A few days later, after Princess Celestia had fully recovered from her possession and life was starting to return to normal in Canterlot, a ceremony was held to honor the ten ponies who had saved the city, and the world, from disaster once again. The Princesses sat in the throne room, Celestia on the throne itself and Luna to her right. The six holders of the Elements of Harmony were bowed before the dais as Celestia praised their strength, courage, and most of all their friendship. Ashen Blaze, Soul Mage, and Gold Heart waited at the other end of the room for their turn, and they were looking around anxiously for their missing member. As Luna took her turn thanking the six ponies before her, Gale slipped quietly though the chamber doors, quite out of breath but smiling. "Where have you been?" Ash asked.
"Checking the inventory at the production house for my adding machines," the brown earth pony said, "After we'd cleaned out Canterlot, I realized we only knew there was a problem here because of the Z'nai inside the machine Twilight got."
"Oh… crap," Ash said, "If any other infested machines got out of the city…"
"Don't worry," Gale said, "I personally compared the inventory of unfinished machines and parts to the shipping records. The only machine that left Canterlot after the Z'nai broke out went to Ponyville's library." Everypony breathed a huge sigh of relief; there was no way they could deal with an Equestria-wide infestation. A round of cheers and hoof-stomps told the four that the Princesses had finished with Twilight and company, and now it was their turn to approach the thrones. The six Element bearers stood in a line off to the side, and the four noticed with pleasure that Twilight's natural coloring was back. The six nodded pleasantly as the Order-naries arrived at the dais and bowed.
"Ashen Blaze, Soul Mage, Gold Heart, and Gale," Princess Celestia said, "We owe you as large a debt of gratitude as we do to the Elements of Harmony. The have told me, and as I recall from the glimpses of reality I had while under the control of the Z'nai, that you four were instrumental in the successful eradication of the shadows, none more so than you Ashen Blaze. We commend you for your unwavering drive that united these ponies and kept them going despite the obstacles placed before them. I recall the speech you made when my controller first confronted you, and I must say it was a truly valiant effort. However, it is true that the Z'nai could not have attacked if it weren't for that… device of yours, PC."
"That is true Princess," Ash said, "The Z'nai that spawned the rest came from PC and in fact is still inside of him. We cannot eradicate it without destroying PC's personality and most of his functions in the process. I can honestly say I never imagined the Z'nai could make the leap from a computer like PC to items and creatures of a magical nature, so if I am to be held at fault, I plead for leniency on the grounds of ignorance to the danger."
"And I was the one to link PC to the device the Z'nai spread from," Gale added, "So I am just as guilty as Ash."
"Then you are both innocent," Celestia said kindly, "You are both honest ponies and your actions to clean up the mess prove you would never unleash such horrors upon my subjects willingly." There was a cheer from Pinkie Pie that spread quickly through part of the room and died away just as quickly.
Princess Luna stepped forward and spoke, "For your efforts, there must be a suitable reward."
"Oh please no," Heart said, "We were only doing what we had to. We don't need any fanfare or parades or anything."
"Very well," Luna said, "Although there must be some sort of celebration, since that's inevitable anyway." She smiled at Pinkie Pie, who winked back with a huge grin on her face. "I for one simply can't let you four go on with your lives unrecognized in some manner. For Ashen Blaze, we will continue to support your research into the nature of Equestria's magic."
"Provided you don't stick that PC of yours into anything else you build," Celestia put in.
"Of course," Luna and Ash said at the same time. "For Gale," Luna continued, "we'll compensate you for anything you may have lost in terms of designs, tools, or essential equipment to your inventing needs."
"I'm not lacking for anything expensive," Gale said, "The Z'nai seemed strangely unwilling to try and build more things to take over. However, I did promise Twilight there an adding machine, but since we had to dispose of it…"
"We'll pay for the replacement," Luna said with a nod. "As for you two," she said, looking to Heart and Soul, "Just what is it you do again?"
"Nothing much," Heart said, "Our talents aren't the most… constructive."
"Yes," Celestia said, getting a mischievous glint in her eye, "I saw what you did to those Z'nai. Between the two of you, more than half of the royal guard's stock of armor has been destroyed- especially the breastplates. It will be months before the smiths can make enough to outfit all the guards on duty, let alone those that are off-shift at any given time. Until then, our defense is going to be quite weak." The golden-yellow ponies cringed, not because they feared Celestia's wrath, but because they had an idea what kind of "reward" she was leading up to with this, and they didn't like it. "Therefore," Celestia continued, "until such time as the guard is back to full strength, I will grant you two the positions on my traveling honor guard."
"Traveling Honor Guard?" Soul asked hesitantly.
"Yes," Celestia said, suddenly looking a bit tired, "After what has transpired, both Luna and I feel entitled to a little vacation. Of course, we can't both go off at the same time or the cycle of day and night would stop, so we've decided to take turns. Next week I will leave to travel across Equestria visiting some of my favorite relaxation spots while Luna stays here to keep things running. I'll be gone for a week, and then it will be Luna's turn. While we're out, we'll need some ponies to help protect us, and since we can't spare many guards at the moment due to the equipment shortage, the two of you will fill in for a couple of them. Once we've had our breaks, we will call on you from time to time as duty demands that we travel to other places."
"So," Heart said, her eyes starting to shine, "We'll get to see all of Equestria?"
"Yes," Luna said simply, "And if you wish to remain on the guard after your term of service expires, I hear the pay and benefits are to die for."
"And on our off-time?" Soul asked.
"Just keep out of trouble and stay where we can contact you," Celestia said, "That should allow you live anywhere in Canterlot, or Ponyville if you so wish."
Heart and Soul exchanged looks for a few seconds, and then looked back at the Princesses and said, "Thank you so much," at the same time.
"Wonderful," Celestia said, standing up and addressing the entire throne room, "Once again, our thanks to these wonderful ponies. Now, go your way and make this day better than the day before!" The gathered ponies stamped their hooves and then began to clear out of the throne room. "So," Celestia said as she and Luna descended from the dais, "did I hear somepony mention a party?"
A/N Welp, that's that for this one. Shorter & quicker than the last one, and I hope it's considered just as good.
Stay tuned, because there might be more in the future!