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Discrepancy · Friendship is Short Shorts Short Short ·
Organised by CoffeeMinion
Word limit 500–1250
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Out of the few things I truly hate in the world, this statue is probably the most bitter of them.

All my other mistakes? Fixable. Fixed and forgiven and forgotten long ago, in fact.

But this eyesore? Literally the monument to my failure, written in stone.

Well, a part of it is, anyway. Some of it, I’m at peace with disavowing. Tirek? Write-off. Not my problem. Chrysalis… well, Chryssy is more complicated, but at the end of the day, she had her own agency with a full understanding of her choices and their consequences. I tried to give her a chance. She didn’t want it. Fine. That’s on her.

But she wasn’t a child.

A third of this trio ended up here on my watch. I was the counselor. I was supposed to be Cozy Glow’s guide, a compass pointing in the right direction.

Look where I led her.

My friends all say I’m not supposed to beat myself up about her, but sometimes I can’t help thinking about how things could have been different – who she could have been, what she might have done, the way she could have found her place to make the world better if had I done better at getting through to her.

Stupid cliché, I know.

But it’s a cliché that stings me every time I come here to Canterlot. At some point, every palace visit finds me in the gardens, sitting in the lengthening sunset shadow of this statue, pondering how all she gets to do now is wait, frozen, in the same spot under every sunrise and sunset and clear blue sky and rain shower, all day, every day, maybe forever.

And forever is a really long time.

I don’t think forever is something anypony deserves.

Thanks to her tastefully faint but distinctive perfume, I knew it was Rarity walking up behind me before I heard the voice to go with the hoofsteps.

“We can never entirely peel you away from this dreadful old thing, can we?” she asked, patting me gently on the withers with one hoof as she sat close by my side in the dying light.

“Yeah, well, it’s Princess Twilight’s garden,” I responded. “So I guess you can’t peel her away from it, either.”

“I don’t know why she keeps it here, honestly,” Rarity said.

“I asked her once,” I replied. “It’s complicated. She said lots of different reasons. Trophy. Memento. Memorial. Reminder. And…”

“And what?”


“I see.” Rarity nodded. “Yes, hope that even such as they might be unpetrified and redeemed someday, I suppose. Isn’t that just like Twilight.”

“Yeah. It’s hope for a day she might see, but not me. I know It’ll be long after my time. All I can do is wonder.”

“Maybe you shouldn’t wonder so much. Not about things you can’t change.”

“I was her counselor, Rarity. It was my job to wonder what she could be. I was supposed to lead her to it. But most of all, I wonder…”


“How was I different from her, really?” I asked, pointing a hoof at Cozy.

“You, umm…” She thought in silence for a long moment. “Well, you weren’t afflicted with child psychopathy, for one thing.”

“Yeah, I know. I’ve read the literature in the years since. It’s all pretty clear now, clinically, in hindsight. But what I mean is, we didn’t know then, did we? And I didn’t always act so differently than her, especially when Twilight first took me in. So how could anypony tell? Why me and not her? Where was that line?”

“Maybe there wasn’t one, exactly,” Rarity said. “And maybe it wasn’t even right for us to draw one, without, as you say, knowing what the, ah, clinical difference was, at the time.”

“But we did.”

“Yes.” Rarity nodded. “Yes we did.” She paused. “Do you know what the secret to success in fashion is?”

“No,” I answered, a little thrown by the sudden turn. “What?”

Rarity smiled at me. “Dress every lady like a whore, and every whore like a lady.” A slight mischievous narrowing of her eyes brought out the thin lines of crow’s feet on her face. Somehow, on her those lines evoked a sense of wisdom, rather than age.

I pondered this. “Rarity, you know… you made my clothes,” I said.

“So?” She shrugged delicately, casually challenging me to elaborate.

“So, am I a lady you dressed like a whore, or a whore you dressed like a lady?”

“The real question is,” Rarity began, taking a few silent, pacing steps around the garden lawn, “if you can’t tell the difference, what difference is there?”

“Not much, I guess,” I said.

“Exactly.” Rarity nodded, once, in a tiny motion.

