Better a Diamond With a Flaw

by shortskirtsandexplosions

Chapter 1: Polished

Morning dew glistened across the front lawn in front of Ponyville's one-room school building. There, fillies chatted and played games across the local playground. Apple Bloom, Sweetie Belle, and Scootaloo huddled together, giggling over yet another planned adventure for that afternoon. Their merriment had a brief lapse upon seeing a familiar sight. Filthy Rich's family stagecoach rolled to a stop, being pulled by an old stallion, his wrinkled coat slick with sweat.

Mumbling to themselves, the Cutie Mark Crusaders glared in the direction of the dark, wood-varnished wagon. They collectively trotted off to continue their conversation on the opposite side of the schoolyard.

In the meantime, the elder butler was struggling to unhitch himself from the front of the stagecoach. It took some work—not to mention a copious amount of panting breaths—but he eventually detached himself from the rigging and approached the side door. He paused—grimacing at the front right wheel of the vehicle—but nevertheless approached the door, unlocked it, and swung the thing open. He immediately bowed low, muttering towards the two colorful fillies seated within.

"We have arrived, Miss Tiara," the stallion said in a humble tone. "I'm... erm... terribly sorry for what happened along the way here. I couldn't swerve out of the way fast enough without harming you and your friend. I know it must have been a shocking thing to see."

"Pffft. Are you kidding?" Silver Spoon rolled her spectacled eyes. "Get a load of your butler, DT," she squeaked, nudging her best friend with a smirk. "What? Does he think we're babies or something?"

Diamond Tiara took a deep breath. When she finally opened her eyes, she was frowning. "Heh. As if." She stared out the open door with a scowl. "Why don't you apologize every morning, Randolph? It's always a bumpy ride whenever Daddy puts you at the reins!" She pointed at Silver Spoon. "You almost knocked her glasses off her fabulous face! Again!"

"My apologies, Miss. It's j-just that there are so many bumps along the road and I-I try to see them all—"

"Ungh. Spare me." Diamond Tiara grabbed her satin smooth schoolbag and swiveled towards the door. Randolph crouched over the muddy floor and presented his elderly spine as a stepping stool which Diamond promptly used to dismount from the stagecoach. "Why Daddy lets us live in this horse trough of a town is beyond me! Muddy streets... donkeys and mules on every street corner... wild animals just... th-throwing themselves across the road!"

"Yeah!" Silver Spoon hopped down last, viciously knocking the air out of Randolph's wheezing lungs as she dismounted besides Diamond. "Maybe your Daddy and mine can start a new extermination business in downtown!"

"Whatever," Diamond Tiara grumbled as she and her friend shuffled forward. "Just leave the animals alone. They can... roll over and croak in the Everfree Forest, for all I care."

"Er... right! That too!" Silver Spoon smiled wide as she bounced alongside her friend. "That's what I meant!"

"Nnnngh..." Randolph's eyes teared slightly as he stood back upright with an audible crack to his skeleton. "Guh... Whew..." The butler turned and gazed calmly at the two fillies. "Do you still wish for me to bring you lunch in a few hours?"

"Pfft. And risk spilling the gourmet carrots all over the stagecoach floor?" Diamond Tiara scoffed. She adjusted the glittering article atop her head and frowned back at the stallion. "Just make sure you're here to pick us up on time for once! And I mean right before the bell rings, no later! Silver Spoon's got piano practice at her mansion this afternoon and we can't have her late for that!"

"Yes, Miss Tiara," Randolph exhaled, bowing low as he crept his trembling way back to the front of the stagecoach. "I will not disappoint you, Miss Tiara."

"Hmmph. We'll see about that." Diamond Tiara turned her nose up as she marched towards the inside of the school building. "I swear, I have no idea what Daddy pays him for."

"Wow, DT!" Silver Spoon grinned, flouncing her gray bangs. "You are—like—the most considerate filly ever! If I had a bit for every time my mother yelled at me for missing piano lessons—"

"You'd be a lot poorer?" Diamond Tiara grumbled.

