• Published 24th May 2015
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My Little Pony Bizarre Adventures - Part 1: Ponyville Central - LateBronyWriter



One Thousand years ago, the saints Celestia and Luna drew upon the power of the Red Stone of Aja to defeat the demon Discord. Now one thousand years later the Stone is destroyed, beginning the tale of six ponies and their quest to redeem the world.

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Chapter 29-Bastion-Take 1

Bastion-Take 1:


It was an unbearably hot day to be traveling through the Everfree Forest. It was an even worse day to be traveling after learning that the pony that rules over the nation that you live in is stealing the lives of countless souls so that her own subjects can live long, happy lives. And to top it off, the air was as humid Discord’s butt-crack.

Indeed, if a group could ever be in as low spirits as the six ponies trotting through the Everfree, then they would most likely be on a death march. Ever since they had left the Castle of the Two Sisters with the Holy Corpse in tow, the six ponies in the group had held their tongues to the point of complete silence, only the various sounds of the jungle filling their senses as they trudge along. Walking in single file down the overgrown path before them, the five ponies, and one very distraught unicorn, each stew in their own thoughts as they count the seconds until their march is over. It is quite fortunate that Luna was able to show them the road out of the forest from the castle; otherwise the ponies most likely wouldn’t make it back at all. So emotionally drained and mentally exhausted are they that the Crusaders most likely would succumb to the winding nature of the forest and it’s multitude of traps before reaching their destination. Especially Twilight Sparkle, the mare who going into the forest was so full of life and vigor, is now leaving it an emotional wreck ready to break down from the slightest stimulation.

The moment that Twilight was able to compose herself she told them everything: the prophecy of their supposed death, the Corpse’s refusal to lend her it’s power, and Celestia’s use of the Corpse’s power to create a literal paradise in Equestria. Nothing could have hit Twilight and the group harder than that, than the knowledge her teacher princess Celestia, a mare universally revered by everypony in the land, was a fraud. The rest of the group had been equally shocked, all save Luna who had deep down expected Twilight’s response all along. Their minds and bodies being restored from their night of rest, every pony agreed unanimously that it was better to get back to Ponyville as soon as possible. So after a small breakfast they left early that morning with all the haste they could muster. And so for the past five hours the six ponies have been trudging down the broken path back to their town, their spirits lower than Ghastly Gorge.

However, despite the weight of the news that had fallen upon their minds like a heavy blow, there are some in the group who still possess the strength of will to face the trails before them.

Rainbow, though she was never one to trust blindly, especially a faceless government machine, had trusted the Princess unconditionally as a paragon of goodness. The news of Celestia’s plan hit her the hardest in the group, save perhaps Twilight. However, rather than retreating into herself the rainbow mare seethes with barely-suppressed rage at the fact that someone that she trusted so thoroughly could turn her back on everything Dash thought that she stood for. After all, what was the value of loyalty and honesty when the pony who represented it was willing to throw it away at the drop of her crown?

Applejack, though daunted with the task at hoof, still remains well grounded in the here and now, which for the moment was getting all her friends out of the Everfree safely. Though even her rock-steady mind cannot endure the thought that the monarch of the sun would doom those not in her land to perpetual suffering, all for a fragile peace. Having lost family herself to a freak accident, Applejack’s conscience slowly torments her with every step she takes down the dusty trail.

Fluttershy is emotionally torn by their ruler’s actions: on one hoof ponies are happy and safe, but on the other hoof there are many who aren’t. Yet the yellow mare doesn’t allow her feelings to show and worry her friends, preferring to invoke her natural-born talent of being silent and unnoticed as her weary hooves trot along.

Rarity, always an expert at maintaining a proper poise, is the picture of calm on the outside, even offering to carry Twilight’s pack so she can carry the heavy Corpse herself. Though she would never admit it to anypony in the group, part of her sympathized with Celestia’s plan, knowing that it will and has improved countless lives across the Empire of Equestria in the past one thousand years.

And then there is Pinkie, who wisely decides to remain silent in the group’s return, her joy daunted by Twilight’s somber news. Pinkie was a simple mare at heart who just wanted to see her friends smile, and more than that to see her friend Twilight, who is so despondent from the news of her mentor, happy again.

Yet all of her friend’s feelings are lost on the lavender unicorn that treads the path as if the entire world around her is falling apart. Worse yet, the weight of the Corpse on her back seems to grow heavier with each step, and though their secret path through the Everfree cut back on the length of their journey, the sun was already beginning its descent back down from its zenith as Twilight plods slowly along the trail.

Rainbow Dash having caught yet another bug in her open mouth coughs uncontrollably. The rest of the group turn their head towards the cerulean mare hacking in midair as she tries to clear her throat.

Applejack facehoofs. “Aw for Pete’s….. Dash, Ah told ya once and I told ya twice. There are all sorts of swarms of bugs an flies in the upper canopies, that’s why we’re walkin. If yawl are so insistent on flyin up their yawl are gonna get a mouth full of bugs, now get down here!”

Dash’s love of flying finally gives way to not having bugs in her mouth and she lands on the ground, clearing the remains of the insects from her throat. “HACK! Alright….. Alri..” THe mare spits out a rather large antenna. “So you were right about the bugs, I should have listened to you the first time. You don’t have to rub it in.”

Normally the orange mare would have rubbed it in the cerulean mare’s face, were she in a brighter mood. However, as she was now she just wanted to get home and sort through the shifting thoughts running through her mind

“So……” Dash speaks up, “We’re almost back in Ponyville right?”

Applejack sighs, glad that at least she isn’t asking that question every five minutes. “Yeah, Dash, I reckon so. Least, cordin’ to Luna that is.”

“Well, despite your skepticism of the Princess, I trust her word,” Rarity pipes up. “If she said that this road would get us back in Ponyville by sunset then I believe her.”

“Now I’m not sayin that Ah don’t trust her an all,” Applejack defends herself, “I’m just sayin that we’ve been goin rather slow. Ah just don’t want to get caught out here after dark.” The orange mare shivers. “Yawl don’t want ta be trapped in this here forest after dark.”

“Well I’m sooooooo sorry, Applejack, that we’re inconveniencing you with our slow walking,” Twilight spits out with as much sarcasm as she can manage. Turning around, the lavender mare’s bloodshot eyes come eye to eye with the farmer. “But you’ll have to excuse us for not having the brute strength and single minded determination that you have.”

“Now see here, Twilight!” Applejack growls, “Ah know yer depressed an all but that’s no excuse fer….”

“Can we PLEASE stop arguing?!” Pinkie Pie cries out, her shrill voice cutting off what most assuredly have been a friendship-shattering argument between the two ponies. “I don’t like it when my friends fight…..”

The entire group shuts up at that, each pony holding their tongue as they all turn back to their walking. Twilight apologizes under her breath as each mare tries their best to put the thoughts of the argument out of their minds. Each pony focuses on the road ahead of them as if every rock and twig is of vital importance, if only to distract the from their own issues. As they continue silently down their trail Pinkie Pie watches her friends nervously, judging the happiness quotient of the collective group to be a negative seven. Hoping to steer the conversation in a more pleasant direction the mare clears her throat.

“Do you think she’s okay?” Pinkie asks.

“Who, Darling?”

“Well, the Princess.” Pinkie states. “I mean she’s all alone right now, do you think that she’s okay?”

“I think that Princess Celestia is perfectly fine in her ivory palace, Pinkie,” Dash says as she punches a tree in her way to let out her free-flowing aggression.

“I wasn’t talking about Princess Celestia, I was……”

“Then please stop talkin, Pinkie,” Applejack groans, “cause in case ya can’t tell, we don’t need another one of yer long-winded rants right now.”

