Altered Perspectives: The Long Way Back

by CapNTilfy

First published

The Friendship Games have ended, and the students and faculty of Crystal Prep must adjust to the fact that magic does indeed exist...

The Friendship Games have ended. In the face of incontestable proof that magic exists, the people of Crystal Prep Academy try to make sense of it all on the way back to school.

Book One of the Crystal Prep Chronicles: Altered Perspectives.

Part of "Not Just Any Old Continuity", which includes
Not Just Any Old Trilogy
The Anon-A-Miss Saga
TimberTwi Tales

Featured within 5 hours, holy crap!

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Prologue: After the Friendship Games

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The clouds parted, letting the sun shine as the awards ceremony concluded. The Friendship Games were over, and Lemon Zest could only gawk at the statue that had been destroyed by Twilight when she turned into... whatever the hell that thing was. She shook her head. What in the fuck did she just see back there?! She felt a hand on her shoulder, causing her to yelp. She turned around to see a peach-skinned student with blonde hair, who she had recognized from Canterlot High's archery team.

"How y'all holdin' up?"

Lemon simply stared at her blankly.

"Oh, right," the student said with a blush. "Name's Applejack." Applejack extended a hand.

"How am I feeling?" Lemon turned around and sighed. "I... I honestly don't know."

"Understandable," Applejack said. "Magic's been around here for months, and it still don't make a lick of sense to me."

Lemon turned back to Applejack. "How did you cope with all this crazy shit?"

Applejack gave Lemon a faint smile as she folded her arms. "As best I could, I guess."

Lemon sighed again. "I appreciate what you're doing, Applejack, but I think I just need a moment."

Applejack nodded and lightly tipped her stetson hat, then walked away.

Lemon sat down and rested her chin in her hands. Everything she thought she knew had been fucked six ways from Sunday, and she felt that no amount of music would help her mood.

"Excuse me... Lemon, was it?"

Lemon looked over her shoulder to see a pale white teenager with purple hair. Her blue eyes sparkled as a grateful smile formed on her face.

"...Yes," Lemon asked.

"My name is Rarity, and I just wanted to thank you for saving my life back there."

Lemon snorted. "Well I sure as hell wasn't going to just sit and watch you fall." She blinked. "Why are you thanking me, though? Indigo was the one who pulled you out, not me."

"Indeed she did, and I already thanked her. But she wouldn't have been able to lift me out of that portal if you hadn't helped her."

Lemon cupped her chin in thought. "Huh. I guess you're right." She smiled. "You're welcome, Rarity."

Rarity returned the smile. "Now, is there anything I can do in return?"

Lemon raised an eyebrow and folded her arms. "Say what now?"

"I simply cannot let such heroism go unrewarded, darling."

"...'Darling'," Lemon asked in mild surprise.

Rarity giggled. "It's what I call everybody. 'Darling', 'dear', 'sweetie'... you know, those sorts of things."

"I see..."

"Is something the matter," Rarity asked as she put a hand on Lemon's shoulder.

Lemon scoffed. "Where should I start?"

"Ah, yes," Rarity said sheepishly, looking slightly embarrassed. "This was your first time seeing magic."

"How do you not just go 'what the fuck?!' whenever that happens?"

Rarity sat down next to Lemon. "I assure you that I have indeed had those moments before. Sometimes, I still do."

"Does it get any easier to deal with?"

"The magic?" Rarity looked at the destroyed statue. "I think you already know the answer to that, given you just witnessed it firsthand."

"A mixed bag, huh?"

Rarity nodded. "I'm afraid so."

Lemon made a sputtering noise.

Rarity stood back up. "I'm sorry I wasn't able to be of much help, Lemon."

Lemon stood up with her. "It's okay. Thanks for trying, at least."

"You're quite welcome. Ta-ta!" Rarity walked off as Lemon watched.

Once Rarity was out of eyesight, Lemon turned around to see a pink girl with pink hair wearing a huge grin. "Holy shit," she yelped as she nearly fell on her butt.

"Hiya," the pink girl chirped. "I'm Pinkie Pie! Did you enjoy the party I set up before your meanie of a principal wrecked it?"

Lemon stood still for a moment and gathered her bearings. "Wait... you threw that out-of-nowhere super party with all the cupcakes and confetti?"

"You better believe it," Pinkie said with pride as she put her hands on her hips. "I don't hold anything back when it comes to fun!"

"Yeah," Lemon said with a nod. "It was a pretty kickass party!"

Pinkie pumped her fist in victory. "Yes! Another satisfied customer." Suddenly, her eyes began to twitch.

Lemon raised an eyebrow. "Are you okay?"

"It's my Pinkie Sense! I'm needed elsewhere." Pinkie hugged Lemon. "It was nice to meet you, Lemon Zest!" She sped off in a pink blur.

"Wait... how did she know my name," Lemon thought out loud. She shrugged, then smiled, feeling a slight improvement in her mood.

"Hey," a raspy voice called out from behind Lemon.

Lemon turned around to see a light blue girl with rainbow hair. "You were pretty damn good out there on the track. I don't know many people who can catch up to Pinkie as fast as you and your teammate did."

"Thanks," Lemon said. "You were pretty badass out there going up against that... whatever the hell that weird plant thing was."

"Rainbow Dash."

"Lemon Zest."

The two fist-bumped.

"Wanna race sometime," Rainbow asked with a grin.

Lemon returned the grin. "You know it!"

"Awesome," Rainbow said. "Hit me up on MyStable when you get the chance and we'll work out the time and place." She looked left and right. "Hey... you didn't happen to see a pink-"

Lemon pointed in the direction the Pinkie ran off. "She said something about 'Pinkie Sense' or whatever."

"Pinkie Sense," Rainbow exclaimed. "Oh man, this is gonna be good!" She waved goodbye as she ran off.

Lemon waved back with a smile as she was gently tapped on the shoulder. She turned around to see a pale yellow girl hiding behind her pink hair.

The girl simply stood still for a moment, then took a deep breath and spoke. "Um... hi. I-I'm F-Flutters-shy."

Lemon blinked. "Fluttershy."

Fluttershy nodded, then reached into her backpack and pulled out a rabbit. She hugged it, then calmed visibly with a sigh.

"Aww," Lemon cooed as she reached out to the rabbit. "He's such a cutie!"

Fluttershy brightened. "His name is Angel Bunny," she said as Lemon gently stroked Angel's chin. "Do you have any pets?"

"I used to have a hedgehog named Grubber when I was in grade school, but not since he passed away."

"I see," Fluttershy said. "Well, if you ever want another furry friend, you can find me at the Canterlot Animal Shelter! I'll be sure to find you the right pet!"

Lemon smiled. "Maybe someday."

Fluttershy nodded, then walked past a girl with red and gold hair. She wore a black leather jacket which ended at her waist as her blue blouse lightly swayed with the wind.

Lemon stood still as the girl walked towards her. That was the one who transformed into that amazing winged angel!

"Hey," the girl said as she stopped a few feet away from Lemon. "I bet you have a few questions for me."

Lemon snorted. "A few?"

"I'll try to answer them as best I can."

"Who... or what... are you?"

"My name is Sunset Shimmer, and as for what I am..."


Sunny Flare sat in disbelief with her head in her hands. Life had thrown yet another curveball at her, and it was all she could do to not scream. It was bad enough that Rutherford died recently, but now this! Magic was a real thing! She shook her head slowly as a lump rose in her throat. She just wanted to go home and stay there...

"Hey... you okay?"

Sunny looked up to see a blue-haired teen with blue eyes. He wore a white t-shirt with a blue shield with a yellow bolt in front of it, which she assumed was his Power Symbol.

"What do you care," Sunny asked harshly. "I don't even know you, so why should I tell you?"

"Flash Sentry," the teen said as he sat down next to Sunny.

"Oh, goody," Sunny said sarcastically. "I know your name. Big deal."

"Look, you've obviously been through a lot, and I just want to-" Flash was cut off as Sunny slapped him across the face, as hard as she could.

Sunny grit her teeth as her blood boiled with absolute fury. "You have no idea what I've been through," she said coldly. "You don't have any fucking right to say that."

Flash rubbed the cheek that had been slapped as he stared at Sunny in shock.

"And if you even so much as think of following me," Sunny said as she trembled, "I will personally make sure that the lower half of your body bleeds for a goddamn week!" She stormed off, leaving a surprised and confused Flash Sentry alone.

Sunny slowed down as the lump in her throat returned. She sniffled, then leaned against a tree as she covered her head with her hands, then broke.


Sour Sweet heaved a sigh. Nothing in life could ever be simple, could it? She had tried to distract herself from the insanity by checking out all the male students in the hopes of finding a boyfriend.

"That didn't work out too well, now, did it," asked Sour Side.

Sweet scoffed. Ya think?

That cute blue-haired boy with the guitar said he had a thing for someone from "out of town", the burly blue student with dark blue hair and a tornado on his shirt was gay...

"Don't forget that guy who turned out to be ace."

Sweet rolled her eyes. Don't remind me. She shook her head slowly as the memory of herself crushing the cup as a threat resurfaced.

"Yeah, not the best way to make a first impression."

Couldn't you have stopped me like you did when I tried to kill myself?

"That was self-preservation, Sweet. Totally different situation there."

An uncomfortable silence followed as Sour Sweet stared off at nothing in particular. She glanced at the broken statue and shuddered. Maybe walking around would ease her mind just a little.


Indigo Zap hadn't stopped walking around since the end of the awards ceremony. Ever since she had seen action movies, she had always laughed at civilians that ran in the face of terror. She always knew she'd save the day... but at the same time, she now found herself sympathizing with those that ran.

Truth be told, Indigo had wanted to flee along with Principal Cinch. What could she, a preparatory school student, have possibly done to something so far beyond her understanding? All of those portals to another world... the knowledge of such had made her feel very, very small in comparison with the rest of the universe.

Indigo shook her head rapidly. She hated when she did that deep thinking shit.

But what else could she do? Her mind had been going a mile a minute since that freaky plant thing showed up out of nowhere, and it likely wasn't going to stop anytime soon!

Indigo took a deep breath, then exhaled. What she needed to do was calm down. Chances were that wasn't going to happen, but she had to do something!

"Excuse me... Indigo, was it," a vaguely familiar voice asked from behind.

Indigo turned around to see a woman with light blue skin and two tones of blue in her hair. Her opal eyes seemed to look straight into Indigo's very being, causing her to step back.

Just before the final event when the shit hit the fan, that woman had spoken, and there was something about that voice that Indigo couldn't quite put her finger on...

"I'm Luna, the Vice-Principal of Canterlot High," the woman said, gesturing to herself.

"Uhh... hi," Indigo said, unsure of why the Vice-Principal would take time out of her normally busy schedule just to walk up to some student from another school.

