• Published 8th Jan 2018
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Equestria Girls: Reimagined - Candle Light



A rewritten and more fleshed out version of Equestria Girls

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Chapter Three

Equestria Girls: Reimagined
Chapter Tree
by Candle light
based on a story by Meghan McCarthy

The lack of disorientation was, in and of itself, a bit disorienting. One moment she had been nothing but a disembodied clump of magic, and the next, here she was.

Now she only had to figure out what exactly ‘here’ entailed.

“Twilight?” the familiar voice of her loyal assistant said. She looked around, and saw… a dog. “Is that you…?”

“Spike?” Twilight fought through her mangled thoughts, trying to make sense of what she was seeing. “You’re… you’re not supposed to be here! You heard what Celestia said; the portal…” she blinked, “…why are you a dog?”

“I jumped after you,” he told her. “I figured that, since I’m not an Element of Harmony, it’d be fine. I just couldn’t let you do this alo—hold on, did you say I’m a dog?” Twilight only nodded. Spike spun around in place, his eyes locked on his tail. “Oh dear. What’s happened to us? What are you supposed to be?”

A chill shot down her spine. From her sense of bodily awareness, she could tell she most certainly wasn’t a pony anymore, though whatever she was, she was still a creature with four limbs. For a moment, she felt stuck in limbo, no idea what she had become, but not sure whether or not she wanted to find out. Carefully, she lifted her…

…hands?

With fingers?!

Twilight let out an involuntary screech, her mind blanking from sensation overload. She wasn’t a pony anymore! She was a creature with hands, of all things! She followed her gaze down her arms—arms!—her body, her hind legs. She shook each limb in turn, barely keeping herself from hyperventilating. No amount of diligent studying and magical knowhow could have prepared her for this…!

“Twilight, you have to get it together,” said Spike, circling her. She stopped moving for a second, which allowed the rational part of her brain to catch up. Obviously, she was still herself; only the body was different. She just had to take this one step at a time.

She exhaled deeply. “What does the rest of me look like?”

“Uhm, like you,” Spike said, looking thoughtful. “Only not you. Your muzzle is really small.”

“My muzzle?” Twilight parroted, and put her hand to her… nose. Not a muzzle at all. She felt around the rest of her face, then her mane, sensing its texture. Her skin was smooth, hairless, and yet the her upper body and most of her legs were covered in clothes: a blue shirt with a ribbon, a purple dress with an imprint of her cutie mark, and some freakishly large boots. How in Equestria was she suddenly wearing clothes? Did the portal—or whatever magical powers had transformed her—design these for her?

“So, I’m a dog, and you’re a… thing with thin limbs and a flat face,” Spike assessed the situation. “Hey, at least we made it here in one piece.”

“You’re right, Spike,” Twilight admitted. Now was the time for calm. She took a good look around.

They were sitting in front of a white statue, resembling the familiar shape of a horse resting on a square block base. Around them was a field of grass, smooth stone walkways extending in all four directions; behind them, a larger stone road separated the field from a collection of what Twilight assumed were houses. Something that looked like a carriage drew by, like some sort of miniature train without carts. Straight ahead, more importantly, was a castle. Or a fortress? Maybe—one could hope—it was a really big library.

“Can you walk?” Spike asked.

“Let me try.” She set off forward, but her movements were sluggish. The front legs were a lot weaker than her hide ones, and her back ached as though it wasn’t used to bending this way. It was almost as if her body wanted her to…

Feeling silly, she pushed herself off the ground to stand on her hind legs. She didn’t fall back down. In fact, standing like this required no effort at all. “Spike, I’m bipedal!”

“And I’m not,” Spike commented. “This is just so weird.”

“Well, we’d better get used to it. We have to hurry after Sunset Shimmer and take back the crown. The longer we hang around, the more of a head start she’ll get.”

“Where do we start looking?”

