• 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 62: "Mind games Part 5"

My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic
Pony POV Series
Mind Games Part 5

'One little lesson my dear, it takes a pony seeing their beliefs be totally smashed to atoms to make them change them, if they survive the breakdown that will inevitably result. What's better, is if you really want to shatter someone, break them so completely there is no hope of them recovering, show them the one thing they can't justify in a million years. Tear down all their little excuses one by one, brick by brick until all their deepest held beliefs come crumbling down. There are few things as devastating and entertaining as that.

'Shattered souls make hilarious decorations and playthings mind you, but they don't really have any drive or surprises of their own, you have to micromanage them like robots, which was totally boring. Broken souls can be churned out in bakers' dozens! You want minions? Direct their passions my dear! Make your passions their passions! Speak to them in terms they use, with concepts they grasp, lead them along with what they want, and above all, telling them what they want to hear! Save the soul breaking for the ones who afterwards are going to be more trouble to keep around than they're worth, that way you can have your cake and eat it too.

You see, when someone's beliefs are challenged, their base reaction is not to question them, but to become more of a zealot in them, just a fun little defense mechanism built into the brain to prevent someone from feeling hurt in the face of reality. This leads to the ultimate weapon my dear and is not to be taken lightly.

'Dragons, ponies, all the same, will do anything to justify their view and feelings before changing their beliefs. Say anything, do anything, think anything just to stay in their comfort zone.

'If you do something nice for somepony you dislike, you begin to wonder if that pony isn't so bad after all since otherwise that means you made the wrong choice by helping them. If you want something, but aren't able to get it, you tell yourself it isn't worth having so you don't have to feel bad.

'Did that very important pony just say that bumpkin I insulted is a fashion genius? I didn't really mean it. I was just joking. It was just an off hoofed comment. Where do I buy one of her designs?

'The Wonderbolt I just bet on has a poor track record? Well, after all those losses they're due for a win right?

'Cheating is bad? But I just cheated? It was just one test. It made my parents happy. It won't affect my grade that badly. I needed it.

'I just stole something from work, but stealing's bad, but I'm Me, and Me is always a good person. The shop won't miss it. I need it more than they do. It's not like I'm hurting anymore.

'That pony is my friend and so much better at magic than me? Magic's not that important, or I didn't have the education she got, clearly I'd be better than her if I got the same treatment.

'My friend can sense the future? Must be a trick, a bunch of coincidences, a cold reading like scam artists use. Anything as long as I don't need to accept a school of philosophy outside my own.

'Every pony in their heart thinks, 'I am an intelligent, rational, reasonable, morally-right person who's making the correct choice.' And will tell themselves any lie to protect that thought. Especially if you've just built up their ego by telling them how deserving they are. Building their ego up can serve a lot of purposes, other than setting them for a spectacular fall like a pretty house of cards. Few things are as blinding as a sense of entitlement.

'I just bought something that the newer model of was available at the same price across the street? Well the older model is more reliable.

'A doctor who makes a mistake that may or may not have killed a patient will tell themselves anything as long as it means it wasn't their fault or they don't need to admit to anypony. Anything to stop that guilt from eating away at them the rest of their days, and facing the consequences of being incompetent.

'The best part is how if you pay a pony one bit for a boring job they'll say the job wasn't that boring, but if you pay them twenty bits they'll admit it was boring since they have the money to justify doing it. And if you give a bunch of colts a few bits to play ball, you'll find out they're not as interested in playing ball later now that they've been paid for it since playing ball itself is no longer the reward. It stops being a hobby and becomes work, believe me, I've been there. You see? It's about yourself. Always and every time. Me, me me.'

Shut up.

'What? You want to actually leave this-'

All you ever do is talk. Shut up. I've done this before. You haven't. So shut up.

Heh-heh. You want me to do this? Then let me do this. You said it yourself, if you could do this yourself you'd have done it already. If you didn't need me then you wouldn't be talking to me! I want my mom back! I want my life back! So I'm going to do whatever, whenever, however, to whoever you want to get it!

