• Published 23rd Apr 2021
  • 1,584 Views, 54 Comments

Who Needs Enemies -- Part I - Lets Do This



Twilight and her AP team face Discord. And he may have met his match. Yet the Lord of Chaos has an ace to play: he knows Twilight's new friends better than they realize. And how to get rid of them... by showing her it's for the best, really...

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Friendship... Is Magic

It was a quiet, unremarkable town, a small, unremarkable house, and a perfectly ordinary, rather tackily-decorated living room. But none of that mattered. Because the talented young unicorn filly, seated on the floor in the middle of the living room, had just completed the Dreaded, Impossible, Never-Before-Attempted...

Rope Cut-And-Restore Trick, For Beginners!

It hadn't even been all that hard. Patricia Pot hugged the cut rope, overjoyed at finally making the trick work all on her own, not wanting the good feeling to end...

The door behind her opened. Her mother, Showcase, trotted in. The almond-yellow mare shrugged her work carryall off beside the door, then kicked the door shut.

Patricia jumped up and ran to her, waving the rope excitedly. "Mom! I got the rope trick to work!"

"Really! That's wonderful, Trixie!" Showcase smiled warmly. "And as it happens, I have some wonderful news of my own. Come and sit with me. I'll tell you all about it."

Once settled in her favorite chair, with Patricia sitting nervously on her lap, Showcase hugged her daughter, then held up a letter.

"This is from your father. He says he's been really busy presenting his show in Las Pegasus... but it's given him some time to think. And he's decided he wants to come back and live with us again. For us all to be a family again, just like we used to be. Isn't that wonderful?"

Patricia stared up at her, stunned beyond words, beyond thought itself.

It was everything she'd wished for.

Before she could speak, there was a knock at the door behind her, and it edged open nervously.

"Anyone home? Showcase? And... where's my favorite daughter?"

"I'm your only daughter..." Patricia retorted numbly, out of habit.

And then she bounced down from her mother's lap, galloped across the room, and slammed into and furiously hugged the top-hatted stallion who'd walked in.

"Daddy!"

He hugged her back, then grinned uneasily at Showcase. "I hope I didn't beat the letter back here," he said. "But as soon as I posted it, Showy, I just knew I didn't want to wait a minute longer. I wanted to come back. I've missed this so much! And if you're still open to the idea, I want to figure out how we can make it work again."

Showcase hugged him too. "I'd been hoping you'd say that."

Jack Pot slung his daughter up on his back. "Well, how 'bout it, Trixie? You too old for a pony ride from the old man?"

"Are you kidding?" she cried. "Oh! And I got the cut-and-restore trick working. Can I show you later, Daddy?"

Jack Pot looked at his wife cautiously. "If that's all right, Showy? The magic show is still part of my life, but... I'll make sure it doesn't come first, this time."

Showcase sighed. "Just don't leave us again. I couldn't bear it."

"Not on your life!" Jack Pot grinned. "We're gonna get it right this time. All of us together. Aren't we, Trixie?"

"That's the Great and Powerful Trixie to you!" Patricia told him haughtily. "Giddyap!" Then she grabbed tight to his mane, squealing with joy, as he took off around the room, galloping back and forth, giving her the pony-ride of her life.

And from the staircase on the far side of the room, unseen by Trixie or her parents, Twilight, Tempest, and Discord looked on.

"See?" Discord said. "All that ego, all the over-the-top drama, the parlor tricks... just to try and replace something she lost a very long time ago..."

Discord paused for a moment, looking sad. "You know, suddenly I understand the little performance egotist a bit better..."

"Are you all right, Discord?" Twilight asked.

Discord harrumphed. "Me? Never better, Twilight! Why do you ask?" Waving off a reply, he gestured toward the happy family. "Now what say we just roll things forward a little, and see how this wonderful soap opera turns out..."

He reached out his claw and rotated it, as if turning a knob. A burst of static filled the air before them.

Then the three of them were abruptly seated in a glitzy, glittering, heavily over-architected show theater -- the kind which, just looking at it, all but screamed Las Pegasus at you. On the stage, Jack Pot was holding up his forehooves for silence.

"Fear not, my friends! All hope is not lost! For now, I remove the nine Blades of Doom from the Casket of Imprisonment -- so! I release the chains encasing it -- so! I throw open the doors, and hey presto, what do we have here...?"

A blast of fireworks fountained out of the box, followed by a cloud of choking smoke... and from it stepped Patricia, chin held high, gesturing grandly.

"Fillies and gentlecolts!" Jack Pot called out. "May I introduce to you, my charming and talented assistant... and dearly beloved daughter! The Great and Powerful Trixie!"

The audience gave it up willingly. They applauded, stamped, and cheered for the well-known father/daughter show, which was swiftly becoming one of the strongest draws on the Strip.

Jack Pot and Trixie smiled at each other, then smoothly moved on to the next trick in the act. It was a mentalist performance, where Jack Pot stood blindfolded at center stage whilst Trixie circulated amongst the audience, borrowing items from the crowd for her father to identify, with unerring precision.

And the audience ate it up, unreservedly. It was impossible to say no to the bright-eyed, smiling young filly as she made her way around. Trixie was totally in her element, so endearingly eager, yet at the same time thoroughly confident, a total professional.

Twilight didn't need to ask how Trixie felt. She could see it in the showpony's eyes. This was where Trixie had always longed to be: working side-by-side with her father, bringing thrills and entertainment to endless crowds of enthusiastic fans. Not working as a solo show, trudging from town to town, struggling to make ends meet, scraping up whatever audiences she could... and in the end feeling, no matter how skilled she became, that she was always missing out on something really important...

... something that other ponies had...

"Let's go," Twilight said abruptly, getting up from her seat and heading up the aisle. With a final glance at Trixie, Tempest got up as well and trotted after her.

"But, they haven't gotten to the Abyssinian Rope Trick yet!" Discord whined. "That's my favorite!"

"Come on, Discord!"

"Oh, pooh!" Tossing aside his program, Discord got up and made his way up the aisle after them.

As he did, he glanced back at the simple, humble stage performer and her doting father. They were working together, wowing the audience with their shared skill and pride, not to mention the evident love that they each felt for the other.

