• Published 20th Apr 2017
  • 714 Views, 21 Comments

Princess Celestia's Body Double: Setting Stage For Harmony - JLB



After centuries of tumult, it has been a decade of harmony for Equestria. Princess Celestia has not been showing signs of the ruling stress that's plagued her for years. But Nightmare Moon looms, and the secret of her vitality gains new purpose.

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Overture: Love

“Osma, tap the dream sphere, please,” Princess Celestia ordered, stifling a yawn. “Gently, please. And before you leave, don’t forget to air it out into the arcane exhaust holder.”

A powerful, echoing, deeply frustrated hiss-groan came out of her body double’s throat. She abided, crawling miserably to the rotating nocturnal blue sphere in the corner of the room and complaining along the way:

“Not only did I just get up, but I just sat down after doing your mane!” Osma said, among other things. “Since when am I an indentured servant?!”

The Princess neglected to answer any of her body double’s protests, instead focused on channeling her magic onto the sun. It was a remarkably swift, early sunrise, abnormally so even by the punctual Celestia’s standards.

At least fall isn’t in full swing yet, the sun isn’t meant to be up particularly late. This is just a little throwback to the summer,’ the Princess thought to herself. At most, the farmers are going to lose an hour or two of sleep. I’ll make this work.

“My gauntlets, Osma. Prepare the gauntlets,” she spoke through gritted teeth, pouring in a lot of her strength into pulling the sun into proper traveling orbit.

“Aaaagh!” Osmosis screamed, throwing her hooves up in the air, as she’d just sat back down on her pillow with a magazine. She was cut short by a pink and white striped sock flying into her mouth off the still-messy bed the two of them crawled out of fifteen minutes ago. “Phflah! Which gauntlets, Celie?! You don’t just have one pair!” the mare whined, scrambling back onto her hooves.

“The pretty ones, Osma.”

“Which pretty ones?! They’re all pretty! I chose them! They’re all—”

“The regal and commanding kind of pretty.”

“What is even going on, anyway? You’ve been giving off these panic spikes since a few minutes before you woke up!” the shapeshifter asked, burying her snout in her hooves while the ceremonial dress cabinet opened slowly at her magic’s behest. “Are we being invaded or something? Am I out of the loop again?” She took on the white alicorn’s image, flexing momentarily to adjust to the size discrepancy. At the rate of one pair per five seconds, Osma began to try the gauntlets out.

Celestia took some time to answer, puffing and gulping where she stood, a solitary bead of sweat rolling down her temple. The alicorn levitated a glass of water over and downed it in a blink of an eye, clearing her throat and beginning to flex and stretch. Her concentrated, stern facial expression spoke of enough seriousness and urgency to the occasion for Osma to dig through the cabinet instead of pushing the issue.

“It’s diplomacy, Osma, complicated diplomacy that I’ll fill you in on after I’m done. And that, to note, will be a while, because I am an absolute, total, inexcusable mess,” the alicorn said, descending into a half-growl. “And forgot all about today’s arrangements up until I woke up, hence Equestria getting their sun an hour and a half too early. I’ll surrender the Badlands yet with this track record…”

The shapeshifter was looking at a pair of particularly imposing-looking amethyst-encrusted gauntlets, more stray armor pieces than royal attire, comparing them in thorough detail to the others on offer. Once the Princess’ words registered, however, she froze in place, her exterior actually growing thicker for a few seconds.

“The Badlands, you say?” she asked slowly.

“Yes, the Badlands. You see, when we say Badlands, what we really mean is not just that meddlesome desert, but also the—”

“And you’re meeting the delegation from Taurine to discuss borders and ownership rights, right?” Osmosis interjected, turning to face Celestia and staring at her with her own eyes, wide and glossy. The Princess, in turn, wasn’t looking back at her mirror image, instead massaging a stretched out wing while simultaneously lining up a set of rings and circlets on a nearby table, presumably for Osma to choose from.

“Good display of memory. Can we get to picking my horn rings then?”

It was Celestia’s turn to freeze when a pair of gauntlets hit the floor with a clank and a thud, a noise that was soon followed by the sound of her own chortling laughter. The shapeshifter pointed a hoof at her, pristine white wings flapping lightly. Her laughs took on a somewhat mocking quality when the alicorn herself rose up, confused, and stood mouth-agape, rubbing the back of her head, squinting at her body double’s odd behavior.

“Osma, I don’t have time for whatever you’re—”

“Sunny, you’re impossible. I should be mad at you, but I just… I can’t!” Osma murmured lisply, forcibly stopping her torrential mocking chortles. “It’s not today, you magnanimous dum-dum, just how did you forget?!”

“Wait.” Celestia shook her head, spreading her aetherial mane all over the place, barely bothering to straighten it back out. “Today is the sixteenth, right?”

“Yes!”

“So that means—”

“That means that at the preliminary delegation meeting, which was two months ago, I sweet-talked the Minotaurs into abandoning the whole Badlands deal because our scientific communities could take a joint effort to all the…” Osma’s natural greenish texture showed ever so slightly through her imposed visage as she had to stick a hoof in her mouth to stop another laughing fit. “...whatevers that they need that place for, I don’t remember what they’re called. The point is, since the Minotaurs are the colorful bunch of characters that they are, it’ll take them years to iron out an agreement between each other as to how to even approach us about this! Dummy! Lecturing me about diplomacy!”

‘...’ Celestia’s eyes were still and dim for a moment or two.“Oh.”

