Chapter 17: Friends

"Twilight, what's going on?" Rarity asked the purple unicorn who was coming forward to confront them.

Spike spoke to a similar concern, "Yeah. Why is the party canceled?"

"I'm really sorry everypony," Twilight honestly apologized to her friends, "but allowing this party to go forward was my mistake. When Pinkie initially suggested it, I believed that it was worth a try. But I hadn't fully thought through the entire situation." She shook her head, regretting again her miscalculation with this whole affair.

"But I don't understand..." Pinkie Pie complained.

"I know. I owe you all some explanations," Twilight admitted. "You see, I haven't been completely forthright with all the details these past few days." All of her gathered friends were giving her their full, thorough attention. Looking over their troubled faces, Twilight didn't feel the slightest itch or jitter of anxiety. Assured of what she was doing, her refreshed confidence pushed her to begin her account.

"Princess Celestia did assign James to me. Her specific orders were brief and undetailed. She only said that he would be staying here at the library with me so I could teach him about Equestria. There wasn't anything more to her instructions. Like you all, the only thing I had to go on was what we saw of him before. So, when he arrived, I began my task instead by simply talking with him, in order to learn about him. Who he is, where he's from. My thinking was that the more I knew about him, the easier it would be to teach him about us.

"Eventually, because we had to get clothes made for him by Rarity, I decided I might as well take him to meet all of you. If he was going to be staying here in Ponyville with me, that would be inevitable anyway." It was here in her recounting that she bowed her head with shame. "But... I hid from you some of the details of what I had learned about him. I tried to gloss over them, or skip them. Because... I guess, I was too afraid of how you all might react. Maybe some of you wouldn't like what you heard... maybe some of you wouldn't want to be involved with him because of it... maybe I wouldn't be able to complete this assignment on my own, without your help." Bringing her eyes back up to face her friends once more, Twilight openly confessed, "I'm sorry, guys."

Taking a few steps about, she declared with resolve, "But now it's time to let everything out into the open." She paused, considering which pieces of information would be most appropriate to divulge first. Finally, she settled on telling them, "I think the first thing that you should know is that James is, more or less, an interdimensional traveler."

There was a mixed reaction from the audience, mostly comprised of some puzzled glances between each other and low murmurs passing back and forth. Only Rainbow Dash and, to a lesser degree, Spike had muted responses, not finding anything particularly new with this reveal. The pegasus still followed Twilight's exposition with intent, despite the skeptical and almost bored look on her face.

"That large structure we saw the other day," Twilight continued, "was actually a device capable of opening holes in the barriers between dimensions and bringing things across. It's what brought James here."

Applejack interrupted, "I'm not sure I get it, Twilight. What's this 'dimensions' and 'barriers' nonsense mean?"

"Basically all it really means is that he's from a far away place," the unicorn answered. "A very far away place. An unimaginably, impossibly far away place."

"Soooo..." Applejack drew out, clinging to her confusion, "how far are we talkin'? Like... Neighjing, or...?"

Twilight tapped a hoof against her chin a few times in thought. "Picture spending your whole life walking off in one direction, trying to reach where he's from. Just walking, and never stopping," she instructed, mildly pantomiming the actions. "You'd wouldn't make the journey in your lifetime. You'd never make it in a thousand lifetimes of walking."

"That's... pretty dang far," Applejack said in surprised awe.

"Right. He's from a whole nother world, literally. Unreachable, except through whatever incredible means that tower structure was capable of performing. But unfortunately," Twilight's voice lowered, "what we witnessed happening back there was the tower destroying itself."

That line caught Rainbow Dash's attention and she snapped a step forward. She may have been able to deduce that detail earlier if only she had bothered to spend the time to put two and two together, but all her thoughts with regards to their visitor had been preoccupied with different concerns. "Wait, do you mean... he's trapped here or something?" she asked Twilight for verification.

