• Published 22nd Aug 2012
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Pony POV Series Season Five: Mind Games - Alex Warlorn



Discord, beaten.World, saved.But emotionally damaged Diamond Tiara hears Discord's voice and listen

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Episode 65: "Different From Everypony Else"

I love cake. More than I should. During my solo reign there was what has come to be known as the Century Of Chubby Celly (I have since melted down the Royal Wheelbarrow). The Cakes' masterpiece was everything I wanted from a pastry. I have to commission one for myself.

My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic
Pony POV Series 'Princess Celestia'
Different From Everypony Else

I'm sure you want to ask how much I plan, how much I engineer, and how often I simply take my opportunities when I see them. Well a lady is entitled to some secrets isn't she?

But I certainly didn't ask Pinkie Diane to bring my student and their friends here to Canterlot with her. But when opportunity knocks in my busy schedule, you answer.

My first order of business was after a wonderful chat with my faithful student (it's a pleasure she has become much more decisive when speaking to me).

"Twilight Sparkle, I have a most important assignment for you."

"Wh-what? Right now? I mean... anything, Princess Celestia! I'm happy to serve!" Twilight put on her 'fearless hero' face in record time. She continues to impress me.

"This mission is to help a pony very dear to me. You must-not-fail ."

"Anything, Princess."

I need to teach her the dangers of 'anything' sometime.

"You are to spend the entire evening with your parents."

"WHAT?!" Twilight covered her mouth and looked around at the random ponies now eyeing her, including her friends. "N-nothing!" She hoof-waved.

"What?" She whispered.

"I repeat: your mission is to spend the evening with your parents. No more, no less. Their schedules should accommodate you."

"How do you know-that is-Princess!"

"Don't make me make it a Royal Command."

"No, no, no! That's not it! I'm just -surprised-, that's all."

"I'll tell your friends that you're performing an important and private assignment for me. And I expect you to carry it out, -undercover-. Without delay. Do you understand, my faithful student?"

"Y-yes, Your Momjesty, YOUR MAJESTY!" Twilight blushed to nearly fainting.

It's only natural for ponies to 'leave the nest,' when they come of age... just a regular part of growing up. But they broke the mold with Twilight Sparkle. Very few foals of that age have what it takes to willingly leave a loving family behind in pursuit of a brighter star. Nonetheless, I vowed to Starlight and Moonshine Sparkle that I would never seek to usurp their place in her heart... and I have always endeavored to live up to that promise.

Twilight headed to spend time with her family.

One down. Five to go. For Pinkie Pie, I simply slipped her a note cautioning her not to become so fixated on the shadows of other worlds, that she forgot the one she lived in, or tried to dance with both at once. Did I sign it Celestia or Star-Catcher? I'll let you guess.

Simple friendly visits were all that was required for Applejack and the former Nightmare Whisper.

The Flutters haven't yet achieved perfect symmetry. Not that there's any hurry. Good things take time.

Thanks to Luna's timely intervention, Applejack V's accidental gift has stabilized perfectly. We can all sleep soundly, knowing Equestria will NOT be undone by a rampant worldwide epidemic of truth vision.

Yes, I have kept tabs on Trixie as well, my spies, er, informants in Hoofington tell me she is progressing nicely.

Two left to check upon, now. The two who, perhaps, needed me the most, and the ones I was most reluctant to intrude upon. After Nightmare Whisper, they DESERVED time to be happy and smiling. But I've delayed long enough.


"Rainbow Dash? Miss Rarity? I would speak with you. In private."

Direct little Alicorn aren't I?

They were quite startled that I addressed them directly rather than say Twilight or in general.

Allow me, for once, to bypass the stuttering, the fainting, the positive freaking-out, and skip straight to when they could speak like intelligent ponies again. Though I need to find out where Rarity actually keeps that chaise longue of hers, (I imagine she must have grown tired of hitting the floor.) Her drama rivals Lulu's.

"No, Rainbow Dash, it's not to give you an honorary spot on the Wonderbolts."

"Darn."

"Besides wouldn't ya'all rather earn that, RD?"

"Oh, right, heheh, yeah."

"Now please come along."

"Yer Majesty! What about us?" These ponies refresh me with their courage to ask.

"I'm sorry, you four, but this is for Rainbow Dash and Rarity only. "

Applejack sighed. "Ah understand."

Pinkie Pie peered at me over the top of a script titled "Mmmystery On The Friendship Express" shrugged, and tossed it over her shoulder. I make sure that Philomena burned it to ashes when she wasn't looking.

The Flutters said nothing.

I teleported us straight to one of my studies (yes more than one, this is a big castle). And informed the surprised guards outside that I wasn't to be disturbed.

This wasn't my personal chambers I had spoken to Twilight in. This was one of my more practical spaces. The paperwork was out of view, mostly.

On my desk I spotted the three new petitions on Luna's decree of outlawing during night hours the terms 'loony' and 'lunatics' in reference to mad ponies. One was Luna demanding I do the same like a good sister. And the other from a large number of traditionalists, firmly opposed to censoring a nine-hundred-year-old word. The third one was from Luna's loyalists, fans, and sympathizers.

Luna's sensitivity was not to be underestimated. I kept forgetting she's a thousand years behind ideas. I was going to have to explain slowly and carefully to Luna that we couldn't go making words illegal.

Taking time out of my schedule for this was nothing I had planned in advance.

I am going to pay for this later. With Luna herself and fully empowered we could split the workload between us again, split , not hoof over.

Maybe it was time for a personal assistant again, I had given up before after one turned out to be a spy, another an assassin, and a third went mad with power when she realized she could tweak what papers I did and didn't see.

Why couldn't I be a nice peaceful figurehead monarch yet?

Rainbow Dash tilted her head after getting her bearings. "Saaaay, Princess, is this going to be anything like when you had Applejack visit you? Is there a super secret magic rainbow stone yer gonna have me touch that'll make me like a zillion times faster and cooler?"

"Rainbow Dash!" Rarity glared.

I laughed. I forget how delightful these ponies can be. Firefly is definitely a part of her.

"No no, it's alright. And I'm sorry, we're all out of giant magical empowering gems. I may have accidentally tossed the last one out during spring cleaning. Just taking up closet space, really."

Rarity politely laughed at the joke. Rainbow Dash on the other hoof, "No way! How could you toss out something like that?"

Rarity courteously turned her head and rolled her eyes.

"Oh don't worry, I was sure to save the most precious things."

"What could be more precious than that?"

"You'd be surprised."

The Sunstone and Heart of Ponyland? I had more important things to keep track of.

Behind them, I looked at an ancient, faded, brittle 'photo' of Shady and Shady II hanging on my wall. Since I had dropped my invincible armor of 'The Immortal Unapproachable Sun Goddess' they two ponies opened up to me more.

"Princess." RD began again, sounding rather polite this time. "Scootaloo had a question she wanted me to ask you next time I saw you." I smirked. That little filly had so much faith in her hero, speaking with the goddess of the sun was a trifle in the orange filly's mind.

"Go right ahead."

"It's a little weird."

A trap is a trap only if you don't know it's a trap. "I insist."

"Ahem...'If you exploded, would you split into a Pegasus and a Unicorn?'"

Rarity fainted. Then got off her chaise lounge and got ready to beg.

I laugh again, I could tell those three were going to be very delightful to have around. "No, of course not. It would be an Earth Pony, A Pegasus, and A Unicorn that I'd separate into. Alicorns embody all three tribes."

Rarity's jaw dropped nearly to the floor. Sadly, the fun cannot last.

Then I put on my serious face.

"I wish to speak to the both of you on multiple points." I narrowed my eyes, I was scaring them a little. Good. "Do you know what is it like to be different? Truly different?"

Rarity, bless her, spoke first. "Everypony is different Your Majesty."

