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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100. Chapter Eighty-Two—New friend...s? Part 1

 I woke up cuddled next to the horrifying abomination commonly known as Chrysalis. I immediately suppressed my impulse to scream and instead snuggled closer, very used to dealing with hideous monstrosities by that point. Besides, Chrysalis is a real cutie once you get around all the evilness and the chitin and pretty much everything else about her. She also has good self-control; I was surprised she reverted back to her normal form during the night.

Since I really didn’t want to get out of bed just yet—and I had no real reason to—I decided to just lie there with her cold, hard body in my arms. I can’t imagine queens get many chances to sleep in and relax, so I knew she would be happy to be able to. And it was always nice to be held, so I wasn’t complaining.

I was still drifting in and out, my eyes closed, when she shifted and then pulled away from me. I heard her lightly hum as she pulled the covers away. “Morning wood?” she whispered. “Hm. More like breakfast.”

Welllll… If I’m ‘asleep,’ I can’t really stop her. I heard a wet smack in my head and assumed Flo facepalmed.

A few minutes and some much-needed relief later, Chrysalis gently brushed her hoof against my face. “Time to wake up, Nav,” she quietly said.

I blearily opened my eyes, grinning slightly when I saw her. “I was just dreaming about you,” I whispered before sitting up. “I feel pretty good, too.”

“That is good to hear. I don’t suppose I could trouble you for a snack before I depart? You always have a sweet taste.”

“I suppose I can give you a good breakfast, then.” She giggled and bent in, horn glowing…

Just in time for Princess Gilda to slam the door open. “I ha—WHAT THE BUCK?!”

We both looked at her like a teenage boy being told his girlfriend is pregnant. “So. Gilda, this is Queen Chrysalis. Chrysalis, this is Princess Gilda.”

“I know who she is!” Gilda shouted. “What is she doing here and why is she trying to eat you?”

“She was visiting someone nearby and needed a nice place to stay. I offered her my bed. And she’s trying to feed off me because she’s hungry. It affects me differently than it affects ponies, so she might as well feed off me instead of someone else. And besides, could you say no to that adorable face?”

Confusion reigned on Gilda’s face as I’m sure she was feeling rather conflicted. Eventually, disgust won out and she just walked out without a word.

Chrysalis sniffed. “Griffins.” Her horn lit up and the door closed. “Now, where were we?”

 

Taya and I walked in relative silence to the party that was taking place in the park. Everyone else but the naga was invited, though only Doppel decided to go. However, she was apparently too cool to be seen entering with us, and was planning on leaving to get to it later. Chrysalis left shortly after feeding on me, so she wasn’t going with us. Cadance was still worried about getting seen, even though just about everyone knew at that point that she was in my house. The naga wasn’t invited because I knew how he felt about gay relationships. Taya only went because I was going.

“So, what do we do if it gets violent?” Taya suddenly asked.

“You immediately leave. I’ll try to calm everyone down. If push comes to shove, I’ll extract her myself.”

“I’m not leaving you, daddy.”

“Then get ready to throw up a shield if I tell you to. We are not going to hurt anyone today. I’m pretty sure it won’t come to that. Ponies are pretty docile.”

“I’m not very docile.”

“Sure you are. You’re too cute and cuddly to ever hurt anyone.” Aside from Blueblood. “But that was, for the most part, a generality. I’ve met some pretty violent ponies in my time, after all.” Like Blueblood. “But again, we’ll probably be fine.”

“If you say so…”

On the road to the party, we bumped into Fluttershy and Applejack, presumably also heading to it. Fluttershy gave me a happy smile and Applejack gave me a shark’s grin. “It’s wonderful to see you out of bed, Nav!” Fluttershy said. “How do you feel?”

“Really good. You get used to feeling terrible and tired all the time and when you suddenly don’t anymore, it’s amazing. I trust you two are doing good?”

Applejack took that as her cue to jump in. “Doin’ mighty fine… Say Nav, you remember those seeds you gave me?”

“I do. Any luck with them?”

“More than you could ever believe, partner. I uh… I went a little overboard when it came to plantin’, not expecting anythin’ to grow from them. I’ll admit, I was wrong. I have as much of the Apple family as they can spare coming in from Appaloosa to help me with harvest in the next month. I was wondering if you could join us.”

“I don’t see why not. I can’t imagine I’ll be able to do much, but a set of hands is always useful.”

“We can think of some stuff for you to do, don’t you worry. Now, don’t reckon either of you know what this party’s about?”

I shrugged. “You know Pinkie. She doesn’t even need an excuse to throw a party. A wedding coming up is good enough for her. I wouldn’t be surprised if she threw in an element of me getting better or something.”

Fluttershy added, “I heard somepony was going to make a big announcement. I can’t imagine what it would be, though.”

“I can give you a hint,” I said. “It’ll be very surprising. Hopefully it won’t be an unpleasant surprise.”

“Now how do you know what it is?” Applejack asked.

“Because announcing it was my idea. Trust me when I say that it’s nothing bad.”

She snorted. “Comin’ outta your mouth? Well, I don’t get that slimy feeling in my gut that I usually get whenever you start flapping your lips, so I guess I’ll trust you this time. Nothing the town can’t handle, I reckon.”

“I certainly hope so,” I said. “So how have things been without me around for a month?”

Ugh, I hate recording small talk. Long story short, nothing important happened other than the Earth-that-was crops growing magnificently.

When we all got to the park, the party was already underway. From the looks of things, a very good chunk of Ponyville was there. After all, most ponies love Pinkie parties, and the invitations were rather freely given. A chance to skip work for a few hours and have fun draws quite a crowd.

Fluttershy and Applejack split off from our impromptu group and made their way to their main group of friends, though Fluttershy cast me a passing look as they left. I barely saw it, since I was already scanning the crowds for Bon-Bon or Lyra. When my questing eyes finally found the couple, I started walking that way, only to get immediately blocked by Pinkie.

“Heya Nav!” She had a party hat stuck on one of her front hooves, and I knew that she thought it was destined to be on my head.

