• 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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Crash Down Ch 9 - Crash Down

Author's Note:

Author's notes at the top! Super important, so please read them!
Especially if you like reading sexy stuff... :pinkiegasp:

Hey there, everyone! Welcome to the 50th chapter of The Conquering of Love!

Fifty chapters! 300,000 words! Three years, yeah, but we made it here. With this chapter, Book Five comes to a close. I hope it's been fun to read, and for several reasons, I have some more fun for you all. Well, some of you.

Here's the whole story, without spoiling anything to come:
Back when I was writing Crash Down chapter 7, I'd written a scene where two particular characters have a conversation alone. Some things happen, mostly comedic at first, but the scene takes a mature and somewhat dark twist. As I wrote this scene, I found that the inclusion of certain descriptions of things heightened the scene's impact, but also took it over the line between T and M in my opinion. I'm sure some people would call it mild, but I suppose I'm just overly paranoid about this sort of thing.

Anyway, since I feel that scene was better in its M-rated version, I found myself at an impasse. I couldn't include it in the main fic without changing the rating, which isn't fair to anyone reading this site with filters on to not show mature content, but I wanted to release it badly.

The scene was eventually cut from Chapter 7, having felt out of place, and I decided to save it for the end of the book where it fit more neatly. It's here in this chapter, and is toned down to be T-rated.

For those of you who want to read the original M-rated version, and are old enough/browsing without filters, I have created a new fanfic entry titled "The Conquering of Love: The Mature Chapters", which can be accessed by clicking this link. The T- and M-rated versions of the chapter are interchangeable, both containing all of the events of the chapter, so you are free to read whichever is your preference.

Also included in that fanfic entry is a third and much more explicit "Alternate Universe" version of the chapter that takes things even further. (Funny to have something that's Alternate Universe to a story that's already Alternate Universe, but there you have it.) I won't talk about the third version here in detail, but I'm sure you can guess what it's like. :pinkiehappy:

It's been a long and bumpy road. I know a lot of people have come and gone. For those of you who have stuck it out with me for this long, I am so very pleased to have you here enjoying my work. This story has on-and-off, bust mostly on, consumed my thoughts for these past three years. The recent increase in pace of release should continue into the future. I hope it will allow me to conclude this tale in 2016.

When I first started this story, I never imagined I would get so into it. It literally began as something I did out of boredom after watching a video. It grew legs, and now here we are. Our little ponies have been, hopefully faithfully, guided by my hand all over the place on many adventures. Happiness, sadness, romance, love, lust, mystery, and an epic quest of the heart and mind.

Love and ponies to you all!

Book Five: Crash Down

Chapter Nine - Crash Down

Rainbow Dash leapt into flight, chasing after Fluttershy. “No, Fluttershy! He’ll kill you, too!”

Fluttershy’s body froze in mid-flight at Dash’s words. She fell to the ground, sliding to a stop several feet before reaching Mulcibar’s body. She dug her front hooves into the ground and pulled herself slightly forward along it. Tears poured from her eyes and she let out a strong, echoing screech. “No! He can’t be!”

Rainbow Dash landed next to Fluttershy, keeping her eyes on Morosa, though glancing down at her friend just long enough to see the look of rage forming on her face.

“He’s not dead! He can’t be!” Fluttershy crawled along the ground towards Mulcibar’s body, paying no attention to Morosa, who was still standing right over him. Rainbow Dash ducked to the ground, grabbing Fluttershy and pulling her away from the changelings.

“Fluttershy! Stop!”

“No! Let go of me! He’ll wake up on the other side! They’ll kill him! We have to bring him back! Mulcibar! Wake up!”

“Fluttershy, please!” Dash shouted, wrapping her forelegs around Fluttershy. “Let me handle this.”

“That won’t be necessary,” Mulcibar’s voice came from somewhere. “This little upstart thinks he can school the master.”

Fluttershy blinked, her expression relaxing. “You’re… alive?”

Rainbow Dash looked around in a panic. “Wha-wha-what?”

Mulcibar’s laughter filled the courtyard. Morosa stepped back, readying his spear.

“Azura! Where are you? What is this?”

“Sorry, Morosa, I know you were so proud of your little trick, but all you accomplished was showing us that the Touch of Ismara is more widespread than we thought. I am impressed, make no mistake! Especially for a magical dunce like you!”

“Get out here! I’ll run ya through again!”

“With that spear?” Mulcibar asked. “That one that’s already planted pretty firmly in your throat? How are you even talking right now?”

Morosa suddenly fell to the ground, the spear he had been holding now appearing to have been stabbed straight into the front of his throat, just above the collarbone. The blood on the ground slid across the floorboards from Mulcibar’s body to Morosa’s and Mulcibar pulled himself up to his hooves.

“I can tell you’re confused, so let me explain. You used the Touch of Ismara on me to steal my magical abilities, thus gaining my illusion magic. Let me ask you, though, what happens when you hand a foal a pencil? Does it suddenly start writing? Sure, some techniques are like that. Linnai’s fire blast comes to mind, fire is fire, but if you try and use an illusion spell on a master like me? Well, that’s asking for trouble.”

Morosa coughed slightly and reached his hooves around, trying to grip the spear’s shaft.

“Don’t struggle, it’ll only make it worse. Anyway, from the very second you decided to cast an illusion spell on me, I cast an illusion spell on you, as well,” Mulcibar continued, and then turned to look at Fluttershy and Rainbow Dash. “Sorry for scaring you all, but I also cast an illusion spell on you two, and the pink one, and the princess, and Vitra, oh and also everyone fighting up on the roof. Really the only ones not affected by this illusion are those mindless reset drones up in the sky, but what are they going to do? Come tattle? All they do is rip dreams apart.”

Mulcibar gently pushed Morosa’s forelegs away from the spear and back down onto the ground. He grabbed the spear and pulled it out, releasing another spurt of blood. “Now, don’t go and panic so much, Morosa. After all, neither of us were even stabbed in the first place.” The air around Mulcibar seemed to shimmer. His wings lost their blue glow and folded down onto his back. The blood on the ground vanished, Morosa’s wounds along with them. His legs, however, were now tied up with rope. “Oh, I did tie you up, though. See? Aren’t I nice? No harm done!”

Morosa laughed and let his head fall to the ground. “Good show, Azura,” he said. “Fighting with you again… it was my honor.”

Mulcibar bent his front knees, bowing slightly. “The pleasure was all mine. I even got to be magic teacher this time!” he said, and then felt a tap on his shoulder. He turned and saw Fluttershy standing to his side, her expression clearly one of anger, her eyes bloodshot and wet with tears. “Ah, Fluttershy!” he said, and then received a yellow hoof to the face.

Fluttershy swung her hoof around and slapped it across Mulcibar’s cheek, sending him into a partial spin and almost knocking him to the ground. “Don’t do things like that!” she shouted.

Mulcibar stared at the ground, his jaw shaking. “But I just won that—“

“Don’t talk to me!” Fluttershy interrupted, and then turned around and walked back towards the courtyard, pulling Rainbow Dash with her. “We still have to stop that reset swarm! Come on, Dashie!”

Rainbow Dash clenched her teeth together and breathed in between them, making a hissing sound. “Ouch…” she muttered, glancing back at Mulcibar one last time before she turned her attention back to the swarm in the sky.

I can’t help but feel sorry for the guy, but… that’s points for me, right? Rainbow Dash thought, but felt a sudden coldness in her heart. Why does it feel so awful, then?

“So, what do we do now?” Pinkie Pie asked, staring up at the sky. The crack across it had become very long and was getting wider by the minute.

Vitra pushed herself up from the ground and shook her head. “The reset swarm is ripping the dream apart. More and more of those mindless drones are warping in every second. There’re too many to stop by fighting.”

“Then we have to find a way to stop them from entering,” Luna said, turning to Rainbow Dash. “Can you sense where they are coming in from?”

Rainbow shrugged. “No, I don’t think so anyway. That big crack in the sky is the problem, right?”

“Well, they’re making it, anyway.”

