Pinkie Pie and Octavia led the others out of the inn and down the street. Rainbow Dash and Ditzy flew up and down and all about. Ditzy’s head swung from side to side, her eyes going every which way. “Okay, Pinkie. Any real idea where Surprise would be?”
Pinkie Pie slapped her beanie hat onto her head and spun the propellor. “Hmm, she’s got way too much energy to stay cooped up in her house, wherever that is. No, she’ll be out and about.”
Spike looked around. “I think the best bet would be to go to the bakery. It’s the only place I can think of to start.” He stepped to the side and motioned to Pinkie Pie and Octavia. “Lead the way.”
Pinkie Pie and Octavia sped up for a moment to take the lead among their group. Octavia clamped her lips shut, but her cheeks bulged out from a massive yawn. She forced her mouth up in a grin, but her cheeks still turned scarlet.
Rainbow Dash flew down to right over Octavia’s head. “Stayed up a bit late last night?” she asked, smirking slightly.
Octavia scowled at her, but slowly nodded. “I will admit, the lure of so many songs of so many genres from so many different species so readily accessible proved to be more tempting than sleep. I regret it, but only a little.”
They made their way to the bakery and found Surprise outside. She flew back and forth, going from the door to the storefront window. Her motions were sluggish, devoid of almost any real energy.
Pinkie Pie slipped her beanie hat off and back into her mane. She sucked in a breath, then marched right up to Surprise. She rose up on her hind legs as Surprise flew around, blocking her path. “Surprise, Surprise! We need to talk!”
Surprise looked down at her. “Talk about what? The fact that I’m a failure as a Party Pony? That I can’t throw a party anymore and make my friends happy? That I make all these stupid mistakes and it all falls apart at the end?! By the end of my parties everyone is miserable and unhappy and it’s all my fault!” She turned and flew off, only to run into Octavia.
Octavia jabbed her bow at Surprise’s muzzle, tapping her nose with every thrust. “Tell me, Surprise, how much have you been listening to those around you? How much of their input have you taken into consideration? Have you been planning parties for them, or for you?”
Surprise backed up with every jab, butting into Pinkie Pie. Her head shot back and forth between the pair. “B-b-b-but I’m trying my best! I’m doing it all for--”
“For them, or for you?” Pinkie Pie said, ears flattening. “Listen, I know how you feel. Believe me, I’ve so been there. You put everything you’ve got into a party, or a cake or something or anything for your friends. But you forget something super-duper important; that what you want, may not be what they want. And you try and force what you consider to be fun onto them, and it makes them miserable and the party’s no fun for anyone.”
Surprise hung her head and drifted down to the ground. “That’s… kinda been the unintentional theme of my last few parties,” she admitted, her cheeks turning a bright crimson.
Octavia looked up. “Dash, could you please find Twilight Wish and bring her here?”
Rainbow Dash saluted and sped off. Five seconds later, she sped back. “Okay, anyone got any idea where this Twilight Wish is?”
Auntie rubbed her chin, then waved at a passing Wind Whistler. “Excuse me, my dear, but could you please direct Rainbow Dash to Twilight Wish?”
Rainbow Dash’s face scrunched up as Wind Whistler flew over. “Gee, thanks, Auntie,” she said through gritted teeth.
Wind Whistler flew over to Dash’s side. “I would be more than happy to lead you to Twilight Wish’s domicile. I believe her place of employment does not commence operations until later on in the day. Follow me, please.” With that, she flew off, Rainbow Dash following behind her.
Octavia spoke up once more. “Surprise, like Pinkie, I too understand how forcing your own vision on an event can have disastrous consequences.” She looked down and her gaze lost focus. “I was… assigned perform and help out at a public celebration, but I grossly overstepped the boundaries of my duties and nearly ruined everything. In all fact, some things I did ruin. I completely destroyed a friendship I had with a friend named Pageturner. I drove her away by being a complete mule.” She looked up and locked eyes with Surprise. “Don’t ruin your friendships over this, Surprise. Listen to them.”
There was silence amongst everyone gathered there. After a few minutes, Rainbow Dash and Wind Whistler returned, carrying Twilight Wish between them. They gently set her down in front of Surprise. “Okay, I’m here,” she said. She looked around. “Why am I here, precisely?”
