• Published 20th Jul 2012
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The Conquering of Love - Littlecolt

Twilight finds she and her friends are trapped in their own minds and must escape.

  • ...

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Overgrowth Ch 7 - Let Love In

Book Two: Overgrowth

Chapter Seven - Let Love In

“Fluttershy!” yelled Rainbow Dash as she darted away from Applejack. “I don’t know what’s going on, but you have to save Cadence! I’ll keep Applejack busy!” She flung herself into the air even higher, a trail of yellow energy hanging in the air in her wake.

Twilight stared up at Rainbow Dash for a moment, then turned to Princess Celestia.

“She’s right! We have to save Cadence!” Twilight yelled over the gushing wind-like sound emanating from the portal.

Celestia shook her head, her horn glowing brightly. “We can’t leave the dream from here, Twilight. This is only an entry point for this... perversion of magic!” She narrowed her eyes in anger, then turned toward Twilight. “Even if we could leave, we would never be able to take on Chrysalis and her army as we are.”

“So what do we do?” asked Twilight. “It seems so hopeless!”

“We close it,” Celestia replied, some calm returning to her voice. “I can seal the rift, but I’ll need your help. We can at least stop Cadence’s magic from entering Fluttershy’s dream. One less food source for that despicable...” She stopped herself, and turned toward the portal, beginning to seal it away.

Twilight turned to Fluttershy, who had fallen to the ground from the shock.

“Fluttershy! We can’t go out there and help her! Princess Celestia says it’s not an exit, only an entrance! We have to close it!” Twilight yelled. “We’ll work on that, you try and get a hold of that power of yours again, we might need it!”

“I can’t control it!” Fluttershy responded, her voice shaking. “I don’t know what to do!”

“Please! You have to try!” said Twilight, then turning back to the rift and aiming a beam of magic at it, joining Celestia.

Meanwhile, in the air above the castle, Rainbow Dash and Applejack were darting to and fro. Applejack would charge towards Rainbow Dash, and Dash would easily evade, switching her heading, but always leading Applejack further and further away from the castle’s main hall.

“You think you can keep up with me?” Rainbow Dash taunted, smacking a front hoof against her flank. “I’m the fastest flier in Equestria!”

Applejack shot through the air again, this time curving her path as Rainbow Dash dodged. She smashed right into her, launching her across the courtyard and against the wall of the high tower.

“No, you ain’t!” Applejack shouted. “You ain’t really Rainbow Dash!” She charged at Rainbow Dash again, who quickly flapped her wings and dodged upward towards the top of the tower. Applejack crashed through the wall as she hit it with full force, landing on the stairs within.

“You’re the one that’s not really Applejack!” Rainbow Dash’s voice came from up above. “You’re just a changeling!”

Applejack shook her head, jumped back out the hole in the wall and propelled herself upward once more.

Meanwhile, back in the main chamber, Fluttershy had backed away from the portal and was deep in concentration, trying to summon up her power.

I can’t do it! It just comes and goes! she thought. Her concentration broke when she heard a crashing sound right above her. Fluttershy opened her eyes and looked up in time to see Pinkie Pie barreling towards her, horn aglow.

“Fluttershy! Die!” Pinkie bellowed, and crashed right into the yellow mare, pinning her to the ground. Fluttershy screamed, which was followed by a loud ripping sound from the direction of the portal. She jerked her head up and saw Twilight and Princess Celestia both staring at her, the rift behind them having torn open even wider than before.

Pinkie’s hoof slammed into the side of Fluttershy’s head, twisting it around. Fluttershy instinctively twisted the rest of her body with it, but Pinkie stayed firmly mounted on top of her, now staring straight down at her face.

Pinkie’s eyes twitched, wide with madness, and her mouth formed into a large toothy grin. She pressed both of her front hooves against Fluttershy’s neck and pressed down. Fluttershy tried to gasp for breath ineffectively and stared back at Pinkie.

“This nightmare ends now!” Pinkie yelled, turning her head upward towards Twilight and Celestia, who were now charging towards her. “No one can stop me!” She fired a beam of magic from her horn, striking Twilight square in the chest. The purple unicorn was blasted back several feet, but Celestia continued her advance, horn aglow.

