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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97. Chapter Eighty—Sometimes I can’t help but wonder if I bring things on myself

My second visitor of the day—the first being Spike—was Rainbow Dash. Doppel knocked on my door again some time later and poked her head in at my call. “Rainbow Das—Hey!”

The door was kicked open and Doppel was thrown out of the way by a somewhat irate looking Dash. “There you ar—Who’re you?” she asked, looking at Gilda.

The griffin stood from where she had been on the bed. “My name is Gilda.”

“No way! I know another griffin whose name is Gilda! Is that a common name there or something?”

Gilda nodded. “It is common for the upper nobility, yes. I am a friend of this other Gilda, here visiting Navarone.”

Dash blinked a few times, seemingly remembering something. “Oh yeah! You!” She turned her eyes on me, glaring at me and stalking toward the bed. “Why didn’t you tell me you were back home?! You aren’t supposed to make bros worry like that, Nav!”

“Dash, I can’t move. I’m bedridden.”

“That didn’t stop you from getting word to Rarity, of all ponies!”

She was about to keep talking, but Taya’s horn lit up and an aura of light appeared around her mouth. “If you don’t stop yelling, I will remove you,” Taya calmly said. “Now, daddy, would you please explain?”

Dash was looking increasingly angry, so I figured it would be best to get it out quickly. “I needed something from Rarity so I had someone go fetch her. When I got back from the hospital yesterday, I knew I needed time to rest. A ton of visitors wouldn’t give me that time. I’m sorry for not letting the news get out, but you know how your friends are. I had to ask Fluttershy to leave when she came by with Rarity.” I nodded at Taya and she released Dash’s muzzle.

Dash snorted. “Alright. You have a point. But you still should have told me! You know I wouldn’t have told anypo—one if you asked me not to.”

I nodded. “I know you wouldn’t have. And again, I apologize for not letting you know. At the time, it seemed like the best idea to not tell anyone. I’m still worried what Pinkie will do when she finds out.”

“She already knows,” Dash said. “Twilight and Rarity are still explaining to her why having a coming home party would be a bad idea.”

“They should add that Taya would toss her out the window.”

“I don’t think they’ll forget that,” Dash said, casting a short furtive glance at my daughter. “Oh, and another thing I just remembered. Make sure Twilight doesn’t see Spike playing with the naga. I say she coddles him too much, but she is his caretaker.”

“As far as I’m concerned, he can make his own choices. But I will give him a warning. I mean, there’s not much I can do right now to make sure it doesn’t happen, but I can try.”

“…Right, bedridden. I thought you said you were tough, Nav. Remember the time we outflew the dragons at the migration? This is nothing compared to that!”

That was surface burns. Really bad surface burns, but still. This was getting stabbed in the chest and having my body infused with magic that not even Celestia can break. Being tough is why I’m still alive. And being smart is why I don’t try to get out of bed or push myself.”

“So you can’t get out of bed at all?”

“Not without help. It sucks.”

“I bet… The last time I was stuck in a hospital bed, I almost went crazy! How can you deal with that?”

I pulled out the laptop from where I had hidden it at the knock on the door. “Human movies, Taya, Gilda. I have my ways.”

She looked at the laptop, her eyes slowly growing wider and her wings twitching. “So… You have human movies on that thing?” she asked. “What about some of those… other ones you showed me? The… porn?” That last word was barely whispered.

“I don’t know; I haven’t checked.” And that’s the truth, actually. I never really thought about it until then. “Even if it does, though, you won’t be watching it until I’m better because I’m not letting anyone use this laptop but me.”

“Oh… I understand, I guess. So, do you have any message for the girls? I kinda need to get back to work, but I have time to tell them something.”

“Nah. Just ask Spike to come talk to me. I want to give him that warning in person.”

“Will do, Nav! And hey, try to get better. Wouldn’t want one of my favorite humans to be down and out, after all.”

One of? I thought I meant more to you than that…”

“Cry me a river. See you later, Nav. And say hi to the other Gilda for me, Gilda.”

We both nodded as she merrily left. When the door clicked shut, Gilda immediately whirled on me. “Well, get it started again. With all these interruptions, I doubt I can get much done, but anything is better than nothing!”

“You need to chill out,” I said, opening the laptop again. I hit play and turned to Taya. “Can you get me a scrap of paper and a pen, please?”

She reached to a nightstand that I thought was empty and opened a drawer, using magic to pull out a notepad and a pen. I pulled them from the air with a nod and wrote out a quick note for Doppel. ‘I can’t feed you this month. However, you still need to eat. Spike’s young, strong, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s willing. He’s also extremely innocent. If you can get him, try not to weaken him too much, but do try to teach him some things. – Nav’

I tore the page out, folded it a few times, and set the pen and notepad aside. I don’t know why I keep trying to get Spike laid, but I was hoping that it would work this time.

Five minutes later, there was a knock on the door and Gilda snarled in frustration. I hid the laptop again and called for the knocker to enter. Doppel let Spike in immediately. “What do you need, Nav?” he asked, leaving the door open.

“First, you need to be careful when you’re practicing with the naga if you don’t want anyone to find out. Dash saw you as she was flying in. Twilight would have both of our hides if she caught you out there.”

He rolled his eyes. “Nav, I’m only hiding this because you asked me to. I don’t care if Twilight finds out. What’s she gonna do, scold me? Try to spank me? There’s a reason I’m going with you, Nav.”

“Well now you got me interested. And I did want to ask, actually. Why did you decide to go?”

He snorted and I swear a small jet of steam shot out of his nose. “I finally asked Rarity on a date. No roundabout, no helping her with anything and hoping to be noticed. Just, ‘Rarity, do you want to go out sometime?’” He paused for a moment and I think I heard his teeth grinding. “She got a look on her face like Fluttershy in front of a crowd. After a moment, she finally giggled and turned me down. And then she suggested I find a nice colt my own age.

My mouth slowly dropped. I think Gilda was snickering, but I could barely hear her over the sound of pure shock. “That… bitch!” I finally managed to blurt out. Surely she knew! She fucking has to know! “Are you sure she wasn’t joking?”

“She offered to set me up with somepony.”

I slowly lowered my head into my hands, thinking of a good solution for this. “Alright, I have an idea for revenge. I can get you a book from my world called The Game.”

“No.” I looked back up to find Spike shaking his head. “I don’t want revenge. I just want to get out of this place.”

“You’re a better man than I, then. Last time she called me gay, I slapped her so hard she almost started bleeding.” I shrugged, leaning back. “What made you finally decide to ask her, then?”

