Antithesis

This story is a sequel to Name Rater
This is the tale of a mare who has yet to realize her destiny.
Only Name Rater can see what fate has in store for her, and the truth terrifies him.
Now, he must confide with those more wise than he, in hope that together they can make the right decision.
For it is certain that if she lives... Equestria is doomed.

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1. Would You?

I pushed open the door to the castle, not bothering to announce my presence. It was still early by most ponies' schedules, and I knew that Twilight would probably be home. As I walked down the vast halls of crystal, I scanned with my eyes and ears for any sign of Equestria's second-most recently appointed regent. Soon, I heard some sort of sizzling sound coming from the one door that was partially askew.

Entering the kitchen, I immediately noticed Spike, who was at the counter flipping pancakes. Twilight, in the middle of setting the table with her magic, halted the dishes in midair as she saw me.

"Name Rater! What are you doing here at this hour?" she asked. Now over her initial surprise, she finished placing the objects down. "Aren't you usually working right now?"

"I'll finish it later. This is more important," I replied.

Hearing our conversation, Spike halted his cooking, took off his mitts, and waddled over, crossing his arms. "Then what gives? I'm hungry."

Twilight shot him a quick glare, then turned to stare up at me. "You do seem troubled. More so than usual, at any rate."

I sighed. "It's not that I'm troubled so much as... concerned." I then reached into my bags and pulled out a sheet of paper, hoofing it to Twilight, who took it in her magic.

She blinked, apprehensive. "Either I'm very tired and seeing things, or this is just a photo of a cute baby filly."

"That's what it looks like to you," I said, "but not to me. I see something worth investigating."

"Oh, it's your talent. Well, you're going to have to explain it to me then."

Of course. Right. "Twilight, this pony's name is Antithesis, and she will grow to have a most peculiar talent. That of inversion."

"Inversion?"

"You know, like reversing things."

"I know what inversion means!" she huffed. "I just don't know how a pony could manifest that as their destiny!"

"That's what I thought too, so I looked deeper in an effort to find out more."

"You can do that? I thought you could only see names?"

I shook my head. "That's the most I can get from a cursory glance, just the name and purpose. Much less so the purpose for objects. But if I focus, really focus, I can also pick out the magnitude of said purpose." I took a deep breath, gesturing to the hovering image. "This filly, Antithesis, will have a far greater impact on the future of Equestria that even you, Twilight Sparkle. Due to the nature of her talent, I believe we need to find out more. Especially if you consider that she's an earth pony, passive effects and all that."

Her eyes widened, only to immediately narrow in thought. "Hmm. That does sound like it could be a problem. But how exactly would we go about fixing it?" She suddenly started pacing back and forth. "I can't think of any divination spells potent enough to discern more about this Antithesis than you already have. Most unfortunately only work for events in the near future, not years ahead! I could go to Canterlot and check the Starswirl the Bearded Wing, see if there are any forbidden magicks that would work, but from prior experience, all of his temporal spells seem to be forbidden for a reason and-"

The sound of a throat being cleared drew my attention, along with Twilight's. It was Spike. To be honest, I had completely forgotten that he was even still in the room. "Uh, doesn't Zecora have that one potion that allows alicorns to see stuff that happened in the past? Maybe it works on future events too," he posed.

Twilight gasped. "Great idea, Spike! Name Rater, do you know where Zecora lives?"

"I think so. I seem to recall somepony mentioning her a while back. She lives in the Everfree Forest, right?"

"That's right," she confirmed. "Were you going to set out right now? There's no rush, obviously."

"I know, but I'm going to go now anyway. No sense in delaying it, I figure."

"In that case, just take the path on the left, you can't miss it. I'd show you the way, but we haven't even eaten yet! Our pancakes are getting cold."

I nodded. "I'll leave you to it, then. Once I have the full story, expect me to come back and share everything with you. If my hunch proves correct, and it turns out that the foal is a problem, you're honestly way more qualified to come up with a solution than I am."

She grinned. "Yeah, that's probably true, considering your track record. And I'm sure we'll get this sorted out one way or another."

"I'm sure we will. Take care."

"Bye, Name Rater," Twilight said, waving me out. Spike said his farewells shortly after, and I nonchalantly waved the two of them goodbye with a wing. As I made my way back into town, I grew solemn. Just how bad was this foal?

 

*  *  *

 

I still couldn't really believe that the old capital was now probably the most dangerous location in Equestria. Though, that isn't really saying much. I've must've been within the forest's limits for at least five minutes and I hadn't been mauled to death yet. So far, the only vibe I'd gotten from the place was a slightly spooky aura. Were there really no monsters in here bold enough to approach during daylight hours?

And so it went as I traveled the dirt path in search of the dwelling belonging to the forest's sole known equine resident.

Almost as soon as it began, my search was over. The well-worn dirt road dead-ended at an exotic-looking hut, one built right into a tree. I shrugged, trotted up to the door, and knocked.

In a moment, the door was pulled open by a very odd-looking mare bedecked with golden bands. Her coat was composed of black and white stripes, while her tail had a short appendage at the base. Sadly, it seemed I had somehow gotten the wrong house, which shouldn't even have been possible.

She blinked, looking me over as I did her. "I usually don't have guests until much later. Judging by your wings and horn, you must be Prince Name Rater. To what do I owe the pleasure? Please, come in at your leisure."

