• Published 6th Apr 2020
  • 5,147 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 6. Starburst the no good know it all.

“We almost made it!” Pinkie burst into the grand hall of Rarity’s house, dripping wet.

Twilight came trudging and dripping behind her. She’d met up with Pinkie a few hours ago before heading back to Rarity’s house with her. Twilight tried to get here before the rain started, but Pinkie kept drawing her away on tangents.

Despite all that, they did almost make it here before the rain started and they would have if the rain started on time. But just as the house came into view, the rain came pouring down like Twilight had never seen it before. She might as well have been dunked in a pool. A minute out in this storm was about the same.

This was something Twilight was still getting used to. Back in Canterlot, the weather was always perfectly on time, the rain never started early like this and the storms never got this strong. The dark magic from the Everfree Forest made it harder to control the weather nearby they said.

And that was why this was by far the biggest storm Twilight had ever seen. She could still hear the rain and wind sweeping onto the walls and windows. Thunder was rumbling about outside, but the special curtains Rarity had were so thick that the flashes of lightning couldn’t get through at all. The room was dim, but every night Twilight spent here it seemed to get just a little bit brighter.

Pinkie didn’t care at all and just shook herself off like a dog, soaking the floor. Twilight wasn’t comfortable doing that in somepony else’s house and meekly looked around for some option B.

“Twilight!” Rarity, who had been reclined on one of the couches on the first floor, sat up when she noticed Twilight was here. “I’d tell you to come give me a hug but, hm. Dashie, go get her a towel or something.”

Twilight couldn’t help but smile when Rarity greeted her. Really, every time she saw one of her friends she felt an urge to smile and just a little bit of relief in the dark recesses of her mind to see that they were still alive.

It wasn’t exactly a great day of work, but then it never was. She worked bottling things for minimum wage because that was the only job she could find in this town. Even then, she felt like she was on short notice because of her cutie mark. They said she was 'overqualified' even though she had almost zero ability to get a job as a mage.

There were a couple of ponies at the bottling plant whose cutie marks were bottles. Right now, Twilight felt like her cutie mark should have been a bottle too. That’s what she was going to be doing for the rest of her life. It would be more fitting.

So life still sucked! But at least Twilight had something now. Work was tolerable because she could just think of coming over to hang out with her friends as her reward for getting through it. And today was going to be something special!

After a few days of being poked, Twilight agreed to finally try watching some movies with them. She did start looking into it and technically it kind of looked like Rarity was maybe right about how banning horror movies didn’t decrease the crime rate. So maybe this was okay. And they did agree to watch a PSA first.

“I have your essays.” Twilight used her magic to levitate them out. Twilight had still yet to miss a single one. “And the PSA.”

Thunder rolled through the house just as Twilight took the roll of film out of her bag as if hers was the horror movie. Dash, who had just gotten back with a towel for Twilight, snickered at that one.

“Haha!” Dash threw the towel at Twilight. “I guess that shows you which movie is evil.”

Twilight took the towel and started drying off her fur. Immediately her brain went to using this as an excuse to thank Dash with a hug, but she could hardly do that before drying off. It was possible Twilight was starting to get addicted to hugs, like she hugged one too many times and her brain broke. She constantly wanted them, wanted perpetual physical contact. She’d latch on to any excuse to hug her friends!

Dash had already trotted away by the time she was dry, but Twilight was looking for another opportunity already.

“Don’t worry, Twitwi.” Pinkie finished wringing out her hair. “I like that your PSA is pure evil! And hey, maybe it’s just misunderstood.”

That was close enough!

“Thanks, Pinkie!” Twilight grabbed Pinkie in a tight hug. “I knew you’d uh- you know?”

Twilight didn’t think this hug through enough! But she still didn’t let go.

“Yeah, I know.” Pinkie laughed and patted Twilight on the back, hugging her in return. “That’s a was a good joke, right?”

“You’re so adorable!” Rarity called out to Twilight. She trotted over and nuzzled her. “I can’t get enough of you.”

Twilight let go of Pinkie and nuzzled Rarity back. That was just how they greeted each other now! Twilight liked it more than she’d admit out loud.

“Though!” Rarity lifted Twilight’s latest essay with her magic and took her sunglasses off to look at it. “I take it you don’t agree with me on banning books yet?”

“No way,” Twilight said. “I can understand why you’d maybe think some of the books that are banned shouldn’t be banned. But you have to agree that at least some books should be banned. Having everything uncensored is way too extreme. Like, if you know for a fact that a book says something wrong then it should be banned until the author corrects it. Otherwise, you’re just risking spreading false information and-“

The loudest rumble of thunder Twilight ever heard rumbled through the house, taking the power and the sparse lights with it, leaving it in darkness.

“Power’s out!” Pinkie called out. “Yay!”

Twilight couldn’t see anything! It was so dark in here without the lights on. She lit her horn up, but the room they were in was so big she could still hardly see.

