Pinkie was just putting another batch of turnovers in the oven when a voice behind her said "Boo."
Alertness Pinkie instantly shrieked. Somepony's behind us! Somepony said Boo! Danger danger danger!
Threat Analysis Pinkie took a moment to study the situation. You silly billy, it's just Discord trying to scare us. Don't be such a scaredy pony!
Hey, that's my job! Alertness Pinkie said, offended. Don't call me a scaredy pony!
Pinkie patted Alertness Pinkie on her head. Threat Analysis Pinkie doesn't mean to be a condescending jerk, that's just who she is, she reassured the Extra. Everypinkie's really grateful to you for the job you do! Why don't you go on in and have a dream of a cupcake? I can handle Discord just peachy!
Okay, but Threat Analysis Pinkie needs to stop being such a meanie pants! Just because I get scared when things aren't really dangerous, that's no reason to be mean to me! It's just my job!
Fine, I won't be mean to you, Threat Analysis Pinkie sighed. But you're always setting off false alarms.
But that's my job!
Pinkie ignored the interplay between her Extras, allowing them to fade to the background. "Hiiii, Discord!" she caroled, straightening up as she closed the oven. "Are you here for a cupcake?"
"Oh, no no no no." He handed Pinkie a bouquet of pink flowers – they looked like a cross between tulips and closed rosebuds. "I'm here to give you something!"
Pinkie took the bouquet with glee. Somewhere in the background Alertness Pinkie was wailing about how this might be a trick, but Threat Analysis Pinkie and Pinkie herself concurred that if Discord wasn't really reformed and was doing something meany-weany, there wasn't much Pinkie could do about it, whereas if he really was reformed because of his new friendship with Fluttershy, then being all suspicious of him and stuff would make him feel bad and that was mean to do to a new friend. Also, there might be cotton candy involved, judging from the color of the flowers. "Flowers? Whee! I like flowers! I like balloons better, and also cotton candy, and cupcakes, and waffles, but flowers are nice too!"
"Oh but Pinkie, these are special flowers. Give them a sniff!"
Pinkie gave him a Look. "These aren't some kind of prank flower, are they?"
"You wound me, Pinkie. I have nothing but the most positive of intentions in giving you these flowers! Go on, sniff them."
Pinkie shrugged, and did as he suggested. The flower buds sprung open, which Pinkie had expected, so she managed to push them away from her face in time that the frosted cupcakes which sprang up from inside them didn't mash themselves into her fur. Pinkie's eyes went wide. "Cupcakes!" Despite a thin wail from Alertness Pinkie, she nommed the first cupcake, stuffing it into her mouth. "With cotton candy filling!"
Pinkie tossed the bouquet in the air, leapt over the counter, and hugged Discord. "Cotton candy filling cupcakes! Thank you thank you thank you!" She then leapt back off him in time to grab the bouquet of cupcake flowers before it could hit the ground. "These are AWESOME!"
"You have no idea how much good it does this old draconequus' heart to hear that," Discord said melodramatically, pressing his paw and talon together against his heart, or where his heart probably might possibly be. "Why, the last time I brought a mare a bouquet, she flung it at my feet and cruelly rejected me." He dabbed at his face with a handkerchief that hadn't been there a second ago. "Why, if everypony was as accepting as you, Pinkie, perhaps I would never have been set on my fateful descent into evil and madness. Perhaps all I ever needed was the love and acceptance of a kind mare, to see the good intentions within my chaotic heart."
"What was the punchline?"
"To the bouquet you gave her. Did it squirt water or what?"
"Pinkie, how could you think there was a punchline to such a heartfelt gift?" He swooned onto a fainting couch, managing somehow to be even more melodramatic and less convincing than Rarity. "Why, she was a beautiful mare, and I have always had an eye for beauty! I intended only to give her a gift to demonstrate my everlasting love and affection, and instead she scorned me!"
"It did squirt water, didn't it."
"Of course not! How jejune. As if I would taint such a gift with a ridiculously predictable prank! It's not my fault ponies are all allergic to Poison Joke."
Pinkie giggled. Discord, encouraged by her reaction, chuckled. "You should have seen her face. It was priceless!"
"And for everything else, there's PonyCard!" Pinkie shouted cheerfully.
"Oh, are you doing endorsements too?"
"No, I'm just making random pop culture references! What do you mean, 'too?'"
"Ah. Some carriage insurance company wants me to be their spokesbeing for their advertisements. Apparently they feel that having the avatar of chaos and disharmony warn ponies about the chaotic nature of life and the likelihood of random, unpredictable mayhem is likely to inspire them to buy carriage insurance, or something."
Pinkie shrugged. "It might! I know the Cakes bought extra insurance when they heard about Princess Celestia and Fluttershy trying to reform you, and Financial Security's commissioned an office party for the end of the week to congratulate his employees on how well they're selling policies lately!"
"Is he an earth pony with a cutie mark of a cage around a bag of bits?"
"Yep, that's the one!"
"That explains it, then."
Discord leaned his elbows on the counter, a chocolate milkshake with a mountain of whipped cream on top and a lengthy bendy straw that did loop the loops appearing next to him. "Aside from ponies who know you six personally, like those charmingly chaotic little fillies who are always running around trying to get their cutie marks, exactly three ponies in Ponyville have been willing to speak to me aside from 'Go away' or 'Please, take what you want, just don't hurt me'. Well, two ponies and a zebra. The zebra is polite to me because her people believe in being polite to dangerous spirits; I half expect her to address me with 'Greetings and defiance' one of these days, although that doesn't rhyme so probably not. The earth pony with the hourglass cutie mark is obsessed with time machines and is convinced that I have one... which I do, but that isn't the point. But I never knew why it was that the earth pony whose cutie mark is about locking up money was bothering to say hello to me, and even asking me if I was planning on making my home in Ponyville long-term. You say he's an insurance salespony?"
Pinkie nodded. "Financial Security's a really nice insurance agent! Most other insurers aren't even willing to underwrite anything in Ponyville because of all the weird stuff that happens around here, but he says that's just a great opportunity and he wants to make sure his neighbors don't go without insurance!"
Discord sighed. His milkshake rotated upside down and floated up to him, and he took a deep drink from the bendy straw while Pinkie was talking. "I might have known the only ponies willing to give me the time of day are the ones who think they can get something from me. Though at least old Finny isn't pestering me for anything personally. I suppose I can't hold it against him that he makes his money off the fear of chaos. That is the point to selling insurance, after all."
"So are you gonna do it?"
"The advertisements, silly!"
"What? No. Probably not. I recognize that I can't expect the level of respect from ponies that I got when I ruled Equestria with a jello fist in a teacup glove, now that I've reformed, but stooping to the level of doing endorsements seems particularly pathetic."
"So what are you up to?"
"Up to? You make it sound as if you think I have some nefarious plot in mind."
"No, silly! I mean what's up? What's happening? What's doing? What's going on?"
"Oh. Well, you see, I've come to apologize. To you."
Pinkie put on a stern face. "What did you do?" she asked in her best scolding-a-foal voice.
"No, no, nothing you don't already know about. I've simply come to apologize for the dreadful way I treated you when I first broke free of my stone encasement. "
Pinkie blinked. Reformed or not, the last thing she'd expected from Discord was for him to apologize for anything he'd done before he'd been reformed. He had never shown any sign that he understood that what he'd done in the past was wrong, merely that he shouldn't do it again if he wanted to have ponies be his friends.
"You're apologizing for that?" she asked.
"Why, yes, I am. Are you surprised?" He grinned.
"Surprised? I'm shocked! I'm stunned! I'm amazed! I'm... eh, no, actually, not that surprised."
"No? I must be losing my touch," Discord said, and sighed deeply. "I suppose the ravages of time must wear the edges off of us all, even the immortals."
"But that's a good thing, right? Because if you still had a sharp edge, it would probably mean some part of you was still a rock!" She tapped his talon. "Besides, these still look plenty sharp to me!"
"Well, yes, but you have a hoof. In the country of the hooved, the one-taloned creature is still the sharpest thing around." He was suddenly wearing a tuxedo and mirrorshades, adjusting his bow tie and smirking.
Pinkie ignored this. "I dunno, Princess Celestia's horn is puh-ritt-ty pointy!"
"Oh, please, she can't even pop a balloon with that." Discord, no longer tuxedoed, waved his paw dismissively.
"But why would anypony ever want to pop a balloon?" She gasped. "Does that mean there are balloon murderers among us? Oh, say it isn't so!"
"It isn't so."
