The Second Tiara

by Fervidor

Chapter 1: Only The Good Die Young

By Fervidor

It was beautiful and seemingly ordinary day in Equestria. The sun shone, chirping birds fluttered through clear skies and the citizens of Ponyville were happily going through their daily routines, blissfully unaware that they were all in terrible danger. They flocked to the town market to buy and sell their goods and groceries, a few spontaneous song and dance routines occasionally breaking up the monotone bustle.

Not far from the library, a beige muzzle adorned with a pair of oversized sunglasses peeked out from behind some bushes. Behind them, two amber eyes nervously surveyed the area.

"Is the coast clear?" came Sweetie Belle's voice from within the bushes.

"Ah think so," Apple Bloom whispered in response.

"Let's hurry up before somepony sees us!" Scootaloo hissed.

The three Cutie Mark Crusaders stepped out unto the street. All three were in disguise, dressed up in large hats, sunglasses and coats that did little to hide their identities. They walked with the conspicuously brisk pace of ponies who are in a hurry but don't want to attract attention to themselves.

"Do we really need to dress like this?" Scootaloo groaned. She wasn't very used to clothes, and having to wear them on such a nice day struck her as a terrible waste. "It's not like we're fooling anypony."

"We can't let it get out that we're still going to Twilight Time," Sweetie Belle reminded her. "If Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon find out, they'll raise a fuss about it and then Twilight might not want to teach us anymore."

"Whatever, it's your fault we have to sneak around like this," Scootaloo said.

"Will y'all pipe down," Apple Bloom hissed. "Ya can bicker 'bout whose fault it is later."

All of a sudden, a mysterious tremor shook the ground – a subtle but noticeable vibration that sent a shiver through the entire town, like an ominous portent of things to come. It only lasted for a few brief seconds and then it was gone as if nothing had happened. The three fillies looked at each other in surprise and confusion.

"What was that?" Sweetie Belle asked.

"No idea," Scootaloo said. "It didn't feel like an explosion. An earthquake, I guess?"

"That's weird." Apple Bloom frowned and scraped the ground slightly with her hoof. "We ain't supposed to get quakes in this part of Equestria."

"Well, whatever it was, it didn't last long," Scootaloo concluded. "Let's just get to the library. Maybe Twilight can tell us what it was."

Sweetie Belle and Apple Bloom made no objections and the trio continued on their way. They soon reached the enormous tree that housed the town library and served as the home of Princess Twilight Sparkle. They had almost made it to the door when it opened and Spike appeared pulling a cart packed with various items – books, scrolls, vials and bottles filled with colorful potions, plus several strange trinkets and devices the Crusaders didn't even recognize. The dragon seemed somewhat preoccupied with his burden and didn't notice them at first.

"Howdy, Spike!" Apple Bloom greeted.

"Um, hello?" the dragon replied, looking at the three fillies as if trying to remember if he'd seen them before. "Can I help you? If you're selling something, this really isn't a good time."

"Spike, it's us," Scootaloo said, raising her sunglasses from her eyes and giving him a look of mild disbelief. "We're here for Twilight Time?"

"Oh." Spike scratched the back of his head, looking a bit embarrassed. "Ahaha, yeah, I... I knew that."

"So can we come in?" Apple Bloom asked.

Spike shook his head. "Sorry girls. Seems Twilight Time is canceled today."

"Canceled?" Scootaloo repeated, frowning.

"But why?" Sweetie Belle asked with a worried tremor in her voice. "Doesn't Twilight want to see us anymore?"

"Actually, Twilight hasn't been home since last night," Spike explained. He held up a scroll, identical to the ones he had so often sent to Princess Celestia. "I was getting kinda worried myself, but then she sent me this letter. Apparently she and the rest of the gang have some kind of emergency on their hooves. I'm still not sure what's going on myself, but Twilight told me to gather up anything irreplaceable and cart it over to Rarity's place. She also wrote that I should make absolutely sure nopony gets into the library today." He shrugged. "I'm sorry, that's all I know."

The Cutie Mark Crusaders hung their heads. "Oh, okay," Apple Bloom sighed. "Ah guess there ain't nothing to do about it, then."

"Don't worry, I'm sure everything will get back to normal soon," Spike said. "Well, I should get this stuff to the boutique, then I need to come back here and make sure the place is empty and locked. Twilight was very specific about that. You girls have a nice day."

Pulling his cart down the road, he left the Crusaders outside the library. Trading looks of disappointment, the trio started trudging back down the same road they came.

"Well, that sucks," Sweetie Belle declared. "Now what are we gonna do?"

"Ah guess we might as well spend the day crusadin' as usual," Apple Bloom said.

"I can't believe we got dressed up all for nothing," Scootaloo muttered. "Can this day get worse?"

"Hey, Silver Spoon, look at that! Somepony let the clowns out of the circus!"

Scootaloo groaned. "I had to say something."

Sharing a frown, the Crusaders turned their heads to see Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon trotting over to them from across the street, both of them grinning like a pair of tiny sharks.

"Nice hat, Apple Bloom," Diamond sniggered. "Is that what your granny used to wear back when it passed for fashion?"

"Apple Bloom? Who's that?" Apple Bloom did her best to feign confusion. "Ah have no idea what yer talking about. Have we met before?"

Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon both gave her a deadpan look.

"...Seriously?" Diamond asked.

"Now you're just being insulting," Silver Spoon added.

Sweetie Belle sighed. "That bad, huh?"

"You look like you fell into the bargain bin at the thrift shop," Silver Spoon happily informed her. "I bet your sister would just die if she could see you right now!"

"Darn it!" Scootaloo dramatically threw her hat on the ground. "I told you these disguises were no good!"

"Why are you trying to disguise yourselves anyway?" Diamond asked, raising an eyebrow. At that moment she happened to look behind Apple Bloom, her eyes falling on the library towering in the background, and she gasped as she came to a sudden realization. "Wait a minute! You've been sneaking over to see Princess Twilight, haven't you? You're still doing Twilight Time!"

"What? No we're not!" Sweetie hurried to reply. "This is... uh, crusading."

"That's right!" Scootaloo nodded. "We're trying to get cutie marks in disguise."

"Yeah!" Apple Bloom chimed in. "'Sides, Spike said Twilight ain't home right now."

"Aha!" Diamond raised an accusing hoof. "I knew it! You did go to see her!"

"Apple Bloom, maybe you should just leave the whole lying thing to us?" Scootaloo mumbled under her breath.

