• Published 30th Apr 2016
  • 9,323 Views, 977 Comments

My Little Pony: Friendship is Numerous - Monty Eggman



Based on the Equestria Girls movies and Yu-Gi-Oh! ZEXAL, this series tells the story of Sunset Shimmer in her quest to locate a series of dangerous cards that corrupt those who find them. It's time to Duel!

  • ...
10
 977
 9,323

PreviousChapters Next
RANK 9: The Mysterious World:

Author's Note:

For this major episode, I introduce the next main hero along with a very familiar Number card. But most shocking of all... Zecora stops rhyming temporarily. :pinkiegasp:

Another thing to make a note of is that, for the legend behind the Astral World in this series, I decided that, while I would adopt most of what has been established by ZEXAL, I would give my own take on what the Astral World is. The reason being is that, in the ZEXAL anime and manga, they have wildly different takes on that world, and rather than choosing one over the other, I decided to just do my own thing. Because it's more fun that way. Anyway, enjoy the chapter.

RANK 9: The Mysterious World:
---------------------------------------------------------------------

---------------------------------------------------------------------
THE STORY SO FAR...:
---------------------------------------------------------------------

In Canterlot High School, every student is wild over the world's most popular trading card game: Duel Monsters! Every day, players of the card game, known as "Duelists", go head-to-head to see who among them is the best around. Among the Duelists in attendance at CHS, one of the best is a young teenager named Sunset Shimmer, a girl from another world...

Some time ago, Sunset Shimmer encountered another Duelist that, like her, was seeking out the powerful Number Cards. His true identity was unknown, and he was simply known as, "The Doctor". He challenged Sunset to a Duel to not only claim her Number cards, but also to seek revenge on her on behalf of his assistant, Derpy Hooves. However, when his life came under peril towards the end of the Duel, Sunset surprised everyone by saving his life.

After doing so, Sunset was given a glimpse into The Doctor's memories, and learned why he was collecting the Number cards. He was working for an individual from a dimension known as the Astral World. This stranger claimed that a great amount of power escaped from his world one night and took on the form of the Number cards. Sunset then recalled that, on that same night, she witnessed a similar event in what she believed to be a mere nightmare...

Sunset has learned a bit more about the mysterious cards, but is still not sure about many things regarding them. She and her friends hope to find out more today, but right now, the six of them have gotten themselves into an... interesting situation...

---------------------------------------------------------------------

"Ugh... HOW do I get myself into these situations...?" groaned Sunset Shimmer, sighing as she placed her hand on her forehead.

"Huh... I never thought that I'd see something like this happen..." Rainbow Dash commented as she, along with Applejack, Rarity, Fluttershy, and Pinkie Pie, witnessed the rather bizarre scene in front of them.

Standing in front of them all were a pair of young boys: Snips and Snails. At one time, they were Sunset Shimmer's minions during the time that she was still mean to everybody. But after the otherworldly girl decided to change her ways, she pretty much cut all ties with them from that point forward. But now the two boys stood before the girl that used to order them around all the time, wearing a pair of sinister-looking smirks on their faces.

"Ugh... what do YOU two want??" Sunset asked her former cohorts. "I told you two already: I don't want anything more to do with you guys... So just leave me and my friends alone!"

"Hehehehehhh... well, that's too bad, Sunset..." Snips said to her with a slight cackle. "'Cause we're not leavin' until we settle things with you once and for all!"

"Settle things...?" asked the red and yellow girl.

"That's right!" the pudgy, blue boy told her. "We've got beef with you, and we're not goin' anywhere until we take care of it!"

"Uh... beef?" asked Snails in his usual clueless tone. "But we already had burgers yesterday!" Snails groaned a little at his friend's bone-headed comment.

"I must say," Rarity began, "this is quite a strange scene that we are witnessing..."

"Ah can certainly agree with ya there, Rare..." Applejack chimed in. "Ah mean, jus' think about it: Sunset's old lackeys confrontin' her like this n' all... It's pretty ironic, ain't it?"

"But why...?" asked Fluttershy. "What would make them want to do this now?"

"Well, based on how this series has been going so far," Pinkie Pie began, giving her friends another of her typical silly answers, "they must have recently picked up Number cards, and it's caused them to go all creepy-crazy-cuckoo."

"Is that true?" Sunset asked her former cohorts. "Do you two really have Number cards?"

Snips chuckled as both he and Snails held up a black-framed card in each of their hands. "You betcha, Sunset!" the blue boy answered her as a purple mark resembling the number 56 appeared on the back of the hand that held the bizarre Duel Monsters card. "We've heard that you use cards just like ours... And now that we have Number cards of our own, we can finally get back at you for what ya did to us!! Ain't that right, Snails?"

"Uh huh! Uh huh! Uh huh!!" the dopey orange-skinned boy replied as a red mark resembling the number 63 emerged on the side of his left arm.

"Get back at me?" asked Sunset Shimmer. "For what??"

"Oh, don't pretend like you don't know!" Snips snapped at her. "You think that YOU had it bad after what you did at last year's Fall Formal?! Well, you weren't the ONLY one that everybody started hating after your little temper-tantrum!! Everybody picked on us and started sayin' mean stuff about us too!! And it's all your fault!!"

Sunset sighed a little and told them, "Look, I know how you two probably feel... and as far as that, I'm sorry that all of that stuff happened to you because you associated with me back then." She then informed the two boys, "That being said, though, you didn't HAVE follow me around and do what I told you to do... To be honest, I probably would have been better off looking for someone else to order around instead of you two."

"Oh, so now we're not GOOD enough to be your cronies?!?" yelled Snips, getting angry again as his eyes began to glow purple, like the number mark on his hand. "You're a real piece of work, ya know that?!?"

"But you just told me that-" Groaning and face-palming, Sunset Shimmer, in a frustrated tone, asked the dopey pair, "Look, what do you two want from me?! Because so far, the only thing you're doing right now is wasting mine AND my friends' time!!"

"We told you already!!" Snips answered her. "We want revenge on ya! And now that we have the power of these Number cards helpin' us, we'll beat the leather outta your jacket!"

"Bleh... you call THAT a witty comment?" asked Pinkie Pie rhetorically. "It wasn't even mildly amusing... I give it a two out of ten, and that's only because I'm being nice." The silly pink teen then pulled out a large, white card from out of nowhere; printed on it was a large "2". It was similar to the ones used by figure-skating judges.

"So it's a Duel you want?" Sunset asked Snips and Snails. "You two can't be serious about that... You wouldn't last two minutes against me." Sighing, she then added, "But if it'll get you to leave us all alone, have it your way..."

The two boys snickered, still sure that they could beat their former boss in a Duel, despite their general lack of skill and intelligence. The blue-skinned boy then hummed a bit and asked his companion, "So... uh... who should Duel her first?"

"Um... I think you should." Snails replied.

"Urk! Me?!" asked Snips in shock. "Nonononono! I think YOU oughtta fight her first!"

"What?!? Are ya nuts?!?" the orange boy inquired, sweating a little. "Whad'ya take me for, an idiot?!?"

"Yes, but that's not the point!!!" the blue boy responded. "I think YOU should duel Sunset first!"

"No, YOU duel her first!!" snapped Snails.

"No, YOU first!!"

"No, YOU!!!!"

The two continued to argue with each other over who would take on Sunset first. But neither of them could come to a decision, and it seemed like their bickering could go on forever. Needless to say, this annoyed Sunset and her friends.

"Rrrrgh... this is so stupid..." groaned Rainbow Dash. "A pair of cinder blocks could agree on something faster than these two!"

Fluttershy then spoke up, trying to say something to the arguing boys. "Ummm... is... is your argument going to be much longer...? I... kind of... have to use the little girl's room..." Of course, they didn't hear her one bit.

Finally, when it seemed like nothing else was going to happen, Sunset Shimmer, in a moment of pure frustration, grumbled and shouted at the pair, "WOULD YOU TWO IDIOTS CLAM IT ALREADY?!?!"

Everyone in the immediate area, including her friends, glanced over at the otherworldly girl after her outburst. Though she did her best to try and keep her anger under control, there were times when Sunset just couldn't hold it in. And this time appeared to be one of them.

Realizing that everyone's eyes were on her after her brief moment of anger, Sunset took a deep breath and apologized, saying, "...Um, sorry about that, girls." Her friends then nodded, to say that they understood why she had yelled at Snips and Snails just now. The black jacket-wearing teen then looked over at the boys and told them, "Look, since you two can't agree on who's going to fight me first, I have another idea..." She then pointed to both of them and asked, "Why don't BOTH of you duel me at the same time?"

Everyone gasped when they heard her say that. "Duel them BOTH?!" asked Applejack in shock. "That's nuts!"

Snips and Snails were equally as surprised when they heard Sunset offer to duel both of them at the same time. Chuckling, the pudgy blue boy then asked, "Are you REALLY sure you wanna do that, Sunset? After all, it'll be two against one!"

The red and yellow girl then smirked and told them, "If you each took me on one at a time, it wouldn't be a challenge for me... I figured that, if we did things this way, your two brains combined would at least add up to a full-size one."

"OOoooooooooo! She burned 'em goooooooood!" Pinkie commented, chuckling after hearing Sunset's witty comment. Rainbow Dash, of course, was laughing hysterically at it. Applejack chuckled a little to herself as well, and even Rarity and Fluttershy found it amusing as well.

Of course, Snips didn't find it too funny (Snails, on the other hand, didn't get it). Grumbling, he shouted, "How DARE you make fun of us!!! Just for that, Snails and I are gonna beat ya TWICE as hard!! Now let's duel!!!"

The three combatants strapped on their Duel Pads and Gazers, readying themselves for their Duel. Sunset's friends then put on their Duel Gazers so that they could watch what was going on. In less than a minute, the Duel was ready to begin (Snips: LP 4,000) (Snails: LP 4,000) (Sunset Shimmer: LP 4,000).

"I'll start off this Duel!" said Snips, taking out a card from his hand. "I play The Cheerful Coffin!! This allows me to discard up to three monsters from my hand to the Graveyard. And I choose to discard these three!" The boy then took three cards out of his hand and placed them into the Graveyard slot. Then, he took out the last card in his hand and shouted, "Then I play Tri-Wight, which allows me to Special Summon three Level 2 or lower Normal Monsters from my Graveyard!"

"Hey... I remember this!" Pinkie suddenly spoke up. "That Martin guy in Griffonstone played a move just like this!"

Taking out three cards from out of his Duel Pad, Snips then declared, "I summon three Volcanic Rats from the Graveyard, all of them in Attack Mode!!" After he placed the cards onto the card tray, three small fireballs burst out of the ground, forming into a trio of rat-like creatures. They were glowing red and yellow and appeared to be covered in small flames. Each of them puffed out a small flame from their mouths after emerging onto the field (Volcanic Rat [x3]: Level 1 / ATK 500 / DEF 500).

"He just got three Level 1 monsters on the field at once..." noted Fluttershy.

"Yep, and we all know what that means..." Applejack chimed in.

