It's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years.
For the three hundred and sixty fifth time in as many days, Twilight Sparkle awoke the instant the sun rose over the horizon. Her eyes opened without resistance and without the residue that used to build up in the corners, one of the many little grievances that she no longer experienced. She stood up without a second thought, joints cooperating in such a way that they refused to crack even once. Just like every other morning, she felt perfect. No aches, no pains, no troublesome thoughts weighing her down.
It's the perfect illusion, she thought. Sure, everything seemed perfect, and for most ponies, it was perfect. Where she was there were no worries. Everypony lived in harmony, just how it ought to be.
But for Twilight, it wasn't perfect. For the past year, she had felt as though a hole in her heart had formed, and nothing could fill it.
Today, everything would change.
Taking a deep breath, Twilight began her walk towards her destination. Each hoof pressed lightly on the clouds she was walking upon, which made up the ground of where she now lived. She hadn't needed to use the Walk on Clouds spell like she did the time she went to watch Rainbow Dash in the Young Flier's Competition; the clouds were comprised of magic themselves. In fact, magic was rarely needed where Twilight was. Her character frequently got the best of her, however, and she often found herself practicing spells that she had learned when she was in Ponyville. Twilight's mind was occupied with thoughts of potions and charms when a voice reached her ears.
"Hey, Twilight! Wanna come and jump rope with us?" the voice asked. Twilight halted her pace and turned to see three fillies with huge smiles jumping rope. There was one of each pony race--a unicorn, a pegasus, and an earth pony. The one who had gotten Twilight's attention was the earth pony, who was in the middle of the other two, hopping on her feet. Slightly after Twilight turned to meet her gaze, the filly caught her hoof on the rope and she tripped and fell to the surface of the clouds. All three fillies began laughing.
"Wow, Marigold! A hundred and fifteen! That's a new record!" the unicorn filly said ecstatically.
"R--really? There's no way I could beat your record, Ivory!" Marigold replied, her phrase directed at the pegasus.
"Well, ya just did, believe it or not! Guess now I have to break yours!" the pure white pegasus challenged. She turned to Twilight. "Come on, Twilight! We're having tons of fun here!"
Twilight smiled and took a slight detour to talk to the fillies. It would have to be a short one, as she had lots to do today. "You know I'd love to, girls, but-"
"You're just scared of falling and embarrassing yourself again, aren't ya?" Ivory replied. Marigold and the unicorn, whose name was Opal, chuckled.
Twilight blushed. "Ha ha, girls. Very funny. Actually, I have lots to do today. I'm very busy."
"What do you mean, you're busy?" Opal interrogated. "There's nothing busy to do around here! You can do whatever you want! Unless..." she gasped along with her friends.
"Are you gonna use your Pass today, Twilight?!" Marigold questioned, eyes sparkling. "Please tell me you are! I've never known anypony to wait as long as you have!"
Twilight nodded. "Yup. Today's the day." The three fillies gasped again.
"Promise us you'll tell us all about it when you get back!" Ivory said. "We want to hear everything!"
"Well, I don't know..." Twilight said doubtfully, obviously messing with the girls.
"PLEEEEEEASE?" they simultaneously begged, eyes wide as dinner plates.
Twilight giggled at the expressions. No three fillies should be allowed to contain this much cuteness. They reminded Twilight of a certain gang of Crusaders she knew back in Ponyville, a connection she made nearly every time she ran into the trio.
"I suppose I can give you a few details when I get back..." she promised, winking.
"YAY!" the three fillies leaped into the air in unison.
"Thanks, Twilight! You're the best friend anypony could ask for!" Marigold added.
Twilight blushed and felt her heart skip a beat. "Th...thanks, Marigold. And you too, Ivory and Opal. I wish I could play, but I need to get going. I want to make the most out of this day as I can. Understand?" The trio nodded. "Good. Now keep playing and I'll tell you about my visit when I get back, okay? Goodbye!"
"Bye Twilight!" the voices said, and Twilight turned to leave. Thoughts of anticipation occupied her mind as she began to get back on course to her destination. As she was walking, she could hear faint counting in the background.
"One, two, three, four, five, six..."
"...seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven..."
BOOM! The earth shook beneath the hooves of Ponyville's six most well-known ponies (and its most well-known dragon), disturbing the relaxing afternoon they were enjoying.
"What in the hay was that?" Applejack asked as she picked her hat up from the ground.
"I dunno, but I do know that whatever it was broke my concentration! At this rate I'll never break my ball-bouncing record!" Rainbow Dash added.
BOOM! The noise repeated, and Applejack's hat fell off again.
"Gosh dangit!" Applejack shouted.
"I hope it's nothing scary..." Fluttershy added, trembling with fright.
"I bet it's something just awful!" Rarity worried.
"Ooh! Ooh! Maybe it's a party!" Pinkie Pie hypothesized. She was the only pony who didn't appear to be slightly worried in the group, and so she was met with five pairs of questioning eyes. "What?" she responded obliviously.
BOOM! The noise sounded a third time, and the ground shook again. This time, Applejack was able to hold on to her hat.
"Aha! Gotcha this time, ya varmint!"
"Girls, calm down," Twilight Sparkle said, attracting the attention of her friends. "Whatever it is, we need to check it out. Okay?" Everypony nodded in agreement. "Good. Now let's get going!" Twilight led the pack towards Ponyville with determination, a nervous dragon sitting on her back.
"Are you sure about this, Twilight?" Spike asked.
"Of course I am, Spike!" Twilight affirmed. "You're probably just getting worked up about nothing."
After about fifteen minutes of walking through the clouds, Twilight was able to reach her destination. It was one of the most important buildings where she was, which was odd, seeing as it served only a single purpose. It was rather small, as well, standing only one story high. Twilight entered the building with butterflies in her stomach, and was greeted with the sight of a lone unicorn mare sitting behind a counter. She was talking to somepony on a phone, which was very strange to Twilight.
Who could she possibly be talking to around here? she wondered.
"Uh huh? Good," the unicorn said to the telephone. Twilight noticed that her voice was sounded rather nasally, as if she was talking with a plugged nose. The unicorn directed her eyes towards Twilight through a pair of glasses. "Hang on a sec, dear. I'll have to call you back. This adorable young unicorn just walked in here." With that, the mare hung up the phone and gave Twilight her full attention. "So what brings you here today, dearie? Hang on...Twilight Sparkle, right?"
"Mhm," Twilight confirmed. "Wait, how did you know that? I've never even met you!"
"I know everypony there is to know, sweetheart. It's my job."
"Th...that's amazing!" Twilight stuttered. She would have questioned her as to why in Equestria she had a job here, but she figured that question could wait for another time.
"Oh, hush. It's nothing really," the unicorn replied. "So what's your business today, Miss Sparkle? Oh, like I need to ask. Everypony only comes here for one reason. I'm assuming you want to use your Pass today?"
Twilight nodded. "Yes, please, miss..."
"Everypony just calls me Bloom, hon," the mare stated.
"..miss Bloom," Twilight repeated. "Yes, today's the day."
Bloom smiled, and her eyes lit up behind her glasses, giving Twilight a sense of comfort. "Alright, just let me check something real quick..." she trotted over to a wall covered in file cabinets and pulled out a manila folder bearing Twilight's cutie mark in fifteen seconds flat. As Bloom set the folder on the counter in between the two of them, Twilight noticed she had been gawking at Bloom's performance, so she closed her mouth to be polite. "Yep, looks like you're all set!" Bloom said. "Haven't used your Pass yet in an entire year. Now that's impressive."
Twilight blushed. She had so many questions and so little time. She told herself once again that they would have to wait for later.
"Now, are you sure you want to use this today, hon? You can only use these things for one day, ever. Otherwise this place would be flooded every day. Understand?"
Twilight nodded. "Yes, I'm sure. This is the day I've been waiting for. It's...been long enough as it is."
Bloom smiled. "Alright, I'll just need you to sign here then." She levitated a pen over to Twilight. "One day, one chance, until sundown. Got it?"
"Got it." Twilight quickly signed the document, which was simply a dotted line positioned under the word 'Pass', and returned it to the manila folder.
"Alright, then, you're all set!" Bloom declared. Her face then lit up as if she had forgotten something. "Oh, wait. You're not a pegasus, so you'll probably want these, sweetcheeks." A vanilla light surrounded Bloom's horn as she concentrated on Twilight.
Twilight looked back to see that a pair of wings had sprouted from her back. Her eyes widened and she let forth a wail of disbelief that could have shattered glass. "AUGHHH!"
Bloom, meanwhile, was trying to hold back laughter. "M-miss Sparkle, don't get too used to it, it's only for a d-day...HAHAHA!" Twilight gave her a stare of disbelief and her laughter quickly ceased. "Honestly though, these wings are only for today. Helps you get around faster."
"Well...I guess that kind of makes sense," Twilight said reluctantly, unfolding her wings and stretching them. It felt incredibly odd to have two extra appendages sprouting from her back, but she couldn't concede the fact that they would be useful.
"Of course it does! Now this is it, Miss Sparkle. Say the words, and your Pass will allow you to travel wherever in Equestria you desire. Ponyville, I'm guessing?"
"Alright. Whenever you're ready."
"Then I'll see you at sundown." A smirk appeared on Bloom's face as her horn became enveloped in a vanilla aura once again. The next thing Twilight knew, a hole had opened in the clouds and she was standing on thin air. She only had time to scream as she began to tumble towards the world below.
Twilight's scream began to fade as she fell, and Bloom chuckled to herself again. "What a nice mare."
The unlikely team of six ponies and a dragon were galloping towards Ponyville's town square at a breakneck pace. Unaware of the true dangers ahead of them, their faces wore expressions that were a combination of determination, anticipation, and worry.
As they neared Ponyville, the ground began to shake more frequently and with a higher intensity. Twilight knew it could not be an earthquake or another natural disaster, as the shakes were too short and frequent. She couldn't put her hoof as to what could really be causing this, though.
When Ponyville came into view, the seven friends stopped in shock, mouths open. The town was in absolute chaos. Ponies were running through the streets in a panic, their screams heard even from where the friends stood. A few buildings were on fire in the midst of all the chaos, and ponies unwillingly left behind their possessions in an effort to save their families.
"What in Equestria...?" Twilight said. The last time Ponyville had been in this much turmoil was during Discord's return. Celestia would have been sure to contact Twilight if anything went wrong with the wards holding Discord in place, so that couldn't have been what happened.
"Look, guys!" Spike said, pointing to a panicked earth pony running their way. "Maybe he knows what happened!"
"Excuse me, sir!" Rarity yelled. The traumatized pony stopped in his tracks and responded to the group.
"Y...yes? What is it?"
"What's going on down there? It doesn't look good..." Dash asked the question this time.
"Well, you see, there's a-"
A terrible growl pierced the sky, startling Twilight and the others.
"-an Ursa! There's an Ursa!" the startled pony finished his sentence and then ran off in panic, sobbing.
"An Ursa Minor? That's it?" Twilight said. "Well, I've done this once before, so I don't-"
Fluttershy nudged her shoulder. "Uh, Twilight..."
Fluttershy pointed towards the east side of Ponyville. Emerging from the Everfree Forest was a gargantuan beast with stars dotting its purple fur.
"Uh, aren't Ursa Minors usually a liiiiiitle bit smaller than that? And by a little, I mean a lot smaller!" Pinkie Pie said.
"Yes, Pinkie...they are. That's not an Ursa Minor, though. That's an Ursa *gulp* Major."
Feeling helpless and legitimately scared for one of the first times in her life, Twilight had no idea what to do.
Twilight was flying.
Well, she wasn't exactly flying just yet. She still had to get used to the wings sprouting from her back. Falling with style was more like it.
As she tumbled towards the ground below, she had figured out that spreading her wings out perpendicular to her body allowed her to slow her descent and glide to the ground rather than fall. As she descended, she gathered enough courage to try some acrobatic maneuvers--loop-the-loops and such. Her head hurt slightly from the unfamiliar experience after the first try, but after multiple attempts, she became exhilarated with a rush of adrenaline that she had never quite experienced before. She felt herself becoming more and more aware of her wings, and the ways that the angles they were pointed determined her speed and trajectory. It was unlike anything she had ever experienced before. She now understood why Rainbow Dash had found flying to be both a superior leisure activity and exercise routine.
Rainbow Dash...it had been a year since she had seen the brash pegasus, or any of the other four ponies that made her time in Ponyville heaven, for that matter. As she looped and corkscrewed her way to the surface, she noticed just how much she had missed the sight of a cyan blur in the sky, rainbow streak trailing behind. Admittedly, the pegasus was extremely prideful of her acrobatic abilities, but rightfully so--she was hooves down the most talented flier Twilight had ever seen, even when her nerves threatened to get the best of her. Twilight had always hypothesized that her goals to become part of the Wonderbolts would be reached, and that had always terrified her, as it would mean that Dash would be leaving Ponyville and her friends for a very long time.
But would Dash do that?
She was the Element of Loyalty, after all, and there was nothing in the world she was more loyal to than her friends. Would she leave her friends for personal gain?
Twilight had thought about the situation many times over the past year, and it was a thought that still plagued her mind to this day. She knew the Wonderbolts had had a full roster the previous time that Dash had contacted them, but a lot of things can change in a year.
A lot of things.
Today, she hoped to find the rainbow-maned pegasus, and with her, the answer.
Her mind was occupied with thoughts of her friend when she looked down and saw she was nearing her destination.
At even the slightest sight of her hometown, she became choked up and could feel herself holding back tears of joy. It was beautiful. A year was too long. It had felt more like ten. Nay, an eternity.