“Hello, Pinkie. You are doing well, I trust?”

“Yeppity yep yep! And you’re doing much better! But not completely better, or you wouldn’t be here… But that’s okay, because you’re here!”

“I must’ve bumped my head on something while fighting that giant bird yesterday.” I saw Taya’s head jerk at me when I said that, but she didn’t comment. “For some reason, coming to a party for a couple that I’m performing a wedding ceremony for seemed like a good idea. Hm… You know what would be funny?”

“What’s that? I love funny things!”

I took the party hat on her hoof and put it on one of her ears. I put the other one on her head on her other ear. “There. Now you’re a pony elf.”

“What? I can’t hear you!”

I grinned. “Even better.” I reached out and poked her on the nose because it felt appropriate. “Now, I’m going to go talk to the guests of honor.”

“What?” I was already walking away, Taya jumping to follow me.

“So. A giant bird?” she hotly asked.

“Yep. Figured you woulda seen the feathers on the ground, though I did give the mess to the naga for cleaning. He didn’t do me any harm.”

“Uh huh.”

“Yep, no harm at all. Say, did you see where Lyra and Bon-Bon went?”

“I didn’t. I was too busy making sure Pinkie didn’t put anything on me.”

“She’s pretty easy to deal with. Misdirection is all it takes. She wanted to put that party hat on my head, but I guided her into thinking it would be better over her ears. Then when she was too busy wondering what happened, I wandered off. Easy enough. Ah, there they are.” I finally spotted Bonnie again, though she seemed to be lacking her fiancée.

I started heading that way when I was waylaid by yet another of my friends. “Been a while,” Twilight said, stepping in front of me.

“Well, I’ve been stuck in a bed for the past month. It’s hardly my fault you don’t consider me important enough to visit. And I thought we were friends.”

“What? No, I—Ooh, you always do this!”

“That’s because you’re just an easy target. What did you need, Twilight?”

“Did Applejack tell you about her crops?”

“Yeah. She asked for my help already. I didn’t figure she’d ask anyone from Ponyville, though.”

“We’re all her friends, Nav. We offered to help, since that’s what friends do. We knew harvest was coming up, though we didn’t know she had so many more plants than usual… She mentioned that you might have something to do with that.”

Dammit Applejack, you weren’t supposed to tell anyone! “She did? Interesting. Well, I’ll definitely be helping, so you needn’t worry about me not being there. Now if you’ll excuse me—”

“What I’m wondering is,” she interrupted, “where did you happen to get a large number of seeds? Sure, you mentioned that you used to do some farming back at your home, but it was always helping with animals. Where ever could you have gotten some large number of seeds?”

“I haven’t the slightest.” Her horn lit up. Fuck. “Now again, if you’ll just excuse me—”

“So where did you find them? Because you apparently know full well where you got them and that it was you who did.”

I narrowed my eyes slightly. “As a royal knight of Princess Luna, I demand you step aside. I will not answer your questions and you will stop asking them.”

She grit her teeth and glared at me. “This isn’t over, Nav. Not by a long shot.”

“We’ll see about that.” I walked right on past her, not gracing her with a parting glance. I had no way of really preventing her from going to Celestia, but I could knock the thought right out of her mind by getting Bonnie to make her announcement.

…Of course, that was only a temporary solution. She’d think about it again after the party. How oh how to go about this…

Flo whispered, “It was bound to happen eventually, Nav. You can only hide something like this for so long. Just let me go through the laptop and see if I can absorb the information. Then you can destroy it if Celestia comes by for a quick visit.”

I considered my options. Really, that was the best one. I couldn’t trust that thing with anyone in power, because I knew it would get fiddled with. I could perhaps leave it with someone like Dash or Fluttershy, getting a promise to tell no one about it and to never mess with it. Or maybe Bon-Bon and Lyra.

But those were concerns for another time. I tried to wipe the frown off my face as I renewed my search for Bonnie. Imagine my surprise when she popped up next to me instead.

“I was starting to think you’d never come and talk to me,” she said, sipping on some manner of punch. “So I decided to find you instead.”

“I have very needy friends,” I said by way of answer. “So have you two decided how you want to do it yet?”

She nodded. “Pinkie set up a small stage for when we’re ready. We decided to wait a little while for any stragglers and for everypony to feel at-ease.”

“Nervous?”

“A little… You and Lyra keep saying it’ll be okay, but I can’t help but think… Well, it’ll work out, won’t it? And you’ll be there in case anything happens?”

“I don’t plan on going anywhere, no. If you want me to be near the stage when it happens, just tell me when to be there.”

“Alright. And we’ve decided that if all goes well, we want to start doing wedding things in a week. So practice in a week, actual wedding a day after that, then ‘big’ wedding a day after that. If… If it gets big, of course.”

“Alright, that’ll be easy enough. I’m sure we each have our lines memorized by now, since we each only have a few short ones. You guys have a venue set up yet?”

“We were waiting to see how everything turned out. That’s not a problem, is it?”

“Nope. Just make sure you get a place set up before you send out wedding invitations. Sure would be a shame if the location is a bust and you have to send out more invites.”

“You won’t have to worry about that. We’ll be sure about any location we get. Thankfully, we won’t be bringing in anypony from too far out of town.”

“Your family won’t be coming by?”

“I… don’t think that would be a good idea. I haven’t seen them in ages… It would certainly be strange for them to see me now, all grown up and completely changed.”

“Meh. Up to you. It’ll look strange to have only half of the chapel full, but I’m sure that won’t matter too much.”

“Half the chapel? What do you mean?”

“Where I come from, the bride’s family sits on one side and the groom’s—or the other bride’s, I guess—sits on the other.”

She shook her head. “Here, everypony is intermixed, to show that two families become one. It doesn’t always work perfectly, but it’s a nice sentiment. But only Lyra’s family and a few of our closest friends will be at our marriage anyway. And the ‘chapel,’ or wherever we decide, probably won’t be that large.”