“I don’t think this is a 'yay', Pinkie,” said Twilight.

“We like it dark,” said Dash.

“But then we can’t watch anything,” said Twilight.

“Are you forgetting we have magic powers, Twilight?” Rarity picked up the projector and lit her own horn up.

Sometimes it was easy to forget spells existed, especially here. Twilight herself could barely cast spells so far away from Canterlot and so close to the forest. Not to mention how little sun she was getting these days.

Given Rarity’s lifestyle, Twilight was surprised she could even light her horn this much. But far beyond that, Rarity cast an actual spell, the first one Twilight had seen in days.

Rarity’s right hoof crackled with electricity and she touched it to the plug on the end of the projector. The electricity moved to the end of the plug and that began to crackle there instead, lingering indefinitely. And it did work. The projector’s light came on.

“That should keep it going for a few hours.” Rarity set it down halfway up the stairs.

Twilight stared in amazement at how casually Rarity had cast that spell! She recognized it right away but hadn’t seen it in a long time.

“Wait!” Twilight ran up the stairs after Rarity. “You just did a battery spell! That’s amazing!”

“That’s really not that impressive of a spell.” Rarity waved her hoof.

“Yeah it is!” Twilight nodded. “Back at school, my class had two hundred unicorns in it and only eight of us could do that spell. I was near the top of my class and I could never do it on the first try. And that was back in Canterlot, like right next to Celestia.”

“Really?” Rarity looked genuinely surprised by that fact but went back to a smirk. “I guess I’m a little better than I thought, then.”

“A little? This is really impressive. You could be a top-level mage. Why don’t you move to Canterlot?”

“Are you seriously asking me that?” Rarity’s smile vanished.

Twilight knew what she meant right away.

“I guess. I just- imagine how good you could be if you lived in Canterlot. Imagine how good you’d be if you could go out during the day! You could-“ Twilight covered her mouth. “Oh, wait. That was a bad thing to say, wasn’t it? I’m sorry.”

“It’s a lot harder than that to offend me.” Rarity smiled again. “And I don’t think any of that would help as much as you do. I use passive magic, Twilight.”

“Passive magic?” Twilight was used to hearing new terms by now, but not ones about magic. “I’ve never even heard of that and I study magic. Like a lot.”

“Not a lot of unicorns can do it. See, you cast spells by storing magic in yourself and releasing it later.”

“Well, yeah. Is there even a second option?"

“Yes. That’s active magic, in passive magic you just use whatever magic is hanging around in the air around you without actually absorbing it first.” Rarity waved her hoof across the room.

“Really?” Twilight was skeptical of all this, but it certainly looked like what was happening.

Rarity felt cold and almost anemic in terms of how much magic she typically had stored, which made sense given her lifestyle. There was no way she was casting these spells with her own magic. It was odd Twilight never heard about this, but at the same time, it was clearly true.

Or maybe it wasn’t so odd. She had a lot more doubt in her mind now, could believe maybe they didn’t teach her everything in school.

But most importantly, if there really was some other way to cast spells-

“Can I try?!” Twilight rushed up to Rarity, put her hoof on her chest, and gave her a pleading look. “How do I do it? Please show me?”

“We can try, but you probably won’t get it.” Rarity closed her eyes. “Close your eyes, clear your head and relax your magic. Just let it flow out.”

“Okay.” Twilight took a moment.

“Do you feel something like a draft or a breeze moving through your magic?” Rarity asked.

Twilight sat there for a moment, trying to be still enough to feel anything like that, but in the end, she couldn’t.

“No?” Twilight opened her eyes.

“And that’s exactly why I can’t teach you.” Rarity turned back to the projector, threading the film from Twilight’s PSA into the second reel. “Most unicorns can’t.”

“But why?” Twilight leaned over Rarity’s shoulder. “Is feeling it just something you’re born with?”

“It’s like when you walk into a dark room and you can’t see anything at first. You need to stay in a low magic state for a long time before you can feel what I’m talking about. But if you keep staying up so late with us, you might eventually start feeling the draft. If you do, let me know.” Rarity hit a button on the projector and the film began to turn. “I’ll teach you then.”

Twilight felt determined to try and figure out a way to do this now. She’d given up hope of being able to cast any complex spells so long as she was stuck in Ponyville, away from any significant light magic. But from the sound of things, being here might make this type of spellcasting easier to pick up.

If it was real, that was. Twilight was going to try and find out. She resolved to try and feel that draft.

This is part seven of the thirty-seven-part series: The Elements of Harmony. This section is titled: Movies, Scourge of Harmony!

The PSA began playing.

But she had to get through this first!

Dash was already sitting on one end of the couch and Rarity soon took the middle seat.

Twilight ran up, wanting to sit next to Rarity before Pinkie took the remaining seat. Twilight sat close to Rarity, making sure to sit close enough that they were touching. Rarity barely even reacted to it. It was still amazing how Twilight could just touch them whenever she wanted and not get any flak for it at all. Hugs were just okay here.

