Standard – Aftermath
Twilight was surprised when Pinkamena took them all to Standard, but she claimed it was the safest place to be. Celestia said that she'd take care of Applejack, DASH-379, and Fluttershy, saying that if Twilight wanted to rest she could.
Since it was night when they arrived, Twilight went right to sleep.
Her house was pretty big, so there was plenty of room for everyone as long as some people were okay with sleeping together. Normally Twilight would have been micromanaging all of that, but she had lost all enthusiasm.
Did Rarity really just… give up like that?
She prayed that the next morning it would all be a bad dream, and she'd wake up with Rarity lying next to her. Sadly though, when she woke up the next morning, her bed was empty.
A feeling she wasn't accustomed to anymore.
“Rarity…” Twilight said hugging herself, crying for the third time since the incident happened, “It's not true… is it? You didn't… turn your back on everyone… did you…?”
After she calmed down enough to face everyone, she got cleaned up and dressed. Before she could head downstairs, her phone chimed letting her know she had a text.
Are you and Rarity here today? If so, we're all gathering in the park today! Hope to see you there!
Pinkie “Diane” Pie
Pinkie Pie wanted to meet up today? Not only that, but she wanted Rarity to come too?
Sounds like fun. Why don't we go pay them a visit?
Twilight looked next to her, almost seeing Rarity standing next to her with her usual confident smile. One that was almost a smirk, but more sensual than arrogant. When the image faded away, Twilight's heart sank.
“Good, you're up.”
Twilight jumped when she heard that voice behind her. She turned and was surprised to see Pinkamena leaning against a wall with her arms folded.
“P-Pinkamena…” Twilight said. Even with everything that happened yesterday, it still felt odd having this woman in her house, considering that just the other day they were sworn enemies.
“How are you feeling?” Pinkamena asked, sounding genuinely concerned, “Wait, don't answer that. You probably feel like absolute shit right now, knowing that your friend is gone.”
“Did you… know about this…?” Twilight asked, “Was this why you were going after Rarity all this time? Why you were trying to kill her?”
“You wanna know what's funny? I wasn't trying to kill your Rarity,” Pinkamena admitted, “Well, I guess she isn't your Rarity. She's not anyone's Rarity. Technically, she's not supposed to exist.”
“H-how can you say that?!” Twilight asked harshly, “Rarity is a living person, and she has a right to live! Just as much of a right to live as you, me, DASH, Applejack, Fluttershy, Celestia, everyone!”
“That's only seeing things from your narrow view,” Pinkamena said regarding Twilight seriously, “You can't see the big picture, or how one person can affect the flow of time and space.”
“That's easy for you to say!” Twilight fussed closing her eyes tightly, “You didn't know her! You didn't get to spend time with her, getting to know her, and fighting alongside her! It's easy for you to just say she wasn't supposed to exist!”
“Easy? EASY?!! YOU THINK THIS IS EASY FOR ME TWILIGHT!!! SHE WAS MY FRIEND TOO, BUT-” Pinkamena stopped herself and turned away seriously. Twilight calmed down a bit, and regarded Pinkamena seriously.
“That's not the first time you've done that…” Twilight said, “You always talk like you're familiar with us. Just who are you?”
Pinkamena took a deep breath, actually fighting back tears, “You don't remember me at all, do you Twilight? I guess that's understandable. In the human world we never got very close, but we were super close in Equestria. I guess I keep hoping… that you'll remember that much at least.”
“Equestria…?” Twilight asked, “Pinkamena, what are you talking about? Is that another world?”
“I wish I could tell you,” Pinkamena said, letting her tears fall freely, “I wish so badly that I could tell you, so I could tell you why things ended up like this. But I can't. If I did, you wouldn't understand.”
“Understand what?” Twilight asked, slowly approaching the gothic jester before her.
“That you and I… have been friends for years,” Pinkamena said, actually surprising Twilight, “Gather everyone, and meet up with me at Canterlot High's statue later. You can decide what to do with me then, along with what you're going to do about Rarity.”
“What happened to her anyway?” Twilight asked Pinkamena as she started walking downstairs, “Is she… did she actually…”
“I'm afraid so,” Pinkamena said somberly, “It's actually the very thing I was trying to prevent. What the universe was trying to prevent. You can't halt the flow of time and not suffer the consequences.”
With that, Pinkamena walked downstairs, apparently leaving the house entirely. Twilight was struck by a lot of what Pinkamena said, mainly the part of them being friends for years. She knew that she and Pinkie Pie had been friends for a long time, but it sounded like Pinkamena was referring to herself personally.
With everything she had already learned about the universe, was it possible?
Twilight went downstairs to see where everyone was. The first person she saw was Celestia, sitting at the table in the kitchen drinking a cup of coffee, now wearing a simple white dress Twilight's mother never wore anymore. At first Twilight was confused, but then remembered that this was probably the Celestia from Medieval.
Golly. Right now, she looks JUST like my Principal.
“Glad you finally came downstairs, Twilight,” Queen Celestia said looking at Twilight with a somber smile.
“Celestia… is it true…?” Twilight asked, “Was Rarity… really not supposed to exist?”
“It's so much more complicated than that,” Queen Celestia said, “Sadly, I'm not privy to that information.”
“But you knew that Rarity wasn't-”
“Yes, only because I'm allowed to know that,” Queen Celestia stated, “I'm not allowed to know the rest.”
“This isn't like the second Matrix movie, is it?” Twilight asked with a slight groan, “You know, where everyone was talking about “purpose” and “knowing things because they're supposed to know” and other really deep stuff that didn't make any sense at all.”
“I assure you it's not that complicated,” Queen Celestia said with a slight chuckle, “Close, but not that insane. The one who knows is on a plane higher than all of this. You'd have to meet special requirements to meet me there.”
“Wait… you mean there's a fifth Celestia?” Twilight asked, “One besides you, the Seer, Solaris, and my principal?”
“The four of us are all connected to the same soul,” Queen Celestia said sipping her coffee, “That single soul has to come from somewhere, doesn't it?”
