Once the six of them arrived at Sweet Apple Acres, it turned out that things were a lot worse than they'd originally thought it would be. There had been bad floods before, but this was on a whole other level. The water was so high now that Applejack's family had to get around by way of makeshift boats they'd made out of large wooden buckets. They were all doing what they could, but it was clear that this situation wasn't going to get better anytime soon. A sentiment that Applejack herself now voiced.
"I've never seen the floodin this bad. They've built dams around here before, but never like this. What's goin on?" She asked.
The five ponies, Twilight, Applejack, Pinkie Pie, Rarity and Rainbow Dash, all stood on a nearby hill, looking down at the devastation the floods were causing. Further down the land, where the beavers had built their unusually extensive dams, Fluttershy, still bearing her elements, was hovering above the nearest dam and was trying to speak to one of the beavers. Most of the creatures simply continued to work on their building in spite of her protests, although a few started mouthing some inaudible squeaks and clicks at her, much to her shock.
"Such language!" She exclaimed.
Seeing no other option, she flew over to where her friends had gathered on the hill, worry covering her face.
"It's no use. They won't listen to a word I say." She remarked, pointing at the dams before them.
Rainbow Dash, as ever, flew up to the yellow pegasus and said to her what she knew to be true.
"You see Discord's behind all this, right?" She asked.
Fluttershy frowned at the remark before responding to it.
"Well of course I do! Do you think I'm a silly gullible fool?"
The other ponies started to look rather uncomfortable at that question. In truth they'd all suspected her of being in denial over the whole affair. Ever since the Princess had charged them with reforming the lord of chaos, Flutterhsy had been sticking up for him, defending him against all the accusations that her friends had thrown at him. It had reached a point where the ponies felt that she must be deliberately lying to herself about his true nature. But, as Fluttershy had just stated, that was clearly not the case.
"I've just been trying to keep his friendship any way I can, so he comes to trust and listen to me."
At that moment, their conversation was interrupted by a call from across the flooded land.
"Hey there Fluttershy! You want a turn? The water's great!"
The ponies looked out to see the strange sight of Discord himself, donned in water-sport clothing and skiing across the flood waters by way of his powers. Oblivious to their plight, Discord did a flip in the skis as Flutterhsy, now frowning, watched.
"Time to see if this works." She said to herself.
The spirit of chaos slid across the water right up to where the ponies had gathered,. He jumped off his skis and landed right next to Fluttershy.
"Oh Fluttershy, there you are. A sight for sore eyes." He remarked.
Fluttershy ignored his clearly flippant attitude and pointed down to where the beavers had built their large dams.
"As you can see, there's a big mess down here at Sweet Apple Acres."
Discord's expression clearly showed his disinterest in the pony's problem as he busied himself with drying off from the water.
"Oh yes. Awful business that." He said, clearly not caring for just how awful it was.
Fluttershy flapped her wings and lifted herself up, hovering forward until she was right in front of him.
"Is IS awful! This is Applejack's home! And it's being destroyed by innocent creatures who would never behave this way if it weren't for your reckless behaviour!" She accused.
Discord turned to her, quite taken aback by the comment. In the brief time he'd been living with her, not once had she ever stood up to him or criticised the things he did, no matter how chaotic he became. And now Fluttershy, this tiny timid pegasus was right in his face, trying to make him feel guilty about what he'd done. HIM the living embodiment of chaos and anarchy. Was this a joke? Because it certainly felt that way to him.
Although for the time being he did not let his expression give away that particular though, instead choosing to feign ignorance as Fluttershy made her final demand.
"You need to fix this.". She said outright.
She turned from him, still hovering in mid-air and folded her forelegs. Discord considered her demand. And as he thought about it, a particular notion came to mind, as notion he absolutely revelled in. This disaster at the farm had given him the opportunity he'd been looking for.
"Yes. Very well. I will fix this. I only ask one thing in return."
