Bolting down the stairs, Flash raced past his startled parents and into the kitchen where he began rummaging through the pantry.
“Whoa, where’s the fire?” Sombra asked, raising an eyebrow at his son’s apparent hurry. “School doesn’t start for another hour.”
“I know, but I’m meeting some friends before school starts.” Dropping a bag of trail mix into his backpack alongside some fruit and chocolate bars, Flash zipped it up and slung it back over his shoulders. “Plus, I found something of Thunderlane’s I think he might want back ASAP.” Reaching into his pocket, Flash held up Thunderlane’s phone for his parents to see. “Look familiar?”
“Again?” Sombra could only shake his head with a chuckle as he returned his attention to his newspaper. “I swear, that boy loses his phone more often than your mother loses her glas—Ow!”
Radiant Hope scowled at her husband, pinching his ear painfully between her fingers and twisting it. “I do not lose my glasses that often.”
“Then what do you call the time you spent an hour looking for them when they were in your pock—Ah! Easy, easy! I need that ear!”
Ignoring his parent’s antics, Flash ran to the front door and hastily put on a jacket and his running shoes before stepping outside. Taking off down the street before the door could finish closing behind him, Flash stomped through leftover puddles from yesterday’s storm on his way towards Canterlot High. Stopping at a crosswalk, he picked up the sound of munching coming from his backpack. “Hey, leave me some at least, Twilight!”
“Sorry!” Twilight mumbled through a mouthful of trail mix. “I was hungry!”
Chuckling, Flash glanced up in time to see the traffic sign switch from stop to go, taking off into a run once more. “I’ll pick up something on the way there, but we really should hurry. Don’t want to be late, do we?”
Leaning against the base of the Wondercolt statue, Sunset checked her phone for the umpteenth time, tapping her foot with impatience. Having been the first to arrive, Sunset felt like she’d been standing there for hours, even when her phone showed that it had only been around fifteen minutes.
“Sunset, please be patient,” Rarity said as she quickly touched up her eyeliner before clamping her compact shut and slipping it back into her purse. Around her, the others were all trying to occupy themselves in their own way while they waited for Flash and Twilight to arrive, with Applejack, Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy huddled together as they finished their homework, while Rainbow Dash lay against the grass and worked on her sit-ups.
“...28… 29… 30!” With a grunt, Rainbow flopped back onto the grass, panting for breath. “Yeah, give... it… a rest…” Sitting up, Rainbow propped her chin up with her hand. “Flash is cool, so if he says he’ll be here, then he’ll be here.”
“Clearly you’ve never dated him before,” Sunset said before she could stop herself, groaning right after as she buried her face in her hand. “Sorry, that was uncalled for. I just—”
“You can’t wait for all this to be finally over, correct?” Rarity surmised with a smile. “I like to think I speak for everyone here when I say we’ll all be much happier when we finally see Twilight again with our own eyes. All we can do now is wait patiently for Flash to arrive.”
Everyone glanced over as Flash ran up to them, a coffee cup clutched in one hand.
“Speak of the devil,” Rarity said as Flash skidded to a halt next to the Wondercolt statue, panting for breath after running most of the way there.
“So… sorry I’m… late…” Flash gasped as he panted for breath, sparing a moment to take a quick sip of his coffee. “Hope I didn’t keep you lovely ladies waiting too long,” he said with a grin and a wink.
Sunset couldn’t help but smirk and shake her head. Same old Flash.
“‘Bout time you got here,” Rainbow said as she leapt to her feet and stretched her arms over her head. “I hope you didn’t forget a certain someone on your way here…”
Flash grunted, feigning pain as he placed a hand on his chest. “You wound me, Rainbow Dash! Of course I remembered!” Removing his backpack, Flash held it to his chest as he unzipped the top and peered inside. “You can come out now, Twilight.”
“Already? But I was just starting to get comfy!” Twilight bemoaned sarcastically from inside.
“Well… if you like it so much, I could always leave you in there a little longer—”
Before Flash could even raise a hand to reach for the zipper, Twilight popped her head out of the bag. “Well, I guess I could use an excuse to spread my wings and—EEK!” Before Twilight could react, she was scooped out of the bag and drawn into a very enthusiastic bearhug by a beaming Fluttershy.
“Twilight! I’m so glad you’re safe!”
Not again! “Fluttershy!”
Everyone else laughed as Twilight was helpless to resist being hugged by the demure girl, despite no short amount of struggling on her part. Breaking away from the group, Sunset walked up to Flash, stopping a short distance away from him as she awkwardly rubbed the back of her neck. “Uh… hi, Flash.”
