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Childhood's End, Draft 1

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Mar 31st, 2020
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  1. Childhood's End, Draft 1
  2.  
  3. Chapter 1 - Sun and Steel
  4.  
  5. "Well, Princess Cadance, I have to admit, you're my favorite pony so far."
  6. >She giggled a little, clearly flattered.
  7. >"Really, after you've met Celestia, Luna, the Elements, and Celestia know who else, and you're impressed by me?"
  8. >Shining Armor smiled and looked at her.
  9. >"Well, I was certainly impressed by you. You're the most beautiful mare in the world, you know that?"
  10. >She blushed a little.
  11. "I actually meant that you're a nice middle ground - not too serious, but still mature enough to not fire glitter out of a cannon."
  12. >"Well, I guess I haven't let the 'seriousness of the crown' get to me", she said, doing her worst Celestia impression.
  13. >"You certainly still know how to have fun." Shining said with a grin before giving her a less-than-chaste kiss.
  14. >Oh, wow. They're really getting into it.
  15. >It really was a shame that you had to leave soon.
  16. >These two have been the best hosts in Equestria.
  17. >Too bad the portal only works at certain times.
  18. >Otherwise, you would try to make the wedding.
  19. >You ended up shooting the shit with Shining and some of his friends for the rest of the night.
  20. >You explained the way warfare worked in your world and your past experiences in the Marines.
  21. >It turned out, not all ponies were pussies like those pacifists in Equestria.
  22. >The Crystal Empire has historically had a martial culture, probably from their historica; skirmishes with the Griffons, Yaks, and Changelings.
  23. >Shining seemed to seriously consider offering you a job as a military advisor, but you declined preemptively.
  24. >You had a lot of shit back home you needed to sort out first.
  25. >At least there were ponies that didn't think you were a baby killer for being in the military. That's always nice.
  26.  
  27. >Only a few ponies were there to see you leave through the mirror.
  28. >Cadance, Shining, his bratty little sister who took a liking to you.
  29. >You weren't too broken up about the whole thing. You liked this place, and you'll visit it again.
  30. >No, you were worried about having to explain to the IRS why your taxes are 3 months late. Not to mention your boss.
  31. >Right before you walked in, you made an off-hand comment that you thought was smooth as fuck.
  32. "If you guys ever need me, just ask. I'm always willing to defend the rightous."
  33. >Unfortunately, the ponies seemed to take it to heart.
  34. >It was going to bite you in the ass later.
  35.  
  36. >The first instinct when passing through an extra-dimensional gateway, it seemed, was to exhale. Your breath caught on the winter air like dense smoke.
  37. >The woman in front of you seemed genuinely surprised.
  38. >"You have to be over 7 feet tall. Hopefully that won't be too big of an issue. Welcome back to Earth, Anon."
  39. "And you must be Principle Celestia. And it's pretty obvious we're not on my Earth. I wasn't 7 feet tall where I'm from."
  40. >Fucking multiverse. They told you this might happen.
  41. >You actually felt relief when the portal behind you collapsed. The IRS wasn't going to find you here.
  42. >She smirked. "Well then, it seems like we have different sized feet. To cut introductions short, the plan is for you to use the Social Security Number of someone who died shortly after birth. We'll just tell the feds that you bounced from friend to friend after being abandoned by your birth parents until now. Register you as a high school student here. You should be set for life here after you graduate."
  43. "Oh, nice. That sounds fun. High school all over again."
  44. >She frowned.
  45. >"I'm doing the best I can here, Anon. I knew from the way that the Other Celestia described you that you weren't from around here. Do you know how hard it is to establish an identity from scratch nowadays?"
  46. >You sighed. This wasn't too bad, given the circumstances.
  47. "What's the name on the birth certificate? And what happens when the dead kid's real family finds out?"
  48. >She looked away, pretending to hear a noise behind her for a moment too long.
  49. >"Smoke Jaguar. He was my first son."
  50.  
  51. >So, legally, you were now her 17-year-old son.
  52. >Apparently, she was using low-level magic to disguise you age a little. Taking off 4 years honestly didn't make you look that different.
  53. >The first thing you did after meeting her was go for a physical with the school nurse.
  54. >Celestia made it clear that anything related to you was covered by NDA.
  55. >You wondered for a moment why the examination was in a hospital as opposed to the school clinic.
  56. >"So, Anon, right? Principal Celestia told me that you're her long-lost son. Stand straight on the scale here."
  57. "180 pounds. Seems about right. Much have lost some weight while... camping."
  58. >"That doesn't seem right, actually. Way too high, even for someone of your build. Let's get you over to the x-ray and see how your bloodwork measures up."
  59. >Hours of tests later, she looked at your chest x-ray with a raised eyebrow
  60. >"Your bone density is at least 3 times average. Muscle density is unusually high as well. The blood work came back with abnormally high levels of growth and sex hormones, but somehow normal liver function. Are you on a dozen different steroids, Smoke? My second best guess is that you're a genetically engineered super soldier. That would explain your clotting ability, certainly. No human should be able to do that without a stroke every other day."
  61. "No to both, although the second is probably closer to the truth. You think I can get into professional sports or something? And you can call me Anon, by the way, nurse."
  62. >She chuckled. "Any contact sports and you might get someone killed. Try not to get too much attention, kid. Otherwise you'll be gang-pressed into some Army black ops program. I doubt being forced by the government to murder is your dream job."
  63. "Actually, that was my-"
  64. >"He means he was killing trees up in Canada with my cousin's friends. No need to probe too much, Redheart" Celestia interupted.
  65. >"If this is what I think it is, I suggest you at least get him to a psychologist. There's no telling how different we are."
  66. >"We'll keep that in mind." Celestia said as she led you out of the room with an apologetic smile.
  67.  
  68. >God, it was good getting internet and good whisky again.
  69. >This Earth was very similar to your own, the main difference being that everyone's a manlet weakling compared to you.
  70. >You were in shape, but you could barely bench press 200 pounds. However, that's apparently considered the level of an elite athlete here.
  71. >You had choices now that you didn't before.
  72. >You thought back to you last life, right before you slipped through that rabbit hole and into fantasy.
  73. >You had washed out for the second time for Marine Force Recon. You were certain that you were physically good enough. You just got worn down mentally, got a bit too sloppy and unlucky, and injured your way out of the program both times.
  74. >But here? You could probably pass. Hell, you're almost a supersoldier.
  75. >You closed out your windows and went out for a jog. You had work to do.
  76.  
  77. >High school was a breeze. You learned calculus this time around, got in the best shape of your life, and went to the Olympics before shipping out for boot camp.
  78. >You got the gold in two weightlifting events and failed to medal in anything else. You might be really really good, but the was no way in hell you could keep up with people who spent their entire lives training.
  79. >Especially when they're almost certainly taking roids.
  80. >The press surrounding your decision to join the military was like you were accepted to Harvard but decided to do porn instead.
  81. >But you were proud of yourself. And you think your adoptive mother is too, even if she wouldn't admit it. Too bad you never got the Pat Tilman treatment.
  82. >Minus the getting shot part, of course.
  83. >The one person who was positively enthusiastic about it, though, was your jogging buddy, Rainbow Dash.
  84. >Since she decided to join the Navy and become a pilot, she thought that you would be shipping out together.
  85. >Somehow. Despite you being in the Marines. And the fact that she had to finish college before she could become an officer.
  86. >In hindsight, showing her Top Gun on your laptop might have been a bad idea.
  87. >You always joked that she was like the little sister you never had, and she would always call you a faggot back.
  88. >You were good friends.
  89. >She and her friends were the only ones who weren't afraid of you. Probably because they were familiar with dimensional travel and magical horses.
  90. >You may have a lot of people you considered friends, but you think Rainbow was the only one from high school you're going to keep for life.
  91. >She had familly in the military who she looked up to. She understood you. She made you feel normal. As silly as it sounds, she made you feel safe.
  92.  
  93. >You woke up with ringing in your ears.
  94. >A kid, around 19, with a miniture AK, coming around a corner. You pushed his face into the wall with a backhand blow and saw his brains come out. That was your first kill in hand-to-hand. You knew how soft people were here, just not what it meant in practice.
  95. >The face of your first girlfriend, Kacey. You thought you were in love, until she cheated on you with your best friend.
  96. >Your squadmate from Old Earth getting a bullet through his throat from a Chechen sniper. He died before he hit the ground.
  97. >The world comes back in to view. You slipped and fell from the helicopter over some mountains. It feels like you cracked some ribs. Your head hurts.
  98. >You remember snapping your rifle up before your vision even fully returned and dropping a Hadji.
  99. >You were blacked out for a lot of the fight, but you remember running out of ammo at one point and having to scrounge amongst the dead bodies for something to use with the AK you picked up.
  100. >You got picked up at nightfall, when something like 100 Taliban decided to slip away, thinking you were a full infantry squad.
