ZeroandInfinity

Seven

Mar 31st, 2016
273
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  1. Still panting and out of breath, you simply wheeze and try to take deep breaths as your heart’s pounding starts to gradually lessen.
  2.  
  3. “Lil Sis? What’s wrong? Talk to me. You’re scaring me.”
  4.  
  5. Your deep breathing quickly leads to you coughing as you begin to speak.
  6.  
  7. “I…*wheeze*…I…saw…*hack*…suh-something.”
  8.  
  9. Nullity was looking at you face to face and although you could tell she was worried, she was also conveying an expression of seriousness.
  10.  
  11. “You saw something?”
  12.  
  13. “Uh-huh. It…*cough*…it…*cough*…it wuh-was bad.”
  14.  
  15. “Tell me. I need to know Lil Sis. Please tell me. You’re scaring me.”
  16.  
  17. Why does she keep saying that? She must have said that over a dozen times today. Although you were still very much frightened over what had just happened, something about the way Nullity was saying “You’re scaring me” multiple times today just seemed off. Couldn’t she say something else, like “What’s wrong Lil Sis?” or “Why are you so riled up?” or something similar to that effect?
  18.  
  19. It’s like, this shouldn’t be at the forefront of your mind considering what just happened, but something about her repeating herself with the same words too often…something about that just really didn’t seem right. Not like everything that’s been happening has been really off, especially with what’s been happening today. It’s just…
  20.  
  21. “Lil Sis? Please answer me. What happened?”
  22.  
  23. Having stepped a few feet from the front door of your house, you turn to look back at it. It looked exactly like a stereotypical house you had seen watching MLP. Well, maybe not too stereotypical. It honestly looked like an older European-styled house. The walls were painted with a beige-like color, and you also saw pink-colored beams designed all across the house. Those beams looked like they were exterior frames circling the front door and the windows. You also notice that there weren’t a whole lot of designs on the exterior of the home, with the exception of the window on the second floor. It had a small balcony beneath it with a bunch of flowers sprouting out. You hadn’t noticed those flowers before back when you closed your bedroom…window…
  24.  
  25.  
  26. You shiver a little and immediately look away from that part of the house. As far as you were concerned, you never wanted to go back to your bedroom. Never.
  27.  
  28. Yet your eyes scan the rest of the house once more. Looking at it one last time, it sorta looked like a Dutch or a German-styled home…maybe from like 1600s or 1700s Europe. Not that you were good at history or remembering dates exactly, but…wait a minute. Dutch? German? There’s no such thing as European or German or Dutch in Equestria. That’s from…that’s from that nightmare…or was it your old life?
  29.  
  30. You look to the ground and shake your head with your eyes closed. There’s something very, very wrong here, isn’t there? Just what the heck is going on?
  31.  
  32. “Lil Sis.”
  33.  
  34. You look back up and open your eyes to see Nullity moving to your side. She spreads one of her winds and wraps it around you.
  35.  
  36. “Please talk to me Lil Sis. I wanna help you, but I can’t if you don’t tell me what happened.”
  37.  
  38. You subconsciously dart your eyes back to your bedroom window. You didn’t see anything, but you were still very terrified of what happened in there. You needed to get away from here.
  39.  
  40. “Okay. But, Big Sis?”
  41.  
  42. “Mm?”
  43.  
  44. “Can we start walking to town? I think I need to get away from here for a little bit. I think I’ll feel better talking about it once we start moving.”
  45.  
  46. “Are you sure you’re up to going out? If you’re feeling ill, it might be better to go back in and rest.”
  47.  
  48. You feel yourself shake a little upon her mentioning that, and you could tell she felt that.
  49.  
  50. “Nuh-No. Let’s go. I’ll be alright. I just need some fresh air. Plus, exercise will do me some good.”
  51.  
  52. “Lil Sis. You don’t feel like you’re doing well.”
  53.  
  54. Darn. She definitely felt that.
  55.  
  56. “Seriously Lil Sis. Maybe we should rest some more today. We can always see everypony another time. One more day of resting won’t do you any harm, will it?”
  57.  
  58. No. There is absolutely no way you can go back to your room. No way.
  59.  
  60. “Please Big Sis? I’d really rather get away from here for a while. I saw something scary and the more I hang around here, the more uneasy I’m gonna get. Can we please just get going?”
  61.  
  62. “Okay, but only under the condition that you tell me what happened. Deal?”
  63.  
  64. “Deal.”
  65.  
  66. And just like that, you both turn away from the house and being walking. You notice that there was a trail that led from your front door towards what looked to be a main trail that ran perpendicular to it. Once crossing onto the main trail, both you and Nullity head towards your left. The main trail went straight a little bit, but then curved to your right. The two of you continue to walk along this path for as far as you can see, it seemed that the trail from this point onwards only went straight ahead of you.
  67.  
  68. As you both walk, you look here and there at your surrounding environment, admiring all of the trees that were around you. There was quite a bit of them, but not enough to the point that it felt like the two of you were in a forest. You even noticed the sun’s glistening rays shining through the canopy of the trees. You also saw a few houses here and there, but they were spread out far from one another. Every so often, a smaller path would connect from a house up to the main trail you two were walking on. The weather, too, felt like it was in the 70s. Nice and cool, but also a little warm. It felt like it could have been a breezy day today, yet oddly enough, you felt no breeze. Overall, the surrounding environment was very serene.
  69.  
  70. And yet, for some reason, Nullity wasn’t saying anything. Both of you were silent. She wasn’t prodding you for an immediate explanation. Maybe she was giving you a little bit of room to think and calm yourself. Yeah…maybe.
  71.  
  72. It was making you feel better with the way she was clinging her wing onto you, yet you knew that was just a special talent of hers. Truthfully, it still didn’t change the fact that things were still very off. For starters, why the heck were you so incredibly girly this morning?
  73.  
  74. You take a look down at your pink-colored hooves as you walk, noticing your dress from the peripherals of your eyesight as you look back up.
  75.  
  76. When you first woke up here, you were nowhere near that hyper-feminine. Technically, it still feels very right being a girl; in fact, it feels so much better than being a guy. And yet, why aren’t you feeling extremely girly right now? You’d always get excited by your hooves, but now, that’s doing nothing for you. It’s possible you’re still trying to recover from what just happened, but those thoughts you had and the way you acted this morning, well…that wasn’t normal. It felt really good, but that just wasn’t normal. That wasn’t right. It was right being a girl. But it wasn’t right being a super feminine girly-girl straight out of some anime show or something.
  77.  
  78. The way you were thinking…why were you thinking like that? That wasn’t you. Even before the scary stuff happened, you slept peacefully and woke up just fine. Was it because you were showered with gifts and affection from Nullity that caused you to act like that? No, that can’t be right. When you first woke up here and went downstairs for the first time, you were shocked to discover all of those gifts. Seeing them then, and Nullity giving you the same sort of affection she’s always given you…you didn’t go off behaving in that girly-girl persona. Even seeing your hooves back then, despite you getting a little excited by them, didn’t cause you to act like how you acted this morning. Why? What the heck caused you to act like that?
  79.  
  80. In addition to that, there was also the whole thing with memories. Every so often, there would be something that would spark a memory in your mind. What was so confusing was that you couldn’t tell if it had something to do with what happened here with Nullity before your accident, or if it had been from your nightmare. But was that nightmare real? Was it your old life, or was it all really just a dream? Even in that “nightmare,” you still dreamt of where you were now in this life and thought this too was just a dream. Just like you thought earlier, Europe doesn’t exist in Equestria, nor do computers or phones. And yet, how is it that you had such a fancy shower? Why did you and Nullity have a kitchen that looked like it came straight out of a showroom from a department store?
  81.  
  82. You stop and shake your head a little, gently rubbing one of your hooves across your forehead. You also notice Nullity stopping right next to you.
  83.  
  84. “Are you okay Lil Sis?”
  85.  
  86. You turn to Nullity and notice that she must have been quietly and carefully observing you. Not that it bothered you, but you were getting lost in thought and giving yourself a headache because of it.
  87.  
  88. “I’m fine Big Sis. Let’s keep going.”
  89.  
  90. “Okay.”
  91.  
  92. You both continue walking as you continue your train of thought. What was perhaps messing with you the most right now was determining what was real and what wasn’t real. That so-called “gift” from Times R. New and the letter he wrote to you…everything about that was wrong. Not that he had a bad sense of humor, but just the fact that you knew his letter said something else the first time you saw it. Just the sight of it was enough to snap you out of your girly mindset. Being covered in foul language, and just that black box…that’s something you definitely remember doing in that nightmare. You remember working with others you didn’t like and you also remember that the prank Times R. New pulled on you was the prank you would occasionally pull on them. And just the fact that the second time you saw his letter and noticed that it was written differently should be enough to signal that incident was not normal.
  93.  
  94. And come to think of it, magic’s not normal either. You do remember from your nightmare that magic didn’t exist. Although you knew that you didn’t know a whole lot of science, you at least knew in that nightmare that magic was an impossibility. Yet you saw it here yourself and experienced it firsthand when Nurse Reinhold was around. Magic shouldn’t exist simply on the principle that it violates the laws of physics, and yet here it does. Still, had you not had that accident and had you not had that nightmare, you would have accepted it as just a normal part of everyday life.
  95.  
  96. Well then again, the only reason you’re aware that Equestria exists, or at least have some understanding of how things work here, even if you don’t remember a whole lot, is simply because you learned of it through a show. A show made by artists who created this place based on their own imaginations. Equestria, and the whole concept of it, from what you remember, was nothing more than a fictitious world designed for a cartoon. And yet here you are in Equestria, where colorful talking horses can fly and do magic and live just like the people from your nightmare do, albeit with a much brighter outlook on life.
  97.  
  98. That’s just the thing though. If Equestria was merely a concept brought about by artists to make a cartoon, why does everything seem so real here? There’s no denying that the air you breathe, the food you eat, and the senses coming from your current female pegasus body are real. They all feel and seem very real. It’s just that there are things here that somehow correlate with the stuff from your nightmare. You’re not sure how, but both places seem real, and at the same time, a little fake. How is it that you’re seeing things though? How is it that these things bring some kind of validation that your nightmare may have very well been real? And yet, there were things in that nightmare that suggested this life you’re in right now might have also been real.
  99.  
  100. The biggest indicator that both worlds seem to somehow be real must have been with what happened at that lake. Based on what Nullity said yesterday, you and her had gone a few miles behind your house to explore. She was with you when you both approached the outer edge of the forest leading to that lake. Yet she stayed behind doing something and you wandered off for some reason. From what you can remember, you were walking by yourself into that forest, and when you finally found that stream of water that you and Nullity had supposedly never found before, that girl appeared.
  101.  
  102. Small chills course through you. You do your best to remain calm and keep a good poker face to keep Nullity from worrying. Not that she wasn’t already concerned about you, but you wanted to keep these thoughts private. You did feel a few hairs from your coat stand up, but fortunately, Nullity doesn’t seem to notice anything new. You shift your gaze slightly and see her looking around at the scenery. You then quickly dart your eyes away so as to not draw attention.
  103.  
  104. That girl though…that wasn’t Nullity. She wasn’t who you were with right this moment. According to Nullity, when you separated from her in that forest, she searched frantically for you. It wasn’t until after you fell into the lake that she was able to locate you. So she never saw the girl. No one but you even knows about her. But who the heck was she?
  105.  
  106. You can’t remember if she was a human or a pony or something else. But you remember being right by her side nearly the entire time once you came across that stream. Even though you can’t remember what the two of you said, you knew she felt very loving and caring…almost like she was a family member. Truthfully, Nullity’s personality almost resembles that of the girl’s. Even right before you were pushed into the lake, you saw her crying. She was remorseful and didn’t want to do that to you. But why would she? More importantly, what happened to her after you fell in? Nullity said that she just saw you by herself, so that girl must have gone somewhere.
  107.  
  108. Out of all the things that have happened in your nightmare and in this world, that whole incident with that girl and the lake is the one thing you know to be very real and very true. You just can’t understand what it means or why it happened or who she even was. She almost felt like she could have been Nullity, but according to Nullity’s part of the story, she was definitely someone else. But who?
  109.  
  110. As you both continued walking, you could rapidly see what looked to be a town coming into view. You were both on the outskirts and were almost there. But before heading into town, Nullity speaks up.
  111.  
  112. “How are you feeling Lil Sis? Any better?”
  113.  
  114. “Mm? Y-Yeah, I think I’m feeling a little better.”
