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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170. Chapter One Hundred and Forty-One

I was actually so badly wounded that Flo didn’t even keep my consciousness up, so I slept like the dead. It was pretty nice, actually. Honestly, human minds aren’t made to be constantly going at full tilt, and it kinda wears on me.

When I woke up, I found myself in yet another hospital bed. After having been in a few, I’d come to recognize them from their general lack of comfort and the segmented backs to fit my wings.

Instead of a daughter as a guest, I had an adorable bat pony guard captain, who was sitting off to the side and looking over some paperwork. While she was wearing her normal armor, she had the surprising addition of a white flower behind one of her ears.

I tried to comment on it, but my throat was extremely dry and it just came out as a croak. That’s when a small twinge of pain hit me and I groaned. Blossom immediately dropped her paperwork and burst into smoke to appear by my side instantly. Before I could try moving, she put a steady hoof on my chest.

“Be calm,” she quietly said, her glowing eyes beating into mine. Just like that, I instantly calmed down and eased back, the pain leaving my mind. She pulled her hoof back and nodded. “My apologies at using my… abilities so freely,” she said. “A few things have changed and I feel… slightly more comfortable now. But you are still injured and you can’t move too freely yet.” She put the hoof back on my chest and stared down at me again. “Release.”

I closed my eyes and took a deep breath, then worked some moisture into my mouth so I could talk. When I opened my eyes again, she had backed away a few steps. “I don’t mind, Blossom... and thank you. I know I… I know I lost my wing. I can’t feel it now. I guess it can’t be… reattached?”

“It has been,” she said, looking under me. “There were… complications. It has been slightly over a day since it was severed and slightly less than twelve hours since it was reattached. But it was a wound caused by a demonic blade, so it will… take some time to heal.”

“What does that mean for me?” I asked. “I mean, will it heal?”

“In time, yes. But it will likely take at least a week to be moveable without a splint. Perhaps three to be flyable. And you’ll require daily doses of healing magic, likely administered by Celestia, for at least two weeks. It was a very unpleasant wound, Nav. You’re lucky to be alive. From what I understand, demonic energy of that potency usually leaves its victims dead or worse.”

“That’s pretty shitty. It’s the only thing I have that hurts, so I assume the rest has also been patched up. How about Celestia and that weird guy?”

“The princess is fine, though she is missing a few patches of fur. The inquisitor has already begun conducting investigations into the cause, both who was guilty and where he or she obtained the knowledge required to summon such monstrosities. He has his own jurisdiction, but I will likely be kept informed of the main points of his investigation as a courtesy.”

“Neat. So what kind of losses did we end up taking?”

“In terms of residents of the tower, only two dead. Seven are too brain damaged from corruption and being lost in music or asleep for too long to properly function. A few mares and a female griffin had internal injuries from… an unpleasant demon. All things told, for an infestation of demons, the tower got off lucky. We had three guards killed and two more injured by the fire demon after you collapsed. One has already succumbed to the unholy magic, though the other will probably pull through. After holding the large shield up for almost three days, Shining Armor was too weak to fully hold the demon in a bubble, and demons are too magic resistant to truly be put down for long by a standard guard unicorn. Thankfully, they were able to hold it off until the inquisitor could successfully unsummon it.”

“Jesus. I thought Shiny had it covered when I went down…”

“He did, but then it saw you getting away and started burning even more intensely. Apparently, it really wanted you dead, and tried to fight its way to you.”

“...Four dead, trying to save me.”

Her ears fell and she immediately stepped back up to me, this time putting a hoof on one of my hands. “Four dead doing their jobs, Nav. If that demon had killed you, it would have turned on them anyway. Their… our job is to protect everyone. If we have to put down our lives for it, we’ll happily do so. We would have done the same for anyone.”

“Yeah. Yeah, I know. It’s just… they didn’t do it for anyone. They did it for me. God, fuck that demon.” Fuck that fire elemental, more like. I sighed and took her hoof with my hand. “Thank you for being here, Blossom. Do you know when I can leave the hospital?”

“We’re actually in the medical wing of the palace. You’ll probably be allowed to leave tomorrow morning, as soon as Celestia examines you. I believe, from what the doctor said, that your wing is fine as long as you don’t attempt to move it quickly or strain it. It’ll likely ache, but they can give you either magic or medicine for that.”

“Good.” My eyes finally went to the flower. “So you know I gotta ask…”

She sighed as she let go of me to brush at the flower with a hoof. “A suggestion from Fleur. She advised that it would… assist in repairing my image, so to say. Speaking of which, I might… need your help with a matter, if you would be willing.”

“I’m always happy to help, Blossom. What do you need?”

She looked away and fell silent for a few seconds before looking back at me, somewhat sheepish. “Fleur is hosting a party in a few days. She has heavily advised that I attend, and I have already made plans to that effect.”

“Cool. Knowing Fleur, you’ll probably need a dress or something. Is that what you need help with?”

“No, that’s… already covered.”

“Ah. Need lessons in manners? I don’t act like it, but I can definitely turn on the charm if I care enough.” She shook her head, her ears shrinking down again. “Oh. Well, what do you need, then?”

“...A date.”

“Oh. That makes much more sense. Do you want me to go as your date or do you want me to help find you someone else?” When she looked away, I saw a strange tint of something on her face. “Holy shit, are you actually blushing? Can vampires even do that?”

And that got her to glare at me, though the tint was getting more noticeable. “I am not blushing and eternals can’t do that anyway. S-stupid…” She looked away and kicked at the ground for a moment before looking back. “Before this curse, I was fully dedicated to my work. I knew that to advance and to stand out, I had to cut out any kind of hope for a relationship. I still had… occasional romps, as a means of stress relief, but nothing serious. And after the curse, I knew I could never… never really love again. I couldn’t… can’t risk it.”

“That still hasn’t answered my question, Blossom. Do you want me to be your date or do you want me to help you find someone? We don’t have to go as a couple, you know. We can definitely go as friends. And hell, you don’t honestly even need a date.”

“I do, for this one. Fleur told me it was a requirement, and that it was okay if I didn’t want to go. I told her that I would think about it and get back to her, but that I would... consider attempting to find one. That was before the demons showed up in the tower and all of my attention got shifted to that.”

She fell silent for a few seconds and looked away. “...Blossom, do you want me to be your date to the dance?”

That weird tint came back over her face and her ears started twitching. “Well, that would certainly be the easiest option…” She went back into silence, ears still twitching.

“Blossom, will you be my date to the dance?”

“...Yes.”

“Alright, cool.” Silence took over for a few long, awkward seconds. “So I should probably tell you that I didn’t pack much clothing. I have nothing nice with me. I also have absolutely no bits on me, so I’ll have to head to the bank before I can do anything.”

She breathed a small sigh of relief before nodding. Her ears also finally went back up. “I will speak with Fleur. She will probably be able help you make arrangements. She was actually quite anxious to be among the first to visit you while you were injured, but all non-guard visitors were being turned away until you woke up.”

“Huh. How did she even know I was hurt? I figured Celestia was trying to keep that shit under wraps.”

She actually smiled, showing off her fangs. “She failed. I imagine her original plan was to hide it and the fact that there were demons, but it’s kind of hard to hide a battle between the defender of harmony and the queen of demons, especially when it was right in front of half the guards in the city and at least half the researchers in the tower. It spread by word of mouth before the first newspapers could even start printing.” She awkwardly rubbed the back of her neck with a hoof. “In… semi-related news, the entire city… and probably the entire nation… knows you’re female now. And um… a few other details.”

I stared at her for a few very long moments. “You’re going to have to explain that one,” I finally said.

“Well… we didn’t really have a medical tent set up and we didn’t have time to set one up after what happened to you. So when the two medics we had ordered you to be stripped so they could look for extra wounds, well… everyone nearby saw you. Naked. They also saw… um… Well, here’s the drawer of everything you had on you, aside from clothes.” She walked over to a cabinet and pulled out the drawer, then held it up so I could see the contents.