“Your offer. I thought about it for a few weeks. I’ve been studying the world ever since we got back from Egypt, thinking about traveling and learning more about myself. I like the ponies, but I don’t feel like I can stay here forever. But I thought I could give it a chance, maybe a few more years… And then you made your offer. So I decided to see if there was a reason to stay.” His face hardened. “There wasn’t. So I’m going with you. And I’m going to learn to be useful, whether or not Twilight likes it.”

This is a side of Spike I don’t think I’ve ever seen before… I don’t like it. “Alright. If you change your mind, I won’t judge you. Hasty decisions are made in anger, after all.” He snorted again. “Either way, I’d ask you to tell no one that I’m leaving.”

“Alright. You need anything else? I don’t have much time before I need to get back, and the naga says I need to learn some basic forms.”

“…Yeah, one thing.” I tossed the note to him. “Give that to Doppel. Wait to see if she has a response. If not, go on down to the naga.”

“Okay. See you later, Nav.” And out he went. I set the laptop back up before Gilda could bitch at me.

I really was hoping Spike’s attitude got better. That kind of darkness didn’t fit him at all. I was assuming he’s still angry about what happened and that’s why he sounded like he did. If not, I’d have a talk with him or something.

 

My next visitor was Shining Armor. Gilda was on a break doing whatever she did when she wasn’t absorbing information like an Asian. “Hey, Nav. How you feeling?”

I pointed to the foot of the bed, where I had a sign put up that said, ‘Fine. Tired and can’t move much, but fine.’

He looked up, the beginning of a smile on his face. “You think of everything, don’t you?”

I quickly held up another sign I made on the off chance Shining Armor actually stopped by. It simply said, ‘I try to leave nothing to chance.’ I laughed at the look on his face. “I wasn’t even expecting you to visit. I’ve just been bored out of my mind and writing notes down to fuck with people.”

“You always find new ways to surprise me. So what were you planning on doing for this month’s strategy session?”

“…Oh yeah. Totally forgot about it.”

“That is certainly understandable given the circumstances. I’ll tell my officers they have the day off.”

“Now now, I never said that. Unless they feel like coming to my house—which they don’t because I won’t let them in—I can give them homework. I ordered a copy of a human game and it was finished yesterday. It’s called chess. It’s all about strategy and thinking ahead. And there’s something else I can do in my free time that would be better than trying to fuck with people. I’ll copy down a few books from my world, The Art of War and The Prince. I’ll get the manuscripts for those books and the rules and plans for chess by the end of the week. Feel free to do whatever you want with the chess boards after you guys are done with them, but I want those books and every copy of them you make burned when all of your officers are finished with them.”

“That’s pretty extreme, dude. If you want them burned, why make us read them in the first place?”

“They’re great research material for what you’re trying to do. However, they paint humanity in a light that I don’t like. Both of those books are dark and devious and not things that need to be read. Whatever you do, do not let any of the princesses see them. I do not want anyone that’ll actually be in a position of power to be reading The Prince.

“…I’m a prince, Nav.”

“First, I imagine your wife will be doing most of the ruling because this place is misandristic as fuck. Second, both of you will probably be puppets for Celestia anyway, so it hardly matters. Third, you’re too kind and innocent to take the directions here to heart. Celestia and Luna aren’t, not that they don’t know the things in here anyway.”

“You can be really insulting sometimes, Nav.” He didn’t sound particularly upset. I figured he already knew all of what I said and had come to terms with it. “But I’ll do my best to burn every copy. If an officer takes one of the books home, though, he could possibly get it copied without me knowing.”

“Then don’t let them take any copies home. They can do whatever they want with chess, which should be plenty enough.”

“I’ll do what I can, then. You need anything while I’m here?”

“Yeah. I need you to spend time with your wife, kid, and sister.”

He grinned. “Don’t worry. I have the whole day off.”

“Well, don’t let me keep you. I’ll have those books and the rules to you by next week.”

“Excellent. It feels like I’m forgetting something… but it’s probably not important if I forgot it. I’ll talk to you later, Nav.”

When he was out, I sighed. “Not being able to get out of bed is annoying,” I said.

“Well, maybe you’ll think of that next time you’re about to turn your back on someone that hates you,” Taya answered.

“How was I supposed to know he would stab me? Why are you so pissed about that?” I think I heard Flo sigh as Taya glared at me.

“Because you keep almost dying right in front of me! I’m not going to lose you like I lost my—” She cut off suddenly, looking away and blushing in anger.

I sighed, running a hand through my hair. “I don’t plan on dying, Taya.”

“I know, because I won’t let you. I didn’t know how to protect my parents, but you made sure I learned how to protect you. I won’t let anything happen to you, daddy.”

There was no way to answer that without making her angrier, and I figured giving her time to cool off would be smart. I felt something smack me in the back of the head and Flo said, “Navarone, there are very few things I will ever try to force you to do. But if you don’t ask that girl what happened to her parents right now, I will take control and do it for you.”

It’s not my business!

I felt a spike of cold in the front of my brain and my mouth opened involuntarily. “Taya… do you want to talk about what happened to your parents?” Flo said through my mouth. Ungrateful bitch! Flo just sniffed.

Taya looked down. I was about to devise some punishment for Flo when Taya very quietly said, “It was a dark night, no moon. We were traveling, looking for a place to stay in the city. I… I can barely remember it. No one likes ponies in Catro; few inns would even let us inside. We were on our way to the third when we were surrounded by thieves. My dad… he was a pegasus. My mom screamed to take me and fly, she’d hold them off… He didn’t want to, but… he grabbed me anyway.”

She took a deep, shuddering breath and I put a hand on her head, gently stroking her hair. I was about to tell her that she didn’t have to keep going when she sniffled and continued, “We didn’t get far. Cats like to poison their weapons and he got hit when we were fleeing. We… ended up in some back alley. He was gasping for breath on the ground, struggling to get up. I heard someone coming and tried to make him stand up, to run with me. One of the cats slowly walked down the alley, a knife held in one paw. Someone yelled something I barely heard from the panic I felt … ‘No witnesses.’”

This is when the tears finally fell. I saw her body shaking as she stared at the floor, a few drops hitting the ground. Again, I went to tell her to stop, but she kept going at a whisper, “I started backing away as he came closer. I wanted to protect my father, I wanted to save him... But I was too scared, too weak. After pulling the purse off my dad’s side, he looked at me with eyes like a void… And turned around. ‘I don’t see any witnesses.’”

