• Published 28th Feb 2020
  • 4,311 Views, 150 Comments

Ring Around The Moon -- Part II - Lets Do This



The Sun Celebration has arrived. The Nightmare returns. And with the help of some extra friends, Twilight, Tempest, and their fellow students are about to discover just how far the Dark Mare will go to have her revenge...

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Not Exactly Friends

"You know," Tempest grumbled, "the one nice thing about pain is, it lets you know you're not actually dead yet." She glanced around. "Though even for an afterlife this would be, well... kind of gloomy..."

The ponies all stared around at the apparently infinite blackness surrounding them. It was like being in the darkest of forests, on the darkest of nights... except there were no trees, no path. There was nothing at all, nothing but inky, depthless shadow.

Several of the ponies lit their horns, though all that did was make them more visible to each other in the gloom.

"So... where is she?" Starlight asked. "How do we find her?"

Then she felt a hoof grab one of hers, and tug gently. "Follow me," Trixie said quietly. "I can find her. I've been here before."

They all followed the showpony as she set off, in an apparently arbitrary direction...

... which very soon led to a forlorn, huddled shape, all but lost in the depths of the blackness. It was an alicorn, with a night-blue coat and a crown and armor marked with a crescent moon.

"Princess?" Trixie called out, nervously. "Princess Luna?"

The alicorn gasped, and her head snapped up. She stared at them for a long moment, in fear and confusion.

And then she smiled, in tearful recognition. "Trixie..." she whispered. "Trixie Luna Moon..."

"Princess!" Tears streaming down her face, Trixie ran forward, her forehooves outstretched. She grabbed tight hold of Luna and hugged her, desperately, eyes shut tight and weeping.

Luna swung her head round, in a welcoming neck-hug. "You found me at last," she whispered. "My diligent, dedicated student. You found me."

Then she looked up, at the others. "And thou did not come alone, apparently."

"Oh!" Trixie reluctantly let go, wiping her eyes with a hoof, and turned to the others. "These are my friends, Princess. I wouldn't be here, if it wasn't for all of them."

"Then we are most grateful," Luna said, nodding formally. "To all of thee."

"Our pleasure, Your Highness," Twilight replied. "Though we wouldn't be here either if it wasn't for you. So in a way, Princess, we're all your students." She bowed in respect, and the others quickly followed suit.

Luna shook her head, puzzled. "We do not understand."

"You brought us together," Twilight explained. "Or rather, that other you out there did. Either way, together we found a way to reach you... the real you. And we came to tell you, Princess, that you haven't been forgotten by your subjects. There's still a place, a people for you to return to. We came here to find you... to welcome you back home!"

Luna stared at her, looking briefly hopeful. And then hung her head in shame.

"We are not certain we can, Twilight Sparkle. We have been trapped here far too long. We have lost the way. We hardly even remember what it was like being Luna. It was only through Trixie's kindness to us, through our visits to her dreams --" she reached out and drew the showpony close, "-- that we were able to retain what small shred of ourself remains. And we are not certain at all that it will be enough."

She shook her head, eyes lowered.

"We have no home any longer, Twilight Sparkle. We recall only -- the Nightmare." Her eyes flashed, her voice briefly became a threatening, fanged snarl. It echoed through the darkness around them, and the darkness seemed to close in, a little tighter, a little colder...

Twilight shook her head.

"Every nightmare ends," she said, forcing her voice to remain steady and reassuring. "All you have to do is want it to end. All you have to do is want to wake up from it."

Luna nodded sadly.

"We do wish for it to end. We wish to go back. If there were only a way..."

Twilight nodded. She held out a hoof. "Let us help you. You brought us here, Princess, all of us. And we're your friends. So let us return the favor, and help you return home, with us."

Luna began to reach out -- then hesitated.

"We are afraid, Twilight Sparkle. To leave this place, to return, we must undo what we have become. We must return to what we were before all this began. What if... what if we do not remember thee? What if we forget, and it starts all over again?"

Trixie hugged her tightly. "We'll remember for you," she whispered. "We won't let you forget us, Princess, not ever!"

Twilight nodded in agreement. "We promise, Your Highness. After all, it's what friends are for."

Luna stared at her, desperate -- and hopeful.

"Please?" Twilight said. "Let us help."

Luna hesitantly smiled in return. And then finally, she reached out to take hold of Twilight's hoof.

And in a soundless explosion, the shadows finally lifted...

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

It was still night in the Celebration area, when Twilight cautiously opened her eyes and painfully struggled to her hooves. Looking around, she saw her companions doing the same.

No doubt about it, she thought, saving Equestria seems to involve getting smacked around a lot...

Then she saw, standing in the center of the group, a tall, light-blue mare, blinking and staring about her in wide-eyed confusion. Twilight trotted over to her.

"Princess Luna?"

The mare nodded, with a touch of haughty pride. "We are known by that name. But, who art thou?"

"I'm Twilight Sparkle, Your Highness." Twilight bowed respectfully. "And it's an honor to meet you."

"It is our pleasure also," Luna replied, a little uncertainly. "Have we met before?"

"Not... exactly, Your Highness."

"Don't let it get to you, ma'am!" Rainbow Dash called. "There's a lot of that going around today!"

"Y'all made it back!" Applejack said, as she and the others hesitantly approached. "Did it work? Is that --"

Twilight nodded. Then she looked around, at the astonished crowd, who were all staring wide-eyed at the new arrival. Twilight cleared her throat and raised her voice, trying to remember how one did this.

"Ahem! Ponies of Equestria! Allow me to present to you all, Her Royal Highness -- Princess Luna!"

