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Unwelcome Changes

Twilight yawned from behind a pile of books. She'd been busy studying for the last few days. Her concentration was fading, so she decided to take a break. She could use some fresh air after being in the dusty library for so long. Twilight pushed through the books and went outside. The cool evening breeze blew past her as she walked around aimlessly. She was at the road leading to the farm as she saw two familiar ponies above her. She looked up to see Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie sitting at a tall tree.

“Hi girls, what are you doing up there?” Twilight asked as she stood near the tree.

“Oh, it's Twilight. Haven't seen you in a while.” Dash said as she looked down. Dash flew to the ground followed by Pinkie. Twilight felt like there was something wrong, but she wasn't sure what.

“We were just taking it easy. Haven't had much to do today.” Dash said.

“Yeah, we were looking around Ponyville. There's a great view up there!” Pinkie said and folded her wings. Wait a minute...

“Wings? Pinkie, you've got wings!” Twilight said, unable to believe what she saw. Her mouth was stuck open as she looked at the pink wings on Pinkie's side. Pinkie just shrugged.

“I sure do!” She answered.

“Bu-but you're an earth pony! They don't have wings!” Twilight said, shocked.

“Huh? I was born as a pegasus” Pinkie said.

“That can't be true...” Twilight said. She was sure her friend had been an earth pony. She hadn't shut herself in the library long enough for her to forget something that important. She tried to think of an explanation.

“Ah, I get it. You got me, girls.” Twilight said and pulled Pinkie's wings. She expected them to feel fake, but the feathers on them felt very real. They were firmly connected to her sides. There's no way you could make wings that accurate with magic.

“You okay, Twilight? Did you hit the books so hard you got amnesia? “ Pinkie asked, confused as to why Twilight was groping her wings.

“You're acting weird. You really should get out more.” Dash agreed.

“W-what's going on? I know you didn't have wings the last time I saw you!” Twilight said.

“She's always had them. We even went to flight school together. Remember that time we rigged the teacher's stopwatch?” Dash asked Pinkie.

“Yeah, he didn't even realize something was wrong until everypony had the same time! His face was priceless!” Pinkie said.

“I, uh... Gotta go.” Twilight said and sped off towards Ponyville. She couldn't stand seeing their worried faces anymore. They didn't look like they were pulling a prank at all. What in Celestia's name was going on? Twilight thought she might have fallen asleep while studying. She stopped to gently poke herself in the cheek. Ow! The pain felt very realistic. How is she supposed to explain this if it isn't a dream? Maybe she was hallucinating. She looked around for someone she could talk to. She saw a pink pony with a blonde mane walking ahead of her. Perfect!

“Hey, Lily!” Twilight called out to her. She liked gossip, so she should know if anything weird was going on.

“Hi Twi!” She replied in her high voice as she looks at her.

“I know this is a dumb question, but I have to ask it. What race is Pinkie Pie?” Twilight asked.

“A pegasus. That's, like, really obvious.” Lily said without hesitating.

“Y-yeah, it sure is. I've been away for a few days, did anything happen? Fluttershy didn't turn into a tree or anything, right?” Twilight made a poor joke to hide her nervousness.

“Nah, it's been so boring. Let me know if you hear anything interesting, okay?” She answered.

“Sure thing, bye!” Twilight said and left. Even though another pony just confirmed it, Twilight still couldn't believe what she'd seen. She had to ask somepony else. Spike seemed like a good choice. Twilight returned to the library. It was dark and quiet inside. The only sound inside was quiet snoring coming from upstairs. Spike must have fallen asleep while she was away. He hated being woken up, so she decided not to ask him after all. Maybe her friends were right. She hadn't slept much recently. She couldn't think straight while she was half-asleep like this. This might all seem ridiculous in the morning. She'll realize that Pinkie had been a pegasus all along and she had just been going crazy tonight. Hoping that would be the case, Twilight crawled into bed. She covered herself with the comfy sheet and fell asleep almost immediately.

Twilight woke up to the sound of birds chirping outside. She opened her eyes to find that it was already bright outside. She must have slept late. She got up from the bed and stretched. She felt much better than yesterday. A good night's sleep can do wonders. Yesterday's events felt like a nightmare now. She walked downstairs to find Spike eating breakfast at the table. She greeted him as she sat down and joined him. She started a conversation as she put butter on her bread.

“I think I've been studying a bit too much recently. I need to take a break before I go crazy from overwork.” Twilight said.

“That's what I've been trying to tell you. Don't be like the old Twilight, Celestia was worried about you for a reason.” Spike said.

“Yeah, I guess you're right. There's just so much I want to learn. Whenever I see a book I haven't read, I just want to know what's inside. It's kinda like Fluttershy is with the wounded animals, only I can't resist taking books with me.” Twilight said.

“Who's Fluttershy?” Spike asked. Twilight felt her heart sink as she heard Spike ask it as if he had no idea. Looks like this nightmare wasn't over yet.

“You know, the shy pegasus who took such an interest in you.” Twilight told him.

“I don't remember anypony like that.” Spike said. Twilight had a really bad feeling about this.

“R-really. Oh! I just remembered I have an important meeting with, uh, Celestia! Gotta run!” Twilight said and quickly got up. She hit her hoof at the table as she rushed away. She didn't have time to worry about the pain, as she had to get rid of her bad premonition. There's just no way it could've happened. She ran towards Fluttershy's hut. She cringed when she saw Pinkie floating near Sugarcube Corner on the way.

“Good morning Twilight! What's the rush? I'm glad you got out of that dusty old library, though. I missed you!” Pinkie said as she flew behind Twilight. She'd usually be happy to hear that, but seeing her flying just made her feel more disturbed right now.

“Morning. I really need to see Fluttershy. I have the feeling something happened to her.” Twilight said.

“Why would you think that? She's the same as ever, she doesn't do much.” Pinkie answered. Twilight felt relieved to her Pinkie still remembered her. She ran outside of Ponyville onto the path leading to Fluttershy's home. From far away, she thought the house was still there. However, it didn't look the same as she got close. Instead of her brown house made of wood, there was now an oddly colored tree. It was yellow with pink leaves. Twilight's worst fear had come true. She felt her hooves give away and lied down. Pinkie landed on the ground and looked down at her with a worried expression.

“You okay? You sure don't look like it.” Pinkie said.

“Just tell me this. Does that tree have a name?” Twilight asked.

“It's called Fluttershy!” Pinkie said.

“You're kidding, right? This is a very elaborate prank directed at me from everypony in Ponyville, isn't it?” Twilight asked.

“It's not. What's there to prank about? That tree's been there as long as I can remember. I don't get what about it makes you look so sad. Tell me if there's something I can help with, I can't stand seeing you like that.” Pinkie said, sounding unusually serious.

“I know Fluttershy was a pony. We all got together and formed the elements of harmony. Don't you remember?” Twilight said. Tears were forming in her eyes.

“The elements of what now?” Pinkie asked.

“Oh no. You can't be serious.” Twilight said in disbelief.

“I'm afraid I am. Come on, you really need a hug.” Pinkie walked up to her and offered her hoof at Twilight. She grabbed it and got up. Pinkie put her hooves around Twilight's neck.  Twilight broke down in tears.

“There, there. Just let it all out. We'll talk after you've calmed down.” Pinkie said gently. Her hooves felt warm and comforting. Wings or not, she was still the same person Twilight knew. The race of her friends didn't matter to Twilight. It was shocking to see it wasn't what she remembered it to be, but it wasn't that important. Fluttershy's change felt much worse for her. She had so many good memories of them together. Now she's suddenly a tree? Twilight couldn't accept that. There had to be a reason for why all of this was happening. Twilight was determined to find the cause and return everything back to normal.

“Thank you. I feel a lot better already.” Twilight said as she leaned onto Pinkie. She had told Pinkie everything that happened. Pinkie smiled at her in an attempt to cheer her up.

“Glad to hear that. I'm not good with this complicated stuff, but I believe you. Let me know if there's anything I can do to help you.” Pinkie assured her.

“I'll keep that in mind. I should tell Princess Celestia about all this. I'm sure she can come up with something.” Twilight decided.

“I hope you find a solution soon! Bye!” Pinkie said as Twilight left.

She thought about the situation as she walked on the streets. Pinkie had genuinely acted like she didn't remember the same past as Twilight did. She had no memory of the Elements of Harmony. According to her, Twilight had moved into Ponyville at the same day. She and four of her friends had ventured into Luna's castle as before, but they had been unable to do anything after confronting Nightmare Moon. She had simply frozen them in place with a spell. Princess Celestia came with her army soon afterwards. Her soldiers held back Nightmare Moon as Celestia banished her back to the moon. She saved Twilight and her friends by undoing the spell. Pinkie had no memory of Fluttershy coming along with them. According to her, Lyra had been in charge of music during the celebration. She hadn't come along with them, so Twilight only had four close friends now. She hoped Celestia could come up with a solution, as she had no idea what to do. She opened the door to the library to find Spike looking at her with a curious expression.

“What was that all about? You didn't even finish your breakfast. Did I say something wrong?” He asked.

“Never mind that. I have to send an important letter to the Princess. Write it down for me, please.” Twilight said. Spike wanted to question her further, but reluctantly got a parchment and quill.

“Dear Princess Celestia. While on a break from my continuing studies, I have noticed strange changes in Ponyville. Nopony else seems to have taken notice of them, but I am certain something is wrong. They claim that Princess Luna is still trapped in the moon and that the elements of harmony were never formed. I'd like to request your advice on how to deal with the situation before it gets worse. Your faithful student, Twilight Sparkle.”