Her back legs slumped, pushing her lower body to the floor. “I just knew as soon as I let my guard down, he would turn around and that would be it. I stood petrified, watching him as he walked out of the alley. When I finally got the courage to move, I ran to my father’s side and collapsed next to him. He held me in his wings as he slowly grew cold, weakly whistling an old song as I cried.”

“…How long were you alone?” I asked.

“I don’t know…”

I was silent for a few seconds, not knowing what else to really say. There was a reason I never asked her about this. I didn’t want to know, I didn’t know how to handle it, and I hate talking about stuff like this.

Finally, I settled for saying, “You don’t have to worry about being alone again. I’m here, and I will never leave you.” It probably wasn’t smart to say, but being comforting was more important than being smart, I thought.

She finally looked up at me and I could see tears falling from her face. “Promise me,” she whispered, her voice somewhat hoarse.

Fuck me for being a fool. “I promise, honey,” I quietly said, already regretting making a promise I might not be able to keep. Taya batted the hand on her head away and jumped onto my bed, wrapping me in a hug. She was thankfully considerate enough to avoid smacking into my wound. I quickly hugged her back, trying to block out the nagging voice in the back of my mind that was saying I just made a big mistake. I was doing my best to instead turn that voice into one of sorrow for Taya or jubilation that I had finally gotten her to open up, but it wasn’t working.

It made me wonder just what kind of monster I had turned into.

That night, Flo pulled me into a darkened version of her copse. I was about to ask her why it was dark out, but before I had the chance, she flowed over me, gently laying me down on the ground. “We need to talk,” she said when I was down and couldn’t move.

Here we go…

“Don’t be like that.”

I should have known this would happen when I let a woman live in my head.

“You say that like it’s a bad thing. I’m not going to yell at you, Nav. And stop thinking at me; it makes you look immature.”

“Bah. It’s just you and me here. I can act as immature as I want, you stupid ugly face.”

“Ouch, my feelings.” She didn’t sound that upset. “We need to talk about your interactions with Taya. Do you know why she decided to stay with you, Nav?”

“Because she’s stupid?”

“If you weren’t injured, I would hurt you. You remind her of her real father, Nav. Your wings, for one. And do you remember the night you first found her, when you whistled as you carried her? She associates you with her real father, for better or for worse.”

“Probably worse. What does this have to do with anything?”

“For one, it answers a question you keep asking, of why she stays with you. For another, it explains why she’s so protective—a trait that I imagine will only get much, much worse if you don’t take some steps to curtail it. And finally, it explains how you can make her happier.”

“So what steps do I need to take to get her to tone down her protectiveness?”

“Not getting into danger would help the most, of course. And spending much more time with her would also help, because I do believe she has some abandonment issues. Of course, you’ll be spending a good chunk of time with her now, but you know what I mean. Getting more invested with her would be good. Asking her questions, how her day was, what she learned with Twilight or her new teacher, things like that. She knows you don’t much care for magic, so you need to do better to support her special talent, since that is now how she is defined. And you absolutely must make it plain that you trust her.”

“She already knows I trust her. The only person I trust more than Taya is you. And I already do some of those things.”

“Navarone, I’ve seen your interactions with her. They’re hollow, done because you know they’re required more than anything else. You take little joy in them and I believe she knows it. You need to participate more and sound enthusiastic. I get that you’re sociopathic and broken and what-have-you, but I know you’re better at acting than what you do with her. And we both know that if you pretend something for long enough, it usually becomes true.”

I sighed, nodding. “Alright. I may be stupid in some ways, but I know you’re right. I’m willing to do whatever I can to make up for the neglect, if that’s the right word for it.”

“I’m happy to hear that, Navarone. And I will be sure to remind you as we go along. I know how easy it can be to fall back into old habits.”

“Excellent. You spoil me sometimes, Flo.”

“Anything for my favorite human. Now, would you like me to find some old memories of how fathers should act for their daughters?”

“Honestly, no. But I suppose if it’ll help, sacrifices can be made.”

“Now you’re getting it.” Some manner of screen appeared above us and a video of some of Flo’s old lizard subjects began to play.

 

Come the next morning, I got an expected visitor: A wizened unicorn stallion with a letter. “Name’s Fiery Sage,” he said by way of introduction as he floated the letter to me.

“Navarone,” I answered. “And this is Taya.” He nodded as I broke the seal on the letter and pulled it out.

‘This is Fiery Sage, an old guard instructor. He used to be a menace to all the recruits back in the day, but he’s calmed down since then. He won’t go too hard on your filly, but she’ll definitely need to be ready to learn. My favor only lasts for two months, because even old friends can only work for so long before they want to enjoy their retired life again, so make sure she learns as much as she can in that time. – W’

I folded the letter back up. “Welcome to my home, Mister Sage. Did you find accommodations in town, or do you need a place to stay?”

“I’m shacking up with an old guard friend that lives here. He doesn’t mind the company. I heard about your injury—though pretty much everypony did, with it plastered over the newspapers. Such a thing wouldn’t have happened back in my day, I swear.”

I shrugged. “It’s no one’s fault but my own. I shouldn’t have turned my back on that slimeball. But that isn’t really important, I don’t suppose. When do you want to start teaching Taya?”

“Immediately. Combat magic is very different from regular magic in ways that most ponies don’t realize. It’s best she learn the differences now so she can begin accommodating for them.”

Taya looked up at me, not wanting to leave. I didn’t really want her to leave either, because I had been planning on talking to her today. But I realized that this was probably very important if the guy was talking about it like this. “He’s the instructor,” I said. “We can spend time together later, Taya.”

She sighed, looking away. “Okay, daddy…” She looked over to the instructor. “Can we start in here?”

“I wouldn’t want to destroy your father’s room. There is a nice looking backyard that we can practice in without fear of destroying anything too important, I believe.”

“As long as neither of you get hurt, I can shell out the cash for property damage,” I said. “Just be careful. And Taya, send up Doppel on your way down. She won’t be as much fun to be around as you, but I’d rather not be alone if I need something.”

The instructor’s ears twitched, a sign he noticed something odd. “Doppel is a changeling name. Watcher mentioned you had a tame one. What other surprises lurk here?”

“A naga, a princess in hiding, and Freki over there.” I pointed at the wolf, who had until that point been silent.

The instructor turned his head to the wolf, eyes slowly going wide. “How did I not notice that?”

“He can be pretty quiet and unnoticeable. It helps that he’s made of wood and doesn’t breathe. Everything here is harmless until you fuck with it, though.”

“I’ll remember that. Taya, are you ready?”

She nodded and followed him out the door, giving me a single backwards glance. I really wish I didn’t have to send her away, but she was the one that said she wanted the instructor. I sighed as the door slid shut. “Well, now what?” I asked to no one in particular.