Silver Spoon blinked, then beamed. "Yeah! That's funny!" She giggled, then giggled again. "Isn't it funny?"


"So... uhm..." Silver Spoon glanced between the school door in front of them, and the playground to their left. "We're going inside already? Don't you want me to push you on the swingset like always?"

"Playgrounds are for babies, Silver Spoon," Diamond Tiara mumbled, her trot unfaltering as she stepped into the building. "Besides, it's hot and muggy outside. I wanna rest up."

"Hey, funny that you should say that!" Silver Spoon stammered. "I was just thinking how much I totalllllly hate getting sweaty at the start of the day! Let's go inside and chillaxxxx, huh?"

"Sounds good to me."

Diamond Tiara disappeared inside. Silver Spoon fidgeted briefly at the entranceway, casting the playground a twitching glance. In a gasp—however—she darted in and vanished just as swiftly.

An hour later, Diamond Tiara sat at her desk, staring quietly out her window. A tree stood right outside the school building, its branches stretching in the morning sun. On a thick brown limb, a nest of twigs rested. A sparrow touched down, a worm hanging from its mouth. Diamond Tiara blinked, and as the bird lowered its head, she could scarcely make out the beaks of baby chicks lunging up to receive the mother's food.

Meanwhile, Cheerilee was rambling on with the day's lesson: "...waged war with the wyverns of the Frozen North for another twelve years. That's why Commander Hurricane had grown so weary of outsiders by the time Equestria was first founded. Now, can anypony tell me how the pegasi ponies ended the Second War of Wyverns?"

Several ponies waved their hooves. Diamond Tiara didn't see any of them.

"Yes, Dinky. Do you have the answer?"

"Uhm..." The petite unicorn blushed at actually being picked. She scrunched up in her desk before ultimately murmuring, "She sent her Second in Command, Private Pansy, to make a peace treaty with the wyverns." The filly gulped. "That's how the last war with the northern creatures ended."

Cheerilee smiled before the chalkboard. "Very good, Dinky! That's absolutely right. Commander Hurricane had done nothing but engage in open conflict with the wyverns for over a decade, even before the Founding of Equestria. She knew that it put a strain on her judgment when dealing with them. So, for the sake of peace, she sent in her comrade and close friend, the pegasus soldier known as Pansy, to fly towards the wyvern stronghold and negotiate an end to the war. Many historians today agree that it showed not only courage on Pansy's part, but a mark of significant humility and change on behalf of Hurricane's."

Diamond Tiara suddenly turned towards the front of the class, her blue eyes squinting.

"Now..." Cheerilee paced before the class. "Based on last night's reading, can anypony recall what happened to Pansy afterwards?"

Diamond raised her hoof, summoning a double-take from Silver Spoon in the desk next to her.

Cheerilee craned her neck. "Yes? Diamond Tiara? Do you know?"

Diamond lowered her hoof as she leaned forward. "The wyverns killed her anyways, didn't they?"

The ponies in the class exchanged glances, murmuring slightly.

Cheerilee blinked, then gave an awkward smile. "Well, Pansy passed away while spending her first year in the wyvern stronghold, yes. But—"

"Pffft..." Diamond Tiara leaned back, her forelimbs folded. "That's what you get for sending a weak, frail pegasus into an enemy camp to begin with. I mean—what was Commander Hurricane expecting?"

"Uhm..." Cheerilee cleared her throat, quieting a few errant chuckles from the first two rows. "It's certainly true that Private Pansy was a far less experienced fighter than her commanding officer, but that had no bearings whatsoever on how she passed away." The teacher glanced across the classroom. "Does anypony remember exactly how she died?"

The foals were too busy muttering to one another. At last, an orange hoof raised.

"Yes? Do you know, Scootaloo?"

The petite pegasus gave Diamond Tiara half of a glance out the corner of her eye, then leaned forward in her desk. "Ahem. According to the textbook, Miss Cheerilee, Private Pansy caught Windigo Fever. She was bed-ridden for—like—several months, during which both pegasi and wyverns continued to talk about peace agreements n'stuff. When she died, they built this really slick memorial to her right outside the gates to the stronghold."