“Hey!” Dash yells, punching Applejack harshly in the shoulder. “You can’t tell Pinkie to shut up, she can talk whenever she wants.”

Applejack recovers from her staggering with a scowl on her face. “Yer just makin things worse, Dash. Now why don’t ya just cool yer jets before Ah have ta make ya.”

“I’d like to see you try, you country….”

“I WAS TALKING ABOUT PRINCESS LUNA!!” Pinkie yells at the top of her lungs. “I was wondering if Luna was safe!”

Both of the two mares stop short of blows as Pinkie’s voice reaches them. Both their angers smolder as the two mares watch Pinkie Pie begin to cry, bubbly tears pouring down her face, and both mares feel immense shame at their own actions. As both Applejack and Rainbow Dash turn their heads away, Dash thinks about how they wouldn’t be fighting like this if Luna was with them.

‘Yeah, I wonder what Luna is doing right about now,’ Dash thinks to herself. ‘I really didn’t want ask for help, but Luna was so awesome. And as much as I hate to admit it, she is way cooler right now than I am. She was brave, confident, and full of surprises. She never seemed unsure or afraid; if she were here now we wouldn’t be like this. Even when she was leaving like that she was completely in control of herself….. why couldn’t she have come with us?’ Dash wracks her brain as she thinks back to her last encounter with the Princess of the Night.

……………..

“Are you sure you won’t come with us?” Dash asks hopefully. “I don’t normally say this, but you kick some serious flank. And we could really use an attitude like yours back in Ponyville.”

Luna fastens her own saddlebags to her back, smiling back at the cerulean pegasus. “You do not need my help physically as you do mentally. And while we appreciate the thought that you would request my company, you have tasks ahead of yourself that require your utmost attention. You must keep the Corpse safe from those that would abuse its power, my sister included.”

Luna turns her head away from the group as she looks with melancholy into the distance. “In fact I fear it is my task which is the hardest,” the Goddess says, face demonstrating a sliver of worry. “For I must do something that I have put off for over one thousand years.”

Rarity walks up to Luna, levitating a few stray items into her bag as she looks at the Goddess of the Night with worry. “Surely you do not mean that you’re going to..….”

“I must confront my sister,” Luna finishes for the ivory fashionista. “But properly this time. Not with force and threats of damnation, but with words sincere and true. I must tell her what her abuse of her position and her magic has done to our ponies,” Luna says with worry. “And what she has done to me……”

“And if she does not listen to reason….” The Princess says with worry in her voice, “Well, at least I would have said my peace before I was sent back to the moon.” The Princess laughs morbidly at the thought as she prepares to take off into the air.

“…. You’re wrong.”

Luna stops, her wings primed to flap, as she turns to address the voice behind her. All eyes look at the previously-silent lavender unicorn with shock. Ever since she had finished telling them what the Corpse had told her, word for word, Twilight had been as silent as death.

“Even if she did something….. like that…… she would never hurt you,” Twilight says with certainty. Though her demeanor is still downcast, a glimmer of light courses through her words. “You and Celestia are sisters, she would never hurt you; she loves you Luna, don’t you ever doubt it.”

Luna looks to the lavender unicorn, her face uncertain and confused. “How can you be so sure of that? We have each done….. terrible things to each other, and all for petty reasons. How are you so sure that what we had can be repaired?”

“Because I too have a sibling: Shining Armor and I were always different, but we were always together,” Twilight says as if it is the simplest thing in the world. “We may fight from time to time, and I may not enjoy everything he does. But I know that he will always be there for me, whenever I need him, and that he will always love me. After all……” The mare lets loose a small tear, looking off towards Canterlot in the distance. “He’s all the family that I have left.”

No one else talks after that, no one else makes a noise, no pony knows what to say after Twilight’s heartfelt declaration. As the mare brushes a single tear off her face the group look at each other, each of their faces a stunned wreck.

“Twilight….” Luna says with the utmost sympathy. “We…. I did not know that…..”

“Don’t, Luna,” Twilight snaps at the Goddess. “Just don’t, I don’t have the patience to deal with it.” Twilight looks up at Luna with a soul rending look in her eyes. “Just please, please promise me that you’ll make up with her; despite everything, she loves you more than you know.”

……………….

Dash shakes her head, clearing thoughts of Luna from her mind. “I really don’t need this right now. Come on, Pinkie, let’s just go.” Dash turns away from Applejack and trots down the path, trying to cover up her worry with her normal brash indifference.

Every mare in the group turns their eyes away from the sniffling Pinkie Pie as they prepare to once again resume their quiet journey down the path home. Each pony begins to trot down the path ahead of them, all save Rarity, who raises her hoof tensely as if mentally debating whether or not to take the next step. The fashionista watches as her friends leave her behind, sullen looks adorning their faces, as she suddenly comes to a conclusion, the conclusion that this cannot continue.

“……. Alright, I do not know about the rest of you, but I can clearly tell that this is not working,” Rarity says, coming to a complete stop. With a look of frustration the ivory mare positions her flank and places herself right in the middle of the path. “I don’t know about all of you but I simply cannot take another step.”

The entire group sighs at Rarity’s predictable spoiled behavior as Applejack reaches over to pull the ivory mare up. “Come on, Rares, it’s not far from Ponyville now, just a mile er two more and we’ll be right as rain; now quit stallin and let’s get a move on.”

Rarity gently swats Applejack’s outstretched hoof away. “Applejack darling, I’m not talking about rest.” Rarity waves her hoof around her. “I’m talking about this. This ‘issue’ is tearing us apart. Now, I don’t know about you, but when there is an issue between friends I refuse to let it lie and fester like a dirty old bandage.”

Each mare stops and looks at the others in the group, the surprise at the sudden bravery of Rarity and the shame of their behavior seeping into their expressions. Clearing her throat, Rarity continues with measured poise and grace. “Well frankly I’ve had enough of us tearing each other to pieces over this, so I’m not moving another inch until we six get to the bottom of this dreadful issue and talk it out like good friends should.”

The six friends look at each other as Rarity’s words ring true in their own respective hearts. Breaking from their self-induced spell of depression and hopelessness the six mares look at each other, hoping for, if not a resolution of the issue at hoof, a way to appease the gnawing hole in their souls.

Dash scoffs at Rarity. “Oh, that’s a wonderful idea, Rarity!” she says with utmost sarcasm, mimicking the fashionista’s tone of voice. “Let’s all just hold hooves and sing kumbaya together as one big group of friends, I’m sure that’ll solve everything.”

“It’s nothing to get upset about, darling,” Rarity’s states with utmost calm, “I just think that we should talk about our problems before they…..”

“What’s my problem?!” Dash leaps into the air, her gear falling to the ground with a loud clatter. “I don’t have a problem! I just found out that our supreme despot is guilty of genocide!! That’s the problem!” Dash crosses her arms. “So yeah! Maybe I have a problem with ponies who butcher thousands of living breathing creatures for their own enjoyment! So sue me!”

“You think that she did it for her own enjoyment?!” Twilight shouts. “That’s sick! Princess Celestia may have done bad things, but she did it for us!” Twilight points to her heart. “She did it so that ponies like us could live in peace, that we could live full lives without worry! Don’t you dare belittle that sacrifice!”

“That Sacrifice!?” Dash shouts “She didn’t make a sacrifice! All those ponies and Griffins and dragons and whatevers outside of Equestria made it while she sat on her ivory throne eating cake! She might as well have gone out killed them all herself! And, as if she couldn’t get any worse, she lied to everypony about it, taking all the credit for being the such an awesome and nice princess when it was all some big lie!”

“How many times do I have to say it she didn’t do it for the fame, she didn’t even do it for herself! she did it for her little ponies, for all of us. And the reason that she lied to us is because if the Corpse's power was known it would cause mass panic!” Twilight retorts.

