• Published 26th Oct 2012
  • 2,236 Views, 426 Comments

Simulacrum - OrphiusOlyandra



Twilight is dying due to using so much magic. Now she has to save Celestia from an illness

  • ...
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Chapter 7

14/02/982

I fear Cadence is near death. Despite my best attempts at slowing down time and treating her, they have all been futile. At the same time though, the unicorn has not yet died despite me speeding up time, so there is still hope. Any second now, I expect Serenity to announce signs of recovery, allowing me to proceed with the next phase. Despite this apparent success, I have created a second filly, just in case a recovery does not occur.

There is little left for me to do other than sit and wait, but despite that, I find myself in this room every moment I have. It is fortunate I recently appointed a steward, or this would not have been possible at all. The anti-magic spell Luna and I put up is not helping matters either; without it, I would have expended less than half the magic I already have.It is highly doubtful that I will be able to continue this endeavor for more than a day if the anti-magic field stays in place. I fear I will soon be forced to choose between keeping the defenses around this area up and continuing my search for a cure. It is a choice I do not wish to make if possible, but if it comes down to it, I only hope I will make the right decision.


Time Till Death: Twenty-three hours, ten minutes

"Twi? You ready?"

"Of course." For a fleeting second, Dash thought there was something more in those eyes. "Ready everypony? Plus one gryphon."

"Heck yeah!" Gilda said, "I wanna see some awesome magic already!"

"Well then, watch and learn," smirked Twilight.

Twilight's horn lit up like the sun. With Dash on one side and Spitfire on the other, the unicorn just managed to stay upright. Power swirled around the trio, caressing their bodies with the hand of winter as the familiar hum began building. The temperature dropped till the moisture in the air condensed and a single beam fired straight down. Hitting a crystal formation below, it refracted, sending threads of light out in all directions. Again and again it hit the crystals, each time causing the beam to split up even more until a massive symbol lay on the ground. All that power was suddenly redirected upwards, and Dash found herself engulfed in magenta light. Even with her eyes squeezed shut, all she could see was magenta. Her fur stood up on end, and the static electricity sent jolts through her body.

The light faded, the temperature returned, and Dash hit the cloud with a thump. After a second of just lying there, she slowly crawled back onto her hooves and shook the ice out of her fur. Dash immediately looked to the right to see if Twilight was alright, only for the words to fly right out of her mind as she stared at the massive tree before them. It loomed above them, blotting out the sun and sky, and for once in her life, Dash felt insignificant. She could fly up there right this instant, perform a sonic rainboom right next to the tree, and the explosion would have been swallowed up whole. It'd have been like a single manufactured thundercloud next to a storm from the Everfree Forest.

It was larger than Canterlot Castle. It was larger than the mountain Canterlot resided on. The simple truth was, nothing Dash had ever seen came close to matching this... this thing in sheer size.

And perhaps most surprising, it looked like a tree. Not a sickly tree about to fall over in the slightest breeze, but a proper, healthy tree. In the middle of a magical nullifying desert. Even Fluttershy would have been surprised at that revelation.

"Whoa... dude, that is..." Gilda's beak opened and closed a couple of times as she tried to come up with something adequate. In the end she just settled on, "Duuuuuude."

"Your vocabulary is awe inspiring," said Spitfire as she gazed up at the structure before them. "But that really is something. That must have been some intense magic to keep it hidden."

"What'd you expect? Twilight is the best there is, isn't that right, Twi?"

No response.

"Twi!" Dash rushed over to the unconscious unicorn. "Twi, you alright?"

Not even a twitch.

"Twi?" Rainbow Dash began shaking the unicorn. "Come on, wake up."

Spitfire shot Gilda a look.

With a sigh, Gilda translated, "Still nothing?" Then she turned on Spitfire with a flat look. "And what am I? Some glorified, feathery translating thing!? Talk to her yourself, damn it."

This time it was a glare.

"Shut up you," muttered Gilda. "Hey Dash, any progress with your marefriend?"

"She's not my bucking marefriend!" Dash ran her hoof through her mane. "And bucking Tartarus, I know Spike complains about waking you up in the mornings, but this is just ridiculous."

