Everypony remembers their mistakes and their victories.
Spike looked over the horizon. His thoughts were in flux.
He recalled every event over the past month. Every moment, every word, every feeling.
Was he wrong?
He loved Rarity, he knew that. But why?
Was it her intelligence?
She was clever, granted. And highly creative. But she never really had much ambition to grow. At least, not in any significant way. It was all about her business, and selling dresses. Which tended to bore the dragon to death.
Was it her empathy?
She cared about almost everypony in town. But not in any way that was substantially remarkable to him. Especially among their other friends.
Was it her personality?
Rarity was kind, caring, sophisticated and extroverted. Spike always liked that. But she was also arrogant and often ignored the bigger picture.
None of it really impacted his impression of her.
It was all about her physical appearance.
It was shallow.
Suddenly, he realized. He didn’t truly love her. He was wrong.
Every moment he spent with her was a lie, and a waste. All it did was hurt the pony he truly loved.
Every part of him felt broken, destroyed, annihilated.
He wanted to die.
“So?” Scootaloo asked. “You know yet?”
Spike nodded slowly.
He brought his hands up, and began to squeeze his head as tightly as he could.
“I’m so stupid!!!” the dragon screamed.
“I’m sorry?” Rarity asked.
“How do you know he doesn’t love you?”
“…and he said my dresses were just to die for!”
“Mmmmhmmm,” Spike replied, shoveling a spoonful of spaghetti into his mouth.
“And, since one of his compatriots owned a dress shoppe, he showed my designs to her, and she made several orders. I’ll be booked for the next several weeks, you see.”
“Also, while I was there, I met Luscious Lips, the singer. He said he heard of my work with Sapphire Shores, and asked if I might design an outfit or two for his next tour. Now, I will admit, I was a bit starstruck for a few seconds. However, I was able to compose myself and accepted his offer.”
“I can’t mess this up. Once word gets out that I was commissioned by the lead singer of The Spinning Gnomes, everypony will hear of my work. And will know Rarity is not just some niche designer. Any taste, I can accommodate. Which is appropriate, since I have such eclectic tastes myself. Don’t you agree, Spike?”
Across the table, a dragon sat, his head in his claw, elbow on the table, eyes closed.
She stared for several seconds. “Spike?” Her hoof slammed the table, with slightly more force than she intended.
He awoke with a start.
“Yes? Oh, uh… I’m sorry, I just… I didn’t get much sleep last night,” he responded sheepishly.
Rarity smiled and leaned across the table, giving him a peck on the lips. “It’s quite alright, dear,” she said.
At the time she believed him, or at least, she thought she did. But now…
“Back at the library… those spells… Spike taught you that… didn’t he?”
“…Yeah.” Sweetie Belle replied, slightly unsure.
“Do you know why?”
Twilight’s curiosity was insatiable. She knew something strange was going on, but she wasn’t sure what.
Everypony had already left. She was all alone. Her thoughts nagged at her.
With Spike’s problems out of reach, she decided to focus on something she could actually handle.
That box was key to everything.
She scanned the shelves for anything that would catch the eye.
A single book levitated off the case. Twilight flipped through it, as quickly as she could. Her eyes landed on a single image, and something triggered deep in her subconscious.
A yellow ball levitated before the unicorn, as she ran across the plains of Equestria.
She knew her goal was close, but she wasn’t sure of its exact location. The Gates of Tartarus were meant to be hidden.
She stopped in her tracks. Her three-headed companion stopped in time, as the ball flew above his head.
“Hmm… do you know how to get there, Cerberus?” she asked.
He jumped in an effort to reach his prize.
“I guess not.”
She looked around the barren plains. The sun was already starting to dip below the horizon. Twilight left Ponyville in the early afternoon, and had been gone all day. Exhaustion had set in. She had to complete her mission, and get home. But she didn’t know how.
“I shouldn’t have come alone,” she sighed.
