• Published 28th Jan 2012
  • 7,482 Views, 252 Comments

No Matter How Dark - Picardy Third



Attacks and destruction in Ponyville occur on top of Twilight's recent incidents of memory loss

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Sweet Apple Acres

CHAPTER 1
Sweet Apple Acres

Twilight Sparkle opened her eyes slowly, taking in her surroundings. At first, she couldn’t figure out why her bed felt so hard this morning, but she quickly came to her senses as the smell of paper wafted into her snout. Twilight lifted her head and looked down to see the familiar sight of parchment and typography. With a small grimace, she wiped the drool off the page with her hoof. Her legs were sprawled out on the wooden floor of the library where many books were currently strewn about, creating a messy scene that ponies who visited were not normally accustomed to.

“I don’t remember reading this last night…” Twilight muttered, emitting a long and loud yawn before standing and stretching. “Oh well, probably not important.” She told herself. Her back was stiff from the uncomfortable sleep and her head felt heavy, but she was awake nonetheless.

“Twilight!” Spike called from the top of the stairs. He walked down and met Twilight at the floor.

“Good morning, Spike.”

“You want me to make you some coffee? You passed out on your book last night, so I’m sure you could use some.”

“That would be wonderful, Spike. Fancy vanilla, please!”

“Right away!” Spike called as he ran toward the kitchen. Twilight smiled. He’s always so eager to help. Twilight thought. She walked upstairs and found the bathroom, where there sat her morning essentials: a hairbrush, toothbrush, and toothpaste.

After completing the morning ritual, and her mane looking as it usually did, Twilight trotted back downstairs and relished in the sweet smell of Fancy vanilla coffee roast. She entered the kitchen, where the pot of coffee was almost full and Spike was busy cooking up some eggs for breakfast. The small purple dragon wore a white kitchen apron and chef’s hat, a simple gesture Twilight was sure Spike only did to boost his own ego while cooking.

“Hope you’re hungry for eggs, Twilight! I really wanted some, so I just figured they’d work because…”

“Eggs sound wonderful, Spike.” Twilight said, silencing the baby dragon before he convinced himself that Twilight needed a better breakfast, which she didn’t.

“Wonderful!” Spike said happily. Twilight sat at the table and closed her eyes. Seeing with magic, she looked past the kitchen wall and into the library, locating the book she had been sleeping on the night prior. She was curious as to what sort of literature she fell asleep to, for her memory was failing her. With a quick spell, the book disappeared from the ground and reappeared in front of Twilight with a quiet ‘pop.’

“Did you just teleport that book?” Spike asked, having paid attention almost the whole time.

“Yep! It’s a new trick I’ve been working on. Teleporting objects that I can’t see to me.”

“You’ve been learning an awful lot of new spells lately.” Spike observed, returning his gaze to the cooking eggs in front of him.

Twilight chuckled, “Well, I wouldn’t be the princess’s prized pupil if I were lazy!”

“I guess not.” Spike agreed. He flicked the stove control off and brought the pan over to Twilight. He grabbed a plate on his way over and plopped it down in front of the lavender unicorn. Spike then slid the eggs off the pan so that they were now both lying sunny-side up in front of Twilight, steam rolling off gently into Twilight’s nostrils.

“Mmm, thanks Spike!”

“No problem!” Spike said.

“But… what about your eggs?” Twilight asked, realizing that Spike had not made himself breakfast yet. “Didn’t you want any?”

“I’ll just make mine now.” Spike said, getting ready to crack two more eggs.

“No need!” Twilight said excitedly. “I have another new spell to try out!” She then narrowed her eyes and focused on the eggs. Quick as a flash, the cooked eggs shined brightly and two identical eggs appeared above them, and then fell on top of the originals with a little ‘slap’.

“Wow, a duplication spell!” Spike said excitedly, “That’s useful!”

“I know, the book said it was very difficult, but I don’t find it to be a challenge at all!”

“Well, you are the most talented pony in Ponyville!”

