Starlight Glimmer felt she had come a long way since her successful time-travel excursion. Frankly she was lucky that Twilight was so quick to forgiveness after all she had done. Now her rival was her mentor, and it was a weird but not unwelcome change in her life. Starlight had really started to figure out the whole friendship thing, and she knew she was a much better pony than she was before. She made mistakes from time to time, but overall everything that had happened was for the better. Even Twilight could see through her mistakes if she knew Starlight was sincerely trying.
Starlight was starting to doubt that sentiment as she stood frozen in place with her mentor, friend, and smaller friend all staring at her with anger, confusion, and shock respectively. She could feel their eyes piercing her body and searing her soul as a wave of anxiety rippled through her and flushed out any sense of peace she had. She started sweating, and she had to remind herself to blink as her wide-open eyes began to dry out.
“Wait, YOU did this!?” screeched the blue filly as she leaped to her hooves. Her tiny wings fluttered in aggravation and her face transformed from shocked staring to a more hostile leer. “What did I ever do to you!?” When Starlight didn’t answer, she crouched down like a lion and grit her teeth dangerously. The mare quickly snapped out of her haze at the sight of the enamored foal.
“N-nothing! I didn’t do anything to you!” She reared up and waved her hooves around wildly as if trying to wave away the negativity being slung at her. “I-I don’t think so, at least!”
Did I do that? No, I couldn’t have! I took every precaution!
She was unsure of her thoughts. Her wild eyes looked to everypony in the room in quick succession, trying to find some solace. Twilight was still glaring at her like a disappointed teacher would to a filly that was just caught cheating on a test. Rainbow’s narrowed eyes bore into her like laser beams. Spike looked shocked and slightly nervous.Fluttershy looked confused more than anything. “I was practicing in an empty room, so there’s no way anyone else could have been effected!”
Twilight was quick to respond. “So you were practicing age magic without my supervision! Starlight, we-”
“I know, I know! We talked about it. But Trixie kept telling me about what it was like when she had the amulet, and then I just got curious, and then you said not even you could do it, and I just wanted to be the first to master it!” She was sweating profusely and her eyes refused to focus on anything in particular as she manically gestured with a hoof as she talked. “I-I-I didn’t want to tell you because I knew you’d tell me it was too much for me, and it was dangerous, and not even you could do it, and and and…”
And I really messed up.
Twilight’s glare gradually decreased into a stern gaze. She walked up to Starlight and put a hoof on the unicorn’s quivering shoulder. “Starlight,” she began, pulling the unicorn’s focus out of her stammering. The pink mare averted her gaze and looked to the ground as her mentor spoke to her. “I’m angry right now that you went behind my back, and in doing so you might have hurt one of our friends. I might not be as mad if you explain what happened.”
“I’ll still be mad!” Rainbow shouted. Fluttershy quickly reacted by pulling the filly in close again with a “shush” and another disapproving look. Rainbow whined feeling quite annoyed but nevertheless held her tongue.
“I-I…” the anxious unicorn sputtered. She looked to the angry blue pegasus foal in the room again, then to the yellow pegasus who had until then been staying quiet. Fluttershy, seeing she was being watched, softly spoke.
“Go on, Starlight. We’ll understand.”
Starlight could hear Rainbow grumble but couldn’t make out what she said. Instead, she took one last look at the element of Kindness’s eyes and took a deep breath. Then another. Then another. Finally she turned back to her mentor after having calmed down a little more.
“Okay, it started when I was trying to reverse the effects of aging on spoiled fruit....”
Starlight hummed a merry tune to herself as she pulled a wagon into one of the spare rooms in the castle. The room was empty, having nothing but it’s crystal walls, a door, and a window leading to the southern side of the castle. There were no furnishings as Twilight had yet to find any good use for the room. Starlight could understand why that was difficult. She couldn’t even begin to count the number of rooms in the castle before she inevitably got lost in the process. Of course her navigational skills got better over the months she had been with Twilight, but she still had moments of walking in on Spike posing for a mirror from time to time. Those moments never ceased to make her cringe.