I accepted the offer, stepping inside. "I'm sorry," I started, craning my neck to face her, "but do you know a Zecora? She's supposed to live around here."

"I am she. What is it that you want with me?"

I furrowed my brow. "That can't be right. Your name is Camellia."

Camellia/Zecora put a hoof to her chin. "That is not what I am called. But worry not, I am far from appalled."

Hmm. Odd. "Wait a minute. You aren't from Equestria, are you?"

She nodded twice.

Well there's the problem. "Oh. My bad." Still mulling this over, it took me a second to remember why I was here. "Anyway, I heard from Twilight Sparkle that you had some sort of potion that could allow an alicorn to witness past events. Is that right?"

She 'mmed' in recognition. "I was wondering when next somepony would ask, about the contents of that flask." Zecora walked over to a small wooden cabinet set against the wall and opened it. Reaching up with her hooves, she pulled an ornate bottle out of a cabinet and set it down on a nearby countertop. It was rimmed with gold, and was about halfway filled with a milky white liquid. Angry, red-eyed pony faces circled the neck. The brew itself was called the Divine Elixir of Tormenting Eternities. In short, it wasn't the least bit suspicious.

I groaned. "How did you even get that elixir in the first place?"

Zecora's looked off to the side. "Uhh..."

I rolled my eyes. "You know what, I don't even care. Just tell me this: does it let you see the future?" I inquired.

She sighed in relief. "It will do so just fine, as long as you don't need to peer too far down the line."

"I probably only need to see a few decades ahead, at most," I told her. "And it's for a very important reason, I assure you."

"Then this quest, you did not botch. Just take a sip, and picture who or what you wish to watch." With that, Zecora gestured to the potion.

"Great, thanks." I trotted over to where she stood, picked out an empty jar from behind her, and poured some of the liquid in. It was unsanitary to drink right out of the bottle.

Pausing with the jar in hoof, I took a deep breath and pictured little Antithesis in my mind. "Wish me luck," I said.

I threw back the elixir, and everything went white.

 

FLASH

 

I blinked my eyes repeatedly, adjusting to the suddenly dimmer area in which I had found myself. It appeared to be the sparsely furnished interior of somepony's home. Somepony other than Zecora. Clearly, the potion had worked, and I was merely an observer, wherever I was.

The home itself wasn't anything special, from what I could see. I was standing in what seemed to be the living room, if the shiny new sofa, coffee table, and radio cabinet were anything to go by. The adjoining room was an ordinary-looking kitchen, with porcelain countertops and a four-pony dining table. There was also a carpeted staircase that led upwards, presumably to the bedrooms and bathroom. Also of note was the lack of transparency of my own limbs. You know, since in A Hearth's Warming Carol, that's how it always worked.

What drew my eye the most, however, was the slightly chubby green earth stallion standing in front of the stove, stirring something in a pot. His name was Verdant Vine, his white mane was cut short, in a style similar to my own, and his cutie mark was a trio of cucumbers.

Suddenly, the front door opened, and in went a stroller, from within which came a soft cooing. This was followed by the pony pushing it, an earth mare named Polish with a long purple mane and a pink coat. Her cutie mark was a very shiny mirror.

"Hi, sweetie, we're home!" Polish said, just before sneaking forward to kiss her husband's cheek.

"I can see that!" Verdant Vine replied, adding in a hearty laugh. "Soup's almost done."

"Great!"

Trotting back to the stroller with a smile on her face, Polish pulled out baby Antithesis and set her down in a high chair. Antithesis herself was currently sucking on her forehoof, clearly hungry. Now able to get a good look at her, I saw she had her father's mane and her mother's coat, but her striking green eyes were unique.

I looked on, invisible and unnoticed, as the family began the mundane ritual of eating dinner. Though, once Antithesis started spraying soup out of her muzzle, things got rather messy.

Her mother cried out "Annie, no!" as she grabbed a towel and frantically mopped up the spilled food. Both daddy and daughter laughed at mommy's adorably flustered motions.

I sighed internally. So far, nothing seemed out of the ordinary here, just a couple of newlyweds taking care of their baby 'Annie' and enjoying eachother's company. I expected as much. Where, or rather, when, I needed to be to find the information I needed was the time when Antithesis was finishing up her years as a toddler. That was when most ponies started to discover themselves.

I closed my eyes, focused, and willed myself further forward through time.

 

FLASH

 

Taking a look around, it was clear I hadn't left Antithesis' house. However, time had indeed passed, I could tell. There were a few framed photographs of the smiling family hanging on the walls, and knickknacks were beginning to accumulate on the furniture. Where the floor once shined with varnish, its surface was beginning to develop scuffs as multiple sets of hooves wore down the surface.

On the floor in the middle of the room was Antithesis, perhaps around the age of four. She lay there on her belly, humming a jolly tune to herself. In front of her there was a piece of paper as well as a box of crayons. Holding the green crayon in her right forehoof, she scribbled in most of the bottom of the sheet. As she colored, her hind legs flipped back and forth lazily.

Even I had to admit she looked pretty adorable at this point.

I watched as a picture slowly took shape. It seemed she was drawing herself, along with her parents. Though, that was only my best guess. Even without my talents, it was painfully obvious she wasn't destined for a career in art. The three ponies were really just colored blobs with faces on them. They weren't even outlined.

