• Published 20th Sep 2018
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ReVerse - Petrichord



If Princess Twilight Sparkle had the chance to do everything all over again, would she be willing to leave everything behind?

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“There’s plenty of fun to be had in trivializing trivialities. Nesting the absurd creates a delightful medley of absurdity,” Discord lectured. “But this is anything but trivial, and I’ll try to make do without the sort of color I’m known for. You’ve heard of multiverse theory, yes?”

“Whose theory, at what level, and implicitly applying what sort of counterarguments?”

“You could have just said 'yes,' Twilight. But since I don’t think you’re dithering for trivial reasons, I’ll give it a pass.” Discord nodded his head. “So—once you’re done with one game, win or lose, what do you do?”

“You stop playing” Twilight replied.

“And if you want to keep playing games?”

“You find a different one?”

“What if the game you just played is the one you most want to play?”

“You start over?”

Discord spread his palms. Unprompted and misguided, the idea might have seemed mind-shattering, or at least confusing. For Twilight, in this situation, it was a mind-shattering idea wrapped in an obtuse and vexing shell, and Twilight wanted equally to beg him for clarity and snidely insult him.

“So...once more. Just to be sure.” Twilight started. “What I need to go is go into a different universe at a different point in time and try to do everything again?”

“Halfway there. Sadly, fifty percent is still a failing grade, Miss Sparkle.” Discord stood up from his recliner, stretched and pushed it out of the way; it keeled over like an unbalanced wooden doll and shattered as it hit the floor, before the flecks of framing and cushions crumbled into dust and dissipated into the air. “Didn’t you tell me that you could already do everything over again?”

“Right, sorry. So it’s something new that I need to do, but something that isn’t what I normally do. And what I normally do is…uh.”

“Cat got your tongue?” Discord smirked.

“Please don’t conjure up a cat.”

“That would be trivial of me, wouldn’t it?”

“Okay, but...this might sound really dumb. And you might think it’s so dumb that i’m deliberately being trivial, but I’m not trying to be.”

“Oh, don’t worry about that. I’m confident that if there’s one thing your boundless intellect hasn’t helped you learn, it’s the knowledge of how to be funny. If there were two things, it would be your ability to be funny and ability to dance, but—”

“You're being trivial.”

“I’m trying! I really am!” Discord turned away from Twilight and pushed the door open. “I haven’t had to talk about this in quite some time.”

Twilight followed him as he walked. The halls of the crystal castle looked as orderly and ordinary as they always had been, the layout pre-arranged majestic as it was the day before, every aspect carefully crafted to invoke the idea of “harmony” as clearly as possible.

“What I need to do is…” Twilight started again. “I need to go to a different place in a different time and do something completely different?”

“Largely, yes.”

“Isn’t that like playing a different game?”

“Correct."

"So…" Twilight faltered. "If you want to play the same game over again…?”

“You need to go to the same place at the same time, and not try to do everything all over again. Oh, sure, you could pick and choose what to keep and what to change, or try to pick and choose, but given what you desired back then, I don't doubt that you'd ultimately end up doing everything entirely the same where it matters. Consider it akin to copying down what you did the first time in a journal, adding in a few 'artistic embellishments' to doll it up in a different guise and re-reading the whole thing.”

“So I’m not supposed to do anything?”

“Funny,” Discord said as they descended a spiral staircase. “They always talk about retirement as if it’s a dreadful thing.”

“I’m serious. Are you telling me that what i’m supposed to do is to go someplace else and stand like a statue until my bones freeze in place?”

“Didn’t I warn you about the theatrics?” Discord sighed. “Look—have you ever considered that the world might actually be about you? And before you say it,” Discord added with the waggle of an only slightly condescending finger, “I don’t want the polite answer or the customary answer or any other display of literally valueless etiquette. I want you to answer from the experiences that you, and only you, have witnessed, as witnessed by the only pony capable of witnessing it, given that they were the only pony that had possessed a singular set of traits at one or more singular points in time. This world, this perspective, these experiences, this vessel is the foundation of everything you’ve ever known and everything you’ve been able to think about, tangibly or abstractly, consciously or subconsciously, given your unique set of traits at your unique point in time. Is this world something that literally only you could have experienced? Is this world—the one that you know about and live in—quite literally a construct made entirely of the materials your consciousness provides you?”

“So we’re talking about solipsism.” Twilight nodded her head. “The idea that nothing outside my mind can be proven to exist. I guess from that point of view, then—you know, I really feel uncomfortable actually saying it. Are you going to make me say it anyway?”

“I know of it. You know of it. Any sort of words discussing how to address it are superficial at this point. So, no, there isn’t any point in saying something you don’t need to say.”

“But why are you bringing this up at all? What does my...relationship with the universe have to do with anything else?”

“Because your universe determined your course when you chose to play The Hero for the second time. You chose to take issues outside of your experiences and make them your own, and in doing so your world ceased to be your world. It became the world of...I suppose it’s likely up to millions of creatures now, isn’t it? And all you do is interact with the world as they wish, with only your personal lens as a token reminder that Twilight Sparkle was the pony who filled the role of The Hero.”

“And if I never was a hero?”

