• 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 9 - Interface

Book Two: Overgrowth

Chapter Nine: Interface

“What’s wrong with Rainbow Dash?” asked Pinkie Pie, leaning over Fluttershy and staring down at Dash’s peaceful face. “Is she... gonna be okay?”

Fluttershy shook her head sadly, still holding Rainbow Dash’s head in her forelegs. She didn’t need to say anything. Pinkie Pie fell back to her haunches, staring sadly at Rainbow Dash, a tear escaping from the corner of her eye. Applejack reached for her hat and, upon realizing it wasn’t on her head, simply lowered her gaze and placed a hoof over her chest. Twilight and Celestia bowed their heads as well, as silence surrounded the four ponies.

“Fluttershy, couldn’t you...” Twilight said, breaking the silence. She raised her eyes and saw Fluttershy shaking her head again.

“Not this time,” said Fluttershy quietly. “She gave everything she had, all of herself, to help save this world. I... tried to bring her back again, but I just couldn’t. There’s nothing left but... an empty shell.”

“Fluttershy, I’m so sorry. I know this has to be hard on you, seeing her like this twice in one day,” said Twilight, reaching out towards Fluttershy. To her surprise, Fluttershy looked up at her and smiled. Twilight smiled back and closed her eyes, memories of Rainbow Dash filling her head. Even though it wasn’t the real Rainbow Dash, she’d fought with all of the bravery and loyalty of the real one. The distinction began to become blurred in Twilight’s mind and a surge of sadness erupted from her heart.

Twilight fell forward, throwing her forelegs around Fluttershy and Rainbow Dash, her cries echoing across the ravine, shortly accompanied by wails from Fluttershy and Pinkie Pie. Applejack strided slowly towards her friends, fighting back her own emotions as she had become accustomed to recently, and stood silently over them as they wept, head bowed.

After a short time, the sudden wave of emotions having been spent, the air became still and quiet again. Twilight sat embracing Fluttershy, with Pinkie Pie’s forelegs and wings wrapped around her from behind. She could hear nothing but the comforting breathing of her friends and herself until suddenly, a small, muffled voice began to chirp from her side.

“Twilight! Twilight! What’s happening?” shouted the small voice, barely audible. Twilight’s head jerked up and her left ear twitched. Pinkie Pie pulled back, her gaze locking onto the source of the tiny voice: Twilight’s saddle bag. The small bag had been surprisingly undamaged despite everything that had happened, and now that Pinkie Pie had pulled her wings back, the sound coming from it was much less muffled. It was clearly Pinkie’s own voice.

“What was that?” asked Pinkie Pie, turning her eyes up to Twilight’s face nervously. Twilight, now realizing that it was Pinkie Twi’s voice coming through the communication gem, grinned sheepishly and shrugged.

“That? Oh, that was nothing...” she said nervously, donning the worst poker face imaginable. “I mean... what was what?” She glanced up at Applejack, who was now staring down at the two of them suspiciously.

“Whaddya mean ‘What was what?’” the tiny voice piped up again. “That loud noise and then everypony crying!” Twilight coughed and cleared her throat, partially covering up the second half of Pinkie Twi’s question.

“Awfully noisy for nothing,” said Pinkie, squinting her eyes. Applejack was bearing down on the small huddle of ponies now, her eyes taking on a slight green glow. Twilight looked up at her and saw Celestia standing right behind her, horn glowing, ready to strike if need be. Twilight gulped, trying to think of anything to say.

Fluttershy pulled her wings up above her in a stretch, her gaze also aimed right at Applejack. “Sorry, that was me,” she said timidly. “What’s happened... it still hasn’t sunk in. I just can’t believe... Rainbow Dash is...” She sniffled, placing a hoof over her mouth.

Twilight sighed in relief as Applejack’s eyes returned to normal. She was amazed at the bravery Fluttershy was showing even now. This is more sad to her than anypony here, and yet she could still think clearly enough to get through that little scare, Twilight thought. Of course, she’s probably not acting at all. I can’t imagine what she’s feeling, despite the outburst I just had.

