• Published 6th Apr 2020
  • 5,150 Views, 378 Comments

Final Corruption - Epsilon-Delta

Twilight's smart enough to have nothing to do with Rarity and her gang of delinquents. But as her world view is challenged and as Rarity takes interest in her, slowly Twilight finds herself getting closer to Rarity and becoming a delinquent herself.

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Chapter 2. Seeing the monster


But that wasn’t something to be relieved about. Dreadstalkers were invisible. One could be standing on the window itself and Twilight would never know.

So what the heck was she supposed to do?!

Twilight needed to get that pamphlet! Reading was the only solution!

She took one step back, intending to go for it slowly, but jumped when the sound came a third time. But this time, Twilight saw what it was. A rock hit the side of the window. And she was pretty sure dreadstalkers didn’t throw rocks.

Twilight moved back to the window and opened it with much more confidence.

She was relieved, at first, to see two ponies standing down there. She recognized them, but that wasn’t a good thing. They were two of the delinquent ponies from the train station, Dashie, and Pinkie if she remembered.

Twilight saw the pegasus pulling back to throw another stone at her window and the mystery was solved. She grumbled and opened the window to yell at them.

“That’s not funny!” Twilight yelled down at them. “You really scared me!”

“Oops.” Dashie dropped the rock. “Sorry about that.”

“Twilight!” Pinkie shouted and waved at her. “Come out and play with us!”

“Play with you?” Twilight called back down. “It’s nine o’clock. Why are you even awake?”

“The boss told us to come get you!” Dash yelled up. “We’re having a party, see? She wants you there for some reason.”

Twilight grumbled. Her voice was already getting tired from this.

“Look!” Twilight shouted. “Why are you all the way out there anyway? Just come to the door like a normal pony!”

"Ah, buck!" Pinkie turned to Dash. "She thinks we're normal ponies. We gotta try harder, Dashie!"

Pinkie whispered something else in Dash's ear. Dash laughed and shoved her aside.

“No. You come out here!” Dash shouted. “We ain't budging.”

The nerve these two had! Twilight grumbled to herself as she trotted out of her room and over to the front door. They weren't in front of the door, either, but several yards away. Pinkie playfully beckoned to Twilight to come out further. Twilight rolled her eyes and trotted out there.

“You’re Dashie, right?” Twilight wanted to make sure.

“Yeah." Dashie rolled her eyes. “You’re like a million coolness points short of me letting you get away with that. My name’s Rainbow Dash. Thanks.”

Now that she was up close, she noticed that the two of them were still wearing those sunglasses.

“Why are you wearing those at night?”

“Cause we're that awesome,” Dash said but took them off to look Twilight in the eyes. Dash looked different in the moonlight. Somehow, despite there being less light, the colors of her mane and eyes were more vibrant, almost glowed. “I got good news for you, Sparkle. Our leader decided she likes you, so we're gonna take you out partying.”

“A party?” Twilight asked. “Like now? But it's nine. That's too late for a party!”

The two of them laughed.

“It's never too late for a party,” said Pinkie Pie, lowering her sunglasses. “In fact, my parties only take place at night and my parties are the best parties!”

“I dunno.” Twilight eyed them suspiciously. “My parents warned me about stranger danger.”

“Look, you want to hang out with us, or do you want to be alone like a dork?” Dash asked. “You’re new in town, right? Don’t you wanna meet some ponies? It’s not gonna be just us there. Frankly, I’d rather you only talk to other filthy daywalkers.”

“Well.” Twilight looked back towards her dark house and the darker forest behind it. She really, really didn’t want to be alone. But was it better to be with these two?

“It’s gonna be better than any party you’ve ever been to!” Pinkie declared. “Come on! You’re never going to meet anypony or have any fun if you just stay in the lame zone your whole life.”

Twilight scrapped her hoof across the ground. Friends, anypony, would be nice. Would somepony else ever even invite her to a party again?

And yet going out with strangers? Who cursed? At night?! The fact that she was tempted must have been that peer pressure thing she had read about. Twilight needed to resist temptation and do the thing a good filly would do- stay home and study!

But then there was nothing to study now that she was kicked out of the academy and it was really dark in there and-

“If you don't want to it's your choice.” Dash shrugged and started walking away. “Rares said to ask, not to convince you. Come on Pinks.”

Pinkie made a disappointed sound but followed Dash as she began to trot away, glancing back at Twilight sadly as she began to leave.

The reality of being alone hit Twilight hard as she watched them walking away. There was too much night left, she couldn’t handle that.

“Wait!” Twilight ran after them. The two stopped and looked back at her. Twilight bit her lip. “I-I’ll go.”

With her head lowered and knees shaking, Twilight trotted in between the two mares.

“Hurray!” In excitement, Pinkie gave a victory leap into the air. “See, Dashie? I knew Twitwi would be our friend!”

“Twitwi?” Twilight asked under her breath. She'd read about nicknames like this. “I don’t think we’re friends, exactly.”

“Yeah, I agree,” said Dash. She put her glasses on and began trotting forward. Soon the three of them were all heading to town together. “Rarity said to give you a chance and that’s all you get. So, try not to be a bucking loser, Sparkles.”

There was that language again. Twilight frowned at Dash.

“Why do you have to curse so much?” Twilight asked. “There’s no logical reason to ever use that kind of language, especially the b-word.”

“You mean buck?” Dash asked.

“Yes,” said Twilight. “You can't say that.”

“Buck.” Pinkie turned to Twilight and said it with a perfectly innocent smile. “Buck buck buck buck buck buck. Buck. Pony feathers, plot, horseapples, heck, crap, clop, mud pony, bonehead, airhead, peeved, lame, dork, dweeb, retard, dong… uh, am I missing any? Dingus?”

Twilight just stared back at Pinkie, mouth agape. There was literally nothing you could say in response to that much obscenity.

“There.” Dash opened her foreleg wide. “Is Celestia flying down from the sky to smite us?”

Twilight did briefly look up to their bemusement.

“Hey!” Twilight covered up her embarrassment with anger. “You know, in Canterlot you’d get in big trouble for cursing like this. A guard might even beat you up or something!"

“We ain’t in bucking Canterlot.” Dash rolled her eyes. “So crap, dork and buck.”