“Alright. Looks like I need to do some more research on your marriage customs, then. But since all I’m doing is following my lines, it shouldn’t be much of a problem.”

“For now. But when you get yourself a special somepony, it’ll be good to know. And a wedding is a pretty good place to find one, you know…” Oh boy, the look on her face…

“I’m not in the market right now.”

“Oh, are you sure? I know just the mare for you, too! And I’m sure I could find a stallion instead, if that’s the way you lean.”

“I am quite sure, thank you. And I prefer females, not that it really matters.”

She sighed. “Oh well. Maybe we can get you somepony on Hearts and Hooves Day. You have that nice, big house, now you just need a wife to share it with.”

“Speaking of that, I have a proposal for you and your wife-to-be. Can you—”

Before I could get anything else out, the noise of a dinner bell cut me off. We both looked where it was coming from and saw Pinkie banging away at it on a platform, Lyra standing next to her looking abashed. Bon-Bon sighed and whispered, “Come on,” when Pinkie stopped. She started trotting through the crowd that slowly gathered around the platform. I followed at a more sedate pace, since I had less distance to travel; I just needed to be near the platform, not on it.

Lyra was starting some manner of speech, thanking everyone for being there. I wasn’t really paying attention, too busy watching Bonnie pick through the crowd until she got to the stage as well. When she did, Lyra finished her speech with, “Now, for our big announcement! Bon-Bon, dear, would you like to tell everypony?”

“It is my announcement… Everypony, I’ve been… lying to you all.” There were a number of gasps and Pinkie jerked back.

“I knew it!” Pinkie shouted. “I knew you took the cookie from the cookie jar!”

Bon-Bon blinked. “Who, me?”

“Yes you!”

“Couldn’t be! I don’t—”

Pinkie gasped, cutting her off. “Then who?!”

The crowd started grumbling as all the ponies looked at each other with accusing glances, each wondering who had been the one to steal the cookie. Bon-Bon and I both face-whatevered.

After about fifteen seconds of letting the ponies talk, Bonnie shouted, “I’m a changeling!” and dropped her disguise. “There! It couldn’t have been me that took the cookie; I can’t even eat pony food!”

There were a few shrugs in the audience as they realized this absolved her of the guilt. That continued for a few seconds before the realization hit them and they all jerked their heads back to the stage, eyes filled with a mix of horror, confusion, and an inkling of anger.

Bon-Bon seemed to notice that and continued, “I… I’ve been like this the whole time. There never was a Bon-Bon, not a real one.” She was looking down at this point, unable to meet the eyes of the crowd. “It was all an elaborate ruse…” She finally looked up, a tinge of pride coming to her voice as she continued, “But I love Lyra. I love her and we will get married!”

Lyra stepped up next to her, throwing a front leg around Bonnie’s back. “Yep! I love her, no matter who—or what—she is.”

The silence seemed to stretch, with the audience seemingly getting more and more upset, before Twilight stepped forward, a concerned expression on her face. “Bon-Bon—if that is your name, now—I’ve known you since I got to Ponyville. And I’ve known Lyra for longer. For everypony’s peace of mind, would you and Lyra consent to having Lyra’s mind checked for charm magic? Everypony knows how Chrysalis ensnared the mind of my brother, Shining Armor.”

Lyra glared at Twilight and was probably about to yell at her when Bonnie put a gnarled hoof on her neck, shaking her head. “Of course, Twilight,” Bon-Bon said. “We have nothing to hide.”

I stepped forward at that point. “Wait a second,” I said. “Lyra had her mind torn into by Chrysalis before the royal wedding. Would that affect your spell?”

“It would,” Twilight answered. “But I can adjust its power and how long back it goes. A year should give us all the proof we need, either way.” She turned to Lyra. “This should be noninvasive and will only take a few seconds. Step away from Bon-Bon, please.” Lyra did so, with a long parting glance and a short nuzzling. Soon enough, she stood alone on the platform.

Twilight’s horn lit up and a dim purple beam of light hit Lyra on the forehead. The breath of everyone in the area caught and they all leaned forward, waiting to hear the results of Twilight’s search. Half a minute later, Twilight’s horn shut off and she nodded. “Nothing.”

Lyra’s face burst into a grin and she glomped her buggy lover. There was some clapping or clopping or whatever in the crowd, some indifference, and I saw a few ponies walking away in a huff. I knew Bon-Bon would have some work to do to get all the ponies back as her friend, but I was thankful that there didn’t seem to be any violence.

Just as I was stepping away from the couple to hit up the punch bowl, Twilight stepped near me. “You knew, didn’t you?” she accused.

“I did,” I answered with a nod.

“You should have told somepony, Nav!”

“Taya knew. I didn’t tell anyone else because it wasn’t anyone’s business. It was Bon-Bon’s secret and I knew telling someone would risk it. And I’ll have you know that it was on my advice that she told the town.”

“And I bet you had to convince her to tell Lyra, didn’t you? Should we really trust a changeling like this?”

“I tried to convince her not to tell Lyra. When I heard her reasoning, I eventually gave her my blessing. Those two are in love as much as your brother and Cadance are in love, and I won’t step in the way of that. I’ll trust Bonnie because Lyra trusts her. I suggest you do the same.”

She sighed, looking away. “It feels… wrong. But if they love each other, they love each other. I still need to let Princess Celestia know, though. She’ll be very interested, I believe.”

“I’ll be interested in what?” Celestia asked, stepping up next to us from God knows where. Queen Chrysalis stood next to her, an amusing contrast from Celestia’s stark-white coat.

“P-princess!” Twilight stuttered before hastily bowing. I noticed that a number of other ponies around us were prostrated as well.

“Rise, everypony. I heard there was some manner of announcement here that I might be interested in. Did I miss it?”

“I’m afraid so,” I answered with a shrug. “Long story short, Bon-Bon’s a changeling and she’s marrying Lyra, who isn’t a changeling. Pretty simple, really.”