Surprise slowly dropped to the ground. She hung her head and kicked at the dirt. “Twilight, I’m… I’m sorry I ruined your birthday party yesterday. I’m sorry I got all caught up in what I wanted, and not what you wanted. I screwed up, and I was wrong to mess up like that.” She swallowed and looked up, her eyes not quite meeting Twilight Wish’s. “Can you forgive me?”
Twilight Wish reached out and wrapped both forelegs around Surprise’s neck in a hug. “Oh, don’t be silly! Of course I do!”
The six Bearers all let out sighs of relief, stamped their hooves, or let out cheers. Surprise looked to Pinkie Pie, then to Octavia. “Hey, thanks, you two. I owe you, but… could I ask you two, and your friends, two questions?”
Pinkie Pie ‘s right foreleg shot into the air, and she waved it about. “Ooh, ooh! Go ahead!”
Surprise turned and looked up at the bakery. “Could you help me with getting a party together for Twilight Wish’s birthday-plus-one and for the four-month anniversary of the bakery opening?”
Rainbow Dash pumped a foreleg into the air. “You can count on us, Surprise!” She looked around. “Right?
Surprise bounced into the air and her wings flapped. “All right!” She slowly landed. “Another thing I’ve been wondering… who are you six?”
Spike blinked and leaned forward. “Wait, what?” He looked to Pinkie Pie, then Octavia. “You two didn’t even introduce yourselves to her?” He looked at Surprise. “And you... didn’t ask them?”
Surprise shrugged. “Was I supposed to?”
Pinkie Pie waved Spike off. “Come on, Spike. Family knows family!” She looked to Surprise. “Each one of us is from a different alternate-quantum reality. In mine, you’re my multi-great grandmother from about fifteen-hundred years ago, and the Party Pony all Party Ponies aspire to be!”
Surprise hopped into the air and gasped. “Oh, my Celestia! I have got to throw a ‘Meeting my alternate-reality granddaughter’ party!” She turned to Twilight Wish. “After I throw your birthday party the way you want it done, of course.”
Twilight Wish smiled. “Thank you for remembering.”
The two Party Ponies reached out with their forelegs, wrapped them around Twilight Wish’s shoulders, and pulled her into the bakery, along with themselves. The other five moved towards the door, but it slammed shut right behind the first three.
Silence descended upon them. They looked at each other, then back at the door. Spike slowly walked up to it. He glanced behind his right shoulder. “Should I?” At their nods, he turned back and raised a foreleg…
The door swung back open. Pinkie Pie’s head shot out and she waved at them. “Sorry, sorry! Used to being either a solo act or duo. Come on in!”
The next few hours passed relatively quickly. The seven ponies transformed the bakery into a fun, if somewhat understated, party place. Twilight Wish was the center of attention, consulted on her preferences for her birthday party and even helped out for the bakery’s anniversary.
Ditzy and Rainbow Dash hung a banner above the storefront, attracting some onlookers. Pinkie Pie and Surprise galloped and flew out, respectively, giving invitations to everyone they met. Auntie and Octavia put out tables and stacked them with snacks and other food.
As the townsponies gathered, Surprise and Pinkie Pie made their way back to the bakery. Any talking or eating slowed to a halt as Surprise flew into the air and spread her forelegs wide. “Attention, townsponies! Welcome to the four-month anniversary of the bakery opening, but even more importantly,” she dropped down and landed next to Twilight Wish, “the birthday of our resident sorceress supreme, the magically mighty and perennially patient Twilight Wish!”
Everyone gathered stomped their hooves in applause and let out cheers. Surprise waited for them to stop before speaking again. This time her voice was more subdued, less bubbly. “And… I’m sorry.” Her wings folded up against her body. “I’ve been a real pain in the flank these past few attempted celebrations. I’ve been so focused on what I want for a party, and what I think is fun, I kinda forgot that others don’t feel the same way.”
After a moment or two of silence, Wind Whistler flew over to Surprise and landed right in front of her. “Your apology and contrition are most accepted, Surprise. We understand the plunder vines have placed quite a large amount of stress on all Equestrians, yourself included. Myself included as well.” She let out a small chuckle. “I mean, I think we have all noticed my vocabulary truncated down to the bare necessity to convey my thoughts and meanings.”
