“Okay, Spike.” Twilight said. “Since this is your first time looping in a home loop, you get to pick where to diverge from the original timeline.”
Spike pondered. “Hmmm… I kind of want to do something awesome… I know! Can you make a lightsaber?”
“No need.” Twilight’s horn flickered, and one levitated out of her mane. “One of the things Hiccup told me all Loopers eventually get working is a pocket dimension trick. He showed me how some time ago, and I shoved our lightsabers in there last time since I didn’t have any yet.”
Spike reached out his hand, concentrating, and his face lit up as the lightsaber left Twilight’s grip and floated gently over to him. “This is so cool!”
He coughed, suddenly feeling embarrassed. “Right. Okay, are any of the others awake?”
“No.” Twilight shook her head. “I checked. I’m guessing one of the next few loops I’m going to be having a run as one of the Royal Sisters, with AJ as the other one – that always seems to happen when somepony first ascends. But no-one is this loop.”
“Good.” Spike rummaged in the closet, found a belt, and threaded the lightsaber’s detachable clip through it. “I’ll let you know when I think of a good time.”
Rarity vanished underground as the Diamond Dogs pulled her down.
Right, now would seem to be a good time, Spike decided. He pulled his ‘saber from the belt Rarity had made for him last month, for what he’d said was a torch, and took a two handed grip. Igniting it, he set his stance and faced Rover. “I won’t let you ponynap Rarity.”
Rover laughed. “You too little.”
Shii-cho. Sun Djem.
Spike moved, and when he stopped Rover had had a drastic manicure – his claws down to stubs.
“I dunno. I think I’m doing alright,” he said lightheartedly.
“Uh…” Rover examined his lost claws. “How you do that?”
Spike shrugged. “Now, you will tell me where your pack took Rarity.” He waved his off hand.
Diamond Dogs were just about the textbook description of a weak mind.
“Really?” Twilight said, giving Spike a sardonic look after Rarity left. She’d spent almost twenty minutes gushing about how brave and dashing Spike had been in rescuing her. “You went with that?”
Spike grinned. “Hey, you did say I got to pick.”
Then his face clouded. “Oh, great. Do I have to go on the dragon migration every single time to pick up Peewee?”
“Nope.” Twilight replied, happily. “That problem I solved some time ago. I can pick up the right egg for you about the time of the Gala.”
“Good.” Spike breathed out, relieved. “Glad that isn’t a problem.”
“Though, speaking of that…” Twilight added, “I do know roughly how to swing it so that Rarity asks you to go to the Gala with her. Only problems are, you have to spend over a year working on being as mature as possible and it’ll be the one the year after next.”
Spike considered that. “Yeah, sounds worth it. Okay, how do I start?”
Twilight slammed a giant tome down in front of him. “Memorize this.”
“…did you ever manage to convince the non-looping me to do this?”
“Yep!” Twilight said. “Once or twice.”
“And how many times did you try?” he pressed.
“I lost count.” The unicorn shrugged. “A lot.”
“You know, Fluttershy,” Twilight said, sitting down on the side of Kanto Route 14. “I can’t help but think you have an advantage here.”
Fluttershy tickled a Shinx under the chin. “You’re a good girl, aren’t you? Sorry, what was that, Twilight?”
Twilight shrugged. “Never mind. But all I’ve caught so far is a Hoothoot, and that was when you were asleep. The Pokémon all head for you so fast I can never catch them.”
“Well…” Fluttershy said, “At least you have your starter.”
The Charmeleon that was Spike this Loop looked resigned. “Char.”
Twilight made a face. “I can’t actually train Spike very well because of the same problem! We’re having to rely entirely on battles with trainers, and that doesn’t usually go very well.”
“Hey, look, Twilight!” Fluttershy said, pointing at the Pokémon Blake had just sent out. “It’s you when you’re annoyed!”
Twilight’s eye twitched as she looked between the Rapidash and her Pokédex screen. “That’s just not fair.”
“Wow.” Twilight said. “It looks like you really did manage to catch them all.” Then, because she was still a pedant, added “well, not so much catch, as recruit.”
