Time passed, and the apprentices got more confortable with their situation, and started learning more about their teachers.
In the house of the Apples...
"Ya really wanna know how it is to learn with Trixie?" Applejack asked her sister.
"Yeah. Ah did try the test to become her apprentice but failed. Ah wanna know how it is for you." Applebloom said.
The farmer mare thought about it "Well... In a word... It's weird."
The filly rolled her eyes "Ah already know that, sis. Ya been saying that word a lot the past few weeks. Can't ya be a little more specific?"
"Okay, let's see if Ah ken explain this... Ah never know what she's gonna do next. One day Trixie explains some important magical concepts and has me repreat what Ah understood by mahself the next day. Another day she has me reading old stories and trying ta tell which parts are lies. Another day Ah have to try ta look through the earth ta see the core of the world, or look at the sun ta see the soul of princess Celestia. Or she simply does some advanced illusions that Ah have to try ta see through as fast as possible. Not ta mention that whole thing about properly introducing the Eyes o' Truth." Applejack looked at her sister with a pressured expression "Ah cannot figure out what she's planning!"
Applebloom raised an eyebrow "Have ya considered that perhaps she might be winging it?"
The farmer mare considered that for a few moments...
In the Sugarcube Corner...
"So... Did the thing with the calculus get solved?" Mrs. Cake asked her tenant.
"Yupperoni!" Pinkie nodded eagerly "There's this whole method of keeping numbers on your head at all times, but I actually understand how to do the math now!
"And also, I've already learned all sorts of cool things! Look at this!"
Pinkie Pie then proceeded to split in two, and one of them went to the kitchen and started doing the preparations for the next day.
"Cool, ain't it?" The pink pony asked.
The Cake mare seemed to be somewhat ambivalent about this development.
"It is somewhat cool..." She allowed "But how did Twilight even teach you to do something like this?"
"Oh, we did a lot of things! Like when she said I needed practice with seeing things from a different perspective, so she did that spell to make me walk upside down the whole day! Do you remember?"
"Yes, I do..." Mrs. Cake had thought that was weird even for her tenant.
"There was also timing training, which means moving my hoof at exact time intervals that Twilight chooses randomly. And I mean in terms of hundreths of a second." Her smile became smaller "It is pretty hard..." Then she recovered "And there's also training in meditation to understand myself. It was boring in the beginning, but I managed to discover all kinds of fun things inside of me! And it's always different so it's a surprise!"
The older mare blinked. Meditation really wasn't something she would usually associate with her tenant, but before she could finish her thought, the copy Pinkie Pie came back from the kitchen and stepped into the other Pinkie Pie without missing a beat. Being caught off guard by that new development, she could only say:
"It seems like you are in good hooves."
In the spa...
"Aloe, Lotus, there are some things I need to get off my chest, so please don't mind me if I ramble a bit." Rarity said while in the middle of her usual spa visit.
"Sure, miss Rarity. We're here to serve." Aloe said with a smile.
"Okay... where do I start... It's just that being Trixie's apprentice is a little different from what I expected. There's the magic learning and conceptual theory, that is a little hard to wrap my head around, but still manageable, but somethings she does are simply too weird and unexpected!" Rarity's tone had become noticeably loud "She has this whole obsession with having me give 'cool' names to the spells I learn and the pieces I create, and her tastes are difficult to please without going gaudy..." Rarity took a deep breath "And then there's the 'training', like asking me to create the gaudiest, most overdesigned and complex dress I can, then coming back a week later with every piece and having me recreate it from memory... Or when she kept using her telekinesis to interfere while I was in the middle of a delicate piece and having to focus twice as hard to nullify her influence... Or even trying to create an entire dress using only water for everything, which means having to hold every part of the design in my head and exert telekinesis to keep them whole constantly, even as I'm designing the other parts... I've never been able to do this one."
The unicorn shifted her head from side to side "I mean... It's rewarding because I can actually feel my magic becoming better and more focused, and I keep getting ideas for better and better designs so I can tell all that training is working but... It's just so tiring... In many different aspects... The training is hard but it becomes even harder with Trixie constantly telling weird stories, or doing weird spells like the one that felt like she was everywhere in the boutique at once... And her insistence in practicing chants to get the right cadence for every kind of unlikely situation..." Rarity closed her eyes and let out a huge sigh "There's just too many things to retort, and I lose my balance."
She sighed again, then smiled.
"Thank you. I really needed that." She said.
"We're happy we could help." Lotus said with a smile.
In Fluttershy's house...