It had the standard stuff. Knives, my ring, my key, a buttplug, some loose coins, and the weird balancing baton thing.

When I got my fill of it, I pointed at one of the knives, “I need you to go ahead and use that to stab right through my throat.” She silently put the drawer back, so I pointed at my carotid. “Right across here is fine.”

She walked back over with a strange half-smile on her face. “I’m honestly curious, Nav. Why were you wearing that during a battle with demons?”

“Because I’m stupid and making deals with adorable unicorns is a bad idea.” She slowly lifted an eyebrow. “Alright, you know Twilight Sparkle?”

“To my detriment, yes. Shining Armor’s sister and Princess Celestia’s student.”

“Alright, so she’s been curious about some things. I’ve started teaching her the ins and outs of bondage and domination.” Both of her eyebrows went up, that time. “So as my dom-in-training, she asked that I acclimate myself to some of the more… tawdry activities. In exchange, I get to put a vibrator in her every so often and play with it all day. So far, I’ve spent most of my time regretting it.”

“Uh… huh. You live an… interesting life, Nav. So I take it you and Miss Sparkle are dating?”

“You take it wrong. She and I are friends that happen to find interesting and unique ways of handling the various stresses that come of traveling and fighting. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship I’ve shared with a few individuals.” But I wasn’t as opposed to the idea as I once was. Twilight changed quite a lot over the years. And so did I.

“Ah. Well, all the ponies now know you are a female. So take that how you will.”

“With extreme anger and disappointment, followed by the typical self-loathing that always rides in the back of my mind.”

She blinked a few times, then shrugged. “At least we share that.” The clock on the wall started making noises, which got us both to stare at it. “Ten. I need to return to work.” She looked back at me. “Are you well, Nav? Do you require a doctor? Are you in pain?”

“It twinges if I move, but it doesn’t really hurt all too much otherwise. I wouldn’t exactly say I’m well, but I don’t think a medical doctor can really cure hating yourself or wishing that you had just died at birth.”

Her ears twitched for a few seconds before she carefully put a hoof on one of my hands. “I’m your… friend, Nav. If you really feel that way, you know you can talk to me. Right?”

“I’m thankful for the offer, but being cursed with this female body doesn’t mean that I find emotional support more useful than practical solutions. I’d much rather have a way of making everyone forget what they just learned, but I also understand that such a thing is impossible. So instead I’ll settle for hating myself even more.”

“...Why not settle for what I can give you? Support from friends is extremely important, Nav. I only just recently started learning that again. I spent so long hating myself that I forgot what it was like to be happy. Now, the guards under me are noticing how I’m changing. I’m smiling, Nav. I’m nicer. I’m less about business and more about getting to really know my guards. You helped me learn how to care again. You helped me stop hating myself. Won’t you at least let me hear you out?”

God fucking dammit, I have got to get out of this cycle. I slowly forced myself to take her hoof back in my hand, which actually made her warmly smile. “When I was growing up, I was invisible. Small, young, white. Neglectful parents that didn’t care and almost no friends to notice me. That’s the way it was for several years. And in a way, that’s how I prefered it. Invisibility is safe. It means you avoid problems. And then I come here. Now I’m the center of everyone’s attention, almost all the time. I’m different. An anomaly. To the ponies, I reflect all of humanity. They see how I act and assume that’s just how all humans are. So I’m the center of attention and I represent an entire race of people and I’m fucking up and they’re catching me in all my worst moments and ignoring all the good shit I’ve done and it’s fucked up, Blossom! Luna destroyed me in every way she could and then ruined everything else with her stupid fucking dreams and these god damn wings on my back mean I can never be me again and I can never sleep right because they’re always in my way and it feels like everyone I meet wants to use me because they figure, fuck it, he’s different, he can get away with anything but no, being different means you get away with it legally but no one will ever forget. I can’t remember when I started wanting to die, but that want has never left me. The only reason I haven’t already killed myself is because I have a daughter that I never asked for and didn’t want and can’t take care of but she’s stuck with me now because if I leave her, she’ll probably be one step behind me. And Celestia’s watching everything I do all the time because she can and because no one could or would stop her and she always has little funny things to say about it all to let me know she’s watching, but thinks I don’t feel threatened by it because it’s supposed to make me feel like I have a safety net, but all it does is freak me out because she could do whatever she wanted to me at any time and no one could do anything, because she made Luna disappear and is still talking to her and knows exactly where she is after she admitted to doing horrible things to me. This world is fucked, Blossom. Almost no one is good and just about everyone likes watching me fail. I’m legally a national hero and still half the small towns I go to treat me like an animal or a monster and watch me suspiciously and try to fuck me over. Luna tried to hit me with love poison once to make me her love slave, Cadance tried to hit me with her bullshit spell more than once to make me a love slave, Celestia tried to wipe my mind to make me happy and she tried to hit me with love poison, Bloodbeak put a knife to my throat, Chrysalis scares the shit out of me because I know she’s evil but she’s trying to hide it from me so I don’t turn my back on her, the cat king’s a slaver asshole, the minotaurs want to keep me as a pet, and that covers all the so-called civilized races on the planet. When I first got here, I tried to be a decent person. I tried to forget my invisibility, because I knew it was gone forever. But then one thing happened and another thing happened and now every time I open my fucking mouth I’m on the front page of half a dozen newspapers and god knows how many stupid fucking magazines and now that they know I’m a chick they’re going to follow me even more closely because of course they are. And I’m tired, Blossom. I threaten one reporter and five more take his place. I talk to another for a few seconds and a dozen more leap forward. I ignore them and they just follow me. I get Fleur to talk to them and they’re off my back for maybe a day before something else happens and I open my mouth again and then the leeches are back. I’m starting to lose my patience. I’m tired of threatening them. I’m tired of dealing with them. I’m tired of being hounded and followed and annoyed and bothered and hunted and used. So there’s your fucking dose of hearing me out, Blossom. Shit’s fucked and it’s going to stay fucked and I’m tired of it but that’s the way life is because life is fucking suffering.”

Her warm smile didn’t last long. In fact, it was very quickly replaced by a look of concern, followed by one of anger, and ending with one of cold calculation. Several seconds after I finished talking, she placed her head on my chest and wrapped her cold wings around me. “You might think it means nothing or you might think it means everything, but you have friends, Nav. Despite everything, there are those that care for you. We’re the ones who matter, and reporters won’t turn us against you. I really doubt it makes you feel better and I understand. It’s a… less than desirable position in which to be.” She pulled away and put a hoof on my shoulder. “I joined the guard to prevent injustice. Your paparazzi leeches have gone unchecked for too long. That changes tonight. Damage cannot be undone, but more can be prevented. I will do everything in my power, both legally and illegally, to help keep reporters away from you.”

She started to pull away, but I grabbed her hoof. “Don’t risk yourself for me, Blossom. I can probably protect you from Celestia if she finds out your secret, but not if she finds out because you’re breaking the law.”

“I choose my fate, Nav. And if I choose to risk myself for a friend, I will. I’ve existed with this curse for so long, but I’ve never truly lived with it. You’ve helped me learn how to, so I’m going to help give you peace. Those reporters are breaking laws. I am going to punish them. If they continue breaking laws, they will be arrested. I will just give them one chance to learn their lessons.”

“...If you get into any trouble at all, tell Celestia to talk to me. I will make sure nothing happens.”

“It would be my due. I will take whatever punishment she gives.”

I pulled on her hoof, making her come closer. “No you fucking will not. You will tell her to come to me. I will speak to her. She will do nothing. Now nod your head and say yes, Nav.”

She actually smiled again, though it was a small one, then nodded and said, “Yes, Nav.”

I looked into her eyes for a few more seconds before letting her go. “Let your guards know I’m alright. I’m sure some of them will be happy.”

“They all will. Even the day guards, at this point. After finding out you led the demon queen away from Princess Celestia so it couldn’t harm her, then almost sacrificed yourself fighting it, most of them have forgotten their negative opinions of you. Especially since Shining Armor really seems to like you, even after making him look bad twice by saving his wife.”