“Yeah! They’d panic because everypony NOT in Equestria was dying a slow and painful death!”

Pinkie prepares to walk between the two friends and break up their argument, only for her to be stopped by a gentle hoof on her back. Turning around the pink mare comes face to face with Fluttershy, who gives Pinkie a look telling her that ‘they need to get this out.’ So with heavy hearts the rest of the group watches on as the two friends yell at each other at the top of their lungs. The four ponies watching as the two mares duke it out, manifesting the conflict within each of the crusaders souls with harsh serrated words. Both Rainbow and Twilight respectively representing their pre-established conceptions of wrong and right and the desire to save the ones you love, screaming at the top of their lungs.

“What is your problem, Twilight?! Were you just born kissing Princess Celestia’s flank or are you so in love with the Princess that you take the side of a murderer?!”

“I just think that there is some truth to what the Princess is doing, you doofus! I’m not taking her side, I’m making a point! It’s very tempting not to try something if you have to power to do it!”

“Oh then EXcuuuussssseeeee ME! I didn’t know that having the power to kill ponies means that you should!”

“Would you shut up and think about things logically for once in your life, Dash?! Ponykind has never experienced a war or plague or economic collapse in one thousand years! Think of how many lives the Corpse’s power has protected, how many ponies have lived long healthy lives! You have to agree that such a power is tempting!”

“Oh and I suppose that using a power that killed hundreds made sure that your parents lived long healthy lives?” Dash spits out with anger and spite dripping off of every syllable.

Dash is blasted out of the sky by a bolt of purple magic as the lavender mare pants heavily in a blind rage. “DON’T You TALK about my parents! You don’t DESERVE to talk about family when your own father kicked you out of the house!!” Twilight yells as her repressed hatred and anger threatening to overtake her better judgement, her horn fizzling with deadly arcane energy.

The group finally realizes that things have gone too far as they rush over to the panting and teary eyed unicorn and the prone, groaning pegasus. Applejack and Rarity work at holding Twilight back as Fluttershy and Pinkie Pie Rush to Dash’s side. However, much to the relief of the group, Twilight’s blast though painful, was far from damaging and Dash is only bruised for her trouble. Recovering slowly from the sudden assault Dash is finally able to raise her head, coming face to face with Twilight’s hurt and pained expression. With the heat of the moment past, Dash begins to come to terms with how much her spite towards things beyond her control has hurt her friend.

“……I’m…… I’m sorry, Twilight……” Dash whimpers as she tries to pull herself off the ground, her impulsive, irresponsible actions hurting her more than the sudden bolt of magic ever could. “….. I…… that wasn’t fair of me…… I went way too far…… “ Dash hangs her head in shame, the weight of her actions finally catching up to her. “…..again……”

Twilight watches as the cerulean mare’s tears fall into the dust. Part of Twilight wants to blast Dash again, to give into her anger at her situation and her rage at being betrayed. However the larger part of Twilight, the good part of her knows that Dash is just as angry, upset, and torn up inside as she is and feels just as betrayed. In other words Dash feels just like she does. In her heart of hearts Twilight knows that, despite her words, Dash is a pony that she can count on no matter what and that she would never intentionally hurt her friends.

“I….. I’m sorry too, Dash, I shouldn’t have brought up your past like that,” Twilight states hesitantly, honestly ashamed of her own actions. “I know you’re impulsive sometimes and you say what’s on your mind.” Twilight exhales. “But that doesn’t make you a bad pony.” Twilight smiles gently at the cerulean mare who is still sitting on her flank embroiled in her own regret.

“Look,” Twilight rubs her horn as she tries to look at their situation logically. “I know what Celestia has done is wrong in a sense of the word. It’s just…… I’m trying to look at it from her perspective.” Twilight rubs her arm as she continues on. “If I could use a magic that could bring back my parents, or insure that a plague that would wipe out tens of thousands of ponies would cease to exist, then I’d be pretty hard-pressed not to use a power that could save lives even if it did hurt others.”

The entire group is silent waiting for somepony, namely Dash, to interject, however after a few moments the forest is just as quiet and still as it was before. “Ah…..” Applejack speaks up, removing her Stetson solemnly from her head. ”Ah know that feeling too, Twi. Ah lost mah parents too, when Ah was around Applebloom’s age.”

Twilight turns to the orange mare. “Yes, I know. I never wanted to intrude on your private life but I figured that they had already passed away.” With great care the lavender mare places her hoof on the farmer’s shoulder. “You don’t have to say anything that you feel you don’t have to, Applejack.”

Applejack nods as she wipes her sniffling nose. “It was a manticore…… got into the south fields near the Everfree and wandered into the main field……. Ah was in Manehattan at the time, so Ah don’t know what happened exactly….. But when I heard, Ah just didn’t want to come home at all.” The mare brushes more tears out of her eye. Yet despite the context of the story her voice is just as unwavering as it normally is, as she pours out one of the most sensitive memories in her life.

Rarity lowers her head sadly. “They were very good ponies, far better than I was at that age.”

“So Ah understand where ya are comin from, Twi. And ah’m not sayin we use that Corpse ta bring the dead back ta life and all that. That ain’t natural and ma and pa wouldn’t be happy like that.” Applejack gulps at the thought of her parents as zombies. “But if it could stop what happened ta ma an pa…… then I don’t know if Ah’d be able ta resist tryin it.”

A deep and reverent quiet fills the path that all six friends are standing on as each pony thinks back to things in their life that they would want to change if they had the power. Their minds fill with friends and loved ones, childish mistakes and long-impacting decisions, and everything in between as they each think of how they could use a power like that. But at the same time, lingering in the back of their minds like a bad secret between friends, lies the inevitable truth that every good thing wrought with such a power creates something bad, and every life saved, is a life lost by another. It is literally a pyrrhic victory: ponies are dammed if you use the Corpse and dammed if you don’t. Everypony suddenly realizes the painful irony of their situation, whether they use the Corpse or destroy it, each decision saves lives, each one damns them to suffering. There really is no way to win, no easy problem that can be addressed or solved by one’s moral compass.

“How is it……” Dash asks as she paws at the dirt with her hoof, “How is it that if this Corpse thing is supposed to make life so grand…..” Dash punches the ground futilely. “….That our lives are so bucked up right now?”

“I don’t know, Dash,” Twilight says as truthfully as possible. “I just don’t know.” Trotting over to the cerulean mare Twilight places her hoof around her barrel in a gentle hug. “I think that really all life is give and take, good things happen, and bad things happen too. Celestia just wanted to fill our lives with more good things than bad.”

Twilight is about to finish when a novel idea fills her mind, her eyes sparkling with an unknown radiance. The lavender librarian rises instantly to her hooves, throwing Dash off her balance in the process. “But maybe…. Maybe that’s the problem!”

Fluttershy tilts her head. “What do you mean, Twilight?”

“Think about it. We want only good things in our lives and work so hard to avoid the bad that we forget that sometimes we have to suffer a bit for things to work out better. Maybe Luna was right about the Corpse’s power being evil, not because it makes others suffer, but because it offers good things without any sacrifice, without any effort,” Twilight conjectures. “Maybe it’s that desire to be happy without doing anything that is truly evil, or the desire to see others happy without having them work for it.”

“WHOA! WHOA!” Pinkie gestures with her hooves as she jumps into Twilight’s field of vision. “Let’s not go too far, Twilight! I mean, I love making others happy, throwing parties and making ponies smile is the best! I mean there’s nothing wrong with making ponies happy and throwing parties and filling balloons with laughing gas…….. is there?”

