Twilight instantly strengthened her shield spell as she Awoke. Many, many exceedingly short loops had taught her to do this rather than to drop her shield and take the brief amount of time to figure out exactly what was going on.
It was a good thing she did, as a naval strength beam the width of a large building suddenly impacted her lavender barrier and then deflected off into the early morning sky.
Then her memories hit. Apparently a few days ago, only a week after her first trip to the Grand Galloping Gala; a large spacecraft started to deposit an invasion force comprised of soldiers, aircraft, and armored vehicles. Translated messages called out for the Equestrians' immediate surrender to the great Centauri Empire. The princesses were empowering a magical planetary forcefield that prevented orbital bombardment by energy or fast moving projectiles. Twilight, however, suspected that Celestia and Luna really wanted their ponies to be able to stand on their own legs rather than depend on alicorns to solve all their problems. It looked like the princesses would take no direct action unless there was an extinction level threat or they had to deal with beings on roughly the same level as themselves. Looping Twilight had identified the ship as a Primus class battle cruiser and idly wished that Diamond Tiara had been looping as she would know more about the ship's capabilities and armament.
The battle had been raging for two days ever since the ponies met the invaders on the outskirts of Ponyville proper. Most of the pegasi soldiers used lightning storms, tornadoes, and rapid blitz style attacks while the Wonderbolts kept the invaders' aerial fighters busy. Earth ponies would find small separated Centauri squads and charge them, weathering most of the incoming weapon fire as they stampeded into melee range. Unicorns would either snipe debilitating spells from long range, act as artillery with their telekinesis and exploding cannonballs, or do what Twilight and her brother were doing by shielding groups of ponies from the aliens' heavy weaponry.
Currently, everything was chaos. Smoke and flashes of energy and magical blasts crossed the battlefield. Yesterday, Zecora led a counter-invasion effort by burning bonfires made of poison joke and having pegasi blow the resulting smoke at the enemy. The Centauri quickly donned their combat hazmat suits and masks which were made to protect against chemical warfare. Unfortunately for them, poison joke was a magical plant. So while they were confident that their protections had worked - as nothing appeared to had happened during the first day, all the random debilitating changes occurred on the day after. Some of the invaders lost feeling in their arms or legs or coordination, others changed size or species or body parts. The first officer woke up with his butt and legs on backwards while the Captain's mighty hair crest vanished completely, leaving him as bald as a Centauri spinster.
That was probably the final straw which made him call his ship down to the planet and fire the energy blast. The same high energy particle cannon blast that Twilight had just deflected. The one that left her a breathless, panting wreck by draining so much of her internal magic so quickly.
"That was amazing, little sister. Don't worry, Twi. If that thing fires again, we're all with you!" Shining Armor announced as the unicorn shielding team gathered on Celestia's pupil, priming themselves to synchronize with her if the need arises again.
The lavender unicorn in question nodded as she looked through the haze. Under the light of Luna's early morning moon, she saw a huge storm front that was heading in from the Everfree forest since there were no free pegasi available to disperse it. On the battlefield, ponies were being hurt or worse. Rarity was leading a sniper team, Applejack and Big Mac were each at the head of their own cavalry squads, Fluttershy, with tears in her eyes, was helping out with the wounded; and Rainbow Dash.. Rainbow Dash had taken one look at the descending spaceship and fled from the battlefield as fast as she could fly.
Pinkie Pie had been missing for a week. Twilight's memories stated that Pinkie vanished on her way home from a baking symposium. The only witness, a Berry Punch that was predictably full of cooking sherry, claimed that a giant scary pointy spider zapped up the pink pony with a beam of light and flew off into the sky. The search parties were canceled a few days later when the invasion happened.
'It was very suspicious timing,' Twilight thought to herself, reasoning, 'Most likely the Shadows found the most opportunistic Centauri captain they could and sent his ship off course in hyperspace until it arrived here, at what appeared to be an easily conquerable low technology world.'
The Equestrian looping anchor quickly sent out a pulse through the elements of harmony. After a long pause, she got one reply from very, very far away. The element of laughter.
Pinkie Pie was awake. Pinkie Pie was awake and amused.
The shadow ship had finally arrived at Za'Ha'Dum and unloaded its captured cargo. Feeling the presence of something new, the first one that called himself Lorien, the self-described most ancient being in the galaxy, emerged from his self-imposed isolation to look upon a small pink grinning pony.
Slowly, he turned towards the Shadows who had come out to revere him and spoke in a hushed whisper, "You have no consummate idea what you have brought to this place."
Then he turned into a bright energy orb and fled the planet at FTL speeds, changing course at random as he streaked his way out of the Milky Way galaxy entirely.
The shadows turned back to look at what they assumed was an unusual, if primitive, life form. Pinkie Pie was waving at the rapidly departing First One, "Bye Mr. Glowy Ball! Wow, he's fast. He's going to be a hassle to track down, but I'm sure I'll give him his invitation. Eventually."