Fluttershy turned to face him once more as her heart leapt. If he was willing to undo this problem on AJ'S farm, then he was one step closer to becoming reformed. Fluttershy was happy about this. He'd been a difficult person to get along with, but she'd stuck to it, knowing that she could win him over if she was simply kind to him. And now it seems that her plan had worked. She smiled as she faced him.
"Yes?" She asked.
Discord then gave his condition.
"I ask......" He began.
He then pointed one of his mis-matched fingers right against Fluttershy's pink butterfly necklace.
"......that you never use your element of harmony against me."
Fluttershy was shocked. She looked down at her element, the only thing she knew could stop him if he ever went bad again. Looking up at the spirit again, she saw him waiting patiently for her answer, smiling as he did so. She knew that this was no small thing he was asking. Knowing what he was capable of, this could all be some trick on his part, as her friends had warned her it might.
"As a sign of our friendship". Discord added.
That remark was all the more stinging for her. She'd gone out of her way to make Discord feel like he had friends, that he was welcome and that she trusted him. And she believed on some level that trust would never be fully possible as long as she possessed a weapon that could be used against him at a moment's notice. But if this was a trick, then her accepting it would not only doom herself, but also her friends and perhaps all of Equestria.
She turned around and looked over to her friends. They were all silently shaking their heads frantically, trying to convince her not to go through with this. But, as Fluttershy looked back at Discord, she thought back to all the times they'd refused to hear him out, hear her out. It was clear to her that, right from the start, not one of them had any faith in his ability to change, that they wanted to keep hating him for what he'd done to them in the past. And although she could not blame them for being angry at him, she refused to allow herself to be dictated by a grudge.
She raised her hooves behind her neck and unclasped her necklace, removing it from her.
"I will never use my element of harmony against you." She declared.
Then, much to everypony's further shock, she threw her element on the ground next to where Twilight and Spike were standing. Discord meanwhile, had changed his expression. His smile from, before had changed into a smirk that seemed to openly mock what Fluttershy had just done.
"Excellent!" He yelled in triumph.
Raising his hand, he snapped his fingers, which led to a blinding flash of white light which encompassed the entire are. The ponies closed their eyes from the light, only to open them again when it eventually died down. When they could see again, Fluttershy, still smiling, looked upon the land in front of her, expecting the floods to have vanished as Discord promised they would.
Instead, her smile vanished as what was now in front of her was not a dry farmland, but the exact same floods, now completely frozen. Discord meanwhile was ecstatic over the whole affair.
"There! Much better! I do prefer ice-skating to water-skiing, don't you?" He declared.
The malicious spirit was sliding along the ice, doing spins and acrobatics, impressing a nearby panel of Discord clone he'd conjured up. However, Fluttershy had become enraged by this turn of events. he'd given her his word that he would fix things. She'd trusted him, and now he'd spat it back at her over this.
"DISCORD!" She shouted.
The other ponies looked at her, shocked over how loud she'd become. In all the time they'd known her, she had very rarely become angry over anything, and certainly not to this degree. The look of rage on her face as she then ran out onto the ice made them realise that trying to stop her would be a big mistake.
"That is NOT fixing it!" She continued.
Discord, hearing her yells, stopped his antics and turned to face her as she rapidly approached.
"Why I ought to......" Fluttershy began.
But before she could finish, she started sliding on the ice out of control, slipping right past Discord. The latter turned and smiled as she did this, clearly not concerned for her well-being.
"Where are you going?" He asked mockingly.
After Fluttershy eventually stopped sliding, she faced him angrily. Discord though walked up to her and bent over, still showing no remorse for his betrayal.
"What's wrong pal?" He asked.
Fluttershy narrowed her eyes further, his words now sounding foul to her. She'd called him her friend and now he treated that like a joke.
"Don't call me pal!" She shouted.
Discord then got closer and placed a finger on the side of her face.
"Oh, come skating with me and we'll let bygones be bygones." He said.