"No! If you want to say something, talk to her yourself," yelled Gilda. "I will not be your messenger."

"Will you stop fighting!" said Dash as she glared over her shoulder. "I'm trying to work here."

Silence.

"Thank you." The tension eased out of her shoulders as Dash stared at the unicorn. "Um... your diary got sent to Princess Celestia by accident!"

Nothing.

"You're being banished back to magic kindergarten! How about, you failed your last assignment. No? Crap. Um... If you don't wake up right now, your schedule will be thrown out of wack and you'll have to reschedule everything? Discord is back? Your brother is secretly a changeling in disguise, and Cadence is actually an illusion? You were adopted?" Dash swore under her breath as nothing seemed to work. "The library needs reshelving? Someone returned a book damaged? You're going to be tardy? Nothing? Seriously? Come on!"

"You kn-"

"I know we can't continue if Twilight doesn't cast her damn spell!" snapped Dash before her eyes widened when she realized it was the first time Spitfire had spoken to her in a day. "Um... oops? Sorry..."

"You really are an idiot aren't you?" sighed Gilda. "Hey Spitfire, want to kick the idiot around some more? I promise to stand back this time."

"Shut up," growled Spitfire as she landed on the cloud next to Dash. "I've been trying to get over my anger issues, and you're not helping."

"Come on Twi, wake up." No matter how hard Dash shook though, she never got a response. "I just don't get it! Her pulse is normal, her breathing is normal, everything about her is normal, but she just won't wake up." There was a prickling in Dash's eyes, but she ignored it.

"Wait!" Gilda shoved Spitfire off and took her spot on the cloud. Reaching out with a claw, she began waving it in front of Twilight's face. "Her eyes are tracking my movement."

"What?" Dash immediately shoved her face before Twilight's, just staring at violet eyes before her. "Twilight?"

The cyan pegasus watched as Twilight rolled her eyes in a manner that was far too familiar. The few times Dash and Twilight worked together, she had quickly gotten accustomed to seeing that eye roll and wry smile whenever a stupid question was asked. Of course, there was no smile now, and that only served to act as another knife through Dash's heart.

"W-What? How?" Dash looked up at Spitfire with tears in her eyes, and for once, the Wonderbolt seemed at a loss for words. "This is a joke right? Some horrible, bad joke?"

No one dared to reply.

"Dash..."

The voice was bare above a whisper, like a projection of a forgotten dream.

"Twilight?" Rainbow looked down at the prone unicorn even as tears began spilling over the edges of her eyes.

"I'm sorry..."

After a long, agonizing minute, Dash finally managed to choke out, "Because Celestia is everything, right?"

The barest of nods. In fact, Dash wouldn't have been surprised if it had been her imagination toying with her.

"Oh Twilight, you stupid, stupid egghead." Dash gave up all pretenses and tears leaked freely. "Y-You've been killing yourself haven't you? To get here. Y-You've..."

To everyone's surprise, it was Spitfire who broke down completely. She collapsed onto the cloud and began sobbing into Twilight's chest as she kept apologizing over and over again. It was hard to make out what she was saying, but considering the way she had treated Twilight the entire journey, Dash didn't need to be a genius to figure it out.

The glow that surrounded Twilight's horn was barely visible, but with her weak magic, she managed to raise her hoof to touch Spitfire's cheek. No words were spoken. No words needed to be spoken. Instead, the two pegasi just hugged Twilight as close as possible while we cried until no tears were left.

"I helped you didn't I?" whispered Dash as they drew back. "Those questions, all of those questions and when you broke down last night. I- I egged you on, didn't I?"

Rainbow Dash was no stranger to pain. But this... this was beyond anything she had ever felt before. Getting poisoned by a chimera, squashed by a dragon, being struck by lightning – none of those even came close to the way her heart was ripping itself in two.

She had done this. In the end, the ultimate cause of Twilight's death was Rainbow Dash. No matter how she tried to twist it or look at it, that was the truth of the matter. The Element of Loyalty had killed her own friend. Ha! Loyalty indeed. If anything, that just caused the cyan pegasus to chuckle sadly as she kept sobbing. She had killed her friend... her crush. If she hadn't said anything, then Twilight would have lived. Twilight would still be alive, but...

