And Then There Were Ponies Chapter 1: Of Ponies and Men

The Grand Galloping Gala. Twilight was unsure why she had bothered to show up after how things went last time. Perhaps last time went so poorly she felt the need to redeem herself, and somehow doing the gala the right way this time would make it as though the previous time never happened. No, more than likely it was that she did not want to refuse tickets that Princess Celestia had given her, and that anypony should be grateful to have. She tried to brush away that thought though, because that reason seemed stupid compared to the reasons almost any other pony would likely have for going. Then again, most of the reasons she could come up with for why she was here suffered from that same problem. She also didn't want to think about how she used the tickets when she should have just given them away. Twilight let out a sigh, and all these thoughts relating to why she was here with it. It didn't matter why she was here. She was, and this time she was going to spend the entire time with her friends.

Rainbow Dash on the other hoof knew exactly why she was here. The Wonderbolts were her idols, and regardless of what happened last time, she couldn't just pass up an opportunity to see them. A part of her wanted to abandon her friends and seek them out, but she couldn't just leave her friends hanging like that, especially not when they had all agreed to stick together. She wasn't going to let that get in the way of her seeing the Wonderbolts though. They were all going to see them. Rainbow Dash believed that if you had to be patient then that just meant you weren't going fast enough, but they had already agreed to a schedule beforehand, so there was nothing she could do. It was okay though. She was going to see the Wonderbolts, and this time so would the only other ponies in all of Equestria who even came close to their awesomeness. Yes, even Pinkie Pie, Rainbow Dash had learned, was worthy of that title.

Pinkie Pie was the only of the main ponies not thinking about their previous Gala shenanigans. In fact, that was the last thing on Pinkie Pie's mind. If left to her own devices, Pinkie Pie would probably nearly recreate her last appearance at the Gala. Where there was a party, there was Pinkie Pie! Even a lame hoity-toity party like this needed a little Pink to be complete. Despite how her words and actions may come across, Pinkie Pie did give things more thought then most ponies would give her credit for, but this moment did not reflect that. Her thoughts at the moment could best be summarized by "!"

Rarity still was not sure what to make of romance because of the way her hopes and dreams had been dashed so thoroughly last time. However, a party as classy as this merited Rarity's presence anyway. Sophistication, Class, and most of all Style. These were the traits that embodied the Gala, and these were the traits that embodied Rarity. She had come in the most exquisite gown which was a slight modification of last time's, but it made a tenfold improvement in its pizzazz. She wasn't sure why, nor did she much care to think on it, but she wanted to make that mare who could have been the mare of her dreams – if he weren't so selfish – jealous. Thankfully, she had a stroke of brilliance in the middle of the night a few days ago. Rarity was most pleased with the results. Maybe it was just her imagination, and it probably was, but the eyes of everypony seemed to fall on her whenever they didn't have something else to look at. Her beauty had captivated them all.

Applejack, on still another hoof, saw a heap of potential customers. It wasn't that she fancied money all that much, but she would feel lazy having fun for so many hours without doing a lick of work, especially when there was as good of a business opportunity as this-un. Besides, there were a few little things she would like to be able to get for the family that would take a lot more than making a couple bits here and there to get. She didn't have much last time, but she now had the help of all her friends, and they had tackled a far side more difficult tasks than this. She had had her food dismissed as "common carnival fair" last time but she wasn't gonna let that get her down. After all, it had come from somepony who hadn't even tried hard enough to keep a great mare like Rarity around. Rarity and Applejack hadn't always seen eye to eye, but they had come to an understanding, and actually really liked each other when they didn't let petty differences about dirt and such get in the way.

Then there was Fluttershy who felt a not too unfamiliar pit in her stomach. She was nervous. She was half expecting to bump into herself from their previous visit. She had been scary, and lately she had been having nightmares about the scary version of herself switching places with the real her. But that wasn't even the worst part. The worst part was that in these dreams everyone liked the scary her better than the weak, helpless her. She knew better, but she still felt this urge to ask her friends anyway if they preferred her the way she was. She suppressed this urge though, as she often did with many urges, for she was sure her friends were preoccupied thinking about more important things, and she didn't want to bother them. At least she would get to see some animals, and her friends would even be with her, but somehow her friends being there just made her more nervous about the whole thing. What if they don't like animals? What if they get really bored? Will they blame me for having opted to put such a boring event into Twilight's master schedule?

Ironically, Spike, who had insisted that everypony stick together, was instead at a meeting for his Rarity fan club. Spike had wanted an identity outside of just being Twilight's assistant, so naturally Twilight advised him to play to his strengths, but starting a Rarity fan club wasn't exactly what Twilight had in mind. No doubt he would have just moved the meeting to a different night, if his first real member wasn't scheduled to show up at this meeting. Twilight thought it was all a bit crazy, but it was good to see Spike seem so excited about something, especially since he had seemingly been a bit down lately. It had been a slow downward trend ever since Owlicious had helped out for a bit. Perhaps that had somehow made him think his job was too easy to be meaningful. Twilight had tried to reassure him on a number of occasions, but these were only a temporary fix to a larger problem it seemed. Surprisingly, the Rarity fan club really did the trick, as he had been in much brighter spirits lately.

