by OrphiusOlyandra

First published

Twilight is dying due to using so much magic. Now she has to save Celestia from an illness

Twilight Sparkle is dying. The pony body was never meant to handle her level of magic and now even the smallest spell causes her body to degrade. The only cure is to stop all magic use and hope that her body slowly heals itself, but things are rarely that simple. Celestia has fallen ill and her only hope lies in Yggdrasil, hidden deep in the Crystal Desert.

Chapter 1

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Recently, I have realized that relying entirely on the Elements is a foolish course of action, for even the best-laid plans can be derailed. After all, ponies are variables and not even a Princess can plan that out. To that end, I have developed a contingency plan – one that will hopefully allow for Luna's eventual return if the worst was to happen.

Using Starswirl's research into amniomorphic magic as my starting point, I have already made great strides. It is a shame he died before being able to move onto alicornian genetics, and in that respect I am working blind. However, from his and all subsequent research, I have already begun unraveling the intricacies of pony genetics. Even as I write this, unique species markers are being identified and their links to each species’ unique magics are being worked on. I am glad that the creation of the School of Amniomorphics was passed by the Council, for that will greatly speed up my research.

Perhaps the greatest hurdle in my studies is in the area of the soul. Knowing Starswirl, he probably scoffed at the mere idea of such an immaterial thing existing that could not be proven, but it is my belief that he was wrong. There is little doubt in my mind that there will be scientists out there who believe in such a thing, but the simple truth is, they would never admit to wanting to study on such a thing. It's a shame really. In this endeavor, I will be working alone, but that is nothing new.

One way or another, Luna will return to Equestria.

"Archmage Sparkle."

"Please doctor, just call me Twilight." The chair scraped across the wooden floor as I sat down opposite him. "You said you had my results?"

"Well..." He ran a hoof through his orange mane before adjusting his glasses. "The thing is, we know what's wrong, but we don't know why. We do, however, have a hypothesis." Out of the filing cabinet came a large folder. "Have you heard of Clover the Clever's hypothesis of bodily limitation?"

"Of course. She speculated that the pony body is only able to withstand a limited amount of magic being channeled at once before the energy being transmitted starts having detrimental effects. However, there was no supporting scientific evidence because nopony has ever had the requisite amount of magic output described. Furthermore, the existence of the Princesses seemed to contradict her work."

Realization dawned and my eyes widened.

"Of course. The migraines after spell use! It's so obvious, how could I have missed it?" I was on my hooves as I began pacing. "Doctor, do you realize what this means? We proved Clover the Clever's final work! I am living proof of her final hypothesis! Oh, just think about the advances in medicine this would make. The advances in magic! I assume you have proof right?"

"Archmage Sparkle! This is a serious matter. From the data we've collected, your nerves have steadily degraded over the course of your visits, with the most serious offense being after your phenomenal shielding spell that saved Manehattan from that rogue storm cell. If you continue using the same intensity of magic that you've been doing for the past couple of months, you'll be dead in five years!"

My happy little trot stopped and I just stared at him. Something in my eyes must have alerted him to the fact that I was seriously pissed off. When I next spoke, it was with an intentionally flat voice that was barely above a whisper.

"I am Archmage Twilight Sparkle, Princess Celestia's most faithful student, and it is my duty to protect Equestria. If that means dying in five years, then so be it, but I will not leave this country hanging when I can make a difference. Whether that's through powerful spells or advancements in magic, I will not stop."

Even if it meant never seeing Cadence and Shining's foal. Never see my friends achieve their dreams in life and fall in love. Even if that meant never finding my own special somepony or getting my first kiss or going on my very first date. It seems so silly now, my fillyhood dream of having an arm of the Royal Library named after me or inventing some new spell or even discovering a new branch of magic.

A part of me wanted to run away, to completelyignore my duty, and I hated myself for even thinking that. I loathed it with a passion that had ever only been directed at Discord. There were ponies out there who lived in far worse conditions than I did, who died a far younger age than me, who were treated far worse than me and worked in jobs that squandered their talent. Yet here I was, fretting over my own death when I had already achieved so much and had such a good life. Who was more important? A single lavender unicorn or the entirety of Equestria?

And yet, despite all that, I still wanted to run.

Oh Clover, was this how you felt when you squared off against that dragon? You knew that it would lead to your death and yet you did it anyway because it was your duty. Did you feel this way too? This sense of dread and anticipation, of anger at yourself for feeling scared, of wanting to run away. How did you deal with this?

"I- I am not saying you shouldn't." I resisted the urge to rub my temples at the sight of him shrinking away. "Just that you should stop using magic when you don't have to. We believe that if you don't use magic then your nerves should naturally heal. Minor magic like telekinesis should be fine, but with your body in the shape it's in, we would rather have you err on the side of caution."

Sighing, I sat back down with a plop. "Fine. Do you have my medication?"

"You're out already?" With a sigh, he pulled out another bottle for me. "You need to stop eating these as though they're candy."

"Sorry doctor, but we're right in the middle of a major breakthrough involving three dimensional amplification matrices using crystals as the..." I trailed off at the flat look he was giving me. Somehow, he reminded me of Celestia back when I was a filly and had done something silly. "What if I use as little magic as possible?"

The look remained.

"And only take the pills only when absolutely necessary...?"

His gaze softened and to my surprise, he laid a gentle hoof on my foreleg. "You are a marvelous mare, Archmage, and the world would be a lesser place without you. Please, don't throw away your life so needlessly." His gaze hardened once more. "But keep this up and I will send a personal missive to Princess Celestia detailing your condition in full."

"I'll-" A burst of green flame appeared before my face and quickly scanning the contents of the letter, I stood up. "Sorry doctor, Princess Luna needs me."

"Before y-"

His words were cut off as the world around me blurred together like a wrecked painting. Hitting the ground, I swayed on my hooves and squeezed my eyes shut in a vain attempt to dull the pounding against my head. Note to self: Teleporting across Canterlot is not a good idea.

"Archmage, are you alright?"

Looking up at the concerned guard, I gave him the reassuring smile I practiced every day before my mirror. "I'm perfectly fine, just miscalculated how much energy I needed to make that teleport, that's all."

"Heh, only you could say that with a straight face." Glancing over my shoulder, I watched as Spitfire swooped down into a neat landing. "Don't worry, I'll make sure the great Twilight Sparkle doesn't die on her hooves."

Getting onto my hooves, I hid a wince of pain behind an eye roll. "I take it Princess Luna contacted you too?"

"Yep." Side by side, we walked up the stone steps and into the great hall. "I just hope she hasn't called Rainbow Dash in as well. Remember the last time that happened?"

We both shuddered at the memory. Trying to hold a storm in place for hours on end, while being pumped full of pain medication, just so they had enough time to rescue everypony was not fun. Add on the annoying nobles who demanded they let the commoners drown just so their houses wouldn't get wet and...

At Spitfire's amused expression, I stopped growling with a blush.

"I don't know about that." Both our heads snapped across to see Dash in her Shadowbolts’ uniform. "Seeing Twi turn all those stuck-up ponies into potted plants was totally worth it."

I blushed brighter than ever, and attempted to hide behind my mane only for Dash to nudge me playfully. A huge smirk was plastered over her face as she launched into an epic retelling of the incident. If I didn't know better, I'd have thought neither of us had been there... and that it hadn't made headline news. Every time that day was bought up, every single time we got into an argument, Dash would remind me of that little explosion.


"Gah!" Jumping away from Dash's face, the cyan pegasus burst out laughing.

"You should have seen your face!" Though she was on her back, Rainbow Dash somehow managed to stay in the air. "For such an egghead, you sure crack me up."

"Oh harhar," I replied with a huff. Unfortunately, that just compelled Dash to ruffle my mane as though I was a little foal.

"Stop fooling around," snapped Spitfire. "Princess Luna called us up for a reason and considering it's all three of us, it's not a good thing."

"Yes ma'am," we replied in unison.

Out the corner of my eye, Dash made a face at Spitfire and I had to bite back a chuckle. Though I didn't hang out with the new Shadowbolt unit often, I was around the castle enough to know that Dash could just be as much of a slave driver as Spitfire. Considering Spitfire helped mentor both of us in leadership skills alongside Celestia and Luna, it wasn't really a surprise.

We stopped before the double doors to Luna's studybefore the guards allowed us to pass, and together, we entered the darkness. The doors slammed shut behind us with a resounding boom, leaving us in the starlit room. No matter how many late nights I spent in this room with the Princess, it always took my breath away. Wrapped in an eternal shroud, the only sources of light were the pseudo-stars that floated all around us. Though they were only a basic light spell, the amount of focus required to create so many, and the fact that they pulsed to a silent song always stunned me into silence. Really, I shouldn't be so surprised considering this was Luna. Beside me, Spitfire could only stare on in slack-jawed wonder. Not a surprise really, Celestia's study looked like a rundown motel in comparison.

The only pony that didn't seem affected was Dash, but considering she was captain of the Shadowbolts, it wasn't a surprise. Instead, she casually strolled up to Luna and asked, "So, how bad is it?"

"Worse than last time. Walk with me." The alicorn's eyes were sunken and her cheeks matted with tears. Casting a concerned look at the two pegasi, we silently did as she bid. "My sister is not well. We had hoped it was just a common cold, but it is far worse than I had imagined."

When had this happened? I saw her just two days ago and she was perfectly fine! Sure, her muzzle might have been a bit pink, but that was because we were having a bit of wine along with our twice-weekly philosophy discussion. There was no shortness of breath, no coughing, no sneezing. She seemed as healthy as the day we met. Out the corner of my eye, I could see my look of shock reflected on Spitfire's face.

"I will say this now, I am offering you the opportunity to partake in a mission, but if you refuse, I will make it an order." Luna stopped before her bedroom door and faced us. "It will be dangerous, and you will be working on a time limit."

"Do you really need to ask?" Plastered all over Dash's face was her trademark cocky grin. "I am the Bearer of Loyalty for a reason."

"And she's my mentor," I added.

"This is Princess Celestia we're talking about here," said Spitfire. "If it weren't for her, I'd be living on the street somewhere. You'd have to throw us in a jail to stop us from helping."

"Ha! You think bars could stop our resident egghead?" That quip earned Dash a flat look from me.

"This is not the time for jokes," snapped Luna, and we all immediately froze. "We- I am sorry. It has just been stressful for all those involved. Thank you though. Please, sit and I shall explain everything."

Opening the doors, we all stepped in. Unlike her study, it was boringly plain. A simple alicorn sized bed, bookshelves against the walls, a large writing table as well as the usual closet, bedside tables, fireplace, bathroom and nightlights. There was no fancy magic here, or anything that even indicated royalty. Truth be told, it was probably smaller and even plainer than my own room; something that Celestia felt necessary to jab me about every other day.


Taking a deep breath, I locked gazes with Luna. "How bad is she and what do we need to do?"

She held my gaze with equal intensity, the two of us silently communicating a slew of things with nothing but familiarity. And then, she sighed a sad little sigh and her shoulders drooped.

I could taste the tension on my lips.

"Celestia is sick. Very sick. The good news is there is a cure. The bad news is it's located in Yggdrasil."

"Ya- What now?" said Dash.

"Yggdrasil. The tree at the center of the world, the birthplace of the alicorns," replied Spitfire.

"Technically, it was the location where the Princesses were first sighted," I correct automatically. "It's also a myth."

Luna gave an amused smile. "I can assure you, the place exists. In fact, it lies beyond the western border of Aviana, in the center of the Crystal Desert. Celestia and I hid it under the greatest enchantments we have ever cast, and locked it using the most complex spell ever devised. It is an ancient place, one with secrets no being should ever hold or understand."

"Wait. You mean you were the ones responsible for the unique magical resonance frequencies that Professor Sunshine identified over a century go? The ones that completely disrupt and nullify all magics cast within the Crystal Desert?" My entire body was trembling with barely contained excitement. "How? If that is a spell, then it breaks almost every single rule we know about magic! I mean, if you tell me how it was cast, then we can-"

"Spike sent your journal to Celestia."

"He what!" There was stuff in there! Private stuff about- Oh no, it had stuff about my perfect date. Where I’d want to go, the stuff I’d want to see, the type of pony I’d want to date me and my fantasies.

Not that… not that it mattered anymore. Dead in five years right?So much for my hopes and dreams.

Laughter finally penetrated my thoughts and I glared at Dash, who was currently too busy rolling around on the ground to notice my death glare. Just one look. All I needed was for her to look into my eyes, and then bam! She'd be on fire. I could do it too! I could invent the spell right now if I wanted to.

“Ah hem!” A bright red blush appeared on my cheek as Luna reprimanded us. “If you two are done? Good. If the doctors are correct, we believe our sister has no more than seven days to live. It's lucky we caught it as early as we did, otherwise there would be absolutely no hope of getting the cure in time. The good news is I've devised a teleportation anchor that will let you teleport the cure right back once you temporarily turn off the spell we cast, so you have a total of seven days to get there.”

That sobered us all up. Seven days? That meant no more late nights, no more debates or days out in Ponyville. The mere thought of the Princess no longer being around was like a spike through my heart. She taught me so much, raised me to be the mare that I was today, and without her, I feared for Equestria. It’s not that Luna wouldn’t do a great job, but she wasn’t Celestia. No pony was Celestia. No pony could ever be, or will ever be Celestia.

And to think I was getting all depressed and whiny over having five years left when she would be dead within the week. Seven days. Even a lifetime spent by her side would not be enough for me. Was it selfish? Probably, but…

“Seven days.” Standing up, determination permeated my essence. “Alright. We’ll need to calculate the most efficient route through the gryphon territories and then a path through the Crystal Desert. I’ll also need to calculate the optimal distance to magic ratio when it comes to teleportation so that-"

So what? So that I could kill myself in seven days rather than five years? But really, what was the point of living for so long if that meant Celestia died? I would never be able to live with myself if I didn't try everything in my power to save her. After all she's done for me... for everypony... it'd be the greatest sin ever committed to not do everything in my power.

"So that we can cover the maximum amount of distance per day?" Spitfire looked at me curiously.

"Huh? Oh! Sorry, just working some stuff out," I lied with a nervous chuckle, though from the way Dash was looking at me, it was obvious she didn't totally buy it. "Actually, why don't we discuss this over dinner? That way we won't waste any time."

"Would you like to see Celestia first?" asked Luna.

A frown creased my brow as I thought it over. On one hoof this could be the last time I saw her ever, but... Did I really want to see her? Sickly and pale, feathers falling out and struggling to even breathe? Sure, I was probably overstating it, but that wasn't how I wanted to remember my mentor. That wasn't the last image of Celestia I wanted to take to my grave. I closed my eyes, and there stood the Celestia I remembered. Proud, strong, powerful.Something to aspire to, to admire, to love, and worship. The greatest beacon Equestria ever had and will ever have. That was the Celestia I wanted to remember.

"No. Seeing her will just slow us down. I'd rather we figure out the logistics," I replied.

"Look at you, all business." Dash leaned forward in her seat, and cracked her neck. "Then let's get this done."

"The sooner we leave, the sooner we return," added Spitfire.

The three of us looked expectantly at Luna who simply touched her horn to a nearby mirror. Shimmering and wavering, her reflection vanished only to be replaced by the head chief. "We require four servings to be delivered to my room immediately." With a simple wave of her horn and the mirror returned to normal. "In the meantime, I've already made some plans and calculations that'd I greatly appreciate your input in..."

Time Till Death: Six days, seventeen hours, twenty-three minutes

"I'm sorry, but this is as far as I take you." Luna gazed off over the desert landscape of the Badlands. "I'd take you further except-"

"Except that Article 38-1 of the 1046 Statute of the International Court of Justice stipulates that Princess Celestia –amended last year to include Princess Luna – has power equal to an army and any unauthorized travel by said Princesses can be considered an act of war." My eyes ran across the barren land before glancing up at the night sky. Dinner, an hour's rest, and now here we were, ready to save a nation. Turning back to my companions, I blinked in surprise at their slack-jawed looks. "What?"

"Twilight? Never change," Dash chuckled at my blank look as she took the lead.

"Twilight, before you leave there is one final item you will need." Luna levitated a vial of blood to me. "This is Celly's blood. You will need to input a drop into the equipment located at Yggdrasil in order to obtain the cure."

With a parting hug to Luna, I was forced to run to catch up to the other two. Hitting a brisk trot, red dust was kicked into the air as we moved. Beside me, Dash stayed on the ground, her body mere inches from mine while up above, Spitfire zoomed off into the air to scout out our immediate surroundings. Eyes narrowed and breathing hard, hooves hit the ground one after another as I forced myself forward.

Seven days. Slightly less than seven days to be accurate, but I didn't care about that. Seven days to save Celestia.

"Slow down!" I looked at Dash as though she was insane.

How dare she? How dare she! Slow down!? This was Celestia we were talking about. Seven days to travel almost six thousand kilometers. An impossible feat in the best of times and we were doing it in the middle of winter, with limited resources, while trying not to be detected by the gryphons! And she wanted me to slow down? How dare she! Loyalty my flank. In fact-

"Pace yourself damn it!" Dash screamed at me.

Pace myself. Of course. I immediately reined my speed back, but the damage had already been done. My coat was slick with sweat and my breath came in short pants. Legs trembling already, the dull ache was a constant strain on my body. Though my lungs screamed at me for respite, I ignored it and conjured an image of my beloved mentor. Princess Celestia would not pay for my mistakes or my fear.

Pain was just a message. Ignore the message, ignore the pain. Focus on Celestia, focus on the goal, ignore all else and achieve. As long as I have the drive, I had the will. Don't slow down even for a second, to do so was suicide. Once I taste that sweet ambrosia of a slower pace, I will never let it go. Not only was the body an obstacle associated with the search for knowledge, but also for saving a Princess it seemed.

I licked my lips, tasting blood from how dry they were. Each breath bought a fresh wave of dry dust to my mouth, choking me from the inside out. How long have we been running? An hour?Two? It was so hard to tell in this dusty place. The sun was always high above our heads, and the barren landscape never changed. I wouldn't be surprised if we had been running for an hour or even a day. I was so sore, and so tired, all I wanted to do was collapse for an ho-


With nothing, but a feral growl, I pushed myself forward and was rewarded with Dash’s eyes widening in surprise. A second later, a sharp tug on my tail sent pain flaring through my body. Hooves flailing in the air, I was just as suddenly released and hit the ground at an awkward angle.

"What!?" I growled at the blue pegasus.

"Pace yourself damn it!" she yelled back and to my surprise, there wasn't even a hint of panting in her voice. "Keep this up and you'll be too sore to run tomorrow!"

With a shake of my head, I tried to find my pace again.

"What the Tartarus are you two doing down there?" Spitfire was suddenly beside us, her wings beating at a slow steady pace and just like Dash, there wasn't a hint of panting in her voice. "This isn't time for playing."

"She's not pacing herself," said Dash.

If I wasn't so busy panting, I would have come back with a witty retort of some kind. I could do it too! Something like... like...

"Enough!" We were forced to stop and Spitfire threw up a dust storm before us. "We're stopping and resting. Then Twilight will do her first teleport."

"What!?" If it wasn't for Dash’s restraining hoof I would have yelled at Spitfire right there and then. "We've... we've barely been running for an hour."

"Almost three actually." The Wonderbolt chuckled softly at my look of surprise before her eyes suddenly hardened. "We all want to get to Yggdrasil as fast as possible, but you seriously need to reconsider your attitude. Keep going on like you are and you'll endanger this mission."

I held her gaze for a brief second before looking away with a scowl. "Whatever."

With a deep breath, I began pulling my magic into my horn doubling my headache and causing the base of my horn to burn. Eyes glowing white, I lifted into the air while electricity danced around me. With a simple scrying spell to make sure we weren't going to end up in any mountains, I released the long range teleportation spell.

The jolt of re-entry forced me to bite back a cry of pain.

"Geez Twi, warn us next time." Though Dash spoke in her normal voice, each word was like a hammer to the face.

"It's pretty late, we should rest of the night," said Spitfire.

"What!" I flattened my ears against my head as my own voice left my ears ringing. And here I thought my week long mad study session with a grand total of ten hours sleep, followed by sitting three exams in a row while stricken by the gryphon flu was bad. My current headache made that seem like nothing in comparison.

The two looked at me curiously.

"I'm... I'm sorry..." I deliberately kept my voice muted, mostly due to my headache, but from the way their eyes softened, I wasn't about to start complaining. "Can we at least walk for another hour or so? It'll be a cool down so we won't be as sore tomorrow."

With a sigh, Spitfire looked up at the sky. "Thirty minutes."

A happy grin spread over my face, but before I could take a single step, Dash's hoof was on my shoulder, forcing me to look her in the eyes.

"Walking. Got that?" Though her tone was jovial, the hard edge in her eyes told me she was completely serious. "This is a cool down so that you'll be able to run tomorrow."

Normally I could have nodded, but with my migraine, I just knew that'd be a bad idea. So instead, I gave her a sheepishly smile and began walking.

Time Till Death: Six days, thirteen hours, fifty-six minutes

"-over Princess Celestia and wants to get there as fast as possible. We all do."

I blinked the weariness from my eyes as Dash's voice brought me out of my slumber. My eyes cracked open just enough for me to make out the blurry shapes of Spitfire and Dash. Though my headache was still there, the lack of light helped a lot. What were they talking about?

"No." I heard rustling, and out the corner of my eyes, I saw Spitfire roll over so that she was no longer facing me. "It was more than that. I've never seen a pony that driven before, and I've seen ponies running from dragons."

"You obviously don't know Twi then." The laughter in Dash's voice was evident even to my sleep addled mind. "Did I ever tell you about the Smarty Pants incident?"

My cheeks turned bright red and I was glad that it was night, otherwise there was no way they could have missed it.

"Many times."

"Oh... well then, you know how driven she can be. I'm surprised she even let us sleep." Dash's chuckling reached my ears. "For such an egghead, she sure can run. She came fourth in the Running of the Leaves this year. Did you know that? That's pretty damn awesome and trust me, I know all about awesome."


"Just keep a leash on her. We don't need a novice screwing up this mission."