“In there,” Twilight pointed at the castle-structure. “It can’t be a coincidence that the portal brought us here, of all places. Let me just…” She walked—wobbled—over to the base of the statue, and lightly tapped the surface of the base. It rippled lightly, and she could sense a small burst of magic energy upon her touch. “Okay, that probably means we can go back this way. Speaking of which, Spike…”

“Nuh uh, don’t even think about it! We’re in this together now, whether you like it or not.”

Twilight smiled at him. “That’s not what I was going to ask. No matter what Celestia and the others may think, I’m glad you came with me. I was just wondering, can you still breath fire?”

In response, Spike straightened up, and let out a… burp. “Nope, sorry.”

“Drat, I was hoping we might’ve been able to send messages to Celestia. I guess we really are on our own. Alright, enough talk; time is running out.”

It was quite remarkable how fast Twilight got used to the movements of walking on two legs. As a pony, she could barely do it more than a few seconds at a time—Spike used to tease her for it—but just like dragons, this species was specifically designed to walk this way. She could even hop up the stairs leading to the entrance without losing balance.

“A glass door,” she observed. “Ah, there’s the handle.” She concentrated her magic on it.

Magic that, for all intents and purposes, she had left back home in Equestria. “I don’t have a horn, do I.”

“Nope. No wings either, for that matter.”

Twilight gasped. “Oh my gosh, you’re right!” Only yesterday—and for the last two weeks of her life—those wings had been on the forefront of her mind, a constant reminder of an uncertain destiny, and now they were just… gone. Surely she would get them back once she returned to Equestria, but still, the contrast was staggering.

“Alright,” she said, recovering, “better try these things.” Twilight reached out with her right arm—the one that felt the most natural—and enveloped the fingers around the handles. So this is how Spike pick things up. She pushed the door open. This is so much easier than I thought it would be.

Inside was a spacious entrance hall, with floors of marble and the light brown wooden walls, corridors extending in three directions. There was nobody around. “What do you suppose this place is?” Twilight asked.

“Whatever it is, it doesn’t strike me as a ‘ruler of the land’ type of castle.”

“I agree,” And yet, Twilight couldn’t help but notice striking similarities in architecture to Canterlot Castle; something about the way the pillars were designed. Heck, even the shape of this hallway, with its balconies and corridors leading off into other sections of the building, was similar, only smaller in scale.

Her eyes were drawn to a glass case embedded in the wall. Inside were trinkets like goblets and medals in a frame. She thought for a split second that these might be more stolen artifacts from Equestria, but logic soon caught up with her: that would have meant Sunset Shimmer had been going back and fourth through the portal more than once. Surely Celestia would have noticed.

Or would she? After all, Sunset had known about Twilight and the Elements of Harmony, things that had transpired only a year ago. Either she had some method of spying on Equestria from within this world, or she had, in fact, crossed through the portal many times before.

“So, do we choose a corridor and set off?” suggested Spike. “This looks like a pretty big place; she could be anywhere.”

“You’re right; we’d better start somewhere. First off, we need to find out what kind of place this—”

RIIING.

Not ten seconds after that long, ear-grating ringing, the hallways were filled with sounds. Voices, and footsteps; countless of them. Next second, Twilight got her first real look at the bipedal denizens of this realm, as about hundred of them swarmed into the entrance hall. Their heads were smaller than ponies by far, but they were fairly tall, albeit skinny, and every single one of them were wearing unique clothings. The only features that even remotely resembled ponies were the eyes, and the fact that they all had different skin colors.

Twilight backed up against the wall, so as not to bump into anyone. She quickly realized that she was staring with her mouth opened, and quickly tried to adjust her posture to look natural. Some of them cast glances her way, but kept walking. What were they all doing here, and where were they going? But as she watched a few of them open some metal boxes lined along the walls, putting books in and retrieving others, it all dawned on Twilight.

“This is a school,” she whispered to Spike. “It’s gotta be! Those must be text books.” When Spike didn’t reply, she added. “Are you listening?”