Celestia returned fire with a beam of white light that crackled with power as it flew through the air. Pinkie returned the favor, the two beams zipping past each other and both striking their targets. Celestia was pressed back several feet, but dug her hooves into the ground, crouching low. Pinkie took Celestia’s shot to her forehead, and fell backwards, sliding towards the broken chamber’s entrance.

“Fluttershy, get up! Hurry!” Celestia ordered. Fluttershy coughed and clasped her throat with her front hooves, slowly turning her body over and trying to stand back up.

From behind Fluttershy came a pink glow, and Pinkie Pie levitated into the air, her head creaking upwards loosely and then bobbing forward. Her horn and forehead were blackened from where she had been shot by Celestia, but her bright white eyes continued to stare at Fluttershy with hatred.

Celestia reached out to Fluttershy and pulled her up onto her hooves. “Get behind me!” she said, never averting her gaze from Pinkie Pie.

“You don’t understand!” Pinkie yelled. “You can’t understand!” She landed back on the ground and began to advance slowly towards Celestia and Fluttershy, who were backing away towards the portal, just beyond where Twilight lay unconscious.

“Pinkie, I won’t allow you to harm her!” Celestia shouted. “She’s innocent!”

“Innocent?” said Pinkie, her whole body beginning to shake. “Innocent? She’s a murderer! A mass murderer! She’s the cause of Twilight and Rarity running off to their deaths! She’s the reason so many of my friends in town are gone! Mares, stallions, she doesn’t discriminate! Even the Cakes! Even their foals! She killed them all with this nightmare of hers!”

Fluttershy backed away, her eyes wide as she remembered all the terrible things that had happened. She remembered the day the forest had violently surged into town. There was so much blood, so much death, so much needless destruction.

“She never meant for any of that to happen!” shouted Celestia. “Her dream is corrupted by the changelings!”

“So maybe somepony should put her out of her misery!” Pinkie yelled back, still advancing, her horn blazing with bright pink light.

Fluttershy fell to the ground again, tears rolling from her eyes. She closed them and pressed her hooves to her face.

It’s all my fault! she thought. Pinkie is right! I cause nothing but sadness no matter what I do!

What are you afraid of, Fluttershy? said a voice that rang out loudly in Fluttershy’s mind. Her eyes shot open and she looked up to the sky.

“Who’s there?” she asked with confusion.

“Fluttershy, get back up!” Celestia implored, pulling the mare to her hooves again. They continued to back away, finally reaching Twilight. Celestia tapped a hoof against Twilight’s horn, which startled her awake quickly. She shot up to her hooves and shook her head, immediately noticing Pinkie Pie coming towards them, ready to strike.

Fluttershy! What are you afraid of? the voice echoed noisily in Fluttershy’s mind one again.

“I don’t know!” Fluttershy cried. “I’m afraid of everything! I’m a weak, helpless, failure!”

Everything? Surely not everything, or how could you have such good friends? Would you not fear them, too? asked the voice.

“No, I don’t fear them! I fear failing them! I always let them down!” Fluttershy sobbed, falling back to the ground. Twilight turned to Fluttershy while Celestia still continued to stare down Pinkie Pie, her horn now ablaze with fiery energy.

“Fluttershy, who are you talking to?” asked Twilight, placing her hooves on Fluttershy’s shoulders. “Snap out of it!”

Is failing your friends really what you fear? Or is it something much more... fundamental? asked the voice.

Fluttershy sobbed, staring blankly towards the dark star-filled sky. Twilight shook her gently, trying to get her attention.

“Please...” said Fluttershy meekly, tears flowing down her cheeks. “I’ll only fail you. I’ll only cause you pain and disappointment. So, please...” She turned her gaze towards Twilight, her moistened eyes staring at her friend.

“Please... don’t love me,” she said, her lips trembling. The sound of Cadence screaming in agony came from behind her, followed by a blast of energy that washed over the entire room, forming a heavy pink cloud in the air. It fell like fog, shrouding the ground and flowing out from the rift.

Twilight blinked and then stared at Fluttershy, surrounded by Cadence’s love magic. In her heart, she felt sadness, but also a deep feeling of devotion and love. She reached her hooves forward and gently pulled Fluttershy into an embrace.

“I can’t, Fluttershy,” said Twilight, tears falling from her wide, sparkling eyes. “I love you so much.” She squeezed the yellow pegasus tightly. Fluttershy hugged her back, closing her eyes tightly as joyous emotions surfaced within her.