"Hey, she's been on mi-"

"None of them were covert operations or high pressure," snapped Spitfire in a whisper. "This is beyond her usual field of work, whereas we do this on a monthly basis. Just keep an eye on her. Now get some sleep, we'll be getting up at dawn."

Once more, a sigh reached my ears, and after a couple seconds of ruffling, silence descended. Whether it was a minute or an hour, I did not know, but eventually Spitfire's soft snoring reached my ears. There was a grunt of frustration to my left followed by more shuffling, and I couldn't help but smile at Dash's antics. If there was one thing that annoyed her more than anything else, it was snoring.

Once more, that pit of ice formed in my stomach as I realized I hadn't even said goodbye to my friends. Sure, Dash was with me, but what about AJ or Rarity or Pinkie or Fluttershy or Spike? Silent tears rolled down my cheek as the truth finally hit home. This could very well be my last mission and I didn't even say goodbye. What kind of friend was I?

"D-Dash?" I whispered into the silence.

"Yeah, Twi?"

My throat was suddenly dry as I considered what to say. There was so much I wanted to tell my friend, so many things that I had never said before, that I never thought needed to be said at all. But now that I was here, with death looming over me with its wings outstretched, I didn't even know where to start. How do you condense years of joy into an essay, let alone a couple minutes worth of words? Where do you even begin?

"Twi?" She turned to face me, but in the darkness, there was no way she could see my tears.

"I just... I was just wondering how far you would go to serve Equestria, that's all."

Stupid! Why did I say that?

"How far?As far as they needed me to go. I am the Element of Loyalty, you know." There was no doubt in my mind that she was currently puffing out her chest in pride.

"Even if that meant dying?" I asked.

"Yeah." There wasn't even a hint of hesitation or doubt in her voice. "After all, I am just one pony, while Equestria is thousands. If my death would help save even a fraction of those living in our borders, then it'd be worth it. Plus, it'd be a totally radical way to go out, and there'd be a statue of me and everything! Totally awesome."

"And... and your friends?" My words were barely the ghost of a whisper, but Dash still managed to hear me.

"They'd understand." For once, I heard doubt in her voice. "But even if they didn't, I'd still be doing the right thing, and in the end, that's all that matters."

The way she spoke about it made it sound so easy. So what was the right thing in my situation? The obvious answer, the only answer, was to save Celestia. She ruled the nation, she brought joy to everypony. She would live forever. Alongside Luna, they were the foundation of Equestria, and without them, everything would fall to chaos. I was nothing more than a name in a history book. A mortal that would eventually die anyway.

"Why'd you ask anyways?" asked Dash.

"Oh, you know, egghead stuff," I replied as I allowed my eyes to drift close.

Thank you, Rainbow Dash, for giving me an answer. Perhaps, I should stop over thinking everything like you always say. Whatever the case, if these are going to be my final days, I am glad that you will be by my side the entire time.


Over the past year I have made numerous strides within the fields of genetics and amniomorphic magic and I thought (somewhat foolishly) that I was ready to study alicornian genetics. I was wrong. So very wrong. Nothing could have prepared me for what I saw today. Instead of the standard twobase pairs that I have grown so familiar with over the past year though, it was a complex array of six different bases, and this greatly increases the complexity of the genome. Over all, that means recombination between pony and alicornian DNA is impossible. (Note to self: Need a new term for the alicornian genome). More than that, the chromosomal number is different from that of a regular pony and it aggressively attacks any foreign DNA or RNA introduced. My original plan had been to introduce sections of pony DNA into the alicornian genome to produce a new, viable, genetically distinct body to host Luna's soul (or at least her memories). As it is though, there is no way for that current plan to work.

A year of research, wasted.

For now, I have decided to turn to other creatures in the world – namely the dragons. While not immortal, they do not age and are highly resistant to disease, much like an alicorn. If luck is on my side, then they will hopefully share the same genetic markers, but I do not have high hopes.

Chapter 2

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It is just as I had feared, dragon DNA consists of the same base pairs as that of ponies. So where to now? That one question has been plaguing my mind for the past three months, and even now, I still have no response. The only real course of action I have left is to wait and see if the various university departments come up with a breakthrough. For now though, I shall continue my studies into alicornian DNA in an attempt to unravel its intricacies, though I have no hopes in this endeavor. Even for me, it is far too complex, and unfortunately, I am unable to devote my full time to this endeavor.

There is still hope, for there is still plenty of time before Luna's return. Until then, I won't stop working and I won't stop trying. Luna, I promise you, you shall return, and Equestria shall love your night like they should.

Time Till Death: Five days, twenty-two hours, thirty-two minutes

"So this is Aviana," I whispered, mainly to not aggravate my headache, rather than any sense of awe. After all, it was just a pure blanket of white as far as the eye could see. Considering it barely made it past my ankles, it was nothing compared to what I had to deal with back home. "It's a shame it's winter,there’s some truly fascinating fauna I've always wanted to study."

"Yeah, yeah, come back in a couple of months. I just wish it wasn't winter, because cleaning up our tracks is going to take forever," huffed Dash.

A couple more months? Sure, if I'm still alive by then. I woke up this morning expecting to be completely and utterly fine, with no headache to speak off, and surprise, surprise. Instead I woke up feeling as though I had emptied out a bar last night. Itook two pills to no avail, and it was only after I took another three that they had any effect. A month ago, two pills would have lasted me a day.

A low chuckle caught our attention. "And this is why you're still a green recruit." Zipping up into the sky, Spitfire came down with a fluffy white cloud. "I seem to recall you and your friends being in Cloudsdale once. Cast the cloud walking spell and then there’s no more need to brush out our hoofprints."

"Why didn't you mention this before!" I winced at Dash's yell.

"Just wondering how long it’dtake you to realize. So? Hop on."

Throat suddenly dry, I looked from the cloud to Dash, then back to the cloud. The continuous pounding of my headache served as a constant reminder of my limited magic use. Spitfire had been watching me all day – I think she caught me taking the pills in the morning – and I wanted to avoid all conversation involving why I had them on me. There was a reason I was banned from playing poker, and it had nothing to do with counting cards.

From the way they were looking at me though, there was no way I could slip out of this one. With a sigh, I channeled magic into my horn and resisted the urge to whimper as the base of my horn burned. My legs buckled and shook, threatening to give out from under me as the pain wormed its way into my mind. That time I got burnt by Spike's dragon fire was nothing compared to this. Though it was a basic spell, keeping my focus through the pain was near impossible.

Then, with a final gasp, the spell took hold and the burning faded away to a light shimmer.

"Twi?" I looked up at Dash's concerned eyes. "You alright?"

"I'm fine. Those two teleports today just took more out of me than I realized," I replied with a smile as I scrambled onto the cloud. "Off we go then."

"Now you'll finally get an idea of what it feels like to fly!" Dash was immediately behind me, pushing the cloud into the air as Spitfire directed it. "And geez, have you put on weight? You weigh a tonne."

"Shut up," I muttered as my ears folded back. It wasn't my fault being Archmage meant so much desk work!

"We might actually end up covering less distance this way," said Spitfire as she looked at the setup before gazing out at the horizon. "And if any gryphons are flying, they might see us."

"Faster than having me clean up the hoofprints, which would definitely have been seen," replied Dash with a shrug. "Maybe there's some invisibility spell or something?"

Both of them looked at me curiously, but I merely shook my head. "Invisibility spells work on a set location, if the object moves outside of that zone, it needs to be recast. So far, nopony has been able to actually enchant an item to stay invisible no matter where it's placed."

"Great." Spitfire began angling the cloud further up. "Let's get it higher up then. Hopefully most gryphons will pass underneath and not notice or bother to look up."

"Some plan," I grumbled under my breath. Spitfire was meant to be the captain of an elite unit, and she comes up with useless things like this. Seriously, it was almost as though she didn't want to save Celestia!

I blew a lock of mane out of my eyes as I let the magic flow into my horn. The burning immediately began anew, but this time I could feel it rolling out in waves. With my eyes closed, ears laid back, and nothing distracting me, it was a simple matter of ignoring the message that my body was sending to my brain. To ignore the message was to ignore the pain after all.

"What the?Twi, are you doing something?"

That one simple question from Dash shattered my flimsy concentration and let the pain back in.

"Yes Dash, I'm reducing the drag so that we can move faster." Was I speaking at a normal volume? I hope I was. Then again, considering how much it pained me to speak at all, it was impossible to tell. "Now please, leave me alone. I need to concentrate."


If she said any more than that, I didn’t hear her, I was already settling back down. Using the deep breathing exercises Princess Celestia had taught me as a filly, I felt my mind slowly sink lower and lower, until the sound of the wind was gone and my migraine was nothing more than a dull throb. Then, from the center of that calm, I cast the spell once more. The great Beethooven once commented that casting a complex spell was like hearing a song he composed being played for the first time. For me, it was like holding the very essence of Harmony within my hooves and synthesizing the greatest masterpiece the world had ever known. Each piece had a specific location. Each section had its own unique function. Everything had its place in the grand scheme of things and nothing was due to pure coincidence. And from all that careful planning, a spell would be born.


"Gah!" I wasn't sure what made me jump, the fact that Dash was inches from my face, or the pain that split my head open. Try as I might, I couldn't help but whimper as blades embedded themselves into my fragile brain. Even the mere act of looking up at the red sky caused me my head to throb.

"You alright?" asked Dash.

"Magical drag." Stepping gingerly off the cloud, I winced with each step I took. "How much ground did we cover?"

"More than enough." Spitfire landed next to us and I looked away just in time to hide a grimace. "I suggest we rest here tonight. We've got good tree cover and there's a lake just to the east of here that looks perfect for bathing in. Think you've got enough juice left to set up a magical parameter?"

"Give me some time to recover." I closed my eyes and took a deep breath of the crisp air. "I think I'll take a bath first. Will you two be able to set up camp without me?"

"Camp?Real funny egghead. Two heat crystals and munching grass straight from the ground isn't much of a camp you know." Dash gave me a gentle shove. "Go and bathe. You look like you're about to die."

"Yeah, about to die," I chuckled softly, ignoring the bitterness in my mouth. "Wouldn't want that happening now would we?"

"Of course not!" The chromatic pegasus slung a foreleg around my neck. "We need some pony to keep things interesting when we're not busy saving the world!"

Did she have to talk so loudly?

"Hey Dash, mind keeping an eye on our bags here? I think I'll join Twilight in that bath of hers."

Oh crap. Please say no, please say no, please say n-

"No probs, Spitfire."


"Come on Twilight, I'll show you the way." Spitfire immediately took the lead and moved through the woods without disturbing the trees, despite how dense they were. "Look, I know this is hard on you since Princess Celestia practically raised you and all, but you need to slow down alright? You're an important part of this team, and you need to keep your emotions in check so that you can play your part."

With a sigh, the Wonderbolt rubbed her temples while somehow avoiding all the roots. "By the stars, I hate things like this. What I'm trying to say is that I don't want Celestia to die. In fact, if it weren't for her I'd still be some drug addict living in the backstreets of Manehattan."

Whatever else she had to say was lost in the haze of red as I tried to focus on just keeping one hoof in front of another. She thought I was stupid, that I didn't notice, but I saw. I saw how her eyes darted to the corner of her eye every so often to check up on me. I saw how her muscles tensed every time I so much as twitched. I saw all that and more.

Coming out of the dense forest, I immediately brushed past Spitfire and stepped into the cool lake, and just gazed up at the starry night sky. Was Luna making it brighter to guide us?

“Dear Luna, this is cold.” I could hear her chattering teeth from where I was standing. She dunked her head under the water, before she scrambled out and began shaking the water out. “How can you just stand there like that?”

“It’s not that bad,” I muttered under my breath, but I knew the truth, even if I didn't want to admit it to myself. How much longer before the degradation reached my central nervous system? Or before I became paralyzed?

Was this... was this really worth it? Even if I don't die from this, I'll probably end up with permanent nerve damage, maybe even paralyzed. Unable to move, unable to go to the bathroom without any help, unable to even have fun with my friends. That is... if they'd even want to spend time with an invalid. Would I even be allowed to perform magic anymore? Or partake in scientific enquires? Even if I didn't die, would it be a life worth living?

Ducking my head under, the biting cold was a soothing relief from the constant burning.I only pulled my head out after I felt like I was drowning. Sure, it hurt, but now it was just a dull throb, and that was far better than anything else I had experienced so far. After three more repeats, I crawled out of the water and began shaking the water out like a dog. All the while, Spitfire watched me with a hooded gaze.

"We need to talk." It wasn't a suggestion or a statement, it was an order.

"About what?" I put on my most innocent expression, but her cocked eyebrow told me she was not buying it for even a second.

"You and your drug problem."

"What?" I hissed. "I do not have a drug problem."

"Could have fooled me with the way you downed those pills of yours."

"I am not a drug addict," I replied with a low growl in my voice.

"Don't lie to me!" I was violently thrown against the tree, her forelimb across my throat making breathing difficult. "I was a drug addict once, and I help others around Canterlot on a daily basis. You are an addict whether you wish to admit it or not."

With a snarl, I slammed my knee into her stomach. The grunt of pain was like music to my ears as she stumbled back.

"Or maybe, just maybe, I'm taking those pills because I need to medicate my pain," I replied. "I am not an addict. I am merely managing it as best as I can."

"Ha! Real funny, you should become a comedian." Spitfire brushed a lock of mane out of her eyes. "You've been taking those pills ever since the Manehattan event, and need I remind you, that was the same event where you were pumped full of pain medication? You have an issue, and you will deal with it, and it will not impact our mission. Got that? And as soon as this mission is done, you will go on a detox program even if that means I have to dragyour purple ass across Equestria to do so!"


"What the buck is going on here!?" Dash stood between us, her wings outstretched as she snarled at Spitfire. "And what in the name of Tartarus is your problem?"

"This was a private discussion," I snapped at Dash. "Now if you'll excuse me, I need to take my medication before this headache kills me."

Shoving past the two mares, I began my journey back to the camp. Dash didn't even wait for me to be out of earshot before she began ranting at Spitfire. Maybe I should have gone back to smooth things over and make sure this wouldn't affect their friendship or our mission, but you know what? Buck that. As long as it didn't affect their performance, then who bloody cares! Some pills and a quick nap and then everything would be perfect.

My stomach grumbled.

And food. Can't forget about that now, can we?Even if we were eating off the ground. But first things first!

Reaching into my backpack, I pulled out my medicine and immediately downed three pills at once. As much as I wanted to take another one, I had to make sure it lasted till the end of the journey. I eyed the wet, muddy grass beneath my hooves before sighing. It sounded like such a great idea at the time. Food will just slow us down! Eat off the ground like our forefathers! Bleah. It was no wonder they invented things like fire and cooking, it tasted horrible. My cooking tasted better than this, and that was saying something, considering it was even worse than AJ's baked bads. I bet Dash's cooking tasted better than this.

Nonetheless, I forced it down with a shudder. Hopefully I won't get some disease from this, that'd just be stupid. I turned my head to the side, entire body shuddering as I began coughing. Doubled over and on my knees, each cough coated the snow in a fresh layer of red. After almost an entire minute, I lay there in my own fluids, panting heavily.When I heard the others approaching I scrambledonto my hooves to brush some snow over the patch of red. Taking the largest bite of grass I could stomach, I began chewing the disgusting thingin an attempt to look busy.

"I'm turning in for the night. Dash, you've got first watch," ordered Spitfire as she grabbed one of the heating crystals. Within seconds her snoring filled the air.

"I should probably do the same," I said with a yawn.

"Wait, Twi." A hoof was placed on my shoulder. "We need to talk."

"Not you too," I groaned.

"Not about your medication." She gave me that easygoing smile of hers. "For what it's worth, I believe you."


"No worries, Twi. I've always got you back." Dash sat down next to me. "But what was up with your questions yesterday? I mean, is there something you're not telling me?"

"I-" I licked my dry lips and saw the concern in her eyes. "I'm fine."

As much as I wanted to break down and confess everything, I couldn't do that to Dash. I still remembered what Discord did to her, and the mere thought of forcing her into another impossible decision made my heart ache. That day still haunted my nightmares.

"You sure?"

"Yeah." Once more I found that fake smile plastered all over my face. "I was just asking because I came across it in this fascinating ethical textbook I found in the library was all. It was actually on the Elements of Harmony, and went through what each meant, how they applied to everyday life, how to live life according to th-"

"Yaaaaaawn." Rainbow Dash smirked at me, though her eyes still bore into mine. "You are such an egghead."

I smiled weakly. "Thanks Dash."

"For what?"

For more than you know. For everything.For being my friend. For being there when I needed you, and even when I didn't. There was so much to be said, but even a single word would have resulted in her finding out the truth about my condition, and that was something I could not allow. I wanted so badly to thank her for everything she had ever done. For every smile and laugh she had gotten out of me. For every memory she gave me.

Thank you, Rainbow Dash, for all that and more.

Instead of saying all that though, I simply gave her a genuine smile and said, "For being the awesomest pony ever. Equestria would be dreary place without you."

"Ha! You got that right." She flexed her muscles before nudging me. "Go get some sleep. You look like you're about to fall over dead any second."

"As if, it'll take more than a bit of a run to kill me," I replied. "Night, Dash."

"Night. Sleep well, Twi."

With a final glance at Dash, I lay down on the ground and hugged the heating crystal close to my heart. Perhaps it was as simple as Dash made it out to be. Everypony relied on Celestia, and her loss would be a greater blow than mine could ever be. Being loyal to Equestria, to everypony, meant I had to do this. I had to go through and push myself as far as possible. Plus, I wouldn't be able to live with myself if I didn't do everything in my power to save Celestia.

I just hope I can actually do this. That I can follow through with my actions.

12/31/10: Entry 634

Has it truly been eight years since my last entry? I have not been able to spend as much on this endeavor as I have wished. Despite this, I have managed to make some minor advancements. Firstly, I have been spending time trying to understand the mechanism behind the degradation of normal pony DNA when alicornian DNA is inserted in. Originally, I thought it was to do with the extra bases, but so far, all my experiments have turned out to suggest the contrary. In an attempt to figure out the answer, I have studied the chemical composition of the bases in excruciating detail, but so far I have failed to find anything of importance that could act as an identification signal. I shall continue my exploration into this uncharted area in the hopes of solving this mystery. If I can somehow figure out the mechanisms behind this defensive response by the cell, then I should be able to turn it off.

I am also beginning to question my very existence. The majority of these past eight years was spent analyzing DNA from a variety of species in the vain hopes of finding a creature with the same genetic composition as my sister and I, but so far, nothing. How was it then, that we came to be? We did not know our parents, nor have we ever seen another alicorn in our travels. Our earliest memories involve waking up on this cold, cracked floor with glass littered on the ground all about us, and these relics of a forgotten past surrounding us. Tubes made out of glass and metal, weird consoles displaying a language of a dead race, and a voice speaking to us through the thin air. She told us our names, taught us how to read and write, and explained the wider world to us. And then, she sent gave us the Elements of Harmony and told us to defeat Discord.

So how was it we came to be? From whom were we born? Did somepony create us in much the same way I am attempting to create a second alicorn? If so, how did they manage it? There must be a solution somewhere; I have just failed to look in the right locations.

But now is not the time for an existential crisis. For now, I shall turn my attention to the two extra bases present within alicornian DNA, but I doubt I will ever be able to figure it out. Luna was always the better biologist, and this complexity is beyond me. Stars guide me.

Chapter 3

View Online


Despite all the gains I have made these past few years, there is still so much I do not know. Sadly, the two extra bases arenot significant in any manner or form that I can identify. Of course, their mere existence is cause for celebration, but they have been less than useful in my scientific enquiry thus far. Originally I had thought that they might play some role in cell defense mechanism against foreign DNA by acting as an identification of some kind, but there are strands devoid of any J or K bases (as I have decided to call them). The extra two chromosomes though, are saturated with them, as are the genes controlling expression of magic. It is my belief that these bases are responsible for the expression of the three pony traits and more specifically, the ability to use their magic. There is the occasional extra base here and there, but whether these are due to mutations or not is another question entirely. There are certain genes that have the J and K base spread throughout in a manner that is too ordered to be pure coincidence and when I ran it through amathematical model, it suggested the same.

As I write this, I have a separate experiment going on where I have taken Chromosome 14 from my DNA and transplanted it into a cell. As Chromosome 14 has no alicornian bases present, it is my hope that it will not be targeted for degradation. Whether that is true or not, is another matter entirely. So far results look promising, but even if this works, how will I integrate the rest of the alicornian genome in?

One step at a time. I just have to take things one step at a time.

Time Till Death: Four days, thirteen hours, twenty-eight minutes

I took deep mouthfuls of water, gulping it down as fast as I could manage without drowning. Beside me, Spitfire and Dash weren't doing much better. Three blind ponies, leading each one on in the hopes of attaining a better future. If it wasn't actually happening, I'd be laughing my head off at how ridiculous it was.

High above us, lightning flashed and the rain intensified. And here I thought if it rained any harder we'd all be swimming.

Brushing a lock of wet mane out of my eyes, I went back to my water. With all the runoff, we were essentially drinking fertilizer, or as Dash so eloquently put it, "Shit and chemicals!", but considering how parched we all were, we really didn't have a choice. We couldn't waste time lying on the ground with our mouth to the sky either.

"Can we start moving again?" I growled in annoyance.

"Yeah, yeah, hold your wyvern." Spitfire looked over at Dash. "You had enough water?"


Sighing, Spitfire turned back to me and nodded. "Sure, let's get going. Teleport? Or are we taking another cloud?"

A shudder passed through my body. "Let's not do the cloud again. Almost dying is more than enough for me."

"I said I was sorry," muttered Dash. "And I say we should run. The storm will cover our tracks."

"But a slip will give us a twisted ankle and then we won't be going anywhere," said Spitfire.

"Then we fly," snapped Dash, her face inches from the Wonderbolt.

"Oh is that so? Have you ever flown in a storm this strong before? It's not easy and you'll get thrown aroundlike a ragdoll. And what about afterwards? The whole reason we fly and run is so that we can rest one set of limbs between each leg of the journey." Spitfire shoved Dash back. "You'll risk the entire mission!"

