• 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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Trade Ya!/ Inspiration Manifestation

Episode 87 – Trade Ya! / Inspiration Manifestation

I felt a pair of hooves lightly push against me. The darkness in my eyes seemed to perfectly fit in no matter how intrusive it was from the dream. As procedure, I felt my eyes slowly open and I turned my body around to see what had woke me up.

"Sorry for coming in without knocking…" Twilight appeared by my bedside with an apologetic smile.

"Don't worry about it." I welcomed her sight. "I'm used to it. I offered a friendly smile.

She giggled lightly and returned a question. "Guess what?"

"What?" I skipped the guessing.

She sat on the side of my bed and continued looking at me with her head turned. "We've got another official royal duty today."

"Really?" I inquired, not expecting a royal duty today. "What is it?"

"Ever heard of the Rainbow Falls Traders Exchange?" She asked.

I thought about it for a moment before I answered. "I can't say that I have… At least, I don't remember anything about it."

"Well, it's pretty much this big marketplace back in Rainbow Falls. Only, you don't buy or sell things. You trade! And guess who's going to accompany me to this trade center?" She asked yet again.

Despite knowing the answer, I claimed to not know with a playful smile. "I don't know. Who?"

"Oh. Well, since you don't know, I guess that one pony isn't coming after all." She counter-teased.

"Get real." I hopped off the bed. "I'm coming with you whether you like it or not."

"I knew you knew!" She pointed out at me.

"Of course I did." I easily admitted. "I'd have to be dumb to not know."

"You are dumb." She laughed as she stood up and walked down the steps to the front door.

"To you, maybe." I mentioned as I trotted on after her whole-heartedly. Outside, I noticed she was working with a box full of books, organizing them as neatly as she ever could. "Are those your books from the library?" I asked, some of them looking quite familiar.

"Yeah! These are the books I want to trade at the Exchange since I'm running out of library space for the books Princess Celestia is sending me. Oh!" She paused suddenly, seeming to forget something. "I forgot to mention. If you want to bring any stuff to trade for anything you might find at the exchange, you should go get it right now. I'll wait for you here."

"Hm. Nah…" I declined with a shaking hoof. "I really don't have anything in mind to trade. Maybe if I was actually a full-time simple artist I thought I would be, I would probably have a few paintings or prints to trade away, but I'm not, so…" I shrugged frankly.

Nonetheless, she offered back a smile. "Aw. Well, if you feel left out of the whole Trading Exchange, I'd gladly trade you a hug for a smile."

Feeling a little embarrassed for how she was treating me, as if I was some kind of foal, I laughed it off. "Thanks, Twilight…"

She finished packing up her books and closed the flaps of her cardboard box. "Let's get going. I told the others we'd be at the train station in a while."

"So, they've all got their own stuff to trade at the Exchange too?" I inquired as I walked by her side in the direction of the train station.

"Yep." She replied gladly. "I'm sure everyone one of them is looking forward to finding their own item they'd love to have."

We started riding the train to Rainbow Falls after meeting the girls, along with Spike, at the station. Applejack took an excellent and smart initiative to bring along a wooden cart from her farm to hold all of the items of those who were planning to trade. The train ride was actually pretty familiar as it reminded me of the same ride back at the qualifications for the Equestria Games.

As we were just arriving at Rainbow Falls, Pinkie couldn't help but squeal out loud from the window in excitement. "Ahhhh! Yes! Best day ever!" She pulled herself away from the window and looked at us. "We're all going to the Rainbow Falls Traders Exchange!" At that moment, the train came to a stop and began letting ponies out. Applejack was the first one to walk out so she could get her cart out of the way. Outside, she began making sure everything that belonged to the others was inside of the cart. As for the others, they were able to stretch their legs on the platform next to the train while Pinkie Pie continued to jubilantly talk. "And not just going – we're accompanying a prince and princess on an official royal duty!" She mentioned us as Twilight was retrieving her box of books.

"Please, it's not that big of a deal." Twilight brushed off lightly, as well as hinting back at her dislike of being treated more than any other pony. "There always has to be a princess at the Exchange." She explained as we began walking towards the main part of Rainbow Falls. "Last year was Princess Cadence. This year it's Alex and me. It's just a formality. I'm sure none of the other ponies will even notice we're here."

"Hold on a second." Applejack brought up. "You said there always has to be a princess at the Exchange. Why does it have to be the both of you this year?" She questioned. "I thought it would be something like you being this year and Alex being next year."

"Well, Alex and I both agreed that we are a team." Twilight almost proudly recalled. "Whatever we're tasked with, we both talk over and make a choice together. The both of us are just as important as each other." She clarified, glancing over to me.

"Ooh." Applejack understood.

Just as we were about to make our way into the tunnel of the Exchange, we heard a calling from not too far behind us. We turned to see Derpy, Vinyl, and Octavia. Vinyl was waving her hoof immensely at the sight of us. We waited as they caught up to us, each holding their own stuff to trade.

"Oh, hey…!" I greeted in surprise at them. "I didn't know you three would be here too. We didn't see you in the train or anything."

"We must have been in another cart." Vinyl responded. "We didn't know you all were in the train either until we heard Pinkie's freakishly loud scream."

Pinkie Pie showed no shame in that scream.

"So, you all are here to trade too?" I asked.

"Yep!" Vinyl replied and held up some vinyl disks. "I'm hoping to get something wicked cool for these babies."

"I've brought a few things from my own collection." Octavia presented, looking over to her saddlebag. "For one thing, I've got slightly old violin I don't really play anymore. I had gotten a newer one a little while back."

"That's cool." I commented and then looked over to Derpy. "What about you, Derpy?"

"I just brought some pictures and posters." She subtly presented in flight. "I'd think somepony would love this on their wall." She held up a poster of a small kitten hanging desperately but humorously on a branch of a tree. A text read "Hang in there, baby!".

"Let's get going then." I invited them along. "We wouldn't want to be late on starting early."

As we passed along the tunnel, Vinyl asked Twilight and me a question. "Hey, just curious but…do you two ever get some pretty big stares or unwanted attention since…you know…you two are royalty?"

"Sometimes…" Twilight attempted to recall fully. "But, you know, I think they're starting to get used to us. After all, we're really just simple Ponyville ponies as we've always been." She returned humbly.

We suddenly heard a large cheer of a crowd. On the other side of the tunnel, a banner unfurled before us as confetti immensely dropped from above. "Wow, look over there! It's the prince and princess!" One of the ponies from the crowd shouted out.

"Oh, this is amazing!" Another exclaimed.

The unexpected festivities left mostly Twilight paralyzed in surprise. While I was pretty startled as well, it didn't affect me as much.

"Could be wrong…but…" Applejack began to say. "I think it's still pretty new to them." She mentioned with a teasing and slightly smug grin.

Twilight laughed nervously as she forced herself to place on a welcoming and thankful grin for the crowd.

After managing to share the endurance of all that attention, Twilight and I were able to have a breather once we pulled out of that mess. It was more of a mental mess, not a physical mess, to clarify.

"Well, we're going to go ahead and head off to our places here in the Traders Exchange." Vinyl excused. "We'll see you back at the train at sundown?"

"Of course!" I mentioned as the girls and I waved when they began to walk away.

It actually wasn't too far of a walk to stop by the stand Twilight had for her books. After all, being a princess, she couldn't help but be taken as the first priority. As we made our way to the stand, the others took the liberty to do some looking at the stands nearby.

"Oh, my goodness!" Fluttershy exclaimed at the sight of what appeared to be a cupid bunny that was coincidentally pointing a heart arrow at both Fluttershy and me.

"You said it!" Rarity exchanged, observing herself wear an elegant hat in a mirror. "The Rainbow Falls Traders Exchange is simply divine. You can get anything you want here!"

"If'n you got the goods to trade for it." Applejack made an almost doubting point. Nevertheless, Rarity completed her trade for another hat and joined us back in the group.

After a few seconds, we heard something small trip and fall, causing us to look back.

"Nooo!" Spike cried out at the sight of something in front of him beginning to make its way to a small muddy puddle. However, Twilight quickly grabbed ahold of it with her magic and returned it back to Spike. "Thanks, Twilight. Whew. One ding, nick or dent, and this Power Ponies comic book wouldn't be in perfect mint condition anymore." He explained his reaction. "And if you want to trade for a mint comic, you gotta have a mint comic."

"I almost can't believe you're still into that comic after the fiasco that happened with it." I referred to our small little adventure inside the comic book world.

"Why wouldn't I be?" Spike asked. "If anything, it'd make me love it even more! Plus, I get to still read all the characters you all were! Especially you, Alex!" He pointed out and presented the comic he had to me, revealing the character I was supposed to be back in the comic book world in some kind of vehicle or contraption.

"That's nice…" I was only able to comment before ponies caught sight of us and began murmuring in excitement, giving us unneeded attention once again.