Then she looked at the assorted advanced aliens in their black carapaces, "Look at all of you all shiny and pointy. I've heard of you. You guys like chaos, right? Well, I like chaos, too! So I can just tell we're going to be the BEST of friends, and you know what that calls for? A *PARTY!*"
Confetti, streamers, and positive emotions flew out of nowhere and into the air as the Shadows slowly started to wonder if they had made a mistake.
Twilight was using all of the planning skills that made her so successful at organizing Winter Wrap-up. Utilizing her magic, she was able to project her voice to the needed ponies, "Sniper team five, more support to the earth pony cavalry on your right. Air strike team sixteen, give some support to Spitfire's group with those aircraft. Cavalry team three, nice work toppling that armored vehicle, but there's another two coming in on your left flank. Shield team one, get ready. That ship looks like it's about to fire again."
Idly, Twilight wondered why the massive space craft was only using its secondary guns instead of the rapid firing x-ray lasers. Either the captain wanted to enslave more than he wanted to destroy, or else Luna was doing something with the atmospheric refraction skills that she usually used to move starlight around.
Suddenly, there was a loud boom of something hitting the ground to Twilight's side and a small explosion of dirt and dust was kicked up But as it dissipated, Twilight was able to see a form in the middle that slowly resolved itself to reveal, "Rainbow Dash! You came back!"
"Of course I did," the blue pegasus smiled while she held a proud triumphant pose, "When I saw that thing, I knew I was the only pony fast enough."
Twilight was confused, "Fast enough for what?"
Rainbow Dash's smiled broadened as she pointed at the sky, "Fast enough to bring that!"
Twilight followed her friend's hoof and looked at the gathering storm. Lightning and thunder was increasing in frequency from the middle of the tempest. The unicorn squinted as she thought she saw something very, very large moving inside the grey ominous weather pattern.
Then a massive form breached the outer edge of the storm as the entirety of the many miles wide city of Cloudsdale, in travel configuration, emerged from the cloud bank. Propelled by hundreds of pegasi, the enormous city was as dark and oppressing as the storm which had camouflaged it. Lighting cracked as the entirety of the remainder of the adult pegasi population was stomping and jumping and generating electricity, all of which flowed towards a glowing and flickering center that was already near blinding in its intensity.
Twilight Sparkle watched with her mouth opened, along with most of the combatants on both sides of the battle. She had seen pegasi cities moving before, but it was a very rare loop when such a thing happened. It was much rarer to see the city armed and ready for war. She quickly gained back her wits and started calling for an immediate retreat from the battlefield to all pony teams.
Sensing the danger, the alien ship fired its charged weapon at the city - only for the beam to pass harmlessly right through it, because ultimately, Cloudsdale was still only a cloud; and beams made to penetrate capital ship armor were never designed to fight a cloud. The loose water vapor around the spot where the beam passed through was converted explosively to steam, but centuries-old layered safety spells and pegasus magic narrowed down the affected area and prevented a catastrophe. Then a few pegasi caught any dissipating cloud matter and shoved it back into place as the city inexorably made its way into position, dwarfing the kilometer-and-a-half long Primus under its shadow. A few stray bolts of magical lighting lashed out and struck the ship's engines, preventing any attempt at escape.
When the ship was directly underneath the cloud city, a certain grey and blonde pegasus mare flew downward as fast as she could and struck the accumulated energy in the center point - without being electrocuted herself this time. A massive bolt of magic and electricity the width of a skyscraper shot downwards and impacted the alien spacecraft with a thunderous noise. The instructions given to it by the pegasi at the moment of its creation told the lighting energy's rudimentary sub-sapient intelligence to seek out and disable anything it could. That is exactly what it did. It bypassed the starship grade armor by seeking out every opening. Thaumicaly guided electricity coursed through the super structure, through the computer systems, and through the hapless aliens both inside the ship and on the ground. Then the circuit was complete and the cloud city's alpha strike energy vanished.
The blackened and broken alien ship started to fall out of the sky, only to stop just as suddenly as the massive thing became enclosed in the blue aura of a unicorn's magic field.
Princess Luna stepped out onto the field, her horn glowing with a matching blue aura. Following her were the young and elderly ponies of Ponyville who had hidden from the battle in the emergency safety shelter, as well as Princess Cadence who had done her best to keep them all from panicking.
"My thanks to you, Rainbow Dash, for informing Cloudsdale of the presence and location of the foul alien invaders' vessel," the princess of the night stated.
"Aww, it was nothing any other super fast pegasus wouldn't do," Rainbow Dash said with her usual amount modesty.
Luna shook her head, "But it was yourself that had done this, and we greatly appreciate this."
"We appreciate the efforts of all our little ponies on this day," Princess Celestia appeared next to her sister. Both princesses were looking a little bit haggard, thought Twilight. Then again, she reasoned, they had maintained a planetary shield around the world for almost a week; and doing such was not the special talent of either alicorn.