First on Twilight's master schedule was to visit the garden and view what wildlife they could while there. Naturally, Fluttershy had volunteered to be last, but since she was always last, Twilight decided it would be a good idea to make her first for a change. Twilight couldn't decide if this was a reward for her kindness, or a way of showing her that going first is okay, but regardless she knew she was doing a favor for a friend. Twilight had considered putting Rainbow Dash last for volunteering to go first, however it didn't take Twilight long to realize she would just have been doing that out of spite, so instead all the other ponies had their events chosen in random order. Twilight had ended up last but she was okay with that, especially since then she could be sure nopony would complain about it.

Twilight's thoughts had been interrupted by a soft voice calling out, "It's okay animals, don't be shy. Actually, there is nothing wrong with being shy but could we please see you anyway? You have nothing to fear. We just want to help." The bushes on either side of them rustled a little but Fluttershy's call had gone largely ignored. "Please come out. You don't even have to come near me. We just want to see you so we can talk. Or we could all play the silent game if you'd prefer." pleaded Fluttershy, but this time not even so much as a leaf fell off a tree or bush.

"Geez, even I wouldn't go near somepony as creepy sounding as that," Pinkie Pie said in her usually jubilant manner while bouncing forward. Pinkie Pie proceeded to bounce around to various bushes and greeted each with a "Woof woof."

"I hate to tell an expert that she is taking the wrong approach to something in their expertise, but Pinkie Pie is right. Well she was before she started..." began Twilight while looking over at Pinkie Pie's who was now hissing at a tree. "...being Pinkie Pie," finished Twilight after a brief Pause.

"Why don't these animals like me? Why are they so different from the animals around Ponyville?" sighed Fluttershy.

"I don't think that is it at all Fluttershy. These animals have no idea who you are, but you have grown up around the animals in Ponyville. You may have an innate talent for working with animals, but you still have to make a good first impression to gain the animals' trust, which is something you probably haven't had to do for a while, because any animals around Ponyville who haven't come into contact with you directly probably have heard from those who have. Think back Fluttershy. When you first befriended the animals of Ponyville, you did it a different way didn't you?"

Fluttershy couldn't believe she hadn't thought of that herself. Fluttershy unleashed her wings and shouted with excitement, "YES!" Fluttershy withdrew wings back and continued in her usual whisper, "I mean, yes, of course. When I befriended the animals of Ponyville I was scared and alone. I didn't try to make friends; it just sorta happened. I bet if I just wait patiently they'll come out." Fluttershy looked to Pinkie Pie who was now switching between chirping, barking, and at one point she could have sworn she heard her clucking. "Then again, maybe not," sighed Fluttershy.

"Don't worry Shy, I'm on it," said Rainbow Dash's afterimage. She had barely gotten the words out of her mouth when she was dragging Pinkie Pie away from the animals. Rainbow Dash grumbled while Dragging Pinkie Pie, "Come on Pinkie Pie, you can't actually think that is going to work."

"Well of course it isn't. But it sure is fun. And this is a giant party after all," replied Pinkie Pie.

"Yes, this is boring," said Rainbow Dash, "but if I can wait a couple of hours for the coolest ponies ever, then I think you can cool it for a few minutes."

Without even realizing it Rainbow Dash had increased in volume throughout that sentence, and had nearly shouted by the end of it. Mostly, Rainbow Dash was surprised to see Pinkie Pie ruining someone else's fun, as Pinkie Pie was normally sensitive about that sort of thing, especially with Fluttershy. Pinkie Pie stopped resisting, and Dash stopped dragging her. Pinkie Pie felt guilty. Everything about Rainbow Dash's demeanor and voice told her that she had crossed the line. She wasn't really sure how, though, but she could tell that Dash was serious. She had imagined all of her friends laughing at her silly antics and making the best of a bad situation but that isn't what happened at all. Pinkie Pie's voice became unusually lacking in energy as she replied, "I was just trying to have fun."

"Does Fluttershy look like she is having fun?" replied Dash cooly.

Pinkie Pie continued to puzzle over it but she could not think of what she had done wrong. To Pinkie Pie nothing felt worse than draining all the fun out of a situation, and not being sure how to fix it, or even why it happened. Her huge glassy eyes began to shake as they filled with more fluid then they could hold. They weren't overflowing yet, but it was obvious they were about to.