Rainbow nodded. “I think I can feel it. It’s like a tingling in my mind. It’s starting to get a little annoying,” she said, and then reached a hoof towards the sky. “Let’s just…” She swung her hoof vertically, roughly along the crack in her field of vision. The crack in the sky zipped closed, and then a second later there seemed to be thousands of tiny, blue stars lighting up in the sky.

“Maybe that wasn’t the best idea,” Vitra said, crouching down towards the ground. “Those little blue dots are all their eyes now staring down at you.”

Rainbow Dash frowned. “Okay. Let’s take care of that, then!” she shouted, and then blasted off into the sky, flying at breakneck speeds up towards the cloud of changelings.

“Rainbow Dash, wait!” Luna called out. “We need a better plan than just—“

She stopped speaking, her jaw remaining gaped open, as flashes of rainbow-colored light began to explode all across the sky, several blue dots vanishing with each. Before long, the sky looked like the grand finale at a Canterlot fireworks display. Within a minute, the only lights left in the sky were the actual stars, and Rainbow Dash slammed back down into the courtyard a second later.

“There! They’re all gone, now.”

Luna cleared her throat and looked over at Vitra. “It was that simple?”

Vitra shrugged. “I guess? The reset swarm wasn’t a spell I was involved in at all, so—“

“No, it’s not over,” Mulcibar said, having rejoined the group. “You can already see more appearing up there.”

“And the pain in my head,” Rainbow Dash added. “It’s getting worse.”

Luna closed her eyes and concentrated. “Rainbow Dash, Pinkie Pie, can you feel the widespread disturbance?” she asked, her expression souring. “It is precisely as I had feared. Your dream is large and fast. It was naïve to think the reset swarm was only coming in right here. They’re everywhere.”

Meanwhile, in Avenport…

Gerulf gazed up at the sky and wrapped his wings around Frida, who turned her worried eyes to him.

“What’s happening up there?”

Gerulf shook his head and pulled her closer. “This is it, me love. This is the end. One way or another, we ain’t got long.”

“Have they… have they failed?” Frida asked, her body shaking with both fear and excitement.

“No way t’know, I reckon. Not til it’s all over.”

A streak of prismatic light suddenly zipped across the sky from west to east, almost too fast to follow, leaving a trail of light in its path. Gerulf raised a claw and pointed towards the residual rainbow magic hanging in the air and began to laugh.

“Yes! There she is!” he shouted, turning to fully embrace Frida. “She’s alive! She’s fightin’ back!”

Frida squeezed her husband close and smiled, feeling somewhat relieved, despite the giant crack still expanding in the stratosphere.

Moments earlier, back in Equestria…

“What do you mean ‘they’re everywhere’?” Rainbow Dash asked, waving a hoof in the air.

“I mean they’re everywhere, all around this world. Here, Avenport, the Everfree, Canterlot, Cloudsdale… changelings are swarming in. To defeat them, we’d practically have to be everywhere at once!”

“Even with lucidity, that seems like an impossible task,” Pinkie Pie responded, downtrodden. “The other Pinkies don’t know what to do, either.”

“Be everywhere,” Dash said, thinking aloud. “What if I was just almost everywhere at once?”

“Almost everywhere at once?” Fluttershy asked, tilting her head. “What do you mean?”

“What if I got going so fast that I was just passing by everywhere literally every few seconds?”

Everyone present did a double take all at once. Pinkie Pie broke the silence. “C… can you do that? Can you really go that fast?”

“I don’t know!” Rainbow Dash said with a shrug. “But I can find out! Those changelings dissolve to nothing the moment I touch them and want them to disappear. Maybe I can outrun them! Maybe I can beat them faster than they can warp in until there aren’t any left!”

“That sounds a little far-fetched even for a dream,” Luna said, but then smiled. “That doesn’t mean you can’t do it. Give it a try! I will concentrate on your body as you speed through the dream world, hopefully giving you an even bigger speed boost.”

“Me, too!” Pinkie said, leaping into the air.

Rainbow Dash leapt into the air and took to flight, immediately creating a sonic rainboom, and then a second, before flying so far away she wasn’t able to be seen anymore.

Fluttershy stared into the sky silently. Please come back in one piece, she thought.

A second later, there was a flash of light. Twilight appeared via teleportation with Linnai and an unconscious Duval. She turned to look at Morosa and grinned. “Looks like we handled these two. I couldn’t hear you, but I saw Rainbow Dash take off a second ago. I take it you have a plan for the reset swarm?”

Luna and Pinkie both shrugged their shoulders, their eyes closed in concentration. “Not really,” they both said, deadpan.

Just then, a flash of rainbow color streaked through the sky. Rainbow Dash came and went quickly, leaving in her wake a trail of explosions, reset swarm changelings being dissolved by her very touch.

“Well, it looks like a better plan than I could think up, I guess,” Linnai said, still feeling weak from their battle. “We can trust her, right?”

Twilight nodded her head and Fluttershy turned to look at Linnai.

“You can always trust her,” Fluttershy said with a smile. “She’s always been the hero who came to my rescue… to everypony’s rescue.”

Back a ways from the group, Mulcibar stood over Morosa’s body, staring up into the sky as Fluttershy spoke. He rubbed a hoof against his sore jaw and frowned. And I’m the one who fooled you into thinking I was dead… You’re doing a real great job at this hero thing, Mulcibar. Just great.

In the sky above the planet, traveling at speeds previously unknown to ponykind…

Rainbow Dash could barely keep track of the ground as it shot past her. She could hear nothing but the wind in her ears, she could barely see anything ahead of her, but the things she felt were unmistakable.

It’s almost as if I can sense where they’re appearing in my mind! she thought, twisting to the left and intercepting a large pocket of changelings, smashing them to dust. I know where they’re going to appear before they even appear! Is that from the lucidity, or… or is it something else?

Rainbow Dash flapped her wings furiously. She could feel the pressure building behind her from Pinkie and Luna’s lucidity, pushing her to greater and greater speeds. She could feel the hair on her coat shearing off from the wind, and she could feel her body getting hotter and hotter from the friction of the air.

This might be it! she thought. This might be top speed! The fastest I can travel without, like, lighting on fire!

As if it were in response to her thought, her left shoulder burst into flames. Ah! No! No! she thought. I can’t actually light on fire! I can go way faster and never light on fire!

In response to that thought, the fire went out and she burst forward, going even faster. Mind over matter! Hey, there’s more changelings!

She steered to meet the changelings. As she approached them, she seemed to lose speed. She flailed her forelegs in front of her face, but they seemed to go in slow motion. The changelings before her seemed to slow down as well. The sky began to melt, like wet paint sliding down a wall. Tiny threads appeared before her, glowing white amongst a sea of darkness.

Rainbow Dash blinked as she appeared to come to stop. Time itself felt as if it had frozen. She stared at the threads and reached out to touch one. What is this?

Luna’s voice crackled in her ear. That is the very fabric of your dream, Rainbow Dash. I can sense it! These threads are what the reset swarm must target in order to destroy your dream.

Rainbow Dash blinked her eyes. Right there in front of her, she saw a changeling appear. It seemed to bubble out from the threads themselves. Wait, they want to destroy these dream threads? But that’s where they’re coming from?

What!? Luna’s voice shouted in Dash’s head in shock. That is impossible! Anything that comes from the dream threads is created by the dreamer! If the changelings are being made from dream threads…

Rainbow Dash gasped. “I’m making the stupid changelings?”

The sound of Pinkie Pie gasping rang out in Dash’s mind. That’s it, Dashie! The magic of the reset swarm! The spell! It doesn’t create changelings, it makes the dreamer create changelings! It’s a form of mind control magic!

Of course! Luna responded. To create a massive army would take immense magical power, but to make the dreamer simply have a nightmare of such a thing would be, well, not trivial, but much easier! Such cunning and yet sloppy magic!

Start making sense! What do I do? Rainbow Dash thought at the others. I don’t know how long this time slowdown effect I’m experiencing will last!

With that thought, Rainbow blasted through the sky once more, zipping around the world several times per second now. “What do I do!?” she screamed.