"So what now?" Twilight asked the princesses.
"Now?" Luna answered, "Now we shall see how this vessel operates and attempt to craft our own. I believe that one of our ponies was taken in the days before this foul invasion by a different ship. We intend to leave no celestial object unturned until we have located her and brought her back home."
And with a burst of Luna's alicorn-level magic, the Centauri battle cruiser came apart. Bolts unfastened, wires disconnected, welds became undone, and the entire ship spread out over a vast potion of the sky. Twilight recognized a perpetuating stasis spell as after one final burst from Luna's horn, the glow vanished, but the ship still hung there like a massive disassembled model kit.
"I can see it! It's amazing! The reactors, the paths the energy can all travel! That large thing must be what lets them travel faster than light. It sure seems like an energy hog. Oh, and those must be the engines. I think they use gravity to help move the big old thing!" A high pitched accented voice called out as a wide-eyed Apple Bloom stood transfixed by all the floating bits of alien technology. Her bow bobbed and shook as the little filly's attention focused on each part for a few moments before moving on to the next.
Twilight looked at Applejack's little sister and smiled, "Congratulations, Apple Bloom."
"For what?" said pony asked.
Twilight just pointed to the filly's flank. There was an image of small red apple on the backdrop of a mechanical gear.
Apple Bloom's eyes widened further before she ran over to her two friends and started to dance, "I got my cutie mark! I got my cutie mark! Hey girls! Look at this!"
The princesses and Twilight watched as the cutie mark crusaders celebrated their success.
Then Celestia spoke, "It looks like Equestria's space program now has its first engineer."
Lyra sketched another line on the chalkboard, her grin widening beyond what could be considered safe. "Aha. Aha, ha. I've got you nooooooooooow."
Bonbon descended into the basement, a few brownies on her plate. "...Honey?"
"BONBON!" Lyra whirled, accidentally letting the chalk fly past her marefriend's ear. "Oh, sorry. Little excited. But I think, think I have proof! Actual proof!"
Bonbon glanced at the wall. "Proof of... what, exactly?"
"Proof that Sparkle is actually a human!"
With a sigh, the candymaker set down her brownies. "Okay, let's hear this one."
"The changelings." Her grin attempted to widen, but physics stopped it. "Totally genetically engineered servant diplomatic corps. Because let's be honest, ponies tend to freak out around aliens unless they're ponyshaped."
"And you know this... how?"
Lyra snorted. "I read a lot. Anyway, can you really believe that just three weeks after Twilight took down Nightmare Moon-with a ball of yarn!-suddenly this entirely new race nopony has ever heard of comes up for peace talks?"
"...yes, actually. It's in the papers."
"No, no. I'm going to prove it. I am going to prove that Twilight Sparkle is a human in disguise. And then... the possibilities!"
Bonbon smiled. "I'm sure you will soon, hon. But do you think you could come upstairs? Pinkie set up a surprise party for your birthday..."
This variant had been unnerving Twilight for one very good reason: The local variant of Pinkie's hair was perfectly straight the entire time.
Oh, she wasn't like those sociopathic versions of herself that preferred the 'sad Pinkie' hairstyle from those disturbing Loops that still gave Twilight nightmares from time to time. No, Pinkie was every bit the hyperactive party pony she usually was.
Though it was now time for Pinkie's sister to visit and Twilight was looking forward to getting a picture of the two Pies with identical hairstyles to show her looping friend when they next met.
'Here she comes,' Twilight thought to herself as she fiddles with the camera before turning to capture her friend and her sister for posterity, and nearly dropped the thing in shock.
The eternally stoic Maud Pie's hair was as poofy and curly as she was used to Pinkie having.
Twilight stared for several seconds before reaffirming to herself that the Loops had one weird bucking sense of humor.
"Oh, I know! We can play 'Origin Stories'!" Pinkie Pie spoke up happily. All the ponies had gathered in Twilight's library, and all of them were looping this time. Luna was planning to return in true heavy metal rock concert form. Everything else seemed more or less baseline. No pony else had a good idea of what they could do this loop, so they had all met for Twilight's 'Not At All Surprised' party.
"I hesitate to ask, sugarcube, but what's 'Origin Stories' and how would a pony play such a thing?" Applejack asked.
"It's easy!" Pinkie chirped, "Well you know how some loops, our past is all strange and different? Like some loops I remember having only two sisters, and others I had three. It's almost always three now that Maud showed up in the latest loop expansion. But sometimes, my history is really, really, really strange. Sometimes, I don't even start out as a pony at all. I bet you all had strange loop histories like that. In this game, we each describe what our strangest loop origin was. The best strangest origin wins."
"Wins what?" Scootaloo chimed in.
