• Published 6th Apr 2020
  • 5,144 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 4. Twilight's prize

Twilight intended to get to the graveyard well before sundown, but this was still a new town to her. She took a wrong turn and got lost for a little while. So by the time Twilight got to the graveyard, the sky was already red and she had reason to be concerned.

She couldn’t see the Blue Diamonds anywhere as she approached and started to get just a little scared. If they didn’t show up, Twilight would be stuck walking home alone after dark! Then she could seriously die. Or what if one of them was already dead and that’s why they weren’t here?

But the graveyard was big! Twilight tried to reassure herself that they were somewhere deeper in.

Looking in, Twilight recognized the graves as a style that she’d read about but never seen. They had spiked polls on the top and vines purposely running up them and over the grave, something that lost popularity hundreds of years ago. It gave her the feeling that this place was ancient, older than anything else she’d run into in this town.

There were, of course, more modern-looking tombs sunk into the ground, but they were interspersed with the more ancient, vine-covered so that looking left to right the graveyard smoothly transitioned from being drowned in vines to having none at all.

Twilight got to the gate and looked up at it, closed but unlocked. She’d only ever been to a graveyard the one time and wasn’t sure what the rules for going inside were during normal hours. She wasn’t even sure if she wanted to go in. Recently she’d decided that she hated the idea of graves in general, couldn’t even understand why other ponies wanted them. But this wasn’t the Canterlot graveyard so it wasn’t so bad.

Before her mind could go back to some dark place, Rainbow Dash flew down from somewhere and landed on top of the gate.

“Rainbow Dash!” Twilight called up to her, genuinely relieved to see her at this point.

“Hey! You came?” Dash pumped her hoof down at Twilight, one of those long-distance bro-hoof deals. “You know, we weren’t sure if you would."

Rainbow Dash was still dressed up, even though there was no party today, which didn’t make much sense to Twilight outside of her just being a delinquent. Her spiked collar and bracelets were gone, replaced by mismatched leg warmer in the front and tall boots over socks in the back. Parts of her mane were dyed black, leaving only the orange and blue stripes.

While remaining on top of one of the gate doors, Dash pushed the other side open for Twilight with a swift kick. Twilight looked at the now open path into the darkening graveyard. Looking into it reminded Twilight that she did have one extra important point to bring up.

“Hey, Rainbow Dash?” Twilight looked up at her. “Pinkie is here, right? I wanted to ask her about her family.”

Dash jumped off the gate and landed in front of Twilight, her wings spread defensively. She was fast! Though to be honest, Twilight had never really known any pegasi so she didn't know how normal that was.

“Whoa, whoa! What are you doing bringing that up?” Dash gave Twilight a stern look, but quickly lightened her expression and stance and shook her head a little. “Guess I can't blame you for not knowing, but that's kind of a bad topic for Pinks. Think you could maybe not kill the mood?"

Twilight couldn't help but be suspicious over Dash not wanting her to ask about it. Was Applejack, right?

“It's just that Applejack said you convinced Pinkie to run away from her family and you’re telling her to not see them anymore,” said Twilight. “If that's true, then it's not right. That's like something a cult would do. And if you’re a cult, I’m going home right now.”

Dash groaned, rubbing her hoof against her face.

“First of all,” said Dash, “Pinkie ran away from home before she met us. She was homeless for like a month before we found her. All the boss did was give her a place to stay. And you wanna know why Pinkie doesn't want to talk to her parents anymore?"

Dash took off her sunglasses and moved forward, forcing Twilight to take a step back, glaring into her eyes.

“It's cause her parents were horrible ponies." Dash hesitated for a moment, trying to decide how much she should tell Twilight. "See, Pinkie has a condition, right? It's uh, let's say 'treatable'. But her parents lied to her about what she had, told her it was some untreatable heart condition even though it ain't that at all. She's fine now that she's treating it, but she spent her entire childhood bedridden cause they lied to her, because they wanted her to be sick so she could never leave. Pinkie didn't even get her cutie mark until after she met us. Do you really think Pinkie should have stayed with them?"

Twilight's ears fell flat against her head. That did change the tone of the story completely. Twilight didn't know how old Pinkie was when she met them, but not having your cutie mark in what must have been her late teens alone meant something was horribly wrong.

“Sorry,” said Twilight. “I'm sorry. I just-”

“Eh! It's alright.” Dash put her sunglasses on and smiled at her. “Like I said, you didn't know. We're cool. Just don't bring this up when Pinks is around. And don’t think bucking Applejack is gonna give you the whole truth on anything.”

“Right.” Twilight nodded. She could relate to not wanting to bring things up. “I won’t mention this.”

“Rarity just has a thing for strays like you and me. All of us got screwed over, just like you did with that school. Like to hang out with our own kind.” Dash tried to give Twilight a light jab on her chest, but Twilight staggered back at the threat of being touched.

What was with these ponies and physical contact? Who did that? And yet Dash rolled her eyes like Twilight was the one acting weird.

“R-right.” Twilight cleared her throat. “But wait, how did you know about that? I don’t think I told you about the academy. Did I?”