“I’m sorry, Twilight,” Fluttershy whispered quietly. “I love you, too... So much that I can’t stand seeing you love such a--”

“Stop!” a voice yelled from the front of the room, interrupting the moment.

“Twilight! Fluttershy!” Celestia yelled from elsewhere in the mist as a dark pink glow flashed from within the cloud of magic. A bolt of energy flew through the air and cracked like thunder as it hit Twilight in the back. Twilight and Fluttershy, still hugging, flew through the air towards the rift. Fluttershy landed on her back, Twilight’s body lying limp on top of her, a smile still hanging on her face.

“Twilight?” Fluttershy asked, gently placing a hoof against the unicorn’s face. Her shaking eyes darted back and forth, looking for any sign of life from her friend. A shallow breath caught her ear, but it was of little relief. “Wake up, Twilight... Wake up!” Twilight’s ear twitched slightly, but her eyes remained tightly shut.

A second shot of energy blazed through the air, and then a third, fired back and forth within the cloud of magic accompanied by the sound of galloping hooves.

Celestia turned her head from side to side, watching for any sign of where Pinkie could be. She walked carefully, trying to keep her bearings on where Fluttershy and Twilight had flown to. Another blood-curdling scream from Cadence filled the air, and the fog of magic became even thicker.

Why is it all concentrating here? Celestia thought. I can’t resist it much longer, and its making it impossible to sense other magical auras.

Celestia felt the crash of a hoof against her jaw as Pinkie swung from the mist, knocking her sideways onto the ground. She twisted her body with the fall, trying to roll away from the direction of the punch, but was met with a magic blast as she rolled, knocking her along the ground further. Pinkie leapt back into the fog, using her wings to switch directions at random.

“Stop hiding!” Celestia shouted as she charged up her horn and rose back to her hooves. “If you want a fight, you’ll have one!”

“I thought we were having one right now!” Pinkie retorted. Celestia shot her magic in the direction of Pinkie’s voice, but the beam missed its mark. It whizzed through the air towards the courtyard tower where Rainbow Dash stood face to face with Applejack, staring her down. Celestia’s shot hit the corner wall below them, blasting a hole in it and shaking the entire structure.

“Looks like things are getting pretty serious down there,” said Rainbow Dash, narrowing her eyes. “Guess I can’t waste any more time with you.” She grinned and scraped her front right hoof along the stone floor.

“Come on, then!” shouted Applejack, and with a flutter of her changeling wings shot towards Rainbow Dash like a bolt of lightning.

Rainbow Dash sidestepped with assistance from her own wing beat, and turned to face the changeling just in time to see it pushing off the floor and into the air. Dash jumped up after it, her forelegs extended towards its face. Her hooves crashed into its face with the power of her upward thrust, knocking its head back.

Applejack flipped her body back with the force of Rainbow Dash’s strike, kicking her back hooves up and striking Rainbow in the stomach. The wind knocked out of her, Dash fell backwards and slid along the stone tower’s roof right toward the edge.

Applejack made a beeline in Dash’s direction, and with a simple twist of her body, came crashing down with her hind hooves right onto Dash’s still extended left wing. The bones in the wing cracked on impact, and Rainbow Dash screamed in pain.

“Rainbow Dash might be the fastest flier in Equestria, but these two back legs a‘ mine are some o’ the strongest in the land,” said Applejack with a grin as she reared up above Dash. She stomped down against Dash’s ribs, which also gave a crack. Rainbow Dash twisted her body, screaming again.

Dash stared up at the changeling’s face, still wearing the guise of one of her best friends. She pushed the pain she felt to the back of her mind and laughed up at her enemy. Applejack glared angrily.

“What’s so funny?” Applejack asked through tightly-clenched teeth.

“Just imagining the look on your face when I beat you,” chuckled Rainbow Dash, gripping her ribcage and turning onto her back.

“Playin’ tough won’t help ya,” said Applejack, leaning down towards Rainbow Dash’s face. “Yer done for.”

Dash gritted her teeth. “There’s no way I’m losing to a pathetic Applejack wannabe!” she shouted. “I’d only even consider having a draw with the real one!”

Applejack grinned, mere inches from Rainbow Dash’s face. “It’s just sad, really. Not sure how you’re resisting, but I’ll tell ya somethin’ before ya die. Yer just a figment of Fluttershy’s imagination. You ain’t the real Rainbow Dash at all.”