"That's an elegant way of saying no one is, my beautiful and generous pony. Can you tell me what it is to be different?"

"Well, no other pony has my lovely mane, my elegant coat, my eyes, and no other in Equestria has my cutie mark."

"You are speaking about uniqueness, my little pony. But what does it mean to be different?"

"Like Zecora?" Rainbow Dash found her courage and asked. "When she first came?"

"Closer to the mark, my brave and loyal pony, But Zecora's case represents what it's like to be unknown. An outsider. To have ponies assume things about you because you look different, not because you are."

"Different, as in...how you and your sister are unalike?" Rarity asked, inching forward. "You speak softly, she speaks grandly, you like bright colors while she prefers dark ones?"

"That is contrast. Traits that balance each other one. Ultimately, such traits complement each other and make themselves stand out all the more. All a part of harmony, really."

"Different, as in... how I'm the first pony who pulled off the Sonic Rainboom and can now do them whenever I want?"

"Now you're speaking of being special, Rainbow Dash. And before I forget," I nuzzled her. She froze; her princess, her goddess was touching her, this was completely unreal even for her!

"I know how it hurt you, when you couldn't do the Sonic Rainboom a second time, as a filly. Your fifteen minutes of fame... gone. You gained and lost several 'friends' in the blink of an eye. Going from being nopony, to somepony, back to being nopony again, hurt you. I know being the captain of Ponyville's weather team was not the job you dreamed you'd have at this age. But Rainbow Dash, the friends you've gained now are true friends, and you know they will not abandon you. That includes Spitfire."

I can see confusion in both their eyes; the outburst Rainbow Dash is biting back: 'How did you know?!' Then I watch a new thought take hold, and the outburst dies in her mouth. I'm her Princess, after all. The Almighty Sun Goddess. It's only 'natural' I should know everything about everything, automatically.

"Rainbow Dash, I had, I had no idea." Rarity spoke in awe. "So you really had a splurge of fame as a filly?"

"Well, duh! You don't pull off an impossible stunt without getting noticed! Ponies were talking about me becoming the youngest Wonderbolt in history! ...Then I couldn't do it again. At all. And they began to call it a fluke. An accident, that the rainboom happened on its own, and I just happened to fly inside it. Then suddenly, nopony had time for a one-trick pony."

"Oh, I see." Rarity pressed herself against her friend and gently nuzzled her. "My dear, I won't say I know what it's like to have all and lost all. I've had close shavings with absolute failure... but Fancy Pants helped me in Canterlot, and you all helped me with Hoity-Toity, after I made those eyesores. I'm sorry you didn't have friends who could've helped you the same way."

"Well, Fluttershy is, well, Fluttershy. And all it did for Gilda was earn her a few new enemies and marks on her permanent record after she clawed some ponies who claimed I faked the whole thing."

"She always kinda had an edge to her, but she wasn't always a sadistic bully."

"I can appreciate that Rainbow Dash." I spoke before Rarity could. "Treasure the Gilda who was your friend, find her again if you can, but protect your other friends from the Gilda that isn't if you must." I kept myself from shuddering, now wasn't the time for those memories.

Rainbow Dash simply nods. A friendship between a griffin and pony, any friendship, is too beautiful a thing to waste.

"And Rainbow Dash, don't worry. Fame comes and goes., but we won't be going anywhere." Rarity smiled at Rainbow Dash.

"Thanks Rarity." Rainbow's color gleamed a little bit brighter.

This was a delightful surprise. That makes this next part harder.

"Rainbow Dash, Rarity Belle... let me cut right to the chase. To be different, truly DIFFERENT, has nothing to do with appearances, tastes, abilities, species, or little personality quirks. Being different means to have a barrier erected between your heart and others'...Like the both of you have."

"What?" They ask together of course, eyes wide.

"What do you mean by that?"

"My word," Was all Rarity could say.

"I will explain, in time, but first let's talk more about what being different ISN'T, The characteristics ponies THINK sets them apart from others, but ultimately are but sand lines in the surf."

++++

I am Doctor Freudian Excuse. And I am currently facing the most painful trial of my life.

"So remember: being crazy is all in your head! The only reason all those nasty thoughts aren't going away is because you're not thinking enough NICE thoughts! Positive thinking; that's the key! Smile all your problems away! Make that your life's new motto, and drill it into all your patients' heads, and watch their neuroses melt away! Say it with me: Positive Thinking!"

Doctor Hoof Wave did not stop smiling the entire time. My eyes wandered to the duck cutie mark squarely on Dr. Hoof Wave's flanks.

"QUACK! QUACK!"

"Who let that duck in here-?!"

How can somepony repeat the same thing in slightly different ways for over an hour? Each more banal than the last?

If I had to see another 'happy face' slide I might need therapy.

Thankfully the slideshow finally ended. Unfortunately, his smile stayed where it was. This convention was becoming painful.

As Hoof Wave stepped down from his soapbox (where was that podium we were promised?) Dr. Head Scratcher asked:

"Dr. Hoof Wave, I must voice some, er, concern about your methods."

"Oh no need to worry, I come from a long proud line of experts in positive thinking."

I had to say. "Your biography said that your parents were circus clowns, and they begged you to pursue any profession but psychology."

"Oh, you read it?" Hoof Wave grinned wider.

"It was the only reading material in the lobby. And you wouldn't let anyone in until you had your preparations done remember?"

"Positive thinking must have perfect timing!"

"That's comedy!"

"Same thing." The 'good' doctor collected his equipment. "Well, I'll see you around! Got to host a lecture on teaching magic kindergarten. Busy, busy, busy!"

Dr. Head Scratcher looked at me. "Why are we here again?"

"Because it was this, or five hours of Dr. Ego's latest speech on why sapient thought does not exist."

"It really doesn't exist after the first two hours."

"You lasted a whole two hours?"

"I've built up an immunity."

"Maybe we try Dr. Id again?"

"Don't even joke."

I personally don't get why psychologists even have conventions in Equestria. All we do is argue, it's a wonder Windigos haven't froze us solid yet.

"Hey, where's the rice pudding?" Declared an Earth pony with an hour glass cutie mark pushing alongside us.

"Ugh. How does he keep getting in here? His credentials are different each time!" Head Scratcher exasperated.

"And how would you know that?"

"I'm properly paranoid." Head Scratcher replied.

Who was that pink haired white pegasus with the smiling sun cutie mark and thick glasses who kept appearing at these things? She always seemed to be everywhere.

+++

I'm happy that Twilight and, to an extent, Applejack, have been considerate enough not to reveal the true identity of Sunny Day to the world at large,(even if I have to customize her a little for certain events). Creating avatars has always been Lulu's forte. Hers always function with a commendable level of autonomy, Mine barely move without elaborate preprogramming. NO! I did not use an avatar to spend the day with Twilight! I would never do that. I simply create one when I need do paperwork and be somewhere else to learn new things.

+++

"What do you mean the chariot ride to Ponyville's canceled?!" Head Scratcher snapped at the unresponsive Day Guard.

"We've been experiencing some, er, rogue weather erm, doctor, I'm afraid you're going to have to rely on ground transportation."

On the road back to Ponyville we saw what they meant. Pink clouds raining chocolate milk? What insane unicorn was responsible for this? Knowing our luck we'd have to deal with the culprit after Princess Celestia cleaned the mess up!

Head Scratcher must already be trying to deduce what form of chemical imbalance the culprit suffers from. Head Scratcher always assumes that all mental ailments stem from some physical, tangible deficiency. Bad body chemistry, genetic defects, or some pathogenic disease... that sort of thing.

Me? Let's just say I didn't pick my name out of a hat. TLC says we balance each other out.

But this wasn't our worst problem.

"ISN'T IT GREAT HOW WE'RE GETTING TO SPEND TIME TOGETHER?!" Dr. Hoof Wave cheered as he hugged us both in the carriage we had rented.