As her eyes scanned once again, she noticed something unusual. A small blemish on the landscape. She ran toward it, giant dog in tow.
The moment she identified it, the librarian skidded to a stop. It was a giant hole in the ground. Large enough for a giant three-headed dog to fit through.
“Hmmm… this is probably it,” she mused. “But I can’t see a thing.”
As Cerberus lept for the ball again, shaking the ground as he landed, she had an idea.
Twilight threw the ball down the hole, and braced herself to pounce.
As the dark black tail flew past, she grabbed on for dear life.
The darkness consumed her vision. She hoped Cerberus knew the way.
After what felt like several minutes of flying through inky void, the canine guardian came to a sudden and unexpected stop, and Twilight blindly flew through the air.
She readied a cushioning spell, but it was too late, and she impacted the ground, skidding for severals metres before eventually stopping. She was thankful her heavy coat protected her from the worst of it.
She tried to regain her senses, and the throbbing in her horn slowly subsided.
Darkness continued to surround her. A simple light spell solved that.
The first thing she saw was the ball, sitting there, left undisturbed. Cerberus didn’t catch it. So why did he stop?
She looked back, and saw all three of the creature’s faces frozen in fear, and looking past her.
Twilight was suddenly afraid to turn around. What was behind her? What could scare such a formidable beast?
Many of the evil creatures were probably locked up behind her. Perhaps one had already escaped. But for Cerberus to fear them? He wouldn’t make a very good guard dog in that case.
She slowly turned around and saw nothing…
That wasn’t entirely true, but what she saw she could not identify. It was outside her sphere of light, and as such, she could not see it. But she could perceive a form moving in the darkness. Large and of a shape she simply could not identify. She only knew it was a shape that defied logic.
It shifted in the darkness and suddenly started to get smaller and smaller.
The creature entered her sphere of light, and Twilight was suddenly taken aback.
It was a pony.
“Good evening,” she said, in a most angelic voice.
Twilight took a defensive stance. “Who are you?” she asked.
Shock appeared on the creature’s face. “Now, there’s no need for that,” she said, slightly hurt. “Here I thought ponies were kind, and now I see this.” She shook her head in disappointment.
As the creature got closer, she could make it out clearer. She was tall. Almost as tall as Princess Celestia, perhaps even taller. Her coat was an absolute pure white, and her red mane was cut simply, almost identical to Twilight’s own style, but messier. Her cutie mark was also striking, a single quill sitting in a bottle of ink. It perplexed the young unicorn. But the most shocking thing about her was this: She was an alicorn. An alicorn she did not know.
The ball levitated in a blood-red glow.
“Cerberus,” the alicorn said. “Do you want this?”
Two of his heads shook in fear, as the third nodded in excitement. The two objectors stared him down.
“Well you obviously do, since you chased it down here.”
He stood, barely reacting.
“Why did you run?” She said, slowly taking a step forward.
He took a step back.
“I see…” she closed her eyes, and bowed her head. Moving to the side of the cave, she continued. “Resume your post, Cerberus. I have other business to attend to.”
He slowly began to walk past her. His fear was palpable.
Suddenly, her patience cracked. “NOW!” she screamed, her voice dropping several octaves, and taking on a discordian quality.
It could only be described one way: demonic.
Cerberus responded accordingly. He ran through the cavern, yelping in fear.
“Now,” the alicorn said, reacquiring her previous voice. “I’m afraid I didn’t catch your name.”
Twilight was knocked out of her shock. “Oh, um… uh… my… my name’s Tw-twilight.”
“Uh-Twilight, Twilight, Twilight Sparkle.”
She put a hoof to her chin. “Twilight Sparkle, hmmm… Well, I assume I have you to thank for returning him.”
She nodded. “Who-who are you?” the unicorn asked.
The alicorn responded, by singing, “Who-who… who-who,” and smiling.
The smile dropped. “Oh, come on, that’s funny!”
