• Published 22nd Oct 2012
  • 21,530 Views, 2,189 Comments

Exit Through Canterlot - TheBrianJ



Octavia pursues a new path in life, a path where symphonies are composed with cans of spray paint.

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17. It Ends...

"Geez," Vinyl said. "Community service, and you're not gonna be able to perform for a few months? That sucks."

"'Sucks' is certainly one way of putting it," Octavia replied. She took a sip of her water, then laid her head back on the couch. "All I can be thankful for is that I'm avoiding jail time."

Vinyl sat down and patted her friend on the shoulder. Octavia glanced over at her and smiled; being able to talk to her best friend was the first bit of normalcy she had felt in a long time.

"At the same time," Octavia continued, "I know that... well, I deserve this punishment."

After a silence, Vinyl sighed. "Can I be honest?"

"You usually are."

"Yeah... I don't wanna be rude here, Tavi, but you kinda do," Vinyl said. "I mean, I get what they did to you. I get that you were upset about it, but attacking them? Nopony was going to support you on that one."

Vinyl braced herself, but after a pause, all she heard was a chuckle from her friend.

"That certainly is honest," Octavia said.

"So, you're not angry?" Vinyl said with a hopeful smile.

"No, I'm not," she said. "I don't want to be anymore."

Vinyl sighed and laid her head back on the couch. She reached over and patted her friend on the shoulder. "It's nice to have you back, Tavi."

Octavia responded with a smile of her own. "Thanks."

"So, when do you go down to Ponyville?"

Octavia shook her head. "I'm not sure, but I can only assume I'll be headed down there in a few days. I'm not even sure what I'll be doing down there, but I have a feeling it will involve... well, them."

Vinyl saw Octavia's face darken for a moment before she shook it off. There was a pause, and Vinyl laid a hoof on Octavia's back. When Octavia looked over, Vinyl had an apprehensive look on her face.

"Tavi, I want to be friends again."

"What?" Octavia replied. "Of course! I want to be too, Vinyl."

"Yeah..." Vinyl mumbled, biting her lip. "So, that said... I'm gonna say something right now and I don't think you're gonna like it. I just don't want to fight or argue about it..."

“I don’t want to fight or argue either, so just say it.”

"It's just... Why don't you want to apologize to them?"

Octavia looked away. Vinyl was right: it was the absolute last thing she wanted to hear. She was about to respond immediately, but thought back to earlier in the day when Celestia had asked her to apologize, and she had responded by outright snapping at the most powerful pony in all the land. She instead paused and gathered her thoughts for a few moments.

"It just doesn't feel right," Octavia said. "After everything they did, everything they did to me, it just doesn't feel right apologize to them when I never got an apology of my own."

"I know that, but..." Vinyl replied, pausing to look directly at Octavia. "But think about what you did to them, Tavi. I know you're upset, but you attacked them. I'm glad you're feeling better, but that's not the kind of thing you can just move on from as if nothing happened."

"I... I just want to be done with them," Octavia said quietly. "I don't want their harmony; I created my own. I want to move on."

"You can be. You can be done with them. But answer me honestly: disregarding who they are and what they did, do you really think 'wanting to move on' is an excuse to not apologize to them?"

There was no response at first. Octavia just looked out the window, lost in thought.

"I suppose that's why I'm going to Ponyville," she finally said. "Princess Celestia hopes that I'll change my mind."

There was a long silence; neither pony really had anything to say. Vinyl glanced around for something to bring up to stop the awkwardness, and her eyes fell on a single can of paint that was sticking out of the closet.

"So, what happens now?"

Octavia looked up at Vinyl. "In regards to?"

"Well, your art."

"My art? There's nothing to say about it," Octavia replied. "It's over."

"It's over?"

Octavia nodded. "I told you what Blueblood said: he's removing all my art as we speak. He has my disguise, he has most of my spray paint, and if I ever do anything in Canterlot again, he's going to reveal who I am to everypony. I can't run the risk of him ruining my musical career permanently. It's over."

"Oh..."

Vinyl looked down at the table in front of them. She shuffled her hooves awkwardly against the floor as Octavia glanced over at her.

"I thought you'd be a bit happier to hear that," Octavia said. "I know it's not exactly under the best circumstances, but after everything I've done, you seemed pretty clear that you wanted Flanksy to be gone."

"No, it's not that. I do want all that bad stuff to end, but..." She shuffled her hooves again, then sighed. "It's just that, is that really how you want it to end?"

"What do you mean?"

"There was some awful stuff that you did," Vinyl said, causing Octavia to look away momentarily. "But you know what, Tavi? There was a lot of pretty awesome stuff you did, too. You inspired ponies, you created some of the most unique art this city has ever seen… You changed Canterlot!”

“I also cut ponies’ tails off and broke into their houses.”

“You wanna put that behind you, don’t you?” Vinyl said. “You’re getting your punishment for that, but did Celestia say anything about not wanting you to continue?”

Octavia thought back to the conversation she had had with Princess Celestia. She had never given the princess a straight answer as to whether she was going to continue, just mentioning that she had ‘gotten it out of her system.’ But when she had said that, she was absolutely sure that she had seen a smile on Celestia’s face.

“Well…”

“As far as I am concerned, as of right now, Flanksy is dead.”

“I can end your career.”

Octavia shivered. “It doesn’t matter what Celestia said There’s not going to be any more painting; if I do it, Blueblood will ruin my career. He laid down the law.”

Octavia stood up and walked towards her room. Vinyl jumped to her hooves and followed her.

“That’s not law, that’s blackmail!” Vinyl said. “Are you going to just let—“

Octavia spun around, and Vinyl stopped as soon as she was looking into the face of her closest friend.