There were more exchanged looks and bated whispers amongst the ponies at Rainbow Dash's insinuation, and it only intensified when Twilight confirmed the interpretation.

"Yes, precisely. That tower was only a prototype device. Successful enough to make a single trip between his universe and ours, but not enough to survive the very same trip in one piece. The whole event was an unusual accident that has stranded James here in Equestria." Twilight's gaze swept across her friends, meeting each of their eyes in turn as she appealed to them, "That's the importance of the assignment given by Princess Celestia: we have to be his guides now that he may be stuck here."

"But... why were you afraid to tell us about this?" Fluttershy questioned lightly.

A subdued groan emanated from Twilight. The fact was, there is much more to all this than how James came to Equestria. The manner of his arrival was only the beginning, and it had always been some of the other things about where he was from that was so arresting for her. Slowly, she told them, "Because he's from a different universe, there are some things about him that, to us, might be... difficult to understand." She could see recognition appear in the eyes of those who had witnessed the collapse of the tower.

"To tell you the truth," Twilight confessed, "I've talked with James quite a bit and I'm still having some trouble grasping it all. But..." She rotated around and stared at James, who was looking concerned. Perhaps he was just worried because he didn't know how her solution was going to turn out. But that kind of feeling was something she herself had known before. Over these last few days she had seen him be lost in his situation, show a strong trust in somepony else to see things through, recall a fond memory of his mother, hide a reserved embarrassment when put in the spotlight at the party, express a dutiful sense of justice, shake with angry frustration when something hadn't gone his way, have an open mind to a new experience, and more. "... But I'm beginning to see that the differences aren't as great as some things would seem to demonstrate," she said aloud.

Turning back to her friends, she addressed them with unabashed honesty. "I was afraid to tell you because I didn't understand him fully. That because I was... because I AM still am getting to know him, I wouldn't be able to bridge the gap between us and him for you all. But I was wrong to not believe in you guys, and to keep things hidden from you. You're all capable of making your own judgments, and I know that you are all able to see past initial impressions. That the first things you may learn about a pony won't be the last, as long as you don't let those first impressions stop you from getting closer to them. And despite what you've seen of him so far... what WE'VE seen so far, we can push past our doubts and understand that the differences don't really matter as much as we think. I know we can all befriend him together." As much as her voice was flowing with faith, Twilight held herself in a somber manner and again apologized to her friends, saying, "None of you need me to package him into a presentation for you... and I'm sorry for doubting you and thinking you did."

Quietly, the words sank in. Even Rainbow Dash, stalwart in being wary of their new guest, found herself backing down when weighing her friend's words. The collected ponies (and, as ever, one little dragon) reflected while looking at Twilight. After a moment, they turned to look at each other, not needing to speak in order to transmit their feelings between themselves.

Putting a hoof on Twilight's shoulder, Applejack gently told the unicorn, "That's okay, sugar cube."

Rarity added with warmhearted reassurance, "We know you always mean well. You wouldn't do something like that in some attempt to be underhooved."

"We trust you, Twilight," Rainbow Dash earnestly reminded her friend. Just yesterday, James had given the pegasus an open invitation to be suspicious. A promise to her that he wouldn't harm her friends and that she was free to monitor him until he proved his trust. Twilight was saying something different; she was saying that they should all freely give their trust instead. For Rainbow Dash, that would be hard to do as there were still parts of her that desperately didn't want to do so. But the friendship inside her had heard the sincerity of the unicorn's words, and it was enough to get her to try.

The others all spoke and nodded in agreement with what had been said already. Twilight smiled back at them, reinvigorated. Though, it wasn't relief that was restoring her. Their show of support had granted her truest beliefs validation.

It was then that Pinkie Pie spoke up. "But... what about the party?" she asked. The question was riddled with a tone of near alarm, masking any confusion she had.

"Well Pinkie, James has lost everything he's ever known just a short while ago," Twilight explained. "The feelings behind the party were right, but the timing really wasn't. I think he'll need some time first... time to come to terms with what's happened. Time to adjust. A celebration like this just isn't what he needs right now."