“Ah, forget it,” she cried with a wave of her hoof. “Anyway, let’s just say I owe you one. Do you need any help leaving?”
From the outside Twilight remembered that the hole was quite deep. “Uh… I think so.”
“Good, that counts as your ‘one.’ I’m kidding!” she quipped.
“Oh, lighten up Twi!”
“Lighten up?” She cried in shock. “How can I lighten up!? Oh, no, was I too late? Did any of the creatures escape?”
“Oh, no, don’t worry about that. I’ve taken care of it.”
“Good,” she sighed in relief. “But wait. Who are you, really?”
“Oh, my name’s not important. I’ve had so many, it’s a bit pointless.”
Twilight didn’t respond.
“Come on, let’s get out of here, I’m sure you want to get back home, and I got a lotta work to get done.”
The two of them left the cavern together.
But as they trotted away, Twilight saw something she didn’t really think about at the time.
On the alicorn’s back, Twilight suddenly remembered, she carried a red box. Smaller, but otherwise identical to the one that was in her library less than an hour ago.
She looked through the book, the same book she found the day after the Cerberus incident. The one that identified the creature in the cave, the Warden of Tartarus.
Twilight suddenly understood everything, and she could only hope she was wrong.
Rarity remained silent, expecting her sister to respond.
“I thought I did,” the young unicorn replied. “I thought it was because he loved me.”
“Focus,” Spike said.
The stone levitated ever so slightly.
Sweetie Belle channelled a bit more magic in.
The spell took, and the gray, irregular stone snapped into a round, orange… orange.
“Yes!” Sweetie Belle cried.
“Oh, come on,” Apple Bloom exclaimed. “You turned a rock into a flower before, how is this different?”
“Because I did it on my own,” she responded, sticking her tongue out.
The earth pony scoffed. “Whatever,” she replied. “I’m goin’ outside.”
She trotted out the front door of the Crusader Clubhouse, leaving the two lovebirds alone.
Sweetie Belle’s eyes followed her friend out the door, and Spike only noticed sadness on the unicorn’s face.
“You alright?” he asked.
She sighed. “Yeah, it’s just that… I think Apple Bloom hates you now.”
“Well, she’s been acting a lot less nice when you’re around. I think it’s a new thing.”
“You sure?” he asked, feigning ignorance.
“I don’t know… maybe,” Sweetie Belle explained. “I just want by best friend and my boyfriend to get along.”
She raised an eyebrow.
“But…” he responded nervously. “I guess we could get along a bit better.”
She giggled softly. “I’d like that.”
The two sat in silence, neither knowing how to continue. Until Spike leaned in, and laid his lips on hers.
Sweetie Belle let herself fall into the kiss.
The love of two young teens blended together, it was as if nothing could separate them. But something did.
Spike’s hand crushed the former stone into juice.
As he stared at his sticky, sugary claw, he only thought about how much his fumble ruined the mood.
Sweetie Belle giggled in amusement.
Spike joined her, nervously. “Sorry, I guess I was distracted.”
“I know,” she said with a smile, before leaning in to kiss him again.
She pushed him to the ground, and as their tongues mashed together, the dragon brought his claw up, to caress the young filly’s coat. Briefly forgetting what it was covered in.
Sweetie Belle merely separated from him and turned to look at the place his claw was stuck.
He peeled it off as she backed away, and said, “Sorry.”
“We kinda suck at this, don’t we?”
“That’s probably a good thing,” Spike explained nervously. “I don’t think you want a cutie mark in that.”
“You don’t know that,” the unicorn replied, with a tone that Spike hoped meant she was joking.
She grabbed his head, and briefly kissed him before saying, “Spike, I want to go to the next level.”
His face flushed. “What?”
“I want to learn to teleport!”
“Oh, thank Celestia.”
“Why? What’d you think I meant?”
“Nothing!” he said, jumping to his feet. “So… teleport?”