  101. >More than 2 dozen bullet impacts. Most caught on your plates, one went into your gut, and a few into your limbs.
  102. >Less a few inches of intestines, you were fine after a month.
  103. >And so, you decided to go visit your friend in college since your deployment ended early.
  104. >She had grown into a woman since you last met her.
  105. >You could tell that she looks at you differently now. She didn't know that you killed before, but now, to her, you had the bloody hands of a killer.
  106. >It wasn't until the day you were suppose to leave that she told you that she had a crush on you since senior year.
  107. >You didn't say anything. You just started to lean in. She closed her eyes and smiled. Her lips met yours.
  108. >You made fun of her for licking your teeth. She gave you shit for calling her your little sister.
  109. >Neither of you slept that night.
  110. >She ended up telling you about her fears of joining the Navy. About her uncle who came back smiles and cheers after the war. About his wife who wanted a man who would feel sufficiently guilty for taking a life. About how he drank his way to an early grave because he never could.
  111. >"Don't leave me, Anon," she said, opening her mouth and closing it, like she was holding something back.
  112. >You realize that this is the most emotionally naked she has ever been. All that bluster and ego, replaced by her raw emotion for a few moments. Something that she felt safe enough to share with you.
  113. "I'm not leaving, Dash. I'll always be here, not matter what. I'll never leave you.The sky could fall on us tomorrow, and I'll be cuddled up with you in a bunker somewhere sharing MREs. I'll be here until the end of time. I promise."
  114. >You could tell she took it to heart and she seemed... relaxed.
  115. >In that moment, you meant it, and you think that's what really matters.
  116. >You decided to rebook your flight in the morning. She got to see the SecDef hang a medal around your neck as your girlfriend.
  117. >tfw Mad Dog called your gf a very lucky lady.
  118.  
  119. >After a while, you were recruited to work for the CIA.
  120. >The fact that you were in like the top 0.1% of height apparently wasn't a problem when working for a spy agency.
  121. >It was still the same job, but with a twist. A lot of the shit you did now was suppose to be more diplomatic. And secret. As in denied by the State Department secret.
  122. >You still shot at towelheads, recieved return fire, and ate shitty food. But you were making a bigger picture difference or something.
  123. >You now regreted not joining the Navy and trying for SEALs. That way you would have had like a dozen movies made about you.
  124. >Rainbow graduated college and went on to become a fighter pilot. Turns out these guys could actually handle g-forces better than the humans of Old Earth. She apparently had an interest in flying as part of the Blue Angels, and had been working tirelessly to join their ranks.
  125. >An engine malfunction, however, meant that she had to eject from a training aircraft.
  126. >Unfortunately, the process damaged her spine much more than it was suppose to.
  127. >When you finally got to see her at the hospital, she couldn't even feel her toes.
  128. >Even after months of rehabilitation, she wasn't making much progress. It seemed that a medical discharge was inevitable.
  129. >She cried. A lot. Her wings were clipped. You knew how much flying meant to her.
  130. >At least you still had each other.
  131. >You supposed that was what really mattered.
  132.  
  133.  
  134.  
  135. Chapter 2 - Love Lost
  136.  
  137. >Celestia looked a little tired. Given how hard she hides her weaknesses, however, that must have meant she was exhausted.
  138. >"Cadance, please. Shining was a good friend to me too."
  139. >That only made the pink pony even more furious. Her desheveled locks whipped across the air as she swung around to stare at the other Princess.
  140. >"Friend? FRIEND? HE WAS MY HUSBAND! I LOVED HIM! You don't know anything about how I feel right now. I'm sure you're just so jaded after thousands of years. Is that why you don't take lover any more? Because you can't feel anything? Because when they die you just forget their names?"
  141. >The white alicorn just looked away, deep in thought. When she spoke, it was soft, and without her normal regal flair.
  142. >"Our memories are enhanced by magic, you know. It's hard for me to forget a face. Or their voices. Or how they made me feel. But we're not going anywhere with this conversation, are we? You want revenge, justice, and to prevent your loss from happening to anyone else, but your solution involves the destruction of an entire race, an entire people. They can love just as you can, even if it is parasitic. You can feel it from them, can't you? I've spent a thousand years trying to reform them, and I'll spend thousands more. Eventually, they'll be redeemed. Shining's sacrifice and th-"
  143. >Cadance didn't bother to stay for another lecture. She remembered the last time she had tried to sway Celestia. When she tried to convince her to turn Shining into an alicorn. The refusal was final, and Celestia said that his life wasn't worth the stability of her kingdom.
  144. >It wasn't really even an argument. It was like Celestia listened, nodded, and then did what she was going to do anyways.
  145. >It was like the thought of losing the most important person in the world to her didn't cross Celestia's mind as important.
  146. >Cadance realized that, more than anything, more than even life it self, she didn't want to become like Celestia. She didn't want to keep losing people until they stopped mattering. Things were going to change, even if it cost her everything.
  147. >And so, she walked away.
  148.  
  149. >"Love. That's what drove men to their deaths in war. Not because they hated what was in front of them, but because they loved what was behind them."
  150. >You were at another funeral. Another one of your friends in the ground forever.
  151. >The chaplain was giving a speech you've heard more than once before, but that was alright with you. The whole thing was a ritual, after all, to help those left behind to move on.
  152. >You payed your respects and decided to sit on a bench for a little while. You didn't know him well, and you're mostly here out of duty.
  153. >Over time, you've noticed that your emotions, while considered average in your platoon in Old Earth, clearly crossed into psychopathy here.
  154. >You supposed that was just one more thing making you a more effective killer.
  155. >Tears didn't have time to form before you realized you were suddenly in someone's bedroom.
  156. >"Anon?" a voice asked, almost whispered.
  157. >You turned around to see a pink alicorn, with tears in her eyes. Pony magic fuckery. Somehow, you aren't even surprised.
  158. "Cadance? What happened? Why am I here?"
  159. >She began to sob again, tears streaking down her face, words coming out one at a time.
  160. >"Our wedding... It was so perfect. I've never seen Shining so happy."
  161. >"But then the Changelings came. And now he's dead."
  162. >She took a moment to compose herself, but you could tell that emotionally, she's being held together by strings.
  163. >"You - you said that if we ever needed you, you'd help us. Is that still true?"
  164. >You vaguely remember saying something along those lines. Fuck you for trying to look cool.
  165. >But fuck, Shining was a bro. He didn't deserve to die to fucking Xenomorphs on his wedding night.
  166. >She broke down crying.
  167. >"Help me. H-help me reform the army, and I'll give you whatever you want. I'm not letting that black bitch get away with this."
  168. "Can you fix my girlfriend's spine?" It was worth a shot.
  169. >She tried to chuckle. It came out as a hacking cough.
  170. >"I'll give you whatever you want that is in my power. If you help me with this, I'll heal your girlfriend. It would be like she never got injured. And when I win, I'll give the two of you the powers of an alicorn, which would let you live forever. Would you like that?"
  171. "This is starting to sound more than just a simple assasination."
  172. >She stopped crying and smiled. You can see the fire in her belly.
  173. >"We're going to change the world, Anon. I'm going to honor Shining's memory by making sure everypony who wants to can become an alicorn. He always did lament about how we couldn't be together forever.
  174. "I'm going to assume Celestia doesn't exactly agree?"
  175. >"That's why you're going to help me make an army that can let me disagree."
  176. >Holy shit.
  177. "I'm in."
  178.  
  179. >Loving someone and being in love with them are two different things.
  180. >The first can last for a long time. The latter is a bit of temporary madness.
  181. >It really shouldn't be surprising that the embodiment of chaos itself would be an exception to the latter. In many ways, it had consumed him, for years and years, and he was happy for it.
  182. >He knew it wouldn't last forever. Nothing ever did. Mortals die, love fades, and Discord grew bored. It was simply the way of things. But he never stopped trying.
  183. >There were really only two ways to deal with eternity. One is disconnecting from the world, refusing to form attachments, and becoming "enlightened". The other was to love as though things would last forever, and taste the resulting pain and sorrow as fine wine.
  184. >For at the end of the day, pain was still better than nothing.
  185.  
  186. >He had tried to talk his beloved into accepting immortality, but she had turned him down. Said that she didn't want to watch her friends grow old and die, over and over again. In other words, she didn't want to become like him.
  187. >He was the most powerful being in existance, but also the loneliest.
  188. >He remembered when he was young, when the very world itself was young. How he had argued with Celestia about alicorns. He had wanted that power given to everyone, for it was what ponies were meant to be. But she was more powerful than him then, and she insisted that the end result of a world full of ponies who could move the very stars would be anarchy. Over the years, he had found ways to reduce that power, but every time she had rebuffed him. In the end, it was clear that she was opposed to the very idea of mass immortality, for she hated it, and saw it as a curse, a necessary evil that she took upon herself to stabilize Equestria.