Apparently Canterlot had decided to dump Hoof Wave on Ponyville (us) where 'everypony is crazy anyway' ("Why else would they go around naked?"). How this stallion held onto his license I'll never know.

The asylum was built far outside what had been a simple peaceful hick town.... (once upon a time,) Still, our humble sanitarium had never housed all that many patients. I remember some doctors suggesting to close us down and let Ponyville Hospital take on the mental patients in full. This would've been disastrous. While Ponyville Hospital did have a mental ward, it was a small, downright temporary affair. I dread our more dangerous patients being there.

Ponies! Some of them thought mental illness was something that just happened randomly and passed just as randomly... like rough weather. Then there were the ones who thoughts ponies were just born crazy and there was nothing to be done for them. Don't get started on the 'just a phase' crowd!

As far as medical practitioners went, we were below proctologists. Ponies didn't acknowledge our existence unless they had to. The asylum wasn't list even on Ponyville's official map!

Sorry, sorry, I suppose I was ranting a bit there. Every profession has its own 'hidden world' shielded from respectable society. If more ponies accepted us, maybe we'd catch some cases early enough to treat.

We returned to the asylum to find 'Screwball' still in her cell (for once). Maybe the new locks were actually going to hold her in this time. 'Barking Mad' had made a mess again. And 'Creepy Crawlie' had clearly skipped his medication again; lapsing into his usual rants about "the bugs."

Roid Rage and the other Orderlies hadn't caused any trouble according to our intern Tender Loving Care, nicknamed TLC. We'd hired her because she was the only pony I could find working on her doctorate with a black belt in Neighponese karate.

I HATED the convention, but it had been mandatory. At least it'd only lasted a day. What idiotic bureaucrats were monkeying with our branch of Equestrian medicine and why hadn't Princess Celestia reassigned them to Stalliongrad yet?

++++

For the record, I since have. I was sure to send them a cup of hot cocoa as a welcoming present. Heh. Though it might have been more of a frozen popsicle by then. I'm sure they enjoyed the scarves though.

++++

One patient saw the mad weather outside her window and complained that her medication wasn't working. Another worried he was relapsing.
It was surreal to actually tell them what they were seeing was real for once.

That was when the most garish, painful, and out-of-tune mockery of music invaded our asylum.

I began to suspect I was hallucinating until I asked TLC and Head Scratcher confirmed what I was seeing. Shared hallucinations don't work the way most sci-fi novel antagonists 'say' they do. Nope; what was happening was very real. And that was not a good thing.

Marching like the lead of a parade was a one-monster-band chimera. Head of a horse, and several other pieces, 'dragon-horse', a 'draconequus.' It was headed straight for our front door. The therapy staff gathered.

It pulled out a microphone from nowhere, tapped it, the noise of his claw hitting it coming out of our own intercom system, and called out, "ATTENTION, EVERYPONY, ESPECIALLY THE MENTALLY DERANGED AND CRIMINALLY INSANE! AS OF TODAY YOU ARE RIGHT AND EVERYPONY ELSE IS WRONG! CRAZY IS THE LAW OF TODAY, YESTERDAY, TOMORROW, AND THURSDAY-AFTER-MEALTIME!"

Inside Screwball cheered.

Hoof-Wave stared like an idiot. Head Scratcher's jaw fell from his muzzle. TLC paled. The orderlies hide inside. My mind went blank.

"Who are you? What are you? And what do you think you're doing here?" Head Scratcher finally built up to nerve to speak to the towering freak of nature.

We should have noticed the day and night going mad too, but we already at our shock limit I think. The chimera tossed off the instruments that continued (tragically) to play without his help. He put on a pair of sun glasses, and assumed a pose of great self-importance. "I, am Discordance Apophis Typhon. Or just Discord. I am the Spirit of Disharmony. I'm here to help liberate some ponies you've been trying to inconsiderately force to your way of thinking. Now would you all please step aside so I can get started? I'm about two thousand years behind schedule."

"Not happening," TLC declared boldly, her horn glowing brightly. "These are our patients and you're not taking them anywhere."

Discord grinned so wide his whole head should have fallen off. "I was so hoping you'd say that."

I braced myself.

Discord snapped his fingers. I heard every asylum slam open. Screwball was out and about in nanoseconds. Barking Mad barreled out, barking happily. Creepy Crawlie trotted out to escape 'the bugs.'

The chimera vanished from sight and reappeared behind us. He slammed a soundproof glass dome on top of TLC, that quickly proved impervious to all physical and magical attacks.

"HEY! What do you think yer doin'?!" Roid Rage snapped at the intruder, the fact it was a impossible creature meant little, I suppose.

"Oh a tough guy? Oh put'em up! Oh put'em up!" Boxing gloves appeared on Discord paws as he made several amateur boxing moves.

"Ya think this is a joke smart guy-?!"

Discord's punching gloves hit Roid repeatedly while Discord got himself a drink from a minibar floating next to him, drinking the glass then letting the contents burn a hole in the ground. Roid kept bouncing back into the creature's fist. His lower body was now a inflatable boxing dummy.

As that happened, Discord looked at Screwball with a blink as she trotted by. He gave a strange smile and zapped her beanie, causing her to suddenly begin flying with it like a helicopter blade. "There you go beautiful, enjoy yourself," He said, throwing her up and allowing her to buzz around.

Discord yawned and snapped his fingers and Roid was back to normal and more angry than I had ever seen him.

Then Discord's shadow tapped Roid Rage on the shoulder and punched him out when he turned around to look, then high-fived Discord.

The other orderlies leapt at Discord all at once and vanished into a dust cloud of violence.

"That's it, boys! Keep it up!" Shouted Discord, suddenly next to us in a director's chair, wearing glasses and a beret, shouting through a megaphone.

"Excuse me, but I think I know what your problem is," smiled Dr. Hoof Wave. "You clearly aren't thinking positively enough. So you're seeking to compensate for your negative outlook. But you can generate your own positivity! Make yourself happy! So there's no need to cause public disturbances to validate yourself."

"Oh really?" Asked Discord rubbing his hands together sounding eager and enlightened. He snapped his fingers and appeared on a therapy couch.

"Oh yes. Your attitude is clearly a result of a bad relationship with your mother, a negligence from your father, plus your siblings sent mixed signals by both being kind and hazing you, willy-nilly, thus, you're not able to discriminate between playful teasing and malicious misbehavior. And I think a happy relation with your foster family on the side that came to a tragic end."

Discord gasped and slapped his paws to his face, "OH! Oh my! Oh my indeed!" It was the worst acting I've even been subjected to, and Hoof Wave just lapped it all up. Or maybe his face was just permanently frozen in that smile. "I can't believe it! You got it all right! I feel so much better now! I feel like a brand new me! How can I ever thank you, doctor?!"

"Oh it's good enough to help a troubled soul in need."

"I have some friends who could use your help too. Would you like to meet them?"

"I'd love to!"

"Okay!" He slammed a small black box on top of Hoof Wave. No, 'black box' doesn't cover it. It was like looking into a hole in the universe! No light reflected off it and it had no shadow.

"WHAT ARE YOU DOING?" Head Scratcher gasped.

"Just introducing him to some friends. Residents of My Mother, really." He jammed a funnel on top of the 'black box' and blew a dog's whistle. Out of nowhere countless shadows -- ponies, dragons, griffins and more besides! -- flowed down through the funnel, into the box. We heard Hoof Wave scream. Then silence.

Discord removed the box. Hoof Wave stood there, colored all gray now, with an expressionless face, stared into nothing.

"...Life has no meaning. Our existences are pointless flashes in the ever-expanding darkness..."

"Seems they helped you too." Discord patted him on the head. He didn't respond.

