For a moment, Twilight caught her breath. Scorpia, Shiva and Cadence all glanced at each other nervously. Kodo spared a glance with his sister, who was between Shiva and Luke. Though both shot a dark look at Spoiled, who was regarding Twilight like she was either pyrite or solid gold.
“Princess Twilight?” she noted. “It’s about time you got here to handle this…”
“Show some respect to your Alpha!” Shiva snapped at the mare.
Spoiled moved to argue, before noticing Cadence’s horn glowing in warning. Wisely, Spoiled shut her mouth.
Catching her breath, Twilight cleared her throat. “Apologies for the delay,” she said, managing a small curtsy to the princesses and alpha. “But, as Princess of Ponyville, I should be entitled to an opinion on the destruction of property in my place of residence.”
“Of course,” Cadence said. “What did you… have in mind?”
Cadence gave a worried glance to Shiva. The diamond dog herself was watching Twilight with anxiety riddled across her soul. The memories of her time in the alternate world were fading fast, but she could still recall what she had done to Twilight. She wouldn’t have blamed the alicorn for having a grudge.
Yet, when Twilight gazed up at her, there was only sympathy in her purple eyes. She turned her eyes to Kodo, who was regarding her with suspicion.
“Kodo burned down Filthy Rich’s Barnyard Bargains, yes?” she asked.
Kodo nodded. “Because they think they can get away with harassing my sister,” he growled.
“Now, you listen here…” Spoiled started to snap.
“We’ve already discussed this…” Filthy tried to interject.
“Enough!” Scorpia boomed, silencing both of them. Twilight, however, maintained her composure.
“Right,” she said, nodding to Kodo. “Well, Kodo, as Princess of Ponyville…” she lowered her head. “I apologize that your sister had to go through such harassment in the first place.”
Spoiled blinked at her. “WHAT?!” she stammered. However, Twilight turned to her with a glower.
“Your daughter harassed a representative from another nation,” she growled. “You should be thankful that I haven't made arrangements to take her away from you for incompetent parenting.”
Filthy Rich gaped. “P-Princess Twilight, there’s no need for that!” he insisted.
“Then I recommend you get a better handle on her,” Twilight replied. “Because no matter what species they are, Shiva and her family are representatives of the Crystal Empire, and deserve to be treated with the same respect and decency you would show Princess Cadence or my brother.”
As she spoke, Kodo and Shiva exchanged a glance, Shiva’s tail starting to wag. Twilight turned to her, and shared a small smile.
“The crown will cover the expenses,” Twilight said. “And measures will be taken to ensure that Ponyville is nothing like what Beast Breaker or Blueblood tried to turn Canterlot into.”
Shiva smiled softly at Twilight’s offer. “You are very kind, Princess Twilight,” she said. “Which is why I’d like to extend an offer.”
The room went quiet.
“My son still caused the damage,” she said. “His intentions were pure, but his actions were unneeded. I’d like for him to aid you in repairing the damage done.”
“Mother!” Kodo stammered, but Shiva shut him down with a glare.
“I told you before, Kodo,” she said firmly. “You are my son and I will always hold you in high regard. But I will not condone what you did to these ponies. You have to settle your debts, and make it right.”
“Besides,” Celine added in. “Ponyville’s really not that bad a place. Even if it’s got a few rotten apples in the bunch,” she added with a glare at Spoiled.
Twilight smiled. “Don’t worry, Kodo,” she replied, turning to Kodo. “I’ll show you that Ponyville isn’t something you need to fear.”
Kodo crossed his arms, but didn’t argue. Spoiled and Filthy shared a mutual look and nodded.
“I think we can work with that,” Filthy said.
“It sounds like we have a consensus,” Cadence declared. “Beta Kodo will take a short trip to Ponyville, and repair the damage done.”
Kodo looked down with a sigh. Shiva rose, her eyes darting between her son and Twilight.
“When will you take him?” she asked.
Twilight pursued her lips. “Um… would now work?” she asked.
Shiva winced, but Spoiled tossed her mane with a huff.
“I say right now should be perfect,” she said. “The sooner he gets started on repairs, the better.”
“I… must agree,” Filthy Rich added. “We can’t take up residence with business partners and family friends forever.”
