Far in the north, a terrible war raged. What began as a petty border dispute had spiraled out of control, beyond what any of the combatants had imagined. Changelings, ponies, griffons, yak, and diamond dogs all fought for survival, and every race and tribe fought on both sides of the conflict. Sister turned on sister and children turned on their parents.
During the conflict, Shining would go on to avenge his defeat at the hands of Queen Amaryllis, so many years ago. Flurry Heart would earn the honorific “The Warrior-Princess of the Crystal Empire.” Even Twilight’s old students joined the fight, reunited on the field of battle.
“Yona!” Smoulder would shout, no longer a young thing, but a fire breathing lizard the size of a large wagon. “What are you doing? You’re on the side fighting against Equestria. Why are you working for this toolbox?”
Yona, when the time came, would straighten the cap of her menacing black uniform. “Princess Flurry Heart is a tyrant! Amaryllis is great leader who restore dignity and prosperity to Yak.”
“Oh no!” Silverstream would cry. “She’s been, like, totally brainwashed. Amaryllis used her evil changeling powers to warp her mind.”
Then Yona would shout, “Yak blitzkreig!”
But on the night Twilight returned home from her interview, none of that had happened yet. Yona was still at home in Yak Yakistan, listening to changeling diplomats spin tales of Flurry Heart’s coup against her mother.
And in any case, that’s not what this story is about.
Dyed wingtips weren’t cool anymore. They’d been cool yesterday, but somehow, when the sun rose, they were lame.
“Light!” Twilight called, tapping on her sister’s bedroom window with a hoof. Hovering outside the glass, Twilight peered in, but the bed was empty. So she zipped to another window. “Light? Are you home?”
“We have a door, you know,” Double Time shouted from the yard. She and Light had a beautiful house on the outskirts of Ponyville, and kept a picturesque garden that cost much more than buying the vegetables would have. Double was out tending it, her multi-hued shell covered in dirt. A trowel and a watering can floated beside her.
“I know. Sorry.” Twilight zipped Double’s way, so fast she left a purple blur in the air behind her. She spoke just as quickly. “I just needed to see Light. It’s important! I mean, not like fate of the world important. I don’t need her to wield the Elements of Harmony or anything. Although I think she could. Actually it’s really nice that our relationship has come that far. Have I told her that? I don’t think I have. Okay, I need to fix my relationship with Light. But first I need her to fix my wings because I just did an interview and it’s going to be a disaster!”
“Breathe, Twilight,” Double put down her trowel. “Light’s in her studio.”
“Okay, thanks.” Twilight zipped off. But before she’d gone a dozen yards, she paused and fluttered back. “I heard about what happened with Cheval, by the way. You okay?”
“I’m fine,” Double said.
“Great, okay, I’ll check in on you later. Cya.” And she was off again. She landed on the houses’s second-story balcony, burst into Light’s studio, and shouted: “I need your help!”
Light was so startled she dropped her brush. It left a long red streak down the middle of her painting. Which was fine. She mentally decided to sell it as one of her abstract impressionist pieces. She was famous enough she could get away with that sort of thing.
“Hello,” she said, when the brush finally rolled to a stop on the floor.
“Oh my gosh. I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to ruin your painting.” Twilight flew up to Light’s side, the wind off her wings rustling the paper that adorned the room’s walls and desks. “It’s a beautiful painting. Because you’re very talented. And I appreciate you as a sister. And a friend! Like we’re sisters but also friends and that’s magic.” She landed, her hooves making soft taps on the hardwood floor. “And I know you’re probably still mad about the—”
“Twilight, you’re having a teenager moment.”
Twilight’s jaw shut so fast her teeth clacked.
For a few moments, silence hung between them. Light watched as Twilight shifted her weight from hoof to hoof, shifting her body posture like she couldn’t quite get comfortable. Her wings open and shut.
“Are you sure?” Twilight asked.
“Positive,” Light said, a small smile on her face.
“Oh, well. Then I’ll just… I’ll just ignore it.” Twilight gestured with a wing to the open balcony door. “I’ll let you paint and—”
“No no. You’re here.” Light smiled. “How about I make some coffee and you tell me what’s bothering you?”
“I don’t want to waste your time. If it’s a teenager thing.”
“It’s okay. We should talk about family stuff anyway.” She rose from her spot in front of her easel. “Come on. Let’s go downstairs.”
Light wasn’t old. Not yet. She was thirty-four, had no children, and hadn’t finished paying off the house. Her mane had exactly three grey hairs. Her art had made her famous in her own right, but the critics still said she needed to “pick a style and settle down.” And her back-left knee hurt sometimes. It wasn’t injured, it just got sore for some reason.
“Do you have tea?” Twilight asked her. “I prefer tea.” Light said that she did, but then made Twilight coffee anyway.