"Better than being such a prissy, cautious, know it all, piece of s-"

"Enough!" I stood between the two warring ponies, the only thing keeping me sane being those five little pills I took this morning. "I will run and you two will fly. We shall do so until either I am unable to walk or until it is impossible to see clearly. Once that happens I shall do the final teleport of the day and hopefully, this dreadful weather will have cleared up. And if it hasn't-" I turned to face the sky. "-I'm going to bucking blow a hole in the clouds!" With an irritated toss of my mane, I smiled sweetly at my partners. "Got that?"

"She probably could too," commented Dash as she took the sky. "Just be careful down there, you hear?"

"Seconded." Spitfire grabbed me by the shoulders. "Remember, you will need to run tomorrow and the day after and the day after that, so don't twist an ankle or break a leg. We need you."

Of course, if I did twist an ankle, it's not like I would even know. With a simple nod in thanks, I broke out into a fast gallop, my headache barely more than a dull thud in the back of my head. I suppose that was the only benefit of being out in such frigid temperatures. Or was it the pain killers? Who cares, I could think!

Giggling like a mad, I raced through the wind and rain, while up above me, Spitfire and Dash led the way. The only source of illumination was the lightning bolts that filled the air. What was that old pegasus saying? Something about tail winds and lightning guiding the way. Who cares!

Leaping over a fallen log, I let out a small shriek of excitement as I began sliding down the muddy hill. At the last second, I leapt forward and tucked myself into a roll and came up without losing a bit of momentum. Panting hard, I lowered my head and kept running on. More than once I slipped, and more than once I completely faceplanted in the mud, but I didn’t let that stop me.

To my surprise, Dash dropped down and began skimming along the ground next to me. “Hey Twi, when we stop tonight, mind if we have a private talk?”

I simply cocked an eyebrow at her. Really? She decides to bring this up now? In fact, how the hay is she still able to talk? I was barely able to get enough oxygen into my body, let along speak. She seemed to get what I was thinking though for she gave me a sheepish smile and took back off to the sky. A sudden fit of coughing brought me to my knees. Entire body trembling, I cradled my head in my hooves and within seconds the fit was over. There was no time to waste, no time to let my body recover, any second now my friends would notice I had stopped running and as soon as that happened, they’d come down all concerned to see what was wrong. We had lost enough time yesterday with the whole cloud-snow fiasco, we did not need to lose even more.

Though I swayed dangerously on my hooves and the metallic taste of blood danced on my lips, I threw my body back into the rhythm of the run. Just like Dash taught me, I lost myself in the beat of my hooves. The constant thump of them slamming into the ground freed my mind from the aches of the body. All I knew, all that drove me on was the simple act of putting one hoof in front of the other. I would not slow down.Never slow down.

Body slamming into a stream, the cold barely registered as I splashed through with steely determination. I opened my mouth and took a deep gulp of water before exiting the other side and continuing on my journey. My hooves slipped on the wet stones, barely able to find any sort of purchase and I was forced to half scramble my way out of the death trap. Though I was back on dry land, I was still swimming through water. Ahead of me were Dash and Spitfire, trotting along at a brisk pace while they waited for me to catch up.

“It’s too windy to fly,” yelled Spitfire above the wind. “We need to teleport!”

“And find somewhere to bunker down for the night,” added Dash. “If we don’t, we’re gonna get hyper-whatcha-ma-call-it.”

Torn between facehoofing and arguing, I was too tired and out of breath to do either. As soon as I stopped my hooves from moving, the weight of the run crashed down upon me and I lay in the mud as a twitching purple heap. Everything hurt. The good type of hurt, but it still hurt.

Poke… Poke… Poke, poke, poke, poke, poke.

Damn it Rainbow Dash, stop poking me!

I breathed out slowly in an attempt to clear my nerves and annoyance. With a helping hoof from Dash, I struggled onto my hooves and began channeling magic through my horn. To my surprise, there was no sudden stab of pain or even a throb. With a mad little grin, the air filled was with bright light as my eyes turned white and then, with something that can only be described as a taut string being cut in half, the world around us shifted and we appeared on a ledge overlooking a dense forest.

Still no pain. How curious.

With a shrug, I charged up my horn once more and we made a second jump. Laughing like mad, I made a third then a forth jump. Just as I was about to make the next one, I collapsed onto the ground and began coughing yet again. Making sure to keep my hooves against my lips, I managed to stop any blood to hit the ground and with the rain, it was quickly washed away.

“You alright?” asked Dash as she knelt next to me.

“Perfectly fine,” I replied with a smile. “Give me a second and I can do another teleport.”

“No.” We both looked up at Spitfire. “You’ve been doing three jumps these past few days and you’ve already made four today. No more. We can’t risk your magic dying out on us, after all, who knows what will happen on this journey? Better to be prepared.”

“One more,” I said as I stood up. “I haven’t felt this good in a long time. I can manage one more without dropping my magic too much.”

Spitfire opened her mouth to argue, but Dash stood between us with a determined look on her face. “Look, none of us are Twi, so who knows how much magic she’s got left? We’ve got to trust her on this.”

“Oh come on! Have you forgotten the first day of travel? She was pushing herself way too hard. I mean, look at her now, she can barely stand!” Shoving a lock of mane out of her eyes, Spitfire glared at us. “Normally, I’d trust you, but not in this. You are not in the right frame of mind to be doing anything.”

I simply grinned at the Wonderbolt. “Try to stop me then.”

Her eyes widened in surprise, but before a single sound had come out of her muzzle, I had already cast the spell. She kept looking at me in shock while I smirked at her with our new location as the backdrop.

“How curious, I haven’t fainted over dead yet,” I remarked.

“What the buck!” My head slammed into the ground as Spitfire stood above me, one hoof raised while the other pinned me down. Before she could stomp my head in, Dash tackled her off me. To my surprise, the blue pegasus was immediately thrown into the nearest cliff face and Spitfire was on top of me once more, a foreleg pressed against my throat, chocking me.

“If you could have done so many jumps all along, why didn’t you!” she screamed as a mixture of rain and tears leaked down her cheek. “How much might we have saved? How much sooner might we get to our goal? I thought you cared; I thought you wanted to save Celestia, but no! All this time you’ve been holding back on us. Hiding just how much you can do. Buck you! Buck you to Tartarus!”

Her hoof left my throat and I began gasping for air. A second later, her hoof slammed into the ground, mere inches from my face. From the way the stone cracked, I had no doubt she could splatter my brains everywhere.

“I thought you cared. I thought you wanted to do everything to get her healthy as soon as possible. I thought you understood.” She turned away and stalked off. “I hate you so much.”

The worst part was, she was right. Sure, I had a massive headache most nights, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t manage a simple teleport. After all, I had managed to stop a rampaging greed growth dragon from destroying part of Fillydelphia with a half severed leg, a dozen broken bones and a cracked horn. If I could do that, I could work past a simple headache of all things. Three teleports gave us an extra day ofleeway, but if I could get five in each day, that’d give us another day at least. That meant we got back sooner, cured Celestia sooner and there was less chance of us actually failing. Spitfire was right, and thanks to my own stupidity, Celestia was in more danger than ever.

Stupid! Stupid, stupid, stupid, stup-

A pair of hooves wrapped around my neck, stopping me from bashing my head against the hard, cold floor.

“Come on Twi, don’t be like that,” whispered Dash in my ear. “Spitfire is just stressed out. Everyone is stressed out. It was a heat of the moment thing and she didn’t mean anything by it.”

To my surprise, she pulled me close to her, and nuzzled my cheek tenderly. “Come on, Twi, let’s get you somewhere nice and dry, there’s a cave off to the left there. Do you need to take your pills?”

I simply shook my head. With Spitfire’s sudden departure, it felt as though she took all my energy with her. The lack of adrenaline though, told me just how bad of an idea it was to make that last jump. My head throbbed and it felt as though a hot cloth was pressed against my forehead.Would I have to pay for it tomorrow? Probably. Good thing I’ve got my pills on me.

As we lay down on the hard floor, Dash gently placed a wing over my body in an attempt to keep me warm. With a soft sigh, I let myself lean against her body ever so slightly as my eyes began closing. All the while, Dash stroked my mane and whispered words of encouragement in my ear. That it wasn’t my fault, that we should stick to our original plan, and that everything was going to be fine in the end. With nothing, but her soft breathing and soft words, I was lulled into a deep dreamless sleep.



I have finally figured out the recognition site for degradation and it was not what I expected at all. When Chromosome 14 was degraded I knew it had nothing to do with the basesand therefore, it had to relate to the phosphate backbone in some manner. With this in mind, I examined the backbone once more, but this time I went right down to the atomic structural level rather than just looking at what compounds were present. It was only at this level that I noticed a slight variation in charges. It was minute, barely worth mentioning, but upon closer inspection, it was clear that it subtly altered the structure of the backbone and subtly altered its overall charge. It is my belief that this change is the recognition factor used by the enzymes to distinguish between foreign DNA and alicornian DNA.

The question now turns to finding out how to alter the backbone in such a manner as to keep the integrity of the pony DNA. All the current mutagens categorized in the Yggdrasil database all relate to base mutations.

Time Till Death: Three days, twenty-three hours, fifty-eight minutes

The sound of whimpering woke Dash up. Within seconds she was on her hooves, bleary eyes scanning the world around her in order to find the source of the sound. It was only when a stray hoof caught her in the jaw that Dash finally snapped awake and found the source of the noise. There, on the ground, curled up in a ball was Twilight, whimpering and pleading for death as tears leaked down her cheek.


Though Dash spoke in a whisper, Twilight curled up even tighter and her ears flattened further against her skull. Moving as silently as possible, Dash made her way towards Twilight’s backpack and with every step she took, the unicorn winced in pain. Giving up all pretenses of trying to cause her less pain, Dash dove straight in and found the bottle in no time flat. Zipping back out, she opened the bottle and tipped it over.

One pill.

A growl of frustration managed to slip out, but she immediately cut it off as Twilight made it very clear that it was not helping her condition at all. Resisting the urge to sigh, Dash gently nudged Twilight only for the unicorn to immediately shrink back.

“Come on Twi, I’ve got some pills for you.” Was she even speaking? Dash couldn’t even hear her own words, but somehow Twilight managed to hear them for she opened her mouth ever so slightly. The pillslipped in and she swallowed it in one gulp, but other than that, she did not move.

“Anything else I can do for you? Any more pills stashed away somewhere?”

Her mouth moved, but no words came out. Leaning in close, Dash pressed her ear right up against Twilight’s lips. If she ignored the rain outside and the whistling winds, and if she let her imagination take over, it was just possible to make out words. A light murmur that conveyed an emotion rather than any sort of words, but there was enough there for Dash to get a faint idea of what Twilight wanted.

Moving quickly, Dash stepped out into the rain and flared open both wings. Eyes closed, she reached out with her hooves and focused on the water all around her, drawing them together and molding it. Though it was something she had done many times in the past, it still felt like she was wading through a swamp and each step she took drew her down further. Finally though, she came bursting out the other side and eyes snapping open, a hovering ball of water floated before her.

Rushing back in, Dash gently tilted Twilight’s head back and allowed the fluid to trickle in. One foreleg wrapped limply around Dash’s foreleg, forcing more water down her muzzle. After a few desperate gulps she seemed to settle down and just let the water slowly make its way down her throat. Though she never uncurled from her position on the ground, and her whimpers continued, her muscles were less tense.

Placing a light hoof on Twi’s forehead, Dash immediately drew back in surprise. She wasn’t just burning up, Twilight was on fire. Collecting more water, Dash pressed it gently against Twilight’s forehead and the purple mare let out a soft sigh. Again and again Dash gathered up water and after the sixth trip, she finally seemed to relax. At some point in the night, the unicorn finally seemed to drift off into sleep. Sure, the occasional whimper escaped, but it was nothing like before.

“Everything alright in here?” whispered Spitfire from the entrance.

“I don’t know…” Dash stepped into the rain and looked up moon the hung in the night sky. “Twi woke up in pain and even whispering seemed to hurt her. A pill and some water seemed to help, but she was seriously burning up. I have no clue what’s going on, but it’s not good.”

“Will she recover enough for tomorrow?”

“I don-“

At the hacking cough coming from Twilight, the two ran into the cave in time to see Twi slump back down onto the ground. The two exchanged a concerned look and began approaching and knelt down next to her. Dash brushed a lock of mane to the side and scratched Twi just behind the ears. Almost immediately, the purple mare let out a sigh of relief and seemed to fall back asleep.

“Dash, over here,” whispered Spitfire, causing the sleeping mare to wince slightly. “This is blood.”

“What?” In a flash, the blue pegasus was beside Spitfire.

“It’s blood. Twilight was coughing up blood.” Rose eyes meet brown ones. “This isn’t good.”

“Nah, really?” sighed Dash as she rubbed her temples. What the buck, Twi. What game are you playing here? “If I’m right, there’s a safe place near here that we can stay at and hopefully get Twilight looked at without having to worry about guards. If worst comes to worst, we can leave her there while we continue on.”

“You’re joking. You know a safe place to stay? The gryphons hate our guts!”

A grim chuckle escaped as Dash pulled out her map and examined it. “What can I say? Being part of Luna’s elite unit is a pretty crazy life, and it’s not nearly as bad as you make it out to be. There are ponies working here and there you know, and gryphons can come and go as they wish.”

“Are you sure it’s safe?” asked Spitfire.

“Positive.” Dash stood up and gathered everything together. “Mind grabbing a cloud so that we can load Twilight onto it?”

“Will she stay on it? That cloud walking spell was cast a while ago.”

“Yeah… Twi will stay on it no problem.” Dash gazed down at the sleeping mare tenderly. “Regardless, we need to get her some help.”

Spitfire rubbed her temples. “Celestia damn it, why can’t things ever go according to plan?”

“Because you’re in charge,” smirked Dash as she nudged the sleeping mare lightly. “Come on Twi, wakey-wakey, we need to move somewhere safe. Come on, up and at ‘em. You need to get up right now, otherwise you’ll be tardy.”

Twilight let out a muffled groan, but otherwise did not move.

Oh crap. Okay, that was not good, not good at all. Twilight, not reacting to being tardy? If Nightmare Moon, Discord and Chrysalis had teamed up right there and then, Dash would not be surprised, and frankly, she’d less worried about that.

“Come on.” Dash grabbed Twilight’s foreleg and swung it around her neck before gently slipping under the purple mare. Though each slight movement caused Twi to gasp out in pain, Dash blocked it all out and kept working away. Each pained whimper made Dash’s heart throb, but this was not a time to give in. With Twilight secured in place, Dash took a tentative step forward and the unicorn immediately cried out in pain. Eyes locked on the entrance, the Shadowbolt took another step forward, then another and another. Each step was accompanied by a tugging on her heart strings, but she steeled herself and kept moving forward.

“You got her?” asked Spitfire as smoothed down her burnt and spiky mane.

“Yep." Together, the two pegasi gently shifted Twilight onto the cloud and to their relief, she didn’t immediately fall through. “Come on, it’s about an hour’s journey from here.”

With a light nudge, the cloud began floating forward. With Dash directing it from the front while Spitfire pushed it from behind. Every so often there’d be a particularly loud cry from the unicorn, but otherwise they travelled in a tense silence. The constant rain seemed to help somewhat, but Dash was just glad the thunder and lightning had stopped. Who knows how badly Twi would react to that? Dash glanced over her shoulder at the trembling ball of fur and sighed sadly. So much for that talk.

She shook her head, before slapping herself just for good measure. This was not the time for self-depression. Twilight needed help. Twilight first, everything else second – even Princess Celestia and Luna. Even Equestria came second.

“Dash! We’re approaching a castle, should we go around?” asked Spitfire.

“Negative.” Her smile was grim and her eyes hard. “That’s our destination. Wait up here while I slip down.”

“You’re insane.” Spitfire zipped in front of the cyan pegasus. “You are not going down there. That’s the house of a freaking noble. A minor noble, but still a noble. They’ll turn us in the first chance they get.”

“They won’t. If they even think about putting a hoof on Twi, I will personally destroy the place.” Dash’s eyes softened slightly, but they didn’t lose their hard edge. “Trust me”

Before Spitfire had even opened her mouth, Dash ducked her wings against her side and plummeted straight down. The screaming wind was usually such a comfort, but all it did was remind her of Twilight’s cries of pain. As the ground rushed up to meet her, all Dash could see was Twilight curled up in a ball, begging for the pain to stop. Were her cheeks wet? No doubt it was the rain.

At the very last second, Dash threw her wings open, sending dirt and water in all directions as she landed just outside the castle walls. Taking a minute to roll in the mud, she coated her entire body as well as her mane and tail. Good thing Rarity wasn't around, otherwise she'd have a heart attack. Making sure to stay in the shadows, she crept along the wall, eyes constantly darting and ears primed for the slightest sound. With the gate in sight, Dash eyed the guards curiously before frowning. They looked familiar, but this was definitely not the time to take chances.

Alright, time to put that Shadowbolt training to use.

Dash frowned and tried to think back to what Luna and Spitfire had taught her, but all she got was a blank. Something about identifying your goal and then blah-blah-blah. Did she sleep through that lecture? Maybe. Who cares about their egghead method anyways? After all, since when did the awesomest pony since forever need a plan?

Taking a step back, Dash ran at the wall. Kicking off, her hind-hooves connected with the wall and she pushed herself off. She gave a hard flap of herwings and her fore-hooves found the edge of the wall. Hauling herself up, she flipped over the wall and landed with a roll. Tucked up against the wall, her eyes scanned the area, but there was no movement. Eyes darting up, Dash licked her lips as two gryphons began gilding their way over. Considering there was probably a third in the tower, or on the wall, this was not going to end well.

Keeping low, she scrambled along the side of the wall. Glancing up at the tower, her eyes narrowed as another gryphon came into view. Under all that shiny armor though was dark purple fur and brownish-golden feathers. Dash had only ever seen one gryphon with that coloration and a plan began forming in her mind.

In the blink of an eye Dash had closed the distance between her and the guards. The one on the right tried to block with his spear, but her shoulder caught him straight in the jaw. Twisting in midair, metal parted her mane, but a quick punch to the stomach sent him stumbling back. Before he could recover, her buck caught him straight in the face. Dropping onto the ground, a quick sweep of her leg sent the first to the ground and Dash pounced. Within seconds both were taking a nap and she strolled through the gate.

And just as expected, the gryphon on the wall raced towards her. Turning her body to the side, the spear just missed her side. One leg wrapping around it, the other elbow came up and smashed him in the face. Though he didn’t stumble back, there was a grunt of pain and his hold on the spear slackened. Ripping it free from his grasp, Dash tossed it aside and was forced to block a flurry of blows. Try as she might, she couldn’t get past his defenses and she was forced slowly back. Legs digging, Dash ducked under a frustrated swipe. Sliding past his offense, she tossed the guard over her head and into the nearest wall. Instead of following up her advantage, the pegasus merely dusted herself off and threw a cocky grin at the guard.

“Really Carciano, is that how you treat an old friend?”

“Raidia?” The gryphon kept his guard up, but the hard glint was gone from his eyes. “But your coat and mane…”

“Because I’m stupid enough to not darken it right?” Shaking out her mane, her coloration was unmistakable, even in the dark. “Look, I don’t have much time to explain, but I need a place to stay and for Eurissa to look at one of my friends – she’s still around right?”

“Y-Yes. Right this way.” He gave a deep bow and began walking towards the large double doors. “Did you really have to knock out the new recruits though? That’s going to be hard to explain.”

“Say it was a surprise training exercise,” replied Dash with a shrug. “So how has everyone been doing?”

“Alright.” Their footsteps echoed through the empty hall. “Though I suggest you prepare yourself.”

“Yeah, yeah.” The pegasus waved away his concern. “So, found yourself a nice lady friend yet?”

“W-What!?” Despite the dim lightning, his blush was clearly visible.

Laughing at his discomfort, Dash let her eyes roam freely. Everything was exactly as she remembered it. The paintings were in the same place, showing the same things. T hat old rickety table with uneven legs had moved slightly down the hall, but it was still there and even the color of the walls were the same. Though it had been years, there was no doubt in Dash’s mind that she could sneak through entire place with her eyes blindfolded and still not get caught. Really, if she knew it was going to be like this, she would have snuck in using the old catacombs entrance.

“We’re here.” Carciano took a deep breath and knocked politely on the door.

“Come in,” called a distinctly feminine voice.

“I’m sorry for the disturbance Lady Isiana, but there is somebody here to see you.”

The door creaked open and Dash stepped into the firelight, a sheepish smile on her face. There, standing before her, was a gryphon with black fur and silver feathers, light blue swirls adorning the left side of her face, just under her eyes. If Dash didn’t know better, she would have said this was a very vivid dream, or that Twilight had somehow managed to pull dreams into reality.


Clearing her throat, Dash stood up straighter and gave the gryphoness a deep bow.

“Hello mother.”

“Raidia D-“

“The name’s Rainbow Dash.”

Though the matriarch frowned, she inclined her head in acceptance. “Rainbow Dash then, it’s good to see you again. I take it you have not come home to beg for forgiveness?”

“I never beg.”

“I am glad some things never change. Carciano, grab my husband and make sure no one interrupts us.”

“Yes m’lady.” With yet another bow, he silently left the room.

“So…” Isiana took a sip from her glass of wine. “Why exactly have you come back then? I hear you’ve made a rather big name for yourself in Equestria. Element of Loyalty, fastest pegasus to have ever lived, Captain of the Shadowbolts… You mere presence here without political sanction is a violation of the treaty between our two nations and could start a war.”

“I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t have to,” hissed Dash. “They couldn’t pay me enough to get me to set foot in this cesspool.”

“My, my, your vocabulary has increased as well, that is certainly a surprise.”

“Keep your damn attitude to yourself,” snapped Dash, wings half open in annoyance. “I don’t even know why I came back here in the first place.”

“Well it is not a-“

“Isiana.” The deep baritone voice cut through the air and caused the gryphoness to fall silent. “Please, it has been years since we last saw our daughter. I realize you two have never gotten along, but please try at least.”

