• Published 20th Oct 2019
  • 3,549 Views, 278 Comments

Anarchy: Pony of Chaos - Ninjadeadbeard

Fluttershy and Discord decide to have a child. May the Gods have mercy on their souls.

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4 - Grudge Match

Anarchy sat on the side of the Ponyville Early-Grade Schoolhouse, where she’d spent her morning classes, atop a small wooden stool where she would spend her first recess. Besides the Ponequus sat another filly, one with a perfect green coat and pristine blue mane. Well, nearly pristine. There was still some frosting in it.

Each sat with their backs to the schoolhouse wall, neither looking anywhere near each other. Neither one had anything to say to the other, as well.

Well, except for one thing.

“This is all your fault, you realize?” Flawless Gem said with a pout.

Ann’s eyes flashed, and her head swiveled around so hard it actually made a stock-screech sound. “WHAT!?”

Flawless grinned, “Did I stutter? Or… stuttew?” she added.

“Stop making fun of my wandewing withp!” she bit down on her tongue, eliciting a small, puppy-yelp from the rebellious appendage. She continued, “And how is thith my fault!?”

Flawless pointed one hoof at her mane, “You dropped a cake on me!”

Ann scoffed, “You called Pearl ‘stuck-up’.”

“Wouldn’t have had to if she’d just admitted the Crystal Empire is better than Canterlot,” Flawless tipped her nose up, “I mean, honestly. Whitestone and pastel is so last century…”

“… and you hit Cheese with that papew ball duwing math…”

Flawless shot Ann a rather unimpressed look, “Besides the fact that Beauregard threw the paper, didn’t you even notice when Cheese hit me with that paper glider?”

Ann frowned and crossed her forelegs across her chest, “He was thending you an invite to ow pawty.”

“Like I’d go to one of your parties after you gave my desk actual legs!”

Okay, Ann chuckled silently at that one. Didn’t dampen her anger any, however.

“You made fun of me for not knowing how to wead!”

Flawless threw up her forelegs, “Who doesn’t know how to read at our age!? Besides, those legs stepped on my hoof!”

“I’m only a month old, and my Dad put in safety featuws!”

At that, Flawless’s eyes snapped open wide and her jaw fell. And Anarchy knew… she just knew she shouldn’t have said that.

“Um…” she scrambled in her seat, “I mean…”

Flawless scrunched up her face, “So… not only are you freaky-looking, but you’re also a baby!?”

Ann leapt up into the air and let the winds of Chaos hold her aloft, “I am NOT a baby!” Then, her anger vented, she landed back on her stool and looked away, slightly embarrassed. “I just have non-twaditional aging, is all…”

After not hearing anything, not a huff or a smirk, Ann turned back… only to see Flawless’s huge, sparkling eyes near her own.

“Gah!” she fell back, toppling to the ground.

Flawless kept staring, “Safety features? And you’re only a month old…?”

As Ann propped her stool back up, she answered, a little more cautious, “Y-yes?”

“Are you…” Flawless finally took a moment to blink, “Magic? Is your dad some kind of wizard? Are you, like, some kind of monster he whipped up in his secret lair?”

“I’m not a monstew!” Ann yelled, knocking the stool over again.

“Well, what are you then?”

It was Ann’s turn to turn-up her nose, if only to look up towards the still-seated Crystal pony, “I’m a Ponequus.”

Flawless narrowed her eyes, “Doesn’t that just mean Pony-Pony?”

Ann was about to retort, but her face froze at that very instant.

That… technically… I suppose… then what…?

She sighed, wearily, “Dad…”

Then, turning back to Flawless’s curious stare, she said, “Maybe? That’s just what Dad called me. He’s a Dwaconequus, and Mom’s a pony… so they went with Ponequus…”

“What?” Flawless scowled, “Nuh-huh! Liar!”

Ann backed up a step, then scowled back in return, “I’m not a liaw eithew!”

“Yeah you are!” said Flawless, “There’s only one Draconequus, so your dad couldn’t be him.”

“Why not?” Ann asked, suddenly honestly curious.

“Because if your Dad’s Discord, then that means…”

A smooth, rich voice like a velvet blanket dripping with maple syrup said from directly behind Flawless, “Then that means you’ve made the worst possible enemy!”

Both girls yelped and leapt back from the schoolhouse wall, where a crude, chalky drawing of a Draconequus now appeared.

Ann squinted at it. “Dad?”

The drawing winked at her, and smiled, “Hello there, my patchwork pumpkin!”

“Wha- what awe you doing here!?”

“What else?” Discord waved his talon about, causing a nearby piece of chalk to float up and draw his throne. As he took his seat, the Lord of Chaos chuckled, “I wasn’t about to let you fend for yourself against this cretinous little bully.”

With a sudden snap of his paw, Discord’s Chaos magic flashed across Flawless for a moment, leaving behind an emerald-green changeling.

What!?” she screeched, panicked tears instantly appearing in her eyes, “What did you do!?”

DAD!” Ann growled, “That’s chitinous you’we thinking of!”

“So what?” Discord frowned, “It’s a bug-word. See? School’s already taught you something…”

Mom taught me that wowd when she showed me her insect-gawden,” Ann sighed, hardly noticing Flawless gaping in horror at her appearance, “It’s still a bad joke.”

Discord waved his hands about, “It’s a pun! You, more than anypony, should appreciate that! Why are you getting so bent out of shape about this?”

“This isn’t happening, this isn’t happening…” Flawless crouched down into the grass as she continued to panic.

“I’m not!” Ann stomped one hoof, “I’m mad because you pwomised you wouldn’t do something like this!”

“Pssh!” the Lord of Chaos leaned his chair back, “All I did was switch off the bracelet. All that lovely Chaos in there was your doing, kiddo.”

His chalk-self snaked down to the ground and came up by the girls’ hooves, “Gonna have to mark you down for the human legs on the desk though. Not enough ponies know what those are, and absurdist humor doesn’t translate well…”

Ann kept glaring, silently.

“Don’t you look at me like that, missy!”

She huffed, “You pwomised.”

A third voice joined the argument, “Indeed. He did promise!”

Silver Spoon came out from around the schoolhouse’s corner, followed closely by Pearl Rose, Cheese, Beauregard, a Kirin student Ann hadn’t gotten the name of, and Mandible, or Dib… whose compounded eyes were focused squarely on the cowering, whimpering Flawless.

Miss Silver Spoon snarled, “Discord, I thought you’d learned by now…”

The Draconequus re-constituted himself next to his daughter, lightly brushing off chalk dust as he said, “Now, now! Before we discuss the terms of the treaty, I’d like my lawyer present.”

Another Discord, one dressed in a grey suit and spectacles, popped into existence right next to him. This… Lawcord, began shuffling papers in front of him, none of which had anything legible written on them.

Discord leaned in, “You work pro bono?”

Lawcord nodded, “You couldn’t afford my billables otherwise.”

“Discord!” said Silver Spoon.

Ann was about to yell as well, when she finally noticed the sounds Flawless was making as she cried into her hooves. She looked down at the pony who’d been ruining her first day of school all morning, and felt… something. She wasn’t sure what it was called, but it took the legs out from under the anger she’d felt earlier.

Dib, still staring, finally broke Anarchy’s contemplative silence, “Um… is she gonna be okay?”

With a snap of her batwing-fingers, Ann reversed her Dad’s trick, and returned Flawless to her original form. The Crystal pony shakily stood up, her sobs dying away quickly as she saw herself.

Her eyes were wet and raw.

“Thanks,” she said, quietly, and sniffled again. Then, Flawless puffed out her chest, eyes flashing in anger, “Thanks for sicking your DAD on me!”

“But I didn’t…!”


“Flawless!” Silver Spoon snapped, “Anarchy!”

Both fillies jumped, and then hung their heads as their teacher prepared to no doubt give them both the dressing down of their lives for all the manner of Chaos they’d dropped into her classroom this morning.

Instead, she took a long, cleansing breath, and said with the stillness of a pond in winter, “I will speak with both of your parents tonight. This behavior will not continue tomorrow, or ever. Am I understood?”

A little more scared at the calmness of their teacher than any potential screaming anger they’d expected, both fillies only nodded.

Silver Spoon smiled. “Good. Now, Flawless? You and your friends can return to recess. Ann? Stay for a moment so I can ask you about something.”

Flawless Gem, despite every instinct in her body telling her to gloat about this to the little freak that had ruined her morning, accepted that discretion was the better part of valor, and took off at a light trot alongside her two friends.

“You know…” said Dib as he, Beauregard, and Flawless walked away, “You were really pretty as a Changeling.”

