I don't move for a long time. My feet seem to be rooted in place; all I can do for the first half a minute is just stand there, looking at the crowd of magically adept individuals in the room. I've already been thrown for a loop by Chrysalis's admission concerning the royal wedding. Thus, the implication of Cadance's words render me utterly speechless.
"Are you serious? You're all in on this?" is the first thing I can say. Chrysalis walks past me and turn around once she reaches the others, standing at the forefront of the group. She smirks at my incredulous expression. "I don't...this..."
"It was Queen Chrysalis's idea," Celestia informs me. Behind her, Rose and Blades are weaving through the other ponies, applying some magical spells to the floor, though I have no idea what they could be. "She approached me with the idea a week or so after the battle ended. The spell is impossible to perform to that extent alone, so I agreed to lend my power. I felt it was the least I could do for you."
"I heard about it not long afterward," Twilight adds before I can even finish processing what Celestia said. Her eyes are shining with happiness. "You've gone through so much with us...I wanted to help too."
"She let the rest of us know about it...apart from the other princesses, of course," Iron continues, his face as stern as always. "It's no trouble to lend my magic to the endeavor. There's no reason why I wouldn't."
"Precisely! It's something any friend would do," Rarity finishes. The others nod and voice their agreement as well. I release an exhale of disbelief and wonder. Confronted with the reality of the situation before me, a little niggling hope has started to worm its way into my head...as if I could really see my family...and Amaryllis...again.
"Do you really think you can do it?" I ask softly.
"Fool...I would not have called you here if I wasn't certain," Chrysalis retorts, running a hoof through her webbed mane. "Reaching the time period is foal's play with this much magic. Keeping you there for a long period of time is what will take the most effort."
I have to sit down. I move around the corner and sit on the bench just to the left of where I came in. "I...I was not prepared for this. I'm not sure if I...what do I even say? I didn't expect you all to go so far out of your way for me," I stammer. I rest my face into my hands, as if doing that would stem the tide of possibilities that is now rushing through my head.
I'm silent for several moments...and then my heart starts to feel heavy. If I'm not dreaming...if this is really happening...then I have a chance to temporarily go back to my time. While I would have jumped at the chance forever ago...now...it's more of a difficult decision. I've come to terms with their deaths...or at least I think I have. Can I really survive overturning all of that after seeing them only for a short amount of time?
"Well now, shall we get started?" Chrysalis suggests impatiently, turning to stare at Blades and Rose. "Yes, I know I'm the nicest of individuals, and blah blah blah. I don't want to stand here all day."
"Seth?" Celestia addresses me, moving out of the crowd to approach me.
"I'm not sure if I should," I admit, much to the surprise of Twilight and a few others. As for Celestia, she pauses and waits for me to continue. "I don't think I could handle having them back after all this time...only to lose them again. It would be cruel to myself."
"That is a very good point," Rose comments, looking up from her work momentarily. "However, it is your decision."
"Don't get me wrong, I really want to see them again," I clarify, lifting up my head and gazing at Celestia. I just hope that she can understand how I feel about this. I feel like total shit for even considering turning this offer down. However, even as much as I'm protesting, I also want to accept. This is a really hard decision for me to make. "But I've accepted that they're long gone. I've done my grieving. Going back would just start that process all over again...and I hardly made it through the first time."
"I guess I can understand that," Cadance states sadly, looking down at the floor. "It was just something nice that we wanted to do for you."
"And I appreciate that, but..." I'm just about to decline their offer when Twilight interrupts me.
"Wait, Seth! Don't turn us down just yet," she says. She walks up to the bench, climbs up on top of it, and then sits down just next to me. She sets a hoof on my leg. "I understand what you're saying but...you were wrenched away from your time by King Sombra, right?"
"Yeah, so?" I ask, confused.
"That means that at the time, you had no idea you were never going to see them again. Wouldn't you have wanted to do some things differently, if you had known that was your last day in that time?" Twilight attempts to persuade me.
I pause and look at her. She's...actually right, and I'm starting to inwardly groan because of it. Deciding to turn down this offer in the first place was hard as hell...and now she's making me want to change my mind. Basically...if I had known that I was going to run into Sombra...I'd have wanted to say goodbye. I never did get that chance. But still...
Twilight moves closer, her expression turning pained. "But don't just think about how you feel...what about your family?" she beseeches me. "Think about how they must have felt to hear about your disappearance...and how they must have felt, never knowing what happened to you. Don't you want to spare them that pain?"
My eyes widen...I'd never thought about it from that angle before. I hardly remember the last thing Amaryllis ever said to me, as it was over to the phone and I was already succumbing to the stasis spell, but she sounded panicked. Holy shit...if I nearly lost myself after losing her...how would she have felt? She didn't have other friends to fall back upon. And that's not even counting my family.
"Twilight's right...I think I would just die if you or another of my friends were to just disappear forever without any warning," Rarity agrees, joining Twilight and I on the bench. "All we're asking is that you consider it...I think it would help both you and your family in the long run."
"Hah...you don't know them, so you're basically just guessing," I reply, though it's a weak retort at best. They're right. My family and I had a strained relationship for most of my life...and I can't even imagine how they must have felt to lose me, just as things were starting to get better. I wave off their forming protests before they can voice them. "But you do have a point...dammit, I didn't need you all to make this harder for me."
I take the next minute to collect my thoughts, sitting in silence. The others wait patiently for me...except for Chrysalis, who just sighs in annoyance and paces back and forth. I still have misgivings, but the opportunity to see my friend and family again is proving to be increasingly harder to give up. I already gave up that opportunity once...so the idea of giving that up again is becoming too hard to bear.
"Okay, so let's say I accept. How would this work?" I finally ask, clasping my hands together and gazing up at Chrysalis. She's the one casting the spell, so I'm assuming she knows all the details. "I'm assuming there's some logistical constraints about all of this."
"Of course there is. This is a very complex spell to execute," Chrysalis sniffs, stopping her pacing and showing interest once more. "For instance, I can only send you back to your time. So get rid of any half-baked ideas of introducing your little pony mate to your family."
"I...hadn't even thought of that, but okay. I guess that's good to know," I respond, blinking. Now that she mentioned it, it might have actually been nice to take Rainbow back with me...but I guess that would have just complicated things in the end...especially if she met Amaryllis. But it seems there's no possibility of that happening to begin with. "What else?"
"As I said, this spell is temporary. Given how far back in time I have to send you, as well as the amount of magic available for me to use, I doubt I can keep you there for more than forty eight hours," Chrysalis explains. Wow...even that's more than I expected. Two whole days? "After that, you'll flash right back here. So it's best that you take care of whatever you need to by then."
"Okay, that makes sense. But what's stopping you from just sending me back repeatedly after you've had time to recharge?" I ask curiously. I really hope she has an answer other than the fact that she's not that nice. "That way, I can have all the time I need."
Chrysalis scoffs. "Don't be a moron. Assuming that was possible, I doubt you'd ever leave if you had that much time," she hisses. She then narrows her eyes at me as I start to form a protest. "Don't get any ideas. It's not actually possible. I've done some experimenting with this spell myself, and it has very precise constraints preventing its exploitation."
"What do you mean?" I inquire, honestly interested.
"If it were that easy to simply keep returning to the same timeline, I'd never have lost against you all during my...previous invasion. I'd simply have kept returning to the past until I won." Chrysalis reveals. She has a point. "This will probably be too much for your simple mind, but this reality as we know it is based upon a singular timeline."
"Oh god, we're going into multiple timeline theory, aren't we?" I say with a groan. I rub my forehead in preparation for the inevitable headache.
"It is only possible to access this timeline at this particular time...once. After that, the spell prevents us from crossing our own timeline a second time. Do you understand that?" Chrysalis attempts to explain. My expression strains as I try to make sense of her explanation in my head. My face tells her everything she needs to know, causing her to groan. "All you need to know is that it only works once. After that, your loved ones won't remember the previous attempts, as it did not occur in that timeline."
"My head hurts," Rarity comments, causing me to smile a bit. Twilight looks like she's starting to understand...but she's a lot smarter than I am, so that's not too surprising.
"To put it simply, this is a one time deal. I won't be helping you again," Chrysalis reiterates coldly. "Now, are you going to do it or not? I'm out of patience."
All eyes turn to me in expectation of my final answer. The magnitude of this decision causes my emotions to roil up inside me, making it very hard to choose one way or the other. However, in the end, I realize that this really isn't a choice. There's no point in trying to resist it. I have to do this.
"Yeah...yeah I am. I can't give up this chance a second time," I admit. Twilight and Rarity smile on either side of me, and then they hop up off of the bench and return to the others. Rose and Blades seem to have finished whatever preparations they were making, as they're now standing still with the rest, watching me expectantly. I get up and walk towards them, a little hesitant. "Let's do this. I don't have to do anything special, right?"
"Just stand in the circle with the rest of us," Chrysalis directs me. Circle? Taking a second look, I notice that all of them are standing in a closely clustered group in the vague shape of a circle, despite the fact that the room is much larger. Chrysalis looks at Celestia. "Your turn, Celestia."
"Wait, hold on a second. When you used this spell on me before, my physical location didn't change. Canterlot wasn't there in the past, so I appeared several hundred feet in the air," I suddenly remember. "If you send me back now..."
"Do not worry. Queen Chrysalis informed me of that particular detail. I have taken steps to ensure that you arrive in the proper location," Celestia assures me. Oh. With a shrug, I decide to trust her and step inside the circle with the others. "Is everyone ready? This will be a little jarring for those of you that have not experienced it before."
Once Celestia is assured by the others, she nods and summons up her magic, her horn glowing brightly. "Very well. Mass Teleportation Rune, Mark VI..." Celestia utters, lifting her two front hooves up off of the ground. Recognizing the name of that spell, I look down at the ground to the see the familiar magical rune inscribing itself upon the floor, formed from bright white lines of magic. Every single one of us are encompassed in the center of the rune. A moment later, Celestia stomps her hooves down on the floor. "Activate!"
The rune's glow grows in brilliance, engulfing all of us in a blinding light. I feel myself slipping away into the other dimension, a sensation I've felt only once before. However, the question remains...where are we going?
When the light finally dissipates enough, I open my eyes. At first my vision is blurred from the contrast in lighting, so several seconds pass before I can see well enough to observe my surroundings. At first, I don't recognize the place, because the debris has been cleared and the area is well lit.
"Wait, is this...?" I emit, stepping away from the others. Sure enough, I am standing in the depths of my old college, in the large room that adjoins the math and science buildings. I haven't been here since the expedition. I know Opal and the others stayed after I left, so that explains why this room is much tidier now. That aside, it now makes sense how Chrysalis is going to send me back. "Holy shit, you really planned this out, didn't you?"
"Will this suffice?" Celestia asks warmly. The others start to spread out as well now that the teleportation is over and they don't need to stand together anymore.
"Yes...this'll work. I should appear right back in the middle of my college if things go like before," I say, looking around at the ruined buildings. There's none of the other archaeologists or workers down here right now; I guess Celestia made sure to keep this area clear. "Wait, but that's a problem in and of itself. I can't exactly appear out of thin air in the middle of a school day."
"Ugh...then go someplace where you'll have reasonable privacy," Chrysalis groans. Despite her impatience, she looks very interested in her surroundings. While I think of a place, she stalks around the room, regarding the architecture and layout of the area. "Interesting...this is the most intact human ruin that I've ever seen."
"This way. If I remember right, there's a courtyard out back that's well concealed," I decide, interrupting the others as they explore the room. Rarity seems to be complaining about some dust that got on her hooves, though Hawke just looks utterly uninterested. I walk through the room and step over the line of broken glass where the dividing wall used to be.
I look around the room, remembering how students used to stay in this common area and study together before class. I could always tell when there was a test that day; the room would be cram packed.
Unlike the last time I was here, the courtyard I mentioned has been excavated. The fountain that used to be there is well preserved, though obviously it's thoroughly clogged with dirt. The area hasn't been completely cleared of packed dirt, but there's just enough room to fit all of us inside.
"Here. This should work," I say at last, standing in the center of the courtyard next to the fountain. I close my eyes and take a deep breath, the reality of the situation falling upon me. "Okay...I think I'm ready."
"Finally," Chrysalis grunts. She approaches me purposefully, coming to a halt just a few feet away from me. She turns her head back to Celestia. "Celestia, I'm going to need you to channel me your power. Everyone else...be ready to do the same once she runs out of power. My magical energy will drain fast, so there won't be much waiting involved."
"I understand," Celestia responds. She walks up to Chrysalis and rests a hoof upon the queen's back. "I am ready."
"You're sure you can get me to the right time?" I ask anxiously. I'd hate for this to go wrong and I'd end up way off course.
"It's around three thousand and eighty years, if I'm not mistaken. Expect some discrepancies. However, I can assure you I will put you within a reasonable time frame of your disappearance." Chrysalis assures me.
She plants her hooves on the ground, her horn starting to glow. I have to stop myself from taking a step back as I feel the air fill with an ancient, powerful magic. Oh shit, this is really happening now, isn't it? Come to think of it, I have no idea what I'm even going to say to my family, or if they'll even believe me.
The magic in the air feels much stronger than before, now that Celestia's magic is traveling through Chrysalis's body. Ethereal runes of an arcane nature fade into existence around her, each one pulsing gently. They rotate around her in a series of concentric circles, the very air thrumming before them. The humming green glyph forms on the ground around me, complete with a series of equestrian numbers rapidly counting down.