“I don’t know Sweetie Belle, it might not be that easy.”
“What? You don’t think I can handle it!? I can!”
“Oh, yeah, no, I think you can. But, I don’t know if it’s possible, I don’t know any books that have that spell.”
“Well if Twilight can do it…” she argued.
“Yeah, that’s another thing, it’s very advanced magic, Sweetie.”
“You don’t think I can do it!” she replied with a pout, feigning offence.
“No, no, I do. I honestly do!” he said, quickly giving in. “But… well… I’ll ask Twilight.”
“YAY!” she said, leaping to grab him in a hug. “Thank you, Spike!”
“Anything for you, Sweetie Belle.”
“He does,” Rarity explained.
“I… I don’t… I don’t know.”
“Believe me, he does. I know Spike too well to assume otherwise.”
“Then why would he do this?”
She paused. “To be honest… I… I think it was because of me.”
“…because I was too stupid!!!” Spike screamed.
Scootaloo suddenly found herself slightly out of her depth. “No, you were just confused.”
“No, I wasn’t,” he continued. “Rarity’s nice, and I enjoyed spending time with her, but that’s the same with Twilight! Me and Sweet always went out and we talked and kissed and… oh, crap, it was way more romantic!”
“You never had romantic times with Rarity?” Scootaloo asked.
“No, I mean… we had romantic dinners but… I… was I bored!? How could I forget that!?”
“I can’t remember!”
“Spike, calm down.”
The young filly could tell, her friend was not taking this well. He was nearly hyperventilating.
“SPIKE!” She screamed, ramming him against a tree. Her lips pressed against his.
The dragon’s body stiffened, and he pushed her away, screaming, “UGH! What the hay was that, Scootaloo!?”
“I had to knock you out of that somehow!” She screamed. “You alright?”
As he slowly caught his breath, and aggressively rubbed his lips, he started to return to normal.
Spike slumped to the ground, with his back against the tree. One thought echoed through his head: How?
His thoughts began to settle and organize. How could he make such a big mistake? Why did he do any of this?
Then, he remembered.
The bell rang with a sharp ‘ding.’
Spike didn’t hesitate as he pulled a steel tray out of the oven. Inspecting the bed of roasted vegetables, he was satisfied with the result.
As he set the dish aside to cool, he turned to stir the pot of daisy stew sitting on the stove.
It was ready to be served… any moment now. But it had to wait until Rarity finally arrived.
It had been a little over two weeks since their first date, and today, he knew their fifth date would probably be their last.
This was going to be the hardest thing he ever had to do. But he made his decision, and Spike intended to stick with it.
The sun had set, Twilight had taken shelter in her bedroom, and Spike was ready to finally end his dilemma.
He was alone. It was the perfect time to prepare.
He turned to the middle of the room, and imagined the unicorn standing before him, smiling.
He cleared his throat. “Rarity,” he began. “There’s something I need to tell you. I know you’ll probably be angry, and you have every right to be.” He walked to the table, to grab a glass of apple juice. He quickly took a sip… then another… then several more.
Setting the glass back down, he continued. “After our first date, I was walking home and…”
A bell rang from the foyer.
“Spike?” A voice sang.
He downed the rest of his beverage, wishing there was more to it, before going to greet her.
He froze in the doorframe.
Her mane was perfectly styled, shining in the dim firelight. Her coat was immaculate, without a single blemish. Her dress was expertly designed, a sparkling red and white number, with modest sequins on the hem. And her eyes radiated with an inexplicable aura.
“Good evening, Spike,” she spoke. “I hope I’m not late.”
“N…n-no, no… you’re not.”
She smiled, and trotted toward him, quickly giving the young dragon a kiss.
“Spike?” Scootaloo asked. “Are you alright?”
His head turned to look at the young pegasus. “I was going to end it.”
Rarity had barely started her meal, before she decided to do what she came to do.
“Spike?” she said, in an almost business-like tone.