“Oh, stop it.” Twilight replied happily. The pair ate their breakfast together, chatting leisurely about the goings-on around town. Spike didn’t mention Rarity as much as he used to. He was getting bigger, after all, and a schoolboy crush was something that often gets lost as time passes. He still showed affection for the unicorn, but it was more of an appreciation than a crush.

Twilight had been spending a good amount of time with Rarity, however. Being unicorns, the two shared common ground and thus always at least had something to talk about. Not only that, but Rarity was a pony of a more civilized nature, which was generally refreshing considering the way most ponies in Ponyville acted on a daily basis. Company with Rarity had to be taken in stride, however, for the dramatic fashionista tended to be a bit… wearing on the mind from time to time.

When not with Rarity, however, Twilight usually found herself in the company of Fluttershy. Twilight enjoyed the quiet companionship of the shy pegasus, if only as a reading buddy. Fluttershy wasn’t much of a reader herself, but Twilight liked to read in the meadow by Fluttershy’s cottage, sometimes striking up a conversation with her while she tended to the animals nearby. It was a lovely way to spend an afternoon, especially because Spike was starting to take more enjoyment from being left in charge of the library from time to time.

Twilight didn’t spend as much time with Pinkie Pie or Applejack, but that didn’t make them any less her friends. While Twilight never grew tired of a Pinkie Pie party, the pink ball of energy was usually too much for Twilight’s generally easy-going lifestyle. Twilight greatly enjoyed the company of Applejack, but the earth pony was always working! If it wasn’t apples, it was corn. If it wasn’t corn, it was the carrot patch. If it wasn’t harvest time, there were repairs around the farm. Even when there wasn’t any farm work to do, she was in the market selling her apples. It was too much of a hassle to try and plan even a lunch with Applejack.

Rainbow Dash had recently gotten in the habit of dropping by the library for lunch or dinner, sometimes both. When Twilight was in town, she often ran into Rainbow Dash and talked to her for a long time. Twilight had never honestly enjoyed hanging out with Rainbow Dash that much. Rainbow Dash’s idea of fun was usually at another pony’s expense (when she wasn’t sleeping, that is). Twilight usually enjoyed a simple prank, but not enough to perform them with the frequency that Rainbow Dash did.

When Rainbow Dash wasn’t pranking or napping, however, she was practicing her moves for the Wonderbolts, who had yet to have a spot open up in their team. Whenever Rainbow Dash wanted to show off a new move to Twilight, it usually meant that Twilight would plant herself on the ground and stare at the sky for about an hour. Boring as that may sound, Twilight enjoyed every second of it. Rainbow Dash’s flying was fast and aggressive, but possessed a unique air of grace to it that was unmatched by any pegasus Twilight had ever seen.

When Rainbow Dash wasn’t quite so active, she was usually at the library, talking to Twilight. This in itself amazed Twilight the most, because she found herself actually enjoying talking to Rainbow Dash. They had a surprising amount of things in common now that the pegasus had begun to enjoy books more, one of Twilight’s greatest accomplishments in her mind.

“That was a wonderful breakfast, Spike.” Twilight said after finishing her eggs, “I really enjoyed-“

Knock knock knock

“I’ll get it!” Twilight immediately chimed, interrupting herself mid-sentence. Twilight hurried out the kitchen door and toward the front door of the library, where a familiar face was peering through the small window.

“Good morning, Rainbow Dash.” Twilight said, greeting her friend with a smile. Her smile faded quickly, however, when she realized that Rainbow Dash didn’t seem to be quite so bright and cheery this morning.

“Twilight!” Rainbow Dash blurted out frantically.

“Rainbow, what’s wrong? You look…”

“It’s Applejack, something’s happened to the farm!” Rainbow Dash said worriedly.

“What? What happened?” Twilight asked, now quite concerned. “Is she hurt?”

“Nopony’s hurt, but… I need to show you, come on!” Rainbow Dash said, turning and flying away. Twilight leaned to follow, but quickly turned around and shouted at Spike, “Spike, I need you, let’s go!”

“What? I – “ Spike replied from the kitchen before suddenly being teleported onto Twilight’s back.