“No, Pinkie, I didn’t mean that!” Twilight waves her hooves back and forth in a panic as she tries to keep herself from tearing her friend’s entire worldview to shreds. “I just meant that maybe if we want to have the ‘right’ to be happy and for things to work out, maybe we ourselves have to work for it rather than expect some magic or other pony to make us happy and fill our lives with meaning.”

“But Twilight!” Rarity speaks up, her face contorted with worry. “Not everypony can live happy lives, and it’s not sorely because of their own ineptitude or lack of ability. Sometimes….” Rarity’s voice stops, her words caught in her throat as she struggles to continue.

“…Sometimes all it takes is a wrong turn of fate to ruin everything you have ever worked for in your life. I mean, if I caught an incurable illness or killed some pony by accident; it would still make ponies suffer no matter what my intentions were in the first place. S-Sometimes it doesn’t matter how much you do……” Rarity says sadly. “Fate trumps all efforts and makes foolishness of the best-laid plans of mice and re. Sometimes no matter what you do you can never defeat your destiny…..”

Dash leaps to her hooves from her sitting position. “Bull, there’s no way that’s true. I beat destiny when I performed the Sonic Rainboom. And if I did it anypony can!” Dash crosses her arms crossly. “And even if it was true, that wouldn’t make what Celestia’s doing right.”

“……Not everypony can change the past, Dash.” Rarity picks her dirtied hoof off the ground, watching as drops of mud flow from the tip onto her pristine white coat. “To have your entire life ruined by a sole action outside your control, or even worse one of your own mistakes…… that is the definition of a tragedy.”

Rarity says with a tone of complete finality, “Believe me, I don’t believe what Celestia is doing is right, but part of me believes that it…… is necessary. After all, not everypony can be lucky enough to avoid misfortune, and to have a world without calamity…… Isn’t that what Celestia is trying to prevent?”

“Well that’s just….. I don’t………” Twilight, a mare with a 160 IQ, is stopped dead in her tracks at Rarity’s statement. The mare looks for any fallacy, any point that she can use to take apart Rarity’s arguments, but is unable to find a single one.

‘Is she right?’ Twilight thinks to herself. ‘No matter what I do, fate will always have the upper hoof, so doesn’t it make sense to fix the odds if it saves the lives of those I care about?’

‘No!’ Twilight shakes her head, unwilling to lie down and accept eventuality so easily. ‘I can’t doubt myself now! I came all this way thanks to my friends, I can’t afford to give up and let some arbitrary force take control of my life. Fate be damned! I have to believe in the path that I am taking, even if I can’t prove why. I have to believe that even if my resolve falters that I will never die, that no matter what happens that I won’t stop heading down a new path me and my friends are taking as we head into the future.’

Realizing she currently doesn’t have an answer to the question, Twilight resorts to a tactic that her mentor Celestia used on many an occasion; stall and hope the pony forgets the question. “Forget it; I’m too tired to think about this clearly.” Twilight fakes a groan and she begins to walk down the path again. “Let’s just get back home and sleep, we’re almost back to Ponyville anyways.”

Everypony looks at each other as Twilight trots hastily away from the scene of battle. And though each pony has not solved their own dilemmas about the Corpse, the fact that they have finally been able to confront the problem has done wonders for their moods and more importantly their friendships.

Now in a much calmer but still sullen mood the six friends begin to trot more rapidly to get out of the haunted forest. Their journey though still quiet and surrounded by the darkness for the forest around them begins to take on a new pace and in no time at all the dark green of the canopy begins to thin out to make way for lighter hues. The forest begins to thin out around them, the leaves of the trees letting in actual sunlight for a change in place of the murky shrouded light they had grown accustomed to for hours. Soon the shade gives way to the dying light of the sun, not yet red from sunset but getting there, as large beams of light cut through the shadows with ease.

Finally, after what seemed like the longest and most difficult trek in the six mares’ short lives, the entrance of the forest presents itself in the distance, the entire group breathing a collective sigh of relief. As they begin their trek to the forest’s entrance the group once more begins to talk about casual, everyday things, their previous troubles losing relevance in their joy to finally be free of the Everfree Forest. However, Twilight Sparkle, taking up the head of the group, narrows her vision as she looks past the forest’s entrance to a very peculiar sight.

As the rest of the group begins to trot rapidly out of the forest, Twilight trots behind the main pack to speak with another lagging friend. “Rarity?” Twilight asks curiously.

“Yes, Twilight?” Rarity asks while keeping pace with Twilight’s quick walking.

“Did you tell the Trixie and the others when we would be coming back?” Twilight asks. “Did you tell them clearly when we would be coming back to Ponyville?”

“Twilight, you know I did! After all, you were there too, and you told them all yourself,” Rarity muses, “So why would you ask me darling?”

Twilight points her hoof to the entrance of the forest and the large armored group waiting on them. “Because we currently have a greeting party and they’re a day early.”

With an expression of true surprise the entire group of six comes to a stop at the very edge of the Everfree, taking in the size of the group of ponies apparently waiting for them. Even in the diminished light of the setting sun the reflective armor of the Solar Guard is clearly visible to all present. Their jaws lower as the six travelers realize that they have come face to face with an entire contingent of Royal Guards lead by none other than the Great and Powerful Trixie.

The six mares, though cautious at the sudden appearance of so much military might, trust that the presence of their friend(?) Trixie is a good sign, and with measured steps they begin to trot over to the large group coming just past the edge of the Everfree. However, despite the appearance of six brightly colored mares, the Solar Guard, too occupied by their own conversations, remain blissfully ignorant of the arrival of the very group that they have been waiting for at the edge of the most dangerous set of woods in the world. The Guards all talk amongst themselves, polishing their armor and weapons as they watch with interest, the loud commotion coming from the center of their ranks occupying their attentions. The six mares watch as Trixie talks loudly with a Zebra in a tight fitting black suit and a professional looking white-coated solder, who from his armor appears to be the one in charge. Though the Stardust Crusaders cannot make out the words spoken from their distance, the argument appears to be heated as the two ponies and one zebra debate amongst themselves, arguing with both diction and body language in an attempt to make their points. The argument goes on for a few minutes until Rarity, unwilling to be ignored for another second (and far too used to being the center of attention), clears her throat loudly in an attempt to get the Guard’s attentions.

“Um… Trixie, Darling?” Rarity asks with caution as the entire Guard turns as one to face the newly arrived group of ponies. All voices cease as Rarity gulps heavily. “I-I-It’s not that we don’t appreciate the thought... But Trixie….. could you perhaps explain WHY you happened to bring an entire contingent of Solar Guards with you to come greet us?” The ivory mare watches nervously as the large group of Guards slowly advances on them. “I mean, I understand completely how a mare of such proper demeanor would require an armed escort, however I assure you the thought was unnecessary.”

Though the ivory mare laughs at her own joke as the group of Guards closes in, forming a semi-circle shape around them, the Guards remain serious and undaunted, their eyes locking on the group for any sign of trouble. The six mares slowly give ground as they are pressed with their backs to the cursed forest; Trixie’s pained expression giving them all indications that the appearance of the Guards is not a good one. Wit the pressure of almost a hundred soldiers bearing against them, half the group prepares to run at a second’s notice and the other half prepares to fight, when a very strange thing happens to the most predictable pony in their group.

“Shiny!” Twilight shouts with a level of glee and excitement that would cause one to mistake her for Pinkie Pie.

“Twilly!” the white stallion shouts. As the purple mare leaps forward, the white stallion who heads up the Guards takes off his official helmet revealing his two toned blue mane. With suddenness that surprises both sides the two unicorns embrace in a loving hug.