“Navarone, it might have been a mistake to ask for Doppel,” Flo commented.

“Why?”

“The laptop. When Gilda comes by, you’ll have to send Doppel away. That might be suspicious.”

“Hm. Tell me honestly: Do you think I can trust Doppel?”

“I don’t know, Nav. I think you can. I am good at picking up on lies. Not perfect, but good. And I don’t think Doppel is lying when she says that she is loyal to you now.”

“Do you think I should trust her, then?”

“You have to put yourself at some risks to build trust with others. I think it’s worth the risk, yes.”

“Alright. I suppose I can take the risk. Lord knows that I could use some more trustworthy people around here. If she betrays me, it just means I’ll have to kill all the thieves Chrysalis sends to get it.”

“Nav, I believe if you are betrayed at this junction, your best bet would be getting relocated to Canterlot, or asking Shining Armor to keep a shield around your house.”

“I’ll cross that bridge if I come to it.” There was a gentle tap on my door and I called for whoever it was to come in.

Doppel stepped on in. “You wanted to see me, master?” she asked.

“Taya is busy learning magic, so I no longer have my personal assistant filly. If you aren’t too busy, would you mind filling the position?”

“Of course, master! And I took your advice regarding the young dragon. It was an… interesting experience.”

“Interesting in a good way or a bad way?”

“Dragon sperm is very hot. We’ll be more careful in the future.” She giggled as she walked over to my bed. “It’s always fun to teach young lovers. They’re so easy to mold into whatever you want them to be.”

“Let me guess: You’re trying to turn him into a little cock slut.”

“Ooh, if only! That little tongue of his… Mmm. No, just a few things I like a bit more than others. If he doesn’t know much anyway, he’d hardly complain if I conditioned him, now would he?”

I shrugged. “Not my business what you do in bed. Just do try not to ruin him. And definitely make sure he doesn’t fall in love with you, unless you really want him to.”

“I know how to handle virgins, Nav.” She shrank in size and flew up to my shoulder, plopping down. “So what have you been doing for fun in here?”

“Remember how you said you were loyal to me? I’ve decided you could use a little more trust, Doppel. I’ve been hiding a few things from you, things I think it is time to let you be privy to.”

I reached under the blanket and she scoffed. “I already know all about that, master.” When the laptop came out, she turned her head. “That’s different. What’s so big about that?”

I opened it up and turned it on. “Needless to say, all of what I’m about to tell you is not going to leave this room. I’m putting my trust in you, Doppel. Now, a few months ago, I put together an expedition of sorts. The details aren’t important. The destination, however, is: We went to my home, the world of humans. I got some technology while I was there. This laptop is one of those pieces of technology. It stores massive amounts of information, including a lot of entertainment. The main problem is that it’s all in a language you can’t understand. That doesn’t stop music from being enjoyable, though.”

“…So that’s why I kept hearing music coming from up here. My lips are sealed, master.”

“Excellent. Well, what kind of music do you like?”

“We never have much music in the hives. Sound carries too far in the caves, after all.”

“I would have hated growing up without music… Let’s see. You’re black. How about rap?”

All changelings are black. It is a massive generalization that I would like a certain music based on the color of my carapace.”

“Fine. Let’s see… This is an obscure search, but let’s see if they put “Here in the Dark” on this thing.”

“Sounds sexy. I like it already.” Surprisingly enough, they did have it. I loaded it up for her.

“Without understanding the lyrics, it probably won’t work as well for you, but you might like it anyway.”

And so the next half hour went until Gilda’s lazy ass got out of bed and traipsed on in. “You ready to—What’s she doing here?”

“Being my personal pocket assistant,” I said, patting the shirt pocket that Doppel had taken residence in. “You want to start studying more shit?”

“I am not certain that it would be wise, with a changeling here.”

“Well, there’s the door. You’re welcome to wait until Taya is done with her lessons and can take her spot back at my side.”

Her beak clamped shut, a sign in griffins that they’re rather upset. “Fine,” she eventually said. “We’ll go onto something less useful, like farming. It’s not like changelings need food anyway.”

I shrugged and opened the few files I had for farming techniques, throwing them up on the projector. That done, I stopped the music and hunted down The Art of War while Gilda began taking notes. “Doppel, would you kindly open my nightstand and get me a pen and some paper?”

She latched her front legs over the side of my pocket and pulled herself out, stretching her teeny wings. After a moment, she took off and changed size when she got far enough away from me. From there, it was a simple matter of passing me what I needed. I started copying down the book as she flew back into my pocket, reading what I was writing.

I knew I was in for a long, dull day.

My long day was interrupted by a knock on the door. I had already been visited by most of my friends the day before—the visits were just the standard ‘how are you feeling’ thing mixed with the typical hospital bed bullshit, so I didn’t record them—so I was wondering who this was. “Come on in,” I called, closing the laptop and sliding it under my blanket.

Much to my surprise, my guest was Cheerilee. She had some manner of box on her back. “Hello, Navarone. How are you feeling?”

“Well enough. What brings you by, Cheerilee?”

“Oh, the usual. The new school year is about to begin and I was going to try unsuccessfully to convince you to make Taya go to school. She’s really very bright and shouldn’t be limited by not having a proper education.”

“I know, and I very much regret not putting her in school when we first got here. However, I didn’t, and now it’s too late to rectify that mistake. You are free to ask her yourself; she’s in the backyard with her new instructor, learning more magic. I can almost guarantee that she’ll say no, though.”

She sighed and nodded. “I know. Why is it too late, if you don’t mind me asking?”

“She got her cutie mark and it’s not something that would benefit from schooling. In fact, I would say that it would probably not be a good idea for anyone to have her in school right now. It’s better she stick with the instructor I found for her.”

“Forgive me for disagreeing, Nav, but I believe no matter the career or special talent of a pony, a well-rounded basic education is extremely important. Even more important is the social contact that Taya would receive while in school among fillies and colts of her own age.”

“Once again, we agree. However, her cutie mark marks her as being good at combat magic. As you and I both know, there are bullies in your school. I don’t want Taya to get near them if I can help it. I try to teach her right and wrong, but she’s still a child and might consider the easiest way out to be the best way, no matter the harm to the others.”

“I see. I’m still going to ask her. Anypony can be taught not to hurt others, as violence should never be the answer.”

“I wish I agreed with you. I really, really do. And I wish the rest of the world did as well. Sadly, both Taya and I come from places in the world that disagree, and the fight or flight responses were drilled into us. I’m trying to ease them out of her, but she reflexively shot two people that were going after me. If she did that out of sheer reflex, I’d hate to see what she does to someone she hates.”

