Going to Discord's house was always a somewhat fraught journey – even if it wasn't actually dangerous for Twilight, given alicorn abilities (and, according to Discord, a stern talking-to he'd delivered to the denizens of his dimension, saying to let her through, and also to leave mail ponies alone in the future), it was still highly irritating. He had doorways in Ponyville, the Everfree, and the Canterlot sculpture garden, so getting into his private dimension wasn't nearly as hard as it had once been, but nothing inside the realm of chaos stayed in the same place long enough to risk teleporting, to say nothing of how thoroughly bent and warped the space inside was.
So the only way to get to Discord's house was to first, go through one of the portals into his dimension; second, figure out where it was today in relation to the portal you'd come through, assuming space even made sense on that given day; third, fly there. Gravity only existed in little pockets, mostly concentrated around bodies of land like micro-planetoids floating in the amorphous energies of chaos everywhere, though occasionally a floating body of water would have a gravity well; thus nopony could get anywhere within except by flying or by taking one of the dubious means of transport Discord had provided. The Skalboggan was friendly enough, for a giant furry pillbug with a hollow interior that resembled a train car's insides, but she preferred a form of transportation more under her own control.
Today Discord's house was a rustic log cabin, if logs were made of ice cream that never melted. Twilight arrived at the door, and instead of ringing the doorbell, who would probably scream, cry, start yelling "BANANANANANA" with endless NA's, or something else equally obnoxious, she knocked on the door. Hard.
Discord opened the door, inexplicable curlers all over the top of his head (they would be somewhat more explicable if he actually had mane there, but his mane continued to be a short, narrow, black ridge) and a pink and orange polkadotted housecoat on. "Twilight! My, this is a surprise. It's been ages since you last came for a visit! What brings you to my humble abode?"
"We need to talk, Discord," Twilight said grimly, and pushed past him without waiting for an invitation.
She could have summoned him to the castle, but without the Elements of Harmony, the summoning spell Princess Celestia had taught her was more of a suggestion than a compulsion – he could easily choose not to answer it. And if he did answer it, he could easily choose to teleport off in a huff if he didn't like what she had to say, which he probably wouldn't. Going to his house put her on his turf, yes, but it also imposed on him. He wasn't answering her call at his personal convenience; she was demanding a meeting with him at her chosen time and place, and at least to some extent forcing him to comply. Sure, he could still teleport off in a huff, but this was his house; he was a lot less likely to leave it.
Discord, no longer wearing the housecoat and curlers, gestured at her to come inside, despite the fact that she was already inside. "Well, have a seat! Mi casa es su casa. Can I get you something to eat?" A plate of crackers – with eyeballs, locked in terrified expressions – appeared in his paw. "Something to drink?" A glass of something that looked purple, and had things swimming in it, floated above the plate of horrified crackers.
"No thanks." She looked up at the chairs on the ceiling. "But I'd appreciate it if you had somewhere to sit on the floor rather than the ceiling."
He looked up. "Oh, that?" Discord made a dismissive gesture with his paw. "That is the floor, Twilight, I don't know why you insist on walking on my ceiling."
"Because that's where the gravity is."
"Dear me, did you forget you have wings again? You ascended unicorns get so forgetful about those things. I remember one time—"
"Discord, please orient the gravity so that it's in the same place the chairs are. I don't want to be distracted by trying to fly while we're having a conversation."
Discord pouted as he snapped, and suddenly what Twilight was standing on was the floor, with chairs. "Fluttershy doesn't mind."
"I'm not Fluttershy."
At this he grinned. "Of course not. You're much easier to provoke. How fortunate for me."
Twilight rolled her eyes. "You know, that's exactly what I want to talk to you about," she said, and pushed past him to seat herself in the least alive-looking chair in the room... which was to say, it was quite obviously a large, misshapen, shaggy dog, but it was also obviously peacefully asleep. "Why don't you sit down too? I very much doubt this is going to be a short conversation."
Discord perched on the back of a crab-shaped chair that kept trying and failing to pinch him with its snapping claws. "I was just about to, Twilight, but thank you for inviting me to sit down in my own house. You're such a gracious guest host."
"So tell me," Twilight said, ignoring Discord's snark, "what the hay happened today? Or this weekend? I mean you have to know that it's wrong to manipulate your friends to leave out their other friend so you can make the other friend feel bad. Even with as little as you know about friendship, you have to be aware that that's not just a dumb idea, it's cruel, and wrong, and not the sort of thing you should be doing to your friends. Why is it so important for you to be able to provoke me that you'll drag all our friends into some sort of private feud you're having with me for no reason? Even Fluttershy? Did it never enter your head that that might hurt their feelings once they realized you'd used them to hurt my feelings?"