“Shiny?” Applejack asks inquisitively, “Yawl don’t think that’s……”

“Oh, i’m sorry! Where are my manners,” Twilight apologizes, turning back to face her friends. “Everypony, I’m very pleased to introduce the Captain of the Solar Guard, and my BBBFF.” Twilight takes in a deep breath, giving the precise amount of time to build up a dramatic pause. “Shining Armor!”

The stallion bows dramatically, playing along with his sister’s well-played exaggeration., hamming it up as he bows to imaginary applause from every pony in his presence. “Thank you, thank you, you’ve been a wonderful audience, I’ll be here in Ponyville (because I’m here on royal business as Captain of the Royal Guard) all week!”

“…….”

“…………..”

“………………..”

“……Captain Armor?” An orange male pegasus with dark blue hair coughs nervously. “I still respect your command and everything, but that was….. how do I put it……” The cadet struggles with his words, fumbling with an attempt to put his feelings and no doubt the feelings of everypony in the clearing into polite words. “…..Well, it’s just that, we still respect you and all……”

“….But that was by far the lamest thing I have ever seen,” Lightning Dust finishes with absolutely zero tact. “And I’ve seen Flash Sentry here’s attempts to pick up mares.”

“Yeah, that’s……Hey!” The orange stallion turns sharply around to face Lightning. “For your information, Lightning, that mare just happened to have previous obligations. It’s not like she was intentionally avoiding me!”

“Yeah, that’s why she had ‘previous obligations’ every time you asked her out.”

“…...It could happen…..”

“It could happen fifteen times in a row?”

Ignoring the conversation between the two Guards, Twilight’s friends begin to talk amongst themselves about the stunning first impression of Guard Captain Shining Armor. “Give me a break, they're brother an sister alright,” Applejack comments. “Ah’ve never met two ponies with such a bad sense of humor before, they gotta be related.”

“Indeed,” Rarity comments, “it is quite rare to find two ponies that have such a…… unique sense of what is ‘in’ and what is not.”

“Ah’ll say.” Applejack tilts her hat forward, obscuring her face.

“And what’s THAT supposed to mean?” Twilight asks as she levels her most powerful stink eye at the orange farmer and ivory fashionista. However, in light of the appearance of her brother she quickly dismisses the farmer’s words. “You know what, it doesn’t matter, I’m just glad to have you here Shiny. I have had the absolute worst day ever, I really needed you here now.”

The group visibly lets down their guard as they all breathe in relief and begin to relax. Every one of Twilight’s six friends relieved both By Twilight’s improved behavior and the unorthodox appearance of the Captain of the Royal Guard greeting them. And if Twilight’s previously dismal mood could be improved by being in touch with her family, then all the better.

“Zecora!” Twilight smiles with newfound happiness as she trots up to the Zebra. “What are you doing here? Did you come here to keep an eye on my hopeless brother?”

“Hey! I’m not that bad!”

“Please, Shining.” Twilight grins. “You probably wouldn’t have been able to find the way to Ponyville even if you had a map! You’re totally hopeless.”

Zecora snickers at Shining’s embarrassment for a moment as mirth fills her visage. However, as soon as it appeared, the happiness vanishes, leaving both the Guard Captain and the Zebra with somber expressions on their faces. “Twilight Sparkle,” Zecora begins sadly, “as you might know, our presence is important and though we are happy to see you so, our news and our purpose is quite grave.”

Zecora’s tone instantly conveys to Twilight all the indication of something being is very wrong. “Shining? Why are you here?” the lavender mare asks nervously as her hooves stand rooted to the ground. “I know that you are excited to see me but you’re the Captain of the Royal Guard, you wouldn’t come here unless… unless something was wrong.”

Twilight gulps heavily as a dark creeping sensation passes through her bones. “T-This is….. what are you all doing here? Shining? Please, why are you here looking for me?”

Looking his scared sister in the eyes Shining Armor sighs deeply. “I-I’m sorry, Twilly. I hate to see you like this, but I come bearing bad news.”

“Bad news?” Twilight asks as she takes a step back. “What’s the bad… woah!”

In that disastrous moment, a moment that will indeed change the world, taking a step back Twilight trips over a stray rock sending her falling to her rump. This accident may have changed nothing were it not for the fact that in tripping over the rock the large package of the Corpse chose in that moment to dislodge itself from her back, sending the priceless artifact sprawling to the ground and revealing its gentle golden glow to every pony present.

Shining Armor’s eyes widen in dawning concern and worry at the sight of the hardened stone on the ground. Zecora audibly gasps at the sight of something so inherently beautiful as the stone’s radiance reflects off her stripes and muzzle, her hoof covering her expression as she stares dumbfounded at the Holy Corpse. Trixie, the mare of one thousand snappy comebacks, is struck mute, her jaw hanging open like a barn door in shock. And the entire Royal Guard gasps as they back slowly away from the glowing statue. Twilight herself gives Shining a look of equal shame and embarrassment, like the kind of look a foal might have if they were caught with their hooves in the cookie jar as she realizes that there is no way this could possibly end well.

“Twily…..” Shining gulps, “Where did you get that…. That much of the….” Zecora nudges the stallion, causing him to snap out of his stupor. “Red Stone! Where did you get that much of the Red Stone, Twily? That’s way too much for you to carry around on your back.”

Shining Armor chuckles nervously as he surrounds the Corpse with the pink aura of his magic. “So why don’t I take this off your hooves and we can talk about….”

“NO!” Twilight shouts. With a burst of her own magic Twilight causes her brother’s magic aura to fade, sending the Corpse once again crashing against the ground. With her own telekinesis Twilight deftly wraps the large mass of fossilized flesh up in its protective sheath of cloth and places it on her back, stepping away from her brother with a look of betrayal in her eyes.

Shining Armor initially prepares to raise his voice to chastise his sister, to ask what she is thinking, to assure her that he is on her side. But It is deadly clear by the look she has in her eyes that Twilight has no intention with parting with the object resting on her back. And more frightening of all, the look in his sister’s eyes tells the Captain of the Royal Guard that she knows everything he has tried to keep from her for her entire life.

“I-I didn’t want to believe it, Twily.” Shining lowers his head in worry. “And even now I don’t.” Shining raises his face, looking his sister in the eyes as he pushes down his own feelings of discomfort and regret for what he is about to do. “But you have just crossed the line. Now I’m going to give you one last chance hand over that, thing, on your back and come with us. Please, Twilight, don’t make this hard on yourself.”

Twilight, though comforted by her brother’s words, shakes her head signifying her resistance. “No, Shining, I can’t hoof this over to you. I don’t know how much you know about the Corpse or what it does, but you can’t hoof it over to Celestia. You don’t know what kind of power…..”

Twilight’s eyes widen as her brother’s reaction and his behavior around the complete Red Stone filter through her analytical mind. In an instant the mare reframes her own brother’s past behavior in a new light, leading her to a single, horrible conclusion. “……. Oh sweet Celestia, you know…….” The lavender mare’s legs shake as she falls to her knees with a crash. “……You know what this is….. That’s why…. That’s why you’re trying to take it!”

“Enough of this!” Shining stomps his hooves. “Twilight, I’m begging you, just turn yourself over. I’ll clear you of these stupid charges, but resisting arrest will only make you look more guilty!”

“Resisting arrest?!” Applejack shouts, “What in Equestria are yawl talkin bout? Twilight ain’t done nothing worthy of bein arrested!”

“Yeah!” Pinkie shouts, “And you can’t just go around telling ponies to listen to you just cause you’ve got a big fancy uniform! I know my rights! And I won’t be silenced. And you can’t arrest my friend for no reason! That’s a fact!” Pinkie shouts as she pulls the lavender mare in a tight hug, as if unwilling to let her go.