"Whew! What a relief!"
"Actually, Pinkie, I just said that because you asked me to. The truth is, there are balloon poppers everywhere!"
Pinkie shrieked and leapt onto Discord, clinging to his neck. "Nooooo!"
Discord pried her loose. "Entertaining as this banter is, I really have come with a purpose." The tuxedo was back, minus mirrorshades, with a balloon corsage shaped like a pink flower tucked in a pocket on his chest. "My dear, may I take you to dinner as an apology for my dreadful behavior?"
Pinkie scrutinized him. "This isn't a date date like a romance thing, right? This is just a friends go out to dinner thing?"
He smirked at her. "I expect anyone with romantic intentions toward me to take me out, Pinkie. After all, I'm the unique one."
"Okay then! The bakery closes at 5!"
"Then shall I be here at 6?"
"In that case, I'll take my leave of you now," he said, bowed, and vanished.
Pinkie put her forehoof to her chin and turned in the direction of the imaginary camera she pretended was filming her life. "Now the real question I had was, should I expect him to show up ridiculously early, or ridiculously late? Or! Maybe he'd realize that the most totally unexpectable thing for him to do would be to arrive on time! I realized then that I needed to be prepared for anything."
Logistics Pinkie piped up from inside, Do you think we need to dress fancy?
"No," Pinkie decided. "If Discord takes us to a fancy restaurant we can ask him for fancy clothes, and then he'll give me something funny to wear, and then I'll laugh at it and surprise him because he thought I'd get mad, and that will be super funny!"
Okie dokie lokie! Then all we need is to get all the baking done before Discord shows up early, and then if he shows up late we can always spend the time doing something else!
Secretary Pinkie nodded. Right, I have more invitation hoof-engravings to prepare! We haven't got any generics for a 2000th birthday or a Happy Two and a Half Year Anniversary Of Coming Home from the Moon!
That one doesn't need a generic, Logistics Pinkie pointed out. We can keep it Princess Luna specific.
But what if some other pony gets sent to the moon and then comes home? We gotta be prepared!
As the Extras argued in the background, Pinkie stepped up her baking, multiplying her recipes by a factor of six with the help of Math Pinkie. There weren't really enough ovens to support the higher production, but if she swapped trays really really fast, she could probably get them all in and baked before Discord showed up.
As she had predicted, Discord showed up early. It wasn't even 5 yet. The Cakes were in the storefront, Mrs. Cake on register and Mr. Cake boxing up merchandise for dinnertime deliveries. Pinkie was in the back, finishing clean-up for the day; nothing new would be baked today. She figured out that Discord had arrived by the short, terrified shrieks from the storefront. Pinkie came bouncing out.
"...not as if I asked you to bake your foals into a pie!" Discord was saying. "I was just asking if – oh, hello, Pinkie! Would you believe your employers didn't even want to tell me if you were here or not?"
Pinkie looked at the Cakes, their rigid bodies, their chattering teeth and bloodless faces under their coats. "It's okay, Mr. and Mrs. Cake! He's reformed!" She looked up at Discord. "Tell them you're reformed."
"I'm reformed!" Discord sang out, arms spread wide. "I have been humbly corrected from my mad, bad ways by the Magic of Friendship!"
"See? He's reformed!" The Cakes did not look convinced. "Discord, can you Pinkie Promise them that you're not going to do anything to hurt them or mess up the bakery?"
"I am deeply wounded by the degree of mistrust I encounter from the ponies in this town," Discord sniffed. "Why, it's as if they don't believe me when I tell them I'm reformed!"
"Well, they'll definitely know you're reformed if you make a Pinkie Promise!" Pinkie said. "Because everypony knows that if somepony breaks a Pinkie Promise, they'll lose their friends! FOREVER!"
"Oh, very well," Discord said huffily. He opened his chest and removed a beating heart, which he drew an X on with a marker. "Cross my heart, hope to fly"—the heart now had wings on it and was fluttering around, chirping – "stick a cupcake in my eye." A cupcake appeared in his paw, and he placed it near his eye, the one with the larger pupil. The pupil shot forward, turning into a wooden cuckoo which was coming out of his eye like a cuckoo clock. It chirped "Pieces of eight!" and devoured the cupcake in a single improbable bite, then went back into his eye. He grabbed the heart and stuck it back in his chest, which he slammed shut as if it were a door.
"See? Nothing to be scared of!" Pinkie assured her employers, and bounced over to Discord. "So you came early! Aha! I won the bet!"
"Who were you betting with?" Discord asked.
"Myself!" Pinkie beamed at him. "I bet that you would show up early, late, or on time, and you came early! So I WIN!"
Discord raised an eyebrow. "I believe the technical term for that is 'hedging your bets.' Don't you consider that a bit... well, rather like cheating?"
"Nooo... How is that cheating?"
"Well, your bet covered most of the possibilities, so there would be only a miniscule chance of losing. One would think you'd prefer a bet with richer stakes."
"What possibilities did I miss?" Pinkie asked plaintively.
"I might have chosen not to show up at all. Or I might have arrived before I asked you if you'd come."
"That counts as early!"
"No, it doesn't. Blatantly violating causality is many things, most of them fun, but it's by no means merely 'early.'"
Pinkie looked back at the Cakes, who were still semi-frozen, shaking, and then at the few patrons sitting in the booths, who looked equally frightened. "Huh, I'll have to remember that. Well, you promised me dinner, mister! Mr. and Mrs. Cake, Discord said he would take me out to dinner after work to apologize, and I know it's early and I wouldn't usually get off for another ten minutes, but if I start ten minutes early tomorrow can I leave early today? I'm almost done with cleanup!"
"Go," Mrs. Cake said, forcing a smile onto her face that looked more like a death rictus. "Go have fun, Pinkie!"
"Take the time!" Mr. Cake said shrilly. "You don't need to come in early tomorrow! Just go have your dinner with your, uh, dinner guest!"
"Technically I believe I am the host, since I invited her," Discord said, causing Mr. Cake to start quaking in earnest again.
"Okay! But you better take me someplace that isn't here, because I eat here for free all the time, so that wouldn't be much of a taking me out present!" Pinkie said. It was important to get Discord out of here so he'd stop scaring the Cakes and the customers, but it was also important that she shouldn't acknowledge that he was terrifying everypony, because it was mean to rub his nose in how scared everypony still was of him if he had really reformed.
"As you wish, mademoiselle," Discord said, suddenly dressed in an old-timey court outfit with a blue beret and tunic and funny puffy pants. He removed the beret, bowed to her while making a sweeping gesture with the paw holding the beret, and when he stood up they were somewhere else, in the lobby of a restaurant. It was made of dark wooden planks with pictures of crabs and lobsters and fish all over the place, and smelled a little bit like the ocean and a lot like food. There was a mare behind a podium-like stand, her purple and yellow mane done up in a beehive.
"Oh, hi there, hons!" the mare said. "Welcome to Something Different!" She came out from behind the stand. Pinkie's eyes went wide. Was she wearing roller skates? "Two for dinner? Do you have a reservation?"
"Oh, no, I've dined here before," Discord said. "I have no reservations about bringing my friend here." He grinned.
The mare rolled her eyes, but she was smiling. "You kidder," she said. "You two want a booth or a table?"
"Table. Your booths aren't, shall we say, ideally suited to my stature. And if I recall correctly, your boss frowns on me randomly altering his furniture."
"You've been here before?" Pinkie asked.
"I have indeed," Discord said.
Pinkie looked into the dining room. "Do all the waitresses here have roller skates?"
"Uh-huh. Every one of us," the mare said. "Follow me, hons."
Must be Baltimare, Navigation Pinkie said. Ocean smell, beehive hairdos, 'hons'... don't they have a roller skating thing too?
Uh-huh! Sports Pinkie said. Earth mares roller derby, best sport ever! Plus the Preakness, plus a hoofball team named after a scary old poem by Edgar Allen Pony, plus a pegasus hoopball team named after turtles.
Really? Pinkie herself thought at her Extras. Were they inspired by Rainbow Dash having a turtle for a pet? I know she's awesome but is she really so famous they'd name a hoopball team after her? We gotta tell her!
Naah, she already knows, and it was their name before she got Tank. But maybe that's why Tank wanted to be her pet so bad! Because he heard about the Flying Terps, and he wanted to be one!
Just in case this goes ridiculously wrong, Navigation Pinkie said, I think I've figured out how to get to the Baltimare train station from here.
