• Published 22nd Jan 2020
  • 1,273 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.

  • ...
3
 248
 1,273

Empathy

"And that's how the Crystal Heart channels the power of ponies' joy and love to keep the winter at bay. This is also how we keep the wendigoes at bay with Hearth's Warming, and the source of changeling magic."

I smiled down at Cozy, who was diligently taking notes and skimming over her alchemy textbook.

This is definitely what I miss most about my old job. It's always so gratifying to see an industrious student!

Still, I couldn't help but wonder. Cozy had only been back for a few weeks, and we hadn't had many chances to talk in that time.

Apparently, I trained her in the other timeline, but without Luna's dream magic I'm at a disadvantage, here.

Cozy glanced up, having finished her notes. "So, if I understand all of this right, the dark magic Sombra used is like 'alicorn' magic? And it's called that because only alicorns can normally handle it?"

I nodded gravely. "Darkness and fear are dangerous emotions to channel into your magic, Cozy. For any normal pony, they corrupt the mind. Soon, they begin seeing things that aren't there, or seeing things differently – seeing friends as threats, or their greatest fears made manifest, for instance. Even for alicorns, the process can be both dangerous and draining."

Cozy nodded with a deep frown. "I remember having trouble keeping my magic pure when I first started using it. The more I used, the more angry I got..."

I smiled down at her, eager to help cast the memories in a positive light. "You were aware of that, even without any magical education? That's quite impressive, Cozy Glow."

She shrugged, still frowning. Not quite the response to my praise I hoped for. "I just hate anything trying to get in my head or control me. Probably why I was so obsessed with controlling other ponies."

She's quite introspective for a child... I'll need to avoid careless remarks that other ponies would take at face value.

I tousled her hair, and she paused to lean into my hoof. She does seem to crave affection, doesn't she? "Cozy, don't focus on your past errors. Learn from them, but let them go and look forward. For instance; what do you want to do with this alchemy project?"

Her eyes lit up slightly as she skimmed over her notes, and I recognized that scholarly intrigue that had endeared me to Twilight years ago.

I knew suggesting a subject change openly would go over better than trying to do it on the sly with this one. Good call, Celestia.

Cozy squinted at her alchemy book as she spoke. "So, I was thinking. Love magic can eradicate dark magic, but it can also moderate it. If the two are balanced right, the result can basically be neutral magic power, right?"

I nodded, considering the suggestion. "That is true."

Her experience with combat magic is certainly showing. It's so surreal to remember she's been on such adventures in another world.

"So that's probably pretty dangerous, right? If we wanted to use something like this to stop somepony like Sombra, it would be important to use a whole lot of it to overwhelm his magic entirely, or there would be an explosion or something."

I laughed at that. "You're right! I hadn't even thought of using this sort of mixture that way. Though you can't really store love magic in a potion, you know; even an artifact like the crystal heart can only hold on to such an ephemeral power for so long. The real key would be how much love magic could be generated at the critical moment; the recipe you're looking at is nothing more than a focus for it."

Cozy considered that, rubbing a hoof to her chin. "So this creates something like a miniature crystal heart. Ponies could wear them like necklaces to protect them, couldn't they?"

I tapped my chin. This child asks some incredibly difficult questions! I suppose it's to be expected with her level of experience.

"In theory, but they would either need to channel the love magic into it themselves to recharge the necklace, or they'd need to be standing in the field of something like a Crystalling. The crystal ponies themselves react in such a way for similar reasons, you know; they take a sort of 'charge' when the Crystal Heart pulses."

"Ooooh, so that's what their deal is. Neat. Hmm..."

I smirked down at her. "You're really dedicated to finding some way to apply this to fighting, aren't you?"

Cozy just smirked right back up at me. Sassy! "I know how to do two things; fight badguys and hurt everypony around me. So yeah, I'll stick with the fighting for now."

I winced, but she just giggled and went back to reading. That casual self-hatred isn't good... but still, she seems in good spirits, so I won't bring it up.

"Still, bit of an odd choice for combat magic, isn't it? I realize you don't have a horn, but there are many types of alchemy that seem better-suited to the task than love magic, specifically."

Cozy just shrugged again. "If I ever do get access to magic again, I want to guarantee it's as safe as possible. No more accidental black-magic rampages. And besides..." her cheeks tinted as she hesitated, "I guess I've started to understand love a bit more, lately, and it piqued my interest."

I snickered slightly, leaning down to her. "It's nothing to be embarrassed by that you love your mother, you know."

Cozy rolled her eyes, cheeks burning bright. "Uuugh, no sappy stuff, we're done, nope, no more of that!"

I laughed, and she snickered too after a moment, focusing back on the book. I gently levitated over the relevant ingredients with my magic. "Would you like to make an attempt at one of those necklaces, then?"

She took a deep breath, and leaned away from the book. "Yeah, I think I get it enough to at least try. Let's get started."

We set into our work in silence, efficiently setting up the alchemy area and prepping the ingredients. I was surprised at how adept she was; it was clear she'd had some experience with alchemy in the other world already, and she was quickly making up the gap in her skill caused by her change back into a pegasus.

This little one has been through far too many drastic lifestyle changes in too short of a period of time. I do hope nothing disrupts her again for a while... perhaps she might even put off the heroics and focus back on school, if we're fortunate. Then again, she's hardly neglecting her studies or her friendships, from what I've seen.

With that cheery thought, I started the first ingredients boiling. Cozy stared at the little cauldron pensively for a few moments before speaking up again.

"Celestia? Thank you for this. I know you don't remember the time we spent together before, so this must be really weird..."

