Twilight dug through the outfit rack, gently pushing aside various items of clothing as she searched for something. “No… no… hmm, that looks nice… but no.” She kept looking, nearing the end of the rack. With a smile, she spotted what she was searching for and levitated it off the end of the cart.
The outfit she’d worn days ago looked just as it did when she’d first tried it on. The purple top hat, the red-sequined vest, the black, gem-lined pants… all just as Rarity had left them, as a donation to the performers- which, of course, paved the way for more advertising. A smile crossed the unicorn’s face as the outfit brought up memories of her last stage appearance. Her smirk shrank down as she remembered that her next appearance onstage would be less than peaceful. She found herself looking towards the prop storage section, shooting a glare towards the pony that had put her into such an uncomfortable situation.
Trixie was shuffling through the props, setting aside anything that might be useful for that night. She was oblivious to the daggers in Twilight’s eyes, to the point where Twilight was suspecting the mare was trying her very hardest not to look towards her competition.
Fine then, Twilight thought, be that way. She looked back to her outfit, deciding now was as good a time as any to get changed. She dropped the hat on her head and draped the vest over her back, turning her mind to the situation at hand as she suited up.
Right after the challenge, the two competitors had split up to prepare. Twilight had been the first to have a go at the props, and she‘d piled up all her supplies by the stage entrance. She’d passed by Trixie on her way to the costume section, though the unicorn had made sure to keep her distance. Twilight had caught something in her eyes, though. Worry? Regret? Who knew. In fact, it didn’t seem like Trixie had her heart in it when she’d given the challenge.
And, if she could be perfectly honest, her own heart wasn’t completely in it either. She hated herself for giving in to Trixie’s challenge, but what was she to do? She thought she’d already scared away Trixie once, and when Trixie had said she’d needed this contest, she’d sounded oddly sincere.
No time to dwell on that, Twilight told herself as she finished getting dressed. She glanced herself over, making sure she looked presentable. It’s about time for the show to begin. Her gaze passed over to the prop area again, where Trixie was still gathering up what she needed. And if she wants a challenge, by Celestia, she’s going to get one. No holding back.
Trixie stood just offstage, watching as the act before hers ran its course. Her props were ready, her trademark outfit was on, and she was ready to dominate the competition.
So why, deep down, did she feel like something was wrong?
Everything was going as planned. Twilight had accepted the challenge, providing both a great show for tonight as well as a way of finding out who truly was the greatest. Trixie didn’t regret the challenge one bit, and yet… seeing how it’d upset Twilight, something just didn’t click right for her.
But those thoughts could wait until after Trixie won. The jester on stage had just finished, wowing the crowd with an impressive set of fiery stunts. He bowed and took his leave, making way for the next act. Trixie paid him no mind as he passed by, instead scanning the crowd of stray performers for her competitor.
She spotted her, heading towards Trixie with a few last-minute props. She’d dressed up for the occasion, getting into her outfit from her last time onstage. The thought stung a little; Trixie’s reaction that day was still fresh in her mind. Trixie set the thought aside, forcing a smirk onto her face as her opponent cantered up.
“The audience is waiting, assistant,” she teased. Twilight rolled her eyes, dropping her props off in the small pile she’d already formed. Her eyes darted over her supplies, making sure everything was accounted for. Satisfied, she turned, holding a hoof out in Trixie’s direction.
The unicorn stared at it blankly. “Yes? Why are you pointing at Trixie?”
Twilight groaned, extending her hoof further. “I may not agree with this contest,” she began, “but that doesn’t mean we can’t have fun, right? May the best mare win.”
That odd, stinging feeling rose in Trixie’s chest again. She fought it down, forcing her hoof to reach out and grasp her friend’s. “Yes, Trixie will win.” Twilight shot her a look. “Trixie kids, sheesh. May the best mare win.”
They shook on it. Not wanting to keep the audience waiting any longer, Trixie motioned for Twilight to stay put before heading onstage to greet the masses.
Trixie claimed center-stage, beginning her introduction. “Fillies and gentlecolts, prepare yourselves! The Great and Powerful Trixie brings with her a special event for all of you! But before we get into that, Trixie presents to you the return of her lovely assistant, Twilight Sparkle!”