“I wasn’t trying to make him look bad, I was just trying to keep Cadance safe.”

“Bringing Pertz to justice also helped. Especially when Celestia revealed that you saved a few guards that were imprisoned while you were at it, putting your own crew and life in danger. A few of the day guards are still upset at you or scared of you because of the war games, but their opinions mostly seem to have flipped overnight.”

“Neat, I guess. So when is the dance?”

“Three days. Fleur will likely come by in the morning to see if you’re up and accepting visitors. She can give you more information.”

“Cool. Thank you again for being here, Blossom.”

“Of course. The princess told me what tends to happen when you wake up in hospital beds alone, so I made sure it wouldn’t happen again. Three hours earlier, and it would have been Shining Armor.”

I smiled and said, “I’m glad it was you. You’re a lot cuter than he is.”

She rolled her eyes, of course. “I’ll try to come visit you again later tonight, if I have time. If not, I’ll be sure to see you tomorrow night.”

“Cool. I would offer to let you nibble on me before you go, but I probably just lost a lot of blood.”

“You did, and I ate before I came just in case you were in heat again. I might take a small snack before the dance, to sooth my nerves and to bring us more in sync, but it wouldn’t be much of one.”

“...Bring us more in sync?” I slowly asked.

“It is hard to explain,” she said with a shrug. “But essentially, I can exert some small control over your mind after dominating and feeding on you. I can’t make you do something you don’t want to do, but I can make it easier to keep you focused. I’ll leave that up to you.”

I shrugged. “Alright, I guess. I’ll see you later, Blossom.”

“Until then, Nav.” She walked over to where she left her papers and gathered them before walking out.

So what’s the damage? I finally asked, getting that question off my chest.

“It could have been a lot worse,” Flo said. “But that’s not saying it’s good. The blood loss wasn’t too bad, since I was able to staunch it almost immediately. But there’s something wrong with it. Despite what Celestia’s doing, it isn’t healing properly.”

“Huh. Is there something we can do about that?”

“I will inform her tomorrow. I don’t know what more she can really do, though. You’re lucky to still have a wing at all.”

“Well, if it doesn’t work, it’s not doing me any good. If magic can’t get it, do you think you can fix it up when you get back to me?”

“Likely. We are still two days away from the port Gourd has selected for our repairs, and until we arrive, my sisters will need my assistance. But as soon as we drop the ship off, I plan to return to your side. I am finally free and my sisters know my side in their debate, so there will be nothing that might stand in the way of me being near you.”

“Excellent. You make a much better bed than Celestia. Speaking of which, why am I awake? Isn’t it fall?”

“It is. I woke you up so you could speak with Blossom, since she seemed very tense about something. You are well enough that you could likely move, minus your wing. We’ll take Celestia’s judgment on that.”

“Works for me. In that case, you want to put me back to sleep?”

And just like that, I was back in her glade. “Happily,” she answered, seeping up my pants. “What you said to Blossom was good, by the way. Telling her was the right choice.”

“You mean the part where I told her she was cute?”

“You’re not too injured for me to start giving you random orgasms again. Telling friends your worries and your pains brings you closer to them. It lets them know that you trust them. I’m happy that you did it, especially with Blossom. She needs to know that you trust her, more than any of your other friends. And even more, she needs to know that you’ll support her no matter what.”

“Well, of course I will. She should have known that as soon as she told me her dark secret and I didn’t do anything about it. I will protect her from Celestia because it is the right thing to do. I might actually try to talk her into coming out to Celestia soon anyway, because Celestia is going to find out at some point and I’d rather it be when I’m there and can do something about it.”

“That would likely be wise. I’d also suggest having Fleur there as well, so she can explain her lack of fear.”

“I’m not really sure Fleur would be all too comfortable being around Celestia after what happened, but I’ll try to get her there. So what are your thoughts on this dance thing?”

“That it’s stupid. Just another social event set up by Fleur. I believe your efforts on her were likely wasted, sadly; it seems she immediately fell back into her habits. Go to support Blossom, but don’t expect much of substance.”

“You have so little faith in people,” I said, rubbing her wet body. “Maybe she fell into old habits… or maybe she has an ulterior motive. At this point, neither would honestly surprise me. I suppose I’ll find out tomorrow, because she’ll likely be among the first in line to see me. And what about Shiny? He said he needed to talk to me. Any thoughts?”

“No. Talk to him and see what he has to say. And thank him for saving your life, of course.”

“I’ll be sure to rub his belly extra softly,” I sarcastically replied. “Now, the last order of business. Would you mind going ahead and shutting my brain down now? That would be great.”

“How about no?” She started lowering me to the ground, then plopped a good chunk of her body onto my chest so she could stare down at me with a smile. “Reporters are reporters, Nav. Your reputation is unimportant. Ponies have been reporting garbage about you for so long that I really doubt many of them believe much of it these days. I’m sure plenty will believe that you’re female, but I doubt they’ll believe the other part. And if they do, so what? It’s your body and you have every right to enjoy it however you please.”

“...I want to enjoy my penis again.”

“Alright, so, it’s your body and you have every right to enjoy it however you please, within the realm of physical possibilities. Though you can certainly take advantage of it here in the dream world.”

“I know, but it’s just not the same. You wouldn’t understand, Flo. You can’t even enjoy sex.”

She sighed and lowered herself slightly. “I definitely understand your frustration, Nav. And I may not personally understand, but I do understand through you. There’s a physical vulgarity and barbarity to it that you enjoy. Something base and primal. Something that you find lacking from your current sex life.”

“Yeah. I don’t know, as a female, it feels like my job is to be pleasured. As a guy, it felt like it was my job to cause pleasure. It feels… different. And I don’t like it. I mean, it feels good and all, but it feels like there should be more, you know?”

“I do. And I understand. Perhaps this is a point you should raise with your partners. If you are going to do something, you might as well do it to the utmost and enjoy it as much as possible.”

“Hm. It’s something to consider, at least.” We both fell silent and she eased down onto me the rest of the way, engulfing me up to my neck. “Think we should go nightmare busting?” I asked after a few minutes.

“No. I think we should stay right here and bask in each other’s comforts.”

“‘Kay.” And so we did. It wasn’t too bad.

I woke up feeling… relaxed. For the first time in a long time. Despite supposedly feeling safe on the way out of Africa, I knew an attack could come at any time, so I never really found myself unwinding. Canterlot wasn’t home, per se, but it was a lot closer to it than I had been in a while. It allowed me to really let go, because I knew almost nothing could physically hurt me right in the seat of Celestia’s imperial power.

Except for Celestia herself, of course. And demons, apparently. And Luna. And hired thugs. And maybe I relaxed a little too soon, but it still felt good. I can’t live life constantly on edge.

It was still stupidly early in the morning, unsurprisingly. Despite that, someone had opened the window and drawn the blinds, so I could get some fresh air and see some things outside. Whoever picked my room had the nice idea of giving me a view of the mage’s tower. It was missing its pink bubble and appeared to have returned to some amount of normalcy. Or whatever passes for it, there.

The wind pushing in from outside was slightly nipply, so I kept the blankets up and just used one of the handle things on the side of the bed to jack myself up, so I was actually sitting something close to upright.

Shining Armor probably wasn’t expecting to walk in on me smiling and staring out the window. And he had probably never actually heard me humming before. The notepad in my hand that Flo was drawing on also likely surprised him, because she was perfectly recreating the scene outside using a pen that had been on the bedside.

“You seem well,” he said after a few seconds of shocked staring. He let himself in the rest of the way and pushed the door shut behind him with magic.

“I feel well, too,” I replied, turning my gaze to him instead of the window. Flo carefully ripped the top sheet out of the notepad and set it on the bedstand and started drawing something else. I didn’t pay it any mind, but Shiny was watching my hands. “It’s good to have some time off, even if it’s because I’m hurt.”

“How’s your wing?” he asked, walking up to stand next to the bed.