Everpony other then Rainbow Dash was too far away to notice and Rainbow Dash had caused the problem to begin with. Rainbow Dash let out a barely audible sigh as she knew this meant the responsibility fell on her, and this wasn't something she thought she was particularly good at. "Look Pink, there is nothing wrong with having fun, and being silly. We like you that way. You are one of the coolest ponies I have ever met. But sometimes when ponies are facing a problem, they don't want to celebrate or laugh to take their mind off of things. Sometimes they just want to deal with it, and during those times your normally charming antics just seem insensitive. So please just don't scare off all the animals Fluttershy wants so desperately to see."

"Oh is that what this is about!" exclaimed Pinkie Pie whose eyes had returned to their normal cheery state. Pinkie Pie continued, "I had thought we had given up on trying to get the animals to come out. If I had known we were still trying I wouldn't have done any of that. I better go apologize to Fluttershy." Then Pinkie Pie bounced away leaving Rainbow Dash speechless. Pinkie Pie was normally a pretty good listener, but she had become so absorbed in figuring out what she did wrong that that was the only part that got through.

Rainbow Dash was a bit upset she had gotten all mushy and stuff for no reason. Rainbow Dash felt like she had said some good things, and she really put her heart into those words which is not something she did very often. Oh well, at least everypony was happy now. Oh! And the Wonderbolts! Only a couple hours remained! Rainbow Dash couldn't believe she had let herself forget, even if only for a moment. Rainbow Dash flew back over to her friends, completely forgetting what had just happened.

"I'm sorry Fluttershy. I didn't mean to scare away the animals," said Pinkie Pie.

"I'm sorry too," responded Fluttershy.

"For what?" asked Twilight.

"I don't know. I guess I'm just used to apologizing for things," said Fluttershy.

They waited for thirty more minutes for animals to show up, and while Fluttershy couldn't even get near any of them they did see a few exotic creatures, including a buzzard that really buzzed. Fluttershy didn't see or get as close to the animals as she would have liked, but she couldn't help but be pleased with the way things turned out. She had matured, and not lost her mind just because some animals didn't love her yet. Furthermore, today she felt she had really made progress with the animals.

More importantly than any of that, her friends really showed how much they cared. Twilight raked her brain to help her figure out what was going wrong. Rainbow Dash had not only helped with Pinkie Pie, but had been surprisingly patient the whole time. Applejack used some of her homemade treats to try to coax the creatures out of hiding. Pinkie Pie had actually remained calm, which for her was quite a feat. Rarity trotted through some mud to give Fluttershy a better view of the animals. She felt better knowing she had nothing to be nervous about. Her friends didn't despise her for making them do something boring, but rather they relished the chance to show her what she meant to them. The nightmare Fluttershy had been having reoccurred to her but for once she laughed at it, as it seemed silly to her now.

Next on the schedule was Applejack. If Twilight had been thinking about it, she would have put her on the schedule second anyway, so as to be sure the Gala was still crowded when they were trying to make sales, but luckily even though Twilight forgot this, Applejack turned up second by the luck of the draw anyway.

Applejack handed all the ponies a bag of treats and said, "Now remember, the apple fritters are 3 bits, and the apple pies are 5 bits. Everything else is 2 bits."

Rainbow Dash interjected, "So if we aren't going to be spreading out, what is the point of all of us selling stuff again?"

"It's psychology Dash. The more ponies a pony sees selling a product, the more likely that pony is to view the products being sold as reliable and trustworthy," blurted out Twilight who was happy to have an excuse to recite an interesting fact she had learned in her studies. Her studies focused primarily on magic, but on occasion she found it beneficial to look into miscellaneous topics like running and psychology.

Applejack replied, "Right, what she said. More to the point you are a good friend and I'd appreciate the help. So you willing to give it or not? 'Cuz I don't want the help of no half-hearted ponies anyway"

"Did you forget who you are talking to AJ? Am I even capable of giving less than my best? Probably not, but I wouldn't know. I've never tried." said Rainbow Dash.

There was a brief silence that allowed the words of Pinkie Pie to reach the ears of the other ponies. "Well no, I'm not selling any cotton candy, but having this bag of food with me makes me wish I did, and that's why I was talking about it. Just think of how cool it would be if we were selling cotton candy," said Pinkie Pie to a now thoroughly uninterested pony who was walking away.

"Pink if you're going to talk to potential customers about food, could you please at least talk about food that we are actually selling?" sighed Applejack while removing the hoof she had just put to her forehead.

Pinkie Pie replied, "I was just trying to make some people hungry so that they would want to buy food. And think about it; which makes your mouth water more, plain old apple products, or cotton candy? Oh, or better still, chocolate rain! Wait, most ponies have never had chocolate rain, so they wouldn't know. Those poor ponies! I know I could help them by selling chocolate rain instead of boring apple..." Pinkie Pie trailed off, just realizing she probably shouldn't finish that sentence.