"That's correct, Scootaloo!" Cheerilee said with a wink. "In the end, Pansy's efforts paid off, and the Equestrian Spirit of Harmony affected everyone—pony and wyvern alike. As a matter of fact, like your schoolbooks state, the wyverns went above and beyond to try to cure her condition. And even though they weren't successful, historians today agree that her death was a noble one, because it bound both societies together."

A few ponies cooed and murmured in awe.

Diamond Tiara, however—"But... but..." She leaned forward, her voice cracking, "Weak ponies get the least amount of stuff done!" She gulped. "I mean... look at some of those skinny mares and stallions outside Ponyville Central everyday! Would Commander Hurricane expect them to stop a war anytime soon?"

The classroom fell silent, save for a random cough or two.

"That's certainly an... interesting perspective, Diamond Tiara," Cheerilee said in a shaky tone. "However, as your history textbooks have shown, even the most ill ponies can accomplish amazing things, given the right courage and tenacity. Pansy has served as a testament to all. And, to be honest, I really don't see what random patients at Ponyville Central Hospital have anything to do with this conversation." She punctuated the last statement with something resembling a harsh glare.

Diamond gulped. "But..."

"Now, moving on to Princess Platinum and the founding of Canterlot..." Cheerilee moved to the chalkboard, drawing a dusty timeline across the blank slate. "Can anypony tell me in what year Clover the Clever proposed the dredging of crystals from the heart of the eastern mountains...?"

As hooves raised up, Diamond glanced over at Silver Spoon. Her friend stood stock still, smiling nervously. Beyond her, three familiar fillies sat, in the center of which was Scootaloo. The pegasus' eyes nervously reflected Diamond Tiara. Almost instantly, she flinched, hiding her face behind tiny wings. Beside her, Sweetie Belle and Apple Bloom exchanged amused glances. One filly's lips moved, and the other one snickered.

With a deep breath, Diamond Tiara sported an iron-wrought frown.

"Jeez. Will you two just buzz off?" Scootaloo grumbled, tightening a bolt on her scooter along the far edge of the playground. "Don't you have anything better to do?"

"I was going to ask you the same thing, blank flank," Diamond Tiara said with a devilish smirk. It was recess, and the noonday sun sparkled off her immaculate crown. "You're on that stupid tricycle—like—all the time! Aren't you ever going to grow up?"

"Yeah!" Silver Spoon added with a sneer. "Only a baby finds rolling around on that thing to be fun!"

"It's not a tricycle!" Scootaloo barked, though she was clenching her teeth with a slight shudder. "It's a scooter! I use it to get around town quickly!"

"Heh... more like make up for having wings that don't work!" Silver Spoon winked aside at Diamond Tiara. "Might as well wear a big sign with the word 'Flightless' on it! Snkkkt-Heeheehee!"

"Yeah... well..." Scootaloo shoved her wrench into her saddlebags that were lying on the ground. "Not all of us are so lazy that we need a butler to drag us everywhere!"

"Pfft..." Diamond Tiara rolled her eyes. "Do you think I actually like having to be associated with that crotchety old fart?"

"The only good thing about him is that he keeps us from getting our hoofsies muddy!" Silver Spoon added.

"And the fact of the matter is, we travel around like adults!" Diamond Tiara grinned. "We've earned some high class! Unlike you... a baby-faced pegasister who can't even get a cutie mark!"

"I bet you'd cryyyyy and cryyyyy all day if something bad happened to your little toy!" Silver Spoon pretended to leap towards it.

"H-hey!" Scootaloo instantly flinched, hugging the scooter like it was her best friend. "Cut out out, g-guys! Not cool..."

"Awwwwwww... is she going to cry, now?" Silver Spoon cooed.

"Face it," Diamond Tiara scoffed. "You are so foalish, it's not even funny! I wouldn't be surprised if you still have to wear diapers!"