He looked up from his dish. His eyes locked with hers.
She averted her gaze, and began shuffling in her seat. Quickly taking a sip of wine, she continued. “There’s something I really want to say.”
He dropped his spoon.
“I really should tell you now before I lose the nerve,” she explained with a nervous smile.
“What is it?” he asked.
“Well, when you first asked me out, I was… I wanted to turn you down.”
He didn’t react.
“I didn’t really see you as being my type, but… now I know, I was wrong.”
Where is this going? he asked himself.
“I just wanted to tell you just how much I enjoy this, how much I love spending time with you… how much I love you.”
He stiffened slightly.
“Every moment we’ve spent together has been magical, and I know you feel the same way. So… I just wanted to ask if you wanted to make it official?” Every ounce of courage the mare had, she focused into her next sentence. “Spike? Do you want to be my boyfriend?”
Voices resonated in his head. Some told him to run, some told him to scream, some told him to stay the course, but one resonated above all others.
He looked at the mare before him, and her beauty caused his heart to melt. He suddenly, for the first time that day, experienced doubt. He couldn’t jeopardize this.
Spike responded with a smile. “Yes, I do,” he said, echoing the words of Sweetie Belle the day before. “I love you.”
The two dishes quickly flew in the air, encased in blue auras, as the unicorn leaped over the table, and kissed her boyfriend.
“What?” the pegasus asked.
“I was going to pick Sweetie Belle weeks ago, but I…” he started to stammer. “I thought I… I changed my mind… I got scared.”
“You didn’t want to lose her.”
He nodded slowly.
The two sat in silence.
Another tray of cupcakes was pulled out of the oven, and thrown across the room, coming to a stop on a wooden table.
A pink mare zoomed over, and quickly iced the batch before her. Glopping on piles of blue icing.
Grabbing a spatula in her mouth, she quickly evened it out, and found herself quite proud of the result.
The double doors separating the kitchen from the storefront swung back and forth, as her assistant entered.
“Well, that’s all of ’em,” she said, in a melancholic tone. “I think I need a break.”
The baker offered one of her pastries, asking, “Want a cupcake?”
Apple Bloom wordlessly took the confectionery, and sat down, eating her pastry in silence.
The baker watched her young apprentice, sitting there, melancholic and pensive. She quickly trotted past her, and began retrieving several ingredients from the nearby pantry.
Eventually, Apple Bloom gave in to her own internal strife. “Pinkie?” she asked. “Do you know what’s goin’ on with Scootaloo?”
She turned to look at the filly. “What? What do you mean?” she asked.
But she didn’t need to. Both of Apple Bloom’s closest friends were going through some tough times, and they were both helpless to assist. It was in their nature to help their friends, and they couldn’t.
At least they understood what happened to Sweetie Belle. But to Apple Bloom, Scootaloo’s problems were a mystery. And the ever-durable pegasus didn’t want them to know just how much trouble she was in.
And the worst part was, there were so many reasons Pinkie couldn’t tell her.
The young pink pony trotted through the city square. She had only just arrived in this small little hamlet. It was conveniently isolated, and perfectly structured for her purposes.
Her cousin Darkflame suggested Ponyville. It was the perfect city for somepony to blend in. Even someone as dynamic as her would be able to hide in this tiny town.
Ponies would barely bat an eye at her.
She gazed in awe at the world around her. Pegasi cleared clouds from the bright blue sky, as other ponies trotted through the streets without a trace of misery.
It was the first time she truly felt like she belonged.
“Pinkie!” a voice screamed.
Her attention caught, the young filly spotted a grey stallion, with a long black mane, standing by a large water fountain. Darkflame waved in her general direction, with a smile from ear to ear.
She ran as fast as her legs could carry her, skidding to a stop inches from the pony.
“Glad you could make it,” he said.
“I know!” she screamed. “I’m so excited! What’s gonna happen!? What am I gonna do? Can we visit the stores? I hear they have stores! I wanna send something back! Can I? Can I?”