Twilight looked around, but there was literally nopony around, nopony out at night not even the guards. She wondered if there even were guards in this town at this point.

“And do you not care if you hurt some pony’s feelings?” Twilight asked.

“Why do bad words hurt every pony’s feelings?” Dash asked.

Twilight felt like she’d just walked into a brick wall. That was like no question Twilight had ever had to deal with. She had to stop walking for a brief moment to take in the absurdity of the question. Was she trying to be philosophical? Or was she just crazy?


“Because-“ Twilight tried to quickly think of something “they’re supposed to. That’s what they’re for. Mean ponies created curse words to uh-”

“And they just tricked everypony into being offended by them?” Dash laughed at the idea.

“Hey I don’t know the origin of- of-“

“Look, the real problem here is with society.” Dash got ahead of Twilight a little and turned to face her. “Why does the word 'buck' hurt their feelings? Cause they're a bunch of bucking morons who give them the power to hurt them. If nopony gave a buck like us then there would be no 'bad' words to hurt their feelings. See? We’d all be better off constantly swearing. You should do it too, dork.”

That was a lot more philosophical than Twilight would ever have expected from some punk. Twilight's brain scrambled to think of a response but she wasn’t used to debating such weird ideas. She wasn't used to debating period. Back in her school the teacher just told you the right answer and that was it.

What Dash said did make some sense and Twilight couldn't think of why it was wrong. She just sort of felt like it should be wrong. It had to be wrong to think like that! But how to articulate it was another matter.

“I-I dunno,” Twilight trotted ahead of them a little. “I never really considered that! I'd need to think about it.”

“Hahaha!” Dash laughed wildly and gave Twilight’s withers a soft slap. “Well, that's more than most ponies do. Maybe you’re not completely terrible.”

“Come on, Twitwi,” Pinkie chimed in. “Try saying 'buck'! Just say it one time and the curse will be broken forever! It can never hurt you again. I know you're not completely terrible.”

“No,” Twilight said as firmly as she could. “I am completely terrible and I’m never cursing ever!”

“Sure.” Dash rolled her eyes.

“Well you know, Twitwi,” Pinkie got close spoke in a near whisper, like she was telling a scary story. “There is one curse word that’s so bad even I’d never say it.”

“Huh?” Twilight felt like she was hearing a scary story. “What- what word is that? What could possibly be that bad?”

“Do you think I should tell her Dashie?” Pinkie asked. “About the other L-word?”

Another L-word?! Twilight’s mind scrambled to think of what it could be. She couldn’t even think of another L-word, let alone one worse than ‘lame’.

“Ah, I know the one you’re thinking.” Dash gave a sly smile. “No way! Too dangerous.”

“Dangerous?” Twilight asked.

“It’s so bad that if you say it, Celestia teleports behind you and blows your brains out!” Pinkie jumped into the air as she said that last part. “Sploosh! All over the sidewalk! Instant death!”

“Whu-?” Twilight was mesmerized by the mental image for a moment before coming to her senses. “Wait! This is one of those pranks, isn’t it! I’ve read about those! I’m not falling for it.”

Then the two of them started laughing like she had fallen for it.

“Nah, I swear! There is a super L-word!” Dash wiped away a tear.

And then they started laughing even louder while Twilight blushed profusely.

They walked in silence after that, giving Twilight some time to think. Twilight was only just now starting to realize how much darker it was here than back in Canterlot.

Back in Canterlot, you could only see maybe five stars in an otherwise empty sky. But here, in the darkness, Twilight could see hundreds, if not thousands, of stars. This was the first time she'd seen the night sky for real, rather than just in a planetarium.

It really was an amazing sight! That planetarium didn't do it justice. And to think they'd been hidden behind the light this whole time.

They started leading her back towards the forest, close enough for Twilight to start getting worried. She was relieved but also surprised when she saw the house they were taking her to. It was the only house anywhere nearby that still had its lights on.

It was much bigger than she was expecting. Where the cutoff for a mansion was, Twilight wasn’t sure, but this thing was close to that line. It was bigger than every house Twilight had ever lived in combined.

Maybe it was somepony else’s party they were taking her to, Twilight decided.

The front door opened up to a huge room, large enough to fit a small house inside. There were long tables near the center of the room, filled with food. All of the windows had abnormally thick curtains, black and purple, pulled off to either side. Maybe twenty or so ponies dotted the room doing whatever it was you did at parties. Twilight still didn’t know. She’d never been to a party unless you counted family ones.

It was pretty dimly light in this place, a bit brighter than what you’d expect from candles but far dimmer than any electric light. Twilight had no idea how normal this was for parties.

The music was more upbeat and louder than anything Twilight had ever heard. She wasn’t sure if she liked it, but it didn’t sound bad enough to be that rock music she’d heard about.

“Twilight!” Rarity’s voice greeted Twilight immediately, though it sounded like she was above her.

On the other side of the room was a wide staircase that lead up to a large plateau before splitting off into two more staircases leading left and right. The part where the stairs split was large enough for there to be space for a couch with room left over for a few more ponies to be standing around it. It was on that couch that Rarity sat with an air that’d make you think it was a throne, a mare sitting on either side of her.

“Come over here!” Rarity stood up on the couch and beckoned to Twilight. “I want to talk to you!”

Still wary of all this, Twilight looked over at the other two first.

“Hey, I brought you here.” Dash shrugged trotted off.

Pinkie hissed at Twilight one more time before bolting off as well.

Now Rarity felt like her only choice.

She went up the stairs and walked up to the couch at the top. There was a whole group of ponies looking at Twilight now and suddenly it was like Twilight traded one fear for another.

“I’m a little impressed.” Rarity held her forelegs open towards Twilight. “I didn’t think you’d come here this easily.”

Rarity shooed the two mares that were sitting next to her away without much nudging and then there was plenty of room for Twilight, nopony was staring now. Even still, Twilight was reluctant to sit down.

“Hey.” Twilight turned to look back down at the large main room, taking stock of the hugeness of the house. “Whose house is this?”

“Do you think I invited you to somepony else’s house?” Rarity laughed and leaned back against the back of her couch. “This is my house.”

“You seriously live in a mansion?!” Twilight stared at Rarity, still wearing her leather jacket and sunglasses, unable to believe it. “But- there’s no way you’re this rich!”

