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A alternate opening to Season Three of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic by Ralph Hayes, Jr. (writing as RealityCheck), can be found here or here.

Princess Celestia is sending Twilight Sparkle off to save the Crystal Kingdom. But before she goes she has a few things to say....

Based off the Season Three premiere.

The Sequel, The Great Alicorn Hunt, can be found here.


This Fan Fic contains instances of:

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  • Adults Are Useless: The Cutie Mark Crusaders point out the many times Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon have bullied them and how they have never received any help.
  • Alternate Universe Fic: It diverges from canon due to Twilight's Rage Against the Mentor and ripples outward.
  • Anti-Climax Boss: Sombra himself qualifies as this In-Universe after Twilight chews out Princess Celestia for all her tendencies to test Twilight and leave her with virtually nothing to help her faithful student out on the more important missions. After getting substantially supplied and prepared, Twilight wastes absolutely no time in defeating Sombra the very moment she and her friends stepped foot off the train.
    Twilight Sparkle: The whole thing took maybe thirty seconds.
    For all the ominous buildup, King Sombra had turned out to be a pathetic magic hack, as well as a pushover in combat, and his terrible "curse" had popped like a soap bubble the instant the fair got underway. What kind of Evil Overlord relied on a mind-control spell that could be undone by a flugelhorn and a funnel cake?
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  • Armor-Piercing Question: When Applejack tells Celestia that she didn't want to encourage the CMC to become bullies, Celestia replies that when she was younger, a bully was someone who picked on those who hadn't done anything, and any consequence they suffered was because they'd brought it on themselves.
    Celestia: Have things really changed so that just standing up to somepony who's hurting you gets you called a bully?
  • Attack! Attack! Attack!: Sombra's plan for dealing with the Elements of Harmony along with their reinforcements was to simply charge right at them... as an ominous black cloud.
  • Author Tract: The entire story was written to point out multiple instances of out-of-character behavior in the Season Three premiere and "One Bad Apple".
  • The Bet: There are two, both involving Twilight and Celestia. 1) Will Twilight continue as Celestia's student? 2) What is Celestia grooming Twilight to be? The latter outcomes involve a combination of 'Alicorn', 'princess', or some other authority figure like 'prime minister' or 'head of the royal library'. Spike and the rest of the Mane Six bet among themselves on the first of these; those who bet "no" end up winning. The second is a town-wide betting pool, with Apple Bloom and Big Macintosh splitting the pot after Celestia tells Twilight that what she does with her life is up to her.
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  • Blue-and-Orange Morality: Word of God believes that Celestia is so old, having taken the long perspective and played the long game for so long, that she can't not treat other ponies as pawns, feels that anything not planned years in advance is dangerously spur-of-the-moment, and has forgotten how to let go rather than try to secretly interfere.
  • Bystander Syndrome:
    • The Not My Problem Spell invokes and exploits this so that its caster can move around freely.
    • Celestia later realizes this fed right into the CMC's bullying issue. Most ponies who witnessed it assumed the parents were already aware and went about their business rather than helping out.
  • The Chessmaster: Deconstructed; It's shown Twilight put up with being a pawn in Celestia's mysterious schemes because she was afraid of what would happen if she stopped being useful, and shows how much that hurt her and Celestia's guilt over it. Also, Celestia's attempts to be this failed to have the desired outcomes due to unforeseen events, only working as well as they did through luck and improvisation. When Twilight succeed in spite of this, Celestia chose to continue to use these methods, in spite of how unhelpful they proved, because she played the role so long she had forgotten how to not.
  • "Could Have Avoided This!" Plot: Twilight calls out how easily most prior conflicts could have been resolved if Celestia had explained the situation more thoroughly. She specifically mentions the Dragon that Celestia had her deal with and that she only had as backup a baker, seamstress, farmer, and other equally not-dragon fighting or not-professional help.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: With the extra resources Twilight got before setting off for the Crystal Kingdom, Sombra proved MUCH less threatening. Twilight mentions Rainbow's use of this term.
  • Deconstruction Fic: The fic tears into Celestia's Trickster Mentor methods, showing the harm they caused, the consequences of them, and the reasons why such a wise, benevolent character would do something so flawed. It does a similar thing with Applejack and the other adults' failure to address the CMC's bullying.