“Ack! Jeez, Twilight, what’s the rush? Wooah!” Spike cried as Twilight took off in a sprint behind Rainbow Dash, nearly tossing the purple dragon off her back. The three sprinted through town, disregarding all the ponies shouting at them to slow down, including protests from Spike.

“Twilight! What’s going on?!” Spike tried his best to shout despite the bouncing motions Twilight made with her strides

“Something’s happened at Sweet Apple Acres!” Twilight finally called back.

“What happened?!” Spike shouted back.

“I don’t know!” Twilight answered. This quieted Spike, if only due to his lack of ability to answer.

As quickly as possible, Twilight, Rainbow, and Spike ran out of Ponyville and all the way out to Sweet Apple Acres. The run was long and tiresome, but Twilight didn’t even consider it, her worry was so great. The trio finally crested a final hill and the farm came into view, that is, what was left of it.

Black piles of ash now stood where once there stood a barn, a house, and half an apple orchard. Almost the entire farm had been burned to the ground, leaving behind nothing but half an apple orchard of ash-covered trees and smoldering rubble. Twilight was in awe of what she was seeing. The barn that had been built only four years ago after the parasprites invasion was now reduced to ash, and what was worse was the Apple family home was likewise reduced to nothing but a few standing planks and a stone basement. The rubble was still hot and smoking, giving off a consuming smell of burnt wood.

In addition to the property damage, Twilight could tell that a good half of the apple trees and almost all the other crops were now charred, black twigs sticking out of the ground. Her heart sank as she feared for her friend, Applejack. This family made their living off of the farm, but now…

“Oh my goodness…” Twilight muttered, for lack of anything better to say. Rainbow Dash landed beside Twilight and simply allowed her friend to take in the sight. Ponyville hadn’t seen destruction like this since the invasion of the parasprites, and even that didn’t look so… grim. Twilight couldn’t help but wonder what had caused such an inferno. She wondered more so how Applejack was reacting to this.

Sure enough, the orange earth pony and her family were gathered at one end of the farm, trying their best to salvage what they could. Twilight and Rainbow Dash walked into the farm solemnly. As they passed under the sign greeting visitors to the farm, Twilight noticed that the entire back face of the sign was singed black, as if to symbolize what lie behind it. As they neared Applejack, she turned and faced Twilight as Rainbow Dash with a face that was nothing short of heartbroken. Her friends’ appearance did bring a smile to her face, however.

“Applejack… we’re so sorry…” Twilight spoke softly.

“Aw, there ain’t nothin’ y’all could’a done here.” Applejack muttered in reply, returning her gaze to the farm, “Ah’m just glad we’re all safe.”

“Twilight!” Apple Bloom took notice of Twilight’s presence. “Thanks fer comin’.”

“It’s no problem.” Twilight said. “Where are the others? Wouldn’t they want to be here?”

“Ah reckon they don’t even know what happened yet.” Applejack said. “Only reason you know is ‘cause of RD here.”

“I came and got you as quick as I could.” Rainbow said to Twilight. Twilight simply smiled in reply. There were hardly words to be said right now. They all failed her.

“Why Rainbow Dash was here ta help put the fire out.” Applejack said, “Thanks again.”

“Don’t mention it, Applejack. You’d do the same for me.” Rainbow Dash said. Twilight felt inclined to use her voice again.

“How did the fire…”

“We don’t know.” Applejack said. “Far as Ah’m concerned, it was nothin’ but an accident.”

“You know where it started?”

“We think it was in the barn.” Big Macintosh spoke this time. All of their voices were saturated with sorrow, a stark contrast to the usually upbeat family. “Faulty wiring maybe.”

“That was a new barn though.” Twilight said, “Couldn’t have been four years old!”

“Well, who knows?” Applejack said, “All’s we know is that we’re safe, and the fire didn’t get close to Granny Smith.” Applejack and the family looked off into the distance together once Applejack said that.

Granny Smith had died the previous year, and they had buried her atop the highest hill, where the view of the sunrise and sunset was just about perfect. “I’m glad to hear that.” Twilight said, looking toward the aforementioned location.