“It’s okay, Fluttershy. It’s really hard to believe,” said Twilight, turning her head down towards her saddle bag. “I’m sure nopony here wanted to be the first to break the silence.” She tightened her lips, hoping that Pinkie Twi got the hint, and was pleased to not hear another peep from her bag. The pressing of lips against Twilight’s ear caused her to shiver and freeze up as Pinkie Pie’s voice whispered to her.

“Hiding it from Applejack? After what happened, I’m not surprised,” Pinkie breathed, sending wafts of warm air into Twilight’s ear. “I know it’s that gem, though. I still can’t get it out of my head, so you’d better tell me all about it later.”

Twilight simply nodded in response. Pinkie smiled and stood up, stretched out her wings, and reached a hoof down to Twilight. Twilight reluctantly reached up and pulled herself back to her hooves, taking a deep breath.

The six ponies slowly made their way out of the ravine. Those with wings carried those who could not fly.

“So, you gotta tell me ‘bout what happened up there,” said Applejack, looking up at Pinkie Pie as they flew up and out of the gorge. “How did I survive that fall, but Rainbow...” she stopped, having to swallow hard to keep from crying. Pinkie Pie sighed and looked down at her orange companion.

“It was the force of a great explosion that caused this all,” Pinkie said, only bending the truth slightly. “What we saw up there... the thing that caused us all so much pain... I guess it wasn’t done, even after Twilight blasted it.”

“But what was it, really?” asked Applejack. “What was it that was making the forest go crazy? That caused so much heartache and death and pain?”

“I guess...” said Pinkie, pursing her lips in thought for a moment, “It was pain. The pain of being loved.” She stared blankly ahead at the ledge as it was approaching.

Applejack shook her head. “Yer still not makin’ sense, but what else is new, I guess...” she said with a chuckle.

Pinkie Pie laughed and hugged Applejack tightly. “Don’t worry, AJ, I love you.” She grinned widely, her pink locks flowing freely around her face.

Applejack grunted and cocked an eyebrow. “The pain of bein’ loved, eh? Maybe it makes more sense than I thought,” she said, laughing.

The two of them landed alongside Celestia, who had been carrying Twilight, and Fluttershy, who gently laid Rainbow Dash’s body on a bed of grass. The ponies looked around in amazement. The Everfree Forest was restored to how it had been before, though that was not much comfort to them.

“Remember, girls,” Twilight said, straightening her saddlebag, “this is the Everfree Forest. Just because it’s back to how it was doesn’t mean it’s any less dangerous. We need a plan of action to get through here.”

Applejack put a hoof to her chin in thought, her leadership instincts kicking in. “All right, seein’ as three’a you can fly, ya’ll should take wing and be lookouts. You can holler down if ya see anything, and dive down to us if we git inta any trouble.”

Celestia nodded. “A fine idea, Applejack. You and Twilight will stay on the ground then, and we shall do our best to support you from the air,” she said. “Luckily, it’s almost dawn. Let us rest here for now until it is time to raise the sun.”

Everyone agreed, and Applejack went off to the more wooded sections ahead of them to gather fuel for a fire. Twilight whispered something into Celestia’s ear, and the two of them walked away from the others once Applejack was out of sight. Fluttershy simply sat and looked at Rainbow Dash’s peaceful face, stroking her colorful hair with her hoof and smiling as she remembered everything they’d been through.

Pinkie Pie noticed Twilight and Celestia leaving, but became completely distracted by Fluttershy. She sat down next to her quietly for a moment, but felt an urge from deep inside of her to say something--anything--to cheer Fluttershy up.

“So...” Pinkie said after a moment, rubbing her hoof along the ground. “This has been pretty scary, but I bet it’ll get much better soon, right?” She looked down at Rainbow Dash as she spoke and immediately regretted saying anything. “Sorry... I’ll just shut up now...”

Guess I can’t go back to making everypony smile just like that, she thought. She bowed her head and sighed. It’s been too long with nothing to even smile about.

Fluttershy sniffled and unfolded her wings, wrapping one around Pinkie Pie. Pinkie looked up to see Fluttershy’s smiling face, though tears were still running down her cheeks. “It’s okay,” she said, genuine gratitude in her voice. “It’s the thought that counts.”

Pinkie couldn’t help but notice that Fluttershy’s face was still slightly bruised and cut from where she had been punched earlier. “Why couldn’t you do something about your face?” she asked.