Pinkie shrugged, "Just wins. Bragging rights, maybe? And changelings don't count. We've all been changelings. Silver Spoon is secretly a changeling right now."
"Um, I'm.. er.." said pony started to say as her changeling instincts were screaming at her to flee. Knowing exactly what to do in this situation, Diamond Tiara trotted up and gave her oldest friend a gentile nuzzling hug. Silver Spoon relaxed and smiled, "So.. tasty."
"Like I said, we've all been changelings," Pinkie continued as she sipped her sugar-colada drink, "What about you, Applejack? Any good strange stories?"
"Hmm, there was the time when the Apple family were secretly immortals. That one loop, we gained our agelessness in the same magical accident that gave the Princesses their alicorn powers. Us Apples apparently made for great laboratory assistants."
"Oh, I was awake for that one," Applebloom piped up, "We had to hide our secret by cycling through different Apple farms; a decade or so at each one. Or until ponies started to notice I wasn't growing all that much. We helped stop Nightmare Moon by giving Twilight that old album of embarrassing baby pictures of Luna."
"Yeah," Twilight said, "She snapped out of nightmare mode when I said that by this time next week, every pony would be calling her 'Princess Boom-Boom' or making 'alfalfa monster' faces at her."
"Hey, Twi. You don't happen to still have that picture album in your storage space, by chance?" Rainbow Dash asked with unabashed curiosity and glee.
Twilight shook her head, "I promised that particular non-looping Luna that I would destroy it and all the copies."
"Aww," Rainbow's expression sank.
"Too bad I never gave a definite time frame or method for when and how I'd do that," the lavender unicorn grinned, "We'll wait until after her concert is over before looking at it. Luna needs her time to shine before the inevitable show of watching a frantic and embarrassed alicorn princess chasing around a taunting Rainbow Dash - during which the album would get predictably destroyed."
"You sound like you've seen such a thing happen, Twi," Spike smiled at his honorary big sister figure.
"Oh, one or twice," the Equestrian anchor turned towards her hyperactive pink friend, "How about you, Pinkie? Any strange origin loops?"
"Did I tell you about the time I was adopted by Celestia's and Luna's family, except we were all giant space energy beings?"
"No, I must have missed that one."
Pinkie sat down and began to expound her tale, "They found me orbiting a dead star, playing a rather one-sided game of tag."
"'I know you did a great job putting together a sun from all that nebula dust, Celestia. But watching Luna make planets with gravity manipulation is amazing. The planets grow like they're on a big old rock farm,' I told energy-being Celestia as I added a whole bunch of DNA templates to the ecosystem. I told them I designed them all after reading through old Earth's mythologies when we vacationed there. Then they decided I did such a great job terraforming the habitable planets that I could join their family as an apprentice solar system assembler. And once civilization developed, we all decided to vacation on the surface doing what we loved. And that's how Equestria was made!"
All the ponies just stared at Pinkie Pie.
"What?" she asked, "It was just a solar system. Sweetie Bell sang a whole magical realm into existence."
"Nuh-uh. I was just one voice among many. I just helped make it a bit better," the filly in question stated.
"So no other pony ever created Equestria before?" Pinkie Pie asked.
All the ponies shook their heads, even Twilight Sparkle.
Pinkie turned her head to one side giving some serious thought to this revelation, "So... does that mean I win at 'Origin Stories'?"
Shining Awoke in midair. He blinked as the wind rushed past him and quickly checked himself over. Human, no parachute or wings, covered in a strange armor, and... brimming with an energy that was not quite magic, but very close. The suit appeared to be feeding of the energy, but there was enough for Shining to trigger a teleport.
Forge Ferrus stared in shock at the air outside his plane. He had been flying down to catch his nephew, Maxwell Armor, who had just got tossed off a cliff, when his nephew had suddenly glowed and, disappeared. Ferrus rubbed his eyes and took a second look. No sign of Max.
"Molly is going to kill me."
Shining groaned. He had line-of-sight teleported to one side of the canyon, but the oddness of the energy he was using had messed up his inertia compensation, and he had ended up plowing into the ground rather hard. Luckily, the armor appeared to have dampened most of the impact. Slowly, he rose to his feet, swaying slightly. Then the armor spoke.
"You are not Maxwell MacGrath. Who are you, and how did you come to take his place?"
Shining blinked. "You can talk."
There was a brief flash of light, and a small floating robot appeared in front of him. It had a single digital eye, and a pair of long, somewhat dangerous looking limbs. "Yes. I am N'Baro Atksteel X377, a techno-organic organism Ultralinked to Maxwell MacGrath. Who you are not. How did you come to take his place?"
Shining nodded, slowly. This Max fellow must be who he was replacing. "Well, first, I have to ask. Has time been looping for you and, uh, Max?"
"If you are referring to the phenomenon of us constantly relieving events since our bonding, then yes, time is looping."
"Right. Well, it isn't just happening to you. Hold on, I'll pull out Twilight's presentation notes."