As she glided with her wings into the town, a cascade of memories flooded her brain. There was the stage at which the Cutie Mark Crusaders had performed their adorably terrible theme song. There was the park where she and her friends used to spend their lazy afternoons. There was the dam that she had patched up while posing as one of the many Mare-Do-Wells that had helped to balance out Rainbow Dash's ego. There was the City Hall, with its new look after disaster had struck a year ago. If she had been a tourist from a different part of Equestria, she never would have guessed the state of ruin Ponyville had been in only a year before. In fact, as she looked closer, the entire town had been returned to its previous glory. Houses that had been burned down or crushed were now again standing and filled with happy families. She conceded that it may not have looked perfect, but the best things in life never are.
As she neared Sugarcube Corner, her mind became filled with thoughts of Ponyville's very own premiere party pony--Pinkie Pie.
Her hopes of seeing her friends again were realized for the first time when the pink mare exited the bakery she worked at, saddlebags on her back and balloons tied to her tail. To Twilight, she looked extremely silly, but she didn't expect anything different.
Twilight found herself holding back both tears of joy and laughter as she neared the ground. She folded her wings into her sides, and her feet touched solid ground for the first time in a year. She had almost forgotten what it felt like. It was rough, hard, and the pebbles she stepped on sometimes hurt her hooves.
It was just as she remembered.
Pinkie Pie stopped to look up at the sky, a smile on her face.
Some things never change... Twilight thought with a smirk of her own. She walked over and stood next to the pink pony, who appeared to be watching a bird.
"Hey, Pinkie," Twilight said. Much to her dismay, the pink pony was unable to see or hear her. Twilight knew this would happen based on the accounts of other ponies she had talked to, but it still disheartened her slightly. It didn't matter much, though. There was Pinkie! She was talking to her! "It's been a while, huh? I've missed you a ton."
Pinkie Pie hiccuped and giggled. "Excuse me!" she said to nopony in particular.
Twilight smiled and continued. "Heh..those hiccups remind me of how much I've missed the way you always smile and laugh at everything."
Pinkie's tail twitched, and she quickly stepped out of the way of a falling flowerpot that seemed to have appeared out of nowhere. "Oh! I also miss your crazy Pinkie Sense...no matter how much I hate how I can't explain it! It's just one of those quirks that make you you." Pinkie started humming, which brought another thought to Twilight's mind. "I miss all of your songs, too. I sing them everyday where I am now. You really do have a beautiful voice..." Twilight trailed off as Pinkie lost interest in the bird and began to bounce the way only she did towards her destination.
Twilight decided to follow, and noticed Pinkie was still humming a tune in rhythm with her bouncing. Twilight recognized the tune as 'Twilight is my Bestest Friend,' which she sang when she tried to convince Twilight to give her the extra ticket to the Grand Galloping Gala.
"Kinda funny, isn't it?" Twilight began the one-way conversation again. "You all wanted to go to the Gala so bad, and when we finally did all go together, we ended up ruining the whole thing!" Twilight laughed hysterically at the memory of Pinkie trying to get prim and proper Canterlot ponies to dance to her party music. "But what did we expect? We're Ponyville ponies! Not some stuck-up Canterlot ones!" Twilight stopped and sighed. "Those were the days, Pinkie..."
All of a sudden, Pinkie mysterious halted her bouncing, and Twilight's eyes widened. Had she heard her? No, impossible...there was no way. It had to be something else
Twilight turned out to be right about this, as Pinkie directed her attention not in Twilight's direction, but everywhere else.
"Uh oh!" Pinkie said frantically. She tensed up, and then she let loose one of her famous 'combos' that supposedly predicted the future. "Ear flop...eye flutter...knee twitch...AHHH!" Pinkie leaped out of the way of an opening door just in time, and was greeted by a very surprised mint-colored unicorn.
"Oh, sorry Pinkie! I didn't know you were there!" the unicorn apologized. Twilight recognized the unicorn as Lyra, one of Ponyville's most talented musicians. She frequently came to the library to check out books on music history and theory, so Twilight knew her pretty well, though not as well as she wished. The case was the same with many other ponies, and was one of Twilight's biggest regrets.
"It's okay, Lyra!" Pinkie replied with a smile. "My Pinkie Sense saved me again! Say, are you coming to the party this afternoon?"
Party? Twilight thought, a quizzical look on her face. Well, DUH, there's a party. Why else would Pinkie have balloons and saddlebags? But...who's it for?
Lyra nodded in affirmation to Pinkie's question. "Of course, Pinkie. I wouldn't miss it for anything." A look of sympathy appeared on her face. "I know she meant the world to everypony. Especially you, Pinkie."
Twilight gasped as she realized that the party in question must be for her. But how? She wasn't even here anymore!
"Don't get all frowny, Lyra!" Pinkie said, still grinning widely. "The party's going to be fun and everypony will be happy! You know she wouldn't like it if we were all sad!"
A smile found its way back onto Lyra's face, and Twilight smiled with her. Pinkie had a knack for being able to cheer anypony up, no matter the situation. "You're right, Pinkie. Thanks."
"Nooooo problem!" Pinkie said, saluting Lyra. "You know I'd love to stay and chat, but I'm busy setting up the party!" She pointed to the bags and balloons she was carrying.
Lyra laughed. "All right, Pinkie. I guess I'll see you later at the party then."
"Okey dokey lokey! See you soon!"
Pinkie resumed bouncing toward her destination, which Twilight had concluded was her library, based on the path she was taking. Sure enough, the library soon came into view, balloons already on some of the limbs for the party that would occur that night. As the two friends neared the library, Twilight noticed an unfamiliar sign in front of the tree. She struggled to read it in the sun, as the light glared of its reflective surface. As she got closer, however, the glare disappeared and the words became visible. Twilight stopped dead in her tracks and gasped as the read the four words printed on its surface.
Twilight felt like she was getting more exercise in this day than she had the rest of her entire life. Once again, she was galloping at an extremely fast pace towards the center of Ponyville, into the face of danger. This time she was alone, however, as she had instructed the other five of the Elements to help evacuate the town, and had told Spike to go with them to stay safe. The five ponies were reluctant, but Twilight was able to convince them that she was the only one capable of solving the situation due to the fact that she was the only pony who was able to stop the Ursa Minor, and the Elements of Harmony were with Celestia in Canterlot Castle anyways. Spike had only agreed to leave because Rarity had told him that she would keep 'her little Spikey-Wikey' safe and out of harm's way.
So here she was, charging into the jaws of danger, all alone, ground shaking, roars piercing the sky.
When she was nearing town square, she was stopped by the call of a pony in distress.
"Oh, somepony help me, please! I just don't know what to do!" the voice sang, almost overdramatically.
"Hang on!" Twilight replied. "Just stay calm and--YOU!" Twilight's lowered her head and narrowed her eyes at the source of the voice.
"Who, me?!" the accused pony said in disbelief. "Whatever could you want from the Great and Powerful Trixie?"
Twilight scraped the ground with her hoof like a bull ready to charge. "What are you doing here, Trixie? I thought we sent you packing last time!"
Trixie giggled with mischief. "Oh, you sure taught me last time. Taught me that you're the only unicorn powerful enough to send an Ursa Minor on its way all by yourself!"
"So? What's your point?" Twilight was getting impatient with the sarcastic mare.
"Oh, nothing...nothing really. I was just a little curious if you could do the same with a big, bad Ursa Major."
Twilight's eyes widened in disbelief. "WHAT! YOU brought that thing here?!?"
Trixie scratched her chin before replying. "You know what? I suppose I did! It's really quite fascinating how angry they get when you wake them up."
"Trixie! You're crazy!"
"Am I?" the mare replied, a smirk on her face.
"Yes! You are!"
"Oh really?" she chuckled. "Well, I suppose a bit, yes. Hahaha!" She held a hoof to her ear. "What's that? Is that a helpless foal screaming for help?"
Twilight couldn't believe her ears. "You...you're sadistic!"
"Hmph! Such harsh words from Celestia's 'prized pupil!'" Trixie used the title lightly, as if it were a joke. "It should have been me that Celestia chose for her apprentice! Everyone knows that nopony is as skilled at magic as the Great and Powerful Trixie! But noooo, she has to choose this nopony called Twilight Sparkle! UGH! And then you just have to rub salt on my wounds by embarrassing me in front of all of Ponyville!"
Twilight was shocked at the unicorn's twisted motives. "Wh...what does that have to do with anything?! There are lives in danger, Trixie! Homes are being destroyed! And it's all because of you! Are you really doing this just out of jealousy?!"
Trixie stared at Twilight with an unpleasant expression of satisfaction. "You're a mare of logic, Twilight...simple logic, at least. So tell me. If I can't stop this Ursa Major, and neither can you, then what happens? Hm?"
"Well, all of Ponyville will be crushed to dust, for one thing!"
"A nice side effect, yes...but let me rephrase that. What does it prove?"
"It proves that you're insane!"
"Oh, Twilight. Your words sting me so. But no, that wasn't the answer I was looking for. You see, if I can't stop the Ursa Major, and neither can you...then I guess we're equals, hm?"
Twilight was past furious at this point. "I'll never be the equal of you, Trixie! I actually care for the lives of these ponies! You're just a selfish maniac!"
Trixie laughed at Twilight's response. "Selfish maniac or not, I won't be the one who fails to protect Ponyville from destruction. If you fail, then Celestia will see how worthless you really are!" Trixie's face was full of absolute malice. "You fail, we're both responsible. If they can even pin the blame on me, that is. If not, then it just proves I'm better than you!"
Twilight's mouth was agape. It was obvious that there was no swaying the mare's illogical thinking. She knew that her failure meant nothing but letting down her friends and the rest of Ponyville. She would just have to prove Trixie wrong. Again.
Another terrible roar sounded in the air as Twilight turned and saw the Ursa Major step on a pony's house in the distance, crushing it flat. The beast had reached the town, and was free to cause destruction.
Trixie grinned an evil grin, her plot coming to fruition. "Your move, Sparkle."
Twilight entered the library behind Pinkie through the door. Quite literally through the door, in fact. She had been too busy gawking at the sign that she didn't notice when Pinkie entered the library and shut the door behind her. Her attempts to open the door using magic had failed since, as she had figured, she couldn't use magic in this state on the surface. Realizing she had no other options, she tried to open the door with her hooves--and fell straight through the door onto the library floor.
Interesting... Twilight thought. I guess this state does have some benefits to it, after all. She turned and looked back at herself and saw a comical sight. Half of her body was in the library, while the other half was still somewhere in the outside world. If anypony else could see her, they would have either laughed or absolutely freaked out.
Twilight stood up from her awkward positioning and turned her attention to the inside of the library.
The sight she was greeted with immediately brought joy to Twilight's heart.
In her library were four of the ponies she had been so anxious to see. Along with Pinkie Pie were Fluttershy, Applejack, and Rainbow Dash. Fluttershy and Applejack were working hard with Pinkie Pie to set up the party decorations. Fluttershy, being a pegasus, was hanging streamers from the ceiling that were shades of purple and pink.
"Um, does this look good?" Fluttershy asked. Her voice was still as angelic as Twilight had remembered.
"That looks great, sugarcube," Applejack confirmed. "Keep up the good work." Applejack was reassuring as ever, and from the looks of the situation, she seemed to have gained an increased sense of leadership. This didn't surprise Twilight, as she had always seen Applejack as a great leader.
Fluttershy continued to hang streamers while Pinkie emptied the contents of her saddlebags. She pulled out a box containing pieces of silverware and held them in her mouth.
"Aauljat? Ere should I ut eese?" Pinkie asked.
"Uh, just put 'em over there on the table, by the treats," Applejack instructed. "We'll have Rarity put 'em out when she gets here. It'll be easier with magic, plus nopony wants to use a fork that's already been in somepony's mouth."
"Oey Doey Loey!" Pinkie listened to Applejack's advice and set the box of silverware on a table that contained a variety of treats. There were cupcakes bearing Twilight's cutie mark in frosting, pink and purple varieties of punch, and last but not least, a cake that bore an image of Twilight's first picture she took at Ponyvile--the six ponies all in a group, hugging each other.
Twilight felt tears rolling down her cheek, despite the joy she was feeling. They had done all this just for her? All in her honor? She wished she could go over and give each and every one of them a massive hug, but she had a feeling that they knew how much she would truly appreciate it if she was there with them.
But she had to do something.
"THANK YOU!!!!" she screamed at the top of her lungs. She knew they couldn't see or hear her, but she couldn't resist. She almost burst out laughing at her sheer ridiculousness. "Thank you, everypony..."
Although Twilight was feeling pure joy at the experiences she had been having so far, one thought was pestering her at the back of her mind.
Where was Spike?
Now that this library was no longer a house (Twilight noticed that where her bed had previously been was now a mini-observatory), Spike had to live somewhere, and knowing him, he wouldn't dare leaving Ponyville and the rest of his friends. Thankfully, Twilight's question was answered almost the instant it started bothering her.
"Do any of ya'll know where in Equestria Rarity and Spike are?" an impatient Applejack asked. Fluttershy and Pinkie Pie both shrugged.
Twilight laughed out loud at the answer to her question. Of COURSE he was with Rarity! That sly little dragon probably let Rarity just eat all of his cuteness right up! Of course, Rarity was the Element of Generosity as well, so that probably also factored in to why he was with her.
Turning back to reality, Twilight heard a cynical voice answer Applejack's question. "Probably spending too much time getting ready again." Twilight turned to the voice and saw Rainbow Dash sitting on the staircase. Twilight had almost forgotten she was there, as she hadn't said a word since she entered. In her hooves was the novel Daring Do and the Sapphire Stone, which she was reading for probably the hundredth time.
Wait, Rainbow Dash was here!
Twilight had noticed the rainbow-maned pegasus long before, but the connection had just formed in her brain that that meant that she hadn't left for the Wonderbolts...yet. Deep down, Twilight had never expected anything different from Dash, but the sight of her here in Ponyville lifted Twilight's spirits.
Applejack, meanwhile, did not look too happy at Rainbow Dash's sarcastic response. "It's not like you're doin' a heckuva lot to help out!" she snapped. "Look at yerself, sitting around lazily! Show some respect and help get this party ready for yer friend, will ya?"