As if on cue, a smoke cloud materialized to Trixie’s left. Her gaze swept the crowd as she waited for Twilight to get into place; she spotted their friends seated up near the front, the expressions on their faces ranging from surprise to, in Pinkie’s case, delight. The smog faded, revealing a slightly red-faced Twilight. The audience stomped the ground, filling the air with applause as Twilight gave a nervous wave.
“Yes,” Trixie continued, “she’s returned to help Trixie entertain and amaze you all! But this isn’t just any show, no, because tonight, you’ll be more than just spectators.” Curious chatter rose up around the crowd. “You see, my assistant and I shall be dueling to see who’s the true showstopper, and it’ll be up to you all to decide who reigns the stage supreme!”
The chatter shifted from curious to excited. Trixie spotted their friends again as she waited for it to die down; while Pinkie and Spike looked excited, Applejack and Rarity shared a look of mild discomfort. She cleared her throat, forcing herself to turn her attention back to the crowd. “Yes, we present for you all a quick, three-round duel! Using nothing but our own talents, we shall dazzle you in the hopes of dominating three categories: Creativity, talent, and power! And once all is said and done, it shall be you who determines who wins, for whoever gets the most applause wins the round.
“And now, without further ado, we’ll see who‘s most creative! We shall return in just a moment to kick things off, so get yourselves ready for the Great and Powerful duel!” With that, Trixie started nudging Twilight offstage, leaving the exacted crowd behind.
Backstage, Trixie immediately began gathering various things from her prop pile. “Only take what you need for this round,” she cautioned. When a response didn’t reach her, she turned to eye her opponent. “What’s gotten into you?”
Twilight, still red in the face, simply smiled as she kept digging through her own stash. “I think I could get used to being called ‘lovely assistant’,” she said with a giggle.
Against her wishes, Trixie could feel the heat rising to her face as well. “Oh, shut it.” She finished digging through her supplies, hiding what she felt necessary within the lining of her hat and cape. “Ready?”
Twilight looked up, picking up her supplies in a purple glow. “More or less.”
“Close enough.” Trixie trotted off towards the stage, motioning for her friend to follow. “Come on, the Great and Powerful Trixie is ready to blow the crowd away!”
The two mares found themselves sharing center-stage, standing just far enough away from each other to avoid getting in their competitor’s way. The crowd lay out in front of them, awaiting in eager silence for the beginning of the creativity challenge.
The event was simple: Trixie and Twilight would each be performing the same routine, a fireworks-filled spectacle designed to show off the performer’s mastery of theatrical magic. Each competitor would be rated based on how gracefully and artfully they could pull off the show, with the audience serving as the judge. Whoever performed best, won.
Trixie played out the event in her mind, making sure she had every aspect planned out perfectly. Satisfied, she looked towards Twilight, getting a nod in response. With both mares ready, Trixie swept a hoof over the crowd, shouting in her loudest possible voice. “Is everypony ready for the spectacle of a lifetime?” The crowd’s agreement was unanimous. “Then let the first round begin!”
On the last word, both mares rose to their hind legs, letting loose a shower of multi-colored sparks. Calling upon their magic, Twilight and Trixie gathered as many stray sparks as they could, corralling them into a ring around their bodies. The glimmering lights swirled around them, their speed increasing until they were almost a prismatic blur, until the competitors fired the ring of light straight up into the air.
Here come’s the first part where our talents diverge, Trixie told herself. She looked above her, keeping her eye on the glowing ring as she began concentrating. Slowly, a small orb began growing between the sparks, filling the void in the circle. Trixie focused, making sure she’d prepped the following spell combination to achieve the correct result. The time to release the enchantment came just as she finished carving the inner magical properties of the sphere. Raising again to her hind legs, Trixie raised her arms in the air as the circle of lights exploded.
The sparks and the ball merged, exploding out into another shower of sparkles. This time, the sparks formed a pattern, one Trixie had tailor-made herself. A glowing image of lit-up festival attractions floated up ahead; a little ferris wheel spun lazily next to a working roller coaster. If one looked closely enough, a crowd of ponies moved underneath the rides, walking beneath the glowing sun set between the two ethereal attractions.