"I just wanted to thank you for saving my students during that... well... "incident", I suppose, would be the proper word for it."

"I've got a word for it, too, but I don't think I can say it front of a faculty member."

Luna smiled. "Fair enough. Oh, and one more thing."

"Yes?"

"If you're ever up for another rematch, now you know where to find me," Luna said with a wink.

Indigo's eyes widened in recognition, and if brains could literally explode from mindfucks, hers would have done so for the umpteentillionth time that day. "Done," she shouted as she threw her hands up. "I'm fucking done!"

Vice-Principal Luna looked on in confusion as Indigo walked off, shouting almost incoherently.


Sugarcoat had barely said a word since the awards ceremony had concluded. All she had done since was find her boyfriend, Neon Lights, and held onto him tightly.

Neon had remained silent as well, taking comfort in Sugarcoat's embrace.

"Oh, god, Neon... we could have died," Sugarcoat all but whispered.

"I know," Neon said softly, then gently pecked Sugarcoat's forehead.

"I-I'm so scared right now."

"Me too, hon... me too." Neon gently ran a hand through her hair.

"When we get back to my place, can we just cuddle?"

"Of course, Sugar."

Sugarcoat sniffled. "I... I love you."

Neon tightened his hold on Sugarcoat. "I love you too."

Sugarcoat broke, and it took a great deal of willpower for Neon Lights not to do the same as he consoled her.


Twilight Sparkle sat on the front steps of Canterlot High as her mind replayed the events over and over. If it weren't for Spike being in her lap, she'd have gone absolutely mad!

"Hey, are you gonna be okay," Spike asked.

Twilight's eyes widened, then relaxed. Right. Her dog could talk now. That was a thing.

"I-I don't know, Spike... I'm still trying to make sense of it all," Twilight said as she put a hand to her forehead. "This 'Equestria' place, the magic, and those girls!"

"What about them?"

Twilight sighed. "That's just it, Spike. There's something about them. They didn't treat me with hostility. They readily accepted me, with open arms! Even after I became that... that thing!"

"So what are you going to do about it?"

Twilight cupped her chin in thought. "Well, I'd definitely like to get to know them better."

Spike nodded as his tail wagged. "Right, me too."

Twilight watched as a light green female student wearing a harp necklace openly held hands with a cream skin colored female. The former gently ran a hand through the latter's blue and fuchsia hair as they gazed at each other in what could only be construed as a romantic moment.

"It certainly seems that this school is much more open-minded than Crystal Prep," Twilight noted with a growing smile. "Who knows, maybe I could learn something new from this place."

Spike raised an eyebrow. "Wait... are you thinking of transferring here," he asked, gesturing to the whole of Canterlot High.

"Well... yes."

"You've got my support, Twi," Spike said, then licked her chin.

Twilight laughed, then smiled. "Thank you."

"I just hope your friend doesn't take the it too badly when you tell her."

Twilight hissed through her teeth. She hadn't thought about that! As she pulled at her hair, she began to think of ways to break the news...


Dean Cadance had kept a close eye on her students ever since the proverbial storm died down. Each of them were no doubt shaken to their very cores, and if she was to be honest with herself, so was she. Magic was one thing, but a whole other parallel world?

Had Cadance known ahead of time about the danger, she would have done whatever she could have to prevent it. But what could she have done? Seeing Twilight transform into that winged creature was the single most horrifying sight to her since the night her mother was poisoned! She shuddered at the memory and shook her head.

Cadance took solace in the fact that at the very least, her students were physically no worse for the wear. As for psychologically, though... Radiant Hope, Crystal Clarity and the other counselors would more than likely have their hands full for days to come.

Cadance checked her phone. The buses were due to leave fairly soon, and she'd have to round up the student body. She heaved a sigh, knowing that she'd be getting calls from alarmed and confused parents, as well as her agents. With determination, she started searching for her charges.


On the surface, Abacus Cinch seemed calm, cool and collected. On the inside, however, she was furious! A tie. Unacceptable. Simply unacceptable! Had it not been for those damnable Canterlot High students using magic of all things. Magic! Magic that had corrupted and influenced her students to turn against her! After everything she had done for them! How dare they be so ungrateful!

Victory should have been hers, and she would fight tooth and nail once she found a way to overturn this wretched outcome! She took a deep breath, then exhaled. Her anger was still prevalent, but she would not let Canterlot High have the satisfaction of seeing her angry! Her mind raced as she ran idea after idea in her head...


Lemon heaved a sigh as she put on a classic rock song. She almost wished she hadn't gotten any answers! Sunset Shimmer was a unicorn?

Lemon would've called bullshit if she hadn't seen the portals to this "Equestria" place for herself! She shook her head slowly as she felt a headache coming on.

With her hands in her pockets, Lemon continued forward until she caught sight of a pale white student with dark purple sunglasses. She bobbed her head to a beat from her earphones.

With a wide grin, Lemon hurried over to the student and pointed at her headphones, then took them off. The student did the same.

"'Sup, fellow headphone enthusiast," the student asked.

"Whatcha listening to," Lemon asked.

"My music."

"Yeah, but what genre?"

"EDM. House, Trap, Vaporwave, Dubstep... though I might experiment with Chillwave sometime in the near future."

Lemon's eyes widened. "Wait, when you said 'my music'."

"DJ P0N-3, at your service," she said with a flourish. "Well, that's my stage name, anyway. Vinyl Scratch," she said, extending a fist.

"Lemon Zest," Lemon said as they bumped fists.

"So. What are you listening to," Vinyl asked.


Sunny Flare wiped the tears from her eyes with a sniffle. She felt absolutely miserable as she looked back where she left Flash, only to see nobody there. She shouldn't have lashed out at him, he was clearly just trying to make her feel better. Maybe she'd find him and apologize to him sometime, but not now. Her pride wouldn't allow it. God, she was such a mess...

Sunny left the tree and passed Sunburst, who looked very deep in thought. She pressed onward, not willing to get herself mixed with any further drama if she could help it! She saw students begin to gather, and she headed in that direction.

Sunny simply wanted to move on with her day and let her suffering continue in what little peace she had.


Sour Sweet had been walking around for who knows how long, keeping herself sane by conversing with Sour Side.

"I mean, can you imagine if your landlords saw this shit? They'd be like 'Fine. Magic is real, but Sour Side isn't.'"

Sweet snorted.

"There you go!"

You know this happiness is only temporary, right? It'll be straight back to hell with us.

"We've got each other, Sweet. You won't be miserable alone."

Sweet allowed herself a small smile as she noticed Dean Cadance gesturing her forward.

Yeah. I know... Thank you.


Indigo Zap had been basically running on fumes for the past couple of minutes as the weight of everything began to crash down upon her. Her speed had slowed to a crawl and she spaced out more and more frequently.

"I-Indigo?"

Indigo looked to see Fleur De Verre, who sported a worried expression.

"Are you okay?"

Indigo stood still for several moments, then sighed. "D... D... D-Don't... t-think... think so..."

"Is there anything I can-"

A wave of frustration flowed through Indigo, and she swiftly thrust her hand out with fingers outstretched. "Done... no... n-no talk."

De Verre nodded in understanding, and the two made their way to the buses.


Sugarcoat shuddered as she finished crying. "Neon... I want to go home and pretend this never happened."

Neon frowned. "You know we can only do one of those without making things worse."

"Neon, old friend," Royal Pin said as he walked towards the couple. "I believe it is time to go." He gestured to the buses.

Neon and Sugarcoat stood up.

"Sit next to me," Sugarcoat said as she wrapped an arm around Neon.

"Of course."

"Hold my hand and don't let go."

"I promise," Neon said, then pecked Sugarcoat on the lips.

The three headed towards the buses.


Upper Crust stood in front of Dean Cadance. "Can we leave yet? I'm feeling rather jumpy and I wish to be at home!"

"Just as soon as everyone's ready," Cadance said.

Sour Sweet walked up. "I know I'm ready," she said cheerfully. "So everybody else better get their fucking asses in gear already!"

"Don't worry," Cadance said. "I'll make sure everyone is accounted for. Now get in the buses." As Sour and Crust left, she turned her attention to Twilight Sparkle, who was sitting on the steps.


Lemon sighed happily with closed eyes as Vinyl's music soothed her nerves. She had then opened her eyes to see Dean Cadance and Twilight speaking to each other. Whatever it was about, she could ask Twilight later.

A sudden tap on the shoulder alerted Lemon as her borrowed headphones were removed.

"I think everyone's leaving, Lemon," Vinyl said.

"Oh, crap! Thanks," Lemon said before taking off. "Keep in touch, will ya?"

Vinyl gave Lemon a thumbs up as she put her headphones back on.

Lemon dashed towards the buses, nearly passing Twilight. "Twi, don't you know the buses are leaving?"

Twilight looked away for a moment and sighed. "Lemon... there's something I need to tell you..."


Dean Cadance stood in front of the buses as she double-checked the attendance sheets. She had everyone accounted for. Everyone, that is, except Lemon Zest.

"WHAT?!" A scream at the doorsteps had told Cadance all she needed to know. She hurried over to the source of the noise.


It only took a moment for Lemon's world to come crashing down. "Twi... are you serious?"

Twilight nodded. "Yeah... I am."

"After everything you and I went through this past week... the moments we had together," Lemon felt a lump in her throat. "The things we shared in confidence!"

"Lemon..."

"P-Please, Twilight... don't leave me all alone in that hellhole..."

Twilight shot towards Lemon and hugged her. "You'll have Sour Sweet. And something tells me more friends will follow."

Lemon sniffled and returned the hug. "I... I-I'm going to miss you."

A tear ran down Twilight's cheek. "Lemon... I'm only transferring schools. It's not like I'll never see you again."

"Yeah... I know."

Dean Cadance ran up to the two. "Lemon, the buses are leaving! Let's go!"

Lemon sniffled again as she looked into Twilight's eyes.

"Think of it this way; This isn't 'goodbye'. It's just 'goodbye 'til next time'."

"Yeah... 'goodbye 'til next time'." Lemon broke the hug and hurried off.

Lemon Zest and Dean Cadance entered the bus, and the Shadowbolts began their long way back.

Lemon Zest

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Lemon Zest boarded the bus with a deep sigh. She still couldn't believe Twilight decided to stay at Canterlot High! She shook her head slowly, then found an empty seat next to Sour Sweet.

Sour smiled, then looked around. "Where's Twilight?"

Lemon sighed again, then looked away. "Back at Canterlot High."

"What?! How could you just leave her-"

"She told me she was going to transfer there, Sour..."

Sour's eyes widened in shock. "Oh my god, Lemon... are you going to be okay?"

"Can you sit down already, the bus is about to move!"