Sensing that the situation was getting out of hoof, Sweetie stepped forward and put her chin up. "Ahem. We find your accusations to be baseless, absurd and utterly inconceivable. The library is a public building and we can go there whenever we feel like it. Furthermore, how we dress is none of your business. Come on, girls, we don't have to stand here and listen to this!"

Following her lead, the Cutie Mark Crusaders trotted off with their muzzles raised in contempt. A moment later, Scootaloo galloped back, picked up her discarded hat, and stuck her tongue out at the two earth ponies before running after her friends again.

"Y-Yeah, well, you're just a bunch of blank flanks!" Silver Spoon shouted after them. She turned to Diamond Tiara. "Seriously, can you believe the nerve of those fillies?"

Diamond, meanwhile, was practically seething. "Those sneaky blank flanked little weasels!" she growled. "They're still going to Twilight Time behind our backs, I just know it! I'm not going to let them get away with this!"

Silver frowned. "But what are we going to do about it? They have a point, you know. It's not like we can prove it."

"Maybe we can?" Diamond scratched her chin. "We just need to catch them red-hoofed."

Silver recognized the look on Diamond's face and grinned. "So you have a plan?"

Diamond nodded. "We sneak into the library and hide until Princess Twilight and the dork trio show up. If we confront them about it, Princess Twilight will have to either let us join them or cancel Twilight Time once and for all! So, it's a win-win for us."

"I dunno," Silver said. "What if we get caught?"

"Then we make something up," Diamond shrugged. "You heard Sweetie Belle, it's a public library. We have as much right to be there as anypony else."

"And what if they don't go back today?" Silver asked. "We don't know how long Princess Twilight will be away."

"Good point," Diamond admitted, cocking her head. "Alright, how about I sneak into the library and meanwhile you follow the blank flanks and try to find out what they're up to. If they go home or decide to hang out in that club house of theirs, you can just come get me."

"You mean I get to spy on them?" Silver Spoon perked up. "I can do that. I love spy stuff!"

Diamond grinned. "Great! Then Operation Twilight Time Out is a go! Bump!"


"Sugar lump rump!"

After their customary ritual, the two fillies ran off in opposite directions. Silver Spoon galloped down the road to catch up with the Cutie Mark Crusaders. Diamond Tiara hurried towards the Golden Oaks library, completely unaware of the danger.

As she ran, another tremor shook the ground, but she barely noticed.

Filthy Rich smiled to himself as he wandered through the marketplace, letting the chatter and smells and sunlight wash over him. On most days he was a very busy pony and would normally have his employees do the shopping for him, but that only meant he appreciated getting out of the office and meeting his fellow ponies face to face all the more. Today was a particularly nice day to be out and about, except perhaps for the puzzling quakes the town had experienced this morning. Filthy didn't let it worry him, though. If they were cause for concern, he was sure somepony would address it.

Though he wasn't particularly hungry, he headed towards the apple stand. He had made it a habit of his to always stop by and buy a few apples on his infrequent market trips, if only to maintain good terms with the Apple family.

That day the stand was managed by Big Macintosh. When Filthy arrived, Mac had just finished serving Zecora a bag full of red delicious. "That'll be five bits," he said in his usual even drawl. "Thanks fer yer purchase, please come again." He turned to Filthy and smiled. "Mornin', Mr Rich."

"Good morning, Macintosh," Filthy replied jovially before giving the zebra a nod as well. "And a good morning to you too, Miss Zecora."

"Thank you, Mr Rich, and to you the same," Zecora bowed her head slightly. "To wish you less would bring me shame."

"I do believe this is the first time we have spoken," Filthy said and his smile fell. "I know this is rather belated, but I would like to apologize on behalf of this town for how we all treated you when you first arrived."

"Eeeyup," Mac agreed with a solemn nod.

But Zecora simply smiled, waving their apologies off with her hoof. "All is forgiven, my stripeless pony friend. Who cares how sad the story that comes to a happy end?"

"Quite true," Filthy said, then raised an eyebrow. "Ah, I hope I'm not rude for asking, but why do you speak in verse?"

Zecora chuckled. "'Tis embarrassing for me to say, but I cannot help but speak this way. In Everfree, beneath the oak, there grows a flower called Poison Joke. Through chance and, I admit, neglect, I came to suffer its queer effect. Of course since then I've found a cure, but chose to keep my..." she grinned slightly "...poetic allure."

"Poison Joke, you say?" Filthy hummed. "And this flower makes you rhyme?"

"No two suffer he same affliction," Zecora explained. "For me, it was this rhyming diction. It may give your breath an awful smell, or change your color, who can tell? It's not dangerous to befall, just a harmless prank, that's all."

"So it's a flower that plays pranks on you?" Filthy suddenly looked interested. "There must be a market for that! Why, every joke shop in Equestria would want to sell it!"

Zecora frowned slightly. "I would not advice that endeavor. Without the cure, the prank will last forever."

"Even better!" Filthy had a slightly distant look in his eyes as he tried to estimate the profit margin in his head. "Then we can market the cure as well. It would practically sell itself! I don't suppose you would consider a business partnership? I could use your expertise and I'll make it worth your while."

"How generous," Zecora replied dryly, "but I must decline. My current profession suits me fine." Her eyes narrowed. "As for you, Mr Rich, take heed: True value lies not in gold but in deed. One day you may be in need most dire of something money can never acquire."

Filthy Rich let out a slightly annoyed sigh. "Miss Zecora, with all due respect, but if I had a bit for every time I've heard that little platitude..." He was interrupted by yet another brief quake. This one seemed stronger then the previous ones. "For pony's sake! Why does the ground keep shaking like that?"

He had just barely finished his question when a mound of dirt suddenly grew out of the street near the apple stand, much like an oversized mole hill. The next moment the mound erupted in a shower of dirt, revealing a hole in the ground out of which the familiar face of Pinkie Pie sprang up like a jack-in-the-box. For some reason she was holding a shovel and wore a miner's helmet on her head.

"Made it!" she cried as she jumped out of the hole, only to frown. "Wait a minute! This isn't the library!"

To the increasing confusion of the three onlookers, Pinkie was immediately followed by Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy. Both pegasi were carrying bundles of what looked like metal rods with crystals attached to the ends. Rarity and Applejack appeared right behind them. All five ponies were covered in dirt and looked tired, but at the same time very worked up.

"Aw, horseapples!" Applejack exclaimed. "This is the market! Pinkie, we'll run ahead to the library. You head back down there an' tell Twilight she's off course!"