“Ra… rari… I just saw…”

“Speak up, Spike.”

“Whoa.” Someone stopped close to them. “Did that dog just talk?”

Twilight connected the dots immediately: talking dogs equals weird. “What, him?” she said. “No, that was, uh, just me. I’m a ventriloquist!”

“Whoa,” he said again. “Major skills, girl. Respect.” And with that, he walked on. She waited until he had gone far out of ear shot until she squatted by Spike, her back blocking him from view, and said. “Okay, best not make it obvious you can talk.”

“Rarity!” he shout-whispered back. “I saw someone I could’ve sworn looked just like Rarity! She even had the cutie mark on her dress.”

“What? Are you sure? But Princess Celestia specifically told them not to come after me! I’d expect something like that from Rainbow Dash, but Rarity wouldn’t… would she?”

“I know, I know, but I’m telling you, it was uncanny!”

“Which way did she go?” Spike pointed with a paw. “Right, let’s find her.”

The hallway was gradually beginning to thin out, making it easier to pick up the pace to a half-sprint. The way split left and right, and that’s when Twilight caught a quick glimpse of the girl in question as she rounded the corner. That mane—hair—and white skin… “Excuse me?” Twilight called. She set off into a run, determined to catch up to her.

Unfortunately, by doing so, she forgot one of the golden rules that teachers told school fillies from grade one: don’t run in the hallway, or you might slam into someone. And that’s exactly what she did. Both Twilight and the poor student toppled over, books flying everywhere. She was spared most of the impact by landing on top of the other student. “Oh my gosh, I’m so sorry!” she gasped. “Are you alright?”

The student—blue hair that stood up at the top, beige skin—groaned, shaking his head lightly; she was pretty sure this was a he, based on the tone of voice and angular face. “Ugh, I’m okay, I think… what about you? Any damage?”

“I’m alright, I… you sort of broke my fall.” She replied, flustered. “I-I was in a hurry, and-and then—”

“Hey, it’s cool,” the guy said, flashing a smile at her. “You’re lucky you ran into me; I can handle some abuse. Come to think of it, I haven’t seen you around; did you just transfer or something?”

“I, uh, yes, that’s right! My name is Twilight Sparkle, and…” She meant to say more, but she stopped herself; what if that was an unusual name in this world?

To her relief, the student just replied, “Cool. I’m Flash Sentry.” Okay, so the same naming conventions seem to apply here as well. Fascinating. “I’m in Class B, and a member of the music club. Allow me to welcome you to Canterlot High.”

Twilight’s brain froze for a second. Canterlot?

The plot was thickening: the skin colors, the names, Rarity; the connections to Equestria was becoming more and more blatant. But what did it mean? Realizing she had been staring, she quickly said, “Oh, uh, thanks.”

“And Twilight,” Flash added, his smile dropping, “I know the school has been going through a rough patch lately, but don’t let it get to you. Most people here are nice enough, just… don’t believe everything you hear. Keep an open mind, okay?”

“What do you mean?”

“I’m afraid it’s kinda complicated, and I’m—” He was interrupted by another loud ring, and he made a face like he had been caught stealing apples from one of Applejack’s trees. “Shoot, I’m late for class.” He swooped up the books he had dropped, muttering, “Cranky’s gonna be extra cranky now. Alright, Twilight, I’ll see you around.” And he took off through the corridor nearly at the same speed as Twilight herself had ran.

A few moments passed before Spike opened his mouth. “He seemed nice enough. Wonder what he meant by ‘rough patch’.”

“I’m not sure, but I can’t shake the feeling it’s not unrelated to our own problems.”

“Yeah, I mean, Sunset Shimmer obviously has something to do with this school, and we know she’s bad news. Could she be the Principal here?”

“At this point, that wouldn’t surprise me. You know what, let’s go find out. The Principal's got to have an office around here somewhere.”

