Darkness cascaded over the remains of the once peaceful Ponyville. It was empty; a desolate wasteland littered with the ruins of houses. Smoke drifted up slowly into the night sky. It was hard to believe that only three months had passed since the pony uprising, followed by the war that was still underway. Everypony who had wanted to live evacuated when the pegasi invaded. The rest fought for their homeland. In the end, everypony just destroyed Ponyville, leaving it the barren, smoking land it was now. No pony lived there anymore. Or so some thought.
A figure darted through the darkness and steam. It quickly cut its way past tight corners and zigzagged through piles of charcoal and debris until it came to an abrupt stop in front of a once majestic tree. The tree was now blackened and brittle. Inside the tree was a maze of fallen bookshelves, broken glass, and puddles. But the lone figure didn't hesitate before proceeding in.
The place reeked of mildew and rotted wood. Through the darkness the figure expertly navigated their way through the wreck and up the teetering stairs. The windows in the room were all boarded up. No on would be able to spy or look into the room. The figure closed the battered door and turned on the lights.
Twilight Sparkle winced as the warm light struck her. Twilight's appearance had changed drastically during the war. She had a long, pink scratch running down from her right ear to the middle of her right cheek. It looked as though someone had scratched her with a thin, red marker. She had a purple and black bruised eye that made her appear threatening. Her hair was cut short for all of the proper reasons. She sported a tight, black jumpsuit at all times. And her violet eyes were now stone cold.
Twilight's room was bare except for the small cauldron to her left and the large bookshelf located against the wall, but only a few books remained. Her light source was only a meager lantern on the ground. Twilight trotted over to the small caldron near the bookshelf. She had made herself some soup before she left, but it was now cold. Twilight let out a small sigh as she relit the fire with her horn, ignoring her stomach's pleas for food. So far the only things Twilight was able to salvage from the wastelands surrounding her were a few planks of wood, a few unharmed carrots, and a map to the city of Manehatten.
Twilight had been planning on going to Cloudsdale at first, but since the pegasi didn't know that she was still alive, it would be far too risky. Manehatten, however, was supposed to be unicorn territory. But just in case that was a rumor spread about to make for a trap, Twilight had a stash of homemade throwing knives from Zecora.
The smell of soup aroused Twilight from her thoughts. Within minutes Twilight's stomach was finally at peace as she slowly ate her soup, thinking about her plan carefully. To get to Manehatten by hoof would take almost all day. It wouldn't be a problem if the trail weren't practically in the wilderness. The wilderness that was full of beasts longing for the taste of pony flesh between their teeth, and spies pouncing at the smallest indication of movement, armed to the ready.
If it was a trap going into Manehatten Twilight would be imprisioned like so many of the other unicorns, but for different reasons. However, if it really were true that the unicorns had seized control of Manehatten, then perhaps she could find Rarity there…
Twilight didn't sleep at all. Her mind swarmed of a million possibilities and options she could face. But they all led to only one choice. Night soon turned to early morning. Twilight quickly got to her hooves and got ahold of the map she had scavenged. She had marked out the trail she would be taking in red ink. The trip would be longer than the average route, but it would be by far the safest. And by any means would it be well worth it if it meant reuniting with her friends again.
As soon as the sun was becoming visible through the charred treeline, Twilight made her way out of the giant tree. A dirty, but otherwise useful cart with all of her belongings stood at the foot of the tree in the shade. Without hesitation, Twilight hooked herself up to the reins and began to set off with the map levitated in front of her.
The road out of Ponyville, if you could still call it that, was cluttered with broken debris and shards of glass. Twilight managed to make it out of Ponyville nonetheless. She spent the rest of the walk out of the vicinity of Ponyville in a cautious stupor, wincing at every dead leaf her hooves stepped on. Luckily the trail she had picked out wasn't near Cloudsdale, so there weren't any signs of pegasi on patrol in the skies overhead.
The trail had many twists and turns, but wasn't as long as Twilight had been anticipating. In fact, she had only really been able to set up camp once. Manehatten seemed to be closer than ever. The night slowly crept in and Twilight decided against her instincts to not set up camp again. Instead she continued her way on hoof, ignoring the low growls emitting from the depths of the forest. Twilight's eyes ached as she sped up, the moon shinning down on her.
It looked so big from where she was. Twilight couldn't help but imagine what Princess Luna felt when she was trapped in that great and vast place all on her own for a thousand years. It would've driven anyone to the breaking point. It almost made sense, what Luna did next when she finally was able to come back.
Twinkling lights in the distance drove Twilight out of her deep dwellings and into the present. She recognized that skyline from anywhere. Manehatten came into view with the sun rising above it slowly, initiating a new day. Twilight's eyes narrowed, finding any sign of a trap. But to her relief it looked as it did before the war. And then she saw it. A ray of sunlight hit Manehatten and Twilight saw the slightest shade of pink indicating a force field. Twilight's heart soared at the sight of this. If a force field had been put up, that meant that unicorns really were living in Manehatten. And that meant Rarity could very well be there…
• • •
Twilight slowly approached the entrance to Manehatten. A large, steel gate was in front of her, locked by a large padlock. Two stallion unicorns dressed head to hoof in body armor guarded this entrance. Twilight decided that it was safe and revealed herself. The two unicorns were taken aback at Twilight's horrid appearance, but quickly regained their tough demeanor.
