• Published 7th Jul 2017
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My Little Academia: Friendship is Heroic! - Fullmetal Pony



Twilight Sparkle wants to be a hero. She didn't expect the most powerful hero in Equestria to lend her a hoof. She's now set on the path of legends, but it's not going to be an easy one. My Hero Academia Crossover

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Twilight Sparkle: Origin

The Summer Sun Celebration brimmed with crowds. A blare of trumpets perked up all their ears, and they swarmed away from the concession stands and game booths towards the main stage. Twilight Velvet and Night Light flowed along with the sea of ponies, jostling to get as close a spot to the stage as they could.

Night Light looked back at the tiny filly, little more than a foal, planted on his back. “Hold on, Twilight.”

Velvet tightened her grip on the white colt at her side. “You too, Shining.”

“Why does Twilight get to stay on Dad’s back?” Shining whined. “I can’t see anything from down here.”

Shining glanced forward but could only see legs and tails. With a snort, he jumped up, but heads, manes, horns, and wings still blocked his view. Landing back on the ground, he wrinkled his muzzle and stomped.

“Well…” Velvet mused, “I guess I can pick up my big strong colt if that’s what he wants.”

Shining blushed and lowered his head. “I… I’m okay. Maybe… just when Princess Celestia shows up.”

“Of course.” Velvet scanned over the crowd. Her eyes zoned in on a gap. “Oh Nighty, over there!”

Night Light swiveled his head around and then locked onto the spot Velvet was looking at. He lit up his horn, the air popped, and Night Light vanished. With another pop, he reappeared in the open space Velvet had spotted.

Tiny hooves glomped onto Night Light’s neck. Twilight exclaimed, “Again! Again!”

Night Light’s sudden appearance forced a slender mare in a hat with a brim as wide as her body to jump back. She stumbled into a stallion with a mane that glistened from one too many applications of product. Both glared at Night Light and then turned their noses up at him.

“Abusing his special talent like that,” the stallion huffed as he searched for a new viewing spot. “The nerve!”

“Probably just some lowly punch-card hero.” The mare planted herself down. She and the stallion were a bit further back, but they still had a decent view..

From her father’s back, Twilight marveled at the platoon of Royal Guards gather atop and around the stage. Anypony could see the guards that stood in front of the castle or glimpse the pegasus patrols that soared around its spires. However, it was only on rare occasions that a normal citizen could see the earth, the unicorn, the pegasus, and the praetorian guards all in one spot.

The trumpets blared again, and the crowd grew quiet. Heads turned toward the rosy horizon. Everypony waited with baited breath.

Then, there was a glint. Some ponies began stomping while other reared up to get a better look as the sun climbed a little higher.

Amidst the first rays of dawn, Celestia rose up and stood tall. Light radiated off her and glistened in Twilight’s eyes. Books and newspapers always showed Celestia dwarfing even the biggest of stallions. Up close, it was clear that those pictures were only slightly exaggerated. Her body was well-muscled and sleeker than the fastest Wonderbolt. Her wings were as big as a full-grown pony and filled with pristine feathers that matched her snow-white coat. Her shimmering horn extended past her crown, far longer than any unicorn’s.

Cheers filled the air and stomps shook the ground. Yet, there was one spot not filled with ponies in the throws of adulation. Right at the front of the stage, between the guard that stood at its base and the cheering crowds in front of him, was a space too small for a grown pony to fit, but just right for a filly. Twilight’s eyes widened as did her grin.

Clambering to her hooves, she balanced on Night Light’s back and then leapt. Her parents’ shouts were lost in the crowd’s roar. Landing a few feet away, Twilight found herself in a forest of legs. When a pony stomped near her, she yelped. Taking a breath, she focused back on the spot and snaked through the crowd. At the front of the crowd, ponies were packed side-to-side, but Twilight pushed against them with all her weight. With a huff and a shove, she tumbled out on the other side right in front of the guard.

She gulped when he glared down at her. His eyes were like steel placed into the chiseled sockets a statue. With a snort, he turned his attention elsewhere. Twilight let out the breath she did not realize she had been holding and focused back on the Celestia.

Celestia had taken to the air just in front of the gilded statue. As she rose, so did the sun. The crowd’s cheers grew louder and louder until Celestia and the sun aligned at the statue's crescent apex. Light flooded off her and the trumpets sounded again.