Pinkie came up and looked over the full couch. She ran to the side Twilight was on.

“Glomp!” Pinkie shouted and jumped onto Twilight. She grabbed Twilight in a hug so that she was leaning half on Twilight and half on the shoulder of the couch.

Twilight was secretly okay with being tightly sandwiched between Pinkie and Rarity. She didn’t say anything.

The PSA was being projected onto the large wall just above the front door and made the whole house feel like a movie theater. The rain continued to pound the window just behind Twilight but, sandwiched between two other ponies, it only made her feel snugger.

Maybe this wouldn’t be so bad!

Canterlot! The great light of hope for the world! Even in this age of turmoil, Canterlot stands strong and will stand forevermore against any threat. We are the richest and most powerful city in the world with the most influential culture and the highest morals!

As it went on about how great Canterlot was, triumphant music played and images of pristine towers and castles came on screen.

But danger surrounds even us! We must remain vigilant to hold on to our greatness. How many other lands have been consumed by darkness or fallen into moral degeneracy?

The music changed to something more ominous, showing scenes of broken buildings, towns overrun by trees and monsters. A gang that looked just like the one Twilight was surrounded by at the moment, standing in front of a burning building and laughing hysterically, came on the screen near the end of the montage.

“Hey look!” Pinkie cheered when the gang showed up. “It’s us! See that, Twitwi? Us delinquents never stop laughing, not even when our own house is burning down behind us!”

For a long time, this beginning part was Twilight’s favorite. It always filled her with a sense of pride no matter how many times she watched it. But this was the first time she’d seen it since leaving Canterlot and the speech felt broken, in a way. It made her remember that she wasn’t part of Canterlot anymore, had gotten thrown out of it.

Now she was here with the delinquents and the PSA was talking down to her.

What do all these fallen cities have in common? Why, they refused to ban movies!

“Hm?” Rarity glanced over to Twilight. “I think we know that problem with that argument, yes?”

Twilight bit her cheek and looked away. She knew exactly what Rarity meant.

Rarity kept her promise to teach Twilight about debating and arguing. Only counting the hits, postdiction, the sharpshooter fallacy, Rarity explained all of these and more. A story of an archer drawing bullseyes around wherever his arrows hit came flooding back to Twilight.

Tons of cities got consumed by the forest or fell into anarchy and decay despite banning movies. Then other places still hadn’t banned movies and were fine. Ponyville never had such a ban and lasted way longer than all the surrounding towns that did.

Twilight tried hard to find some evidence that banning movies correlated to any kind of better outcome. So far, it really didn’t look like it did. The PSA was just ignoring all the misses and drawing your attention to the hits, circling wherever the arrows landed. And Twilight couldn’t convince herself that Rarity was wrong to call this a fallacy. This was a borderline lie.

Well I don’t think I can be so easily corrupted because I’m smart. I read all the time. I know right from wrong and a movie won’t overwhelm my critical faculties!

Starburst, the no-good know-it-all was a character who appeared in most of these PSA’s. As she said her bit, the shadow of some horrible monster grew larger and large behind her. A hoof pointed behind her and she jumped back in fear.

Careful, Starburst! Those who believe movies are harmless are the most likely to uncritically internalize their negative influences! Thinking you can’t be easily corrupted doesn’t make you safe.

Everypony back in school used to love laughing at Starburst. But Twilight kind of hated this character. A little.

But lots of novels aren’t banned! I read novels all the time and I’m fine. Movies are just like novels with pictures, right? And aren’t PSAs basically movies? What’s the difference between a PSA teaching us why stealing is wrong and a movie glorifying cannibals? I read a lot of books and-

Starburst, who had her chin lifted so high she couldn’t see the ground, tripped and fell face-first onto the ground.

For so long Twilight could never articulate what her problem with Starburst was. But Rarity had given her so many new words and the moment she saw Starburst trip, one of them came bubbling up.

A ‘straw pony’. That was another lousy argument technique, where you tried to force bad arguments onto your opponent or else try to depict them negatively in hopes to discredit the speaker rather than the argument.

Maybe that’s what Starburst really was. Or maybe that wasn’t exactly right. Twilight was still learning this stuff.

Haha! Starburst may think she knows it all, but what Starburst doesn’t understand is that movies are nothing like books. 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 negative suggestions that may leak through.

An unscrupulous delinquent can easily insert her own personal opinions and disharmonious intents into their movies, giving these despicable cretins a direct pipeline to your subconscious. Who knows what horrible damage-

The ‘unscrupulous delinquent’ shown on screen looked like she’d fit in pretty well with Twilight’s friends. She was wearing a spiked collar and a leather jacket with the words ‘Celestia sux! Kill all ponies!’ written on it (the dots in the i’s and exclamation point being little skulls). Her mane was all frazzled and she looked like she was growling at the camera.