“Still aching,” I said, gently flapping the uninjured one. “I don’t think it’s healing right. I’ll ask Celestia to look at it more closely when she gets here.”

“That’s not good at all,” he said, his smile dipping slightly. “Demon weapons are usually poisoned, from what I understand. I’m sure she would have looked for that, but maybe she missed it.”

“I’m sure it’s nothing too bad,” I said with a shrug. “I mean, the thing was severed. I’m just happy it’s healable at all.”

“...Right.” He lifted one of his hooves up to my forehead. “Are you sure you’re feeling alright?”

“Fairly, yes. Am I flushed?” He pulled his hoof away, looking strangely concerned. “I suppose I am a little warm. These blankets are heavy.” I pushed them down, baring my chest since I wasn’t wearing anything. Of course, his eyes went right to my breasticals. I chuckled and said, “Now you’re the one who’s blushed, Shiny.”

His ears shot straight down and his eyes went right back to my face. “S-sorry, I—”

“You’re seeing a naked human female,” I said. “It’s understandable to be curious. I take no offense.”

“You… you just seem so… so calm. Almost… happy? It’s just… you’ve never really been… I don’t know, calm around me. You always seem wired, like you’re ready to hurt something or you’re just ready to move.”

“People change, Shiny. And I’ve certainly been trying to. I’ve lived too much of my life on the edge. I’m tired. Of moving, of fighting, of hurting, of running. Of… anger. It’s not a happy life. It’s not a good life. It’s stressful and painful and awful and it makes me want to die. My life is horrible, but that doesn’t mean I can’t find joy in it, you know? It’s a hard battle and I’m still fighting, but I like to think I’m starting to change.”

He was silent for a few seconds before actually smiling again. “I’m really happy to hear you say that, Nav. Cadance told me you were taking what happened fairly well. To be honest, I didn’t believe her. After this and Luna disappearing and your dragonessfriend leaving and… all the things that happened, I truly thought you would be in a bad place. I’m happy for you, Nav.”

Thanks for reminding me that everything is shitty. “You said earlier that you wanted to talk.”

“Yeah. I had another topic in mind when I said that, but a few things came up since then that are more pressing. Did Celestia tell you what you were getting into in Africa?”

“What do you mean?” I asked. “She found out I was heading there and asked me to bring Pertz back to Equestria if at all possible.”

“Did she tell you anything about him?”

“That he was a trader and that he hasn’t responded to her messages. That was all she said.”

He pursed his lips for a few seconds. “She didn’t mention that he had contacts in Canterlot that also went rogue?”

“She did not. Would it have mattered?”

He stomped a hoof down. “He was in contact with Blueblood and the pony that sent thugs after you, Nav! She sent you after a monster that hated you without ever having met you!”

“...Oh. Yeah, he did mention something like that.”

He closed his mouth with an audible snap. “I see. And did she say what exactly she meant by the fact that he hadn’t responded to her messages?”

“Nah.”

“He took the ship she sent down the river captive. I assumed my soldiers were dead until she told me you rescued them.”

“I found three. I don’t know how many there were. They told me the trader on the ship was murdered. I also saved the secretary or whatever that chick was.”

“Thank you, Nav. That means a lot more than you know to me. Celestia did not tell you that Pertz was dangerous and willing to attack other ponies. She did not tell you that he hated you. I will absolutely remember that. What did she tell you about the demons?”

“Not much of jack fucking shit,” I said with a shrug. “I mean, when we saw them, she explained who was what and what some of their powers were. But she didn’t know who all was there until we started running into them. She also didn’t explain that her inquisitor guy seemed half demonic himself, not that it really mattered.”

He shook his head. “It does matter. I’ve expressed that point to her many times. Those who use evil to fight evil cannot be trusted and should not be given power, because it is only a matter of time before they start seeing things that are good as evil. There is evil magic in this world, Nav. Magic that requires pony sacrifices. I suspect that he has used it in the past. I think he is dangerous and should be brought to heel.”

“I said something similar and he didn’t seem that interested in hearing it. You ever get the feeling that… I don’t know, Celestia’s too old, or something? I mean, that many years has gotta warp your perspective. She’s had me do some very dark things, and has practically admitted to some pretty dark shit, too. And man, I found some old history books in my travels that paint a very different picture of this place.”

He used magic to pull the couch over and plopped down in it, smiling. “I’m very happy to hear you say that, Nav. Would you mind sharing some of what you know?”

“Bring me some water and we’ll talk.”

He chuckled and stood back up. “Just had to wait until I was comfortable, didn’t you?”

“Making you suffer is fun. Bring a pitcher, if you can. It helps me heal faster.”

“Of course. I’ll also see about getting some food.”

“Excellent. I’ll see you in a few minutes, Shiny.”

“Shouldn’t take me long at all.” He walked on out, leaving the door open. I could actually see a guard standing on the other side of it, though I didn’t think much of it.

When I couldn’t hear his hooves anymore, I looked down at what Flo had been drawing. It was a smiling portrait of Shining Armor. At first, that was all I really saw. Then I actually looked at it deeper and I realized how much depth Flo managed to put into it. Something about the set of his face and his posture just yelled ‘honor’ to me. The way his eyes looked and the shape of his smile seemed to scream earnesty. Just looking at it made me feel like I could trust him. It made me really think about how he was as a pony, in all my interactions with him.

And that made me smile.

That’s how Celestia walked in on me. As soon as I realized she was there, I carefully pulled that drawing out and placed it next to the other one. “I’m happy to see that you’re awake,” she said, smiling wide.

“I’m happy to be awake,” I replied. Flo started drawing again, but Celestia didn’t pay it any mind. “Did you have any issues with Ariel?”

“Some,” she said, brushing at a patch of furless skin. “Nothing I could not handle, knowing that he was the last. You should not have tried to fight Nestorats alone.”

“I know. I was planning on flying out of her reach. That didn’t go over so well.”

“I’m aware. How do you feel?”

“Hungry and thirsty. Flo says the wing isn’t healing properly. I figured you could look at it.”

“I most certainly can, but I’d like to talk about something first. Shining Armor has been asking questions about things to some ponies to whom he doesn’t usually converse. Some of the things about which he has asked are things I would rather stay… unknown. Not every pony needs to know everything. Should he decide to ask you anything, I’d like you to practice extra discretion, and to let me know whatever he asks about.”

“This, coming from the one that encourages making and keeping friends? That doesn’t seem the slightest bit hypocritical to you?”

Her eyes narrowed ever-so-slightly. “I like ponies being friends, Nav. I dislike ponies prying where they have no business. He is a prince, but not of Equestria. He and his wife have elected to keep their own counsel, refusing my attempts at guidance. They are free to do so, but in doing so, they should learn very quickly that they have no right to question my country. There are too many voices here right now asking too many questions I’d prefer to go unasked.”

“Celestia, I left my world in a very… tumultuous time. If I have learned anything from my own people and from what I’ve seen here, it’s that the truth will set you free. You have no need to fear questions if you wear the answers openly. From what I’ve seen, your cult of personality is based on lies and mistruths spun over six thousand years of ruling. And it’s starting to crack, piece by piece. Science is starting to spread, little by little. And I imagine one of the very first things scientists start figuring out is that the sun doesn’t move. When they realize that, all your power and experience will shoot straight down the drain as ponies realize that you lied to them about keeping the sun in place for thousands of years. You have the option of preempting that. These questions you’re hearing are your opportunity. Tell the truth. Tell all the truth. You have done absolutely horrible things. And through those horrible things, you have created the most stable country in the world, with a good economy, a good standing army, and peace. But the lies have to stop, because your ponies are starting to lose faith. They’re starting to doubt. They see corruption. Soon, the murmured questions will turn into day-to-day conversations. Then they’ll turn into open accusations. Then they’ll turn into swords and spears at your front gates. The time for a choice is coming very rapidly, Celestia. Will you find yourself on the right side of history as someone that continues to lead ponies down the right path, or as a broken relic that’s cast aside?”

