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    Usually, after long hiatuses, I would write a silly recap but it’s only 4 chapters SO BASICALLY TO REFRESH YOUR MEMORY:

    – Rarity is trying to have a vacation
    – no one is letting her
    – Twilight does an entire romantic chapter
    – the next chapter they’re like what do we do now
    – Cadance is like “we help celestia”
    – Celestia sends a strongly worded telegram that’s like “no we help CADANCE”
    – they start bickering and the girls decide they’ll try and help Cadance
    – BUT THEY HAVE NO LEADS WHAT DO THEY DO
    – Rarity is like “it’ll be ok twilight”
    – Twilight is like “WHINE”

    And now this!!!!


    “Now breathe in… and hold for five. One… Two… Three…”

    Sitting in the middle of the Boutique’s living room, Princess Twilight Sparkle did as Fluttershy instructed, breathing in and holding for five seconds, one of the many meditation techniques they’d been practicing for the past few days. 

    When she breathed out, she opened her eyes to find the pegasus smiling proudly at her. 

    “Very good, Princess! How do you feel?” 

    “Good!” Twilight replied. 

    Fluttershy nodded, pleased. “Oh, wonderful.” Her smile turned to a smirk. “And you didn’t even try to sneak a peek at your boo—Nevermind.”

    With a fwoosh of magic, Twilight took the geography book she’d been studying obsessively for the past few days and opened it again. She’d narrowed down Celestia’s location to six historically prominent and promising waterfalls, but it didn’t hurt to narrow it down again. 

    Before Fluttershy could remind Twilight of meditation, a door opened in the distance, and Rarity stepped into the living room, carrying with her what looked like a finished blue ballroom gown. 

    “Oh, Rarity!” Fluttershy exclaimed, clapping her hooves together. “That looks wonderful. Who’s that for?”

    Rarity grinned, showcasing the dress with her magic. “Thank you, dear. And for Cheerilee! She has some sort of teacher’s event in Canterlot next week and wanted something dazzling.” She glanced at Twilight, nose still stuck in her book. “I thought you were meditating?”

    Fluttershy giggled. “We are, but…you know…”

    “Twilight, really,” Rarity reprimanded. “Fluttershy has more important things to do than try and help you if you’re just going to ignore her like this.”

    “Mmmm?” Twilight looked up and her ears tilted up at the sight of Rarity. “Oh, Rarity! When did you get here?” She frowned when Rarity rolled her eyes. “What? What’s wrong?”

    “Nevermind, darling,” replied the unicorn, folding up the dress. “Nevermind. I was just showing Fluttershy the finished dress I’ve been working on.”

    Twilight perked up. “Ooooh! What will you work on next?”

    Rarity blinked. “Ah! Well. Nothing.”

    “Nothing?” asked Fluttershy and Twilight in unison. 

    “Indeed! This was actually my last pending commission, so I’m out of work for now.”

    “What will you do then?” Fluttershy asked and then gestured to the floor. “When is your vacation over?”

    “Oh, in a few days,” Rarity replied, which was wrong because it was technically two days, six hours, and twenty-two minutes, but Twilight wasn’t going to say it. Just think it. 

    “Truthfully, I’ve done everything I wanted to do in Ponyville,”she said, “so I believe the only thing left to do is lie on my couch for four days straight, open a bottle of wine, and finally listen to all the records gathering dust in my room.”

    “Ooooh! That sounds lovely,” Fluttershy replied.

    Or,” Twilight said, levitating her book and opening it up to a page she’d marked up, “we could be productive and go to Neighagra Fall—”

    “Twilight Sparkle, was it not you who practically forced me to relax during my vacation? Because I remember it being you.”

    Twilight coughed awkwardly. “…I’m sorry. You’re right.”

    Rarity shook her head. Honestly, dearest, If you’re that desperate, why don’t you just go yourself? You don’t have to stay here, you know? Be like a library book and check yourself out.” She fluttered her eyelashes. “Though I suppose you wouldn’t need to when I do that endlessly.”

    Twilight rolled her eyes, only just a little amused. “I could, but I don’t want to go if it’s not with you,” she said matter-of-factly. Not just because she enjoyed being with Rarity, but also because Rarity was the one who carried the bits and knew how to navigate modern Equestria. 

    Darliiing,” Rarity giggled, her hoof pressed against her chest. “That’s very sweet of you.”

    Twilight smiled mischievously, her hoof finding its place over her own chest. “It is.”

    “In any case,” Rarity said, turning around and exiting the room, “I’m off to find my nice wine glasses! White Winds’ Ninth Symphony deserves nothing but my finest!”

    “Since you’re done with work, can you please bring down my necklace?” Twilight called out.

    “No, no!” Rarity called back. “Necklaces are not to be used when working, you know that! Too distracting!”

    “But I’m not working!”

    “Yes, you are! Working on not being impatient!”

    “What?! I am not impatient!” Twilight yelled, breathing in a huff. 

    “And now we hold for five!” Fluttershy chimed in with a smile bright enough that Twilight’s frustration mellowed out. “One, two—”

    “Heeeeellooooooooo?”

    “—Three —”

    Twilight blinked. Did somepony just—

    “HellooooOOOOOoooooOOOO?”

    “Hold on, Fluttershy,” Twilight interrupted, turning towards the lobby. “Did you hear something?”

    Fluttershy frowned. “Hear something? Like wha—”

    “YODELEHIIIIIIHOOOOOOOOOOO!” a masculine voice yodeled out from the room next door, startling the two mares.  

    “What in the heavens is that?!” Rarity’s voice followed next, coming from upstairs. 

    Before Fluttershy had even caught her breath, Twilight rushed to the room next door to find… nopony? The lobby was completely empty. 

    “What the…”

    “Twilight!” Rarity trotted down the stairs just as Fluttershy joined them. “Was that you?”

    “What?! That sounded nothing like me!”

    “Hello?! Anypony home?” the voice said again, muffled now, and clearly coming from outside the boutique. 