The small robot, Steel, floated in front of Shining, its limbs crossed. "So, the entire multiversal structure is damaged, resulting in endless cycles of time. Occasionally, beings such as yourself will cross into our universe, and we may cross into other universes. You are originally an equinoform who can manipulate an energy similar to TURBO energy to perform feats you classify as magic."
Shining nodded. "Yep."
Steel floated around, then shrugged. "Can't be worse than being piloted by Max. Alright, so let's see how you FIRE MONSTER!"
Shining had only a moment to react before a burning fist slammed into his side. He was hurtled sideways, slamming into a rock spire. He rose up on one knee and stared at the large burning creature that was attacking them.
"This is the thing we were fighting before we Woke up, right?"
"Affirmative. I...neglected to dampen your TURBO energy signature while I was assimilating the information you provided, so it was able to track us."
Shining nodded, then smiled thinly. "Normally, I prefer defense to offense, but there are someways I've found to do both."
Tracking his nephew's energy signature, Ferrus spun the ship around an outcropping to a rather unusual sight. Max was standing in the middle of the canyon, his hands outstretched with TURBO energy pouring outward. At the other end of the stream, the energy was shaped into a flat barrier, which was pressing down on the fire monster that Ferrus had spotted from the air. It appeared to be struggling, but the barrier Max was making was keeping it pinned. All in all, Max appeared to be healthy, which was the important thing.
"Maybe Molly won't kill me after all."
Twilight walked through Ponyville, as she would in baseline. The only thing different was a lack of normal false transition colors between the spectrum of nearly-infrared and almost-ultraviolet on the colorwheel. Some would call it Negative Green. Most referred to them as shades of 'pink'.
Odd, to be sure, but she didn't know what it could possibly change about the loop.
Until she met Pinkie.
Who was still pink.
And Awake, so it made sense to ask-
"Sooo... you know why there's no pink anywhere else?"
"Oh, of course, Twilight!" Pinkie replied, and shook her mane. The unicorn had to admit her friend was looking rather vibrant lately. One might even call her... oversaturated...? Oh no... "I'm actually replacing Discord this loop. Woke up right before the princesses zapped me with the elements. Which didn't hold, so I only pretended to be a statue. Then I made an actual statue to be there after holding still stopped being fun and then I realized something."
Twilight winced as she saw the pink crackles in the poofy mane. "And that was?"
"Zordon always went on about how too much pink energy is dangerous..." The mare said this in a humorously inaccurate facsimile of Zordon's voice. "But I've been building up pink energy in my lantern battery for thousands of loops and I'm fine... So I decided to suck up aaaaaaaall the pink in the world and build it up and see what happens when I-"
The crackling intensified for a moment before Pinkie exploded.
Twilight was jarred Awake by a force she couldn't identify. She glanced around and then down at her book- about nightmare moon- and shook her head. What happened with pinkie was... odd. Still, time to assess her surroundings. She would've expected so abrupt an early end to a loop to send her to G1 at least, but an odd monochrome version of baseline worked too.
And then she realized that her loop memories had always had the world in various shades of one color, which her awake mind had initially translated to greyscale, when it should have actually been varying shades of the color pink.
Incredibly odd, but still...
Then she saw the mares walking up, and greeting her... all of them Pinkie Pie.
"So Twilight, you want to go to the party right?"
"You're coming to the party later, aren't you?"
"What about you, spike?"
This last one jolted her out of her intensifying panic attack as she glanced back... and saw a very small, but adult, Pinkie Pie.
"Of course we're going to the party, right Twilight!?"
She contemplated screaming, but then the universe lurched backways.
"-use aaaaall the pent up pink energy to purify Nightmare Moon. Oh this is going to be interesting, don't you think so?" The only pink mare in the world finished with a grin.
"I- uh." Twilight glanced about at the seemingly normal world save its lack of pink. She took a calming breath and thought for a moment. "I'm really not sure if this is a good idea, Pinkie..."
The Summer Sun Celebration was being held in Baltimare this year, and they had gone all out. Midnight fireworks show, pre-dawn parade, with floats covered in multicolored lights, the works. Glowsticks all around.
They were understandably shocked then, when it was not Princess Celestia that appeared on the stage. Instead, there stood a tall black alicorn, with starry mane and tail. "Oh, my beloved subjects! It's been so long since I've seen your precious little sun-loving faces."
"Where's Princess Celestia?!" Somepony from the crowd shouted.
"Gone! Never to return!" The dark mare cackled. "And to think, you could have been ready for me. But no, not even Celestia saw the signs of my return."
Fortunately, the Equestrian Mayoral Handbook had instructions on how to deal with this sort of situation, and as the upstanding mayor he was, Mayor Bushwacker followed his training. "Seize her! Only she knows where the Princess is!"