"It's not so easy, is it?" whispered Dash.

Princess Celestia or Twilight Sparkle? The foundation of society or her best friend and potential date? When Twilight asked that first night so long ago, the answer seemed so clear and so simple. Anything, absolutely anything was worth keeping the Princess alive even if that meant self-sacrifice. But now? Now she found it impossible to repeat what she had said. Now that Twilight was the one dying, Dash wanted to scream and yell and argue till her throat was raw.

But that wouldn't change anything, now would it? Dash could see it clear as day in Twilight's eyes. That determination, that spark, to keep on doing what she had done and to see it to the end. It was a look and sensation Dash was intimately familiar with. There was absolutely no doubt in her mind that no matter what she did or said, Twilight would soldier on. And would probably turn her into a potted plant if she complained too much.

Damn it! She was meant to be Loyalty. She was talking about herself, not Twilight, not Magic. Why did the stupid egghead have to go on and do this?

But... Dash already knew the answer. After all, she had all but told Twilight to keep going. It was Dash that told Twilight sacrifice was the right choice. It was Dash that comforted Twilight upon that ledge overlooking the Crystal Desert. All the signs were there. The migraines after teleporting, the pain medication, the coughing up blood, the... the...

Tears leaked down Dash's face as her hoof slammed into the cloud.

It was all there. It was clear as day. How could she have been so blind? Looking back, it stared Dash straight in the face, and worse of all, it was obvious even before the journey. All those times Twilight went to the doctors, how she scoured books on obscure diseases, how she went to Zecora, and so many more memories. For every tear Dash cried, there was another clue just waiting to be reflected in those droplets. So many memories, so many hints, but every single last one was missed.

Some friend she was. A friend would have seen the signs. A friend would have tried to figure out why Twilight was asking all those questions. A friend would- A friend would have... A friend would have seen it. There was really no point in denying it now, not when it was staring Dash straight in the face. She was a bad friend. There was nothing else to say really.

Talk about loyalty.

And then there was a spark. An inkling of an idea that slowly grew with each passing second, until it consumed Dash's entire being. Twilight wasn't just her friend, Twilight was so much more than that. Twilight Sparkle was the Element of Magic. Sure, Celestia was the ruler and foundation of Equestria, but without Twilight, who would have stopped Nightmare Moon? Who would have rallied everypony and taken down Discord? Who would have figured out Princess Cadence was actually an imposter? Without Twilight, Equestria would have been overrun and there would no longer be an Equestria.

A small chuckle escaped.

By that very same logic, it meant Twilight was more important than Princess Celestia. By that same logic, Dash's oath to protect and serve Equestria to the best of her ability also meant it was her duty to save Twilight's life. After all, without her, how would they be able to stop future evils? Therefore, loyalty demanded Dash to save Twilight's life even at the cost of Princess Celestia's. It was her duty to save Twilight.

A wave of giddiness swept over Rainbow Dash as the cloud touched the ground. Without even a second though, Dash hauled the unicorn onto her back. If Twilight tried anything, it was her duty to stop the dumb unicorn. No intensive magic allowed. As one, they stepped off their transport and just stared at the structure before them. Now that she was actually up close, Dash realized the entire thing wasn't natural at all. What she had thought was bark and leaves, was in fact metal plates. The entire thing was made out of metal, and yet it swayed in the wind just like a real tree.

"So... how do we get in?" asked Gilda.

"Twilight? You up for it?" asked Spitfire.

"Always," came the faint whisper.

"How is she talking anyways? She's fucking paralyzed." Gilda followed Spitfire's gaze and faceclawed. "Right. Magic. Shutting up now."

For the briefest of seconds, Dash hesitated, then she knelt down next to the wall with her flank touching the cold metallic surface. After all, only Twilight would know what to do once they actually got inside, so it was unlikely she'd risk her life right now when the goal was just on the other side of the door. With Spitfire's help, they managed to turn Twilight's head and insert her horn into a hole in the wall. Light immediately began radiating outwards, forming a pulsing web of silver and gold that stretched up past the sky.

