Forty eight hours have passed since Discord’s fall, but there is still so much work to be done. The entire planet has more or less fallen into a state of quiet anarchy with its emperor gone. While things are calm now, I am a bit weary on how the hundreds of factions and species that fought against Discord will react to the current power vacuum. It doesn’t help that most of us have no memory of how things were run beforehand. We all know that Celestia was in charge of the ponies, but what about the dragons? The gryphons? The changelings? Did they all have their own sovereign lands? Their own continents? Do those same lands even still exist? Everything has shifted and the ground itself has changed over the past twenty five years.
I throw my head back and smell the air blowing in the wind. Even with all my memories restored during that battle, there is still much that I don’t know about how things were run. I was never the type of pegasus that got involved in politics, nah, the only reason I went to Canterlot was to perform in the Wonderbolts stadium. I smile at the memory. It’s a bit strange to have all my memories back, and it’s still a bit strange to realize I really am Rainbow Dash through and through. It feels good though. It feels good to be back.
“Rainbow!” I glance to the side to see Applejack trotting over. Her wounds have really healed in the past two days. She still has a few scars here and there, but she looks great. I guess we all do, especially considering the shape we were in after the battle. Twilight has proven she is worth her weight in gold yet again, as she even found the medical spells necessary to mend my spine and fix my broken hooves. It still hurts a little when I stand on them, but that’s fine, I’ve always been more comfortable hovering a few feet off the ground anyway.
“Hello, Earth to Rainbow Dash!” AJ waves a hoof before my eyes.
I smirk. “I think you mean Equestria to Rainbow Dash. Earth is that way.” I point a hoof at the mirror portal that leads back to Earth. Earlier today we moved it out of the basement and put it at the center of the town ruins.
She glances at the portal, then back to me. “You know, speaking of Earth, I never understood that wording. They call us Earth Ponies, but we’re from Equestria...”
I shrugs. “Beats me, I blame Twilight.”
She sits at my side and gazes over at the mirror with me. “So, what are you doing over here anyway?”
I shrugs. “Oh, you know, monologuing.”
AJ shakes her head in amusement. “Right, well, how you holding up? With the memories and all?”
I meet her gaze. “I’m doing pretty good, thanks. It’s just a little strange all of a sudden being able to take credit for all the things I did back then as Dash.”
She leans back. “You don’t need to fall back on your old achievements at any rate. We just overthrew a malevolent deity and saved a planet.”
“Two planets.” I correct her with a smirk and a raised hoof. “Earth was on the brink of nuclear war, let’s not forget.”
She rolls her eyes. “Yeah, yeah, that too. Anyway, all the adoration is a bit much, I can’t go anywhere without ponies bowing as I walk by.”
I raise an eyebrow. “You think that’s bad? Fluttershy was invited to the dragon king’s throne room for a formal ceremony, and she was cheered on by hundreds of their kind. Imagine seeing an army of beasts twenty times your size all bowing before you.”
“Oh god, poor Flutters,” AJ chuckles. “That shy girl from Iowa, now the exalted ambassador to all dragonkind.”
“We’ve all come a long way, that’s for damn sure.” I nod solemnly.
A bouncing noise is heard behind us, and we both turn around to see Pinkie coming near. “Hey AJ, Dashie, what are you ponies doing here? Are you thinking going back through the portal?”
AJ scoffs, “I’ve just gotten used to being the pony I’m supposed to be. I’m not starting back over as a human... again.”
“What she said,” I agree.
“Oh, well then, what are you guys here for then?” Pinkie sits down and joins us in staring at the mirror.
“Waiting for someone.” I check my watch. “I told him to travel here and walk through the portal today.”
“Rainbow...” AJ raises an eyebrow. “I thought we all agreed to not let the portal be known to the humans. They have their own planet to live on.”
I smile. “True, but this guy is special. We owe him a favor...”
Right on cue, the mirror shimmers as a pony emerges through it and falls to the ground. He looks around in confusion and stares at one of his hooves with wide eyes. “W-what?! It’s all real?” Beside me, Pinkie’s hair suddenly jolts straight up, and she bounds forward towards him, inexplicably recognizing the new pony.