  • Digging Yourself Deeper: When Celestia tries using the Royal Canterlot Voice to bring Twilight to heel, only to say the exact wrong thing:
    Celestia: You have been told all you need to know! I told you, this was to be a test-
    Twilight: A test?! The fate of an entire kingdom is at stake, and you want to make it a TEST?!
  • The Ditherer: Spike confides to Cadence that Celestia's constant testing actually fed Twilight's insecurities and made her more like this, always second-guessing herself rather than trusting her own judgment.
  • Eureka Moment: Celestia realizes that the very nature of the Not My Problem Spell explains why the CMC's bullying problem has gotten so bad.
  • Fighting Back Is Wrong: Rejected and defied. Celestia finds this mentality damaging and ridiculous, noting that if this really were the case, then Equestria would still be suffering under Discord's chaos.
  • Fix Fic: Primarily Deconstructs Celestia's Trickster Mentor tendencies by revealing how badly this has hurt her Faithful Student. It also turns a baleful eye on how bullying issue the Cutie Mark Crusaders have had to deal with has been handled.
  • Foreshadowing: Celestia's advice about bullies reaping what they sow when their victims fight back becomes a big plot point in The Great Alicorn Hunt when Babs' own bullies show up, both with Babs deciding that the incident is Laser-Guided Karma for the events of "One Bad Apple" and the bullies getting curbstomped when they decide to beat up the CMC.
  • Gambit Roulette: Discussed Trope. Celestia is well aware of how much her plan to redeem her sister depended on the precise interlocking of far-flung events, and she hated it. She states that if she had had her way, she would have found all the Element Bearers years before Nightmare Moon had returned, mentored them in the use of the Elements, fostered a friendship between them, and then directed them to blast Nightmare Moon the instant she returned. Alas, it didn't happen that way.
  • Idiot Ball: Twilight claims that this is the only reason that they beat Discord; if he had been smart, he would have tossed the Elements of Harmony into the ocean or a volcano, not just hide them inside her own house.
  • Imagine Spot: Cadence has an unnerving one after Twilight points out how Changelings feed off of love, and the Crystal Heart is powered by Love and Hope.
  • Karma Houdini: Discussed. The tendency for bullies to get away with their actions due to a mentality of "Defending yourself makes you just as bad" and ignoring the issue is brought up and talked about at length.
  • Lemony Narrator: The narration occasionally snarks in-story but the trope truly applies in the notes at the end of each chapter where the narrator comments/provides more information.
  • The Main Characters Do Everything: One of the many gripes that Twilight has towards Celestia is that in nearly every single mission that she and her friends are sent out on, it is into situations where they are absolutely unprepared or have no experience being part of due to their professions and line of work without any backup or support.
    Twilight Sparkle: Having a few soldiers along for a dangerous mission might be a good idea, I mean. At least since, you know, that one time you sent me and five other teenage mares up a mountain to evict a giant fire-breathing dragon. Or when you sent us out alone to face Discord. Or that time –
    Celestia: You were in no real danger from the dragon...
    Twilight Sparkle: No danger?! That dragon nearly had hickory-smoked unicorn for a bedtime snack! (Beat) So I decided it would probably would be proper if, when I’m going out on a dangerous mission in the name of the Crown – like, say, now – that my friends and I have some backup. Just a few someponies under my direction with more combat training and experience than a party planner, a dressmaker, a weather-pony, a veterinarian and a farmer. Not that it's particularly important. I mean, my friends and I are only the Bearers of the Elements, it's not like it would be a national catastrophe if we were stomped by a dragon, or eaten by an Ursa Major, or pincushioned with arrows by highwayponies, or kidnapped by buffalo, or –
    Celestia: Point. Made.
  • Meaningful Echo: The climactic end of Twilight's Rage Against the Mentor where she screams at Celestia when she says that saving the Crystal Empire was supposed to be a test is almost an echo of what Spike was asking in the episode that the fic is based off of:
    -Canon-
    Spike: Twilight, calm down. It's just a test.
    Twilight Sparkle: Just. A test? JUST A TEST?! Princess Celestia is trying to give me some kind of exam, and you're trying to get me to calm down because it is just, A TEST?!
    -This story-
    Celestia: You have been told all you need to know! I told you, this was to be a test-
    Twilight: A test?! The fate of an entire kingdom is at stake, and you want to make it a TEST?!
