• 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 60: "Mind Games Part 4"

My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic
Pony POV Series
Mind Games Part 4

I was outside walking away from the castle ballroom, I was trotting towards the royal gardens' maze. My body was moving like a broken toy. What happened? What did I do? What did I do?

I obeyed an urge to look behind me, but I closed my eyes before I could see anything and turned my head back forward.

'You had it in you after all. And I was beginning to doubt we were family. My bad.'

YOU! What did you do?! What did you make me do?!

'Hahaha!! Make you do? My little pony, if I could override your body before, or any pony's, why would I have bothered making our deal and swearing to My Mother to keep it? Or if I could do so now that you're nearing the end of the journey, why would I bother handing you back the controls? You want a scapegoat? You want a whipping colt?'

An image of myself in the mirror suddenly appeared in my head.

'There you go... Huh, that wasn't as funny as when Mother did it, only laugh I ever heard out of the Old Lady.'

I shake the image from my mind. Shut up.

'What was that my little pony?'

I said shut up! SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP!

'So you want to be all alone then? All alone? After what you just did? Here? In the middle of Canterlot? After intruding inside the royal castle? Infiltrating a royal meeting of diplomats? You know that makes you a spy right? On top of that little thing you just did? You know what they do to spies right? You want me to leave you here, with so many guards around? With the ruthless Alicorn of the night to pass judgment? Well if you really want me to go away, never to return, just you here all alone with no one now but-'

No! P-please stay! I'm sorry! I'm sorry!

'Sorry for what?'

"S-Sorry f-for t-telling you to go away." I swam in the sickness now like an ocean. Why did apologizing make it worse? It'd never done that before. It ran down my throat choking me. My entire body was covered in sweat, my body didn't want to move right, when I held still I began to shake. I didn't see any blood on me. I didn't see any dirt on me so I hadn't been in a fight, right?

'You really don't remember. Incredible. You know I've seen ponies do that before. Normally when they feel so ashamed of what they did when I gave them an excuse to act like their true selves they literally just shove all my hard work into their mental vault and move on. An annoying little cheat really. But you don't have anything to be ashamed of, or do you? You didn't have a choice, or did you? If you didn't have a choice, maybe you should feel ashamed for hesitating? If you did have a choice, maybe you should be ashamed for not finding another solution. Which is it you think?'

I don't know!

'That's a very good filly. A very very good filly. And hopefully that's the last of the annoying and petty delays.'

But what did I do?! The voice gave a chuckle.

'My dear if you can't remember, I don't think I'll tell you. Constantly trying to guess it is much more fun don't you think? So many possibilities. Now let's hurry along before adults start to notice. You're so close. We can't afford any more annoying side tracks.'


I hadn't expected my home to be visited by a foal I didn't even know. The maid said he insisted to see me personally.

It was a young pegasus colt. Skinny type. Brown mane. Color of cream. He... he... I'm sorry. This is difficult.

I didn't recognize the colt at first. He introduced himself as Featherweight. Even for a pegasus I can't say his name didn't fit.

The uncomfortable thing was how familiar he felt. But I couldn't put my hoof on it, like there was something terrible just out of the corner of my eye.

"So what brings you to my home, my colt?" I asked as politely as I could, trying not to show how unnerved I was feeling.

"I'm... I'm here to forgive you."

It all came to me like a flood. I knew where I had seen his face before. It was that day, the day of the chaos monster.

"Aunt May Flower said we moved away from Manehatten because she couldn't stand the chaos of the big city anymore." The little colt explained a bit later in my living room. I hadn't the heart to tell him what the chaos monster had done to his hometown. I had several business partners there who had informed me of the whole story, including the Orange Family, whom I'd met through the Apples. They'd lost an entire building to that thing's city wide skyquake.

I had Shiny Star (my maid) bring a can of colt-cola for him. I resisted the temptation to ask for hard cider for myself, I don't know if I'd be able to stop myself like this.

The colt had fled my estate after everything was restored, he had run away still covered in filth. Even after looking I was never able to find out who he was. Any clues had been swept away in the chaos and restoration. And believe me, I tried...

What? Did you think I LIKED that I had scarred a foal for life? That I hid in my closet and giggled to myself about it-?! I might not be the most upstanding pony, but I'd like to think I'm not that dark of a grey as to be expected of doing that!

Eh? Yes, he was alone. Why would a foal going around Ponyville on their own be dangerous?

(Interview's notes (Pegasus) Yeah, sorry about that. I've forgotten how beautiful Ponyville is like that.)

(Interview's notes (Earth Pony) Huh? How can you forget after we've talked to so many ponies?)

(Interview's notes (Unicorn) Don't judge her too harshly. It has been a long time compared to before. Please continue Onyx Tiara.)

Truthfully, it was more Featherweight's story than mine.

"Aunt May Flower said I should join some clubs to make some friends. I joined the Pony Scouts for one week because they offered free brownies... .I gave it up after... after the puzzle stallion hurt everypony." The monster hadn't exactly gone around handing out business cards with its name on it.

"You were selling cookies door to door?"

"Yeah."

