"Blank flank!" Silver Spoon howled.

Next to her, Diamond Tiara started cracking up. The two of them were mercilessly teasing a little pink and yellow filly; the filly's name was Cinnamon Moon. She was new to Ponyville, officially the youngest in her class, and as if all of that weren't enough, she didn't have her cutie mark.

At first, when Silver Spoon and Diamond Tiara had invited her to come with them to the gardens, Cinnamon Moon had thought it was a gesture of friendship and camaraderie. Some of the other fillies in her class, the Cutie Mark Crusaders, had warned her about these two and told Cinnamon that she should hang out with them instead. Right after, Silver and Diamond had swayed Cinnamon to believe that they were innocent and that the Cutie Mark Crusaders were just jealous of their cutie marks; they'd even falsely promised Cinnamon that they'd help her find her own cutie mark!

Cinnamon could feel tears rushing down her face as she backed up into one of the statues; Silver and Diamond were smirking as they advanced closer towards her, repeating that dreaded "blank flank" nick name over and over and over. All Cinnamon wanted to do was run away, but she was trapped. Both of the other fillies had her boxed in now and she was absolutely helpless...

They had huge smirks on their faces and now, their eyes were glittering with unfettered malice. Just as Silver was about to say "blank flank" yet again, Cinnamon closed her eyes and screamed at the top of her lungs, a bloodcurdling scream. All of her anger and frustration erupted in a giant surge as she tackled Silver to the ground and started stomping on her over and over again with her hooves.

Cinnamon's eyes flew open and she continued brutally pummeling Silver; she broke the other filly's glasses and even left a smattering of bruises across her face. Diamond stood off to the side, scared and not sure how to react; she just looked on the scene with absolute horror.

Unknown to the three little ponies, they were hovering around near Discord's statue. A bunch of splintered cracks appeared across the stone surface, and those cracks kept getting bigger and bigger as the scene had escalated with more and more tension. When Cinnamon had finally tackled Silver to the ground and started beating her up, the stone statue had completely fallen away and had become a few neat piles of stone debris.

As the fight had continued, Discord figured out that he was completely free. He looked at his claws, moved his paw, his feet; he could move! The realization and relief that came with it was fairly short lived. It didn't take Discord very long to notice the fighting, scuffling fillies right in front of him...

He laughed, a light and throaty chuckle, finding the childish display of schoolyard bullying absolutely hilarious.

The sound made all three fillies stop what they were doing and look up at Discord. All three of them looked absolutely terrified; Diamond actually turned and started running away as fast as she could, squealing as she ran. All anger and frustration were forgotten as Silver and Cinnamon pulled away from each other and made a mad dash to keep up with Diamond.

"...And the wee little ponies nickered all the way home," Discord said as he watched them run away, chuckling and smiling at his own lame joke.

Twilight sat at her desk, studiously pawing through a book about clean up spells. Behind her, Rarity was shuffling nervously from hoof to hoof; she was covered from mane to tail in mud. The fashionista pony's nervousness and anxiety was rubbing off on Twilight, making her feel more and more irritable.

"Twilight!" Rarity whined, stamping her hooves.

"Don't get your stirrups in a bunch!" Twilight cried. Finally finding the spell she needed, Twilight turned towards Rarity and lowered the book. "Ready?"

In response, Rarity exhaled loudly and rolled her eyes. Twilight just ignored her rude response, then closed her eyes and waited as her horn lit up. As soon as Twilight opened her eyes again, Rarity was clean and coiffed.

Rarity smiled sweetly at Twilight and inclined her head slightly. "Thank you so much Twilight," she said. "I'm very sorry about being so impatient...but I can't help it. I have a date with Prince Blueblood!"

"You've said it at least six or seven times now," Spike interjected bitterly, frowning. "Why are you going out with him again after he was so rude to you the first time...?"