Snips thrust his right arm into the air and shouted, "I overlay all three Level 1 Volcanic Rats to create an Overlay Network!!" After he made his declaration, his three monsters transformed into a trio of red lights that were soon drawn into a galaxy-like portal in front of the blue boy. After the portal exploded, it left behind a purple 56 mark. "I Xyz Summon... Number 56: Gold Rat!!"

Everyone else watched as a figure emerged from out of the sky, falling straight down to the ground. It appeared to be a rat, but it had a very mechanical-looking appearance. Its body shone in the sunlight, radiating a powerful golden glow. Just behind its head, the same purple 56 appeared on the monster's body. In addition, three yellow lights orbited around the Xyz Monster continuously.

*******************************

Number 56: Gold Rat:
(Xyz-Effect Monster/Beast-Type/LIGHT/Rank 1/ATK 500/DEF 600)

3 Level 1 monsters
Cannot be destroyed by battle except with "Number" monsters. Once per turn: You can detach 1 Xyz Material from this card; draw 1 card, then shuffle 1 card from your hand into the Deck.

*******************************

Snips chuckled loudly, confident that he was untouchable now that he had summoned his Number card. "Just you wait, Sunset," he told his opponent, "'cause you're goin' down for the count!" He then glanced over to his companion and told him, "Alright, it's your turn now, Snails!"

"Oh! Okay!" the dopey orange boy responded. He took out a card from his hand and said, "I Summon Dancing Elf in Attack Mode!!" His first monster was a small-sized woman with blond hair, peach skin, a long, flowing, blue dress, and a pair of blue wings growing out of her back (Dancing Elf: Level 1 / ATK 300 / DEF 200). "Then I play One for One from my hand!" Snails added. "By sending a monster from my hand to the Graveyard, I can Special Summon a Level 1 monster from my hand or my Deck! I'll get rid of my Wingweaver, and then summon Key Mace from my Deck!"

The boy's second monster was a very small sprite wearing a blue and yellow outfit and hovering in the air with a pair of tiny wings. In its hand was a key, which it may have used as a weapon or a staff of some sort (Key Mace: Level 1 / ATK 400 / DEF 300).

"Awww... aren't those monsters just so adorable?" Fluttershy asked, eyes sparkling.

"Yeah... not to mention weak." Rainbow commented. "I've never heard of any serious Duelist that uses THOSE cards."

"Perhaps, but it matters very little right now..." Rarity noted. "After all, he's just summoned two Level 1 monsters, so it is quite obvious that he, too, is going for an Xyz Summoning."

"I overlay Dancing Elf and Key Mace, both Level 1, and build an Overlay Network!" shouted Snails as his two monsters transformed into a pair of lights, one green and one yellow, and sent them into another galaxy portal. The portal soon exploded as well, leaving behind a red 63 mark on the ground. "I Xyz Summon Number 63: Shamoji Soldier!!"

Everyone looked on as a large bowl with red and white stripes dropped slowly down to the ground. The bowl was filled to the brim with rice, and also had a rice paddle (for which the monster was named after) and a pair of chopsticks inside. Just then, an entire upper body emerged from out of it, with the rice paddle serving as its head. A pair of tiny feet then popped out of the underside of the bowl, and a long cape then appeared on the monster's back. It then used its hands to pull out the two chopsticks, holding one in each hand, and as it did so, a large red 63 appeared on the top of its head.

*******************************

Number 63: Shamoji Soldier:
(Xyz-Effect Monster/Fairy-Type/LIGHT/Rank 1/ATK 0/DEF 2000)

2 Level 1 monsters
Cannot be destroyed by battle except with "Number" monsters. You can only use the effect of "Number 63: Shamoji Soldier" once per turn. You can detach 1 Xyz Material from this card, then activate 1 of these effects;
* At the start of your opponent's next Standby Phase, each player draws 1 card.
* Each player gains 1000 LP.

*******************************

"Well Ah'll be... they BOTH managed t' Summon a Number on their first turn!" Applejack noted.

"Or more realistically," Rainbow chimed in, "one of them Summoned a rice bowl to fight Sunset with, and the other brought out Ratzilla... For bein' Number cards, they ain't that tough-looking..."

"Perhaps not..." Rarity agreed. Looking over at Snips and Snails, she then added, "Still, they don't seem to be worried about it at all, even though they probably should be."

Sunset wasn't too worried either, especially now that she had gotten a better look at the boys' Number cards. "That's really the best you have?" she asked them, trying to hold back a giggle. "I would tell you that I expected better out of you... but quite honestly, I didn't."

"Yeah, just laugh it up, Sunset!" cackled Snips. "You're never gonna beat BOTH of our Numbers! So just give it up!"

"Yeah! Give it up!" repeated Snails. He then asked, in his usual dopey tone, "Uh, what's she giving up, Snips...?" The blue-skinned boy groaned and slapped his face in response.

"...Well, you guys are at least confident, I'll give you that." the otherworldly girl told them. "But now let's see what happens on my turn... I draw!" After looking at her new card, she let out a slight gasp and told her opponents, "Well... it looks like this Duel is gonna end sooner than even I thought it would."

"Huh?" asked both Snips and Snails, not sure what she meant by that.

"I'll play the card that I just drew." said Sunset, placing the card into the Spell & Trap slot in her Duel Pad. "I activate Raigeki!"

"Uhhhhh... what does that card do...?" asked the orange-skinned boy.

Snips, with a crestfallen look on his face, answered his buddy, telling him, "It... destroys all of our monsters on the field..."

"Uh oh..." Snails replied, not happy to hear that.

"'Uh oh' is quite right..." Sunset told the dopey pair. "In fact, it's about to be a really BIG 'uh oh'! Now say goodbye to BOTH of your Number cards!!" And with that, the skies above began to darken, and a pair of huge lightning bolts shot down, frying both of the boys' Numbers at the same time and sending them on a one-way ticket to the Graveyard.

"Uh... Snails?" Snips began to ask. "T-tell me that didn't just happen...?"

"Uh... it didn't happen...?" the orange boy replied.

"Wow... not bad at all..." said Rainbow Dash, impressed. "Now those two dopes are defenseless! All Sunset's gotta do now is to wipe out their Life Points!"

Taking a card from her hand, she then said, "Now I'll Summon Chronomaly Mud Golem from my hand in Attack Mode!" Her first monster was a large, brown statue with a gold, featureless face and a pair of shiny, bladed weapons in its both of its hands (Chronomaly Mud Golem: Level 4 / ATK 1700 /DEF 1000). "Then, from my hand, I'll play the Spell Card Xyz Reception!"

*******************************

Xyz Reception:
(Normal Spell Card)

Target 1 face-up monster you control that has a Level; Special Summon 1 monster with the same Level as that monster from your hand. Its effects are negated, also its ATK and DEF become 0.

*******************************

"I'll use the effect of my Spell Card to bring out Chronomaly Nebra Disk from my hand!" Sunset then played her second monster to the field, placing it right next to her Mud Golem (Chronomaly Nebra Disk: Level 4 / ATK 1800 > 0 / DEF 1500 > 0). "Now let me show you two what a REAL Number card looks like!"

"Oh, she's gonna do it! SHE'S GONNA DO IT!!!" screamed Pinkie Pie excitedly.

"I overlay Mud Golem and Nebra Disk, both Level 4, and create an Overlay Network!!" Sunset Shimmer shouted as both of her monsters turned into a pair of lights, one orange and one yellow, and were drawn into yet another summoning portal. It then exploded, revealing a blue 36 on the ground. "Descend now, Number 36!" the red and yellow girl chanted. "Great palace of unknown origin, show yourself and display your mystical might! Xyz Summon!! Temple of Artifacts! Rank 4! Chronomaly Chateau Huyuk!!" After the chant was complete, Sunset's spherical monster flew down from the heavens above, shining an intense light over the entire battlefield (Number 36: Chronomaly Chateau Huyuk: Rank 4 / ATK 2000 / DEF 2500 / OLU 2).

"But... that's not fair...!" whined Snips. "How come we didn't get awesome-looking Number cards like that one?!"

"That'll be the least of your worries, Snips..." the otherworldly girl informed him. Taking out another card from her hand, she then announced, "Now I play the Spell Card Limiter Removal! This card will double the attack power of all of my Machine-Type monsters for one turn!" As she did so, Chateau Huyuk's glow turned from blue to bright red (Number 36: Chronomaly Chateau Huyuk: ATK 2000 x 2 = 4000). Sunset then took the last card in her hand and shouted, "Finally, I activate Oni-Gami Combo! By removing all of Chateau Huyuk's Overlay Units, I can now have it attack twice this turn!!"

"WHAT?!?!" shouted both Snips and Snails.

"No way..." Applejack said with a gasp. "That means that she can attack them both durin' the same Battle Phase! An' since she doubled her Number card's power, it's strong enough to wipe 'em out right now!"

"A One-Turn-Kill..." added Rarity, also surprised. "I never thought that I would ever see one for myself."

"That's Sunset for ya." Rainbow chimed in with a smirk. "Never fails to impress."

Sunset then put her right arm out forward and shouted, "Go! Chateau Huyuk!! Attack both Snips AND Snails directly!!" (Number 36: Chronomaly Chateau Huyuk: OLU 2 - 2 = 0)

The two boys sweated and whimpered as Sunset Shimmer's Number card fired a pair of large, red beams, striking them both simultaneously. "AAAAAAAAACCCKKK!!!!" they both screamed, taking the hit dead-on and falling over onto their backs (Snips: LP 4,000 - 4,000 = 0) (Snails: LP 4,000 - 4,000 = 0) (WINNER: Sunset Shimmer).

"She did it...!" said Fluttershy. "Sunset won the Duel...!" The other girls cheered in response to their friend's victory.

Taking a deep sigh, Sunset then raised her hand once more as a pair of light orbs phased out of the boys' chests. The orbs then flew into her outstretched hand. After that, the orbs transformed into Snips and Snails's Number cards, adding themselves to the otherworldly girl's collection.

After Sunset put away her new Number cards, Pinkie then clicked the button on top of a stopwatch that she had been holding in her hand. Looking at the time display on it closely, she then said, "One minute aaaannnnnnnd... six seconds!" She then told her red and yellow friend, "You were right, Sunnie! They DIDN'T last two minutes against you!"

"That was a mighty sweet victory, Sunset!" Applejack congratulated her friend. "You beat 'em both so fast, they didn't even know what hit 'em!"

"Yeah, just look at those two..." Rainbow Dash chimed in. "They still look totally clueless after it all... Oh wait: They ALWAYS look like that."

"Um... yeah, thanks girls..." Sunset replied in a less than enthusiastic tone.

Noticing that something was wrong with her friend, Rarity then asked her, "Sunset darling, is something the matter?"

"Um... well... uh, I..."

"...You know that you can always tell us if something is bothering you..." Fluttershy reminded her. "We only want to help you..."

The red and yellow teen sighed a little and replied, saying, "...Okay... I'll tell you. But not out here... I'd feel more comfortable if we talked about it somewhere where we can be in private..."

"Of course, Sunset... we understand." Applejack told her with a nod. "But where WOULD ya like t' talk about it?"