"NO!" Rainbow Dash yelled. Fluttershy and Pinkie Pie stopped what they were doing and looked at the spectacle. Dash stood up and stared at Applejack, hurt evident in both of their eyes. "No, no, no! I'm not going to have anything to do with this party!" Four pairs of eyes, including Twilight's, were now staring in disbelief. "What are we celebrating for anyways? It was a tragedy! She's gone, AJ! She's gone forever! GONE!" With the last word, she threw the book she had been reading with all her might. It was heading straight for Twilight. She braced herself, but the book simply flew right through her and hit the wall behind her. "All thanks to that bucking, stuck-up braggart of a unicorn..." Tears had formed in Dash's eyes. For one of the first times ever, Twilight watched as Rainbow Dash began to cry. "I'm sick of *sob* mourning her. I just *sob* want her back...I miss her so much."
Applejack put an arm around Dash's shoulder and pulled her close. Fluttershy and Pinkie had come over to help comfort Dash as well.
"We all do, sugarcube," Applejack comforted. "Believe me. Ah think about her every day, and Ah'm sure everypony else does the same." She looked to Fluttershy and Pinkie for confirmation, and they nodded. "We all wish it never happened. But we've done enough mournin' and now it's time to celebrate. Not what happened, but the pony it happened to." Rainbow looked up into Applejack's eyes. Her tears had ceased, but she was obviously still hurt. "There's no better way to do that than to remember all the good times we've had with her. That's why everypony is coming tonight. It's a 'Celebrate Twilight' party for a reason. She made everypony here a better pony, and that's a good enough reason to celebrate a life any day. Understand?"
Dash nodded and pulled Applejack into a full embrace. Pinkie and Fluttershy joined in, their eyes wet from Applejack's speech as well.
"I'm sorry, everypony..." Dash said. "I shouldn't have been so selfish."
"It's alright, sugarcube," Applejack affirmed. "We know how much she meant to ya."
"Yes, I...I miss her, too," Fluttershy added.
"So do I!" Pinkie agreed. "Now how about we put a smile on that face of yours?"
Dash broke the embrace and sniffled a final time. Afterwards, her usual expression of confidence reemerged. "This party is gonna be awesome," she said, "because nopony deserves this more than Twilight does. I'll make sure to do my best to make this party the absolute coolest party of all time!"
"That's the spirit!" Applejack said, and Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy cheered. "Now come on, get these balloons up, will ya?"
"Sure thing!" Rainbow Dash took a bundle of purple and pink balloons and tied them all over the tree--on the banister, on chairs, or simply in the air--at a lightning-fast pace that Twilight had missed seeing. The pure speed of Rainbow's decorating blew everypony's manes all over the place, including Twilight's. Never before had she been so happy to have a messy manestyle.
Rainbow Dash touched down after ten seconds flat. "How's that for some decorating?"
"Woo! That was awesome!" Fluttershy cheered in a quiet voice. Everypony turned and looked at her with a confused expression. "Too loud?"
Everypony fell on the floor and burst out laughing. All except Twilight, that is. She simply smiled on the situation, reminiscing on all the good times she had had with her friends. She felt warmth in her heart and thanked Celestia for all the good times they were able to share. In regards to these four, Rarity, and Spike, she had no regrets and felt nothing but love towards them.
Still smiling, she turned and walked through the door to the outdoors, her next destination in mind.
It was time to visit Spike and Rarity.
Twilight was running. Again. It felt like the only thing she had been doing all day. She had mixed emotions in her head at the moment--fear of the Ursa Major, determination that she could stop it, worry for the safety of Ponyville and its inhabitants, and most of all, anger towards Trixie.
In Twilight's opinion, Trixie was beneath even Nightmare Moon and Discord at the moment. Discord was, well, Discord, but Nightmare Moon was evil because of jealousy. This is similar to Trixie, but at least there was some sort of justification to her madness! She was jealous of all the attention and praise Celestia got, while nopony bothered to thank her for the night she brought. Twilight understood what it was like to live in the shadow of a sibling--she had been compared to her brother, Shining Armor, multiple times when in Celestia's School for Gifted Unicorns, always being told of how she couldn't learn magic as quickly as he could. Trixie's jealousy, however, was no better than that of a preschool filly! Craving to always be better than everypony...it was a disgusting habit in Twilight's opinion.
Emotions in a whirlwind, Twilight brought forth a spell to get the Ursa Major's attention. It was a Voice Magnification spell, which was a beginner-level spell, so it wouldn't expend much energy. It brought any unicorn's voice to similar levels as Princess Luna's whenever she spoke in the Royal Canterlot voice.
Focusing her magic energy on herself, Twilight let her voice ring out through the now ghost town of a village. "HEY, URSA!" Twilight yelled. The behemoth turned its gigantic head to look at the comparatively tiny mare. "I KNOW YOU AREN'T VERY HAPPY ABOUT BEING AWAKENED, BUT...IT WASN'T REALLY OUR FAULT, AND YOU'RE RUINING FAMILY'S HOMES. I'M VERY SORRY THAT YOU WERE SO RUDELY AWAKENED, BUT MAYBE WE CAN WORK SOMETHING OUT THAT WORKS FOR THE BOTH OF US?" The Ursa had surprisingly calmed down, and was scratching its head, as if it were actually considering the offer. Twilight smiled as she noticed this. Her plan was actually working!
...for a moment, at least. She heard another magnified voice speak up from behind her. "I HEARD HER SAY THAT YOUR MOTHER HAS FLEAS!" Trixie belittled. The Ursa let out a mighty roar and returned to its state of rage, crushing another innocent family's house.
"TRIXIE!" Twilight yelled with fury, voice still magnified. "WHAT THE HAY WAS THAT FOR?! LOOK WHAT YOU'VE DONE!" She was yelling with such force that Trixie was visibly scooting backwards from Twilight's voice. She countered with her own hurricane of a sentence.
"OH, DID I MAKE THE URSA MAD? OOPS! SORRY TWILIGHT!" Trixie had a smug grin on her face, as if she enjoyed watching Twilight suffer...which she did. "OH, LOOK AT THE TIME! I'M SCHEDULED TO WATCH A FLANK-KICKING IN ABOUT A MINUTE. I'LL BE SOMEWHERE SAFE IF YOU NEED ME!" Just as quickly as Trixie had appeared, she disappeared in a poof of violet magic, a color ironically similar to Twilight's magic.
Twilight let out a wail of frustration that could have awakened Celestia all the way in Canterlot. "AAAAAAUGGGGHHHHHHHH! TRIXIE!"
Her first plan a failure, Twilight began to rack her memory banks for a way to stop the raging Ursa.
Unfortunately, like the tests she used to take in magic school, her time was limited.
Twilight was beginning to get used to her wings. As Bloom had promised, the wings were incredibly useful for moving from place to place at a heightened pace. They were beginning to grow on her, but she told herself to not get too attached, as they would be gone in about...judging by the position of the sun...five hours!
Five hours?! Twilight fretted. This is going by way too fast! Sure, her calculation was an estimate, but she was hardly ever wrong when it came to the properties of celestial bodies.
Twilight was feeling bittersweet when she saw Rarity's boutique appear in the distance. Her time was limited, but she intended to make the most of it.
Twilight quickened her pace of flying and reached Rarity's faster than she ever would have on hoof. Now familiar with the benefits the state she was in held, she flew straight through the wall of the second floor of the boutique, disregarding all laws of physics.
Heh, kind of ironic that I, the pony most obsessed with the laws of nature in all of Equestria, am breaking these laws left and right! Twilight remarked with a smirk. Who'd have thought it? I would have thought it impossible for ponies to be floating through wall or sprouting wings, but here I am, all-
Her thoughts were cut off at the noticing of the friend she had arguably missed the most.
"SPIKE!" she shouted. She floated down next to the dragon, who was wearing the top half of a tuxedo, similar to the outfit he had worn to the chaotic Grand Galloping Gala.
"Aw, you look all handsome and grown up!" Twilight said to her faithful assistant. She knew Spike would groan had he been able to hear her, but she couldn't resist giving him those cheesy and embarrassing compliments. He would always be her baby brother, no matter how big and old he would eventually become.
Spike walked over to the mirror in what Twilight concluded must be his room and flexed. "Lookin' good, Spike. Lookin' goooood," he complimented himself.
Twilight was on the ground laughing. She had always enjoyed snooping on Spike when he was admiring himself, especially since he never knew she was there! It was one of his little quirks that made Twilight love him so much.
Suddenly, the door to Spike's room swung open, with a very dolled-up Sweetie Belle standing in the doorway. Her mane was much less messy than it usually was, most likely thanks to her older sister.
"Ahhh!" a startled Spike screamed. "Oh. Uh, hey, Sweetie Belle. You didn't...hear anything, did you?"
Sweetie looked puzzled. "Hear you? What do you mean?" She walked up to Spike and began speaking very close to his face. "I just came to check and see how handsome my little dragon was looking! And what do you know? He's even more handsome than ever..."
Spike blushed and backed away slightly from Sweetie Belle from embarrassment. "Aw, shucks, Sweetie Belle, you don't have to say that! You're the one that looks amazing!"
"Oh, what a gentlecolt--er, dragon, you are!" Sweetie replied. Their faces were again merely inches away from each other. They stared into each others' eyes for a few seconds before closing them and nuzzling noses, a common sign of affection in Equestria. Both pony and dragon alike were humming quietly in bliss.
Twilight, on the other hand, was gawking at the scene. Spike and Sweetie Belle?!? Huh? Since when did Spike overcome his crush on Rarity? He had been purely obsessed with her every move! It just didn't make any sense to her...
At least, not at first. The longer Twilight thought about it, the more she questioned why she didn't think of this possibility before. Resemblance to Rarity? Check. Good looks? Check, at least for a pony of her age. Unique and talented? Double check. Appealing personality? Checkity check check check. And, most importantly, age? CHECK. She was much closer to Spike's age (in pony years) than Rarity was, so this crush, Twilight determined, was ultimately much healthier for everypony (and dragon) involved.
Again, she ridiculed herself for being unable to foresee this match beforehand. They were perfect for each other. Twilight smiled as she realized they were still nuzzling noses...
...and the big sister side of her began to take over. "All right, guys, let's break it up," she said. Much to her dismay, they didn't stop, as they couldn't hear her.
She facehoofed. Stupid Twilight... she thought to herself.
She was beginning to become irritated by their constant display of affection, but thankfully, a familiar voice came to the rescue from downstairs.
"Sweetie Belle! Spikey! Are you going to keep snuggling, or are we going to go to the library? We're late for setup as it is!"
Thank you, Rarity.
"Uh, we're not snuggling! I'm just helping Spike get ready! Honest!" Sweetie Belle panicked. Spike stood unmoving, sweat rolling down his brow.
"Mmhm. Suuuure," Rarity replied doubtfully. "Just get down here if you're ready. It's time to go!"
"A...alright, Rarity! We're on our way!" Sweetie Belle replied. She then turned to Spike and whispered in his ear.
"Just play it cool, and maybe she won't tease us again!" Sweetie Belle commanded in a hushed tone. Spike nodded, but Twilight had a feeling he would have a rough time 'playing it cool.'
Sweetie Belle left Spike's room ahead of the dragon. Spike took one last look at himself in the mirror, pointed his claws, and clicked his tongue. "Catch ya later, handsome," he whispered, then followed his marefriend out the doorway.
My little brother has a marefriend... Twilight thought. The idea would take some getting used to, that was for sure. I guess a lot really does change in a year. As much as she didn't want Spike to grow up in this way...she approved. It was good for him to be over Rarity.
All these thoughts of Spike and Sweetie Belle had been distracting Twilight from the other reason she had come to the boutique--her fellow unicorn friend!
In a state of elation, Twilight bolted down the stairs, using her hooves this time, and caught Rarity instructing Spike and Sweetie Belle on 'proper party behavior.'
"Now remember, this party is in honor of Twilight, so always be on your best behavior! It would hardly be appropriate to be running around like foals when you're supposed to be remembering such a good pony." She continued to lecture the two on how they should properly eat, making sure to chew slowly and such. Sweetie Belle was obviously becoming antsy, and unable to hold her thoughts any longer, she spoke up to her big sister.
"Uh, Rarity?" the young mare interrupted. "No offense or anything, but...I don't think Twilight would care how we act, so long as we had a good time."
Rarity reeled backwards in a look of terror as she realized that she had just been told by her little sister. Spike stifled a laugh, but Twilight couldn't resist, and she let out a chuckle. She loved Rarity, but Sweetie was right this time. She couldn't have said it better herself.
"S...Sweetie Belle!" Rarity said in shock.
"What?" Sweetie replied innocently. "I'm just saying..."
"Yes, but that's no way to talk to your sister!"
Sweetie Belle lowered her head in shame. "I'm sorry, Rarity...I was just trying to make a point."
"I...it's okay, Sweetie. Don't feel bad," Rarity comforted, feeling bad that she had hurt her sister's feelings. "But you're right. We need to have a good time for Twilight, and I'm sure Spike agrees with you. Just...no showing off your relationship, alright? Both of you. It's absolutely adorable, but you need to spend time with other ponies besides each other at this party, okay? Twilight meant a lot to everypony, and it would be nice to share your memories with other ponies. I'm sure lots of them would love to hear how she helped you get your cutie mark, Sweetie Belle!"
Twilight turned her attention to Sweetie Belle's flanks, and sure enough, a microphone surrounded by music notes was visible on both sides. How Twilight had failed to realize this earlier was beyond her, but she was glad that she had finally recognized her talent for singing like Twilight had told her she had after the Ponyville talent show.
"I suppose so, Rarity..." Sweetie Belle said, no longer appearing disheartened.
"Good. So do we all understand what is expected of us?"
Spike responded for both him and Sweetie Belle this time. "Gotcha, Rarity. We hear you loud and clear." Twilight smiled at Spike's maturity.
Rarity smiled at Spike, and then at Sweetie Belle. "Alright then. So who's ready to party?" she asked, an enthusiastic look replacing the serious one that her face wore only seconds earlier.
