The path to Canterlot exited the heart of the forest, swerving around trees and gently rolling hills.
Twilight Sparkle was diligently taking notes as she walked. “So the Master Spark is simply a deliberate, guided magical overload," she summarized, "Unlike a typical overload which has seemingly random effects, the guidance maintains its form as raw magical energy and light.” She paused to see if Trixie would correct her before continuing on, “Under classical magical theory it would not be considered a spell, but rather a technique or exercise, where the unicorn guides the magic, but does not have a deliberate end result in mind.”
Trixie had her nose turned up as she walked. “It’s good to know my talents are apparent to somepony around here.”
Twilight started to respond to that, but decided against it. “So why is it called ‘Love Sign: Master Spark’? What part of it is about love?” she asked.
“Because, it is filled with the love that Trixie has for everypony.”
“Then, wouldn’t a better name for it be ‘Malice Cannon’?” Twilight snarked.
“Hmph, you have no spell-naming sense whatsoever. Honestly, how could I be the heroine of the story using a spell with a name like that? How did you get to be the Hero of Equestria when you just number your spells?”
Twilight was taken aback by the question. “Hero of Equestria? Me?”
“That’s what they were calling you in Fillydelphia. Last I saw there were no less than three different productions based on your exploits being advertised: ‘The Mare in the Moon’, ‘Twilight Descends’, and ‘The Return of Harmony’.”
Twilight stopped in her tracks as she processed this. “Wait, I’m.. famous?”
The showmare narrated, “And so, Twilight Sparkle, trained by Princess Celestia herself, rescued her mentor and ensured the sun would rise once again. Princess Luna would return to her sister’s side and resume her duties, bringing about the night forever after.” Trixie returned to, what was for her at least, a normal voice as she spoke, “Indeed, that is precisely the story the Great and Powerful Trixie returned to Ponyville with.”
“So you came back to Ponyville, and the story you’re planning to tell is a story about me? And there are plays in Canterlot being written and produced about me? And nopony has actually come by and asked me if I’m okay with this?”
Trixie tilted her head, confusion on her face. “Why, of course! Are you... not... okay with this?” The way Trixie formed the word “not” it seemed foreign on her tongue.
Twilight groused, “I probably would be okay with it if they had asked first.”
The showmare thought on this a while. “Well, The Mare in the Moon was commissioned by Princess Luna herself, so you’d have to take it up with her.”
“Maybe I will.”
Cresting a hill, the two spotted a pony walking in the opposite direction on the path between Canterlot and Ponyville. Twilight immediately recognized the fuchsia earth pony.
The earth pony cantered up to meet the two unicorns. “Twilight Sparkle, good to see you! What are you doing out on the roads this late?”
Twilight deflated a bit, realizing what she was doing. “Oh, you know, the usual. Saving the world from a corrupted night sky.”
Cheerilee instinctively looked up, confused. She even slowly walked in a circle, taking in the whole night sky. “Huh? Corrupted? It looks the same to me.” She turned back to Twilight. “If anything, it looks even more beautiful than usual.”
Twilight’s eye twitched. Cheerilee missed it, but Trixie immediately broke into a smirk, earning herself a glare from the other unicorn. Cheerilee turned to the grinning unicorn. “I don’t think we’ve met before, miss...?” Cheerilee offered her hoof.
Trixie hesitated for a moment, then shook Cheerilee’s hoof. “Trixie.” She stepped back, doffing her hat in a sweeping gesture, speaking grandly, “I am accompanying Twilight Sparkle, Revered Child of the Dawn, Keeper of Harmony, and Dragon Master, on her quest.” She felt Twilight’s glare intensify, and reveled.
Cheerilee was suddenly struck with recognition. “Wait, Trixie? As in The Great and Powerful Trixie? Traveling magician extraordinaire?”
“That I am. A pleasure to make your acquantance, Miss Cheerilee.”
The teacher was all smiles. “So you’re the one my students have been talking about for months! I must say, there are a couple young colts in my class who were absolutely inspired by your show, and completely turned their grades around after you visited. They even won the award for the best magic act at the talent show this year. Thank you so much for being such an inspiration to my students.”
The glare coming from Twilight Sparkle was nearly enough to set Trixie’s mane on fire. As it was, though, it merely warmed her blackened heart and broadened her smile. “Of course,” she said, adjusting her hat. “It’s an honor to be an inspiration to the young.”
Twilight let up her glare, knowing it was having the opposite of its intended effect, and returned her attention to Cheerilee. “How about yourself? Canterlot is a bit of a trek at this hour.”