Sour rolled her eyes and gave the student who spoke the middle finger. She looked back at Lemon and softened her expression. "Here, take the window seat." She shuffled forward as Lemon sat down.

"Thanks, Sour."

"Don't mention it."

Lemon took out her music device and selected a song.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JQpKtnLUduE

Once it played, she stared out the window and let the music slowly take her away. As it played, she wondered if she could have done something different so that Twilight would have come back with her.

A vision of the abomination Twilight had briefly became flashed through Lemon's mind, and despite the relaxing song she was listening to, she shuddered. She nearly experienced a pang of guilt upon remembering that she pressured Twilight along with the rest of the Shadowbolts. Was... was she partly responsible for that transformation?

Lemon put her hand to her forehead as realization struck. She had fallen right back into the whole "herd mentality" thing, just like she knew she would. She resisted the sudden urge to hit her head against the window in a fit of self-loathing. She clenched a hand into a fist and cursed under her breath.

The song ended, and Lemon hit the "Random" option. The next tune began to play...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=87pzvJR4Tro

Lemon blinked in surprise, then shrugged. Other instruments gradually joined in and she nodded her head to the beat. By the time the vocals had kicked in, she had closed her eyes, fully immersed in her own world. It was just her and her music. Her paradise. Her escape from reality. A reality that she wasn't sure she wanted to return to.

Before Lemon knew it, the song had ended. It had left her with a slight feeling of warmth and giddiness, yet also left her wanting more. She knew exactly which song to play next. The one song she resonated most with. She selected it, and started bobbing her head as it began.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A_300cnCdYI

Although Lemon was thoroughly enjoying herself, she couldn't help but think back to the moments before Sunset had transformed. With each word she had spoken, a visible light had emitted from her friends. Honesty had corresponded with Applejack. Loyalty with Rainbow Dash. Laughter with Pinkie Pie. Generosity with Rarity, and kindness with Fluttershy.

If those words were somehow connected with a respective girl, then what was Sunset's word? Lemon had stopped bobbing her head, much to her own surprise. It took a lot for something to take her out of her music, and something like magic being real was definitely a lot.

Lemon cupped her chin in thought. Sunset had told her that she'd brought the magic along with herself, but didn't go any further into detail, likely due to the time constraint Lemon was under...

Wait...

Lemon's mind flashed back to the moments before Sunset's transformation again. What was it she said?

"I understand you, Twilight, and I want to show you the most important magic of all... the Magic of Friendship!"

Lemon's eyes widened as she recalled a conversation she had with Twilight.

"If magic doesn't exist, then how am I friends with Sour Sweet now?"

Twilight laughed. "You're not seriously suggesting that friendship is magic?"

"How else can you explain two people at each others throats for days, then bawling over closure the next?"

Lemon shot up. "Holy fucking shit!!"

Nearly all of the passengers on the bus turned their attention to Lemon as she blushed furiously. She slowly sat down sheepishly.

"Are you okay, Lemon," Sour asked sweetly. "You scared the shit out of me!"

Lemon simply stared at the back of the seat in front of her as she held up a finger, signalling she needed a moment. She gathered her thoughts after getting her mind completely blown. "Sour... do you think friendship is magic?"

"What kind of question is th-"

"Just answer me," Lemon exclaimed, then sighed. She took Sour by the hands and clasped them together. "Answer me... please."

Sour remained quiet for a minute, as though she were deep in thought. "...Yes. Especially given what we all saw today."

Lemon made a sputtering noise and slouched in her chair, as though she were a deflating cartoon character. "Okay, Sour. If friendship really is magic, why did Twilight decide to stay at Canterlot High instead of coming back with me?"

Sour raised an eyebrow. "Did you both part on bad terms?"

Lemon shook her head.

Sour put a supportive hand on Lemon's shoulder. "Then it probably means she felt she had to move on."

"Oh, yeah... Twilight did say she thought she'd learned everything there a couple of days ago."

Sour smiled. "Well there you go then."

"Thanks, Sour. I needed to hear that."

"You're welcome."

Feeling better, Lemon set her musical device setting to "random". Nothing like a little bit of chance to keep her spirits up! The next song began...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F4M6haOFtcE

Lemon nearly gasped. Out of all the countless hours of music she had stored, this tune was chosen?! This gave her mixed feelings. She truly loved this song, but after everything that happened today, she wasn't in the mood for romantic music. And yet... it put her in a relaxed mood. A feeling of bittersweet nostalgia flowed through her, as she played this song whenever she had a crush on someone. From her first crush in grade school all the way to her most recent, which was Sour Sweet up until recently.

Lemon closed her eyes and once again let the music take her away.

"I simply cannot let such heroism go unrewarded, darling," Rarity's voice echoed in Lemon's mind. Her eyes shot open and she bolted upright as she shut off the song.

"...What the fuck?"

The bus stopped as it reached Crystal Prep.

Sunny Flare

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Sunny Flare found an available window seat, then sat down and hugged herself as she leaned her head on the window. It hadn't even been a week since Rutherford died, but it felt like both yesterday and an eternity since the crash. She had given her all in the Friendship Games and tried to move on, but the wounds both physical and emotional were still fresh.

Truth be told, Sunny didn't know when or even if she could move on. She was no longer suicidal, but just the thought of dating again felt so very wrong. Like she'd be cheating on Rutherford.

Today's events did not help Sunny in the slightest. As if she had enough on her plate already! Now there's magic in the world?! She shook her head slowly, longing for the simpler days when all she had to worry about was whose skin she could get under. And where did that get her? At the receiving end of an unexpected outburst!

How Lemon Zest found out about Rutherford and her miscarriage, Sunny may never know. Did she even want to know at this point? What would that knowledge gain her? What would she do with it?

Sunny shook her head again as a familiar emptiness returned to her. A dull yet vaguely stinging sensation in the pit of her stomach and heart made her long for a hug, or some other sort of physical contact. It didn't have to be romantic. Just some words of reassurance. That everything was going to be okay.

It was at that moment that Sunny had forced herself to swallow her pride and admit that she was lonely. Perhaps when she got back, she'd get to know Sunburst better. She'd find that Flash Sentry online and apologize for her behavior.

"I understand you, Twilight, and I want to show you the most important magic of all... the Magic of Friendship!"

The words that... what was that girl's name? Sunny shrugged. The words that girl had said sounded corny on the surface, but the more Sunny thought about it, the more it started to make sense. The way the Canterlot High students came together had inspired her, Lemon, Sugarcoat, Indigo and Sour to help save them!

Friendship. An alien thought to Sunny, as she had driven all of her old ones away through lashing out at them. She ran a hand through her hair as she made a sputtering noise. Someday she'd have to find and reconnect with them. That is, if they'd let her.

Sunny looked out the window and began to people watch. It was strange, seeing the rest of the world carry on as if nothing remarkable had happened. She wondered what they would think if they knew magic existed. Would they declare that the end was nigh? Would they panic and flee? Or would they start a cult and worship at random? No matter what they'd do, just like her, their outlook on life would most definitely change. More things felt possible. The unlikely seemed likely.

Sunny gasped. What would she tell her parents? The fact that there was a world with fucking sapient horses parallel to their own was nothing short of mindbending, and her parents would think her crazy with grief again. Like she had hallucinated the whole damn thing! But she didn't. Everyone saw it, and she could only imagine what was going through everyone else's head.

Those words that girl spoke before she transformed...

Honesty. Sunny snorted. Lately, she had been anything but honest with her parents. Hiding her bitchiness from them, and lying about stopping.

Kindness. Sunny stifled a laugh. She had barely shown any to anyone but Sunburst just before today, and she knew her pride would make it hard to be kind to Lemon.

Laughter. Laughter. Now that was something Sunny was in sore need of. Everything had been gloom and doom with her lately. She needed something or someone to keep her spirits up often.

Generosity. Sunny looked down into her lap. The only thing she had given people was a hard time. Being a pain in the ass just to make herself feel better.

Loyalty. Sunny's only loyalties had been to herself, her parents, Rutherford, his parents and Dean Cadance. Perhaps someday Sunburst and that Flash person would be added as well. Everyone else she couldn't care less about.

Sunny put her hand to her forehead and sighed. She had a long, long, road ahead of her, and it was filled with uncertainty. If she hadn't been so drained from everything, she might've felt a slight thrill over it. Something new was on the horizon, and perhaps a break from the routine would be beneficial.

"Holy fucking shit!!"

Sunny jumped, then looked up from her seat to see Lemon standing up, then slowly sit back down. She raised an eyebrow, then reminded herself that everyone here was dealing with this madness in their own different way. It wouldn't surprise her if there was another random outburst before they reached Crystal Prep.

Then again, could anything surprise Sunny after today? It was hard to say, that much was certain. At the moment, however, that was the only thing that seemed certain. Everything else went out the window back at Canterlot High.

Crystal Prep Academy could been seen off in the distance, and Sunny took a deep breath and exhaled. Her mind had been running nonstop since the portals appeared in midair, and she just wanted some time alone in her room. In absolute silence. With the blinds closed. Complete darkness would be preferable.

The bus neared Crystal Prep, and Sunny noted that each time she arrived, the school had towered over her. This time, however, it seemed really, really small. Much to her surprise, she had actually been fascinated by this.

The bus stopped, and Sunny Flare allowed herself a slight smile. She may be having a rough time now, but the future and its limitless possibilities had encouraged her to move forward as she exited.

Sunburst

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Sunburst sat down and sighed heavily. All his life he wanted magic to be a real and tangible thing. He should be happy!

Instead of happy, Sunburst was... well, he was a mixture of emotions. He was afraid because he could have died. Disillusioned because of the pure destruction it wrought and the danger it posed to others. Worried because of the further harm it could cause. That Twilight girl had transformed into something horrific!

Sunburst looked at his cape and nearly scoffed. If it hadn't been such a large part of his life, he would have thrown it off to the side and left it there!

Sunburst thought of when that other girl unleashed her magic. She transformed into a thing of sheer beauty! Those words she had spoken before she threw that device down... what were they again?

Honesty. Kindness. Laughter. Loyalty. Generosity.

Sunburst cupped his chin in thought. It sure didn't sound like a spell being cast.

"The magic of Friendship!"

Sunburst snorted. Friendship as magic would have been a ludicrous idea if he hadn't seen it for himself! It still sounded farfetched, but the evidence was right before his very eyes.

His heart skipped a beat as he remembered standing by and watching Sunny Flare and her fellow Shadowbolts save the Canterlot High students.

Sunburst blinked, then shook his head rapidly. It would take some for him to heal from Sunny's rejection, but at least she seemed to be trying to turn herself around.