  115.  
  116. It did feel nice getting away from the house for a while. And although walking side-by-side with Nullity did help in easing your anxieties with everything that’s happened, you were still somewhat uneasy.
  117.  
  118. “Are you feeling good enough now to tell me what happened?”
  119.  
  120. You both stop and look at each other eye-to-eye. Looking into her, you felt like you were in a sanctuary being protected by her. Yet with her looking into you, you could feel yourself struggling to hide your insecurities. Whelp. Might as well tell her what you saw. Or rather, maybe you could leave out the part about the silhouette. The thing with the pony plushies in itself definitely needed some clarification.
  121.  
  122. “I think so.”
  123.  
  124. You both resume walking, although a little more slowly. You take in a deep breath and slowly let it out with a sigh, feeling the fresh air flowing in and out of your lungs.
  125.  
  126. “I was uh…just about finished getting ready and I was super excited to head downstairs to go out with you. However, once I left the bathroom, I stumbled on my dress and rolled against something.”
  127.  
  128. You hear Nullity gasp and out of the corner of your eyes, you saw her looking at you as you both walked.
  129.  
  130. “Are you okay baby sister?”
  131.  
  132. “Y-Yeah. I mean, that wasn’t the part that freaked me out.”
  133.  
  134. “Oh? But then what did?”
  135.  
  136. You gulp before saying your next choice of words.
  137.  
  138. “Do you know that dresser full of pony plushies next to my bed?”
  139.  
  140. “Pony plushies? What are you talking about Lil Sis?”
  141.  
  142. Wait. What?
  143.  
  144. “You know, that dresser right next to my bed. There was like a bunch of pony plushies lying on it.”
  145.  
  146. You look back to Nullity, but she just keeps an eye on you while silently letting you finish your train of thought.
  147.  
  148. “Well anyways, I remember when I first woke up from my coma that they were all smiling. Then today, when we went to my bedroom and while you were turning on the shower, I noticed one of them was frowning. Then, after I was ready and stumbled into them, they were all frowning. I don’t know why, but that terrified me. Big Sis, I think I might be seeing things.”
  149.  
  150. Nullity stops walking and lifts her wing off of you. You stop walking too and look at her. But right as you do so, she turns and gives you a surprise hug, and a very tight one at that.
  151.  
  152. “Oh Lil Sis…”
  153.  
  154. You hug her back. Regardless of the moment, hugs with Nullity always felt really comforting. They always helped to make you feel a little better.
  155.  
  156. “I…it’s okay Big Sis. I just thought I saw something different, kind of like with that whole letter thing from Times R. New. I’ll be alright. It just scared me is all.”
  157.  
  158. She releases her grasp from you and upon doing so, you notice tears welling up in her eyes.
  159.  
  160. “Can you make me one more promise before we continue any further Lil Sis?”
  161.  
  162. Her tears…she was really worried about you. Now you wanted to make her feel better. You didn’t want to see your big sister cry.
  163.  
  164. “It’s okay Big Sis. I’d be more than happy to do whatever it is you’d like me to do. Tell me, what would you like me to do?”
  165.  
  166. “First thing tomorrow morning, I wanna take you and go with you to see Dr. Wilhelm. I wanna get you in as soon as possible. I wanna make sure you’re alright.”
  167.  
  168. “Yeah, that’s perfectly fine Big Sis. I can do that.”
  169.  
  170. “Good. I know Nurse Reinhold has done favors for me in the past and considering that everyone’s been worried sick about you, I know she’d be able to get you in when they first open tomorrow morning.”
  171.  
  172. “Alright. But still, can I ask you one question Big Sis?”
  173.  
  174. Nullity wipes her arm across her eyes and sniffles, but smiles back at you reassuringly. You reach forward to hug her once more as she clings onto you.
  175.  
  176. “Of course you can, my little Radiance.”
  177.  
  178. You let go of her and look her in the eye.
  179.  
  180. “I…I have pony plushies that normally lie next to my bed, don’t I?”
  181.  
  182. Nullity turns away from you and sniffles a little more before looking back at you. Why did that upset her? Well, seeing pony plushies change expressions would upset anyone, you included, but why did asking this particular question mess with her?
  183.  
  184. “Nuh…*sniff*…no, you don’t.”
  185.  
  186. You freeze. What?
  187.  
  188. “You…*sniff*…have all sorts of knick-knacks on that dresser.”
  189.  
  190. WHAT?!?
  191.  
  192. “Mostly arts-and-crafts you and I would do together, with some of them made by Beezle when he would come over. There were no pony plushies on that dresser. You don’t have any.”
  193.  
  194. You’re speechless.
  195.  
  196. “I…I…”
  197.  
  198. “A-Are you sure you’re still up to walking around Lil Sis?”
  199.  
  200. You don’t know what to say. You’re at a loss. Just that…that right there should be making the alarm bells go off. You almost wanna scream and freak out and run, but considering that Nullity is already really worried about you and that you didn’t want to scare her anymore, you try your best to keep your composure.
  201.  
  202. “Y-Yeah, I-I’m sure.”
  203.  
  204. Nullity swings to you to give you another super tight hug. You don’t hug back, too disturbed by what’s happened.
  205.  
  206. “It’s gonna be okay Lil Sis. I promise. I’ll be right here by your side.”
  207.  
  208. She lets go of you still teary-eyed, but she tries her best to cast a reassuring smile. You force yourself to smile back.
  209.  
  210. “O-Okay. I trust you Big Sis. Let’s just…Let’s just go. I wanna go explore Vanhoover with you.”
  211.  
  212. “Okay Lil Sis. Let’s go. Remember, I’m right here by your side.”
  213.  
  214. Nullity gives you a small kiss on your forehead and with that, you both continue walking into town. As you both enter the outer edges of the town, however, you notice that hardly anyone was around. There were maybe two or three ponies in the distance, but you could tell that they didn’t notice you or Nullity. That’s certainly strange. Actually, no. Screw it. Everything about everything is completely strange! It’s here that you almost wanna freak out about the whole pony plush ordeal, but somehow, you keep a hold of yourself.
  215.  
  216. “Big Sis?”
  217.  
  218. “Hm?”
  219.  
  220. “Where is everyone?”
  221.  
  222. “Oh! Duh. Hehe.”
  223.  
  224. Nullity actually chuckles a little. For some reason, that question helped ease her worries, which was good because you didn’t want her to worry.
  225.  
  226. “That’s right. I forgot. Today’s a holiday.”
  227.  
  228. “Holiday?”
  229.  
  230. “Yeah. The Equestrian Games are being held at the Crystal Empire today. Everypony across Equestria goes to see those games, except for those that don’t get the day off. We so would’ve gone too, but it was important to nurse you back to health. It’s okay Lil Sis. We can always go when they play again next time.”
  231.  
  232. Truthfully, you almost want to breathe a sigh of relief. You did want to see others, but considering all of the crazy stuff that’s been happening, you also didn’t want a bunch of ponies going all over you and asking about how you were doing. You were still very uneasy about everything else, and not having to explain yourself to everyone was a relief in and of itself.
  233.  
  234. Still, as you both strolled into town, you noticed that it seemed to be a very friendly community. There were still trees and the area around you was very green. You could see some houses nearby, but you also saw a lot of other buildings. Some seemed to be stores while others looked like they could have been offices or something. There were some buildings separated by themselves, while others attached to one another like a mini side-strip mall or something. A lot of their exterior designs resembled what your house looked like to a certain extent.
  235.  
  236. The best you could describe them, even though you knew Europe didn’t exist here, was that the architecture resembled that of an older European design. Yet the way the buildings were laid out seemed similar to what you’d see in an old Western movie. Honestly, if felt like combining a cowboy-rodeo environment with an older European environment. It’s strange to liken Vanhoover to that, but because you also didn’t know anything about architecture or the fact that you weren’t used to living in Equestria, it was the best you could describe the overall appearance of the town. It was still very pretty and welcoming, and despite the lack of ponies, it did help ease your anxieties a little. Yet as you and Nullity continued walking, you heard someone calling out.
  237.  
  238. “NULLITY!”
  239.  
  240. You turn to see a white unicorn eagerly waving towards you two near a building entrance. Above her, you notice a giant horseshoe logo with the name “Dazzling Designs” centered in the middle of the horseshoe with girly pink and purple typography. The unicorn herself is smiling vibrantly at you and Nullity. Upon closer inspection of her, you also notice that her mane is a dark brown similar to yours, except that bright navy blue stripes were flowing throughout it, all of which is accompanied by her gorgeous shade of blue eyes. Likewise, you notice a cutie mark in the shape of a blue star, with what looks to be green sparkles floating around it. Overall, you have to admit, she’s pretty beautiful.
  241.  
  242. “Hey Brielle!”
  243.  
  244. Nullity turns and happily trots over to her. You follow close behind.
  245.  
  246. “I haven’t seen you in forever Nullity! What brings you into town?”
  247.  
  248. “Weeeeeeeeeell…take a look at who I brought along with me.”
  249.  
  250. Nullity steps to her side so that she can get a look at you. She gasps in surprise.
  251.  
  252. “RADIANCE?!? Is that you?”
  253.  
  254. “Uh…” is all you can manage to say.
  255.  
  256. “Oh thank Sweet Celestia you’re alright! I’ve been worried sick about you!”
  257.  
  258. She runs right up to you and almost knocks you over with a surprise tackle hug. You hug her back, careful not to fall over and ruin your outfit. Yet as a few seconds pass, Brielle releases you from her grasp and looks you over in awe.
  259.  
  260. “And look at you! You’re so beautiful Radiance!”
  261.  
  262. Brielle’s compliment causes you to begin blushing a little. Even Nullity, you notice, is smiling at you two being next to one another. Her smiling, you can feel, is helping you feel better. It feels really good to see Nullity smiling despite the fact that you’re still dealing with some of your own worries over everything.
  263.  
  264. “Oooooo…that eyeshadow…hehe…I got you that, didn’t I?”
  265.  
  266. You stumble a little on your words, but you reply to her question.
  267.  
  268. “Oh yeah. Nullity helped me this morning with getting ready. Thank you so much for the makeup kit Brielle. I really love what Nullity’s done with my looks.”
  269.  
  270. “Oh hush you. I’d be more than happy to do anything for you. And that dress! Epaulet is going to be so happy to see you wearing her dress. She made that one just for you.”
  271.  
  272. Surprisingly, you giggle a little.
  273.  
  274. “Hehe…yeah, that’s what Nullity was telling me. I’m so happy with what you and Epaulet gave me. It’s really nice what you both got me. I already feel very beautiful and pretty cuz of you two. And I gotta say, I really do love this look.”
  275.  
  276. You reach forward and hug her once more. Brielle happily returns the favor.
  277.  
  278. “Well, why don’t you and Nullity come on in? I was just about to head inside myself. I know Epaulet will be super happy to see you.”
  279.  
  280. “Wait, this isn’t your store?”
  281.  
  282. Brielle suddenly looks at you in confusion. You can feel a little bit of uneasiness from her look, but Nullity quickly speaks up.
  283.  
  284. “Heh…sorry Brielle. Radiance is still recovering from what happened. She actually just woke up yesterday and she felt well enough and wanted to come to town. She has a little bit of amnesia, but fortunately…”
  285.  
  286. Nullity trots on over to you and squeezes you with another hug while smiling back at Brielle.
  287.  
  288. “…she’s on a steady path to recovery.”
  289.  
  290. “Oh you poor thing!”
  291.  
  292. Brielle comes over to your other side and also hugs you. It feels good, although a little strange to have two mares hugging you like this. Fortunately, their hugging was helping to make you feel a lot better.
  293.  
  294. “It really is alright Brielle. I’m doing a lot better.”
  295.  
  296. You step out of both of their hugs and smile back reassuringly.
  297.  
  298. “I just may have forgotten a few things, but I do remember a lot.”
  299.  
  300. “You remember who Epaulet is?”
  301.  
  302. “Of course I know who she is. She’s the one who gave me this dress. I can’t even begin to thank her enough for such a wonderful gift.”
  303.  
  304. “Well then Silly,” says Nullity, “this is Epaulet’s store.”
  305.  
  306. You blush a little in embarrassment, but try to laugh it off.
  307.  
  308. “Oh, right. Hehe…of course. Silly me.”
  309.  
  310. You notice Brielle breathe a sigh of relief.
  311.  
  312. “Phew! I’m glad your amnesia isn’t bad Radiance. It would’ve been so awful if you had forgotten everything and everypony.”
