Twilight, Sunset, Kim, Ron, and Sonata emerged into a bright, clear day. Ron took a deep breath. "Whoa," he said. "Check the air, KP."
"It's...really clean," Kim said. "I mean, I'm no stranger to clean air, with all the places we've been, but this...wow."
Sonata flew up a bit, doing lazy loops in the air. She turned around to look at the castle they'd just left. Her jaw dropped. "Woooooooooooooooooooooow."
"What's up, Sonata?" Kim asked. She turned to look behind her. Then looked up. And up. Her eyes widened. "Oh."
Ron and Sunset also turned. Sunset's eyes nearly fell out of her head. "Okay, that's impressive."
"A treecastle?" Ron asked. "In a big glowy crystal tree?"
"How did you even—?" Sunset asked.
Twilight giggled. "It's a long story. I'll tell you all about it on the train to Canterlot. Come on, we've got a bit of a walk into town."
"Hold up a sec," Kim said. The others stopped and turned to her. Her face scrunched up in concentration. Hesitantly, she spread her wings. Then, with a grunt of effort, she pushed herself into the air. She wobbled a bit, her wings flapping uncertainly for a moment, but she managed to keep herself a good five feet in the air. She did a small, quick circle around the others, then landed, folding her wings. "Okay, let's go."
"How did you—?" Twilight asked, gaping.
"KP can do anything," Ron said. "Don't question it." Rufus, circling above his head, let out a piercing screech of agreement.
Twilight and Sunset shared a glance and a shrug. The group continued on their way to Ponyville, which lay below them, shining in the morning sun.
"This town wasn't here when we were banished, was it?" Sonata asked.
"I don't think so," Twilight said. "Ponyville was settled about a hundred years ago."
"It looks so...peaceful," Kim said.
"You'd be surprised," Twilight muttered, rolling her eyes.
They had just reached the edge of town when a pegasus swooped down in front of them. "Hey Twilight!"
"Hi Rainbow Dash," Twilight said.
Rainbow Dash started to say something, then stopped, staring at Sonata. "Uhh...what...?"
"Hi!" Sonata said cheerfully. "I'm Sonata!"
"Rainbow Dash, this is one of the Sirens," Twilight said. "You know, the ones I went to the other world to help Sunset Shimmer and my Canterlot High friends defeat?"
"Oh," Rainbow said nervously. "Uhh...okay..." She looked at Sunset Shimmer. "You, I remember. I know Twilight says you're good an' all now, but watch yourself, okay?"
Sunset rolled her eyes. "Nice to meet you too, Rainbow Dash."
"And..." Rainbow looked at Kim and Ron.
"I'm Kim Possible," Kim said.
"I'm Ron Stoppable," Ron said. "This is Rufus," he added, flicking an ear. Rufus chirped.
"Love the hair," Kim said. "Really nice dye job."
"Dye job?" Rainbow cried. "This is all natural!"
"It really is," Sunset said, nodding.
"Wow, really?" Kim asked. "Whoa."
"These three got stuck in Sunset Shimmer's world," Twilight said. "They're from a different world entirely...one that doesn't appear to be connected to any of the parallel Equestrias we know of. We're going to Canterlot to try to figure out how to send them home."
"Geez...you find one magic mirror portal, and suddenly you're up to your wingpits in different dimensions," Rainbow said.
"Actually, I was about to round up the others," Twilight said. "Can you get Applejack and Fluttershy and bring them to Sugar Cube Corner for me?"
"Can do!" Rainbow said, saluting. She sped off, leaving a rainbow contrail in her wake.
"Wow, she's fast," Sunset said in wonder.
"Good thing we ran into her first," Twilight said as she continued walking. "That'll save us some time."
"How so?" Kim asked.
"Well, Rainbow Dash can fly out to Fluttershy's cottage and Sweet Apple Acres a lot faster than we could walk there, and this way we only have two stops to make, right in the middle of town."