Using his powers, he conjured a quartet of ice-skating shoes fit for her. And held them in front of her with his tail. Before she could respond to this she, along with Discord, noticed an approaching figure sliding on the ice towards them. They saw that it was Spike, and in his hands was Fluttershy's discarded element, which he presented to her as soon as he stopped slipping about.
"Here you go Fluttershy! Game on!" He declared.
Fluttershy looked at the element before drawing her attention to the nearby hill, where she heard the voice of Twilight calling out to her.
"He fixes this or he goes back to stone!"
The yellow pegasus turned from them to look once more at her element as Twilight continued to speak to her.
"Princess Celestia will understand!"
Fluttershy looked from her element, to Discord's gift of shoes, to the element again, then back to the shoes, before closing her eyes tight. After a few moments of careful consideration, she yelled out her decision.
"I made a promise not to use my element against him, and I'm going to keep it!"
She once more turned to Discord and took the shoes he created in her mouth before starting to walk off. The other ponies, astounded by what they had just witnessed, all exclaimed their disbelief in their own various ways, from Twilight's look of shock to Applejack covering her face with her hat. Not moments after this, Discord appeared over Fluttershy's head in a bright flash of light, before pointing to the other five element-bearers in mockery.
"Haha! You see? She wants to have fun with me because "we're friends". She can't use the element against me because "we're friends". I'm free forever!"
His harsh words cut into Fluttershy like a knife, driving her anger up more and more with every word he spoke. Her expression grew angrier, letting all know the kind of raw hurt she was feeling. But Discord didn't care. Instead, he merely threw back his head and laughed heartily.
But this was the final straw for Fluttershy. She had given this creature every chance one would be willing to give him and more. She'd welcomed him into her home. She'd done everything possible to try and make him into a better person. She'd even stood up to her closes friends in an effort to do something she felt deep down was for a good cause, his cause. And in the end, all Discord cared about was himself. And when she realised that, when she suddenly understood just who this creature truly was deep down, she just gave up.
"Not. Your. FRIEND!!!" She yelled out.
She threw the ice shoes away from her, not wanting anything made by this guy anywhere near her. This display had no effect on the lord of chaos however, as his following tone showed.
"Whop cares? I can do whatever I want, whenever I want! I'm Discord! The master of chaos!"
In another flash of light, Discord disappeared from his previous position and appeared again right next to Fluttershy, who at this point was walking away from him, unable to look at him anymore. As they continued walking, Discord continued his rant.
"Did you really think your pitiful attempts to change me would have any effect? That I'd just roll over and turn good because an adorable little pegasus acted sweetly to me? That I'd stay away from my natural calling, that of a bringer of chaos? If so then you're even more of a fool than I thought. And so was Celestia for thinking that somepony like you could ever have power over me!"
Fluttershy stopped walking. She said nothing, merely looking up at the spirit with a look of sheer disappointment in her face. The spirit was still unaffected however, and continued his scathing remarks against her.
"What a letdown you must be feeling like! You tried so hard to change me and all you get for your trouble is a knife in the back. Element of kindness. HAH! Look where your kindness has gotten you! You thought you could make me care. But the one thing you should know about chaos my dear, is that chaos DOESN'T care about anyone or anything!"
He walked past her, still causing no reaction or counter-remarks from the young pegasus. The silence bothered him, but not enough to make him stop his harshest comment of all.
"At the very least I was able to find somepony out here that I could say was like me in some small way. All this time I tried to manipulate you, just like you tried to manipulate me. We each tried to change the other for our own ends. The only difference is that my victory came from something as easy as a broken promise."
It was at this point that Discord, still with his back to the ponies, finally heard Fluttershy speak.
"You're right. A broken promise brought you victory. And that, it seems, is something else we now have in common."
The spirit raised an eyebrow. What did she mean? Before he could react, he heard a noise from behind him. A hauntingly familiar noise. He sun around, and to his horror, he saw Flutterhsy, still looking angry at him and worse still, wearing her element around her neck once more. She was flanked on either side by her five friends, whose respective elements were now glowing brightly.
