• Published 25th May 2021
  • 2,128 Views, 178 Comments

Through Despair and Hope - Blue Writer

How does one help a grieving child? How does one heal from losing everything?

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Chapter 17

A few days had passed since the reveal that Ben was an adult human in a colt’s body. That had to be one of the most bizarre days of Twilight’s life. It was utterly mind-boggling to learn that there were other universes out there and that Ben was from one of them, to say nothing of the fact that he was of a species long thought to be myth. She had read theories on the subject, of course, but witnessing such a thing was unprecedented. The fact that Ben was somehow turned into a pony, and a small colt no less, made the whole affair all the more inconceivable.

So far, the small detachment of royal guards dispatched by the princesses had not yet found anything in the Everfree Forest. It had occurred to Twilight that it would be a very good idea to ask Zecora if she had ever came across a portal in the forest. If anypony knew anything about the Everfree, it was her. It was for that very reason that Twilight now stood at the door of Zecora’s hut.

The unicorn gently rapped on the door. It did not take long for Zecora to answer. “Why hello, Twilight,” greeted the zebra. “Is everything alright?”

“Actually, Zecora, I was hoping you could help me. It’s very important.”

“Say no more, my unicorn friend,” Zecora replied. “Please, step into my den. Did somepony touch poison joke again?” She ushered Twilight into the hut.

“No, nopony’s touched any poison joke. Have you ever seen any portals or anything remotely resembling a portal anywhere in the Everfree?”

Zecora looked contemplative for a moment, undoubtedly trying to recall something. Her expression soon brightened. “Ah, yes! I remember now! I will show you, if you allow.”

Twilight’s face lit up. “Perfect! Let’s go!”

“Follow me and you will find the right tree.”

Zecora led Twilight deeper into the forest until they came to a withered tree. Many of it’s branches had fallen and most of the trunk had rotted away. At the base of the tree was an opening that vaguely resembled a doorway, though it did not seem to lead anywhere save the inside of the trunk.

“See?” said Zecora, “Here is the tree.”

Twilight’s horn glowed as she cast detection spells. “Well, there is some residual magic here, but nowhere near enough for an active portal. You’re sure this is the place?”

“Tut tut! The portal for ten moons is shut.”

“Oh.” Twilight found herself cringing at the news. Ben was not going to be happy about this. She could hardly blame him, as she had no idea what it would be like to be completely cut off from all her friends and family on top of turning into a different species. For a pony who thrived on the magic of friendship, such a fate was the stuff of nightmares.

“My friend, you look quite down. Please, tell me why you’re wearing a frown.”

Twilight gave a detailed explanation, saying that a creature from another universe had stumbled through the portal, transformed into a pony, and was now seeking to get back home. “And now he has to wait ten moons before he can leave,” she finished.

Zecora nodded solemnly. “I know that being far from home is hard. Give this Ben my kind regards.”

“I will. Thanks, Zecora. I’m going to check the area for magical activity, if that’s alright.”

Zecora consented and left Twilight to her research.

After spending some time magically poking and prodding at the dead tree, Twilight returned to Ponyville. She had been out longer than she thought, as the sun was now setting. She made her way to Sweet Apple Acres and knocked on the door. Big Mac answered and let her in. Ben was, as usual, upstairs in his room.

Ever since the revelation of Ben’s true age and species, his presence at Sweet Apple Acres had become decidedly awkward. Applejack had informed the family and they, like her, found it difficult to reconcile the truth with the fact that Ben was in the body of a colt. They were at a bit of a loss for what to do. Ben, in turn, left them alone as much as possible, though he made it a point to be polite.

Twilight went up to Ben’s room and opened the door. He was sitting on the bed, perusing one of the books on magic he’d rented. He would’ve returned them early after Princess Luna first came forward, but instead chose to keep them “just in case.”

Ben looked up and smiled when he saw Twilight. “Hey,” he greeted, getting off the bed to face her. “Find anything?”

The hopeful look on his face did not help to alleviate Twilight’s unease of giving him the news. “Well, yes and no,” she answered.

Just as predicted, Ben’s smile became a frown, one that bore disappointment and confusion. “What do you mean ‘yes and no?’”

“I mean that we’ve found a portal, but it’s closed and won’t reopen for ten moons.”

“Isn’t there a way to open it now?”

“If there was, we would’ve used it. I’m sorry.”

Ben hung his head. “Of course,” he muttered angrily. He took a deep breath and raised his head back up. “How long is a lunar cycle here?”

“50 days.”

Ben’s eyes widened in what could only be called panic. “WHAT?

Twilight’s ears flattened, positive that all of Ponyville heard Ben’s reaction. “Yes,” she replied once her ears stopped ringing. “There are fifty days in a month and twenty months in a year, totaling one thousand days per year.”