Twilight quickly trotted to my side, placed a hoof on me, and gestured me with her head that we should get going. Then, she walked in a fast pace while I followed calmly behind.

"I guess a pony who's here on official princess business has to expect a little fussin'." Applejack mentioned.

"I don't really see why." Twilight wondered as she reached her stand and began preparing her books. "I know we're royalty and all, but all we're supposed to do is settle disagreements over whether a trade is fair or not. And since the rule is that a trade is fair as long as both ponies get what they want, there's never been a disagreement. So there's really no reason for anypony to treat us as anything special." Twilight noticed a small little filly that appeared before us excitedly. "Hi!" She warmly greeted. "Can I help you?" The filly grinned brightly and turned to surprisingly pull out a couple of photos of Twilight and me, appearing to want our autographs. This led Twilight to sigh, pull out a quill, and sign the pictures.

"There's a pony here who's got a signed first edition of Daring Do and the Quest for the Sapphire Statue, and I'm gonna get it!" Rainbow Dash exclaimed out loud as Twilight did her signing. "I've been able to get first editions of all of the Daring Do books, except this one!" Once Twilight finished, she lent me her quill so I could autograph my signature as well. "Nopony's ever put together a whole set, and I'm gonna be the first! If it hasn't been traded yet... It's the only one in all of Equestria!" The filly couldn't help but hug us both before she hopped off in joy.

"Oh no! I'd really hate to see you disappointed." Fluttershy shared as I looked back to see the group. "I did want to trade this bear call I've got for a bird whistle…" She pulled out a small wooden whistle from beneath her wing. "…but getting that book seems so important to you, so if you need me to help you first..."

"Normally I'd say I don't need any help, but you're right." Rainbow greatly accepted. "This is really important. I've gotta get that book!"

"Hey…" I almost butted in. "That's Fluttershy's whistle. She should get what she wants from the Exchange."

"Oh, it's okay, Alex." Fluttershy clearly nodded. "I'd like a bird whistle, but it's much more important to me seeing Rainbow Dash get what she wants."

"See?" Rainbow Dash reinforced. "Fluttershy says it's okay."

I still didn't feel absolutely certain about the terms between them. "Well…if you're absolutely sure, Fluttershy…"

"Great! Let's go!" Rainbow Dash quickly grabbed ahold of Fluttershy dashed out of the area.

"Well, I'm off to take a gander at some of the vintage stalls." Applejack mentioned next after pulling her bag out of the cart holding the others' stuff.

"Did you say vintage?" Rarity asked in piqued interest and grabbed ahold of her saddlebag to join Applejack on her trot. "Why, old and rare items are so in style right now! I'm hoping to get a vintage item as well…" Her voice trailed off as she grew further away from us.

"I'm also off to find a nice piece of minty-ness to exchange for this bad boy." Spike held up his comic before walking off happily.

As Twilight removed the last of her books from the box to place on the stand, Pinkie stood behind in a confused state. "Um, shouldn't your prince and princessness be headed to the royal box seats?" She asked and pointed towards the other side of the Exchange.

"We may be the prince and princess on duty, but I don't think that means we have to sit up there all alone doing nothing." Twilight responded. "Ever since we became a prince and princess, Celestia's been sending me more books to read than ever. The library's overflowing, so I figured while we're here, I might as well trade away some books I don't need anymore!" She presented a reasonable point while placing away the cardboard neatly.

"Mm-hm!" Pinkie happily agreed. "I guess I should go take a look around too! Bye!" She waved swiftly and bounced off.

As Twilight continued carefully angling and perfecting the sight of her books, she turned to me as she still noticed me standing behind her. "If you want, you can go check out the area too. You don't have to stay by me the whole time."

"I don't really have anything to trade though…" I reminded.

"Well…" Twilight thought for a short moment. "If you find something you like and the owner is willing to trade for a certain book I have, I'd gladly help you out with that."

I was warmed by Twilight's big generosity. I smiled lightly in an understanding tone. "Thanks, Twilight. I guess I will just check the area out." I didn't really think about getting anything anyway, but it was true to not rule out the opportunity in seeing what other ponies had. "I'll see you in a bit." I said as I made my way out.

I took a breezing walk in the Exchange, casually glancing at objects out in the open and eligible for trading. However, most of the things I saw held no real value to me. It wasn't that they weren't cool. It's just…I wasn't too interested in them. For example, I passed by a book collector and noticed that first edition of Daring Do Rainbow Dash was so crazy about. Honestly, I couldn't see why she seemed to go out of her way for it. I still remembered when she absolutely hated reading. Either way, it was her thing, and I understood and held my respect for her.

Then, there was this huge two headed dog that some dealer was apparently allowed to trade. No, seriously. I didn't want to butt in but…how was it okay to trade something that was so vicious? I mean…it was on a chained leash…but based on its size and foaming mouth… I wasn't so sure it was guaranteed to stay put. I wasn't so sure about what to do with that one. Twilight said that we were here to pretty much just declare whether a trade was fair or not. After all… I guess if something did go wrong…the unicorns could at least use their magic to stop it. Despite how uncomfortable I felt about the dog, I allowed it to slide.

The part that proved to me how weirdly interesting the Traders Exchange was its completely unforeseen items held up for trade. I saw Discord lamps that were up for show. At that moment, I wondered if Discord was actually around here, fooling ponies with his tricks. However, I was sure if Discord was being up to no good, somepony would have made a fuss about it already. Either way, if there is any problem in the future, I'd be willing to help settle it. The owner of these lamps didn't seem bothered that they were Discord lamps, so that was a good sign. However, I noticed something different about this pony. He was wearing some kind of wheelchair, but not the kind to fully make him immobilized. It was more like to help him walk without much trouble like training wheels. I felt bad for him, especially how I was still able to move without any help like he needed. If he was happy with his Discord lamps, I definitely didn't want to put any more on his mind than he possibly already had.

Other than that, the rest of the items I saw were pretty common for a marketplace like this. Antique chickens? Well…it's still art. Some of the other art I saw on the way was pretty interesting and nice to the eye, but it still wasn't anything I really wanted.

On my walk, I got a few drawn-out or shocked stares, but it wasn't anything too bothering. In fact, I even stopped by and said hello to a few. I didn't want to sound like I was self-centered…but sometimes it actually felt good to be recognized as a good pony by everypony else. Meeting colts and fillies were especially favorable. Seeing their adorable faces when seeing somepony very important to them was almost worth going through the rest of the unnecessary attention from others.

Finally, I was stopped on my path when I smelled a delightful scent in the air. It was very sweet and…satisfying… I looked around and tried to use my nose to pinpoint where the smell was coming from. I found a sort of developed kiosk in the center of a four-way path coming from different vendors. With my curiosity at its peak, I decided to visit this area to see what the smell might have been. I approached the window and looked inside to get a full-blown scent of this delicious snack. It seemed to have been coming from this pot that was frying something.

"Oh, it's you, Prince!" I heard a voice speak from within the kiosk, actually startling me a bit since I was too preoccupied observing what was frying in the pan. "Did something catch your eye?" He questioned, speaking with a familiar foreign accent.

"Oh, I…" I recovered from the connection with the scent. "I smelled something really sweet back there." I pointed past me. "I just couldn't help but try to follow the scent and ended up coming here. I'd really like to know what you're making there, if you don't mind."

"Of course!" He gladly accepted, as if it wasn't uncommon for him to be asked such a question. "I think you're talking about…el churro." He mentioned that last part in a sort of tone that emphasized its significance.

"El…churro?" I repeated, but provided an accent that wasn't as great as his.

"Si…" He returned. He grabbed a utensil to poke at something in the fryer and brought it out, placing it on a paper plate. "El churro is really popular where I come from." He mentioned. "Even here, ponies are just dying to know what makes it so good…but that's a secret." He winked.

"Oh…" I merely reacted.

"Would you like to try one?" He asked.

"Oh…uh…no thanks." I waved my hoof side to side. "I don't have anything on me."

"Nonsense!" He grabbed a drizzler and covered the churro neatly with delicious-looking chocolate. "I'd be very much happy and honored if you tasted the churro for yourself." He presented it to me, even bowing a bit in a kind of silly way.

"Well…" I couldn't help but want to take his offer. "If you really don't mind letting me have one…" I carefully grabbed it with my magic and brought it to my lips. I took a careful bite, and as soon as this sugary piece entered my mouth, my taste buds were immediately overwhelmed with pleasure. It was absolutely stunningly delicious.

"What do you think?" He asked as he held an excited grin on his face.

"I love it!" I expressed joyfully.

"That is very good to hear coming from someone like yourself." He said. "I hear the Princess is here with you. Would you like to take one for her?"

A little shocked by his awe-inspiring generosity, I almost couldn't believe it. "If you really don't mind, sure!"