  • My God, What Have I Done?:
    • After Twilight chews her out, Celestia realizes she had just destroyed one of her two most cherished relationships.
    • For Applejack, it's more like, "My God, What Have I NOT Done?", as she realizes that her inaction has caused Apple Bloom to completely lose faith in her.
  • My Greatest Failure:
    • If anything can match "banishing my beloved little sister for a thousand years" in Celestia's book of bad decisions, it's "manipulate my beloved student so much that she severs ties with me."
    • Applejack's is probably "refusing to see just how badly my little sister has been hurt by bullying even when it's happening right under my nose."
  • Mood-Swinger: One does not shake off a lifetime of adoration without side-effects. After Twilight severs ties with Celestia she shifts, rapidly and without warning, from upright confidence to catatonic shock to euphoric happiness to inconsolable depression.
  • Noodle Implements: Celestia briefly mentioned a 300-year plan of hers that was foiled by a tenpenny nail, five scrolls, and a misplaced banana.
  • Not Helping Your Case:
    • Celestia makes the mistake of referring to the situation in the Crystal Empire as a "test," which Twilight calls her out on, as she believes that the possibility of dooming thousands of innocent ponies to hellish fates is not worth "a gold star on a test."
    • When Celestia tries to help Applejack, she makes the mistake of repeatedly assuming AJ did something to help with Babs instead of trying to lecture the CMC after the fact.
  • Not So Omniscient After All: Celestia is as fallible as anypony else, and she has made more than her fair share of mistakes over the centuries. She admits to Twilight that her shortsightedness has caused many of her most carefully laid out plans to be thwarted by the most trivial (or occasionally not-so-trivial) of things.
  • Oblivious Guilt Slinging: When Sweetie Belle agrees with AJ, saying they can't blame her for not knowing how Bloom was being bullied at school... or in town... or at Sugar Cube Corner, or in her very own house...
    Sweetie Belle: Why shouldn't she not notice something happening right under her nose?
    Applejack: Layerin' on the sarcasm nice and thick there, ain'tcha, Sweetie Belle?
    Sweetie Belle: I was?
  • Once Done, Never Forgotten: Spike still remembers the time Celestia suddenly threw a Fabergé egg at Twilight. Celestia thought it was a cheap decoration and didn't realize it was the real deal until after she had thrown it to Twilight.
  • Paranoia Fuel: In-Universe, most of Twilight's OCD tendencies came from Celestia constantly throwing tests at her over the years. Spike summarizes it best in Chapter 2 with Cadence.
    Spike: Day in, day out. Big tests, little tests, surprise tests, trick tests she wasn’t supposed to pass... every single day since Twilight became Celestia's student, Celestia has been testing her. She’s never known when the next test or trial or challenge was gonna come, or if she was being tested in some way right that very minute. Why do you think she studies all the time? Why she makes all those checklists? Why she flips out if everything doesn't go exactly to schedule? The stress has made her completely bonkers.
  • Plot Parallel: Celestia arrives at the train station just as Applejack and the CMC are seeing Babs Seed off, enabling the Princess to listen in on Apple Bloom calling her sister out and note the parallels.
  • Precision F-Strike: Twilight's last request:
    Twilight: Tell me. What. The Buck. Is Going On.
  • Rage Against the Mentor: This fic diverges from canon when Twilight rages about Celestia manipulating her and endangering six civilians by giving them dangerous missions.
  • Rage Breaking Point: Celestia starts using the Royal Canterlot Voice when Twilight keeps pressing her, but by then the unicorn has built up too much momentum to be dissuaded.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Aside from the above-mentioned Rage Against the Mentor, Applejack receives one from the Cutie Mark Crusaders when they point out how, no matter how clear it was that they were being bullied, they never received any help from her.
  • Rebuilt Pedestal: In the final chapter, Twilight's relationship with (and, to a lesser extent, her faith in) Celestia is restored. The princess explains to Twilight why she kept Nightmare Moon's return a secret from Twilight, the real reason why she sent Twilight to Ponyville, and why she sent the Element Bearers on such dangerous missions. She admits her mistake, apologizes, and the two reconcile.
  • School Bullying Is Harmless: Deconstructed. Celestia realizes that this mentality played a part in why the bullying the CMC (and to an extent, Babs) received had gotten as out of control as it did. The adults generally wrote it all off as harmless teasing that the kids would soon just get over and didn't think it could be that bad.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can:
    • King Sombra's ultimate fate in the alternate timeline is to glare from inside a tiny crystal that he was trapped in, off-screen.
