• Published 22nd Jan 2020
  • 1,262 Views, 248 Comments

Never Alone - SoloBrony

It's time for Cozy Glow to get back out in the real world and figure out where she fits into Equestria. She's tried superheroics, supervillainy, and accidentally destroyed the world; now she has to try being normal. Yeah, probably not.

  • ...

Powerlust part 2

"If it's magic you're after, you've come to the right place, filly! Trixie can teach even the most magically-deficient pegasus to vanish and re-appear, to dazzle and awe, to escape the jaws of death itself!"

I could hardly contain my excitement as I sat and listened. Magic I can perform as a pegasus! This is fantastic!

"Stare in wonder at my magnificence!"

Trixie reared up on her little stage, and fireworks went off all around us. I was dazzled by the display, but I realized they were just conventional fireworks; set off with her horn, yes, but not inherently magical.

Hmm, the showmanship sure does misdirect you, though...

I tapped a hoof to my chin as I considered the display. Trixie suddenly disappeared in a blast of smoke, and the next thing I knew, she was on top of her stage backing, cheering. "Witness the incredible pegasus-unicorn act!"

With that, she leapt from the backing, but she didn't fall back down to the stage; I watched in shock as she took off through the air, soaring in a huge loop through the air, almost into the clouds, behind arcing back down and zipping straight back down into the cloud of smoke. It cleared with a flourish of her cape, and she was standing there, unscathed, cape held up so she could gaze out over it captivatingly.

I stomped my hooves in approval. "That's amazing! I didn't know unicorns could fly like that!"

"Little filly, there is much you do not know of the powers of unicorns!"

With that, she ducked her head behind her cape... and suddenly, the cape and hat crumpled to the ground!

That wasn't a teleport! I definitely would have recognized a teleport signature! How did she—?!

But I didn't have time to overthink it before the curtain parted, showing Trixie – sans her hat and cape – wrapped in a straitjacket with a mean-looking lock on it, itself locked into a cage.

"If Trixie could now get a volunteer from the audience, to ensure that these locks are quite secure and quite real!"

I stood up and marched over there, eager to unearth the trick behind the magician's tricks. I tapped the locks experimentally, as well as the cage door. No doubt about it; this was the same sort of cage they put me in in Tartarus! No magic could be used inside.

I even took a pin out of one of my saddlebags and tested one of the locks with it, which shocked Trixie. I spat the pin back in my saddlebag. "That's definitely a real lock alright! It would be hard to get out of there even if you had a pin; you can't even angle your head enough to pick at it!"

Trixie's brow furrow. "Trixie will refrain from asking how such a tender filly knows so much about locksmithing. But now! If you are satisfied, please return to your seat!"

I strode back to where I'd been sitting, grumbling, 'I'll show you who's tender you city-filly, bet you've never wrestled a timberwolf,' and so on. Underestimate me, huh?

Still, I was eager to see the next part of the act. Trixie tapped a pedal inside of the cage with her hoof, and a spinning blade suddenly popped out of the ceiling, lowering slowly towards her.

"Fear not, audience-members! Trixie will escape this deadly trap long before the saw descends!"

That got my attention. I leaned in close, my mind racing. Every part of the cage I had investigated was secure, but what about the part with the saw? Could the saw just be a misdirection – an apparent threat, but the real key to her escape?

Trixie crouched down and away from the saw, and declared, 'Abra kedabra!' I was shocked when one of the locks on her strait-jacket popped off suddenly. Then I realized what had happened.

"The saw! When it popped out, a key dropped out of the ceiling compartment!"

Trixie gawped at me. She growled as she struggled out of the jacket, and frustratedly opened the cage, saw forgotten. She stormed up to me, blushing furiously. "Little filly, is it your intention to ruin the show for everypony else?!"

I looked around. "But, uhh... I'm the only one here."

"Hmph! So?! Have some respect for the magician's craft!"

I leapt to my hooves. "But I do respect it! That misdirection was masterful! If I hadn't been so familiar with that kind of cage, and hadn't spent so long trying to escape one, I never would have figured it out! Really, it's genius!"

Trixie seemed taken aback. "But... it's not magic...?"

I balked. "So?! I had magic, tons of it, but relying on magic to solve all of your problems just makes you lazy! You've always gotta be smarter than the other pony if you want to keep ahead! This is way cooler than just 'magic-ing' your way through every problem; you actually have to find ways to solve problems or create illusions without thinking with your horn. I want to learn all of it!"

Well, you were always inclined towards misdirection and deception, so it's just fitting.

I can use this for good!

Trixie seemed genuinely happy with my response. "Well that's great to hear, little filly! It's rare to find somepony who can appreciate the art of what Trixie does. And what is your name, would-be apprentice?"

I froze. She doesn't know? Ohhhh ponyfeathers.

"Uhh... I'm Cozy Glow...?"

