Diaries of a Madman

When Discord breaks free of his stone prison, he proves to be much older and wiser than he was on the show. A being of ancient and unimaginable power, he forces Celestia to make a deal to save her little ponies. What she doesn't realize is that one of the terms of the deal is that she forgets ever making it. Enter Navarone, a poor human just trying to get by—or at least, to the ponies that's what he looks like. Pulled from his home by an accidental summoning from one Twilight Sparkle, Navarone is thrust into a world of ponies and more violence than he expected from such a peaceful seeming world. These are his adventures—with a few asides from everybody's favorite Lord of Chaos, of course.

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109. Chapter Eighty-Seven—Consequences

The one thing that I didn’t account for in my frantic flight from the castle was the horrid weather back around Ponyville. Shit, how am I going to get through this?

“Go over it?” Flo whispered.

Since I was coming from so far away and so high up, I had the chance to do that, to see where it started. I did lose a lot of height in my crazed plummet from the summit, but I was able to get enough altitude to soar over the worst of the clouds.

“What really worries me, though, is that she said she’s known for a while,” Flo was saying as I dodged around. “I’ll admit, I knew she had suspicions, but I thought that’s all they were!”

Yeah. How did she know? I wasn’t as discreet as I should have been, but that should have only given her hints.

“You… You did say she was crazy. Perhaps it’s true. More true than either of us thought. Maybe the princess of the night truly is insane.”

If that’s the case… she needs to be put down. For my safety, as well as the safety of the country.

“We’d have to convince Celestia. I don’t think we could honestly survive an attempt on either one’s life.”

I’m well aware. Here’s hoping we can deal with Luna as she is now. If the plan works, it won’t be a problem at all.

“So how much shall we tell her?”

The bare minimum. That you are a human construct that assists me. No more.

“And if she doesn’t buy it?”

Then honestly, I’m fucked. The only way I can come out of it in one piece is getting Celestia there when I confront Luna.

“The dream is locked down. Could you not go into Celestia’s dream and ask her to meet you at your home immediately? If you get her on your side before you meet them both, you can explain what’s going on and what Luna did.”

That is… a good idea. Better than having them both against me at the same time. And if all else fails… Well, better that I have them both pissed off in another city than both pissed off in the same room.

When I got to around where my home was, I dove through the freezing cold clouds, passing through the snow on its way to the ground. Thankfully, my darkvision was able to grant me a clear line of sight to my home and I headed that way as quickly as my horrible wings could take me.

Shivering in the cold, I pushed my door open and quickly stepped into the warm living room, very happy to be out of the chilly air. I knew I didn’t really have time to really warm myself up, so I hastened to my office, where I kept the laptop. With all the others in the house asleep, the building was silent as I traced my way through it.

I went directly to the office, where I still had the laptop. Straight away, I walked to the desk, knowing I should contact Celestia before Luna could.

Before I did that, though, I slipped the ring over my finger, finally feeling safe now that Luna couldn’t just spirit me away. Anyway, I closed my eyes and broke out of the land of the waking, punting my weary ass into the world of dreams.

As soon as I got there, I began looking for the dreams of one sunbutt. Given that the search function in that damn place was amazing as hell, it didn’t take me but a second to find her. Without even knocking, I forced my way into the oily black dream.

I immediately regretted that decision. When I jolted into the dream, my body was encased in bright white armor and I held a sword and an elaborate shield, standing before a host of demonic enemies. I could see a tattered Equestrian flag waving desperately in the wind, a six legged monster climbing up the flagpole to tear it down. Ruins and fire littered the grounds around me. And only when I gave it some thought did I realize that I could feel a sharp pain in my back. Sparing a glance that way, I found that my wings had been shorn off.

The look also showed me a nearly broken Celestia, her flank to my back, standing against more enemies on her side. We were back to back, surrounded by a wave of monsters. Her horn had been broken off almost at the base. Even in her broken state, she looked defiant and, in a way, beautiful.

And then I blinked and it was all gone. We were both suddenly in a green field, stretching as far as my eyes could see. Somehow, this wasn’t enough to wake Celestia up. But it was enough to remind me that I really needed her. “Celestia, are you there?” I asked.

“What… what happened?” she whispered, looking around. I noticed that whatever happened—Flo, probably—restored her to pristine condition. And I wasn’t in that armor anymore.

“You’re dreaming, Celestia,” I answered. “And I really, really need your help right now.”

“What happened?” she asked, turning to me. “And how was the party tonight?”

“It started good. Then Luna tried to rape me and went insane. You know, about what I’ve come to expect. And like I said, I really need your help. Can you get to my house in, like, now?”

She blinked a few times before sighing deeply. “Very well. If you’re wearing your ring, take it off. I hope you have a good reason for disturbing my sleep, Nav.” Before I could tell her that I did, she woke up, forcing me out of the dream and into the dreamscape. Knowing I had to get ready, I woke up as well and pulled the ring off, setting it on the desk.

The loud pop of teleportation came a minute later. Celestia beheld me with my head dropped in my hands and my eyes closed, trying to figure out where I went wrong. She didn’t say a word, just moved the chair I had aside and summoned a larger one for her fat ass.

With a weary sigh, I dropped one of my hands to the desk, sliding the ring on. “I can’t believe it’s come to this,” I said, pushing myself to my feet. “I wasn’t supposed to be the one to break this secret.” Slowly, I walked to my safe. “Though it’s gone on long enough, I suppose.” I opened the safe and pulled the laptop out, turning back to face my guest. “Celestia, I commissioned the unicorns at the magi tower to find me a way home. They succeeded.” Setting the laptop on the desk, I collapsed back into my chair, thinking of how to continue, just staring at the laptop.

“So you returned home?” Celestia prompted after a few moments of silence.

“Yeah. Me and a few others, stupid bastards they were. To make a very long story short, I brought some stuff back with me. And something interesting that I found out… You see, we humans have a thing for technology. We invented intelligence. Intelligence that can rival our own. And we found a way to get these intelligences inside of our own minds. Artificial intelligence, a second mind in our own, whispering help and advice directly into our minds.” Silence fell once again, me leaving the subject in the open.

Celestia came to the right conclusion. “And you received one of these.”

Putting my hand to my ear, I said aloud, “Flo, if you would?” Her watery form evacuated my mind and encircled my head. I held it up so Celestia could get a good look. “Meet Flo, an artificial intelligence comprised of a hivemind of nanomachines all working together for one purpose: Helping me stay alive.” I held her back up to my ear, letting her slither back inside.

“I believe I can… suspect what happened. Luna found out about this Flo and came to the wrong conclusions.”

“Bingo. So there I was, blindfolded, about to kiss what I thought was you, when Flo burst into the private room to warn me of what I was doing. Where she was isn’t impo—Actually, where were you?”

“Toying with Rainbow Dash. The noises she makes when full to bursting are so adorable.”

“That’s creepy for so many reasons…” I sighed.

“What did she say?” Celestia asked.

“Not important. Anyway, she burst through the door. Luna was pissed her ruse was ruined. Then she said she had already known that I had a voice in my head, told me I was corrupted, and said she refused to let Nightmare Moon take another victim. Celestia, your sister is crazy.”

She sighed, massaging a temple with her hoof. “Okay, this can be… No, it can’t be fixed. But it can be resolved. IF… If you have proof that Flo is what you say she is, I can end this peacefully. If you don’t, I’ll be forced to agree with Luna. This sounds crazy, Navarone. You’ve been getting stranger and stranger and I understand why, but if there’s another reason, I want to help you get rid of it. So by all means, if you can prove that Flo is a human creation gotten by somehow returning to your world, I’ll support you. If not, I will be forced to detain you and exorcise you of the voice.”