“What about Rarity?”

“One step at a time, Spike. We can’t go around knocking on every classroom until we find her; it’d draw too much attention, and then they might start to realize I don’t even go to this school.”

“I see your point.”

The two of them set off through the empty hallways, turning left here, walking up a set of stairs there, until they eventually found a sign that clearly read ‘Principal's Office’, pointing further down the corridor. Even the language is the same, Twilight reflected. Both written and spoken. Did that mean the language history was the same too, with the same types of scenarios giving birth to the same phrases and idioms?

“…assure you, it’s the real deal,” a voice came from around the bend, snapping Twilight out of her thoughts. “I want to make this year’s Fall Formal something more than just a silly dance and an award ceremony. I want it to be something real, something that will inspire competition.”

“What are you really up to, Sunset Shimmer?” Twilight snuck a peek around the corner. And sure enough, there she was: the pony that had made her grand escape from the Crystal Empire Castle was standing right there, in her bipedal form: her skin dark yellow and her thick hair a mix of yellow and red. She was talking to a person that towered over her nearly two heads.

Is that who I think it is?

“Careful with the tone, Principal,” Sunset said in a mock warning tone. “You don’t approve of me, I don’t approve of you; let’s keep that mutual dislike nice and quiet, like always. Having you fired would be more of a hassle than I care to deal with today.”

“I see,” the Principal replied, her tone dry and even. “Well, I don’t see why we can’t make this crown the prize of this year’s Fall Formal. I’ll take it up with my sister, see it done.”

“Thank you, Principal Celestia.” Sunset turned around, and walked away the opposite direction to Twilight and Spike.

“Principal… Celestia?” repeated Twilight, once the door to the Principal's office was closed.

“But if there’s another version of Celestia here,” Spike said, “then that Rarity we saw must have been real! So then, versions of the rest of our friends must be here as well!”

“What is this world?” Twilight breathed. “How is this world possible? I thought it had been sealed off from Equestria, but in reality, there must be a small magic leakage that’s formed a sort of bond, which—”

“How about we leave the nitty gritty details of the magic science for later,” Spike stopped her. “Right now, I’m more concerned about the fact that Sunset just handed the Principal your crown.”

Twilight took a deep breath, and nodded. “Then what are we waiting for? I dunno what Sunset’s planning, but that crown belongs to Equestria.”

They approached the door, but stopped before knocking. Would it seem suspicious if she showed up right after Sunset? Would she know right away she wasn’t a student here, and throw her out? No, she didn’t have time to dawdle! The actual Princess Celestia was counting on her. So she knocked.

“Come in.”

Hesitantly, she opened the door. The person in question was sitting behind a cluttered desk, and upon seeing her face up close, there was no question who she was. “Princess Celestia…?” Twilight spoke.

Celestia response was a wide-eyed expression of ‘huh?’ But she recovered quick, and smirked. “Well! I do strike an imposing figure, but Princess? That’s new.”

It really isn’t the same person. Twilight knew that, of course, but part of her wanted to make sure. “Right, sorry. Can I talk to you?”

“My doors are always open to students in need,” she replied, her face every bit as friendly as her pony version. “Sit down.”

Twilight did as she was told. Her brain wrestled for a second or two on how her new form was supposed to best make a sitting position, but just like walking, it came naturally. Now the only question was, how to begin? ‘Hi, I’m Twilight Sparkle, and I’m from another dimension where that crown Sunset Shimmer gave you is actually a powerful magical artifact, and I really need it back.’

“I like your dog,” Celestia said, effectively breaking the ice. “It’s not very often people bring their pets to school. Ohh, what a cutie.” She scratched Spike behind the ear, which he seemed to enjoy.

“Thanks.” She decided to just go for whatever came to mind. “Look, it’s about Sunset Shimmer. She gave something to you, didn’t she?”