“Hmm… I’ll talk to her. Even if I can’t convince her to finally come to school, maybe I can remind her what separates ponies from the animals in the Everfree.”

“Good luck. I really hope you’re successful.”

“So do I, Navarone. And by the way, one of my students asked me to drop this off when she heard you were injured.” She reached behind her and put the package on the bed, next to Gilda. Gilda shrugged and pushed it back to me. I opened it on up and was immediately hit by the smell of something sweet. Whatever was in the box was wrapped in a very soft cloth. I gently took it out and unfolded the cloth, beholding quite a lot of candy.

“Oh, cool. Tell that student I said thanks, Cheerilee. I don’t get candy that much anymore.”

“I’ll be sure to tell her. Do you need anything before I go?”

 “Nah. Thanks for the offer, though. Be sure to talk to Taya, and thanks for the visit.”

“Of course. See you later, Nav.” I took up a candy cane as Cheerilee left, tasting it.

“Huh. It tastes off for some reason,” I said, trying it again. “Not bad, though. Maybe it’s just homemade?”

I heard Doppel moving around a lot down in my shirt. I looked down to see that she was eyeing the candy. “Bring that closer,” she said. I moved the cloth over to her and she tilted her head at it, looking somewhat confused. “Um. I don’t know how to tell you this Nav, but I think that filly has a crush on you.”

“Why do you say that?” I asked, sucking on the candy cane.

“I can feel lust emanating from these. And from that candy cane, now that I think about it.”

My mind went completely blank as I slowly pulled the candy cane from my mouth, looking down at it. It didn’t look any different, but now that I thought about it, I could feel a tiny bit of dampness on the cloth in my hand.

I looked over to the cloth with the rest of the candy on it. Everything there was something that could be inserted into a certain place. I slowly lifted the cloth and its contents up to my face, taking in a deep breath. Yeah. That filly did something very inappropriate here. I looked back to the candy cane very slowly.

And then I stuck it back in my mouth. “I’ve done worse.”

Gilda sniffed, turning away. “Ponies are disgusting,” she said. “I’ll be back when that filth is gone.” She hopped off the bed and haughtily walked away.

“That griffin needs to get laid,” Doppel said when she was gone. “Say, can I have some?”

“Help yourself. I want it gone or hidden before Taya gets back, because there ain’t no way in hell I’m letting her have any.”

I think pigging out on sex candy with a changeling might be one of the strangest things I have ever and will ever do.

The next day, my habit of unexpected visitors continued. “Bon-Bon? What brings you by?”

“A friend can’t just visit another friend?” she asked, casting a quick glance at Gilda.

I took the hint. “True enough. Gilda, let’s take a short break. It’s been a while since I saw Bonnie.”

“Last time I try learning from someone in a sickbed,” she growled as she stalked past Bon-Bon. She tried slamming the door, but Bonnie’s hoof stopped it before it could make too much noise.

“Sorry for interrupting whatever that was,” she said, her eyes flashing blue as she turned back to me. “It’s just… nopony else knows my secret. And… Well, I think it’s time to change that.”

“Hey, Doppel here knows.” I patted the pocket with my changeling.

“Yes, but she’s not a pony. I’m talking about Lyra, Nav. I want to come clean. I keep wanting to pop the question to her, but I can’t do it while I’m living this lie… It’s time I finally told her.”

“Are you really sure that’s wise?” I asked. “I mean, I support honesty in relationships; it’s how they grow and thrive. But a good degree of lying is also required sometimes to make things work. If you take this risk, there’s a chance it could backfire horribly.”

“I don’t care if it’s wise or not. It’s unfair to Lyra to keep up this charade. I’m tired of lying to her, Navarone. I… I love her, and I’m going to tell her the truth. If she leaves me, she leaves me. I just can’t continue living this lie to somepony that I love.”

“Admirable, if foolish. So why are you telling me?”

“Well, the support of the great hero of the changelings and the ponies would mean a lot to me. And if… if Lyra reacts negatively, I might need a place to stay until I can get back to the hives for reassignment.”

“I don’t think that’ll be necessary. But you have my support, Bon-Bon. It warms my heart to see that there are still mares like you in the world. As much as you two love each other, I think she’ll accept you. Just be willing to give her some time, because it’ll probably be very shocking for her.”

She nodded. “I know. I’m willing to give her all the time she needs. Hopefully… it won’t be too long.”

“However long it takes, you’re welcome here. I’m sure it won’t be long, though.”

She gave me a small smile. “I hope. I’ll see you later, Navarone. Get well soon.”

When Bon-Bon was out of my room and the door safely closed, Doppel shifted around in my pocket. “Prepare to see a lot more of her, master. There have been stories about changelings coming out to their friends. None of those stories end well.”

“That’s because the only changelings that decide to return to the hive obviously had bad news. There’s no telling how many have come out and were received warmly.”

“I doubt it has been many. Most races didn’t know much or anything about changelings until just recently. I wish her luck, but I honestly doubt anything good will come of her choice.”

“Well, ponies are very surprising creatures in some respects. Maybe just this one little time, love will shine through. I’d like to think the world owes me the happiness I’d feel if Bonnie came back with good news.” Naïve? Probably. But who knows? Maybe there would finally be something I managed to not destroy.

 

I started having problems on the fourth day. Not big ones, just a bit more irritability than normal and my anger was strangely starting to crop up when it shouldn’t. Small things, you know? By the end of the first week, I was perpetually angry and just about ready to chew off someone’s head at anything wrong they did. I miscopied a word on the book I was writing out for Shining Armor and ordered Taya to destroy the page in the most violent way she knew how.

That night, Flo laid me down on the ground again and held me close. “Navarone, something is wrong. Very wrong.”

Just her saying that was enough to piss me off. “What the fuck do you know? Of course something’s wrong, you stupid blob! I’m stuck in bed, I have a hole in my heart, I haven’t fucked anything in a week, and everyone around me is acting even more stupid than usual! Now let me the fuck go.” I tried pulling away from her, but she held me even tighter.

“No, there’s something else that’s wrong,” she said. “And I think I know what it is. Do you remember how your therapist back on Earth attempted to get you to abstain?”

“Yeah, and I told him to fuck off. Ain’t no one telling me how to live my life, not after what I’ve been through!”

“He told you that because you’re exhibiting signs of addiction. Well, right now it’s withdrawal. Looking through your mind—”

“You know that shit pisses me off! What is it with you big and powerful types and rifling through my memories like they’re public domain? Back the fuck off and get your own goddamn life, you stupid brain leach! And for fuck’s sake, let me GO!”