But then Applejack let out a laugh and said, "Yeah, I have to admit that next to chocolate rain, apple products do seem a little boring, but I'm not sure that's a bad thing. I don't think I'd want my products to be quite that 'interestin'."

Pinkie Pie had been recalling earlier when she had crossed the line, and momentarily let herself forget that her friends really do usually know how to have a little bit of fun. They didn't excel at it, per se, but that is what they had her for. She couldn't let the risk of occasionally stepping over a line here and there get in the way of teaching her friends the vitally important lesson of how to laugh. It was her element after all.

Ultimately, Applejack had far better sales than at her previous gala appearance, or at least she did percentage-wise. It was a 200% increase in sales, but it still was only a total of six sales. Most ponies present really did seem to look down on the products AJ was selling, but there were a few ponies who managed to slip through the cracks without having such a regal pallet. Each of them had appealed to customers in different ways, and each of them had managed to find precisely one pony who their style worked best on. Even Fluttershy, who was so unassertive one could scarcely tell she was selling anything, had a customer who bought something from her not because she liked the food, but simply because, "It is refreshing to see a sales pony who isn't trying to shove her product down my throat."

Really it just went to show how much more they could accomplish as a team, due to their unique talent and skills. While they still hadn't managed to sell much, it was impressive considering how long Applejack had worked last year only to get a single sale. Friendship was powerful and could accomplish things nopony could do alone, but like all things in life, it did have its limits. Even friendship couldn't give a pony good taste.

Rarity spoke concisely with a commanding voice, "Alright, Ladies. We have nice clothes, so now it is a matter of presentation, and presentation is everything. Keep your heads up high. Let us trot with dignity. By the time we are through, the prince will want all six of us, but he will know that his rudeness has ruined his chance with all of us."

Rarity had barely finished speaking when she rushed over to Applejack and began again, "No no, dahling, not like that. You aren't trying to pull some heavy anchor with your neck. This isn't a matter of work or power, but dignity and pride." It took Rarity a few minutes to get Applejack's posture the way she wanted it, which normally would have frustrated AJ, but it wasn't often Rarity got to go to an event this fancy, and though it felt like hours, it really was only a few minutes. Rarity proceeded to spend a few more minutes correcting various aspects of the posture of all the other ponies, until she got to Fluttershy.

"No no no, Fluttershy. Where is your sense of self worth?" demanded Rarity.

Fluttershy replied meekly, "But I'm weak and helpless and not worth very much. Is there anything in particular I am doing wrong?"

Rarity sighed and responded, "If only it were that simple. No, from a technique perspective you are doing everything right, but your self-doubt just seeps through your posture. One cannot excel at fabulosity without knowing how fabulous one is. This is why Rainbow Dash, despite her usual blatant disregard for posture, is actually doing the best. Come on, Fluttershy, we have told you repeatedly what a stupendous pony you are. Hasn't there ever been a time where you were proud of yourself?"

"Is being proud of yourself the same thing as not being disappointed in yourself? Because I have felt that... occasionally," mumbled Fluttershy.

Rarity slammed a hoof into her forehead. "Sadly, you have deeper confidence issues than we can solve in just one night. Just try to focus on one of those times when you weren't disappointed in yourself and that will have to do. For what it is worth, Fluttershy, I know you the best of anyone and honestly, I look up to you in many ways. However we have more pressing matters at the moment so we can discuss this more later."

With that the six ponies trotted their way inside the palace, where they were in view of the prince, and while their posture was far from perfect, it was not immediately apparent to any of the ponies there that these ponies did not come from high society. They formed a line and approached Prince Blueblood, then one by one, starting with Rarity, they stuck up their head higher than it was, closed their eyes, made a distinct noise of disdain, and walked off. They then proceeded to leave the palace.

"Thank you all for your help!" said Rarity.

"That was it?" blurted out a stunned Rainbow Dash, "We didn't do anything."

Rarity replied, "Didn't you see it? Plenty happened. First he looked at me, then away. Then he looked at the five of you, then back to me then away. Then he looked at the five of you, then away, then back to me, and then back to you. Then he looked..."

"Does any of this have a point?" interrupted Rainbow Dash.

Rarity replied, "Don't you know what that means? Clearly he wanted us oh so much, but at the same time knew he couldn't have us, but that only made him want us more. Being the prince he is, he has never been denied anything, and us slipping out of his grasp just completely destroyed him. Honestly I think we did our job a little too well."

"You could tell all of that just from a... No, you know what, it's time for the Wonderbolts!" exclaimed Rainbow Dash.

However Rainbow Dash was not really sure where the Wonderbolts would be. She had just sorta bumped into them last time and they weren't in that same place this time. The ponies wandered around the gala looking for them, until they saw a large crowd gathered, and in the middle were the Wonderbolts performing a show.

