When the Rainbooms gathered at their usual table at lunch, Pinkie had a rattled, haunted look in her eyes.
"Are you okay, Pinkie Pie?" Fluttershy asked.
Pinkie shivered. "T-Twilight," she whispered.
The others sat up intently. "What about Twilight?" Rainbow asked.
Confused blinks answered her. "Beg pardon?" Rarity prompted.
"That woman who went into Luna's office," Pinkie said in a stronger, less detached voice. "She...she works at Crystal Prep. She...she said Twilight Sparkle...goes there."
The other girls looked around at one another, frowns of worry and confusion on their faces.
"Are...are you sure, darling?"
"YES! Yes, I'm sure! I heard it! I heard both of them say it TWICE!" Pinkie ranted, her pitch and volume escalating. "Twilight Sparkle is a student at Crystal BUTTHOLE Prep!" She punctuated her exclamation by pounding on the table...
...which cracked down the middle, dumping their trays on the floor. The entire cafeteria fell silent, turning to stare at them.
Rainbow gave Pinkie a half-lidded glare. "Way to go, Pinkie Pie."
Miss Cheerilee, who was on cafeteria duty, scuttled over, a look of alarm on her face. "Girls, what's with all the yelling? And...WHAT DID YOU DO TO THIS TABLE?!"
"I'llpayforit!" Pinkie gasped out, standing up and rubbing the back of her head. "Sorry, I...I don't know my own strength lately..."
Cheerilee tilted her head, frowning. "Does...does this have anything to do with the pony ears and wings thing you girls are doing now?"
"Yes ma'am," Applejack said as she picked up the broken table halves, grimacing at the mess on the floor. "Me an' Pinkie Pie got some kinda freaky super-strength goin' on now. Guess there ain't no point hidin' it after this mess."
"You could've tried to hide it a bit more carefully," Rarity hissed, even as the spilled trays wreathed themselves in her magic aura and piled into a neat stack.
Cheerilee just stared.
"I'll, umm...just go get a mop," Fluttershy said, sneaking away. All around the girls' table, students had their phones out and were recording video and taking pictures.
Rainbow facepalmed. "We're screwed," she muttered.
* * * * *
Rarity tilted her head curiously as she studied Princess Twilight Sparkle's human form. "Sweet Celestia," she said softly. "Is that really what's on the other side of that mirror?"
"Yes," Twilight said. "Everybody looks like this over there. Well, I mean...they look like themselves, just...as one of these."
"How strange," Rarity commented. "And, ahem...a bit immodest." She shook her head. "I'll be honest, darling...this might be a bit of a challenge for me."
"You don't think you can make clothes for this body?" Twilight asked, drooping.
"Oh, don't be absurd!" Rarity said with a light chuckle and a wave of her hoof. "I simply mean it's going to be a challenge." Her eyes sparkled. "One I quite look forward to undertaking!"
"More to the point, do you think you can come up with something quickly?" Princess Celestia asked. "Ideally, the sooner we help Sunset Shimmer, the better."
Rarity caught the anxiety in her voice and nodded. "Oh, I'm certain it won't take terribly long, not with the resources of my boutique here in Canterlot at my disposal." Her tape measure began floating around Twilight, taking various measurements. "Although I do wish I had more time to experiment with different designs..."
"All I really need is this," Twilight said, picking up a scroll and passing it over. An image of her current form wearing a purple skirt, blue blouse, and purple and black boots had been magically burned into the parchment.
Rarity made a face. "Gaaah," she said. "No, no, that won't do at all, darling." She shook her head. "I can do much better than that." She studied the image again, then nodded. "I do appreciate the reference, though. That will make my job far easier..."
Moondancer groaned. "Can't we just throw a robe over the naked monkey instead of wasting time with all this?"
Rarity glared at her. "Absolutely not," she snapped.
Celestia covered her muzzle with a hoof to stifle a giggle. "Best to let this one go, Moondancer," she said. "Never get between Rarity and fashion."
"Speaking of which, you are in desperate need of a makeover," Rarity said to Moondancer as she wrote down Twilight's measurements. "Perhaps once the current crisis is over—"
"But darling, I—"
"At the very least an eyebrow plucking?"
"But darling, they're positively GHASTLY—"
"We'll put a pin in that for now."
Moondancer growled in annoyance. Twilight giggled.
* * * * *
Halfway to Canterlot High, Tirek—who had been silent thus far during the ride—spoke up. "Dean Cadance?"
Tirek's forehead furrowed in bemusement. "I can't help but wonder...why does the license plate on your car say 'LUV BUTT'?"
Cadance nearly ran off the road. A strained giggle emanated from the driver's seat. She coughed once. "Ah...ahem...that's a really embarrassing story..."
Twilight giggled. "That's the last thing I'd expect you to ask about," she said.
Tirek grunted. "Ordinarily, no, but it just seems so...out of place."
Cadance smiled. "Believe it or not, when I was your age, I used to be a little bit of a ditzy party girl."
"That, I have no trouble believing in the slightest," Tirek said. "Which makes your closeness with Twilight Sparkle all the more curious."
"Like I said, she's been a family friend for a long time—"
"Yes, yes, I remember, and your brother had a crush on her," Tirek interrupted dismissively.
"You didn't tell him your whole life story already, did you?" Cadance asked, raising an eyebrow.
"No!" Twilight said, blushing profusely. "He just asked a question, I answered it...that's all, really!"
Cadance smirked. "Uh-huh." She sighed. "Well, in any case, we need to be careful snooping around CHS. I already made up a cover story for what we're doing there and I think Vice-Principal Luna bought it, but let's do our best not to draw attention to ourselves, okay?"
"As you wish," Tirek said.