“Oh, shut up Dib,” she snapped back, only to pause thoughtfully, and then ask, “Really?”

Four foals, including Ann, Cheese, Pearl, and the unknown Kirin colt, stood around, waiting for their teacher’s pronouncement.

“M-miss Silver Spoon?” Ann looked up at her teacher with concern. She didn’t know much about how these things worked, but she knew Chaos. And Chaos didn’t much care for authority-figures. And so, as Ann stood there, awaiting the judgement of one such, she couldn’t help but feel a little queasy.

Silver Spoon, however, gave Ann a reassuring smile. “Ann,” she said slowly, “I know you wouldn’t have done… most of what you did today if Discord wasn’t,” she turned a far more agitated glare up at the Draconequus, floating lazily in the air, as she growled, “encouraging you… but I’m going to have to ask you to not use any of your magic for the rest of the day, unless it’s a true emergency. Can you do that for me?”

“I…” Ann kicked the dirt with one hoof, “I guess…”

Her teacher nodded, “Good. And I also wanted to talk about your other problem.”

For a moment, nopony spoke. Finally, Ann realized her teacher was waiting for her to say something, so she naturally brought up the most pressing issue she could think of.

“You can help me fly?” she asked, hopefully.

“Fly? What?” Silver Spoon shook her head, “N-no. I mean, I want to help you with your reading problem.”

Ann finally understood, “Oh…! But I don’t have a weading pwoblem. I just can’t do it, is all.”

Silver Spoon blinked. Twice. “Ann… that’s what we call a problem.”


“See,” the teacher pressed on, “Most colts or fillies your age… or, your friends’ ages should be able to read at least a little bit…”

Cheese leaned in, “My mom taught me to read her party menus.”

“Papa let me read the Canterlot Times,” Pearl Rose chimed in, “and when I’m staying with Mama, she reads storybooks with me.”

Discord droned on, essentially unheard by those below him, “Grogar tried with ghost stories, but I was always more partial to fanfiction. If that stuff doesn’t drive you mad, nothing will…”

“So,” Silver Spoon coughed to get the momentum back, “I think we should schedule a few extra reading sessions until you catch up. Like, during parts of recess, or after school. And to help with that, I’d like you to meet Shade Bright. Say hello, Shade Bright.”

The unknown Kirin stepped forward, and approached Ann. His coat was red, with patches of hard scales on his back, and his mane was thick and green hanging from around his neck all the way up to his curving, branch-like horn. Cheese, standing just off to one side with Pearl Rose, sort of thought he looked like a walking Hearth’s Warming decoration.

Shade Bright adjusted the set of glasses balanced on his nose, and then held out his hoof to Ann, saying in a high, nasally voice, “Nice to meet you. Everypony just calls me Shady.”

Ann stared at the hoof for a moment before she took it, and said, “Hi Shady, I’m Anawchy, but evewypony calls me Ann.”

“Shade,” Silver Spoon continued, “is one of our best readers, and he’s agreed to help me teach you how. Would that be alright?”

“If you think it’s a pwoblem,” said Ann, smiling at a potential new friend.

Silver Spoon nodded, “Great! We’ll set up some extra time for you two to practice reading together. Now,” she stamped one hoof, “Go enjoy your recess!”

As the foals ran off towards the playground together, Silver Spoon’s smile slowly faded until she could turn a truly ghastly glare back on the Draconequus.

Discord didn’t seem impressed. “You’re stifling her creativity,” he chided, “Reading merely words can create such a narrow view of things…”

“Discord, we have to talk about this. What you did today was beyond inappropriate…”

“Oh yes, but,” Discord stretched out in the air until his back popped, “I really should head off. Lots to do before the party tonight.”

Silver Spoon raised an eyebrow, “Party? At the Castle?”

“Indeed,” Discord said, drifting back and forth through the air, “For the kids and their first day at school.”

“Excellent,” Silver Spoon smiled, “Then I will see you and Fluttershy tonight at the party.”

That brought the Lord of Chaos up short. “What?” he said, feet firmly planting on the ground.

The silver and grey pony grinned even wider, “Pinkie Pie sent me an invite. So, I can see you both there, and we can discuss moving forward with Ann’s education.”

“Uh, wait… we can…” Discord scrambled seemingly without moving an inch, “Ann can’t be…”

“Ann,” she continued, “Cannot be held liable for the actions of outside interference, I know. But the Princess will also be at the party,” Silver Spoon smirked just enough to remind Discord of a card shark playing their winning hoof, “so if the Treaty we signed had any clauses pertaining to punishments for outside interference, we can also get that sorted out immediately.”

Discord watched Silver Spoon canter back to the playground proper, where she would remain until the end of recess. He eventually shook his head, and then threw another panicked glance over to the Lawcord still standing by in his grey suit.

Lawcord just looked back at him in fear. “Don’t look at me!” he said, “I got my degree from night school!”

And with that, he lowered the visor on a helmet he was suddenly wearing, and kicked the sides of his trusty steed he was suddenly riding upon.

“Ouch!” cried Derpy, “What gives!?”

“Yah!” cried Lawcord, and the two flew up and away.

This left Discord, Lord of Chaos, standing alone on the school grounds, contemplating his fate. His daughter was angry with him. His wife was going to be disappointed in him. And he was about to prove his father right about him, again.

“At least things can’t get any worse…”

At noon, the morning classes at Ponyville Schoolhouse let out, allowing Ann and her friends a chance to leave the stuffy confines of the classroom to explore the town. The rains had come and gone, but despite the sun out today, muddy puddles still littered the streets and the smell of rainwater still saturated the air.

There were still a few hours before Cheese and Ann’s parents had said to arrive at the Castle of Friendship for the party, so the four friends decided to take in the sights. They walked in a little line, with Shady and Cheese on the flanks, and Pearl and Ann in the middle.

“I’ve nevew met a Kiwin befowe,” Ann said as they set out, “Awe you a pony?”

“Ann!” Cheese gasped, “You can’t just ask if somepony’s a pony!”

Shady leaned forward to get a better look at Cheese as he said, “Um, but I am a pony.”

“Yeah,” Cheese reached up into his mane and pulled out a peach-topped cupcake, “But what if you weren’t?”

The red-and-green Kirin… had no real answer to that, and so just shrugged and went along with it. He looked back to Ann and said, “Well, anyway… we’re ponies. Actually, we’re related to unicorns.”

By way of demonstration, he ignited his branch-like horn in arctic blue light, and levitated Cheese’s cupcake out of the colt’s hoof, depositing it with Pearl a moment later. While Cheese merely stared in wonder, Pearl gave a weak smile at Shady before she began to eye the confection with suspicion.

“Though,” Shady laughed, “My mom says that we’re, ‘like, everycreature all at once, cosmically’.” He’d said the last part in a tone of voice Ann could only describe as ‘groovy’.

Pearl, hoofing the peach-cupcake back to its owner, asked, “Don’t Kirin live in the Kirin Grove? Papa says that’s very far away.”

“Oh yes,” Shady nodded, “Way far away. If my mom wasn’t working to preserve foal’s breath flowers, my folks never would have met.”

At a questioning look from Ann, he continued, “My mom helps preserve animals and plants that are rare and endangered. Foal’s breath is a magical flower that only grows in the Grove, where my dad lives. Only my dad is a Kirin, actually. Mom’s an earth pony.”

Pearl’s eyes flashed, “Your Mama and Papa… don’t live together?”

Shady shook his head.

“Does…” she stopped, and seemed to change what she was about to say, “Are you alright?”

“Why wouldn’t I be?” he answered back, “Dad says that we all have to live as we can. Mom doesn’t like living in one place too long. Seems like everypony wins.”

Pearl said nothing else. She returned a pensive stare to the road.

Ann gasped, not having noticed, eyes widening with realization. “But if you’we half-and-half… you’we just like me?”

“I…” Shady paused to think, “I guess so, yeah.”

Ann grinned, and with eyes closed she began to prance joyously alongside her friends, not even taking a side-step around the next mud puddle in their way.

“Darling!” Pearl cried out, “Your hooves! You’re getting yourself absolutely filthy! What will your parents say?”

The ponequus stood in the mud she’d been splashing merrily through a moment ago. She looked down to her muddy legs… and shrugged.

“Dad can help clean me with his magic once we get to the pawty. Oh!” her eyes widened again, “Shady? Did you want to come to the pawty?”

Shady smiled brightly, “I’d love to! I just gotta tell my mom. She should be home today, so we can go ask her!”

And off they began to trot again.

