• 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 Kingdom

Episode 89 – The Kingdom

As I woke up that morning, I had forgotten about everything that had happened the day before. Actually, to be more accurate, it all came to me as a nightmare. I was willing to accept that as a fact, whether it was really the truth or not…until I took a quick glance at my body.

I don't know how…but her hoodie remained on me. And if it wasn't for that hoodie, I probably would have been able to dismiss everything as just a stupid nightmare. Nevertheless, I didn't want to take it off, no matter how many painful memories it produced. It was Spirit's hoodie, and I couldn't just…leave it behind.

Outside the window, I could see the sky at the brink of dawn. Everypony was soundly asleep except for me. As I thought more into what happened less than twenty four hours ago, I remembered how Starlight was just a floor or two away from me. It only led me to wonder how she was doing, or if she had gotten any sleep.

Of course, thinking these things caused me to regret my actions yesterday. I didn't want to keep such things in mind. At least for the moment, I wanted to forget everything before now. I got out of bed and tried to quietly walk over to the bathroom. I wasn't so sure if my emotions were going to go on a fit again.

I tried the very old method of spraying water against my face from the faucet. However…as I turned towards the mirror, it all seemed familiar again. I felt as if…I lost something… I felt as if I completely lost the ability the other girls gifted me with. No matter if I truly wanted to, I couldn't smile. I didn't even think I could force it. I believed…I was just broken.

"Morning…" I heard a soft voice from behind me.

I slowly turned around, being too lifeless to even feel startled. Twilight was standing there at the doorway, possibly focusing at the mood that was presented on my face.

"Morning…" I responded, looking away.

"…are you feeling okay?" She asked, jumping straight to the point.

"I'd be lying if I said I was." I answered.

Twilight walked in a little more before she shut the door to the room. "Was your nightmare really that bad?" She inquired worriedly but a bit seriously at the same time.

"What?" I questioned in surprise, wondering if she somehow knew what happened with Spirit last night. "How do you…?"

"I had one too…" She mentioned. "I woke up and found you crying in your sleep next to me. Do you mind if…you tell me what happened…?"

"To be honest…I don't think I can." I replied, feeling absolutely emotionally deprived. "I don't…even want to talk right now… I'm just so tired…of everything…" I stated as I drew a hoof against my face.

Twilight brought her face closer to mine so she could have a better look at me. I wasn't so comfortable with that. "Something's going on with you…" She spoke from her analysis. "You…you've never looked this…exhausted before. I mean…you're kind of worrying me, Alex…"

"I think I just need some sleep…" I excused. "After all…I didn't even feel like getting out of bed this morning." I walked past her and opened the door. I headed over to the bed and planted myself carelessly on it, later covering myself completely and practically curling myself into a ball.

In the silence, I heard a mail slot open and close. It wasn't until I was already used to the comfort of the bed that Twilight announced something unexpected.

"Bed might have to wait…" She said. However, I really felt no intention in getting out of bed. It was like…at that moment…I didn't care how important whatever was, I just wanted to stay in bed. "Princess Celestia wrote us a letter about the Duke and Duchess coming for a surprise 'confidential meeting'. She wants us to be there to acknowledge their visit before we take off back to Ponyville." I sighed, really feeling the need to not get up. "It shouldn't take too long." She added, as if she knew how much it bothered me. "We just have to…show up...for a second or two…"

Hearing that, I gained just barely enough energy to want to get it over with. I pulled the covers over and away from me and began to drag myself out of bed. "Fine…" I managed to work my way over to Twilight's side. "Let's go…" I worked my magic on the doorknob and opened it.

"Whatcha doing?!" We saw Pinkie on the other side, whom startled Twilight.

"Pinkie!" Twilight exclaimed and then remembered the others were still sleeping, so she quickly hushed her voice. "Pinkie…how did you…?"

"I heard you two were going somewhere!" She answered energetically, not exactly sending Twilight the information she wanted.

"Yeah…" Twilight returned, lifting up the letter with her magic. "We're going to welcome the Duke and Duchess of Maretonia…"

"Oh my gosh!" Pinkie held her hooves to her cheeks and then raced inside the room past us. "HEY EVERYONE! ALEX AND TWILIGHT ARE GOING TO HAVE FUN!" Pinkie screamed out loud, immediately waking up everypony inside.

"Ugh…" Rainbow Dash groaned, feeling too tired to get up herself. "Pinkie…why are you screaming so early…?"

"I don't know." She questioned her own antics herself. "Why am I screaming so early?" She turned to us and borrowed the letter to look over. "Hey, wait a minute!" Something caught Pinkie's eyes and she turned the letter towards us while pointing a hoof at a certain spot. "It says here that they're not coming until the evening."

I sent Twilight a questioning glance, which she clearly received. "…I wanted to be early?" She responded with a sheepish grin. I couldn't tell if she was actually telling the truth or if she was trying to make an excuse for misreading the time of the letter.

"If we don't have to go…" I began, already feeling as if there was some magnetic force pulling me towards the bed. "I'd really just like to sleep until it's time to go…"

Twilight sighed and looked in concern for me. "It's fine… We can wait until then…"

"Thank you…" I briefly expressed and automatically set a path to the bed. When I felt the extreme comfort of being in the bed and under the covers, I was certain I didn't want to come out until I had my sleep. I could hear the conversation between the others being dragged out, but I honestly didn't feel the energy to care.

No matter how much sleep I had between, it never felt like it was enough. Twilight and I were supposed to greet two apparent significant ponies, and I was just feeling nothing to satisfy the request we were given. I suppose I was granted the energy to get out of bed, but I still felt nothing to be talkative and loving to others as I usually was. Even I knew I acted "distant", but at the moment, it was barely doable to make it through the day.

"Seems like only yesterday I was saving this place from being totally destroyed." Spike reminded us unnecessarily, returning to his proud boastful self. "Hey, you guys remember that?" He asked, standing next to his crystal statue.

"You only mentioned it about fifteen times on the walk over here…" Rainbow Dash returned in annoyance.

"Yes, and we never hear a peep out of you about your exploits." Rarity added in sarcastically towards Rainbow Dash.

"Heh, point taken." Rainbow Dash realized she wasn't really the one to talk about Spike's boasts.

"I'm glad you all wanted to come, but I don't think it's gonna be that exciting." Twilight expressed for their earnest behavior in joining us for something that I didn't even want to do. "We pretty much just have to smile and wave as the dignitaries arrive."

Smile…? I don't think I'll be doing that…

"Yes, but you get to smile and wave like a prince and princess!" Rarity returned in glee as if there was something really special and exciting about it, just because of our royal status.

"How exactly is that different than smilin' and wavin' like not a prince and princess?" Applejack asked, causing Rarity to think about it for the moment.

"It isn't…" Twilight walked ahead on her own and stopped, lowering her head and flopping down her ears.

"What's wrong, Twilight?" Fluttershy asked, noticing the unusual reaction.

"Why the looooooooong face?" Pinkie Pie popped up next to Twilight, contrasting her presence near her.

"I've just been feeling a little unsure about things lately…" She mentioned, providing a clear and specific glance towards me. "Recently, I've been pondering whether if there's really any point to being the princess I am now. Sure, I've been to a few 'assigned duties', but anypony else could had easily done that. It doesn't seem that my new role as a princess equates to all that much… I feel…insignificant…"

"Stop all that nasty talk." Applejack ordered for the better. "You've got a real important role in Equestria. I mean, who was the one who finished that bearded fellow's spell? Who's the one who brought the elements together in the first place? You've done heaps of good things here, Twilight."

"I guess so…" Twilight didn't take effectively. "Even then…I wasn't a princess at the time. Have I done anything really important since then?"

"You're probably overlooking things, Twilight…" Fluttershy spoke up. "After all, Princess Celestia wouldn't have asked you to come today if she didn't think you were important."

Twilight managed to form a small smile after that idea. "I guess you're right."

"Of course we are. Now hurry along! You don't want to risk having that important role diminished because you were tardy for your regal meet-and-greet." Rarity hurried us along, but mostly towards Twilight.

"Yeah." Twilight agreed. "At least I'll be seeing them one more time before we head off."

"Hey, Alex." Rainbow Dash unexpectedly called me. "Where'd you get that hoodie? Did Princess Cadence give it to you or something?" She asked after noticing the clothing I was wearing today.

Feeling my eyes glue to the floor, I felt no intention of even making a reasonable excuse for why I wore the hoodie. Instead, I just chose to be vague about it. "…it's a long story." That answer provided no suspicion and possibly released the hint that I didn't want to talk not only about the hoodie, but probably about everything.

At the crystal castle, Twilight and I waited up on top of the balcony until we heard the loud fanfare from the bottom that signaled the arrival of the expected visitors.

"The Duke and Duchess of Maretonia!" We heard from below.

We made our way to the railing to see four ponies coming to our direction below us, two of them being elderly. They were facing the three other princesses, whom consisted of Princess Celestia, Luna, and Cadence. Twilight used her magic to unfurl the banner below while I honestly just stood there and stared emotionlessly. Even as Twilight was waving with enthusiasm as the other princesses led them inside, I continued standing there like an idiot and didn't even do the simple job I was given. Nevertheless, it fortunately wasn't that much of a big deal as the Duke and Duchess didn't even seem to notice us.

"That was it?" We heard Spike's voice behind us, causing Twilight to stop waving and for the two of us to turn around. He was ranting in the middle of all of the other girls. "Princess Celestia had you two come all the way over here just to do that?" Twilight realized his statement must have been the truth in her eyes, so she closed her eyes and lowered her head sadly. "I mean, whoa, really regal and important!" Spike recognized the slip of his tongue and tried to remedy the situation. He nervously laughed, but he later on figured how it was too late to fix anything once receiving a smack behind the head from Applejack. Everypony looked at him in a scolding manner except for Fluttershy, who was too busy worrying over the current mood Twilight was in now.

I couldn't believe how silent I was being. I couldn't believe how I was not interfering or even comforting Twilight. This all felt familiar to me before…by why was I in this state again? Why did I feel like I almost did not have a care in the world? These are my friends…and I was supposed to care for them…

"I…uh…better start making sure all our stuff is packed…" Spike pointed towards the exit, carefully stepping away in order to remove himself out of the awkward situation.