"Even though everypony in Ponyville was turning into mad ponies?"

"I wanted to show I was brave. That I could do my job even when nasty stuff was happening."

Stereotype or not, Pegasi did not give up easily.

"What happened to your aunt?" I resisted the urge to facehoof at stupidly opening up an old wound.

"She kinda... sort of... spent the day making everything dirty and saying how much she loved spiders."

"I see... So you came to our home?"

"... I thought I could sell a bunch of cookies at once. But... but... -"

"You don't need to say it colt." I sighed, "I still have nightmares about it." There was no way in Pony Hell I was having the little poor colt recount that.

He nodded. From the look on his face, I could tell he'd had a few nightmares himself.

I might have been looking a gift horse in the mouth, but I had to ask, "What inspired you to come here now?"

He looked uncomfortable, but not in a scared or hurt way. "Well... after everything was fixed, I didn't feel like talking, at all, about anything. Aunt May Flower had to home school me for a little while until Miss Cheerilee said it was okay for me to write down my answers. I found out that I could be unnoticed whenever I wanted to be. As silent as a feather."

I noticed his cutie mark. A feather. Some stereotypes are stereotypes for a reason. Now I knew why he'd proven so elusive.

I first wanted to say 'Your special talent is not standing out?' But instead said, "That's very impressive." This colt was going to have an interesting future. I hope whoever got a hold of him first had good intentions.

"Thanks!" The pegasus smiled, "I'm really good at it too! I can sneak up on ponies and they don't even know I'm there! Now I know why nopony could ever find me playing hide and seek! Aunt May Flower wanted me to try clubs again now that I had my mark and I joined the school newspaper! I was really good at taking photographs: Diamond Tiara said so."

I nearly choked, that answered that, "Diamond?"

"Yeah. She got to be editor and told me to photograph everything and she never once complained... but Miss Cheerilee said the stories she was making us publish were mean so Diamond was made to work the printing press instead, the colt who worked the printing press got to take pictures, and I got to be editor. But he wasn't really as good as me, but Miss Cheerilee said so. It was also a little hard since I couldn't talk yet."

I'm proud of not spitting out my soft cider all over the place in shock. "What?"

"I couldn't talk since... since it happened, I got really good at hoof-language and mouth writing though."

"Oh," I said trying to string together something more than a one syllable response. "But-but you're speaking now."

"Yeah." The colt settled down some. "I said I couldn't talk after... after the puzzle stallion hurt everypony."

"No you said you didn't feel like talking."

"Well, it was a really really really really really strong feeling."

I had to remind myself I was talking to a colt not a stallion. "So, the doctors encouraged you to start speaking again?"

"Well a little, but they were focused a lot on Aunt May Flower, she was really scared of anything dirty for a while. I didn't really start speaking again until Princess Gaia's day."

"Miss Fluttershy?" Everything was startl to make a tiny bit more sense.

"Yeah, Princess Gaia. I got to be a Spider-Pony! And... it wasn't really so bad to talk anymore after. I felt like I mattered again. Uh. Does that make sense?"

"Yes it does," I said as politely and kindly as I could. I wasn't about to try to understand the logic of a colt. I had Shiny Star keep putting sweets inside him. "But, why did you choose today to... say that... that I'm forgiven?"

"Well, there were these three ponies, one my age, a mare, and a really old unicorn. They said they wanted to talk to me and Aunt May about how we were doing. And... they said you were really really really really really really sorry. And they said how everypony did things that weren't really them that day. And how with Diamond Tiara gone you were feeling really bad and... and... they said I could help."

(Interviewer's Notes (Earth Pony): Yeah! We did a super-duper job. We were gonna include that in our report but we kinda ran out of room.)

(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn): Actually, we ran out of time.)

(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): Kiddo, watch yer mouth! Ponies don't like it when they feel they're being played even if it turns out nice! They'll hate whoever does even if all it did was help them. Ponies turn into complete jerks like that.)

(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn): No. Just sensitive. Many can be allergic to help if they didn't ask for it. Acting as a go between for two hurt souls can often do more harm than good. Remember what we told you happened with Pinkie Pie and her song with the buffalo and ponies?)

(Interviewer's Notes (Earth Pony): Oh yeah, sorry.)

(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn): Sometimes helping somepony means they don't know you helped them at all.)

"It's alright dear," I said, "This time, I think it very much did some good."

(Interviewer's Notes (Earth Pony): Yeah? Yes yes yes yes yes yes yes!)

(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): Ahem.)

(Interviewer's Notes (Earth Pony): oops, continue.)

You have no idea how relieved I was when Featherweight told me what happened and that he had forgiven me. I don't know if his guardian has. But what matters is that I thought all this time that I had traumatized a colt for life. That's two now I owe Miss Fluttershy.

Featherweight didn't stay all that long, and I can't say I blame him. But before he left...

"Can I see Diamond Tiara's room?"

That was out of the blue. "What?"

"Can I see Diamond Tiara's room please?"

"Why do you?"

"I just... wanna see what her room is like."

I led him there myself rather than have Shiny Star do so. I opened the door. He looked around for a bit, as if memorizing details. I had the maids keep it in perfect condition. If I was paranoid, I'd think he was going to write a school article on her. But, somehow I just didn't think he would.