It took Dash's brain several seconds to believe the Wonderbolts were actually performing. She had always thought the gala was more the sort of event where one got to talk to the Bolts and get their autograph, but a live performance that just happened to be scheduled differently this year such that her and her friends all get to see it, was more than Dash's brain knew what to do with.

Rainbow Dash had wanted to see the Wonderbolts perform for her entire life. She had heard about it, but to her great shame she had never actually seen it before. She had even moved to Ponyville in hopes of seeing them perform during the Summer Sun Celebration, but whether it was Nightmare Moon showing up, or having to fly off to retrieve medicine for a sick Fluttershy, she had never gotten to go. She had arranged to see many of their shows over the years, but one way or another, not one of those opportunities panned out. But now here she was, with this opportunity she had spent a lifetime pursuing presenting itself to her out of the blue.

The stunts they performed where not anything like the moves Rainbow Dash had dreamed up. Their moves were more beautiful and thrilling than anything she had devised or could have imagined. She knew that being in the Wonderbolts was about speed and technique, but now she realized, it was also about synchronization. The way they all performed their moves at exactly the right time in relation to one another added a layer of awesomeness she could not have grasped without having seen it for herself. She had always thought that once she joined the Wonderbolts she would fit right in, but now she realized there would be months of training at the least, to teach her to breathe at the exact moment everypony else was breathing. Despite what a humbling realization this was, it somehow made her want to join that much more.

The show only lasted for another fifteen minutes, because apparently Rainbow Dash and her friends had arrived late to the show. Even Pinkie Pie remained quiet and still the whole time. Rainbow Dash's jaw had remained so low she had to fight drool back from dripping down her mouth. Though she had missed most of the show, at least she still had some time left for her friends and her to do what she wanted, so naturally they pursued the Wonderbolts. Dash figured her friends would catch up, and she couldn't waste any time she could spend talking to the Wonderbolts, so she took to the sky and flew toward them as quickly as she could. Rainbow Dash came to a stop right in front of Spitfire.

"Rainbow Dash, isn't it? Just the pony I was looking to see," said Spitfire.

"You wanted to see me?" said Rainbow Dash blankly.

There was silence for a while; then Spitfire swallowed hard and blurted out, "Don't join the Wonderbolts."

"What?" mumbled Rainbow Dash.

"Look, kid, I've seen enough of you to know you have the skill for it. But I see myself at your age when I look at you, and I ask for your own sake that you don't join," said Spitfire.

Rainbow Dash could not digest any of this. She had a hard enough time getting past the fact that one of her idols knew her name. Going from that to being praised by said idol for her skill, was too much excitement. Then the crushing weight of being told not to join, failed to cancel out the excitement of the first two, but instead made her confused, and gave her brain so much to process that it reached a grinding halt. She didn't know whether to celebrate or cry. "I don't understand," she mumbled.

"Yeah I wouldn't have either, and sadly no matter what I say you still won't, but I'll still try to clarify as best as I can. I owe you that much. I've been meaning to tell you this for a while: I was going to tell you last time I saw you at the Gala, but it is difficult to say.

The first year or so on the Wonderbolts you learn more about flying then you ever thought possible, but after that, well, you become so recognized, that ponies applaud no matter what you do. Once you can perform the routines without messing up, you find that there is no greater goal to strive for, and with the audience thinking you're great regardless, you become complacent.

I used to be like you and think there was no such thing as fast enough, but now the speed at which everyone else goes is the speed at which I go. Not only is there such a thing as fast enough, suddenly there is such a thing as too fast. Anymore I'm not as fast as I used to be because I don't need to be.

If you put on that suit and become one of us, then flying will be about whatever pleases the audience. If you don't, flying will remain about whatever pleases you and, honestly, no pony like us is ever pleased with her performance. You have more potential than anyone I have ever seen. So the question is do you want to be known as the best flier in Equestria, or do you want to be the best flier in Equestria?"

Rainbow Dash wanted to say "What?" but even in her cloud of confusion she was vaguely aware that this would sound dumb, so instead she continued staring blankly. This explanation had done little to set Rainbow Dash's mind at ease. Was she seriously supposed to just give up on her lifelong dream just like that? But at the same time, after hearing all that from someone who lived the dream, something about her dream seemed hollow. A hollow dream, or no dream, they were both empty, and now so was she.

She had a headache, and she wanted to throw up, but nothing would come. She had been so excited about the Wonderbolts she hadn't eaten anything all day, and now for the first time in her life, the Wonderbolts were the last ponies she wanted to see. She felt like taking off into the sky and not stopping for several hours, just to be far enough away from them, but she couldn't even move her wings. Yes of course, her wings were the problem. Maybe if she walked everywhere and just stopped using them they would fall off.

Just when she most wanted to be alone, Rainbow Dash's friends finally caught up with her. Somehow they knew instantly something was wrong.

"Why are you crying?" asked Twilight.