    After sharing a glance with Twilight, the unicorn made her way to the front door and opened it to reveal an eccentric-looking brown unicorn stallion wearing a tophat and bowtie. 

    “Hello!” he greeted, bowing his head. 

    “…Hello,” Rarity replied. 

    “You must be Rarity, the owner! I do say, are you open for business?”

    Rarity blinked and then smiled brightly. “We are, yes! We have an open sign, in fact!” She gestured to it. “Right next to the doorbell.”

    The stallion looked at it. “Oh! So you do.” He turned back to her. “You see, I was hoping to rush-commission a suit from you. I have an important meeting next week, and I need to look my best.”

    “Well, you’ve come to the right place,” Rarity exclaimed, moving back so as to let him step into the boutique. “Everything I create is chic, unique, and magnifique, Mister… ah…”

    “Thin!” he exclaimed brightly. “Paper Thin!”

    “Well then, Mister Thin, if you will.” She gestured to her workroom. “Please, after you.”

    “Righty-o!”

    Once he was gone, Rarity turned to her friends. 

    “Ladies, it looks like I won’t be lounging for four days straight after all.” She fluttered her eyelashes at Twilight. “Happy now? Is this productive enough for you, princess?”

    Twilight playfully rolled her eyes. “I guess.”

    After Rarity disappeared into the workroom and closed the door, Twilight and Fluttershy returned to the living room and their meditation exercises. 

    “Why don’t we do a few more breathing exercises and then we can do stretching?” Fluttershy suggested. 

    Twilight closed her eyes. “Alright. But first.” Her horn sparked, and her necklace appeared over chest. “It won’t be distracting if only one of us is wearing it.”

    Fluttershy giggled. “If you say so, Princess…”

    Following along to Fluttershy’s voice, the princess took in a deep, deeeep breath, held it for five, and then released it for six beats. She did it again, taking another deep breath, and holding it for five right up until she heard Fluttershy not so much counting, but breathing as well. 

    Very fast. 

    She opened her eyes to find Fluttershy doing nothing short of hyperventilating, her eyes fixed on the alicorn.

    “Fluttershy?” Twilight asked, alarmed. “What’s wrong?”

    The pegasus could barely speak, her expression turned pale. “Puh—Puh—Puh—”

    Twilight stood up. “Fluttershy, what’s wrong?”

    Though she did not reply with words, she did reply with actions, lifting her hoof and pointing it straight at Twilight’s chest. Confused, Twilight looked down and felt her heart drop at the sight of her necklace. 

    It was not pink, but green. 

    This was good in the sense that it meant Twilight had successfully replicated the chaos magic-slash-Discord detecting spell, and bad in the sense that, well, if it was green, well… 

    Well…

    Twilight’s eyes shot to the lobby door just as Fluttershy yelped: 

    “Rarity!”

    They rushed out the living room, past the lobby, and Twilight Sparkle flung the workshop room open to find… a startled Rarity and the stallion blinking at her, their apparently pleasant conversation interrupted. Both looked fine, Rarity holding some fabric and the stallion-maybe-Discord sitting on the floor a few feet away. 

    “Errrr… Twilight? Can I help you?” Rarity asked with a polite if pained smile, which was much nicer than what her eyes were saying which was: what in sun’s name are you doing?

    Twilight faltered, her eyes jumping from the stallion to Rarity. “Errr… I… Uh…” Fluttershy peered in seconds later, giving Twilight some sort of a jumping point. “We—! Uh… Finished meditating, and we… er… wanted to watch you work?” she said as she quickly disappeared the green necklace from her chest.

    “Darling,” Rarity said, fully turning to Twilight, her annoyance evident. She put down her fabric and walked to the mares, ushering them out. “That is sweet of you, really, but client sessions are private and—”

    “I don’t mind!” said the stallion also known as Paper Thin which in retrospect was so obviously an on-the-nose made-up name. “The more the merrier, I do say!”

    Rarity balked. “I… But… Are you certain? I—”

    “You heard him!” Twilight exclaimed, trying to sound delighted. She politely levitated Rarity back inside the room and followed in, closing the door behind Fluttershy. “The more the merrier, like he said.”

    The stallion grinned. “Indeed!”

    Fluttershy smiled awkwardly. “Oh yes,” she said, her smile turning pained when Rarity narrowed her eyes at her. 

    “…Very well, then.”

    Rarity looked at Twilight one last time, her still narrowed, before finally turning to the stallion-cord and continuing with her routine. The stallion, too, glanced at Twilight one final time, but rather than smirk or do something evil and chaotic, he just smiled politely and returned his attention to Rarity. 

    “Princess,” Fluttershy whispered, pained. “What do we do?”

    “Let me think, let me think,” Twilight whispered back, her mind running at a thousand miles per hour. 

    Why was Discord there? What was he doing? Why— 

    Really,” the stallion said, forcefully enough that it drew Twilight out of her thoughts, “that won’t be necessary.”

    Coming to, Twilight found Rarity and the stallion engaged in what could only be described as a stand-off. The stallion—still polite—had stepped away from the unicorn, who in turn was floating a measuring tape. 

    “I’m terribly sorry to insist,” Rarity was saying, a customer service smile affixed to her face, and every word coming out slowly and carefully, like she were talking to a child, “but,  I need your measurements if you want me to make a custom suit.” 

    “I understand,” the stallion said, still smiling, “but I am afraid I don’t do well with… touching.” He gestured to her. “I’ve heard so many wonderful things about you! I’m sure a mare of your talents can accurately estimate sizes just by looking at me.”

    By this point, Rarity’s patience had started to wane. “But, sir, I insist—”

    Her sentence trailed off in Twilight’s mind, the alicorn hung up on that detail. Why would he be touch-averse? That made no sense. That literally brought nothing to the table, why would he insist on— 

    And then it hit her. 

    Wait. He hadn’t knocked on the door; he’d yelled to be let in. Of course he couldn’t be touched. Why would it when he wasn’t even there? 