"You all should probably head back to the hotel too." Twilight advised. "Alex and I still need to finish up here. Afterwards, we can go home."

"You sure you don't want us to stay with you, Sugarcube?" Applejack asked.

"I'll be fine." Twilight assured. "I've got my B.B.B.F.F." She glanced over to me with a small short smile.

This statement made me feel absolutely worse, as I knew I hadn't done anything to comfort Twilight about her problem. To refer to a meaningful term she hadn't used in a while, it made me feel almost…unworthy.

"Alrighty." Applejack understood. "We'll be waitin'." She said as she led the others out of the balcony.

Twilight waved back with her minor strained smile. As soon as they were out of sight, she released a breath and allowed her hoof to fall back on the floor. I wanted to try to get into conversation about her issue…but just like a very long time ago, I felt afraid to…

"Guess we better go wait inside…" She simply stated and began back into the castle, having me follow behind her.

Twilight and I waited outside the doors where they were apparently having their classified meeting. I was almost starting to feel possibly what Twilight felt. Instead of adding on to the important matters they were having, it seemed we were stuck with the jobs of royal guards. Twilight restlessly paced around while I only sat there, sharing time at staring at the floor or switching over to watching Twilight pace.

The doors suddenly opened loudly, surprising and alarming the both of us. We saw the Duke and Duchess sternly walking over to us as the other princesses remained behind them. I followed Twilight's movement after seeing her bow, leading for the Duke and Duchess to do the same.

"Your highnesses." The Duke of Maretonia acknowledged us. "Thank you for understanding our desire to keep the number of those privy to these confidential discussions to a minimum."

"Of course." Twilight answered. After, they continued their walk out the castle doors, leading us to stand back up. Twilight began to wave and practically forcefully smile once again. She stopped when they were out of sight, and the rest of the princesses joined us in the hallway. "Is there anything else I can do to assist with their visit?" Twilight asked, yearning for more significant work.

"I'm sorry, Twilight, but their visit is already over." Cadence responded.

"Oh…" Twilight disappointingly allowed her head to fall in dissatisfaction.

"Something wrong?" My mom felt the unease that radiated from Twilight.

"I guess I just don't really understand why I'm here." Twilight seemed to be keeping me out of it, as she felt the problem of importance only relied with her. "Couldn't one of the royal guard have unfurled the banner?"

"Having all five of us in the Empire to greet them lets the dignitaries know that their visit is considered an important one." Princess Celestia answered Twilight's question and reminded her of my involvement.

"Plus, it gives me an opportunity to see my favorite relatives." Cadence stepped between us, placing her forelegs around us.

"And I'm happy to see you." Twilight agreed. "All of you." She included.

"But...?" Cadence picked up Twilight's head by her chin as she cheerfully grinned, noticing Twilight had more in mind to say.

"But I..." Twilight tried to answer, but seemed to have a hard time doing so. "Well… It's just that Princess Luna raises the moon." She pointed out, having Luna nod seriously. "Princess Celestia raises the sun." Celestia reacted with soft gleeful confidence. "You protect the Crystal Empire." Cadence didn't seem to remove the worry she felt for Twilight. "Heck…even Alex has an important Element embedded in his heart." Twilight brought up unexpectedly for me. "And all I seem to do is..." She paused, receiving no thought in mind to assure her importance. She sighed before continuing. "…smile and wave." Afterwards, she turned and left towards the balcony in what looked like to be shame. The rest of us only silently and uncomfortably watched her leave before I decided to go on after her.

At the balcony, I saw her resting herself gloomily on the railing. Before I could at least try to find the strength to comfort her, she noticed me behind her and began singing.

"It isn't that I'm ungrateful

For all the things that I've earned," Twilight assured.

"For all the journeys I have taken,

All the lessons that I have learned" As she turned around to face what was now the night sky, I unintentionally imagined Spirit sitting at her spot in the balcony, facing the sunset, holding her ice cream with her hoof, and looking back at me with a sunny grin.

"But I wonder where I'm going now,

What my role is meant to be

I don't know how to travel

To a future that I can't see" Twilight stood up and began walking away, snapping me out of my needless vision, which made my mood even worse if it wasn't already at the very bottom.

"I have my wings, I wear this crown

I'm a princess, this is true" Twilight acknowledged to the other princesses, whom were all holding great concern for her.

"But it's still unclear to me

Just what I am meant to do

I wanna have a purpose" She wished towards Cadence.

"Wanna do all that I can" She begged at Luna.

"I wanna make a contribution" She shared with Celestia.

"I want to be a part of the plan…" Lastly, she expressed worriedly to me, face to face.

Princess Celestia walked towards us and placed a hoof on the each of us.

"Your destinies are uncertain" She included the two of us in song, giving me the feeling that she wanted to remind Twilight that we were a team, and that we were in this together, no matter how isolated Twilight felt.

"And that's sometimes hard to take

But it will become much clearer

With every choice you two make" Celestia presented the night sky before us, assuring with a grand yet gentle grin.

"Patience is never easy" My mother stepped in, gaining a proud reaction from Tia.

"I understand wanting more

I know how hard it is to wait

To spread out your wings and soar"

"But you two stand here for a reason!" Princess Cadence now joined.

"You're gifted and you are strong" She titled each of us, gaining a bashful blush from Twilight.

"Those crowns are upon your heads because

You belong~!" She accredited, allowing the others to join in great harmony.

"Know that your time is coming soon!" The three of them sang all together, continuing to face us.

"As the sun rises, so does the moon

As love finds a place in every heart

You are a prince and princess; you'll play your part" They left us standing in the middle of the three of them to observe them send out a wholeheartedly message out to us.

"We understand you wanting more

A chance to shine, a chance to soar" Princess Luna recognized, leading the others to join her in flight as they flew in a circular motion above us.

"Soon will come the day it turns around!" Cadence added strongly as we both gazed in slight worry, for our own reasons, at them.

"Know that your time is coming soon!" They landed and repeated, presenting the night sky.

"As the sun rises, so does the moon

As love finds a place in every heart

You are a prince and princess; you'll play your part!"

However, it looked like Twilight needed just a bit more of reassurance, leading Celestia to tend to that. She walked towards us and lifted our chins in hope.

"You are a prince and princess; you'll play your part…" She sang once again, ending with a warm embrace to us both.

Afterwards, she turned to Twilight. "Your time will come." She smiled with truth and began to leave as the others followed her.

Princess Luna stayed a bit longer for some reason to face us. "Remember." She said and pulled something out from her chest guard. It was the charm I had made for her… She had it with her… Twilight was a bit surprised to see this and looked down to her chest to notice hers in her own possession too. The hoodie I wore covered any sight of the charm, almost making me believe that I hadn't have even been wearing it, but after Luna's presentation, I felt it with me as well. Once she knew she reminded us of our connection, she deeply smiled and continued on her way back into the castle.

Once Twilight and I were left on our own, she silently walked over to the edge of the balcony and leaned on the railing. I followed her and joined her in the same matter.

"If you don't mind me asking…" She began to say. "…how did you ever get the idea to make us these charms? Besides our…connection…" She asked.

I took a moment to think on how to answer that. "…They're…really based off the good luck charm you gave me." I reminded, surprising her. "In fact…the good luck charm you gave me…" I stretched the collar of the hoodie out in order to pull out something I expected to be there. "It's really my piece in our connection…" I presented it to her.

I almost couldn't believe how surprised she was to hear and see that. I suppose she hadn't seen it for so long that she didn't realize it was her gift in the first place. She gasped and held a hoof to her mouth in slight shock. With her eyes appearing just a bit watery as they looked up towards me, she embraced me sincerely. "I knew I made the right choice trusting you…" She mentioned, astounding me as well. She kept her hug but pulled away just enough to lift her head up to me. "Ever since to the point where we hardly knew each other, I always felt something different but special towards you. Never did I predict that that was what would bring us here now. It couldn't have been a coincidence. It had to be a part of our destiny."

"Yeah…" I managed to agree, even though I was looking away and still feeling terrible tremors of sadness.

"Alex…" Twilight noticed this and pulled away completely to continue looking at me. "Can you please tell me what's going on? Don't act like I haven't noticed. I know something is wrong because I've never seen you act like this way before. Not since…before Discord…" I knew she referred to the dark place I resided in before their light of friendship shined down on me.

I honestly didn't even know if I still cared about keeping Spirit in innocent light. I'm not saying she isn't innocent. There were just…too many facts about what she did that…had me feel almost betrayed. Twilight's been my closest, deepest, and personal friend. Considering we were a team, I think she deserved the truth.

I turned and placed my hooves in the railing, afraid of feeling even more broken after spilling. "…I screwed up things with Starlight…badly…" I began. "…and…more importantly…I think… I think I may have lost a friend."

"Huh…?" Twilight widened her eyes.

"Spirit." I looked back at her with upset eyes. "She…she did something horrible to me. Something I can't read or explain. She hurt me." I placed a hoof on my chest for that hurt. "But…it didn't feel like she intently wanted to hurt me. That's what puzzles me." I closed my eyes, remembering the heart-wrenching scene. "Everything happened so fast… I didn't know what to do… Things ended badly… But for some reason…deep down in my heart…I just know it. I know she isn't a bad pony. I just know it…"

"Alex…you're confusing me." Twilight answered with worry. "You're saying she hurt you, so how can you still feel she's a good pony? If you're like this right now, it had to be something bad."

"…I don't know." It was all I could reply with.

"So, what if she hurts you again?" Twilight lightly furrowed her eyebrows, almost revealing a sign that she was beginning to disapprove of Spirit. "You can't possibly think I wouldn't want to get involved."

"To be honest, Twilight…" I mentioned with my eyes staring at the floor of the balcony. "…I don't think she'll be hurting me anytime soon…"

By the look in her eye, I wasn't sure if she got the wrong idea of that statement. Nevertheless, it was the truth. Whether she was incapacitated or really…gone… The last state I saw Spirit in was no state to do anything of the sort.