“Buck yeah!” Dash talked over the PSA, hoof bumping towards her fellow delinquent. “She looks bucking cool! I wanna watch her movie!”

-total control of your mind to a potentially insane delinquent stranger? Or would you rather entrust this awesome power to wise government officials who will only use it towards educating and morally enriching the public in carefully constructed PSAs approved by Princess Celestia herself?

Another forbidden word came into Twilight’s mind as she watched this argument. Did they just make a false dichotomy? Because not everypony was a wise government official or an insane delinquent with murderous intent. Twilight frowned, a little embarrassed. She wanted this PSA to make better arguments!

Rarity would tear this all to shreds! Twilight could tear this to shreds!

A thought came into Twilight’s head that made her sick to her stomach. Was what Rarity said before right? Was this the reason they banned all those rhetoric books? Because then Twilight would realize that all these PSA’s were stupid and filled with terrible, manipulative arguments?!

What if this really was propaganda?

Twilight desperately wanted to think of some alternative, some way this could be anything other than them simply trying to control Twilight like Rarity said. But nothing came.

“Yes,” Rarity interrupted Twilight’s thought. This was it! “But ironically Celestia doesn’t approve quite enough to actually show up for this film.”

Twilight was briefly taken off guard by the direction she went in. She was almost relieved by such a strange comment.

“What are you talking about?” Twilight pointed at the image of Celestia just as the scene switched away from her. “She’s right there!”

“Here.” Rarity stopped the PSA and rewound it to the footage of Celestia, stopping it there. “Now take a close look at the background. That’s the original Canterlot Castle, not the modern one.”

“Wait.” Twilight looked at the castle in the background for the first time. The two castles looked so similar it was easy to miss if you weren’t looking for it. “That is the old castle! Then this photo is a least seven hundred years old! But why?”

“And I know you’ll look it up yourself, but I promise you won’t ever see a more recent picture of Celestia than this,” said Rarity. “Try to think back. Have you perhaps ever seen Celestia in public? Or even heard of her making a single public appearance anywhere in your lifetime?”

Twilight honestly couldn’t. Twilight had seen her so often, but only in these movies and if Rarity was right then they only used very old footage of her. It was already public knowledge that Celestia couldn’t walk on her own since the great battle, so it wouldn’t make sense for her to hide away just for that. It felt like she was on the cusp of some amazing revelation.

There was only one thing this could mean!

“You’re saying- Celestia is dead?!” Twilight turned to Rarity with shock, then thought about that for a second longer. “Wait. No. Then who’s raising the sun? And you can still feel her magic pouring out of the castle in Canterlot, so she's clearly there."

“Ha!” Rarity nuzzled Twilight’s mane. “You know, it’s amusing to see where everypony’s mind goes when I mention that to them. You’re the first to suggest anything as dramatic as her death. Usually, they think maybe some aristocrat found a way to lock her up somewhere. Or maybe she has some horrible scar that took half her face off.”

“It would make sense if the great battle left her with a scar. If alicorns can get scarred, that is,” said Twilight. That was probably the truth of it, but such a boring explanation to something like this didn’t feel satisfying. “What do you think the reason is?”

“Why this very PSA is what's keeping her locked up.” Rarity started the projector again with her magic. “She’s propped herself up far too much. Everypony gets told over and over again how great she is and Celestia knows she can never live up to all this propaganda. Better to just stay in their imagination, where she can be perfect. That’s why she doesn’t come out anymore. In my opinion, of course.”

That was a possibility Twilight wouldn’t have considered on her own. She wouldn’t have noticed this at all on her own.

There were so many things Twilight never even notice or thought about before meeting Rarity. She’d watched this PSA hundreds of times, could recite large portions of it from memory and yet this felt like the first time she’d ever watched it.

Actually! This was another good chance.

“Thanks!” Twilight hugged Rarity. “I really appreciate you showing me so much!”

Rarity nuzzled Twilight in return. Twilight liked this way too much and probably shouldn’t have given in yet again, but soon the two of them were nuzzling each other. The PSA played on in the background, but Twilight barely even noticed it.

Twilight’s attention only turned back to the screen when Pinkie and Dash laughed hysterically at something.

What do you think Starburst needs to do?

“Get laid!” Pinkie shouted out immediately.

That’s right!

“See!” Pinkie grabbed Twilight, pulling her off Rarity, and shook her furiously and talking over the narrator. “He said I was right! She needs a dong, Twilight! A massive dong!”

All the others laughed at the timing of that. And while they did, Starburst stumbled around like an idiot on screen before finally falling over into a pile of books. A royal guard offered her his hoof a moment later, but the damage was done.

Twilight frowned, blushing profusely. She felt like she was being mocked by both sides right now. This wasn’t going well at all! This film that seemed so convincing and noble when she was young was now just embarrassingly bad.