Trixie felt a smirk rise to her face as the audience gasped, completely enthralled by the picture floating above the stage. A sharp crack reached Trixie’s ears as she heard her opponent put up her own image, and the unicorn peeked at it out of the corner of her eye.
She shoved a hoof against her mouth to keep herself from laughing. It wasn’t enough. She snickered as she glanced at Twilight’s picture- if you could even call it that. While it wasn’t exactly stick figures, the seven mares and the little dragon floating in the air weren’t much better. Oh, this is in the bag! Trixie thought. What is that, anyway? That might be Spike… then that means the rest must be our friends, as well as her and…
…Trixie. Her giggling died down as she looked closer. It may have looked like it was drawn by a preschool foal, but there was no doubt that the blue mare standing right by Twilight’s side was the Great and Powerful magician herself. Trixie caught herself staring, quickly acting as if she hadn’t been ogling her opponent’s work. Soon enough, a faint fizzle could be heard, signaling that it was time for the next step.
Quickly seizing a few fireworks from within her cape, Trixie imbued her magic into them and let them loose. Aiming them with as much pinpoint accuracy as she could muster, they flew into the sky, their colorful explosions mingling amongst the fading images up above.
Trixie kept her focus, making sure her pyrotechnics went off with as big a bang as possible. Twilight’s fireworks could be heard in the background; they definitely went off with a much bigger ‘oomph’, but the precision was far off. Trixie directed her rockets carefully, grimacing as she heard some of Twilight’s fireworks slipping into her own airspace. Twilight definitely wasn’t earning points, but her sloppy aim was dragging Trixie down with her.
Thankfully, the fireworks session ended quickly. The final step had arrived. “You ready?” Trixie heard amongst the crowds cheers. Trixie turned, nodding to her assistant.
“Trixie is always ready!” she replied, lighting up her horn. She played it carefully; she needed a little extra power for this, but using too much would definitely weaken her for the next two rounds. Trixie let the energy build up, molding its shape delicately.
Soon enough, it was complete. The result of her efforts sank to the ground with a ‘clank’; a beach ball-sized sphere glimmered in front of her, giving off a blue glow. Satisfied, Trixie checked how Twilight was doing. Her competitor seemed ready, having her own sphere in a shade of purple. “Here it comes!” Trixie shouted, getting into position behind the globe. With a grunt, she lifted her back legs and kicked it.
The ball rolled away, heading straight towards Twilight. The mare responded by kicking her own sphere, putting the orbs on a collision course with each other. They collided like marbles, bouncing off of each other. Just as quickly as they’d reflected off one another, they froze, not moving an inch.
Slowly, the spheres began to roll, smoothly maneuvering around each other. They picked up speed, leaving behind a similarly colored light trail in their wake as they became a whirlwind of motion. Both competitor’s horns lit up, and the orbs began to rise into the air.
They spun faster and faster, forming a tornado of blue and purple as they rose. While it was completely harmless, Trixie could hear the audience’s gasps of surprise and delight. Soon, the orbs went as high as they could go, still spinning around in a vortex of colors.
And then they exploded. The tornado shook as the spheres lit up, releasing a final burst of light. Rays shone over the crowd, bathing it in a multitude of colors. The audience burst into applause as the tornado faded away, leaving only the impromptu disco balls.
But it was time for the act to end. With a pop, Twilight’s sphere burst, leaving only Trixie’s. But Trixie isn’t finished yet, she thought.
Trixie shrouded the remaining orb in her magic, yanking it towards herself. The crowd gasped as it collided with her, exploding on contact.
For a moment, there was only light where Trixie had stood. With a crack, the light shot upward, revealing the mare underneath. Her horn glowing brightly, she rose up on her hind legs and stretched her forelegs wide as the light erupted over her head. Joyful shouts filled the plaza as Trixie let the light fade away, revealing her own name in blue sparkles.