Sunburst shuddered as he remembered all of the portals Twilight had created. He still couldn't believe there was an alternate world out there! Did that mean that there were other worlds out there besides the one inhabited by colorful equines?

How many realities were really out there?

Sunburst put a hand to his forehead and sighed heavily. He was going to get a headache if he kept going on and on about all this!

Sunburst stared out the window and wondered what his parents would think.

"And how is this 'magic' going to help your future? What do you plan to do with this knowledge?"

Sunburst grit his teeth. His mother could be so infuriating sometimes!

"Son, you've been wearing that cape for too damn long! Maybe you should get some fresh air."

Sunburst made a sputtering noise. Neither of his parents would believe him, so why should he bother telling them?

Then again, it might be all over the news if word of this got out. Did anyone record the phenomena?

No. Everyone would have been too shocked to do so. It was just as well if that turned out to be the case. The last thing both schools needed was some sort of shadowy secret agency investigating the incident!

Sunburst rolled his eyes. He really had an overactive imagination. This magic business didn't help one bit! He took a deep breath, then sighed.

Sunburst imagined Sunny as that angelic creature from before. How much more beautiful she would look...

No. He had to get over Sunny. True, it hadn't been all that long, but the comfort of the feelings Sunburst still had for her felt just right to hold on to.

Should he keep these feelings? Probably not. Sunburst knew holding on like this was unhealthy. But he just couldn't help himself!

Sunburst felt frustration begin to build. Talking to Sunny might help, but it also might make things worse! There was no way he was going to talk to his parents about this, either!

Sunburst nearly banged his head on the window. If only he could turn his brain off for one damned second so he could have peace of mind!

Ugh, it was just one thing after another this week, and Sunburst didn't know how much more he could possibly take!

Maybe he should just take a sick day to take a mental breather. No, his mother probably wouldn't have any of that!

"How would skipping out on school affect your future?"

Sunburst groaned. How many times had his mom given him the "think of your future" or the "you need a plan" speeches?

Way too damn many times for Sunburst's tastes, that's how many! And he would likely hear it again and again until he moved out...

Sunburst's shoulders sagged. This was ridiculous! Just yesterday everything was fine, but now all hell had broken loose! The very foundations of Sunburst's knowledge- no. Everyone's knowledge has been shattered, and the pieces would take a considerable amount of time to pick up!

Sunburst took a deep breath. He needed to calm down. Maybe take some melatonin when he got home. Lie down, go to bed early.

Sunburst ran a hand through his hair. When was the last time he drank tea? That might help calm him down a bit. Seriously, he couldn't remember the last time he was this stressed!

Sunburst sighed as the bus neared Crystal Prep. He imagined laying on a couch, in Sunny Flare's arms. She smiled warmly as she caressed his cheek, then took a hold of his head. She closed her eyes and opened her mouth...

"Dammit," Sunburst muttered under his breath. It was proving to be very hard, letting go of his crush. He had never felt so desperate before. So needy.

What if Sunburst just asked Sunny out again? Maybe she was experiencing a change of sorts, just like he had?

Sunburst shook his head. No. She already said she wasn't interested. If she did change her mind, though, she would have to tell him.

Sunburst's head began to hurt. Maybe once he had some time to himself, his mind would clear up. Maybe.

The bus reached Crystal Prep, and Sunburst couldn't help but worry what the future had in store for him.

Sour Sweet

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Sour Sweet took a seat on the bus next to a window, followed shortly by Lemon Zest, who seemed down.

Sour smiled, hoping to brighten Lemon's mood only to realize that something was off... "Where's Twilight?"

Lemon sighed, then looked away. "Back at Canterlot High."

"What?! How could you just leave her-"

"She told me she was going to transfer there, Sour..."

"What?!"

Sour's eyes widened in shock. "Oh my god, Lemon... are you going to be okay?"

"Can you sit down already, the bus is about to move!"

"The nerve of some people!"

Sour rolled her eyes and gave the student who spoke the middle finger. She looked back at Lemon and softened her expression. "Here, take the window seat." She shuffled forward as Lemon sat down.

"Thanks, Sour."

"Don't mention it."

"Wow... I can't believe Twilight did that."

After everything we did to her, is it really any surprise?

Lemon shuddered suddenly, then put a hand to her forehead. "Dammit..."

Should I... should I comfort her?

"You're asking me?"

Sour rolled her eyes. No, I'm asking the other other voice in my head. Yes, I'm asking you!

"I... guess you should," Sour Side said unconvincingly.

Lemon shrugged, then within moments began bobbing her head to a beat only she could hear.

Well she seems just fine now.

"So... what are we going to do about this?"

What, the magic?

"Yeah."

What can we do? It's not like everybody was meant to wield it!

"Maybe not everybody, but a select few. You saw how those five Canterlot High students glowed just before their apparent leader transformed!"

What about the rumor about those three strange girls that sang?

"It's probably just a rumor, and even if it wasn't, I'd rather not risk getting caught up in danger."

Sweet folded her arms with a sigh. I guess you've got a point. I think I've had more than enough danger lately anyway.

Sour's seat began to rock around, snapping her back to reality. Lemon was really into whatever song was playing, bobbing her head and nearly flailing her arms.

"Man, I wish we had that much fun regularly."

You said it.

Sour watched Lemon dance with mild interest until she slowly stopped.

Lemon cupped her chin in thought, then her eyes widened.

"I wonder what she's thinking..."

Without warning, Lemon shot up from her seat. "Holy fucking shit!!"

Sour jumped, then stared at Lemon as she blushed, then slowly sat back down. "Are you okay, Lemon," she asked sweetly. "You scared the shit out of me!"

Lemon simply stared at the back of the seat in front of her as she held up a finger, signalling she needed a moment.

"Are you as worried as I am?"

A little.

"Sour," Lemon said after finally collecting her thoughts. "Do you think friendship is magic?"

Sour raised an eyebrow. "What kind of question is th-"

"Just answer me," Lemon exclaimed, then sighed. She took Sour by the hands and clasped them together. "Answer me... please."

"Yikes, she's really shook up about this!"

Can you blame her? I mean, that was some seriously fucked up shit that happened back there!

"So what do you think? Is friendship magic?"

"...Yes," Sour said, responding to both Lemon and Side. "Especially given what we all saw today."

Lemon made a sputtering noise and slouched in her chair. "Okay, Sour. If friendship really is magic, why did Twilight decide to stay at Canterlot High instead of coming back with me?"

Sour raised an eyebrow. "Did you both part on bad terms?"

Lemon shook her head.

Sour put a supportive hand on Lemon's shoulder. "Then it probably means she felt she had to move on."

"Oh, yeah... Twilight did say she thought she'd learned everything there a couple of days ago."

"Huh. News to me."

I'm not all that surprised. She'd always ace any test she was given.

Sour smiled. "Well there you go then."

"Thanks, Sour. I needed to hear that."

"You're welcome."

Sour smiled as she ran a hand through her hair. That felt pretty good, cheering her up.

"Yeah..." Side trailed off.

Is something wrong?

"I don't know... I guess I'm not used to this whole 'nice' thing."

Sour snorted. You and me both.

"It does feel right though."

Sour nodded, then heaved a sigh as her smile disappeared. But if it feels right, then why aren't my landlords doing it?

"Some people are either irredeemable or too far gone."

Sour scoffed. That sounds a little cynical, don't you think?

"Wanna say that to your landlords' faces?"

...Touche.

"I mean, they might've had countless chances to change. They could've treated you better. The countless tears you've cried in front of them could've convinced them to have a change of heart. But they didn't."

I'm so goddamn sick of crying...

"I know, Sweet. I know."

Sour sighed again. The thought of heading back home filled her with dread. Even with Sour Side, she felt lonely being in that damned house. All the holes she had punched in the walls were reminders of her constant sadness and solitude... but what choice did she have? It would take a while to build a case against her landlords, but she didn't know how much longer she could grin and bear it!

"Keep it together, Sour Sweet! Just imagine the looks on their faces when you finally free yourself of them!"

"...Or the looks on their faces if this all falls apart," Sour whispered as dread crept through her.

"Don't think like that! That's how they retain their power over you!"

I can't help it sometimes. They lorded themselves over me for years now...

"Don't you dare give up on this, Sour Sweet, or so help me!"

Sour put a hand to her forehead. Don't worry, I won't... I was just having a moment of weakness.

"Let's hope those are few and far in between from now on."

"...Yeah."

Lemon Zest bolted up from her seat again. "...what the fuck?"

The bus arrived at Crystal Prep and came to a complete stop.

Indigo Zap

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Indigo Zap and Fleur De Verre sat next to each other, with the former simply staring out the window.

"Hey there, Zappo!"

The sounds of motorcycles ran through her mind, but Indigo just wanted to go home.

Sour Sweet Sour Sweet Sugarcoat Lemon Zest Sour Sweet

The bus was quiet, which Indigo was grateful for.

"Unleash the magic!"

Indigo wanted to say something, but didn't want to say anything.

"Hey there, Zappo!"

Indigo felt a hand on her shoulder. "N-Notouch," she said without looking behind herself.

A portal opened up in the middle of the air, and a horrific plant monster emerged.

Sugarcoat Sugarcoat Sunny Flare Lemon Zest Sour Sweet

Indigo heaved a sigh. She just wanted to go home. She needed to recharge. Badly. Her mind was racing. Well, faster than usual.

"Are we gonna win?"

Indigo wanted to say something, but didn't want to say anything.

"You will race in pairs. Indigo Zap and Sugarcoat will handle to motocross."

Indigo mouthed the words 'who wants to know?'.

A portal opened up in the middle of the air, and a horrific plant monster emerged.

"Done! I'm fucking done!"

Indigo rested her forehead on the window, feeling like everything from the past week had began to crash into her. At an agonizingly slow rate. She made a barely audible whimpering noise, a noise that she had not made in public since she enrolled in Crystal Prep.

Twilight Sparkle Sugarcoat Dean Cadance Twilight Sparkle

On Indigo's first day at Crystal Prep, she immediately caught on to the environment. She knew right away that showing signs of autism to anyone would result her being eaten alive, and she wasn't going to have that! The only way to stand out in this madhouse of a jungle would be to be even louder and annoying than anyone else! Airhorns! Random, unpredictable behavior!

Principal Cinch Dean Cadance Principal Cinch Sour Sweet

In hindsight, she should have known that one of her acts of randomness would end up changing things for her, for better or worse.

A portal opened up in the middle of the air, and a horrific plant monster emerged.

Only one person in the entirety of Crystal Prep knew Indigo's secret, and she was sitting right next to her.

"Unleash the magic!"

Indigo wanted to say something, but didn't want to say anything.

Indigo wanted to say something, but didn't want to say anything.

Indigo mouthed the words 'Wrong answer! Are we gonna win?'