It was getting really late, and the others were still waiting for us. By the looks of it, it appeared that we would be staying another night here in the Crystal Empire. Either way, Twilight and I decided to get going back to the hotel until there was an unexpected intervention in the hallway.

Princess Cadence called us in for an emergency meeting that brought concern upon our heads. At the round table in the center of the room, the five of us stood by it.

"What's going on?" Twilight asked, releasing her growing worry.

The princesses exchanged looks with one another before we finally got an answer.

"We believe we've been informed with terrible news of the once Lord Tirek escaping from his imprisonment." Luna stated.

"Tirek?" I questioned, never hearing of such a name. "Who in the world is that?"

Princess Celestia pulled out a book she had been holding and placed it on the middle of the table, facing the book to where Twilight and I could view the contents inside. She flipped the pages and stopped to a picture where we saw two beings standing across uncharted and dangerous lands. "Tirek and his brother Scorpan came here from a distant land, intent on stealing Equestrian magic. But Scorpan soon came to appreciate the ways of Equestria, even befriending a young unicorn wizard." Celestia continued to depict her memory using the pictures within the pages.

"Scorpan urged his brother to abandon their plans." Luna included. "When Tirek refused, Scorpan alerted us to Tirek's intentions."

"Scorpan returned to his own land, and Tirek was sent to Tartarus for his crimes. But it appears he has found a way to escape." Tia finished her narration.

"We believe it happened when Cerberus left his post at the gates." Luna mentioned.

When Cerberus left his post…? That sounded very familiar, but I couldn't quite remember when that had happened.

"But that was a long time ago!" Twilight answered, appearing to have known the date of the event. "Why is he just now starting to steal magic?"

"His time in Tartarus left him very weak." Celestia reasoned. "He has just now gained enough strength to use his dark powers."

"But with each passing moment, he grows stronger still." Luna added with a sense of urgency.

"And I know just the prince and princess who can stop him." Cadence brought up, looking over to us with a confident grin.

However, Celestia didn't appear to agree with that statement. "I'm afraid I must intervene with this suggestion. We understand you've been wanting to prove yourself as a princess, but this task is too dangerous. Instead, we have someone specific in mind that can handle Tirek with ease."

"What?" Twilight questioned. "Who is it?"

"Discord." Tia answered, causing not only Twilight to gasp, but brought Luna and Cadence along for the collective amount of surprise.

"Discord?!" Twilight was shocked at how he could ever take down an apparently dangerous criminal. "Why?"

"I'm sure we all know that Discord truly lives up to his name." Celestia replied as she looked at each one of us, already knowing that there was no objection to that. "Handling such disorderly magic, Discord is able to sense a magical imbalance. With this, the next time Tirek steals magic, Discord will be able to find him and detain him."

"Oh…" Twilight lowered her head in disappointment again. "…I guess that makes sense… So…what are we supposed to do?" She asked.

"For the meantime…" Celestia took a short moment of pause before she resumed. "There is no means for immediate action. The other princesses and I will get ahold of Discord and assign him the task that rests on him.

"So, in other words…nothing." Twilight repeated what Tia seemed to try to avoid saying in the first place. "Got it…"

"I'm sure you'll have something to do to help us." Cadence tended to Twilight. "Right now…we just have to straighten things out…"

"I get it…" Twilight nodded, seeming to understand. But she still couldn't help but feel down about her current position. "Well then, if there's nothing else we're needed for, we'll be getting out of the way." Twilight looked around, seeing no opportunities to help, and then proceeded to walk out of the room.

I only looked at all of them and wished them a good night before I took off after Twilight.

When we returned to the hotel room, it didn't take long for the girls to find out why we stayed longer than we planned, the threat that was rising in Equestria, and the apparent "hero" that would fix it all in a blink of an eye.

"...As in Discord Discord?" Applejack made sure to hear clearly, sitting on the edge of her bed.

"Yes!" Twilight returned, looking as if she was still shocked by the news.

"I don't think it's that big of a surprise." Fluttershy spoke up in soft glee for her response. "He can be very helpful." When she turned towards the others, they all sent her a similar disapproving look. Even Pinkie Pie didn't seem to like Discord, and that was because she usually liked anypony.

"He can sense when there's a magical imbalance." Twilight referred to Celestia's reason for his inclusion. "The next time Tirek steals magic, Discord will be able to track him down!"

"So what are you supposed to do in the meantime?" Rainbow Dash questioned in curiosity, reminding Twilight of our jobless affair.

"Nothing." Twilight responded after a short sigh. "Unless of course one of you needs me to smile and wave." She released a fake brief grin along with a wave before she let herself fall on her bed.

Rarity cleared her throat. "Do you have any plans while this is occurring?"

Twilight merely shrugged. "I think he's supposed to track him down tomorrow, so…I'll probably just go to the Castle of the Two Sisters. I'm not really needed anywhere else. Might as well catch up on some of my reading."

"Are you gonna want some company?" Rainbow asked, hoping that would cheer her up.

"It has been a while since we visited the castle." Applejack added with a positive tone. "Might be fun!"

"I guess I could use some company…especially during these times." Twilight sighed, appearing to be exhausted with some frustration as she tiredly looked out the window. "We'll see what happens for tomorrow. Right now, let's just get some sleep so we can leave back to Ponyville in the morning."

Everypony agreed and turned out the lights, climbing in their own beds. Hoping to not feel any more isolated from the ones most important to me, I decided to stay by Fluttershy for the night. I cuddled and brought myself as close to her as I could. Just feeling the warmth of her coat made me feel better inside, but it still didn't seem to be enough to bring back the happiness I seemed to have lost.

Tomorrow, after arriving in Ponyville, we stopped at the Castle of the Two Sisters as planned. However, before actually stepping in, the girls seemed fixated with the Tree of Harmony. It was still in the same exact state as we had left it, including the chest that remained unopened or even touched.

"I still can't believe we had to give back the Elements." Rainbow Dash shared after drawing out a sigh.

"It had to be done or the Tree of Harmony wouldn't have survived." Rarity reasoned.

"But Twilight was right." Fluttershy brought up in hope. "Even without the Elements, our friendship is as strong as ever."

"I just hope another 'friend' of ours never makes us sorry we had to give them up." Applejack specifically mentioned, motioning her hooves in quotations.

"Oh, you're talking about me, I presume?" His voice unexpectedly but not surprisingly revealed itself, allowing us to see him floating towards us with an umbrella, scarf, and suitcase.

"How'd you guess?" Applejack replied with a strict unamused face.

"My ears were burning." He literally responded, using his 'glass of water' to put it out.

"What are you even doing here, Discord?" Rainbow Dash questioned in annoyance.

"Oh, just a bit of light reading before I head off on my extremely important mission." He held up a familiar book with specific-colored bookmarks within the pages. "I suppose you all know that I've been tasked to capture a certain escapee." He reminded, wearing a uniform that ensured his eagerness to complete his task.

"Big deal." Spike brushed off.

"You're right, Spike. It is a big deal." He acknowledged. Using the bubble pipe in his mouth, his blew a bubble that actually trapped Spike inside. It lifted him up into the air until it popped and had Rainbow quickly rush to catch him before he fell. "Seems I possess a magic that gives me quite an important role in Equestria. Maybe they should make me an Alicorn princess." He disappeared and reappeared with a crown, horn, and wings. While posing eloquently, he blew out kisses in a mocking way. "Mmwah! Mmwah!"

Twilight didn't take it so lightly.

"In your dreams!" Rainbow commented and knocked off the crown on his head, interrupting his 'coronation'.

"Oh, I never dream of such things." He responded, putting away the accessories he had. "Ask Princess Luna."

"I'm surprised you dream at all…" I said under my breath, to which he of course somehow heard.

"Aww…" He grew uncomfortably closer to me and started messing with the hoodie I still wore. "Did your mommy-wommy give you this? Ooh! You must have been such a good wittle boy!"

I reacted with aggression, sparing no words and only pushed him forcefully away with both of my hooves.

"Don't you have a creepy magic-stealin' villain to track down?" Applejack asked, wanting him to quit with the shenanigans and focus on what was important.

"Yes, yes, yes, of course." He remembered and then grabbed ahold of us, teleporting us closer to the tree. "It's just that I couldn't help but notice that Twilight hasn't yet opened this little chest of hers." He pointed a claw out to the chest having the others send looks towards Twilight. "I-I-It got me thinking, what if what's locked inside is something that could help her prove her royal worth? I only bring it up because she said that she's been feeling like her role as a princess doesn't equate to much." He brought out Twilight's lip, making it look like she was pouting.

"Wait a minute! How do you know how she was feeling?!" Pinkie Pie angrily questioned.

"Oh, my." Discord began to mock sadness. "Is eavesdropping not the way you're supposed to find out what your best pals are up to? Woe is me. Will I ever learn the intricate nuances of being a good friend?" Of course, he only dug himself deeper in the different types of glares he got from everypony, excluding the one that actually liked him. He cleared his throat after the silence. "Well in any case, I suppose now is as good a time as any for me to make my exit." He walked to the side, placed on a helmet, and got on a scooter to ride off, but he actually teleported with magic instead.

"And good riddance!" Applejack shouted out right after he left.

However, he appeared once more as if to answer to Applejack's last comment. "Oopsie-doopsie, I almost left with the little journal you've all been keeping." He stated actually, bringing up the subject of our journal. "What a fascinating read. Haven't you girls just learned so much?" He presented it in front of Twilight. "I've bookmarked a few of the more interesting passages. You really should take a look!" He balanced the corner of the book on her horn. Then, he moved over near to Fluttershy and spoke in a hushed voice. "We're still on for tea later, aren't we, Fluttershy?"

"I wouldn't miss it." Fluttershy replied with what appeared to be a softly excited smile.

"Well, I'll bring the cucumber sandwiches...!" He responded in a singsong voice, later opening a door in the background and leaving through there.

After she made sure that Discord had totally left, Applejack went on to complain about him. "Sometimes I think the 'reformed' Discord is more obnoxious than the 'before-he-was-reformed' Discord."