“Yeah. You woke up, let’s see, two hours early, raised the sun - confusing all of Equestria - and would have made a massive fool of yourself if I hadn’t intervened. Oh, no, you’re too kind, it’s no problem at all!” The fake alicorn swirled in place, raising a forehoof to her mouth dramatically, manufacturing a bashful blush onto her cheeks. “Nooo, don’t bring up how it’s all thanks to me that you don’t have to do any of this! No thanks required! Oh, stop it, you— HEY STOP IT

“That’s it, I’ve had it, I’m going to—” Celestia growled with murderous determination, having tackled her own overacting body, put its neck in a leg lock, and begun to rapidly rub a forehoof against the top of its head. “—I’m going to find out what you are from the inside! Starting from the top! Now!”

“Watch it, ow, WATCH IT! I’m not, UGH— STOP IT, YOU’RE GIVING YOURSELF A NOOGIE, YOU BIMBO!!!” Celestia’s frantic, befuddled voice sputtered in between regular moans and groans as the two sizeable white mares wrangled around on the floor.

“I’ve done worse things to myself, and you know it!”

And so the two roughly identical mares continued to struggle for a few minutes longer, the genuine article remaining firmly on top. There were copious complaints and protests from the body double’s side, but Princess Celestia’s bullying session wasn’t halted even when Osmosis brought up the fact some servants could dare to enter the chamber considering the abnormal sunrise. The monarch’s ruthlessness eventually caused the shapeshifter to call uncle, but when even that wasn’t enough, she was ultimately forced to use the innate ace up her sleeve.

The abused mare lit up and fizzled for a few moments, her textures changing, limbs reshaping, objects popping in and out. Considering the repelling qualities of the magic, as well as the fact she shrunk a mild amount, that allowed her to be rid of the vicious Princess’ grip. Having regained her freedom, Osma quickly scuttled to a nearby sofa and found solace in slipping between the copious pillows and only having her snout poke outside.

“Alright… alright. I really need more self-control.” Celestia picked herself up from the floor, having fallen down when Osma wriggled out. “I’m sorry. I just had a lot of pent up stress… I’ve been so on edge lately that it didn’t even occur to me things weren’t going wrong. Then when you reminded me of what was actually going on, I… just needed a release.”

“I expect a hug,” the pillow-protected mare’s snout pointed out in her more regular voice, albeit audibly pitched around to be slightly more sympathy-inducing.

“The fact you were mockingly cackling at me while being me hardly helped matters, either,” the Princess said with enforced dismissal, swiping her sides with her wings and levitating over the pink slippers that fell off during her assault.

“I also want ice cream,” the abused shapeshifter added on.

“You know, it could be worse. I’m being serious. Now that I look back at this silly little incident, I could easily have thought this was all a nightmare of mine. It’s quite archetypical, really, with all the stress, the haze, the hurry, and then being laughed at by myself. Good thing roughing you is so inviting, I didn’t quite go down that route,” Celestia pondered, sauntering around and sipping from a glitter-spangled cup. “It’d have been such a mess reconfiguring the dream sphere. It doesn’t tend to react well to that. Heavens, it’s so good that you just ask for it all the time.”

“And dignity would be good, too.”

The white alicorn sighed loudly and rolled her eyes, trotting over to the doors and peeking outside to check for worried servants. None were there, as calmness protocols in case of unusual celestial activity were seemingly still well in place.

It has been quite a while since my last solar mishap. And that time, at least it was Osma’s fault. Ah… Memories,’ she reminisced, almost smiling. ‘Right, and then I have to spent the proper start of today figuring out how to smooth this over. Hardly difficult, but bothersome. Ah, well. None of the relevant ponies are up yet.’

Humming a faint tune and ignoring the increasingly frustrated, lonesome, longing sighs emerging from the rumbling pillow formation on the balcony-most couch, the Princess briskly left a few marks on the calendar, cast a spell on the chamber doors to display a busy sign (of the “carry on, not an emergency” variety), slipped into her lavender-white gown, set a tea kettle to heat up for optimal green tea temperatures, and grabbed a few wedges of orange from the food containers.

Having put the wedges on the plate and turned around to face the early sun, she was forced to groan at the sound of miserable sniffles entering tatter the attention-seeking sighs. While her brows furrowed, the mare’s mouth still found itself in a minor smile, and she resigned to seeking for Osma’s favorite kiwi ice cream, generously plopping a few balls into a glass bowl. When she sat down next to the sniffling pillows, they quickly abandoned that attribute, having caught the scent. Osmosis arose from her satin and feather asylum, gladly taking the bowl into her own telekinetic grip.

“Ah, this should keep me enslaved under your tyrannical rule for another day,” the shapeshifter commented, munching on the ice cream that was hardly too different from most of her in color. “Is that your way of saying ‘thank you for being the best secret body double anyone could ask for’?“

“No, my way of doing that is saying ‘thank you for being the best secret body double anyone could ask for, Osma’. And I do say so, by the way. And you are,” Celestia said softly, wrapping a wing around her green, gold and red companion.

“Naw, I know,” Osmosis replied, speaking directly into the mare’s mind since her mouth was full. “You’ve never really grown cold to me. I can sense your feelings. I mean, this exact moment you are feeding me a lot more lovey-beams than you tend to, but really, you’ve never hated me. At worst you’re just really, really unappreciative and ignorant of all the things I do for you,” she clarified with a smug look on her cheek-bloated face. “The ‘worst’ happens a lot though, Sunny.”