Fluttershy nodded. “Oh yes, I could have, but I didn’t. Somehow, the little pain that’s left is a reminder,” she said, turning her gaze back down towards Rainbow Dash. “A reminder of what I’ve learned, and what the price of that lesson was.”

“But...” Pinkie Pie started, not sure what to say. “That was because of me. I was so... lost in my hatred and pain, I couldn’t...”

Fluttershy hugged Pinkie Pie closer with her wing, now wrapping a hoof around her as well, and squeezing tightly. “Don’t worry, Pinkie. We’ll all smile again, soon enough. I know it,” she said behind stifled sadness.

Pinkie Pie stared down at Rainbow Dash, who wore a peaceful expression on her face, her smile still spread widely and gently across its surface.

She looks happy, at least,” said Pinkie, lifting her gaze skyward. “She’s just missing a little something.”

Fluttershy looked up, too, and nodded her head. “You’re right.”

The two of them took off, flying straight up into the night.

On the other side of the clearing, Celestia nodded down at Twilight and took the pink communication gem from her. She lifted it up and inspected it briefly before nervously placing it in her ear.

“Okay, Pinkie,” said Twilight. “Explain to Princess Celestia what you’ve just told me about.”

Celestia nodded her head a few times, a small, inaudible voice going non-stop just inside her ear. The princess cycled through many facial expressions, all the while listening quietly and attentively. She smiled briefly, then frowned, her eyes narrowing in thought. She nodded a couple more times, and then simply uttered one word, “Magnificent.” She removed the gem from her ear and tucked it behind her necklace for safe keeping.

“So, you know what we have to do now,” said Twilight, looking up at the princess.

“Yes,” Celestia responded, patting Twilight on the head. “Honestly, though, Twilight...”

“What?” asked Twilight, giving her mentor a puzzled look.

“You honestly have that many books memoried?” the princess said with a snort. “I told you that you really must get out more instead of reading all those dusty old books.”

Twilight sighed, but laughed. “Yes, yes, but you know me,” she replied. “I just can’t put a good book down.”

The two of them began to walk back to where Pinkie and Fluttershy had been sitting together, and Celestia grinned. “Yes, you can’t put it down ever, apparently,” she retorted.

Twilight laughed again, then turned her gaze downward. “For now, though, we have to get through this journey home,” she said, glancing over at Rainbow Dash. “What happened to Rainbow Dash, and how Fluttershy couldn’t bring her back again... I don’t quite get it. She was able to restore the whole world, so why was saving Rainbow Dash so difficult?”

Celestia stood silently for a moment, then shook her head. “I wish I had an answer for that, I really do,” she responded quietly. “I am not exactly an expert on dreams. From what I do know, I can say that Fluttershy should be able to do anything she wants here. The fact that she couldn’t, or perhaps wouldn’t, do that one thing certainly has a meaning.”

“What sort of meaning could Rainbow Dash’s death possibly have, though?” asked Twilight.

The sound of a tree being bucked in the forest snapped the ponies out of their relaxed states, and soon a rain of twigs were flying from the secluded woods towards them. Celestia and Twilight reacted by stopping the sticks mid-air with a levitation spell, lowering them neatly into a pile. A moment later, Applejack appeared from the shadows, carrying two large logs on her back.

“There’s yer kindlin’!” she said with a chuckle. “Now light us a fire, iff’n ya don’t mind.”

Celestia and Twilight laughed in unison, the tension having broken slightly, and used their magic to levitate all of the wood over to where Rainbow Dash was laying. Pinkie and Fluttershy landed beside her, carrying large tufts of cloud. They carefully placed the clouds onto the ground and lifted Rainbow Dash up onto the fluffy bedding.

The two ponies stood over their fallen friend’s body and breathed sighs of relief.

“She looks much more comfortable, now,” said Pinkie Pie, a somewhat pleased sound to her voice.

Fluttershy nodded, remembering the time just a day earlier where she’d been the one laying on a bed of cloud, and wiped a tear from her eye. “Yes. That’s much better,” she said, turning her head as she heard the sound of the fire being started. The two ponies sat down in front of Rainbow Dash and absorbed the warmth of the flames as they burned into the night.