Some of her water lifted up to my mouth, blocking off whatever I was trying to say. “You’re addicted to sex. You’re going through withdrawal. Normally, I would let you keep going and do my best to keep you calm, but doing that in this case would be suicide. Your heart is still weak and I can feel it picking up. You need relief, sadly.”

Finally!

“That is not the thought you need to have. If anything, this should be proof that you have a problem that needs to be fixed. Thankfully, you’re strong enough to walk right now. So what I’m going to do is force you awake. Then you are going to go into the bathroom and I am going to do something I will only ever do this month.”

Sure, whatever. Let’s just fucking do this!

“Ugh… I hate that it’s come to this.” I felt energy force me awake and I jerked in bed, my eyes shooting straight open.

After a quick look around the room, I threw the blankets off and stood up, doing my best to get to the bathroom as quickly as possible without sending me to the ground. I heard the wolf padding along behind me, not that I really cared. I was about to get relief and it was going to be great.

I kicked the door shut in front of the puppy’s face and didn’t bother to turn the light on. “What now?” I hastily asked, a smile growing on my face.

She sighed yet again. “Go ahead and take your pants off.” I did so, and followed her next few steps as quickly as I could. Basically, sit in the bathtub and lean back. Then I felt an intense blast of raw pleasure in my head.

When it was finished, I was sitting, stunned, quite a mess in front of me. “And you could have done that at any time?” I asked.

“Well, yes. I have some minute control in your brain, after all. I can stimulate all manner of chemicals up there to do all kinds of things.”

“…I’ll have to keep that in mind.”

“No, you won’t. I told you that I would only do that this month so you don’t have to worry about your heart. You still have a problem that you need to work on. I’ll help you get over it, but I won’t help you by replacing sex with an easier alternative.”

“I like sex too much to replace it with what you did. It felt good for all of a few seconds and then bleh. Still, good for a nice release here and there. Thank you, Flo. I feel quite a lot better.”

“Way to make me feel like a whore, Nav.”

I shrugged, picking myself up. “There’s nothing wrong with that. And I feel much, much better. We’ll have to do this more often, though; I don’t want to get that bad off again.”

“Do you at least now see that you have a problem?”

“Nope. I see that I have an addiction, which is not the same as a problem.” I gingerly knelt down to put my pants on, making sure not to bend my chest too much. “As long as I can keep getting laid on a regular basis, it’ll remain an addiction and not a problem.”

“Why? Why do you insist on doing this to yourself? And to Taya? You know you hurt her this week! You were on a razor’s edge ever since the fifth day. That’s two days you were yelling at your daughter, who you promised me that you would act better toward! So you were mistreated a few times, so you were abused. That doesn’t give you the right to act like a fucking asshole to everyone you meet and yourself!”

I don’t think I had ever heard Flo curse like that before. I sighed, letting my head gently rest on the door as I stood, thinking. “Look, you aren’t wrong. But… Fuck, I don’t know what I want. I don’t want to change, but I want what’s best for Taya. I like what I have now. I’m happy with it. Isn’t it something that I can keep under control? And as long as you’re in my head, can’t you regulate it, keep me full of the buzz when I’m running on a low time?”

“Nav, just listen to yourself…” She sounded softer now. “You always used to wonder what it was like for an addict, how they could keep going back to something that was destroying them. Look at yourself now. Look at what you’re willing to do to get more of what you want, what you think you need.”

“…It would be hard. And really, would it be worth it? Is it so bad—”

“You’re making excuses, now. Trying to bargain, trying to reason it out.”

“I can’t make a decision now. Not with my heart like this. You said it yourself: getting off this could kill me.”

“Yes, it could. But you can make a decision, Nav. I can gradually decrease what I do, giving you less of a dose each time. By the time the month is over, you’d probably be ready to go cold turkey.”

I ran a hand through my hair, ending with it on my neck as I stared at the floor, thinking. “I don’t know… Getting hooked again is easy, isn’t it? I can’t see myself living for the rest of my life without sex. Why risk the withdrawal effects now if I’ll just have to go through it again later?”

“For Taya, Nav. That’s why you should risk the effects. If you ever get hooked again, I can help you get off just as easily. It’s still a long process and it might involve some pain, but just remember that it’s all for Taya.”

“…I can try. If it’s too much or I find myself hating it, I can’t promise I’ll keep it up. I’m happy now, and if I’m not just as happy or happier then, I’d rather go back to an addiction.”

“That’s fair, if selfish. Very well, Navarone. Just live your month normally. I’ll be watching and waiting, ready to stop you if you do something you shouldn’t.”

“As usual.”

“As usual,” she confirmed, finally a hint of happiness entering her tone. I did my best to find some comfort in that as I dragged myself back to bed. This long month just got even longer.

 

 Some time into the second week, I got another somewhat expected visitor, another catbird. I was outside on a nice lounge chair thing watching Spike and Taya train with each other when I heard a familiar voice behind me say, “Why are you always so lazy, Nav?”

I looked back to see the original Gilda walking toward me, the other Gilda at her side. “Someone has to supervise. And it doesn’t help that I have a hole in my chest. How’s it going, Gilda?”

“Pretty good, now that I have my estate settled in. I didn’t think you’d find a replacement for me so soon, though. Has the same name and everything. A girl could get jealous.”

“She’ll never take your place in my heart; after all, she won’t let me fuck her.” Princess Gilda scoffed at that. “But if you’re going to be visiting for a few days, I’ll have to come up with something new to call at least one of you. Two Gildas is going to confuse the hell out of me.”

“You met me first,” the Gilda I met first said. “So I can be number one.”

“But I’m a princess. So I should be number one.”

“I’m older!”

“I’m prettier!”

“Oh, you wanna pull that card? We’ll see who’s prettier after I’m done with you!”

“Girls!” I shouted, not wanting to see this escalate into a catfight when I didn’t even have popcorn. “Gilda is right, I did meet her first. And Gilda is also right; she’s prettier.” I let them figure out who I meant by that one. They cast each other small glares. I looked to the first one I met. “I met you first, so you can be the real OG.” I looked to the other one. “You’re younger, a princess, and you won’t let me fuck you, so you can be PG. OG and PG. Not that hard, yeah?”

PG sniffed, but nodded. “An acceptable compromise. Very well. Not that she’ll be here for long anyway.”

OG shrugged. “Doesn’t matter to me. As little miss princess here said, I probably won’t stick around too long. I just wanted to see how you were doing, Nav. I see it takes more than losing your heart to keep you down.”

