One of Fluttershy's cabinets was knocking.
At this point she wasn't particularly fazed by things like that. It could be that one of the animals had snuck in and then been unable to get back out, or it could be Discord trying to use her cabinet for a door. She walked over and pulled it open.
Pinkie Pie stuck her head through. "WHERE IS DISCORD?"
Fluttershy blinked. "Has he done something bad?"
"Yeah, he's hiding too well! How are we gonna play Hide and Go Seek if he's gonna hide this well?" Pinkie pulled herself out of the cabinet. "My Pinkie Sense tells me he's around here somewhere."
Fluttershy had stopped trying to play Hide and Go Seek with Discord a month ago for pretty much exactly this reason; she'd play all sorts of ridiculous games she'd never heard of before, including Fizzbin, Donkey Pong, Moebius Race, and whatever that game had been where the whole world had turned into little squares and she had to dig things out of the ground to use to build some kind of machine that fired portals that let her go back to the real world, but nobody but Pinkie Pie was random enough to ever find Discord in a game of Hide and Go Seek. She enjoyed watching them play, most of the time, when Pinkie wasn't walking through her cupboard. "Oh, dear, is that a hoofprint on my tea cup?"
"Oh, I'm totally sorry, I promise I will clean up any tea cups I accidentally stepped on, or near, or however I got a hoofprint on it, which was probably due to the flour all over my feet so I'm really sorry about that. I will be your dishwashing buddy for a week! After I find Discord."
"That's flour? It's purple."
"Yeah! Purple flour is the best for baking grape flavored cupcakes. If you actually bake a grape into a cupcake it doesn't work because grapes are too squishy, but if you use dried grapes that's a raisin so it's not even a grape, not that raisins in cupcakes aren't awesome but they're not grapes, so when I told Discord that it's no fun to just snap cupcakes into existence all the time because sometimes it's nice to just bake them and he didn't believe me so I made him help me bake a cupcake and he said white flour was boring so he made me some grape flour and it is awesome! Best cupcakes ever. Well, best cupcakes this week, anyway." She was peering inside jars, teapots and the salt shaker. "So I am almost willing to forgive him for the fruit salad but only almost! I have to yell at him first but before that I have to find him. I am totally sure he's in your kitchen somewhere, Fluttershy. You're not using your oven, are you?"
"Ok, good, because I don't think the oven being on could really hurt him but who knows!" She opened the oven door. "Wait, no, not there. Oh wait, I know, I gotcha!" She ran over to where Fluttershy kept the sugar bowl and pulled the lid off.
There was no sugar inside. Instead, there was a very tiny Discord. "Oh, Pinkie. You got me again! Will I ever defeat your amazing prowess at Hide and Go Seek?"
"You find me all the time too. And where is all Fluttershy's sugar, mister? Did you eat it all up on her, huh? Did you? Because she and I will totally make you go to the dentist if you're gonna eat whole sugar bowls full of sugar!"
"Of course I didn't eat it... all. Remember when I told you two that I was out annoying spiders?"
"Uh... yeah..." Fluttershy said.
"Well, you cannot imagine how annoying spiders find it when they find a nice juicy fly in their web and then, dear me, it turns out to be made of sugar."
"That's not very nice," Fluttershy said. "Spiders can't eat sugar." She considered what he'd told her the last time he'd told her he was annoying spiders. "Or chocolate pudding."
"How are they going to know until they try it? I thought spiders might enjoy the opportunity to sample a pudding-filled fly." Discord vanished out of the sugar bowl and reappeared in the kitchen at full size. "Besides, would you rather I go annoy ponies, or spiders?"
"Spiders, " Pinkie said. "Definitely spiders."
"Why do you have to annoy anypony?"
"My dear, if I don't go annoying something, they'll take away my Disharmony Card and then where will I be?"
"What's a Disharmony Card?"
"It's like a library card, except that instead of checking out books it allows me to check out chaos. Which reminds me, some of what I've got is overdue and I'm going to have to return it before I can check out any more."
"You are not going to go drop off overdue chaos until I have had words with you, mister!" Pinkie said. "What were you thinking, covering my entire bedroom with fruit salad?"
"...That you like fruit?"
"But there was no pineapple! Not even one teensy little bit of pineapple! How can you even call that a fruit salad when there's no pineapple in it?"
Discord considered. "I could call it a chaotic fruit salad."