“It’s not nearly as impressive as you think.” Rarity pointed up to a huge window that hung just above the couch. “If you look out that window there, you’ll see the forest creeping right behind us. In just a few years, this house will be inside the forest. The old owner was happy to get anything for it. I practically got this place for free.”

Twilight stepped onto the couch to try and take a look outside through the large window, but the house was too light and the forest too dark for her to see anything.

“But aren’t you scared?” Twilight sat down next to Rarity. “What if something happens? If you can afford this place, you could absolutely afford to live in Canterlot instead.”

“I like monsters,” said Rarity. “I like darkness. I like degenerates and I like danger. Money goes a lot further too. Why would I want to stay locked in some closet under Celestia’s nose when I can come down here and drown myself in luxury?”

“It’s a lot safer under Celestia’s nose,” said Twilight.

“Ah? And were you safe there?” Rarity asked. “It certainly looks like something chased you down here.”

Twilight couldn’t exactly disagree. She thought she was safe, always felt safe, but there was only one of the two places Twilight could actually survive in.

“My apologies.” Rarity put her hoof on the back of Twilight’s head and rubbed gently. “I didn’t bring you here to make you feel bad.”

Twilight kept very still. Another pony was basically petting her in public right now! She looked over to the other ponies nearby. They didn’t look comfortable with it either but didn’t want to say anything to Rarity.

And that was how Twilight felt too. She knew it was wrong, but she didn’t exactly want Rarity to stop.

“I really would like to give you a new mane style.” Rarity started pushing Twilight’s mane around, studying it. “I think something spikier would look nice.”

“Spikey? Like a pegasus?” Twilight scrunched her nose. “That’s- no. That’s gross!”

“Twilight, I know better than anypony here what looks good. You know.” Rarity whispered softly in Twilight’s ears. “If you were willing to do what I told you, and you asked me very politely, why I could make any of these little ponies fall in love with you, become completely obsessed. Just point to one you like and they’re yours. Whatever you want that to mean.”

At least at that moment, sitting above them all, Twilight felt like Rarity really could do it. She looked over the small crowd but wasn’t willing to just pick somepony out and say ‘give me him’ if that was what Rarity expected.

“Um-“ Twilight turned back to Rarity.

Rarity had let her glasses slide down her muzzle a little bit, enough for Twilight to see her eyes. Her eyes were gorgeous. They were such a beautiful blue, almost shined in the darkness. Twilight read about getting lost in some pony’s eyes, but she never understood that feeling until just now. She stared into them, not really sure what she was feeling.

“Oh?” Rarity snickered, coming just a little closer. “Were you going to point at me?”

And then she laughed.

“W-what?! No! No, no.”

But Rarity kept laughing.

“Guh.” Twilight hung her head in defeat.

“But that was a nice try.” Rarity rubbed her hoof on Twilight’s back.

Rarity got up and walked over to the edge of the stairs. Only when she got there did Twilight remember that she’d just been touched again and shuddered. It was like there was a delayed reaction when Rarity did it.

“Everypony. Your attention.” Rarity didn’t speak too loudly, but they all turned to look. She dragged Twilight to her side with magic and put a hoof on Twilight’s shoulder. “This is my friend, Twilight Sparkle. She just moved here from Canterlot and I want all of you to give her a warm welcome.”

The other ponies all applauded and cheered for Twilight. Twilight wasn’t sure how to respond to that and just stood there awkwardly. Suddenly, about a dozen ponies Twilight had never met before were crowding around Twilight, asking her questions. Twilight struggled to keep up with them all.

“Hey, where do you work?”

“What part of town do you live in?”

“Did you go to that magic school?”

“Isn’t Twilight pretty?” Rarity whispered to one of them.

“I just love your highlights,” said one of the mares. “I'm always so jealous of mares with more than one mane color.”

“Nice horn too,” she heard one of the stallions quietly mention to another.

“I can't believe how pretty your eyes are without any make-up!”

And just like that, probably for the first time in her life, Twilight was the center of attention. She couldn’t handle it, barely managing a ‘dyuh’.

“She’s a bit shy. Please be patient with her.” Rarity scanned the crowd of ponies then, as if picking one at random, pulled one of the stallions in front of Twilight. “Thunderlane! Don’t you think Twilight is pretty?”

“Oh yeah, absolutely.” Thunderlane blushed and nodded. “You’re super cute, Twilight.”

And he was actually blushing looking at her? Twilight never imagined that sort of thing would happen. She never thought of herself as good-looking. Maybe it was just for Rarity.

“Um. Thanks.” Twilight had no idea what to say. “You too. Or- well you know what I mean!”

“And,” Rarity butted back in, “if you think she’s pretty why not ask her to dance? Before somepony else does?”

“I would love to dance with you, Twilight.” Thunderlane bowed his. “You, uh, want to?”

“I don’t really know how.”

“Nopony does! Come on! Just do what I do.”

“Well, okay…”

The second the two of them left, every pony’s attention turned back to Rarity. She went back to her couch and the others practically raced to sit next to her.

Thunderlane lead a nervous Twilight down the stairs back to the main room, where several other ponies were dancing already. The moment the two of them Twilight felt her heart racing, more nervous about dancing badly than anything else.

Twilight awkwardly followed Thunderlane’s steps. It really wasn’t as complicated and nopony was laughing at her or anything. After a little bit, she got more comfortable with it. She honestly thought dancing with a colt would make her more nervous than this, but she wasn’t the least bit flustered.

“So, uh. You’re from Canterlot, right?” Thunderlane asked. “And with your cutie mark, you probably went to that academy, right?”

“Y-yeah.” Twilight’s gaze fell. “I uh, went there.”

Twilight felt like she was up against a wall here. Family, jobs, housing, education, all the things ponies ask you about when you first meet were the very things Twilight didn’t want to talk about right now. She started to worry that the whole night was just going to be having to go over her failure of a life over and over again.

“Uh- oh! How long have you known Rarity?” Thunderlane, to Twilight's relief, changed the topic quickly once he saw Twilight’s reaction. “She said you two were friends, right?”

“I literally just met her earlier today.” Twilight shook her head.

“Ah, that’s too bad. Got my hopes up for a second.”

“Huh? What do you mean?” Twilight asked.