“Why yes.” She opened a drawer, and lifted the Element of Harmony out, placing it on the desk. “It’s pure gold, and the blue gems must be sapphire, and the size of this star-shaped red ruby… I couldn’t even guess at how much it must be worth.”

“It’s… kind of priceless,” Twilight said, her mind conjuring up a story as she went. “It’s, uh… It’s actually mine. Sunset Shimmer stole it from me; it’s a family heirloom, and-and the only thing I have left from my grandmother. Can I… can I have it back?”

One look into Celestia’s face, and it was clear to her that it wouldn’t be that easy. Different people though they may be, their body and facial language were the same, and that was a face that conveyed not only surprise, but sadness, and a bit of frustration. “I’m so sorry,” she said, speaking slowly. “But as of this moment, I cannot give this back to you.”

Twilight tried to play her part of a normal, heart-broken granddaughter, which wasn’t too hard; the stakes were certainly high enough. “B-but why? Do you think I’m lying?”

“No, I don’t think you are. When you’ve been the head of a school long enough, you come to gain a sense for when someone is being genuine.” Part of Twilight found it slightly disconcerting that her bold-faced lied had gone over so well. Applejack would not be proud. “And I truly am sorry… do you perhaps have any concrete evidence that Sunset Shimmer was the one who stole your crown?”

“I… no. Just, you know, circumstantial evidence…”

Celestia let out a defeated sigh. “That is too bad.” Bad was an understatement. What do I do now? The crown was sitting right there; she could try to reach out and grab it, then run as fast as she could back through the portal. But Celestia might grab her before she had the chance, and even if she didn’t, who’s to say she didn’t have the power to lock the doors and swarm the school with guards? But it might be her only chance; she wasn’t confident she could burglar the thing later. “I suppose that only leaves one other option.”

Her arms had already tensed up in preparation for the movement when the words registered. “W-what option.”

“Here at Canterlot High, we have something we call the Fall Formal, where we crown a ‘princess’; think of it as a ‘student of the year’ award. Sunset Shimmer suggested that we offer this crown as a prize to whomever wins the title.”

“So what you’re saying is… I have to win this ‘Fall Formal’?”

“Precisely. Although, under normal circumstances, I would have advised against it, as the vote is in only three days, and,” she gave her a knowing smile, “that you’re not actually a student here.” Twilight was hit by a jolt of panic. The gig was up before it had even started! “But if you ask me,” she added, “that may be exactly what this school needs: an outsider’s perspective. I want you to answer me truthfully, Twilight Sparkle: are you ready to give everything you got in order to get back your crown?”

Twilight felt a sense of awe surge through her body. In this world or Equestria, Celestia’s charisma, and the trust she was giving her, was the same. She nodded. “I’ll do anything.”

Principal Celestia smiled. “That’s exactly what I wanted to hear. You hereby have the Headmasters’ special permission to participate in the Fall Formal. But before you go, I believe it would behoove you to know more about what you’re up against. For you see, Sunset Shimmer isn’t just any normal student here at Canterlot High: she is the niece of none other than the head of the Rich Family Corporation, who just so happens to be this school’s financial backer. There was an… accident, a few years back, and if they hadn’t swooped in and forwarded the money to fix it, this school would have been forced to shut down. I can’t say certain what made him decide to lend us the money—his daughter is home school, as far as I’m aware—but as an unfortunate result, for all intents and purposes, his family now owns this school.

“Thus, whatever Sunset Shimmer says, goes. In her four years as a student, Sunset Shimmer has methodically turned the school into her own personal playground, by means of bullying and extortion when anybody tries to stand against her. She uses people from outside of school to carry out her misdeeds, never leaving solid evidence behind. But proof or no proof, everybody gets the message: messing with Sunset Shimmer means bad things will happen to you. Therein lies the crux of our problem, without solid proof, there isn’t a thing we can do to stop her without risking the RFC pulling to plug on Canterlot High.”

“But isn’t there a school board? Some higher authority you can turn to?”