The six girls thought for a while, trying to think of a place that they could go to in order to chat privately. Just then, Fluttershy let a gasp, smiled and asked, "I know! How about we all go to the animal shelter to talk about everything? I have to check some things there anyway... Unless someone else has a better idea, of course."

"Actually, with what I have on my mind right now," Sunset began, "that might be the best idea, Fluttershy. Maybe being around the pets at the shelter will help me feel a little better..."

"Then it's decided!" Pinkie shouted with her usual enthusiasm. "To the animal shelter!" Everyone else nodded to say that they agreed and headed for the place in question soon after.

---------------------------------------------------------------------

At the Canterlot City Animal Shelter, there was always a lot of activity as the staff and numerous volunteers took care of business, attending to all of the shelter animals. This included feeding them, training them, getting them exercise, and even adopting them out to new families. Of the many people that volunteered their time and energy to the facility, Fluttershy was the one who did the most for the shelter. Her love of animals gave her all the motivation she needed to do a good job there day after day. Though she had received several awards from the shelter staff for all of her hard work, Fluttershy always believed that the only reward she ever needed was the knowledge that she had made one little animal's life better in one way or another.

As the pink and yellow girl started her usual duties, her five friends sat down on several chairs in the large animal playroom. This was where patrons could go to spend time with the pets that they considered for adoption. Applejack and Rainbow Dash were busy playing with a small Golden Retriever puppy. Pinkie Pie was busy watching a medium-sized iguana in its glass tank home, giggling as she watched it move around slowly. Rarity glanced over near the pet hamsters in their maze-like dwelling, shuddering a little as they looked over at her. Sunset stayed in her seat, petting a fluffy, white Persian cat that hopped up onto her lap.

Noticing that her friend seemed a bit more relaxed, Rainbow Dash asked Sunset, "So... ya feelin' any better?"

"Mhmm." the red and yellow girl replied with a nod, still stroking the fur of the cat in her lap. "Only a little bit, but better than I was a few minutes ago..."

Rarity returned to her seat and then inquired, "So... what has caused you to have such a downcast attitude recently?"

"Well..." Sunset began to explain, "it all started two nights ago... at the apartment building..."

"Two nights ago?" asked Applejack. "That was when Ah came over t' spend the night with ya..." Recalling the event in question, the farm girl then added, "Ah remember that, when last Ah saw ya, you seemed to be all worn out, not t' mention that you were missin' a sleeve from your sleepin' shirt..."

"That's right." confirmed the otherworldly girl. Sighing, she the continued, telling them all, "The reason for that was because... was because I met HIM..."

"Who's 'him'?" asked Rainbow Dash.

"...The Number Hunter."

All of the girls gasped when they heard Sunset tell them that. "You're SERIOUS?!" asked Rarity out of shock. "You had an encounter with that person?!" Sunset nodded yes to say that she did.

"But... how come Ah didn't know anythin' about it?" asked Applejack, scratching her head out of confusion. "Ah can only assume that you dueled this guy, but Ah probably would've noticed if there was a Duel goin' on..."

"Well, there's a reason for that, actually..." Sunset informed her orange-skinned friend. "But... I don't think any of you would believe me if I told you."

"Why are ya so worried about that, Sunnie?" asked Pinkie Pie, suddenly popping out from behind the chair Sunset was sitting in. "We've seen all kinds of crazy, dangerous, magical stuff already!"

"Pinkie's right, Sunset." Rainbow Dash then told her. "After everything we've been through, I'm willin' t' believe ANYTHING." The other three girls nodded to say that they agreed with the two of them.

"Well, if you think that, then I guess I can tell you what happened..." the red and yellow teen replied. "Okay then, here goes..."

For the next several minutes, Sunset Shimmer told her friends exactly what had happened that night on the roof of the apartment building. She told them all about the Number Hunter, and his other identity as "The Doctor", the device he used to slow down time, as well as the Duel that she had against him. She also told them all about what had happened afterwards, when she saved him from falling off of the building... and when she had gotten a look into The Doctor's memories, telling them all about the supposed conversation between the mysterious man, and the even more mysterious individual that had paid him a visit.

Needless to say, Sunset's friends were pretty stunned after hearing everything. "Woah..." Applejack said, still trying to take it all in.

"Oh my..." was all that Fluttershy could say about it.

"Hold up... lemme see if I've got this right:" Rainbow Dash spoke up, trying to figure everything out. "You're tellin' me that this guy stopped time in order to force you into a Duel with him...? And that these Number cards are actually from another dimension??"

"That's what I got out of it all." Sunset replied.

"...Well, I said that I'd believe anything." the cyan teen commented. "And I guess that there's no way that you could've made all this up."

"Someone else could've, Dashie." Pinkie Pie told her. "In fact, this could make for a pretty good series."

Rarity was still a bit confused about everything. "So... according to what you told us, this 'Doctor' person is collecting the Numbers on behalf of someone else... But who is this individual? And why do they want the Numbers?"

"I don't know..." answered Sunset. "But to me, that's not the thing that has me worried... at least not right now..." Letting out a sad groan, she then told them, "What's really got me down is something else that I heard the guy tell The Doctor."

"And what is that?" Fluttershy asked.

"According to what that guy said," the otherworldly girl explained, "the Number cards, or the power that became them, escaped as the result of a breach between his world and our world... A breach that he said... was opened on September the 13th."

"Hold on a sec!" gasped Applejack. "Wasn't that the same day that y'all had that nightmare with the big door and everythin'?"

"Mhmm..." Sunset hummed, nodding her head yes. "I'm sure it doesn't take two and two to figure out what's going on here..." The girl sighed sadly and continued, saying, "If you remember, I told you that, in my dream, I saw this huge door that told me to open it. And when I did, a huge rush of energy shot out towards me..." Taking out a card from her red deck box (specifically, Number 33: Chronomaly Machu Mech) she added, "Then, right after my dream was over, I found my first Number card... Do you see what's going on here, girls?"

The other five teens pondered about their friend's words for a while. Then suddenly, it hit them: "Hold on..." Rainbow started, "are... are you saying that-"

Sunset sadly nodded and told them, "That's right... It's because of ME that the Number cards are here in the first place..."

The others gasped a little upon hearing this shocking discovery. "Are... you serious, Sugarcube?" inquired Applejack.

"I'm pretty sure of it..." the red and yellow girl answered her. "That dream I had... the Number cards' power... what that guy said to The Doctor... it all fits in perfectly." Shedding a small tear, Sunset continued to say, "This means that everything that happened so far because of those cards is all MY fault! Even when I'm trying to be good, I still find a way to cause trouble for everyone...! What's wrong with me?!"

At that moment, Rarity stood up out of her chair and told Sunset, "There is NOTHING wrong with you, Sunset! And none of this is your fault!"

"Huh?? It isn't??" asked the otherworldly girl, confused. "I don't understand... How is it NOT my fault?! I opened that door and let those cards loose in our world! It was because of me that you were possessed by a Number!"

"It's not because of you that I fell under control of that card." the fashionista informed her. "I got possessed by it because I was careless, and nothing more. In fact, if it wasn't for you, I'd still be under its control." She then told Sunset, "And while it may be true that you opened the door that released the cards here, it is not your fault that they are doing what they are doing."

Sunset was about to say something, but decided to stay silent and listen to what Rarity had to tell her.

The violet-haired teen then said, "It would have been different if you knew what was behind that door and opened it anyway... But you know as well as I do that there was no possible way that you could have known what would happen after it was opened. After all, everything that you told us concerning the door happened in a dream... You could not have possibly known that what you did in that dream would have an effect in the real world. And what's more, you're doing everything in your power to stop the Number cards from harming innocent people..." Rarity then told Sunset, in the most confident-sounding tone that she could muster, "That is why I believe that you are not to blame for everything that has happened! The fact that you are showing remorse for what has happened, along with the fact that you are trying to fix everything as best as you can, proves that you would never intentionally cause harm to anyone else!"

Sunset thought about everything that Rarity had just said to her. The red and yellow girl dwelled on it for a while; the more she thought about it, the more sense those words made to her. Sighing, she then told her fashion-forward friend, "Perhaps you're right, Rarity... Blaming myself for what's happened isn't going to solve anything. What matters right now is dealing with the problem and fixing everything before it's too late."

"Um... I think I have an idea..." Fluttershy muttered softly, but no one heard her.

"But what're we gonna do?" asked Rainbow Dash. "There's still a whole lot we don't know about these Number cards, or about this other guy that's collecting 'em!"

"Um... I have an idea..."

But Fluttershy's comment was once again ignored when Applejack asked, "But where're we gonna find out anythin' about 'em? It ain't like there's a whole section in the school library labeled, 'Interdimensional Tradin' Cards' or somethin' like that!"

"Um... excuse me...?"

"But we have to try and do something..." Rarity informed everyone else. "We can't afford to continue going into these types of situations completely blind!"

As the five of them tried to come up with an idea, Fluttershy attempted to get their attention. But no matter how hard she tried, they didn't hear her. She then glanced over at the cat that was on Sunset Shimmer's lap, now sitting on a table next to her. The animal lover then whispered something into the feline's ear. The cat nodded and walked over to a nearby blackboard and began scraping its claws on it. This caused an ear-piercing sound to fill the whole room, causing everyone else to stop talking and cover their ears.

"AAAAAGHHH!!! What the hay is that noise?!?" Sunset shouted. "It's giving me a headache!!"

"Make it stop already!!!" yelled Rainbow Dash.

Fluttershy then tapped the cat's back, which prompted it to stop scratching the blackboard. Once the noise was done, the shy girl then spoke, saying to her friends, "I'm really, REALLY sorry that I had to resort to doing that... but, well... um... I... I actually had an idea of what we could do..."

"You have an idea?" asked Pinkie Pie. "Why didn't ya say so?"

"Um... well, actually... I did..."

"Oh... sorry 'bout that." Applejack apologized. She then asked, "So, what were y'all thinkin' of doin'?"

"Well... I couldn't help but notice that... um..." the timid teen began, "whenever Sunset takes someone's Number card, that necklace that she wears starts glowing first..." Fluttershy then turned towards Sunset and said to her, "And if I remember correctly, in your dream, when you opened the door, you used the necklace to unlock the door like a key, is that right...?"

The otherworldly girl gasped and answered her, saying, "Yeah, that's right!" Holding the necklace around her neck, she then added, "In fact, all of this stuff didn't start happening until after I bought this at the flea market."

"So... I was thinking that... maybe we should find the person that Sunset had bought the necklace from, and see if they might know anything about it." the pink and yellow girl suggested. "Um, unless you have a better idea, that is..."

"That's a great idea, Flutters!" Rainbow Dash praised her. "We can go find the guy that sold Sunset that thing, and then teach them not to sell dangerous stuff like that to people!"

"Hold on there, Dash..." Applejack spoke up, "Ah don't think she sold that thing-a-ma-bob t' Sunset because she knew what it was capable of... In fact, on the day that Sunset got the necklace, she told us that she didn't know anythin' about it in the first place... Ah'm pretty certain that if she knew it was dangerous, she wouldn't have had it out on display."