The hostess mare led them to a table, gave them a pair of menus, and skated away after informing them that their server would be with them shortly. Discord pulled Pinkie's chair out for her, and pushed it in once she was seated. Pinkie looked up at him, puzzled. "You have manners?"
"Of course I do! Never let it be said that I am an ill-mannered Lord of Chaos."
"But... manners are a bunch of arbitrary and orderly rules made up to let other ponies know that even if you were born in a barn you weren't raised in one. Aren't they kind of opposite-y to Chaos?"
Discord smiled broadly. "Etiquette consists of completely arbitrary and meaningless made-up rules that have been known to change without warning, and if they're not followed to a T, ponies become irate and oppositional toward those they might otherwise have called friends, for no other reason aside from a minor violation of protocol. Rules of etiquette may stand in opposition to Chaos, but they're wonderful tools for Disharmony. Besides, nopony expects me to have good manners."
Pinkie nodded. "Right, so of course you do because nopony would expect it!"
She picked up her menu and perused it. "Huh... rose and forsythia salad, mushroom risotto, beer-battered fried eggplant, spaghetti with alfredo sauce, and Manehattan clam chowder? That's kinda eclectic."
"Come back tomorrow, they'll have something else." Discord removed the back of his menu and folded it out so he could see both sides. Pinkie tried the same thing, but her menu didn't fold that way. "That's why they're called 'Something Different.' They change the menu every day and they don't stick to any one cuisine or style. Also their prices are quite affordable, which from all I've seen is very different from your average city restaurant."
"Funny, I never thought of you as somepony who has to care about bits!"
"Well, since Celestia won't allow me to make my own, I suppose I must." He fluffed his menu again. "I recommend the clam chowder. You won't get clams in Ponyville, after all."
"Huh." Pinkie had known, intellectually, that port cities supported too many sailors and too many non-ponies to stick to strictly vegetarian food like inland locations such as Ponyville did, and it wasn't even the first time she'd seen animal meat on a menu – there were restaurants in Canterlot that specifically catered to omnivores like griffins. After all, how could Manehattan clam chowder even be a thing if they didn't eat clams in Manehattan? "Is it okay for ponies to eat clams, or will I get a huuuge tummy ache? Because I like to try new things, but I'm not a big fan of tummy aches."
Discord looked down at her over the top of his menu. "If anything on the menu gave ponies tummy aches, the chefs and the waitresses would have been the first to know. They get all their meals free here, and they're all ponies." His eyes went wide suddenly as he thought of something. He leaned down. "But don't tell Fluttershy we went to a place that serves clams and other seafood," he said plaintively. "It can be our little secret, okay?"
"My lips are sealed," Pinkie said. "Except not really because how could I eat anything if they really were? I've had my lips sealed a few times, and one time, Trixie took my mouth and threw it in a trash can! That was really annoying. But at least there wasn't a lot of trash in the can so I didn't end up accidentally eating the trash, because that would have been gross. But it wasn't really her fault, because she got corrupted by this super-evil magic amulet."
"Yes, I've noticed ponies always have an excuse like that," Discord said. "'It wasn't my fault, it was the amulet's.' 'It wasn't my fault, it was dark magic.' 'It wasn't my fault, it was nightmare creatures from the moon.' What ever happened to personal responsibility? You'll never see me saying 'It wasn't my fault'. Unless it actually wasn't."
"That's good!" Pinkie said. "Personal responsibility is important if you're reforming! But you weren't really all that evil, anyway. You were a big meanie pants but sometimes kind of fun. Just you aren't careful about your fun being fun for everypony! Fun isn't really fun if ponies don't like it."
"That's where we differ, my dear," Discord said. "Fun is always fun regardless of who is a big stick in the mud who doesn't like it. However," here he sighed dramatically, "I have pledged to try to consider the feelings of boring, party pooping ponies when arranging my fun, since Fluttershy has been good enough to be considerate of my feelings for the first time in probably about two thousand years or so."
Another mare with a beehive manedo came skating up to them. "Hey there hons, can I get you something to drink?"
"Do you have fizzy pink lemonade?" Pinkie asked. "Because I love fizzy pink lemonade!"
"We sure do," the waitress said. "And for you, hon?"
"Pour me a cola. Then pour a chocolate milk into it. Stir, add some seltzer for extra frizz, and put in a thimbleful of cherry syrup. Then I want an anchovy – just one anchovy, mind you – floating on top."
"Hmm. I'll have to check with the kitchen and see if we've got anchovies still – we had anchovy pizza last week, but it was pretty popular, so we might not have the anchovies left."
"If you can't get me an anchovy, I'll take a sprinkling of Old Bay."
"That we can do, hon. I'll have them bring out some bread while I'm mixing up the drinks."
"After I'm done with my fizzy lemonade, can I have what he's having?"
"If you still want that when you're done your fizzy lemonade, just let me know and I'll bring it right out." The waitress skated off.
"They know you here," Pinkie said. "Don't they." She lowered her head and gazed at Discord over the top of her menu, eyeballs up at the top of their sockets because she still had to look up to see him, and besides, the eyeballs-up glower was intimidating looking. At least Maud had always told her so. "I am intimidated by your glower," Maud would say, and Pinkamena would say, "You should be," in her best intimidating voice, and then Maud would agree to help her. Though probably not actually because she'd really been intimidated by Pinkamena.
Discord was obviously not even going to pretend to be intimidated. "Oh, I'm a regular here. How could I possibly pass up the chaotic unpredictability of having someone else come up with a different meal to feed me every time I show up? Of course, I can come up with any number of recipes on my own and snap them into existence, but no matter how hard I try to let the magic just do as it wills, somehow my own thoughts and desires always end up sneaking in there, so it's never quite unpredictable enough."
"You said only three ponies were willing to talk to you, and one of them is really a zebra."
"In Ponyville, I said. They're much more cosmopolitan in Baltimare."
"Also you made Ponyville the Chaos Capital of Equestria. Did you even go to Baltimare?"
Discord shrugged. "I made it rain bananas, but aside from that, I was a little busy. Manehattan's skyscrapers weren't going to wrestle each other without help!" He leaned forward. "They don't even have skyscrapers here. It's a rule, no building is allowed to be more than ten stories tall."
"Really? I always thought Baltimare would be more city-like."
"Well, in comparison to Ponyville, absolutely. But the pegasus population is mostly transient – sailors, you know – so they're not looking for tall apartment buildings to live in, they're looking for streets that are easy to navigate without bumping into buildings. And unlike Manehattan and Fillydelphia and Canterlot, the baseline population here's mostly earth pony. Farming, fishing and heavy industry. There are a lot of unicorns coming in for new jobs in the biomancy sector, but—"
"Biomancy. Life magic. Medical research, basically. John Trotkins Hospital and University, and all that. Have you ever been to Baltimare before?"
"One time I went to see the Preakness with Applejack when we were fillies 'cause Big Mac took us 'cause their cousin Dutch Apple was racing. He lost, though." The bread arrived. Half of it was cheesy biscuits, and half of it was pumpernickel raisin slices. Pinkie took one of each. "Sounds like you come here a lot, though!"
Discord shrugged. "Equestria's a much bigger place than Ponyville and Canterlot, and I don't intend to confine myself to a single tiny spot of it. And cities are fun. Much more chaotic than the countryside. Especially cities that aren't Canterlot, which has to make the top ten list of most boring cities in, well, anywhere."
Pinkie nodded. "It's all the stuffy nobles. You can't really have a lot of great fun if you're spending all your time so dressed up you can barely move! The Grand Galloping Gala was so boring before ponies loosened up after we got there!"
"I know," Discord smirked. "I was there."
"Well, yeah, but you were a statue."
"I could hear everything, though. I must thank you and your friends for the entertainment; it was so rare to encounter any really good chaos anywhere near Canterlot Gardens. In fact, I probably have the six of you to thank for my initial freedom; it was those charming little fillies that gave me the last push to get loose, but without all the chaos you created at the Gala, I doubt three fighting foals would have given me enough juice to get loose."
Pinkie giggled. "You made a rhyme!"
"Well, it isn't a crime," Discord said. "At least, unlike zebras, I don't do it all the time."
"What are you going to get?" Pinkie flapped her menu.
"Everything." Discord grinned.
Pinkie leaned forward, widening her eyes. "Everything?"
"Then can I get everything too?"
"Can you put the food you don't eat in temporal stasis so it will be every bit as delicious later on when you're feeling peckish and want a midnight snack?"
Pinkie thought about that one hard. "Wellllll... if I stick them in my mane they won't go bad... but they will get cold... and I can't put the soup there, it might spill... sooo, I guess not?"