We shared a looked of horror. I took back every last stupid thing I thought about his stupid smile. Then I noticed TLC's breaths were getting shallow and her motions sluggish. I began to beat futilely on the glass. I looked back at Discord.

"LET HER OUT! She's suffocating!"

"Oh is she? I must have forgotten to drill air holes. Silly me. I always seem to forget those. Bad Discord." he playfully slapped himself.

TLC's eyes dimmed.

"STOP IT PLEASE! Let her out!" I begged.

"Whoa--kay." The glass vanished with a pop. TLC gasped in fresh air. She fired a bolt of magic shaped like a hypodermic needle right at Discord. He CAUGHT IT with his bare hands! He twisted it into a bow. "Now, now. Silly filly. A little girl like you shouldn't play with sharp object. All HELPLESS, and unable to do a THING to help anypony."

"I am not helpless!"

"Oh yes you are. Always have been. All your self defense classes, all your learning, have been a waste of time. No matter what you do, it's never good enough is it? You're always helpless. A helpless little foal. Scared to be all alone . Always needing others when she says she can take care of herself. What a silly little baby. Aren't you?" Discord's eyes began to swirl different colors. TLC's eyes did the same.

"Silly...little...ba-ba..."
The centers of her eyes went huge and...she began to suck on her rear hoof.

"Tender!" Dr. Head Scratcher cried going to her side, then smelled her soiling herself. "MONSTER!"

With a finger, Discord flicked him back into the wall next to the front door, leaving an impression. "Oh, I'm not a monster, I'm just...morally unique."

The orderlies were still fighting, but now looked like rubber hose cartoon characters slamming into each other mindlessly.

Screwball came dawn and decided to join in the fun and tied them together like they were rope. "YIPPIE! THIS IS FUN! LET'S DO THIS SOME MORE! OH WHAT A CUTE AND BIG BABY!"

TLC began to wail like a newborn. "LOUD BABY! BAD!" Screwball backhoofed her, she cried louder, Screwball back hoofed her again.

"GOLDEN TIARA STOP IT!" I jumped to tackle her. Discord plucked me up between two claws.

"Now now, let her have her fun. It's not nice of you, trapping all these poor ponies inside just for the crime of thinking differently. How rude. I think you, and your friends, all need a change in perspective." Discord pulled a battery powered drill and put on a surgeon's mask. "This will only hurt for a second! So be sure to struggle and squirm a whole lot!" The drill bit began to spin as he brought it close to my head.

++++

Before the wave of rainbow light came, I had burned all of my own medical notes, turned all my furniture upside down and glued the carpet on the ceiling. I had thrown my beloved collection of drinking-birds off the roof of my house telling them to fly, they hadn't.

Head-Scratcher had painted all the walls polka-dots while TLC had acted like a unicorn toddler (with the magic reserves of an adult mare!) gleefully reeking confusion.

I found out my parents had been brainwashed to think they were five years old again and were in Nurse Redheart's care for bones they broke trying to climb a jungle gym. I didn't have time to visit them.

Barking Mad was confused when her family stopped acting like dogs and began acting like ponies again and carefully led her back to the Asylum.

It was a good thing Earth Ponies were made of iron. Screwball had fallen out of the sky when her propeller stopped lifting her through the sky. At least she didn't struggle when we found her.

It took a while to get Creepy Crawlie out of the hole we found him in. At least he was himself for another twelve hours after taking his pills. It hadn't helped Discord had made his delusions real.

Hoof Wave, I helped him sit down in one of the waiting room. He hadn't spoken since the wave of rainbow light had reversed the chaos. I don't want him to tell me what he saw.

A red in the face TLC had thrown any memento from her childhood she had into the garbage.

We found someone outside waiting for her: a purple Earth pony filly with a worn donkey doll with a little note book and quill.

"Excuse me. Your job is to help others right? But right now, you look like you're the one who needs help. Wanna talk about it to my little friend? She promises not to tell anypony."

+++

"Yo. Mr. Happy Clown. Can you hear me? I know you can. Don't you ignore me." Spoke a purple adult pegasus, poking Dr. Hoof Wave. "Are we going to have to do this the long and hard way?"

No response.

"Don't turn into a complete jerk on me. Look. So life isn't about ignoring things, and it isn't about overlooking the real problems, and it's not about pretending those problems aren't there, big whoop. Your job to help ponies deal with those problems right?"

No response.

"Geeze. This is going to take a while."

++++

One knock on my office door later (technically mine and Head Scatcher's until mine was back in order), an elderly purple unicorn came in, her mane was all gray.

"Can I help you?" I asked. Head Scratcher was personally double checking our patients.

"No. But I am here to help you and your staff, Dr. Freudian Excuse."


This would be of course where Rarity would look at you, my loyal and faithful interviewers.

She had to ask, "Are any of you even licensed psychologists?"

I said, "They have special dispensation from me, my little pony."

Rainbow Dash snapped, "Now hold on! Are you saying these guys acted as head-doctors for the head-doctors?!"

"Of course. Did you think that ponies who heal minds would be spared? If anything, they'd be the first targets of a monster who delights in -breaking- them! Once I realized Discord was loose again, I issued a royal command to all the therapists I could reach to relocate to neighboring countries and await further instructions, immediately after summoning you all to Canterlot. Not all of them received my orders. And not all the ones who received my orders escaped Discord's eye."

RD tilted her head. "Weren't you three supposed to be writing a book about the six of us and Ponyville?"

(Interviewer's Notes (Earth pony): We were? OW! I mean yes of course we are!)

"What?" Rarity opened her mouth. "Applejack told me that Mayor Mare said it was a weekly documentary and you weren't supposed to be let in until Ponyville had at least recovered to the point of basic functionality again!"

"Now now, you know better than to trust in rumors." I said with perfect elegance and wisdom wearing my most perfect poker face. "That's how gossip gets started."

(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): Hey Dash, Daring Do was a great book series wasn't it?)

"Huh? Well I'm still reading through it." Then RD smiled and nodded. "But of course it is! I can't put it down!"

(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): Heh. And it's series worth sharing. It's been great to see you enjoy it now. After everything that happened, I had to transcribe the entire thing from memory! I was really tempted to change a few things. But in the end, it didn't feel fair to the author. OW!)

(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn): We are getting off-track, Celestia.)

Yes. I believe we most certainly are.

"Young foals like to think that teachers only exist at schools. That they don't go out shopping or have any sort of lives outside the classroom." I was tempted to mention a certain something that symbolized how much Cheerilee was loved by her students but some secrets are just meant to be. I know, I know, I've seen ponies who think themselves secret kings of society use that justification. But there's a difference between foals who have learned their lesson, and ponies who want to want to keep everypony ignorant to a real and present danger. Did you know some powerful ponies tried to make the monsters of Everfree into 'just rumors?' Guess how it ended.

"Adults like to think they've matured past this perception. But too many adults don't really think of psychologists as ponies either. That they exist AS their job, that they don't have families, insecurities, or hobbies of their own. Dr. Head Scratcher's sister in Appleloosa thinks Discord being free was a good thing because she spent it as a seapony. She's sent me twenty-seven letters so far, demanding his release." I see them gasp. And here came the question.

"How could ANYPONY want Discord free?"

"Because she liked being a sea pony. She sent me another twenty-five letters that somehow made it through filtering demanding I use my magic to make her a hippocampus." I left out how enticing the fantasy was of using her as a the first step in select ponies wanting to be remade into a reborn sea-bound tribe.

"How unnatural," Rarity said. I wonder about the telling her the irony of her saying that, considering she had a hippocampus as her direct ancestor (pruney hooves was a tell tale sign even if I hadn't searched each of the bearers family trees after they purified Luna).

"Now, Rainbow Dash. I have shown you illusionary differences. Now let us discuss a very real difference you have place around yourself."

"What?" Rainbow asked in honest confusion.