"Good point..." the cyan teen responded. She then asked, "But if that's true, then what's the point of going to her if she doesn't know anything about that necklace?"

"There's always a chance that she might have found out some things afterwards..." Sunset Shimmer answered her. "Besides, it's not like we have any better options anyway. This necklace is the only clue we have towards solving this mystery, and we have to make the most of it."

"Then it's settled: We're goin' with Fluttershy's plan and see what we can find out." stated Applejack. "Pack your bags, gals... we're off t' see Zecora!"

---------------------------------------------------------------------

After Fluttershy finished things up at the Animal Shelter, the six girls went into town, searching for Zecora, the woman that had sold Sunset the necklace that she wore. Applejack led the way, as she had visited the woman's place of business in the past, so she knew where it was. After a few minutes of walking around, they finally located the small shop. All around the outside, there were displays of tribal masks, spears, shields, and other bizarre items that you would never find in any other type of store. The shop had a mysterious look and feel all around it.

"Well, here's the place, gals..." AJ told her friends. "Zecora's Curio Shop..."

Rarity trembled a bit; she had been by the shop before, but never had the courage to walk inside. "Ughhh... do we REALLY have to go in here...?" she asked the others. "You know how much this place gives me the creeps..."

"What's so creepy about it?" asked Pinkie Pie, popping out from behind the fashionista. "These are the COOLEST things that I've ever seen! I can't wait to see what she has in there THIS time!!" Before another word could be said, the silly pink girl ran as fast as she could to get into the shop.

Sunset sighed and told the others, "We have to go in and see Zecora... She might be the only person who can tell us about the necklace and this Astral World place..."

"I agree, Sunset." Rainbow Dash commented. "I don't care if Jason or Predator or whoever is hidin' in that store! We've got a job to do, and we're gonna do it!!" She and Sunset then ran inside of the store as well, with Applejack following them close behind.

Rarity sighed sadly, still not too pleased with having to go into a store that she considered creepy. Fluttershy, understanding her concern, put her hand on her shoulder and said, "We should follow them, Rarity... The sooner we go in, the sooner we can get it overwith..." Rarity nodded, agreeing with her shy friend's words as they walked inside the shop together.

Inside the shop, there were all sorts of strange, mysterious objects strewn across the floors and shelves. The items seemed to come from almost every possible corner of the world. As bizarre as they looked, it was quite an impressive collection of rare artifacts. Zecora herself was nowhere to be seen, so the six girls decided to glance around until she showed up.

Rarity was still not too happy to be in the shop, evidenced by the grimace that was displayed prominently on her face. Wiping her finger on one of the items for sale, she stuck out her tongue and complained, saying, "Bleck! Not only are these things creepy... they're covered in DUST! ...Not to mention that there is little to no organizational plan in this place whatsoever! Even if I wanted something from here, Heaven forbid, I wouldn't be able to FIND it!"

"I agree..." whimpered Fluttershy, "this place is... kind of scary..."

"Scary?" asked Pinkie Pie as she rummaged through a box full of tribal masks. "No way!! These things are the best!!" She then hopped into the box of masks, continuing to rummage through them all. "Hey, Fluttershy! Check this one out!!" The pink girl then popped out, wearing an over-sized green mask with bulging bug eyes, a orange and purple-striped nose and a big toothy grin. "BOOGA BOOGA BOOGA!!!" Pinkie shouted.

"AAAAAAHHHHHHHHH!!!!" screamed Fluttershy, fainting and falling onto her back.

Pinkie threw off the mask and giggled a bit at her practical joke. Just then, however, an antique rolling pin fell from a shelf above and struck the pink girl on the head, which stopped her laughing. "OW!!!" Pinkie grunted, rubbing the sore spot with her right hand. "What'd I do??"

Meanwhile, Applejack and Rainbow Dash were looking at all of the antique weapons that were on display, particularly the rack full of spears. Even though they were too young to purchase weapons, they could still admire them from a distance. "Those things look mighty sharp, don't they Dash?" asked the farm girl.

"Sure do." the cyan-skinned teen replied. "I'd bet, with one'a those things, I could be some super-tough warrior or somethin'! No one would be able t' beat me!"

"Unless, of course," Applejack told her, "Ah was your opponent, that is..."

"Peh! In you dreams, AJ... I could beat ya single-handedly!" bragged Rainbow. The two of them shared a smirk with each other; though they were friends, they were often rivals with each other when it came to physical sports and games.

Sunset, of course, had only one thing on her mind as she wandered around the small, cluttered shop. She walked up to the front counter, where an old-style cash register sat, ready for use. (Heh...) she thought to herself, (that looks just like the cash registers in Equestria... only ours are still brand-new.) Finding a small bell on the counter, she rang it and called out, "Excuse me?? Ms. Zecora? Are you there??"

Not too long after that, a woman walked out from a room behind the front counter. It was none other than Zecora herself, still clad in her animal skin-like outfit. "Ah, Sunset! It is you. What can I do?" she asked in her usual rhyme.

"Hello, Zecora..." the otherworldly girl spoke to her. Showing the woman the necklace around her neck, Sunset asked, "I was wondering if I could ask you something concerning this necklace that I bought from you a while back..."

"Oh my... is there something wrong with it?" asked Zecora. "If so, I can refund you, bit by bit..."

"Oh, no... I'm not here for a refund, Ms. Zecora." the red and yellow girl told her. "It's just that... have you been able to find any information on it since you sold it to me? Like... about a place called the, 'Astral World'?"

The striped woman gasped a little when she heard that. "Did... did you say... the Astral World??" she asked. "...Hmmm... I am glad that you have come to see me, girl..."

"You know about it?" asked Sunset.

"I do indeed, and I should have known, where that necklace of yours has come from..." Zecora answered. "Follow me... and see..." She then beckoned the young teen to follow her into the room in the back.

Sunset then called over to her friends, shouting, "Hey girls! Zecora wants us all to follow her into the back! Let's go!" The others stopped what they were doing and walked with the otherworldly girl into the backroom.

The group of teens watched as Zecora looked through her bookshelves in the back of the store, searching for some sort of reference material that was pertinent to their current situation. Once she found it, she pulled it out and said, "Ah! Here it is! Now listen to this..." She took the book over to a nearby table (after pushing aside some old maps and papers scattered all over the surface) and opened it to a particular page. "This page should tell you the info you need," Zecora continued, "now please go and take a seat while I read..." The striped woman was about to being reading the material in front of her...

But at that moment, Rainbow Dash spoke up and asked, "Uh, Zecora? Could ya do us all a little favor? Could you explain all of the stuff in that book to us WITHOUT doing that rhyming thing that you always do? No offense, but it'd make you a bit easier to understand..."

The mysterious woman hummed a little to herself, thinking about Dash's request. Sighing a little out of disappointment, she then answered her, saying, "...Very well. If I must." She then added, "I suppose it would have been hard to try and put all of this information into the form of a rhyme anyway." She then cleared her throat and explained to them all, "This ancient tome that is in my hands comes from an ancient civilization that existed around 3,000 years ago, during the same era as the ancient empire of Egypt."

"Egypt?" asked Sunset, becoming interested.

Zecora nodded and continued to tell them, "These people and their society once worshiped a powerful source of energy that they believed existed long before humans and all other life came into existence. They believed that this energy came from a nonphysical realm that existed far beyond our own world... Thus, they called this mysterious place, 'Asutoraru Sekai'."

"Asu-what?" asked Pinkie Pie, not sure what those words meant.

"Roughly translated," the striped woman continued, "it means, 'Astral World': A world among the stars."

"Oh wow..." gasped Rarity. "That world must be quite beautiful with a name like that..."

"So, where was this ancient Egyptian society, exactly?" asked Applejack, curious to know.

"Oh no... this civilization did not exist within Egypt, Ms. Applejack." Zecora corrected her. "According to archaeologists, this society was believed to exist somewhere in the Himalayas..."

"The Himalayas? Isn't that a mountain range that's nearby India and China?" asked Fluttershy.

"It is indeed, Ms. Fluttershy." the striped woman confirmed. She then pointed at Sunset's necklace and told them, "And it just so happens that I found that item from within those very mountains."

"Y-you did?" asked Sunset Shimmer. "But why didn't you tell me about all of that before?"

"...If you recall, Ms. Shimmer, I had told you that I was not aware of the necklace's true origins at first." reminded Zecora. "After I sold it to you, I decided to look through all of my reference materials to try and find more information." She then walked over to another pile of papers and pulled a few out to show the girls. "And that's when I came across these: These pictures came from the most recent archaeological dig concerning the ancient civilization I mentioned earlier. They were posted on the museum's blog, and I decided to print them out to look through later."

The six teenage girls looked at the pictures closely; there were all sorts of strange, yet interesting things to see on them. They mostly consisted of drawings of people and things that were painted or chiseled on stone slabs. One thing that caught the girls' attention the most were the pictures of what appeared to be several creatures under the command of human masters.

"Um... is it just me," Rarity began, "or do the stone drawings here look... sort of familiar?"

"Well... kind of..." Fluttershy responded. "But where have we seen them before?"

Sunset looked at the pictures as closely as possible... and then let out a gasp. "It can't be!" She then quickly reached into her purse and pulled out her Deck. Taking out one of the cards she had in her Deck (specifically Chronomaly Crystal Chrononaut), she put it next to one of the creatures that had been drawn on the stone slab. To everyone's surprise, the pictures on the slab and on the card were almost exactly the same.

"Wowee!!" said Pinkie Pie. "They look just like each other!"

"So wait a sec..." started Rainbow Dash, "is this supposed to be a picture of... people dueling?"

"That's what it looks like, but it can't be true..." pondered Applejack. "Everybody knows that Maximillion Pegasus designed Duel Monsters durin' the mid-90's! So how in the hay could it have existed over 3,000-somethin' years ago?!"

(Wait... the creator of Duel Monsters has "Pegasus" as his last name?) Sunset asked in her mind. (...Really??)

"That is quite true, Ms. Applejack." Zecora informed the farm girl. "However, it is a little-known fact that Pegasus came up with the idea of the card game from his visits to many archaeological sites in Egypt and elsewhere. Using what he learned of these ancient monster battles, he decided to recreate them in the form of a card game, and thus, Duel Monsters as we know it today was born."

"Wow... so that's how it happened." Rarity commented.

"So, basically..." Rainbow Dash added, "he sorta ripped it off of a game that was played thousands of years ago?"

"It is best to think of the whole thing as Pegasus trying to recreate the game for modern times, and as a way for it to be played in a much safer setting..." Zecora explained. "Or at least, that was his intention... But as you all may know, there have been bizarre occurrences involving the game of Duel Monsters that many are unable to logically explain."

"Ya mean stuff like what happened a coupla years back? Such as the Battle City Tournament all the way over in Japan?" asked Applejack. "Ah heard that there were reports of competitors gettin' injured and collapsin'..."

"Don't forget about Duelist Kingdom before that!" Pinkie Pie reminded the farm girl. "There was some really weird stuff going on over there, too! And I'm not just referring to how weird the card effects were back then!"

