• Published 18th Feb 2013
  • 10,081 Views, 586 Comments

I Am Not the Actor - cleverpun



After one of Pinkie's clones wins the paint-watching test, she slowly finds that "being yourself" is never as simple as it sounds. Especially when everypony has a different idea about who you are, and who you should be.

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16. My Pride It Makes Me Sick

16. My Pride It Makes Me Sick

Twilight had been staring at the paper for a while. Her quills sat on the desk, untouched. Her inkwell was still full. Every time her magic flared or her hoof rose up, intending to grab a quill and write something, she froze. Then her body settled into the same position, and she stared at the paper some more.

She had lost track of how many times she had done that.

Somepony knocked on the library door. It was sharp and loud, probably Applejack.

“Come in.” The response was purely reflex. Twilight didn’t bother to look up from the blank parchment.

“Twi’?” Applejack poked her head into the building. “Pinkie Pie’s ‘welcome back’ party is startin’ soon. I figured we could walk over together.”

“I don’t think I’m going.”

“Oh?” Applejack stepped into the library. Her nostrils flared a little as the smell hit her—light, but it was definitely aging sweat. “And why not? I figured ya’d be the first pony there.”

“She’s throwing it for the town, not herself. I already know she’s back. I don’t need a party for that.”

“So? A little normalcy ain’t gonna hurt ya, after everything that’s happened.”

Twilight still hadn’t looked up from her desk. “I have to finish this letter.”

Applejack walked over, poked her head towards Twilight’s and over the paper. “Yeah, well. I guess you’re really in the middle of it? Who’s this for, that it’s so important?”

“Princess Celestia.”

“Oh, well, I’m sure you can finish it later. It’ll still be here after the party.”

“But that’s the problem!” Twilight nearly shouted it. The sudden contrast with her reflexive monotone made Applejack start. “It’s been days and I still don’t know what to write!”

“It’s just a letter, Twi’.”

“Just a letter?” Twilight finally looked up. There was a hint of puffiness around her eyes. “Don’t you get it, AJ? I’m supposed to write about lessons I learned. If I can’t think of anything to write, that means I didn’t learn anything.”

Twilight poked at one of her quills. “And…and if I didn’t learn anything, that means that everything that happened—what I did to the town, what I did to my friends, what I did to Pinkie Pie—it was all for nothing.”

“Don’t be silly, Twilight. It wasn’t all for nothin’. I mean, we got Pinkie Pie back, and Celestia said she’d help the clone. Everything turned out fine, pretty much.”

“And what if Pinkie Pie hadn’t come back?”

Applejack didn’t respond.

Twilight was still fidgeting with her quill. She had started to roll it between her hoof and the desk, and the barbs were starting to wrinkle. “Do you remember the time I cast that spell on my doll, and the whole town went crazy?”

“Yeah…”

“I still remember the letter we wrote. I’ve memorized them all. ‘Don’t let your worries turn a small problem into an enormous one.’ And we didn’t write it down, but I also learned not to use magic for all my problems.” Twilight’s hoof stopped. “Except, I didn’t learn anything, did I? If I hadn’t been such a…such a grief-ridden idiot, none of this would have happened.”

“Twilight!”

“Don’t give me that, AJ!” Twilight flung the quill off her desk. “I thought that I was becoming a better pony here, and it turns out that I’m still a neurotic, short-sighted mess!” Twilight looked up, and the puffiness from before had become actual tears. “That’s what I learned! That I’m still the same horrible pony I always was!” Twilight planted her hooves on the desk. She stood up, her back legs shaking and tears dripping onto the paper. “And…and Princess Celestia knows that! That look she gave me when she came to collect the clone… I knew this would happen if she found out. She didn’t say anything, but she didn’t need to. I can’t write this stupid letter because I learned something awful, and I don’t need to because the Princess already realized I’m a lost cause!”

Twilight swept the paper off the desk. Her balance wobbled from the action, and she slumped back down, her face resting on her forelegs.

Applejack walked over, rested a hoof on her shoulder. “Twilight, you’re bein’ too hard on yourself. Nopony handles grief well. You’re not a failure for acting equine.”

Twilight didn’t respond.

“And I know it might seem frustratin’, not havin’ a simple resolution to everythin’, but complicated problems have complicated answers. Someday, when all this is all behind us, you can look back and take some answers from this whole mess. But it ain’t gonna just settle into a pretty letter for ya. I think that’s why the Princess didn’t talk to ya. None of this nonsense about being a horrible pony.”