“Starbreezer!” She squeals happily and wraps her hooves around the poor guy in a tight hug.
He awkwardly works his new limbs to hug her back. “Pinkie? Oh my god, is this really happening right now?”
AJ raises an eyebrow and looks at me. “You invited a brony? Really?”
“I always pay back my debts, without that guy we would have never made it out of Seattle. I don’t see the harm is giving him what he wants, not to mention we’re going to to need all the able bodies we can get for the rebuilding.”
She shrugs. “I suppose, but did it have to be a brony? That’s just going to be weird with him around.”
I give her a smirk. “Oh, really? Judgemental about bronies... Jack?”
She bites her tongue. “Touché pegasus, touché.”
Starbreezer looks around at the brown landscape. “This is Equestria? What happened to this place?”
“What’s the matter, don’t you like it?” Pinkie tilts her head.
I smile over at them. “Yeah, what are you talking about, Starbreezer. It’s always looked like this.”
AJ grins. “Yeah, don’t you know ponies love a brown haze and bones everywhere?”
“I, uh...” He stammers.
Pinkie gives him a playful push. “They’re just teasing you, Starry. Now come on, I found some thirty year old sweets hidden in Rarity’s basement; let’s go see if they are still edible!”
“Whatever you say, Pinkie.” He grins awkwardly and stumbles after her, still learning how to walk on hooves.
AJ watches them leave. “Well, at least she seems happy. Maybe she can help spread some of that cheer around.
I agree with her, “Yeah, I’m going to ask her to host a ‘Discord is defeated’ party or something. A lot of ponies lost loved ones in that battle, we need something to raise our morale and keep our spirits up.”
“Not to mention we have over a thousand ponies, gryphons, and changelings here. That’s a lot of bodies to feed and shelter, and we have no crops or anything.” She shakes her head. “These next weeks are going to be pretty brutal on everyone.”
“We’ll manage.” I wipe my nose. “We’ve all been through worse. And I think everyone will gladly put in the work that’s needed now that we have a safe spot to settle down in.”
A series of hoofsteps behind us make us turn around, and AJ calls out to our friends. “Hey! Brother, Twilight, Fluttershy, nice of you to join us.”
Twilight points over at the mirror. “We figured you’d be here. It closes in just a few minutes, right?”
“Sounds about right.” I check my watch. “Did you get the message from Gilda by the way? She wanted to talk to you.”
“Yeah, she said she found something back at the castle, that’s where we just came from.” Twilight nods slowly as sits down with the rest of us. “Gilda found a set of stone gryphons and ponies in one of the halls. Turns out they were all alive, they were members of the resistance that Discord turned to stone in the weeks after his coup d'etat on Celestia.”
I scrunch my face. “Gah, that’s kinda... grim of him. I thought he said he doesn’t turn ponies into stone?”
She shrugs. “I guess an old draconequus learned some new tricks. Anyway, I found the counterspell in the library, so thankfully they’re fine now. Just a little confused when I told them the date...”
AJ looks around, “Speaking of dates, where’s Rarity and Shining? I thought they were with you guys.”
“Right here, guys,” Shining calls out, and I see him walk towards us with Rarity in tow.
“Where were you two? We haven’t seen you in days?” Fluttershy asks.
“Well, after all that mortal peril we both decided we deserved some... private time.” Rarity blushes.
Mac and I exchange a sideways glance, and he clears his throat. “So, um, whatever happened with you and Cadance anyway? Last I heard you met with her on the farm to discuss your old relationship.”
“Ah yes, that....” Shining puts a hoof around Rarity. “Cadance and I ended it on good terms. We are both totally different ponies then the couple that married all those decades ago.”
I wince. “Yikes, you really ended it for good? That’s gonna make some of the ponies here upset. I’ve had lots of passers-by here ask me about Cadance and inquire about why Rarity was with you. I guess they all assumed things would all go back to how they were in the show.”
