Rainbow Dash, Pinkie Pie, and Rarity stared at Twilight Sparkle and her two associates.
The trio from Crystal Prep stared back, curiosity and wonder plain on their faces.
"Ahem," Rarity coughed. "Rainbow Dash? Pinkie Pie? We need to leave. Now." With that, her horn lit up brightly. She smiled at the Crystal Prep trio. "I'm terribly sorry about this."
An aura surrounded the Crystal Prep visitors, and they found themselves flat on their backs on the ground. Pinkie Pie scooped up Rarity, and was in turn grabbed under the arms by Rainbow Dash, who took off into the sky. She flew swiftly around to the back of the school, then dropped her friends, panting and gasping. Once she recovered, Rarity unlocked the back entrance with her magic, and the three slipped inside.
"The HELL was that all about, Rarity?" Rainbow Dash demanded.
"Sunset Shimmer just now received a message from Twilight Sparkle. From Equestria."
"Huh?" Rainbow said. "But..."
Pinkie gasped. "Oh my gosh!" she exclaimed. "Then that WASN'T Twilight! I mean it was Twilight! But it wasn't—"
"Exactly," Rarity said. "It never occurred to me that there might be a Twilight Sparkle native to our world until just now, but..." She grimaced. "Evidently, there is. And she attends Crystal Prep. And that was her."
Silence met her proclamation.
Rainbow groaned and facepalmed. "Great," she said. "So...what now? What's she even doing here?"
"Looks to me like she's investigating all our weird pony magic," Pinkie said. "And that boy she was with looked really interested in Rarity. And not for the reasons boys are usually interested in Rarity."
Rarity grimaced. "We need to tell the others about this. But first..." She pulled out her phone and called Sunset.
* * * * *
Ever since she'd spoken to Rarity, Sunset had felt nervous and restless.
Something was happening to her friends. She just knew it. And there was nothing she could do about it.
She paced her living room, frantic worries churning in her mind.
Her phone rang. She stopped pacing, levitated it over using her magic, and answered. "Hello? Rarity?"
She listened for a moment. Her eyes widened. "WHAT?!"
She listened some more. "But...that means..." She paused. "But that doesn't make sense! Why would she—HOW would she—?" She shook her head. "And you say she attends Crystal Prep?" Sunset sighed. "Well, that certainly complicates matters. Just...keep an eye on her, alright? And that other person she's with. Whatever happens, whatever they say or do, I need to know about it so I can tell our Twilight. I've got a bad feeling about this."
Rarity said goodbye and hung up. Sunset put her phone down on her desk and sat down heavily, deflating like one of Pinkie's balloons after an all-night party. She glanced across the room to the journal, frowned, and levitated it over, along with a pen.
We have a new problem. I just talked to Rarity. Your counterpart, the Twilight Sparkle from this world, showed up at CHS this afternoon. She goes to Crystal Prep, and it looks like she's investigating magic. Some guy who gives Rarity the creeps and a woman who's a teacher or something at Crystal Prep were with her.
I don't know what to do about this, but it bothers me. Especially since they saw Rarity, Rainbow Dash, and Pinkie Pie.
If you have any advice or suggestions, let me know.
With a sigh, she closed the journal and set it aside, then climbed up onto the couch and flopped over onto her back. "This whole mess just keeps getting better," she muttered.
* * * * *
As Princess Twilight read the latest note from Sunset, her ears folded back and her wings drooped. "Oh no," she mumbled.
"What is it?" Celestia asked anxiously. "Is something wrong with Sunset Shimmer?"
"Not as such, but..." Twilight showed Celestia the letter.
Celestia's eyes widened. "Oh dear," she said. "That does complicate matters."
"What's going on now?" Moondancer asked, looking up from her half a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and powdered sugar donut.
"The other Twilight Sparkle showed up at CHS," Twilight said. "It never occurred to me there'd be another me since she wasn't there already, but I guess I should've expected this sooner or later." She shook her head. "It's one thing to know there are parallel versions of all my friends. It's another to deal with the fact that there's another me."
"It seems fairly obvious," Moondancer said indifferently. "So what's the problem?"