“Now Ah don’t know how we’re gonna fix this place up, but we’ll have ta try.” Applejack said. “We’ll sell what’s left of the apples, but it’s gonna be tough.”

“Hang on, Applejack.” Twilight said. She looked at the land and at where the house and the barn once stood.

“What’s the matter, Twilight?”

“You think you can get everypony to remove the rubble and ash and completely clear out the land?” Twilight asked Applejack.

“Well, Ah don’t see why not.”

“I can rebuild your farm.” Twilight said confidently.

Applejack, Rainbow Dash, and Spike all looked at Twilight with disbelief.

“That’s mighty kind of you to suggest, Twilight, but Ah don’t think…”

“No, really!” Twilight said, “I’ve been doing some reading on construction spells recently. As long as I know what I’m doing, I can completely rebuild your home and barn.”

“Well, that’d sure be wonderful, Twilight.” Applejack said, a new fire alight in the earth pony’s heart, “Alright! We need to gather everypony we can. Let’s clear out this mess!”
***
***

Twilight Sparkle gazed over Sweet Apple Acres from a distance with determination. The rubble and ash had now been completely cleared, leaving blackened dirt and two stone foundations alone. With a critical eye, she walked into the farm and examined the damage extensively. She walked around the foundation for the house a few times, studying every corner thoroughly. The cellar went into the ground quite a distance, which Twilight thought might cause her some problems, but as long as she keeps to her plan, things should go alright.

She then turned her attention to the barn. Luckily, the barn was recently built, so the actual designs remained for Twilight to examine. It was a decision by the Apple family that they needed the extra space to store their ever growing number of crops, so they added the barn shortly after Granny Smith’s passing. In the case of the house, she simply had to go off of pictures and descriptions, which Twilight felt to be enough. It also helped that the house looked like a barn as well.

With the help of many ponies around town, the rubble had been cleared away in record time.

“So, how’s this gonna work, anyhow?” Applejack asked Twilight as she was examining the stonework.

“Well, according to a book I found in the library, Advanced Construction Magic: Volume 3, as long as I have a good idea how the original structure once stood, it should be just a matter of conjuring up a duplicate of it. I think it’s just like a duplication spell, only without source material.”

“Uh… yea, sure.” Applejack said uneasily, “Sounds complicated.”

“It’s really not – “

“Well, don’t feel bad if ya can’t pull it off there, sugarcube. Point is yer tryin’.”

“I can do this, Applejack. Trust me.”

“I know she can!” Rainbow Dash suddenly said from behind. Twilight and Applejack turned around to see the pegasus landing behind them. “Twilight’s the most talented unicorn in Ponyville. She has this way under control!”

“Thanks, Rainbow Dash.” Twilight said bashfully.

“Well, if yer confident, then Ah trust you.” Applejack said, “Just don’t hurt yerself, okay?”

“Don’t worry, Applejack.”

“Are we ready to start?” came the voice of Rarity from off to the side. She was standing with Fluttershy, Apple Bloom, and Big Macintosh a good distance from the three with ridiculously heavy-duty boots on, most likely to protect her coat from the ash and dirt. “I cannot wait to see Twilight perform such a marvelous act of magic.”

“I’m ready.” Twilight said.

“Let’s get to it, then!” Applejack said, walking off to join the other four.

“Be right there!” Twilight said, thinking she could use the moment to study one or two more places more closely. She was stopped by Rainbow Dash, however.

“You got this, Twilight?” Rainbow Dash asked. Her confidence that was brimming earlier was now replaced with concern.

“Not you too!” Twilight complained.

“Well, this is pretty advanced stuff… I think. Just don’t overextend yourself.” Rainbow Dash said, pretending to know a thing about magic.

“I’ll take things nice and easy, Dash.” Twilight said, “Thanks.”

“Don’t mention it. I got your back!”

Twilight giggled and turned to walk toward the group of ponies gathered at the entrance to Sweet Apple Acres alongside Rainbow Dash.

“So, uh… Twilight?” Rainbow Dash asked.