"He said he's taken classes in being more gentlemanly over the phone..." Rarity replied sheepishly. "Mmm...I'm really not over trying to make my fairytale ending come to life yet, alright? I decided to give him a second chance..."

"You could do so-" Spike started, but Twilight clamped a hoof over his mouth.

"Good luck, Rarity," Twilight said sincerely.

"Thank you! Good bye, Twilight," Rarity said as she started towards Twilight's front door.

Though, just as Rarity was reaching for the door knob, the door burst open and Princess Celestia marched in, completely unannounced. She swerved around Rarity, mouthing a silent apology, then galloped right up to Twilight. All Rarity could do was stare, her mouth hanging slightly agape.

"I'm very sorry to interrupt the two of you!" Princess Celestia said, her purple eyes glittering with concern. "But, I have some very urgent news! Discord's escaped again!"

Those three words hit Twilight like a huge sack of hammers. Her pupils shrank to the size of peas as a slew of unhappy and miserable memories rolled through her mind. Reliving the reality of almost losing her friends again, even in her mind's eye, was enough to make Twilight shudder. Tears were prickling at the edges of her eyes.

"Are you going to be alright, Twilight?" Rarity asked, her voice filled with concern, even though she was just as rattled and disconcerted as Twilight.

Next to Twilight, Spike reached up and gently patted her flank, giving her a reassuring smile.

Taking a deep breath, Twilight looked at Rarity and nodded. Then she turned her attention back to Princess Celestia, steeling herself and trying to prepare for just about anything and everything.

"Should we go get the Elements of Harmony?" Twilight asked.

"No," Celestia replied, steel and titanium in her voice. "Turning Discord to stone obviously didn't stop him the first few times, so we'll need to resort to more drastic and permanent measures..."

"But what could possibly be more effective than the Elements of Harmony?" Rarity cried, voicing the exact same question that had probably just occurred to Twilight and Spike.

"Let's get the others first, find a safe spot, and I'll explain then," Celestia commanded. Then she turned and led the three of them out of Twilight's house and into the night. A bunch of stars were scattered across the sky and there was a crescent moon out. Merely fifteen minutes before, everything had been absolutely calm and uneventful, almost boring even, but now, Twilight could sense tension and apprehension on the air.

Princess Luna had been standing outside of the front of Twilight's house, right next to the pegasus drawn chariot that had probably brought the sisters here in the first place. Celestia approached Luna and they whispered urgently to each other for a few seconds before nodding to the chariot drivers and sending them off up into the night and back to Canterlot, presumably.

Without another word or even turning to look back at the rest of them, Celestia and Luna took off at a brisk trot in the direction of Sweet Apple Acres. Confused and bewildered, Twilight just shrugged at Spike and Rarity; Spike scrambled up onto Twilight's back and then the three of them took off after the two princesses.

The urgency and tension of the situation just kept hiking higher and higher with each step Twilight took. Several times, she found herself unconsciously looking up at the sky overhead, expecting to see Discord appear out of thin air, his strange combination eagle and bird wings flapping to keep him aloft. The more she thought about him, from his crimson eyes, to his mannerisms, just everything about him disgruntled and ruffled Twilight.

Time kept chugging on and on; Sweet Apple Acres seemed like it was a million miles away. A huge lump formed in Twilight's throat and after awhile, she couldn't shake the feeling that something terrible had already happened...

By the time they were close to the front gates of the Acres, Celestia started screeching to a halt. Both she and Luna stopped, unfurling their wings to help cushion the unexpected stop. It took a behemoth effort on both Twilight's and Rarity's parts to come to a complete stop before running into either Celestia or Luna on complete accident. Just as they were regaining their bearings, Celestia stepped back a little, furrowing her brow and gesturing at Twilight, Rarity, and Spike to take a look.

Sweet Apple Acres had been turned into a trippy wonderland of yellow and blue; the apple trees were now a huge collection of pink taffy strips, there was a giant chocolate ball where the barn once was, and everything else was some sort of other variation of sweet, confectionery treat. Worst of all, though, the Apple family stood near the gates, frozen in varied positions of fear; they had all been turned into life size statues made out of the same type of stuff that gummy bears were.