Staring at them, for once the draconequus seemed not entirely sure of himself...

------------------------------

When they returned to the Library in Ponyville, Twilight found Applejack stepping out of the portal beside her.

"Wayall..." Applejack said, "that was kinda interesting, like Rarity said. But I cain't say I'm all that convinced. Maybe it's cause I'm so attached to Sweet Apple Acres. Kinda hard to see myself livin' anyplace else. But don't let me throw cold water on it. Everypony gets to make up their own mind, that's how this works, right?"

"Right," Twilight said, noncommittally.

Then, realizing something else was different, she peered upwards at her mane.

There was a crown sitting atop her head. Taking it off with her hooves, she stared at it. It had a large, star-shaped lavender gemstone, looking very much like the star in her cutie-mark. Looking around at her friends, she saw that their necklaces were all subtly different. They were more ornate than the simple clasps Trixie had bought for the Field gems. Each necklace held a gemstone with a shape that matched the pony's cutie-mark: an apple for Applejack, a diamond for Rarity, a balloon for Pinkie Pie, a butterfly for Fluttershy. And Tempest's was a double lightning bolt, similar to the mark on her armor.

"Of course," Twilight said, mainly to herself. "It was Trixie who fashioned the gems for the Field of Harmony, so these are..."

"... the real Elements of Harmony," Discord confirmed. He tapped Twilight's crown with a talon. "What do you think, Twilight? Just the sort of thing a future Princess of Equestria ought to wear, isn't it?"

"Oh, indeed!" Rarity agreed. "You know, Twilight, I've always thought it looks simply di-vine on you!"

"And..." Twilight breathed, "we found these... in Celestia and Luna's old castle... while we were defeating Nightmare Moon..."

She could feel the memory of that night unfurling in her mind. A different past, one in which these five ponies had travelled with her into the dark and forbidding Everfree Forest, to the castle of the Two Sisters... and their shared destiny.

"Such an adventure!" Discord marvelled. "Definitely the kind of thing that lasting friendships are based on." He grinned mischievously. "You know you really ought to write a book about it, Twilight. You and all your little friends. I'm sure it'd be a runaway best-seller..."

"Ohhh!" Fluttershy shuddered. "Don't remind me. I'm just glad Celestia teleported us home after we rescued her. I still can't believe I let you talk me into hiking all the way through the Everfree Forest. And then through that spooky old ruin. That was not my idea of fun, not at all!"

Discord looked panicky for a moment. Then, recovering, he snapped his claw.

And Fluttershy suddenly found her pet rabbit, Angel, sitting in her hooves. Surprised, she gave the rabbit a quick hug, then smiled at Discord. "Thanks! Somehow whenever I think about that night, cuddling Angel reminds me we all got back home safely, and that makes me feel so much better. Um... how did you know?"

"Oh, uh... just a lucky guess!" Discord waved dismissively. "Being the Element of Kindness, you probably find expressing kindness to small furry woodland creatures... comforting, or somesuch..."

"Well, I do," Fluttershy said. "And it's good of you to notice. You know, I'm not sure what Princess Celestia was so worried about. You can be a really good friend, Discord, if you only put your mind to it."

"Oh, I try, Fluttershy..." he said, weakly. "But it's so hard to tell. I'm not sure I've even really had a friend before."

"Well, you do now." She smiled up at him. "And maybe that's all you needed. Maybe it's all you were missing."

Discord stared at her, soulfully.

"You have no idea..." he said quietly.

While they were talking, Twilight was putting her Element crown back on. She found that it fitted over her mane perfectly, right behind her horn, almost as if it had been made for her. She peered up at it, uncomfortably.

"You all right, sugar-cube?" Applejack asked. "You're looking a mite peak'd, if you don't mind me sayin'."

"I'm fine," she lied. Then she blinked, realizing. "But wait, this is the Element of Magic," she said. "So what's happened to Starlight?"

"Oh! I'm right here!" Starlight waved at them from the librarian's desk. "I've finished organizing the magic reference section, like you asked. Though really, there wasn't much left to do. You and Spike have already done such a good job."

Coming around the desk, she trotted over, toting a large spell-scroll in her magic. She unrolled it to show to Twilight. "Check this out! I think I've just about reverse-engineered the spell behind the Elements. A few tweaks, and you'll be able to invoke the spell way faster. No more waiting for the storage loop to connect the gems and warm up before you can fire it off."

"That's great, Starlight," Twilight said weakly. "You're really good with magic, you know?"

"Oh, please!" Starlight waved a hoof. "I'm just a dabbler. Nowhere near your level. That's why I'm here, to learn from the very best!"

"Like teacher, like student... eh, Twilight?" Discord hinted with a grin.

"So!" Starlight said. "What's next?" She bounded excitedly. "Oh, tell me you've got some really fun assignment for me, Twilight!"

"Actually, she has." Discord said smoothly. "If I may, Twilight? Since we're not replacing Twilight as part of our little test, I thought it might be fun to let her assistant Starlight have a go at the portal, just to see what kind of life she might have had, if things had only been a little different."

"Ooh! Can I?" Then Starlight suddenly looked uneasy. "But wait a minute. Being accepted to Celestia's School as Twilight's assistant, that's gonna be hard to top. Seriously, Twilight. If it wasn't for you and Tempest, I wouldn't have had a chance of getting in. Not the way I mess around with magic, doing stuff on the fly and so forth."

"Well, all you really needed," Discord said, "was a good friend to help keep you grounded. And you might be surprised at how well that turns out!"

Starlight shrugged. "Sure, I'm game!" She looked at Twilight. "What do you say? Can I? Oh, please say yes!"

Twilight bit her lip. Then she nodded.

"How could I say no?"

------------------------------

"Where are we?" Twilight asked.

She stared around at the tiny but immaculately kept village. Its high-peaked stone-walled homes, topiary gardens, fountains, and shady trotting paths made it look like a suburb of Canterlot itself, yet it was clearly located somewhere on the plains. Twilight could see Canterlot Mountain itself in the far distance.