“Uh… Hey, Sunset,” Flash replied back, avoiding meeting Sunset’s eyes. An uncomfortable silence settled over the pair as both struggled to think of what to say to the other.
“Th...thanks for looking after Twilight like that,” Sunset finally said, smiling at Flash. “We really owe you one.”
“Oh, it was nothing, really. I couldn’t just leave her out in rain like that, now could I?”
“Right…” Before the awkward tension could set back in, Sunset quickly asked, “So… you still have my number after all this time?”
“Oh! Well… I… you see…” Flash’s face was flush with pink as he tried to come up with a response. “I… I just never got around to deleting it from my phone, that’s all. Lucky thing I didn’t, though, since I wouldn’t have had any other way of contacting you otherwise.”
“... Right…” Sunset said with a sigh. “Just serendipity then. Still, thanks again.”
“Hey! Why the gloomy faces!?” Popping out of nowhere like a Jack-in-the-Box, Pinkie looped her arms around the two and pulled them into a hug. “Twilight’s back! You should be happy, not sad!”
Wrestling free of Pinkie’s grip, Sunset looked over to see Fluttershy had seen fit to not squeeze Twilight to death, holding her in her arms as the others gathered around the alicorn. A smile crossed Sunset’s lips as she watched Applejack ruffle Twilight’s mane. “You’re right, Pinkie.”
“I should probably get going,” Flash said once he had freed himself from Pinkie’s headlock as well. “Don’t want to get in the way of your little reunion. See ya later!” With a wave, Flash turned to leave.
“Flash, a moment, please?”
Pausing, Flash looked over as Rarity walked up to him. “Yeah?”
“I must offer my thanks for bringing Twilight back to us as well, but I couldn’t help overhearing you mentioning that you would not have had a means of getting in contact with us did you not still possess Sunset’s number. With that in mind, I thought I would see fit to give you this, just in case.” Holding out her hand, Rarity clutched a slip of paper with a series of numbers written on it between her fingers.
“Rarity, is this…?” Getting a nod in return, Flash reached out to take the slip of paper from her. Before he could take the piece of paper, however, Rarity’s other arm shot out like a snake and grabbed Flash tightly by the wrist, her grip like a vice as she yanked him forward and glared into his eyes.
“Let me make one thing very clear first.” Rarity’s tone was like ice as she spoke, chilling Flash to his core as her eyes piercing straight through him. “This is my personal phone number, so I am trusting it to you in the event something like this should ever occur again and you need to contact one of us. With that said, I am also trusting that you will not abuse this by giving this number to any of your friends or colleagues, or use it yourself for some selfish reason. Understand?”
Flash gulped. “Got it.”
“Good!” In the blink of an eye, Rarity voice went from icy cold to warm and pleasant as she released Flash from her clutches. “So glad we understand each other. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a friend I need to go hug.” With that, Rarity gave a polite wave to him as she ran back and joined her friends in embracing Twilight, not a single one of them without a smile on their face.
The school day seemed to pass by in a blur, and before long the lunch bell loudly rang through the halls of Canterlot High. Today, the six girls (and one pony) were enjoying their lunch on the roof of the school, listening as Twilight recounted her adventures following her abduction.
“Sounds like y’all had a rough time of it,” Applejack remarked as she took a bite of an apple. “Glad ya came through it all in one piece.”
“Well, it certainly wasn’t the ‘relaxing weekend’ I had planned, but I can’t say it wasn’t eventful,” Twilight said as she took a sip from her juice box, having spent the day napping in Fluttershy’s backpack during classes. “Sorry about destroying the costume you made me, Rarity.”
“Fret not, dear. I can always make another one, but you are much harder to replace.”
Their conversation was interrupted by a familiar sound, causing everyone to glance over at Sunset’s journal resting against her backpack, the tome now enveloped in a magenta aura. Picking up her journal, Sunset flipped through to the newest page, her eyes flicking back and forth as she scanned the message.
“It’s from Spike. Seems he finally got the portal working again on his end.” Walking over to Twilight, Sunset knelt down and placed the book in front of the princess to let her see for herself.
Reading the message, Twilight flicked her tail as her lips creased in a thoughtful pout. “Hmm… anyone got a pen I could borrow?”
“Coming right up!” Without blinking an eye, Pinkie reached up and plucked a pen out of her bountiful curly hair. “Here you go, Twi!”
Taking the pen in her magic, Twilight tapped the end against her chin for a moment before leaning forward as she began to write.