Then there was a soft hiss and the wall slid open, revealing a door. Nothing, but darkness beckoned. With a cautious hoof, Dash took the first step in, and like some scene from a sci-fi Daring Doo fanfic, the walls began to glow with the same light as outside. While it was still dim, it was enough for them to safely walk down the corridor. There was no dust, no rubble, and every surface was spotless. The mere fact that it was so clean gave Dash a sense of unease. Although Luna told them the place was safe, none of them dared speak and all of them tread carefully. Eventually they reached the end of the corridor and the door slid open of its own accord.

"Okay, that's just freaky." Gilda pulled out her dagger. "Is something watching us?"

"Luna said it would be safe..." Spitfire's voice wavered slightly as she said that.

"Who cares, we have to hurry," said Dash as she stepped into the open room. "Come on Twi, hang on a bit longer and we can get back before you know it."

As soon as Dash's hoof touched the marbled floor, the entire area immediately lit up causing the group to shrink back. Body tense, Dash blinked rapidly to clear her vision, but nothing attacked. The entire place was as silent as ever. All that could be heard was their heavy breathing and pounding hearts.

The room was absolutely massive, easily three or four times the size of Canterlot’s throne room. At the center of it was a pillar of swirling rainbow light, and around it were weird glass panels like windows that floated in midair above metal tables. It was too high for a pony to comfortably use, even while on hind legs, and the chairs were also oddly high. Perhaps alicorns used them? Twilight did say something about Yggdrasil being the birthplace of Celestia and Luna or something like that.

Slowly, the group crept forward with their backs to each other to keep an eye on the entire area. Still nothing came. No enemies, no monsters, no gloating villain. Sure, this wasn't exactly a Daring Doo, but that was all Dash had to go off of, and considering Nightmare Moon, Discord, Chrysalis, and who knows how many other villains they had taken down over the years, it seemed reality agreed.

"Okay, this place is pure creepy. Can we please do whatever it is we're doing and get out?" asked Gilda as her wings unfurled, ready to take to the air at the slightest movement.

"Agreed, I don't trust this place at all," whispered Spitfire. "Twilight, you mind telling us what to do?"

"Um... I don't recognize any of the equipment here. Luna said it would be straightforward, but this is all so alien to me."

"What!?" Spitfire looked murderous. "Fuck!"

"I can still work it though. Hopefully. Dash, touch the bench for me." With every word she transmitted, her voice grew softer. There was little doubt in Dash's mind Twilight was close to falling unconscious again, but what else could she do? Celestia only had so much time left.

Doing as she was asked, Dash touched the metal surface and the glass panel before her immediately lit up with weird symbols and diagrams. The letters looked similar though. All it took was a bit of squinting and a little tilt of the head, and it almost looked like words. With a quick glance over her shoulder, Dash watched as Twilight's eyes darted from left to right, obviously reading whatever it was. Probably some boring ancient script for how to make hay fries.

"Am I the only one that feels as though we're being watched?" asked Gilda as she pulled out her second knife.

"I've been feeling it too. It's like an itch I cannot scratch," said Spitfire. "How's it going back there?"

"Horrible. I know what the words say, but I don't know what they mean. It's like... like Dash reading a scientific article. They're words that I know, but it doesn't make any sense to me," sighed Twilight.

"But you know it right?" asked Spitfire.

"Of course she does," snapped Dash. "Otherwise how could she know she doesn't understa..." Dash's jaw dropped as extra words appeared on the screen. "Twi, did you just do that?"

"N-No. They're... definitions of some of the words and terms..."

"Shit!" Gilda spun around, knives at the ready. "Come out, we know you're there!"

Only silence greeted her words.

And then, a voice emerged from thin air, "Welcome back, Experiment 15332, I am glad to see you in such good health."

"What? Stop speaking gibberish! We've taken on a dragon and we can take you on too," yelled Dash.

"Experiment?" Spitfire looked up thoughtfully. "One of us was an experiment?"

"Correct. I take it you were not informed of this?" A whirling sound filled the air and red dots appeared on everyone. "Now, please state your purpose and intent. This is a government facility, and you are trespassing."

Dash opened her mouth, but Spitfire immediately cut in, "Princess Celestia is sick and we need a cure. Princess Luna directed us here to find the cure."