"No, covering my bedroom in it made it a chaotic fruit salad! Leaving out the pineapple just made it totally YUCKY! I'll tolerate all kinds of chaotic fruit salads, buddy, but you make me eat a yucky fruit salad one more time and it is gonna be ON."
"I didn't make you eat the salad."
"Yes you did! You knew that if you covered my bedroom in fruit salad I would have to eat it even if you didn't put any pineapple in it! And besides you fed all of Fluttershy's sugar to spiders and they don't even like sugar! You better say you're sorry, buster."
"You're sorry, buster," Discord said promptly.
"Yeah, and say it like you mean it or I will never make you another cupcake all day!"
Discord rolled his eyes. Metaphorically. Fluttershy had seen him do it literally once too often and had finally admitted to him that it creeped her out. "Oh, the horror," he said. "Fine. I am sorry for the lack of pineapple in your salad and the next time I fill a random location in your home with fruit salad I will be certain to make sure there is pineapple."
"Oh! And also those bright red mariachi cherries!"
"Maraschino cherries?" Fluttershy asked, surprised that the queen of dessert would get that wrong.
"No, mariachi cherries. Like they blow horns! And they've got maracas!"
"Yes, yes, mea culpa, I will make sure the next pineapple salad has mariachi cherries in it. Although now that you're expecting them, I'll just have to do my best to make sure you're not expecting them when they show up."
"I wouldn't expect a bunch of mariachi cherries to appear right here on Fluttershy's counter and dance around until I eat them all," Pinkie Pie said, with a hopeful note in her voice.
"And nor should you! Because we were just talking about them, so that would make sense, and when do I ever make sense? Besides which your cupcakes are burning."
"Oh no! Yikes! I totally forgot I left them in the oven! Bye, Fluttershy! Bye, Discord! Bye, everybody else!" She jumped back in the cabinet and the cabinet door slammed.
"Discord, it's ok about the sugar but you should have told me I was out because I might have wanted to make some tea."
Discord sighed. "You're not out of sugar. I put it in the pepper shaker."
"In the... so where is the pepper?"
"Well, you're out of that, because I ate it." He stuck his head in the cabinet. "Oh, Pinkie Pie, I feel just terrible about your cupcakes burning. Do you want me to fix them for you?"
Fluttershy couldn't hear any response, which was normal, because his head was inside a cabinet and there was actually no visible opening inside it that might lead to Pinkie Pie's kitchen, but he said, cheerfully, "Done! No problem at all," and pulled his head back out. "There we go. Cupcakes are saved! How would you like to go scuba diving, Fluttershy?"
"Uh, maybe, but not really right now and if we go I don't want to do it so close to nightfall and I don't want it to be on the bottom of the ocean with all those giant sea serpents even if some of them are really nice once you get to know them?"
"Okay, then how about—"
They were interrupted by Pinkie Pie sticking her head back out of the cabinet. "DISCORD! I made chocolate cupcakes with vanilla pudding filling and cherries and you made them into chocolate cupcakes with mustard filling and OLIVES! And that is totally gross!"
"... No one would have eaten a burned cupcake anyway. And how do you know they're gross unless you try them?"
"How do you think I know they're gross? I DID! Yuck!"
"Well, if you don't like my culinary masterpiece you can always give it to me."
She glared at him. "This is not my cupcake. This is the Cakes' cupcake. I have to sell these things. For bits. Do you have any bits?"
"I don't understand why you ponies are so obsessed with tiny little pieces of metal. I can make tiny little pieces of metal any time I want!"
"Yeah, but Celestia won't let you make bits."
"Spoilsport princess. She says it would crash the economy. The economy ran just fine when I used to make money rain out of trees."
"So what you're telling me is you don't have any bits to buy these nasty mustard olive cupcakes off me."
Fluttershy sighed. "I'll buy the cupcakes for him, Pinkie."
"Oh no! You don't have to do that. You should make him do some work to earn bits or something."
"Do you remember the time he went to your house because he said he forgot his hat, and then you two came back and you'd been to Neighpon and you were raving about rice balls with red bean paste?"
"Well, right before he left for your house he enchanted a broom and a mop to clean the house for me because I told him to clean the house, but after they were done they started chasing Angel and a bunch of other animals around and trying to sweep them up like they were part of the mess, and I had to get Twilight Sparkle to fix it for me because you guys were so late getting back."
"In my defense, I am a spirit of chaos. Not housecleaning."