"Wait a sec," Ron said. "Sweet Apple Acres? Applejack? Didn't we leave all that like...way over in another dimension?"
"Applejack and Sweet Apple Acres exist in both worlds," Twilight said. "This dimension and the world you just left are parallel."
"Ooooooh," Ron said. "Like that old TV show about those four people who kept going to different worlds where like, Japan won the war or humans evolved from dinosaurs or the sky was orange. Okay, I get it now."
The group walked down the streets of Ponyville, the out-of-towners taking in the sights. Ponies they passed on the street would cast odd glances at Sonata. "You'd think they'd never seen a Siren before," Sonata said.
"They haven't," Twilight reminded her. "You and your sisters are the only three Sirens in existence, and you were banished centuries ago."
"Ooooooh, riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight," Sonata said, blinking. She giggled. "Then I'm special!" She did a few loops in the air.
"It's Pinkie Pie all over again," Sunset groaned, facehoofing.
Twilight giggled. "Funny you should say that..."
Sunset's eyes shrank to pinpricks. "Oh no."
"But we're meeting Rarity first," Twilight said. "And...we're here!"
The group stood in front of a tall, round building done entirely in pastel pinks, blues, and purples, with gold accents. The top floor was designed to look like a fairground carousel, with a smaller purple carousel crowning the building.
"Tacky much?" Kim asked.
"Don't let Rarity hear you say that," Twilight advised. She knocked on the door.
A moment later, the door opened, revealing a white unicorn with a meticulously styled and layered purple mane. She batted sparkling sapphire eyes at them. "Good morning, Twilight!" she said. She looked around at the rest of them. "And to you all as...well...is that a Siren?"
"Yay! Somepony knows what I am!" Sonata cheered.
"Rarity, would you please come with us to Sugar Cube Corner? Rainbow Dash is rounding up Applejack and Fluttershy. I need all of you to handle something very important for me."
"Of course, darling," Rarity said. "Give me just a moment to close up shop."
Once Rarity had put out her closed sign, she joined their group. Twilight made introductions as they walked to their destination. Rarity gave Sunset Shimmer a measuring look. "You do have quite the fabulous mane, Sunset darling, but the rest of you..." She tilted her head. "Are you quite certain you were raised in Canterlot?"
"Rarity!" Twilight snapped.
Sunset rolled her eyes. "We can't all be prissy, Rarity," she said. "Besides, in the other world, I'm the sexiest girl at school."
"She does rock the bad girl look," Kim said.
"Bad girl?" Rarity repeated. "I thought you'd reformed?"
"Well...yeah..." Sunset looked away. "But...I couldn't really bring myself to change my look...it's just...grown on me."
After passing through an increasingly crowded market square, the group reached a building that looked like an overgrown gingerbread house. "And we're here," Twilight said.
Ron flicked an ear. "You know, the architecture in this world is...pretty bizarre."
"This coming from the guy whose favorite hangout has a roof shaped like a sombrero," Kim quipped.
"A sombrero, you say?" Rarity asked, tilting her head. "Hmm...that gives me some ideas..."
Twilight rolled her eyes and led the group inside. The shop wasn't terribly crowded, but still had quite a few ponies present, and delightful smells of cinnamon, vanilla, and fruit mingled in the air. A blue mare with a pinkish-red mane that was styled to look like icing rushed up to them, dropping to her knees. "Good morning, Princess Twilight! Do come in!"
"Good morning, Mrs. Cake," Twilight said. "And you know you don't have to do that. I hate to impose, but...could we possibly use your dining room in the back? My friends are all joining us here soon, and we're going to have a fairly large group...we have some serious business to discuss, and..."
"Say no more, dearie," Mrs. Cake said. "Of course you can use any part of Sugar Cube Corner you like." She tilted her head. "You'll be needing Pinkie Pie too, I assume?"
"Yes," Twilight said. She looked around. "Where is Pinkie Pie?"