“Well, things change.” Rarity shrugs. “C'est la vie.”
“Yeah, you can say that again,” I muse quietly as I look around at the ruined buildings.
A watch beeps next to me, and Twilight glances down. “Right, well, the portal closes in five minutes.” She glances slowly over at Mac. “Guess it’s time.”
Big Mac nods and steps forward. “Yeah, I better get going.”
There’s a short pause, then several of us cry out at once, “What!?”
He glances at us, the gestures at the mirror. “I’m going back to Earth.”
I jump up and run to his side. “You can’t be serious! You said you liked being a pony! And we’ve all been through so much, you can’t just leave now!”
AJ arrives at his other side. “Macintosh! Your friends are here, your family is here! We have to stick together.”
“I know, and trust me, I want to stay.” He glances over at me, and we lock eyes with each other. “But as much as I want to stay here with you all, I can’t. It would be too selfish of me.”
“Selfish to stay? How about leaving, you’re going to abandon your only sister!” AJ pouts. “We need you here. I need you here...”
He glances at her and sighs. “Look, we all know what Earth looked like when we left it, right? Think of all the ponies that didn’t make it through the portal in time. Think of all the families and friends that are missing loved ones right now. Think of all the thousands of missing people.” He jerks a hoof back at the portal. “There’s a lot of work to be done on Earth, and a lot of ponies track down over there. We can’t just ignore all of Earth’s problems, and we can’t forget about all of those abandoned and scared ponies still out there. Someone has to go back and organize things for them. Someone has to reach out to them and tell them who they are, and where they need to go thirty moons from now.”
He finishes his speech and we all get silent for a moment. AJ paws her hoof at the ground. “But we have so much work to do here too. We can’t just leave this world right now.”
Mac nods. “Exactly. That’s why all of you need to stay here and help rebuild. Let me handle the Earth side of things. Out of all of us, I know the least about Equestria and the most about how to get things done on Earth. You all do what needs to be done here, and I’ll do what needs to be done on the other side of that mirror.”
AJ’s eyes get watery. “But... brother, come on, I’ll need you. You were always there for me and always made sure all the important stuff got done. You can’t leave me.”
I take a step back as the siblings hug and Mac pats her back. “You’re a strong mare, sis. You can handle your own, especially with your friends here. Don’t worry about me, alright? I’ll be back in two and a half years! And I can’t wait to see how much you will all accomplish while I’m gone.”
“Three minutes,” Twilight quietly calls out.
I see Mac give his sister one last hug, then get up and take a step towards the mirror. I step forward to follow him. “Well, fine, but if you’re going, then I’m coming with you!”
He stops and looks back at me. Then smiles as he reaches back to brushes my mane out of my eyes. “Dash, don’t be silly. You make a much better pony than a human, trust me. And besides, you and the rest of the mane six really have to stay here.”
I wrap my hooves around his neck and feel myself start to cry, surprising myself with how much emotion I felt for Mac. “I don’t want you to leave...”
Mac reaches back and takes a folded piece of paper out of his saddlebags, then reaches forward and stuffs it into one of my saddle pockets. Before I can ask about it, he gives my forehead a gentle kiss. “Dash, everypony here looks up to you, and all the factions here respect you. If the mane six left to go back to Earth there wouldn’t be much to keep the peace. I talked this over with Twilight, and we both agree that this is the best option.”
“But you didn’t talk it over with me...” I look down at the ground.
“That because I knew you’d try to talk me out of it.” He smiles gently as he pats my mane.
Shining steps forward. “Mac, I can’t let you go alone. You have a point about the mane six having to stay here because they are who they are, but let me come with you. You need someone to watch your back out there.”
Mac shakes his head, then steps forward the hug the other stallion. “Shining, you’re like the brother I never had—.”
“Hey!” AJ lightly punches him in the shoulder.
Mac laughs softly. “But seriously, Shining, you’ve been great. And I thank you for the offer, but I’m afraid I can’t accept.”