"Come to think of it..." Fluttershy spoke up. "I heard a few rumors about some things that happened at one of the Duel Academy schools... Something about Sacred Beasts, I think... or, was it about some giant demon creature in a stone slab?" The girls looked at one another after recalling all of these strange, unexplainable events throughout the history of the Duel Monsters card game, feeling a tad nervous after hearing about all of it.

"It is quite distressing, I must say..." Zecora told them all, "but luckily, occurrences such as these are few and far in-between."

"So what does all of this have to do with my necklace?" asked Sunset. "And this Astral World place?"

Zecora took out another photograph that she had printed from the Internet and showed it to the otherworldly girl and her friends. "Perhaps this picture might assist you in finding the answer..." the striped woman said to them. "The supposed ancient society in the Himalayan Mountains were protected and governed by a small group of men and women, throughout many generations. They were exceptionally skilled in magic, and were capable of summoning monsters to fight those who would dare threaten their very way of life; much like the sorcerers in Ancient Egypt. They were called, 'Diak Ums': Duel Priests and Duel Priestesses.

"This picture here shows one generation of Diak Ums..." Zecora noted, pointing to the eight figures painted on the stone tablet in the photograph. The figures consisted of seven women, and one man. The drawings were relatively simplistic and didn't show a lot of detail, but based on the overall quality of the paintings, it was clear that they were highly respected during their time in this world. "These seven priestesses and one priest were thought to have been the most powerful of them all. The Diak Ums were all quite strong, but these eight individuals were particularly powerful, and knew a great deal of the energy that lived within the Astral World. And even then, not one of them ever considered abusing that power for their own personal gain; rather, they ensured that it would be used for the benefit of everyone in their society."

"Woah... that sounds pretty cool..." noted Rainbow Dash, now getting more interested in the whole thing.

Pinkie Pie looked at one of the figures in the painting and giggled a bit. "Hey, Sunnie!" she said to Sunset, pointing to one of the priestesses in the picture. "This one has your hair!"

"She does, does she?" asked the otherworldly girl, looking at the picture herself. As she gazed at the painting, something about it seemed to really interest her. Why, she didn't know. She then asked Zecora, "Say... could you make a copy of this painting for me?"

"Of course." the striped woman replied, taking the picture and heading for her computer, which had a printer/scanner hooked up to it. It didn't take long for her to make a quick copy of the photo and give it to Sunset Shimmer.

"So... what happened to these people in the painting?" asked Rarity. "I mean, besides the fact that they are most likely deceased, of course."

"That is a very good question." Zecora told her. "No one seems to know... In fact, the only records that exist that prove that the Diak Ums were alive are these ancient paintings. Even in the tombs of their city, there is no trace of their remains anywhere."

"How is that possible?" asked Sunset.

"Based on their scriptures," Zecora answered, reading the book once more, "they believed that individuals that are noble and pure of heart ascend into the Astral World and are reincarnated. Of course, it is unknown if this is true or not... but if it is, then it is quite possible that the Diak Ums became part of the Astral World after their physical bodies died. But what awaited them there is another story, one that has not yet been uncovered."

The six girls weren't sure what to make of everything they heard. They didn't know whether to believe it or not, but they knew for sure that it meant something big was on its way... something that they weren't sure that they were ready for...

Sunset Shimmer and her friends soon left Zecora's Curio Shop and headed off into town together. Eventually, they made their way into the city park where people did all sorts of outdoor activities, such as playing sports, walking their dogs, or gazing at the natural setting that the park offered. The group sat down on some nearby park benches as they thought about everything that Zecora told them.

"So... do you guys believe all that stuff she told us?" Rainbow Dash asked the others. "I mean... there's no way that it could all be true, could it?"

"Well, I do admit that it seems quite far-fetched to me..." Rarity noted. "But... I have this feeling that it may indeed have some merit, regardless of how impossible it may seem..."

"Yeah... I don't know why," Fluttershy meekly chimed in, "but all of it seemed... oddly familiar to me, even though I'm sure that this is the first time that I've heard about this Astral World..." Blushing a little, she then added, "Oh... I hope you don't think I'm strange for thinking that..."

"If you're strange for thinking all of that, Fluttershy," Sunset began to tell her, "then I guess that I am too. The more I think about what Zecora told us... and from what I heard when I looked into The Doctor's memory, the more it feels that I know about it all already... but I'm not sure how..."

The five other girls looked at one another and Sunset, not sure what to make of it all.

"There's something else too..." the otherworldly girl told them. "While Zecora was reading that book, I managed to get a peek at one of the photographs in it; I saw a picture of a stone slab with some sort of text written on it... and the writing looked exactly like the text on all of my Number cards."

"Really??" asked Applejack, startled a bit by what Sunset had just said, as were the others.

"Believe me, I'm not making this up." stated the red and yellow girl. "The writing on that slab looked just like the glyphs on the Number cards."

"Come to think of it..." Rarity spoke up, "I saw that picture in the book as well... And from what I remember from the time that I had my Number card, that text in the photograph looked very much similar to the text on the card that I had."

"So you think Zecora was tellin' the truth about everything?" asked Rainbow Dash, still somewhat skeptical, but interested in the whole thing.

"I'm not sure if everything she told us is true or not," Sunset answered, "but we can't deny that there's some link between the Numbers cards and this Astral World place. And I think that if we can learn more about this other world, we can figure out more about what the Number cards are, and why they are doing what they're doing."

"But how...?" asked Fluttershy.

The otherworldly girl sighed sadly and answered her, saying, "That... I have no idea..." Looking at her necklace, which she figured was the key to the whole mystery, she then added, "These Number cards and their users are becoming more and more dangerous every time I have to fight them..."

"Except for Snips and Snails." Pinkie interrupted.

"...Okay, besides Snips and Snails," Sunset continued, "these Number cards are getting more powerful with each Duel I fight involving them... Not to mention that there's some other guy collecting them as well. And who's to say that there aren't OTHER people that are actively collecting Numbers, too?" Sighing, she then said, "It's times like this that I really wish Twilight were here..."

"Yeah, I can agree with you on that one for sure..." stated Rainbow Dash. "I mean the only thing better than having one egghead trying to figure this whole mess out, is having TWO eggheads workin' on it."

"Yeah, I'll bet the two of you combined would be able to figure out all of this Number and Astral World stuff in a coupla minutes!" stated Pinkie Pie. Gasping, she then asked, "I've got an idea! Why don't you use your magic book-thingy and ask her to come by, Sunnie?"

Sunset sighed again and told her, "Believe me, I'd want nothing more than to ask her to come and help us with all of this... But I can't."

"You can't??" asked Rarity. "Why not?"

"Don't you remember?" the otherworldly girl asked her friends. "Twilight's a Princess back in Equestria; more specifically, the Princess of Friendship. I'm sure that, back in her world, she's got all sorts of problems and things to care of on a daily basis. And if that's the case, I don't want to disturb her. Like it or not, this is a problem... that I'll have to figure out without her..."

Sunset's friends could tell from the tone of her voice that, if she felt that she could, she would want nothing more than to have Twilight come back to their world and help them all out. But they understood Sunset's concerns about disturbing the Princess when she more than likely had things of her own to deal with. Still, none of them were comfortable with the idea of trying to resolve this issue with the Number cards without Twilight to assist them.

"Look, girls... let's not get so down 'bout all of this..." Applejack told them all. "Ah'm sure we'll figure out a way to resolve everything, with or without Twi's help." Patting Sunset on the back, she then added, "Long as we all remember to stick together n' support one another, we'll get through it all, Ah guarantee it."

The red and yellow girl smiled after hearing that. "You're right, Applejack. One way or another, we'll find a way out of this mess... together." The others smiled as well, knowing that they would do their best to solve the mystery of the Number cards and the Astral World.

Later that night, Sunset returned to the apartment building that she lived in. After saying hi to Manny Roar, she made her way into her apartment using her key and set all of her things down. She made herself something to eat with her microwave while watching her favorite game show on TV. After it was over, she walked into her bathroom, took a quick shower, and tied on her crimson-colored robe before walking into her bedroom.

Sunset then took her necklace and lay it on the nightstand next to her bed. This way, it would be within her eyesight, just in case anything were to happen to it. The red and yellow girl let out a deep yawn; after everything she and her friends had done that day, she was quite exhausted, physically and mentally. She was so tired, she decided to just go to sleep while wearing her robe, not bothering to change into her pajamas like she usually did (which made sense, considering that the shirt had its sleeve ripped off after her encounter with The Doctor; she had not yet purchased any new sleeping clothes yet). Pulling the covers over herself, she let out another deep yawn before going to sleep...

Hours later, though unbeknownst to her, Sunset's key necklace began to glow brightly. The otherworldly girl was sleeping so soundly, she didn't even notice what was happening around her; not even when a small ball of light came from out of the necklace and began swirling around in the air for a while. Eventually, the light ball phased right through the back wall of Sunset's bedroom, appearing outside of the apartment building, several feet in the air. The sphere began flying through the air, apparently heading for a particular destination that only it knew.

It wasn't much longer before the ball of light had made its way to Canterlot High School. As it was a late Friday night, the school was locked up tight. But the sphere wasn't interested in going into the building itself (not that it couldn't, since it was capable of moving through solid walls anyway); instead, it flew over towards the large horse statue in front of the school. On the large pedestal that the statue stood upon were four large mirrors. The ball of light flew around the statue several times... before it stopped in front of one of the mirrors. Then, all of a sudden, it phased into the mirror and disappeared completely...

---------------------------------------------------------------------
Ponyville, Equestria: Time 1:16 a.m.
---------------------------------------------------------------------

In another world entirely, night had long since fallen upon a small town that was made up mostly of small houses and buildings with straw-covered roofs on them. The town was known as Ponyville; to most, it seemed like any other small town. But it was often the site of many events that took place that would determine the fate of country of Equestria; the former home of Sunset Shimmer. While most of Ponyville seemed ordinary and unassuming, there was one structure that definitely stood out: A gigantic castle on the outskirts of town that was made up of purple and blue crystals. Just like the rest of the houses in Ponyville, the castle's interiors were nearly pitch-black, save for the bit of moonlight that crept inside, indicating that those who lived within it had turned in for the night...

However, deep within the castle's basement, one of the items in the large room began to start glowing, as if it had been activated somehow. It was a tall mirror, and the reflective surface had begun to ripple as a small light came out of it. Once it fully emerged, the sphere began whizzing around in circles inside the dark room. Eventually, the ball of light phased through the ceiling above, emerging into a long hallway. It then flew down the hall, passing by several large and extravagant rooms.

Eventually, the sphere of light stopped when it reached what appeared to be some sort of a meeting hall. Inside of the room was a large, circular table made of crystal, surrounded by six, tall chairs (and one short chair). Each of the tall chairs had a large symbol emblazoned upon the top of them: A trio of balloons, a trio of pink butterflies, a trio of blue diamonds, a rainbow-colored lightning bolt, a trio of bright red apples, and a pink, six-pointed star. Above the giant table was what appeared be to the bottom half of a tree with several, jewel-shaped ornaments hanging from its roots.