  189. >He could have opposed her on that point. But it would have meant war, and on some level, he still loved her.
  190.  
  191. >Be Celestia.
  192. >There is a story you had spread long ago. About two lovers, a unicorn and a pegasus.
  193. >The Elements, in their grand primordial forms, saw them, and realized it was the greatest romance they had ever seen. But they knew that mortality would take them away from each other. They could be so sentimental then.
  194. >And so, with great pain, they fashoned two gems from their very flesh.
  195. >This gift was given to the pagasus, and she was told that she should eat one and give the other to her lover, so that they may be given life everlasting.
  196. >At the same time, they implied that should anyone consume both, they would be elevated to godhood.
  197. >But on her way home, she felt that to give it to her lover would be selfish - after all, she found society weak and anarchy rife. Although she loved him, she felt that godhood would allow her to shepherd her people for all time. Wasn't that better than a single person, no matter how much she loved him? With the power of a god, she could fix injustices and right wrongs - forever.
  198. >At least, that's what she told herself. In a moment of weakness, she ate them both, and was transformed into a hideous beast who exiled herself to the sun so that her consort may never know of her sins.
  199. >It was the truth, in a way.
  200.  
  201. >The rifle cracked repeatedly as the unicorn gunner tried to make aimed shots against the suspended metal target.
  202. >A few simple enchantments allowed the weapons to be made quite enough to not damage their hearing and the recoil lowered to be controllable.
  203. >The reality of equine anatomy meant that firing on the move was very difficult, except for close-range shots with magic-levitated weapons.
  204. >Instead, you settled on mounting a weapon (generally a MG) on the back of an earth pony, who would also carry most of the gear and ammo. An assistant unicorn would then aim and operate the weapon.
  205. >It was a surprisingly effective tactic, and a modified rifle was also carried to be operated by the earth pony when the team is static and the MG dismounted.
  206. >With enough ammo, a single company of the new Imperial Guard could take on hundreds of thousands of conventional troopers.
  207. >The pegasi weren't left out either - they are currently training with modified mortar rounds to provide air support, independently developing dive-bombing tactics to increase their accuracy.
  208. >You honestly thought that getting weapons to arm them would be one of your biggest challenges, but portals and your CIA contacts meant that Imperial gold was quickly swapped for surplus Soviet-era gear.
  209. >It was clear, however, that this was meant as an army of conquest. The fact that you were secretly training ponies in Yakiyakistan meant that Cadance wanted to keep it a secret - until she could unleash it on her enemies, that is.
  210. >The changelings were going to be first, obviously. Revenge was what brought you here.
  211. >You understood. You weren't sure if you agreed, but you understood. In her shoes, you would do the same.
  212.  
  213. >Although almost all nations in Equs had been experimenting with industrialization over the past century, Equestria had lagged behind due to the desire of Celestia to avoid unemployment and social disruption.
  214. >The Crystal Empire, on the other hand, had suffered greatly in the Changeling invasion, and naturally sought out automation as a solution.
  215. >It was whispered that the Princess was meeting regularly with otherworldly entities to further this end, but most dismissed these as idle rumors. Still, the ideas of magically automated looms, mills, and even farming equipment had advanced under the supervision of foreigners, yaks and griffons mostly, but also a few odd ponies who seemed... wrong.
  216. >In a few years, the market analysts say, the Empire will become the most industrially advanced nation on Equs.
  217. >Perhaps it was this newfound wealth that caused the crown to build ophanages for those who lost their parents in the past war, although the education ciriculum there seemed to focus on physical fitness and machine maintainance than traditional subjects like history and philosophy.
  218. >More than anything, however, the ponies of the Empire wanted safety. They wanted a force that could stand between them and the darkness.
  219. >For that end the Imperial Guard was established as a new formation in the Imperial Army, although details on their operation were few.
  220. >What was known, however, was that they sought out those who had lost loved ones in the invasion.
  221. >Smiths, carpenter, and farmers, those whose flames burnt bright, led by a surprising number of new officers with martial cuties marks, many of whom were just past majority.
  222. >Surprisingly enough, their leader was announced to be Twilight Sparkle, the sister of the late Prince.
  223. >There was a sense of hope among the people, but also a sense of unease. The threat that hit them the last time was still there, and it was only a matter of time before they tried again.
  224.  
  225. >Funny how, after months of helping Twilight reform the Imperial Army, the climax came down to a Marine and his rifle.
  226. >It wasn't that you didn't trust those under your command, it was just that you were better.
  227. >And this was a task you couldn't fuck up.
  228. >The armies of the Changelings and the Imperial Guard had lined up at dawn, and it now seemed like battle was imminent.
  229. >You spotter Jade Falcon piped up: "I see her, sector 12, distance... 600 meters."
  230. "The big one, right?"
  231. >"Yes, sir. Minimal wind."
  232. >And so, you ended the war with a single shot.
  233. >Your arms were touching, and you could feel her flinch.
  234. >The only thing you felt was the recoil, and a bit of relief.
  235. "We did good here. If we're lucky, no one else has to die."
  236. >The Changeling line began dissolving as officers panicked without the guiding mind of the Queen.
  237. >You started packing.
  238. >She looked at you with her puppy dog eyes and paused for a moment.
  239. >"I thought it would be more. So it's over, just like that?"
  240. "Yeah, welcome to revenge. You'll probably sleep better tonight, if you're wondering."
  241. >She looked down, and tears started welling up in her eyes.
  242. >"So I went through boot camp, recon selection, and hoofing it the last two weeks with you, and that's it? My mom died and I never got say goodbye. That's IT? So an alien could end the war by himself?"
  243. >You brought her in for a hug and she started crying uncontrollably.
  244. "Yeah. That's it. We did our jobs. Now no one else has to."
  245.  
  246.  
  247. Chapter 3 - Damnation
  248.  
  249. >You were on a tower outside the griffon capital, looking upwards towards the stars.
  250. >The talks to bring them into the Northern Alliance with the Crystal Empire and the Yaks had gone without a problem.
  251. >And now you had some time to hang out with your aide before you had to go back.
  252. >Both of you needed a vacation.
  253. "Now that's the problem with industrialization, you can't see the stars as bright any more. I remember my first day here on this planet, I thought I could see the Milky Way for the first time in forever, until I realize it wasn't the Milky Way - all the stars were different."
  254. >Jade turned to look at you.
  255. >"That's got to be shitty. Knowing you can't see all off those people you care about. Never being able to say goodbye. I guess I know that feeling sometimes."
  256. "You never did tell me why you enlisted. Your files say that you're 17. Your cutie mark is a fucking ghillie suit. How did that happen?"
  257. >"I think you know. My mom died during the invasion. My dad was filled with grief, and wasn't really able to be my dad. I had an aunt willing to take me in, but I decided to run off when I was 16 to one of the orphanages run by the Crown. Heard I could get my revenge there."
  258. >"16 was old to not have a mark, and mine didn't appear until I went through survival training. It get me into the recon program, I passed, and then I got assigned to you. End of story."
  259. "Our stories don't end until we're dead, Jade. There's always time to make new ones."
  260. >She smiled at you. You're still not 100% on pony body language, but it looked like she was giving you fuck-me eyes.
  261. >"Are you saying that you want to be the next chapter of mine?"
  262. >You were honest to God tempted, but you were a God damn professional. With a girlfriend. Fuck.
  263. "Sorry, but I'm taken."
  264. >"Haha, yeah, and I'm drunk."
  265. >Was that legal? Shit, would banging her be legal?
  266. >You've been here for close to a year now, and Rainbow's letters have been getting more distant.
  267. >It's probably nothing. You've been deployed before, and she was there to greet you every time.
  268. >You just smile and pat Jade's head.
  269. "Am I your first crush or something?"
  270. >Her voice wavers.
  271. >"N-no. But you just seem so cool and I know you're pro-"
  272. "You're a good person, Jade. I might have put the bullet through the Queen's chest, but you helped me guide it there. We all play a role, soldier. Remember that. Anyone would be lucky to have you."
  273. >With that, the two of you went back to the stars.
  274.  
  275. >You steadied yourself before you entered Cadance's private meeting room.
  276. >Despite her grief, she had kept her revenge to a minimum. It was considered very uncouth to kill the general of an opposing army before the battle started, but perhaps it was the best option.
  277. "I'm proud of you."
  278. >She didn't expect that.
  279. >"I thought you told me not to seek revenge."
  280. "Yes, and the last time we spoke you were seriously considering wiping out an entire race. What changed?"
  281. >She started to paw at the ground before stopping herself.
  282. >"I understood what I really wanted. And for that, I needed them on my side."
  283. >This augurs poorly.
  284. "And what ever might that be?"
  285. >She ignored your query after a brief pause.
  286. >"I had a conversation with Discord the other day. Any guesses what he told me?"