"You'll never know what it's like to be older, cooler, and hip like Diamond and I!" Silver Spoon leaned in and nudged her best pal. "Why, Diamond's stupid butler ran over a cat this morning on the way to school, and we didn't even shed a single tear! Isn't that right, Diamond?"

Diamond Tiara stared ahead. After a few seconds, her lips curved. "Dumb animals. Somepony should really clean these filthy streets."

"Yeah, well, good luck with that!" Scootaloo cleared her throat and swiveled her scooter around to the far side of her saddlebag. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I promised Sweetie Belle and Apple Bloom that I'd have lunch with—"

Diamond's blue eyes darted into the backpack. With a wicked smirk, she thrust her hoof in and dragged something ragged and dangly out. "Oh wait! What's this?!"

"Huh?" Scootaloo looked at her, then gasped. "H-hey!" She lunged off the scooter. "Give that back—!"

But Silver Spoon had expertly trotted up to block the pegasus, giving Diamond Tiara free rein to turn over the threadbare, vaguely pony-shaped plushie in her grasp. "Awwwwww... does Scooty-Wooty-Poo have a little dolly-wolly?" Diamond brushed a hoof across its blue felt colt and played with its rainbow colored yarn. "Oh, puhleeeeease, is this what I think it is?"

"It's not yours! Darn it!" Scootaloo fought and struggled to reach over Silver Spoon's flank. "Give it back!"

"Ugh. Why would I even want to touch this thing?" Diamond held the doll out at arm's reach, dangling it by its tail over the playground dirt. "You know, I was only kidding when I said you were like a baby earlier, but now that I see what you do like to play with, well—it's downright sad!"

"I... I don't play with it!" Scootaloo gritted her teeth as her eyes watered. "I... I just like having it in my saddlebag when I'm away from home!"

"Ewww... you mean you actually keep this thing in your room?"

"You are such a little infant!" Silver Spoon rolled her eyes and smiled Diamond's way. "DT threw all her old stuffed animals into the deepest part of her closet when I first met her! I can't believe some ponies just can't grow up!"

"Look, I-I don't care!" Scootaloo sniffled. "Just give it back!"

"Hey!" Apple Bloom's voice called from across the playground. Two bright shapes galloped over to the scene. "What in the hay do y'all think yer doing?"

"Pffft. Who cares?" Diamond Tiara dropped the pony doll. It landed messily in the mud. "I don't see why your friend should."

Scootaloo sucked in her breath. As Silver Spoon finally moved away, she rushed forward and scooped the thing out of the mud, trying her best to brush the flecks of mud off. Her muzzle sniffled and her eyes went glossy.

"Awwww!" Silver Spoon trotted over by Diamond's side. "Look it! She is going to cry! How pathetic..."

"Scootaloo, are you okay?" Sweetie Belle asked.

The pegasus took a few shuddering breaths. Frowning, she wiped her cheek dry and tossed the doll back into her saddlebag. "Yeah, I'm fine."

"But... but we just saw them toss that—"

"I said I'm fine!" Scootaloo hopped onto her scooter and pushed away, heading for the far end of the playground. "Now, if you don't mind, I've gotta finish my lunch while th-there's still t-time."

"But... but I thought we were..." Sweetie's ears drooped. "...eating together."

Diamond and Silver giggled in tandem.

Apple Bloom frowned at them, her cheeks red. "You know, there're jerks in this world, and then there's just plain rotten eggs!"

"Oh yeah?!" Diamond leaned forward, her eyes like blue daggers. "And just what are you going to do about it?!"

Apple Bloom immediately flinched away from her vicious tone. "I... I-I... uh..."

"Hmmph! Just as I thought." Diamond marched off with her friend in tow. "You three are worse off than that Private Pansy wimp. Good luck living long, healthy, natural lives, blank flanks! Come along, Silver Spoon."

"Heehee. Hope no wyverns gobble you all up in the middle of the night!"

Hours later, Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon sat on the front stoop of Cheerilee's schoolhouse, watching as fillies and colts walked home in groups, some with their parents.