"Well, let me just check the travel guide..." said Discord. He was dressed in a Hawaiian shirt, sunglasses, and baggy shorts. Adjusting his glasses, he thumbed through an A to Z of Equestria.

"Ah, here we are!" he said. He showed Twilight a page in the book... on which there were tiny animated images of himself, Twilight, and Tempest, superimposed on a street map. "I thought so," he went on. "This is Sire's Hollow. And if I'm not mistaken --" He looked around, then pointed. "That is the house we want!"

Twilight trotted over and then peered in through a front window. Inside, she saw a small library and two young ponies, seated at opposite sides of a table. Looking closer, Twilight stared at them in amazement. The small lavender filly on the right, that was clearly Starlight, looking only a few moons younger than when Twilight had first met her, pigtails and all. And the ginger colt on the left... that just had to be Sunburst.

"Starlight told me about this," Twilight said. "It's the day Sunburst got his cutie mark... and she didn't. It made her feel so alone, so abandoned..."

"Well, now," Discord said, "we can't have that, can we? Not for an old friend like Starlight. Ahem... I mean an old friend of yours, Twilight..."

The two young ponies had apparently unloaded the entire contents of one of the bookcases to play a game of Book Stack. Twilight watched as Starlight fired up her horn and gently... gently... teased a book out of the bottom of the stack on the table, allowing the rest to settle softly in its place.

For a moment, Starlight grinned proudly, holding the book in her magic, then moved to add it to the top of the tower.

And the entire tower of books unexpectedly swayed, and began tumbling towards her.

Starlight shrieked, and flinched, shutting her eyes. Knowing how important the moment was, Twilight had to forcibly restrain herself from using her own magic to yank the terrified filly out of the way.

Sunburst lit his own horn, and tried to grab the entire tower of books with his magic. He just barely managed it, straining mightily to hold them all. And then...

Discord snapped his claw.

"Uh, Starlight?" Sunburst called. "A little help?"

Surprised, Starlight quickly fired up her own horn and latched her own magic around the collapsing tower of books. Between the two of them, the ponies divvied up the volumes, separating the pile into two swirls of books, circulating around each them.

A sudden gleam surrounded each pony. They rose into the air. There was a brief, sharp flash of magic. The books flew across the room and slammed back into place on the bookshelves. In alphabetical order, Twilight's bookish mind automatically noted.

Starlight and Sunburst landed gently on the ground, staring at their flanks, and then at each other, with wide grins on their faces. Both of them had gotten their cutie-marks. Sunburst's matched his name; Starlight's was her familiar star-and-swirls mark.

Overjoyed, the two ponies hugged each other. Then they raced out of the room, and out through front door. They scampered across the village square to where their parents were chatting. Stellar Flare and Sunspot excitedly grabbed up Sunburst. Firelight did the same with Starlight. They carried them triumphantly around the square and the village's occupants all gathered around, oohing and ahhing. And speculating -- as parents will do -- on what talents the children's marks represented.

"They got their cutie-marks together," Twilight breathed.

"And," Discord added, "they were both accepted to Celestia's School. I'll spare you the drama of them saying goodbye to their parents, finding their way around the School, rising to the top of their class. The point is, they did it together. Oh, let's just skip ahead to the good bit, see how it all turned out..."

Discord grabbed at the scenery in front of them, and yanked. It rolled upward like a window shade. Revealed in its place was the purple-walled Tudor-ish facade of Celestia's School, with the broad green lawn in front of it. And sitting in the middle of the lawn, Twilight saw Starlight and Sunburst. Each of them had a stack of textbooks beside them, and there was a picnic lunch spread out between them.

And they were apparently engaged in a tug-of-war over an apple.

"Is that... grr... the best you've got?" Sunburst snarled, his horn singing with power.

"Oh, ho!" Starlight replied, her voice tense with strain, "I'm just warming up! It... is... on!"

The two of them fought determinedly, neither giving an inch.

"What the hay?" Twilight said. "I thought they were friends?"

"Well, why don't you go ask them?" Discord suggested.

Twilight did so, trotting over to them. "Excuse me?"

"Twilight?" Starlight's eyes went wide...and she let go of the apple.

"Waughh!" Sunburst tumbled backwards, head-over-hooves. He landed heavily, upside down, with his wizard's cloak wrapped around his face. Then sitting up, he shoved aside his cloak, adjusted his spectacles... and stared, eyes goggling.

"Woah! You're Twilight Sparkle!" Quickly brushing off his cloak, he danced in excitement. "Starlight! It's Twilight Sparkle!"

"Yeah, I kinda got that. How are you, Twilight?"

"What?" Sunburst yelped. "You know her? You never told me, Starlight!"

"I... didn't wanna seem like I was showing off." Starlight shrugged. "Twilight's been kind enough to help me with my magic studies now and then."

Sunburst was speechless, in awe of the very idea.

"What's going on here?" Twilight demanded. "Why are the two of you fighting?"

"Oh, we're not fighting, Twilight," Starlight replied. "We're magic-wrestling! See, it helps Sunburst work on building up his reserves, and me... well, it helps me remember to keep a lid on my power. Seriously, Sunburst? If I'd wanted that apple, I'd have gotten it!"

Sunburst wasn't paying attention. He was staring at Twilight in utter fanpony rapture, nervously adjusting his spectacles. "Can I... have your autograph?" he asked. "I mean, if you wouldn't mind? Starlight and I are really big fans of you and your friends. Seriously, you're like, the Elements of Harmony and everything!"

"Well, sure..." Twilight said. "But first, I wanted to ask Starlight how things were going."

"Oh, like gangbusters, Twilight! You wouldn't believe it!" Starlight beamed. "Sunburst and I are working on a term project that's gonna blow away the class. Ahem, not literally, I mean. That is, if we can get hold of a reference work on apparition spells I've been looking for. Most of the good stuff is locked away in the Archives, and you don't get in there without being somepony pret-ty important." She grinned sheepishly. "I don't suppose... you might, uhh...?"

"Depends on the book," Twilight said carefully. "But sure, if I can lend a hoof, I want to."

"Thanks, Twilight," Starlight sighed. "You don't know how much it means to me, having such good friends. Yep! If it wasn't for you and Sunburst here... I just don't know what I'd be doing right now!"