He put a hoof on her head, instantly silencing the novice earth pony. “Relax, Pinkie, one thing at a time.”
“Right!” she said, saluting. “What do we do first?”
“First, we go home, drop off your saddlebag, and I have to teach you a few things about this town,” he explained. “And I don’t think you met my daughter yet. I’m sure you two will get along great.”
“Cheerilee?” Pinkie asked.
“Yes,” he responded before he started to trot away.
“Met her!” she declared with a smile, following the elder stallion.
“Really? You remember? But you were just a little spawn.”
“Yep!” Pinkie mused. “She was mean though.”
“She can be, but she’s a lot nicer now. She’s done a great job at blending in, especially since she got her cutie mark.”
“You’ll have to ask her that,” he said with a chuckle while shuffling the filly’s hair. But before continuing, Darkflame noticed something. He quickly straightened the filly’s mane, before they continued on their way.
“Well, Twilight seemed worried, and… Nevermind…” She took another bite.
Pinkie Pie gathered her supplies, returned to the mixing bowl, and started mindlessly mixing ingredients.
“I honestly didn’t think me and Rarity were going anywhere,” Spike explained. “But then she wanted to make our relationship official…”
“You started having doubts,” Scootaloo said.
He sighed. “It wasn’t the only reason, but…”
“You thought it changed things, and it really didn’t.”
The dragon solemnly bowed his head.
“It’s funny how love can screw with your head.”
Spike turned his eyes in her direction, and said, “Sorry.”
“Making your first day back in town so… stupid.”
She smiled. “It’s not that stupid. You’re not the only one to do something like this.”
The dark blue stallion began bawling his eyes out, as Scootaloo grabbed him in a firm embrace.
“It’s okay, everything’s gonna be okay,” she said, trying to reassure the Trotyo native.
“Why did I do any of this?” he asked the young pegasus.
“Because you were tricked,” Scootaloo explained. “She tricked you. It’s what she does. Now, you can still fix everything, you just need to go back to Silver Belle, and let her forgive you.”
“She won’t forgive me,” the stallion responded, pushing her away. “She shouldn’t forgive me.”
“Yes she will, I know she will.”
“You can’t know that!” he screamed. “You’re just a child.”
Scootaloo was left speechless. She had no rebuttal to that. But she didn’t need one. “Let her have the chance. Let her make the decision.”
He nodded in resignation. “But-”
“Let me take care of Sugar Belle. You just need to tell me where she is.”
He hesitated for several seconds, wondering if he should betray her trust. He didn’t have much of a choice. “She’s probably at the Lost Viking, look for her there.”
She smiled. “Good.” Scootaloo then reached into her saddlebag, and pulled out a solitary silver arrow. “Now, hold still,” she said, through gritted teeth.
The stallion stood as still as he could, while she rubbed the tip of the arrow against his face. It merely confused him, since he couldn’t see the wisps of energy flying into the arrowhead.
Suddenly, his mind felt clearer than it ever had before. “Go,” she ordered.
He didn’t hesitate to leave the small hotel room, running as fast as he could, to find redemption.
As she was finally left alone, Scootaloo pulled out a small recurve bow, and began to test it briefly. “I hope this works,” she said, before packing her equipment, and trotting out of the room, her target closer than it ever felt before.
“You think so?” Spike asked.
Scootaloo nodded. “I know so. I’ve seen it before. So trust me, all you have to do now is let Sweetie Belle forgive you. I know her too well. I know she’ll forgive you.”
“I can’t,” Sweetie Belle choked. “I can’t do it.”
“I’m sorry?” Rarity asked.
“He loves me? Okay… But I don’t care!” the filly screamed. “I can’t… I can’t forgive him.” Her head bowed. “I can’t trust him.”
Rarity’s face fell. “Oh…”
The author would like to personally thank Periphery for all his help in preparing this chapter for publication.