“Vinyl, I want this to be over,” Octavia said quietly. “I want to forget Flanksy, I want to forget paint, I want to forget any of it ever happened. And I want to move on with my life.”

After a short pause, Vinyl nodded her head. “Alright. I can respect that. Sorry if I was pushing you, I just want you to be happy after all of this. I don’t want you to give up on everything just because that jerk is blackmailing you. It has to be your decision, on your terms.”

Octavia looked straight into Vinyl’s eyes for a few seconds, then looked slightly behind her. She saw the can of paint sticking out of the corner of the closet. She swallowed the lump that had formed in her throat and looked at Vinyl.

“I… this is my decision.”

—————

“We have arrived in Ponyville. If this is your stop, please exit through the nearest door.”

Octavia glanced out the train window. She tried not to think about her mindset the last time she had been there as she looked over the small town. She exited the train and stood at the station as it pulled away, then reached into her saddle bag and pulled out the directions that the guard in Canterlot had given her. She wandered through the streets looking at the addresses before she came to a stop, seeing the building in front of her. She stared at the library and tried not to let her anger show to the ponies who were walking around her.

“Of course…” she growled under her breath as she stepped to the front door and slowly raised a hoof. It hovered for a few seconds as she took one more look around, then knocked.

“Coming!” a voice called from inside. The door opened up and Twilight Sparkle stood inside with a big smile on her face. “You must be Octavia, right? Come on in.”

Octavia slowly took a few steps in as Twilight trotted away to a shelf near the wall. “I’ll be honest, I’m not sure why I’m stopping here first. And how do you know my name?”

“Princess Celestia sent me a letter yesterday about you,” Twilight chirped, quickly reaching to the side and pulling out a clipboard. “She also sent me some instructions. I'm just supposed to make sure you check in when you arrive and when you leave Ponyville, and let you know what you’ll be doing. We don’t exactly have royal guards down here.” Octavia nodded as Twilight scribbled things down on the clipboard. She thrust it over to Octavia, along with a quill. "Just sign at the bottom.”

Octavia took the quill in her hoof and began to sign, then looked up. Twilight was staring at her with a big smile on her face.

"Isn't this kind of thing sort of exciting?" Twilight chirped. "All the paperwork, so much legality, you really get a sense of how things work in Equestria!"

Twilight continued to talk as Octavia's hoof tightened around the quill. She kept her lips closed tight so Twilight wouldn't see her gritted teeth as she finished signing her name on the sheet.

"Oh..." Twilight said. "Um, sorry about that."

Octavia's clenched jaw loosened and she glanced upwards. Twilight's smile had disappeared and she was looking to her left, blushing a bit in shame.

"I'm sure this isn't exactly thrilling for you," Twilight meekly said, "I really didn't mean it like that..."

Octavia blinked a few times, then slowly looked back down at the paper.

"It's alright," Octavia muttered as she handed the paper back to Twilight. Twilight flipped through a few more papers as Octavia looked around the room; much of the damage that she had done a few days ago only had temporary fixes, with paint barely cleaned off and damaged books were piled in the corner, with some cleaning supplies scattered about. The one thing that seemed to have been fixed completely was the shattered picture: it now hung from the wall in another frame, one that was much nicer. Octavia stared at the ponies in the picture—each with torn dresses, messed up manes, all looking worse for wear—but each of them with a smile.

"Okay, looks like I have everything in order."

Twilight's voice snapped Octavia back to reality and she looked over at her, who was smiling again.

"For today, I think I'd like you to work here at the library," she said. "The other day there was an, erm, let's call it an 'incident.' As you can see, I haven't really gotten around to doing much cleaning up yet. I think starting there would be a good beginning. Can you start by cleaning the paint off those bookcases on the other side of the room?

Octavia shook off the chill that went through her face, then nodded. She started towards the cases, but paused and looked behind her, back at the picture.

"If you don't mind me asking," she said, "Did Princess Celestia tell you what I did to warrant community service?"

"No," Twilight replied. "I don't really think it'd be my place to ask about it anyway."

Octavia nodded and walked up to the bookcase, where cleaning supplies were scattered around. She sat down and opened up the jug of cleaner, took a rag in her hoof, and covered the rag in the cleaner. The smell overtook her for a second and she looked away, but while she did she looked over at the other pony in the room.

Twilight Sparkle was standing at a desk, looking through a book. She had just come to the last page and happily closed it, then floated it over and pulled another book from the shelf. Octavia could see the streaks of paint on the book as Twilight set it down in front of her, then noticed the paint covering it as well. With a sad sigh, Twilight floated the book over to the large pile of similarly paint-streaked books in the corner, then picked out another book from the shelf.

Octavia quietly watched for a few seconds, turned back to the bookcase, and began to rub the paint off.

—————

The apartment door opened and Octavia trotted through. She dropped her saddle bag next to the door as Vinyl poked her head in from the kitchen.

"Hey, welcome back," she said. "How was Ponyville?"

"Exactly what I expected," Octavia said. "I had to clean off paint from inside the library. I assume I'll be doing things similar to that until my time there is done."

Octavia sat down on the couch and looked quietly out the window. Vinyl trotted out of the kitchen and sat down next to her.

“Don’t worry, you don’t have to go down there for long, right?” Vinyl said. “Just a couple weeks? It’ll be over before you know it.”

“And then I get to keep doing it in Canterlot for a while…”

“Okay, it’s not like it’s going to be great for a while,” Vinyl said, trying to steer the conversation back positively, “but you’ll get through it. Just keep your chin up.”