Her look turned somber very quickly, of course. “Ponies and humans are not the same, Navarone.”

“No, they’re not. And neither are ponies and dragons, or ponies and griffons, or ponies and cats. But every sapient race I’ve found prefers the truth over lies, Celestia. And they all hate it when they feel used. You’re lying to them and using their ignorance to stay in power. If they don’t discover it tomorrow, they’ll discover it eventually. A year. Ten. A hundred. They’ll find out, Celestia. And if it’s not from your own mouth, admitted freely, it’ll turn everything on its head. You’ll have loyalists and you’ll have rebels. And even when you put down the rebels, those that stayed loyal will always remember what you had to do to make it happen, and what they were fighting for in the first place.”

“It will not happen. I did not come here for a lecture, Navarone.”

“No, but you’re getting one anyway. Let’s talk about Discord for a second, shall we?” Her eyes narrowed even more. “Lying creates discord in relationships, Celestia. It fuels anger and hate. It keeps things like that monster powerful. He’s already returned now. Looking at his past actions, what do you think his endgame is? He killed off humanity entirely. He killed all but a handful of elementals. And then race after race rose into power after them and were erased so fully that there aren’t even memories of them now. He killed all but two alicorns, creating a race of changeling monsters in the process. That thing uses stresses and weaknesses in societies that are already present to fracture them beyond repair. From what I’ve seen, he pulls at strings and twists at minds. He preys on things like lies, because they fuel him and make him stronger. And he’s free. Right now. All revolutions start as quiet questions, Celestia. Whispered by the disenfranchised in back rooms. Then they progress. Some revolutions end in victory for the loyalists. Some end in victory for those revolting. All of them end in victory for Discord. Especially when both sides grind themselves down so much that it’s easy for him to waltz in and finish off the rest.”

She was silent for several long seconds. “I am not being used.”

“Bloodbeak thought the same thing. When a puppet is having its strings pulled by a grand master puppeteer, it looks to all that it’s moving of its own accord. Even to the puppet. Look at how events have played out in the past, Celestia. Think about how Discord might have been freed. Just what exactly made his seal so weak? You may think you aren’t being used, but remember who put you in power in the first place. And remember that despite his appearances, he has a plan. He told you to take over for a reason, Celestia. He let you win for a reason. Are you playing your game… or are you playing his?”

She stared at me for what felt like a very long time. Finally, the silence was broken by the door opening. Shining Armor walked in, levitating a large pitcher of water and a tray with a glass and some basic food that he figured I could probably eat.

We both stared at him, and he seemed almost surprised to see Celestia there. But say what you will about him, he’s a pretty well-trained officer, so he got over the surprise and smiled. “Good morning, Princess. I’m surprised to see you visiting Nav so early.”

“I could say the same, Prince. I have come to examine his wing. I thought it prudent to do so earlier rather than later. Given that he is complaining about it, I believe I made the right choice.” She turned back to me. “I am going to ease you over, Nav. Are you ready to be moved?”

Flo set the pen and the pad on the table next to me and I nodded. “Go for it.”

While Celestia carefully flipped me over, Shiny moved to the couch and set the tray and pitcher down on the table, picking up the stuff I was drawing with magic so it wasn’t in the way. Thankfully, Celestia was extremely careful, and made sure to hold my wing steady with magic. She also did me the kindness of lowering the bed back down, so she didn’t break my spine.

When I was fully on my stomach, she lowered the blanket down to my hips and walked over to stand next to me. “How’s it look?” I asked.

“Scarred. I am going to do something… interesting. Some demonic weapons have latent abilities, and you were not wearing your ring when you were hit. I am going to do an acceleration spell on it, something that will cause any magical effects to shoot forward.”

“Are you sure that’s wise?” Shiny asked. “If it’s necrotic, the entire wing may rot!”

“I’m gonna go with Shiny on this one,” I quickly said. “Flo told me she can probably fix whatever it is if you can’t. I’d rather have a wing left for her to fix.”

“I do not believe your wing would fully decay,” she said. “But it is your wing, and if that is your choice, so be it. I will just pour more healing into it and hope for the best.”

She carefully pressed her horn against the area that was sliced and I felt a warm glow suffusing the wing. I sighed and let my body relax even more, enjoying the feeling. But of course, it didn’t last too long, since there’s only so much one can do.

“Hopefully that will fix the issue,” Celestia said, pulling away. “I believe it will likely still ache for a few days, and it’ll need to be bound in a cast or a splint before you leave. But you should be able to leave as soon as that’s done.”

“Sounds good to me,” I said. “Can you flip me back over?”

“Of course.” Her horn lit back up and she did just that. “I do so enjoy seeing you on your back…”

“You’ll have plenty of chances for that later, when there are fewer visitors present,” I said. Shining Armor rolled his eyes. “Do you know when a doctor will be here to splint me?”

“It will likely be an hour. There are other wounded that require attention, so my personal staff has been pushed. You are a fairly low priority case, compared to the others.”

“I’m in no hurry,” I said with a casual shrug. “I have company and I’m sure others are aching to visit, and it’s not like I have any plans anyway.”

She smiled. “I’m happy to see you so relaxed, Nav. Unfortunately, I have a kingdom to return to. I promise to think on what you said. It… perhaps has some merit.”

“I’m happy to hear that. I’ll look for you when I get out.”

She nodded. “Until then.” She looked over to Shiny. “The trial will be tomorrow, if you are fully recovered.”

“I am, Princess.”

“Then I will send for you when it is time. If you are interested, the documents can be sent to you.”

“That won’t be necessary. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

She nodded and then teleported out.

“What trial?” I immediately asked.

“For Pertz. She asked me to come here a few days after you left, since I had expressed many times when I was still the captain that I wanted him to face justice. I’ll be making sure he stays harmless through the trial. Now, shall we continue our discussion?” He used magic to push the door shut.

“Pass me that drawer,” I said, pointing to the one that had all my shit. He did so without a word and without looking at the contents. Not that it mattered, since he probably already knew all the sordid details. I popped the ring out and slid it over my finger, then nodded. “There’s a chance she’s watching you, too.”

“There is nothing she can do to me. Or to you, for that matter. We are not discussing anything illegal.”

“We don’t have to be, Shiny. She’s had me do some stuff that’s pretty illegal in the past. And she’s done plenty of other stuff.”

“Let’s start with the past and work our way forward. You said you found some old history books. What can you tell me about those?”

I want to say that I started something great that day, but that feels… cliche. And I’ve watched too many movements start strong and fizzle out. But as I spoke, I watched Shining Armor’s countenance slowly darken and fall, and I knew that there would be a reckoning, one way or another. I had a very strong feeling that if Celestia didn’t straighten herself out, Shining Armor would eventually turn into the revolutionary out of her nightmares.

After I finished, we sat in silence for about a minute. Finally, he said, “You confessed to a murder.”

“I did.”

“And a few assaults.”

“I did.”

“And a genocide.”

“...I did.”

He fell silent again, his eyes slowly scanning around the room. They came to a stop on the things I drew and he slowly floated them over. One was his picture, bright and honorable. One was an outsider’s perspective of Equestria, peaceful and happy. One was Celestia, who had been posed as calculating and dark.

He looked over them for some time before looking back at me. “You are a good person, Navarone. A good person caught in a bad situation. I am happy to find that you’re trying to better yourself, in any way you can.” He fell silent again, still looking at the pictures. He eventually looked back to me. “When you’re done with your adventure, come live in the Crystal Empire. My wife and I need somepony like you.”

“And Equestria doesn’t?”

He looked back at the middle picture, the one of the view outside my room. “I think it was too late for Equestria a long time ago. I just never want it to be too late for my new home.”

“Never give up on trying to make the world a better place, Shiny. The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. And I don’t think it’s too late for Celestia, either. Don’t turn your back on your people. Be a shining beacon for them to look up to. Be incorruptible. Prove to Celestia and the ponies of Equestria that you don’t have to be secretly evil to run a country. Be open and honest. You and Cadance can change Equestria, I guarantee it. And I believe that between the three of us, we can change Celestia for the better.”

