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Recap / Triptych Continuum Unstable Sale

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After three years of constant failures, the Crusade has left the Crusaders faced with a dilemma: they need new stuff to keep on crusading, but they don't have any money to get that new stuff. Indefatigable as always, the Crusaders hit upon a brilliant plan: they'll hold a stable stall at the Ponyville Market, selling off all the junk left over from their failed crusades and making the money they need for their brilliant new plan.

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Unfortunately for them, three years is a long, long time in the minds of the long-suffering adults of Ponyville. The Crusaders have well and truly worn out their welcome in town. They're about to get a cold, hard reality check. Cashing will be mandatory.

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This story contains examples of:

  • Ascended Fanon: This story rejects the canonical events of the Crusaders ultimately getting shared marks as "Cutie Mark Counsellors", and is instead obviously building towards them finding the talents teased in the first three seasons; engineering for Apple Bloom (who actually thinks to herself how "easy it was" when they were working on the parade float), and singing for Sweetie Belle. Only Scootaloo's talent lacks any obvious hints as to what she could be if she'd just stop trying to bullhead her way to it.
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  • Bittersweet Ending: Apple Bloom has finally broken out of the self-destructive cycle of the Crusade, and there's the possibility that Sweetie Belle might do the same, giving them both chances to earn their true marks. But the friendship between the Crusaders is strained to the breaking point, if not broken altogether. And even if Apple Bloom has finally stopped Digging Herself Deeper, three years of the Crusade still makes for a very deep pit to climb back out of.
  • Book-Ends: The story ends with the line that opened it, though in a markedly darker context:
    The Crusade had a cost, and Apple Bloom was no longer able to pay.
  • Call-Back: Multiple references to past or ongoing Continuum stories appear during the events of this one-shot:
    • "Cutie Mark Crusaders Alpha Pack Leader": This is one of the many past disasters the Crusaders reference, and the story is called out as being a direct sequel to that story.
    • "Scootalift": Scootaloo's ultimately hiring Snowflake as a sort of hired big-brother, and how this makes him one of the only ponies who actually talks to the Crusaders, plays an important role in setting the story off.
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    • "Snowflake Shoe-Hare": Snowflake is free to loan out his spot in the market to the Crusaders because he's filling in for Fluttershy whilst she's away, and he's also banged up from the events of that story.
    • "Triptych": At several points, it's touched upon that the Mane 6, most notably Rarity and Applejack, are out of town on a mission — specifically, it's the events off in Trotter's Falls.
    • "Season's Bleatings": Scootaloo shutting down Sweetie's solo during Hearth's Warming, which is implied to have almost brought about Sweetie Belle's manifestation, is brought up.
    • "Permanent Record": Apple Bloom brings up "Officer Brassie", a police mare who, according to what Apple Bloom has heard, ended up leaving town just so she wouldn't have to put up with them anymore.
    • "Sick Little Ponies (And One Dragon)": The events Apple Bloom underwent whilst Applejack was sick recently are brought up.
    • "A Confederacy Of Dunce Caps": During her brief appearance, Diamond Tiara showcases the Character Development she underwent in that story, and it's made subtly clear that her new pet beetle Cameo is riding on her head.
  • Character Development: Apple Bloom finally realizes that this Crusade is doing them more harm than good, at best, and declares herself out of the Crusaders for this reason.
    • Additionally, showcasing her own case of this from "A Confederacy of Dunce Caps", Diamond Tiara appears and offers the Crusaders sincere, helpful advice on how to maybe attract some buyers to their trash-heap of a stall.
  • Easily Forgiven: No. Absolutely not. The Continuum as a whole rejects this idea, and In-Universe it's realizing that the Crusaders are mistaken about this applying that gives Apple Bloom the final necessary push to realize the Crusade must end.