“You’re right, Pinkie,” Trixie states with a serious expression, “Normally Twilight would be fine, nopony would dare touch the Princess’ student. But….” Trixie gulps back her worry as she manages to continue. “….But The Great and Powerful Trixie is loath to admit, new information has come to the attention of the crown; information that points to Twilight Sparkle being the traitor that has been tipping off criminal groups and terrorists to the location of troop movements and Red Stone caches.”

“And you think Twilight is this….. this traitor, Trixie?” Rarity asks with her most offended tone of voice. “How could you even think that Twilight would be responsible for such horrible things?”

“It does not matter what Trixie thinks!” Trixie exclaims, “The fact of the matter is that paperwork was discovered that implicates Twilight of disclosing these confidential reports to third parties; the evidence does not lie.”

“Trixie speaks the truth.” Zecora nods. “Though it feels as wrong as an ache in a tooth, Twilight’s actions with her Stones has been most aloof.”

“Twilight? A traitor?” Fluttershy gasps as her fear begins to give way to indignation at the Royal Guards daring to insult her friend with scandalous lies. “That’s….. That’s awful! Twilight would never betray anypony! She’s the second-most-loyal pony I know,” Fluttershy exclaims as she turns to the rainbow-hued pegasus next to her. “Right behind Dash, of course.”

“Yeah!” Dash yells, itching for a fight. “Instead of accusing Twilight of being this big bad why don’t you back off and answer our questions!” Dash crosses her hooves. “Or better yet, how did you even know we were here?! If you ask me, you should be interrogating whoever blabbed our secrets of being this traitor, not Twilight!”

“It was easy to know you were here, for we had a friend that you trusted dear,” Zecora states as she turns to the light blue showmare. “Celestia sent Trixie to keep an eye on you, to determine of what is true, about the accusations that accuse Twilight of being a traitor, through and through.”

“Trixie’s a spy?” Dash exclaims. “I knew it!”

“Trixie is a Stand Agent! Not a common snitch!” The showmare proclaims proudly. “It is The Great and Powerful Trixie’s job to report suspicious activities to the Princess! Of course she would report the appearance of Strange magical Stones that appeared out of nowhere, and granted wishes!”

“Twilight,” Shining says with utmost seriousness as he tries one last time to assure his sister of his good intentions. “I know that you’re very confused about now. But you need to step away from that thing that fell out of your pack and come with me, as calmly as possible.”

Shining’s pleas are cut off as a rainbow blur rushes the Captain of the Guard, knocking him off his hooves with a body rush that sends him skidding across the ground. However, with a dexterous flip and a quick change of his momentum, the stallion lands back on his hooves with minimal damage, locking eyes with the mare that knocked him over. Rainbow Dash, demonstrating her innate desire to stand up to authority and protect her friends, stands steadfast and firm in front of the stunned lavender mare. “Like buck you are! Twilight’s going nowhere with you, even if you are her brother!”

In an instant the entire Guard readies itself only to be stopped by the wave of the Guard Captain’s hoof. “Stand down, everypony.”

Murmurs fill the circle as Zecora steps up to place a hoof on Shining Armor. “Shining Armor, I know that you trust in your sister’s innocence as do I, but….”

Demonstrating his normal confidence the stallion turns to address the Zebra mare. “Don’t worry, Zecora.” Shining turns to face the cerulean pegasus with fierce eyes. “I’ll handle this myself.”

The pegasus hovers in the air as her Stand’s aura surrounds her hooves. Smashing her rainbow colored hooves together in a small burst of color the pegasus stares down the Guard Captain in front of her. “You may be fine with dragging an innocent pony to jail against her will, but Twilight’s in no shape to put up with your garbage. You may be Twilight’s brother, but if you think even for a second any friend of mine could turn her back on any pony….. then you don’t know a thing about her.”

Dash lands on the ground, her wings flaring In a display of hostility as she paws the dirt with her hoof, ready to strike. “So I’ll give YOU one chance to back off. You are Twilight’s brother, and I’d really hate to have to send her only family back to Canterlot on a stretcher.”

But despite Dash’s display of intimidation, Shining grins back cockily, not phased in the slightest by the pegasus’ bravado. “Sorry to say this, Miss Dash. But you’re one hundred years too early to even touch me. And even if you were a match for me, my resolve to protect my country is far stronger than anything that you could possibly bring to bear against me.” The stallion digs in his hooves for the defense, his horn crackling with magic as he narrows his gaze at the pegasus before him. “Don’t underestimate the resolve of a solder.”

“And don’t you underestimate me!” Rainbow Dash states as she rushes towards the Captain of the Guard, her hooves poised to attack. Closing the gap in under a second the mare hits the stallion at full throttle as waves of rainbow colored power course across her frame. The ground ripples and fractures as the mare smiles in satisfaction from the response of her strong left cross. Surely such a blow could rend mountains, yet standing completely unfazed, protected by a dark purple shell, the Captain of the Guard stands behind his barrier completely unharmed.

Dash’s mouth gapes open and closed for a moment as she ponders how her full force blow couldn’t even crack the captain's barrier. Stunned by the results of her attack, the rainbow-maned mare barely notices in time as a larger purple bubble begins to take shape around her threatening to trap her inside. Placing all four of her hooves on the shield in front of her the mare flips off of the barrier, trying to escape through the hole in the shield behind her as it closes around her. With not a second to spare the mare breaks through the single opening in the shield to the relative safety of the blue skies above. Looking down at the shield she was almost trapped inside, the mare breathes an immense sigh of relief and staring down at the stallion beneath her.

“What….. the heck?” Dash states with no small deal of surprise. “That was my best attack! What, are your shields unbreakable or something?”

Shining blinks in surprise as the mare’s statement hits a bull’s eye. “Actually yes. But you were wrong about one thing: it’s not a shield, it’s my Stand”

Extending his hoof the Captain of the Guard manifests a single bubble in front of his eyes. “To create an unbreakable shield, a barrier that can protect anypony from any attack thrown at any angle. An invincible defense that cannot be broken. That is the power of my Bastion. You may have an impressive attack, Miss Dash, but against my defense you can’t even scratch me.” Shining grins as he taps the bubble around him, causing the shield to emit a thumping sound in response. “After all, sometimes the best offense is the good defense.”

“So what?” Dash cracks her hooves, unwilling to accept defeat for even a second. “A good defense doesn’t make a good offense. Even if I can’t break through your shields I just have to wait for you to drop your guard so I can shove my hoof in your face.” With trademark speed and precision the rainbow mare sprints around the barrier with rapid sharp movements as if goading the stallion into attacking and letting down his guard.

“That’s only IF I drop my shield.” The stallion smiles as his shield ripples, causing several tinier bubbles, each the size of a basketball, to pop out of the shield encasing him. The stallion’s horn glows with magical power as his aura shrouds the individual bubbles, each of them suspended in mid-air around him. The stallion’s horn blazes with telekinetic energy as the individual bubbles rotate around his barrier like the sun and moon around the earth, their speed increasing as the stallion swings the shields at the flying prismatic mare. Yet the mare’s speed and reflexes are far too fast to be hit by the stallion’s circling spheres as she drifts around them, peppering the main shield with attacks from her own Stand, Valkyrie. The ground quakes from her assault, but once again Shining’s shields remain unfazed by Dash’s attack, the mare backing off as Shining Armor swings all of his projectiles at her like a flail, the bubbles smashing into the ground with enough force to create a crater in the hardened rock ground.

“Not bad reflexes,” Shining comments as his projectile bubbles increase in size from about the size of a basketball to the size of a large exercise ball. “But how about we stop warming up now? I have a job to do.”

