• Published 16th Jul 2012
  • 6,009 Views, 691 Comments

Pony POV Series Season Three: Butterflies - Alex Warlorn



Discord beaten. Reality restored. But invisible wounds must heal too. Time for butterflies to fly.

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Pony POV Series Episode 28: "AJ's Dreams Part 2 of 2"

A hoof pushed it way out of the reflective 'ground' and pulled up its leg and a horn piercing the surface next, followed by a giant head and a pair of wings, a pair of a pair. The wings reflected everything at angles that they shouldn't have.

It wasn't as big as Nightmare Whisper. But it was still the size of a large gypsy cart squared. More than enough to look down on even an Alicorn. And made the little ponies feel the size of newborn foals to this giant.

Both 'Jacks felt fear. But the more Applejack looked at it, the more she felt something -wrong- with this thing. If she had to put a word to it, it was it wasn't quite 'real' not that it was an illusion, but more like, it didn't quite have an existence.

It had made its own existence, it had bent existence itself to give itself one! And AJ and OJ both felt something in themselves being tugged towards it.

AJ could make out details, like solid green eyes that reflected like glass at impossible angles, and armor like the most polished silver. The armor was like liquid, not staying in one shape constantly shifting. Its mane and hide were like a water color painting of a sunset. Oranges, reds, and yellows mixed in a gradient pattern, the shading burring and mixing together again in an endless cycle. For a moment it was like its wings were plant like, then they were almost MECHANICAL before looking a lot like Nightmare Moon's wings. But always reflective, always reaching, grasping.

For Orangejack, it was like someone had done a picture of an Alicorn and had gently applied a light coat of paint thinner. She felt sick to her stomach looking at it. OJ had once seen a sculpture of a pony in a wax museum partially melted under some poorly chosen lights. The shape was right, everything was there, you could even tell who it was supposed to be, but details were smudged when you looked at it, mane and tail blended into the hide, only the glass eyes chosen had remained exactly the same, the contrast had made OJ's wrench. She felt her stomach clench and she swallowed bile.

On its flanks were three green apples with red leaves. The slightly off familiarity made her feel only more sick.

Orangejack found her voice, her elegance shaken and her stature cracked. "W-Who are you?"

"Nightmare Mirror
Cruelest of Truths."

Orangejack turned pale. "This . . . this is a Nightmare?"

If you want to call me that. I am truth. Everyone dies eventually. Everything is forgotten about eventually. Everything eventually resets to zero. No matter what you accomplish, you still end up in the ground. Everything you've left behind will turn to dust! And cowardly ponies who are too afraid to face the truth, well, then quite honesty, SHOULD BE DRAGGED INTO THE LIGHT! Those great emerald eyes flashed, along with a number on its wings all staring through the business mare like spears.

"OJ! Don't look!" Too late.

Those many emerald eyes look into Orangejack's eyes.

'I'm just a little ungrateful pony who never loved her grandma.'

"No."

'I'm a selfish business mare who doesn't care what she has to do to get ahead.'

"Stop it."

'I'm worthless mother who doesn't deserve the kids she's got.'

"No-I-"

'I only work extra hard because I know deep down I'm just a country bumpkin pretending she's something special.'

"Please stop!"

'I'm only worth anything because of the money paid for my books, the money paid for my teachers, the money loaned to me to make my own investments. Without the money my Aunt and Uncle had I'm completely and utterly worthless!'

"No, that's not true, that's not true, that's not true-"

'Can't save anyone! Had to watch all those ponies in your office building die! Worthless little business pony.'

OJ wanted to rip out her own eyes, but she couldn't move.

AJ told herself she'd visit the farm for the Summer Sun Festival. But there was family union for the entire Orange clan that day and Auntie and Uncle wanted to introduce their new ward to the rest of the family.

She said she'd visit for Hearth's Warming Eve, but . . . the weather had been so harsh to travel due to pegasi weather teams getting their wires crossed.

She wanted to visit her family in Ponyville but . . . she had a lot of reading to catch up on before the end of the school year.