“Okay, okay!” Twilight called out. “I don’t think this is going to convince you all of anything! I don’t even know if this is convincing me of anything at this point. Let’s just go to the next thing.”

“You’re absolutely sure you don’t want me to watch the rest?” Rarity smiled like she already knew the answer and was just teasing. “I would!”

“No.” Twilight looked down at the floor. “Just- just go to your thing!”

Rarity got up to change switch the films out.

“If it makes you feel better,” said Dash, “I kinda liked how campy that was.”

“Don’t worry, Twitwi!” Pinkie patted her on the back. “Slaughtertrain won’t change your mind about anything either.”

“I sure hope a movie called ‘Slaughtertrain’ doesn’t change my mind about anything.” Twilight kept her ears pinned down in defeat as she watched Rarity switch out her PSA for the movie.

Even though she had zero reasons to believe it was the case anymore, Twilight couldn't but feel like watching this would turn her into a bloodthirsty maniac. And she wasn't ready to thirst for blood just yet!

“Though I should warn you.” Rarity stopped with the film held in her magic and turned back to Twilight with a smirk. “Once you see this, you’ll never be able to hold your head up high and say ‘I’ve never watched a movie’ ever again.”

A wave of doubt crashed down on Twilight. She wasn’t sure if she was doing the right thing anymore. Her research said she’d be fine, but her gut disagreed with the facts.

Twilight held her breath. Rarity slowly moved the film closer into position, slowly smirked wider and wider as Twilight leaned forward further and further with ever more tension.

“Gah!” Twilight snapped. She fell back into the couch and waved her hoof rapidly. “Just put it in already!”

Rarity laughed and started the movie, then came back and sat next to Twilight again. A few names started appearing on the screen. So far it wasn’t so bad.

“Though!” Twilight coughed. She glanced at Rarity, then glanced away. “I just wanna point out that I’m really scared about this?”

“Oh?” Rarity looked Twilight over with a playful smile. “That’s simply terrible! I don’t suppose there’s anything I can do to help with that?”

“Um.” Twilight tapped her hooves together hopefully, trying to think of an eloquent way to ask. “Maybe- maybe you could hug me?”

“Why didn’t I just hug you a moment ago? You’re lucky I like how needy you are!” Rarity grabbed Twilight and pulled her forward until she was lying prone across both her and Rarity’s seats on the couch. It was only then that Rarity wrapped her forelegs around Twilight in a hug and rested on her back, basically lying on top of Twilight.

Twilight liked this arrangement.

“You know,” said Twilight, “it is your fault that I’m addicted to this stuff now.”

“And I take complete responsibility for my actions!” Rarity stroked Twilight’s back.

Silently, Twilight wondered how hard it would be to get Rarity to keep petting her through the whole movie. If this was what addiction was like, Twilight wanted to be addicted to more things.

“Pfft.” Dash blew her mane out of her eyes. “Except half the time you make me take responsibility for your actions.”

“If I make you do something, then it still counts as me doing it, Dashie. Didn’t you say that’s how you want it to be?”

Rarity turned and kissed Dash without even letting go of Twilight. Then Dash gave her one kiss back, on the lips, before turning back to the movie.

Twilight fell off the top of the world.

She didn’t care when they hugged but kissing still bothered Twilight. Her mind couldn’t possibly make sense of what was happening. She’d seen Rarity and Rainbow Dash basically making out before and she knew the two of them slept in the same room. They certainly acted like a couple a lot of the time. And normally, that would make you conclude that they were probably in some kind of gay relationship.

But nothing was remotely normal anymore. Because there was also Pinkie Pie. Pinkie had her own bedroom but slept in the same bed as the other two both times Twilight stayed her overnight. Twilight had seen Pinkie kiss both of the others on the lips and nopony seemed to think this was strange.

At this very moment, Rarity was lovingly petting Twilight on the back, right next to what might be her marefriend or something, and Dash didn’t have the slightest concern for this. Twilight had no idea what anything meant anymore or how the world worked in the slightest.

She had to ask about it eventually.

“Uh. Hey. Are you two like-“ Twilight looked up at Dash. “Like dating or something?”

“Oh, what a wonderful question.” Rarity looked over at Dash with a playful expression. “We should go on a date! Won’t you take me on a romantic boat ride, Dashie? You’re so brave and strong!”

“Bleh.” Dash gave Rarity a slight shove and got a hard one in return from Rarity that nearly threw her off the couch. She recovered and rolled her eyes. “Look, I’m just gonna answer your actual question, Sparks. If you want to make out with Rarity, go right ahead. I don’t give a buck.”

“What?” Twilight struggled to understand that response. “But like- like are you dating? I mean, you sleep in the same room, right?”

“You live in a tiny world, Sparks. We're just really close friends who like fooling around and sleeping in the same bed and stuff like that, okay?”

"I don't understand how that's different," said Twilight.