He didn't go 'Ick Cooties' like a colt should. Something about his expression looked, sad.

"Thank you Mr. Tiara. I just, wanted to see what it was like." He looked confused. "Aunt May Flower always told me bad foals had bad homes. But you're not bad."

I think. I had provided my little princess with everything from the start. But how many times had my filly been told 'no' in her entire life? Had I or Golden even prepared her for when life wouldn't give her what she wanted? A princess who thought it was natural for the world to always go her way. What happened when the world didn't?

Cadence I understood.

I tried to say it in a way he'd understand. "Sometimes, when everything is hoofed to you, you don't appreciate what you have, and you don't realize everypony isn't supposed to serve you, and you begin to forget or not care that everypony has hearts too."

I will not accept in this or any other lifetime that there's nothing in my foal worth saving, understand?

"That sounds sad." Then he said, "I hope she gets better Mr. Tiara." Those words were like thunder.

"I hope so too, and you may call me Mr. Rich if you like."

"Yes Mr. Rich."

"Oh, and Featherweight?"

"Yes, Mr. Rich?"

"Don't forget the skills you picked up to communicate without speaking, I think you'll find they'll be quite useful in connection with your special talent."

He blinked, as if thinking about my statement. I think it sunk in as he smiled. "Alright, thanks for the tip Mr. Rich!"

And the colt left, helping himself to a few extra treats from the table along the way. Judging by his rather skinny body type, I assume he probably had a high metabolism.

I don't know if we can be counted as friends, but I'm happy to know that I don't have an enemy.

Barely an hour later the door bell rang again. And Shiny Star came in, looking very bewildered, and told me that the guest wasn't someone she recognized and who insisted they speak to me personally or to Diamond Tiara's mother. She told me the pony introduced herself as Alula.

The last thing I expected was for my home to be visited by two different foals on the same day.

Pegasus again, purple mane, cream hide, a filly.

Another feather cutie mark: Oy, I wonder if unicorns and pegasi felt this way about Earth ponies with fruit cutie marks.

I asked before I could stop myself, "Are you related to a pony named Featherweight?"

That question startled the filly. "Huh? Not last time I checked. My big sister's name is Cloud Kicker. We just go to the same school. Why you asking something like that?"

"Er, sorry, never mind. So may I ask who you are exactly and why you're here?" I tried the rather mechanical approach with my one lead defunct.

"I said I was Alula. I'm here to ask about Diamond Tiara."

I did not show my startle. In upper society and business hiding emotions is part of the game. "Can you be, a little more precise?"

Alula took in a deep breath. "My name is Alula. My name means 'winglet.' My big sister is named Cloud Kicker. We took part in this year's Sisterhood Social but we didn't win. I'm a member of the Rainbow Dash Fan Club. I dressed up as a space ranger last Nightmare Night. My favorite fruit is bananas. I was at Diamond Tiara's cute-ceañera. My cutie mark means I'm gonna be a gymnast because I'm as graceful as a feather."

"It is lovely."

"T-Thank you." She then blushed furiously, "I-I kinda maybe hid it with a flower sticker when I first got it because there-there are just so many pegasi with feather cutie marks." Her eyes widened and she said quickly, "My big sister helped me see I was being a silly filly. I-I shouldn't have said-" She blushed more then blurted out, "I think Diamond Tiara is cool how she's always ready to take charge." I felt my mask cracking as she spoke.

"Mr. Filthy, why doesn't Tiara like herself?"

"What?"

"She'd say mean things to blank flanks, but was always smiling. So I, so I said mean things to a blank unicorn with a pegasus mom. And she stopped going to school. But I felt bad. Then Miss Cheerilee told me how these roller-skate ponies used to tease her too and I felt worse. So-So why does Diamond want to feel bad?"

My gut twisted. How was I supposed to explain this? Could I? I struggled to give Alula an answer she could understand. Explaining adult things to foals had always been Golden's job.

I gave the most sincere answer I could. Breaking the law of adults to foals, giving an answer I'm not proud of. "I'm afraid that is our fault... Diamond was given everything she wanted. So she came to think that was how the world worked. When it turns out it didn't, my little princess didn't know how to cope." I'll admit, it explained a lot, but hardly everything. Even I wasn't sure of that answer. Felt too simple. And ponies are not simple.

"... Big sister said she liked being mean. I felt sad a cool pony like her would want to be mean, so I gave her a card for Hearts and Hooves Day."

Her wings folded hard against her body.

"I was hoping if somepony was nice for her instead of just to her that she wouldn't be so mean." She sounded... wistful? "Then she... disappeared right?

"But it's been so long! I asked Silver Spoon and Miss Cheerilee but they didn't know. So please Mr. Filthy, do you know where Diamond Tiara is? When is she going to be back?"

I looked at this distraught filly, it was hard to hide my own dismay, "I... I don't know I'm sorry filly, I am, I don't know when she'll be back."

"Oh... I see." Her lip quivered.

"I'm sorry." Cadence, don't let her start crying, I couldn't bear it!