Pinkie Pie curled her lip, crumbs of dissatisfaction radiating out of her. She rolled her eyes down to the floor, swaying her head tepidly from side to side.

With no other questions from the ponies, Twilight felt that it was now time to move on to the next topic. Surely it would be the hardest to discuss with them: the darker and more vile things that James had related to her. The things that would give some insight to the reasons behind what they have already seen. Still, her friends' faith was encouraging to her and she readied herself without fear.

But before she could begin, Pinkie Pie bounced back in, clearly not finished reacting to the purple pony's declaration. "That's really Silly-Filly!" she declared. "With a capital S-F, even!"

"Pinkie. The party isn't in good taste," Twilight tried to reiterate. "There'll be another time for it. We can't-"

"No, not that!" Pinkie Pie countered. "I mean, there is a standard Pinkie Pie Party, but I've thrown all kinds of specialized parties before, too! I could have tailored this party to what he wants if you had only told me!"

"I... uh..." Twilight stammered, unprepared for this sudden turn. Did her irrepressible friend really have a workable alternative party in mind or was the party-minded pony just not getting what was being said?

Regardless, Pinkie Pie seemed to be more disappointed in herself for either not gathering the full details first, or for not anticipating the possibility of a misinformed party. Determined, she suddenly plowed past Twilight, who called after her in surprise. She marched right up to James and asked him directly, "What kind of party do you want?"

Just as unprepared as Twilight was, the man fidgeted slightly at being put on the spot. "I don't... um..." he let out.

Most of the others in the room moved a few steps towards the two, curious to see what their impulsive friend was going to try. Twilight got a little closer while faintly calling Pinkie Pie's name in embarrassed frustration, but it didn't catch the pony's attention.

"What kind of parties do you like?" Pinkie Pie tried asking James instead.

"Well, I don't know... not quite... this," he mused while gesturing around. "I mean, my dad stopped letting us... ah, my siblings and I... my dad stopped letting us have parties like this at a certain age. So I'm used to low key affairs. A few friends, no colored balloons or party hats..."

"What?" Pinkie Pie was stunned at the unmitigated cruelty. The dreadful mention of such a fun-vacuum. The black-hearted, soulless misanthropy it would take to crush such joy. "What kind of mean old, grumpy old... old old... party-hating frumper dumper would do that?" she rhetorically questioned.

But James chuckled, loudly at first before quickly controlling himself. "No," he shook his head, "no, you don't know what you're talking about. Dad is the jolliest, most fun-loving guy I've ever known."

Pinkie Pie didn't understand and tried to protest, but James waved his hand and elaborated a bit more. "I guess I never really asked him about it," he said. "But I think he just wanted his kids not to... not to value the cakes and the presents more than the friends and family gathered, you know? So maybe taking away those flashy things was just the best way he could think of impressing that lesson on us."

"But... but... he TOOK AWAY THE PARTIES," the pink pony boomed in an ominous tone, wide-eyed and still shocked unto utter disbelief.

"Yeah," James admitted matter-of-factly, "But you shouldn't take that for who he is personally. Dad loves to have a good time. He always has a joke ready. I remember when..." He stopped himself. It might be better to not to get too deep into that right now, before he accidentally wound up having to take another time out to collect himself.

Seeing that Pinkie Pie still looked doubtful and almost upset, he tried to be consoling and said, "Maybe... there could have been a better way to teach that lesson? But Dad did the best he could. And it was worth it... I certainly appreciated what I learned after I grew up." James took a moment and thought about some of the close, important people in his life. Sometimes a lot of effort was put into keeping in touch with them or making the time to see them again, but nobody ever thought that the effort was too much to be worthwhile. "I really came to value my friends and the time I spent with them. Whenever we had the chance, what my friends and I would usually do was get together for a quiet afternoon or evening, sit around, share drinks, catch up on what's new, talk about old times..."

