okay. She is just starting to understand that a cutie mark is a coming of age which cannot be pursued through enthusiastic immaturity, and more importantly, she's starting to understand that their rampant thoughtlessness has run out the clock on the patience of virtually everyone around them.


Sweet, sweet karma. Tastes just as good as revenge.


There are limits to everything, and being part of an ongoing unstoppable disaster hits them eventually for everyone. If you haven't read the stories Estee references, do, especially Permanent Record. These are Crusaders that have literally driven at least one pony to a mental breakdown with their Crusade.


Go read the stories Estee links. This isn't out of the blue, there is a hell of a track record for the vortex of disaster the CMC are in the 'verse. Especially, as above, Permanent Record.

When you read a bit deeper and link this to what's been hinted at in Triptych itself regarding a mark artificially delayed or denied, and what that can do to a pony.... well, if AB decides to go with her instincts and urges, she'll have gotten off lightly. Same for Sweetie. They both already have a pretty good idea what tree they should be barking up.

For those griping about the populace hating the CMC, I expect that honestly, six months from now it won't be as big a deal. Applebloom will make good on the reparations, now that she isn't putting all her income into the Crusade, and six months without constant disasters and with clear and visible remorse will make a huge difference as far as the rest of the town is concerned.

Sweetie may yet pull up, take AB's advice, and work on what she actually loves to do. God knows Rarity would be glad to see her not in the middle of madness all the time anymore.

Scoots is the most likely to be crushed, but in the 'verse she -does- have some support structure outside the CMC, in the form of Snowflake, and her parents, as she also isn't an orphan. She's just single-minded and determined. Give her that same six months working on her own, maybe actually going with one of her parents on whatever work keeps them out of town so often, and she'll be back with a lot more to think about, and maybe ready to set the Crusade aside and be friends again. She's already shown in Scootalift that she's capable of concentrating on other things.

Besides, I'm with Fluttershy. I think her mark's of the same group as Snowflake's. Pure determination. That's why she's so driven to keep going, as it feels right to her, but it's never going to reach manifest until she learns to temper it with patience.

Or maybe not. Nothing's perfect, after all. But Diamond can give her some advice if she has to...

To refresh a few memories
There was the "Apple Bloom tries the 'hard sell' for apples incident (Call of the Cutie ?)
They wreck a bowling alley & Scootaloo crashes through a funeral (ICR, S1) + general reckless driving
Damn near killed Babs in One Bad Apple + disrupted parade
Wrecked the stage in the school talent show (although most of the town laughed that off)
Apple Bloom stole from Zecora & terrorized the town in The Cutie Pox. I agree, off hand this is the only time I remember them stealing (as opposed to damage from scooter crashes)
Sweetie swiped stuff from Rarity (Sister Hooves Social), but I grew up in a large family & taking things from siblings isn't really stealing + a lot of stuff, like the zip line or the swim fins, it wasn't specified where they got it.

Thinking about it, that's not good but it's not THAT much for 3 years. I'd bet their bad reputation comes from 2 sources
1 Being badmouthed by Diamond Tiara I'd bet she blamed them for stuff that wasn't their fault, like the parasprite swarm
2 I'd bet the Ponyville Confidential incident generated a simply amazing amount of ill will. Unfair, really, when you consider that DT forced them into it + the town encouraged it. Blame themselves? Hell no, it was the CMCs

In this story, Estee takes his take on the Crusaders -- forever failing, forever hopeful, forever desperate; a joke that has lost its humor, increasingly a menace to themselves and to everypony around them -- and pushes it to its ultimate conclusion: the Crusade must end.

And so it does. Permanently.

I, too, am proud of Applebloom, for finally facing what's been staring them in the face for a long time now. Scootaloo... I think she's still stuck on the desperate hope, unable to admit that this is not the way. Sweetie... with Applebloom gone, I think Sweetie will start to see the reason, too. And I hope that, and Snowflake's influence, will kick some sense into Scoots' head, too.

One more comment I wanted to make, because it hit me only after posting the previous one: I love what you did with Diamond Tiara. It goes unsaid, but her role is actually pretty massive. She was the catalyst of the Crusade, her mockery spurring Sweetie and Scootaloo to support Apple Bloom in the first place. Now she's actually trying to be nice. Not only has the initial impetus gone away, even Diamond Tiara is growing up. The bully archetype has left it, is maturing and changing, while the Crusaders are still stuck in stasis, the only change aging bodies, rock-bottom reputations, and zero capital. I'm not sure how much she factored into Bloom's decision in comparison to the contents of the Junkedyard, but I do appreciate the deeper import.

7824966 Thank you for the list, because to me that's really very little done, and little damage called

Playing over the last scene.


That was tiring :pinkiesad2:

It probably didn't help that I read this in the middle of the night while enduring both insomnia and travel stress.


sadly, as I've said I like Estee's writing in general

Why is that sad?
This is a very big universe. Expecting every detail to be explained every time it comes up is unreasonable, and also not how it works in real life.
They aren't just kids, they're somewhere between thirteen and fifteen; old enough to be expected to know that stealing and vandalism is wrong.
The entire plot is kicked off by the fact that they've been forced to spend so much on fixing what they break that they have no money at all. At the funeral home alone, several people almost died, not to mention everything that went down in the Babs Seed episode. It is clearly quite a bit.

I didn't notice the first time how the first and last line were the same line. Nice.

I'm not sure how much support her parents are offering. If I had to guess, I'd say at least one of them, probably both, are absent a lot of the time. One of the reasons she does stupid stuff a lot and wants her Mark so badly is because she thinks it get them to notice her and because she doesn't have anyone guiding her.


I think I agree with you that Estee's take on the Crusaders is far darker than the show implies, but that isn't necessarily a contradiction. The Continuum is rather explicitly an AU, and a lot of characters are subtly different from what the show implies. Within the context of the Continuum, the way everypony else is treating the Crusaders is entirely rational.

I thought this was gonna be one where the tag was ironic or something, but at Apple Bloom's narration of the shack, it seemed unfortunately accurate.

... So, Mark Manifestation Repression, if the Triptych Continuum gives them the same marks as Canon MLP:FiM, means that the mark is not set in stone, and can be forced a different way, if wanted, getting them a Triplet Mark or whatever, in the end.

Was wondering where their money is coming from initially, and apparently they scrounged it up, and now they're resorting to a stable sale... But if they need more money after this, do they actually get jobs or something?

Not done yet, so now I'm wondering if they'll get their marks at the end of the story...

And no. And one of the largest divergences from Canon:

They split up.

Nice reference to the Sunk Cost Fallacy!

I want them to get better! :raritydespair:

Diamond Tiara's being useful! :pinkiehappy:

Sweetie Belle, Sing!

Apple Bloom's got a really good memory, remembering all her plans and and all those crusades and stuff...

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