  313.  
  314. Oh if only she knew. But rather than stir up unnecessary drama, you simply play along. After all, you didn’t like upsetting anyone; at least, not anyone in this world. Everyone was just too nice and friendly.
  315.  
  316. You, Nullity, and Brielle then proceed to head into the store, with Brielle a few feet ahead of you and Nullity. Once you step inside, you gasp in awe with what laid before you. The inside of the store was huge! Row after row of clothes and apparel spread throughout the store. Dressers aligned themselves along the walls carrying all sorts of goods, be they antiques or other sorts of apparel. The back of the store also had a staircase leading to a second floor where you guess was more clothing. The walls and the staircase were all designed in solid-dark oak, and yet nearly everything else in the store appeared very feminine. The dressers, the clothing, and anything you could lay your eyes on were all in a beautiful array of rainbow colors.
  317.  
  318. Towards the center-right part of the store, however, was a very long glass counter with what appeared to be jewelry of some sort laying inside. There was a cash register by the end closest to where you were standing, and behind it, you noticed another pony. But before you and Nullity move forward anymore, Brielle trots right up to the pony behind the cash register.
  319.  
  320. “Hey Epaulet!”
  321.  
  322. “Oh hey Brielle! How are you?”
  323.  
  324. “I’m doing very well.”
  325.  
  326. “Really? I’m glad to hear that.”
  327.  
  328. “How about you?”
  329.  
  330. You see the pony behind the counter turn and walk out of it at the opposite end. You hear her sigh before she resumes speaking.
  331.  
  332. “I’ve been doing alright. It’s been kind of a quiet day, what with everypony going to see the Equestrian Games. I was going to go too, but my staff wanted to take the whole day off to go and see them. And, as you know, somepony needs to run this store.”
  333.  
  334. As she exits the counter and turns to face Brielle, you’re able to snag a better look of her overall appearance. She was a crystal pony. Or rather, a crystal unicorn pony with beautiful green eyes. Her coat looked to be aquamarine in color, with her mane flowing down from behind her. It was brilliantly blue. In addition, she also wore a dress. It actually looked very similar to the dress you were wearing in terms of design and the location of the frills, except it was light blue in color and had a slightly darker blue star at the center of the collar instead of a heart. If you weren’t a girl, you’d almost have a crush on her yourself. But before you continue your thoughts, you hear Epaulet speak up again.
  335.  
  336. “Guess I got the short end of the stick, huh?”
  337.  
  338. “Or you could always just close early and take the day off,” says Brielle. “Not like many other places are open.”
  339.  
  340. “I know, but…”
  341.  
  342. As Epaulet moves closer to Brielle, you notice her eyes shifting towards you and Nullity.
  343.  
  344. “…but…oh my goodness! Nullity! And…Radiance?”
  345.  
  346. She makes a beeline straight towards you. You simply try to keep a smile going.
  347.  
  348. “My goodness! It really is you two. I haven’t seen you both in ages!”
  349.  
  350. “Well, let’s just say I’ve kinda been busy taking care of a certain sweet sister of mine,” says Nullity.
  351.  
  352. Nullity nuzzles against your neck and wraps an arm around you for a quick hug. You blush shyly in response.
  353.  
  354. “Radiance!” Epaulet stammers. “You look absolutely beautiful!”
  355.  
  356. Epaulet giggles a little as her eyes scan your body.
  357.  
  358. “I see a certain somepony likes the dress I got her.”
  359.  
  360. Epaulet reaches forward to give you a tight hug, and you hug her back. You can smell a lovely scent of perfume radiating from her. It smells very nice, almost like a tropical scent or something.
  361.  
  362. “It’s so good to see you Radiance. And you too Nullity. I’ve really missed seeing you two.”
  363.  
  364. She lets go of you as Nullity begins to speak up.
  365.  
  366. “I know. It’s been like forever since we’ve been here. With everything that’s been going on, it’s a real treat to see some familiar faces again.”
  367.  
  368. “Oh no. It’s a real honor to see you two again. But Radiance…”
  369.  
  370. Epaulet then turns to face you.
  371.  
  372. “…how have you been? The whole town here has been worried sick about you.”
  373.  
  374. “Oh, um…you know…I’m recovering. Just getting some exercise and getting out of the house. Thought it’d be fun to walk and explore some.”
  375.  
  376. “Really? You’re doing alright? From what I know, you’ve been out of it for a whole week. You’re healing up that quickly?
  377.  
  378. “She is.”
  379.  
  380. Brielle sneaks up from behind and walks over to your side to swing an arm around you.
  381.  
  382. “But she’s just been having a little bit of amnesia. She thought going around town might help her to jog some memories. Right Nullity?”
  383.  
  384. You look over to see Nullity smile reassuringly, though you can’t help but feel Nullity might have been expressing a small look towards Brielle. Regardless, Brielle doesn’t seem to have noticed.
  385.  
  386. “Yush. My little Radiance is coming back to health. We thought it’d be good for her to get out today. She’s doing a lot better, but is slowly and steadily recovering.”
  387.  
  388. Nullity also extends a hoof out to give you another hug. Epaulet does the same and soon you’re engulfed in a three-way hug. It feels really strange being hugged like this, especially by three mares this time, but you didn’t reject it. You just weren’t always used to being hugged by everyone.
  389.  
  390. “Well, I’m glad,” says Epaulet.
  391.  
  392. All three mares let go of you. You actually feel yourself sounding a little affectionate.
  393.  
  394. “Aww…thanks you guys…or…uh…gals.”
  395.  
  396. Nullity giggles a little while Brielle begins smirking at you.
  397.  
  398. “Hehe…don’t worry. I really am alright. But I will say Epaulet, I really love your store. It’s so good to…”
  399.  
  400. “My, my! Nullity? Radiance?”
  401.  
  402. You and Nullity turn to see Nurse Reinhold coming into the store.
  403.  
  404. “It’s so nice to see you both in town and not all cooped up in a bedroom. I take it you’re feeling better Radiance?”
  405.  
  406. “Oh. I um…uh…”
  407.  
  408. Seeing Nurse Reinhold here did catch you off guard, but before you say anything else, Nullity speaks up.
  409.  
  410. “She’s doing much better, all thanks to your help.”
  411.  
  412. “It’s no problem at all. Glad to help a fellow pony in need.”
  413.  
  414. “And speaking of need, do you mind if I have a few private words with you Nurse Reinhold?”
  415.  
  416. “Why of course Nullity.”
  417.  
  418. Nullity turns to face everyone else.
  419.  
  420. “If nopony minds, I’m gonna step outside for a brief moment. Will you be alright Lil Sis?”
  421.  
  422. You blush a little as you notice Brielle and Epaulet giggling quietly. Even though you and Nullity loved calling each other Big Sis and Lil Sis, you guess it must have seemed strange to others. Oh well. To each their own.
  423.  
  424. “Don’t worry Big Sis. I’ll be alright.”
  425.  
  426. “Okay. Be right back!”
  427.  
  428. Nullity nuzzles against your neck one more time before her and Nurse Reinhold head outside to talk. Turning yourself back to face Brielle and Epaulet, you notice they’re both struggling not to laugh. But just as you are about to speak up, they burst into laughter.
  429.  
  430. “Hehehe…ahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!”
  431.  
  432. Why are they laughing?
  433.  
  434. “He…heh…uh…what’s so funny?”
  435.  
  436. You look at them both in confusion, but Epaulet is the first to speak.
  437.  
  438. “Hahahaha…oh wow. That was so priceless!”
  439.  
  440. “I know, right?”
  441.  
  442. Brielle is also laughing, but after a few seconds pass, their laughter turns into giggles. You can’t help but feel embarrassed. What’d you do that was so funny?
  443.  
  444. “I…I don’t get it. What’s so funny?”
  445.  
  446. Brielle grins at you.
  447.  
  448. “Oh nothing, ‘Lil Sis.’”
  449.  
  450. She chuckles a little more after mentioning that, while Epaulet speaks up again.
  451.  
  452. “Hehe…we’re just teasing you ‘Lil Sis’…uh…I mean Radiance.”
  453.  
  454. Suddenly, you were feeling a little uncomfortable being around them. Although they were being harmless, you couldn’t help but feel that they were making fun of you. It didn’t make you feel too good.
  455.  
  456. “Oh stop it Epaulet. Radiance, it’s just something we’ve never seen you and Nullity do before. It’s kind of funny because we’ve never seen anypony talk like that before, but in all honesty, if those are the two nicknames you two call each other, I think it’s pretty cute.”
  457.  
  458. Both of them have stopped laughing and are now only looking at you with warm smiles. And yet, you felt just a little bit uncomfortable. Especially with Big…uh…Nullity not around, you felt vulnerable. Even though you knew they meant you no harm, you did feel a little hurt from their teasing. But rather than dwell on these feelings, you instead try to change the subject.
  459.  
  460. “Heh…yeah…so anyways, as I was saying earlier, it’s so good to get out and see things. Being stuck at home all day can sometimes feel a bit…”
  461.  
  462. “Boring?” questions Epaulet.
  463.  
  464. “Well, I dunno about that, but…”
  465.  
  466. “It’s okay Radiance. You can say it’s boring. I know I’d go nuts having to stay all cooped up in a house for a whole week!”
  467.  
  468. “Oh?” says Brielle. “Like you haven’t gone nuts having to run this shop when almost everypony’s out seeing the Equestrian games or taking the day off?”
  469.  
  470. Brielle nudges against Epaulet playfully.
  471.  
  472. “What? Why in Equestria would I go crazy running this shop? I mean, sure, it’s a bummer that I have to run it while the rest of the staff has the day off, but I AM a business owner, and as a business owner, you have to be fully committed to it. After all, this stuff is my passion!”
  473.  
  474. “Designing clothes?”
  475.  
  476. Epaulet gives Brielle a slightly annoyed look, but continues talking.
  477.  
  478. “It’s more than just designing clothes Brielle. It’s my life’s calling.”
  479.  
  480. “Then why were you sighing out of boredom when I came in?”
  481.  
  482. Epaulet gives her an irritated look.
  483.  
  484. “Because even if I may not feel up to doing work when I have to do it, I do it anyway because not only am I obligated to do so as a business owner, but I do it because it makes me happy. I don’t do it for the money or for the fame or for the attention or for anything else other than it’s what I enjoy, and not to sound like a narcissist, but I’m pretty darn good at it too. Isn’t that right Radiance?”
  485.  
  486. You stumble on your words from being called out on the spot, but you decide to instead nod your head.
  487.  
  488. “See? Look at the dress I made her! She’s quite beautiful, if I do say so myself. Besides Brielle, you too are the local fashionista around here and with your skills, you could make any mare beautiful. Don’t you take pride in what you do?”
  489.  
  490. “Well yeah, I do. But I don’t want my work to define who I am. It’s important to do what you enjoy and to work hard at it, but I don’t let my work define who I am as a pony. There’s more to life than simply working all the time. If work makes you happy, that’s perfectly fine. But I know I don’t always want to work every single day. It’s a holiday for crying out loud and since almost everypony has the day off, why shouldn’t I too?”
  491.  
  492. Meanwhile, you simply stand there and watch as both Brielle and Epaulet go on and on about the things that were going on between them. You were listening and were try to pay attention, but you’re a little relieved that they weren’t completely focusing on you. Actually, you were starting to wonder about what Nullity and Nurse Reinhold were discussing outside. You knew there were still a lot of things wrong and that you weren’t all that completely recovered from everything. It was nice interacting with others to help take your mind off of things, but truth be told, you didn’t want to stand here all day listening to two mares rambling about random things. So instead, you decide to slowly walk away from Brielle and Epaulet to explore some of the store. Fortunately, they were too busy talking about things to have noticed that you were walking away.
  493.  
  494. As you begin to walk around the store, you notice all sorts of skirts and dresses in a variety of different colors and apparel. You also notice lots of blouses, leggings, shirts, short shorts, pants, and other forms of apparel; all of which was either folded on stands and shelves or hung up on clothing racks. Looking over the entire store, you start to really take in just how many clothes were in this store. There were even signs and posters on the dresses aligned against the back walls of the store advertising all kinds of makeup, hoof polish, makeovers, and other things.
  495.  