"You carry inside you a truth that separate you from you fellow pegasi. That you were given the choice: Equestria or Cloudsdale. Of course, everypony 'knows' you were brainwashed into thinking one little cloud was your hometown. With all the delusions running rampant, it's hardly outside the realm of possibility, right Rarity? That 'announcement' before Cloudsdale went stark raving mad must have been just an lie."

"Princess . . . stop . . . please." Rainbow Dash begged, as I reopened up old wounds.
-
A swirlie-eyed pegasus trotted off of Cloudsdale with her wings folded laughing. During free fall she turned upside down. "Look! I'm calling UP!" Her laughing stopped abruptly.
-
"And because you bottled up this difference, it nearly cost you, your dearest friends: not all Nightmares end with a repentant pony. Friends who all forgave you almost instantly. It separated you from your friends, just like at the bottom of your heart it separates you from the pegasi of where you were born."

"Princess enough." Who else but these six would dare say 'Enough,' to 'Princess Celestia?' Their bond smells like Mother. "Can't you see you're hurting her?" Rarity reiterated.

I keep my mask on. I've taken it off far too much lately, even for them. She can't be allowed to see this hurts the sun as much it hurts her.

"What makes you think I can't?" I ask evenly. "So why, Rainbow Dash, after your friends know and have forgiven you, why do you still keep the truth secret from your hometown friends at Cloudsdale?"

"Because I've barely MADE friends with them! I only stopped treating them like a bad memory a year ago! None of them are true blue friends, the way Rarity or Twilight Sparkle are. When Discord told them what I did, they hated me. Threw vegetables and everything. I never want to go through that again!"

"Even after accepting the taint of chaos did addle your thinking like everypony else ? Even if we arrange for you come clean in a controlled environment where the facts aren't being twisted by a master of deception?"

"No! Not even then! Besides, I've made up for my mistake, haven't I? Helped save the world from Discord? From...well, Nightmare Whisper, too? Doesn't that entitle me to SOME leeway? Why go air my dirty laundry? Why dig up old bones? Pegasi NEED an 'infallible' hero they can aspire to! Someone a little more down-to-earth than an omnipotent Alicorn...no offense."

"Yes, you went on to become such an infallible hero, that your friends have had to save you from yourself, TWICE."

"PRINCESS!" Rarity gasped.

(Interviewer's Notes (Earth Pony): Stop it!)

"So, Rainbow Dash... you've chosen to carry that burden alone forever?"

"She isn't carrying it alone! I'm carrying it too! And so are Pinkie, Twilight, Applejack, Trixie, Fluttercruel and Fluttershy!"

Finally.

I give a small smile but no more. "Be sure to remember that. Isolating yourself when you don't need to doesn't end well. You must either resign yourself to taking this secret to your grave... forever driving a wedge between you and the rest of Cloudsdale... or you could own up to your mistakes. You want to be a hero? Then you have to accept there are sides to yourself you can never show."

"Princess you could tell them all if you really wanted. We couldn't stop you. But it's not really ABOUT Cloudsdale, is it?"

Ah Rarity. She deserves a medal. Most ponies would be too caught up in my diction by now.

"You're right, Rarity. Cloudsdale has been healing piece by piece. They simply want to move on. Yet... pretending it never happened is just as dangerous as digging yourself into a hole."

"Maybe. But I'm still confident that I'm picking the lesser of two parasprites."

"And I'll respect your decisions, whatever they may be. But please consider, Rainbow Dash: you've already accepted that no matter what choice you made, Discord would have still won his game in the maze. Now please accept your own decision. Since when is Rainbow Dash fickle about her choices?"

And that did it. I saw the spark of enlightenment in her eyes.

"Never. I'm never fickle."

"If you want to help Cloudsdale, ask if you're doing it because you're loyal to your fellow pegasi, or because your conscience won't let you rest. And accept that answer. And help those you can help instead of lamenting over those you can't."

(Interview's Notes (Pegasus): Okay! I get all of that! But why are you bringing this up NOW? She just proved she's matured after, er, after everything. Since when does Princess Celestia go out of her way to hurt one of her ponies?)

(Interview's Notes (Unicorn) to (Interviewer Pegasus): For once in your life: shut up. Celestia, I'm sorry.)

"No no no it's, it's okay. I think I needed to hear that."

And there was Rainbow Dash's loyalty, a material so strong that it could only be broken by striking it against itself. Covering one of my eyes with my mane is an old trick, but it works, nopony has to see the sun shed a tear over a rightfully cruel question asked by someone so dear to her. I silently evaporate it.

Rarity asks, "Princess are you alright?" After I said those things to a friend of hers? How generous of her to her goddess.

"I'm perfectly fine my little pony. Thank you."

And my little pony, I don't think I ever thanked you for helping Scootaloo complete her impossible skateboard stunt that managed to land her in Rainbow Dash's front step when both were in their hour of need.

(Whispered Interview's Notes (Pegasus): But I never mentioned that! Oops.)

Heh. You didn't need to. Scootaloo is an artist with her skateboard, but even she couldn't do that kind of jump all on her own, in particular when she was as distracted by the kind of pain she was feeling.

(Whispered Interview's Notes (Pegasus): I just gave her a little boost. It was her idea to visit Rainbow Dash. I just made sure she didn't do anything stupid. Those three, they try so hard they can't see their talents right in front of them.)

That passion will serve them well later in life.

(Interview's Notes (Unicorn): Princess, you've beaten around the bush long enough. You need to tell them. Tell them your real reason for speaking to them. I want them to continue as is too. But we both know that isn't how life works.)

I know.

"Rarity Belle. Rainbow Dash. My little ponies." I take in a deep breath. "Let us now discuss the true heart of why you're here. Both of you have developed the most deadly weapon a pony can have. You now carry inside you the resolve to kill."

The two gasp.

"You think I wouldn't notice? You think I wouldn't know? You are all precious to me. This is a true difference, my little ponies. It isn't one you've placed on yourselves that you can just let go, it isn't an illusion that you can just shatter. This is a difference that is real. And it can not be removed with any flick of magic." I hug them both with my wings. They're startled silent.

"What are you talking about?" RD asks first.

"Kill? Me? Never." Rarity looks aghast at the thought.

I sigh. "You don't need to lie to me. I am not going to hurt you or punish you. Rarity, when you fought Dame Cheerilee to save Sweetie Belle. Rainbow Dash, when you and Rarity both chose to put Nightmare Whisper out of her misery when you believed you couldn't save her. It wasn't just a dumb animal, not some demon or zombie. These were ponies you knew, Fluttershy was someone who helped you save the world twice over. Killing someone that dear to you should be unthinkable. But in both instances, you were doing it out of love for another."

I turn to Rarity.

"For Dame Cheerilee, it borne of your love for Sweetie Belle and others who you felt a responsibility towards, and you reacted in murderous rage. And in the case of Princess Gaia you tried to kill her because you loved her, not because you hated her." Then I sigh in sympathy. "But it was the tinniest bit easier the second time with Princess Gaia wasn't it Rarity?"

Rarity and RD said together. "Don't call her that."

"What she is now, she is, she can't escape it. No more than I can escape what I am."

"Should we call Princess Luna 'Nightmare Moon then?" Rainbow Dash dares to ask.

Over the line.

I narrow my eyes, Rainbow looks ready to soil herself. "I said 'Princess Gaia' not 'Nightmare Whisper.' They are as different as a kiss and a strike to the face, remember that. "

I see their eyes widen as realization begins to creep on them, but RD says quickly to escape that truth. "But we didn't actually kill ANYPONY! So it doesn't count!"

"That is in the eyes of the law, only. Each soul chooses its own path. You had each already made the decision to kill well before those fights ended. And that decision was yours alone, and it will stay with you forever."

My two ponies are in silence as they look at each other, then at me, then at themselves. They don't know what to say. What can they say?