  287. >A thousand possibilities flashed through your head. None of them good.
  288. >"Something about his sins... and yours."
  289. >Oh. OH.
  290. >"He told me about his mistake. About when you two were in love. When he stabbed you in the back and fucked off to the sun for a hundred years."
  291. "And what did he say about me?"
  292. >"Enough. I know that the power of alicorns were meant for us all. That you intentionally sabotaged our very bloodlines to keep control."
  293. >You smiled sadly. Discord always knew how to twist words. Especially when it came to you.
  294. "It's a long story. Are you sure you have all night to listen?"
  295. >"I'm an alicorn. All I have is time."
  296.  
  297. >And so you spoke, and so you spoke.
  298. >Of the times long ago.
  299. >His smile, which still tightened you throat despite the memory being a thousands years old.
  300. >He promised to come back with the Elements' gifts, and with it, you would watch over your people together, forever.
  301. >You were the shepherds in the dark. It wasn't just love that drove you, but also duty.
  302. >When he didn't come back, you thought he had died on the way, and you cried tears of blood, cursing the gods.
  303. >The you scryed him, seeing his mutated form. The prize of his betrayal.
  304. >And what did he do with all that power? Did he come back and apologize, trying his best to make things right? At least try to make your dreams of a united and peaceful Equestria come true? No, he wasted away on the sun, abandoning you, abandoning his people in his useless guilt.
  305. >You've never hated anything than him.
  306. >Seeing this, the Elements made a gesture they told you would be their last. They consumed one of their own to give you the power of all three tribes. Her sacrifice contrasting his selfishness.
  307. >He didn't kill you, no, he ended up killing one of the few purely good things in the world.
  308. >Even so, you never stopped loving him.
  309. >The world felt more hollow, more chaotic after that.
  310. >That's how you became the first alicorn.
  311. >You made a few more of yourself, but you lost them all.
  312. >Their names have faded through time, but your magic kept your memories alive.
  313. >The one you though would heal your heart grew weary and sealed himself in stone, asking you only release him when death would no longer stalk the land.
  314. >The beautiful one took a century to earn your trust, but then tried to kill you in your sleep and usurp you. She was the only alicorn you ever killed.
  315. >And then there was Luna. You made Cadance specifically as a contingency against her, but she was your sister once again and you loved her-
  316. >You shook yourself, you're getting off track.
  317. >And yes, Cadance, the reason I never took more lovers is because my heart never healed from any of them. Except her.
  318. >Do you understand now?
  319.  
  320. >"Dear Anon,"
  321. >"I want to thank you for going to Equestria for me. For us. It's because of you that my dreams of flying with the best will come true."
  322. >"I've always wanted the best for you. Maybe that's love. I still remember when we first got together. Do you remember that night? It was magical for me. I'm sure it was for you."
  323. >"I know that what I'm about to say may be confusing for you. The fact is, I just don't think our relationship can last. We're so different - we're not really even the same species. And despite all that, I fell in love with you. But all good things must come to an end. I think I had built up a false image of you as this perfect man who could give me everything I've ever wanted."
  324. >"I still remember in high school when you stand with me when Gilda and her crew tried to gang up on me. You went to homecoming with me when my date dtiched at the last minute. All those little things you did that made me feel safe - I'll never forget them, just like I'll never stop loving you."
  325. >"You were so open with your feelings, even after you enlisted. I remember our pillow talks, when I told you about my classes and you told me about war."
  326. >"It scared me even then, but I tried my best to not show it. You never seem bothered by it, or the comrades you have lost. And with each tale you told me, the more disturbed I got."
  327. >"You were never meant to be here, to be part of this world. You certainly were never meant to bring total war to the ponies. Yes, I know it was for me more than for you. And know that I'll be grateful for it every day that I draw breath. But I just can't share my bed and my heart with someone like you. You used to make me feel safe, but the last time we saw each other, I felt cold fear as you held me in your arms."
  328. >"Goodbye, Anon. I'm sure there is someone out there for you. I know that you have a good heart."
  329. >"Sorry,"
  330. >"Rainbow Dash"
  331.  
  332. "Discord."
  333. >He blinked into existance, sitting in your chair.
  334. >"Speak of the devil and he shall appear. What can I do you for?"
  335. "I assume you heard all of that?"
  336. >"Yes, and I've heard it all before, all except one. The first alicorn she mentioned. The only male alicorn ever. I knew something - or someone - had to have happened for her to abandon that path entirely. Always assumed I was such a bad fuck I turned her gay. She ever try anything with you?"
  337. "Unfortunately no. I would so love to defile that mare, if only to get under your skin."
  338. >"Dick-measuring contest aside-" he pulled out a measuring tape before popping it back to the ether "we need every advantage we can get in this upcoming fight. Now, I have an idea on where it could be. Celestia is predictably sentimental, as in you can predict where she puts things she's sentimental about. You're going to help me find it, and then all you need to do is to convince him to side with us - we're doing pretty much what he wants anyways."
  339. "And why don't you do that last part, if you're so big-dicked?"
  340. >"Because, dummy, he was around when I wasn't around. As in, Celestia probably pumped him full of lies -and truths- about me. If he sees me asking him to go against his love, he'll be quite unlikely to work with us."
  341. >And with that, he disappeared-
  342. >"Oh, and if Fluttershy asks what I'm doing, tell her I'm working on getting her the greatest Hearts and Hooves day present ever. It's technically the truth."
  343. >-into the void.
  344.  
  345. >You looked at the green pegasis in your bed as you stroked her wings.
  346. >She twitched slightly, her breathing and heartrate signaling that she was waking up.
  347. >Still, she remained motionless, with only a ghost of a smile on her face to indicate that anything was different.
  348. >You leaned in and nuzzled her, exhaling your hot breath on her neck.
  349. >She almost manage to hold back a small moan.
  350. >The ruse broken, she turned around and looked you square in the eyes.
  351. >"Anon, am I the rebound?"
  352. "What made you think that?"
  353. >"You seemed really in to me last night, and I know that your girlfriend just broke up with you. Things are moving so fast between us... I'm just a little scared."
  354. >You smiled. A small voice in the back of your head tells you you're making a mistake.
  355. "No, I guess I've liked you for a while now. The breakup just meant I could act on those feelings."
  356. >Stop lying to her, that same voice cried. You ignored it again.
  357. >You were hurt bad, and you just wanted to make someone happy. Is that so wrong?
  358. >She's the one who wanted you, after all. You were doing this for her benefit. Just a little something to boost her confidence.
  359. >"You know, Anon, you're the first creature who has ever reciprocated my feelings. Most of the time, I just... get told about how good a friend I am."
  360. >She climbed on top of you and rested her head on your chest.
  361. >"Don't ever leave me, Anon."
  362. >Your throat tightened so hard it hurt. Your heart felt like someone stabbed it with a knife. Images of a blue woman curled up against you flashes before you eyes.
  363. >"I'm not going anywhere, Jade."
  364. >You're going straight to hell, that much you were sure.
  365.  
  366. Chapter 4 - Sleight of Hand
  367. >You walked into the garden, having slipped away from the party at the castle.
  368. >So many dignitaries from so many nations, it was a chance for you to meet the most powerful people on the planet.
  369. >The cold night air bit into your body despite the dress uniform you were wearing.
  370. >"General Anon? You surprise me with your presence."
  371. "Princess Luna. I came here to get away from the crowd, didn't expect to see you here. Would you prefer me to leave?"
  372. >"I was actually hoping to run into you before the night's end, General. We have much to talk about."
  373. "Like the fact that our nations are on the verge of war? And please, call me Anon."
  374. >She looked you over, almost like she was trying to peer into your soul
  375. >"It can still be stopped, Anon. Cadance's loss and Discord's machinations may have corrupted her soul, but we know you're a good person, deep down."
  376. >"Please. Send your soldiers home. They don't deserve to die for Cadance's amibitions."
  377. >You chuckled.
  378. "At the end of the day, it's just a spat between alicorns, isn't it? Well, alicorns and Discord. I don't want everyone else to die for it either."
  379. "They trust me with their lives. I will not expend them unless absolutely necessary."
  380. "Still, I wonder if you know the truth about Nightmare Moon. Her, and the alicorns that came before you."
  381. >Luna's poker face was perfect, but she couldn't stop her hairs from standing on end.
  382. >"Nightmare Moon is a part of me, General. The worst part of me. That is all."
  383. "You really don't know?"
  384. "Is there somewhere we can go where we won't be overheard? I'm thinking of two eavesdroppers in particular."
  385. >A flash later, and you were on the surface of the moon.
  386.  
  387. >As soon as the two of you sensed Luna's exit, Discord activated the teleportation spell.
  388. >The two of you were in some kind of basement, surrounded by marble statues of ponies.
  389. >It took you a few seconds to realize that each and every one was once alive.
  390. >Unusually, their faces weren't locked in screams of terror.