Shocked, the audience of ponies was motionless and silent for a moment.

Then good breeding quickly took over. As one, the ponies of Canterlot knelt in respect to the Princess. Luna stood facing them, still looking frightened... but also smiling ever so slightly at the effusive welcome from everypony present.

Everypony except one.

"No!" Nightmare Moon shouted. The alicorn Twilight still held her, but the hold was weakening fast. The Dark Mare was trying to free herself, to cast a spell, to do anything to break the power that held her. "This is not possible! It is not... it is not how things must be!"

And all at once she began struggling, frantically, desperately. The helmet flew from her head. Her mane lost its shimmering hue, becoming matted and tangled. Feathers flew from her wings. Her terrified, pained shrieks cut through the air like knives.

"What's the matter with her!" Twilight cried. "What are you doing to her?"

The alicorn Twilight shook her head. "Nothing! I'm just holding her, stopping her magic, just as I've been doing." She stared at the imprisoned Dark Mare in a kind of horrified fascination. "She's done this to herself..."

"What is it? What's wrong? Can't we help?"

The alicorn shook her head. "She altered the time-travel spell and carefully arranged events, so that her past would be overwritten by this one, so that this would become her past, her timeline. And she's succeeded far too well -- she's too tightly bound now. She can't escape it."

Twilight's eyes went wide.

"And by freeing Princess Luna, we've altered that timeline. We've changed the future. And in that future... she no longer exists!"

"You have to let me go!" Nightmare Moon pleaded. "I can't stay here... I need to go back... I need to... AIIIEEEE!" Her cries became a single piercing, unfettered shriek.

And before their eyes, the stricken Dark Mare faded away, softly and silently, as though she'd never existed.

There was shocked silence in the Celebration area. The alicorn Twilight's horn fell silent. Her head lowered, sadly. The others all looked at each other, uncertain.

"Is that it, y'all?" Applejack asked. "Did we just win?"

"Sure seems like it," Sunset said cautiously. "I'm just waiting for the other three shoes to drop."

"I'm not sure either." Twilight looked up at the sky. The sunless night sky. "Celestia hasn't returned."

"Give it time," the alicorn Twilight said. "Not quite like turning a cart around, is it?"

"Well, Luna's been freed," Spike pointed to her. "So Celestia should be free as well. Right?"

"Maybe..." Moondancer said. "Or maybe we need to have Luna lower the Moon and raise the Sun, have her bring back the Day. She can do that, right?"

Luna stared at them, nervously. "Raise the Sun? We... we have not yet learned how to do that properly."

"Uh oh..." Starlight said quietly. "Okay, now what do we do?"

"I don't know!" Twilight said. She looked around at her friends, desperately. "And Celestia said I'd know what to do, if she didn't return. But..."

She came to a halt, and then turned towards the lavender alicorn, still sitting with her head lowered.

"Do you know what we should do?"

The alicorn shook her head. "I can't ask it of you."

"What? Why not?"

"Because," she looked up at Twilight, "it's not my call to make. This is your path, Twilight, your timeline, your destiny. It's not mine. I'm nothing here, an aberration. I have no say in this."

She fell miserably silent. Twilight stared at her, mulling it over.

Then, thinking aloud, she spoke:

"Nightmare Moon said she captured you, so you came from the same timeline that she did," Twilight said. "But then why are you still here? Oh, wait... oh my gosh!"

"What is it, Twilight?" Sunset asked, trotting over to her.

"She came from a different timeline than Nightmare Moon! And the fact that she's still here..." She looked at the alicorn, who stared at her sadly, silently. "... means that timeline may still exist! She could return to it, just like Nightmare Moon said."

The alicorn nodded. "Possibly," she allowed. "I think I still remember enough of the time-travel spell. It's been a long time. But you see the problem, Twilight? If I do that, if I go back and restore my version of events, then your timeline, everything here..."

"Might cease to exist..." Twilight whispered softly.

"And all of us would go back," Starlight asked, "to what we would have been, in that other timeline?"

The alicorn Twilight nodded. And then she laughed humorlessly. "You know," she said, "I think that was Nightmare Moon's backup plan, all along. To use my special talent -- your special talent, Twilight, against you. To weaponize Friendship against you. If you challenged her and won, if you defeated her, that would set me free. And then you'd feel honor bound to let me go back and restore my timeline. And in so doing, you'd be condemning all your friends, all of your best friends, to lives of loneliness and hardship. Because that's how things go, in my version of history."

She shook her head, miserably. "Nightmare Moon knew neither of us could ever willingly do that, not to those we care about..."

Rainbow snorted derisively. "Yeah, right! I bet that little newsreel she showed us was all a pack of lies! Nightmare Moon just wanted us to think your lives would have been awful. She can't have been telling us the truth, right?"

But the alicorn Twilight was nodding. "Yes, Rainbow, it was the truth. Nightmare Moon kept me close, under tight watch, so I couldn't escape her. So as she explored your timeline, I saw it too. Everything happened, just as she showed you."

Then she smiled in amusement.

"Though true to form, she didn't give you the whole story. In each case, she left out the most important part..."

With a wave of a hoof, she cast the spell that formed an image in midair.

On it, they saw Starlight yield to Twilight, apologize to her, return through time with her, and they saw her become Twilight's first student...

They saw Trixie give up the amulet, repent of her actions, and later go on to become Starlight's best friend. And with her, save Equestria from an invasion by the Changeling Hive...

They saw Cheese Sandwich's confession to Pinkie and her friends, saw Cheese and Pinkie working together to create the most epic of party bashes for Rainbow Dash...

They saw Twilight throw a party for Moondancer, saw Moondancer afterward, happily playing hoofball with Minuette and her other friends from Canterlot...