“Really?” Twilight turned her head to side. Her tears had slowed.

“Really really,” Applejack said.

“So, I’m not a horrible pony?”

“Of course not!” Applejack rested her other hoof on Twilight’s foreleg. “You’re one of the kindest, smartest ponies I know. We all make mistakes, Twi’. Some of them just take longer to learn from, and some just cause more damage before they teach those lessons.”

“I guess…I guess you’re right.”

“Of course I am. Now c’mon, we have a Pinkie Party to get to.”

“Yeah, I guess we do.”

Applejack helped Twilight up. Twilight wiped her face messily on her foreleg, and the two of them walked to the door. Twilight’s hoof lingered on the door handle. She looked back over her shoulder; the crumpled, tear-stained parchment was still on the floor.

Finally, she tore her gaze away and walked into the crisp evening air. She could clean it up after the party. Maybe Applejack was right; maybe she didn't need to write a letter. After all, ponies are defined by their experiences, good and bad. That's what the letters were for, helping her to remember and learn from her experiences. And, whether she wanted to or not, she would remember this for a long time. And despite what they kept telling her, everypony else would too.

Author's Note:

A special thanks to Nonagon for editing. Everyone who edited for me was helpful, but Nonagon definitely had the most impact on the final product. If you liked this story, don't forget to check out some of my prereader's pages—stories are products of both their writers and editors, after all.

I considered doing a sort of Director's Commentary/A blog post where I reflected/elaborated on the story chapter-by-chapter or something to that effect. I'm not sure if that many people would be interested, though. I intentionally kept the author's notes sparse so as not to impede/spoil the story or debate, and I'm not sure that such a post would add much.

Thanks for reading. While it was emotionally draining, this was consistently one of my favorite stories to update, because of the strong audience reactions and debates it sparked. :twilightsmile:

Comments ( 76 )

O_o It's over like that? Well, it was a good story to be sure, and I'm glad the clone got a... hopeful ending. I'm also glad Twilight has done some reflecting, even if it seems to me to be too little too late. Nice job, hope for a sequel.

Wroth #2 · Jul 6th, 2014 · · 1 ·

“So, I’m not a horrible pony?”

“Of course not!” Applejack rested her other hoof on Twilight’s foreleg. “You’re one of the kindest, smartest ponies I know. We all make mistakes, Twi’. Some of them just take longer to learn from, and some just cause more damage before they teach those lessons.”

Can't tell if Sarcasm, considering Twilight still doesn't think of the clone as a person, still thought of her as an IT, and has yet to actually reflect on anything except for the fact that the only issue she thought she was failing as was trying to make it Pinkie, rather then directly threatening it and basically treating it like horse manure.

Will this story have a sequel?

4647580
I'm with ya there. It looks like Twilight knows she did something wrong, but she doesn't really seem to grasp just what that was- namely, being a terrible person to another living, thinking pony by way of abuse and threats. On a side note, I'm kinda disappointed we didn't get Rainbow's take on the situation at the end. She treated the clone the best, for the longest out of everypony else, even though she was still obviously uncomfortable.

4647616
I'm with you there on the Rainbow part. She treated the clone the best, even going out to search for her when she left, but nothing really came of it.

Hope there's a sequel; I'd like to see how the clone fares in a new life that's entirely hers.

Thank you for the lovely story, author.

This story was pretty good, nice to see that the clone doing well. So, great job! Like the others had mention, here hoping for a sequel.

“So, I’m not a horrible pony?”

The Pinkie clones of this story have obviously minds/feelings of their own and you offed how many of them Twilight?

Why the heck wasn't this fact touched on?! It's basically murder of a group of ponies with the mentality of a newborn foal and murder is inexcusible so undoing the exsistence of a large group of ponies is ok now? :rainbowderp:

You probably should of touched on this a little bit at some point...

And they're still calling her "the clone."

Twilight didn't learn a goddamn thing from this.

Can't you expand this? Like, what if one day she decides to kill the clone? This is too short, and we want to know what happens to the clone :flutterrage:

I felt like that was a good ending. Glad you didn't tear apart Twilight as well. I can tell she feels awful and is trying to understand everything. Apple Jack is right, it may take a awhile buy Twilight will have her answer and I'm glad it wasn't right away. Its more believable to me that way. Congrats on finishing this amazing story.:twilightsmile:

And things were going so well. Then 'Deus ex Pinkie' and Twilight gets comforted and excused for her behaviour?