"Of course," replied the voice and the red lights vanished. "It is fortunate Celestia sought to retain multiple vials of the cure in case of such emergencies, it shall be ready in a couple of minutes."

"That was... that was easy," said Spitfire. "I must be too used to something going wrong. And just who are you?"

"My name is Serenity, and I am the caretaker of this facility." A green light passed over everyone, making them jump back defensively. "I apologize, that was a bioscan to inform me of your current conditions, as I detect one of you is sick. Do you know the reason for it? Perhaps there may be a cure within Yggdrasil's database."

"R-Really?" Dash looked around the room, trying to find the source of the voice. "That'd be awesome! Come on Twi, tell her your symptoms and she might be able to match it up with some disease or something." She finally turned back to Twilight and all the happiness drained out of her system. If anything, Twilight's eyes looked even deader than before.

"There is no cure, I know what's killing me and there's nothing I can do to stop it." Her voice even sounded hollow. "My... condition is the result of me channeling so much magic into my spells, overloading my nervous system. By this stage, I wouldn't be surprised if even the weakest of spells would cause irreversible damage."

"Twi-"

"Really now, there's no need to be so melodramatic," interrupted Serenity. "Your nerves are in a sorry state, but nothing says you'll be dying. From what my scans have revealed, it's clear that you will survive. In fact, with the database and technology I have, stem cell therapy could easily be carried out as long as Celestia agrees to it."

The group exchanged a confused look, but it was Dash who spoke up, "Stem... cell therapy? What is that? More experiments? Was that what Experiment..."

"Experiment 15332," supplied Spitfire.

"Yeah, was that what that experiment was about?" finished Dash.

"No it was..." The feminine voice hesitated. "That was something else."

"Cut the crap!" yelled Gilda. "One of us is that experiment you mentioned, so just fucking tell us already. Whoever it is deserves to know!"

"Very well, if only because the subject deserves to know. The experiment was an attempt to find a cure to the very disease that has now struck Celestia. That was all."

"Yeah right," growled Gilda as she took to the air. "If that was it, then you would have told us that to begin with. There's more, isn't there!"

A sigh echoed through the empty room. "Alicorns are immortal, viruses should not be able to infect them, and yet one has. That is the big secret, for it could be utilized as a weapon against Equestria, and that would be disastrous."

"Is that... is that even possible?" Spitfire was paler than flour. "To use diseases like that? As weapons?" A shudder passed through her body. "The number of ponies that would die from that. The number of innocents..."

Silence.

"So who is it?" asked Gilda, completely ignoring the tension. "I'm guessing either Dash or the unicorn."

"It's Twilight, isn't it?" asked Spitfire. "After all, she's the one currently sick, which could have been caused by the experimentation."

"Is... Is it true?" This wasn't the white hot anger Dash was used to feeling, instead it was as though she could see clearly for the first time since the journey began. "Was Twilight the experiment subject? Is her current condition caused by the experiments?"

More silence.

"Answer me, damn it!" screamed Dash as she glared all around the room. "Come out here and show your fucking face so I can fucking buck it in!"

"That is highly implausible, as the last time Experiment 15332 was seen, she was in perfect health. If it was the result of the virus, she would have been dead within a week. The virus in question in incapable of entering a lysogenic cycle. Twilight Sparkle's condition was not caused by the experiments, if the experiments were conducted on her," replied the voice.

"But that's not a 'no'!" Dash bucked the table in the middle, and hissed in pain. "Was Twilight the experiment or not! She deserves to fucking know!"

"Dash... it's fine," whispered Twilight.

"No! It's not fine. You deser-"

"Please..."

Shoulders drooping, all the anger evaporated and Dash plopped down next to Twilight. With a wing wrapped lightly around the unicorn, a tender nuzzle passed between the two.

"Sorry," whispered the pegasus.

"It's fine."

The silence was suddenly shattered by a loud beeping sound followed by a hiss as a hole opened up on the table and a weird needle thing filled with a clear liquid slid out. It looked like an 'L' shape with a barrel on top and some sort of hook-trigger lever along the short arm while the needle stuck out of the long arm.