“Hm?”

“Uh…” Rainbow Dash stalled, “Y-you, uh…”

“What is it?” Twilight asked.

“You show these ponies what’s up. Okay?” Rainbow said half-heartedly.

“Heh, okay!” Twilight said. Rainbow Dash looked away fiercely, as if she had said something wrong. Twilight didn’t think anything of it due to the daunting task before her. Though she was confident she could build the barn and the house, the complexity of the magic could not be denied. It was difficult magic, that much was true, and she would need all of her focus.


Twilight stood now about fifty feet from the site of the house and barn. Behind her were her friends: Applejack, Rarity, Pinkie Pie, Fluttershy, and Rainbow Dash. They were all still and silent, watching Twilight’s every move. Twilight flicked her tail once and closed her eyes. The five ponies stirred in response to the subtle movement, causing a little noise and making Twilight’s ear twitch.

“I need all the concentration I can get.” Twilight remarked.

The friends muttered quick apologies. Then, Twilight began.

Her horn glowed softly at first, a preliminary stage to simply get a feel for the magic necessary for the task in front of her. She began with the house. She felt the outline of it, the frame, the structure, its specific build. She envisioned the house standing upon the foundation, strong and sturdy. She quickly imagined where to place every single detail down to the decorations, so she increased her magic output and started the serious work.

Slowly but surely, the wood began to materialize from the basement foundation. The five ponies behind Twilight smiled together and looked on in awe. Twilight allowed the magic to flow freely, growing and growing ever more. The basic frame of the house started taking shape before the small audience’s eyes, emitting small gasps and jubilant comments all around.

Twilight, however, was realizing quickly that this task was requiring more magic than she had originally intended. This didn’t falter her, but did give her source for slight concern. She upped her magical output, causing her horn to glow ever brighter, a large ball of energy growing in front of her face.

Some finer details began to show on the house. Walls started to form, windows began to be placed, and some doors also popped up. Twilight began to grunt every few seconds from the effort, her face contorting in concentration. The magic coming off her horn was growing more and more intense, electrifying the air and making her friends’ coats stand up on end. Rarity began to freak out about her mane frizzing out, but remained silent so as not to disturb Twilight.

Before their very eyes, the finishing touches were applied to the house and Twilight began to cool down. A few more minutes passed, and Twilight’s horn had completely gone out. She stood, panting, as she recovered from the exhausting magical feat. The task was not devastatingly exhausting, but still took its toll on the young unicorn.

“Yee-haw! Will ya look at that!” Applejack cried out from behind Twilight. Twilight turned around and smiled. The ponies all started stomping their hooves and celebrating at Twilight’s work. Twilight blushed a little then turned and studied her work for the first time.

The house she had created was an exact replica of the house that previously stood in its place. Even the red paint was the same. Twilight felt her friends gather around her and hug her tightly.

“Thank ya, Twilight! Why, we have a home again!” Applejack cried happily.

“That was simply amazing!” Rarity exclaimed.

“Totally cool!” Rainbow Dash agreed.

“Astounding!” Fluttershy agreed.

“The coolest thing EVER!” Pinkie Pie declared exuberantly.

“Thanks girls, but I’m not done yet!” Twilight said. Her voice was raggedy and weak, though she still felt up to completing the next task.

“Are you crazy? You are wiped out! You couldn’t possibly hope to complete that barn now!” Rainbow Dash blurted out.

“Says you.” Twilight said. “I can do it, trust me.”

“Well, alright.” Applejack said, “Step back, everypony. Give her some space.”

“Oh, this is so exciting!” Pinkie Pie exclaimed as the ponies galloped back to their previous location near the entrance to the farm.

“Twilight…” Rainbow Dash said before walking away.

“I’m fine, Rainbow Dash, honestly.” Twilight said with a smile.

Rainbow Dash started to walk away a little apprehensively before conceding defeat and running back to join their friends.

Twilight then turned her attention to the space where the barn was soon to go. The house that now stood gave her confidence and her friends’ support gave her the strength. She closed her eyes and her horn glowed once again. Twilight felt the outline of the barn and quickly began work on creating the main support beams.