"A quiet party?" Pinkie Pie disbelievingly blurted out. One of her eyebrows raised in suspicion. This was surely a thing unheard of!

"That's one way to put it," James confirmed.

Of all the ponies who were standing around and observing the exchange, Fluttershy was the first to come forward. The skittish pony always enjoyed Pinkie Pie's parties; they were often a great opportunity to relax and be more extroverted than her normal self while still not really stepping outside of her comfort zone. But she had plenty of love for nice, tranquil times, whether by herself or with many of her little friends surrounding her. She settled herself down on the floor in a vacant space near the two, where she could easily listen and participate. "I like quiet parties," she softly stated.

Fluttershy's action emboldened the others. Rarity came forward and took her own seat near the shy pegasus. She was followed closely by Spike, who only made a rapid detour to grab some cake off the snack table. One by one, the others came in, filling out a rough circle with their chosen positions. It was obvious to Pinkie Pie what was happening now, even if she was skeptical of how one could have a fun and entertaining "quiet party." With no noise makers to grab, no music to start up, or anything of that sort, she simply parked her rear right where she stood, landing with a thud.

Twilight was the last to approach, curiously astonished. Maybe it wasn't what Pinkie Pie had intended to do, but it seems that she still had managed to turn around this event into something more positive. The unicorn wasn't looking forward to explaining the more violent details of James' world any more than before, though. With a setup like this, where she even might get some help from the man himself instead of having to do it alone, it wasn't going to be any easier.

At the same time, she was being distracted by her fascination with all these new details that were cropping up. Almost out of the blue, the man had mentioned his mother earlier. Now there was talk of his father and his own personal friends. They're things that should have been so obvious, but they had never come up in conversation before or even had been thought about by her. She was interested in hearing more.

"That's how you spent time with your friends?" she asked him.

"Well, later on. With my oldest friends. The ones I grew up with," James clarified. "We didn't get to see each other all that much. It was once a year usually, whenever everybody could make time."

Applejack made a quizzical face before inquiring, "What kept ya from seein' your friends a whole lot?"

But Twilight had already picked up what was implied, understanding immediately. It reminded her of the situation with her brother. She had to move to Ponyville to follow through on her study of friendship, but that meant she didn't see her brother nearly as frequently as she was used to. It took extra time and extra effort to keep in touch with him or see him again.

"We all grew up," James answered the orange pony with a shrug. It seemed like an obvious thing to him but that was all hindsight. Magic or not, it would be contrived to think they could just divine his history somehow. "Our paths took us separate ways as we went out to see what the world had to offer," he explained.

"You've lived in Ponyville nearly all your life, Applejack," Twilight chipped in. "Some ponies lives take them places far and wide, away from what they've known before."

"I know," Applejack nodded with emerging comprehension. She had just grasped what they were saying now. "That's why my folks have the Apple family reunion, I reckon. Makin' sure there's always some time for a get-together, regular as clockwork."

Rarity weighed in, saying to James, "Surely when you moved on to other places you socialized and made new friends?"

"Of course," he feebly responded, adding after a second of thought, "but they didn't replace my old friends or anything."

In response, Rarity bounced up faintly in abashment and shook a lifted hoof to dust away any unintended insinuations. "Oh, certainly not," she offered, "I just mean to say that there were others you must've spent time with more regularly."

"There were..." James said, but despite the honesty there was a lack of conviction in his answer. He had made plenty of acquaintances after growing up and moving out. People he associated with. People he called friends. And even later, comrades, amongst some of the other soldiers. It's not that there wasn't real elements to those relationships... real appreciation, real respect, real camaraderie... that was all there. But when he tried to hold them up to the strong ties with his old friends, the feeling that something wasn't the same couldn't be shaken. "I think there's something different about the friends I grew up with, though," he mentioned aloud.

"I don't know," Rarity replied unsurely. "You can meet marvelous new ponies at any time in your life." She glanced over at Twilight and a few of her other friends.