“You’re coming with us too, right Pearl?” Cheese asked as they made their way into Ponyville’s center.

“Oh,” she said, sidestepping the same mud-puddle Cheese happily now paddled through, “I wasn’t sure if it was polite to ask…”

Cheese just laughed, “Did you think we’d say no? My mom always says, ‘If you can’t party with your friends, then why party at all?’, and you’re our friend, right?”

Pearl Rose was about to say, ‘Am I?’, when she felt Anarchy nudge her from the other side.

“Of couwse!” she said.

Pearl was smiling so brightly at her friends that she completely failed to notice the next mud puddle in their path. Which she stepped in, and unfortunately found to not be a puddle at all, but rather a pothole filled in with rainwater.

She dropped straight in up to her chin with a splash!

Aaagh!” Pearl screamed and started flailing to get out of the watery hole. Cheese sprang into action, biting down on her tail-hairs and immediately pulling, while Shady used a little of his own magic to grab her forelegs and push her back and out of the puddle.

After a few moments, she was back on land… and terror-struck.

“Oh no,” she whimpered, looking at her muddy hooves, “Oh no, oh no! What will Papa say!?”

Cheese hummed, “Uh… ‘go wash up before dinner’?”

“He’ll be furious!” she cried, her voice rising higher and higher as images of a disappointed Papa swam before her eyes. “I’m besmirching the Blueblood name!”

Shady looked up and down Pearl’s mud-covered front, “I mean… it’s not that bad. My mom keeps telling me to come home a little muddier some days.”

Ann flicked up an eyebrow at the Kirin, “Weally?”

He nodded. “Oh yeah. She says,” he ahem’d and put on the ‘groovy’ voice again, “that if one is free to express themselves, mah little dude, one must accept both the light and the dark in life.”

Ann and Cheese nodded along with that philosophy. It seemed to make so much sense, even if they hadn’t a clue as to what a ‘dude’ was.

“Well that’s all well and good for you,” Pearl started tearing up, “but when I get home tonight, Papa will… he’ll…”

She sat down, heavily onto her haunches, and let out a weeping sob, “He’s going to be Disappointed!!!”

As the other three watched their fourth friend cry, each started to think of a way to help Pearl out. But it was Cheese who came to an idea first.

“Ann,” he whispered, “You can use your magic now!”

She gave him a look, “What would that accomplish?”

“Well, you said you’ve been trying to learn how to clean with Chaos magic, right?”

Ann squeaked, trying not to think about that time with her mother and Auntie Dash. Though…

Pearl Rose was up, her brilliant blue eyes locking onto Ann’s, and only managing to flinch just slightly as she did so.

“Ann…” she said, taking a deep breath, “You know magic? Magic that can help?”

“I…” her wings fidgeted, “I’ve been pwacticing, but I don’t…”

Pearl ran straight up to her friend and raised a hoof to her shoulder, only to set it down again, realizing she was about to make the problem worse. “Please, Ann,” she pleaded, “Help me.”

Ann leaned back a bit. She couldn’t help but think back to that day with Auntie Dash and how it had all gone poofy so quickly.

But then she started thinking. Chaos didn’t like cleaning. It didn’t like being orderly. But… if she could do something Chaotic that would lead to Pearl Rose getting cleaned up… maybe it would work?

She lifted one bat-wing and flapped it lightly a few times, to get any kinks out. “Awe you suwe?” she asked.

Pearl nodded, once, and then set herself into a proud and noble pose. It was the sort you found on paintings in museums, or in the Blueblood parlor, of a proud pony standing proud and nobly against certain doom in fabulous watercolors.

Anarchy held in her mind the warmth she felt a week past, when Rainbow Dash became a blur of hot wind and rainbow-light whipping around her. She held onto that feeling, and with her bat-wing fingers, she went to summon her magic.

In a flash of white light, a little rainbow tornado roared up from around Pearl’s hooves, eliciting a high-pitched squeak from the filly. She didn’t have wings, so Ann hoped nothing would go wrong like last time… but she still worried as her friend was swiftly engulfed by her magic.

But once the magic had passed, Pearl seemed completely fine! Her mane was… up a little, and the mud had caked dry, but that just meant they could wipe it off easy. Ann did it! Her magic actually worked!

Or, it did. But then Ann noticed the telltale crackle and pop of static that writhed almost invisibly across Pearl’s coat and mane. Her face fell just as all that staticky energy snapped.

It happened again.

Pearl’s coat and mane fired out in every direction, instantly turning her from a unicorn into a frazzled cottonball with hooves. The only plus side was that her hair jumped so hard it shattered the layer of mud and flung the dirty bits completely free of Pearl’s body.

But that was the only upside. Pearl’s eyes narrowed to dots as she looked down, and she made the most eerily silent gasping scream Ann had ever heard. It was so high-pitched that Ann and Cheese were certain only dogs could hear it.

As could Kirin, if Shady’s cringing face and folded ears were any indication.

“What…” Pearl’s voice finally dropped low enough to be heard, “What did you DO!?”

Ann shrank back a step, “I just tried to help.”

A crazed look came over Pearl, and she advanced on Ann with a scowl, “Ann, you made it worse!!! Papa won’t just be disappointed… he’ll be… he’ll be furious!!!!”

“I just tried to help,” Ann could only repeat, as much to herself as her… as her former friend. She’d only known her less than a day, and already Ann had ruined it. A tightness formed in her chest, cutting off air to her voice. Ann could only mouth her refrain, ‘I just tried to help’.

Cheese stepped in, “Pearl, Ann was just tryin’…”

“I know what she was trying to do, Cheese!” Pearl cried, tears streaming down her matted cheeks, “What I’m upset about is what she’s done!”

Shady used his magic to push Cheese back just enough for the Kirin to get in close. “Guys, this is totally not chill. Everypony made mistakes, we all said things. Let’s just stop before…”

Pearl snarled at Shady like an animal straight out of Everfree, “That’s not the point! Papa will be furious! He’ll think I can’t take care of myself!” She sniffed, and sat down in the mud, “He’ll make me go back to Canterlot… where I didn’t have any friends…”

Cheese and Shady exchanged looks, each unsure what to say. They’d reached that awkward point in every conversation with a distraught friend where there was nothing more to say, but nothing had gotten better. Pearl sniffled and cried at her hooves, and there was simply nothing to say.

But there was always something to be done.

They heard the snap before they felt the rush of warm air. A little bit of rainbow-light still flicked about as both colts turned to see Ann’s fur pop out with a static-zap. She was instantly a bright-yellow ball of fuzz with a fuzzy haze of pink and black mane and two leathery-blue wings sticking out the back.

Pearl saw her too. And Ann’s eyes, normally so scary to the filly, were just as filled with tears as hers were.

“I’m sowwy,” Ann whispered, approaching slowly, “All I wanted to do was help, but my magic doesn’t always like to do what I want. And… and your Papa can’t send you back if…”

Ann reached Pearl, head hanging low, and finished her babbling with, “He can’t send you back if it wasn’t youw fault. If it happened to all of us too…?”

The princess looked down at Ann with glassy, tear-stained eyes. She sniffed, and shifted her eyes down to her hooves, and then to the muddy pool a few short feet away.

Then, she looked back at Ann. And the hug she threw around the Ponequus’s neck came so suddenly that Ann skittered like a squirrel.

“I’m sorry,” Pearl said into Ann’s mane, “I’m so sorry, Ann! I wasn’t thinking. I was just scared, but you were… you were being kind.”

Ann smiled, and returned the hug. Cheese grinned ear to ear, and smiled up at Shady, who had the exact same look on his muzzle.

“So,” Pearl said as she finally broke the embrace, “Papa will just have to deal with muddy hooves!” and with a squeal of laughter, she leapt back into the mud, splashing Shady with the muck.

“Is this how ponies here solve all their problems?” Shady asked, smiling despite the mud in his mane… or perhaps because of that.

“Not normally,” Cheese laughed and tackled Ann into the same puddle, “But it seems like a great idea! Ann?” he asked with a twinkle of mischief in his eye.

“Yeah, Cheese?” Ann laughed from the bottom of the pony pile.

“… any chance you could give me and Shady that frizzy mane too…?”

The Castle of Friendship stood at the edge of Ponyville, but was always seemingly front and center in the hearts of the ponies and creatures who lived there, and certainly front and center of all the tourism packets for the once sleepy little backwater. It looked particularly picturesque today, just as Twilight was lowering the Sun on another day, with the glorious orange sky catching in the blue and purple facets of the castle’s architecture.