Twilight then gave a sour look at the Rapidash in the paddock, who had been joined by Ponyta, Cobalion, Virizion, Terrakion and Keldeo. “Though I can’t help but think someone’s playing a trick on us…”
Still, that they’d finished was nice. No more overenthusiastic kids throwing Poké balls at them…
“Ah, there you are!” Professor Oak said, causing a feeling of dread in Twilight’s stomach. “I just got permission for the two of you to go explore the Kalos region!”
Spike – still one of Twilight’s only three Pokémon, to go with her Noctowl and a rather incongruous Moltres – gave a resigned growl.
Here we go again, her Pokédex translated helpfully.
5.3: Diplomancy (Stainless Steel Fox)
This loop round it appeared that only Twilight herself had looped, the others had defaulted to their pre-loop memories. It had meant following the original path of events pretty much, though since she'd already known the answers, she managed to make her friendship connections during the day she arrived.
She'd taken her new friends into her confidence shortly after they arrived at Pinkie Pie's welcome party, rather than wasting the whole night worrying and complaining. Pinkie found the Reference Guide, and as she'd hoped, they'd insisted on going with her to collect the Elements.
While things had been easier without Nightmare Moon attacking them, they'd still had challenges, and her friends' characters had shone through. The upshot had been, even without the others having their loop memories, when Nightmare Moon had finally appeared, they were all ready to give her a face-full of rainbow.
Still that didn't solve the current problem, Trixie had appeared right on schedule. However, Twilight had decided to try a different approach. For once, she'd try diplomacy. Her friends had reacted in their usual fashion, complaining about Trixie's boasting, but when Dash started to boo, Twilight cast a one way silence charm around her head and turned to face them.
"Guys I'm surprised at you! What's with all the hate? Her talent is stage magic, showy magic! Her boasting is all just part of the act! Rarity, when you create clothing, you show it off to its best advantage? Rainbow, I'd have thought you of all ponies would appreciate a good performance!
And Applejack, I know you don't boast about your skills, but you enjoy showing them off, don't you? How would you like it if someone started booing you in the middle of a rodeo? Let's just enjoy the show."
The stern look that accompanied her comment chastened the three ponies, and they quietened down. However, Spike loudly exclaimed, "But you've got more magic in the tip of your horn than she has in her whole body!"
Twilight winced as Trixie's voice carried over the crowd. "Well, well, well, it seems we have a neighsayer in the audience! Who is so ignorant as to challenge the magical ability of the Great and Powerful Trixie? Do they not know that they're in the presence of the most magical unicorn in all of Equestria? You, with your back turned!"
Twilight sighed and turned to face her. "That was my companion, Spike. I'm sorry if we interrupted your show, I was quite enjoying it. Your grasp of manifestation magic and illusions is quite good, and your practical application is first rate!"
Trixie preened. "Ha! So you admit no-pony has more magical power than the Great and Powerful Trixie!"
Her fanfare and fireworks went off again. Spike started to protest, but Twilight cast a zipping spell on his mouth.
"For only the Great and Powerful Trixie has magic strong enough to vanquish the dreaded Ursa Major!" She spun her usual tale of heroism, and suitably awed the surrounding ponies. Snips and Snails started their fan-colting rant and Twilight winced.
She made a mental note to watch Snips and Snails like a hawk. If she could head them off, she could prevent both the Ursa Minor attack and Trixie's humiliation, which should prevent the business with the Alicorn Amulet as well. Not that that was a problem in itself, alicorn Twilight could spank amulet enhanced Trixie both in magic, and physically, as she'd once proven with Trixie's own whip when the mare was being particularly aggravating.
"It's true, my enthusiastic little admirers. Trixie is most certainly the best in Ponyville. Don't believe the Great and Powerful Trixie?" The unicorn showmare chuckled. "Well then, I hereby challenge you, Ponyvillians - anything you can do, I can do better. Any takers? Anyone? Hmm? Or is Trixie destined to be the greatest equine who has ever lived!?"
Spike finally unzipped himself and complained. "Please, she's unbearable! Ya gotta show her, you just gotta!"
"I don't need to prove anything! Besides, it'll only cause problems later…" Twilight was interrupted by Trixie again.
