• Published 28th Jun 2012
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A New Hero - Alex The Lone Wolf



What if there was another pony who joined the pony gang? (Look at longer description...)

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The Crystal Empire : Part One

Prelude

I began waking from a daze. I felt in total control now. My vision being blurry for a moment, I looked around and saw her with me in what appeared to be in the middle of nowhere. I noticed her, sadly. I sighed.

"Sorry, Luna…" I apologized to her unconscious face, knowing that it was my complete fault. I grunted and groaned in pain as I moved my hooves to push myself up from the ground. I was still a little sore. When I was fully up, I looked at her again, but then something suddenly caught my attention. I quickly looked back forward, noticing a bright light in the distance headed this way. I placed my hoof in front of my face to try to analyze the object accurately. It wasn't a false alarm. I had to move. "Quick." I stated boldly, but weakly. I limped towards her and used what was left of my magic to help her. The dark blue aura surrounded her, allowing me to move her. I continued to grunt, attempting to use the rest of my strength to transport her away from danger's way.

I looked ahead, noticing the bright light coming closer, causing me to move quicker. As I did, I looked around, attempting to find a place to hide. I spotted a closed off alley behind me. Nonetheless, I struggled towards in a charged motion, bursting through the light barricade. After the impact, I fell to the ground, due to the lack of strength, as well as causing me to accidentally drop Luna. She fell to the ground and released a groan. I released a weak breath and quickly rushed to her. I began slightly lifting her up with my forelegs, holding her in them. My ears perked, causing me to quickly look back to see the bright light. It was dead ahead of me. I began preparing my horn for any defensive attacks, no matter what the cost, as I continued to pant quietly. Fortunately the light seemed to look around for a moment and then vanished. I released a breath of relief and rested my horn. With Luna still in my forelegs, I looked back to see a passage through where we could escape and remain hidden.

Feeling my magical strength weaken, I decided to slowly erect my wings and wrap my right one around Luna.

"Come on… It's not over yet…" I spoke softly.

I began walking her through the passage, having some trouble with passing the barricades. I continued walking, reaching a small wooden ramp. I walked Luna to it, but at the end of the ramp, it collapsed, most likely due to our weight. This caused me to fall and accidentally release Luna's body from my wing. We both fell harshly to the ground as we both released a grunt of pain. Nonetheless, I managed to get on my legs and kneel by her, placing a hoof on her shoulder.

"I'll only slow you down…Just go…" She announced weakly, shaking her head and lying herself on the dirty floor.

I held out a hoof towards her. "You're not getting off that easily… Come on… You still have a whole lot of explaining to do…" She didn't reply, but instead weakly lifted her foreleg to touch mine. After, I gripped it, pulling her up from the floor and caressing her with my right wing again. I continued to slowly walk towards the door at the end. "After all we've been through…" I began as I continued to move. "It'd be a waste to give up now…" I reached the door but noticed an issue. It was barricaded with a wooden plank. I would've sighed, but I was too weak, and there was no time. Taking a risk, I readied my horn and concentrated on the plank. A dark blue aura formed around it. I took a moment, and then finally tried to pull the plank. It slightly formed cracks. I took a breath and tried pulling it off again. More cracks formed, and it looked as it was about to come off. I took another breath and gave one last pull. It broke off, causing me to throw it to the side and rest my horn. I raised my left hoof and pushed the door open.

It led me into a hall with an opening to the left. I saw a small light appear on the floor, causing me to quickly hug the wall and look around the corner. He was still there, continuing his possibly desperate search to find us. I waited until he finally left. Then, I continued walking Luna through the room.

"Let's try this way…" I released, continuing to hold Luna as I walked her through. As I did, I looked around, noticing how completely quiet and empty it was. I shook my head, refusing to allow any distractions disrupt us. "We're almost through this…"

When we stumbled through a hallway, Luna fell weakly to her knees, causing me to stop and hold a hoof on her back. I sighed and looked around. "Let's take a break…" We seemed to be safe for now…

I assisted Luna in placing her against the wall, allowing her to sit and rest. I moved next to her, forcefully planting myself in a seating manner against the wall as well, due to the lack of strength to do it slowly. I looked towards the ceiling. It was silent for a moment. I thought about everything…on how it came so suddenly…

"So…" I began. "Is it true…? Is he really…?"

"Yes…" Luna responded. "Unfortunately…it is…"

I sighed and looked towards the ground, shaking my head. "I just can't believe it… Why…? I had no idea about this…about any of this… It all seems like a nightmare to me really…" I looked towards her. "I respect and trust you Princess…but…I just can't seem to believe what he said…"

"I'm sorry, Alex… I did not know of it either… Tis quite shocking…" She looked at me. "But I just need thou to know that what thine did was the best for everypony…"

I didn't answer her for a moment. "…I suppose…"

Unexpectedly, my heart began racing. I placed a hoof to my heart and strained my eyes.

"Alex?" Princess Luna questioned.

I grunted. "Not again…" I could feel strands of darkness consume me. I tried to fight it. I shook my head and tried to push it away from me. After a while, I felt a relief of light flow through me. My heart resumed to its normal speed. I turned my head around and faced Luna.

She had just finished resting her horn and planted her head back against the wall. "Tis lucky it wasn't too late."

I released a deep breath of relief. I was still panting for several seconds. "Can't let your guard down for a second…" I grunted a few more times and crawled back next to Luna. I inhaled and exhaled for a few seconds, looking up towards the ceiling. Then, I turned to Luna. "How do you feel?"

"I think I'm going to be okay…" She thought for a moment and then faced me as well. "Thank you…" She added, most likely referring back to when I helped her through the whole mess…

I only nodded, my thoughts still battling with each other. I shook my head and stood up. "Come on…we still have a lot of work to do…" I held out my hoof.

She grabbed it and pulled herself up. Afterwards, we began walking towards the exit.

When we were out of our hiding spot, we took notice on how the streets were completely deserted. All that remained was darkness and silence. This frightened me.

"Dear Celestia…" I slipped out in a whisper.

"No time to waste, Alex." Luna looked towards me seriously. "We have to end this…"

I looked at her in silence for a moment. I nodded. "Right…"

We began walking towards the destination. I walked almost slowly, still feeling fear surround my heart. My head bobbed slightly as I stared at the floor, noticing my hooves move in motion. To my left, I could feel Luna looking at me, worriedly. It seemed as if she still wanted to talk about the situation, but we both knew there was no time for that.

Something suddenly stung my heart. I placed a hoof on my chest and then heard the sounds of small taps. I focused my eyes towards the ground and noticed a pebble bouncing rapidly on the floor. I motioned my facial expression to an alarmed and confused one and began hearing a sound that sounded like wind howling… It frightened me…

"Do you hear that…?" I asked Luna in a soft tone.

She nodded.

The noise grew louder, causing us to turn back. We noticed a huge wall of darkness that seemed to slightly grow larger as the noise grew louder. We analyzed it and found that it seemed to be hurtling towards us like an avalanche as it became nearer. I widened my eyes and held a hoof outstretched towards the other way. "Go… Go! RUN!"

We immediately began running in the opposite direction, away from the black wall of darkness that seemed to be slowly catching up to us with our current speed. We saw our destination not too far off. Believing we could make it, I sprinted faster. Letting my fears get the best of me, I tripped and landed on my stomach. Luna continued running until she noticed I wasn't by her side. She stopped, right in front of the doors. "Alex!" She exclaimed looking back towards me.