"You can count of me!" Pinkie declared, giving Applejack a salute before diving head first back into the hole.

Macintosh, Zecora and Filthy Rich all traded nonplussed looks. Macintosh was the first to speak: "...Um, sis?"

The four mares turned as one – they had been too distracted to notice their audience. Applejack smiled nervously. "Oh! Hey, Mack. Mr Rich. Zecora. Fine day we're havin', ain't it?"

"Ah, yes," Filthy Rich managed to reply. "Did... Ah, did you girls just tunnel straight out of the street?"

Applejack glanced at the hole and chuckled. "Heh. Yeah, Ah guess we did. Imagine that. So, uh, did ya know there's this ancient underground crystal temple right underneath Ponyville?"

Filthy blinked in surprise. "No, I wasn't aware of that."

"Yeah," Applejack scratched her mane. "Turns out, neither were the Diamond Dogs. Look, love to stay an' chat but we really need to get to the library."

"You seem to be in a hurry," Zecora said. "Pray tell, is there cause for worry?"

"Oh no!" Rarity exclaimed. "Nothing to worry about at all. Everything is fine. Just fine."

"No problem whatsoever!" Rainbow confirmed. "Just an ordinary day in Ponyville, you know?"

"Nothing dangerous or scary going on," Fluttershy whimpered. "At all."

"Yeah, there definitely ain't a huge, unstoppable crystal golem digging its way to the surface as we speak!" Applejack added. "An' even if there was, we wouldn't have time to evacuate the town before the magical core goes critical an' kills us all! But that's okay 'cause Twilight's got a plan, so we'll all be fine, probably!"

Big Mac, Filthy Rich and Zecora stared at them. "Um, okay?" Filthy said.

"Applejack," Rainbow Dash whispered from the corner of her mouth, "maybe you should just leave the whole lying thing to us?"

There was another tremor. This one was definitely stronger than the previous ones.

"It's already getting close," Rarity hissed, putting a hoof to her horn. "Goodness, I can feel it."

"Okay! It was nice chatting with you guys, but we really need to get these thingamajigs to the library!" Rainbow exclaimed, gesturing with the crystal-tipped rods. "Like, right the hay now. Come on, girls, no time to waste!"

And without further ado, the four mares left the scene in a rush. Filthy Rich, Macintosh and Zecora were left behind with bewildered looks on their faces.

"Well," Filthy said. "That sounded ominous."

Macintosh nodded. "Eeeyup."

The door to the library creaked open and Diamond Tiara carefully stuck her head in. "Hello? Is anypony home?"

There was no reply, so Diamond hurried inside and closed the door before anypony saw her enter. The library really did seem abandoned. "Hello?" she called out again, just to make sure. Still no answer.

Relaxing a bit, Diamond walked into the room. She let her eyes idly wander over the huge collection of books, skimming some of the titles even though they didn't really interest her. Reading books was for dweebs anyway – magazines were so much easier to get into. Then again, maybe Twilight Sparkle had some good books on jewelry? Diamond might have considered reading those, provided they weren't too boring.

She was snapped out of her thoughts as the ground shook, making the window panes rattle and knocking over a stack of books that had yet to be sorted. Diamond frowned. That had been happening a lot this morning, but she had more important things to worry about at the moment. She needed to find a place to conceal herself while she was still alone.

She quickly concluded that there were no good hiding places in the main room and set out to explore the place further. Wandering into one of the adjacent rooms, she almost trembled with excitement, feeling like an adventurer entering forbidden territory. Maybe she'd even get a peek of the princess's private quarters?

To her disappointment, however, the room she entered turned out to be an ordinary kitchen. She briefly considered crawling into one of the cupboards, but a look inside revealed it to be filled with pots, pans and other assorted kitchenware. She glanced at the large refrigerator but immediately dismissed that as well. She certainly wasn't stupid enough to hide in there.

Still, she did feel a bit peckish, so she opened the fridge and looked inside. Her eyes widened when she found a tray of freshly baked blueberry muffins. "My favorite! Don't mind if I do!"

Diamond didn't hesitate to help herself to one of the muffins, taking a huge bite out of it and smiling blissfully at the taste. But then her smile abruptly vanished when she bit into something hard and slightly sharp. Momentarily panicked, she quickly spat the offending object into her hoof and found herself looking down at a few tiny shards of blue crystal.

"Sapphires!?" she exclaimed. "What kind of maniac puts sapphires in muffins?" Then her brain caught up with what she had just said and she grinned widely. "Well, whoever it was, they clearly don't know how to appreciate them. I should just take these of their hooves." Maybe she could have them turned into a nice necklace or something.

Suddenly she heard the front door open and her heart nearly stopped. She became acutely aware that her current position was far from ideal – public building or not, getting caught in Twilight Sparkle's kitchen with a half-eaten muffin and pilfered sapphires would be hard to explain. She pressed herself against the fridge, not even daring to breathe, praying that whoever had just entered would not come looking.

"Hello? Is there anypony in here?" she heard somepony calling – the dragon boy who was always hanging around the princess, she realized. "If there's anypony here, you need to leave right now!"

Where they somehow on to her? On some level, Diamond realized that now would be a good time to cut her losses and reveal herself. She could always say she went looking for help with a book but got lost. But she couldn't bring herself to do it, so instead she stayed quiet.

After a moment that felt like an eternity, she heard Spike again: "Well, that takes care of that." Then she heard the sound of the door closing.

Very carefully, Diamond snuck across the kitchen and peeked into the main room. There was no sign of Spike, and she concluded he had left the same way he came. Diamond drew a deep sigh of relief. At least for now, she was safe.

Making sure the library door was locked for good measure, Spike turned to Applejack. "All clear!"

"So far, so good," Applejack said, jamming one of the metal rods into the ground as hard as she could. She and her friends had met up with Spike upon their return and after giving him a brief summary of the situation, they had gone to work arranging the rods in a large circle around the tree.

A hole opened up in the ground and Pinkie Pie stuck her head up. "Hi guys! How's it going? I really hope it's going well, because Mr Shiny is almost at the surface now and I'm not sure Twilight can hold him off much longer."

"Last one!" Rarity declared, telekinetically sticking her rod into the ground, completing the perimeter. "And not a moment too soon!"

Applejack turned her eyes upwards. "Rainbow, Fluttershy! Ya'll about done?"

"Just a minute!" Rainbow Dash had been tying the final rod to the tallest branch of the tree while Fluttershy held it in place. After securing the rope in a sturdy knot, she called back to the farmpony: "Okay, all set!"