The unicorn moved the small wagon into a corner of the room and promptly began unloading. She set up a chair first, preparing to use it as a testing table of sorts for her assortment of objects that she brought with her. She continued to hum as she placed a green, unripened banana on the chair and put everything else on the floor around her. A spellbook was then retrieved and hovered in Starlights magical grasp at eye level with the mare.
Starlight’s eyes scanned the page while she smiled contently. She had been waiting for a chance to try this out for a while. If she succeeded, who knew what the impact could be for magical experts everywhere? The excitement made her giggle to herself.
A spiral-bound notebook was brought up to her eye level next and quickly opened to a page covered in runes and diagrams. She had been taking notes with Trixie as the showmare talked about some of her less-than favorable but still informative escapades of recent times. Starlight was especially impressed when she learned that Trixie had been able to perform a spell that not even Twilight could do, even if it was under the influence of a magical artifact. The idea of being able to do such advanced magic herself was positively electric.
The unicorn scanned both pages quickly before putting both books down on the floor beside her. She decided next time she should bring in a card table or at least another chair for her study materials. She waved the thought off and determined to do it next time.
“Okay, Starlight. You can do this. It’s just theoretical magic that not even the Princess can do. But you’re not the princess!” She smiled devilishly. “Rejuvenatis, here I come!” The unicorn’s horn glowed blue as she charged the spell. She focused on the green banana resting on the chair in front of her and bent her legs in a bracing position. Her horn sparked as it filled with pent-up energy begging for release. She aimed at fruit and let it go.
The whole room shined bright blue for a moment before fading back into the candlelit dimness that existed before. Starlight winced at the brightness and blinked away the after-image. Once the spots clouding her vision faded away, the eager unicorn looked to the fruit on the chair. It looked the same.
“Darn!” she muttered with a frown. So much for that. She picked up her notebook and scribbled more notes across it. She would have to alter that spell. Her quill slipped across the page in surprise when she heard a sharp knocking on the door behind her. Oh, drat! I thought Twilight was already in bed!
The pink unicorn indeed felt she was doing better at being a good pony. She held the utmost respect for her once hated enemy that she now called her teacher, but the tendency to break the rules from time to time was not soon to change for her. Particularly, when Starlight had first shared what Trixie had told her with Twilight, the alicorn had given her student a firm warning to avoid unstudied magic of that difficulty. Her reasons had been that it was too dangerous, that if something were to go wrong there would be very little they could do to fix it.
Starlight Glimmer thought differently and the two scholars had a bit of an argument (which Starlight ultimately lost). The mare had grumbled and gone to her room that night in obvious annoyance. Just because the great Twilight Sparkle couldn’t do it doesn’t mean I can’t either! she thought to herself as she layed in bed, tossing and turning. I just need to be careful with it.
That thinking had been what led the mare into the empty crystal room with nothing but a basket of fruit, plants, and an assortment of other odds and ends that Starlight figured Twilight wouldn’t miss. This way there was a nearly zero chance of collateral magical damage if her spell went wrong, in theory at least.
Unfortunately, the pink unicorn hadn’t thought of an excuse to explain what she was doing yet. Well, time to wing it. She anxiously gulped as she grasped the door handle in her magic and pulled it open.
“Hey, Starlight,” the little dragon at the door said cheerily. “What’cha you doing? I saw a flash!”
The unicorn let out a sigh of relief and the smile returned to her face. “Oh, Spike. It’s just you. Just doing some late night magic practice. Shouldn’t you be going to bed?”
“Well, yeah. But Then I saw that big flash under the door and got curious. It looked really cool. What kind of magic are you practicing?” The little dragon looked immensely interested and had an almost pleading look in his eyes. Starlight sighed again and opened the door for the whelp who quickly scurried in.
“It’s a new spell that I’m trying to learn,” the unicorn vaguely explained as she approached the green banana on the chair again. She picked it up in her blue aura and studied it for any sort of change. Spike watched her eyes scan the banana in bewilderment.
“What’s the banana for?”
“I’m trying to get it to ripen earlier than normal. I guess you could say I’m practicing a, uh, minor time spell.” Try as she might, Starlight couldn’t see anything different with the fruit. Okay, that definitely didn’t work.