Listen closely, Rainbow. The magic for the reset swarm spell is hiding just outside your dream world. It is just outside of your subconscious. Such a trap… I never would have even thought of it.

“Thought of what?” Rainbow shouted as she spun around the planet at speeds that were definitely no longer possible in reality.

If the spell is active just outside your subconscious, then to stop it, you… any dreamer, no matter how powerful their lucidity, would have to wake up.

Rainbow growled. “So this is it, then? It’s impossible? If they win, I wake up, and to win I have to wake up anyway? That’s cheating!”

Indeed, they are not playing fair. Unfortunately, not playing fair is wise in a war.

Luna opened her eyes and looked over at Pinkie Pie, who was still concentrating on Rainbow Dash. She lowered her head and shook it despondently.

Fluttershy stared up at her, her ears falling back against her head. “Princess, what’s wrong?”

“We’ve lost. I do not think there is a way to stop this.”

“Oh no! There has to be something!” Fluttershy cried.

“I’m afraid not,” Luna said, floating down to the ground and landing beside Pinkie Pie. She placed a hoof on Pinkie’s shoulder. “I’m sorry, Pinkie Pie.”

“Me, too!” Pinkie replied with a grin. “I thought for sure you’d have the same idea that Dashie and I just had! Not to mention the rest of the Pinkies!”

Princess Luna blinked and tilted her head. “Idea? What idea is that?”

“Well, we’ve been leaving dreams this whole time! Well, you all have. I mean, are you inside your own dream right now?”

“No,” Luna said with a bit of hesitation.

“Right! So, how can that happen?”

Luna’s eyes went wide, lighting up as a smile crossed her lips. “The changeling spell that keeps dreams going permanently!”

“Exactly!” Pinkie squeed. “The changelings made this clever reset swarm spell so it would be out of reach, but they also made a spell that made dreams hold on even when the dreamer leaves. Dashie doesn’t have to wake up, she just has to leave! Go just outside her subconscious and give that magic the boot!”

“How will she use her lucidity outside of her subconscious, though?” Fluttershy asked.

Luna grinned. “I do it all the time, and Pinkie here is a part of Rainbow Dash in a way, so all I have to do is channel my lucidity through Pinkie! Simple!”

“Then let’s do this!” Dash’s voice echoed across the entire nation of Equestria. A rainbow sprouted from the ground in the distance, flying up into the sky and then shattering through it like a rock bursting through glass.

Rainbow Dash swung upward as hard as she could, bursting through the hole in the dream world. Outside, she found herself surrounded by strange, glowing strands. Jolts of electricity shot through them in all directions, accompanied by a warm, pink glow.

Where am I?

Inside your mind. Look around, Rainbow Dash. Find the out of place magical energy. It will be near your subconscious.

Rainbow Dash looked down at where she’d come from. A tiny, shining ball of energy hovered beneath her. That must be my dream world. Sure looks tiny! She squinted her eyes and took off towards the dream world, circling around it, this time from the outside. As she made her way to the other side, she spotted something that was completely out of place. Two shining, blue eyes stared at her through the slightly glowing pink void. I think I found it.

Then get ready! Luna’s voice called out to her. My lucidity should be channeling to you… now!

A bolt of purple energy fired up from the dream world, striking Dash and filling her with its power. She could feel it coursing through every inch of her body as she stared down the changeling-like eyes.

“Get out,” she said calmly. “I don’t want you here.”

A ball of pulsating magic appeared around the eyes, along with a mouth directly underneath them. The ball of magic hissed at Dash.

How’s it going up there, Dashie? Pinkie’s voice came through in Dash’s mind. This are getting a little scary down here! There’s a lot of changelings warping in all at once up in the sky.

Dash closed her eyes and concentrated on the magic blob. Get out! Get out! Dang it, how does this work?

Oh, just punch it, already! Pinkie’s voice shouted in Dash’s mind.

Dash shrugged and flew right at the undulating magical face. She swung her hoof forward, smashing it right between the eyes. The purple magic that that had been coursing through Dash’s body and fired from her hoof at once, and much to Dash’s surprise, the ball of magic exploded, letting out one last screech.

That… Dash thought, almost laughing. Actually worked! Thanks, Pinkie!

Pinkie bounced in place back in the dream world. “Yeah! She punched it right in the face!”

Fluttershy and Luna looked at each other and then shrugged. Up in the sky, the changelings had vanished, no trace of them ever having been there remained. However, the crack that Rainbow Dash had made in the sky had also mended itself.

“So, is she coming back?” Fluttershy asked nervously, staring up into the sky.

“Way ahead of you,” Dash’s voice came from behind her. Fluttershy turned and threw her forelegs around Dash’s neck, hugging her tightly.

“You did it!” Fluttershy shouted joyously.

Twilight rushed in and joined the group hug, quickly followed by Pinkie Pie and Daring Do. “Great job, Rainbow! It seems like it was a lot simpler than expected.”

“Oh, you have no idea!” Pinkie said with a squeak. “The other Pinkies and I were paying close attention when it happened. Your Pinkie, Pinkie Twi, thinks she can come up with a way to blast the reset swarm magic without leaving the dream! All that’s required is, of course, a Pinkie.”

Twilight giggled. “Of course.”

“I hate to interrupt the celebration,” Gilda’s voice came from across the way, weak and ragged sounding, “but what about those two?” She pointed a finger at Duval, who was lying on the ground beside her, unconscious.

The group rounded up Duval and Morosa, keeping their hooves tied, setting them on a bench in the garden area.

Twilight sighed and shook her head. “Well, I suppose we could do like we’d planned to do with Linnai and Mulcibar. Keep them captive.”

Linnai coughed. “Not a good idea. Kill ‘em and send ‘em back to the queen!”

“Wait, they aren’t fighting back anymore, now. We can’t just kill them,” Fluttershy protested.

“Oh, yes we can,” Gilda responded, lifting up her pistol and sliding a bullet into the revolver. She pulled back the hammer and pointed the gun right at Duval’s head.

“Cool it, G!” Rainbow Dash shouted, pushing the gun down with her hoof. “I’m with Fluttershy on this one. Killing them like this just feels wrong!”

Linnai groaned. “It’s not like they actually die! You ponies are so concerned with your petty morals, I swear!”

“Now, now!” Luna spoke up, waving a hoof through the air as she stepped in the middle of the argument. “There is no need to kill anypony. Rainbow Dash shall reject them from her dream. They will awaken on the other side no worse for wear.” Her horn began to glow with sparkling white magic and she aimed her horn at Duval. With a quick zap, he was encased in a translucent, gray sphere.

Linnai groaned. “Fine. I guess we already knocked him unconscious. It’d be no fun if he got killed in his sleep.”

Morosa managed to chuckle. Mulcibar looked down at him and grinned. “You seem to be taking this rather well.”

Morosa shrugged quietly as the Princess cast the spell on him as well.

Luna nodded to Rainbow Dash. “Just concentrate, now. Think of these two changelings, picture them in your mind, and then picture them vanishing. They will do just that. Concentrate.”

Rainbow Dash closed her eyes and took a deep breath, then began to make a slight humming sound, just like she had before warping in the hotel.

“Azu… Mulcibar,” Morosa finally said, looking up at his former ally. “I’ll get even stronger. I won’t resort to cheap tricks. When this is all over, I want a rematch.”

Mulcibar grinned, stamped one hoof against the ground and raised his other front hoof up, pointing at Morosa. “You got it, but don’t get upset when I kick your sorry ass.”

Morosa laughed briefly, but then disappeared along with Duval. Rainbow Dash opened her eyes and let out a sigh.

“There. It’s over.”

In response to those words, everyone present seemed to breathe a sigh of relief and finally relax, some of them falling to the ground.

“So, where to now?” Pinkie asked with a grin. “One of the other Pinkies has been telling me about this great idea she has on how to use the Pinkie network to actually contact the real Pinkie Pie. It could certainly shave some time off your quest!”

Linnai yawned and shook her head. “Where to? Bed, if you ask me,” she said, and then stood up and hobbled over to her brother. “Come on, help me over to the room, will you?” she asked, smiling up at him.