Ben’s eyes darted to and fro as he mumbled under his breath. He began to pace back and forth. Twilight briefly wondered if this was what she looked like when facing a puzzle. Eventually, he stopped. “That’s why I’m so little here!” Ben declared with all the air of somepony who just made a scientific breakthrough. “Years are longer, which means you age slower!”

Twilight nodded. “That would make sense. How long is a year in your universe?”

“Three hundred and sixty-five days. Thirty to thirty-one days in a month except February, which has twenty-eight, twelve months in a year except on a leap year, which has three hundred and sixty-six days because February has twenty-nine days then. I’m still the same age in my universe, but the total number of days of my life don’t add up to as many years here. That’s why I’m technically a child.”

“That’s very strange,” said Twilight. Strange, yet also very fascinating. A world with an uneven number of days where the humans aged very rapidly. There was so much she and Ben could learn from each other.

“Wait,” Ben said, panic setting in once more. “Ten moons, ten months, FIVE HUNDRED DAYS? I’M GOING TO BE STUCK HERE FOR FIVE HUNDRED DAYS? THAT’S OVER A YEAR AND A HALF!” He was pacing again. “Does time even flow the same way between universes? What if I’m declared legally dead back home? What’s going to happen to my family if I’m gone without a trace for almost two years? I don’t think Dad could take it! Don’t even get me started on Mom! What the hell are they gonna think when I finally show up? How am I gonna explain this? ‘Hi, Mom and Dad, sorry I didn’t call or write for over a year and half, but I’ve been stuck in another universe full of magical talking ponies because I somehow stumbled through an invisible portal after drinking myself stupid! But hey! At least I’ll never touch alcohol again for as long as I live! No, I’m not crazy! Mom, stop crying! I’m alive! I know I was gone for five hundred f&$*g days, but I’m alive!”

By now, Ben was hyperventilating. “I can’t wait that long! I’ve gotta get back now!”

Twilight couldn’t bear to see somepony in such a state. She would likely have done the same in his position. She put a firm hoof on Ben’s wither to stop his pacing. “Ben, listen to me! I don’t know how, but I promise I’ll try to find a way for you to get home as soon as possible.” Ben nodded rapidly and tried to slow his breathing. “Deep breaths,” urged Twilight, taking a few of her own in order to give Ben a rhythm. Eventually, Ben was able to breath at the same pace as Twilight.

“Thanks,” he breathed. “We can figure this out. We have to.”

“I know you want to get back, but I’m not sure how much help you could be,” Twilight said with the utmost generousness. “You’re not as caught up on magic as other ponies.”

“Maybe not,” Ben conceded, “But I can provide a fresh perspective. I might see something you don’t. I’ve been studying.” He gestured to the books.

“How far have you gotten?”

“I think I have the basics down for telekinesis, so I’ve moved on to teleportation.”

“That’s very advanced.”

“If I was your average kid, I’d be taking it slow, but we don’t have time. I have to get back to family by any means necessary.”

“I understand that, but you could seriously hurt yourself, or worse.”

“Yeah, that figures. That’s why I’ve only studied and haven’t tried it yet. I haven’t fully figured it out yet and I don’t want to tear myself in half.”

“Okay, good. Furthermore, there’s no guarantee you can just teleport yourself to another universe entirely.”

“But for the teleportation to work, you need a clear picture of where you’re teleporting to, right? The only reason nobody’s teleported to another universe is that they don’t know where they’re going. I know exactly where I want to go, so theoretically I should get there without much problem.”

“You might know where you’re going, but the farther you teleport, the more magical energy you consume. You haven’t been using magic for very long and you don’t have a cutie mark for magic, which means you don’t have that much energy. Teleporting to a different universe could easily put you in a coma or even kill you, not to mention that you might stay a unicorn if you teleport to your world instead of using a portal.”

Ben frowned in sadness and frustration. “Alright, Twilight. What do you suggest we do?”

“Well, Princess Luna mentioned that there was another portal in Canterlot that will open much sooner. You could take that one.”

“Yeah, but we don’t know where that one leads. Plus, it’s still a lot of time I’m away from my family and the longer I’m away from them, the bigger the chance of them holding a funeral because they can’t find me. There’s got to be another way.”

“I’ll send a letter to Princess Celestia. She might know how to reopen the portal. I’ll research what I can while I wait for a reply.”

“Okay. I’ll just… keep reading what I’ve got here, I guess. Thanks, Twilight.” Ben turned away and picked up a book, hanging his head in dejection.

Twilight gave a sad smile. “You’re welcome.”

Author's Note:

Zecora is a hard one to write, but I think I managed.

I can’t believe we’ve hit a hundred favorites. Thank you all so very much.

This has been fun, but we’re nearing the endgame. How do you think it will end?