Dash stared angrily back into Applejack’s eye.

“Awww, ya know it’s true! I know ya know, deep down, that you ain’t even real,” laughed Applejack with a devious smile. “Yer just like I was. Just part of Fluttershy’s dream. Nothing more than fleeting memories.”

Memories, Rainbow Dash thought to herself. Dreams and memories. Her mind suddenly started racing as images of the past began to flash through her head. The sun hanging in the sky, dragons circling overhead, while she and Fluttershy were trapped inside a hollow tree. Mending Fluttershy’s wing, talking together, sleeping through the heat of the constant day. Bathing in the cool waters together after Fluttershy’s wing had healed.

“Memories...” Rainbow Dash said out loud, her eyes wide, tears forming in their corners. A faint yellow glow began to surround her. Applejack sneered at her, letting out a hiss.

Rainbow Dash saw Cloudsdale under attack, dragonfire burning in the streets, buildings crumbling. She saw Fluttershy scared out of her wits, the two of them hiding in a building, and then there was a flash of blazing heat. She felt crushing pain, saw the vague outline of Fluttershy’s face, and felt cold as darkness began to trace in from the edges of her field of vision.

“You’re safe...” Rainbow Dash said quietly to herself. She felt the sensation of breath leaving her, and then a warm, loving aura. She breathed in deeply, suddenly blinking, still staring up at Applejack, who was rearing up on her hind hooves again.

“Yer just a dream!” Applejack screamed.

“I don’t care!” Rainbow Dash yelled back. “I’m Fluttershy’s dream!”

Applejack’s front hooves came flying down towards Rainbow again, but this time Dash’s hooves met hers. They crashed together with a yellow flash. Rainbow Dash pushed her hooves outward, causing Applejack to fall down on top of her. Dash quickly reached her hooves around Applejack’s torso and snapped them forward, cracking both of the changeling’s wings.

Applejack screamed, bringing her own right hoof up and then stamping down on Rainbow Dash’s right wing. The impact was weaker than before, causing no damage, but Dash still grunted in pain. The changeling breathed heavily, digging her hoof into the blue mass of feathers, her own cerulean wings dangling loosely on either side of her.

Dash’s grip released and Applejack pulled away from her, turning as fast as she could and kicking with her rear legs against the blue pegasus’ hindquarters. Dash flipped over the edge of the tower, but was able to grab a hold with her front hooves. She dangled off the edge, struggling to pull herself back up, but there was nothing for her hind hooves to grip against. Celestia’s earlier magic attack had all but blown the entire corner of the tower off.

Applejack slowly walked to the ledge and stared down at her. She grinned and raised her front right hoof up, placing it gently on Dash’s forehead. “Betcha can’t fly on them wings no more, Rainbow,” she said tauntingly.

Rainbow Dash smiled up at the changeling. “Betcha can’t fly with no wings, wannabe,” she said, and then kicked her back hooves upward as hard as she could against the underside of the already crumbling old stone, a trail of yellow energy flashing and trailing behind the attack. Her hooves crashed right through the mason work with an explosion of golden light, bits of debris and magic particles flying in all directions from the impact. Applejack was hit with the full force of the kick, and flew up and over Dash’s head, a trail of yellow energy sizzling where she’d been kicked. A second later, the ledge that Dash was gripping crumbled as well.

They both fell swiftly to the ground below, leaving a trail of yellow magic hanging in the air. Their bodies slammed into the slight ledge of dirt at the base of the tower before flipping and falling down into the deep ravine that ran along the castle’s walls

Just moments earlier, within the main chamber of the castle, the atmosphere of pink mist had become thick and hugged the ground like the morning fog. Fluttershy lay on the ground, Twilight’s limp body draped over her. Fluttershy shook her friend, trying to awaken her.

“Twilight! Twilight, wake up!” Fluttershy shouted, her voice shaking and tears falling from her eyes. “Please wake up! Please!” She pressed her hooves against Twilight’s shoulders and lifted her up a bit. Twilight’s head hung loosely and her labored breathing came in pulses with slight groaning. Fluttershy shook her head, eyes wide, her lower lip curling inward between her teeth.