As the funeral for Ma and Pa died down, AJ looked in the bathroom mirror and looked outside at the farm outside. In her mind's eye she super imposed her image with that of the farm. No matter how she tried to make it fit, the truth remained. She didn't fit.

Orangejack looked at the letters to her family in Ponyville she had just finished writing. She sighed and torn out and tossed them in the waste basket.

"Don't lie to yourself." Orangejack turned to see a small pale orange filly with wings and a horn sitting on her bed. Her eyes were downcast, the only part of her face visible her grin. "You're not scared of what they'll think of some city pony who used to be family. You know deep down you were never one of them. You were just pretending. Trapped on that farm with wooden fences as stone walls. You wanted out of that prison. And you know, if you go back, those doors will shut and they'll never let you out."

"But I-but I-but I-"

"But what? They love a filly who left home a lifetime ago. When they see you, that's who they see. That is what your heart tells you. If it's true, then you have nothing to go back to . . . . but if it ISN'T true, and they do still love you, which they do . . . then that makes just you a selfish nag in a fancy dress. And if you COULD leave if you dropped in a visit, which you could, that just makes you a coward whose scared of herself. You selfish little liar."

Orangejack wailed as she turned gray and fell on her side and began hugging herself. Black splotches began to appear on her. But her eyes still didn't leave the gleaming emeralds piercing her.

The little filly Alicorn trotted over, patting her gently on the head, okay, more like harshly prodded.

Become one with me. Become one with truth. And the pain can end. And you'll be able to accept all truths because you will be all truth. And that is an honest answer. No more lies. No more deceit. Accept all the black parts, all the shadows.

"STOP IT!" Snarled a voice with an accent. "THAT AIN'T THE WHOLE STORY!"

Truth is truth.

"Cherry pickin' the truth's the same as lyin! In fact, it's WORSE! Truths twisted like that are the blackest lies!" Orangejack felt someone take hold of her and force her head to look at another pair of green eyes. They were the same as the swarm cutting through her piece by piece, but there was an, empathy to them.

I don't lie. I'm just showing her the parts of the story she's been hiding from. Any coward who can't stand and accept those parts deserves to, no, NEEDS to be broken to be made into a better pony who will accept and speak all truths!

The voice with the accent shouted right at Orangejack. "YOU LISTEN TO YOURSELF THIS INSTANT GIRLFRIEND! That's the truth! Now here's the WHOLE truth! You've done good AH'VE never been able to do! Not all choices are about one being the better one! We BOTH made our choice work! You stuck to yer guns and didn't give up! And that is the honest truth! And in the END . . . our parents always give us what we start out with! WE DECIDE TO MAKE SOMETHIN' OF IT OR NOT!!!"

Orangejack looked into Applejack's eyes.

Auntie Orange declared, "My dear! Incredible, first your formal social debut and now we have your Cute-ceañera to plan! I must say the way you handled yourself was making the other young fillies there green with envy! I told everyone you were a fast learner and this proves it!"

"Hey, this ain't money." Said the hobo pony.

"No, it's a ticket for a non-refundable free meal at the restaurant across the street." Orangejack said matter of fact.

"Hey AJ, thanks, thanks for pitching in."

"It's Orangejack Brother Dearest and . . . I simply have a legal share in Sweet Apple Acres, this is, this is just an investment."

"So you're that big sister Ah keep hearing about who keep sending me them fancy smacy dolls?" Said the yellow filly with the leather collar around her neck.

"And you are the little sister that your grandmother and brother can not get a dress on even if they tie her down."

"Ya wanna try?"

"I fail to see the profit in that business venture."

"Hey boss you shouldn't be here, just let us clean up this mess." Said the worker pony cleaning up the rumble from Discord's air-quake.

"I wanted an excuse to visit the salon today anyway."

"Granny, that was a wonderful dance."

The grayness washed away and the black splotches faded away. OJ slowly breathed in and out as her eyes came back into focus.

AJ helped her stand on her own four hooves. Something all 'Jacks had in common, there was no 'Jack in all the worlds that was a leech.

"T-thank you," Orangejack said shaking.

AJ looked at Nightmare Mirror who was looking at them with all the indifference of a winter's night.

It hadn't even tried to stop Applejack.