Discord steepled his paw digits and claw talons. "Twilight, I do believe there must be some misunderstanding here. Did I not say, specifically, that I didn't do that? That you becoming jealous, and through that, discovering something about yourself that you obviously needed to learn, was merely a... how did I phrase that? 'Happy accident?'"
"Then what were you really up to?" Twilight glared at him. "Because it sure sounded to me like the kind of denial you give when you're actually admitting to something and pretending to deny it."
"If it had been my goal to make you jealous, why would I admit it?"
"I don't know, but you've done dumber things. You did admit to me that the whole thing with the blue flu was a hoax."
"Yes, but I was so excited to see that you were willing to go to such lengths for me and that you were truly my friend after all, I couldn't bear to continue to pretend to be sick. Besides. Why do I have to have had an ulterior motive? You were happily engaged in some of the most nauseating extremes of orderly behavior ever committed by any pony in existence; who was I to tell you not to enjoy your positively insane fun just so you could do something that could be remotely imagined as pleasant, like spend time with friends? If you want to willingly engage in hideous self-torture and call it entertaining, why should we disturb you, and given how crazy a pony would have to be to enjoy something like that, how could we predict how you'd react if interrupted?"
Twilight's eyes narrowed. "Is all the hyperbole about how crazy I am for enjoying book-sortation really necessary?"
"I don't know, ask all the ponies who felt the need to engage in similar hyperbole about my interests in Chaos. I mean, sauce for the goose, sauce for the gander, Twilight. If liking a bit of chaos marks one as horrifyingly insane, shouldn't your obsession with order do the same?"
"My interest in sorting my books doesn't hurt anypony."
"It certainly seemed to cause some degree of emotional harm to somedragon, if I don't mistake my guess."
"Hey, I didn't demand that Spike help me."
Discord shook his head sadly. "If the Princess of Friendship can't comprehend how a friend's sense of duty toward her and feelings of self-worth being bound up in how useful he is to her could compel him to undergo psychological torment just to prove to her that he'll always try to help her, well, I don't know what this world is coming to."
"This isn't about Spike! Or me! This is about you and how you used our friends to try to upset me! And don't tell me you didn't have an ulterior motive and you just wanted me to be happy sorting my books; from what you just said I think it's pretty clear that if you'd been thinking about my well-being you would have probably thought you needed to stage a rescue mission, because you can't comprehend how I can enjoy sorting books. And that's okay, I don't expect the Spirit of Chaos to understand something like that, but... were you trying to punish me for sorting books by trying to make me jealous of what I missed out on? Is that what's going on here? You hate order so much, you want everypony else to hate it too so you're trying to make me feel like if I take the time to really sort things out properly I'll miss out on fun with my friends and that way I'll feel bad about actually paying proper attention to details and I'll turn all disorganized and lazy? Is that what you're after?"
Discord's eyebrows went up. "Why, Twilight, what a creative idea! Amazing how somepony so steeped in Order could come up with such a wonderful plan to disharmonize somepony and drive them toward Chaos. I really wish I had thought of that... but I can't help but think a better strategy, if I wanted to convince you how much more fun time with friends is than time sorting books, would have been to persuade the rest of them to invite you, as a clear demonstration of why you should not be wasting their mortal lifespans sorting books when you could be having fun with them instead. No, that wasn't what I was after at all, and it's not something I would try with you, not anymore. The old me might have... but I've learned that you catch more ponies with honey than with vinegar, so to speak." He stuck out his hoofed leg, which was now jammed in a jar of honey instead of a jar of peanut butter like before.
"Okay then, so what were you after?"
"I was performing an experiment."
Twilight blinked. "That... doesn't really sound like you. Isn't an experiment kind of science-y for the Spirit of Chaos?"
With a grin, Discord said, "My dear, if you had the slightest idea how weird the universe really is, you'd recognize how compatible science is with chaos."
She rather wished that one of these days he would tell her how weird the universe really was. It seemed rather unfair that she was sitting in front of a being who probably knew more about magic and the structure of reality than even Princess Celestia, and who had enormous personal experience of Equestrian history, but instead of ever giving her any useful information, all he ever did when they interacted was try to annoy her. "So fine then, what kind of experiment?"