“Sorry dear.”

“Hello father,” replied Dash with an equally annoyed tone.

“Rainbow Dash. Why are you here?” There was no accusation in Silreno’s voice, no piercing look in his blue eyes. It was a simple, honest question.

“Because I need help. My friends and I are passing through, but one of them has fallen ill and we just need some medication and for Eurissa to look at her. Nothing more, nothing less. We’ll be gone in an hour or so.”

"To where?"

"The C-" Dash licked her lips. "The Silverdale Ranges."

"One more day of travel then."

Dash nodded in reply, but kept her mouth shut. It'd take another day to reach Yggdrasil if Luna's map was correct and if things were lucky. Twilight falling sick? Definitely not lucky. Not lucky at all.

“Dear, you can’t be serious about helping,” cooed the black and silver gryphon. “After all, this will be putting our entire house in jeopardy.”

“But she is our daughter and I doubt she’ll leave without the medication at least. After all, she got her bone-headedness from you.” At that comment, he got a glare from two very angry females. “N-No offense or anything. Just- Ah… erm… Food! Why don’t we get something to eat, and you can bring your friends down?”

“Males,” sighed Isiana.

“Agreed.” With a toss of her mane, Dash threw open the windows. “I take it the private dining room is still in the north tower?”

“Yes. And you better wash yourself young lady, I will not have you tracking mud through the castle!”

"Whatever." Dash zipped up to the cloud line and scanned the area, looking for that familiar yellow and orange coloration. When none could be seen, a frown creased her brow and she began flying over the area while calling out softly, “Spitfire?”

A yellow hoof stuck out of dark cloud and gave a little wave. Gently banking to the right, Dash wheeled around and landed on the cloud. A couple seconds later, the top layer was brushed away and there lay Twilight and Spitfire in a small hollow.

“So?” asked Spitfire as she placed another layer of water over Twilight’s forehead.

“They’ve agreed to help us,” replied Dash. A dark silhouette suddenly passed overhead causing Spitfire flare her wings open and crouch low in a defensive stance. Dash on the other hand merely rolled her eyes and looked up. “Yeah, yeah, real funny Carciano, now stop fooling around and get us into the North Tower.”

“You… know this gryphon?” Though she visibly relaxed, Spitfire stayed in her stance. “Can we trust them?”

“Yeah…” replied Dash with a distant look in her eyes.

“Not exactly a voice of confidence,” muttered Spitfire under her breath as Carciano landed lightly on the ground.

“Y-Y-You're Spitfire!” he squealed. “I love you! You're my second favorite Wonderbolt ever!”

The pegasus in question blinked in surprise. “I… have gryphon fans…?”

“Oh yeah, you’re an elite aerial unit after all, and responsible for some really awesome stuff,” replied Dash with a shrug. “I mean, Gilda was really into Fleetfoot. Hey Carciano, remember that time with the tickets?”

Despite the dark coloring of his feathers, the blush was clearly visible. “You promised me you’d never bring that up again!”

“Like I said, he’s good, we’re good, everything will be good,” chuckled Dash as the cloud began moving down towards the ground. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to take a shower before I get yelled at again.” With a swift buck to the cloud, it immediately began pouring rain and Spitfire gave Dash a look that could have killed.

“I just dried off.”

“Yeah, yeah, a bit of rain won’t kill you.” Shaking the water off like a dog would, Dash approached Twilight and nuzzled her gently. “Hey, Twi, just hang in there alright? We’re gonna get you some medication and get you looked at.”

The unicorn merely mumbled something unintelligible.

“Wow, she’s really don-“ Carciano’s eyes widened. “No. Way. That’s the Archmage isn’t it? Archmage Twilight Sparkle. Raid- Rainbow Dash, did you tell your pa-“

“No. No I did not.” With an irritated growl, Dash stomped the cloud. “And if they’ve got an issue with it, they can shove it up their ass.”

“Dash! That is hardly a diplomatic thing to say,” snapped Spitfire. “And you didn’t tell them? What were you thinking, this might change everything.”

“Trust me,” sighed Dash. “We’ll be perfectly fine.”

“Sorry to interrupt ladies, but we’re here,” called the gryphon from out front.

“Come on.” With a jerk of her head, Dash took the lead and together, the three managed to get Twilight into the room without jolting her too much.

“What have you done?” whispered Silreno. “Are you trying to destroy this House?”

“Please, if I wanted to do that, it would be destroyed,” replied Dash. “You agreed to help us and you never go back on your word. Remember?”

“I did not know your friends were the Wonderbolt Captain and the Archmage,” he hissed in reply before sighing. “Though I suppose it is my own fault, letting my own sentimentalities get in the way. Isiana did always say you’d lead to the fall of this House. Very well, we shall do this one last thing for you, but no more. I am sorry my daughter, but-“

“Daughter?” Spitfire whirled on me, a snarl plastered all over her face. “You’re the daughter of a gryphon noble!?”

“Don’t worry, Luna knows.” Dash simply brushed off Spitfire’s anger before turning back to face her father. “I understand and I expected as much. And here I thought that I’d be the one to finally cut all ties in the end.”

“I wish we could say that we’re sorry for the past, but I cannot. We did it for a reason, even if you disagree with us,” he whispered.

“Just another thing we will never see eye to eye on it seems.”

“The Seer is in your old room and is waiting for you. You are to stay in that room at all times and I want you gone by day break.”

“Not soon enough,” muttered Dash under her breath. “Come on, let’s get the egghead into the room and get her checked up on.”

Before she could turn away though, Spitfire grabbed Dash’s shoulder. “We are going to have a talk about this.”


“I’m serious.”

“And I don’t give a buck,” snapped Dash. “How about we focus on getting Twi back on her hooves and this mission?”


It has taken many years, but I have finally found something of significance. It was sparked by Clover the Clever’s hypothesis of bodily limitation when it comes to magical usage. She proposed the body can only withstand so much magic being channeled at once before it would begin degrading due to the amount of energy contained. I can’t remember why I suddenly thought of it, or how it came up in conversation, but it did. While this is a viable explanation, I proposed an alternative hypothesis: that the increase in magic actually acted as a mutagen and induced too many mutations for the body to repair. I have no clue who is accurate and there is the distinct possibility that we both were, so I tested it out. My conclusion is the following:

Magic can act as a mutagen at high enough levels.

Using Starswirl’s time travel spell, I managed construct a four dimensional amplification matrix by sending resonation crystals into the past with a modified spatial identification hook. Through this massive amplification of my powers, I was able to induce limited change in the pony genome, altering the basic backbone of DNA. Unfortunately, I lacked the power to make it cause a full mutation. After a minute, the mutated sections were degraded and I was left with nothing. The simplest solution is to decrease the time it takes to mutate the entire genome which therefore means an increase in power and that leaves me with a conundrum. Do I increase my power output and plunge the world into eternal night for a couple of days? Some would argue tha-

I am an idiot.

The Elements of Harmony are the ultimate source of power. In the brief window of time when I held all six against my sister, I felt an immense power beyond anything that I had ever known. Compared to them, I was an ant. Yes. That is my course of action. I shall build a devicecapable of holding, amplifying and channeling the immense power within the Elements. With this, I will finally be able to complete my research.

Chapter 4

View Online


To think the construction of an amplification matrix would take such a long time. There were so many failures, but each one was a lesson in and of itself, and I learnt from them. The Elements were far more powerful than I expected and more than once all my hard work was undone by an explosion thanks to an accidental overload of the system. However, it is my belief that this time I have finally constructed something that will work. With a bit of luck, I will hopefully finally obtain a full mutation event. Even as I type this, the experiment is running in the background with Serenity supervising it.


While the results are far from perfect, I have finally achieved a total mutation event. While some bases are obviously mutated and some chromosome segments lost, it is now a mere matter of mutating some viruses to act as vectors and simply transferring my own DNA over in order to fix up sections. It only took over three hundred years, but I am closer than ever to my goal.

Time Till Death: Three days, eighteen hours, one minute

Dash paced nervously outside her old bedroom while Spitfire just sat there with her head in her hooves, snoring softly as she dozed the night away. With a frustrated snarl, the cyan pegasus bucked the thin air before throwing a series of quick jabs and kicks. What in the world was going on in there!? Twilight woke up half an hour ago – Dash was certain she had heard Twi's voice. But every single bucking time she went to go in, she was immediately shut out. Twi even threw a pot at her! Just as Dash spun around to buck the air once more, the door clicked open.

"Twilight!" Dash slammed into the door as Eurissa closed it behind her.

"I see you're still as zippy as ever," remarked the gryphoness with a chuckle. "But please, she is sleeping, her body needs to recover."

"So what's wrong doc?" yawned Spitfire as she cracked her wings and neck. "What's going on with Twilight?"

"It is... complicated." Eurissa ran a claw through the feathers on her head. "From what I can tell, she's lost sensation in her hooves and her body is very badly worn down. I think it's the result of multiple different things all acting together to cause her current situation."

"What do you mean?" Dashed gazed at the door with a worried expression on her face.

"Using too much magic tends to give headaches and from what you've told me about her magic usage these past couple of days, there is little doubt in my mind that's what her pain medication was for. But, pain is a way of the body telling us to slow down and Twilight did not heed her body's advice." Eurissa sat down and poured herself a glass of wine. "And then she's been running a lot and with the pain medication, I wouldn't be surprised if she injured herself without realizing. Throw in the fact that you've been travelling in the cold and sleeping without any covers, she might have gotten some parasite or gotten a bad cold. Has she been sleeping at all? Because if she hasn't been getting enough rest, then that would compromise her immune system further. I've done what I can, but all I can really recommend is for her to get some much needed rest."

The two pegasi exchanged a look.

"Other than that, there's not much I can do. Don't worry, I will be brewing up some potions to help dull the pain and hopefully flush out the more common parasites, but that's about it." Eurissa threw her head back and emptied the glass in one quick motion before shuddering. "If it wasn't because this is the only alcohol around, I would never have drunk it. Bah, stupid bars being closed. Night all."

And with those words, she leapt out the window.

"Is she always so..." Spitfire made a circular motion with her hoof as she tried to come up with the right word.

"Yeah, she is," replied Dash with a shrug. "You get used to it. Good luck trying to get anything out of her when she doesn't want to tell you though, she's got a mean poker face."

"Of course." Spitfire curled back into a ball on the coach. "Now I'm gonna go back to sleep. Wake me up when Twilight wakes up or in three hours, whichever happens first. I suggest you do the same, after all, we need our rest."

Dash paused and cocked an eyebrow at the sleeping mare. On one hoof, Spitfire wasn't yelling which was always a bonus, but on the other hoof, she also hadn't begun the interrogation. Torn between asking Spitfire what was wrong and sneaking away while she was still alive, a knock on the door made the decision for Dash.

"Lady Raidi-"

"It's Rainbow Dash.”

"My mistake Lady Dash, but there is a gryphon who wishes to see you. Would now be a good time? I believe her name is Gilda."

"You're certain about that?" At his nod, Dash shoved past and immediately began making her way down. "Tell her to meet me on the balcony. Don't worry, she'll know which one I'm referring to."

"As you command Lady Ra- Dash. "If the male's bow was mocking, Rainbow didn’t notice in her rush to glide down to the level below. With a buck, the double doors slammed open and she stepped into the cool night air.



"How'd you know we were here?" Not once did the two move from the positions opposite one another.

"I've been here for a while, it was the only place I got get a decent job," she replied with a shrug.

Dash frowned.

"And don't even think about telling me you were worried. If you were, you wouldn't have tossed your best and oldest friend aside like a useless doll." She yawned and for the first time, Dash noticed just how thin and fragile she looked. "I don't need your pity or your concern."

"Why are you here?"

"I want my life back." Gilda looked Dash straight in the eye and a shiver ran down her spine. It was time like these that reminded her that her close friend was a predator. "I still haven't forgiven you, but my life is shit. Sticking with you is probably a better choice in the long run. You have pull with the high up's in Equestria. Plus, if you're here secretly then something must be up so if I help out then you owe me."

Dash sighed, but nodded, "Fine then. As soon as we get back Equestria I'll see if I can get something lined up for you. Don't you want to know what we're doing first?"

"Does it matter? You asked me to come along to begin with, so you must have thought I could handle it. It's not like you're going into the Crystal Desert or anything." There was a pause as Dash smiled awkwardly. "You are, aren't you? Fuck, you ponies are crazy. Can I at least get some sleep and food before we leave?"

"Sure," shrugged Dash. "Come on, might as well get you settled in and introduce you to Spitfire. I just know she's going to throw a tantrum over this."

"Over what?" as if on cue, an all too familiar and irritated voice came from behind them.

"This is Gilda and she's joining us," commented Dash.


"Oh shut up, this is my decision and I'm in charge of this mission," growled the cyan pegasus.

"Since when?" The two pegasi were face-to-face, foreheads pressed together as they fought for dominance. "This involves Celestia more so than Princess Luna."

"You're emotionally compromised," replied Dash with a low snarl. "You taught me that, remember? If the commanding officer is emotionally compromised, it is up to the second in command to assume leadership, using force if necessary. Out of the three of us, I'm the least compromised in this situation, so I am the leader."

Spitfire's mouth open and closed multiple times before she backed off with drooping wings and hanging head. No words were spoken as dragged herself back up the stairs into Dash's bedroom. Though the Shadowbolt took a step forward, but Gilda's claw on her shoulder stopped her.

"She obviously needs some time alone. Trust me on this, alright?"

"Al-Alright..." With one last lingering look on Spitfire's retreating figure, Dash sighed. "So, about that meal."

"Now you're talking!"

Time Till Death: Three days, sixteen hours, twelve minutes

The first thing I was aware of was small buzzing sound in the back of my head. It was annoying and made it difficult to think, but it was better than a pounding headache. With a small groan, I rolled onto my side and promptly threw up into a bucket.

"I see you're feeling better." Looking up, I could make out the blurry shape of a blue blob. "You really worried us, egghead."

With a sickly smile, I threw up yet again before collapsing back into the bed. "I feel as though I'm dying."

"Yeah well, you looked like you were dying." My eyes snapped up to the gryphon leaning against the door and I was immediately on my hooves, a dozen different spells jumping to mind. To my surprise, Dash was immediately between the two of us with her arms outstretched.

"It's fine Twi. Just relax, we're safe here."

I examined Dash's face closely and let my magic probe her for any signs of illusions or mind-altering magic. When I found none, I settled back down, and nodded.

"Wait, you're just going to trust her so easily?" grumbled Spitfire. "She's the freaking daughter of a gryphon noble! For all we know, she's secretly working with them or something."

I rolled my eyes and fixed Spitfire with my Archmage glare. "And she's also the Bearer of Loyalty. I highly doubt she'll betray Equestria in such a manner. Now, can somepony please tell me what is going on?"

The three exchanged a look, but in the end it was Dash who spoke up, "You woke up in the middle of the night whimpering in pain and coughing up blood." Her eyes darted down. "And now puking up blood as well. We didn't know what to do and you'd run out of pain medication so I brought you here for Eurissa to look at. She had to pump you full of pain medication before you fell asleep."

"And that's not an exaggeration," Gilda looked like she was rather proud. "That was some strong stuff and you took to it like a champ. Remind me to never get into a drinking competition with you."

"Gilda," snapped Dash.

"Hey, I'm just saying," she replied with a shrug. "Now, are we going or what? Thought you were on a deadline or something."

"Gilda..." I tiled my head to the side, trying to figure out where I had heard that name before. With a shrug, I turned my attention back to Dash. "So she's joining us on this mission?"


"Does she-"

"Nope,” replied Dash and out the corner of my I saw Spitfire mutter something under her breath before turning away. "But I owe her a favor and she can help out since she was born here."

Nodding, I climbed out of bed and swayed unsteadily on my hooves. Dash took a step forward, but I merely shook my head and pushed her back. Though my knees threatened to buckle and my entire body burned, I stayed on my hooves and began stretching my sore muscles. A quick glance out the window told me it was still night, and trotting up to the window, I looked up at the night sky. With the wind billowing through my mane, I gazed out at the Silverdale Ranges and their snow covered tips.

"We're leaving," I said as I tapped a hoof against my head. Absolutely no sensation, it seemed things were degrading faster than I expected. "We'll run to the base of the mountains and then I'll teleport us straight to the other side."

"She's joking. Tell me she's fucking joking," said Gilda. "Listen here, I don't care how powerful you are, but there's no bloody way a unicorn like you will be able to teleport across the mountain range, let alone carry others with you. That's just insane."

I couldn't help myself; I burst out laughing as though it was the most hilarious thing I had ever heard. Truth be told, it probably was. After all, what else do you call a mare that was deliberately, slowly killing herself? Maybe I wasn't Pinkie's brand of insane or Discord's, but I was still insane.

"Insane?" I managed to choke out between chuckles. "Last year's Grand Galloping Gala."

At that both Dash and Spitfire broke out into laughter. Well, Spitfire chuckled and Dash was on the ground, rolling around while clutching her stomach. All the while, Gilda just stood there looking at me curiously.

"O...kay...?" With a shrug of her shoulders, the gryphoness tossed my backpack at me. "I thought you said we should get going."

At the tinkering from within, I opened up my bag and peered inside. Pulling out a vial of red liquid, I held it up to the light and swirled it around.

"Oh that? That's your new medication." Dash slowly crawled back onto her hooves. "It'll probably taste like crap, but a mouthful should do the trick. Highly durable glass too, so it shouldn't smash at all."

“Oh… right…” Uncorking it, I took a large mouthful and fought back the urge to throw up. Dash’s cooking tasted better than this. “Time for us to go then.”

“Dude, did you just see that?” Gilda had a shocked expression on her face. “Does she lack taste buds or something?”

Dash could only stare at me wide eyed as though I had grown a pair of wings or something. Instead of walking towards the door, I simply threw open the window and climbed onto the ledge. I grinned back at them before jumping out, only to land on the balcony below. Momentum carried me up and over the railing, and in a flash, Dash was there, carrying us both to the ground. Instead of yelling at me though, we merely shared an adrenaline fueled grin and as soon as my hooves were back on the ground we were off again. Each step was like another hammer blow as I forced my sore body to move despite the very vocal protests it made. A quick glance over my shoulder told me the others were easily following. Though their wing beats were laborious, not once did they slow down.

Eyes narrowed, I focused on the mountain range that loomed before us. I ignored the pain, I ignored the others, I ignored everything except that mountain range and the image of Celestia in my mind. Of her tall and proud and regal, with her mane billowing through the air and her wings stretched. Of her leaning forward, one elbow on the table, the other hoof gesturing in the air as she gave a passionate speech to the other council members. Of her mischievous smirk as she planned yet another way of getting out of the Gala.

I will not let you down.

Time Till Death: Two days, twenty hours, forty-two minutes

“Alright, I’ve held my beak shut for hours now,” panted Gilda, “I want to see you teleport us to the other side of this mountain range.”

“Come on G, panting already?” Dash did a small backflip in the air. “I seem to recall you saying that the day you lose to a pony in an endurance race is the day you’re no longer a gryphon. I take it you won’t take me up on my offer to race you?”

“Shut up.”

With a shrug, Dash landed next to me and nudged me playfully. “Alright egghead, show us what you’ve got.”

Gilda snorted in amusement, earning her a glare from Dash.

"Stop playing alpha you two," snapped Spitfire. “Come on, the sooner we get this done the better. We need to make camp and settle for the night.”

“Hey! Are you calling me stupi-“

Gilda was cut off as I grabbed them with my magic and dragged them close. My lungs were burning, my limbs felt as though they were about to snap off, and I was dirty. Sweat, grime, dust, dirt coated my entire body from head to hoof. I was no Rarity, but even I had my limits. I took a quick gulp of the potion and grinned at them.

Keeping a tight grip on them, I opened the floodgates and let my magic pour out. For the first time in a very long time, I let myself completely go and lost myself in the gentle rocking of the waves. I could feel my mane lifting off my body. I could smell the static electricity in the air and feel the slight charring of fur. The pressure built on my body, compressing me from all sides as I kept the power locked up within me.

And then, I released it all at once.

One second we were on the grassy plains before the mountain range and the next, we were on a ledge overlooking a desert. I immediately collapsed onto the ground, deep heaving breaths shaking my entire body as I attempted to block out the pain. Once more I grabbed the potion and though it trembled in my magical hold, I managed to get it to my lips before my magic faltered completely. Draining it completely, I tossed it back into my bag and Dash knelt down next to me.

“You alright?” The way Dash’s face scrunched up in concern was probably one of the cutest things I have ever seen.

“I’m fine,” I replied with a small chuckle. “That teleport took too much out of me though. I think I drained myself dry.”

A low whistle interrupted whatever it was she was about to say and we all turned to face Gilda. “Damn, I didn’t think you’d actually do it. But I think subtlety was definitely lacking.” She pointed behind her at the magenta pillar that was slowly fading into nothing. “Every gryphon would have seen that. By Tartarus, they probably saw that in Canterlot.”

Spitfire shook her head and sighed. “Well it couldn’t be helped. Teleporting past that mountain range had always been our plan and we’re technically outside of gryphon territories now. Plus, it’s not like they can say who did it other than a pony.”

“Yeah, because all gryphons are idiots,” muttered Gilda. “Anyways, are we making camp here or what?”

They all glanced down at me, and with a sigh, I forced myself back onto my hooves. Or at least I tried to. With a frown, I tried again and though I managed to raise myself off the ground a little bit I immediately collapsed back down. Sweat rolled down my brow, and I bit my bottom lip until I drew blood, but no matter how hard I tried, I was stuck on the ground.

“Um… oops…?” I smiled sheepishly up at them. Dash just looked concerned and Gilda looked as though she was expecting it, but Spitfire looked down at me in disgust and annoyance.

“I thought I told you to not overdo it,” growled Spitfire as she rubbed her forehead. “Fine, we’ll make camp here.”


“Don’t you dare apologize.” At the harshness in her words, I looked up at Dash in surprise. From the expression on Gilda’s face, I wasn’t the only one either. “You have absolutely nothing to apologize for.”

From the other side of the camp, Spitfire’s snort was audible.