Shining looks down. “But I want to help.”
“You’re needed here.” Mac points over to Rarity and smiles. “She needs you here.”
“Oh, and what about the stallion the rest of us need?” I whine.
“Mac, two minutes.” Twilight announces calmly.
Mac sighs, then kisses my forehead again. “I’ll be back soon, Dash. Keep my sister company when I'm gone.”
I sigh. “Well, don’t you go frolicking with Earth girls and forgetting all about us ponies.”
He rolls his eyes. “Ha, as if I’m still interested in humans. Pretty sure be thinking of mare for the next 30 moons.”
I lean forward and whisper into his ear. “Check the desk in my old apartment. There’s an external hard drive with fourteen gigs of clop. Trust me, it’s good.”
He blushes and raises an eyebrow. “That’s... disturbing, but... thanks.”
“Mac, you have less than a minute.” Twilight magically levitates over a second set of saddlebags and slings them across his back. “I found some gems the size of grapefruits in Canterlot Castle. Pretty sure you can sell those on Earth for a hefty price, use it to get by.”
He starts walking towards the mirror. “Thanks Twi, that certainly solves a few problems I was I worrying about.” He reaches the mirror and rests on hoof on the liquid portal surface, then turns back to us. “Well, this is it...”
We all wave back, and AJ and I have tears going down our faces. “Take care Mac, we’ll be waiting.”
“Later ponies, I’ll bring you all back some cheeseburgers.” Mac flashes his goofy grin and steps through the portal, disappearing from our world.
“Bye...” AJ trails off, talking to the wind.
A few moments of silence pass, and I nervously look at AJ. “So, uh, yeah, I'm sorta attracted to your brother...”
She rolls her eyes. “Well, yeah, duh. You have been since the day we became ponies. Pretty sure everyone knew that, well, everyone except you, I guess”
“What? No!” I feel myself starting to turn beat red.
She giggles. “I was going to ask why you went through such trouble not wanting to publically share a bedroom with him too. I figured you were just embarrassed.”
“Urgh... ” I facehoof. “Well, you’re not mad though? You're okay with it?”
“Why would I be mad? You’re my best friend, and if this keeps up you can be family, that’s awesome!” She gives me a hug and a nuzzle.
I bite my tongue. “Thanks, I don't know if I'll take it that far, but... well...”
Shining clears his throat from behind us. “So, what does the note say?”
“The note?” I look back.
He gestures a hoof at my saddlebags. “Yeah, he slid a note into your bags, remember?”
“Oh yeah!” I eagerly reach back and pull out the folded note with my teeth. I unfold it, sit back on my haunches, and quietly read it over.
Hey, I’m sorry for having to leave you for the next thirty moons, but I hope you can understand the necessity of it all. In any case, I do feel bad for leaving you without someone to cuddle with at night. I know how jealous you are of Rarity and Shining being together, and I feel bad for forcing you to sort of save yourself for me for the next two years. So, consider this note my formal invitation for you to cut loose and do whatever you want until I get back. Don't worry about me, just have some fun. You’re free to go around and slee—.
“What’s it say Dash?” AJ trots up behind me, and my eyes can’t help but admire the curves of her flanks.
“Yeah, what’s the letter about?” Shining and Rarity give me a welcoming smile, and I’m well aware of the offer they made me back on the farm.
I look down at the letter, then over at all of them. “The letter? It’s uh...”
“Yes?” They all lean forward.
I smile gently, then slowly tear it in half. “It’s just Mac saying he’ll miss me. But that’s okay, I’ll be waiting for him just the same.” I finish tearing it to pieces and toss it to the wind, refusing the letter's offer.
AJ watches at the letter fragments get blown away. “Thirty months is a long time to wait.”
“I waited twenty five years, I can wait another two years.” I shake my mane and stand up. “Now come on, let’s get a move on.”
Twilight looks around, confused. “I wasn’t aware we had something to do.”
“You kiddin’? We got a lot of work to do.”
“She’s right.” AJ puts her hat back on. “Let’s rebuild.