They saw Twilight reaching out to help Sunset up after her defeat, saw Sunset taking up her new life in the mirror world, as a student in that other School...

They saw Tempest's mad, self-sacrificing leap to block the Storm King's final assault... saw her help Twilight restore Canterlot and the Princesses to their former selves. They saw her welcomed into Twilight's circle of close friends... saw the happy, relieved smile on the tough pony's face.

And throughout it all, they saw Twilight herself, an alicorn Princess, surrounded by her closest friends: the five ponies from Ponyville... the bearers of the Elements of Harmony.

"You see?" the alicorn Twilight said. "In the end, you still manage to bring them all together. Maybe the path is a little more convoluted, but you do get there. Or I get there... or maybe... oh, who can keep it straight anymore? I know I can't! The point is, Twilight, one way or the other, the right thing happens... for all of you."

"But, what about everypony else?" Applejack asked, worried. She gestured at the crowd gathered around, watching them. "Everyone else in Equestria? If we go around altering the timeline or whatnot, don't that change it for all of them, too?"

The alicorn Twilight shook her head. "Nightmare Moon's change in history only affects you, Twilight, and your close friends. For everyone else, either timeline is essentially the same. So no one else is affected. Only you."

"And," Twilight said, carefully, "if you go back, you'll be able to restore things? You'll go back to that other timeline you came from?"

"Well..." the alicorn said sadly. "I'm not exactly getting out of this scot-free myself. To put things right, I'll have to go back to before Nightmare Moon captured me, enable myself to escape from her." She nodded. "I think I even know how to do it. She had Spike imprisoned in a chain spell. When I tried to get free --" She winced, and stared sadly at Spike. "She used you to make me surrender, Spike. I couldn't let her hurt you!"

Spike nodded understandingly. Then, suddenly confused, he looked at Twilight -- his Twilight. Which of them was the real Twilight? They were so much alike!

"So," the alicorn went on. "I go back to the point in time where I tried to escape. I use my magic to help that Twilight break the chain spell. I help her free Spike, so Nightmare Moon can't use him against her. Then she'll be able to teleport both Spike and herself back to the map table. And from there, she'll be able to use Starlight's time-travel spell to escape."

"Oh! You mean... that other Starlight's time-travel spell," Starlight said cautiously. "Not the one I... uh... oh, never mind." She glanced at Twilight guiltily. "I'll tell you about it later."

Twilight gave her a curious look, smiling.

"But," the alicorn Twilight finished, "in doing all that, I'll be wiping out my timeline. I'll probably cease to exist... just like Nightmare Moon." She winced, and shivered. "But I'm willing to do that, Twilight. I'm willing to do it, because that's what it'll take to put things right, to put my timeline back on track!" She looked at her younger self. "But I can't make that choice, Twilight. This isn't my world, it isn't my timeline. It's yours! So it's your call."

Twilight nodded. And then she looked around at all her friends. And at the ponies from Ponyville. And the hundreds of other ponies of Canterlot, all watching the discussion in tense concern.

Right, Twilight said. It's on me. Celestia wanted me to decide what to do if she didn't return. But how do I decide? How do I make that kind of choice for all my friends?

She looked up at the sad, lonely alicorn.

"You could... always stay here with us," she said softly. "It'd be a little strange, there being two of us, but... I'm used to strange by now. And you'd be welcome here with us."

The alicorn nodded, agreeably. "If that's what you want, Twilight, I'll gladly accept it."

"But..." Twilight went on, "then that means you never get to see your friends again. Your home. Your Equestria."

The alicorn sighed, her eyes shut, her head lowered. "I gave all that up, when I surrendered to Nightmare Moon, when I let her take the time-travel spell from me. I don't deserve it anymore! And if there's still some place where I can live, and teach, and be useful again... that'll be enough for me. It'll have to be."

"Well, that just won't do!"

Twilight looked round. It was Tempest. She was staring at the alicorn, fierce and determined. "You deserve better than this, Twilight. Both of you do. It was Nightmare Moon who turned the timeline upside down, not you! All you've ever tried to do is put things right. You helped all of us, saved all of us from our own worst natures." She nodded, firmly. "So it's time for us to pony up, and pay you back for that."

She put a hoof on Twilight's shoulder, though still looking at the alicorn version of her. "Find us, Twilight!" she said softly. "Promise me you'll find us, bring us all together again."

"Tempest!" the unicorn Twilight objected, "I can't ask that of you..."

"Yes, you can, Twilight!" Sunset came over to put a hoof around her as well. "Because... because that's the way things ought to be. You know more about being a Princess, Twilight -- about Friendship, about all of it -- than I do. Way more than any of us." She gestured towards the alicorn Twilight. "We've seen what you can become, Twilight. And if there's one pony around here that deserves that, if there's one pony here who's truly a Princess -- a Princess of Friendship -- it's you! So make it happen, Twilight, for all our sakes."

Trixie nodded in agreement. Setting her hat back on her mane, she patted it fondly. "I found Princess Luna. I helped bring her home." She grinned and waved her hooves. "And I made Nightmare Moon go poof! Now I ask you, how is the Great and Powerful Trixie going to top that?" She shrugged. "Sure, maybe the road might be a little longer, a little harder. But I'm a showpony. I'm used to being on the road. As long as I'm still the Great and Powerful Trixie, it doesn't matter much where I am." She pointed a hoof at the alicorn Twilight. "But this matters, Twilight. This is important. This needs to happen! Because if you've taught me anything, Twilight, anything at all..."

She gently punched Twilight's shoulder with a hoof.