The heavier beams proved to be quite the mental challenge for Twilight, so she quickly upped her magic usage. The barn began to take shape, but it was taking much more effort this time around. The barn almost doubled the size of the house, meaning it was much more difficult to conjure up the material necessary to construct the building.

The ball of energy surrounding Twilight’s horn quickly reached that of her previous endeavor and grew from that point. The barn was taking shape, but Twilight was getting consumed in magic.

Then, Twilight reached a breaking point. She felt that she could no longer give any more magic than she currently was. She pushed and pushed, but the magic was at a constant pace, like a wall blocking her output. The barn was only half way done. If she was at her limit now, then there was no way she would be able to finish! Twilight pushed harder, emitting a short grunt every time she let out the extra effort.

Then, Twilight’s body began to glow, and Twilight broke beyond the magical barrier that was holding her back. Twilight became surrounded in a purple magical aura, lifting her body off the ground slightly. Her friends became concerned for her safety, but watched as the barn suddenly began to take shape very quickly. Twilight grew brighter and brighter, her eyes still clamped shut tightly. Twilight began to lose focus. She didn’t know whether the barn was done or not.

However, Twilight caught herself just in time and realized that she was going off the deep end. She backed off and tried to slow the magic that was pouring out of her. Twilight slowly fell back to the ground and she landed softly. Her body lost its glow and her horn remained the only thing giving off magic. It was then that she realized that the barn was nearing completion. She put some finishing touches on it and severed the magic completely.

Twilight’s horn stopped glowing and she collapsed on the ground.

“Twilight!” All of her friends shouted. Rainbow Dash zoomed forward and landed in front of Twilight’s face. Twilight opened her eyes and looked into Rainbow Dash’s magenta orbs as the rest of the ponies gathered around and looked down at her.

“Wha…” Twilight muttered.

“Y’all right there, sugarcube?” Applejack asked Twilight.

“I’m… fine…” Twilight said. With Rainbow Dash’s help, she stood and looked around. “What just… happened?”

“Whatever do you mean, darling?” Rarity asked.

“Where am I?” Twilight asked. She looked at the house and barn and her eyes opened wide. She could have sworn that there was nothing but piles of ash there previously.

“Where did THOSE come from?!” She exclaimed, pointing at the new structures.

“You made them, silly!” Pinkie Pie exclaimed happily. Twilight looked at Rainbow Dash, who gave her a quick nod and a nervous glance at the other ponies. Sudden realization swept over Twilight and she felt slightly sick to her stomach, but she had to make something up quickly.

“Oh… yea! I sure did!” Twilight said happily.

“Well Ah’ll be!” Applejack said, “That’s some mighty fine work there, Twilight!”

“It’s beautiful!” Fluttershy said, “However did you manage?”

“Oh, it wasn’t so bad.” Twilight said, blushing.

“Wasn’t so bad?” Rarity said in disbelief, “You gave us an awful fright there!”

“I think Twilight just needs some rest.” Rainbow Dash said, attempting to bring the questions to an end: something that Twilight was quite grateful for. “Am I right, Twi?”

“Yes! Rest!” Twilight said, smiling brightly and nodding fervently.

“Aw… but I was gonna throw Applejack a new barn party! There’s gonna be cake and goodies and a piñata and – “

“Well, I’ll be sure to stop by later, Pinkie.” Twilight said. “You wanna walk me home, Rainbow Dash?”

“Be glad to.” Rainbow Dash said. The pair walked away from Sweet Apple Acres with the remaining four looking at them with confused expressions.

“Thanks fer the help, Twilight!” Apple Bloom shouted.


Once they were far enough away, Twilight spoke up.

“It happened again, didn’t it?” She said softly. “I lost my memory.”

“I think so.” Rainbow Dash replied solemnly, “You don’t remember making those buildings at all?”

“Well, now that you girls jogged my memory, I sort of remember starting on the house, but… just barely.”