I tried crawling towards her, due to my leg being in pain, but I soon noticed that I wouldn't make it at that rate. Luna, without hesitation, quickly ran towards me, despite the wall of darkness gaining on me. When she was in front me, she picked me up and placed me on her back. She then sprinted and headed towards the doors to our destination. She barged it open and slammed it shut after charging inside. Once she knew we were safe, I rolled off her back and landed on the floor with a thud. We both were panting heavily.

After a short while of regaining our breath, I looked at Luna.

"…is that why you came back for me…?"

She shook her head. "Do not be silly. Anypony would have done the same…but I suppose it emphasizes it…"

I remained silent, looking at the floor, still in disbelief. I just couldn't believe it was true…

I slowly stood up and looked forward to two more double doors. I looked away for a moment, thinking. Then, I began walking.

When we reached the doors, I placed my hoof on them, but looked down in hesitation.

"What's wrong?" Luna asked.

I remained silent for a few seconds. "…I'm just scared, I guess…"

Luna placed a hoof on me. "I know how thou feels…but everypony is counting on us…"

I sighed. "Okay…" I pushed my hoof forward, opening the door and hearing the eerie creak of the door open. We walked in, looking around and seeing the place completely empty. "Something doesn't feel right…" I slipped softly. We continued walking cautiously. After a while, I stopped, feeling my legs tremble in fear and my heart beat pound.

"Alex…?" Luna inquired.

Suddenly, hooves pounded and shook the ground in front of us, catching our attention towards it.

It was him…

I furrowed my eyebrows in anger and readied my horn to attack.

"Back for more?"

Episode 53 – The Crystal Empire Part One

I slightly opened my eyes to notice the sun's morning rays of light shine on my face. I groaned softly and turned around to see Fluttershy right behind me, nuzzling my back. I formed a soft light smile and gazed at her adoring expression.

I slowly and quietly removed myself out of bed. Once I was on my four hooves, I looked around and startled myself when I spotted a pair of wings, along with a horn on my head. Then, I quickly remembered on what happened. I released a breath of relief. Right… I'm an Alicorn… Hm… I wonder when I'll change back…

"Good Morning." I heard a soft comforting voice behind me, causing me to turn my eyesight towards the direction.

I saw Fluttershy sitting up there, revealing morning eyes as her mane with a little ruffled in a very cute way. She rubbed her left eye with her left hoof and yawned.

"Good Morning, Fluttershy." I responded, turning my body towards her. "Did you sleep well?"

"Mm-hm." She nodded. "What about you?"

"Fantastic." I continued smiling at her warmly.

She removed herself from bed as well and walked to her mirror. She grabbed a brush and brushed her mane for a moment. After she finished, she turned to me. "What do you say we go practice those wings?"

"Sounds good to me."

She led me down the stairs and out the cottage.

When we were in a grassy field out back, she turned to me and smiled.

"Okay now, let's get started! First off, can you open your wings?"

"I…I think so…" I responded and looked at my wings. I tried to remember how I opened them last night, but it was pretty hard. I could feel some extra muscles on my side, but I couldn't really move them. My wings would slowly attempt to open in a stumbled motion, but they retracted back to the sides of my body. I slightly frowned.

"Don't worry about it." Fluttershy assured with her soft smile, placing her hoofs on my shoulders. I just couldn't help but gaze at her magnificent eyes, feeling the need to place another fervent kiss on her lips. "You just need to relax a bit… You might be tense." She rubbed me a little with her hooves in a circular motion.

I released a breath and nodded. I closed my eyes and tried imagining myself open my wings. Slowly, but surely, my wings began to extend. In a matter of seconds, they were fully erect. I opened my eyes and looked at them. "Phew."

Fluttershy giggled. "If that was hard, you might have some trouble in getting them to flap. Don't worry; the first time is the hardest. After, it'll be a breeze!" I smiled at her cute reaction. Afterwards, I began to attempt to bend and flex them. Still with some struggles, I managed to flap them a few times over time. "Woohoo!" She repeated that adorable soft cheering. She stretched out her wings and began lifting from the ground. "Now to get off the ground, you have to remove the weight from your body and just focus on your wings. It's like floating on water." I concentrated on her directions, removing the weight from my body and placing that energy on my wings. I began to lift off as well and achieved several feet to where Fluttershy was. She sent a sweet smile as she closed her eyes, slightly tilting her head. "Ready to go higher?"

"Sure."

She grabbed my hoof and led me higher in altitude. "Now, we just need to practice flying around." She released her soft grip from my hoof and began her directions for my training. "Try flying from left to right." Almost feeling like it's my first time roller skating, with the roller blades being my wings, I attempted flying as she told me. Fortunately, it felt as if I had some experience before, which I technically did, so I didn't have too much trouble. "Good!" She praised after I completed the task. "Now try lifting yourself up and down." I placed a little more force on flapping my wings, causing me to rise in altitude. Then, I did the complete opposite, lowering myself back down to Fluttershy after some time. She giggled and embraced me adorably, possibly due to how happy she was to see me flying with her.

She continued to coach me in my practice for flying. As time passed, I slightly became better with maneuvering and other tactics with flight.

I released a breath of relief. "Phew… My wings are already feeling tired."

"Don't worry." Fluttershy assured. "You'll become much better in no time."

I smiled lightly and placed a kiss on her cheek. "Thanks, Fluttershy."

Fluttershy slightly blushed and continued to look at me. "Why don't we go to Twilight's? She can help you practice your magic."

"Sure. I could give my wings a break."

Fluttershy continued to lightly smile as she grabbed my hoof and began leading me towards Twilight's home in Ponyville.

Having her library in our sight, we both decreased our speed and landed lightly on the ground, closing our wings and placing them back on our sides. We walked to her door, allowing me to knock pleasantly. After a few seconds, the door was opened.

"Oh, hey you two!" Twilight announced cheerfully, turning to me. "What brings you here?"

"I just thought I could use some magic training from my L.S.B.F.F." I added with a lightly playfully smirk.

She returned a favored smile and stepped to the side. "Come on in!" Fluttershy and I walked in as Twilight closed the door behind us. "So, what'd you have in mind?" She asked.

I shrugged. "Nothing in particular. I guess we could just start off from the basics and go on from there?"

"Sure thing." She looked around and analyzed the books on her shelves. "Alright… I think I know what we can do…" She focused on one specific book. "See that book right there?" She pointed. "The blue one."

"Yeah." I nodded.

"Go ahead and try to pull it out, and then put it back in."

"Okay…" I closed my eyes and began focusing my horn towards the book. I had some experience from last night with the bag of photos Derpy gave me, so it wasn't too unfamiliar. A dark blue aura formed around the book and I pulled it out almost easily. I slowly opened my eyes, not wanting to disrupt the spell. Twilight continued to observe my progress. Then, I pushed it back in while keeping my eyes slightly open.

"Excellent." Twilight commented. "How about two? And just don't pull them out and put them back in. This time, pull them out, switch them, and then place them back in the shelf."

"Got it…" Along with the blue book, I managed to order the aura to include the red one on the side as well. Once I did, I pulled them out, almost being as easy as pulling only the blue one. Once they were out, I had to focus them on switching. It was almost like juggling in a way. It felt like I had to create two different pathways, intersect them, and then separate them on the opposite sides, all this occurring in my mind.