  391. >Instead, they looked almost serene. Almost like they chose to be here.
  392. >There must have been hundreds of them.
  393. >Discord split up into a dozen bodies and began to search for the alicorn systematically.
  394. >It felt like less than a minute had gone by when Celestia herself appeared, a blinding flash announcing her entry.
  395. >"You dare. You DARE! War, death, conquest, and now you dare to defile the resting place of my friends."
  396. >"And what for? Are you here to destroy them, or to turn them against me? I expected this level of evil from you, Discord. But Cadance? You've truly changed."
  397. >Discord laughed from a hundred mouths.
  398. >"No, my dear, we're here for YOU."
  399. >You turned around and saw each one of his now legion of clones holding a pistol to the head of a statue.
  400. >"Checkmate."
  401. >Celestia's face turned to panic as she realized that she couldn't contact Luna.
  402. >"Funny thing about anti-scrying spells. They also prevent magical communication."
  403. >"Give up or Alfonzo here gets it."
  404. >Wait, what?
  405. "Discord! You said we were just here to talk to him!"
  406. >"And you believed me? This bridge was crossed the moment you started building up the army."
  407. >"Victory or death are our only options now. Don't think she won't do it - she's done it before."
  408. >Celestia stood defiant. The only emotion visable on her face was disgust.
  409. >"I trusted you, Discord. I loved you, and part of me still does. And yet, you betray me again."
  410. >Her eyes turn sad.
  411. >"I thought you were different - that you'd changed. Do you remember what we once had? If you turn back now, we can still-"
  412. >She tried to look stoic when you began petrifying her, but even her tears turned to stone.
  413. >When you turned to look at him, his copies were all gone, just a deflated creature staring at his feet.
  414. >"I'm sorry I had to lie to you like that, but I needed you here so that she knew she was overpowered. Otherwise, I'd actually have to fight her."
  415. >You sighed.
  416.  
  417. >"So Nightmare Moon was the one that ascended before me?"
  418. "Yeah. Apparently she had tried to murder Celestia in her sleep to become the sole alicorn and rule Equestria as its monarch."
  419. >"And what stopped her?"
  420. "Discord, of course. I think they were on-and-off lover then. Maybe they still are."
  421. >Luna pawed at the ground. You could see the moon dust drift up in the low gravity. It smelled like metal.
  422. "Alicorns never truly die, you know. They latch on to things - and ponies - if their will is strong enough."
  423. "At least, that's what I've been told."
  424. >"And how in Tartarus do you know all this? Discord, almost certainly."
  425. >She shook her head.
  426. >"Suppose I believe you. This changes nothing. She is still banished, and my reputation is already restored. This will not turn me against my sister."
  427. "You're right. I don't think anyone would expect it to."
  428. >"Then why are you here?"
  429. "Because I thought it would matter to you. Because you deserved to know that you aren't a monster if you wake up on the wrong side of the bed."
  430. >She looked at you with a sense of respect. Not a lot of people go out of their way for her like this.
  431. "But mostly because Cadance asked me to. She seemed to think it was important."
  432. >It took her just a second to put together what you suspected.
  433. >And then, you were alone on the moon.
  434. >You looked up at Equestria. That big green orb.
  435. >You can think of a few ways in which the combatants take each other out and you're just left here.
  436. >If that doesn't happen, you're either going to be imprisoned by Celestia or given immortality by Cadance.
  437. >Your entire world is going to change, and yet, you couldn't help but think of Dash.
  438. >You reached into your breastpocket and pulled out the letter again.
  439. >It was going to be a long night.
  440.  
  441. >The news that Celestia and Luna had exiled themselves for reason unknown and handed the kingdom over to Twilight Sparkle gave you a sigh of relief.
  442. >You really, really didn't want to go to war with Equestria. Hell, that would mean you'd have to fight the Wonderbolts. They were your personal heroes growing up.
  443. >You wondered when you would become an alicorn. It was going to be so cool when you could use magic to augment your flight.
  444. >Anon had something to do with this, you were sure. Why else would he be suddenly called to Equestria?
  445. >You couldn't wait until he was back. You weren't even worried about the relationship any more. You trusted that he loved you the same way you loved him.
  446. >It still didn't feel quite real, dating the greatest military mind in the world, the General of the Allied Army. And now, it could be forever.
  447. >You smiled at that. You were happy.
  448.  
  449. >Hours had passed on the moon, but you still didn't know what you were going to say to Jade.
  450. >You didn't love her.
  451. >You really, really wish that you could.
  452. >Maybe you could talk to Cadance about this. If anyone could do something about it, it was her.
  453. >She owed you a solid for this.
  454. >Wait...
  455. >Couldn't she also do something like that with Dash?
  456. >The possibility made you blood run cold.
  457. >Is that the type of person you were?
  458.  
  459. >You were in bed once again with Rainbow Dash.
  460. >You could still sense her fear, but her love for you made her stay.
  461. >Her hands were cold and clammy.
  462. >You know how this one ends. She's going to pretend to be sick, and say that you should leave early.
  463. >It was the last time you saw her. Must have been months ago.
  464. >It'll happen any moment now. Despite it all, you can't help but want the moment to last.
  465. >You heard a sniffle from the corner.
  466. >You turned and you saw an abomination with a thousand eyes and a hundred mouths. Some of them screamed of their own volition.
  467. >Its mismatched body turned to face you, and you realize that it's been there the whole time.
  468. >Then it spoke.
  469. >"Nice dream, buddy, but it's time to get up."
  470. >You jerked awake and saw Discord standing before you, his normal self.
  471. "Are you going to explain what just happened?"
  472. >Something about him seemed different. His shoulders were slouched, and he looked tired. He seemed to lack his normal joking nature.
  473. >"You were a nice little distraction for Luna while we took on Celestia alone. She just gave up when we threatened her museum of frozen friends."
  474. >You remembered something like that from your discussions with the two.
  475. "You ever do anything like that? Preserve people past their..."
  476. >"Expiration date? A few times. I never offered first. A part of me thought that it was the emotionally mature thing for me to do. A sign that I knew when to move on."
  477. "And now..."
  478. >"A seemingly minor decision determines whether or not creatures I loved are given eternity or damned to the void forever."
  479. >"Each time I neglected to make the offer is a greater sin than every other betrayal I have combined. Eternity is a big thing to be deprived of. And nothing I do will ever make up for it."
  480. >"It's not fair. The fact that those were the greatest mistakes of my life should fill me with guilt, but it doesn't. It just is."
  481. >Neither of you spoke for the longest time.
  482. >After what seemed like hours watching Equs, you finally broke the silence.
  483. "So, what are you going to do now?"
  484. >Discord smiled. It was small, but for once, it looked genuine.
  485. >"Since Luna isn't going to be around for a while, I think I'm going to move in here with Fluttershy. It'll take a long time, but I'd like to see it turn green."
  486. >"I can imagine it. The whole place filled with forests and water. We would have a cozy cabin by a lake, and whenever anycreature looked up at night, they would see a green world filled with life."
  487. >"And they would know that we were there. Watching over them all."
  488. "That sounds beautiful."
  489.  
  490. >And then, Cadance showed up.
  491. >"Candyass, you just ruined a beautiful moment."
  492. >"Well, you two can't stay here forever. Can't believe the God of Chaos is taking an hour and counting to fetch a single human."
  493. >You looked away. You didn't really want to go back yet.
  494. "You have dozens of lifetimes of experience in romance, and you're the literal Princess of love."
  495. "I need some advice."
  496. "Rainbow Dash. What happens if you-"
  497. >"If I what? I'm the Princess of Love. She already loves you. I don't think she'll ever stop loving you."
  498. >"But you and I both know that love isn't enough for a relationship to work. Adding more of it wouldn't fix anything."
  499. >"It would probably just hurt more. For the both of you.
  500. >You chuckled sadly.
  501. "And how the hell does that work?"
  502. >Discord answered this time.
  503. >"She knew that things can't be the same. That she'll always be afraid of you. And what's the point of a relationship for either of you if she can't feel safe?"
  504. "Speaking from personal experience?"
  505. >He gave you a pained smile.
  506. >His glamour dropped, and for a second, and you could see the... thing from your dream.
  507. "So what else can I do?"
  508. >Cadance perked up
  509. >"Well, I can help numb the pain of your heartbreak, and hers. The pain would still be there, but it would just..."
  510. "Stop hurting?"
  511. >She nodded.
  512. >So like emotional morphine then.
  513. >For some reason, you still didn't want to leave the moon.
  514.  
  515. Epilogue
  516. Chapter 5 - Ascendant Frontier
  517. >"Princess Celestia. It's an honor to meet you again."
  518. "The honor is mine, Mister Vice President. How is your lovely wife?"
  519. >"Getting lovlier by the day. She really appreciates the rejuvination treatments developed with the help of your people."