:facehoof:

I'll be honest with you, these last three or so chapters left me disappointed. They strike me as a rushed effort to tie up a story you just want done. I'm sorry, but for the ending I have to switch my up vote to a down vote as it just guts the entire story.

“Don’t give me that, AJ!” Twilight flung the quill off her desk. “I thought that I was becoming a better pony here, and it turns out that I’m still a neurotic, short-sighted mess!” Twilight looked up, and the puffiness from before had become actual tears. “That’s what I learned! That I’m still the same horrible pony I always was!” Twilight planted her hooves on the desk. She stood up, her back legs shaking and tears dripping onto the paper. “And…and Princess Celestia knows that! That look she gave me when she came to collect the clone… I knew this would happen if she found out. She didn’t say anything, but she didn’t need to. I can’t write this stupid letter because I learned something awful, and I don’t need to because the Princess already realized I’m a lost cause!”

So first Twilight throws a dramatic display of her guilt by insulting herself. Then she implies that she didn't want Princess Celestia to find out just because she'd think badly of Twilight and that Pinkie was just an item to be collected and put out of sight all in one sentence.

...Wow Twilight, you just proved that you really are a neurotic, short-sighted mess. :rainbowderp:

“So, I’m not a horrible pony?”
“Of course not!” Applejack rested her other hoof on Twilight’s foreleg. “You’re one of the kindest, smartest ponies I know. We all make mistakes, Twi’. Some of them just take longer to learn from, and some just cause more damage before they teach those lessons.”

But it's okay Twilight, because you have friends willing to help you patch over the incident. :ajsmug: Accepting the incident though....

On a completely unrelated note, if Twilight really wanted to change Pinkie into Pinkie Pie, she could've used a memory spell to force Pinkie into thinking/believing she's Pinkie Pie. I mean, she's used memory spells before... :twilightsmile:


The story was fun to read. It started feeling rushed during the last few chapters and the ending left me wondering what both Pinkie and Pinkie Pie's fate were to be (aka ending lacked closure), but overall it was fun to read.

Well I just happened to stumble onto this fic through the feature box, and I have to say I am loving it so far.
I am also floored by your use of lyrics from old Who songs. I am a diehard fan, and it's nice to know that someone out there likes to listen to some of the less well known tracks from their albums! Especially Drowned, my favorite song by a longshot. Marry me :heart:?

Comment posted by Rubiks_Err0R deleted Apr 12th, 2019

....wait that's it?!

4649613

Nice passive aggressive technique. Also, you're assuming that I had any idea about either of those.

And even if I had known about them? I'd STILL say that the last three chapters strike me as rushed, half assed and an effort to just tie up a story the author is bored with.

Now then:
A) Who excused Twilight's behaviour: Everypony other than Rainbow Dash seemed just fine with Twilight's actions. We just have Applejack at the end being the mouthpiece here, telling her that her actions were fine.
B) Hints are hints. You can hint all you like. Means all of jack and shit. And Jack left town. Relying on 'hints' to try and tie things up is plain bad writing.

So yeah, sticking with my down vote.

4647584 4647844 4647863 4648469 A sequel is unlikely. While there might be more to say (and I like the idea of a chocolate scientist), I think the story works better with a vaguer ending.

Besides, I have other nihilistic sadfics to get started on :trollestia:

4649574 :heart: I also wrote another story inspired by The Who over here. :rainbowkiss:

4648852 I actually did have most of the plot points lined up from the very beginning (I just write super slow). I intentionally had Pinkie Pie come back because I wanted to prevent the story from being completely devoid of hope; even without that, the same general progression of events would likely have been the same (and even then there is foreshadowing for either version). The ending is vague because I wanted to reflect that real life doesn't have easy answers.

I'm sorry you didn't like the ending, but thank you for at least explaining why. :twilightsmile:

4649613 Everyone was supposed to forget about those :raritydespair:

4649120 See my comment here; 4634601 :raritywink:

4647616 4647707 I wanted Rainbow's subplot to be a reflection of Fluttershy's--at first they both try and treat Pinkie as a friend, but they ultimately can't. Fluttershy chooses Twilight and Rainbow chooses the real Pinkie Pie, they just do it in slightly different ways and timeframes.