"Indeed." Rarity agreed.

"But he could be right, couldn't he?" Fluttershy asked. "What if there is something important in that chest?"

"There has to be…" I mentioned, speaking at a lower volume than I usually did. I didn't know if anyone else felt it, but I had the great bugging feeling that we had to open it as soon as possible.

Twilight scratched her chin in interest. "There's only one way to find out." She turned and faced the way up to the Castle of the Two Sisters. "There has to be something that we haven't found yet in the Castle of the Two Sisters. Something that deals with the chest, preferably a book. Seems like a good time as any since Discord's doing all the work, huh?"

"Mm-hm." The girls agreed and nodded.

"Come on!" Twilight pointed out in leadership. "I'm sure with all of us, we're bound to find something!"

Despite wanting to not feel isolated, I still didn't feel anything. Usually, in such circumstances like the girls looking through tons of books to find something about the chest, I would have been willing to help. But I just didn't feel the energy to. I didn't want to obviously stand out by doing nothing, and I didn't want to cause concern by going someplace else. So, even if it actually made me feel ashamed of myself, I grabbed a few random books and sort of…pretended…to look through them.

"Anything?" Twilight had asked, making me feel worse that I hadn't even been trying. Nevertheless, all of the others answered with various "no"s. "There must be something in this library that can help me figure out how to open it. The answer's in one of these books." She stated as she quickly skimmed through several on the spot. "I just know it." Her eyes caught ahold of our journal. Even though if she didn't feel too strongly about it, she decided to give it a shot.

"Hey, Alex." Rainbow Dash had called me, startling me a bit. I looked over to her to see what she wanted. "You never did tell us what happened with you and Starlight. Did you give it to her straight?"

I only stared at her for a second before I turned away with no need to elaborate. "I don't want to talk about it."

"Did somethin' bad happen?" Applejack questioned, placing down the book she was reading to intervene. "I'm pretty sure we've all noticed you've been a little…quiet…today."

I was thankful Twilight was there to save the conversation, since I was really not in the mood to get into it any further. "He's feeling a little off today…" She shared. "I think he just needs some time to himself for a bit." Twilight was the only one who knew most of what she could get out of me, so she was able to at least partially understand why I was acting the way I was.

After hearing that from Twilight, those questioning decided to leave the topic off for now. However, they still remained available if I ever wanted to speak up about it.

On one hoof, I felt out in space, just flipping mindlessly through books and trailing off in my own thoughts. On the other, I felt bad because I was kind of excluding myself out from everypony. I knew they knew I was out of it today, but I still felt that I couldn't even at least be with Fluttershy to search through books together.

I hoped somehow this would all blow over soon… Is there any spell for just…erasing your memory?

"I think I found something!" Twilight suddenly exclaimed in her search. "I've been reading our journal, and there's something interesting about the sections that Discord bookmarked." Everypony gathered around while I joined somewhat but stayed leaning on a table. "Applejack, do you remember when you had to tell everypony that the tonic Granny bought from the Flim Flam brothers didn't really work?"

"How could I forget?" Applejack responded, able to remember the pain of having to tell the truth back that day. "It was one of the hardest things I ever had to do. At that moment, I knew I had to be honest. I just knew it. But what's that got to do with openin' the chest?"

"I've found that each of you has had to face a situation where living up to the Element of Harmony you represent wasn't easy." Twilight glanced at each one of them except me, poking at the journal. Then, she flipped the page. "Fluttershy, it was when you realized that the way to show kindness to the Breezies was by forcing them to leave your home."

"Oh, the looks on their poor little faces!" Fluttershy recalled. "All I ever wanted to do was just to make them happy. But I knew that, as difficult as it was, pushing them away was the kindest thing I could do."

"Rarity," Twilight flipped yet another page. "Even after Suri took advantage of your generosity at Fashion Week in Manehattan, you didn't let it cause you to abandon your generous spirit."

"I simply couldn't have lived with myself if I didn't do something special for the friends who have always been so generous to me!" Rarity shared.

"Rainbow Dash, you had the chance to fly with the Wonderbolts at the Equestria Games, but instead you chose to compete with your friends." Twilight brought up.

"Sure!" Rainbow quickly agreed. "But being loyal to my friends was way—"

"Ooh, my turn, my turn!" Pinkie Pie interrupted.

"Pinkie Pie, you realized that seeing your friend laugh was more important than proving you were a better party planner than Cheese Sandwich." Twilight fulfilled her request.

"Best party I've ever had." Rainbow mentioned while proudly placing her foreleg around Pinkie.

"It's clear we've all had our moments to shine, Twilight." Rarity spoke. "But I'm with Applejack. What does any of this have to do with the opening of the chest?"

"All of you had tough choices to make." Twilight explained. "But when you made the right one and embraced your element, it helped somepony else make the right choice too. Each of you received something from the pony whose life you helped change." As soon as she said that, I thought about it. The only thing that sounded close to something like that for me was my issue with Octavia. I did have tough choices to make, but the only reason I pushed on to be her friend was because of…Spirit. But even then…I didn't exactly get a tangible gift from her…did I? "I know it sounds crazy, but maybe there's something special about those objects that could lead us to the location of the keys." She provided and began walking in thought. "The chest is connected to the Tree of Harmony, the Tree is connected to the Elements, and the Elements are connected to all of us. There must be a connection! I hate to admit it, but maybe Discord was trying to be a good friend after all."

As the girls reacted positively to Twilight's discovery, I thought about my take in this theory. Did I receive anything as the others had? Actually, I wouldn't have made it on my own without Spirit's influence. I would have given up if it wasn't for her! But she doesn't have anything to do with the Elements or the Tree of Harmony… So what does it matter? Maybe she won't lead me to a key…but maybe…maybe I can somehow find more about her with this.

At that moment, I gasped loudly in my mental mind.

Maybe something in that chest has to do something with her in return! After all, she said she stayed at the Castle of the Two Sisters! The Tree of Harmony was right next to the Castle. Maybe…maybe the answers I need about her are in the chest!

I paced and even anxiously tapped my hoof on the ground as Twilight, Spike, and I waited for the others to return with their items.

"Alex, are you okay?" Twilight asked, observing me and my odd behavior. "You look a little…nervous."

"I…I just want to know what's in the chest." I answered without elaborating much.

She wanted to know what was in the chest as well, possibly for different reasons, so she seemed to understand why I was acting the way I was.

"We're here!" Pinkie exclaimed a length from us. She hopped happily as she brought Boneless with her. The others followed behind, calmly bringing each one of the items they had received. They all began to place them down, leading Twilight to observe them and soon form a puzzled expression.

"I don't see anything on them that would give us a clue as to where the keys might be." Twilight analyzed just as Rainbow Dash dropped the pin Spitfire gave her on the ground. "They're just... ordinary, everyday objects." Twilight looked up at me, hoping I had something for her. "Alex…I don't suppose you remember getting anything…do you?"

I looked down at the ground and silently shook my head. No… I didn't get any these "gifts" you all are talking about…

"Come on, Boneless!" Pinkie Pie shook and screamed at her rubber chicken. "Give us that key!"

"I don't think that's going to work…" Twilight guessed as highly pitched squeaks came from Boneless. He gave one last squeak before he was thrown towards the box, causing Twilight to duck. As soon as Boneless was smacked against the chest, he didn't fall straight towards the dirt. Instead, this kind of magic grabbed ahold of him and levitated him, keeping him off the ground. Everypony gasped at the sight of this as he immediately transformed into a literal key. It then made its way straight to the hole it belonged. Instantly after that scene, the others brought their gifts straight towards the chest, having them transform into unique keys as well. There was all but one keyhole left to fill…

"There's still one key missing." Twilight acknowledged. "The key that represents the Element of Magic. My element."

"What about Alex?" Applejack brought up. "Maybe his is the sixth key?"

"Alex's element isn't tangible, remember?" Twilight answered as she looked over to me. "It's likely that it's my element that's missing. After all, we were the only ones who got those objects that we had to give back to the tree."

"I guess that makes sense…" Applejack returned, looking down and placing a hoof to her chin.

"Oh, but I'm sure that if we've gotten our keys, you have too, Twilight." Fluttershy mentioned.

"Think, Twilight." Rarity joined. "When have you completed a difficult magical task, and in doing so encouraged another pony to do the same?"

"I haven't." Twilight frankly replied. "If I had, I would have written about it in the journal."

"Don't worry, Twilight." Spike told her. "I'm sure you'll get your key eventually." However, immediately after that, he began gagging. Quickly running to the side, he burped out a letter. Twilight grabbed on to it and began reading. "What's it say?"

"That Alex and I are needed in Canterlot at once!" Twilight quickly turned to me. "Come on! It must be about Tirek!" She turned to the others. "We'll be back!"

Afterwards, she lifted up in flight, leading me out of the area and towards Canterlot.

The two of us galloped into the halls the princesses resided in during the day.

"We came as quickly as we could!" Twilight announced to them. "Is something wrong? Is it Tirek?"

"I'm afraid I put too much trust in Discord and the effect that friendship would have upon him." Princess Celestia stated, causing me to become alerted.

"What?" I quickly inquired. "What are you talking about?"

Tia took a heavy moment with closed eyes before she finally answered. "Discord has betrayed the ponies of Equestria and joined forces with Tirek."

I'm sure Twilight was just as shocked at this as I was. For a second there, I couldn't believe it. I knew he wasn't exactly a "good" guy, but I never thought he would go against everything we did for him and betray us!

"This has to be some kind of joke!" I felt immensely personally offended. "He couldn't betray us just like that!"

"I'm afraid it is no joke." Princess Luna responded in a solemn attitude. "Evil has caught upon him once again."

I didn't become instantly enraged. It took a moment to soak it all in and try to accept that it was true.

"How could he do this?!" Twilight seemed to feel offended as well. "I thought our friendship meant something to him! I thought he had changed!"

"Tirek has stolen enough magic that he now has the strength to steal flight as well." Celestia continued revealing the news of the epidemic of Tirek. "Without Pegasi to control the weather, there will be no rain in Equestria. There is word he has gone after Earth ponies as well. Without their strength, they will not be able to tend the land."