“I love my Dashie in a very personal way,” said Rarity, finally taking the question seriously. “And I don’t think you can understand it just yet. The two of us do whatever we want. I simply despise limiting myself with labels. And I’ll have you know, I enjoy the fact that society can’t possibly understand the relationship I have with my Dashie.”

The more they explained their relationship, the less Twilight understood it.

“But-“ Twilight looked at Rarity, then Dash. “So are you basically dating or-?“

“Pfft! You want me to tell you if we buck?” Dash leaned over Twilight. “Hey, I’ll answer that if you got the bucking guts to ask.”

“Uh! No!” Twilight quickly turned back to the movie, the opening credits and the accompanying shots of trains finally ending. “Never mind!”

They did thankfully drop it after that. Twilight wasn’t going to understand this any time soon.

I suppose I’m just a little nervous about taking a train through an arctic wasteland. If something went horribly wrong, there wouldn’t be anypony to help.

Oh, don’t worry. I’ve never been off-schedule once. I’m the best train conductor in the business. Nothing bad ever happens on my train.

Yeah, this will be the smoothest train ride we ever took. Why I'd say right now is a splendid time to drop our guard.

Maybe she should just try to understand this movie first. She couldn’t help but feel like something bad was about to happen in the movie. Maybe because it was called Slaughtertrain.


I just saw that thing get shot in the face, get up and tear a pony in half! You need to stop this train immediately!

Stop it where? We’re halfway to Yakyakistan. There’s nothing but snow for hundreds of miles in any direction. I’ve never been off schedule once in my twenty-year career! One vampire and two or three slaughtered ponies aren’t going to change that!

*thump thump*

Oh, sweet Celestia! It’s on the roof right now!

Not for long, it’s not. Listen up you blood-sucking freak! This is my train! I’m the one who does the slaughtering!

And then the train conductor screamed and shot a massive laser out of his horn, straight at the roof of the car he was in.

All the others laughed hysterically at how ridiculous this was. Twilight was still too freaked out by the whole experience to laugh but couldn’t take it too seriously either.

“That line gets me every time,” said Dash. “This guy just knows the name of the movie!”

Pinkie had since moved to the top of the couch, sitting half on the windowsill and half on the top of the couch. She'd brought out mugs of hot chocolate for the four of them as well as a big bowl of popcorn covered in syrup (because they did weird stuff like putting syrup on popcorn). Twilight liked the hot chocolate, but syrup popcorn was something she didn't care for.

To Twilight’s amazement, horror movies, or at least this one, weren’t scary at all. Maybe if she’d watched this alone Twilight would have been more intimidated but surrounded by her friends laughing and joking about every single thing that happened made it hard to be scared. It was hard to be scared of something everypony was laughing at.

“Wow,” said Twilight. It still felt a little weird to be able to talk during a film. “That train conductor is really dedicated to his job. But I don’t think his spell choice is very good. If it can’t be killed, it’s better to just knock it off the train and leave it behind, preferably with a gravity spell so it can’t chase you as easily. Like, they're on a levitation train. Those things went over 300 miles an hour! It'd never catch up.”

There was plenty of details like that which tipped Twilight off to just how ancient it was. The most obvious difference was they were all inside one of those levitating trains, so this was before they had to go back to using steam engines. But there were a few other differences too. Everypony spoke with odd accents that must have been prevalent at the time, they had guns which meant this was before all the fire crystals got used up, and they had laserdiscs instead of film reels.

Twilight guessed this was about 600 years old and was delighted when Rarity confirmed it.

Look, the only thing that makes sense is throwing this thing off the train and hoping it can’t catch up!

"Ha!" Dash chuckled. "I think they heard you."

“Now see!” Pinkie thrust her mug towards the screen, nearly spilling it on Rarity and Twilight. “If I were on that train, I could just roll out of it and blend in with the snow until the other vampire got bored and walked away.”

Pinkie took a deep drink from her mug.

“What?” Twilight looked up at her. “Blend in with the pink snow?”

Pinkie froze in place, mid-drink, and stared down at Twilight with a horrified look. She stayed there longer than Pinkie had stayed anywhere. They stared into each other’s eyes, Twilight narrowing hers and Pinkie widening her own. This was one of those jokes.

“I don’t get it.” Twilight turned to the other two.

“That’s what we call an advanced joke.” Dash leaned on the other arm of the couch. “Just try using that bonehead brain to figure it out. When you get it, you’re officially cool.”

“Hm.” Twilight looked back at Pinkie, who looked relieved now.

“Yeah!” Pinkie finally swallowed and nodded eagerly. “Advanced joke!”

Twilight thought and thought but couldn’t begin to understand it. She needed to see if there was some kind of lewd dictionary.

"At any rate," said Twilight, "jumping out of a train that's going 300 miles an hour would kill you."

No! None of you are being scientific enough about this!