Twilight’s smile enveloped most of her face. The rest of her head was taken up by her widened eyes. Just as Celestia floated back down to the stage, she looked in Twilight's direction and smiled.

~~~

A week without dessert and comics for running off was well worth it. Plus, while Velvet had yelled Twilight’s ear off, Night Light had slipped away and bought a picture of the Summer Sun Celebration Ceremony. He gave it to Twilight a few days later, while Velvet was out running some errands.

Twilight immediately hung it above her bed. As soon as it was firmly in place, she sprung off the bed and gave Night Light a hug. “Thank you so much!”

“You really like Princess Celestia, eh?” Night Light chuckled.

Twilight nodded so hard that she rocked back and forth on her hooves.

“Well, Twilight…” Night Light reached down to steady Twilight and stroke her mane. “… you keep studying as hard as you do and I’m sure you’ll be a great hero someday, just like Princess Celestia.”

“I’ll get wings too?” Twilight squealed.

Night Light coughed into his hoof. “Well, Princess Celestia is a very special pony, so maybe not exactly like her, but I know you have what it takes to be a pony everypony looks up to.”

“Yay!” Twilight exclaimed as she pranced around Night Light.

*Ten Years Later*

A hoof slammed down on Twilight’s desk and sent up a ring of embers and smoke. Twilight yelped and fell out of her chair. Everypony—save for Moondancer—laughed.

Sunset sneered down at Twilight. “Off daydreaming again, blank flank? Don’t you think you’re overworking Princess Luna at this point?”

“Leave me alone, Sunset,” Twilight whimpered and picked herself up.

“And let you keep pretending you’re gonna be a hero?” Sunset scoffed as she lit up her horn, pulling Twilight’s saddlebags out from under her chair. “Somepony needs to put you in your place, and this may be one of my last chances to do so.”

“That’s not yours!” Twilight shouted.

“Just making sure you don’t have any hero contraband.” Sunset lifted the flap on Twilight’s bags and peered inside them. She chucked Twilight’s schoolbooks aside and then exposed the other textbooks. “Oh? This is rich. Clover the Clever’s Spell Matrixes, Starswirl’s Appendix of Spellcasting…”

“Stop it!” Twilight shouted. She raised up a leg to take a step. A blast of fire from Sunset’s horn kept her at bay.

Sunset grinned and pulled out a magazine. “Ah, the latest Rumor Mill. Think I’ll keep this one.”

After floating the magazine to her desk, Sunset returned to rummaging through Twilight’s bag. Buried at the bottom of the bag was form. When she unfolded it, her jaw clenched. Twilight’s blood ran cold. Sunset flipped the paper around, displaying the seal at the top that made a few fillies and colts gasp and then snicker. The motto under the seal shimmered in the classroom’s afternoon light. Sunset glared at Twilight.

“What is this?” she hissed.

“It…” Twilight gulped. “It’s a form a doctor has to fill out if you haven’t gotten a cutie mark yet and you apply for the School for Gifted Po—”

“Shut up!” Sunset snapped. The edges of the form crinkled and blackened. “Your daydreaming is one thing, but you might as well have insulted me to my face! You are not applying here, you got that, blank flank?”

“N-no.”

The paper fell out of Sunset’s grasp. Her horn flared up and a lasso of fire wrapped around Twilight’s neck. Sunset yanked her close. “Sorry, didn’t quite hear that.”

“I…” Twilight felt the flames licking at her coat. Her body shook within Sunset’s grasp but she managed to meet her glare. “Th-there’s nopony who says I can’t go, n-not even you, Sunset. O-once the doctor says I’m all good, I’m going to apply!”

Sunset stared at Twilight. Then, she grinned. Her spell turned to smoke that rose up and made Twilight cough. She shoved Twilight aside and stepped around her. “Okay, I get it. Of course you won’t listen to me, even though I’m the one who’s actually going to the School for Gifted Ponies, and even though I’m the one who’s actually going to be the greatest hero since Princess Celestia. So, lucky you, blank flank, I’m just going to let you go get your little checkup today. I can’t wait to see the look on your face next class.”

“And why is that?” Twilight asked while she scrambled to pick up her belongings from off the floor.

Sunset smirked and watched Twilight shove her stuff into her bag with just her hooves. “Because that doctor will tell you what everypony else has been telling you all along: you’re a loser, Twilight Sparkle. Even your name is an embarrassment with that dinky thing you call a horn.”

Twilight’s face grew hot. “I’m just a late-bloomer is all.”

“That what your mommy says?” Sunset snickered as she tore one of Twilight’s books from out of her grasp. “Well, how about what these books say? Ever read about a unicorn your age that can barely lift a book with her magic?”

“I’m sure there must be…”

“Must be what? Other pathetic magicless unicorns like you?” Sunset snorted. “Trust me, I’m sure they are, but even they have more brains than you. They know they’re losers and don’t get in my way. Maybe this doctor will finally set you straight though.”

A few tears trickled down Twilight's face. “You… you just wait, Sunset Shimmer! The next time you see me, I’ll show you that I can be a hero!”

~~~

“I can’t in good conscience sign this.” The doctor set the crisped form to his side. “Or a clean copy either.”

The walls seemed to close in on Twilight. The plush examination table sunk beneath her. As her stomach dropped, her breathing quickened. The floor careened away from her, while the doctor contorted upwards to loom over Twilight.

Velvet bit her lip and put a leg around Twilight. “I don’t understand. The actual tests might be a little challenging for Twilight, but surely she’s fine health-wise.”

“Of course,” said the doctor. “Twilight is a perfectly healthy pony. It’s just that heroics often require strenuous use of magic and her mana levels are below average.”

“Why?” Twilight choked out. Tears dotted her eyes. “My parents can use magic just fine. My Dad’s a hero and my brother’s a knight!”

“I know, I know,” the doctor sighed. “I’ve dealt with a few other patients like this before. We’re still trying to piece it out, but what you have appears to be a rare atavism linked to what we imagine was a depowering plague sometime in the pre-Celestial era.”