HA! I got my cutie mark doing this before! How many places have you snuck into? None I bet! Silver Spoon have I gotten into more places than this guy? I have? Good! See? Silver Spoon agrees with me! She always agrees with me! That's what makes her my best friend! I'm Diamond Tiara and I don't ever make mistakes! Because I'm perfect just like mama says! So that means I'm gonna get through this! Right Silver Spoon? Right! I think she's much more interesting in conversation than you! So there!

I was annoyed when the voice actually clapped. 'Excellent my dear. Nice to see you so focused. Much better than before, not as fun but time for that later. Now let's go for the gold already. We aren't settling for silver or bronze! Not that I can't say without lying that our time together has not been the most sweet I've had in a thousand years.'

Huh?! Silver?! Where'd you go? You were right here right? Wait. How long had she been here? But she was here, right? I mean right. She was here. She must, she must, she must have wandered off. That's all. Right. I don't need her. I don't need anyone. I just need mom. I just need dad. I just need Silver. How could she abandon me like that. I'm sure she'll apologize when I get back. She'll...she'll get on her hooves and knees for calling me worse than a blank flank and she'll say how sorry she is, and say that now that she has her mom back everything is fine so there's no bad feelings between us!


Oh my my, it's been a while since we had a nice chat. If I didn't know any better I'd say you were avoiding me. When was the last time we spoke? I think the last time we talked was when you asked how I came to know Fluttershy. It's strange how ponies can start calling you best friends when you simply chose once a week to have the spa treatment with them. She was like a flower when she began opening up to me, slowly, delicate. It was wonderful to have that first conversation with her there, she knew it was just between us, she realized she could trust me, she could speak and not be afraid.

I'd go through Tartarus or high water to see her safe and happy, like any of my friends, as they would too. Everyone calls me her best friend when it's Pinkie Pie and Rainbow Dash who are always looking out for her and Rainbow has known her since they were fillies. The one time I did something with her best interests at heart, all it did was make us both miserable...Well, yes, I did make her Gala dress for free, but I did that for all of them.

And...thank you, very very much for asking me about Fluttershy during her, sickness. You think I wouldn't notice? Girls, you might as well have flashed a neon sign telling us to look for her. Thank you for helping us. If you hadn't, we'd all have been trapped in Nightmare Whisper's fog long before we realized something was wrong.

(Interviewer's Notes (Earth Pony): No no no. Thank you! For saving Fluttershy!)

(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): Yeah it...it means a lot. And tell, ugh, Fluttercruel thanks for helping save'er too. And if she thinks she can punch me in the nose again I have a hoof sandwich waiting for her!)

(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn): We express gratitude at you being able to do what we could not.)

Oh. Well, you're welcome. It was a pleasure. I lie. It was the second worst day of my life, I felt like a part of me died that day, like I lost something, no, something came between myself and all the ponies I know. And I'd do it a hundred times over to save Fluttershy again.

I wasn't able to support her when she was struggling with the tornado, gossamer wings are too fragile Twilight said. And, seeing me with butterfly wings would probably have reminded her of Nightmare Whisper. That and...well, I don't believe I need to go over what happened last time I had them, do I? I won't lie and say the spell did that to me. Like Pinkie Pie told me after the incident with that...delicious cake, I listened to little greedy Rarity telling me to be the center of attention instead of little generous Rarity telling me it was Rainbow Dash's day and I was there to support her.

And I liked Fluttershy when she began to stand up for herself, and was horrified when she turned into a bully along with half of Ponyville. And it was Pinkie Pie again who did the saving while I only threw in my two bits with everypony else.

Spike and I were the ones who had to help Twilight be able to look in the mirror again after New Fluttershy hurt her. That's supposed to be Applejack and Pinkie's department. It was awful, why does poor Twilight have to pretend she's not sensitive? Friendship is something new and beautiful for her, when it's tarnished, it hurts even worse for her than for us. Thank Celestia that it happened now instead of right after Discord was defeated, if us just laughing at the wrong moment drove her that crazy, I'm terrified what New Fluttershy said would've done.