Breathing heavily, Trixie dropped down, letting the lights finally fade away. It may have taken some extra effort, but she hoped the extra finale would help her out. The round was over. All that remained now was the judging.
“C’mon, everypony!” Trixie shouted. “Tell us how we did! First, let’s hear it for Twilight Sparkle!”
The crowd roared its approval. Trixie took mental note of the volume, giving the audience just a moment to continue their applause. “And now, let’s hear for the Great, the Powerful, the one and only Trixie!”
The response was deafening. Against her will, Trixie felt her face fill up with a big, goofy smile. Trixie won, she realized, grinning like a lunatic. Trixie won!
Trixie bowed low, soaking in the applause. She spotted Twilight out of the corner of her eye, also applauding loudly. Trixie realized she probably should feel guilty for not clapping during Twilight’s evaluation, but she was too giddy to care. She’d won!
Well, the first round anyway. Trixie composed herself, easing out of her bow and walking offstage. “We’ll be right back for round two, everypony!” she announced, motioning for Twilight to follow along.
They left the stage behind them as they let themselves relax, giving themselves a few moments rest before the next challenge. Twilight spoke first, magically waving her hat to fan herself. “I’m not sure if that last move was legitimate, but you did good. Congrats!”
Trixie felt herself grinning again, and she busied herself with restocking on supplies to hide it. “Thanks. You weren’t so bad yourself.”
She caught Twilight smiling out of the corner of her eye. “I have to admit, that was more fun than I thought it‘d be. Anyway, ready for round two?”
Trixie nodded, readjusting her hat. “Definitely. Let’s go,” she replied. She let Twilight go first, snickering to herself behind the mare’s back. Trixie’s got this in the bag.
“Annnnnnd… we’re back, everypony!”
Trixie waved towards the crowd, basking in the applause. She motioned for silence, clearing her throat as she waited.
“The current score is one to zero, in Trixie’s favor. Now, we move onto the next round: Talent! While last round covered how well we handled our magic, this round shows how far our limits can go. How will we show who has the better grasp on their abilities? You’ll find out for yourselves right now.”
Trixie claimed center stage, watching as Twilight moved offstage for the time being. “First up is none other than Trixie herself!” Trixie rose up on her legs, sweeping a foreleg over the crowd. “Prepare yourselves, everypony, she isn’t holding back!”
Trixie dropped her legs down, hunkering down as she let her magic build up. The usual glow enshrouded her horn, glowing brightly. Trixie knew that expending too much energy would severely cripple her during the power round, but if she played her cards right, she could end things here and now. Who was she kidding, she was the Great and Powerful Trixie! She could do this. She turned the power up a notch.
Trixie rose once more to her hind legs when the charge was ready, letting her cape fan out behind her as fireworks flew out from within it. They shot towards the crowd from every angle, only to pause right at the edge of the stage. There they hovered, coming together piece by piece, until something was formed. Trixie mixed together a couple spells; a little voice modification here, some sound throwing there, and she was good to go. With her audience enthralled by the weaving line of fireworks, Trixie began muttering phrases under her breath.
The phrases transformed into a roar as the line of pyrotechnics suddenly began moving. It was a thick row, two fireworks per section, with what appeared to be a head up near the front. The head opened up its mouth, giving a powerful bellow as the artificial creature rose up, looping around in a circle over its back. Trixie smiled, knowing her illusion was working. She had the audience in the flat of her hooves as she maneuvered her firework creature around, the sparkling snake occasionally pausing to let out a roar whenever Trixie said something.
She only had a few minutes to impress the crowd before it was Twilight’s turn. Moving quickly, Trixie sent the snake trailing straight up into the air, letting it curve down in a wide arc. It coiled around itself, its orange glow forming a perfect circle in the sky. Any leftover fireworks formed a rim around the circle, creating a colorful replica of the sun. It glows brightened up the area, shining down on the plaza.
Trixie made the fireworks break apart back into its previous form, having her fireworks zigzag across the stage. They went in a row, looping back around periodically in order to form a curtain. Sparks danced across the stage as Trixie focused once again, mentally changing the sparks themselves.