“It’s not that, Vinyl. I’m fine, I know I can get through it, it’s just…” She glanced around the room, then looked right at Vinyl. “I know things will get better. I just want some time to relax right now, I guess I'm still trying to process all of this."

"That's fine," Vinyl replied. "If you wanna talk about it, just let me know."

Octavia nodded as she stood up and walked into her room and slowly closed the door behind her. She trotted over to her cello and ran her hoof across the strings, then stood behind it and picked up the bow. She took in a deep breath and began to play the first song that came to mind. Music filled the room and for a few minutes as she ran through the song. She stared blankly ahead as she played; hollow notes and empty chords ringing in her ears.

The bow slowly came to a halt on the strings mid-way through the song. Octavia lowered the bow down and gazed at her desk across the room; notebooks were still scattered about, each with drawings, speckled with paint.

She laid her bow down on the floor and trotted to the desk. She put her hoof on one of the notebooks and moved to open it.

“I can personally assure you that you will never perform on a stage in this grand city again.”

Her hoof froze, her sight still on the notebook. With a long sigh, she looked back blankly towards the cello. She finally turned and simply laid down on her bed, quietly gazing at the ceiling.

—————

With one last push, Octavia drove the scraper against the side of the barn and removed the last of the black paint that had covered it. She took a step back and wiped sweat from her forehead, then looked over the barn; there were some areas where the original red color had been scraped off along with the black, but for the most part, it was now free of what she had painted the week before.

Octavia screwed the cap back on the cleaner and started to gather up supplies when she was startled by a voice from behind her.

"Lookin' good, lookin' real good."

Octavia turned around to find Applejack walking up, admiring the barn. She tipped her hat up as she looked over the structure.

"Nice to see the barn back to its former glory," she said. Her eyes wandered up to a plank hanging precariously off the edge of the roof. "Well, back to it's former state, anyway."

As Applejack inspected the barn a bit more, Octavia went back to packing up the cleaning supplies. Applejack tapped her hoof a few times on one of the areas where red paint had been stripped off.

"Shoot, some'a the original striped off too..." she muttered. "Then again, you'll be down here in Ponyville a couple more times, right? Maybe you could slap a new coat of paint on it."

With her head turned away, Octavia gritted her teeth in frustration. She zipped up the bag of supplies when Applejack cleared her throat.

"So listen," she said. "I just wanna thank ya for your help in cleaning up the barn."

Octavia looked up and over at Applejack. She had a sincere smile on her face as she stepped forward.

"I mean, I know you aren't exactly doin' this voluntarily," Applejack said, "but I still appreciate the help. We really haven't gotten a chance to clean up the paint around our places, but with you startin' your service down here... well, it's a one of those 'two birds' situations, I reckon. So I know it ain't the best situation for you, but I figure that with the work you've put in down here so far, you at least deserve a thank you."

There was a short silence between the two ponies as Applejack continued to smile. Octavia looked over at the barn, then back to Applejack.

"I appreciate that," she said. "Although I'll admit, I'm a bit surprised nopony had cleaned it up yet."

"I don't think any of us were really in the right state a' mind," Applejack said, rubbing the back of her hat. "We tried to clean it up immediately, but some of the stuff that pony had written... well, it had all of us down. Not to mention, it was more important to be with our friends first, given how they were takin' it."

"How they were... taking it?" Octavia asked.

"Yeah, Rarity and Fluttershy," Applejack said as she glanced towards the rest of the town. "Rarity's never exactly taken criticism well, so when somepony outright calls her ugly and ruins her dresses, it got her awful down. And Fluttershy... shoot, I ain't never seen her that sad in my life. Stayed in her room all day, and even when we got her to leave she was miserable. Heck, took a while just to start improvin' her mood, and..." Applejack looked back towards Octavia, then shook her head. "Shoot, you don't need to hear any of this. Sorry for ramblin' on like that."

"It's fine," Octavia quickly replied as she now looked towards the town as well. She picked up the bag of cleaning supplies and slung it over her shoulder when another voice called out.

"Hey AJ!"

The voice caused Octavia to freeze in her tracks. She glanced backwards to see Rainbow Dash flying in and landing next to Applejack. Dash was wearing what looked like a hoof-made outfit, a multicolored hoodie with holes cut out for her wings. What stood out about it was the design… it seemed to be custom-made, designed in such a way as to cover up Rainbow Dash’s tail fully.

"Hey RD," Applejack said. "So, any word yet?"

"Yeah," Rainbow Dash said as she shuffled her hooves. "Just got the letter. The Wonderbolts understand the situation, but they want to play it safe. I'm not gonna be in the training camp, but they've already submitted my application for the next camp in six months."

"Aw, shoot," Applejack replied. "Sorry ta hear that."

"It's alright. They said that I'm practically a lock for the camp anyway, this is just something they're doing to prevent bad press. I'll wait it out." She looked up at the barn. "Hey, you cleaned it up? I thought we were gonna do that next weekend."

"I got some help," Applejack said as she gestured towards Octavia. "Octavia over here cleaned it up."

Rainbow Dash looked up and her and Octavia locked eyes. Octavia tried to stay calm and collected, but her mind went back to when she had watched Rainbow Dash ruin the art she had put up, then to the brawl they had had amidst a crowd of ponies. She instinctively rubbed her chest where Rainbow Dash had driven her hoof into her as her eyes narrowed a bit. Rainbow's eyes did as well.

"So, you just showed up to clean off paint?" Rainbow said.

Octavia shook her head slightly. "No, it's... well, it's community service."

"You don't say..." Rainbow mumbled. "Hey AJ, can I talk to you?"

"Ain't that what we're doin' now?"

"In private. Away from her."