  496. Overall, you’ve never really been in a big clothes store like this place. At least, you weren’t used to going into a clothes store that was almost completely dedicated to women’s apparel. You weren’t really seeing anything that was for guys…err…stallions either. It just felt a little weird to be walking around in a girl’s clothing store. And yet you are a girl, a mare, so it shouldn’t feel that way. You’ve even dressed like one, and considering all of the girly things you did earlier today, you shouldn’t be feeling odd browsing around and looking at feminine clothing. So why are you?
  497.  
  498. You stop for a moment and look down at the floor. You still weren’t feeling any of those girly-girl feelings you felt earlier. Yet you still, for whatever reason, felt out of place. Had none of that freaky stuff happened this morning, you’d probably be going out of your mind with pink, fluffy, girly thoughts. But no. You didn’t feel girly. You just felt…off. Was it because…
  499.  
  500. “…to get stronger…”
  501.  
  502. “HUH?!?”
  503.  
  504. You turn around and look to see who said that. There was no one around you. You were standing in an isle with clothing hanging on your left and right. You turn back the way you were facing and still see no one. You bend down to see if there was anyone else nearby in the neighboring clothing isles, but you don’t see anyone. You can still hear Brielle and Epaulet talking about something, but you can’t make out what it is they were saying. Even then, you were almost at the opposite end of the store from them, and whoever just said that sounded like they were right next to you. It was a female’s voice and it almost sounded like yours, but was slightly deeper, though still very much feminine. Weird. No, this isn’t just weird; it’s not good. You’ve been forgetting things, seeing things, and you may be starting to hear things too. This is really not good.
  505.  
  506. Just as you’re about to do anything else, however, you notice it. You see it just a few inches in front of you to your right. Walking up to it, you see it’s a white gown. It was hanging out in the open, with the other articles of clothing next to it spaced away from the gown itself. It simply hung there by its lonesome self, almost as if it was hanging there waiting for you.
  507.  
  508. It's…It’s…the dress. The dress worn by that…that girl. It looks just like it. A simple white gown. A simple white dress. Although you’re beginning to feel uneasy with it being here, you start to become entranced with it. You want to extend a hoof out to touch, but just as you start to do so, you hesitate.
  509.  
  510. Why is this here? What’s the point of it being here? What’s its purpose? How do you know that you’re not seeing things again?
  511.  
  512. As your hoof touches the fabric, you notice that it’s very much real. It feels maybe a little silky, but very smooth and soft as well. Actually, it feels a little warm. The heck? Trying the best that you can, you use your arm to try to unhook the dress from the hanger. It was impossible to grip the hanger so that you could release the dress. So instead, you lean up a little to bite down on the hanger so that you can pull it off with your hooves. It takes a little doing and truth be told, you imagine that you must look silly trying to grab at this dress. You’re just glad you don’t see anyone around you while you’re doing this. That’d be super embarrassing. Then again, how the heck are ponies supposed to grab objects and live somewhat like humans when they didn’t have hands? Only unicorns seemed to be able to do that with their magic.
  513.  
  514. Regardless of the logic of how this world is supposed to work, you finally pull the dress off of the hanger. The hanger swings a little on its clothing rack, and after a few seconds pass, it becomes still. You then sit down on your rear and hold the dress against you.
  515.  
  516. Oddly enough, the dress feels really, really warm. It feels as if someone had just been wearing it. Actually, it feels like it just came out of the dryer or something. Why though? Why is it so warm? This dress…it’s causing you to feel things on the inside. You’re feeling more than just a warm piece of cloth. You’re feeling love, like actual loving warmth. It’s beginning to make you feel funny. Like, it’s a kind of love where you’re feeling a strong longing for someone. You do feel love, but in some weird way, it’s digging a hole in your heart.
  517.  
  518. This dress, that girl…you…you wanted to call out to her. You wanted to find her, to hug her, and to tell her that you loved her. What was perhaps even stranger was that you were beginning to feel feelings of guilt. Why? It’s like, you deeply loved and cared about whoever this girl was. And yet, somehow, in some crazy, messed up way, you felt guilty for what had happened at the lake. Like it was your fault. You lost her. She needed you. You needed her. You both needed each other. You both loved each other. How could you let this happen to the two of you? You actually began to feel like you were mourning for this girl. You wanted to find her and tell her that you loved her. You wanted to find her and apologize to her for everything that’s happened. You…You were sorry, sorry that this had all happened in the name of…of…
  519.  
  520. “…getting stronger…”
  521.  
  522. “What about getting stronger?”
  523.  
  524. Heart stopping, you swear that it feels as though you could have jumped three feet into the air. Instead, you spring off your butt and turn around to see who said that. It was Nullity.
  525.  
  526. “Whoa, whoa, whoa there Lil Sis! Take it easy.”
  527.  
  528. You’re breathing hard from having been startled, but after you calm yourself just a little, you start to speak.
  529.  
  530. “Oh hey Big Sis. I uh…I didn’t see you there. Heh…guess you got me good, huh?”
  531.  
  532. You try lightly laughing it off, but Nullity’s not convinced by it.
  533.  
  534. “What were you doing Lil Sis? I heard you say something about getting stronger.”
  535.  
  536. Wait. Were you the one saying those words?
  537.  
  538. “I uh…uh…I was just looking at some dresses. Check out this white one that I found.”
  539.  
  540. You point to the ground where you dropped the dress. Only…wait…no…
  541.  
  542. “White dress? Lil Sis, that’s just a green skirt.”
  543.  
  544. No. Nononononononono!
  545.  
  546. “I…I…uh…”
  547.  
  548. What the heck is happening? Why are you seeing things? Why?
  549.  
  550. “Are you okay Lil Sis?”
  551.  
  552. “Uh…I…I saw something different again.”
  553.  
  554. “Oh Lil Sis.”
  555.  
  556. Nullity comes right up to you to give you a very tight hug.
  557.  
  558. “It’s gonna be okay baby sister. I promise. It’s okay.”
  559.  
  560. Rather than try to argue about it and throw a fit, you just simply let her hug you. It felt nice regardless, but you know you saw HER white dress. Even though you were still baffled by what you saw, you accept the fact that you’re seeing something different now. Maybe it really is possible to see things after waking up from a coma. Maybe. But why on Earth would you talk about getting stronger with a white gown? Yet after a minute or so passes, Nullity releases you from her grasp.
  561.  
  562. “Everything’s gonna be okay Lil Sis. I just finished up talking to Nurse Reinhold.”
  563.  
  564. “What did she say?”
  565.  
  566. “Dr. Wilhelm’s office is closed today because of the Equestrian Games, however she said they’d see us right away first thing in the morning.”
  567.  
  568. Nullity sniffles just a little.
  569.  
  570. “She told me that everything was going to be okay and that it’s just part of the recovery process, but both her and Dr. Wilhelm want to examine you to make sure you’re alright. Everything will be alright. I promise.”
  571.  
  572. Nullity runs a hoof through your mane and gives you a gentle kiss on your forehead. And although that also felt good, you really didn’t know what else to say. You can tell that this is kind of serious, and a part of you wants this to get addressed right away, but there’s nothing else you can really do except wonder around.
  573.  
  574. “Do you wanna go explore some more Lil Sis, or do you wanna go home?”
  575.  
  576. You’re still uneasy with everything that happened back at the house and truthfully, you wanted to go anywhere but there.
  577.  
  578. “Maybe we could just walk around a little more?”
  579.  
  580. “Okay. That’s fine with me. But please, if something starts happening, speak up. I wanna protect you and nurse you to health baby sister. I can’t tell you enough how much you mean to me.”
  581.  
  582. Those words start to actually tug at your heart a little. On one hand, you still had a whole bunch of personal stuff you were dealing with, yet on the other hand, you didn’t want to make Nullity or anyone else worry about you. It’s probably best to just go home and rest, but you’re not quite ready to do so just yet.
  583.  
  584. “Mind if we go explore the town some more Big Sis? I think I’m ready to leave.”
  585.  
  586. “Sure thing Lil Sis. Whatever you would like to do.”
  587.  
  588. Both you and Nullity head back to the front of the store and now see Nurse Reinhold having a conversation with Brielle and Epaulet. Epaulet notices both of you leaving and speaks up.
  589.  
  590. “Aww…are you two leaving already?”
  591.  
  592. “Don’t worry Epaulet. We’ll be back soon,” says Nullity. “We’re just exploring around town and Radiance wanted to see some more before it got too late.”
  593.  
  594. “Okay then. But thanks for stopping by! I hope you feel better Radiance!”
  595.  
  596. “Yeah, it was good seeing you two,” says Brielle. “I’ll SO have to pay you two a visit.”
  597.  
  598. Nurse Reinhold doesn’t say anything, but simply smiles at the two of you, and nods towards Nullity.
  599.  
  600. “Alright. See you all later!”
  601.  
  602. As you and Nullity walk out of the store, you look back to smile and wave. And yet, you notice out of the corner of your eye where you had dropped that dress on the ground. It was white again. You quickly turn around and try to put it out of your head.
  603.  
  604. “Did you have fun talking to Brielle and Epaulet Lil Sis?”
  605.  
  606. “Uh…yeah. You know, just the usual.”
  607.  
  608. “They really are such kind ponies. I know Brielle sometimes likes to mess with ponies, but she has a good heart. Epaulet too is such a hard worker. Sometimes I wish she would take a day off to herself though. She works too hard.”
  609.  
  610. “Y-Yeah.”
  611.  
  612. As you and Nullity begin walking through town once more, you can’t help but feel…what’s the word? Lost? Sort of like you knew things were actually very serious, and yet, the more you tried to make sense of everything, the more confusing it all got. It is very possible that the things you’ve been seeing could be aftereffects from having been in a coma, yet you felt that was not the case. Something unusual is going on around here, though you’re not quite sure what it is. All of this stuff had to be happening for a reason. Yet, you didn’t know why. What is the purpose behind all of this? What does it all mean? Why are you…just why are you so lost? What happened to cause all of this? When did everything become so…like this?
  613.  
  614. Even as your eyes dart around the landscape, Vanhoover is still pretty empty. Well, technically, everyone is either at home or at the Crystal Empire watching the games, but still…it felt weird. You can definitely sense something. But what is it?
  615.  
  616. “Well I can’t believe my eyes. Nullity and Radiance, it really is you two, isn’t it?”
  617.  
  618. You and Nullity both turn to your left to see a brown unicorn walking out of a building. He was smiling and looked somewhat cheerful. He had brilliantly green eyes with a blond mane drooping over his head. It was a little messy, but it didn’t look too bad. He wasn’t wearing anything, save for the cutie mark on his rear, which you noticed to be some kind of circular clock. In addition, you saw that there was a lot of furniture sitting outside the front door on display. Most of it, you noticed, also had a lot of antiques standing either next to or on the tables, with most of the antiques themselves being clocks.
  619.  
  620. “Oh hey there Clockwork!”
  621.  
  622. Wait, Clockwork? Nullity waves towards the brown unicorn and decides to walk up to him. You follow her from behind.
  623.  
  624. “It’s so good to see you.”
  625.  
  626. “Please, the pleasure is all mine. I haven’t seen you in forever!”
  627.  
  628. He moves to his side a little so as to see you following behind Nullity.
  629.  
  630. “Especially you Radiance. I’m so happy to see you awake again.”
  631.  
  632. You were feeling a little shy, but you decide to walk around Nullity and stand face-to-face with him.
  633.  
  634. “It’s uh…it’s good to see you again Clockwork. Oh! And thank you for your gift by the way. I absolutely love it!”
  635.  
  636. “Oh, that silly old clock? It’s no problem at all. My heart went out to you when I heard what happened, and I wanted to do so much more for you, but alas, I’m afraid that was all I could do. You forgive me?”
  637.  
  638. “Forgive you? You haven’t done anything wrong at all Clockwork!”
  639.  
  640. He looks down at the dirt and brushes a hoof against it, almost like he was feeling guilty.
  641.  
  642. “Well, you were always there with me when I needed it the most, but I was never once able to come to you when you were ill. Mainly because of keeping my silly store open, but I could have been a better friend to you.”
  643.  
  644. “Aww…you don’t have to be sorry,” says Nullity. “We understand. Life can get in the way sometimes and you just have to do what you have to do. It really is alright.”
  645.  
  646. Clockwork looks back up to face both of you with a small smile.
  647.  
  648. “Still, I would have loved to do more for you Radiance. Have you been feeling any better?”
  649.  
  650. Before you say anything, Nullity answers for you.
  651.  
  652. “She’s been doing pretty good. She actually just woke up yesterday.”
  653.  
  654. “Really?”
  655.  