The other ponies watch in silence and awe as multiple clock faces coalesce around my body. Each one strikes the hour all at the same time, filling the air with a chorus of discordant chimes. It's so loud, it causes me to flinch.
Chrysalis opens her eyes, revealing a glowing green void where her corneas should be. Magic surges into the air from around us...and then she finishes her chant with a thunderous cry, her mane flying upwards in the current of disturbed air.
The rune's glow intensifies one hundred fold, forcing me to cover my eyes as it engulfs me and obscures the others from sight. I feel the wind whipping around my body as if I'm hurtling backwards through the air at a high speed, even though my feet have never left the ground.
Eventually, the air stills around me, and a whole new rush of sensations overcome me. The air is filled with the sound of chatter and birdsong. Sunlight bleeds through my eyelids and warms my skin, a welcome change from the arctic weather of the frozen north.
I open my eyes, feeling breathless now that it's come to this. The first thing I see is the small fountain in the courtyard, the water gurgling and flowing down into the pool at the bottom once more. As I take in my surroundings, a rush of nostalgia overtakes me.
It's my college. I let out a disbelieving laugh. It's my fucking college. I look around at the restored walls, intact windows, and the green blades of grass growing tenaciously through the cracks in the concrete walkway beneath my feet.
A small gasp gets my attention, snapping me out of my reverie. My eyes snap to its source...and then widen. Standing before me is a single, very surprised human. He seems to have frozen mid-stride, his jaw hanging open in shock.
Heh, I've almost forgotten what we look like. The man standing before me looks young enough to be a freshman or a sophomore. With the button covered messenger bag slung over his shoulder, the way he's dressed in simple loose clothes, and the glasses on his face, everything about him just serves to show me that I'm definitely looking at a college student.
I know I've been seen. There's no hiding that. So, deciding the make the most of it, I put on a smile and wave at him with two fingers. "Hey! Sorry about dropping in like that," I apologize to him. The student blinks repeatedly, unsure what to make of what he's seeing. However, I know full well that's he's just one guy. Nobody's going to believe him. I turn the other direction, heading back towards the study hall. However, just before I do, I briefly look back. My eyes trace down to his shirt, upon which an image of a popular anime character is emblazoned. "Heh. Nice shirt, by the way."
Deciding to leave it at that, I hoist open the glass door and stride into the study hall. Just like I remember, there's at least a score of students in here, sitting at the desks with their laptops and bags. The only difference is that I don't recognize any of the faces.
I get a few odd looks due to the way I'm dressed, considering I'm wearing a set of royal blue clothes that were made for me to wear to the fair. Thankfully I'm not crystallized, otherwise I'd be getting a lot more than odd looks. Apart from that though, none of them really give me a second glance. It's college. They're all focused with their own work.
The smile stays on my face as I make my way out of the study hall and towards the front entrance of the science building. It's pretty crowded; It seems like people are heading to and from their evening classes. Unlike how I usually handled the crowds before, this time I carefully pick my way through them, making sure not to jostle anyone too much. I don't want to get in their way.
As I go, I take out my phone and navigate to the clock application. From there, I set a timer for forty eight hours. That way, I'll have an idea of how much time I have left. In the process, I also notice that I'm getting service. Well, that makes things a lot easier, even if it doesn't make much sense. Did my mother keep me on the plan?
Okay, next order of business. I need to find out when I am. Chrysalis said that there might be some discrepancies, so I need to make sure she's not too far off. With that in mind, I descend the staircase towards the front entrance. On the right side of the hall is a bulletin board. If I remember right, that's where they hang up the calendar for academic events.
Sure enough, the calendar is still there. I walk up to it, joining another student that's looking at it as well. He turns his head curiously as I stand up beside him. "Hey. Nice outfit," the student compliments me, indicating my jacket. "Who made that? Doesn't look like it's from any company I know of."
I meet his gaze. The old me would have told him to mind his own goddamn business without missing a beat...but things have changed since then. I smile at the compliment gratefully. "Thanks. You wouldn't recognize it; a friend made it for me." Yeah, a fashionista pony with a bright purple mane. Might not be a good idea to mention that.
"Custom made? Wow. That's really cool," the student responds amicably. He turns back to the board, where flyers advertising various events have been posted. "You going to that music concert today too?"
"Huh?" I cast my gaze over the board, until eventually my eyes land upon a flyer advertising a performance at the auditorium. My eyes widen slightly when I see that the date has been set for March...2022. Damn...so there was some discrepancy after all. I disappeared in 2014...so it's been eight years since then. No wonder I don't recognize any of the faces here. Anyway, I should respond. "I would, but I'm busy with other plans today. What about you? Are you going?"
"Oh nah. It sucks, but I can't afford to spare the cash for it," the student responds regretfully, shoving his hands into his pockets. "I gotta get my textbooks soon, after all."
One quick look at the flyer tells me that there is an admission price. Heh, I know his pain. Textbooks are expensive, so it's no wonder he's trying to save his money. Actually, hold on. The student watches me curiously as I fish out my wallet and retrieve the required amount of paper money. I almost got rid of this stuff because it was worthless in Equestria...but I held onto it for sentimental reasons.
The student's eyes go wide with shock when I hold out the money to him. "Wha...dude, that's a lot of money to just hand out to a guy you don't even know," he exclaims. He hesitates to take the money from me. "I'm not sure I should accept this."
Keeping a smile on my face, I gently grab his hand and press the money into it. "Go ahead. I have no use for it anyway. Go and have yourself a good time on me," I assure him. With a wave, I confidently turn away from him and head towards the exit.
"Wait! I never even caught your name!" the student calls after me, just as I'm leaving the school building.
I turn my head back and flash him a grin. "It's Seth. Seth Rogers."
The campus has really changed since I was here last. The open lot over there that was never used before is now a recreation center from the looks of it. The little copse of trees by the music building is gone now, to be replaced by an expansion. Heh, so I guess the professor finally got that extra space he'd been lobbying for.
I make my way to the student center, where there's now an outdoor study area beneath an overhang. There are wire chairs and tables there with outlets nearby, making it a very convenient place to sit and get some work done. That goes double for if you're working with a group.
As of right now, it's mostly empty. However, that's not what I'm here for. If I remember right...yes, it's still here. Just through the study area, there's a small area hidden in an obscure corner. It's mostly used by the maintenance team to store their equipment when they're working, but it's usually empty. Luckily, it's empty right now.
There's a single chair back here. I remember I used to sit in it when I wanted to be outside, but also away from people. So basically, I was here a lot. Or at least I was, before I met Amaryllis. It's fitting that I should be here now.
Okay, I guess I can't waste any time. I don't have that long to be in this time, so I need to make the most of it. I flip out my phone and navigate to my contacts page. Immediately, I hit the number of the first person to come to my mind.
I hold the phone to my ear as it starts to ring. At that moment, the reality of what I'm about to do hits me, and I start to breathe a little harder, my heart seeming to jump in my chest. It's painful, so I force myself to breathe long and slow in an attempt to slow my heart rate.
My first attempt goes to voicemail, unsurprisingly. I guess I'll have to try a few more times. She can stop whatever the fuck she's doing and talk to me. I don't even care if she has a job or whatever. I dial her again, getting the same result. Unperturbed, I continue to call her again and again...until finally I hear someone pick up on the end of the other line.
"Is this some kind of sick fucking joke!?" Amaryllis's angry voice shoots out of the speaker all of a sudden, causing me to reel my head back, wincing. Still...I can't help but smile. That's definitely her voice. "Do you think you're funny, calling me at this number!? Are you trying to get a laugh out of exploiting someone else's misery!?"
I hold the phone a short distance away from me, able to hear Amaryllis's furious tirade even like this. Hoho, she's pissed. I can't say that I blame her either. "Do you think you're some kind of big shot, spitting on my friend's memory like this?! Now, you listen here, whoever you are. You better explain yourself right fucking now, or I swear no law on this green earth will protect you from me!"
Amaryllis stops talking, breathing heavily on the other line. I have to shake my head knowingly, suppressing a chuckle in the process. Honestly, there's no other way she could react at something like this. It's good to see she hasn't changed, at least. I'm quiet for several moments, trying to think of something to say. Fuck it, I give up. I've never had to think about my words with her before. I bring the phone slowly back to my ear.
"Hey, Amaryllis," I say simply. I hear her breathing skip a beat, and then a light rattling sound comes through the speaker, as if her phone is actually shaking in her hand. She doesn't say anything, her breath quickening. I figure I should say something else. "Is now a bad time, or...?"
There's an agonizing silence on the other end of the line. The only way I can tell that she's still on the line is the sound of her breath quietly blowing against the microphone. I can feel my pulse quickening in my chest, my heart seemingly moving up into my throat.
"...Seth?" Amaryllis finally says, any trace of anger gone, to be replaced with a hesitant hope. I have to resist letting out a sigh as I'm filled with relief. "Is...how...what the fuck?"
"Yeah, so..." I trail off awkwardly, not really sure how to breach the crazy subject of my past absence to her. There's so much to say, and I don't know how to say any of it. "I don't suppose you're free right now?"
"I'm...I'm at work for another three hours," Amaryllis responds breathlessly. "Wait, what the hell am I saying? What the fuck Seth!? Are you alright? Where are you?"
"Don't worry, I'm fine. It's a bit of a long story...a really long story," I admit, sitting down on the chair behind me.
"Don't you give me that shit! You've been gone for...it's been eight years, asshole! I thought you were dead!" Amaryllis shouts furiously, deafening me. "No, you're not allowed to hang up the phone until you give me an explanation!"
"Tell you what. Fuck your work and come down to the old Rainier University," I tell her, not surprised at all by her vehemence. I don't give a shit about her job...she needs to come see me. "I'll tell you the whole thing once you get here. That sound good?"
"...Yeah, to hell with work. I'm leaving right now." I hear the sound of Amaryllis's footsteps across concrete. A few moments later, I hear a car door open. "Where do I meet you?"
"You remember where my dorm is, right? Just go there," I answer, already getting up to head back there myself.
"Okay. But you better not fucking disappear again before I get there, you hear me!?" Amaryllis commands me. I hear her sniff, and then let out a short sigh. Holy shit...is she actually crying? She never cries. "You better have a good fucking reason for this...or I swear to god I'll kill you."
"Heh. Well, don't worry. I'm not going anywhere. I'll see you in a bit," I reply with a chuckle, and then I end the call. I look up into the sky as I walk and sigh. Goddamn, it's really good to hear her voice again. You know, even though I only have a short time here, I'm going to make the most of it and cherish the time I have left.
After this, it really is goodbye.
My room key still works, thankfully. With a click, I walk back into my dorm, propping the door open in the process. It's still my room, because of the crazy idea my mom had to pay the rent for fifty years. I don't know if there's a guy living in the other room in here, but there doesn't seem to be anyone home at the moment.
As for my family, I should call them next...but I want to try and talk things over with Amaryllis first and gauge her reaction before I do anything else. Only after that will I call my family and get them to come see me. It's been eight years...I really hope they're doing alright.
It only takes half an hour before I hear a car pull up in the parking lot outside. Immediately, my phone goes back to my pocket and I get up from the couch, suddenly nervous for no good reason. Actually, scratch that, there is a good reason. I determined that I was in love with her before I disappeared...and judging from the stereotypical fluttering feeling in my stomach, I think I still am.
A door slams, and keys rattle just outside. I don't even get a moment to mentally prepare myself before Amaryllis herself steps through the front doorway, still wearing her work uniform. I recognize her immediately by that distinctive red hair of hers.
Amaryllis comes to a halt upon seeing me, her cold expression melting into one that I can't really describe, her lips slightly parted as if in awe. She still looks much the same, but even I can notice the differences. She's aged noticeably, now looking a good eight years older than when I disappeared. If I estimated, she's in her late twenties, approaching thirty. She's aged well,as the only sign of the years is in the form of barely noticeable lines on her face. Her hair, to my surprise, is cut much shorter than it used to be, falling only slightly past her shoulders. But the most noticeable thing about her are the incredibly well defined muscles rippling through her body. She's about as well built as I am.
After only a moment of standing, Amaryllis's eyes harden and she closes the distance between us with a few long strides. Her fist flashes forward in the blink of an eye. I grunt as her knuckles barrel into my jaw, snapping my head back. Fuck...she didn't hold back at all. It feels like my jaw just got hit by a truck...but I guess I should have expected that.
"Goddamn...you hit as hard as ever...and.." I cut off as Amaryllis suddenly embraces me, the total opposite of her first reaction. I don't have a clue how to react to this. Just as I try to hug her in return, she's already pulling back.
"Fuck, I can't believe this. I can't believe you. I want to hug you and beat the shit out of you at the same time," Amaryllis emits. Her hands reach up to my face, surprise and confusion filling her eyes. "What the hell? It doesn't look like you've aged at all. There's not even a single line on your face."
"Yeah, that's a part of the long story I..." I try to say, but then Amaryllis's hands move down to my arms, her eyes widening.
"And what the hell are these? You don't work out. Ever. You were a computer geek..." Amaryllis's hands start to trace my own muscles, which I've gained over long periods of hard work and training. I start to get a little uncomfortable when one of her hands lowers to my abdomen...and then I let out a small yelp when she hits it to test the firmness of the muscles. Satisfied, she returns her eyes to mine, a hard glare forming there. "Now you're going to tell me what the hell happened to you. Right now."
"Okay. I guess you should sit down then. It might take a while to explain the whole thing," I admit, indicating the couch to her. Amaryllis does so, crossing her arms and watching me expectantly.