“And…” Kodo muttered, almost to himself. “The sooner I get the repairs done… the sooner I can come back home.”
Twilight chuckled. “Try not to think of this as a prison sentence,” she said. “More of an… extended field trip.”
“Just give Ponyville a chance, brother. Please?” Celine asked, crossing to his side. “You may like what you see.”
Kodo sighed, before embracing his sister. “Just don’t get into any more trouble,” he said. “I’ll still try to protect you, but it may take me longer to get back to you.”
Celine laughed. “Don’t worry about me, brother,” she said.
As Kodo said goodbye to the rest of his family, Shiva crossed over to Twilight, lowering her head so their voices wouldn’t be heard. Getting her hint, Twilight cast a silence spell over them, keeping them from being heard.
“I…” Shiva cleared her throat. “I appreciate this, Twilight. You didn’t have to be this kind.”
Twilight’s grin faltered. “You’ve been dealing with too many ponies that turn to cruelty or manipulation,” she said softly. “You should be able to see our friendly side more often.”
“I agree,” Shiva admitted. “Which is why I should probably warn you…”
Twilight’s ears perked and she leaned in closer.
“I’m not sure how much you remember from the alterations in time,” she said. “But… before everything changed… Skippy told me of something with Kodo’s magic. He said it was compromised.”
“Compromised?” Twilight looked to Kodo, who was in a deep conversation with Luke. “As in… possessed?”
“I don’t know,” Shiva admitted. “And that’s what scares me. If this dark force is what convinced him to burn down the store… what if it tries to make him do something worse?” She turned back. “I should probably go with you. Make sure he doesn’t do anything crazy. And, if there is something in him… maybe we can figure out how to purify him together.”
Twilight furrowed her brow, before nodding. “I’d appreciate the aid,” she said. “And you have my word as a princess; whatever we do to cure him, it won’t hurt him.”
Shiva smiled and rested her head against the princess’ head.
“You know,” she mused. “When we first met, I was never sure if I would ever be able to trust you.” Her tail gave a small wag. “You may just be able to prove me wrong yet.”
Twilight chuckled, before dissipating the silence spell. Just in time for Kodo to dart over to Shiva and give her a massive hug.
“I’ll be back soon,” he promised. “I won’t leave you alone forever.”
“Who said you were leaving me, my love?” she asked, squeezing him tight. “I’m coming with you.”
Kodo blinked up at her. “W-Wait, really?”
Twilight nodded. “There’s an idea I wanted to run by her,” she said. “Involving a School of Friendship where other species can share their ideas and thoughts on the subject of friendship with each other, and maybe work towards more cooperation between our fellow species.”
Shiva gave Twilight a look of surprise, but Twilight just grinned at her.
“There was an alternate timeline where you united the world,” she reminded the wolves. “And I promised we'd try and make that world a reality.” She shrugged. "The School seemed like a good first step."
Shiva’s tail started wagging so hard, it would’ve knocked out everyone behind them. She turned back to Celine and Luke.
“You guys can handle things while we’re gone?” she asked.
Celine saluted her mother. “I’d be proud to,” she responded.
Nodding, Shiva turned back to Twilight. “Then let’s go,” she declared.
And so, joining Starlight, Spike, Twilight and the Rich family, Shiva and Kodo left the Crystal Palace behind. Diamond Dogs – Iron Wolves among them – gathered to watch as he left. And just as they left the empire grounds, Kodo turned back and regarded his fellow Iron Wolves.
A flurry of wolf howls followed him out. Howls that translated out to, “Long live the Alpha.”
“Long live the Alpha indeed,” The voice mused. “You should be careful pup,” the voice whispered. “Your mother and sister have fallen for their spells. You must take care not to let them beguile you as well.”
“Don’t worry,” Kodo assured him. “If they try their spells, we’ll know. Right?”
“Oh, yes,” The voice assured him. “In time, you will see the leash your mother and sister are trapped on.”
“Then we’ll figure out how it works,” Kodo resolved. “We’ll break Mother out. And then Celine.”
“And then the Empire,” Sombra chuckled with glee. “I can hardly wait.”He gazed through Kodo’s eyes at Shiva and Twilight, walking together despite their differences. “They think this is over,” Sombra laughed. “But it hasn’t even begun.”