Sadly, this did not have the intended outcome. As the Royal Guards that had made up Princess Celestia's security detail were flung backwards, the mysterious mare's voice rang out once more. "Remember this day, little ponies, for it was your last. From this moment forth, the night will last-"
A strange ringing cut her off. It seemed to be coming from somewhere on the stage. The mare awkwardly looked around, before clearing her throat and tried to continue where she had left off. "As I was saying, the night, will last, fo-"
"Oh for the love of-!" Turning to one side, the crowd saw her pull a small black rectangle from under her peytral, which seemed to be the source of the obnoxious ringing. As it stopped ringing, she held it to the side of her head, and started yelling at it.
"What is it?! I'm in the middle of- What?! Wrong- You're kidding. You're kidding, right? Wrong booking?!" By now, the smug confidence that the mare had appeared with, was quickly being replaced by angry embarrassment.
"Yes, yes, I'll still be there. Let me just fix this, and I'll be there." Seemingly calmer now, she turned to address the crowd. "I'm sorry, everypony, but it seems there's been a mistake. I'm supposed to be attacking Horserminy." Those close to the stage heard her mutter something about how embarrassing this was.
With a flash of magic, Princess Celestia appeared on stage next to her. As the crowd sighed in relief, the mystery mare addressed the Princess. "Hey, Celly, sorry about all this. My agent screwed things up. You know how it is, some entry level Evils think they can do things without the rules, and it eventually messes things up for the rest of us."
"Luna? What? I don't- How are you-" To the crowd, it seemed their Princess was having as much trouble as they were at making sense of that.
"Listen, I've got to go. If I'm not there in half an hour, they'll have to find somepony else to attack that country, and I'll lose the commission. Say, next year is the thousandth anniversary of you defeating me, right?" The mare, now identified as Luna, wrapped a foreleg around Celestia's neck in a friendly manner.
"Yes, but Luna, how-" Once again, Luna cut her off.
"I'll come back then, we'll do a thing. You know, good versus evil, and all that? We can catch up after. Ciao." And with that, Luna teleported away, leaving a distraught looking Princess, and a crowd of very confused ponies.
"This... this is not a good thing," Pinkie Pie said to Ryuk as she examined the small notebook.
"So you are not one that is tempted by the power of life and death which this book offers?"
"Nope, but that's not why this 'Death Note' isn't a good thing. There's three reasons, really."
"Oh, and what are these three reasons?" asked the death god?
"Well first of all, heart attack? That's like the most boring way to go ever. I mean I can only think of forty four 'Final Destination meets the Three Stooges' comedic ways for some pony to kick the bucket right off the top of my head. But that's not the first reason. The first reason is that good folk wouldn't want to kill any pony. But if I did have an enemy I hated so much I was tempted to write their name in, I wouldn't want to kill them, anyways," Pinkie stated. Then her happy smile turned very unsettling, "I'd want them to *suffer*. For a long, long, long time."
"The second reason is that even if I was capable and willing to kill," the pink pony's mane was now very straight and ominously covering one of her eyes in shadow. In one hoof, she raised the offending notebook and briefly concentrated on the power that had always let her teleport around. For a split second, the top half of the Death Note suddenly shared the same space as the bottom half. Then with the force of two pre-teens thinking that the other was infested with cooties, the atoms rapidly moved apart to give each other their needed personal space and the mystical Death Note exploded into so much confetti. Ryuk slowly moved away from the pink pony whose grin now threatened to split her face in two, "If I was willing and capable of killing, I'd do it myself. Personally. Just like popping a balloon."
Stalking forward like a large hunting cat, Pinkie moved steadily through the falling confetti towards the retreating death god, making little popping sounds, "Pop. Pop, pop, pop."
"Oh and the final reason. You see if ponies knew I could do this, they would be scared of me. Really, really scared. And I really, really don't want that to happen," Pinkie stopped moving and looked away. Then one of her blue eyes slowly swiveled back to track the frightened shinigami, "But then again, you're. Not. A. Pony. Are. You?"
And with that, the terrified Ryuk fled back to his home realm as fast as he could.
Pinkie Pie stared at the empty space for a moment before re-inflating her mane. She gathered a broom and dust pan and began to sweep up all the little deadly pieces of paper before taking them downstairs to the kitchen and throwing them into the magical fire under the stove. The pink pony stared at the flickering flames for a little bit and then spoke to herself, "For some reason, I feel like making a batch of cupcakes right now."
"Nah, too much work. I'll just go grab a bag of potato chips and eat them," Pinkie thought to herself for a moment. Then a sudden idea pushed the thoughts of meeting the unpleasant ghostie monster away, "Oh! Or maybe potato chip cupcakes! If any pony could make such a thing tasty, it would be me! To the baking supply closet!"
Trixie hummed contemplatively. "Normally this would be difficult, but there are still holes in your hooves."
"Spoilsport." Chrysalis stuck out her tongue, withdrawing her forelegs. "Anyway, I have this thing for us to do today, if you're not busy."