“There was a teacher’s conference today in Canterlot. I thought I’d save money on a hotel by just coming home when it was over.” Cheerilee let out a small yawn. “It was a better idea an hour ago, I’ll admit.” Despite her tiredness, her eyes suddenly lit up with inspiration. “And, actually, speaking of inspiration... Twilight, I was hoping I could have your assistance with something?”
Twilight piped up, trying to distract herself from her current irritation, “Sure, Cheerilee, I’d be happy to help!”
“Very good! Every unicorn I talked to at the conference today emphasized the importance of an early magical education. But the nearest magic school to Ponyville is in Canterlot, and none of my current students go there at all. So I was thinking of setting up a magic kindergarten in Ponyville.”
Twilight froze, caught in her own memory of magic kindergarten. Laughter ringed in her head, an eternity of punishment for every small mistake or misheard question. That time had sent her into a solitary fortress of books and knowledge for years, and it took a Royal Decree to coax her out of it. Twilight Sparkle did not remember magic kindergarten fondly.
She looked up at the stars, silently pleading that she would never have to return to such an awful place, but that was a mistake. The stars themselves, all out of order, were mocking her, and the laughter of the erroneous night sky of the present joined with the laughter of cruel fillies of the past. It drowned out Cheerilee's words, and Twilight didn't notice that the schoolteacher had wrapped up her pitch.
“...Twilight?” Cheerilee looked for a reaction, but Twilight wasn’t responding. Her eyes were distant, somewhere far away. Just as the other two ponies were getting concerned, she spoke quietly.
"I'll show them."
Cheerilee was ecstatic. "You will? Great! We can discuss the details once you've gotten back from Canterlot, but thank you so much."
"Yes, I'll show them! I'll show them all! Hee hee hee! AHAHAHAHAHA!" Twilight broke out into maniacal laughter, madly giggling at the ghosties of her past. Cheerilee felt herself being floated upwards and away from the laughing mare; Trixie had grabbed the teacher and started running away very fast, eventually taking cover behind a tree some distance away.
Twilight's voice took on a distant, echoing tone as she spoke, "I know! I'll show them... The LEGEND OF EQUESTRIA!"
Twilight Sparkle then exploded.
From her limited view behind the tree, Trixie watched the burst of light fade from the surrounding hills, then started counting down from ten, slowly. Cheerilee next to her was too shocked at the outburst to do anything. At “four”, there was a second burst of light, fainter than the first. Trixie started her count over, holding a foreleg out to discourage Cheerilee from approaching.
Only when she reached zero, did Trixie peer out from behind the tree, to see Twilight curled up in the center of a ring of charred grass, shuddering. As the two other ponies approached they heard Twilight’s faint, panicked voice:
“oh no no no no no, not gonna go back, can’t go back, they’ll all make fun of me and my homework and my smarty pants no no no no no no no...”
After a moment’s consideration Trixie decided a distraction was in order. Gesturing grandly at the sky, she announced, “Look! It’s Princess Celestia!”
“What!?! Where? Where where where?” Twilight sprang to her feet and looked around wildly. Only seeing Cheerilee’s concerned face and Trixie’s victorious grin, she slowed down, eventually coming to a complete halt, blinking a few times as she realized what she had just done. “Oh my gosh! Cheerilee, I am so sorry! I don’t... I’m not even sure what just happened, but...I don’t think I could do what you do.”
Her ranting was stopped by a hug from Cheerilee. “It’s okay, Twilight. I'm.. not sure what happened either, but I won’t ask you to do anything you don’t want to do.”
“Well...” Twilight began, “I guess... I could do some tutoring. I mean, if you still want me to...” Twilight flattened her ears and averted her eyes.
“Of course. Just...” Cheerilee faltered for words for a moment. “Teaching is like learning for a second time. Think of it that way.”
“All right, I will.” Twilight returned the hug before separating. “We should get going. We’ll talk about it later, okay?”
“Okay.” Cheerilee turned to the other unicorn, who was busy looking disinterested. “Trixie, thank you. Will you be putting on another show in Ponyville soon?”
Trixie tilted her hat and smiled. “Of course. It’s good to know the Great and Powerful Trixie still has fawning admirers in Ponyville.”
With that, the teacher parted ways with the two unicorns.
Once the earth pony was out of earshot, Trixie nudged Twilight and whispered, “So, do you explode for all the pretty mares you meet?”
At first, Twilight just looked at Trixie, confused. A moment later she reddened, covering her surprised mouth with a hoof. A second moment later she stamped her hoof down, annoyed.
“You realize I’m obligated to hit you now, right?”
Trixie laughed and turned her cheek. Twilight let out an exasperated sigh and just kept walking.