Celestia smiled. “Well, that’s wonderful news. I’m always happy to hear that my subjects are happy and getting married. I take it this is the couple?” she asked, looking over to Lyra picking up a somewhat bedraggled changeling. They both gulped and nodded. “I don’t suppose you would mind talking to me in private, would you? I have some questions I would like to ask.”

Lyra answered, “Of course, Princess. Come on, honey.” She casually tossed her lover onto her back from her position on the ground and began following Celestia to Twilight’s library. Chrysalis and Twilight followed.

I wanted to follow, but instead I gave Bon-Bon a thumbs up and said, “Time to go,” to Taya. My plan was to get gone before Celestia realized I wasn’t following. Thank God, we did. That gave me time to let Flo attempt her voodoo on the laptop before Celestia came by. We got out of town at a fast walk, heading back to my pad.

“So why are we going back so soon?” Taya asked. “We just got there.”

“If you want to stay, by all means. My job is finished and I need to do something back home. I won’t stop you from staying, if you’re interested.”

“No! I… I’m not a fan of parties. I’m fine with going home.”

“Well alright then. When we get home, if you see Celestia coming up to the door or to my room, delay her as much as possible. I have a feeling I’ll be getting a visit from her or Twilight soon.”

“Why? What was Twilight talking about when she mentioned the seeds?”

“Another gift from home. I brought a few things back. One of those things was seeds. I gave those seeds to Applejack and she grew plants for me. She was also stupid enough to tell fucking Twilight that she got them from me. So now I’ll have to deal with Celestia and Twilight on my case, asking where I got them. This might lead to the laptop being destroyed.”

“Can’t you hide it?”

“I could try, but I’d rather destroy it than risk Celestia getting her hooves on it. I could put it in my gene box…” I think there was a setting on there to atomize everything if the box gets tampered with or forced open. I’d have to look over it again.

“Why not give it to Gilda?”

“Because she’d look up how to make weapons. I might have a way of backing up all the information. I very sorely hope I do, because I might not have this laptop after today.”

“Why can’t you just tell her to leave you alone?”

“I’m certainly going to try. No promises about how it’ll end.” If all else fails, I’ll try seducing her. Maybe that would distract her.

Flo just sighed at that.

“Seems to me that if she doesn’t listen to you saying no, she should be put down.”

“That is the kind of thing you need to keep to yourself. Killing Celestia would bring more problems than it’s worth and I don’t want to hear you bringing it up again.” She didn’t reply, but I knew what she was thinking.

We got back to my house in a silence that made me wonder why she was spending time with me. I mean, we’re both bad at small-talk, so there tended to be long pauses in conversation. We don’t really have many common interests. I don’t know, maybe it’s just a child thing.

Right about the time we were getting back, Doppel was stepping out the door, all dolled up in a cute dress and what looked like blush on her cheeks. She sighed when she saw us and her tail and ears drooped. “Is the party already over?”

“Nah, we just left early. The big announcement’s done and I figured I was no longer needed.”

“So I can still go?”

“Sure, knock yourself out. If you see Celestia heading this way, do your best to distract her. Other than that, stay away from married guys and you’re good.”

“Of course. I have two exuberant young guys to steal all the lust I need from. I just like looking good sometimes.”

I shrugged. “More power to you. Have fun.”

She grinned, showing off her fangs. “Oh, I will.” Her wings lifted from her dress and she jumped into the air, buzzing off toward Ponyville.

Taya and I stepped on inside. I immediately went upstairs to get to my laptop. Taya followed me, because that’s what she does. It would probably be best to remove her once I got Flo into the laptop, but she could hang around until then. Freki was also chilling out up there, since he knew how important I considered the shit in my office. He followed us in.

“So how are you going to back it up?” she asked as I pulled the laptop from the locked drawer.

I booted it up and answered, “A secret. One I’m not certain you should know just yet…”

“At least give her the hint,” Flo whispered.

“…But it might not hurt.” Are you ready?

By way of answer, I felt something gently trickling from my ears. Taya gasped in surprise as some of Flo dribbled down my arm, connected to the laptop.

“Taya, do you remember how I said that I have a voice in my head? And that I talk to her sometimes? Meet Flo.” Taya’s mouth just dropped. “Yeah, that was my reaction.” Flo’s tendril of watery machines tentatively poked one of the information ports of my laptop before actually connecting with it. The slightly pink-tinged tendril immediately turned black. “Flo?” Not once had I ever seen her as that color.

She didn’t or couldn’t answer. I resorted to gently stroking her watery form, trying to give her some manner of comfort. “What’s wrong?” Taya asked.

“I don’t know. Normally she’s a light pink or blue. Black has to be some kind of distress… Dammit, Flo.”

“So what is she?”

“A tight grouping of nanomachines that have attained sentience and call themselves a water elemental. Her name is Flo. I found her… Well, that doesn’t matter anymore. And as with many things, this is a secret. A huge secret. Never mention this again at all until I give you permission, not even to me.”

“What does she do, then?”

“She’s the reason I’m not crazy, basically. She protects my dreams from the horrors I would usually have. She also keeps me company in my mind, and is the reason I can remember all the books I write.”

“How long have you known her?”

“Since Appaloosa. It’s strange, having someone living in your head, but you get used to it.”

“…Can I meet her? Or at least, talk to her?”

“Maybe. I’ll have to ask her when she gets back in my head. And you don’t need to worry; she’s just as protective of me as you are.”

“I find that hard to believe,” she muttered, looking down at the black mass connected to the laptop. “So what is she doing?”

“Trying to back up all the information, copying it for herself. This way, if I do have to destroy the laptop, I’ll still have the information.”

“But then no one else can use it.”

“Not my problem. I’m doing the only thing I can. If you can find your own precious little brain leech, feel free to bring her here and I’ll let her take some information. But otherwise, this is the only way I have of backing it up.”

“How long do you think it’ll take?”

“I have no clue. She isn’t even certain she can do it, but I believe she can. She’ll have to get it done before Celestia gets here, or be ready to give up and get back into me.” It looked like she was slowly making progress; her color was slowly brightening from its dark black look.

