DAY 2: 3
"Conditions met. Wall clear."
The air behind the reaper shimmered briefly. Twilight took a tentative step forward, waiting to meet resistance. Pinkamena however trotted through at a comfortable pace. "Come on Twilight, you heard the mare. The wall's gone."
"Well sorry for still not being used to all this," Twilight complained, quickening her pace to catch up with Pinkamena. "How do those walls even work anyway? I'd say it was an air compression spell used to increase the air pressure so much that it's impassable, but that wouldn't explain the shimmering, and it can't simply be a massive telekinesis gate because those require constant concentration to maintain, and..."
"Shh, did you see that?"
"Oh, something flew over my head. I think it was your magic jargon."
Twilight grinned sheepishly. "Hehe, sorry. I get a bit carried away when it comes to magic."
"It's no biggie. Most of my friends have something like that. Word of advice, don't talk to Rarity about fashion unless you're REALLY interested."
"I'll keep that in mind." It's so weird having to pretend like this, thought Twilight. The hardest part is trying to remember what I'm not meant to know. Aloud she spoke again. "So are all walls like that? Do we simply have to erase some Noise and we can go through?"
Pinkamena shook her head. "It's often up to the Reaper who put the wall up. Last game some of them had us running back and forth bringing them food because they couldn't leave their posts."
"Really? They used you as a pizza delivery service?"
"On the bright side, most of them weren't that fussy about it. It got to the point we just started carrying some small snacks with us just in case. It helped when we got hungry as well."
The pair walked on in silence for a while, Twilight still mulling over how the walls worked. Summoning glass? No, they wouldn't want something that can be broken easily. It has to be something magic. Her thoughts were interrupted when Pinkamena pointed ahead.
"Another wall's coming up. Might be more fighting. You up for it?"
"Huh? Oh yeah..." Twilight paused, unsure of how to put her next thought. "Uh, before we clear the wall, can I have a poke around with my magic a bit? I mean, we still have plenty of time right?"
Pinkamena looked at her hoof. 72:26 "Sure, I guess we've got time. I don't know that it'll help though. The Reapers wouldn't be using these walls if they weren't prepared to deal with ordinary unicorns."
Good thing I'm no ordinary unicorn then, thought Twilight. Pinkamena headed towards the Reaper in charge of the wall to find out the clear conditions, while Twilight moved closer to the wall. Gently she extended a hoof to touch it. Where it touched, the air shimmered and solidified, much like the first wall she ran into. But there was something else, barely perceptible. There was a slight tingling sensation, not unlike a static charge. It was small though, so small that most ponies wouldn't notice it. But to Twilight it signified one thing. The wall was indeed magic.
Well duh Twilight. That much was obvious. Still, that did make it easier to investigate. Twilight took a cautious look around, making sure there were no Reapers watching. Satisfied that there were none, she lowered her horn towards the wall and closed her eyes. It wasn't strictly necessary for a unicorn to close her eyes while doing magic. Indeed it was a mark of skill to be able to perform feats of magic with open eyes. Closing one's eyes however allowed greater focus on the magic, shutting out distractions and allowing a better visualisation of the arcane energies. Twilight sent a small pulse of magic though her horn, a simple exercise learnt by young unicorns to detect magic. It worked on the same basic principles of echo-location, the pulse would bounce off, and be slightly amplified by, any etheral forces nearby, and would be attracted back towards the unicorns horn, here acting as a sort of lightning rod. The received pulse would then provide the user with a depiction of the nearby magic.
The pattern Twilight received made no sense. There were crisscrossing lines of magic, but they seemed to be spread randomly. But magic has to have order to it! Twilight thought on this for a moment before mentally correcting herself, Unicorn magic has to have order to it. Without order, the magic would collapse on itself. There must be something I'm missing here...
She didn't have a chance to mull on this further as Pinkamena had returned. "Well, convinced that it's beyond your knowledge yet?"
Twilight sighed. "I'm not willing to give up yet, but I don't want to spend too much time on this. So what do we have to do? More Noise?"