After around an hour, Celestia leaned towards Fluttershy and whispered in her ear. “It’s almost dawn, Fluttershy. Please stay calm and go along with what I’m about to do. It will help greatly in understanding certain things.”

Fluttershy nodded her head nervously and looked up at the princess, who stood and gazed towards the horizon.

“It is almost time to raise the sun,” Celestia said, the conversation dying down instantly as she spoke. “Close enough, in any case, and its light will be of aid to us.” Everypony nodded in agreement.

“Sounds sensible,” Applejack said. “I guess this is one of the perks of travelin’ with ya, Yer Highness.”

Celestia shook her head and looked down at Fluttershy. “No, not this time,” she said seriously. “Fluttershy will be raising the sun this morning.”

Fluttershy fell over backwards, her head flopping against the bed of cloud behind her. “What?” she asked, then biting her lip, remembering what the princess had said about remaining calm. Pinkie and Twilight stared at Celestia in shock, and Twilight gestured her head towards Applejack, as if the princess had forgotten she was still there.

“Now how in the hay does that work?” asked Applejack. “No offense, but has Pinkie been rubbin’ off on ya?”

“Hey!” shouted Pinkie, an incredulous look on her face.

“No, it’s okay,” said Fluttershy, rising up to her hooves. “I’ll try, Princess.” She closed her eyes and concentrated, feeling the flow of energy within. She immediately noticed that it was stronger than before, though drawing on it still felt like a strain. She took a breath and imagined the morning sky, filled with yellow beams of sunlight. A second later, she felt the sun’s warmth radiating onto her, and heard gasps from everyone around her. She opened her eyes, and it was morning.

Everyone stared at Applejack intently.

“Well...” Applejack started, searching for words. “Guess I was wrong. How ‘bout that?”

The tension died immediately, and everyone relaxed.

“Well, that was a surprise,” said Twilight, resting back down on her haunches.

“Why’s that?” Applejack asked, a bit confused.

“Yes, it’s certainly eye-opening,” Celestia added, nodding her head.

“Like I said, why’s that?” Applejack asked again, annoyed.

“I was really worried,” Fluttershy chimed in, glancing at Applejack.

Applejack threw her hooves into the air. “I knew she could do it! Don’t act like it’s some kinda big deal!” She began to kick dirt into the flames, shaking her head and grumbling the whole time.

“Nicely done, Fluttershy,” Celestia praised the pegasus. Fluttershy nodded her head, her eyes drooping a bit. Celestia looked around at the others, and it started to become clear that everypony was a bit tired, particularly Fluttershy. Pinkie Pie and Applejack were the only ones who seemed unaffected.

I suppose dreams don’t really get tired like we do, she thought. Twilight is right, though, it’s strange that you can become tired in a dream.

“Right, right, now we really should be gettin’ a move on,” said Applejack as she approached Rainbow Dash with slight hesitation. After a moment, she lowered her head and rolled Rainbow’s body onto her back, carefully steadying her. She glanced back once she was stabilized, her lower lip tightening around her teeth. “Carryin’ a fallen friend... A couple months ago, I never imagined I’d see the day. Been all too common, lately...” She sighed and began to walk towards the forest.

“We’ll be overhead if you need us,” Celestia said, patting Twilight on the shoulder. Twilight bobbed her head in response.

“Come on, Twilight!” Applejack was heard yelling, having already made her way into the brush of the Everfree Forest. Twilight turned and galloped to join her as the three winged ponies took to the sky, staying overhead Twilight and Applejack as best they could.

Once she was confident they were high enough in the air, Celestia pulled alongside Pinkie Pie. “I have something you want, Pinkie Pie. Twilight had me hold onto it until I could give it to you,” she said, pulling the pink gem out and holding it up where Pinkie could see it. Pinkie’s eyes immediately lit up, but then she cleared her throat and blinked.

“Oh yeah, that thing,” Pinkie said nonchalantly, glancing towards it occasionally. “So what, exactly, is it? I’m just really... so... drawn to it...” she said as her eyes uncontrollably locked back onto it and her hoof reached out for it anxiously.