Spike wrote down the last few lines, but didn't send it. “The elements of harmony was just an old mare's tale. I get the feeling you're being delusional again. Are you sure you want to send this?” Spike said.

“Not you too! I'm sure, now send it!” Twilight said impatiently.

Spike shrugged and blew on the letter. It went into the royal castle, soon to be read by Celestia. While waiting for a reply, Twilight dug through the books to find ones about magic. She looked for a spell that could cause reality to distort like this. It had to be a high level one, as changes this complicated couldn't usually be done.

“Didn't you say you were going to cut back on studying? You start acting all weird when you overdo it.” Spike worried about her.

“This isn't studying, it's research! Terrible things could happen if I don't do this. My health isn't important when Ponyville is doomed!” Twilight snapped at him.

“Calm down, I'm just trying to help you! I don't want you to go nuts. I know reading is important to you, but you shouldn't do it all the time. You'll lose your grip on reality!” Spike said.

“I appreciate your concern, but this is for the best. I'll have time to rest once I learn why you and everypony else are doing this. I couldn't relax in this mess even if I wanted to.” Twilight said. She buried her head back in the book. She didn't find anything that could turn a pony into a tree and make everypony else believe it had always been like that. Mind control on a large scale simply wasn't reasonable. Even if it was, why wouldn't it affect Twilight? She decided to discard that theory for the time being.

Spike burped out a letter. He unfolded it and read it out loud. “My faithful student Twilight. I appreciate your faith in me. However, it appears that you've begun studying too much again. Knowledge is important, but it means nothing if you're unable to keep yourself sane. Unless you can present definitive proof that this isn't all in your head, my advice is to relax and enjoy the magic of friendship.”

Twilight groaned in disappointment. She had expected something like this, but she hoped Celestia would trust her more after she correctly predicted Nightmare Moon's return.

“What'd I tell you? The Princess agrees with me, will you now listen to us?” Spike said.

“Ugh, I'm not giving up. I'll prove Celestia I was right all along. I just need to find some convincing evidence.” Twilight said, stubborn as usual.

“I tried to warn you. Do whatever you want, but I'm coming along. I want to make sure you don't embarrass yourself.” Spike said and sat down along with Twilight. She did her best to think of a way to convince the princess. She wasn't going to believe Twilight herself, so she needed somepony else as a witness to tell her how things were. Twilight headed outside with Spike to look for a suitable pony.

The two walked around in the sunny weather. She looked around the market, but none of her friends were around. She saw three girls gossiping next to a store. They were Rose, Daisy and Lily. Twilight had met them a few times, but she didn't know them well. They were known for running a local tabloid simply called The Flower. It was known to exaggerate things quite a bit, but it was fairly popular in Ponyville. They'd be good witnesses to prove Twilight's story. She greeted them and walked next to them.

“Do you girls know a pony called Luna? She's an important pony. I'd like to know for, uh, reference purposes.” Twilight asked them.

“You sure she's popular? Cause I've never heard of her.” Said Daisy, the pink pony with a green mane.

“Wasn't that the name of a princess we learned about in history lessons? She isn't around anymore, so no way we'd know her.” Said Roseluck, a cream colored pony with a red mane.

“She's a big, purple pony with a moon as a cutie mark. You don't remember anypony like that?” Twilight asked.

“I dunno, doesn't sound familiar. Is she, like, famous?” Lily said.

“She really is. How about I bring her over here? I want to know if any of you girls can recognize her.” Twilight asked.

“Sure, we'll be here for the rest of the day. Looking forward to meeting her!” Daisy said. Twilight went to rest at a nearby tree with Spike following her. He looked at Twilight curiously.

“Did you come up with a plan?” He asked.

“I did. I'm going to send a letter about it to Celestia, so write it down for me.” Twilight said. Spike took out his writing materials and waited for Twilight to begin.

“Dear Princess Celestia. I have found a way to prove that the events are real. I'd like to request that you send Princess Luna to Ponyville. The village claims she is still on the moon, so nopony here will recognize her. Luna can witness this herself and tell you the truth. Your faithful student, Twilight Sparkle.” Twilight finished her letter. Spike sent it away right afterwards. “She'll definitely believe her sister. I hope Luna has time to come visit us.”

“I don't think it's too busy on the moon. Getting here might be a problem, though.” Spike said.

“You don't need to be such a wisecracker all the time. I don't need a witty sidekick, being my friend is enough. Besides, I know Luna is in Canterlot. You'll see in a moment.” Twilight said. The reply from Celestia soon arrived. Spike began reading it.

“My faithful student Twilight Sparkle. Hearing you come up with such a clever way to prove your case pleases me. I'm willing to give you a chance. I'll send Luna to the library before nightfall. She'll let me know if you're speaking the truth.”

“I knew she'd be reasonable. We'll get undeniable proof once she arrives.” Twilight said.

“I didn't expect her to take you seriously. I'll only believe Luna's here once I see her.” Spike said.

“You won't doubt it for long. Let's wait in the library, we wouldn't want to miss her.” Twilight said.

The two returned to the library. Spike insisted that Twilight rested while she was waiting. Twilight decided to do as he said, as there wasn't much she could do before Luna arrived. She crawled into the bed and closed her eyes. However, she couldn't relax. She tossed and turned in the bed. Her mind was racing with thoughts about the recent events. What could have happened while she had holed herself up in the library? She came up with theories, ranging from simple to completely ridiculous. Those thoughts gradually turned surreal, as she began to dream. She slept for a while, before she was woken up by a knock on the front door.

Twilight expected Spike to open it, but the snoring told her he had no intention of doing so. It was dark, as the sun had already gone down. Twilight got up and opened the door. Behind it was an alicorn that was hard to see against the starry sky. She looked at Twilight timidly.

“Good evening, Luna. Glad you could make it.” Twilight said to her.

“G-good evening.” She answered. She didn't look Twilight in the eyes. There was a bag next to her, presumably luggage she brought along.

“Shall we go take care of the business right away? You can leave your bag inside.” Twilight said.

“What business?” Luna asked, sounding clueless.

“Didn’t Princess Celestia tell you what you're here for?” Twilight asked.

“No, not really. She told me to pack up things for a few days and teleported me outside of the library. I wasn’t sure what to do, so I thought I'd ask you for assistance.” Luna answered.

“Okay. Well, I just need you to do one simple thing. I'll explain on the way.” Twilight said.

Luna levitated the bag inside the library and landed it near the entrance. Twilight closed the door and the two walked towards the city square. She gave a quick explanation about the recent events. Luna nodded along with her. Twilight was confused as to why she was told to pack luggage along. Celestia hadn't said anything about her staying over. Maybe she had business elsewhere afterwards? It's not like she couldn't stay at the library , but it would be a bit odd to have a sleepover with a goddess. Either way, Twilight decided to save the questions for later. Luna didn't look like she wanted to talk. She was acting rather shy. She looked at the ground as they arrived at the city square. Thankfully, the three girls were still there.

“Here's the pony I was talking about. Does she look familiar?” Twilight asked them.

“Can't say she does. Do you girls know her?” Daisy asked. The two shook their heads in unison.

“We've been waiting for you. We heard you were famous. Could you give us an interview? You'd get on the front page of our newspaper.” Rose asked her. Luna didn’t answer. She nervously looked at Twilight. Twilight met her eye and stepped in to help her.

“I'm afraid we're a little busy right now. Thanks for the help. Bye!” Twilight said as they left. Luna breathed a sigh of relief. “Not a fan of interviews, huh?” Twilight asked her.

“No, I'm not used to being around others. I spent so long alone that it feels weird to be spoken to.” Luna told her.

“I can relate, I'm kinda antisocial myself. Books used to be my closest friends until recently. So, are you going to spend the night here?” Twilight said.

“My sister told me I shouldn't fly alone. I'd appreciate it if you let me stay at the library.” Luna answered.

“Sure, it's not a problem. I don't think I'll be able to sleep tonight. You know a lot about stars, don't you? We could stargaze together.” Twilight suggested.

“It would be my pleasure.” Luna answered.

Spike was still sleeping when they arrived at the library. Twilight decided to leave contacting Celestia for tomorrow. The two went to the balcony, where they looked at the stars all night. Luna was happy to find somepony who enjoyed the night like she did. She taught Twilight everything she knew about the stars. Twilight listened with her full attention. Luna opened up to Twilight after she got to know her. It was the first time in a while that the strange incidents weren't in Twilight's thoughts. She was convinced that Celestia would come up with a solution tomorrow. She would surely believe her own sister. Twilight's faith in Celestia's ability to solve even the hardest problems allowed her to relax and enjoy her time with Luna. The two bonded under the beautiful night sky.

The first few sunbeams lit up the balcony. Twilight and Luna were still there, having an excited conversation. The topic had changed from astronomy to Twilight's daily life. She told Luna about her adventures with her friends. Twilight tried to avoid talking about Fluttershy, as she felt depressed whenever reminded of her current state. The only thing keeping her going was the hope that Celestia would solve the situation for her. It was close to the time Twilight and Spike usually woke up. The two left the balcony to see if he was still sleeping.

“It's so quiet in here. I bet he's already having breakfast. It's easy to tell if he's asleep from the sound of his snoring.” Twilight told Luna as they walked downstairs.

“I don't see him around.” Luna said as they arrived at the ground floor. There was nothing on the dinner table. Whoever woke up first traditionally set it up, but it hadn't been prepared at all. Twilight looked around the room for signs of life, but everything around them was still. Twilight felt a cold shiver up her back.