"Of course!" He prepared another enchanting churro. "Please give my highest regards to the Princess." He mentioned as he presented the churro in front of me with another light bow.

"Sure thing." He offered me a paper bag to keep the churros in. "I must really thank you for your generosity."

"Where I come from, that is, if not all of us, how most of us learn to abide by, as being generous is a guaranteed way to make ourselves happy."

"Sounds like an amazing place to be." I commented, almost wondering what he was doing here instead.

"Indeed it is."

I didn't check out the rest of the Traders Exchange. If I did inspect every place, it was just a short glance at all around things unless something interested me. In fact, unless my eyes had deceived me, it appeared that the sun was already heading downwards to make the way for the moon to take over. It was still sunny, of course, but sunset was rising soon.

Besides, I wanted to give this churro to Twilight as quick as possible so she could taste its delicate flavor for herself. When I arrived back in the area of her stand, I noticed a few slight differences. There was a podium with an illustration of Twilight on the front. Most noticeably, Pinkie Pie was standing there holding a sort of goofy seller's hat, along with her favorite mustache on her face. Twilight, on the other hoof, was grabbing ahold of all her books and placing them back in her box with a smile dabbed on her face. It was another thing that was odd, because it didn't seem like she traded any of her books.

"Uh…did I miss something here?" I asked, notifying them of my presence near them.

"Oh hey!" Twilight turned to me and greeted. "You wouldn't believe what happened while you were gone. Pinkie Pie tried to get everypony to trade with me just because I was a princess."

"Only because I didn't want you trading all your books for a broken pen!" Pinkie Pie quickly pointed out. "And see? I was still right to be here! Since you decided to keep all your books, you would have ended up giving them all away if I wasn't here!"

Twilight giggled at the truth in that. "I suppose you're right." She turned back to me. "Did you find anything you like?"

"Well…not exactly in the way you'd expect…" I pulled out the paper bag holding the churros. "Look! You've got to try this. It's amazing!" I moved the churro towards her face with my magic.

Of course, I should have expected Pinkie Pie's immediate interest. "Oooh! A churro? Can I have some?!"

Twilight defenselessly grinned softly and gave her half of what she had. Pinkie Pie tossed it up into the air and caught it perfectly in her mouth, later chewing noising and showing her intrigued taste of the churro. Twilight took a bite herself and released a small and light moan to present her like for the churro as well. "Mmm! It is good. Where did you get it?"

"From a foreign stallion back around the center of the Trade Exchange." I answered. "He also gives his best regards to you." I remembered to mention.

"Aww." Twilight chuckled. "How sweet. I'd sure love to get some more…" She turned her head towards the sun in the sky. "But I'm not sure if we still have the time."

I felt pretty confident about time. "Actually, I think there's still plenty of time left to go."

Before we could continue the conversation forward, I heard another stallion coming towards us.

"Prince." He greeted, having us turn to see him bowing respectfully. "Princess." He also acknowledged Twilight's presence. "I wasn't sure which pony to turn to, so I'm glad I found you two here."

"What's going on?" Twilight questioned in concern.

"I found this lying on the ground." He held up a very familiar object. "I don't know if there's a lost-and-found here or something, but I was sure you two would know what to do."

"That's Fluttershy's bear call!" Twilight identified softly to me.

"Don't worry about it." I returned to the stallion. "We'll take care of it."

"I'm glad to know it's in good hooves." He replied as he happily gave it to me. Afterwards, he took his calm and trusting leave.

Holding the bear call between Twilight and me, the both of us continued to look at it, wondering why it had been on the ground.

"That's strange…" Twilight thought out loud with me. "Why would her bear call be on the ground?"

"Maybe…she dropped it and didn't notice." I offered an explanation.

"Hm…" Twilight rubbed her chin. "I wouldn't think Fluttershy is one to easily lose her stuff…but I guess it can always happen."

"I'm going to look for her and give this back." I said as I safely tucked away the bear call. "She said she wanted to use it to trade for a bird whistle or even help Rainbow Dash get what she wanted. I'm sure she'd love to have this back."

"Do you want me to come with you?" Twilight asked.

"That's alright." I politely declined. "I don't think it should be that hard to find her. She's probably at that book stand that had Daring Do I saw earlier. I'll check there first."

"Okay, but let me know if you need help!" Twilight made sure to clarify.

"Will do." I saluted and spread my wings in flight to begin my search.

Of course, I headed towards the book stand as that was the place Rainbow Dash wanted her first edition Daring Do book from. Fluttershy was willing to trade her bear call for Rainbow Dash's item on her wish list, so she'd most likely still be with Rainbow Dash.

I was pretty relieved for the most part when I saw their coat colors over by the same book stand I'd seen earlier. I landed delightfully and felt ready to see the smile on Fluttershy's possibly worried face when she saw the bear call I had for her. However, something about the scene between them and the book owner concerned me. Rainbow Dash was with that huge dog, whom now appeared to be friendly and playful due to the obvious reason of Fluttershy. She actually seemed to be trading the dog for the book.

However, the book collector pointed out towards Fluttershy in joy, to which Fluttershy reacted in an extremely worried way. Usually, if she saw Rainbow Dash getting what she wanted, she'd be extremely happy for her, but she wasn't this time. Placing on a furrowed and serious face, I began walking over to the stand.

"…um…wait a minute…you…um…want me to stay in Manehattan until it's…trained?" I heard Fluttershy ask, most likely referring to the dog.

"Of course!" The book collector made clear. "I wouldn't want this guy chewing my head off once I get home with it. I want to make sure it's absolutely positively trained before it stays with me. You seem like an expert with how well it gets along with you, so you're just the right pony for the job!"

"Well…" Fluttershy looked away with an even more anxious face than before. "It's just that…I…I…"

"So we got a fair deal?" The book collector turned to Rainbow Dash, ignoring Fluttershy's comment that hadn't fully come out.

"Of course it's a deal!" Rainbow Dash blindly accepted the book and held it up excitedly. "Yeah-eah, whoo!"

After hearing what just took place, I quickly jumped into action. "No, it's not." I boldly announced, catching all three of their attention.

"Alex?! What are you talking about?!" Rainbow questioned, obviously still appearing to be blinded by her book to not notice she was trading another pony's life.

Normally, if it was just between our circle of friends, I probably would have reacted a lot angrier, but there was an average stranger that participated in the Exchange just as any other pony. I had to act professionally as the prince I was supposed to be. "I'm sorry for intruding…but this trade isn't fair." I stated.

"What? How?!" Rainbow wished to know in an almost upset manner, which continued to anger me in the inside.

"Rainbow, this is much more than trading a pet." I referred to the creature Fluttershy held with the leash. "You're trading away a pony being!"

"What…?" She inquired, becoming confused.

"You can't stand there and tell me it's not fair that you're trading Fluttershy's time away for who knows how long just to have your book. You haven't even asked Fluttershy what she thought of this trade!"

"I…" Rainbow tried to speak.

"Fluttershy." I turned to her. "You have the right to have a choice. What do you think about going to Manehattan and staying there until it's trained? Do you really want that or not?"

"Well…" She glanced over to Rainbow with saddened eyes, to me, and then back at the ground. "…um…I…" Finally, she released a breaking sigh. "…no… I don't want to go…" She looked up to apologize to Rainbow Dash. "I'm so sorry, Rainbow. I really wanted you to have your book, but…I just don't want to leave Ponyville for so long. Otherwise, I would never be able to spend time with any of you or the others during that time. I don't know if I could last so long being away from my friends, both critters and ponies. I'd be all alone…"

"Stop." Rainbow requested. "You're right. I'm sorry." She slowly lowered herself in a shameful and guilty state of mind. "I can't take this book. I'm sorry." She apologized to the book collector. "Not if it means trading away my friend. I hope you understand…"

The other trader did indeed appear to have an understanding face. She sighed, but not exactly in an upset kind of way. It was more like her heart was touched by what just happened. "Don't worry about it. I understand. I mean, how can friendship be any important than a possession?" She seemed to even laugh at her own little mistake. "The trade's off."

Rainbow Dash immediately dashed over to Fluttershy and embraced her greatly. "Sorry for everything, Fluttershy. I guess I was too obsessed over that book…"

"It's okay, Rainbow Dash." Fluttershy delightfully accepted her meaningful apology. "I'm just glad that I get to stay back in Ponyville with all you."

"Speaking of Ponyville…" I hoped to not intrude as much. "We should probably get going." I noticed the sunset coming in. "The Traders Exchange is about to end."

As the book collector peacefully packed up her things, we were allowed to head back to Twilight's stand to regroup and get ready to head back home.

Back with Twilight, we noticed the others appear to be there as well. The only ones who were really missing were Rarity and Applejack. I wondered how their search and adventure went, but by the looks on their silent but stern faces, it didn't seem that it had gone as great as how they hoped. If I was to ask about it, I decided it would probably be back on the train or more privately at home.