The Princess moaned in jest before taking a bite from one of the wedges. Her eyes quickly checked on the dream sphere circling around in its holding cone in a darker corner of the room. Judging by its smooth texture and consistent purple coloration, the artifact hadn’t been particularly taxed that night, which further justified Celestia slumping into the couch a little, exhaling in a loud half-yawn.

One less chore than there could have been. Yipee, hooray, chalk it up for tomorrow.

One of her hind hoof slippers fell off and was completely ignored.

“Well, it certainly is good your innate empathic link keep you from feeling abandoned and hated. You see, that is your weakness,” she said. “This completely justifies my doing whatever I want to do to you so long as I still love you to some degree.”

“Oh lookie here, somebody knows how to use the L-word! Isn’t that great to know. Why, I’m willing to let you practice on me, cause you will need to say it to someone else eventually!” Osma replied telepathically, deep, echoing snickers bubbling through the barrier of munched ice cream in her maw. “Now if you’d stop thinking I would fall apart and turn to incompetent, bumbling vapor if you ever stop being a cold, distant ingrate, that’d be the best.”

“Stop being so dramatic. You act like I keep you in a cage and lash you for misbehavior. And you know what?” Celestia raised her voice in a pitch of excitement, cutting off any potential counter-arguments.

“No, Celie, that is NOT a good idea,” Osmosis interrupted her telepathically.

“—You aren’t as bad as I make you sound.” The white mare nudged her partner’s shoulder and grinned. “I’d need very selective memory to pretend things wouldn’t be a lot worse if not for you.”

The shapeshifter didn’t reply, but her brightening, more luminant body was indicator enough that she wanted more.

“I remember, oh… yes, six years ago. I didn’t think firing the rock economy dignitaries for the Vanhoover region could possibly go well under any circumstances, so I told you to handle that affair. Gosh,” the mare whispered, covering up her snout with a hoof and chuckling. “I have no idea how you managed to keep everything civil without once offering a compliment for their current course of action. I didn’t even need to act inconsistent when I put in someone who didn’t get born into the position as the provisional head of rock economy.” She rubbed her chin, eating the rest of the wedge. Her brows furrowed at the buzz of telepathic interference coming through. “And yes, Osma, don’t even start - I know you told me a dozen times, my ‘not knowing’ was a figure of speech.”

“I’m not that dense, Sunny. I just want to remind you that the correct term is ‘rockonomics’. And scientists in the field of geology get ‘rocktorates’ instead of doctorates. All thanks to your oh-so-proficient dignitary Rock Sock who was apparently so successful that he became permanent in avoidance of Earthscape’s ‘archaic laws’,” Osmosis corrected her with tonal jabs and pokes emanating from the statement even when it wasn’t being verbally spoken. The alicorn grimaced and swatted herself gently on the forehead.

“I promise, Osma, I had no idea he was like that. He seemed the right stallion for the job. Economically speaking, he was. I’d still have done everything to prevent him gaining any significance if I’d known about his quirks, though.” Her hooves pushed deep into her eyes, slowly crawling down her snout, leaving behind red marks. “Oh my dear heavens, ‘rockonomics’... Why do you do this to me, my little ponies?..”

“On with how useful I am, Celie,” Osma suggested, having consumed three ice cream balls out of five with not a moment of pause.

“Anything to wash away these words. Right… Oh, off the top of my head. The Grand Galloping Gala four years ago, when Everfree was looking like it would expand. I was so worried back then, it looked really dire. We do know now that it was the darksprite sneezer plants having their millennial pollinating season, but back then it looked like a wave of dark magic would engulf us at any moment. Ugh… I could hardly look at a scroll again after that week. It was nothing but magic, magic, magic. I would probably have exploded if I had to multitask,” Celestia spoke, eyes wide in retroactive bewilderment, staring off into a window, shaking her head. “Not to be selfish, it was probably for the best - I was very wrong not to let you do them before then. Really, Osma, if I was ever to host it by myself again, it would be such a deathly bore compared to what you do. Almost in character, no less. I didn’t have to pick up any silly habits or wear any ridiculous dresses thanks to any of your Galas!”

“Oh yes, I love the Gee-Gee-Gees. This year’s is coming up in just a month. Since you’re being so kind and sincere with me, I’ll have to undermine my own position here in a display of stunning honesty.” Osmosis halted her consummation for a moment to absorb the bits of ice cream all over her snout directly into her carapace in lieu of a napkin. “You do have to do something, Celie.”

“Wait, but— oh. Argh. Nooo…” The Princess fell on her side and her head bounced on the pillowed arm of the couch. “Curse it all. I really do need to stop putting it off. Were I less of a mess, we really should have dedicated this free time to it. Too late now.”

“Wow, I can just see you grow before my very own eyes,” Osma commented, burping chitteringly and not, in fact, looking at her companion. “That’ll be the second time in a row you didn’t even try to come up with an excuse. I guess you’ve faced that you’ll inevitably get into a situation where you need to sing and I’m not around to do it for you. I’m amazed that in all the years that passed before you got me, this issue has never once came up.”

“All who bore witness to it are long resting their souls in the high heavens,” Celestia replied monotonously.

“I trust there was no correlation?”

“It was a joke.”

“Moving on…”

Instead of the conversation moving on, there was a pause, one lengthy enough for Osmosis to finish off her ice cream and arch her back, spreading her forehooves in ice cream-fueled joy. Looking at the Princess, she pouted and shortly joined her, embracing the white mare from behind, having snuck in with tricky body shifts. The white alicorn was laying still, thoughtful and quiet, eyes aimed nowhere in particular. She pressed closer against the insectoid mare’s chest once the latter had taken on her puffier, softer comfort-mode shape.