“Well, we were all worried when you were working on the barn. Your whole body got covered in magic!” Rainbow Dash said. “And you lifted off the ground.” She added extra emphasis by leaping into the air and hovering over Twilight with her front legs outstretched.

“Dash, I’m really starting to get worried about this. If I start losing substantial moments in my memory, then something could really be wrong with me. It could mean losing my position with the Princess. I can’t let that happen!”

“It won’t happen, Twilight. You’re the smartest pony I know. Celestia could never turn you away, no matter what happens.”

“Thanks, Dash.” Twilight said. They reached the library and stopped at the front door.

“Well, here we are.” Dash said.

“Yep.” Twilight agreed. “You, uh… wanna come in?” Twilight’s eyes were heavy and she was exhausted, but it would be impolite to not offer.

“Twilight, you need your rest.” Rainbow Dash said regretfully, “What you did back there… I don’t know a lot about magic and stuff, but I know it took a lot of effort, and you scared us a bit.”

“Yea, I guess you’re right.” Twilight said. She opened the door with magic and stepped toward it. “See you later, Dash.”

“I…” Rainbow Dash said, but stopped herself. Twilight turned and looked at Rainbow Dash.

“You say something?”

“N-no, I… see ya!” Rainbow Dash said quickly, flying away at top speed.

“Sometimes you are as random as Pinkie Pie.” Twilight said out loud, watching Rainbow Dash’s bright rainbow trail as it streaked across the sky. Twilight turned and walked inside the library.

“Spike!” Twilight called out. The sudden usage of air made her feel light-headed and she stumbled slightly. Once she righted herself, she put a hoof to her head and shook it. “Spike! Are you here?”

No answer.

“Must have gotten hungry or something.” Twilight concluded. Drawing on that thought, she realized that she herself was quite hungry. Maybe a snack before my nap, she thought. She walked out of the library area and found the kitchen, where she began to aimlessly rummage through her snack cupboards.

With a box of leaf chips in her jowls, she suddenly heard a small commotion coming from the other side of the door in the library. Anticipating the noise to simply be Spike, Twilight ignored it and opted to set down the box on the table and begin eating.

Though the chewing clouded her hearing, she could make out the sound of somepony talking, and it wasn’t Spike. The voice she heard was a hushed female voice, mature sounding. Twilight recognized it, but she couldn’t quite put her hoof on whose it was. Her curiosity getting the better of her, Twilight walked out of the kitchen and into the library, absolutely stunned as to who she found.

“Princess Celestia! Princess Luna!” Twilight shouted, causing the two royal ponies to look up at Twilight. Twilight quickly composed herself, though she was filled with confusion and a little bit of surprise.

“Twilight Sparkle. How are you?” Celestia asked calmly. Twilight looked back and forth between the sisters, not believing that not a minute ago her living room had been empty, and now the two princesses of Equestria were standing on her area rug.

“Good.” Twilight said for lack of anything better to enlighten the princesses with at the time.

“That is good to hear.” Celestia said, “Now, I hope you have a few minutes. There is a serious matter we need to discuss.” Celestia said. Twilight gulped. That didn’t sound good.

“Am I in trouble?” Twilight asked, looking down.

“Fear not, you have done nothing wrong.” Luna said calmly. Twilight breathed a sigh of relief. Celestia smiled at Twilight.

“My most faithful student… I have noticed that your magic has become more advanced as of late. Would you care to elaborate?”

Twilight was unsure of what the princess was getting at, but spoke anyway, “Well, I have been recently studying different types of matter transportation and reproduction. I have found use of a spell that transports things from out of my sight to my current position.”

“A very advanced spell, indeed.” Celestia commented. Twilight blushed a little.

“Um… I’ve also been perfecting my duplication spell. Yesterday morning I used it on the breakfast Spike made so he wouldn’t have to make it again for himself.”

“Most remarkable.” Luna complimented Twilight. If she wasn’t truly blushing before, she was now.

“And, um, today I helped Applejack with some damages her farm received.” Twilight said. She didn’t exactly tell of what she had done for the barn and the house. If the princesses got excited over an advanced transportation spell, she didn’t want to know how they would react to the knowledge that Twilight successfully created two large buildings.