“Oh shut it!” snapped Dash before she let her gaze drop down to me and they immediately softened. “Come on, Twi, let’s get you cleaned up and settled in. Can you walk? No? No problem.”

Before I had a chance to process what was happening, Dash had someone managed to get me onto her back and was now carrying me towards one of the more sheltered areas of the ledge. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see Gilda’s slack jawed – slacked beaked? –expression and I buried my burning cheeks in Dash’s mane. Soon they were out of sight and Dash put me onto the ground as gently as she could manage. With her water bottle in mouth, she began pouring it over my face and chest to wash the grime away.

“Dash!” I tried to raise a hoof to stop her, but I barely managed to raise it an inch off the ground. “That’s for drinking, there’s no water in the desert. You need to save it.”

“Then stop me egghead.” Though the water in my eyes, I could just make out Dash’s cocky grin.

With a pout and whine, I was forced to close my eyes as she began scrubbing the dirt out of my fur. Sure, she didn't use a lot of water, but still! Stupid, stubborn Rainbow Dash. Eventually though, she must have figured I was clean enough for she sat down next to me.

"Wouldn't want you to get sick now, would we?" she remarked with a wry smile.

I simply nodded slowly and gazed out the expanse of purple crystals that lay beneath us. Out the corner of my eye though, I could see Dash looking down at me with an indescribable expression on her face. It was clear something was on her mind, but what? Probably just concern.

"Hey Twi?" she whispered softly.

"Yeah?" I turned my head to look her square in the eye.

"Um..." Dash suddenly turned away and looked down at the ground before her eyes slowly gazed up. "About that... um... private talk...?"

"Hm? Oh!" A sheepish smile appeared on my face. "I had totally forgotten about that. Sorry..."

"Don't sweat it, Twi." Dash gave me that self-confident grin of hers only to fall silent once more.

After a couple seconds of silence, I looked at the pegasus curiously. "Dash?"

Her eyes snapped back into focus as she blinked "Sorry, just zoned out there for a second."

"I thought that was my job," I chuckled weakly. "After all, I am the egghead."

To my surprise, Dash merely gave me a small smile and merely sighed in response. "Yeah... yeah you are..."

"Dash?" A frown creased my brow, and though she tried to put me at ease with an easy smile, it only served to increase my tension. "You know you can talk to me about anything. Right?"

"Yeah... Yeah, I know..." A sigh escaped, fogging up the air before us. Was it really that cold? Huh, I didn't feel a thing and I'm half wet.


"It's just... you know I'm not good with feelings and these types of things." Her smile was caught somewhere between a grimace and a love struck one. "It's just, this entire journey has gotten me thinking. Do you ever think about love? Do you ever catch yourself thinking about what it'd be like having a relationship or even yearning for one?" Now her words spilled out in a torrent, each sentence getting faster and more agitated than the last. "I mean, all of our other friends have either found somepony or have dated somepony. But us? We're still single. Always have been and... I dunno."

Dash lay down on the ground, resting her head on her hooves as she gazed out over the desert. "I just wonder what it'd be like and if I'd ever find somepony to call mine. You know? Don't get me wrong, I'd probably be the worst mother in the world, but... I look at how happy they are and I want a bit of that. You know?"

All the response she got was a curious tilt of my head.

"I... suppose?" Each word was spoken slowly, allowing me to formulate my thoughts before voicing them. "I mean, I haven't really thought about it or anything. Love... Love is something I'm just not interested in, not really. All it does is get in the way of study and research, and it's not something I want in my life right now. There's no time for it and I see no need to have it."

"Just like friendship?"

I opened my mouth only to slam it shut again as I glared at the pegasus, but she was too busy rolling on the ground laughing to notice my glare. Damn it Dash! At least let me give you my glare, I put a lot of practice and research into perfecting it. Try as I might, I just couldn't stay mad at her; there was just something about her laughter that was so infectious. Not in the same Pinkie's joy could spread though. With Pinkie, you just couldn't help yourself, but when it came to Dash, it was as though you just couldn't see how silly and stupid you were being. Pinkie was all about laughing with friends, but with Dash it was all about laughing at yourself. Laughing at the absurdities and contradictions.

"Yes..." I smiled at her, even as the muscles in my face protested. "Just like friendship."

Once more we lapsed back into silence.

"Twi... Twilight..." It was only when I looked over at her that I realized she was holding my hoof in hers. "What I want to say, that is, what I need to say is... well..." She blushed and looked away.

No. Please, no. Not now. Not this. Anything, but this. Please.

"I was wondering if you wanted to go out with me some time..."

Mouth suddenly dry, I could only stare at her in shock before croaking out a single word, "Why?"

"Because you're cool. You're loyal. I mean, hay, you throw yourself into the most absurd situations where you could lose a limb or worse and you somehow get out of it every single time. You dive in head first, making up plans as you go and saving others without a second thought about yourself. Heck, you bought a bucking greed dragon down! And...well... I respect that. And admire that. You do things because it is the right thing to do and you don't let anything stop you." She got that far away look again. "I mean, sure, I'm the jock and you're the egghead, but... I'm willing to give it a shot. I think it could work."

And then she looked down at me with those rose eyes of hers and asked that one question I had been dreading. "So? Will you be my marefriend?"

"Dash..." I willed my arm to move so I could place a reassuring hoof on her shoulder, but all I managed to a small twitch. "Look, I appreciate you asking, but I don't really think this is the right time to be discussing this."

Her face fell and I could see the barest shimmer of tears along the corner of her eyes.

"I'm not saying no," I quickly added and her face immediately lit up with hope. It was like a knife to my gut and I quickly looked up to the night sky so that I wouldn't have to see that expression anymore. "But I'm stressed, you're stressed, everyone's stressed and stress is known to affect judgment. Can I tell you my answer once we get back? I'd like to look at this objectively."

"Of course Twi." Her breath tickled my ear and looking at her in surprise, my eyes widened further. Dash's head was resting on my shoulder and her entire body was pressed up against me with a wing wrapped around my body. When had that happened? I didn't remember her being so close, in fact I couldn't even feel her body next to me.

I stared down at my hooves, but no matter how hard I tried, they wouldn't move an inch. And it was only then that the truth dawned on me: I was paralyzed.


I have done it. A single alicorn filly with pink fur, purple eyes and dark violet mane with rose and gold streaks in it. No doubt Luna will find the color combination absolutely ghastly, but I am afraid any more tinkering will result in yet another failure and there have already been too many of those. For now I shall keep her mind asleep, allowing her body to grow, but nothing else.

For the longest time, I've dreamed of this moment, but now it's actually here, I find myself doubting myself. After all, this is a life I've created which makes me its mother, albeit in a non-biological sense. I've constantly thought of her as a body with no mind of her own to speak of, but now... How can I be so heartless as to look at this beautiful filly and say the mind that inhabits it does not have a right to grow? Of course, this is just a backup plan so it is not as though she will be used in such a manner, but still.

No. Luna matters more. Luna is more important. I must bring my dear sister back to me. Oh Luna, am I doing the right thing?

Chapter 5

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Cadence. That is the name I have given to the little filly I created. Somehow, despite all the precautions I took, she has managed to develop a mind and conscience of her own, and I fear I will be unable to continue in my line of work for much longer. How could I just wipe the mind of such an adorable little filly? Even if it is my sister we are talking about.

There is little doubt in my mind that Serenity is involved in all this. She has disapproved of my actions since the beginning, but grudgingly followed along out of loyalty to Luna. But now? Now she has made her move, and truth be told, I can't fault her for it. I've been so intent on bringing Luna back that I was willing to toss my morals out the window on a whim and as an eternal ruler, there are few things I can or should sacrifice. But I have already come so far, done so much. Am I really so willing to let it all slip through my hooves so easily?

I... I don't know. For now I shall take Cadence under my wing and keep her safe in this facility. I believe I need some time to think through what I should do.

Time Till Death: Two days, twenty hours, sixteen minutes

"So, will you be my marefriend?" asked Dash, a hopeful expression on her face. After all, Twi hadn't shrugged her off when she wrapped a wing around the unicorn's body and if that wasn't a good sign, nothing was.

"Dash..." began Twilight, but the pegasus could already hear the sadness in her voice and she knew what was coming. Though her mouth kept moving, Dash didn't hear a word as her world came crashing down around her. This wasn't how it was supposed to be! She was the coolest, fastest, awesomest pony ever. She should be able to get any mare she wanted.And truth be told, she had fangirls falling for her left, right and center. So why couldn't she get the one mare she wanted?

"-time to be discussing this. I'm not saying no," she added and Dash's ears immediately perked up at that. "But I'm stressed, you're stressed, everyone's stressed, and stress is known to affect judgment. Can I tell you my answer once we get back? I'd like to look at this objectively."

With a small nod, she rested her head on Twilight's shoulder. "Of course, Twi."

And so the two sat there, staring out at the night expanse and the crystals that shimmered under the moonlight. It began not as a sound, but the ghost of a whisper. It tickled at the back of Dash's mind, like reaching for the memory of a forgotten dream, and no matter how she tried to focus on that itch, she always came up with empty hooves. As the seconds passed, the unease grew until the pegasus could take it no longer, and turned to Twilight, only to stop with her mouth hanging open.

Twilight was... she was... crying...?

Silent tears rolled down her cheeks as the unicorn stared at her hooves. Now that Dash knew where the sound was coming from, it echoed in her mind, beating her again and again over her own stupidity.

"Twi...?" she asked hesitantly.

"I-I-I'm fine." Though Twilight smiled, it was closer to a broken mask than anything else. "I'll be fine. I-I can do this. It is worth this. Everything is worth it. I-I've come t-too far."

"Twi? What's wrong?" Dash wrapped her forelegs around the unicorn's neck, pulling her into a tight hug. For a couple of seconds they stayed like, staring each other in the eye, then Twilight glanced down and burst out sobbing once more.

"I-I can't. I'm sorry, I don't think- I can't do this. Not anymore." With each chocked out word, Dash's coat was saturated a bit further. "Don't hate me. Please don't hate me. Please..."

"Come on egghead, tell me what's wrong," pleaded Dash as she awkwardly brushed Twilight's mane.

Dash wasn't a stranger to consoling ponies, after all, she had been Fluttershy's friend since fillyhood and Flight School had not been the kindest place. Heck, she had even seen Pinkie when she went totally loony on her! There was even the time AJ completely broke down at Granny Smith's funeral. But none of those compared to seeing the purple unicorn break down before her eyes.

Twilight had faced dragons, routed out changelings, saved a town from an avalanche while coming down with the gryphon flu. She saved Equestria more times than Dash had hooves and was the only pony who ever dared to get in a shouting match with Princess Celestia and Luna. Twilight Sparkle was the strongest willed mare Rainbow Dash had ever known. Yet here she was, crying her eyes out like a little filly. It tore at Dash's heart to see Twilight like this, and try as she might, no matter what she said or did, nothing helped at all. All she could do was hold Twilight close and whisper comforting words in her ear.

"What's going on-" All it took was a glared from Dash to shut Spitfire up. Beside her, Gilda looked on curiously and with a hint of anger.

Silently, Spitfire walked on over and laid a comforting hoof on Twilight's shoulder. After a couple minutes, the unicorn finally calmed down enough to breathe properly and she looked up at Dash with a shaky smile. Then her eyes flicked across to Spitfire's hooves and the tears began again.

"Hey, stop glaring me!" Dash's glare remained trained on Spitfire. "I didn't know that'd set her off!"

"Ponies," muttered Gilda as she began walking away. "Come on Spits, let's get going."

There was a moment of tense silence, only punctured by Twilight's continuous sobbing as Spitfire constantly glanced between the gryphon and the ponies. Then, with one final sigh, she gave a parting nod to Dash and followed Gilda, leaving the two alone once more.

"I can't do it," Twilight whispered yet again as though it was some sort of mantra.

Again and again she said it, the words blurring together, and it took all of Dash's will to not break down as well. Since when had Twilight ever said she couldn't do something? Since when did Twilight Sparkle ever give up? And worst of all, there was nothing Dash could do, except hold Twilight until whatever was bothering her finally ended.

Eventually though, she finally calmed down enough and just lay in Dash's arms, hiccupping every so often as her tears finally dried. Though the pegasus' front was entirely soaked through, she didn't mind one single bit as she gently rocked Twilight's while humming a soft tune.

When Twilight next spoke, the moon was already high in the sky. "I-I'm fine now. I think I'll be alright." A tear stained smile, but no less beautiful. "I'm sorry about that. Just kinda... broke down I guess..."

"Twi, what is going on? You've been talking about sacrificing yourself for Equestria, and then you've got the pain medication, and just now you broke down!" Dash's eyes widened as she whispered, "Y-You're dying aren't you?"

"No!" Twilight winced as her voice echoed through the mountains. "No, I am not dying. I've just got a... genetic disease. It will eventually leave me paralyzed and... I'm scared, Dash. I don't-" She looked to be on the verge of tears yet again.

"Hey..." Dash nuzzled the unicorn lightly. "We're not going to leave you. None of us will leave you. We're friends remember? And that would be the single uncoolest thing ever. AJ, Pinkie, Fluttershy, Rarity... None of them will leave you either. We'll always be there for you and we'll always be your friends."

"T-Thanks." For the first time that night, Twilight had a genuine smile on her face. "It's just this mission has brought on so much stress and... well... Looks like I'm paralyzed now."

"W-What!?" Wings flaring wide open, Dash recoiled in shock. "I thought, that is, you made it sound like it wasn't happening now. Not that, that changes anything," she quickly added as Twilight's face fell once more. "You just surprised me was all. But why now? You were healthy befo-"

"I wasn't." Twilight sighed as she looked away. "I've been seeing a doctor for the past couple of months and I had already lost sensation in my hooves and hind legs before coming on this mission. I guess the stress and stuff just made it happen faster."

"Twilight? You are one of the most insane mares I've ever met," chuckled Dash, though there was a bit of bitterness in her voice. "But how could you not tell me about this! We're your friends, we would have helped!"

"I didn't want things to change," whispered the lavender pony. "I wanted us to keep going on adventures, and having fun, and parties, and... I suppose I didn't want to be treated differently. As though I was suddenly fragile, like a porcelain doll."

"Oh Twi, for such a smart pony you sure are stupid sometimes." Once more Dash gave Twilight an affectionate nuzzle. “You’re still Twilight aren't you? I mean sure, we'd probably look out for you more, but you took down a bucking dragon! I don't think anyone can call you fragile for that and if they did, you'd probably send them to the moon."

"I don't send ponies to the moon. Celestia doesn't send ponies to the moon. Nopony sends ponies to the bucking moon!"

"Heh, yeah. You just turn them into potted plants instead."

Twilight opened and closed her mouth multiple times before she finally resorted to slamming her head against the ground.

"Come on Twi, no killing brain cells." The two sat in silence for a while as the moon watched. "So what now? What do we do? We can't just leave you here..."

"Cloud walking spells plus a cloud," replied the unicorn with a shrug. "What else can we do?"


"Yeah Dash?"

"You're telling me the truth right? You haven't left anything out?"

"Of course not." To Dash's surprise, Twilight leaned over and nuzzled her lightly. "I'm telling the whole truth."

"Al-Alright." Still flushing red, the pegasus stood up. "I have to tell the others about our situation, so..."

"Go. I'll be here waiting." That got a dry chuckle from both of them. "Try not to kill Spitfire."

"Depends on what she ends up saying," replied Dash. "But I'll try."

After a couple seconds of silence, Dash spoke up once more, "Do you- do you want anything? Should I move you closer back to camp or...?"

"I'm fine. I'm paralyzed, not an invalid," replied Twilight with a small smile. "I've still got my magic you know."

"Right! Sorry." Dash exhaled. "I'm just stuffing up aren't I? And I thought I was the one that was meant to be keeping your spirits up."

A soft caress across Dash's check made her head snap to the left in surprise just in time to see Twilight's magic fading. Then it came back in full force and the pegasus closed her eyes, leaning into the touch ever so slightly. How had this happened? How had it gone from comforting Twilight to being comforted herself so quickly and easily?

"Thanks, Twi," whispered Dash as she finally forced herself to step away from the unicorn. "I'm just gonna go talk to Spitfire alright? I'll be back before you know it."

"I know. Go already," chuckled Twilight. "What happened to Rainbow Dash? This insecurity and uncertainty does not suit you at all."

"Hey! Are you insulting me? You're insulting me, aren't you? I'll have you know, this pony is certified one hundred and twenty percent cool." Just to prove her point, the pegasus did a couple quick jabs and kicks at the thin air before striking a pose. For a few seconds they managed to keep their composure, before they both burst out laughing.

Then, with doubt still lingering in her eyes, Rainbow Dash finally pulled away and began her slow trudge back to the others. Every couple seconds she would glance back at Twi just to make sure she was still there, and that she was fine, and that nothing terrible was going to happen the instant she turned away.

Eventually though, Twilight disappeared out of sight and Dash began trotting despite the protests of her sore muscles. With her ears twitching, she began scanning the area for the others, but couldn't see or hear anything. This was stupid! It was a ledge so it's not as though they could be hiding anywhere in particular. She didn't have time to waste looking for them, not when Twilight was on the verge of breaking down.

With a sigh, Dash took the air and began sweeping the area in a grid pattern in an attempt to locate them. Considering one was bright yellow, the extremes she had to go to find them were starting to get on her nerves. Where in the bucking world could they have vanis-

"-part of 'go away' do you not understand?"

Dash came to a sudden halt as she scanned the air for any sign of her companions.

"Considering I'm a 'stupid, uncultured gryphon,' let's go with, all of it," replied Gilda.

"Ha! Well let me put it a way you can understand then, fuck off," growled Spitfire. "I don't want to talk to anypony right now, especially a gryphon I don't even know."

"Even good ol' lovable me? Come on Spitfire, spill. I'm just some random gryphon who has no precon-something-or-rather about you, so I'm as good as they come."


"Yeah! That word... I think." Dash looked around, but still couldn't find the source of their voices. "I mean, you're in love with Dash, it's obvious."

The cyan pegasus blinked in surprise and hovered in midair. After a couple of seconds, she saw a tuft of red from below, hidden beside some leaves. Dropping down into the tree, Dash sat peaked through the foliage and saw the two sitting on the ledge below.

Spitfire was in love with her? Had a crush on her? A part of Dash was giddy that her idol actually had feelings for her, but that part was quickly squashed by her feelings for Twilight. Still, Dash had to admit that Spitfire was hot. Toned, muscular, and looked spectacular with a wet mane, but... The spark wasn't there. Not really.

"I-I am not!"

"Uh, yeah. You are. I swear, Dash is the blindest pony I have ever met, but even she should have noticed." Gilda sighed. "I suggest you just give up on the fantasy. Dash isn't into jocks, she prefers the whole sexy librarian look, and the entire nerds are into sexual fetishes line."

Dash's cheeks burned and it took all her willpower not to run away or find somewhere to hide. Preferably somewhere she would never be found again.

"What?" asked Gilda,"You're not the first one to fall for her."

"You mean-"

"Yeah." Gilda ran her claw through her drown feathers. "Look, just as advice from one aerial specialist to another, give up. It sucks, but suck it up."

Ears flat against her skull, Dash winced as that little secret came out. At least Gilda didn't say any more on that matter, both their reputations would have been ruined if those secrets came out.

The gryphon opened her wings, stretching them a couple of times, and just as she was about to take off, Spitfire laid a hoof on her shoulder. "Why are you telling me this?"

There was a pause. "Whatever dweeb, I'm outta here. You can keep your pony drama to yourself." With a shrug, Gilda took off into the air and Dash immediately slipped back into the tree in an attempt to keep herself from view. Below her, Spitfire continued to stare at the previously occupied space, her hoof still hanging in midair. It took almost an entire minute before Spitfire shook off whatever was on her mind and took off back to camp.

Staying absolutely still until their wing beats could no longer heard, a sigh of relief escaped as Dash finally stretched her cramped wings. After a couple more seconds, the pegasus let herself fall out of the tree and with two easy flaps, circled around to the left of the camp and dropped down from above.

"Hey Spitfire!" she called, trying her hardest to act casual and ignore the Wonderbolt's tear stained cheeks. "I've got bad news."

"Great. What is it this time? A wyvern?" she muttered under her breath before speaking louder, "Involving Twilight?"

"Heh, yeah." Dash rubbed the back of her neck awkwardly. "Turns out she's paralyzed."

"What!?" The yellow pegasus was on her hooves in an instant, all sense of self-loathing gone. "How?"

"Some sort of genetic disease thingie," replied Dash with a shrug. "I dunno."

"Genetic disease my flank!" Spitfire shot off into the night with Dash close behind her. "Never heard of a genetic disease that acts that quickly."

All of a sudden, Spitfire tucked her wings in, did a forward flip and hit the ground on all four hooves, skidding to a stop while Dash blasted past unable to stop herself. By the time she managed to slow down and turn around, Spitfire and Twilight were already in the middle of a heated yelling match. Both sides shouted at each other, and though the unicorn could not move, she still managed to seem larger than life.

"What the buck is going on here!" yelled Dash as she forcibly shoved the two apart. "You two have been at each other's throats this entire journey so calm down!"

"No genetic disease acts so fast," spat Spitfire.

"And I told you, it started before we began this journey," growled Twilight.

"A likely story." Spitfire took half a step forward. "Even then, it wouldn't have acted as fast as it has. Nerves don't suddenly die."

"Oh yeah!?" Their faces were inches apart. "And what would you know about medicine Miss Spitfire?"

"Well I know fa-"

"Enough!" Once more Dash was forced to shove them apart. "Does it matter how it happened? The fact is that ithas happened and it's here to stay. We've just to work with it. Alright?"

The seconds slowly ticked by as Spitfire stared at me before she began walking away. "Whatever. I take it we'll be using a cloud walking spell?"

"Correct," replied the unicorn and Dash winced at the use of her Archmage voice.

"Alright. As long as Princess Celestia won't be endangered by this." Before vanishing from sight, she stopped and looked over her shoulder. "You know, if you realized this might have happened, you wouldn't have come on this mission in the first place. Instead you would have found a suitable replacement, but as is, you've just screwed us all over. If the Princess dies as a result of this, I hope you burn in Tartarus."