    • Twilight also refers to the villains as this, largely- Nightmare Moon, Discord, and Sombra.
  • Secret Test of Character:
    • Deconstructed: Celestia attempting to use the Crystal Kingdom to test Twilight – and her attempt to defend said decision when called out on it – becomes Twilight's Rage Breaking Point.
      Twilight Sparkle: I don’t care what it is you’re ‘testing’ me for. Forget it, I don’t care! The welfare of other ponies is supposed to come first for a ruler, no matter what. So either tell me everything I need to know, or find somepony else to do this, because I'm not going to imperil hundreds or even thousands of innocent ponies trying to get a gold sticker from you on a TEST!
    • After Twilight leaves, Luna plays with this by stating that the unicorn passed "the real test with flying colors" by calling her out...
      Celestia: This test was to be such an important step...
      Luna: Fie on thy test. From what I did see, Twilight did pass the real test with flying colors. Will thou do as well on thy portion of the exam, I wonder?
    • Also Deconstructed when Spike outlines how Celestia's frequent use of these has actually made Twilight less confident about her own abilities. Without the pressure of viewing her trip to the Crystal Empire as yet another test, Twilight manages to get much more prepared and accomplished.
      It was true; Twilight the Loyal Student would have dithered and double-guessed herself; Twilight on her own had taken charge, moved in and got the task completed – and didn't apologize for using what she needed to do it, or how she did it.
  • Selective Obliviousness: Celestia realizes that the reason why the Cutie Mark Crusaders have received such inadequate help in response to the bullying they've had to put up with can be summed up by this trope.
    Applejack had probably seen plenty of signs that Apple Bloom was being bullied, but she had a farm to run. So she had convinced herself they weren't that important, just 'one of those things foals go through.' Their teacher had probably seen it too, but she had classes to teach, and so she'd convinced herself that posting a few rules on the blackboard about name-calling or fighting fixed it, or that it was too much trouble to tell the victim and the bully apart in a fight, and that punishing everyone – or ignoring it entirely – were much easier.
  • So Proud of You: Part of Celestia and Twilight's reconciliation is Celestia admitting that she was impressed beyond words when Twilight and her friends defeated Nightmare Moon and became more and more proud of Twilight with each passing adventure.
  • Spanner in the Works: Celestia briefly mentions a Noodle Incident involving "a plan three hundred years in the making that went completely awry thanks to a tenpenny nail, five scrolls and a misplaced banana...."
  • Take That!: Celestia laughs off the idea that she was going to make Twilight an Alicorn. Incidentally, less than a month after the chapter in question was released...
  • Teacher/Student Romance: Part of the spread in The Bet outlined above was 'royal consort'. Both Twilight and Celestia are repulsed.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: Invoked by Twilight Sparkle in her "debriefing" with Cadence on how they managed to defeat Sombra, with what little there was left of him afterwards being gathered up and put inside of a jar that itself was hermetically sealed.
    Twilight Sparkle: Sombra attacked us almost the moment we got off the train. Not much of a strategist; he attacked the Elements of Harmony, a dozen of Celestia's finest, three of the University's most powerful unicorn mages, and Shining Armor as a giant cloud. Hmph. Never mind the mages; with all the armored pegasi in our party that was like attacking Pinkie Pie with a tray of cupcakes. The airborne Guard bucked the rain and lightning out of him, then Shining Armor and the unicorn scholars held him in place with a magic barrier long enough for us to power up the Elements and, well... Rainbow of Friendship, point blank to the face... Granted, the volley of cannon fire from the train didn't do him any favors either. Rolling artillery, what a concept.
  • Time for Plan B: What we see in the canon pilot was not Celestia's main plan; it was a contingency. She did not expect Twilight to redeem Nightmare Moon immediately. Instead, without the Elements, Celestia thought Nightmare Moon would defeat her, take over Equestria and usher in Eternal Night, so she sent Twilight to rural Ponyville hoping she would escape Nightmare's wrath and maybe defeat Nightmare Moon in the future. The most likely scenario, in her mind, was her own return from the Sun years from then and defeat Nightmare Moon herself. What we see in the canon pilot was one hundred percent Twilight's own initiative.