“A plague?” Tears spilled from Twilight’s face and fell onto the tiled floor. “So I am sick then.”

“No, no, no.” The doctor waved a hoof. “As I said, you’re perfectly healthy and are set to lead a full life. It’s just that heroics isn’t for you.”

A shiver ran down the doctor’s spine when Velvet threw an icy glare at him. Her features softened when her attention went down to Twilight. She pressed her leg tight against Twilight’s back.

Twilight did not move. She did not blink. She did not breath. The only sign of life from her were the tears flowing down her face. Velvet opened her mouth to say something— anything— but no words reached her lips. The leg against Twilight’s back tensed, and Velvet wrapped her other leg around Twilight in a hug.

Velvet’s lips grew taut as her own tears welled up. Just when they started to trickle down her face, speech returned to her. It was the only thing she could think of as a mother to say. “I’m sorry, Twilight.”

Twilight unfroze just long enough to stare straight at Velvet. The way her head shook back and forth and the way her lips trembled was the only warning Velvet got that she had said the absolute wrong thing. Twilight wailed and broke into sobs.

~~~

“Twilight!” Night Light called up the stairs. “Dinner!”

“Let her be,” Velvet sighed. Bags hung under her eyes. She floated two plates onto the table. “This is going to take time for her— for all of us— to process.”

“Well, we can’t just let her sit up there forever.” Night Light took his seat and propped his head on a hoof. “I know this must be hard for her, but we’ve been expecting something like this.”

“Not so loud, dear,” Velvet cautioned. “And haven’t you encouraged her as well?”

“When she was younger, but I’ve been staying clear of hero talk with her for a while now.” Night Light shoved some broccoli into his mouth. “Twilight still has an amazing mind though. She could easily become a researcher, an analyst, or an agency manager. Maybe I’ll have Glitz and Glamor show her around the office next week.”

“I just don’t know what to say to her.” Velvet shook her head. “She’s been so dedicated to becoming a hero, and now…”

“We’ll figure something out.”

Night Light’s ears perked up, and he paused eating. It was faint, but he could have sworn he heard light clops from the top of the stairs. He glanced up, but saw no sign of Twilight. With a sigh, he returned to his meal. Neither he nor Velvet spoke the rest of the time they were at the table.

~~~

After dinner, Night Light ascended the stairs. He knocked on Twilight’s door. “Twilight? Can I come in?”

There was no response from Twilight’s side of the door.

“Sweetie, I know you’re upset, but just know that your mother and I love you no matter what, and Shining will always be there to protect you.” Night Light lit up his horn and turned the doorknob. At least the door was not locked. “You’re a smart little filly, Twilight, so I’m sure yo—”

Night Light looked around the room. Celestia posters lined the walls and Celestia memorabilia filled the scant space on the shelves not filled with books or comics. Only one spot in the entire room was bereft of anything Celestia or hero-related. A lump formed in Night Light’s throat. There was a gap right over Twilight’s bed.

“Twilight?”

~~~

Shining Armor veered through Canterlot’s back-allies. His eyes raced around, taking in the scratched walls, the gashes in the road, and the shattered remnants of chests and cabinets. He glimpsed the tip of a scaled tail wrap around a corner.

“Damn,” he cursed. “If that thing gets to the fashion district…”

“Well, we can’t have that now.”

Shining slammed his hooves into the ground. He spun around and then dropped into a bow. “Your Highness!”

~~~

Twilight galloped down the streets. Everything blurred around her. Keeping her picture clenched between her teeth, she sped through Canterlot.

It was nearing the end of spring, so the sun was only halfway over the horizon when Twilight reached her destination. The fairgrounds were still nothing more than a vast field, as they were most of the year. Even the gilded statue hadn’t been brought in yet.

Twilight looked down at her picture before staring out at the field. The wind stirred the grass, and the setting sun colored it orange, gold, and crimson. A few tears splattered onto Celestia’s smiling image.

“Please,” she whimpered. “I’ve studied hard every day since I saw you. I practice until my horn aches. All I want is to be a hero… a hero like you. That’s all I want to be!”

As Twilight sobbed, dusk crept over the fairgrounds, deepening the shadows and lowering the temperature. When a gust rustled the grass, Twilight sniffled and clasped her picture. Another rustle perked up her ears. The wind was no longer blowing.

“Mine,” something growled.

As Twilight turned in the direction of the growl, goosebumps ran up her legs.

Out of the grass came an adolescent dragon as big as a stallion. Its purple scales and the green spines spiking out of its head and back glinted in the setting sun. A forked tongue flicked out of its mouth. Its slitted eyes locked onto Twilight.

“Want…” it bellowed.

Twilight stiffened and realized it wasn’t staring at her, but at the picture in her hooves. She brought it close to her chest. “No, this is mine!”

“Spike…” The dragon’s chest swelled. A glow rose up in the back of its throat. “Want!”

A blast of emerald flame shot out of its mouth. Twilight screamed and closed her eyes. There was a woosh of air, and then heat washed over her. However, the sensation was merely warm, like sitting in front of a fireplace rather than being in a fireplace. Twilight had read that sustaining a severe enough burn numbed your nerves. At some point, as you fried to a crisp, warmth became the last thing you felt.