"I am! I am!" Sweetie Belle answered with excitement, the spring in her step returned. "Let's gooo, Rarity!"
"Alright, alright, come on then. Don't wait up!" Rarity opened the door with magic, the couple behind her. Twilight took one last glance at the boutique before leaving it for the last time. Designs she didn't recognize were all around on mannequins, being showed off. There were all absolutely beautiful, as was the case with all of her work, and many of them had pink and purple themes, which Twilight assumed to be in her honor.
For the umpteenth time that day, she smiled out of the pure bliss that her friends brought her.
All of a sudden, the door to the boutique reopened, a frantic Rarity in the doorway.
"Phew! Almost forgot the napkins!" she sighed in relief.
Snickering, Twilight Sparkle followed Rarity out the door. The whole way to the library, she watched over her three good friends, eager to see everypony once again.
The Ursa was more dangerous than anything Twilight had ever faced; that much was certain. In truth, it was more dangerous than even Nightmare Moon and Discord, as they had never made an effort on Twilight's life. They lusted for power and control of Equestria, but neither of them made an effort to take lives from innocent citizens. This Ursa was the most dangerous kind of enemy: a beast with a kind of primal anger driven only by instincts, intent to make the fools that awakened its slumber pay.
Twilight grimaced as the Ursa literally ripped Town Hall in half with its massive paws, filling the sky with another unequine roar. The damage was irreversible--a new building would have to be built entirely.
She shook the thought from her head. Architectural problems could wait for later. There were more important things to tend to. She had to stop the beast before it destroyed the town utterly.
Talking wouldn't work anymore; after Trixie's interference, the Ursa had been driven into a seemingly permanent state of rage that could only be calmed by destruction. She would have to revert to other, more drastic means of calming the beast.
Means of magic, specifically.
But what spell could possibly work? It had taken nearly all her strength to drive away the Ursa Minor that had terrorized the village before, and the Ursa Major was several times larger. A sleeping spell was out of the question; the Ursa was far too enraged to be put to a calmed state like the baby Minor was. A teleportation spell? No, that was ridiculous. It took a huge effort to send a letter to Canterlot--that was why she had Spike, after all--so a teleportation spell of that volume would, without question, exhaust Twilight's magic reserves, and henceforth her life.
Suddenly, she wished she had the Princess here to help her. She knew that together with the Alicorn's powers, they would be able to send the Ursa packing with their combined magic ability.
But news traveled slowly in Equestria--it was one of the country's flaws that needed attention, Twilight frequently thought--and the Princess, or the rest of Canterlot, for that matter, probably had no idea of the catastrophe that had befallen Ponyville.
Unlike the rest of the problems she had been tasked to solve in the previous months, she had to solve this by herself.
She was alone.
Like a helpless child.
The gears in her brain started to turn at this point, and she began to formulate a plan. It would have to work, or else...she shuddered. She refused to consider the alternative.
And then she set her plan in motion.
If the Ursa was just going to be a big baby about all of this--being all mad about being awakened from a nap--then that's what he should be. A big baby.
Twilight had been studying the Age Reversal spell for a few months now per Celestia's request (she didn't bother asking why) and she had a fair understanding of how it worked. All you had to do was find the organism's pituitary gland using a sort of scanning technique and reverse the operations occurring in it, effectively causing a reverse growth spurt, and therefore, age reduction. The process could also be performed in the opposite way, Celestia had warned, so this sort of magic was considered forbidden and Arcane in most cases.
But she couldn't just stand by and let her entire life be destroyed, could she? No, of course not. This had to be done. The Magic Police, or whoever was in charge of all this, could arrest her if they wanted. She wasn't going to sit around and let everything important to her be destroyed.
It was showtime.
Turning to the raging Ursa in the Town Square, she focused all of her energy on scanning the Ursa's inner workings. It was amazing to her how much of the Ursa she became aware of. She could feel the Ursa's heartbeat as she examined every inch of the unaware beast.
And then she found it.
It was relatively small compared to the rest of the Ursa, but huge compared to any pony's own gland, that was for sure. Finishing the scan, Twilight began to cast the spell on the Ursa's gland to revert it to its harmless infant self.
And then the Ursa let out an unholy wail that could have awakened a colony of sleeping dragons.
Obviously, this thing wasn't going down without a fight. From her research, she knew the spell to normally be performed with the consent of the other participating pony so as to not create a situation similar to the one currently unfolding.
Both unicorn and Ursa alike were standing unmoving in a battle of willpower, Twilight pouring all her magic energy to attempt to reverse the Ursa's gland, and the Ursa trying to resist the unicorn's prying advances to revert him back to a harmless infantile form.
The scene appeared rather calm, what with only two forms participating in the battle, but in truth, both sides were exhausting themselves in an effort to be the victor. The Ursa's face was contorted in concentration, while Twilight's horn shone with violet brilliance that rivaled the sun of her mentor and teacher.
And then, a breakthrough.
Before Twilight's very eyes, the Ursa began to shrink, its coat losing its purple sheen and its standout stars vanishing into its now dark blue coat. The Ursa was still absolutely huge, but it was growing smaller. Her plan was working!
For what seemed like ages, Twilight's horn shone with a humongous purple glow, the entirety of her magic ability concentrated on saving everything that was dear to her. And slowly, surely, the struggling Ursa Major reverted back to a much less threatening Ursa Minor.
With a final magical catharsis, Twilight blasted the Ursa back into the form of infancy--a small, light blue bear cub with a single star adorning its forehead. It collapsed with exhaustion, and voices that were previously hidden behind Twilight burst into cheers.
She smiled. Everything worked out in the end. She saved Ponyville. The Ursa was no longer a threat. She-
The walk to the library was spent mainly in silence on Twilight's part (not that Rarity, Spike, or Sweetie Belle could hear her anyways) as she watched the trio with a smile on her face. Spike and Sweetie Belle kept trying to sneak in little ways to display their affection, but Rarity blocked these attempts every time, even giving Spike a little smack on one attempt.
"Hey, what gives?" he replied irritably. Rarity refused to respond, as she guessed that the hormonal dragon had learned his lesson. Which he had, Twilight noticed, as the rest of the walk was spent as if the couple was just a pair of good friends. But that's how it always started out, right? Good friends? At least, that's what her romance novels had always told her. The handsome stallion and the beautiful mare, childhood friends who were destined for one another.
She blew a raspberry. It was silly. She never cared for romance, and reflecting back, she had no regrets on never really giving it a spin. That had always been Rarity or Applejack's thing. Unfortunately, it sometimes created arguments between the two, leaving Twilight to sort out the altercation, usually by forcing them to both stop considering the stallion in question altogether.
Okay, so maybe she wished she had been a little bit more talkative with Big Macintosh, but...
She chuckled. She and Big Mac seemed to be about as good of a match as Celestia and Discord!
Stranger things have happened, she reminded herself.
As they approached the library, she noticed a quickening in her friends' steps, as they were anxious to get the party for their lost friend started. And as Rarity had stated several times along the way, the party can never start without napkins.
The door opened before anypony had a chance to knock. Hugs were exchanged between all, the most affectionate of which were directed to Spike, the assumption being that he would be having a rough day on the anniversary of losing his best friend. However, Twilight had to admit that Spike was holding up remarkably well as far as she could tell. There was certainly sadness in his voice, but he held his head high and voice steady for all. It was just as Twilight would want him to, he had said.
Again, she felt a great sense of pride in her little brother.
Over the course of the next hour or so, the final preparations for the party were made--mostly thanks to Rarity's magical abilities--and the group met a final time before the party was slated to begin.
"Alright, ya'll, Ah know what yer all here for," Applejack began. "Yer here because of yer undying love and support for one of the greatest ponies that ever lived--Twilight Sparkle." A few 'woohoos' and 'yays' were heard at the mention of her name. "Now just remember...this ain't a grievin' time. We've done enough of that." She glanced at Rainbow Dash, who kicked at the ground with her hoof, and then spoke up.
"We're here to celebrate," Rainbow said, "because she was the coolest pony I've ever known...even if she was a bit of an egghead." Everypony chuckled, including Twilight.
"And she was the nicest, kindest pony ever," Fluttershy chipped in.
"And she was also quite fashionable!" Rarity added proudly. Everyone gave her looks of disbelief. "What? I've always simply adored her mane." Twilight blushed at the compliment that she wished she would have heard before.
"Alright, I think we get the point, Twilight's great," Spike said, redirecting the group's focus. "Now let's have a party that matches what she's done for us. For her." He put his claw into the middle of the circle. "For Twilight."
One by one, her friends added their hooves to the circle. Even Sweetie Belle put her hoof in.
"For my bestest friend!" Pinkie was the last to put in her hoof, and everyone broke the circle without a word, just with smiles on their faces and tears on their cheeks. Twilight wasn't in a very different condition, as she was simply overtaken by the love she felt coming from each and every one of her friends that she had missed so much. Finally, here they were, all in one place.
And then, for the first time in a year, Twilight felt as though the hole in her heart had been filled again.
"Well, what are we waiting for?" Pinkie asked, breaking the silence. "Let's paaaaaaaaaaaaar-tay!" She turned on the music, which Twilight admitted was very suited to her tastes despite being so upbeat, and the six ponies and dragon cheered.
As if on cue, somepony knocked on the door just as the group finished cheering. Pinkie Pie opened the door to a very cheery Lyra, who was hugged by the aforementioned living cotton candy mass. Twilight peered around the mint-colored musician and gawked at the scene she was greeted with.
Hundreds of ponies--unicorns, earth ponies, and pegasi alike--made up a snaking line that stretched down the street awaiting admittance to the party.
"I think we're going to need more cake..." Pinkie said, although it was tough to tell whether she was frustrated or excited. Probably excited, Twilight decided.
Ponies started to pour in through the front door to Twilight's library, and the good times immediately began. Practically every pony that she had ever met in her life was there at some point during the party. Bon Bon came with Lyra, of course; Twilight had always wondered if there was something more to the friendship between the two roommates. Carrot Top and the rest of her family were also some of the early showers, and Twilight smiled as they exchanged hugs with Applejack and the rest of the Apples, who were normally enemies of the family, being competitors for cash. She must have missed the Apples when they walked in, as Big Mac, Granny Smith, and Applebloom were now socializing on their own, as well. Applebloom was of course with Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle, who had left Spike to himself for the time being. They were joyfully munching on some of the cupcakes that the Cakes had catered, frosting covering their mouths. Looking at them, Twilight noticed that they had grown quite a bit in height since she had last seen them.
And then she noticed their flanks. Just like Sweetie Belle, the other two crusaders now had marks representing their special talents adorned on their haunches. Applebloom's mark surprised Twilight; it wasn't anything like the rest of her family, which all had to do with apples. On both of her flanks were a wrench and a screwdriver, crossed in an 'X' to represent her talent for building things. Scootaloo's cutie mark was a checkered flag, which Twilight guessed to symbolize racing, meaning that Scootaloo had developed a love for speed similar to her idol.
Twilight grinned as the three of them reminisced on the good times they had shared in the past few years, both with and without a certain purple unicorn. It brought joy to Twilight to see that, even though they now had their cutie marks, they were still the same mischievous fillies that she had known a year earlier.
I guess the more things change, the more they stay the same, she thought with a smirk as they each snuck another cupcake from the treat table.
Guests continued to pour in over the course of the next few hours--Spitfire, Zecora, Cranky Doodle Donkey, Colgate, Vinyl Scratch, and Cheerilee, to name a few--all conversing with each other about the mare they used to know. Memories were shared at a rapid pace, some causing Twilight to chuckle or blush with embarrassment, but to Twilight's delight...none of them were sad. The memories were all shared with a smile, and any tears shed were from happiness or the sheer force of laughter, especially in Pinkie Pie's case.
Basically, everything was perfect.
As the day wore on, the crowd in the library failed to thin in the slightest. Instead, it grew at a steady pace, ponies constantly pouring in while none left, enthralled by the good time they were having.
Getting a bit tired of hearing everypony chat continuously, Twilight decided to take a break on the stairs that led up to what used to be her bedroom, leaning back in a relaxed position, simply watching the good times unfold beneath her.
Suddenly, the opening library door caught Twilight's attention from the corner of her eye, revealing the next guests to the party.
She gasped when she saw who it was.
A rush of emotions came over the unicorn. If there was anything she regretted, it was that she didn't spend enough time with her parents after she left to Ponyville. She had always missed them, but she thought there would be more time to see them in the future.
How wrong I turned out to be, she thought, somewhat regretfully.
As her parents entered the library, several pairs of eyes focused on them, and her friends rushed over to greet them hurriedly. Many hugs and handshakes were exchanged, and condolences were sent in their direction, but were brushed off, mainly by her father.
"No need to be sorry. We miss her, of course, but I think she knows we're doing okay," he reassured. "She knows how much we love her." Several heads nodded in agreement.
Then something spectacular happened.
Twilight and her father locked eyes for a split second, the latter of which did a double take, as if he couldn't believe what he saw. Twilight's face lit up with hope, but it fell as her father turned away a second time, an expression of confusion on his face.
"What's wrong, dear?" her mother interrogated, showing her high-strung and nervous side.
"N...nothing," her father hesitated. "Just thought I saw somepony I knew. Somepony I hadn't seen in a very long time." He turned in Twilight's direction a final time and gave a smile, which Twilight returned. He may not have seen her, but Twilight thought--no, she knew--that her father knew she was there, watching over him just like he had done for her for so many years.
She had always been closer to her dad for a few reasons. Her older brother, Shining Armor, was a mama's boy and kept her mother preoccupied. Her father had also been the one who supported Twilight's magical ability to such an extent that he encouraged her to apply to Celestia's School for Gifted Unicorns. She loved her mother very much, of course, but because of these reasons, she had always felt a special bond with her dad. Because of this miraculous interaction, Twilight felt as if a great weight had been lifted off of her chest, even if there had been no real conversation.