"Not this time. This time we've got to get that mare," Pinkamena pointed at a nearby unicorn sitting at a cafe table reading. "To talk to this mare," she pointed at another unicorn, seated at a table opposite the first one. "Or vice versa. It'll probably be easier the other way around."
"That's... really?" Twilight considered this. "But how? They can't see or hear us, how are we meant to get them to talk to one another?"
"We have ways. You know the skull pins we have? They can work both ways. We can read others minds', but we can also plant ideas in their heads'."
Twilight looked at the pin on her sash. "These little things can do that? Do we get to keep these after the game? I'd love to study it...."
"Time and a place Twilight. Right now we have a wall to get through."
"Oh, right. Sorry. But if we can do that this should be easy right? We just need to place the idea of going and talking to that mare in her head."
"Not that easy I'm afraid. We can only plant one word. And it's up to them to decide how to interpret it. For example, while one pony might react to the word 'Cold' by putting on a sweater, another might start think she's coming down with a cold."
"That's inconvenient," said Twilight. "So what are we meant to do? I don't think any one word would be enough to make them talk to each other."
"It's just a matter of finding the right word. So first we need to know what they're thinking." Pinkamena tapped her Skull pin to start the mind reading. Twilight followed suit, focusing first on the unicorn reading the book.
Sigh, this is the fifth day we've both been here. Why can't I just work up the courage to talk to her instead of hiding behind this book? She probably hasn't even noticed me...
Twilight withdrew from the mental contact. The idea of using a book for something other than reading was abnormal to her. She also couldn't understand why it was so difficult to just talk to someone. She focused on the other unicorn next, not sure what to expect.
There she is, sitting there reading as always. I should just go talk to her, even just introduce myself. But she's reading, and what if she's one of those mares who hates being interrupted while they're reading? That's not the right hoof to start a relationship on.
Twilight deactivated her pin, shaking her head. Both these ponies wanted to talk to each other, so what was the problem? Why did neither talk to the other? "Well that didn't help at all."
"Au contraire, it helped hugely. We now know they both like each other and want to talk."
"How do they know they like each other?" Twilight asked. They've never even met."
Pinkamena looked at her with a pitying look. "Twilight, you really need to get out more."
Twilight was sure she'd missed something. "What? What do you mean? What?"
"You'll find out when you're older," Pinkamena replied, stifling a giggle. For a moment she almost sounded like her norm- her usual self. "Anyway, I think I know how we can make this work. First we need to get the one with the book to look up."
"Would the word 'up' work then? Or would that be too vague?"
"I have a better idea. Try the word 'look'."
Twilight was surprised. "Me? You want me to plant the word?"
"Sure. You're the unicorn, surely this sort of stuff should be easier for you. It's just like mind reading, but instead you imagine them saying the word."
Nervously, Twilight activated her pin again. She focused on the book reading unicorn once again. Maybe I should give up. I mean she probably hasn't even noticed me, and it's not like there's anyway I can find out... Seeing her chance, Twilight thought the single word, Look. A puzzled expression passed over the unicorn's face for a moment. Look... hmm, maybe I can find out if she's noticed me. Maybe if I just take a quick look and see if she's looking at me... She lowered the book to take a quick glance. The other unicorn flushed and quickly turned her gaze elsewhere. Pinkamena smirked.
"Good, we're halfway there then. Right, now we check on our other friend."
"Actually, since you seem to have this pretty much under control, can I go back and examine that wall some more?" Twilight asked, innocence on her face.
"Really?" Pinkamena looked surprised. "But what is there to find? It's a wall."
"Yes, but I know I can figure this out. I just need a bit more time, and I think I can figure it out." Pinkamena looked doubtful. "It can't hurt, can it? I'll only be just over here, and if you're sure you can do this..."
"Fine, you can go. This shouldn't take long anyway. But once I'm done the wall is coming down, got it? We're not leaving it up just for you to study it."