Rainbow Dash noticed that from her eyes to the bottom of her face did feel warmer than usual. She wiped at both her eyes, and sure enough her hoof was wet with tears. Rainbow Dash hadn't cried in so long she had forgotten what it was like.

"Oh dear! Even when I knew her as a young philly back in Cloudsdale, I never saw her cry. Something must really be wrong. Please, Rainbow Dash, tell us," pleaded Fluttershy.

Fluttershy looked so desperate, and there was no point in hiding it. Sooner or later they'd wonder why mentioning the Wonderbolts would make her cry instead of bring her excitement. Rainbow Dash said coolly or as much so as is possible for somepony who is crying, "The Wonderbolts said I was great, and that I should never join their team."

For a few seconds there was silence. None of them knew where to begin to console a hurt like this. Then Fluttershy went over and nuzzled rainbow dash a few times, and then stood beside her and wept. The other ponies decided to follow her lead, even Pinkie Pie.

"Come on, we'll walk you home," said Twilight Sparkle.

She did at some point want to talk this out with her friends, and lean on them for support, but now was not that time. All she wanted to do was go home as Twilight suggested, except she would actually have preferred to do it without her friends. But this was the gala, and her friends did not get to go very often. There were five ponies who, whether they would admit it or not, wanted to stay here and Pinkie Pie still hadn't gotten her turn at the schedule yet, so they were bound to have fun. If she left now, even if her friends stayed, no doubt they would just be thinking about her the rest of the night. No, as much as she wanted to, now was not the time to leave.

"We can deal with my problems later. Right now we have a gala to finish," said Rainbow Dash.

"Look Dash, we don't want to continue the gala if you're not going to be having any fun," said Twilight Sparkle.

"Applejack, do you feel like leaving the gala?" inquired Rainbow Dash.

"I agree with Twilight." said Applejack.

"That isn't what I asked. Do you feel like leaving the gala?" replied Rainbow Dash.

Applejack began to sweat bullets, which was exactly why Rainbow Dash asked her. "It's just some stupid fancy thing, and us country folk don't have any appreciation for fancy things anyway, right?" muttered Applejack unconvincingly. Rarity managed to suppress being offended, but only because AJ was so clearly lying.

"Look, please. While I appreciate what all of you are doing, there have been enough tears for one night. Let's just have some fun," pleaded Rainbow Dash. It felt weird making a case for exactly the opposite of what she wanted to do, but she felt so strongly about not disappointing her friends that in a way, she did want to stay more than she wanted to leave.

Twilight sighed and said, "Well alright then, but we are going to talk about this as soon as you feel ready."

Suddenly Rainbow Dash started to glow. It was a bright enough glow that a crowd of starring ponies were beginning to form around her, but not bright enough to hurt anypony's eyes. Then her lightning bolt necklace appeared around her neck.

"I've never heard of anything like that happening in my research. We should take you to see Princess Celestia," said Twilight.

"It doesn't hurt or anything so Princess Celestia can wait. Besides, it is Pinkie Pie's turn to decide what we do," insisted Rainbow Dash.

"Let's show these ponies how to party!" exclaimed Pinkie Pie.

Twilight considered rebuking Pinkie Pie for being so easily happy after what just happened to Rainbow Dash, but decided against it. She couldn't blame Pinkie Pie for being herself, especially not when Rainbow Dash kept encouraging them to have a good time anyway.

Pinkie Pie, with the help of her friends, changed the music, the menu, and had even set up some games. Where there had been caviar, instead there were cupcakes. Where there had been Pontoven's Third Symphony playing, instead "The Pony Poky" was playing. This time her friends didn't break in and break everything. Instead, she had their help, and so while most of the ponies stopped dancing and eating in protest, four joined in the festivities and even participated in games, like pin the tail on the pony. All-in-all it was a much smaller party within a larger "party" but even if it had been just her friends, Pinkie Pie would have had a good time. Even Rainbow Dash briefly forgot her troubles.

Everypony thought it was odd that Rainbow Dash was glowing, but those who were protesting such a lack of class were too busy sticking up their noses to pay her much attention, whereas those who were willing to participate in the party got used to it very quickly when they noticed Rainbow Dash herself was passing it off very light-heartedly. There were some gawkers who had followed her, but their gawking only continued for several minutes before they began to decide it wasn't that interesting and left.

Then, at last, came the part of the gala that Twilight had been waiting for. They went over to where Princess Celestia was. This time the room was far more crowded than before, as the line to see her filled the entire room. It made Twilight feel selfish but Rainbow Dash glowing seemed like the perfect excuse to cut in front of everypony, and thanks to Rainbow Dash's glowing nopony thought to question it. Perhaps they thought that Rainbow Dash was somehow related to Celestia or even a prop with the way she glowed like the sun. Or perhaps it was obvious that they needed Celestia's help to figure out what was going on. Regardless, Twilight was grateful for their luck, as they probably wouldn't get to see the princess before the gala ended otherwise.