This news frightened me…but mostly for our friends who were practically defenseless against this monster. Especially if Discord was with him.

"Ponies will no longer be in control of their world. That power will belong solely to Tirek." My mother shared.

"There is no doubt that Tirek is after Alicorn magic." Celestia believed strongly. "With Discord by his side, we will not be able to stop him from taking it."

"Once it is in his possession, his power will know no bounds, and all hope will be lost." Luna strengthened the urgency to do something to stop this.

"But there is one solution." Tia brought up. "…or at least…it is the only possible solution we can achieve in this dire moment." Any sign of relief we felt during that sentence was almost taken completely away by her last regard. The three of them flew up and landed right in front of us. "It is only by making this sacrifice that Equestria and the lands beyond it might be saved." She explained as they faced us very seriously. As soon as she mentioned the word "sacrifice", I felt an intense fear come from within. "We must rid ourselves of our magic before Tirek has the chance to steal it from us."

Twilight was the one to gasp loudly as I almost stood there once again in both disbelief and shock.

"Tirek is set on possessing Alicorn magic." Luna quickly came forward to reason before anyone of us could question against that. "When he comes for us, we cannot have what he is looking for."

"I'm more than willing to do my part and give up my magic." Twilight responded, feeling as it was her absolute duty as princess.

"You misunderstand." Luna pointed out. "Our magic cannot just disappear into thin air. Somepony must keep it safe."

"Someponies." Cadence corrected. "And those someponies are you two." She mentioned towards us.

"Why us?" Twilight asked in surprised.

"We do not believe that Tirek is aware that a new Alicorn prince and princess exist in Equestria." Celestia explained. "If we transfer our magic to the two of you, Tirek will not know where it has gone."

"Do you understand what we're asking of you?" Cadence asked seriously, switching her glances between the two of us.

"Yes." Twilight understood almost negatively. "It's just... I'm only now learning how to control my own alicorn magic. To take on even more—"

"Twilight." Cadence interrupted. "You represent the Element of Magic. If there is anypony that can take our Alicorn magic, it's you." She turned her head towards me. "And you won't be alone…"

"But…Twilight's way more experienced with magic than I am." I gave my comment. "If she's feeling uneasy about Alicorn magic, then I'm just as—"

Cadence raised a hoof to stop me from continuing. "Please. We believe in you. We know that you two aren't experts in your Alicorn magic, but you've both have been able to get through such dilemmas before."

I wanted to continue with my "but"s, but I only felt myself not wanting to talk any further. I only held my head low and looked to the side with not the amount of confidence I probably needed at the moment.

"Taking on this task will be one of the most difficult things we'll ever do…" Twilight shared after taking a gander at me. "…but with the help of all our friends—"

"I'm sorry." Princess Celestia immediately cut in. "But you must keep your new abilities a secret. I fear that your friends being aware of your new power could put them at great risk." She mentioned, bringing a short look of disappointment upon Twilight. "Do you still think you can both take on this responsibility?"

Twilight soon recovered from her disappointment. "I wanted to feel more than just a meet and greet princess. Now's my chance to prove my worth. With Alex, I'm sure we can do this together! I just know it!"

"Then we must begin at once." Princess Celestia proceeded to do what she had to do.

The three of them somewhat surrounded us in a certain formation. Then, they all began firing a beam from their horns simultaneously as we stared in suspense. We became shocked as soon as we noticed their eyes become completely white when they opened them. All of their magic combined together in a great ball of power above us. It became so massive that it was no doubt greater than all of us combined. It connected a string of different colored magic to our horns and slowly pummeled towards us. Once we were in its aura and field of magic, everything went pretty crazy and uncontrollable during that moment…at least for me. I couldn't explain anything at all. In fact, I didn't even know what was going on. It wasn't until I was settled onto the ground, as if it was all over already. However, I still felt this annoying headache lingering by.

Noticing the sight of the other princesses, Twilight quickly galloped over to Celestia as her eyes brimmed with tears. As I observed the sight of Twilight embracing her former mentor, I looked over to Cadence and Luna, immediately feeling fear creep by. I rushed over to them and quickly questioned in hopes to ease my worries.

"You all are going to be okay, right?" I inquired greatly.

Luna grabbed ahold of my head and weakly turned it to hers. "We will be fine…as long as the two of you keep our magic safe…"

"I just don't want to lose you…any of you…" I expressed dearly, not wanting to break apart yet again. Just as Twilight did, I hugged her tightly and didn't want to let go. It wasn't until I noticed that something was missing from her flank. There was no moon. There was no cutie mark. I switched over to Cadence's and Celestia's. They all had been missing them…

"It is done…" Princess Celestia announced, clearly out of breath.

"So…" Twilight began. "What are we supposed to do now…?

"The two of you..." Celestia paused to gain a staggering breath. "…must learn to hone our combined magic within you as much as you can…with the allowed time you are given…" She glanced at the other princesses near her. "I am afraid that time is not long."

"What do you mean?" Twilight asked for clarification.

"If Discord has truly sided with Tirek for power…" Luna began. "There is no doubt Discord will most likely notify him of your existence after he finds out that we are empty of our magic."

"But…why'd you give it to us then?" I questioned. "I thought you transferred your magic because he wouldn't know about us. What's the point if Discord is going to tell him anyway?"

"This is a very time-based crisis, Alex." Celestia answered. "I'm afraid we can't offer a better ensuring plan, due to Discord's unexpected betrayal." She looked down in disappointment. "I'm so very sorry to leave you with a formidable plan, but it is the best we can offer in this dire time. We lend you our power because you two still have the chance and hope to put an end to this horrendous complication. Discord knows our magic, so if we were to keep it and challenge both he and Tirek, Discord would…"

"…mop the floor with us…" Cadence managed to add. "…literally…"

"Yes." Celestia nodded solemnly. "You two believe that you are incompetent for our magic, but you forgot something that holds much more importance. Both of you hold a sacred element. While you may no longer hold the Elements of Harmony in your position, I believe they still hold hope and meaning to you no matter what." She stopped for a moment to take a breath and allow us to soak in her words. She held a hoof to her head in exhaustion. "…forgive me if I sound unassuring, but please…believe in yourselves." She turned to me. "Alex, remember, you still hold that powerful light in you. With our magic, it should present an extremely difficult obstacle towards Tirek." She turned to Twilight. "Twilight, never forget, you had been a student of mine for the longest time. I know you can do this. Don't discourage yourself. I have seen you pull through many challenges, ever since you were little." She then began to direct her words to both of us. "Look at each other. You may not know it, but by each other's side you can prevail!" Princess Celestia was beginning to sound…different. Like…if she was almost…proud to the point of even crying. "You hold a special connection! Believe me! No matter how terrible things look during the moment, I believe you two can stop this evil and restore harmony to the lands once again!"

Twilight and I remained silent after her heartfelt speech. We looked at each other for a short moment, and then I could feel we both trusted Princess Celestia words. Twilight turned to her and nodded. "If you truly believe we can end this, then we believe it too! We'll do everything in our power to stop Tirek's reign of terror!" She finished confidently.

Tia sighed in relief. "…thank you. Please…go… You two have no time to waste… You must practice your new magic and abilities… Eventually…Tirek will set out to find you once realizing that we don't have our magic."

Cadence sighed a bit. "It'd really be great if Discord forgot about Twilight and Alex…"

"We'll be ready." Twilight practically slammed her hoof on the floor.

I grabbed my mother's hoof as she rested exhaustedly on the floor. "You'll all be okay…promise…?" I requested worriedly.

Luna managed to lift her other hoof to place it on mine. "For you…I promise."

Twilight and I almost silently returned home to Ponyville. I'm sure the two of us had so many things in our mind that we couldn't really make conversation or plans with each other. In fact, for me, I was worrying greatly about what the princesses were going to face and how we left them there defenseless.

"Alex…" Twilight called, seeming to have noticed the expression that felt planted on my face. "…I know you must be worried, but remember Princess Celestia's words. She really believes in us! And sacrificing their magic to us for the time being proves how much she knows we can do. I know we can fix this! I don't exactly know how…but I know we won't fail everypony!"

I sighed and nodded, remembering that there was no time for moping around. "We have to get started on practicing with our new magic if we want to stand against Tirek. I'll follow your lead since you know magic the most."

"Okay." Twilight nodded and understood. "But remember you still have the light in you that can really help!" She turned forward and narrowed her eyes, creating a glow in her horn. "Now…let's see what I can do—Awaaaah!" Her sentence was cut short with her screaming. As she tried to explore her new magic, it somehow sent her skyrocketing uncontrollably in the middle of her flight.

"Twilight!" I called out. Before I knew it, I became kind of transparent and was following her just as fast as she was flying. She soon headed towards the ground, almost crash landing. However, she seemed to be okay as she remained seated, even though she caused a semi-deep skid along the ground. I stopped unintentionally by her, almost falling over from the momentum.

"Oh, my goodness, are you two all right?" We heard Fluttershy's voice and soon saw her and the others rushing towards us in aid.

"Jumpin' junebugs!" Applejack expressed in surprise. "When did y'all learn to do that?!"

"We must have caught a particularly strong breeze..." Twilight tried to excuse, remembering Celestia's request. However, she involuntarily disappeared and reappeared behind Rarity. "…or something."

"Must have been 'or something', because there wasn't any breeze up there." Rainbow pointed upwards.

"I don't know what happened, but we don't really have time to figure it out right now." Twilight mentioned, referring to how little time we really had to gain as much control over our powers as much as possible.

"Another visit to the Castle of the Two Sisters, I presume?" Rarity guessed. "We'd be more than happy to accompany you!" Rarity presented with the rest of them. All of their huge grins didn't realize how much danger they were possibly in, especially if they were to come with us to the Castle of the Two Sisters.

"You can't." I shook my head, wanting to look out for their safety as well. They didn't know the whole story yet, and I was going to try to get them to react properly while keeping it subtle. "For the sake of your and Ponyville's safety, we need you tell everyone to stay inside and barricade themselves. Tirek might make his way here."