"When... when she comes back can... can you please... please tell her that I wondered how she was?"

"I promise."

"Mr. Filthy, am I, am I a bad pony for wanting to help Diamond be nice?"

"What would give you that idea?"

She lowered her head. "Big sister says bad foals only make other foals bad. I'm not bad am I?"

"No. No you're not. If a bad foal can make other foals bad, a good one can make other foals good." I'm ashamed, but I've heard Silver Spoon had been quite the bully herself thanks to Diamond. Thank Cadence those three fillies managed to turn her around. I pause before I continue, carefully trying to think what to say. "... Alula... thank you."

The little filly cocked her head in confusion. "For what?"

"Things have not been easy for my family, we've had problems and Diamond Tiara was deeply hurting... So thank you for being kind to her, that means a lot to me," I reply, trying my best to convey my gratitude for the filly's act of kindness. I have Shiny Star bring her some bananas, since she'd said those were her favorite.

She gave a small smile back. "You're welcome... Rainbow Dash says friendship is really important, so do all the Hearth's Warming Eve stories. So I try to be a friend if I can be."

I give a small smile. For years I believed those stories were lies to keep Earth Ponies docile. Now that I thought about them without my grandmother's ghost clouding my judgment, it's like hearing a story for the first time as a foal. "That's very good, you're a good filly... You said you don't know Featherweight that well?"

Alula shook her head. "Not really, he just moved here not that long ago, and he didn't really talk until Princess Gaia made everypony zombies for a day."

I was a little surprised by her statement on Miss Fluttershy, but more so due to her age than the statement itself.

"Well, he told me his aunt wanted him to make friends, probably since he was new to town. Perhaps you could try being friends with him?"

Alula nodded eagerly. "Sure, I guess I can!"

I gave a smile back and nodded. I began to wonder if all at once things had just turned around. Finding the way out of my own preconceptions (with your assistance, I cannot thank you enough) and renewing my friendship with Silver Tongue. Now a colt I believed I'd scarred for life forgave me and I find out that Diamond was not as universally hated as I believed. I'll be honest, I felt the only way things could get better was if Golden knocked on the door at that moment as herself and with Diamond in hoof.

++++

Howdy! Ah'm Applebloom! We've chatted before, remember? Ah liked to think Ah'm ah nice and polite filly: one who's a hard worker and stands by her friends.

After Ah found the good pony buried under them layers of tar inside Silver Spoon, Ah realized Ah had overlooked a very important friend of mine since last year. No, not Winona.

And not Ruby either, Ah tried to go with Fluttershy back there to try and help her, and Mitta too, Ah was scared stiff, but Ruby's mah friend and Ah owe her big time for helpin' us when Fluttershy went, crazy, and for helpin' AJ. But big sis won't let me go... Every time Ah asked, she just looked real scared and said it was too dangerous...

I tried to sneak along once... A-Applejack tied me to mah bed post the rest of the day with Winona's spare collar. She kept yellin' "Don't ya think we'd be sad if somethin' happened to ya?!" Then Ah had to do double shifts on the farm the next day. After that... Ah just asked Miss Fluttershy ta tell Ruby I still think of her and she's still mah friend. And ta tell Mitta she's a good pony and hope she has a good Cute-ceañera (AJ told me, and I'm done tee'ed off a pony got her mark before we did).

You know Ah didn't even remember it until just now, but me, Sweetie, and Scootaloo, when that nasty foal eatin' Nightmare Moon showed up we all hid under the same table! What do ya want? She was really scary! We didn't even ask what our names were, they, we just hid there shakin' in our hooves. It was the big dang end of the world brought by the boogeymare! Of course we were scared!

Guess that was our Sonic Rainboom.

If Ah saw 'em before how could Ah think Ah was the only blank around? Oh come on! You think I'm gonna remember seein' two ponies Ah hadn't met before? AJ and Rarity hadn't been friends fer that long, Ah didn't even know Sweetie Belle WAS Rarity's sister! I thought she was Miss Heartstring's filly. Shocked da heck outta me. And Scoot' didn't even start goin' to our school until after we became friends.

Okay, okay, maybe it was kinda dumb to think Ah was the only Blank Flank in Ponyville. Ah was feelin' really hurt. And Diamond Tiara's bullyin' made me desperate to earn mah Cutie Mark. Yeah, Ah took her stupid baitin', but that don't change how much it hurt fer this fish to get a hook in the jaw.

But ever since forming the Cutie Mark Crusaders Ah had neglected a friend Ah also held dear. And it was about dang time Ah fixed that.

"Nice candy Twist."

"Thank'th," replied the geeky Earth Pony. "I had kinda given up on you coming over to th'ry some." Twist realized what she just said. "Oops! Sorry!"

"It's okay... no, no harm done." Ah forced ah smile. Ah really couldn't blame her, it'd been nearly a year since I'd come to visit, maybe longer.

Ah overheard Rarity say that if Twist set one hoof inside her store Rarity would give 'er the mother of all make-overs fer free.

Twist wasn't the prettiest Earth Pony in Equestria, but she wasn't tryin' to be. She was polite and friendly, and that was enough fer her.