"Ready to go?" Twilight asked us, gaining a collective of nodding heads. All of us began heading towards the tunnel to exit, passing the stands that still seemed to be trading last minute stuff. Twilight looked in the direction Fluttershy was at to notice something catch her widened eyes. "Fluttershy…! What are you going to do with that?" She questioned Fluttershy's purpose of the dog she still held.

"You probably might keep him, won't you?" I guessed.

"Maybe…" Fluttershy mentioned before her own eyes caught something else, gasping and running towards it while bringing along the huge dog.

The rest of us followed her to see what had caught her attention. It had to do something with what this last pony was trading. Before I could look closely on what it was, I was distracted by something else. For the first time, my eyes were forcibly lured onto what another pony had to trade. I walked almost like a zombie to this item to notice it had appeared to be like a journal or notebook with rings that kept the pages together.

The mare running the stand noticed me staring at this object and came to my need. "Is there anything you see that you like?" She asked.

"Do you mind if I get a closer look at this?" I answered with another question and pointed at the book I obviously ogled.

"Why, of course!" She permitted.

I carefully grabbed ahold of this highly attractively designed book and opened it. After analyzing it for a moment, I realized I was partly wrong when I saw all the pages were blank in a specific way. It wasn't a journal or notebook. It was a sketchbook. And it looked a lot livelier than any one I ever had.

"This looks…amazing." I commented on the appeal. "What would you want for this?"

"Well…" She tapped a hoof on her chin. "I actually wouldn't mind trading it for a children's book. You know, one with all of the bright colorful pictures?"

"Oh…" I closed the sketchbook and prepared to give it back. I even laughed a little for thinking I really had anything to trade for it. It sucked that I actually didn't bring anything that could suit for this trade. "That's too bad. I don't really have anything to trade for it to begin with anyway." I chuckled at my mistake.

"I think I can help with that." Twilight's voice sounded behind me, and I could see a book hover past my head. "This used to be one of my favorite books back when I was a filly. I'm sure this will suit your needs!" She mentioned to the trader.

"Wow. It looks great just from the outside!" The mare observed the book from where Twilight held it.

"Twilight, are you sure?" I asked, not wanting her to give up a book if it meant so much to her.

"Don't worry." Twilight assured. "I don't mind doing the favor as long as it makes you happy." She meant as she placed on a bright smile.

I returned a heartfelt smile as Twilight pushed the book forward for the mare to observe the contents inside.

"I'm sure she'll love it." The mare responded, possibly referring to a filly she knew. "Here you go." She passed the sketchbook over to me.

It felt…good to be in my hooves. Of course, I didn't want to sound like this single item was about to take total control over my life, but it was just something that I was really glad to have for some reason. It kind of felt like…me… Like…home…

I looked over to Twilight and wrapped my hooves around her tightly as if she just purchased something for me like a mother. "Thanks, Twilight." I said with my voice being muffled, due to it being buried in her coat.

She giggled lightly and patted me. "Anytime…"

When we boarded on the train back to Ponyville, we all settled down to relax for the trip home. Vinyl, Derpy, and Octavia found us and joined us with their new items they had received from trading. Rarity and Applejack had separated themselves in the cart, which contributed to how odd it was when they appeared to have not been speaking to each other for a long time. However, Rarity looked back at Applejack for a moment and released a small sigh.

She started making her way over to Applejack and pulled out what looked like a rusty pie tin to send over to her. "I know it's not the pie tin you were after, but I hope you like it." She placed herself next to Applejack, but she faced her body away. "It's the rustiest piece of junk I could get."

"Huh…" Applejack removed her hat and looked inside. "Well, I took my half of our stash and got you this." She turned it over to Rarity, allowing her to see whatever was inside.

"Ohhh!" She exclaimed softly in glee, picking it up to view it closer. It appeared to be a…hairclip…

"And I know you're gonna love it, 'cause you already have a bunch of ones that look exactly the same sittin' in the drawer doin' nothin'!" She grinned widely. "So that should settle it once and for all which of us is the better friend."

"Oh, come on!" Rainbow Dash loudly interrupted. "You both gave up what you wanted to get something for each other! That's the coolest thing a friend can do. Trust me, I know." She glanced and winked over to Fluttershy.

"Hey, where's your double-doggie?" Pinkie asked, raising the question that no one had surprisingly asked before.

"I traded it for something way better." Rainbow answered, hovering a hoof over to Fluttershy.

Fluttershy raised something new on her hoof. It was another whistle. And based on the sound it produced, it must had been that bird whistle she wanted at the start of the Exchange. "It's too bad I left my bear call back there…" She reminded me. "The two would have looked so good with each other."

"Oh!" I expressed, catching their attention. "I almost forgot." I pulled out the whistle I had forgotten to return before. "Somepony turned this in. I was going to give it back at the Exchange…but then that whole…you know what… happened."

Fluttershy gasped lightly. "It's my bear call!" After seeing it was truly before her, she opened her forelegs and embraced me thankfully.

I then turned my head over to the team of Derpy, Vinyl, and Octavia to hear what they got. "What did you girls get?" I asked.

"Some brand new headphones!" Vinyl burst out in cheer. "Aw, yeah!"

"I was able to get a brand new bow with what I had besides the violin." Octavia mentioned happily with her slighty foreign and sophisticated accent.

"You didn't trade your old violin for something?" I inquired.

"No. And it's alright…" She pulled out the violin and observed it before her eyes. "I guess I always had a thing with this classical piece." She stated with a soft smile.

"I got some cute postcards!" Derpy practically screamed out as she held them up for us to see.

"Well, I'm glad you all got something you wanted from the Exchange." I said and then looked downwards to the sketchbook Twilight helped me with… "I know I did it…" I glanced over to Twilight, whom noticed and immediately returned an embarrassed blush.

She turned to her box of books as if to search for something to take the attention I just gave to her off. "Oh, hey!" She distractingly announced. "What do you know? My copy of Daring Do and the Sapphire Statue!" She pulled it out, held it up, and then began to hover it over to Rainbow Dash. "Here, Rainbow. It's just a beat up old paperback, not a one-of-a-kind first edition..."

Rainbow gasped loudly at Twilight's action and hugged the book close to her. "Even better!" She sat back down after expressing her cheer in flight. "Want to know why? Because I'll have you all here to tell you how much I love it!"

Twilight giggled at Rainbow's behavior, grateful for how Rainbow was completely fine with Twilight's old book.

I stayed at the edge of the balcony for Spirit again, actually shuffling my hooves like she did when she was with me. I had hoped I'd see her again with this sunset, but it didn't seem like I had any luck. It was too bad. I honestly wouldn't have even mentioned about what she did the last time we saw each other. All I cared about was wanting to tell her the day I had and the sketchbook Twilight got me.

Nevertheless, the truth was that the more I sat there by myself, the more I began to lose faith in her showing up. I looked downwards to the small ground near the entrance of the castle and sighed.

I was once again left to experience the sunset on my own again.

"Hear ye, hear ye! The Ponyville Foal and Filly Fair is almost ready to begin!" I heard as Fluttershy and I waited hoof in hoof by. We noticed Pinkie Pie eagerly bounce around all through-out the carnival while holding balloons that were wrapped around her waist.

"Are you excited?" Fluttershy turned her head towards me with a smile as her mane slightly covered her right eye.

"If it means spending some quality time with you, then yes. I am." I answered in a sort of witty manner, causing her to close her eyes and grin adorably in glee.

"Alex!" We heard Sweetie Belle's voice run in. We turned to see Sweetie, along with her parents, approach us. "See?" Sweetie Belle presented a hoof towards me to her parents. "You still remember Alex, right?"

"How could we not?" Her mother friendlily shared.

"I remember every bit of it!" Her father added heartily. "The nice young stallion we met when Sweetie Belle here made that yummy-looking breakfast!" He referenced back to the smoke-filled kitchen that day. "Now he's a prince! Who would've thought!?"

I couldn't help but chuckle a little. "Thanks."

"Is this your special somepony?" The mom asked, most likely noticing the way we sat together.

"Sure is! Her name's Fluttershy." I answered.

"Well, it's a pleasure to meet you, Miss Fluttershy." She greeted, causing a little shyness to grow in Fluttershy.

"Hi." She returned with a bit of bashfulness as she held a hoof in front of her cheek, looking like she was covering a part of her beautiful face.

"Since you two are attending the Foal and Filly Fair, I don't suppose you have a foal or filly of your own, do ya?" She questioned, immediately causing looks of embarrassment from us.

Fluttershy and I uneasily looked away from each other at the moment, leaving only me to awkwardly answer that. "I…uh…um…" We heard a bell ring from within the fair, giving us a perfect opportunity to remove the current conversation topic and escape. "Oh hey!" I pointed out distractingly. "Looks like the fair is starting! We're going to check it out. It was nice meeting you all!" Afterwards, I brought Fluttershy with me out of there as soon as possible.