“Ah, yeah, you’re from the bucking city, right?” Dash laughed and started into the graveyard, Twilight following behind. “Well in smaller towns like this, if you tell something to one pony you tell it to every last bucking one of them. I already know everything about you, Sparks. You already heard plenty about us, yeah?”

Dash smiled like she was trying to show off some invisible fangs, maybe expecting Twilight to bring up that vampire nonsense. But Twilight didn’t. She did have a point about how fast rumors spread in this town. It made her wonder if any weird stories about her cropped up yet.

They walked deep into the graveyard, towards where the older graves stood until they were surrounded by stones covered in large vines. Finally, they reached a section where several small, square tombs rose above the ground.

Here, Twilight found Pinkie and Rarity waiting. Rarity was sitting with her back to one of the tombs, reading some kind of pamphlet and not looking excited about whatever it said. Meanwhile, Pinkie was lying on her back, keeping a small ball in the air by kicking it with each of her four legs in turn.

As soon as Twilight approached, Pinkie kicked the ball forward instead of up, sending it flying towards Rarity's face.

“Twitwi's here!” Pinkie exclaimed and shot up to her hooves.

Meanwhile, the ball hit Rarity hard in the face. She was completely unfazed by this though, simply blinking and casually looking up with her eyes. When she saw Twilight, she gave a sly smile, put the pamphlet down, and strode over to her.

“Twilight!” Rarity held her forelegs wide like she was offering a hug. “I’m glad you came out here. I should probably apologize for thinking you wouldn’t show up. It’s very unusual for a pony to follow me this far. You’re an unusually brave pony.”

“Brave?” The compliment took her off guard. Never once in her life did Twilight ever think herself brave.

“I think so!” Dash walked past Twilight and over to Rarity. Rarity accepted her with the hug she’d offered to Twilight before Dash turned back. “You know, a lot of the crap we do is just to scare away lame ponies who aren’t worth our bucking time. They don’t usually stick around this long.”

“I get so lonely here in the dark,” Rarity said with a mocking smile.

Dash nuzzled Rarity’s neck lovingly and Rarity kissed her on the forehead in return. Were they a couple or something?! Not that Twilight had anything against it, she’d just never seen a couple kissing in public before, certainly not a gay one!

But instead of feeling disgust, Twilight just felt lonely now.

“But you keep following me.” Rarity held Dash close and beckoned to Twilight. “Am I just that pretty?”

Yes. The answer was yes. Not that Twilight was going to say that out loud.

“Well you’re the one who keeps inviting me over.” Twilight started trotting over to Rarity, that beckoning felt like it was pulling her in. “Am I just that pretty?”

“Yes,” Rarity answered immediately.

Twilight choked on nothing, turning away to cough. Rarity just called her pretty?!

“W-what?!” Twilight turned only her eyes back. She could feel herself blushing heavily.

“Or maybe I should say you have potential.” Rarity started looking over every little detail of Twilight. “Looks, you’re maybe a six but you could be a nine if you follow my advice. And I like how curious you seem to be. I think if I can get all those pesky morals off your back you could be a great friend for me.”

“You like that I’m curious?” Twilight looked back at Rarity with suspicion. “That’s usually the thing ponies like the least.”

“I’m glad they think that. It means I can have you all to myself.” Rarity rested her hoof on her cheek. “Now answer my question. Why are you here?”

“I feel like I have unfinished business.” Twilight reached into her saddlebag and pulled out three folders. “I think you could be good if I got my pesky morals onto your back. Only, you know, they’re not pesky in my opinion, and uh- that sounded better in my head.”

Twilight levitated one of the folders to each of the other ponies and they all gave the essay a curious look. Pinkie was turning it side to side like she’d never seen an essay before.

“I took the liberty of writing you an essay on why cursing is wrong,” Twilight said proudly. “I know didn’t have a good response to what you said last night, but I have one now. I’m sure if you-”

Pinkie was the first to fall over in laughter and the others joined in a moment later. Even Rarity was madly giggling.

“Oh geez.” Dash wiped a tear from her cheek. “This is so precious! This for real?”

It seemed so obvious this would happen in hindsight. Twilight bowed her head in shame and defeat.

“No, no. Twilight!” Rarity came right over and lifted Twilight’s chin up. She single, very quick nuzzle against the cheek. “This is adorable in a good way. I love you for this. I’ll read the whole thing. I’ll even make those two read it too.”

“Wait!” Pinkie finally stopped laughing and bolted upright at that. "I thought I'd never have to read again!"

“You will?” Twilight had never gotten somepony to read one of her essays before, professors notwithstanding. She wasn’t sure if she could believe this.

“When I challenge them, most ponies just declare that I’m evil and they’re good and that’s enough for them. But not for you.” Rarity held up the essay with her magic. “It’s not enough for you to just feel like you’re good. You want to actually know if you’re good, right? I like to think I’m the same. So what did you come up with? I promise I won’t laugh this time.”

Twilight was starting to feel more confident again. Maybe she could try.