Trixie's smile froze on her face, along with the rest of her. A wind blew past, and I spotted a tumbleweed making its way past. Seriously?

"Oooh, well, um, that's... unexpected. Um, Trixie feels like she should mention, just as a sort of general disclaimer mind you, that the awesome powers of stage magic aren't really useful for taking over Equestria."

I wanted to object, but my analytical evil-overlord side beat me to the punch. "I dunno, you could probably get pretty far with that stuff if you really tried. Have you ever given conquest a shot?"

Trixie opened her mouth, expression furious, and clearly about to object, but then stopped. It was rather like a weight had dropped inside of her skull and rattled her mid-action. She slowly lowered her hoof. "... Maaaaaaybe?" She smiled uneasily.

I smirked. "I bet it went really well until you won and had no idea what to do past that, right?"

Trixie groaned. "Ugh, do not remind Trixie. She spent moons on an apology-tour."

"Hey, I did that, too! Sorta, anyway. Same idea."

Trixie pursed her lips at that, considering. "And what does the famed villain Cozy Glow wish with Trixie's arts, hmm? Seeking to become all-powerful again?"

I nodded quickly, grinning and getting into character. "That's right! Cozy Glow will be known throughout all of Equestria as the greatest and most powerful magician, the evil rival of Trixie!"

Trixie's eyes widened. "Oh, a dual act! I love that—I-I mean, Trixie approves of this idea!"

I clapped my hooves together excitedly. "I can work an angle off of my old dumb schemes! I can claim I am trying to win over all of Equestria with my magic act so I can have an army of friends and take over!"

Trixie cringed. "But you aren't... riiiight?"

I stared at her flatly for a few seconds. Another breeze blew past, rustling the very-empty seating area, and I gestured at it dully.

"I've got a funny feeling it wouldn't be all that practical, even if I wanted to take over."

Trixie sighed. "It's true, the magician's lot is a harsh one. There is no appreciation for this art in modern Equestria!"

I shrugged. "Ponies can be dumb about some things. But I appreciate it."

She raised an eyebrow at that. "And is that the only reason you wish to learn from Trixie?"

I drew in a breath. Gotta give it straight. "No. I want to be more powerful, and without my magic, this is one of the only options I have. I think I'd have a knack for it – after all, misdirection and deception come naturally to me. And this seems like a positive way to use those skills, to me."

Trixie's eyes narrowed. "And why do you want to be more powerful, Cozy?"

I stared at her sternly. "I was a hero, in another timeline. Discord sent me there to experience it, and I want to do that again. I don't want to just be 'the craziest foal in Equestria's history' forever. I want to be more. And even if it doesn't work out that way, I'd rather be known as a great stage magician and entertainer than just a villain everypony wishes was never born in the first place."

Trixie fidgeted a bit in place. Seems like I hit a nerve. "Trixie is... okay with this, but what does Princess Luna think? She is your... guardian, is she not?"

I suppressed an urge to growl. "She's my mom, if that's what you mean. And I got her approval before I came here. She understands how important this is to me."

Trixie pondered that, and then surprised me when she came over to where I sat and plopped down next to me. "Trixie is sorry if she offended you, Cozy. She's—I've been getting used to my new role at the school, and I do miss traveling the road and performing. Everypony in Ponyville has seen my act already, so nopony comes around anymore. Aside from dazzling the students once in a while, sometimes I feel like I've lost my calling."

I frowned in confusion. "You work at the school, now? What do you do?"

Trixie sighed. "I'm the new school counselor. I clearly need to brush up on my skills; we've all made mistakes, and I know better than most how hard it is to get on a better track when everypony is suspicious of you at every turn. I suppose I was just shocked to have the first pony to really show interest in my show in so long be you."

I laughed at that, shaking my head. "No hard feelings. You should be suspicious of me; the last thing you remember of me was a crazy filly hurling fireballs and trying to take over the world. There's a lot of my story you've missed. Honestly, it's been weird having most of the ponies be so accepting of me! It kinda freaks me out, sometimes."

Trixie snickered. "Starlight Glimmer said something similar to me when she moved to Ponyville. And again, when she visited her old village. It's not something I totally get, but I know a thing or two about mending fences."

"Starlight... I really hurt her. Aside from Twilight, I spent the most time in the school with her. And I always felt like she understood me better than anypony else. That's why she scared me; I always worried she'd see through me. That's why I... well, that's why I got her out of the way. That was really horrible."

Trixie chewed her lip over for a second in thought. Calling back some of that counselor training? "So... Cozy, how did that make you feel, when you did it?"

I groaned. "I don't know. It was kind of a whirlwind. I mean, I was caught up in this huge rush as my plan was kind of rocketing to completion, and I was panicking because she was about to find me out, and then I saw a chance to get rid of her and I jumped all over it. I just felt so relieved that I'd gotten the better of her... at least, at first. But... once I'd gotten a little time to calm down, I went back down to the caves to check up on her. I didn't have to, there was no point to it; I knew she was still trapped. But I felt like I had to say something to her."