When she tried to give the blob ponies their manes, a problem soon became obvious. Polish's mane turned out alright, but when Antithesis took the white crayon for her own mane, and tried to replicate this success, none of her strokes were at all visible on the high-quality paper. After blinking a few times and tilting her head, her tiny face scrunched up in annoyance.

She sat there for a while, as if pondering what to do. Eventually, she just gave up and colored her mane pink. It was indistinguishable from her body, but she seemed happy enough with the result, giggling to herself as Vine's mane also became pink. I rolled my eyes.

However, this innocent joy did not last. Antithesis rifled around in the crayon box, searching for a particular color. When she came up empty, she pouted, picked up the box, and slid it against the wall. A few of the crayons were sent rolling around everywhere.

So, she didn't upset easily, unlike basically every other foal I'd met up until now. Most ponies her age would have thrown a fit. As in they literally would have thrown the box and started bawling.

Antithesis sat up on her haunches now, crossing her legs. I was just about to jump my consciousness forward in time again when I caught a flash of... movement or something near the crayons. But when I gazed over at the source, nothing was in motion. Antithesis seemed to notice too, and slowly walked over on her growing hooves. Eyeing a yellow crayon, she grinned, grabbed it in her mouth, and went back to coloring.

I paused. Something wasn't right about that.

Was there a yellow crayon in there before?

Knowing I was still, in essence, a ghost, I trotted over to the upturned box for a closer look. Leaning down, I looked inside. Apart from the yellow one being used, there were red, white, pink, orange, black, and blue crayons. The green and brown ones had rolled out.

Wait. Where was the purple one? I had seen her use it just now.

I doublechecked the area where Antithesis was drawing. A sun was forming in the corner, but the missing crayon was nowhere to be found.

Did she... change its hue to yellow? Unconsciously? Because if that's the case... then it may be as I feared. Who knows what else she can affect? Or even if she can control it?

Well, there was only one way to find out.

 

FLASH

 

The first things I noticed were the breeze caressing my fur and the feeling of soft grass underhoof. I was in a different location now, a park. Unattended patches of wildflowers grew beneath the shade of the trees, what few there few; it was mostly open space. As such, I could make out rows of buildings in the distance. They were on the large side, and closely packed, but not all that fancy. So, none of the four modern-day settlements I knew. Maybe I should travel more often.

A sudden cry drew my attention to the side. There were at least a dozen school-age foals in various positions playing a game on a makeshift field. Once I caught a glimpse of a small ball being thrown to a stationary colt, I learned it was called Baseball. After I traced its arc through the air, that colt, Gym, caught the ball with the mitt held in his mouth, causing a second colt, Mercury Mane, to stop galloping towards him and peter off in a huff. I vaguely remember naming them both recently, so they were probably the same age as Antithesis.

It took me a short while to find the filly herself, as she was one of three foals positioned way out in the rear of the field. Now a few years older, she wore her mane long in the front, with white hair cascading down in front of both her ears, while it was cut short in the back. As I walked towards her, completely invisible, I could make out more details. Judging from her face, she was making an effort to remain calm and focused, but those efforts were betrayed by the subtle shaking of her hooves.

"Come on, Annie," she said to herself. "Fifth time's the charm! You can do this if you keep trying!"

A loud crack drew my attention back to the game. The ball, propelled by a discarded 'bat', was now sailing upwards, near where Antithesis and I were standing. When it became apparent that the ball would land somewhere behind her, Antithesis turned around and galloped after it. Sweating visibly, she looked as if she was going to make the catch. A few other young ponies cheered her on as she ran. But alas, when it came time for her to catch the ball, the mitt in her muzzle missed it by a narrow margin, and it thudded against the ground.

Even through she quickly picked up the baseball and threw it back, a chorus of sighs and moans made her teammates' disappointment obvious. Dejected, Antithesis walked back to her position, head down, frown on her face. It seemed her best was not good enough. Still, she resumed the same pose as before, maintaining her optimism.

The game continued. The next few foals to step up to the plate either couldn't hit the thrown pitches, or didn't hit them out far enough for Antithesis to need to move.

Eventually, though, there was a tremendous hit. This time, the ball not only went careening right over Antithesis' head, but it looked like it was going much father out. Eye's widening, she started charging after the ball. Only this time, she was running backwards. Like, really running backwards. Faster than she was moving last time, even, which struck me as impossible until I remembered who I was looking at.

This feat of athleticism paid off, as the ball flew straight into her mouth. Cheers erupted from the park as colts and fillies rushed out to tackle/hug her. I believe the modern term is 'glomp'. Smothered, Antithesis herself merely blinked, dumbstruck. But once the others started bouncing her into the air repeatedly, she broke into an ecstatic grin, shouting her 'yay's and 'yippee's all the while.

Though I watched the foals continue to cheer, my mood more resembled that of the other team's players. However, I was soured by concern rather than disappointment. Surely an event such as this was pivotal enough for a foal to trigger an epiphany. But still, Antithesis bore no cutie mark. It didn't seem like moving backwards expertly and changing the color of objects were the full extent of her seemingly-random talents. So... what were they? How could such a seemingly ordinary, well-adjusted filly alter the fate of Equestria?