    “We can use magic for the measuring tape,” she suggested. “Only that would touch you! Would that help?”

    He smiled thinly. “No. Really. I really don’t like things touching me, I’m afraid.” He laughed. “I’m cursed with severe germaphobia!”

    Ha HA!

    He was using chaos magic to project himself, wasn’t he? No different than a ghost. 

    Which meant that… If they weren’t really in any danger, then why shouldn’t she see through his… whatever he was doing?

    “Well,” Twilight said, trying her best to look thoughtful and not at all suspicious. “If you really don’t want your measurements taken and are okay with estimates, would you be willing to sign a paper waiving return rights?” 

    “Absolutely!” he replied. “I’m sure it will fit delightfully!” 

    Twilight turned to Rarity. “Does that work for you?”

    “I suppose.”

    “Great!” Twilight gestured Rarity on, ignoring the scandalized look the unicorn gave her. “Come on, then! Do your thing.”

    As Rarity proceeded to ‘do her thing’, Twilight felt Fluttershy gently poke her in the ribs. However, rather than addressing her, she turned to Discord instead. 

    “So!” she exclaimed. “What brings you here, Mister Thin?”

    “A suit,” he replied, and for a split second, he smirked. “Thought that would have been obvious!”

    “Oh, yes! It is,” Twilight replied, laughing. “Silly me!”

    “Silly, indeed!” he replied, and his smile broadened. 

    “Indeed,” Twilight replied, her eyes narrowing.

    “I do say!” he replied, somehow smiling even more. 

    “Indeed you—”

    “Mister Thin!” Rarity exclaimed, her smiling very forced. She gestured with her hoof. “Do me a favor and turn around, will you? Face the wall?”

    “Of course.” He turned around and faced away from them, his tail joyfully swinging from side to side. “Is this acceptable?”

    “Oh, just fabulous!” Rarity cheerfully replied before turning to Twilight with a bewildered frown and clearly mouthing: “What are you doing?”

    “So, Mister Thin!” Twilight said, ignoring her marefriend’s absolutely indignant stare. “Where exactly is your meeting? Here in Ponyville? At what time, specifically?” That wasn’t weird to ask, right? 

    Twilight Sparkle!” Rarity gasped. She turned to him, mortified. “I’m so sorry, please forgive her, she’s just very curious.” 

    “Oh, I don’t mind! In fact, that brings up another itsy-bitsy little detail.” He offered a sheepish, innocent smile. “I’m afraid I’ll have to ask you to deliver it to me personally at my home in Nature’s Heart.”

    “Nature’s Heart?” Fluttershy chimed in. “Near to Las Pegasus?”

    “What?! Las Pegasus?” Rarity looked at him, flabbergasted. “You want me to deliver it personally to Las Pegasus?”

    “No, I said to Nature’s Heart. And yes, I do! Personally!” He gestured to Fluttershy and Twilight. “Why, bring your friends along! Like friendcation! It’s settled!”

    Rarity stamped her hoof on the floor. “Mister Thin! I don’t know what you think this is, but—”

    “We would love to!” Twilight cut off, standing up. It was fine if Rarity tried to kill her; she’d gone through worse. “It would be our pleasure, Mister Thin.”

    Twilight!” 

    “Rarity.” Twilight turned to her, full of love and patience and love. “Trust me. I think it’s a good idea!”

    Every emotion seemed to pass through Rarity’s eyes. Or, well, that wasn’t true. Every negative emotion was more accurate. She stared at Twilight for what felt like hours, and then spoke without breaking eye-contact. 

    “Mister Thin, will you excuse me for a moment? I’ll have to discuss your proposal with my partner privately.” Her horn crackled with magic and the workshop door swung open. “Twilight, darling, dearest, shall we step out?”

    Twilight smiled pleasantly, trotting out towards the hall. “Of course, Rarity.”

    “Thank you.” Rarity nodded politely to him and followed Twilight out, intending on closing the door behind her. 

    Wait!” gasped Fluttershy, stopping her from doing so and running outside. “Don’t leave me alone with him!”

    Fluttershy!” poor mortified Rarity yelped before peering inside the workshop. “I’m so sorry, sir. So sorry. Just—One moment.”

    She politely closed the door before whirling on the two mares, the fury of a thousand suns burning in her eyes.

    “What is wrong with the both of you?!” she hissed. “Have you gone completely insan—”

    Her sentence strangled out when her own necklace suddenly floated before her, her wide eyes fixed on the green pendant.

    “Everything is fine,” Twilight quickly said. “He’s not actually here, he’s just projecting himself.”

    A moment passed, and then Rarity spoke:  

    “Oh for FUCK’S sake.”

    Fluttershy gasped. “Rarity!”

    Rarity ignored her. “Twilight, you are positive we’re safe?” she asked, her voice trembling with anger. When Twilight nodded, she continued, “do you remember what you did the other night when a client asked me to change the color of her dress at the last minute?”

    Twilight frowned. “When you…? Oh! Yes.”

    “Do it. Now.”

    “…Now?”

    Twilight.”

    Magic burst from Twilight’s horn, and moments later Rarity was completely encased in a translucent magic bubble. After nodding her head in an approving motion, she watched as Rarity took a deep breath, closed her eyes and then opened her mouth wide. 

    Fluttershy blinked when nothing happened. “…What is she doing?” 

    “Screaming,” Twilight replied helpfully. She gestured to the bubble. “That’s a sound-proof bubble. Oh, and now she’s ranting.”

    Indeed, Rarity was now walking around in quick circles, rambling on and on. Twilight was by no means proficient in lip reading, but she knew enough to make out some sentences such as: “just one week, one bloody week” and what was either a food recipe or a very graphic detailing of what Rarity wanted to do to Discord’s body.

    Once she was done, Rarity nodded to Twilight, who promptly eliminated the sound bubble. 

    “All right, we need to figure out what to do next,” Twilight said. “If Discord is—Rarity?!” Rarity was marching straight towards the door, her horn burning up with magic. “Rarity, wait!”