"You've taught me not to be jealous of you. And that takes an expert, trust me!"

"I'm with them," Moondancer said quietly. "Yeah. Count me in, too. Just... don't make me wait too long, Twilight! Before you come find me again? There are so many books I wanted to share with you, whenever we finally had some time for them."

"And hey, don't forget me!" Starlight said. "At least I still get to learn magic with you, Twilight. And I still get to be Trixie's best friend!" She gave the showpony a hug.

"Trixie's Great and Powerful Assistant!" Trixie corrected, hugging her back. "Don't you forget that, bestie!"

"Not on your life!" Starlight agreed.

Cheese smiled around at them all. "You know, I've only just joined this little group, and already I feel like a part of it? But even if I had to give all that up, I'd still be a party pony. And I'd make ponies happy, wherever I go. Maybe I won't be around to help as much as I might have been. But... if you should ever need an extra pony to help with an epic party bash... just ask Pinkie to look me up. I'm sure she'll know where to find me!"

"You know it, Cheese!" Pinkie crowed. "We party ponies stick together!"

"And I suppose it's not really for us to say either," Applejack said. "It's your call, Twilight, but... wayall, based on what we've all been through..." She nodded. "We'd be honored to be your friends again, if that's how it should turn out."

"Yeah, absolutely!" Rainbow said. "And hey, as long as I'm still awesome, it's all good!"

Rarity and Fluttershy glanced at each other, and then nodded wordlessly as well.

"Thank you, everypony!" Twilight said. "I couldn't ask for better friends. And that makes it doubly hard to choose. I feel... I feel like I'm saying goodbye to you all!"

Tempest snorted. "It's not goodbye, Twilight, not really." She looked around at them all. "We'll still be friends, of a sort. Even if we're not exactly friends, not the way we are now..." She smiled warmly. "... we'll still be together. That's what matters." She nodded to herself. "In fact... that's all that matters!"

The others nodded in agreement.

Twilight sighed, and nodded herself. And then she looked to her alicorn self.

"Do it," she said. "Go back, try to free yourself, try to restore that other timeline. Make it happen... and bring us all back together again!"

The alicorn Twilight smiled.

"If I have anything to say about it, I will! Thank you, Twilight."

She reached out a hoof, and Twilight reached up to her. The two of them shared a long, consoling hug together.

And then, with a melancholy smile, Princess Twilight flapped her wings and rose into the air. She swept up and away, into the sky. There was a brief, brilliant flash of light, as she activated the time-travel spell. Then she disappeared from sight.

Twilight looked at her friends, at Tempest and all the others. "We did it," she said, still unable to believe it herself. "We brought back Luna, we saved Equestria. Maybe not quite the way we planned... but we made it happen. All of us together."

INDEED YOU DID.

The sky overhead was growing lighter. Before them, a brilliant star blazed alight, and steadily increased in brilliance, becoming the rising Sun. From it descended a massive white alicorn, her prismatic mane flowing around her.

"Princess!" Twilight said, rushing over to her as she landed on her armored hooves in the center of a circle of bowing ponies.

Celestia willingly shared a long, relieved neck-hug with her. Then she nodded to both Twilight and her friends, who were all crowding around her eagerly.

"I'm proud of all of you, very proud. That was not an easy choice to make. But that other Twilight was right. It was your choice, no one else's. And you handled it very well, my faithful students. I could not have asked for better."

"Sister?" said a timid voice.

"Luna..." Celestia breathed, overcome with emotion. And then she was the one rushing forward, to embrace her long-lost sister. The two of them cried on each other's shoulders, while the Guard quickly moved in to surround them, keeping the crowds back and giving them some space.

Twilight and her friends looked on happily, under the warm morning sunlight, relieved it was finally all over.

Then Trixie looked nervously up at the sky, and around at the Celebration Area.

"Did it work? Did that other Twilight make it home okay?"

"And if she does," Moondancer asked uncomfortably, "if she's able to save Spike and escape... will we just, I don't know, fade away? Disappear? Will we even feel it, when it happens?"

"Well," Starlight said, trying to keep her voice steady and confident. "There are several competing theories. The multiverse interpretation holds that even when that Twilight returns her version of the timeline to its original course, ours will simply continue on, following its own independent path."

"Well... that's a relief..." Twilight said. She hugged her friends closely, staring fearfully up at the warm morning sky.

"Of course," Starlight admitted tensely, "the single-stream theory has it that at the very moment she restores her timeline, everything here will just --"

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

On a hillside road, a maroon filly with a broken horn paused to look back at the village she was leaving forever. And then turned forward, her face set in a grim scowl.

If you depend on others... you'll never find your place...

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

In Sires Hollow, Double Diamond was surprised to see Starlight Glimmer home so soon.

"Hey, Starlight!" he said. "So... how'd everything go with Sunburst?"

"Who? Oh, Sunburst, yeah. He'll be fine, probably fit right in at Celestia's School. But who cares about him, anyway? I just came up with this wonderful idea! I spent the entire train-ride back working it out..."

She grinned at him, bright-eyed and eager.

"It's all about cutie-marks..."

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

In the quaint village of Ponyville, the Great and Powerful Trixie had just finished teaching a group of self-important locals what it meant to tangle with the world's foremost magical talent. "Once again," she called, proudly, "the Great and Powerful Trixie has proven herself to be the most amazing unicorn in all Equestria!"

Life had been hard, ever since she was kicked out of Celestia's School. And following that strange business with the Sun Celebration, and the day without a sunrise, Trixie hadn't heard a peep from either Nightmare Moon or Princess Luna, not one. They seemed to have forgotten all about Trixie.