"Heh..." Silver Spoon shuffled the weight of her saddlebags and leaned over to nudge Diamond. "You heard that 'gobbling wyverns' bit I said earlier?" She giggled. "To the blank flanks? Wanna bet they go home and wet their beds overnight?"

Diamond sat still, staring forward.

"As if they don't wet their beds enough as it is, the big babies!" She giggled again.

With a soft exhale, Diamond's eyes followed the path of Dinky. A gray shape touched down in front of her. Dinky reared her hooves in joy, her muzzle beaming. She galloped forward and stood up on her hind legs. Derpy Hooves smiled, leaning down to nuzzle her daughter. Then—blinking with crooked eyes—the pegasus hoisted the filly onto her back and spread her wings. Dinky let out a gleeful cheer as the two took off with her clinging to her mother's shoulders.

"Pfft! Look who's late again," Silver Spoon grumbled aside. "As usual."

At last, Diamond blinked, and her eyes darted over towards the far end of the muddy road.

Randolph came galloping forward, dragging the black stagecoach behind him. He practically skidded to a stop, hyperventilating through his aged lungs.

"What is your deal, ya old mule?!" Silver Spoon stood up, barking, "Can't you be on time for something for once in your life?"

"I beg your forgiveness," Randolph wheezed, stumbling to get himself unhitched from the reins. "But... I-I don't understand. It's not yet three o'clock and yet... y-you're being released already?"

"Miss Cheerilee had to end class early because of personal business." Silver Spoon tilted her nose up. "It's not our fault we had to wait here, sitting on our cutie marks!"

"I see." Randolph gulped and calmed his breaths. "Shall we embark, then?"

"Ugh! Don't make it sound like you haven't messed up again!" Silver Spoon glanced aside. "Seriously, DT. I bet my mom knows somepony who knows somepony who could hire your dad a new butler! I mean, don't you think it's about time?"

Diamond's eyes were narrowing on something else.

The front right wheel of the stagecoach had been polished clean. It shone brighter than the others; not even a speck of mud marred it.


"Let's just go home," she muttered, trotting towards the door.

"Hmmph! Tell me about it!" Silver Spoon stood up and trotted after her. "My flank's getting stiff from all this waiting around! Perhaps you'd like to hear me play piano so I can make you relax?"

"Not this afternoon, Silver."

"But, y'know, if you're super-tired, then that's okay!" Silver squeaked. "Another time! You're gonna love this concerto I've been mastering..."

Randolph slapped the stagecoach door shut behind them.

After dropping Silver Spoon off at her manor, Diamond Tiara's stagecoach finally rolled up to the long, curved driveway of her mansion. As she and Randolph passed through the metal gates, she took a bored glance out—then did a double-take.

There was already a coach parked along the path. Two chauffeurs that she didn't recognize stood along the fringes, chatting it up with a lawn care worker. As soon as Randolph and his passenger arrived, they pretended to split up and be doing separate things.

"Oh... uhm... hmmmm..." Diamond Tiara could hear Randolph clearing his throat from the thin slit at the front of her car. She leaned forward as the butler next said, "It appears as though Master Rich has company. Most likely business associates."

He stopped moving and the stagecoach came to a stop several feet from the parked wagon.

"It's been a long day for you, I suspect, Miss Tiara," Randolph said, his breath shuddering as he unhitched himself from the constricting reins. "Might I suggest you take a short nap while I go inside to check on the kitchen? Your afternoon snack should be ready eventually..."

"Puhh—What?" Diamond frowned. "You mean in here?"

"Master Rich expects Miss Tiara to be in good health," the butler said. "Good health means good rest. Don't worry, milady, I'll be back to escort you inside shortly."

"Randolph!" Diamond's voice cracked.

However, the older stallion was already trotting away. Scowling, the filly pulled at the door handle and gave the inside of the stagecoach a firm push. It refused to budge.

"Guhhh! I'm so sick and tired of this old fogey..." She sat, slumped back in her seat with folded arms. Brushing her bangs back, she blinked, then squinted curiously at the door. Licking her lips, she pivoted her lower body and gave the door handle a savage buck.