  656. Clockwork looks at you in surprise.
  657.  
  658. “Yeah. She’s still recovering, but she wanted to get a little bit of fresh air. We’ve got an appointment with Dr. Wilhelm tomorrow, so we’re probably going to be heading home soon.”
  659.  
  660. You speak up next.
  661.  
  662. “But we haven’t seen all of Vanhoover yet Big Sis.”
  663.  
  664. “I know, but still, it’s important we don’t overdo it. After all, I want you to rest and we’ve got a big day tomorrow.”
  665.  
  666. “It isn’t that late, is it?”
  667.  
  668. “Why,” says Clockwork, “it’s only about…”
  669.  
  670. He stammers for a moment, looking back at his shop to see one of his clocks.
  671.  
  672. “…close to four o’clock. Plenty of time before it starts getting dark. Why don’t you two come in for a moment? I’d love to have a little chat with you two. It’s been kind of lonely today. Would be nice to have your company around.”
  673.  
  674. “Of course we’d be happy to join you for a little bit. You alright with hanging out with Clockwork for a little bit Lil Sis?”
  675.  
  676. You put out a smile to her and to Clockwork and gently nod your head. It is at this moment that Clockwork slowly turns away from you and Nullity and begins walking into his store. Nullity follows him from behind while you stay close to your big sister’s side.
  677.  
  678. As the three of you enter into his store, you felt…intrigued by what you were seeing. It looked to be like one of those “old” shops where you’d find something really unique and mysterious. The whole store, which actually wasn’t all that big, was filled with all kinds of clocks and other sorts of antique knick-knacks. All of the clocks were beating in synchrony; their ticking sounds echoing throughout the store. There were a lot of them.
  679.  
  680. Looking around the rest of the store, you can’t help but notice that it’s actually a lot smaller on the inside compared to the outside. It was definitely crammed with a bunch of stuff. Guess Clockwork was one of those ponies that was super obsessed with time, huh? Perhaps he was also a collector of some sort. Maybe. Yet as your eyes scan through the store, you notice a staircase that led to upstairs. Hrm…that’s strange. Where did that lead?
  681.  
  682. As Clockwork moves ahead of you and Nullity, you notice him going around what you can only guess is his front desk and situates himself on a chair. His desk appears to have been sitting just a few feet in front of you by the store entrance. There was a cash register on the center of the desk, along with a bunch of other smaller items sitting on top. They looked to be those kinds of cheap, one dollar things you’d sometimes see in a convenience store to try to grab your attention for a last-minute purchase. Here, though, they were mostly just cards, little toys, and snacks of some sort. You also notice a stack of books sitting on one end of the desk, with one opened by the cash register. Clockwork must have been reading something when he noticed you two walking by.
  683.  
  684. Regardless, you see Clockwork using his magic to close the book. You see that glowing plasma, this time with a green color, forming around his horn and around the book itself. The book shuts itself and begins to float midair. It then flies to the top of the book pile while engulfed in the plasma. Once there, the plasma disappears entirely. It’s still really weird to see magic like this, yet you were fascinated with having witnessed it. It just made no sense to you on how such a thing could exist.
  685.  
  686. “Sorry about this place appearing all dusty and messy. I was going to use today to help tidy everything up since the store is closed, but considering this is a time where I could catch up on my reading, it felt nice to just relax today.”
  687.  
  688. “Oh you don’t have to worry about that Clockwork!” says Nullity. “It’s important to take time out to enjoy yourself. Actually, I know Epaulet has her store open and she’s working all day today. We tried to get her to take a break, but she refused. I’m just glad that you of all ponies is taking time out to relax. You definitely deserve it.”
  689.  
  690. “Well thank you Nullity. Still, had I known you two would have been coming into town, I would have at least tried to spruce the place up a little bit.”
  691.  
  692. You decide to speak up next.
  693.  
  694. “So what have you been up to Clockwork?”
  695.  
  696. “Oh you know, business is the same old same old. Nothing new going on. Been making some good sales, but most ponies that come by usually just look around. Not that I mind that; I take pride in others admiring my work.”
  697.  
  698. “I see. Well, outta curiosity, why did you come to work today if the store’s closed Clockwork?”
  699.  
  700. He looks at you funny, and you suddenly felt embarrassed for asking him that.
  701.  
  702. “Sorry about that Clockwork,” says Nullity. “Radiance is still recovering and has been dealing with some amnesia.”
  703.  
  704. “Oh my!”
  705.  
  706. His look quickly changes to one of sympathy. Nullity briefly turns to you to speak.
  707.  
  708. “Lil Sis, this is Clockwork’s home.”
  709.  
  710. “Huh?”
  711.  
  712. “Yeah. Well, technically, he lives on the second floor and operates his store on the first.”
  713.  
  714. Oooooooooohhhhhhhhhhh…so that must have been where those stairs led.
  715.  
  716. “Well, don’t I feel silly for asking you that Clockwork. Hehe…sorry about that.”
  717.  
  718. “Don’t worry Radiance. It’s alright. I’m just sorry you’re having to go through with that. I can only imagine how horrible that must be to forget things.”
  719.  
  720. Nullity turns back to face Clockwork and speaks.
  721.  
  722. “But she is doing a lot better. It’s mostly just with locations that she’s been having a little trouble with. That’s why we came to town today. She wanted to see some familiar sights to see if it would help. And it looks like it’s starting to.”
  723.  
  724. Clockwork gives you both a warm smile. He seems like he could be a fairly nice pony. You were actually feeling a little more at home in his store. As crazy as it might sound, you almost wish you could spend the night here instead of your house. It felt safer.
  725.  
  726. “Well, I’m just glad you’re on the road to recovery Radiance,” says Clockwork. “Still though, I am a little surprised that you’re walking around when you only just woke up yesterday. Guess that means you really are improving. I’m happy for you.”
  727.  
  728. “Aww…thanks Clockwork. Yeah, I think I’m gonna be alright. Just been trying to get back in the swing of things.”
  729.  
  730. “I know how you feel Radiance. After my series of misfortunes, and after what you and Nullity did for me when I was at my lowest, it took me quite a while for everything to return to normal. It’s an arduous process, but the important thing is that you take baby steps. Just like you told me, everything will be alright in the end. Things might get rocky along the way, but the important thing is to hold out and keep going. And I have that to thank you two for, even though I’ve already thanked you both in the past. Had it not been for you two…”
  731.  
  732. You notice his expression becoming just a little grim. His eyes dart away from you and Nullity.
  733.  
  734. “Let’s just say things might have turned out a lot differently.”
  735.  
  736. He quickly shakes it off though and looks at both of you with a bright smile.
  737.  
  738. “It just goes to show that love and support can really go a long way in turning things around, and I’ll always be grateful for what you two have done for me.”
  739.  
  740. Nullity giggles and suddenly latches onto you with a tight hug.
  741.  
  742. “Weeeeeeeell…that’s our special talent Clockwork. Me and my baby sister go around sharing love and affection wherever we can. We just want to make ponies happy and to feel loved.”
  743.  
  744. You smile and gently nuzzle against Nullity, even though you weren’t used to nuzzling. It feels weird, but it feels right at the same time. It was more of like an instinctual response.
  745.  
  746. “Hehe…I love you Lil Sis.”
  747.  
  748. “I love you too Big Sis.”
  749.  
  750. You see Clockwork simply smile as you and Nullity hug one another tightly.
  751.  
  752. “Oh!”
  753.  
  754. Nullity speaks up and suddenly releases you from her clutch.
  755.  
  756. “By the way Clockwork, do you mind if I go use your restroom real quick?”
  757.  
  758. “Of course not Nullity. Just head on upstairs. Second door on your left.”
  759.  
  760. “Okay, thank you!”
  761.  
  762. Nullity begins walking towards the foot of the stairs, but before she goes up, she begins to speak some more to you.
  763.  
  764. “I’ll be right back Lil Sis. Will you be alright?”
  765.  
  766. “Yeah, you go on ahead Big Sis. I’ll be fine.”
  767.  
  768. “Okay. Be back soon.”
  769.  
  770. Nullity climbs up the stairs, disappearing from your view. It was just you and Clockwork now. You turn back to face him and notice that he was still giving you a friendly smile. You actually didn’t know what to say, other than let your eyes wonder around at all the clocks he had. Their ticking was starting to put you in a nice, relaxing trance.
  771.  
  772. Tick-tock. Tick-tock. Tick-tock. Tick-tock. Tick-tock.
  773.  
  774. “So…uh…how many clocks have you made since we were here last Clockwork?”
  775.  
  776. “Oh not many. Actually, most of what you see here on display has been here for a while. Like I said earlier, I get a lot of ponies passing through here, but only do a small handful actually buy one of my clocks. And that’s okay. I mostly just make them for fun. It’s a nice little hobby to have.”
  777.  
  778. Clockwork plops off his chair and begins walking around his desk. He heads over to one side of his store where three grandfather clocks sat next to one another. You too walk up to one of them and stand right next to Clockwork. He looks up at them, admiring his work.
  779.  
  780. “You know,” says Clockwork, “I’ve always kind of had a fascination with time.”
  781.  
  782. You giggle a little.
  783.  
  784. “Really? You don’t say. I wouldn’t suspect that from a pony who’s name is Clockwork.”
  785.  
  786. He chuckles and turns slightly to smile, then looks back at the grandfather clocks.
  787.  
  788. “Well, ever since I was young, I was intrigued by time. Observing the hands on the clocks move, hearing those lovely ticking sounds, simply observing time pass…how is it that no matter what happens in life, time keeps moving forward? You can’t destroy time. Technically, you can break one clock, and build it again, and break it again, and build another. Regardless of the clock itself, time always moves forward. Strange how nothing can ever affect it, huh?”
  789.  
  790. “Y-Yeah.”
  791.  
  792. Tick-tock. Tick-tock. Tick-tock.
  793.  
  794. Your eyes were becoming hypnotized by one of the grandfather clock’s pendulums swinging back and forth.
  795.  
  796. Back and forth…tick-tock…tick-tock…
  797.  
  798. “It’s almost like time itself doesn’t even need a medium to exist. Even if all the clocks in Equestria were to be destroyed, time would still soldier on. It’s fascinating to me. In all honesty, what is time? A unit of measurement? A point in history? A scientific term?”
  799.  
  800. You snap your gaze from one of the swinging pendulums and look back to him, seeing him looking at you curiously.
  801.  
  802. “Uh…I dunno.”
  803.  
  804. “Exactly. I don’t know either. Is there such a thing as a past and a future, or is it always the present? Can time ever be manipulated through a medium such as gravity, or can it be through magic? I don’t know, at least in terms of magic. Course, there’s rumors that time spells exist within Celestia’s castle, but I’ve never seen actual evidence of them. You can’t manipulate time and yet, is time always the same here as it is elsewhere? It’s always a different time in Applelossa, or Canterlot, or Ponyville, or the Crystal Empire, for example. They might be an hour or two ahead there and if we were to travel there, would we time travel an hour or two into the future? Or would ponies travel an hour or two back in time if they came here? If you have a pony born here and a pony born in Canterlot at the exact same time, as another example, do they age simultaneously, or do they do so differently because of the time zones that they’re in?”
  805.  
  806. “Uh…”
  807.  
  808. Tick-tock. Tick-tock. Tick-tock.
  809.  
  810. “That also got me wondering: if there can be different times here in Equestria, does that also mean other worlds may have different measurements of time? Are there twenty-four hours in a day, or are there less or more? Not only that, but does time exist if you’re in outer space? Is it only limited to the planet you’re on?”
  811.  
  812. Tick……………tock……………….tick…………………tock………..
  813.  
  814. Although you didn’t know exactly the point Clockwork was trying to get at, you notice ever so slightly that the ticking sounds were starting to get slower and slower.
  815.  
  816. “If a pony went to a different planet, or just to outer space, would they be affected by time the same way as we are here? I don’t know. And yet, I can’t help but feel that time flows regardless of what’s going on in any one location. It is unaffected by anything. It flows at its own pace. Time never stops. Even if a clock breaks, it keeps going.”
  817.  
  818. Tick…………………………………………………..tock……………………
  819.  
  820. “It’s the same for ponies.”
  821.  
  822. You notice him starting to widen his smile, like he was a scientist about to uncover a new discovery. It was actually beginning to make you uneasy.
  823.  
  824. “Regardless of where a pony is or what it’s doing, time continues flowing on its own. If a pony has yet to be born, time still exists. If a pony is simply living their life, time still exists. If a pony…”
  825.  