Inside the Castle was no different. The main library of the castle, now serving as library for the entire town, was strewn with pink and yellow bunting, and several long tables had been set up covered in every confectionary and baked delight that the combined talents of Pinkie Pie and the Cake Twins could devise.

And such was needed, for in addition to two foals finishing their first full day of school, this party was the perfect excuse for many a creature to let their manes hang loose and engage with their friends and families. And as Ann and Cheese were still, presumably, on their way, the various creatures in attendance got right to mingling.

“Disgraceful,” muttered Grogar, the Father of Monsters, the Nec-ram-ancer himself as he tossed yet another cupcake into the maw that was his mouth. “These treats shall ruin Ann’s appetite, and she will disdain the dinner we had planned. I must dispose of these… confectionaries at once!”

As Grogar tipped a small plate of cookies towards his jaws, Luna stood next to him at one of the tables, rolling her eyes. “Grogar, it is impolite to scarf treats at a party. In the thousands of years you’ve stalked these lands, did you never learn this lesson?”

Celestia leaned in, three separate, half-eaten cake slices floating around in her magical aura, “Sister, Grogar and I are just enjoying our Golden Years. Live a little!”

“I really hate how the expectation of my being the mature sister goes up proportionally with the amount of baked goods in the local vicinity,” Luna sighed.

The Ram of Evil finished cleaning off his plate before turning his baleful eye down the table. “I could do for some flan…”

Hey!” a shrill cry startled the three immortals, who began to scatter and flee at the approach of a bright pink mare holding aloft a wooden cooking spoon in one of the curls of her insanely frizzy, curly hair.

“Shoo!” Pinkie Pie scattered the Princesses and the Nec-ram-ancer before her, “Skedaddle! There’s a whole table for you back there! Stop eating the kids’ stuff!!!”

Watching that little bit of theater, a small pack of certainly non-pony creatures huddled together, sharing laughter and warmed cider in equal measure.

“Professor Pie got a lot less chill since she had Cheese, didn’t she?” the orange dragon Smolder smirked as she spied the perpetually ponked pink princess party pony punch and prod the palookas who preferred to pig-out on her pastries.

Silverstream tittered, sipping cider as she said, “Oh, she’s not usually like that. Just when you mess with her party planning. She’s like a second mom to the students in my class whenever I can get her in for a guest lecture.”

“I wish Sandbar, Yona, or even Gallus were here,” Ocellus sighed, and took a nibble out of a daffodil sandwich, “Not that I’m complaining about the company!”

There was a veritable chorus of chuckles from the three ponies who stood with their fellow teachers. Sweetie Belle, Scootaloo, and Apple Bloom were just full of good humor today, and even such an unintended slight didn’t have any power over them.

“Well, Yona and Sandbar wanted to help Rarity with that whole Changeling Revolution deal,” Sweetie Belle grinned, “So Gallus had to go.”

“Yeah,” Smolder nodded, “The only thing that birdbrain ever took seriously was his job. Still, the School isn’t the same without him.”

“I just wish Fluttershy could make more appearances at the school,” Apple Bloom added, “Her lectures on Everfree plants and animals are always a surefire way of keepin’ folks awake in the afternoon classes.”

Scootaloo glanced over at her long-time friend and coworker, “Um, didn’t Starlight tell you?”


Sweetie Belle took up the story, “Fluttershy’s been asking about coming back to do more teaching.”

Smolder scoffed, “She’s got a foal now! I may not know what you ponies do with your young, but dragons spend a lot of time and energy making sure ours are safe, protected, and under lock and key. Where does she find the time?”

When she noticed the slightly odd look she was getting from Ocellus, she added, “What? I can’t help it if dragons classify hatchlings as hoard-possessions…”

“Ann’s basically a school-filly already,” Apple Bloom tapped her chin, “So I s’pose there ain’t as much to do on Fluttershy’s part.”

Scootaloo sighed, “Oh great. It’s just like when we got our Cutie Marks all over again.”

“What happened?” asked Silverstream.

Sweetie Belle laughed, “Apple Bloom lost her mind!”

“T’weren’t so bad as all that!” Apple Bloom snapped, “I just… I just lost mah purpose for a bit, is all.”

“Poor professor,” Ocellus sighed, “That can’t be easy. Changelings have really tight-knit family bonds. I don’t know what I would do if my nymphs grew up so quick that I thought they didn’t need me.”

Smolder raised an eyebrow, “Uh… you don’t even date. Last time I saw a Changeling look in your general direction you turned into a chair.”

The Changeling blushed. “I… might need to talk with Professor Fluttershy about getting over anxiety… sometime.”

In contrast to these close and jovial encounters, just to the… well, there weren’t a lot of corners in a room as round as the castle library, but in the nearest thing to such an architectural connivance that the room held, partly hidden by a large, glass punchbowl, a rather well-dressed unicorn stallion and equally radiant unicorn mare stood in a heated discussion.

The coldest heated discussion of all time.

“I’m afraid,” Vladimir Blueblood began, testing the dialogue-equivalent of waters for sharks, “there’s been a terrible mix-up with Prince Rutherford and Prince Armor. Something to do with a mispronounced Yakyakistan seasonal greeting… In any case, Princess Twilight’s asked me to head the delegation.”

The Princess Twinkleshine tossed her pink locks over her shoulder and gave her husband somehow both a despising look and a tired one at the same time, “You had to tell me this now?”

“… it could start a war, Shine…”

She carefully set her glass of punch down on the table, whereupon it vanished unseen into the gullet of a ravenous ram chased by an accelerating pink blur, and sighed, “You always do this Vladimir. You know I have a full caseload this week. I won’t get to spend any time with Pearl if she’s staying with me.”

“You could stay at the estate?” he said with… just a bit too much enthusiasm to be an entirely objective fact.

She was seemingly unimpressed with that line of logic, “You know why that’s not a good idea. And besides, that does nothing for my cases. The Princess…”

“Will understand!” he pressed on.

“She shouldn’t have to.” Twinkleshin turned back to her punch, and finding it gone decided to pour herself another. “If you ever once thought about somepony else, maybe you’d understand…”

Vladimir idly tapped his hooves, thoughts racing through his mind for something else to say. “You look beautiful tonight,” he eventually decided upon.

Twinkleshine sighed. How many times had they had this exact conversation? This exact fight-that-wasn’t-a-fight? She usually couldn’t fault him when it came to Pearl Rose, even if everything else in their… unconventional relationship could be.

She gripped his bowtie in her blue magical aura, and tugged until it was just a touch straighter on his neck. “You look great too, Vlad.” It wasn’t untrue, despite everything else.

“Now, how did Pearl look when you dropped her off this morning…?”

“… so, sometimes Honesty can save a friendship,” Luster Dawn smiled as she recalled her day’s adventure with her friends, “but too much honesty all at once can sometimes just sour somepony instead of help them.”

The pink-coated mare grinned brightly up at her teacher, the Princess Twilight, and only slightly wondered if she’d done a good enough job at this week’s Friendship report. She still had the essay and the statistical analysis up in her room above the library… just in case.

“I am very happy to learn you’ve learned that particular lesson, Luster,” the Princess beamed back, and gave her student a little friendly nuzzle, “It took me a lot longer to pick up on the nuances of honesty. Remind me later to tell you about the time Applejack almost sank the local Ponyville fashion scene, single-hoofed!”

The two laughed, safely just on the inside of an archway that led to a side chamber. Safe, specifically, from prying ears and eyes, where the teacher and student could leave aside titles and simply be friends overlooking a fun little party for a couple of young foals taking their first steps into a larger world.

“Now,” Twilight grinned slyly, “How has being the town’s new librarian been for you?”

Luster shrugged, “It’s… different. I still think of the castle as my foalhood home, so treating it like a government building and my job, is weird.”

Twilight laughed, but said nothing, instead simply enjoying her pupil’s responses.

“And I don’t really get to talk a lot of magic theory with the locals,” Luster frowned, “Mostly they just want books on soil development, economics of farming, or comic books.”

Twilight snorted, “Well, Ponyville is a simple town, no matter how much it grows. I’m glad it still has something of its old spirit. You could always talk to your mother or myself if you wanted to chat magic.”

“I guess,” Luster admitted, “But you’re always so busy… not that I resent you doing your job or anything!” she added hastily, to Twilight’s amusement, “But between the School and that Magic Summit, Mother’s so busy… oops.”

The Princess raised an eyebrow, “Oops?”

Luster shifted uncomfortably in place, biting her lower lip. Then, with a sigh of resignation, she said, “I didn’t want to mention the Summit, since you weren’t going to be there…”

Twilight chuckled, “While I’m happy to know you were taking my feelings into consideration, you needn’t bother, my faithful student.”