"Start talking," she states, showing a little hostility. "It better be good; I haven't forgiven you for leaving me on my own. You were my only friend; you know that, right?"
I sit down next to her, heaving a sigh. I have no idea how I'm going to explain ponies to her. There's no way that I can phrase this without it sounding completely crazy. "You were my only friend too. Trust me, I wouldn't have left you if I had the choice."
"So quit beating around the fucking bush already. What happened that day?" Amaryllis demands. "The last time we spoke, you were going on about some guy with a crown."
I take a breath and decide to start from the beginning. "He's the one that did it all. If you're going to blame anyone, blame him. He's the reason I disappeared," I reveal to her. Amaryllis blinks, confused.
"That doesn't make sense. I saw this guy you were talking about," Amaryllis replies. I freeze and regard her with shock. Wait, she ran into Sombra? Then why didn't he zap her too? Or was I enough for him? "He looked fucking creepy, I'll give you that. But you weren't with him, nor were you in the stairwell where you said you were. Who was he? And what exactly did he do to you?"
"Here comes the unbelievable part. Trust me, this is all going to sound insane," I warn her.
"I don't give a shit. What...did he do to you?" Amaryllis repeats, her eyes narrowing and her voice lowering to a threatening tone. Heh...at least Sombra is dead. Otherwise Amaryllis might want to go kill him herself.
"His name was Sombra. He...well...the best way to describe him is as a sorcerer king from the future..." I can tell from the moment I start explaining that I sound like a complete lunatic. Amaryllis picks right up on that. The second the first sentence gets out of my mouth, her expression changes to one of incredulity. Despite that, she waits for me to finish.
Knowing that I just sound crazier with every word out of my mouth, I force my way through the tale, giving her the brief rundown of how everything went down. I focus on the conflict with Sombra, as I don't feel the need to tell her everything about my time there. The moment I mention that practically everyone I interacted with was a pony, Amaryllis loses her patience.
"Okay, that's enough," Amaryllis interrupts, lifting a hand. She's starting to look furious now. "What kind of crap are you spewing now? Princesses? Sorcerers? Magic? Ponies?"
"Uh...yeah, I did say that this would sound crazy," I remind her. Amaryllis shakes her head vigorously.
"Uh-uh. No. 'Crazy' is if he had kidnapped you and took you to another country to use in like, a drug operation or something. That would be difficult to grasp, but would still be in the realm of possibility," Amaryllis corrects me. "No, what you just said...that's just utter lunacy. It sounds more to me like the guy tied you down in his basement and force-administered LSD or some shit to you for all this time."
"You know, I actually thought that exact thing at one point," I admit with a hint of amusement in my voice. I jump when Amaryllis's palm slams down on the table.
"Or, what happened to you was so horrible that you'd rather come up with some ridiculous story then tell me the truth? You know how I feel when people fucking lie to me, Seth!" Amaryllis is yelling at me now. Sheesh, this is harder than I thought. "Do you just not want me to hunt down and kill whoever took you?"
"Okay, if everything I said is false, then why haven't I aged?" I remind her, standing up. I still have one trick up my sleeve that should utterly convince her.
"There's a ton of ways to look younger. I don't know, Seth, but I refuse to believe that you were missing for eight years because you were off frolicking in a land of magical fucking unicorns!" Amaryllis retorts, her eyes following me as I move to stand just across the room from her. I sigh and close my eyes, reaching deep within myself for the one thing that I know will convince her. "I thought better of you! Why won't you just tell me what...what...the fuck is happening to you?"
Amaryllis trails off when she sees the thin tendrils of lime green magic snaking up from the carpet and twisting themselves around my legs. I clench my hands into fists and lift them slightly, the magic engulfing my body and filling the room with a green light. With a grunt, my aura explodes to life, burning the carpet beneath my feet.
I open my eyes to see Amaryllis standing up now, her face awash with green light. Her jaw is hanging open at the sight of the raw magical power that I've gained over my time in Equestria. I could go further than this, but I'd rather not damage my dorm. Besides, I think this small display is enough to convince her.
When I release the magic and let myself return to normal, Amaryllis releases a short exhale of utter disbelief. She's forced to sit down to deal with the rush of realizations that are running through her head.
She's quiet for a full minute after that. "...Ponies?" Amaryllis finally repeats, one eye twitching. "Seriously? The human race is replaced by talking ponies? Ponies. Like, I didn't hear you wrong, did I? Bright, colorful little ponies?"
"I know... I felt the exact same way when I first saw one myself," I say with a chuckle, happy that she's accepted my explanation now. I take out my phone and pull up one of the pictures of Rainbow that I took. Amaryllis glances at it curiously when I pass it to her...and then her expression changes to one that lets me know I practically just broke her.
"I don't know whether I should be laughing or crying," Amaryllis sighs, letting her face fall into her hands. "Bright rainbow haired ponies with fucking massive eyes. And you lived there for months? How did you not grow a pussy?"
"By constantly hitting things and surrounding myself with tomboys," I admit with a small grin. She's just as foul-mouthed as ever. Amaryllis pauses, and then she gives an accepting shrug.
"Fair enough. Hold on, I need to process this. So if everything you said was true...then...I need to change my world view," Amaryllis confesses. After a short pause, she starts to chuckle.
"What?" I ask curiously as her chuckle turns into a laugh. "Is something funny?"
"Did you make friends with the colorful little ponies? Did you have tea parties and wear dresses?" she teases me, forcing her words through her growing laughter.
I lift a finger and attempt to protest...but then I realize that she pretty much nailed it. "...Yes," I admit. Amaryllis completely loses it there, laughing so hard she nearly falls off the couch. "And for your information, it was a suit, thank you very much."
"I can't believe this!" Amaryllis is practically crying, taking short breaks to breathe heavily before dissolving into laughter again. "Seth, the asshole, made friends with cute little ponies! I knew I should have bought you that dress!"
"Fuck you, it was a suit," I retort, though I can't help smiling with her. At least she's not yelling at me anymore. "It's not that funny...quit laughing."
"You have got to tell me the full story," Amaryllis says, wiping a tear from her eye. "I'm assuming you beat this Sombra guy into a bloody pulp, right? So now you're back for good?"
"Yes and no," I reply, my face falling. Amaryllis's smile disappears in a split second. "We did defeat Sombra, though he kicked our asses from here to the moon before we could. But no, the time spell I'm using to see you only lasts for two days."
"What!?" Amaryllis shrieks and stands up. "You're leaving again so soon? But you've been gone for eight years! Why can't you stay!?"
"It's just the way that this spell works," I answer, hating the situation that I'm in. "After this, I can't come back here again. I'm here to let you all know what happened...and to say goodbye."
"That's...that's bullshit!" Amaryllis shouts, grabbing the nearest object (which happened to be a glass) and hurling it against the far wall, where it shatters to pieces. The next thing she does is punch down on the table with her fist, splitting the skin on her knuckles in the process. She sits down, sighing and looking utterly miserable. I remain silent, because there's really nothing I can say to make this situation any better.
Finally, Amaryllis stands back up. "Fuck it. If you only have two days, then let's not waste time standing around and talking," she decides sensibly. She grabs my arm and guides me towards the door, not even bothering to ask permission. "We're going to see your family...and then we're going to make the most of this time."
"That's...probably the best way to look at it," I admit, letting myself be guided. It's been forever since the last time Amaryllis bossed me around...I never realized how much I actually liked that until now. "I was actually planning on seeing my family after talking to you."
"Good. Because you only have two days, and you have a family that would probably like to know you're alive," Amaryllis returns. She leads me out of the dorm and into the parking lot, where there's a single dark red truck that I'm assuming is hers.
"You know, I can walk on my own," I remind her, tugging a little against her grip. I yelp as her fingers tighten around my arm.
"Clearly not, considering the last time I let you walk on your own, you ended up in the fucking future," Amaryllis snaps. Well, I guess I can't argue with that logic. "I still can't believe that's even a thing. Our world becomes a fairy tale in the future. Ugh...just get in the damn truck."
"Why did I just know you would get a truck?" I remark. I leap up onto the ledge and open the passenger side door, slipping into the seat a moment later. The interior of the car is rather cramped, but the seats are comfortable. It even smells like Amaryllis in here. I can't help but trace my fingers over the dashboard; I haven't seen the inside of a car for a long time.
"Probably for the same reason I figured you'd get a Prius," Amaryllis returns without missing a beat, climbing into the driver's seat. I can't help but wince at that.
"Ouch...so is that how this is going to be?" I respond with mock anger. Amaryllis doesn't respond with anything other than a grin. "Eight years, and you're still a bitch."
"Eight years, and you're still a pussy," Amaryllis returns, once again causing me to wince. I forgot just how fast she could be with the comebacks.
"I'll have you know I've done a lot of fighting," I try to defend myself, but honestly, I don't really care if she wants to insult me or not. It's just like before...and I don't think I could ask for anything more than that.
"I'll have you know I still don't give a shit. You haven't changed at all. You're still my pussy..." Amaryllis retorts. I blink, and then slowly turn my head over to her, wondering if she realized what she just said. Judging from the look on her face, she did. She places a hand on the wheel. "That came out wrong."
I can't help it. I burst out laughing as Amaryllis flushes red at her mix up. My merriment only lasts for a few seconds before she promptly punches me in the stomach, slightly winding me. "You know, you're gonna have to hit me a lot harder now," I remind her.
"I noticed," Amaryllis grunts, rubbing her hand. She shakes her head, smiling despite herself. "Anyway, enough sitting around. I'm going to call your mother and set something up. Two days...I can't believe this is all the time we have."
"I'm lucky I could even get this much," I tell her with a regretful shrug. Amaryllis grunts noncommittally, pulling out her phone. Oh so she really is calling my mom. God, she's going to kill me too.
Amaryllis plugs in the phone to the car's audio system and dials the number. She turns the key in the ignition and pulls out of the parking space. The phone continues to ring over the speaker system, even as we roll out of the parking lot and get onto the road. "Come on, pick up the phone," Amaryllis complains, smacking the dashboard.
She ends up having to redial the phone twice more before Elaine answers the phone. "Hey, Amaryllis, I can't really talk right now. We're working on a project, so I'm constantly busy," Elaine answers quickly, the sound of her voice filling the car. I can hear the sounds of fingers tapping on a keyboard in the background. "Can I call you back later?"
"No, you can leave work, because I'm coming over," Amaryllis responds sharply.
"Excuse me? I'm sorry, but this is an important contract. I only have a few more hours to work on this, and my only teammate is off today," Elaine reasons, sounding a little incredulous at Amaryllis's blunt request.
"Oh quit being difficult and make an exception," I urge her, forgetting for a moment that I'm not supposed to speak. There's a short moment of silence, and then Elaine promptly drops the phone, causing a deafening clatter to reverberate through the car. I notice Amaryllis is giving me stare. "What, was I supposed to stay quiet?"
"Is...is that my son!?I...oh..." Elaine is taken completely by surprise. I hear a scrape as she picks the phone back up. "Seth? Is it...you're alive? Oh...yes, I'm leaving work. I'll get my teammate to cover for me. If he won't, then management can screw off."
"Yeah, I'm okay now...though I do have one hell of a story," I respond, smiling at her words. "Can you be home in an hour? You still live in the same place, right?"
"I'll be home in half that time. Don't worry, we haven't moved," Elaine reassures me. Amaryllis pulls onto the ramp leading to the highway, having memorized the route between the campus and my parents' house. "I...how have you...where...I have so many questions, and...I need to call your dad and your brother!"
"Dad's not on duty, is he?" I ask anxiously. I know we had a bit of tense situation as far as military matters went eight years ago, but I don't know if that's still happening now. Still, it would suck a lot if dad was on active duty elsewhere and couldn't get home.
"No, but he is just past the state border. But he travels in your uncle's old one-seater plane, so he should be back by the time you get here," Elaine answers, excitement making its way into her voice. "I'm so happy...you still like pizza, right? I'll order three extra larges for us while you tell us all about where you've been...wait, you're not in any trouble, are you? Is that why..."
"Elaine!" Amaryllis interrupts.
"Mom!" I cut across her at the same time. Elaine sheepishly falls silent, giggling a little nervously. "Pizza sounds incredible. But I am not explaining things to you over the phone. I've already explained myself to Amaryllis once, and I'd rather only do it one more time."
"I understand. I'm just so happy to hear you're alive and well...we all fell apart after you disappeared," Elaine admits, sniffing."Just...come home safe, Seth. I've got to call the others."
"I'll see you soon then," I reply. After a few more parting words, my mother hangs up the phone. I look over at Amaryllis with a guilty expression. "God...I hate that I'm only here for two days. She's going to flip."
"I'm still pissed off about that. If your so called friends are gonna give you a time travel spell or whatever the fuck you're calling it, make it last longer than that!" Amaryllis snaps. I open my mouth and start to explain why it only lasts thing long, but she doesn't let me. "Don't bother. You're not going to make me any less pissed."
"I'm sorry, but this is the best I could get. Magic isn't exactly the easiest thing to use," I weakly say.
"Whatever," Amaryllis grumbles. For a few minutes, the only sounds come from the rumbling of the tires on the highway and the cars whizzing by on either side of us. Eventually, curiosity gets the better of her. "So...what kinds of things can you do with magic?"
That leads into a long discussion for the remainder of the trip. Unfortunately, I have to disappoint her because I only know how to do one spell that isn't combat related, and that's the teleportation circle that doesn't even work right unless it's set up beforehand, with two different circles serving as gateways.