The handle snapped off the frame and rattled to the coach's floor. The inner hollow of the door was now exposed to the filly, including the metal levers that controlled the locking mechanism. All it took was a little bit of fiddling around with her petite hooves, and the foal succeeded in unlocking the door from the inside.

"Heh..." Diamond Tiara grinned as she shoved the door open and hopped out onto the cool concrete path of her mansion's driveway. "Try and make me look dumb now, Miss Cheerilee, you old maid."

Dragging her saddlebag behind her, Diamond Tiara trotted towards the mansion's front steps. She paused as soon as she saw the door hanging open. Suddenly pensive, she glanced all around. There was nopony to be seen—especially not Randolph. Smirking to herself, she broke into a brief gallop, ducking inside her house.

Blessed by glorious air conditioning, Diamond Tiara produced an unladylike yawn. She tossed her book bag lazily across a sofa in the front library and limped her way across the spacious home.

"Prim Step?!" she barked across the wide hallways. "Feather Duster?! I'm back from schoooool!" She grumbled to herself before turning another corner. "I know I'm early, but I expect a cleanly cut daffodil sandwich made for me in the next ten minutes or I swear my Daddy's going to—"

She froze in place, her heart skipping a beat. Swiveling, the filly turned towards the closed doors to Filthy Rich's study. Her ears twitched, for she heard muffled sounds emanating from within, and they sounded remarkably like a pair of echoing voices. Loud, shouting voices.

With a scrunched muzzle, the little foal crept curiously forward. She finally stopped when she was within a few feet of the room, because—even with the doors closed—the conversation beyond had become perfectly clear.

"... it's not about the money! It's about the image! Every time you come here, groveling on your knees—what do you think it does for my reputation?! Or the business' reputation?!"

"I am not groveling. I simply think that if you opened your mind and allowed for some new arrangements, then we might be able to start up anew—"

"Start what up anew?! There is nothing! Whatever arrangements we had, it ended long ago."

"Filthy, you're not even listening. This new company I've started could benefit from—"

"Don't make me laugh. As if you even have the merit to make something last for more than five years."

"But if you just—"

"Leave me, and don't come back until you've got something that at least doesn't pretend it isn't pitiful!"


"As you wish..."

Diamond Tiara fidgeted. She took a few steps back.

It was with good timing, too, for the doors slid open and a pony trotted out—a mare dressed in a tight burgundy business suit. She took only three steps before she froze before Diamond Tiara, staring down at her in rigid silence.

Diamond stared back, raising an eyebrow.

If the mare returned the gesture, Diamond couldn't tell. The brim of a red sunhat veiled her expression in icy shadows. At last, she picked her pace back up, trotting briskly past Diamond Tiara.

The filly watched her pass by. At one point, the mare came to a stop, almost fidgeting at the final turn before the mansion's exit. She turned and looked back at the filly, a pair of blue eyes peering softly from beneath the hat.

It was around this time that Filthy's booming voice startled Diamond, emanating from the stallion's office: "Randolph! Please escort our guest to her stagecoach before she trips on the way out. We did afford remodeling the front room, after all."

Diamond Tiara exhaled. With a shrug of her shoulders, she turned to look back down the hallway. The richly-dressed mare was gone.


She turned aside.

Filthy Rich stood at the entrance to his study, his eyes calm and studying.

She opened her mouth to say something—

"Miss Tiara!"

She glanced back.

Randolph stood, seemingly breathless. He fidgeted, one hoof pointing towards the front room and the other pointing towards the opposite end of the house. "She... our g-guest." He gulped. "I couldn't catch up with her, Master Rich. I do believe she's disembarking with her drivers now."

"Randolph, calm down," Filthy said in a cool tone. "Was Diamond sick at school today?"

"Oh, no, sir." The butler gave a bow. "Class was let out early, according to her and her close companion."

Filthy's head tilted down. A pair of eyes narrowed. "Is this true, Diamond?"