Once I placed them back on the shelf, Twilight congratulated me and offered a supportive and encouraging high hoof.

As with the flight training, I spent some time working with my magic skills as well. Twilight tested me while using her books. She had me slowly increase the difficulty of the course by increasing the number of books I had to work with.

After finishing the last objective and feeling the need to rest my horn, I heard a familiar voice by the door. "Well look at you!"

I turned my head to the left and noticed Applejack, along with Pinkie Pie, Rarity, and Rainbow Dash standing there.

I slightly chuckled. "Thanks. What are you girls doing here?"

"We'd figured you'd be practicin' with Twilight here, so we came to watch and offer the support you need."

I sent a sweet smile. "I really appreciate that…"

"It's our pleasure, Alex." Rarity added, walking a step towards me. "Especially to such a handsome young stallion as yourself." She looked at me, tilting her head and blinking her long eyelashes.

I chuckled and slightly blushed, looking away as well. "Thanks, Rarity."

Twilight, smiling at the situation as well, began to speak. "Well, then. I guess that's enough training for now, isn't it?"

I nodded. "I should let both my wings and horn rest."

Twilight placed a hoof under her chin and rubbed it. "I wonder what Spike is up to… I haven't really seen him all morning…" She looked up towards her stairs. "Spike?" She called.

Spike came walking down the stairs after a few seconds, carrying something in his right claw. "Sorry. I've been busy with the Princess. She uh…" He rubbed his head and looked at the ground. He faced Twilight. "She wants to give you a test…and she seemed pretty serious about it."

"A test?!" Twilight gasped. "Spike, please tell me your joking. I haven't had any time to study for a test! I didn't even know there was a test!"

He returned a shrug. "Sorry, Twilight. She just sent this letter this morning."

"Oh no!" Twilight began releasing signs of panic. "She must be waiting for me right now! I can't keep her waiting!" She began breathing deeply, running all over the room. "Where are all my quills?" She ran across the room as Spike retrieved and held a giant sack to hold her things. "Brbrbr." She desperately looked around until she found a cup holding a few quills. She quickly grabbed them with her magic and threw them towards the sack Spike was holding as he leaped into the air to catch them. They were shot so rapidly that the sharp ends of the quills pierced through the bag. "No, no, no, no, no..." She expressed as she examined through every book she pulled out of the shelf. "Ugh! I need the Magical Compendium volumes 1-36!" She exclaimed as I notice the girls at the door give their own expressions to the scene. Applejack was smiling, as if her body language responded the message "Twi, you're overreacting again." Rarity could only stare at the scene with a slightly agape mouth. Fluttershy lowered her head and appeared as if she was trying to hold in laughter, smiling widely but lightly. Rainbow Dash, on the other hoof, returned a worried expression. "Where is it?" She asked as Rarity and Applejack exchanged looks, of course Rarity looking concerned about the scene as Applejack shrugged it off. Twilight threw out books from the shelf until she spotted a huge one, revealing a face of delight. Spike noticed the bookasaur, holding out his claws to catch it. However, I knew he wouldn't be able to hold it up, so as soon as it dropped, I quickly focused my horn and caught it, helping Spike place it inside the bag. Twilight merely observed for a second and continued her pursuit of preparations. "Flash cards!" She clapped her hooves and raced to another part of the room. "I should make some flash cards." Twilight opened a drawer and pulled out many stacks of flashcards. "Spike, I'm gonna need you to quiz me. On everything." She threw the cards towards him, causing him to quickly react and catch them. "Everything I've ever learned. Ever." She observed the amount of cards Spike was holding and rubbed her chin. "That isn't going to be enough cards."

Twilight ran across the room. Spike returned an irritated expression and placed the cards on the floor, outstretching his arms down his body. "Twilight, calm down. It's just a test."

Twilight canceled her search for her cards and turned her head to Spike. "Just a test?" She sped towards Spike and exclaimed loudly, causing me to widen my eyes. "Just a test?" Twilight continued speaking in a rush as she walked towards Spike, causing him to slowly back away. "Princess Celestia wants to give me some kind of exam and you're trying to tell me to calm down because it's just a test?!" She asked in disbelief.

Spike quickly retrieved some protective equipment for some reason and placed it on. "Uh...yes?"

Twilight stretched out her face in stress and her horn began glowing, causing me to slightly frown in worry. As her eye twitched, Applejack decided to comment on the situation. "I'd say she's handling things pretty well," She directed to Rarity, causing her frown to shift to a smile. "…considering."

"Uh…"

Before I could try to speak, the tree house was suddenly shot towards the air and forced back down as Twilight exploded in anger. "Urgh!"

She was huffing and puffing deeply. I walked towards her, still containing my worried frown on my face. "Twilight…" I held out a hoof and placed it on her shoulder. "You'll do fine. Since when did you ever fail a test?" I asked, forming an assuring smile.

"Oh that reminds me…" Spike continued, removing the protection from his body. "Princess Celestia wanted to see you too, Alex."

"Me?" I inquired, becoming slightly confused. "Why? Am I going to get a test too?"

He shrugged. "Not sure." He responded, walking over to a broom to begin sweeping. "Maybe, I don't know."

Twilight looked over to me, cooling down a little more. "Are we taking a test together…? I mean…I understand about me, because I'm her student, but…you…?"

"I don't know…but we better go see what she needs us to do then."

"Well…I guess I feel a little better since I won't be alone."

I returned a confident smile. "Anything to make you feel better."

She smiled as well and looked back to face Spike. "Come on, Spike. We're leaving."

As he finished sweeping and began running to place the broom away, we faced the girls.

"Well, I guess we'll see you girls later…" I believed.

"Don't worry. Ya'll do great!" Applejack guaranteed.

"Yes." Rarity nodded. "If there's any two ponies smart enough to ace a test like nothing, it's you two!"

I chuckled slightly in embarrassment. "Thanks, again."

Once Spike caught up to us, I gave Fluttershy a quick hug and walked with Twilight towards the train station as she carried a huge saddlebag full of supplies.

When we arrived in Canterlot, we began making our way towards Princess Celestia's location. From my peripheral view, I observed Twilight. She seemed to becoming a tad nervous again. Deciding I could ease her a little, I smiled and slipped out a joke. "Let's sit together so I can take a few peeks of your answers."

Twilight shifted her eyes towards me and giggled. "Oh, Alex. This could be the most important test of our lives, and you're here joking about it?"

"Well… I suppose you can't take everything too serious… I just want to ease your nerves a little, that's all. It's most likely that you won't do as great as you would when you're not nervous."

"Yeah… You know what? You're right. I can handle any test! Right, Spike?" She asked Spike, who was sitting on her back.

"Mm-hm!" He mumbled, chewing on some snacks he appeared to have brought along.

We reached the staircase to the building and stopped. Twilight placed Spike on the ground and spoke to him. "Okay, you stay here Spike. We'll be out in a while.

"Sure thing." He sat on the first step of the staircase and continued eating. "Good luck!"

Twilight grinned and looked towards me, motioning her head to start our journey. I nodded and felt a lot better now that Twilight seemed to be confident.