    She did no such thing, however, slamming the door open and disappearing into the room. 

    “Fluttershy, get help!” Twilight instructed the pegasus before rushing into the workshop to find Rarity snarling not at a stallion, no, but at the Spirit of Discord and Disharmony himself, casually floating above the table as he inspected his claws. 

    Discord smiled. “Well, well, we—” 

    A vase flew right through him, landing on the wall with a shattering crash. He blinked at the remains and then turned to Rarity. 

    “What a way to treat clients!” he exclaimed. “And to waste a nice vase. I’m not even here, you buffoon.” He turned to Twilight and smiled. “Sparklewings! Long time no see. Loved your acting.”

    Twilight’s wings bristled, her horn alighting with magic. “Discord.” 

    Get out,” Rarity barked next, her demand accentuated with another hurled object—a jar, now. “Now!”

    “But why? I haven’t even done anything this time!” he complained, pressing his paw against his chest. “I come in peace! I just want to talk.”

    “To talk?!” Rarity shrieked, her horn flaring. “You don’t have any right to talk, let alone breathe, you vile, slithering slim—” 

    Twilight raised her hoof to Rarity. “Wait, Rarity.” She turned to him “Talk about what, exactly?”

    He shrugged. “Oh, nothing important. Or nopony, should I say. Just Miss Princess of Cooties and Bugs.”

    “Cadance?” Twilight stamped her hoof on the floor. “What about her?! What did you do to her?!”

    He rolled his eyes, exasperated. “I’ve done nothing! Honestly, you need to learn to relax. What could I even do to her at this point?” He snapped his fingers and a little puppet of Cadance materialized before him, dancing around in circles. “Don’t you want to know how to help her break my curse? Because if you do, I highly suggest you visit Nature’s Heart.”

    “Who do you take us for?!” Rarity snarled. “You think we’ll just do anything you say, you vermin?!”  

    “Why should we believe you?” Twilight demanded, trying to keep her tone more leveled than Rarity. They needed information, and throwing jars and insults around wasn’t going to get it.   

    Discord mulled that for a moment, watching his little puppet dance before disappearing it.  

    “The Infernal Swamps,” he eventually said. 

    Twilight’s breath caught in her throat. She knew that name. It was hard to forget a place she’d nearly died in. 

    Rarity frowned. “The what?”

    He ignored her, his attention wholly directed at Twilight. “You remember that, don’t you? What you did. What I did. You trusted me, Twilight, and I trusted you.”

    “That was different,” she said, every word accentuated. “You weren’t a monster then.”

    “Monster?! he snapped back, his cool evaporating for a moment. He floated right up to her, defiant, his eyes burning hers. “You made me into a monster! I trusted you, Twilight Sparkle!” 

    Every word pierced her soul, drawing out guilty blood still coursing through her.

    “Trusted you and those stupid, tartarusforsaken prince—” He stopped his rant short, taking a deep breath between gritted teeth. “You know what? That doesn’t matter.” He floated back and forced a smile. “You know why? Because I’m a changed draconequus!”

    “Are you now?” Rarity spat.

    “Yes. I. Am,” he hissed back. 

     “Break their curse then! Do it!”

    He groaned, his eyes rolling out his sockets and spinning in circles. “Lordy! Are you really that stupid? Haven’t you learned by now that only they can break the curse? Really, Rarity, keep up!” 

    “Get to the point, Discord,” Twilight hissed, trying to hold her ground despite her pulsing chest.

    I trusted you, Twilight Sparkle.  

    “The point?” he asked, blinking. “The point, my dears, is that it doesn’t matter to me whether you believe me or not, because I’m not losing any sleep over Princess Heartsalot being freed or not. I am just here to relay information, as I did a thousand years ago when I told Cadance where all of you were, which, as you have all confirmed so far, were not lies. SO!”

    He cleared his throat.  

    “Cadance. Nature’s Heart. Hop to it, la-dies.”

    And then with a poof he was gone. Just like that. 

    A moment passed, Twilight staring at the spot where Discord had been. Her thoughts running at a thousand miles per hour, she managed to gather them just long enough to look at Rarity. 

    She hadn’t even opened her mouth before Rarity interrupted her. 

    “No,” she said. “Absolutely not. No.”

    Twilight’s ears fell. “Rarity…”

    “No!” Rarity stamped her hoof on the floor, completely flabbergasted. “We are not going! It’s a trap, Twilight! Can’t you see?!”

    Twilight fell onto her hindlegs, shoulders slumped. “I know.” She bit her lip. “But what if it isn’t?”

    Twilight.” Rarity marched in front of her, eyes wide. “Twilight Sparkle, you are supposed to be the smartest pony I know. I would love for you to go back to being that pony.”

    “Rarity, we don’t have any other leads. Even if this is a trap, which now would have a reduced effectiveness rate since we know it’s a trap, it’s still a lead. It’s something, and right now we need something.”

    “Why would he want to help us? Why? It doesn’t make sense! Why now?” Rarity protested. “You really expect me to believe that beast woke up this morning and thought to himself, ‘oh, ho-hum, maybe I ought to help these ponies I’ve tortured for centuries, wouldn’t that be fun’?”

    Groaning, Twilight collapsed on the floor and buried her face in her hooves. “Uuughh, I don’t know anymore. Nothing makes sense, but I don’t know what else to do!” 

    So distraught was she, she didn’t even react when Rainbow Dash barged through the door, completely out of breath. 

    “I’m here, I’m here!” she huffed, the tip of her wings somehow balled up into fists as she spun around in place. “Where is he?! Let me at him!”

    “He’s already gone,” Rarity replied. 

    “What?! No! I was going to knock him into next Tuesday! Why do I keep missing everything?!” She finally noticed Twilight on the floor and unceremoniously poked her. “What happened to the princess?! Did he knock her out?”

    “No,” Rarity replied over Twilight’s groan, teleporting a broom over and cleaning vase and jar fragments, “she’s just upset that divine intervention hasn’t told us what the correct path is.”