"Hmm… How about you?" Twilight wrestled with her conscience as the mare hectored her. She wasn't worried about showing off her power, she knew her friends would understand, she just didn't want to get in a horn waving contest with the blue unicorn. "Well, how about it? Hm? Is there anything you can do that the Great and Powerful Trixie can't? Well, little hayseed?"
She saw Applejack start forward out of the corner of her eye, and that decided her. She'd done her best to avoid aggravating Trixie, but events still seemed to be playing out the way they had originally, and she was not going to let her friends get humiliated to save Trixie's feelings.
Her horn glowed and she teleported on stage alongside Trixie. "It's one thing to challenge your audience to a contest, another to show contempt for them! Ponyville may not be a city the size of Canterlot or Manehattan, but they are good ponies, not 'hayseeds'!"
Trixie took a few steps back. "What? How did… I mean, a simple trick, and I can accomplish easily!"
She stepped up to the curtain at the back of her stage, and disappeared in a cloud of smoke, then reappeared in another on the opposite side of the stage. Twilight didn't mention she noticed the tops of the curtains twitch as something moved through them each time. You probably wouldn't notice it if you weren't up there on the stage with her. The unicorn had also recovered some of her aplomb.
"You're a brave mare to challenge the Great and Powerful Trixie!"
Twilight shook her head. "I didn't come up here to challenge you, just to ask that you show a little respect to other ponies. I don't need to prove anything, and neither do you."
She remembered Dash's speech to Lightning Dust and hoped it might work better on Trixie. "I get that you're all about doing impressive magic, really, I'm a student of magic myself so I understand how much fun it is to demonstrate a new spell. But you don't need to make other ponies look small to make yourself look big."
"Hmmph! Who are you to tell the Great and Powerful Trixie what she can and can't do? Well, come on, show Trixie what you've got. Show us all."
"Told you, not interested. I'm just your regular run of the mill Ponyville citizen. Nothing to see here, move along..."
Twilight turned away, casting two hastened spells against Trixie's likely reaction. The first was a modified medical imaging spell she'd learned during a loop where she'd been a nurse at Ponyville General Hospital. The glow of her horn faded and winked out as the characteristic frequency shifted up into the X-ray region and flared off the tip. The second was a custom contingent pocket dimension spell she'd figured out. Unlike shield spells, it was invisible and undetectable until you triggered it.
There was a crackle of lightning and a yelp from Trixie as the approach of the lightning spark from the cloud the stage unicorn had manifested tripped the spell. It formed a Klein bottle pocket dimension with a surface incident to an incoming attack. The upshot was, anything aimed at her would end up reversing direction while still going in a straight line.
She suppressed a small smirk as she stepped down into the crowd, who didn't look to be particularly pleased with the blue unicorn. However, Applejack had already jumped upon the stage.
"That's it. I can't stand for no more of this! Twilight was defending you earlier, you stuck up mare, and then you attack her, from behind even! You're just plain mean!" The farm pony glared at the smug unicorn and said, "You want a challenge? You got one! Can your fancy magic powers do this?"
She hauled out her rope and did her party piece to oohs and ahhs from the crowd. "Ha! Top that you two bit trickster!"
"Oh ye of little talent," Trixie's hat floated off her head, revealing her glowing horn. "Now watch and be amazed at the magical power of Trixie!"
Twilight cast another spell, threading a tendril of her own magic into the telekinetic grip Trixie had of Applejack's discarded rope, carefully avoiding disturbing Trixie's weave. Of course, with the X Ray spell still going, there was no visible sign of her spell-casting, something that would have been impossible to hide with any ordinary illusion effect.
She let it grab an apple, but when it went to hog-tie Applejack, she tweaked it so it overshot, and wrapped around Trixie's legs. Before the unicorn could cancel her grip, she found herself hog-tied, with an apple in her mouth.
"Well, I gotta say, that is pretty amazin'!"Applejack chuckled as the rest of the audience burst into laughter. Trixie untangled herself and jumped to her hooves, glaring furious over at Twilight.
"You! You must have sabotaged the Great and Powerful Trixie's spell somehow!"
Twilight yawned. "Was my horn glowing? Did anyone see my horn glowing? How could I affect your spell without casting one of my own? Not to mention that kind of fine control without you noticing it would require an incredible level of skill. Maybe your conscience just got the better of you."