“You see-“ Twilight cleared her throat. She just needed to pretend she was giving a report to a teacher or something. She started trotting back and forth as she gave her lecture. “They said that getting used to bad words is for the best because then you don’t get hurt by them. But even if you repeat the word over and over again to inoculate yourself against it, almost no other pony on the planet is going to do the same and it’s unlikely you’ll ever get them to. Other pony’s whose feelings do get hurt are occasionally going to hear you, giving you an ever-present risk. Replacing things like the c-word with ‘crud’ or the l-word with ‘disfavorable’ gets the same message across while eliminating the risks outlined in section one, four, and five of my essay. Therefore, the rules make sense and uh- don’t curse and stuff.”

“Very good!” Rarity gave one single clap. “But as for changing the world, well I won’t change everypony either way. But is it wrong for me to change the ones in my reach, who will actually hear me? I should put more concern on their feelings than some hypothetical pony. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with me making you a little uncomfortable if it makes you change for the better.”

“But you’re not doing that,” said Twilight.

“Aren’t I? You’ve only known me for a day, but what if I said ‘buck’? Would you still recoil?” Rarity smiled, knowing her point was made.

“Well-“ Twilight felt a bit frustrated by all this. She wondered how well asking for a few minutes to think about all this would go.

“And cursing is fun!” Pinkie jumped up onto a tombstone behind Twilight. “Ten seconds of bad and then it’s fun forever, Twitwi! Totally worth it!”

Pinkie hissed and jumped off. Dash came over and took her place.

“This whole thing is just policing your language,” said Dash. “It’s just a way for them to try and control you, pressure you to conform. It makes you get used to being told what you can say and think. Those bucking dweebs just wanna control every little thing in your life. That’s all. So buck that.”

“Not to mention,” Rarity continued. “I like the aesthetics of it. Surrounding myself with foul-mouthed ponies gives me a certain air, doesn’t it? Do you really believe calling somepony a dork is never justified and that the raw emotion of it can be captured by some neutered word?”

This whole time, Twilight just looked around at them, struggling to respond to any of this.

“Hold on! Let me write all this down.” Twilight took out a paper and wrote as fast as she could. “I-I’ll write you another essay tomorrow.”

Rarity covered her mouth, trying not to giggle.

“Yeesh.” Twilight looked down at her notes. “I thought you were just doing all these things to be bad, but you’re actually philosophical or something?! You gave this more thought than I did. Where do you even come up with this stuff?

“Ah!” Rarity winked at Twilight. “Now you’re curious about my philosophies? Well you know I want to stoke your curiosity.”

Rarity nuzzled the air just inches away from Twilight, making her shudder. Some base, carnal part of Twilight wished she’d actually gotten nuzzled just then.

“Oh, actually I love arguing, Twilight.” Rarity held her hoof close to Twilight’s face, pulling it back and forth slightly like she was trying to see how close she could get without a reaction. “I love asking questions that take ponies off guard and haunt them. I love it when I leave a pony with no choice but to agree with me. I’d like to have lots of these arguments with you until you agree with me on everything.”

Rarity went back to Rainbow Dash and draped herself over the pegasus possessively.

“You know, my Dashie and Pinkie used to be a lot more like you. Dashie hated my opinions far more than you did, at first. But now look at how much of a degenerate she is.” Rarity gave Dash a quick kiss on the lips and looked back to Twilight, still holding her. “Aren’t you jealous of her?”

Saying she wasn’t jealous wouldn’t go over well given how much this was making Twilight blush.

“Every dork in this bucking town is jealous of me.” Dash lifted her head with pride. “No shame in admitting it.”

Dash nuzzled Rarity back.

“I’m not jealous.” Twilight puffed out her cheeks. “And you shouldn’t be so overconfident! Every moral and scientific authority in the world agrees that I’m right about this stuff. I know what I believe is right, I’m just not as good at arguing as you are.”

“You’re right.” Rarity stroked Dash’s mane. “I have too much more experience. It won’t be satisfying for me unless I teach you a little first, make it more challenging. I take it your school never taught you critical thinking or logical fallacies or anything of the sort?”

“A logical fallacy?” Twilight raised an eyebrow. “That sounds kind of like a contradiction.”

“I have a book about it.” Rarity got that dangerous smile. “I have lots of books that can teach you about rhetoric, manipulation tactics, that sort of thing. I think they’d make you a more worthy opponent. It'd be much more difficult to simply trick you with fancy words at any rate.”

“Books?” Twilight narrowed her eyes, unapproved books still on her mind. “Which books?”

“Have you ever heard of It’s Not Okay or You’re Basically in a Cult by Open Eyes?”

“Open Eyes?” Twilight stood up and backed away. She’d heard that name a lot in school. “The serial killer guy?! You want me to read banned books written by a serial killer?!”

“Who did he kill?” Rarity asked.

“Okay.” Twilight sighed and sat back down. “Technically he didn’t kill anypony. But remember the rainbow killer? And the cutie mark cannibal? They were all directly inspired by those books. And the crime rate skyrocketed because those books were sowing discord. It only went back down after the first round of book banning. Nopony should ever read those books.”