"Well, you are also obviously a spirit of nasty mustard filled cupcakes and so I'm not gonna give you any! I'm gonna save them for a prank. Thanks, bye!"
Discord flopped down on a cloud that was suddenly sitting in the kitchen. Though at least it was a normal cloud, not a cotton candy one. "I never thought I'd say this, but that little pony can tire me out. I am all out of chaos for at least the next twenty minutes. Want to play a game?"
"I was actually coming in to make dinner..."
"Oh, Fluttershy. Didn't you make a schedule that says it's my turn to make dinner?" He snapped his fingers and the table was suddenly set with plates of heaping, delicious-smelling spaghetti. That happened to be green, with peanut-butter-colored sauce that probably wasn't actually peanut butter. Probably. It smelled like alfredo sauce, actually.
"I did make a schedule but it was my turn today. Yours was tomorrow."
He shrugged. "I have such difficulty keeping track of time. Try my spaghetti!"
Tentatively Fluttershy did. "It's... it's actually really yummy. Do I want to know what's in it?"
Discord grinned. "Can you keep a secret, dear Fluttershy?"
He leaned in and whispered in her ear. "It's not chaotic at all, it just looks that way. That's spinach fettucine and spicy peanut sauce with a lot of cheese mixed in. You could buy the ingredients at a fancy-schmancy grocery shop in Canterlot if you wanted to."
She giggled. "That's... pretty funny. I would never have expected you could really make green spaghetti with peanut butter sauce that smells like cheese without using magic to make the ingredients."
"That is my entire purpose in existence. To do things that nobody would expect. You see –" He snapped his fingers, and a group of brightly shining red cherries appeared on the table, playing horns. "No one ever expects the mariachi cherries after Pinkie Pie goes home."
Angel Bunny sniffed experimentally at his plate, then pulled out a piece of carrot and displayed it at Discord, a questioning look on his face.
Discord shrugged. "I'm in a generous mood, little bunny. Enjoy it while it lasts."
"You... made Angel Bunny his own special spaghetti? With carrots? That is so sweet!" Fluttershy hugged him, causing Discord to recoil, an exaggerated expression of distaste on his face.
"Please, Fluttershy, I was using that pancreas."
She nuzzled her nose against his chest, largely because he was sufficiently tall that even when he was sitting down on a cloud, she couldn't easily reach his face unless he bent it down to her. "Oh, you complain and complain but you like it when I hug you, really."
"Well, maybe I would like it if the sugar overload weren't killing me."
"Like the guy who makes cotton candy clouds doesn't like sugar?"
She released him. There was a fine line to walk with Discord, and she'd figured it out after spending time with him. He really did like affection and friendship, but he really did think they were weaknesses and that admitting to liking them would make people look down on him, or something, so she couldn't give him too much. Just enough to make him both pleased and embarrassed, and then she could pretend she was embarrassing him on purpose like it was a prank so he could pretend his emotions weren't as affected as they actually were. Over time, she thought, she might be able to get him to actually admit to liking it. And then he'd be well on his way to being able to make more friends besides just her. Already he and Pinkie Pie were great buddies, and both Twilight Sparkle and Rarity treated him as a sort of frenemy, Rarity engaging him in arguments about fashion every time they ran into each other (according to Rarity, Discord's taste was absolutely appalling but it couldn't be denied that he had a powerful sense of style) and Twilight Sparkle... well, it was really hard to describe exactly how that relationship worked, except that they were always getting into low-stakes magical battles of a weird kind where Discord would cast some sort of spell out of one of Twilight's books, except he'd make major modifications to it so she wouldn't easily be able to figure out which one, and challenge her to figure out how to undo it. And Twilight seemed infuriated by this behavior but she always played along.
She thought he might be making friends with Princess Luna as well – he didn't sleep, so he usually went out at night while Fluttershy was sleeping, and when he wasn't annoying spiders or going deep into the Everfree Forest to find a woodchuck so he could learn how much wood would a woodchuck chuck if he bespelled it so it could chuck wood (at his head, apparently, and she was pretty sure he had deliberately held off on healing it so she would put ice and a bandage on it for him, but on the other hand, things in the Everfree were pretty impervious to magic so maybe the amount of chaos magic it had taken to make a woodchuck chuck wood had also made it capable of actually hurting a god of chaos with the wood it chucked at his head), he was teleporting to Canterlot to talk to Luna. Or so he said, but she believed him because it would be just too easy to check on. Applejack and Rainbow Dash still couldn't stand him and neither could Spike and he and Princess Celestia seemed to have some sort of weird old thing between them that made the two of them avoid each other, but the Cutie Mark Crusaders had started treating him as some kind of weird fun uncle, possibly accepting him as Not Evil so they could stop feeling guilty about accidentally releasing him the first time.