"Applejack!" Twilight, Rarity, and Spike yelped. Rarity actually looked like she was on the verge of weeping.

"We have to keep moving!" Celestia insisted, looking at Rarity sympathetically. "Luna and I are going to stay here and try to keep Discord at bay for as long as possible. You three need to go find Zecora and ask her to lead you to the Sphere of Powerlessness."

"What is the Sphere of Powerlessness?" Twilight asked, curious as to why Celestia wanted the Sphere of Powerlessness over the Elements of Harmony, or why they hadn't heard of the Sphere of Powerlessness before and why it hadn't been used instead of the Sphere of Powerlessness. As well as several other nagging questions...

"There's no time for me to explain!" Celestia replied. "Zecora will explain...Now go! Time is of the essence!"

"But what about Fluttershy, Rainbow Dash, and Pinkie Pie?" Spike spoke up. Twilight and Rarity shared Spike's worry as they turned and looked at Celestia inquisitively.

"If you meet them along the way, take them with you," Celestia replied. "But right now...we really don't have much more time! You know firsthand what Discord is capable of! Just get the Sphere of Powerlessness and get back here as soon as you can."

Celestia's facial expression looked absolutely ferocious. This was the second time that Twilight noticed that Celestia seemed a lot different from her kind, benevolent self right now; the same thing had happened the last time Discord was involved in some way, shape, or form as well, though. Her other friends' faces flashed through Twilight's brain and she looked longingly back at where the Apple family stood...As far as Twilight knew, the others had probably had similar fates befall them by now, too.

So many unanswered questions were zipping through Twilight's mind, but she just turned and started running in the direction of the Everfree Forest. She took off at such a harried pace that she could hear Rarity panting hard and vaguely realized that Spike was having some difficulty securing his spot on her back.

The three of them ran as fast as they could for as long as they could, nobody questioning the urgency of their current task at hand. But after awhile, they just had to slow down. Neither Twilight or Rarity were as experienced athletes as Rainbow Dash or Applejack so there was only so much endurance and cardiovascular strength they possessed.

Breathing hard, Twilight looked at all of the trees surrounding them. The forest seemed unnaturally calm and quiet; there wasn't the sound of insects or any sound of life of any sort. Unnerved, Twilight wished that they'd defied Celestia's command and recruited the others anyway. Fluttershy, for all of her cowardice, would at least be able to explain what happened to the animals...

"A refined lady shouldn't have to run that much..." Rarity said glumly, looking at her sweat drenched mane. "I truly hope Fluttershy, Rainbow Dash, and Pinkie Pie are going to be all right."

"Me too," Spike said, furrowing his brows and blowing out a small string of green flame. "It doesn't make any sense that Celestia would tell us to just leave them behind like that..."

"Look, I'm just as worried as you guys are," Twilight brought up, feeling guilty for having to rationalize leaving their other friends behind at the mercy of Discord. "But, Celestia did say she and Luna were going to fight off Discord for as long as they could...The others will be safe as long as Celestia and Luna are there. Look at it this way: The sooner we get the Sphere of Powerlessness and back to Ponyville, the sooner we'll stop Discord!"

Rarity and Spike nodded. Twilight felt like she'd reassured them a little bit, but she knew they were still extremely worried and disconcerted. She couldn't blame them; she felt exactly the same way. With as much faith as she had in her mentor Celestia, Twilight still couldn't help feeling a bit shifty and off-balance. Celestia considered Discord a major scale threat; she'd spoken of the Elements of Harmony as the only effective way to stop him. But now...?

Nothing made any sense. The only thing that kept Twilight charging in the direction of Zecora's home was complete faith and loyalty to Celestia; she just hoped that her faith wasn't misplaced and that Celestia hadn't made the wrong choice...