“Spike! Where are you?” She yelled. There was no reply. She checked the basement, but there was nopony inside. Where could Spike have gone so early in the morning? It wasn't like him at all. Twilight forced the negative thoughts away and tried to be reasonable. The two had seen him only a couple of hours before. He couldn't have gone far. After Twilight was certain he wasn't in the library, she went outside with Luna.

“Look for Spike in that direction.” Twilight pointed her hoof towards east from the library. “I'll look on the other side. Let's meet here within a few hours.” Luna nodded in response and left.

Twilight looked around carefully as she walked through the village. The sun was still rising and there weren't many ponies around. Twilight checked every street on the western side. A purple dragon should've been easy to spot in the empty streets, but there was no sign of him. She was about to move onto the fields outside as she saw Applejack walking on the road leading to the farm. Applejack looked at her with sleepy eyes.

“Mornin' Twilight. You're up early.” She said and yawned.

“Morning. Have you seen Spike around? He wasn't in his bed this morning.” Twilight asked.

“Who's that again?” Applejack asked. Twilight's hope that this had nothing to do with the strange events crumbled. She felt her fear of unexplainable changes return.

“My assistant! You've seen him many times, stop pretending you don't know him!” Twilight said angrily.

“Hold on, sugarcube. I didn't know you had an assistant.” Applejack said. She was surprised at Twilight's harsh tone.

I do! He has to be somewhere around here. I'm going to look for him in the Everfree Forest.” Twilight said. She ran towards the forest.

“That's not a good idea!” Applejack yelled at her from behind.

That was exactly why Twilight felt she should search there. She couldn't forgive herself if Spike was hurt by one of the dangerous animals inside. A part of her felt like it was useless to run around looking for him. However, she felt like she would break down if she admitted to herself that Spike might be gone. She kept believing she'd see him soon as she ran towards the eerie forest. She was approaching the edge of the forest when suddenly...

Wham! Twilight ran into something hard. Her forehead hurt. She crouched and clutched it in her hooves. She cried out in pain, as her sensitive horn had taken a direct hit. The collision was completely unexpected, as she hadn't seen anything in the way.

“What'd I tell ya.” Applejack said from behind her. “Nopony's getting in there. You really should know that by now.”

“What the hay? What hit me?” Twilight said as she looked up. She saw the forest a couple of steps ahead of her. There wasn't anything in the spot she had hit.

“The village barrier. We haven't broken it down yet, you know.” Applejack said. For once, Twilight was the clueless one in the conversation.

“What barrier? I haven’t heard of that.” Twilight said.

“The magical wall that appeared some time ago. It goes around the borders of Ponyville. Nopony has been able to get past it.” Applejack said.

“That can’t be true. Why did it appear?” Twilight asked.

“We haven’t figured that out. We do have a team workin' on breaking it. After the initial panic, we left handlin' it to them. You'd have to ask them for details. I don't know anything about this fancy magic stuff.” Applejack said.

“I can't believe this.” Twilight said. She got up and touched the spot she had collided with. Even though there wasn't anything visible there, she felt a hard wall on her hoof. It had to be a strong magical barrier. Twilight couldn't have broken it with her magic, as it was far too thick. There was no choice but to accept the fact that she couldn't leave Ponyville. Everypony in the village was stuck inside the unbreakable walls.

“Anyway, are you going to be okay on your own? I really should get back to work. Those dang rabbits never stop stealing my apples. Can't leave the farm alone for a minute. We could use somepony to take care of them.” Applejack said.

“What about Spike? Do you really have no idea where he is?” Twilight asked. She was desperate for any sign of him being alright.

“No idea. Why are you asking me? You know him better than I do. I've never even met him.” Applejack answered. She looked towards the farm to see rabbits hopping with apples in their mouths. “Sorry, I gotta get back to work. See ya!” She said and went to chase the rabbits.

Applejack had managed to confuse Twilight even further. She suddenly claimed to have never met Spike. This made no sense, as he'd tagged along with them many times. Twilight tried to make sense of her words as she returned to the library. Hopefully Luna had found Spike so she could forget about all that. They still needed to tell Celestia about the evidence they'd gotten. Twilight realized that she would have no way of delivering a letter to Celestia without Spike. The barrier that had appeared out of nowhere prevented regular mail from going outside of Ponyville. Twilight would have no choice but to fix the oddities without any help from outside. She hoped it wouldn't come to that.

Twilight waited for Luna at the library. Three hours had passed since they left and there had been no sign of her. Twilight was starting to worry that something bad had happened to her. In her rush to find Spike, she hadn't thought of her safety. In this unpredictable Ponyville, there was no knowing what'll happen. Maybe it would've been better to stick together after all. With no sign of Luna after another hour, Twilight went to look for her. She walked around the eastern side of Ponyville searching for her. She asked the ponies passing by if they'd seen her anywhere. Thankfully, one of them had seen a pony matching her description. He said he last saw her in the town square. Twilight heard loud talking as she approached the square.

“Well, well, well, somepony who remembers me. Then you also know why I'm here.” Said the voice. Twilight got a deja vu from hearing that. Even the voice saying it sounded similar. What in Celestia's name was going on there? Twilight walked from the side of the stage at the square. She could see many ponies gathered there, looking at the stage.

“You're here to... to...” Said a voice that sounded even more familiar. It was almost like Twilight's own. Twilight reached the front of the stage and looked at it. Nightmare Moon was standing on a balcony at the top. However, something about her looked off. The blackness on her body gleamed at the spotlight directed at it, as if it was made of cheap plastic. Her voice was lacking any excitement and she looked like she really didn't want to be there.

“Remember this day, little ponies, for it was your last. From this moment forth, the night will last, uh, forever?” Nightmare Moon said. Her tone was more that of a polite question than a threat. The monotone delivery clashed with the dramatic lightning effects that activated in the background. Quite a few ponies in the audience laughed at this. Nightmare Moon and Twilight Sparkle went backstage as the act ended. The real Twilight joined the audience for the rest of the show.

The last act was on its way. Three soldiers were pointing their spears at Nightmare Moon with Princess Celestia behind them. The soldiers stared fiercely at Nightmare Moon, even though she didn't look threatening at all.

“You are not my sister. You are nothing but a demon who wallows in her foolish hatred. You have no right to bear resemblance to my dear sister. I shall banish you to the moon for eternity!” Princess Celestia said dramatically.

“Oh, okay.” Nightmare Moon replied timidly. She had forgotten her lines a long time ago. She let out a very uninspired scream as a special effect made her disappear. The paper cutout moon on the top corner of the stage turned to reveal the other side, which had a picture of Nightmare Moon on it.

“Thus, the evil demon was vanquished and peace was restored into Equestria. Our beloved Princess Celestia continued to rule with grace, and Nightmare Moon was never seen again. The end.” The narrator concluded. The audience stomped their hooves as the actors gathered on stage to bow. All but one, that is. Nightmare Moon had taken the opportunity to quietly slip away. Twilight went to meet her at the back door.

“How did I get roped into that?” Luna said. She and Twilight were sitting at a nearby bench. Luna looked very embarrassed. “I tried to tell them I can't act, but they wouldn't listen. They insisted I was perfect for the role, as if I had been cast into it all along. I guess they had to learn their mistake the hard way.”

“Well, the audience seemed to be enjoying themselves.” Twilight said.

“Not in the way they were supposed to.” Luna said.

Twilight wished she could enjoy the small talk, but she had to ask the question in her mind. She was afraid of hearing the response. Luna looked at Twilight, who had suddenly gone silent. Twilight prepared herself for the worst and asked the question.

“Did you find Spike?” Twilight asked. Her face was full of worry. Luna hesitated with her answer. There was a moment of silence before Luna spoke up.

“No. I looked everywhere, but he wasn't in the eastern part of Ponyville. I'm sorry.” Luna quietly answered.

Twilight felt a sharp pain in her heart. Spike couldn't be found anywhere in Ponyville. Twilight had no way of knowing how he was doing. All of the negative possibilities Twilight had locked away in her mind were released. Spike could be lost. He could be all alone, starving himself. He could be running from a monster. He could have gone for a swim and drowned. He could have been eaten. He could be dead already. Tears dripped down from Twilight's face. Her body shook uncontrollably. She closed her eyes and fought against the pain with all her strength. She didn't have time for a mental breakdown. She refused to take anymore of this torture. She didn't need Celestia's help. She would fix this mess with her own hooves. She was going to find whoever did this and make them pay.

Twilight opened her eyes to find everypony staring at her. She stood up on her back hooves and yelled. “You hear me Ponyville?! I am not crazy, you are all crazy! I am the only sane pony in this hellhole! I will prove it and return everything to the way it should be!”

The entire street was following Twilight's outburst. Every passerby had stopped to look at her. Ponies in the nearby houses were peeking out of their windows to see what the noise was about. Luna was shocked at the way Twilight was acting. She hadn't expected her to take the news well, but this was much worse than she imagined. Twilight was breathing heavily as she jumped off the bench. Luna quickly reacted and bit her tail.

“Let go! I'm going to end this!” Twilight yelled at her.

“No! Calm down, you're not thinking straight!” Luna ordered.

Twilight didn't listen to her. She pushed onwards and managed to free her tail from Luna's grip. She dashed past everypony into the middle of the town square. Nopony tried to stop her, as they were all stunned. Nothing like this had happened before in the peaceful village. Twilight's face was distorted into a mad grin as she looked around with her bloodshot eyes.

“You thought I was crazy?! Wait until you hear my theory! You're all magical puppets, designed to make me look insane! Did you think you could trick me? Tough luck, I've got it all figured out! I'll tear off your skin to show there's no flesh inside!” Twilight said in a creepy voice.