She gulped and nodded. "Yes, Daddy. Miss Cheerilee had to leave early..."

Filthy stared at her. Eventually he breathed, "Very well." He trotted past her and spoke to Randolph along the way. "Randolph, thanks for bringing Diamond home safely, as always."

"It was a pleasure, sir."

"Did you clean the wagon after this morning?"

"Erm... yes, sir. Right before picking Miss Tiara and Miss Spoon up."

"Good. Go fetch Prim Step. Tell her Diamond's home early, and she needs her mid afternoon meal."

"I'll get right to it, sir."

Before the butler could turn around, Diamond Tiara had already scampered up the tall staircase to the mansion's second level.

The filly trotted through her room, walked past the plush bed and pink vanity, and hopped up onto the reading seat. There, she pushed the lavender drapes aside, staring out the window and through the waving branches of the windblown trees.

It was only a glimpse, but she caught the strange stagecoach being pulled away, its two chauffeurs galloping briskly onto the street that led towards southern Ponyville. The metal gate of the driveway slid shut, and all was quiet and serene once more.

Without saying a word, Diamond slinked away and made softly for the first floor again.

After night had fallen, Diamond Tiara trotted alone through the mansion. Her petite hooves made quiet shuffling noises against the lush carpet as she approached the doorway to her father's study. There, she paused, craning her neck to see across the softly glowing domain.

Filthy Rich sat in a chair before the fireplace. He was freshly showered, and his slick mane fell back into the collar of a silk robe donning his aged muscles. With calm breaths, he turned the pages of a large-framed book balanced in his lap.

Quietly, Diamond trotted halfway into the room. She cleared her throat and said, "I did my homework, Daddy."

Almost instantly, Filthy closed the book. There was a flash of glossy rectangular panels, and then it was shut to the firelight. He exhaled with shrugging shoulders and turned his head aside to glance back at her. "That's good to know, Diamond, darling. Dutiful research gets us to where we wish to go."

"Yeah, I guess." Diamond blew the bangs out of her face and grumbled, "All we've been learning this week is a bunch of stupid trivia about Commander Hurricane and those hotheaded pegasi who helped found Equestria."

"We owe a lot to them, Diamond," Filthy said, turning away from her, gazing deep into the fireplace. "Strong warriors like Commander Hurricane are sources of inspiration. If it weren't for them, earth ponies and unicorns would likely never have found their balance in those days."

"Yeah..." Diamond giggled slightly. "That's exactly wh-what I was thinking." She tilted her nose up. "Still, it doesn't excuse what featherweights they've become today!"

"Just because modern pegasi are frail compared to their ancient counterparts doesn't mean they're any less useful."

"Huh?" Diamond blinked. "What do you mean, Daddy?"

"Weak ponies accomplish very little on their own," Filthy said, laying the book down on the table besides his bed. "Many of them can't help it. Feebleness is something that's often inherited, but that's fine. It can be fixed, mended, fueled into something better. Take Randolph, for instance. Do you think our butler would survive in this world if it weren't for me?"

Diamond smirked. "Pffft. As if..."

"I'm serious, Diamond."

She winced.

"It is not an easy thing," he muttered. "Being a pony of power means having to select that which has potential from the great chaff all around us. Sometimes..." He paused, then sighed into the fireplace. "...a lot of times, we make the wrong choices." He swallowed, then said in a raspy tone, "But even the most glaring flaws can be polished away. It simply takes strength, tenacity, and a great deal of confidence."

At last, he tilted his muzzle back towards her.

"If you've gained nothing from Ponyville's laughable education this week, then garner something from that, darling."

She nodded. "Sure thing, Daddy." She turned to leave, but paused. Squirming, she finally faced the fire once more. "Daddy...?"

He rubbed his muzzle tiredly. "Mmmmmm... yes, Diamond?"

"Do you always deal with your business partners while I'm at school?"

"Most of the time..."

She gritted her teeth, then finally asked, "Just like earlier today?"


"It's late, Diamond Tiara," he said. "You should wash up and get a good night's rest."