"So... you're really happy here?" Twilight asked. "Going to classes, studying magic..."

"What kind of question is that? This is a dream come true, Twilight! Oh, yeah, sure, at some point I'm going to have to get serious, think about what I want to do with my life. But for right now..." She gazed around at the School grounds, at the other students trotting back and forth between classes. "I get to hang out with Sunburst, and soak up all the knowledge I can fit in my tiny pony mind. It just doesn't get any better than this!"

"I'm glad for you, Starlight," Twilight said. "I really want you to be happy."

"Something wrong, Twilight?" Starlight asked. "You look worried."

"No, nothing's wrong," Twilight assured her. "Nothing at all. I'm glad it's working out for you. Really, I am."

She willingly gave both of them her autograph, and got the title of the book Starlight was looking for. It didn't sound dangerous, but with Starlight's knack for improvisation, you never knew.

And then, saying goodbye, she trotted away disconsolately. Tempest followed along right beside her, and Discord ambled along behind them both at his own pace.

"How could I have been so blind, Tempest?" Twilight said. "I've been forcing each of you to be somepony you're not. How could I be so selfish?"

"Twilight..."

"And you worst of all!" Twilight looked up at her. "You've been following me around so selflessly, day and night, like my own personal bodyguard! I never really thought about that until now." She shook her head, a determined look on her face. "That's not right, Tempest! That's not right at all. You deserve better. All of you do!"

Twilight headed off back towards the portal. After a moment, so did Tempest.

And so did Discord... suppressing an overjoyed grin all the while.

------------------------------

Twilight stepped out of the portal, with Tempest and Discord right beside her.

And nopony else.

Because I'm the element of Friendship Magic, Twilight reminded herself. Friendship is Magic... it's one element, not two, just like Discord said. So there's no place for Starlight. Not even as my assistant...

"Hey there, Twi!" a cheerful voice called. "What'd you see over there?"

"Nothing much, Sunset."

"Sunset?" Applejack looked puzzled. "Who the hay is Sunset?"

"Oh... sorry, Applejack." Twilight shook her head. "I'm just... feeling a little frazzled right now."

"Well, I shouldn't wonder!" Rarity replied. "Popping in and out of other realities like that, over and over. No surprise you're feeling turned around, dearest." She held up her snout loftily. "Ponies just aren't made for galloping about so!"

"Speak for yourself, Sister!" Pinkie Pie stotted energetically. "I'm so wound up right now, I could bounce on a pogo stick all the way around Ponyville!" She grinned insanely. "Hey, what a great idea! 'Scuse me!" She blasted away through the front door, slamming it behind her.

"Um," Fluttershy offered, "maybe you should take a break, Twilight? That's what I'd do, if I felt I'd been overdoing it."

Discord grinned. "You should listen to this one, Twilight!" he said. "She is the element of Kindness, after all..."

Twilight nodded. "That's a good idea, Moon... I mean, Fluttershy. I'll just... be up in my room."

Turning, Twilight trudged away, up the stairs. Her hooves felt like lead weights. Her thoughts were whirling.

I don't know what I was thinking. This is how things are supposed to be, with each of my friends -- my friends from Ponyville -- having the Element that was meant for them all along...

Worried, Spike quickly moved to follow her. And so did Grubber... until an iron-armored hoof landed on his shoulder, forcefully holding him back.

"I think she wants some alone-time right now," Tempest warned.

Grubber glanced up at her, then nodded. "Yeah. You're probably right, boss..."

------------------------------

Reaching the top of the stairs, Twilight gazed around helplessly. It all felt so familiar: the loft bedroom insulated with books, the comfortable bed set by the oval window on the upper level.

And yet, at the same time, it wasn't familiar at all. It was totally new, like she'd never set hoof here before. And it didn't help, not in the least, that even so...

... it all felt so much like home.

"Twi? Are you okay?"

Twilight turned, and found Spike trotting into the room after her. Reaching out a hoof, she pulled him into a hug. "I don't know, Spike," she said quietly. "It's a really tough decision to make. So many ponies' lives depend on it."

"Huh. I didn't think it was even that close," Spike said. "After all, we're a team, right? You, me, Applejack, Pinkie Pie, Rarity, Fluttershy... even Tempest and 'ol Grubber. Yeah! Nothing can change that, right?"

"Oh, Spike..."

------------------------------

At the bottom of the stairs, Tempest turned to gaze round at the other ponies.

"Let's let Twilight be for a while." Her voice was cold and forbidding. Her tone brooked no contradiction. "We can pick this up again in the morning."

"Yeah... makes sense..." Applejack eyed the Commander nervously. The other ponies quickly nodded as well. None of them wanted to run afoul of Twilight's self-appointed guardian, with her decidedly touchy temper.

Tempest nodded curtly, then eyed Discord. "We can trust you to behave yourself until then?"

"Oh, of course!" he replied. He was suddenly dressed in a green sash and beret. "Filly guide's honor! Although," he added with a crafty grin, "just out of curiosity... what would you do if I didn't?"

Tempest's smile in return was cool and unruffled.

"Would you like to be mounted on the wall head up... or head down?"

Discord's smile disappeared. Grimacing, he glanced around. "I'll just... go find somewhere nice and quiet to be good for a while..." With a flash of chaos magic, he departed.

Grubber shook a fist at where he'd been standing. "Yeah, you better be good! Remember, she knows where you live!" Then he looked up at Tempest. "Uh, you do know where that is, right, boss?"

Tempest just smirked, pleased with herself.

Then she looked around at the other ponies, at their shocked expressions. "What?" she asked. "You have to draw the line with him somewhere..."

------------------------------

Early the next morning, Twilight was still in bed.

And Tempest was in the bath.

More precisely, it was an old laundry tub she'd dragged into the downstairs utility room she'd refitted as a makeshift guardroom. With her armor hanging on its rack nearby, Tempest sat in the tepid, soapy water, her face somber and pensive.

There was a flash of magic, and Discord suddenly appeared, wearing a shower-cap and towel and carrying a rubber duck. "... Winter wrap-up, winter wrap-up... Oh, ho! I'm so sorry! I didn't realize it was occupied."