“It’s okay,” Osma spoke softly, nuzzling Celestia’s neck.

“Thank you. I… might have accidentally made myself sadder than I realized with that comment. Fitting punishment for such an off-color joke, I suppose,” the Princess said ponderously, sighing. “Some of the things it made me think of, I wouldn’t necessarily call myself a fan of thinking them. Even if, perhaps, I do need to.”

“You know I’m here for you when you need me.”

“Yes, indeed you are.”

The two of them remained like that for a good few more minutes, until Celestia groaned and forced herself to lift her head. She immediately mumbled something incoherent under her breath and collapsed back onto the pillow, puffing air out her nostrils.

“What is it, Sunny?” Osma asked, rubbing the top of the mare’s head with her chin.

“The teapot is running overtime. It’s going to be too hot for green tea now. I wanted to brew it the proper way, just this once,” she explained. “What is worse, someone needs to get up to get that thing. Telekinesis makes it spill.”

“Well, if you put it this way, I’ll be right back,” the shapeshifter volunteered herself caringly, giving the alicorn a pat on the shoulder and slithering out onto the floor. “I’ll make it black then, yeah?”

“Sure, Osma. By the way, just how did I put it, exactly?” Celestia asked, stretching, yawning and flipping onto her back, flexing her hooves in the air. She ate two orange wedges in one go, bits of juice sprinkling onto her coat. “I’m not sure what you mean.”

“You said that ‘someone needs to get up’ and even justified it. Most days, you’d just boss me around. This is an improvement, Celie, you’re finally treating your closest friend with some respect!” The insectoid mare chuckled, trotting to the teapot and gathering a pair of cups.

“Oh please. Don’t be dramatic. I treat you well plenty. Besides, who knows with you? Maybe if I give you too much appreciation, you’ll just overload and explode.”

“Keep dreaming, you big bully. Alright, about eight minutes and tea’s good to go.” Osmosis flexed where she stood and quickly took on Celestia’s likeness, skipping her way to the balcony and gazing out onto the hills, forests and distant towns beyond. She spread the white wings with a murmur of content and waved to a group of Guards swooping by.

After having had enough of the scenery, and before the thought occurred to the rather relaxed Princess, her body double made her way to the dream realm protection artifact in the corner of the spacious chambers. Having successfully tricked the orb into thinking she was Celestia - a necessary precaution, as it dated back to long before she was ever around, and was important enough to not let others meddle with it - she performed the necessary venting procedures required to get the artifact to cool down before it could be set up again that night. She also picked up a sheet of orders for the Towers’ Royal Guards, cantering enthusiastically out the doors and returning not so late afterwards, having evidently found no trouble on the way there and back.

In the meantime, Celestia had forced herself to rise from the couch and walk around, a glance at the clock telling her that getting into too much of a peaceful lull would not have been the best of ideas. While she was accidentally granted a few extra hours of free time (and even those at the expense of a longer slumber), the day was still filled with things to do. Between the discussions of policy, Guard checkups, magical studies, and Canterlot elite visits to her throne room, there was a less common task. An important one at that, which made the relative stillness of the Equestrian nation and the acceptable proficiency of her staff quite the saving grace, considering she currently couldn’t count on Osma as much as she usually did in freeing up time.

“It’s a calm, quiet morning out there. They didn’t seem to be too bothered by the early sunrise. It’s just gonna be the farmers you’ll have to mess around with, Sunny. Or… Well, I was going to give another shot at my very special task today. If you want, I can make that tomorrow and do the public comments on my own,” Osmosis offered, passing by the Princess and checking on the tea.

“You know, I think I’ll handle that myself. Thanks for the offer. It’s hardly too difficult, just an hour or two of wording some messages to be sent out and talking out there in the city. And don’t get smart on me, please.” Celestia nudged her with a forehoof, taking a sniff of the near-ready brew herself. “This isn’t a veiled insult. I can’t let myself get too rusty with these things. Besides, I’m all for not having to force you to do your job.”

“Gee, thanks. I sure am useful, huh?”

The additional duty Celestia had for this day was figuring out her body double’s biological identity - following on the first clue she’d gained, at least. Less than a week had passed since Osmosis’ first foray into seeking out viable candidates for producing a protege to be trained by Celestia for Nightmare Moon’s inevitable return. Seeing how even Osma herself thought today was good enough to go and do her part, it made it all too fitting that she would try something out on her own. In a different field, of course, but still of quite some importance.

“Indeed you are. And, by the way. With some luck, perhaps today I’ll be able to shed some light on what exactly you are beyond… um, useful,” Celestia presented her plan to the mare.

“Oh, really? Is Doctor Diamond done looking over that thing, you think?” Osma said, nodding her head, and finally shedding the Princess’ guise. She meddled with the webby merigold on her head after a strong gust of wind spread it all over her snout. “Ugh, my mane!.. But, uh, I can’t say I’ve lost interest in finding out, you know?”

“I do, of course I do. I’ll try not to disappoint. We’ll reconvene in the evening.”

“Sure. Now let’s have some tea while there is still half an hour to when the sun was meant to be up...” The shapeshifter exhaled happily and dexterously poured them each a cup, levitating the platter with them onto the table by the couch. Celestia joined her there, getting her pink robe flung wide open by another windy gust, and she promptly reacted by using her magic to shut the balcony doors.