  • Tranquil Fury:
    • Twilight's Rage Against the Mentor is primarily this, though it fluxes into more obvious anger when Celestia pushes her buttons a few more times.
    • Celestia herself starts getting frosty when Twilight keeps pushing the matter.
  • Trickster Mentor: Deconstructed. Twilight is so sick and tired of being a pawn in Celestia's games that she renounces her place as Celestia's student.
  • Undying Loyalty: Even after the vicious Rage Against the Mentor, half of Twilight's friends bet money that she would be back in 'Most Faithful Student' mode in short order. It is ultimately downplayed; while Twilight is no longer the same adoring fan-girl she is still willing to carry out Celestia's assignments and eventually reconciles with her.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: The Princesses' Not My Problem Spell has this effect, influencing anyone who looks at someone under its effects to decide it's not interesting or worth their time. In fact, it's more effective the stranger that the target appears to be; thus, they have a variety of strange clothes and accessories for the sole purpose of enhancing its strength. However it can also go horribly right; a footnote mentions a time they went the whole hog and became effectively invisible, which almost caused a carriage to crash into them.
  • Warts and All: Celestia is not an all-knowing Chessmaster with a far-flung master plan; rather she's fallible like everypony else and prepares for the future as best she can. However, she is still benevolent and truly cares for Twilight. She admits as much to Twilight during their reconciliation.
  • With This Herring: Part of what prompts Twilight to call Celestia out is how few resources she gets for actually dealing with her 'tests'.
    Twilight: A few heads-up notes someplace might have been appreciated! 'If you are reading this, Twilight, my demigod sister has returned from the moon, she can be defeated with the Elements of Harmony, here’s a map!' 'Dear Twilight, that ugly statue in the garden is an evil avatar of Chaos, be careful, don't let him reverse your brain! Here are a few dozen armed guards for when you face down a mad demigod of chaos!', 'Hey Twilight, guess what, my niece is marrying your brother! But be on your guard, we've been threatened by the Changeling Kingdom!' 'Twilight, dragons can grow really really fast, keep an eye on Spike!' 'Oh by the way, Twilight, my pet bird is a phoenix, no need to worry if it looks sick or bursts into flame!' And now this time it's 'Dear Twilight, the Crystal Kingdom, previously ruled by an evil unicorn, has reappeared after a thousand years, it has a curse on it, go save it!' What crystal kingdom? What curse? Where's the evil leader, and how in Equestria am I supposed to save it? I could get more information off the back of a hoofball bubblegum card!
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Twilight calls out Celestia, and the CMC call out Applejack. Celestia ends up helping them make their point.
  • Writer on Board: Based on the Word of God in the comments on FIMFiction.net before the move to Archive Of Our Own, the disapproval over Applejack's failure to address the bullying of the Cutie Mark Crusaders was driven by the author's own negative experiences with bullying in his childhood and the adults' refusal to take the problem seriously and how that ultimately led to a horrible (but entirely preventable) tragedy.
  • Xanatos Speed Chess: According to Celestia, her various apparent manipulations are more this than anything. She can't plan things with any real certainty, so instead she plans for as many possibilities as she can and uses which plans are appropriate to her needs.
  • You Have GOT to Be Kidding Me!: Celestia thinks as much to herself when Applejack's response to her Armor-Piercing Question is to look like she just got kicked in the gut.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Twilight believed that Celestia would choose to abandon Twilight after using her and her newfound friends to free Luna from Nightmare Moon after Celestia (according to Twilight) manipulated her student's entire life to reach this particular goal, and that this outcome was part of the reason why Twilight chose to bottle up her emotions and keep doing all of Celestia's Tests and Missions before she reached her breaking point with the Crystal Empire.
    Twilight: Every time some 'crisis' came up and you gave it to me, instead of to your generals or your archmages, or your thousands of other ponies who were supposed to be handling that sort of thing. I guess I bottled it all up because... because I was grateful for that. Grateful that once you got Luna back, you didn't just wad me up and throw me over your shoulder. At least it meant you still had some use for me.
  • You Were Trying Too Hard: Defied; Celestia did not tell Twilight about being a Bearer of the Elements because she was afraid Twilight would end up trying to force friendships and make the other Bearers reveal themselves. It comes back to bite her anyway, as she did not give any explanations for the secrecy after it was no longer needed.

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