This might have needed more elaboration in story, but given how polarizing Fluttershy's actions turned out, I think it worked fine without it.

This was a nice read. Interesting premise and smooth writing.

The scenes where the Pinkie-clone innocently fails at the things Pinkie Pie would be good at are a two-edged sword for me. On one hand, there is a strong sense of melancholy seeing her so oblivious at how inept she is and how it affects the others around her. You convey that emotion well; all drama, no melo. On the other hand, the more inept she shows herself, the more unbelievable it becomes that they failed to pick the real one from the fakes. As early as chapter 2, it becomes disturbingly obvious that they could have exposed all these clones by asking them where they lived. The solution in the show was silly, but the show itself operates more on the silly than the serious. When you try to use the silly situation presented in the show to portray something serious and thoughtful like this story, then the things the show gets away with suddenly become less excusable.

Unfortunately, the ending comes off as a cop out. The attempt at injecting hope into the story has resulted in injecting a pink deus ex machina into the story. Reading the story is like playing Mass Effect 3. Great ride but...eh.

Nonetheless, I enjoyed the story all in all. Good work.

And so the story comes to an end. I did enjoy this final chapter as an ending, and I think it wraps it up well. It made me want to feel sorry for twilight, while also feeling that she is actually right in how she's describing herself . She has been horrible to Pinkie Clone, and she hasn't leant from it - she still doesn't care about her or how she treated her, she only feels bad for what she did to the 'real' Pinkie and for disappointing Celestia. Applejack is the same she tells Twilight it's okay because they got Pinkie Pie back, she doesn't even mention Twilights treatment of the clone, because she doesn't see it as important. It's good to see that Pinkie clone is getting a chance to actually figure out what to do with her life, with the help of someone who actually cars about her and has experience with this as well.

4649832
While I did like the fic, I've never been a fan of vague endings, that's actually why I figured there might be a sequel. It feels undone, which I suppose it intentionally was. Also, I really didn't see Rainbow's happiness about the real Pinkie Pie being back as choosing her over the clone, I just took it to mean she was happy to see her friend alive and well. If you meant for that to be an indicator of her abandonment of the clone, then I have to say, you didn't succede from my point of view.

I just want to say a quick point about Applejack basically letting Twilight off the hook, so to speak. What good would it have done, with Twilight in that state, to have agreed with her? Even a little? She needed to hear that she could still be good, and that things might be okay, in order to start to heal herself. Yes, she did awful things, but she wasn't in a place where she could deal with them yet. People need to come to terms with screwing up, particularly on this grand of a scale, when they're ready to. Yeah, sometimes everybody needs a kick in the pants to accept where they've screwed up, but when they're at a point where all they can see is the bad they've done, it is a terrible idea to agree with them, and say 'Yeah, you kinda suck. Oh well.'

Pinkie Pie seems like she'll be okay, and Pinkie seems to be pretty hopeful, too. Twilight needed a little hope thrown her way as well before it ended.

hi hi

It looks to me like Applejack is trying to make it true. I would have felt a little bit upset if Twilight had gotten off the hook 100% free, but I realize that if Celestia had her conversation with Twilight on screen, it would risk oversimplifying a complicated problem. But it might have been nice if someone other than Pinkie 2 had at least learned some small lesson, even if it wasn't a complete lesson on life the universe and everything.

((Saying that Rainbow Dash, the Element of Loyalty, effectively abandons Pinkie 2 at the end... I have to admit that really doesn't sit well with me. It seemed like she understood how the way everypony else was acting was wrong, in a sense that went beyond just being sad for the loss of her friend. Is Princess Celestia seriously the only pony who managed even a shred of empathy for Pinkie 2? Even Zecora got a chance to be seen for who she was on the inside, but it makes it seem like everyone is just going back to their original discriminatory selves.))

4650113 well, that's assuming the "duplicate dimension" can be entered simply by getting into the pool

4649120 I'm with you on this. Twilight, you fucked up GOOD! And I am getting a bit tired at seeing her so let off the hook so comparatively easily.

Standing on the edge of the precipie. A normal social person will look at the party as a way to recover, get help from freinds, make amends etc. A depressed person will see it as something they dont deserve, causing guilt at making their freinds need to try ceer tem up, then making their freinds stress, therefore making thm stress out even more, and so on.