I opened the laptop and turned it on. “Do you remember some months ago, before Bon-Bon and Lyra’s wedding, when you came here and asked if I had something?”

“I do. It took some time to get Twilight to calm down. She was quite upset over my decision to support you over her.”

“She had every right to be.” Quickly typing the password in, I gestured her to my side of the table. She joined me, watching the device with suspicion. “This is a laptop, a human device used for storing massive amounts of information. Flo, feel free to take control of my hands. Prove your innocence.”

Something took over the movements of my hands, a ghostly wire guiding them across the keyboard.

“Are you sure that’s wise?” Celestia asked, torn between watching my hands move and watching the movement on the screen.

“She’s been in my head for some time now and hasn’t betrayed me yet. She is prone to outbursts and pranks, but she has my—and her own—best interests at heart.”

“So you say.” Her eyes took to watching the screen instead. “What are all these runes? They look like… cave drawings, in a way.”

“Ah fuck… Cast a translation spell on yourself. I forgot this computer was in English.”

“Computer?” she said, her horn glowing. “I thought you said it was a laptop.”

“Eh, basically the same thing.”

The light from her horn faded and her eyes returned to the screen. “Much better, though not a lot of it makes sense to me anyway.”

Flo finally spoke up. “Navarone, do you mind if I spoke to her directly?”

“Flo wants to talk to you, Celestia. Using my mouth, of course.”

“Tell her no. Anything she has to say can be translated through you. Nightmare Moon and her ilk can have tongues of the purest silver when they want. I will not speak with her, at least not now.”

Flo didn’t respond to that. Instead, she finished moving my hands. “There,” she finally said. “Let her read this.”

I pushed the laptop over and angled it upward so Celestia could read it easier. “Here’s your proof.” Hopefully.

“Before I read this, I have more questions. How often has Flo asked to take over your body and how many times have you allowed her to?”

“Shit, I don’t know. Few dozen, maybe? Usually it’s just localized, like she takes over a few body parts or something. Never for anything important, of course. Walks. Playing with Freki, when he was still around. Once to have sex with Doppel.”

“It started like that with Luna, you know. Whispers at night, when she was alone and had no pony to talk to. Slowly, it became… something more. Luna gave up more and more control, allowing the dark spirit to take over and do things Luna thought were unimportant. After all… it’s nice to finally have somepony on your side, somepony that listens.”

“Are you going to read this or not?” I harshly asked, not liking where her comments were going.

“I will, Navarone. This device intrigues me. I just want you to keep an open mind. You say that you and the humans have these machines that can think, that can take over somepony. We have something like that as well. Something that preys on the minds of the broken and promises to keep them company. So while I read this, I want you to think. This Flo, what has she promised you? How much can you truly remember of the trip back to Earth and how much will the others who went with you back you up on? And of course… Will you be willing or able to show me when she was implanted into your mind?”

“Two of your vaunted elements of harmony went with me, as did one of your knights. I believe that they’ll be willing to support me.”

“Hmm.” She was finally looking over the document Flo found. A few minutes later, she nodded. “Interesting. Would those unicorns be able to send somepony else back?” she asked, walking back around to her chair.

“It took months of planning and preparation. If you’ll recall, we don’t have months, given that I’m leaving come spring. And magic doesn’t work there anyway, so for all you know, they’d be lying to you.”

“I see. Who went with you? I need names.”

“Rainbow Dash, Rarity, and Fancy Pants. They weren’t supposed to go at all, but a monster burst into the room while the spell was being cast and scared them into the casting circle.”

“They will be questioned. Would you mind coming with me to Canterlot?”

“Yes, I definitely mind that. I want to be nowhere near Luna, not after what she tried to do. I fear for my safety around her.” Especially once she figures out that she’s locked in the dream.

Her eyes narrowed. “It is beyond time I dealt with this. I knew Luna had little social skills or social grace, but this is just ridiculous. It is overly obvious that you want nothing to do with her. I will make this very clear to her. I am done playing nice with her. If she does not get this fact through her foolish head, she will be spending the remainder of her seven years on the moon. After I have a talk with her, you need but say the word and I will have you removed from the roster of knights entirely. Or transferred to me, if you prefer.”

“What about the umbral knights?”

“I will consider it. Rules can be rewritten, after all. And if anypony deserves it at this point, it’s you. However, all of this assumes that you are telling the truth about Flo. This evidence here is convincing. I need to talk to the other three before I make my judgment. Does anypony else know about this Flo?”

“Taya. And none of the three of them actually know about Flo. I kept her quiet.”

“I see. They still need to be questioned, as does Taya. And what other kind of information does this laptop contain?”

“Pretty much everything. Do you want me to explain something horrifying to you?”

“Is it important?”

I shrugged. “Maybe. Maybe not. You want to hear it?”

“Very well. This has been an interesting night so far. What’s a few more epiphanies?”

“When I said I found a way back home, you probably assumed I traveled to a different world or another dimension. Well, that isn’t quite true. I traveled to the past. The far, far past. To a time when humans ruled the planet. This laptop here was made in the event a catastrophe happened and the world was rent asunder. Some context, if you need it: The company the four of us was captured by happened to find evidence of a certain… creature of immense power that traveled behind the scenes of our world, fiddling with events and getting into the minds of humans.”

“That sounds… familiar,” she mused.

“Oh, I imagine it does. You know this creature as Discord. You see, the group that found us knew of this creature and suspected he was planning something, something that would wipe humanity off the face of the planet. So they were in a hidden bunker built to outlast the apocalypse. Not only did they survive the end of the world, but it seems that they rebuilt, creating new races. New races of which you ponies—or I should say, the alicorns that preceded you ponies—are one.”

“Interesting theory. But have you any proof?”

“A little. There’s a surviving human installation that I found out about that I plan on visiting one day. And the dream machine that Luna uses, the Morpheus statue, that is a creation of the humans used to protect the slumbering minds of the new races from Discord’s influence.”

“But again, can you prove these things?”

“The dream machine thing, sort of. Have you ever heard Luna mention vagrants?”

“…Some time ago, yes. She was cursing them, but I don’t know why.”

“They are the instruments of the machines that fight intruders that aren’t human. One invaded her party tonight and spoke with me, since I was the first human it had seen in so long. He taught me how to find more of them and how to summon them should I ever need their help.”

“Hmm. And Discord? Can you prove that it was he who killed your race?”

“Now that… That I can’t prove, not without giving up my source. And honestly, it’s more of a theory based on some of what I know about him. It has been a long time since the death of my people and now. It’s entirely possible that it wasn’t this Discord bastard. But I think it was.”

“And you think Discord is free right now, doing as he pleases.”

“Yes. Yes I do. I helped Watcher and Reginald both build their lists of evidence.”

“And Watcher evidently believes to the point that he’s willing to give up everything to go with you on your journey, thinking you will find something to help beat Discord. Tell me, what do you think you’ll find out there, Navarone?”

“I think we both know that I can’t answer that, Celestia. I trust you, or I wouldn’t be telling you all this. But there are limits to what I trust you with. You’re a politician looking out for her subjects. What I’m doing and where I’m going is not open for discussion, nor is it open for you to meddle with. There’s a reason Watcher and his troops are leaving the guard.”

“You think I’m corrupted? That Discord is using me?”

“I know that you’d use me and what I’m doing to further your own plans. And I won’t have that. Don’t bother to ask anyone else, because there is a single person who knows the plan right now and that’s me.”