  826. You notice the glowing green plasma beginning to flow around his horn.
  827.  
  828. “…ceases to exist, time will still exist and flow on its own. Time…”
  829.  
  830. Tick…………………………………………………………………………..tooooooooooooooooooooooooccccccccccccccccccccckkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkk………..
  831.  
  832. “Wha-What are you doing?!?”
  833.  
  834. You’re very quickly beginning to panic. You notice Clockwork beginning to launch a spell of some kind, with his smile rapidly transforming to that of a madman. What the heck is going on? Why has he stopped talking? You wanna run, but you’re frozen with fear. Whatdoyoudowhatdoyoudowhatdoyoudo???
  835.  
  836. “Biiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiggggggggggggggggg Siiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiisssssssssssssssss!!!”
  837.  
  838. Then just as suddenly, the plasma flowing from his horn explodes and engulfs you. You close your eyes just as it hits you, bracing for impact. Yet as seconds pass, you never feel a thing. Although you’re freaked out at what just happened, you try to muster enough bravery to open your eyes. Things are a little blurry at first, until…until…
  839.  
  840. U-UH…where…WHERE THE HECK ARE YOU?!? As your eyes adjust, you realize everything around you was white. You saw no objects of any kind. There was no scenery or colors of any kind, save for the colors you could see on yourself. You saw no light, except for whiteness. No shadows; no anything. You didn’t hear anything. You’re…You’re nearly speechless with what you’re seeing.
  841.  
  842. “HELLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!”
  843.  
  844. Your voice echoes through the empty void. Just as quickly though, you begin to hear a voice.
  845.  
  846. “…time…therefore…is independent of everything.”
  847.  
  848. The voice was a lot deeper and raspier. You were terrified to turn around and look, but you slowly do. You gasp in horror.
  849.  
  850. “And if time is independent of everything, it cannot be manipulated. Yet you can still alter one’s perception of time. If one’s perception of time can be manipulated, couldn’t one argue that it’s also possible to view time as a belief?”
  851.  
  852. You wanted to run. You wanted to get the heck out of here. But your legs were frozen. You couldn’t move. You’re utterly terrified of what you saw before you: the silhouette. That horrible silhouette that you saw in your bathroom. Only this time, it was in the form of a pony. Actually, you could still make out the horn. Yet it was a shadowy silhouette of a unicorn, with those signature glowing eyes and that glowing smile. It was simply standing and smiling at you.
  853.  
  854. “If time…”
  855.  
  856. Its mouth was slightly moving as it pronounced its words.
  857.  
  858. “…can be argued to be a belief, can it also be argued that it does not exist?”
  859.  
  860. Oh God. It’s starting to walk towards you.
  861.  
  862. “Time is an illusion.”
  863.  
  864. You can’t move! You’re trying to get your legs to start moving, but you’re paralyzed in fear.
  865.  
  866. “And if time doesn’t exist, how can we exist?”
  867.  
  868. It stops in front of you about an inch away from your face, smiling at you. You felt a cold rush of energy flowing from it onto you. You didn’t know what to do. It just stared at you, silently smiling for several long, agonizing seconds. Then, it spoke.
  869.  
  870. “If time is a belief and not something that actually exists, isn’t the whole world like that too? What’s the point of continuing if nothing exists? Why bother if there’s no meaning to any of it?”
  871.  
  872. “Uh…uh…uh…”
  873.  
  874. You’re trembling trying to think of something to say, but you can’t. All you can do is listen and watch helplessly.
  875.  
  876. “Even if time exists and we were to believe that, it’ll run independently, regardless of whether or not you’re dead. You can break a clock and destroy it in every way possible. The same is with a pony. Time, if you believe it to exist, will still function all the same. It does not care what you are or who you are or what you’ve done or what you’ve been through.”
  877.  
  878. It pauses a moment before continuing to speak.
  879.  
  880. “I’ve been broken so many times. I’ve had my dreams smashed so many times. I’ve dealt with so much failure. And, I know you have too.”
  881.  
  882. Oh God. You’re starting to shake violently. You felt like you were going to pass out soon.
  883.  
  884. “The desire to end it all. The desire to be nothing. I, like a clock, make no difference to how time functions. I can do this, I can do that, I can work myself to be whatever I want to be. But what’s the point? No matter what, I will die. Why go on when it will all ultimately fall apart? After all, if time doesn’t exist, other than as a belief, then we also only exist on that same principle of belief. In other words, we only exist because we believe we exist. Truthfully, we don’t matter. I don’t matter. You don’t matter. Nothing will matter in the end. It is all pointless. Especially with being broken time and time again, isn’t it better to just accept and enjoy the belief of nonexistence? To erase oneself? To become one with…nothingness?”
  885.  
  886. You heart felt like it was beating a million miles a minute. Although you could hear this thing talking to you, its words were glossing over you. You were too terrified to fully process what this thing was saying.
  887.  
  888. “I wanted to erase myself. And most of the time, I still do. Why go on in suffering when it’s just so much easier to become nothing? I tried to do it. And, I know you have too.”
  889.  
  890. “Whu-Whu…”
  891.  
  892. You try saying something, but you can’t. You were on the verge of crying and losing it.
  893.  
  894. “I wanted to drown myself in that lake.”
  895.  
  896. “Whu-What?”
  897.  
  898. “As a matter of fact, I tried to too. To forget myself, to erase myself, to ease my suffering and my pain. You did that too, didn’t you?”
  899.  
  900. “H-Huh?!?”
  901.  
  902. “Your so-called accident was on purpose. I know it. You know it. We both wanted to end it. How could one not enjoy erasing themselves in order to ultimately become nothing? Such a fantasy is truly magical.”
  903.  
  904. “Hel-Help. Plu-Please…I…I wanna go home. Pluh-Please don’t hurt me.”
  905.  
  906. “And that is the beauty of belief. Time is a belief. All of this is a belief. You can be anywhere or anything you want to be. It’s all a belief; nothing is real.”
  907.  
  908. You see the silhouette beginning to touch you. Oh God. This is it. You close your eyes, fearing the worst.
  909.  
  910. “Just remember: we don’t exist.”
  911.  
  912.  
  913.  
  914. “Lil Sis?”
  915.  
  916. That voice…Nullity! You quickly open your eyes, only to be…to be…WHAT?!? You’re…You’re at home. You’re on the couch and Nullity was standing by the fireplace. You saw a fire going. No seriously, WHAT JUST HAPPENED?!? WHAT THE LITERAL FUDGE?!?
  917.  
  918. “Whu-What?”
  919.  
  920. “Mommy?”
  921.  
  922. You immediately turn to your left to see a small blue pegasus sitting next to you. He looked to be like a young colt, with a solid green mane. Wait a minute…Beezle? You look down to see that you had a book open in front of you. You noticed you were still wearing your necklace, but you weren’t wearing your dress. You also heard whistling in the kitchen.
  923.  
  924. “Yeah, Nullity. I will say, you and Radiance sure do make the best food.”
  925.  
  926. You see a sky-blue pegasus walking out of the kitchen and into the living room. He actually looked very similar to the colt, except his mane color and coat color were all lighter. He had light blue eyes, while the colt’s eyes were a darker shade of blue.
  927.  
  928. “Thank you ag-”
  929.  
  930. He stops midway and looks at you.
  931.  
  932. “Radiance? Is something wrong?”
  933.  
  934. All three were staring at you. The only sounds now were coming from the wood crackling in the fire. The remainder of the lights in the house were turned off. It was dim, though cozy. Yet you felt anything but cozy.
  935.  
  936. “Uh…Uh…”
  937.  
  938. You stammer, with your brain trying to make sense over what was going on.
  939.  
  940. “Bi-Big Sis?”
  941.  
  942. “Yeah?”
  943.  
  944. Nullity’s now looking at you seriously.
  945.  
  946. “Whu-Why are we at home? Weren’t we just at Clockwork’s place?”
  947.  
  948. “Huh? What are you talking about? That was hours ago.”
  949.  
  950. Although you couldn’t see yourself, you felt like your color was draining from your face. It’s too much. What just happened couldn’t have been you seeing things. That was definitely real, and was definitely something. There’s no way several hours could have just passed. Your mind can’t come to grips with what has just happened. You literally want to scream and have a mental breakdown, but then suddenly, the young colt who you assume was Beezle speaks.
  951.  
  952. “What’s wrong Mommy? You were just about to get to the good part of the story. C’mmon, I wanna know what happens next!”
  953.  
  954. He playfully tugs against your arm, and you look at him. He sees your look and quickly becomes worried.
  955.  
  956. “Mommy, are you okay? What’s wrong?”
  957.  
  958. Because you didn’t want to scare such a young child, you try your absolute best to keep your composure.
  959.  
  960. “Yuh-Yeah. I uh…just…do you mind if I have a quick talk with…uh…Aunt Nullity?”
  961.  
  962. “Okay!”
  963.  
  964. Nullity wastes no time in coming over to you.
  965.  
  966. “Are you okay Lil Sis?”
  967.  
  968. “Uh…do you mind if we talk in private for a moment?”
  969.  
  970. “Sure, we can do that.”
  971.  
  972. “Is there anything I can do to help?” questions the stallion.
  973.  
  974. “Don’t worry Blueberry,” says Nullity. “I have it taken care of. If you like though, why don’t you finish up the story with Beezle and get him ready for bed?”
  975.  
  976. “Sure, I can do that. No problem.”
  977.  
  978. “Okay. Thank you Blueberry. We’ll join you two again shortly.”
  979.  
  980. Nullity pulls you off the couch and together, you both walk into the kitchen. It was dark, though the glow from the fireplace did lighten the room a little. You could hear Blueberry happily talk to Beezle about whatever book you were supposedly reading, but your mind wasn’t there at all. Rather, you almost felt zombified. All of this was beyond your ability to make sense of anything. Just what the heck is going on?
  981.  
  982. “Lil Sis, can you tell me what’s wrong?”
  983.  
  984. Nullity was whispering to you, and you decided to do the same so as to not alarm Beezle or Blueberry.
  985.  
  986. “I…I…I’m telling you Big Sis. We…We were just at Clockwork’s place a few minutes ago.”
  987.  
  988. “But we weren’t Lil Sis. That happened hours ago.”
  989.  
  990. You start to shake. Nullity notices and quickly becomes more and more worried.
  991.  
  992. “Nuh-No. You…You had just gone upstairs to use Clockwork’s bathroom. He and I walked to one of his clocks and…”
  993.  
  994. Tick-tock.
  995.  
  996. You quickly turn your head into the living room and notice the grandfather clock. It looked just like one of the clocks you and Clockwork were standing by.
  997.  
  998. Tick-tock. Tick-tock. Tick-tock.
  999.  
  1000. You shake your head and quickly grab onto Nullity for a tight hug.
  1001.  
  1002. “I’m…I’m so scared Big Sis. I…I don’t remember anything since we arrived at Clockwork’s place. I don’t understand. What’s happening?”
  1003.  
  1004. You start sniffling, trying to hold back the tears. Nullity simply hugs you tight and hushes calming reassurances to you.
  1005.  
  1006. “It’s gonna be okay Lil Sis. It’s gonna be okay. We’ll get it all taken care of tomorrow. Let’s just try to get some sleep. It’s been a long day and I want you to get some sleep.”
  1007.  
  1008. You actually start to make a low whine. You really felt like you were losing touch with reality. You didn’t want to go insane. But you didn’t understand what was going on.
  1009.  
  1010. “Shh…shh…it’s okay. It’s okay baby sister…shh…shh…”
  1011.  
  1012. Nullity hugs you and rocks with you, but this time, it wasn’t working as powerfully as it had worked before. You were just too terrified.
  1013.  
  1014. “Here.”
  1015.  
  1016. Nullity breaks away from you and heads to the opposite end of the kitchen. She comes back with a small glass of water and two purple pills resting on one of her wings, which was slightly stretching outwards. You sit down on your rear and reach for the glass of water with your hooves. The two pills accidentally roll down her wing and into your drink. They make a small splash.
  1017.  
  1018. “What…What is this?”
  1019.  
  1020. “It’s just some medicine to help you sleep. Drink it Lil Sis. You’ve been through a lot. I want you to get some good sleep.”
  1021.  
  1022. Using your hooves, you carefully hold the glass up to your lips and you quickly gulp down the cool, refreshing liquid. You felt the two pills riding down your esophagus along with the water. Nullity kisses you on your forehead and hugs you tightly. You hug her back hard and rock with her, desperate for any comfort you could get.