Everypony ran away in terror as Twilight's horn lit up. Twilight wasn't bluffing, as she had convinced herself that the theory she made up on the spot was true. She focused her energy on a spell she had read of in an old book. It was designed to remove extra hair on the fur of ponies within a wide range around the caster. However, it was banned after it was learned that amplifying it would tear off skin along with it. Casting it that hard was a challenge even for Twilight. She used all the adrenaline in her veins as she cast the spell.

A white ball of light appeared in front of her horn. It grew in size, until it was about to burst. A moment before it did, a large bubble formed around Twilight. She freed the energy in the ball, but none of it reached outside of the bubble. Luna had cast it moments before to trap Twilight inside. It was a strong barrier that prevented any magical energy from leaking outside of it. All of Twilight's energy was used in casting the spell. She fainted inside the bubble.

Twilight felt weak as her consciousness returned. The bubble on her back was soft and comfortable. It was like a round, floating bed. She didn't have enough energy to move, so she kept lying in the same position. She heard a knocking noise in front of her. She slightly opened her eyes to see the familiar library with her hazy vision. She saw Luna's back as she was walking towards the front door. She opened it to find The Mayor behind it, with an anxious look on her face. Twilight could only barely make out their conversation, as everything sounded like it was underwater.

“I heard about what happened. Are you and Twilight alright?” The Mayor asked.

“We're fine. I'd like to apologize for her. That wasn't something she'd normally do, but recent events have placed her under a lot of stress.” Luna said.

“It see. We knew she was a bit of an oddball, but we never expected her to go that far. You’re her friend, right? Make sure she never does that again. We don't have a prison in Ponyville, so we couldn't restrain her anywhere.” The Mayor said.

“I swear under my title of a princess to protect her. This will never happen again, you have my word.” Luna said.

“Princess? You do look like one, but I'm sure you're no princess. I hope you have a good explanation for this.” The Mayor said.

“I uh... I meant it as a metaphor. Yes, I'll protect her as if I was her princess.” Luna quickly came up with an excuse.

“Hmm... Very well. You're welcome to stay in Ponyville, as long as you stay out of trouble. Take care.” The Mayor said as she left.

“Thank you very much.” Luna said and closed the door. She met Twilight's eye as she turned around. A warm smile spread across her face. “Oh, you're awake. No need to worry, everything is fine. Feel free to relax in there as long as you like.”

Twilight nodded in response. Even something as simple as that felt like it took a lot of effort. She closed her eyes and fell asleep instantly. In her dreams, everything was peaceful. It was like her daily life was only a few days ago. The contrast between the Ponyville in her memories and the one she was in now made her appreciate her usual life. She hadn't realized how nice it was until it was taken away from her. However, nopony could escape reality forever.

She found herself in the bubble as she woke up. Her senses were much clearer now. Luna was sitting nearby, reading a book. Twilight hit the bubble to get her attention. Luna looked up at her and smiled.

“Good morning, my little sleepyhead. I'll let you out in a second.” Her horn lit up as she popped the bubble. Twilight fell down a short distance and hit the floor. The carpet felt hard after the softness of the bubble. Twilight found it hard to get any words out of her mouth after all that had happened. Before she said anything, Luna sat down next to her and spread her wing on Twilight’s body. The large wing felt comforting around Twilight's body.

“Take your time. You don't have to speak until you're ready.” Luna said in a calming voice. Twilight was grateful for Luna's kindness. In times like these, it was easy to tell Luna and Celestia were sisters. They would both always act calm and rational no matter what the situation. Twilight admired their ability their ability to do so. The whole incident could've been prevented if Twilight was as good at controlling her emotions. She needed time to think about what had happened.

“I took the liberty to make some coffee earlier. Would you like to have some?” Luna asked a bit later. Twilight nodded and sat down at the table with her. Luna poured coffee for the two of them. They sipped their coffee in silence. Luna patiently waited for Twilight to talk. She looked down at the table, regretting her actions. She had been thinking of how to put her feelings into words. It was hard to talk about, but she needed to get it off her chest.

“I'm sorry. I was so helpless back there. It felt like I had to do something, even if I had no idea what it would be. I forced myself to believe that I could solve everything. I knew deep down that it didn’t make sense, but I couldn’t handle all that pressure anymore. I caused everypony so much trouble. I doubt any of them even had anything to do with this. How can I ever make up for this?” Twilight said.

“It's all in the past. I forgive you and I'm sure the entire village does too. The only thing that matters in the end is that nopony was hurt. However, you must realize that blindly rushing forward will solve nothing. It'll only cause more pain for you and everypony else.” Luna said.

“I know. I can't believe I did something that stupid. I need to calm down and think things through. I still believe that something's gone wrong, and I'm going to fix it. Even if nopony else believes me, I'm going to do what I think is right.” Twilight said.

“I believe you.” Luna said in a serious voice.

“Really?” Twilight said, surprised at Luna's words.

“Yeah. Everything seemed normal at first sight, but there's definitely something strange going on. I found it odd that those three girls didn’t know who I was, but I wrote it off as them being ignorant. That theater act was when I knew something was wrong. The script was an accurate re-enactment up until the final scene. I was told it was written according to real events, but that can’t be true. Not only doesn't it match up with my memories, I couldn't be in Ponyville if Nightmare Moon was banished into the moon. It's simply impossible for that to have happened.” Luna explained.

“I knew it! I'm so glad you're on my side. You wouldn't believe how awful it was to be the only one who thought things weren't normal.” Twilight said, feeling relieved.

“I'll gladly help you. Since the two of share the same memories, we can be certain that this isn't all in your imagination. Either we or the rest of Ponyville must be wrong. For the sake of our sanity, let's assume we're right.” Luna said.

“Why would everypony in the village pretend things are going normally? Why am I the only pony living here who doubts that? What caused all the changes to happen in the first place? It must have been very powerful magic to be able to turn a pony into a tree.” Twilight wondered.

“Considering how everypony treats the events as a fact without any hesitation, they must believe it had been like that all along. They sound too confident for them to be acting. We need to find out what caused them to behave this way. While the changes seem random, it's likely they were all caused by a single source. Perhaps it also made everypony believe them as a fact as they happened? I can't think of anything powerful enough to do that on a large scale, though.” Luna said.

“That still doesn't answer why you and I remember things the way they used to be.” Twilight said.

“True. This is all speculation, as we don't know enough to make any definitive conclusions. We should focus on searching for what caused all of this to begin. Hopefully we'll discover a way to reverse all of the changes along with it. We’ll need to go gather more information.” Luna said.

Luna and Twilight were sitting in the library, drinking coffee. Twilight's cup was already empty. Drinking the coffee had made her feel fully awake. Unfortunately, her headache had also gotten worse. Luna saw Twilight's depressed look from the other side of the table.

“Would you like to have another cup?” Luna kindly asked.

“No thanks, I've had enough.” Twilight answered. “We should head out soon, there's still much we don't know.”

“Indeed. But before we go anywhere, you should comb your mane. You've got quite the bed hair right now.” Luna said.

Twilight hadn't thought of her looks in the last few days. The way her mane looked felt like a minor issue after everything that had happened. Twilight noticed how messy her mane had gotten as she looked at herself in the mirror. To fix this, she tried to levitate a comb. It was harder than usual, as her horn hurt when she cast the spell. This made her lose focus and drop the comb on the floor.

“You really overworked yourself yesterday. Let me do that for you.” Luna said. She levitated the comb and used it to get the hair out of Twilight's eyes. Twilight looked at the floating comb as it moved onto the back of her head. It stopped in the middle of the first swipe.

“Promise me you won't panic, okay?” Luna said. Twilight looked at her, confused as to why she sounded so serious all of a sudden.

“Huh? What's wrong?” Twilight said.

“There's something stuck in the back of your head. Hold on, I'll get it off.” Luna said. She lifted her hoof to raise Twilight's mane. There was a silver piece of metal connected into her neck. It was embedded into her skin, as if it was a part of it. Luna winced as she saw it. She did her best to hide how disturbed she was. She tried to rip off the piece of metal with her magic, but it was stuck tight.

“Ow! What are you doing? That hurt!” Twilight said.

“Sorry! It'll sting a bit, but I have to do this.” Luna said. She amplified her magic to tear off the metal. Twilight's head hurt as the piece flew off the back of her head. The skin underneath it was swollen red.

“I got it out. Are you okay?” Luna asked.

“I'm fine, aside from this annoying headache.” Twilight said. “What was that something you were talking about?”

“This thing.” Luna said as she levitated the small piece of metal in front of Twilight. “Do you know what it is?”

“No idea. When did it get there? I never noticed it.” Twilight said.

“There isn't anything remarkable about it. Weird, why was it there?” Luna wondered.

“Well, it doesn't look like it was anything dangerous. Let's ignore it for now and move on. We've got more important things to worry about.” Twilight said. Luna was still curious about the mysterious piece of metal, but she decided to get back to fixing Twilight's mane. She combed it until it was as straight as it usually was. Twilight looked like her usual self now. After the two were satisfied with the way she looked, they left the library.

The sun was rising outside. The village was tinted red from the light above. It felt eerie to Twilight. After being assaulted by strange events non-stop for the last few days, Twilight didn't feel safe in the village. It was her hometown, but it didn't feel like it anymore. Every single detail that had changed made her feel less comfortable. The Ponyville she loved was nothing but a shadow of its former self.

Mixed into the red scenery was a pink pony. She walked towards the two at a casual pace. After closing around half of the distance between the two, she broke into a run. Twilight recognized her as Pinkie as she drew close. It took her a moment longer than usual, as her wings still distracted her.