“Those three are a real mysterious bunch.” Thunderlane looked up at Rarity like he was checking to make sure she wasn’t listening. “They all live in this house together, but that’s all we know. Rarity just showed up out of nowhere one day and nopony knows where she used to live or where she got all this money from. And she's got that strange accent, so she must be from somewhere else, but nopony can tell where that accent is from. They tried looking too. Pinkie, that pink one, she’s the only one we know anything about. Kind of a weird story.”

“Yeah?” Twilight got closer. The two of them weren’t dancing much at this point.

“She used to live in the town north of here. She went missing like five years ago, they even had those missing pony signs up for her and everything. Nopony sees or hears from her that whole time then she just shows up with the other two one day. I guess she must have run into them somewhere, or they ran into her. I dunno.” Thunderlane chuckled. “Actually, there’s this, I dunno if you’d call it a rumor or a theory, but a lot of ponies like saying those three are vampires.”

Thunderlane smiled enough when he said this that Twilight knew he didn’t take the idea seriously.

“Vampires?” Twilight asked incredulously.

“Totally fits! They always wear sunglasses and nopony’s ever seen them out during the day. Not anypony I know, anyway. If you come here during the day, all these curtains are closed and the door’s bolted shut and they don’t open up for anything. And they totally play into the vampire thing. Pinkie’s always hissing at ponies.”

“Yeah.” Twilight sighed. “The hissing was the first thing I noticed. Those three are totally crazy. And way too rough for me. I dunno if it's a good idea to be coming over to their house like this.”

“I don’t think they’re so bad. I like having them around, actually.”


“Yeah. Ponyville always has some gang of delinquents throwing their weight around, ever since I was a little kid. And I gotta say, the Blue Diamonds are the best of the three I ran into. The gang that was in charge before Rarity showed up was called the Screaming Skulls. Those guys would rob your house or mug you in broad daylight. And they had the police bought out so you couldn’t do anything about it. You should be glad Rarity got rid of them before you showed up.”

“What do you mean got rid of them?”

“I guess they just beat them all up or something. Nopony really knows, but those guys all left town right after the Blue Diamonds showed up. And there were like fifty of those guys, too. I guess that’s why everypony’s so intimidated by Rarity. But I’ll take free food over getting mugged any day. So the Blue Diamonds are alright in my book. Oh, and they do give you dinner if you show up a bit earlier. Ponies around here are poor enough that a free meal’s worth a lot.”

Twilight herself was at the point where free food was tempting.

“Maybe you’re right. I guess this party is a lot nicer than I thought it’d be, given how they look I mean. Isn’t this really late, though?” Twilight looked up at the clock, already past ten. “I’m already getting a little tired.”

“I don’t normally stay up this late either, but you know. Maybe we could get some food or something?” Thunderlane suggested. “I’m sure that’d wake us up.”

It was a little late to be eating, but Twilight followed Thunderlane over to where the tables of food were.

When they got there, Pinkie was already sitting next to one of the tables, eating. She had a candy bar in one hoof, half of it already eaten but she was still going.

“Wait, you’re eating an entire candy bar?” Twilight stopped in her tracks to make sure she was seeing this right. “That is chocolate, right?”

Without breaking eye contact, Pinkie Pie finished it off with a single bit, swallowing it without barely chewing, then reached for a second one and unwrapped it.

“Y-you’re eating two candy bars?!” Twilight took a step back. “Aren’t you going to puke or pass out or- or die or something?”

Pinkie doubled over laughing hysterically. More surprisingly, Thunderlane laughed too. Twilight nervously laughed along with them, though she wasn’t sure why any of them were laughing.

“Yeah,” Twilight spoke up again as soon as the laughter died down. “But- but seriously. Chocolate contains theobromine.”

“What?” Thunderlane asked.

“Theobromine! It’s poisonous. It has an LD50 of two grams for ponies. Didn’t they teach you that in social studies?” Twilight looked at Thunderlane, then Pinkie but it didn’t look like they did. She knew the school systems outside Canterlot weren’t so great, but this was ridiculous. “My point is you can’t eat that much chocolate without getting sick. You might end up in the hospital or-"

Pinkie grabbed a bowl, half-filled with chocolate chips. Twilight watched in horror as Pinkie ate hoof-fulls of the chocolate, way more than Twilight thought anypony would ever be able to safely eat. Once she realized her point was made, Pinkie started laughing and dropped the bowl face down onto the floor, letting the remaining chips scatter.

“Ha!” Pinkie started walking away backwards. “Seems like I can do a lot of things I can’t do.”

“But-“ Twilight watched helplessly as Pinkie bounced off, completely unharmed. “She’s gonna get sick later, right? She’s gonna puke everywhere!”

“Probably not?” Thunderlane shrugged. “I wouldn’t eat that much chocolate but that pony eats a lot of sugar and I never saw her get sick. Hey, you seriously never had chocolate before?”

“No.” Twilight shook her head. “In Canterlot they’re not even allowed to sell it cause- well it’s bad! I think. I don’t think I’ve ever even seen chocolate in person before.”

Twilight looked over the rest of the table. All of it was candy. At least, she was fairly certain all of it was. She didn’t recognize a lot of it.

She’d never eaten any candy of any sort, not even the ones that were legal in Canterlot. Her parents only ever allowed her to eat carrots and celery as snacks. Not that either of those things were here.

“Man.” Thunderlane thought about that. “I knew they kept Canterlot clean, but that’s kind of impressive. Maybe a little too impressive.”

“But you agree it’s bad, right?” Twilight looked back at him. “Sugar causes moral degeneracy and decay. Right?”

“Well, yeah! But small doses, you know.” Thunderlane held his hooves just a tiny bit apart. “There’s nothing wrong with a little bit of something bad. You really should try it at least once in your life.”

Twilight looked around the room. Almost everypony was eating candy and none of them were puking. This wasn’t anything like those anti-candy PSAs she used to watch.

“Maybe.” Twilight levitated one of the candy bars, keeping it a safe distance. “I guess I could maybe try a small piece? Just to know what it’s like!”

Twilight looked around the room nervously, half expecting somepony to yell at her. She was a little disappointed nopony did.

“Yeah!” Thunderlane nodded. “You don’t have to go as crazy as Rarity’s gang.”