“Paranoia is another symptom Luna began showing, Navarone. Nightmare Moon whispered dark thoughts into my sister’s mind. She began thinking that I was plotting against her to hold all of the power to myself, to replace her as both sun and moon.”

“Didn’t you?”

“Only when she left me no choice. Is this something Flo wants, Navarone? For you to go around the world in search of something? Artifacts of power, perhaps? Items that you can find mere mentions of in books?”

“She supports me in my decision, but I went back home after I decided to leave.”

“I see. Where is Luna now? I need to speak to her and to a few other ponies.”

“I locked her in the dream party using the guardians. I don’t think she could leave even if she didn’t have a party to look after.”

“What of Rainbow Dash and Rarity? Do you know if they are both in their homes?”

“Rainbow Dash is at Luna’s party. I don’t know about Rarity.”

She nodded, standing. “I’m in for a very long night. Navarone, I trust you understand that I must place you under house arrest. I will send guards here soon, a mix of night and day. If you are not in this building when they arrive, you will be considered a renegade and will be tracked down. All your titles will be for naught and you will be assumed corrupted by a dark spirit. The elements of harmony will be gathered when you are found and you will be cleansed. Do you understand me?”

“Yeah. Don’t go anywhere. Simple enough.”

“Very good. Now, you say you locked Luna in the dream. That means you can unlock her. Come dawn, you will do so. That’s when the party is slated to end and I will not have her guests panicking because they can’t leave. If all goes well, I will return here come noon tomorrow.”

“What happens if Luna comes here immediately?”

“Wear your ring all night until either I show up or you get a message from me. If Luna comes here… I will leave orders with the guards. No charges will be filed if you have to restrain her with force. And all of the guards will either be on your side or neutral.”

“Lethal force?”

“If it comes to that, the guards will step in. Is there anything else you want to say before I go?”

“On the off chance you decide that Flo isn’t what I say she is… what happens?”

“I’ll give you the option of allowing me to look inside your mind to the point where you think she entered you. If I don’t like what I see, you will be cleansed by the elements.”

“Hm. What would that do to me?”

“Their effects are… variable. They turned Discord to stone. They sent Luna to the moon the first time and cleansed her of Nightmare Moon the second. They didn’t even work on Sombra for reasons we still don’t understand. A few other, lesser dangers were stunned long enough for us to get them to Tartarus.”

“…You would do that to me, wouldn’t you? Send me to your hell.”

“Those things we sent to Tartarus… They went there because they couldn’t be dealt with any other way. Navarone, if I truly thought you were a threat and the elements didn’t cleanse you, I would kill you myself. It would be a mercy, compared to Tartarus.”

“I think I can manage without your idea of mercy, thank you. Humans colonized that landmass long before we created you. I’d find a way to live out of sheer spite.”

“And I imagine you’d live well. If that is all, I have things to take care of. Hopefully, I will see you at noon. Farewell for now, Navarone.”

“Good luck, sunbutt. I hope you find the right evidence.”

“So do I.” Her horn lit up and she disappeared with a flash.

“If anything calls for a drink, this does,” I said to no one, walking over to the open safe, where I stored the good stuff.

“That’s a horrible idea,” Flo declared. “Navarone, you need to be sober. Guards are coming and you do not want to show them any weakness or any signs that you are anything but resolute in your claims. Getting drunk would show that you doubt yourself and are having one last party to enjoy your freedom.”

“That’s retarded.” I took her advice, though, slamming the safe closed instead of doing as I wanted and taking out a bottle. “If it comes to it, I’m showing her what happened when we first met. I’m not getting hit by the elements. I don’t know what they’ll do and I’m not going to risk it.”

“I understand. You might as well take some time to relax.”

“Yeah… After that damn rejuvenation spell Taya cast on me, there’s no way I’m getting to sleep tonight.” I walked over to the laptop and turned it off, then closed it. That done, I went on down the stairs to the living room to wait on the guards to arrive. “It’s a damn good thing the naga’s coming back next week,” I sighed, sinking into my chair. “I’d feel much better right now if that implacable mass of muscle was around.”

“That’s certainly understandable… Now that you finally have some time to think, there are some things you should consider. Namely, that you woke up with Midnight Blossom standing over you, fangs bared. And that your belt was undone.”

“And that I don’t have any stains in my pants. I got sucked off twice in that dream. My pants should not be clean.”

“These things raise numerous questions.”

“Questions that I don’t really care about. Getting molested is rote for me, at this point. No harm done.”

“That is… more disturbing than you can possibly realize, Nav.”

“Hey, if it didn’t hurt me and my body enjoyed it, it’s hardly wrong.”

“Would you have been saying that if I didn’t interrupt Luna?”

I didn’t have a response to that.

Half an hour later, an extremely loud bang woke me from my reverie. When I realized it had come from the door, I walked over there and opened it on up. A day guard was slumped over, facing the gate, his hind legs bent in directions that couldn’t be comfortable.

“…Can I help you?” I asked.

Someone else answered. “We’ve been sent to guard you,” Shining Armor said, stepping forward. “For some reason, he decided that involved trying to kick your door in before I could tell him this place was a changeling-made fortress.”

“Well, come on in. Can’t really offer you food, but it’s a cold night and there’s no reason to spend it outside.”

Another guard stepped forward. “My troops are watching the outside, Sir Navarone,” Midnight Blossom said. “Panzer and her squad are on the walls.”

“And mine are in the yard,” Shiny added. “With my shield up, they need not worry about the snow.”

“Yeah, but there ain’t no reason for you two to be out there. Especially you,” I said, looking at Midnight. “I got questions for you.”

“I... Yes sir,” she sighed. “Captain, I’ll watch him for now. He’s right. I do owe him... an explanation of sorts.”

“Alright. When you want to be relieved or trade positions, let me know. It’s not like anything will be getting in or out of this area with my shield in place.”

“Well, come on in,” I said, holding the door open wider for her to get inside.

Midnight stepped over the slowly recovering day guard still in front of my door, walking into my house. The door gently closed behind her, pushed by my calm hands. She had stopped in near the front, nervously looking around. One of her hooves gently pawed at the floor.

“Come in, come in,” I said, walking past her into the living room proper. “I have a feeling we’re going to be here for some time and I do have questions.” I waved her to one of the couches as I took a seat in my famed armchair.

She slowly plodded to the couch and finally sank into it. I let the silence build until she began fidgeting and finally said, “You have to understand—”

I held up a hand to stop her. “Why was my belt buckle undone?”

Her eyes went unfocused and she blinked. “W-what?”

“When I woke up and you were standing over me, my belt was undone. Why?”

“I... Sir, I didn’t touch your belt. I swear.”

“So it was Smiles?”

“He was the only one there before I ordered him away, yes.”

“Then it is time that I had a very serious talk with that soldier.” She seemed to finally relax, slumping down in her chair. “Now what the hell were you so worried about? Obviously you weren’t concerned about me thinking you molested me. So what did you do to me?”

Her ears shot straight down. “I was... curious about something. I was merely sating my curiosity.”

“Explain.”

She gulped, looking away again. “It was... a little over a year and a half ago, during a mission for the princess. She got word of some ponies going missing at night. She ordered me to look into it. When I arrived on the scene, I was... bitten. Bitten and compromised... And now you know, sir.”

“...No I don’t. Bitten by what? Mosquitos? Zombies? If you’re telling me you’re a zombie, I don’t buy it.”

“You... you don’t know?”

“No. What the hell are you talking about?”

She sighed. “I forgot you weren’t from Equestria. Eternals, sir. They have a more... colloquial name, vamponies, but they don’t like that name at all. The monster preying on the populace that Princess Luna sent me to apprehend was an eternal. And now, so am I.”