The ball of light slowly flew into the large meeting hall, approaching the large table. It then sat gently onto the surface of the table, flattening itself into the shape of a thin rectangle. It then began blinking, providing the only source of light in the darkened room.

Not long after that, a flushing sound could be heard from nearby, indicating that the castle bathroom had just been used. After the light in the room had been switched off, a figure came walking out of it. It was a little pony with a lavender-colored coat and a straight purple mane and tail with hot pink streaks running down them. She had purple eyes, along with a long, pointy horn on her forehead. On her back were a pair of large, purple wings that matched her coat color perfectly. On both sides of her rear end was a small emblem, known as a "cutie mark"; the mark was a six-pointed pink star that looked exactly like the one imprinted upon one of the tall chairs in the meeting room.

The lavender-colored pony yawned deeply as she walked down the hallway, her eyes drooping. Sighing and groaned from her tired state, she said to herself, "That's the third time tonight that I've had to get up to go to the bathroom..." Sighing again, she then added, "That does it: That's the LAST time that I let Pinkie Pie talk me into ordering a jumbo-size strawberry milkshake at the Hayburger Stand..."

As the pony walked down the hallway leading back to her bedroom, she passed by the meeting hall... and noticed a faint light coming from out of that room. "Huh?" She stopped after noticing the light and glanced over towards it, peeping into the room. She then saw the blinking light coming from the top of the circular table. "I thought I switched off the map for the night..." she said to herself. Not sure what it was at first, the lavender pony trotted over to investigate it.

"What is that...?" she asked herself as she looked at the blinking object closely. She then saw that the object was some sort of black-colored card. "A... trading card...? Where did this come from? It doesn't look like any trading card that I've ever seen..." She then placed her left front hoof on the card as she leaned over to take a better look at it...

But when she did so, the black card began to glow even brighter, surrounding itself with a white-colored aura. That aura also covered the lavender pony as well. "What the-? What's going on?!?" she asked, becoming frightened from what was happening in front of her. She tried to back away, but some sort of invisible force was preventing her from taking her hoof off of the card on the table. The pony covered her face with her other foreleg as the light around her got even brighter, filling the room completely. "Rrrrrrgh!!! Would somepony explain to me why this thing is going crazy?!?" she yelled.

Just then, all of a sudden, the light finally began to die down, and the room became dark once more. The pony noticed that the light had faded, and she immediately opened her eyes and moved her foreleg away from her face, placing it back onto the floor. Taking a deep breath, she then asked herself, "What... the hay... was THAT??" She then glanced over at the card that she found on the table and saw that it had changed: There was now text written on the card in various places, and a picture of a white and golden-armored warrior had appeared on what used to be a blank, white space. The pony looked closely at the card and began reading it...

*******************************

Number 39: Utopia:
(Xyz-Effect Monster/Warrior-Type/LIGHT/Rank 4/ATK 2500/DEF 2000)

2 Level 4 monsters
Cannot be destroyed by battle except with "Number" monsters. When any player's monster declares an attack: You can detach 1 Xyz Material from this card; negate the attack. When this card is targeted for an attack by a "Number" monster, while it has no Xyz Materials: Destroy this card.

*******************************

The pony had no idea what the text on the card meant. More so, she didn't recognize the writing that made up the card's text as any language that she knew of from her past studies. Yet, she was able to read the text perfectly as if it were written in English. "This doesn't make any sense..." she said to herself, confused by what had taken place so far. "I've never seen this language before, so how is it that I can read it? And what was with that crazy light that came out of it...?"

Sighing, the pony said to herself, "Forget it... I'm too tired to try and figure all of this out right now... But first thing in the morning, I'll gather up my friends and see if we can figure it out together." Pondering some more, she then added, "Hmmm... perhaps it might not be a bad idea to get the Princesses here as well..." She then pointed her horn at the strange card. A second later, both the horn and the card were surrounded with a violet-colored aura. The card then began to levitate off of the table and was dropped into a small, pink, wooden chest with gold-plated trims. The chest was then closed and properly secured, ensuring that no one would try to open it anytime soon. The pony then yawned deeply and continued heading for her bedroom in order to get back to sleep.

Morning soon came to the small town of Ponyville, and all of its residents were awake and ready to begin the day. Much like the individual that lived within the large crystal castle, almost everyone that lived in Ponyville (and Equestria as a whole) were ponies as well. But unlike the equines that occupied the world where Sunset Shimmer lived, they were capable of speech and many other human-like traits.

Inside of the large crystal castle, the lavender pony that lived within it had walked into the large meeting room. After glancing at the large table in the center, which now appeared to display a holographic map of some sort upon it, she then looked behind her and said, "It's in here, everypony... Be careful, though; I'm... not sure what will happen from this point forward..."

The lavender pony then strolled inside the room, followed by eight other individuals: First, there was a cyan-coated Pegasus pony with a rainbow-colored mane and tail with a rainbow-colored lightning bolt mark that flew in the air as she entered the room. Following her was a yellow Pegasus that walked on the ground, who had a pink mane and tail, and a mark that showed a picture of three pink butterflies. Next came a white Unicorn pony with a beautiful violet mane, with a picture of three blue diamonds on her flank. Walking right beside her was a young dragon with purple and green scales.

Next to enter the room was an orange-coated pony with a blond mane and tail. She wore a brown cowgirl hat on her head and had a mark that showed a picture of three, shiny, red apples. Behind her hopped a pink pony with a poofy, cotton candy-like mane and tail, and a picture of three small balloons on her rear end. Last to enter the room were two exceptionally large ponies known as Alicorns, which was also the same species that the lavender pony was as well. One had a pure white coat, a long horn, and a pair of huge wings. Her mane and tail consisted of several colors of blue, pink, and green that flowed freely in the air. The mark on her flank was a large, bright sun. The other Alicorn was slightly shorter than the other, and had a dark-blue coat color in addition to a long horn and large wings. Her blue mane also flowed freely, and her cutie mark was a white moon in the night sky. Both the larger ponies wore crowns on their heads, signifying that they were of royal status.

The lavender Alicorn pony strolled up to small, pink chest and used her magical powers to levitate it off of the table she put it on. "Carrying" it over, she then told everyone else in the room, "Here it is... This is the reason that I've brought you all here today."

"This thing?" asked the orange pony with a southern Texan accent. Looking at it curiously, she then inquired the lavender pony, "But... what's in it, Twilight?"

"I'm glad you asked, Applejack." the purple-maned Alicorn, named Twilight Sparkle, answered her. She then opened the chest with her magic and explained, saying, "Last night, when I was passing by this room, I saw a strange object sitting on the map here... When I went over to investigate it, I saw that it appeared to be some sort of card..."

"A card?" asked the white Unicorn. "You mean like a trading card, Twilight dear? Doesn't seem that unusual to me..."

"Yeah, Rarity's right..." the rainbow-maned Pegasus added, "Collecting trading cards seems like somethin' that eggheady nerds like you would do all the time. So why'd you bring us all out here just t' tell us that??"

Twilight narrowed her eyes a little and said to the cyan-coated pony, "I don't exactly appreciate being called an, 'eggheady nerd', Rainbow Dash... but right now, that's not important. And you'll let me continue, you'll all know why I'm so concerned about this card..." Using her magic, she then hovered it towards the pink pony in the room and asked her, "Pinkie Pie, you collect trading cards, right?"

"I sure do, Twilight!" the pink pony answered her. "Isn't that totally convenient to the plot that I just so happen to do that?"

The lavender Alicorn didn't know how to respond to that bizarre remark at first. Pushing the confusing words out of her mind for the moment, she then asked Pinkie, "Whatever... do you recognize this card at all? Have you ever seen it before?"

The pink pony looked carefully and closely at the black card that was in front of her. She hummed... and hummed... and hummed some more, apparently in deep thought. Suddenly, she let out a loud, happy gasp and said, "Oh yeah! I've got it!! I've got it!!!"

"You know something about it, Pinkie Pie?!" asked Twilight in a hopeful tone of voice.

"Yeppity-yep-yep!!" the pink pony told her. "I one-hundred percent know that, beyond a shadow of a doubt... that I have never seen this card before in my life." Most of the others in the room groaned loudly after hearing what she had said.

"Rrrgh... Ah should've seen that one comin'." replied the orange pony, named Applejack.

The yellow, pink-haired Pegasus pony then looked at the card next and said, "I don't recognize this card either... Mr. Duck and Mr. Beaver don't have any cards that look even close to that in their collections..."

"Wait a sec, your animals collect cards, Fluttershy?" asked the cyan Pegasus, named Rainbow Dash.

"Oh yes... they do." the timid yellow pony answered her friend. "In fact, they're very competitive whenever they play cards with each other, among other things... But... I get the feeling that Mr. Duck and Mr. Beaver don't really get along with each other very well; I think they might be a little TOO competitive..."

Twilight sighed to herself and then walked over to the other two Alicorns in the room. "Princess Celestia..." she began to ask the large, white pony while presenting the strange card to her, "do you recognize the language on this card at all?"

"Hmmmm..." The white Alicorn, named Celestia, looked at the card closely, studying each and every one of the glyphs printed upon it. The dark blue Alicorn then took a glance at it herself, hoping to identify the bizarre language as well. Celestia then sighed and told the lavender pony, "I apologize, Twilight... but I'm afraid that I have never seen a language like this one in my entire life..."

"You... haven't...?" asked Twilight in a disappointed tone of voice.

"My sister would not lie about something like that, Princess Twilight." the dark-blue Alicorn told her. "And I can say most certainly that I, too, do not recognize this form of writing at all either..."

"Really? You don't know what it is either, Princess Luna?" Twilight asked the dark-blue pony. Looking at the card again, she then added, "But if neither of YOU know about this language, then how is it that I am able to read it perfectly?? This is TOO weird..." Sighing, the lavender pony then added, "Of course, that wasn't the ONLY thing about this card that was strange..."

"Really?" asked the little dragon as he walked towards her. "What else did this thing do?"

"Well, for starters, Spike," Twilight began to explain, "when I first saw the card, there was nothing on it; no picture, no text, nothing. But then, after I touched it, it started radiating this extremely powerful light for about half a minute before anything else appeared on it..."

"Radiating light?" asked Pinkie Pie in a casual tone. "You mean like what it's doing right now?"

"Huh??" Twilight immediately looked back at the card that she was holding with her magic, gasping when she saw that it was glowing once more, just like it did that night. "Oh no!! It's doing it again!! Everypony, get back!!!" the lavender pony shouted to everyone else in the room as she dropped the card on the reflective floor before joining the others. They all stepped back, distancing themselves as far as possible from the strange trading card.

The card began glowing brighter and brighter, and before long, a galaxy-like portal formed where it lay. The vortex drew in large amounts of light energy, storing it inside of itself. Then, a second later, the portal exploded violently, leaving behind a large, red mark that looked like the number 39.

"Wh-wh-wh-what in Equestria is that?!?" asked Rarity out of fear.

"Forget that, Rarity!" shouted Applejack, pointing towards the ceiling. "What the hay is THAT thing?!?"