Applejack cocked her head to one side in confusion, but before she could say anything Rainbow grabbed her by the shoulder and practically dragged her around the corner of the barn. Octavia could hear them talking but was barely able to make out what was being said, except for Applejack saying "seems like a nice pony," and Rainbow Dash responding with "I don't care." Not wanting to be around when the conversation ended, she turned and walked away towards the library.

—————

A clap of thunder overhead made Octavia quickly duck under an awning as the scheduled Canterlot rain storm began. She took a quick look at the street corner she was on.

"Great," she muttered. "Still ten blocks to go."

She continued walking, darting beneath canopies and awnings to avoid as much rain as she could. She eventually turned a corner and came to a slow stop when she saw the pony in front of her.

A few awnings away, Amethyst Star was rushing to get her paintings and paint supplies out of the rain. She reached out and grabbed the last painting, then began wiping the rain off of it. As she set her paintings against the wall and sat down, Octavia apprehensively walked up to her.

"Hello," she said.

Amethyst looked up, and her eyes went wide for a split second when she saw who was standing over her.

"Hi," Amethyst meekly said.

"Do you mind if I sit?"

"Go ahead."

Octavia sat down next to Amethyst Star and the two sat in silence for a minute, watching the rain. Amethyst reached over and placed a half-finished painting in front of her, then popped open a small can of paint and resumed working on it.

"You're still painting?"

Amethyst nodded. "I think I gave it up for all of thirty minutes. I really enjoy it, I can't just give it up."

“I see.”

There was silence again as Octavia looked back at the rain, trying to think of the right thing to say. She looked out at the rain, then opened her mouth to speak.

"I'm sorry for what I said to you," Amethyst Star said first.

Octavia turned in surprise. "What?"

"When I said I couldn't believe that I was ever inspired by you," Amethyst continued. "I don't like what you did then, but everything you did before that is still really important to me. I shouldn't have told you that, I—“

“Stop. I’m glad you told me that.”

Amethyst stopped talking and looked over at Octavia, whose head was now resting against the wall as she watched the rain.

“I was focused far too much on the wrong aspect of why I was creating art,” Octavia continued. “I’m glad I had you and Vinyl to try to talk a little sense into me… I just should have listened to you a bit earlier. You have no reason to apologize. If anything, I should be the one apologizing for the way I treated you.”

She looked over at Amethyst; the pink unicorn was staring back at her with a relieved smile on he race. Octavia smiled back, then looked down at the painting that Amethyst had been working on.

“I’m happy that you’re continuing your art,” Octavia said. “I’m glad somepony will be able to.”

The smile fell from Amethyst’s face. “What do you mean?”

“I’m done,” Octavia said. “Unfortunately, Prince Blueblood has put an end to what I was doing. If I create any more art in Canterlot, he’ll reveal who I am to everypony, and my musical career could very well be over. I’m not willing to take that risk.”

Amethyst blinked, then looked down at her own painting. “Oh,” she said. “That’s… I’m sorry to hear that.”

“But like I said, I’m glad that you’re going to continue your art,” Octavia said

“It’s not the same.”

Octavia sighed. “I know.”

After a long period of silence, Octavia stood up. She shifted her saddle bag on her back and nodded at Amethyst, then carefully stepped around her and trotted away under the awnings.

“I knew who you were,” Amethyst suddenly said.

Octavia stopped and looked back. Amethyst Star was standing up, staring straight at Octavia, with a smile on her face.

“I knew who you were from the first time I saw you,” Amethyst said. “I had seen you before around Canterlot, I even saw you at the Anvil Rust Theater months ago. That didn’t stop me from seeing how amazing what you did was, and it didn’t make me think any less of you. Do you really think that other ponies in Canterlot are going to react differently? I’m not the only pony who you reached, you know.”

“But Prince Blueblood—“

“To heck with him!” Amethyst suddenly yelled. “That guy is a jerk. I don’t want him to be the reason that the pony who inspired me stopped!”

Surprised at the outburst from Amethyst, Octavia’s thought process stopped completely. Amethyst took a few deep breaths, then stepped forward.

“Please. Your art has been so important to me, I don’t want it to go away,” Amethyst said, sniffling.

Octavia quietly looked into Amethyst Star’s eyes, only listening to the rain hit the awning above. As she looked out to the right, it finally hit her where they were; the entrance to Canterlot Park was only a few feet away. She looked out over the trees in the park, then back at Amethyst.

“I doubt that any self-respecting theater in this city would ever be willing to book a pony who seems to have a deep-seated hatred for the way Canterlot works.”

Octavia turned to the side.

“I don’t want it to go away either,” she muttered. “But I don’t think I have a choice anymore.”

Not willing to look Amethyst in the face anymore, Octavia turned and walked away. Amethyst stood unmoving, watching until Octavia was out of sight. She sat down again and stared in silence at the painting in front of her, picking up one of her brushes. For a moment she just looked at the brown paint dripping off of it, then swirled it around in the cup of water next to her until it was clean. She popped open a can of orange paint, dipped the brush in, and began to repaint the trees on her painting.

—————

The apartment door opened and Octavia trotted through. She dropped her saddle bag next to the door as Vinyl looked up from the couch.

"Hey."

"Hello," Octavia said as she walked towards her room.

"Tavi?"

Octavia looked back to see Vinyl had gotten up and was standing behind her.

"You've been down to Ponyville like five times in the past two weeks. Don't you want to talk about it?"

"There's nothing to talk about," Octavia said. "I go down there, do my service, then come back."

"Yeah, and then you usually head straight to your room. Come on, I want to know what's going on down there."

"Well I don't feel the need to talk about it," Octavia replied as she turned away.

"Tavi..."

