Starlight in a Broken Vessel

by the-pieman

Chapter 160

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Chapter 160

Anne’s sitting in a side room, using her feathers to holding knitting needles and yarn.

“So you going to explain why you avoid my best friend, or are you going to join Applejack in the ‘unexplained hatred’ club?”

“I- I don’t hate him. I just don’t like him.” Anne says. Then, she adds somewhat caustically, “I don’t have to like everyone, do I?”

“No, but I would like to know why. It’s the arm, isn’t it? You see him, and all you can think of is that he’s going to turn into a monster and-”

“No! I just... I can’t help but think of the people I’ve lost, Anthony. You look, you see a friend in trouble who needs help. I look at him and all I can see is my parents. Filleted in front of me, and given to me as clothes, before I’m told to run. And I did.” She breathes deeply, and looks around, before covering her face, her knitting forgotten. “And then, in the middle of running, I trip, and then I woke up in that weird, crazy place. And then I’m there for I-have-no-idea-how-long, seeing dozens of ponies come and go, some of them staying and becoming the queens they tried to supplant. Over and over again.” Anne sobs a little, choking off anything else she has to say.

I wrap my arm around her carefully, hoping to comfort her without cutting myself. The clinking feathers feel soft as goose down, but it never hurts to be careful.

“I know you went through hell... but Clark isn’t like the demons, and him being around isn’t going to make you go back to Wunderland or Earth. You aren’t the only one to have issues with him, but... he’s not a problem, and I’m going to prove that... somehow.”

“Doesn’t make the memories go away...”

I sigh, cringing. “Give it a few years. Soon you’ll start forgetting. True they’re mostly intact, but I can just kind of... feel memories fading on rare occasions. Dunno why. I just hope I never forget anything important about myself.”

“Yeah...” Anne whispers, resting her head on my chest. I can feel the tears from her eyes on my shirt.

I start rubbing her back in an effort to console her in some way. “Yeah life’s still a total bitch... but I have a feeling the really hard stuff is over. At least for some of us.”

I nearly jump out of my skin as Fluttershy exclaims, “D’aaaahw! You’re so cuuute!”

Jeez ‘Shy! A little warning please?”

“Oh! Oh my, I didn’t mean to interrupt you two... you can borrow my bed tonight, I’ll go sleep at Twilight’s.” Fluttershy leaves in a hurry, a huge blush on her face. I look down and realize we’re on Fluttershy’s massive bed.

Wait... she knows she can always sleep on the couch... why would she have to leave... It takes a few moments to realize that Anne and I are alone in bed together, it’s late, and Shy seems convinced we should be a couple. Eh what the heck? Anne’s pretty soft... at the moment.

“Uh... uhm...” Anne stammers. “I’ll go sleep on my perch.”

“Aw come on, I’m not gonna bite.” At Anne’s continuation down the stairs, I sigh. “Alright, suit yourself.”

It’s been a few days and the entire time I kept hearing things about the Crusaders. I figure they’re just being overzealous now that they have a new member and that after some time it’ll all calm down. I mean, what’s the worst that they could be trying? Most of the dangerous things I can think of, they’ve already tried. I guess everyone is just a little nervous about them as normal.

I’m lazing about as usual when Cheerilee of all ponies comes up. Isn’t this a school day? And she looks stressed.

“Heya Cheeri. What’s the rush?”

The mare looks around frantically but settles on me with a ‘it’ll have to do’ look. “Oh I’m having some trouble with the kids. Big trouble. Normally I’d settle it myself but... I’m not really sure what to say. I’ve honestly never heard this argument angle before. Can you do something?”

“Sure.” I figure she’s just overreacting, but I head over to the schoolhouse anyway. When I get there, I see the typical bullying scene but... it seems like it’s most of the class against the Crusaders. That’s a bit- the hell?

I see Scootaloo push a kid over for seemingly no reason. The Crusaders are being the bullies? This just confuses me. I can’t really think of anything to do so I just stay back and listen to what’s being said.

“Come on, leave us alone. Please?”

“Why should we listen to you?”


“We can do whatever we want! We have the power to shape our own future and nopony can tell us what to do, because that’s our choice!”

What? I keep listening and I just keep hearing the Crusaders saying things about how they are in control because they don’t have their Marks, and that they have some twisted form of ‘freedom’ because of it.

I said those things to cheer them up, I didn’t mean that they should be bullies.

It continues on and on about how they’re declaring that they are in charge and the like, because they have free will to choose their own paths while the kids with Marks are what amount to slaves to fate and that makes them inferior.

Ooooh boy, this is trouble. I’ve heard enough, I’m gonna stop this... but how? I can’t just make threats again, that’s what started this whole thing. Gotta use words, but I need to choose my words carefully.