Rainbow Dash was laughing loudly. "He he he! Hey Trixie! Just as well you got yourself an apple for the teacher, 'cause you just got schooled!"
"Oh yes, you technicolor trollop?" Trixie sneered. "Maybe you think _you_ can show me something worth my time?"
"Ha, I know so!" Dash took off, and pulled off her Rainbow Road stunt. At the end, surrounded by a sparkling rainbow corona, she posed and stated, "They don't call me Rainbow, and Dash, for nothing!"
"When Trixie is through, the only thing they'll call you is loser." As the stage unicorn grabbed hold of Dash's rainbow, Twilight countered by pushing a thread of magic through her connection to the elements and into Dash via hers, temporarily giving Dash access to her alicorn form's level of toughness and speed.
This time, as Dash was spun and hauled up into the air, she blasted free at the peak of her loop, coming out of the spin in seconds. Unused to her new level of power, she slammed instantly through the Rainboom barrier and created a rainbow coloured shockwave that spread out over Ponyville.
Dash slammed back down onto the stage like a thunderbolt, grinning madly and punching the air with a hoof. "A Sonic Rainboom! Yeah! That was a rush! I never figured I could use a tornado rather than a power dive to give me the boost I needed!"
"But that wasn't..." Trixie was still stunned. "You were..."
"Awesome, as usual!" Dash grinned, "But I couldn't have done that without your spell. Maybe you aren't so bad after all. Tell you what, call it a draw."
As she flew off stage, Twilight threw another pocket reflector around the cyan pegasus, but this time, Trixie was still so flabbergasted she didn't follow up with another thunderbolt. As Dash landed, Twilight said, "I'm proud of you Dash, the way you handled that. You showed you were the bigger pony, not rubbing her face in it."
The cyan mare rubbed the back of her head, looking slightly bashful. "Aww, after all, she did help me pull off an awesome stunt! Besides I figured if you were trying to avoid a scene, I should help. The truth is, I felt like you were there with me, all the way."
Twilight felt along their connection, and was surprised to find that her tampering had permanently pushed Dash into a slightly more mature state. It was likely she'd be able to trigger a Sonic Rainboom reliably from now on, and might have fewer other problems.
Trixie showed her spells included eavesdropping, as she declaimed, "Aha! You were interfering again!"
Twilight sighed, "Not this again! All that power, all that speed, that was all Dash." The literal truth. "But you're right, I was up there with her all the way. But the only magic I supplied was the magic of friendship." Also true. "You should try it some time."
"Grr! That's it! I demand you come up here and face me yourself!" Trixie exclaimed. "You talk a lot, but I don't see you putting your magic where your mouth is!"
"That would involve me sticking my horn in my mouth. Unhygenic, not to mention physiologically impossible." Twilight mused. "Look, everyone's had a good time, you did show some pretty fine telekinetic control on that rope trick, not to mention grabbing that rainbow, something few unicorns could do. I'm sure Applejack will call her challenge a draw too."
"If you ain't bothered by that sneak attack she pulled sugar-cube, I'll be happy to." Applejack responded.
"You see? Call it quits, and everyone goes home happy."
"Stop being so... so... reasonable!" Trixie ranted. "I want a proper challenge, and that means you!"
Spike called out. "It's about time! Go on Twilight, show her what a real unicorn can do!"
"Spike, I really don't want to do this." Twilight said, but he wasn't the only one. A lot of the crowd were with him. She cancelled her X-Ray conversion spell, and stepped forward.
"Very well, if this is the only way we can resolve this, I guess I have to. Guys, I hope you won't think I'm showing off, but she seems immune to reason, so it may be the only way to get through to her is to beat her at her own game."
She stepped up on the stage. "Okay, shall we get on with it?"
Trixie sneered again. "First, I want to know who I have the pleasure of beating today."
"The name's Twilight Sparkle, I run the local branch library and study magic."
"Ha! A bookworm egghead! There is no way you can match the amazing, show-stopping ability of the Great and Powerful Trixie!"
"If you say so." Twilight shrugged.
"Watch in awe, as I draw on my vast magical power..." Her horn glowed fiercely, and the stage started to creak. She started to sweat, and the whole wagon lifted up into the air several hoof lengths to the oohs and ahhs of the crowd. "... do you give up?"