"I said I don't want to talk about it," Octavia said. Vinyl went quiet and Octavia went to her room, closing the door behind her.

She walked over to her desk and sat down, looking over the multitude of notebooks. She smiled as she flipped through one of them, looking at the numerous sketches; murals and drawings yet to be completed, ideas begging to be created.

Her sight turned to her left, towards her closet. She could see several cans of paint stored away, unopened. She stood up and walked towards them, but out of the corner of her eye she saw her cello. She came to a halt in the middle of the room, looking back and forth between her cello and the paint. Her head fell as she turned away from both and crawled into bed.

Octavia curled up under the covers. She hoped, once again, that a good night’s sleep would solve everything. She hoped that once she had repaid everything and had done her service, she could focus on her music again. She hoped that she could put spray paint out of her mind for the rest of her life. She hoped she would never have to think about the statue of Celestia, the murals, or the park ever again. She hoped that Flanksy would be gone from her mind for good.

She hoped that the pillow would be enough to muffle her sobs from Vinyl.

—————

Octavia left her room and trotted into the kitchen. As she looked through the bowl of fruit for a quick breakfast, Vinyl walked up next to her.

“Good morning.”

“Morning,” Octavia replied back.

“Are you going down to Ponyville today?”

“My train leaves in a half-hour.”

She took an orange from the bowl and turned back to her room.

“I heard you crying last night.”

Octavia stopped in her tracks. She bit her lip as Vinyl walked up next to her. She began to walk towards her room but Vinyl put her hoof on her shoulder.

“Octavia, you can’t just shut down again! All you’ve been doing is going to Ponyville, coming back, and going to your room without talking about it! I’m not going to let you do that to yourself anymore, now tell me what’s going on!!”

She slowly put the orange down and walked to the living room, with Vinyl right behind her. She sat down on the couch, then held her head in her hooves.

“This is wrong,” she said. “All of this feels wrong. I had just figured things out, gotten the slap down to earth that I needed… and then it’s all taken away from me. If I had been told I can’t do it anymore because of what I did, I might be okay with that… but it’s not. Blueblood did this just so he could claim victory. Now I have nothing. I know that I deserve to be punished for what I did, but after that… I have nothing, Vinyl.”

Vinyl sat down next to her. Octavia sniffled as she looked up at her best friend. “Octavia, can I just ask you something?”

Octavia nodded.

“What do you want to do?”

Octavia looked blankly ahead for a few seconds before answering. “Do you remember when we sat in the park?” she said. “Just watching ponies enjoying it? I want to go back to that. I want to go back to creating harmony. No more anger, no more attacking ponies, I don’t even want the art to be about any ponies.”

The smile that had formed on Octavia’s face was enough to get Vinyl to smile as well.

“You can go back to that, you know,” Vinyl said. “You caught yourself before you went too far; it ain’t too late to go back.”

“I don’t know if I can,” Octavia said. “I don’t want to fall back into the trap I did before.”

“Well don’t! You don’t have to get angry again.”

“That’s just it.” Octavia sighed and stood up, staring out the window. “I’ve been down in Ponyville, cleaning up all the paint that I put up. And every single time I see them, I feel the same anger I’ve always felt with them. The way they’re still living these idyllic lives, not understanding why a pony would hate them, not understanding what they did…” She slowly turned around and looked Vinyl in the eyes. “I… I’m justified in not apologizing to them, right? Tell me I’m justified.”

“You’re justified for not apologizing to them,” Vinyl said flatly.

“You don’t sound very convincing.”

“You’re the one who asked me to say that,” Vinyl replied. “Look, Tavi, I’m not gonna demand that you apologize. But I am gonna say this: if you’re gonna keep being angry at them. If that’s gonna keep being a factor Then yeah, you should stop doing art. But you know what? If you can find a way to put that past you. You said you want to create your own harmony? You still can.”

Octavia smiled at Vinyl. She looked over into her room, seeing the cello sitting against the wall. The smile slowly dropped from her face.

"What about what Blueblood said? If I paint in Canterlot again, he will reveal who I am to everypony."

Vinyl didn't say anything; she slowly turned her head to look over at the cello in Octavia's room for a few seconds.

"I..." she said quietly, "I don't really have an answer for that. I know how important your music is to you."

Octavia nodded. "Exactly. I don't think I'm in a position to take that risk."

A heavy silence hung in the room as Octavia and Vinyl stared at the cello in the other room. After what felt like an eternity, Octavia stood up.

"I think I'd better head out," she said. "I don't want to miss my train."

"How much longer are you going down to Ponyville?"

"I'm almost done cleaning up the things I did," Octavia said. "I would assume once that is done I will be continuing my service here in Canterlot, so I won't be going to Ponyville anymore."

She picked up her saddle bag and draped it over her back as Vinyl patted her on the shoulder, then smiled.

"Hey... when you get back from Ponyville tonight, let's go hang out downtown. Just try to get your mind off of everything."

Octavia smiled back. "That sounds nice."

"Yeah! We'll go grab some dinner, see if there are any concerts, check out the park..."

Octavia turned away. It only took Vinyl a few seconds to realize what she had said and she gasped.

"Oh geez, oh geez," Vinyl said. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to bring that up. I'm sure it's the last thing—"

"It's okay," Octavia said, her voice empty as she opened the front door. She walked through and slowly closed it behind her, then looked out into the distance in the direction of Canterlot Park.

"It's not like there's anything out of the ordinary there anymore..."

—————

"This room looks great!" Twilight said as she looked around the main room of Golden Oaks library. "I'm so glad all that paint is finally gone."