She was talking about the source of their existence, in a way the person they were really talking to whenever they spoke to a Celestia. Still, what were those special requirements Celestia was referring to?
“Why don't you meet up with your friends?” Celestia requested, “I'm not going anywhere at the moment, so we can talk later.”
Twilight noticed that although the dress she was wearing covered the essentials, the dress was a little small for Celestia. Her mother was really petite after all.
“Why are you wearing my Mom's clothes anyway?” Twilight asked. Queen Celestia coughed blushing a bit.
“In case you forgot, Luna kept me in that cell… um… you know…”
“Oooh, right,” Twilight said, remembering how they found her the last time, “I guess sitting around completely naked is really annoying.”
Queen Celestia cleared her throat, “Yes, mind you this isn't much better, but at least you can't see my um…”
“I'm… going to go now, before this gets anymore awkward,” Twilight said.
“Thank you,” Celestia said quickly, returning to her coffee. Twilight shook her head and left out of the room to search for her friends. She needed to hear their opinions of what happened.
The first one she saw was Applejack. She was sitting in the library of the house, not wearing her armor. Instead, she was wearing one of her dad's red flannel shirts, blue jeans, and her usual boots. It actually looked really good on her, making Twilight wish that Applejewel would dress more practical sometimes. It was a good look for her.
Applejack looked up from her book with a somewhat somber expression, “Hey Twilight.”
Twilight lightly waved saying hi and then looked to the side holding her arm.
“Are… you okay?” Twilight asked.
“I'm fine, Twilight,” Applejack said honestly, “It's you we're all worried about. You and Rarity were really close after all.”
“I don't know what to make of what happened,” Twilight said, “The look in her eyes… it wasn't anything like her, nor were the things she said…”
“Honestly, I'm not surprised this happened,” Applejack admitted, putting her book down and folding her arms.
“What do you mean?” Twilight asked.
“She lost everything that she loved. Her friends, her family, no one would be unaffected by that. I don't care who you are. With all of that, learning that her world wasn't supposed to exist, that she wasn't supposed to exist, it pushed her over to the edge.”
“But to give up? Just like that?” Twilight asked.
“Tell me something,” Applejack said walking up to Twilight with a stern expression, “What exactly is she supposed to fight for now?”
“No, think about it from her point of view. She's lost everything, Twilight. She doesn't have a home anymore, she doesn't have a family, hell, technically this is her world, right? Where is she in this world?”
“Exactly. Just like she is in DASH's world, Fluttershy's world,” Applejack looked pained, “and… my world.”
That confirmed it. Applejack's teacher was a variant of Rarity. Twilight had actually suspected it for a while, ever since seeing the spear that she gave Rarity. At the time she didn't think much of it.
“She's not ever going to get her friends back, Twilight,” Applejack continued, “This is the closest thing she has to her world, and she's alone in it. Add on the knowledge that the universe essentially chose her to have to die for it to keep moving forward, what exactly is she fighting for now?”
“I just…” tears started building up in Twilight's eyes, “I don't want to believe that there's nothing we can do… Rarity is my…”
Applejack sighed looking down, “The world is so much bigger than I thought. Not just in the places and people, but just in how it all works. People who are living weapons, alters of people I've known for years. You're an alternate version of someone I see everyday back home. God, knowing all this now, makes me feel really small. Who's to say, you know? We don't know how the rules of the world work. Sad as it is, Rarity might have to-”
“Don't say it,” Twilight said, “Please.”
Applejack sighed, “Twilight…”
“I know I'm being silly right now, but I'm not ready to face that reality yet,” Twilight said, “I don't know if I'll ever be willing to face that reality.”
Applejack looked at Twilight somberly, and then walked over to a picture on a desk, “So… this is my alter, right?”
Confused, Twilight walked over to Applejack and looked at the picture. Sure enough, she saw a picture of Twilight hugging Applejewel.
“Oh, y-yeah. She prefers to be called Applejewel though.”
Applejack looked at her with a raised eyebrow, “Applejewel? Really?”
“She moved in with her Aunt and Uncle Orange when she was eight. I think she came from Sweet Apple Acres… yeah she did. Everyone in her family has an apple themed name.”
“So just like me then,” Applejack said.
“The upper class lifestyle just suited her,” Twilight continued, “She eventually changed her name, and just put her all in being, well, that. She's like you somewhat, but a little frivolous.”
“Interesting,” Applejack said, “Do you know where I'd be able to meet my alternate self?”
“She lives in a huge mansion down the street,” Twilight said, “You can't miss it. It has a huge orange symbol on the gate.”
Applejack nodded, “I think I'll go there to meet her.”
“Why? Except for her slightly snooty personality, she's actually pretty well off.”
“None of this has really hit me yet,” Applejack admitted, “It's right in front of me, and yet something inside won't let me accept the truth that… I'm so small and insignificant in this universe. The one constant I've seen in every world so far is that humans are arrogant. We think that the world revolves around us, and that our lives are more important than anyone else. I admit, even I can be like that sometimes.
“But this journey has put things in a new light for me. All of a sudden, I'm seeing entire worlds that are completely different than my own. Worlds where I don't even have an active part in them. I know I'm there, but…” Applejack looked down seriously, “Unlike everyone else, I can't accept what's in front of me. I think that's because I'm the only one who hasn't had contact with themselves in another world. Maybe if I meet this… Applejewel, I'll be able to understand more about how this world works.”
Twilight remembered what happened when Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy met their alternate selves. Maybe this would be good.
Twilight looked to the side a bit at a chair, and saw an old stetson hat. Her dad never wore it anymore, but something about that made Twilight feel funny.
“Applejack, before you go…” Twilight walked over to the hat, picked it up, and then gave it to Applejack, “Could you maybe… try putting this on?”
Applejack raised an eyebrow, but then shrugged and put the hat on. When she did, a weird feeling came over Twilight. Seeing Applejack like that, wearing that hat just felt… right to her. Applejack also had an odd look on her face, and slowly ran her finger across the brim of the hat.