The silence in the bus was doing little to calm Indigo down. She was beginning to feel restless, and she wanted to be out of this bus and at home! She made the whimpering noise again, only slightly louder. That, too, did little to help her. She needed more comfort. Summoning some willpower, she turned to face De Verre.

De Verre looked at Indigo worriedly.

"T... T..."

De Verre opened her mouth, only for Indigo to shoot her hand forward with her pointer finger out. De Verre nodded in understanding.

"T-Tr-Truust."

De Verre tilted her head.

Indigo slowly scooted over to De Verre. "Needthis."

De Verre raised an eyebrow as Indigo made the sound again.

"Helplease."

Indigo got within an inch of De Verre, who gave her a questioning look.

"Okaytouchokay." Indigo pressed her head against De Verre's shoulder. It wasn't either of her parents, but it was someone she trusted, and that would have to do for the time being.

De Verre slowly wrapped her arms around Indigo, and Indigo let out a long sigh.

Indigo was still antsy, but only a little less than before. She took a hold of one of De Verre's hands, then placed it on top of her head and gently ran it downwards, then back up again.

De Verre gently stroked Indigo's hair, and she sighed again.

"T... Trust... Y-You," Indigo stuttered. "N-Need Need N-Need t-this." For the moment, she didn't care who heard or saw her. All that she needed or cared about right now was being comforted, and De Verre's caring and warmth was providing just enough to take the edge off before she got back home. "N-Nee-Need T-T-This..."

Indigo closed her eyes and basked in De Verre's body heat, the sound the bus's engine being the only thing she could hear. "Feel little better," she muttered. "Not sure talk."

"It's okay," De Verre whispered. "I wouldn't want you to strain yourself any further than you already might have."

"T-Th-Thank."

De Verre smiled warmly and nodded.

The thoughts in Indigo's head gradually returned to a normal and acceptable magnitude. "Wanna go home be home," she muttered, still unable to form full coherent sentences.

"Yeah," De Verre said softly. "I hear that."

"Day end already. Too long. Mom Dad calm hug." Indigo made another noise, similar to the one she had made several times earlier, but with a bit of a happy tone to it.

"Bet I can't hold a candle to them," De Verre said.

"Doing fine no worries." Indigo pressed her head into De Verre's shoulder a little harder. "Done talk now."

"Understood," De Verre said, then rested her head on Indigo's with a sigh. The bus ride continued on in silence until someone blurted something out abruptly.

"Holy fucking shit!!"

Indigo and De Verre yelped and jumped together, and De Verre peeked up from the seat.

"Lemon Zest sound," Indigo said.

De Verre nodded. "Yeah, that was her all right." She smiled. "At least we don't have to wonder what got into her, right?"

Indigo snorted. "Crazy ass day. Mind fucked hard."

De Verre sighed. "Yeah. I'm still trying to process it all myself. I can only imagine how you're handling all this."

Indigo pointed at De Verre. "First hand witness."

De Verre smiled and rolled her eyes. "Okay, you've got me there."

Indigo and De Verre enjoyed some more companionable silence until Lemon spoke again. This time, however, whatever she had said was barely audible to the two of them.

"There yet," Indigo asked.

The bus came to a complete stop.

"Question answered," De Verre asked with an amused look.

"Question answered."

Fleur De Verre

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De Verre followed Indigo until she sat down on a window seat.

De Verre sat next to her, her mind still reeling from all that had happened. It didn't take long for her to understand that if she was overwhelmed from all the magic insanity, she could only imagine how Indigo was holding up.

De Verre opened her mouth, then almost immediately shut it upon remembering that Indigo was not in a talking mood. She frowned. Maybe some support would help ease her?

De Verre extended her arm and put her hand on Indigo's shoulder.

"N-Notouch."

De Verre withdrew her hand as Indigo heaved a sigh. She wished there was something she could for her, and it didn't sit well with her not doing anything.

De Verre sighed. At least the bus was quiet. She would've gone crazy if she couldn't hear herself think! There was an almost inaudible noise within her hearing range, and she tilted her head. Was it her imagination?

After a few moments, De Verre shrugged, then turned her thoughts to the madness that happened right before her eyes. It wouldn't do to deny all that had happened, that would be unhealthy! Yet at the same time, it was mentally scarring to know that lives had been at risk when that student transformed. Twilight... Sparkle? Was that her name?

De Verre shuddered. The very thought of falling into that portal Twilight made on the ground freaked her out. Not to mention that it led to an alternate world populated by horses!

De Verre blinked as she heard that noise. It came out a little louder this time. A slight shuffling noise caught her attention, and she noticed Indigo looking at her.

"T... T..."

De Verre opened her mouth, only for Indigo to shoot her hand forward with her pointer finger out. De Verre nodded in understanding.

"T-Tr-Truust."

De Verre tilted her head.

Indigo slowly scooted over to De Verre. "Needthis."

De Verre raised an eyebrow as Indigo made the same sound she knew she'd been hearing all along.

"Helplease." Indigo got within an inch of De Verre, who gave her a questioning look. What was she thinking?

"Okaytouchokay." Indigo pressed her head against De Verre's shoulder.

De Verre blushed a little, in spite of herself. Was she really over Indigo? She wrapped her arms around Indigo, who let out a long sigh.

Indigo then took a hold of one of De Verre's hands, then placed it on top of her head and gently ran it downwards, then back up again.

Okay, the higher powers had to be messing with De Verre. Was this some kind of weird cosmic test of will or something? Setting that thought to the side, she gently stroked Indigo's hair, causing her to sigh again.

"T... Trust... Y-You," Indigo stuttered. "N-Need Need N-Need t-this."

De Verre was a little impressed with how Indigo was handling this. She thought she'd be a screaming mess! "N-Nee-Need T-T-This," she repeated.

De Verre enjoyed Indigo's body heat as she fought to keep her heart under control. Hopefully she wouldn't notice, and avoid opening that can of worms.

"Feel little better," Indigo mumbled. "Not sure talk."

"It's okay," De Verre whispered. "I wouldn't want you to strain yourself any further than you already might have."

"T-Th-Thank."

De Verre smiled warmly and nodded. Perhaps she shouldn't have worried about Indigo after all. She might have underestimated her. She thought back to the scene of madness when Lemon Zest, Sour Sweet, Sugarcoat, Sunny Flare and Indigo had decided to set aside their differences and work together to save the students from Canterlot High. It was amazing what people could be capable of sometimes.

There may be hope for Crystal Prep yet!

"Wanna go home be home," Indigo said.

De Verre held back a laugh. "Yeah. I hear that."

"Day end already. Too long. Mom Dad calm hug." Indigo made another noise, similar to the one she had made several times earlier, but with a bit of a happy tone to it.

"Bet I can't hold a candle to them."

"Doing fine no worries." Indigo pressed her head into De Verre's shoulder a little harder. "Done talk now."

"Understood," De Verre said, then rested her head on Indigo's with a sigh. Though the intimate contact with Indigo was completely platonic and she knew it, her heart hammered in her chest. This was not helping her get over her crush, but Indigo needed this, and De Verre would provide.

As time passed, De Verre had found it increasingly difficult with holding Indigo. She was in a sort of euphoric bliss, yet her heart and mind were bickering with each other.

You're doing this to help her. She doesn't feel the same way about you!

Would she really let me do this if she wasn't beginning to develop feelings for me?

Don't you think Indigo would have said something by now?

De Verre grit her teeth. At least her heart wasn't taking complete control of herself. Yet sitting with Indigo like this had caused her to resist an urge to tell her she loved her.

"Holy fucking shit!!"

Indigo and De Verre yelped and jumped together, and De Verre peeked up from the seat to see a familiar green-haired student standing up, then slowly sitting back down.

"Lemon Zest sound," Indigo said.

De Verre nodded. "Yeah, that was her all right." She smiled, grateful for the distraction. "At least we don't have to wonder what got into her, right?"

Indigo snorted. "Crazy ass day. Mind fucked hard."

De Verre sighed. "Yeah. I'm still trying to process it all myself. I can only imagine how you're handling all this."

Indigo pointed at De Verre. "First hand witness."

De Verre smiled and rolled her eyes. "Okay, you've got me there."

Indigo and De Verre enjoyed some more companionable silence until Lemon spoke again. This time, however, whatever she had said was barely audible to the two of them.

"There yet," Indigo asked.

The bus came to a complete stop.

"Question answered," De Verre asked with an amused look.

"Question answered."

As Indigo got off of her, De Verre heaved a sigh of relief and felt a lump in her throat.

Sugarcoat

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Sugarcoat kept an iron grip on Neon as they reached their seats and sat down.

"How are you holding up, Sugar?"

Sugarcoat heaved a long sigh. "I've been better. What about you?"

"Same, Sugar... same."

Sugarcoat placed a hand on Neon's thigh and caressed it. "Neon. Baby," she said softly. "It's okay if you have to cry."

Neon's eyes widened slightly.

"You comforted me." She leaned into Neon and pecked his cheek, then leaned into him and whispered in his ear as she took him by the hand and laced her fingers with his. "So let me comfort you."

Tears welled up in Neon's eyes. "Sugar... I-I..."

Sugarcoat took her free hand and ran it through Neon's hair. She smiled warmly, and Neon slowly broke down.

Sugarcoat sighed. She needed Neon to break in front of her. She needed someone to support. To distract her from the surreal madness that all had witnessed.

Sugarcoat was still in shock over the fact that magic was real! Cadance was right!

What did this mean for S.M.I.L.E. moving forward? How was this going to oust Cinch from office? Are they going to try to harness the magic or something?

Sugarcoat didn't like having all of these questions, but she would have to address them later. For now, she took solace in comforting Neon.

Sugarcoat smiled, even though Neon's crying was heartbreaking. It felt great to feel needed.

Neon shuddered and sighed.

"Feel better, hot stuff," Sugarcoat asked softly as she ran a hand through his hair.

Neon wiped a tear from his eye. "About as good as I can, considering." He rested his head on Sugarcoat's shoulder and laced his fingers with hers.

"Yeah, this whole situation is fucked up beyond belief."

"That's putting it mildly, Sugar."

"I wonder how 'everyone else' is going to take this," Sugarcoat said as she gave Neon a meaningful look.

Neon shrugged. "I'm just glad everyone got out unharmed." He leaned into Sugarcoat. "Their minds will probably be just as blown as ours," he whispered.

Sugarcoat nodded. "Wouldn't surprise me," she whispered back.

Neon quickly pecked Sugarcoat on the neck, then sat upright. Sugarcoat giggled, then sighed and closed her eyes as she rested her head on his shoulder.

"I love you," Sugarcoat said softly as she ran her thumb up and down the back of Neon's hand.