"So, Fluttershy, how's it going being Twilight's apprentice?" Rainbow Dash asked her friend.
"Oh, it's wonderful!" She said excitedly "I can already tell at lot more about what my animals are thinking and feeling, and I'm even managing to understand trees a little! ... How about you, how's your training?" She asked in a lower voice.
"Ah, training is eas-" The mare suddenly did a full-body shudder "hard, very hard."
Fluttershy blinked "That doesn't seem like the kind of thing you would say."
Dash showed a rigid smile "Teacher Sunset explained to me that the training needed to be hard to push me to my limits and actually get results. So everytime I said the training was easy, she kept increasing the intensity.." She then shook her body and forced herself to break out of the flashbacks "But really, there's nothing too out of the ordinary about the trainings, just things to make an awesome flier even more awesome! Like being able to use my pegasus magic more easily, or increasing the resilience of my body via the training of the use of the body magic formations, or improving my senses and concentration so I can react faster." She nodded, forcing herself to think only of the results.
Fluttershy considered "That seems nice. My training is more like carrying as many animals as possible and trying to understand everything their feeling throughout the whole day... Or being buried under the ground for a night with some life-preservation to keep me alive to become closer to the earth... Or having parts of my body turned into plants for... I don't really know." Fluttershy smiled in an embarassed way "Twilight is nice, but sometimes I don't understand what she is thinking."
Rainbow Dash boggled for a moment before recovering "I think all the Knights may be a little weird." She thought about her own training once more, and her tone became a lot more tense "Rarity told me a little about how her apprenticeship with Trixie, and it's also not normal. As for me... Sunset seems to have some kind of obsession with destruction and power. Everything is measured in those terms. She measures my resilience by comparing the amount of power from her spells I can withstand with the amount of destruction she could cause with those same spells. She asks me to keep destroying harder and harder things with applications of my weather magic... And she trains my concentration by making me dodge a ridiculous amount of magic projectiles..." She put her hooves over her face.
"I'm tired." She said.
Fluttershy could only smile awkwardly.
And a few days even later, Princess Celestia received a letter.
Dear Princess Celestia
I am writing this letter to inform you of how the studies of my apprentices, and those of Trixie and Sunset are doing.
Starting with mine, Pinkie Pie's abilities are becoming more and more stable by the day. She can reliably do her movement and positional manipulations, and her Pinkie sense precognition can now be used consciously for certain things. I am also getting closer to replicating her ability to store things in her mane. But perhaps her greatest achievement lies in her capacity of manipulating spells in progress, specially chaos based spells. Her ability to manipulate the raw energy used by the spells is something amazing, and I think she stands a good chance of being able to master emotion magic.
As for Fluttershy, while she may not have the same variety of achievements, what she has been able to accomplish in these last few weeks is amazing. Her ability to communicate with animals has gotten to the point where complex concepts can be passed between them via just glances. And she can already communicate with plants reasonably well, a little more and she'll reach the point of being able to converse with an entire forest at once. I don't know what will be the next goal after that, but I'm excited to think about it.
According to Trixie, Applejack is quickly mastering the various aspects of the Eyes of Truth, being able to see a lie and determine which type it is, as well as seeing through physical objects and being able to see magic connections and other formless things. And her ability to see through Trixie's advanced illusions is growing by the day. Trixie hopes to have Applejack learn how to see through distance as the next topic.
As for Rarity, her learning has been a lot less focused, so there's quite a lot of things she learned how to do. But some of the most important would be taking her multitasking to an exceedingly high level (and it's Trixie who says that, and you know how high her standards are), her ever-growing mastery of restoration spells, and her ability to exert power in an incredibly minute scale, to the point she has the potential to learn spells capable of messing around with the building blocks of reality itself.
Finally, there's Rainbow Dash. Sunset says that she was already rather powerful just with her normal training to be a wonderbolt (and you know how Sunset is about power), but Sunset's training is taking her to a whole new level and helping her be able to use her skills more easily and consistently, which was a problem for the pegasus, apparently. Sunset says Dash can now accelerate from a lying position to her max speed in only a few seconds, and she's able to create tornadoes that can destroy houses fairly easily. And her resilience is enough that even with Sunset's destruction capacities, she is still a "tough nut to crack" in Sunset's words.
All in all, teaching these apprentices has been a great experience for all of us, and I am beginning to understand what you must have felt over our training.
Hope to see you again soon.
Your faithful student
"Hmm... It seems that my apprentices have found a way to distract themselves. That is good." Celestia said to herself. She had been worried that the three would not be able to deal well with the time in between missions, so it was nice to see that it wasn't a concern.