“What in tarnation…” Applejack said, “Why does this feel… familiar to me…?”
Hold on… did she just speak in… a Texan accent?
“Twilight… why did you give me this?” Applejack asked.
“I don't really know,” Twilight said, “It just feels like… you're supposed to wear that.”
“Same…” Applejack said, “Could I maybe… keep this…?”
“Yeah sure,” Twilight said, “I don't think my dad's going to make a huge fuss about it. He hates the hat anyway, so you'd be doing him a favor.”
“Thanks…” Applejack said, “I don't think I can wear it with my armor but… I'll keep it with me.”
Twilight nodded and turned to the door, “Oh one more thing. Later, could you come to the statue in front of my school? Pinkamena wanted to talk to all of us.”
Applejack took a deep breath, “I suppose right now I should put my grudge aside, and she did help us in the end there. Sure, I'll listen to her.”
Feeling satisfied, Twilight left the library to search for her other remaining teammates. Outside, she heard commotion. She followed the sound to her backyard, where she saw DASH-379 throwing punches at the air.
“I am still too damaged it seems,” DASH-379 said looking at her hand flexing her fingers, “I will need to ask Twilight to repair me later.”
“Maybe you should get some rest, before you pull a wire out,” Twilight said, getting DASH-379's attention.
“Good, you are unharmed,” DASH said walking over to Twilight, “We were all worried that Lavos hurt you.”
“That monster… that was Lavos?” Twilight asked.
“Affirmative,” DASH-379 stated folding her arms, “I do not believe that he was able to fully manifest however. His existence seemed incomplete, like all we saw was a part of him.”
“That's terrifying,” Twilight said looking away seriously, “DASH, about Rarity-”
“Do not worry,” DASH-379 said turning around and getting in a fighting stance, “I will begin my search for Rarity and retrieve her when I am combat ready.”
“Wait… retrieve her? As in… bring her back…?”
“That is correct,” DASH-379 said, now throwing kicks. Twilight was looking at DASH-379 with wide eyes.
“But… she's joined Nightmare Moon now,” Twilight said.
“So? That does not change anything about how I feel concerning Rarity. She is my friend, and I am going to bring her back,” DASH-379 charged up her leg with electricity and did a fancy rapid leg kick, “Even if I must knock some sense into her first!”
“I do not abandon my friends, no matter what they do to me. Rarity knows that I am a killing machine, yet she did not turn her back on me for that. I would be a hypocrite if I abandoned her for this.”
“Is that… a part of your programming?” Twilight asked, “To be that loyal…?”
“I do not believe so,” DASH-379 said, “I am programmed to simply follows orders. This however feels more personal. It is strange, but… I feel almost like my programming is now adjusting itself to me.”
Was this a sign of that thing they heard about in Machine called “The Pinocchio Effect”? Was this how it started? Looking at DASH-379 now, something seemed… right. Like seeing Rainbow Dash determined to save a friend was just “Rainbow Dash being Rainbow Dash”.
Twilight smiled warmly, “You know what? You're actually really awesome, DASH.”
DASH-379 smirked, “Yeah, I know I am. I am approximately 20% more awesome than any machine in existence.”
When she said that, both she and Twilight looked shocked. The same feeling that she got from Applejack when she put on the hat came over Twilight.
“Where did that come from?” Twilight asked.
“I am not sure…” DASH-379 said tilting her head, “Was that… another malfunction? No… it felt…”
Okay, something was happening now. Possibly a connection to what Pinkamena was saying even. Right! Pinkamena!
“Oh, there's something I needed to tell you,” Twilight said, “Pinkamena wants to meet up with us at the statue in front of my school later.”
“Huh, okay then,” DASH-379 said with a shrug, “I will talk to Fluttershy about it in a bit. She still gets very volatile concerning Pinkamena, so it is probably best that I let her know about the meeting.”
“Yeah, good idea,” Twilight said, “Speaking of, what do you think of Pinkamena?”
DASH-379 looked at Twilight surprised, “You want my opinion of her? Why?”
“Well, you don't really give your opinion on a lot,” Twilight said, “You may be a machine, but you're one of us, so your thoughts matter too.”
“Huh…” DASH-379 looked down thoughtfully, “Well, I personally see no reason why we cannot work with her.”
“R-really? That was not what I was expecting from you.”
“It is strange, but something about her feels trustworthy to me. Despite everything she did to us in the past, I feel like the real Pinkamena is someone I should be friends with, almost as close as I am with Fluttershy.”
It was weird, but to Twilight, DASH-379 seemed more human now than ever. It suddenly struck her that she just asked a machine for their opinion, and got one that made sense. She was changing too, just like Applejack.
“Thanks DASH,” Twilight said, “I think… I needed to hear that too.”
DASH-379 smirked as a response, and then got back to her training. Seeing a robot that was so arrogant was… odd, yet somehow that response was just… right.
Twilight walked back into the house, this time going to the living room. There, she saw Fluttershy lying on the couch with a truly sad expression on her face. Twilight walked over to sit near her.
“Hey,” Twilight said, “How are you feeling?” instead of speaking, Fluttershy closed her eyes and whimpered softly, tears streaming from her eyes, “Yeah, I guess I expected that. You care about Rarity a lot too,” Fluttershy nodded, still not looking up at Twilight, “I wish I knew what to tell you. Truth is, I'm just as upset as you. I don't want to believe that she's…”
Twilight looked down at Fluttershy surprised.
“Rarity… not evil… Rarity hurt, feel alone. In very dark place right now. I… scared for Rarity…”
“Oh Fluttershy!” Twilight broke down, immediately embracing Fluttershy. She was too sweet for words. Even after seeing Rarity help Nightmare Moon summon Lavos, Fluttershy still believed in her.
“Twilight… please don't cry,” Fluttershy urged, sitting up and looking into Twilight eyes, “Have to believe in Rarity… She weak now, but you strong for her. Bring her back, I know.”
“How can I though?” Twilight asked somberly, “She pushed my light away, remember?”