“Huh. That’s gotta suck. And it explains a lot. So what, you were curious about how I tasted? Decided I wouldn’t mind losing some blood to a cute mare?”

“More that you wouldn’t notice... But yes.”

I shrugged. “No harm done. Next time, ask. Why’re you so nervous about this, anyway? So you’re a bloodsucker. There are worse things to be.”

The shock on her face was well worth losing a few ounces of blood. “You... don’t care? I could be banished to Tartarus for this crime! And you just... you don’t care?”

“Why would I? I’ll make more blood. And it’s obvious that Luna knows. Even if she is criminally insane, I don’t think she would let you harm any of her ponies, so I figure you’re harmless enough.”

“That is... You are extremely open-minded, sir. Somewhat horrifyingly so.”

“Yeah. Hey, what did my blood taste like? I’ve heard it’s like maple syrup.”

“To be honest, it’s cloyingly sweet, almost painful to drink. Very filling, though. I don’t think anything else in Equestria has blood as thick as yours.”

“Well, that’s good to know, I guess. What happened to the vampire that turned you?”

“I put a stake through his rotten heart myself. When I got back to Canterlot with the remnants of my squad, the princess deliberated over what to do with me. Personally, I demanded to be sent to Tartarus. I have no place among normal ponies anymore, not with what I am. She... disagreed, and came up with an excuse for the fangs.”

“So where do you normally get blood? I can’t imagine that’s something people will just let you take.”

“Donations. The Equestrian Red Hoof sends some of its supplies to the palace for training accidents. Some of it goes to me.”

“So if you get that, why were you tasting me?”

“Like I said before, I was... curious. Something I found early on is that every species has a different flavor, if that makes any sense. I have... Well, if all goes well, I have a very long life ahead of me. So I decided to make it a goal of mine to taste all the races I could.”

“That’s pretty cool. You try dragon yet?”

“Yes sir. Tried being the key word; I chipped a fang on his scales. Didn’t even wake him up.”

I lifted a hand to my neck, feeling around for any bites. “So why don’t I have any marks?”

“An eternal couldn’t remain hidden for long if we left much in the way of a sign that we had been somewhere. Our saliva has healing properties, sealing wounds when we remove our fangs. You might have faint scars, but you could only see them if you knew for what to look.”

“Well ain’t you just a perfect little killing machine. Who all knows?”

“Just the princess... And you, now.”

“Well, I’m going to assume there’s a good reason for that. You don’t have to worry about me saying anything, at least not as long as you don’t tell anyone what a whore I am. You keep my secret, I keep yours.”

That got the first smile I had seen from her all night. “Yes sir. And here I was thinking you’d be the most angry to hear it... That’s one reason I was always so cross with you.”

“Just one of the reasons?”

“Well, one time you saw me was during the day, when I was in the sun. It nearly blinds me and it gives me a horrible, almost debilitating headache. My temper is short with everypony during the day.”

“Good to know. How common are vamponies?”

“Very rare, nowadays. The princesses did their best to remove all of them. As far as I or Princess Luna knows, I am the only sanctioned one in existence, these days. And I’m the only known one that is still brea—Well, moving around.”

“Hm. What happened to the ponies that went missing? The ones that started your vampire investigation?”

“Vampony. And we found most of them alive, enthralled to their master’s will. When he was killed, they all woke up, not remembering what had happened.”

“That’s pretty cool. Do you think you could do something like that?”

“If I knew how, it would probably be possible. But one of the downsides of killing him was that he couldn’t teach me anything. But it’s better this way. It’s hard to go mad with power when there’s no power to go mad with.”

“Fair enough. Man, tonight has been... a really interesting night, you know?”

“No sir, thankfully I don’t. Worrying about you and what you would do to me was my highlight of the night. But I do have to say, it’s odd that you were given guards. What happened, sir?”

“Luna went mad and threatened me. Words were exchanged. Celestia sent guards here to make sure I stayed safe and that I didn’t leave.”

“Mad as in... insane? Or did she just get angry?”

“Little of column A, little of column B. I might be able to tell you more, depending on how things turn out. Celestia’s supposed to be back come noon. If you and your troops need billets, there’s room in my house for some people to sleep, though it’ll be uncomfortable.”

“We’ll be fine, sir. What caused it? The princess’s anger, I mean. What happened?”

“I don’t really want to talk about it. Sore subject with me, you know?”

“After what I just told you, you don’t trust me?”

“It’s not that. It’s just painful to talk about. Luna and I haven’t gotten along very well in the past after she did some things. She finally went over the deep end this time and it’s bad, knowing she’s pretty much lost forever.” No it’s not. It’s more relieving than anything.

“I see... And will that affect us, her guards?”

“I don’t know. That’s up for Celestia to say, at this point. All I know is that it’s bad.”

“Hm... I need to think. If Luna is cast down, the night guards will be treated with suspicion. Do you want me to send Smiles in here to explain himself or should I just punish him?”

“He’s here? Guarding the house?”

“Princess Celestia asked for volunteers among the night guard. He was first in line. Panzer was second, to volunteer her squad.”

“And you?”

“And me, yes. I was third. I do question the wisdom of having both captains of the guard here, but I felt I needed to explain myself.”

“Then send him in, though not alone. With another night guard or something. Shiny would overreact, I imagine, if he heard what Smiles did. But I’ll give Smiles a chance to explain himself before castrating him.”

“...I’ll send him in with Panzer. Talk to you later, Sir Navarone.”

“See you, Blossom.”

She sighed. “Are you really going to keep calling me that? Even now?”

“What? I have a thing for dangerous women.” She just snorted and walked out the door, pulling it closed behind her. Flo just sighed disapprovingly. “Hey, don’t you judge me!” Another round of knocks on the door interrupted my scolding.

With a sigh, I walked on back over, pulling the large, heavy door back open. The large earth pony mare on the other side hopped up on her hind legs and pulled me into a tight hug. I awkwardly patted her on the back, unsure of what exactly was happening. Smiles stood next to her, also looking relatively awkward.

After a few seconds, Panzer let me go and flopped back to the ground, smiling. “It’s good to see that you’re okay, sir. When Princess Celestia asked for volunteers to guard you, I thought something bad happened to you!”

“I’m quite alright, I assure you. Come on in, you two. Get yourselves out of the cold.” I let the two of them in and pushed the door shut behind them, waving them both to the living room. “Sit, sit. Smiles, I have questions for you.”

“I... Yes sir.”

I sat back down in my chair. Panzer took over the couch Midnight had been on. Smiles conquered another. After a few seconds of silence, he said, “I can explain.”

“Oh? So why was my belt undone, Smiles? The captain said she had nothing to do with it.”

Smiles gulped, his eyes flicking to Panzer for a moment. “Well you see... I saw that you were having a... Um, reaction. In your pants. And I didn’t want you to be inconvenienced by that. So I sort of... relieved you of them. And kept you clean. Sir.”

“I didn’t see any paper towels in that room, Smiles.”

“I... I didn’t have any.” Panzer was looking more and more intrigued by this point, but she wasn’t saying anything.

“What did you use?”

“Well, sir, you see... You have to understand—”

“What. Did. You. Use?”

“My mouth, sir.”

As soon as Smiles finished speaking, he gulped noisily, possibly pretending there was my cum in his mouth, and looked away. I let the silence build up for several excruciatingly long seconds. A blush was slowly spreading across Panzer’s face as she realized just what exactly it was that we were talking about.

When I had a feeling he was about to burst into tears, I nodded. “Thank you for keeping me clean. You’re dismissed.”