Tempest merely glanced at him. "You just have no concept of personal space, do you?"

"Me? What about him?" He gestured at Grubber, standing at attention beside the tub with a large scrub-brush held in one paw.

"Him?" Tempest snorted. "He's hired help. He doesn't count."

"Yeah, that's right!" Grubber added. "I... wait, what?" He looked at Tempest worriedly.

"Interesting..." Discord casually glanced around. "You're here... and your armor is over there... which means..."

Tempest coolly held up a foreleg. There was a small metal band around her fetlock, glowing a fierce shade of green.

"I always wondered what this little bauble was for," she said icily. "And now I know. So don't get any ideas, Discord."

"Perish the thought!" Discord swatted at the lightbulb flitting about over his head like an errant moth. And then he joined Grubber in looking at Tempest in concern.

"She really does matter to you?" he said. "Twilight, I mean. It's not just an act, to land yourself a cushy job. You really would do anything to protect her."

Tempest flicked at the bathwater with a hoof. "It's who I am. I don't argue with it. I just try to live through it."

"Well," Discord said, "she's really so fortunate, you know. Having the one pony in all Equestria who can stop me dead in my tracks, as her own personal watchdog."

"Hardly matters now, does it?" Tempest said. "You've got her so wound up, so convinced she needs to do this. To let all of us go, out of a sense of personal responsibility -- out of friendship! Because that's what she's really good at." She sighed. "And I'll be gone, too. Off in some oh-so-wonderful alternate life." She smiled wryly. "I can even guess how you're going to do it."

"Well..." Discord said, uncertainly, "if that's how you really feel, why don't you speak up? Say something? She'd listen to you..."

"Because it's not my place, Discord!" Tempest glared at him. "I said I'd support her, whatever she thought was right, and I will. She deserves that from me!"

"How so?"

"Because she gave me back my life! She helped me to be something other than the pony I was turning into!" Tempest stared down at the bathwater, her breath hissing between her teeth. "So wherever she leads, I'll follow, whether I like it or not. I'm only her guardian, and if need be her bouncer. It's not for me to tell her what she should or shouldn't do." Then she tossed her hooves in frustration. "Oh, why do I even bother? It's something you just wouldn't get, Discord! You think it all revolves around you."

"But, but... it does all revolve around me! Well, no, let's be honest, that's not true. There are some things even I can't do. Though I try not to dwell on that. Takes all the joy out of life, really..."

He sighed, then stared at Tempest thoughtfully. "You know," he finally said, "I was right all along..."

His voice suddenly became sadly hollow.

"... you really are the Element of Loyalty..."

Looking unusually regretful, he vanished. And Tempest sat quietly for a while herself.

Then she snorted crossly.

"You going to stand there all day?"

"Ooop! Right, boss!" Grubber quickly wielded his brush and set to work scrubbing her back.

------------------------------

Later that morning, they were all gathered in the Library's main room, near the portal. Twilight and Tempest were standing together in front of it. Discord was standing off to the side, giving them some space.

"Applejack, you know what to do?" Tempest said sharply.

"Ah think so," the farm-pony replied. She was dressed in Tempest's armor and shoes. "If Discord gives us any grief, Rarity charges this puppy up, then I give him what for. But lordy, Tempest!" she added. "This thing weighs a ton! Feels like I got a cartload of apples on mah back. How do you manage it so easily?"

Tempest gestured at her broken horn. "All that unused magic had to go somewhere."

"Is that really necessary?" Discord complained.

Tempest looked at him. "Just so you know that we have a contingency plan."

"But you ponies have the Elements! You could turn me back into objet d'art any time you wanted to."

"I'll trust the magic I'm used to, thanks. It might be a little on the shady side, but it works."

Then Tempest felt a nudge at her foreleg. Looking down, she found Grubber staring up at her.

"What about me, boss?"

Tempest looked at Discord. "Him too," she said flatly.

"Are you sure?" Discord asked. "You might be disappointed. You know the kind of crowd he hung out with..."

"I can handle him." She smirked at the hedgehog. "He knows what's good for him. Don't you?"

"You bet, Tempest!" Grubber grinned. Then he faced forward, balling up his paws and scowling determinedly.

Tempest looked at Twilight. "Are you ready?"

"I should be asking you that," Twilight replied. "Are you sure about this, Tempest?"

"I trust you, Twilight." The larger pony nodded. "You'll make the right call. And, just so you know..."

Leaning closer, she whispered in her ear:

"I've never minded... not once."

Tempest nodded reassuringly, and Twilight managed a smile. Then, facing the portal, they stepped through together...

------------------------------

It was another small village, this one set in a valley amidst willow trees, pine forest on the hilltops all around it. The houses were organically styled, almost mushroom-shaped. Their sloping thatched roofs rose to tall chimney-spires, designed to keep live sparks from falling back and setting the thatch alight.

Running across the village square were three young unicorns: a cyan colt, a lime-green filly... and a familiar-looking maroon filly with a plume-like mane and tail. The three of them were tossing a ball back and forth with magic from their horns.

As they approached closer, Twilight blinked, startled. There were words floating before her in her vision, as she looked at each of the three children. According to the words, the colt was named Spring Rain, and the filly was Glitter Drops.

Twilight glanced up at >>> DISCORD!!! <<<, who looked innocent and twiddled his thumbs idly.

"... and I still can't believe you went in there!" Spring Rain was saying as the three children drew closer.

"You stood up to an Ursa!" Glitter Drops added. "I mean, get out! That took guts!"

"Right, guts. I was so incredibly brave." The maroon filly caught the ball with her magic, projected from her whole and undamaged horn. "So brave that as soon as I saw the yellow of its eyes, I grabbed the ball and got out of there. Urgh!" She shivered. "I'm never doing anything that stupid again."

The other ponies exchanged a guilty look. "We're sorry," Spring Rain said. "We shouldn't have made you go in there. You coulda got hurt, bad."

"I'm tough." Tempest shrugged. "I can take it. Maybe. But next time, one of you goes in there." She grinned. "I'll be waiting outside to catch you when you come running out screaming, like I did!"

