• Published 1st Nov 2021
  • 1,740 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.”

  • ...

Hand in Unlovable Hand

From exactly one thousand, one hundred and six feet in the air, the Crystal Empire looked like it was doing pretty well. The castle grounds were open to the public again, and a few extra attachments of guards had done enough to make the city’s residents feel safe strolling through on lunch breaks and showing their kids around on weekends. The tourists and ambassadors from afar would return in time. After all, it had only been a month since a full-blown terrorist attack, and diplomatic relations were still testy in some places after that disaster of a reception at Flurry Heart’s coronation the previous year.

“Hey there, ladybug,” came a soft voice from behind where Flurry stood, at the edge of the landing atop her castle’s tallest tower. Princess Twilight Sparkle of Equestria stepped up to the balustrade next to her niece, using the pet name she’d settled on years before and never quite gotten around to giving up. “Quite the view up here, huh?”

The ponies of the Empire had barely been unfrozen for a minute —and in a few cases, rushed to hospitals for belated but ultimately effective treatment—before they had swarmed around their Princess, knowing without asking that they owed their salvation to whatever heroism she’d performed while they were trapped and unaware. They’d asked her what had happened, who had attacked them, and was she feeling okay, because she looked a little strange and seemed a little quiet. She’d told them they were safe, and that the Crystal Heart had been restored.

“I heard about what happened. I’m sorry. I really, truly am. I can’t imagine how hard that was to go through. I’m sure you did everything you could.”

And it had been restored in every way that mattered, despite the grumblings of older Crystallian subjects with a lingering affection for the Heart’s original shape. It had actually been a heart under Cadance, some had taken to muttering, and not whatever metaphorical modern art her daughter had transformed it into: some ugly mess of spiny crystal shards that only sort of looked like a pony if you squinted at it from the right angle.

“Sometimes being a Princess is like this. I wish I had a better way of saying it, but… it’s the truth. Sometimes you have to make choices that nopony should ever have to make. And sometimes none of the options feel right.”

And on top of that, there was the matter of its new location, and how inaccessible it was to just about anyone but the Princess herself. Sure, the Heart was sensitive to damage and necessary to protect them, but more than a few ponies wondered whether the Princess really had to put it at the very tip of her castle’s tallest spire, so far away from the ground that—even if you squinted—you couldn’t see that what some ponies considered a gaudy self-portrait actually had much smaller wings than the Princess did, or that none of the spikes comprising its head was large enough to resemble a horn.

“I remember fighting Tirek… being forced to choose between my friends and the magic of all the Princesses. I remember thinking that either way, I wouldn’t be able to live with myself afterwards. Either way, I was sacrificing something I couldn’t bear to give up.”

But even the new Crystal Heart’s aesthetic detractors couldn’t deny its practical effects—how much more brightly it shone now than before, and now much more energy it provided the city that depended on it. And if they had other questions about what exactly Flurry had done in that infinitesimal gap in time, and what she’d done with whoever had caused all this trouble, and why there’d been no body or even a newly occupied cell in the darkest corner of a dungeon, they just had to live with them. The Princess wasn’t answering those questions. The Princess just told them to trust her, and… well, what else were they going to do? She had saved them, after all.

“But afterwards, I realized that the important thing wasn’t what I chose in the moment, but the fact that I did choose. I wasn’t paralyzed by the weight I had to take on. I did the most important thing for a Princess to do: what I thought was right.”

And yet, there were still questions, still half-formed memories that Flurry had yet to resolve into facts. Had Cozy used the Heart’s magic to tug Flurry’s hoof down, or had Flurry killed her all by herself? Had their last kiss—delicate, breathless, marred by the tastes of copper and salt—been an apology, or just a bitter farewell? When the light had faded from Cozy’s eyes and the warmth from her parted lips, had the Crystal Heart rejected its old shape of its own volition, or had Flurry directed the shards to envelop the fallen pegasus and bind together around the final vessel for the magic of an empire?

“And I’m sure you did too. Even though… even with the way it ended. Sometimes there’s just no other way. I learned that the hard way too.”

Maybe all her memories were real, or perhaps none of them. Maybe she had imagined that a mentally ill, misanthropic war criminal had a specific reason for terrorizing her subjects and torturing her. Maybe that reason was the only thing she had left of the only pony she’d ever truly loved.

“I just… I want you to know that I understand. Maybe better than anypony else ever could. And no matter what, I know that you’re a good pony, and that you made the best choice possible.”

Or maybe it didn’t matter what the truth was. Maybe at the end of the day, all that mattered was that she was the one telling it. That she was the one who could protect her subjects in ways that nopony else could. That she was the one in control.

“Flurry? Ladybug, you can talk to me if you want. Are you doing okay? Really?”

Flurry Heart smiled, and answered the question she’d just been asked.

“I’m fine,” she said. “Thanks for stopping by, Twilight.”

With a nod, Flurry Heart spread her wings and took off into the air, leaving her fellow Princess blinking mutely in her wake.