Neon nuzzled his head against Sugarcoat's. "I love you too, baby."

Sugarcoat's heartbeat all but skyrocketed. It seemed surreal that she not only found someone who could get her off good consistently, but someone who genuinely loved her for who she was... not just her body or libido. And in the span of just over a week, no less!

Sugarcoat would've called bullshit if it hadn't happened to her. She didn't believe in anything she hadn't seen or experienced for herself. She had seen it, but she didn't know if she'd ever get used to the fact that magic was fucking real!

It was a lot to process, especially since it threw all logic out of the window. Friendship being magic, a parallel reality...

Ugh, Sugarcoat felt a headache coming on. It was all too much to take in for her. She just wanted to go home, fuck Neon and...

Sugarcoat grinned, then leaned into Neon. "When we get home, we are going straight upstairs to fuck each other's brains out." She grabbed him by the head and kissed him passionately, furiously swirling her tongue in his mouth.

Upon breaking the kiss, Neon chuckled. "Good to have you back, Sugar... good to have you back."

"With a goddamn horny vengeance," Sugarcoat whispered seductively into Neon's ear, then slowly licked his neck. "That was just for starters." She turned to the seat across to her to see two shocked students, then rolled her eyes. "Don't give me those looks, we all know you're going to masturbate over this."

The two students slowly looked back at each other, then shrugged and went about their business.

Sugarcoat turned back around to face Neon and smiled.

"What was it like?"

Sugarcoat raised an eyebrow. "What was what like?"

"That one moment where you and the girls looked at each other. When you all banded together for something other than competition."

Sugarcoat thought for a moment. "It was a sudden, spur of the moment decision. Besides, I don't think any of us would've been able to live with ourselves if we just left them all to die."

"Completely understandable. I doubt anybody in their right mind would want to live with blood on their hands."

"Holy fucking shit!!"

Neon and Sugarcoat jumped, then peeked to see the source of the noise. Sugarcoat rolled her eyes. "I'd expect Indigo to make a random outburst, not Lemon."

"We're all dealing with this shit in different ways, hon."

"Yeah. I know..."

"At least you seem to be doing better now."

"As best I can, hot stuff. As best I can."

Neon leaned into Sugarcoat. "So do we file a report to Dean Cadance or what?"

Sugarcoat snorted. "She saw it all happen herself, there's no need."

"Yeah," Neon said as he rested his head against Sugarcoat's and closed his eyes. "I guess you're right."

"Don't get too comfortable, babe. I think we're almost there."

"Too late, Sugar," Neon said dreamily. "I'm already comfortable."

Sugarcoat smiled warmly and ran a hand through Neon's hair.

"Now I don't want to get up."

"You're going to have to, whether you like it or not."

"I don't. Just five more minutes. Pretty as you are please?"

Sugarcoat snorted. "You'll have more than enough time for that when we get home and you know it, you smooth talker," she said, booping Neon on the nose.

"Aww, now why did you have to go and press the magic button," Neon asked playfully.

"Because I want you to press my buttons all night tonight," Sugarcoat said alluringly.

Neon barked a laugh. "Looks like I'm not the only smooth talker around here."

"Of course not," Sugarcoat said with a grin. "If I wasn't, we wouldn't be fucking."

"Fair point."

The bus slowly stopped in front of Crystal Prep.

Neon Lights

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Neon Lights held Sugarcoat close as they found seats and sat down. The lump he had in his throat had not left, but he had to check in with her. "How are you holding up, Sugar?"

Sugarcoat heaved a long sigh. "I've been better. What about you?"

"Same, Sugar... same."

Sugarcoat placed a hand on Neon's thigh and caressed it. "Neon. Baby," she said softly. "It's okay if you have to cry."

Neon's eyes widened slightly, and the inner battle he had been fighting suddenly became more difficult to win.

"You comforted me." She leaned into Neon and pecked his cheek, then whispered in his ear as she took him by the hand and laced her fingers with his. "So let me comfort you."

Tears welled up in Neon's eyes. "Sugar... I-I..." Why was he holding back? He had cried in front of her before, so why should this be any different?

Sugarcoat took her free hand and ran it through Neon's hair. She smiled warmly, and Neon broke as everything that had happened crashed into his mind all at once.

A near-death experience. An alternate world. Magic was real. It was all far too much for Neon to absorb in one go, and it completely overwhelmed him.

What if Sugarcoat had died? Neon didn't think he'd be able to live with himself if that had happened! What had happened was nothing short of a miracle.

Finding himself unable to cry any longer, Neon shuddered and sighed.

"Feel better, hot stuff," Sugarcoat asked softly as she ran a hand through his hair.

Neon wiped a tear from his eye. "About as good as I can, considering." He rested his head on Sugarcoat's shoulder and laced his fingers with hers.

"Yeah, this whole situation is fucked up beyond belief."

Neon nearly laughed mirthlessly. "That's putting it mildly, Sugar."

"I wonder how 'everyone else' is going to take this," Sugarcoat said as she gave Neon a meaningful look. He took the hint.

Neon shrugged. "I'm just glad everyone got out unharmed." He leaned into Sugarcoat. "Their minds will probably be just as blown as ours," he whispered.

Sugarcoat nodded. "Wouldn't surprise me," she whispered back.

Neon quickly pecked Sugarcoat on the neck, then sat upright. Sugarcoat giggled, then sighed and closed her eyes as she rested her head on his shoulder. "I love you," she said softly as she ran her thumb up and down the back of Neon's hand.

Neon nuzzled his head against Sugarcoat's. "I love you too, baby."

Being close to Sugarcoat like this was simply heavenly. It felt like time had stopped whenever he made physical contact with her, and it was a feeling he wouldn't trade for anything.

Looking back, it seemed unlikely that he and Sugarcoat would end up in a relationship since they were engaging in casual sex. He would've laughed at the thought. Then again, the rumored magic was apparently real, and he was still trying to wrap his head around that!

Still... falling in love with someone over the course of a week and having those feelings reciprocated was unexpected but welcome change in Neon's life. Casual sex became passionate lovemaking, followed by tender cuddles until they'd both fall asleep in other's arms.

The very thought made Neon's heart sing.

Sugarcoat leaned into Neon. "When we get home, we are going straight upstairs to fuck each other's brains out." She grabbed him by the head and kissed him passionately, furiously swirling her tongue in his mouth.

Upon breaking the kiss, Neon chuckled. "Good to have you back, Sugar... good to have you back."

"With a goddamn horny vengeance," Sugarcoat whispered seductively into Neon's ear, then slowly licked his neck. "That was just for starters." She turned to the seat across to her to see two shocked students, then rolled her eyes. "Don't give me those looks, we all know you're going to masturbate over this."

The two students slowly looked back at each other, then shrugged and went about their business.

Neon grinned as Sugarcoat turned back to him and smiled. It really was good to have her back to her old self again.

"What was it like?"

Sugarcoat raised an eyebrow. "What was what like?"

"That one moment where you and the girls looked at each other. When you all banded together for something other than competition."

Sugarcoat thought for a moment. "It was a sudden, spur of the moment decision. Besides, I don't think any of us would've been able to live with ourselves if we just left them all to die."

"Completely understandable. I doubt anybody in their right mind would want to live with blood on their hands."

"Holy fucking shit!!"

Neon and Sugarcoat jumped, then peeked to see the source of the noise. Sugarcoat rolled her eyes. "I'd expect Indigo to make a random outburst, not Lemon."

"We're all dealing with this shit in different ways, hon."

"Yeah. I know..."

"At least you seem to be doing better now."

"As best I can, hot stuff. As best I can."

Neon leaned into Sugarcoat. "So do we file a report to Dean Cadance or what?"

Sugarcoat snorted. "She saw it all happen herself, there's no need."

"Yeah," Neon said as he rested his head against Sugarcoat's and closed his eyes. "I guess you're right."

"Don't get too comfortable, babe. I think we're almost there."

"Too late, Sugar," Neon said dreamily. "I'm already comfortable."

Sugarcoat smiled warmly and ran a hand through Neon's hair.

"Now I don't want to get up."

"You're going to have to, whether you like it or not."

"I don't. Just five more minutes. Pretty as you are please?"

Sugarcoat snorted. "You'll have more than enough time for that when we get home and you know it, you smooth talker," she said, booping Neon on the nose.

"Aww, now why did you have to go and press the magic button," Neon asked playfully.

"Because I want you to press my buttons all night tonight," Sugarcoat said alluringly.

Neon barked a laugh. "Looks like I'm not the only smooth talker around here."

"Of course not," Sugarcoat said with a grin. "If I wasn't, we wouldn't be fucking."

"Fair point." Neon missed these little back-and-forth moments with Sugarcoat...

The bus slowly stopped in front of Crystal Prep.

Royal Pin

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Royal Pin found a seat and sat down, then heaved a long sigh as he rested his head in his hands. Save for a few instances, he had been at a loss ever since the third and final round of the Friendship Games.

An alternate world. There was an honest to god alternate world. Populated by diminutive equines. Equines that appeared, for all intents and purposes, sapient.

It was all Royal could do to keep himself from going mad over it. He had to think of something, anything else.


Shortly after getting off the bus, Royal had noticed an unusual sight: two young women holding hands, their fingers laced together. A pale green girl was talking excitedly as her golden eyes sparkled with happiness. The other, a cream-colored girl, was listening intently as she scratched an itch in her pink and blue hair.

There was no other possible way for Royal to interpret that: those two ladies were a couple. He slowly walked up to them. "Pardon for interrupting," he said. "But are you... 'together'?" He had to ask. It would have been rude to simply assume.

The pale blue student tilted her head. "'Together'," she asked in mild confusion before realization dawned on her. "Oh! Yes, we're a couple," she said happily, then kissed her partner on the cheek, eliciting a giggle.

"Does the whole of Canterlot High know?"

"Pretty much," the cream-skinned student answered.

Royal blinked, then blushed. "Ah, forgive my manners. I haven't introduced myself." He held out a hand. "Royal Pin."

"Lyra Heartstrings," the pale blue student said as she shook Royal's hand.

"Sweetie Drops," the other girl said, "But most people call me Bon-Bon." She shook Royal's hand.

"Nice to meet you both." Royal's smile disappeared, and he heaved a sigh.

"What's wrong," Lyra asked.

"I... I must admit that I am a tad jealous of you both." Royal looked away. "Being..." he trailed off as he felt anxiety cling to himself. He could do this. Out with it, man! Out with it!

Lyra and Bon-Bon waited patiently as Royal struggled.

"Being... self-confident enough to not hide who you are." Royal closed his eyes, then took a deep breath. He exhaled, calming himself.

"Why would we need to hide what we are," Lyra asked. "Bon-Bon and I accept ourselves and each other," she said, gesturing to her girlfriend.