“What’s she like?”

“…Nice. Comforting. Motherly, in a way. She got me through so much, so many times of horror. I don’t really know if I’d still be kicking without her. I’m certainly very thankful that I have her.” She was into grey now, out of her dark black look. “I know she’s better than this damn laptop, too. She’ll get through this.” She’d better. I’d be going on a long trip for nothing if she withered away.

“So all those times I found you talking to yourself…”

“I was actually talking to Flo, yes. The voice in my head. I may be crazy, but I’m not insane. “

“I never said you were.”

“Didn’t stop you from thinking it.” She didn’t have an answer for that one. We lapsed into silence for a few moments, Flo still steadily turning colors. “I don’t know how much time we have. If Twilight told Celestia about the crops, she could be on her way here already.” I was wearing my ring, so she’d probably have to get here the old-fashioned way. “Can you wait downstairs, get Cadance and the naga, and distract her as long as possible if she does come in the front?”

“How?”

“I don’t care. Anything short of attacking her works for me. I’d rather give her the laptop than let her find out about Flo. If Cadance asks why, tell her I said it’s extremely important.”

“…Okay, daddy.” She walked over to the door and put a hoof on the handle before looking back and saying, “I love you.”

“I love you too, Taya. And don’t worry; we’ll be fine. It’s just another little bit of subterfuge.”

“Right.” She opened the door and left, letting it close behind her. It was just me, Freki, and Flo left. I wanted to get up and lock the door, but I really didn’t want to leave Flo sitting there alone. But I also needed to get to my safe, which meant I had to leave her anyway.

I sighed and rubbed her one last time before saying, “I’ll be right back, I promise.” There was no answer, of course. I hesitantly let her go before jumping up and running over to the door to lock it. Then I ran to the safe inlaid in the wall and opened it. I pulled the gene-locked box out and slammed the safe shut, not bothering to lock it again; there was nothing else in the damn thing anyway. Finally, I sprinted back to my chair and sat down, taking Flo back in my hand. I didn’t know if I was helping, but it felt right to be there for her.

While one hand was busy with her, the other opened the box. Inside were a few important documents, the gender stones, my magic key, a small stash of gold, and some other, less important things. What I was interested in was the little command console at the top that I never really looked at all that much.

I poked around the thing a little, looking for some settings. It didn’t take me long to find them; the console wasn’t that difficult and it was obviously made for someone that wasn’t all that great with computers. There was one thing that cleared all owner data, one that said the next user would be added to the database of owners, one thing that turned self-destruction status on or off, and a few other options. I reached inside the box and removed everything, shuddering slightly as my hand pulled out the gender stones.

When the box was emptied, I turned on the self-destruction option. I didn’t have an instruction manual, but I was hoping that option would destroy whatever was in the box if it was forcibly opened. I was planning on putting the laptop in the box when Flo was finished.

Which seemed like it would be soon, given that she was closer to white than black at that point. “Come on, Flo. Kick that thing’s ass. Or something like that.” I imagine if her tendril had eyes, they’d be rolling. Either way, she didn’t answer.

Unfortunately, I had a very bad feeling about the next few minutes. That bad feeling came from me remembering that I have a tinted window behind my desk that I could use to watch Ponyville. More specifically, it came from seeing Celestia, Twilight, and two guards walking through my gates. Freki whined when he sensed my reaction.

“Fuck. Flo, we have, like, five minutes. Get whatever you’re doing done and get it done quickly!” Once again, there was no response. But I did begin putting everything I pulled from the box into various places on my desk in preparation for Celestia’s entrance.

Flo was almost back to her original color, thankfully. I have no idea what that signified, but I was assuming it was a good thing. I didn’t even care if she couldn’t get all the information, at this point; I just wanted her to get back into my head where she was safe and I could hide the laptop.

A quick look out the window showed that Celestia and company were in the house. I closed my eyes and said a quick prayer that no one heard and picked up my stroking on Flo, nervous and worried for the first time in a long time.

Just when I was about to give up hope and just chuck her and the laptop under my desk, the sliver of water spasmed and disconnected from the computer. I hurriedly lifted Flo to my ear, letting her slither back inside. Closing the laptop and shuddering from the feeling of having something entering my ear, I slipped the machine into the box, closed it, and pushed it onto the floor next to my desk. As an afterthought, I kicked it under the desk, where no one else could see it.

I managed to lean back in my seat before the doorknob lit up and the door slid open, automatically unlocking. “Well that was fucking rude,” I commented, pulling a knife out of a hidden sheath and picking at my fingernails with it. Freki began quietly growling, standing in an aggressive stance.

“I didn’t want to make you get up,” Celestia answered, stepping inside. Twilight followed her, a smug smirk on her face. Celestia casually walked over to the front of my desk and eyed the chair I had set up before using magic to move it aside and summoning a couch from somewhere. She plopped down into it, still completely ignoring the angry wolf in the corner. “Now, I’ve heard you might be hiding something of interest from me.”

“You don’t say. Freki!” The dog snorted and stopped growling, but still glared at Celestia.

“Is there perhaps any truth to that?”

“Sure is.”

“I see. Is it something that I should know about?”

“That’s certainly debatable. Me, I’d say no.”

She lifted an eyebrow. “Is it something that I think I should know about?”

“Probably.” I set the knife on the desk and leaned back. Freki inched forward, ready to pounce.

“And are you going to tell me?”

“Not a snowball’s chance in hell.”

She shrugged. “Then I have no more business here.” She stood, lighting her horn up to dismiss the couch. “Come along, Twilight.”

Twilight’s smug expression turned to one of shock as Celestia turned to the door. “But Princess— He-he’s hiding something! Something important! I just know it!”

“And it isn’t our business. He would tell us if it was something dangerous.” She didn’t even stop for that reply. Celestia just let herself right back out. Freki sat back, tilting his head in confusion.