Before Twilight and her friends stopped moving Princess Celestia said to them, "Hello Prized Pupil and friends. I am very proud of you, Rainbow Dash. I take it you wish to know why you are glowing?"

Rainbow Dash was floored by the way the princess didn't seem the least bit surprised by her glowing, and she wasn't used to being in the presence of royalty. Further, her pride had been completely shattered and so, for once in her life, Rainbow Dash spoke so softly it was barely audible. "Uh... yeah," she said.

"Well sadly I have a lot of people to greet, but my sister Princess Luna knows more about the Elements of Harmony than I do. She is actually very knowledgeable about most everything... except for the last thousand years. That is part of the reason I took you on as my prized pupil, Twilight. Your studious nature and potential that extends far beyond what you know, reminded me of her," said Celestia.

"Where is Princess Luna?" inquired Twilight.

"She is right beside..." started Princess Celestia, but upon looking over and seeing her sister absent she decided to pause. She then continued by saying, "Well I'm sure she is around the palace somewhere, and I do not have time to find her, so I leave it to you."

Twilight, taking to heart what the princess had said about her being similar to Princess Luna, headed straight for the library, with her friends following slightly behind her, and sure enough, there she was. It took a while to navigate through the crowd, but they managed to squeeze into one of the few nearby rooms with no one in it, and from there proceeded to the library, where it was just them and the princess.

"Princess Luna, why aren't you greeting guests with your sister? You are just as much a princess as she is, after all," asked Twilight.

Princess Luna replied in a voice that was thankfully much quieter than the royal Canterlot voice, "My sister tries so hard to include me in everything, but I just don't belong out there. I have always been more of one for books, and solitude, whereas she has always excelled more at action and interacting with the public. A thousand years has done nothing more than cement that. I try to humor Celestia, but in the end I just feel out of place. However, I assume you are here about your glowing friend and not to talk about my troubles?"

"Well, yes, but before we switch topics to that, I would just like to say that I understand where you are coming from, as I have never been one to hang out with ponies all day long either. However, even though I thought I didn't, I have learned that everyone needs friends," replied Twilight.

"Very well, Twilight, I shall give having a friend a try. Come back here tomorrow night at eight O'clock. That is, unless you are already busy," said Princess Luna.

Twilight couldn't believe a princess, especially one who was at least a thousand years older than her, could want to be friends with her. She wanted to ask Princess Luna if she was sure, but she thought this might sound too much like Twilight didn't want to be her friend. Twilight stammered, "Errr... Sure, that works well."

"Great! Now that that is settled, your friend is glowing because she is strongly exemplifying her element, and thus the spirit of her element is temporarily more strongly tied to her body. Simply put, your friend is being loyal at a time during which it is difficult for her to be so and, consequently, she is for a time a Super Element of Harmony," replied Princess Luna.

"A Super Element of Harmony?" inquired Twilight.

"Yes, there are a lot of obscure books written on the theory behind it, but really the only noticeable side effect aside from the glowing, is any spells she casts while in this state will be much more powerful than normal," said Princess Luna.

"So it has no effect on pegasus ponies like her who can't cast spells?" asked Twilight.

"Who can't cast spells? I think we both know that is a lie. From my understanding she has cast a spell at least twice. Though you should know that better than I as all six of you were involved in the casting of said spells. Like the time you cast that memory spell on me for example," said Luna.

"Wait, wait, we cast a memory spell on you? I thought we just sorta hit you with pure awesome causing the evil in your heart to melt away," interjected Rainbow Dash. Twilight would have been ashamed to admit it, as she realized how foolish her understanding of events sounded out loud, but she had been thinking the same thing.

"What? No, you reminded me of all the good times I had had with my sister, and what a wonderful pony she was. It was a particularly strong memory spell, as it needed to be, for I had been under Discord's influence for far longer than any of you," said Princess Luna.

"As in chocolate rain Discord?" inquired Pinkie Pie.

"I'm not sure I know what you mean by that, but if memory serves, the one and only Discord does have a fondness for chocolate rain," responded Luna.

"So you were just under Discord's spell just like we were?" asked Applejack.

"Well, more or less. No offense, but my will is a bit stronger than that of you ponies, so he had to do a lot of manipulation for it to work. But in time, with his coaxing, I began to resent my sister," said Luna.

"But I thought you two banished Discord together, well before you became Nightmare Moon," said Twilight

"Oh, I guess I forgot to mention that the bit of Discord that was coaxing me was inside of me. You see, I actually reached Discord a few seconds before my sister did. Discord knew immediately that I was a threat to him, so he hit me with a surprise attack, in which he put a small part of himself in me, which is exactly what he did to you. It's just since I had a stronger will, it took much longer for him to finally gain control. Thankfully powerful thoughts about the bonds one shares with another, like those generated by your memory spell, have a way of banishing Discord," said Luna.