We walked through the halls, eventually arriving in the huge hall Princess Celestia was in. "Ahem." As Twilight cleared her throat, catching the Princess's attention, I noticed there was another pony with her…Princess Luna! Princess Celestia whispered something to her, allowing her to walk away. I couldn't help but notice a real…irritated or annoyed expression on Luna's face for some reason… "You wanted to see us? To give us a test?" Twilight continued as Princess Luna walked past us. Princess Luna glanced at Twilight for a moment. Then, she turned straight forward and continued walking. I just couldn't help but feel something bothering her… I returned a frown as I observed her continuing to walk. I decided I could find out what's wrong before starting this test… "I brought my own quills. And plenty of paper to show my work…"

I walked out of the hall and looked around for her. I spotted her waiting near the doors. She was sitting and staring at the ground in an irritated manner. I walked up to her. "Princess Luna…!" I announced in slight surprise. This caused her to widen her eyes a little and immediately stand up to face me. My eyebrows furrowed concernedly as I tilted my head to the side. "…Are you okay…?"

She sighed and faced the ground. "I'm fine, Alexander…"

"You don't sound fine… It looks like something specific is troubling you greatly…"

She looked around and narrowed her eyes in an annoyed manner. "It is nothing…"

I pushed my head a little towards her. "But…"

"You should go listen to what Princess Celestia has to say… It is important…"

I sighed. "Okay…" I turned around and began heading back to the hall. However, I stopped for a moment and glanced at her. "Come talk to me anytime you want…" She returned silence, not even sparing a look towards me. This caused me to look forward and walk towards the hall, almost sadly. As I entered, I shook my head and tried to not let it distract me for now. I faced Princess Celestia and Twilight, who seemed to be waiting for me. "So…what's our assignment?" I asked.

"This is no ordinary assignment…" She began. She remained silent for a moment, closing her eyes in a pause. Then, she inhaled a breath and continued. "The Crystal Empire has returned."

"Crystal Empire…?" I questioned, forming an intrigued face.

However, Twilight quickly pulled out the books in her saddlebag and began flipping through them quickly. "I'm sorry, I-I thought I'd studied. Ooh. I don't think there's anything in any of my books th—

"There wouldn't be." Princess Celestia answered and turned to face her throne. "Few remember it ever existed at all." She used her magic to lift up a glass case protecting some kind of stone that looked like a long diamond. She placed it in front of us, causing Twilight to lift up a hoof and tilt her head in curiosity. "Even my knowledge of the empire is limited." Princess Celestia suddenly shot a beam of magic towards it, causing both the diamond to reveal a map and us to back away. The magic surrounding the diamond shot upwards and revealed a large castle in the middle of the map. "But what I do know is that it contains a powerful magic. One thousand years ago, King Sombra, a unicorn whose heart was black as night," The map depicted a peaceful and beautiful town ran by calm ponies, but suddenly transformed into what appeared to be a desert landscape with stones everywhere. "…took over the Crystal Empire." In the center, the top of the castle was suddenly transformed into a face of a horrendous pony. He watched as the other crystal ponies, now appearing to be sickly ill and dull as they were slaved and chained. "Then He was ultimately overthrown, turning to shadow and banished to the ice of the arctic north." She added as the image depicted both her and Princess Luna working together to defeat him and send him away in frozen ice. "But not before he was able to put a curse upon the empire. A curse that caused it to vanish into thin air." The image held before us suddenly disappeared back into the crystal. "If the empire is filled with hope and love," Princess Celestia lifted the crystal and shot a beam at it. "…those things are reflected across all of Equestria." A beautifully colored and transparent rainbow formed throughout the room, causing Twilight to reveal an expression of awe. "If hatred and fear take hold..." Princess Celestia suddenly shifted her facial expression and formed a dark and disturbing one, shocking me as I had never seen a face anywhere CLOSE to what she presented. She sent out another beam of magic, this one being darker and dull. It entered the crystal, infusing it with its color and causing for a shadow to head towards us, revealing what appeared to be thorny stones. This shocked Twilight and me as we looked around us, noticing the stones grow and spread. However, Princess Celestia destroyed them with her magic. "Which is why I need your help finding a way to protect it."

"You want us to help protect an entire empire?" She lowered her head, now looking sadly.

"It is, as I said, a different kind of test. But for Alex, it's more a challenge to see if he's fit to handle his new abilities." She looked towards me, directing at my wings and horn. "Remember… With great power comes great responsibility." I looked at her for a moment and then nodded confidently. "This assignment, I'm certain you both will pass."

Twilight stared at the floor for a moment and then revealed a confident facial expression as well. "How do I begin?"

"By joining Princess Cadence and Shining Armor in the Crystal Empire." She answered as she walked past us.

Miss Cadence?

"My brother is there?" Twilight asked, excitedly.

"He is." Twilight and I caught up with her and began walking by her side. "And your Ponyville friends will join you there as well. I have every confidence you will succeed. And when you do, I'll know you are ready to move on to the next level of your studies." We reached the end of the hall. Twilight and I looked to our right to see Princess Luna standing there. She returned a very strict and joyless expression, causing me to increase my worry about her, but for Twilight to worry about the assignment.

"But…what if I mess everything up and cause both of us to fail…?" Twilight asked.

"You wont."

"But what if—

Princess Celestia stopped her by placing a hoof on her. "You won't." However, seeming to be unconvinced, Twilight continued walking with a lowered head. "But Twilight," She glanced back at the Princess. "In the end, it must be you two and you two alone who ultimately assists Princess Cadence and Shining Armor in doing what needs to be done to protect the empire...together. Do you understand?"

As Princess Celestia spoke, I could only keep my eyes drawn to Princess Luna's face. She seemed so…lifeless…and if not that, irritated. She didn't smile or offer one sign of encouragement towards us. I was beginning to worry greatly about her…

Twilight looked towards me when Princess Celestia finished and smiled in a determined matter. She stomped her hoof on the ground and stood proudly. "Mm-hm!"

"Then go. There is no time to lose."

The last thing I could see as Princess Celestia closed the doors shut was Luna's exasperated expression. She was staring intensely at me, and then the doors shut, breaking it. I was frightened. It almost appeared as if she actually hated me… Of course, I know that's not the case…but her appearance was just…

My thoughts were cut short when Twilight began walking off. I quickly looked back and followed her.

We found Spike continuing to sit on the step, waiting for us as he placed his face on his claws, empty of snacks. When he heard our hoofsteps, he quickly jumped. "Ah! Twilight! Alex! That was fast! Let me guess, you got a perfect score?" He bumped her nose with his claw playfully, standing proudly. I remained silent, mostly due to Luna's expression. Twilight repeated me, but walked away sadly. "A-minus?" Spike guessed, catching up with Twilight and holding a grin as I walked by her. "B-plus?" Twilight stopped a few steps ahead of him and continued to form a gloomy expression. This caused Spike to gasp and rub his claws nervously. "Did you…" He spoke quietly. "…fail…?"

Twilight looked back at him with her gloomy expression. She inhaled a breath and began singing.

"I was prepared to do my best" She began walking, causing me to frown and form a concerned expression for her as I followed her.

"Thought I could handle any test" Spike tagged along as well.

"For I can do so many tricks

But I wasn't prepared for this"

We reached town, noticing a waiter bring a mare tea.

"Levitation would have been a breeze" Twilight had poured the tea into the mare's cup, surprising both the waiter and her a bit.

"Facts and figures I recite with ease"

She sat down and lifted a hoof to the air. "The square root of five hundred and forty-six is twenty-three point three six six six four two eight nine one zero nine."