Spike, this is Twilight. Just to be safe, set the portal apparatus to run a full diagnostic scan first. You’ll find the instructions among my notes, and the scan should only take a few hours at most. Let me know when the scan’s complete so we can coordinate bridging the portals.
“There we go! That should make sure nothing goes wrong this time.” Setting the pen down, Twilight began to munch away on a chocolate chip cookie. “Plus, it’ll give me more time to spend with you girls before I have to head back,” she added in-between bites.
“Bettin’ y’all are lookin’ mighty forward to gettin’ home after all the ruckus of the last few days, huh?” Applejack said, smacking Rainbow’s hand away as she tried to pilfer Applejack’s apple fritter.
“Mm-hmm. I mean, I love spending time with my friends, but I miss my home, too. Plus, Spike must be worried sick by now.” Finishing her cookie, Twilight took another sip of juice before sighing. “Sadly, it might be a while before I can cross over here from Equestria again.”
“Why?” Fluttershy worriedly asked. “I thought Spike got the portal working again?”
“Yes, but this little ‘experience’ of mine has made me realize that I need to seriously modify the portal apparatus back home. I originally built it in a haste during the incident with the Sirens, but I didn’t fully consider the possible ramifications of continued use at the time. I’m kind of amazed it lasted as long as it did, to be honest.”
“So… no more little pony you, then?” Pinkie Pie asked, disappointment clearly written across her face.
Twilight shook her head. “Sorry, Pinkie, but I’m already thinking of ways to make sure something like this doesn’t happen again. I’ll have to build the machine completely from the ground up, which means drawing up schematics, evaluating potential future power fluctuations, building redundant safety protocols upon redundant safety protocols…” Twilight’s eyes seemed to glitter as she thought of the project ahead of her, clapping her hooves excitedly. “I’ll need to remember to schedule time to reorganize my schedule once I get back.”
“That’s a real bummer…” Rainbow said, making another swipe at Applejack’s apple fritter only to have it snatched away from her at the last second. She glared at Applejack as the farmgirl stuck her tongue out at her before taking a bite of the treat. “I was thinking of asking for you to join our team for the Friendship Games. We could use all the help we can find.”
“Friendship Games?” Twilight tilted her head as she asked, “What’s that?”
“It’s this big event Canterlot High hosts along with our rival school, Crystal Prep,” Rainbow explained. “Every four years, students from here and from Crystal Prep compete against each other in a mix of academic and athletic events to prove once and for all who’s better.” Blowing a lock of hair out of her eyes, Rainbow Dash scowled and crossed her arms over her chest. “Course, Crystal Prep just loves to rub our noses in how much better they are than us at everything as they’ve stomped us into the dirt and humiliated us time and time again at the Games.”
“But it’s called the Friendship Games, isn’t it?” Twilight asked hopefully. “Surely that must mean friendships can still happen between schools regardless of who wins or loses, right?”
This time, it was Rarity who huffed dismissively in response. “Oh, sure. Nothing builds friendships between schools more than having our school’s monument defaced again and again after each loss.”
“I’m with ya there, Rare’s,” Applejack chimed in. “All them Crystal Prep folks care about is gettin’ a chance to kick us down a down a peg or two while they watch from up high. Bunch of stuck up jerks, the whole lot of ‘em, I say.”
Twilight could only sit silently, her ears wilting as she listened to her friends speak about this Crystal Prep with such ire. Feeling a hand on her back, Twilight looked up to find Sunset smiling down at her.
“Don’t let it get you down, Twilight,” Sunset reassured her as she ran her hand up and down Twilight’s back. “If it helps, I don’t get it either. Considering everything else that’s happened, getting so riled about it just seems silly to me.”
“Silly? This is serious!” Shooting to her feet, Rainbow clenched her fists as her eyes burned with determination. “But this year will be different! Canterlot High is stronger than it’s ever been, and we’re not going to sit by anymore and let those preppy jerks walk all over us again! This year the Friendship Games belongs to the Wondercolts! Who’s with me?!”
As the others cheered Rainbow on, Sunset could only roll her eyes before glancing at Twilight and muttering, “See what I mean?” which the pair shared a laugh about.
The following few hours seemed to fly by at speeds that would have made even the Wonderbolts airsick. The moment school had ended for the day, the group of friends had all rushed over to Pinkie’s to enjoy an afternoon filled with copious amounts of sweets, laughter between friends, and an entire weekend’s worth of excitement crammed into just a few hours.