All of a sudden, a crash was heard, and Twilight turned to see her brother lying on the floor, having somehow managed to trip over a flat surface. Again.
Twilight giggled, glad to see Shining Armor at the party, and also at her brother's expense, who was standing up, embarrassed.
For a Canterlot pony, he sure can be clumsy sometimes... Twilight thought. Fortunately, it seemed as if Shining Armor was leaving behind his royal tendencies for the day in order to have a good time at the party. Twilight lost sight of him after a few seconds as he disappeared into the crowd, probably searching out some of his old friends.
The rest of the party went on as any Pinkie Pie party would. There were games like pin the tail on the pony (in which Spike got a nasty surprise from a blindfolded Colgate), several dance sessions to some of Twilight's favorite songs, a karaoke competition that finished with a moving performance of "Nopony Knows the Trouble I've Seen" by Big Macintosh, and of course mountains of delicious treats for everypony to enjoy.
But most important to Twilight were the memories. Everywhere she went she heard ponies reminiscing on all of their fondest memories of her, from when she helped wrap up winter to when she effortlessly drove Cerberus itself out of town. Of course, some memories were at her expense, such as the laughter shared between Derpy Hooves and the Mayor as the remembered how Twilight had brought them to fight over a silly doll. But, the mention of such things did not bother Twilight. She wouldn't have had it any other way. In fact, she loved hearing that some ponies remembered some of the downright ridiculous things she had done. She didn't want to be remembered as some perfect being that was destined to be the next Princess, but rather as something much more important: a friend. And so, whenever she heard somepony speaking of her, whether it be remembering her highest points or the lowest of the low, she couldn't help but smile, knowing that they loved her for who she truly was.
As the evening dragged on and the sun began on its way towards the horizon, the party slowly simmered down, ponies leaving the library with an elated look on their face. Nopony left with a heavy heart; rather, they all left with their spirits lifted and their heads held high.
One by one, Twilight watched as some of her dearest friends left her sights for what would probably be the last time for many years. Among others, she noticed:
Lyra, with her amber eyes and incredible musical talent.
Bon Bon, with her bobbing mane and carefree attitude.
Colgate, with her perfect smile.
Doctor Whooves, with his relatively plain appearance masking his eccentric personality.
Vinyl Scratch, head bobbing to some catchy tune.
Derpy Hooves, with her habit of making any experience a memorable one.
Spitfire, with her confidence rivaling that of Rainbow Dash's.
Carrot Top, her optimistic attitude evident in the spring in her step.
Berry Punch, her mane and coat the color of the most delicious fruits.
Cheerliee and Big Macintosh, looking way too comfortable with one another.
Cranky Doodle Donkey, looking as un-cranky as ever with his wife, Matilda.
The Cutie Mark Crusaders, still way too adorable for their own good, excited about something along the lines of a sleepover at Scootaloo's house.
And of course, her family, looking teary-eyed yet overjoyed. Her mother rested her head on her brother's shoulder, who was holding his head in the air with pride. Her father was close behind, walking at a slower pace than the others, taking in every second.
As they exited the library, her father turned around one final time and faced the library, giving a deep sigh before opening his mouth to speak. "Twilight..." he began in a hushed voice. "Wherever you are, bud, if you can hear me...please listen."
Now at full attention, the purple unicorn flew down next to her father, taking in every word he said so that she would be sure to never forget it.
"You have no idea how much I've missed you over the past year," her father continued. "Not a day went by where I didn't think about you and how much I wished I could tell you how beautiful and talented you are."
Twilight felt her eyes beginning to turn misty as her father spoke directly from the bottom of his heart.
"Just know that I'll never forget you, or what you did. Nopony will. Giving your own life up for the lives of countless others...that's an act of bravery that not even the Princesses could perform. You were unbelievable, Twilight, just unbelievable..." he paused to sigh again, his voice returning somewhat shaky. "The past year has been a living hell for me. I shed more tears than any pony should shed in their entire life. I thought seriously about ending it all and joining you in the clouds above...but I couldn't bring myself to do it. I...I don't know why I had those selfish thoughts. I guess I longed to fill the hole in my heart that your absence had created, but I realized I would be creating so many more if I just took my life like that." He hung his head for a few seconds, as if he was ashamed of what he had just said. "I just miss you so much, Twilight...I know I'll never know such an incredible mare in my life. It's a special bond, the one between a father and his daughter. I know I might have been overprotective of you sometimes, and I know you hated that...but it was only because I loved you. So much."
"I know, dad," Twilight whispered.
"I know I'll see you again someday, Twilight, and I'll wait for that day with bated breath. But until then--just know that I am so, so proud of the mare you had become, and I love you with all of my heart."
"I love you, too, daddy..." Twilight said, sniffling. She tried to hug her father in a loving embrace, but to her dismay, she passed right through his body, merely hugging the air. She longed for the warm feeling of his arms holding her, his soft voice comforting her. She knew one day it would come, but for now, she would have to wait. No matter how short that wait ended up being, it would be much too long for either of them.
When she finally looked back at her father's face, he was smiling.
"This day...it taught me something, Twilight. I'm shouldn't be wallowing in sadness all the time. I need to be living out the life I have left with your mother. I'm going to live life the way you did, Twilight--to the fullest. I'm going to live every second of every day like it's my last. For you. So, until we see each other again...thank you, Twilight. Just...thank you."
With that, Twilight's father turned away from the library and joined his family. Twilight watched every step they took as they began to fade from her vision, returning to their lives.
Finally, they disappeared over the horizon, out of Twilight's eyesight.
She sighed. It was bittersweet. She knew that this was goodbye...but at the same time, it wasn't. She would see them again someday, and she would await that day with great anticipation.
She turned back to the library and walked through the door to be greeted by the last six guests of the party that remained.
Applejack, Rainbow Dash, Pinkie Pie, Rarity, and Spike were all at full attention to Fluttershy, who appeared to be holding a letter. Twilight noticed that the timid mare was in mid-sentence when she entered.
"...don't see why Derpy would give me this, I mean, it's addressed to all of us, and-"
"Darling, just calm down," Rarity interrupted. "It won't do any good to worry about this letter, just open it."
"B-but it's from-"
"-the Canterlot Prison for Criminally Minded Ponies, yes, we know, Fluttershy," Applejack said.
The Canterlot...Prison? Twilight thought. Why would they be getting a letter from there?
"But the prison is...sc...scary," Fluttershy mumbled.
"Consarn it, Fluttershy!" Applejack said, facehoofing. "It's just a letter. There's no need to be afraid of it!"
"Enough! Let's just open this already!" Rainbow Dash said impatiently, taking the letter from Fluttershy's hooves. An awkward silence followed as Rainbow noticed that she had no way to open the letter, since she didn't have magic or claws to assist her.
She blushed as she noticed her blunder. "Uh, Spike, mind helping us out here?"
"Sure thing, Rainbow," Spike happily replied, snatching the letter from the hovering pegasus.
"Why do they even make those stupid things like that...they're impossible to open," Rainbow Dash complained to herself as Spike tore open the envelope with one of his claws. He cleared his throat to read the letter, only to have it stolen from him by a white aura.
"Hey! I was gonna read that, Rarity!" Spike yelled.
"Oh...heh. Sorry, darling, I couldn't take the suspense. I just thought I'd-"
"JUST READ IT!!" five voices screamed. Both Twilight and Rarity reeled back from the collective strength of the voices.
"My, my, such impatience," Rarity scolded. "Anyways--ahem.
"From the cell of Prisoner T1892495 at the Canterlot Prison for Criminally Minded Ponies.
Dear Spite, Applesack, Shutterfly, Pinkie Pie, Charity, and Rainbow Smash--"
Rarity lowered the letter from in front of herself to reveal a look of disbelief. The other ponies and Spike had similar expressions on their faces, save Pinkie Pie.
"Honestly...Charity?!" Rarity said. "They thought my name was...CHARITY?!"
"Hey, it's not as bad as Applesack..."
"Or Rainbow SMASH! Seriously! That's not awesome at all!"
"They called me Shutterfly...but cameras make me scared..."
"Woohoo! They got my name right!" Pinkie cheered, bouncing up and down.
Twilight, on the other hand, was doubled over in laughter at hearing her friends' names get ridiculously botched.
"Yes, well, you're rather tough to forget, Pinkie," Rarity said, trying to come up with a logical explanation for what had just transpired. "But, anyways--ahem.
"With a date coming up that coincides with all of you so strongly, The Great and Powerful Trixie feels that she must apologize for what she has done." Looks of shock were on everypony's face, including Twilight's, but Rarity kept reading. "That date, of course, is the tragic death of your friend Twilight Sparkle."
"TRAGIC?!" Applejack yelled. "Tragic?! Ah'll tell you what's tragic! That no-good, rotten, stinkin', pony-decevin', murderin', cow-buckin', pear-peelin'-" Applejack stopped her rant when she noticed the looks she was getting.
"Heh...sorry, ya'll. Carry on, Rarity."
"It really was a tragedy, the way she passed, Trixie thinks. Trixie apologizes for what happened. She never meant for such a dire event to transpire. She only meant to teach the...talented unicorn a lesson. Trixie thinks that she was the one who-"
Rarity was interrupted again, this time by the letter being snatched away from her entirely.
"HEY!" she yelled. "Spike, give that back."
"...No," he replied calmly.
"Guys, you heard what Rarity was reading," Spike interrupted, completely disregarding the unicorn. "That apology...has got to be the single most insincere and uncaring thing I have ever heard in my life. I mean, honestly! Who says things like that? In an apology letter, no less!" A few ponies, including Twilight, knew where Spike was going with his speech.
"So..." He held the letter up in front of his mouth. "I think this letter should get a special delivery for Celestia herself to read."
A burst of green fire shot out of the dragon's mouth, completely enveloping the 'apology' letter. However, instead of the letter disappearing, like it normally would if he were delivering it, it was burnt to a crisp in the fire and fell to the ground in a pile of ashes.
"Oh, no," Spike said sarcastically, waving his claws. "Looks like I set my breath to 'liquefy.' Now we'll never get to hear that great apology."
A second of silence followed before the air was filled with a cacophony of laughter, ranging from Pinkie's cackling to Fluttershy's quiet giggling. Twilight once again found herself on the ground, clutching her aching sides.
"I gotta hand it to ya, Spike," Rainbow Dash said, putting an arm around the dragon's shoulder. "I've seen and done some incredibly awesome things in my life. But THAT--" she jabbed him playfully in the chest. "THAT was awesome."
"Thank you, thank you, I'll be here all day," Spike said, taking a bow. Everypony clapped at his performance.
When the laughter and clapping finally died down, Spike opened his mouth to speak once more. "Actually...I won't be here all day. We've got something we need to do." He gestured to a vase that had previously gone unnoticed by Twilight. In the vase were six beautiful roses, enough for everypony plus Spike to carry one.
"You're right, sugarcube. We better get started, so we can do this while it's still light out," Applejack agreed.
Wait, still light out?! Twilight thought in a panic. She quickly turned her head to look out the window and noticed the sun, which was beginning to dip over the horizon, signaling that she didn't have much time left in this world.
So it's almost time... Twilight lamented. It may have gone too fast, but...it was worth it.
Although she was sad that her last day in Ponyville was coming to an end, she smiled at the fact that she still had some time left to squeeze out of her visit.
And something told her it would be the best moments the day would have to offer.
Turning her attention back to her friends, Twilight noticed that they each had a rose in their mouth (or in Spike's case, claw) and were making their way towards the front door of the library.
"Come on, everypony," Spike said, leading the pack. "We've got a friend to visit."
"I...is she gonna be alright, Nurse Redheart?" a very worried Applejack pried. She spoke not just for herself, but for four other pacing ponies and a sobbing dragon. Luckily, the hospital had remained virtually unscathed from the day's disaster.
The nurse lowered her head and let out a deep sigh. "I'm not sure, Applejack," she answered honestly, as all nurses do. She glanced back into the room that she had just emerged from, which contained an unconscious Twilight. "The battle with the Ursa left Twilight exhausted...much more exhausted than she thought she would be. Unfortunately, she spent all of the magic she had stored up in her magic reserves, leaving them depleted."
"Well, isn't she just really super duper tired then? Like she's taking a nap?" Pinkie asked, her voice hopeful and filled with worry at the same time.
"I wish that was the case, Pinkie," Nurse Redheart said solemnly. "Unfortunately, although Twilight had no way of knowing it at the time, she continued to spend magic even after her reserves were empty. And when a unicorn continues to spend magic even after their reserves become drained..."
"...they get their magic from other sources...namely, their Life Force," an exhausted voice finished. The voice turned out to be a distraught Rarity, her eyes red from constant crying.
"Um...yes, precisely, Rarity," the kind nurse confirmed. "All ponies have at least some magic in their system. It is different for every race, but all ponies share the same basic form of magic that supports life and keeps ponies healthy."
"Life Force..." Fluttershy quietly muttered.
Nurse Redheart nodded. "Exactly, Fluttershy. Besides Life Force, all three pony races have at least a small reserve of magic that is unique to their race. For example, in earth ponies, their magic allows them a connection to the ground that grants them the ability to excel in the field of agriculture, like Applejack here." Nurse Redheart nodded at the southern pony. "In the case of a pegasus, magic gives them the ability to control the weather, like Rainbow Dash." She acknowledged the cyan pegasus. "But, in regards to unicorns, their horns allow them to form a distinct connection with their magic reserves, which gives them the ability to channel their magical energy to their will." The nurse looked gravely towards the room that Twilight was contained in. "In Twilight's case...her talent for magic allowed near unlimited access to these reserves, so long as there was still magic in them. Usually, unicorns like Twilight are able to monitor these reserves quite well, knowing when to save their energy for later."