“Perhaps you should try it on,” Celestia replied, tapping her other hoof to her ear. Pinkie’s eyes widened, and visions of what had happened last time surfaced. She shook her head and blinked heavily. “Maybe I shouldn’t. I mean, last time I did that, I caused a big mess.”

Fluttershy, who had pulled up to Celestia’s other side, looked across at Pinkie, her hooves shaking a little bit. “Yes, maybe we really shouldn’t-”

“Don’t worry,” Celestia interjected. “I’ve been assured by the other Pinkie that it’s safe, now.”

Pinkie’s eyes sparkled again, and she reached for the gem with both hooves. “‘Other Pinkie?’ You mean that Pinkie with the goggles from Twilight’s dream?” Her mouth stayed gaped open after speaking, the idea of the other Pinkie Pie now stuck in her mind.

Celestia nodded. “She’s anxious to meet you under friendlier terms,” she said with a smile.

Pinkie nodded her head. “Oh, I hope she forgives me for being such a meanie!” she said enthusiastically, her mouth suddenly falling to a frown. “Oh, what if she’s mad? What if she won’t forgive me? I don’t know if I can face her! What should I say?”

“Princess!” a tiny voice emanated from the gemstone. “When you go swimming, it’s best to just dive in!”

Celestia laughed and nodded her head.

“Wait, what’s that mean?” Pinkie protested, starting to lift her hooves to her ears. “Hang on, I’m not ready!” But it was too late.

Celestia thrust the gem into Pinkie’s left ear, and with a burst of pink color, Pinkie’s mane shot up into its usual tangled mess, as if she had suddenly been electrocuted.

Pinkie smiled wider than, perhaps, should be physically possible. Her eyes lit up with sparkles--even the sparkles had sparkles--as Pinkie Twi’s tiny voice filled her cranium.

“So what’s it like being inside Twilight’s head?” Pinkie Shy asked with excitement. Celestia chuckled, realizing that she was going to be hearing half of a conversation the rest of the way home, or at least until something happened below. She decided to fly ahead a bit to keep watch after spotting Twilight and Applejack through a gap in the canopy.

“Um, I guess it’s pretty normal?” said Pinkie Twi quizzically. “I hadn’t really thought about it, but there sure are an awful lot of books in here!”

“Books?” Pinkie Shy pondered.

“Yep, if there’s one word I’d use to describe it, it’s ‘books’! When you think about it, it’s really kind of amazing. I mean, Twilight has to have them memorized for them to be in here, right?”

“Makes sense to me!” Pinkie Shy giggled. “I knew Twilight was a smart cookie, but I didn’t know she was memorizing whole books!”

“Yep, and I’ve learned a lot, that’s how I found out about magic like the kind I used to make that communication gem. When I made it, I just had this feeling like I could do it, but I found out later that it’s a kind of magic called ‘enchanting’! I can do a lot more with it, now. I can even cast spells on that gem you’re using when it’s this far away. That’s how it was able to give you magic, too, though when you first used it, it wasn’t ready yet.”

“Oh, okay! So what other fun things can we do? Can we send each other letters? Or snacks? I could really go for a great big cupcake!”

“Well, no, and why would we need to send letters? We can just talk like this.”

“Oh yeah, I guess I just like letters. But, what else?”

“Not much else, yet. I’m still working through some of the more, let’s say, difficult parts in some of these books. Twilight maybe doesn’t have every single little word memorized, but I'm getting better at filling in the blanks.”

“Filling in the blanks? With spells? Is that... safe?” asked Pinkie Shy, a look of concern suddenly appearing on her face.

“Well, so far I haven’t blown up Sugarcube Corner or anything... Well, just the kitchen,” Pinkie Twi said with a snort. “Not like that doesn’t happen every time I get carried away with baking.”

Pinkie Shy laughed. “You’re telling me! The last time I tried to bake a pie, I wanted it to float like a balloon, so I put cherries full of helium in it!”

“That was hydrogen! Where did you--I mean I--I mean we--even get that from?”

“Ohhhh... is that what went wrong?”

Both Pinkies burst into laughter.

“See? This is how I know we’re gonna be good friends!” Pinkie Shy said between giggles.

“Well duh! We have to be! We’re like the same!” Pinkie Twi responded.

“But different!”