"So then two questions remain: will you be able to eat everything if you order everything, and how do you feel about wasting Princess Celestia's bits on food you won't eat?"
That brought Pinkie up short. "Princess Celestia gave you bits to take me out and apologize to me?"
"No, of course not, don't be silly!" Discord waved a paw dismissively. "Princess Celestia gives me bits to bribe me into using my magic to do incredibly, painfully tedious things." He sighed and made sad puppy eyes. "She has me finding open dimensional gates and weakened borders, and closing them. Can you imagine anything more dull? At least if I was opening them, something interesting might come through."
Pinkie's face scrunched. I don't like the sound of that, Navigator Pinkie said. "Are you getting rid of all the holes?"
"Oh, heavens, no. Our world's natural state is to be riddled with dimensional gates... most of them to the realm of chaos, and heavens, I'm certainly not going to close them." He smirked at her. "Your mane is perfectly safe, my dear."
"Whew! If I couldn't store an emergency flugelhorn, who knows what would happen if parasprites showed up out of nowhere again!"
"Parasprites? Ha, they'd be no tribble at all," Discord said, or something that sounded like that, making another dismissive gesture.
"Not with my trusty flugelhorn, they wouldn't be!" Pinkie frowned. "But isn't using your magic for Princess Celestia the exact reason she had Fluttershy reform you so we could let you go? So don't you owe it to her to do that work even if it's boring?"
"And how exactly would I buy lunch if I was working for mere gratitude?"
"With a snappy snap!" Pinkie demonstrated by snapping her hoof. Discord stared.
"Well, color me impressed," he said, gaze fixed on the hoof she'd just snapped.
"What? You do it all the time," Pinkie said.
"Yes, but I have fingers. You're a pony."
At this point, the drinks arrived, and the waitress took their orders. Pinkie went with the clam chowder and the salad, just in case the clam chowder wasn't tasty, because she'd never actually eaten forsythia before. Of course that raised the possibility that neither the clam chowder nor the forsythia would be tasty, but at least she liked roses. Discord, as promised, ordered everything. The waitress seemed wholly unfazed by this.
After she was gone, Discord said, "So, Pinkie, I'm deeply curious about something." He sipped at his concoction.
"I am too! Mostly about how that tastes! Can I try it? Also, did they give you the anchovy?"
Discord pushed the glass over to her, a second, much longer straw with multiple loop-de-loops and spirals appearing in the drink, pointing toward Pinkie. "Feel free. And yes, but there's only one, so you can't have it."
"Oh, I figured the anchovy was just there for flavor, so I definitely wasn't going to eat it," Pinkie said. "Anyway, isn't an anchovy a fish?"
Discord gave Pinkie a Look. "You ordered the clam chowder too!"
Pinkie rolled her eyes. "It's not like I don't know what sharp teeth and griffon arms mean, Discord," she said. "I'm not going to tattle on you to Fluttershy if you eat a fish! Besides, didn't you know Fluttershy feeds fish to some of her animal friends?"
Discord sighed. "I'm not one of her animal friends. I'm a sapient friend. I suspect she may have different standards for me than she has for a bear or a raccoon. Besides, I do have personal rules about this sort of thing."
"I try not to eat anything that requires killing a living animal. Death isn't any fun whatsoever, and a dead creature can't cause chaos." He shrugged. "On the other hand, clams generally don't cause any chaos in the first place."
"But fish can!"
"Yes, well, the problem is that even rules I make for myself are rules and I can't tolerate having too many rules I don't break. Now that I have rules about having to worry about, ugh, pony feelings, I have to break some of the others or I get... itchy."
"Right. Like how I get itchy when things get too quiet or too dull?"
"Probably very much like that." He tapped his glass. "What do you think?"
"Of the drink?" Pinkie took a small sip from the lengthy loopy straw, and then a large sip. "Yummy! But it really needs some ice cream."
"Pistachio?" Discord snapped his talon, and a ball of green ice cream was suddenly floating in the drink.
"I was thinking vanilla, but this might work." Pinkie took another big sip. "Mmm, nice. Here, it's your drink." She pushed the straw away. "You'd better take it, I'll drink the whole thing if I don't stop now!" To distract herself from the tasty cherry chocolate cola ice cream anchovy float, she took another cheesy biscuit.
"So I was wondering, how do you manage to accomplish something as organized as a party?"
Pinkie blinked. With her mouth full, she said, "Why ould at ee a rohlem?" She swallowed. "Or are you asking how you could do it? Because I warn you, nopony takes away Pinkie Pie's 'greatest party pony ever' title, even if they're not a pony."
"No, I meant you, specifically." He smirked at her. "You mean you never figured it out?"
"Figured out what?"
"Don't you ever wonder how it is that you can pull off feats of improbability that the most powerful of unicorns can't manage?" asked Discord, grinning widely at her.
That got her a look of total disbelief. "'Nope'?"
"See, if I had a long snaky body and all kinds of mixed-up animal parts, I'd probably spend a lot of my time thinking about the ways I'm different from other ponies too, so it's totally normal for you to think a lot about that, which probably means you really shouldn't do it because it makes sense and you don't like to make sense, but anyway I don't like to think about being different from other ponies because I am a pony, just like them, and every pony is different. So nope! I just don't worry about that."
"You've never been even slightly curious why it is that you can do things that no other pony can?"
"Nope!" Which wasn't true, but Threat Analysis Pinkie was adamant that the one thing Pinkie must not do was show Discord a weak spot where he could drive a wedge between her and other ponies. Maybe he was truly and completely and totally reformed, but why take chances? "Every pony says that's just me being me, and I can't be anything other than me, so why worry about it? I can let Twilight drive herself nutsy cuckoo trying to figure stuff out, but for me, I'm just me being me!"
"You're actually you being a chaos user, Pinkie," Discord said dryly.
Pinkie sipped her lemonade. "Are you trying to say you're related to me? Because I've seen my family tree drawn out for ten generations, and there's no draconequuses in it."
Discord grinned. "There wouldn't be. We can't interbreed with ponies without magic, and there's only me anyway. But chaos magic isn't unique to draconequui, and most draconequui didn't have access to chaos magic anyway. The ability to use chaos magic is natural and pops up randomly within all magic-using species."
"A unicorn using chaos magic would be a chaos mage, but you're no mage – mages have full conscious control of the magic they're performing, and some concept of how it works. You're a chaos magic user, Pinkie. You don't know how you do what you do, you just do it – but what you're doing is using chaos magic." He spread something that was green, but smelled like strawberries and peaches, on a pumpernickel slice. "In particular you're very adept at using inter- and intra-dimensional spaces. You also sense ebbs and flows in random chance and notice dramatic shifts toward probability – when the randomness of chaos crystallizes into predictability, you feel it through your body, the way any other earth pony would feel their earth pony magic. I think you possess some perceptions even I lack."
"But we're not related, right? Because my parents would get totally freaked out if it turned out we were all part draconequus."
"Is that your only reaction?" Discord sighed. "I tell you that your magic is the same kind of magic that made me a hated outcast in the first place, and all you're worried about is if you're part draconequus, which isn't even possible? Well, strike that, it's possible, it's just incredibly unlikely."
"I've been using whatever it is I've been using since I first got my cutie mark, and I've been using it to brighten up everypony's life and bring fun and friendship. If what I'm using to do that is chaos magic, then great! Because if a pony can use chaos magic to make ponies happy, a draconequus could too, which means you could be bringing fun and happiness to ponies too!"
Discord rolled his eyes. "I'm not here to spread fun and friendship," he said. "Spirit of Disharmony, remember?"
"But if I'm using chaos magic and I'm an Element of Harmony, then chaos can't be dis-harmony..."
"It's not. They're two different things."
"Huh, really? Great! So you could stop being the Spirit of Disharmony but still be the Spirit of Chaos and use chaos to help harmony!"
Now he was scowling. "And why would I want to do that? Harmony turned me to stone for more than a thousand years!"
"But it let you go, too."
"No, Fluttershy let me go. The rest of you would have let me rot."
"But you're out now, and you're trying to have friends. Don't you need harmony to have friends?"
"Do you agree with everything your friends think?"
"No, but if I did, it wouldn't be harmony," Pinkie said. "That would be sameness, and sameness is super boring! But, like, if I play a drum—" she pulled out an emergency bongo drum and an emergency saxophone –"and I play on the drum—" She beat out a quick staccato rhythm. "And then I play a horn—" Still playing the drum, she put the sax to her mouth and did a quick solo. "That's two completely different instruments playing two completely different patterns, but together they make music, and that's harmony! Lots of room for friends to be different or to disagree!"