Mulcibar pulled his head back nervously. “Okay, but stop grinning like that, you’re creeping me out.”

“Oh shut up!” She jabbed him in the ribs with her elbow and then began to hobble off towards their room. Mulcibar followed after her, glancing over his shoulder briefly at Fluttershy.

Fluttershy looked at him for a moment, but then trained her eyes to the ground. The vision of her hoof slamming into his face flashed in her mind. She shook her head and frowned.

Vitra picked up Applejack’s hat from the ground and dusted it off. Placing the hat on her head, she made her way to the opposite side of the courtyard from where Linnai had headed. “I think I’ll take the less occupied side of the arrangement, here,” she said. Before anypony could say much to her, she had opened a room door, went inside, and closed it behind her.

“I still don’t trust her, even if she’s here to supposedly study the fact that changelings are feeling love,” Twilight said, eyeing the door Vitra had gone through suspiciously.

Luna nodded. “She seems like a practical one. It would be best to keep an eye on her. Who knows what she’ll do once she feels her mission has been completed satisfactorily.”

“Feeling love,” Fluttershy said quietly.

Twilight turned to the yellow pegasus. “Hmm?”

“She said Mulcibar and Linnai were feeling love, and that she had been as well. I thought Mulcibar was the only one that was affected by Luna’s shard of love, though.”

“Correct. That is highly suspect. Twilight, you’ve been around Linnai more than the rest of us,” Luna started.

Twilight nodded her head and rolled her eyes. “Yeah, unfortunately.”

“Has she seemed different?”

Twilight placed a hoof against her chin. “Well, ever since Nightmare Moon attacked me in your dream world, she has seemed to be changing. Almost like her personality is softening. I almost…”

“Almost what?” Fluttershy asked.

“I almost think she’s acting out of friendship. It really seems like it. Love,” she said, pausing briefly. “Maybe it really is love.”

“That wouldn’t explain how, though, which is what Vitra is after. If we can ascertain the cause before Vitra, we could keep that information from her as best as we can in order to prolong her more predictable behavior.”

Rainbow Dash suddenly spoke up, her head turning this way and that. “Hey, speaking of friends, any of you seen Gilda or Daring? They were here just a minute ago.”

“Is that them in the pool?” Twilight asked, pointing a hoof towards the pool. Daring Do waved. “I guess they aren’t quite ready to sleep yet.”

Dash nodded her head. “Me either. I noticed Gilda looked kind of banged up. I wanted to go check on her.”

Luna smiled. “You do that. I shall make some rounds of the place and then find a room to sleep in.”

Twilight’s face lit up. “Hey, princess. You could stay with us!”

Luna shook her head. “No, thank you, Twilight. I much prefer my… solitude, as it were. No offense intended.”

Twilight nodded. “None taken.”

Luna took off into the sky, and Fluttershy and Twilight waved to her as she went. Out of the corner of her eye, Fluttershy spotted Mulcibar flying through the air as well, heading towards the balcony on the far roof.

Fluttershy took one of Twilight’s hooves in hers. “You go ahead of me, Twilight. I need to check on something, okay?”

Twilight nodded. “Okay. Be sure to collect Rainbow Dash on your way to the room.”

Fluttershy nodded and then took off into the sky, heading to the rooftop balcony.

Rainbow Dash arrived poolside and squatted down at the water’s edge. “You can calm down, ladies. The party can officially start now that I’m here.”

Gilda scoffed. “Not really a party, Dash. More like, I’m floating in the water and soothing my burns. Those changelings really play rough!” she said, raising a wing and presenting her singed feathers.

Dash gasped. “Oh wow, I hadn’t really gotten a good look at you. Wow, what happened?”

“Don’t wanna talk about it. Let’s just say fire and feathers don’t mix.”

Dash touched the surface of the water with her hoof. “I… bet I could use my lucidity to heal you.”

Gilda shrugged, keeping her cool. “That’d be pretty rad, I guess. You don’t have to, though. These sort of wounds? They’re nothing.”

Dash laughed and then concentrated on Gilda. The griffon’s body began to glow with a prismatic aura.

Daring Do, who was lying on a reclining chair poolside, pointed her hoof towards the roof. “That’s not really the important bit, though, is it?”

Gilda sighed as the magic washed over her, her feathers regrowing and her burns dissolving. “No, it’s not.”

Dash looked back and forth between the two of them nervously. “What’s the important part, then?”

Gilda swung her claw over the water’s surface, splashing water up onto Rainbow Dash’s face. “Fluttershy, that’s what. She’s still fawning over that changeling, ya know.”

Dash smirked. “Yeah, sure, after what he pulled during his fight with that other changeling? She totally decked him.”

Daring sighed. “Guess that explains why she just flew up to the rooftop after him.”

“Yet you came here to check on us, first.”

“What? I couldn’t just—“

“Dash!” Gilda said, splashing her with water again. “Think about yourself instead of others once in awhile!”

“I do! Trust me, I do. Just… not when my friends are hurt, you know?”

“Alright, bird-brain, and now I’m fine. Now get up there before the obvious scene happens.”

“The obvious scene?” Dash asked, turning her head up toward the roof.

Gilda sighed. “Yeah. Like ‘Oh Mulcibar, I’m so sorry for bitch slapping you.’ ‘Oh, that’s okay. Come here and give me a big smoochie.’ ‘Yay, my favorite!’” she said, badly impersonating their voices and waving her claws in the air like puppets. “Like that, bozo.”

Dash inhaled through her teeth. “You know, it would be like her to apologize. She’s not one to just… slap somepony.”

“So, what are you waiting for! Go intervene somehow!”

“They’re totally making out by now,” Gilda said with a sigh.

Dash leapt into the air. “Thanks, you two. I better go!”

Gilda and Daring both shrugged, then Gilda resumed floating in the water and Daring went back to reclining.

“You really think she’s too late?” Daring asked.

“Yep,” Gilda replied flatly.

Moments earlier...

Fluttershy flew up over the courtyard and scanned the area. She turned and looked at the balcony on the roof that overlooked the lake in the distance and spotted somepony. She knew it was just who she’d been looking for.

Mulcibar, Fluttershy thought, and then gently landed as quietly as she could a bit behind him. The image of her hoof slapping against his face flashed in her mind, the anger she had felt back then refreshing itself. She reflected on that moment, so full of both feelings of guilt and satisfaction at the same time.

I was so upset. I just lashed out. It was his fault, though. She tried to harden her heart, but found it more difficult than she’d expected. Why am I standing here, then?

She noticed him glance back at her briefly. He seemed to sink down lower against the railing. In the brief moment where she had seen his face, he looked sad, despondent. She knew he was feeling his own guilt, as well.

Fluttershy took a breath and began to walk towards him. I should at least apologize. She came up alongside him and leaned against the railing as well, staring down at the lake in the distance, at the moon’s reflection upon its surface.

“So, how’s your face?” Fluttershy asked, and then sunk down. Great way to start this off, Fluttershy, just great… she thought. To her surprise, Mulcibar laughed.

“Still a little sore, but I’ll live. I suppose I got what I deserved.”

Fluttershy turned her eyes back to the lake. “Sorry I hit you. I don’t usually do things like that. It just… happened.”

After several minutes of silence, Mulcibar finally spoke. “I never really appreciated this sort of beauty, before. The way the moonlight shimmers on the lake's surface, the sound of the breeze blowing. Just, everything. Funny how it all looks different now. Love… changes everything, I guess.”

Fluttershy nodded her head. “Yes,” she said, her tone slightly annoyed. “It makes you worry, too. Like, if you saw somepony you cared about lying dead on the ground…”

Mulcibar sighed. “I’m sorry about that. Look, I had to do that. I had to make the illusion completely convincing so Morosa would let his guard down and not notice that I was actually binding his hooves that entire time.”

"Oh yes, you had to. Just like you had to kiss Vitra, right?" Fluttershy said and then turned her head away from the lake and looked up at Mulcibar’s face. “You could have let us know you were okay, somehow!” she nearly shouted, her brow furrowed and her ears turned back slightly.

