Power and fury burned through Twilight’s veins. Magic pulsed through the air, an infinite maelstrom of power. Stolen from every corner of the multiverse, all centered on the centaur before her. It radiated off of him in great waves, leaking the excess all around this demiplane even as his consumption continued.
Twilight grabbed ahold of it, drew in every scrap of strength she could muster. She focused it in front of her, the energy white-hot, ready to turn Tirek into a lump of slag.
Tirek met her eyes and grinned.
Twilight nearly dropped the ball of energy. “Sparkle? I, what? He destroyed the cube, you should be—”
“—a ghost of an imprint left behind on your consciousness. I won’t last long, especially not with what I’m about to do.”
“What are you—”
The world slowed down around her, and color drained away until every spark around them seemed frozen in place. Twilight hung there, panting, the magic still burning at her fingertips, itching to be used.
“Do you really think you can win with brute force?”
Twilight grit her teeth. “Sunset… I have to protect her. We’ve come too far, and there’s still so much farther I want to go. With her! I can’t lose here. Not now.”
Sparkle’s voice let out an audible sigh, followed by a strange pressure that somehow conveyed an eyeroll. “Do you remember the first time you fought Tirek? All of your magical might could only bring him to a standstill, and that was only one world. How did you end up beating him?”
“That…” She had a point. “It took the powers of the Tree of Harmony to expel the magic he had stolen and return it whence it came. But that took all six of us… and it’s just me and Sunset here. Maybe the Magic of Friendship gets a boost when…” Twilight licked her lips. “When you’re in love, but is that really enough?”
“Then what I am I supposed to—”
“Think smart, Twilight Sparkle. It’s what we do best. Look at his power. Really look at it.”
Twilight took a deep breath. She turned her attention to the magic radiating from Tirek, tried to parse the threads and weaves. Just trying felt like someone running her over with a wagon. The radiance threatened to blind her, overwhelm and consume her, just like every other scrap Tirek had already devoured.
“Don’t close your eyes! I’m already accelerating the speed of your thoughts so we can have this conversation—You’re going to have hell’s own migraine when this is over, by the way, if you don’t just die from an aneurysm—But you need to look! Look with your eyes, your ears, your heart, your soul. Look for your friends!”
Twilight stared into the sun, and screamed. Tears streamed down her cheeks. But there, in the light, she could make something out. A whole lot of somethings.
Then, it all fell into place.
It wasn’t a chaotic vortex of power. Each was a thread tracing its way back to its home dimension, feeding Tirek’s gluttony. But that thread still existed, binding him to each dimension. She could feel them in there, faintly. The magic of strangers. Her friends. Herself. Of Sunset. Countless different versions of them, They all wanted out, to be free.
All Twilight had to do was provide a way for them to get home.
Time resumed. Twilight raised her hand, the one containing the training teleporter. She channeled every scrap of power she had into the device. The device twitched in her hand… and transformed.
Its form shifted and changed color, rounding out, a bright purple. It was her TPT! Whatever illusion the Accord had placed on it, the multiverse was hers to command once again. She pressed the button.
A portal opened up behind Tirek. Then another, and another, as fast as Twilight could mash the button. Each portal led to a world Tirek had drained, severing his connection to that world and allowing the magic to flow back into it.
Tirek took a shuddering step forward, then his eyes went wide. “What are you doing? Stop that!”
Faster and faster. The Talisman burned white hot, searing agony in Twilight’s hand, far too much for such a simple device to handle. But as long as it held, Twilight wouldn’t give up either, no matter how much she wanted to scream, to cry, to give up and go home and curl up in her bed and wish she’d never even thought of another dimension.
Tirek began to shrink and wither. He lunged forward, murder in his eyes, hands outstretched to wring the life from Twilight Sparkle.
Sunset rose like a phoenix, her fist connecting with his jaw and sending the now far less physically imposing demon sprawling. She wiped at her mouth and spit out blood. “I don’t go down that easy.”
Twilight smiled through the pain. There wasn’t even a button left on the Talisman, just a molten lump of metal, but still the portals kept opening. A great dome of other worlds filled the sky, a hundred thousand visions of possibility stretched out before them.
She looked down at the withered form of Tirek, once again just a pathetic, pale old man. She hurled the remains of the Talisman at his feet. In a burning flash of light, the last portal it would ever open sent Tirek back to Tartarus where he belonged.
Twilight floated in the air, panting. She held up her hand, and stared numbly at a blackened, shriveled husk. She’d probably have to confront the reality of that any second now.
“Now’s your chance,” Sparkle whispered. “Remember what I said earlier? There’s enough portals here, and enough magic. You can do it. Seal off dimensional travel. Save all of those countless fools wandering where they don’t belong. Stop monsters like Tirek from ever rampaging again. Stop the relentless tyranny of the Accord.
There was a pause.
“And keep someone like you from ever becoming someone like me.”
“I…” Twilight glanced down at Sunset, who stared up at her with worry. What would she think, of having to make a decision like this? Something told her she didn’t have the luxury to sit around all day debating pros and cons.
Movement caught her eye. In one of the portals, a Sunset knelt over an unconscious Twilight, shaking her, pleading for her to wake up. That Twilight’s eyes fluttered open, and the two embraced, then shared a passionate kiss, tears streaming down their cheeks.
Twilight made up her mind.
“I won’t do it. You’re right. There’s a lot of suffering out there in the multiverse. Ponies will stumble where they don’t belong, and get hurt. Monsters will rampage. Ponies will try to control an uncontrollable system. But there’s beauty in it all too. Hope. They’ll learn new things, see amazing wonders, live lives filled with joy. Meet new friends. Fall in love. I don’t have the right to take that chance away from them.”
“You sure about that?” Sparkle sounded amused. “It might just happen later on anyway, no matter what you decide.”
“I’m sure.” Twilight felt the power in her, a growing warmth spreading through her whole body. She focused on that feeling, thinking back to the first trip through the portal, back beyond even that, when her first trip to Canterlot High had led her to cross paths with Sunset in the first place. She filled that power with all of her love, her joy, her hope, her sorrow. Her friendship. “Maybe I can give them something better.”
Twilight let the energy pour forth from her, and it flowed back into every portal, coursing through the multiverse, touching every person it came across with a hint of what Twilight wanted to convey. The portals sealed up one by one, and Twilight hoped that somewhere out there, someone who really needed the magic of friendship would hear her message.
Her vision darkened, and Twilight slipped from the sky. Before she blacked out entirely, she saw Sparkle’s face, smiling down at her and fading away.
“You’re a better me than I ever was.”
Sunset held out her arms, and Twilight drifted into them like an angel descending from the heavens. She hung there limply, almost as light as a feather.
“You idiot,” Sunset muttered. “You should have left some more of the hero-ing to me.” She glanced down at Twilight’s ruined hand, and winced. If she’d been stronger, maybe it wouldn’t have come to this.
The peaceful contentment on Twilight’s face as her chest rose and fell banished any self-flagellating for the moment.
One last portal still hung in the air. She could see the map room in Twilight’s castle through it.
Home at last.
Sunset took a step forward. A glint of light caught her eye. She’d missed a second portal, father off. She recognized the dull gray walls of the Accord HQ. So close. She could take two steps forward, and never have to hear the word ‘Accord’ again.
But maybe there was still one last thing left to do. Unfinished business to resolve. Maybe Twilight wasn’t the only one who could change things for the better.