“I’m afraid the RFC are entirely within their rights to demand a payback on the loan whenever they wish. We’re not entirely sure if Sunset’s caretaker are even aware of her questionable activities, but one thing is clear: trying anything against Sunset Shimmer, without a solid case on our side, would spell the end of our school. Thus, I’m willing to settle for the next best thing: beating Sunset at her own game, fair and square. Perhaps that would provide the slice of humble pie she desperately needs.”

Twilight had many questions. How did Sunset Shimmer, a person definitely not born in this dimension, have rich relatives here? Why target Canterlot High, specifically? But only one thing really mattered: Twilight had to win the Fall Formal, not just to retrieve her Element, but to teach that no-good jerk a lesson! She surprised even herself at how riled up all this was making her, but she figured part of it had to do with the fact that she, like Twilight, had studied under Princess Celestia. To use that gift, that knowledge, to cause misery for others, wasn’t something Twilight could easily forgive.

“Where do I start?” she asked. “What do I need to do?”

“In order to win, you will need to convince most of the student body that you, not her, is worthy of representing the school spirit. This will be a challenge, as school spirit has all but been crushed these days. It used to be that Canterlot High was a young but hard-working campus, known for its spirit of unity, but these ideals have since been abandoned. And as much as I would like to, it can’t all be blamed on Sunset Shimmer; our dept to the Rich Family has resulted in a severe budget restructuring, which has led to a drastic decrease in school events, and a new focus on more segregated, student-driven clubs. It isn’t entirely Sunset Shimmer’s fault the way our sense of community has shifted, but her presence most certainly hasn’t helped…”

She trailed off. Twilight’s heart clenched seeing that look in her eyes. “I’m tired of this job, Twilight. Me and Luna both; we try and we try, but some days, it’s as if the times themselves are against us. My only hope now is that knocking Sunset down a peg might help spread the message that such selfish behavior doesn’t always pay off. If nothing else, it would definitely make us feel better.”

“You can count on me,” Twilight promised, though her actual confidence didn’t quite match up to her tone. Not that she would let it stop her. It is on, Sunset Shimmer. You are going to pay.

“Then I’ll leave it in your hands. Some might call me crazy, placing such a large bet on a wild card like this, but there’s something about you. I see a spark in your eyes that I like, and a heart that won’t tolerate injustice. I’m sorry, I’ll stop waxing poetics; suffice to say, I’m happy you came here today. Just let the head of the Fall Formal planning committee know you’re interested in running, and you will be on the ballot. If you ever need guidance, don’t hesitate to drop by.”

***

Spike held his mouth until they were far away from the office, in a deserted corridor. “Well, at least now we know what that Flash Sentry guy meant by ‘rough patch’. Are you sure you’re gonna do this, Twilight?”

“I’m sure. I don’t know how in the world I’ll manage it, but I’ll win back that crown fair and square.”

“But what if it’s a trap?” Spike said. “Actually, how can it not be a trap? Sunset wouldn’t just give away one of the most powerful magical items in the world—any world—if she wasn’t planning something. Whatever it is, she’s doing this to bait you.”

“You’re probably right,” Twilight agreed. “But I’ve got no choice but to play along, for now. We got nothing else to go on, and besides, if it’s a fair competition she’s after, I’ll show her who’s the real student of Celestia!”

“It’s the ‘fair’ part I’m worried about…”

“I hear you, Spike. The Principal may not see it, but I’m convinced that Sunset played a large part in that ‘budget restructuring’ business that separated the clubs. And if I were a betting pony, I’d put my bits on the fact that she caused the ‘accident’ that put the school in a budget crisis in the first place. It just too convenient…”

“Well, duh.”

Twilight and Spike whipped around. Sunset Shimmer was smirking menacingly at them.