Octavia nodded, then looked around the room; the paint from all the bookcases had been completely cleaned off and any damage to them fixed, the pictures all had new frames, the walls had fresh coats of paint, it was as if nothing had ever happened to the room. The only difference Octavia could see was that the bookcases seemed a bit more empty than previously. Twilight noticed too as she ran a hoof along an empty shelf.

"Doesn't look the same without full shelves," Twilight said, "but I think I'm getting the books replaced soon."

Octavia looked away, hoping Twilight wouldn't see her annoyance. She knew that whenever the books would be replaced, the bill would be going straight to her.

Twilight glanced up at the clock. "Perfect timing, too, they should be coming by. Thanks again for all your help over the last few weeks. I know it wasn't your choice, but I still appreciate it. I’m not sure if the Princess is going to have you come down to Ponyville for more of your service, but if not, thank you for all the help."

Octavia nodded and trotted to the front door. As soon as she opened it, she was met with the blare of a celebratory horn as confetti flying into the room. She barely had time to move to one side as a pink blur rushed by her and began hurling party decorations around the room.

"Pinkie!" Twilight yelled. "The room was just cleaned up!"

As Pinkie kept putting decorations up, the rest of the Elements of Harmony trotted in, marveling at how nice the library looked. Octavia looked away, trying to hide the grimace on her face. When she momentarily looked up, she saw that while five of the ponies were making pleasant conversation and setting up for a party, one of them was not; Rainbow Dash was staring right back at her.

"What is she doing here?" Rainbow Dash asked.

"She just helped finish re-painting the bookcases," Twilight said. "In fact, she's been the one doing most of the paint cleanup for all of us."

"Yeah, because it's court-ordered," Rainbow Dash mumbled.

"Rainbow!" Rarity said sternly. "No need to be rude to our guest."

Rainbow shuffled one hoof against the ground, then turned away. Octavia glared after her, then turned to leave the room.

"Oh!" Rarity exclaimed. "You fixed the picture!"

Octavia looked behind her to see all six ponies quickly gathering around the framed photograph taken after the Grand Galloping Gala. She felt her hooves tighten against the ground as Twilight Sparkle looked up at the painting.

"Of course. It was the first thing I fixed," Twilight said as she turned to her friends with a warm, almost nostalgic smile on her face. "It was our best night ever! I don't ever want to forget that night."

The ponies all smiled as they looked up at the picture, but one pony in the room was not smiling. Octavia's face was trembling as she stared at the six ponies across the room.

"’Best night ever...’" she growled under her breath. "’Don't ever want to forget that night…’"

She turned around and stormed out of the library, leaving the friends to their party. Octavia glanced back and forth through Ponyville, the world spinning around her. She took a moment to regain her bearings, then looked up at the houses in the area. Trying to remember where she had seen it, Octavia trotted around town for a minute, scanning the buildings until she finally stopped in front of one. A hoof-made wooden sign hung above the front door, with a picture of a paint brush on it. Octavia pushed the door open and entered.

The pony behind the counter poked her head up and smiled. "Well hey there, welcome to The Paint Smear! Anything you're looking for in particular?"

Octavia looked right in the eyes of the pony.

"Do you sell spray paint?"

—————

Octavia stood on a hill on the edge of Ponyville. She looked back and forth over the town, trying to find a suitable target.

"There has to be something big enough," she seethed as she scanned the town. All of the buildings she could see were either shops being worked in or homes belonging to other ponies. She let out an angry sigh and squinted, unable to find a building that was to her liking. She slowly looked away from the town to gather herself, when she saw something off to her right. It was set into the hills in such a way that no pony in Ponyville could see it from the actual town; Octavia certainly hadn't. With a smile, she picked the plastic bag next to her up and trotted until she found herself standing right to the side of the structure.

While Ponyville may have been a quiet town, one wouldn't know if it by looking at the Ponyville Dam. One of the most well-made systems in the area, the dam may have seen better days, but it was still an impressive structure to anypony who saw it. It was large, a single grey color throughout, and had a small ledge allowing ponies to walk in front of it.

It was perfect.

Octavia walked along the ledge, running a hoof along the wall. She dropped the bag next to her and opened it up, pulling out the various colors of spray paint and laying them next to her. She turned to look back at Ponyville, but it was completely obscured from her by the hill.

"Best night of their lives?" she growled, then took a black can of paint in her hoof. She raised it up and held it directly in front of her.

Her hoof froze in the air. Part of her brain was screaming to press down on the nozzle and give the Elements of Harmony what they deserved, but she couldn’t bring herself to do it. As her hoof began to shake, she suddenly felt extremely aware of the world around her, as if the eyes of everypony in Equestria were staring at her. No matter how much her brain was screaming at her to press down on the nozzle, her hoof refused to listen. Slowly, a single thought formed in her head, in front of the anger and frustration.

This isn't harmony.

Her hoof gradually lowered and the can of paint clattered down next to her. She turned around and slumped down, her back hooves dangling off the edge of the platform. She stared down at the black can of paint next to her and shook her head.

"No more attacking," she muttered. "It's never been right."

She looked over at the bag of cans and sighed, then looked up. Ponyville was still completely obscured by the hill, but above the top of the hill she could see something else; Canterlot.

She hadn't even noticed that Canterlot was visible from Ponyville while she had been doing her service. She was used to seeing Canterlot from within the city: tall, imposing buildings stretching into the sky and ponies with their noses turned up as they gazed at overpriced clothes. But from where she was sitting, Canterlot felt completely different; a grand city stretching up to the heavens, the colors of the rooftops contrasting with the mountain and clouds behind it.

A city that needed to realize how beautiful it was.

Ever so slowly, Octavia began to smile. Her body quickly surging with new energy, she threw the black can back into the bag and looked behind her, back at Ponyville Dam. For a few seconds she just looked over the lifeless grey of the dam, then looked back down at the bag of unused paint cans sitting next to her. The smile on her face grew.