Nodding, Applejack pulled a scroll out of her hat and hoofed it to Spike. "Send this to Twilight so she knows we're finished here."

"This will work, won't it?" Rarity asked, nervously eying the circle of gleaming pylons.

"Don't worry about it." Spike did his best to hide his own anxiety. "Twilight thinks of everything, so I'm sure we'll be fine."

As he was about to send the scroll, the young dragon thought he saw a small glimmer in one of the library's windows, but when he turned to look it was gone. Assuming his mind was just playing tricks on him, he shook his head and breathed a green flame upon the scroll which vanished in a trail of faint smoke. The rest would be up to Twilight Sparkle.

Diamond Tiara hugged the wall next to the window – she'd only barely dodged Spike's glance. She hadn't quite been able to tell what Applejack and the others were doing outside but it looked like something important. It was becoming clear to Diamond that she really weren't supposed to be in the library that day. However, that only made her more reluctant to reveal herself. The last thing she wanted was to get in serious trouble, especially with Princess Twilight involved.

Even more determined to find a place to hide and wait the whole thing out, she spied a door she hadn't tried. She opened it an found a set of stairs leading down to some kind of large basement under the library. She quickly descended the stairs and marveled at the sight.

The room was a huge artificial cavern dug directly under the roots of the tree, and it was full of strange machines and scientific equipment. Diamond Tiara smiled. This place was perfect!

International super-spy Silver Spoon stealthily stuck her head out from her hiding place behind a large tree. The three blank flank agents she'd been shadowing had settled down on a nearby park bench, no doubt to discuss some nefarious conspiracy to undermine and overthrow Equestria.

Unfortunately, Silver was too far away to hear what they were talking about. But as luck would have it, she spotted a bush near the bench and the Crusaders had their backs turned to her. Smiling to herself, she left her hiding spot and snuck closer with the grace of some big, majestic cat before diving into the bush, only slightly rustling the leaves.

Scootaloo turned her head, her left ear twitching. "You guys hear that?"

"Probably just the wind or a squirrel or somethin'," Apple Bloom replied. "So, Ah was thinkin', what if we actually tried to get cutie marks in disguisin'?"

"I think we've already made it pretty clear that's not going to work," said Scootaloo dryly.

"Good point, Ah guess," Apple Bloom sighed. "What do you think, Sweetie Belle?"

"Hmm?" Sweetie had been sitting quiet, rubbing her horn with her hoof while staring into nothing. She blinked in confusion at Apple Bloom. "What?"

"Are you okay, Sweetie?" Scootaloo asked. "You seem kinda out of it."

"I dunno," Sweetie replied, frowning. "My horn feels strange. It's been doing this weird humming thing since we left the library."

Apple Bloom cocked her head. "Huh? Ah ain't hearin' no hummin'."

"It's not an actual hum, I think," Sweetie said. "I guess it's some kind of magic thing."

"Well, you have been getting better at using magic lately," Scootaloo pointed out. "So, maybe that's normal for unicorns?"

"We should probably ask Twilight 'bout it," Apple Bloom said. "It's too bad we couldn't see her today."

Throughout the conversation, glamorous master spy Silver Spoon grinned in the safety of her foliage camouflage. This information was pure gold – at this rate they might not even need to catch the Crusaders with Princess Twilight. Eager to hear more, Silver tried to lean closer. Unfortunately her front leg happened to get caught in one of the branches, causing her to trip. She tumbled out of the bush with a surprised yelp, her mane and tail full of twigs and leaves.

"Shoot!" she cursed, quickly finding her glasses which had fallen off in the crash. She had just put them back on when three shadows fell upon her, and she looked up to find the Cutie Mark Crusaders glaring at her.

"Well, well, well..." Sweetie said.

"...What have we here?" Apple Bloom asked.

"A spy!" Scootaloo declared.

"Me, a spy?" Silver sputtered, nervously looking aside. "I-I find that accusation absurd and incorrigible."

Sweetie Belle rolled her eyes. "Give it a rest, Silver Spoon. The gig is up."

"So, where's Diamond Tiara at?" Apple Bloom asked, looking around. "She also hiding somewhere?"

"Diamond isn't here," Silver said. "We're not joined at the hip, you know?"

"Be that as it may, you were still spying on us," Sweetie said.

"How much did you hear?" Scootaloo demanded. "What do you know?"

Silver gave a defiant huff, crossing her hooves over her chest. "Enough to figure out that we were right before. You did go to see Princess Twilight, didn't you?"

Apple Bloom sighed. "This again? Look, we ain't even allowed into the library today. Nopony is."

Silver's look of defiance turned into a frown. "Wait, what? Why not?"

"No idea," Scootaloo said. "Spike just told us nopony is allowed in there today. It sounded important."

"Oh no!" Silver Spoon quickly got back on her hooves, suddenly looking very concerned. "Diamond is going to get in so much trouble! I have to warn her!"

With that she ran off, leaving the Cutie Mark Crusaders behind looking mildly confused.

"Wonder what that was about," Apple Bloom said. "Think we should follow her?"

Scootaloo shrugged. "It's Diamond Tiara. Who cares what happens to her?"

The earth shook again. Sweetie Belle touched her horn and winced. "Girls, I have a very, very bad feeling about this."

Apple Bloom and Scootaloo looked at her, then at each other. Scootaloo still seemed doubtful, but Apple Bloom put on a determined face and turned around. "Let's go, Crusaders!"

"Oh, alright," Scootaloo sighed as the three of them galloped after Silver Spoon. "But if Diamond Tiara gets in trouble, we get to laugh at her, right?"

Beneath the library, Diamond Tiara found herself so fascinated with Twilight's collection of odd gizmos that she had nearly forgotten her original objective. Wandering though the basement, she tried to imagine what purpose the various devices might serve, but soon gave up. She had stumbled into a world beyond her understanding, and she wondered what it might be like to be as smart as Twilight Sparkle.

This line of thought made her frown. She would never admit it openly, but sometimes she feared that she wasn't as intelligent as she thought she was. Sure, her grades were decent, but she never seemed to perform better than average. She had a natural talent for leadership, but she rarely seemed to find any productive way to use that talent. Meanwhile, the Cutie Mark Crusaders were always bristling with ideas, and as harebrained as most of them were, Diamond couldn't deny their sheer creativity. Not to mention, Sweetie Belle was always showing off her vocabulary with big words the other foals didn't understand. And Apple Bloom, despite being a country hick with no sense of style, seemed bizarrely gifted at any kind of mechanics and was the top of their class in math and physics. Even that featherbrain Scootaloo had her moments of brilliance, really.