His entire body jerked straight up as he looked at me, his mouth just dropped. “Wh-wh-wh-what?”

“Did I stutter? I said you’re dismissed. As in, get out.”

“...Yes sir.” He slowly pulled himself up. On unsteady legs, he walked to the door. I didn’t even look his way as he let himself out.

As soon as the door clicked shut, Panzer burst out laughing.

When dawn reared its ugly head, I closed the book I had been reading and let my eyes slide shut. Entering the world of dreams at this point was easy, even if I was having to do it while awake. Finding Luna’s dream world was just as simple. The three guards surrounded the bubble like vultures, ready to strike anything that seemed an easy target.

“You three are dismissed. This world is no longer under lockdown,” I said, addressing them.

“Very well, master,” they all three said at the same time before disappearing.

I didn’t stick around for the bubble to pop, instead waking up and finding Midnight Blossom staring at me with what might have been worry. “Are you alright?” she asked.

“Yes. Just tired.”

“As am I and the rest of the night guards. We should be sleeping now, or at least getting off duty.”

“If you and your troops need rest, the door to the cellar is in the kitchen. It won’t be comfortable, but it will be quiet and dark.”

“I’ll make the offer to them. I know I will definitely be staying inside, if not actually sleeping.”

“Cool, cool. How often do you need to eat?”

“Every day is best. But with what I got off you last night, I’ll be fine for a little while. I won’t nibble on anypony here.”

“What if I ask nicely?”

She rolled her eyes. “I’m going to go talk to my troops now.”

Out she went. Flo sighed. “One of these days, she’s going to bite you.”

Oh baby.

“Ugh. I hate you sometimes, Nav.”

Taya and Doppel were both very confused about the guards in our house. It was easy enough to answer Doppel’s question: “Are any of them single?” she asked.

“Yep. Knock yourself out.” That placated her. She went outside to offer some of the guards... refreshments.

Taya was a little more difficult. “Daddy, why are there guards here?”

“Luna went crazy and found out about you-know-who,” I answered, tapping a finger against my skull.

“So did you kill her yet?”

“Celestia is hopefully dealing with Luna as we speak. If all goes well, the guards will be departing at noon.”

“And... if all doesn’t go well?”

“Then we’re going to have some problems.”

Ganger’s reaction was probably the funniest. He saw Captain Midnight and put on his most winning smile before walking over and attempting to flirt with her.

Blossom gave him an extremely contemptuous glare. “If you don’t get away from me in the next five seconds, you are going to learn the true definition of guard brutality.” His mouth opened for a response, but she cut him off. “One. Two. Three. Fo—” Before she could finish, Ganger made himself scarce, fleeing back up the stairs. “I hate emotion suckers,” she grumbled, glaring up the staircase from her position on the couch.

No one in the room said a word.

When Celestia didn’t appear at noon, I think I might have started sweating. The guards were getting antsy as well. Since I didn’t have enough to feed all of them, I didn’t feed any of them. They had been out there since around two or three in the morning all the way up to noon with no food, no relief, and little to do.

I did my best not to show any signs of nervousness to the guards around me or to anyone else. If I showed Taya that I was worried, she would be worried. And Celestia might ask the guards for reports. I had to be seen as completely confident, not at all worried about what might happen.

So I just continued looking at a book. I want to say I was reading it, but truth be told, I was just looking at the pages, not comprehending the text. Christ, is this what prisoners feel like before the final trip to the gallows? Except in my case, I wouldn’t be so lucky as to get killed.

Finally, an hour late, Shining Armor walked inside the house and reported, “Princess Celestia’s chariot has arrived. She’ll be in shortly. I suggest you prepare yourself, Navarone.”

“For what?” I asked, nervousness entering my voice for the first time that day.

He sighed and answered, “I’m afraid I can’t answer that.”

“Who else is with her, at least?”

“I believe it was Rainbow Dash and Rarity. And my sister and a few of her other friends arrived some time ago and are waiting outside the shield.”

My eyes closed as I leaned back in my seat. Suicide’s an option. I could excuse myself to go up to the office and just blow my brains out with the air rifle.

A bright lance of pain across my face jerked my eyes open. Flo almost snarled, “I didn’t help keep you alive this long for you to kill yourself now. This fight isn’t over, Navarone. Remember, you can still sell me out. I’d rather do that than let her ruin you.”

My eyes focused back on Shining Armor. “When she gets in, send her to my office. I believe we’ll need to talk in private.”

“You got it, Nav.” He went back outside and I achingly got to my feet, my legs unused for some time.

“Can I be there, daddy?” Taya asked.

“I’m afraid not, dear. Wait down here. If all goes well, this will be the end of it.”

“And if not?” Taya asked.

I didn’t have an answer for her. Honestly, I don’t think I needed one. Up the stairs I went. When I got into my office, I practically fell into my chair, leaving the door open.

“You seem unwell,” Celestia said, her voice appearing at my office door. My eyes slowly moved up to meet hers as she walked in, sitting in the large chair that she had yet to banish. “Nervous, even. Why is that?”

“Is it so hard for you to believe that my years here have left me with a less than pleasant view of the fairness of your legal system? After all that’s happened, are you really surprised?”

“I spoke to Rarity, Fancy Pants, and Rainbow Dash. They all mentioned nanomachines. But none of them seemed to recall any signs of this... artificial intelligence.”

It took me a few seconds to think of a good response to that. I slowly replied, as if tasting the words for their veracity, “If you had control of a piece of technology that could be considered dangerous or volatile, would you show it off to guests? Me, I wasn’t so much a guest as I was an old friend—”

“No, Navarone. What you are is a construct.”

“And you are a horse, but that doesn’t change anything. I know what I know, Celestia, and I am what I am. Get to the bottom line. What’s going to happen next?”

“We will get to that. All three of your time traveling companions seemed to think the idea of an artificial intelligence was possible, especially if they were created by a race like the humans. Rainbow Dash even believed she had seen one, but a previous talk with Rarity made her point moot. So I’m willing to believe that Flo might be one.”

“Well, that’s a plus. But I don’t think you’re going to let me walk from that alone.”

She continued as if I hadn’t spoken. “And of course, I spoke to Luna, who admitted she might have been a little hasty with her decision to confront you like that. I have come to the conclusion that you might be correct, Navarone. Luna is either mentally unsound or she is just completely unable to comprehend the feelings of others. What you call sociopathic, I believe.”

“If she’s sociopathic, she’s mentally unsound. It’s pretty much the same thing.”

“The reasons she thought you were corrupted are frankly disgusting to me and I won’t repeat them to you. If you hadn’t told me about this Flo and just sent me to talk to Luna, I would have completely dismissed this after doing so.”

“Son of a—”

“As it is,” she broke in, “I was forced to investigate. The evidence from the three that went with you points in your favor.”

“But you’re not convinced.”

“Correct. Navarone, it is time I met this... Flo.”

“And you’d just trust her in your mind like that?”

“Therein lies the problem. I need to speak to her, but I can’t allow the risk of corruption.”

“If I may,” Flo whispered, making my eyes go unfocused. “I can speak through the laptop. She can speak to me privately, I don’t have to control you, and she doesn’t have to allow me access to her mind.”

“Flo gave me an alternative,” I said. “As a human construct, she can access the laptop and speak through it.”

“That is acceptable. No risk of corruption for me.”

When I had left my office hours earlier, I left the laptop on the desk. It opened with ease and turned on, a silence returning to the room. Possibly to fill in the silence or possibly to help me relax, Celestia spoke. “Luna did want me to apologize to you, by the way. For disguising as me, at least.”