Dash mouth fell open. Never in all her years as a fan of the Wonderboltshad she seen Spitfire act so venomously. Yes, she did occasionally snap at reporters, but what she just did was downright cruel. Even when she was accused of sleeping with the Wonderbolts’ captain when she first joined, she didn't act like that. But that wasn’t important right then. Whatever her issue was, that could wait.

Dash opened her wings and wrapped one gently around Twilight. "Come on Twi, don't listen to her. She's just stressed out."

The only reason there were no tears in Twilight's eyes was probably because she had used them all up earlier. Instead, she buried her head in the crook of my neck as she mumbled, "But it's true isn't?"

"Of course not! “Dash’s wings flared open for extra emphasis before she wrapped them around Twilight again. "How many unicorns would have the brains to figure out how to remove that anti-magic thingie? How many unicorns could do three long-range teleports per day? Come on Twi, you did the calculations, and while I didn't get it – the details I mean! While I don't get the details, I do get end result. Without you, we wouldn't have even made it half way in time."

"Y-You actually listened?" That got a small chuckle out of Twilight. "I thought you had dozed off halfway through."

"Well I never said I didn't," smirked Dash. "What can I say? Napping takes skills."

"Apparently so." Twilight smiled and leaned into the pegasus' grip. "Thanks Dash. You know, if somepony told me a day ago that you were actually a real softie under all that, I would have laughed at them."

"H-Hey!" For once, Dash thanked Luna that it was night for it hid her blush. "I'm not a softie. One hundred and twenty percent pure coolness in the flesh and I can tell you, coolness is not soft. It is hard. Hard like... er... steel!"

There was a beat of silence before Twilight burst out laughing. "Don't worry, I promise to keep it a secret." She winked playfully. "It'll be our secret."

"Thanks Twi." A sigh escaped as Dash shifted slightly to get comfortable. "But like I was saying, we couldn't have done this without you. We couldn't have gotten this far without you. So no doubting yourself, alright? Princess Celestia is the single most important pony in Equestria and for what it's worth, I think you did the right thing. The loyal thing, and trust me, I know something about loyalty."

Though she rolled her eyes, Twilight had a smile on her face. "Yeah, yeah you do."

"So no more second doubts, you hear?" A light nudge from the pegasus followed by a pair of big, adorable eyes. "No more getting down or crying. You did the right thing and I'll support you all the way."

"Thanks, Dash." Once more that sweet smile. "Thank you."


Everything now lies in ruins. Eight hundred years of hard work rendered useless in one bright flash of magical surge from Cadence. She managed to destroy the container storing the viral vectors and pathogens I had been using to examine alicornian immunology in hopes of finding cures for various diseases. There is little doubt that she has been infected by them and is now sick as a direct result of that. I, myself, am currently being tested, but it seems as though it has not affected me in any manner or form.

Simply put, I fear Cadence is dying.

Worse of all, it seems to a mutated strain with particular lethality to alicorns and absolutely no effect on normal ponies. Even as I write this, I am creating a second alicorn so that I can infect it with the pathogen in an attempt to obtain antibodies from which I can then synthesize the cure. Currently I have used the four dimensional amplification matrix to place Cadence in a slower temporal space in addition to the usual antibody cure developed for ponies in an attempt to slow down the infection, but I fear this is just a delaying tactic.

I pray I can save Cadence in time.

Chapter 6

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Even as I write this, my quill is shaking thanks to the amount of magic I have been forced to use. This morning, I was barely able to raise the sun and I fear that continuing this path will lead only to ruin.

But I cannot stop.

I managed to create a second alicorn foal, and by speeding up time, I managed to mature him to a suitable age before infecting him with the virus. Even with the precautions I took though, he succumbed to the cursed thing and died within the day. While I could infect myself with it in hopes of surviving long enough to obtain antibodies, I have a duty to Equestria that I cannot forsake, no matter how much I may wish to.

However, that is not to say the venture was a complete waste of time. I believe I have identified the relevant protein markers, as well as which cells the virus targets. Though I have limited evidence, I have a hunch that an alicorn-pony hybrid will provide the antibodies I seek. With alicornian genetics, the cells will hopefully have the receptor proteins necessary for the virus to infect, while the different antibodies present in pony will be able to stop the virus.

Or at least, that is my hope. I don't even know if it is possible to create a pony-alicorn hybrid simply due to the defense mechanism in alicorns, but really, what other hope do I have left? I have exhausted all potential avenues. Please, Harmony, let this work. I can't lose Cadence as well.

Time Till Death: Two days, seven hours, forty-one minutes

"Come on, Twi, wakey-wakey." Dash nudged the sleeping mare with her snout. "We need to get going now."

Twilight mumbled something unintelligible.

"Come on." Another nudge and still nothing. "Fine, be that way," she said as she took the sky. A second later, Dash was back with a raincloud. "Last warning, wake up or suffer."

"There is so much wrong with this," sighed Spitfire as she sipped her bottle of water. "When Rainbow Dash has to wake Twilight up, you know something is wrong."

"Tell me about it," grumbled Gilda as she rubbed her eyes. "First time I've seen her awake before midday of her own free will and with no assignment due."

"Hey! I'm not that bad." Two amused looks were directed in Dash's direction. "Alright, so maybe I am, but that's not the point. And she's still not awake yet, is she?"

"Nope," replied Spitfire and Dash tried to ignore the jealous look directed at her.

"Sorry Twi, but this has to be done." All it took was a single swift buck for the cloud to empty out all its water on the poor mare causing her to shriek out.

"What th- Dash!" A pair of violet eyes glared up at the pegasus. "I'm going to get you for that!"

"Yeah, yeah, whatever egghead," chuckled Dash as she bought the cloud down. "You over slept so now you're gonna have to eat on the go."

"I thought you were meant to wake me up," said Twilight.

"She didn't want to disrupt your beauty sleep," said Gilda, causing Dash to blush. "Plus, it's not like you actually have to run or fly or whatever."

"What they said." Spitfire trotted up beside the others. "We've still got some dried fruits and hay left." Behind her and out of sight, Gilda made a gagging action. "It'll last us another day or two, but that's about it."

"Alright, alright, let me cast the cloud walking spell." Her horn came to life, but instead of the strong glow, it spluttered and was barely visible under the morning sun. Sweat began dripping down her brow and a pained expression appeared on Twilight's face. After a couple more seconds, she collapsed onto the ground with a gasp. "That took far more effort than I thought it would. The magical interference is already making simple spells hard to cast. We need to adjust our plan."

"You had a plan? Could have fooled me." For that comment, Gilda got a smack on the back of her head from Spitfire. "Ow..."

"What's your suggestion?" asked Spitfire.

"A single teleport as far as I can get it," replied Twilight. "The further we go in, the harder it will be to cast magic and therefore, the less distance I'll be able to teleport. Therefore, to maximize distance, I should do one massive teleport now, and since we've got the cloud, we should still make decent time."

Spitfire frowned as she mulled it over. "Very well. Do you want to eat something first?"

"I'm fine," replied Twilight. "Hey Dash, help me onto the cloud will you? If everyone gets on it, I'll have a clear teleportation boundary and that'll make everything easier."

"Alright." Dash knelt down and draped Twilight's arm around her shoulders. With her wing wrapped around the unicorn to keep her stable and close, it was only a matter of time before Twilight was on the cloud. Rather than let go, Dash laid down next to her and the others soon joined them on the cloud. It was cramped, limbs were in awkward places and more than once, Dash felt something rub up against her flank far too suggestively for her liking.

"Everypony ready?" asked Twilight before smiling sheepishly and adding, "And gryphon."

"Finally! Do you know how ra-"

"We don't care," snapped Spitfire. "Sorry, I seriously need a vacation before I snap and kill some po- gryphon. What can I say? It's been a long week."

"It'll all be over soon," whispered Twilight before adding in a louder voice, "Everyone ready? Good."

Dash had seen Twilight perform a variety of miracles in the past, but she had never stood so close while the unicorn actually cast those spells. Dash had tamed storms, shattered tornados with a well-timed rainboom, and fought off blizzards, but none of that compared to what she was experiencing now. A pressure unlike any other pressed on her from all directions, she could feel an intense searing heat on her back and all she could see was white. Within the cornea of magic, the smell of electricity dominated everything.

At the same time, there was a sense of calmness. A loving whisper and caress as Twilight's magic wrapped her up in thick wool blankets on a cold winter's night. Here, in the center of the magic, it reminded Dash of being in the eye of a storm. Then she felt it. That split second before she performed a sonic rainboom, where everything seemed to slow down and come to a halt. A moment where a single second stretched out and everything could be seen in excruciating detail.

Then the explosion came. For the briefest of moments, Dash was blind to the world, then her sight slowly came back to her followed by her hearing. It took a couple more seconds before the cyan pegasus realized that she had fallen over at some point and a quick glance at the others told her that they hadn't fared much better. The only one that seemed unfazed by the whole ordeal was Twilight, who slowly drifted back onto the cloud while chugging another bottle. As soon as she was back down to earth, she closed her eyes and began to doze off.

"Um..." Spitfire and Dash exchanged a confused look. "Twi must be more tired than I expected."

"Looks that way," said Spitfire. "Come on, let's get this thing in the air. How far did we travel anyways?"

"Far enough that I can just make out the mountain range," replied Gilda as she squinted off into the distance. "Also, I think she burnt some of my crown feathers!"

"Since when did you care about your appearance?" asked Dash as she dropped behind the cloud and began pushing it up. "Also get your fat ass down here and help. Hey Spitfire, can you direct it from up front?"

All it took was a second for the switch around to take place and soon they were up in the sky, travelling along at a speedy pace.

"You know, I could have led," said Gilda with a grunt as she gave the cloud a hard shove. "And seriously, how heavy is this mare?"

"Yeah, but this way we can talk private," replied Dash.

"Yeah well, who says I want to talk to you at all?"

"Fine, I'll talk at you then! Damn it, that came out wrong. Just... listen, alright? That's all I ask." When Gilda didn't say anything or run away, Dash pressed on. "I just wanted to say sorry alright? You were my oldest friend and I ditched you just like that, and that was totally uncool of me."

There was a moment of silence where the only thing that could be heard was their slow, labored wing beats.

"That it?" said Gilda. "After nearly ten years, that's it?"

"You know I'm bad at this stuff," shrugged Dash. "Plus, you are getting a job out of this. If Twi helps, I could probably get you into the Shadowbolts or Wonderbolts. You'll probably have to audition, but if you still fly like you used to, you'll get in."


"Oh, come on," Dash sighed as they finally reached cruising altitude.

"A simple 'sorry' isn't a miracle word you know."

"I know!" The pegasus shook her head. "I just don't know what to say. I royally bucked up alright? Look, I know we're not on good terms, but I do want to be your friend again."

Hopeful magenta eyes met golden eyes and after a long second, Gilda broke eye contact. "Whatever dweeb, I'll consider it. If you can prove to me you're cool enough to associate with me."

"As long as it doesn't mean ditching my friends or acting like a jerk," came the immediate reply.

"Yeah, whatever."

Silence descended once more. There was no talking, only mindless flapping as the scorching sun slowly wore them down. Though it had been less than an hour, Dash's fur was already soaked with sweat and her mouth was dry. Even after a deep drink from her water bottle, her mouth still tasted like ash. The worst part was the reflections from below as the purple crystals sent the sunlight back up at them, making it difficult to see in the best of situations.

Eventually though, they were forced to stop for lunch and took turns resting on the cloud and eating before dropping back down and continuing. Not once did Spitfire look at Dash or even attempt to communicate with her. The Wonderbolt stayed up front by herself, barely tolerating Gilda when the gryphon decided to get a change of scenery, but considering everything was a uniform pale brown with splotches of purple, it didn't really make that much difference. Not once did Twilight stir.

Dropping back next to Dash, Gilda sighed. "Look, you're an idiot alright?"

"Wha-What!?" There she was, expecting Gilda to apologize or something, and instead the gryphon decides to say that?

"Just listen, damn it!" She ran a claw through her crown feathers. "You need to stop egging the unicorn on, alright?"

"No! You want me to tell her to stop trying and for her to be sad? What the buck is wrong with you? As far as I'm concerned, Twilight is doing the right thing," snarled Dash.

"Whoa, calm down lover girl." Gilda sighed and looked up at the sky. "Look, she's dying alright? The more she uses magic, the more she dies."

"Wha-What?" Alarmed, Dash looked over at the sleeping mare before growling at Gilda, "This is some twisted joke. Twi-"

"Just think about it for once in your life, you idiot!" If it wasn't because they were busy pushing a cloud along, there was little doubt in Dash's mind that a fight would have broken out. "I know that you like her, but come on! I thought you'd want to stop her from dying."

"Hey, it's genetic, there's no way to stop it."

Gilda snorted. "Yeah right. One second she could run and was perfectly fine and the next she can't even stand. Fucking Tartarus, the only way that could possibly happen so fast is if someone severed her spine. I mean, fuck, I've only been with you one day and I already know something's wrong with that unicorn. Think about it! One teleport and then she's suddenly paralyzed. She's fucking killing herself!"

"So what? I should take your word over hers? Come on G, neither of us paid attention in school and Twi is the smartest pony ever. Don't tell me Spitfire put you up to this. Seriously, that mare is going out of her way to make Twi's life a living Tartarus."

"Shouldn't you at least be curious as to why she's hiding something from you?" asked Gilda.

"Even if she is, she probably has a good reason to do so." If Dash wasn't so bone dead tired, she might have shrugged. "I'm Loyalty, remember? That means trusting others and them trusting me."

They continued in silence.

Finally, Gilda broke the silence. "So you know?"

"I know something's wrong, but I don't know what," sighed Dash as she turned a weary eye to her oldest friend. "And I don't want to jump to conclusions, you know? She's my friend and I respect her choices. All I can really do now is let her know that I'm there for her. I'd never leave her hanging, but it's not loyalty if I just force her to tell me, you know?"

"So you're fine with Twilight killing herself?"

"She's not killing herself!" The two stared at each other, completely oblivious to Spitfire's confused glance back or the stirring unicorn. "Twilight is not that stupid and she'd tell me if she was. I trust her."

"I doubt she'd tell you if she was," remarked Spitfire. "You are Loyalty so you'd probably stop her."

"I wou-" A frown creased Dash's brow.

"Not so simple, is it?" The mocking tone in Spitfire's voice made Dash growl. "Would you honor her decision or would you fight it? If you tie her up, how would Celestia survive? Loyalty to a friend versus your oath to a nation."

"There's a third option," said Dash after a couple seconds silence. "There is always a third option."

"Good luck finding it," replied the Wonderbolt.

"So what? You're fine with Twi just killing herself!?" Dash spun on Gilda, her eyes still filled with anger. "Both of you are perfectly fine with this!"

"Not my friend," replied Gilda with a shrug.

"I made an oath to Celestia and to Equestria." Spitfire paused before adding, "Plus, Twilight made her choice and I'd honor it."


"You know, I used to look up at you," Dash spoke in the ghost of a whisper, "I used to think you were the coolest pony ever. I idolized you. I never thought you'd let a pony die just so you could get a shot at their marefriend."

Everything froze.

"W-What did you say?" said Spitfire as she stared at Dash's teary eyes.

"You heard me." Still that impossibly soft whisper, but so much rage just boiling beneath the surface. "You're willing to let Twilight die just so you can have a shot at me."

"Why- You- I- Tha- GAH!"

Next thing Dash knew, a pair of hooves connected with her chest. Flung back, her wings worked desperately to regain her balance. Just as managed to get her bearings, Spitfire slammed into her back, sending Dash towards the ground. In the blink of an eye, Dash felt hooves connect on her from all sides before she was finally pinned to the underside of the cloud. Blood filled her mouth as Spitfire smashed Dash's muzzle. Before the second blow could land, Gilda tackled Spitfire out of the way.

The cyan pegasus spat out the blood, hovering there while she clutched her side. Each breath sent a bolt of pain through her body and each flap of the wings was enough to make the corners of her vision blur.

"Fuck you," spat Spitfire, "and here I thought you were actually worthy of being a captain." After a second, she added softly, "And a friend."

"Spitfire..." Dash made to glide closer, but Gilda shook her head.

"Look, just- Do whatever it is you need to do," sighed Gilda. "I'll take care of this mess."

"Why didn't you stop her sooner?" asked Dash as she landed on the cloud.

"Because you deserved that." Not once did Gilda look the pegasus in the eyes. "You're a fucking idiot."

"Whatever," mumbled Dash as she began examining her wounds. Nothing seemed to be broken, but she'd bruise everywhere. With a groan she moved to the front and began dragging the cloud along while Spitfire and Gilda chatted at the back. Well, less chatted and more flew in silence, but at least Dash was safe from getting beaten up.

Even though they flew in silence, and even though Dash knew she was right, Spitfire's final words still echoed in her mind. It kept pounding on her head, a mocking reminder of her own stupidity. There had been no reason to say that aloud, even if it was true. Stupid Spitfire with her stupid, silly hatred that didn't make a lick of sense.

A light snore drew Dash's attention to the purple mare.

Was Twilight really killing herself? Now that Gilda had said it out loud, it kept haunting her thoughts, never giving her a second of respite. But then again, Twi had no reason to do that, and if she did, there'd be no reason to not tell Dash. Plus, Twi wasn't that stupid, and there was no reason to believe it wasn't genetic. It was just some silly story made up by Spitfire in an attempt keep them apart, that's all. Yeah, that was it! Spitfire was just jealous of their budding relationship and was coming up with all sorts of stupid and silly stories to keep them apart. Trust and loyalty were foundations in a relationship after all, so might as well undermine it now. Well it wasn't going to work. Dash knew what was going on now and she wasn't about to fall for it.

Half leaning on the cloud to support her weary body, Dash forced her wings to keep going despite the pain that each wingbeat brought with it. Add on the sweat and blood, and Dash was not a happy at all. Then again, she never became a Shadowbolt to be happy. She became a Shadowbolt to serve Equestria to the best of her capabilities. Her life was forfeit for the greater good, something that she had come to terms with a long time ago, when she first became the Bearer of Loyalty.

Whatever. She was going to trust Twi on this, after all, loyalty went both ways.


Perhaps she should talk to Twi. If she was killing herself then... Then what? What in the bucking world could be done? Or rather, what should be done? Honor Twilight's wishes or act against her desires? Save Twilight or save Equestria?


For a brief second, the chromatic pegasus thought she it was merely a trick of the wind. It was only when she saw Twilight looking up at her with bleary eyes that Dash realized the truth and leaned in close.

"Hey there." A reassuring smile was directed at the sick unicorn. "Feeling better after that nap?"

"Yeah..." Her voice was weak, barely above a whisper. Although she looked straight at Dash, it felt more as though Twilight was looking past her or something. Kinda like what it felt like when talking to Ditzy. "Can I get some water please?"

"Sure." With slow, tender movements, Dash poured some water into Twilight's mouth. After a couple greedy gulps, Twilight pulled back and closed her eyes once more.

"Thank you," whispered the unicorn. "How long till we reach our destination?"

"Soon," replied Dash. "We're gonna need your magic soon, if you feel up for it."

Twilight gave the barest of nods. "Tomorrow. I should have enough magic tomorrow to dispel the illusion. We'll want to get as close as possible before I do so though, I don't think I'll be able to cover as large of an area as I first estimated."

"Whatever you say egghead."

Dash glanced up at the sky. "It's almost dinner time... Do you want to eat something now? You missed lunch you know." A frown creased her brow. "And breakfast now that I think of it."

"Not hungry," mumbled Twilight.

"Come on, you have to eat." Rainbow Dash never pleaded, but for once in her life, she was that desperate.

"Fine," sighed Twilight. "Mind passing something over."

"Um..." Dash looked over her shoulder, trying to figure out how to contort herself to make it work.

"You're really pathetic aren't you?" sighed Gilda. "I'll take care of this too. Damn it Dash, how did you manage to survive without me?"

"Shut up," snapped Twilight. "Don't insult Rainbow Dash."

"Whatever dweeb," replied Gilda as she dug out a bundle of hay. "Now do I need to feed you as well or can you do it yourself?"

At Dash's low growl, Twilight shook her head. "I'd prefer it if Dash fed me actually."

"Tsk. Fine." Hopping off the cloud, Gilda took the reins from Dash. "Your marefriend needs you."

"She's not my marefriend!" Twilight, and Dash yelled as one.

"Whatever, last time I try helping out," said Gilda as she passed the food over. "Just make sure she doesn't kill herself or something. We need her."

"Yeah, yeah." As soon as her hooves touched the cloud, Dash collapsed in a heap. Every single fiber in my body felt as though it had been tortured for days on end.

"You alright?" asked Twilight.

"Just sore," lied Dash. "Now open wide."

All she got in response was a flat look.

"Heh... alright, sorry." With a tenderness rarely seen, Dash began feeding Twilight. It took far longer than necessary and it was only when Spitfire began directing her glare at Rainbow Dash did the cyan pegasus finally stop doting on Twilight.

"Come on, we've still got a long ways to go," barked Spitfire.

"Yes ma'am," Dash sighed wearily. With a small parting smirk to Twilight, Dash dropped back and began pushing the cloud along once more. The only difference was, she was now doing it with Spitfire and she could feel the anger just rolling off the Wonderbolt. It was hard to tell which burnt more, the sun or the mad mare.


I have done it. Over two dozen failures, but I have finally created an alicorn-pony hybrid. I do not know how long she will survive so I must act quickly. Normally I would wait for her to mature before infecting her, but I fear waiting will result in her death like the last one. My only hope that my over-zealousness will not result in her death when waiting an extra day would grant me the cure I so desperately desire.

Though it pains me to use this purple unicorn in such a manner, I have no choice in this matter. I've already lost Luna, I will not lose another alicorn for as long as I live. Cadence... Cadence is special. Not only to me, but for Equestria as well. This way, if I were to die, there will would at least be a successor to the throne.