“But pretty much the same.”

Pinkie Shy sighed and fell silent for a moment.

“Something happening over there?” asked Pinkie Twi through the communicator.

“We really are pretty different, though, too,” started Pinkie Shy. “I really got carried away, and not in a fun oven-exploding sort of way, in here. Even when we met inside Twilight’s mind, I... I tried to...”

“Kill us?” asked Pinkie Twi. “Yeah, you sure did! Good try, too, but you didn’t stand a chance against my magic, especially in Twilight’s dream world!” She laughed arrogantly, but Pinkie Shy was not laughing.

After a moment of silence, Pinkie Twi sighed. “Look, I’ve kind of been able to piece together what’s happening over there from what I’ve heard, plus something else you’ll find out about in a second,” she finally said, her tone of voice leveling out. “What you’ve been through in there... nopony should have to go through. If you were a little upset, it’s probably-”

“A little upset?” Pinkie Shy shouted, startling Fluttershy, who was now a bit ahead of her. “I was furious! I couldn’t even stop myself! I turned into a monster, and I tried to kill you, and Twilight, and even Princess Celestia! But I was especially mad at Fluttershy...” Pinkie looked forward at Fluttershy, their eyes meeting. Both mares just stared at one another for a moment until Fluttershy turned her head forward again and continued to fly, glancing down at the ground occasionally for signs of Applejack and Twilight.

“Look, I know all that. I understand how that can be, trust me--I’m you, after all. You try to be happy, and you try to cheer up everypony, but deep inside is just doubt. You wonder if you’re making a difference, and you wonder if your friends even need you around, but... Our friends do need us! We have to help them, and I just finished the final piece of the puzzle that will let us! Brace yourself, because we’re about to be brilliant!”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Pinkie Shy asked. The sound of magic being shot from a horn was the only response from the other side. A moment later, Pinkie Shy’s mind began to spin. Words and images flashed through her field of vision. Knowledge, spells, and a vast many other things, began to pour into her, along with a voice speaking loud and clear in her mind.

I forgive you. We all do.

Pinkie Shy smiled, shaking away the sadness and doubt, her eyes wide and sparkling once more. “What’s happening? What is this amazing feeling inside me? It’s like seeing a friend after a long time. That happiness, and all the memories that fly through your mind when you see their smiling face, mixed with the joy of hugging them and telling them how much you missed them!” she said exuberantly. “But instead of a friend... it’s me! It’s like I forgot who I was, and I couldn’t put my hoof on it before, but now I know! I know who I am, and I know what I have to do!”

“Right!” came Pinkie Twi’s voice from the gem. “It’s the connection! It worked!”

“Connection?” asked Pinkie Shy, still searching through her feelings for an answer to what just happened. “What kind of connection?” She thought about that word for a moment--connection--and suddenly a chain of memories flashed before her eyes.

Oh my gosh! Pinkie Shy thought, suddenly understanding everything. It worked! I--I mean she--I mean we did it!

That’s right, Pinkie Twi’s voice replied, not through the gem, but in Pinkie Shy’s mind itself.

Welcome to the Pinkie Network!

Author's Note:

Welcome to The Network, enjoy your stay. We're all a little bit mad here, so you'll fit right in.

It looks like this took a whole month since last chapter was Feb 21st, but Feb was a short month! See? I can be faster...ish....

What to say about this chapter... It was written, for the most part, over this past week. It was meant to cover much more ground, but the campfire scene went longer than expected, and the Pinkie Pie conversation... let's say it's getting a little out of hand with its length, but I am enjoying writing dialogue between two Pinkies so much, I don't care! The talk of The Network will continue in chapter 10, after which we'll move to a transition, and then to Book Two's shocking conclusion!

Poor Rainbow Dash, she's just a dream, but she's been great. A heroic Rainbow Dash that will live forever in Fluttershy's dreams... be that as it may, a dream she is, and I needed to move the story along. I tried so very hard to make sure I didn't just basically go "Okay, she's done, so let's just toss her in the background." - I don't want to be so heartless, but I found myself tempted many times. Thanks to my awesome editor for keeping me focused on treating her with the respect she rightly deserves.

I hope you enjoyed it and look forward to the next. :)

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