Rainbow Dash held up a foreleg and opened her mouth, but Ditzy flew over, placed a hoof over her mouth and shook her head.
The front door of the bakery opened and an earth pony mare with a cutie mark of six gumdrops emerged, towing a triple-tiered cake with chocolate frosting. “Well, gosh, everyone! Here’s my latest masterpiece!”
Surprise leaned in close to Twilight Wish. “I am so sorry I forgot you like chocolate frosting more than vanilla.”
Twilight Wish leaned in close and nuzzled Surprise. “Apology more than accepted.”
Pinkie Pie hopped up onto her hind legs and spread her forelegs wide. Confetti fired off behind her. “Okay, everyone. Let’s have some fun. However you want to!”
Rainbow Dash flew above the party, eyes scanning all around her. She finally slowed to a stop as she saw Firefly standing in front of a table with a bowl of punch. She screwed up her courage before diving down and landing next to her.
Firefly glanced up as Rainbow Dash touched down. “Nice party,” she commented, taking a sip.
Rainbow Dash sucked in a breath. “Okay, this is gonna sound a little weird.” She tilted her head back and forth as she continued. “I’m not from ‘this’ Equestria. I’m from a different Equestria, a different reality entirely. A really freaky guy named Discord snatched me from my Equestria, along with the rest of us.” She motioned to her Element of Loyalty. “We’re going from place to place, looking for this Equestria’s Elements of Harmony, so they can stop the plunder vines.”
Firefly nodded. “Oh, yeah! Wind Whistler told me about that yesterday.” She waved Rainbow Dash off. “Was that all? It’s a little weird…” She trailed off and leaned in close. “That’s not all, is it.”
“No. In my Equestria, we’re related.” Rainbow Dash swallowed. “In for a jangle, in for a bit… in my Equestria, you’re my mother.”
Firefly’s eyes widened. “You’re serious? Holy Celestia, you’re serious! That’s… how? I mean I think we’re the same age, right?”
Rainbow Dash shrugged. “Here, yeah. Where I come from, no. And where Pinkie Pie comes from, no either. Trust me when I say just how weird our relationship in her reality is.”
Firefly started to speak, stopped, then waved a wing. “I’ll take your word for it. And I think I’ll need some cider after this conversation.” She paused, then half-smiled. “Although I am kind of curious who the father is.”
“Firefly, there you are!”
“Firefly, my love! We have returned!”
Rainbow Dash slowly turned to the direction of the two voices, one of them achingly familiar. Two pegasi stallions flew down from the sky, one the spitting image of her father, the other looking exactly like Bloodwing from Pinkie Pie’s photos.
Firefly sighed. She cantered around Rainbow Dash and over to the pair. “Okay, let’s stable that for a moment. Rainbow Dash, these are my friends Cyclone Bolt and Bloodwing.” She spun around, but her expression fell. “Dash? What is it?”
Rainbow Dash stared at the three, mouth wide open, eyes larger than saucers and a low “eeeee,” coming from her. She suddenly glanced to the side and groaned. “You’ve got to be kidding me!”
“... Happy birthday to you!”
Twilight Wish smiled softly as the closing strains of the song echoed, followed by everyone stomping the ground in applause. Surprise flew around Twilight Wish’s birthday cake, lighting all the candles on all three tiers. She finally landed next to Twilight Wish. “Well, go ahead! Make a wish and blow out the candles!”
Pinkie Pie and her friends stood off to the side, away from the center of attention. Rainbow Dash tilted her head at Twilight Wish and her cake. “Okay, I’m not an expert at this, but how’s she gonna blow out all the candles, there? That cake’s twice her height!”
Pinkie Pie leaned back and fished her phone out of her mane. She clicked it to record mode and grinned. “Give it time, Dashie. Give it time.”
Twilight Wish’s horn lit up. “I wish, I wish…”
Ditzy suddenly shivered. Her wings rustled and the feathers stood on end. “Hey, you feel that?”
A low wind sprang up, at first gently ruffling manes and tails. It picked up, sending several ponies ducking down. The gusts flowed around the area, gathering around the cake and whipping about it. One by one, the candles were blown out, the cake itself not even moving an inch. The very second the last candle was snuffed out, the wind died down and Twilight Wish’s horn shut off. Twilight Wish hopped around in a circle. “Yes, yes, yes! I got my wish!”