  1023.  
  1024. “It’s gonna be okay Lil Sis. I promise.”
  1025.  
  1026. After a few moments pass, you two let go of one another. Nullity grabs the drinking glass with her mouth and places it back on her wing. She walks it over to one of the counters and places it there. When she returns to you, she places a wing over you.
  1027.  
  1028. “Come on Lil Sis. Let’s go settle into bed.”
  1029.  
  1030. Bed? Wait…YOUR BEDROOM?!? Your eyes shoot wide. No way. Nononononononono. You’re not sleeping up there. Absolutely no way. Regardless, Nullity tries nudging you to get up. You reluctantly do so.
  1031.  
  1032. “Buh-Big Sis…I don’t wanna sleep in my bedroom.”
  1033.  
  1034. She looks at you funny.
  1035.  
  1036. “What are you talking about? We’re sleeping down here with Blueberry and Beezle.”
  1037.  
  1038. “Huh?”
  1039.  
  1040. “Beezle wanted to sleep by the fireplace tonight, so we’re all doing a little slumber party for him. Are you okay to head back to head back over to him and Blueberry.”
  1041.  
  1042. “I uh…yeah…I…am.”
  1043.  
  1044. As you both slowly walk back into the living room, you see a bunch of blankets and pillows being laid out by Blueberry in front of the fireplace. Beezle was trying to help too. When they see you, they both try to cast reassuring smiles.
  1045.  
  1046. “Everything all good?” Blueberry asks.
  1047.  
  1048. “Yeah. Radiance is just getting a teeny bit tired. It’s been a long day for her.”
  1049.  
  1050. You notice Beezle yawning, and his yawning actually makes you yawn a little.
  1051.  
  1052. “And speaking of tired,” says Blueberry, “it seems a certain somepony is ready to get some sleep.”
  1053.  
  1054. “Yeaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh…mmmhmmmm...maybe,” says Beezle wearily.
  1055.  
  1056. “But I wanna sleep next to Mommy tonight.”
  1057.  
  1058. “Can do kiddo.”
  1059.  
  1060. Together, you and Nullity walk right up to the radiating heat emitting from the fireplace. She gently tries to force you to lay down on your tummy, and as you do so, so does she. Although you don’t directly see it, you notice out of the corner of your eye Blueberry placing warm blankets on top of you and Nullity. They were unusually warm, and very, very comfy.
  1061.  
  1062. Suddenly, you felt a moving sensation on your right side. You turn your head to notice Beezle snuggling up next to you. He’s smiling. Despite everything you’ve been going through, you’re actually able to give a genuine smile back to him. It actually feels really good having a foal snuggling against you. That plus Nullity’s snuggling on your left side is rapidly reducing your fears. You yawn some more and rest your head on a pink pillow that laid in front of you. You also notice on your right Blueberry placing another blanket between you and Beezle before he finally situates himself so that he slept right next to Beezle; the only thing separating you and him.
  1063.  
  1064. Although you couldn’t remember arriving at your house and meeting him, he seemed very friendly. You wish you could remember more about him. It kind of would have been fun to go on a date with a stallion. Plus, having his little colt snuggling up against you and calling you his mommy did melt your heart. Yet, even though you felt a little better being bundled up in warm covers by the ponies that loved you, you were still too shattered mentally to feel a completely strong relationship with Blueberry and Beezle. Everything was beyond your comprehension, and the more you tried to keep yourself awake, the sleepier you got.
  1065.  
  1066. You begin yawning more and more as you feel the effects of the medicine you took rapidly pull you into the world of sleep. And just as you are about to drift off, you hear Beezle whisper.
  1067.  
  1068. “I love you Mommy. Good night.”
  1069.  
  1070. You felt him snuggle against you some more.
  1071.  
  1072. “Mmmmmm…mmph…mmm…*yawn*…nini my little Beezle. Mommy loves…*yawn*…you with all her heart. Mmm…”
  1073.  
  1074. Your eyes close and just as you black out, you whisper.
  1075.  
  1076. “Nini.”
  1077.  
  1078.  
  1079.  
  1080. Warmth coursed throughout your body as you suddenly realize that you were walking. You were walking in some sort of valley, though you weren’t exactly quite sure where you were. All you knew was that it was somewhat warm, but not burning hot.
  1081.  
  1082. Almost instinctively, you turn your gaze upwards to see a sun that was partially obscured by partly cloudy skies. The sky was a lovely sea of light blue, covered with patches of white-grayish hues that partially obstructed the glowing, yellow beacon of light. The sun didn’t make you feel hot like you were in a desert, but it felt like you were in comfy 70-degree weather. Still though, the clouds appeared to a friendly white with occasional tints of light gray; they looked bubbly in appearance, casting mesmerizing shadows across the landscape. They seemed oh so soft and cushy and bouncy and comfy. You almost wish you could fly up to one and take a nap in comfy, serene bliss.
  1083.  
  1084. You turn your head back to the ground and look to your sides. You notice that there were hills to your right and to your left. They weren’t tall, but were more like grassy, hilly plains. As you keep walking, however, you begin to notice that you were passing through some trees. There weren’t a lot of them to the point that it felt like a forest, but you could at least cover yourself partially under their canopy from the sun’s glowing rays.
  1085.  
  1086. Yet you realize that couldn’t hear or see any signs of wildlife. Aside from the low sounds of leaves from the trees and the bushes rustling in the breeze, it was pretty much quiet. It was warm and comforting, but it did make you feel a little lonely.
  1087.  
  1088. Suddenly, you start to hear what sounds like water gently splashing against something. You walk forward a little more and notice that there is a small river to your right. It was flowing in the direction you were walking in. You stop and walk right up to the edge of the river. You notice that the water was surprisingly clear and fresh. It looked like there were no chemicals or trash of any sort in it. As a result, you were able to clearly see all sorts of substrate at the bottom.
  1089.  
  1090. Without warning, you feel something tapping on your shoulder. You turn around to see her dress. The simple white gown. You see it, and you know it’s her, but she’s not visible. You know she’s there, but all that exists is a floating white gown. You can vaguely sense the outline of her body that the dress is attached too, but you can’t discern any visible physical features. You stand up and smile, waving at her. Yet, you also notice that you are invisible. You knew she saw that, and you could see that she was waving to you too, despite her being invisible. You just knew that she could see you.
  1091.  
  1092. You both begin walking along the stream talking. Even though you were both invisible, save for her white gown, you two were talking. You were both reminiscing about something. In some strange way, you two were bonding. You still don’t know what was being said, but you knew you were both talking. You could hear each other’s voices clearly, but you couldn’t make out the words.
  1093.  
  1094. Yet as the sun begins to rapidly set, you could tell you were becoming more and more serious. She, on the other hand, was becoming more and more uneasy. As the sun disappears over the growing night sky, you two approach the lake. She stops, while you walk up to it and bend over to examine the surface of the water. You see no reflection of any kind. It was empty, save for the fogginess of the dark blue water. You didn’t know how far down it went. Yet, after observing it, you can feel her gripping your shoulder. She begins speaking, and this time, you can understand what she is saying.
  1095.  
  1096. “…why I made all the things I did with you, so that we both could remember.”
  1097.  
  1098. You turn to see that she is crying. Even though she is nearly invisible save for her dress, you can tell that she’s crying.
  1099.  
  1100. “Get stronger for both of us Big Sis. I’ll watch everything from here and do what I can. I love you so very much.”
  1101.  
  1102. You turn to look back down in the water, and before you know it, you’re pushed in. You could hear screams as you fell in. You didn’t know if it was you or her or someone else that was screaming. But as you fell in…as you fell…into…the lake…into the nothingness…
  1103.  
  1104. Nothingness…nothingness…nothingness…nothingness…nothingness…nothingness…
  1105.  
  1106. Nothingness…nothingness…nothingness…
  1107.  
  1108. Nothingness…
  1109.  
  1110.  
  1111. You shift groggily in your sleep. Somewhere, you can hear crying of some sort, although it was very quiet. Although still pretty sleepy, you open your eyes a little, only to be greeted by sunlight. You immediately close your eyes from the brightness.
  1112.  
  1113. After a few seconds pass, you slowly open them again as they adjust to the sunlight. You raise your head a little, and turning to your left and right, you notice that Nullity and Blueberry are not around. However, you can hear their voices coming from the kitchen. They were talking quietly, probably so as to not wake you up. You can’t quite hear what it is they are discussing, but just as you are about to stand, you feel a tug at your right arm. You quickly see Beezle clinging onto you. His eyes are closed, but you can see that he’s whimpering. He is still asleep, though your heart goes out to him. Poor thing. You want to make him feel better…somehow.
  1114.  
  1115. You lean against him and nuzzle very gently against his neck. You try whispering calming reassurances to him like Nullity would do to you, but just as you start talking to him, he suddenly opens his eyes.
  1116.  
  1117. “HUH?!?”
  1118.  
  1119. He jerks and looks around in confusion.
  1120.  
  1121. “Where am I? What happened?”
  1122.  
  1123. “Shh…shh…it’s okay. It was just a bad dream.”
  1124.  
  1125. You feel Beezle shaking a little against your body, but once he realizes that you’re right next to him, he quickly relaxes.
  1126.  
  1127. “Mommy!”
  1128.  
  1129. He hugs your arm as tight as he can. You shift around a little in your covers so that you can pull him with both of your arms right up to you. You hug him as tight as you can and quietly coo.
  1130.  
  1131. “There, there Beezle. It was only a nightmare. You’re okay. You’re safe. Mommy’s right here.”
  1132.  
  1133. He sniffles a little, but just as quickly says “I love you Mommy” several times. You tell him that you love him too and hug him for just a little bit longer. After a few seconds pass, he begins to speak.
  1134.  
  1135. “That was the scariest nightmare I ever had! I never wanna have that dream again.”
  1136.  
  1137. “Shh…it’s okay Beezle. It was only a dream.”
  1138.  
  1139. “Yeah, but it felt very real.”
  1140.  
  1141. He starts to wiggle out of your grasp. You let go of him and he bounces out in front of you with energy.
  1142.  
  1143. “I dreamt that I was at home just playing games when an intruder broke in.”
  1144.  
  1145. “Oh?”
  1146.  
  1147. You observe him curiously.
  1148.  
  1149. “Yeah! I remember hearing something and I went to go investigate. Yet just as I started exploring, this shadowy thing crept up on me and before I knew it, he captured me.”
  1150.  
  1151. You start to feel a little uneasy with those words. Since when does a foal have a dream about being kidnapped?
  1152.  
  1153. “Then, when I woke up, I was in some kind of secret lair. Like, a made scientist’s lair or something.”
  1154.  
  1155. Beezle looks to the ground and thinks for a moment, before he realizes something.
  1156.  
  1157. “There was this kind of ‘doctor.’ He was super scary and tried to act like my friend, but threatened to hurt me if I didn’t do as he said.”
  1158.  
  1159. Wait a minute. What did Beezle just say?
  1160.  
  1161. “He wanted to run some kind of experiment on me and I remember going to this room and there was this bed thingy and he told me to sleep on it and I was scared and I didn’t know what was happening and then…I just woke up right next to you!”
  1162.  
  1163. Oh no. Oh please don’t let what Beezle just said be true. Is he…? No, wait. No…No…Just please no. You remember that one doctor from before…before you woke up from your coma. He said…He said something about there being “others.” Oh please. Just please in the name of everything. Just please no. Beezle is just a foal. He’s just a kid. Please don’t let him experience the things you’ve been experiencing. He doesn’t deserve that.
  1164.  
  1165. “I’m just happy it was only a bad dream though. Besides, I got Mommy to protect me!”
  1166.  
  1167. He smiles big and you try to smile back, but deep down, you felt like you were gonna be sick. You almost wanted to hurl. This is wrong. This is just so very, very wrong. Whatever crazy stuff is going on, just please don’t let Beezle suffer through it. Please.
  1168.  
  1169. Suddenly, you hear the sound of hooves clopping against the floor. You stand up and turn towards the kitchen to see Nullity and Blueberry coming out of there. They both notice you and Beezle standing and staring at them. Though they weren’t beforehand, you see them quickly putting on a smile.
  1170.  
  1171. “Good morning Lil Sis! Good morning Beezle!”
  1172.  
  1173. “Morning Radiance. Morning champ. Did you two sleep well?”
  1174.  
  1175. “Uh…”
  1176.  