"Huh?" Applejack questioned. "Discord hasn't found him yet?"

I furrowed my eyebrows and looked over to Twilight. She sent me a worried look. I knew if I told them the truth…they might lead themselves in a worse state than if I didn't. For one, Fluttershy would probably become heartbroken and even want to ask Discord herself to see if it was truth. Knowing Discord…he'd probably…

I didn't have time to deal with this stuff anymore.

"It's complicated." I answered. "But as of right now, Tirek has not been apprehended yet. Just please, do this for us. After you have every pony here in Ponyville remain inside and hide, you all need to do the same."

"What about you and Twilight?" Fluttershy asked worriedly.

"Don't worry about us…" I tried to assure softly. "Just please. Do what we say." I began to turn to head to the Castle of the Two Sisters until I remembered one more crucial thing. "And whatever you do, stay away from Discord!" I emphasized and exclaimed the last part.

Their faces were certainly struck with confusion, but neither Twilight nor I had the time to explain. In fact, I was not even certain, for the both of us, that we made the correct decisions so far. I was feeling the pressure of time being hammered in my head throughout the entire moment.

On the way to the Castle of the Two Sisters, I really didn't make any conversation with Twilight. I was too occupied with silently but busily thinking of any other solutions to the situation. There was possibly one we didn't work out yet. The chest. But it wasn't a guaranteed fix to the problem. Then again…we didn't have one in the first place…

Either way, there was one key missing. It has been assumed that it was the key of Twilight's element…but what it was actually mine? What if there was something we weren't seeing that could somehow open the chest and save everypony from total destruction? What if I just had to find something mysterious about me instead?

"This looks far enough…" Twilight analyzed as she looked around with some concern in her eyes. We had just arrived at the grounds close by the castle.

"Twilight. I need to go inside the castle for a bit." I stated, surprising her since I seemed to be separating from her.

"What?" She turned towards me. "Why? We don't have much time to practice."

"I know… I know…" I understood, nodding my head. "But…I thought about the locked chest and…if it's connected to the Elements of Harmony, then maybe there's something inside that can actually stop Tirek before things worsen?"

"That's possible…" Twilight acknowledged. "But we still don't have the final key."

I sighed, looking away in slight fear. "I know this is really risky…but I might find a clue if I just look further into this…at least for just a few minutes."

Twilight remained silent for a moment and then shifted her eyes in thought. "…if you really think you can find out where this last key is…then I guess it's worth a chance looking into it again for a bit more."

"I don't want to take too long, Twilight." I assured her, placing my hooves on her. "I know how dangerous it is to put the time into trying to unlock something that might not even guarantee our victory, but…" I closed my eyes and felt the need coming from my heart. "I just feel like I need to take a look."

Twilight grabbed my hooves and held on to them a while longer while looking intently into my eyes. "I understand. Hurry. I'll be out here trying to get this magic in control."

"I'll be right back." I strictly told her and then began to hurry over to the Castle of the Two Sisters.

As I entered, I actually felt its eerie echo for what seemed like the first time. I didn't believe I had been here all on my own before today. I quickly trotted over to the library where Twilight had been studying our journal. Once my eyes caught sight of the journal, I immediately grabbed ahold of it with my magic and flipped the pages open. It was weird how specifically my magic hadn't be reacting uncontrollably like Twilight's was. The only time it released overpoweringly was when I seemed to fly fast with such a surge of energy. It didn't seem to be specifically based on magic. Nevertheless, I had no time to think into such things. I had to try to find out what I came in here for.

I flipped the pages over to my specific entry in the journal, which Discord didn't bookmark…when he was still "reformed". Yet, my experience was very similar to the others. I met somepony new. Octavia. I had to face difficult choices, which were continuing on forward to be her friend or just forget about it. At one point, I would've given up and left things that were in the horrible state they were. Octavia hating me and missing her train to the Crystal Empire. But that was just it. I didn't do it on my own. I couldn't have! Spirit helped me see that I had to keep going, no matter how much it hurt or scared me. That had to be something! There were so many things about her that didn't exactly add up to be a confirmed connection but…I just knew there was something between Spirit and the key! I faced the problems like the others who received their keys. But I didn't get a key! So…did Spirit have the key? What if it was one of her ice cream sticks!? But they were so many of them… Ughh! I just know she has to have something crucial for the Tree of Harmony! But what?! If only she was…here…with me… She'd be able to help…just like the other times she's helped me so much before…

I placed my head on the wooden table and buried it within my forelegs.

Spirit…why'd you…have to do what you did… Why couldn't you just stop being mysterious and trust me with these things you never wanted to share with me? You could hold so much information that could really help us, especially in times like these…but…you…

I sighed.

What is it that you're so afraid of…?

"Princess Twilight!" I suddenly heard a loud terrifying shout from outside, lifting my head up in a flash. "You have something that belongs to me!"

It couldn't be! Was he already...?!

I gasped, remembering about the pony outside.

"Twilight!" I shouted out, leaving everything behind and running out the castle.

By the time I made it outside, the sky had darkened, and I looked rapidly from side to side in search of Twilight. I couldn't find her anywhere! It wasn't until I saw this huge magical ray of light shoot so deadly far.

I lit up my horn in desperation, wishing myself to be granted the magic the princesses gave me. "Come on!" I struggled. "Take me to Twilight, now!" I was wishing to either be somehow teleported to Twilight's exact location or to at least gain the speed I had before when we came to Ponyville. However, nothing obeyed my request. If only I had practiced instead of fumbling with my stupid idea! I growled, knowing I could only hope to reach Twilight in time by flying.

It wasn't hard to distinguish where the fight was, as some kind of monstrous pony, or in this case centaur, stood out in the skies. He was absolutely ginormous, most likely after having stolen power from so many ponies. When I was close enough, I noticed Twilight on the ground, firing an angry ray at him that was able to keep him away from her during the moment. He roared from the pain that the combined magic planted on him.

"Hold on, Twilight! I'm coming!" I shouted out in distress.

Before I could stay true to my word, Tirek grabbed ahold of Twilight's beam and sent it shooting straight away from him. Before Twilight could react, Tirek used his own magic and brought her unwillingly face-to-face with him. She tried to struggle and wiggle free, but she couldn't break it. Tirek looked at her with a horrid grin and then spun around with a mighty aggressive roar to send her off flying in the distance.

The moment I heard her scream, I instantly panicked. "Twilight!" I called out desperately and felt myself zoom off with an incredible push. Worrying about the possibility of losing her too, I cried out to Tirek before he went on to pursue her. "STOP!" I landed and skidded across the barren landscape. This produced a great cloud of dust to cover my vision. Nevertheless, I didn't hear any motion sound after my call, leaving me to believe Tirek was right outside this cloud of dust. As the dust cleared, I took the time to greatly catch my breath, which was lost from the sudden burst of power but mostly from the panic with Twilight. Once I was able to see through, I spotted the immense size he held as he stared intimidatingly down to me. I couldn't be fazed… I had to do this…for everypony special and important to me… "That's…enough…" I mentioned through the last of my large breaths.

We continued staring unnervingly at each other until Tirek suddenly chuckled.

"I take it you're the Alicorn prince?" He questioned.

"So what if I am?" I returned with teeth ready to be clenched.

"I hear you are a 'sensitive' pony when it comes to your 'friends'." He stated with disgust. "Perhaps we can make this easier between us. Maybe an…exchange?"

"All I want is you to return every pony's power, go back to your imprisonment, and stay there!" I barked back at him.

He laughed at the thought of that happening. "I'm afraid that's not possible…but how about this?" He opened a portal, alarming me and raising up my guard. From inside the portal, he dragged something out. It was a specific princess whose energy levels were lifeless. "I hear this weak princess is indeed your 'mother'. Is this true?"

Before even thinking, I growled in anger at him. "Let her go!"

"I'll take that as a yes." He ignored and continued speaking. "I'll gladly allow her freedom, should you give up your magic to me. In fact, I'm feeling very generous today. I'll let all of the princesses go in exchange for your magic."

Luna managed to slowly lift up her head as she continued hanging by Tirek's magic. She stared seriously at me and seemed to be trying to shake her head. She didn't want me to give up my magic, and neither did I, but I couldn't bear to see her or the others so helpless! "You're not going to get my magic." I responded as I felt myself fuming up. "One way or another, I'm going to make you regret ever escaping Tartarus!"

He laughed once again, having him be unable to speak for a few seconds. "You really are an amusing one, aren't you? I'm actually being nice here and allowing you to spend your final days with your so called 'loved ones'. I will be taking your magic either way. I'm just offering an easier and more promised approach. However…if you wish to do this the hard way with no pony to comfort you as I conquer this retched 'friendship' land…so be it." He furrowed his eyebrows as I stressed mine and clenched my teeth. He carelessly threw Luna back into the portal to her possible dungeon, sparking the flame inside of me.

I immediately went for his face, charging like a shooting star, which must have been one of the new powers from the princesses. It was only a few seconds before her grabbed me with his gritting hands and threw me towards the floor. My body skidded for a moment. When I finally recovered and was able to clearly see what was happening, Tirek was lifting his giant front hoof to crush me. Trying to teleport out of the way, I instead activated a higher upgraded type of teleportation. The only differences I seemed to notice was that, like light, I vanished at faster rate along with a short transparent form that appeared to be useful for not being spotted.

As Tirek tried looking around his humongous and sight-blocking body. I worked my magic at his legs, and soon enough, just as they say, the bigger they are, the harder they fall. When he fell on his knees, I warped up and galloped along his back. Not knowing if he had a different specific weak spot, I only targeted his head, slashing at it with my aggressive magic. When he was able to get on his hooves again, he roared and launched me off by suddenly jerking his back backward. However, I was able to balance myself out with my wings, waiting to see what Tirek would do next.

He proceeded to shoot an enlarged ray from between the sharp horns he held on his head. He was able to leave this ray continuous, having me need to dodge by getting away from it instead of going over or under. It seemed he used that move to distract me because as soon as it ended, there was a boulder being hurled towards me. The first thing I could think of what just to break through it with my magic. When I did, I was immediately greeted by Tirek's hoof. It forcefully kicked me into the air, having me be unable to recover for the time. Tirek took the opportunity he had and knocked me aggressively back into the ground with his fists.