The other seven ponies and one dragon looked straight up at where the orange pony was pointing, gasping as a large, white and gold object began to descend to the floor in front of them. After it stopped coming down, the front parts of the object unfolded, revealing themselves to be incredibly large wings.

"Wh-what is that thing supposed t' be??" asked Rainbow Dash. "Is it some sorta spaceship or somethin'??"

The group continued to watch as the inner part of the object, which had previously been obscured by the large wings, began to change shape. It then began to unfold into a human-like being that was covered in bright, shiny armor that was white and gold in color, with some sort of green "core" on its chest, and armed with a pair of large swords sheathed at both sides of its hip area. Its head was mostly covered by a similarly-colored helmet that had a pair of golden scythe-like protrusions coming out of the sides. Only a pair of small, red eyes could be seen underneath it. On its left shoulder pad, there was a red symbol resembling the number 39. The figure that had appeared before them was the same figure on the card's picture, and after it had fully emerged, it clenched its fists and outstretched its arms, displaying a powerful-looking pose.

"That's not a spaceship, Dashie..." Pinkie Pie said to her rainbow-maned Pegasus friend. "It's a Transformer...!"

(A what...?) thought the others.

The figure, so tall that its head was almost high enough to reach the ceiling of the meeting hall, looked around at all of the occupants in the room. Its eyes then glanced over at Twilight Sparkle, focusing its attention on her specifically. When the lavender Alicorn saw that its eyes were on her, she began to feel a little nervous; even more so when the armored figure pointed at her. "You..." it said to her in a low, masculine voice. "Are you the one called Princess Twilight Sparkle?"

Twilight, still a bit intimidated by this strange figure, meekly answered him, saying, "Um... I-I-I am..."

The figure did not respond at first; he just continued to stare at the lavender pony with his glowing red eyes. Then, he began to move and, to everyone's surprise, he bent down on one knee and bowed respectfully in front of the young Princess. "Forgive me for my appearing so suddenly in front of you as I have... but rest assured, I come in peace, Your Highness." he then told her.

"You... do?" asked Twilight. "Who are you?"

Standing back up, the armored man then answered the lavender Alicorn, telling her, "You should already know who I am; it is written upon the card that bears my image..."

"The card?" Figuring everything out, Twilight then began to say, "Then... that means that you must be-"

"Correct." the figure interrupted her. "I am Utopia; The King of Hope and Wishes."

"King of Hope and Wishes...?" Celestia repeated to herself. She then told the armored giant, "That is quite an impressive title. Did you come up with it yourself?"

"I am what I am due to the deepest desires of the one who has awakened me." Utopia replied. Pointing at Twilight again, he then added, "It is because of this young girl that I have my physical form and power."

"Me??" asked the young Princess. "But... what did I do?"

"More than you may realize." Utopia told her. "But I suppose that I cannot blame you for feeling somewhat confused. So perhaps explaining more will help you to understand what is going on."

"It would probably help." Luna agreed. "Now tell us; what are you? And where is it that you come from?"

Utopia then pointed to his left shoulder pad (the one that had the red 39 on it) and began telling them, "I am known as a 'Number', one of one hundred beings that originate from a world far beyond yours or any other, known as the Astral World."

"Astral World?" asked Twilight. "Never heard of it..."

"Indeed... Not many outside of our world have knowledge of it." the man informed her. "Very few have heard of the Astral World, and even fewer have beared witness to it. It is a nonphysical realm of existence that existed before all others; the Alpha and the Omega."

The occupants of the meeting hall listened closely to Utopia's words, but not everyone understood what he was talking about. Scratching her head a little, Applejack then asked her friends, "So... do y'all know what the hay that Utopia guy's sayin? 'Cause Ah sure don't..."

"Nope." Rainbow Dash simply responded.

"Not a clue!" Pinkie Pie added enthusiastically.

"Well, whatever he's saying, it sounds very important..." noted Fluttershy.

"I believe so too, Fluttershy dear." Rarity chimed in, rubbing the underside of her chin. "But why did he come here? And why did he wish to see Twilight?"

"I don't know, Rarity..." Spike said to her, "but I just know it's gonna be something big..." He then walked over to Pinkie Pie and pulled a handheld day planner from out of her poofy mane and used a pencil that he had with him to cross out several days on it. "So much for my plans this week..." he said to himself as he finished his work and stuffed the planner back into the pink pony's mane hair. "Thanks for holding onto that for me, Pinkie." the little dragon told her.

"No problem!" Pinkie responded with a smile.

Rarity's question as to why Utopia had come looking for Twilight was also the question that was on the lavender Alicorn's mind. "Why have you come here, Utopia?" the young Princess asked him. "More importantly, how do you know my name?"

"The answers to both of your questions are one and the same." Utopia told her. "I have come here... to seek your help."

"M-my help...? With what??"

"From the world that I have come from, there is a great battle taking place:" the armored giant answered. "A battle to claim the power that we hold. However... our power cannot be wielded by just anyone; those that are unable to handle it risk becoming enslaved by it. This presents a problem for us and the residents of that world, as you can imagine."

"Sounds like it..." agreed Twilight.

"Yes, but that is not all..." Utopia continued. "I have sensed that there are wicked forces within that world that are also seeking our power. If they were to claim all of it, this other world would be doomed to a future of darkness and despair..."

"That sounds horrible..." stated Rarity in a sad-sounding tone of voice.

"I know..." Pinkie chimed in, also feeling down just hearing that. "A world where everypony is all sad, mopey, and not having any fun? I can't imagine ever living in a world like that!"

"Yes, indeed... Such a future cannot be allowed to emerge." Utopia told them. "If these evil forces succeed in obtaining us all, they will have power that no other force could ever hope to match. And once they conquer the world that I have come from, they will no doubt seek to control other worlds as well: Your kind may very well become their next victims..."

"We can't let that happen!" shouted Twilight. "We have to do something!"

"I agree completely, Your Highness." the armored man responded. "And that is why I have come seeking your assistance. Your power, along with your good intentions and feelings, may be just what is needed in order to vanquish these wicked forces and prevent them from succeeding in their heinous goals. The fates of this world and many others are at stake; we must win this battle at all costs." Utopia then asked the young Princess, "So... I ask you, Your Highness: Will you assist me in reclaiming our power and to keep it out of the hands of evil?"

The other occupants in the room thought about what had happened so far, as well as what had been told to them. Twilight pondered about it for some time, wondering what she should do. In the end, the lavender Alicorn realized that there was no other decision she could come to. With a look of determination upon her face, she said, "I will, Utopia. I'll do whatever I can to help you!"

"Are y'all sure about this, Twi?" asked Applejack, slightly concerned. "Are ya sure you can trust him?"

"If there's a chance that our world is in danger, then I don't have any other choice but to trust Utopia." Twilight answered her orange-coated friend. "As a Princess, I have to do whatever I can to make sure that everyone is safe... The last thing I want to see is something bad happening to this world and all of you... It's my duty to help protect Equestria and everypony that lives here. And that goes for any other world that might be in danger, too. So backing out of all of this is out of the question!"

"Well said, Princess Twilight." complimented Luna.

"Ah suppose you're right." Applejack responded. "Ah guess Ah would've done the same if Ah were you."

Twilight then turned to face Utopia and stated, "That being said, there's still one thing that puzzles me..." She then asked the armored man, "Utopia, how did you know who I was... and how did you know where to find me?"

"...Since you decided to help me with my concerns, I suppose that is only fair that I elaborate on those details." Utopia then explained to the young Princess, "I knew who you were and of the world from whence you came, because I have actually come seeking your assistance on someone else's behalf."

"Someone else?" Twilight inquired. "Who?"

"A person that you seem to be on good terms with, and to which the feelings are mutual." the armored man answered. "She is the one you call... Sunset Shimmer."

Everyone in the room gasped when they heard that name. "Sunset?!" asked Twilight, not sure if she heard him correctly.

"...Sunset Shimmer...?" repeated Princess Celestia in a slightly solemn tone. Just hearing the name of her former protégé brought back memories of the good times they shared together... as well some not-so-good times.

"Hold up a sec... Sunset Shimmer?" asked Rainbow Dash. She then looked towards Twilight and inquired, "Ain't that the name of that pony that stole your crown a while back?"

"Yes." answered the lavender Alicorn. "Not to mention that it's ALSO the same one that regretted doing that and is trying her best to change her ways as well." she then reminded her cyan-coated friend.

"...Oh yeah. Right." Rainbow responded, rubbing the back of her head. "I forgot about that..."

Twilight then turned back over to Utopia and asked him, "So Sunset Shimmer sent you to come find me?"

"Not necessarily..." the man replied. "She did not tell me to do such a thing directly. In fact, she does not know that I exist, much less that am I here speaking with you. However, she had desired for you to come to the world that she resides in to assist her and her companions in this battle as well..."

"You mean to tell me that Sunset and all of them are involved with this too??" asked Twilight in a surprised tone. "But... if she wanted my help, then why didn't she write to me in my magic book and ask for it?"

"She had contemplated such an idea," Utopia answered, "but I feel that she didn't do so simply because she wished not to disturb you..."

"Disturb her?" asked Fluttershy. "How?"

"...I think I understand." Twilight spoke up, having figured it all out. "She must have felt that by asking me to come and help her with what's going on in her world, she would be bothering me and tearing me away from my responsibilities as a Princess."

"I suppose that sounds plausible..." Celestia figured.

But Twilight then told them all, "But... she should have known that I would always be there to help her when she needs it." With a smile, she then added, "Helping others, especially my friends; those ARE my responsibilities as a Princess!" Putting on that determined look again, she stated, "So whether or not she thinks she needs my help, I'll go and do what I can to assist her!"

The others in the room were pleased to hear her say that, especially Princess Celestia. "Twilight, I am very proud to hear that from you." the white Alicorn told her. "You truly know what it means to be a Princess, and that is to always be there to help those that need it."

"Thank you, Princess Celestia." Twilight responded with a nod. She then turned back over to Utopia and told him, "Utopia, you can count on me! I promise to help both you and Sunset as much as I possibly can!"

"Thank you, Your Highness..." the armored man replied. Though his face was covered, everyone could tell that he felt pleased to know that Twilight was on his side. "And rest assured, I will use all of my power to assist you as well: As long as I remain with you, you shall not fall under the control of any of the other Numbers. I promise to remain loyal to you, even at the risk of my own life."

"Thank you, Utopia." said the lavender Alicorn. "And please, just call me Twilight; I really prefer to be called that, if that's okay with you."

"As you wish then, Twilight." Utopia responded.

---------------------------------------------------------------------

About an hour had passed since Twilight's meeting with Utopia. After she learned that her friend, Sunset Shimmer, had been fighting hard to prevent the mysterious Number cards from falling into the wrong hands, the young Alicorn Princess decided to go to her world and lend her assistance. Since then, she and her friends were hard at work, packing away all of the things that Twilight felt that she would need for her trip (mostly books, of course). As Twilight and her friends kept themselves busy, Celestia and Luna spoke with Utopia for a while; both of them learned a great deal about each other's homeworlds, and they also enjoyed each other's company as well.