“But still Rarity's light, even now,” Fluttershy said, smiling despite her tears, “Always Rarity's light, so you save Rarity.”
Twilight still wasn't sure if she had that much faith in herself, but she realized a few things concerning Fluttershy. One, even though she had a more primitive mind, she understood a lot more than Twilight gave her credit for. But also, this was how Fluttershy was supposed to be. Kind to a fault, sensitive, and determined to see the good in just about everything.
Fluttershy hating anyone was wrong.
“You're really kind Fluttershy,” Twilight said taking Fluttershy's hands, deciding to just say what was on her heart, “Too kind to hate anyone.”
The way Fluttershy looked away slightly told Twilight she knew what she was talking about.
“You mean…” Fluttershy asked.
“I don't know why, but something inside of me is just screaming that you shouldn't hate her. That you of all people need to try and forgive her. I know right now it's hard, but… come on Fluttershy, don't you feel it too? Like something isn't right? That you're not being true to yourself?”
“I… I not sure…” Fluttershy admitted, “She… attack village… and led Greymane to…”
“I know, I know,” Twilight said, “And you don't have to outright like her, but seeing you harbor such hatred for her just feels… wrong to me. Just think about it, okay? Not with your head though. Think with your heart, and do what… Fluttershy would do.”
“What… Fluttershy… would…?” Fluttershy asked. Twilight got up and walked out of the living room, deciding it would be best to leave Fluttershy to her thoughts. DASH-379 would know what to do.
Twilight stepped out of the house and stretched. It was perfectly sunny, yet for some reason everything felt so dark to her right now. It still was too early to meet up with her friends (assuming she decided to go) and she wasn't ready to meet up with Pinkamena yet.
So instead she went for a walk. She needed to sort a lot of things out, especially concerning Rarity. As she walked, she was unaware of the entity that was watching her. A purple and black wolf with piercing green eyes.
“Well, this is the place,” Applejack said, looking up at the large mansion before her. It took her some time, but eventually she found it. Just like Twilight said, the gate had a large orange on in. Since the gate was open, Applejack just walked up to the door and rang the doorbell.
When the door opened, a maid with long black hair greeted Applejack, but then did a double take.
“Um… Miss Jewel…?” the maid asked, “But… I just spoke too…”
“I'm not her,” Applejack said, “But I'd like to talk to her. Just let her know that I'm a friend of Rarity's. I think she'll understand.”
The maid nodded and ushered Applejack inside. As the maid then ran off to fetch her young mistress, Applejack looked around awkwardly. It felt like she was in the castle a bit, but not as personal, if that made any sense. Maybe it was because she wasn't in her home.
“Oh my stars…” a voice that sounded like hers said from the stairs. Applejack looked up and saw Applejewel looking at her with an awed expression. Her clothes were WAY fancier than Applejack normally wore, and her hat was a fancy variant of the one she was currently wearing. Besides that and the make-up, it was clear to Applejack.
“You're… Applejewel, right?” Applejack said, “The me of this dimension?”
“Ah believe so…” Applejewel said, “When Kira told me that someone who looked jus' like me was downstairs claimin ta be a friend of Rarity's… Ah jus' sorta knew. Yer name… is Applejack, right?”
“That it is,” Applejack said as Applejewel walked downstairs to greet her. She seemed a little younger than Applejack, but with her high heeled boots, they came up to the exact same height, thus looked into each other's eyes in awe. Applejack could tell that her standard counterpart was being affected by this meeting as well.
“Why don't… Ah make us some tea,” Applejewel said, “We have plenty of Orange tea, if ya…”
“I guess you would know that it's my favorite,” Applejack said with an awkward smile. The two of them walked into the kitchen, where Applejewel got to work preparing the tea. Meanwhile, Applejack sat down looking at Applejewel while she worked. It was so surreal seeing herself standing right there, but knowing that she was here.
After pouring both of their cups, Applejewel sat down in front of Applejack and just looked down, an odd look on her face.
“So… your from another dimension, right…?” Applejewel asked, her voice shaking a bit.
“Yes,” Applejack said, “They call my world “Medieval”. Are you okay, Applejewel? It looks like my presence disturbs you.”
“It… does sorta scare me,” Applejewel admitted, “Thing is… Ah wasn't so sure Ah wanted ta believe in all of this other world stuff. Ah mean, yeah Ah believed it, with Rarity havin those weird powers, her knowin all of us, seein a Fluttershy that ain't a complete bitch, hearin that a robot that looked like Dashie was walkin through school. But… Ah sorta figured that none of that mattered ta me. It didn't occur to me that…”
“That there would be a… version of yourself from another world, right?” Applejack asked, “Like… as long as you didn't see that, you could just ignore the truth and live in ignorance?”
“You too then?” Applejewel asked, still not looking her alternate self in the eyes.
“Yeah actually,” Applejack took a small sip of her tea, “I've been traveling from world to world, and I've seen some amazing things in all of them. Yet… somehow it hadn't really hit me what it meant. Sure, these were other worlds, but it didn't change anything about my perception of myself. However… something happened that… made me rethink all of that.”
“If ya don't mind,” Applejewel said, finally looking up at Applejack, “What did ya learn?”
“Are you sure you want to know that?” Applejack asked, “It's going to change you. Knowledge like this… it's impossible to not be affected by it.”
“Ah need to know,” Applejewel said, catching Applejack's attention, “Ah mean, Ah'm lookin right at me. The look in your eyes is haunted though, like whatever ya saw changed yer whole world. If yer here because of that, then Ah wanna know too, so Ah can understand.”
Applejack took a deep breath, “Okay, so in every world, there are apparently people who just have to live for it to move forward. This is why you and I both exist in our respective worlds.”
“That makes sense, Ah guess,” Applejewel said, “Ah think Twilight called it “String Theory” or somethin like that. Never paid much attention to it, but Ah might have ta start now.”
“You should,” Applejack stated, “However… apparently there are also people who need to die in every world for that same reason.”