My elder sister planned the roads a black filly, and built all roads as a red mare, and ends them as an old white Alicorn, but my ponies were the ones to choose what route to take. You don't want to see a universe without roads of fate. Believe me, it was much more terrible for mortal than it ever was for the Alicorns.

"You regret," I noted.

"Of course I regret!" Rarity snapped. "When push came to shove I acted like a savage!"

"Savages don't regret," I say. "I've lived a VERY long time, indeed. I've seen how ponykind functioned BEFORE the three tribes, and before the First Age. Before there was any semblance of civilization. Want to discuss savagery, my dear? Try stallions fighting each other to the death to mate with as many mares as possible. Marriage, as you understand it, not existing in any shape or form. And when predators came around, oh, you should have seen it! Herds dispersing like a cloud of mosquitos, racing away in all directions! Every pony for herself! Stragglers who fell behind? Eaten. Unmourned."

I saw the two of them pale. In for a penny, in for a pound.

"Art? Music? Parties? Nonexistent, at that time. THAT is savagery. And... they... had... no regrets! "

The two shuddered.

"Be happy and thankful you, my dear mortal ponies, can afford the luxury of regret. Animals can not understand regret, and Alicorns cannot afford to."

I would be lying if I said I didn't love Twilight like my own filly. I love all my little ponies: from Donut Joe to Pumpkin Cake. Yes Flim and Flam too, though they sadden me.

I was saddened by the death of Blueblood's mother. The same way I felt sadness at the death of Filthy Rich's father and grandmother.

I hate Discord for it, but he's right. I may be a pony, but I'm not one of them. I don't see such deaths as the fading of their hateful influence. All I see, is one of my ponies who left this world still trapped in their darkness.

" On Hearts And Hooves Day So Did Descend The Demi-Alicorn Cupid A Smile On His Face

Tasked By His Mother, Sixth Venustas Ai Astarte, Concept Of Love (All Loves), To Spread Her Message In Her Place

So Did Opportunity Offer Itself To A Young Pegasus, Loathsome That Love Spurned Her Many A Time To Seek Revenge

Forged From Iron Taken From The Chariot Of Tirek Or So She Claimed She Made A Spear With Which Her Wrongs Would Be Avenged

The Demi-Alicorn Cupid Was Not A Warrior, He Was A Messenger, An Archer To Be Sure

But Never Had He Been Forced To Defend Himself Before

With The Spear The Young Pegasus Slew The Demi-Alicorn Cupid, Hate Bringing Worse Than Death

For One Moment Across Creation, All Forgot What It Meant To Love As The Concept Of Love Drew In Breath

What Followed Was For Moment Across Creation Was A Feeling Of Sorrow And Despair

And Anger Of The One Whom The Most Pain Would Bare

Never Had Sixth Venustas Ai Astarte, Concept Of Love (All Loves), Known Loss So That Cut So Deep

Never Had She Known Rage So As When Her Son's Demise Rose Her From Her Sleep

Love Does Not Know Grudges. Love Does Not Know Malice. Love Does Not Know A Selfish Taint.

But It Does Know Loss, And Vengeance. A Mother's Love Knows No Restraint.

So Descended Venus To Retribution Make

So Terrible Was Her Fury That The Earth Itself Did Quake

The Young Pegasus Did Not Know Fear, She Merely Thought, "Now I Shall Slay The Goddess Of Love Herself! As I Did Her Son So Dear"

But Venus Struck Before The Pegasus Could Lift her Spear

With One Stroke Of Her Magic Venus Impaled The Young Pegasus Who Son's Life She Stole

Where A Heart So Young Yet So Black Had Been, Now Was A Heart Shaped Hole

The Young Pegasus Looked Upon Herself In Shock, And Fell To The Ground Having Breathed Her Last

The Young Pegasus' Name Itself Was Wiped Away In Venus' Fury Before The Day Had Passed

So Did Venus Pass Judgement For The Loss Of Her Son Whom She Loved So Dear

Not One Trace Of This Pegasus Remains, Where Her Earth Bound Home Stood Would Lay A Molten Crater Before Her Family Could Shed A Tear

Others Say Venus Did Far Worse Than Send The Pegasus To Her Brother Mortis, Concept Of Death

And Annihilated The Young Pegasus' Old Identity And Self, Stripped Her Of All Who She Was Since Drawing Her First Breath

And Remade Her Into Venus' New Child. Making Her That Which She Hated Now Adore

Others Say She Tasked Her Partner Among The Draconequi, Pandora, Fury of Desire, Make The Pegasus Vanish Forever More.

The Spear Forgotten, Was Taken By Strife, Fury Of Natural Selection.

She Would Give As A Birthday Gift To Her Youngest Sibling With All The Proper Direction.

But None Of The Four Other Draconequi Were Given It To Hold

Venus Took The Remains Of Her Son, And Returned To Her Own Domain Her Sorrow Untold

And Pegasi Across Equestria Felt The Irresistible Urge For Seven Days After To Have It Rain

The Prophets Say, To This Day Venus Wields Her Son's Bow From Her Vista But Could Never Heal Her Pain

I look at the confusion in their eyes. They barely understand a word. I keep forgetting not all of Twilight's friends are like her or Pinkie Pie. These two only know their own lives, their own world.

"That piece was written by Princess Luna before I learned of her identity as Nightmare Moon. I will not say how much Luna invented and how much is an actual account. But it does not do justice to the wrath Venus felt. Or how thorough her retribution was. It is something I will not share with you. For if a mortal mother's fury is terrible, imagine the wrath of a mother with the power of creation at her hooves. Venus could feel grief, but she wasn't allowed to feel regret."

"Black Heart and Hooves Day, the mythical day it was said that more couples broke up before or since in all of Equestria's history," Rarity whispered grasping for something she knew.

"Was the shockwave across existence when Cupid was murdered. The idea of one of my nieces or nephews dying had seemed impossible." I suspected Entropy might have helped The Young Pegasus forge her weapon, but I never found proof. "The Young Pegasus had singlehoofedly killed the idea of spreading love."

The two ponies looked at each other then me and asked together, "What you mean, 'spread' love?"

"Exactly. You think death must either be the end of things, or the next step on the road. But it's not as, black and white as that. "

The two look at me in complete confusion. "I don't quite understand..."

"And I don't expect you to. Death is but a door for you and me. But Alicorns aren't like the Element of Harmony: If one of us is annihilated, I mean truly no more...for instance, not only would there be no sun, the mere IDEA of something CALLED a 'sun' would vanish from the mind of everything alive."

I realize my mistake as I see fear and panic settle into their minds as the idea I've given them takes root. Cadence I wish you were here. I stretch out my wings and touch their foreheads, letting calm and peace spread through them before worse can take them.

"My point is, I cannot have regrets as a pony has them. Otherwise, they would have destroyed me by now. I can remember my mistakes, feel sorrow for them, but I cannot afford to feel regrets for them the same as you. I say again: So take comfort that you're allowed to regret. Animals cannot understand regret, and gods can not afford to have it."

The two sat in silence in front of me. Unsure and awkward in this world I've pushed them into.

"And that's is true difference." I sigh. "Rainbow, and Rarity. In your own way you're now more like me than members of my own family."

I don't blame them for looking at themselves to see if they've sprouted wings or a horn, I may have overdone it on what I've shared with them all at once.

"You are decent, upright, true-hearted, rational, and above all else, good ponies who made the decision to slay another. That is what separates you from practically everypony else. And I am truly sorry I can not take that away from you." I let my aura shine a little and nuzzled them and they nuzzled back.

"And I want you to know... that it's alright. I forgive you completely. I do not scorn you, or disdain you, or love you any less for this difference. How can I? I, also, know fully well what it means to be willing to kill another!"

They gasp.