And then theres...

Hmm, I wnt mention it, this in now, hopefully, a happy and recovering story. Hope Celestia gets Pinkie Clone to learn to bake her cakes. :trollestia:

Didn't know you wrote, pretty decent story, got an intresting take about celestia. Not bad not bad.

So a lot of you seem to be dumping on Twilight pretty hard. I think she was hard enough on herself and as for Celestia punishing her? That's not really her style. She imparts a lesson and guidance, not punishment. That's a lesson she learned about a thousand years ago. Even in Lesson Zero she only gave a "punishment" since the Mane 6 begged her for one.

Plus the rest of the gang weren't much better, so they probably need a pretty good scolding as well.

Pinkie Clone seems a more than a little autistic and with her lack of experience it's not hard to see why Ponyville turned into jerks, but she really did try her best.

Nice story, no sequel needed imo.:pinkiesmile:

Comment posted by Catnip deleted Jul 9th, 2014

4660215
^Contains spoilers :P

Definitely worth the wait, very nicely handled (as opposed to my alternate ending to that episode). Kudos on a job well done! :moustache::twilightsmile::pinkiehappy:

It would be interesting to see what Celestia had planned for the clone Pinkie but its definitely not crucial to the story. Overall I think this was a cool idea for an alternate spin on an episode. It got a little dark which was fun but the ending came a little too quickly for me personally. I still really enjoyed the story though.
Twi don't beat yourself up so much everyone makes mistakes dome small and some huge but we just have to find the best in it.

4673545
No, she said "send them back" in the episode. That's canon.
The murder version is the fan-canon. :facehoof:

4674637
The phrase "send them back" is extremely vague and can be interpreted in many ways.

Additionally, we know nothing about the clones' state of existence prior to Pinkie activating the pool.

There are many possibilities that fit:
1. The clones could be returning to a pocket dimension with sunny skys, fields of flowers, and horny stallions.
2. They could be returning to an empty black abyss with only each other for companionship.
3. They could be returning to a state of non-existace.
4. [Insert Option Here]

There is no way to be certain what fate the clones received in canon. Even if we agree on one of the more pleasant options, we still have to answer the question of whether or not Twilight was right to send the clones away in the first place.

Okay, I read through this all in one day, and honestly, I was all about to add it as a favorite and even suggest it to friends; but... I can't. I would have much preferred the final chapter have shown Pinkie 2 setting up some form of her own identity, anything from just a unique name to maybe deciding to stay in Canterlot... Something.... anything that "wrapped up" her story. Didn't have to be concrete, with everything spelled out; Could still be vague, open-ended and hopeful, but the fact that there wasn't even ANYTHING to really conclude her story arc about her identity, and rather the last bit being all about Jerklight Sparkle, just completely kills the story for me. There is 'vague' and then then there is just 'Did Not Finish', this feels much more like the latter, and that just completely disappoints me.

I thought the premise of this story was that Pinkie is dead, her friends are morning their loss, and helping the remaining clone come to terms with her existence. Yet you end by resurrecting Pinkie Pie and ship Pinkie 2 off to be someone else's problem. It is as if the story got cold feet and couldn't deliver. Sad fics are suppose to make people cry. This one left me disappointed.

The last four chapters spoiled the ride for me and I have decided to switch my vote to down as a result.

Honestly, this was a mess all of them contributed to.

None of them actually thought to sit down with the clone and talk this through. Be honest with her.

Well, now that this is complete, let me start by saying that I did enjoy the story overall.

The premise hooked me quickly, and I enjoyed the dark connotations of what Twilight thought she'd done. It was very interesting to see how all the ponies reacted, and tried to overcome the horror and tragedy, and it was likewise quite intriguing to see Pinkie try to be somepony she wasn't.

However, I felt the ending kind of undermined all the seriousness. Most of the story was a tragedy, but at the end, it felt like deus ex machina made everything okay again, rather than the characters actually coming to grips with what had been reality, and getting past the tragedy you'd set up.

Endings are always the hardest part of any story to pull off, so please don't take my critique of this one too hard. As I said, I did still enjoy the overall story, and I think you did a remarkable job with a very difficult premise.