“That ain’t true!” Dash called out from behind Rarity. “Banning books made the crime rate go up. And the rainbow killer never mentioned Open Eyes in his manifesto thing.”

“It’s not true? You’re saying the academy is wrong?”

“Yeah!” Dash nodded with total confidence.

Twilight was starting to get used to being stunned by them at this point and recovered from the shock quickly.

“And you seriously want me to trust you three over the academy?” Twilight asked.

“No,” said Rarity. “I don’t want you to trust me. You can look all of this up yourself, all the information is still out there if you look. Have you checked any of this?”

“Well no, but-“

“Ha!” Pinkie laughed. “But the same ponies who told you chocolate would kill you said so?”

Twilight turned away. She felt they were being childish by bringing that up over and over again, but she knew she was too curious. She wouldn’t be satisfied until she actually checked these statistics. Just to be sure.

“Maybe.” Twilight eyed them suspiciously. “But if even one thing you just said is wrong I’m not going to even look at those books.”


Twilight didn’t like Rarity’s confidence.

“But in the meantime, I owe you a prize, so I'll tell you a secret.” Rarity walked over to the front of the tomb she’d just been sitting next to. “But I'm afraid you do have to follow me just a little bit farther. There’s a lot of nice things in this town that nopony else will show you but myself. Let me show you one of them.”

The tomb was so overrun by vines Twilight thought it had to be the oldest one here. Only the door, that they stood in front of, was still exposed to the night air. And unlike the entrance to the graveyard, this one had chains and locks over it.

“This doesn’t look like a nice thing,” said Twilight.

“It’s nicer on the inside.” Rarity grabbed the lock with her magic and started fiddling with it. “Shouldn’t you like simple little morals like that?”

“Wait.” Twilight watched with disbelief until the lock came undone. “You’re going inside of there?”

“We are.” Pinkie corrected Twilight. “We break into tombs and abandoned houses and stuff all the time. It’s fun!”

“But we can't go in there,” said Twilight. “I recognize from the architecture that this is an Elementalist tomb. In their religion, it’s forbidden for the living to enter the resting place of the dead. Only dead ponies and elementals are supposed to see the inside of these tombs, so going in there is a really big taboo.”

“I’m impressed with your knowledge, Twilight.” Rarity turned away from the crypt and came within reach of Twilight. For a second Twilight's heart stopped beating as she hoped for another head pat. Sadly, it didn't come. “But tell me, are you an Elementalist? Do you believe in the elementals? That's the real reason entering these tombs is forbidden, you know. Elementalists don't fear these tombs out of some misguided respect, but because they truly believe the elementals will get them. Do you?”

“Well, no,” said Twilight. “I don't believe in any kind of superstition. But- it's still disrespectful to the dead, right? Whoever's buried there believed that stuff, and I'm sure their families would want us to respect that.”

“The dead won't care what we do.” Rarity pushed open the doors to the tomb. “As for any relatives they may have, I can personally guarantee you they don't mind us visiting. And really, what’s disrespectful? Leaving the dead to be forgotten completely, or to visit their memories?”

“Sure but,” Twilight said, scratching her head, trying hard to think of a counter to that.

With an eager smile, Rarity watched Twilight think, getting way too much enjoyment out of it.

“Well it feels wrong,” Twilight concluded. “Shouldn’t I go with my heart or something?”

“Should you?” Rarity gave her a smile and a wink before heading inside the tomb.

There was an almost magnetic pull to Rarity, making Twilight want to follow even though everything else made her want to stay. Twilight approached the doors and looked at the blackness inside. There was a steep staircase right after the door, leading deep underground. A feeling of dread came over Twilight for obvious reasons, breaking that magnetic feeling as fast as it had come.

“Come on Twitwi! There are so many great things you'll never see if you stay up here!” Pinkie moved up behind Twilight and started pushing her forward with the top of her head. “Come on come on come on!”

“Are there going to be dead bodies all over the place?” Twilight dug her hooves in, slowing her movement to a halt. “I mean, there are dead bodies down there. Won't it be a festering pit of rotting corpses?”

“Nope!” Pinkie said without the slightest care before giving up on pushing Twilight and bouncing past her and down the stairs.

Well, that much was good.

“The coffins are filled with ashes.” Dash shrugged before walking into the tomb as well. “If it makes a difference.”

And that's how Twilight ended up alone in a graveyard, staring into an open tomb. Being alone felt like the worse of her two options. And it wasn’t like it would hurt to just take a peek at what it looked like down there. She could turn back if it really was gross.

Twilight took a deep breath and went down the stairs.

Halfway down, Twilight noticed a soft, red glow coming from the bottom, assuring her it wouldn’t be as dark as she feared. And she trotted down the stairs.

Far from a festering pit of rotting corpses, this place was beautiful. It was a long hallway with a stone bed in the center and slots for coffins along the walls, one on either side and two at the far end.

The coffins were gilded with gold and the walls and columns between them were covered in gems. Everything had intricate, detailed designs carved into them, swirling patterns and carvings of ponies with eyes socketed with gems.