James gave a slow a nod to himself. Although he had grown up and everything, all things considered he was still relatively young. Maybe he just wasn't old enough, or hadn't given some of those new friendships the time they needed to mature into the same kind of thing he had built with his old friends. Thinking back to his parents, he had known friends of theirs who were originally their childhood friends, but he also had known of others who had started as neighbors or coworkers. Perhaps it was that element of shared experiences. That was what had helped him build relationships with his old friends while growing up. And later on, each experience he came through with the other soldiers, from training to action, brought them closer to him. It was probably the same thing with neighbors, sharing the experience of having to get by in an "adult" world. Death, taxes, and all that. Maybe with just a little more time he would have fully discovered those kind of "adult" friendships for himself. Now he had no way of knowing, though.

"It takes some time to build a deep relationship. I think the way you relate to people is different after you grow up, too," James concluded. "The friends I made and held on to while growing up are closer to me in a unique way. Learning life's lessons together, stepping into a larger world together." It was the only experience he had to go off of.

"You've become close in a way that makes it easy to just enjoy each other's company, no strings attached," Twilight interpreted.

"Yeah," he agreed. "It was always great just to see them. Be with'em." They had risen up to the level of family almost. A kid grows up and gets kicked out of the nest to fly on his own. That's the cycle of life. So he had always been prepared to be away from his family, and he always relished coming back into the folds of their love when the opportunity arose. They're the people who he spent the whole start of his life with. He didn't need common interests or stringent obligations to spend time with them. Being amongst them had a value all its own. It was pretty clear that over time his closest friends had reached that status, too. The level of brothers and sisters.

With her bright voice, Fluttershy commented, "Oh, I think I know what you mean. I always love sharing time with my little friends, even when I'm not playing with them or giving them special care." Her warm smile echoed her feelings visibly.

"Fluttershy, you have more pets than clouds in Cloudsdale," Rainbow Dash quipped.

The delicate pegasus didn't really catch the nature of her friend's tone and responded with some distraction, "I try my very best to give them everything they need, and I love each and every one of them."

Rainbow Dash gave a breathless, stifled laugh and a shake of her head. "Yeah, but you always have animals coming in and going out," she said. "How can you possibly have time to get so attached to all of them?"

"Oh. It's not so hard," Fluttershy answered. "Each one of them is a unique, special little friend that I want to get to know. I'm always happy to meet a new one and I try very hard to understand them." She lowered her eyes but didn't lose the hearty timbre in her voice as she continued, "I'm always a little sad when I have to say goodbye, too, but I love seeing them find their forever home. And I'm never sad that I got the chance to know them."

Twilight felt buoyed by the small speech. The austere purity of Fluttershy's feelings compelled the unicorn to share with her friends, "It's the same thing with us. You guys are the best friends a pony could ask for and I'm always happy to be with you all. That's easy right now since we all get to see each other whenever we want. However, there may come a day when all of us are not here together in Ponyville anymore." Like her friend, the thought of the goodbyes depressed her but she held strongly to the magic of their friendship. Candid and beaming, she told them, "But Fluttershy's right. If that ever happens, I'll never forget the differences you've made in my life. That friendship you've shared with me will always stay with me, wherever I go." It was hard to believe how far she'd come from the bookish and reclusive pony who studied dutifully under the tutelage of the Princess in Canterlot. That Twilight wasn't the Twilight who sat here now, the Twilight who had changed for the better. And the change in her was caused directly by all these friends gathered here. It's not something she could ever leave behind and it wasn't something she would ever want to.

After a second's hesitation the proud unicorn added with a smirk, "And I bet we would try hard to keep in touch anyway."

Around the partial circle there was nothing but concordance. Each expressed their own similar view while agreeing with the others: how lucky they were to have met, how important they were to each other, and how no time or distance would ever truly separate them.