Her eyes fell to the carpet. Quietly, she nodded, then shuffled off towards the staircase in the front room.

Less than an hour later, Diamond Tiara placed her sparkly ornament onto a carefully framed pedestal in the center of her bedroom vanity. She stepped back, clad in a pink nightgown, gazing calmly as the tiara reflected her freshly rinsed mane a dozen times.

After a deep breath, she glanced aside.

Her closet door lay closed, its pearly handles glinting with the dim lantern light.

The mare sighed. She pretended to yawn, but all that came out was a tiny squeak. With a restless twitch, she climbed up onto her bed and fwumped down onto the pink, plush duvet. She stared at her ceiling, her sparkly blue eyes tracing the juvenile clouds and hot air balloons etched into the surface.

Her nostrils flared, and she turned over, reaching a petite hoof towards the dim lantern at her bedside. She hesitated, though, her eyes once again darting towards the closet.

The door lay close. The shadows of night danced from the lantern.

Diamond Tiara bit her lip. Her body curled up, shivered, then uncurled. Gulping, she softly slipped out of bed and shuffled across the carpet of her room.

When she at last reached the closet, she slid its door open with a ridiculous degree of caution. She gazed into the dark partition, then slowly reached inside, fishing around with an outstretched hoof for the better part of a minute. At last, she pulled something out from the far corner of the closet. It was a stuffed animal—a pink fluffy persian cat. The thing was half the size that she was; it had to have been enormous in comparison to the tiny filly who once got it as a gift a few years ago.

Quietly, Diamond Tiara dragged it back with her onto the bed. Alone in her room, she didn't even bother to roll back the covers, for as soon as she plopped down into the center of it, that was when the tears started flowing.

With tiny little hiccups, the pony clenched her eyes shut. She hugged the stuffed feline to her chest, nuzzling the softest part of its fuzzy neck.

"I'm sorry..." she mewled. "I'm s-so sorry for what happened to you." Once that was out, she began bawling, burying her face into the thing's soft fur as her sobs came in haggard heaps. "I couldn't stop it. I can't stop anything."

Her body shook, shivered, weathering the whimpers that dragged her into the dark of night.

"I'm so... so sorry..."

She fell unconscious before her tears could dry.

"No..." Dinky leaned back, her sad eyes glistening in the morning light. "N-no! You take that back!" She sniffled. "Everypony loves my Mommy! She's the most valuable mailmare in all of Ponyville! Everyone says so!"

"You mean everyone says it to her face so that they can stop having to look at her freakish eyes!" Silver Spoon giggled as she and Diamond Tiara squared off against the petite unicorn in the schoolyard. "It's a lot easier to make fun of a googly-eyed creature when she's not around to crash into them!"

"She... she's gotten better!" Dinky fought tears, trembling as she attempted to stand her ground. "She hasn't flown into a window for months! Just lay off of her, will ya?!"

"Ha! So Ponyville's windows are safe now!" Silver Spoon rolled her eyes. "Wow, that's such a huge relief!" She turned and nudged her friend. "You getting a load of this, DT?"

Diamond Tiara stared ahead. After a calm breath, she formed a tight sneer. "Face it, filly, your mother's a bird-brained animal that the doctors refused to put down. Only she could give birth to a weak little blank flank like you! Pfft... no wonder you don't have a Daddy..."

Dinky's face melted. She squatted down on shivering legs and wept into her forelimbs.

"Awwwwwww..." Diamond Tiara cooed, her blue eyes flickering like fire. "What's the matter? Is the widdle baby gonna cryyyy?" She blew her bangs out from her brow and trotted off. "What a helpless little wuss. Come on, Silver."

"Yeahhh!" Silver Spoon stuck her tongue out at Dinky and followed Diamond like a gray shadow. "So pathetic...!"

Author's Notes:

I owe this fic to Props. He inspired me to write it, and he did me the selfless favor of pre-reading it. I'm beginning to think that leeching ideas from him is a profitable thing, only now my toilet fills up with scout troopers everytime I pee...

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