  • Hard Work Hardly Works: Initially, the Crusaders are convinced that part of mark magic is that it will automatically substitute for mundanities like sufficient knowledge & training in the activity they're attempting.
  • His Own Worst Enemy: A variation; it's their insistence on both living in the now, focusing on their quest, and on believing that everything can be justified if done in the pursuit of a mark, that makes the Crusaders so hated.
  • Ignorant of Their Own Ignorance: It's called out that the biggest problem the Crusaders face in their Crusade is that they deliberately ignoring the actual rules of acquiring marks and trying to get marks their way.
  • Insane Troll Logic: The sheer twisted logic the Crusaders need to follow in order to keep justifying their efforts is truly jaw-dropping.
  • Mythology Gag: References are made to all of the Crusade-prominent episodes from the first three seasons of the canon — specifically, "The Show Stoppers", "The Cutie Pox", "Hearts And Hooves Day", "Ponyville Confidential", and "One Bad Apple".
  • Never My Fault: The Crusaders all feel unjustly persecuted by the adult population of Ponyville just because of what they see as "minor mishaps" in their quest for marks. Except for Apple Bloom, who ultimately comes to realize that the adults are justified in being angry given the damage and pain the Crusaders have inflicted and without ever feeling guilty for.
  • Nothing Is The Same Any More: The Crusade is permanently broken, or at least diminished, when Apple Bloom realizes it's a waste of efforts and declares herself done with it. This causes an angry Scootaloo to declare that they're no longer friends.
  • Only Sane Man: Apple Bloom is the only Crusader to accept her doubts, examine them, and ultimately denounce the Crusade as a failure.
  • Reality Ensues: Three years of disastrous failed Crusades have alienated everyone and exhausted the Crusaders, to the point it finally collapses. Furthermore, as they've centered their friendship entirely around their mutual status as Crusaders, without that lynchpin, they fall apart.
  • Sunk Cost Fallacy: A major contributing factor in what's kept the Crusade going: the trio has essentially become fanatics in the name of their cause. (Word Of Fanfic Author has described the Crusade itself as a three-member cult.) Apple Bloom winds up summarizing the Fallacy itself during the final scene, and it's part of what shatters everything.
    "Gotta do it for a day because y'try," she slowly said. "Then y'go for a week 'cause iffin y'don't, y'wasted the day. Then it's a moon, lots of moons, and then when it's a year, it's gotta be more. We keep goin' an' goin' 'cause if we ever stop, then it means we wasted everything. An' we could just keep goin' til we're grown up, out of school, but we won't have jobs because we don't have marks and the only thing we can do is look some more. It's nearly three years an' if Ah do it for one more day, it could turn into... It's too much, an' Ah think — it's been too much for a while. Too long. An' — an' it ain't worth it no more."
  • Tall Poppy Syndrome: Touched upon; a fear of what will happen if the Crusaders don't get their marks simultaneously, or even if they'll still be friends after getting their marks, is definitely one of the things keeping them trapped in their vicious cycle of failures.
    • Apple Bloom is shown all but consciously denying her true talent on multiple occasions, for fear of what Scootaloo might think.
  • Walking Disaster Area: This is the reputation that the Crusaders have painstakingly, if unwittingly, established, such that nobody will even try and buy from their stable stall for fear that it'll explode in some way.
  • Wham Episode: Apple Bloom recognizes that the Crusade is a self-sabotaging echo-chamber of idiocy that has cost her three years of pocket money, free time, and respect from the community, and so she ultimately renounces the Crusade and quits. With Scootaloo angrily declaring that she'll never accept Apple Bloom back, their friendship itself may also be dead.
  • Wham Line:
    Apple Bloom: "Ah don't want t' do this no more."
  • Wisdom from the Gutter: Even whilst still a willing Crusader, Apple Bloom privately believes that "The Secret" of the Earth Ponies is a dumb idea.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: The Crusaders start out believing that mark-bestowed, predestined talent can substitute for any material or skill-related deficiencies, and likewise that once they have their marks, all their mayhem will be forgiven as a worthy sacrifice for finally attaining their marks. Needless to say, they're completely mistaken.
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