Apart from that, Amaryllis continuously asks me questions about my life in Equestria. Like, what did I eat, or what the technology level was like, or what I did with myself in my free time. I actually end up telling her a little about the ponies I spent time with the most, though I make sure to steer clear of too many details involving Rainbow. That's just something I don't need to bring up.
"So you're telling me there's a bright fucking pink pony that has hammerspace in her mane?" Amaryllis asks in between laughs as we pull into the suburb where my parents live. She seems to be finding the things I'm telling her to be really stupid or silly...though I can't really blame her, considering I find Pinkie stupid and silly at times. "How does that make sense?"
"It doesn't. It really doesn't. It's not like I didn't try to understand how she worked...it's just that every time I tried, the others would just give me this look and say 'we don't get it either, stop trying,'" I confess with a sheepish grin. "Literally not even the ponies understand how Pinkie works."
Amaryllis shakes her head. "Ponies...every time you say that I wonder what the hell happened that caused ponies to take our place," she marvels. Suddenly, she does a double take. "Wait, what did happen to us? There weren't any other humans?"
I freeze, remembering what happens to this world. It's been eight years out of the eighty that humanity lasted...I wonder if Vanta is already strategically taking down targets. Still...I doubt I should drop that bombshell just yet. "No, there weren't any others. Well, there was one other, but he got there the same way I did. As for the rest of us...well, I'll tell you that at the same time as the others. You won't like it," I warn her. Amaryllis blinks, but doesn't say anything more.
At long last, Amaryllis pulls into my driveway...and I can see Elaine's car there, as well as my dad's and brother's. Wow, I thought my dad was a state over. I mean, I know the border isn't that far off, but he got here freakishly fast.
From here, I can see someone sitting on the front doorstep, dressed in casual jeans and a t-shirt. The moment we pull in, he stands up and swiftly approaches us. I can tell immediately who it is by the man's broad shoulders and messy blond hair. Holy shit, I can't even put into words how much I've missed this guy's stupid face.
I don't even wait for the car to fully stop before I throw open the door and leap out. Adam quickly spots me and lets out a happy shout, vaulting over the front of Elaine's car. He and I meet in the middle of the driveway. I stop just in front of him, but he goes further than that and pulls me into a rough hug.
"I have no words...no words, little brother," Adam expresses vehemently, his arms tightly wrapped around my middle. "Except that it's really good to see you're alive."
"Yeah...I've missed you guys a lot...and did you get bigger, or is it just me?" I comment when he pulls back, looking at his muscles. My brother has always been sturdily built due to his interest in sports, but over the past eight years, it seems like he's grown even stronger.
"I could ask you the same question. Since when do you work out?" Adam points out, punching my shoulder lightly. He puts on a grin. "I mean, at least now you look like you're related to me."
"Since shit happened and I had to work," I reply with a shrug.
"What do you mean? Where were you for the past eight years?" Adam asks, wearing a concerned expression. "I mean, all I got from Mom is that you were back and Amaryllis had you."
"I'll tell you guys everything. Just wait a bit until we get inside and I can explain it to all of you at once," I tell him. Adam sighs impatiently, but nods. Behind us, Amaryllis locks up her truck and joins us down here, greeting Adam with a polite nod.
The front door to my house opens and both Elaine and Gerome come out at the same time, having heard the dialog between my brother and I. Looking at them, it's easy to see how the years have affected them. They're both clearly showing the past eight years. While I'm assuming Elaine is still coloring her hair, Gerome's is streaked with gray and his face has hard lines on it.
In just a few short moments, I'm being practically suffocated in my mother's embrace, the poor woman crying shamelessly. Gerome stands a bit further back, a faint smile on his face. He's still wearing his military uniform, so I guess he had been at a base before traveling down here to see me.
The moment I get free of my mother, she and Adam start bombarding me with questions. Gerome has always been the quiet one of the family, so he stands back and regards me with concern. Finally, I have to raise my voice to be heard over them.
"Come on, I get it. I'm back all of sudden, and you want answers," I interrupt, getting them to quiet down and listen. "Let's go inside. I'm going to explain everything to you all at once."
"Okay...yes, you're right. Let's go inside and settle down," Elaine agrees, seeing the sense in that. "Are you thirsty? Should I get you something to drink? The pizza won't be here for another half hour."
"That does sound nice actually," I admit. The five of us weave through the cars and enter the house.
There, I navigate to the living room and head towards the sole armchair there. It looks like the same one from eight years ago...I guess it was designed pretty well to last this long. I quickly orient the chair so that it's facing the sofa, and then I place myself on it with a sigh. All of the memories of my parent's house coming rushing back to me...though not all of them were necessarily happy. But then again, the bad memories were my fault.
"You guys are not going to believe this shit," Amaryllis warns my family with an exasperated shake of her head. She sits down on the couch across from me. It's an L-shaped couch, so there's enough room for everyone to sit down on it. "It's utter lunacy...but it's somehow true."
"Now I'm even more worried," Elaine admits from her position in the kitchen. It looks like she's making drinks for all of us. I notice the alcohol with a wince. I hope she knows not to make a drink like that for me. "Hm, I know Seth wants water because he always does, but Amaryllis, what would you like?"
"Something strong please. God knows I need it," Amaryllis answers back with a sigh. I give a smile, glad that Elaine still remembers my preferences. After a short wait, Elaine returns with drinks for all of us, consisting of wine for her and Gerome, a strong beer for Amaryllis, and just plain ice water for me. "Now, this time I get the full story, right?"
"More or less. There's a lot to cover," I admit. I danced around a lot of it with Amaryllis, so I suppose I should go more in depth. However, I should still avoid talking overmuch about the combat. My mother will flip even more than she already is. "I should probably handle this a little differently this time and skip the angry disbelief part."
"Oh don't give me that! Even you said it sounds like an acid trip!" Amaryllis protests, amusing me and further confusing my clueless family.
"What exactly are you referring to?" Gerome inquires, talking for the first time since I've seen him. He's always been quiet though, so I'm not too worried.
I take a breath. "I'm going to start by showing you something unbelievable," I begin. As they all watch, I lift one hand and concentrate until a gentle magical aura forms in my flattened palm. The aura flickers and dances like an emerald flame. My family gazes at it with surprise, unsure what to make of it.
"What...is that?" Elaine questions, her eyes alight with awe. She leans forward to get a closer look. "How are you doing that?"
"This is magic. I'm showing this to you because you'll know that everything I say after this is true," I reveal to them. To further prove my point, I allow the magical flame to grow, engulf my hand, and course down the length of my arm.
"Magic? No way...that's some Fairy Tail crap right there," Adam marvels. Surprisingly, he doesn't look as surprised as I might have expected. Instead, he looks...jealous. "That's so cool. How do you do that? Can I do that?"
"I see. While I'm not sure it should be referred to as magic, I concede that this is a force I'm unfamiliar with," Gerome observes. "Is it dangerous?"
"Never mind that...what exactly happened that you learned how to do...whatever that is?" Elaine interrupts. I sigh and let the magic dissipate.
"Just sit back. This is going to be a long story," I remind them, and then I begin my retelling.
I go through nearly everything I've experienced since the my meeting with Sombra. I start with how I was transported to a ruined version of the school and emerge into a completely changed landscape. I make sure to leave out the ultimate fate of mankind; I'm going to leave that to the very end. Even then, I'm sure as hell not going to tell them everything about it. I'm certainly not telling Adam how his daughter dies.
Their faces are priceless when I move on to explain how the world I appeared in was populated mostly by bright multicolored ponies. Just like before, Amaryllis can hardly keep herself from laughing. Again like before, I mention nothing of my relationship with Rainbow, but I do relate how I made friends with them (again, to Amaryllis's amusement).
The story continues into the night, my family's attention fixed on me and my wild fantastical tale. Before long, the pizza my mother ordered gets here, and we all dig into it as I continue. Though I do get odd looks when I stop and emit a moan of happiness as my teeth sink into meat for the first time in months. I ordered a sausage and pepperoni pizza for that very same reason.
Then, skipping past the Royal Wedding, I move on to detail my interactions with Sombra, and how ultimately that ended up in our victory. AT the very end I tell them all the clincher...I'm only here because of a time spell that only works once...and lasts for two days only. Suffice to say, their reactions are completely negative.
"What? I finally get to see both of my sons in the same room for the first time in eight years, and I'm just going to lose you all over again?" Elaine promptly yells, the poor woman starting to cry again. Gerome holds her close to him, his own expression nearly unreadable as it usually is; the only reason I know he's not responding well is because he's closing his eyes and sighing.
"I know! It's complete bullshit! I mean, if you have magic anyway, how is it so hard to make it so you can stay longer?" Amaryllis snaps, agreeing with my mother's protest. "Isn't magic supposed to defy all reason?"
"This is just not cool...even though you being able to go Super Saiyan is totally awesome," Adam adds as well. Despite their protests, I can't help but smile. Even now, he can't not reference an anime in a simple conversation.
Their protests escalate from there, to the point where I have my mother clinging on to me from one side, and Amaryllis is just venting her fury. As difficult as this tale is for them to swallow, now I'm hitting them with the solid fact that I can't stay. In the wake of all this raw emotion from my family, I feel like my heart is steadily getting heavier. I knew this would be hard...but I guess I underestimated just how hard.
"Is there truly no other way?" Gerome asks. His words, while they are usually few, are generally spoken with firmness and purpose. Therefore, the others force themselves to calm down and listen.
"I asked, but it seems there isn't. It has something to do with how timelines work. I'm not sure about the details, but Chrysalis was quite firm that I would only have these two days," I admit to them. "After that, I'll be returning to Equestria."
"You're...you're returning? You're not disappearing?" Elaine asks, surprised and confused. When I give her a questioning look, she elaborates. "When you said that you would disappear after two days, I thought you meant for good...like, gone forever. But you're going back to the...the pony place?"
"Yeah, it's a time spell. Think of it like a bungee cord stretched to its limits. When time runs out, I rebound back to its origin," I explain. Elaine doesn't look any less sad that her time with me is limited, but she seems relieved to hear me say that. "I won't be dying, if that's what you thought."
"Oh..okay," Elaine sniffs. She closes her eyes and shudders, attempting to calm herself. She takes a step back...and then she reopens her eyes and transfixes me with a solemn expression. "Can I ask you a serious question?"
"Yeah, of course."
"Are you happy there?" Elaine asks simply. I blink, taken aback by the question. "As a mother...I want the world for you. I wanted you to make lots of friends, settle down with a nice girl, and live the rest of your life in happiness. I know...I haven't done the best job of parenting you. I know our relationship has been rough...but you're still my son, and I love you. So I want you to tell me truthfully...will you be happy living in Equestria for the rest of your life?"
Everyone is watching me now for a response, now that my mother has poured her heart out to me. My mind flashes back to the many arguments I've had with my family. I've kept my inner feelings close to my heart, and I've always just done what was necessary to give me a stable life. One time...I told my parents that they had no business caring about my personal feelings, as long as I was doing what needed to be done in order to live a productive life. I have never regretted saying that to them as much as I do right now. The least I can do is be just as sincere back.
I stand up and approach Elaine steadily. "I know that now...and you have absolutely nothing to blame yourself for. The troubles that we went through were because of me...and my inability to recover from an unfortunate encounter. My regret is that I didn't see that sooner," I reassure her. Elaine's eyes widen...because the last she saw of me, I was still as bad as I've ever been. Even Amaryllis is shocked, judging from the way she's looking at me as if I've grown a second head. "You guys have been supporting me no matter what I put you through...the least I could have said is 'thank you.' I don't know how you did it."
"We're your family, bro. That's what we're here for," Adam joins in, punching my shoulder lightly. "You could yell and curse at us all you want, but we'd never leave you out to dry."
"Thank you. I know it's a little too late for me to say that now...but at the very least, I can finally bring myself to say...I love you too, Mom," I say. The words are hard to say...but this is the first time that I've ever returned that sentence to her in years...not counting the eight years I've been gone. Elaine stares at me, and then she brings me in for another rib shattering hug. I gasp as the air leaves my lungs, and then I chuckle. "To answer your question...yes. I will be happy in Equestria. Amaryllis may laugh, but I made lots of good friends who've stood beside me even during the bleakest of situations. I have my own home and a stable job in a nice town...the only thing I was missing was the chance to see you all like this one more time."
"I...I need another beer," Amaryllis groans, ruining the moment thoroughly. She shakes her head and stalks into the kitchen, rummaging through the fridge for another drink. "I never thought I'd see the day. Seth's gone soft."
"I have not 'gone soft,'" I snap at her in annoyance. That's probably the nastiest thing she could have said regarding the lessons I've learned."It's not soft to realize that it's okay to trust others, and to be myself. I'm not as naïve as I was before...but neither am I going to stay closed up in myself, either."
"Yeah, okay. Make that two beers," Amaryllis replies, frustrating me further. I don't think she's even listening to me. I wonder if this is how Twilight and the others felt when talking to me early on. Amaryllis walks back into the room with two bottles of beer and sits down on the couch next to my mother...who is gazing at me with shining eyes.
"I have never been more proud of you than I am right now," Elaine expresses happily. She sniffs and clasps Gerome's hand tightly...though for some reason, my father is staring at me intently with a rather intense expression. Elaine lets out a deep breath. "Okay. If there's no way that you can stay longer than two days...then I'm just going to make these two days with you the happiest that we've ever shared."