"And your fellow students don't shun you," Royal asked.

Bon-Bon folded her arms and rolled her eyes. "Oh, there's a couple of intolerant people in our school."

"But we have a saying," Lyra chimed in.

"'Ignore the ignorant'", they said together.

Royal blinked in surprise.

"If you ignore them, that takes away their power over you," Lyra explained.

"Yeah," Bon-Bon said. "And besides, if they don't accept us for who we are, that's their problem. Not ours."

"I... see..." None of those thoughts had ever occurred to Royal. All this time he had been worried about what others would think of him. The only reason he even came out to Neon Lights was because he knew he would not be judged.

Perhaps if Royal came out to more people... people he knew he could trust... he could find some sort of peace with himself. After all, if he couldn't accept himself for who he was, how could another man?

"L... Ladies," Royal said with some hesitation. "T-There's... another reason I approached the two of you."

"Yes?"

Royal swallowed nervously, then closed his eyes. He began to imagine a future for himself. One where he was more confident. Where he wasn't so afraid of what other people might think of him upon learning of his homosexuality.

"I-I..." Royal took a deep breath, then sighed heavily. "I... I'm gay... and I'm having self-esteem issues because of it."

Royal opened his eyes, and Lyra and Bon-Bon hugged him.

"That was very brave of you," Lyra whispered.

"And we accept you for who you are... unconditionally," Bon-Bon said.

Tears began streaming down Royal Pin's face, and the dam burst shortly after.


Royal wiped away a tear. Lyra and Bon-Bon had given him hope. Hope that he never imagined he'd have. They had told him of their group, and that he was more than welcome to stop by at any time. They also gave him their phone numbers so they could keep in touch with each other.

Royal sighed. If only Crystal Prep Academy was as nice and welcoming as Canterlot High was.

After he and several of his fellow Shadowbolts got eliminated in the first round, Royal found himself with some free time...


A few moments before the next round began, Royal found Neon and sat next to him.

"So, you got eliminated as well," Royal asked.

Neon sighed. "Yeah. It really sucks, because I'm more of an athlete than an academic." He turned to face Royal. "What about you? I figured you'd ace the ACADECA portion."

"I may have been... emotionally compromised."

Neon raised an eyebrow. "'Emotionally compromised'? What happened, man?"

Royal proceeded to tell Neon of his conversation with Lyra and Bon-Bon, then then finished with a faint smile.

Neon grinned widely. "That's amazing, Royal! I knew you'd find the courage someday!"

"Frankly, old friend, I did not. But those ladies were an inspiration. So much so that I'm going to try to set up a group, just like them."

Neon frowned. "I dunno, man. Cinch doesn't seem like she'd be the type to approve such a thing."

"Are you implying she might be homophobic?"

Neon shook his head. "I can't prove that, but you know how she is. If she thinks it does nothing to further her goals, she won't have any of it."

"At the very least, I have to try."

Neon smiled. "You've got my full support."

Royal snorted. "As if there was any doubt."


Royal smiled warmly. Always a true friend, that Neon Lights. He had no idea where he'd be without him, and he shuddered to imagine what life would be like for him if he was.

Royal actually shuddered as those beastly otherworldly plant creatures resurfaced in his mind. That was one of the most unnerving moments of his life! Neon had ran into the field, grabbed Sugarcoat by the hand and ran off the track before she could be eaten. After that, those two were practically joined at the hip for the remainder of the Games.

Shortly before the final event, Royal had encountered another couple...


Royal was still sitting down, not quite fully recovered from the shock over the plant monsters. Nevermind the fact that Crystal Prep actually lost the second round...

Before Royal could have another thought, a pair of young men passed him by. One was a tall and burly blue student with curly blue hair. His white t-shirt emblazoned with a tornado flapped as a small breeze passed through. The shorter of the two had brown hair in a bowl cut, and on his shirt just above the beast pocket was a picture of a red heart directly below a long division symbol.

Royal did a double-take upon noticing that the two were holding hands, their fingers laced together... another gay couple! He hurried over to them and gained their attention. "Terribly sorry for my forwardness, gentlemen," he said. "But I can't help but notice you both seem to be a couple."

"We are," said the shorter of the two, then raised his arm and kissed the back of his boyfriend's hand, eliciting a slight blush.

"I hope that isn't a problem," the taller student said once his blush faded.

Royal shook his head. "Quite the opposite, as a matter of fact." He smiled. "My name is Royal Pin," he said as he extended a hand.

"Curly Winds," the tall blue student said as he shook Royal's hand.

"Wiz Kid," the other student said after Curly finished his handshake. "So, you seem like you have more to say."

"Indeed I do," Royal said, then told the two of his meeting with Lyra and Bon-Bon including his coming out to them. He finished with with his plan to create a group at CPA.

"Yeah, Lyra and Bon-Bon are amazing girls," Curly said. "If it weren't for them, Wizzie and I might not have ended up together."

Wiz nodded. "We were just as insecure as you are when we first met, so we know where you're coming from."

"So Crystal Prep Academy doesn't have an LGBTQ group," Curly asked in mild surprise.

Royal sighed. "I'm afraid not."

"Do you think you'll be able to get one running? I think every high school should have one."

"Just look at all the good it did for us," Wiz said, gesturing to himself and Curly.

Royal smiled warmly. "I can see..." he trailed off, and his smile slowly faded. "Sadly, I cannot easily imagine the Headmistress accepting such a group."

"Why's that," Curly asked.

"Surely the both of you saw her up on stage. Can you easily imagine someone so haughty doing something to benefit others?"

Wiz chuckled. "We know someone who has a bit of an ego, but that doesn't stop her from being the most loyal friend you could ask for."

"Unfortunately, our Headmistress is loyal to nobody but herself," Royal said as he put a hand to his head. "Influence and reputation is what drives her. Nothing more, nothing less."

"Wow," Curly said with widened eyes. "That's... kind of sad."

"You're not going to let that stop you from asking, are you," Wiz asked.

"Of course not," Royal exclaimed. "There's no doubt in my mind that there are other LGBTQ people at Crystal Prep, and once they they're made aware of my group I will strive to make it a more welcoming environment for them!"

"Well said," Wiz exclaimed as Curly applauded.

Royal took a deep breath, then exhaled. "I must say, that was rather exhilarating!"

Clouds began to form around Canterlot High, and a chime sounded off from the school's PA system. "Attention, everyone! The final event is about to begin. Please head towards the front of the building!"

"Speaking of 'exhilarating'," Curly said.

"Indeed. Let's watch this spectacle come to an end, shall we?"

The three headed off to the front of the building, unaware of what awaited them...


For Royal Pin, what had followed was surreal and frightening. Miss Twilight Sparkle had summoned magic from her pendant and transformed into a mad winged sorceress! She tore open several holes in reality, then a student from Canterlot High transformed as well!

Adding to everything that had happened to him, Royal had been struggling with the fact that he finally cracked and fell victim to the overly competitive spirit of Crystal Prep! Even if Miss Sweet was right in her assertion that the blame fell mostly on Headmistress Cinch's shoulders, he felt responsible for pressuring Miss Twilight into releasing the magic!

Royal heaved a sigh as he put a hand to his forehead. He just wanted to go home, have a mug of cocoa and retire to his room for the night.

The bus slowed to a complete stop as it arrived at Crystal Prep.

Dean Cadance

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Cadance sat down in the very back of the bus, then rubbed at her temples with a long, drawn-out sigh. The danger had long since passed, but she felt far from safe. As much as she wanted to go home, down a bottle of wine and forget this all happened, she knew she couldn't do that.

She couldn't forget because there was no amount of wine that would allow her to. She couldn't forget because to do so would go against everything she had planned since Luna told her of the incidents at Canterlot High's Fall Formal and their musical showcase! She couldn't forget because she didn't want to.

Cadance's phone rang, startling her. She yelped, then picked it up.

Now Calling: Luna

Cadance accepted the call. "Hey," she said wearily.

"Hey... I just wanted to check in. How are you holding up?"

"How am I holding up," Cadance asked flatly. "How am I holding up? My life flashed before my eyes, Luna! I watched reality crumble around me, and you're asking me how I'm holding up?!"

"Cadance..."

"No. Don't you 'Cadance' or even 'Cadenza' me, dammit," she whispered sharply. "What happened back there is not something I can easily walk away from, let alone calm down over!"

"I know... and I'm sorry."

"I felt powerless, Luna. My students could have died out there, and there wouldn't have been one fucking thing I could have done to save them!" Cadance shuddered, then sniffled. "I... I think I'm in way over my head here..."

"Cadance..."

"I-I didn't want to lead anyone to their deaths..." Cadance trailed off, then broke. She cried softly, pouring all the accumulated stress of the day's events through her tears.

"Cadenza... none of us could have possibly been prepared for what happened back there."

"Th-This was... m-my fault," Cadance said between sobs. "I-I should have kept a better eye on Twilight..."

"No," Luna said firmly. "Do not place the blame on yourself. Cinch manipulated her!"

Cadance sighed when she finished crying. "Y... You're right, Luna..." She wiped the tears from her eyes. "I-I'm sorry, I've just been through a lot today."

"That's completely understandable. We all have." Luna paused for a moment. "Take some time to rest up. We'll figure out how to use this against Cinch."

"Thank you. And Luna?"

"Yes?"

"Take good care of Twilight for me." An image of Twilight's twisted and magically altered form flashed through Cadance's mind, and she flinched.

"...Of course, Cadenza."

Cadance hung up, then sighed again and shook her head. This victory had nearly been Pyrrhic, and the only reason she even considered it a victory was that it had forced a tie between Canterlot High and Crystal Prep. No doubt Cinch would do everything within her power to change that, but it was nice to see something truly get under that damnable woman's skin for once!

Cadance allowed herself a smile. Seeing Sugarcoat, Sunny Flare, Lemon Zest, Indigo Zap and Sour Sweet come together out there and save those in need made her feel proud. Surely that had been the magic at work.

Cadance's phone rang again.

Now Calling: Shining Armor

Heat rose to Cadance's face as she recalled the steamy dream she had had, and she picked it up.

"H-Hi," Cadance said awkwardly, then internally chided herself for the stutter. She didn't want Shining to know about her crush on him until after Cinch was out of the picture! As much as she wanted it, she couldn't let a romantic relationship distract her!

"You okay?"

"I've been better."

"What happened," Shining asked worriedly.

Cadance took a deep breath, exhaled, then explained to Shining everything that had happened. When she had finished, Shining had fallen silent for a moment.

"Oh my god... is Twily okay," Shining asked in a hushed tone.

"She's all right. Just a little shaken up."

Shining scoffed. "I think I'd be more than just 'shaken up', Cadance."