While they drank, Twilight explained her issue. “I know, it’s…” She laughed and bit her lip. “A teenager thing. But I was really happy that I was going to be in the news looking, you know, hip. And then I was in Ponyville today, and Flare asked, ‘when are you going to wash those off?’ And I didn’t know what she meant and I got embarrassed and…” She looked down into her coffee and shrugged.
“You know you weren’t hip when you actually were a teenager, right? You were a loveable nerd.”
“Yeah, but most of my friends are, you know.” Twilight circled a hoof on the table. “Well, not most of my friends. Rarity and Pinkie Pie and Applejack and Fluttershy, and Rainbow Dash and all the old crew from Ponyville are still amazing. And I still love seeing them. But they’ve moved on with their lives, and so we don’t really, like. Hang out. In that sense. They’re not really into sleepovers and board games and friendship adventures anymore. So most of the friends I hang out with these days are actually teenagers, and I’m pushing forty and…”
“It’s super weird.” Twilight chuckled. With tension in her voice, she asked, “Do we need to reshoot the interview?”
“I don’t think so. But if you’d like me to recolor your wings, I think I can manage something your friends will like.”
Twilight spread her wings wide. Light’s horn glowed, and with her magic, she controlled paint and dye and makeup alike. The color on Twilight’s wingtips faded away, replaced with something more subtle and elegant. It was like a line of smoke was curling along her side.
“So, who’s Flare?”
“Oh, I thought I’d said. One of my new friends. A pegasus. There’s no way to check until it happens, but I think she’s the new Element of Laughter.”
“I thought Silver Cordial was the new Element of Laughter?”
“Well,” Twilight paused. “She is. I think Flare is the new new one. I don’t have exactly five friends at any given time, so it’s hard to say. And Silver Cordial is still a great pony to have around in a crisis. But she’s getting older too, and I seem to always end up in a friend group with six main ponies. These days, the new group is Flare, Kizmet, Rack Spin, Linden, and Flash Bang.”
“Is Linden the one with the stripes?”
“Yes. She’s half-zebra. But it’s not cool to say that anymore so don’t do it.”
Light nodded. “Are they going to celebrate your birthday? It’s coming up.”
“Yeah, probably. Kizmet is going to make some of her, um. Brownies.” Twilight cleared her throat. “Actually, with everything that’s weird about me, it’s nice that they don’t make a big deal of it.”
“I was thinking of getting you something.” Light paused a moment to spread Twilight’s feathers further apart, putting the finishing touches on her design. “The thing you said during the interview, about having a sticky note on your coffee machine. Is that true?”
“That must look a little ugly, having the sticky note always there. And I’ve been meaning to try my hoof at some practical design. How about I make you a new coffee machine? One that reminds you what you like in a less obtrusive way.”
Twilight turned to look at her younger sister. Her expression was uncertain, mouth hanging open half an inch. “You can do that?”
“I’m a visual designer.” Light grinned and lifted a hoof to the ceiling. “I can do anything.”
Twilight couldn’t help but grin as well. “That sounds wonderful!”
The smile fell off of Light’s face. She looked at the kitchen with wide eyes.
Sticky notes covered every surface. The coffee machine had three.
You like coffee. Every time you’re apprehensive about trying it, and every time you love it.
You can put sugar in it. Don’t stress out that you’re going to gain weight.
Yes it tastes different because Spike isn’t making it anymore. Different is not bad. Spike’s coffee wasn’t great.
“Sorry about the mess,” Twilight said. “I need to get a new system. I’m thinking of going back to checklists. I need to hire a replacement for Spike. I’ve got a note for that somewhere around here. I need to get to that.”
She scribbled a note reminding herself of the first note to hire a replacement for Spike. She stuck it to a plate so she’d see it first thing in the morning when she made pancakes.
“Um…” Light took a hesitant step forward. “Twilight, this, um… are you okay?”
“Sure,” Twilight tilted her head, “why wouldn’t I be?”
“It’s a lot of sticky notes.” Light pulled the reminder about sugar off the coffee machine. “Like this one. Do you really—”
“Woah, woah!” Twilight rushed over to Light and took the note from her. With great care, she pasted it back on the machine, using her magic to reharden the glue. “No, Light. No. I’m sorry. I know you’re being nice, but you can’t touch any of these. You understand? Never touch them. That’s not cool.”
Light swallowed. Her mouth had gone dry. “Why not?”
“Think about it. What if you forgot to reattach it? What if I lost it?” Twilight gripped Light’s shoulders. “These are my thoughts.”
They looked around the castle kitchen, covered in bits of yellow paper.
“You’re inside my mind,” Twilight said. “When you’re standing here. Don’t touch another mare’s mind without permission.”