Ah was surprised when Twist spent so long talkin' 'bout that round colt who she made friends with on Hearts and Hooves Day. It's nice to hear her be happy after we spent so long apart, but somethin' felt different when she talked 'bout 'em. After hearin' her say fer the forth time he was cute Ah said.

"Hey Twist, Ah wanna say, the melody ya played with yer whistles made outta candy were really cool, and Ah'm sorry ya didn't get a medal at the talent show."

Twist smiled her pretty whites, "You're worried about that!? Applebloom I haven't thought about that in ages! Your friends and you did a hilarious job!"

"Thanks! What did you think about our comedy at the Gaia Festival?"

Twist tilted her head confused, "That was a comedy?"

New topic! "Twist, tha point is, Ah'm sorry we haven't been speakin' all that much. You were one of the first friends Ah had, and Ah shouldn't have just ignored you fer mah new ones." ... Ah didn't even come to check on 'er after Discord went and drove everypony mad...

Ah knew from what AJ had been up to after we went to Canterlot what that no good snake had done to Twist, how what he'd done made her have trouble even lookin' at the candy she loved makin' so much... Ah... Ah shoulda gone with Applejack to help her... But Ah didn't, and Ah feel like a no good polecat that Ah didn't.

(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): Kid, I hate to break this to you, but you're just a kid! You guys pull off a miracle, but you weren't the only pony busy healing from your own hurts!)

"Don'th worry Applebloom, all's forgiven, naw, there's nothing to forgive! We were friends when last we talked and we're friends now! You made new friends, and so did I. Make new friends, keep the old, one is silver, one is gold."

"Hey! Speakin' of silver, maybe Ah oughta introduce ya to Silver Spoon! She's not a bad pony once you get to know her!" Ah said all enthusiastically-like.

Twist looked at me like Ah had asked her to eat live parasprites.

"Not a bad pony?! Silver Spoon? Applebloom, Silver Spoon is a BULLY! She's Diamond Tiara's little minion! She doesn't know how to think for herself! She's just a thug."

"Don't go sayin' that about her! She's-she's-" Okay, Ah couldn't really argue that, "That's the way she was before! She knows what she did was bad before! And she's sorry! Ah know she is! She just needed some friends to actually be friends with her!"

"Applebloom she's just bad news! Her and Diamond Tiara! Don't waste time on that brain dead stooge. I don't want to see you hurt because of them! She's only hanging out with you because Diamond Tiara's run away to make her dad feel miserable for being strict with her for once! The moment Diamond Tiara gets bored of wherever it is she's hiding Silver Spoon's gonna go right back to hurting you! It's like a parasprite eating! You can't change that! Please! They're just going to use this to hurt you worse than ever! They're ra'ths outta the same nest!"

No. Ah couldn't blame Twist fer feelin' that way. "Ah used ta feel the same way, but then Ah got to know her better. Ah know. An' it got me thinkin', maybe there's ah reason Diamond Tiara's the way she is too."

Now Twist was looking at me like Ah was eatin' live parasprites.

"There is, she's a spoiled brat! She hates other fillies for -breathing-. She invented selfish! Don't you remember what she made you and Sweetie and Scoots do with Gabby Gums? She made everypony in town hate you!"

"WE made everypony in town hate us! We came up with the idea of Gabby Gums, not her."

"AND she was the filly who made you not stop when you wanted to! Applebloom yer a great filly. I don't want to see you waste your kindness on a meanie like her. The fillies she hurt deserve it a lot more than she does."

"Yeah, but... she might be the one who needs it."

"Applebloom! Come... come on! She's a selfish little nag who doesn't care about anypony but herself! Ponies like her need to be stood up to! Not stood up for!"

"And there ain't nothin' ta say that Ah couldn't have been just like her."

Twist hugged me. She was almost cryin'.

"A-Applebloom! Don't say that! There's no way you could be like that awful Diamond Tiara or her pilot fish! You're better than her."

Ah startled, and Ah pushed back Twist's hug.

"'Better?'" Ah asked amazed that Twist could say that. "BETTER?! There ain't no such thing as a 'better' pony! Yer right! Diamond Tiara is a spoiled brat! Ah ain't sayin' she ain't! But thinkin' Ah'm better than anypony is the thinkin' she uses to be mean to everypony!"

"She's mean because she loves it! She's a Windigo on pony legs! Ponyville's nicer with her gone! Every day I kept hoping today would be the day you'd get yer cutie mark and she'd stop teasing you. But she wouldn't have. She just wanted to look down on others."

"An' if things had gone just a little bit different Ah would be the one bein' a jerk to everypony and her standin' up fer others."

"Please stop saying that 'Bloom! You're worth more than that! You always have been! You could never be like her!"

Ah sighed. Ah said sadly, "... Ah'm sorry Twist, Ah really am. But yer wrong. Ah don't think Ah'm supposed ta say how Ah saw it, but Ah saw it."

"Saw what?"

"The truth."

Me? 'Innocent?' Ain't been nothin' innocent 'bout me since that night in Everfree. Creepy Princess Luna said that not havin' mah cutie mark meant that big Truth fellah wouldn't show me nothin'. She was wrong.