“A time spell? Are you sure you should be messing with time again?” Starlight turned her head to face the young dragon with a glare. Spike met it with an innocent smile. She shook her head and took a deep breath before continuing.
“No, Spike, it’s not like that. It’s more like I’m changing the relative age of a single thing compared to everything else around it. Like this banana!” She held up the fruit for the dragon to clearly see. “It’s not supposed to ripen for a couple more days, but if I fast forward it’s own time I can make it ready to eat right now!” she glared at the fruit in frustration before setting it back into her small wagon with her other things. “If I could get it to work, that is.”
The dragon walked over to the wagon and studied the objects within with narrowed eyes and a frown. “So.... it’s an age spell.” Starlight held her breath in trepidation, hoping that Twilight hadn’t told Spike about their conversation on the matter. “That’s pretty cool!” She let her breath out and smiled again. “But not even Twilight can do an age spell, and she’s the best magic user in Equestria!”
Starlight picked up her notebook again and scribbled some more in thought. A moment went by until she responded to the young dragon. “Well, I know that, but maybe it’s just because she doesn’t know how rather than that she’s just not able to. And I’m just as gifted with magic as she is!” She puffed out her chest and felt a prideful smile grace her lips. A cough from Spike snapped her out of it and she deflated slowly. “Eeeven if I don’t have the sheer power that comes from being an Alicorn. But Twilight said she hasn’t tried since her last run-in with Trixie, so she doesn’t know that it’s impossible!” She levitated another banana out of the wagon, this time brown and obviously not fit to eat, and placed it on the chair before her. “I just need to figure out the technique.”
And so long as Spike doesn’t tell Twilight, I should be fine!
“Mind if I watch?” Spike cheerfully asked. Starlight looked to him, ready to say no, when she met his pleading gaze. She hesitated slightly before smiling.
“You just don’t want to go to bed yet, do you?”
The dragon shrank slightly and put on a paper-thin innocent smile. “Well, uh, kinda?” Starlight giggled and thought about it.
“How about this: I take the fall for letting you stay up and you tell Twilight you didn’t know what I was doing.”
“Why can’t I-”
“Do we have a deal?” She extended her hoof forward. The dragon looked at it quizzically before grinning. He grasped the limb in a claw and gave it an affirmative shake.
“Ugh, Starlight! It’s been two hours! Maybe you should give it a rest?” the baby dragon whined sleepily. Starlight on the other hoof looked frustrated but otherwise wide awake. She continued to scribble on her notes again as another test failed to work.
For the life of her, Starlight could not figure out what the problem was. She had tried different techniques, different amounts of magic, and different fruits. She had eventually decided to try reversing time on a blackened banana instead. No matter what adjustments the irritated unicorn had done to the spell, the result was always the same. The banana simply never changed. The pink unicorn growled a bit under her breath and slammed the notebook down on the ground beside her.
“I don’t get it, Spike! I know the theory, the spell seems correct, but it just won’t work! All my attempts just end up being…”
“Fruitless?” The dragon giggled to himself before being silenced by an annoyed look from Starlight.
“Yes, Spike. That.” She took a deep breath, held it in for ten seconds, and let it out. When she had calmed down sufficiently, she turned once again to the dragon with a disappointed frown on her lips. “Maybe you should go to bed Spike. I think it’ll be a while until anything interesting happens.”
The dragon yawned in response. “I guess. But I’m sure you’ll get it soon, Starlight!” He gave the unicorn a thumbs up and made his way to the door. “Good night,” he said on his way out. Starlight returned the farewell and watched him leave for a moment before turning to her books once again.
Come on, Starlight! It’s just a complex mix of different time spells. You can do complex. You can do Rejuvinatis. She breathed in through her nose and let it out in a huff. Finally, after studying the spell one more time, she charged her horn full of etheric power. Her brow furrowed in concentration and her eyes narrowed at the blackened banana in front of her. Finally, she discharged the energy from her horn. The blue beam shot across the room and engulfed the yellow fruit in a bright flash, one more blinding than the previous ones. Starlight instinctively brought a hoof to her eyes to shield them from the light, but the flash dissipated before any benefit could be reaped from the action. Instead she used her hoof to wipe her eyes as she blinked away the sun spots from her vision once again. Once she could see, she looked to the fruit once more.
