Fluttershy was taking a bath.
Those were simple words that evoked a variety of images. However, none of those images could come close to the reality of what was going on.
The place where she was taking a bath was a small lake most of the time. But sometimes it changed into a tower of liquid that defied gravity, sometimes it was a river in the shape of a circle that flowed without beginning or end, and sometimes it was simply a tiny puddle in which somehow Fluttershy managed to soak herself.
And the liquid in which she was soaking herself also changed from moment to moment, sometimes it was boiling water, sometimes it was an acid strong enough to burn away the air itself, and sometimes it was literally ice cream. But even with all those changes and others, Fluttershy didn't seem to be struggling at all.
Even as the world wildly changed around her, Fluttershy remained constant and unmoved. It wasn't like she was fighting the world, and more like the world itself was avoiding disturbing her.
Looking up with a sigh, the Knight extended a hoof.
The hoof disappeared and reappeared in the distance, right next to a small stone. And just before Fluttershy picked it up, the stone turned into an apple, that the Knight brought back to herself and took a bite out of.
It was sweet.
Fluttershy remained like that for a few more minutes, eating the rest of the apple and relaxing, and then she got out of the bath, not even needing to dry herself off as the water simply fell away from her.
"So, this is it." Fluttershy spoke to herself "That was the last day."
She took off on a flight.
Rarity was calm as she waited the last minute before the trial of Samsara would end.
If she were now the same pony she was at the beginning of the training, the anticipation would have disturbed her focus and control of herself under the spell, but by that point, her mind and focus had developed enough that she was completely centered and sure of herself even during the last few seconds before release.
But it was still jarring when it happened. Rarity's focus had been stretched so much that suddenly not having the Samsara to keep her attention made her accidentally spread her awareness outwards to a much greater degree than she had ever been capable of.
The sense of information would have been overwhelming for most ponies, since she could pick up details of every object in her surroundings, down to the tissue level, including their connections and every bit of wear and tear that they had. But for Rarity, it was only briefly disorienting. If somepony with a good enough magical sense had been looking at her at that moment, they would have seen her presence briefly expand to colossal proportions, as the strength that had been sealed by the Samsara was finally released.
Shaking her head, Rarity started going over her abilities to figure out what had changed:
First, her magic was significantly stronger. Second, she could adjust the focus of her awareness to an astounding level, which would allow her to make extremely minute adjustments and manipulation of her artifacts, so she could create things that would be much better than what she could have made before.
And besides that... huh? Somehow Rarity didn't feel anything else different, even though she knew that the trial of Samsara should have been enough to fundamentally change her.
Deciding to ask the princess about it later, Rarity set herself towards making her new artifacts. She would be creating advanced version of her Swords and armor. Rarity briefly thought about making new armor for the others as well, before deciding that it would be better to wait until she had seen their new capabilities, so she could personalize their artifacts better.
Rarity had already planned the designs while in Samsara, so the only thing left was to make them.
It wouldn't take long.
In the middle of a certain deserted plain in the outskirts of Equestria, a strange phenomenon was going on.
If there was a pony walking there, they would have noticed regular tremors happening, tremors that started out so weak that they were barely noticeable if one wasn't paying attention, but which kept getting stronger and stronger, to the point where the many small animals that lived around decided to leave the area for their own safety.
And if that hypothetical pony was an earth pony, they could have used their magic to understand the reason why the tremors were happening: There was something under the earth that was slowly digging itself closer and closer to the surface.
At this point, said pony would probably become terrified and run away, and thus, they would be unable to witness the scene that would occur soon after.
With a final explosive impact, a huge hole opened up in the middle of the plain.
And out of the hole came... something strange. The figure looked like an earth pony, but was completely black and without definition, like a shadow somehow brought into the tridimensional world. It was carrying Pinkie Pie on its back, said pony currently sleeping.
The figure walked out of the hole and laid Pinkie on the ground, before nudging her lightly with a hoof to wake her up.
The Knight yawned cutely and stretched out her legs, before opening her eyes and wincing at the light before smiling in joy.
"I'm finally out!" She cheered.
The shadowy figure nodded, then sunk down into the ground, becoming bidimensional and revealing itself to have been Pinkie's shadow all along.
"Ah...!" Pinkie exclaimed, enjoying the sun for a bit "I wonder if the others are already done as well..."
Saying that, she walked off.
When everything was done and Applejack could finally look away from Tartarus, her eyes were horrifyingly bloodshot and the remains of her armor lay in pieces around her.
"Argh... Ah know Ah wanted ta become stronger, but that was really unpleasant." She muttered to herself, blinking constantly to try to deal with the pain in her eyes.