I took a deep breath and shut my eyes.

 

FLASH

 

I now stood in the center of a street somewhere in the city proper. It seemed to be the start of evening, as the sun was relatively low, and a few ponies milled about this way and that. They kept to the side of the road as they walked with clear goals in mind, and most of the buildings seemed to be residences, if the lack of storefronts were any indication. I didn't see Antithesis anywhere nearby, but I did spot her mother Polish, carrying laden saddlebags. I moved in close to follow her. Only I could hear the clopping of my hooves on the stone.

After a few minutes of trotting, she abruptly turned to the front door of a house; her own. The curtains were drawn shut, but I could hear high-pitched giggling coming from inside.

Polish smiled and pushed open the door. What I was expecting her to do was shout an affectionate greeting to her daughter. But instead, she stopped dead in her tracks. Only when I peered over her shoulder did I realize why.

Antithesis was, in fact, playing happily, as fillies were wont to do. However, she was doing so on the ceiling. Even the strands of her mane pointed upwards.

Polish threw her bags to the ground and rushed inside, mouth agape. "Annie! How...? Get down from there!"

Antithesis' smile did not waver in response to her mother's clear distress. "Mommy, look!" she removed a hoof from the wooden ceiling to point at her flank. "I got my cutie mark today!"

I looked. Her mark appeared to be two horseshoe magnets linked together. At the like ends.

But I wasn't really focusing on that achievement, and neither was Polish. She looked frantically between her daughter and other areas of the house. "Don't worry, sweetie! I'll get you down!"

Antithesis shook her head. "It's fine! I can come down anytime I want! It's my talent!" To showcase this point further, she picked up a ball and threw it sideways, only to have it decelerate before hitting the wall and return straight back to her hoof. "I'm having so much fun!"

Polish's eyes widened even further. "That doesn't matter! It's still not safe!"

"Yes it is," she asserted, visibly souring a bit.

"Annie, please come down," Polish pleaded, eyes watering.

"Not yet," she whined.

"Please! I'm scared for you!"

She blinked. "Are you... not proud of me?"

There was no immediate answer from her. In desperation, Polish clambered onto the living room table, reaching upwards for Antithesis with a hoof. "Please, just listen to me!"

"No!"

Once that exclamation reached her ears, Polish froze up, only to begin wailing in agony. There was a terrible ripping sound, and massive gashes opened up all along her body. Copious amounts of blood flowed from the wounds; practically exsanguinating her all at once. The wailing became a gurgle as muscles twisted around themselves. Guts and organs dangled in the open air. Her fur and mane sucked themselves inwards along with her skin. Bones became visible, only to burst open into shards from within, spraying brains and viscera everywhere. Her body collapsed, blood pooling under the table.

This all occurred in the span of five seconds. I stared, unblinking and unable to fully process what just happened.

Antithesis, her body now splotched with streaks of red, gazed down upon the pile of mutilated flesh that was once her mother in abject horror, her pupils practically invisible. She screamed.

Oh. Shit.

I suddenly couldn't stop myself from retching.

Eventually, when I managed to regain enough of my composure to continue observing, Antithesis' screams had stopped. But the pony who now gazed at the corpse wasn't the same filly. And yet, she was. Her coat was sickly green, her mane jet black, her eyes deep red.

All traces of emotion were completely absent from Antithesis' face. She flipped off of the ceiling without a sound, landing on the couch. Stepping through the blood as if it wasn't even there, she made her way out towards the door, where I was standing.

Had she... inverted her own psyche as a coping mechanism?

I stepped backwards into the street, watching her every motion. Now less out of curiosity, and more out of a justified fear that had my blood running cold. I had to make a conscious effort to control my breathing.

Just before she passed the threshold to the outside, Antithesis stopped. She stared at the scene before her, with eyes like voids. Then, she lifted up her left hoof, as if examining it. When her hoof once again met the ground, I felt something within that area change. Only once she had started walking did I realize what she had done.

Each time she stepped, Antithesis left behind a patch of grey. And where these spots were, I could no longer feel the magic that suffused and sustained all of Equestria. The grey expanded slowly, removing the magic from the stones, the grass, and the buildings. Where there was once structure and life, there was now an eerie, chalky substance that shed particles of dust as the evening breeze blew. Though Antithesis, even with her almost leisurely gait, vastly outpaced the widening circles.

If this could not be stopped...

The sound of somepony galloping drew my attention back outwards. It was a unicorn mare; her name was inconsequential.

"I heard screams," she said, "is everything-" She cut herself off, not bothering to finish asking, upon noticing the blood all over Antithesis. Her jaw dropped. "Guards! Somepony get the guards!" she exclaimed.

Unperturbed, Antithesis walked right past her as she shook her head. "That's not necessary," she said, in a cold monotone. "Nothing is necessary."

"W-What happened? What's going on?" the mare asked, approaching the filly again.

There was a moment's pause before she replied. "You're too nosey. This bothers me. Goodbye."

Suddenly, the mare rocketed upwards, straight into the sky. She flailed her legs to no avail, her motion only accelerating. Her screams of shock faded from ear almost as soon as they began.

Antithesis kept on walking.

Steeling myself, I followed. Things looked rather bleak, at the moment, but perhaps somepony had heard the mare's cries. Somepony who could stop the filly, before things got even worse.