Okay... here goes everything. I take a deep breath and get in what has become the beginning of a very one-sided brawl. “I would like an explanation of what’s going on. Calm the heck down!”

“We’re being heroes, like you!” Scootaloo says, chin up and a wide smile on her face.

“Yeah, we’re done taking it from everypony else!” Noi and Sweetie say together. “We’re tough and we take no guff!” Sweetie adds.

Babs comes forth and says, “When we was getting picked on, we never gotta break. But then you showed us how ta take care a’ bullies. And we’re gonna be just like ya! You gets results.” She smiles confidently at me, shifting a mean look to one of the other foals. The poor kid backs away.

“That’s not what I said you should do, I meant- I meant-” Awwww shit! “Uh...” What can I say to defuse this? I could say ‘violence isn’t the answer’ but I pretty much live by the exact opposite.

“You girls can do anything you want... so why are you choosing to be bullies?”

“We’re not bullies, Anthony! We’re leading, like you do!” Scootaloo corrects me, poofing out her chest proudly. I don’t think she understands the difference here. ‘Bloom, though, looks a touch conflicted.

“I’m not a leader I’m an enforcer! There’s a huge difference! Why do you want to spend your futures being bullies?”

“We aren’t though!” Noi says. “We don’t have our Marks yet, so we can do anything we want with our future at any time!”

“Our future ain’t set in stone! Whatever that means” Applebloom adds. Well, it looks like she’s the least convinced about all this, but the others are nodding.

Oh boy, now I think I get what Cheerilee was talking about. This is delicate. I just turned the Cutie Mark Crusaders into a gang of rebels... with a cause. And a bad one at that.

“Let’s just calm down and talk this out, alright? There’s more than one way to skin a cat.”

“Talkin’ never works, though. You proved that with th’ demon-thing ‘Bloom’s told me ‘bout. No time t’ talk, just get the message across!” Babs says. “No biggie, and the problem’s wiped.”

Okay, I need help. Big help. I rack my brain trying to come up with someone who can talk some sense into these kids. Who can stand up for themselves without being a total jerk? And who would they listen to?

I got nothing. “Tell you what? Let’s just calm down a bit, call this a victory, and move on to something else?”

“First, we gotta dessert-” -Sweetie corrects Scootaloo with ‘assert’- “right, assert ourselves! We’ll be just like you, Anthony, isn’t that great?”

I think hard on this and come up with only one thing to say. “No! That’s not great! That’s an awful idea! Look at me! I cause just as many problems as I fix!”

“But you still get results, and you fix the problems anyways! And now we’re fixing our problem.”

I’m starting to panic a bit. “Aren’t there more fun things to do with your freedom?”

“Yeah, but business comes before fun, and we have some business to settle with these bullies who ain’t gonna bully us no more! Ain’t that right?” Babs finishes her argument by corralling a little blue pegasus filly who was trying to escape the little roundup the Crusaders had forced their classmates into.

“Right!” The other Crusaders reply in unison as they step closer, making the group of kids squish into a tighter bunch.

I look at the kids who are ‘cursed’ with their Cutie Marks. I always said things about how Cutie Marks were pointless and stupid, and now it’s rubbing off on impressionable children. And the kids look scared. “And just how many of these kids actually bullied you? Do you think they deserve this, even though they haven’t done anything wrong?”

“Well... no...” Scootaloo starts, I think I’ve finally gotten through to- “But if we give them a reason not to bully us, then they never will!”

Goddamnit... I am the worst role model in the history of role models. Come on brain, think! “Well, what if you keep doing this and you get your Cutie Marks for it? What then?”

“Well... that’s impossible, isn’t it?” Sweetie thinks out loud. “I mean, we’ve been trying to get them for years with no luck, and if we stop trying to get them, then it’s even less likely we’ll ever have them, right?”

Cheerilee steps in, and I metaphorically cling to the berry-coated life preserver. “Actually, most ponies get their cutie marks when they’re looking for them least, girls.” Her voice is calm, but concerned.

“Uh, yeah. So what if you do get your marks for this?”

Noi thinks for a bit. “Then doesn’t that mean that our special talent is standing up for ourselves? That’s what we’re doing after all.”

I resist the urge to face-palm. There’s no telling now what they’d think of that. “I...” I got nothing. I honestly can’t think of anything to say that wouldn’t be misinterpreted. “I...” I turn around, and heave a defeated sigh. “I’ve never thought I’d be this disappointed in my life.” I start walking away. “And I can’t tell if I’m more disappointed in you... or me.” Next Chapter: Chapter 161 Estimated time remaining: 9 Hours, 58 Minutes

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