"You... you do?" Rainbow exclaimed. "Who... who was it? Discord?!"

"A sister of Discord's, named Strife."

"Discord has a SISTER?!"

"Don't worry. She is no threat to you my ponies."

"Because you killed her?"

"No. Though I did try. Sweet Mercy... how I tried. Long story."

I sighed.

"Rainbow, Rarity... a day may come where the world will have need of your... willingness. If it should... please. You must be the ones to do the deed. Do not allow any of your friends to be cornered in such a way... that they're forced to lose their innocence."

"You make it sound almost like we're not the same ponies anymore," Rarity said.

"We all go through life as different ponies. The joyful foal, the cynical adult, and the wise old mare. I only hope that all of you become greater than you are."

(Interview's Notes(Unicorn): Celestia, I just wish to say, you have always been, and still are, a wonderful teacher.)

Thank you.


Lickety-Split wished his grandma was herself to see this, (lousy, rotten Diamond Dogs!) Four adult ponies, all of them eager to hear her old tales about the First Age. He'd had audiences before, but they were usually bored sorts with nothing better to do... that, or bullies looking for material to tease him about later. It was a dream come true, ponies actually WANTED to hear about his family's stories!

First there was a freckled courier named Speedy Delivery who had come to deliver some old books that were supposedly from the First Age (having been copied or restored six or seven times). Lickety recognized the author's name, 'Moochick' from his family's own stories, so he knew they had to be authentic, few ponies knew the names anymore. Lickety-Split didn't even need to resort to bribing him with an extra large tip. The teenage colt mentioned something about "Better than having to work on my birthday again," and was amazed by Lickety-Split's claims of the world in the age of myths.

And there was Lyra Heartstrings, Ponyville's resident harpist. She was also known to sit strangely, and try to walk on her back hooves while trying to pick things up with her front hooves. "I know it can work. I know it can," She'd always say.

Lickety-Split wanted to pass her off as one of Ponyville's weirdos, but given the personalities of the ponies in his stories and with what ponies said about his family's stories, that'd be boring holes in his own boat.

She was a perfectly polite and friendly mare, but if you got her started...

"During that crazy 'Gaia' Festival I felt so liberated I got a few steps in on my rear hooves in public. And I ran right into Twilight Sparkle with this white and pink Earth pony. And...the Earth Pony told me my way of trotting wasn't wrong! And not to give up! She sure sounded nostalgic.

"I wonder if I met her in Canterlot and just forgot. Remember the unicorn I met during my music study in Canterlot? Sparkler? She's moved here to Ponyville, turns out she was born here. I didn't know Ditzy had a second daughter. Then there's Twinkleshine and Minuette. They're a couple of magic students I met at this Birthday Get Together 'open to anypony and everypony.' It was supposed to be part of some scheme to get a shut-in they knew to try and open up. We're pen-pals now. They say they've even met Princess Cadence! Can you believe it?!"

And the only difference between Lyra and Old Pinkie Pie's blabbering was that Lyra came with an off switch. That switch was Lyra's other half, Bon Bon.

Bon Bon was a chatterbox in her own right. But she limited herself to mountains of small talk (this had gotten her a garbage shower during the brief reign of New Fluttershy). It was a irrefutable scientific fact that wherever Lyra was, Bon Bon was close by.

And that left Moth, Bon Bon's twin sister. The poor mare had wandered into Ponyville, one day, nearly starved to death.

Moth had gasped out her name barely awake.

It had taken lots of tender loving care. They'd considered taking the vagrant to Nurse Redheart. But the hospital was so far away. She just looked so famished. No need to get doctors involved. Moth had been so dirty, Bon Bon hadn't even recognized her until after they'd gotten her bathed!

"How could I forget my own twin?"

But the more time she spent with her sister, the more memories poured back in.

"I'm sorry, Bon Bon, I was traveling and I got lost."

"I can't believe our parents never kept us together. Like having two of us was a problem." Bon Bon remembered commenting looking through their photo album.

Having no place to stay, Bon Bon had instantly offered her twin a place at the home she shared with Lyra. Moth wasn't without her quirks. She had freaked out when seeing the spa twins for the first time, like she was scared they were going to hurt her. Then Moth told Bon Bon she should forget about it and Bon Bon did. The four of them were now good friends. Moth also had an inexplicable habit of casting fearful glances up at the sky. Was she worried about dragons?

Moth had also accidently made Rarity think Bon Bon had no idea who Rarity was, (neither had Berry Punch, but she had been downing salt again).

The strangest incident was when Lyra and Bon Bon had introduced Moth to Dr. Whoof (Lyra's biggest source of human lore).

"Hello I'm the-"

Moth had screamed her lungs out at the sight of him, and had run away in stark terror, yelling, "I don't wanna die!" hit her head on a pole, and fell unconscious.

"Er, maybe it's best if I just let you be," The Doctor said awkwardly.

Moth swore when she woke up that she was fine.

If Bon Bon didn't know any better, she'd swear Moth looked ready to vomit anytime she expressed love or affection for Bon Bon or Lyra. She'd gotten dreadfully sick after giving a hand-made card to the both of them last Hearts and Hooves Day, but had viciously refused to see a doctor. Bon Bon worried about her sister, but loved her all the same. Also strange was when Bon Bon and Lyra had gotten caught up in the whole Iron Will thing and let herself become a jerk to everyone, Moth acted weakened, almost anemic. But the phase passed, and so did Moth's weakness.

The worst of these episodes was after the Want It Need It incident that if not for a personal favor from Celestia and everypony still dealing with the day of chaos could have gotten Twilight Sparkle in much hotter water.

Moth had been just as blindly besotted with that 'incredibly amazing doll' as everypony else. (Bon Bon blushed at the momory). That night Moth shivered helplessly like she was bleeding to death.

"Maybe we can go see Zecora. She might be able to help." Bon Bon suggested.

"NO!" Moth neighed in full panic mode, "NO! I mean, not Everfree Forest, not the creepy witch-doctor."

"She's not some wicked witch." Bon Bon assured her sister.

"Who started that witch rumor?" Lyra quipped.

"I didn't!" Bon Bon swore.

"What do you think she keeps in there?"

"Oh I bet stuff like dragons blood, eye of newt, zombie-powder, toad-stools, timber wolf fangs, leeches-" Lyra quipped.

"Ick. Leeches? Dirty blood suckers."

"They didn't choose to be that way." Moth said.

"Doesn't mean I'm gonna let them suck the life of me! Besides, they're leeches, they don't have feelings. They exist just to feed off others."

"Right. They don't. It's stupid to think they could. " Moth agreed sounding sad.

Bon Bon and Lyra stayed by her side all night. She had stabilized by dawn.

In spite of her erratic sickness, Moth had been able to take part in the running of the leafs with Bon Bon.

"How'd you switch numbers?" One confused pony had asked. That was just part of being twins though.

Bon Bon had been about to try and break the door down just before Lyra, making noises like a out-of-tune harp, had tried to eat her . Bon-Bon and Lyra had both recovered, Bon Bon had spent several evenings with Moth just to remind her that she loved her. Saying she wasn't a leech just using her.

"So tell me more about the humans! Megan and her siblings!" Lyra asked eagerly in the present.

"Don't worry! We're getting to the humans, but we can't overlook the ponies who helped out. Megan wouldn't even have gotten to Dream Valley without them after all."

"They all seem like minor characters to me," Lyra said.

Lickety-Split narrowed his eyes at the adult, "There's no such thing as extra or minor character in real life. They aren't just...narrative devices. They're real, These ponies existed. Hay, one of them might even be your ancestor!"

"Watch your language young colt," Bon Bon defended her friend.

"You're not my mother."

"Can you, can you tell me more about the Flutterponies?" Moth asked butting before the conversation turned ugly.

Lickety-Split pounced, "One book said they were the size of regular ponies, another said they were the size of dolls. Their wings had really powerful magic, but they could only really access it as a group."