“Not a hero, Twilight.” Discord shook his head. “The Hero. And if you never became that, I have no doubt that some other pony would have stepped into that role. And Twilight Sparkle would still be, and forevermore be, Twilight Sparkle.”

They continued to walk down the staircase. Abruptly, Twilight realized that they had been walking down the same staircase for longer than the staircase physically should have been. Then it struck her that she hadn’t seen anyone but Discord in the castle since he had entered her room, and hadn’t heard anyone but him talk since he had gotten her attention.

Then she remembered that he had snapped his fingers before they left her room. And that her room was supposed to be conventionally locked and magically sealed.

Part of her wondered why she wasn’t more alarmed about all of this, and part of her wondered why worrying about that sort of thing right now felt, for lack of a better word, trivial.

“So this world. My world.” Twilight started up again. “What world is it?”

“Where you want it to be. Where life seemed like it had opened itself up to you, but before demands and expectations forced your hoof to combat threats on a greater scale.”

“Does forcing myself to do things count?”

“Only if you didn’t need to do them. I’m aware that you’re a bit of a silly little filly. So tell me, Twilight, where does the game begin?”

“Ponyville.” As if startled by the forthrightness of her reply, Twilight squeaked and covered her mouth with a hoof.

“I wasn’t expecting you to realize that so quickly.” Discord stopped and turned, his smirk at the halfway point towards a genuine smile.

“It...okay, I mean, it...the day I met all my friends. No, the day after that. There wasn’t anypony worried about Nightmare Moon, Princess Luna was safe, we were all still getting to know each other, and there were so many ponies to...it was like there wasn’t any kind of world outside Ponyville and Canterlot, and that didn’t matter at all. There weren’t many ponies in Ponyville, but there were still so many stories untold, so many conversations unspoken, so much...there was so much of everything, and I never did it. But there was...there always was all the time in the world for it, wasn’t there?”

“There was the possibility of it, yes.” Discord’s smile was entirely full and entirely earnest, as if he had waited for this discussion for a long, long time.

“I could have gone anywhere and done anything in the town, and it would have been like going to the ends of the world and defeating the deadliest of foes. And if I didn’t leave…”

“One of the princesses could have stopped things. The might of the royal guard could have shown itself. Legends from the past could have emerged to combat the threat, or leaders of distant kingdoms could have banded together to fight the menace. You may not have known this, but you still chose to believe that you were the only pony who could have saved everypony.”

“That’s where my game began.”

“That’s where your game began. The beginning of the end, since you had made an end for yourself. But if you don’t define an end and don’t define a victory, then…”

“Then I’ll never have to leave. I can choose to—I can choose to stay, this time.” Twilight’s face was starting to twist, but she wasn’t entirely sure if it was a smile.

“You always had the choice.”

“It didn’t seem that way.”

“But now you know. And now you can make that choice. And that, Twilight Sparkle, is why we are here.”

Discord turned back, walked down the last few steps and vanished into the air.

Twilight blinked.

“Discord?” she called, descending the steps after him. This time, she didn’t recognize the hallway in front of her—or at least couldn’t put it to any plan she had made or any structure she went in. It was eerily linear, for something whose walls were so twisted and misshapen—wood and stone gnarled and grasping at each other, as if struggling for control.

At the end of the hallway was a coffee table, with three items on it. But through some trick of the light, while she could see the table clear as day—no more than twenty yards away at most—the items seemed too small and unidentifiable to discern.

“Discord?” She called out as she walked down the hall.

Silence.

“I have a few more questions.”

Silence.

“I promise they aren’t trivial ones. I promise I don’t already know them.”

Halfway down the hallway. Now she could make out the first item on the table: oddly enough, it seemed to be a genuine coffee cup. The idea of there being something in it as normal as coffee made Twilight feel rather peculiar.

“You mentioned multiverse theory before. Does that apply here? Do I make this choice in multiple realities?”

Twilight stumbled, briefly, but recovered her stride. Now she could make out one of the other objects: a tome, thick and bound in oak, locked shut with an iron clasp.

“You keep referencing they, them, other ponies. Who have you talked about this with before? What did they do?”

Now the third object: a picture frame, tilted on its side.

“You owe nothing to me, have no promises to keep, and the realm you live in doesn’t even have the same rules as our—as my own.” Twilight stammered. “Why are you talking about this at all?”

“First,” the coffee cup replied, “would it matter if it did?”

Twilight blinked, drew even with the table and stared down at the cup. After everything else, the oddness of having a voice echo up from the cup seemed almost unsurprising—there wasn’t even a mouth on the cup, just a voice and a few ounces of a dark-looking brew.

“Even if there were alternate realities in which you could or couldn’t make that decision, you don’t live in any of them, and you never will. Why would you? You have no reason to go there. There wouldn’t be anything satiating for your curiosity, if you were even curious at all. What matters in this life, the one you live in now, is entirely and exclusively in your hooves, and not even remotely affected by the hypotheticals of a pony you’ve never met and whom you’ll never really be like at all.”

“I see.” Twilight faltered, picking up the cup.

“You must be thirsty. Here, have a drink” the coffee cup said in Discord’s voice.