Chapter 7

View Online


I fear Cadence is near death. Despite my best attempts at slowing down time and treating her, they have all been futile. At the same time though, the unicorn has not yet died despite me speeding up time, so there is still hope. Any second now, I expect Serenity to announce signs of recovery, allowing me to proceed with the next phase. Despite this apparent success, I have created a second filly, just in case a recovery does not occur.

There is little left for me to do other than sit and wait, but despite that, I find myself in this room every moment I have. It is fortunate I recently appointed a steward, or this would not have been possible at all. The anti-magic spell Luna and I put up is not helping matters either; without it, I would have expended less than half the magic I already have.It is highly doubtful that I will be able to continue this endeavor for more than a day if the anti-magic field stays in place. I fear I will soon be forced to choose between keeping the defenses around this area up and continuing my search for a cure. It is a choice I do not wish to make if possible, but if it comes down to it, I only hope I will make the right decision.

Time Till Death: Twenty-three hours, ten minutes

"Twi? You ready?"

"Of course." For a fleeting second, Dash thought there was something more in those eyes. "Ready everypony? Plus one gryphon."

"Heck yeah!" Gilda said, "I wanna see some awesome magic already!"

"Well then, watch and learn," smirked Twilight.

Twilight's horn lit up like the sun. With Dash on one side and Spitfire on the other, the unicorn just managed to stay upright. Power swirled around the trio, caressing their bodies with the hand of winter as the familiar hum began building. The temperature dropped till the moisture in the air condensed and a single beam fired straight down. Hitting a crystal formation below, it refracted, sending threads of light out in all directions. Again and again it hit the crystals, each time causing the beam to split up even more until a massive symbol lay on the ground. All that power was suddenly redirected upwards, and Dash found herself engulfed in magenta light. Even with her eyes squeezed shut, all she could see was magenta. Her fur stood up on end, and the static electricity sent jolts through her body.

The light faded, the temperature returned, and Dash hit the cloud with a thump. After a second of just lying there, she slowly crawled back onto her hooves and shook the ice out of her fur. Dash immediately looked to the right to see if Twilight was alright, only for the words to fly right out of her mind as she stared at the massive tree before them. It loomed above them, blotting out the sun and sky, and for once in her life, Dash felt insignificant. She could fly up there right this instant, perform a sonic rainboom right next to the tree, and the explosion would have been swallowed up whole. It'd have been like a single manufactured thundercloud next to a storm from the Everfree Forest.

It was larger than Canterlot Castle. It was larger than the mountain Canterlot resided on. The simple truth was, nothing Dash had ever seen came close to matching this... this thing in sheer size.

And perhaps most surprising, it looked like a tree. Not a sickly tree about to fall over in the slightest breeze, but a proper, healthy tree. In the middle of a magical nullifying desert. Even Fluttershy would have been surprised at that revelation.

"Whoa... dude, that is..." Gilda's beak opened and closed a couple of times as she tried to come up with something adequate. In the end she just settled on, "Duuuuuude."

"Your vocabulary is awe inspiring," said Spitfire as she gazed up at the structure before them. "But that really is something. That must have been some intense magic to keep it hidden."

"What'd you expect? Twilight is the best there is, isn't that right, Twi?"

No response.

"Twi!" Dash rushed over to the unconscious unicorn. "Twi, you alright?"

Not even a twitch.

"Twi?" Rainbow Dash began shaking the unicorn. "Come on, wake up."

Spitfire shot Gilda a look.

With a sigh, Gilda translated, "Still nothing?" Then she turned on Spitfire with a flat look. "And what am I? Some glorified, feathery translating thing!? Talk to her yourself, damn it."

This time it was a glare.

"Shut up you," muttered Gilda. "Hey Dash, any progress with your marefriend?"

"She's not my bucking marefriend!" Dash ran her hoof through her mane. "And bucking Tartarus, I know Spike complains about waking you up in the mornings, but this is just ridiculous."

"No! If you want to say something, talk to her yourself," yelled Gilda. "I will not be your messenger."

"Will you stop fighting!" said Dash as she glared over her shoulder. "I'm trying to work here."


"Thank you." The tension eased out of her shoulders as Dash stared at the unicorn. "Um... your diary got sent to Princess Celestia by accident!"


"You're being banished back to magic kindergarten! How about, you failed your last assignment. No? Crap. Um... If you don't wake up right now, your schedule will be thrown out of wack and you'll have to reschedule everything? Discord is back? Your brother is secretly a changeling in disguise, and Cadence is actually an illusion? You were adopted?" Dash swore under her breath as nothing seemed to work. "The library needs reshelving? Someone returned a book damaged? You're going to be tardy? Nothing? Seriously? Come on!"

"You kn-"

"I know we can't continue if Twilight doesn't cast her damn spell!" snapped Dash before her eyes widened when she realized it was the first time Spitfire had spoken to her in a day. "Um... oops? Sorry..."

"You really are an idiot aren't you?" sighed Gilda. "Hey Spitfire, want to kick the idiot around some more? I promise to stand back this time."

"Shut up," growled Spitfire as she landed on the cloud next to Dash. "I've been trying to get over my anger issues, and you're not helping."

"Come on Twi, wake up." No matter how hard Dash shook though, she never got a response. "I just don't get it! Her pulse is normal, her breathing is normal, everything about her is normal, but she just won't wake up." There was a prickling in Dash's eyes, but she ignored it.

"Wait!" Gilda shoved Spitfire off and took her spot on the cloud. Reaching out with a claw, she began waving it in front of Twilight's face. "Her eyes are tracking my movement."

"What?" Dash immediately shoved her face before Twilight's, just staring at violet eyes before her. "Twilight?"

The cyan pegasus watched as Twilight rolled her eyes in a manner that was far too familiar. The few times Dash and Twilight worked together, she had quickly gotten accustomed to seeing that eye roll and wry smile whenever a stupid question was asked. Of course, there was no smile now, and that only served to act as another knife through Dash's heart.

"W-What? How?" Dash looked up at Spitfire with tears in her eyes, and for once, the Wonderbolt seemed at a loss for words. "This is a joke right? Some horrible, bad joke?"

No one dared to reply.


The voice was bare above a whisper, like a projection of a forgotten dream.

"Twilight?" Rainbow looked down at the prone unicorn even as tears began spilling over the edges of her eyes.

"I'm sorry..."

After a long, agonizing minute, Dash finally managed to choke out, "Because Celestia is everything, right?"

The barest of nods. In fact, Dash wouldn't have been surprised if it had been her imagination toying with her.

"Oh Twilight, you stupid, stupid egghead." Dash gave up all pretenses and tears leaked freely. "Y-You've been killing yourself haven't you? To get here. Y-You've..."

To everyone's surprise, it was Spitfire who broke down completely. She collapsed onto the cloud and began sobbing into Twilight's chest as she kept apologizing over and over again. It was hard to make out what she was saying, but considering the way she had treated Twilight the entire journey, Dash didn't need to be a genius to figure it out.

The glow that surrounded Twilight's horn was barely visible, but with her weak magic, she managed to raise her hoof to touch Spitfire's cheek. No words were spoken. No words needed to be spoken. Instead, the two pegasi just hugged Twilight as close as possible while we cried until no tears were left.

"I helped you didn't I?" whispered Dash as they drew back. "Those questions, all of those questions and when you broke down last night. I- I egged you on, didn't I?"

Rainbow Dash was no stranger to pain. But this... this was beyond anything she had ever felt before. Getting poisoned by a chimera, squashed by a dragon, being struck by lightning – none of those even came close to the way her heart was ripping itself in two.

She had done this. In the end, the ultimate cause of Twilight's death was Rainbow Dash. No matter how she tried to twist it or look at it, that was the truth of the matter. The Element of Loyalty had killed her own friend. Ha! Loyalty indeed. If anything, that just caused the cyan pegasus to chuckle sadly as she kept sobbing. She had killed her friend... her crush. If she hadn't said anything, then Twilight would have lived. Twilight would still be alive, but...

"It's not so easy, is it?" whispered Dash.

Princess Celestia or Twilight Sparkle? The foundation of society or her best friend and potential date? When Twilight asked that first night so long ago, the answer seemed so clear and so simple. Anything, absolutely anything was worth keeping the Princess alive even if that meant self-sacrifice. But now? Now she found it impossible to repeat what she had said. Now that Twilight was the one dying, Dash wanted to scream and yell and argue till her throat was raw.

But that wouldn't change anything, now would it? Dash could see it clear as day in Twilight's eyes. That determination, that spark, to keep on doing what she had done and to see it to the end. It was a look and sensation Dash was intimately familiar with. There was absolutely no doubt in her mind that no matter what she did or said, Twilight would soldier on. And would probably turn her into a potted plant if she complained too much.

Damn it! She was meant to be Loyalty. She was talking about herself, not Twilight, not Magic. Why did the stupid egghead have to go on and do this?

But... Dash already knew the answer. After all, she had all but told Twilight to keep going. It was Dash that told Twilight sacrifice was the right choice. It was Dash that comforted Twilight upon that ledge overlooking the Crystal Desert. All the signs were there. The migraines after teleporting, the pain medication, the coughing up blood, the... the...

Tears leaked down Dash's face as her hoof slammed into the cloud.

It was all there. It was clear as day. How could she have been so blind? Looking back, it stared Dash straight in the face, and worse of all, it was obvious even before the journey. All those times Twilight went to the doctors, how she scoured books on obscure diseases, how she went to Zecora, and so many more memories. For every tear Dash cried, there was another clue just waiting to be reflected in those droplets. So many memories, so many hints, but every single last one was missed.

Some friend she was. A friend would have seen the signs. A friend would have tried to figure out why Twilight was asking all those questions. A friend would- A friend would have... A friend would have seen it. There was really no point in denying it now, not when it was staring Dash straight in the face. She was a bad friend. There was nothing else to say really.

Talk about loyalty.

And then there was a spark. An inkling of an idea that slowly grew with each passing second, until it consumed Dash's entire being. Twilight wasn't just her friend, Twilight was so much more than that. Twilight Sparkle was the Element of Magic. Sure, Celestia was the ruler and foundation of Equestria, but without Twilight, who would have stopped Nightmare Moon? Who would have rallied everypony and taken down Discord? Who would have figured out Princess Cadence was actually an imposter? Without Twilight, Equestria would have been overrun and there would no longer be an Equestria.

A small chuckle escaped.

By that very same logic, it meant Twilight was more important than Princess Celestia. By that same logic, Dash's oath to protect and serve Equestria to the best of her ability also meant it was her duty to save Twilight's life. After all, without her, how would they be able to stop future evils? Therefore, loyalty demanded Dash to save Twilight's life even at the cost of Princess Celestia's. It was her duty to save Twilight.

A wave of giddiness swept over Rainbow Dash as the cloud touched the ground. Without even a second though, Dash hauled the unicorn onto her back. If Twilight tried anything, it was her duty to stop the dumb unicorn. No intensive magic allowed. As one, they stepped off their transport and just stared at the structure before them. Now that she was actually up close, Dash realized the entire thing wasn't natural at all. What she had thought was bark and leaves, was in fact metal plates. The entire thing was made out of metal, and yet it swayed in the wind just like a real tree.

"So... how do we get in?" asked Gilda.

"Twilight? You up for it?" asked Spitfire.

"Always," came the faint whisper.

"How is she talking anyways? She's fucking paralyzed." Gilda followed Spitfire's gaze and faceclawed. "Right. Magic. Shutting up now."

For the briefest of seconds, Dash hesitated, then she knelt down next to the wall with her flank touching the cold metallic surface. After all, only Twilight would know what to do once they actually got inside, so it was unlikely she'd risk her life right now when the goal was just on the other side of the door. With Spitfire's help, they managed to turn Twilight's head and insert her horn into a hole in the wall. Light immediately began radiating outwards, forming a pulsing web of silver and gold that stretched up past the sky.

Then there was a soft hiss and the wall slid open, revealing a door. Nothing, but darkness beckoned. With a cautious hoof, Dash took the first step in, and like some scene from a sci-fi Daring Doo fanfic, the walls began to glow with the same light as outside. While it was still dim, it was enough for them to safely walk down the corridor. There was no dust, no rubble, and every surface was spotless. The mere fact that it was so clean gave Dash a sense of unease. Although Luna told them the place was safe, none of them dared speak and all of them tread carefully. Eventually they reached the end of the corridor and the door slid open of its own accord.

"Okay, that's just freaky." Gilda pulled out her dagger. "Is something watching us?"

"Luna said it would be safe..." Spitfire's voice wavered slightly as she said that.

"Who cares, we have to hurry," said Dash as she stepped into the open room. "Come on Twi, hang on a bit longer and we can get back before you know it."

As soon as Dash's hoof touched the marbled floor, the entire area immediately lit up causing the group to shrink back. Body tense, Dash blinked rapidly to clear her vision, but nothing attacked. The entire place was as silent as ever. All that could be heard was their heavy breathing and pounding hearts.

The room was absolutely massive, easily three or four times the size of Canterlot’s throne room. At the center of it was a pillar of swirling rainbow light, and around it were weird glass panels like windows that floated in midair above metal tables. It was too high for a pony to comfortably use, even while on hind legs, and the chairs were also oddly high. Perhaps alicorns used them? Twilight did say something about Yggdrasil being the birthplace of Celestia and Luna or something like that.

Slowly, the group crept forward with their backs to each other to keep an eye on the entire area. Still nothing came. No enemies, no monsters, no gloating villain. Sure, this wasn't exactly a Daring Doo, but that was all Dash had to go off of, and considering Nightmare Moon, Discord, Chrysalis, and who knows how many other villains they had taken down over the years, it seemed reality agreed.

"Okay, this place is pure creepy. Can we please do whatever it is we're doing and get out?" asked Gilda as her wings unfurled, ready to take to the air at the slightest movement.

"Agreed, I don't trust this place at all," whispered Spitfire. "Twilight, you mind telling us what to do?"

"Um... I don't recognize any of the equipment here. Luna said it would be straightforward, but this is all so alien to me."

"What!?" Spitfire looked murderous. "Fuck!"

"I can still work it though. Hopefully. Dash, touch the bench for me." With every word she transmitted, her voice grew softer. There was little doubt in Dash's mind Twilight was close to falling unconscious again, but what else could she do? Celestia only had so much time left.

Doing as she was asked, Dash touched the metal surface and the glass panel before her immediately lit up with weird symbols and diagrams. The letters looked similar though. All it took was a bit of squinting and a little tilt of the head, and it almost looked like words. With a quick glance over her shoulder, Dash watched as Twilight's eyes darted from left to right, obviously reading whatever it was. Probably some boring ancient script for how to make hay fries.

"Am I the only one that feels as though we're being watched?" asked Gilda as she pulled out her second knife.

"I've been feeling it too. It's like an itch I cannot scratch," said Spitfire. "How's it going back there?"

"Horrible. I know what the words say, but I don't know what they mean. It's like... like Dash reading a scientific article. They're words that I know, but it doesn't make any sense to me," sighed Twilight.

"But you know it right?" asked Spitfire.

"Of course she does," snapped Dash. "Otherwise how could she know she doesn't understa..." Dash's jaw dropped as extra words appeared on the screen. "Twi, did you just do that?"

"N-No. They're... definitions of some of the words and terms..."

"Shit!" Gilda spun around, knives at the ready. "Come out, we know you're there!"

Only silence greeted her words.

And then, a voice emerged from thin air, "Welcome back, Experiment 15332, I am glad to see you in such good health."

"What? Stop speaking gibberish! We've taken on a dragon and we can take you on too," yelled Dash.

"Experiment?" Spitfire looked up thoughtfully. "One of us was an experiment?"

"Correct. I take it you were not informed of this?" A whirling sound filled the air and red dots appeared on everyone. "Now, please state your purpose and intent. This is a government facility, and you are trespassing."

Dash opened her mouth, but Spitfire immediately cut in, "Princess Celestia is sick and we need a cure. Princess Luna directed us here to find the cure."

"Of course," replied the voice and the red lights vanished. "It is fortunate Celestia sought to retain multiple vials of the cure in case of such emergencies, it shall be ready in a couple of minutes."

"That was... that was easy," said Spitfire. "I must be too used to something going wrong. And just who are you?"

"My name is Serenity, and I am the caretaker of this facility." A green light passed over everyone, making them jump back defensively. "I apologize, that was a bioscan to inform me of your current conditions, as I detect one of you is sick. Do you know the reason for it? Perhaps there may be a cure within Yggdrasil's database."

"R-Really?" Dash looked around the room, trying to find the source of the voice. "That'd be awesome! Come on Twi, tell her your symptoms and she might be able to match it up with some disease or something." She finally turned back to Twilight and all the happiness drained out of her system. If anything, Twilight's eyes looked even deader than before.

"There is no cure, I know what's killing me and there's nothing I can do to stop it." Her voice even sounded hollow. "My... condition is the result of me channeling so much magic into my spells, overloading my nervous system. By this stage, I wouldn't be surprised if even the weakest of spells would cause irreversible damage."


"Really now, there's no need to be so melodramatic," interrupted Serenity. "Your nerves are in a sorry state, but nothing says you'll be dying. From what my scans have revealed, it's clear that you will survive. In fact, with the database and technology I have, stem cell therapy could easily be carried out as long as Celestia agrees to it."

The group exchanged a confused look, but it was Dash who spoke up, "Stem... cell therapy? What is that? More experiments? Was that what Experiment..."

"Experiment 15332," supplied Spitfire.

"Yeah, was that what that experiment was about?" finished Dash.

"No it was..." The feminine voice hesitated. "That was something else."

"Cut the crap!" yelled Gilda. "One of us is that experiment you mentioned, so just fucking tell us already. Whoever it is deserves to know!"

"Very well, if only because the subject deserves to know. The experiment was an attempt to find a cure to the very disease that has now struck Celestia. That was all."

"Yeah right," growled Gilda as she took to the air. "If that was it, then you would have told us that to begin with. There's more, isn't there!"

A sigh echoed through the empty room. "Alicorns are immortal, viruses should not be able to infect them, and yet one has. That is the big secret, for it could be utilized as a weapon against Equestria, and that would be disastrous."

"Is that... is that even possible?" Spitfire was paler than flour. "To use diseases like that? As weapons?" A shudder passed through her body. "The number of ponies that would die from that. The number of innocents..."


"So who is it?" asked Gilda, completely ignoring the tension. "I'm guessing either Dash or the unicorn."

"It's Twilight, isn't it?" asked Spitfire. "After all, she's the one currently sick, which could have been caused by the experimentation."

"Is... Is it true?" This wasn't the white hot anger Dash was used to feeling, instead it was as though she could see clearly for the first time since the journey began. "Was Twilight the experiment subject? Is her current condition caused by the experiments?"

More silence.

"Answer me, damn it!" screamed Dash as she glared all around the room. "Come out here and show your fucking face so I can fucking buck it in!"

"That is highly implausible, as the last time Experiment 15332 was seen, she was in perfect health. If it was the result of the virus, she would have been dead within a week. The virus in question in incapable of entering a lysogenic cycle. Twilight Sparkle's condition was not caused by the experiments, if the experiments were conducted on her," replied the voice.

"But that's not a 'no'!" Dash bucked the table in the middle, and hissed in pain. "Was Twilight the experiment or not! She deserves to fucking know!"

"Dash... it's fine," whispered Twilight.

"No! It's not fine. You deser-"


Shoulders drooping, all the anger evaporated and Dash plopped down next to Twilight. With a wing wrapped lightly around the unicorn, a tender nuzzle passed between the two.

"Sorry," whispered the pegasus.

"It's fine."

The silence was suddenly shattered by a loud beeping sound followed by a hiss as a hole opened up on the table and a weird needle thing filled with a clear liquid slid out. It looked like an 'L' shape with a barrel on top and some sort of hook-trigger lever along the short arm while the needle stuck out of the long arm.

"That's the cure?" Spitfire examined it from all angles. "I've never seen a needle designed like this before..."

"Talons," said Gilda as she held up her right claw. "Look at it, it's designed for claws. That bit there looks like a trigger for the index claw, and the rest wrap around the short side. Huh, looks pretty damn comfortable to hold actually."

"The gryphon is correct. It is an ancient design, but the only one available. It should be easy to manipulate using magic, for Celestia never had any difficulties using it." A sigh echoed through the room. "It is a shame I do not have a vial of her blood. The virus may have mutated, which may render the cure less than viable."

"A vial like this?" asked Spitfire as she held it out.

There was a pause followed by a very flat, "Yes."

"Um..." Spitfire looked around for a place to put it.

A tube came out of the table. "Place it in the container please."

The four exchanged a look, but Spitfire gently placed it in like the voice asked. It immediately closed and disappeared down the hole it appeared from. New pictures and words appeared on the screen.

Before the minute was even up the, the voice spoke once more, "I have good news and bad news. The bad news is the original antibodies won't work, the virus has mutated. The good news is we can synthesize a cure."

"Within a day?" asked Spitfire.

"Yes. But only if Experiment 15332 agrees," said the voice.

"And this pony is...?" Spitfire eased up to Dash, ready to restrain her if necessary, but Dash glared at the Wonderbolt and kept out of reach.

Serenity sighed once more. "The one you call 'Twilight Sparkle' is an experiment. She was created here, in this facility for the sole purpose of being able to create the antibodies necessary to stop this virus."

"You bitc-" began Dash, but Twilight immediately interrupted.

"Do it," came the strained whisper.

"What? No! It'll kill you!" yelled Dash and the sudden movement sent Twilight tumbling to the ground.

"Will it?" asked Spitfire in an obvious attempt to diffuse the situation.

"There is a ninety-six percent chance of dea-"

"You bitch!" screamed Dash.

The cyan pegasus leapt into the air, only for an orange and yellow blur to slam into her. Dash crashed to the ground, the air leaving her lungs. Rolling with the momentum, she slammed her hind hoof into Spitfire's stomach and threw Spitfire over her head. One hoof clutched at her stomach while Dash drew in a lungful of air. In the air hung Spitfire, not a trace of pain anywhere in her expression.

"Dash, please..."

"No! I won't let you die, I- There must be another way!" Not once did Dash's gaze waver from Spitfire.