“Wait, ya mean like… some people jus' ain't supposed ta live full lives…?” Applejewel asked, her eyes going wide, “Oh dear… does that mean… Rarity?”
Applejack sighed, and then nodded, “To think, that the universe would be that cruel. It's a miracle that she even lived. I mean, it's actually a terrible thing, but…” Applejack closed her eyes pained, “This is the dilemma I'm having. On one hand, I'm happy that Rarity is still alive in some way or another, but… on the other hand, now that I know that her life halts the flow of time…”
“Ah see,” Applejewel said looking down sadly, “Yep, that's why Ah close myself off to all of that. As long as I stay in my safe little bubble, Ah don't have ta deal with the harsh reality.”
“But does that mean the truth vanishes?” Applejack said looking at Applejewel seriously, “Ignorance is bliss, but it's still ignorance. Isn't it better to know the truth than to live a lie?”
“Ah guess… but… the truth is so terrifyin,” Applejewel said, closing her eyes and shedding tears, “Ah mean, right now there's another me sittin in my kitchen! The implications of this, what it means for everythin, right now Ah…”
“I know,” Applejack said placing her hands over Applejewel's, “But the world doesn't stop moving. Even if you stay here and never change, the world around you does. I think… we both need to really face what this meeting means. That compared to what's out there in the world…”
“We're jus… tiny specks of dust, aren't we…?” Applejewel asked looking into her alternate self's eyes, “Ah mean, we matter an' all, but we ain't… we ain't as special as we thought…”
“I'm afraid not,” Applejack said, “Geez, this really is another variant of my world, huh?”
“So… what am Ah in… Medieval?” Applejewel asked, “Ah mean, ya don't look like a noble. Ya look more like a farmer.”
Applejack laughed, “Funny, I did come from a farm initially. However, I'm now a knight protecting the queen.”
“Ah'm a knight?” Applejewel asked, “Ya know, Ah actually know how ta use a sword a bit. Think before ya go, you could show me a few things?”
“You know what? Sure,” Applejack said, “I don't have to meet up with everyone till later anyway.”
Applejewel smiled, and took Applejack's hand into her own squeezing it, “Thanks for comin… Applejack.”
Applejack smiled, “Thank you for having me, Lady Applejewel.”
The two of them stayed together for a little while longer, Applejack showing Applejewel a few of her sword skills and even a few of her less destructive elements. They ended their meeting with a hug, promising to each other to no longer ignore the world around them. Once they parted ways, Applejack looked up with a warm smile, remembering her teacher.
“General… is this what you wanted me to learn?” Applejack asked herself, “That my life could have been anything? That at any point, I could have been someone else? This was why you were always so passionate. You knew that everything you were was because of your choices in life,” Applejack placed a hand over her heart, “I think I'm beginning to see what the final lesson is. Thank you… Rarity.”
As Applejack began making her way to the school, she felt her powers increase, forming a new power. Something that was a sign that she was living her life to the fullest, no longer holding herself back.
Twilight found herself going to the park, where she found a bench to sit on. She thought hard about what her friends were saying concerning the situation. Each one of them had slightly different thoughts about the whole thing: Applejack considered that what they learned about Rarity might actually be true, DASH-379 didn't care about any of that and just wanted to search for Rarity herself, and Fluttershy believed that Twilight was the key to rescuing her.
But the one thing that they all had in common… they all still believed in Rarity.
Twilight believed. She wanted to believe, but she was scared. Rarity herself had asked Twilight to protect her, and to be her light. For her to just push her away after that.
“Twilight!!!” she heard a familiar voice cry out happily. She looked and saw Pinkie Pie waving to her, Rainbow Dash, Applejewel, and Flutteshy even standing with her.
Right… Fluttershy is our friend now. Thanks to… Rarity…
Hey, is Applejewel okay?
Twilight paid close attention to Applejewel as they walked over to her. Pinkie Pie immediately hugged Twilight.
“We missed you,” Rainbow Dash said, “Even Fluttershy said so.”
“Did not,” Fluttershy spat, “But… it's good to see you, I guess…”
“It's… good to see… you too…” Twilight said, “You have to excuse me, Rarity told me that you-” Twilight stopped herself.
Something within Twilight broke, and tears began to fall from her eyes. As she broke down, her friends (including Fluttershy to a degree) all looked concerned. What surprised her was when Applejewel walked over to her and embraced her.
“Jus' let it out, honey,” Applejewel said softly, “Ah know…”
“Applejewel…?” Twilight sobbed.
“Ah met, well… myself if you would,” Applejewel said, “She filled me in on things.”
“What's going on?” Fluttershy asked seriously, “Twilight, where's Rarity?”
“I…” Twilight looked down somberly, “I don't…”
“Twilight, they should know.”
Twilight looked at Applejewel in shock, “But Jewel-”
“They're her friends too,” Applejewel explained, “Ignorance is bliss but… ignorance isn't ever a good thing. Let's tell 'em the truth.”
Twilight was really taken aback by how mature Applejewel seemed now. In fact, looking at Applejewel, Twilight actually saw an image of Applejack replace her briefly.
They're actually… a lot alike.
“Alright…” Twilight said taking off her glasses to wipe her eyes, “You're not going to like it… but I'll tell you.”
They all went to sit under a nearby tree, where Twilight filled Fluttershy, Rainbow Dash, and Pinkie Pie in on everything that went down the night before. Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie both looked horrified, but Fluttershy actually looked almost angry.
“Bullshit,” Fluttershy spat after Twilight was finished. Applejewel sighed.
“Fluttershy, Ah saw the other me, an' she said the-”
“I don't care if God himself were to tell me this,” Fluttershy admitted, “I'm not just going to accept that my best friend had to die,” Fluttershy turned to glare at Applejewel, “Does that mean the pain I went through was supposed to happen? That I was supposed to end up like this?”
“You becomin a bitch didn't have anything to do with Rarity dyin.” Applejewel said.
“Jewel…” Pinkie Pie said warily.
