Lights swam in front of my vision; incoherent pulses of light commanding my attention and obscuring all else. A chill ran down my body and my eyes begin to clear, the last distracting motes dancing away into oblivion. I try to focus my eyes and see my breath crystallise, forming a small billowing cloud before dissipating. My gaze delves further into the environment and I realise that I'm in fact lying on floor. I feel the chill seeping across the stone floor and latching onto my soul. On further inspection, the floor and places on the nearest wall display sections of frost. I move to stand up, thinking all the while, trying to remember where I am and why I am, when I see a white form curled up on the floor off to my right. As I move closer, I see that it is not moving, perhaps not even breathing. Using my left hoof I try to roll the body over. It slides on the icy stone floor, but I notice the cutie mark on its flank. Three blue diamonds. I feel myself freeze on the spot as it all comes rushing back. Seeing the events that transpired once again, I feel a tear make its way down my cheek before freezing on my chin. I can't believe that all this began with a simple letter.
I close the book and lower it to the table beside me before releasing my magical grip. The motion of the book making contact with the table causing tiny specks of dust to billow out and hang in the single ray of sunshine that seeped in from the open window. Although I endeavour to keep the library clean and free of dust and clutter, it is inevitable that a slow build-up of dust occurs to precipitate the next cleaning session.
I close my eyes and allow the soft warmth of the summer afternoon to comfort me. Unfortunately, even with my studies of friendship, there is very little time to be set aside for relaxation and recreation. Admittedly, my studies are fun and very much a recreation for me; this doesn't, however, replace a nap in the sun or a good novel. As much as I love my friends, sometimes I just like to be alone. Perhaps this is why I enjoy my sessions at the spa with Rarity. During our visits, we often find ourselves relaxing and allowing the treatment to scour any built up tension and stress. Rarely do we engage in anything more that the occasional dialogue about recent events.
“None of that has any particular significance though,” I think to myself as the sunlight plays over my eyelids, creating bright patterns. My eyes start to strain with the strong light so I roll over, eliciting a strong sigh of relaxation. My moment of peace is shattered by the obnoxious sound of Spike belching a lungful of dragon-fire; most likely indicating a letter from the Princess. Realising that this matter will need to be dealt with, I resign myself to the loss of my allotted relaxation time. Standing up off the couch I seek out my draconian assistant. I find him in the kitchen, apparently having been interrupted in the midst of trying to surreptitiously sneak in a snack before dinner.
“Spike, what does the Princess want?” I ask in a voice equal parts inquisitive and mildly aggravated as Spike begins to unfurl the scroll.
Yours truly, Princess Celestia.”
Spike finishes reading the letter before sitting down on the floor, a shocked expression seated on his face.
This is certainly unexpected, though I suppose I shouldn't be as this study has been going on for 3 years now. Although I am reluctant to leave a field of study that is always providing new material, I must admit that I have learnt very little in the last year or so. Not to mention the fact that I've neglected much study in other fields beyond some simple research. My train of thought slides to a halt, as I can no longer evade the question that’s straining to burst brilliantly into my mind.
What about my friends?
Princess Celestia allowed me to stay here and study friendship, however now that my studies are over I'll have to leave them. I might never see them again, I mean the last time a started a new study I spent the first 3 months in my room and the library by myself. Catching myself I realise that a once joyful idea now fill me only with sadness and fear. I don't want to go back to that life again I want friendship, no I NEED friendship. The thought of leaving everypony is repugnant, but I can't disobey the Princess. She's the reason I even have the opportunity to study in the first place.
“Aaahh!” I yell as I stand up sharply, startling Spike, “I can't take this!” I feel the feeling of an invisible breeze emanating from my horn flow over my body, the tell tale sign of my magic. This time however my magic feels heated, reflecting my emotions. I note all this as slip into the void between seconds and the void between atoms before slipping back out to find myself standing on an unfamiliar crest.
I notice that for some reason the entire world around me is grey-scale, it feels like I haven't left the void yet though I must have as nothing can exist in the void. As I'm looking around, I feel a breeze not unlike what I feel when using magic, it suddenly picks up quickly becoming a gale. I notice something in the corner of my eye and turn my head to see what it is. I don't believe my eyes, it is a pony made both of light and darkness and the winds of magic are forming a maelstrom. As my mind tries to wrap itself around what its senses are telling it, a voice whispers in my mind sending shivers through my soul, resonating in my very being.