Discord vanished from his crab chair and reappeared on top of the head of the dog that made up Twilight's chair, dangling his head down into her face. He seemed to really like doing that for some reason, even though it was creepy and annoying. Probably because it was creepy and annoying. "Let me begin by asking you a question, Twilight, and I want you to put some serious thought into this. Have your friends ever, previously, warmed up to me and enjoyed my presence, in a group, as we did this weekend?"
"I... well, there was right after we got the Rainbow Power and my castle sprouted up... and then the end of the trial..."
He vanished from the top of the chair and reappeared floating in air, curled up as if he would be lying down if he were on the ground, though he wasn't actually parallel to the floor. "Oh, all right, highly emotionally charged moments after times of great stress. They don't count. Was there a time, to your knowledge, when no one's life or freedom or magic had just been saved, when your whole group not only tolerated but enjoyed my presence?"
She was almost certain the answer was no – it was part of why she'd thought he had to have mind controlled them all to think his jokes were funny. Though the main reason had been that his jokes hadn't been funny. "Well... for a while there you were getting along a little better with Rainbow than you guys usually did, but it kind of backslid..."
"Rainbow was willing to tolerate me as long as I was willing to challenge her in flying competitions. That didn't last. Rarity and I had a few moments of mutual understanding, but by the time the Gala rolled around it was back to 'Go away, Discord, we have important things to do with our friends at this party you haven't been invited to'—"
"You were invited."
"Yes, but nopony knew that then. And Applejack has never before laughed at one of my jokes." He was suddenly standing in front of her, his head lowered into her face again, glowering. "Which is why you thought I'd do something so heinous as to mind-control them into thinking I was funny, no doubt. As if I couldn't possibly win them over with my own wit and charm!"
"Personal space, Discord," Twilight said, teleporting out of the chair and into the air, flapping her wings to stay up. It was safe enough to teleport to another place she could see that was only a few heads away from her; Discord's chaos dimension only made long-distance or blind teleportation perilous. And she really didn't like it when Discord decided to hover over her, and after all, two could play at that game. "How did you hear about that?"
"Why, afraid one of your friends betrayed your little secret? It was Pinkie. She may not be the Element of Honesty, but she is very much the Element of Gossip; if you want her to keep a secret you have to tell her so."
"No, I'm not afraid; it's fine if you know about it, because I'm not ashamed of thinking it. But it's a little disingenuous of you to act like you're offended that I thought you might be mind-controlling them, considering that you have, in fact, mind-controlled all of them before."
"When I was a bad guy!"
Twilight sighed deeply. "Yes, about that. Maybe you haven't realized it, or maybe you think none of the rest of us have realized it, but... you're still the same person you were then. You changed what you wanted out of life, not who you are. Not that I'm saying you have to change who you are, to make friends, not when you've shown that your desire to make friends is strong enough to make you change your behavior, and that's a good thing! I'm not saying it's not. But you're still the same person. If you don't spread wanton chaos throughout Equestria and mind-control ponies for fun, it's because you know that you'll upset your friends if you do, badly enough that you'd probably lose their friendship. Not because you actually think doing those things is wrong."
Discord spread his paws and shrugged. "I confess the memory of wanton chaos has been a pleasant guide into the land of happy dreams for me many a night, but I think I've been very good about restraining my desires for the sake of ponykind's peace of mind. But that doesn't have anything to do with what we're talking about. I already knew you can't mind control ponies into being your friend, that's why I never tried that. You can't even mind control ponies who used to love you but decided they just couldn't put up with the chaos into loving you again by blocking their memories of having stopped loving you, and that's not even really mind control. Well, technically you can do that, or technically I can do that, but it's not love and I could tell the difference and it... didn't feel good to do it, so I stopped."
"Wait, when did this happen?"
"A long time ago and it's not relevant to this discussion. It—"
"But I thought Fluttershy was your first friend."
Discord looked at her as if she was an idiot. "Yes, and you had a brother, an assistant, a mentor, parents and a foalsitter when you were a shut-in in Canterlot claiming you had no time to have friends. Having a lover isn't the same thing as having a friend, and you're missing the point. I mind-controlled your friends because the six of you were my enemies, and I was trying to make sure you couldn't do what in the end you did do, namely, turn me back to stone. I know that mind-controlling your friends is wrong, and I knew it back then, but you weren't my friends."
"So you're saying you'd mind-control an enemy now."