He flew the drawings back to the table beside me, next to the empty food tray. “We live in interesting times, Nav.”

“Interesting times make for the best stories. Are you going to be the hero, or are you going to be the onlooker? The writer, or the storyteller? The world needs a change. You are a person in a position to help change it.”

“I am. And I am going to. I will spread the information you gave me, Nav. And when I go back north, I’ll stop by Gryphus and talk to the king about the books you gave him. He is wise, and will likely have an interesting perspective on them. I’ll also try to get a copy.”

“Good. And as much as you might find the idea distasteful, talk to Fleur de Lis, the wife of Fancy Pants.” He slowly lifted an eyebrow. “Trust me. She’s working on a revolution of a different sort, but might be able to point you in the right direction. Just tell her I sent you, if necessary.”

“I mean… I trust you, but… Fleur?”

I was saved from having to explain by a knock on the door. He sighed and shook his head, then used magic to open it. The mare herself waltzed through, an extremely concerned look on her face. She ignored Shiny completely and literally leapt across the room toward my bed. “Are you alright?!”

“Very much so,” I quickly said, holding a hand up. She took it without a second thought, pulling it close.

“As soon as I heard what happened, I tried visiting, but I was turned away…”

“The doctors were extremely busy keeping me and several others alive. I just woke up last night, but I faded back out pretty quickly. Celestia stopped by earlier and told me that I was free to go as soon as the doctors came back by and gave me a splint.”

She sighed and seemed to relax slightly before moving closer and pressing my hand against her cheek. “After what happened, many of us were worried that the great hero would be no more. What little is known of demons is bad, and I heard you took the brunt of the wounds while fighting them.”

“Such is my place,” I said, shrugging. “I am a warrior, not a mage or a civilian. I place myself in harm’s way so others don’t have to.”

“And all the citizens of Canterlot are in your debt,” she said, gently pressing my hand back on my stomach. Flo reached back over and grabbed the notepad and the pen again, which Fleur ignored. “I discovered some libel being printed shortly after your sacrifice and have already put a stop to it.”

“It’s not libel if it’s true,” I said. “And unfortunately, it most definitely is.”

Her ears twitched slightly, then she shrugged. “I discovered some secrets of yours that I knew you would most definitely rather keep private being printed shortly after your sacrifice and have already put a stop to it.”

“Thank you, Fleur. I’m very tired of my private life being aired publicly. The ways in which I choose to use and enjoy my body are of no concern to others, as long as is doesn’t involve anyone else.”

Shiny finally spoke up. “I haven’t seen any newspapers in a while. What happened?”

“Oh, it was simply awful,” Fleur sighed, shaking her head. “They all printed that after Navarone sacrificed herself so that Celestia and the onlookers would be safe, it was discovered that she was female and into the most base and tawdry acts imaginable.”

He was silent for a few seconds before looking at me. “I mean, well, you know…”

“No one asked you,” I said, rolling my eyes. “Just because it’s true doesn’t mean I want it spread. I enjoy sex. Who doesn’t? That doesn’t mean I want everyone thinking they know exactly what I’m into. Or worse, thinking the fact that they know what I like means they’re entitled to do it with me. Anyway, that’s been taken care of. What’s been done can’t be undone, but more damage has been prevented.”

“Indeed it has,” Fleur said with a nod. “And I’m happy to help. Do you happen to know how long you’ll be in Equestria?”

“Several days,” I said. “Maybe up to two weeks. My ship is across the sea for repairs after a bad battle. Celestia needed my help against the demons, so she brought me here.”

“...Another battle?” she quietly asked.

“A bad one, at that. I brought Pertz to justice.” At the mention of his name, her ears shot straight up and her tail seemed to shrivel. “He did not come willingly.”

“He wouldn’t have,” she coldly replied. “When is his trial? I would very much like to attend.”

“Tomorrow,” Shining Armor said. “Likely early. We’re expecting trouble, so I’d recommend avoiding it.”

“I will be there,” she said with a nod. “I want to see his face when he gets sentenced.”

“Well, you’ll see us both as well,” Shiny said with a shrug. “I’m going as a guard. Nav will likely be asked to testify, or might end up as a guard as well.”

“Then there is no need for me to be concerned,” she said, laying a hoof on one of my legs. “I know I’ll be safe with the sword and shield of Equestria present.”

“After all the trouble I went through to haul that motherfucker back alive, he better not get his ass killed on the home stretch,” I said. “My crew and I killed upwards of three hundred people to bring him back.” Fleur stiffened and Shiny blinked. I shrugged and added, “I’m sure Celestia and Shining Armor can keep him on lockdown, though.”

“I certainly plan on it,” Shiny said, recovering from his shock quickly. “That monster deserves a life in prison.”

“How… how long did you have to… recover from that?” Fleur asked. “Before fighting the demons, I mean.”

“I don’t know, three days? Maybe four. There were time zone shifts involved. The dude had some pretty strong soldiers, too. Rhinos, elephants, hippos, crocodiles. A small pack of hyenas. Tons of zebras. A few gorillas. Several rapist bat things called popobawas. It was definitely a fight.”

“And you killed… three hundred…”

“Or so. As a guesstimate.”

She was silent for several long seconds before quietly saying, “You are a great warrior, Nav.”

“Nah. I’m getting there, but for the moment, I just have a really good crew.”

“Your good crew didn’t fight Nestorats,” Shiny said. “You fought her and held your own. In fact, you even beat her. She injured you, but you killed her at least twice. You have most definitely become a good fighter.”

“Maybe. It’s certainly a shame I had to prove it to Pertz, anyway. I really did try doing it the easy way.”

“That will be taken into consideration at his trial,” Shining Armor said with a nod. “He has much to answer for. I suspect he will either be placed in Tartarus or given to the changelings.” He finally slid off the couch and took a second to stretch. “I need to go speak to some ponies before I begin preparing my own evidence for the trial. I would like to speak to you again before I leave, Nav.”

“I shouldn’t be hard to find,” I said. “But before you go, Fleur, Shiny wants to know if you know any ponies that might be useful for an investigation of his.”

“I didn’t know you were still working as a guard here,” Fleur said, smiling at him.

“It’s a personal investigation,” he said. “One to whom I would prefer discussing only with those I can trust.”

“And you can trust her,” I quickly said. “I certainly do.”

She looked back at me, her smile deepening. “I’m happy to hear that, Nav! What manner of investigation is it?”

“One of corruption,” Shiny finally said. “Princess Celestia has done many questionable things in the past, both recently and distantly. I need to speak to those who would have knowledge of such things.”

“Oh, most of those ponies have tragic accidents,” she said, casually waving a hoof. “Dying in strange fires, falling to freak storms, running into trouble in back alleys… things of that nature. I do know a few that have managed to survive, and I also know a few that have truly ancient libraries that haven’t seen visitors in hundreds of years. I’ll need to ask around, see who is still alive, in town, and willing to talk. Most find staying silent a much safer proposition.”

“...Thanks for the support,” Shiny quietly said. “If you feel that your life is in danger for helping me, you will have a place in my new kingdom.”

“Oh, I know plenty of my own secrets,” she said with a small smile. “I feel no danger where I am. And there is still a battle to be won here, so this is where I shall stay. Navarone shall surely keep me safe.”

“I’ll certainly do my best. If you have a tragic accident, Celestia’s going to have a very difficult time remembering how to breathe when I’m through with her.”

“I’m ever so happy to hear that,” she said, placing a hoof back on one of my arms. “I’ll speak with you later, Prince Shining Armor. I should have a decent list of ponies with whom you can have a discussion.”

“Again, thank you. And goodbye for now, Nav.”

“See you when I see you, Shiny.” He nodded and strolled out, leaving the drawings back on the bedstand.