With a flick of his horn the stallion sends all the bubbles soaring at the blue mare who weaves through his attacks with her natural flying precision. Directed by the stallion’s will the bubbles follow the mare around, making up for their lack of speed with their ability to attack from Dash’s blind spots with their larger size. Shining grins as his Bastion slowly encloses around the mare, her movements becoming even more restricted as she is forced to dodge attacks from every angle at once, the Captain of the Guard increasing the frequency of his attacks as he presses his advantage.

Suddenly Dash ceases her rapid dodging hovering in midair. With a pained look she realizes that she has been boxed in, Shining Armor’s spheres covering every angle around her that she could conceivably escape through. Shining savors the Dash’s shock as she realizes that she has nowhere to run. “Got you!” With a wave of his hoof all of his large spheres move in from every angle to attack the mare, cutting off escape as the bubbles threaten to smash the mare to pieces with their size and force.

Yet just as all the bubbles close on the rainbow mare, threatening to crush her, she spins around in a cyclone of prismatic color, attacking every moving shield at once with a full force barrage.

“USSSSSSHHHHHHHHHHAAAAAAAAAAGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHH!!!”

Spinning like a tornado the mare throws punch after punch, kick after kick, as she threatens to shatter the air itself with every explosive blows resonating from her hooves. Yet this time the bubbles are blown back by the shockwaves of color and light, the shields tossed aside by Dash’s superior barrage as the telekinetic aura controlling their movements fades into nothing. Shining’s telekinetic force surrounding the bubbles collapses as they fall inert to the ground, all the ponies gaping at Dash’s superior display of physical strength and power.

“Ha, I knew it!” Dash crosses her hooves, confidently fluttering in midair. “I knew your so-called invincible bubbles weren’t so tough after all. Al I had to do was make a little wind with my Valkyrie and I just blew them all away!”

Dash hoof-pumps as she anticipates her victory. “‘Defense is the best offense’ my flank! From where I’m hovering you can’t even touch….” The mare blinks as she realizes that the stallion is nowhere to be found. “Hey where did he go?”

“I’m right here.” With shock the cerulean pegasus looks underneath her just in time to see the stallion’s purple bubble encase her in a dark purple sphere. Panicking at the fact that she has been caught, the mare quickly attacks the bubble only for it her best attacks to bounce off it like a fly against a pane of glass.

The stallion beneath her can’t help but chuckle at the mare’s humorous attempts to escape as he shakes his head condescendingly. “That’s the weakness with fliers, it’s easy to knock them out of the air, and three hundred and sixty degree combat leaves a lot of room for blind spots. Which is why it’s textbook to attack directly underneath a pegasus where they can’t see you casting a spell.” Dash struggles even more against the barrier as she realizes with horror as the barrier is shrinking around her.

“You were right about one thing,” Shining Armor admits, “since no magic can pass through Bastion it severely limits my attack options.” The stallion states as the bubble shrinks around Dash even further.

“And I’ll give you credit where it is due, you are fast.” Dash presses her hooves against the wall of the shield as she struggles to keep the wall from closing in on her.

The stallion looks up at the mare, watching as Rainbow Dash’s strength begins to give out. “But like I said, you’re one hundred years too inexperienced to beat me. There’s a reason I’m Captain of the Guard and I’d be lying if I said that it wasn’t in part of my Stand power. Not even grade four teleportation can pass through it. Once you are encased in my Bastion there is no escape.”

Despite Dash’s great resistance she is forced into the fetal position, where the shield stops closing in, completely immobilizing her. “In fact, if I weren’t letting air in you’d be suffocating right about now, or you would have been crushed to death due to the pressure. I never take a life needlessly, or injure a pony when I don’t have to, unless they give me no choice.”

With a serious look on the stallion’s face he turns to address the rest of the five mares. “Now the rest of you stand down, this fight is over. Just hoof over the Corp…. I mean that large Red Stone, and surrender Twilight to us, and nopony else will have to be hurt.”

“Now you see here!” Fluttershy shouts as she readies her Stare against the contingent of Guards. “Now you may be big and strong, but if you think just because you have a big fancy badge that you can take a pony away from her loved ones in the middle of the night, well then you had better think again mister!”

“An if yawl think we’re just hoofin over the Corpse so yawl can use it fer yer own benefit…” The country farmer straightens her hat as she digs her hooves into the ground. “….Then yawl got another thing commin!”

“Yeah, no way we’re letting you put Twilight in a dark scary cell!” Pinkie readies her fistsicufs as her white tatooed stand makes it’s appearance.

“I concur, darlings,” Rarity says as she readies her own Stand to attack. “I may be a lady of class, but I’m not one to sit back while a bunch of bullies badger my friends and rob them of their possessions like common thugs!”

The Guards ready their weapons as the four mares step in front of Twilight in a clear statement of defiance. Both sides show absolutely no signs of backing down as they slowly begin to advance on each other. The Guards ready their weapons as the Captain of the Guard solemnly sighs at what their mission has brought them too. Yet even he readies himself as he prepares to fight, his eyes cold and steely as he too prepares for the inevitable clash. Yet Twilight’s friends are no less resolved, even Dash in her captured state levels a piercing gaze at the soldiers before them. Each of her friends surround the purple librarian as they prepare to fight to the death to defend their friend.

“Twilight,” Applejack whispers to the mare behind her. “We’ll hold them off, soon as the fighting gets startin then run back inta the Everfree. Run for the Castle of the Two Sisters an we’ll meet ya later. Just make sure ya get the Corpse as far away as possible. Now get!”

Yet Twilight says nothing.

Twilight watches as a battle threatens to begin in front of her, eyes clouding over as her mind struggles to process what she is seeing. In her mind’s eye she can see the future of the Corpse unfolding as if with her waking eyes. As in a fever dream she can see hundreds of thousands of ponies raise banners in her name, each one chanting for her as they march into battle against the might of the evil monarch of the sun. The two sides clash, each pony fighting, screaming, and dying, all for the power and glory the Corpse can offer her a her kingdom. She sees it with her waking eyes, the carnage, the bloodshed and the ruin that such a power can bring. And in a nightmarish vision Twilight stares in horror at what the future holds, all her friends lying dead and blood spattered at her hooves as she alone holds the power of the Corpse. Canterlot stands sacked, the palace despoiled, as she alone sits on the throne of Equestria, the cold dead husk of her mentor lying at her hooves. The mare visibly shudders as she snaps back to the present, watching as her friends prepare to go toe to toe with an entire contingent of Royal Guards, all for the sake of the Corpse.

“Stop it……” Twilight whispers as her friends ready their Stands to fight, their faces a mask of grim determination.

“Please….. stop….. please….” Twilight watches in horror as the Guards ready their spears and their own Stands as they prepare for combat.

With burning hearts and a desire to fight both sides charge at each other, Stands at the ready as they close the distance in an all-out charge. The sound of their hooves echo like the drum beats to a dirge as they both prepare to fight to the death, for friend and for country.

“STTOOOOOOOOOP!” The unicorn screams at the top of her lungs, both sides ceasing their charge. Everypony turns towards the mare, their bloodlust and desire for conflict dying as they look into the tear-filled eyes of the mare. “Please stop this! Please stop fighting!”

Twilight’s friends, perhaps the most touched of all, deactivate their Stands as they look to the distraught purple mare; their resolve faltering in the face of their friend’s heartbroken appearance.

“But Twi!” Applejack says as she points her hoof towards the Royal Guards. “We can’t just hoof over somthin as powerful as that ta Celestia. We have ta fight if we want ta keep it from their hooves!”

“I-It may be worth fighting for,” Twilight admits hesitantly as she slowly rises to her hooves. “But is it really worth dying for?!” Twilight cries out, her voice filled with pain and sorrow.