With a groan, Diamond forced these depressing thoughts out of her mind. She picked up some kind of metal helmet that looked like a salad bowl covered in colorful lights, mentally noting that she wouldn't be caught dead wearing it no matter what it did.

Right at that moment another quake shook the ground. But while the previous ones had been brief, this one seemed to endure. It came in rhythmic pulses as if by some unseen titanic hammering, shaking dust and dirt from the ceiling with each blow. Diamond dropped the helmet in panic. Struggling to stay calm, all plans of hiding forgotten, she wondered if she should run outside or stay put. Weren't basements supposed to be safe during earthquakes? Or was that tornados? She couldn't recall.

There was a flash of purple light and suddenly Twilight Sparkle stood in the center of the room, wings flared and horn shining with magic. She was scruffed up and dirty, and her eyes bore the maniacal gleam of severe stress. By chance, she had appeared with her back turned to Diamond Tiara and failed to notice the filly.

"That's right, you big dumb rock!" she shouted over the intensifying clamor. "Come to mama!"

At this point, everything happened very quickly.

Diamond Tiara tried to move towards Twilight but the shaking earth made her stumble and fall. Her tiara fell from her head but she didn't even notice, survival instincts overpowering all other aspects of her mind.

"Princess..." she tried to call out, but her voice was drowned by the terrible rumbling as something erupted out of the dirt floor in front of the alicorn. It was a hand, the size of a foal, made from a massive chunk of clear crystal.

Diamond made one last attempt to reach Twilight, but it was too late. The princess teleported again, vanishing as abruptly as she had appeared. Abandoned, Diamond stared in disbelief as the floor was ripped asunder like tissue paper and the rest of the creature emerged.

It was built like a minotaur but larger. Its entire body was made out of featureless crystal held together by a golden metal frame. Within the hulking torso a pale blue light shone brightly, causing the numerous facets to shine and glimmer. Even through the intense fear, Diamond Tiara found herself mesmerized by its terrifying beauty.

The creature turned its head and though it had no eyes, it seemed to look directly at her. A scream caught in Diamond's throat as the monster took a slow, lumbering step towards her. But then it suddenly froze in place and countless cracks appeared on its body, starting from the chest and rapidly spreading. There was a sharp shattering sound and the creature crumbled into a pile of shards, leaving only a sphere of blue light hovering in the air.

For a brief moment, Diamond thought herself safe. But then she noticed that the orb had started to pulse and flicker, steadily growing brighter. She felt the hairs of her mane and tail stand on end, and the air smelt of ozone.

Diamond Tiara's legs refused to move. She opened her mouth, perhaps to shout for help, but all that came out was a tiny whimpering whisper.

"Oh no..."


"Ah'm gonna need y'all to keep yer distance!" Applejack shouted to the crowd. "Do not go near the library no matter what happens!"

At this point the citizens of Ponyville had grown alarmed by the increasingly powerful quakes. While many had opted to take shelter in their homes and hope for the best, others had gravitated towards the library thinking Princess Twilight would know what was going on.

"We just want some answers!" said Filthy Rich, who had arrived flanked by Macintosh and Zecora. "Are we in danger or not?"

"Everything's under control!" Applejack replied, desperately hoping that was true. "Jus' do not approach the library!"

Barely had she finished her sentence before Twilight appeared next to her in a flash. Applejack turned to her with a sigh of relief. "Twilight! Thank goodness!"

Twilight barely seemed to hear her, immediately turning to the library and firing off a spell. A huge domed shield of purple energy surrounded the tree, extending just outside the perimeter of rods.

"Yes!" she cried out. "We did it! We made it just in time! It actually worked!"


The alicorn turned to see the Cutie Mark Crusaders and Silver Spoon come running. As they approached, Cheerilee stepped out of the crowd to intercept them. "Girls! You shouldn't be here!"

"But it's important!" Silver Spoon said. "Like, really important! We have to talk to the princess!"

"Twilight, what's going on?" Apple Bloom asked. "What's happening to the library?"

"I just lured an unstable magical golem into my basement and trapped it there," Twilight explained. "If my calculations are correct, the core should detonate any moment now."

The eyes of the four fillies widened as one. "I-Is that dangerous?" Sweetie Belle asked.

"Unbelievably dangerous!" Twilight replied. "But don't worry, it's contained now so we should all be fine."

"But what about Diamond Tiara!?" Silver Spoon cried.

Twilight blinked and turned to the filly, frowning. "What about Diamond Tiara?"

"We thought you were still doing Twilight Time without us so Diamond went to hide in the library!" Silver babbled frantically. "I'm sorry! We didn't know this would happen! We didn't know..."

Twilight didn't hear the rest. Her head snapped towards the library, her eyes shrinking to pinpricks.

"Oh no." She tried to act, tried to think, but her mind seemed paralyzed. Without even knowing what she planned to do, she started to power up another spell. "Oh no! NonononoNO! I-I have to..."

And then the blast hit, with less of a sound and more of a feeling. A surge of intense energy lit the entire tree up in a blinding glare, the sheer power causing large cracks to appear in the mighty trunk. Flashes of lightning danced between the branches and the crystal conductors, forcing the current back into the tree until it accumulated at the highest point. Twilight's shield burst like a soap bubble and a massive bolt of blue energy shot towards the sky, blasting a huge circular hole through the clouds above.

Then it was over, and a terrible silence filled the air. For a few heartbeats, Twilight remained frozen in place, simply staring blankly at the tree. Then she suddenly snapped out of it and instantly teleported.

She reappeared after a few agonizing seconds, holding Diamond Tiara's limp body in her hooves. "Diamond Tiara? Diamond Tiara! This..." Twilight choked on her words. "This can't be happening! S-She was right there! W-Why didn't I see her?"

Diamond's mane and tail were badly singed and still fizzled slightly. Her eyes, half-lidded and unfocused, had turned milky white. Above them, the leaves of the great oak began to turn brown and gently fall to the ground around them, as if the wounded tree itself was mourning.

"Diamond! Diamond!" Silver yelled. She made an attempt to run to her friend, but found that a pair of hooves held her in place – Cheerilee, though shocked, had maintained enough presence of mind catch her. Silver struggled against the embrace, sobbing Diamond's name over and over.