As she nibbled at her surprisingly tasty spaghetti, Fluttershy watched Discord eat his. His plate was actually covered in just one single, incredibly long, strand of spaghetti, which he slurped up in a single prolonged slurp, and then his plate started unraveling as if it, too, was made of the same one strand of spaghetti and he slurped it up as well. She grinned. It wasn't like he never did anything inappropriate or seriously annoying, and he made messes all the time and never cleaned them up and when he tried it just made matters worse, but he was funny and entertaining and surprisingly considerate when he wanted to be. She'd taken on befriending him as a challenge from Princess Celestia, and when she'd first declared him to be her friend it was really more like she'd been trying hard to find things about him to like than that she'd actually liked him... but she knew a lot about taming scary animals. If you kept treating animals, or ponies (or, she guessed, draconequii if that was really how you pronounced the plural), like they were your friends, if you kept acting like you liked them and wanted to be nice to them, they would almost always come around to returning the favor. Unless they were very hungry, in which case they might try to eat you. Which didn't apply to Discord because he didn't eat ponies.
At this point the door slammed open and Twilight Sparkle stomped in. "DISCORD!"
"Sparky! How about a hug?"
"I'm sorry for disturbing your dinner, Fluttershy, but I have to talk to this—this—"
"Incredibly handsome devil?"
"Devil, I'll agree with," Twilight snapped, and slammed a book down on the dinner table. "The spell you said was in here is not anywhere in this book! You lied to me!"
"I'm hurt, Sparky. Would I ever lie to you... unless it was funnier that way? Which, for the record, it isn't, because the fact that you cannot find that spell in the spellbook I got it out of just yesterday is COMPLETELY HILARIOUS."
"The only thing even remotely like the spell you did is the one that ends a transformation, with true love's kiss, and I know for a fact you would never, ever use a spell that requires true love's kiss."
"I did tell you I modified it just a bit."
She stomped over to him. "You did lie to me! There's nothing in this book that could be modified to turn ponies into dogs!"
"Yes, because the youthful unicorn student of magic is positive to have every bit as much experience with modifying spells as the ETERNAL GOD OF CHAOS." Discord leaned back on his cloud and sipped at a chocolate milk that hadn't been there a moment ago. "Would you like to try this again from the top?"
"This is serious, Discord! I'm done jumping through your little riddles. Turn the Cutie Mark Crusaders back into ponies or so help you I'm going to modify a transmogrification spell so it uses just five Elements of Harmony and ends up with a cake instead of a statue, and then I'm going to eat it."
Discord clapped his hands. "Wonderful, Sparky, wonderful! We'll make a Chaos mage of you yet, just you wait!" He leaned forward. "Or, possibly, you're on the verge of turning into The Terrible Doctor Twilight?"
Twilight glared at him, but before she could say anything, Fluttershy whispered, horrified, "You... turned the Cutie Mark Crusaders into dogs, Discord?"
"Oh, relax, they're having a blast. Maybe they'll get cutie marks in being dogs—" He fell backward off the couch as Fluttershy shoved him through the cloud, and tumbled onto the floor backwards. "Hey, that was uncalled for!"
Fluttershy directed The Stare at him. "Turn. Them. BACK."
"Can't. They did it to themselves. But Twilight Sparklepie here can do it! The spell's right here in this book!" As The Stare continued, Discord sighed. "Fluttershy, they can talk. They've still got wings and horns and blank flanks and annoying little voices and all the other things they normally have, they're just puppies instead of fillies. And they really did do it to themselves. I provided them with the spell, I told them it would turn them into puppies, and they quite voluntarily and eagerly activated it."
"They told me they had no idea how you did this to them!" Twilight snapped.
"Well, would you tell your older sister's good pal and the protégé of Princess Celestia that you took a spell off the Spirit of Chaos and activated it because you wanted to see if you could get your cutie mark if you turned into a dog for a little while?" He got back to his feet. "They're not hurt. And if you must know, the spell will wear off on its own, eventually, so if you really insist on declaring defeat and throwing yourself at me in abject surrender declaring, 'Oh, Discord, great Lord of Chaos, I am obviously a complete idiot and totally unable to solve the simplest of magical problems, please solve all my problems for me by telling me the answer so Great Princess Celestia doesn't realize what a total nitwit I am—'"
Twilight lowered her horn at him. "Cake, Discord. I even know the spell to use."