4681944 4692166 I tried to make the ending show that PInkie Pie's return didn't actually solve anything. I knew that the ambiguous melancholy would contrast with the explicit emotion of earlier chapters, and that was intentional--you can only have so many highly charged scenes before it becomes forced.

I'm sorry you didn't enjoy the ending, but thanks for at least taking the time to explain why. :twilightsmile:

4678728 A previous draft actually did include a more explicit fate for Pinkie; Celestia asked her what she wanted to do with her life, and had a bunch of apprenticeships set up for her. An editor pointed out (correctly) that Celestia came off as too competent. Destiny is something that needs to be discovered, and simplifying Pinkie's search for identity that way would have cheapened her story.

Even though you didn't enjoy the ending, thanks for letting me know where it fell flat. :twilightsmile:

4649949 Thanks :twilightsheepish: The scenes with Pinkie being awkwardly oblivious were definitely some of my favorite to write, since they had to juggle multiple emotions.

The problem with Mass Effect as a series was that it was always about the journey, not the destination. Your interactions with the world were always a greater focus than the plot. Any ending would have been disappointing because of those priorities.

I suppose the same may be true of this story, to an extent. No matter how I ended it, there would always be some sense of incompleteness; the focus of the story is on everypony's behavior and their interactions, not necessarily the plot. That's actually the main reason I stopped reading Asylum.

Still, thank you for the erudite comment :twilightsmile:

Hello, I just want to let you know I did a little review and analysis of your story. Hope you enjoy it.
http://grimwolfden.tumblr.com/post/91790491357/review-and-analysis-i-am-not-the-actor-by-cleverpun

Comment posted by Cloudy Days deleted Jul 16th, 2014

4695909 I'm not sure that I would call that a "better" ending, because it would completely change the feel of the story. It would definitely make a good alternate ending though.

Well, now that that's all over with... Hmm. I don't know. I'm in the camp that thinks it was kind of rushed too. I don't really have a problem with Pinkie's return in and of itself, but it was definitely not appropriately foreshadowed, and it did seem to come out of nowhere, even if I do get your reason for having it so.

As for the ambiguous ending, it was okay, but it was also not. Leaving the final fate of the clone unclear I actually rather liked, and ditto for having the final scene be dealing with Twilight, as her inner turmoil was kind of the driving force of the whole conflict and saving that resolution for last was only fitting. However, it did skimp on a lot of topics that it was necessary to address.

For as much as I will defend Twilight both in this fic and in the episode it was based on, she did treat the clone badly, and since both the fic itself and the characters have definitively decided that the clones are alive, that does warrant some kind of resolution between the two. The guilt is important, yes, but I felt like Twilight's character development in the fic was just as much about her ever-changing opinion of the clone, which to me felt like it was intended to end with her overcoming her... I guess we'd call it prejudice? I dunno. Just feels like the character arc was left incomplete here.

Although, on the opposite side of the argument, I felt that Twilight's character was handled very well otherwise. I can see how grief, guilt and regret drove her throughout this whole thing, how it brought on her more irrational actions, and how much she's suffered for it all. Lack of resolution aside, I did find the final scene rather poignant for that reason. Which is why the comments surprise me a lot of the time. She's not blameless. Not by a mile. But I'm genuinely shocked that even when she's tearing herself apart with guilt by the final scene that some people aren't able to muster up any empathy for her at all and just demand further punishment. Honestly, I find it rather scary.

But whatever. I don't want to start another ethical debate. I'll just leave off by saying that while the story definitely did weaken towards the end, I liked most of it. It played with an interesting idea, it made me think, and it used its characters well, even if it used an interpretation of canon that I'm not fond of. I just wish I didn't feel like such a minority with my opinions.

Hm, so this was it then. :moustache: I like what's here, certainly. Nothing other than perhaps Pinkie's mysterious escape seemed poorly executed.

I understand some folks took issue with Twilight's behavior, but I particularly liked that myself, for what that's worth. Still, too little, I feel, went into this ending. Well, that's my two bits anyway. Excellent story nonetheless.

Neh... this felt like a letdown. Like, there was a story here, and then... it all got tied up super neatly by Pinkie Pie coming back. It didn't really feel like it went anywhere useful, it just kind of... happened. And it wasn't for lack of length, either; it was 23k words but it left me feeling a bit empty.

Hmm.

This could easily have turned out much more tragic. Some may think it would have been better that way, but I think you got your point across.

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