The unicorn cringed. "Um... actually, I, uh, kinda had plans to hang out with an old friend. It's been a while, and, well..."
"...oh." Chrysalis took a deep breath... and let it out. "It's... it's okay. I... well, I'm trying not to be possessive or anything. I just..." She trailed off, her hoof circling on the ground.
"...hey, maybe you could join us." Trixie shrugged. "I doubt she'd really be that upset."
"Huh. Sure, why not?"
"Dodge left! Dodge left!"
Chrysalis barely managed to slip under the massive scaly tail as it swung, rolling down the humungous pile of golden trinkets. "This is what you two did for fun?!"
Gilda laughed. "Hah, yeah!" She pulled out a massive blade and parried the dragon's claws. "It's great, ain't it?"
"I wouldn't say that exactly! Exhilarating, maybe!"
The changeling queen morphed into a newt just before a gout of dragonfire passed through the space she'd been standing. Trixie slid down, flicking her up onto her hat with her tail. "Oh come on, you always won at magic tag!"
I had an army! the newt shot back telepathically. I'm a tactician! I'm not a warrior!
"Welp, time to learn!" Gilda quipped. "Come on, you beat up Celestia in the baseline, and I know Trixie's been powering you up." She sidestepped a biting jaw. "Or you could use an ability from out of the loop."
I don't have any out of loop abilities, I haven't had a fused loop yet, oh my gosh those claws were way too close-!
Trixie sighed. "Gilda, I think we should call it a day."
"...yeah, okay." The griffon ran for the cavern entrance. "I'll distract him, you two teleport!"
Nightmare Moon - well, Nightmare Luna, considering her un-crazed state of mind - quietly flew through the aether between her moon and the planet below. She had felt her co-conspirator from a couple loops ago signal, but not her sister, meaning that her current devious plot was ready, and the Stars had already loosed her from their hold. Now, to see if they could achieve the impossible... again.
Atmosphere thickened from infinitesimal to ephemeral to miniscule, and Luna flared her wings to brake. Flying in was always a quiet joy, and while sometimes her wings ached from a millennium of atrophy, and other times she wanted to have a more... ostentatious approach, this Loop required a quieter entry - and a brief moment dancing among the Aurora was always worth it. Like, say, those just up ahead. Hopefully, her co-conspirator won't mind... but that sinuous shape steering on an intercept course implied that the old adage of 'tempting fate' held even the alicorns at its expense.
Discord slid up beside her, and pointed towards Canterlot. "Shall we?"
A brief, longing glance at the Auroras, and Discord raised an eyebrow. "Can it wait for a moment? She usually waits for my arrival."
Discord glanced over, saw the stellar formation, and nodded. "...It can wait." Luna changed course, and for a brief while, they amicably appreciated the Aurora.
"I'm surprised," said Discord, as they resumed their trek. "I would not have suspected you, of all ponies, as appreciating something that inherently wild."
"It's one of the many parts of my nights' sky; why should I not appreciate it?"
Discord pondered, as they slipped over the outermost cliffs of Canterlot. "...Good taste," he concluded, "But now to action." A snap of his fingers, and his form changed; superficially, but enough for the intended effect. Luna's horn flickered, before shifting its glow to the ultraviolets past equine sight. Her body, too, was covered in a secondary, superficial coat; just enough for the intended effect.
With that, they flew to the upper balcony connected to Celestia's room, unchallenged due to the Guards' orders that night. A quiet touchdown, and Discord held the opaque curtain to let her in first. Manners, after all, were key to sell this.
A figure sat before the cool fireplace, of Alicorn height. The familiar magic emanating from her confirmed that this was the Solar Diarch, Luna's sister. With that, they began.
"Sis! We're back from our date!" Nightmare Luna stepped forth, her indigo dress not quite as formal as something worn to the Grand Galloping Gala, but no member of the royal family worth their salt-lick would have the gala as a first date. Discord's formal jacket and bowtie were fit for royal business, only offset by the beret he wore with it. A fitting set of clothing for a date.
Then the fire blazed forth, and two sets of eyes, accustomed to the gentle light of the Aurora and the full moon, snapped shut at the harsh light from it. Something in Luna's gut twinged; evidently, this Celestia was not willing to play along. Alas, the best plans of draconequui and mares...
"Sister... I think we need to discuss 'responsibility'," said Celestia. "A thousand years ago, you courted forces I would not consider, and took the title 'Nightmare Moon'. A thousand years ago, I had to send you to the moon, for the safety of Equestria, and since then, I have had to move my Sun, your Moon, and the Stars..."
Luna peeled her eyes open a little, and stared at her sister, her jaw falling open in disbelief.
"With. A. Crank."
Celestia's body, normally lithe in comparison to her little ponies, was overbuilt as only Bulk Biceps usually could be.