“Hi Twilight! I was just coming to see you. I haven't seen you since part 2!” Pinkie said.

“Glad to see at least one of us is still upbeat in this mess.” Twilight said.

“That was so long ago! This story needed more Pinkie Pie! I mean, any scene is better when I'm in it!” Pinkie said.

“What is she talking about?” Luna whispered to Twilight's ear.

“Never mind her, she's always like that.” Twilight muttered. “Anyway, did anything noteworthy happen since we last met?”

“It's just been the normal summer days since. The sun is shining, the birds are chirping, flowers are booming, demons are attacking. You know, the usual.” Pinkie said.

“That sounds nice- wait, what? Did you say demons?” Twilight said.

“Yeah, but don't worry. There's only been three attacks today!” Pinkie said calmly.

“Only?! Where are they coming from? I thought Ponyville was isolated from the rest of Equestria.” Twilight said.

“See for yourself, there’s another one coming up!” Pinkie said and pointed at the ground.

Soon after she finished her sentence, the ground underneath them turned black. Twilight stared at the darkness underneath her in shock. Luna sensed danger and pulled her further away. The darkness on the ground spread in a circle, stopping after it had grown large. A high, otherworldly sound came from the inside. Two large, veiny hands reached out from the inside. They flailed around looking for the ground past the hole. They gripped the ground and it pulled itself up. The head of the demon appeared from the hole. It had a thin skin, one large red eye and sharp silver teeth. It looked around Ponyville as the rest of its body appeared from the hole. It had a small midsection with large silver wings attached in its back. It had no legs and was only capable of flight. The hole faded away as the demon flew up into the sky. It let out an ear piercing howl as it floated above Ponyville. Rainbow Dash quickly flew towards the demon with a large group of pegasi following her.

“It's a Flight Eater! Demon Watch, hold it in place! Aim for the back of its head and don't let it eat anything! 3, 2, 1, go!” Rainbow Dash firmly ordered. The squad closely surrounded the demon. The ponies in the front distracted it while the ones in the back bucked it in the head. The demon tried to grab the ponies in the front into its hand, but they swiftly dodged out of the way. Thankfully, the demon was stupid enough to stay in place. Twilight was crouching on the ground, holding her head. The annoying howls the demon hurt her ears. Luna was standing next to her, unsure of what she should do. Rainbow Dash flew next to the group.

“Pinkie, why are you just standing there? We need all the help we can get! You too, lady in the princess costume! Everypony has to fight or the village will be destroyed!” Dash said.

“Sure thing! Lead the way, Dashie!” Pinkie said in a cheerful voice. Dash waited for Luna to join them. Luna hesitated, seeing Twilight's pitiful form on the ground. Twilight looked up at Luna.

“Go on, I can take care of myself.” Twilight said weakly. Luna stood still for a moment, then nodded. She flew up towards the demon along with Pinkie and Dash. Twilight was left alone on the ground. She wanted to help the pegasi, but she had no way of doing so. Her horn wasn't working at all. Twilight gave up and lied on the ground. She felt useless. Every moment in this screwed up village was too much. She closed her eyes and wished that she could sleep forever. Even if it wasn't real, she felt at peace in her dreams. Any attempt at falling asleep was pointless when it was so noisy outside. Twilight lied down, hoping this would all be over soon.

Somepony poked at Twilight. “Hey, are you alright?” A female voice asked her. Twilight opened her eyes and slowly stood up. Standing next to her was Daisy, looking worried.

“I'm fine.” Twilight quietly answered.

“Thank goodness, I thought you were dead for a moment. You never know what'll happen with all these demons attacking.” Daisy said.

“If you're so worried, go help them.” Twilight said angrily.

“But I'm just an earth pony! I can't do anything to a flying demon, you know.” Daisy said defensively.

“I guess. Sorry, I'm in a really bad mood.” Twilight said.

“It's okay. Nopony likes these attacks, but I can't fight against demons. I'm trying to help in my own way by writing articles about them.” Daisy said.

“Oh yeah, you run that tabloid, right? I'm not very familiar with it.” Twilight said.

“Really? We've been very popular lately. Almost the entire Ponyville is already subscribed to The Flower. Would you like to order it too?” Daisy said.

“No thanks, I'm more into books.” Twilight said. The only time she'd read the tabloid, she'd hated it. It was sensationalistic. Every article had been twisted and exaggerated to make it more interesting. Twilight preferred to get the pure facts and nothing more.

“That's a shame.” Daisy said, disappointed.

“When did you get so popular, anyway? The last time I heard of The Flower, it wasn't well known.” Twilight said bluntly.

“We only became famous recently. Rose did a popular article on the royal castle in Canterlot. That was our first issue that sold well.” Daisy said.

“Right, the fact that no newspapers can come from outside of Ponyville now must help too.” Twilight said.

“Obviously. That's why almost everypony reads The Flower. We're the only source of news available here.” Daisy said proudly. This really was a nightmare, Twilight thought.

The conversation was interrupted by a loud, high pitched scream from above. The demon desperately flapped its wings, trying to stay in flight. Crimson blood bled out of its head. Its wings soon stopped. It fell down with a trail of blood flowing behind it. The body made a thud as it hit the ground nearby. Daisy took out a piece of paper and began writing notes on it. The pegasi assembled in front of the demon, led by Rainbow Dash. They were sweating and many of them had bruises on them.

“Good job guys! We made it through without any serious injuries. A special mention goes to you, miss...” Rainbow Dash began.

“Luna.” Luna said.

“Luna! Thanks for helping us to kick some demon flank! That thing is faster than it looks, let's hope it was the last one for today.” Dash said.

“You know what this calls for? A party! Let's go to Sugarcube Corner, I've got cupcakes for everypony!” Pinkie said excitedly.

“Sounds good. Demon Watch, you are ordered to party hard!” Dash said. The squad cheered at her words. They began to slowly walk away as they talked amongst themselves. Luna went to see Twilight, who was still looking at the demon.

“Are you okay?” Luna asked.

“Sort of. I thought we'd be safe from monsters, but apparently even that is too much to ask. If they can't come out of Everfree Forest, they come from underground. This place really is insane.” Twilight said, frustrated.

“That's exactly why we can't lose hope. We're the only ones who can do anything about this. Nopony else thinks this is strange.” Luna said.

“I know. I keep telling myself that, but honestly, I just want to give up. This all seems way too complicated for us to handle.” Twilight said.

“I understand how you feel, but it's important that we keep going. We can't let things end like this, right?” Luna said.

“Yeah... You're right.” Twilight said.

“Why don't we join the others at Sugarcube Corner? I’m sure a party would cheer you up.” Luna said.

Twilight agreed with her. She smiled at the thought of going to one of the Pinkie parties she liked so much. The two turned their backs at the demon and followed the group of pegasi walking in the distance.

Twilight stepped inside Sugarcube Corner, followed by Luna. They went past the numerous pegasi inside. A dance floor had formed in the middle, with pegasi dancing to the tune of the upbeat music. The inside was colorfully decorated and smelled of an odd mixture of sweat and sweets. Twilight and Luna settled on the sideline next to a table with drinks. Twilight poured the little punch that was left in the bowl into two glasses. She drank from her glass. The sugary and fruity taste made her feel a bit better. Luna sipped her drink from next to Twilight, looking pleased. Pinkie soon came to the table carrying some of the drink she'd made. After filling the bowl with punch, she went to talk with Luna and Twilight.

"I'm so glad you came to my party. It wouldn't be the same without my best friends!” Pinkie said cheerfully.

“We're best friends already? I only met you today.” Luna said.

“Everypony is my friend! You know Twilight, so I'm sure you're the best of the bestest of best friends!” Pinkie said.

“Uh, thank you? I'm glad you think so highly of me, even if I don't quite get your logic.” Luna said.

“I doubt she gets it herself. Just play along.” Twilight said and shook her head.

“Best friends know everything about each other. I wanna know more about you. I know you're not from ponyville, cause I know everypony here. Where are you from?” Pinkie asked.

“I live in the royal castle in Canterlot.” Luna said.

“Really? That's a fancy place to live in. I went there once and it was like a really high class place. You're so much nicer than the ponies I met there. Why'd you decide to visit Ponyville? Wait, let me guess. You heard of my parties! They're really popular, you know.” Pinkie said.

“Actually, Twilight invited me here. She needed my assistance in one issue and I decided to stay here afterwards.” Luna said.

“Sorry for dragging you into this mess. I wouldn't have asked you to come if I knew things would get this bad.” Twilight said.

“It's fine, really. I'm glad I can help you here. It was actually worse back at the castle. They had a problem that I couldn't help them with.” Luna said.

“What kind of problem?” Twilight asked.

“All I know is that the entrance to the underground vault was broken and there were detectives going back and forth from there. The place was heavily guarded, so I couldn't go inside myself. I tried asking my sister about it, but she refused to tell me anything in case somepony was eavesdropping. They're trying to avoid alerting the media until they've investigated it further.” Luna said.

“That sounds serious. Could it have something to do with the situation here?” Twilight asked.

“It's possible. I didn't mention it before since I really don't know what happened there or if it's even related to this situation. We'd have to wait for official information to find out. Unfortunately, we won't be able to hear it as long as the barrier is there.” Luna said.

“As vague as it is, that’s really the only lead we've got. Maybe we should try to get through the barrier and go see for ourselves?” Twilight wondered.

“If we can get past it. It seems awfully powerful, I don't think we can break it on our own.” Luna said.