It was a little hard to talk to Fluttershy in the beginning, considering how the thought of a foal was still lingering within us for a bit. It made me wonder if Sweetie Belle yet knew the process that occurred in order for a foal to be made, as her smile wasn't fazed when her parents spoke about it. Either way, such awkwardness from that question quickly faded away as our minds were occupied by the games held in the fair.

There was one thing I loved about Ponyville when it came to fairs or carnivals. The games themselves were usually fair. There was no catch and trick hidden behind. After all, the games required no cost and were completely fair in their rules. As my mother would say, it was "double the fun".

Using her wing, Fluttershy tried to aim the dart that would attempt to seek the last unpopped balloon. She had managed to pop the others and only needed the last one to win a stuffed animal prize. She gave it her all and tossed the dart. It landed only slightly above the balloon, needing only centimeters downwards to achieve her goal.

"Oh…" She groaned a bit sadly, disappointed that she wasn't completely successful.

Feeling some of her sorrow when looking at the small frown on her face, I decided just this one time to use my magic and fix it just a little so the dart appeared to slip off the top and pierce the balloon. The loud pop was heard, and her face was immediately filled with glee.

She won a little stuffed bunny, and we continued walking with both content faces.

"Looks like you found Angel a little friend." I smirked lightly as I stared at the prize she held beneath her wing.

"Knowing him, he probably wouldn't care too much about it." She returned, giggling in merriment.

"This is awful!" We heard a rough sounding exclaim come from in front of us, intruding in on our satisfied mood.

"Awful?!" Rarity, who was in our sights, repeated in shock as the pony in front of her went over what appeared to be her product.

"And completely unusable." The customer continued ranting. "Hmmm..." He spun the wheel this cart-looking item had and analyzed carefully. "Ugh! It doesn't travel!" He included and then squeezed his head inside the cart. "Oh, there's no room for my puppets!" He clarified what the product was actually supposed to be. "It appears I won't have a traveling puppet theater to use after all." He expressed his disapproval and used his puppets to emphasize his point, even having them glare back at Rarity as he walked away upset.

Fluttershy and I exchanged a look to each other and then proceeded to approach Rarity.

"I don't know what that guy was talking about. This thing is perfect!" Spike, who appeared to have been accompanying her, mentioned.

Noticing tears brim in Rarity's eyes, I decided to approach her lightly. "Hey, Rarity… What's going—"

Before I could finish my sentence, she ran off with silent tears, bringing Fluttershy and me to a point of absolute concern.

Deciding to cut the fair short for us for Rarity's sake, we followed the way Spike led earlier before we left towards Rarity's boutique. As we opened the door to her shop, we could hear wailing and crying as Rarity revealed her emotions to Spike, whom carefully tried to cope and listen.

"This is terrible, simply terrible!" Rarity wept and whined as she tried to control herself.

"So that puppeteer didn't like your exquisitely crafted best puppet theater in the history of puppet theaters puppet theater." Spike recalled the incident. "You can just contribute something else to the Foal and Filly Fair!"

Rarity breathed rapidly for a short moment as she tried to speak with the eye shadow running down her face. "I suppose I could..." She paused and then whined in sign of quitting. "Oh, forget it, Spike. I'd never have something finished in time!" She resumed her crying and grabbed a bucket of ice cream all of a sudden, nomming intensely after landing a large spoonful in her mouth. "I wanted to leave my creative mark on the fair, and I failed—" She interrupted her sentence by adding another mouthful and chewing before she finished and continued on. "—miserably!" She added another quick one. "And that makes me miserable!" She planted her face on her couch while Spike seemed to think in place during the moment.

Suddenly, he began quickly walking out and stopped by us. "I'll be back! You guys try to talk to her!" He stated before he left.

Looking back to Rarity, she didn't seem to think too much of how we were standing there. I couldn't really tell if she even knew we were there. She just continued to chug down her bucket of ice cream by keeping it a spoonful each bite. I cautiously walked towards her and placed a hoof delicately on her, hoping not to startle her. "Rarity…?"

"Alex!" She gasped at the sight of me. "Don't look at me!" She requested in a wail. "I'm such a hideous mess right now!"

"No, you're not." I responded. "You just…didn't give a client exactly what he wanted." I pointed out the truth. "You can't always be perfect in your sales." She seemed too busy with her ice cream to answer, so for her own good, I decided to remove the ice cream from her sight with my magic, having her become alarmed.

"My comfort food!" She cried out, trying to reach it.

However, I placed her hoof back on the couch and tried to get her to ease up. "You don't need that." I mentioned. "Right now, it might be helping you cope with the situation, but you're going to regret it when you get a huge stomachache." I placed the ice cream away from us. "What you really need are your friends, and we're here to support you anyway we can." I included Fluttershy and me.

She continued sniffling while wiping as much as she could from her eyes. "Thank you…but how can you help me come up with something for the fair?"

"Well…we can't really help you…" I replied honestly. "But we can inspire you. Do you think you can still fix that puppet cart thing you made in time?"

This brought her down as she sighed pitifully. "No… I'd only have a few hours at most. That's starting from scratch! There's no way I'd be able to make a new one in time!"

"What if we help you?" Fluttershy asked.

"That's sweet of you to offer, but I'm afraid it's not enough. I'd still need at least a few days to design a new one and assemble it together…" She released a short sigh and stood up from her couch. "Maybe… I just need some time to get it together… After all… I have been able to make it through with such circumstances in the past, am I correct?" She received nods from Fluttershy and me. "Ooh…" she still worriedly preoccupied herself in her thoughts. "I just hope I can come up with something in time before the festival ends… Something simple but shall still hold my artistic elegance." She tapped a hoof on her chin before she turned to notice us attentive to her. "You two must have been enjoying the fair, haven't you?"

"We were spending time with each other at the fair, but we're more concerned about you." Fluttershy shared.

"Please." Rarity requested. "Go on and enjoy the fair. Do not concern yourselves about me."

"I don't think we want to leave you by yourself to handle this problem all on your own…" I mentioned for the both of us.

However, Rarity shook her head. "If you wish to help me, you should go on and enjoy the fair. In all honesty, it shall be another problem to worry about, knowing you two missed the rest of the fair to worry about me." She said. "After all, I believe when I'm truly under pressure, I can manage to bring something out miraculously in the nick of time."

"Are you sure…?" Fluttershy questioned with uneasy concern.

"Yes. I'll try thinking of something." Rarity replied. "For now, I believe I just need some time alone to think."

"Okay…" I decided to abide by Rarity's request. "Come on, Fluttershy." I told her and then looked back at Rarity by the door. "We'll be back to check on you, okay?"

"Mm-hm…" She faintly returned, bringing out a blank piece of paper and staring at it for a good while.

With some hesitation, we managed to leave Rarity to her piece, hoping the best for her.

I know Rarity told us to enjoy the fair, but we honestly couldn't enjoy it as much as we could have knowing about her issue. In fact, I believed Fluttershy and I were actually looking forward to the time we would be able to see her again to find out how she held up. However, since she wanted to put out work for the fair, we didn't want to bother her.

Despite Rarity's request, we mostly sat at the tables near the food stands distressing over her condition. We remained sitting there, thinking strongly about ways we could help Rarity easily, but nothing successful came into our minds. We were still there, even when everypony was beginning to pack up and end the fair.

"Oh no…" Fluttershy observed the conclusion to the festival. "I sure hope Rarity was able to come up with something."

"I'm afraid to even go back…" I mentioned, looking away to the floor in thought of her face. "I don't know if I'll able to sleep after seeing how much of an emotional wreck she's in if she didn't come up with anything." I sighed and then nodded. "I really hope she was able to fix her problem."

"Do you think we should go check on her now?" Fluttershy asked. "Since the fair is over?"

I sighed once more through my nose. "I'm scared of how blue she might be…but I won't be able to sleep not knowing what happened either." I stood up and decided to head to her boutique as soon as possible. "Let's go."

We made our way back to the shop and knocked.

"Rarity?" I called before I slowly opened the door, bracing for the worst. However, I was welcomed by something the complete opposite. Rarity didn't appear to be crying and swallowing her tubs of ice cream. Instead, she seemed to advance a productive mind as she observed all around her room while softly rubbing her chin. She seemed to hold a designing mood. "Rarity, how did things go?

"Simply splendid, Alex!" Rarity turned to us in an absolutely positive mood. "You won't believe how much I got done!"

"That's great…!" I returned, feeling surprised yet happy for her. "What'd you do?"

"I was able to fix the cart for that puppeteer." She answered. "Turns out all I needed was just a little…magic." She mentioned that last part a little weirdly. Nonetheless, I was just really glad she was able to pull it through.