Oh yes, I am delighted that Fluttercruel wanted to model for me. Maybe I was being selfish because it meant I was also spending time with Fluttershy. No, I meant it when I asked Fluttercruel if she wanted to model dresses. You didn't hear this from me, but she has a ferocious grace like Trixie has, Trixie's however is like fireworks, while hers is like a desert wind. I never ask her to let Fluttershy come to the front. I only speak to Fluttershy to greet her and bid her good day. I'm uncertain of what Fluttershy does in their mind while Fluttercruel models, she doesn't make Fluttercruel blush or faint during our sessions.

I am happy she's chosen to model. I just didn't expect her to be so different from Fluttershy! I wonder if there's a spell that'll switch dresses when they switch, it won't do for them to wear something clashing! Her body language, her expression, her darker colors. Even if her eyes are the same color there's just something not the same about them, something more feral. She is most definitely not merely a recoloring of Fluttershy. I had to rethink all my designs for her. For some reason she likes black pearls, not that I mind, they look positively beautiful with her colors. Her scars haven't been a problem, in fact, with some designs I try to use them to give her a more rugged look.

One thing was clear, she loved doing this for me. This wasn't a chore to her, it was a delight. She enjoys every second of it. I'm pretty sure even if I didn't pay her, she'd do it for fun (What? You thought I wouldn't pay her? I'm not about to take advantage of a friend like that). I didn't have to instruct her much, she said with Fluttershy's memories it was easy. I have half a mind to say she should have gotten a modeling cutie mark of some sort.

I was... quite shocked by what actually happened a little later.

Instead of seeing Fluttercruel bite their tongue to stop Fluttershy from denying her the opportunity, I watched as Fluttershy's colors and Cutie Mark spontaneously replaced Fluttercruel's, a bright smile on her face. "That would be very nice Rarity. It's great you're giving Fluttercruel a break like this."

And as suddenly as she jumped in, Fluttershy retreated, leaving me and Fluttercruel staring at each other, our jaws almost to the floor at a loss for words.

It probably shouldn't have surprised me, Fluttershy at least thinks of Fluttercruel as her daughter, (she screamed as much at us four who accused Fluttercruel of Fluttershy's actions as New Fluttershy), and what mother wouldn't want her daughter to do what she loved? Her origins don't matter to Fluttershy, so unconditionally accepting, forced on her or not, Fluttershy loves her.

I'm still not certain how they're going to handle their dual existence publicly, but I do know that Celestia had Fluttercruel made two birth certificates and associated paperwork: a real one for the Day of Chaos when she was 'born' and the other sharing Fluttershy's birthday, in case they decide to pass Fluttercruel off as Fluttershy's twin. It is their choice as to which they shall do. Regardless, Fluttercruel is now considered no less a pony by Canterlot than she is by us.

I still wonder how the two divide up their time now that Fluttercruel is trying to have a life of her own rather than simply going along for the ride. A single lifetime between the two of them, I wonder how they can stand it, but they don't seem to mind it, if anything, they seem to embrace it. I just hope there's still time in it for us to be friends...

(Interviewer's Notes: (Unicorn): Rarity. You are Fluttershy's best friend.)

What?

(Interviewer's Notes: (Unicorn): Rainbow Dash is her oldest friend. And Pinkie Pie is protective to older Fluttershy like a big sister, family. You opened the door. The only living thing Fluttershy spent whole afternoons with before you was her animals. You taught her to be with ponies, not just creatures she took care of.)

(Interviewer's Notes: (Pegasus): Girl had no spine. She was never going to reach out unless somepony did it for her. And Pinkie was too oblivious and Rainbow was self-alienated.)

(Interviewer's Notes: (Earth Pony): Ya kept her from thinkin' animals were better than ponies. You saved 'er from bein' a hermit. You helped her break her egg shell.)

I... I think I'm blushing, I am blushing. I... I... thank you.

(Interviewer's Notes: (Pegasus): No. Thanks to you Rarity. You taught her to be kind to not just animals, but ponies too who before had either dragooned her, hurt her, or ignored her. You once lost yer link to 'Shy, and that wasn't pretty.)

(Interviewer's Notes (Earth Pony): Negative, negative, why do adults always have to be so negative? Rarity made the pink and yellow flower bloom! Now the whole world gets to see it! And it's the most beautiful flower I'll ever see!)

(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn): Do not sell her own heart short, it's as beautiful in its own way, like the rest of you Rarity. You have a talent for bringing out the beauty in things, that includes ponies and yourself.)