"The problem is she's researching magic," Twilight said. "If I know me, which...well...I do..." She swallowed heavily. "Let's just say I have a bad habit of poking the bear when I get carried away with my research."
Celestia snickered. "Or the hydra."
"So the other Twilight showing up now of all times is not a good thing," Twilight concluded. "At best, it'll be awkward and confusing to have to deal with her when I go over to investigate their side of the portal. At worst, she's going to find a way to make things ten times worse than they already are."
Moondancer raised an eyebrow. "You don't seem to have a very high opinion of yourself."
Twilight rolled her eyes. "I've made lots of mistakes. Even after all this time, sometimes I still make the same stupid mistakes over and over again. Let's just say I'm very aware that sometimes I get carried away and it ends up causing problems for everypony around me. If she's anything like me..." She shook her head. "I just hope she doesn't try tapping into any of the magic floating around over there. That could be...bad."
* * * * *
Cadance, Tirek, and Twilight sat in Cadance's car a block and a half from Canterlot High.
"Are we going to talk about what happened back there?" Cadance asked shakily. Her eyes were wide and her knuckles were white where she gripped the steering wheel.
Twilight's heart was racing. "W-well," she said. "Let's start with the girl who had a horn. She obviously did...something to us—"
"A spell," Tirek said, eyes narrowed. "She cast a spell that knocked us all to the ground."
"So she's a witch?" Cadance asked. "Are we believing in witches now?"
"Whatever she is, she isn't human. Or at least, not entirely," Tirek grunted. "Putting the horn aside, all three of those girls had equine ears."
"I noticed that too," Twilight said shakily. "One of them had...had wings—"
"And carried the other two away when they flew off," Cadance said. She let out a strained giggle. "What the hell are we getting involved in here?"
"Whatever is happening at Canterlot High, it is precisely what I've been searching for," Tirek rumbled. "We need more data."
"You don't seriously want us to go back?" Cadance asked in disbelief. "Not after...not after what just happened?"
Twilight frowned at her scanner. "I need more data on that girl with the horn," she said. "When she did...whatever she did to us, my scanner went completely crazy. I need to observe her using..." She grimaced. "Using magic again. Preferably without being hit by it next time."
"Stealth is the key here," Tirek said. "Now that they are aware of us, we must be careful."
Cadance's phone rang. She jumped, then calmed down as she answered it. "H-hello? Y-yes, Luna. We're...we're just a block or so away. Yes. Of course! Yes. Looking forward to it as always." She hung up, then sighed. "Well...we have no choice but to go back to CHS," she said. "If we don't show up, Luna's going to wonder why, and I don't relish explaining this mess to one of my oldest friends."
"So...we just go back there, walk in, act like nothing's wrong?" Twilight said dubiously.
"That's all we can do for now," Cadance said as she started the engine and pulled the car around for the return trip.
* * * * *
By the time Rarity, Rainbow, and Pinkie had recovered from their unexpected encounter with the Twilight Sparkle from Crystal Prep, it was time for their next class. Agreeing to meet up with the others after school, they went their separate ways. Pinkie was just walking into her afternoon literature class when the trio from Crystal Prep strode down the hallway. Twilight's scanner pinged, and Tirek's crystal flashed a bright bubblegum pink.
Twilight halted. "That...was one of those girls," she said.
Pinkie stiffened, turning around without moving her feet or body. Her eyes were wide, and her pony ears flopped down around the sides of her head. "Oooooooh no," she moaned.
Cadance put a hand on Twilight's shoulder, then stepped forward, a game smile on her face. "Hi there," she said disarmingly. "I'm afraid we got off on the wrong foot earlier. I'm sorry we startled you and your friends. My name is Cadance. I'm the Dean of Students at Crystal Prep Academy. These are two of my students, Twilight Sparkle and Tirek. And you are?"
"Ummm...Pinkie Pie," Pinkie said. She looked nervously at Tirek, then at Twilight. Tirek gave her an impassive stare; Twilight gave her a hopeful, nervous smile even as she scanned her up and down. "And I've got class now gotta go bye!" With that, Pinkie ducked into the classroom and shut the door.