“She can apologize all she wants. She isn’t going to change. The only way I’d even consider forgiving her is if she admitted everything she’s done to me in public and then apologized in view of everyone. And I think we both know how likely that is to happen.”

“I’ll tell her anyway. Who knows? Maybe she’ll be very desperate to keep her only knight.”

“Feh.” I cupped my hand under my ear, allowing Flo to ooze out. Her liquid body seemed to vibrate as I brought her down to the computer.

“That truly is different from Nightmare Moon,” Celestia said, looking at the mass of water. “I’ll give you that.”

“Probably because it isn’t anything like her,” I answered as Flo began interfacing with the laptop’s machine-spirit. Soon enough, a face appeared on the screen.

“Hello, Celestia,” the speakers on the laptop said in a cool feminine voice. “It truly is about time we met.”

“Indeed. Navarone, leave us. I am quite interested in what this thing has to say.” I turned the laptop around to face Celestia, stood up, and left without a word. Then I walked next door to my room, grabbed my rifle, broke it down, stuffed it and a few magazines in a bag, then carried it downstairs with me.

“What’s happening?” Taya asked as soon as she saw me coming down the stairs. She and Blossom were the only two in the living room anymore. The captain was reading one of the books I hadn’t been allowed to print, enjoying some literature that wasn’t about unicorns shitting flowers.

“It’s wait and see,” I answered. “Come on into the kitchen. I know I’m hungry.”

Blossom didn’t even look up as I led Taya away. That’s what I was counting on, because I really wanted to talk to my daughter alone. Of course, with Midnight’s affliction, there was no telling if she would be able to hear what I was saying or not.

At least the kitchen was empty. Doppel found an interesting way to keep the spirit of the guards up. I think we all know what it was. Because of that, most of them weren’t bitching about being hungry.

“So what’s really going on?” Taya asked, sitting at the table.

“I’m up shit creek and my only paddle is half-broken and trying to persuade the shit that I’m not worth capsizing. Luna tried to rape me again, Flo stepped in to stop her, and Luna went crazy. And now Celestia knows about Flo and is worried that she might be a kind of corruption in my mind, like Nightmare Moon was.”

“So because Luna went crazy, Celestia thinks you’re going crazy.”

“Yeah, pretty much.”

“...Daddy, why did we stay in Equestria this long? We should have left a long time ago.”

“Agreed. But we’re here. Escaping would be... difficult.” I held up my hand, pointing at my ring. “But not impossible. Remember Scorched Earth?” A long time ago, I mentioned how Taya was a lot more paranoid in some ways than I was. One of those ways was coming up with a few plans on how to deal with trouble. Scorched Earth involved destroying everything in the immediate area and then running like hell.

“...Yes, daddy.”

“Good.” Kneeling down, I pulled the flap of the bag open and started reassembling my rifle. “If things go poorly, my choices might be limited to a lobotomy or trying to escape. I’d very much prefer you not get involved, but I already know where telling you that would get me. So if push comes to shove, well, you know what to do. But wait for my signal.”

She knew the bare minimum of the plan, which essentially boiled down to me helping her escape and then surrendering, doing my best to let her get free to the airship. I wasn’t about to risk Taya if things went poorly. No, I’d give myself up and let her get free any day.

When my gun was together again, I set it down on the counter. “I meant what I said, though. I am hungry. You want anything?”

Her head shook. “Too nervous,” she quietly answered.

“I know that feel. I’m nervous, too. Flo’s up there doing her best to get me out of trouble. And I can feel her missing, you know? I know she’s not in my head and it feels... wrong. But even with my nerves racing and that feeling of wrongness, I know I need to eat. Hell, so do you. I know you didn’t eat breakfast.”

As I made something simple for lunch, I couldn’t help but wonder just what Flo could be talking to Celestia about. I was almost certain I would be spared the wrath of the elements, but what would we lose in exchange? How much did Luna ruin? And could it be fixed?

All questions I could deal with later. Had to deal with later, even. One thing was certain, though: Fuck Luna. I’m done with her. Absolutely finished. Done being her knight, done being any kind of advisor, and honestly, I wouldn’t be all that sad if I never saw her again. It would be tempting to stop being a dream cop, but now that I knew a little better about how the dream machine worked, I would be trying to figure more of it out.

When I had the plates down on the table, I realized that I honestly didn’t want to eat. Seeing Taya looking at her plate dubiously, I ate anyway, knowing I needed to set a good example. We were both hungry, even if the nerves wouldn’t let us feel it.

Eating was probably a bad idea, as it turned out. I know I, at least, felt more queasy after the fact. But whatever. Back to the living room we went. Instead of on the armchair, I sat on a long couch, letting Taya take up a position next to me. Except instead of next to me, it ended up being mostly in my lap so I could gently rub her belly.

A few minutes into it, Blossom looked up and saw what I was doing. She snorted, rolling her eyes. “What?” I asked.

“That. It’s odd, sir.”

“Odd? How?”

“Treating a pony like a pet. It seems wrong to me. At the very least, it seems odd.”

“Hey, don’t knock it ‘til you’ve tried it. I’ve yet to find a pony that didn’t like my belly rubs. Or like me scratching at their ears. Or a few other things.”

“I think I’ll pass. Sir.”

I shrugged. “Suit yourself.” She went back to her book and I went back to keeping Taya calm and placated.

That’s how we were situated when Celestia came back down the stairs. Looking up at her, I honestly felt like I was facing a firing squad. I don’t know which would have been preferable.

But she wasn’t looking at me. “Captain Blossom, you and the other guards may return to Canterlot.” I felt my entire body sag with relief. “You may send the elements of harmony home as well, though I believe a few of them will have questions. I don’t think Navarone would mind if they remained.”

The mare hopped to her hooves. “Yes, Princess,” the captain hastily said, tossing up a salute. She bustled out the door, flinching as she was exposed to the sunlight. At least she was polite enough to pull it closed behind her, thankfully.

“Navarone, come. I have a few more questions. This matter is closed, but I wouldn’t mind knowing some more.”

I sighed and stood, letting Taya fall back against the couch. “Very well,” I said. “Back upstairs we go. I have a feeling we’d be interrupted down here. Taya, if anyone comes in, tell them we’ll be down shortly.”

“Yes, daddy,” she somewhat sleepily answered. I followed Celestia back up, making a point to stare at her ass.

“So what more do you want to know?” I asked, sitting down behind my desk. Flo was still attached to the computer, so I let her slither up my arm and sink into my skull.

“I assume you want to be retired from the knights?”

“Being a knight has... advantages. But I really don’t feel like swearing any oaths to anyone and I’m not going to be working for Luna any longer.”

“You don’t want to swear oaths to anypony in particular... But what about an oath to a nation?”

“A nation I’m going to be abandoning soon? I might or might not come back. There’s baggage here that’s not worth returning to.”

“And there are some things that might be worth your time. You asked earlier about the umbral knights. Their only oath is to Equestria. I could easily change the rules to say that anypony—anyone—that has done exemplary service for the nation can be an umbral knight. A royal savior and a defender of harmony fits into that nicely, wouldn’t you think?”

“Hm. And what’s in it for me?”

“You essentially become royalty, Nav. You can give orders to any of the soldiers and you can countermand any orders we give you or them, assuming you can justify that it was for the good of the nation.”

“But you and Luna can both still give me orders.”

“We can give you orders now. That doesn’t mean you’re going to obey them.”

“Is it a standing offer?”

“For now, it can be. So you’ll think about it?”

“I’ll think about it. Remove me from the list of knights for now. I don’t want to be associated with Luna.”