"I know, and thank you!" Twilight trotted over to the wall again. Once again she lowered her head and sent a search pulse through the wall. The results she got back were no less confusing than the last time either. The leylines composing the wall still had no rhyme or reason to them. Twilight walked beside the wall for a couple of paces, taking up a new position along it, and sent another pulse. There was still no pattern Twilight could discern.
It's like I'm not seeing the big picture here. There has to be some pattern to it... Maybe her magic was too weak to detect the whole of the spell? Contrary to basic logic, the stronger a spell was, the less magic could be detected. Spells could only be detected through the pulse method because all magic had a degree of inefficiency in it, and magic that should be being focused towards an end ended up escaping, leaving the residual trail. The glow around objects being magicked and unicorn horns was just an extension of this loss of magic, more magic being lost in the form of light.
So, was it possible that the magic used in the wall was simply so focused that next to no magic was lost? If it was it could be almost impossible to detect the whole thing. You'd need powers on par with the princesses themselves to detect it, and while Twilight always secretly believed herself to be close to their level, the gap between Alicorn magic and Unicorn magic was still huge.
Twilight slumped, defeated by the wall. Then suddenly, a bare glimmer of an idea sparked in the back of her mind. The black skull pins, they allow us to read minds? Even non-unicorns. And they let us see things unseen. She considered the Noise symbols she had previously seen while the pin was active. Maybe if I use the pin at the same time as I sent a pulse...
Once more she tapped the pin. She could feel the now almost familiar sensation of a million voices just outside her range of hearing, the minds of the nearby ponies. Instead of focusing on any one of those though, she kept her attention on the wall. For a fourth time she sent a pulse through the wall. It returned a few seconds later, and Twilight almost fell over in shock. It had worked all right, she had got the whole picture. Literally. Twilight sent a longer pulse this time, to give her more time to confirm what she saw. On their own, the magic leylines made no sense, that was true. But seen together all at once, they formed a picture of a love heart with two unicorns, their horns touching, in the middle. There were other leylines coming of the main ones that composed the image, forming the barrier part like a fine net. But they all stemmed from this main picture, a picture which itself could be traced back to one line, terminating just behind the Reaper guarding the wall.
"So, you got that thing figured out yet?" Twilight jumped. She whirled around to find Pinkamena behind her.
"How long have you been standing there?"
"Not long. Why, were you doing something you shouldn't have?"
"N- no! I mean, not unless figuring out how this wall works is something I shouldn't be doing."
"It probably is. Anyway, just thought you'd like some warning before your test subject vanishes before your eyes."
Twilight was puzzled for a second before she realised what that meant. "So you got them to talk?"
"Yup. When I left them I think they were making plans to meet up for dinner tonight."
"Oh. It's nice to see friendships forming so fast, I guess." Twilight glanced towards the new friends, now chatting animatedly. "So time to move on then?"
"Yup. Just need to get the Reaper to clear the wall. Mr Ed's Theater is just beyond it."
Twilight checked her hoof. 63:00 "We're making good time then? I mean, it shouldn't take us that long to take out a Noise, right?"
"Well no, but we do still have to find it."
Twilight took another look at the wall. "I know I've already asked a lot, but do you mind if I just stay here while the wall goes down? It might give me more insight as to how they work."
"More insight? That sounds like you've figured something out. What aren't you telling me Twilight?"
"Do we really need to have another conversation where you don't understand what I'm saying?" Instead of the other way round for once.
Pinkamena laughed, although it sounded forced. "No I suppose not. Okay then, I'll go tell the Reaper we're done. But no more fooling around after this. I don't want to hear 'But auntie Pinkamena, please let me stay here for five more minutes! It's for science!'"
"Deal." With that Pinkamena was off again. Realising she had little time, Twilight quickly returned her focus to the wall. Her skull pin was still active, so she prepared another spell. This time, instead of a pulse, Twilight projected a stead flow of magic through, allowing her to see the picture for as long as she held the spell. She saw a surge of magic start at the line's terminus spread rapidly along the main lines. As the magic passed through, the lines seemed to fade, the magic diffusing into the air. In the space of just a few seconds, the wall had completely vanished.