"I'm down with that. Seth, you've totally got to meet my wife," Adam agrees. I freeze. My eyes slowly widen as the meaning of that one invitation sinks in. Adam misinterprets my expression as surprise, and he laughs uproariously. "Yeah, I got married! Even have myself a little baby girl! How cool is that?"
"Daughter...huh?" I repeat softly, a small smile curving across my lips. If Adam got married...then that means his daughter is...Maka. At that, another realization strikes me like a freight train, Vanta's words from long ago coming to mind.
"Did you know she kept a diary? What a delightful girl she was. She wanted so much to meet you again."
His words made no sense back then...but now...my coming back here at this particular point in time must have been part of the original timeline...but I never realized it because I hadn't yet experienced it. So now...if I take Adam up on his offer...I will finally get to meet her, and make Vanta's words true.
"Yeah, I think I'd like that," I say to Adam, making him beam. "I mean, I'm interested to see who you ended up marrying. I bet she's as crazy as you."
"She really is...you have no idea," Amaryllis quips, proceeding to take a gulp of her beer. "They practically live in a weeb cave."
"Hey, you know I hate that word!" Adam throws back at her, but his protest only serves to amuse her. I actually hate that word too, but Amaryllis is just fucking with him like she always does.
"I'm going to use my vacation savings to take us out and do something fun with all of us," Elaine suggests. "Maybe not a movie because that takes too much time, but definitely something hands on. Maybe like a park trail?"
"Before we do any of that," Gerome interrupts solemnly, his deep voice again causing everyone to quiet down. "There is one detail that you failed to mention during your story."
"What's that?" I ask curiously.
Gerome's eyes narrow. "Humanity has been existing on the planet for nearly two hundred millennia. It strikes me as odd that in only another three thousand years, humanity is replaced by another sentient species. I understand that this being called Discord is responsible for the majority of the discrepancies, but the question remains: where did humanity go?"
Everyone's eyes return to me at Gerome's rather astute observation. Being military minded, I guess I should have expected him to pick up on this. I heave a sigh. "You're pretty sharp. You're right; after all this time that we've endured, three thousand years shouldn't mean much," I respond reluctantly. "I didn't really want to bring this up just yet, but I guess you deserve to know."
"What happens?" Elaine asks hesitantly. Even Amaryllis sets down her drink, suddenly interested.
I remain silent for several seconds...and then I drop the bombshell. "King Sombra didn't just kidnap me and return home. Before leaving, he invaded the world with his forces. Humanity only lasts for another eighty years," I reveal with a heavy heart. The silence in the room after that is palpable.
"That's impossible," Amaryllis responds first, holding her head in one hand. "How can one ridiculous pony king take out the whole human race? With our technology, we'd last a hell of a lot longer than eighty years."
"Well, he said he had undead, right? What can we do against monsters that can swarm us and not die when you shoot them?" Adam puts in, equally shocked. "Holy shit...this means my daughter won't even live to be eighty...goddamn, I wish you hadn't said anything."
"I...see," Gerome responds, pausing a moment. He closes his eyes and sighs through his nose, somehow managing to keep his composure. "I'm afraid I must believe you."
"Wait, what? Why do you say that?" Elaine questions. I watch my father as well, interested in what he's going to say next.
"According to intelligence reports, small rural towns over in Russia are going dark," Gerome reveals seriously. Huh, no kidding. I guess Vanta has been busy...and it makes sense that they would start in Russia. After all, Sombra recruited Hawke sometime after me, and he's Russian. "If what you say is true, then perhaps it has already started."
I sit back in my chair, massaging my temples. It's gone quiet after Gerome's confirmation. Considering that humanity only lasts for another eighty years, they're now confronted with a very harsh reality. I'm not sure how long it'll take for Vanta and his undead to reach the United States, but I do know that Maka ends up commanding a group of soldiers stationed in my college. I doubt that she was the only group to bunker down, but she definitely dealt Vanta a crushing defeat.
Amaryllis finishes her second beer, but it doesn't look like it's helping her any. She looks at the empty bottle with a lamenting sigh. She sets it down and gets up. "I'm just gonna get the whole case," she decides, returning to the kitchen.
"Suddenly, I've lost my appetite," Elaine confesses, setting her unfinished plate on the coffee table. "Not only do I find out that my son is alive and trapped in a land of ponies, but also that we're going to die to a bunch of unliving monsters."
"That's not necessarily true," Gerome reassures her. "The last of humanity, according to Seth, is extinguished by the end of eighty years. It is unlikely that you or I will live to see the danger reach our country."
"Lucky for you," Amaryllis retorts, walking back into the room with the entire case of beer with her. She sets it on the table and takes another bottle from it, as does Adam. "Though come to think of it, I doubt I'll live that long either. I'm already thirty,"
"Same here. Our generation likely won't be the one to encounter the undead," Adam agrees. His face starts to look pained. "But the next...that's a different story."
"Nevertheless, there's no use worrying about it now," Gerome advises us sensibly. "It is troubling, but it likely won't directly affect us."
"So we're just going to ignore it?" Elaine demands.
"Of course not. But Seth's time is limited, isn't it?" Gerome responds, showing once again his ability to keep a cool head even when faced with such dire news. "Let us leave that revelation for later, and instead focus on spending as much time as possible with our son."
"Yeah, I don't know about you, but I'd like to have some fun now," Amaryllis agrees, already halfway through her next bottle. I give her an askance look.
"Aren't you already? How many of those have you had now?" I remark, pulling the case further away from her. I yelp and duck beneath the bottle cap that she throws at me in response. "Try not to get too drunk before we even do anything."
"I've only had a few; shut your damn mouth," Amaryllis retorts, throwing another cap at me. "It takes more than this to get me drunk. There's hardly any alcohol in this crap."
"I'm sorry that our beer doesn't fit your taste," Elaine responds sarcastically, taking one of them herself now that she's finished her glass of wine. "Anyway, so what should we do for tonight? A movie? It is too late to go anywhere after all."
"Oh, I got one! It came out forever ago, but I still have it on my portable drive," Adam pipes up enthusiastically. He dives into his bag, rummaging through whatever is inside of it in search of his drive. "Get this: it's called Summer Wars, and it's totally self-contained. You'll get a kick out of this, bro."
"Not that anime crap again," Amaryllis groans. "I mean, that's what it is, isn't it? It's always anime with you, Adam."
"Heh, well, I'm sure it can't be that bad," Elaine expresses with a carefree shrug. "I mean, it's all about Seth right now, so if he wants to watch it, I'll sit here with you all."
"Seth, please..." Amaryllis starts to say, but then she sees the grin on my face. She lets her head fall into her free hand. "Ugh, here we go. It's a good thing I'm already drinking."
"I'll make some popcorn so we can all get settled," Elaine decides. All the while, Adam is plugging in his hard drive into the media player hooked into the large TV.
Once the movie starts, all of us sit back together on the sofa with bowls of popcorn and our respective drinks. I don't think I've ever just watched a movie with the whole family like this...at least not for a long, long time.
I'm sitting between Amaryllis and my mother, with Adam and Gerome sitting on either side of us. Gerome is more or less disinterested in what's happening in the movie, so he spends most of his time on his laptop. However, he does look up every once in a while when something major is going on.
As for Elaine, she gets curious halfway through and asks in a whisper if I'd taken any pictures while I was in Equestria. When I tell her I did, she asks to see them. I shrug and hand her my phone so she can look through them at her leisure.
"Ooh, they're so cute!" is her first reaction to seeing a pony. Hah, I guess that's worlds better than my first reaction. The first time I saw a pony, my first thought was "...the fuck is that!?" I almost burst out laughing when Elaine turns to Gerome and whispers, "I want one. Gerry, can you get me a pony?"
My dad's reaction is to roll his eyes and ignore her, focusing instead on his computer.
By the time the movie ends, it's past midnight, and all of us are tired. Amaryllis is definitely a little tipsy by the end of it, hilariously enough. Even though she denies it, her face is a little flushed and she keeps giving me these weird looks.
After that, my mother handles the dishes while the rest of us head off to our rooms. According to my family, my room is still the same as it ever was, open and free for me to use. Amaryllis takes the guest room, and my brother goes to his own room.
Laying back in my bed, I let out a satisfied sigh. This is just like I remember it...no, better than I remember it. Now, I'm actually going out of my way to be a part of the family...the way I should have been doing it in the first place. The only thing that feels off is that everyone is much older than before, while I haven't aged all that much. Amaryllis is eight years older than me now, for example.
Nevertheless, I'm going to make the most of this time.
The door to my room slams open without warning, startling me awake. I lurch up in bed to see the blurry form of Amaryllis standing in the doorway. "Wake up! Food's almost done and I'm tired of waiting," she demands. She leaves before I can respond, leaving me wondering what the hell is going on.
Seconds later, I fully wake up with a start, remembering exactly what situation I'm in. I reach over to my phone and quickly check the timer. I still have plenty of time; there's still thirty six hours left before I have to go back.
I sniff the air curiously, smelling a delicious odor from downstairs. That smells like eggs, potatoes...and...is that fucking bacon!? Oh my god; all of my yes. I excitedly leap out of bed...and soon remember that the only set of clothes I have are the ones I brought with me.
On a whim, I throw open my old closet. Sure enough, my mother hasn't gotten rid of anything. I haven't aged or grown much compared to the others, so I'm sure they'll still fit me. Then again, I think I can get away with wearing Rarity's clothes for one more day...except my parents would complain.
I give in with a sigh and take some clothes out of my dresser and closet and quickly get dressed. I'll just have to make sure to be wearing Rarity's clothes when it's time for me to leave. That pony will kill me if I lose another one of her outfits.
"Oh my god, I could not love you more right now," I say to announce my presence when I walk downstairs. Elaine looks up from where she's frying the bacon in the pan, smiling brightly at my appearance. "I've been a vegetarian for months...and now you're giving me bacon."
"I remember you used to love this meal...so I thought I'd make it for you," Elaine explains, beaming. "Have a seat. I'll get everything for you."
The dining table is in the kitchen for ease of access, so after getting myself a cup of water, I sit down with Amaryllis and Adam. Gerome is pacing in the living room, speaking to someone over the phone in low hushed tones.
A few minutes later, we're all seated around the table with plates of food and assorted drinks. Hilariously enough, we had to take the alcohol away from Amaryllis, who insisted that she should be allowed to drink it to help her cope with the fact that the future is basically ponies.
"So...tell me about your friends, Seth. I remember seeing that winged pony with the rainbow hair a lot in the pictures you've taken. Who is she?" Elaine asks after we start eating. I choke a bit on my eggs, put rather on the spot. I can't exactly tell them that I'm technically together with said pony.
"There are ponies with wings?" Adam inquires with evident interest. "Are there unicorns?"
"Yes, actually," I answer him wryly.
"That's just awesome," Adam comments.
Amaryllis just shakes her head and gazes longingly towards the refrigerator. "It's not even nine in the morning and I already need a drink," she complains. "Unicorns...I mean really?"
"To answer your question, mom...her name is Rainbow Dash. So named because her mane is rainbow, and she can fly really fast. Totally counter-intuitive, right?" I reveal, taking the moment to poke fun at my marefriend. If this was an anime, she'd be sneezing right now. "She's also got an ego like you wouldn't believe."
"I thought you hated people with egos," Amaryllis points out. I shrug.
"Well, I did peg her as a worthless jock the moment I met her...but that was way immature of me. She's actually a lot of fun, and I've couldn't had a more loyal friend...current company not included, of course," I retell, the others listening with varying degrees of interest. As for Elaine, I doubt she could look happier than she is right now. "Granted, that ego of hers makes it really easy to mess with her."
"I still can't believe you made friends with it," Amaryllis expresses. The way she said that doesn't sit well with me.
"With her," I correct her sharply.
"Whatever." Amaryllis just rolls her eyes. Heh, I guess that's no way I can really convince her that they're anything more than animals. That took me a while to get over, after all.
"She sounds wonderful. I wish I could see more of her," Elaine responds. She pauses, and then brightens up. "Did you take any videos? I didn't get all the way through your photos last night."
"I have a few, yeah." I navigate to one of the first videos I ever took and pass it to her, turning the volume up to high. I don't mind sharing my experiences with her. At least she's being open-minded about all of this.
Elaine takes the phone and sets it against the basket in the center of the table, where all the napkins are held. The phone is set up in such a way that it can stand up on its own at an angle that she can see it well. She taps the screen, and the video starts to play.
"Would you quit playing with that?" My voice comes out of the phone, sounding irritated and tired after a hard day of working in Canterlot. This particular video took place right after the changeling invasion, when we were working on reconstructing the city. Needless to say, Rainbow and I had a lot of time together in her suite at the end of the work day. "You don't even know what half that shit does."
"That's the point!" Rainbow's scratchy voice comes out from the speaker. The mare has her face up close to the camera...if I remember right, she accidentally hit the record button with her nose. "This thing is awesome...ooh, I can see myself now."
Elaine chuckles at the sight of Rainbow posing ridiculously in front of the phone. "What the...how did you turn on the front camera if you can't even read English?" I had complained, stomping over to her.
"I dunno. I just started hitting buttons," Rainbow admitted. "Um, the little figures keep changing for some reason. Should it be doing that?"
"You turned on the video, didn't you? Turn it off, I don't have that much space," I directed her.
"This thing takes video?! Wow, Seth, you've totally gotta get me doing a Sonic Rainboom on video!" Rainbow asserted excitedly."Also, how do you turn this off?"
"Give me this." I step into the picture, taking the phone and halting the video there. Elaine passes me the phone back, still laughing.