She started pondering what to write in return, when her magical senses caught something that completely derailed her train of thought.
Oh, no. She thought. Discord is free.
There were two things she could do about it, and after sending a message to initiate a state of emergency, she wrote a short letter to her apprentices, and sent it hurriedly.
She managed to do it just in time.
By a stroke of luck, at that moment all three of the Knights and their apprentices were together for a meeting. That resulted in all of them receiving the news at the same time when Twilight received the letter.
"Oh, it's a letter from Princess Celestia! It says... Discord is free, your new mission is defeating him." Her cheerful tone disappeared completely halfway through her statement.
She dropped the letter and looked to her partners, who looked at her with grave expressions.
"Who is Discord?" Applejack asked, realizing that their behavior was very far from the usual.
Twilight sighed, but remained tense "Discord is one of the most powerful threats to Equestria that ever existed. He is the spirit of chaos, and his abilities in chaos magic are powerful enough to overshadow the princesses." She took a breath "Two thousand years ago, Celestia and Luna managed to defeat and seal him, but only with the help of two Knights of the Realm of the time and three other brave heroes."
As she spoke, the apprentices were filled with tension, realizing that this was something incredibly major. Trixie was preparing to take command to get them moving to hash out some kind of plan, but Pinkie's body contorted in a way that would have been humorous at any other time and she spoke two words "He's coming." before everything went chaotic.
The clouds shifted, adquiring the consistency of jello and raining chocolate milk, bits of earth started rising to the sky and laughing, and the very wind itself started tasting like brocolli. In the distance, the mares could see that even more random things were happening in the town. Then, a gigantic portal opened above the city, and a claw started forcing itself through it.
"Hi!" Came a voice from behind them.
The eight ponies turned around and came face to face with the legendary being. He has the head of a pony, a deer antler on the right, a blue goat horn on the left, one long fang, different-sized pupils, a snake tongue, a goat beard, and white bushy eyebrows. He has the right arm of a lion, the left claw of an eagle, the right leg of a lizard, and the left leg of a goat. In addition, he has a bat's right wing, a Pegasus' left wing, a horse's mane, and a dragon-like snake's tail with a white tail tuft. He waved his right arm, causing a wave of raw chaos magic to shot towards them.
"Chaos Magic: Redirection!" Twilight cast, releasing a spear of energy that hit the wave, causing it to turn into a variety of objects, like balls, birds and blenders, which flew of in several different directions.
"Oooooh...! So it was true! I couldn't quite believe that Celestia had actually taken an apprentice who could use chaos magic..." Discord smiled "She never seemed like the fun kind of pony."
Twilight suddenly had a flash of insight. There was a way of turning this to their advantage, to allow her partners a better chance against Discord. So she spoke:
"Many things have changed since the last time you've been free, Discord." She began, without particularly planning her words "The true nature of chaos has been discovered, and your brand of it is just outdated." She said with a grin.
"Outdated?!" Discord snarled "Like such a magnificent force such as me could become outdated..." He opened his mouth and exhaled a banner saying "always in fashion".
"If you really believe this, then you will accept my challenge. Your way of chaos against mine!" Twilight announced.
She received harsh glances from her partners, but their non-verbal communication managed to estabilish that her plan (though Trixie thought it was far too simple to be called a proper plan) really was the best chance they had, even if it yook some discussion.
"Hah! You are going to regret messing with me!" Discord announced, shifting to wear a shirt saying "I accept".
"If that is the case..." Unexpectedly, Pinkie Pie decided to intrude on the conversation "Then I will also take part in this duel, since I am Twilight's apprentice!"
Twilight looked at her, Pinkie looked back with a smile. Twilight sighed and thought that having heroes around was tiring. While that was going on, the other ponies left the future battlefield, going to do their own part in the plan.
"An apprentice, hmm?" Discord put his claw to his chin "I've always wanted one. Guess I'll take her." And shifted right behind Pinkie Pie, touching her head with a finger.
The earth pony froze and started to lose her color... before getting herself moving again in a flowy way. Then she shook her head and hit the side of it with her hoof several times, until a black mist came out of her ear "Argh... That was unfun..." She said, as she went back to normal colors.
Discord gave a "huh" and Twilight casually cancelled the spell she was planning to use to free Pinkie Pie and reformed it into a sphere of magic she shot in Discord's direction.
The fight had already began, and though Pinkie had managed to overcome Discord's first trick, the battle would be a true trial for both of them.
Twilight hoped she could hold out long enough for the others to figure out a solution.