"Well, then why didn't she stop?!" A voice piped up. Heads turned to look at the source of the question, which turned out to be Rainbow Dash, her voice cracking as tears returned to her eyes. She flew within inches of Nurse Redheart's face before talking again. "Twilight's the most magically gifted unicorn in all of Equestria! I'm sure if anypony knew when to stop, it would be her! So, why didn't she?!"
The nurse reeled back from Dash's aggression, a somber look on her face.
"Tell me! Why didn't she stop?!" Dash demanded, repeating her previous question. "Wh-why didn't she st-stop..." Unable to hold in her emotions any longer, Dash collapsed to the ground as tears began to flow from her rose colored eyes. "Why...why..."
Applejack trotted over to help her friend, extending her arm around the sobbing pony's shoulder, tears beginning to form in her own eyes. Rarity, Fluttershy, and Pinkie Pie were all having trouble holding back their tears as well.
"Well, Rainbow Dash, to be honest, we aren't entirely sure what happened, but..."
"But what?" Rainbow whimpered.
"Well, we have some theories," the nurse said. "What most likely happened is that Twilight greatly underestimated the amount of magic she would need to use on the Ursa. She used an Age Reduction spell, which would take a massive amount of magical energy to use in the first place. In reality, Twilight would have been fine using the spell on practically any creature in Equestria. However...the Ursa species takes hundreds of years to mature from an Ursa Minor to an Ursa Major."
A few of Twilight's faithful friends gasped at the epiphany that they had simultaneously experienced.
Voice quavering, Nurse Redheart continued with her explanation. "Twilight likely did not know this about the Ursa species, or perhaps she simply forgot. She probably used the spell under the assumption that the age reduction would take about as much energy for the Ursa Major as it would for, say, an average pony. Needless to say, she expended the energy she thought she would be using about tenfold..." the nurse trailed off and glanced once more into the room Twilight was in. "That's most likely what happened, and why she is this way."
Nurse Redheart returned her gaze to her patient's visitors, which were all standing (or in Rainbow's case, sitting) in complete silence, eyes focused on the floor.
"I...I'm so sorry," she sincerely apologized. "I wish there was more we could do for her. All we can do right now is wait and hope for the best. Believe me when I say that every single pony here--no, every single pony in Ponyville--is pulling for her."
"Of course," Applejack said, breaking the long silence that followed. "Thank ya, Nurse Redheart. We know you'll do your best."
The nurse nodded and walked past the group of ponies, likely off to fill some paperwork or discuss with the other workers at the hospital; nopony knew for certain. As she walked past them, she acknowledged them one final time with a sentence that all that were present had been longing to hear.
"I suppose the least I can do is let you visit her for a while. Take a couple minutes, all of you."
And with that, Ponyville's iconic nurse turned and left the group alone. Applejack noticed a single tear rolling down the nurse's face, something she had never seen from the normally stoic mare.
Quietly, Twilight's friends made their way into the room where she was resting.
All except Spike, that is.
The entire time the group had been conversing with Nurse Redheart, Spike had been sitting against the wall, tears silently streaming down his scaly face. Even at the opportunity to visit the pony he cared about most in the entire world, he sat unmoving, wallowing in a pool of sadness.
Before entering Twilight's room, one pony noticed the baby dragon and trotted over to attempt to cheer it up.
"Come on, Spike. You know she would want to see you if you were like this," Rarity said.
Looking up towards the current mare of his dreams, Spike wiped a tear from his face and sniffled. "You're right, Rarity. I'm just so worried, is all."
Rarity let out a weak smile. "We all are, Spike," she comforted. "But I'm sure everything will be okay."
The fashionista of a mare extended a hoof in Spike's direction in an offer to help him up. The dragon took the mare's hoof with his claw and stood up with Rarity's help, moving into a loving embrace between friends.
"Let's go, darling," Rarity said. "She's waiting."
Spike nodded, and the two friends walked into Twilight's room, joining the other four ponies that were standing around the unconscious mare's bed.
Heart monitor beeping slowly in the background, the six friends looked upon their friend with heavy hearts. The mare lying in the bed hardly resembled the friend that they knew and loved. The expression on her face was contorted into a look of both pain and struggle, as if she was battling inner demons. Her normally lustrous purple coat had lost nearly all of its sheen, sporting a much paler shade of purple. Likewise, her mane and tail bore faded colors and were in complete disarray. Every now and then, her body would twitch slightly as if she heard a mosquito buzzing in her ear.
The five ponies and dragon stood around their friend in complete silence, simply gazing upon Twilight with grave expressions and heavy hearts.
After a few minutes of visiting their friend, an unfamiliar doctor trotted into the room and acknowledged the group.
"Um, pardon me," he stated, attracting the group's attention. "I'm terribly sorry, but we need all visitors to leave at this moment. We need to run some tests on Miss Sparkle to see if there's any way we can help her."
The five ponies nodded and took one last look at their friend before reluctantly moving towards the room's exit.
Spike, however, remained by Twilight's bedside, staring at his sister with teary eyes. Again, Rarity came to Spike's side to assist him.
"Spike..." she managed to say, albeit with difficulty. "We need to go now. These doctors are going to help her."
"B-but...I don't want to..." he choked. "I can't just leave her like this. She's my sister, Rarity! I just can't...I love her."
"I know, Spike, I know..." Rarity said. "But you need to come with me. I'm sorry. You can stay with me and Sweetie Belle at the Boutique tonight and we can visit her again tomorrow." She turned her attention to the doctor that had entered the room. "Right, doctor?"
"O-of course," the doctor replied. "You can visit again tomorrow."
"See, Spike?" Rarity said. "Everything will work out. We'll come back tomorrow."
Spike let out a deep sigh. "A-alright, Rarity," he said. "I'll go."
Rarity forced a smile at the baby dragon. "Good. Now, come on. I'll let you ride on my back to the Boutique."
Without saying a word, Spike climbed onto the mare's back, still facing his sister and best friend.
To Spike, it seemed like the world was in slow motion as Rarity trotted out of the room, carrying him on her back.
Teary-eyed, Spike gazed upon Twilight the entire way to the hallway.
After what seemed like ages, Rarity rounded the corner, Twilight disappearing from the baby dragon's view.
For the very last time.
A Brave Pony
A Talented Unicorn
And the Best Friend Anypony Could Ask For
May She Rest In Peace Always
That's what the tombstone read.
It was a simple tombstone, positioned somewhere in the middle of the cemetery. It was no bigger than any of the other tombstones nearby, nor was it emblazoned with some special gems or crests.
It was perfect.
All that was on it was the epitaph and an imprinting of her cutie mark, just like every other tombstone. The cutie mark gave another way for ponies to remember those who have passed, and also gave each tombstone a bit of character.
It was unique, yes, but it was nothing special. It was just like everypony else's.
Just how she wanted it.
This way she would be remembered the way she wanted to be: not as a hero, or some sort of incredible pony, but just as a normal citizen of Equestria.
And, of course, a friend.
It was weird, Twilight admitted. Seeing her own tombstone. She couldn't shake the thought that merely six feet below her hooves was the body that she had resided in when she was still alive.
So there Twilight Sparkle stood, unseen, staring upon her own resting place. It was a stop that she never thought she would be making, but she was surrounded by ponies she loved. And that was all that mattered.
Like Twilight, her friends were in total silence, completely occupied by whatever thoughts were running through their minds at the time. They formed a semicircle around the grave, giving a bit of space between themselves and where their friend lay.
Twilight was taking in every single second and appreciating it as a gift, as she had little time left in Ponyville. The sun was now halfway over the horizon, and the day was drawing to a close. Once the sun completely vanished from her view, Twilight knew, she would leave Ponyville for the final time and return to her home in the clouds.
Although it would never be her true home, Twilight acknowledged.
For the next few minutes, everypony stood unmoving in complete silence, save for the near-mute sound of the occasional teardrop hitting the grassy earth.
Finally, a pony spoke up on behalf of the group.
"Well, Twilight...it's been a while," Applejack said. "A year's gone by and...it still feels as though nothin's changed. You're still one of our best friends. You always will be." She paused a moment to let her words diffuse through the cool evening air. "And because you're our best friend...Ah reckon we've all got a few words we like to say. You know, on your behalf and all that. We're gonna do our best to...*sniff*...stay strong, but don't get all upset at us if we shed a few tears, alright, sugarcube?"
"Of course not..." Twilight spoke. "I'll be shedding just as many as all of you." She thought that she would be dumbfounded at what her friends were doing here and now, but...she never expected anything else. They were amazing, every single one of them.
"Well, Ah guess that since Ah'm talkin' right now, Ah might as well start," Applejack said, stepping forward a pace from the group.
"Twilight Sparkle..." she began. "Never in all my years did Ah ever meet a mare such as yourself. From the moment Ah laid eyes on you at Sweet Apple Acres, Ah knew there was somethin' special about you. Ah mean, no normal pony could possibly be that socially awkward, huh?" Everypony, including Twilight, chuckled at the remark. "Ah'm kiddin' of course, sugarcube. Well...maybe just a bit. But anyways...you may have thought that you learned a ton from all of us, but in my opinion at least, Ah think we learned just as much from you."
Wait, them? Learn from her? Aside from a few facts on Ponyville history, Twilight couldn't comprehend what her friends could have possibly learned from somepony as herself.
"In my case, you taught me a lot about pride and trust. Ah've always been a proud pony, Twilight...sometimes too proud, at that. You taught me that it's okay to take pride in your own actions, but that you shouldn't be afraid to ask for help iff'n yer in a jam. Remember applebuck season? Hoo boy. If it wasn't for you, Ah probably would've ended up workin' myself to death!"
Twilight recalled Applejack's tendency to overwork, and smiled when she noticed the southern pony was right about Twilight helping her out of that mess. Maybe she really was able to help her friends, after all.
"Most importantly, though, you taught me about trust, Twilight," Applejack continued. "Before you came to Ponyville, Ah had always been somewhat of a cautious mare when makin' friends. Ah worried too much about them betrayin' me, or leavin' me to fend for myself when Ah really needed help." Applejack lowered her head, ashamed at herself. "But you, Twilight...you taught me how wrong Ah really was. Nopony is more there for you when you're in a jam then your friends. And because of you...Ah've still got five good ones, right here." Teary-eyed, Applejack turned to her friends, smiling, and they returned the gesture. "But Ah'll never forget the pony that made me believe that. The pony that helped make me who Ah am today. Thank you, Twilight Sparkle. Ah'll never forget you." Finishing her tribute, Applejack picked up the rose that she had set beside her and placed it directly in front of Twilight's tombstone. "Thank you..." she choked out one last time before returning to the semicircle in her previous place.
Twilight felt tears forming in her eyes. She was extremely gracious of what Applejack had said about her. She never thought she had done anything like that to change any of these ponies...but she was grateful to hear it. It made her happy knowing that the years she had spent in Ponyville were worthwhile ones.
"I suppose I'll go next, since I'm ready," a voice said. It was Rarity, her royal purple mane flowing gracefully in the breeze that blew across the cemetery. She, too, took a step forward from where she had been standing, and addressed Twilight's grave confidently.
"Twilight," she stated. "You were, simply put, one of the most fantastic, if not the most fantastic mare I have ever known. No matter the situation, you were always able to keep yourself under control and fight through the problems, whether it be your own or somepony else's. The stress never went to you head too badly, and you handled conflict with grace."
Although Twilight was thankful for what Rarity was saying, she couldn't help but think that she was greatly exaggerating. She could definitely think of a few times when she could have acted better under pressure. Like when she was almost...she shuddered...tardy.
"You were also a very giving mare. You didn't give material things, per se, but you always devoted your time to us when we needed it and gave some good advice." Several heads nodded in agreement. "Remember when I made Fluttershy a model? You made sure that the situation was handled as good as it could have been, and you selflessly assisted both myself and Fluttershy throughout the whole thing."
Twilight cringed at the memory of having to keep so many secrets at once.
"And, I know I never said this enough, but...*sniff*...YOU HAVE THE MOST BEAUTIFUL MANE, TWILIGHT!" Twilight jumped back at Rarity's outburst. "I'm sorry I never told you how beautiful you really were. And I'm sorry I didn't give back to you as much as you gave to me, but...I thought I would have more time before you were *sniff* torn from us. I just never did enough for you, and I can never forgive myself for it. I really am sorry, Twilight...honestly. I hope you can forgive me for being such a dreadful friend."
"Rarity..." Twilight whispered. "Don't be sorry. You're the Element of Generosity, and you more than lived up to that title...you gave me more than I could have asked for. I don't need to forgive you for anything."
Rarity shook herself and regained her composure after the apologetic catharsis she had just gone through, wiping her cheeks dry. Trying to muster some emotional strength, the fashion designer placed her rose next to Applejack's on the ground in front of her. She then rushed back to where she had been standing, trying to hide her bittersweet feelings. Rainbow Dash began talking to her, most likely saying a few comforting words along the lines of what she wished she could have told Rarity. However, Twilight didn't overhear these words, as her attention was on the next of her friends that had taken their place in front of her tombstone.
"Um...hi, Twilight," Fluttershy said meekly. "I really miss you. Every day. I miss the way you would help me overcome my fears whenever I was *gulp* scared."
She was afraid of a lot of things, Twilight remembered. I wonder if she's gotten over vacuum cleaners yet...
"Oh! I never told you this, so I'd like to tell you now...if that's okay with you. I hope it is." Her voice got quieter and she shrank down, like she normally did when she was being apologetic. "If...if it wasn't for you, Twilight...I never would have met any of these other ponies here...except Rainbow Dash, that is."
Rainbow Dash struck a proud pose.
"If you never would have tried to make friends with me...I don't know if I ever would have come out of my shell. Eep! How terrifying. I could never imagine a life without all my friends. And it's all thanks to you, Twilight. I really mean it. From the bottom of my heart."
Twilight had never thought about things in this way. She had always thought of her friends making her come out of her antisocial shell, not the other way around. That's how she had always seen it...but maybe Fluttershy was right. She felt a small sense of pride in this newfound knowledge, but what she mostly felt was happiness. All she had ever wanted in her life was to make a difference, no matter how big or small. And thanks to Fluttershy...she knew she had succeeded.