Octavia dug through the bag until she found the can at the very bottom; a bright purple. She took it in her hoof and popped the top off, then turned to the wall.

Slowly, the world seemed to disappear around her, leaving just her and the wall. A sense of euphoria enveloped her; a feeling that she hadn't felt since the night she had painted the trees in the park. She stood still for a few moments, just soaking in the feeling as she stared at the blank wall.

With a smile on her face, she raised her hoof once more and pressed down on the nozzle of the can.

—————

Octavia trotted through Ponyville, a content smile on her face. She glanced back in the direction of the dam; it was completely obscured from Ponyville by a large hill, and it seemed that no pony had seen her painting the dam. She glanced up into the sky to see a few pegasi flying about; no doubt one of them would see the dam before too long.

She turned back and trotted towards the train station, but came to a halt when she realized something was missing: her saddle bag. She glanced around to see if she had dropped it, but stopped as it occurred to her where it was.

"The library," she muttered as she turned towards Golden Oaks Library and walked up to the front door. From inside, she could hear voices and the faint sound of music. Her hoof hovered over the handle for a few seconds before she let out a long breath and entered.

The Elements of Harmony were all still there, enjoying each other's company. Twilight, Applejack, and Rarity were engaged in a conversation, while Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy were giggling at Pinkie Pie, who was carefully balancing a cupcake on her snout. As Octavia entered the room, Twilight's ears perked up.

"Oh, there you are!" she said as she reached under the table and pulled out Octavia's saddle bag. "This is yours, right?"

"Yes!" Octavia said as she quickly walked forward and took it. "I was hoping it was here."

"I saw it by the front door," Twilight said. "I had no idea where you went, I figured you'd come back for it."

"Thanks," Octavia said, then turned to leave. She was just about at the front door again when she looked out the window. In the distance she could see a grey Pegasus hovering near the top of the hill, her head cocked to one side. After looking back at the town, she slowly flew down to the other side of the hill and out of sight.

Octavia kept staring out the window, then looked behind her. The six ponies were back to talking to each other, enjoying the company of one another. She looked past them to the picture hanging on the wall; the six of them, all battered and dirty from the Gala, but still smiling. Octavia looked back out the window, just in time to see the grey pegasus flying back over the hill and headed towards the closest pony she could find, excitedly yelling something to her.

Octavia raised her head up, then turned back.

“Excuse me,” she said. The six ponies all looked up at her.

“Yes?” Twilight said.

“I would like to talk to you about something.”

Twilight tilted her head. “Oh? I thought I had checked out all your paperwork for today.”

“It’s not about that. In fact, it pertains to all of you.”

The ponies grew quiet and waited. Octavia took one last glance out the window; she could see a few more ponies now walking in the direction of the hill. The remaining apprehension disappeared, and Octavia took a deep breath.

"I'm just going to say this, and I’m sure it will come as a shock, but… I don't like you."

The six ponies across from her didn't have a response at first. None of the were expecting to hear something like that.

"I beg your pardon?" Twilight Sparkle finally replied.

"I don't like you,” Octavia repeated. “Any of you. You are supposedly important ponies who represent the ideals of Harmony, but I don't like you. To be frank, I doubt I will ever view you in a positive light. I realize that it’s not what you want to hear, nor is it the nicest thing you have ever heard, but I have to say it, and I have to say it to your faces. But that said, there’s something far more important I have to say to you all.”

The six ponies across from her stared in shock, unable to even figure out what Octavia was saying. Octavia closed her eyes and gathered her thoughts. When she opened them again, she saw all six ponies in front of her, unsure of how to act. She stepped forward, causing Rainbow Dash to lean down a bit in anticipation. She stopped right in front of the six ponies and took in one last, long breath.

"I'm sorry," Octavia said.

The six ponies in front of her all glanced at each other in confusion.

"I may not like you, but you didn't deserve what I did to you. Nopony deserves that. What I did, I did without a clear head, and is the worst thing I have ever done in my life. So while I'm sure it means little, I am sorry."

The assembled ponies continued to look at each other, not sure how to react. Twilight Sparkle was the first one to speak up.

“What are you apologizing for? What did you do to us?"

Octavia didn't hesitate; there wasn't an ounce of apprehension in her. Instead, she held looked Twilight directly in the eye, confident in what she was going to say.

"I spray-painted your houses. In a few cases, I even broke in."

Her short response was met with gasps and she watched as each of the ponies' expressions changed quickly. Twilight and Rarity were both shocked, while the formerly-chipper Pinkie Pie's ears fell as she nervously glanced around. Fluttershy, after a few seconds of silence, slunk back and cowered, almost hiding behind Pinkie Pie. Applejack had turned her head down to the point where her hat was covering most of her face, but Octavia could still see the angry grimace on her mouth.

Rainbow Dash was not as restrained as her friends; with her face contorted in anger, she stepped forward, getting right in front of Octavia.

"I knew it!" she shouted. "I knew you seemed familiar! You're Flanksy, the one who cut off my tail!"

Octavia nodded. "Yes. And I'm sure it goes without saying, but I am sorry for that as well. I know this is of no consolation to you, but I consider that moment the low point of my life."

Rainbow snorted in anger and took a step back, trying to keep herself calm. As the other ponies struggled to find words, Twilight Sparkle was the first one to speak up.

"Why?" she quietly said. "Why did you do all of that? What did we ever do to you?"

"You ruined the greatest night of my life. You didn't do it specifically to hurt me, but you did it anyways." She pointed to the back of the room, and the ponies all turned their heads to look at the picture from the Gala. “The Gala became the worst night of my life, and yet not only did you not realize what you did to other ponies… you outright celebrated it.”