Why didn’t she do that ear— No, no, stop doing that. Pointless harping on minor things.’ Instead, the Princess pointed criticism at herself:

“I really should at least have tried a singing lesson instead of—”

“—feeding my ego and not doing anything useful, I know,” the insequine mare replied, teasingly twisting her words. Celestia furrowed her eyebrows.

“Hmf. You know what? No. It’s good to feed your ego sometimes.”

“A strong statement, Celie. Variety is good for you. Helps to change the way things work now and again.”

---

“Well, this definitely changes things,” Diamond Eye stated, his face pressed tight against an enormous microscope. “I can tell you that much.”

“That’s what I would have assumed,” Celestia said. “Anything of particular note?”

“Yes, roughly a couple hundred plausible theories…” the Court Wizard muttered, leaning even closer to the microscope, tapping a hoof against its side.

“I see,” the alicorn replied quietly, puffing out the side of her mouth and rolling her eyes.

“...have been... “ The stallion grunted, his hoof-tapping growing more intense. “...ruled ...out. This finding has been an, ahhh. Ahhhmmm…”

“Diamond?” Celestia asked the wizard, who by now looked as if he was trying to tear the microscope off its many supports. “Is everything okay?”

“What do you— “ he started, and then stayed silent and still. The alicorn could but wait awkwardly, having at least been used to her royal scientist’s specific quirks for some time. “Of course. Now that you mention it, it isn’t. My optical harness is stuck. I can’t be one hundred percent sure if I cannot remove myself from the observation slot, but in the interest of expediency, could I ask for some help with this? This is very inconvenient and I might go blind in my left eye,” the wizard clarified with an air of distant frustration at the change of topic, even raising a forehoof for emphasis. “Again, that is.”

Well, if he’s bothered enough to start gesturing while he speaks, he’s certainly in a bind. I haven’t seen him be this animated since last month’s check-up in the Garden.

The Princess shook her head and magically pulled at the modest tails of the wizard’s white coat, nudging his lengthy horn back with a hoof as well, eventually forcing his snout out of the microscope. The enormous construct barely trembled, as both of them were careful not to mishandle such a valuable piece of equipment. Once Diamond Eye pulled away from the slot, the construct reconfigured itself and aimed its oculus up high, having returned to its default telescope mode.

Celestia’s Court Wizard grumbled, rubbing his temple along the slim sideburn line. The silver Unicorn straightened out his slightly crumpled white coat and turtleneck, passing a hoof over his curtained black and white mane mane as well as his smooth goatee of the same colors, for good measure. He then spent a few seconds fiddling with by far the most noticeable part of his garb - the sizeable gilded arrangement of oculi that covered nearly the entire upper left part of his face, a spire of various lenses waiting to be slipped on, positioned ergonomically around a straight metallic tube with a particularly powerful lens fixed at the end.

With a swift couple of hoof motions, he hid all the extraneous lenses somewhere within the formidable eyepiece, and he folded the tube down to less than a third of its fully extended size. Despite having become significantly less astounding with most of its features hidden, the legion of optics residing on Diamond Eye’s left eye remained more than a slight peculiarity. Celestia was used to it, of course, but it was typically a staring matter for whenever he was out in public. Not that there appeared to be many things left in the world that moved Doctor Diamond in any real way.

“I could see about fixing the observation slots to suit you better,” the Princess offered, following the stallion down a set of stairs.

“I’ve been considering that. It would be a waste of time and resources, considering that whoever inherits the micro-to-macroscope is going to have a very low likelihood of naturally acquiring the same sight issues I have,” he said matter-of-factly, levitating multiple clipboards in front of himself as he descended. “That is not considering the fact that by then, there is a non-zero chance of multimonoculars like mine having been phased out by a more elegant solution for Unicorns afflicted with chemical monocular vision loss.” The stallion’s magic pulled at the drapes hanging by the sides of the massive room-sized window of his laboratory.

Celestia sighed. The thick curtains drowned out the sunlight and replaced it with a more aesthetically fitting shade, spiced up by a variety of glowing beakers, idle lamps, and other such objects.

“Irrespective of that, my current theories as to Osmosis’ point of origin are as follows:” The scientist picked up a bundle of notes and cleared his throat. “Ancient Nightmare aspect; King Sombra-era Crystallite experiment; draconnequus co-species; space alien.”

Today was not going to be straightforward, I could tell that once I awoke.

In lieu of having any meaningful comment right away, the Princess simply halted with her mouth open, and gestured aimlessly in the air with a flailing forehoof, making noises that suggested a high degree of confusion - which was mostly accurate. Diamond Eye’s nonchalant straightforwardness was one thing, the exact theories were another.

Suddenly my pet theory isn’t particularly far-fetched in comparison. Osma may as well be the last of a civilization we’ve never got to encounter from one of the undiscovered continents. Or this all might just be ridiculous. I am talking to Diamond Eye, correct?

“Diamond… uh… pardon me for being blunt,” Celestia spoke weakly, clearing her throat for self-assurance. “But did you just discover the, ahm… elusive concept that is humor?”

The wizard stopped for a moment, losing grip on his clipboards. With a frustrated huff, he caught them back into his magical grip before they hit the floor and waved the question off with a hoof.