Well, no matter... Trixie could manage just fine on her own, thank you.

"Was there ever any doubt?" she added smugly.

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

In the Canterlot High video studio, Rarity got up from the interview table, and leaned across to shake hands.

"Thanks again for the invite, darling!" she said. "And I hope we were able to give you what you needed for that school paper article on friendship!"

"Oh, believe me!" Sunset replied, with a smug grin. "I've got everything I need to know about all of you..."

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

"All right, class!" called Ms. Flask, the gray-coated science teacher. "Settle down! Open your books to page 54, and read the next chapter."

At a table near the front of the classroom, a lavender, blue-maned unicorn sat by herself, her snout buried in her textbook, its pages steadily turning in the magenta gleam of her magic.

There was a quiet, embarrassed cough next to her.

"Excuse me, Twilight," Moondancer said. "But... would it be okay if I sat next to you in class?"

"Uh huh," Twilight replied, not even glancing up from the book.

"Oh... er, thanks!" Moondancer cautiously sat down beside her, settled her textbook on the table, and flipped it open to the right chapter.

She glanced uneasily at Twilight, bit her lip anxiously.

"I hope I'm not bothering you, Twilight."

"Uh huh."

"I know how you like to focus on studying. I just thought... well, since we both like books... and we have so much else in common... um..."

Twilight suddenly looked up, right at her. And smiled.

"Why in Equestria would that bother me, Moondancer?" she asked. "You're a friend. And I mean, no one else has asked to sit with me before!"

Moondancer stared at her, shocked. "No one?"

"No one. And truthfully? I was... kind of hoping someone would."

Then Twilight went right back to reading again, still smiling. And Moondancer sighed, tears in her eyes.

It worked! Twilight said I can sit with her. She said I'm her friend!

The relief was palpable, like a cartload of iron bars sliding off her shoulders, leaving her feeling lightheaded, finally able to breathe easily again.

Then she happened to look up, and saw, standing in the doorway...

... Princess Celestia.

The Princess was smiling proudly... at Moondancer. Moondancer stared back at her, astonished.

And then she grinned. She was suddenly filled with a warm, happy certainty:

Everything's going to be all right now...

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

On a hillside in Appleoosa, a tan pony wearing a flat-brimmed hat looked back at the town behind him, where ponies and buffalo were partying with abandon.

"Well, Boneless. Looks like our work here is done. Yep, those ponies never partied so hard. Thanks to me... Cheese Sandwich."

All at once, he shivered convulsively, then leapt a dozen feet in the air.

"Woo-hoo-hoo-hoo! That was a doozy!"

Then he set his eye on the horizon, beyond which the sun was just setting.

"Well, Boneless, looks like our next party is gonna be in... Ponyville!"

And the pony strolled off into the sunset, smiling and singing to himself, on his way to help make new ponies happy.

Because some things will always be the same... no matter what world you're living in.

The End

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, its characters and indicia are the property of Hasbro.
No infringement is intended. This story is a work of fan fiction, written by fans for fans of the series.

Author's Note:

And that's it! Many thanks to all of you who've read and commented on the entire series. I never would have believed, when I put up the initial Not Exactly Friends tale half a year ago, that it would be nearly so popular, nor such a fruitful source of connected, interesting stories. It's entirely because of your supportive likes and feedback that I've been able to keep chugging along, right up to the final episode.

I've really gotten to like this Twilight and her unusual circle of friends, but I did feel like it was only fair to provide a fitting closure to their story, or at least this arc of it. I did carefully arrange things so there's a way forward from here, perhaps a follow-on series, but it's entirely based on the response from you, the readership.

So if you'd like to see more of Twilight, Tempest, and the rest of the Advanced Projects group, don't forget to like and comment -- vote early and often! And thanks again for reading!

Kindest regards,
--- LDT

Comments ( 104 )

Please use multiverses theory and multiple timelines:applecry::fluttercry::fluttershysad:

Ow. My brain hurts. I hate it when authors do that. Hope you're proud of yourself.

10108070
10108099
Don't worry... I wouldn't short-change you!
:twilightsmile:

Oh. Damn. Right. Here we go, plunging into the story that has given me SO many ideas. If I don't come back after 2 hours... Wait another 2... Then send in the next vict-I meeaaaan Searcher. Yeah... Searcher. Ahem. >_> None shall escape, abandon all hope ye who enter!

That was a beautifully bittersweet wrap-up to this story. The exchanges, characterizations and wrap-up were superbly done in all the right places. I particularly enjoyed the other Twilight's reveal of the details of how that universe's Nightmare Moon captured her as well as the reassurances to Twilight's entire group of friends that, while the paths might be longer and more complex, they would still lead to their lives getting changed for the better.

All in all, you did a brilliant job on this series as a whole.

10108178
Thanks, CK -- and I've really appreciated your in-depth feedback all the way through. A lot went into this, and it's helped tremendously, hearing your detailed reactions throughout. Thanks a million!
:twilightsmile:

10108186
Only if you can sustain it indefinitely -- because the other side usually has far more practice and far fewer scruples...
:twilightoops:

The alicorn Twilight shook her head. "Nightmare Moon's change in history only affects you, Twilight, and your close friends. For everyone else, either timeline is essentially the same. So no one else is affected. Only you."

Butterflies don't work like that, and you know it.

"But," the alicorn Twilight finished, "in doing all that, I'll be wiping out my timeline. I'll probably cease to exist... just like Nightmare Moon."

And thus creating a timeline-shredding paradox?

And then, with a melancholy smile, Princess Twilight flapped her wings and rose into the air. She swept up and away, into the sky. There was a brief, brilliant flash of light, as she activated the time-travel spell. Then she disappeared from sight.