Luna and Discord just stared, jaws agape, glanced at each other, then looked back to the flash of a camera. Celestia, for her part, had resumed her normal build and smile. "To be fair, you two make a lovely couple."
The two would-have-been pranksters slowly turned, and looked at each other, before the realization that they had been out-pranked set in.
"Well, Luna?" Celestia asked, smiling with perhaps a hint of nervousness. "Was your room alright?"
"'tis fine, sister." Luna looked a little awkward. "I do not comprehend the meaning of all these new fittings and furnishings, but 'tis only to be expected after so long."
Celestia couldn't think of much more to say after that.
"How are the ponies who aided me?" Luna asked, brightly.
"Twilight and her friends? Well, Twilight decided to stay in Ponyville, to learn further the magic of friendship. I have asked her to send reports when she makes progress. Perhaps we could read them together?"
"I thank thee, sister." Luna nodded, slowly. "It would aid my recuperation, I think."
"That sounds good." Celestia matched her nod, pleased that they had found something to work with. She turned to go...
And a large scroll materialized in a curl of green fire.
"Oh!" Celestia said, smiling wryly at her sister. "It seems her first report was early. Shall we?"
Luna frowned. "Very well, if thou dost have the time to spare."
Celestia trotted over and sat down on Luna's bed, next to the Princess of the Night. Luna shuffled up a little to make room.
"Quite a large scroll, is it not?" Luna commented, as Celestia unrolled the loose end.
"It is..." Celestia agreed, then shrugged. "Well, we'll see."
She cleared her throat, and Luna shifted a little closer to her. Smiling, she put her wing over her sister. 'Dear Princess Celestia,
After some intensive friendship studies, I have learned the following lessons.
I've learned that one of the joys of friendship is sharing your blessings. But when there's not enough blessings to go around, having more than your friends can make you feel pretty awful.
My friend Applejack is the best friend a pony could ever have, and she's always there to help anypony. The only trouble is, when she needs help she finds it hard to accept it. So while friendship is about giving of ourselves to friends, it's also about accepting what our friends have to offer.
Today I learned that it's hard to accept when somepony you like wants to spend time with somepony who's not so nice. Though it's impossible to control who your friends hang out with, it is possible to control your own behavior. Just continue to be a good friend. In the end, the difference between a false friend and one who's true will surely come to light.
I have learned a very valuable lesson about friendship: I was so afraid of being thought of as a showoff that I was hiding a part of who I am. My friends helped me realize that it's okay to be proud of your talents, and there are times when it's appropriate to show them off... Especially when you're standing up for your friends.
I am happy to report that we have caused a malingering dragon to depart our fair country, and that it was my good friend Fluttershy who convinced him to go. This adventure has taught me to never lose faith in your friends. They can be an amazing source of strength, and can help you overcome even your greatest fears.
It's hard to believe that two ponies that seem to have so little in common could ever get along. But I found out that if you embrace each other's differences-'
"Celly," Luna interrupted, frowning. "How many of these are there?"
Celestia blinked, going back over what she'd been reading. She then held the scroll about four feet from her face, and began counting under her breath.
"Well?" Luna asked.
"...how long was I asleep for?" Luna blinked, looking down at her bed. "I had not thought it was more than one afternoon..."
"No, it was." Celestia puzzled over the scroll. "Hold on a moment, Lulu."
Celestia flashed into existence on the outskirts of Ponyville.
"What has..." she began, then tailed off. Her jaw hung open.
Ponyville was a wreck. Buildings were torn out of the ground, partially eaten, on fire, or just plain collapsed. There was a hydra being shooed off by the kindly pegasus Fluttershy.
There was a knot of ponies, dragons, one griffin, several strange black pony-like creatures with insectoid wings, at least four other non-ponies of varying provenances and Discord in the town square, all standing in a semicircle around a familiar purple unicorn.
"Here she comes," Discord whispered.
Twilight nodded to him, and then turned smiling to her mentor. "Princess! Good evening. Don't worry, everything's fine. I've learned so much about friendship!"
"...what happened here?" Celestia managed to ask, still astonished at Discord's presence.
"Friendship cram school! I've learned almost sixty lessons in one day!" Twilight beamed. "Don't worry, Zecora offered to help rebuild the town. She's a zebra!"
"...right." Celestia shook her head. "I'm sure this will make sense tomorrow."
74.1: Touched by Alicorns.
74.2: *spreads hooves* Humans.
74.3: Mane difference.
74.4: And That's How Equestria Was Nearly Made Upside Down.
74.5: Max Armour.
74.6: Somewhere, a certain eight-legged horse is cursing at Pinkie for increasing his workload.
74.7: I am now hearing her in Eddie Izzard's voice. "Ciao."
74.8: Pinkie is not evil. This is choice.
74.9: Spartan Sparring.
74.10: How To Troll Your Draconequus. And sister.
74.11: As many episodes from series 1-3 as possible crammed into less than twelve hours.