Twilight nodded back, then turned back to the candy bar. She broke off the tiniest piece of chocolate she could and very slowly put it in her mouth. She didn’t know what she was expecting from it, but her eyes opened wide when she realized that it actually tasted good. Amazing, even! She could understand how ponies became addicted.

“Oh, wow that’s really good!” Twilight looked herself over to make sure there weren’t any rashes or the like. “And I- I feel okay. For now.”

“Hey!” Pinkie jumped up at Twilight from behind. “You actually did it! I didn’t even have to tempt you or anything!”

“What?!” Twilight spun around, looked in the direction Pinkie had run off in moments ago, then back at Pinkie. “Where did you-?”

“Circles!” Pinkie put her hooves together, then made a big circle. “Trademarked! But hey, you wanna see what else you almost never had?”

“Try- try what?” Twilight asked, Pinkie already pulling her further down the table.

“Maybe you should-“ Thunderlane tried.

“Try a little bit of everything! Yeah, good idea!” Pinkie cut Thunderlane off and gave him a short hiss as she pulled Twilight away from him. And he mostly stayed silent after that.

Pinkie looked over the table, before pouring Twilight some kind of beverage.

“How about something even worse? Coffee!” Pinkie held the cup out to Twilight with a sinister smile. “Trust me this is a very good idea!”

“Celestia doesn’t want us drinking coffee either. It can-“ Twilight paused, realizing she was making the exact same argument from a minute ago. Lots of other ponies here were having it and they all seemed fine. “Okay, I guess maybe…”

Twilight took a sip of it and stuck her tongue out at how bitter it was.

“Bleck. This one’s not as good.” Twilight put the cup back down. “I dunno why, but I always thought coffee was supposed to be sweet too.”

“That’s cause it doesn’t have the most important ingredient in all the world’s history!” Pinkie took the coffee back then started pouring some kind of white powder into it from a bowl. “Sugar!”

“That looks like a lot of sugar,” Twilight said as Pinkie was still pouring it in.

“Nah! This is only half as much as I put in mine!” Pinkie offered the cup to Twilight a second time.

It was true that Twilight would have no idea how much sugar was a lot. She’d never been allowed to have any of the stuff at all. In school, they always just said ‘no sugar is acceptable’ and left it at that.

She sipped the coffee and decided it was much better like this, so much so that she started to wonder how much of it she could get away with drinking. She decided to keep drinking it until she got just a little drunk, then she’d know what the limit was.

After that, Pinkie pushed maybe a dozen other types of candies and drinks on Twilight, taking her on a whirlwind of flavors. Though Twilight had only a tiny bit of each. All the while, Twilight slowly drank the coffee, actually managing to finish the cup without getting drunk at all. Apparently, you could drink a lot more of it than she’d always thought.

Far from getting sick, Twilight felt great by the end! She wasn’t tired anymore and was ready to get back to dancing with Thunderlane once Pinkie shoved her back in his direction. But even as she went back to dancing with him, Twilight wanted more. That small piece of chocolate wasn’t enough.

She didn’t want to get addicted, but at the same time, she wasn’t a hundred percent sure how much candy and coffee she could actually have before something bad happened. In school, they taught abstinence-only, so her only frame of reference was what the other ponies here were doing.

She decided to just watch Pinkie Pie and have one-tenth of what she did. Surely that would be safe. It was probably less than that, given she didn’t see everything Pinkie had.

And it totally kind of did work. Twilight would go back to the table every now and then and she just got more and more energy as the night went on and on. Thunderlane was the one who got tired first, despite having no coffee at all. He invited Twilight to come sit on the couch with him, but Twilight had way too much energy for that.

Pinkie called him a ‘gelding’ (a word Twilight vowed to look up later) and started dancing with Twilight in his place. The two of them danced far more wildly than before. Now that most of the other ponies were gone it felt easier to be less restrained. Twilight felt like she was a little filly again, jumping around with Pinkie.

Though it wasn’t possible to keep up with Pinkie.

Panting, Twilight got up and went back over to the food table. It was almost empty now, but there was still enough coffee left for one more cup. Twilight poured some, feeling it tremble slightly.

“Okay.” Dash swatted the cup to the floor, spilling it. “I have literally never had to cut somepony off of coffee, but you clearly don’t need more. This is like your fourteenth one!”

“It is? Fourteen sounds like a lot! I must have- must have gotten carried away. But I don’t feel even a little drunk yet. At school, they made us put on those drunk goggles.” Twilight motioned liked she was putting the goggles on. “So I know what being drunk is like and my vision is fine.”

“Drunk?” Dash raised an eyebrow. “You think drinking coffee makes you drunk.”

“It-it doesn’t?” Twilight felt her eye twitched. “Then what does it do? They just said it was bad.”

“Holy buck. What do they even teach you in bone head school?”

“Um. Math?”

Dash and Twilight both laughed at the line.

“I like you, Sparkles. You're funny!” Dash chuckled. “But seriously, maybe run a few laps around the house, and then we’ll talk about more coffee.”

Then Rainbow Dash flew off, up the stairs, landing on the couch next to Rarity. By now they were the only two up there.

Twilight just rolled her eyes and turned back to the party. Thunderlane was still there too, lying down on the couch with his head on a pillow.

“Thunderlane!” Twilight jumped up onto the couch next to him. “Come on! You gotta be rested by now! Let’s dance some more. Come on come on come on!”

Twilight bobbed up and down in beat with the music as she waited for him to get up. He tried but collapsed back down.

“Okay, this is too much for me.” Thunderlane yawned loudly. Twilight just now noticed his slumped posture and tired eyes. “It’s way too late for this or, well anything. I gotta go. Do you want me to walk you home?”

“What? Already?” Twilight jumped off the couch and trotted in place as Thunderlane got up. “I’m nowhere near tired!”

“This is the latest I've ever been up for, Twilight.” Thunderlane yawned miserably. “I don't think I can last another hour. We'll have to meet up some other time.”

“Okay,” Twilight said, disappointed, as Thunderlane walked past her and out the door.

Twilight could hardly just stand there any longer. There were plenty of other ponies here to dance with and Twilight needed to get rid of this energy. She didn’t need Thunderlane! It was like she was on fire right now!

“Come on!” Twilight spun back towards the room, her forelegs opened wide. “Somepony’s gotta want to-“

But the huge room was empty now. A bit of a chill cooled off Twilight’s mania when she noticed there was nopony left but her.