The pink unicorn's eyes widened when, on the chair across the room, she saw a perfectly ripe yellow banana. Her jaw dropped open and for a moment all was silent. The silence was broken when a cheer came unbidden from deep within her. She jumped in the air joyfully and let out a loud "Woohoo!". She instantly clamped a hoof over her mouth, remembering her mentor was asleep. However, her joy was sated as she merrily trotted up to the chair and picked up the banana in her aura. She turned the thing around in her magical grip in a studious fashion, analyzing every inch of it. She then peeled it and took a bite. The soft texture and sweet taste was absolutely perfect. She levitated her notebook and quill back to her and frantically scribbled notes onto its surface so quickly she almost tore through the page.
With her notes on her success documented, she turned to her wagon of items once more. Okay, can't claim to have done it unless I can replicate it. She giggled foalishly to herself as she picked up a small potted plant and placed it on the chair. But I still did it!
She stepped back to her testing position and charged her horn once more. The goal this time was to regress the plant back to a sprout, which would be a little more complicated than reversing a fruit's age by a few days. A sure grin crossed the unicorn's features as she braced herself. Remembering exactly what she did, she prepared to fire.
"Did you get it?" Spike shouted as he burst through the door excitedly.
Starlight let out a shriek as her body jolted in surprise. Her horn discharged mid-turn, sending the blue beam firing far off to the side. The sound of glass shattering pierced the ears of the room's two occupants and directed their attention to the window on the wall across from the door. Where there was once a pane of glass there was now an empty window frame. A rim of shards protruded from the frame while the floor in front was blanketed with smaller pieces of broken glass. Starlight didn't doubt the ground below would be dangerous to walk on too.
The unicorn averted her eyes from the broken window and whirled around to leer at a very fidgety Spike. The baby dragon twirled his thumbs and wore a nervous and pleading smile.
"Uh, my bad?" he nervously eeked out. "I didn't mean to sneak up on you like that. I, uh, heard cheering and thought you must have had a breakthrough, so I came back. Sorry about that." Starlight looked at him for a moment longer before sighing and replacing her frown with a gentle grin. She couldn't stay mad at the little guy.
"It's fine, Spike. We can clean it up later. But I think I finally got it!"
"And then Spike stayed to watch me as I practiced for another half hour or so until he went to bed."
"By the way, I claim no fault in any of this!" Spike hurriedly interjected. Twilight nudged him gently and gave him a pointed "Sush" and a look that screamed “we’ll talk about this later”. Starlight looked from him back to the other ponies in the room and continued.
"Well, I was finally on a roll with the rejuvenating spells and I stayed up until I ran out of things to rejuvenate. I got really good at it with plants." Starlight had noticeably calmed down as she told her story. She was certainly still tense, but she wasn't quaking nearly as much as she had earlier. All of her newfound peace was thrown out the window as she glanced once more to the still visibly angry blue filly before her.
"Okay, so what gives? Why did you use it on me, huh?" Rainbow's wings buzzed aggressively as she marched towards the unicorn with menace, despite the squeak of her voice. "Didn't we already agree NOT to use magic on your friends?!"
"I-I swear I didn't mean to! It must have been the blast that went out the window. I didn't think about what had happened to the beam!"
The filly pointed an accusative hoof at the mare and bared her teeth. “Well you should have thought about that when… Hey!” Rainbow directed her attention to the purple alicorn who was currently restraining the angry filly in her aura a few inches above the floor.
“Rainbow, calm down!” Twilight commanded. Rainbow heedlessly squirmed in midair. Her protests were promptly silenced with a muting spell, allowing the filly to thrash and shout inaudibly until she eventually wore herself out. In the meantime, Twilight let out a sigh and, without releasing the foal, looked to her perturbed student. “Starlight, I know it was an accident, but you are responsible for this.”
“I-I’m really sorry! I didn’t think anything w-went wrong.” The unicorn rushed over to Twilight, reared up on her hind legs, and placed both hooves on the startled alicorn’s shoulders. “Please don’t banish me for this! I’ve come so far and can’t let it stop now!” Tears started to pool in the corner of the panicked mare’s eyes.