"Marvelous, I always wanted to be a cake. So much fluffier than a giant stone statue."
"You're always serious. You wouldn't be Twilight Sparkypoo if you weren't serious." He leaned forward. "Fine. Do we need a wittle wesson in wogic, Sparkypants?"
"A lesson in logic from you?"
"Yes, what is this world coming to. Cats and dogs living together! The spirit of Chaos having a better comprehension of what makes sense than the Terrible Doctor Twilight! I—"
"Never call me that again, Discord. I am completely serious about this. You know that a spell that traps a pony in an illusion is dark magic, right? And you know I never told the Princess about that book, and what you did to me with it?"
"Technically that thing was a friendship spell."
"A friendship spell and a fear spell and you twisted them all together and you made it dark. I don't think the Princess would be impressed by your technicalities."
It had been a month ago. Twilight had been gloating at Discord that she'd found a book he'd missed eating the reforming spell out of, and if he didn't watch his step, she had it memorized now. Discord had appeared quite alarmed, and had given her a book which he claimed would tell her about the many issues with reforming spells. What it had actually been had been a spell which forced a pony to relive their own life as if it had been another pony's... not to live that pony's life, but to suffer the same kinds of events that that pony had. So if the spell caster was an orphan, the reader of the book would live through an illusion in which their own parents died. If the spell caster had had a turbulent marriage, the reader of the book would see their own special somepony in the role of the spouse. And if the spell caster was the spirit of Chaos...
It had been a horrible nightmare for Twilight. From what she'd told them all about it, the story—which she'd had to live through as if it were actually happening – had been about her growing up in a world where no one trusted books or knowledge, and everyone hated and feared her for her love of those things, and when she made mistakes with the spells that she'd learned from books, her family and friends and even Princess Celestia had turned on her and ostracized her horribly. Surrounded by people calling her evil for the thing she loved, the thing she lived for, she had turned evil, becoming a madmare who experimented on other ponies in horrible ways in her quest to learn forbidden magics. She'd taken over the kingdom, ruled it with an iron hoof, brought death and destruction in her quest for knowledge, and been taken down by her best friends, turned to stone, with Celestia wielding the Element of Magic instead of her. Maddened by centuries in stone, she'd been even crazier when she'd gotten out, and unleashed horrors against Equestria, until the now-adult Cutie Mark Crusaders had used a reforming spell on her, which had made her hate books and knowledge and turn against everything she'd ever loved. Except that the lying happiness that the spell imposed on her was only a veneer, and every so often her true self got free enough to see what she'd become, the complete opposite of what she had been, the thing she had loved most in life and defined herself by torn out and replaced with a fake devotion to others that left her utterly hollow, and one day she got free long enough to kill herself.
The spell hadn't just been based on rewriting the spellcaster's life experiences so that the book's reader would live through them as if it happened to them, with friends and hobbies and talents replaced by what matched the reader's life. It finished off by bringing the spellcaster's worst fear to life and integrating it into the reader's nightmare.
Twilight had cried for days afterward, and some of the others, particularly Rainbow Dash and Applejack, had thought that the very fact that Discord would trick her into experiencing that spell meant that she should use the reforming spell... but it had, in fact, worked as Discord had intended. It had taken his life experiences, and his greatest fear, and translated them into terms that Twilight Sparkle could relate to, and made her experience them so she would understand why no attempt to actually reform him could work if the threat of a reforming spell was on the table, anywhere. It had upset her so badly that Fluttershy had had a screaming match with Discord about what he'd done to Twilight... but in the end, Twilight had explained, she couldn't even hate him for it, because the illusion he'd made her live through was her version of exactly what he had lived through, followed by the thing she had threatened him with. He hadn't done anything to her that he hadn't endured himself... except for the horrible ending, which was exactly what she'd just threatened to do to him.
Also, because the book had had enough logical inconsistencies that she'd been able to suspend her belief in it enough to maintain her sanity. Such as, how could the Cutie Mark Crusaders have possibly survived several hundred years to be around to cast the reforming spell when the Terrible Doctor Twilight was released from her stone prison?