"Well…we're glad for you, Rarity." I said as Fluttershy nodded her head in agreement. "It looks like you're busy, so we'll leave you to it."

"Ta-ta!" She waved as she continued looking all around her room in a busy kind of manner.

We allowed ourselves out and continued to converse with each other outside the boutique.

"Wow." Fluttershy expressed. "Now, I can't believe that Rarity actually fixed that pony's cart." She shared the same feeling. "I mean, I'm really happy for her. I just wasn't sure she'd finish in time, considering she only had a few hours."

"I know." I understood. "But she is Rarity. Whatever she uses, she usually is always able to find a way out in a rut."

Fluttershy giggled and looked at me in a couple's teasing manner. "So, are you going to be able to sleep tonight? Or are you…going to need to stay with me tonight?" She added a little blush from her cheeks.

I chuckled shortly, feeling a little embarrassment from her playful manner. "I think I'll be able to sleep fine. I…have to stay back home though… There's something I'm making…for Twilight and my mom." I revealed my project.

"Ooh." Fluttershy exposed her peak of interest. "What is it?"

"It's going to be like…a little charm that keeps us together." I laughed a bit for the next part I was going to include. "Ironically…and a bit sadly…the idea comes from that idiot Discord…" I reminded myself of that stunt he pulled last time, sending me a feeling of disgust.

"No matter how silly he might be…" Fluttershy really loved to talk about him lightly and positively. "He can always help in some way."

I almost kind of wanted to laugh at that idea. Nonetheless, I decided to dismiss it. "Hm. I guess I'll go home and work on it some more so I don't stay up too late."

"That sounds good." Fluttershy agreed and pulled in to give me a kiss. "You need your sleep."

Reminding me of Spirit's absence and my hope to see her again, I looked away in thought. "Yeah… I guess I do."

I actually couldn't help but oversleep a bit more than I needed to the next day. Unexpectedly, I was welcomed into the new day with Twilight calling for my attention on an important manner. There was a problem occurring in Ponyville, and she believed it was our job to find out what was causing it and fix it.

"Something strange is going on." Twilight mentioned, looking around Ponyville for any suspicious activity. "When I was walking by Applejack's apple cart, I noticed there was something obviously off about it. It was bejeweled with gold and gems, and when I asked her what in the hay happened to the cart, she just said it unbelievably magically transformed!" She described.

"Her cart just…magically changed?" I repeated, feeling clueless.

"Yes!" Twilight clarified. "She said one second it was her regular wooden cart, and then it just changed in a blink of an eye!"

"That's definitely weird…" I placed a hoof to my chin in thought. "Was anypony else affected by this…?"

"When I noticed a children's party transformed into a formal gathering, I had to come get your help. We need to find whatever's or whoever's doing this as quickly as we can."

"Did you ask anypony else around the changed area to see if they witnessed anything?" I questioned.

"No…" She recalled, looking back. "But that is a good idea!" She pointed out. "I think I know just the place to start that'll give us something to go on!"

Increasing the speed of our travel using flight, we landed in the children's party Twilight was talking about. It was actually a bit heartbreaking to see the upset faces on the foals' and fillies' faces as they were clueless on what happened. Everything was decorated and set up like a Canterlot formal get-together. We could see Pinkie Pie quickly attempt to cheer every one of the children up using balloons and cake, but it was going to take a while to fully recover from the damage.

"Pinkie Pie." Twilight called as Pinkie Pie attempted to almost frantically fix the mess of a birthday party. "Did you see anything strange go on with the party before or as it changed?"

"I have no idea!" She responded as she quickly tried to pass out cake and a balloon to each foal. "One minute, I went to go get the birthday cake and the next, there was small unsugary food and a savvy calm instrumental band!"

After hearing her last words, I looked around for the band to notice Octavia standing there dumbfounded with her signature cello. I walked towards her to see if she spotted anything off, besides appearing at the party unexpectedly. "Tavi." I approached, noticing she was too struck with confusion when she didn't remove her stare off the party. I waved a hoof in front of her, causing her to shake her head and notice me. "Alex?" She questioned. "What…just happened?"

"That's kind of what I wanted to ask you…" I mentioned in response. "Twilight and I felt something really strange going on, and we wanted to see if anypony had information that could help us. Do you remember what happened? Or if you saw anything suspicious?"

"I…" She looked down towards the ground, trying to remember clearly. "…I remember practicing my cello at home…but all of a sudden I was here outside at a…children's party." She stated in a highly surprised manner. "I don't even know when I was apparently teleported out here. My eyes were closed during the song to grasp a better feel of the music, but when I opened them after finishing the song, I was here!"

"You didn't notice anything off?" I asked. "Besides, the place you magically appeared."

She shook her head. "I don't think so…"

"You should go home and just…rest a bit…" I advised after the confusion she had just been through. "We'll try to figure this out."

"Oh…okay…" She placed her cello on her back and walked out of there, continuing to show signs of shock and bafflement.

"Get anything…?" Twilight inquired to me, beginning to reveal a worried face.

"Not really…" I shook my head. "This has to be magic or something." I spoke out my thoughts. "It seems that everything here was switched out with a use of a teleportation spell. Octavia said she was at home practicing her cello until she noticed that she was standing here all of sudden."

"Ooh…" She released a frightened groan. "I hope it's nothing terrible."

"If it's a unicorn doing this, he/she might just been playing pranks on others." I looked over to the table the children were sitting at. "Bad ones to speak honestly."

"Well, if it is some kind of prankster unicorn, we need to find him/her and give a piece of our mind!" Twilight shared in an upset manner, disapproving the use of such harmful pranks.

Twilight and I walked through Ponyville to find any sign of a suspicious pony or aid anypony that suffered this prank-looking effect. In our walk, we managed to find something…frozen on the ground.

"What is that…?" Twilight squinted her eyes at the object in the middle of the road. Once she noticed some familiar traits, she gasped and called out his name. "Spike!" She ran ahead, leading me to quickly follow behind her. When she approached the paralyzed dragon, she immediately felt anxious. "Oh no, not you too!" She used her hoof to pick him up from the ground.

"What do you mean, 'not me too'?" Spike returned an unbothered expression as if this was normal for him.

"Oh..." Twilight pulled back on her worried face, noticing that he seemed to be fine and okay. "Judging by that outfit, I thought for sure you'd—"

"What? This?" He questioned, seeming to have trouble with what looked like frozen ice on his body. "I just wanted to try out a new look." Nevertheless, he lost his balance due to the weight of the accessories and fell to the ground. "You like?" He asked.

"What in Equestria made you want to wear this?" I inquired, helping him up this time.

"Oh, you know…" He shrugged. "Sometimes, you just gotta wear something completely random to find a good look."

"Uh-huh…" He seemed to have exaggerated that attempt for a new wardrobe.

"Hmm..." Twilight hummed and looked around. "Well, in that case, have you seen anypony suspicious around?"

"Uh, nope." He reacted casually, seeming to not know what was happening in certain parts of Ponyville.

She continued to look around carefully, having me join her by her side.

"We have to hurry, Alex." Twilight told me with a tone of strong willingness to find out who was responsible. "Who knows how far this prankster might go…"

"Princess Twilight! Prince Alex!" The mayor of Ponyville suddenly galloped towards us in a state of pressure. "The gazebo has been turned into solid crystal, and two ponies are now trapped inside its walls!"

Twilight gasped sharply and looked at me. "Come on!" She hurriedly spread her wings and flew in the direction of the gazebo.

The sight of the new gazebo was certainly a frightening one. Whoever this "prankster" was, he or she was really going too far as Twilight was worrying. We saw those two ponies stuck behind the glass wall, and only I could feel a glimpse of the panic they must had been going through inside.

"Do you have any spells that can get them out?" I inquired to Twilight with high concern.

"I believe so." She closed her eyes and led the magical aura around her horn. As I turned to the trapped ponies, they quickly became relieved when they noticed they were being transported freely out of the gazebo. Once they were safely back on the ground, Twilight and I took the initiative to question them.

"Are you two alright?" Twilight asked the both of them.

"Now, we are." One of them gladly answered.

"Thanks!" The other expressed.

"I don't suppose you noticed the pony turning the gazebo into solid crystal, have you?" I questioned.

They exchanged a look with each other and only returned sad shakes of their heads.

Before Twilight and I could try to make sense of all these changes and even life-threatening actions, the ground below us suddenly blinded us for a moment.

"Augh! What's going on?!" Twilight cried out, placing a hoof in front of her face.

"The road has changed into solid gold now!" I noted, able to see the color after adapting a bit to the blinding light.

"Both of you, get to safety!" Twilight stated to the two formerly trapped ponies. They only spared a nod before they ran off to escape the blinding-paved road. "This is out of control!" Twilight expressed, feeling no better from the new transformation. "I don't know how a single unicorn can do so much of this! We have to get the other Princesses' help to track the source of this before anypony else gets hurt!"