I thank you. That was wonderful to hear. I think I feel a little lighter inside, but fuller too.

When the Flutters left, the guest I got was the last pony I ever expected to see within my shop.

"Welcome to the Carousel Boutique, how may I help- Mr. Filthy!-er, Mr. Tiara-?!"

The expression he gave me couldn't have been more flat. "Either name will do."

"Er, yes yes of course!"

"I would like to discuss some long-term business matters with you. Do you have time?"

"Why-why-why of course I do! Tea and scones?" I had learned to stop offering muffins after Derpy Hooves kept slamming into my window. Thankfully I've reinforced them, Sweetie Belle staying with me so frequently required such things. You'd be surprised how long it took to find a layout for my shop where she couldn't knock one thing over and somehow wreck the entire room.

"Don't mind if I do. Do you have Zap Apple jam?"

"I-I might have one jar stashed away somewhere." My heart was racing, at least I wasn't sweating. Diamond Tiara's father was here!

I was alarmed and elated!

His store may have been a bargain store, but it was also the most frequented store in Ponyville, if I was able to get him to sell my non-custom designs there for any price, there's no telling how much business it'd bring in for my custom works.

But this was Diamond Tiara's father. What should I say? What could I say? Should I offer my condolences for her disappearance? Or not mention her at all?

I settled my poor nerves as I set up for my guest.

A few minutes later, I tried to find the best way to break the ice. I locked and loaded and rapid-fired natter like a gabbling-horn. "Nice weather we're having isn't it? How was this week's hoof-ball game? Did you hear Sapphire Shore's latest album? I designed the dress she's wearing on the cover! Is that a new tie? Read the newest periodical from Sunny Day? Did you see the dragon migration? Spitfire was promoted to Captain of the Wonderbolts did you hear? They say Prince Blueblood and Sapphire Shores are seeing each other! There's a new theory going around of a lost tribe of bug ponies, what do you think? The new Ponies Of the Carribean is out this summer are you going to go see it?"

Ha! Pinkie Diane isn't the only pony whose shot-off mouth can pierce tank armor!

"What are you, one of those interviewers?"

"Ha!" I laughed not missing a beat. "Do I look like I have a purple coat to you? This unicorn is a natural white."

The way he looked at me, it was like a general adjusting his catapult to launch a giant pie at the enemy stronghold. So I acted the Princess building up the walls of said stronghold to protect it.

"Applejack mentioned you had a little sister once. If I may ask, what happened to her the day of the chaos monster?"

That sounded like a very subjective 'may.' I narrowed my eyes. En garde. "She was turned into a mute, pony-sized doll. She tried on every dress in the place, then...I believe she said your daughter came, now a doll as well. And...they exchanged plastic body parts...and then just danced together."

I saw his eyes widened ever so slightly, he hadn't known that. I felt a bit too good putting this proud stallion a bit off kilt. But at the same time, I felt guilt stab my heart I'd used poor Sweetie and Diamond to do it.

"Diamond refused to say anything about what happened. Nopony could get a word out of her. She just smashed her own dolls and screamed. She sent one of our maids to the hospital by hitting her in the head with one."

"Thankfully Sweetie Belle threw out hers less violently. I saved them for part of her healing process. My sister is very important to me, Mr. Rich, I'm sure you understand."

"I see. What do you think of Canterlot's elites?"

Where did that come from? "I love high society, the fashion, the glamour, the refinement...high society -ponies- on the other hand. Well, depends on the pony really. I've met awful and wonderful members of Canterlot's elite and royalty."

"I can't stand their 'better than you' attitude. As long as you're born into the right family you're superior to everypony else."

I was surprised to hear that out of Ponyville's biggest local business stallion. Then I remember what some of those elites thought of Ponyville. "Now don't go judging every pony in Canterlot. I won't lie and say they're all saints, Diamond Dogs are better company than some of them, and believe me, I've dealt with both. The Diamond Dogs were easier to form a business relation with." He happily laughed and I politely laughed back. "But I've also met ponies in Canterlot who are perfectly reasonable and downright friendly."

"I haven't."