“Soon,” whispers the voice the voice I can only assume is belonging to the entity before me. I feel the sudden urgent need to look away and look down, averting my gaze. Something feels wrong, I bring my hoof up to take a closer look.
I blink and find myself standing in front of Rarities boutique, the world full of colour once again. I don't know what to make of the whole ordeal, nothing like that has happened during a teleport before. Well I guess standing here speculating on the possibilities is not helping anyone, so I move to knock on the door which opens as I raise my hoof to knock. Standing in the doorway is the beautiful and elegant spirit of generosity, Rarity.
“Hello Twilight, my dear, I hadn’t expected to see you this afternoon. Isn't Wednesday afternoon your scheduled personal time?” questioned Rarity, a note mild concern edging her voice; understandable as I rarely deviate from my schedule without good reason or Pinkie Pie.
“Yes well, a lot has happened this afternoon, would you like to go and have a drink?” I reply calmly in an attempt to ease her concern. I'm not sure if I should tell anyone about my situation just yet, I need to focus on concluding my studies, something I won't be able to accomplish with a group of worried and upset ponies surrounding me. “That's if you aren't busy of course.”
“It's nothing I can't put off until tomorrow. Now why don't we go to Sugarcube Corner, I hear Pinkie's back from her little holiday.” said Rarity smoothly, apparently eager for the distraction from whatever work she had planned. However I don't think the Corner is the best place to go to keep a low profile. Pinkie seems to able to discover the most obscure secrets seemingly at will. Thinking quickly I search my memory for a suitable alternative, though the list is surprisingly small there are enough options for my purposes.
“Actually I think I'd prefer to visit Bon Bon's place. I hear the tea is quite nice.” I counter in a friendly manner. From Rarity's response, I determine that she's taken the bait for can I see any indication that she is aware of my deflection. But why would she consider the idea that I have anything to hide, after all we are still friends right? Right?
Snap out of it Twilight! You can do this. It's not like you're leaving tomorrow. All I have to do is write that report then I can talk to everypony and then... Then what. I'll be leaving in a little over a month. How am I supposed to dismiss three years of close friendships? What do you say to somepony that has been by your side through thick and thin? What do you say to somepony who held you're hoof when you were down? What do you say to som--
“Twilight, you'd better drink that tea before it goes cold.” says Rarity calmly. I note the edge of curiosity and concern underlying her voice again. I must have gone on autopilot on the way here. It wouldn’t be the first time, though under the circumstances I see why Rarity might be concerned. “So what's troubling you, dear? You haven't spoken a word since we left the boutique and don't think I missed that deflection when I suggested the Corner. What's happened? You know you can tell me anything.”
Well that was unexpected. I guess I'm still underestimating her even after these couple of years being around her. Picking up my cup of tea with my magic, I once again feel the breeze of my magic flowing from my horn, though much more localised than when I teleported. Taking a sip I consider my options: telling Rarity offers the release of pent up stress and a voice of reason yet, on the other hand I risk the situation getting out of hand and restricting me from my duties. I know I can just make her Pinkie Promise not to tell anyone, perfect.
“Okay, but only if you Pinkie Promise not to tell anyone what I'm about to tell you. I don't want anyone to over react. Celestia knows I did.” I said as I replaced the cup on the saucer and locked Rarity's gaze.
“But of course, I'm no stranger to secrets. Cross my heart hope to fly, stick a cupcake in my eye.” replied Rarity as she performed the requisite motions to seal the ultimate pact of secrecy. “Now tell me what has wound you up tighter than a spring.”
“Well earlier this afternoon, during my scheduled relaxation time I received a letter from the Princess.” I say calmly before pausing for effect, I don't know why I did, perhaps Rarity's aptitude for drama has rubbed off on me. “In which she notified me that in one month my studies in friendship will be over and I must return to Canterlot to pursue a new field of study.”
