• Published 25th Aug 2019
  • 3,495 Views, 122 Comments

Post-Graduate - C_F_G

Twilight Sparkle seeks the companionship of her old friends, finally willing herself to once again step through the mirror portal.

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3 Crumbling

Applejack leaned across the center console of her truck, and dropped a bundle into Twilight’s lap. Even with the heater cranked up to full blast, the Princess’ knees knocked against each other beyond the meager warmth of her skirt.

“Keep it, Twi. Somethin’ to ‘member us by.” Twilight unfurled the bundle, exposing an old, weathered winter jacket; a well loved, well used collection of leather and wool. Applejack’s name was embroidered into the left breast, clearly the ancient work of a teenage Rarity, the excellent craftsmanship notable even beyond the well-crafted coat.

Twilight threw the coat over her shoulder, quickly zipping the jacket to her chin and slipping her hands immediately into the thick pockets. They brushed against something hard, and Twilight set a small framed photograph on her lap. She smiled slightly, shooting a glance over to the driver’s seat. It was the picture they took last time she came across. Pinkie, Rarity, AJ, Dash, Fluttershy, Sunset… the other Twilight, looking very confused. All together, all happy.

The truck’s brakes squealed and the carriage settled in front of the rearing statue. Twilight deposited the photo into her bag, and unbuckled. She stretched across the cab, holding Applejack in a long, tight hug. “Thanks for everything, Applejack. It was great to see you again.”

“I’ll miss ya, Twi. Look after yourself, will ya?” Twilight nodded, swung open the door, and leapt from the cab. The engine roared and the vehicle lurched away. Twilight raised one hand against the biting chill, the shrinking truck letting out a few honks in a cheerful tune. Then, all was quiet.

Twilight sighed, and shoved her hand back into its warm pocket. She hadn’t lied- it had been nice to see Applejack.

But she should have known that coming here would be a bad idea. She should have known that time would have passed, that everything could have changed. Even in this world, her friends were gone, and lost to each other.

Her boots crunched against the little mounds of salt scattered all around the sidewalk as she turned and marched towards the statue. She let her hand fall back into her bag, teasing over the photograph. The other rested briefly against the mirror, the stony surface disrupted by gentle swirls and ripples. She sighed, quickly glanced around, and pressed forward.

Before the strange, comfortable warmth wrapped further than her elbow, Twilight stopped and quickly wrenched her arm out. After the gentle kiss of heat, the cold air only felt colder.

She had nothing to do, after all. What was that old line: There is nothing for me, out there, in the whole world? She had the slight worm of an idea in her mind. It was a long shot, but… she had this coat, and she knew it wasn’t far. Maybe she’d find a clue, or a relic, or just feel the rush of some old memories.

Fully convicted to her new task, Twilight stepped away from the statue, fell through the foot of snow beside the road, and fought to get her feet on the slush at the asphalt’s shoulder. Ignoring the filthy liquid, she nuzzled her nose into the wool collar, and began the brief trek to a certain abandoned foundry.

Candidly, Twilight was surprised. She knew it was a long shot that after two decades this place would even still be here, let alone still be standing nearly as complete as she remembered it. Clearly, ‘condemned’ meant next to nothing in this world. In Canterlot, a building hit with that sticker would be a desolate plane, prime for new development within the week.

Twilight wandered around the back of the building, shivered as the deep snow rode against her exposed legs and dripped down into her boots. She crossed back to the same shipping door that Sunset had pointed out to her, all those years ago. To her delight, the trick still worked and the door slipped up just enough for her to scurry under.

Rising to her feet and brushing the filth from her skirt, Twilight stood in the dingy light of the dusty interior. It was cold inside as well- though the towering grey walls made excellent windbreaks.

Small piles of snow clumped against the corners of the room and the mounts of old machinery. The musty foundry floor was dark, full of shadows cast by a bizarre yellow light as the sun’s faint beams just barely managed to punch through the old, light-crazed plexiglass.

Twilight’s boots loudly stomped against the cracked, blackened concrete as their owner crept through the empty space, carefully stepping around rickety equipment that dangled from rusted chains. She had only been here once, and it had been sixty years ago, but she remembered the path well. How could she forget?

She probed the wall, scanning over sealed doorways.Carefully stepping around the rusted-out and graffiti-coated husk of a long-forgotten forklift, Twilight ducked low, grimacing as her ‘new’ jacket rubbed against the bottom of a corroded shop crane that had long since fallen and smashed against the small truck. Everything in this place seemed lost- even to the youth, whoever they were.

Her eyes lit up. A faded sign swung, bent and twisted, barely suspended from the single screw in the upper corner. “OFFICES & TRAINING CENTER” it read, the once-blue letters just barely standing out from the tattered white background.

The door sat slightly ajar in it’s frame, a miniscule drift of snow built up around the crack. Twilight pulled her skirt behind her knees, and squatted down, running her hand around the crack of the door. Small, fresh scrapes in the dust and debris. Slight indentations in the powder.

Twilight gulped, her heart suddenly racing. She sprang to her feet, pressing her full weight against the door, forced it to squeal open on bent hinges. Someone had been through the door recently. Someone had stepped in the snow drift. Someone had been here, might still be here.

It might be Sunset...

Why that would be, what happened to her, how she wound up living in solitude in the same condemn nightmare she had occupied prior to her reformation; all thoughts that Twilight shoved from her mind. She was here!

Twilight wrenched the door shut behind her, cautiously staring up through the flight of stairs and she rested a single foot against the first step, grasping the metal handrail and violently shaking the structure. Satisfied that the three-story climb wouldn’t end in a couple hundred years of imprisonment beneath oxidized ruins, Twilight ignored the sharp bite of the chilled metal against her palm and carefully wound her way up.