Yet, Twilight still felt the grass beneath her hooves and the picture pressed against her chest. Both should have been ash by now. Or, at least, Twilight's nerves should have burnt to the point where she could not feel them. Curious, she dared to open an eye. When she did, her jaw dropped.

Princess Celestia stood before her, horn aglow and wings spread wide. Her coat and wings glistened with the last light of day while her flowing mane sparkled with the first rays of moonlight. Her horn grew bright and hefted the dragon off the ground. While the dragon thrashed around in her spell, its body shrank down.

“Stealing is one thing,” said Celestia. The dragon snarled at her. “But trying to harm my subjects is another.”

There was a bright flash. In place of the dragon, there was now a speckled egg floating in Celestia’s spell. A bit of crimson lightning crackled from it.

Celestia turned. “That was a close call there, my little pony. Dragons aside, it’s dangerous for a fi—”

She blinked.

Twilight lay strewn on the grass. A bit of drool dripped from her muzzle. Her eyes swam around her head. “P-P-Princess Celestia…”

Celestia lit up her horn, picked Twilight up, and gave her a gentle shake. “Oh dear. Well, that knight wi—“

“Princess Celestia!” Twilight exclaimed as her eyes refocused.

“Ah, you’re lucid again, good.” Celestia set Twilight back on the ground. She glanced at the egg and floated it to her side. “I’m sorry you got involved in this mess, but you have my thanks. This drake was a bit hard to pin down, but it can’t resist filching valuables.”

A wind then blew through the field and lifted Twilight’s picture into the air. Celestia caught it with ease, brought it close, and smiled. “A fan, I see. The Celebration isn’t for a few more weeks though. Until then, have this as a token of gratitude!”

Smoke rose off the picture. Celestia then floated it back to Twilight. Right by Celestia’s image, there was now a scorched autograph.

Twilight’s eyes glistened. “Th-thank you!”

“No problem, my little pony.” Celestia spread out her wings. “Now, you’d best get home. The streets are no place for a filly after dark!”

Time slowed for Twilight. Princess Celestia was standing right here with nopony else around. Her legs moved even before the thought fully registered with her that she would never have a chance like this again.

“Wait!” she called out.

With a single flap of her wings, Celestia rocketed into the sky. As she climbed higher and arced over Canterlot, she glanced at the egg and frowned. “I’ll need to set up more barriers near Ta—”

Something tugged at her right hind leg, slowing her down and causing her to tilt. She glanced back and saw Twilight clinging to her leg with all the strength she could muster. The roaring winds forced Twilight’s mouth open and shoved her scream and breath back down her throat.

“My word!” Celestia exclaimed. “I don’t mind admiration, but this is taking it a bit far!”

~~~

Sunset stormed down the fashion district’s main drag. Her bejeweled saddlebags rustled with each stomp of her hooves. Blackened hoofprints were left in her wake. The lights from the stores and the street vendors caught on the jewelry that poked out of her bag.

Snips and Snails trailed a safe distance behind her. The sparks coming from her horn gave them pause. They thought deeply on their words —a rare event for the duo— before daring to speak.

“Sunset? It’s just Twilight. There’s no way in Equestria she’ll get in.” Snails gulped. “Heh, even Snips and I can’t get in.”

“Because you dunderheads couldn’t study to save your hides!” Sunset snapped before jabbing a smoldering hoof into Snails’ chest. With a yelp, he jumped back and patted out the embers Sunset left behind. Sunset snorted and spun back around. Smoke joined the sparks trailing off her horn. “Stupid blank flank, thinking like she’s still a foal.”

“Maybe she’s just inspired by you,” Snips suggested.

His hair stood on end when Sunset twisted her head around, revealing her horn aglow and her eyes ablaze. At that moment, being turned to stone by a cockatrice seemed lovely compared to the full brunt of Sunset’s glare. The air grew hot between him and Sunset.

Before Sunset could unleash her wrath on Snips, something falling from the sky caught his eye. It appeared to be an egg. As it plummeted into the fashion district, crimson lightning sparked from it. A flash lit up the main drag.

“Spike… WANT!”

~~~

Twilight was pale. Her eyes, wet with tears just a few minutes ago, were now bone-dry. It stung just to blink. Her legs wobbled beneath her, but she managed to feel out a nearby chimney and braced herself against it. Gasps of air passed her parched lips and cracked them further. “Scary…”

“This is certainly a first,” Celestia sighed and looked down at the streets below. She coughed, sending bit of red spittle out of her mouth. Damn, not now... she thought as she turned to Twilight. “I must be going now, my little pony. I’m sorry, but you’ll have to see if somepony that lives here can help you down.”

“Wait!” Twilight cried out. “Please!”

Celestia saw the desperation on Twilight’s face and steeled herself. Just a moment longer...

“I want… I need to know…” With her heart racing, Twilight gulped and closed her eyes. “Can a pony with barely any magic become a hero like you?”

Celestia blinked. “Magic is…”

Another cough racked Celestia and sent up more blood. As she doubled over, steam rose off her body. No! Not here!