“Oh wait!” Pinkie came down from her perch and grabbed Twilight in a tight hug. “Here it comes, Twilight!”

According to science, math, and reason, which are things we should listen to, the statistically safest place to be on a train is right in the exact spot that I’m standing in at this very-

Then the vampire smashed its way down from the ceiling and bit her so hard that her entire head exploded into pure mush, more blood gushing out than a pony had.

All of her friends laughed and cheered when the vampire killed her. They did that every time the vampire killed somepony.

Twilight probably should feel more disgusted by this scene, but-

“Okay, that effect was pretty goofy,” said Twilight. “But why are nerds always treated so badly in films? I related to that nerd character!”

"Yeah, I wonder why." Dash rolled her eyes.

“Aw.” Rarity gently stroked Twilight’s hair. “But you were smart enough to be friends with the vampires instead. So you won’t have to relate to getting your head eaten.”

“Yeah!” Pinkie started petting Twilight too, but at a much faster rate. “I promise I won’t ever explode your head, Twilight. Not unless you cross me or- or try to steal my coffin or something!”

“Thanks. I won’t explode any of your heads either,” said Twilight. “Should we be cheering for the vampire, though? He’s the bad guy! He doesn’t even have a train ticket. This is why they say movies are bad for you, they make you root for the bad guy.”

“It’s more fun if you root for the monster!” said Pinkie.

“Twilight, there’s no ‘bad guy’ in any movie,” said Rarity. “Executives notwithstanding. The pony on the screen is hardly a real vampire-like we are. He’s some colt dressed up like a vampire and frankly, I could have designed a better costume. Every movie is nothing more than ponies playing pretend. This is a game we’re watching.”

“Yeah,” Dash added. “You gotta treat this crap like a bucking sports game or something. If you don’t root for somepony then you ain’t gonna have any fun. We’re team vampire for obvious reasons.”

“Huh.” Twilight tilted her head and looked at the movie again. “I guess never thought of movies like that before.”

She did have to admit their shouting was the best part of this movie.

“Well I’m rooting for this train conductor guy, then!” Twilight pointed at him when he came back on screen. “He’s a professional.”

I already told you once- if you don’t have a ticket you’re not welcome on my train!

The vampire reached down to the bloody remains of the nerd character and pulled her ticket, still unpunched. He then dropped it in front of the conductor, laughing.

Oh, you son of a-!

“Yeah!” Twilight cheered him on. “Even in the face of death, he remains professional and doesn’t curse! He’s the real hero! Go train conductor guy!”

I’ve had it with you and your loco motives!

The train conductor swung a silver cane at the vampire, silver being confirmed as a weakness of vampires a little earlier in the movie.

“Yeah!” Twilight cheered for him as the vampire was forced to take a step back.

I hope you don’t mind me letting off some steam!

He hit the vampire this time, pushing it back as it hissed.

“Y-yeah!” Twilight didn't even care that joke wasn't applicable given the type of train he was on.

But I am the ticket inspector so you’ve gotta hand it to me!

He hit the vampire a second time. He was nearly at the back of the train now.

“You can do it!”

That I’ve got a lot of experience when it comes to punching!

One more hit sent the vampire up against the rear car’s door. He lifted the cane for another hit.

“Oh no!” Pinkie covered her eyes. “I can’t watch!”

And believe me, I have an entire itinerary full of train puns. Next stop-!

The vampire finally managed to grab the conductor’s silver cane by wrapping a piece of cloth around it and pulled him in close.

Bah! If I wanted one-liners, I would have taken a monorail!

Twilight gasped as the train conductor got thrown down the car. But all the others cheered.

“Looking pretty good for team vampire,” Dash said smugly enough. “Sure you don’t want to switch sides, Sparks?”

“No way!” Twilight had to admit she was suddenly invested in this. “This guy’s got a long, prosperous career ahead of him. Train conductors are hard-working professionals! He can deal with a vampire!”

“Oh!” Pinkie raised her hoof. “Can I tell her what happens in Slaughtertrain 2? I have a really funny joke!”

“No!” Dash swatted Pinkie’s tail. “You’re bucking spoiling everything.”

“Wait, there’s a Slaughtertrain 2?” Twilight asked. “So he does have a prosperous career ahead of him? Does dealing with the vampire just become part of his daily routine? Maybe because it can’t die so he has to knock it off every time?”

“Ha!” Dash threw her pillow over at Twilight playfully. “Yeah and he’s like ‘oh that’s just the bucking vampire, let me scrape him off the window real quick’. I’d like to see that movie! This is why we keep you around, Sparks!”

"But sadly this vampire doesn't appear again until Slaughtertrain 7," said Pinkie. "I'm gonna miss him!"

“Seven?” Twilight looked over at Pinkie. “There are seven Slaughtertrain movies? Isn’t that a lot?”

The others laughed at that for some reason.