"Let's hurry then!" I agreed, following Twilight.

Arriving at Canterlot, we dashed through the royal doors in a hurry, calling out the Princesses as soon as we saw them.

"Princess Celestia!" Twilight exclaimed.

"Mom!" I shouted in the same tone.

"Twilight?" Princess Celestia questioned the sight of her while sitting on her throne.

"Alex?" Princess Luna repeated but towards me.

"Something is going out of control of Ponyville!" Twilight explained. "Some kind of magic is making everything…well…" Twilight paused to try to think of the correct term. "…shiningly dangerous!"

"What are you talking about?" Tia requested.

"We don't exactly know." I answered for Twilight. "But from what we've seen so far, it started from changing a kid's birthday party to a formal Canterlot party. Then, two ponies were trapped inside a gazebo made out of crystal walls. As soon as all of Ponyville roads become solid gold, we came as quickly as we could to get your help!"

Princess Celestia was certainly surprised at this experience, but she took no hesitation to ensure this matter was addressed. "Princess Luna, go with them to address this issue. I'll send a letter to Princess Cadence and see if she can help. I'll also make sure there's no other place in Equestria suffering from this dispute."

"Yes, sister." Luna nodded and then hopped out of her throne chair to join us. "Let us make haste." She advised, leading us to hurry out of the castle and back to Ponyville while Celestia attempted to contact Cadence.

We absolutely needed no help in spotting Ponyville from the distance up in the clouds. Ponyville was in a much worse state than we had left it. Practically every single building in Ponyville was crystallized or bejeweled, and Princess Luna did not hesitate to widen her eyes at this sight. "What in the world…?"

We landed on the ground, or in this case, gold-plated roads, to begin to be blinded by the glare once again.

"We don't know what to do!" Twilight referred to our current situation on the problem.

Luna closed her eyes and concentrated on the magic in her horn. After a few seconds, she quickly widened them open and gasped. "This isn't just any kind of magic… It's… dark magic!" She emphasized a bit fearfully.

"Dark magic?" I questioned, beginning to feel some of the fear linger on to me. "How did dark magic get into Ponyville?"

"I cannot answer that, but we must get rid of it before anything disastrous comes out of it!" Luna suggested.

"What about the pony responsible?" Twilight asked, afraid of the idea of the source running loose.

"I understand your worry, Twilight Sparkle, but we cannot leave this magic here to search for the pony doing this." Luna brought a valid point. "We need to remove this magic. Afterwards, we shall see if there are any clues to who this pony is."

"Do you know how to remove this magic?" I inquired.

"Yes." She nodded. "But it is going to take a lot of energy to do so."

"Whatever it takes!" Twilight brought herself up, clearly showing her hurry to fix Ponyville.

Princess Luna worked her magic into removing the dark magic dealing with the golden road. However, it was only removed enough to the point where it didn't bother us as much anymore. There was still plenty of road to fix all-around.

"We can work together to restore portions of Ponyville." Luna explained. "But it is going to take some time and a lot of energy. If Princess Cadence can arrive as soon as she can, we can expand our radius to cover much more of Ponyville in a less amount of time.

"Let's get started then." I joined Twilight's emphasis in correcting the issue at hoof.

Throughout what felt like almost forever, my mother, Twilight, and I concentrated our magic together while Luna did most of the spell work. During the few first area cleanings, we were shown how difficult it really was, at least for us, to remove so much dark magic. It took us maybe minutes of our complete concentration and energy to focus our magic long enough for Luna to use it in its effect on Ponyville. After several group cleanings, Twilight and I were practically our knees, panting in exhaustion. Luna appeared to be tired as well but not to the point we were since she probably had experience in this before.

"We will be done very soon." Princess Luna tried to encourage us to hold on just a little longer.

Twilight shook her head. "We're trying our best to keep up, Luna."

"Twilight! Alex!" We heard a familiar call come towards us. We looked in the direction it came from and noticed Miss Cadence coming in for a landing. "I came as quickly as I could. From what I could see, it doesn't look like you need that much more." She shared and noticed the condition we were in. She closed her eyes and focused her magic on us. After a moment, we felt as if we were given a little more energy to keep going. Of course, we weren't completely rejuvenated, but it was thankfully enough to go on a little while longer. "Come on!" She encouraged. "We can finish this!"

With Miss Cadence's help, we were able to expand and strengthen the effect of our magical wash. By what I hoped to be the end of it, Twilight and I, at the very least, didn't have the strength to celebrate or be relieved. Being relatively new Alicorns, we were both still inexperienced dealing with such matters and it was sure to leave us sore in the morning. We panted greatly on the now normal road while Miss Cadence and Luna took their breaks lighter than we did.

"I think that's the end of it…" Miss Cadence shared softly but positively.

"It would appear so…" Luna joined, searching around. "But we still need to find the pony responsible for the mess. This pony must be very dangerous as she or he has been dabbling with dark magic." She explained the seriousness of the situation, reminding us that our job was not completely over.

However, we heard some astonished words coming out from a stylized mare.

"My, oh my…" We found Rarity walking by with a sort of lowered head as she observed the ordinary surroundings. "Were you all able to fix this by yourselves?" She asked once spotting us taking an exhausted break.

"Yes." Twilight managed to respond. "What about you, Rarity? Where've you been? Are you okay?" She immediately questioned the well-being of Rarity.

"I'm fine, darling." Rarity answered, helping us up with her hooves. "At least, now, I am."

"What do you mean 'now, I am'?" I asked.

"Well…" Rarity appeared to be clueless herself on her own words. "It's just that…Spike was trying to help me with my creative mojo for the Foal and Filly Fair…so he found me this book—"

"Book?" Twilight questioned before Rarity could continue.

"Yes." Rarity clarified. "It was this odd-looking and old dusty book. I believe the title was along the lines of… 'Inspiration Manifestation'."

Luna gasped, as if she knew what Rarity was talking about. "'Inspiration Manifestation'?!" She turned down in thought. "But of course! That would explain why everything in Ponyville was so crystallized and ornamented. There is no dangerous pony out and about. It was your friend all along under the spell of the book. She lost control of herself and the innocent ideas within her were transformed to horrid and harmful ones." She quickly tended to Rarity. "How are you feeling? You were succumbed to a horrible amount of dark magic."

Rarity placed a hoof to her forehead. "I'm feeling well, Princess Luna. Just a bit dizzy."

"Please." Luna wished concerningly. "Go home and rest. Let us or Twilight and Alex know immediately if you endure any strange or uncomfortable pains with your magic."

"Of course." Rarity thoroughly understood Luna. "Thank you, Princess." She bowed and took her cautious leave.

"Is Rarity going to be okay?" Twilight asked, becoming worried after hearing what Luna mentioned.

"I cannot be certain for sure." Princess Luna returned. "But if all is well, she should only need to rest away the disorientation and slight confusion she's feeling at the moment. But dealing with such dark magic, we need to make sure we keep in touch with her for a while until we are certain she is completely fine." Luna paused and placed a hoof to her chin in thought once again. "But there is something I don't understand quite yet. How was your friend, Spike, able to find this dangerous book? It was cleverly hidden and locked away at our old castle for a reason."

"Only one way to find out!" Twilight somehow actually grew the strength to move in a storming march towards her home at the library.

The rest of us followed her, mostly to move on with the story of the book being taken. However, the two of the princesses didn't seem to know Twilight enough to know of the possible quarrel that was about to open. Twilight kicked open the door as hard as she could, but since she was energy-deprived, it didn't slam open like she possibly wanted. "Spike!" She exclaimed, surprising the little dragon that seemed to have been writing in the journal. "…where and how did you get the book…?" Twilight demanded through gritted teeth.

"Um…" He began looking a little anxious due to Twilight's current temper. "…I found it at the…Castle of the Two Sisters…?"

"How were you ever able to find this book and unlock the lock of the door to the area it was in?" Princess Luna stepped in, wanting to know how he was able to get this book.

"Well…" Spike scratched his head as he tried to remember what happened. "I was looking for any kind of books that could help Rarity with her problem. I stumbled upon some kind of bookshelf that moved and revealed a secret room. The door was already unlocked, so I went in to—"

"Wait." Luna halted. "The door was…unlocked?"

"That's what I remember seeing." Spike answered.

"I could have sworn remembering that it was locked…" Princess Luna thought to herself, keeping her mind busy on the idea of the door being unlocked. "Where is the book now?

"I..." Spike hesitated to answer. "I kind of...ate it..." He nervously laughed afterwards with a bit of an embarrassing blush.

"You ate it?!" Twilight exclaimed in question.

"Sorry!" Spike defended himself. "When I realized how bad things were getting, I thought it was stop it all. Turns out I just had to follow the last part of the spell and tell the truth to Rarity."