“Are you sure? Won’t that hurt you at all?”

“Hurt me? Pffft. You’re thinking trivially again, Sparkle. I’m just a coffee cup. I don’t have nerves. Even if you shatter me into a thousand pieces, you still couldn’t hurt me.”

“If you’re sure,” Twilight said as she lifted the cup to her lips and took a drink. “...Wow.”

“What?”

“That is...that’s actually some of the best cocoa I’ve ever had.”

“You’ve had better. You just don’t remember it yet. As for your second question, yes. At least three other beings have made this choice before you.”

“I don’t think I need to guess. Princess Celestia, Princess Luna and...it wouldn’t be Cadance. Is it you, Discord?”

“Correct.”

“And I guess there isn’t any point in knowing whether or not they stayed or left either, right?”

“There isn’t any point in guessing Luna’s. You only mentioned her for completeness’ sake, and I’m sure you never cared for her even half as much as you cared for, say, your babysitter.”

Twilight gritted her teeth, then sighed and nodded. “And I already know you did.”

“You hypothesized that I did. Admittedly, it’s a correct hypothesis, and the chances of your hypothesis being incorrect were astronomically slim, to the point of the process seeming nonsensical, but…”

“What point is there in making sense, huh?” Twilight replied, a faint smile spreading over her face.

“Precisely. But that’s neither here nor now, and that brings us to the one you care about: your teacher. As you know, she’s existed for millennia and millennia before almost anypony else, with only her sister to keep her company for a long time.”

Twilight nodded.

“And one might think that, in all that period of time, she might have understood the universe and decided to reach for one greater.”

“But would she have been happy?”

“Precisely! She would not have. And she has still internalized the notion that she is happier than she actually is. And she has not made that decision yet. And I’m not sure if she will.”

“Oh” Twilight replied, coffee cup still inches from her lips.

“If it brings you greater comfort, though, I’ve always assumed that the moment of her most significant joy was in raising what she considered her greatest student. Make of that what you will.”

Twilight blushed and took another sip of cocoa. It tasted even better than the first sip, and it was only after a mouthful of the brew that she realized the cocoa was almost gone.

“And third, it’s true that I owe you nothing and that I have no promises to give you. You hold no power over me, and no power you might ever have could be held meaningfully over me.”

“But if you’re doing this because you want to…” Twilight faltered.

“...Why am I doing this?” Discord finished.

“I can’t have been a good friend. Honestly, I’m pretty sure I was never your friend at all.”

“Of course not. And I can’t exactly say that I like you, Sparkle. I’m proud that you’ve figured this out on your own. Mostly, anyway. But I can’t claim that liking you is the reason why this would make me happy. Your world is your own world, but my world is my own world, and my world does not revolve around you.”

“Wait. Fourth question.” Twilight interjected.

The liquid at the bottom of the coffee cup bubbled, in what must have been the liquid approximation of a sigh. “Continue.”

“It’s just another hypothesis, but - you can go in and out of your own universe, can’t you? And you’re the only one that can do that?”

“Would you expect the being of chaos to adhere to the rules of even two universes, let alone one? Of course I come and go, Twilight Sparkle. I came and went long before I turned on the lights in your universe, and I’ll come and go long after I’ll turn them off again. So, yes, I’m not playing fair, and since even I can’t explain things which are fundamentally impossible to explain, I can’t and won’t try to give you an explanation as to why.”

“I wasn’t going to ask that.” Twilight shook her head. “I wanted to know if you ever stopped going to old worlds and went to new ones. In case the best parts of your life changed.”

For a second, silence settled over the chamber.

“...Yes, Twilight. It makes her happy to think that I can make you happy in some way or another. And the degree to which she makes me happy is the degree to which she’s created a paradise for me all on her own.”

Twilight smiled at the coffee cup, drank the last of its contents and set it down on the table. “If it makes her happy to be happy with you, then I’m glad you’re doing this for her sake. Is there anything left?”

“That’s up to you.” Discord’s voice sounded hollower and fainter, as if it was drifting out of the universe itself. “The book on the right is the tome of your history. It chronicles your deeds and your exploits, from your beginning to your end, and recalls every last thing you’ve ever done and will do. They’ll bury the first and greatest copy with you in your tomb, of course.”

Twilight picked up the picture frame and turned it towards her face. It was a photo of her, Spike, Applejack, Pinkie Pie, Rarity, Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy, all smiling at the camera.

“This picture is a fragment of your stories. It keeps a small slice of a fleeting impression, nondescript and fundamentally inexplicable, and represents a whole greater than the sum of all the parts of the personal histories of each and every member of that picture.”

Twilight set the picture down and stared at the book, then at the picture. Then at the book. Then at the picture.

“Who do you love, Twilight Sparkle?” Discord’s voice whispered. “The pony that you were, or the pony you became?”

Then he was gone.

Alone, with an empty coffee cup and two items of cosmic significance, Twilight tried to collect her thoughts. Then she realized they would never be more collected, never more explicable, never more coherent than they were at this point in time.

And, knowing full well what she was doing and what she had to do, Twilight picked up the picture frame and kissed the photo inside it.