Not surprisingly my companion is quite shocked. Though, to her credit she hides it well. Only a slightly slack jaw and widened eyes gave any indication that she had been knocked off balance by the news. She quickly composed herself and took a somewhat nervous drink from her own cup of tea. I find myself sitting in a very uncomfortable silence as Rarity drinks her tea quietly. Ever so slowly she lowers the cup and looks at me calmly.
“Well Twilight I won't lie, that was most unexpected. Did the Princess give any reason for this sudden recall to Canterlot?”
“No, she simply asked me to compile my findings then return by the end of the month.”
“I must admit that this is disturbing news, not the least because will be leaving us soon, but also because I didn't expect something like this from Celestia. It feels most out of character for her, after all it was her that allowed you to stay here.”
“Yes it is odd, however I can't very well refuse. I'm a royally funded student. I doubt I have the option to just stay here. Perhaps there is something else happening that the Princess wants my help for.”
“That definitely a possibility, it wouldn't be the first time the Princess has challenged you like this. Though it most distasteful to try your friendships like this, so hopefully it just what it looks like.”
“I just don't know what I'm going to do about the others. I mean, how would they all react to this news? I'm not leaving for a month. I just don't want something like that hanging over everypony's head. It wouldn't be fair.”
“True, but I think you should tell them, they're your friends I'm sure they'll understand. Once they calm down that is.” replies Rarity as takes another short drink from he slowly cooling cup of tea. “Oh! But poor Pinkie, she had a party planned for your Birthday, but that's just after you leave.”
“Well I'm sure she'll throw me an even bigger party to make up for it. You know what she's like.”
“There, see you just proved that they'll understand. Everypony will be upset for sure, but you're not leaving just yet so try and enjoy it while you can.” stated Rarity reassuringly. I can't help but think that she's correct. Yes, the others will be upset that I'm leaving but they're adults, they'll understand. I pick up my cup and drain the rest of my tea. I fish a couple out a couple of bits and put them on the table before standing up.
“Thanks for talking with me Rarity, but I need to get back home to Spike. I'll talk to you and everypony else later.” I say as Rarity finishes her tea and stands up before drawing me in for an embrace and whispering into my ear.
“Any time dear, any time. Why don't you come around to the Boutique some time, you should refresh your wardrobe before returning to Canterlot.” I gently extract myself from the embrace and look warmly at the beautiful pony in front of me.
“I think I will, talk to later.” I say as a warm feeling wells up in my chest, “And I really mean it, thank you for listening to me. I was really over-reacting.”
We both thank Bon Bon as we leave the cafe side by side. The evening was quickly starting to take over the skyline as the sun created a dazzling sunset: vibrant orange clashing with darkening blue sky to produce a marvellous purple hue. Looking at the sunset I am hit with a sudden realisation that no matter how far apart me and my friends are, we'll always be looking at the same sunset and sleeping under the same stars.
Rarity and I bid each other one final farewell and part ways as I head towards the library and her to the Boutique. I can't believe that I freaked out so much earlier. It's not like our friendships hadn't gone through trials like this before. But I can't help but think that I'll still be going back my old life: a lifestyle I had tried so hard to leave behind me. Before I know it I was back home. Spike it seemed had turned on the lights at some point. I couldn't blame him, I'd been gone much longer than I had expected.
As I enter my humble dwelling, I catch the scent of celery soup wafting through the house. It seemed that Spike at recovered from the shock and resumed his normal duties. I proceed to move into the kitchen and seat myself at the table, Spike places a bowl of soup and a plate of toast in front of me. He sits down and we chat idly during the course of the meal, I endure his questions and reassure him. Eventually we finish and I wash the dishes before heading into the library proper begin my compilation of the friendship study. Luckily, following the Discord incident Spike and I decided to copy each of the friendship reports so that we have them on hand should we require them again.
I work quietly with Owlowicious for several hours. There are a large number of reports to go through so we organise them into groups and start the arduous task of refining all the reports into one massive report. It is slow work and by the time I am ready for bed it is almost midnight and we have only completed three months of reports between us, but it is a start.
I bid Owlowicious goodnight and ascend to my bedroom where Spike already lay asleep in his little bed. My eyes tired and my mind swirling I clean my teeth and promptly climb into my warm and inviting bed. Letting out a content sigh I close my eyes try to calm my thoughts, I quickly fall asleep.