There was a flash of magic in the distance, followed by the sound of stone breaking away from a far wall. Blazing streaks of pink and white energy flew back and forth as the sound of heavy hoofbeats filled the room. Celestia and Pinkie were both firing back and forth in response to one another firing, but easily dodging each shot in turn.

“This is getting us nowhere!” yelled Celestia. “If you want to end this, then come towards the rift! We’ll have a magic duel!”

“You first!” Pinkie’s voice shouted back. “I could do this all day! This power I’ve gained is incredible!” She laughed, though the sound of sadness could plainly be heard as well.

Celestia coughed and focused a small aura spell on herself. This is all I can do to resist the power of Cadence’s magic. It’s condensing too much, she thought. I can’t afford an extended battle with Pinkie... she seems mostly unaffected somehow. I have to end this now!

Celestia walked towards the sound of the rift. It soon came into view through the mist, along with Fluttershy and Twilight, still lying in a pile. Fluttershy was shaking and in a panic, focused on Twilight.

“Come on, then!” Celestia shouted into the magic cloud, bracing herself for the oncoming attack.

“Way ahead of you!” Pinkie yelled, leaping through the air towards Celestia, her front hooves poised to smash into the Princess’ face. Celestia reacted quickly, twisting her head and firing a blast from her horn, knocking Pinkie back and slamming her against the ground.

Pinkie shot back up to her hooves and swung her head upward, her horn glowing a bright pink. Celestia was surrounded by a magical aura and lifted off the ground.

“Levitation? That’s easily nullified,” Celestia scoffed, thoroughly unimpressed at the choice. “You’ll have to do better than that, Pinkie Pie.” She raised her own horn, surrounding herself with a white glow. She gently returned to the ground, landing daintily on her hooves.

“I’m not done yet!” shouted Pinkie, clenching her teeth and growling. Her eyes widened even more, and her horn began to glow a deep red. The veins in her head began to bulge and she let loose with a wave of force.

Celestia had no time to react. She was immediately encased in a bubble of red magic and lifted off the ground. The magic swirled and whipped around her violently, its waves slicing across her body like sharpened knives.

What is this? I’ve felt this magic before! Celestia thought, in shock. She tried to nullify the spell, but her horn just shot sparks from the tip ineffectively. This isn’t just levitation! How is she--

“Now out of my way!” Pinkie yelled. With a flick of her hoof to the side, Celestia shot through the air like a rocket, crashing through the castle’s wall and tumbling across the courtyard. The air around where she’d gone flying sparked and glowed with red magical power, and the pink mist in the vicinity was scattered.

Fluttershy turned her head in time to see Celestia go flying. “Princess!” she cried, slumping back down under Twilight’s body weight. “Twilight... please, wake up!”

Fluttershy! the strange voice called out once more from inside Fluttershy’s mind. Take hold of your fear and conquer it! It is the key to everything!

“I can’t!” Fluttershy yelled out. “They just can’t love me! I’ll ruin everything!” She cried loudly, tears rolling down her cheeks, her voice becoming hoarse.

Pinkie turned back towards Fluttershy and began to slowly walk towards her. “You already did ruin everything!” she screamed, her horn still glowing red.

It can’t stay that way, Fluttershy! You can’t stop them from loving you! the voice boomed in Fluttershy’s ears. Try to remember! Remember being loved, and remember that feeling! Accept it!

Fluttershy stared at Pinkie, who was just feet away from her, as the voice almost seemed to force her to dig up memories of the previous day. She saw Rainbow Dash arriving back at their tree shelter at the mountainous foothills overlooking the Unicorn Plain. Rainbow Dash had cared for her, stayed with her, and even mended her broken wing. She had even gone along with her selfish request and given her a back massage.

Fluttershy closed her eyes, remembering that feeling so vividly. It was calm, relaxing, and filled her heart with joy.

Were you really being so selfish, Fluttershy? the voice asked calmly. Wouldn’t you do the same for her?

Of course I would, Fluttershy responded. I would do anything for Dashie. She’s my oldest and dearest friend. Besides, it was nothing special, just a massage.

Was it? the voice asked. Could you not feel the magic of love and friendship there in that tiny hollow tree? Did you not accept her love then, as you have in the past as well?

Fluttershy knew the truth, and she felt a bittersweet feeling rising up from her heart, which began to yearn for affection. Yes, she thought, I did feel it. I want to keep feeling it, too. I may feel selfish, and I may cause trouble for my friends sometimes... but I guess I really can’t stop them from loving me, and I can’t just hide from their love.

