• Published 1st Nov 2021
  • 1,739 Views, 64 Comments

And I Hope You Die - Aquaman

“I’m not making you do anything, Flurry," Cozy murmured. “I’m giving you a choice. Me or your empire. And we both know what the right call is.”

  • ...

Blink Before I Do

Fight back!”

Cheek stinging and ego bruised even deeper, Flurry spun around and faced Cozy Glow again, dripping with sweat and sucking in shallow breaths that barely kept her upright. The air in the tiny space they occupied was stuffy enough to be stifling, and the dismissive look Cozy gave her across the pads on the sparring dojo’s floor was enough to spur Flurry forward and put a bit of extra strength into her next swing. She never even got close to making contact. Cozy swatted her outstretched hoof again and smacked her on the back of the head hard enough to make her vision go blurry.

“Stars above, is this really the best you can do?” Cozy growled at her. Her tone wasn’t sour enough for her words to qualify as a taunt. Instead, she sounded disappointed, like a mother scolding her foal for not applying herself in school, and that hurt so much more than any insult ever could. Flurry growled, streamed forward again, and bit her lip hard enough to draw blood as Cozy slammed her down to the ground.

“Not even close!” Cozy snapped, circling around her adversary and already preparing for another blow. “You’re better than this. You call yourself a monarch, and you can’t even…”

Suddenly, Cozy stopped, standing stock-still and cutting herself off in mid-sentence. She’d noticed that Flurry hadn’t gotten back up. She’d seen that the droplets splattering onto the mats below her weren’t sweat anymore, but tears.

I know,” Flurry said through gritted teeth, her eyes squeezed shut and her whole body shaking. “I know I’m not good enough, or strong enough, or… I’m trying. So just shut up about it, okay?”

Somehow, hearing that wiped the dismay from Cozy’s face, replacing it with something that also looked like confusion. “You’re not… what?” she said. “You think you’re not good enough? Are you kidding me?”

Flurry managed to stand up, but it took just about every scrap of energy she had left. She couldn’t keep doing this. She couldn’t keep struggling through these hoof-to-hoof combat sessions that Cozy had talked her into weeks ago, the brutal and exhausting beatdowns that she couldn’t even explain why she still subjected herself to, except that Cozy wanted to try this with her and she wanted to try whatever Cozy wanted. But that wasn’t what Cozy reminded her of next.

“Flurry, do you have any idea how easily you could kill me?”

Still gasping for breath, Flurry couldn’t put enough air in her lungs to respond, nor could she have found the right words to respond with even if she’d been able to say them. Cozy relaxed out of her fighting stance and approached her, still visibly baffled by what her opponent had just admitted. “You’re a natural-born alicorn, Flurry. The first ever, as far as anypony alive knows. You have enough magic in half a hoof to rip me into pieces and cook my brains inside my skull, and you think you’re not strong enough? What are you talking about?”

Flurry sighed. She could feel her face warming, both from her echo of her previous actions through her body and her belated recognition of why Cozy had insisted they come here three times every week, and why she’d answered every complaint with an assurance that self-defense was just a modern mare’s responsibility to learn.

“You keep fighting like the rules apply to you,” Cozy continued. “Like if you use your real strength to beat me instead of sparring like you’re supposed to, some unknowable higher power will chew you out for not fighting fair. There is no fair way to fight. There are no rules to the battles you’ll have to win if you want to rule anything well. There’s just who survives, and who doesn’t.”

“I don’t want to hurt you,” Flurry said, unable to keep her voice from sounding a lot like a whimper. Cozy rolled her eyes and huffed out an impatient sigh.

“I’m not gonna give you a choice,” she replied. “Nopony worth fearing will, no matter what your mom or your aunt or anypony else tells you. And if you try to fight fair anyway, if you try to be kind and smart enough that the world has to be kind and smart back, you’ll lose. The world will eat you alive. And if it doesn’t, you’ll do things by accident that are worse than anything your enemies could do on purpose.”

Suddenly exhausted, Flurry slumped onto her haunches and let her weight fall onto her forelegs. Instead of attacking, Cozy just trotted closer, until she was near enough to put a hoof on Flurry’s shoulder.

“Flurry, I know I can’t beat you in a real fight. Nothing on this planet could. But none of that matters if you don’t believe you can beat me, if you don’t own who you are and use it for the right reasons. That’s what the rest of your family couldn’t do. It’s why they sent me to Tartarus and sealed me in stone: because they didn’t want to be as strong as they knew they could be. You’re stronger than them, you’re more capable than them, and stars help me, I’m not gonna let you think anything different.”

Cozy dropped her hoof a few inches and propped it under Flurry’s chin, pushing up until the alicorn met her unblinking gaze.

“You’re a Princess. You run this place. Now act like it.”