“Because everypony says I don’t have a lot of magic,” Twilight continued with her head bowed. “I don’t even have a cutie mark yet. I… I get picked on a lot at school because of that, so maybe that’s why I want to help other ponies. There’s another reason, though. You’re always there to save the day, and if I could be even a fraction like you, Princess Celestia, I’d…”

Twilight raised her head. An emaciated pink filly stared back at her with sunken eyes. A chest plate almost as big as her whole body hung from her frail neck. Tiny wings with only a few feathers poked out of her back beside the bumps of her spine and shoulder blades. Spindly legs that barely made the filly taller than Twilight linked to her skeletal torso. Dangling from her small, cracked horn was a tiara. Her cutie mark, a gold and bronze sun, was frayed and faded.

“Huh?” Twilight gasped. “An impostor?”

“No,” the filly sighed. Twilight stiffened. The filly’s voice was raspy, but it was unmistakably Celestia’s. A bit of blood dribbled from the filly’s mouth. “I am Princess Celestia.”

“What?” Twilight shouted. “How?”

“Ssshhh! Shh!” Celestia grunted and lit up her horn. A thin veil of magic wrapped around Twilight’s mouth. “If the public at large found out, this would be a disaster. Do you understand?”

Twilight nodded.

Celestia sighed, unleashed her spell, and slumped up against the edge of the roof. She stared at Twilight for a moment and then pushed her chest plate aside. Twilight’s stomach turned.

Scar tissue stretched across Celestia’s chest. Numerous stitch marks and skin grafts marred the discolored mass of flesh. At the center of the grisly injury was a deep and ashen puncture wound.

“Centuries ago, Princess Luna and I faced a great calamity,” said Celestia. “We managed to defeat it, but the fight left us both at death’s door. It was only thanks to the quick work of the doctors and the great power we wielded, the Elements of Harmony, that we survived, but it came with a price. The Elements' power was infused into me, but their power has been declining since then. Eventually, I'll lose my connection to them and be stuck like this. Heh, at this point, I’m barely able to handle royal duties, let alone heroics.”

Twilight sank to her hooves. “This doesn’t make sense! You always walk or fly with smile that says nothing worries you! That you're strong enough to take on an army or help anypony in trouble and barely break a sweat!”

“Is that how it looks?” Celestia’s ears flopped to the sides of her head. “I smile because I know if ponies saw anything else, their world would be turned upside down. Sometimes, I fear ponies have come to rely on me a bit too much. I only hope that when the Elements' power gives out, somepony else can smile and bring ponies the same comfort I do.”

Twilight felt like she was back at the doctor’s office. Even with no walls around it, it seemed like the air itself was pressing against her, squeezing the breath out of her.

“I’m sorry, my little pony,” said Celestia. “Seeing me with barely a glimmer of magic must be disheartening. Like this, I could never be a hero, but magic and heroics are not everything in this world.”

“Yeah.” The word numbed Twilight’s lips. The numbness wormed down her throat and spread to the rest of her body.

Celestia glanced over to the edge of the roof and spread her tiny wings. “I must get back to the castle now. Forgive me.”

With a leap, she vanished from the roof and landed in the street below. Huffing, she swung her chest plate onto her back, covering her wings. She gave one last look back at the roof and then disappeared into the crowd.