I struggled to push myself off the ground, which became unleveled from his recent attack. He closed in on me as my hoof shook and trembled to push me up.

"Why must the two of you continue to try to protect your little home?" Tirek questioned, referring to me and Twilight. "It is of no use. I have almost the magic of every pony in Equestria, including Discord's."

I gasped in shock, widening my eyes. How did he get Discord's?! Did he give it to him?!

"I gave you a chance to be with your ever so loved ones, and look where that has brought you. Now, I'm going to take your magic, and you'll be with no friends whatsoever."

If only I practiced…. I probably would've have stood a better chance. If I had stayed outside and practiced, I would have been with Twilight and we could have done this together! Why didn't I just stay outside with her?! Why did I have to be so stupid and try to look for an answer inside the castle?!

"Now…come to me…my favorable Alicorn magic." He proceeded to activate his magic-sucking powers to me until his was unexpectedly and suddenly interrupted. He roared in a painful kind of way as his eyes were pummeled with muffins.

"Leave him alone!" I heard Vinyl's voice exclaim, quickly pushing in a cart holding a huge item into the scene. "Why don't you pick a fight with something your own size, like my BASS CANNON!" She shouted out loud, pressed a button, and unpacked some kind of huge speakers. Before I knew it, these speakers unloaded such a loud throbbing sound that caused Tirek to cover his ears. Even I had to block mine because of the painful sting it caused.

Next, I saw Derpy carrying Octavia, dropping her off on Tirek's head. She held a mighty grip on his mane and jumped towards his eyes. She continued holding on, basically causing more agony by pulling his hair and then proceeded to kick him in the eyes. "If you can't take the music, get out of the pit!" She shared.

Having had enough, Tirek violently shook his head. While Tavi held her grip, it didn't seem to help her situation any more than it needed to as she was unable to continue kicking accurately. Tirek opened his practically swollen eyes and angrily shot a flared magic beam at Octavia. Being hit, she was forced to lose her grip and fall towards the ground.

"Tavi!" Vinyl worriedly cried out as she and Derpy rushed towards her.

Tirek took this opportunity to smash Vinyl's weapon, ceasing the sound.

As Derpy and Vinyl tended to Octavia, whom appeared to be barely alright, Tirek made a great swipe with his arm and held them angrily to his face.

"Did you three really think you could make a difference?!" He yelled out with painfully bulging eyeballs, proving how he was in no mood to laugh.

"…uh…yeah…?" Vinyl answered with a sheepish grin.

"The three of you will pay for your insolence! Starting now!" He exclaimed and then opened his mouth to gather the trio of energy they had. Once he sucked it all in, he threw them back to the ground, welcoming the short bit of power he gained.

"Tavi!" I raised out my hoof and began to get up with the strength I was able to recover. "Vinyl!" I stood up and began galloping towards them. "Derpy!" When I reached them, I was presented with a clear view of how fragile and weak they were. "Why?!" I almost shouted out loud in anger at them for leaving their safety. "Why did you three come out here for me?!"

"You're our best friend, dude…" Vinyl feebly answered. "We couldn't stay inside knowing that you were out there trying to protect us…"

"You've been such a good friend ever since I said hi to you for the first time." Derpy continued, apparently feeling too awful where she didn't bother crossing her eyes. "…good friends help each other…no matter what…"

"I may have not known you for long…" I heard Octavia speak, causing me to turn my head to face her. She grabbed ahold of my hoof that severely harmed me emotionally. "…but you helped me so much to see things differently… I can't ever thank you enough for that."

"No…" I shook my head at the sight of all three of them. "Why does this keep happening…?" I felt my eyes begin to brim with tears. "Everypony keeps leaving me because of me!" I felt the frustration build up inside of me. "I'm sick of it!"

"Do you see now, prince? You are responsible for their pain." Tirek stated behind me, grinning to the enjoyment of his power. "Nothing would have happened to them if you just had given me your magic in the first place. Instead, you decide to put everypony in front of you as a shield. Princess Twilight. Your friends. Even your dear mother: Princess Luna!"

"No!" I cried out in anger, feeling an inflated surge in my horn. "You're wrong! I'm not supposed to hurt anypony! I'm supposed to put everybody's safety first before me!" My eyes were shut tight and my teeth were gritting with a lot of pressure. "Tirek!" I turned fumingly around and faced him furiously. "You may hurt me, but you do not hurt my friends!" I shouted out and suddenly felt a burst of energy within me. What looked like a shield of light formed around me and as I felt some kind of new energy break open, the shield shattered out aggressively.

Tirek seemed to be highly surprised by this turn of events, so to take no chances, he immediately fired a beam of his improved magic at me. However, I somewhat deflected it away from me and hurled at him. I literally had no conscious control of the fury of blows I was shooting at him. The only thing I was able to gather during the moment was that I had almost changed into something else completely. My pony body remained, but it was almost entirely transparent. Nevertheless, there was this aura throughout my body that continuously glowed in a pulsing matter. I had no wings physically attached to my body. Instead, they somehow spiritually connected to me instead, keeping me in flight. They were very long and feathery. Definitely nothing I'd ever seen before. During my endless attack, I also noticed two orb-like objects hovering around me.

Once Tirek seemed to have enough of this storm of strikes of light, he was pushed upwards into the air, and I continued from there until I finished by charging at him in some kind of swift teleportation. I was literally appearing to be moving at the speed of light!

He was dazed and stumbled back while I stood in front of him, catching my breath. He stared at me as he tried to restore his energy. "The princesses gave you this power?!" He questioned.

Ignoring his question, just like he did with my order to let Luna go, I built up the magic in my horn and then felt myself dash towards him in a great burst of energy. Holding my hooves forward, I forcefully pushed and buried him into the ground. I finally ended my rage by grabbing a gigantic boulder and threw it against him, covering him with large pieces of crushed rock.

I felt myself calm down and whatever I was died down. I sensed myself landing back on the ground with no breath in store. I panted loudly as I continued staring at the mess I made with Tirek. Instead of going to look to see if he was possibly defeated, I turned around and quickly raced to Octavia, Vinyl, and Derpy.

"Alex…how did you…?" Vinyl tried to question as they seemed to have gained the strength to sit up.

I shook my head, not wanting them to talk any more. "You three need to get out of here now. While you're still okay. I don't want to lose any of you." I stated, pounding my hoof on the ground in emphasis.

They only stared at me in what appeared to be concern, even though of the risky surroundings they remained in. Before they could come up with anything to say to me, the ground shook tremendously. Suddenly, a hand shot out from underneath and grabbed ahold of me. Tirek was able to break his way from underground to me. There, when I was in his sights and grip, he left no chance for me to break free. He immediately opened his mouth and I could feel all of my magic be forced out and sucked away.

Now, I truly felt empty…

He let me join Vinyl, Octavia, and Derpy when he threw me carelessly to the ground. With the remaining strength they had, they attempted to make sure I was still breathing. I may have still been alive…but inside…I really felt dead…

"Now, where is that weakling Princess Twilight?" He questioned as he looked around.

Little did he know, he was immediately attacked with a large ray of magic from above, sinking him to the ground. I saw Twilight diving straight at him from above, angrily gathering another magic burst to knock onto him. After, she quickly landed on the ground and noticed me with the others. "Alex!" She held out a hoof. However, before she could move, Tirek performed the same action like with me, only he used his magic instead to cut out a circular shape form beneath the ground. He then lifted the entire piece of ground and threw it away. Twilight swiftly was able to fly off from the piece of land and head back towards Tirek. The villain roared aggressively and pounded at the ground, releasing deadly small mountains to obstruct Twilight's path. Nevertheless, each large mound that was shot up was quickly obliterated by Twilight's magic.

As soon as Tirek knew Twilight wasn't going to give up so easily, he turned to me and snatched me. Just about when Twilight was going to pummel him with another shot, she immediately stopped and removed the aggressive look on her face. She formed a completely worried one when she noticed me as Tirek's shield. She calmly landed as she continued to keep her shaking eyes planted on me. Tirek grinned in both accomplishment and evil intent when he saw this.

"It appears we are at an impasse." He stated and then proceeded to offer the same opportunity to her as he did to me. "How about a trade, Princess Twilight?" He snapped his fingers, revealing those who I weren't expecting to see. In some kind of imprisonment bubbles were every one of the girls, including Spike. And…Discord… "Their release for the rest of the Alicorn magic in Equestria!" He offered.

Twilight gasped.

The girls immediately protested against the idea of giving up the last of the magic.

"What's it going to be, Princess?" He pressured Twilight, as she could only look over at every one of us in shock.

"Don't do it, Twilight!" Rainbow Dash shouted out, muffled by her bubble.

"We aren't worth it!" Fluttershy agreed greatly.

"Oh, but you are, Fluttershy." Discord began talking, causing my eyebrows to be furrowed even at the weak state I was. "You're the pony that taught me that friendship is magic. I had magic and friendship, and now I don't have either." He covered his face in shame.

Nevertheless, I didn't give a care for whatever he went through. He wasn't getting my sympathy. "…you…shut up…!" I managed to say through heavy breaths.

He didn't answer to that. He only just seemed to accept it.

"Enough!" Tirek cut short. "I want an answer, and I want it now!"

Twilight looked at every one of the girls, switching to me at last. Her eyes seemed to reflect some kind of…shimmer of hope. However, she solemnly lowered her sight to the ground and began to answer. "I will give you my magic, in exchange for my friends."

Everyone gasped at her sudden decision.

"As you wish." Tirek snapped his fingers, popping the bubbles and giving the girls back their freedom. He still held me in front of him, along with leaving Discord in his bubble.

"All of my friends." Twilight clarified.

"After the way he has betrayed you, you still call him a 'friend'?" Tirek pointed out.

"Release him!" Twilight demanded.

"If that's what you want." Tirek did so.

"Thank you, Twilight…" Discord expressed and then turned to Fluttershy. "I'm sorry…"

"I know…" Fluttershy turned her head away and released a few tears.