Twilight nodded approvingly. "That is pretty impressive. Very few unicorns can levitate this much mass."
Her own horn glowed and the entire platform shot up another dozen feet. Then it started to rotate until it was inverted, with the two of them standing on the underside. "I just happen to be one of them."
Trixie was so surprised, her horn's glow faltered, but the platform stayed steady as a rock. She gasped and looked down in fear when she realised what she'd done, but she was still stood on the stage as normal, even if the sky was underneath her and the ground overhead. "How..."
"Reverse gravity spell. Never know when you might need it." Trixie looked ill, and Twilight took pity on her, returning the wagon to the ground, the right way up.
Trixie recovered herself. "So, you have some small skills after all, but can you do this?"
A bunch of flowers appeared hovering in front of her, and streamers of flags burst forth from within them, swirling around Trixie in colourful, ever-changing patterns.
"Nice manifestation. It's so real I can even smell the scent!" Twilight said approvingly. "How about adding these."
Butterflies started appearing among the streamers, giant monarchs, tiger moths, fritiliaries, all weaving in and out, wings iridescent in the sunlight. They perched on Trixie's flowers, almost covering them. She'd considered summoning parasprites, but had decided that would be too mean spirited. The trick was to beat Trixie without embarrassing her too badly. "Manifestations, not simply summoned."
The distinction might be lost on the audience, but Trixie should know manifesting animate creatures was harder than for plants or non-living flags. Trixie's items vanished, and she cried out, "Very well then! Try to match these!"
A spectacular fireworks display appeared overhead, flashing and sparkling.
"So, Evocation next?" Twilight asked. "Fire, and we've already seen you do lightning. How about water then?"
Hogwarts had been fascinating, and broadened her horizons. Adapting the Agumenti spell had been a simple enough project. A jet of water spouted from her horn, spraying out in a fountain. It puddled neatly around her in a ring, and rose up, forming into the shape of a pegasus which started to trot around the stage.
"Cold is good too!" A carefully shaped Cone of Cold froze it in place, rearing with it's wings outstretched.
"I notice you didn't try to do fire!" Trixie said, dismissively. "What's wrong? Too hot for you to handle?"
The statue exploded outwards, and in it's place was a similar shape made of fire, which flapped it's wings and rose into the air, leaving behind hoof prints burned into the deck. "Not really, I just didn't want to damage your stage."
There was hoof stomping and wild cheers from the audience as they watched the two unicorns match wits and magic. Wire frame illusions of Trixie's were countered by full colour images of Twilight's, her shield spell was tested by a fireball of Trixie's, while an irresistible dance enchantment was cancelled by Twilight's fail-safe spell.
Twilight countered by casting a want it-need it spell on Trixie's hat, but one targeted at Trixie alone, which led to an amusing scene of Trixie hugging her hat to herself, stroking it and calling it 'my precious'. Finally, a fed up Trixie conjured chains and a box and bound her in it, locking it with many locks, which did no good, as Twilight was still able to teleport.
In return, when Twilight reappeared, she decide to show off a spell she'd figured out from something she'd heard human magicians did. A box appeared around Trixie's body, her head poking from one end, her tail from the other, and her legs sticking out the bottom. It was supported by two wheeled stands, and split into two sections, each with the sides cut out to show Trixie's body was still inside.
Twilight cast a paired dimensional portal along the centre, then conjured two wooden dividers that dropped into place between the halves, to the shock of both the crowd and Trixie. Twilight pulled the halves apart and spun them so Trixie was looking at her own tail. "You might want to add this to your act."
"I can't..." Trixie slumped. "... I surrender! Put me back together! Please!"
"Okay." Twilight reversed things and Trixie was soon back in one piece. The stage unicorn turned to the crowd. "The Great and Powerful... That is all for today. The show is over!"
There were groans and cries of more, but her friends helped get the crowd moving.
Trixie was looking at Twilight as if for the first time. "Who are you, really?"
"Exactly who I said I was. Though I may not have mentioned that before I came to do research here in Ponyville, I was a student at Princess Celestia's School for Gifted Unicorns. Princess Celestia's own student actually."