"Halt, who goes there?" the unicorn on the right called out to Twilight with his eyes narrowed.
The other unicorn's eyes widened in a mixture of shock and apprehension, "You are Twilight Sparkle? But…she's dead, right?"
Twilight came to a stop in front of the two. The cart squealed at the sudden stop. The unicorn on the right's brow furrowed as his eyes trailed along Twilight's scar, resting at the hem of her jumpsuit.
"It's her," he said after a long pause, "I've seen her before. Let her in."
"But we're not supposed to let anyone through-
"I said let her through," the unicorn stomped his hoof defiantly.
"Alright…" the other guard replied uncertainly.
He gave a nod to somepony from the inside of the force field. The padlock opened itself and the gate creaked open, allowing Twilight to pass through.
Twilight's mouth dropped open as soon as the gate closed behind her. It was just like Ponyville only with more stallion unicorns dressed in military uniform. The unicorns looked at Twilight as though she were a ghost. In a way, Twilight probably was. But she kept her head down until she came into the business district of Manehatten. And that's when she saw two familiar faces. There they were with their faded blue and white striped vests, black bow ties, and their straw hats.
"Hey lady," Flam called out a random unicorn passing by, "How would you like to be a part of a breakthrough?"
"A modern day miracle?" Flim chimed along, "How would you like to try out a new skincare product by us, the Flim Flam brothers? We present to you the extraordinary Flim and Flam Hidecream. Non oily! Non-greasy! All natural!"
"You morons," an old unicorn hollered, "There's an actual revolution taking place! It's called a war! What makes you think that everypony needs to worry about hidecare?"
The twins both deflated at the unicorn's harsh words. Twilight quietly made her way toward the two. Their faces contorted in both confusion and awe as they saw her face.
"Twilight Sparkle?" Flam chuckled as Twilight nodded, "My goodness. I heard that you were dead. Miracles all over, I say."
"Would you care to endorse our hidecreme product?" Flim asked, holding up the small jar with his hoof.
Twilight swatted the jar away with a single jerk of her hoof. It soared through the air before clattering to the ground a few feet away from them. Twilight gave them a mean smile.
"What are you guys up to?" She tilted her head, "Taking advantage of everypony again? That seems just like your standards."
Flim winced, "Are you still upset about the Applejack incident? In our defense, they were the ones who challenged us for their barn back."
"NO," Twilight growled, "You know perfectly why I'm angry. You two sold out Applejack to the pegasi, all for money."
"We had no choice," Flam bit back, "The resistance threatened to shut down our business and keep it shut down. They threatened our lives."
Twilight's eye twitched in fury, but she relaxed. She took deep breaths slowly.
Twilight sighed, "Look, I'll just get to the catch. Is Rarity here?"
"Rarity," Flam repeated as if tasting the word, "She's the one with the purple mane and diamond cutie mark, correct?"
"Yeah, have you seen her in Manehatten? It's a yes or no question."
"Actually," Flam chirped from behind his brother, "We may have seen her pass by here a day or two ago, but…our memory is a bit fuzzy."
"Here," Twilight threw Flam a coin sack, "Maybe twenty bits will refresh it for you."
Flam smiled as he smoothed out his mustache, "You see all these uniforms the stallions are wearing?"
Twilight looked around. Indeed the stallions were wearing blue and red armor that had been handmade. And then it clicked.
"Rarity made those?"
"Good," Flim laughed, "I forget how clever you are."
Flam nodded along, "She walks by everyday in the morning and walks home around…midnight. But we don't know where she works."
Twilight swore underneath her breath. She needed to find Rarity today. But where was she? Twilight spotted a few unicorn stallions trotting along in their uniforms. Twilight trotted over to them.
"Excuse me," she called, "But can you tell me where you got those uniforms?"
One of the stallions looked her over suspiciously before replying, "These aren't for sale."
"Okay, but can you tell me where you got them…or at least who made them?"
"A unicorn," another stallion said gruffly, "Her shop is located a few blocks down. It has a red awning over the door. It's hard to miss."
"Thank you," Twilight smiled, "Thank you."
And with that, Twilight ran down the block, looking for the red awning. Once it appeared Twilight sped toward it. The door to the shop was already wide open. Twilight slowly stepped through the threshold of the doorway. She could feel her heart speeding up in her chest when she caught sight of a white unicorn flourishing a needle and thread while dresses floated in the air, levitated by magic.
"Rarity," Twilight's voice seemed a million miles away. Rarity spun around at the sound of Twilight's voice.
"Don't come closer!" she snapped, "I…"
Twilight stepped closer into the light. Rarity's mouth hung open at the sight of Twilight. Her eyes widened and a choked shriek escaped her mouth.
"T-T-Twilight?" she whispered, "Is that truly you?"