"That ain't just mah Nightmare. It's yers too, and yer Big Brother Macintosh's too Ah bet. And maybe some other AJs too ah think. Who knows, maybe this thing is another of us who went Nightmare already, maybe it's just a Nightmare whose trying to be, don't know, don't really matter either, it's every one of our problems now."

I can hear you silly fillies. The Nightmare's voice breathed off cooly.

"Hear us or not we're gonna kick yer flanks!"

Orangejack exclaimed looking at AJ. "This is suicide! No one can face their own Nightmare alone!"

AJ looked at her smiling. "Then ain't it a good thing we aren't alone! Besides, if Ah'm goin' down, Ah'm gonna go down fightin'!"

The two of you shall complete your journey and become one with truth. And I am going to bring absolute truth to every one of us. And each of us are going to help bring our world into absolute truth. Princess Luna told me a Nightmare is when a pony lets one part of themselves become uncompromising and the whole. No one's going to lie ever again! And you're both being too blinded by Princess Luna's colored facts to realize we'll be saving the world. Truth doesn't need compromising.

AJ shuddered at the Nightmare and coughed out, "This ain't 'bout that! It's-it's-it's-dang!"

"Allow me," Orangejack said collecting herself and spoke calmly and in control. She didn't let the Nightmare seen her back hooves were shaking like leafs. "Ahem. From everything Big Brother Dearest told me about the Elements, they're meant to function together. None of them are meant to stand above the others. You're thinking backwards. A world where no one lies isn't an ideal world. A world where no one NEEDS TO lie is an ideal world. Otherwise, you're not even addressing the actual problem."

Nightmare Mirror spoke deadpan. Nice speech. Bravo city girl. Now I'm going to make you see absolute truth anyway. Then farm girl too so she can become what she was meant to become the moment she looked into the truth. But when you have become me, I'm sure having the moral high ground and all that meaningless tripe is gonna be a real comfort. Congratulations. And goodbye.

The black glass beneath them rumbled. "OJ SCATTER!"

The two ponies went in opposite directions as glass spikes jetted their way out of the ground. It was like a mine field, where the mines could change position any time they wanted.

AJ was no Pinkie Pie, but she was earth pony! Every shudder of the ground beneath her sent a twitch through her body, each movement a lightning fast reflex that would impress the pegasi! Even as the spikes tried to impale her at random angles AJ showed just why she and RD jockeyed for position of Ponyville's best athlete!

She tried to move in close through the forest of death to attack the thing in melee, but a wall of glass thorns sprouted around the Nightmare all the spikes point outward. AJ kidded to a halt, and managed a backflip just before a glass spike at a forty-five degree angle impaled where her brain had been a second before from behind.

Orangejack's heart was pounding in her chest. She desperate shuffled everything her weekend martial arts teacher had told her not panicking. But all those lessons fell away like sandcastles against the tide as adrenaline pumped through her and fear for her life pulsed in her skull. Like a primal equine before a predator all she could think about was running! She didn't even think about how to fight back! She just wanted to run! Escape! Escape!

The spikes formed a funnel on either side of her, growing into black glass apple trees, the apples fell, and burst into spikes from every direction. A mass shaped like her elder brother rose out the glass ground like it was melting in reverse and opened its mouth at her. A pole of black glass ending in a spear shot at her. OJ ducked and felt the glass cut through her mane and scalp, blood going down her neck and face in two streams. She skidded and broke the shape's legs. Its connection with the ground gone, it stopped moving and fell over and shattered, tiny bits of glass bite at her side like a small swarm of mosquitos.

Panic crowned itself king and OJ screamed.

AJ reversed course and sprinted faster than she had in her life. She jumped and twisted in midair between the glass trees as the branches tried to grab AJ. Landing for less than a second she leapt at OJ, tackling her as spikes came up where she had just been between the glass trees again. AJ skidding herself to a stop before spikes popped where she would have been if she hadn't stopped. AJ didn't think, she just moved. She hoisted OJ on her back and just moved!

"Calm! Calm! Calm! Cool! Center! Calm! Calm!" OJ held her hooves to her head she shouted out the mantra. "Calm! Calm! Calm!"