"I will have to introduce you some time. You get a good shield knowing the right ponies. I happen to be rather close friends with the unicorn to know in Canterlot, I'm sure he'd love to meet you and I am very certain you would benefit greatly darling."

"Perhaps I would. What sort of things did Diamond say about me?"

Oh dear. "W-wh-what? Why would she say anything about you? And to me, of all ponies?"

"Well, SURELY she must've said SOMETHING, during all those secret sewing lessons you were giving her."

I put down my cup and assumed my most dignified, refined, and mature poise. Can't blame me for not wanting to look a gift horse in the mouth. "Mr. Rich, I swear your daughter came to me, of her own free will. So if you have any cockamamie ideas about me being part of some crazy unicorn conspiracy to kidnap..."

"As far as grandiose unicorn, pegasus, and Alicorn conspiracies go... I've pretty much renounced all that hoopla." He spread Zap Apple jam on his scone. "You can thank the interviewers for that. Seen the light. No longer think you six are a tyrant's enforcers. Sworn off letting prejudice and paranoia get the best of me. All that jazz."

My heart skipped a beat. "Oh? You have?"

"Yes. Oh, and thank you for saving the world from madness from beyond."

"T-thank you, it was nothing really... " No I wasn't surprised he knew, there's a difference between saving the world in Ponyville square than in Everfree Forest.

"Though I'm sorry to say, that I HAVE uncovered a conspiracy playing out right under my nose... just one of a much smaller scale. It's comprised of my domestic servants, my daughter, the staff of our local insane asylum... and you, Miss Rarity. All keeping secrets from me. Acting behind my back. Leaving me in the dark."

I didn't know what to say to that. Onyx Tiara munched on his scone.

"But I digress. Let's bring our conversation back to my first question: what sort of things has Diamond Tiara said about me to you?"

"My apologies, your reputation precedes you...She said almost nothing about you. She barely mentioned you. She was confrontational, and quick to take things the wrong way, but she barely spoke about you or your wife."

He looked at me darkly. Was that just a diversionary assault? Where was the real attack going to come from? I steeled myself.

"So she came to you for a dress? For Golden Tiara?"

"Yes."

"What happened? The whole truth. Now."

Like a life time ago. "She came in acting like she owned Equestria, and...the dress she wanted me to do had many, many diamonds as part of it. Discord, your chaos monster, what he did to me involved diamonds greatly, and I had not yet recovered from it. Sweetie Belle being once bullied by her didn't help... Diamond threw me a racial slur and I lost my temper and informed her in no uncertain terms that her business was not welcomed. At all. But she had left her design behind. I am an artist Mr. Rich, I do not miss details. I put the pieces together and found out the truth. It helped that one of my best friends happened to be doing work at the asylum helping heal those Discord had harmed.

"And suddenly everything began to make sense. Diamond Tiara wanted something from the heart for her mother, and I told her that something has to be made from the heart to be from the heart. So to fulfill her order, the only way I could was to teach her how to sew herself. She sewed in the diamonds herself. Then she came back. I didn't charge her once. I didn't ask her to come back. She came on her own. And I taught her. She whined, she complained, she bellyached, she pretended to give up a few times, but she never did. She wanted to grow."

He stayed quiet. So quiet.

"When was the last time you saw her?"

And the true blow is struck. I consider lying. No I don't actually.

"It was Hearts and Hooves Day. The day after I had to deal with the door to my house being accidentally torn off so nopony asked many questions, long story. I had made her a card I planned to give her at the end of our lesson. She had just come from her lessons with her home-tutor, I believe. I was telling her that her friendship with Silver Spoon was too precious to throw away." I braced myself. "And that was when she took one of my pairs of scissors and stabbed me with no warning, fortunately she missed my major arteries. She ran away in tears. That was the last time I saw her."

And the gates of Tartarus opened.

"You horrid mare! How could you...I'm sorry I-wait a minute what the Pony Hell am I sorry for-?! You have been keeping the last known location of my only child secret since last year!!!" He snarled with righteous fury.

"And that was the wrong decision." I lowered my head. "I assumed she'd gone home, I was wrong. I should have reported she'd ran off. I make no excuses."