“Humor is a major subfocus of the power foci of the Element of Laughter, there is nothing to discover. More research could be devoted to exploring the magical and physical capabilities of various kinds of Laughter energy, considering that in comparison to the remaining major magical elements it has received negligible attention,” he replied dryly. “In my personal opinion, it is one of the few such topics that deserves the lack of attention it gets, at a mere fifteen tomes and sixty four articles touching upon the subject. As I’ve reported back in the year 937 in my Court Wizard application contest form thesis attachment, the most viable use of Laughter energy is in moral warfare with a sentient enemy sharing more than thirty seven percent of a common pony’s frustra—”

I guess I was silly for thinking I would find a source of sadness in watching you change over the years on the job, Diamond. The only things that have changed over these thirteen years are your lab coats, your voice and your left eye,” Celestia thought to herself, unabashedly. rubbing a forehoof against her face. Stopping the scientist in his tracks with a gasp of air, she said, firmly and decisively: “That was a joke.”

“I was aware of that. It’s just that practical application has shown to have more value than broad theoretical understanding,” he said. “I forget you don’t share that mode of thinking. Apologies.”

“So, we were talking about Osmosis?” Celestia gave the wizard a verbal nudge to keep him from going down the same train of thought. ‘I still don’t know if this is charming or troubling. I haven’t known a single other pony like this throughout my entire life. Most geniuses are unhinged, or otherwise insane. Diamond Eye may be the sanest individual I’ve ever been aware of, I think. Too sane to be like other ponies.

After choking on an unspoken sentence, the silver stallion stared into the floor for a second, before nodding to himself. He turned around and walked the Princess to a table in front of the draped windows, right underneath the towering tube of the telescope.

“Correct. Now, I can see you don’t find these theories particularly plausible. That is understandable, but, well…” The scientist scrunched his lips, rubbing his goatee, good eye squinting and frowning. He ended up sighing and reiterated himself: “...this discovery definitely changes things.” The tone of his voice, which changed on very rare occasions, emphasized the point even further.

“I suppose I’m ready to receive the news,” Celestia assured him, glancing over the table, wherein, to her credit, she recognized quite a number of obscure magical tools. ‘Not that I can tell what he would actually use them for in this case. Just what was in that thing?

“Very well. Osmosis seems to contain, and mostly consist of, raw love energy. By which I mean, actual energy of the magical power of Love. On a purely literal level, that is,” the scientist said with a grain of solemnity, putting a forehoof against the table. “I am aware that you referred to her previously obscure magical energies as ‘love energy’ to begin with, but your temporary term appears to be entirely accurate. It is not simply a correlation between her abilities and how she gains sustenance - the being Osmosis is, and I employ no stylistic devices in this statement, a being of pure Love.”

The Princess blinked in response. Diamond Eye continued.

“All previous samples had been woefully contaminated and led to no conclusive results. The arcane residue within the object you brought me for inspection is virtually free of interference. It was a matter of time to perform the necessary analyses,” he claimed, the tube on his left eye extending and rearranging itself, seemingly to better inspect the orb in the middle of the table. “That has lead to a multitude of conclusions. I have gone from three hundred sixty nine theories regarding the subject of your interest, to four.”

“So I see…” Celestia said quietly, slowly. ‘My court wizard has just discovered Love. With his track record, by tonight he will reorganize his lab equipment to be powered off Love. By next afternoon, he will add at least half a dozen social policy plans that revolve around using Love on all, or parts of, Equestria. The better part of them will assume various disasters that would be ‘likely to negatively affect the nation/region’ collective psychological health’, or war with an unidentified enemy. By the end of the week he will have at least two Love-powered weapons of mass destruction planned and mocked up,’ she told herself internally as the reality of this discovery sunk in. ‘Who am I kidding? He would start with the weapons and work his way down from there. I’m going to need a good excuse to not have to seriously consider them, too.

“Since you assured me of your interest in taking on this research yourself, I believe I should elaborate on my theories, is that correct?” he drove the mare out of her stupor, piercing her with his gaze. Granted, that was primarily due to the intense magnification of one of his eyes. “In case your interest has dwindled, my offer of more conclusive analysis via surgery remains.”

“No, no thanks, Diamond, no need for that. Go ahead. I can’t say I’m not intrigued,” she replied. ‘It is not easy to stay aloof with ponies like this at your side. Not that I don’t still manage it, but at least this justifies my personell choices. Love… he has discovered Love… I can’t ev— Attention, pay attention.’’

“Very well. As I said, Osmosis is a being who is almost as much raw Love energy as we are Arcane, or, more accurately, water, on the physical level. That is absolutely abnormal and, considering what I was able to find during testing of its matter, should not naturally occur. Thus, my first thought was that she may be directly related to the parasitic entity that feasted upon your sister nine hundred and forty nine full years ago,” he spoke with armor-piercing directness. Celestia winced, as that particular subject had only ever been brought up by herself over the past few years. “If your accounts of that particular incident are correct, Osmosis may be the result of a different entity taking over either an equine or an insectoid sentient creature of some variety. I am assuming equine, since an insectoid physical manifestation is generally likely in parasitic arcane energies.”

“But… my sister… her behavior was nothing like Osma’s,” the alicorn half-whispered, eyes choosing to drill through the orb on the table rather than meet her court wizard’s. “How would such a creature result from a Nightmare taking over someone?”

“One of the two weak points of this theory. The sample size for Nightmare infestation is low and the accounts lack necessary numerical details. I mean no offense.” Diamond Eye raised a forehoof in deflection of nonexistent accusations and turned his eyes away from her for a moment. Nevertheless, he continued: “If I were to make an educated assumption, this Nightmare would be borne of a desperate hunger for various emotions that tie into Love. In much the same way that your sister became an embodiment of Darkness due to detesting the adoration you received and associating it with sunlight, this particular individual would have drawn the Nightmare to themselves through repulsing concepts such as hatred, strife and violence and associating them with the static nature of one’s identity. Only a theory, of course.”