Soon, a rainbow of colors was cascading down on the stage as the shiny dots began pulsing different colors. The audience shrieked in delight as Trixie pulled the fireworks out of their curtain, preparing for her final step. Once again looping the fireworks around and sending them skyward, Trixie let out a sharp burst of magic, splitting the line down the middle. The two halves branched off, looping around and meeting each other for the briefest of moments before heading in opposite directions. The rows began twirling around, leaving a little whirlwind of sparks behind in their wake.
Finally, Trixie let her magic go. The two halves of the fiery creature exploded at last, setting off two clouds of sparks and smoke. Trixie let herself drop down, panting. She wiped her brow, sighing with relief as the plaza erupted into applause.
“Trixie may have laid it on a bit thick,” she breathed. But who cares? she thought, smiling brightly. There’s no possible way to lose with a reaction like this!
After a quick bow, Trixie headed offstage, making room for her opponent to take her turn. Twilight approached her, momentarily pausing her trip to center stage. “Great show, Trixie! That’ll be tough to beat.”
Trixie nodded, tossing her competitor a wink. “It’d be a disappointment if Trixie didn’t do her best. The same goes for you too, Sparkle.” Trixie smirked, patting her friend on the back. “Don’t let Trixie win too easily, understood?”
Twilight gave her an annoyed look. “This isn’t over yet,” she reminded her. Trixie stepped aside, letting Twilight head past her for her turn. The magician caught her opponent smiling out of the corner of her eye. “That was a nice show, though. Especially that part at the end. I could have sworn your firework formation looked just like a heart.”
“Thanks,” Trixie said, leaving her opponent behind as she headed backstage. She’d just exited stage right when she froze in place, sputtering. A heart?!
Twilight willed her legs to stop shaking. It wasn’t enough to be noticeable, but she knew her nervousness would affect her performance if she let it continue.
Being onstage was no problem when she had somepony performing by her side. But now that she held the entire stage all to herself, she could feel the crowd’s gaze piercing her. She’d already lost the last round, and if she couldn’t get it together, she’d be losing the entire contest.
Calm down, Twi, she told herself. Come on, you can do this. I can’t look weak… not in front of her.
Twilight closed her eyes, taking a deep breath. This isn’t the first time you’ve been the center of everypony’s attention. Remember back when you were applying to the Canterlot Academy? Not only did you do spectacular, but you were chosen as Celestia’s very own pupil!
She reopened her eyes, feeling her stage fright ebb away. And if I lose this little contest, so what? I don’t lose much. And at the very least, I can say I had fun. Twilight smiled, letting her horn fill up with a purple glow. “Alright, I’m ready.”
Twilight reached out, searching for the pile of props she’d placed just offstage. Finding it, she grasped it in a magical aura, floating its contents out onto the stage. Curious murmurs swam through the plaza as Twilight pulled her props onstage; a procession of plain white plates floated into view, splitting into multiple groups. They surrounded Twilight from all sides, floating at various heights.
The crowd stayed silent, eyeing the spectacle curiously. Twilight let the last of the plates file out, scanning the crowd as they fell into place. Guess I’ve got everypony’s attention, Twilight noted. She expanded her magic, reaching for the surprise she’d been hiding behind the plates. Here goes nothing…
With a sharp pull, Twilight listened as a series of pops and cracks filled the air. The firecrackers she’d placed against the back of the plates went off, spinning in circles and leaving a spiral of sparks in their wake. Quickly moving on, Twilight shifted her magic, watching as the plates and pyrotechnics started moving in unison.
The plates began swirling around in midair, being juggled amongst a cloud of sparks. Twilight let the light show distract the crowd as she stepped forward, taking her hat off and hovering it in front of her. “Now, everypony,” she began, “watch as…urm… watch as the Amazing and… no… Magical and… oh, to hay with it, watch as I pull something from my hat!”