“I know! You girls should go see the barrier team. They know everything about that silly wall. You'll find them in the city hall. They've pretty much locked themselves in there, so they'll be there all day. There's no rush, so party some more! You can worry about all that stuff later. Parties are all about having fun!” Pinkie said.

“We should stay a little longer. I really like the atmosphere in here, I haven't been in such a pleasant party for ages.” Luna said.

“My parties are always fun! Hey, do you like dancing? I love dancing! Come on, dance with me!” Pinkie said and pulled Luna to the dance floor. Luna's awkward attempts at dancing were like something out of an old book. Twilight playfully giggled as Luna stood out among the young pegasi. The mood at the party was so happy that Twilight's depression was fading away. Twilight joined the dance and showed Luna how modern ponies dance. Luna seemed embarrassed and followed Twilight's example. Twilight relaxed and enjoyed her time at the party. It made her worries seem like they were so far away.

A loud howl sounded from the outside. The ponies at the party froze in place at the unexpected sound. Rainbow Dash shook her head in disappointment.

“Ugh, can't we ever catch a-” Dash was interrupted by a claw tearing through Sugarcube Corner. The ponies reflexively ducked as wood flew through the room. The music stopped as the record player laid broken on the floor. The front wall and everything in front of it was torn to pieces by the fearsome claws of the demon in front of them. Its red eye looked for the pony with the most delicious flesh. The demon was full of rage, ready to kill anything that stood on its way.

“Dammit, no time for plans! Get the demon out!” Dash ordered. The pegasi quickly gathered themselves. One of the squad's members, Derpy Hooves, rushed at the demon. She misjudged the distance between them and was hit by the demon's swipe. She cried in pain as the claw pierced her skin. The force slammed her at the back wall of the room. The blood dripping from the wound left a red stain on the wall as she slid onto the floor. The ponies watched in horror as the pegasus laid still next to the wall.

The members of the demon watch flew at the demon in revenge. Three of the ponies acted as a distraction. They flew right outside of the demon's range and taunted the demon. The demon tried to hit them and failed to notice the pegasi flying towards the back of its head. They bucked its head hard and flew outside. The demon cringed in pain and shifted its attention at the ponies outside. The pegasi lured the demon away from the building. It ran to the empty street, trying to catch up to the pegasi. Dash's squad followed and surrounded the demon. Twilight watched them to make sure they could handle the demon. The same tactics applied to this demon. As long as it was surrounded and the ponies could dodge its swipes, it couldn't do any harm.

“I'll go help them. You two take care of the injured pony!” Luna said and flew outside. Twilight pushed through the rubble to where Derpy had fallen. Derpy was wheezing on the floor, looking weak. Pinkie had laid down next to her and covered the wound with her wing. It wasn't large enough to cover the entire wound, as blood was still dripping from inbetween her feathers.

“Stay strong, you're going to be okay.” Pinkie was speaking in the kindest voice she could muster to cheer up Derpy.

“Take care... of my daughter...” Derpy said weakly.

“Don't worry, you'll be with her again soon. Hey Twilight, use your magic to heal her wound!” Pinkie said.

“I can't, my horn doesn't work!” Twilight said while panicking. Her talent had failed her when she needed it the most. Twilight was at a loss on what to do without it.

“Oh, well, there's bandages in the bathroom drawer! Get them and help me bandage her!” Pinkie said. Twilight went towards the bathroom immediately. She kicked the rubble in front of it out of the way and entered the room. The drawer was right next to the door. There was no time to rummage through it, so Twilight pulled the contents to the floor. She picked the white bandage roll from the pile into her mouth and brought it to Pinkie. They carefully wrapped the bandage around Derpy's body. She was still breathing, but she had fallen unconscious.

“I have to take her to the hospital! Help me lift her on my shoulders!” Pinkie said.

“It's too dangerous! Wait until the demon is gone!” Twilight said. The shrieks from outside showed that the pegasi were still fighting the demon. It would've been risky to go outside.

“I guess you're right. I can't believe something like this happened at my party. I just wanted make everypony happy, but I ended up making things worse. I shouldn’t have invited them here.” Pinkie said sadly.

“It wasn't your fault. You couldn't have known this would happen. It's all because of those demons.” Twilight said.

“Yeah, those meanies have been nothing but trouble since they appeared. I'm trying my best to keep everypony smiling, even if it is getting harder all the time.” Pinkie said.

The demon shrieked and fell down to the ground. It shook on the ground for a moment, then laid still in a pool of blood. Rainbow Dash led the pegasi back to Sugarcube Corner. There was no feeling of accomplishment as there were last time. The demon watch had let their guard down and failed to protect the village. The first floor of Sugarcube Corner was in ruins and Derpy had been severely wounded. This was below the standards Rainbow Dash expected from herself and her squad. The squad members waited outside as Dash checked the situation inside the building.

“How's Derpy?” Dash asked in a low voice.

“She's alive, but she's in need of medical attention. Pinkie's going to take her to the hospital.” Twilight answered. Pinkie laid next to Derpy, waiting for Twilight's help. Twilight carefully raised Derpy and laid her onto Pinkie's back. Pinkie rose and carried her away.

“You sure you can carry her on your own?” Dash asked as Pinkie went past her.

“Sure thing, she's actually pretty light. Don't worry, she'll be back in action in no time!” Pinkie said as she forced a smile. She left the building, going towards the village's hospital. The morale among the pegasi had fallen, as they looked depressed over having failed to protect the village. Dash firmly faced her squad.

“Listen up! This was a failure. Our duty is to protect Ponyville from the demons, heavy damage to buildings is unacceptable. Never get caught off guard again. No more breaks for the squad, we'll patrol throughout the entire day. It sucks, but there's no way I'll allow this to happen again! If we let our attention slip, we'll have more casualties! Forget about slacking off, we’ll put everything we've got into protecting our hometown! Our friends will never suffer under our watch!” Dash gave a speech to encourage her squad. They hated the situation, but Dash's determination reminded them of how important their duty was. Rainbow Dash saluted, with the rest of her squad soon joining her.

“Alright, let's get back to our patrol. Stay strong, everypony. We’ll get through this, I promise!” Dash said confidently. She flew towards the sky, with the demon watch following her in formation. The only pony left on the ground was Luna, who had been watching from the background. She went to see Twilight, who was looking at the ruined building. Her dear friend's home was destroyed in front of her eyes and she hadn't been able to do anything to prevent it. Twilight's depression was back, stronger than ever. It was foolish of her to think she could relax in this mess.

“The party didn't have quite the effect I intended. The situation really is getting out of hand.” Luna said.

“I know, it's insane. I didn't realize how serious this really is until I saw Derpy like that. We don't have time for escapism. We have to stop this madness!” Twilight said.

“Let's follow Rainbow Dash's example and never lose hope. We don't know much about the situation yet, but we have to do our best to find out what’s going on. Let's go meet that barrier team Pinkie mentioned.” Luna said. The two left the building.

Luna and Twilight walked on the empty streets. The atmosphere in the village was eerie. The pegasi patrolled up in the sky, while there was almost nopony on the ground. The only thing Twilight could hear was Rainbow Dash yelling orders in the distance. Nothing was happening around them. The stillness was creepy compared to the usual liveliness in the village. The two walked to the city hall in silence.

The door creaked as Twilight entered the lobby. It was dim inside, as none of the magical lights were lit. Twilight and Luna's steps echoed as they went towards the reception area. They passed many benches ponies would usually sit in, but none of them were taken. There was no line at the counter, either. Neither was there anypony behind it. The entire room was empty, as if it was abandoned. Twilight rang the bell on the counter. The dust that flew up made her cough. The chime seemed louder than usual, but nopony reacted to it. Waiting felt like a waste of time, so the two decided to wander further inside.

The two walked in the empty hallways. The only thing they could hear were their own footsteps. Most of the doors were locked. The few that were open had nothing noteworthy in them, only plenty of dust. The end of the only hallway they hadn't explored was near. Twilight had almost given up when she heard muffled talking from the furthest door. A few different voices spoke in turn from inside. Twilight knocked on the door. The two waited for a moment, but nopony opened the door. Twilight put her ear at the door.

“-That's why I believe Ponyville has gone back in time. Trust me, I've got experience with this.” A male voice said.

“I keep telling you, that makes no sense!” An annoyed voice said.

“Guys? Can we pause this meeting for a minute? I heard somepony knock on the door.” A nearby female voice said.

“My theory is obviously true, you just don't get it! I'll repeat it until you accept it!” Another voice said.

“Ugh, they're not even listening.” The nearby voice said.

“Just go, they won't be done anytime soon. You're not going to miss anything important.” A voice next to her said.

The sound of a chair being pulled came from the inside. Twilight stepped out of the way as the door opened. Lyra stood behind it, looking tired. There was a large table behind her, with numerous ponies sitting around it. One of them was drawing a diagram next to a whiteboard.

“How can I help you?” Lyra asked as she stretched her hooves.

“You're the barrier team, right? We'd like to learn more about the barrier, would you mind if I asked you some questions about it?” Twilight said.

“Sure, why not. I'll take any excuse to get out of that boring meeting. Let's go talk at the lobby, the seats there are so comfy.” Lyra said. She closed the door behind her and went towards the lobby with Twilight and Luna.

“Those guys spend more time arguing than actually working. You can't count on them to do anything.” Lyra complained as they walked in the empty hallway.

“How did you join them? I didn't know you were into science.” Twilight asked.

“I'm not, really. I'm actually a musician. There aren't many unicorns in Ponyville, so they asked me to help them. They said they needed all the magic users they could get. Would you like to take my place?” Lyra asked.

“I couldn't, I can't use magic right now.” Twilight said.