“No, she needs to hear this,” Applejewel said returning the glare, “Was losin your best friend tragic? Very. Was it wrong for you ta be bullied as horribly as you were? Yes it was. But does that give you a right ta become a bully yourself, torturin poor Dashie here to tears, shovin Twilight inta lockers, makin fun of my cousin Pinkie Pie for her anxiety disorder, an' jus overall bein a terrible person to everyone including the people who jus' wanna be your friend?! No the hell it doesn't!”
Everyone was shocked to see Applejewel speak up like this. Normally she didn't get involved with things like this, saying that “if it wasn't her business, she was going to stay silent”.
“Rarity's death might have hurt ya,” Applejewel stated, “But everythin that happened after that was all on you. Don't blame God for you bein alone.”
Fluttershy narrowed her eyes at Applejewel, but then looked away pained. Did that actually get to Fluttershy?
“I just don't get it…” Fluttershy admitted, “Why did she have to be the one…? It should have… it should have been me…”
“Y-you…?” Twilight asked, everyone shocked to hear that.
“No one would have missed me,” Fluttershy said somberly, “I'm a horrible person, remember? No one likes me, not even my own family. Everyone just goes on and on about my younger brother Zephyr Breeze, how he's so smart and so talented. No one cares about me anyway, so why didn't the gods pick me?”
“Don't say that,” Rainbow Dash said softly, “I'd… miss you.”
“Don't do that,” Fluttershy said, “You know you'd be happier if I had just left you alone.”
“I don't know that,” Rainbow Dash said, “That's the thing, isn't it? We know that there was a world with Rarity living in it, but we don't know what that world was like. As far as we know, it could have a whole slew of other problems. Or maybe in the future, you're supposed to do something amazing and world changing. If you died, that wouldn't happen.”
“But I don't care about any of that,” Fluttershy said hugging her knees now, “None of that matters.”
“No… I think it does,” Pinkie Pie said. Everyone turned to her, as she rarely spoke out, “We can't see what sort of impact we have on the world, that's because we're just ripples in the pond. But we don't know when that ripple becomes a tidal wave, or where that wave goes. I personally think that the gods choosing you to live, is a sign that your life is meant for great things.”
“But what about Rarity's life?” Twilight asked, “Does that mean her life… only matters if she's dead?”
A somber silence fell over all the girls. That was an answer neither of them had. In the end, they were just teenagers. Could they make a decision of that magnitude?
“Fair or not,” Applejewel said, “The only way yer gonna get the answers is if you search for them.”
“So… you think I should…”
“Ah think you should follow your heart,” Applejewel continued, “Maybe there's another way, maybe there isn't. Either way, Rarity's in a lot of trouble right now. She's lost, an' yer the one who has ta bring her back.”
“But… why me?” Twilight asked, “I'm no one special. Out of everyone in my group, I'm the most average. DASH-379 is a mobile weapon, Fluttershy is a high priestess, and Applejack is a Queen's personal knight. All I am is a high school girl who thought it would be fun to travel across the universe.”
“I don't believe that,” Rainbow Dash said, “You went with her because you were worried, right? You didn't want to leave her alone.”
“I… I guess, but…”
“Oh my God, stop beating around the fucking bush,” Fluttershy said rolling her eyes, “Everyone here knows how you really feel about her, and I bet she knows too. As cheesy as this sounds, that's what makes you special in this. Rarity loves you. Not Forest Shy, not Appleknight, and not DASH-1536… whatever her dumb name is. She loves you.”
Twilight looked down, taking in what she was saying. Fluttershy in this world was a bitch, but what she said did make sense.
“Also, regardless of what he universe says, she's our friend too,” Pinkie Pie said, “We want to see her again, and spend as much time as time will allow us together.”
“She helped me become stronger,” Rainbow Dash said, “And thanks to her… Fluttershy and I are close again.”
Fluttershy rolled her eyes slightly, but smiled despite herself.
“Yer the one she's waitin for,” Applejewel said, “Even if she seemed to push you away, she still needs you. If you turn your back on her, then what will she do then?”
Twilight hadn't thought about that. She was so focused on how hurt she was, that she hadn't even thought much about how Rarity was feeling right now. If the person who claimed to be her light turned away from her, she'd feel that she was really alone.
“I don't know if I can change her fate…” Twilight said, “But… I want her back. Even if she were to die the next day, I just want to hold her one more time…”
“Then you know what ya have to do, right?” Applejewel said. Twilight looked at Applejewel as an odd feeling came over her. It was similar to how she felt around the others and Pinkamena, but this time centered around the moment. It was like she remembered sitting in the park with them just like this, all of them smiling. At the same time though, she felt like someone was missing. She couldn't place the face, or the name, but she knew it. In this moment, there were supposed to be five people with her, not just four.
Was that fifth person… Rarity? Was it possible that she was… somehow remembering a moment in the past, where the six of them were the best of friends, more like sisters?
Friends… best friends…
“Yeah… I do know,” Twilight said getting up, “I'm sorry, but I have to go now. I don't know when I'll be coming back this time, so…”
“Hmph, at least you're saying good bye this time,” Fluttershy said with a small smile.
“Whenever you do bring her back, we should definitely have a party,” Pinkie Pie said, “As a way of letting her know that even if she doesn't have a world, she has us.”
“A party…” Twilight said looking at Pinkie Pie, an odd feeling coming over her, “Y-yeah. That sounds like a great idea.”
Fluttershy, surprisingly enough, stood up and hugged Twilight tightly.
“I'm counting on you to save her,” Fluttershy said, crying a bit, “Please Twilight.”
“I will,” Twilight said returning the hug, which didn't feel as odd as she felt it should, “I promise girls. I'll bring Rarity home… to us.”
With that, Twilight ran off to the school to meet Pinkamena and the others. She didn't know if she could really make a difference, or if she could change Rarity's fate, but she loved her too much to leave her alone.
Wait for me Rarity.
You won't be lost in the darkness for too long.
“Are we sure this is the right thing?” Rainbow Dash asked, “We're just kids. What do we know about this?”