“Yeah. My heart is nothing more than an engine created from the remnants of a dead star anyway. I’m probably better off without it. How’s your mom handling not having a husband around?”

“She’s doing great. I got her set up with pretty much all the money she needs to support her habits and I still have plenty left over for myself. Never have to work a day in my life and I’m still young.”

“Glad at least someone benefitted from something I did, then.”

“Sorta. It’s also been… boring. I have to say, there’s something always exciting about living on the edge, always wondering where your next meal’s gonna come from. Wondering how you’ll make ends meet this time or if you’ll manage to make it out of town before any trouble catches up with you.”

I nodded and found myself slowly smiling as she talked. “I know that feel, actually. It’s freeing to not be tied down. And come find me in private before you go back home. I have an offer for you.”

OG shrugged. “Alright. Ain’t got much else to do around here. Chill with Dash, go hunting, maybe find that cool little dragon again—dude’s pretty useful, with his fire. Really, I’m just using this as a stopping point for my next adventure, wherever it takes me.”

“It’s good to hear you’re having fun, I guess. Just be careful; you don’t want to end up like me.”

“Psh. I’m not stupid enough to turn my back to an enemy. Seriously Nav, that was retarded. You didn’t deserve this, but you did deserve to get stabbed.”

“I’m glad to see that you’re so caring. I’ll try to be more careful in the future, that’s for sure. I absolutely hate being stuck like this.”

“I would too. Though if I remember right, you have a changeling maid that does whatever you tell her to. It wouldn’t be so bad to just laze around all day making someone else do everything for you.”

“A day or two, sure. A month? Ugh.”

“Fair enough. Now, I need to go see Dash about something right quick. If she ain’t got a spare room for me, you mind if I crash here tonight?”

“You’re free to stay here. Just, you know, don’t break anything.”

“I’m not a hatchling, Nav. I’ll see you later. You too, Princess.” Before either of us could say anything, she shot her wings out and took off, jumping high into the air.

The remaining Gilda looked down to me. “You find the strangest friends. I remember you mentioning her, though. Who is she, again?”

“One of your cousins, I think. All I know is that she owns some estate or something after her father got arrested. You’ll have to ask her for more.”

“I might do that. Probably not, though. Can we go back to using the laptop now?”

“Can it wait until Taya is done? I like watching her practice.”

“We could just bring the laptop out here, you know.”

“And risk a pegasus spotting it? Or let the pony instructor see it? Not gonna happen.”

“Or you could just trust me with it. Do you really trust me so little?”

“I trust everyone that little, no offense. That laptop is irreplaceable and has a number of important things on it that I have yet to copy. I absolutely can’t let it come to any harm. I really hope you understand.”

She sighed and nodded. “I suppose it’s another day of twiddling my talons. There’s little else to do in this place.”

“You could read. I have a study somewhere that has most of the books I ever published, many of which came from Earth. I don’t know how well circulated they are, so you might find some that you never got up in Gryphus.”

“Possibly. I suppose reading is better than doing nothing. I will see you later, Nav. Enjoy watching your daughter.”

I settled back in as Gilda left. I don’t know if I really enjoyed watching Taya, but she seemed to do at least a little better when I was actively watching her. I suppose that was a good enough reason for me to keep doing it.

Bon-Bon showed up at my house a few days later, all smiles. She barely waited for me to call her to enter before she jumped in. “She said yes!”

For once, I had something really good to smile about. “That’s wonderful! She wasn’t pissed about the whole you feeding on her thing?”

“She was a little upset and I had to do some convincing and explaining, but she understood in the end. We haven’t decided if we’ll tell anypony else yet, though. And getting her to meet the in-laws might be awkward, but we’ll make it work.”

“So when’s the wedding? As long as you two have been together, I can’t imagine you’d wait for long.”

“It’ll be a few weeks, at least… That is, if you accept.” I lifted an eyebrow, waiting for her to continue. Her smile only deepened. “After talking it out, we both decided that we’d be honored if you would marry us, Nav.”

“I’m honored, but I don’t do threesomes with couples. And marriage? Don’t get me started.”

She chuckled. “No, we want you to marry us. Do the ceremony for us, I mean.”

“Can I even… do that? Aren’t there laws in place or something?”

“Of course! Not just anypony can perform marriage ceremonies, Nav. But you’re a knight of high rank and good standing, so you can. And since you’re a friend to both the ponies and the changelings, we think it would be perfect if you would do it.”

I thought for less than a second before nodding. “I’ll do it. I don’t know if there’s any kind of paperwork or anything I’d need to fill out, though. If you can look into that or find out anything about it, that would be wonderful. I’ll also need to know my lines; I’ve only ever attended one pony wedding, and that was a royal one.”

“Twilight found what one of Celestia’s knights would say, but couldn’t find any records of Luna’s knights. Honestly though, the wedding is all for Lyra’s benefit. I don’t care what words are said, as long as the result is that we’ll be together forever.”

“That’s the right way to think, right there. I’ll see what I can dig up. According to the doctors, I’ll be laid up for another few weeks. Give me a month or so and I should be well enough to do the ceremony. It’ll probably take you two a while to get everything set up anyway.”

She nodded. “I’m going to try to keep it a small ceremony, but I have no telling how well that’ll work if Lyra starts talking to anypony about it. If it gets too large… Well, we’ll manage. I’m just so excited! Oh, but I better get out of your mane. Now you rest easy, Nav, and get better.”

“I definitely plan on it, Bon-Bon. Just get all the information to me when you can.”

“Of course. See you later, and thanks for everything!”

When she was gone, I patted the pocket with Doppel as I leaned back. “See there? Looks like changelings and ponies can coexist easily enough. They can even fall in love.”

Tiny Doppel looked up at me. “Maybe. But note that she’s still in her pony body. How well received do you think she would be if her secret got out? If everyone knew who she was? I know that you’re happy for her, but do you really think this would end well if she revealed herself at the wedding?”

“I don’t know. I hope I won’t find out, either; I’d much rather this story end happily, thank you. Now, get me some paper. I have a few letters to write.” At this point, she was well-practiced at getting into and out of my shirt pocket, so she was down on the ground quickly. When I had my paper, I quickly wrote out a letter to Luna asking about Lunar Knight marriage customs and a letter to the mayor asking about legal forms that needed to be filled out for marriage. I sent them off with Doppel when Taya came back in from her practice session.

I had a really good feeling about it, for some reason. It was really nice to see something that I had a hand in that didn’t turn to shit.

I got Gilda, OG, alone one morning after Taya went and while I had Doppel busy with something. “So what did you need?” she asked. “If you’re looking for a quickie, I don’t know, dude. You look pretty beat up.”