The blue unicorn slumped ion the floor of the stage. "You tricked me! All the way from the beginning. Now I'll never be able to show my face in Ponyville again!"
Spike had come up on stage and added, "Yeah, you really showed her Twilight!"
Twilight frowned. "That was never my intention. I kept on offering you a way out, and I meant it. If you'd been willing to let things lie, we could have all walked away happy. Besides, all anyone will remember tomorrow was that the two of us put on a great show. Anyway, I would genuinely like to study your techniques. You're self taught?"
She knew the answer, having gotten Trixie very drunk on Applejack's best cider in a previous loop. Trixie was just as talkative in her cups, if not more so than usual. However, all she got right now was a nod.
"Then maybe an egghead bookworm can help you fill in the gaps. I'm sure you could learn that 'Dividing a pony in two' effect for a start. It's just a pair of linked dimensional portals. I'm sure you could use it in your act."
"Why are you being so nice to me?" Trixie asked, and Spike echoed it. "You know I was trying to show up you and your friends."
"I already told you, you don't need to make others looks small to make yourself look big. You're better than that. Princess Celestia sent me here to study the magic of friendship, and that's the most powerful magic of all. So which is the better option? To humiliate you and send you packing, a laughing stock? Or to help you become better, become something more, and hopefully gain the friendship of a talented unicorn in return?"
"You'd do that for me?"
"Uh... yes!" Twilight's expression made it clear that her hesitation was purely for effect. "I love my friends, and I love spending time with them, but I can't really talk about my studies with them. In Canterlot, I spent all my time studying, and no time making friends, and it's only now that I realise what I missed out on. The only ponies I can really talk to about my magic studies are the Princesses. Well, Luna and Celestia, anyway."
"You know... oh, you said didn't you. But what about Princess Luna?"
"I helped her out a while back. We've stayed in touch."
Spike snorted. "For 'helped out' try freed her from Nightmare Moon and saved all Equestria from eternal night! She's also the Bearer of the Element of Magic."
"Spike!" Twilight huffed. "It was a team effort, and besides there was a whole destiny thing going on. I don't make a big thing about it, some of the other Bearers would die from the attention. So I'd ask you not to spread it around. I just want to be let alone to be with my friends and do my research. So, the offer's open..."
Trixie was wide-eyed. "You are an unnatural pony, Twilight Sparkle. You have the ears of the Princesses, and you could be one of the most famous ponies in Equestria, nay, the world! But you are happy to live here, in this village, almost unknown."
"Different harmonies for different ponies. I know you'd enjoy the fame, but I wouldn't."
Trixie hung her head. "The Contrite and Eager to Learn Trixie would be only too glad to study with you."
Trixie had spent several hours with Twilight, running through some theoretical basics, and as a reward, getting taught the portal spell Twilight had used. She'd returned to her wagon, and Twilight was just finishing off her nightly observations. Her plan had been a stunning success, and she only hoped that Trixie would end up being aware of the loops.
She'd felt a new bond of friendship forming, still weak and nascent, so the possibility existed. As the local anchor, she seemed to affect which ponies were able to loop, and friendship definitely had something to do with it. However, there was something niggling at her, like an un-ticked box on her check-list.
A roar suddenly reminded her, and a quick glance from her vantage point on the observation deck confirmed it. She winked down to the ground and kicked in some alicorn speed to head towards where the Ursa Minor was heading for Ponyville. Hopefully she could get there before... There was a crunch in the distance as the Ursa Minor stepped on Trixie's wagon. She saw Spike approaching and scooped him up en passant.
"Twilight, we've got a..."
"I know, I saw."
She skidded to a stop as Snips and Snails egged the unicorn on. She saw Trixie take her stand with the Ursa roaring in her face, and say, "Uh, okay, stand back!"
Trixie's rope trick failed as Twilight knew it would, but by that time she was up alongside the other unicorn. "Huh, you don't see that every day. Need some help?"
"Uh uh!" Snips called out. "She's the Great and Powerful Trixie!"
"Yeah! She defeated an Ursa Major all by herself, she doesn't need your help!" Snails added.
"Yes! Yes, I do I do I do!" Trixie exclaimed. "I just made that story up to make myself look better! No-one can vanquish an Ursa Major!"