Twilight stood there staring at the door for a few seconds, dumbfounded. To be fair, I was just about as surprised; I was expecting a full fucking royal inquiry or something. She finally whispered, “I don’t understand…” After a few seconds to consider, she whirled on me. “This is all your fault!”

“…What’s my fault?”

“The princess ignoring me! What did you do to her?!”

“No clue. I was expecting her to rake me over the coals or something. Hell, never expected to get out of the country with this secret intact. Celestia’s more of a bro than I thought, I guess. Ah well, out you go.”

Her eyes narrowed. “The princess may say it’s alright, but this isn’t over.”

I sighed, rubbing at my temple with one hand. “Twilight, it’s nothing bad, I swear. It’s just a secret that I don’t think you should know. Not all knowledge is safe or good and some things sure aren’t worth learning. Please, for the sake of what little of our friendship might remain, just drop it.”

She looked away, sighing. “Nav, I… I can’t just not learn something. Especially something like this! I need to know!”

I heard a strangulated voice in my head say, “Tell her.”

This won’t end well. I nodded at the door. “Close the door and pull a chair up. What we’re about to discuss goes fucking nowhere.” Her face and horn lit up as she pulled the door shut with her magic and slid the chair over with her magic. She did her best to sit down, staring at me with a huge smile.

I twisted the ring around my finger, staring off into space as I considered how to go about telling her. Finally, I nodded to myself. “Once again, no one can know of this. It’s only a matter of time before Celestia learns anyway, but the longer I have, the better off I’ll be in the long run. I found a way back home, to Earth. The seeds I gave to Applejack came from there.”

“How’d you get back?” she interrupted.

I ignored her. “I got a few other things, too. Nothing you need worry about, of course. Just some clothing and some technology.”

“Nav, we can study anything you brought back! Maybe even reverse engineer it!”

“Funny thing about my home, too. You remember how you always thought I came from an alternate dimension?” She nodded. “I came from the past, Twilight. All the humans are dead now. And here’s the kicker: Damn near every one of the people I ran into back there refused to consider me a human. So my race is extinct now. I always did feel like I was the last man standing. Guess it’s true, now…” I sighed, closing my eyes and letting my legs just slip further under the desk. “There’s the secret, Twilight: I went home and brought back pain.” Leave it to me to find a way to make a good day bad.

After a few seconds of silence, I felt a gentle nuzzle on my arm before Twilight pulled me into a hug. “Nav, what happened to us?” she whispered. “We used to be such good friends… And now we’re treating each other like enemies.”

“Time changes everything,” I morosely answered. “Just… don’t tell Celestia about this, Twilight. She doesn’t need to know; I didn’t bring back anything that will hurt her ponies. I just want some comforts from home, some souvenirs from a life I can’t have anymore.”

“…Alright, Nav. I trust you, Celestia take me for a fool.”

“It means a lot, Twilight. It feels like I can trust so few people anymore. It’s nice to have someone I can rely on.”

“Nav, you know you can rely on all of—Well, you can rely on some of us. Cadance, me, Applejack, Rainbow Dash. When have any of us let you down?”

“AJ barely knows me and is rarely in a hurry to speak with me. I’ll give you Dash and Cadance.” I shrugged and added, “Not like it’ll matter for much longer.”

She looked away. “I… I need to go, Nav. Princess Celestia might need me for something else. I really want to talk about whatever you got back where you came from, though. Can we discuss it later, maybe after the wedding?”

“Maybe. I’ll have to decide what to tell you. As I said before, not all knowledge is good to have, and my people have seen what happens when you give too much knowledge to a culture that doesn’t have that much.”

She rolled her eyes. “Nav, we have just as much knowledge as humans. It’s just in different areas. After all, you don’t have any magic.”

“And I thank God for that. Magic holds this place back. But that’s a debate for another time. Go and pleasure your teacher, or whatever.”

“Ugh. You’re horrible.”

“Go for her ears. They’re really sensitive.”

She blushed, quickly shaking her head and walking to the door. “I’ll see you later, Nav. And I won’t say a word to anypony, I promise.”

“Thank you. And send Taya up when you get downstairs.”

She just flicked her tail as she walked on out. When the door closed behind her, I dropped the little smile I had on. “Flo? Are you okay?”

“It… it was too much, Nav.” She sounded tired and hurt. “I think I got most of it, but the flood of information… I don’t know. That was entirely unfamiliar to me and I didn’t know what I was doing.”

“How do you feel?”

“I feel… odd. There’s an unpleasant sensation I’ve never felt before ringing through my body, but I don’t know what it is.”

“…Pain?”

“I don’t know if I can feel pain. But if I can… Yes. It hurts.”

Shit… “Can you at least tell if you got anything out of that laptop?”

“I got some information, yes. History. Blueprints. Other things… It’s all just a flood, a mess of things floating around in my mind. I’ve never felt this… disorganized!”

“Alright. Take some time to sort through everything in your mind. We have time now; I probably won’t need you for the rest of the day. Just rest.”

“That is… a good idea. I will go silent and not bother you. Just try not to get into any trouble.”

I grinned despite myself. “When have I ever done that?”

“Done what?” Taya asked, stepping inside. I didn’t even notice her opening the door. The puppy wagged his wooden tail when he saw her, and I felt about the same way.

“Just talking to Flo. She’s… pretty beat up. But everything went better than expected: Celestia just said a few things before leaving. The secret is safe for another day.”

She breathed a sigh of relief, for whatever reason. “We didn’t do a very good job of distracting her… She kind of ignored us.”

“It happens. And it all worked out well in the end, so whatever. Now, I’m taking the rest of the damn day off. I need to deal with Gilda and Flo really needs to rest.”

She shrugged. “Alright. I always like lazy days.”

That night and the next night, I skipped my ‘lessons’ with Luna. Flo was still feeling pretty bad and I didn’t want to go into any dreams without her to back me up. It’s not that I figured I couldn’t handle it, it’s more that I didn’t want to risk Luna pulling anything on me without someone there to help me. Call me paranoid, but I’d rather not take chances.