    Twilight’s eyes shot open. “That’s it! Princess Celestia will know what to do!”

    She scrambled up to her hooves, levitated over some spare papers and pen Rarity had lying around, and got to work writing a letter for the Princess. Surely she would know what to do, wouldn’t she? She always knew what to do. 

    “Wait, but what happened?” Rainbow Dash asked. She turned to Rarity helplessly. “Where’d he go?! What did he want?!”  

    Rarity frowned, still sweeping shards from the floor. “Don’t look at me. I don’t want to talk about it right now.” No sooner had she finished her sentence, she turned to Rainbow, animatedly waving the dustpan around. “Actually, I do. Let me tell you, the audacity of that beast! He just—”

    As she proceeded to, in fact, talk all about it, Twilight finished up her letter for the Princess. Rarity was too close to be objective, so she wouldn’t know what to do, but Princess Celestia would be objective, right? Sure, her current mental condition was… questionable, but—!

    But still!

    Leaving her two friends to their conversation, the princess rushed out the room, out the front door and flew straight for the large dragon stomping up in the distance, Fluttershy sitting atop his head. 

    “Spike!”

    “Twilight!” he exclaimed, evidently relieved to see she was unharmed. “What happened? Where’s Dis—Huh?”

    The letter smushed against his face. 

    “Quick, Spike! I need you to send this to Princess Celestia!”

    He blinked, thrown off. “I—What?”

    Twilight waved it in front of him. “Spike, come on! Hurry!”

    Confused but obedient, he did as instructed and set the letter ablaze with green fire. Once sent, he looked back at Twilight, who in turn looked back expectantly. 

    “Uhhh, Twilight?” he prompted. 

    “What?”

    “Uhm…Discord?” Fluttershy asked next. 

    “Oh! He’s gone.”

    “He is?!” Fluttershy clapped her hooves together. “Thank goodness!”

    “But—What did he want?” Spike asked. 

    “He…” Twilight hesitated. “He says he wants to help us and told us the location of where we might be able to find something to help free Cadance. A place called Nature’s Heart.”

    “I’ve been to Nature’s Heart before,” Fluttershy said. “It’s just a little mountain town full of friendly ponies and animals. I… I don’t think there’s anything about Princess Cadance there. At least, not that I’ve seen…”

    “It’s a trap,” Spike concluded, frustrating the alicorn. 

    “That’s what Rarity thinks too, but… what if it’s not? What if he’s not lying?”

    Spike guffawed incredulously. “What?! Not a trap?! Come on, Twi, you’re not serious, are you?”

    “I don’t know what I am anymore!” she replied, falling onto her haunches with a thud. “I think we should go. It makes sense! Doesn’t it?”

    “No! Twi, we’re not going to risk you like that!” he insisted. “ I already had to lose you once, and then I had to lose all of you when you got trapped in that barrier thing in Hollow Shades while I could do nothing, and now you just want to go to where Discord says?” He slammed his claw against the ground. “What if he traps you again?!”

    “He can’t, Spike!”

    Can’t he?”

    Twilight faltered. “I… Well, I don’t know, but—” 

    “See?!” he exclaimed.

    “Spike!” She rubbed the bridge of her nose, trying to compose herself. “Look. I told Princess Celestia what he says and I asked if she thinks we should go. We’ll do what she says.”

    His eyebrow arched. “You do know she’s going to say not to go, right? Right?”

    “Yes, I know,” Twilight replied between gritted teeth. 

    “If she replies at all,” he added, unfazed by the glare his remark earned him. 

    Rarity and Rainbow Dash joined them a few minutes later and a more frustrating discussion ensued over what to do about Discord’s message. Fluttershy, Rarity, and Spike were all firmly against going, of course, and only Rainbow Dash was on Twilight’s side. 

    Though, truth be told, she also thought it was a trap, but she wanted to ‘sock him anyway’, which didn’t really make Twilight feel much better. 

    Maybe they’re right, she thought to herself, lost in her own world as the others conversed. Maybe it is a trap. Maybe he hasn’t changed. 

    But… 

    The Infernal Swamps. 

    He’d brought them up. The one time she had to put her trust in him, and he’d not broken it. If ever there was a moment that once cemented him as a friend, it was that. 

    Was he just manipulating her again? Like always? Another trap that she was freely falling into? But what if he had changed? For some reason? Didn’t everypony deserve a second chance, even monsters? Monsters, she thought, that I created? Because she had, hadn’t she? She— 

    “Princess.”

    Twilight hadn’t even realized Fluttershy flew down next to her until the very moment the pegasus put a hoof on her shoulder, nor that she’d started hyperventilating until Fluttershy took a deep breath. 

    “Breathe in,” said the pegasus, “and hold for five.”

    Twilight did as instructed, her eyes flittering towards the others and feeling relieved nopony had noticed her momentarily lapse. 

    Sadly, the calm she felt lasted very little since Spike let out a loud belch almost immediately after and a single piece of parchment floated through the air.

    “Oh my gosh,” Twilight squeaked. 

    She snatched the parchment in her magic and quickly read it over, her anxiety increasing as she did so.

    “Huh,” she eventually said.

    “What?!” asked Rainbow Dash. “What did she say?”

    Twilight glanced up at her friends and then back to the parchment, clearing her throat. “Ah… She says that ‘despite the danger he poses, we must take a risk and see this through. Cadance must be freed. Stay vigilant, and go to where he says’.”

    Spike’s jaw fell open. “What?” 

    Rarity took the letter and read it over. “Despite the danger… we must… Well.” She licked her lips, at a loss. “It would seem Princess Celestia agrees with Twilight.”

    “Apparently,” Twilight said, because truth be told, she was having a hard time believing it herself. This was what she wanted Princess Celestia to say, but… 

    She hadn’t expected her to so readily agree. 