At the top of the staircase, she was met by another set of swinging doors. Twilight gave them an experimental shove, quickly scooting her foot out of the way as an old chain, long since broken by the brutal maw of a bolt cutter, clattered from the handles and spilled around her feet. She kicked them aside, and stepped through the doorway.


Near total darkness.

With electricity shut off decades ago and no windows on the interior office block, the hallway was like a tomb. Twilight squinted, waiting for her eyes to adjust, trying to make out anything as she slowly crept along the corridor. She wheezed and scrambled to stay on her feet, her gut quite suddenly pummelling against a drinking fountain which protruded from the brick. Twilight gasped, then groaned. Bringing her palm to her face, she berated herself.

It had been a while since she had gone on an adventure, after all. Even if she didn’t have interdimensional, literally god-like mana reserves, she could solve this. Twilight’s mind cranked through the basic steps to initiate a spell, stopping short of actually casting anything, merely allowing a small amount of mana to collect and simmer. The space between her fingers hummed, a small ethereal orb of violet light radiating into the darkness.

A faint purple hue lit the hall, lighting the area just enough for Twilight to avoid stumbling into a nearby wall. Twilight continued her trek, her sense of misdirection swelling with every step.

Twilight blinked, a brighter light suddenly invading her retinas. A microscopic blade of orange sliced through the murky darkness.

For a moment, she couldn’t believe her luck. She allowed her spell to dissipate, a few cockroaches that had been fighting over a few crumbs suddenly deciding to help each other get half to their nests as the small globe of friendship energy permeated the dank air.

Even as her faint light drained, her spirits soared. The orange beam hadn’t been a figment of her imagination, a reflection of her magic in some peculiar, light bending manner. It had been light; artificial, generated light.


She built the faintest hint of mana around her finger, raising it in front of her eye and approaching the wall besides the pinprick of light. She saw the distorted, dirty, faint reflection of her human body. What she thought had been a solid wall was in fact a huge bank of glass that spanned the whole hallway, blocked from the inside by some dark fabric.

In the center of the hall was a glass door, curiously well-preserved even after half a century. The fabric concealing the room was slightly askew, allowing the beam to creep through. Twilight tried to hold her composure, briefly tracing her thumb over the picture frame before extending her glowing finger against the door handle.

She made to push through, but suddenly pulled herself to a halt. Around her finger, she felt a faint biting pinch surrounding her nail.


That sealed it. Twilight let out a slight squeal of delight. The only person who could hope to set up anything magic in this world, especially since the portal had been closed, was Sunset.

The light on Twilight’s finger swelled in intensity, condensing into a small bright point, snaking its way tightly around her outstretched finger and spreading across the center of her palm. She let out a deep breath, tried to calm the swelling pounding in her chest, and pressed her hand against the door. The Princess exhaled as her hand made contact, closing her eyes as the warm aura of her magic flooded through the metal.

Twilight’s mind raced, her eyelids pulsing as the spheres flitted in every direction. She followed the swirling paths of the interwoven spells and mana pathways, trying to ascertain the nature of the construct.

It was intricate- not beautiful and certainly not the result of someone with Twilight’s training- it was old school, as though the caster hadn’t been kept abreast of magical research. It was intricate like a mess of clockwork, spun together by a half-mad smith. But it betrayed skill nonetheless- nothing an amateur could do, nothing a monster could make, nothing a magic-empowered human could even begin to imagine.

This had to be Sunset.

An alarm, a few tactically directed light shield spells, a second alarm, a triggered cloaking spell. Twilight found and disabled them in turn, deftly weaving through the triggers and piercing the woven layers of misdirection. Twilight chuckled lightly. Clearly, the sorcerer was operating on muscle memory- after all, what would someone in this world need to safeguard against magic for?

The design would have been effective, if inefficient. An alarm, to alert the caster of a breach. Shields, carefully spread around the door, reinforcing the mechanical structure. A second alarm, set to trigger the cloaking spell if and when the shields were compromised.

As Twilight broke down the protections, a small tear wormed its way down her cheek. Confidence, buried doubt, friendship, magic, redemption… she could practically taste Sunset, boiled down to her essence.

She opened her eyes, and the door briefly sparkled as the shields broke down and the magic faded away. Twilight ran a slim finger against her cheek, whisking away that single tear, and pushed her way through the door.

A slight roar filled her ears as Twilight stepped into the room, literally sighing in relief at the sudden wave of warmth. The source of the light was immediately visible, not as a lantern or rigged-up bulbs, but as a side effect of the shop heater blasting full-force from atop a battered tank of propane.

The floor of the room glittered like the night sky as the orange glow of the heating element reflected from the sea of glass bottles that filled the floor. Twilight grimaced slightly as her foot propelled a ragged thing that might once have been a pair of pants across the room.

She looked back towards the heater, following it path of its heat towards a far corner of the old room. Sitting atop a ragged mattress, wrapped in a massive pile of blankets, slumped a very empty looking figure. Her pale skin shown barely a hint of its original color. Her crimson and gold hair hung limp and clumpy, far longer than normal hygiene would allow, random strands poking out in every direction.

She barely raised her head at the intrusion, her sunken eyes briefly widening against the dark rings that surrounded them. She blinked a few times, before letting a small glass bottle full of amber liquid roll from her hand that just barely poked out from the top of the bundle of blankets.

Her few words were cautious, slurred.

“P… Princess Twilight?”