She answered her own number so quickly, causing Spike and I to return widened eyes. We exchanged a short look with each other, and then, using my magic, I grabbed a pencil and paper nearby and did the calculations myself, taking a few seconds. When I received the result, I widened my eyes and answered. "She's correct…"

Nonetheless, Twilight grabbed Spike and lifted him up, twirling him in the air.

"I could ace a quiz on friendship's bliss" She dropped him and ran towards the edge of Canterlot, looking out towards the view as the wind blew our manes.

"But I wasn't prepared for this

Will I fail, or will I pass?

I can't be sure..."

"She can't be sure…" Spike joined as Twilight ran off to another place.

She stopped near a pond with a bridge.

"My mind is sharp, my skills intact

My heart is pure..." She teleported to each Lilli pad gracefully.

"Her heart is pure…" Spike joined in rhythm.

"Oh, I've taken my share of licks" Twilight continued as Spike danced around her.

"I've made it through the thin and thick

But no I wasn't" She emphasized as the town bells began ringing.

"Oh no, she wasn't"

"Oh no, I wasn't"

"Oh no, she wasn't"

"No I wasn't…" Spike joined her for her last words. "Prepared... for this!"

After finishing, Twilight and I reached the train station. Spike was jogging behind us, happily. However, noticing and recognizing Twilight's condition again, he frowned. "Uh, prepared for what, exactly?"

Twilight only glanced at him before we heard Applejack's voice call us. "Alex! Twilight!" She jumped over to us and hugged us, managing to bring a smile upon our faces. "Did ya'll pass?"

Pinkie Pie knocked Spike out of the way with her party cannon. "Are we gonna celebrate your awesomeness with Princess Celestia?" She had lit the fuse and placed her hooves on her ears. Oncee the cannon exploded confetti upwards, Pinkie jumped into the air along with them as well.

"Not quite." Twilight responded, causing Pinkie to stop and reverse her movements, somehow affecting the confetti as well. "We're going to the Crystal Empire!"

The girls immediately shared looks of confusion towards each other.

"The Crystal Empire." I began explaining. "It's supposed to be where the crystal ponies live. Princess Celestia stated that it's mysteriously come back after one thousand years. It's still pretty confusing to me right now, really…"

"Right…" Twilight and agreed and looked towards ahead, noticing something coming on the train tracks. "That must our ride." She looked towards the other ponies. "Do any of you need stop for anything? It's going to be a little chilly on the way…"

"Oh! In that case, let me get my new scarves!" Rarity responded excitedly as the train arrived and stopped for us.

"Fine… Just make it quick, we don't have much time to lose." Twilight answered as we began boarding.

The train ride was pretty quick, although it would have gone faster if Rarity hadn't packed so many scarves… All of us had returned a look towards her when she walked in the train with Spike trailing behind her, carrying all of her suitcases.

Right now, we were in a freezing area. I looked out the window, seeing a somewhat small blizzard outside. The train whistle blew. Once we felt the train coming to a stop, we all walked towards the door and waited for it to open. When it did, we were immediately welcomed with snow and heavy cold winds. Twilight had to place a hoof in front of her due to this. Everypony, including me, walked out of the train, except for Rarity, who was lagging along with Spike.

"Ha!" She laughed. "And you all made fun of me for packing so many scarves."

Spike grunted, carrying so many items on his back. "I didn't say a word. Whoa!" He slipped on the ice, causing me to quickly focus my magic and hold the items before the fell.

I grunted slightly, still not used to the amount of weight I could hold with magic. "Rarity…could you have at least brought only one suitcase of scarves…?"

"My apologies, Alex, but I must have a different scarf that fits the occasion!" She grinned happily.

I grunted once more, feeling a drop a sweat fall from my face. "What occasion?"

"Twilight!" We heard a familiar voice.

"Shining Armor?" Twilight responded, causing me to look to my right and notice her brother coming towards us.

"I'll take it from here Alex." Spike offered.

"Thanks…" I replied and placed the stuff gently back on him.

Shining Armor removed the winter gear from his face. "Twily! You made it." They both exchanged a hug as I walked towards them. Shining Armor noticed me and stuck out his hoof. "It's nice to see you again."

I grabbed it and shook it. "The feeling's mutual."

"I'd love to ask how things are, but right now, we better get moving. There are things out here we really don't want to run into after dark."

I could hear Fluttershy gulp behind me. "What kind of things?" She asked in a soft and fearful tone.

"Let's just say the empire... isn't the only thing that's returned." His response caused the girls behind us to exchange worried expressions. "Come on. Let's get moving." He began leading the way.

I followed him but slowed down to allow Fluttershy to catch up to me. Once she did, I noticed she was slightly shivering. I didn't blame her. It was freezing out here. I stretched out a wing and wrapped it around her. She noticed this and released a soft smile towards me.

As we continued moving, the blizzard began getting stronger.

"What's with this blizzard?" I asked, having to put some extra effort to both raise my voice and walk through the snow.

"Something keeps trying to get in! We think it's the unicorn king who originally cursed the place." He answered, raising his voice as well.

"…King Sombra?"

"But Princess Celestia said I was being sent here to find a way to protect the empire!" Twilight yelled through the blizzard. "If King Sombra can't get in, then it must already be protected."

Suddenly, we heard something in the distance, causing us to stop in our tracks. It sounded like…a roar…

Fluttershy gasped. "Th-That's one of the things, isn't it?"

"Guh. We have to get to the Crystal Empire. Now." Shining Armor highly recommended.

Unexpectedly, we heard something form behind us, causing us to look back. This humongous shadow appeared right before us, and we could see these terrifying eyes on it.

"What the… What the hay is that!?" I exclaimed. Spike on the other hoof was trembling, stunned by the shadow, making Shining Armor pull him away and leaving the baggage behind. The shadow noticed and began rushing towards us like an avalanche! "Run!" I yelled, commencing us to dash away.

Twilight noticed Spike running in front of her. She lowered her head and picked up Spike, placing him on her back. "Go, go!" She exclaimed.

I remained with Fluttershy, making sure she didn't get left behind. But I couldn't help and look back at the shadow as I ran, feeling more than just fear…

"Almost there." I heard Shining Armor say. I looked to the front to see some kind of bubble ahead. We all continued running until we finally reached the bubble. The girls quickly dashed inside, but I felt somepony was missing. I looked back to see Shining Armor struggling with the shadow. "Shining Armor!" I yelled out and quickly sprinted towards him. He appeared to be forced inside towards the shadow. Once I reached him, I quickly dove inside, using as much as I could to free him with my own magic and heart. I managed to create a bright light inside, damaging the shadow temporarily enough to free Shining Armor. However, during the process, I felt something change inside of me… I didn't worry about it at that time. Instead, I focused on Shining Armor. "Come on! Let's go!" I shouted, grabbing his hoof and helping him up. Then, we quickly sprinted towards the bubble and dove inside, making it just in time before the shadow could get us.

Once in, I was panting heavily as I clenched my hooves towards my heart. What was that…?

"Alex! Shining Armor! Are you okay?" Twilight asked us.

"I…think so…" I replied between breaths.

"Oh no, Shining Armor, your horn!" Twilight raced towards him, noticing the top of his horn appear to be blocked by those familiar looking stones Twilight and I witnessed during Princess Celestia's instructions.

He tried casting some magic, but it failed. He shook his head to emphasize it.

Once we finally caught our breath, we stood up and walked towards the location we were in.

"Sparklriffic!" Pinkie Pie cried in awe, due to the appearance of the town. The Crystal Empire.