“Starlight,” Twilight began before being cut off.
“I didn’t mean to hurt her! I swear it was an accident! You gotta believe me!”
“Starliight, calm do-”
“I’ve disappointed you before and this is a little worse so I understand if you want to get rid of me, but-”
“Starlight!” Twilight clamped the unicorn’s muzzle shut with another aura. Starlight whimpered and looked pleadingly at her mentor who gave an exasperated groan back. At the same time she released her hold on Rainbow Dash, and the filly squawked as she was unceremoniously plopped on the floor again. “Just calm down. I’m not going to banish you or anything like that. Are you okay?” The mare nodded and Twilight released her grip. Starlight rubbed her muzzle tenderly. “But I’m not the one you need to fix things with.”
Starlight looked nervously at the filly once more. Fluttershy had moved in to keep her calm and the two of them were looking back at her expectantly. Starlight moved her mouth but couldn’t push any words out. Rainbow Dash continued to leer at her. It was Fluttershy who finally broke the silence.
“You can fix her, right, Starlight?”
Starlight could feel herself shake again as she felt all eyes on her once more. She calmed slightly when Twilight placed a hoof on her shoulder and nodded at her. The unicorn took a deep breath and gulped.
“Uh, the rejuvenation spell was the only one I could get working. I still can’t do the forward aging spell.” She focused on Rainbow once more. “I’m so sorry, Rainbow, but you may be stuck like that for a while until I can perfect it.”
The unicorn and young pegasus looked each other in the eyes. Moments later, realization dawned on the pegasus. “I’m… stuck like this?” Despair cascaded upon Rainbow Dash, filling her up with bitter hopelessness. Fluttershy swiftly reached a hoof over to soothingly rub between the filly’s wings. “B-But…” she muttered as he eyes misted over. “I-I…”
Starlight’s eyes shot open as she saw the teary-eyed filly turn from enraged to despondent in a matter of moments. It was as if she could visibly see the hope vanish from her rosy eyes and devolve into a vast emptiness in which the filly was on the precipice of losing herself in. It was painful to watch.
“I’m sorry! It’ll only be for a few days, I promise!”
“There, there, Rainbow,” Fluttershy spoke into her ear. “Starlight will fix it, it’ll just take a couple days. It’s not the end of the world.”
Twilight looked to her student for a moment and then smiled at Rainbow. “I’ll help too. We’ll get you back to normal soon, Rainbow Dash!”
Starlight vigorously nodded. “I promise I’ll set this right!”
The filly wiped her eyes with a shaky hoof and looked at the three mares and dragon surrounding her. “B-but what will I do until then? Hearth’s W-warming is next week… and the h-holiday airshow w-with the W-wonderbolts… a-a-and my parent’s…” She stumbled over her words as emotion clouded her mind. “I-I promised Scootaloo that we’d hang… And the W-wonderbolts are expecting me in three days!” The blue pegasus buried her face in her hooves and choked back a sob. “W-what am I going to do?”
Fluttershy continued to rub her back in an attempt to calm her. Everyone watched as the filly failed to choke back anything more and broke out into full-blown sobbing. It tore at everypony’s heartstrings, but nopony knew just what to say. Starlight looked away shamefully. Everypony waited in silence while Rainbow Dash let the world crash around her.
It took ten minutes of tense silence until the foal’s sobs lightened up. Rainbow wiped her eyes and runny nose once more and sniffed a few times. Fluttershy ruffled her wings in an attempt to cheer her up. “Feeling better?” she asked with a smile.
“Not really,” the filly replied. With another sniff, she narrowed her eyes and pointed to Starlight again. “You promise this will only take a few days?” she demanded.
Starlight’s mind quickly ran through the magical formulas and diagrams from her notes and books. Feeling a modicum of confidence, she nodded her head and said “Yes, I promise.” The filly lowered her hoof and nodded in acceptance. She then turned around and walked towards the couch. With an agile leap, Rainbow hopped onto the couch and settled into the cushions.
“This is so not cool, but I guess it could be worse.” She sighed, obviously not convinced of her own words. She rested her head on the end pillow and faced away from the others. “At least it’ll just be for a couple days.”
Starlight hoped she was right.