The three of them giggled at that.

Tempest looked round, and caught sight of Twilight and Discord. Her eyes went wide.

"Go on ahead," she told her friends. "I'll catch up. There's a... grown-up over there I need to talk to."

"Is it somepony who's come to adopt you? Ouch!" Spring Rain winced as Glitter Drops punched him fiercely. "Sorry. We just know how much it means to you."

"Nah. It's just... somepony I know," Tempest said. "A county counselor, come to check up on me. Go on. I'll see you in a bit."

Willingly, the filly and colt took the ball in their magic and gamboled off together, tossing it back and forth.

And Tempest turned to smile up at Twilight.

"Hey, Twilight," she said.

"Hi, Tempest," Twilight replied.

"This is a bit of a switch, isn't it? I mean, now you're the B.S.B.F.F."

"Yeah... I guess I am. So, I gotta ask. Are you happy here?"

Tempest shrugged. "I've got my horn back. I've got my friends back. I've got my home back, such as it was. The Foal Center wasn't great, but they looked after me. I have no complaints."

"But are you happy?" Twilight insisted.

Tempest looked around.

"Yeah," she admitted. "I am. I'm happier right now than I can remember being, ever since... well, since this very day." She looked up at Twilight, and smiled. "Honest, Twilight. You don't have to worry about me. I'll be all right. But... you look after yourself, huh?"

"As best I can. With Spike and all the others..." She paused, then went on. "... I mean, all the others from Ponyville, helping me out."

"They're a good group of ponies. They'll back you up when you need it."

"Well..." Twilight glanced around, looking for something else to say so she didn't have to stop. "I really hope we run into each other again at some point. I have no idea when, or where, but..."

"Don't worry," the maroon filly said. "We're bound to run into each other, sooner or later. Now," she added, "gimme a hug like you're aching to. And then get outta here... before you have me crying, too."

Twilight did. Then she wiped her eyes and waved, as Tempest turned and galloped off, chasing after her friends. She kept on waving until the maroon filly was completely out of sight, in case she looked back. But she never did.

Then Twilight sighed.

"Let's go. We're done here. You win, Discord."

"I do?" he asked, surprised. "Just like that?"

"What do you want from me?" Twilight glared at him. "An award ceremony? You were right, I was wrong. Are you happy now?"

"Well..."

"Oh, come on. Let's go!" Turning, she stormed off, back toward the portal.

Discord just stared after her.

"Am I happy?" he asked, mostly to himself. "I suppose I must be. I won, after all." He scratched his antler, puzzled. "So why don't I feel it?"

Shrugging, he followed after Twilight, leaving the quiet picturesque village behind them...

...over which early afternoon stormclouds were just beginning to gather...

------------------------------

"So, that was cool," Rainbow Dash said, swooping out of the portal over Twilight's head. "Not sure I'd really call it awesome, though."

"I don't think any of us have been 'zactly won over," Applejack agreed. "The alternate lives we each saw were different, all right. Ah'm not sure I'd say they were better."

"Agreed," said Rarity, primly. "For example... if you'd had me staying at the Palace in Canterlot, making inroads with the nobility and becoming the talk of the town, or something like that, I might agree that would be a pretty nice change from life here. But that's just me. We all have our little pipe-dreams, I suppose..."

"I dunno," Pinkie Pie said, shrugging. "I'm happy pretty much anywhere there's whipped cream." So saying, she sprayed an overgenerous serving from a container into her mouth, smacking her lips messily. "Mmmm!"

"What do you think, Twilight?" Fluttershy asked timidly. "Did any of our alternate lives seem better to you?"

"I... haven't quite decided, Fluttershy," Twilight said. "I'll think it over, and let you all know."

"Well, whichever way this goes," Rarity said, "I assume this means Discord will be hanging around from now on?"

"Oh, I'll pop in," Discord said, breezily. "From time to time. Whenever I'm needed. Don't want to wear out my welcome."

"Uhhh..." Rainbow asked, "who gets to decide when you're needed, Discord?"

"Why me, of course!" Discord beamed. "After all, I should know when a little dash of chaos is just what the situation calls for!"

"A bad penny, and so forth?" Applejack quipped.

"Now really, Applejack!" Fluttershy said. "So far Discord has kept his word. He's been a perfect gentleman all along. He's willing to be reformed, just like Celestia asked, so we should be welcoming and hospitable in return."

"I'm just wonderin' when the other three shoes are gonna drop," Applejack said. Then she shrugged. "But you're probably right, Fluttershy. We should give him the benefit of the doubt. Not like he's caused much of a ruckus so far. Right, Twilight?"

"No," Twilight said quietly. "Not much at all."

"Okay, look, this was fun and all?" Rainbow said. "But I gotta get back to weather patrol. There were some stray stormclouds that needed corralling, and there'll be no unplanned rainstorms on my watch! See ya!" She blasted away through an open window, her rainbow contrail fading swiftly behind her.

"Ah better get back to the farm," Applejack said. "Got some trees that need buckin'. Lemme know what you decide, Twilight!"

"And I've got cakes to tend to!" Pinkie giggled. "I'm sitting for Pound and Pumpkin again! Yay!" Stotting happily, she headed out the door after Applejack.

"And I'll be over at the Carousel, Twilight, if you need me," Rarity said, trotting out the door herself.

Discord crooked his lion-paw elbow to Fluttershy. "May I walk you back to your cottage, m'dear?" he asked.

Fluttershy giggled. "I'd like that! I was going to check on Angel anyway. And we can chat on the way. I've been meaning to ask you... where exactly do you go when you disappear like that?"

"Well, Fluttershy, I have an alternate dimension of my own. Wonderful place to live, very chaotic. Of course, I haven't been there in a millennia, so it's probably gone all mend and measure in my absence. I'll have to re-chaos the place all over again..."

Fluttershy laughed as they strolled out through the door together.

And Twilight sighed. She turned, and went back upstairs to bed again.

This was going to take some getting used to.

------------------------------

"This is where you live?" Discord asked. He held up his claw and paw, framing his view, tilting his head this way and that. "I could have sworn it wasn't quite so... earthy. But my memory isn't what it used to be. I mean," he added hurriedly, "my memory of other places, other cottages similar to this, er... rococo whatsit, that I've seen in times past."