"That's really all I have to say, Twilight..." Fluttershy continued with a smile. "I really should be crying, but...I've done enough of that. Plus, I know you really wouldn't like that." She sighed. "I really miss you, Twilight. I promise I'll think of you every day. I can't wait until the day that we'll see each other again. I'd say that I'll be counting the days...but you never know when it's time." She paused for a moment before finishing. "You were such a good friend, Twilight. Thank you." At the conclusion of her tribute, she placed her rose alongside the other two and gazed upon the tombstone before finally turning around.
Her friends complimenting her heartfelt speech, the pegasus pony proudly pranced back to where she had been standing, a wide smile present on her face. It wasn't at all how Twilight expected Fluttershy to be acting at this time, but she didn't care. Fluttershy was happy, which meant that she should be happy, as well.
Still holding a sniffling Rarity, Rainbow Dash appeared ready to speak. However, before she had a chance to move, another anxious voice popped up, ready to speak.
"Ooh! Ooh! My turn! My turn!" Pinkie Pie said, bouncing her way towards the grave. Rainbow Dash retreated back to consoling Rarity, patiently awaiting her turn to speak.
"Hey there, Twilight! It's me, Pinkie! You know, the first ever pony you met in Ponyville? Remember how I gasped when I saw you and you probably thought I was crazy but then later I threw you a huge party with everypony in Ponyville and you drank the hot sauce and then you ran to your room and then later we went to the Summer Sun Celebration and Nightmare Moon was there so we all had to find the Elements of Harmony and I sang Giggle at the Ghostly and Applejack saved you and Fluttershy helped the Manticore and Rarity gave her tail to the sea serpent and Rainbow Dash helped us cross the bridge and-"
"Breathe, Pinkie," Applejack interrupted.
"HUUUUUUUUUUUH!" Pinkie listened to Applejack, inhaling deeply before taking several deep breaths. She then addressed Twilight's tombstone, huge smile still on her face. "Sooooorry, got a liiiiitle carried away there!"
Twilight laughed out loud. "You think, Pinkie?" It was typical of the party pony to go on a long-winded speech...but this surpassed anything Twilight had ever heard. It was unbelievable how large of a lung capacity that mare had.
"I guess I was just trying to remember all of the good times at once," Pinkie Pie said. "And there were a lot of them! You know, ever since I saw you the very first time, my Pinkie Sense told me that we were going to be super duper good friends. And what do you know! My Pinkie Sense is never wrong!"
"But, you know, Twilight...I was really really sad when Nurse Redheart told us that you went to the big party in the sky. My mane and tail went from being all poofy to straight for days! But if there's one thing you've taught me, Twilight...it's to never stop being me. You've always made that much clear to me! And what kind of a Pinkie Pie would I be if I just sat around all mopey all day? I wouldn't be me at all! So, you know what I did? I told myself that I would see you again someday and join you in that huge party up there!" She squealed in delight. "I can't wait! Someday, we'll all be up there together, dancing and singing and playing games! But for now...Pinkie Pie has a LOT of partying left to do in Equestria with all her friends."
Twilight knew that nothing truer had ever been said.
Pinkie's expression turned from one of excitement to a heartfelt one. "Until then, Twilight...I'll definitely miss you, but I'll never forget everything you've taught me, or all the memories we made together! Thanks for being you!" Like the three mares before her, she set her rose on the ground before her, next to the trio of roses that was already there. Humming quietly to herself, she returned to her friends in the same bouncy manner.
"Your turn, Dashie!" she said to the prismatic pegasus.
"Who, uh, me?" Rainbow said nervously.
"Yes, of course you!"
"But...Spike still has to go, to..." Rainbow said. Twilight was surprised that Rainbow was suddenly so nervous. Just moments before she had seemed so eager to speak her mind, but now...she looked like she did the day of the Young Flier's Competition.
"Actually, Rainbow, I think I'll go last," Spike said, sealing Rainbow Dash's fate.
Five pairs of eyes were now focused upon Rainbow, awaiting her to make the next move.
"All right, fine! You win, Pinkie," Dash said, defeated.
"Whoopee! Now get up there, Dashie!" Pinkie cheered. She then proceeded to position herself behind Rainbow Dash and push her forward so that she was standing in front of the tombstone.
Rainbow, however, still had an unnaturally nervous appearance.
"Um...hey there, Twilight," she began, beads of sweat slowly rolling down her forehead. "It's...been a while, huh? I think that out of...no, never mind."
Five confused faces turned to each other when Rainbow Dash retracted her statement. Twilight was equally dumbfounded. The cyan pegasus was normally not one to hold in her thoughts; in fact, she normally said too many things without thinking.
"What I meant to say was, um...I really miss you, I guess. A year's been too long. Heh. I just...don't really know what to say, I guess. I don't have any words for what I'm feeling right now. I pretty much agree with what everypony before me said...I can't wait to see you again, I'll always cherish our memories, that kind of stuff. Just..." She choked on her breath. "I'm sorry, Twilight. I just...I don't know what to say. I'm sorry. I lo--miss you so much. Just, thanks for all the time we spent together. I'll never forget you." She hastily put her rose aside the other four roses and quickly trotted back to her spot in the circle, a nervous look on her face.
Everypony else was trying to hide a look of surprise and disbelief--Twilight included. She knew that everypony was thinking the same thing--that Rainbow Dash, being the Element of Loyalty, would make some incredible speech of how much Twilight meant to her--but she just gave a normal tribute. Twilight suspected that, by the look on the pegasus' face, there were several things that had gone unsaid. She wouldn't lie to herself, she wondered what those things were, but she was just thankful that her friend had come here in the first place to visit her.
"Well, I guess that just leaves me," Spike said, breaking the awkward silence that had followed. By now, less than a quarter of the sun was still visible over the distant horizon. The evening moon was now visible, and Twilight knew that stars would start appearing soon, dotting the night sky with their beauty.
And also signaling that her time was up.
Clutching the final rose in his hand, Spike proudly walked up to the tombstone, a swagger present in his step. To everypony's surprise, instead of erupting into a monologue of his deepest feelings...he simply laid the rose next to the others. Together, the six roses formed a beautiful circle in front of the tombstone. Twilight cherished it not because of its beauty, but because her six dearest friends in the entire world had come together, just for her, and left her such an amazing memoir. For the first time in what felt like a while, tears began streaming down her face from the sheer joy she was experiencing in her heart.
Twilight was too busy admiring the rose circle to notice that Spike had already walked back to where he had been standing. This meant that he had chosen to completely forgo saying anything.
Finally, Applejack spoke up with the words everypony was thinking.
"Aren't you going to say anythin', sugarcube?"
A proud smile on his face, Spike answered with perhaps the most mature thing Twilight had ever heard the baby dragon say.
"You know what, Applejack? I don't think I need to. She knows exactly what I would say to her just by looking at me. Because that's the kind of sister she was. The best kind." He sighed. "She knew my ins and outs probably better than I did. So, no." He smiled. "Wherever Twilight is...she knows."
At this point, everypony was in tears, including Twilight. They never expected the young dragon to say something so mature, so...true. He truly was Twilight's brother: smart, kind, and loving.
The next few minutes were spent with everypony looking upon the tombstone, no doubt recounting all the memories of their friend.
And then, one by one, her friends moved forward and huddled around her grave, with the circle of beautiful roses lying in front of it. They bowed their heads in one last moment of silence, the only sound being heard was the sound of teardrops lightly hitting the ground.
Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, Twilight's six best friends slowly lifted their chins and smiled at one another.
"Wherever you are, Twilight...just know that we miss ya, sugarcube,"
"And we can't wait to see you again!"
"And you were truly awesome."
"You were so nice..."
"And the best sister ever!"
Deep in her stomach, Twilight knew...that this was it. This would be that last time for years to come that she would see her friends. The last time where they could all be together in Equestria, without a care in the world. The day had gone by much too fast--seeing her friends, the party, and now this...this amazing thing that they all did for her--but she didn't expect it to go any other way. They were her friends...no, more than that. They were her family.
So just as any family member would say in this situation, Twilight spoke from the very bottom of her heart, stepping in front of them so that she could feel like she was addressing all of them. "Thank you, everypony...just...thank you. There's nopony else I would have rather spent my life with. You made it paradise, and...I'm going to miss you, too. More than you think."
Twilight could almost feel her emotions pouring out of her with every word that she spoke.
"If there's anything I could do over, it would be moving to Ponyville even sooner so that I could spend more time with you, my family." She continued talking, despite the blank looks she was getting from her friends. "But until that day, when we are all together again...just know that there won't be a day where I'm not waiting for you. A day where I don't think of you all. Because you were the most important ponies in my life."
As she spoke her final words, she felt a single tear roll down her cheek.
"Goodbye, everypony..." she said, almost in a whisper. "I...just know that I loved you all. So much. My best friends...my family."
The tear hit the ground.
The ears of the ponies standing around the grave perked up. Looks of shock and hope adorned their faces.
They could have sworn that they heard...no, that they felt something there. Something that wasn't there before.
And none of them had to ask as to what...or rather, who it was.
"Did...did you...?" Rainbow Dash began to say, but stopped. The look on her friend's faces told her everything she needed to know.
They all knew that Twilight was there, watching them, as they gave their thanks to everything she had done for them. They could also tell that, in her own special way, Twilight was thanking them for everything in return.
It was unlike anything Equestria had ever witnessed. Pony and dragon alike, the bond between friends had brought such a connection in these ponies' lives that it had the power to breach the veil of death itself.
So there they all stood. In silence. Taking in the final moments of one of the best days any of them had ever experienced. The sun merely a sliver left in the sky, they finally said their goodbyes, which were simple compared to the long-winded tributes they had previously given. Many thoughts went unsaid, but those were thoughts that didn't need to be said--they had been communicated throughout their entire lives.
Finally, one by one, six ponies turned to leave the cemetery and make their way home. Everypony left somewhat as a group, with a slight space between each member, until Spike was the last one standing at the tombstone. Smiling, he put a claw on the stone's cold surface.
"G...goodbye, Twilight," he whispered, voice shaky. "I guess this is it. For now..." He stood up and brushed himself off.
"I love you, Twilight," he said. He then turned from his sister and began following the other ponies on the way out of the cemetery, still struggling to take in everything that had transpired that day.
So, this is it... Twilight thought with a heavy heart. She watched as her friends disappeared from her view for the very last time.
First was Applejack, her head held high in an effort to mask her sorrow. Twilight would miss the southern pony's friendliness and the care she had for all of her friends. The moment they met was forever ingrained in Twilight's memory, as she was the very first pony Twilight personally met in Ponyville. She would await the day when they could sit around and have cider together again.
Next was Fluttershy. Twilight noticed that since they had first met, she had undergone almost a complete transformation. No longer was she the hermit that lived by the Everfree Forest--ponies actually knew her name now, and they enjoyed her company. Twilight missed the mare's kindness and tendency to calm any argument that was happening.
After Fluttershy came the fashionista pony, Rarity. Twilight wondered how many dresses Rarity had fashioned in the past year, and how many of them had been featured in places like Canterlot. Twilight knew that someday, Rarity would acquire her dream of becoming famous because of her talent. She always hoped that Rarity wouldn't forget her friends when this happened, but Twilight knew it was silly to even think that--Rarity cared about her friends even more than her fashions.
Pinkie Pie came next, still bouncing along the path that led down to the village. Twilight couldn't help but smile remembering everything that made Pinkie Pinkie. She still wondered about that blasted Pinkie Sense of hers, but she didn't mind anymore. She was just thankful to have her as a friend--after all not everypony could say they were best friends with Ponyville's number one party pony! ...Okay, maybe they could, but that's exactly what Twilight missed most about her. Never would she ever meet anypony who had such a remarkable ability to make ponies smile.
The last pony to leave was Rainbow Dash, who kept glancing back, as if she were forgetting something. Twilight had to admit that Rainbow was acting rather out of character at the moment, but that didn't change her image of her one bit. Twilight knew that Rainbow was still the brash speedster that she knew and loved, and she couldn't wait for the day when Rainbow would be able to tell her all about the years she would spend with the Wonderbolts. Rainbow had always been there for her and her other friends, and she hoped that the prismatic pegasus would continue to be the most loyal pony that Equestria had to offer.
Last but not least to leave the cemetery was Spike. Oh, Spike. Ever since the day he hatched, Twilight knew there would be a special bond between the two of them--and she had never been more right about anything in her entire life. Together, they had shared countless memories that would last longer than all of eternity. Twilight could definitely tell that Spike had matured in the past year. Not only did he get over his crush on Rarity, but he found himself a special somepony that suited him perfectly. He was also much more mature in terms of how he acted, as evidenced by what he said only moments earlier. Twilight knew that Spike, being a dragon, had the potential to grow to gargantuan heights, depending on if he took on hoarding tendencies. But no matter how big he would get--if he ended up growing at all--Twilight would always think of Spike as much more than just an assistant. To her, he was--and always will be--her little brother.
Finally, after much reminiscing was had and speculations made, the last of Twilight's friends disappeared over the hill, going back to live the rest of their lives.
If was a fickle thing, life. One moment, you could be having a relaxing afternoon with your best friends, without a care in the world, and the next, you are thrown into a bitter struggle that leads to a premature death.
But was it really premature? Twilight asked herself. For a year now, she had struggled with that question. Had she been meant to stop the Ursa? If she had waited longer, would Celestia or Luna have saved the day? Was that the point of her entire life that was spent on studying magic, was to stop the Ursa?
She shook her head. She had so many questions, but some things she would never get an answer to. It was like Pinkie's Pinkie Sense, she decided. She could speculate all she wanted, but in reality, she just needed to accept it.
If she really wanted to, she would have years to ponder it, anyways. She had millennia in the clouds to ponder life's greatest mysteries and master the most complex of spells. Celestia would be proud of her, she thought. Studying even in the afterlife.
