The air was thin this high up. Clouds littered the sky, swirling back and forth, drifting further and further into the distance. Bursts of color from the setting sun filled them with reds, pinks and yellows. It was a sometimes beautiful sight that most took for granted, simply wandering underneath without a passing glance.
Twilight leaned against the edge of the basket, looking down with a frown. She looked tired, bags under her eyes marking how little sleep she had gotten lately. “Why do I even keep doing all of this? I just don’t understand the point sometimes.”
Her companion looked up with a wry smile. “It’s not about why we keep doing this, it’s about what we want to accomplish.”
“Can we accomplish anything with so little time? I mean, years ago I was spending every waking moment reading book after book on magic. I’d go through tomes, day by day trying desperately to reach closer to her.” Twilight sighed, slumping against the basket, letting her forelegs fall over the edge. “Even if it was impossible, I always seemed to know exactly where to go.”
“Now what am I doing?” She gestured to the town below. “I have friends now, but sometimes I can’t help but wonder. I got along so well for so long without them, it didn’t bother me at all. Am I missing something else?” Her hoof gripped the edge of the basket tightly. “Is there something else out there just waiting for me to find it?”
“Some ponies are prone to worrying about things. Maybe you have missed something, maybe you haven’t. Are you going to spend your time searching for something you might never find?” The voice was calm. “You could be going out there for nothing, you could even lose what you already have.”
“What do I have, though? I’m in charge of a library, I try to teach myself but it’s just not the same anymore. I’ve lost my zest for it, I don’t… I don’t know what my cutie mark is trying to tell me. Not anymore…” She swallowed back tears, clenching her eyes shut. “I don’t know what I’m supposed to do anymore.”
“Maybe you need to spend more time with your friends? Wallowing on your own isn’t going to help anything.” The voice sounded concerned now. “Maybe you need to work on a few new projects. Weren’t you working on a transfiguration spell earlier?”
“Apples to oranges?” Twilight said with a scoff. “I don’t even know what I was thinking, what use is that to anypony?” She leaned further over the edge, frown deepening as she stared out at Ponyville. The evening light was framing it in warm colors and she couldn’t hear much beyond the soft flame of the hot air balloon. If she strained her ears, she almost thought she could make out the sound of soft breathing.
“Why am I even out here…?” She whispered to herself. Spotting a blue blur zipping through the clouds below.
“You needed time to think, you’re tired, you’re stressed. You needed a break.” The voice was soothing, careful. “Spike told you to take some time off, we had the balloon.”
Twilight took a deep breath before slowly letting it out. “Right,” She went through the breathing exercise Cadence had taught her. “It’s going to get better right? I’m going to work things out, find a way to…” She trailed off.
“You’ll find a way, we always do. You don’t have to listen, you just need to push forward.” The voice took on a confident tone. “You’re capable of great things, I’ve seen it myself, she thinks so too, you know it’s true.”
Twilight nodded her head, gaze unfocusing. “What kind of great things am I supposed to do though? Where am I heading to, what’s my purpose? The princess wants me to learn about friendship… it’s not even my talent. I’m going to fail for sure…”
“You can only fail if you don’t try Twilight. You just need to pick yourself up off the ground and brush yourself off. As long as you keep getting back up, you’ll get there eventually.”
“Mhmm,” Twilight focused on the small pink dot darting about town, she could make out a few more. It seemed like there were a lot of ponies out and about today. “Are… are they looking for somepony?”
“I think you know the answer to that Twilight. We both do.”
“Should I stay, or should I go? Would it be okay to just drift away?”
“I can’t answer that Twilight. Do you want to leave? Do you want to say goodbye to your friends? I wouldn’t blame you.” The voice had started to take on a darker undertone. “There’s an even quicker way to solve this, you know, it’s so simple.”
Tears started to fall from Twilight’s eyes. “I can’t, I can’t do that to them. It wouldn’t be right.”
“Twilight, darling, you know I care about you.” The voice was like sweetened honey. “I just want what’s best for you. You know that.”
“But… but wouldn’t it hurt them?”
“Do you really need to worry about that?”
Twilight’s whole body shuddered and she took a deep breath. Slowly but surely she pushed herself back up, looking over the edge with a blank expression.
The voice waited, silently, not making a move.
Finally, Twilight straightened back up. “No, not today. Maybe never.”
The voice remained quiet, but Twilight felt uneasy regardless. She took a deep breath once more, letting it out with a sigh. She shifted her magic, adjusting things piece by piece, the balloon slowly starting to sink to the ground. Twilight brushed away her tears, slowly shifting her expression into something more pleasant.
There was a dull thud as the balloon landed in an open field, and Twilight stepped out.
She could see a few ponies in the distance, almost hear their shouts. She looked back one last time, eyes staring intently into the empty basket. “Not today.”