Didn't you say you only barely remembered that spell? shouldn't you, I dunno, take some time to review your notes and recover from all the abuse Nightmare put you through?

"I'm proud of all of you, very proud. That was not an easy choice to make."

Well temporal omnicide one way, temporal omnicide the other way, either way you're condemning incalculable souls to summary nonexistence. Best not to think about it.

Comment posted by Venerable Ro deleted Feb 29th, 2020

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Well clearly that's the wrong time and the wrong place.

This has been a wonderful, glorious train ride from start to finish. Honestly, you should be proud. This could have been a Special or two on its own, and there's simply too many good things to say about everything here.

Course... I'm still quite sad this timeline is gone now. That's not gonna stop hurting anytime soon.

You make a guy wish for multiverse theory lol great job in the series

Not gonna lie, the way you ended this is the only thing preventing me from favoriting it.

"Of course," Starlight admitted tensely, "the single-stream theory has it that at the very moment she restores her timeline, everything here will just --"

I really don't like the implication that this whole series got retconned due to time travel. That basically ruins this story for me in its current state. I know you said you'd be willing to write more about this world, but with the current ending, it leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Sorry.

10108295
Don't forget Starlight's other alternative:

"There are several competing theories. The multiverse interpretation holds that even when that Twilight returns her version of the timeline to its original course, ours will simply continue on, following its own independent path..."

I had Starlight carefully spell that out for a reason: there's always another fork in the path. But I did want to provide closure for "our" Twilight, showing she managed to get back to her own timeline. This story is the end of the arc, sure, but not necessarily of the characters -- with a little imagination...

10108291
Thanks, NJDB -- given how big a role Trixie had in this story, I'm very grateful for your ongoing feedback as a GaPT fan!
:twilightsmile:

And it's not necessarily over -- I just wanted to wrap this story arc up properly. What do you think? If it continued, should I throw the Advanced Projects group up against villains like Discord or Chrysalis? Or would it be better to strike out from canon entirely? (Though it would be a challenge coming up with a satisfying "boss" villain on a par with the series baddies.) Personally, it might be fun putting a character like Discord through the Not Exactly Friends wringer, seeing what comes to light. But I'd love to hear what "repeat customers" of this series think!

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Personally, I like the idea of seeing the old favorites return. I'm also a fan of Discord secretly remembering alternate timelines. :twilightsmile:

By the way... I called it. The ending, I mean. :pinkiehappy: Wonderful, just wonderful story.

Well that was an interesting ending to the series. It seems like everything is resolved and/or returned to canon, but at the same time it is open-ended enough you could continue with these characters if you wanted to.

I really like it, but the idea of everything going back to canon leaves a bad taste on my mouth, i for one would love to this time line continue as it is.:twilightsmile:

10108535
Okay, let me ask you then: would you be interested in stories that revisit canon finales/villains in this alternate timeline? Or more slice-of-life kind of tales? Or something else entirely? I would love to continue with these characters, in stories folks would like to read, too, so it'd be great to get your opinions!
:twilightsmile:

Ok went in a different direction there. So basically Nightmare Moon from the first alternate time line Starlight made(The Nightmare Timeline) caught Twilight, used the time spell to try and make the "prime" timeline in one where she won. She tried to change Twilight's friend group to one that could not use the elements. She teamed with with this time line's Nightmare, both intent on betraying the other of course, but didn't realize this time line's Luna was interfering, Sunset would realize the missing element to the harmony field was friendship and Alicorn Twilight would just travel back in time allow herself to escape causeing Nightmare to no longer be of the Nightmare time line and dissolve into a trandimenshional paradox. This why you don't screw with time travel folks, one mistake and your obliterated by a paradox.

10108585
If I can butt in here. I would LOVE to see how this group would handle Sombra. I still feel like he got the short end of the stick in the series and deserves a well... Proper chance. I mean hell, Discord got a redemption, Luna got her redemption, Starlight, Tempest, Sunset. They all got a redemption, but Sombra just got kinda... Thrown to the nines and left to rot. Plus that voice.shudder. So seeing this group tackle Sombra, the King of the Crystal Empire would be something else! (Plus some slice of life thrown in couldn't hurt either.)

As for this entire story. I loved the whole 'Twilight's got a Big sister in Tempest' thing and it warms my heart in a lot of ways. (Seriously, she makes a wonderful big sister role model for Twilight.) Seeing that get ripped away by this ending kinda just... Yeah. I can't express it entirely in words. In this, Tempest gets a little sister who loves her for who she is, protects her like nothing else, and is willing to die if that means her one link in a chain that can be called family is alive... Not that Twilight would ever allow that to happen to her B.S.B.F.F. cause let's face it. It's Twilight Sparkle.

But just think of all the fun little ideas of Tempest 'vetting' possible suitors going after Twilight. (If you're an "Anypony but Flash" shipper I mean... C'moooon! Personally I'm a Twilight x redeemed Sombra shipper, and a Mac/Dash shipper. My two favorite pairings and I will fight for their rights to exist! Seriously, I'm American, we've crossed frozen rivers on Christmas Eve to defend ourselves. It's in the blood!) Ahem! Anyhow, that dynamic would be a shame to throw away. Plus the rest of the gang now just sings even more proudly and it would be an absolute shame to throw this away on the single string theory! Multi-verse string theory for the win baby! YEEEAH!

I'm rambling a little but those just the FIRST in a long line of fun ideas your story brewed up and honestly. C'MOOOOOOOOON! You know you waaaannaaaaaa.