“Twilight.” Rarity giggled. “This movie was made six hundred years ago. There’s thirty-seven of them now.”

“Really?” Twilight didn’t know how movies worked, exactly. Was it normal for them to make that many? “We’re gonna watch thirty-seven movies about train slaughters?!”

“Well not tonight,” said Rarity. “And these aren’t easy to find anymore. I’ve only managed to get twenty of them and that took a long time.”

“Even watching twenty would take a while.” Not that Twilight minded. This gave her an excuse to come over for many nights to come now. “Can we watch Slaughtertrain 2 tomorrow?”

“I’m afraid we won’t be here tomorrow,” said Rarity. “That’ll give you some time to read, work on your essays.”

“Wait! None of you are going to be around tomorrow?” Twilight hadn’t actually spent a single night by herself since getting to Ponyville. She wasn’t sure if she was ready yet. For a minute there it felt like she'd never have to do it.

“Can you not bear a day apart from me already?” Rarity flicked her mane. “It’s only for a day. I’ll be back Wednesday.”

“I don’t blame you, Twitwi.” Pinkie patted Twilight on the head. “I can’t go a day without me either.”

“But where are you going?” There was a tiny bit of hope in Twilight’s mind that she could beg them to take her along.

“Now see, Sparks.” Dash looked at Twilight with some suspicion. “You’re the least filthy daywalker in a hundred-mile radius, all the other daywalkers are beneath you. But you still haven’t even gotten to honorary vampire yet and we don’t tell everything to bucking daywalkers.”

“Wait. You’re not telling me? But that just makes me really curious!” Twilight complained. She turned to Rarity in desperation, hoping to go over Dash’s head, and gave her a pleading look. “Tell me?”

“Daw! You know I can’t resist your curiosity.” Rarity scratched Twilight behind the ear a few times, mulling it over, before turning back to Dash. “I want to tell her.”

“Hey, you’re the boss.” Dash leaned against the other couch’s arm, unamused. “But it ain’t my fault if we gotta bucking bail.”

“Twilight.” Rarity turned back to Twilight with that dangerous smile. “We’re going just a little bit into the Everfree Forest.”

“What?!” Twilight flailed in shock, accidentally throwing Pinkie off the couch. “Sorry, Pinkie. But what?!”

“The Everfree Forest.” Rarity leaned in close. “There’s something I like to do there.”

“But you can’t be serious! That’s illegal! This is a prank, right?!”

Twilight looked at her and then Dash but both looked serious about this.

“Rarity, I don’t want you to die!” Twilight grabbed Rarity tighter than she ever had before. “Please don’t go out there!”

“You’re worried for absolutely nothing.” Rarity stroked Twilight’s mane. “I’ve done this so many times there isn’t the tiniest bit of danger.”

“It’s not even that dangerous unless you go miles into it,” said Dash.

“But what if you get caught? You’d go to jail for years! If not forever!”

“Sure, in theory!” Dash laughed. “But how we gonna get bucking caught, Sparks? The dork patrol never goes into the forest anymore. I think there are like four ponies who still have those expedition licenses. They tend to be chill, too. No way for them to ever find out.”

What was Twilight supposed to do? She could snitch on them in an attempt to keep them from getting hurt! But that might actually put them in more danger.

“Twitwi.” Pinkie reappeared and whispered in Twilight’s ear, poking her head just over the arm of the couch, her mane covering one of her eyes. “You could come with us. Into the forest!”

“No way!” Twilight jumped in the opposite direction, bumping into Rarity and nearly dominating Dash off the couch.

“Hey!” Dash just barely managed to stay on. “Ha! You sure you wanna go your whole life never knowing what it’s really like in there?”

“Yes! Thinking about the forest is-“ Twilight shook her head. “I appreciate you showing me new things, but that one’s a hard no. I don’t want to talk about it and no way I’m going out there!”

“You can do whatever you want, Twilight.” Rarity leaned back against Dash.

“Aw.” Pinkie sighed, disappointed. “Well, I hope you change your mind! The best times are in the forest!”

“But you ain’t gonna snitch on us or anything, right Sparks?” Dash was watching Twilight with suspicion.

“What? No way!” Twilight answered without thinking much. “We’re friends, right? I’m cool.”

“I know it!” Dash’s suspicion finally vanished, and she pumped her hoof and sunk back into the couch.

Twilight felt a bit of momentary relief, glad she hadn’t upset her friends or anything.

But a familiar feeling of dread came back to her. She knew she wouldn’t be able to relax again until her friends came back from the forest. If they came back.

She could feel the forest behind her and sank into the couch to try and ignore it again. Pinkie coming back up helped a little.

Meanwhile, in the movie, the conductor had just detached the caboose with the vampire inside it.

Twilight didn’t think she’d ever been this invested in a character in a book, but right now she wanted this conductor to get to the station alive and on time. But the way these three were smiling, she knew at least one of those things wouldn’t happen.