The three visitors blinked.
"Well, that could've gone better," Cadance muttered. "Come on, let's go see Lu—"
The three of them turned around. A boy with blue hair stood in the middle of the hall, staring at them. "Twilight! You're back?"
Twilight blinked. "Umm...do I know you?"
The boy frowned, blinking at her. "Twilight, it's...it's me," he said. He shuffled his feet. "Look, Sunset told me everything, and...and I know you're a—"
Tirek took a menacing step toward him. "Whatever your business is with Twilight, it'll have to wait," he rumbled. "We have more important things to do." With that, he turned on his heel and marched down the hall. Cadance grimaced and followed him. Twilight worried at her lip as she slowly turned and followed suit.
A short way down the hall, Twilight hurried to keep stride with Cadance. "Is...is it me," she said, "or does it seem like the people here know me?"
Cadance frowned. "Now that you mention it, Luna had a strange reaction to your name when we spoke earlier. I thought it was simply academic recognition, but..."
Far behind them, Flash Sentry watched them go, fists clenched at his sides and eyes narrowed.
* * * * *
When Rarity arrived with a group of garment bags draped across her back, Twilight was pacing anxiously. Rarity picked up on the tense mood immediately, her ears pinning back. "Twilight? What's happened?"
Twilight turned to look at her. "The other me showed up at CHS," she said. "From the sound of it, things are getting crazier by the minute."
Rarity frowned. "The other...you?"
"There's another Twilight Sparkle in that world," Twilight said. "It never even occurred to me there'd be another me there. Apparently, she goes to the same school where the new portal leads, and she's poking around CHS trying to figure out what's going on with all the magic there."
"Oh dear," Rarity said, worrying at her lip. "Is...is that going to be a problem?"
"I think it already is," Twilight said. "I need to get over there as soon as I can and find out what's going on."
"Well, I've got some outfits ready for a fitting," Rarity said. "If you could transform so we could get started, I'll...I'll alter them as swiftly as I possibly can."
"I'll go scrounge up a few spell lock matrices," Celestia said. "And...I think I'll write a letter to Sunset Shimmer while I'm at it."
* * * * *
Vice-Principal Luna's eyes widened as Cadance and her two students entered.
Her clothes were different, she wore thick black-framed glasses, and her hair was gathered in a messy bun, but there was no mistake: the girl was Twilight Sparkle.
*But that doesn't make any sense...*
"Luna," Cadance said. "These are the two students I spoke to you about. We'll just be having a look around your campus, soaking in the social atmosphere here at CHS. We won't be interrupting any classes or messing with your students."
Luna blinked, then nodded. "Yes, yes of course," she said distractedly. "By all means." She gathered up a handful of printouts and handed them to Cadance, who distributed them to her students.
"We need to catch up later," Cadance said warmly, favoring Luna with a sunny smile.
"We...certainly do," Luna said, returning the smile with some trepidation.
As the trio left the office, Tirek jerked the two ladies aside. In a low voice, he said, "There is no question now. Something is out of place at this school."
"We...already established that," Cadance said. "Or did you miss the pony-eared girls who dropped us with a magic spell and then flew off?"
"Not that," Tirek snorted dismissively. "That's the fourth time someone here has been surprised to see Twilight." He peered intently at Twilight. "Are you certain this is your first time at this school?"
Twilight nodded rapidly. "I've never even been out to this part of town before," she said. She frowned thoughtfully. "But you're right...something is going on here, and it seems to have something to do...with..." She trailed off, her eyes going wide as she stared at something across the hall.
The others followed their gaze. Cadance gasped.
Hanging prominently in the school's trophy case was a framed photo of Twilight Sparkle, without glasses and her hair down and straight, wearing a sparkly purple dress. The small plaque at the bottom of the photo read "Fall Formal Princess 2013: Twilight Sparkle".
Cadance and Tirek turned to Twilight, their gazes questioning. Twilight took a step back from the photo, shaking her head. "Tha—that isn't me," she stammered. "That can't be me..."