    “What?! No!” Spike protested, fear and outrage lacing his voice. “Twilight is not going there! This is a trap!” He gestured to the letter. “Didn’t we literally say a few nights ago that we don’t even know if Princess Celestia can think straight?!” 

    “Spike,” Twilight said, trying to be understanding. “I know you’re worried, but it’s our only lead!”

    Worried? I’m terrified! He trapped you for a thousand years, Twilight? I don’t care if its our only lead! I am not letting you walk right into his claws again!” he exclaimed. “We just have to find another stupid lead! End of discussion!”

    “Spike,” Twilight insisted, losing her patience. “What if this is the only chance to save Cadance? And then we don’t ever investigate and she’s never freed? I’m telling—”

    “No! There has to be some—!” 

    “If I may,” Rarity interrupted, loud and clear, “as much as I hate this, I think we have no choice but to follow this through.”

    Rarity?” Spike protested. 

    “Sweetheart, I know how you feel, and I don’t like this any better than you do! But… Twilight’s right. Suppose this is the only way to help Cadance? Would you be able to live with yourself if we didn’t even at least investigate knowing that’s a possibility? Because I wouldn’t.”

    “And we’d be going in together!” Rainbow added. “He can’t take all of us on, especially if we already know it’s maybe a trap! We can take him!”

    “Spike…” Twilight pleaded, her frustration fading because she couldn’t blame him for being afraid. 

    “Sweetest,” Rarity added, every word measured, “so long as Discord is around, losing Twilight or any of us will always be a fear. Such a thing is best confronted rather than hiding from it and letting it control you.” She smiled affectionately. “I would know.”

    Spike gritted his teeth, his claws digging into the earth. 

    Fine. Okay? Fine,” he eventually conceded, every word seeped in embittered resignation. “Whatever! We’ll leave tomorrow morning, check out this stupid town, and Twilight doesn’t do anything without me. Got it?” Without even waiting for replies, he turned around and stomped off. “I’m going to bed.”

    “What?! Wait!” Rainbow Dash said, flying off after him. “Dude, it’s like six in the afternoon!”

    Whatever!”

    “That’s that, then,” Rarity said with a long-suffering sigh. “Time to go home and pack.”

    Twilight’s ears flattened against her head. “That could have gone better…”

    “It is what it is, dearest.” She turned to Fluttershy. “I suppose we’ll see you when we come back, whenever that is.”

    “O-Oh! Uhm, actually…” Fluttershy bit her lip. “I think I should come too. Like Rainbow said, the more of us, the better, right?”

    “That would be great, Fluttershy!” Twilight exclaimed, eager to have something to be cheerful about. “You said you’ve been there before too, right? That’ll be useful.”

    Fluttershy nodded. “Mhm.” She looked back and then to the mares. “I suppose I should go pack, too.” 

    She left after they settled on a time to meet, leaving Rarity and Twilight alone once again to prepare for the next step in their journey. 

    “Hey.” When Rarity turned to her, she smiled painfully. “I’m sorry about your vacation.”

    Rarity blinked and then broke off into laughter. “Well, what is there to do, hm? Such are the expectations of being a couple. Through thick and thin, no?” She brushed Twilight’s bangs back and offered a charming smile. “I suppose at this rate I’ll just have to rest when I’m dead.”


    Hello all, it has been a long while, huh?

    I have a blogpost coming up soon as a little post-morted/addendum to this chapter, so I’ll talk more at length there but… here we are again! It’s nice to be back, and I will be back way more often now that writing is my full-time job lmao

    Hope you enjoy, and as always, feel free to note any typos/etc in the comments so I can fix! c:

    Oh! Also, Ponyfeather Publishing has finally released their version of physical TEL in case you would like to purchase it and hold it and love and cherish it forever…

    mwaaaa

    You can support me on

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    1. BrowniePony
      Nov 26, 22 at 8:07 am

      In response to another comment regarding why Discord is bothering to “help”

      In short he’s bored. That actually fits rather well. I mean Princess Booky and friends and Seeking Night might have been fun for a decade or three but a millennium…

      Also, perhaps a tiny part of him might have missed whatever he had with Twilight before Celestia’s oh so brilliant plan backfired.

      And finally, another thought I had, say Celestia’s plan didn’t backfire, say the pones won…how would that have changed things? I have read several stories that suggest that 1000 years of peace make for a pretty picture or daydream but living it would have rather negative side effects.

    2. Undomendil
      Oct 10, 22 at 9:38 pm

      Haging read this I just developed a whimsical theory :

      As Discord left the chaos magics to trap the Princesses, he had also left a large mount of his power, his cruelty, and maybe even his mind. And this the chaos magics had developed their own will.

      One the other hand, Discord, having extracted too much evilness out of himself, became more “reformed”. And he regretted.

      However, when Discord tried to release the Princess, the chaos magics had grew so powerful that even the Master of Chaos lost control of them. And then, the Discords made a bet: Discord, turned into a spirit just like the Princesses, would guide the ponies to save their Princesses while the chaos magics would stop him.

      And it was said by me, of course that : when the four curses are broken, so will the fifth – the curse which the Spirit of Chaos had casted on himself.

    3. paoiue
      Oct 7, 22 at 3:16 pm

      This are starting to pick up. Can’t wait to see what the next part of the journey brings!

      The moment “brown stallion” was mentioned, I immediately thought it had to be Discord. Lol turn out Discord isn’t very good with disguises.

      I think this sentence is missing a word. Unless I’m misreading this, it makes more sense to me if it said “her eyes still narrowed”.

      Rarity looked at Twilight one last time, her eyes still narrowed, before finally turning to the stallion-cord and continuing with her routine. The stallion, too, glanced at Twilight one final time, but rather than smirk or do something <em>evil</em> and <em>chaotic</em>, he just smiled politely and returned his attention to Rarity.&nbsp;

    4. Harwick
      Oct 6, 22 at 10:29 pm

      So excited to see this continue, and with quite the guest star to mark the occasion! I have my suspicions about many things… why Discord only projected himself there, where he actually is, where Celestia actually is, why she wants them to focus on Cadance… I’m looking forward to finding out how much I have right.