Then accept it, Fluttershy! the voice commanded. Accept their love and conquer your fear!

“Yes,” said Fluttershy, opening her eyes and seeing Pinkie Pie standing over her and Twilight. “I will accept it all.” Her body began to glow a faint yellow color, her pink mane swaying slightly as if caught in a breeze.

A bright flash in the direction of the tower caused Pinkie and Fluttershy to both turn their heads just in time to see Applejack and Rainbow Dash falling from the corner of the crumbling tower and tumbling down into the ravine.

“No!” Pinkie screamed, turning her head back towards Fluttershy and Twilight. With a swift swipe of her hoof, she pushed Twilight’s body off of Fluttershy, sending her rolling several feet from them. “How many of my friends have to die before you’re finished? You monster!”

Fluttershy furrowed her brow and closed her eyes, spreading her forelegs out and breathing in deeply. The glow around her body grew in intensity and began to attract all of the pink love magic in the room towards her.

“I’ll accept... everything,” said Fluttershy.

Pinkie screamed in rage and swung her hoof down against Fluttershy’s cheek, knocking her head back against the stone floor. Fluttershy grunted slightly, but did not resist.

“You made this world! You caused all of this! It’s all your fault!” Pinkie screamed, swinging her other hoof down and landing another punch.

“Do you know how many died on the first day? Twenty-seven!” Pinkie shouted, tears dropping from her eyes onto Fluttershy as her pink hooves, stained red with Fluttershy’s blood, continued to swing with punch after punch. “The forest surged in! Destroyed entire buildings! Entire families! I was there at Sugarcube Corner when it hit us! Mr. and Mrs. Cake hugged Pumpkin and Pound tight and hid behind baking pans in the corners!”

Pinkie’s barrage of punches continued. Fluttershy clenched her teeth and cried, her tears flowing down and mixing with her blood as she listened to Pinkie’s story.

“A lot of good it did them!” Pinkie cried. “Those branches shot through the pans like they were made of paper! I heard them scream! I heard the foals cry out! I saw it all!”

Fluttershy sobbed, coughing and opening her eyes to look at Pinkie. She was in tears, blood now having dotted her beautiful pink mane and coat. Behind her, Fluttershy could see the concentrated love magic approaching in one giant opaque mass. “I’m so sorry, Pinkie,” she said before having to brace herself for another swing of Pinkie’s hoof.

“You’re sorry?” yelled Pinkie. “You were hiding in your house! You didn’t even come out until the next day! Don’t say you’re sorry!” Pinkie fell back to her haunches, placing her hooves calmly on Fluttershy’s belly, hanging her head.

Fluttershy opened her eyes as best as she could, the left one having become puffed up and bruised. She looked down at Pinkie, who sat at her legs, staring downward and crying. The pink energy in the air had surrounded them and was swirling all around.

“Why didn’t you come help?” Pinkie asked quietly, sobbing. “It should have been me... Not them... Not those foals...” Her chest heaved as she wept, pushing her words out from behind clenched teeth and a cracking hardened heart.

Fluttershy sat up and leaned forward, hugging Pinkie tightly. “I’m so... so sorry, Pinkie,” she said, pressing her throbbing chin against Pinkie’s shoulder. She knew the pain she felt was nothing compared to what Pinkie was feeling.

Pinkie raised her hooves and hugged Fluttershy back, burying her face against the yellow mare’s neck. “No... I’m the one who should be sorry,” she said between sobs. “Everypony has nightmares. You can’t control them. I should know that better than anypony. I’ve had nothing but nightmares since this all started.” As she spoke, the pink magic suddenly condensed, absorbing into the two ponies, filling them with an intense feeling of love and joy layered atop their sadness.

“It’s okay, Pinkie,” said Fluttershy, smiling almost uncontrollably, though it hurt a bit. “I promise I’ll do something to fix this mess before we go to help the others.”

Pinkie thought for a moment and then pulled away from Fluttershy. She looked back towards the rift and saw Cadence, hanging from shackles against a stone wall, her face looking so drained of life.

“Those changelings... How could they do that to poor Cadence? I never even got to make friends with the real Cadence!” Pinkie shouted angrily towards the rift, shaking her hoof.

“They’re just the worst, aren’t they?” Fluttershy said.