Celestia and Luna were at the highest level of alertness that they could be as they wandered through Ponyville. Everything was a great big mishmash of chaotic nonsense once again; twenty foot candy canes littered the streets, houses and shops were upsidedown and hovering in the sky. Ponies were either giant statues of some sort of sugar or other kind of food or were just running around acting absolutely deranged.

A cat flew by Celestia's face and Luna watched a pair of dancing spoons fly past her face.

Everything had Discord's trademark written all over it. Celestia frowned, looking up, down, every direction she could, ignoring all of the chaos and ridiculousness. Somewhere, in the midst of all of this nonsense, was Discord himself.

Suddenly, after at least half an hour of searching, Discord popped out of thin air. He was wearing a pair of gaudy, oversized sunglasses and his trademark mischievous smirk.

"WHAT DID YOU DO TO PONYVILLE?" Luna yelled in her booming, authoritative tone of voice.

Her tone didn't have the intimidating effect that she'd intended. Discord just floated there, casually inspecting his griffin paw. "Long time, no see Princesses," he said, smiling.

"Surrender now, Discord, and I might consider a less harsh punishment than what I have in mind for you..." Celestia demanded, putting one hoof forward.

"Oh, princess, you never learn," he chuckled, shaking his head. "We can go through this spiel for the rest of your immortal life, but neither one of us will back down...so, instead of being the responsible, uptight one, why not let loose and have fun for once?"

"It might be great fun for you, but not for the citizens of Ponyville!" Celestia replied, gritting her teeth. "I don't care how many times I ever have to fight you...I'll never back down at any one of them! Especially considering the happiness and welfare of my ponies is on the line."

"Oh, you're so chivalrous and noble, princess," Discord said, rolling his eyes and clapping his hands. "But...where were you the last time, though? Didn't your ponies need you, then?" He shrugged and then winked. "Where's your loyal lacky Twilight Sparkle to do your dirty work, hmm?"

"ENOUGH!" Celestia barked.

"You just can't stand the thought that I'm more powerful than you...," Discord went on, disappearing for a brief second then reappearing right next to Celestia. "You had to have trinkets to take me down the first time. Your 'defenders of Equestria' had to use trinkets last time, too. And you'll have to depend on those trinkets yet again to defeat now, won't you?"

Celestia could feel herself burning with complete inner anger and hatred as Discord placed himself right in front of her, placing his head exactly at her eye level. "I've already undermined every possible option you could use to stop me, Princess..." Discord said, closing his eyes and smirking.

"I don't believe you..." Celestia whispered in as venomous a tone as she could.

"I knew you wouldn't," Discord replied, tilting his head. Then he snapped his fingers and Celestia's eyes widened as she watched the six Elements of Discord appear on Discord's body, one on his head, two on his arms, two on his legs, and the last one on his tail. Fluttershy, Rainbow Dash, and Pinkie Pie appeared in front of him the next moment; all three of them were frozen in positions of fear and had been turned into dark chocolate statues.

The display absolutely horrified Celestia; she could feel her heart rattling in her chest. She'd been trying so hard to maintain her composure and try to keep some semblance of calm, but the more she saw, the more difficult it became. She could feel her heart blasting in her chest like a bongo drum riff, but she forced herself to think of her back-up plan, of Twilight, Rarity, and Spike rushing through Everfree Forest to get to Zecora's house-

Just as the thought crossed her mind, Celestia gasped when Zecora appeared next to Fluttershy, Rainbow Dash, and Pinkie Pie, encased in pale tan caramel. To add insult to injury, Discord casually picked up Zecora and took a huge bite out of the oracle's tail, grinning as he chewed. He casually threw Zecora aside and opened his mouth slightly, showing gooey strings and strands of caramel caught in-between his sharp teeth and canines.

"I need to floss better..." he announced jovially. "I have such an overactive sweet tooth!"