Ah glanced in it, less than ah second, when Ah was gettin' Mah big sister's hoof outta them gears. Ah saw only one place. It was enough. Ah done mah best to not think about it. To pretend it wasn't there. After all, Ah had what happened that night I met Ruby to be scared of more. No Ah ain't got no fancy super-vision mah sister talks about when she thinks Ah can't hear her. But what Ah saw, Celestia Ah just pretended Ah didn't see it.

Ah didn't get a chance fer any fancy details. What Ah saw was enough.

There was me, but not me! With an apple shaped ruby for mah cutie mark. With mah hoof on top of Tiara's head, pushing her face into the dirt, her flank was blank. Speakin' in fancy the other Applebloom said, "You are just like your family: nothing, you hill billy hick!"

Ah didn't know back then Diamond Tiara's family came from the country like mine...

'Diamond Tiara' wasn't wearing her big-crown-thingie. All she had on was a small cloth necklace. "'An' yer less than nothin'."

The other Applebloom's face twisted somethin' ugly.

"Come on AppleGem!" Called out Silver Spoon.

"Coming!" AppleGem shouted as she trotted along as Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle helped 'Diamond Tiara' to her hooves.

Ah said ta mahself it was some fancy smancy upside down land. That was just some dream Ah had when scary Princess Luna told me to sleep. No way Ah could have ever been like her.

Then Family Appreciation Day happened. And Ah learned both our families were country folk. Ah didn't think about it, Ah found out how great mah Granny is and Diamond got her just desserts.

Then we started helping Silver Spoon. And Ah learned she was just another filly, that the Silver Spoon Ah saw clappin' for Granny Smith was the REAL Silver Spoon all that hogwash was hidin'. And Ah told her Ah was sorry for thinking her and Diamond's cutie marks were worthless.

Ah still don't know what that blank Diamond Tiara's name was. An' Ah still don't know what made our families switch roles like that. I don't know if Ah want ta know. But... Ah finally stopped trying to think Ah didn't see it after Silver Spoon showed there was good inside 'er.

In tha present Twist was speakin', "Applebloom you're not making sense."

"Family Appreciation Day." I lied, sorry Applejack, "Mah family and hers started out the same. Ah saw it clear as day, if Ah was born with everythin', could ya really say Ah wouldn't turn out spoiled?"

"Applebloom, whatever you 'saw', it wasn'th real. I know it wasn'th."

Ah wanted to tell'er the truth so badly. But Ah was on thin-ice as is.

"Ah'm sorry Twist, I really am." AppleGem is just another me Ah coulda been if things had been a little different! She's probably the one who ran away in her world right now while that Diamond is havin' this chat with yah. Ah'm sorry to say this, "But ya can take the same pup from the same litter, and raise'em completely different-like, and it won't be the same dog."

"We're not animals!"

"No we ain't. We got ah choice."

"And Diamond Tiara made hers."

"And Silver Spoon made a NEW choice! And Ah bet she can too!"

"She doesn't want to."

"Ah don't think anypony's bothered to ask."

"She'll just use you. Like she used you before. And hurt you again."

This cattle drive is goin' in circles, time ta find a new route. "Ya know, even when we did those articles on Rainbow Dash, Rarity, and mah big brother and sistah, I threw out the idea of doing an article about you Twist."

"Thanks." She said honestly.

"And when we gave Diamond Tiara a story about Silver Spoon, she kept comin' up with excuses not to put it in."

"Of course. She's the only pony who thinks Diamond Tiara's as great as she says she is."

"Twist. This was after Diamond Tiara threw out her friendship with Silver Spoon."

"I... I always figured that was a show or something."

"And that makes sense how?"

"Er, so you'd feel sorry for her and she'd lead you into a trap to get humiliated?"

"Twist. What Diamond Tiara said to her broke her. We had to drag Silver out of her shell kickin' and screamin'. That ain't how bait acts. And now that she's outta that shell, she's right nice and I'm proud she's my friend."

"And you think we're going to be playin' spin the bottle with Diamond Tiara next?" She asked drolly.

"The point is, there is some good in her. Ya know Diamond's the kind of filly to kick a pony when they're down, but she turned it down because Ah think deep down she still wants to be Silver Spoon's friend but she's too stubborn to admit it. A lot like Ah couldn't kick Tiara when she was down."

"Huh?"

"The day after the apology letter we gave to everypony, we got a letter that had been posted the day before, Ah mean, it had to be posted right before we tricked Tiara to post our apology. It was from this fancy smancy tabloid writer in Canterlot called 'Bunny Day' or somethin'. Ah think Ah saw 'er with Twilight. She wanted to take us all on as understudies she said. She said she loved the article we wrote about Princess Celestia and the cake. She said we could have a bright future working with her."

"And you turned her down?"

"Like duh!"