Next to them, the Cutie Mark Crusaders were not faring much better: Sweetie Belle had buried her face in her hooves, refusing to look at the scene. Apple Bloom was frozen in shock, staring with a blank look on her face as if her mind could not grasp what just happened. Scootaloo looked like she was about to throw up. Twilight's friends all looked horrified as the severity of their failure became clear to them. The crowd had grown eerily silent, save for one desperate cry.

"Diamond Tiara!" With a look of absolute terror on his face, Filthy Rich broke away from the group and headed for Twilight. Macintosh caught up with him halfway and tried to hold him back.

"Rich," he said, "maybe you shouldn't..."

"Let go of me, Mack!" Filthy yelled, wrestling out of the hold with the strength of a desperate father. "Let go of me! That's my daughter!" Freeing himself, he staggered towards Twilight Sparkle who still cradled Diamond in her hooves. When he saw the state the filly was in, he stopped dead in his tracks.

"What did you do?" he yelled furiously at Twilight. "What have you done to her?!"

"I-I'm sorry," Twilight stammered, looking up with tears in her eyes. "S-She wasn't suppose to be in there. Nopony was supposed to be in there!"

"It's all my fault," Spike whispered, clawing his cheeks, shaking his head over and over. "I should have searched the library. I should have locked the door before I left. I should have... I..." He barely noticed Rarity pulling him into a tight hug, gently hushing him.

"Out of my way! Let me through!" came a call as Nurse Redheart made her way through the crowd. She galloped over to Twilight, shooed the princess aside and quickly examined Diamond. "...She's still breathing, but only barely, and her pulse is very weak."

"Well, do something!" Filthy Rich demanded. "Whatever it takes, just do it! Please, you have to save her!"

Redheart looked up at him and shook her head. "I don't know what to do, I... I've never seen anything like this before. We need to get her to the hospital."

"It's no use," Twilight whimpered.

"Don't say that!" Filthy cried. "We have to try! There must be something we can do! Y-You're Princess Twilight Sparkle, don't you know some kind of magic, some... some way to..."

Twilight shook her head. "T-There was enough thaumic radiation in that blast to kill everything within a four mile radius. Diamond Tiara... She was standing right in front of it when it went off. Even if we get her to the hospital right away..." She bit her lip, crying openly now. "Every cell in her body is dying. There's no spell in Equestria that can stop that. I'm so sorry, but there's nothing anypony can do."

Filthy Rich's eyes glazed over and he collapsed on his haunches, his shoulders shivering from ragged, gasping breaths. He shook his head in despair, his mind incapable of fully processing what Twilight had just told him. Twilight felt like collapsing as well. She could have dealt with screaming, insults or threats, but seeing him like this was tearing her heart to pieces. She wished she could have come up with a better plan, a safer alternative. She wished she could have taken the filly's place. But it was too late.

Then Zecora stepped forward. "That is not quite true. There may be something I can do."

Filthy Rich's head snapped up and he stared at her with a glimmer of desperate hope in his eyes. "You can? You can save her."

"Zecora, are you sure?" Twilight whispered. She wanted to believe the zebra, but her rational mind dared not risk the disappointment. "This isn't something you can just fix with a potion or herbal remedy..."

"I can save her, in a way," Zecora confirmed, but then her expression turned grim. "However, there is a price to pay."

Filthy got on his hooves, suddenly frantic. "Anything! Anything you want! Whatever it is, just name it!"

"Listen well, the price is this," Zecora said, "Everything. All there is."

"Everything?" Filthy said. "You mean... my fortune? Then take it! Take it all. My money, my company, my estate and possessions, all of it! It won't mean anything if I lose my daughter."

Zecora shook her head. "No, you do not understand. I speak not of business, gold or land. Everything that is, and all that was to be. Each day of a lifetime, all things there were to see. For a life reborn, that is the cost: Another life must forever be lost."

Filthy Rich stared at her for a moment and paled somewhat when the meaning of her words became clear to him. Then he looked at his dying daughter and sighed. "I... understand. I accept your terms."

Big Mac approached him, putting a hoof on his shoulder. "You sure?"

"Yes," Filthy Rich nodded. "Yes, I'm sure. I've lived a good enough life, and Diamond has barely started hers. If it means that she gets to live and grow up, I don't mind checking out early." He drew a deep breath to steady himself. There was no time to mull it over, anyway. "Well, Miss Zecora, do what you have to do. Bring on the sacrificial knife, or whatever. Just make it quick."

Zecora gave him a sad smile. "You are brave indeed, but do not bother. You cannot trade your life for another."

"What?" Filthy Rich frowned. "But... What do you mean, I can't? You said I had to give my life to save Diamond! Did... Did you lie to me?"

"All that I said to you was true," Zecora replied. "But I was not speaking about you. Your daughter is the one who must pay the price. The life she had will be the sacrifice."

"I don't understand!" Filthy Rich exclaimed. "Can you save my daughter or not?"

"I can save her life, of that I am sure," Zecora said. "But she will not be the same as before."

"You mean she'll come back... different?" Twilight looked very uncomfortable. She had read about necromancy and from what she knew, it never ended well. "Zecora, you know I trust you, but that doesn't sound good."

The zebra shrugged. "Different is scary and sometimes sad, but different isn't the same thing as bad."

"I don't care!" Filthy Rich shouted. "I just want my little girl back! Zecora, please. Do whatever you have to do, just give her back to me."

"She's stopped breathing!" Nurse Redheart suddenly cried. "And her pulse is gone. I... I think we've lost her."

"No!" Filthy gasped. He tried to run to his daughter's side, but Macintosh once again held him firmly. "Please, no!"

"Pardon me, let me see." Zecora sat down next to Diamond and gently touched the girl's face with her hooves. She frowned. "It is as we dread, this girl is already mostly dead. But mostly dead is slightly alive. If we hurry up she may yet survive. Twilight Sparkle, lift her up and hold her steady. I shall need but a moment to get ready."

Twilight nodded and lit her horn. Her purple magic aura enveloped Diamond Tiara, levitating her lifeless body off the ground. Zecora positioned herself directly in front of the filly and closed her eyes. There was no ritual or potion and she spoke no incantations, but when her eyes opened they were glowing in a warm golden light. Twilight gasped as she, as well as every unicorn present, could sense the immense power the zebra now radiated. Zecora gently opened Diamond Tiara's mouth, drew a deep breath and then exhaled. A shimmering mist of golden light flowed out of her mouth and into Diamond's. Once the last wisp of light had slipped into the filly's body, the light in Zecora's eyes faded.

