• Published 3rd Sep 2021
  • 374 Views, 52 Comments

Kindness and the Fate of Shadow - Raven-Flight



An old threat is back, leading Fluttershy and Discord to confront their plans for the future. They've each been keeping secrets...

  • ...
1
 52
 374

Perfected Balance

There was a loud pop, then four voices spoke simultaneously. One said “Eep!”, two said “Daddy!”, and the last said “What they hay just happened?”

To the latter, Discord explained: “I burst the previous reality like a bubble to drop us down into the next. Thought it would be more fun than a standard teleport.” And he reached out to catch his leaping foals, only he caught them not in his arms as usual, but in a butterfly net he had swiftly conjured. “What an interesting pair of specimens I’ve caught flitting about the garden,” he exclaimed as he held his dangling, giggling foals up before his eyes.

Applejack was slowly turning in a circle in an attempt to get her bearings, while Fluttershy’s lips pressed into a firm line as she regarded the two watering cans discarded by Fio and Corey that were now spilling their contents onto the ground.

“We were tending our family garden,” muttered the pegasus.

“Apologies, my dear.” Discord set the foals down and hung the watering cans on each of their horns. “My Welwitschia doesn’t need tending and I’ve scheduled a regular localized mist for the fern, so neither of my plants will require attention. Would you like me to arrange similar automated care for all the other plants, to spare you the extra work?”

Fluttershy’s voice remained in a low mutter. “The point of the extra work was cooperative family bonding time. Just like you to manufacture a shortcut.”

There was a silence then, except for the foals enthusiastically trying to show the newcomer their plants. But her attention was elsewhere.

“Uhh...”

“Oh, sorry Applejack! With all that commotion, I forgot to say hello!” Fluttershy put on a bright face and gave her friend a quick hug. “What brings you to our little garden?”

Discord piped up. “The Wonderbolts performed over Ponyville today and Applejack came to see it. Then I thought I could spare her from her train ride to visit you-know-who tomorrow and brought us straight back here.”

Fluttershy’s eyes shifted to the horizon as her mask of cheer dropped. “I was asking Applejack.”

Applejack gave an awkward cough. “Right, well, it’s pretty much just like he said. I hadn’t seen Discord’s show yet, and it was really something. You really outta go see it for yourself, sometime, Fluttershy! I’ll even watch the foals one evening for ya! But anyhow, it’s gettin’ to be sunset, and I guess I’ll head over to Rarity’s for the night.”

“Good evening then, Applejack.” Fluttershy turned to Fio and Corey. “Come now, little ones, it’s time to head inside!”

Applejack leaned closer to the draconequus who still stood beside her. “Say, Discord, how’s about you come have dinner with me an’ Rarity, if Fluttershy can spare ya? I know she ain’t expectin’ the extra company, but she won’t mind. She’s been dyin’ to ask you about those fancy frocks you conjured up the other day.”

Discord glanced over at his mate, who was herding two reluctant foals toward the door into the house. “I dunno, I...”

“Hey, Fluttershy!” Applejack decided to spare him the trouble. “Mind if I borrow Discord for the evenin’?”

She didn’t even turn around to face either of them. “Uh-huh, sure, take him for as long as you want.” And she stepped into the house and closed the door behind her.

“Sorry about that, Discord. I was gettin’ a feelin’ that Fluttershy might want some space. You don’t mind headin’ to Rarity’s with me, do ya?”

Discord sighed, deflating until he was no more than a pathetic, shrunken scrap lying on the ground. “No, I think you’re right,” admitted the scrap. “I’m not wanted at home this evening.”

By the time Rarity opened her front door, Discord had gotten himself together enough to enjoy startling the unsuspecting unicorn backward onto her haunches. “So, what’s for dinner?” he asked as he levitated into Rarity’s home to investigate without waiting for an answer.

“Sorry to impose,” whispered Applejack to her marefriend. “I thought Discord might be in need of some extra company, and he wasn’t gonna be gettin’ it at home, I’m afraid.”

Rarity took a moment to consider the implications of that statement as she and Applejack turned into the house. “...Perhaps we should encourage him to talk it out, if it’s really that sort of problem.”

“My thoughts exactly,” agreed Applejack, with a nuzzle to Rarity’s cheek.

“Aww, how sweet,” Discord broke into their moment. “It appears that date I arranged last week did you two some good!”

“It certainly did,” agreed Rarity. “As a matter of fact, I’ve been wanting to tell you what a marvelous job you did on that, but such is a conversation best had over dinner, and I’m afraid I wasn’t expecting company this evening.”