Once Twilight had all of her things together, the group made their way to the meeting hall once more. However, there was something new in the room: It was a large mirror, which had been brought up from the castle basement. Of course, it wasn't just any ordinary mirror; it was actually a gateway between Equestria and the world where Sunset lived. Normally, the mirror could only open at certain times, but Twilight was able to construct a device to it that allowed her to freely open the portal anytime she wanted to.

Twilight checked all of her bags and said to her friends, "Okay... I think I have everything I need..." She then used her magic to grab the small wooden chest that held Utopia's card inside and placed it gently into her saddlebags as well. "Yep, I'm all set to go."

"Twilight..." Utopia spoke to her. "before you go through the portal, there is something else that you should be aware of." He then explained to the young Princess, "Due to the large amount of magical energy that freely flows in this world, I was able to gain my physical form so that I could communicate with you all... However, once you enter the world that your friend resides in, I will not be able to freely emerge from within my card."

"You won't??" asked Twilight. "Then how will you be able to help me?"

"In order for me to lend you my full power," he then instructed her, "you will have to obtain some special equipment that will allow you to Summon me, should you require my help. But do not worry, I am certain that your friend will help you get what you require." Utopia then stated, "In addition, I will still be able to speak to you in your mind and offer you advice."

"I suppose that's good to know..." Twilight then turned over to the others in the room and said to them, "Well, I guess I'll get going then..."

"Have a safe trip, Sugarcube." Applejack told her, giving her Alicorn friend a comforting hug.

"And do not worry about your castle, dear." stated Rarity. "We will happily look after it in your absence."

"Thanks, everypony. I really appreciate it." Twilight then glanced over at Pinkie Pie and said to her, "And I can trust that there WON'T be any wild parties held here that would make a mess of the castle, correct?"

"Yeesh, Twilight...! What do you take me for??" asked Pinkie, sounding a little offended by that remark. "Of COURSE I'd never do anything like that! Right, Dashie?"

"Uh, yeah! Of course not!" Rainbow Dash replied, sweating a little bit. She then asked, "Could you excuse us for a sec? Gotta use the, uh... little filly's room."

"Um, me too!" Pinkie chimed in.

The two of them then ran out of the room, heading for not the bathroom, but the front doors of the castle. They then opened the doors, revealing that there were three ponies standing there: A white Unicorn with an electric-blue mane and tail, a pair of sunglasses, and an eighth-note cutie mark that had lots of heavy sound equipment with her, an orange pony with a curly brown mane and tail, a yellow shirt, and a grilled cheese sandwich cutie mark, and a grey pony with a dull purple mane and tail that were perfectly straight, wearing a short, dull blue dress.

"Um, sorry guys..." Rainbow Dash told the three ponies outside. "Twilight said no..."

"Awwww..." the three other ponies groaned in disappointment.

"That's a shame..." the grayish pony responded in a slightly monotone-sounding voice. "I was really looking forward to having some fun..."

"It'll be okay, Maud." Pinkie told her. "We'll just have to have the party somewhere else! We'll keep in touch with all of you, don't worry." The three other ponies nodded before leaving the area.

Shortly after that, Pinkie and Rainbow Dash returned to meeting hall. Twilight, raising an eyebrow, asked them, "Uh... what was that all about...?"

"Nothing!!" they both told her very quickly.

The lavender Alicorn sighed a little and glanced around the room, noticing that someone was still missing. She then shouted, "Spike! Are you ready yet?! I can't wait here all day for you!!"

"Hold on! Hold on! I'm comin'!! Don't leave without me!!" shouted Spike's voice from a room nearby. In an instant, the baby dragon came running into the meeting room, carrying something in his tiny little arms. They were gemstones, which were his favorite thing to snack on. Spike stuffed his mouth full with as many gems as he could before reaching Twilight and the others.

The lavender Alicorn looked at her tiny little assistant and asked him, "Um... were you... having a snack this whole time we've been waiting??"

"Well, YEAH..." the dragon admitted. "Once we enter that other world, I'll turn into a dog again... So I'm gonna have my fill of jewels while I still can!"

"Ugh... fine. Let's just get moving; we can't afford to waste any more time." Twilight then walked over to Celestia and Luna to say her goodbyes to them for now. "Goodbye, Celestia... Goodbye Luna... I promise that I'll return here safe and sound."

"We know you will." the dark blue Alicorn responded.

Celestia then gave Twilight a small request, telling her, "Please... make sure that Sunset remains safe. You know I still worry about her well-being every day."

"Okay... I promise that too, Celestia." the young Alicorn replied. Spike then hopped onto Twilight's back as she approached the magical mirror. As for Utopia, he used his powers to return to his card, safely put away in the lavender pony's bags. "Goodbye, everypony!!" she said to the others, waving to them before entering the mirror.

"Goodbye, Twilight!!" they all said, waving back. "Come back soon!!"

As the young Princess disappeared into the magic mirror portal, her friends watched, wondering what would happen to her on the other side. "Do you think Twilight will be okay...?" asked an unsure Fluttershy.

"Ah'm sure she will." Applejack told her, putting her left foreleg around the back of the yellow Pegasus's head to comfort her.

"Let us hope so..." Celestia responded, still feeling a little worried, both for Twilight and for Sunset...

---------------------------------------------------------------------
Canterlot City Suburbs: Time 10:45 a.m.
---------------------------------------------------------------------

On a bright Saturday morning in the city of Canterlot, all was quite calm, especially in the suburban residences... well, unless you counted the commotion that Rainbow Dash made as she glided down the sidewalks on her in-line roller skates. She sped down the path, trying to move as fast as possible. Despite the incredible speeds at which she was moving, Rainbow had never once collided with anyone in her path. Not only was she fast, but she also had expert control of her skates. She swiftly made her way down the sidewalk before finally stopping in front of their high school, where Pinkie Pie was standing and holding her stopwatch.

Taking off her helmet, Rainbow then asked her pink friend, "So how was that, Pinks? What's my time?"

The pink girl then looked closely at the watch. Putting on a smile and gasping happily, she shouted, "I don't believe it! It's a new record!!"

"Awesome! I knew I'd beat my old time sooner or later!" Rainbow Dash said excitedly.

"Yeah! At this rate, we'll do superly-super well in the next Friendship Games, coming next year, on September 26th!" stated Pinkie Pie.

"Uh, yeah. I know when the games are coming, Pinkie." the cyan teen told her silly friend. "I told ya; I marked my calendar already." Smirking, she then said, "But you are right: If we keep training hard like this every day, we'll beat Crystal Prep so hard, they won't be able to live it down!"

Pinkie Pie nodded vigorously to say that she agreed with that statement. She then asked her athletic friend, "So what's next, Dashie?"

"Well, now it's your turn on the inlines this time, Pinkie." Rainbow Dash told her as she pulled off her roller skates. She then reached into her backpack (which Pinkie had been holding onto the whole time) and pulled out her regular shoes. As she put them back on, she then continued, telling her, "After that, we'll need to ask Sunset t' help us with the math part of the competition... As much as I ain't looking forward to it, we might as well get it out the way now."

But before Pinkie Pie could make another comment, they were suddenly interrupted by a strange noise nearby. When they turned to look, they saw that the source of the noise was coming from the large horse statue in front of the school. Not only that, a bright light was coming out of it as well. "Hey, Dashie! Look!!" the pink girl said to her friend. "There's a light coming out of the school statue!"

"Yeah, there is...!" noted the cyan teen. Smiling a little, she then added, "And we both know that there's only one reason why it would do that..."

Letting out another happy gasp, Pinkie began to ask, "You mean...?!"

"I sure do!" Rainbow answered her, already knowing what the pink girl was going to ask her. The cyan teen then told her, "I'll go over to the statue. Meanwhile, phone up the rest of the gang and we'll meet over at Sugarcube Corner. But don't tell 'em why just yet, got it?"

"All righty-righty, Dashie!" Pinkie Pie said in a cheerful tone as she pulled out her cell phone.

Several minutes later, Pinkie Pie, along with the rest of her friends (minus Rainbow Dash) sat in Canterlot City's popular sweet shop, waiting for the cyan teen to arrive. However, none of the others knew why they were waiting there, as Pinkie had not told them the reason yet, by Dash's request.

"So... any of y'all know what Pinkie brought us all out here for?" asked Applejack.

"If I knew, I would have said something, Applejack dear." Rarity responded. She then turned around to Fluttershy and asked her, "What about you? Do you know why she asked us to come here?"

"I'm sorry, Rarity... but I don't know..." the shy yellow teen answered her. "She didn't tell me..."

"That's absolutely correct, Fluttershy!" the silly girl chimed in. "I Pinkie-Promised Rainbow Dash that I wouldn't say a word about it! And I ALWAYS make good on a Pinkie-Promise!"

"Fair enough." Sunset said, deciding that it was useless to try and probe the information out of Pinkie if she wasn't willing to say anything. She then told the others, "The only thing I know is that, when Pinkie told me to come over here, she sounded pretty excited, so I can only assume that it's a good thing... Am I right, Pinkie?"

"Oh, you don't know how right you arrrrrrrrre...!" the pink girl responded, raising the pitch of her voice with each word that she said. She then looked out the window and gasped when she saw Rainbow Dash coming down the sidewalk towards the shop. "She's here!! She's here!! She's here!!!" the pink girl cheered.

The other four girls looked at one another, anxious to know what this was all about. They then watched as Rainbow opened the door to the shop and walked in. "Hey, everybody! I'm here!" she greeted her friends.

"So, what's going on here, Rainbow Dash?" Sunset Shimmer asked her. "What's this big surprise that you and Pinkie have for us?"

"Well, I guess you guys have been patient for long enough..." the athletic girl said to them. "You guys want a surprise? Well, I'll start by tellin' you all... that I didn't come over here all by myself."

"Huh?" Applejack began to ask. "What d' y'all mean by that, Dash?"

Rainbow chuckled a little to herself while glancing over to her left and shouting, "Okay, you can come in now!"

Everyone else watched the front door of the shop as they heard the pitter-patter of footsteps gradually coming towards them. And when the person making those footsteps entered the store, the other four girls gasped in total shock. "No way..." Applejack responded, totally surprised.

"I don't believe it...!" added Rarity.

"Is... is that...?" stuttered Fluttershy, not sure if her eyes were playing tricks on her or not.

"It... it is...!!" Sunset told them. She was the most surprised of all by what they saw.

Standing there at the door to Sugarcube Corner was a lavender-skinned girl with long, violet hair with pink and purple streaks running along it. She had deep purple eyes and wore a blue shirt with a pink bow on the front of the collar area. She also wore a purple skirt with a pink, six-pointed star emblazoned upon it, a pair of violet-colored socks, and small, black shoes.

The girl smiled as she looked towards the others in the room and said to them, "Hey everyone... Did you miss me?"

-- To Be Continued...

---------------------------------------------------------------------

NUMBERS OBTAINED:

Sunset Shimmer (10 Numbers total):

- Number 56: Gold Rat
- Number 63: Shamoji Soldier

Twilight Sparkle (1 Number total):

- Number 39: Utopia

---------------------------------------------------------------------

PreviousChapters Next