“Oh, wait... I’m not even the real Pinkie Pie anyway,” Pinkie said, lowering her head for a moment, but then lifting it right back up. “But if I was the real Pinkie Pie, I’d be outraged!”

Fluttershy laughed. “I’d hate to be them in that situation,” she said, followed by a twitch as she felt a sharp pain from her cheek. She let out a soft whimper, which caught Pinkie’s attention.

Pinkie looked at Fluttershy’s face, bloodied and bruised, and sniffled loudly. She gently wiped away a streak of blood from below Fluttershy’s lip and frowned. “I’m so sorry, Fluttershy. I’m not the real Pinkie Pie, but I was just--”

“Shhh...” interrupted Fluttershy, shaking her head. “You’re more real than you know, Pinkie Pie.” She turned and stood up, wiping more of the blood from her brow and breathing in deeply. She reached a hoof out to help Pinkie stand up, and Pinkie hesitantly accepted and rose from the ground.

Pinkie Pie breathed in deeply and turned to look in the direction she had launched the princess. Celestia was slowly walking back in, her eyes still locked onto Pinkie Pie. As she drew nearer, Pinkie bowed her head and exhaled.

“Princess Celestia, Fluttershy,” Pinkie said solemnly, “What do we have to do to save your friends?” She felt a hoof land on her shoulder, and looked to her side to see Fluttershy beaming at her glum face with a bright smile.

“Our friends,” Fluttershy corrected her.

The left corner of Pinkie’s mouth curved upward ever so slightly, and she nodded her head, repeating the words. “Our friends.”

Princess Celestia smiled briefly, then turned her gaze to Twilight and the tear in the dream’s fabric just behind her. “We must first seal up this opening so it can’t be used by the changelings,” she said, walking towards Twilight and pouring a beam of white energy into her. Twilight’s eyes slowly opened, and she looked around groggily.

“What happened?” Twilight asked, dazed from having been knocked unconscious a second time in a row so quickly.

“No time to rest yet, my student,” Celestia said. “We must finish our task of sealing the rift. Stand and help me.” Twilight nodded and quickly rose to her hooves, with a slight stumble before turning to face the rift. The two ponies began to close the portal once again, this time uninterrupted.

“We should go check on those two,” Fluttershy gestured towards the far tower where Applejack and Rainbow Dash had been fighting. “I hope they’re both okay.”

The two began to walk slowly down the steps at the front of the castle and around to the courtyard where they had seen Applejack and Rainbow Dash fall from its far top corner.

“You hope they’re both okay?” asked Pinkie, a bit confused. “What about Applejack? She turned into a changeling.” She sneered her face a bit as she said the last part.

“Even if she became a changeling, she was still Applejack up until that point,” said Fluttershy as they came to the edge of the cliff that steeply dropped to the ravine below. “She always looked out for everypony in town, and even lost her eye to save my life. If we can get that Applejack back somehow, I’ll be so relieved.”

“I just don’t understand how you think we’ll manage that at this point,” said Pinkie as she and Fluttershy spread their wings and began to steadily descend into the chasm below.

“Princess Celestia says that since this is my dream, I can make it whatever I want, I just have to figure out how,” replied Fluttershy, slightly winded. She was still exhausted from taking all the punches from Pinkie Pie earlier, and despite her stellar performance when flying from Cloudsdale earlier, she felt none of that power now. “I just have to figure out how to use that strange power.”

“Well let’s hope you figure it out soon, look!” said Pinkie, pointing towards the ravine’s floor. Rainbow Dash and Applejack were lying in a pool of blood and mud, but both of them were still breathing. The two ponies landed gently on the soft earth and approached Rainbow Dash, who was lying on her side up against the cliff wall. She opened her eyes and glanced up at them.

Rainbow Dash breathed a sigh of relief as she saw the two of them not fighting. She gazed up at Fluttershy and smiled.

“You’re safe...” Rainbow said weakly.

Fluttershy closed her eyes and shook her head, fighting back tears.

“But you’re not!” Fluttershy yelled, kneeling in front her the blue pegasus. “How could you be so careless?” She couldn’t resist the sadness that was building up inside her any longer, and sobbed, lowering her head.

“I’ll be fine!” boasted Rainbow Dash, but then twitched as a sharp pain shot up her back. Her broken wings lay behind her, twisted and frazzled.