      In the meantime, a new town! Further Mono worldbuilding is always a treat!

    5. Olden
      Oct 6, 22 at 7:23 pm

      This was fantastic!

      It began so quietly with Fluttershy and Twilight meditating and Rarity about indulge herself in some relaxation (and standing Twilight down, thank you very much!). I just really enjoy the relationship the three of them share.

      And then Discord…but of course! Just as everypony is feeling a bit better. Letting Rarity show the contempt and seathing anger she feels toward him might have seemed out of character, but for all she’s been through, it is perfectly natural and you wrote her rant and indignation perfectly, too!

      Seeing everyone together at the end, despite their misgivings, is good to see. Even in the toughest of circumstances, love and friendship will always bind Rarity and Twilight together.

      Well done, Mono! And welcome back!

    6. Kapuchu
      Oct 6, 22 at 6:50 pm

      “I suppose at this rate I’ll just have to rest when I’m dead.”

      This is what we in the business call foreshadowing, or planting a seed, and I will not stand for this overly prophetic language! You be nice to Rarity!

    7. SigmasonicX
      Oct 6, 22 at 11:00 am

      Oh dang, things are escalating. I wonder what Discord’s game is here (saying this sincerely since I actually don’t remember from your spoilers lol). It’s a shame Rarity didn’t get her vacation, but Discord interrupting it really gets your attention and provides some urgency to this part.

      Those moments with Twilight and Fluttershy were really nice. That continues to be the best unintentional ship in the story.

      In the earlier draft, I noticed a lot of friction between Twilight and Rarity, but this version of the chapter has them get along much better, and it’s really cute. I loved how Twilight just had an Angry Dome ready to go for her.

      It’ll be interesting to see everyone go on this journey together. I wonder how Nature’s Heart will turn out.

    8. ShadowLDrago
      Oct 6, 22 at 8:34 am

      So, my play by play has been eaten twice now, first by the site, and the second time by an accidental reload. I’ve tried to recreate it as best I can here and hope it stays posted this time.

      After giving Twilight the longest-suffering stare she’d ever given her, Rarity turned to Fluttershy. “Truthfully, I’ve done everything I wanted to do in Ponyville, so I believe the only thing left to do is lie on my couch for four days straight, open a bottle of wine, and finally listen to all the records gathering dust in my room.”

      Mood. Mostly.

      “In any case,” Rarity said, turning around and exiting the room, “I’m off to find my nice wine glasses! White Winds’ Ninth Symphony deserves nothing but my finest!”

      So that makes White Winds Beethoven?

      After sharing a glance with Twilight, the unicorn made her way to the front door and opened it to reveal an eccentric-looking brown unicorn stallion wearing a tophat and bowtie. 

      And, you are?

      “Thin!” he exclaimed brightly. “Paper Thin!”

      Discord.

      She opened her eyes to find Fluttershy doing nothing short of hyperventilating, her eyes fixed on the alicorn.

      Oh that ain’t good.

      It was not pink, but green. 

      Oh is that right? Well I sure hope someone picks up that phone. Because I f*cking called it~!

      “I don’t mind!” said the stallion also known as Paper Thin which in retrospect was so obviously an on-the-nose made-up name. “The more the merrier, I do say!”

      What are you up to?

      “I understand,” the stallion said, still smiling, “but I am afraid I don’t do well with… touching.” He gestured to her. “I’ve heard so many wonderful things about you! I’m sure a mare of your talents can accurately estimate sizes just by looking at me.”

      Why so touch averse, Discord?

      “No, I said to Nature’s Heart. And yes, I do! Personally!” He gestured to Fluttershy and Twilight. “Why, bring your friends along! Like friendcation! It’s settled!”

      Don’t recognize that location.

      “Oh for FUCK’S sake.”

      Accurate.

      and what was either a food recipe or a very graphic detailing of what Rarity wanted to do to Discord’s body.

      The latter, probably.

      A vase flew right through him, landing on the wall with a shattering crash. He blinked at the remains and then turned to Rarity. 

      Rude. Fair, but rude.

      “But why? I haven’t even done anything this time!” he complained, pressing his paw against his chest. “I come in peace! I just want to talk.”

      Why?

      He rolled his eyes, exasperated. “I’ve done nothing! Honestly, you need to learn to relax. What could I even do to her at this point?” He snapped his fingers and a little puppet of Cadance materialized before him, dancing around in circles. “Don’t you want to know how to help her break my curse? Because if you do, I highly suggest you visit Nature’s Heart.”

      This is a trap. It’s a hint, but it’s also a trap.

      “Trusted you and those stupid, tartarusforsaken prince

      He stopped his rant short, taking a deep breath between gritted teeth. “You know what? That doesn’t matter.” He floated back and forced a smile. “You know why? Because I’m a changed draconequus!”

      I don’t believe you.

      “No!” Rarity stamped her hoof on the floor, completely flabbergasted. “We are not going! It’s a trap, Twilight! Can’t you see?!”

      It 100% is.

      Groaning, Twilight collapsed on the floor and buried her face in her hooves. “Uuughh, I don’t know anymore. Nothing makes sense, but I don’t know what else to do!” 

      Make sense? Oh, what fun is there in making sense?

      Twilight’s eyes shot open. “That’s it! Princess Celestia will know what to do!”

      That sounds like a bad idea.

      Twilight glanced up at her friends and then back to the parchment, clearing her throat. “Ah… She says that ‘despite the danger he poses, we must take a risk and see this through. Cadance must be freed. Stay vigilant, and go to where he says’.”

      Hm, something is rotten in the state of Denmark.

      “If I may,” Rarity interrupted, loud and clear, “as much as I hate this, I think we have no choice but to follow this through.”

      “I sense Count Dooku.”

      “I sense a trap.”

      “Next move?”

      “Spring the trap.”