James had sat quietly, listening to what they had to say to each other while reflecting on himself. His mother's words had an effect on how he presented himself, even after he was on his own. The values he picked up from his father helped him determine what things were important in his life. And those elements of character weren't nearly the end of the ways they had influenced him. His siblings and his friends, too, ultimately shaped a part of who he was, and even who he wanted to be.

"You're right," he whispered. Slowly raising his voice, he said, "You can't always keep the people closest to you at your side, but there's a part of them that goes with you if they really mean something to you." He wasn't completely without them.

With a tilt of her head, Pinkie Pie meditated on his words for a moment. In a sudden flash of pep, she said to James, "I've got a lot of ponies going with me then. But there's always room for more!"

Almost immediately, with the uneasy ice broken, it was as if the floor had been opened for questions. Spike wanted to know how many friends James had and what they were like, Fluttershy was curious about what other sorts of things they did together, and Rarity wondered something about whether they all wore the same kind of tacky clothing she had seen him in before. He tried to keep up with their questions and answer directly, silently embracing the chance to casually stroll through his memories without getting too mired in the emotional nuances. James talked about a friend who was very dependable and supportive but always so repentant that he would blame himself for things no reasonable person would hold him responsible for. And then spoke words about another friend who was intelligent and funny but could sometimes be a bit too haughty for his own good. He mentioned some of their common interests, how they had met, how long he had known them...

The conversation had Twilight grinning, but in the back of her mind she started to feel the grip of worry. She had made the decision to reveal everything to her friends, but they hadn't gotten to some of the darker details before everything had up and shifted direction. It was looking like it would be harder and harder to bring that topic up.

All the while, the others kept talking, either asking more questions or commenting on the things the man answered with. Applejack at one point made a comparison to her siblings, which got James to mention his own two brothers and two sisters. That got Pinkie Pie started on her two sisters, which in turn cascaded into discussions and comparisons about all their sisters in general, for every person and pony who had at least one.

Twilight couldn't help but giggle at the dynamic evolving between her friends and her charge. In that moment, it struck her. What she had planned to bring up, the topics that were worrying her... they weren't really that important. Here her friends were doing precisely what she had asked of them to begin with: they were getting to know him on their own terms and they weren't letting their ignorance or preconceptions of him get in the way. All of those other things which she wanted to mention... her friends would find out about them in time. Just maybe not today. They were details that shouldn't be kept hidden but they didn't need to be forced out right now. Instead, why shouldn't she enjoy this quiet party they were having?

Cheerily, Twilight joined in and told James, "You know, I can't believe I never asked you about your friends or family."

There was a delay while he thought about that fact. "I suppose it didn't seem important at the time," he finally replied. "After all, I never really asked you about yours either."

"At least not until right before I was taking you to meet some of them," she reminded him.

"Right. But anyway, none of this has been close to 'usual circumstances.' There have been more important things to worry about." James got distracted away right afterwards with a question from Rainbow Dash.

Watching and listening to him answer yet another question, Twilight mulled over his suggestion. Looking back now, she wasn't quite so sure about it anymore and thought to herself speculatively, "Were there really?"

For some time the group was engaged in conversation. Although a lot of questions were directed towards James, the back and forth nature of it allowed many details to be peeled out of the ponies as well. In time, things began to slow down and Twilight suggested taking a break, allowing anypony who needed it to stretch or perhaps grab something to eat or drink. Pinkie Pie used the opportunity to start putting away some of the party favors that they weren't using, to save on the time needed to clean up later. She was assisted by a few of the others, though Applejack and Rainbow Dash wandered off to complete their game of darts.