"All well and good in music," Discord said, still scowling, "but harmony between friends is damaged or destroyed by conflict. And life without conflict is tyranny. Maybe it's imposed from without by an actual tyrant, like Sombra. Maybe it's imposed from within by some sort of mind control spell that makes all the ponies think the same. But either way, where there is freedom there is conflict, and that is disharmony."
Pinkie shrugged. "You'd have to talk to Twilight if you want to get all philosophy-full. I'm just here because you promised me dinner!"
"Point taken," Discord said grudgingly. He snapped a talon, and the waitress appeared, wobbling wildly because she'd been in mid-skate. "When can we expect our food?" he demanded.
"I-it takes a while to cook 'everything'," the waitress stammered.
"You're being rude, Discord," Pinkie said. "Rude is not fun, or funny!"
"It never takes this long for food to come out," Discord snapped.
Pinkie was fairly sure that wasn't true – it hadn't been that long since they ordered. "You did order a zillion kajillion things to eat," she pointed out. "That takes time."
"It didn't take this much time the last time I ordered everything on the menu."
"Well, maybe it's because they have to cook for me too! If you're hungry I have an idea." She turned to the waitress. "Can we start getting food out as it finishes, without waiting for it to all come at once? That way we won't be so hungry, and maybe he'll stop being a cranky meanie who teleports ponies without asking."
"I'll see what I can do," the waitress said, and skated off.
"You have to be nicer to ponies," Pinkie said. "These ponies aren't scared of you, and they talk to you, and take your order, and don't turn all trembly and lose the ability to talk. You already said hardly anypony in Ponyville treats you this way, so it's special and you have to try to keep it! If you scare the waitresses, it won't be long before they treat you just the same at this place as they do in Ponyville!"
Discord looked downcast, his head sagging down. "I apologize," he said. "I – it just seems like it's taking a very long time."
"Well, that's what bread is for!" Pinkie stuffed two pumpernickel slices into her mouth at the same time.
"What I was trying to ask, before I realized you didn't know you're a chaos user, is how you manage to function, performing tasks that require so much scheduling and order. You follow recipes. You go to work at the time your employers choose. You must be scheduling parties and sending invitations and all that sort of nonsense all the time. But chaos mages – even chaos users – are notoriously disorganized and spontaneous, following the whim of the moment, and I see you doing that. I see you chasing random balloons when you probably should be doing something more, ugh, productive, I see you chatting endlessly with customers rather than concentrating on your baking... I even see you attempting to open and climb through my windows. Which, by the way, stop that."
Pinkie giggled. "You're the one who put a window in the Cakes' kitchen!"
"Yes, but I intended it to spy on you. Not have you open it up and find yourself in some random place chosen by chaos. Do you have any idea what Fluttershy would do to me if you got yourself lost someplace in my home and I had to admit I couldn't find you? She'd blame it on me. All of your friends would. And none of them would believe me that you can take care of yourself and that you'd probably eventually find your way home."
"I'll stop trying to open it and climb through when you stop trying to pretend I can't see you back there when I see you watching."
Discord sighed. "Deal." He opened his paws flat, upwards, on the table. "But that's exactly the sort of behavior I expect from a chaos user. Twilight might be puzzled as to how your Pinkie Sense works and where you put objects that you stick in your mane and how you manage to appear out of nowhere and such, but I know exactly how you do those things – in some cases, I know the how of it better than you do. What I don't understand is how you can also do work that requires order and precision and paying attention to detail! I've never met a chaos mage that could, and chaos users tend to be even more disorganized, since they don't need any conscious knowledge of how they do what they do."
"It's because harmony and friendship need chaos and order," Pinkie said seriously. "I get by with a little help from my friends!"
"Your friends don't do anything to help with your party business, aside from you occasionally ordering apple products from Applejack or banners from Rarity or suchlike."
"That's not the friends I mean," Pinkie said. "I can tell you a secret, but only if you Pinkie Promise not to tell anypony else."
"Oh, must I? I've already done that silly little ritual once today."
"Well, the only other way is for you to give me a secret too, that way if you tell my secret I can tell your secret. But it has to be a juicy secret! It can't be just 'I sleep with a teddy bear' or something like that, it has to be something that would really embarrass you if it got out!"
"I suppose your stupid little ritual isn't that terrible," Discord mumbled.
"You don't wanna tell me a secret?"
"No, why would I want to do that? If I were keeping a secret, one would presume it would be something I didn't want to share, or why would it be a secret?"
"Because friends trust each other, so friends share their secrets!"
"But you plainly don't trust me, because you're demanding that I either perform a special promise that is supposedly unbreakable, or else give you a secret to ensure mutual potential blackmail."
"Well, of course I can't trust you, silly billy," Pinkie said. "Spirit of Disharmony, remember? You may be reformed, but what if you got mad one day and deformed?"
"I can deform any time I want to," Discord said, turning into something like Silly Putty and letting his body stretch and squish in weird directions. "That doesn't mean I'll tell somepony's secrets."
"Here you go!" The waitress arrived with Pinkie's soup and salad, and Discord's soup, salad and spaghetti. "The other courses are on their way, but we took your suggestion about bringing out the courses that were ready first." She didn't look at Discord, but didn't acknowledge in any other way that he was squished and stretched putty at the moment. Discord snapped back to his normal shape.
"Thank you, my dear," he said. "It looks quite delicious."
For a few minutes neither of them spoke, because Pinkie was too busy scarfing down her salad – it turned out forsythia blossoms were delicious, though they were served on sticks and she had to essentially run the stick through her mouth to scrape the blossoms off the wood – and Discord was busily taking his salad and spaghetti and mixing half of them into the clam chowder, then eating the resulting mess.
As she ate, Pinkie considered the pros and cons of telling him about the Extras. On the one hand, he wasn't willing to give her a secret in exchange, and while he'd expressed a grudging willingness to consider Pinkie Promising, she had to admit that extracting too many promises from the Spirit of Chaos in one day might do unpleasant things to him. Promises weren't very chaotic, after all. And he'd already admitted that he had to compensate for being bound by new rules by breaking the old ones he had for himself. A rule not to eat any creature that had been alive wasn't so bad to break if he broke it with clams and anchovies, but what if he broke a rule like don't eat any of Fluttershy's animals? That would be awful! So she couldn't in all conscience make him Pinkie Promise, which meant she probably shouldn't tell him anything, because she couldn't trust him not to blab.
On the other hand... maybe it wasn't so important to keep the Extras secret anymore. After all, her friends had all seen her at probably her craziest when she was Pinkamena and super sad and lonely and having parties for rocks like she used to do on the farm before she ran away. And they'd seen her when Discord himself had messed her up and made her hate everything. And she'd seen them in equally compromising situations, such as the time Fluttershy went crazy at the Gala trying to get the animals to love her, or the time Applejack had driven herself exhausted to the point of stupidity and had, while helping Pinkie bake, poisoned the entire town with baked bads. Or the time Twilight had made all the ponies in town go crazy over a doll so she could write a friendship report. How could any of her friends get upset with her about the Extras when they'd all seen all that? So even if Discord did blab, it probably wouldn't do anything bad. And if the reason he was asking was that he was trying to figure out how he could do normal things like ponies and have a normal life while still being a chaos mage, maybe she could help him! Maybe giving him the information would speed him along on his reformation and make him more trustworthy.
She took a deep breath. "If you really wanna know how I do it, I'll tell you," she said. "Because you're not going to x-ray me or hook me up to a machine or stuff and you're not going to think I'm weird because you're already the weirdest creature in existence and anyway you like weird. But even if you won't Pinkie Promise, you have to at least regular promise not to tell anypony except maybe Fluttershy and if you tell her she has to promise not to tell anypony else, okay? Because I don't want my friends to think I'm weird and I don't want Twilight to go coco-loco again trying to study me or something!"
"I can do that," Discord said. "Very well, I solemnly swear that I am up to – wait, no, wrong oath. In brightest day, in blackest – no, no, still the wrong one." Pinkie giggled. She got those references. "Fine. I promise I will not tell anypony what you reveal to me in confidence, and if I absolutely have to tell somepony for some reason, I will tell Fluttershy, and require that she promise not to tell anyone else."
"Okay!" Pinkie picked up her bowl of soup and slurped the last of it. "Do you think there's a dessert menu?"