Fleur took his place on the couch with a delightful sigh, then listened for a moment to hear his hoof falls. When he was far enough away, she grinned. “He is such a sexy hunk of a stallion. I tried to seduce him so many times… and only once tried getting him to one of Fancy’s little private parties. He declined every invitation.”

“Yeah, I would ride his ass until he screamed my name and painted the bed,” I said, making her blush. “Assuming he wasn’t married, of course.”

“That’s a worry you likely won’t have much longer with me,” she said. “Which brings me to the second point of my visit. I spoke to Captain Midnight this morning, before she retired to bed. She told me you accepted her invitation.”

“Not quite,” I said. “She made me ask her to the dance as my date. It was honestly super adorable. She was blushing and everything.”

“...Can one such as her even do that?”

“Man, I don’t know. Like I said, it was adorable. But yeah, I’m planning on going. I don’t have a suit or anything like that, though. I’ll need to stop by the bank before I can get bits to pay for one, too.”

“I have a request, one that I know you will not like and one that you do not have to accept.” She fell silent, as if waiting for permission to continue.

“Okay.”

“This event is going to be a special one for me and my husband. It is essentially his coming out party, so to say. He and many of his companions are going to expose themselves. I spoke to a few mares that have more feminine tastes and some of them also agreed to do the same. So I would like for you to wear a dress, to show off your femininity, while dating Captain Midnight, who will also be wearing one. Consider it a way of showing support to those who are about to risk so much.”

“You are asking a lot,” I quietly said.

“I am aware. I will help you obtain either a dress or a suit before the party, and I will not be upset at either answer you choose. You being there will be plenty of support. I would just like it known that you are not afraid of the taboo of same-sex relationships among those with much power. The issue matters less to one such as you anyway, given your lack of ability to have foals, but it is still something many of the richer ponies keep in the back of their minds. But it would mean a lot to Fancy and I both if you were to agree to wear a dress.”

“Well…” I didn’t really want to, but as I thought about it, all the reasons I wanted to avoid it seemed to evaporate. Everyone knew I was a chick at that point, so I didn’t have any reason to hide. I had plenty of practice walking in heels and a dress, so that wasn’t an issue. I was going to have a very scary date, so I didn’t need to worry about stallions making too many advances on me. The only thing I had against it was not really wanting to, but I also didn’t want to wear a suit, so that seemed like a moot point regardless. So I shrugged and said, “Alright. I’ll wear a dress.”

She actually squeed and clopped her hooves together, smiling very widely. “Perfect! As soon as the doctors let you go, we’ll go straight to a place to get you measured. I know you can’t have brought much other clothing via teleportation, so I’ll be sure to have a full wardrobe made!”

“As long as I have some input as to what’s actually in that wardrobe, we’ll talk. I may have a vagina and the world may know about said vagina, but that doesn’t mean I want nothing but pink and lace and bows.”

“I’m fully aware of that, silly. You’re a warrior, Nav, and shall be dressed in a manner indicative of such. For the wardrobe, at least. I already have so many plans for your dress for the dance!”

Oh boy. “Whatever. So how hard was it to get Fancy to agree to come out?”

“Not very, surprisingly. It’s something he’s been considering for a while. There’s nothing wrong with it, so to say. It’s just extremely taboo for a member of a rich and high ranking family to have no foals, and admitting homosexuality means you have no plans to continue your bloodline. We’ve already planned a divorce, though we’ve yet to discuss it with an official. I shan’t be tied to marriage much longer!”

“Cool. Any plans to get remarried?”

“Not at the moment. Marriage is a dreadfully dull affair. I may perhaps look for a partner in the future, for somepony I can fall in love with. But for the moment, I’m happy to learn to be myself. Fancy has agreed to shore up my funding where I fall short, so I needn’t worry about giving up my efforts to change Canterlot.”

“Good. You already have a place to stay?”

“Indeed! A smaller home on one of the back roads. It actually happens to be fairly close to Captain Midnight. A happy coincidence!”

I’m sure. “Hard to hold large parties in a small home.”

“But much easier to hold small parties outside of the limelight, so to say. For a time, that is my plan. This coming dance will very likely be my last lavish ball for a while. I’m quite happy about that; planning them is ever so tiresome. It’s also a lot more expensive, and while I know Fancy would be happy to assist me in affording them, I’d rather lean on him as little as possible.”

“Wise. Do you know what he’s going to do?”

“Likely something similar. Play the field, strike where he can, and continue finding young stallions to sate his desires.”

“...How young?”

“Oh, around your age. He hasn’t told me much, but I know his target demographic. He enjoys their relative innocence and making them squirm under him, I believe. Of course, he doesn’t do anything they don’t agree to, but… Well, it’s impolite to gossip about one’s own spouse. Needless to say, there’s a very large chance he would have been all too happy to invite you to one of his personal parties, if you had shown even the slightest hint that you might be interested.”

“Huh.” I shifted slightly on the bed and tried to think of a response that wasn’t full of abject horror. After a few seconds, I gave up. “That’s creepy as hell.”

“I can see why you might consider it so. That said, I’d advise learning to deal with stallions and their desires. There is a chance some will approach you at the dance, and there’s a better chance they’ll approach you outside of it as well.”

“During the dance, I’ll have the scariest date there. I’ll threaten them with an adorable bat pony guard captain. Outside the dance… well, I usually have a hidden group of off-duty bat ponies guarding me. I might request that they go slightly less hidden. I’ll talk to Blossom about it and see what she thinks.”

One of her eyes twitched ever so slightly. “Should you really… call her that? It seems… unfitting, for a mare of her nature and status.”

“Yes, I should really call her that, unless we’re doing something official. I see it as a sign of respect. She is a mare with a different nature and she is a mare with a status as a highly feared guard. But despite those, she is still my friend. I can see past the fear and her nature and still see her as Blossom. She is a person, not her status or her curse.” She actually smiled, so I made sure to ruin it with, “And she’s too fucking cute not to call Blossom.”

She was still smiling, unfortunately. “You are a good friend, Nav. And a good person. Thank you, truly and fully, for giving me the chance to really get to know you. I am starting to be happy again. My smiles feel less fake every day. My life is changing, and Canterlot is changing with it. Soon, things will truly begin moving once again.”

God dammit, I think I’m actually starting to like Fleur. What the fuck happened? “Cool beans.” I have no idea why that made her burst into giggles.

The entrance of a doctor with three nurses saved me from having to deal with more small talk, thankfully. “Ah, you’re still awake,” the guy said, smiling. “The princess told us that you are allowed to leave, as soon as your wing gets splinted. Are you ready for us to begin?”

“By all means,” I said, quickly removing the ring. It and the drawing pad went back to the table next to me. I vaguely noticed the sketches being floated away, but the doctor’s horn was also lighting up and I started to shift.

“It shouldn’t take too long, but you’ll need to be on your stomach. If you begin feeling any discomfort, let us know immediately,” he said. “And Miss Fleur, would you please move away from the bed? We might need the extra space.”

“Oh, of course! My apologies.” She hopped out of the couch and pushed it away with magic, then slid back onto it and started perusing the drawings.

When I was fully on my stomach, thankfully with no pain, one of the nurses very slowly pulled my bad wing down with magic. “We’re ready to begin, doctor,” she said.

“I will pour healing magic into it, Navarone,” the doctor said, walking over to where I could see him. “That will prevent any possible separation, though it might not prevent pain. The nurses will comb over for any possible problems and then splint and cast it. Are you ready to begin?”

“Go for it. I’m used to pain.”

“Used to it or not, let us know if we’re causing it,” one of the nurses said. “If any of it hurts, that might be a potential trouble spot. And if the location of separation still hurts, that’s a sign that it isn’t healing as quickly as it should.”

“Nurses, please begin,” the doctor said, lowering his horn to my forehead.

Two sets of hooves started very carefully probing my wing. Normally, it would have felt good. But the entire thing seemed fairly numb. I could still feel them running over it, but I didn’t feel any pain or pleasure from it. After about five minutes of feeling me up, they stopped. “We didn’t feel any issues,” one of the nurses said. “Navarone, how do you feel?”