The glass spikes melted.

Cheater.

"Yer one ta talk cheatin' sister!"

OJ looked around, "I think I get this, this place I dare say, is as much ours as it is hers. She can only alter this place if we let her!"

Too bad darlings that you have no experience in this place where I much experience in converting others. I think I should tell you, you are the forty-seventh and forty-eighth AJ or OJ I'll have made see absolute truth. Including that pair of stallions.

OJ wet herself. AJ bite her tongue, the pain helped her focus.

She ain't real yet. Not here. Or we wouldn't still be standing here.

Orangejack however exclaimed wildly, "How are we going to beat a NIGHTMARE without the Elements-?!"

"Think solution! Not problem!" AJ shouted.

"Sorry!" Orangejack said her brain pulling itself together like sailors would rigging during a monsoon.

Nightmare Mirror 'shattered into pieces, like glass. For a brief moment the 'Jacks hoped the monster had gotten so angry she had smashed herself into nothing.

But the pieces didn't fall. They moved like a swarm of parasprites. And every last shard was flying straight towards them.

AJ stopped and hugged OJ and used herself as a barrier. What was a few more pieces of glass in her spine? That was when a wall of glass came up that blocked the swarm of Nightmare Mirror shares ricocheting them away and off course.

"What-tha?" AJ gasped as the barrier dropped.

Absurd Nightmare Mirror swore, the swarm of glass remelted into the half-existence Nightmare.

Realization came to OJ's face. This place IS controlled by everypony here! OJ screamed. "You are a coward! A weakling! For an Element of Honesty you have to retort to half-truths to play us-?! A real Element of Honesty wouldn't have needed to twist my perceptions like that! She would have been able to show the whole truth and trusted us to see things from her point of view! OR ARE YOU THAT UNCERTAIN OF YOUR OWN VIEW-?!"

Absurd filly. You did not. Little fillies like you who talk back to their elders earn themselves a spanking. Not that it matters! Once you are part of me, yer not gonna care one way or the other! Cause you'll be me!"

"You're not making the least bit of sense! Are you combination of several Orangejacks? Is AJ right and you have versions of my brother too? No. I know you don't. Because my brother is WAY TOO STRONG to fall for such cheap LIES like yours! And my brother wouldn't hurt me for anything!"

I DO NOT LIE!

OJ wanted to collapse like a house of cards, but saw the landscape ripple. "That's what my lawyer says."

Now who is weak?

"A WEAKLING doesn't admit when they're over their head! Because they're too weak to swallow their pride! Like you."

Applejack's brain was cooking from the verbal riposte Orangejack was throwing one after another at the Nightmare.

Nightmare Mirror crashed down right where AJ and OJ had been a second before, AJ ran and ran fast!

"YA SURE WHATEVER YER DOIN' IS WORKIN'?"

"Be silent. If you knew Morse Code then I could just tap my hooves and give you instructions!"

"Hey! Remember who your enemy is!" AJ shouted.

"You know . . . " OJ narrowed her eyes, "You're right."

A spike suddenly came out of the ground and stabbed AJ's foot, OJ went flying but was caught by a glass slide that reacted more like rubber or a pillow. "That was me," OJ said simply.

"THIS AIN'T FUNNY!"

"It was not supposed to be," OJ said with a face like ice. "It is called business. I am not an Element of Harmony. I can not turn into a Nightmare. I am not 'food.' You on the other hoof are. So guess what? I've decided there's no logical reason why I should make my children orphans and my husband a widower for a pony I just met."

"Yer jokin'!"

"Do I look like I am joking?" OJ closed her eyes. Shackles that acted like cast iron suddenly formed around AJ's bleeding hoof followed by the others. "Nightmare Mirror? How is this for a business venture? I offer you a free meal rather than dealing with trouble of having two prey that are giving you trouble? Much more cost effective don't you think?"

OJ looked at AJ coolly, an almost apologetic tone in her voice. "It's nothing personal. Please understand Applejack. I have nothing against her. And I have nothing against you. I am doing this for my family. I think that is something we can both understand."

AJ snarled at her, "YER JUST SAVIN' YER OWN SKIN!"