"A real enemy? Someone who threatened Equestria, or Fluttershy, or any of you? In a heartbeat, if that was the best way to stop them in my opinion."
"Big Mac wasn't your enemy and you made him think he was a dog."
"Yes, but that was hilarious." At Twilight's glare, he sighed. "And I don't do that anymore, because as hilarious as it is, it would upset my friends a great deal if I did it to other ponies, even ponies they weren't related to. Apparently, even ponies who used to bully them in Flight School are off limits, though I really don't understand why. So no, I wouldn't risk my friendships by mind-controlling my friends, and most certainly not to get them to laugh at my jokes! I'm naturally funny, it's one of my greatest talents. Using my powers to make them think I'm being funny would be like admitting I think I'm a washed-up has-been who's lost his sense of humor!"
Well, that at least was consistent – this wasn't the first time Discord had claimed he would never commit a particularly heinous act because it would make him look like he couldn't succeed at something he thought he was good at without doing so. "All right, fine. We've been over this before, Discord; your sense of morality is so weird, I have no idea what you think is wrong to do. And you've told me that your ability to make ponies into practically the opposite of who they are is part of a larger ability to enhance or decrease any trait in a pony's personality, and I thought maybe you had increased all of their senses of humor to the point where they'd think anything was funny, and I could see how maybe you wouldn't think doing that was wrong."
"Oh, I wouldn't think that was particularly wrong, and I might do something like that – enhancing a positive trait that ponies enjoy having – to help somepony loosen up... but only for a few minutes, maybe the length of a party at most. And I'd tell them I was doing it. Most likely. But I'd never do that to my friends, for an entire weekend, and particularly not to make them think my jokes are funny. My jokes are funny. I don't need to use my magic to help with that."
"I don't know, I thought they were pretty unfunny myself."
"We all know you have no sense of humor, Twilight. Besides, didn't we just spend a whole day establishing that you had to have been there?"
Twilight landed, tired of hovering. "Fine, so you didn't mind-control them, and I just don't get the joke because I wasn't there... which was your fault. If it wasn't to make me jealous and it wasn't to teach me some sort of bizarre lesson about how much you hate it when I get orderly, what was it?"
"You're assuming it was about you."
"It sure looks like it was."
Discord suddenly had a long reddish-blonde mane and a microphone. "You're so vain," he sang, "you think all of this is about you..."
"Please stop singing."
He grinned, the props vanishing. "Let's go back to what I was saying before we got side-tracked onto the morality of mind control. Your friends have never, as a group, accepted me before, except at the aforementioned times of extreme emotional stress. Fluttershy of course is my dearest and best friend, and Pinkie Pie and I..." He made a wobbling gesture with his paw. "We go back and forth, but she at least calls me a friend now, and we get along very well when one of us isn't irritating the other one enormously." Twilight smirked – Discord's relationship with Pinkie Pie was probably the only one he had where he was frequently the irritated one or the one whose personal space was being intruded on. "But Rainbow Dash has only ever been willing to tolerate me in private – as soon as her other friends can see her, it's back to insulting me and making it clear she has no time for me. Rarity can be quite pleasant to me in private, but in a group, she's quite cold. And Applejack has always been civil, but that's as far as it ever went. Yet this weekend, I got along with all of them splendidly. And regardless of your baseless accusations, I didn't use any magic to alter their mental states in any way. There was a bit of cider involved on the first night, but that was Applejack's magic, not mine."
Cider could be an ice-breaker, but Twilight would have thought it would take total drunkenness for most of her friends to open up around Discord, and Applejack was far too responsible to let anypony get drunk around Discord. "Ok, so what was different this time that let them warm up to you, if there wasn't any mind control involved?"
"Oh, I am so glad you asked that question." Discord smiled broadly, but it wasn't a pleasant or happy smile. Almost predatory. Twilight controlled a shiver. "Because the answer's quite obvious once you think about it. It's even something we covered earlier today, when we were trying to recreate our weekend for you."
"Maybe it's obvious to you, but I'm still not getting it."
"Of course you're not! You'd be even more loathe to admit this to yourself than you were to admit to feeling jealous!" Suddenly he was snaked around her, floating in the air next to her with his neck over her withers and bent around to face her, so backing up for personal space would just result in her backing into his neck. "Because the key factor, the one major difference between this occasion and all the other occasions where most of your friends treated me like a particularly unpleasant clod of mud on their hoof... was you. You, Twilight, were absent this time. And just as I thought, that made all the difference."