“You…?” Twilight Sparkle… wasn’t upset about missing a meeting of all the mightiest and most respected Archmages in all of Equestria? “You’re not bothered? About not attending?”

The Princess beamed, “Oh, but I am attending.”

Luster’s worried stare seemed to take a few seconds to register.

“Oh, I’m using Hindberg’s Uncertainty Principle to be in two places at once.” Twilight puffed her chest out, just a little.

Luster’s eyes went wide as she gasped, “R-really?”

“Yes. In fact, your mother’s giving a lecture right now discussing the interaction of time magic on interdimensional portals.” Twilight closed her eyes a moment, and then chuckled, “Sunset just made a bit of a cheeky joke at Starlight’s expense…”

“But…” Luster reached out one hoof, as if it would pass right through her teacher’s body, “How do you keep track of everything?”

“Starlight also helped me work out a few memory spells meant to make the process easy,” her horn briefly lit up, causing a veritable engine of mystic cogs and gears to flare in and out of existence around her head.

“Though,” a hint of chagrin danced across her features, “giving credit where credit is due, the original spell only functions because Celeste figured out a thaumic-algorithm to counter Owlbear’s Paradox…”

At that precise moment, there was a faint pop and a light flash of gold magic, just off to the side and away from the party proper. Teacher and student remained quiet a moment, as they could just hear a pair of familiar voices approaching through one of the side-hallways.

“You know, I can teleport us just fine as well,” said the… more regal voice.

“Ha!” the second, younger… more mystical voice laughed, “Whenever you teleport us, there’s a sixty-percent uptick in the chances we’ll ‘accidentally’ wind up at a music festival, or a theater, or your favorite restaurant instead of where we’re supposed to go, Your Highness…”

The two finally appeared, in all their glory. The taller pony was, without any doubt if one saw her stain glass representation back in the throneroom of Canterlot, the Princess Flurry Heart. In form, the alicorn princess was just like her mother, tall and willowy, with flowing mane. But she took after her father, Shining Armor, well, bearing not just a coat almost as white as his own, but crystal-silver regalia that more resembled armor than jewelry.

And by her side was a young mare only a bit older than Luster herself. One who could have passed as a clone of the Great and Powerful School Counselor Trixie Lulamoon, except for the grey coat and swirling mane she inherited from her father, Starswirl the Bearded.

Princess Twilight managed, nobly, not to throw a hateful glance towards the Cutie Map Table, a few rooms over, as her beloved niece and her former pupil approached.

“Were my ears burning just now?” Celeste swept into the Princess’s presence with a flourish of her emerald-green cape and wizard hat, “I could have sworn somepony was talking about the Marvelous, Mystical Celeste… oh! Luster!”

She veered away from the Princess, and directly towards Luster Dawn, where the two ponies would enact a tradition just as serious as it was ancient.

“Sunshine! Sunshine!” the two unicorns smiled as they performed the dance of former foals and their former sitters, “Lady Bugs awake! Clap your hooves and do a little shake!”

As the two fell to giggles, Flurry Heart leaned into her aunt and whispered, “I will never forgive you for teaching them that.”

“Why?” Twilight slyly smiled back, “Are you ‘too cool’ to do the Sunshine Dance now?”

“Not at all!” the Crystal Princess reached up to her considerably taller Aunt, pulled her long neck down, and gave her a smooch right on the end of the Princess’s muzzle.

“I just prefer our traditions, BAFF.”

Twilight giggled with Flurry over their shared, familial weirdness, acronyms and all. “How are you two settling in at the palace?” she asked as Celeste teleported her hat and cape away.

“So far, so good,” Flurry said, casting a look subconsciously back towards Canterlot, “I love visiting Nana Velvet and Grampa Night Light, and Spike says he’s ordering pizza and hayburgers from your favorite joint for dinner.”

Celeste smirked, “Wow! So regal!” to which Luster gave a weak, nervous laugh.

Twilight smirked back, “Well, my arrogant and egotistical student…”


“… Not in your case,” the smirk cracked, slightly, revealing the deep well of good-natured affection beneath the Princess’ words, “I don’t seem to recall you or Flurry Heart complaining back when you stayed over at the palace with me. What was your favorite order again? A Grande Special with,” the Princess valiantly kept her shudder to less than a second, “cheesy-hayfries in the burrito…?”

Flurry tittered, “I remember licking all the frosting off the cupcakes meant for the Grand Galloping Gala…”

“And I recall Pinkie almost having her foal early when she found out,” Twilight laughed.

Another round of giggles and chuckles sounded, even as Celeste sweat slightly at the reminder and glanced awkwardly towards Luster, who thankfully seemed more intrigued than disappointed in her former foalsitter’s eating habits.

Sadly, at least for Twilight, this was the moment she finally caught sight of somepony clearly trying to grab her attention. Across the hall, she could see Silver Spoon, the local grade school teacher, waving towards the alicorn Princess. She stood next to Fluttershy and Discord…

… who looked supremely guilty.

“Sorry girls,” Twilight sighed, wondering what that old Draconequus had done this time, “Duty calls…”

Minutes later, the doors of the castle swung wide open, admitting entrance to four sprinting, leaping, laughing fillies and colts, though one would be mistaken for thinking a cloud of dirt and fuzz had come swarming into the castle instead. A single, solitary figure followed them in with the slow, lazy tread of one who didn’t mind the rambunctious kids racing ahead of her.

She loved watching free spirits play, after all.

They had raced all the way across Ponyville, engaged in the lengthiest game of tag in the town’s history outside of a particularly competitive match held between Rainbow Dash and Applejack some twenty years before. But as they entered, Ann, Shady, and Pearl paused in their game to look up and marvel at the castle’s crystal décor.

“Wow!” said Ann.

“Beautiful!” exclaimed Pearl Rose.

“Groovy,” added Shade Bright.

“Mom!” laughed Cheese as he raced ahead of the others towards the party.

The four barreled into the library, with even Little Cheese marveling at the wonderous display of food, decorations, and the appearance of all the adult ponies in their lives. Like a bursting bag of flour, the colts and fillies flew out in every direction to cling to their folks and friends to tell the stories of their first day of school.

Pinkie barely had time to spin around from lecturing the twin Princesses and Grogar when Cheese leapt straight into her outstretched forelegs.

“Hey Cheese!” she laughed and spun her little colt around, “You had a great day at school?”

“It was fine,” Cheese smiled and hugged his mother tight, her own return of the embrace causing Boneless to squeak on his back, “Did you know Ann was going to be there!?”

Pinkie Pie set Cheese down and said, “Sure did! I knew the surprise would be worth it!”

“You have a good eye for surprises, Mom!” he laughed. Then, Cheese’s eyes narrowed slightly, “Um… what’s going on with Auntie Luna and Celestia? Are they in trouble?”

Celestia took the opportunity to lean over Pinkie and explain herself, “We’re most sorry, Little Cheese. We… may have gotten carried away with the party atmosphere.”

Luna scowled, “I did nothing wrong. Except be related to a cake-harvester…”

“Grogar did everything wrong,” said Grogar, “Of which he is proud…”

Blueblood and Twinkleshine were quite surprised to see Pearl rush into the room with the other foals. Twinkleshine was more surprised that her darling little wallflower was jumping and laughing as she came in, surrounded by what she could only describe, warmly, as friends.

Vladimir was surprised only that his little princess wasn’t screaming bloody murder, considering the state of her.

“Papa! Mama!” Pearl cheered as she came skidding to a halt at their hooves, “You’re here!”

Blueblood’s mouth worked silently a moment, gratefully hidden behind his goatee, “Oh, of course… my sweet thing… but your coat! Your mane! What in heavens happened to you!?”

Pearl wilted, ever so slightly, under her father’s near-shout, and for that Twinkleshine would find a most fitting revenge. But, a moment later, Pearl seemed to stand a little straighter.

“Papa,” she said with a tone every bit as commanding as one expected of a Princess, “There was a freak tornado through town today while I and my friends were playing. It did this to all of us!”

Now, Vladimir Blueblood hadn’t become the head of Equestria’s diplomatic corps by being easy to fool or by not being able to recognize a bold-faced lie when it was told to him. He’d gotten there because he knew how to lie, and why to lie.

He flicked his eyes up from his daughter, who was now holding her breath judging by her puffed cheeks, to the… other filly in the room. He recognized her on sight, the descriptions his legal teams gave him on the Treaty of Anarchy being quite explicit, and admittedly it was only his own sense of diplomatic tact that kept him from flinching as… it made eye contact. He could read that guilty look it gave him like a book.