"That's the cure?" Spitfire examined it from all angles. "I've never seen a needle designed like this before..."

"Talons," said Gilda as she held up her right claw. "Look at it, it's designed for claws. That bit there looks like a trigger for the index claw, and the rest wrap around the short side. Huh, looks pretty damn comfortable to hold actually."

"The gryphon is correct. It is an ancient design, but the only one available. It should be easy to manipulate using magic, for Celestia never had any difficulties using it." A sigh echoed through the room. "It is a shame I do not have a vial of her blood. The virus may have mutated, which may render the cure less than viable."

"A vial like this?" asked Spitfire as she held it out.

There was a pause followed by a very flat, "Yes."

"Um..." Spitfire looked around for a place to put it.

A tube came out of the table. "Place it in the container please."

The four exchanged a look, but Spitfire gently placed it in like the voice asked. It immediately closed and disappeared down the hole it appeared from. New pictures and words appeared on the screen.

Before the minute was even up the, the voice spoke once more, "I have good news and bad news. The bad news is the original antibodies won't work, the virus has mutated. The good news is we can synthesize a cure."

"Within a day?" asked Spitfire.

"Yes. But only if Experiment 15332 agrees," said the voice.

"And this pony is...?" Spitfire eased up to Dash, ready to restrain her if necessary, but Dash glared at the Wonderbolt and kept out of reach.

Serenity sighed once more. "The one you call 'Twilight Sparkle' is an experiment. She was created here, in this facility for the sole purpose of being able to create the antibodies necessary to stop this virus."

"You bitc-" began Dash, but Twilight immediately interrupted.

"Do it," came the strained whisper.

"What? No! It'll kill you!" yelled Dash and the sudden movement sent Twilight tumbling to the ground.

"Will it?" asked Spitfire in an obvious attempt to diffuse the situation.

"There is a ninety-six percent chance of dea-"

"You bitch!" screamed Dash.

The cyan pegasus leapt into the air, only for an orange and yellow blur to slam into her. Dash crashed to the ground, the air leaving her lungs. Rolling with the momentum, she slammed her hind hoof into Spitfire's stomach and threw Spitfire over her head. One hoof clutched at her stomach while Dash drew in a lungful of air. In the air hung Spitfire, not a trace of pain anywhere in her expression.

"Dash, please..."

"No! I won't let you die, I- There must be another way!" Not once did Dash's gaze waver from Spitfire.

"There isn't." Spitfire's equally intense gaze met Dash's. "Equestria needs Celestia."

"Shut up!" yelled Dash. "Just shut up! Who defeated Nightmare Moon! Discord!? Travelled to Tartarus and helped sealed the gate with the Elements of Harmony? Twilight Sparkle is the Bearer of Magic, and without her, Equestria would have been lost ten times over. Tell me, where was Celestia during all that? Where was Celestia when the Elements of Disharmony popped up? Where was Celestia when the remnants of Nightmare Moon tried to use the crystals in the Crystal Empire as an amplification matrix to destroy us all! Where in the fucking world was she!? And Twilight? Twilight united us, Twilight saved you! Without her, Equestria would no longer exist. That makes her far more important than Celestia."

"You're insane," growled Spitfire. "Celestia is the foundation of Equestria. Without her, Equestria would crumble into dust."

"Ha! Just like the gryphons right? Oh wait, they seem to be doing perfectly fine without an immortal ruler." Spitfire actually reared back slightly at Dash's biting retort.

Spitfire snorted. "And the gryphons have wars, corruption in government, and a famine."

"Or, you know, there's the other princess. Remember her? Starry mane, dark blue coat, a moon for a cutie mark? Luna, I think her name is?"

"Luna isn't able to run this country."

"Who says? When was the last time you even gave her the chance? You really think Celestia's running everything? Ha! I've been on more missions for Luna than you have ever run. Princess Luna is perfectly capable of running Equestria."

"Luna is distant at best and cold at worst." The two pegasi glared at each other. "She doesn't have the personality necessary to lead Equestria, nor does she have the rapport with the other nations."

"That's a lie and you know it," growled Dash. "Luna was the one who drafted and negotiated that treaty with the dragons."