"I know for a fact that there are desserts, but there isn't a menu. You go up front, look in the dessert case, see what they have today, and order something from that."
"Okie dokie lokie! You have, like, three more courses coming, or something, so I'll go order a dessert, and then I'll tell you my secret!"
As it turned out, though it was very hard to choose between tiramisu, naponyons, and bread pudding with vanilla custard, Pinkie finally settled on something she couldn't get in Ponyville –jello. Gelatin being a product made from animal bones, it wasn't easy to acquire in vegetarian Ponyville. And they had three flavors! So she ordered all three right there at the dessert counter, grape, lime and cherry. When she returned, the waitress was topping off their drinks and bringing Discord his fried eggplant.
"Can I have a drink like he had, but without the anchovy, but with pistachio ice cream?" Pinkie asked.
"Sure thing, hon!"
"And I just ordered dessert at the counter, do I have to go back to the counter to get it or—"
"Oh, no, I'll bring it right to you soon as it's out. It probably won't take longer than it takes to make the drink."
"At this rate, I'm wondering if they have to hand-craft every single grain of rice in the risotto, like pegasi making snowflakes," Discord muttered after she left.
"Don't be a big baby, you got your fried eggplant!"
"Yes, but I have no risotto to put on top of it."
"So dip it in your clam chowder!"
"Hmm." Discord tried that. "Not bad. See, I knew there was a reason I liked you."
Pinkie picked up her napkin and folded it into an origami pony. "When I was a little filly, see, I lived on my parents' rock farm, and all of us farmed rocks." She used her napkin filly to push around a cheesy biscuit. "It was super duper boring! But I bet nopony needs to tell you how boring rocks are!"
Discord shuddered. "Indeed."
"When I was little, I had my Granny Pie to help me, and she taught me that I could use laughter and fun to make any kind of job go easier, even just pushing rocks around all day. But then she got sicker and had to stay inside and not work anymore, and I got older and my father said I should work outside with the rocks and my sister Marble could take care of Granny 'cause she was the youngest and too little to push the rocks, and it turned out, my parents didn't really approve of laughter and fun either. All they wanted me to do was work hard and concentrate on my work, but, I mean, how do you concentrate on rocks? Unless you're my sister Maud, 'cause she loves rocks, but if you don't love rocks then rocks are super boring! So my dad was always yelling at me for daydreaming and trying to make up things to make the work fun."
"Your parents sound like regular party animals," Discord said with a sniff of disgust.
Pinkie shook her head. "Oh, no no, they disapproved of parties too!"
Discord manifested a pair of librarian glasses so he could gaze sternly at her from slightly above them. "Pinkie, don't try to play straight mare and pretend you don't get sarcasm. I know you better than that."
Pinkie tittered nervously. "That works on lots of ponies..."
"It doesn't work on me. I know you too well. So go on! How did you ever escape this life of mind-numbing tedium to become the cheerful party pony you are today, and why haven't you tried to ax murder your parents yet in revenge for your childhood suffering?"
"That's not funny, Discord." Pinkie scowled at him. "I love my parents. Just because they're really different from me and they don't understand me doesn't mean they don't love me! They thought they were doing what was best for me. They were wrong, but that wasn't their fault."
"Well, whose fault was it, then?"
"Nopony's fault. Sometimes parents just don't understand a foal, and the foal doesn't understand them! That isn't anypony's fault, it just happens. Didn't your parents ever not understand you? That wouldn't have been a good reason for you to hurt them!"
At the sudden stricken look on Discord's face, Pinkie realized that she might have stepped in something. She knew nothing about Discord's past or if he'd even had a childhood. Wanting to distract him from whatever painful memory her thoughtless words might have evoked, she plowed on. "So anyway! I had to make myself lots of imaginary friends to play with, so I could get through my day! Even with them I was sad and bored all the time, and super lonely, but not as lonely as I would've been without imaginary friends. Then I got my cutie mark when I saw Rainbow Dash's Sonic Rainboom, and it was so pretty and lit up the world with all the colors and I thought to myself how I wanted to light up everything with colors, just like that, and make everypony happy and cheerful. My parents were even okay with my throwing myself a cuteceñera, and a party for Marble's birthday a couple of weeks after that, but then they said no more parties, it was distracting us from the work and I was spending too much time on them. But all I wanted to do was throw parties. And they didn't want me to throw any! So I had to run away."
"And who wouldn't? I thought you ponies were all about fulfilling your destiny and carrying out the will of your cutie mark and all that."
"Most ponies are! But my family... they're a little different. They thought, the work comes first. But I didn't even want to do that work, and I was sad because I didn't want to leave my family, and scared because I'd never been off the rock farm by myself. And I didn't have any bits, or supplies, because I didn't want to steal anything from my family because they needed that stuff! And it turns out it is a very, very long way to Ponyville from my family's rock farm when you're a filly, going on foot, eating grass and stuff and being scared of wild animals." She sighed. "But it was also so fun to be out in the open, in a place that had grass and trees and animals – the rock farm doesn't have a lot of things growing on it besides rocks. And it was like you said, it was hard to concentrate! I wanted to smell all the plants and taste them all and bounce and run and climb the trees, because everypony says earth ponies can't climb trees but I can totally climb trees, but I was scared of animals, and dragons even though there weren't any because I didn't know there weren't any, and creatures that don't even exist, and mean ponies because my parents always told me I shouldn't leave the farm by myself because mean ponies might take me away. And I didn't know whether to be scared or happy! So I made my first two Extras."
"Extra Pinkies!" The jello, and her drink, arrived. Pinkie slurped a cube of each kind of jello and a deep draught of her drink before returning to her story. "I figured out how I could make parts of my head act like imaginary friends, except that imaginary friends were different ponies and the Extras were always me, and make them do the jobs I didn't want to do because they would be happy doing those jobs. So the first one I made were Alertness Pinkie, who would watch for anything that might be even a little bit scary and tell me if it was. Except she was scared of everything and kept interrupting my daydreaming and playing to tell me something was scary when it really wasn't, like a squirrel. So I made Threat Analysis Pinkie to look at the things Alertness Pinkie was scared of and tell me if they were really scary or not. And I also... kinda made myself. I mean, I'm me, I've always been me, but when I was on the farm I was sad all the time, and then when I wasn't on the farm anymore and I was headed to Ponyville I would still keep getting sad and feeling guilty because I left my parents. So I decided that I would be the cheerful me, who is Pinkie, and that Pinkamena would be the sad me and I just wouldn't be her and that way I wouldn't have to be sad!"
"You gave yourself multiple personalities?" Discord took a bite of his glass and crunched it in his mouth. "That's certainly impressive."
"Not really. I mean not really multiple personalities. Because after Princess Luna got turned back to herself, and me and my friends all went to Twilight's library to talk about everything that had happened, Twilight was talking about Luna and Nightmare Moon being different personalities, and I got scared because I thought what if one of my Extras turns evil and wants to make the parties never end? Because sometimes I wish they would never end, but ponies have to sleep sometime, and if life was an endless party then parties would eventually get boring and that would be horrible! So I read some of Twilight's books about multiple personalities, but I don't think I really have multiple personalities. All of the Extras are me, they're just... other mes, with different skills than I have, but they all help me and work together to make sure that the me me can do what we all want, which is to make ponies happy and be funny and bring joy and laughter and parties! Like, I have a Sports Pinkie, because sports is... really kinda boring. But there are lots of ponies who love it, so to make them happy I need to know something about it, so I have Sports Pinkie for that. She loves sports and she knows all about them. And I have Math Pinkie to do math in my head, and Logistics Pinkie to work out the details of things like what I need to do to plan a party, and Secretary Pinkie writes all the invitations because writing the same thing over and over again is super boring and also it hurts your hoof, but it has to be done to have a good party, and she likes to do it so when she's doing it I can daydream about more fun things and for her the time really flies because she loves doing it. But none of them are, like, evil or anything! The only one that's even bad to be is Pinkamena, and even Pinkamena doesn't like it when I'm Pinkamena, so she tries to stay asleep all the time."
Discord shook his head. "Only you, Pinkie."
"Is that weird?" Pinkie asked plaintively.
"It's nothing short of astonishing, and I have no idea how you did it, but no, it's not weird, not by my standards. Of course, by my standards, the weirdest thing that has ever existed is a small yellow pegasus who wants to make me tea and chat about her animals like I'm not a god of chaos, so interpret that how you will." He sighed. "Most ponies – most beings – aren't capable of subdividing their consciousness and applying an ego-like controller mechanism to the subprocesses of their mind that allows their conscious mind to have conversations with that subprocess. Never mind the part about making entities within your own mind that enjoy doing things that are objectively tedious and horrible when you are the sort of pony who hates doing things that are tedious and horrible."