When the castle came into view, the realization struck her that that egg was no longer in her possession.

~~~

Twilight stared out at the night sky for some time. Once the wind began to chill her, she dragged herself over to the edge and looked down. The thought crossed her mind of just jumping straight off, but at this height the worst that could happen would be some broken bones. With a sigh, she resigned herself to clambering down.

She shambled through the streets. Her parents would probably scream her ears off when she got home, but the thought barely registered to her. Celestia’s words played over and over again in her mind. Fresh tears welled up.

“Even the princess told me,” she sniffled. Stumbling over to a wall, she slumped down and cried. “Sunset was right, I really am just a blank flank lo—”

An ear-splitting roar cut Twilight off. Something rent the air above her. An explosive crash sent her ears ringing, and she was thrown off the ground. Struggling to her hooves, she gasped and shuddered. The crumbling remains of a shop's roof had cratered into the street. Cries of terror filled the air along with the bitter scent of smoke. Ponies bolted off in all directions except where the roof had crashed from.

“This is the Canterlot Guard!” a stallion’s voice boomed through the air. “There’s an immediate threat to the area! Please evacuate to a safe distance while the Guard and heroes handle the situation!”

Twilight sprinted away from the smashed roof and joined the mad rush to flee from whatever the threat was. Something more than just the thought of another building crashing down on her formed a lump in her stomach. Another roar forced Twilight to look back. Ice flooded her veins.

The dragon loomed over the fashion district, far bigger than when Twilight had encountered it. Winged heroes and pegasus guards buzzed around it, blasting it with concentrated gusts and thunderbolts. The dragon snorted, slashed at the air with a claw, and whipped its tail, sending the heroes and guards into tailspins. Beams of magic flew at it from the streets below, but the spells just bounced off its scales.

“No…” Twilight gasped. “Princess Celestia had it.”

Twilight’s breath quickened. She remembered grabbing onto Celestia. This is my fault!

No, don't worry. A hero will come… she thought as the dragon smacked away more ponies with its free claw. We’re in Canterlot, there are plenty of heroes here, not to mention the Guard... The image of Shining Armor crushed under the dragon’s claws flooded into Twilight’s mind. She shook her head. No! Shining is strong! Maybe not as strong as Princess Celestia, but there is no way the heroes and guards can’t take that monster down!

The dragon roared again.

Twilight then noticed one of its claws was balled up. See? They’ve already taken out of its cla—

A blast of fire shot out of the dragon’s claw and exploded against its wrist. Twilight's heart caught in her throat. A mop of yellow and red hair stuck out of the dragon's claw. Flames blazed around Sunset's horn as she readied another spell. The dragon snorted and gave its claw a shake, snapping Sunset’s head back. When she went limp, the dragon sneered.

Twilight broke into a gallop straight for the fashion district. Ponies fled in the opposite direction all around her. A guard spotted her when the panicked masses thinned. His shouts for her to stop went unheeded, and she spurred herself even faster.

From a nearby rooftop, Celestia watched the dragon rampage. Her hoof slammed down and cracked a few tiles. Damn! If I had just been a little more careful! Her eyes went wide when she spotted Twilight burst out of an alley and onto the main drag of the fashion district. That foal! What is she doing?!

The air on the main drag stung to breath. It was hot and thick with smoke. Fires blazed out from shattered windows and spread to the crushed signs and wooden beams spread across the street. Guards and heroes swarmed the dragon from the sky and the ground, but were easily scattered by a stomp of its hind legs or a swipe of its tail.

Between attacks, the dragon would bring a claw down on a nearby shop and swipe everything its massive talons could carry from within. With each theft, it limbs thickened and it grew taller. Building crumbled in the wake of its exponential growth.

“This is hopeless!” a guard shouted. “We’ve never dealt with anything this size in the city! Have we gotten a connection to Princess Celestia yet?”

“Nothing!” another guard yelled back.

“We’ve got agencies sending everypony they’ve got!” A costumed pegasus swooped by the guards and the grass under him dried out. Water swirled around his hooves and then solidified into a spear of ice. With all his might, he threw at the dragon’s underbelly, but it shattered against its scales. “Just help us hold out a little longer!”

“C’mon, you brute!” an earth pony huffed. Roots snaked down from her hooves and wrapped around the dragon’s hind claws. It snapped then with a slight twist. “Damn!”

Twilight watched the fight— if it could even be called that— with shaking legs and a bit lip. Daring to look away from the dragon, she scanned the ruined shops and the rubble strewn across the street. Think! Think! There has to be something that can get past those scales! Something that can loosen its grip!

Amidst the burning wood and scorched bricks, something glinted.

Up above, a pegasus extended a wing that glistened like steel. He zoomed by the dragon’s head and managed to cleave off the tip of one of its spines. The dragon scowled at the pegasus and raised a claw to strike him down.

Something sparkled from down below. The dragon turned and looked at the street. Its eyes widened. A diamond as big as a yak had appeared amidst the rubble. As if its size alone was not miraculous, the faint violet glow around it only increased its allure. The dragon gave a halfhearted slash of its claw and a whip of its tail to disperse the heroes and guards swarming around it. With its path clear, the dragon leaned forward to snatch up the diamond.

Its snout dipped between the buildings. Hot breath filled the street. It panted seeing the jewel only a few yards away and reached out its claw.

Just as the jewel came within the dragon’s grasp, it cracked. For a brief moment, magic trickled out of the tacky store sign like an overripe plum getting squeezed. Then, it exploded, flooding the street and the dragon’s eyes with light and glass. A pained roar tore through the air, and the dragon reared back. It unclenched its claw, and Sunset fell to the ground.

Sunset’s head spun. She wobbled to her hooves, but then fell again.

“Sunset!” a voice cried out.

Sunset’s pupils shrank and she glared over at Twilight. “What are you doing here?”

“You were in trouble!” Twilight coughed. Her horn ached and the ground roiled under her. Blood dripped from a few shards of glass poking out of her legs and her barrel. She stumbled over to Sunset. “We have… have to get… out of here…”

Twilight then collapsed.

“Idiot!” Sunset snapped. She managed to get to her hooves, lit up her horn, and lifted Twilight off the ground. “What were you thinking blowing all your magic trying to fight this thing?”

“Not fight,” Twilight groaned. “Just had to get you free.”

“I can protect myself!” Sunset secured Twilight onto her back, and then looked through the fires and the rubble. “I swear, when we’re out of here, I’m going to ki—”

A roar silenced Sunset. She twisted her head back. Smoke fumed out of the dragon’s snout and past its bloodied eyes as it glared down at Sunset and Twilight. Sunset's legs locked up. The dragon raised up a claw.

"No!" heroes and guards screamed as they raced to stop the dragon.

“Spike…” it bellowed, “… want!

Sunset channeled all her magic up into her horn. I'll give it a scar to remember at least!

Despite the thought, Sunset closed her eyes as the dragon's claw slammed down.

Warmth flowed around her. When she realized she could still feel the ground beneath her hooves, she dared to open her eyes. Her spell fizzled into the air.

A golden shield glistened around her, Twilight, and Celestia. Standing fully empowered and radiant, Celestia glared up at the dragon. Above her, the dragon pressed its claw around the shield, but was unable to penetrate it. She coughed, sending up a bit of blood, but then smiled at Sunset and Twilight.

“Fillies these days,” Celestia chuckled. She then focused on Twilight. “I don’t know whether to lambaste your foolishness or commend your bravery.”

“I had to,” Twilight wheezed. “No matter what… Sunset was still my friend. I had to save her."

A glow rose from behind Celestia, quickening her heart. With wide eyes, she saw that her cutie mark was shining bright. It can’t be!

Another glimmer of light drew her attention. It came from Twilight’s flanks. Celestia’s heart now thudded against her chest as she watched the glow from both her cutie mark and Twilight get brighter.

“Of all the places…” Celestia shook her head. “Tell me, my little ponies, what are your names?”

“S-Sunset Shimmer.”

“Twilight Sparkle.”

“I see,” said Celestia. “Sunset, time is short, so could you please give Twilight to me?”

“S-sure.” Sunset lit up her horn and floated Twilight over to Celestia.

Above them, the dragon roared and leveled its maw at Celestia. Its jaw opened wide. The depths of its throat glowed bright.

Celestia secured Twilight onto her back and then turned back to Sunset. “Thank you, Sunset Shimmer. I’ll be sure to remember that name.”

“What are yo—”

A spell shot out of Celestia’s horn and rammed into Sunset’s head. Her eyelids grew heavy, and she collapsed, sound asleep.

“What are you doing?” Twilight gasped.

“Sorry, Twilight,” said Celestia. “This next bit needs to be just between you and me. Plus, if I’m wrong, I’d rather your friend not see us get roasted alive.”

“What?” Twilight yelped.

The dragon’s throat grew brighter. The swelling of its chest shook the remaining buildings around them.

“I just need you to focus on what brought you here.” The light from Celestia’s horn grew. Sweat rolled down her face, and blood dripped from her mouth. “Why you chose to face a monster you could never hope to defeat. Why you risked everything for a single friend. Why you want to be a hero!”

“Because…” Twilight closed her eyes and focused. Her horn lit up and her flanks brightened. She thought back to the first Summer Sun Celebration she saw. She thought of her brother and her parents. She thought of Moondancer comforting her. She thought back to drawing out every syllable on the page of a Daring Do book with Sunset at her side. “Because I want to protect my friends! Because that's what a hero does!”

Twilight’s horn blazed with magic. Her eyes glowed white and crackled with energy. The magic flooded down her horn, enveloping her body, and spreading outwards. When it reached Celestia’s shield, it flashed and then merged with it. The shield swelled and morphed into a sphere of fiery aura that blazed with every color imaginable.

The dragon shut its mouth and stared at the brilliant display. It reached out a claw. “Spike want.”

When its claw touched the shield, smoke curled off it and it shrank.

Celestia observed the change and then faced the dragon head on. Her horn was now blinding to look at. With all her might, she willed the aura swirling around her and Twilight up to the tip of her horn. Twilight felt the immense magic flowing around her and within herself. She could feel it radiating for her horn and spiraling over to Celestia’s. The spell grew bigger and brighter. It was like a miniature sun.

Despite her bloodied muzzle, Celestia smiled. “Never thought I’d wield the Elements like this again.”

The spell exploded into a beam of rainbow light that washed over the dragon. It reared up as the spell raced over it and roared. Just as the spell spiraled up to cover the dragon’s head, Twilight could have sworn she saw a horned shadow lift off the dragon, but it was then consumed by the spell.

The last thing she saw was a blast of light more bright and beautiful than the most stunning rainbow.