There were three coffins in the room, pushed into the spaces in the wall carved out for them. Curiously, there was a fourth, empty slot that never got its coffin, was still waiting for somepony to die. It was this empty slot that Rarity decided to use as a seat, jumping up there and sitting proudly like it was some sort of throne. Though to be fair that was how she sat on everything.

Money looming on the back of her mind, Twilight wondered how anyone could have just buried so many valuable gems. Twilight stared at the coffins, wondering how much of this gold was real, how many thousands of bits you could get from scrapping some of the gold off. Even a little bit of it would make a huge difference in her life.

“Ooo!” Pinkie snuck up behind Twilight. “Are you thinking of taking some of the gold? You wanna play graverobbers with us?”

“You have my permission to take whatever you want.” Rarity gave an imperious flick of her hoof. “I don’t need it.”

“I don’t think you can give me permission to rob somepony else’s grave,” said Twilight.

And Rarity laughed.

“I’m just impressed by how much of this there is.” Twilight looked around, still taking it all in. “I knew these tombs were ornate, but this is much more than what I imagined. This family must have been amazingly wealthy.”

“Fairly wealthy,” Rarity jumped out of her cubbyhole, “but not as much as you'd think. This one-“

Rarity trotted over to one of the coffins. Just next to the slot it’d been pushed into was a stone carving of a filly. She ran her hoof down the side of the stone face and closed her eyes.

“This one was just a filly,” Rarity said with more respect than Twilight was expecting. “Just after getting her cutie mark, she got an incurable disease and slowly drifted away, at such a young age. Her family was devastated. Her father coped with the loss by focusing his attention on building this ornate tomb for her.”

Rarity very slowly trotted over to the next coffin, running her hoof along the waving, swirling patterns along the wall as she went, tracing the patterns in the gilded stone.

“The whole family was renowned for their artistic talents, you know,” said Rarity. “The father bought the finest stone and most brilliant gems to fill this place, spending more money than he could afford, spending days and days down here carving this out, making it perfect– his final, beautiful gift for his lost daughter.”

She finally stopped in front of a second coffin. From the design on the front, it looked like it probably belonged to a mare. Rarity looked into the carvings stone eyes with a somber seriousness.

“Does that sound like a sweet gesture?” Rarity glanced back at Twilight. “Well not everyone thought so. Sweetie Belle's mother was also crushed and her husband spent all his time down here, away from her, focusing on the dead rather than the living. Maybe he could have helped her through it otherwise, or maybe it was always hopeless, but-”

Rarity ran her hoof along the coffin in front of her, lovingly, sorrowfully, with far more respect than Twilight would expect a delinquent to have towards the dead.

“-here they are,” said Rarity, not taking her eyes off the coffin. “A tragedy, some bad decisions. Love and sorrow make us do stupid things, Twilight.”

Rarity let out a sorrowful sigh.

“That’s a depressing story,” Twilight awkwardly looked away, unsure what she was supposed to say

“Look at the positive side,” Rarity returned to looking at Twilight with a smile. “At least we’re not dead. That’s a happy ending to the story if you ask me.”

But for how long would Twilight be alive? Twilight shouldn’t have come down here. She hated being reminded of death these days. She was already left so paranoid about it.

Rarity must have picked up on that. She was frowning down at twilight with such pity.

“I think I promised you a secret, yes?” Rarity asked. “It’s something I’ve been very careful not to let anypony in this town know yet.”

“Yeah?” Twilight was certainly interested in this.

“Well you’ve been in town for about a day now,” Rarity said. “That’s probably long enough for at least two ponies to have told you I’m a vampire. I’ve been here for about six months and not one pony has seen me out during the day. Isn’t that what they say?”

“Yeah.” Twilight couldn’t help but chuckle a little. “I definitely heard that one.”
“You see, Twilight,” Rarity whispered, but only those first three words, “nopony sees us during the day because we never go out during the day. All three of us have light-sensitive conditions that make it unsafe for us to be in the sun.”

“Really?” Twilight asked. “Like xeroderma pigmentosum?”

“Like that,” said Rarity, “but not that one.”

“I have phantasmagorical mitochondria!” Pinkie jumped up to the slab in the middle of the room. “If I go out in the sunlight, I lose all my energy and faint! Even having the lights on too long can drain me. I used to be totally dead on the inside until Rarity taught me how to be a vampire!”

Pinkie made a dramatized fainting motion, or maybe a dying one because she stuck her tongue out at the end.

“Mine makes me blister all over if I stay out in the sun too long.” Dash rubbed her foreleg like there were blisters there now. “The sun would literally kill me in a bucking hour if you forced me to stay out. That’s why I always say I’m the most vampire here.”

“Mine,” Rarity took off her sunglasses and pointed to her eyes, “is called hyper-chromatic degeneration disorder. Bright lights slowly burn little blind spots into my eyes. Bit of a fun fact, when you get a blind spot you rarely actually notice because your brain just edits it out. I have lots of blind spots from when I was a foal and I barely notice. But if my eyes are exposed to too much more sunlight, soon there’d be too much damage for my brain to pretend everything is fine and I’d go blind forever. Best to just stay in the dark, in my opinion.”