"So has Equestria, ever had any enemies other than Discord?" asked Twilight.

"Now you are asking a very interesting question. One that I have spent much time researching, and the answer is yes, but back in those days it was called Earth," said Luna. Luna warned, "I haven't been able to figure out everything, but I have been able to piece together a lot so it's kinda a long story. Would you like to hear it?"

Twilight looked toward Rainbow Dash, who nodded in approval. "Yes, please," responded Twilight.

Luna said, "Long ago, the predominant intelligent life on this planet were creatures known as humans. In these days they had mere animals known as ponies on their farms and such, but these creatures could not talk, or do magic, or reason beyond what simple animals can. But then one day, ponies more like the ones we are appeared. They were beings of complete illogic though, so their origins made no sense, and neither did their language. They were able to communicate and get things done, yet the manner in which they went about doing so had no logical backbone whatsoever.

This was completely different from the humans, who were beings that needed and thrived on logic. Not all of them were good at it, but this was just another logical trait of their existence. Magic was the sort of thing that many of them wanted to believe in, but ultimately as a whole they couldn't accept. Instead they developed their own form of magic out of logic, known as science. This science would manifest itself in various devices known as technology."

"Technology?" stammered a befuddled Twilight.

"Our trains are a perfect example of something that is believed to have been inspired by their technology, but theirs actually ran by themselves, with the power of logic and physics, instead of using pony power.

The point is, their whole lives were dependent upon a notion of logic far deeper than exists in the world as we know it today. They were the complete opposite of the ponies that had started appearing.

Despite this, something about the two intelligent beings having to share this world caused them to slowly become more and more like each other. In time, ponies started developing some amount of logic and confined their illogic to magic. Eventually even magic would develop logical outcomes, and predictable results, but the logic was still never as pure as their science. Likewise, the humans' science became less like science and began to border on magic. Over thousands of years, the two beings even began to look like one another... until eventually a completely in between state was formed, the humanoid pony. Naturally, since they are the only kind of pony that exists anymore, today we just call them ponies for short.

However there were humans and ponies alike who were dissatisfied with the way they both seemed to be headed to some kind of in-between form. Those ponies ended up fusing into one being of complete illogic and disharmony known as Discord. The humans, on the other hoof, formed a single large army known as Logos. They both wanted to destroy any contact ponies and humans had, and especially the humanoid ponies. However, the two beings were so opposite in every other way that they first sought to destroy each other. Logos imprisoned Discord in something rumored to be called a black hole. I haven't been able to find much information on that, so it's hard to say for sure.

Discord would, of course, later abuse the fact that he is a being of pure illogic to escape from said object of science, but something about time compression and faster than light caused him to be several thousand years in the future. When Discord came back to rule Earth, he found that it was now a place composed entirely of humanoid ponies who had long since banished Logos, and it was known as Equestria. It is unknown how, when, or who banished Logos, but it is believed by numerous scholars that Ever Free Forest was sacrificed to be forever governed by their logic, in order to banish them to some alternate dimension. Some ponies think that Ever Free Forest remains the connection between our world and theirs to this day. Personally I don't think they have forgotten, and they still seek to destroy us and reclaim this world that they feel we stole from them."

"Destroy us?" said Twilight.

"Yes, that is something I forgot to mention. The other main difference between humans and ponies was violence. As you have noticed we have adopted some level of that from them as well, or else there would be no bullying, and no fighting, but that is not the case. Thankfully we do not have the terrible breach of harmony known as murder," said Luna.

"Wow, I have heard of that, but I always just thought it was a theoretical concept. I didn't think it had ever actually occurred," said Twilight.

"Oh, it has occurred, and though Celestia disagrees, something tells me that if we are not careful, it will occur again. I believe this tablet was somehow sent by them, but no matter how much I study it, I cannot figure out what it means," said Luna.

They looked at the cracking slab with moss growing over it, and Twilight's eyes shifted over it as though she were reading it aloud, "We are Logos. We are Legion. We do not forgive. We do not forget. Expect us."

"You can read that?" questioned Luna.

"Yes. I'm not sure why, but I am positive that is what it says," replied Twilight.

For a moment everypony gaped at Twilight, yet they all knew Twilight wouldn't lie to them about this. There were many questions that filled their minds, but they were sure Twilight didn't know either. Luna was the first to interrupt the silence.

"Then it is as I feared, they are seeking to reclaim their Earth, and they sent this hundreds of years ago as a threat. They cannot get people or technology over to our world yet it would seem, but given how long it has been, and that they did get this message, it could well be soon. I'll tell my sister, but there is little we can do," sighed Luna.

With that, all of the ponies departed from the gala, their minds troubled; either because of the Wonderbolts and dreams crushed, or because of this foreboding feeling that was beginning to swoop over them all, that the time Luna feared was coming all too soon.