"Oh, we let her sleep in this morning," Mrs. Cake said. "She hosted a wedding shower last night that ran late and...got slightly out of hoof. I've never actually seen her so tired."
"Oh," Twilight said, ears drooping. "Well...if that's the case, then there's no need to—"
Kim and Ron stared, startled, at the excessively pink pony which had just appeared behind Twilight. "How did...?" Kim asked, raising a hoof.
Sunset rolled her eyes. "Yep. That's Pinkie Pie."
Twilight turned. "Pinkie," she groaned, "don't DO that!"
"Do what?" Pinkie asked. She turned and looked at the rest of the group. "Hi, Sunset Shimmer! And...wow, I don't know who any of you are! I'll need to throw you a Welcome to Ponyville party!"
"No time for that," Twilight said. "Rainbow Dash should be here with the others any—"
"We're here!" Rainbow Dash called from the front door. Another pegasus was with her, as well as an orange pony with a blonde mane and tail, wearing a familiar hat.
"Good," Twilight said. "Everyone, in the back."
"I'll bring you all something to eat," Mrs. Cake said. "What would you like?"
"Anything's fine," Twilight said. She led the way into the private living quarters of the Cakes, the others following her.
Once they had all arranged themselves in the Cakes' dining room, Twilight made a round of introductions. Once Applejack was introduced, Ron tilted his head. "Yeah...you know, I do see it...same eyes, same hair, same hat..."
Sonata roamed around the room, studying each new pony in turn. "Uh-huh...yeah...hmm. Yep, you guys are definitely the same guys we met in the other world!"
For her part, Fluttershy seemed to be both afraid of and curious about Sonata. Applejack was watching the roaming Siren distrustfully, while Pinkie Pie seemed to be excited to meet her.
Once Mrs. Cake had wheeled in a cart loaded with assorted sweets, and Twilight and Rarity had used their magic to spread it all out in front of the group, Twilight cleared her throat and assumed a businesslike tone. "Alright everypony, here's what's going on. Sonata tried to force open the portal between our world and Canterlot High. Something went wrong, and she accidentally brought Kim and Ron to that world from somewhere else. The world they're from doesn't appear to be connected to any parallel Equestria. Sunset Shimmer and I are going to Canterlot with Kim and Ron to research Starswirl's dimensional magic and ask Princess Celestia if she can help us. I need the five of you to keep an eye on Sonata here in Ponyville. Don't worry about the castle, I've left Spike in charge." She gave her friends a serious look. "Sonata says she doesn't want to cause trouble. All she wants is to be allowed to come back to Equestria. There's a problem, though. Her magic is regenerating. I don't know for certain what that means yet. I do know that her magic is dangerous, and that's why I want you girls to keep an eye on her." She looked at Sonata, who had stopped roaming and was sort of...drooping in midair. "But...try to make friends with her, alright? I believe her when she says she doesn't mean any harm." She smiled. "She certainly isn't the strangest creature we've befriended."
"Heh, you got that right," Rainbow said.
"I'll throw you a super-duper 'Welcome Back To Equestria And Please Don't Be Evil Anymore' party!" Pinkie said.
"A party? For me? For realzies?" Sonata asked, swimming circles in the air around Pinkie Pie, which caused the pink pony to giggle.
"You can count on us, Twi," Applejack said. The others agreed, though Fluttershy seemed hesitant.
"Thank you, girls," Twilight said.
The group spent a while making pleasant conversation and sampling the tasty confections of Sugar Cube Corner. After almost an hour, Twilight bid her friends goodbye, then lead Sunset, Kim, and Ron to the train station.
"We should reach Canterlot by mid-afternoon," Twilight said once she'd purchased their tickets. They were fortunate; the next train to Canterlot arrived less than ten minutes after they reached the station.
Sunset looked up at the city perched on the side of the tallest mountain in Equestria, and swallowed nervously. "Canterlot..."
Twilight laid a hoof on her shoulder. "It'll be fine," she said.
They boarded the train, and were soon on their way.