“Too bad. I wouldn't have taken the job if I knew how boring it would be. My wife would be mad if I left for no reason, so I guess I'll have to stick around.” Lyra said as they arrived at the lobby. Twilight and Luna sat down on the couch next to the wall, while Lyra sat down in the chair opposite from them. Luna seemed weirded out at the odd way Lyra sat. Twilight didn't pay attention to it, as she'd seen it before.

“So, what do you know about the barrier?” Twilight asked.

“Not much. We know that it can't be broken with brute strength, so we've been trying to come up with a spell that would get us past it. None of the spells made for that have done anything to it. All of our efforts to teleport behind it have been useless too. Nothing gets past it, which is a real problem. We're going to run out of supplies eventually, especially water. The barrier goes underneath the clouds, so we don't get any rain in Ponyville.” Lyra said.

“I hadn't thought of that. How long do you think they'll last?” Twilight asked.

“At this rate, only a week or two. Ponyville wasn't prepared for an emergency like this, so everything is poorly organized. Not to mention the whole demon problem. They've already torn a few buildings and injured some ponies. No confirmed deaths so far, but they're easily capable of killing. We'd be screwed without the demon watch, good thing Rainbow Dash established that quickly.” Lyra said.

“Why is it so quiet everywhere? We didn't see almost anypony on the way here.” Twilight asked.

“They're all scared. The demons look very threatening, even though they're harmless if you surround them in the right way. The articles in The Flower aren't helping. They've made the situation sound so bad that you couldn't leave your home without dying. It's all exaggerated, of course. Unfortunately, everypony blindly believes in what that rag says. It's the only one around right now, so the whole village gets its news from it.” Lyra said.

“Do you think you'll be able to break the barrier anytime soon?” Twilight asked.

“Honestly? No. We've been trying for a long time and haven't really advanced at all. We've tried everything we could think of, so they're just making ridiculous theories now. That wall really is mysterious. Maybe it's just me, but something seems wrong about the world outside of it. I've never seen anyone out there. No animals, no ponies, nothing. You'd think the outside world would've noticed that something was wrong by now. Weird. Anyway, did that satisfy your curiosity? I should get back to the meeting.” Lyra said.

“Yes, thank you for your help. It was very useful.” Twilight said. Lyra got up from her seat. She had some trouble due to the odd way she sat. She said goodbyes to the two and walked towards the hallway. Luna and Twilight were left alone in the lobby. The place was lonely without anypony else around. Twilight thought about their next move.

“Do you still think we should try to break the barrier?” Luna asked.

“I don't think so. I doubt we could come up with anything they haven't tried already. We really are stuck in here, huh?” Twilight said.

“It seems that way. We don't have much time, either. The situation is getting worse every day. It's guaranteed that we won't survive longer than a few weeks unless we do something.” Luna said.

“We have to think of something, fast!” Twilight said.

Twilight and Luna were walking in the streets of Ponyville. They haven't been able to come up with a good plan. They were hoping they would think of something as they walked around aimlessly. Twilight was frustrated at her lack of knowledge. She had studied a lot, but all that knowledge was useless when nothing made sense. Twilight firmly believed that everything happened for a reason, so she was sure that there was an explanation for the events. However, figuring it out was difficult without any solid clues.

The village was silent. It was odd to see nopony around in the evening. At first glance, it was like the village had been deserted. The silhouettes in the windows showed that they were all hiding inside. Nopony would open their doors, fearing the demons would come inside their homes. The normally sociable residents of Ponyville had become too paranoid to go outside. They were surprised to see Applejack sneaking from behind a corner. She had her usual bag on her back. She was slowly going from one building to another, trying to act stealthy. Her orange body stood out in the bleak alleyway. Twilight and Luna easily caught up with her.

“Hi Applejack. Glad to see you're still reasonable enough to go outside.” Twilight said.

“Shh! Those demons will appear if you ain't quiet. I read that in the newspaper.” Applejack said quietly.

“Not you too! Don't you realize how exaggerated it is?” Twilight asked.

“Granny Smith believes in all that. We respect the elderly in the Apple family, so I'm just going along with what she says.” Applejack said.

“Suit yourself, but you'll soon see how wrong you are.” Twilight said, shaking her head in disappointment.

“We'll see. I wouldn't normally go outside, but we ran outta milk. I drew the shortest stick and had to go to the store. Oh yeah, did ya find that friend you were looking for?” Applejack asked.

“No, I didn't. I don't understand where he could've gone, he was just here two days ago.” Twilight said. Being reminded of Spike made her worried. If she didn’t come up with something soon, she would never see him again.

“Was he visiting you? You should've told me, I wanted to meet him.” Applejack said.

“No, he was living with me. You really should know that, he's been here since I moved in.” Twilight said.

“That's not what you told me before. I remembered the guy later that day. He's that baby dragon, right?” Applejack said.

“So you do know him?” Twilight asked, confused.

“Not in person. You mentioned him a few times, said he was was your friend back in Canterlot. He's gotta live there, I've never seen him here. Hope ya find him soon. I gotta go get that milk before the demons are here.” Applejack said and peeked past the corner. She carefully looked around before sneaking to the next building. Twilight and Luna were left alone in the alleyway. Twilight looked at Luna with a curious expression.

“What Applejack just said was very interesting. It would explain his disappearance if he had been my friend back in Canterlot. He never would've come to Ponyville with me, he would've stayed in his current home.” Twilight said.

“How is that possible? I saw him two days ago.” Luna said.

“What could've happened to him after that? This might be the clue we were looking for. Give me a moment, I need to think this over.” Twilight said. The two sat down at a nearby bench. Luna patiently waited as Twilight thought of the events.

Two days ago, Spike was Twilight's assistant. He sent her letters to Princess Celestia. As a result of those letters, Luna came to Ponyville. It would've been impossible to send those letters in one day without Spike. This is proof that Spike was in Ponyville back then. The last time Twilight saw Spike was near midnight two days ago. Twilight and Luna spent the entire night at the balcony, so Spike must have disappeared during that time. According to Applejack, Spike is Twilight's friend, not her assistant. This would've been impossible two days ago. That means Applejack must've began to believe in that fact only after that. Considering Spike also disappeared recently, it's likely the two events happened at the same time. At night two days ago, the fact that Spike was Twilight's assistant was overwritten by the fact that Spike was her friend. As a result, he moved into the location he should've been in according to his new personal history. It made sense, but why would it happen? How was it possible to change history like that to begin with?

Twilight shifted her thoughts to Ponyville. There was something wrong with the village. On first sight, it resembled the one in her memories. However, there was something surreal about everything. The brave squad leader Rainbow Dash, the cheerful pegasus Pinkie Pie and all the other residents had slight differences in them. It was like they were the same ponies, but their lives had been subtly altered. The atmosphere in the village was different than the one Twilight was used to. It was as if she was in a nightmare she never woke up from. Dreams often take place in scenarios similar to the current one. Everything is normal at first, but minor differences make them surreal. They're like alternative dimensions with slight differences to the real world.

“Alternative dimensions...” Twilight muttered.

“What's that?” Luna asked.

“THAT'S IT! We're in an alternative dimension! I finally figured it out!” Twilight said excitedly. She leaped from the bench and bounced around in joy. She hadn't been this happy in ages. Luna smiled as she watched Twilight jumping around in a circle. Twilight sat back down after her euphoria ended. For the first time since the events began, she felt like she could solve them.

“Glad to see you're so sure about it. How did you come to that conclusion?” Luna asked.

“It's the only reasonable explanation. There's no way all of this could happen on a worldwide scale, so we must be in a small dimension that only resembles our own. It would also explain the wall around the village. It's not actually a wall, it's the end of this dimension! It's impossible to get past it because nothing exists beyond that! The view outside is nothing more than a wallpaper!” Twilight proudly explained.

“Alternative dimensions exist, so that is possible. We've got limited understanding of them, as we're still researching them. It makes a lot more sense than any of the other theories I've heard. Let's go with that. I'm proud of you for figuring that out!” Luna said and patted Twilight's head.

“Thanks, I'm so relieved we advanced at least a bit. I came up with an explanation for Spike's disappearance too, he should be alright. Solving this mystery doesn't feel impossible now that we've gotten started.” Twilight said.

“We should talk to more ponies. Who knows what we'll learn next.” Luna said. The two got up and looked around for somepony to talk to. It wasn't as easy as it sounded, as there was nopony in sight. They were all laying low inside their homes. After a while, they found Lily calmly writing into her notebook next to a tree. A cutesy bag was lying next to her.

“How about we ask her for a copy of that tabloid? I'm curious to see what exactly they write in it.” Luna suggested.

“Good idea. I don't like giving them more business, but I have to admit I'm interested too.” Twilight said. They walked towards the tree. Lily was so focused on her writing that she didn’t notice them until Twilight greeted them. Her pen stopped as she looked up from her notebook.

“Hi! You're like the only ponies I've met today. I'm risking my life to get the news to everypony! I'm like the heroine in that comic book Ninja Reporter. I always dreamed of being like her and now I really am! Isn't that like so awesome?” Lily said.

“Sure, whatever. We'd like to get a copy of today's The Flower. Do you have any left?” Twilight asked.

“What, you're not subscribed? That's like, so lame. We don't sell single copies, you'd have to subscribe in our office. Visit us sometime, okay? You can have one of my extra ones today.” Lily said. She dug into her bag and took one of the tabloids inside into her mouth. She gave it to Twilight, who spread it onto the ground.