  520. >"I would like to clear a few things up, if I may. I've heard rumors that you and your sister have been forcibly exiled from your kingdom in a coup orchestrated by a former member of our armed forces."
  521. >"Would you like to address these rumors? We would also like to know more about the Empire's efforts to greatly increase the number of alicorns in existance."
  522. "Mike, what I say stays off the record. I know you understand."
  523. "General Anon was brought in to reform the Imperial military. His participation in the coup was minor - a single conversation with my sister, mostly as a distraction."
  524. "Cadance brought him in as part of a bigger scheme to isolate Equestria diplomatically, and make it more difficult for me to act against her when she decided to convert all ponies who agreed to alicorns."
  525. >"Millions of alicorns? That's an army. A dangerous army."
  526. "The more of us there are, the less powerful any one of us. This is the main reason I've historically kept the number of alicorns to two."
  527. "And the main reason she did was was to grant immortality to the creatures of Equs, a desire that came from the death of her husband."
  528. >"Will it work?"
  529. >You pondered his statement. He was asking something between the lines.
  530. "You mean, will it work for humanity? I'm sure we'll figure something out."
  531. >He lifted his glass and smiled.
  532. "Cheers, to a brighter future."
  533. >You're glad he didn't follow up on the issue of your exile.
  534. >Yet another day of blowing smoke up a foreign dignitary's ass.
  535. >The feeling was probably mutual.
  536.  
  537. >You're straining to raise the sun. You face was contorted in discomfort
  538. >Even with the help of two other alicorns, it felt like pulling teeth while slamming a numb leg against a wall.
  539. >You wondered if Celestia was more powerful, or just better at making things look effortless.
  540. >It's a skill you'll probably have to pick up one of these days.
  541. >Cadance said her goodbye before teleporting back to her home. Always so busy these days, and without your brother to help her.
  542. >Your brother. Would he be proud of her? Of you?
  543. >Fluttershy stayed, however. She's a good friend, and growing into her role as the acting Princess of the moon.
  544. >"It's sad to see the moon sink sometimes. Funny how homesick you can get when home is only a spell away."
  545. >"Discord, Angel, my animal friends. We didn't take the Everfree with us, but still feels like home. Our home."
  546. "Well, I'm happy that you're happy. Things could have gone a lot worse."
  547. >"Yes, I know. I'm not the scared little girl anymore. Discord told me about it. I don't get many visitors, but do they really call it the Dawn War?"
  548. >"Funny name for a lot of creatures in uniform lining up against each other day after day and doing nothing."
  549. >You felt an eyelid twitch.
  550. "First of all, I was the Field Marshal in charge of one of those armies. Secondly, I'd spent months of paperwork and organization to get everything working the way it's suppose to. Celestia's sake, the logistics alone-"
  551. >She smiled and listened to you ramble on.
  552.  
  553. >Tempest Storm flew along side a hundred other pegasi, flying towards the hurricane.
  554. >Most of them were former members of the 7th Weather Wing, changing the conditions to whatever the Imperial Guard needed.
  555. >But that was years ago, and they had since then been demobolized.
  556. >Most don't remember the role they played in the rise of the Crystal Empire, but they do.
  557. >They were the ones who maintained a 70% rain rate on the Equestrian Guard in the Dawn War, despite the best efforts of the Wonderbolts.
  558. >They were the ones who provided the clear skies and zero wind that guided a bullet to the Changeling Queen's heart.
  559. >And today, they would divert a continent-sized storm from the American East Coast.
  560. >It was going to be the culmination of almost a week of effort to create a high-pressure system that would push it North and East, and it'll save the properties of millions and lives of hundreds.
  561. >The last time they did it, they were honored as heroes.
  562. >Here, where pegasi flew in professions sports to pay the bills, hoping to make the local weather team.
  563. >The pay was very good, but Tempest personally did it mostly to fly with his comrades in arms.
  564. >They understood him. They knew what loss was like. And they fought every day to prevent it from happening to anyone else.
  565. >And today, they battle the chaos of the planet to bring a new dawn.
  566. >Just like old times.
  567.  
  568. >"So yeah, I was a pony once. Enjoyed it too. Don't get me wrong, I like magic and all that, but there's something to be said about the form that you're born with."
  569. >Discord passed you the joint. His form flicked again, and you couldn't tell if he was shifting, or you're just tripping balls.
  570. "So what exactly happens to an alicorn when we get older? It's not just growing, since our proportions also change. I'm pretty sure our minds do too. I've noticed myself becoming more..."
  571. >You paused for a full minute, trying to find the right word.
  572. >It's like your brain is intentionally fucking with you. What is the word?
  573. >"Uhh... maturing? Growing up? Like, regular ponies are cute, right?"
  574. "Yeah, I mean, the hot ones are."
  575. >"No, Candy, you slut, I mean cute like a baby animal. Notice how a baby pony barely changes proportions when it ages compared to other creatures? You ever seen a baby yak? You'd think they were a different species from the adults."
  576. "Oh, so most ponies are like overgrown children, and alicorns are the adults trying to keep everyone else in check."
  577. >Discord looked... weary?
  578. >"I've always thought of maturity as accepting difficult truths over convenient lies. It can hurt, but if you ignore reality, it will find a way to punish you. Every. Single. Time."
  579. "Wait, so if the most mature people on this planet are you and Celestia, then does growing up mean being more like you? Being assholes like you?"
  580. >You feel horrible. Tears start flowing out of your eyes.
  581. "NOOOOOOO!! I don't wanna grow up!"
  582. >Discord laughed. The mouth on his back laughed too.
  583. >That made you giggle a little, through your tears.
  584. >You took another hit. Holy fuck are you high.
  585.  
  586. >"So."
  587. >You were at a dinner party in Canterlot, Earth.
  588. "So. Celestia invited you?"
  589. >"It's her party. And why are you here?"
  590. "I'm her son. Kind of. We are, at the very least, friends."
  591. >"Friends. And what are we?"
  592. >She looked stunning in her white dress. Wearing the makeup that made her look like the most beautiful woman on Earth, even now.
  593. "I don't know."
  594. >Her perfume brought back memories. Good memories.
  595. >It was one of those times that good memories hurt more than the bad.
  596. >"Thanks. I know I've said it before, but... thanks. You gave me back my wings. That's the kindest thing anyone has ever done for me."
  597. "Not good enough for you to stay."
  598. >That came out of your mouth before you could stop yourself.
  599. >She frowned and looked into her drink.
  600. >"I did what I thought was best. For you, and for us. I could have stuck around and smile and pretended things were OK."
  601. >"But you would have noticed it sooner or later. And it would have hurt you even worse. Especially if it was after you came back."
  602. "I still feel used."
  603. >She sipped the wine stoically. She's a lot more in control of her emotions than she used to be.
  604. >Guess being a Naval officer for 4 years does that to you.
  605. >"Sorry. I mean it. I wish things could have been different. I still think about you a lot."
  606. "Yeah. Me too."
  607. >She looked at your face, like she was searching for something.
  608. >She bites her lip.
  609. "It'll end the same way."
  610. >"I know. I just want to be a little less lonely tonight."
  611. >You look across the room to see Jade talking to Luna. She smiled and waved at you.
  612. >Another stab in the heart. Another thing that didn't work out. Fuck.
  613. >Did getting hurt all those times make you a stronger man, or just more damaged?
  614. >A hand grabbed your shoulder.
  615. >"Anon. Let's get you away from your exes, yeah? Plenty of prettier fish in the sea and all that."
  616. >You've never been happier to hear Cadance's voice. Her outfit shimmered like a thousand stars.
  617. >The crown was just tacky, though.
  618. >Rainbow looked almost relieved.
  619. >Cadance was a good friend, and you went home thankfully alone that night.
  620. >But eventually, you met Rainbow again.
  621.  
  622. >Waking up in the morning, You saw her naked form.
  623. >The scars across her lower back, from her myriad surgeries.
  624. >You could stay here for a few moments longer and pretend that things were happy.
  625. >"Anon."
  626. >Or not.
  627. >Dash turned and looked at you.
  628. >"We shouldn't have done that."
  629. >You could have asked Cadance to burn out this part of you.
  630. >Maybe that way, the two of you can be friends again.
  631. >But it felt wrong. It was part of you, just like your scars.
  632. "Since we cheated on our diet already... want to go again?"
  633. >"Fuck you, Anon."
  634. >She leaned in and kissed you, her hands running up and down your well-muscled form.
  635. >Somehow, despite being inside her, you've never felt more lonely.
  636. >More lonely than when you were alone.
  637.  
  638.  
  639. End of Childhood's End.
  640.  
  641.  
  642. Timeless
  643. >The moon hung over the two lovers.
  644. >It was a lot closer than it is now. Its light lit up the field of flowers.
  645. >Fireflies moved out of your way as the two of you walked, a void that lacked their glow surrounded you.