For a few seconds, the six others in the room looked at the picture themselves in silence. The first one to turn around was Applejack, who stared directly into Octavia’s eyes.

“So what, you just expectin’ us to forgive you for that?” she said, her voice quickly raising. “Yeah, we ain’t perfect. But that gives you an excuse to break into our homes? Make our lives miserable? Shame us in front of the whole town? You want us to say that everything is okay?”

“No,” Octavia said. “I don’t expect you to forgive me, nor should you. I didn’t tell you all of this to be forgiven.”

From outside, Octavia could hear more ponies talking and moving about. She looked out the window to see ponies walking past the library and in the direction of Ponyville Dam. She smiled softly, then looked back to the Elements of Harmony.

“I told you this because I’m ready to move on,” she said. “I want to move back to what brought me my own harmony; art. No more attacking, no more hate, no more using you as an excuse. I just needed you all to know that I’m sorry, that I’m on a better path again.”

As the voices from outside grew, the Elements finally took notice of them. Just as Twilight stepped forward, the door swung open and a small filly with a bow in her hair stuck her head into the room.

“Hey Applejack!” the pony said. “In fact, all of ya! Ya’ll gotta come see this! Somethin’ happened to Ponyville Dam!”

She was quickly joined by two other fillies who ran off in the direction. All six ponies looked at Octavia.

“W-what did you do this time?!” Rarity yelled.

Octavia just smiled. “I did what brings me harmony. I tried to make ponies realize how beautiful the world around them is.”

There was another long silence as the ponies exchanged worried glances. Finally, Octavia picked up her saddle bag.

“I guess that’s all I wanted to say to you,” she said. “I’m going back to Canterlot, I’m not sure if my community service will be bringing me back to Ponyville, so in case we never meet again, I am sorry again.”

She turned around and trotted out of the library. Almost immediately, she heard the thundering of hooves as the ponies rushed past her and off in the direction of the dam. She watched them gallop off into the distance, then turned towards the train station.

“Hey,” a voice came from behind.

She turned around to find Rainbow Dash standing next to her. She still looked angry, but she was pushing her hoof into the ground as she struggled to find the right words.

“I don’t like you either. That stuff you did to me, to my friends, that’s awful. I dunno if I can ever forgive you for that.” She looked up so she and Octavia were face-to-face. “But… I’m sorry for punching you. That was pretty lame of me, no matter what happened.”

Octavia smiled. “Thank you. I appreciate that.”

An awkward silence hung between them before Rainbow Dash took off into the air and flew towards Ponyville Dam. Octavia watched her go, then straightened her saddle bag and turned. She walked off towards the train station, her body straight, her gaze determined, her hoof steps light; the posture of a pony with a weight lifted from her shoulders.

Rainbow Dash caught up with her friends quickly just as they got halfway up the hill. “What do you think she did?”

“I’m scared to find out,” Twilight said. “Given what she did last time, who knows what—?“

As the six ponies got to the top, they all came to a halt at the sight before them: the bottom half of the dam was completely painted over in a grand mural. Colors swirled together and stretched from end to end, interlocking patterns and streaks covering up the grey, cracked bottom of the dam. There were no recognizable shapes, patterns, or anything that would give an indication of what it was: it was just color. Ponies were quickly gathering around it, amazed at the mural that had been put up, talking amongst themselves and admiring the art. Slowly, the six ponies walked down the hill and joined the rest. None of them said anything, they just looked at the mural on the wall, then around at the many ponies who had gathered.

Ever so slowly, a smile appeared on Rainbow Dash’s face.

—————

The front door of the apartment swung open and Octavia quickly walked through. As the door swung shut, the slam caused Vinyl to nearly fall off the couch.

“Whoah, welcome back. You’re way late, did you catch a different train?” Vinyl said as she scrambled up to her hooves, only for Octavia to walk right by and straight to her room. “Uh, Tavi? Did you still want to go out?”

Vinyl waited for a response, but all that happened was Octavia marched out of her room, her sketchpad in one hoof. She sat down on the couch and flipped open the pages, taking a quill in her hoof.

“Is everything okay?” Vinyl asked.

“I’m not going out tonight,” Octavia said.

Vinyl’s ears fell. “Come on, Tavi. You can’t just stay cooped up—“

“It’s not that,” Octavia said. “I have work to do.”

“Huh?”

Octavia looked up, directly into her friend’s eyes. “Vinyl, I can’t just move on. I can’t just forget about paint and go back to music, because art is a part of my life now. A part that I’m not just willing to give up because Prince Blueblood threatens me. He said that if I paint again in Canterlot, he’ll ruin my musical career?” She looked back down at her pad. “Well if I lose the thing that has brought me harmony, then what’s the point of doing anything else? I’m not going to let him win, Vinyl. I’m going to take my harmony back.”

Vinyl looked directly into the determined, fiery eyes of Octavia. It only took a second for her to start smiling.

“Heck yeah,” Vinyl said. “Sounds awesome to me. So, what are you gonna do?”

Octavia looked down at the sketch pad. “Well, I had one idea, but I’m going to need some help.”

“I’m with you all the way,” Vinyl replied, but Octavia shook her head. “Huh? No?”

“I appreciate the offer, Vinyl, but in this case, the help I need is going to have to be a bit… bigger.”

—————

End of Chapter 17: It Ends…

Special Thanks: Razyu, Propsen, Worst-Li, and M.Warden

Author's Note:

Just FYI, this is NOT the final chapter of ETC. Leaving this note up because the title of the chapter may be a bit misleading...

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