So, I watched as Antithesis made her way forward. Her pace was set and measured, and she never even so much as glanced in another direction. I didn't know where she was going. I wasn't even sure if she did.

Meanwhile, ponies in the nearby homes were starting to panic, as the average pony tends to do when stressed. Some, upon witnessing the expanding swath of devoid land, shut their curtains, as if not acknowledging it would made it go away. Others grabbed their loved ones and galloped as fast as they could away from the zone of desolation and the filly propagating it.

Only when Antithesis arrived in the downtown area was this pattern of terror and cowardice broken. From beyond the many shops along the block, I noticed a group of ponies approaching at speed. As they got closer, I could make out the distinctive golden armor they wore. It was a full squad of royal guardsponies, four of each tribe.

The metal-clad hooves of eight unicorns and earth ponies skidded to a stop on the street as they instantly formed a phalanx in Antithesis' path, spears crossed. The pegasi moved in to circle in the air above her head, weapons pointed directly at her. All of them wore stern, resolute expressions, staring at Antithesis through their helmets.

"For the safety of Equestria, cease your spellcasting at once, filly! If you do not comply and come quietly, we will have no choice but to take you by force! And we do not show mercy to killers!" one of the guards in the phalanx, Vambrace, exclaimed.

For a few short moments, the only sounds were those of distant screams, leaves rustling in the wind, and Antithesis' hoofsteps. She didn't waver from her path, nor did she reply to the ultimatum uttered moments ago.

Still, they waited for her response, tensions mounting. When the time of reconciliation had come and gone, Vambrace yelled "CHARGE!"

With a resounding battle cry, three of the pegasi broke formation and dived at Antithesis, spears first. In a feat of superiority, the filly made no attempt to dodge, merely closing her eyes. She didn't even flinch as the three spears were thrust into her with force by the lunging ponies.

At first, I thought that the strikes were lethal, as she had visibly been skewered through the temple, chest, and hindquarters by weapons longer than she was tall. Not only that, but gouts of blood spurted forth in multiple directions.

However, when the pegasi failed to pull back up into the air, my eyes widened. It was her attackers who had collapsed. Two wore the vacant expressions of death, bearing oozing puncture wounds through which the spilt remains of vital organs were visible. The third was screaming in immense pain, face planted on the ground as he reached back to press at his critically wounded plot.

Antithesis shook herself off much as a dog would water, and the spears fell from her body as if they had never been there, clattering to the earth. She continued approaching the now-wavering row of soldiers.

"D-Don't give up!" ordered Vambrace. "Patches, Wingspan, tend to Red Storm! Everypony else: hold nothing back!"

With that, one of the unicorns and the sole remaining pegasus rushed around to tend to their comrade's wounds. Meanwhile, Vambrace and the other earth ponies also broke formation to flank the unamused-looking Antithesis while the unicorns charged up what seemed to be devastating offensive magic.

The moment they were ready, three high-speed beams of arcane light all converged on their target. They struck true... only to ricochet right back and nail their casters, sending the unicorn guards flying backwards. The trio collapsed, legs twitching, unable to rise.

Antithesis shook her head. "Can't you see it's pointless? Just give up already. Dumb ponies get on my nerves, you know. And ponies who get on my nerves... don't live very long."

Too determined to fall for her thinly veiled threat, Vambrace and the rest of the earth ponies galloped forward into the fray. Meanwhile, Patches and Wingspan were hard at work sealing up their comrade's wounds.

Vambrace met Antithesis first, planting his forehooves down. Allowing his momentum to carry over, he spun, delivering a powerful buck to the side of her snout. He was sent flying sideways from the force of his own kick, skidding painfully onto his knees. He snarled. The soldier approaching from right behind him let loose a flurry of slashes with his spear the moment he was in striking range, only to collapse, screaming as blood oozed from multiple fresh wounds. The punches thrown by the third were met with similar results.

However, the last guard, Full Nelson, broke off from his charge right in front of Antithesis. Opting for a different approach, he reached over the small filly with his massive hooves, pinning her successfully to the ground under his bulk as he twisted his legs around her barrel. Hope flashed in the eyes of the others in the squad; that seemed to have worked.

But said hopes were shattered when Nelson's body twisted around in pain. He only had time to let out a small grunt before his body was ripped asunder in the same fashion as Polish's. It was just as horrifying watching a pony explode the second time.

To their credit, the still-living guardsponies managed to maintain some semblance of dignity upon witnessing their comrade perish in this manner. Well, ok, Vambrace and Patches did. The others all ran away either screaming wordlessly or shouting about how screwed they all were. Antithesis simply cleaned her coat off with her powers and resumed walking.

"Cowards, all of you!" Vambrace shouted after his subordinates as he shakily stood. "We fight and die for the safety of this nation!"

But none of them turned back. I couldn't blame them. There was bravery, and then there was stupidity in the fact of mortal danger.

The unicorn didn't look like she was about to throw her life away, though. Patches seemed stunned, as if lost in thought. Then, she narrowed her eyes, and galloped over to Antithesis. The moment she was in range, she lowered her horn and shot a soothing pulse of healing magic at Antithesis.

My eyebrows rose; casting beneficial magic on the filly who seemed to invert all that touched her was actually a decent plan. But when the spell washed over her, she did not appear visibly affected. The filly just sighed.