Mulcibar turned his head and looked down at Fluttershy. “I had to act quickly! It’s not like I knew he was going to do something like that!” he shouted back. “Look, I’m sorry! Okay? We’re fine, now!”

Fluttershy sighed. “At least promise me you’ll never do something like that again!”

“But, what if I have to again?”

“Then think of some other way!”

“Alright, fine. I’m sorry, seriously. I won’t do it again, I promise,” Mulcibar finally conceded, letting out a heavy breath afterwards.

Fluttershy felt his breath on her cheek. It was only then that she realized how close their faces were to each other. She blinked and blushed slightly. “Ah, well… okay. Good.”

Mulcibar noticed Fluttershy’s cheeks turning rosy and came to the same realization. He stared into her eyes, unable to look away, enchanted by their beauty.

Unseen by the two of them, Rainbow Dash swooped down towards them. There they are! she thought, and then noticed that they were both just standing there staring into each other’s eyes. Wait, are they—

Fluttershy turned her head away slightly, averting her eyes. “Um, so…” she started, not sure what to say.

Mulcibar reached up, gently pressing a hoof to her cheek and bringing her gaze back to his. “You know how I feel about you, right?”

Fluttershy nodded her head, her cheeks now burning bright red. Mulcibar pressed forward, planting his lips against hers. He wrapped his foreleg around the back of her head, and she reached up and did the same with him.

Rainbow Dash stared at the display, slowly losing altitude and dropping back down into the courtyard, her eyes wide and shaking. Her mind was a jumbled mess. She caught herself dipping down and quickly shot back up into the sky, flying away from the courtyard and landing on a far rooftop.

I should be happy for them, right? I should be happy for… her. Right? She slammed her right hoof against a brick chimney, laying a small crack into its side.

“Ow!” she squeaked, and then hugged her hoof against her body. She fell back against the chimney, sliding down to a sitting position and staring up into the sky. “Come on, Rainbow Dash. Get it together. This is fine.” The edges of her field of vision began to blur as her eyes slowly filled with moisture.

Her mind drifted back to when Fluttershy had first awakened in the dream world. I sort of had a crush— Fluttershy’s voice echoed in her mind.

“No!” Rainbow Dash said, wiping a foreleg across her eyes. “I won’t give up this easy! I’ll show Fluttershy that I’m the one for her! But… how? It seems so hopeless…”

“Perhaps you should work on your attitude,” a voice came from the other side of the Chimney. Dash turned to look and saw Princess Luna stepping out from a shadow. “I don’t think she is beyond your reach, but if you intend to punch walls, that shy one will surely shy away.”

“I know. Trust me, I know. I know her better than anypony else. I love her.”

Luna smiled. “Then show her. She holds the element of kindness, but do not let her kindness fool you.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“I mean in the end she will have to decide, and decide she will. It will be difficult for her, but she will choose with her heart, and in turn somepony's heart will be broken. Her kindness is radiant, so much so that her love of her friends and her romantic love may be very similar. Despite that, though, she will make a choice. In her position, would you choose you?”

Rainbow stared at her hoof, which was still stinging from punching the bricks. “Maybe. No. I don’t know.”

Luna giggled. “Of course you don’t know, because you’re not her. You’re you, so just be yourself. That is your true advantage.”

Rainbow Dash stood up and nodded confidently. “You’re right, Princess! Fluttershy and I go way back! We know each other better than anypony else. That has to count for something!”

“Indeed, I believe your shared past carries much weight, but you can’t base a relationship on just that.”

“Right… Hey, maybe you could help me!” Rainbow Dash said, turning and grabbing one of Luna’s hooves in hers.

Luna blinked. “No, uh… that is, I don’t think that’s really—“

“Oh come on, at least give me some good advice! You’ve been around for a long time! I bet you’ve had all sorts of coltfriends! Or marefriends, I mean, if that’s your…” She trailed off at the end, averting her eyes suddenly.

Luna nearly choked on a laugh. “Oh, heavens no. Actually, we are… er… I am, that is, still inexperienced in that field. I have witnessed many relationships, though, in dreams.”

Dash perked up. “Hey, ever been in one of Fluttershy’s dreams? Does she ever dream about me?”

Luna blushed slightly. “I am not at liberty to share such information, Rainbow Dash!”

“Oh, come on! Please?”

Luna cleared her throat. “If I tell you about her dreams, then I must go tell her about your dreams, if you know what I mean. It would only be fair.”

Dash’s face lit up like a crimson firecracker. “N- Nevermind,” she quickly sputtered, turning to gaze down into the courtyard. She spotted Gilda, who was floating on her back in the swimming pool. She remembered what Gilda had said earlier about not letting Fluttershy get taken away. “I won’t give up. I’ll be myself, but I won’t just sit idly by and let Mulcibar take her.”

Luna smiled. “That is best. And remember, less brick punching, okay?”

Dash nodded. “Right, that hurts, anyway.” She turned back to Luna and tapped her on the shoulder. “Thanks, Princess. For everything.”

“Well, we are inside your dream, and it is merely my royal duty to help my subjects in their dreams. Usually they don’t actively remember my being there, though, so consider yourself quite privileged.”

“Right!” Dash said, and then stepped towards the edge of the roof. “I think I’m going to go cool my head a bit. I think Gilda’s got the right idea.”

Dash leapt from the rooftop and dove down toward the pool. Luna smiled and leaned against the chimney. “Best of luck, my little pony.”

Moments earlier, on the rooftop balcony…

Fluttershy’s eyes instinctively closed as she found herself wrapped up in a long, deep kiss with Mulcibar. She felt her heart beating, her face becoming even warmer, and her legs nearly shaking. When she had kissed him before, she’d felt weakened partially because he’d been feeding off her love energy, but this time it was all her. The experience was exhilarating, dizzying. She once again felt like she didn’t want to stop, but she knew she had to. She knew she couldn’t keep going on like this.

Fluttershy pulled her lips away from his slowly and gently, taking in a deep breath and then sighing outward, allowing her head to droop down slightly as she drearily reopened her eyes.

“That was…” Fluttershy started, trying to gather her words. “Look, maybe we should… I think it would be best if we take things a little more slowly.”

Mulcibar tilted his head slightly. “More slowly? What do you mean?”

“I mean the kissing, and…”

Mulcibar took one step back so he could more properly look at her. “Do you not like it?”

“No!” Fluttershy blurted out suddenly, and then quietly continued. “I mean yes, I do like it. I mean, it’s not like that. Oh, I’m so confused. I’m new to this, too, you know.”

“Well, what then?”

“I like you, Mulcibar. You’re a really sweet guy. When I’m with you, I feel safe, and cared for. I really do like you.”

Mulcibar smiled brightly. “I like you, too!”

“No, Mulcibar,” Fluttershy said, looking up directly into his eyes. “You love me.”

“Well,” Mulcibar said nervously, swallowing. “Yeah, I do.”

Fluttershy gently placed a hoof against Mulcibar’s chest. She breathed in deeply, her body slightly shaking. “But I don’t love you.”

Mulcibar took another step back, causing Fluttershy’s hoof to slide back down to the ground. He turned his gaze downward and frowned. “So this is it, then. This is the end.”

Fluttershy stamped her hoof against the floorboards. “No, darn it! I didn’t say that!”

“Well, what then?” Mulcibar asked, looking back up at her. “It’s obvious! You love Rainbow Dash!”

“Look, Rainbow Dash is my best friend. I’ve always liked her, I just never thought she would—“

“So that really is it, isn’t it? You love her and not me!”

“Hey!” Fluttershy shouted, stamping her hooves against the ground as she marched up to Mulcibar. She reached out, put a hoof against his chin, and pulled his head up to look at her. “Don’t put words in my mouth! This isn’t easy, you know! Listen, you’ve been feeling love for just a few days now. I’ve been feeling it my whole life, and I just… I need time to think about everything.”

The voice of Luna’s shard of love, speaking through Sweetie Belle, flashed in Fluttershy’s mind.