Everypony stops. Everypony, aged and young, big and small, mare and stallion puts aside their own preferences and skepticism to listen to the lavender mare. They all look on as the lavender mare’s tears speak to them as much as her words do. “What good is all the power in the world if it comes at the cost of the lives of those who you love? What good is peace if it requires death? What good will hurting each other do now? How much more blood needs to be shed over this power?”

With heavy hooves the lavender mare picks the large body of the Corpse off her back, and with a casual throw hefts the Corpse at the hooves of Shining Armor. “No more,” Twilight exclaims as she wipes the tears from her eyes. “I won’t let anypony pony suffer because of this power. And I won’t let it cost me my friends……. or my family.” Twilight leans down exposing her hooves to her brother, Captain of the Solar Guard. “I surrender, Shining. You win.”

In an instant all of Twilight’s friends rush around the lavender mare, requesting that she stop, asking what she is thinking, and begging her to reconsider all at the same time. Yet despite her friend’s pleas and logic Twilight trots towards her brother with the certainty and resolve that awes her friends into silence. Frankly, Twilight’s friends don’t know how Twilight could trust her life and the Corpse to a minion of Celestia, even if he is her brother. But in Twilight’s heart of hearts, despite the her own disagreements with Celestia’s methods, Twilight knows that her brother will always be on her side. She knows that no matter what he will always be her BBBFF and he will always be her family.

With a curt nod of his head Shining Armor gives the order and a Stand collar falls across Twilight’s neck blocking off not only her Stand powers, but her magic as well. As the bindings fall across Twilight’s form Shining Armor picks the Corpse off the ground, placing it carefully inside his Bastion, protecting the Corpse’s power both from itself and any pony that might try to claim it. Twilight’s friends look on in fear and apprehension as they watch their friend be bound and taken away from them like a common criminal in front of their eyes. As if sensing the group’s angst at their own powerlessness Shining addresses them to calm their fears.

“Don’t worry, she’s in safe hooves with me,” Shining assures them with the authority only a truly noble pony can muster. Rising back up to his full stature the stallion gives a confident grin to the group; not the cocky full-of-themselves grin an arrogant noble might possess, but the calm reassuring smile of a self-made stallion. “I know you are all worried. But I can promise you that no harm will ever befall Twily as long as I draw breath. Of this you have my word.”

“Captain Armor!” An orange pegasus recruit snaps a sharp salute. “What should we do about the others? They don’t appear to be a threat……..”

“HEY!” Dash yells from inside Shining’s barrier. “I take offense to that!”

“…….But protocol states that they are accomplices to the accused. Do we take them in as well?” the Guard asks as Shining Armor looks over the rest of the group.

Applying years of tactical experience and investigative knowledge the military stallion comes to a quick decision. “That won’t be necessary, First Sergeant Flash.”

A decision that makes him few friends within his own unit. “Captain Armor, I object!” Lightning Dust lands to the side of her captain. “They tried to assault you, and were in the possession of some serious contraband. It’s obvious that they’re our enemy.”

“For once I agree with Sergeant Lightning,” an orange pegasus male says, trotting next to his superior officer. “It’s obvious that they know something; they should be brought in for questioning as well. I know that they are friends of your sister, Captain Shining, but we can’t leave a single possibility to chance.”

Shining Armor gives the ponies in front of him another once over, looking at the imprisoned Dash and the rest of his sister’s friends before waving his hoof dismissively. “No, I don’t think that I’m going to do that. Instead….” Shining gestures over to the blue showmare. “They will all be released under the observation of Trixie Lulamoon, for their own safety and so that they won’t try anything ‘dangerous’.” Shining smiles as he turns to the blue showmare. “Can I count on you to accomplish this task, Trixie Lulamoon?”

The blue unicorn blinks in surprise for a single moment before snapping into a hasty salute. “Sir. You are currently the highest ranking officer aside from Celestia herself. Would you ask Trixie to impale herself you could count on her to accomplish the task. Rest assured, The Great and Powerful Trixie will insure these hayseeds are safe from harm, you can count on her to keep them in line, sir!”

Shining rolls his eyes at Trixie’s over-exuberance. “Yeah…. just don’t go impaling yourself any time soon. That’s a lot of paperwork right there.” With reluctance Shining Armor turns to the rest of Twilight’s friends and with a glow of magic Dash is freed from her prison, landing safely on the ground. “There you have it; Trixie will ensure that you are safe and accounted for, as well as ensuring the fact that you will stay out of trouble.”

Dash rises shakily to her hooves as she takes in long deep draughts of fresh free air. “But-But Twilight….. We can’t let you have Twilight.”

“Please, don’t worry about me guys,” Twilight says sorrowfully, her face a mask of concern. “I’ll be fine, I trust Shining Armor and if he says that he’ll clear me of these charges then I believe him. Just wait for me in the Library and fill Trixie in on what’s going on until I can clear this mess up.” The mare levels her gaze at the more impulsive members of the group. “And I don’t want to hear of any plans to break me out of jail or endanger the lives of the Solar Guards. Are we clear?”

The rest of the group nods emphatically under the piercing gaze of Twilight Sparkle, knowing just how fierce the mare can get and knowing that any disobedience on her behalf will not be tolerated.

Shining Armor snickers under his breath at how his little sister has bred fear into such an impulsive group of mares. Their job complete, Shining gives an immense sigh of relief for the fact that they were able to complete the mission without bloodshed. “Don’t worry about Twily,” Shining Armor assures them once again. “This isn’t the first time that she’s gotten in trouble. We’ll keep her safe while we get to the bottom of this mess.”

Dash raises her voice, eager to get in the last word. “Yeah, I bet she’ll be real safe in a prison cell.”

Shining visibly bristles at the mention of putting his sister in a cell. “She’ll be out before you know it. Just sit tight and leave this to the Guard. I promise you that this entire mess will be resolved in ten seconds flat.” Shining grins mockingly at the blue pegasus.

Dash’s eyes widen. “Wait a second….. how did you know that was……”

“Trixie’s reports,” Shining Armor finishes.

“Then do you know about how when I got my Stand and…..”

“Oh yeah.” Shining grins as he makes it abundantly clear the level of blackmail he has on the pegasus, as well as what he could do with said information in just two words.

Rainbow Dash gulps heavily at the implications of what the Royal Guard has on her as Shining Armor motions to the group of Guards. Responding as if like clockwork all of the soldiers line up in formation around the Captain of the Guard as he places his helmet curtly on his head. “The rest of you are all free to go. Trixie will ensure that you get to the library safely.” Shining Armor’s horn blazes with light as his teleportation spell begins to reach its zenith

“And stay safe,” The stallion states as if an afterthought. “There’s trouble in this town that I can’t place my hoof on.”

The light of Shining’s horn grows to magnificent proportions as the stallion encompasses the entire contingent of Royal Guards in a field of pulsing magic power. Before any one of Twilight’s friends can protest, the entire group of Guards vanishes in a scale of teleportation that would be impossible for any normal unicorn as the six remaining mares shield their eyes from the brilliance of the light. In a moment Lightning Dust, Zecora, Shining Armor, and their friend Twilight, as well as the Corpse, all disappear in a flash of light, leaving all of the other ponies gaping at the empty spot where their friend once stood. Trixie, left behind by her superior officer, trots up to the rest of the group; however she is unable to speak a syllable in light of the situation as she joins the rest in staring at the empty spot on the field where Twilight once stood. Everypony wracks their respective brain. Each one questioning their actions and words. Each one wondering if this was really the best way, if there wasn’t another way to help their friend, to save the Corpse, to do something other than just sit there watching as their friend was taken into custody.

They each wonder whether or not what they did was right as a beautiful sunset begins to fall across Ponyville.

“So….” Pinkie asks the rest of her friends, a look of deep concern on her face. “What do we all do now?”

Author's Note:

To Be Continued→

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