Celestia...she missed her still. She had hoped to see her sometime that day, but...not all wishes come true. Judging by the placement of the sun, she had less than five minutes until her time was up in this world forever.
And so, with all of her duties fulfilled, Twilight closed her eyes, taking in every single detail that she could, awaiting her call back to the clouds above.
In silence she sat, next to her final resting place, a tear escaping her eyes as she realized the finality of it all. But now, the only thing she had left to do was wait.
...the sound of tree branches rustling against each other...
...the feeling of the brisk evening air...
...the smells of the season carried on the wind...
...the sound of somepony calling her name...
...there it was again...
A third time her name was called, and finally, Twilight snapped out of her trance and turned to the source of the soothing voice.
"...I thought I would see you sometime."
"Well, of course. It would be rude of me to not visit my student on her visit home."
Celestia walked over and joined Twilight on the ground. She gave a smile as warm as the sun she controlled to her student of many years.
"Tell me," she said. "What is it like up there?"
"It's...perfect," Twilight answered hesitantly. "Almost too perfect..."
A silence followed.
"Why can you see me, Celestia?" Twilight questioned.
Celestia smiled once again. "A very good question, my dear student," she responded. "As Alicorns, my sister and I have the ability to see things that are hidden to the average pony's eye. Things like spirits. Some may call it a gift, but it can just as easily be a curse."
"A curse? But can't you control it? You are all-powerful beings, after all."
"Of course we can. But our emotions get the best of us sometimes."
Twilight nodded. She conceded the fact that, given that ability, it would be difficult to resist the temptation to see your loved ones on a daily basis. Then, a thought occurred to her.
"Do all ponies go, Princess? Up there?"
The Princess let out a heavy sigh. "Unfortunately, Twilight...no. Not everypony does. Some ponies cling mercilessly to the world they experienced in life. Afraid of death, they choose to stay behind in spirit, certain of the fact that they will always remain with everypony they love. Forever. It's an eternal agreement, and a sad thing indeed when their loved ones leave them behind."
An eternity without the ponies you loved...Twilight shuddered. That was the worst fate of all.
Twilight then asked a question that she had been wondering her entire life.
"Do you regret your immortality, Princess?"
Celestia's face now bore a look of complete seriousness. "That is an...interesting question, Twilight Sparkle. I suppose, yes, there are times when I wish that I wasn't stuck with this fate. I have watched too many friends snatched by the jaws of mortality. I question my existence every time somepony I love passes on." She turned to face Twilight. "You were no exception, Twilight Sparkle. The news of your death shattered my world because it was so unexpected. I have lost many a faithful student in all my years...but your death caused the worst trauma I had experienced since the time I was forced to send my own sister to the moon. So yes...there are definite times where I regret this lifestyle. But, I have a duty to my subjects. With the death of a ruler of thousands of years, I fear the nation would fall into disarray for centuries. Whether I like it or not...this is my destiny."
Twilight took in every word with great attention. She had always held the Princess in high regard, admiring her ability to have run the same country for millennia with very few conflicts. The more she thought about what the Princess had just told her, the more she felt sorry for the Alicorn. Every day, there were probably thousands of ponies that the Princess thought of that she dearly missed and would never see again.
"That's terrible, Princess..." Twilight said, attempting to comfort her.
"It may be terrible, but it is also a blessing. I have seen too many wonderful things, experienced too many memories, to call this a curse."
The student and teacher sat atop the hill in the cemetery, the sun almost gone below the horizon.
"I think my time here is up, Celestia..." Twilight said solemnly.
"Is it? I think....I think you can stay a few minutes longer."
"But as soon as the sun sets, I need to return. That's what-"
"-Bloom said, I know."
Twilight's mouth hung agape. She knew Bloom? But--whatever, it was the Princess. It wasn't worth questioning.
Celestia's horn glowed a bright gold, and before Twilight's eyes, the sun visibly stopped setting right before the final sliver of its shining glory vanished.
"That should give Bloom a little stress," Celestia said, with a mischievous smile. "I'm sure Luna is beside herself, as well."
Twilight stared into the Princess' eyes, mouth still agape. For a period of time, the two ponies sat, eyes locked, unmoving.
Until they finally burst into laughter.
Twilight clutched her sides, which hurt from the amount of exercise she had got simply from laughing that day.
"You've always had the strangest sense of humor, Princess," Twilight said, wiping her eyes.
"Well, when one lives for such a long time, you get a lot of opportunities to think of some great practical jokes," Celestia answered with a completely serious expression.
More laughter ensued.
When the laughing finally settled down, the Sun Princess made a request to her student. "Now that the mood has lightened, dear student...it's been a while since you've given me a friendship report, correct?"
Twilight's eyes lit up like a foal on Nightmare Night. "Too long. Should I begin?"
"Alright. *Ahem* 'Dear Princess Celestia, today--no, these past years, I have learned a valuable lesson about the way you spend your life. As a wise pony once said, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years. That being said, it's important to treat every single day as its own little gift, as you never know when that gift will run out. Every day should be spent doing what you love, with the ponies you love. Because they are more important than anything else in the world. There may be disagreements between you sometimes, but it's impossible to change the fact that, no matter what, you will always be intertwined with them. It's a bond that lasts for eternity. So, I believe that it's important to live every moment to the fullest, and have fun doing it too. And as for your friends...never take them from granted. Your faithful student, Twilight Sparkle.' How was that, Princess?"
The Princess smiled at Twilight. "Great as always, my dear student. I couldn't have said it better myself."
"Twilight!" a second voice said with urgency. Quickly, Princess Celestia galloped away and took cover behind a tree, so as not to be seen.
"Princess, where are you-" Twilight cut off her sentence, disregarding the issue for now. What she was really concerned with was the pony that now stood before her grave.
"R...Rainbow?" Twilight stammered.
Rainbow Dash had tears in her eyes, and addressed the grave with great intensity. "Twilight...I'm so sorry," she said, sobbing. "I'm so sorry. I...I just couldn't do it. I'm sorry."
"Twilight, I don't know if you're still there or not. I know you were there with us earlier...I could feel you. I could feel your love for us all. That much is obvious. But if you're still listening...I've got a few things to say."
Twilight was all ears.
"Never did I ever think that day would come so soon. The day of your death. I tried to be strong for everypony, especially you. But I couldn't...I cried my eyes out every night for months because I missed you so much."
"R...Rainbow..." Twilight thought she was done with the tears for the day, but apparently, she had been wrong.
"I just couldn't help it! Ah! I was such an idiot! I always thought there would be more time for you, more time for us..." she sobbed. "I mean, you probably already knew this, knowing how smart you were...but I always thought of you as more than a friend, Twilight." She covered her face before starting once more, voice still quavering. "There. I said it. Finally. I don't know what it was with you...maybe it was because you were so NOT me. I mean, you're smart, careful, and you care about others. Everything I'm not..."
It pained Twilight to no ends to hear her normally confident friend degrade herself in such a way as this.
"You always helped me when I needed it, Twilight. You were always there for me...you brought everypony to watch me at the Young Flier's Competition...you saved me from being a jerk when Discord turned me bad...you introduced me to reading...and that's just the beginning. There's no end to everything you did for me, Twilight...and I was just selfish and kept these feelings to myself, thinking there would always be more time to tell you how I really thought of you. And yet...here I am. Alone." She sighed. "I've got something else for you, Twilight. If you're still there, that is."
Twilight cocked her head. A gift? What could it possibly be?
To the unicorn's surprise, from under her wing, Rainbow Dash produced the most beautiful, pristine white rose she had ever seen in her life. With great care, the cyan pegasus placed the rose facing the tombstone in the middle of the circle that was made of the red roses.
"There...it's not much, but I hope you like it. I've saved it for a long time, kept it in perfect condition...all for you."
"I...I love it, Rainbow,"
"Just let this serve as a reminder that everything I do from here on out is for you, Twilight. Everything. Wherever I go, whatever I do...you'll be my motivation. Because you never gave up on anything. And that's the kind of pony I want to be, Twilight. For you."
Both unicorn and pegasus alike struggled to hold back their tears as Rainbow continued talking. "I know I'll always miss you...but I'll never forget you...and I hope you'll never forget me." She looked at the grave with her beautiful rose eyes for what would be the last time that night. "Goodbye, Twilight Sparkle. There will truly never be another like you. I love you."
With that, Rainbow Dash took off into the night, a rainbow streak barely visible behind her as she rocketed into the night sky.
Leaving Twilight standing there, dumbfounded. She could hear the Princess emerge from her hiding place to rejoin her.
"Did you...know?" Twilight asked, avoiding eye contact with Celestia.
"I had a hunch," Celestia answered honestly. "She always seemed to have quite an attachment to you."
Twilight didn't respond, still somewhat confused as to what had just happened.
"Did you love her back?" Celestia asked.
Twilight jumped, legitimately startled by the question. She looked Celestia in the eyes to see if she was joking, but they were filled with honesty.
"I...I don't...I don't..."
"Sh..." Celestia comforted. "It's okay, Twilight. Your eyes tell me everything."
She sighed. She didn't even know herself. But then how did Celestia...
"-harsh, yes," Celestia finished. "It's harsh."
Eager to get her mind off the subject, Twilight asked a question. "Did you ever love, Princess?"
For a split second, Celestia's face wore a look of shock, only to return to the solemn expression it had previously worn.
"Y...yes, Twilight. I did. Only once."
"One cannot go through such a tragic loss twice in a lifetime, no matter how long."
Twilight nodded, Celestia's answer making perfect sense. "It isn't fair, Princes..."
"It isn't? But you have paradise now."
"I mean for everypony else. Why did they have to go through losing me? I can't imagine how hard it must have been on everypony after hearing what Rainbow had to say."
Celestia was silent. For one of the first times in her life, she had no answer.
Suddenly, an idea struck her.
"Do you love your friends, Twilight?"
"Do you even need to ask?"
"I thought so. In that case...I have a gift for you."
"A gift? What is-" Twilight was cut off by the sight of Celestia lowering her head and pointing her horn at Twilight. Slowly but surely, a golden ball of light formed at the tip of her horn. After the ball was slightly smaller than an apple, it detached from the Princess' horn and floated towards Twilight.
And then disappeared inside her head.
"It has been done," Celestia said as she raised her head.
"What was that?" Twilight questioned.
"It was a spell. A very...intricate spell. It was the first time I've ever used it."
"What does it do?"
"See for yourself. Close your eyes."
Twilight did as she was told, and was unsurprised at the darkness she saw. "Okay...what's so special?"
"Patience, my student," Celestia instructed. "Now...think of a memory. Any memory that you hold dear to your heart."
Concentrating, Twilight pictured the wedding reception of her brother and Princess Cadence. Immediately, she was greeted with the sight of dancing ponies and the sound of joyful music. It was almost as if...she was there.
Shooting her eyes open, Twilight gasped. "I...I was..."
Celestia merely smiled. "I have given you the ability to relive any memory you wish, at any time. Not only will you see the memory, but it will be as if you were actually there."
"Princess...that's amazing!" Twilight said with enthusiasm. With so many memories, she could spend years reliving the best moments of her life.
"Hardly. Wait until you see this. Close your eyes again."
Twilight did as she was told without hesitating.
"Now...think of somepony dear to you. Somepony close to your heart."
Concentrating all of her will, Twilight thought of Spike, and everything about him. His purple scales, his sharp claws, his helpfulness....
And then she saw him, sleeping soundly in his bed at Rarity's.
Once again, she gasped. "Was...was that..."
Celestia nodded. "It was Spike. The real one, not just a memory."
"You cared more about your friends than any pony I've ever known," Celestia began. "You'll see them all again...someday...but I couldn't just let you wait up there for years. This way, you'll be able to visit them whenever you want."
Twilight was dumbfounded. Of all the things she could have asked for...this far exceeded anything she expected. "Princess..."
"No need to thank me, Twilight. It's the least I could do for a friend."
"I...how could I ever repay you, Celestia?"
The regal Alicorn gave a wide smile. "Just don't tell Bloom. She'll have a fit."
Twilight chuckled at the thought of Bloom being stressed out. It was just...an unimaginable picture.
"And promise you'll visit me every now and then."
"Always." Never had Twilight despised the state she was in so much as that moment, as she wished dearly to give her friend a loving embrace.
The only sound being the rustling of the wind, the two friends stood, sharing a loving smile, enjoying every second, for the next few minutes.
Finally, Celestia spoke up.
"I think...it's time," she said.
Twilight nodded. Everything that she had come to do had been done, and so much more. Finally, she felt as if she was truly ready.
"Alright. I'm lowering the sun now..." as Celestia spoke, the last sliver of the sun vanished, covering the land in Luna's night.
Almost immediately, Twilight felt as if she was gripped by a force, and slowly, she began floating. Floating up.
"Celestia..." she managed to say.
"I'll always remember you, my dear student," the Alicorn said. For the first time, Twilight noticed that Celestia was...crying. "You were always brilliant. And you still are."
The force that was pulling Twilight began to pull her faster, and below her, everything was starting to grow smaller, including Celestia. "Goodbye, Princess!" she said.
"This isn't goodbye, Twilight. It's farewell. You said you'd visit, remember?"
"Of course...I always will."
Celestia struggled to give a smile. "Then...until that day. Farewell, Twilight Sparkle. You won't be forgotten."
"Farewell, Princess..." Twilight said, although she was unsure if Celestia could hear her anymore. She was quite a ways up now, and she was nearing the clouds.
But the Princess was right. It wasn't goodbye. There would be many more 'farewells' to come in the coming years...or even decades.
But, until the day came when she could see her friends again, all she could do was watch.
And that was fine with her.
She decided that, as soon as she returned, she would get some sleep. She needed it.
She had lots of catching up to do tomorrow.
A/N: HUGE thanks to Glassed, SilverBrony, RaiderRy4n, k12314, and Gryrofest96 for pre reading this monster. I honestly can't thank them enough for giving up their time to read this.