Twilight waved a hoof over her top hat, chanting gibberish under her breath. While she was hoping to get the audience to think the trick was more complicated than it really was, in reality she was conjuring up a rather advanced teleportation incantation. When the spell was finished, she reached into her hat, stopping just long enough to address her audience. “Watch, everypony, as I reach into my hat and pull out…”
“…A bunny?” Twilight blinked in confusion, hovering a kicking Angel at a safe distance. “Oh, no, that’s not right. I hope Fluttershy isn’t upset… hold still, I’m sending you back.” Narrowly avoiding a rabbit foot in her eye, Twilight breathed a sigh of relief as Angel fell back into the top hat and disappeared. Twilight coughed nervously, feeling the heat rise to her face as the audience had a good laugh at her expense.
“Alright, moving on then,” Twilight called out. She waved her hoof over the hat again, making sure she had the enchantment right this time. “This time for sure, I present to you all… a dragon!”
Twilight reached into the hat and pulled, smiling as a familiar purple dragon popped out. “Hello there, number one assistant.”
“What the?” Spike leapt to the floor as Twilight let him go. He surveyed the crowd, scratching his head. “But I was just over there…”
“The keyword being was,” Twilight joked. She patted her assistant on the head, gently nudging him towards the audience. “Thanks for being my impromptu guest, Spike. Do me a favor and tell the girls to meet us backstage when we’re done, alright?”
Spike nodded, scampering off towards the stage’s edge. “No problem, Twi. Oh, and you’re doing great so far! Keep it up!” He flashed her a thumbs up before hopping down. With the audience’s applause dying down and Twilight’s act almost ready to come to a close, the unicorn decided it was time to forge ahead to the finale.
Twilight closed her eyes, channeling her magic. A familiar warm sensation spread through her body as she wrapped her magic around her, the essence draping her like a sparkling white shroud. She let it enshroud her, opening her eyes. She could feel the magic in them, threatening to burst outward. Giving it just one more moment to charge, Twilight braced herself as she let the magic loose.
Crashes and pops filled the air as she hit her target. The sound of plate shards tinkling as they hit the ground was accompanied by the awed gasps of the crowd, enjoying the firecrackers that were being propelled over their heads. Twilight let herself look up, admiring the sparkling trails the pyrotechnics weaved through the sky before burning out.
Firecrackers launched, check. Plates destroyed… Twilight checked behind her, noting the piles of shards littering the stage. Check. Hope the suppliers won’t mind that, though. Finally, the finisher.
Removing her hat and waving a hoof over it again, Twilight performed a few minor conjuration spells. She flipped the hat upside down, dumping its contents out and levitating them in midair. A few bouquets made up of various flowers hovered in front of her, just begging to be given away.
“One for you!” Twilight called, tossing the flowers to the audience. “And you! And you!” Twilight spotted her friends in the audience, seeing their amusement plain on their faces. Hoping they got her message, Twilight made sure she sent some flowers their way. Finally, she looked offstage, where her opponent lurked in the wings.
“I didn’t forget about you,” Twilight called out, tossing Trixie the last bouquet. The plaza filled with laughter as the magician caught it, quickly levitating the flowers out of view and shielding the place on her face. Satisfied, Twilight turned to the crowd, bowing low. “I hope everypony enjoyed. Thanks for watching!”
After the audience had finished stomping the ground, Trixie walked onstage, stepping up to her competitor. “Not bad, Sparkle, but let’s see what everypony thinks.” Twilight stepped aside as the mare strode forward, calling out to the audience.
“You know what time it is, everypony! Your applause decides the victor of this round! To start, let’s hear it for the Great and Powerful Trixie!”
Shouts and applause filled the air as the audience gave their opinion. Twilight let out a low whistle; she knew Trixie’s act would be hard to beat, but with this kind of approval, she could see the scales tipping towards either competitor.
The screaming died down. Trixie called out again, her tone bearing an air of confidence. “Now, give it up for Trixie’s worthy opponent, Twilight Sparkle!”
The audience went wild. Despite herself, Twilight could feel a cheery smile spread over her face. Twilight stepped forward, taking the spot besides Trixie. “Does this mean I won?” Twilight whispered.
Trixie didn’t look towards the unicorn. She nodded, keeping her eyes on the crowd. Twilight tried to catch a glimpse at her opponent’s face, but found herself unable to read Trixie’s expression. Twilight took her eyes away for just a moment, giving the audience an appreciative wave and bow.