You have time to think about these things, but I want to make sure you understand. Be there for him. Help him to finish what I have started within him. How you do this is up to the two of you.

Fluttershy gently bit her lower lip in thought and hesitation. I still don’t know what to do. Is this right? Should I really do this? It could break his heart, or worse, he could maybe never love again.

She looked up into his eyes, spying the tears forming at their edges, but also something else, something deep within his eyes, his spirit. His determination. No, she thought. I have to do this. I can’t lie to him and pretend I love him when I don’t even know yet. He deserves to know how I feel, and he will be able to handle it.

Fluttershy took a deep breath. “When you woke up to love, my heart was already set about you. I wanted to be your friend. Maybe more than that, sure, but that’s not something a mare can just decide in a flash.”

“But I knew it from the moment love warmed my heart. From the moment I looked at you, thought about you, I wanted to be with you… and unlike any other mare, I wanted you to want to be with me. More than anything else.”

“That’s not a bad thing. Look, I grew up with love, I have no idea how you must be feeling. I want to help you, but I just don’t think we’re at the point where we should be… getting all smoochy so much… you know what I mean?”

Mulcibar paused for a moment to think and then blankly shook his head.

Fluttershy sighed and placed a hoof against her forehead. “Of course. Right. So, all this means is that we’re still friends. Just like before. Just like I’m friends with Twilight, with Pinkie, and with Rainbow Dash.”

“You kiss your friends, too?”

Fluttershy blushed, briefly remembering her moment of half-awakening when she had kissed Rainbow Dash. “No. No, I don’t, and we shouldn’t, either. At least not until we’re both more certain of what we’re feeling. Trust me, being friends is wonderful!”

Mulcibar shrugged slightly, but managed to smile. “I’m pretty sure of what I’m feeling, but I guess you’re right. If I look at the facts, there has to be at least a slight chance that I am just overreacting to my new emotions. I mean, I doubt it, but there’s a chance.”

The two of them laughed together for a moment. Fluttershy breathed a sigh of relief. “Good.”

Mulcibar went back to a more uncertain expression. “Soooo… how will I know when the time is right? How will I know if you feel the same?”

“Those are… very good questions. I don’t think anypony knows for sure,” Fluttershy responded, rubbing a hoof against the floor in a circular motion.

Mulcibar raised his head and let out a frustrated groan, turning in a half-circle. “Bah! Emotions are so confusing!”

Fluttershy giggled. “They really are.”

Mulcibar looked over his shoulder at Fluttershy and grinned. “I won’t give up hope, you know.”

Fluttershy nodded her head timidly. “I know.”

“That’s it! I’ve decided!” Mulcibar announced, turning back around to face the yellow pegasus. “Maybe Linnai has the right idea!”

Fluttershy backed away a couple of steps nervously. “Um, I’m not so sure about—“

“Someday soon, you will kiss me! Because you want to! That will be our next kiss!”

Fluttershy felt her face getting hotter and suddenly had butterflies in her stomach. She stepped forward again, lowering her eyelids and smirking. “Oh? You sound pretty sure of yourself,” she mused, having a rare moment where she felt a bit bolder than usual.

Mulcibar rubbed a hoof against his chest and scoffed. “Of course! You’re going to want me, bad!”

Fluttershy rolled her eyes. “Well then, you’ll have to earn it.”

“Right!” Mulcibar sounded off triumphantly. “So! How do I do that?”

Fluttershy walked past Mulcibar, patting him on the shoulder as she passed. “Okay, now we’re just going in circles. We should both get some rest,” she said, and then stopped in her tracks. “Oh shoot, I never moved the beds!”

Mulcibar blinked. “Moved the beds?”

Fluttershy turned back around. “I wanted it to be a surprise for Twilight and Rainbow Dash. There’s two beds in our room, and I wanted to push them together, maybe drape something over them, make it really cozy like a sleepover. You know, for our reunion with Rainbow Dash.”

Mulcibar smiled and shook his head. He stared down at Fluttershy’s smiling face and felt almost awestruck. She seemed to glow for him, to shimmer radiantly. You really are something else, aren’t you? he thought.

“Well, It’s too late now. I’m tired, anyway,” she said, brushing her hair to the side. “I should get going. I’ll see you tomorrow.” Fluttershy turned and spread her wings, preparing to fly away.

Mulcibar reached a hoof out. “W… wait! I could help you, maybe,” he sputtered. “Put the beds together, I mean.”

Fluttershy blushed, letting her bangs fall back over her face, not wanting to turn around and show her rosy cheeks to him. “Oh… okay. Sure. That is, if you want to…”

“What happened to your brave voice?”

“Oh, don’t tease!” Fluttershy replied, keeping her face forward. “I can only keep that up for so long.”

Mulcibar chuckled. “Okay, fine.”

Rainbow Dash dove straight down towards the pool, folding her body into a ball just before hitting the water’s surface at high speed. The resulting wave pushed Gilda to the other side of the pool and drenched Daring, who was still lying reclined on a poolside chair.

Daring gasped for breath and coughed. “What in Tartarus was that?” As soon as she could, she glared in the direction of the pool, expecting to see Gilda with a big grin on her face. Instead, she saw Rainbow Dash now floating on her back on the water’s surface, staring up into the sky.

Gilda waded towards the floating pegasus. “Dash. You’re back. How did things go?”

Rainbow Dash groaned. “Oh, you know, it was like ‘Come here and give me a big smoochie!’ and ‘Yay, my favorite!’”

Gilda blinked. “So wait, you went up there, kissed her, and then came back here?”

Dash swung her forelegs up and down, splashing water out to her sides. “No, doofus, I mean I got up there and Mulcibar was inspecting her tonsils already.”

Gilda grimaced. “Yeesh, talk about bad timing.”

“Tell me about it.” She sighed and dunked her head back under the water briefly. “I’m not giving up, though. No way! I’ve got something Mulcibar can’t compete with, and that’s history,” she said, her mouth and nose the only parts of her face now above water.

“History?” Daring asked from poolside, her eyes drifting off in another direction.

Dash swung back up from under the water. “That’s right! I know Fluttershy way better than he does, and she knows me way better than him. I just have to really show her I’m interested, and I bet she’ll choose me over him.”

“Or maybe the history will be more like ‘You’re history’, because Mulcibar and Fluttershy just went into a room together,” Daring noted, pointing her hoof across the way.

Dash spun around in the water, catching sight of the hotel room’s door closing. “What? No! Are they seriously…”

“You gonna wait around here thinking about it, or are you gonna go play interference?” Gilda asked, placing a claw on Dash’s shoulder. “That’s the room you’re staying in with Fluttershy and Twilight, right? It wouldn’t be unusual for you to just walk right in or knock.”

Rainbow Dash rubbed her front hooves together and blushed. “But, what if they really are… you know… doing it in there? I don’t think I want to see that, and I know Fluttershy would be really embarrassed.”

Daring waved a hoof in the air. “There you go, thinking too much again. They’ve been in there for twenty seconds, Dash. I somehow doubt it could get all that heated so quickly if Fluttershy’s involved.”

Dash nodded her head. “True, true.” After another couple of seconds, she jumped up out of the water and shook herself off. “That’s it! I’m going! No matter what happens, I’m going!” Dash leapt into the air and flew as fast as she could over to the room.

Daring leaned back in her chair. “Seriously, though, you think she’s too late?”

Gilda cocked an eyebrow. “Maybe?”

Daring sighed. “She’s pretty hopeless on her own, huh?”

Gilda laughed. “Yep, but she’ll figure it out.”

Twilight made her way down the boardwalk past a pair of rooms until she came to a door that was slightly ajar. She nodded her head and tapped a hoof against it just above the door handle, pushing it open. She entered and looked around at the lavish interior. The front room was a living room with a couch, sitting cushions, and a table. A hallway in the room’s back right beckoned to her with light. She casually walked back into the hallway, her hooves clacking slightly against the wooden floor.

“Fluttershy? Rainbow?” she called out.

“Twilight?” a voice came that sounded as though its owner had been crying. Still, she recognized it as Linnai’s voice and paused in the hallway.