“I’ll dance with you, Twilight!” Pinkie jumped up onto a nearby table and started jumping up and down. “Come on! Get on the table with me!”

Well, almost nopony. It was just Twilight and Rarity’s gang now.

Rarity and Rainbow Dash were looking down from that perch, talking quietly with one another. The second Twilight looked at them, they stopped talking. Rarity got up and took her time descending to Twilight while Dash took off into the air and flew upstairs somewhere.

“You know,” Rarity smiled. “Nopony has ever stayed nearly this late before.”

Rarity’s horn glowed briefly and the music stopped. Now the only sound was Pinkie's manic laughter.

“I only stayed like a second longer than Thunderlane,” said Twilight. “Well, so far anyway.”

“He was only here so long because of you. He’s too much of a gelding to leave with you or without you.” Rarity began walking around Twilight, looking her over. “I guess he wasn’t good enough for you? I really don’t blame you. Is there something else you want instead?”

“Is it really-?” Twilight looked up at the clock. It was three in the morning. “Oh, Celestia! That’s late! Like- if it got any later it'd be early! Oh, Celestia. I-I just lost track of time. I’m sorry. I should go home now.”

Twilight turned to leave but Rainbow Dash was suddenly there, sitting in front of the door, blocking Twilight’s path.

“Uh.” Twilight slowly turned back to see Rarity still sitting there, holding her forelegs wide.

“I’m sorry,” said Rarity. “I didn’t mean to make you feel like you had to leave just now. I invited you here. You can stay for as long as you want. All night even! That said if you still want to go-”

Rarity made a little wave of her hoof. Twilight turned back to see Dash get out of her way, allowing Twilight to relax again.

“So, like a sleepover?” Twilight smiled. That was exactly what she was hoping for earlier tonight. Now that she thought about it, she didn’t want to go back. Not to mention she’d have her first official sleepover. “Yeah! I never actually- I mean, I had sleepovers before but they were all uh… the l-word?”

Rarity laughed along with the other two. Twilight forced a nervous laugh as well.

“Sure. Sure.” Rarity made a gesture to Pinkie. “But the three of us aren’t going to bed nearly this early.”

“I want to complain about you calling three in the morning being, but I honestly don’t think I can get to sleep right now either.” Twilight started trotting in place again. “I have more energy than when I came here. I don’t think I’ve ever had this much energy! Glad it’s not just me. Isn’t that weird? But what do you do at three AM?”

“We do have one game,” Rarity came very close, “that we like to play with whichever pony stays the latest. It’s called blind faith.”

“I don’t think I ever heard of that one,” said Twilight.

“Cause we made it up!” Pinkie, still on the table, poked her head down towards Twilight.

“Nopony’s ever won.” Dash snuck up on Twilight from the other side. “You’re maybe the hundredth pony we’ve played this with but not one ever makes it. And you only get to play once in your entire life. You curious, Sparkles?”

All three of them were standing a bit too close to her now.

“Well. Yeah.” Twilight nodded. “How does it work?”

“Gotta go outside for it.” Dash turned and started walking towards the door.

Pinkie jumped off the table and followed her friend. Rarity, though, just took a step closer to Twilight.

“I’m afraid you’re going to have to play without me, though.” Rarity’s muzzle was so close to Twilight’s she imagined an onlooker would think they were touching. “Believe it or not there’s somepony I have to go see. But I am interested to find out if we’re going to meet again. I think I like you.”

“Uh-!” Twilight got another look at Rarity’s eyes as she said that and got flustered for a moment. Rarity liked her?

Twilight didn’t regain her composure until Rarity was already out of the room

“Who is she meeting at this hour?” Twilight asked Dash.

“Not every pony’s a filthy daywalker like you,” said Dash. “We’re going out this door.”

The remaining two lead Twilight around to the backyard. For such a huge place out in the country, the backyard was tiny. Rarity wasn’t kidding when she said the forest was right behind them. It was like a wall of darkness that cut off the otherwise manicured lawn with trees that rose higher than the house itself.

Twilight certainly wouldn’t have the guts to live here. She wondered if there was even one pony besides Rarity who did.

“I don’t think we should be out here.” Twilight backed up until she was against the wall of the house.

“What?” Dash walked dangerously close to the forest, close enough that something could probably grab her from it, but smiled as she looked out into the darkness. “Aren’t you curious what’s inside the Everfree Forest?”

“What?! N-No!” Twilight scrunched her nose in disgust that somepony would even ask that. “That’s disgusting! Of course I’m not. Why would you ask that?”

“Pft. Right, sorry. Forgot you were a dork.”

“Maybe we should play this in the front yard?” Twilight suggested.

“Nope!” Pinkie laughed.

“But why?” Twilight asked. “This is dangerous. I don’t even know what we’re doing and I know that.”

“You ever seen any horror movies?” Dash looked back at Twilight with a grin, fearlessly turning her back on the forest.

“When you watch a movie, information violently assaults your mind, strangling your eyes and ears in a vicious grip. There is simply no way for you to catch all of the influences films can bombard you with," Twilight recited a line that was burned into her mind. "I don't think they're allowed to make horror movies anymore. They haven't made a movie-movie in years."

“They still exist.” Dash looked back into the forest. “You know, the good ones, they never show you the monster or at least wait till the very end. You know why? Cause the second you see the monster it stops being scary.”

“Okay?” Twilight had no idea where this was going. “Well I couldn’t see a monster when it’s this dark anyway.”

Or if it was invisible.

“Exactly.” Dash walked back over to Twilight. She took a piece of cloth out of her pocket and stretched it out, letting Twilight see that it was a blindfold. “Now put this on.”


“It’s part of the game.” Dash held the blindfold out to Twilight. “It’s called blind faith, remember? And you can’t have faith in anything unless you’re blind.”

“I’m not sure if I want to play unless I know the rules,” said Twilight.

Dash stood close to Twilight’s left and tied it on her anyway, but over her forehead like a bandana, loosely enough that Twilight could easily slide it down if she wanted. Pinkie jumped next to Twilight from the other side so that Twilight was standing close between the two.

“What you do is you put on that blindfold.” Dash pointed out towards the forest. “And start walking forward.”