"Well, it has to have a point to it that I like," Pinkie said. "Invitations are boring but they lead to a great party where everypony's included. Pushing rocks around just leads to making rocks."
"You don't really make the rocks, though."
"Well, we do make the rocks. Before we farmed it it was still a rock, but after we farm it it's a living rock, and it's full of energy and makes other things live, and you can even make it a pet rock. So we sort of make the rocks."
"Isn't making things alive supposed to be how earth pony magic works? You're not very much of an earth pony if you don't care about making things alive, are you," Discord needled. Pinkie knew he was just trying to get under her skin, though.
"Earth ponies also care about making food! I care a lot about that! Anyway, you said I use chaos magic, not earth pony magic."
"You do both, actually, but your chaos magic is stronger."
"But it's not because of chaos magic that I could make the Extras? Is that what you're saying?"
"It probably is because of chaos magic, but... it's not a feat I can see how to replicate. I know what you're doing; you're altering the balance of your personality when you create an Extra. That's how I turned all of you against your Element, and how I do most of my so-called 'mind control' tricks, that and illusions. But you're actually making copies of yourself, in your mind. It's too bad you didn't think of your Extras when you made more selves with the mirror pool; they might have been almost tolerable then."
"You were a statue then, mister. How do you know about that?"
"I have my ways," Discord smirked.
"So you couldn't make Extras of yourself, then? If you tried?"
Discord sighed. "I could probably figure it out, if I didn't think it would be an exceptionally bad idea." He smiled at her, but there was sadness in it. "You're a very forgiving and kind pony, to endure what you did at your parents' hooves and still love them. I... am not. And I don't like to think what might happen if I started personifying individual parts of my consciousness, but I can't help but think it wouldn't lead to anything good."
"Oh! Well, then I guess you shouldn't do it!"
"I guess not." He slurped the last of his drink. "Where is that risotto?"
Pinkie waved a foreleg and caught the waitress' eye. "Hi! Can we get a drink refill for him, and do you know when his risotto is coming up?"
"It should be just another minute or two," the waitress said. "I'll bring the drink refill right over."
"Why is it rude when I do it but not when you do?" Discord asked.
"Because I didn't teleport her, I just got her attention. And I asked in a nice way, with a nice tone of voice and not being all demandy. You could learn to do that too!"
"It seems like so much work."
Pinkie changed the subject. "So how come you didn't come to your party?"
Discord frowned. "What party?"
"The one I had for you because you reformed! I know you knew about it, I told you right before you met with Princess Celestia and told her about being reformed!"
"Oh. That." Discord's tone was flat.
"How come you didn't come? I had to change it to a Yay For Fluttershy For Reforming Discord party in the middle when I was sure you weren't going to show! It's rude not to go to a party in your own honor, don't you know that?"
"It's not enough that you defeated me, you expected me to show up at a party to celebrate it?" Discord said sourly.
"We defeated you? When? I mean, aside from a year and a half ago or something when we turned you to stone, but that wasn't what the party was about! If it was, it would have been really late."
"My reformation was a defeat, Pinkie." He sighed. "Don't get me wrong, if you're going to defeat me I much prefer the method of giving me something I want even more than I want chaos than the method of turning me to stone, but I played a mind game against Fluttershy, and I lost. And she even made me not care so much about losing. If that's not a defeat I don't know what is."
Pinkie was floored. "But... but... making friends is a good thing! Sure, sometimes you have to make compromises and stuff because when you have a friend you want them to be happy too, but it's still worth it!"
"I didn't say it wasn't worth it," Discord said sharply. "Obviously I think it's worth it or I wouldn't have done it. It's just... in a thousand years, I never had to compromise. I could do anything I wanted, whenever I wanted, and there was no one who could make it worth my while to listen when they told me no. Then a thousand more years in stone. And now I'm finally out and free and I still can't do what I want, because I found something more important to me than Chaos and do you hear the words coming out of my mouth? Nothing's supposed to be more important to me than Chaos."
"What do you mean who said?"
"Who said nothing could be more important to you than Chaos? Because I really, really love parties, but if I had to give up parties to save a friend's life, I'd do it! I'd be sad but my friend would be worth it! And even if it was more like you, where I had to have less parties in order to keep my friends... I could probably figure out how to still have fun even with less parties! Because nopony ever said you had to give up Chaos, just, do less of it, and don't do the kind that hurts ponies, and stop if your friends tell you you're going wacky with it! Nopony said parties had to be the most important thing in my life, and nopony told you Chaos had to be the most important thing! Or did they? Did someone give you the job of being the Spirit of Chaos? Did you have to go for a job interview with tuxedo pants on your horns and a jacket wrapped around your waist like a skirt? 'Cause if I was giving an interview for Spirit of Chaos I'd expect the ponies applying to do something like that!"
Discord snickered. "Now you tell me. I didn't wear any sort of tuxedo to my job interview. What a missed opportunity!"
"But seriously. It's your life, you can live it any way you want, can't you? Is somepony going to come take your powers away if you don't make enough chaos?"
"Well then! If you want friendship to be more important than Chaos, let it!"
He put his head in his paws and his elbows on the table. "It just seems like such a dire compromise, and I get only one friend out of it. She's worth it, but still."
"Wait, only one friend? What do you call me, mister, chopped liver?"
"I call you Pinkie, most of the time. Or Pinkie Pie. Occasionally 'Element of Laughter' or 'the pink one.'"
Pinkie giggled. "Okay, walked into that one! But I thought you got six friends, not one!"
"Really?" A bushy white eyebrow raised until it seemed like it would float off Discord's head. "Rarity and Applejack don't trust me, Rainbow Dash mistrusts and hates me. Maybe you count as a second friend, but that would be all."
"What about Twilight?"
"Twilight hates me." Discord shook his head. "She made it clear just yesterday that she thinks I'm a... well, the concept isn't fit for polite company, so let's just say it's simultaneously horrifying, disgusting and pathetic. And she seriously thinks I would stoop to that level. She's terrified of me, not because of what I've done but because of what her sick imagination thinks I might do."
Do I want to know what he's referring to? Pinkie asked the Extras.
Threat Analysis Pinkie responded. Nope. Definitely not.
Okie dokie! "I think she's scared of you because of what you did do, and maybe she thinks the thing she thinks you might do is something like what you did do? I mean... you made us all into meany pants that nopony would want to be friends with, and we were her first real friends, and you made us turn on her. And she almost gave up! And she was super sad and depressed! But—" Don't finish that sentence! Threat Analysis Pinkie and Alertness Pinkie interrupted, at the same time, and Pinkie gulped more jello to cover for it. Whew! She'd been just about to tell Discord how the friendship letters had saved Twilight! After he'd admitted that he thought of being reformed as a defeat! That wouldn't have been good. "But her feelings of friendship were strong enough that she could get over it, but she almost didn't! So probably that's why she's scared of you. You were a really big meanie."
"And that's why I wanted to apologize," Discord said. "I was doing what I thought I had to do to stay out of stone, but... I never wanted to corrupt Laughter. The world needs more laughter and fun, not less. It actually... made me a bit sad, seeing what I had done to you, and I even considered undoing it, but I feared that if you weren't corrupted then you'd find a way to get through to the others and then the Elements would be back working again."
"Well, I think that's the main reason that the others don't like you," Pinkie said. "So just apologize to them, like you did to me, and they'll be your friends too!"
Discord stared at her. "Why would I want to do that?"
"More to the point, why would you want me to do that? I know you're not the Element of Honesty, but is any member of the Elements of Harmony supposed to advocate out-and-out lying?"
"What do you mean, lying?"
"Well, I can't apologize for something that I'm not sorry for," he said. "I cheated with Fluttershy – she should have beaten me, but I broke my own rules to defeat her, so I regret that deeply. And I regret what I did to you. But Rarity? Come on, now, that was hilarious!" He started to giggle. "I mean, I intended to make her greedy, but... she named the rock Tom? And acted like it was her coltfriend? Oh, and then there was Applejack. I have never seen such an entertainingly bad liar!" He rolled his eyes in every direction but Pinkie. "'Land sakes, I haven't even heard of this Equestria thing! You sure it's around here?'" he said in an exaggerated version of Applejack's accent, and guffawed. "And... and Rainbow Dash was so arrogant, she sincerely believed that she could single-hoofedly save Cloudsdale! I never told her I would destroy it, I told her it would fall apart if she didn't save it... and she believed me! Hook, line and sinker!"