  1177. Before you can say anything, Beezle speaks up excitedly.
  1178.  
  1179. “Yeah. Had some crazy dreams, but Mommy was there to protect me.”
  1180.  
  1181. Blueberry walks away from Nullity and leans down for Beezle. He quickly runs to Blueberry and climbs onto his back.
  1182.  
  1183. “Good. I’m glad. You know it’s because Mommy loves you very much, right?”
  1184.  
  1185. “Of course!”
  1186.  
  1187. Once Beezle is carefully situated on his father’s back, Blueberry stands back up and turns to you to smile.
  1188.  
  1189. “Well, we should probably be going.”
  1190.  
  1191. “Aww…what? But I thought we were going to do stuff today with Mommy!”
  1192.  
  1193. “I know kiddo, but remember, Mommy has a doctor’s appointment today.”
  1194.  
  1195. You shiver a little hearing the word “doctor.” His dream put you back on edge, but despite that, you simply try to smile back to him reassuringly.
  1196.  
  1197. “Don’t worry Sweetie,” says Nullity. “Mommy and I will be back soon. It’ll just be for a little bit. We can do more stuff together afterwards. Remember, you two are always welcome.”
  1198.  
  1199. “Ooooo…can we come back later Daddy?”
  1200.  
  1201. “Sure, I don’t see why not. But let’s wait to hear from Mommy and Aunt Nullity first. After all, we want to make sure Mommy’s okay, right?”
  1202.  
  1203. “Yup!”
  1204.  
  1205. “Radiance,” says Blueberry, “I hope everything goes alright with you today. Just know that we love you very much, and we’re grateful for everything you’ve done. Thank you for being there for us.”
  1206.  
  1207. “Uh…”
  1208.  
  1209. You were caught a little off guard there, partly because you still can’t remember doing much with them. Regardless, you smile.
  1210.  
  1211. “It’s no problem at all Blueberry. I love Beezle with all my heart and I love being his Mommy.”
  1212.  
  1213. They both keep smiling happily while you walk on over to them. You lean over and gently nuzzle against Beezle on his side.
  1214.  
  1215. “Yush I do! Mommy loves her little colt oh so very much!”
  1216.  
  1217. He giggles in delight.
  1218.  
  1219. “I love you too Mommy!”
  1220.  
  1221. He reaches forward to hug your muzzle.
  1222.  
  1223. “See you soon, my Precious Thing.”
  1224.  
  1225. You gently shift your head a little so as to be able to kiss him on the forehead. He was honestly very sweet and you felt yourself longing to want to stay with him. Yet, Blueberry simply smiles back and starts heading for the door.
  1226.  
  1227. “We’ll see you two soon. Good luck today, and know that we’re thinking about you.”
  1228.  
  1229. “Bye-bye,” says Beezle.
  1230.  
  1231. You and Nullity both wave and say goodbye to Beezle and Blueberry. As they open the door and walk outside, you see Blueberry spreading his wings. He then springs into the air and quickly begins flying out of view. You’re almost a little stunned to see a pegasus fly with your own two eyes. You actually almost want to try flying yourself. But you knew you were likely not well enough to do so.
  1232.  
  1233. Once gone, however, you notice Nullity’s bright smile quickly giving way to a soft smile. She actually looked pretty warn out.
  1234.  
  1235. “Are you okay Big Sis?”
  1236.  
  1237. She yawns.
  1238.  
  1239. “Yeah, I’m okay. I kinda stayed up the whole night to keep an eye on you. I’ve been so worried about you that I wanted to make sure you got a solid night’s sleep.”
  1240.  
  1241. “Aww…you didn’t have to do that.”
  1242.  
  1243. “I know, but I wanted to in order to make sure nothing new happened to you.”
  1244.  
  1245. You can’t help but feel a little bad for her doing that. You know she must be exhausted, and you know that she’s probably been worried sick about you with all the crazy stuff that’s happened yesterday. Even though you were still very much worried yourself, you did at least feel a little better after having had a deep sleep.
  1246.  
  1247. “It’s okay Big Sis. Really. I’m fine.”
  1248.  
  1249. “Yeah, you might be alright now, but something could happen. And I want to be there for you in case anything else happens. Speaking of which, it’s just about time to go see Dr. Wilhelm. You think you’re ready to go?”
  1250.  
  1251. “Okay. Yeah, let’s just go. I’m so done with having these random things happen.”
  1252.  
  1253. You notice Nullity smirk just a small bit, but she takes a deep breath and begins walking to the front door. You follow her from behind and once outside, Nullity steps around you and closes the front door. From there, you both begin the same path the two of you took yesterday towards town.
  1254.  
  1255. It was a very sunny day today without a cloud in sight. You heard birds singing and noticed the flowers blooming. It actually felt like it was spring or something. Yet as you and Nullity walk, neither of you speak. Both of you silently walk towards town without saying a word. You didn’t have a whole lot on your mind, besides all of the crazy stuff that happened yesterday. And yet, you didn’t want to become absorbed in those thoughts because thinking about them made you feel insane. You just wanted to enjoy the scenery around you.
  1256.  
  1257. As you both approach town, however, Nullity abruptly turns right and walks towards the first building that appears. It looked like all the other buildings in town did, except this one wasn’t as close to the other ones. It kinda stood on the outskirts of town. Still looked a little cozy though. If anything, it almost looked like it could have been a cabin of some sort due to its relatively smaller size. The building wasn’t that big, but you notice some kind of logo above the front doors. You didn’t know what exactly it was, but you see that that it is a white plus symbol engulfed by a red heart. You imagine it must have been some kind of medical symbol or something.
  1258.  
  1259. Once you’re both in front of the building, Nullity pushes the door open and both of you head inside. The inside was actually very small and lacked a lot of details. It sorta appeared to be just one big bland, empty room. Upon closer inspection though, you notice three sets of stair cases with one on each of the other three walls. They all appeared to lead down to a basement of some sort, but before you have time to wonder where they all lead, Nullity heads towards the staircase on your right. You follow behind her without saying a word.
  1260.  
  1261. You both go down two flights of stairs, only to reach a pair of swinging blue doors at the bottom. Nullity pushes one inwards and holds it open for you. She smiles reassuringly at you and you do the same to her. You head in and notice right away that you’re in a waiting room. There was a ceiling fan spinning in the center of the room, with two lamps sitting in the opposite corners of the room. Their lights were shining brightly. The wall you were facing also had a big glass window, which you guess for reception, except you didn’t see anyone there.
  1262.  
  1263. Your eyes scan the rest of the room for minor details. You also see solid oak waiting chairs with black cushions lining against your left and right. There were two small nightstand-looking desks with magazines on them. And to top it all off, you strangely didn’t see anyone else here. Yet as Nullity walks in from behind you, you hear the swinging door swaying back and forth until it finally closes to a standstill.
  1264.  
  1265. “Oh! Radiance, you’re here!”
  1266.  
  1267. You turn your head to the sound of the incoming voice and notice an open doorway to the left of the glass window. You see Nurse Reinhold step out from somewhere inside the doorway and almost immediately, she sees you looking through the doorway. She quickly comes out of the doorway and walks right up to you.
  1268.  
  1269. “I’m so glad you’re here. If you like, Dr. Wilhelm is ready to see you right now. I know we just opened, but he’s actually been really wanting to meet with you.”
  1270.  
  1271. “Really?”
  1272.  
  1273. “Yes. Are you ready to go in?”
  1274.  
  1275. “Uh…”
  1276.  
  1277. You turn to Nullity to see her smiling back at you reassuringly.
  1278.  
  1279. “It’s okay Lil Sis. Everything’s going to be okay.”
  1280.  
  1281. “Oh-Okay. Yuh-Yeah, I’m ready.”
  1282.  
  1283. “Alright, let’s go.”
  1284.  
  1285. As the three of you start to walk forward though, Nurse Reinhold stops and turns to face you and Nullity.
  1286.  
  1287. “I do apologize, but Dr. Wilhelm has requested to see Radiance alone.”
  1288.  
  1289. “What?” you both question in unison.
  1290.  
  1291. “Unfortunately, what Dr. Wilhelm will be doing requires that Radiance be by herself. I can assure you both that you, Radiance, are going to be alright. Don’t worry. Dr. Wilhelm cares about you and only has your best interests in mind.”
  1292.  
  1293. You turn to Nullity and look at her, unsure of what to do.
  1294.  
  1295. “It’s okay Lil Sis. You can go on ahead. I’ll be perfectly fine.”
  1296.  
  1297. “But…”
  1298.  
  1299. “Seriously, you’re going to be alright. Dr. Wilhelm is an excellent doctor. If anything is wrong, I’ll be right out here in the waiting area. Don’t you worry. Nothing’s gonna separate us.”
  1300.  
  1301. Nullity latches onto you and gives you one final big hug.
  1302.  
  1303. “I love you, my precious baby sister of mine.”
  1304.  
  1305. You hug her back tightly.
  1306.  
  1307. “I love you too, bestest big sister of all time.”
  1308.  
  1309. She actually starts to sniffle a little as you two let go of one another, but she still does her best to smile.
  1310.  
  1311. “Everything’s gonna be okay. I promise.”
  1312.  
  1313. Your heart is messing you because, more than anything else, you didn’t want to be away from your big sister for any period of time. However, you could tell that Nurse Reinhold was becoming insistent that you go see Dr. Wilhelm.
  1314.  
  1315. “Okay. I believe you Big Sis. I’ll be back soon. I promise. I love you.”
  1316.  
  1317. “I love you too.”
  1318.  
  1319. And just like that, you turn away from her and follow Nurse Reinhold through the doorway and down a hall. The hall was very bland in appearance, with ceiling lights lining all against the ceiling. You saw doors on your left and right, with a chair here and there. It looked like the stereotypical hospital, except that it was underground. It’s a little unsettling, but overall, the place seemed kinda dull.
  1320.  
  1321. Yet after a few seconds pass, you and Nurse Reinhold approach a door on your left. You notice that it was cracked open just a little bit. The door boar a placard near the top center of it with the name “Dr. Wilhelm” engraved on it. Nurse Reinhold knocks on the door.
  1322.  
  1323. “Come in!”
  1324.  
  1325. She pushes open the door and leads you both into the room. This room too looked like a stereotypical doctor’s room. There was a regular sitting chair in one corner of the room with a recliner medical bed of some sort sitting in the center of the room. A small silver cylindrical trash can sat to the left of the bed. The bed itself had a tan cushion on it, except you didn’t see any of that scratchy paper material you’d normally see on those things.
  1326.  
  1327. Opposite the bed, however, was a counter that had a sink and several containers resting next to it. There were several drawers underneath the counter, which you could only guess contained some form of medical equipment. You also notice a clipboard sitting on the counter with paper on it. A pen was floating in the air with what appeared to be that magical plasma stuff moving it. It was navy blue in color. Your eyes turn from there to see a brown unicorn dressed in a doctor’s outfit. He had a black mane, but you couldn’t get a complete look at him as he was facing away from you. He was completely engrossed in whatever it was he was writing.
  1328.  
  1329. “Dr. Wilhelm, I’ve brought Radiance in for you.”
  1330.  
  1331. “Ah, yes. Excellent. Radiance, if you would be so kind, please have a seat. Just give me one more moment and you’ll have my undivided attention.”
  1332.  
  1333. Nurse Reinhold smiles at you as you try to sit and position yourself on the bed-like chair.
  1334.  
  1335. “If you two need anything from me, I’ll be right down the hall.”
  1336.  
  1337. She turns around and heads out the door. You notice out of the corner of your eye Nurse Reinhold using her magic to close the door. Yet your gaze turns back to Dr. Wilhelm as he continues writing. You silently stare at him while he writes.
  1338.  
  1339. After what feels like several minutes having gone by, Dr. Wilhelm lowers his pen to the counter and stops using his magic. He turns around to face you with an enthusiastic smile. You notice that he had brown eyes and was wearing square glasses.
  1340.  
  1341.  
  1342. Wait a minute.
  1343.  
  1344. “So, tell me Anon, how are you doing?”
  1345.  
  1346. You freeze instantly.
  1347.  
  1348. “Whu-Whu-What duh-did you juh-just say?”
  1349.  
  1350. You felt yourself quickly becoming consumed with fear.
  1351.  
  1352. “I said…”
  1353.  
  1354. He grins and observes you in amusement before continuing.
  1355.  
  1356. “…how are you enjoying Dr. Money’s Virtual Dream Machine?”
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