“What?!” Twilight held the blindfold up, even though it wasn’t down yet. “But the forest is right there!”

“That’s the point.” Dash pushed the blindfold back down, almost all the way. “If you stop one step short of going in, you win! You even get a prize.”

“I don’t think I can guess that.”

“We’re not blind and we’ll go forward too,” said Dash. “Obviously we’ll see where the edge is. One of us is going to stop walking at the right spot and the other won’t. One of us will lie and the other won’t. So you got a fifty-fifty chance of winning, right?”

“That’s why the name!” Pinkie certainly looked excited about this. “You gotta choose who to have faith in!”

Twilight thought about how that would work. Whoever stopped first would have to be outside the Everfree Forest. Twilight could play the game and just stop wherever the first one was, then she’d have a chance of winning and none of going into the forest. That seemed like the best strategy for this, but-

“But you said nopony ever won this?” Twilight asked. “Out of a hundred?”

“Half don’t even try,” said Dash. “The other half are still losers.”

“So there’s some kind of trick,” Twilight said mostly to herself.

Twilight knew she shouldn’t be considering this, that it was wrong to even entertain the idea. But Celestia knew Twilight was weak when it came to certain things. Curiosity was her biggest vice. Now she was legitimately interested in solving this little puzzle.

They had to be doing the same thing every time to get consistent results. The trap ponies fell for was likely the most obvious solution.

Twilight wanted to stop at the first pony and that seemed like that safe, sensible solution at first. The first pony would always stop at or before the Everfree, so you'd have a chance of winning but not of going into the forest if you picked that one. Only going to the second pony was risky. The second one was what everypony would avoid.

“I think the pony that goes farther is always the right one,” Twilight concluded. "Everypony loses because they always pick the shorter distance, right?”

“Hahaha!” Pinkie stamped her front hooves in applause. “You figured it out! But that’s the easy part.”

“Oh yeah!” Dash gave an unconvincing, condescending smile instead. “I forgot you were some smart Canterlot bonehead. Though I can think of one mistake you made.”

“I did?” Twilight tried to think of some flaw in her logic.

“And you don’t win the game unless you actually play,” said Dash. “It’s the only way you’ll find out what you got wrong.”

Knowing that she was wrong about something... and that playing might be the only way to find out what...

“Okay.” Twilight let out a long sigh and put on her blindfold. “I’m- I’m pretty sure I figured it out so I guess I’ll try.”

Without waiting for Twilight to say anything more, both of them took a step forward. Trembling, Twilight took a step forward too. With two ponies close by her side and the knowledge she couldn’t possibly be that close yet, walking forward wasn’t too difficult. Still, Twilight would have preferred walking towards a cliff blindfolded. She could almost feel the dread of the forest getting closer and closer with each step. Not for one second could she blame anypony for running away from this.

Dash stopped walking and put her hoof out to stop Twilight.

“There! Your muzzle is one inch away from the forest,” said Dash. “If you take one more step forward, you’ll be inside.”

“Don’t listen to her,” said Pinkie before she ran ahead. “You’re nowhere near the edge! It’s over here. I’ll catch you before you get inside, so you can just run over here.”

Having one of them leave her side made Twilight suddenly feel exposed and unsafe. She already knew Pinkie was at the right spot but found herself crouching down slightly, trembling too much to take a step forward.

“W-well I already-“ Twilight slowly began taking a step forward.

“But you made a mistake, remember?” Dash walked in front of Twilight. “You told us that you figured it out. See now I know what you’re expecting and can do the opposite. And of course I’m gonna do that opposite cause I’m a bucking delinquent. Guess none of those fancy Canterlot schools taught you basic bucking sense, huh?”

Twilight bit her tongue. That made total sense. Now Twilight had no idea what to do anymore!

“She’s lying!” Pinkie yelled like she was much farther away than she actually was. “You already know the right answer. Think about it. This is like a courage game! It’s too easy to figure out the answer so it’s gotta be a courage game!”

“Like we’d play something that stupid,” said Dash. “The real game is just between me and Pinks, see which of us can buck with you better. We’re punks, we love crap like that!”

Both of them were making a good case in their favor. Twilight had no idea what to do anymore.

“I got an idea,” Dash spoke softly. “Try sticking your hoof out. It’ll be in the forest if I’m telling the truth. Maybe you can try to feel it.”

Twilight lifted her trembling hoof and stretched it outward. Swinging it around, she couldn’t feel any trees.

“Can you feel the corruption of the forest seeping into you?” Dash whispered in Twilight’s ears. “It feels hot, right?”

Now that she mentioned it!

“I- I can!” Twilight pulled her hoof back. She was certain she did feel something, some heat on her hoof.

“Nah!” Pinkie called out to her. “That’s just a psychotic delusion or whatever those are called. She’s messing with you, Twitwi! You gotta have faith, Twilight! In me, I mean. Have absolute faith in me while simultaneously being totally skeptical of her. And then we both win! Thanks!”

That made her think. Did Twilight have faith in either of them? Absolutely not. All she had was the answer she came up with before. If she was blind, and she was, then that should be what she trusted. That was the answer. And Twilight wanted to know it was the answer.

Like she was bracing for impact, Twilight closed her eyes and held her breath. She felt her whole body tense up as she moved her hoof forward.

She went forward just one more step than most ponies would have.

There was a chance she was actually in the forest now! She stood very still, paralyzed, waiting for something bad to happen. But nothing did. Rainbow Dash and Pinkie were suddenly silent.

Nothing bad kept happening long enough for Twilight to feel bold enough for a second step. It was easier than the first, and the third was even easier.

Still unable to breathe or relax Twilight moved forward, feeling like the ground could disappear underneath her at any moment. As she got closer, Pinkie started to chuckle then laugh hysterically. Twilight didn’t think she’d be able to go any farther without the momentum she already had.

“Right there!” Pinkie booped Twilight’s muzzle hard, stopping her in the tracks. “You did it!”

“I did?”

Pinkie took the blindfold off and Twilight stumbled back at what she saw. The entrance to the forest really was just one step ahead now. Twilight could see just a little bit deeper now, just a few more tree trunks before total darkness. Twilight should have kept the blindfold down!

Before the fear could sink in too deep, Pinkie grabbed onto Twilight, squeezing her tight and swinging her around.