“Damages?” Luna asked.

“What misfortune has befallen Sweet Apple Acres?” Celestia asked.

“Their… barn and house burned down yesterday.” Twilight said, “A good amount of their crops are gone too.”

“That poor family…” Celestia said, “We shall have to send financial assistance to help them rebuild their properties.” A small amount of panic filled Twilight.

“There won’t be any need for that, princess.” Twilight said quickly.

“Whatever do you mean?” Princess Luna asked this time. “Do you not care for your friend’s wellbeing?”

“No! I mean, I… already, um, rebuilt their farm.” Twilight said sheepishly.

“You… constructed an entire house?” Celestia asked, awestruck.

“All by yourself?” Luna added.

“And… the barn.” Twilight said.

For a second, Twilight was afraid she had gone too far, for Celestia and Luna looked at each other with concerned faces. Twilight’s fear was turned to relief however as Celestia and Luna then put on smiles and looked back at Twilight, “You are indeed my most remarkable student, Twilight.”

“Your skill with magic is most impressive, Twilight Sparkle.” Luna said.

“May I ask what started the fire? I am quite curious.” Celestia asked.

“They aren’t sure, but Applejack suspects it was some faulty wiring in the barn.” Twilight said.

“Shall I have a word with the Ponyville Construction Company?” Celestia asked.

“I hardly think that will be necessary, sister.” Luna commented.

“Um, if you don’t mind me asking, what is this issue you need to discuss?” Twilight asked.

“It’s nothing too much, Twilight.” Celestia replied, “I have simply come to inform you that I have asked Spike to stay in Canterlot castle with me for the next few weeks. I have some special training for him, something that all baby dragons hatched by the magic students must do.”

“Oh?” Twilight inquired, slightly taken aback, “He never mentioned this to me…”

“He wasn’t aware of it until today, Miss Sparkle.” Luna chimed in.

“So is that… all? You both came down to tell me about Spike… rather than just send a letter?” Twilight asked, her fatigue loosening her tongue.

“There is more, Twilight.” Celestia said, her mood once again turning serious, “It is because of your recent magical advances that my sister, Luna, and I would like to simply observe you from time to time.”

“Observe… me?”

“Ideally, you will not notice our presence.” Luna said.

“In fact, we will most likely just keep a light watch from Canterlot Castle using magic mirrors.” Celestia assured Twilight, “Do not worry, for we will never interfere during times you deem as private.”

“Nor will we become overbearing.” Luna said, “We simply wish to keep watch for a short while and see how far you have grown.”

“I… guess there’s no problem.” Twilight said.

“Excellent!” Celestia exclaimed. She took a step back so that she was now shoulder to shoulder with Luna. “I suppose we should let you get back to your afternoon. You do look quite tired.”

“I am quite tired, Princess.” Twilight replied, “And thank you for informing me of your actions.”

“Until next time, Twilight Sparkle.” Celestia said. Luna likewise smiled and waved. The area where the sisters were standing lit up momentarily, and then they were gone: teleported all the way back to Canterlot. Twilight was still slightly confused… why would they need to observe her?

It’s not like I haven’t impressed the princess before. Twilight thought. Troubled, she ascended the stairs to her room and quickly fell asleep in her bed, the golden late-afternoon rays of sun still streaming in through a westward window.

***
***
“I fear the situation is worse than we had originally thought, sister.” Luna observed to Celestia. Celestia was standing on a balcony and staring at the distant glow of Ponyville.

“I agree.” Celestia said, not looking away, “I am scared for my young student.”

“And the dragon?” Luna asked.

“He must stay here in the castle until the situation is over.” Celestia said, “I cannot risk it.”

“If he stays indefinitely, Twilight Sparkle is sure to become suspicious.” Luna said, “How long do you expect this to last?”

“If what we are dealing with is anything like mother once warned me…” Celestia uttered weakly, paused, and continued with a shaky voice, “Then this may be Twilight Sparkle’s last summer in Ponyville.”