"There isn't." Spitfire's equally intense gaze met Dash's. "Equestria needs Celestia."

"Shut up!" yelled Dash. "Just shut up! Who defeated Nightmare Moon! Discord!? Travelled to Tartarus and helped sealed the gate with the Elements of Harmony? Twilight Sparkle is the Bearer of Magic, and without her, Equestria would have been lost ten times over. Tell me, where was Celestia during all that? Where was Celestia when the Elements of Disharmony popped up? Where was Celestia when the remnants of Nightmare Moon tried to use the crystals in the Crystal Empire as an amplification matrix to destroy us all! Where in the fucking world was she!? And Twilight? Twilight united us, Twilight saved you! Without her, Equestria would no longer exist. That makes her far more important than Celestia."

"You're insane," growled Spitfire. "Celestia is the foundation of Equestria. Without her, Equestria would crumble into dust."

"Ha! Just like the gryphons right? Oh wait, they seem to be doing perfectly fine without an immortal ruler." Spitfire actually reared back slightly at Dash's biting retort.

Spitfire snorted. "And the gryphons have wars, corruption in government, and a famine."

"Or, you know, there's the other princess. Remember her? Starry mane, dark blue coat, a moon for a cutie mark? Luna, I think her name is?"

"Luna isn't able to run this country."

"Who says? When was the last time you even gave her the chance? You really think Celestia's running everything? Ha! I've been on more missions for Luna than you have ever run. Princess Luna is perfectly capable of running Equestria."

"Luna is distant at best and cold at worst." The two pegasi glared at each other. "She doesn't have the personality necessary to lead Equestria, nor does she have the rapport with the other nations."

"That's a lie and you know it," growled Dash. "Luna was the one who drafted and negotiated that treaty with the dragons."

"That doesn't matter! Celestia is the only one capable of leading a nation, and Twilight is the one that can save her!"

"Of course it matters. Our duty is to Equestria and without Twilight, Equestria would have been destroyed!" Foreheads pressed together, neither side gave an inch. "What if something happened again in the future? Twilight needs to stay alive."

"If Twilight dies, the Element of Magic will find another bearer," replied Spitfire as she dug her hooves in. "If Celestia dies, there will not be another. Luna might make a passable monarch, but Equestria is diarchy and it must stay that way."

"Why? Celestia seemed to do fine by herself for a thousand years. You’re grasping at straws, just admit it."

"Celestia created this nation. Celestia has ruled since its birth. Celestia will keep ruling even after we're dead and buried and forgotten. We will die, but she will not. She will allow Equestria to flourish far more than any of us can ever dream of."

"You're wrong!"

Dash's right hoof snapped out, narrowly missing Spitfire's face as she blocked at the last second. Two quick jabs followed the first, only to meet thin air as Spitfire shuffled back out of reach.

"You're fucking wrong!"

The two ponies slammed into the wall with a sickening crunch.

The tears in Dash's eyes may have blurred her vision, but that didn't stop her for a second. That yellow and orange blur before her was enough of a target. Each blow held all her anger and frustrations as Dash rained hit after hit on Spitfire. Every single last one either missed or was blocked, and Dash soon found herself pinned against the wall with a foreleg across her throat.

"Sorry Dash, but you're not thinking straight. I'm taking back leadership of this little mission and sadly, you're unfit for duty," Spitfire whispered in Dash's ear.

Dash struggled in Spitfire's grip, but there was nothing she could do as her vision slowly darkened before finally falling unconscious. All of a sudden, the pressure was gone and Dash collapsed on the ground, sweat dripping onto the floor as she took ragged breaths. Following Spitfire's gaze, all semblances of emotions left, leaving behind a void where Dash's heart once lay. There was Twilight, paler than ever before and above her loomed Gilda, withdrawing a needle out of the unicorn's arm.

"Sorry Dash, but she asked." Gilda almost sounded apologetic as she set the needle down on the table. "Said it was what she wanted."

Violet met magenta eyes, horror in one and acceptance in the other.

Then, Twilight's eyes slowly closed.

"No!" Dash scrambled to be by Twilight's side. "No! This can't be- You're wrong!" Her eyes darted around the room, tears flowing freely once more, but none could meet her eyes.

"No... Twi..."

This... this couldn't be happening! Dash had braved storms and dragons and changelings and Discord and... and... So why couldn't she save Twilight? The one pony that meant more than anything to her was dying and there was nothing she could do. Countless ponies saved over the years, countless more she would no doubt save in the future, but what good was all that when she was unable to save Twilight? The one pony that actually mattered.

"This... this can't be happening. Please, let this be a nightmare, some horrible, horrible nightmare," sobbed Dash.

But no matter how many times she repeated those words, reality would not change.

"Dash..." Never in Dash's life had she heard anypony sound so weak. Not even Granny Smith on her deathbed was this bad.

"Y-Yeah Twi?"

"Do... do you have any paper and quills?" Everyone blinked at that and despite the situation, Dash felt the corner of her lips tug upwards. "I want to write something for the others... for Celestia..."

"Speak, and I shall record it for you," said Serenity, sounding oddly muted despite the booming voice. "It is the least I can do."

"Thank you..." Twilight's breathing eased.

Silence descended as those gathered listened to her final words.

"Dear Princess Celestia, I am afraid this will be my final friendship report, but with any luck, it will find you in good health. Over this past week I have learned..."


It is over. It is finally over. The filly survived, Cadence survived, and I have created a vaccine to inject myself with as well. I have also adopted out the little filly to Nightlight and Twilight Velvet of the Solar Court. I know they are both upstanding citizens and desire another child, but are unable to conceive due to complications with Shining Armor's birth. It is my belief they will take great care of her.

All that remains is for me to come up with some way to bring Luna back. To think that was the starting point of this journey. Have almost a thousand years passed already? Time is such a fickle thing for immortals such as I, it's just so easy for it to slip by when we're not looking.



View Online

Hiya Twilight!

Did I surprise you? Huh, huh, huh? I bet I did! I bet you were all 'Whoa!' and 'Wow' and 'Pinkie really outdid herself with all these streamers and glitter and super duper colorful pictures!' I made sure to give Ditzy a muffin to get this to you lickety-split, faster than Dashie would have (Hi Dashie!).


Why the dots? Silly Twilight! That's for when Dashie says something like 'No way! I'm, like, totally supercalifragislically speedy zoom zoom!' and then you would say something like 'Oh Dashie, you'd have taken a nap on the way over' and then Dashie would be like-

That was Applejack shoving her hoof in my mouth. Again. Silly filly, doesn't she know hooves aren't meant to go in mouths? Though they do taste funny and nothing like Rarity's hooves. I wonder what Fluttershy's hooves taste like. Hey Dashie, do you know what Fluttershy's hooves taste like?

Oh! Oh! Oh! That reminds me! Hey Dashie, this is for you, so no telling Twilight alright? And Twilight, stop reading! I mean it. This is a secret, you got it? No peeking. Not a word further. Stop right here.

Not. Another. Word.



Has she stopped reading yet Dashie? Aaaaaaaaanyways, don't tell Twilight this, but I've got a super duper, ultra secret, totally surprise party for her for when she gets better. There's streamers and cake and punch and pin the tail on the pony and all sorts of crazy fun games! Got all her favorite snacks (and rumor has it Secret Agent Con Mane will be coming in disguise), so shhhhhhhh, no spilling. I mean it! Pinkie Promise.

Oh! The cupcakes are done! (Hmmmmm... cupcakes...) Sorry, gotta go before they burn.

Dear Twilight,

I'm sorry I couldn't visit with everyone else, but I was called away to Appleloosa as there's some sort of creature eating their apples at night. Turns out it was just a poor, misunderstood baby wyvern who lost her mommy. I wish you could have been here, she was sooooo adorable, if a bit scary with all those sharp teeth. I tried to ask her everything I could think of because I know you find the lack of information on them a criminal offense.

I... I really wish you were here to help, but that's just selfish of me. You gave up so much and went so far to save Celestia and... and I have to be strong like you. I have to stop hiding behind others and actually do something to change Equestria for the better. That's why I've decided to approach Celestia for small change to the current education system to include more information on dealing with the various wild creatures that are found in Equestria. You don't think that's too forward of me, do you?

Oh dear, maybe I shouldn't have bothered her after all. I mean, I'm sure Celestia is far too busy with running a nation to deal with such a minor oversight. I really shouldn't have bothered her. Oh my, you don't think making the changes will be difficult do you?

Dear Twilight,

Darling, it was such a delight to see you again after so long. I'm terribly sorry I couldn't stay for longer, but those dresses simply will not sew themselves. With a bit of luck, I will be back in Canterlot sometime next week to partake in a fashion show. It will be showcasing that new line I was talking about, the one that was inspired by your drive and dedication to the Princesses. When I showed it to Fancy Pants, he had tears in his eyes and proclaimed it a true masterwork. But looking at the centre piece, I just don't know if I can bring myself to showcase it. Only one mare is meant to wear it, and that mare is you. Every morning walk down the stairs, I see that dress on the mannequin, and every single time, my heart leaps and I think it's you standing there. Every single time I look at it, all I can see is you standing in it with that easy going smile of yours and far too many bags under your eyes. Seriously mare, next time you're in Ponyville, I am dragging you off to the spa and making sure you have a nice relaxing day. Harmony knows you've earned it.

And please dear, don't worry, Spike's been an absolute gentle-drake, in fact, he's been helping Sweetie Belle with her studies and Sweetie's marks have been improving. I fear musical theory has never been my strong suite, but Spike certainly knows a lot. I suppose that's what happens when you live with a bibliophile such as yourself. Without his help, I fear last week wouldn't have been possible. His cooking and cleaning meant I could spend more time working on the dresses to get them perfect.

Though I must admit I am a bit concerned about him. I know we all deal with grief differently, and that he took it the hardest, but I get the feeling he's purposefully overworking himself to stop himself from thinking about your condition. If he's not at home working on his chores or with the CMC or working at the library, then he's helping out at Sweet Apple Acres or helping Fluttershy. Every night he comes home, bone tired and dead on his feet.

But don't worry! You most certainly should not worry. I've been keeping my eye on him and so have all your other friends. He has already greatly improved over this past week, so there's nothing to fear.

From Rarity

Howdy Twi,

Nothing much has changed down here truth be told, and Spike's been a real help around the farm. The trees are doing great, and I reckon we'll have a record haul this applebucking season. It won't be the same without you though, with all your fancy magic and all. Don't worry, I'll be sure to send some apples up to you so you don't miss out, I know how much you hate the apples served up there. Nothing quite like Sweet Apple Acres’ apples.

RD, this section here is for you, so no telling Twilight alright? You need to come back to Ponyville, I'm dead serious here. Pinkie is... Pinkie is in a bad place. We've tried helping her, but nothing we do seems to be working, and being her best friend, we're hoping you'll be able to do something. Anything. She hasn't thrown a party since she got the news. Instead, she has a "Welcome Back, Twilight" party permanently set up. She won't let us touch any of the decorations and keeps talking about how Twi will be getting up and how she'll come back and how everything will be going back to normal. She's refusing to throw another party until she can finish this party. Please RD, we need you back here.


Dash folded up the final letter and placed it on the bedside table next to the stack of books she had gotten for Twilight. After a moment’s silence, the pegasus stood up and opened the curtains, letting light flood in before she sat down in the chair next to Twilight's bed. For her part, Twilight didn't say a word and instead continued to doze on.

"Just what are you dreaming of?" whispered Dash. "A room of endless books no doubt."

A sigh escaped.

"I thought I saw you today, you know. I was walking down the street after sending off the letter to your brother, and I thought I saw you waving at me from across the street. Silly right? But... I thought it was you, I really did. I wanted to believe so badly. Turns out it was just some random mare in the street." Dash brushed a lock of mane out of Twilight's eyes. "I also thought I heard you at training. Thought I heard you call my name, but there was nothing there. I miss you so much."

A soft pitter-patter filled the silence.

"I hate you so much. Why? Why! All you needed to do was say something, anything, and I would have been there for you. We all would have." Dash tried her hardest to glare at the mare, but her blurry vision made that all but impossible. "An-And what the buck was up with the whole 'We'll see once we get back' deal? You knew you were going to die, didn't you? Why did you string me along like that? I-I-I..."

All the anger drained out of her and Dash collapsed back into the seat. "You stupid genius. You got my hopes up when you knew you wouldn’t survive. I want to hate you. I want to hate you so damn much for putting me through that, but I can't. Damn it, Twilight! You left us hanging. You left us all hanging!"

Still no reply.

"I see you everywhere. I hear your voice all the time. I can't even show off anymore, because every time I do, your voice appears, scolding me or giving me some lecture, and the only time I'm off the ground is when I practice with the rest of the Shadowbolts. I don't know what's worse, being unable to hate you, or loving you so much it hurts."

The tears finally came to an end.

"You've got to get better. You hear me!? Y-You're the coolest pony ever. The awesomest pony and the most radical an-and-and-" Though a sob escaped, there were no tears. "I don't care if the doctors say there's no chance of you getting better; they don't know you like I do. You make the impossible possible. You perform miracles. I know you'll kick this coma in the ass and come back to us."

The only sound was Dash's heavy breathing and the beeping of the machines.

"You have to..."

"Sister, are you certain you're doing the right thing?" For a brief second, anger flashed through Celestia as Luna interrupted her train of thought. "You were the one who taught us the need to move on and accept death as a natural part of a mortal's life!"

"Twilight's not dead," said Celestia.

"Yes, we know, she's in a coma, but that hardly changes the discussion at hoof." Luna sat down next to her sister with a frown on her face. "You must let go."

"I won't!" snapped Celestia. "Don't you get it Lulu? She died for me. I'm the reason she died. I caused the original virus, and in the end, Twilight suffered as a result. I can, must, and will rectify this mistake."

The two stared at each before Luna sagged and nodded. "Very well. I suppose We have no choice in this matter?"

"You're slipping again Lulu. You just used 'I' and 'we' in the same sentence."

"Celly! This is not the time to be fretting over such matters."

"I know, I know, sorry." Celestia brushed a messy lock of mane out of her eyes. "I've just been so stressed lately."

After all, what was the point of going back to Canterlot while she had the power to save Twilight? Everywhere she went, every single last Tartarus damned object in the castle, held some memory for her. It was like Twilight's ghost followed her around everywhere, replaying Twilight's entire life before Celestia's eyes. There was the hall that had to be rebuilt thanks to a magical flare from Twilight. There was the spare guest room Twilight loved hiding in when she wanted to read. That picture on the wall with the manestyle that always made the little filly laugh.

Even her room offered no respite from the deluge of emotions that threatened to drown her. There was no warmth, no joy, in being in Canterlot. The last time Celestia had felt this way was when Luna had been exiled to the moon. Every night she cried herself to sleep while clutching Twilight's final letter to her chest. It was barely half written before her prized protégé fell unconscious.

A snort escaped as Luna fixed her sister with a flat look. "You've been hiding out here, stating you need to recuperate after your illness, while I have been running the nation by myself."

"Now you know how I felt those thousand years you were gone."Though it was a joke, and though there was no way Luna could have known just how close it was to the truth, saying those words eased Celestia's heart.

Another snort. "Of course, because that was the most important thing on your mind during my exile."

"You try spending a thousand years with idiots like Blueblood," chuckled Celestia, and not once did Luna suspect the truth. A thousand years to master her mask, one so great not even her sister could see through it. That thought only served to depress Celestia further, but she kept that fake smile on her face, the same one Twilight practiced every morning. "I still think you got the better deal in the end."

"Whatever the case, what is your plan? And why did you need me to bring Twilight Sparkle along?"

"You actually bought her?"

"Of course." There was a flash of blue magic and Twilight appeared on the table before them and Celestia's heart leapt in joy. So looked so calm, so peaceful, as though she was merely sleeping. "You should know by now that I trust you with my life."

"Th-Thank you." For the first time in decades, the mask cracked and tears slid down her cheek. With a trembling hoof, Celestia brushed a stray lock of mane out of Twilight's eyes and caressed her cheek.

"Shh..." All that could be heard was the soft pitter-patter of Celestia's tears as Luna held her sister close. "I would do anything for you, just as you would do anything for me. Never forget that."

"I-I won't."

Two ponies. She had two ponies now that would do anything for her. Twilight and Luna. It helped fill the empty void in her heart, but... wasn't that what caused all this to happen to begin with? A willingness to do absolutely anything had ended up with Twilight in a coma. Perhaps... Perhaps she should change that when she cast the spell. A subtle nudge, a gentle tweak was all it would take after all.


That was... Even to the depths she was willing to go to save Equestria, that was one of the few things Celestia could not bring herself to do. She loved Twilight, even the neurotic aspects of her. To do that, to even think about it sickened the diarch to her very core. It was the good and the bad that made Twilight who she was.

It took more than a few seconds. It took more than a few minutes. To say it was hours before Celestia had calmed down enough would have been closer to the truth than anypony would ever know. Eventually though, Celestia calmed and looked up at her beloved sister with tear stained eyes.

"Thank you. I love you sis."

"Love you too." The two shared a tender nuzzle. "So what is this plan you've concocted?"

"Let me show you." Celestia's horn glowed, and behind her, the wall opened up to reveal a single tube with a purple mare sleeping inside it . A purple mare that looked exactly the same as the one that lay before them on the table. "That, is a clone of Twilight. Back when you were on the moon, one of the plans I developed was to create another alicorn so that I could transfer your memories into a new body in case the Elements were not viable."

"And you need the real Twilight in order to get her memories." Luna's eyes narrowed. "I am afraid I cannot aid you in this endeavor."


"I see now why you are performing this experiment in the bowels of Canterlot rather than Yggdrasil. Serenity threw you out didn't she? She locked all the systems and told you to get out." Luna glared at her sister. "You need to let Twilight go."

"I... I won't. I'm sorry, but this is something I must do." A sigh escape as Celestia caressed Twilight's cheek. "I did this to her. My hubris was the cause of all this."

"So take responsibility and move on. Nopony blames you."

Celestia flinched away from Luna's nuzzle. "Only because they don't know my role in it, and a certain pegasus would disagree with you. Rainbow Dash most certainly blames me."

"She's also grieving." This time, Celestia accepted the nuzzle. And when she closed her eyes, she could almost imagine it was Twilight giving it to her. "Give her time. Just move on."

"I..." The white alicorn shook her head. "I'm sorry, but I cannot."

The temperature suddenly dropped, causing the moisture in the air to condense.

"Will you stop me, sister?" whispered Celestia as the air around her began boiling.

Not another fight. Please. Losing a sister once was enough to send the strongest ponies into the depths of depression, but losing Twilight and Luna so close to one another? Her heart wouldn't be able to take it, but if it meant getting Twilight back, then so be it. She didn't want this, but Twilight meant so much to her.

The unicorn would never know, but it was Celestia's DNA that had been used. It was Celestia who raised Twilight. As far as Celestia was concerned, Twilight was her daughter. The loss of a sister was a price she'd gladly pay to get her daughter back.

The two stood opposite each other, horns crossed, wings slightly open, and muscles tensed. Neither moved and neither spoke as they stared each other down. Both waited for the other to make the first move. In the end, it was Luna who acted. She took one deliberate step back, folding her wings back as she did so.

"I trust you, but I will not partake in this folly for a second longer."

"Will you tell them the truth?" asked Celestia as she stroked Twilight's mane.

"Maybe, maybe not. For you? I'll only tell if they ask directly." Luna tossed her mane to the side. "You have made the wrong decision sister, and all I can do is watch from the sidelines and pray."

"This is not the wrong decision!"

"Who are you trying to convince? Yourself or me?" A sad look was tossed over her shoulder. "What do you think will happen if this Twilight finds out the truth? How do you think her friends will react if they find out the truth? You can make all the logical arguments you want for the clone and real Twilight being one and same, and there are plenty of them, but in the end, they'll be thinking with their hearts and not their heads. "


"I'm not done." The chill that permeated the room caused Celestia to shrink back. "But all I require is one answer to one very simple question."

Eyes glowing white, Luna looked at Celestia and the white alicorn took a step back.

"Can you love her like you did Twilight?"

"I-" The words caught in Celestia's throat as she tried to say 'yes'. She wanted to say it so badly, but she couldn't. There was too much doubt, too much confusion, too much sadness in her heart. The clone would look like Twilight, think like Twilight, have the same memories as Twilight, but...

"That's what I thought." And just like that, Luna vanished in a swirl of blue smoke.

After a long minute, she whispered into the empty room, "I can at least try."

With a sigh, Celestia turned to the console. "Systems check."

"All systems are functional. No anomalies present. You have the green light," came the disembodied voice.

"Excellent." Stepping between the two containers, Celestia's horn lit up and fired a beam of magic straight up into the receptacle above her. A whirling sound filled the air, the blue gel began glowing, and Celestia's magic enveloped both Twilights. The next minute was the longest minute Celestia had ever experienced. Then, as methodically as it had begun, it ended. Weary and dripping with sweat, Celestia made her way back to console.

"Status report," said the white alicorn.

"Nothing went wrong," replied the computer. "But to say more than that is impossible."

"Very well, release them and I shall perform a mind read on them."

"Acknowledged. Containment field deactivated, fluids drained, door opening in three, two, one."

Both cylinders opened and Celestia teleported both onto the table before them. She immediately touched her horn to the cloned Twilight's forehead and threads of golden magic wrapped around her head. Eyes closed and breathing even, Celestia began the mind read in total silence. A couple seconds later, the alicorn drew back and turned to the other Twilight. Once more, she repeated the process then drew back with a smile.

"It worked," Celestia whispered. "It worked!"

But where was the joy? The happiness? All she could feel was hollowness.

"Please secure the real Twilight in one of the free chambers while I take this Twilight up to her hospital room. That way if things go wrong with the clone, we'll be able to make another. It's highly improbable, but better to be safe than sorry."

"Very well."

"When will she wake up?" asked Celestia.

"Tomorrow. She will wake up tomorrow."

"Goodnight then, my darling daughter."

And as Celestia teleported back to Twilight's hospital room, she wasn't sure who that final line was addressed to, the mare in her magic or the mare she had left behind.

Never had victory tasted so much like ash.