"It's gorgeous! Absolutely gorgeous!" Rarity exclaimed in excitement as well as she observed the crystal layer of the entire area. She mumbled incoherently. "There are no words!"

"Focus, Rarity." Applejack placed a hoof on her. "We're here to help Twilight, not admire the scenery."

"Eh, I don't see what the big deal is. Just looks like another old castle to me." Rainbow Dash commented on her point of view.

"A- p- guh!" Rarity reacted dramatically. " Another old...! Have you lost your mind?! Look at the mag—Applejack and Rainbow Dash began laughing, cutting her off and making her realize the joke they played on her. "Very funny." She responded as we walked through the doors into the castle.

"Thanks for saving me back there, Alex." Shining Armor expressed towards me as we continued to walk. "I owe you big."

I shook my head. "It was nothing." I looked around the interior of the castle. "…so this is where you and Miss Cadence live now?"

"Yeah." He nodded. "Do you mind if I ask why you add the Miss in the beginning of her name?"

"She used to be my teacher when I was young."

"Oh, right! She told me about that."

We entered through another couple doors, noticing Miss Cadence sitting at the far end of the room. She didn't look the same…

"Cadence!" Twilight shouted out, running towards her.

Miss Cadence lifted her head and smiled, rushing towards Twilight as well. When they were close to each other they began dancing that same dance from before, affecting me to smile as I walked towards them.

"Sunshine, sunshine, ladybugs awake. Clap your hooves and do a little shake!" They both laughed. Miss Cadence opened her eyes and noticed me. "Alex!" She stretched out her hooves and brought me in for a warm embrace. I chuckled and placed my hooves on her as well. "It feels so good to see you!"

"You too, Miss Cadence." I replied. After a few seconds, she pulled away. When she did, I was shocked to notice the changes to her face. There were bags under her eyes, as if she hadn't slept in a long time. "Miss Cadence…?" I asked, very worriedly.

Before she could answer, she closed her eyes, straining them as the aura from her horn flickered. "One of these days we need to get together when the fate of Equestria isn't hanging in the balance." She closed her eyes and sighed tiredly.

"Miss Cadence…you don't look so good… Are you alright?" I inquired.

"Cadence has been able to use her magic to spread love and light." Shining Armor answered stepping next to her. "That seems to be what is protecting it. But she hasn't slept, barely eats." Poor Miss Cadence…I could only feel sorry for her as I noticed her close her eyes and lower her head in extreme fatigue. "I want to help her, but my protection spell has been countered by King Sombra."

Miss Cadence released a deep breath. "It's alright Shining Armor, I'm fine."

"She's not fine. She can't go on like this forever, and if her magic were to fade, well, you saw what's out there waiting for that to happen."

"That's why we're here." Twilight announced.

"Why we're all here." Applejack added, triggering the girls to agree along.

"Well, with Cadence putting all her strength into keeping her spell going," Shining Armor spoke as I continued to notice Miss Cadence swing gently and keep her eyes closed. "…and me trying to keep an eye on signs of trouble in the arctic, we haven't been able to gather much information from the Crystal Ponies."

"Crystal Ponies?" Rarity suddenly exclaimed, forgetting about the big picture here. "Hahaha, there are Crystal Ponies?!" She pulled her hair down in excitement, but when she noticed the looks the other girls gave her, she stopped. "Umm, hmm. Please continue."

"But we have to believe one of them knows how to protect the empire, without having to use Cadence's magic."

"And we have to do it fast…" I expressed, continuing to observe Miss Cadence. "I can't stand to see her like this…"

Shining Armor suddenly gasped and looked towards me. "Alex!"

"Hm?"

"You're an Alicorn! Can't you place a protection spell on the empire yourself?"

I frowned and shook my head solemnly. "As much as I would love to do that, I can't right now… My magic is not that advanced yet. I barely know how to move things around…"

"Oh…" He looked disappointed.

"Sorry…"

"A research paper!" Twilight suddenly cried out.

"Huh?" Shining Armor formed a confused expression.

"That must be part of our test; to gather information from the crystal ponies and deliver it to you!" Twilight paced around excitedly. "This is gonna be great! I love research papers!"

I don't think Princess Celestia sent us on a dangerous mission, just to write research papers…

"Yeah…" Rainbow Dash nudged Pinkie and added sarcastically. "Who doesn't?"

"Ohohoh! Lemme guess!" Pinkie Pie waved her hoof around excitedly and held up Spike. "Is it Spike?" She placed him to the side and retrieved Fluttershy. "Nono, Fluttershy! Rarity?"

"Don't worry, big brother. I'm really good at this sort of thing." Twilight assured.

"Please hurry. I don't know how much more Cadence can keep up with this…"

"Got it." She faced everypony. "Okay, girls. Spread out and try to find out as much as you can. Alex, Spike, and I will look for ponies to talk to."

They all nodded and raced out the hallway. Twilight followed in their motion, but stopped when she noticed I wasn't by her side. "Alex? Are you coming?"

"Y-yeah…" I glanced back at Cadence to notice her horrible condition. I sighed mentally and muttered under my breath. "Don't worry…I'll do this as quick as possible, Miss Cadence…" Afterwards, I caught up with her and followed her outside of the castle.

"Okay…let's start looking around here." She led us towards the left side of town, revealing houses. We walked up the small steps towards a red crystallized house. Twilight knocked on the door. After several slow seconds, the door opened.

"H…Hello…?"

"Hello." Twilight greeted one of the crystal ponies that seemed to be very…depressed and dull… "We were just wondering if you might know any information special to the Crystal Empire, like an automatic protection spell or something."

"…huh…?"

"You ponies have been gone for a thousand years. It's only today that this place reappeared all of a sudden. We need your help; any information is truly accepted and appreciated."

"I…" The mare paused for a moment. "I'm sorry…I don't know anything…"

"Are you sure? Absolutely sure?" Twilight formed a frown.

"I'm sorry. I wish I could help you. But I... can't seem to remember anything before King Sombra came to power." She suddenly lowered her head and strained her eyes, causing me to become concerned, but feel a little chill as well. "And I don't want to remember anything about the time he ruled over us." She shuddered.

"King Sombra's spell must be why their coats aren't... crystally." Twilight whispered to us.

"Have we really been gone a thousand years?" The mare asked.

"Yes." Twilight answered.

"It feels like it was just yesterday…"

"If you think of anything, even the smallest thing..."

"Of course." She walked backwards and slowly closed the door shut.

"Well that was a total bust." Spike commented and walked down the steps.

I shook my head. "I don't like the look of this. First, Miss Cadence looks horrible from having her protection spell activated so long without rest. Now, the Crystal Ponies look significantly depressed…"

"I know…" Twilight agreed. "Maybe the others are having better luck."

After several more failed attempts in receiving any information, Twilight, Spike, and I returned to the center of the castle, meeting the others there as well. Rainbow Dash had just flown by, sighing when she landed. "I got nothing so far."

"Oh, me neither." Rarity was fluffing her hair and added in a more non-serious way.

"Are you sure you were trying to get some information…?" I asked, based on how her behavior was. However, I heard some hoofsteps, noticing Fluttershy step next to me. "Oh, hey Fluttershy." I began moving my face towards her to plant my lips on hers, as I had not done so in a long while.