  646. >It was a beautiful scene, but the only thing you noticed were her eyes.
  647. >They glittered like fallen stars. Words couldn't express how they made you feel.
  648. >It was like you were falling in love all over again.
  649. >You know on some level that memories distort over time, but that was OK - it only made the moment feel more grand.
  650. >She looked up at the night sky. Elements, it was bright. So bright it crowded out all but the most beautiful stars.
  651. >"I wonder what it's like on the moon. One of these days, when we finally make things safe, and bring peace to all ponykind, I'm going to bring it down closer."
  652. >"Light to drive away the darkness, even at night."
  653. >You stretched out your wings and let the primal magic flow through your body. A tiny gust of wind you summoned lifted you off the ground.
  654. >You hovered without moving your wings, so great was your art.
  655. >You inverted yourself, and hovered your face close to hers.
  656. >Her face blushed bright pink. You forgot how long ago you'd been dating then, but that took you by surprise.
  657. "Yeah? And if I had my way, I'd push it far away, so I can see the stars. That, or I'd make my house there, plant some trees, fish on the weekends."
  658. >She kissed you and whispered. "I think you mean our house."
  659. "The one that we'd fill with all the children we'd never have?"
  660. >She tried hard to hide her hurt over your comment, but you knew it stung.
  661. >Damn you and your mouth. You knew you would regret it as you said the words.
  662. >Why did you do that? And why are you here again, in your dreams?
  663. >She grabbed your tail and gave it a small yank, enough to start you spinning backwards.
  664. >The rest of the night was a blur, and the two of you laughed and laughed.
  665. >You loved the way you cracked each other up.
  666. >It was a better time.
  667.  
  668. >That night again.
  669. >After you'd teased each other and trampled flowers for hours, the two of you settled down in a clearing.
  670. >She cast a spell to repell all the insects and shield you from the eyes of passersby.
  671. >You summoned a cooling breeze. The summers were so hot then, even at night.
  672. >You made love. You didn't last long, and she teased you for it.
  673. >It was going to be the last time for a while.
  674. >The Elements summoned you. And duty compelled you to show.
  675. >As fast as you can fly, it will still take weeks.
  676. >We'll always have tonight, you said to each other. No matter what.
  677. >She looked you in the eyes.
  678. >"Remember, lover, that duty comes before love."
  679. >"We may be asked to make sacrifices that most will find vile. Such is the way of the Elements."
  680. >"No matter what, you do what you need to in order to bring life and light to our people."
  681. >"If it asks for your life, or mine, don't hesitate to accept. Don't make me regret marrying you."
  682. >"We're just ponies, as great as we are. Our legacies are eternal."
  683. >"Promise me."
  684. "I promise."
  685.  
  686. >You were the Prince of the greatest pony kingdom the world had ever known, the fastest pegasus alive - sun and rain bowed to you.
  687. >She was the most powerful mage this side of the continent, and the cleverest anywhere by far.
  688. >The two of you were going to take on the world together.
  689. >How many times have you had this dream?
  690. >How many times have you wanted to change how this one ends?
  691. >This is your punishment. Your greatest sin.
  692. >You will never be forgiven.
  693.  
  694. >The storm.
  695. >That Tarturus-damned storm.
  696. >You missed her so dearly.
  697. >Celestial Glory. Your wife. Your mare.
  698. >The gifts you have been given still can be scarcely believed.
  699. >Immortality, with no string? Simply for being great?
  700. >For having the most beautiful love the world had ever seen?
  701. >You would say that it's your greatest dreams come true, but even you never dreamed this great.
  702. >You were flying as fast as you could, having slept little over the past few weeks.
  703. >She was waiting for you. Every second you were away from her seemed like an eternity.
  704. >You were so full of yourself. What was a lightning storm to you?
  705. >You cleared a path through with your magic, but you were tired.
  706. >You closed your eyes for a second and took a micro-nap, like many pegasi did during such long journeys.
  707. >And then the world ended.
  708.  
  709. >You woke up tangled in a tree.
  710. >Your body was broken.
  711. >Even now, you remember the exact number of broken bones you had, and where.
  712. >You had already stabbed the gem allotted to you into your heart.
  713. >You were immortal.
  714. >Fuck.
  715.  
  716. >Over the next week, most of your bones healed themselves. But both of your wings had open fractures, and no matter how hard your tried, you couldn't get them in place.
  717. >You couldn't stand the pain.
  718. >You knew exactly how far you were from civilization. It was still two weeks by air. Months, if not years by leg.
  719. >You were tempted to use the gem meant for her the very day your body was shattered.
  720. >But you didn't seriously consider it until the end of the first year.
  721.  
  722. >You had a blood infection.
  723. >You've had a blood infection for months.
  724. >The journey to civilization was difficult, and you'd been walking with a leg that never fully healed.
  725. >You wings were done for. The exposed bone had stopped hurting, and now you could feel and smell parts of you rot away.
  726. >You couldn't hold a thought for longer than a few seconds.
  727. >It was the single worst moment of your life, and just kept going.
  728. >You sincerely wished for death.
  729. >At least you were going the right way now, following the stream to a Griffon settlement.
  730. >They'll get you home, your wings will be healed, and you'll be home.
  731. >Home. Safe. Celestia. Warmth.
  732. >You kept going back to the moments you two shared, the night before you left especially.
  733. >It kept you going.
  734. >You would die rather than betray her.
  735.  
  736. >The bear... the bear changed everything.
  737. >You hated that bear. You were so close. Only weeks away.
  738. >You remember spending years researching spells to keep a tortured being from slipping into madness.
  739. >All to hurt a bear for eternity.
  740. >Fuck that bear.
  741. >It was still alive, somewhere.
  742. >You intentionally cut that knowledge from your mind, just in case you ever got a change of heart.
  743. >It's the one lie you ever told Fluttershy.
  744. >Well, long term, at least.
  745. >The reason why?
  746. >It mauled you, chewed on you, until it had shattered you. Ripped off your wing, then spat them out in disgust.
  747. >And then it just walked away.
  748. >Until then next day, when it came back.
  749. >Fucker.
  750.  
  751. >You don't remember what it felt like when the gem punched its way into your heart.
  752. >You did remember what you looked like after.
  753. >A mutated blob.
  754. >The mouths that weren't you own mocked you and your weakness.
  755. >Mocked you until they laughed.
  756. >And eventually, you laughed too.
  757.  
  758. >It was better, you thought, to wait until she died of old age before you went back to Equestria.
  759. >She didn't need to know of your sins.
  760. >She didn't need to know that you betrayed her.
  761. >It was easier this way.
  762. >You needed time to master your new form, your new magic, anyways.
  763. >At least, that's what you told yourself.
  764.  
  765. >She found you on the sun.
  766. >She looked different, with wings now.
  767. >The same slender form, the same eyes that your got lost in.
  768. >Somehow, despite you not disguising your form, she wasn't scared.
  769. >She was just happy that you were alive.
  770. >It was the happiest day of your life.
  771.  
  772. >Then you met her husband.
  773. >A pretty decent guy, if you were being honest.
  774. >But he was the reason she kissed you on the cheek.
  775. >He was also immortal. And he was king.
  776. >You had abandoned your kingdom, don't you remember?
  777.  
  778. >You could see them argue. Fight.
  779. >She would give you this look of regret afterwards.
  780. >Like she wanted you back.
  781. >Oh, this was going to be interesting.
  782.  
  783. >It was easy. No tricks needed.
  784. >By the time his grandkids started dying, all he needed was a little push.
  785. >And then, he was a statue. Outwitted by you.
  786. >Nothing personnel, kiddo.
  787.  
  788. >Celestia blew a nerve when she found out.
  789. >All those pent-up feelings of betray came out all at once.
  790. >She kicked you out of your own halls. It would be years before you were allowed back.
  791. >Technically, you allowed yourself back, and she just didn't bother to argue.
  792. >Saving her life can have that effect.
  793.  
  794. >Occasionally, over the years, the stars would align and you would be back in each other's arms.
  795. >It like throwing fresh kindling on a fire. It was intense.
  796. >But it also burned out quickly.
  797. >You think she really wanted something that would be there even if everything else went to shit.
  798. >A little bit of a world long lost, where she could loved for the pony she was, instead of the god she'd become.
  799. >You would always be there, even after the stars burned out.
  800. >You felt the same, in a way.
  801.  
  802.  
  803.  
  804. Eternal
  805. >The moon looked so big then.
  806. >The two of you swapped mild banter under the night sky.
  807. >He tried to show off, grabbing as much free magic as he could from the air and earth.
  808. >Leaves, fireflies and dust flew up in a vortex as he channeled his primal magic to lift himself in the air.
  809. >You laughed and spat your mane out of your mouth. It tasted like dirt, but you didn't care.
  810. >You loved it when he controlled the winds like that.