“I don’t believe you,” said Fluttershy, opening her eyes to look at Rainbow Dash. Rainbow Dash frowned, her act of confidence having proven futile in this situation.

“Me neither...” the rainbow-maned pegasus said. “I hate to admit it, but I think I’m probably done for. I know because I’ve felt this before... in Cloudsdale.” She lowered her gaze toward the ground.

“Dashie...” said Fluttershy, reaching a hoof out to her.

“It’s okay, Fluttershy,” said Rainbow. “I know... I know I’m not really Rainbow Dash. I’m not really... your friend. I just look and act like her.” her voice wavered as tears slowly started to escape from the corners of her eyes.

“Dashie, that’s just--” Fluttershy started, but was interrupted by Rainbow Dash again.

“It’s okay! Really!” she said, putting on a grin despite the sadness that was painted all over her face, streaking down it in bluish-gray hues. “You have to go on and save the real Rainbow Dash. Your real friend. I’m just--”

A yellow hoof pressed firmly against Dash’s lips, shutting her up completely. Fluttershy stared down at her, and Rainbow stared back. Fluttershy’s bright eyes were so wide and intense, Rainbow Dash doubted she could continue to speak even if she wanted to.

“That’s not true, Dashie! You may just be part of my dream, but that’s because you’re made up of my precious memories!” Fluttershy said with a scolding tone in her voice. She lowered her eyelids and spoke more calmly, pulling her hoof away from Dash’s mouth.

“You’re the Rainbow Dash of my memories. You’re the filly who befriended me at summer flight camp when nopony else would give me a chance. You’re the one who stood up for me in front of all those bullies. You’re the dear friend who pushed me to better myself, to believe in myself. You can be brash and noisy, and even insensitive at times, but nopony is perfect. Its all those things that make the real Rainbow Dash so special to me, and so even though you aren’t the real one, you’re made up of all those special, wonderful things - All those things that I love and care about.”

Rainbow Dash’s tears welled up in her eyes and began to flow freely. She sniffled and continued to stare back at Fluttershy’s, and remembered everything that was recalled, the sweet memories they shared together.

“You, Rainbow Dash... You were the first friend I ever had, and I’ve finally realized something else that is so very special about you,” Fluttershy continued, her own tears falling down her cheeks now as well. “You’re the only one I ever really accepted love from in return. I was so afraid of failing and causing trouble for my friends, I never truly wanted them to care for me. But somehow you were different. I think it’s because... I know deep down inside that no matter what happens, no matter how bad things get, Rainbow Dash will always be there to save the day. She’ll always come to our rescue... to my rescue. That’s the Rainbow Dash I love, that’s the Rainbow Dash who loves me back, and that is precisely who you are!”

Even Pinkie Pie had fallen back to her rump and started to cry at this point. Rainbow Dash smiled up at Fluttershy radiantly, her mane almost seeming to glow like a real rainbow. The yellow aura that she and Fluttershy had both been surrounded by before had returned, and was brighter than ever, lighting up the surroundings.

A gleam from the distance caught their attentions, and all three ponies turned to look in its direction. The light coming from Fluttershy had reflected from Applejack’s eye, which was locked onto the yellow pegasus.

Applejack laughed and tried to pick herself up, but her forelegs gave way and she fell back forward, unable to carry her own weight after such a fall.

“None of that matters,” Applejack hissed. “You think that if you somehow manage to escape from the cocoons that you’ll be able to stand against us? You know nothing.” She grinned and let her chin sink into the mud, still laughing as she spoke, interspersed with small coughs.

Rainbow Dash grinned at Applejack. “Your face,” she chuckled. “I wasn’t too far off!”

Applejack sighed. “Still so cocky, but I guess that’s just how Rainbow Dash is,” she said, ceasing her laughter. “It’s a shame you’re stuck in this dream. You’ll never even get to see your friends crushed at the hooves of The Order.”

The Order? thought Fluttershy. What’s that?

Author's Note:

Thanks to everyone who volunteered to help edit this thing!

We've got 3 chapters to go in Book Two, everypony! I hope I can make the finale as epic as I envision it! Not to mention I really want to try and get those last three chapters out as fast as possible. At this rate, I'll be writing this fanfic for years. Gotta pick up the pace!

And now after another read through of this, and a couple last-minute edits, I am pretty happy with how this has turned out. :)

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