"You sure they're real if nopony can agree on what they looked like?" Bon Bon asked.

"Maybe they just changed over time," Moth suggested passively.

"I never thought of that," Lickety-Split admitted, "Unlike the other tribes, Megan didn't meet the Flutterponies until later. The Flutterponies were reclusive, and didn't want to be bothered by the outside world." Lickety-Split smiled proudly and held a hood to his chest, "Of course, Lickety-Split The First and Megan changed all that."

"Of course." Bon Bon rolled her eyes. Lyra, Speedy, Lickety and Moth's glares shut her up.

"So the Flutterponies, looked like other ponies?"

"Well they had wings like butterflies, and some pictures suggested they had feelers like some bugs do."

"Did they have compound-eyes and horns?" Moth asked leaning closer.

"Erm, not according to anything I heard."

"Oh." Moth settled down again.

"Doesn't sound bad to me, I mean, ponies with bug eyes? That would be just creepy." Lyra laughed.

"Yeah, just creepy," Moth answered, half-heartedly.

"And bipedal ponies with hands and their maternal material near their front legs instead of their back legs wouldn't be?" Bon Bon ask unbelieving.

"They'd be cute! I know they'd be." Lyra looked around sad to see she was in the minority. "...I know they'd be."

"Did the Flutterponies...have a queen?" asked Moth, looking somewhat curious. Hopeful?

"Yes they did, Queen Rosedust. She was kind and loved her people dearly."

Moth looked quite surprised. "Oh...well she sounds nice..."

"She also didn't want the Flutterponies involved with the rest of the world at first, she wanted Flutter Valley to remain apart. Even in the face of disaster. But after the events of the Smooze, she saw it was impossible to pretend other ponies didn't exist."

"Excuse me," said a voice. Twilight greeted the group and took a seat in the old house Lickety-Split was using for his 'story time'. "Mind if I sit in? I was told you know stories about the First Age and Paradise Estate."

Lickety-Split could hardly contain his excitement at another adult joining in. And not just any adult! Princess Celestia's envoy! "Sure, the more the merrier!"


That's my Faithful Student, she always follows through on my suggestions for research, she even showed me her notes when we spoke.


"Hey you got a visitor, Fruitcake, OW! What was that for?!"

"She has a real name!"

"You wanna make something of it?!"

"Maybe -I- . . . whatever. Can I go in?"

"Sure. She's not dangerous to you."

"Then why are you keeping her here?"

"Doc says she's dangerous to herself. Don't ask me, I just work here."

The wingless pink pegasus looked up from her bed. Everything sharp or edged had been removed. And the bed sheets were firmly secured to the bed.

"Who are you?" The pink pegasus asked aloud.

The orderly opened the door and in stepped the coolest cyan pegasus with a rainbow mane this side of a Sonic Rainboom!

"Hey, I'm Rainbow Dash. Wanna talk?"

"Talk about what?"

"Anything. Everything."

"Let's talk about getting Princess Gaia to give me wings again."

"I'm sorry. She can't do that anymore."

"Then can you get Princess Celestia to grow me new wings?"

"I'm sorry."

"Then what is there even to talk about?" The pink pegasus with a cupcake cutie mark turned away from me.

"Don't you have a sister and cousins who are worried about you?"

"So? I can't live in Cloudsdale anymore. Too dangerous. I might fall off. No one to save me."

"Twilight's been giving you wings."

"...That are too fragile to do any sort of decent flying."

"That's crude! There was a freakin' unicorn at last year's Best Young Flyer's competition and she came in second place! And she had had those wings for only a few days! As long as you don't do something stupid like set them on fire or fly to the upper atmosphere at high noon with the sun goddess within waving distance you'd be fine!"

She didn't look back. "And be able to take part in the Ponyville tornado spout?"

"Look. If . . . if I lost my wings, I, I'd want to just curl up and vanish too. But, but you owe it to those who love you to not give up. Unless you happened to born out of some cloning machine, I KNOW there have to be ponies who care about you somewhere. Ponies who are fighting for you. Who haven't give up on you. And if I have to say anything, I'd say you got the better deal."

"WHAT?!" She snapped at me.

"You got yourself back. You got your sanity back! Look around you at how many ponies don't!"

"If I can't have my wings back too then what's the point?"

'UGH! How do the others make this look so easy?' "Look girl. I'm sorry this happened to you. Really really really sorry. But where there's life, there's hope. If-if I lost my wings, I don't know if I could still follow my cutie mark. YOU CAN!

"And I know what it's like. I've been injured once. And I didn't have the bits for them to speed up me healing after I was out of the emergency room. I know it stinks, being trapped on the ground. To see the sky above you, almost mocking you. Like your hooves are glued to the floor. And you just feel so dang helpless ! But breaking down won't change anything."

"NOTHING can change anything! IF NOTHING CAN CHANGE! THEN WHY SHOULD I WASTE MY TIME LIVING?! AT LEAST I WOULDN'T HAVE TO PUT UP WITH THIS!"

"BECAUSE THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A LIFE THAT'S A WASTE OF TIME! THERE ARE-"

"WHAT?! Ponies who are worse off than me?! Is that you're going to say?! So that should be make me feel better?! What'll happen then you try to console that one filly at the bottom whose life DOESN'T have somepony worse off?!"

I was speechless.

I lowered my head.

"I'm sorry."

"Words don't fix a thing."

"Horseapples. Filly, I've seen words destroy ponies, and I've seen words save ponies, like me . You're totally right. This isn't fair to you at all. But it's even less fair to your friends and family that their cousin, daughter, work buddy, and Flight Camp graduating class-mate, lost something that she should have never lost, then lost even more, then finally got back what made her -her-, and began trying to destroy herself!"

She didn't sound angry or irritated this time. Just, sad. "Please . . . go away."

"No way!"

A differently orderly came in, "Yes way actually. Sorry miss, visit time is up."

"But I-"

"Sorry. Asylum rules."

I growled. "Fine! But I'll be back."

"Don't." The pink pegasus said not looking back at me.

'No. Not gonna happen. I'm loyal to Cloudsdale, no, I'm loyal to the pegasi who make up my home town the same way I'm loyal to Ponyville's ponies and my friends and to Celestia. I won't let her give up. I'm in this for the long haul. We'll reach the finish line no matter how long it takes.'


A knock at the door. On a Saturday?

This was the day Cheerilee normally got to have a little peace and quiet. On top of that, she didn't get many visitors, outside of the occasional student seeking guidance (which she honestly wished happened more often), except when Berry Punch wanted to go out clubbing.

She looked through the peephole and said surprised, "Rarity?"

"Can I come in please dear?"

"Of course." Cheerilee opened the door first before asking, "What do you need?" The mare's expression was difficult to read.

"I don't need anything. I was just wondering darling, if, if maybe we could spend the afternoon together? I'm sure I could help clean house while you grade papers or something."

Cheerilee blinked and smiled. "Of course we can. Thank you Rarity."

"No Cheerilee, thank you. " Rarity said kindly.

"Rarity, not to look a gift horse in the mouth, but what brought this on?"

"Oh...I just thought I'd try to make some new friends with an old classmate, you can never have too many."

"That's nice Rarity...now why are you really here?" Cheerilee asked. "I'm a teacher, Rarity, telling when somepony is making an excuse is part of the job."

"...I just felt that you're a wonderful teacher, a wonderful pony, and Equestria would be less without you." Rarity smiled. "I've never seen a mare who cares for foals the way you do. You care for Sweetie too. And I understand the choices you've make to protect her. And I know how heavy that weight is. So if you ever need a generous shoulder to help carry the burden, you can count on me."

A glimmer of understanding shone in Cheerilee's eyes. "Thank you Rarity. Please, just thank you."

~Fin