"Now we watch and wait," she said, weakly as if drained of her own vitality. "I pray we it is not too late."

For several heartbeats, nothing happened. Twilight whispered: "Zecora, I don't think..."

The magic aura keeping Diamond aloft suddenly turned from purple to brilliant gold. Surprised, Twilight gasped and accidentally let go, but the filly continued to float in the air by some other force. Everypony stared in awe. Slowly, Diamond Tiara raised her head and opened her eyes.

"D... daddy?" she whispered weakly.

"Yes!" Filthy Rich replied, daring to smile through his tears. "Yes, Diamond, I'm here!"

"I'm... sorry... daddy..." Diamond Tiara mumbled. Her eyes closed again. "I... think I'm... going to sleep... now..."

"No! Diamond, no!" Filthy Rich tried to reach her in desperation, but Zecora held him back with surprising strength.

"It has begun, do not go near!" she said. "Here she comes! Ponies, stay clear!"

Without warning, Diamond threw her head back and the glow intensified. It streamed from her head and limbs like a large flashing star, cascading golden particles into the air. Twilight felt waves of pure power wash over the area. She could only barely look at the glare, but for a few moments she thought she could see Diamond's features changing. She had no idea what Zecora had done to the girl, but she realized it was something beyond even her understanding.

The light suddenly vanished just as abruptly as it had appeared and Diamond Tiara landed on the ground with a slight thud. Or... was it really Diamond Tiara?

The foal in front of them looked different. She was a filly of the same size as Diamond and bore the same cutie mark, but her pink coat was slightly lighter, and her mane and tail were lavender blue. She seemed wide awake, looking around in surprise and confusion with clear blue eyes wide open.

"...What?" she said.

"Still a girl, and still pink," Zecora commented quietly. "Could have been worse, I think."

"What?" the unfamiliar filly repeated, blinking with a dazed look on her face. She stood up on unsteady legs like a newborn fawn, all while mumbling: "What? What?"

"D-Diamond Tiara?" Filthy Rich stuttered. "Is... Is that..."

"My eyes!" the filly suddenly shouted.

Surprised, Filthy shyed back. "Your eyes?" he repeated, stunned.

"I've got new eyes!" The lavender-maned filly looked around in awe. "Everything looks weird! It's like the colors are slightly off." She gasped. "And my voice is different too! Is that just my ears or do I actually sound like that?"

"You are not the pony you used to be," Zecora gently pointed out. "You'll get used to it in time, wait and see."

"But... you are Diamond Tiara?" Twilight asked. "Aren't you?"

"Oh yes! Of course I am," the filly replied. "Yeah, I'm definitely Diamond Tiara, except... I'm not really sure who that is." She scratched her mane. "I mean, I remember being her, but everything else is all new and confusing. Speaking of which, wow! This mane is nice." She suddenly frowned. "Hey! Where's my tiara!"

"Diamond!" Filthy Rich threw his forelegs around the girl and hugged her tightly, once again crying openly. "It's you! It's really you! I thought I had lost you forever."

"I'm sorry, daddy," Diamond said, hugging him back. "I'm so, so sorry. I thought I was going to die and leave you all alone and it was all my fault! And now I'm a whole different pony and you probably don't even recognize me anymore and..."

Filthy Rich hushed her. "Of course I recognize you, silly girl," he sobbed. "You're my precious little diamond, no matter what you look like."

All around the crowd were watching them – Princess Twilight and her friends, the Cutie Mark Crusades, Zecora – and all the other ponies who had rushed to the scene. They all had tears in their eyes and relieved smiles on their faces. Silver Spoon in particular seemed incapable of holding her emotions in a moment longer. She broke away from the crowd and ran towards her friend. "Diiiiamooond!"

"Silver Spoon!" Letting go of her father, Diamond Tiara reached out for the filly. "My BFF, my trusted companion, my huaargh!" She suddenly jerked and staggered into Silver Spoon who gave a gasp of fright.

"Oh my gosh, are you okay?" Silver asked as she helped Diamond steady herself. Behind her, the Cutie Mark Crusaders cautiously approached them.

"Yeah, I'm fine," Diamond replied, waving her hoof as if to calm everypony. There was some strain in her voice but she still sounded as chipper as before. "I feel great! But also kinda sick. Like I just ate a whole gallon of ice cream. Probably the new brain, I need to get used to it." She blinked. "Huh. I think I'm a bit smarter now."

"Well, you had room for improvement," Scootaloo quipped, too shaken and relieved to pay attention to what her mouth was saying.

"Hey!" Silver Spoon snapped and glared at the pegasus, putting a protective hoof over Diamond Tiara's shoulder. "Lay off, blank flank! She almost died, you insensitive featherbrain!"

"You guys are pretty rude," Diamond pointed out. "...I think I like it! Are we always this rude to each other?"

"Yeah," Apple Bloom sighed, "Ah guess we kinda are."

"Apple Bloom!" Diamond Tiara skipped over to her old nemesis and looked her intently in the eyes. "There is something I really need to ask you."

Surprised, Apple Bloom unconsciously took a step backwards. Diamond was standing uncomfortably close to her. "Um, okay?"

"How do I look?" Diamond asked, turning her head slightly as if to provide a better view. "Be honest."

That was not the question Apple Bloom had expected. "Um, different?" she replied after an awkward pause.

"Is it a good different?" Diamond prodded.

"Ah, um..." Apple Bloom blushed slightly. "Ah really like yer... mane?"

Diamond leaned closer. "Am I... a unicorn?"


"Aw!" Diamond Tiara stomped the ground with her hoof, looking genuinely disappointed. "That would have been so cool!"

The Cutie Mark Crusaders and Silver Spoon exchanged confused looks. "This is so totally weird," Sweetie Belle groaned.

Watching the fillies, Twilight Sparkle let out a deep sigh. It felt as if she'd been holding her breath this whole time. "Looks like it worked, whatever you did," she told Zecora. "What was that golden light, anyway? I've never seen any kind of magic like that before."

"A power from beyond space and time," Zecora said with a mysterious smile. "Not quite magic, but just as sublime."

"Whatever you did, me and my family are forever in your debt," Filthy Rich said. He seemed very tired and quite humbled, but still smiled. "Thank you, Zecora. I don't know how I can ever repay you."

"There is no need," Zecora shook her head. "Some things are priceless indeed. I did what I felt was right, my friend. If need be, I would do the same thing all over again."