But when she looked back to her friend, Trixie had disappeared.
Cheating, no good…
Trixie huffed, pausing her thoughts as she gave the prop ahead of her another magical shove. The test-your-strength machine groaned as it slowly scraped along the ground, until it finally touched the edge of the stage. Trixie revved up her magic once more, preparing to give it another push.
Blasted Twilight Sparkle, Trixie cursed as she prepared to tackle the prop again. There’s no way she could have won that legitimately. The audience must’ve decided to root for the underdog… Trixie grunted, nudging the prop almost completely onstage. If Twilight had just lost, Trixie wouldn’t have to conserve her magic for the last round by shoving this thing!
“Trixie? Trixie, the audience is waiting.” The mare flinched as her opponent stepped into view, peering around the machine. “Oh, need some help with this?”
Before Trixie could protest, the glow of Twilight’s magic enveloped the machine. Trixie resisted the urge to grind her teeth together as Twilight lifted the heavy prop straight upwards, carrying it towards center stage without breaking a sweat. Show off, Trixie hissed.
Trixie shook her head. Why was she so irritable all of a sudden? Twilight had somehow won round two; a fluke, no doubt. There was still one round to go, and Trixie was determined to win. She’d gotten herself into this, and she knew she had what it took to prove that she could defeat Twilight.
Or at least, she hoped she did.
Trixie took a deep breath and forced herself to walk, cantering back onstage to greet the anxiously awaiting audience. She mentally scolded herself; while she’d kept herself from chuckling when Twilight had frozen earlier, now Trixie herself felt the uncomfortable embrace of nervousness biting into her. Keeping Twilight out of her vision, Trixie turned to address the audience.
“Have you been enjoying the show so far, everypony?” she called out. When she was met with resounding approval, Trixie continued. “Trixie had no doubt that you all did! But it’s not over yet…”
She turned, pointing to the test-your-strength machine. “To settle this tie, the applause rating is being neglected for now. For the strength category, only one thing matters: Showing off your magical might. In brief, whichever mare sends the bell higher wins.”
Trixie extended her magic’s grip offstage, pulling a mallet into view. “The Great and Powerful Trixie shall be going first. Watch closely, everypony…”
Trixie narrowed her eyes, focusing on the little wooden target on the ground in front of her. She held the mallet up high, aiming carefully. It all came down to this; once Trixie took her turn, it was out of her control whether she won the tiebreaker or not.
She closed her eyes, channeling all the power she had left. It surged, causing the mallet to glow brighter and brighter. She kept her eyes closed as she forced every remaining ounce of her energy in this one, final strike. Trixie refuses to lose, she hissed.
The mallet raised up.
It struck the target dead on.
The puck rose. In less than a second, it reached the top, slamming into the bell with surprising force. It didn’t stop there. The puck kept going, knocking the bell off the machine. The bell flew off, flying off towards the audience. The crowd diverged with a shriek as it landed, thudding into the stands. The puck came down a moment later, crashing into the stage with a thunk.
Silence filled the air. Trixie set the mallet down gently, trying to control her ragged breathing. She turned, looking expectantly up towards the audience.
And they burst into applause. The part of the crowd that almost got struck by a skyward bell was a bit stingy with it, but the air filled with pounding hooves and joyous shouts. Trixie sighed with relief, bowing low. She groaned, immediately regretting using up so much energy on just one spell. But so long as Trixie wins this, it‘ll have been worth it, she told herself.
She left the broken prop behind, seeking out her opponent just offstage. Twilight was clapping as well, smiling brightly. Trixie nodded appreciatively, motioning towards the prop section. “Be a dear and find another one of those machines for your turn. Trixie’s just going to sit here and rest for a moment…”
“No problem,” Twilight assured, trotting off towards the props. Trixie watched her go, taking off her hat and setting it down beside her.
She sat down gently, watching as Twilight scrounged around for another machine. The backstage had emptied itself by this point, with all the other actors having either joined the audience or gone home. Soon enough, Twilight crossed the empty area levitating another one of the machines ahead of her.