Well, so much for that idea. Guess she has more control over her magic than I thought. Damn. As I looked on, Patches seemed to come to the same conclusion, and fled for the hills like the others. Vambrace saw her go, stomped his hooves in anger, and followed.

Ok. The Royal Guard can't stop Antithesis. I sorta expected as much. Sure, I've toughened them up some, but Antithesis seems to be at least as powerful as Sombra was, and layponies couldn't stop him either. But they still probably sent word up the chain of command beforehoof, so help was likely already on the way. Probably either Celestia or Twilight and her friends. I certainly wasn't going to show up to end the crisis.

I shook my head rapidly to try and clear my mind. Once it, and my rapidly beating heart, were sufficiently calmed, I decided to check on Twilight. If anypony stood a chance, it was her.

 

FLASH

 

Almost immediately after rematerializing, I heard a pony moan in distress. "I'm Booooored. When does the flank-kicking start?"

The pony in question turned out to be Rainbow Dash, currently hovering above her friends as they trotted out of a train station. A sign in front of it read 'Welcome to Fillydelphia'. Among them were the other five Elements of Harmony, or whatever it was they were called now, as well as Spike and Starlight Glimmer. All but Twilight were showing signs of age, especially Spike, who was now taller than most ponies and possessed a sharp, lanky body.

That the six were together was a good sign. Spike probably would have felt left out otherwise, but I wasn't sure why they had brought Starlight. I had barely spoken to her since she arrived in town a few weeks back, and with good reason. According to Twilight, she had made some very large mistakes of the potentially world-dooming variety. Most everypony instantly forgave her during one of those spontaneous musical numbers that happen sometimes, but not I. Having friends doesn't instantly better a pony. I know firsthoof that it takes time for real change to occur. Thus, I was still apprehensive. This Starlight was probably all good now, though.

But I digress. They had a new evil to curb, and I needed to see if they were up to the task.

"We don't even know if that's why we're here, Dash," Twilight replied. She pointed at Pinkie as she pronked along at the head of the group, her poofy mane occasionally popping off and spontaneously reattaching itself. "All we know is that Pinkie's Pinkie Sense has been going crazy over another mysterious, unknown 'doozie'."

"Well, way back, the last time this happened, a hydra showed up," noted Applejack. "She might be onta somethin'."

"Oh, I sure hope it's nothing that bad," said Fluttershy as she cowered slightly.

"I hope it is!" stated a grinning Rainbow. "I still wish I could've been there to see that thing!"

I facehoofed. So did Starlight. This was made difficult by the fact that we were all still walking, but it was a matter of principle.

"You know," Starlight began, "even after all these years, I still can't believe how crazy you are."

Twilight turned to glare at her.

She blinked. "What? I thought Dash takes those sorts of remarks as complements."

Dash nodded. "You know me so well!"

"Darlings," interjected Rarity, "Not that this isn't a riveting conversation, but shouldn't we be getting ready for... something, hmm?"

"Why, yes, I believe we should, Rarity," affirmed Spike.

With that, the eight nodded in agreement and walked on in silent observation. Pinkie wasn't even humming.

"Is it just me, or does this place seem... deserted?" asked Fluttershy. "Because I don't see anypony else around..."

Various sets of brows furrowed as the others checked for themselves. "You're right," said Twilight. "We do seem to be the only ones out. Odd."

Pinkie nodded. "You'd think Zecora were here from how quiet it is. Oh! Or maybe everypony is at a party on the other side of town, and we weren't invited!" she exclaimed with a gasp.

"I don't think that's it, Pinkie," said Spike.

"Well, whatever it is, I'm worried," she replied, her mane momentarily removing itself again. "I'm getting a feeling this is definitely something really important, and it's happening near here."

"Then let's keep moving!" said Dash.

And that's what they did. It took about fifteen minutes, but the seven mares and one dragon did in fact encounter something of import. That something being the expanding influence of Antithesis.

Twilight and Applejack reacted first, sensing immediately the utter lack of that which should be. The pair rushed forward with wide eyes, taking in the unnatural, grey terrain. The others soon caught up, also staring in shock.

"My word!" Rarity exclaimed, lifting a hoof to her muzzle.

"T-The magic; in the land! It's gone!" Applejack noted with disbelief.

Twilight spoke in a hushed tone. "What could have done this?"

Nopony else had an answer, too transfixed were they by the intimidating spectacle to hazard a guess. Though Rainbow, reckless as she was, gingerly stepped forward onto the surface. When she remained unharmed, Dash waved the others over. "Come on, it's safe!"

"I guess so," said Starlight. "Let's go."

Upon witnessing this display, the rest of the group reluctantly joined Rainbow, Pinkie returning to the head of the group.

However, their resumed motion halted again when they got to the next block over. For that was when they saw the corpses.

"A-Are those?" began Spike.

"D-Dead soldiers?" finished Applejack.

"Sweet Celestia..." cursed Rainbow.

Fluttershy looked like she was going to be sick.

Starlight galloped over to examine the bodies, filled with morbid curiosity, perhaps only a part of which was born from necessity.

Meanwhile, Pinkie squinted her eyes at something in the distance, along the smaller, new trail of dust. She gasped. "Hey! I think I see somepony over there! Maybe they know what happened! Or maybe..."