Just before I could, I heard something unzip and fall to the floor. I opened my eyes and noticed my mouth right in front of Pinkie's as she just smiled straight at me. I widened my eyes and looked at the floor. I saw Fluttershy's outer appearance wrinkled all over the floor. "What the?!" I exclaimed in surprise.

"That reminds me!" Pinkie responded. She looked around suspiciously and then at Twilight. "My cover has been blown." She spoke in a hushed tone and placed a hoof on Twilight's head. "I repeat, my cover has been blown!"

"Ooookay." Twilight responded as she fled. I noticed the real Fluttershy walk towards me as I released a breath of relief.

"Sorry, Twilight." Applejack apologized as Fluttershy stepped onto of the costume of herself, forming a shocked and confused look while backing away from it. "These crystal ponies seem to have some kinda collective amnesia or somethin'. Only thing I was able to get out of 'em was somethin' about a library."

Twilight immediately gasped and placed both of her hooves on her cheeks. "A library?" She then placed her hooves on Applejack. "Why didn't you say so?!"

"Uh... thought I just did." Applejack replied as Twilight galloped off.

The rest of us looked at her direction and followed her.

Reaching the library, I wanted to kiss Fluttershy, but I still felt worried with the almost accident that could have happened with Pinkie. I needed time to recover. We walked up the stairs and opened the doors, which revealed a large and vast amount of books in different shelves, everything crystallized as well.

"I just... I don't even know what to... There are no words." Twilight released in awe as she must have recognized that her favorite place in the world did not compare to this library.

"Ahem." We heard a soft, almost quiet, voice announce. We turned to see an older mare, who appeared to be the librarian. "May I help you?"

"Yes. We're looking for a book." Twilight answered happily.

"We have plenty of those." The librarian pointed a hoof towards the vast majority of them, but kept her monotone expression.

"You do. You really do." Twilight expressed, continuing to be in stunning awe as she twirled around in place.

"Alright…" I said and shifted my eyes towards the librarian. "We're looking for some kind of book, history preferably, that'll tell us how a protective spell was placed in the past for any kind of dangers."

"Yes. Of course." She thought and rubbed her chin. "History, history... Ah, yes." She pointed a hoof upwards, seeming to remember.

The girls returned huge grins of accomplishment.

However, the librarian continued to look at us saying nothing. I looked around a bit awkwardly until Twilight spoke up, broken from her spell. "...which is where, exactly?"

"I... I can't seem to remember. I'm not sure I actually work here."

"Uh…" I slipped out in slight confusion.

On the contrary, Rainbow Dash rubbed a hoof on her face, groaning in frustration. "Guh!"

"We'll just take a look around." Twilight offered, allowing the girls to feel a little more confident as I walked with her to the main part of the library. "I'm sure we can find it on our own."

"Let me know if you find anything." We heard the librarian say behind us.

"I like her!" Pinkie Pie expressed joyfully, catching up to us.

As we continued to walk, I looked at Twilight. "Do you really think we can find the specific book we're looking for in this library?" I shook my head. "There doesn't even appear to be any signs anywhere to guide us."

"Don't worry." Twilight assured. "With the eight of us, we're bound to find it!"

"Whatever you say…"

As the girls separated to look in different parts of the library, I stayed with Fluttershy, figuring I haven't spent much time with her on this mission.

"Hey, Fluttershy… sorry I've been mainly too serious about this to spend time with you right now…" I announced as Fluttershy and I were both looking and flipping our hooves through books.

"Oh, it's alright. I understand. This is really important, and there's always enough time to spend together after."

I nodded. "Alright…" I placed a kiss on her cheek and continued looking through the books.

She paused for a moment, smiling at me, and resumed her work.

We felt a rush of wind blow through us. I turned my head around to notice Rainbow Dash had past by us on a ladder. Several books had fallen to the floor around us.

"Any luck up there?" I asked.

Rainbow sighed. "Nope…"

"Uh, anyone else startin' to think this is a lost cause?" Applejack asked after she finished shuffling through several books.

"No, no, no, no, no..." We heard Twilight comment. We turned to see her looking through books as well, using her magic. Suddenly, she wrapped her hooves around a book and exclaimed. "Yes!" We stopped searching and walked towards her. Twilight placed the book on the floor in front of us, allowing to see the cover. In the center, there were three crystals of different colors but same shape. "History of the Crystal Empire. I just hope it has the answers we need." She flipped through the pages and skimmed it a little. Then she closed the book and looked at all of us. "This looks trustworthy enough. Come on. Let's get back to the castle."

As we began walking out the library, I noticed the librarian seem to walk around, lost, dazed, and confused. We really need to get these ponies back to normal…

Arriving at the castle, we stepped inside a conference room and gathered around a table. Twilight placed the book in the middle and began flipping through the pages. After spending some time reading the table of contents, she widened her eyes and cried out. "Look at this! A Crystal Faire!" The others, including me, analyzed the page for a moment. "I've got to show this to my brother really quick!" Twilight closed the book and faced me. "Alex, Spike, come with me! The rest of you, stay here. We'll be back with the news."

They nodded and allowed us to leave the room. Twilight appeared to be excited, seeming to feel as if she finally figured out the plan to save the Crystal Empire.

Walking in the room Miss Cadence and Shining Armor were in, Twilight looked over at Spike. "Spike can you hold the book for me really quick?"

"Sure thing!" Spike ran over to the front of Shining Armor and held out his claws.

Twilight placed the book on them. Spike appeared to be struggling with the weight a bit, but he managed to hold it up. "Hey Shining Armor, I have some great news that might save the Crystal Empire!"

"What? What is it?" He asked, pushing his head forward.

"Look!" She flipped through the pages and stopped at the one we just found out. "A 'Crystal Faire'. According to this book, it was established by their first queen, and became their most important tradition. The Faire was held every year to…" She placed a hoof and began quoting from the book. "…'restore the spirit of love and unity in the empire so they could protect it from harm.'" She looked towards her brother joyfully. "My friends and I could put it together. Everything we need to know is in the book!"

"That sounds pretty promising." Shining Armor approved and looked towards Miss Cadence for her reaction, but she was too busy keeping her eyes shut, wanting to sleep. I noticed this and could only frown, my determination for this plan increasing significantly.

"We'll get started right away." Twilight assured after noticing Miss Cadence's condition. "C'mon, Spike, we've got a Crystal Faire to put together!"

Spike closed the book and grunted as he tried to walk with the weight of the book. Don't worry Miss Cadence… We'll fix this… I promise… And if you remember from last time… I don't break a promise.

As soon as we walked in the room with the other girls, Twilight, Spike, and I walked over to the open space near the table. Twilight looked at me, revealing a smile. I smiled back, nodding confidently and ready to get this plan to action.

"Princess Cadence needs our help" Twilight began singing, encouraging the other girls.

"Her magic will not last forever

I think we can do it

But we need to work together" We all looked at each other, smiling and believing we could get this through.

"We have to get this right" Twilight placed the book in the middle of the table.

"Yes we have to make them see

We can save the Crystal Ponies with their history"

She flipped through the pages, starting with the first chapter in jousting.

"It says that they liked jousting" Rainbow Dash joined as I stood by her, watching her as she placed on the jousting gear and analyzing its fit.

The next page was the flag.

"They flew a flag of many hues" Rarity sang as she twirled around a long piece of fabric. I smiled at her and worked my magic into picking up the fabric with her. She noticed this and smiled at me as well.

The page after was the food.