“If only… No, I have an offer. You mentioned that you were bored of the rich girl’s life. In a few months, I’m going on an… adventure of sorts. I got a decently sized crew, an airship, and a few destinations in mind. But I’m always looking for a few skills, like fast fliers and dangerous scouts.”

“Hm… Anyone else I know going?”

“Taya, the naga, and Spike, so far. I haven’t spoken to Doppel yet. Remember that big bag of money you helped me drop off? That was for the airship we’ll be on.”

“I’ll have to think about it. Sounds pretty cool, but I don’t like committing to anything without thinking it over. Think we could invite Dash? That seems like something that’d be right up her alley.”

“No. Dash is apparently one of something called the elements of harmony or some bullshit. She needs to stay here. And I don’t want anyone in Equestria knowing that I’m leaving, so I’d ask that you keep the offer to yourself while you’re here. Get an answer to me before winter is half over. We’ll probably be going cold places and warm places. I know you’re fluffy and warm, but you might need some clothes or something.”

“I’ll be fine. So why are you heading out? Bored of the life here?”

“That’s one reason. Another is mapping. Not all of this world is fully explored, or at least not to the ponies. I’d like to fix that. I have a few other reasons that are my own, though.”

“Alright, whatever. You got anything else to say, or can I go back out? I’m heading out soon and I want to finish up here.”

“That’s all. Have a good time, wherever you go and whatever you decide.” All the little pieces are finally coming together… If I didn’t think it would hurt so much, I would laugh evilly. Also, it would be silly because I wasn’t planning anything evil.

…Yet.

 

Shining Armor came back some time after I sent him the original copy of the two books, a chess board and pieces, and the rules for it. When he stepped into my room, he levitated two neater copies of the books over to me. “These are the only two remaining copies, Navarone,” he said, dropping them on my bed. “The others were burned. I saw to it myself. And after reading them, I must say, I don’t understand why you wanted them burned. They don’t paint your kind in the best of lights, I’ll admit, but they would build respect toward you and the struggles you’ve all faced.”

“Don’t care. I suppose I can put these two in my personal library, though I question the wisdom of keeping any copies at all. What did your officers think of them?”

“Most were quite impressed, though it didn’t seem that everything in the books corresponded to war tactics. The Prince, for example, didn’t seem to relate that much to tactics.”

“I know you’re not here to talk book club shit. What about chess? How’d you and your officers like that one?”

The smile on his face took a noticeable dip. “Some of us were less than impressed. A few others quite enjoyed it. One officer demanded I give you a letter expressing his distaste for the game. After reading over it and finding that he compared the game to excrement, I decided it would be best if I didn’t. All of that said, we spread the game to some of the lower ranking guards and it seems that some of them enjoy it as well. I wouldn’t be surprised if it spread farther. Honestly, I’m quite surprised that nopony ever thought of it before, as relatively simple as it is.”

I shrugged and said, “There are all kinds of other games out there that humans have come up with. There’s one called checkers that uses the same board. I might share the rules for that later, if I think about it. Did you at least see the strategy behind chess? Or did any of your officers figure it out?”

He nodded. “The night guard commander, Midnight Blossom, did quite well in it. I and a few others did decently as well. I would love to see the two princesses play a match one day.”

That would be horrifying. “Maybe one day. Show it to them if you want, I guess. If the kingdom goes to ruin because the princesses spend a year playing a single game, that’s your problem.”

“Since you’re abandoning us, it probably would be my problem. But that’s none of my business, I suppose. Oh, I almost forgot!” His horn flashed and a scroll appeared next to him. He floated it over to himself. “This is from Princess Luna. She said it was for a wedding, whatever that means. Are you getting married without telling me?”

“No, I’m performing a wedding ceremony. Apparently knights can do that. Two friends asked me to do it for them. I rather strongly doubt I’ll make a habit out of it.”

“Well, be careful. I’ve heard stories where a knight trying to perform a marriage ceremony ended up married to the groom, the ring, and the bride’s mother. Princess Celestia made them wait a week to break the marriage. Wouldn’t want that to happen to you.”

“The ceremony is for two mares. If I fuck up, it wouldn’t be too bad, I gotta say.”

“You might think that. They might have a very different tune. Now, I would stay and talk, but I need to get back to work. I’ve already used up most of my vacation time this month. I’ll talk to you later, Nav.”

“Yeah. And thanks for dropping this stuff off. See you whenever.” I broke the seal on the scroll as he left and unrolled it. A quick reading of the scroll proved that Luna was extremely pragmatic when it came to marriage. “This is going to be a quick service. Gonna need some stuff from Rarity, though…”

I was actually able to get up and move around much easier now, so I reached over to where I had left the notepad and pen, writing down some specifications for the robes I needed from Rarity. I’d send them off whenever I saw Doppel again.

Until then, I could study my lines until Flo could repeat them to me in my mind as needed.

 

After what felt like way too long, my doctor finally pronounced that the dark curse in my wound had been lifted somehow. We all figured it just finally wore off. With it gone, the doctor and Taya both were able to fully heal me, instantly giving me freedom from the bed and the house.

It felt absolutely amazing.

Not everyone agreed. As I was picking myself off the bed and stretching for all I was worth, Taya was looking pretty down. When I was fully stretched and felt like I was able to actually move around again, I said, “What’s wrong, Taya?”

She sighed. “I had fun this month, daddy. And now it’s over... Things are going back to the way they were and I won’t see you much anymore.”

Ain’t that a shame. Flo smacked me in the back of the head. I was joking! “Don’t worry, Taya. I’m going to do my best to spend more time with you from now on. I’ll still have duties and we can’t spend all of our time together, but whenever you think I’m not spending enough with you, just straight up tell me and I’ll do my best to make up for it.”

“Can we... do something today? To celebrate?”

“I promised Spike that I would take him to visit another friend of mine as soon as I got better, and I do need some exercise first. And you still need to have your session with your tutor. I promise that when we get back, we can find something to do to celebrate. But don’t worry; just because I’m finally healthy and back to normal doesn’t mean I forgot what I learned this month.”

As I knelt down to wrap my daughter in a hug, Flo whispered, “I hope you remember what you just said, Navarone. Spending more time with Taya isn’t the only thing you decided this month.”

I’ll do my best to spend less time with Doppel. She’s doing well enough with Spike for right now, so I shouldn’t have to feed her as much anymore.

“Just because you don’t have to doesn’t mean you won’t. I’ll be here to remind you, in any case. And just think, Nav: You thought this month would be a complete waste.”

 
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