“Absolutely nothing,” Fluttershy said sitting back down, “I just know that I don't want my best friend to die again. Even if the universe thinks it's fair, I don't.”
“Whatever happens will happen,” Applejewel said folding her arms, “All we can do now is believe in Twilight.”
“I know she'll do it,” Pinkie Pie said, stilling looking at Twilight as she ran off, “Something tells me… she's the best person for this job.”
Behind them, that oddly colored wolf also watched Twilight run off. After a second, it carefully followed after her, making sure to avoid being seen by any of the girls she was with earlier.
When Twilight got to the school, she was pleased to see everyone was already there waiting for her by the front gate. Applejack was already in her armor (sadly, like she said she had to take off the hat though), and DASH-379 was off to the side with Fluttershy, apparently having a serious conversation with her.
Twilight approached the front gate, and everyone turned and gathered around her.
“Glad you could make it,” Applejack said.
“You all waited out here for me?” Twilight asked.
“It did not feel appropriate to see Pinkamena without you present,” DASH-379 said, “She is already in front of the statue though.”
Twilight looked through the gate and saw Pinkamena sitting on the base of the statue, her bladed hoop dangling loosely in her hand. It was certainly an odd sight to behold. Twilight then turned to Fluttershy.
“How are you doing?” Twilight asked.
“DASH talk to me,” Fluttershy said, “Tell me that I need to stay calm. Also, Applejack have more reason to hate her than me.”
Applejack turned away with a slight glare. She said she'd put her animosity aside to listen, but that didn't mean she had to like it.
The four of them walked to the school over to the statue, where Pinkamena looked up at them.
“Looks like the gang's all here,” Pinkamena said. Applejack stepped forward first.
“You said that you wanted to talk to us, right?” Applejack asked, “So, talk.”
“First, you and I have business, don't we?” Pinkamena jumped off the statue base and walked over to Applejack, “I did kill your Rarity, remember? I bet you'd love revenge for that, wouldn't you?”
Applejack gritted her teeth and looked away from Pinkamena.
“And you,” she turned to Fluttershy and DASH-379 next, “I did help the wolf tribe invade your village, didn't I? You want to spill my blood for that, don't you?”
Fluttershy glared at Pinkamena growling in anger. DASH put a hand on her shoulder to keep her calm.
“She is merely trying to get a rise out of you, Fluttershy,” DASH-379 said, “Do not let her words get to you.”
“Wow, that's impressive Athena,” Pinkamena said, “You almost don't look like a killing machine now.”
DASH-379 looked at Pinkamena in shock, but then glared at her, “Do not call me that!”
“Hold on, what?” Applejack asked turning to DASH-379 briefly, “What does she mean by a killing machine? And what is “Athena” anyway?”
“You didn't tell them?” Pinkamena asked, “That's too bad. Some friend you are then, keeping such huge secrets.”
“Why you…!” DASH-379 said, about to rush at Pinkamena, but Twilight held her back.
“DASH, calm down!” Twilight fussed, “What did you just tell Fluttershy?!”
Pinkamena looked at everyone and shook her head, “You guys are a mess, you know that? Keeping secrets from each other, going on this journey probably because it was fun, or hoping that Rarity was a link to your pasts. None of you were actually here for her, were you?”
“What do you know anyway?!” Applejack asked, “You've been doing nothing but cause trouble from day one!”
“Is that what you think?” Pinkamena smiled evilly, “In that case, why don't we just cut to the main event and start beating the ever living shit out of each other. That's what all of you want, isn't it?”
Twilight looked around at the group, realizing that they were all one step away from fighting. What Pinkamena said did hurt, and she was clearly trying to upset all of them, but Twilight remembered what she saw earlier that day. This wasn't the same Pinkamena as earlier. She didn't know why she was doing this now, but she couldn't let this continue.
“Stop it! All of you!” Twilight shouted. She then ran in front of Pinkamena and held her hands out glaring at her friends, “If anyone of you wants to hurt Pinkamena, you'll have to go through me!”
“Twilight?” Fluttershy asked, mirroring everyone's surprise in Twilight's actions.
“She's right you know? About me?” Twilight said looking down and trembling, “The main reason I went with Rarity in the first place was because she was a dream come true for me. My life isn't like yours. I'm no one here, and nothing ever happens in this world. When Rarity showed up, she made a huge scene, claiming to be from another world. She looked absolutely crazy, and part of me thought she might be crazy too, but then I thought… what if she was telling the truth? Were there other worlds out there? Also, something inside of me was screaming that I needed to help this girl.
“So I listened to her story, and while it was absolutely insane, somehow I just knew she was telling the truth. That's when I got excited. Here it was, my adventure. Finally, something to make my mundane life more fun. When Pinkamena opened the door to Fluttershy's world, I knew that I had to follow her. Not just because I was afraid for her, or that feeling telling me that she needed me by her side, but because…” Twilight teared up, “Because I knew that if she left without me, I'd never get out of this miserable world!”
Applejack, DASH-379, and Fluttershy all looked at Twilight somberly. Pinkamena's expression, while unreadable, did show that she was listening to her intently.
“I felt guilty about it all the time,” Twilight continued, “Especially with how serious things were for Rarity. She lost everything that she loved, and didn't know if she'd ever get it back. I didn't know either, yet I kept pushing her to keep believing, like she was some hero in a video game or movie. When she started really depending on me, it got worse. Now she was relying on me for strength, asking me to be her light and remind her that it was going to be alright. But… but it wasn't alright! It was never alright! Her journey from the beginning was just a waste of time, and it was all because I wanted to feel special for once in my miserable life!
“I… I think she realized it too… at the end…” Twilight fell to her knees, “That's why she pushed me away. She saw how selfish I was being, and how pointless it all was. Applejack, you told me to see things from her point of view… but I was always afraid to. I was afraid because… if I did… I'd tell her to give up… I'm not her light… I was never her light… I'm the main source of her darkness… It's my fault she's gone…” Twilight hugged herself as she broke down completely, “It's all my fault!”