Twist sighed. "'Bloom. The point is that Diamond Tiara is a lost cause. Any good in her is a speck of something shiny in a sea of slime. She's spoiled rotten. She's just rotten. In case you didn't notice, but she was getting worse and worse! She went from just teasing you to outright trying to hurt you. Clapping for Granny Smith doesn't make Silver Spoon a good pony, and Diamond Tiara just tried to hurt you both! You said so yourself she hurt Silver Spoon. She was a little monster becoming a big monster."

"And Ah felt the same, before. And yer right, ever since we met she just kept gettin' more selfish and cruel. She just stopped doin' it 'round Sweetie. But if Silver Spoon can be pulled outta the muck. Ah ain't gonna write off her best friend either.

"Just think what would've happened if we hadn't stopped where we were headed as Gabby Gums. If we'd taken that tabloid lady's offer and become professional bullies for the rest of our lives? Laughin' at 'em both as we made it big."

Then it hits me. Ah think, the big thing hits me. The kinda thing so big it flips around and you don't even realize it's there. "Twist, what kinda adult do you think yer gonna be?"

"Eh?"

"What kinda adult do ya wanna be?"

"I... I never really thought about it. An adult who can make candy all day and... makes others happy with it? I guess?"

"Ah don't know what I'm gonna be yet, but Ah know one thing, Ah don't want to be a school yard bully all grown up, and Ah don't want Diamond Tiara to be either. Ain't it better for everypony, to save Diamond Tiara from turning from a bad kid into a worse adult?"

"That's her parents' problem. Not mine, and not yours."

"This is Ponyville. It's everypony's problem. Everypony knows everypony else, and everypony cares about everypony else. And if she ain't saved from becomin' a worse adult, she will be everypony else's problem."

Ah switched gears as Twist tried to figure that out, "Hey... yah want to hang out with us sometime? All five of us Ah mean."

Twist looked confused. "Five?"

"Silver Spoon and Spike, yah know, Miss Twili's dragon assistant at the library? They both hang out with us now. Spike's our friend and Silver Spoon's got her Cutie Mark, but she don't exactly know quite what it really means yet, so she's crusadin' to find that out... Ah promise that Silver Spoon has changed for the better, please just give her a chance." I turn on the 'puppy dog eyes' full blast.

"... I guess... For you, Applebloom... but I can't trust her, not yet."

"Ah don't expect yah to. That's somethin' yah gotta earn... " And Ah figured Ah needed to make myself a trustworthy friend to Twist again, and it'd take some hard work. But hey, us Apples love hard work.

++++

After Alula left, she spoke to me. Huh? No, unfortunately. If I meant my wife I'd be dancing on the ceiling. No her, my younger maid. Shiny Star.

"Sir. I hope you'll forgive me, but we need to talk. About a lot. I didn't think you'd listen until I saw how you acted with the Pegasus foals."

She sounds so serious. Just her tone-of-voice makes me feel instantly exhausted. I'm in no mood for a serious chat. Nonetheless, I tilt my head, silently signaling her to go on. My unicorn maid bowed, licking her lips nervously. This wasn't the nervousness of a servant.

I tilted my head. "And that would be?" I said slightly nervous.

"Golden hired me before your daughter was born, when I was desperate for work Sir. She gambled on me having nowhere to go, and I didn't leave even when your grandmother turn you into something you weren't."

"Is that still the case?" I ask. "You're here because you have nowhere to go?"

"No. I'm here because I'm grateful to Golden. And to you."

"To me?" I can't stop my wry, regretful smile. She bowed again.

"Even back when you suspected me of being a spy for the Princess, you let me stay."

"Believe it or not, for the longest time, I was determined to 'catch you in the act.' Out you as Celestia's spy. But you never fell for any of my bait."

"I assume you're referring to all those manila folders stamped 'Top Secret?' that kept popping up under the pillows?"

I laugh and nod. My fantasies may have gone a bit out of control. Me: the would-be counterespionage ace! She quickly joins in. For a little while, all is good; silly memories, water under the bridge, just good laughs. Then that horrible serious look returns to her face, and the laughter stops instantly.

"There's more Sir."

"Should've known. Please speak freely."

"One morning, I woke up, and my floating talking cutie mark told me that everything green wanted to hurt me like, like a green stallion once had. My cutie mark made a... very convincing argument... I hid from the house plants. You found me and touched me, and all I knew was that I loved you unconditionally and existed but to give you pleasure." She spoke so formally, so controlled, she kept her voice so even.

"So... here we are at last." I say softly. "Finally turning to acknowledge the five hundred-pound dragon in the room."

"If this is a bad time, Sir... "

"No, no!" I glance around the quiet, private room. "Dragon's got to go some time. Might as well be now."

And so she continues her story.

"Then... the rainbow came and, I was me again, Sir. And I had you inside me... we all screamed."

I bow my head. "For what I put you through, ALL of you through... I apologize from the bottom of my heart. Evil spell or no evil spell... I had no right to lose control of myself. I couldn't be any sorrier."

"I know. I saw your disgust, your guilt, the moment we all were sane again. Day after day, I watched you try to destroy yourself."

"Heh. Must've been fun to watch. Saved you the trouble of having to plot revenge against me."