At some point, he stopped laughing quite so hard, at which point he must have seen Pinkie's stony expression. "Oh come on! You of all ponies have to see the humor in it!"
"You hurt my friends," Pinkie said levelly. "Rarity won't even talk about that day. Applejack washed her mouth out with soap after we beat you because she said she had to get the taste of lies off her tongue, and for like a week or two afterward she was really sensitive to the idea that anypony didn't believe her. Dashie still has nightmares about Cloudsdale falling and being unable to save it. And you think that's funny?"
"Well, yes. Because it is." He wilted slightly under Pinkie's glare. "But I was sorry about what I did to you! That wasn't funny at all."
"None of what you did to any of us was funny," Pinkie said. "Because funny stops when ponies get hurt. Which we did. You messed us up in the head, Discord. That's like... that's worse than hurting a pony's body! Because if your body gets hurt then you feel ow ow ow, but if your mind gets hurt then there isn't any real you there to feel anything about it, because the real you isn't even there!"
"It wouldn't have lasted forever," Discord mumbled. "A few weeks. Maybe two months, tops."
"And you being in stone didn't last forever, but did that make it okay?" Pinkie pushed her chair back and stood up. Math Pinkie, who had read and memorized the prices on the menu, supplied her with the cost of the meal she'd eaten, plus her portion of the tip. She winced inwardly because she'd have eaten a lot less if she'd known she was going to pay for it, but this had to be done. Pinkie pulled the cost of the meal out of her mane and put it down on the table. "I can't accept your apology, Discord. I can't un-eat the apology food, and if I threw it up then it wouldn't be worth anything to anypony and the poor restaurant ponies would have to clean it up, so I won't do that, but I'm paying for the meal."
"I don't want your bits."
"Too bad, you're getting them."
"But I bought the meal to apologize to you."
He was so clueless. "You're not even upset at what you did to me, the pony," Pinkie said. "You're just upset because you like laughter and you didn't want to ruin it! And you say you're upset at what you did to Fluttershy because you cheated, but suppose you didn't have to cheat, would it have been okay? Would it have been funny? Fluttershy, your first friend? Who broke down crying at random for three weeks afterward because she'd remember the mean things she said and did?"
"It... would have been better if I hadn't had to cheat," he said reluctantly. "But none of you were my friends then! You're trying to make me feel guilty over hurting my friend, but she wasn't my friend. All six of you were my enemies! And if I enjoyed beating most of you, well, I heard puh-lenty of gloating out of the six of you when you'd defeated me and I was trapped in stone again!"
Pinkie wasn't really sure anypony had been gloating, aside from Dashie, who definitely had gloated, but that wasn't the point. "You started it."
"What, and a thousand years in stone doesn't seem like adequate provocation to you?"
"But we didn't do that to you. The Princesses did. If you wanted to get revenge, you would have gone after them. We had nothing to do with it."
"Revenge would have been pointless," Discord snapped. "They no longer wielded the Elements of Harmony. And you did. So you were the enemies I had to defeat, regardless of whether you'd done anything to me in the past or not. I had to defeat you because of something you could do to me in the future – which you actually did, and I am fairly sure that a year and a half of paralysis, in total darkness, without being able to talk, or eat, or even feel the breeze on my fur, is worse than anything I did to any of you."
Pinkie softened slightly. He had a point – what he'd endured had been horrible. She would have gone totally loco if she'd been turned into a rock! No food? No sunlight? No parties? It would have been like the rock farm all over again, except no family that loved her to talk to, and not even being able to move. "I'm sorry we had to do that to you. We had to stop you, and I'm not sorry we stopped you, because you were being a huge mean jerk, but I'm sorry we had to stop you like that. It would have been a lot better if we could have put you in jail or something, because then you could have at least moved around and had food, but we couldn't. The only thing that stops you is the Elements of Harmony, and they do it by turning you to stone. I would've done it a different way if there were a different way, which there is, because now you stop yourself because you like having a friend, which is great! So we don't have to do anything super mean to you like that! But I don't think that would have worked, then."
"So if you recognize how awful being turned to stone was, why can't you recognize that I would have done anything to stay free of that?"
"You wouldn't have done anything," Pinkie said. "You could have killed us, but you didn't. You could have turned us into ice cream sundaes, but you didn't. You could have kept Twilight's horn, but you didn't. There were lots of super duper awful things you could have done that you didn't do, and that's why you deserved a chance at being reformed! And I understand why you tried to stop us, and why you hurt us. That's not why I can't accept your apology. It's because you're not sorry about it. You're sorry about me because you like to laugh and you're sorry about Fluttershy because you think you cheated, but you're not sorry about any of my other friends, even though you hurt them a lot. I'm sorry we had to turn you to stone, and if you turn into Konton Kaijuu again and start making chaos all over everything and you won't stop, and we have to turn you to stone again, I'll be very sorry about that and it'll make me really sad, but you're not sad about what you did to my friends."
"How do you expect me to be sad about hurting ponies who are still, even now, trying to control me?" Discord said harshly. "You expect me to make friends with you, and the other four of you, when you're holding 'and if you're a bad colt we're going to turn you to stone again' over my head?"
"You know, Princess Celestia loved Princess Luna. And she still loves her. And Princess Luna loves her big sister. But Princess Celestia still banished Princess Luna to the moon because she would have made everything awful and made the sun go away and made it dark forever if she didn't do it. And Princess Luna lived through that, and she loves her sister anyway. And if I robbed a bank, and my friends knew about it, they might have to catch me so I can go to jail, and I would hate jail, because it's boring and the food is terrible, or at least that's what I hear, because I've never been in jail, but I know I wouldn't be able to throw parties there. But if I robbed a bank, my friends would help send me to jail, even though it's awful, because that would be the only way to stop me from robbing more banks. And I'm still friends with them. And if Twilight turned all mad scientist and decided to blow up Ponyville to prove some equation or something, my friends and I would stop her, and she knows that, but she's still our friend. Friends don't stop being friends just because they know that if they did a really bad thing in the future, their friends would have to stop them, even if that means going to jail or getting sent to the moon... or getting turned to stone. We're not holding anything over your head that isn't over all of our heads too."
"I think being turned to stone is a lot worse than going to jail."
Pinkie nodded. "Me too! But if they ever make a jail that you can be locked up in that you can't just use chaos powers to get out of, that would be a really really really strong jail, and maybe to make a jail that strong it would end up being even worse than stone." She stepped backward, away from the table. "It's not like I don't understand why you did what you did, and if I had been in your place, I would've done the same thing! But I wouldn't think it was funny. I would apologize to everypony once I was making friends with them, because even if I thought it was funny when I did it, once I knew that it really hurt them it wouldn't be funny anymore. So I can't accept your apology until you can apologize to all of us."
"But it's you I wanted to apologize to," Discord said, sounding desperate. He reached a paw out toward her.
"I just want you to know, I don't hate you or anything. I'm not not your friend. I just can't be your friend. Not until you can be friends with my friends. Or at least apologize to them. Because if you want to be friends with them and they don't want to be friends with you, then sometimes that happens and I can't hold that against you, if you tried. But you have to try. Right now you don't want to try and you don't even know how and you don't even know why it's important. But I hope you learn someday, so I can throw you a really nice party to welcome you to Ponyville and you don't feel like it's celebrating your defeat, because it won't be. Learning friendship isn't a defeat, it's a win."
"I don't understand," Discord said helplessly.
Pinkie patted the paw he had stretched across the table toward her. "I know you don't," she said. "Come tell me when you do and we'll have the most super duper celebration ever! And we can have a do-over on this when you can apologize in a way where you really truly mean it, only you can take all of us out to dinner!"
"I won't," he said, petulantly, drawing his paw back. "If you won't take my apology then fine, see if I ever try to apologize for anything to you again!"
"I'll see you around, Discord," Pinkie said. "Thanks for dinner. Sorry it didn't work out."
She left, leaving Discord behind her, staring at her with bewilderment and hurt pride in his face, but she wasn't looking anymore, so his face might have changed by now for all she knew, but she wasn't going to look back. She walked out of the restaurant, not trotting, not bouncing, and headed in the direction Navigation Pinkie told her to go, with her gait still a walk and her mane just a little less curly and bright than it should be.
A thought occurred to her, and she raised her head. "I wonder," she said to herself, her Extras, and the imaginary camera she pretended was there. "Did he ever get his mushroom risotto?"