"I was fortunate it was available," Fluttershy said. "Since the cottage is so close to the Everfree, it was kind of abandoned. The town was happy to have somepony take it over and give it the care and attention it needed. It took a bit of work, but I made it a home... for myself, and all my dear little animal friends." So saying, she scooped up a squirrel with a hoof and nuzzled it happily.

"Hmmm..." Discord mused. "I was just thinking it could use a little, I don't know..." He waved his claw. "Touching up! A pony as kind and understanding as you are ought to live somewhere appropriate, like a grand estate or something. How about, ah..."

He snapped his claw. In a flash, the sod-roofed, birdhouse-dotted cottage was replaced by a towering, pillared mansion, with a white picket fence, a sweeping brick path, and trickling fountains.

Fluttershy put her hooves to her snout, gasping in surprise. "Oh, my!"

"What? Too much?" Discord quickly snapped again, and the cottage was back as it was -- to the great relief of the birds, who had been flittering about trying to figure out where their homes had gone.

"I'm so sorry, Fluttershy," Discord said, with an abject look. "I did promise not to let my magic get out of hoof. But it can be so difficult to remember at times. Lord of Chaos, and so forth! I forget stuff all the time." He looked somber. "In fact, sometimes I think I've forgotten far more than I'll ever really know..."

"It's okay," Fluttershy said, relieved. "Your heart was in the right place."

"You won't... tell them about this, will you?"

"Of course not!" Fluttershy giggled. "It was a wonderful joke!"

"Joke?" Discord stared at her, offended.

"Why, yes! So long as you put things back the way they were, and don't hurt anypony, who minds a little prank now and then? And you do it so easily! With Pinkie Pie, there's always some cleanup after."

"Well, I... uh..." Discord came to a halt, thoroughly flummoxed. "You're very understanding, my dear," he finally said.

"It comes with the territory -- Element of Kindness, and so forth! Come on in. I'll make some tea, and we can chat a bit." She looked concerned. "Unless there's somewhere else you have to be?"

"Hmmm!" Discord said, haughtily. "Let me just check my calendar..." He hauled out his ten-thousand year calendar, perused it briefly, then made the twenty-ton stone disc vanish. "Nope! I'm completely free for the next few decades."

"Oh, good! Come along then. I want to check on Angel."

Discord watched as the butter-colored pegasus trotted contentedly away, up the dirt path to her front door. There was a relieved, distracted smile on the draconequus's face. Then he glanced over his shoulder in the direction of Canterlot Mountain.

With an evil leer.

He pumped his lion paw in victory.

"Ye-ee-sss! You didn't think I could pull it off, did you? Ha! In your face, Celestia!"

Then he turned and marched away, proudly and triumphantly, after Fluttershy.

To Be Continued...

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, its characters and indicia are the property of Hasbro.
No infringement is intended. This story is a work of fan fiction, written by fans for fans of the series.

Author's Note:

Next week... the conclusion.

(POOF!)
Oh, come on! That's supposed to be some sort of teaser for next week's episode? We can do better than that. Will Twilight Sparkle settle down and enjoy her new life in quiet little Ponyville? Will she undo all of Discord's hard work giving her friends better lives, by trying to get them all back? Will there be tea and cucumber sandwiches? Will Discord ever stop talking about himself in the third person? I don't know about you, but I want to find out, so see you next week! TTFN!
(POOF!)

Comments ( 32 )

Oo, new story. Time to start reading.

"I'm just wonderin' when the other three shoes are gonna drop," Applejack said.

...over which early afternoon stormclouds were just beginning to gather...

Well, I've found at least one of them. And I can't help but notice a running trend of showing only the past. Cue the butterflies...

loved it using the canon six in such a way that their friendship is devastating to twilight and ironically discord as well it actually refreshing to have this kind of story where the antagonist wins, even if this is only the first part of the story

Well, that was depressing.

Poor Discord . .
Imagine waking up in a reality and realizing he has lost fluttershy.
She was the one who kept him on the good side, so of course he
will:
a.) not be bound by that anymore
b.) try to get her back for himself.

no. matter. what.

Well he's the Question, yes Discord gave them better lives but he really prove they where inferior as the elements? Just because they where diffrent doesn't mean they where better or worse for the positions. Discord also feels guilt for what he did, likely because it was unessicary fr him to do so. The irony here is in his attempt to avoid reforming he has gone an reformed himself. I don't think Discord can escape the guilt of undoing to alternate elements like he did, because he didn't need too because duh Multiverse!

Oh, Discord.

Reality has a nasty way of backlashing when you pull it out of a rut and try and stick it into an already occupied space.

Besides, if you REALLY wanted that happy life with Fluttershy, you could have just gone and made friends. A nice, peaceful life for your favorite pony instead of getting yanked along on adventure after adventure...where she'd have been a very happy pegasus.

And you too.

RDT

Trust Discord to be the dimension hopper.

I have no idea how this connects to the canon timeline, or how it works with all of these alternate realities...

Neg

I dunno why, but for some reason, this outcome is kind of distressing. Maybe because there feels like an inherent wrongness to the way Twilight's friends all reacted to where they were, especially when most of them only seemed to take into account the modified version of history, including their personal history with Twilight, when speaking with her... thus seeming like they weren't left with anything to compare it to... Tempest in particular felt especially off to me, given her spiel in the scene before her trip through Discord's Bullshit Funhouse Portal of Magic and Wonders™...

10785402
You summed up my own thoughts as well. I really don't think Tempest would say she had never been happier. That seemed so... Odd for her.

10785432
10785402
Bear in mind that, throughout, Tempest has had a somewhat privileged perspective thanks to her armor, which blocks Discord's influence on her. So unlike the others, she does recall who's been replaced, and (at least briefly) retains enough of a recollection of her broken-horned life to make the comparison. But being the "Element" of Loyalty here puts her in the unenviable position of having to choose: between defending her closest friend, and accepting and supporting her friend's judgement. Loyalty isn't just about not letting your friends down; sometimes it's about accepting and supporting their decisions even when you personally object to them.