"I swear to Cadence, I should have you arrested for foal endangerment, obstructing justice, and I don't know how many other things!"

"With all due respect, if I had told you, would you have listened? Or would you have thought I had used her as an ingredient in some unicorn witch's brew?"

"So go to the police, if I'm such a scary stallion!"

"I thought I could find her on my own. I tried using my gem-finding spell to locate the diamonds in her tiara! I tried to find her until my horn ached! By the time I had to turn back you'd put out an all points bulletin for her. And if I HAD gone to the police, I would've had to tell them that she stabbed me unprovoked!! I was trying to prevent her from being hunted down like a rabid animal and tossed straight into the looney bin right alongside your wife!"

"You think I'd abandon my own daughter?!"

"You abandoned your wife!"

"I DID NOT!"

"Diamond's heart thought you did!"

"YOU THINK I DON'T KNOW THAT?! You think I didn't want to tell her why I wasn't letting her see her own mother?! Why I didn't go to see her? You think I wasn't telling her because I thought she wouldn't miss her?"

My ears flattened as what I just said hit me full on. I hurt. He was right. He had been a prejudiced pony, and so like Sweetie Belle thought of Diamond Tiara, I thought he was being a thoughtless father. Was that all I wanted him to be? Just as an excuse for Diamond Tiara's behavior?

"Listen to me and listen well: I did not consent to having my beloved Golden shut away in a white cell indefinitely, without a very good reason! YOU HAVE -NO- -IDEA- -AT- -ALL!!!-"

I felt like the world's smallest pony. I lowered my head and body. "You're right. I don't. I never thought how being silent about Diamond could hurt instead of help. I never thought it was more than her life this could affect. For that, I am truly and sincerely sorry." Then I whispered. "Tell me the why. Please."

He took a deep breath and was silent for a few moments, looking down at his tea in a thoughtful manner. "I've kept calling her 'That Thing'. I said 'That Thing' couldn't possibly be her," He said, the fury from his voice having cooled. "What I was really telling myself was 'I've done this to her.'"


My big sister knows details, but I know my big sister. Me, Applebloom and Scootaloo know how to get by our siblings or anypony no sweat. I still don't get why we never get our stealth ninja cutie marks. Scootaloo joked that maybe we already had and they're invisible.

I didn't expect to see Diamond Tiara's dad downstairs. After Rarity helped me finish crying, I heard a familiar voice downstairs. It sounded familiar, it was the voice of Diamond Tiara's dad, but it -felt- familiar too. It was like the reverse of those ice cream treats you hear about, a feeling of cold on the outside but warm on the inside. I don't know why I felt lonely hearing him, but I did, so I snuck downstairs. I know it was way past my bedtime. Applebloom was having that sleep over with Twist and Scootaloo was staying with Rainbow Dash.

I heard what he said, and I heard what he said next. I nearly gave myself away. I felt confused and ashamed, like when I had been so awful to Rarity that time. It's the same feeling. It's like before when I was crying for somepony else. Who am I feeling for?


'What is this? Zeno's race? You really love taking breaks every few steps don't you? It is going to be noon after all by the time you get here! What happened to all that fire before?! Or were you just bluffing? As normal my dear and faithful student?'

I did keep stopping. Everything kept getting so confusing. I'd trot a few hoof steps, and I'd feel sick. Was I dying? No! I don't wanna die yet! I don't wanna! No no no! Please!

Still so much, still so much I want to do. The voice is here. The voices are everywhere. But I still feel alone. I don't want to be alone. No no no! I don't need anypony! No pony at all! Right? Right.


"Mom?" I whispered in the dark of the bedroom.

"Yes Dissey dear?" Mom asked beside me, nuzzling me. "Was it the nightmares again?"

"I dreamed that I walked to the estate and, and, everyone was stone! Posey in her garden! Surprise on the roof! Firefly actually slid off and broke into pieces!! I screamed and ran into the living room and Lulu, Celly were statues too! And I found you, I found you right here, stone too. THEN, then a big cockatrice, it tore the roof off the house and looked me in the eyes!" I practically babbled as mom patiently listened.