~~~[

“…light!”

Twilight stirred.

“Twilight!”

She half-opened an eye at the sound of her name.

“Twilight!” Shining yelled.

Bolting upright, Twilight smacked her head against Shining Armor’s.

Shining stumbled backwards and shook his head. A bit of his chin reddened and swelled up. “Guh, I thought you were an egghead, not a blockhead.”

“Shining?” Twilight looked around.

Rescue crews were putting out the fires and cleaning up the rubble around them. Ponies were spread out nearby on blankets or being rushed off to the hospital. Sunset slumbered at Twilight’s side with a few bandages here and there.

“Good, you’re okay,” Shining sighed. When he lifted his head up, his glare chilled Twilight. He jabbed a hoof at her chest. “What in Equestria were you thinking? Before we even get to the giant rampaging dragon, I know Mom would never let you be out on the streets alone at this time! And, from the sound it, you actually were running towards that monster!”

“I…” Twilight gulped.

“Whatever punishment Mom gives you will be too light. Do you know what could have happened to you?” Shining lit up his horn and pulled Twilight into a hug. She felt tears on his face. “How I’d feel if you got hurt on my watch?”

Twilight hugged Shining back and nuzzled him. “I’m sorry, Shining, but when I saw that dragon had Sunset, I couldn’t just run away.”