Princess Luna released a sigh. "It's not exactly how I would have handled it, but at least it shouldn't cause any harm to you, Spike. As long as you didn't magically interact with it, you should be fine."

Despite what happened in the past, Twilight furiously glared at Spike. "Spike." She called, scaring him a little. "Never, ever, ever, ever take another book out of the library at the castle without asking!" She made clear as she confronted him face-to-face. "Princess Cadence and Princess Luna have much better things to do than help us clean up Ponyville!" Twilight walked up the stairs, heading towards her bed before she expended any more of her energy. At that point, she just jumped towards her bed and appeared to have no intention of getting off in a long time. "Do you have any idea how hard it was to reverse that much dark magic?!"

Spike clasped his claws together with a flinching kind of look in his face from Twilight's scolding. However, he seemed brave enough to chuckle after noticing how dirty we appeared to be from having to work so hard to clean up technically his sort of his mess. "You all don't look so good." Twilight opened her mouth in slight surprise, possibly due to expecting another answer. Afterwards, she only returned a soft but intense growl towards him. However, he didn't seem to take it seriously "What? I'm just being honest! It's what good friends do!" Afterwards, he began walking off past all of us, seeming to take everything that just happened today lightly. Twilight growled in a louder tone while angrily looking away, feeling no energy to continue nagging on Spike about his mistake.

"I better get going…" Miss Cadence announced. "I don't want to leave Shining Armor with too much over the Crystal Empire." She turned and spread her wings out. "I'll see you at the Equestria Games." She stated with a smile and left.

Right. The Equestria Games… I had already forgotten about them.

"You both could really use some sleep." My mother advised after noticing how tired we looked and possibly felt the aches from our weak bodies.

"You have no idea…" Twilight fell back on her bed and closed her eyes.

"Mind if you scooch a bit?" I asked Twi, placing my hooves at the side of her bed.

"Huh?" She noticed me wanting to join her in the comfort of her bed. "Oh, sure." She rolled over a bit in order to allow me on.

Once I was lying next to her, I released a great breath of relief, feeling I could just knock out there at any second. "What a day…"

"You said it…" Twilight agreed in exhaustion.

"May I be of assistance?" Luna asked.

"What are you going to do?" I inquired.

She only smiled, closed her eyes, and focused her magic. The next thing I knew, we were soundly falling asleep like foals.

By the time I woke up, the first thing I noticed was that the moon was up and it was night. I also noticed Twilight sleeping peacefully beside me. However, I remembered Luna was also with us before we fell asleep and she was nowhere in sight.

"Luna?" I softly called. Instead, my call ended up waking Twilight.

While keeping her eyes closed, she breathed in a living breath and moaned a bit as she stretched her forelegs out. "What time is it?" She asked, seeming rested enough to erase the tiredness we felt before.

"Apparently, nighttime." I responded with a little smirk and gestured over to the window. "I don't know where Luna went. Is she back in Canterlot?"

Twilight only shrugged. How was she supposed to know if she was asleep as I was? Nevertheless, we heard some sounds, possibly magical sounds, coming a bit above us. We looked at each other and decided to walk upstairs to check out what it was. It seemed to have been coming from the balcony, which was the highest part of the treehouse, so we made our way there.

As we reached the balcony, we noticed Princess Luna focusing her magic on the stars in the sky. After she would open her eyes, she would look into Twilight's telescope and smile. Twilight grinned, appearing to find this cute.

"This is quite an extraordinary telescope you have here, Twilight." Luna mentioned, knowing we were already behind her. Despite that we hadn't made a sound, we decided not to question about it. "How are you two feeling?"

"A lot better." Twilight gave an answer and turned to me to see if I felt the same.

"Yeah." I nodded.

"That's good." Luna released a smile and then returned to her gazing of the stars.

I glanced over to Twilight and gestured with my head in order for us to go join her. The two of us sat a little closer to the edge as we stared out into the sky.

"I don't mean it in the wrong way, Princess Luna, but what are you still doing here? I thought you'd already be in Canterlot." Twilight asked.

"I wanted to wait until the both of you woke up." She answered, continuing to gaze out into the stars. "But I believe I caught myself staring in awe at my own stars."

"Well…you're a part of them." I shared honestly. "You're a…star…"

Twilight snickered a bit. "That's kind of cheesy."

"Well, it's true." I brushed off. As I stared at the lit speckles in the sky a little longer, I immediately remembered something. "Hold on a second!" I lifted up with my wings and flew to my home as fast as I could. After retrieving something, I came back and stood before them.

"What was that all about?" Twilight asked.

"This." I presented three charms in the shape of stars, but they varied in different yet similar colors. "I made these for us."

Twilight stood up and brought her head in closer to get a better look. "These? For us?"

"Don't you see?" I questioned, causing her to look more into the charms. "These resemble the three of us…and how we're connected." I lifted up the charms with my magic and connected them one by one to show them. They fit almost like a puzzle, yet still looked ordinary when separate. "I couldn't really believe how obvious it was. The purple's you, Twilight." I listed the colors of her coat and charm. "The blue is mine, and the darker blue is you, mom." I finished. "Isn't it kind of weird but amazing at the same time how we're kind of shades of a cool blue? I mean, Twilight, you're not exactly blue, but you know, you're still in the color area, if you get what I mean. Either way, we all represent the night. Even our cutie marks prove that."

Twilight remained silent at my explanation of our connection. "Wow… I guess… I really never thought about that." She shared honestly. "Maybe…we were meant to be connected the way we are now…?"

"We had to be." I placed their charms on each of their hooves. "You can wear it around your neck, so when you're in the deepest of trouble, and say I'm not around, you can just look back on your charm and think of me." I laughed a little after saying that, finding it cheesy once again. "Sorry, I guess I can't really stop being cheesy tonight."

"No, no." Twilight shook her head. "That's really sweet of you."

"I kind of got the idea from you with your good luck charm." I chuckled. "And the connecting part of the charm…well…I honestly even got it from Discord and his friendship necklace thingy."

"Oh, boy…" Twilight was reminded of the incident with him.

"Thank you, Alex…" My mother shared almost out of the blue. "I…I just only have my thanks for you…"

"Of course, mom…" I smiled. "That charm can remind you that you're never alone, even in the darkest days."

"I have to admit…" Twilight began speaking, turning our eyes to her. "…it kind of bothers me. If darkness is what we really fight… Isn't our connection…related to the darkness? The night? Does that make us…bad?"

"Twilight…" Princess Luna responded. "Just because something is dark…doesn't make it bad. A lot of ponies are scared of the darkness because…it gives you a sense of fear. It keeps you from seeing clearly. But darkness is neither bad nor good. It just is. It is the same with light. Light is just usually associated with good, and darkness is associated with bad. Sometimes, I wonder why some ponies wished there was no evil. No darkness. The truth is…we can't live without it. The world is made up of light and darkness. You can't have one without the other. If there was no light, there could be no such thing as darkness. If there was no darkness, there could be no such thing as light. If there was no good, there would be no such thing as evil. If there was no evil, there would be no such thing as good. We need the other in order to differentiate ourselves. But even if you come from the dark, you can still be good. I am the example. You may have met me back when I still was…Nightmare Moon…but thanks to you all, I am my own being. I choose to follow the path of good…because I know how much hurt comes from bad. As you can see, the dark can sometimes be a beautiful thing…" She pointed a hoof out towards the sky. "Especially when combined with light." She included the moon and the stars. And then, she looked at me. "Just like you and your power inside you." She mentioned with a small but meaningful smile.

"Wow…" I now said for myself, feeling immensely positive after hearing her words. "You just made me one hundred percent proud that I am who I am, mom…"

"But of course." She stated a bit smugly. "It is my duty as your mother."

Twilight giggled at our little scene. "You guys…" She grabbed her charm and looked down. After observing it, the smile on her face stretched, and she held a firm grasp on the charm. "This is great…" She picked up her head and looked out to the stars. "I feel really at…peace. Just being here. Stargazing…"

"Hearing that makes me pleased." Luna expressed. "For the whole time I've been tasked with raising the moon, I've always wanted ponies to appreciate what I do. I'm glad to see that you two do…and the three of us could just sit here and watch the beauty behind the night."

"Agreed…" Twilight turned back to the sky.

I smirked very lightly and picked up my charm with my hoof. Then, I stretched it out towards the sky to make it feel fit in. "…together…" I shared meaningfully under my breath.

After such a wonderful night with my mother and Twilight, I was really hoping that Spirit would come by the balcony. I was such in a good mood. I mean…it was so perfect…so why wouldn't she come? What's taking her so long?

The more I sat there with the fresh breeze, the more I began to feel empty in one part of my body. I began to almost desperately long for the taste that was associated with each sunset.

I sighed and held up my empty hoof.

"I really do miss her ice cream…"

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