"Made it up?" Snips and Snails chorused freaking out in stereo.
"Then it's just as well that's an Ursa Minor, a baby."
"That's a baby?" Trixie squeaked.
"Yep, looks cranky too. Someone must have woken it up and brought it here. But that would require a combination of insane luck and abject stupidity bordering on the imbecilic!"
Spike just pointed at Snips and Snails, while the Ursa, clearly feeling left out of the conversation, brought it's head down and roared again.
Twilight sighed rather theatrically. "Right... Trixie, ready for a practical exam?"
Her horn glowed and she cast the lullaby spell, flaring her magic so it touched Trixie through her still weak friendship link, letting her feel the spell weave. "Feel that? Think you can take over?"
The music started to affect the Ursa, and it stopped roaring.
"Yes, but what are we doing?" Trixie's magic flowed out, taking over as the Ursa's eyelids drooped.
"Sonic enchantment, a number 16. Your story made me curious, so I did some research. It looks like some spirit, but it's actually a magical beast, though it does have an astral sub-type. That means it's toughness and strength are off the charts, so direct physical attacks won't cut it.
"It also has a degree of resistance to energy type magic attacks, and some general spell resistance. However, it's will isn't so hot. So enchantment and illusion spells work best, and using a sonic medium rather than a direct casting makes it harder for the spell resistance to stop."
The Ursa's eyelids were drooping, and it started to sway. "Okay, if you can keep it pacified, I'll get it back where it belongs."
Trixie's eyes widened, "You can't mean..."
The Ursa started to topple over, and Twilight caught it with her magic. With Trixie maintaining the lullaby, she didn't need to give it a bottle. Admittedly, she could have done it all by herself, but she was trying to avoid showing too much power.
"Let's go!" Her horn glow intensified, and the Ursa, curled up and looking almost cute, was lofted over the rooftops in the grip of Twilight's power. "Manifest one of those clouds down on the ground, okay?"
Trixie dropped the lullaby for a second to manifest a storm cloud, then caught it and restarted it before it had faded completely. Twilight's horn pulsed, and their hooves glow. She jumped up onto the cloud. "Now hop on. Cloud walking spell."
Trixie climbed on more gingerly, and tested the soft but supporting cloud underfoot. "Good, guide us after the Ursa."
The Ursa was delivered back to it's cave, and the trio returned on Trixie's cloud. Many of the ponies of Ponyville were up and about, including her friends. Trixie couldn't resist finishing off the music with a triumphant little flourish.
"Whoo!" "Unbelievable!" "Amazing!" "Trixie did vanquish the Ursa Major." "Yay for Trixie!"
Twilight jumped down alongside Trixie, but said nothing. For a moment the other unicorn posed proudly, head high, then glanced aside at Twilight and relaxed into a more normal posture and sighed.
"I may have... exaggerated a bit on stage for effect. The Great and Powerful Trixie is not quite that great and powerful. Trixie may have helped, but it was Twilight who lead the way, and did most of the work."
Twilight grinned. This was beyond her best expectations. "It was a team effort, and what she doesn't say is that she was ready to take it on alone until I showed up."
"Whoee!" Applejack exclaimed. "And there I was figuring she was all hat and no cattle. I'm sure sorry, Miss Trixie. I take my hat off to you, miss. Any-pony who can impress Twilight is a good apple in my book."
"Thank you!" Trixie looked genuinely pleased and happy until she saw... "My wagon!"
Twilight gave Snips and Snails a frown. "I think you owe Trixie a major apology!"
"Yeah, an Ursa Major one!" Spike quipped.
"We're sorry oh great and powerful one!" "We just wanted to see some awesome magic!" "And the way you and Twilight vanquished it was awesome!"
The two colts prostrated themselves in front of Trixie. "We deserve whatever punishment you give us."
Trixie glowered at them for a moment, then glanced over at Twilight again and smirked. "Very well, you can be my assistants for my show, when my wagon's fixed. I have some new tricks, experimental ones, that I want to try out."
"Yes, oh great and powerful one!" "Cool!" It seemed this particular punishment didn't hold any great fear for the pair.
"Actually, Trixie, if you're up for another new spell, maybe we can do something about that." Twilight stepped over beside her.