"But you can't," Diamond Tiara said, approaching them with a serious look on her face. "You can never do that again, can you? Whatever that was, you passed it over to me." She put her hoof to her chest. "I can feel it."

"Little one, what you say is true," Zecora said. "That power is my gift to you. I only hope you use it well. This brand new story, only you can tell."

Diamond nodded. "I'll do my best, I promise." Then she suddenly threw her forelegs around the zebra and hugged her tightly. "Thank you so much."

Zecora simply smiled.

Twilight drew a deep breath to steady herself and turned to her friends. "Well, that sure was exhausting."

"'Exhausing' is an understatement!" Rarity declared. "I don't know about you girls, but I need a long hot bath and a big bowl of chocolate ice cream."

"Way Ah'm feelin', Ah could jus' pass out right here inna street," Applejack chuckled. She looked at Apple Bloom and Macintosh. "But... Ah think Ah need to spend some time with my family now."

"Um, does that include me?" Pinkie asked, her mane still sagging a bit.

Applejack smiled. "'Course it does, cuz."

"I think I'm just going to go home and cry myself to sleep," Fluttershy said.

Rainbow put a comforting hoof on her shoulder. "Tell you what, I'll help you with that."

"Rarity, I hate to be a bother," Twilight said as the group were about to leave, "but I don't suppose you could spare a bed for me and Spike tonight? My house just got saturated with lethal radiation and I'm not sure if it's safe to..."

"Oh, but of course I can, darling!" Rarity interrupted. "Truth to be told, I think I could use the company."

Twilight gave her a grateful nod and turned to the library. "I just... need a minute."

"I see." Rarity gave Spike a pat on the back, gently leading the dragon away. "Come along, Spike. I think we'll need to pick up some extra ice cream."

"Yeah," Spike mumbled, still looking a bit dazed. "Ice cream would be good right about now."

As her friends wandered off, Twilight looked up at her home. The oak was marred with large cracks and gashes. More and more dead leaves were blowing off in the breeze – pretty soon the branches would be completely bare. Twilight sighed. The plan had worked, but it had been close. Much too close.

She heard a rustling of hooves in the leaves and noticed Diamond Tiara shuffling over to her.

"Princess Twilight?" Diamond said. "I'd like to apologize for all the trouble I caused today. I didn't mean to scare everypony and make you sad. I..."

Twilight moved the tip of her wing, gently shushing her. "Nopony is blaming you, Diamond Tiara. What happened wasn't anypony's fault. Things just didn't go according to plan today, that's all."

Diamond seemed unconvinced, but didn't argue. "I'm sorry about your tree."

"Oh, it's not as bad as it looks," Twilight said. "As long as the roots are still alive, I'm sure it will heal itself in time. Equestrian golden oaks are very hardy and can absorb a lot of magic, that's why I lured the golem in there to begin with. Anyway, it's only a house. I'm just glad we didn't lose anything irreplaceable. It was touch and go, but today everypony lives and that's all that matters." She smiled at the filly. "So, will you be okay?"

Diamond nodded and dared to smiled back. "I think so."

A few days passed since the fateful event. Diamond Tiara returned to school once Twilight and Zecora had made certain there were no lingering complications, and while her new appearance had led to some brief confusion among the other children, life quickly returned to normal.

That is, with a few important exceptions.

"You call that wearing a hat? Put some effort into it!"

"Diamond, Ah don't think this is gonna work," Apple Bloom said, repositioning the large fedora that had started to slip off her head. Next to her, Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo were posing while wearing a novelty cowboy hat and a fez, respectively.

"Not with that attitude, it won't," Diamond replied. "Do you want your hat-wearing cutie mark or not?"

"I can't believe we let you talk us into this," Scootaloo muttered. "And why do I have to wear the fez?"

"Oh, stop whining," Diamond said. "Fezzes are cool."

Watching the whole thing from the sidelines, Silver Spoon was trying very hard not to fall over laughing. "I... Heh, I think it looks great on you, Scootaloo," she said between uncontrollable giggles.

Scootaloo shot her a glare. "I still think this is dumb."

"Well, that's why I'm the Cutie Mark Consultant and you are still a blank flank," Diamond countered. "You said yourself you've never tried this, even though it should have been the first thing you did. Like, duh."

She walked in front of the Crusaders, giving each a critical look like a general inspecting her troops. She shook her head. "Tsk. Alright, switch!"

The trio removed their headwear made the trade. Scootaloo took Apple Bloom's fedora and looked relieved when she hoofed her fez over to Sweetie, who just giggled as she put it on. Apple Bloom placed the cowboy hat on her head and grinned. "Now that's more like it!"

"Okay, let's try it again!" Diamond said. "With some feeling this time!"

Scootaloo sighed. "I still can't tell if she's serious."

While this was going on, three ponies where watching the fillies through the large window of the school classroom. Twilight Sparkle let slip a chuckle. "Well, at least they're getting along better now."

Cheerilee smiled. "Silver Spoon hasn't changed, but she was always more of a follower. As for Diamond Tiara, she still teases them on occasion, but... I think she is trying to get closer to them now, in her own special way."

"I'm sure I don't need to tell you, but Diamond never was very good at making friends," Filthy Rich pointed out. "I wouldn't wish what happened to her on anypony, but... maybe she will be happier this way?"

"I hope so," Twilight said.

"And while we're looking at the bright side," Cheerilee added, "her grades have gone way up."

The three shared a laugh together, if only to lighten the mood.

"It's strange, though," Cheerilee said, looking thoughtful as she observed Diamond through the window. "Everything that made her Diamond Tiara is still there, but it's like it's being... filtered through this whole other pony, if that makes sense."

Filthy nodded. "I know what you mean."

"How have things been between you two?" Twilight asked, a tone of concern creeping into her voice. "I can only imagine how difficult this must be to get used to."

"I admit, it hasn't been as easy to accept as I had hoped," Filthy said. "I try not to let her know, but there are times she seems like a stranger to me. But then she will say something or do something to remind me that she's still the same little girl deep inside." He smiled wistfully. "Those are the moments I try to hold on to."

"I know it doesn't compare," Twilight said, "but when I turned into an alicorn, there was a small part of me that feared I wasn't the same pony as before. I'm sure Diamond feels the same way, even if she tries to hide it. You will both need some time to adjust."

"I suppose you're right," Filthy said, never taking his eyes of his daughter. "Princess Twilight... She is going to alright, isn't she?"

Twilight smiled at him. "Mr Rich, I think she's going to be fantastic."

Author's Notes:

Inspired, almost entirely, by this song:


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