But something far more pressing had caught his attention.

“Friends?” he asked.

Pearl deflated, literally, with an exhale she tried to keep as quiet and ladylike as possible. “Yes, Papa. My friends. Little Cheese, Anarchy, and Shade Bright. All of esteemed pedigree, I assure you!” she added hastily, lest her father doubt the quality of her friends.

Twinkleshine leaned in and gave her a quick, enthusiastic nuzzle, “Oh my sweet! I’m so happy for you! Friends! And here I was worried we’d have another Moondancer or Twilight on our hooves…”

“This party seems to be a good time for burning ears,” a light chuckle drew the Bluebloods’ attention instantly to the towering purple alicorn in the room, who now strode towards them from her recently ended conference with Fluttershy.

Twinkleshine blushed, but didn’t let that stop her from poking a little bit at her old friend, “Well, to be fair, you did drop out of my life for a couple years that one time…”

“Which, gratefully, didn’t last,” Twilight laughed, before leaning down to see Pearl herself, “That must have been some kind of tornado! I’ll have to have a serious talk with Cloudsdale over this.”

Pearl’s panicky voice was, to the adults around her, cuter than anything as she began tapping her hooves and saying, “Oh, um, that won’t be necessary! We… already caught them!”

Twilight hid her mirth well behind a face of false-worry, “Oh my! That must have been an ordeal! You’ll have to write me a whole report on the incident, my student.”

Pearl’s ears slumped, “Oh… yes, of course.”

The Princess returned her gaze to Vladimir, who hadn’t once let his eyes leave his little filly. “Prince Blueblood,” she gently prodded him with her words.

When he didn’t look up, Twinkleshine prodded him with an elbow.

“Oh! Uh, yes, Your Highness?”

“Are you ready for your trip?” said the Princess of Friendship and all of Equestria.

Pearl spun back around to her father. “Papa? You’re… leaving?”

Vladimir looked down again at his own precious Princess. “I… yes, my darling. There’s a diplomatic… issue up north and I’m needed to resolve it.”

“But…” Pearl’s lip quivered, “But, I only just got to see you.”

“I know,” the Prince said, as gently as he could, “But it is my duty to Equestria. You know how important Duty is.”

Though her eyes glistened, the use of that word seemed to settle in Pearl’s bones. She blinked a few times, sniffed once, and returned to being as proper as she could, under the circumstances. She straightened her mane, and she brushed down the front of her coat.

And then, with a bit more of her Canterlot accent than before, she said, “Yes, Papa.”

Prince Blueblood just stared as she tried to prepare herself. He daren’t look towards his wife-in-name. He continued staring for several seconds after Pearl had complied, and accepted the role of Duty in their lives.

Finally, he turned his head back up and towards Princess Twilight.

“Princess,” he said, staring straight back into an annoyed Royal face, “I am afraid something has come up.”

Her ears perked up. “Excuse me?”

Vladimir nodded, “A family emergency. I am afraid I cannot attend the delegation to Yakyakistan at this time.”

“An… an emergency? Papa?” Pearl Rose lifted her ears as well, in case she’d heard incorrectly.

“Well,” he sniffed, “What would you call your mane and coat right now? Aloe and Lotus will need multiple treatments to get you back to Blueblood standard.”

Twinkleshine leaned in, “Aloe and Lotus? But… they operate the spa here in Ponyville.”

Vladimir raised his head, nobly, “Well, we can’t very well expect Pearl to have any time for her friends if she’s stuck in Canterlot at the Glory and the Fountain. At least, not if she’s still attending school in Ponyville.”

Pearl, quite speechless, stared wide-eyed at her father. And then she swiveled her head around to watch the Princess.

Said Princess was smiling, “Of course, Prince Blueblood. Family should always come first.”

She turned her head a little to one side, and in an almost half-whisper said, “Pinkie.”

“Yes?” the pink mare appeared, standing at Vladimir’s side opposite his wife, a large, horned helmet already set onto Pinkie’s head.

“How would you like to take a trip to Yakyakistan? We need somepony to…”

“I’m on it!” Pinkie saluted wildly, “Already emptied my schedule. Oh! And I can bring the Princesses and Grogar along! That should protect the local pastry scene from further harm!”

“Actually…” the Princess’s tone took a serious turn, and she began to lay out a few… changes that would be taking place around the town.

But Pearl heard none of that. She had already leapt forward, giving her father as hard and as happy a hug as she could manage with her little forelegs, her face pressed tight into his chest. And despite his natural aversion to such intimacy in public, not to mention his utter distaste for mud and dirt and grime of any sort…

He only hesitated a moment before returning the embrace. And a little kiss, right atop his little princess’ mane. Because, whatever else Twinkleshine might think of her husband, there was one thing she would always... love about him; a sense of Duty within him that could never be broken.

Family, after all, was his greatest duty…

A few minutes ago…

Fluttershy was always seen as the very embodiment of calm tranquility. She knew that’s how ponies saw her these days. Few outside of her circle of friends really still thought of her as that nervous, anxiety-ridden filly she once was, and even fewer considered her truly ‘shy’ as well. All they saw was a leader of Equestria, gentle in her manners, and soothing with her words.

But right now, listening to Silver Spoon relate all that had happened today in school… everything that involved both her foal and her husband… well, there was only one word for it.

Fluttershy was peeved.

Very peeved.

“Discord,” she stared up at the Draconequus she thought she knew, “How could you?” It hadn’t been said in a tone of anger, or of pain. She’d managed to make it sound so much worse than that.

She was disappointed.

Discord simply hung his head, and flattened his ears and horns onto his head.

“I know,” he said, daring not to look any of the others in the eye, “I screwed up. Again. I just… when I heard what they called her…”

Fluttershy winced. She knew that feeling. She knew it just as well as Discord, if his tales about living with Grogar were to be believed. Fluttershy had grown up a weak-flyer in a world of clouds. She knew precisely what it was liked to be mocked for who she was.

But Discord couldn’t be let off the hook so easily. And while, perhaps later and in private, she would comfort him and Ann, right now, the kindest thing Fluttershy could do was be clear and firm with him.

“But what you did was still wrong,” she said, putting everything she had behind the resolve in her voice she only vaguely felt.

Twilight, however, took up the slack, “I understand what you’re feeling, Discord. But you went to all that trouble with the lawyers and the courts to let Ann in without any real restrictions on her magic, just to blow it all up on the first day?”

He said nothing. He didn’t need to.

Silver Spoon felt like she really, really didn’t belong in the middle of this fight… but for Ann’s sake, she needed to stay. Darn it.

“Well, Ann isn’t completely at fault here,” she offered, diplomatically, “But she does need to learn that her magic is… well, it’s dangerous, and needs to be controlled. She can’t be using it at school. Even in a limited form, it’s too distracting… notwithstanding when it’s unleashed like today.”

“Heh,” Discord laughed, without an ounce of mirth, “If you think that was unleashed, you don’t know my Anarchy very well…”

“Discord.” Fluttershy had almost growled that one, and it seemed to make the Draconequus stop again.

“Agreed,” Twilight sighed, “At least… for a little while.”

Fluttershy finally broke her gaze from Discord to look up at her old friend… questioningly. “What do you mean?”

Twilight briefly glanced down to Fluttershy. Then, she closed her eyes and took a breath before returning her gaze to Discord himself.

“Discord, as the named arbiter of rules violations in your Treaty,” for a moment, an apologetic wince passed through her, and she really did hope he noticed, “I must pass judgement. You are banned from all school grounds and functions until Spring, and Ann will be banned from using any Chaos Magic not directly tied to her own necessary life functions until after Nightmare Night, one month hence.”

While Silver Spoon nodded, happy to have an official ruling at last, Discord and Fluttershy appeared to be… less than thrilled.

“Are you completely insane!?” It was surprising how she could emphasize her words like that at a whisper, but Fluttershy was full of surprises. “You can’t ask Ann to not use any of her magic! It’s a part of her!”

“I couldn’t say it better myself!” Discord added, though he cringed a bit as Fluttershy glanced back towards him. “And if I can’t go to the school or its functions, whatever those are, then who will walk her to school in the morning!”

Before Twilight could retort, the lights in the room began to flicker in time to a strange, rumbling sound. All three ponies, and Draconequus, turned slowly as the sound grew in volume… and in sheer villainy.

For a few feet away, Grogar the Nec-ram-ancer chortled. His black laughter was like the tolling of bells, echoing an ethereal dirge. His eyes, yellow and crimson, stared straight into Discord’s, boring into his soul.