Cadance rolled her eyes. "I'm just telling you what she told me."

Shining sighed. "At least she's safe right now. That's what really matters."

"Agreed," Cadance said with a nod.

"So where do we go from here?"

"My mind is a little too preoccupied to give you a good enough answer."

"Fair enough. I'll pick Twilight up and take her home."

"Understood. Goodbye."

"Goodbye."

Shining Armor hung up, and Cadance made a sputtering noise. Twilight must be so lucky to have a brother like that. Caring, loyal, dependable... she blinked upon realizing her heart was beating a mile a minute. She took a deep breath and held an arm against her chest, clenching her fingers into a fist. She then exhaled slowly, extending her arm as she unclenched her fist.

Cadance felt calmer now. Not as calm as she'd like to be, but given the circumstances, she'd take what she could get.

"Holy fucking shit!!"

Cadance jumped in her seat, then looked up to see Lemon Zest standing straight up, as though she was struck by some sort of massive revelation. The Dean shook her head slowly. She'd have to talk to Lemon later. Right now, she had something more important to do. She took her phone out and went into her contacts, then pressed on a name.

Now Calling: Benefactor

Cadance felt anxious, wondering what they'd have to say about all that happened. Assuming they were able to make it to the Friendship Games. She was far too busy to even think about looking for them in the crowd.

"Cadenza," their modified robotic voice inquired.

"Did you get everything that happened on video?"

"Yes... I did."

"Are you okay?"

Benefactor took some time in answering. "Physically, I am no worse for the wear. As for mentally... I may need to step back for a while."

Cadance nodded. "I understand. Take your time. We have what we need... now we just need to figure out how to use it."

"Indeed. Is there anything else?"

Cadance shook her head. "No. Get some rest. It's been a long day for all of us."

Benefactor hung up, and Cadance spent the rest of the trip back staring out the window until the bus stopped.

Principal Cinch

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Abacus Cinch sat down in silence. Her mind was a maelstrom as she desperately tried to comprehend all that had happened. First and foremost in her mind was that she stared death in the face, then successfully evaded it. She had never been so terrified in all her life!

Abacus shuddered as Twilight's monstrous form flashed in her mind's eye. She doubted she would truly feel safe again for a while to come.

As if that wasn't maddening enough, the magic from those accursed Wondercolts infected her students, turning them into wretched ingrates! After everything Abacus had done for them and Crystal Prep... the sheer audacity of it all was enough to drive one mad!

To make matters even worse, the Friendship Games had ended in a tie. A tie! That had added insult to injury, and Abacus would not stand for it! However, as loathe as she was to admit it, her detractors had a point. If she came up to the school board and told them all that had happened, she would look like a madwoman.

As furious and afraid as she was, Abacus understood that she would need to bide her time. Form a carefully thought out plan to convince the school board that Canterlot High had cheated using... enhancements. Yes, enhancements sounded far more convincing than magic.

And yet, Abacus had no doubt in her mind that she would have to elaborate. She couldn't very well say that the students grew wings, especially if she wanted to be taken seriously.

She sighed heavily. What would her father have done in this situation? Surely he would have come up with some sort of foolproof scheme by now. But would even he have been prepared for magic being an actual factor? No. Of course not. Her father was brilliant, but even he had his flaws.

An idea occurred to Abacus. Surely one of the students at Crystal Prep had recorded the incident on their phone. All she would need to do was confiscate all phones on the premises. She quickly shook her head. Something had told her any suspicious activity would alert her students.

Unless she did so for good reason... perhaps if she convinced her students that sharing the video with others would lead to some sort of government inspection... it sounded rather far-fetched, but this entire scenario already was!

A vision of all the portals and remnants of Abacus' nightmares caused her to flinch, and she felt a headache coming on. Perhaps a break was in order. After all, she had been through trial after trial during the course of the week, and she still needed to find an heir and get some psychological help.

Abacus also intended to enact retribution on her rebellious students. Insubordination would simply not be tolerated, not even from Dean Cadance! The look on the Dean's face as she mocked her filled her with fury! It would seem that the Friendship Games had caused everyone to forget their places...

Damn that Twilight Sparkle for defecting! She knew Abacus would punish her for costing Crystal Prep Academy their rightful win, and she transferred to Canterlot High like a coward!

Abacus took a deep breath, then exhaled and pinched the bridge of her nose. All of this anger was causing her mind to scatter, and she still couldn't comprehend that there was another world out there! As mind-boggling as it was, however, she decided not to think too much more about it. Her domain was Crystal Prep, not some fantasy land full of sapient horses!

And yet... what if Abacus found a way into that world? Surely the discovery of an alternate world would vastly enhance her reputation and legacy.

Abacus cupped her chin in thought. This wasn't the sort of thing that she should rush into. There were far too many unknowns for her to just wander in willy-nilly. If those dreaded plant beasts came from the same world as the portals, then that world wasn't entirely safe.

Abacus would need to find scientists. Physicists. People who could make some sense of the properties of this alternate world. She would need to find strongmen. Men that could handle anything.... even though those equines seemed harmless enough.

Yes... Abacus could go down in history as the woman who discovered an alternate world! She would become immortalized, her legacy secured for all of time!

"Holy fucking shit!"

Abacus jumped in her seat, then stood up to see Lemon Zest doing the same. The Headmistress scowled. She would have to have a talk with that young lady about her language, but that would have to wait.

Abacus sat down, her mood improved. She had much work ahead of her, and her priorities were clear: First, she would plan a way to convince the school board to reverse the dreadful outcome of the Friendship Games. Second, she would punish all those who insulted her pride. Third, she would seek help to mentally better herself after those awful dreams caused a trauma to resurface. Fourth, being of sound mind she would search for an heir, just as she promised her father. Lastly, she would find a way to get to this parallel world, then hire a group of people to help her.

Abacus grinned. She may not have come out the victor today, but she knew that in the long run, she would get what she truly and so richly deserved.

The bus stopped upon arriving at Crystal Prep.

Epilogue: Journey's End

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Lemon stood still as she tried to absorb the implications of what just happened.

"...Lemon?"

She had just met Rarity!

"Hello? Lemon?"

Lemon didn't know the first thing about her!

"Lemon Zest!"

Lemon blinked, then turned to Sour.

"You spaced out on me there," Sour said with a concerned look. "What was that sudden 'what the fuck' for?"

Lemon looked away for a moment. Maybe she was just overthinking it. Coincidences happen, after all. And yet...

"Lemon," Sour said in a singsong tone. "Snap out of it, dammit!"

Lemon rapidly shook her head, then sighed.

"Are you okay?"

Lemon made a sputtering noise. "I've got a lot going through my head right now."

Sour stood up and put a hand on Lemon's shoulder. "We all do, Lemon... we all do."

Lemon nodded. "Yeah... let's get the hell outta here."

Sour snorted. "Took the words right out of my mouth."

Sour and Lemon exited the bus.


Sunny stood up and walked towards the bus's exit. Life was full of trials and tribulations, and there was no doubt in her mind that there would be more pain for her to come. She would meet it head on, just as she had over the past week. Mere inches away from the door, she recalled her parents' words...

"Now you listen here, Sunny Flare," he father said. "Your future is as bright as your name. In fact, that's why we gave you that name."

"It's true," her mother said. "When you were born, we settled on your name because we hoped for your life and future to be a bright, shining light. So bright that it could only be described as a Sunny Flare."

"So if you ever have any doubt about your future, just remember this: your future is, has been, and will always be bright. Don't ever doubt it." he father smiled.

A tear fell down Sunny's cheek. Yes. Her future was bright. It was in her hands, and she wasn't going to waste it anymore. With a smile, she stepped out of the bus.


Sunburst heaved a sigh. He never did like it when the future was clouded with uncertainty. Especially after all that had happened back at Canterlot High. His head was practically throbbing, and he wanted to forget all that he had seen... even though he knew in his heart of hearts that wasn't going to happen.

Sunburst made a mental note to set an appointment with one the counselors at Crystal Prep. It wouldn't surprise him if they were all booked up after the day's madness, however.

With a slow shake of his head, Sunburst left the bus.


Fleur De Verre and Indigo stood up.

"N... Not. Not. O-One hundred. Hundred percent y-yet. Yet," Indigo said slowly.

"Understandable," De Verre said with a warm smile. "At least you got some time to recover."

Indigo nodded, making a throaty noise. "Home. Parents. Crash."

De Verre snorted. "That sounds like a good idea to me."

Indigo smiled, and they both walked off the bus.


Neon and Sugarcoat sighed together.

"I don't know about you, hot stuff, but I am more than ready to hit the hay," Sugarcoat said with half-lidded eyes.

Neon grinned. "Before or after we fuck like we almost died?"

"We did almost die."

Neon barked a laugh and took Sugarcoat by the hand as they both stood up together. "Never change, hon. Never change."

"Not planning on it," Sugarcoat said with a smile as she slowly shook her head.

Neon and Sugarcoat pecked each other on the lips, then left the bus.


Royal Pin sat still for a moment as he listened to the bus's engine. It stopped, snapping him out of his reverie. Reluctantly, he stood up. He was exhausted from the day's events. Once he got home, he would forego his usual talk about his day with his mother and father and simply crawl into bed. Planning for his LGBTQ group would have to wait. His mental health was more important, after all.

As Royal reached the bus's door, he came to the realization that he hadn't checked to see how Neon and Miss Sugarcoat were faring. He would have to rectify that matter first, then be on his way home.

Royal left the bus.


Cadance heaved a sigh. She had a lot on her plate, and it felt like she didn't have enough time to sort everything out. She would have to be more time-efficient in the coming days. She expected phone calls, demands for explanations, reports from Sugarcoat and Neon...

Cadance put a hand to her forehead. It was going to be rough, but she would do anything for the students and staff at Crystal Prep. She owed it to them.

Cadance stood up and cracked her neck. Whatever they were going to do about the magic would have to be done soon. This was an opportunity too good to pass up!

Cadance exited the bus.


Abacus's face returned to neutral expression. It would not do if the students suspected she was up to something. Not that there would be anything they could do about it if they knew, but she decided it was better to err on the side of caution in this case.

Abacus thought back to her father's heyday. All of the people he had in his employ. She wondered if any of his more knowledgeable... 'contacts' were still alive. She would have to find his old book and do some digging around.

Oh, there was much for Abacus to do. Rewards for her to reap. She got the feeling that everything would work out in her favor... as it should be.

Abacus left the bus, and she smiled.


The Friendship Games had ended, and with them brought change. Unbeknownst to all involved, however, it had set in motion a chain of events that would alter more than just their perspectives on life.

Nothing would ever be the same for Crystal Prep Academy, and few would be prepared to deal with what followed.

End of Book One of Altered Perspectives