“Twilight, is that you?” the voice came again, along with a sniffle.

Twilight sighed and poked her head around the corner. Within the large back bedroom were two queen-sized beds, one toward the back and one against the left hand wall. Linnai was lying upon the latter, leaning against the wall. She rubbed a hoof against her face and smiled.

“Sorry, I thought this was the room I was staying in. I can go if you need some time a—“

“No! No, that’s okay,” Linnai said, turning her eyes to the ceiling. “I don’t mind if you see me like this. As a matter of fact, it’s really got me thinking… about a lot of stuff.”

Twilight hesitated to actually enter the room. She didn’t know what to say. She’d never seen Linnai like this, and it hurt a little more than she’d expected.

Linnai repositioned herself on the bed. “If you don’t mind,” she said, hesitating as well. “Could we talk?” She patted the empty space on the bed across from her and nodded for Twilight to enter.

“What about?” she asked, nervously entering the room and half expecting to be hit on again.

“I guess… about what’s been happening to me since I got here. Maybe a little before that, too. I didn’t want to bring it up before, and Mulcibar wasn’t much help when I asked him.”

What could she be talking about? Twilight though, and then nervously stepped into the room and sat down on the bed next to Linnai. “Okay, I’m listening. What’s this all about?”

“Well, I’m not sure, but I guess it’s about… love.”

I knew it! Twilight thought and quickly jumped up from the bed. Linnai snapped her hoof out and latched onto Twilight’s foreleg.

“Wait! I don’t mean it like that. Calm down. Please.”

Twilight slowly sat back down and nodded her head.

Linnai continued. “Look, ever since I jumped in front of that blast to save you, probably a little before that, something inside of me has been changing. I can’t seem to pin it down; I don’t know what to do with myself. I’m starting to act like my brother, and it’s really sort of… disturbing.”

Twilight blinked. “But your brother was possessed by Luna’s shard of love. Nothing like that happened to you, right?”

Linnai shook her head. “No, and that’s the part that’s got me so weirded out. I know it must seem strange to you for somepony to be worried about feeling like this, but for me, it’s just not natural. I’ve never had these warm, fuzzy emotions swirling around inside of me, why would I change now?”

“I don’t know, Linnai, but is it really such a bad thing?” Twilight asked, turning to look at Linnai, who was still staring down at the bed, a look of worry stricken across her face.

“Of course it’s bad! I’m a changeling! I’m not supposed to be eating food and making friends and… and feeling worried about others! It’s all so irrational!”

“Right, I suppose it is, but it’s—“

Linnai lifted her head and stared into Twilight’s eyes. “When I got here and I was all alone for a few days, all I could think about was you and Mulcibar! That first night, I tossed and turned because I couldn’t stop thinking about you in particular.”

Twilight smiled and reached a hoof out, placing it on Linnai’s shoulder. “You missed us, that’s all. And now we’re here. Look, we don’t know how this has happened, but it’s not a bad thing. I promise. If it’s any consolation, I am flattered that you would be thinking of me in a… non-weird way.”

Linnai blinked and a tear fell from one of her eyes. “I even started to think… I even started to think about turning against you again. I was so mad at all the things I was feeling, so scared of waking up and finding Chrysalis there, ready to take my head off! I was ready! I was ready to tell Mulcibar that it was over! That I was going to continue the plan, finish you all off!”

Twilight stared with intensity into Linnai’s eyes and shook her head. “But, you didn’t.”

“But I did. I brought it up, and of course he said no. And I was glad, because… because when I first saw him again… When I saw you warp in, and I knew it was really you…” Linnai said and then threw herself at Twilight, pulling her into a hug. “I couldn’t! I couldn’t even think about it!”

Twilight turned her head and stared at the wall, returning the hug and patting Linnai’s head gently, not able to think of anything further to say.

“And then, up on the roof, when that creep was going to steal your magic… I knew deep down inside that I couldn’t let him! Not because I wanted to win, not because I was scared for myself! I was scared for… you! Why?” Linnai asked, her voice wavering. “I can’t stand it! I can’t stand feeling this way! I hate you! I hate you…”

Twilight breathed in deeply and continued to hold Linnai in her forelegs. “You don’t mean that, and you know it.”

Linnai managed to chuckle slightly. “I know,” she said, pulling herself away from Twilight and wiping her eyes. “This is so pathetic. I’m such a mess.”

Twilight smiled at her. “You’re not used to this. I can only imagine what it must be like to have never felt these emotions and then suddenly feeling their full force. Even those of us who’ve had them all our lives have trouble with them sometimes, trust me.”

“How do you handle it?”

“Like you just did now. Sometimes you need a friend to let your feelings out to.”

“Sorry I said I hate you. I don’t hate you. You know that, right?”

Twilight smirked and rolled her eyes. “How could I forget? Even after risking your life to save mine, you managed to try and flirt.”

“That was pretty cool, wasn’t it?” Linnai asked, batting her eyelashes.

Twilight sighed and leaned her head against the wall. “Yes, I suppose it was sort of cool,” she said, and then closed her eyes. “We’re both tired, too. We’ve been through a lot just now.”

“At least now we’ll have some time to relax,” Linnai replied and then moved her face closer to Twilight’s. “You know, you could just stay here tonight.”

Twilight’s eyes shot open at the feeling of Linnai’s breath against her muzzle. She pulled her head back slightly and cocked one eyebrow. “I don’t think I’m ready to go that far.”

Linnai cracked a toothy smile. “So you’re saying maybe you’ll be ready someday, hmm?”

“That is… definitely not what I am saying. Anyway, who would keep Fluttershy company?”

Linnai continued her slow advance. “I’m sure she wants to catch up with Rainbow Dash some more.”

Twilight pulled back further, leaning her whole body back. “Yes, and I would like to, as well, so—“

“You’re saying everything but ‘I don’t want to,’ prudicorn,” Linnai whispered, her nose practically touching Twilight’s. “Don’t worry, I won’t do anything unless you want me to.”

“Look, I just—“ Twilight started, but then was interrupted by a loud banging noise from the next room over. The noise was shortly followed by a quiet ‘Ow!’ Linnai and Twilight both froze and their ears that were closer to the wall twitched and turned toward it.

“Are you alright?” a deep voice said from the other side of the wall a moment later.

“What’s going on over there, I wonder,” Twilight said, scooting away from Linnai by a few inches.

“Shh! That’s my brother and Fluttershy. You don’t think they’re…”

Twilight snorted. “What? I seriously doubt it.”

Linnai’s horn lit up and cast a sound amplification spell on the wall. Twilight rolled her eyes.

“Here, let me just…” Mulcibar’s voice said, followed by two more softer banging sounds. Fluttershy could be heard letting out a tiny squeaking noise afterward.

Twilight turned her eyes back to Linnai and shook her head again. “No, it has to be something else—“

“Move your leg a bit this way,” Mulcibar could be heard saying.

“Okay, just… be careful,” Fluttershy responded.

“Don’t worry, you know I don’t want to hurt you.”

Twilight’s eyes went wide and her jaw dropped. Meanwhile, Linnai was pressing her ear up against the wall as hard as she could, her giant toothy grin having taken over her previous saddened expression.

“Oh my gosh, I think they are,” Twilight said with shock.

“They totally are!” Linnai said, barely above a whisper.

“Push back a bit,” Mulcibar’s voice said.

Fluttershy could be heard letting out a couple more squeaking sounds, followed by heavy breathing. “It’s in there… so tight!” she said between breaths.

Twilight pulled her head away from the wall. “Well, I’m not listening to any more of that!” she said, and then reached a hoof out to Linnai, pushing her away from the wall, as well. “Come on, isn’t it a little creepy to listen to your brother… getting it on?”

Linnai placed a hoof to her chin and looked up at the ceiling, humming in thought for a moment.

“The answer is yes,” Twilight said, turning to get up off the bed.

“We could always cover up their noises with our own,” Linnai suggested.