At least, until a wooden spoon struck his horn, and an alabaster alicorn rushed past him, hollering, “Quickly! She’s found us again!” and they both scampered away, just ahead of that pink blur.

Watching the bizarre chase continue for just a moment longer, Twilight turned back to her friends. “I’m sorry. This is how it must be. She can still use her magic to fly…”

“Oh, you know she’s still trying to figure out how to fly like you ‘normal’ ponies,” Discord snarled, making air quotes appear in the air above his head.

“Nevertheless, that is my decision,” Twilight stomped one hoof down, which did not echo with great strength nor dole as a distant bell. Her hoof-fall seemed to create a peel of silence that dampened all sound throughout the castle, as though the structure itself were listening to a judge’s gavel in respect, or awe.

“I’m sorry,” she added.

Fluttershy and Discord each gaped in silent protest at this. But they each knew the fight was over. They didn’t turn to look at one another, but they didn’t need to. They each also knew how this had been their own fault, in one way or another.

Which was precisely when the castle doors had opened, and a small cloud of squealing fillies and colts had come into the party. Ann and Shady had immediately turned and headed towards Ann’s parents, each sporting mane and coat covered on grime and sticking out in every direction at once.

“Hi Mom!” Ann laughed as she ran up to Fluttershy. Then, with just the slightest drop in enthusiasm, she said to Discord, “Hi Dad!”

After a quick hug from Fluttershy, Ann glanced between the two, her senses feeling a dramatic upswing in the amount of Chaos. She also spared a look over towards Silver Spoon, who stood just a bit off to one side.

“Is… is evewything alwight?”

Fluttershy took a breath…

But Discord spoke first, “Everything is fine, Ann. We just have something to talk about… after the party!”

And with a light flourish, Discord snapped a pair of party hats onto Ann and Shady, who giggled appreciatively. Fluttershy gave him a little grateful smile.

“Hey,” a chilled-out voice came from the doorway, “this is a pretty sweet party you got goin’ on, Shy.”

Fluttershy’s eyes widened, and her smile grew brighter, “Is… is that…?”

Discord facepalmed. “Tree Hugger,” he sighed, realizing his earlier pronouncement about things getting worse had been hilariously misplaced, naturally.

A bright green mare with rosy-red and grey dreadlocks, having followed the little ones all this way to the party, sauntered in with a gentle smile and an amused look in her eyes. Tree Hugger and Fluttershy gave each other a friendly hug.

Silver Spoon chose that moment to drift away, as did Princess Twilight, who saw another conversation she needed to get involved in.

“I didn’t know you moved to Ponyville!”

“Like, where do we live if not the world? I go wherever the flow takes me,” Tree Hugger smiled, “But it’s great that the cosmos led me back here to see you, am I right?”

Shady leaned up against his mother’s side, as Ann did with her own. This caused Fluttershy to blink, and then turn a look of recognition towards the little Kirin. “Oh my gosh! Then this is Shade Bright!?”

“You… know Shady?” Ann pressed her head into her mom’s shoulder.

Fluttershy nuzzled her foal, then said, “Tree Hugger and I are close friends. We haven’t gotten a chance to see each other in a while, what with her job taking her all over Equestria, but we still write letters.”

Tree Hugger laughed slowly, but warmly, “It’s great to see you again, Fluttershy. Discord,” she added, nodding towards the Draconequus, currently making little ‘gagging’ motions with his hands.

“Well, what brings you to Ponyville? I thought you were living out in Everfree with Zecora and the commune,” Fluttershy said, a little concern for her friend creeping into her normally calming tone.

Tree Hugger shrugged, “When I had Shady here, I decided that my needs had to come second for a while. Least til he can watch out for himself. He’s crazy smart, mah little dude,” she nuzzled Shady affectionately, though he seemed a tad embarrassed.


“Not my name, kiddo,” she kept on with the affection for a moment, and then relented, saying, “But I accept you need your space in which to thrive.”

Yet soon enough, the warm and happy atmosphere began to shift. While Fluttershy and Tree Hugger laughed and talked, they and everypony around them had the day’s events playing in the back of their minds. Even Discord began to look guilty for the good time they were having.

But it would never have come up, at least not tonight, had not another set of guests made their appearance known.

A pair of crystal ponies, the mare gold with a rosy mane, the stallion blue with mane of emerald and white, slowly entered the room with a pace normally reserved for those entering the more forbidding elements of the Everfree Forest for the first time. Behind them, angrily pouting, was a very familiar crystal earth pony, at least to Ann and her friends.

“Oh,” Ann sighed, “What’s she doing here?”

Slowly, the party guests congregated around the newcomers, curious as to what precisely this was. Fluttershy, Discord, Twilight, and the kids themselves came to the front to meet with them. The only ones to remain completely apart from the proceedings were the former Princesses and Grogar, who contented themselves with nibbling food under Pinkie’s watchful gaze, and Flurry Heart, Celeste, and Luster Dawn, still watching over the evening from afar.

The mare stepped forward, timidly, “Um… h-hello, everypony. I am Facet Glimmer.”

“And I am Prussian Blue,” her husband swallowed nervously and fluffed his toothbrush mustache with a nervous whinny, but made sure to be by her side.

When nothing else seemed to be forthcoming, Twilight decided to put the poor, scared ponies at ease.

“Nice to meet you, Facet Glimmer. Prussian Blue,” she nodded to both as she recalled their names, and gave them the warmest smile she could muster. “What brings you around her this time of night?”

Prince Blueblood, however, stepped in immediately, a slight look of concern on his features. “Blue! Glimmy! What ever is the matter?”

Pearl, at his side, balked, “Papa! You know Flawless’ parents!?”

“Know them? My dear, Blue and Glimmer are the largest gem exporters from the Crystal Empire! Besides being friends, they’re important business contacts!”

“Your H-Highness!” Blue stuttered, then bowed towards the crowd of ponies gathering around him, “Uh, Your Highnesses, we… we are most a-apologetic!”

“Yes!” his wife, Facet, did likewise, “Flawless didn’t realize who she was dealing with! We swear!”

Flawless, standing behind her parents, continued to glare at Ann… though with a lot less surety. Hearing her parents grovel wouldn’t do any favors to her standing in pony society. Then again, Ann was glaring back, so all should be right with the world.

Enmity was a rock upon which Flawless’ reality could be anchored.

Silver Spoon chose then to speak up, “Uh, I may have stopped by and explained things to Facet and Blue before I got here…”

“She’s not a bad pony!” Facet pleaded, “She’s just…”

“Competitive,” Blue offered.

“That’s right!” Facet nodded, “Competitive! She wouldn’t have… picked on anypony she… um, didn’t think was worthy…?” the end of her speech wound down as she realized what she was saying.

She turned a stink-eye back to her husband, “Competitive?”

His mustache twitched. “It… sounded better in my head…”

“Okay,” Twilight frowned, “I think we all need to take a deep breath, and then explain…”

The two crystal ponies did so. Then, again. And again. Finally, with Flawless rolling her eyes at them, her parents stepped forward once more.

This time, Prussian Blue spoke first, “We understand there were some… difficulties this morning between our little ones. We, my wife and I, just want to let you know that we do not condone Flawless’ behavior.”

Facet added, “No matter who the other foal might be, any sort of bullying is not tolerated in our home. And we hope that her behavior hasn’t… soured any other relations between our family and Equestria.”

Flawless seemed to wince at that, suddenly realizing that perhaps her parents’ fear was… financially justified.

Twilight nodded, understanding dawning, “Well, that’s always good to hear. But I think you should speak with Ann’s parents first. My government doesn’t base its business or trade on something like a schoolyard argument.”

“Or an actual schoolyard argument,” Blueblood allowed himself a smirk, “as the case may be.”

Fluttershy took the cue, and walked up, “You really don’t have to apologize. Today was… a weird day for everypony.”

She glanced meaningfully back at Discord, who couldn’t quite return the eye-contact.

“Moving forward,” she continued, “I’m sure Ann and Flawless could be good friends if they both apologized and decided to start over. Right?”

Ann and Flawless, still glaring, finally noticed how everycreature was looking at them. Blue and Facet reached back and pushed Flawless forward, while Discord’s magic picked Ann up and lowered her down next to the other filly.

The two stared. With all these adults around them… what else could they do?

Flawless held out a hoof, and tried not to sound bored or angry as she said, “Yeah, okay. I’m sorry. Do you want to be friends?”

Ann continued to stare a moment. Her eyes darted between Flawless’ hoof and her face. Then, she raised her own hoof…

And swatted the other filly’s aside.