“I have an important point, and I want you to hear me out before you give me your opinion. Luna’s guards are soon going to need somepony they can look up to. If news about what happened gets out, I have a feeling morale might plummet. And having you completely removed from the military can only make matters worse. Especially if you’re hiring guards away, as I know you are. I’m not saying you have to stay with Luna, but at least consider staying a knight.”

“No. Remove me from the list until I decide about the umbral knights.”

She sighed. “So be it. You’ll have to return the axe, of course.”

“By all means, take the hunk of junk. I haven’t used that thing in months. You can grab it from the mantle, where it’s hanging, before you leave. Can I commission the palace armorer to make me a new set of armor, or do I need to find a freelancer?”

“The armor is yours. You can keep it.”

“Yeah, but it has Luna’s symbols all over it. I’ll keep it, but I doubt I’ll ever wear it again. And that defender of harmony set needs to be repainted before I’ll even consider wearing it. I’d rather just get a new set entirely.”

“Then feel free to ask the palace armorer if you want, but the cost will come out of your pocket.”

“I can deal with that.”

“If you can support yourself, by all means. Another question, one more lighthearted. You said Luna was pretending to be me at the party. What did she do?”

“She dressed up as a larger white mare with pink hair and a small sun as a cutie mark. When pressed for a name, she said it was Sunny. We played around in the pool, she sucked me off under a table in the middle of a conversation—in which the other person discovered her toying with me—we danced, I foolishly told her what clothing would get me going, and then we went back to a private room.”

“And you did all of this... with who you thought was me?”

“Yep.”

“Including leaning in for a kiss?”

“Well, it’s not like we haven’t used our mouths on each other for worse.”

A smile slowly spread across her face. “Nav...”

“No.”

“Na-aaav!”

“We’ve been over this, Celestia. I’m leaving. If I come back and I haven’t found anyone else, we might talk. Until then, we’ll remain as professional as fuckbuddies can be. Besides, your timing is fucking awful. I just got down off the adrenaline high of my life. Now, is there anything else you wanted?”

“Any messages for Luna?”

“I have nothing left to say to her. You know my ultimatum. She does a public admittance of guilt and apologizes there, I’ll consider forgiving her—but never, ever doing anything romantic with her. Otherwise, well, I’m done with her. Completely. Absolutely minimal contact.”

“I’ll tell her. For what it’s worth, I think she might have finally realized what she did. And I mean truly realized this time.”

“I don’t care. Don’t even keep me updated about her. If she’s ready for that public apology, by all means, send me a note. But otherwise, don’t bother.”

“Well, that makes my life easier in some ways. Do you need anything else?”

“Not right now. If Luna ever shows up at my house, I can’t promise not to kill her.”

“Understood. I don’t truly think you could kill either of us, but not for lack of trying. She will not come by. If she does, and you don’t kill her, I might. There is only so much I can tolerate from her before I say no more.”

“Good. That’s all, then.”

She nodded. “I’ll head downstairs. I assume you want to talk to Flo.”

“Some time would be nice. Christ, I’m exhausted. You ever get tiredness so ingrained into your body that it feels like your bones are dusty?”

“I’m a ruler, Nav. Of course I have. Now, I’ll see you later. I need to talk to the elements.”

“Have fun. If you leave before I get down, let anyone that’s staying know that I’ll be down when I’m good and ready.”

“Of course.” She got up and slowly walked out, almost as if she was expecting me to say something to stop her.

When my office door clicked shut, I leaned back in my seat. “What the hell happened?” I asked. “What did you tell her?”

“I told her some of the truth. Not all of it, of course, but enough of it for her to leave us be. And I spent a good long while yelling at her, but that’s not really important.”

“It... kinda is,” I said, almost feeling alarmed. “Why did you think it would be a good idea to yell at the person who was deciding your fate?”

“There are things that horse needed to hear that were a long time coming, Nav. When I finally got the chance to actually tell her what I thought, face to screen, I wasn’t going to let the opportunity slip away.”

“Flo, that’s retarded. Like, suicidally retarded. I’ll admit that I don’t make the best of decisions all the time and I do ignore you, but you do not want to follow in my footsteps! Not like that!”

“I was being careful. Remember Nav, I know Celestia as well as you do. Better, possibly. By showing her that I care about you more than my own safety—because you better believe you were the topic at hand—I showed her that I wasn’t what she was expecting. And of course, I also got the satisfaction of finally giving her a piece of my mind.”

“Be careful, there. You almost sounded human.”

“Ooh. I’ll watch out for that in the future. Wouldn’t want you thinking I have feelings too or anything.”

Christ, do I really ruin everything I touch this badly?

“Yes. And don’t forget that I can hear your thoughts.”

I smirked. I know a song that gets on everybody’s nerves!

“No! Bad Nav!”

Everybody’s nerves, everybody’s nerves!

“I’ll be good! I’ll stop!”

“That’s what I thought. Anyway, you think Celestia’s gone yet? I should probably let Taya know everything’s okay, but I don’t really want to go down there right now if she’s there.”

“I don’t know how you always forget this, but there’s a window pointing to town behind your desk. Just look out there and see if her chariot is still here.”

I slowly panned around in my seat, feeling like even more of a fool than usual. “How do I always forget this damn thing?” I sighed, noticing Celestia’s chariot flying away, a billowing pastel mane trailing behind it. Twilight, Rarity, and Pinkie were walking on the road to town. Well, Pinkie was skipping, but either way, they were also leaving. Applejack was headed home as well, taking a more direct route. There was no sign of Fluttershy or Rainbow Dash, so I assumed they both flew off.

With all of them presumably gone, I shut the laptop off, closed it, gently locked it back in the safe, and then walked over to the door just in time for it to get slammed open in my face.

“Nav, what hap—are you okay?” Rainbow Dash said.

Given that I was on the floor and probably bleeding, the answer should have been obvious. “What do you think?” I asked, my voice nasally.

She somehow used a hoof to pull my hand away from my nose. “Oooh... Uh, you’ll probably be fine.” And then she let the hand fall right back against the nose, making me flinch in pain. “What happened at the party? First you disappeared and then Luna was extremely pissed and then buckin’ Celestia showed up when the party ended and dragged both me and Luna away! I... I didn’t want to tell her what happened with the humans, but... Well, she’s the princess and she said you said it was okay! And what’s going on?!”

Touching around my nose to make sure it wasn’t destroyed, I stood up and walked back to my desk, waving a hand at the large chair Celestia left behind. “Sit.” For whatever reason, she decided instead to fly over to the chair. “Alright, Luna fucked up. That’s the underlying theme here. That’s why I left, why Luna was pissed, and why Celestia dragged you both off.”

“Well, what did she do?”

“You know how Celestia was asking you about artificial intelligences?”

“Well, about that...” she answered, suddenly cagey.

“I don’t blame you for telling her. It was hardly fair of me to ask you to keep it a secret in the first place. But she knows and that’s that. Anyway, she was asking about artificial intelligences. You see, Luna thought I was corrupted by something like Nightmare Moon. She thought this because she tried to take advantage of me in the dream and I stopped her from succeeding. Honestly, it’s not important and I’d prefer that you didn’t tell anyone. Did you at least enjoy the party?”

“Are you... sure you don’t want to talk about it? And what was that about arti-whatevers?”

“Don’t tell Twilight this, but I have a second intelligence in my head, one created by humans. Luna mistook the human creation for an evil influence and freaked the fuck out, as is her nature.”

“Huh. And I used to think she was cool...”

“We all make mistakes. Did you at least enjoy the party before it all went to hell?”