“You stupid foal.” Shining gave Twilight a squeeze and then placed her back on the ground. He shook his head. “Darn it, Twily, you’re making this whole situation difficult. It’d be easy to just be mad at you, but I can’t, not after how hard you’ve worked.”

Twilight raised an eyebrow. “How hard I’ve worked? Shining, I haven’t gotten a test back or anything lately.”

Shining blinked and then smiled. “Twilight, I’m not talking about any test you took. I’m talking about something way more important. Something you’ve wanted for so long. Something that’s right there on your flanks.”

Twilight's eyes widened. Stretching back a leg, Twilight ran a hoof over her flank. Parts of her coat now felt smoother and warmth flowed off them. Her heart throbbed. With baited breath, she looked down.

A six-pointed magenta star surrounded by six smaller white stars glistened on her flanks.

~~~

A few days later, Velvet answered a knock at the door. A portly stallion in a lab coat with a bushy mustache and a mane that went in every direction stood before her.

“Can I help you?” asked Velvet.

“Is zis ze residence of a Ms. Twilight Sparkle?” the stallion asked.

“If this is about the incident a few days ago, we’ve already given our statements to the Guard and the press,” Velvet sighed.

“Oh, no, no, no,” said the stallion. “I am Professor Hoofenbacker from ze Equestrian Thaumaturgy Research Society. Ve received a report zat your daughter may be a carrier for a rare atavism and ve vere ho—“

“Look.” Velvet pressed a hoof between her eyes and took a breath. “It’s been a very stressful week for everypony here and the last thing Twilight needs is for a bunch of scientists prodding her and seeing if her horn sparks. Besides, she earned her cutie mark, and her magic seems to be acting like a normal unicorn’s now. Honestly, I’m not in a very trusting mood toward doctors right now.”

“I see.” Hoofenbacker stroked his mustache. “Miss…”

“Velvet.”

“Ms. Velvet, ve’ve seen a few cases like zis as vell.” Hoofenbacker smiled. “It always brings me such great joy to see a unicorn who has struggled all her life finally attain vat she vants, but in zose cases, it is very important zat such unicorns be eased into using magic or zey risk exhausting themselves and permanently straining zeir mana supply.”

“I see.” Velvet put a hoof to her muzzle. Hoofenbacker glanced up at the sunny day and waited. Taking a few steps back, Velvet held the door open for him. She then looked up the stairs. “Twilight? There’s somepony here to see you!”

Twilight rushed to the head of the stairs. “Is it Sunset? If she’s still mad, I’m sorry!”

“Ah,” Hoofenbacker mused. “Hello, little filly. How are you?”

Twilight, just go along with what I say, Celestia’s voice echoed in Twilight’s head.

“Prince— ”

“Vould you mind coming down?” asked Hoofenbacker.

That’s me, said Celestia.

Twilight blinked and nodded. Her sight remained on Hoofenbacker as she descended the stairs. Only when she concentrated did she noticed a thin flicker of magic coming off spots of Hoofenbacker's body. She also spotted the tip of a sunray poking out from behind his lab coat’s tails. When she noticed that Velvet was watching her stare, Twilight jolted her head forward.

Once Twilight joined them, all three made their way to dining table.

When they were all seated, Velvet asked, “Mister… Hoofenckaber?”

“Hoofenbacker,” Hoofenbacker corrected. “Yes?”

“Forgive me, but I’m not too familiar with this Equestrian Thaumaturgy Research Society, and, given recent events, I’m a little cautious of who our family talks to.”

“Completely understandable.” Hoofenbacker reached into his coat and pulled out a business card and a myriad of forms, each bearing the royal seal. “I suppose I got a little overexcited given ze report ve received combined with ze news, but I assure you ve are a legitimate organization zat reports directly to ze Princesses.”

Hoofenbacker floated the forms over for Velvet to pour over. While Velvet inspected them, Hoofenbacker grinned at Twilight.

After a few minutes of skimming through the forms and flipping over the business card to read both sides, Velvet leveled her gaze back on Hoofenbacker. “Okay, so what exactly do you want with my daughter?”

“Training,” Hoofenbacker answered. “As you can see, ve offer programs suited to each unicorn’s needs. For Twilight, ve vould develop a program to ease her into using magic and getting accustomed to her special talent. Nothing too intense.”

I’ll be frank, Twilight, this is going to be harsh if we’re going to get you ready for the entrance exam, said Celestia.

“Yes, we couldn’t believe it ourselves.” Velvet glanced at Twilight’s cutie mark. “To have gotten a cutie mark in magic… I’m still not sure what to think. What I do know though is that I want my daughter to be happy, so if your training could make life easier for her, we’re willing to consider it.”

“Wunderbar.” Hoofenbacker clapped his hooves. “I assure you Ms. Velvet, vith our training, your daughter vill become completely proficient in magic.”

Hoofenbacker turned to Twilight. “Let me guess, my little pony. You are a big fan of all ze heroes out zere, eh?”

Twilight nodded.

“Vell…” Hoofenbacker grinned and Twilight knew Celestia was smiling, not a put-on smile for the crowds, but genuinely smiling like Twilight had thought she had at that Summer Sun Celebration all those years ago. “You can be a hero!”

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