"It WASN'T 'fun to watch!' I wasn't making it up when I told you you tried to hang yourself, I came in right as you were about to jump off the balcony with a bed sheet noose around your neck and caught you with my telekinesis, then held you up until White Wash could cut your makeshift noose," she snapped, and I go quiet. And she hadn't once tried to use saving my life for favors. She takes several steadying breaths. "I'll never forget how that transformation changed me. Not just physically... but mentally, emotionally. And... if even the SMALLEST SPECK of what I was made to feel for you, as your wife's double, had any semblance whatsoever to the real Golden Tiara's heart... well, Sir... she loves you more than anything. So I stayed on. For her sake."

"For HER sake?"

Wide-eyed with incredulity, I drew closer to her, speaking in a near-whisper. "And all those on-again-off-again late nights we shared... up in my bedroom, were those for HER sake, as well?"

"Actually, yes." Her answer couldn't be more matter-of-fact. "My hair and my coat... don't they resemble hers? If that's what it takes to keep you loyal to her... so be it! Somepony had to step in after your daughter, it was her, drove away every Earth pony maid you hired simply because she resembled her. I felt dirty."

It was like I forgot how to blink. "Lady... you are something else." I breathed, shaking my head. "For what it's worth, I'm sorry I put you through all that... "

"The chimera brought out sides of me I never knew I had." She looked away from me. "Then Princess Gaia gave me one day of my stolen foalhood back Sir. And I finally understood you. And Golden as well. I only regret I didn't get a chance to play with you both before the day ended. And I forgave you Sir, and myself, because I know she did too. There's more."

"More?!"

"Diamond Tiara had been visiting her mother in secret with my help."

My mouth went dry. "Am I to understand that you have been escorting my young filly into the nuthouse? Behind my back? Multiple times? Where the crackpots and degenerates have been locked up, so as not to pose a threat to anypony else? To see her mother?"

"She needed an adult to be allowed to just talk to her through the door."

Somehow, I am able to bring myself to face her calmly. "Please understand where I'M coming from when I ask: have you ever given thought to committing YOURSELF there?!"

"Sir, everything I've done, I've done with your family's best interest at heart. Being apart was killing both of them! You didn't SEE how your foal was turning from spoiled to sadistic! Did you think isolation was making Golden any saner? Diamond was the only thing keeping Golden connected to the world! You weren't doing ANYTHING!"

"Ask Princess Cadence if I did NOTHING! And you do realize that, as much as I would wish otherwise, that sanitarium isn't an impenetrable fortress? That my poor wife, bless her heart, has a well-established history of ESCAPING there?"

"You mean how golden escaped, repeatedly, to see you and Diamond and left peacefully afterwards?!"

"YOU IDIOT! The doctors, who normally just agree to disagree, all agree her self control during her 'home visits' is a farce! Did you wonder maybe there was a bloody reason I kept the entire staff away from her when she came-?! Or why the doctors would only let Diamond speak to her through a locked door!? And she isn't its most violent patient! I haven't been the most attentive of fathers, but I know that there are better ways to correct a wayward daughter than delivering her STRAIGHT INTO THE LIONS' DEN!" I was roaring my loudest. "DID YOU EVEN THINK TO TELL ME?!"

"YES! Several times! To your face! You didn't listen! You didn't want to see your wife breaking down, and you didn't want to see that your last living reminder of her was corrupting herself!"

"... Excuse me, while I write up your severance package. Let's see now, years of live-in service-" I moved behind my desk.

"... If that's the case Sir, then I think you should also know... do you know Rarity Belle?"

I didn't look up as I crunched the numbers. "Friend of Applejack's. Owner of that Carousel Boutique place. Prefers the tactic of making loyal customers and having her dresses advertise themselves rather than being shrewd in her money. Her name's appeared in magazines and I was thinking now of adding her dresses to Barnyard Bargains' clothing department." I stopped writing. "Why? Where does SHE figure into all this helter skelter?!"

"Rarity was giving your daughter free sewing lessons before she vanished. We knew how you'd react. Diamond wanted to buy a dress but Rarity taught her instead how to make a dress for her mother all on her own as a birthday present! Surprised you never saw the needle pricks around Diamond's hooves and mouth."

"... And how did it come out?"

"Beautiful, sir! You should've seen the look on your wife's face! For just a short time, Golden Tiara sounded like herself again! And for just a moment, I saw Diamond Tiara let go of the monster on her shoulder."

"... You're rehired, for now. I need to leave, when I come back... you and I need to have some serious WORDS."

"Where are you going?" Shiny Star asked, as I swept past her.

"Rarity's." I shut the door. Then reopened it.

"Any more revelations you'd like to blindside me with before I go? I'm secretly adopted? My tax consultant is actually a robot from the future in disguise? Dentists have been the world's superpowers all along?!"

"I threw out all the regular coffee months ago. You've been drinking decaf this whole time."

"I'M NOT LISTENING! I CAN'T HEAR YOU! LALALALALALALA!!!!" I scream, while racing down the stairs.

You! The Pegasus again! Extraneous you call all that? To me and Shiny Star it wasn't. You didn't care for it at all? Well I did. For the first time in a long time, I'm finally on the trail to the truth.

To Be Continued