“I’ve heard of that mitochondria one, at least,” said Twilight. “But diseases like that are incredibly rare. The chances of all three of you just happening to-“

“Of course it didn’t just happen,” Rarity giggled, “that’d be ridiculous. Dashie and I met when we were fillies at a support group for ponies who have conditions that keep them in the dark. I know dozens of ponies like us.”

“Yeah!” Dash flew over to Rarity’s side. “Used to call it vampire con. Course, all the other ponies there were lame. We went out looking for others like us but found Pinks here by total accident. When we found out she was like us, we knew we couldn’t leave her hanging.”

“And now we’re a vampire gang!” Pinkie stood up on the slab and hissed proudly. “I can finally be proud to be a vampire!”

“Everypony always gave us crap,” said Dash, “called us vampires growing up. 'Oh, you’re a vampire, you’re a vampire'. So eventually we just said, yeah buck it. We’re vampires!”

“That actually makes a lot of sense.” Twilight nodded.

“I’ve always related to vampires.” Rarity looked over her own hoof. “We love them so much you know. I so wish I was a vampire. Don’t you?”

“Wish I was a vampire?” Twilight asked.

“No, no. Wish I was a vampire.” Rarity leaned over the edge of the coffin hole. “Don’t you think I should stay young and beautiful forever? Doesn’t the idea of me getting old, withering away, and dying just seem wrong to you?”

“I dunno.” Twilight wasn’t even sure how to respond to that. As far as looks went, Rarity was perfect. It did make her sad thinking that’d just go away eventually… and then Rarity would die. “Maybe?”

“Then why not you?” Rarity pointed down at Twilight. “You look like the sort that just takes it for granted that immortality is bad. Why not be a vampire with me?”

Rarity smiled, excited about another argument. Twilight had to admit she wasn’t opposed to trying to argue about a more neutral topic. She did want practice and it wasn’t like she hated this little game they had.

“Heh. Well of course immortality is bad,” said Twilight. “If you live forever, you’d have to watch all of your friends and family grow old and die.”

Not that Twilight had any friends…

“Wrong!” Pinkie jumped off the slab and shouted at Twilight from behind.

“Wrong?” Twilight tilted her head. “But- yes. Of course, that would happen. “

“You already have to watch all your retard friends grow old and die,” said Dash. “Did you think they weren’t gonna get old and lame? Or that being mortal will keep them from dying? The only difference is that right now you gotta grow old and die too.”

They had a point. It’s not like being mortal kept Twilight’s family from dying. She still lost all of them.

“And if you were a vampire,” Pinkie jumped off the slab, landing next to Twilight, “all you gotta do is kidnap all of your friends, lock them in your basement and turn all of them into vampires one by one. Then you can party with all of them forever and laugh as all the ponies you hate slowly die around you!”

Pinkie fell on her back laughing.

“But you know,” Pinkie got back up, “hypothetically. I don’t actually have a basement.”

“Yeah,” said Dash. “You got it backward, Sparks. Daywalkers get everything backward. Being a vampire with vampire friends means you don’t gotta watch your friends grow old.”

“I almost feel like I’m getting a sales pitch here.” Twilight wanted to get off this part of the vampire stuff, it was starting to make her depressed. “Even if living forever wasn’t terrible I wouldn’t want to have to murder a different pony every night.”

“I suppose,” Rarity lied down in the coffin slot, “it depends on which type of vampire you are, then. I can see some types maybe not being worth it.”

“Which type?” Twilight asked. “Are there types of vampires?”

Rarity pointed over to Rainbow Dash.

“There’s lots of different types of vampires you know,” said Dash. “Not all of them eat ponies. Sides the ones you’re thinking of there’s like, the Darkworld vampires who just drink blood. Fantasy vampires are more like half-bat half ponies and eat bugs and frogs. There’s those sappy books about psychic vampires who eat emotions like changelings used to, those ones suck by the way. Then in mud pony folklore vampires are monsters that live deep in the Everfree. They come out every once in a while to tempt daywalkers like you with the fruit of eternal youth, which turns you into a monster like them."

“Wait,” said Twilight. “That last one. Applejack was telling me stories about that earlier today. The vampires offer you fruit and eat you if you don’t eat it. She said that’s the type of vampire you are.”

“Yeah.” Dash blew a tuft of hair out of her mane. “Mud pony gonna mud, remember? If you came over to my house for scary stories, I’d tell you airhead crap.”

“Oh yeah. I guess that would be the type of vampire she’d think of,” Twilight agreed. “I’ve just never heard of that type of vampire before coming here. Why does everypony down here know about that story?”

“Oh, that’s one of the costs of banning so many books,” said Rarity. “There’s all sorts of things you never hear about! I suppose ponies only tell these myths down near the forest. You know how the state feels about superstition.”

Twilight felt a certain relief at hearing Rarity call it a myth.