"You're forgetting somepony!" Twilight shouted out in anger, referring to me.

"Oh, don't worry." Tirek responded. "You'll get your fellow Prince. Right after I'm sure I get what's mine." Afterwards, he opened his mouth and began sucking out the magic from Twilight. All of the Alicorn magic left in this world. Twilight released painful screaming when she felt it stolen from her. Twilight shook and fell to her side just as Tirek finished draining her power. Finally, he threw me towards Twilight to begin enjoying his total control. He roared in accomplishment and I could feel inside of him the excitement of destroying every little thing in his way.

"Twilight, what were you thinking?!" Spike asked as the others rushed towards us. Fluttershy specifically tended to me.

While she seemed to be relieved that I was still…breathing, she still couldn't help but keep the worried look on her face as I was in pretty bad condition. I looked past her and noticed Vinyl, Octavia, and Derpy sadly make their way over here.

I sighed and lightly talked to them. "…I don't know what you three were thinking…"

"We just wanted to help…" Vinyl answered while sadly looking at the torn apart ground.

I managed to weakly lift myself up. "…thank you…" I only shared and then turned to Twilight, trying to help her up as much as I could. "…I think it's all my fault…I should have stayed with you…"

Twilight sat as she tried to regain her strength. "Stop… It isn't…"

"…are you okay…?" I asked in the matters of remaining alive.

"…I think so…" She answered and then looked in the direction Tirek began eliminating everything at. "…as for Equestria…I don't know…"

Discord felt the needs to join in on the conversation, even though he was completely unwelcomed in my eyes. "Tirek tricked me into believing that he could offer me something more valuable than friendship." He explained guiltily. "But there is nothing worth more. I see that now." He looked at this odd medallion he wore around his neck. "He lied when he said that this medallion was given as a sign of gratitude and loyalty. But when I say that it is a sign of our true friendship, I am telling the truth…" He removed it and placed it around Twilight.

Even though I didn't want anything to do with anything he offered, I couldn't help but feel something from that object.

"You think that might be the last one we need?" Applejack asked once she noticed Twilight look up in realization.

"We have to get to the chest!" Twilight stated.

"Come on. Up and at 'em!" Vinyl brought over what was left of her cart. She helped me on there and pushed me along with the girls that began running to the sign of new hope.

After returning back to the chest at the Tree of Harmony, we noticed how the keys were still in their place. Twilight held up the medallion she was given and it immediately transformed to a key. The last key… After it entered the final keyhole, we felt strong vibrations and heard the pounds of Tirek's hooves as he made his chaotic and destructive way towards us.

"Together!" Twilight exclaimed to the girls that had their keys in the chest. "I think we have to do this together!"

They surrounded the chest and placed their hooves on their keys at the same time. As soon as they turned, the top of the chest opened. My eyes widened when I noticed that there was a strong light coming from within. It immediately shot towards me and lifted me up, greeting me with this warmth and strength of light. They all gasped as this sight occurred. Soon after, a rainbow shot straight towards the tree, connecting each one of the elements. The bubble of light that surrounded me blasted six different rays towards the girls.

Amazingly, the six of them underwent transformations like I did. As they seemed to grow stronger in magic, I returned to my transparent state and rather appeared to be like a ghost of some sort. Our…ball of power was raised up from the pit that the Tree of Harmony was in and met with Tirek, who was completely not expecting this to happen from us.

In a fit of rage, Tirek attempted to dismantle our joint effort with the magic of everypony he stole from. Once he realized it did absolutely nothing, he furiously questioned us. "How is this possible?! You have no magic!"

"You're wrong, Tirek!" Twilight boldly answered. "I may have given you my Alicorn magic, but we carry within us the most powerful magic of all!"

Feeling as if my cue was revealed, I focused intently and dove towards Tirek in a flash of light, striking him six times. They brought the rainbow from the others in attack and caused him to scream in both failure and pain.

I was taken to Tartarus where I apparently seemed to have imprisoned him.

"Stay there!" I banged aggressively on his cage and then remembered how I had seen my mother thrown into the same place with the portal Tirek had opened up. I found them imprisoned in an area not too far. I surprised them in many ways when they saw me standing before them. Nevertheless, I focused on their chains and removed them, feeling the power to do this come from somewhere else than magic. I wasn't sure if it was my doing as well, but it seemed as if they were given their Alicorn magic back.

Before we could converse on what just happened, I was teleported back to the Tree of Harmony, along with the other girls. Everypony, along with me, seemed to return back to normal. Normal as in the way we were before Tirek ever even began stealing the magic from others. With my energy restored, I rushed over to Vinyl, Octavia, and Derpy.

"Are you okay?" I worriedly asked them.

"We're better than okay, man!" Vinyl shouted out in glee as she brought me in tightly close for a bear hug.

"So okay!" Derpy joined in.

With a light but delightful smirk, Octavia also contributed to the embrace. "You all really are something, aren't you?"

When I was allowed to pull away and breathe, I only shrugged it off lightly. "I guess…"

"So…is that it?" Rainbow Dash asked, feeling as if the immense burst of energy had ended.

"I guess so…" Twilight smiled a little as she stared at the Tree of Harmony in both wonder and question. "Tirek's back where he belongs, Equestria seems to be restored, and everything…well…seems to be back to normal now." For some reason, she held her head down sadly afterwards. "…well…almost normal."

"What do you mean?" Applejack asked in concern.

Twilight turned to her in answer. "The library was blown up by Tirek." She shared bluntly.

"Is Owlowiscious okay?!" Spike immediately questioned in fright.

"Yes…" Twilight nodded. "I managed to bring him out with me right before Tirek struck our home." Twilight sighed in sadness. "Looks like I'll need some other place to sleep tonight…and probably for who knows how long."

"You can stay with me." I offered, feeling that I probably wouldn't sleep anyway.

Twilight smiled softly at my offer, but Discord seemed to cut in once again.

"Twilight, I'd so ever be more than happy enough to assist you with—"

"NO!" I shouted and pointed angrily at him. "You shut your mouth!"

Discord seemed to react in surprise as he held his claw and paw up in frightened defense.

"Alex." Fluttershy approached me. "I know how you feel right now about Discord…but he apologized. And he truly meant it. I could feel it!"

"I don't care." I continued glaring at him. "I knew he was always a nuisance, but I never thought he'd actually turn against us! After everything everypony did, especially you, Fluttershy! He just forgot all about that in exchange for stupid power! What kind of a 'friend' is that?!"

"It's not entirely like that…" He tried to support.

"Shut it!" I responded bitterly. "It doesn't matter if you get all of Equestria to forgive you, I'm not one of them! In fact, I never want to see your face again!" Afterwards, I began storming out of the area. Vinyl, Derpy, and Octavia worriedly joined me as I headed in the direction towards Ponyville in the Everfree Forest.

"…dude…are you going to be okay?" Vinyl asked.

"…I just need…to blow off steam right now." I returned, feeling my head ache from the frustration I vented out. "Thank you…" I told the three of them. "Even though I never would have wanted you to risk your lives like that…I really appreciate it." I turned back to the front to focus on where I was going. "…it's good to know who your true friends are…"

At home, I stared out the window in complete silence. Even hearing hoofbeats nearby, I paid no attention to them as I was lost in thought. A hoof on my shoulder brought me back to my senses. I turned to see my mother staring in silence at me, seeming to hold back hidden concern. "I understand you haven't chosen to forgive Discord, have you?"

"Don't tell me you've gone and forgiven him too." I almost barked back.

She removed her hoof and took a seat with me. "We all…are going to need some time to set things straight with Discord." She mentioned subtly.

"I don't count on ever forgiving him…" I looked back outside with angry narrowed eyes.

Luna looked at me in worry. "I understand…why you feel like this, Alex. As much as I don't like it either, you must learn to forgive him eventually. Holding grudges…are very bad…"

Even though I had no mind to forgive Discord, I knew what she said was true. "I know…"

"Princess Cadence, Princess Celestia, and I must see if we can address to the physical damage Tirek had left behind…along with reversing some of the antics Discord caused…" She tried to take the last part lightly, seeing as my tension with Discord was already high. "We shall speak to Princess Twilight and you later. As for right now, the both of you and your friends should get rest. It's been… a very hard day for all of us."

"Okay…" I answered, holding no promises.

"I'm proud of you." She planted a kiss on my cheek before she took her leave.

I remained looking out into the space of my mind.

Twilight soon entered my home as I heard her voice from downstairs.

"You don't mind staying here, do you, Spike?" Twilight asked.

"Nah…" He answered. "But I have to admit…I think I am going to miss my bed."


"It's cool."

I heard them climb up the stairs and reach my level.

"Spike, why don't you go wash up and get ready for bed?" Twilight suggested.

"Okay." He walked into the bathroom and closed the door.

"You still mad…?" Twilight asked me.

I took a moment to answer. "…I'm not really mad… If you're talking about Discord, I'm furious with him, but right now…I'm just…I don't know…"

"You have to admit…he did help us with the last key…all of the keys as a matter of fact." She brought up. I only shrugged, not wanting to get into talk of him right now. Twilight decided to change the subject as she sat down on the side of my bed. "You gonna share the bed?"

"Nah…" I stood up and began walking, surprising her with my answer. "You can have the bed." I clarified. "I don't think I'll be getting any sleep tonight."

"What? Why?" Twilight questioned with concern.

Feeling…disappointed, I answered briefly. "…Too many things on my mind."

"So what was the whole point with Tirek anyway? Besides destroying a few things, all he did was just make their 'friendship power' stronger than before."

"Tirek is just a pawn in our little game. Just a brute force with a brain holding the size of a walnut. So why not use him to keep the little ponies' wandering eyes off for a bit? There is one more step to be done."

"Uh-huh… That is?"

"We, or in this case, you, shall make use with the fragile heart of a certain pony with 'self-esteem' issues."

"And what makes you think your 'plan' isn't going to fail just as Tirek's?"

"Leave your thoughts of concern out of my business. What about you? There must be something you're looking in gaining from this."

"Me? I'm going to take back what's rightfully mine."

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