Before long, Twilight and the others found themselves waiting by the Wondercolt statue as Twilight relayed the “all-okay” to Spike through the journal. “And, done,” Twilight said as she popped the cap back on the pen. “Now all we can do is wait for Spike.”
“This is goodbye for now then, huh, Twi?” Applejack said wistfully. “Don’t be a stranger now, ya hear?”
“We’ll miss you,” Fluttershy said as she crouched down and scratched between Twilight’s ears, making the alicorn purr contently. As she pulled her hand back, Fluttershy tapped her fingers together nervously as she stuttered, “Ummm… I was wondering… I mean, if you don’t mind… if… if before you go, I… I could… Ummm…”
“Go ahead, Fluttershy.”
Squealing, Fluttershy scooped up Twilight and drew her into one last hug, grinning as she rubbed her cheek against Twilight’s.
A light from the base of the statue drew their attention as the mirrored surface of the pedestal became visibly charged with energy, rippling like water. Pouting, Fluttershy reluctantly put Twilight back down.
“Looks like your train’s here, Twilight,” Rainbow said as Twilight trotted up to the statue.
Pausing as she stared at the shifting surface of the portal, Twilight glanced over her shoulder and smiled warmly at her friends. “Thanks again for looking after me while I was here. I promise I’ll come back and visit as soon as I can.” Facing the portal once more, she took a deep breath as she readied herself for the journey ahead. Here goes nothing! Kicking her hooves against the dirt, Twilight sprinted headlong towards the open portal.
“Bye!” Pinkie shouted, Rarity throwing in a quick, “Don’t forget to write!” as they all watched Twilight jump into the portal and disappear in a flash of light.
A disorienting kaleidoscope of colors and sensations filled Twilight’s senses, making her feel like she was being stretched like taffy before then being squeezed through a tube like toothpaste. After only a moment, Twilight felt the brief sensation of weightlessness before she stepped through the other side of the portal, her hooves clip-clopping against the crystal flooring of her castle.
I’ve still got hooves, so that’s a good sign. Giving herself a quick once over, Twilight flexed her wings to ensure they were still working properly, checked that her cutie mark was still where it should be and counted her hooves to make absolutely sure she wasn’t missing any.
The scampering of tiny claws against crystal was Twilight’s only warning before Spike leapt up and latched himself onto her chest, wrapping his arms around her neck. “You’re back! I was so worried when the portal broke, I thought I might never see you again!”
Twilight could tell that Spike was doing his best to hold back tears, wrapping her wing around him before nuzzling his scales comfortingly. “I’m sorry I made you worry, Spike. Despite a few hiccups, though, I’m back home safely and I’m not going anywhere any time soon.”
The two stayed that way for a moment before Spike released his grip on Twilight and dropped back onto his feet. “So…” Twilight asked, “Anything exciting happen while I was gone?”
“Not really, it was a pretty quiet week,” Spike answered with a shrug of his shoulders. “Well… as quiet a week as you can living in Ponyville. Like, just yesterday there was—”
“Actually, hold that thought for a moment.” Igniting her horn, Twilight felt the familiar sensation of Equestrian magic flow through her as she levitated the journal off its platform towards her. “Just need to let the girls know I made it back safely.” Levitating a quill over as well, she cracked open the journal and wrote a quick response. Just as she was about to set the book aside, however, she paused for a moment before quickly scrawling a short message at the bottom of the page before slamming the book shut. “Now, you were saying?”
“Well…” Spike began, walking with Twilight towards the doorway. “Yesterday Pinkie Pie had the ‘brilliant’ idea to mix cake batter, pop rocks, and her party cannon…”
“Do you think she made it back safely?” Rarity asked after several silent moments. As if on cue, Sunset’s journal began to resonate with an incoming message.
“I think that just answered your question.” Cracking open her journal, Sunset scanned the latest entry. “Yep, looks like she made it back alright.” Just as she was about to close the journal, she caught a fresh line of words writing themselves. Sunset blinked at the words forming before her very eyes.
My invitation to visit is still open for when you’re ready.
“Yo, Earth to Sunset!”
Sunset snapped out of her stupor at the sound of her name, glancing up to find the others staring at her. “I’m sorry, what?”
“You alright there?” Rainbow asked. “You look like you’ve just seen a ghost.”
“It’s nothing,” Sunset quickly replied, snapping the journal shut and stowing it back in her bag. “We should really get going before someone starts to wonder why we’re loitering around the statue.” Slinging her backpack over her shoulder, Sunset began to walk away from the school, a single thought in the back of her mind:
Just wait, Twilight. I may take you up on your offer sooner than later...