      Rarity blinked and then broke off into laughter. “Well, what is there to do, hm? Such are the expectations of being a couple. Through thick and thin, no?” She brushed Twilight’s bangs back and offered a charming smile. “I suppose at this rate I’ll just have to rest when I’m dead.”

      Mono, don’t you dare.

    9. ShadowLDrago
      Oct 6, 22 at 12:07 am

      Fluttershy nodded, pleased. “Oh, wonderful.” Her smile turned to a smirk. “And you didn’t even try to sneak a peek at your boo—Nevermind.”

      Of course she would.

      “Indeed! This was actually my last pending commission, so I’m out of work for now.”

      Huh. That’s gotta be new.

      “Twilight Sparkle, was it not you who practically forced me to relax during my vacation? Because I remember it being you.”

      Can confirm, it was.

      “What?! I am not impatient!” Twilight yelled, breathing in a huff. 

      You are.

      After sharing a glance with Twilight, the unicorn made her way to the front door and opened it to reveal an eccentric-looking brown unicorn stallion wearing a tophat and bowtie. 

      It’s Discord.

      “Thin!” he exclaimed brightly. “Paper Thin!”

      See? Paper thin disguise. Subtle as a brick.

      It was not pink, but green. 

      Is that right? Well I sure hope someone picks up that phone. Because I f*cking called it~!

      Rarity looked at Twilight one last time, her still narrowed, before finally turning to the stallion-cord and continuing with her routine. The stallion, too, glanced at Twilight one final time, but rather than smirk or do something evil and chaotic, he just smiled politely and returned his attention to Rarity. 

      He’s screwing with her head, making her seem paranoid.

      “I understand,” the stallion said, still smiling, “but I am afraid I don’t do well with… touching.” He gestured to her. “I’ve heard so many wonderful things about you! I’m sure a mare of your talents can accurately estimate sizes just by looking at me.”

      Why would someone so touch averse comission a suit, then?

      Wait. He hadn’t knocked on the door; he’d yelled to be let in. Of course he couldn’t be touched. Why would it when he wasn’t even there? 

      He can’t touch things either.

      “No, I said to Nature’s Heart. And yes, I do! Personally!” He gestured to Fluttershy and Twilight. “Why, bring your friends along! Like friendcation! It’s settled!”

      What are you planning?

      “Oh for FUCK’S sake.”

      I love how it finally clicks.

      what was either a food recipe or a very graphic detailing of what Rarity wanted to do to Discord’s body.

      The latter, probably.

      He rolled his eyes, exasperated. “I’ve done nothing! Honestly, you need to learn to relax. What could I even do to her at this point?” He snapped his fingers and a little puppet of Cadance materialized before him, dancing around in circles. “Don’t you want to know how to help her break my curse? Because if you do, I highly suggest you visit Nature’s Heart.”

      You’re plotting something. Why?

      “Trusted you and those stupid, tartarusforsaken prince

      He stopped his rant short, taking a deep breath between gritted teeth. “You know what? That doesn’t matter.” He floated back and forced a smile. “You know why? Because I’m a changed draconequus!”

      A changed draconequus? Alright, let’s say I believe you. Why?

      “No!” Rarity stamped her hoof on the floor, completely flabbergasted. “We are not going! It’s a trap, Twilight! Can’t you see?!”

      Oh that’s the most insidious part. It is 100% a trap. But it’s also part of how to break the curse.

      Groaning, Twilight collapsed on the floor and buried her face in her hooves. “Uuughh, I don’t know anymore. Nothing makes sense, but I don’t know what else to do!” 

      Make sense? Oh, what fun is there in making sense?

      Twilight’s eyes shot open. “That’s it! Princess Celestia will know what to do!”

      No she won’t.

      Twilight glanced up at her friends and then back to the parchment, clearing her throat. “Ah… She says that ‘despite the danger he poses, we must take a risk and see this through. Cadance must be freed. Stay vigilant, and go to where he says’.”

      See, given how Celestia’s mental state has been likely compromised by despair to an extent, I don’t know how much of a good idea this is.

      Rarity blinked and then broke off into laughter. “Well, what is there to do, hm? Such are the expectations of being a couple. Through thick and thin, no?” She brushed Twilight’s bangs back and offered a charming smile. “I suppose at this rate I’ll just have to rest when I’m dead.”

      See, from anyone else, that would be a joke, but I know you, Mono!

      I have a blogpost coming up soon as a little post-morted/addendum to this chapter, so I’ll talk more at length there but… here we are again! It’s nice to be back, and I will be back way more often now that writing is my full-time job lmao

      Good to have you back, Mono.

    10. Gearcrow
      Oct 5, 22 at 10:06 pm

      Had a bit to drink, so probs I’ll write a little more than I normally do.

      There are so many great things in this chapter. The sudden escalation works really well, especially since the chapter ends on a pretty down note, with Rarity’s vacation being ended and Twilight clearly feeling more guilt over how everything played out. The stuff with Celestia is fantastic too, and I love that we’re getting more Spike and more emotionally charged Spike.

      Rarity storming right back into the room to hurl objects at everyone’s favorite immaterial nuisance is an incredibly strong Rarity moment, and I’d lie if I said I wasn’t always for Rarity (or Twilight honestly) using colorful language. It’s a very fun and compelling contrast that plays against their visuals and surface level casting.

      Twilight and Fluttershy working on meditation is an awesome worldbuilding and story deepening detail, and does so much to add “authenticity” (I know it’s a bit of a catch-all term, but it fits here) and to ground the story. You always do an incredible job of portraying the emotional complexities of characters who struggle greatly with their own minds, and it’s never just a matter of moving on after one breakthrough moment or incident. Fluttershy’s continued patience contrasted against her timidness and fear is also peak in this chapter.

      I’ve not read through the thread which foretells the future in discord, so the continuing hints at Discord’s intentions and how things aren’t quite what they seem really tickle my brain. I’m very excited to see where it goes and how the story will be progressing now that you’re back at it.

      Honestly, I just really love this story and the way you write, and I’m so very thrilled for more TEC.