"She's so adorable," Elaine squeals. Adam takes the phone next, insisting on watching it for himself. I start to get a little embarrassed as they all laugh at Rainbow being silly. "Gerome, I want one!"
"Talking ponies," Amaryllis laments with a shake of her head. "What has happened to my reality?"
"So where exactly are we going?" I ask Adam as the five of us move towards the family car, our each of us carrying our swimming outfits. I glance at the car...which surprisingly is not the same one I remember us having. I guess the old thing broke down over eight years. It wouldn't surprise me, considering it had been a twenty year old car.
"I'm driving, mom. I know the way." Adam leaps into the driver's seat and shuts the door before answering. "We gotta drop by my house real quick and grab my other key ring. Then we're gonna head up to my boat at the lake!"
"You have a boat?" I question in surprise. I remember Adam had always liked the idea of driving around on boats, but I didn't think he'd actually make enough money to get one. Okay, changing my thought. He was an engineer...of course he made enough money. I'm just surprised he actually managed it well enough to buy a boat.
"It's actually a really nice boat," Amaryllis inputs. She ends up crawling to the back of the car with me, considering my parents are going to be sitting up front. "You could seriously live in it for several days, provided you had the supplies."
"It's great for when I get days off. Like now," Adam concurs. With a turn of the keys in the ignition, the car rumbles to life. "Anyway, it's about a thirty minute drive to my house, so I'm gonna put on some music. Any requests?"
"Only that if you put on even a single anime opening, I'm coming up there," Amaryllis warns him from her position beside me.
Adam cranes his head back to look at her, a stupid grin on his face. "Got it. One Lucky Star opening coming right up!" he responds in his most troll-like voice. Amaryllis just groans miserably.
"That's just cruel and unusual punishment!" I complain, bracing myself for the incredibly girly theme. How my brother can watch that stuff is beyond me. "At least give me something I like!"
"I have the weirdest family," Elaine comments.
Adam rushes up the porch steps without waiting for the rest of us, a noticeable spring in his step. His keys jingle as he unlocks the door, and then he sticks his head inside. "Hey! Lena, we've got company!" Adam announces, gesturing for the rest of us to follow him. I notice as I get closer that I can hear soft music coming from somewhere deeper in the house.
"What!? Company?" A faint female voice calls back, the music pausing. A series of bumps and thuds emanate from further in. I look at Amaryllis with a perplexed expression. She just rolls her eyes upon meeting my gaze. "What company?"
"I may or may not have brought my whole family," Adam admits sheepishly. Following that is the sound of blankets rustling and drawers opening.
"Yah! Give a girl some warning first! I'm not even presentable!" Lena complains loudly. Adam chuckles and shuts the door behind us once we're all inside. "One second!"
"Your wife sounds...interesting," I remark. The front door opens out into a small foyer, from which there's two small staircases heading up and down, respectively. The one heading down no doubt leads to a basement. I give an appreciative nod and stride up the small staircase into the living room. From there, I start looking around in order to take in the features of my brother's house. "Huh...it almost looks...presentable in here."
"That's just so they can entertain professional company if they have to. Just wait, you haven't seen the room they actually live in," Amaryllis inputs before Adam can say anything.
"Hey, it's an awesome room. I'm sure Seth will agree," Adam retorts. He heads further into the room towards an end table. He rifles through the drawer for a moment before returning with a separate keyring. "Okay, that takes care of that. Now I just gotta introduce you to my family. Wait here, I'll be right back."
Adam retreats into the hallway that offshoots from the main living area. I do as I'm told and lean against the railing overlooking the foyer.
I hardly get a moment to think before a woman walks out of the hallway, dressed in clean and presentable clothes. Noticing her, I stand up straight and approach her. So, this is my brother's wife, Lena. She looks younger than I expected, so I'm guessing she's only in her late twenties or early thirties. Despite the nice clothes she's wearing, I can tell that she just got out of bed. Her hair is brown and tied up in a bun, and she's wearing glasses to complete her image. She's decent looking I suppose...I can see why my brother would like her.
Lena pauses when she sees me, not really recognizing me. Yeah, there's not much of a family resemblance. That goes double, considering I haven't aged compared to everyone else. When I see her, I look her up and down and put on a smile. "I guess you're my sister-in-law, then," I greet her politely, though on the inside I feel a little awkward.
"Sister? Then that would make you...Seth?" Lena suddenly looks interested. When I nod, she beams at me. She and I shake hands firmly."No wonder Adam took off in the middle of the day yesterday. We all thought you were missing!"
"I went on an adventure. That is literally the simplest way I can express the crazy things I've been through over the past eight years," I respond wryly. It hasn't been eight years for me, but I don't feel like explaining that again. "I come back, my brother has a wife. Nice to meet you, Lena. How ever do you tolerate my brother?"
Lena giggles, adjusting her glasses. "It's been a challenge, but he's so much fun, so it makes up for it," she replies. She then gives me an odd look. "You should be around my age, right? Because you certainly don't look it. How did you do that?"
"I...uh...went on an adventure," I repeat lamely, much to her confusion. Before she can ask further questions, my brother returns from the hallway, carrying a small child of about four years with him. My attention turns to her immediately, my interest captured. "Is that...?"
"Yeah, here's my baby Maka," Adam proclaims proudly, holding the girl in such a way that she can look out at us. Glancing at her, I recognize her almost immediately. With those green eyes and long blonde hair...she looks a lot like I remember from the video...except a hell of a lot younger. Granted, the Maka I saw there was in her later years. Seeing all these people causes Maka to hug her father's neck shyly. "Aw, don't be shy. This here is your Uncle Seth. I've told you about him, remember?"
Maka peers at me with a sudden interest, and all of a sudden I feel rather strange. Even though I knew of her existence, I've never actually met her...and it's really weird to hear myself addressed as an uncle. "He's him?" Maka whispers in a small voice. Adam nods in confirmation. She smiles brightly and innocently. "He's pretty."
Behind me, Amaryllis chokes and claps a hand to her mouth in order to stifle her prompt laughter. She fails miserably to the point where she has to turn around and bite her lip. All the while, I stand there with a deadpan expression. That would be the first fucking thing she said to me. God. Dammit.
"Uncle!" Maka reaches out her arms to me, still smiling. She leans forward and almost falls, but I quickly step forward to catch her. I stumble and nearly unbalance, unused to the weight of a child in my arms. She giggles the whole time, her little arms wrapping around my neck. She coos happily, her face snuggling into my neck.
"Oh sheesh; she's adorable," I have to admit, a sheepish grin on my face. Lena and Adam both beam at the sight of their daughter snuggling with me in my arms. She's surprisingly well behaved for a child her age...I guess she's been parented well. I never pegged Adam for a good father, but then again, he did have a knack for surprising me. I then glance at Adam pointedly. "Good thing she takes after her mother."
"Hey, what's that supposed to mean!?" Adam exclaims indignantly, much to the amusement of his wife. He walks up and lifts up a strand of his daughter's hair. "She has my hair! And my eyes! Look! Green!"
"But she has my face," Lena points out smugly. I guess she does...the rather elderly Maka in the video did look like an older version of the woman in front of me.
After that, I hand her back to Adam, and then my mother spends a little time fussing over her. It's only a short while longer before Adam shoos us all out of the house. Together with Lena and Maka, we all pile together in the car. According to my brother, we're going to spend the whole day at the lake, and maybe even visit the water park that's there. I can't help but be excited as well.
"Holy...um...wow! You weren't kidding," I gasp aloud at the sight of the boat moored at the end of the dock. I have to bite my tongue to keep from cursing, due to the presence of Maka in Lena's arms. She's much younger than Apple Bloom, and she's actually family, so probably should watch my mouth.
The lake extends out before us, being of such size that it stretches as far as the eye can see. I've never actually been to this lake before, so all I know about it is that it's a popular tourist spot, as well as the reservoir for most of the state's freshwater. To capitalize on the tourist industry, there's scores of restaurants, hotels, and other attractions lining the shores. There's even a water park at one end.
"There she is! My pride and joy!" Adam proclaims, gesturing emphatically at the boat. I think the best way to describe it is as a yacht. Complete with tinted windows, antennas on the roof, and even a rather extensive deck open to the air, it looks the very picture of luxury.
"Exactly how long did you save up for this?" I ask wryly as we all walk towards the yacht. Adam steps on deck first, the keys jingling in his hand. At my words, Lena gives Adam a hilarious annoyed expression, causing him to look rather embarrassed.
"...A long time. I mean a really long time," Adam admits with a rueful grin. He heads over to a ladder that leads up to the helm. "But I don't regret it for a moment! I take this baby out with my family as much as I can!"
Once Adam reaches the top, he sticks his head over the railing. "Okay, now all of you ditch those clothes and get into your swimsuits! We're lucky; it's gorgeous out today!"
"Sounds like a plan!" Amaryllis responds, immediately moving into the yacht's interior, no doubt heading for the bathroom. "You guys are too slow. I'm getting changed first!"
We finally take the yacht out into the lake, each of us taking turns driving the yacht. Together with my family, the hours seem to fly, the sun traveling relentlessly over the horizon. However, I am determined to push the time out of my mind and just cherish this time without thinking about the future.
Due to it being the middle of the week, the lake is mostly devoid of tourists, much to my relief. That way, we don't have to worry as much about running into other boats or people. More than once, Adam brings the boat to a stop and we spend some time dipping in the lake. Thanks to the sun beating down on us from above, the water is relatively warm.
Just as expected, our true destination is the water park at the other end of the lake. Due to owning a mooring place for his boat (which requires a monthly fee I'm assuming), Adam doesn't have to pay for entry into the park. However, there are too many of us to get in completely free, so I spend the rest of my money to get us all in. My parents try to protest, of course.
"Look, what good is this money gonna do me in Equestria? I might as well get rid of it now while I can," I say to them with a shrug, passing the money to the ticket-taker before my parents can stop me.
The water park itself is rather extensive and populated despite the time of week. Just from the entrance, I can see towering waterslides, a wave pool, and even a slowly trickling stream where other people are lazily floating along on inner tubes.
From there, we all split off into groups to do our own thing. At first, Adam and Lena take Maka off on their own, while my parents come with Amaryllis and I. With them, we visit the water slides together.
I can't stop smiling. This is more fun than I've ever had with my family, especially now that I truly appreciate them for who they are and what they mean to me. At one point, Amaryllis and I plummet together down a twin waterslide, the two of us whooping and laughing all the way down through the open air tube.
I also go out of my way to spend time with Maka in particular, tagging along to different rides and attractions to make sure that I can show as much love to her as possible. I always regretted never being able to love her as family...so this is a chance I can't pass up. It'll never be enough, of course, but this is all I can do. Clutching the giggling girl in my arms, she and I slide down into the whirlpool ride together, where we're swirled around the great pool and out through the slide at the bottom.
As the sun starts to set, Amaryllis and I split off from the others and visit the tubing stream. My mother looks like she wants to come with us, but Gerome thankfully doesn't let her, recognizing the fact that the two of us want some time to ourselves.
She and I have a petty little squabble over what color of tube we should go down the stream with.
"Red is my color! Look, it matches my epic hair. You should have black, not red like me!" Amaryllis points out with an adorable pout, holding the red tube close.
"But what if I want red too? You gonna tell me I can't have that color?" I tease her, my hands moving for a red tube as well. Near us, the park attendant in charge of the stream glances between us with a perplexed expression.
"It's my color!" Amaryllis repeats, buffeting me with the tube. Snickering, I duck beneath her next "assault" and grab another red tube. Before she can catch me, I leap into the river with it. "Hey! Come back here!"
She and I travel down the stream, splashing one another multiple times until the both of us are lying back on the tubes, panting. My hand falls limply into the water close to Amaryllis's tube as I take this moment to relax with my best friend.
I start to move ahead of Amaryllis without realizing it, a gap widening between us. A fork approaches, tubers heading in either direction randomly. I don't even realize what's happening before Amaryllis grabs my hand, dragging me closer to her just before we reach the fork, so that we travel down it together.
"Whoa, thanks," I say, looking back at the fork. Why is there even a fork there? Suddenly, I realize with a start that Amaryllis is still holding my hand. I attempt to extricate myself from her grip, but her fingers only tighten around me. I look over at her in shock. "Amaryllis...?"
"Quit looking at me like that. It's only because you're too damn oblivious to notice the stream ahead," Amaryllis snaps with a light blush, pulling my tube up against hers. "What's the point of going on a ride together if we don't stay together?"
"Heh, I guess you have a point," I admit, relenting and letting her hold me. Admittedly, I don't try very hard to get free.
The two of us drift down the stream together, closing our eyes and delighting in one another's presence. Honestly, I couldn't picture a better way to spend this time with her.
Eventually, the park has to close, and the rest of us meet up and eat dinner at a burger joint. And oh my God I can't even express in words how amazing it is to have a cheeseburger after all this time eating vegetables.
Eventually we return to the yacht. However, the fun doesn't stop there. As the sun droops towards the horizon, Adam emerges from the interior of the yacht with a long and thick cord...as well as a large inflatable tube.
"What are those for?" I ask curiously. I seem to be the only one that doesn't know, considering the others are starting to look excited.
"Tubing, doofus! We're going tubing! Have you never been tubing before?" Adam explains while he rummages through a cupboard. With a little "aha!" Adam pulls an air pump out and starts to pump up the tube.
"No...I honestly didn't even know that was a thing," I admit, a little apprehensive at the thought of what we're about to do. "You're sure this is entirely safe?"