James poured himself another drink from the punch bowl, downing most of it immediately to ease his thirst. All in all, he was certain this had been a positive experience. It turned out better than his original plan of hanging by the wall, and definitely much better than his second plan of gritting his teeth and bearing it. In a lot of ways it had been reminiscent of other informal group meets, like a first floor meeting at a dorm, or the first exchanges with everyone in a youth group. The twinge of awkwardness is present but it slides away with the growing feeling of familiarity, and things seem to pick up quickly afterwards. It was much preferable to standing in front of the class and doing an impromptu introduction, anyway. At the same time it also felt like a good start at trying to sort out his despondent feelings, being able to speak about the precious ones in his life in a more directed, explanatory way, without being restricted to the confines of his own thoughts.

Yes, it had been a good encounter. Maybe, even, not so strange as he might usually think. That wasn't a talk with a group of naive children... He barely registered that they were magic horses that time, too. Oh, and a dragon, of course.


He turned to face Applejack, who was standing a few paces behind him with the same inviting demeanor she had earlier. "Wanna shoot a round of darts?" she asked.

"Maybe..." he began, giving it some serious thought. Shrugging out a loose surrender, he continued, "Maybe just a few shots." James set his cup down, the small puddle of punch still inside settling rapidly, and he followed behind the farm pony. He mentioned, "I don't think I've ever played dry before. Maybe it will improve my aim."

Twilight was pulling down some streamers when she caught sight of the two joining Rainbow Dash. Checking and seeing that Pinkie Pie and the others had things well in hoof, she begged for pardon with a polite, "Excuse me for a few minutes."

She retreated into the bedroom. A busy junction of trains chugged through her head, crossing, charging, switching, turning. She was still for a time, nearly forgetting what she was looking for or where she should be looking for it. But the moment was right, she felt it. At last, order came to her thoughts and she reached out with her magic, grabbing some parchment off a desk and dipping a quill. Centering it in front of her, she wrote:

"Dear Princess Celestia,

I am pleased to report that the special guest you sent arrived without incident and has already begun settling in. I can honestly say that the last four days have been an incredibly unique, and tumultuous, experience.

I have spent quite some time speaking with our guest James, asking him questions about himself and where he is from, and trying to get to know and understand him. At first, it was very difficult to accept many of the things he was expressing. The place he is from, and the things he believes, seem very different from anything I, and I suspect nearly all modern ponies, have ever seen or felt before. Some of the things James had mentioned even seemed to be absolutely terrifying in thought, and it was frightening sometimes how rationally he could accept it. To try and relate to somepony whose experiences are so different... whose whole existence seems so different... it made me ask, 'How much difference is too much?'

However, even in the brief time that he has been here, I've had the opportunity to witness several important things. Now, my friends and I have already learned in the past that judging a book by its cover is an unfair thing to do, and it never hurts to have such a lesson refreshed. But there is something deeper that is worth realizing, too.

There can be many, many differences between two ponies. So many that the differences can appear insurmountable, with nothing shared with which they can relate to, or no common ground for them to stand on. What separates those two ponies will keep them apart... but only if they let it. It is always important to never lose sight of what unites us. They must realize that, no matter what, there will always be something that they share. Everypony can feel happy, or sad. Everypony can be angry, or hurt at times. Everypony has others who they love, and everypony wants to feel loved by others. These needs and emotions are part of all of us. It can be so easy to imagine another as something else because of the differences you see in them. To disregard them as unable to be understood. To believe that there is no way for you to get along with them. But it can be much harder to do that when you really try to recognize all the feelings that you both share. No matter what you see on the outside, somewhere inside is that pony who can feel the very same things that you do.

I don't know what the comings days and weeks will bring. But I'm not afraid to discover what awaits. I believe that though there will be many new things to learn, some no doubt strange and unpredictable, there can't be anything that the strength of willing friendship won't overcome. I, with the continued help of my friends, will do my very best to teach our new student, and our new friend, about Equestria.

Your faithful student,

Twilight Sparkle"

Hovering in the air, the thick scroll rolled up and a royal seal came over to bind and secure it. Twilight set the letter aside on the desk. Spike could send it off later. For now, she was eager to return to her friends whom she hoped wouldn't be breaking for much longer. Elated, she trotted out of the room, closing the door behind her.