"And I have family that depends on that skin. Same as you. I am just choosing my family's welfare over the welfare of your family. Nothing else to it."

AJ began cussing obscenities at the other orange pony.

"AH SHOULD HAVE KNOWN! AT THE END OF THE DAY YER JUST ANOTHER MANEHATTEN NAG!"

"Sticks and stones." OJ said, with a absolutely smug tone. "And it is not like you are real anyway. You are just a choice I could have made."

I would call you completely selfish garbage. But I can appreciate you seeing that you do not actually have a way of winning and are willing to accept the truth of the least painful loss. Nightmare Mirror flew herself down and right behind AJ and grasped the little pony.

"By the way AJ, one last thing," Said Orangejack sadistically. "There's another big difference between us."

"Yeah?" AJ burned holes at her.

A small smirk crossed the mare's face. "You and Big Brother Dearest are Elements Of Honesty, I am a liar."

A glass shell formed around AJ at once. Then spikes the size of telephone poles grew all in all directions and impaled the Nightmare from all sides, actually BRANCHING OUT from the inside like a cancer!

Meanwhile AJ sank below the floor like a bubble, traveling along below the surface before being pushed back up next to OJ. AJ gasped for air.

"Did I fool you?" Orangejack asked simply.

"You, kinda sorta had me fooled for a bit there."

"Sometimes deceit is needed for both allies and enemies, sorry." She looked at the Nightmare that was quickly breaking free of her bounds. "That was supposed to kill her!"

AJ thought for a minute, "Okay, now that we got'er pinned. Let's blast her. Ya figure there's a zillion of us right? And she all said she cut us off from the herd right? Then let's call in the reserves! If this place is what we want and feel then Ah want to zap her and Ah feel that Ah could have been ANYTHING IF AH CHOSE IT!"

The world shock waved. The black misty horizon and sky became white and cloudy.

AJ, OJ, and Nightmare Mirror startled.

There were now four more AJs present.

One AJ was wearing the armor of the Day Guard with a scar going down one side of her face. Wearing the element of Loyalty.

There was an AJ wearing trinkets around her neck and a small set of glasses. She had a limp. She had the Element of Magic.

The third AJ wasn't dressed up like a clown like AJ was sure she'd be. Instead she looked a lot like AJ herself, only without her father's hat, her mane not in a ponytail, and there were seven apples for her cutie mark not three. She might have had Derpy eyes, but AJ figured she imagined that part.

The final one was . . . whao. "What the buck?" It was a gray discorded AJ and she was . . . holding the Element of KINDNESS-?!

AJ didn't bother asking where the Element of Honesty around her neck came from.

She did hear OJ gasp when she found the Element of Generosity around her neck.

The familiar lines of color connected between the elements, forming a six pointed star with the Nightmare in the center. "ALL SIX OF YOU TOGETHER? ABSURD!"

The Nightmare's emerald eyes shone in all directions as she spread out her wings. The Elements flickered.

'A pony who failed to save her little sister.'

'A cripple who choose to hide in books rather than try to recover.'

'A fool who was good for nothing else.'

'A pony who let the world fall into the claws of the devil.'

"AND MADE SOMETHING OF IT EACH TIME!" AJ shouted, the echo forcing back the Nightmare's thsousand gaze.

The lines of light between the six points rotated all colors and became white.

The Nightmare broke free of its glass impaling . . . just as the spark awakened in the Magic AJ, and the all too familiar and comforting Rainbow rose . . . and crashed down on the Nightmare, enveloping her in a tornado of the Elements magic. "Absurd."

AJ would swear, she saw the image super impose forty-five times over.

The familiar flash of white light, and just as suddenly the other AJs were gone. But the discorded Applejack seemed to stick around for a moment more. She smiled, looking wistfully at the two before vanishing.

AJ wasn't all that surprised when she saw a dull orange Alicorn surrounded by shattered pieces of bright silver armor adored with emeralds. AJ remembered how Princess Luna looked when first purified. All AJ saw now was a very tired and worn down pony who had tried to put the world on her shoulders. The Alicorn forced herself to her hooves and looked at the two. "Dammit . . . Ah just wanted, everyone to see the truth . . . no more lies, no one turning blind eyes . . it's all Ah wanted."