A rolled-up newspaper materialized to rap Discord on the head. “Why, how rude of me to barge into your home without bringing even the slightest offering of goodwill! Dinner’s on me!” At that, he stretched himself into the shape of a table, fashioned a clean, white tablecloth around his neck like a cape, and bent down to stand on four legs. Three silvery plants sprouted down the length of the tablecloth and bloomed into covered dishes, and then Applejack and Rarity were each scooped up by a scampering chair and carried over to the tableside. “Bon apetit,” invited Discord.

Under the plate coverings lay steaming dishes of elegantly-garnished ravioli, stuffed with whipped sweet potato and spiced with a mystery concoction that reminded the ponies of Zebrican fares. Discord held a triple-spouted pitcher in his bat wing and poured three streams of resplendent juice onto the table—only the liquid didn’t spill into a puddle, but stood itself erect in the shapes of three empty chalices. One chalice levitated to the side of each plate, and drinking from them required some concentration, for with every sip, the rim of the chalice would descend as the “vessel” was shortened. The drink itself was deliciously inscrutable, with a flavor that had all the balm and none of the bite of mint.

“I do believe I was about to receive a few compliments…?” suggested Discord when they were all situated.

Rarity watched aghast as Discord’s mismatched horns bent down to grasp the silverware and lift bites of food up to his mouth. Then she shook her head to better compose herself to answer him. “Yes, right. What I wanted to tell you was, that evening, what you did to my dining room—why, it was divine, darling! Simply divine.”

A wan smile lifted half of Discord’s face. The compliment was somewhat tarnished by the ironic term of endearment. Such words would be more welcome from his mate than his friend. He brushed it off. “Divine? Perhaps you didn’t realize that I’m a deity. Everything that I do is divine by definition!”

Rarity’s eyes darted briefly down the length of their odd—divine—dining table. “Yes, ah, of course. What I mean is, I’m in the fashion industry, and I’m perfectly steeped in matters of design and aesthetic. I know what’s good and what’s not, and that décor you summoned! I’ve never encountered a design for anything so impeccably suited to serve its intention! I’m sure just about nopony could resist falling in love in that kind of ambiance, and for Applejack and I...”

Discord noticed the other mare slide her hat down her face to cover a blush.

“Well,” continued Rarity, “I needn’t go into all that. But those dresses! Those utterly incandescent dresses! I was, I mean, I was just—I was just speechless! Those dresses were pure poetry, such as only a mind of the most delicate sensibilities, the most subtle genius could compose. For as long as I’ve known you, Discord, I had no idea you were capable of such sublime expression!”

Discord laughed. By that point, his face was glowing—literally—with delight. “You had no idea only because I choose not to express that side of myself very often. Not quite ‘on-brand’ for a chaos lord, you see. But my capacity for beauty is still as much a part of me as chaos, believe it or not!”

“Well, I would not have believed it if you’d have said that at any time before, but after that enchanted afternoon you put together for us, I have no doubt of it. Though I’m not sure I understand what beauty might have to do with chaos. In any case, thank you for what you did for Applejack and me. It was beautiful, undeniably, and I think I’m finally starting to understand what it is that Fluttershy’s seen in you and your chaos all this time.”

Discord’s glow immediately went out, and while his eyes were averted downward, Rarity cast her silently-shocked marefriend a wink.

“Discord, darling, is something the matter?”

What remained of dinner, as well as the dishes and tablecloth, all evaporated, and Discord coiled himself into a defensive heap facing the two mares. He muttered under his breath.

Rarity took a step toward him. “Come again?”

“I wish that were still true, what you said about Fluttershy,” he grumbled, just loud enough to be understood.

Rarity looked over her shoulder at Applejack, who finally figured out what her marefriend was doing. Walking closer herself, Applejack laid a comforting hoof on Discord’s arm. “There’s something goin’ on between you and Fluttershy, ain’t there?”

“I don’t know what happened,” he wailed. “One day, she tells me how committed she is to me, and the next, she’s all irritable and wants nothing to do with me! I’ve tried giving her space, I’ve tried offering extra support and affection, but all I ever get anymore is the cold shoulder!”

Applejack exchanged a worried glance with Rarity, then lowered her voice. “She’s not, uh, havin’ another foal, ya think?”

“No,” croaked Discord. “I checked. Aside from that, I don’t know what it could possibly be! Have I done something wrong?”

“Well, have ya tried askin’ her?”

“No, not directly. She kept deflecting when I tried.”

“Maybe you should try again,” added Rarity. “I know firsthoof communication can be painful at times,” and here she turned a sad smile toward Applejack, “but the only way to get around the pain is to insist on meeting it directly. You’ll both be better off if you get a better understanding of what’s going on inside each others’ heads.”

With that, Discord started bawling. Rarity and Applejack were utterly at a loss, so the former trotted off to retrieve tissues while the latter was left to awkwardly pat the weeping beast’s shoulder. Discord accepted a tissue when he’d calmed down enough to notice it was being offered. The airhorn honk that was the draconequus blowing his nose startled both ponies into the air. Their reaction gave him just the barest giggle, and it was enough to bring him back into the present.