I sucked in a breath and steadied myself before continuing. "But what could I say? I couldn't really say 'sorry', because I wasn't about to let her go, but at the same time I felt so conflicted about it. I don't even know what I expected when I went down there; I just felt like I had to explain it to her. I couldn't just throw her into another dimension, never see her again, without her ever even knowing why I'd done it to her. I... I turned it into a gloating session, playing the part of the big villain laying out their scheme, but it was because I felt bad underneath, at the same time I felt awesome because, y'know, I'd won. And I was really trying to bulldoze over my doubts by focusing on my destination... which I guess is what I always do."

Trixie nodded along as I spoke. When I finished and looked up at her, she seemed to almost panic slightly. "I-I see, I see. Umm... that's a lot to take in, I'll be honest. But, uh, I guess now that some time has passed, the awesome feeling is gone, huh?"

I nodded, looking down at the grass. "Yeah. All that's left is the bad, and it's just gotten a lot worse. It's like... the more I grow up, the more I see how childish I was, how stupid I was, and how much my actions could have hurt everypony. Discord showed me what would have happened if I had won, but honestly that didn't hurt nearly as much as realizing what it means to take somepony away from their friends and family."

Trixie looked puzzled at that. "When did you learn how that felt?"

I scuffed the grass. "When it was time to leave my superhero time and home behind. I didn't think anypony would know who I was here; I thought I'd lose my mom and my best friend."

Trixie winced. "Ooo, that's awful. Discord didn't tell you about the memory transfer spells beforehand?"

I shook my head. "I think he left that part out deliberately... so I could learn that lesson. 'This is what ponies go through when they lose somepony.' I can't believe I almost took Starlight from you and Twilight... it makes me sick to think about it."

Trixie coughed uncomfortably and looked around. "Well... Trixie—er, I wasn't exactly thrilled about it either. But you were young – younger, that is – and ponies make mistakes. You just have to learn from them and move on. Everypony was alright in the end!"

"Not for lack of trying on my part. I mean... I didn't mean for anypony to get seriously hurt, but I was so reckless and thoughtless I could have killed ponies. And, like, learn from it? Okay, but... I'm still the same pony I was, on some level. It's not like I'm magically different. Growing up doesn't just totally change who you are."

Trixie looked at me with a neutral expression, and I stared into her eyes, wondering if what I'd just said would make her angry. I honestly couldn't tell. When she spoke, her voice was very soft.

"You know, Cozy, you're very sharp for a filly your age. No surprises there, I suppose; you did outwit the school to pull off your scheme. But what I mean is that you're mature for your age; you already understand that becoming an adult doesn't just grant some magical transformation into a totally new pony. But maybe you should think of it like this... you read comic books, right?"

I nodded, and she forged on. "Sometimes, the hero doesn't start off all that impressive, right? But they fight villains, they make friends, they get new gadgets or spells or whatever, and they get stronger. They stop being tricked by villains so easily and they really grow, until you can barely recognize them anymore. And sometimes they change their costume or their name to mark what a change has happened to them. We even refer to the different 'eras' in a hero's life, because they change so much. To an outsider, it's like they're totally different characters; but to us, watching, it's so gradual it might as well be invisible. I like to think of growing up in those terms; separate your life into eras, and think of it like a change to your performance and your costume. You may be the same filly underneath, but the way you interpret that and put it on display is different."

I chewed my lip. "But if what's underneath is evil—"

Trixie hushed me, which startled me into silence, and waved a hoof. "No no, that's the act. You act good or evil, or heroic or villainous, outgoing or aloof, but in the end those are all your choices. Sure, you may be strongly inclined to act one way or another, talented at something and terrible at another... but in the end, when ponies start throwing around judgey words like 'evil' or 'stupid', you just need to understand they're focusing on what they can see. And all they can see is this," she rustled her cape for me, and then pressed a hoof into my barrel, "but not this. You decide what act to put on, but don't ever start letting your critics tell you what kind of act you can put on. Let the haters hate; even if you aren't good at something yet, you'll show them all, someday. It just comes down to your choices."

Part of me felt like she was talking about herself, but I pushed it down and smiled. What she'd said really meant something to me.

"Thanks, Trixie. I really appreciate that."

Trixie smiled down at me in that winning-performer way. "Trixie was glad to help. And if you really want to learn Trixie's stagecraft, just come around the school after hours. Trixie is always there late anyway."

I snickered. "Cozy Glow will do that. Can't get a proper rivalry going unless I know the trade."

Trixie nodded, and smiled to me as I departed. As I made my way down into Ponyville, I faintly heard her say something, but I couldn't make it out.

Maybe it's time I get a new outfit, too...

Author's Note:

Anyone else remember Trixie's new cape in the epilogue?