“Fine. None of it hurt.”

“Then proceed with splinting it,” the doctor said, his voice sounding slightly strained.

The nurse holding my wing with magic slowly straightened it fully out, so I could barely feel a bit of pain. “That one hurt,” I said before they could do anything else.

She eased up slightly and asked, “Now?”

“None. Doesn’t hurt anymore.” She nodded and one of the others pressed a chunk of wood with a cushion on one side over the top of the wing. It didn’t hurt, so she held it in place while the other wrapped one layer of gauze of it. When it was in place, another splint was put in place under the wing, then both were wrapped in three more layers of gauze.

“Do you believe you’ll need a cast, Navarone?” the doctor asked.

“What are the benefits of it?”

“With just a splint and gauze, it can possibly slip and allow the wing to take damage or heal improperly. But it also allows much more freedom, it’s much more comfortable, and as long as you don’t move too much or too quickly, it’s easier. A cast is a lot less comfortable, itchy, and hot, but it’s a lot safer and you’ll be more likely to heal properly. It’s recommended for patients who are active.”

“Definitely the cast, then. Canterlot is a mixed bag for me. Either I do nothing the entire time I’m here or I end up having to fight people.”

He pulled his horn away and took a few deep breaths before nodding. “Then we’ll prepare one. The nurses will put it on. At this point, the wing should begin to fully heal. If you begin noticing any problems, return to Princess Celestia or the medical wing immediately. You took a very nasty wound from a very nasty opponent, Navarone. It’s entirely possible that your wing may still be lost. Stay hopeful, but be prepared for the worst.”

“I always try,” I said. “How long should it take to get a cast together?”

“Just a few minutes,” he said. “We were expecting you to get one, so we already prepared the materials. As soon as it is in a cast, you will be free to leave.”

“Excellent. Thanks, Doc.”

“Happy to help. And good luck, Navarone. You still have a long road ahead of you.”

Don’t I fucking know it. The doctor and two of the nurses left. The last nurse to stay was the one holding the wing in place. “I’m going to slowly ease off, Navarone,” she said. “Let me know if there is any pain.”

“You got it.” My wing very slowly started drooping down as she pulled her magic back. To test myself, I started exerting my own strength, keeping it in place. Soon, I was all that was holding it up. “Feels fine. Heavier, though.”

“It’ll be even worse when it’s casted,” she said. “But we’ll only cast the wounded part, so you will still have the full range of motion. Just be careful, of course. And don’t try to fly.”

“Not planning on it. Walking all around the city will suck, but I’m sure I can find plenty of ponies to keep me company.” Fleur chuckled, of course. “And if push comes to shove, I’m sure I can find a few ponies to ferry me around.”

“Like Soarin’?” Fleur asked.

“He’d likely be strong enough,” I said with a shrug. “But probably not. I think he lives in Cloudsdale, so I doubt I’ll even see him.”

“Oh, I’m sure he’d be ever so happy to visit,” she said. “Especially since you’re wounded. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a handsome stallion doting on you?”

“I certainly think so,” the nurse said, blushing slightly.

“I do not. I ain’t no damn charity case. I’m happy to have help when needed and I’m happy to let doctors do their job, but I damn sure don’t need no fucking flyboy hanging around my pad, getting in my way and calling it help. I may be injured, but I’m not an invalid.”

“That doesn’t mean you can’t let him dote anyway,” Fleur said. “It’s absolutely adorable, I assure you. They’re so happy to help, so pleased to see you smile. I’m not saying you should take advantage of the fellow, but there’s never anything wrong with letting somepony pamper you…”

“I very heavily disagree,” I immediately replied. “But then, I suppose that’s what comes from an upbringing like mine.”

“What was it like?” she asked. Thankfully, the other two nurses entered, saving me from having to refuse to talk about it.

“Are you ready, Navarone?” one asked.

“Yeah. I really want to get out of this bed.”

“Then let’s get you started…”

It took them about five minutes to get the cast set properly and another five minutes to fully put it on. They were extremely careful, so I felt almost no pain at all. Soon, the area around the wound was covered with plaster. The tops and bottoms of the splints were sticking out, so I still had some air flow in there, but not much. I had a feeling it would probably drive me absolutely crazy, but I was hoping Flo would help negate that.

“Can you stand?” one of the nurses finally asked, shaking a few fallen feathers off one of her hooves.

“I certainly hope so,” I replied, carefully rolling over. The injured wing flopped slightly, but it didn’t hurt and I didn’t feel the splints slipping. When I was situated, I dropped my legs off the bed and sat up. “Still no pain. Looks like everything went well.” Finally, I stood up, letting the blanket fall completely off. Everyone already knew I was a chick at that point and it was just mares present, so I really had no reason to try to cover up.

“Slowly take a few steps,” one of the nurses said. She stepped closer to me while the other two backed up. I carefully did as she asked, walking about a meter before stopping. “It looks like you are ready to check out, Navarone.”

“Sounds good to me. I’ll need my clothes.”

“Over here,” one said, using magic to pull out another drawer. It revealed one of the spare sets I brought with me. “Everything you had on you is here, minus your armor and sword. Princess Celestia had those cleaned and taken to your room.”

“Excellent. Thank you, all of you. I’ll just take a moment to gather everything and be on my way.”

“Just call if you need us,” one of them said, placing the drawer back in the cabinet. “We won’t be far.” They all bowed slightly and left, leaving me alone with Fleur.

“Finally free,” I sighed, walking over to the clothing drawer.

“That’s good to hear. Were you planning on selling these drawings?”

“Nah. They’re not worth much, if anything. Just some junk I did while sitting here.”

“I would not call it junk,” she slowly said, lifting them back up in front of her. “Each of these is… brilliant, honestly. More expressive than many of your other works.”

“Keep ‘em if you want ‘em,” I said with a shrug, pulling the drawer back out. All the clothes had been washed, thankfully.

“Do you need assistance getting dressed?”

“Nah. All my shirts are designed for wings. The one good thing about dresses is that I can just pull them up without having to worry about these stupid things.”

“Not the only good thing. They catch eyes quite well. Or at least, some of them do.”

“I do that well enough just by being different, trust me.” I started putting shit back on. As liberating as being completely nude felt, showing off my obviously feminine body felt awkward. I wasn’t really looking forward to wearing a dress in front of a full party.

“That’s certainly true, I suppose. You know, it’s strange. I have to actually keep reminding myself that you’re not a pony. Or of this world at all, for that matter.”

“Never forget it for a second,” I said, finally turning around to face her. It felt good to hide my hideous body away from prying eyes, even if her eyes probably weren’t particularly prying. “Human minds are very different from pony minds. Or at least, they appear to be from a human.”

“I disagree. I believe that you were raised in a different world and that you were raised very differently from the common pony, but I believe that our minds are quite similar. You should not choose to distance yourself from us, Nav. You know there are those among us who would happily call you friend… and more.”

“...Yeah.” I pulled out the other drawer and started shoving shit into pockets. My hand hesitated at the plug, but after a moment, I just grabbed it and quickly pushed it into another pocket. It was clean, and I couldn’t help but wonder what the person cleaning it was thinking about while doing so.

When all that garbage was situated, I slipped on my shoes and turned back to Fleur, who had taken several steps closer. “You mean a lot to me, Nav. You mean a lot to all of Equestria. You may be different, but you are our hero. To me… and to almost all of Equestria, you are one of us. For your sake and ours, don’t deny it. Revel in it. Revel in our closeness. Don’t hide from it.”

“I’m going to start trying, Fleur. I really am. I’m tired of living a distant, unhappy life. I can’t promise to be the perfect hero that Equestria needs, but I’m going to try to be a lot more friendly and open. Being miserable sucks hella hard.”

She smiled and nodded once. “Good. Then shall we go get you a beautiful dress?”

“Sure, I guess.”

She just barely avoided squeeing and settled for grabbing one of my arms with magic and pulling me along.

I knew I was going to soon regret everything I had ever done.

 
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