"Oh, don't be such a..." Amaryllis starts to say, but then her gaze falls on little Maka, the girl looking up at her innocently. Amaryllis sighs, an eye twitching. "...such a crybaby. It's a total blast! Especially when you fall off!"
"What do you mean, 'when...?'" I repeat, but Amaryllis isn't having any of it. She ends up dragging me onto the tube once it's fully inflated and hooked up to the back of the yacht.
She and I are the first to go out...and it's the most exhilarating and heart-pounding experience. What happens is that Adam speeds the boat up greatly and drags the tube we're in behind at such speeds that the thing practically skips across the water. The whole time, I'm yelling and clinging to the handles for dear life, all while Amaryllis is laughing on the tube next to me.
Every single time, we only last for maybe five minutes before Adam pulls some crazy turn that causes the tube to fly up into the air...which more often than not hurls us into the water. At one embarrassing moment, I attempt to hold onto the handle even as Amaryllis is hurled away...causing me to skid across the water at a near parallel angle. The result is that my bathing suit is tugged right off of me.
My suit ends up floating in the water several meters away, leading to me swimming frantically after it in a sort of awkward dog paddle so that I don't end up exposing myself. Of course, the whole time, Amaryllis is laughing so hard she almost pees herself.
Later, as the sun vanishes and the sky grows dark, we all start to dry off and change into pajamas. There's enough room onboard for us all to sleep, so Adam insisted we all stay here for the night rather than bothering to head back to shore.
I'm sitting on the prow of the yacht, dressed in a comfortable set of pajamas. It's gorgeous outside, with the only light coming from the rising moon and the countless stars shining down from above. A soft breeze rustles through my hair and clothes.
While I'm waiting out here for the others to finish getting dressed, Adam comes to find me. I hear him stepping out onto the prow with me by the sound of his feet on the deck. Without a word, he sits beside me, our legs hanging over the edge.
"You were really great with my daughter, by the way," Adam says to me softly, breaking the silence. He looks genuinely appreciative of that, as well as a little relieved. I wonder if he thought I would disapprove? "Thanks for that."
"She's a sweet girl. You should be proud," I tell him, my voice firm and unwavering. There's no way I can tell him about her true fate. That would be cruel of me. Nevertheless, I know she grows up to be the kind of daughter that any parent would be proud of. She looked to be in her sixties in the video, so I know she lived a relatively long life...and even despite the tragedy of her death, she went out with a bang, trapping Vanta and the entirety of his undead underground.
"Heh, yeah," Adam responds. A look of sadness forms on his face moments later...and it doesn't take a genius to realize what he's thinking about. "I really hate that I can't see you again after this. I wanted to watch more shows with you...I wanted you to be a part of Maka's life."
Adam looks at me with surprise when I lay a hand comfortingly on his shoulder. I meet his gaze , a confident smile on my face. "Hey, it's not like I'll be dead. Just think of it like I'm going away on a long trip. I'll be happy, surrounded by my new friends...and I'll constantly be thinking about you all," I reassure him.
Respect shows in his eyes at my words. "You really have changed, Seth," Adam observes. His lips curve into a sad smile. "Whatever those ponies did, I really want to thank them. They gave me my brother back...even if it's just for this short time."
"It wasn't easy for them either," I admit with a rueful chuckle.
"Yeah, I don't imagine it was," Adam laughs, understandingly fully what I mean. Despite my overall positive relationship with him, he knew very well that I had a lot of issues that he couldn't do anything about.
After a short silence, Adam looks back at me, an inquisitive expression on his face. "By the way...I've been meaning to ask. What kinds of things can you do with that magic? Are there like, spells?" he inquires.
I form a small ball of gently glowing magic in my hand, showing it to him. The light casts shadows on my brother's face as he looks at it with awe. "There are, but I don't know that many of them. I mostly just used it for combat," I confess. Adam looks at me with a raised brow. "I skimmed over it because I knew our parents would freak, but I did a lot of fighting. King Sombra was not one to let me live in peace."
"At least you got through it...wait, hold on. You used it for combat? Does that mean you can make beams?" Adam suddenly asks, an expression forming on his face that promises trouble. Then his eyes light up. "Like a Kamehameha?"
I stare at him incredulously, and then groan, facepalming. I should have known I'd get this question; my brother and I spent a lot of time watching that show. Despite its flaws, it was always one of our favorites. "Goddammit, Adam. I mean, I guess I could...but..." I try to say.
"Oh my god. You have to show me," Adam demands, leaping to his feet. I look up at him skeptically, wondering if he's really serious. "Come on, there's no one around. Do it. Do a Kamehameha."
"That's not...it's not actually that attack, it just..." I try to protest, but judging from the look on his face, nothing I'm saying is getting through to him. He looks like an excited child...to the point where I half expect him to start bouncing up and down like Pinkie. "Seriously? You really want me to do it?"
"Of course I'm serious! The chance to see one of the greatest and most iconic attacks in all of anime history in person? How could any self-respecting anime fan turn that down!?" Adam demands. I sigh and get to my feet. Knowing my brother, he won't shut up until I do it.
"Fine," I relent. I'll only do a small one, because no doubt the light from my attack will shine brightly in the night. That, and I don't want to accidentally swamp the boat with massive waves caused by a big one. I certainly have the power to do that if I go all the way. I let the small emerald ball of magic grow larger in my hand, attempting to do a one handed beam, but my brother grabs my wrist.
"No, you gotta do it right! With the hand motions and everything!" Adam insists. I let the magic fade away, groaning.
"Ugh, fine. I can't believe I'm doing this," I mutter. Feeling like a total nerd, I stand in a combat ready position and even put my hands by my side, my palms only a short distance apart. I form a small pulsing ball of magic there that grows steadily larger. Finally, I thrust my hands out forward, releasing a thin beam of green light forward towards the water several meters away. "Kamehameha!"
"Yes!" Adam cheers, squealing like a damn kid. The beam hits the water and explodes in a bright flash of light, but it's only violent enough to cause sizable ripples in the water, gently rocking the yacht. "That was awesome! Now do a bigger one! This time with the aura!"
"I'm not doing a bigger one! You want me to capsize the boat?" I snap back at him with exasperation.
Adam and I proceed to squabble like petty siblings for several minutes, until our family comes out to fetch us. Adam ends up relenting, much to my relief. Together, we join our family and play board games until we get tired, and then we retire to separate rooms.
We all wake up early the next morning and get dressed. Because this is the last day I have with them, I make sure to get back into the clothes Rarity made for me. I've already been yelled at several times for losing her other outfits...not an experience I'd like to repeat.
Adam drives the yacht back to the dock, moors it, and locks everything up. We all disembark and load back up in the car, on our way back to town. While we're in the car, we toss around different ideas on what to do next. Lena suggests a movie, but everyone pretty much agrees that would take too much time.
In the end, it turns out to be Maka who comes up with a solution. While sitting in my lap, she raises a hand and suggests, "Bowling!" in an adorably cute voice. After laughing, we decide that's actually a rather decent idea. If I remember right, there's a bowling alley and arcade not far into town...and that would give us a variety of things to do while still being able to interact with one another.
After getting breakfast at one of my favorite restaurants, we travel to the bowling alley. Elaine assures us that she's going to buy the full experience, no matter how expensive it is. I feel bad that I'm cutting into her vacation funds like this, but nothing I say will convince her otherwise. My mother is very stubborn when she wants to do something.
Again, considering it's the middle of the week, the bowling alley isn't as crowded as normal. That works well for us; we pretty much have free reign to do whatever we want. The full experience, as it turns out, happens to be a set amount of tokens per person for the arcade, a bowling lane for our exclusive use, and a reserved time for the laser tag room.
From there, we once more split off to enjoy our time in the arcade, intending to meet up at the bowling lane later. Adam and I team up to play one of those retro shooter games with the pistol shaped controllers. Even though we fail miserably, we both have a lot of fun doing it. I do a lot better than Adam due to my reflexes being much better honed than his; combat tends to do that to you.
I also help Maka complete a few games to win her some extra tickets for the rewards. With the two of us working together, I manage to win her a prize of her choice...and she chooses a cute unicorn plushie. The irony isn't lost on me of course. It certainly isn't lost on my brother, who keeps laughing and teasing me about it.
The bowling itself is a lot of fun too, though Amaryllis is clearly better than the rest of us for some reason. Gerome is rather good at it as well; he and Amaryllis are commonly getting strikes. It's a good thing we split into two teams, so the two of them can compete. Honestly, I stop paying attention to the score halfway through.
In between bowls, I sit with the others, exchanging quips and answering questions about my life in Equestria. That's how I spend my time until lunch, when we purchase food from the complementary concession area. It's not that great of course, but the desserts were good. They're not at Pinkie's level, but it's hard to fuck up sweets.
Then comes the best part of the day...the laser tag. We split into two teams and wear these vests that register hits, and then grab our weapons and enter the dark room that's lit only by neon lights. The teams consist of Amaryllis, Elaine, Maka, and myself; and Lena, Gerome, and Adam. The teams are uneven because Maka is on my team, and she's likely not going to be that good. Somehow we convinced my dad to join in as well.
In the tag area, I end up dominating the field, nailing shots on Lena and my brother and easily dodging their counterattacks. It's not really fair to use my battle experience here, but hey, it's not my fault I'm so good.
Of course, that all goes out the window when Gerome actually decides to get serious. His military training is much better than my own, and before I know it, my vest is lighting up like a Christmas tree as I take hits from god knows where. He's much better with a gun than I am, it seems.
When our time runs out, we leave the bowling alley and head to a dinner place. While I'm there, I glance down at the timer...and sure enough, time is running out. I only have two hours left here. It feels like it hasn't been that long yet...but I guess that's how it goes.
By the time I arrive home and get clean...there's only ten minutes remaining.
"I wish you didn't have to go," Elaine cries as she hugs my neck tightly. Every single one of us has gathered outside in the front yard of the house, ready to send me off. The poor woman has started crying again, and her grip is so tight I feel like she'll never let me go. "I know you'll be happy there...but I'll miss you terribly."
"I know that. But I'm glad that I at least had this chance to see you all one last time," I respond softly, somehow managing to keep myself from crying as well.
"That's true. I'm forever grateful to this Chrysalis person. Without her, I'd never have known what happened to you," Elaine reveals. I can't help but snort in amusement. Clearly she has no idea how much of a bitch Chrysalis really is...but I don't see the need to let her know about that. That would just make her worry. "I love you, Seth. You'll always be my little boy."
"I love you too, mom," I say, flushing a little in embarrassment at her words. She doesn't let me go just yet.
"I hope you make lots of friends in Equestria. I hope you find a stable job with a steady income...and I daresay even find a nice mare to settle down with," Elaine says warmly. Her words cause me to jerk back and look at her oddly.
"Wait, what the hell? Mom!?" I say, utterly shocked by that statement. For one heart pounding moment, I start to think that she somehow figured out my relationship with Ranbow. "They're ponies and you...what?"
"You said yourself: there's no humans left in the future...and as far as I've seen, they're as intelligent as you and I. I would hate for you to live your life without finding someone. Love, in all of its forms, is truly a blessing. It doesn't matter what they look like on the outside, as long as you can love and understand one another," Elaine explains to me with a smile.
"I can't believe you're okay with that...but I see what you mean," I say, looking a little uncomfortable. With one last squeeze, Elaine giggles and releases me.
I then step over to Gerome. He and I stare at one another in silence for a few seconds. He's not really the hugging type. I've always known that. Despite that, he reaches his hands forward and places them on both of my shoulders. He manages to show one of his rare smiles. "Go...and live well, son. I'm proud of you...and the progress you've made," Gerome reveals, squeezing my shoulders. "Don't worry about us. I'll keep everyone safe."
"I'll leave them to you then. Love you, dad," I return. Gerome's a man of few words...so even his short statement is enough to move me. When he says something, he means it.
"Yeah, go and find yourself a mare, Seth," Adam teases me, snickering shamelessly as I move to him next. I promptly shove him in response, which just makes him laugh harder. After a moment, he gets serious and hugs me as well. "Kick some...what, is it flank now? Yeah, kick some flank."
I move on to Lena and Maka next. I don't know them anywhere near as well as the others, and judging from Lena's face, she doesn't know what to make of this situation either. Without warning, I hug her, causing her to tense up. "Oh, stop being awkward. You're my sister now...it's only right I treat you as such," I assure her with a grin. Lena lets out a small chuckle and hugs me back.
"I don't really get what's going on...but I appreciate that. Your acceptance means a lot to me," Lena expresses. I never really explained the situation to her as in-depth as I did to the others, but we managed to get her to realize my situation after showing her my magic. "I hope you'll be happy, wherever you're going."
I lean down to Maka next, the young girl looking innocent and blissfully ignorant of what's going on. I embrace her gently as well, causing her to giggle and hug my neck. Heh, she really is adorable. "You're going to grow up to be a total...totally awesome," I whisper to her. I almost said badass, but then I corrected myself. "Goodbye, Maka. It was an honor meeting you."
Maka just blinks. I chuckle and stand back up. My heart feels like it's traveling up my throat as I move to the last member of the group. Amaryllis. She stands there with her arms crossed, looking none to happy about me leaving. "What, is this the part where we hug and cry?" Amaryllis remarks before I can even say anything. "Please...I hate goodbyes. I'm fine, really. I'll just be laughing because you're going back to frolic with all the colorful little ponies."
"Heh," I chuckle. When I look back at her, my breath seems to catch in my throat. I'm having a lot of trouble coming up with the courage to say this...but I have to do it. I'll never get another chance. "Actually, I had something I wanted to say to you...in private. Do you mind stepping away with me real quick?"