Twilight eyed him nervously. "Y-yeah," she said. "We'll...we'll just...blend right in. Yes."
* * * * *
The cafeteria incident had been dismissed as an accident, and the Rainbooms had been let off with a warning and an admonishment from Vice-Principal Luna to be careful with their newfound pony magic.
Pinkie Pie, Rarity, and Rainbow Dash all had the same free period after lunch. They met up in the grand foyer, then headed out to the school's front steps.
"You sure you heard right?" Rainbow asked Pinkie.
"Uhh, YES!" Pinkie exclaimed, flailing her hands emphatically. "I was right over Luna's office!"
"But that doesn't make any sense," Rarity said, frowning. "Twilight came here from Equestria. The portal is here at CHS. What would she be doing at Crystal Prep?"
"And how could she be a student there?" Rainbow wondered. "I mean, if she's here in our world, even if she came through at Crystal Prep, wouldn't she have the same problem Sunset has?"
"All I know is what I heard," Pinkie said, nervously drumming her fingers on the handrail.
A pearl pink car pulled up to the curb in front of the school. Three of its doors opened, and three people stepped out. One was the woman who had visited Vice-Principal Luna earlier in the day. Another was a tall, muscular red-skinned boy with white hair, a small goatee, and a decidedly thuggish sense of fashion.
The third was Twilight Sparkle.
The three Rainbooms stared, jaws dropping, as Twilight and the boy stepped around the car, conversing quietly. Twilight was wearing glasses with thick black frames and a severe purple-and-white uniform, and her hair was tied up in a messy bun. She held a strange device in one hand, which she was consulting as she talked to her companion, who held a crystal cupped in one hand and was frowning at it.
"It's true," Rainbow Dash said hollowly. "Twilight's gone over to the dark side."
"She's certainly keeping very...strange company these days," Rarity said. "Funny, I never pictured Twilight as going for the bad-boy type."
"No kidding," Pinkie said. "He's like...super bad bad-boy."
Rainbow hurtled over the safety railing and crouched at the side of the stairs, out of Twilight's line of sight. "Get down here!" she hissed to the others.
"Whatever for, darling?" Rarity asked. "There's no reason we need to hide from Twilight—"
"I wanna know what she's up to and why she's suddenly all buddy-buddy with Crystal Prep!"
"Ooh, are we spying on Twilight and her bad-boy boyfriend?" Pinkie asked. "That sounds like fun!" With a leap, she joined Rainbow. Rarity rolled her eyes and followed suit. The three girls peered around the edge of the stairs.
Twilight waved the device she was carrying across the face of the statue that contained the portal to Equestria. She adjusted her glasses, frowned, and turned some dials on her device. She glanced over at the boy, whose crystal was floating in the air in front of the portal, blinking white. He walked forward and laid his hand on the bare marble, then ran it over the smooth surface. After a minute, he shook his head and turned away.
"What're they doing?" Rainbow wondered.
"Studying the portal, it looks like," Rarity said.
The woman walked up and conversed with them for a moment, then made her way toward the steps. As they drew closer, the Rainbooms heard snippets of conversation.
"—definitely something magical about that statue," the boy rumbled. "We'll need to examine it more closely later."
"Your crystal was a different color just now than it was in the bathroom," Twilight said. "My readings were different, too. What do you suppose it means?"
"I don't know," the boy said. "It's also interesting that the crystal was blinking. It's never done that before."
"You don't think it's another, umm...like the mirror?" the pink woman asked.
"Hard to say," Twilight said. "We still don't really know what that was."
"It's some sort of doorway to another world," the boy grunted. "That much is obv—" He broke off. "There's more magic, and it's close. Very close."
"Your crystal's changed colors again," Twilight said. Her scanner started beeping. "Whoa! You're right, something's really close and really active!"
"Oh crap!" Rainbow whispered, eyes wide.
Twilight and the others stepped around the edge of the stairs, stopping three feet in front of them. Rainbow, Pinkie, and Rarity stood up, grimacing. Rarity gave a small, sheepish wave. "Ahem. Hello."
The boy raised an eyebrow. "Well. This is interesting."
The woman gasped. "You...you have a horn."
Twilight pointed at Rainbow. "You have...you have wings."
"Yeah I do!" Rainbow said. "But...but you knew that already, right?"
Twilight blinked. "Umm...well, I can certainly see that...that you have wings!" She furiously adjusted knobs on her scanner and waved it over the group. "Tirek, these girls are dripping with magic!" She pointed her scanner straight at Rarity. "Especially her!"
Tirek nodded thoughtfully, pointing his crystal at Rarity. It lit up a bright blue-white and began strobing and chiming softly. "Yes," he said. "Powerful magic..."
The woman with them facepalmed. "For the record," she said, "this is the exact opposite of not drawing attention to ourselves."
* * * * *
The journal vibrated. Sunset picked it up.
Rarity's making me something to wear. I'm coming to see you tomorrow. I'm going to teach you a spell that might let you turn human for short periods of time. I don't know if you'll have enough power to cast it, but if you can, it'll at least help you get out of your apartment. See you soon!
Smiling, she reached for her own phone and called Rarity.
* * * * *
Rarity's phone rang. She pulled it out of her skirt pocket, glanced at the screen, and answered. "Ahem. H-hello, Sunset," she said. "Oh, you don't say? Well, she's...she's certainly quick about it, then. She's right here in front of..." She paused, blinking. "What...what do you mean? Just...just now?" She looked at her friends, then at the three visitors. She coughed. "I—I see. Ahem. W-well. That certainly...clears up a few matters. Umm...we'll talk later. We have a bit of a problem on our end." She hung up, then numbly put her phone away. She coughed into her fist. "Girls?" she said to her friends. "I think we've made...a bit of a boo-boo."