Orangejack stared in awe at the sight. 'She's so small now.'

"Unless they're willin' to accept that truth then it won't do'em one bit of good," AJ said simply.

The Alicorn gave a snarl. "You don't know that! Don't you remember how much lies hurt everypony? They do nothing but cause everypony pain! Don't that make it right to wash em' all away?!"

"Yes it would, if ponies were perfect," said Orangejack, taking a step forwards to her other self. "But they're not perfect. Lies are like weapons. Even if you take them away, you won't change how ponies actually act."

"And it ain't always right to tell the truth either," said Applejack, looking at the Alicorn. "Sometimes we got to tell the truth, even if it hurts, but telling the truth when it only hurts is just bein' a bully."

Orangejack nodded. "She's right. I won't tell a lie just to get ahead in a way that hurts somepony else, but I will if it will save somepony from getting hurt when anything else would only meaninglessly hurt somepony. I just don't use it as my first option. Is it wrong to lie to a mugger that I am sixth degree blackbelt when I am not if it prevents him from stealing the money I am going to use to pay for my grandmother's hip operation?"

"And if he asked, would it be right to tell that mugger that your neighbor keeps their door unlocked when they go out and don't got anything to stop him from robbin' them blind, even if that's the honest truth?" asked Applejack. "That's speakin' the truth, but it don't benefit nopony, it hurts them."

"'If the truth makes your heart ache, sometimes a lie is easier to take?!' " The Alicorn spoke the quote they both knew.

AJ cringed, but then found the truth, "It ain't about what's easy or not. It's about what's right."

"Forgive me for pointing out semantics," continued Orangejack. "But you both seem to have forgotten something. The Element you both bear is Honesty not Truth. There's a difference. Personally, I'd love to live in a world were I never had to lie."

"And Ah'd love to live in a world were there were no truths Ah couldn't tell," followed Applejack, giving the Alicorn version of herself a small smile. "But even if yah have the power of a goddess, deep down yer still a flawed mortal mare like me. Even Celestia and Luna aren't right all of the time. We don't have what it takes to create a world like that, and you can't force it everypony either, it just ain't somethin' you got the right or knowhow to do."

The little dull orange Alicorn look agitated at AJ and OJ, then lowered her head, a conflicted look on her face. "Maybe Ah couldn't see the apple trees through the orchard ... Ah've got some thinkin' to do. . . ." She sighed, "Oh well. RD, 'Shy, Twili, Pinkie, I'm comin'." Her image seemed to dissolve into smoke and blew away.

The two mares looked at the spot in silence. Was that it?

"We make a good team you know," Orangejack quipped, sounding surprised at herself.

"Yeah, Ah guess we do." AJ nodded.

The entire world shook. The black glass they were standing began to crack revealing a glowing white void. The first crack split right between the two ponies. They grabbed each other's front hooves.

"Orangejack! Don't ya dare go one day without tellin' yer kids ya love'em somethin' fierce! A kiss and a hug every day ya hear me? That goes double for yer hubby."

OJ managed to get in close, and whispered her husband's name for AJ to hear. "You have my word! And you do not spend a day without telling your friends that they're the best you could hope to have!"

"Ah promise!"

The world shattered.

AJ opened her eyes. It was morning. There was no weights. No guards. No Luna. All she found was a small note on her table.

Greetings Abigail Jacqueline V.
It is an honor to know our sister's student did not choose unwisely in the inner strength of her friends. The sight of truth is now yours to command fully, and it does not command you. Congratulations Applejack. We believe you have helped yourself and your brother across many worlds find true freedom this night.

Princess Luna Nyx Selena Equestria

AJ smiled, "Ah guess Ah did." She looked at the calendar. Today was Family Appreciation Day at Applebloom's school.

++++++

"Whatever happens." Rainbow Dash whispered as she folded her wings around Scootaloo, "I just want ya to know Scoots, it was great to have ya around. It was a blast."

"Thanks Dashie." Scootaloo nuzzled her in return.

~ Fin