Pinkie Pie shut her smart phone off. She turned to the others. “In my Equestria, she’s the direct ancestor of Twilight Sparkle, and Clover the Clever’s student. My Twilight is gonna love seeing this.”
Auntie eyed Twilight Wish. “That… actually explains a lot, concerning her.”
Surprise flew over, landed in front of Pinkie Pie and wrapped her up in a hug. “Oh, thank you thank you thank you!” She broke the embrace, stepped over to Octavia, and bowed at the waist. “Thank you very much, Octavia.”
Octavia stood up and returned the bow. “More than welcome, Surprise.” She leaned over and looked at Twilight Wish, cutting the cake up and getting slices for everyone there. “And it looks like your party is a success.”
Surprise turned around. She slowly smiled as she regarded her friends. “I’m glad. I’m glad they’re happy. I’m glad you reminded me how to cheer them up and not get sidetracked by what I wanted and projecting it onto everyone else and acting like the fun police. I should make them happy, not try and cheer myself up through them. It’s not fun for anyone.”
Pinkie’s Element of Laughter suddenly exploded with light. Her eyes turned white and she floated up, Surprise joining her. Everyone turned and looked up at the pair as they floated towards one another. Both were enveloped by the light coming from the Element. When it faded, both were once more on the ground.
Rainbow Dash let out a small sigh. “Kinda hoping it was gonna be Firefly for shock value,” she muttered.
The other five slowly walked forward and flanked Pinkie Pie, while the other ponies of the village checked on Surprise. “Are you all right?” Auntie asked, looking her over.
Pinkie Pie nodded. She motioned to Surprise, who was blinking rapidly. “All right?” She hopped up and over to Surprise, wrapped one foreleg around Surprise’s neck to pull her close and motioned with her other foreleg. “I’m better than all right!”
Everyone followed Pinkie Pie’s motions, quickly spotting the shiny gold necklace now hanging around Surprise’s neck. Three violet crystals in the shape of balloons were set in it, sparkling with an inner fire.
Auntie’s saddlebag suddenly bulged out. She gasped and bucked slightly as the flap popped open and Discord floated up. His metallic form twisted and turned, a five-toned buzz-crunch echoing out. Finally, Discord floated in midair, flesh once more. “Well, it’s about time!” He stretched his arms out and cricked his neck from side to side. “I toss you an easy one and it still takes you this long to get it done?” Glasses flashed into existence on the end of his snout, and he pulled a pad of paper and quill from the air. “I’ll have to mark you down for that, class.”
Pinkie Pie snarled and bared her teeth. “Discord!”
Discord looked up and adjusted his glasses. “Oh, very well!” He tossed the paper and quill away, then floated over to Surprise and around her. “Hmm, excellent work!”
Surprise twisted her head around as she followed Discord’s movements, her body following slightly behind. “Ooh, who are you?”
Wind Whistler flew over. “I do believe this is Discord, the chaotic being Celestia and Luna sealed away, and the one who transported you six from your alternate-quantum realities in order to find the Bearers of the Elements of Harmony!”
Discord paused and looked over to the other Bearers. “You told her beforehand? Hmm, interesting choice. Breaks a bit from the usual script, but no matter!” he rubbed his paws together. “Four down, two to go.” he snapped his talons and Surprise vanished, sending the villagers rearing back.
Spike’s horn lit up and he shot a beam of magic into the sky, getting everyone’s attention. “Hold on, everypony! It’s okay. Surprise is perfectly safe.” He glared at Discord. “Right?” he said through a clenched jaw.
Discord waved him off. “Of course, of course. Just a little prep to do.” He floated over to Pinkie Pie’s side. “So, we ready to roll out?”
Pinkie Pie looked to the villagers, smiling while her eyes watered. “Before we go, I wanna say to all of you, thank you for your hospitality. And overall, just… thank you. Thank you for everything.”
Wind Whistler smiled back at her. “Pinkie Pie, you’re welcome.”
Discord rolled his eyes, the orbs spinning around in his head. “Oh, please…” He snapped his talons. All flash of light enveloped the ponies and himself. When it faded, they were gone.