“What would the other weak point be, then?..”

“This does not explain the fact Osmosis was in cocoon form when you discovered her. That does not fit with the typical behaviors of Nightmare entites. However, once again, the low sample size and lack of research material—”

“I understand that. I… won’t make any judgements just yet. Do move on, Diamond.” Celestia nodded at him with her eyes closed, exhaling loudly. ‘You knew what you were getting into. Best to hope that the other theories are more appealing to get into. I would rather not dive back into this particular… unpleasantness.

“As you say. For my next theory, I have to say that tying the obscure activities of the Crystal Empire under the short-lived reign of King Sombra into Osmosis’ birth was not my first thought, but after scanning relevant literature from the archives, I found correlations that could not be ignored. The intense magical capacity of the many crystals found uniquely in the Crystal Empire meant that its scientists had greater capabilities for weapon research than Equestria proper at any point in its history,” he carried on before abruptly stopping. Diamond’s hoof borderline slapped his forehead and he loudly ground his teeth. Before Celestia could raise a voice of concern, he continued: “As I will… elaborate later… on a different topic… of discussion…”

The Princess put a comforting forehoof against his shoulders and patted him on the back, sighing loudly. ‘Too sane doesn’t mean bereft of issues, I guess. I wonder how it is, having a mind so focused thinking about two concurrent topics causes you physical pain? Heavens, I don’t think I should.’ She smiled to herself sadly. ‘At least I can never expect him, with all his propensity for weapon research and assumptions of war, to launch a coup against me. He is smart enough to know his mind would implode on day one of the neverending carousel ride that is ruling Equestria. I am an optimist, aren’t I? Sunny is a fitting nickname, I suppose.

“...use of Love energy in magical weaponry is… a viable choice in regards to combatting sentient threats drawing power from that energy’s many opposites. King Sombra was one such threat, and his extreme magical ability would, with the correct application of Love, only multiply the effect. Thus, he would be erased from existence,” Diamond Eye said, having managed to restore his healthy straightforward matter-of-factness. ‘I would hope that I helped. Sometimes it’s hard to tell, and asking makes it worse,” Celestia thought to herself.

Out loud, she asked: “That would mean Osma was created by some of the un-enslaved scientists as a means to battle King Sombra?”

“Correct. While in ideal circumstances, an arcane prism arc thrower would have had the required effect, there are factors that justify them creating a sentient construct of sorts, to perform that task. First of all, there is no knowledge of the resources at the rebelling Crystallites’ disposal, meaning such a design may have been out of the question. Second, as I believe you would confirm, the Crystal Empire as a vassal nation had always had a strive for creating arguably needlessly magically complex constructs of considerable power, as well as a slightly more arguable interest in sentient constructs in general.”The Princess gulped and rubbed her neck. ‘On the one hoof, it is a shame he is not a historian. On the other, his analytical ability is too great for him not to uncover something he really shouldn’t, for the good of us all. I’m not sure how to feel. Good thing I’m already bewildered...

“That is, of course, assuming that the theory—” he went on. “—according to which the Crystallites originated as a sentient type of rock that carved itself out to resemble ponykind, is correct. I doubt you would confirm that, yet it is still a viable argument.”

“...I can’t say one way or the other on that matter, sorry. I will not deny it,” Celestia said slowly, picking her words, eyes growing larger by the second. “As for… what I was supposed to confirm… that I do confirm.” Shaking herself up, she returned to a semblance of serenity. ‘This is proving to be quite the nostalgia hour. At least I know for absolute sure now that despite his oddness, Diamond is worth keeping around for as long as possible. This is one sharp mind.

“Then it is a possibility that Osmosis is a construct of a very particular kind, possibly a meld, of crystal, that was never deployed and had to be evacuated from the Crystal Empire, then being lost up until her recovery and reactivation. Fortunately, you were not a sentient threat drawing energy from the opposites of Love, so you were not destroyed.”

“That is heartening.”

“Correct. As for the draconnequi connection, I have to admit, it is not any more solid than the other theories I’ve presented thus far. The one encounter Equestria has had with a draconnequus resulted in the reign of Discord, with his subsequent petrification. Yet again, it is mostly your accounts, Princess, that formulate the picture,” Diamond Eye spoke, either failing to notice or ignoring the sound of Celestia’s grinding teeth. This topic was pleasant for essentially no one to bring up. “Discord was, by all accounts, a creature of elemental Chaos - a more rudimentary concept than the main magical elements science tends to operate with. Love, from my findings, appears to be on the same level, it is more… ‘primordial’ is the term I currently use.”

“Ah, good. So it would be more of a theoretical similarity, not a direct connection to his species?” Celestia was quick to ask.

“To a point. As I said, she operates almost entirely via the use of a primordial magical power. So did Discord, if the analyses of the enchantment residue on the surviving artifact and the specifics of the events you described are to be believed. It is viable to assume that they both consisted largely of their respective primordial power. That would potentially make her a subset of the draconnequus species.”

The Princess opened her mouth to try to parry, but thought better. ‘He is right. It’s an unpleasant thought, but he is. He could transform more or less anything, including himself. There is nothing to prove that she wasn’t one of his kind before ending up as that cocoon... all those years ago.