“That’s okay, I think I’ll—“ Twilight started, but was interrupted by rhythmic banging against the wall coming from the other room. She groaned loudly with frustration and stood up. “I think I’ll go find Rainbow Dash and make sure she doesn’t, uh, walk in on anything.”

“What in the world are you two doing?” Rainbow Dash’s voice suddenly came from the other side of the wall. Twilight slapped a hoof against her face.

“Too late, I guess…”

“Rainbow Dash! Good timing. Come over here and give us a hoof,” Mulcibar said.

“Sure thing!” Rainbow could be heard replying.

Linnai’s eyes lit up and she pressed her head against the wall again. “No way…!”

Twilight practically fell over onto the bed again. She stared up at the ceiling, her face now flush red. “You have got to be kidding me,” she said.

“Okay, Rainbow, can you maybe slide your leg over here and push?” Fluttershy asked.

“Okay, I see where you’re going with this,” Rainbow responded. “Mulcibar, I’ll get above Fluttershy here, and you grab from behind.”

“Just what I was thinking,” Mulcibar said. “Hey, you’re soaking wet.”

“Not my fault,” Rainbow Dash responded. “Blame that on Gilda.”

‘Blame that on Gilda?’ Twilight shook her head in disbelief. This is not happening!

The rhythmic banging started up again. Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy could both be heard grunting in time with the banging, and Mulcibar could be heard exhaling noisily each time. Twilight somehow found herself pressed up against the wall again, her face completely red, listening in and staring at Linnai, who was blushing just as heavily, still grinning as widely as she could. “Unbelievable. I had no idea those two were so… promiscuous,” Twilight said.

“Oh come on, prudicorn, everypony needs to let off a little steam sometimes. It’s healthy!”

Between loud grunting, Fluttershy could be heard crying out. “Close! So close! Just a bit more!”

“Yes! I can feel it!” Rainbow Dash called out afterwards.

“Hang on, you two. Here it comes!” Mulcibar said.

“Oh yeah, here it comes, prudicorn,” Linnai said, licking her lips.

“This is still totally creepy. I can’t believe we’re doing this!” Twilight said. She turned her eyes upward, not wanting to even look at Linnai, who was clearly enjoying herself. “You know what, I’m not doing this!”

Linnai breathed in deeply. “I can smell your hormones, Twilight. Drop the act,” she said.

Twilight breathed in and closed her eyes, then stifled a gasp. No! What in the world am I thinking? Stop it, Twilight! she thought as the sound of all three occupants of the next room over crying out together came through the wall. There was a final loud bang, no matter how much Twilight didn’t want to hear it. She grimaced and felt an electric-like jolt go through her. The sound of a piece of furniture loudly scooting against the floor was now coming from the next room over.

“Wait a sec, is that—“ Twilight started, but couldn’t continue. Her mouth was bombarded by Linnai’s lips. The changeling forcefully pushed her way in, and Twilight gasped in response.

Come on, Twilight! I know you’re feeling it! This is it! This is the moment! Linnai thought as she breathed in the thick love essence that Twilight was pulsing out from her body. Don’t resist! This is going to be so good!

Twilight’s eyes went wide again, and she lifted her hooves to push Linnai away, but instead found them wrapping around the back of her head. She felt a strange sensation, like every emotion she’d ever felt swirling around inside of her. Before her mind could even react to what was happening, she found herself returning the kiss as Linnai pushed her back and pressed her body against her.

I’ve wanted you so badly, Twilight! Ever since I saw you! Ever since I heard stories about you, the magical genius! It was destiny! Linnai thought. She could feel her body getting hotter and hotter and then opened her eyes. She gazed into Twilight’s eyes and could see only fear and confusion shining in their depths. A weight suddenly slammed against Linnai’s heart and she shook her head.


Linnai pulled her lips away from Twilight and pushed her hooves against her chest.

This isn’t right! Not like this!

She pulled away from Twilight, but the purple unicorn sat up as well, pressing forward, her lips parted, her body unleashing love energy and begging for more.

“Twilight, stop this,” Linnai said, raising her hooves and fending off Twilight’s advances. “This isn’t you. This is what happens when we feed.”

Twilight breathed heavily, staring into the changeling’s eyes. “Linnai… I want you… I want you so bad, and I don’t know why! I don’t care why! Take me, right now!”

“Please, not like this,” Linnai said, scooting away further. “You don’t want me. Stop and think!”

Twilight leaned against her front hooves on the bed, still panting and sweating. “But… I do… I did!” she said, her voice becoming less sultry and more confused. “What… What did you do to me?”

Linnai relaxed and slouched forward. “I didn’t do anything. It’s what happens when we changelings feed on love magic. I felt you letting some off, and I just… I just took it in.”

“That doesn’t make any sense.”

“The ones we feed on, it affects them. It makes them want to give more and more. It’s not exactly mind control, you’re still in control of your actions, it just makes you feel your love so powerfully that it’s hard to resist. In this type of situation, and given that I… kissed you… I guess you got a little carried away.”

“Carried away?” Twilight asked incredulously.

“I am so, so, so sorry. I really am. I never should have kissed you. I should have thought about what would happen if I fed…” Linnai started, but then buried her face in the bed’s surface. “No, that’s a lie. I did think about it. I wanted you to want me. I still do, but… not like that.”

Twilight licked her lips, the taste of Linnai still fresh and strong upon them. She breathed in, trying to clear her mind. “I don’t know how things are with changelings, but—“ Twilight started, and then heard Fluttershy speaking in the other room.

“Thanks for the help. My leg was in there really tight. I don’t know how long I would have been stuck if you two hadn’t been here.”

“Don’t worry about it,” Mulcibar said. “It was a decent workout. Sheesh, that bed frame seems awfully heavy. What’s it even made of?”

“Why were you trying to move the furniture, anyway, Fluttershy?” Rainbow asked. “Also, why didn’t you just use your magic to move it?”

“I was afraid I’d hurt her. Had to be extra careful. Hey, you could have used your lucidity, right?”

“Oh, right. That.”

“I’m still mad at you, but…” Twilight said, holding back a giggle. “You just got all worked up from ponies moving furniture.”

Linnai sighed. “Whatever, I’ll add it to the list.”

Twilight rolled over and stood up from the bed, her legs shaking a bit. “Linnai, just promise me, seriously…” she said, trying to stand straight. “Promise me you won’t do that again.”

Linnai lifted her head and saw Twilight staring back at her, a serious expression across her face. Linnai’s cheeks were wet with tears, which she wiped away with a foreleg. “Never again,” she said. “I promise.”

Twilight hobbled her way towards the hallway. She had barely taken one step into the corridor when Linnai’s voice came from behind her.


Twilight turned her head and looked back at the changeling. “Hmm?”

“I love you.”

Twilight froze. She felt her jaw trembling. She breathed in deeply and turned away from Linnai again.

“Bad timing,” she said, and then quickly made her way to the door. The sound of it opening and closing echoed off the walls, and Linnai fell back down against the mattress. She buried her face in her pillow and slammed her hoof ineffectually against the mattress.

Outside, Twilight fell to her haunches on the other side of the door and looked up at the starry sky above the courtyard.

I love you, Linnai’s voice rang out in her head over and over. She gritted her teeth and stamped a hoof against the ground.

I know you do, you stupid, confused thing! Twilight thought. A tear dropped from her eye and fell to the floor. That’s what makes this even worse.

Ponyville, Reality, Present

A shadowy figure dashed through a yard and leapt over a short hedgerow. The pony made a hasty beeline towards a section of woods at the edge of town. The pony’s hooves splashed up mud and water as the intense rainstorm continued to hammer the area. Once in the woods, the pony pressed up against a tree and stared toward the town.

The pony breathed heavily for a moment and then sighed, her body relaxing slightly. Her soaked silver mane hung down over her face. She dimly lit up her horn and glanced back into the woods. “What did Trixie do to deserve this?” she asked herself. “First this freakish, unplanned storm, and now a couple of copycats. There is only one Great and Powerful Trixie!” She shook her hoof as she said the last bit and then hunched down, sighing again.

The End of Book Five: Crash Down

To Be Continued in Intermezzo 4 & Book Six: Pinked

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