Discord stepped back in shock over what he was seeing. Fluttershy had actually done it. She'd done the one thing he never suspected she would do. She'd stooped down to his level. He considered running, but he knew that the power of the elements would find him sooner or later. His only course, to simply accept what he knew was coming. The elements glowed brighter before finally releasing their energy, once more in the form of a bolt of rainbow-coloured magic. It shot towards the spirit and struck, engulfing him and a rainbow vortex.
As he stood there, not resisting the power that was now overcoming him, Discord merely looked beyond the vortex and straight at the yellow pegasus, who stood there beside her friends, her eyes already filled with regret over what she was doing. And the spirit merely smiled. A smile that did not seek to comfort or befriend, but one that sought only to show victory.
"Well played Fluttershy. Well played".
With those final words, the power of the elements finished their work. The element bearers, headed by Fluttershy, walked forward to see their work. Discord was now encased is stone once more. But whereas before his pose was one of resistance, here he merely stood normally, his face still bearing that scathing smile. Within moments, the same magic of the element that had imprisoned him got to work on the surrouding area. The frozen water vanished without a trace, the beaver dams disappeared, and the animals themselves reverted back to their original way of behaving. Everything was once more back to normal, just as it had been the first time they'd used the elements on him.
The other ponies said nothing, merely looked over to Fluttershy, who, eyes filling with tears, shut them tightly and walked away.
After a lengthy wait, Princess Celestia had arrived, after having received a letter from Twilight explaining what had happened. The Princess arrived with her accompanying guards and a second chariot. As Twilight was busying herself with explaining the finer details to Celestia, the guards were busy in hoisting the statue form of Discord back onto the chariot. Once in place it was secured with heavy chains in order to prevent it from falling during the long flight home.
Celestia, having heard Twilight's full account of what had happened, closed her eyes and sighed.
Twilight hung her head before her mentor, expecting the Princess to declare how disappointed she was that she and the other had failed in the task she'd set for them. Instead, she felt the Princess' hoof under her chin, gently pulling her face up to look at her.
"You did everything you could. I cannot expect any more of anypony than that."
Celestia's tone was clear. It was not Twilight she was disappointed in, but the situation in general. Twilight had known the Princess long enough to know how upset she must be that an attempt to make someone's life better had failed, however hard they might have tried to do so.
The Princess looked up from her pupil and scoured the area, looking for something. She looked back down at Twilight.
"Where is Fluttershy?" She asked.
Twilight turned from her once more. Fluttershy had not spoken to anypony since Discord's imprisonment. She'd merely taken herself off elsewhere to be alone for a while. Twilight couldn't blame her. But the Princess had asked a question, and she had to answer. She pointed off in the direction of Fluttershy's cottage. Celestia drew her gaze to where Twilight was pointing and gave a nod at her pupil before beginning to walk off alone in that direction. The young unicorn decided it was probably for the best that she not follow.
Celestia took her time in getting to the cottage. She did not want any guards with her for this. This was a moment between her and Fluttershy. A moment between her and the pony she'd charged above all others with completing this task.
Eventually she reached her home. She looked ahead and saw that Fluttershy was sitting outside the cottage, on a log next to a small pond. She barely moved, just looked down into the water, her face obscured by her long pink hair. Celestia knew this wasn't going to be a pleasant exchange for either of them ,but she felt that it was something she had to so. She approached quietly until she was mere feet away from the pegasus. She cleared her throat, alerting Fluttershy to her presence. The yellow pegasus sat up straight and looked straight at her in surprise.
"Oh" Princess! I'm sorry, I didn't know you'd arrived yet." She explained.
Celestia held up a hoof, stopping her. Fluttershy became silent once more as she watched Celestia walk around the log and sit down right next to her. The two looked at each other for a while. Saying nothing, merely listening to the sounds around them.