“Osmosis’ abilities are beyond replication by modern magical means, and attempting to recreate some of her more signature spells, such as precise body transmogrification or refined emphatic linking, would require the basic magical elements to be amalgamated beyond any reasonable extent,” the wizard carried on. “To the point where the overwhelming majority of Unicorns would lack the ability to cast such a spell, since only a fitting talent indicator would provide enough strength for the user to handle the complexity.”

“I suppose I have to concede that this is probable. Granted, it isn’t like—” She stopped herself again, this time notably enough that Diamond Eye did as much as raise an eyebrow. The Princess forced her eyes to stop inspecting all the borderline random tools surrounding the discovery-bearing orb and put them back onto the silver stallion. “Go on, Diamond, go on.”

“I will. The final theory has little to it, in any case. It is simply the one I haven’t been able to eliminate. Across the three other probable causes, there is one specific correlation. Osmosis is not something that can be naturally found on Equis, no matter the magical influence on a given species or any of its genera. Of all the entities that we have historically made contact with, the only ones that a connection could feasibly be drawn to are Nightmare Moon, Crystallite experiments, and Discord.” For the first time, he showed her the clipboard he was occasionally looking at while informing her.

Celestia could not exactly figure out what she was supposed to look at, since he turned it back around three seconds later. She assumed that the four outlined boxes strewn among oceans of compact, small-font text were the conclusions he arrived at. ‘At least he is slowly, very slowly, picking up on conversation gestures. I think this was meant to liven our talk up. Seeing how he couldn’t have done it on purpose, not with his type of mind, I guess researching the basic elements of interindividual affairs is making him subconsciously start seeing conversations as more than exchanges of meaning. At least…

“In case all three have been ruled out, the only other explanation I can currently offer is that she is a being from a different realm. Considering that I stand by my conviction that all parallel realms exist in the same universe in various galaxies, that would make her a space alien. That is all.” He sorted the clipboards back to where he took them and fixed his turtleneck.

Taking a long inhale, followed by an even longer exhale, the Princess paced around the laboratory, effort being put into her head not being low. The conflict within her thoughts was almost palpable, though Diamond Eye provided no comment, waiting in place while she mulled over the multitude of decisions and possibilities now presented to her.

‘I can’t just back off of this,’ Celestia told herself repeatedly. ‘This is hardly going to be buckets of fun. I’m stronger than this, I have to stop pretending none of these things would ever come back to haunt me. It has been long enough. Osma already thinks I’m falling apart. Put yourself together, Celestia. You’re going to go out there and solve this, because now it’s clear no one else can, because no one else is still alive since any of that happened. And you have the keys to a lot of these memories.

Fortunately, since they were still technically discussing the same subject, there was no reason for her court wizard to speak up and break her reverie. He stood near motionless, awaiting a response. At the point where that fact made her feel as guilty as if he were hurrying her along, Celestia stopped.

“I will follow on your findings, Diamond,” she said. Then, with only a little bit of audible strain, she followed up the more difficult part of her statement: “In fact, I could start right now. Enough time has been freed up in my schedule to hopefully fill this endeavor in. And considering the proximity of where I intend to go, I would invite you to follow, since you are, thus far, the expert on this subject.”

“Specify, Princess?”

“The Gardens, to Discord’s statue.” The mare nodded to herself to fuel up some determination. “There are fairly simple things that can be done to test out at least one of your theories, and we won’t require Osma to be present, either.”

Diamond Eye was static for a few more moments, after which his horn lit up intensely, and a great multitude of things within the lab were closed, opened, activated and deactivated. Several tomes on the bookshelves lining the sides of the building’s interior were also rearranged.

“I am prepared to depart whenever you require,” he told her. ‘I guess his assistant is out of town. Yeah, I should ask him about that, and about the school, when he inevitably starts trying to pitch me Love-based weapons of mass destruction.

“Very good. We can go now,” she said, nodding to him and heading for the doors. “This particular topic is done with for now.”

“In that case, I would like to discuss the specifics of Love power in relation to its future use,” he responded immediately, stepping quickly in her wake. “Including but not limited to various methods of population control.”

Celestia rolled her eyes, pushing the doors open with a shoulder.

“Before we go into the further implications of Love study… Did you happen to take interest in the design of the object you extracted this energy from?” she said, intentionally ignoring his rather expected ‘practical’ response. “I want an expert’s opinion.”

“Curiously intricate design. Can only assume that the correlation with Love-based entities was an accident, though considering what you said, it may have been the intent. The means it was achieved imply luck, however,” Diamond Eye told her with nary a change in tone or any other indication of displeasure. “Despite the original intention, the current design is a good basis for a repelling formation against creatures of Osmosis’ species. With small changes and a consistent flow of Love power, it can create an effective barrier she would not be able to pass. Useful in case of an attempted coup.”

He recalibrated his monocle before stepping out the doors, the tube now hardly poking out of the gilded eyepiece. Celestia, in the meantime, was glad to be outdoors, her mane sparking in the heavy wind, and a mildly content smile showing up on her lips.

Even if this is an unscheduled visit with that… thing, at least Diamond is suggesting something be used defensively. I wish his practical mindset did not boil things down to increasingly ridiculous preventive measures so often. I suppose I must be doing something right if I can still see how that is the wrong way to go about things.’ She took a long, hard look in the direction of Canterlot Gardens. ‘Then again, maybe I shouldn’t be too glad about not being too rational.

The Princess kicked a hoof on the ground and puffed her nostrils loudly. As Diamond Eye went into more detail on the Sparklegust invention, Celestia held her head high.

Or maybe I should do what Osma tells me to do and reconsider wallowing in self-doubt as a hobby.’

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