I hadn't even known what a cockatrice was until Firefly saved me from the one that found me. Firefly had even shown me the stone carcass to show it wasn't going to hurt anyone anymore. But there were more out there. I knew. Just waiting to turn me to stone, or Celly and Lulu, and I'd be all alone forever.

"Dissey. I know you're scared son. I'd be scared too if that happened to me."

"You're not scared of anything."

She laughed in the night. "Dearie, if you knew me from before." She got serious. "Discord, listen to mother. Remember all those awful nightmares you had before Celly and Lulu were born? They didn't come true. And this nightmare won't come true either. Your nightmares are not the center of your life! I can't ask you to not be afraid of them, because I know what being afraid is like, but son, you don't need to cower before them. Remember, what happens in your nightmares is made by what you're worried or scared of."

I felt horror rise inside me. "Does, does that mean I want everypony to be stone?"

"NO! Not at all! Your nightmares show you what you're scared of so you can face them. So you can control them. Never forget that Dissey. Being brave doesn't mean not being afraid, it means facing things when you're scared."

"I won't mama, I promise." What was this feeling? She could always make everything better just by being nearby. It was like when I was near Celly. Mom would know. Mom always knew. "Mom. Why do I feel, the same when I'm near you and Celly?"

"The same how?"

"Like everything is gonna be alright, that there's nothing we can't do together, like there's more of me with you nearby."

"It's called love dear."

That word. I've heard it said a lot among the adults and among the twins. "What's love?"

"Love is..." Mom stopped and looked thoughtful. "Maybe love is something you need to experience to understand."

"Mom! That's cheating!"

"Not so loud young man. Ponies are sleeping."

"Yes mother."

"Alright. Let's see. Nopony ever seems to see love the same way. Wind Whistler would go into chemical reactions in the brain. Surprise would say love is like a gift, you can never tell what it will be like before you open it. Posey's always saying love is something tender and fragile that you have to help grow and tend to each day to help it along. Mimic says love is magic. Twilight's wished she knew what love was first hand. Galaxy says love is a mystery that's to be known but not understood. Applejack says love just is. Spike says love is being good to someone for being good to someone. Firefly says love is an adventure, a risk, something you don't know if you'll be hurt or not but it's worth it just to try. Masquerade said it's what separated us from horses, and that animals can want each other, but not love each other, because animals don't understand."

My head spun. So many contradictions, and it wasn't fun for once. I didn't understand. "So loving is understanding?"

"That's what Masquerade thought at least."

"But what about you mom? What do you say love is?"

She looked surprised. I didn't like her just staying quiet like that. It's boring!

"For me?"

"Yes!"

She smiled, "I've never thought about it before."

Oh come on!

"But...if I had to give a meaning to it... love is a contradiction. The more you give, the more you have, the more you take, the less you have. Love's patient, kind, and it doesn't covet. It's wonderful but you don't think you're better than others for it. You don't love someone for yourself, you don't tally wrongs with someone you love. Love hurts but it doesn't tarnish or harm others. Love doesn't enjoy seeing others hurt and you aren't blind to flaws someone you love has. Love protects, it trusts, it hopes, and I...I believe that...that if it's real love, then it can never truly go away."

So many contradictions, so much confusion, so much nonsense, but it all works anyway, she understands it anyway. And so do I.


'RRRAAGH!'

Anything I was thinking was obliterated by the voice's roar, I'd NEVER heard it roar before, it was like... Like a chorus of all kinds of animals roaring together in complete disharmony. Another weird memory, another image of ponies I didn't know, what was this? What was the point of this? Did it have a point? Did anything have a point at all?

'Listen!' The voice seethed, "And listen well filly! Real mistakes are never actually forgiven! Real redemption for true sins does not exist! And true enemies never become true friends! Hate never goes away once there! Second chances are only in fairytales! They're just lies ponies tell themselves so they can feel better! Never believe those lies! Understand?! Such meaningless tripe belongs in the minds of idiots! And you, my little pony, are no idiot. Are you? Or do you believe such ridiculous fantasies?'

N-no. Of course not. Not at all. I'd-I'd never believe anything like that. The voice sounded even angrier than before, furious.

'GOOD! Move your hooves! Before I start going sane here! I'm sick of having to tell you!'

I obey. I always obey.