10785521
Thanks -- that has been a minor theme in these stories, showing how a group that has been prepared/informed/organized all along fares against some of the same challenges. But the AP team does have its weaknesses. The previous story, Meet The Sparkles, touches on a few of them. And for all his short-sighted capriciousness, Discord does have a knack for zeroing in on the lynchpin that will cause the maximum disruption: in this case Twilight Sparkle and her laser-focus on Friendship and doing right by her friends.

10785072
Thanks! And I really appreciate the detailed feedback -- it helps, knowing what works and what doesn't. And yes, I am starting to put a few more of my cards on the table for this series, since this isn't meant to be simply a retread of the canon timeline (though it's informed/influenced by it)...

Something just occurred to me. the mirror produced the most idealic, perfect little world for all who enter it and the only one who wouldn't be affected would be Twilight being specifically omitted as an observer. Discord is now also in his own perfect little idealic world and has yet to encounter any actual pushback. No fight = No sport = No fun for Discord (or anyone for that matter). Welcome to apathy, you can kill yourself now:pinkiecrazy:

10785524
Loyalty also includes noticing and preventing your friends from destroying themselves. Which Twilight has been doing since Cheese left.

10785542
Well, there's Twilight's weakness. If you can convince her that she is a hinderance to her friends or the ideals of friendship she will self destruct to "right" the (misidentified) wrong.

She also didn't complete the study. The next step would be to record their responses under Discord's influence, reset everything back to how it was before Discord intervened, and discuss what she saw and heard with each of them individually. Then as a group, discuss the results, the experiment, the variables, and determine a conclusion.


I'll go out on a limb here and say the dark clouds are twilight losing it.
Either she goes complete Midnight or she asks Discord if he can take her memories of the ones she lost away.
Which will both make Discord have to realize how he wronged them and put it back to the way it was before.
Meaning also he will have to say goodbye to Fluttershy. Again. And no take backs this time around.

Ah Discord, inflicting existential philosophy on innocent ponies. Why you gotta be like this?

And can I just mention how ironic it is for Discord to be insisting on a singular correct answer?

10785550
No problem. I recently had to read a story where the writer retconned a key piece of lore via exposition dump, so it was nice to have something more concrete this time around.

I intend to go over the later stuff if I can (since I've speed read most of it yesterday) but not all of my notes are related to the writing, and honestly there's a lot to unpack there. Some of these chapters are pretty comprehensive.

10785602
My only guess is, something something Storm King. Didn't see the movie or comics, though, so I could be wrong...

10786163
me neither, but from what i pieced together it was just tempest being actually successfull because he promised her to fix her horn that made him somewhat dangerous. And that wasn't even him. Technically he was the main villain, but the main danger only was Tempest.
No broken horn, no Tempest needing him and being basically the pony version of john rambo . .

Now im depressed....

Before I even start this, I just want to say I appreciate you breaking it out into multiple, digestible chapters, instead of 1 mega-chapter.

10787610
Yes, with this one I was debating how to split it up, since giving each pony their proper time in the spotlight means it runs on the long side. I eventually decided to split it up like one of the cliffhanger two-parter episodes (in particular, The Return of Harmony Part1/2), since that's basically the structure here.

I can see a couple ways this could turn on Discord, but my instinct says that his error is that there's eight of them. (And a half.)

I love this alternate universe you have created so far.

However there is a bit of conundrum with Sunset. In the Equestria girl show and in the comics it's hinted several times that Celestia learned and altered her way of teaching after Sunset betrayal. This of course effected Twilight as well as when she became Celestia next Star Pupil. Celestia had seen what would happen to a pony whom didn't connect with others and made no friends. So she made it sure it wouldn't happen to her next pupil.

For example one of those hints was in "forgotten friendships" where Sunset said. "Celestia with a sense of humor, who knew." There are many more of those subtle hints such as those I noticed. But it is clear Celestia taught Twilight in a different way then Sunset.

10792858
That can be seen here as well, though in a somewhat different way. In Sunset Part I, Celestia tells Sunset about the approaching Nightmare straight out, which as a result causes Sunset to isolate herself in her determination not to let her mentor down. Sunset's ultimate breakdown and departure through the mirror causes Celestia to realize she's been both too open and too strict. She's more cautious with Twilight as a result: allowing her to assemble herself a solid set of friends before Celestia even begins telling the group what their ultimate goal is. This differs of course from the canon timeline, where Celestia simply tells Twilight nothing, and trusts that her talent for friendship will help her see how to rekindle the Elements. So, in a way, Nightmare Moon did Twilight a favor, by putting her in a position where Celestia (with Sunset's advice) felt able to reveal the truth in time for the group to make plans.
:twilightsmile:

10793097
I'm talking about this new Timeline in this story. Sunset never rebelled so there is no motivation for Celestia to chance the way she did in the canon line or the time line before Discord messed it up with his little challenge, thus Twilight teaching would be different again. However this time it can have serious consequences.

Also her confrentation with each of her now former element bearers is also important for Twilight growth as a character which was already shown in your pre discord time line. Trixie especially had an effect of Twilight as her 1st "rival" cannon time line. So it's even possible she won't be able to handle the next tests Celestia will place on her. The crystal kingdom.

Just food for taught really. :twilightsmile:

10793190
Sunset didn't rebel in anger, true, but in her "Discorded" timeline she did essentially rebuke Celestia's approach by saying "I'm not the one". Which causes Celestia to rethink her approach, so she's careful to not place so much pressure on Twilight.

And with the Crystal Empire, canon Twilight did technically "fail" her test, in that she wasn't able to retrieve the Crystal Heart herself, so Spike wound up the Hero of the Empire. But, good teacher that she is, Celestia recognized the selflessness of Twilight's solution.

Changes in one's past can affect outcomes of present events, but if they don't really alter who one is at heart, they might not have the effect on the future that one might think.

10794129
Yes, precisely, there is no other correct word other than “think” to use there. :twilightsmile:

Sure, they have "better" lives.
But the APG have been friends longer.
So their bond is stronger than Mane Six.
Mane Six achieve that maximum bond faster of course but I feel as if APG have a higher bond potential.

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