 

At around the middle of that second day, Spike came by. I was currently in my room with Gilda, going over some annoyingly detailed engine. We had been trying to figure the damn thing out for over an hour already and I think both of us were about on the edge of getting extremely pissed.

So when the door pushed open, we both saw it as a sign that it was break time. She stood, stretching. “I’ll be back when I’m back. I gotta get out of this stuffy room for a while.” She pushed past Spike with barely a glance, not paying attention to the sword on his back or the shield in his hand.

“You ready?” he asked as I shut the laptop.

“…For what?”

“We’re going to go see that changeling today, remember?”

I sighed. “Oh yeah. Let me think for a moment.” Flo, are you able to do anything?

“I am… well enough. And I believe I know how to help Mirror, from sorting through the computer’s documents.”

“Alright,” I said, standing off the bed. “I’ll get ready to go. But I don’t want you going, Spike. It might not be safe.”

He snorted, breathing out a thin plume of steam. “I’m going if I have to walk there. And I think that might be a little more dangerous than dealing with her personally.”

“Oh, I see what it is. You want to be held in my big, manly arms. I bet you’re just waiting to steal a kiss.”

He was blushing a bright red by the end of that, but he haughtily answered, “And with your reputation, you’d probably accept it.”

“Hey, it’s not my fault I have a dragon fetish! I usually prefer them without a dick, though.”

“If that isn’t your fault, then it isn’t mine that I prefer soft and squishy to hard and buggy.”

I rolled my eyes before sarcastically saying, “Then we can fuck when we get back. For now, get out so I can change.” His eyes went really wide before he quickly made himself scarce. “…He does know what sarcasm is, right?” I asked no one.

Flo decided to answer, “I certainly hope so. You’ve been doing very well, and it would be a shame to ruin your streak on someone so innocent.”

“…Right. A shame.” I shook my head quickly and closed the door before changing into clothes that would work well under armor. When I had that on, I took a few minutes to put my armor on, because I wasn’t going to take any chances with Mirror. Before I left, a small thought occurred to me. “Flo, do you think it would be wise to ask Celestia to watch us deal with Mirror? If things go sour, she can step in.”

“It has positives and negatives. We don’t know if Mirror is able to use magic, so she could catch you by surprise if you aren’t wearing your ring. But if I am correct in diagnosing Mirror, then I will have to be very involved in her treatment, something that we don’t want Celestia to see. And if I happen to be successful, there is a good chance Celestia might be eager to obtain the services of this little changeling, should she find out about her. However, Mirror might be dangerous, which is the main worry we have. She might also be leading you into a trap, which seems unlikely.”

“So you’re saying that I shouldn’t contact Celestia.”

“I would not, no.”

I shrugged and grabbed my gun from its position next to my bed. “No reason not to bring this, then.” I grabbed two magazines and slid them into a leather carrying case I made and put onto my belt. The belt already had two knives on it, so I didn’t bother adding any other weapons; weight was still an issue, after all.

With my gear sorted, I started walking through the house to the front gate. We could fly out the back, but Taya was back there with her instructor and I didn’t want her seeing me flying out in a way that she could possibly stop me—or worse, demand to go with me.

I found Cadance downstairs and told her I was going into the forest. She grunted by way of reply, too busy doing something with her foal to do much else. Spike was standing under the gate outside. Thankfully, he apparently remembered that if we were flying, I couldn’t carry much weight, and thus only had his sword with him. I walked on over.

“Last chance to back out,” I said. “I wouldn’t blame you if you did. I really don’t want to risk this, personally.”

“I’m going,” he answered, nodding his head with a grim finality.

“A shame. Well, come on. She didn’t give us a time, so we might be waiting there for a while. And she might already be there. And hell, she might have even forgotten. Let’s go find out, shall we?”

He walked over to me and hopped up into my arms. “If this is too awkward for you, I really don’t mind the other way,” he said right before I took off.

“Doesn’t bother me. I’ve had worse things assumed of me than being gay. Hell, I wouldn’t even mind people assuming it that much; less people would flirt with me, at least.”

“I thought you enjoyed that.”

“I don’t mind it when it’s not little girls that are doing the flirting. I had Twist and a few other fillies doing things like that.”

“Oooh, I’m so sorry, dude. Twist scares me sometimes.”

“Yeah. As long as she doesn’t go Misery on me, I can deal with some minor flirting.”

“…Misery?”

“Something from my world, a book. A woman kidnaps her favorite author, breaks his legs so he can’t leave, and makes him write his book so that it has her preferred ending. I don’t want something like that happening to me.”

“Yeah, I can understand that. Nav, humans are pretty twisted.”

“Yep.” The conversation lapsed at that point, which was good because I needed to pay attention to flying.

Until… “So what if she does turn out to be dangerous?” he asked.

“Then I’ll take care of her. Don’t you worry about it.”

That shut him up until we landed next to the tree. I hadn’t seen Mirror from the air, so I was assuming she wasn’t there. When we landed, though, we heard someone muttering on the other side of the tree. I put my finger to my lips so Spike wouldn’t open his mouth and listened.

“Of course he’ll come… He said he would! Navarone wouldn’t lie. Would he…?” Her voice changed pitch and tone. “You saw how he looked at you. Disgust. Annoyance. Of course he won’t show up. Nothing would want anything to do with you.” And it changed again. “Don’t listen to that one. He’ll come. He’ll come and help us like he helped the others. He’ll be here.” Another one. “He’ll come and then he’ll cum. We’ll jump his bones and ride him forever. You know how he treated the queen!” Another. “No. He’ll come and kill you. He knows the queen. If he knows the queen, he probably told her about you. It’s better to leave now before it’s too late.” And it finally returned to the original voice and she said again, “He’ll be here…”

Spike and I slowly turned to look at each other. His eyes were wide as your mom’s ass. I probably looked similar.

“Well,” Flo whispered, “I was right. Now would be a good time to go talk to her, Nav.”