"Fluttershy. I feel I must apologise to you." Celestia said, breaking the silence.
Fluttershy looked up surprised by what she heard.
"Apologise? For what?" She asked.
Celestia looked rather uncomfortable as she began to speak.
"For what you've had to go through. As one of Equestria's rulers, I have come to view every living thing within this realm as a subject, somepony who needs my protection and for me to do what I can to help them. And in a strange way, I began to view Discord the same way. While he and I have never been friends, to be enemies was never something I wanted. I had hooped that, eventually, he'd come to know just how much better life would be if he'd allow others into his heart besides himself."
Celestia closed her eyes and hung her head.
"But it seems I was wrong. And worse still, I let a responsibility pass to those who should never have been exposed to it. And seeing what pain it has caused you, I feel it is my responsibility to bear the blame for what happened."
Fluttershy looked at her, astounded by this vulnerability she had just showed her. But all she could think about was Discord, how he'd mocked her attempts to make friends with him, how he'd betrayed her, lied to her, discarded her like she was nothing. That pain ate away at her. And what's more, like Celestia she viewed it as her fault that all this happened.
"No Princess. I'm the one who should apologise."
Celestia opened her eyes again and looked down at the yellow pegasus.
"I wanted so badly to make Discord my friend, I blinded myself to what he truly was. Whatever good there might have been in him, he threw away a long time ago. I was naive."
The princess placed her hoof under Fluttershy's chin and pulled her face to look at her.
"No sweet child. You did what it is in your nature to do. The element of kindness chose you for a reason. Of all the ponies in this land, you are possessed of a compassion and willingness to help that is unrivalled by any other. You care for every living thing and want the best for them, from the tiniest blade of grass to the most foul of beasts. That is why I chose you. But kindness it seems, is not enough when faced with one who has none himself."
The remark pained Fluttershy to hear, but not more than the pain she felt from another problem.
"But I was no better than him. I broke a promise. I told him I'd never use my element of harmony against him, and I did when he pushed me too far. I've never broken a promise before, nor did I want to ever."
She looked up at the princess once more, her eyes beginning to water.
"I'm not good enough to be the element of kindness."
Celestia frowned, shaking her head.
"You're wrong Fluttershy. You ARE worthy. But kindness takes many forms. While you may not have been kind to Discord on this day, You were still kind. But your kindness was towards all the ponies of Equestria, whose lives you've saved by doing what you did."
Fluttershy looked away from her, instead turning her gaze towards the small pond once more. Celestia looked at what she could see of her face. Although it was again obscured by her long hair, she knew that expression all too well. It was one she'd worn herself many times when tragedy had struck. A look that showed the poor girl was in pain over what happened, but was holding it back, not wanting to show it to others for fear of being seen as weak.
She knew that no matter how much anypony was going to tell her that what she did was the right thing, she'd regret this action she had to take. She would look back on this day for the rest of her life, and view it as her great failure, her inability to help perhaps the one person in all the world who needed it most. And all because that one person was one who neither sought that help, nor wanted it, instead viewing it as a weakness and a joke.
The princess placed a hoof gently on her shoulder. The pegasus looked up at her again, her eyes welling. Celestia's tone was warm, almost motherly.
"I will not say do not weep. For not all tears are an evil."
And with those words, Fluttershy finally relented. She flung herself and the princess and buried her face in her chest, tears pouring from her face.
"Why?! Why did he do it?! Why did he lie?! Why didn't he want friends?" WHY??!!!"
Her screams of grief and agony could be heard from far around, but the princess merely held her and the pained child let out all her sadness out in this place. Celestia knew all too well what if felt like to try and help others, and to fail at doing so. But she looked down at the weeping mare before her, and did all she could to comfort her, despite knowing that no matter what she did, there could never be anything she could do to ease the pain of betrayal.
Just as there was nothing anypony could do, to save the betrayer.