“Looks like there are some smarts in that brain of yours,” Sunset said. “But I’m getting ahead of myself. It’s so nice to finally meet you in a civilized setting, Twilight Sparkle, Princess Celestia’s pet protege. And speaking of pets, her lowly assistant is showing his true form as the dog he is. Welcome,” she held out her arms, “to the Mirror World.”

Sunset made a pause long enough for Twilight to bite. “What do you mean, Mirror World? What, because we came here through a mirror?”

“You think I’m a simpleton? We are standing in a realm created by Equestria, made to mimic Equestria, but with a few twists. Believe it or not, these creatures that we’ve become are made up of the exact same biological components as we ponies, except for one key difference: they’ve got no magic. They’ve had to make due with just their noggins, and these,” she flexed her fingers. “Ironic, isn’t it; a world of magical creation, where its dominant species has to live without it. That isn’t to say there’s no magic in this world, but let’s just say it’s a horse of a very different color.”

“What do you plan to do with my crown?” Twilight shot back. “It’s useless without the other Elements!”

“Don’t ask for spoilers, Twilight. Although, I will say that my dear old mentor made the right choice not sending your friends here along with of you. To say nothing of risking the collapsing the pathway and dooming all of Equestria, it would have made my victory far too easy, and I need you to stand a fighting chance.”

“How do you even know about my friends? Or about the Elements of Harmony, or anything that’s been happening these past five years.”

“You mean, how did I pass through the portal to where the mirror was stored in the Hall of Magical Wonders? How did I teleport past the protective barrier around it, when all of Canterlot has an anti-teleportation field surrounding it?” She smirked, and Twilight frowned. Whatever else could be said about this girl, the fact that she had used a teleportation spell inside of the Crystal Castle showed that her magical prowess was the real deal. “And how could I have possibly apply some simple lock picking spells on the doors, sneak up into the library that’s in the same building, and read up on everything I’d missed in the annually updated History of Equestria? It’s a mystery.”

“Alright, fine. So why me? How could you be so sure I’d be the one to come after you.”

“Because both you and my dear old mentor are every bit as predictable as I thought you would be. Granted, there was never a guarantee I wouldn’t have to face off against Princess Celestia, but I was ninety percent sure she would send you in her stead.”

She knew full well she was dancing by Sunset’s tune. Twilight didn’t care. “You’re on. I’ll beat you at your own game, if that’s what you want.”

“I do like that flare of confidence. I almost can’t believe you’re taking the bait so willingly. The Principal must have told you what I’m capable of. I’m the puppet master of this school! I turned this once prestigious institute into a shadow of its former self. I’ll spare you the thrilling tale of how I accomplished this feat, but remember this: I’ve been building my influence around this place for five years, whereas you’re just a freshman in a strange new world.”

“If you got so much influence,” Twilight retorted, “why not just take the crown? Why the need to beat me in some contest first?”

“Because I,” she took a few steps closer, and poked her on the nose, “want to see you suffer. I want you—and by extension, Princess Celestia—to crash and burn under your misguided ideals. Oh yes, I know you’ve accomplished a lot back home: Twilight and friends, conquerer of Nightmare Moon. Twilight and friends, who saved the world from Discord. But when it comes right down to it, you’re just one of the lucky few. For most of us, friendship is not a be-all and end-all force of nature that comes with lasers blasts and instant villainy-cure.”

“What do you know about friendship,” Twilight hissed, her patience fading. “You’ve done nothing but drive these people apart.”

“All for the sake of my master plan. If you manage to beat me, maybe I’ll tell you. You could always go back and fetch your little friends, if it makes you feel better. Just be careful how you handle the portal; it can be quite brittle. In the meantime, so long. May the best girl win.”

There was nothing she could do but to watch her turn away and leave, all the while humming to herself. Twilight and Spike stood there for almost ten seconds, before Spike broke the silence. “The dog I am? We’ll show her!”

“We’ll show her,” Twilight agreed, but in a low and meek voice more reminiscent of Fluttershy than her own. “I’m just not sure how, yet.”

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