Fixed it! Knew I forgot that spoiler code somewhere. :twilightblush:

10108335
Also, before I forget, if you need help coming up with a few baddies on par with the show, hit me up in a private message. I think you'll like some of the ideas I've got stashed away for a rainy day. Heh.. Heheh... Hahahaha... AAHAHAAHAHAHAHAHAHHAAA!!! ... Thank God for sound proofing... Last thing I need is another noise complaint.

Wow kind sad this is over now. I really like what you how you were handling this. But good job on the end

I was liking g this story until you made it all convoluted by bringing time travel into it and making everything that happened here mean squat! NOT COOL!:twilightangry2:

Took me a while to comprehend what was happening and there was a point where I didn't like what was happening, but in the end, I liked it.

There have been several alternate mane six fics already and this bends it by making it Not Exactly Canon.

Kind of disappointed that it leaves out extensive post Nightmare, but this series was always about the pre Nightmare (which isn't covered in canon much) so it balances out.

If you want to keep doing this then I'll be here to read.

This is why I prefer multiverse theory
Resetting timelines to be "Cannon" always feels cheap :ajbemused:
Ah well besides the very end this was a fantastic series :twilightsmile:

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I hear you, gang -- this is a bittersweet ending for me as well, which is why I was careful to leave a path forward, if there's sufficient interest from the readership in continuing.

And regarding the multiverse, time-rewriting ending, the intent was always to send this series off with an epic conclusion that would be appropriately intricate and subtle enough to be worthy of HRH Princess Luna.

I know this kind of thing isn't everyone's cup of tea, so just think of it as being like Reichenbach falls -- there's always a safety net, if the readers demand the return of Sherlock Holmes!

:twilightsmile:

10108824

10108585
The idea of these 6 and their friends dealing with mayor canon events without the elements is really good, things could go to totally different and with unexpected results. A Discord without having to worry about the Elements but careful of 6 overpower unicorns. A not so spontaneous Royal wedding with ponies who actually knows Candace and would never doubt Twilight judgement, can push Chrissy to do a better plan. I can totally see Tempest kicking Sombra's ass just to help Twi.

I've been following this series from the day I read the first installment. And I must say, it's been one heck of a ride (in a good way, of course).

I really, really hope that the multiverse interpretation is correct because I want to see more of this. So far, we've gotten to the part where episodes 1 and 2 had gotten in the original FiM. I want to see how this timeline could match up with the villains and conflicts that appear in the original show!

In short, I could say my opinion on this series in just one word: MOAR!!!! :flutterrage:

After reading the first installment all the way back then catching back up.

I would say this is very fitting end, but I wouldn’t say satisfying with all of it resetting back to canon.

Still I say the journey was worth it.

But if you could I would love to see this AU continue in its own timeline or universe. These ponies deserve it.

Although please do take your time. I would like the quality to be consistent.

P.S. If you do decide to continue, please just put it into one story instead of making a new story after every episode. Most people don’t notice it unless we spot it on the featured page.

Still love the story, while it’s sad to see it end (and in a confusing way that reset back to canon) This was still great series of stories to read. I vote for more and you deserve to be featured every time.

10109201
Thanks so much for reading, and I'm glad the series as a whole worked so well for you!

I have a few ideas about where this might go next, but I do want to hear opinions from the readership as well, to help keep it interesting and keep the quality up. I'd like to be writing stuff that you'd like to read, after all!

Thanks again!
:twilightsmile:

10109213
I, too, would like to cast my vote for the "multiverse" deal, so we can still occasionally see future adventures with this group - both big adventures and smaller-scale slice-of-life.

But, with the main series wrapped up, that means you can write future stories set in this universe at your leisure when you have the ideas to make them work and can find the time to write them.

10108866
Yeah. These are REALLY good points. Plus, with Tempest's fighting skills and Sunset's knowledge of the human world, they might be able to come up with weapons that AREN'T dependent on magic, making them better equipped to fight Tirek.

And, the "letters deal" from the first few seasons can be alluded to by Twilight including letters to her Ponyville friends concerning the progress of her and the rest of her team.

Plus, it might be kind of cute seeing Applejack or Rarity inviting Twilight and her Canterlot friends to Cheese and Pinkie's wedding.

And, it might be interesting seeing Spike in the Gauntlet of Fire actually being tempted to STAY the Dragon Lord (reasoning that he could probably do a lot more good for ponies and dragons alike as the Dragon Lord than as Twilight's assistant), but appointing Ember his chief advisor so he can have a better idea of how to interact with other dragons.

And, maybe with Tempest already on Twilight's team, the gang could be on the alert concerning the Storm King, with him deciding that he needs to get them before they get him (but also realizing he needs A LOT of help, so he gathers other villains who know Tempest's friends so he can have a better clue of how to fight them).

And, probably more ideas still, but that will take some thinking time.

10109213
Glad to help, if u might make a suggestion though for the future. Give a little more time on sunset and starlight. While they were hardly bad in this series but they both unintentionally got over shadowed by everyone else and their struggles.

Don’t get me wrong tempest and and Trixie are my favorite characters in their AU, but if you continue give starlight and sunset both something to do to keep them interesting.

And as a just a suggestion, sunset saw in the mirror verse how far technology can evolve without magic and I think that would be really cool to explore in Equestria because technology (in the show) has always been inconsistent.

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Great suggestions, CK -- this is exactly why I always look forward to your feedback!
:twilightsmile:

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True, the focus was on Trixie and Twilight/Tempest a lot, given their respective roles here. And poor Starlight -- she often ends up being the "middle sibling" or "responsible one" in her relationships with others, particularly Trixie.