That was how Twilight and Discord had begun their strange competition. Discord had told Twilight that the spell he'd tricked her into triggering was in one of her own books, and he'd even given her which book it was, and she'd had to figure out what modifications he'd made to it. It turned out that the spell had started life as a friendship spell where you could bespell a book with your own memories and give it to a friend to experience, plus a spell that was supposed to draw out the target's own worst fear so that friends could see it and understand it and help the target deal with it. Twilight had known that particular one could be weaponized, despite being in a manual of friendship spells, but it had taken her two days of studying what Discord had done to combine the two spells to figure out how he'd made them both into a weapon. Discord didn't usually use procedural magic, the kind one could learn from books, but his natural magic didn't lend itself well to producing well-organized, consistent effects, so when he actually wanted a consistent result he'd grab a spell out of a book and then completely rewrite it so it did what he wanted it to do... and picking apart his spells, figuring out how he'd made his modifications and why, was teaching Twilight a lot about magic that she'd never managed to get from either books or Celestia's tutoring. So he kept playing elaborate pranks on her with modified spells – none as devastating as The Tale of the Terrible Doctor Twilight had been, but then, he'd done that one in self-defense to protect himself from the thing he feared most in all the world – and she kept rising to the challenge, angrily.
This did not, in Fluttershy's opinion, justify turning the Cutie Mark Crusaders into puppies, even if they had wanted to be turned into puppies. "Discord, what you've done is really frightening Twilight and upsetting her," she said sternly. "She's afraid that if she can't figure out what spell you used, she can't counter it, so what if they get stuck that way?"
"They won't get stuck. I am not a fan of getting stuck. Trust me. Would this face lie to you?"
"Yes," Twilight said.
"Well, then I guess it is, indeed, time for our logic lesson." He stood up, suddenly wearing a tweed suit and horn-rimmed glasses, pointing at a chalkboard that hadn't been there a moment ago with a long wooden pointer that also hadn't. As he spoke in a strange accent, chalk wrote on the board, by itself. "Let us propose, there are two possibilities here. One, Discord is lying, and the spell isn't in the book. Two, Discord is telling the truth. So, if the first possibility is true, this leads to the possible consequence that Twilight Sparkle will successfully persuade Fluttershy to use the Element of Kindness in concert with her pals, which would be deeply unpleasant for Discord, plus, how would that even be funny? I mean, 'It's in the book, except it's really not! Haha, what a knee slapper!' How jejune. No style at all! Whereas if the second possibility is true, again we have a fork in possibility! First, the possibility that Twilight Sparkle is too stupid to possibly figure out the correct spell! In which case the Princess Celestia would look like an utter maroon for choosing such an idiotic protégé, wouldn't she, and we wouldn't want to diss the Princess. Plus, since Twilight Sparkle successfully defeated the great and powerful Discord, we can logically assume that either she is very smart or that Discord is an idiot and I am quite certain none of us want to go there, no?"
"Maybe not so many insults if you're trying to explain something to someone who's mad at you?" Fluttershy said, looking at the expression on Twilight Sparkle's face with some trepidation on Discord's behalf.
"What would be the fun in that? Besides, I didn't insult the dear Sparklypin, quite the contrary! I said rather that her great intelligence and ability to solve this puzzle can be assumed from the fact that if she doesn't have such abilities, both Celestia and I are idiots and I would certainly never want to say that. Well, maybe the part about Celestia, but not moi. So! If I am telling the truth and the spell is in this book, and Twilight Sparkle is smart enough to figure it out, and yet she has not figured it out because she is convinced that there's only one spell in there that it could possibly be and that's the wrong one, once again we have two possibilities! I love statistics. Did you know that statistically, if you flip a coin 7,212 times, and each time it comes up heads, then the odds of it coming up heads again are still fifty-fifty? But I digress! Either the spell is the one Twilight Sparkle thinks it might be, and whatever she sees as the impediment to the possibility is in fact no impediment at all and she just needs to look at it from a different angle. Or, it's a different spell and Twilight just hasn't figured out which one yet." He leaned forward into Twilight's face. "Which means, it's there in the book, Sparky. Figure it out."
Twilight glared at him even harder. "The only spell that it could possibly be by any stretch of the imagination is the one that undoes a transformation by true love's kiss. Firstly, this was a transformation, not an undoing of a transformation, and secondly, there is no way you would cast a spell that had true love's kiss involved, and besides, they're fillies, they're way too young for true love."