“Yay! Congratulations!” Pinkie twirled around excitedly with Twilight. “You’re the only winner ever!”

“Haha. You’re crazy, Sparks!” Dash hit her on the back. “Nopony ever actually does that! I take back all the horrible things I said about you. You’re okay!”

Twilight’s brain was just so stunned that she came this close to the forest that it took a moment for any of this to register.

“Wait! Are you hugging me?!” Twilight shoved Pinkie off of her. “Don’t do that!”

Twilight got back up and looked into the forest, panting heavily.

“Oh! Oh, Celestia, Celestia! I can’t believe I actually did that!”

“Me neither!” Pinkie sat down next to her. “But isn’t it so exciting?!”

Exciting wasn’t the word Twilight would use. At least her curiosity was sated. She couldn’t help but feel a little happy about solving the puzzle. There was only one thing still bugging her.

“How did you make my hoof feel hot, though?” Twilight asked.

“That was just in your head. You were expecting something bad to happen. Here, try it for real.” Dash stretched her leg out, into the forest. “I promise you won’t feel a thing.”

Twilight looked over at Pinkie who did the same.

“Hm.” Curiously, slowly, Twilight reached her hoof out too.

This time she felt nothing but the cool night air.

“Oh no! You went into the forest!” Pinkie pointed at Twilight and screamed in horror. “Police! Arrest her!”

“What?! No!” Twilight waved her hooves as fast as she could. “That doesn’t count, that doesn’t count, that doesn’t count! I didn’t actually touch the ground so-“

Pinkie and Dash started laughing hysterically again.

“Aw, let’s lay off her.” Dash pulled Twilight back up to her feet. “You put with this like a champ, Sparks. No more messing with her tonight. Sides, I don’t want to have to tell Rarity that her new little friend had a nervous breakdown.”


Twilight’s ears twitched. She never had anypony call her a friend before. Even if she wasn’t friends with these three.

“Come on.” Dash gestured back towards town. “I’ll show you around town, buy you a pizza or something.”

“Pizza?” Twilight followed quickly if only to get away from the forest. “This late? Nopony else in the entire world is awake right now.”

“We know a guy,” said Dash “We buy so much crap from him for those parties that he’d probably be out of business without us. He’ll open up just for us any time we show up.”

“Really?” Now Twilight was wondering how much food they did give out. She regretted not getting to the party sooner.

“Have you ever had a tredecuple pineapple pizza?” Pinkie ran up to Twilight’s other side.

“No,” said Twilight. “But I’m impressed you used the word tredecuple.”

Twilight followed them into town and eventually to that pizza place. Turned out a tredecuple pineapple pizza was more like pineapple with some pizza for flavoring.

After playing the rest of the night felt so calm and tranquil. And they didn’t ‘mess’ with her after that. Or at least she was pretty sure they didn’t. Twilight didn’t understand half their jokes.

It was nice.

But eventually, time caught up with Twilight and she started getting tired, then exhausted and soon the others were taking her back home.

Twilight was starting to wonder what time it was when her house came into sight. but there was no mistaking that the morning was about to come. This was far from the first sunrise Twilight had seen, but this particular one got a look of amazement from her.

“Wait. It's sunrise?! We stayed up till morning?!” Twilight asked in disbelief. She knew, intellectually, that this was how time worked but to actually witness the night and day loop around like this was mesmerizing. “I didn’t even know that was possible! I feel like I’m in an alternate dimension right now.”

“Yeah. I usually feel that way,” said Pinkie.

“You get another twenty coolness points for staying up till dawn for the first time,” said Dash. “That puts you at a hundred and seven.”

“So I’m about one percent of the way to getting to call you Dashie?” Twilight asked.

“Yeah!” Dash chuckled. “Just do this another hundred times and we’re cool!”

“You know, you’re actually nicer than I thought you’d be,” said Twilight. “But you’re still a delinquent! And I can’t condone a lot of the things you do.”

“I feel the same way about you, Sparks, just with another d-word.” Dash took off her sunglasses and looked Twilight in the eyes. “But hey! Wanna see who cracks first? You’re the first pony in this lame town to get to a hundred coolness points. I’m gonna give you an invitation. Meet us at that graveyard we passed before tonight at sundown. It’ll be more fun without a bunch of lameos around.”

“Rarity will be there,” Pinkie teased. “And she thinks you’re cute, Twitwi.”


Pinkie winked and stuck her tongue out at Twilight before turning to leave. Dash did the same without waiting for Twilight to accept or reject her offer. At least Twilight didn’t get hissed at this time.

Twilight dragged her heavy hooves back into her own house. She still needed to brush her teeth and stuff before bed but was so exhausted she had to take a minute to lie down on the couch first.

Only she ended up falling asleep there a few minutes later.


Twilight opened her eyes. Her head was pounding, her limbs were heavy and her eyes were blurry and hard to keep open.

She wanted to sleep more, but the sun was having none of it. Her house was surprisingly bright and it was hard for her to sleep with this much sunlight in her eyes. Twilight needed to get some curtains.

She went to bed just before seven, when she normally woke up, and got up at noon. Bizarre as it sounded, that was only five hours of sleep. So, there was a long list of things that may or may not be making her feel this terrible. A million things from last night may very well have poisoned her after all.

She decided to take a scarf and turn it into a makeshift eye mask. Blindfolded, sleeping became easier again. Suddenly the heaviness of her eyes felt like a good thing, dragging her into sleep.

And she almost got there.

But then there was a knock at the door. Twilight briefly imagined pretending not to be home until whoever it was went away, but in the end, she did reluctantly roll out of bed and get to the door.

It was Applejack, with what had to be twenty books in her saddlebag.

“I need to tell you something, Twilight,” said Applejack.

“Huh? Can it wait a couple of hours?” Twilight rubbed her eyes. “Or till tomorrow?”

“It’s important. I heard what happened last night.”

“Oh!” That woke Twilight up a bit. It felt like the consequences were just now catching up to her. “I really didn’t- other ponies were- what did you hear?”

“I ain’t here to judge you.” Applejack sighed. “This is more important than all that, something real important you need to know. I wasn’t going to say this at all. But when I heard you were out all night with those three… well Rarity is going after you and I have to warn you.”

Applejack took out a thick journal and held it up to Twilight.

“Rarity is a vampire. For real.”