Sunset does make for an interesting "bridge" character here -- does she stay in Equestria and catch up with her pony friends, or return to the mirror universe for more fun with her CHS group? (Lots of good options here, which don't have to be mutually exclusive.)

10109312
Yea, although to possibly help with the mirror world solution, it could be as simple as finding mirror verse sunset.

And I can’t help but picture her as completely different to almost every version of sunset.

10108585
My viewpoint is, take canon, and gut it like a fish. It's the butterfly effect, canon cannot happen, not as it was. Elements, of course, stay the same (and that which is unchanged is best not shown alone), so you can have the CMC unwittingly free Discord, and have the Changelings strike the Wedding. But change it up, involve Tempest, Starlight, Trixie, Sunset, and Moondancer, have their presence change things. Restore the Elements of Harmony to the Tree while keeping the Field in active use, before Discord. And on that note, use Rainbow Power from time to time, they wasted a perfectly good super form with that... Have Twilight be smart about Chrysalis's obvious impersonation, rather than hold the Idiot Ball for that whole episode... You could even keep Twilight and the "Not Exactly Friends set" in Canterlot, because that would stick a wrench in canon. The most important part, however, is to write what you enjoy, and enjoy what you write. That's where many of my issues emerge, I tend to lose interest... Too busy thinking about "How would the events of this story affect this future event?" to focus on "Okay, how, exactly, am I going to write this present event?"...

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Well... it is a reference to canon: (Dragonshy)

Fluttershy: How dare you... How dare you! Listen here, mister. Just because you're big doesn't mean you get to be a bully! You may have huge teeth, and sharp scales, and snore smoke, and breathe fire. But you do not—I repeat—you do not! Hurt! My! Friends! You got that?

And there's other examples, e.g.: (The Return of Harmony -- Part II)

Rarity: Oh, Fluttershy, would you be a dear and FLY FASTER, please?
Fluttershy: I can't!
Twilight Sparkle: If you can't catch her, Discord wins!
Fluttershy: That big... dumb... MEANIE!

But one of my all-time favorites is from Dungeons and Discords:

Discord: Fun? With sidekicks? Oh, you must think that we're in a dimension where everything is opposite. "Da-dee-la! I'm Opposite Discord, and I want to hang out with Spike and Big Mac! I'm sure I'd have fun!"
Opposite Fluttershy: Well, guess what, Sassafras?! I'm Opposite Fluttershy, and I'm sick of being nice and quiet all the time!

Flutteryshy's superpower is she's the mistress of extremes -- there's just no middle of the road with her.
:twilightsmile:

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Good suggestion -- and excellent point about the Tree of Harmony, I hadn't really considered that. With the Field spell, they don't have to worry about "giving up" the Elements to save the Tree. (Though there might be issues by that point with not having them as a "backup" strategy...)

10109408
Oh, I'm a Fluttershy fan. Believe me, I know her extremes. I do not like to talk about Putting Your Hoof Down... I just feel like you went for it too fast. If it were her defenseless animal friends, she'd go from zero to RAGE in five seconds flat, but for ponies she's mostly only just met...

Waiter, there’s a single-stream timeline in my multiverse theory!

Well played, author, very well played indeed. You kept me guessing, toyed with my emotions, and left me completely satisfied in the end. What a doozy of a series! :pinkiehappy:

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I agree I would love to see this story continue in this manner

Idk if I like where this went... it feels like a little too much all at once, only to take away what the premise set up to begin with right at the very end. Unless I'm reading it wrong... But I don't think I am.

Gotta say, I really would've preferred going with the multiversal theory so that this continuity could've kept on truckin.

And Cheese as the 7th member of the group just felt out of place.

10108824
Oh. Okay. I see.

Instead of fixing a legitimate problem, you go the "safety net" route.

Okay.

I see.

OR, stupid idea, I admit, but it's silly enough to work, you make one little edit to the ending, so that it doesn't end on the implication you retconned your own series, making it feel like we wasted our time reading it at all.

But no, seriously, I was mildly upset with this ending at best, but now, thanks to "so just think of it as being like Reichenbach falls -- there's always a safety net, if the readers demand the return of Sherlock Holmes" being just the right amount of unintentional(?) condescension, I am actually now mad.

Honestly though I would like to see a continuation of this wonderful N.E.F. Universe you have made.
In all of your stories you have shown yourself to be Adept at effective interpersonal stories.
With a spicy bit of Adventure thrown in.
To see the Unicorn Gang set up a research facility in Ponyville, just to see the interpersonal relationship play out between Unicorn Gang, and the Mane 6k(5).
Would be something I would look forward to seeing in my update feed.
Would they be A, and B squad, two competing groups, or one big happy mess?
Possible jealousies for Twilight's attention?
What would happen if Twilight never made the Fatal mistake, with Starsswirls spell then eventually gave her wings?
Considering Twilight would have multiple individuals reviewing her work.
Whatever you decide to do, I consider you an a skilled author.

Oh hey this something I forgot to mention but cheese sandwich always felt out of place in this story. It might just be me, but while I like the character he has always worked best as a side character similar to spike.

Although it found just be do to the fact he was put in the last minute and we just didn’t get to know him as well as everyone else and it makes me and probably many other feel unnecessary and just feels ragged on.

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Well, somepony needed to be the element of laughter on this bus -- and Cheese being kinda-sorta a reformed villain, he fit the overall Not Exactly Friends pattern.

Although with a party pony, how villainous can you ever be, really?
:twilightsmile:

Plus, more to the point, it was a way of showing that even with the best friends in the world, you should never stop making friends -- because sometimes your new friends (who don't know you that well) will tell you stuff you need to hear that your old friends won't.

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