A gasp swept through the creatures that made up the crowd. Facet Glimmer fainted. Pinkie gasped. Even the startled buzzing of Scootaloo and Ocellus’ wings could be heard over the crushing silence that followed.

“W-what!?” Twilight gasped again.

ANN!” Fluttershy cut through the silence with just how… peeved her voice sounded.

“But Mo-om!”

“But nothing!” the yellow pegasus frowned, “Somepony is trying to be friends with you! Why would you say no?”

“Because she’s mean!” Ann shouted, “She called me a fweak and she was mean to my friends!”

Flawless snarled, “Oh? Really? Who was it that hit me with a cake!?”

Ann whirled back, “You hit Cheese!”

“You bumped into me!”

Both fillies were nose-to-nose, growling like angry dogs. But before anypony could take a swing… or a bite in this case, a wave of magenta light gripped both fillies and dragged them apart. The Princess of Friendship stepped into the space once occupied, and set herself with wings flared. She was not angry, no. She was filled with a sudden resolve.

“It doesn’t matter what happened before!” she pronounced in a tone edging nearly to the same level as the Royal Canterlot Voice. Then, with gentle tones slowly filtering in, Twilight said, “What matters now is moving forward. Right now, you’re so focused on what makes you different, that you’re ignoring what makes you the same! Start there! Start where you have common ground, and then work towards seeing each other’s differences as strengths. Strengths you can share as friends!”

The Princess leaned down low enough for Ann to look into her eyes, “Doesn’t that sound better than just… being angry all the time?”

The room was silent again, every creature there waiting with baited breath… as Ann started to feel the eyes.

She slowly turned from the Princess, only to find her parents staring. She turned away from them… and there were the teachers from the Friendship School, staring at her too! She slowly spun around until she realized she was surrounded by eyes. Eyes. Eyes, the one thing she couldn’t stand at all!

But just as her breathing quickened… she met a single set of eyes. Flawless looked at her, with something that could have been anything from passionate distrust and distaste… to an intense fascination.

Go on, freak. Flip out. Prove I’m right.

Was Flawless… watching her? Judging her?

What are you? How do you work?

No… she was sizing Ann up.

And as Ann stared… she realized that she wasn’t listening to her gut, to some nebulous feeling of instinct.

What are you made of?

Ann almost jumped. Were these Flawless’ thoughts?

Can you hear me?

The two stared for what seemed like an entire minute. And then, slowly, they each began to smile. A smirk, at first, but soon it appeared to all that the fillies were genuinely smiling at one another. Ann and Flawless even reached out at the same moment, and shook hooves!

Finally, the tension flowed out of the room like a deflating balloon. Everypony and creature sighed and laughed, and went back to their cider and their conversations, and all looked to each other to discuss their days’ events…

While Flawless and Ann walked over to the cupcake tables, followed closely by Pearl, Shady, and Cheese.

And only Twilight herself felt a cloying feeling in her stomach as she watched them go. She couldn’t place why, but that had felt too easy…

“So,” said Ann, keeping her voice down so none of the adults could hear, “We’we not fwiends, wight?”

“Of course not!” Flawless kept her smile beaming, despite herself, “This isn’t a détente. We’re just choosing the battleground.”

Shady glanced between the two nervously, “Uh, so we’re not friends?”

“So how do we settle this?” Ann asked, only glancing back to give Shady the briefest of apologetic smiles, “We need wules.”

Flawless nodded as they reached the punch table, and began spooning drinks for her new ‘friends’. She whispered, “Naturally. We can’t involve the grownups. They just don’t get these things.”

Ann nodded, “Agweed. Dad gets too involved…”

“And my Mom and Dad are just insane,” Flawless sipped at her drink, “I mean, come on! Like the Princess of Friendship would really ruin somepony else’s job over this?”

Shady, deciding that being on the ground-level of such an important diplomatic meeting was better than protesting and getting nothing out of it, said, “Well, no pranks in class. That should be a rule!”

When the others gave him a curious look, he continued, “If we pull something in class, Miss Silver Spoon will just tell your folks, and we’ll be back at square one… not that I condone any of this…”

“I really can’t believe this,” Pearl sighed. “I mean… I don’t want to be your friend either, but the fact that we’re settling on rules!”

“No magic either,” Flawless pointed a hoof at Ann again, “Unless it’s to do something like grab stuff, since I’m not going to tell Beauregard he can’t use his horn.”

“Guys?” Cheese squirmed a little at this naked hostility, “C-can’t we just be friends…?”

“So,” said Ann, still absorbed by the discussion, “How do we do this if we can’t pwank?”

Flawless tapped her chin with one hoof, “I suppose we need… a game… maybe Buckball?”

Pearl snapped to attention, “Buckball!?”

“Oh, right,” Cheese sighed, “You liked that game.”

“When? Do we play, that is to say?” Pearl stepped in between Ann and Flawless, “While their parents are legends of the sport, it will still take time to whip these girls into fighting shape.”

Cheese and Ann scowled, “Hey!”

“Friday,” said Flawless, a smirk returning to her lips, “After school, we can use the Buckball court.”

Pearl’s eyes flashed, “Excellent! We shall play the Sport of Princesses on Friday! And be warned, Flawless Gem,” a nasty grin came over the literal princess, “I was the top-player in Moondancer’s Kindergarten for Gifted Unicorns’ team.”

The crystal pony nodded. “Understood. Too bad though,” she flexed one of her hind legs… and the other foals heard the pop of a well-used muscle coming to life, “I was the Crystal Empire’s MVP for the Junior-Junior Buckball Division… two years running. See you girls on the court!”

Ann, Cheese, Pearl, and Shady watched her saunter off to enjoy the pastries on display, before the ram or the princesses could eat them all. They exchanged a wealth of worried looks, each one starting to realize just… just how badly they may have misjudged this whole mess…

While almost everycreature had gone back to drinking and talking and laughing with their fellows, three rather nosy mares had kept to just the right distance where they could hear everything that had been said, without looking like it.

“So… it’s gonna be like that, is it?” Scootaloo sighed.

Sweetie Belle nodded, “It looks that way. Déjà vu.”

“Gesundheit,” Applebloom said, then added, “There’s gotta be something we can do…”

Silver Spoon sighed, “Probably not.”

Three grown mares jumped like they were fillies.

“How tha… where’d you come from!?”

“I’m a teacher,” she smirked, “Sneaking up on students who aren’t doing what they’re supposed to be doing is a trained skill. As you should all know.”

“Point made,” Sweetie Belle nervously chuckled.

Scootaloo’s ears flattened onto her head, “We… we didn’t mean to butt in or anything…”

“Yes, you did,” Silver Spoon adjusted her glasses, “And I’d welcome it.”

“You… would?” Applebloom raised an eyebrow.

Silver Spoon shuffled her hooves. “Look, we seem to be the only ones here who remember how these things work. Let’s not pretend that… well, Diamond Tiara and I weren’t the nicest fillies…”

“Yeah, but…” Applebloom started.

But Silver Spoon would be heard, “No, don’t try and sugarcoat it. It’s plain as day what those foals are thinking of doing. And I can’t have that sort of thing escalating. Not when one of the ponies involved could turn everycreature into cheese wheels, or send us all to an alternate dimension if she loses control!”

She laid a hoof onto Scootaloo’s shoulder. “If you girls can think of anything that could help, please, don’t hesitate. I mean… you’re still the Cutie Mark Crusaders, right? You can do anything!”

All three mares stood, silent. Their eyes widened; their jaws dropped. And one by one…

“What did ya’ll say?”

“I… what? I called you…”

“Cutie Mark…”

“… Crusaders!”

All three clapped their hooves together and grinned from ear to ear.

Applebloom hugged Silver Spoon first, “What a great idea!”

“W-what is?”

“How do you keep something dangerous in line?” Scootaloo laughed.

Sweetie Belle hopped up and down, “You give it something to focus on!”

Silver Spoon’s face snapped from a confused stare… to the same insane grin her friends now wore. “And what’s more dangerous than a couple of kids with too much energy and not enough focus…?”

All four leaned in together, with Applebloom finishing their thoughts. “The Ponyville chapter of the CMC has been far too quiet the past few years! We need fresh blood! New members!”

And so was an idea reborn that night. Even though it would take a day or two to nail down the specifics, there was a fire started that night. A fire that would hopefully ignite the hearts of colts and fillies standing in this very castle.

The Cutie Mark Crusaders would ride again…

Author's Note:

Next Time: The Sport of Princesses

Oh Ann... why do you do dis things to yourself?