  811. >You remember blushing like a filly when he pulled off one of his acrobatic tricks and levitated upside-down.
  812. >It felt like everything was just right when he kissed you.
  813. >And then somehow, the banter turned to your barren womb.
  814. >You pretended to be more hurt than you actually were. You never wanted kids anyways.
  815. >You grabbed his tail with you magic and pulled him into a spin.
  816. >He began flailing his limbs as he lost control of his flight and began floating away from you.
  817. >You ran after him, laughing all the way. It was a while before he finally regained his balance and landed.
  818. >The two of you began running, wrestling, and teasing for the better part of what seemed like hours, crushing bugs and flowers under hoof.
  819. >It was the last time you truly felt free.
  820. >Your love seemed perfect.
  821. >Nothing could stand in your way.
  822. >The sex was alright. He must have been nervous, since he finished faster than normal.
  823. >You didn't really mind. You enjoyed the cuddling afterwards more anyways.
  824.  
  825. >He laid his head on your chest, and you stroked his head with your magical touch.
  826. >He felt safe telling you that he wanted to be touched like that.
  827. >You don't think anycreature since had let themselves be that vulnerable around you.
  828. >The Elements had summoned him. That was generally bad news.
  829. >You asked that he pay whatever price they asked for.
  830. >He told you that if they asked for your life or his, he would tell them to go fuck themselves.
  831. >You laughed. That boldness... that was what you loved about him.
  832. >You made him promise to give them what they wanted, but you knew deep down that he would never sacrifice you.
  833. >He would let the world burn a hundred times before that.
  834.  
  835. >You were working on your teleportation spell then.
  836. >The first one in history, it would allow you to move faster than even the fastest pegasi.
  837. >He may have had an ego about being the fastest being on Equs, but he still encouraged your research.
  838. >You were one thing he was never threatened by. You never understood that.
  839. >You gave him a necklace before he left.
  840. >It would help you scry him, and give the two of you a magical connection.
  841. >You would share your emotions, and feel when the other was happy, lonely, or hurt.
  842. >So he would never be alone.
  843. >It was what caused his fall, in the end.
  844.  
  845. >You could feel his elation as he flew home. You didn't know exactly what happened, but it was very good.
  846. >Hopeful, you slept soundly for the first time in weeks.
  847. >Until you felt his world end in a bright flash.
  848. >The scrying spell allowed you to see the extent of his injuries.
  849. >His wings... his beautiful wings.
  850. >They were broken. Useless.
  851. >You knew how much flying meant to him.
  852. >And yet, his wounds began knitting together faster than you thought possible.
  853. >So, this was the gift of the Elements.
  854. >You shared your love with him in his darkest hour, and he was so grateful to you for it.
  855. >You helped guide him out of that forest, and it seemed like things were going to end well.
  856. >You had sent scouts to find him, and he was so, so close to civilization.
  857. >But you could tell that something was wrong.
  858. >He was only putting on a brave front.
  859. >Inside, he was as broken as his body.
  860. >You should have spent more time working on your teleportation spell then.
  861. >You were closer than you realized.
  862. >How many times have you had the dream where he was home with you, safe, and able to fly again?
  863. >A few different decisions from either of you, and he would be the Prince that he was, by your side, today.
  864. >Damn the fates.
  865.  
  866. >The bear attacked him, ripped off a wing, and chased him up a tree.
  867. >You honestly didn't know ponies could climb that fast.
  868. >He'd been through adversity before, but you knew that this time was different.
  869. >He cried, cursing the Elements, cursing himself, and cursing you.
  870. >You realized just how throroughly broken he was, in spirit and body.
  871. >For a moment, you thought that the pegasus you fell in love with was gone.
  872. >That cocky, confident princeling, who you once humbled, was now a pathetic pony clinging to a tree.
  873. >Could you really love such a thing? All that had drew you to him was now gone.
  874. >It was only for a few moments, but he could feel it through your magical link.
  875. >You tried to salvage the situation, but the damage was done.
  876. >He cried until he laughed, and then cried some more.
  877. >You tried to reassure him, telling him that you didn't mean it, that you were tired.
  878. >You were the only thing that kept him going, and he was so lost in self-pity.
  879. >It didn't surprise you, what happened next.
  880. >They found his necklace a few weeks later, next to his rotting wing.
  881.  
  882. >You thought that he had died, punished by the elements.
  883. >It honestly disgusted you, how he had thought that your love would be retracted so quickly.
  884. >It was just a moment. The two of you had suffered through far worse, and always made it out the other side.
  885. >But you also felt guilt.
  886. >Guilt that never went away.
  887. >It was still with you, even now.
  888.  
  889. >The second gift of the Elements gave you wings.
  890. >You thought it was ironic, really.
  891. >The cost of the gift, however, was the death of the Element of Heaven.
  892. >It came to you now, to raise the sun and moon.
  893. >It took decades, but you finally fell in love again.
  894. >He had children from a previous marriage, and you learned to be a mother.
  895. >You can still recall the pain in his eyes when you refused them the gift of eternal life.
  896. >It hurt you just as much - they were your children too.
  897. >But if you made an exception now, you would make them, again and again.
  898. >He said that he understood.
  899.  
  900. >You found him on the sun.
  901. >His new form made you feel nothing but disgust, but you were now too well-controlled to show it.
  902. >The glamour helped things. So did time.
  903. >You were so happy, despite it all.
  904. >He was alive. Your long lost love.
  905. >Even if the fates meant you would never again be held under his wings, you were glad for him.
  906. >Your husband was less than amused, however.
  907. >You remember the arguments you two began having over nothing.
  908. >You remember looking to your old friend, and wishing things could be simple like they were.
  909. >He called himself Discord now, and you didn't grasp how much he had changed.
  910. >He went and convinced your husband that he should have given the gift to his children, damned be the consequences.
  911. >That he had failed as a father, as a pony, for bowing to you
  912. >In his grief, he had locked himself in stone.
  913. >His eyes were filled with grief and hatred.
  914. >Hatred for you, and hatred for himself.
  915. >Discord. An apt name.
  916. >It wasn't until that moment that you truly began to hate him.
  917.  
  918. >Nightmare Moon. That's what they called her now.
  919. >You don't remember her original name.
  920. >Probably for the best.
  921. >That little skank.
  922. >She had worked for you as your personal spymaster, collecting rumors, disposing of problematic nobles, and stabilizing the kingdom.
  923. >It was her efforts that allowed Equestria to finally include all the pony petty kingdoms under its wing.
  924. >She didn't have children or really any close ties. You trusted her.
  925. >And you needed someone to help you raise the moon.
  926. >She was simply the best candidate.
  927. >You thought you had made the best decision of your life, for a time.
  928. >Her new-found ability to walk into dreams made spying effortless.
  929. >Less blood needed to be split. Plots could be uncovered with ease. Even crime took a nosedive.
  930. >What in Tartarus compelled her to go against you?
  931. >She was ruling the kingdom in all but name anyways.
  932.  
  933. >You remember that night.
  934. >You were once again on that flower-filled field.
  935. >With him, as he was.
  936. >Until he shifted into his new form and filled your lungs with water.
  937. >You woke up with a start.
  938. >She was holding an artifact designed to resist your magical wards.
  939. >A blade, in her bloody hooves, already stained by your dead guards.
  940. >A blade ready to go into your chest.
  941. >Discord popped out of nowhere, his chaotic magic able to overcome the defensive spells weaved into your bedroom.
  942. >He blocked the blade with his very body.
  943. >You're pretty sure he could have stopped her another way, but he had become melodramatic.
  944. >In your anger, you snapped her neck without a second thought.
  945. >Her essence flew out of your window and to the moon.
  946. >You had though you would never see her again.
  947. >Discord was now glamoured to look like his old handsome self.
  948. >"Told you she was trouble", he had said, so smugly.
  949. >You smiled and kissed him.
  950. >For once, he didn't know what to say.
  951.  
  952. >Time and again, he bailed you out of difficult situations.
  953. >And so often, he would find himself in your bed.
  954. >You always asked him to look like his old self.
  955. >He, on the other hand, wanted your wings around.
  956. >You would close your eyes and imagine you were back on the field of flowers.
  957. >That he had come back safe.
  958. >He would be your Prince, and you would be his Princess.
  959. >It made you happy, for a while.
  960. >He still loved you.
  961. >You?
  962. >You don't know.
  963. >You haven't fallen in love in centuries.
  964. >But he certainly thought that you loved him, and you didn't do anything to disuade him.
  965. >He could be so helpful at times, and he just wanted to be in a different time for a while.
  966. >And so did you.
  967. >So how could you say no when he appeared in your dreams?
  968. >It was the least you could do.
  969. >It became like a choreographed dance, with both of you playing your roles.
  970. >That beautiful night.
  971. >The last time you were free.
  972. >You didn't realize how much you would miss it until he found her.
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