Everyone was silent, taking in what Twilight just confessed. For a while, no one really knew what to say.
“My code name… is Athena…” DASH-379 stated, catching everyone's attention, “I learned that I am a weapon created by Dr. Tirek to cause mass destruction and kill humans. I am the final robot in my line, thus the greatest and strongest. It is my original purpose to destroy all of you.”
“DASH…” Fluttershy said, taking DASH's hand as the android continued.
“My very existence is an abomination. Robots like me should not be created. I wish… I… wish… that… Twilight… had not… reactivated me… I should not… be functioning…”
“You're not the worst one here,” Applejack admitted, “I did keep the identity of my Teacher a secret from all of you. Part of me kept hoping that Rarity was somehow an extension of her, but more and more I began to see the truth. She wasn't my teacher at all. They had the same face, same voice, same fighting style, but their souls were completely different. This… kid wasn't the General. She wasn't my Rarity. I was clinging to her a bit, but… that doesn't change the fact that she's gone. Heh, now I've lost both Rarity's. Isn't that funny?”
“Not understand,” Fluttershy said somberly, “Not understand much about other worlds, what DASH is, why some people have same faces, or why Rarity leave us. I just… I wanted to be close to Rarity… Not want to say goodbye to Rarity… Not want to say good bye to new friends… even though friends all come from different places…”
Pinkamena sighed, “So, now that you all got that out of your systems, what are you going to do about it? Moping isn't going to make things right, and I can assure you that Nightmare Moon and Rarity are going to keep causing trouble.”
“I…” Twilight forced herself up and turned to Pinkamena, “I'm going to save Rarity!”
Pinkamena looked at Twilight with a raised eyebrow, “Are you now?”
“Yes, I am. Rarity isn't our enemy. She's hurt, and alone in the darkness now. I've been terrible to her during this adventure, but maybe… maybe I can let her know how sorry I am, and bring her back into the light.”
“I am accompanying you,” DASH-379 said, “I already decided that I would search for Rarity and bring her back. If you do not mind a walking, malfunctioning doomsday machine traveling with you, then I would like to join you, Twilight.”
“If DASH go, I go too,” Fluttershy said, “Rarity is friend. I not care what she is,” she looked at DASH-379, “or what DASH is either. All are my friends, and I fight to protect friends.”
DASH-379 looked at Fluttershy wide eyed, but then smiled softly. It was an oddly human expression on her.
“You do realize what this means, right?” Applejack asked catching everyone's attention, “This isn't just about bringing Rarity back to us. We can't forget, by the universe's standards she's not even supposed to exist to begin with.”
“Maybe not,” Pinkamena said walking off a bit, “Buuut, her world is gone, while she's still alive. As far as we know, she might actually be an exception to the rules now.”
“Pinkamena…” Twilight said, her heart lifting when Pinkamena turned to her and smirked.
“What the hell then,” Applejack said, “I've come this far. Might as well go all the way.”
Pinkamena smiled to herself, and then reached into her bra like top, “Here Twilight.”
Pinkamena threw Twilight a new Gate Key. This one was fancier than their old one, with sharper edges and odd writing on it.
“A new Gate Key?” Twilight asked.
“That one is stronger than the one you were using before,” Pinkamena said, “With that, we'll be able to access the land of the Gods, once we meet the requirements that is.”
“The land of the Gods…?” DASH-379 asked.
“What do you mean “we”?” Applejack asked. Pinkamena giggled.
“What? You thought I was going to just leave you guys? No way Jose, it doesn't work like that. See, I've made my decision too,” she walked over to Twilight and wrapped an arm around her, “I'm going to stay close to my good friend Twilight.”
“Eh?!” Twilight exclaimed, everyone backing away in shock. Pinkamena looked at Twilight with a bright smile that was somehow still creepy.
“This is going to be so much fun Twilie! You and I are travel buddies now!” Pinkamena cheered, almost like they had been friends for years. Twilight wanted to refute it, but that smile made Twilight feel… almost comforted. Like it was something she had seen before, and missed. It was the same as when Applejack wore that hat earlier.
“What is land of Gods?” Fluttershy asked, “Why go there?”
“Because, there we can learn how to rescue Rarity, and maybe, maybe beat Lavos while we're at it,” Pinkmena said.
“How do you know all this anyway?” Applejack asked, “You've always known quite a bit about our journey.”
“And it is rather suspicious that you have this stronger Gate Key as well,” DASH-379 stated, “Just who are you Pinkamena?”
“You'll find out soon enough Dashie,” Pinkamena said, “Ooh, now that we're totally besties now, what do I call you? Do I call you DASH, Dashie, Rainbow Bright, can I call you Rainbow Bright? I think that would be a great name, don't you?”
DASH's eyebrow twitched, “I hate her already…” Pinkamena gave a playful gasp.
“Dashie! You slay me!” Pinkamena said playfully.
“Hey! Focus here!” Applejack said, “How the hell do we get to the land of the Gods?”
“Oh, right? First you have to pass the test.”
“Test? What test?” Twilight asked.
“Defeat the three guardian statues in the three side branch worlds,” Pinkamena explained, “You already beat the one in Forest. That just means Machine and Medieval are left.”
“We should head to Medieval first,” DASH-379 said, “We need to ensure that everything is safe there, and if possible, return Celestia back to her world.”
“Think it's safe though?” Twilight asked, “I mean, Nightmare Moon does come from-” Twilight gasped in shock, “Girls! We can't go to Medieval yet! We have to check on the Celestia from Forest!”
“Seer is always next to Chief!” Fluttershy said, “Nightmare Moon might attack her next!”
“We need all four Celestia's alive if we're going to get to the land of the Gods,” Pinkamena said, “For now, I say we keep Medieval Celestia in the Warp Gate, and any Celestia's we can rescue as well.”
“Then let's get the Queen and then head to Forest,” Applejack said. They all nodded and ran back to Twilight's house, their next objective set.
Next stop, Forest. Next objective, get to the Land of the Gods.