“You know they say that vampire fruit makes you immune to poison,” said Rarity, “so you’d be able to go as deep into the Everfree Forest as you want and eat any plant inside. But of course, everything in the forest, save that one fruit, is so poisonous it will kill you in one bite. Befriending an Everfree vampire is the only way to find the right one. Is that why you’re trying to be friends with me? So I’ll show you where the fruit of eternal youth is?”

“Well obviously you’re not that type of vampire,” said Twilight. “Applejack said once you eat that fruit you can’t leave the forest. But you three aren’t in the forest now, so that’s that.”

“Yeah, but it doesn’t always work like that,” said Dash.

“What do you mean?”

“These are just stories, Sparks. How this stuff works isn’t always the same.”

“Oh, I know all these stories!” Pinkie spoke up in excitement. “See, the thing about the curse that’s always the same is that you can’t get back home once you eat it. Sometimes that means you get lost in the forest or burn up if you try to leave. But then sometimes you forget everypony you ever met or they all forget you or that your house and family all disappear along with all evidence you ever existed!”

“So this is like an entire genre or something?” Twilight suddenly felt ashamed of how ignorant she was. "I never heard of any of those other types of vampires you mentioned, either. I’ve only heard the normal ones before today, the ones who live in the graveyard and drag ponies back to their big underground crypts like uh-“

It dawned on Twilight that she was in exactly such a place.

“Like this one?” Dash got a dangerous smile when she noticed what Twilight was thinking. “Ah, crap! And there's three coffins and three of us, right?”

“But look Twitwi-“ Pinkie ducked down next to Twilight and pointed at the empty coffin slot, where Rarity was lying. “There’s room for one more. Wooooo.”

Despite herself, Twilight felt a chill run down her spine. But then the other three broke into hysterical laughter and Twilight sighed with frustration.

“You know, I didn’t even notice that until just now.” Rarity beckoned Pinkie over and gave her a kiss on the cheek when she got near. “I love you two.”

Twilight looked away as fast as she could when the kiss happened. Rarity was kissing Pinkie too? Was it even possible to kiss two different ponies? Now she had no idea what was going on between these three. It was breaking Twilight’s brain.

"Sadly," said Rarity, "if you really don't want to read anything that's banned the only vampire content you can get are campfire stories and old movies. I suppose you haven't watched very many movies in general?"

“No way.” Twilight shook her head. “I’ve never watched a movie movie. I was only allowed to watch PSAs growing up. Sometimes documentaries. That’s the only thing they show in the theaters in Canterlot.”

“Nothing but PSAs your whole life?” Rarity winked. “I find that strangely endearing but I also want to kill it. I so want to watch your first movie with you now. That’ll be fun.”

“We got tons of old movies, Twilight!” Pinkie got way too close. “Literal tons! You’d have to be a vampire just to live long enough to watch them all.”

“I know owning old movies isn’t illegal, but isn’t it kinda iffy?” Twilight just watched Pinkie smile. “Oh, never mind.”

“You should come watch movies with us tomorrow!” Pinkie offered. “We can watch The House of Infinite Blood. That’s the best one cause the vampire wins and gets to eat all the filthy daywalkers!”

Pinkie jumped to her feet and hissed victoriously.

“You just ruined the ending.” Dash slapped Pinkie's tail.

“Oh. Right.” Pinkie covered her mouth.

“I think infinite blood is too much blood for me.” Twilight shudder, trying to not picture that movie in her mind. “Maybe we could just watch a PSA instead? I actually have one about why watching movies is immoral. They’d probably be good for you. It's one of my favorites.”

“I’ll tell you what.” Rarity twirled her hoof in a little circle. “We’ll watch whatever you want first if you promise to watch whatever I want after.”

“Yeah.” Dash laughed. “I’m sure that whatever you pull up is gonna be bucking hilarious.”

Something about this felt wrong. Nopony ever wanted to watch PSAs with Twilight. Nopony ever wanted to do anything with Twilight now that she thought about it. Maybe it was some kind of trap to get her to watch a movie.

"I'm not sure," Twilight muttered.

"Oh, why not?" Rarity asked. "I could start with something not too violent.

"Well-" Twilight felt nervous about having to argue on her feet. Instead of trying, she closed her eyes and started reciting something from memory. “Did you know that the information contained in a single movie is over five hundred times greater than that of a book, but is consumed in only a fraction of the time? 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, all the-“

“Yo Sparks,” Dash interrupted her. “Are you literally mindlessly reciting something?”

“Huh?” Twilight opened her eyes. “Well, I kind of- that was from a PSA that I had to watch in school. A lot.”

“How often?” Rarity smiled gently.

“I started counting in the ninth grade. I’ve watched that one over 418 times. I have the entire thing memorized word for word,” Twilight said proudly. “I actually memorized after the fiftieth time, but uh… you know.”

Twilight quickly withdrew and grew quiet. Back in the academy, you could get in a lot of trouble for saying anything bad about their practices. Even if nopony was around to snitch on her, Twilight still felt scared to have said even that much.

“Oh, but I don’t know.” Rarity pouted. “It sounds like you have something you want to say about that. Tell me?”

“Well.” Twilight looked back at the stairs leading down here. There was no chance anypony else would come down here. Truth be told, there were some things about the school system, and the academy specifically, that Twilight had complaints about. But she never dared say them out loud.