"Guess Ah should go back home, then." She said with a nod, and took a step.
That single step brought her back to her farm, crossing half of Equestria in the process.
Rainbow Dash idly spun a hoof, creating a tornado.
This was definitely an amazing feat of weather magic that was worthy of a Knight, but even more impressive was the fact that she was keeping the wind perfectly contained so that it didn't even move the leaves of a nearby tree.
And yet, for all that Rainbow Dash's power and skill in weather magic had increased in the last six months, she couldn't help but feel like she should be stronger than that.
"I gotta ask the princess about it..." She said idly.
And as if by magic, a scroll from the princess appeared in front of her.
"They're all back?!" She shouted, then took off on a flight that got supersonic almost immediately.
There was an empty room in the castle, and it was there that it happened.
Out of a portal came Trixie and Princess Luna. The alicorn looked just like she always did, while Trixie... Looked strange.
Perhaps the best way to explain it would be saying that Trixie looked slightly unreal, like she was halfway between reality and illusion, like she was an entity that had escaped from the realm of dreams.
"So, Knight Trixie, how do you feel being back in the real world after so long?" Luna asked.
"Weird. It is more solid than the dreams, but it still feels a bit hazy. Different from what I remember of it."
"Reality and dreams are more connected than most ponies will ever know. This is only a sign that you have understood part of it." Luna stopped for a moment "Ah... My sister is calling for you. It seems like she has a mission in mind for the Knights who have finished training."
"Then let's go."
The two vanished.
After Sunset recovered from her last "spar" with Princess Celestia, an observer wouldn't be able to see the difference between the way she now was compared to the way she were before the training based only on physical characteristics.
One would have to look into her eyes to see the difference. This Sunset looked more introspective and less prideful. She still had an air of being sure of herself, but it seemed tempered somehow, as if she was intimately aware of her own limits. Her presence seemed smaller, but somehow stronger and more condensed than before.
And yet, she wasn't satisfied with her current strength.
'Why do I feel like there is a barrier inside me, preventing me from reaching higher?'
Those were the thoughts that occupied her mind at that moment. But they were banished away when a scroll appeared in front of her face.
"So... The others have also finished, haven't they?" She muttered, after reading the scroll.
Then she teleported.
Celestia looked over the eight gathered Knights. Considering that Twilight was still unavailable, they were all the Knights she was currently capable of gathering.
She had a pretty important reason for calling the Knights, but first, there was another important matter to deal with.
"The mission I have for you isn't particularly time sensitive, so if you have any doubts you'd like me to clear up, now is the time." She said.
Of course they had doubts, which was why Celestia was asking. She had taught ponies for an incredibly long time, and it was easy to recognize the awkward fidgeting and the uncertain looks of her Knights.
Upon hearing her words, they still seemed uncertain, but eventually Sunset managed to find her voice:
"I just... I just feel like there's something wrong. Like I should be stronger than I am now after all that training."
Pinkie was the next to express herself "It's the same for me. I managed to purify my shadow, and I can do some things with purification magic... But I should be able to do more."
With the exception of Spike (that hadn't been through six months of intense training), all the other Knights expressed similar opinions, with Fluttershy even being particularly vocal about her concerns.
Celestia smiled at them, that had been exactly what she had expected.
"There is a reason why you are feeling like that, and it is a pretty simple reason." She said, and nodded when she saw the Knights start to pay careful attention.
"After training for so long, and focusing so much on just gaining more power, you have lost your direction." She spoke "There is a reason why Knights go on frequent missions while they are still in training, it's to help focus their selves in the right direction for gaining true strength." She stopped for a moment "After you finish this next mission, you'll certainly be able to get through the 'wall'."
The Knights discussed this among themselves, relaxing somewhat. Then Fluttershy spoke up.
"It's too bad that Twilight isn't here, though, since she is going to go through the same thing."
"I wonder how she is doing?" Pinkie asked to herself.
Meanwhile, Inside the Cage of Numeria
"AAAAAAAAAARRRGHHHHHHH!!!" Twilight screamed, as she turned all of her blood into a bomb in a last ditch effort to avoid being eaten.
"I'm sure she's fine." Sunset said "She is tough. And in that case..." She looked at Celestia "Which kind of mission do you have for us?"
Celestia smiled and passed over a scroll to her "This is the detailed report, but in short, there are some concerning incidents happening in Granura, at the western edge of Equestria. More and more ponies are going missing, and out intelligence division has detected flashes of phenomenal magical power appearing from various places within that area. Your mission is to investigate what is the cause of the flashes, deal with any problems and find and rescue the missing ponies."
Sunset passed the scroll to Trixie and nodded at the princess "Understood."