"They were what happened," said Twilight as she narrowed her eyes.

There was nothing else that needed to be said. The seven heroes and one reformed villain all sprinted off into the distance after the moving equine shape. With my long legs, I didn't really need to put in much effort to keep up. Soon, I could clearly make out the distinctive form of Antithesis as she retreated relative to my position.

It was clear to all that the magic-draining effect was emanating from the hooves of the green filly. Once she was close enough, Twilight blurted "You there!" in the Royal Canterlot Voice to get her attention.

Upon hearing this, Antithesis twisted her head to glance backwards. She saw who now stood before her and stopped in place, then turned around completely. Her eyes widened. "You're Princess Twilight, aren't you?" she asked.

Twilight, in reply, frowned with displeasure. "Yes. And you must be... Antithesis. Prince Name Rater warned me about you. But he never followed up about it."

Antithesis kept standing there.

"So," Twilight continued, "I see that the guard tried to stop you. They were just brushed aside." She gestured to the path of ruin in her wake. "Why are you doing all this? What's the point? Why kill innocent ponies?!" she asked with a shout.

She sighed. "The second one. That's why." Antithesis slowly swept her gaze from left to right, across the scene of the city before her. "There is no real reason for any of this to be. No meaning. So, it's all wasteful. I'm just... recycling."

Nearly in unison, the eight of them flinched back, appalled. "You call making magic vanish an' killing ponies recycling?!" cried Applejack in disbelief.

Antithesis did not confirm or deny this claim. There was a moment's pause, as the mares and the dragon looked to eachother, trying to think of what they might say that could perhaps lead to a peaceful solution.

It was Twilight who voiced her thoughts first. "So, you're saying that if you could find a concept or object in Equestria with true meaning, something wholly beneficial in its existence and filled with greater purpose, you'd end this blight?"

She blinked. "I don't see how holes have to do with anything."

Twilight facehoofed. "Right. Still just a filly," she muttered. "Let me put it differently. If we show you the power of friendship, will you stop your magic?"

"Oh. Sure. You can try that. But when it doesn't work, I'm gonna keep going. I've wasted enough time on you already."

Twilight nodded an affirmative. "I understand." Looking over her shoulder, she added "ok, girls, you know what to do."

Pinkie raised her hoof and waved it excitedly. "Ooh, ooh, Mega Evolution, right?"

Rarity snorted. "You're thinking of the Technicolor Dreamcoat, darling."

Twilight groaned. "We compromised on Rainbow Dash's name, remember?" She pointed a hoof at Antithesis. "And it doesn't even matter what we call it! What matters is using it on Antithesis so she won't feel inclined to blow up anypony else!"

"Umm... I still think Soul Resonance sounds better, honestly," added Fluttershy.

A stern glare from the princess signaled that she drop the matter and get ready. Twilight then cleared her throat and proclaimed "By the Power of Friendship, return all to Harmony!"

With that, Twilight, Applejack, Rainbow, Fluttershy, Pinkie, and Rarity all stepped forwards and closed their eyes. Antithesis watched, nonplussed as magical energies lanced down from the skies above, filling them with righteous strength. They emerged from the swirling beams as six spirits of harmony incarnate, forms perhaps excessively poufy and colorful, but clearly holding great potency.

Their eyes opened, shining brightly from within. The very earth began to quake in response to the upwelling of mana. In turn, lances of pastel color arced through the air from the six ponies and collided with Antithesis, forming a spherical vortex around her body.

But when all six rays straightened, and the spell intensified, the energies around Antithesis began to darken. Twilight and her friends recognized this, and their faces all showed confusion.

"Look out!" Twilight screamed. Severing her connection to the others, she shoved them away with an omnidirectional blast of telekinetic energy, knocking them sprawling to the ground... just as the reflected beam of shadowy colors hit the spot where they had all just been standing.

"Twilight!" Spike called out.

All looked on in shock as the magic slowly faded. When it did, and Twilight became visible, there was a round of gasps. For Twilight as we knew her was gone, an alicorn wrapped in shades of deep gold and bright yellow standing in her place.

Wait. Don't tell me.

There was a flurry of resumed motion. Antithesis turned around and resumed walking. Spike and everypony else stood and rushed over to Twilight, crowding around her.

"What just happened?" asked Starlight.

"A-Are you ok?" asked Fluttershy.

"You're gold!" pointed out Dash.

Twilight smiled. "I'm ok, girls. Not perfect, but ok."

"What's wrong?" asked Rarity.

"Oh, nothing much. I'll fix it in a moment," she replied.

Then, the alicorn's grin grew wider, and bubbles of light yellow aura manifested around all their necks.

None of them even had time to gasp before she twisted.

There was a chorus of snaps.

Seven bodies collapsed, limp and unmoving. And Twilight laughed.

I stared blankly at the scene, numb.

"Ah, much better now," said Twilight. Then, to Antithesis "Hey, you're gonna destroy all of Equestria, right?"

Antithesis' ear flicked at the sound. She nodded.

Twilight clapped her forehooves together. "Ok. Well, then I'm off to conquer the human world, I suppose. Or maybe I'll just kill everyone there. Whatever. I'll figure it out."

She spread her wings, about to take flight, when...

"No."