"But look at it, I'll have to utterly rebuild it!"
"Not necessarily." Actually, Twilight felt bad about it. If she hadn't gotten distracted training Trixie, she could have headed this off. "While the bonds between ponies are strongest, you can love and care for other things too. Your cart wasn't always wrecked. Envision it in your mind, as it was when it was brand new. Smell the fresh paint, the wood, see the stage, the decorations... Do you have it well in mind?"
"Yes..." Trixie was actually starting to tear up.
"Good, now push that image into your magic, and push it into the wreckage. Tell it to go back to the way it was."
A beam of lavender energy blasted from Trixie's horn, and the pieces of the wrecked wagon were thrown into the air, to swirl around in a vortex of energy. They fused together, shards and splinters slotting seamlessly into place, and eventually the spinning slowed down to reveal a fully restored wagon, shining in the moonlight to the awe of the crowd.
"Oh, thank you Twilight!" Trixie surprised the other unicorn by giving her a hug.
"You did all the work." Twilight gave an honest smile. Now this was a better way to end up than having Trixie running off, swearing vengeance. "I'm guessing Pinkie will have a 'you vanquished an Ursa Minor' party before too long."
"You'll see..." she grinned.
5.4 Turning the Tables (Stainless Steel Fox)
Twilight awoke staring at her usual reference book. Her local memories cut in, and she decided this was pretty much a vanilla loop. She reached out to check something and found that Princess Celestia hadn't looped, not unexpected. She'd decided the next opportunity she got to prank the Princess and this was it.
She was well aware of Celestia's habit of using pranks to teach life lessons, and had decided to turn the tables for once. The Princess had left a lot of things to chance in the way she'd manoeuvred Twilight into defeating Nightmare Moon, and this loop Twilight was going to call her on it.
She stowed the book and headed for her study. On the way, as always, she met Twinkleshine and her friends, as normal.
"There you are, Twilight! Moondancer is having a little get-together in the west castle courtyard. You wanna come?"
Twilight gave a pleasant smile. "I'd love to. But I have to study right now. I 'll do my best to get over there later."
Leaving the stunned ponies behind, she smirked. The game was afoot.
Twinkleshine finally managed to close her open mouth. "Did Twilight Sparkle just accept a party invitation?"
Carefully entering the tower room that was her study, she avoided bouncing Spike off the walls and wrecking his gift. "Hi Spike! For me? You shouldn't have."
"It's for Moondancer…" The little dragon looked at her oddly.
"Oh, that party they were talking about?" She pretended to give the matter some thought.
"You know I don't normally have time for that sort of thing…." Seeing Spike's tail droop, she added. "But I guess there's nothing time critical about a bunch of ancient legends. Okay, Spike take a letter."
'Dear Princess Celestia,
I'm writing to you to request continued access to the restricted archive. As you know as part of my continuing studies on pony magic I have been working on a research project on ancient legends. I had hoped to complete it before the Summer Sun Celebration, but my friend and companion Spike wishes to go to a party being held by Moondancer this evening. As his guardian, I feel that I should go with him. Of course, then there will be the preparations for Summer Sun Celebration, and it's likely to be impossible to get any work done until after that.
As you know, my studies are my paramount concern, and I don't want you to think I'm making light of the honour you gave me in making me your student, or the unique opportunities for study you've provided me. However Spike is important to me too, and putting aside my studies for one night is a small thing compared to making him happy.
Your faithful student,
Spike had stopped writing half way through, as flabbergasted as the students earlier. "You'd do that? For me?"
Twilight felt genuinely shocked and sorry at his surprise. Had she really been so insensitive in the base timeline? "Of course! You're my number one assistant, and my best friend. And if you're that surprised by the fact, then this is long overdue!"
She repeated her message so Spike could write it down, and got him to send it. Of course, now she'd made the commitment, she realised it was something she should have done long ago. Awake or not, Spike deserved it, and one of the few things she'd never done was actually gone to that party.
She was very interested to see how the Princess would react. Without Twilight finding the Mare in the Moon prophecy on her own, she'd be in the position of having to either order her to continue her studies, which would then make it impossible to do the whole 'stop reading those stuffy books and make some friends' line, or find some other way to guide her to the same end.