Back in Canterlot, you were encouraged to snitch on ponies who complained or started saying anything bad. You’d get extra credit in school if you snitched, even. The pony who spoke up, meanwhile, got stuck watching eight hours of PSAs. Twilight tried hard to keep her mouth shut, but even still once or twice she'd get stuck watching PSAs all weekend.

But strangely, down here in a tomb filled with delinquents, Twilight felt like she could say anything for once.

“Okay, maybe I feel like we watch those PSA’s too much,” said Twilight. “Cause after I have the whole thing memorized word for word, what’s the point anymore?! But they just keep making you watch them over and over again. Sometimes they make you watch the same PSA five times in a row! I never spoke up about it myself, but I did have this one classmate who tried to say it was stupid and they made her watch the same one over and over for like 19 hours straight! I don't get it."

“Ha!” Dash laughed. “You’re totally right. That is maximum lameness right there.”

“Yeah.” Pinkie nodded. “This is why I’m glad I never went to school.”

“I have a book on this exact topic.” Rarity clapped her hooves together. “But alas, it’s banned too. I don’t suppose you have any other complaints about your school you’d like to get off your back?”

Twilight wasn’t sure what she felt just then. Having said that out loud after all this time and gotten no backlash filled her with an air of invincibility.

“I do. Some of the courses seemed like a waste of time to me,” said Twilight. “Like teleportation. There’s so little magic left that Sunset Shimmer is the only unicorn who can still do it, but we still take a course on it? They had us spend hours pretending to teleport. Are they just rubbing it in or something? And students aren’t even allowed to say maybe that’s pointless?”

“Well yeah!" Dash laughed. "If you don't let anypony say something's stupid you're just gonna keep doing stupid stuff, right?"

“And then-“ Twilight hesitated to give her biggest gripe. “And the downsizing thing. I get that they have to roll things back until Celestia gets better, but I was one of the top students! I worked so hard and- and I actually thought it was going to pay off eventually. But then they decided to cut the poorest fifth instead of the fifth with the worst grades? That doesn’t make any sense and it’s not fair!”

“Do you really not know why they’d choose that?” Dash asked.

“Well.” Twilight lowered her head. She knew what any normal pony would say to that. “I guess even if I don't understand it, they must have had a good reason, right?”

“Hardly.” Dash reminded her they weren’t normal. “Nah, those bonehead dweebs just don’t want a bunch of rich ponies giving them crap, threatening to cut funding if their retarded little brat doesn’t get to pretend they’re smart. But if they screw over somepony like you, then what happens to them? Nothing. You got nothing to threaten them with. They don’t care.”

“But that- that can’t be the reason!” Twilight wished so desperately it didn’t make sense. “I did everything I was supposed to do. I worked so hard and followed all the rules but I still ended up here. I was so into studying that I never had any friends because they told me it would pay off. But now I have nothing. My family is gone too! They’re all-!”

Twilight had to stop there. She could feel like she was about to cry, would break out into tears if she said one more word.

“Aw! Poor Twitwi!” Pinkie held her forelegs out wide apart. “Let me hug you and make you feel better?”

Twilight reflexively pushed Pinkie away and backed up.

“You’re not supposed to hug in public.” Twilight tried to wipe away a tear without anypony noticing.

“We’re not in public, ya doofus,” said Dash.

“You’re only supposed to hug like, your family!” Twilight pushed back farther. “Sparingly! And even then you're not supposed to just talk about it like this!"

“We’re like you.” Pinkie scooted closer to Twilight; forelegs still open. “None of us have families. But we're friends! And friends are better than family in my opinion!”

“Are we- are we really friends?” Twilight never really had any friends before. Certainly not explicit ones.

“If you give me a hug, yes!” Pinkie tried to open wider, but couldn’t manage. “Oh, or I bet you want to hug Rarity instead, right? You think she’s pretty!”

Twilight turned to see Rarity jump down from and trotted close to Twilight.

“I can relate to you,” said Rarity. “My family all died in a short period too. I remember what it’s like to be alone, but you don’t have to be lonely.”

Twilight sat there trembling, staring at Rarity with an ache in her heart.

The decision tore Twilight. She knew letting Rarity hug her would be wrong, that it was sick. But there was also something deep inside that wanted so badly to go over there. It might have been over a year since Twilight actually touched another pony. She didn’t want to feel so alone anymore.

She was weak from all the things that happened this last year. That’s how Twilight justified it, giving in to temptation. But she did slowly trot over to Rarity. Rarity’s smile grew wider as she approached until finally taking Twilight into a hug.

She was being hugged! But Rarity was so warm and it felt… nice. With each breath, Twilight felt her muscles easing more and more.

“So tense.” Rarity stroked Twilight’s back with one hoof. “Just let yourself relax. I promise everything will be okay. Things can get better.”

Twilight started to cry despite trying to hold it in. She didn’t even know why she was crying, not specifically.

But none of them made fun of her for it or anything. Maybe it was okay now. Maybe Twilight really did have friends.