"Made sweets with crystal berries" Applejack added while picking the berries with Pinkie Pie. She grabbed a few and threw them in the air for her and I to catch. I caught one with my mouth and chewed, savoring the sweet flavor they actually held inside.

There was a page for the animals as well.

"They had a petting zoo with tiny ewes" Fluttershy sang as she led several of those cute furry little creatures joyfully, appearing adorable herself.

"Oh, we have to get this right" We all sang together in unison, looking at each other and feeling extremely motivated with teamwork.

"Yes we have to make them see

We can save the Crystal Ponies with their history"

Pinkie Pie flipped the page and reached a part about a horn.

"There was a crystal flugelhorn

That everypony liked to play" She blew a horn loudly in front of us all. Everypony seemed to be negatively affected by this sound. Rainbow Dash strained her eyes and placed both of her hooves on her ears. Applejack only remained surprised. Spike was backing away due to the sound. Rarity was on the floor, trying to block the sound away from her ears by covering them both with her hooves as well. Fluttershy turned her head away, closed her eyes, and placed a hoof to her right ear. Twilight returned a response that seemed to say "Pinkie, that's too loud" as she slightly flinched. I, on the other hoof, flinched slightly as well, but managed to smile due to Pinkie's hyperactive silliness.

"And the Crystal Kingdom anthem" Twilight and I sang together, placing a hoof to our hearts, towards the flag.

"Can you learn it in a day?"

"Oh, we have to get this right" We all continued as we set up the final touches. Rainbow Dash held little flags and flew them across buildings.

"Yes we have to make them see" The rest of the girls contributed to their part.

"We can save the Crystal Ponies..." Spike ran over to Twilight and me with several balloons and released them in the air. Feeling joyful, I flew up to the balloons and seperated them by going through them. "…with their history!" We sustained and finished.

Twilight opened her eyes and looked around, having her mouth become slightly agape in accomplishment. "It looks amazing! I don't know how I could've done this without you!" She directed towards all of us. She opened the book and continued to look around. "One last check to make sure everything is in place, and then the festivities can begin!"

"What's this thing for?" We heard Applejack say, tapping some kind of statue or artifact with her hoof and creating a thunk sound.

"The last page of the book mentioned a crystal heart as the Faire's centerpiece, so I used my magic to cut one out of a crystal block." Twilight explained, using her book.

"Nice work, Twi! Think we're ready to get this Faire up and runnin'!" Applejack emphasized.

"Great." Twilight replied. "The rest of you girls, go do your parts." Then, she looked towards Spike and me. "Spike, Alex, let's go call Shining Armor and Cadence and finally save the Crystal Ponies!"

I sighed in relief and began trotting towards her to follow her. "Sounds good to me. I can't wait to allow Miss Cadence to rest."

Twilight chuckled as I walked by her side. "Me either."

We reached Miss Cadence and Shining Armor's throne room.

"Shining Armor, all festivities appear to be in order, care to start the Crystal Faire?" Twilight announced with enjoyment.

"With great pleasure." He looked towards Miss Cadence. "Come on, honey."

Unfortunately, she returned a mumble, still looking very drained in fatigue, but I was glad to know that this would be fixed soon enough.

As we walked out into the balcony, we heard Pinkie playing the horn very loudly…but not so accurately. It actually sounded as if she was screaming into the wrong end of the horn…

Nonetheless, we continued walking towards the end of the balcony and towards the railing, where Twilight began announcing the opening of the Crystal Faire. "Hear ye, hear—

I heard Pinkie Pie swallow a deep breath and then blow the horn furiously, interrupting Twilight's announcement. We all looked back at Pinkie, I almost wanting to ask if she was alright, due to the way the horn sounded. Instead, she chuckled nervously and placed the horn behind her. "Heheh, my bad…"

When it was clear, I looked towards Twilight and nodded. "Go on."

She nodded as well and looked out towards the town, clearing her throat. "Ahem. Hear ye, hear ye. Princess Cadence and Prince Shining Armor cordially invite you to the Crystal Faire!"

After her announcement, I placed my hooves onto the railing and looked out towards the town. The ponies had come out from their homes and looked at what was going on. I then immediately noticed that the majority of them instantly brightened up, having crystal coats and instantly looking intrigued and bright.

"This is great! Their spirits are lifting up!" I exclaimed.

Pinkie Pie walked over to us, initiating a high hoof between the three of us.

We then observed Applejack and Rainbow Dash lead and instruct the new lively Crystal Ponies towards the activities of the Crystal Faire.

As progress and productivity skyrocketed, I turned around to the others, excited myself. "This is great!" I cheered and walked over to Miss Cadence. "Don't worry, Miss Cadence! Just give us a little more time and you'll be able to sleep all you want!"

She managed to smile lightly. "Thank you, Alex. That's really great to hear. I don't really know how much longer I can keep this up, to be honest." She chuckled weakly.

I nodded and looked over to Twilight. "What next?"

"Well, we should probably go check and make sure everything is going as planned."

"Alright then. Let's go!"

"Yippee!" Pinkie Pie cheered. "I'm going to get me some COTTON CANDY!" She sped off.

Twilight and I traveled down towards the center of the castle where the Crystal Heart stood. We stood by it as Twilight opened her book and began reading through it. "Alright… if everything is going well, we should be able to— Suddenly, a large violet cloth was placed over us, causing us to remove it from our heads and look back. We noticed Rainbow Dash…and she seemed tense… "Why did you—

"I think we may have a problem..." Rainbow Dash responded, keeping her hoof on the artifact.

"What do you mean?" I asked raising an eyebrow but also become deeply worried for Miss Cadence.

"Come with me. We have to let your brother and the Princess know!"

Twilight and I exchanged confused looks, but there was no time for questions.

Rainbow Dash, Twilight and I raced towards the balcony where Shining Armor and Miss Cadence remained.

I demanded to know what was going on. "Okay, Rainbow Dash, what is going on?" I asked.

"Okay, Twilight, you know how you crafted the Crystal Heart yourself?" She questioned.

"Yeah…?"

"Well…" She rubbed her head and looked away. "It turns out we actually need the real Crystal Heart."

"What…?" I inquired, confused.

"Twilight just crafted the heart herself." Rainbow Dash explained to me. "What the Crystal Ponies actually do is use a real Crystal Heart, not just some crafted thing, and with their lifted spirits and light within them, it powers the Crystal Heart and THAT'S what creates the protective spell!"

"What?!" I exclaimed, beginning to feel panicked. "We don't have time to find the actual relic! There's no telling how long Princess Cadence's magic will last!"

Twilight began panicking as well and quickly flipped through the book. "I didn't know it was an actual relic! The book didn't mention anything about the crystal ponies powering the Crystal Heart!" She reached the end of the book and noticed something odd. "There was a page missing... how did I not notice?!"

I spotted Miss Cadence swerving greatly, as if she was about to give up. "It's okay, Twilight." Suddenly, she lost her balance and fell back, having Shining Armor catch her in his forelegs. Her magic ran out, widening my eyes and looking out to the shield.

"Twily..." Shining Armor announced desperately.

We all heard a howl. Twilight and the others joined me by looking in the same direction I was. The protective shield was flickering off and on like a light switch!

"The spell!" I cried out. As soon as that spell went out, an avalanche of darkness began flooding the outskirts of the Crystal Empire! I looked around to see it completely surrounding us. "Oh no… We…"

It was then when I saw his face appear from the mist of the darkness…

King Sombra…

To be continued…

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