"You're forgetting something," Discord caroled.
"No, no, I'm not. You modified it. I know that. But I looked at your actual spell, not just the result, and I deconstructed some of the magical pattern, and it's definitely a transformation."
"Well, that's the interesting thing about undoing a transformation," Discord said. "Technically, undoing a transformation is a transformation. And under most circumstances, true love's kiss is typically coming from a member of one's original species. I mean, it's theoretically possible that when the beautiful pony princess kisses the transformed frog prince, and he returns to his true self, he might just be a giant chicken, and let me just add that that is a fantastic idea and oh, if only I weren't reformed I would love to bespell a giant chicken into a frog, particularly the prince of the giant chickens, but what was I talking about again? Oh yes! How often does that actually happen? Isn't it the case that generally, one's—" he made a gagging expression—"special somepony is, well, a pony? And not a giant chicken? Although that really ought to happen more often than it does."
"Ohhh." Twilight had lost the glare, her eyes going wide. "Oh, so if it's a transformation spell it doesn't work by undoing the original spell, it turns you into whatever it is your true love is... which is usually what you are too, so... that's kind of a cheap shortcut, but it would work 90% of the time, and then if you modified that... but where does true love's kiss come in?"
"Define your terms." Discord shrugged. "Rumor has it that most ponies just love puppies..."
"Oh – of course! If you're talking about a 'true love', meaning a love that isn't false, rather than 'true love' as in 'one true love', then it could be any kind of love! And puppies love everypony! Well, everypony that's nice to them, but Scoot and Sweetie Belle and Applebloom love puppies too, so if it's a kiss from a puppy... which is to say, a lick from a puppy, because that's how dogs show love... oh, I see what you did there. Uh-huh. You put the spell on them and told them it would be activated if a puppy kissed them and they went and found a puppy and got it to lick them."
"It was more than one puppy, if you must know."
"So how do we undo it? That tells me how you did it, but if we used the exact same spell in its unmodified form to turn them back into ponies it might have a bad reaction to the modified spell, so I need a spell that can actually undo your spell. How do I unravel it?"
"Excuse me, I'm sorry. You seem to have mistaken me for 'Mr. Easy Answers' or perhaps 'Mr. Gives The Whole Game Away.' I'm actually Discord, spirit of chaos and disharmony! Pleased to meet you."
This brought the glare back. Fluttershy turned her own Look on Discord. "Discord. Give her some help, please."
"Oh all right." Discord plopped himself down on his cloud couch again. "How do you undo a thing you've done?"
"You do what you did, but backwards."
Discord pulled an exaggeratedly horrified face. "That's disgusting, Twilight, they are fillies! Oh, I thought better of you. Wait till Celestia finds out how perverse you are!"
"What are you talking about?" Twilight demanded.
"Well, I can only think of a few ways to perform a kiss backward..."
The book on the table flew up and hit Discord in the nose as Twilight turned bright red. "That is not what I meant! Get your mind out of the gutter!"
"My mind? I am not the one who suggested that innocent young fillies might engage in some backward kissing. Really, Twilight—"
"Discord!" Fluttershy snapped.
"Your friend is an utter pervert, Flutterling, for shame—"
This time Fluttershy picked up the book with her hoof and bonked Discord on the head with it. "Discord. Help. Her."
"If you insist," he said, grinning broadly. "Sparklepire, two roads diverge in a yellow wood. You take the one less traveled by, by which I mean to say the left one but actually you ought to have gone right. How do you fix it?"
"You go back – and no, I am not suggesting anything perverse! You're the one making these analogies--"
"Fine, fine, the yellow wood was the wrong analogy. Suppose you're on one of those horrible gridlike rectangular blocks you find all over Manehattan and you've taken a left turn and it's one way, so you can't go back. How do you go the other way?"
"You take three left turns and that brings you back to the beginning," Twilight said slowly.
"Excellent. Wonderful. Now go someplace. Poor Fluttershy here was trying to eat her dinner before you so rudely interrupted."
"So they have to receive three kisses from a pony that loves them?"
Discord rolled his eyes (metaphorically again.) "It's an analogy, Twilight. Not necessarily three turns—but you know what, you're on the right track. Now go run along and solve the thing before I decide to give you a really challenging one."
She took a deep breath. "All right. But if I can't get them turned back into ponies by nightfall, you are in trouble." The door didn't exactly slam when she left, but it was close.
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