Horrified, Celestia reeled back and jumped up into the sky, using her powerful wings to reach a better altitude; Luna followed her, transforming into her Nightmare Moon form.

Sensing that a fight was about to break out, Discord leaped into the air himself, rubbing his hands together and smiling with complete, utter glee. "Okay, girls, let's dance!"

Luna flew straight at Discord, a navy blue aura surrounding her body. The closer she came towards him, the bigger the aura became until it completely enveloped her. When she reached Discord, she was a blue fireball. A huge explosion rocketed through the air, followed by a huge puff of light blue smoke and a following veil of star like sparkles.

As the effect faded, Celestia blinked rapidly. Her sister was now muzzle to muzzle with Discord, each of them trying to push the other back. But while Luna was charged and angry, Discord was absolutely ecstatic and excited.

Celestia didn't wait another minute. She calculated her best trajectory and then aimed her unicorn horn at Discord. A huge sphere of bright yellow and orange light started forming and once it was big enough, Celestia shot a concentrated burst of energy at Discord. He seemed to be so caught up in his tussle with Luna that he didn't notice the huge energy ball coming at him. Celestia actually let her heart leap a little in excitement as she watched her attack get closer and closer.

Right before it could hit, Discord reached up and easily deflected it with a simple wave of his lion's paw. "You'll have to do much better than that to stop me, Celestia!" he jeered.

Howling with rage, Celestia pumped her powerful wings a few times and then dived right towards Discord. Within range, she powered up her horn again and then started shooting a hectic series of small energy blasts at him. At the same time, Luna tried to shoot her own slightly bigger, more darkly colored energy blasts. Neither one of them was able to get in at least one decent shot at him.

Laughing, Discord raised both of his arms and balled the ends of them into fists. Both sisters were paralyzed and felt like they were suddenly caught in the brutal, constricting vise of those fists. Discord started to squeeze and both sisters yelped, their limbs hurting. The harder he squeezed, the wider Discord's smirk grew, and the more pain Celestia and Luna experienced.

Celestia felt like her body was exploding with supernovas of pain; gritting her teeth, she raised her horn and grunted as her horn started to glow again. She threw off Discord's attack and caught him in a similar vise, making him float there for a few seconds. For a few seconds Discord was absolutely baffled and caught off-guard. The next thing he knew, Celestia was flying over him and was sending them both on a high speed track downwards. Looking over his shoulder, Discord could see the ground coming up. Fast.

Hitting the ground, hard, Discord felt an electric bolt of pain rocket from his horns to the tip of his tail. He was still vibrating in pain when Celestia came in and just stomped on his chest with her hoof, driving it in like a hammer. All of the wind in Discord's chest came out in a giant gust.

"Are you ready to surrender, now?" Celestia asked, her eyes a pair of furious flames.

"You're underestimating me on a grand scale, Princess..." he said weakly.

Grunting in disgust, Celestia drove her hoof down harder. Discord smiled a little; a bright glass orange sphere manifested out of thin air in his griffin paw. Once she saw it, Celestia's eyes widened and she shook her head in disbelief. She actually pulled her hoof back and trampled back a few steps; she continued walking backwards as Discord crept back up onto his feet and marched towards her.

Knowing that he had her scared, Discord kept advancing, holding out the sphere like a death threat and wearing a big smirk. Once Luna saw the sphere, she started backing up, too.

Finally, Discord just stopped and watched as the sphere glowed with a bright orange light. A few seconds passed and the light grew brighter and brighter until it covered and swallowed everything and everyone. Once it faded, Discord watched as Luna and Celestia stared at each other; their wings and horns were missing and they were both the size of a regular, average sized Earth pony.

"Check...and mate," Discord said, holding up his griffin claw.

Celestia and Luna looked up at him with wide, frightened eyes just as they started being covered in big and sticky globs of cotton candy. Both of them looked at each other, frowning and with eyes glittering with tears just before they were completely covered by the cotton candy...