"Huh? I mean, sure, but what's so important that you can't say it here?" Amaryllis responds, suddenly confused. I don't respond, instead motioning for her to follow me. With a perplexed expression, she follows me to the far end of the flat driveway. In the distance, the setting sun shines down on us, giving our skin an orange coloration.
"Well, it's..." I start to say, but then stop, words failing me. I have so many emotions running through my head right now; it's hard to find a way to put them into words. Amaryllis notices my pause and gets a little impatient.
"Come on, spit it out. We don't have all night," Amaryllis demands. Her eyes suddenly widen, green light reflecting off of her pupils. I give a start and look down at my skin to see that it is starting to glow green. The timer on my phone has just hit the three minute mark. I'm running out of time.
"No, it seems we don't," I say softly, gazing at my glowing hand with my lips set in a thin line. Gathering my resolve, I turn to look her in the eyes. It's funny how I've fought life or death battles more times than I can count...but this still frightens me more than any undead. I let out a sigh. "I'll be blunt. I've always admired you."
"What?" Amaryllis says, raising a brow.
"I'm serious. You went through the same stuff as me...but somehow managed to stay strong. You were always snapping off insults at me...but when it counted, you pushed past your cynicism and reached out to me...even when I couldn't do that for you." The words come easier to me as I go, my confidence rising as well. Amaryllis watches me in silence. "You are my best friend...and without you, my life might have taken a much darker turn. In part, I owe everything to you...and I wanted to say how grateful I am to you for that."
I take a breath. "It's more than that, though. You and I were always together. You were the only one I could go to when I needed help or someone to rant at. You've never told me what I wanted to hear...you were honest, and I really appreciated that." I make sure to hold her gaze as I get to the hardest part of all of this. "I guess what I'm trying to say is...you were...and are...the most important person in my life."
"Wait, Seth, are you...?" Amaryllis starts to say, her eyes widening in shock. I've gotten this far...I can't back out now. I have to say it. My body is starting to dissolve slowly into the air, particles of green light trailing behind me.
"Yes, Amaryllis. Here, before I go...I wanted to tell you," I tell her fervently. "I never really understood how I felt until now, but...I've always...always loved you."
There. I fucking said it. Holy shit that was the hardest thing I've ever had to do. It feels like a weight has lifted from my chest. Despite that, I'm filled with tense anticipation as I gaze at her. Her eyes are wide, but apart from that, I can't read her. I have no idea how she's feeling right now.
Amaryllis's eyes harden, and then she abruptly smacks me across the face hard. I'm not prepared for it, so my head jerks to one side. I let out a gasp and hold my stinging cheek, looking back at her. I see her glaring at me furiously. "Fuck you! I can't believe you!" She snaps at me. My spirits start to plummet...but then I hear her sniff...tears forming in her eyes. "Do you have any earthly idea how long I'd been waiting for you to say that!?"
"You mean you...?" I emit breathlessly, but Amaryllis doesn't let me finish. She steps forward and pulls me close. Before I realize what's happening, her face comes up to mine...and I feel her silken lips pressing up against mine.
My every sensation is blown away by this new feeling. All of my trepidation and fear of rejection is washed away like sand in the waves. All I can think about is that the girl I only recently figured out that I loved is now kissing me furiously, her hands planted firmly around my face.
"Yes, idiot!" Amaryllis snaps again when we finally have to break apart to breathe. She's actually crying shamelessly now, the tears flowing down her cheeks without end. "Of course I felt the same damn way! You think those dates I used to go on ever satisfied me? No...each one only made me more certain...that the only one I wanted was you."
"Amaryllis..." is all I can say in response to this. My composure is finally starting to slip, tears welling up in my eyes as well. I can't believe she felt the same way that whole time. Time is running out. My body is dissolving faster now as the timer dips below thirty seconds.
"Of course I loved you, Seth. Why do you think I put so much effort in staying with you?" Amaryllis demands. She pulls me forward and hugs me tightly. "But...thank you for finally telling me...even if it took you this fucking long. Now...now I can be satisfied."
"Are you sure?" I ask her, hugging her back. Together, even as my body fades away, she and I hold one another close, refusing to let go.
"As satisfied as I can be...considering I won't ever see you again," Amaryllis retorts. She rests her head on my shoulder. "But at least I know you'll be alright. Go be happy with your pony friends...and tell the rainbow one I'll kick her little ass if she doesn't take care of you."
"Don't worry...I will," I promise her. My body is finally shrouded in green light, my vision of Amaryllis disappearing.
"Goodbye, Seth," Amaryllis whispers as I finally dissipate completely.
I reappear in the ruins of the college, staggering slightly as the spell releases me. The first thing I hear is the sound of multiple ponies panting hard. It takes me several seconds for my eyes to adjust to the darkness...and then they widen when I see the state of the others.
Chrysalis's mane is damp and her body is damp with sweat, the strain of holding the spell clearly showing in her face. Behind her are the other ponies in various states of exhaustion, looking completely bereft of magic. Twilight and Rarity are lying flat on the ground, panting hard, while Salamul and Iron are leaning on their weapons. Celestia is resting on her haunches, looking a little sweaty herself.
The only one still standing is Hawke, his hand resting on Chrysalis's body. No doubt he was the last one to contribute his magic to the spell. When he sees me appear in front of Chrysalis, he retracts his hand and slips it back into his pocket.
"You have returned," Hawke states as he steps away from Chrysalis.
"Finally...hah...I'm completely out of magic," Chrysalis huffs, standing up straight again. When she sees me, she glares. "I hope you're happy. That was the hardest and most strenuous spell I've ever cast."
"I am happy," I reply, wiping my cheeks dry. "Thank you, Chrysalis. Thank you all for doing this for me. I can't thank you enough."
Celestia gets up and approaches me, nuzzling me comfortingly. "I hope you were able to make peace with your family," she says when she draws back.
"Yeah...I was. I think I'm satisfied...though it still hurts," I have to admit. There's no way I can hide that sort of thing from Celestia. She seems to have picked up on that as well. She's nodding understandingly.
"I expect that it does. It's not easy, saying goodbye to your loved ones," Celestia says with a sad sigh. "Living as long as I have, I have had to say goodbye to many dear friends...and it never gets easier."
"I can't even imagine. I'm not immortal," I respond, earning a smile from Celestia. I wouldn't even want to be immortal. No, I want to grow old with Rainbow Dash. That much is for certain. I'm actually itching to see her...but that brings up another point. "Also, have any of you saved enough magic to get back to the Crystal Empire?"
"I believe I have enough," Hawke answers, clenching his fist. "Is it time to return?"
"If Seth is ready," Celestia affirms. She looks to me for confirmation. Behind her, the other ponies start to congregate in the teleportation glyph. Twilight and Rarity in particular look ready to return to the fair. If this works like I think it did, hardly any time has passed here in comparison to the two days I spent in the past.
"Yeah, I'm ready to go back. There's still some time left in the day, isn't there?" I ask, joining the others in the circle. "I want to go hang with the others some more."
"That sounds like fun. I can think of a certain pony who might be very impatient right now," Rarity insinuates, nudging me. Yeah, I bet. Even though Rainbow might have been in on it, she's not one to sit around and wait. I hope she hasn't stirred up too much trouble.
"Let's go," Hawke interrupts. Once the last pony is in the circle, he claps his palms together with a grunt, summoning up his remaining magic.
It isn't long before we reappear in the central room of the Crystal Tower once more. I can hear the sounds of the fair still going on outside...all of them oblivious to what I just went through. But that's okay. I prefer it that way.
"Now then, shall we return to the festivities?" Celestia suggests with a bright smile, approaching the doorway leading outside. I hear various sounds of agreement coming from the others. "Provided you don't need time to rest, Seth."
"No, I should be fine. To be alone is the last thing I want right now," I confess. That gets Twilight and Rarity to walk up beside me, the both of them giving me support with their very presence.
"Yes, let's go! I'm sure the others are waiting for you," Twilight encourages me enthusiastically. I smile appreciatively at the both of them, once again feeling grateful to have such good friends.
"Go on, Seth. We'll be right behind you," Celestia urges me gently. I don't need any further persuasion. I let out a content sigh. All things considered, I'm left with a happy, full life ahead of me, with plenty to look forward to. With Twilight and Rarity flanking me on either side, I walk forward, climb down the staircase, and walk out the front door...
...to where my Rainbow and my friends are waiting for me.
Despite his brother's wishes, Iron chose not to return to Bleak Island, and instead accepted Celestia's offer to fill the position of Captain of the Canterlot Royal Unicorn First Division left open in the wake of Shining Armor's move to the Crystal Empire. Despite all he had been through, both during the civil war and the battle against Sombra's forces, he still remained strong and became one of the best captains the force had ever seen.
Once the war was over, Salamul tried and failed to convince his brother to return to Bleak Island with him. Afterwards, he challenged Celestia to a duel, only to be defeated soundly. Respecting his brother's decision, he returned to Bleak Island to rule as the sole Warlord. However, as a result of the war, relations with Equestria had improved. Due to his newfound respect for Celestia, Salamul chose to open his borders to Equestria, allowing travel between the two. Relations between Bleak Island and the changelings were especially tight. Ever since their battle in the Crystal Empire, Salamul often visits the changeling hive for another rematch. He was witnessed vowing to Chrysalis that one day, he would take her back to see his homeland.
In the wake of the war, Chrysalis was glad to see Celestia follow through on her promises. At the next meeting of the International Committee, Chrysalis and the changelings were acknowledged as their own independent nation. Immediately afterward, Chrysalis formed a strong alliance with Bleak Island. Relations between her and Equestria remained strained, but with the addition of the neutral ground near Dodge Junction, ponies began to interact with changelings on a regular basis. Over time, with the sincerity of Pterax and Mantis, they became less afraid of the strange black creatures.
After the war, Blades retired from his position as Captain of the Canterlot Royal Unicorn Second Division, passing the role onto his capable commander. He went on record saying that "he was too old for international throw-downs like that." Rather than leaving the force entirely, Blades remained in Canterlot to train the newer recruits, regaling them with tales of his exploits. He became a father figure to many, and an inspiration to the troops.
Commander Rose "The Blossom Wind":
In the wake of Blades's retirement, Rose took his place as captain of the Canterlot Royal Unicorn Second Division. However, despite the worries of the ponies below her, she was a much kinder captain than expected. Her friendship with Fluttershy had proven to be a strong influence on her, causing her to lighten up and even get back in touch with her family, who were delighted to hear from her. Every so often, Rose could be seen visiting Ponyville to spend time with Fluttershy, their friendship never fading.
After Iron's promotion to Captain of the First Division, she was elevated to the rank of Commander for her actions in the war against the Crystal Empire. She always complained about how she was given more duties than usual, but it was said that she never let her rank go to her head. She maintained a friendship with Seth and the other members of her former team, often visiting them when she had spare time.
Trixie's fame spread like wildfire after her performance in the Crystal Empire. Before long, Trixie found herself swamped with requests from all over Equestria, asking for her to come and perform for them. Trixie went on record as saying, "Trixie supposes she can grace your cities with her presence." However, the smile she wore upon saying that was one of genuine happiness. In the end, everypony that went to see her shows proclaimed once more that Trixie was truly great and powerful.
Former General Flowing Mist:
She remained in the Crystal Empire long after the war, helping to rebuild their society and put things back to the way they used to. Despite her misgivings, the crystal ponies accepted her readily. Mist once stated that without their help, she never would have made it as far as she did. She remained forever grateful to Seth and Princess Celestia for their help in turning her life around.
The dark enigmatic immortal that had once served Sombra kept mostly to himself in the frozen north, taking refuge in his mountain base. He rarely ever left...though on occasion, he could be seen visiting Mist in the Crystal Empire or Fluttershy down in Ponyville.
The Elements of Harmony:
After returning home to Ponyville, the six friends were heralded as heroes. The news of their roles in attaining victory for Equestria had spread like wildfire after the Crystal Fair. Pinkie in particular kept throwing so many parties that ponies had to practically beg her to give them a break.
Seth and Rainbow Dash:
After the war, the two returned home to Ponyville for a few weeks to enjoy some rest and relaxation with their friends. After the fiasco with Pinkie's spree of parties, the two of them gathered supplies and bid goodbye to their friends. They left Ponyvillle together, fulfilling the promise that they'd made together before the battle of Cloudsdale. It would be quite some time before they returned. The discoveries they make along the way, however, is another story.
I can't believe it. I really can't believe it. It's over. Tales of the Oppressed is at an end. Ever since I first started it back in February of 2014, I never thought I would actually get to this point with it. I'm not kidding. Never in my life have I ever finished a story. I've always gotten about a hundred thousand words in, and then writer's block would destroy me, or I would lose the motivation to continue writing. You have no idea how proud I am of myself to set this story's status to complete.
I want to thank each and every one of you for taking the time to read this, whatever your opinion of it may have been. Those of you who commented truly helped to motivate me and keep me going all the way to the end here. Even those who didn't comment...who just silently read...I thank you all the more for your support.
Well guys, it's been a bumpy ride, but here we are at the end. No doubt my story will fall into obscurity now that's over, but I've fully come to terms with that. All I can say is that I'm grateful to have received as much attention as I have.
Stay tuned, for there's no way I can't write more stories in this universe that I've created. For now, please do me one last favor and comment for me. I'm curious to hear what you all have to say about this ending, as well as the story as a whole.