"That doesn't matter! Celestia is the only one capable of leading a nation, and Twilight is the one that can save her!"

"Of course it matters. Our duty is to Equestria and without Twilight, Equestria would have been destroyed!" Foreheads pressed together, neither side gave an inch. "What if something happened again in the future? Twilight needs to stay alive."

"If Twilight dies, the Element of Magic will find another bearer," replied Spitfire as she dug her hooves in. "If Celestia dies, there will not be another. Luna might make a passable monarch, but Equestria is diarchy and it must stay that way."

"Why? Celestia seemed to do fine by herself for a thousand years. You’re grasping at straws, just admit it."

"Celestia created this nation. Celestia has ruled since its birth. Celestia will keep ruling even after we're dead and buried and forgotten. We will die, but she will not. She will allow Equestria to flourish far more than any of us can ever dream of."

"You're wrong!"

Dash's right hoof snapped out, narrowly missing Spitfire's face as she blocked at the last second. Two quick jabs followed the first, only to meet thin air as Spitfire shuffled back out of reach.

"You're fucking wrong!"

The two ponies slammed into the wall with a sickening crunch.

The tears in Dash's eyes may have blurred her vision, but that didn't stop her for a second. That yellow and orange blur before her was enough of a target. Each blow held all her anger and frustrations as Dash rained hit after hit on Spitfire. Every single last one either missed or was blocked, and Dash soon found herself pinned against the wall with a foreleg across her throat.

"Sorry Dash, but you're not thinking straight. I'm taking back leadership of this little mission and sadly, you're unfit for duty," Spitfire whispered in Dash's ear.

Dash struggled in Spitfire's grip, but there was nothing she could do as her vision slowly darkened before finally falling unconscious. All of a sudden, the pressure was gone and Dash collapsed on the ground, sweat dripping onto the floor as she took ragged breaths. Following Spitfire's gaze, all semblances of emotions left, leaving behind a void where Dash's heart once lay. There was Twilight, paler than ever before and above her loomed Gilda, withdrawing a needle out of the unicorn's arm.

"Sorry Dash, but she asked." Gilda almost sounded apologetic as she set the needle down on the table. "Said it was what she wanted."

Violet met magenta eyes, horror in one and acceptance in the other.

Then, Twilight's eyes slowly closed.

"No!" Dash scrambled to be by Twilight's side. "No! This can't be- You're wrong!" Her eyes darted around the room, tears flowing freely once more, but none could meet her eyes.

"No... Twi..."

This... this couldn't be happening! Dash had braved storms and dragons and changelings and Discord and... and... So why couldn't she save Twilight? The one pony that meant more than anything to her was dying and there was nothing she could do. Countless ponies saved over the years, countless more she would no doubt save in the future, but what good was all that when she was unable to save Twilight? The one pony that actually mattered.

"This... this can't be happening. Please, let this be a nightmare, some horrible, horrible nightmare," sobbed Dash.

But no matter how many times she repeated those words, reality would not change.

"Dash..." Never in Dash's life had she heard anypony sound so weak. Not even Granny Smith on her deathbed was this bad.

"Y-Yeah Twi?"

"Do... do you have any paper and quills?" Everyone blinked at that and despite the situation, Dash felt the corner of her lips tug upwards. "I want to write something for the others... for Celestia..."

"Speak, and I shall record it for you," said Serenity, sounding oddly muted despite the booming voice. "It is the least I can do."

"Thank you..." Twilight's breathing eased.

Silence descended as those gathered listened to her final words.

"Dear Princess Celestia, I am afraid this will be my final friendship report, but with any luck, it will find you in good health. Over this past week I have learned..."


16/02/982

It is over. It is finally over. The filly survived, Cadence survived, and I have created a vaccine to inject myself with as well. I have also adopted out the little filly to Nightlight and Twilight Velvet of the Solar Court. I know they are both upstanding citizens and desire another child, but are unable to conceive due to complications with Shining Armor's birth. It is my belief they will take great care of her.

All that remains is for me to come up with some way to bring Luna back. To think that was the starting point of this journey. Have almost a thousand years passed already? Time is such a fickle thing for immortals such as I, it's just so easy for it to slip by when we're not looking.

Luna...