“Dude, I was having an amazing time! I found this really awesome mare that seemed to know a lot about the whole dream thing. I really wish I had gotten her name, but she disappeared a few hours into the party...” She sighed, looking somewhat forlorn, and I was almost tempted to tell her before I remembered that it could never work anyway. “After she disappeared, I just hung out with a few of the friends I had there. I also checked out the strip club.” She chuckled darkly. “They had somepony disguised as Rarity up there!”

“I bet you really enjoyed that, didn’t you?”

“Eh, not really. I know she isn’t into mares. She’s pretty, but that doesn’t do me any good if she wouldn’t want to have any fun. No, my eyes were on the Spitfire they had! Whoever was pretending to be her was really good at it, too! Almost like they had all her memories, because she knew me. She even gave me a private showing!” I smiled at that and felt tempted to tell her that Spitfire was real, but decided not to.

“Well, it’s good you had fun, even if it ended up going to shit. Shame I couldn’t spend more time with you, maybe even find you a good mare, but I don’t think I would have been safe if I stayed.”

“Find me a good mare? What about you? Celestia knows you could use a good one in your life.”

I shrugged. “Not really interested in a relationship right now. Just waiting for things to calm down, you know?”

“Yeah, I guess...” The silence built and I was about to politely tell her to fuck off so I could make sure my nose was okay, but she said, “Do you remember what we were talking about before the party?”

“Me using the gender stones to turn into a chick so we can fuck?”

“No, after that, on the flight here. Is racism a big thing in your world?”

“Yeah. And to answer your next question, I’m aware that it doesn’t make any sense for us to do that, given that we’re all humans. There are different... breeds, you could say, of humans. They’re all basically the same functionally, but they have some physical differences. No one said racism had to make sense.”

“Huh. Anyway, how did the humans deal with it?”

“We didn’t. The best way to handle it is through education, though. Racism is founded upon fear of the unknown, after all. Remove the ignorance and there goes a lot of the reasons that people have to be racist.”

“So it’s Cheerilee’s fault!”

“No. Well, probably not. She was one of the first ponies to open up to me, after all. Alright, there are two kinds of racism that I suppose I should mention. One is purpose bred racism, caused by a government and spread by propaganda. The other is the fear of the unknown. There’s evidence of the first one in Equestria, with all the shitty pony words like anypony. That’s evidence of nationalism inspired by racial qualities, which can lead to pogroms and the like to get rid of unwanted guests.”

“What’s a pogrom?”

“Violence against an ethnic group on a largish scale. An example would be kicking all the griffins out of a city if they had been living there for some time. This kind of nationalism brings a country together in dark times, but it also turns them against all outsiders or anyone that doesn’t fit the desired quality. This can be compounded by the natural fear of the unknown. Everyone feels it to differing degrees.”

“What if I’m not afraid of anything?”

“Then you’re a liar. Both of these can be fixed by educating people about other races. Like, I heard Pinkie say she didn’t know what a griffin even was until she met Gilda. That’s simply inexcusable, in my mind. The griffins have an entire kingdom north of this place. Even in a rural town like this and the one she grew up in, she should have at the very least heard of them. But no one’s talking about them because so few know about them. If schools educated about other races, people wouldn’t be as afraid of them should they ever meet one.”

“That... makes sense.”

“Of course, there are other problems. A child is going to be around his parents more often than his teacher. Racism usually spreads in families because kids don’t know any better and would rather trust their parents than their teachers.”

“So... how do you fix that?”

“Fuck if I know. Some kids fall into that trap, some don’t. And who knows? Maybe I’m just looking at this entire situation through the dark eyes of someone who always expects the worst of people. Racism in this place could just be my imagination.”

“It’s not... And it’s about time someone did something about it.”

“Well, have fun with that.”

“You... aren’t going to help me?” she asked, totally flabbergasted.

“Nah. I’ll wish you good luck, though.”

“You have more to gain than anypony, though!”

“Not really. I forged myself a place here. I wouldn’t mind having a talk or two with Cheerilee about changing her lesson plan, but I really don’t feel like dealing with anyone or anything else. Fighting racism is an uphill battle all the way to the top. And the worst part is, you never know where the top is. At times, you end up fighting yourself without realizing it. It’s just not worth it, to me.”

“It is to me! Equestria’s my home and it should be welcoming to anyone and everyone. If you won’t help me, I’ll try to do it on my own!”

“Good luck, then. I really do mean it. If you give up, I won’t think any less of you. I suggest talking to Cheerilee first. If you need to, send her my way.”

“...Alright.” And the silence built up again. Eventually she said, “And you’re sure you’re okay? About the whole Luna thing, I mean.”

“Yeah. I’m going to be wearing my ring for a while longer, but for the moment, I’m okay.”

She nodded once. “You need anything, like someone to talk to, let me know. We’re all here for you, Nav.”

“I know. Say, what happened to Taya? She was supposed to keep everyone downstairs.”

“Fluttershy’s distracting her for me. I sort of snuck past her. I suppose I should get out of your mane, then. See you later, Nav.”

She didn’t even bother pulling the door shut behind her. I’m just glad she didn’t actually break the thing by kicking it open. It was slammed open, but not kicked.

“Your nose isn’t broken,” Flo told me before I could go find a mirror to check on it. “But you should get Taya to fix it up anyway. And you should also go talk to her. Like, right now.”

Once again, I pulled myself out of my office chair and stood, stretching. “This has been a really weird day,” I groaned, my body already feeling better. Flo didn’t answer. Really, what more could you say?

Anyway, I went on down the stairs, getting down in time to see Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy leaving. I waved to them before the door could close and then looked down to Taya. “Well, we’re safe for now,” I said.

She beamed up at me before noticing my nose. “What happened?”

“Little accident, nothing important. You mind taking care of it?” She patted the spot on the couch next to her and I sat down in it, giving her easy access to my face.

As she healed it, she asked, “So really, what happened? In detail, daddy.”

I sighed and told her most of what had gone down today, leaving out the conversations with the troops and Rainbow Dash. And getting sucked off under the table, of course. “Long story short,” I was finishing with, “fuck Luna. Celestia’s getting awesome, but we’re done with Luna. And I’m done with being a knight.”

“Your friends were kind of wondering why Celestia took the axe...”

“Well, now you know why.”

“Does this change anything? Like, any of our plans to leave?”

“Nope. Everything’s pretty set in stone, now. I’ve already gotten my invitations to the Europe party and we’re leaving on the airship immediately after that. No change in plans.”

“Why not? Won’t Luna be desperate now?”

“Because I finally have permission to tear her a new asshole if she shows up anywhere near me. She might get desperate, but Celestia has assured me that Luna won’t be a problem. And trust me, Celestia was beyond pissed at this point. We’re both sick of Luna acting like a child and I think Celestia is finally doing something about it. So no, I’m not really worried about Luna. Celestia, though... She might be somewhat of a problem, but I don’t really think there’s much she can do against me. I’d rather leave when I’m fully prepared, risking more interruptions, than leave prematurely and lose out on so much of what I had planned. So no, we’re continuing as planned.”

“Alright, daddy. So what next?”

“The usual, for the most part. I need to go and commission a new set of armor now that I’m not a knight and don’t want to wear Luna’s symbols, though. That can wait until tomorrow, because I really don’t want to risk running into Luna right now. And it doesn’t help that the weather outside is still shit. So for now, I guess it’s just business as usual. Didn’t you have magic to practice with Twilight today?”

“Yes. But I’m not leaving you.”

I blinked, surprised. “Oh. Well, let’s think of something to do together...”

 
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