I shifted my wings before responding. "A little, but I've come to see that every relationship and circumstance is different. Weird isn't bad. I'm delighted to have a niece who wants to learn more about magic, and who has so many interesting stories of her own to share."

Cozy giggled as she adjusted the temperature on the fire with the manual dials. "I guess I did get up to some crazy stuff."

I grinned slyly at her. "Is it true you took on Grogar, the Father of Monsters, by yourself? I'm positive I heard something about that."

Cozy rolled her eyes, cheeks coloring again. She's far more humble than I'd imagined.

"It wasn't by myself. Sunset helped me out, at least at first. Besides, I had your training and Luna's armor, and his magic – I had a lot of help, even from ponies who weren't physically there."

I cocked my head. "Most ponies would still take that as their own victory."

Cozy snorted in a distinctly unladylike fashion. "Well I'm definitely not like most ponies, and even when I was crazy and bent on taking over I knew that friendship is the greatest power a pony can have. It's not like I just forgot that because I had a horn."

I watched her carefully for a few moments as she worked, considering her words. "... If only more ponies didn't let themselves forget that fact simply because of personal power."

She snickered as she put another ingredient in carefully. "Are we talking about Twilight now, back in her pre-Ponyville days? I heard about that. From you, actually!"

I drew myself up into a regal pose. "Certainly not! I would never speak of my former student thus."

That got me a flat stare and an amused smirk. I just neutrally gazed back and said, "Clearly, I was referring to Starlight Glimmer."

Cozy considered that, and shot back, "Star Swirl the Bearded."

"Moon Dancer."

"I don't know who that is. Uhh... Sombra?"

I tapped my chin. "I'm not sure he ever knew the value of friendship to begin with... also, Trixie."

"Oo, juicy. I'll have to rib her about that later. Mom?"

It took me a second to realize she meant Luna. "Oh, I suppose she counts. Hrm. Sunset Shimmer."

Cozy froze up slightly at that. "G-good to know, I guess. I've kinda avoided asking her about her past at all. Umm... Chrysalis!"

I snickered. "Deep pull there, very impressive. Discord!"

"Which time?"

I shrugged, and she relented. "Yeah, fair enough. Umm... Tirek."

I considered that, ruffling my feathers a bit as I did so. "Did he truly value friendship before becoming power-crazed?"

Cozy nodded firmly, surprising me. "He really cared about his brother. And his father? I'm not clear on the details, but he threw it all away for power."

I frowned at that, shaking my head. "The sad path walked by many creatures, it seems. I suppose you would be more familiar with his case than I would."

Cozy quietly laid out the next few ingredients – it would be a while before we had to take further action – and looked up to study me quietly for a few moments before speaking again.

"What happened to Tirek, anyway? I know what Chrysalis is up to, but..."

I sighed. "Discord was unable to find even a single timeline where Tirek 'won' but would see the consequences of his actions. If he was left unchecked, in every case, Equestria was reduced to a wasteland... and Tirek never learned his lesson. He simply kept seeking power further afield, and inevitably fell to some hazard or other. Unending hunger for power, without any other motivation other than revenge on his brother... we have no idea how he might be redeemed."

Cozy grimaced and looked away at that, and I gently lowered myself down in front of her. She slowly looked back and met my gaze, and I said, as softly as I could, "Were you friends?"

She rubbed her head with a hoof and broke eye contact. "I don't know. He was... he could be nice to me sometimes, but usually he just brushed me off and treated me like baggage. But he also always expected me to succeed. It's hard to describe. He believed in me, and he took pride in my efforts, but he also didn't care about me, I think. I guess we were more like... colleagues?"

I nodded slowly, taking that in and considering her reaction. "And you're concerned for him?"

Cozy gave a few uncomfortable flaps of her wings, stretching them out as she looked back to me. "I mean, a little bit. I don't want him to be just... stuck forever. But I guess it's more selfish than that. I kinda have to wonder, what if I was the one who couldn't ever be redeemed? What if Discord had just given up on me? I dunno, I know it's wrong to worry about a monster like Tirek and I should just be happy I didn't end up the same way, but I can't help it."

I slowly unfurled a wing and spread it around Cozy. I suppose she still has a lot to learn about friendship. "Cozy, there's nothing wrong with wanting to help somepony, or putting yourself in their place. That's empathy. You're worried about him because you can relate to his situation, and you don't want a bad fate for him, even if he's not someone you care about personally. It's the same instinct that motivated Discord to free you and try his hardest to help you understand and live with us again."

I saw her ears flatten as she closed her eyes and laughed softly. "I didn't even think about that. I thought he just wanted to punish me into reforming me. But I still kinda realized it was for my own good. Somehow I just never put the pieces together to realize why he wanted to do something to help me."

Probably because she still struggles with the idea that other ponies genuinely care about her.

"It is often the case that we do not fully understand the motives of others until after the fact. Sometimes we need to live through the same things they did to grasp what motivated them. It's easy to judge others when you haven't had their experiences; harsh words said from a place of arrogance can come back to us like an ironic echo when we realize what they were going through."

Cozy opened her eyes and focused on me. I can see a strength in there I rarely find in one so young. "Is that why you haven't tried prying into my past, o-or judged me or lectured me on what I did?"

I nodded. "It's less my place to do so than it is Luna's, but in either case I can't pretend to understand what you've been through. I can only listen to what you tell me and make suggestions based on my own experiences."

Cozy chewed her lip for a moment. "Then... do you want to hear about my time as Quillon, in the other world?"

Yes!

I smiled. "Very much so."

Author's Note:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-JkojNlI0x4

I do enjoy writing Celestia.