“Terribly sorry about all that.” Discord blew his nose again, watched the mares jump again, and half-giggled again. “I suppose you are right, though. If talking to Fluttershy is now the only way I’m going to know what’s on her mind, then that’s what I’ll settle on doing.”

Applejack spent a moment trying to parse the odd wording of his conclusion, but could make nothing of it. She was already on another train of thought. “Discord, if ya don’t mind my asking, how long has this been goin’ on?”

“A month or two, I guess.”

“So about when Sombra’s ‘reformation’ was startin’, ya think? Might that have something to do with it? Fluttershy’s anxiety flarin’ up again, maybe?”

Sombra. Discord shot up, all trace of tears erased, standing stiff. Before either of the mares could ask what the matter was, he blurted “I’m rather tired of all this chatter. Who’s up for dessert?”

After the custard appeared, every attempt Applejack or Rarity made to bring up the subject of Discord’s relationship distress again was swiftly shut down or flat-out ignored. “I’ll talk to her,” was all he would say.


Sombra looked down his nose at the pile of pink on the floor. It giggled.

“No, really,” continued Pinkie Pie, standing and launching herself into another dizzy twirl. “I’ve never known a truer laugh in my whole entire life! I mean, friendship and laughter already go hoof-in-hoof, so imagine that but at the next level!”

He watched the mare, who was too blinded in her ecstasy to care much about gravity, fall over again. “And what is the takeaway you expect me to gain from this lesson today, may I ask?”

“Oh, I don’t even know! I was sorta hoping you’d just laugh along with me!” When the stallion failed yet again to laugh, Pinkie calmed herself down and stood up once again. “Huh. I guess you just don’t have the experience yet to know what I’m talking about. Well, I hope you fall in love too someday, Sombra—real love, I mean! Requited love! It’s just the best.” The pink geyser erupted in another fit of giggling.

Sombra managed to roll his eyes while the mare wasn’t looking. Then he forced a chuckle. “You’ve convinced me, Pinkie. Real love is something worth working for, if it means I get to laugh as hard as you do.”

“That’s the spirit! Don’t worry; it’ll happen to you before you know it, and then you’ll look back to this moment when I made myself look all kinds of ridiculous in front of you, and you’ll understand what it was about, and then you’ll laugh so hard you won’t know what to do with yourself!” Pinkie Pie bounced toward the door. “Okie-dokie, I think that’s lesson enough for now! I’ve got somepony to go see, you know!”

With a final wink and bounce, the candy-colored commotion was gone. Sombra finally relaxed the muscles in his face. The book was sitting on the desk, six entire steps across the room. When he reached it, he painstakingly flipped through the pages until he found his folded leaf of notes. Then he had the troublesome task of opening the leaf in his hooves and pressing it flat for reading. The total effort of getting back to what he had been doing took far longer than Sombra would have preferred.

The astronomy book lay open to the chapter on the origin of the universe. “Matter and anti-matter,” read Sombra from his notes. “Out of their unresolved conflict spiraled all the universe. Perfected balance can only result in self-annihilation.” Harmless contemplation. Notes on which Twilight, upon inspection, had not commented.

“Perfected balance...” Sombra’s eyes screwed shut. He held the object in his mind. Took the feel of it again, physically and magically, summing up its essence.

“Is...” Sweat dampened his furrowed brow.

“Annihilation.”

Clank. The enchanted shackle lay open on the floor.

Aahhhh,” sighed the stallion as purple wisps of flames leaked from his eyes. On the desk, an open book. In the air before him, encased in purple glow, an open book. A closed book. A book fanning its pages before his eyes. “Much better!”

After a few more experimental spell casts, the defeated magic dampener levitated back onto Sombra’s horn. Then he launched himself onto his bed, and he laughed.

“To your laugh of love, Pinkie, I raise my laugh of victory! How does it compare?” Then he pictured her sweet teal eyes, doting, pleading. “No matter, for I shall have my laughs of both sorts.”

Real love, indeed. Yes, the pink one hadn’t guessed it, but he was familiar. He could recall the taste of her lips, so recently refreshed, a taste of sweet fruits deeply ripened and of victory. The softness of her fragile body beneath his hot muscle—the way his plan was going, perhaps that, too, was a sensation soon to be refreshed. If his hunger for, mastery over her was not real love, he didn’t know what was. They’d already had two beautiful foals together, after all.

Only two? Once they finally started their proper life together, he was certain she’d be more than willing to have some more. And all of them infused from the womb with dark magic. Perhaps the shadow pony race wasn’t so doomed after all!

Deep and savory was Sombra’s laughter.