Trixie caught herself smiling. As exhausted as she was, her good performance had brightened up her mood considerably. She tossed Twilight a wave, watching her pass by. “Good luck, Sparkle.”
Twilight flashed her a smile. “Thank you,” she replied, trotting onstage. Trixie watched her drop off the prop center stage, afterwards turning to the audience to deliver her own introduction.
“Well,” Twilight began, “it looks like we’ve made it to the final part, everypony. We both hope you’ve all enjoyed the show. I’m not going to keep you waiting any longer… here we go!”
The mare’s magic surrounded the mallet laying nearby, lifting it up in a purple aura. Twilight turned and focused on the target, holding the mallet close to her. Trixie watched as her opponent lifted the mallet over her head, preparing to strike. Twilight turned her head, looking towards Trixie. For a moment, Trixie could see Twilight looking indecisive.
And then, quickly turning back towards her target, Twilight lifted the mallet even higher and swung.
The puck and bell went airborne. Trixie felt her jaw drop as the puck quickly flew up in an arc, falling to smash down into the stage. The bell never stopped; after it broke off, it rose until it was out of view. Trixie watched it fly upwards, her mind desperately trying to shove away the only words buzzing in her head.
She stood up, glancing down at her hat. The purple, star-spattered fabric seemed to mock her as her eyes narrowed into a glare. Trixie raised her leg up to kick it away, freezing herself at the last moment. She sighed, turning away from Twilight and the cheering audience. Trixie ducked backstage, leaving everypony behind.
Trixie isn’t worthy of wearing that hat…
There it was.
Trixie stood still, staring at the door that led out of the backstage. The door’s gray metal seemed to taunt her, tempting her to open it and dash out into the night. Trixie couldn’t deny it, she’d lost fair and square. But if she disappeared again, this time for good, there would be no consequences. To hay with Sparkle and everypony else, she could still escape with what little dignity she had left. Strengthening her reserve, Trixie reached out, pushing on the door.
Really, Trixie? Running away again? What is this, the third or fourth time?
Trixie froze, leaving the door open just a bit. You lost fair and square, and you want to escape rather than face up to it. Face it, you’re just a coward.
Trixie gritted her teeth, searching for something to convince herself that this wasn’t true. She couldn’t find anything.
Is this really what you want to be known as? You know you’re strong deep down; even if Twilight Sparkle beat you, you didn’t go down without a fight. Walking away is just going to erase that.
Trixie sighed, dropping her hoof down. Her own mind was kicking her flank, and the worst part was, she couldn’t deny any of this. Trixie lost, and backing out on her side of the wager would make her no better than a simpering foal. And if she did walk away, she’d really miss…
…Your friends. Let’s not forget about them. They obviously don’t care how weak or strong you are if they can get over your first meeting with them. You would miss every last one of them, especially…
Trixie turned around with a jolt, finding herself eye to eye with Twilight Sparkle. The mare was holding Trixie’s hat to the side, eyeing her friend curiously. “Are you okay, Trixie? You weren’t about to leave, were you?”
Trixie froze. Slowly, she shook her head. “N-no, don’t be ridiculous. Trixie was just letting some air in.”
“If you say so,” Twilight stated. Twilight looked to the side, avoiding eye contact. “Urm… you’re not upset about losing, are you?”
Is Trixie upset? the magician found herself wondering. She’d been shown up and embarrassed, but…
“No, Trixie is not upset. A little downcast, but, well… Trixie can always work on improving, can’t she?”
Twilight smiled. “I’m glad to hear it. And despite what I said earlier, that was pretty enjoyable.” She let out a little gasp, drawing pulling Trixie’s hat in front of her. “Oh! I think you dropped this.”
The hat hovered between them, the purple glow matching the hat itself. Trixie eyed it, unmoving. Slowly, she gripped it in her own magic, gently dropping it back on her own head. “Thank you.”
Twilight nodded. “And one more thing…” She extended a hoof towards Trixie. “The audience wants an encore. Feel up to it?”
Trixie stared at the hoof. With a smirk, she gripped it, allowing Twilight to start pulling them back towards the stage. “Always. Let’s give them a show they’ll never forget.”