The monotone voice that spoke wasn't Antithesis; I didn't recognize it at all. As I searched for the source, I heard a pop. It was... Pinkie Pie. I knew better than to question how she reconnected her spine, or why her mane was now perfectly straight.

"I'm afraid I can't let you do that, Twilight," she added, coming to her hooves.

Twilight paused, her wings folding back up. "Oh? Are you going to try and stop me?"

Expression neutral-bordering-angry, Pinkie reached into her mane and pulled out a chainsaw. She revved the engine to life. "Yes."

I shut my eyes and shied away, unable to bear witness anymore. Not when two of my only friends were about to try and kill eachother.

Attaining a state of calm with the roar of gasoline and magic in my ears wasn't easy. But I eventually managed. Present-day Twilight wasn't going to like this, not one bit.

 

*  *  *

 

Upon returning to the present, I bid Zecora farewell and immediately returned to Friendship Castle, such that every sickening detail would be fresh in my mind.

I found Twilight, and the two of us seated ourselves in a cozy living room, complete with fireplace. When I began my tale, she didn't really seem any more concerned than she usually was when a minor problem occurred, unable to detect the underlying tension that was probably in my voice. Nor did she interrupt me at any point.

But by the time I was finished, she had curled herself up on the floor, eyes wide, with shaking hooves clutching her temples. The mare was clearly hyperventilating. I gave her a few minutes to compose herself.

Eventually, her breathing slowed back down to a normal pace. She gingerly rose to her hooves.

"Well?" I asked.

"T-There has to be some sort of spell I can use to counteract her powers," she posed. Her eyes weren't focused on anything in particular. "Some sort of... warding charm or defensive enchantment..."

"Really?"

Her chest started heaving again. "Oh, who am I kidding? Not even the Rainbow Power worked!" I watched as a slightly manic expression formed on her face, and she giggled a bit.

I sighed. "Ok, you clearly still aren't calm. This isn't urgent; we have plenty of time. Just breathe, Twilight."

Her ears twitched. She shut her eyes, once again taking the time to adjust her breathing.

When she had finished, Twilight shook her head. "You certainly weren't kidding about Antithesis."

Before he could reply, she started pacing around the room, mumbling to herself. "Hmm... What other options are there? Discord's magic might be able to affect her, but I cannot fathom what might happen if hers worked on him. The real issue is that she's currently an ordinary foal. We could seal her in stone or banish her, but that just delays the problem. And even if somepony smarter than me comes up with a solution in a thousand years, she'd be without her family."

Twilight groaned, collapsing onto the sofa in a heap. "Come on, Twilight, think of something!" she exclaimed. "There's always hope! There just has to be a way to save her, there has to be!"

Not wanting to derail her train of thought (nifty expression, that), I stayed quiet, unmoving on my chosen chair.

After another minute or two, Twilight clopped her hooves together. "Oh! Duh!" She then rolled herself off the couch. "I could just get Starlight to use that dark magic of hers to suck out Antithesis' special talent! Sure, it might set her friendship studies back a bit, but it would certainly be worth it in the long run!"

I raised a brow. "Wait, she can do that? Was that what you caught her doing to ponies originally? Because that seems... really bad."

She pursed her lips. "Yes, of course it was, but these are special circumstances. Better to have one pony without a cutie mark than an Equestria reduced to ashes."

"That's certainly true, but can you imagine how horrible that would make Antithesis feel?" I asked. "To know that you can never attain your true purpose? That no matter what you achieved in life, you would be the one pony in Equestria who wasn't truly special? I'd say that's an even worse fate than the one she has in store. Even thinking you had a shitty destiny like I did would be far preferable to none at all."

She lowered her head, succumbing to my logic, only to raise it right back up afterwards. "Well... w-what if we cut her off from the outside world completely? Without a frame of reference, she couldn't possibly get her cutie-"

I had to cut her off there. "Now you're just frantically grasping at straws. That's your worst idea yet." I stood up, took a deep breath, and placed my hooves on her shoulders. "Look, you have to have realized by now what my thoughts are on this. What needs to be done."

"I-I-" she stammered, blinking repeatedly.

"But despite my age, as I said before, you're much more knowledgeable than I am about this sort of thing. I need to hear it from you. To make sure I've got it right."

A moment passed where she just stood there, trembling, contemplating. Then, tears flowing freely, she confirmed my stance. "S-She needs to die. We need to kill Antithesis."

She suddenly pressed her head into my chest. I nodded slowly as she sobbed into my coat.

Author's Note:

I hope you enjoyed this story, and thought it poignant.

Anyway, this was partially inspired by a debate that sprung up at my dorm during lunch one day. The question was: "If you could go back in time and kill Adolf Hitler as a baby, would you?" Now, since I live in a private dorm specifically tailored for engineering students like myself, basically everyone said yes. Because despite all the stereotypes, most of us actually are fairly logical and cold-blooded compared to the average person.

However, in Equestria, the opposite is true. I wanted to explore if Twilight had the courage to approve of killing an innocent foal, even if doing so would save countless lives, including her own. Name Rater, while not created specifically for this purpose, made an ideal character in regards to precognition regarding the actions of a specific pony. The story practically wrote itself from there.

Thought Prism out.

PS: Really, Cadance? No wonder your daughter's name is so stupid, you didn't go to a hospital! Name Rater can't do his job otherwise.

 
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