“Okay, not really making me better here.” I frowned.

“Not meant to, darling,” Rarity replied. “It’s not meant to.”

“Gee, thanks.”

“I’m just saying, you tried as hard as you could.” Rarity stopped, and turned to look squarely at me. “You gave her the benefit of the doubt, no less than you would have given anypony else. But the thing is, sometimes the mare is wearing the dress, and sometimes the dress is wearing the mare. And it’s hard to say exactly how you know, but when you’re an expert in fashion and you see it – you just know.”

“It’s the expert part that makes all the difference, though. We were kind of out of our league back then, weren’t we?” I asked. “…Or maybe just me? I don’t know.”

“What, the school of friendship thing?” Rarity laughed quietly. “No, we were all just faking it ‘til we made it, at first.”

“We really were, weren’t we?” I finally smiled a little.

“Haha, oh my, yes. But Twilight and the other princesses trusted us, didn’t they?”

“Yeah,” I agreed.

“Right, they respected us enough to give us that trust. So when it came time to deal with dangerous creatures like Cozy Glow and the company she’d thrown in her lot with, I suppose I trusted the princesses who have been doing this for a very long time to know best, whether I could see a line myself or not,” Rarity said. “And what else could we do?”

“I could have known how to counsel before I became a counselor, for one,” I said, coming off maybe more snidely than I meant to.

“Oh, come on, dear!” Rarity said in exasperation. “Not even Celestia can always succeed with every student. Sunset Shimmer, for instance. I know pointing out somepony else’s failing probably doesn’t change how you feel about what you think was your own, but… Errm…” Rarity huffed and scowled at the ground. “Well, now that I think about it, I’m really not sure where I was going with that. I’m sorry.”

“That’s okay.” I shrugged. “Means something that you’re trying, anyway.”

“Well, I’m always here for you. You know that.” She walked closer and hugged me.

“Yeah, I do.” I nodded and hugged her in return. “That’s what really counts.”

“Now, if I’m not mistaken, they’ll be serving dessert very soon,” Rarity said. “Shall we rejoin the pleasant company of the living to partake in the sweeter things of this world? Or will you be remaining here, with these silent stones?”

“Well, as long as it’s not empathy cocoa, I'm in!” I laughed.

But even as I turned and started walking side by side with Rarity toward the promised confections, I knew I would always be back, eventually, still wondering.

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#1 ·
“Dress every lady like a whore, and every whore like a lady.”

Is that why most ponies go naked?
Makes sense.

I liked this story. It's calm and quiet, and it really lets Rarity and Starlight shine through the dialogue. It doesn't try to offer a definitive answer, but rather suggests a change of perspective to help reevaluate things. Quite nice.
#2 ·
I never considered the emotional implications on Starlight vis a vis Cozy Glow going full bad guy, so excellent work having my first introduction to the idea be so well done. I'm also a sucker for first person style and Starlight in general, so 1.5x point multiplier! Doubling down on what Zaid said, as is the custom: The entire piece is silky smooth, I absolutely buy the dialogue, and you ease us into the perspective character after just enough wondering if it's Starlight or Twilight (in my train of thought, at least).

Also, having worked at schools myself for several years on and off, I really feel Starlight's emotions and thought process here. None of my students ever went super villain, but even when one just has a garbage day I can't help but wonder if there was something I could have done had I bumped into them earlier.
#3 ·
Ah, the Cozy Glow conundrum. Twilight Starlight may never live it down.

I like what you’re going for here, Author, and like Rao this wasn’t an avenue of Starlight’s internal struggles that I ever considered. That said, you explore it twice—once as an internal monologue, and again as a heart-to-heart with Rarity. And if you ask me, the conversation is way more compelling than the monologue, which felt a little melodramatic. I wonder if that first scene couldn’t be reduced to a paragraph, or snipped out entirely.

It could just be me. I really like watching two characters be friends while a conflict hovers over their heads. And even though I had a hard time following Rarity’s logic here, so did Starlight (and so did Rarity), so I never felt adrift, and I appreciated the “not quite at a resolution but we’ll work on it” ending.

That’s all. Thanks for writing and good luck!