God help me. “Hello?” I called, walking around the tree. “You out here yet?”

I heard her jump when I said hello and when I continued she sprinted around the tree, beaming. “I knew you’d come!” And then she saw Spike and her smile dipped. “You brought a friend.”

“That’s not a problem, is it?”

“No! No, of course not…” She chuckled awkwardly. “A-are you ready to see my home?”

“Yep. We flying there or is it close enough to walk?”

“…We’ll fly. How is he going to get there?” she asked, looking at Spike.

“I’ll carry him. You just lead the way and we’ll follow.”

“Oh. Well, it’s not far.” I grabbed Spike and nodded at her. One of her eyes twitched and she took off without a word. I leapt to follow her. She led me right to the fenghuang’s hole in the tree and landed. I sighed and landed right next to her. “Well, here it is!”

I looked down at her, not even letting Spike go. She was looking at me, smiling. “Mirror, is this seriously your home?”

“Of course! I’ve been living here for ages. You want me to show you around?”

I set Spike down and shrugged. “Sure.”

She walked a few steps in and waved a hoof around her and said, “This is the living room. This is where I live. Tour’s over!” She sat right down on a pile of leaves or something before she jumped right back up, a shocked look on her face. “Oh, can I get you two anything? I have… leaves. And bugs…” I think Spike had a somewhat horrified look on his face, because when she looked at him she quickly looked away and sat back down. After a second of awkward silence, she said, “L-let me just show you two out.”

I walked over to stand in front of her before she could move. I knelt down and put a hand on one of her shoulders. “Mirror—or whatever your name is right now—can I talk to the one in charge?”

Her blue eyes went wide and she leaned back, trying to get away from me. “I… I don’t know what you’re talking about. It’s just me in here! Yep, no other voices at all!”

“Mirror, you don’t need to lie. I’m here to help you. But I can only help you if you tell me the truth.”

She faintly whispered, “I can’t control them at all…”

Flo?

“Get Spike to watch the entrance. Make sure nothing comes in at all. And try to get him not watch you, because you’re about to do something really weird.”

I shrugged my gun off and turned to Spike. “This thing is basically the same as the crossbow, but easier to use.” I pumped it and handed it to him. “Watch the door. It’s imperative that nothing get through. And whatever you do, don’t look back at us. Alright?”

“…Okay. Just be careful.”

“Good.” I turned back to Mirror, to find that she had backed up to the far wall and was glaring at me with hate in her eyes. I loudly popped my knuckles through my gauntlets as I walked up to her. “I’m not above holding you down.” She bared her fangs and launched her tiny, malnourished form at me. I let her tackle me dead on, face-planting into my armor. She slowly slid to the floor. Now what?

Flo sighed as I picked up a dazed Mirror. “This is where things get weird. Normally, it takes months of therapy to do this. However, I have a shortcut of sorts, due to my nature. I won’t be able to do it entirely alone, though; you’ll be helping me.”

That doesn’t answer my question. What do you want me to do now?

“Put her head next to yours, so I can build a bridge between you two. Be ready for anything, because there will only be so much I can do.”

I sat down on the floor and pulled Mirror’s body into a hug so that her head was next to mine. From the side, Spike wouldn’t be able to see that we were doing anything other than hugging. I felt something seep out of my ear and shivered at the feeling. That was all I had time to do before my consciousness was hijacked and I found myself in a blue void, standing on nothing.

“I’m trying to isolate the host,” the void whispered, the voice gently caressing my armored form. “Dream rules apply here, Nav, so get whatever you need to defend yourself.”

I shrugged and summoned a set of power armor and another bolter. “Ready to crush some bugs,” I said with a vicious grin.

“There… there have to be at least twenty of them,” the voice said, sounding somewhat disturbed. “Get ready. I’m bringing one of the more docile ones to bear.”

A very small changeling slowly appeared in the void in front of me. Her head darted around in fear before settling on me. I instantly removed my armor, losing about two feet in height. I covered myself in clothes that didn’t look as horrifying and knelt down toward the scared changeling.

“Hello,” I gently said, slowly reaching a hand toward it. The changeling eyed my hand with wide eyes until I cupped its chin and lifted its face up to look me in the eyes. “What is your name?”

“A-akin,” it answered. The voice sounded boyish and since changeling males and females looked the same to me, I was assuming it was a guy. “Where are the others?”

“Quarantined, for the moment,” I answered. “Tell me, who is the original? What is she—or he—like?”

“I don’t know… The others never let me out.”

“What can you tell me about them, then?”

His ears jerked down and he pulled away from my hand to look away. “Some of them are mean, hateful. Some of them seem to barely be there, little more than images, split seconds of emotion and nothing more. Mirror, Poly, Evo, and Eva are the strongest, and they come out the most. Mirror is lustful, doing anything she can to get a cheap thrill. Eva is eager to please, kind. Poly is the outgoing one, that tends to get all the work done.” He trailed off at that point.

“And Evo?” He squeezed his eyes shut, lying down and covering his face with his hooves. I gently reached under him and picked him up, sitting down and cradling him like a baby. “Tell me about him,” I said, holding him tight. “He can’t hurt you in here.”

“He’s a monster,” the tiny changeling whispered, eyes locked onto mine in fear. “Cruel and mean. He does whatever he can to make others suffer.”

“We can’t have that, now can we?” I looked up to the void. “Flo, now what?”

“Now we find one that we can deal with that knows who the original is. I counted twenty-two different personas. Whatever she went through, it was horrible.”

Akin jumped in fear when he first heard the voice, but he calmed down when he realized how kind it was. “Who is that?” he whispered to me.

“You aren’t the only one who has company in his head,” I said. “This is Flo. She’s going to help you. Flo, can you get Eva in here? She might be our best bet.”

“I can try. However, she can’t see Akin. I’ll need to send him back.”

That made him cling to me painfully tightly. “Don’t make me go back! Please! I’ll do anything, just don’t put me back in the dark!”

“Shh. Flo, can we just hide him?”

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