“Thanks, let's see...” Twilight said as she flipped it to see the front cover. Luna curiously looked at the paper from next to her. Today's headline was Ponyville is a Hellhole. Twilight turned the page to read the article on the other side. It was about Twilight's outburst the other day. However, over half of it was made up. It had quotes from Twilight that she never said. Her insult on Ponyville had been stretched to make it seem like she was talking about literal hellholes. According to the article, she had given a long, crazy speech about her theory on how demons from hell were appearing from hellholes. In reality, it had only been a quick comment before she leaped from the bench. Twilight's good mood melted away as she read all the lies the article wrote about her. It put words into Twilight's mouth, something she really hated. After finishing the article, she glared at Lily.

“What the hay is this?! Almost none of this actually happened! Who wrote this terrible article?!” Twilight said in an intimidating tone.

“W-well, I did. I saw your outburst and wrote that on it. We thought it would be more fun if we changed your theory. Yours just wasn't mainstream enough. No hard feelings, okay?” Lily said nervously. She grabbed her bag and backed away. Twilight slowly followed her.

“Fun?! News isn't about fun, it's about facts! It's filth like you who ruin journalism! You made me look bad on purpose, didn't you?! You must be behind this mess! I've got you now, you'd better confess!” Twilight said with a scary grin on her face.

“I don't know what you're talking about! I didn't mean any harm, I just wanted everypony to read my articles! I'll tell Rose on you!” Lily said and ran away in fear. Twilight was about to follow her, but Luna quickly bit her tail to stop her.

“Calm down! Let's not bully her until we've got proof. It could've been a coincidence. We shouldn't fall down to her level and accuse others without any evidence!” Luna said.

“Ugh, you're right. I lost my temper.” Twilight said. Luna let go of her tail and Twilight turned around to face her. “Still, The Flower is definitively suspicious. We need to research it further.”

“How about checking the previous issues? Do you know where we could get them?” Luna asked.

“Unfortunately, we don't get any newspapers in our library. I would've noticed how strange that tabloid is earlier if we did. We need to loan somepony else's copy. Out of all my close friends, I’d say Rarity is most likely to be a subscriber. Let's go ask her.” Twilight said. Luna nodded and the two went to Carousel Boutique.

Twilight knocked on the door to the boutique. Rarity peeked out of the nearby window. She looked around, then went to open the door. She had a surprised expression on her face.

“Good evening, Twilight. I haven't seen you in a while, where have you been? I see you've made a new friend too. You've got a wonderful physique, I've got dresses that would be perfect for you.” Rarity said as she admired Luna.

“Sorry, but we really don't have time for that. I'll get to the point, do you subscribe to The Flower? We're looking for past issues of it.” Twilight asked.

“I certainly do. I've been a loyal supporter ever since I went to school with them. I must say, they've improved significantly since then. They've been dreadfully accurate lately. I put them in the paper recycling over there, feel free to take them.” Rarity said as she nodded towards the bins near the entrance. Twilight thanked her as she went back inside. Twilight opened the bin and looked inside. The last few issues were right at the top. Twilight took them into her mouth and spread them on the ground. The latest headlines from oldest to newest were:

Pinkie Pie's Parents are Pegasi

Fluttershy is Actually a Tree

Twilight Sparkle is “Just Friends” with Spike

Special Edition: Foreign Actress Refuses Interview

Ponyville is a Hellhole

There was a clear pattern in the headlines. They all described changes in this dimension that didn't match up with reality. They paper was printed the day before it was delivered. The one about Spike had to be written before his disappearance. The article matched up with Twilight's theory about him being removed from Ponyville. It mentioned him being only a friend to Twilight, which would mean that he was living in Canterlot instead. The timing was too close for it to have been a coincidence. It must have happened because of the headline, along with all the other changes.

“Do you realize what this means? Whatever they write as the headline becomes true! The history of this dimension is rewritten according to what the headline articles describe! It sounds crazy, but all evidence points into that direction!” Twilight said.

“I have no idea how that's possible, but it really seems to be true. The Flower's office has to be the center of these events. Let's go visit it, I'm sure we'll find some answers there!” Luna said.

Twilight and Luna stood in front of a large building. A tacky sign with the words “The Flower” stood above its two large front doors. It was much bigger than a newspaper office needed to be. Twilight had passed by the building before, but she had never been inside. It was clear that the newspaper was connected with the strange events, yet Twilight had no idea what to expect inside. She looked at Luna with an uncertain expression. Luna simply nodded at her. As nervous as she was, Twilight had to find out what was going on inside. She gathered her courage and pushed the door open.

Twilight stepped inside the lobby, with Luna beside her. The cold interior made Twilight shiver. It was a simple lobby, with a counter at the end and some seats for waiting in. There was only one door in sight, right ahead of them. Twilight's heartbeat sped up as she heard footsteps from the other side of the door. The door opened slowly. Lily was in the dark room on the other side. Her eyes widened as she saw Twilight. Lily retreated and spoke to somepony in the other room.

“I-it's her! She's come to bully me again! Help me!” Lily said.

“I'll handle this. You can go work on the newspaper, you don't need to listen to our conversation.” A firm voice said. Footsteps echoed as a pony walked towards the lobby. The pony walked from the shadows. Twilight recognized her cream body and dark red mane. It was Rose.

“Ah, Twilight Sparkle. I've been expecting you.” Rose said while grinning.

“You got me wrong. We're not here to bully anypony, we'd like to see the back room.” Twilight said.

“I'm afraid I can't let you do that. It would ruin my plan. You've already gone too far off the script. Everything would've gone perfectly if it wasn't for you.” Rose said and glared at Luna.

“What are you talking about? I’ve only been helping Twilight.” Luna said, confused.

“That's exactly the problem, Princess Luna.” Rose said. Luna and Twilight gasped in surprise.

“You know me?! That means...” Luna began.

“You're from our dimension!” Twilight finished.

“Of course I am. You weren't supposed to survive for so long, though. If only I knew you had connections to the princess...” Rose said.

“You know everything, don't you?! Tell us!” Twilight said.

“Why should I? I'm not your friend. In fact, you're exactly the kind of pony I hate. If you're as intelligent as you claim, you should figure it out yourself.” Rose mocked. She was full of herself. Seeing the way she acted, Twilight got an idea.

“You know what? You won. Your plan is so brilliant that I'll never understand it. I want to hear how you managed to come up with all of this. Will you teach me how to be as clever as you are?” Twilight said in a depressed voice.

“What are you doing? You can't admit defeat now!” Luna whispered to Twilight's ear.

“I know her type. You just have to feed her ego and she'll do whatever you say.” Twilight whispered back.

“Oh, you finally came to your senses and realized how much better I am. I pity you, so I'll tell you everything.” Rose said proudly. She cleared her throat and began her story.

Back when Rose, Daisy and Lily were in high school, they ran the student newspaper together. They had always dreamed of being famous reporters, thanks to a comic book they liked as children. When they realized everypony in the school read their paper, they knew it was their destiny to start a daily newspaper. After they finished high school, they bought an old factory building in Ponyville and ran The Flower from there. They soon realized it wasn't as easy as they expected. There was a lot of competition from foreign newspapers. The Flower’s information network and writing skills were nowhere near as good as their competitors. In order to sell any copies, they had to make their headlines as eye-catching as possible. They didn't care about how accurate their articles were, they simply wanted The Flower to be as famous as possible. It worked at first, but they were soon criticized for being sensational. The sales plummeted and they almost had to abandon the paper.

Rose had to come up with a plan so the paper would survive. She would do anything to relive her youth, when everypony praised her paper. It became an obsession for her. Every day, she would think of ways to get ponies to read her paper. A long time passed before she came up with her brilliant idea. What if the sequence of writing a newspaper would be reversed? Instead of the newspaper being written according to real life events, reality would be written according to the newspaper. If this would happen, her newspaper would always be accurate. All of their competitors would be late, since theirs is the only one that can decide what happens. She spent three long years researching and planning for a way to accomplish this. After all that time, everything was ready. Seven days ago, she executed her master plan.

Rose contacted the royal castle in Canterlot to get a press pass inside the castle. She claimed to be doing research for an article on the security in the castle. The castle had always been very accepting of the press. Despite the paper's questionable reputation, she easily got a pass. Their only condition was that two guards would follow her movements. Rose wandered around the castle, writing notes she would never use. The last location she went into was her actual goal, the entrance to the underground vault beneath the castle. She asked the guards to open the door so she could do research in the tunnel. Her press pass gave her permission to enter, so the guards opened the thick door. Standing at the entrance of the deep tunnel, she turned back at her escorts. She looked around the hallway to make sure nopony was around, then dug into her bag. Under the reporter's equipment was a secret compartment. She had prepared it to get the tools she needed past the security check at the entrance. The two bags inside contained all of her savings split in half. She offered them as a bribe to the guards. The guards gave into temptation and agreed to wait at the entrance. If anypony asked, they would have simply lost sight of her for a moment. Rose smirked as she entered the dark tunnel.

The tunnel was pitch black. Rose walked next to the cold wall. The sounds from the castle gradually became quieter, until it was completely silent inside. When Rose was sure that nopony could see her, she took a torch from her bag. She dropped the torch to the ground and lit it up using the matches she'd brought along. The tunnel lit up in a red light, revealing the metal walls that surrounded it. Rose put the torch into the portable stand on her back. The heat from the torch made the tunnel much warmer. Rose kept walking on the long, straightforward tunnel. The trip felt even longer than it really was. With every step she took, she wished she'd see something other than darkness ahead of her.

At last, Rose saw two thick, steel doors ahead of her. Both of them had a large and rusty keyhole on them. The two princesses held the keys required to open the doors. Despite her brilliant planning, Rose hadn't been able to figure out a way to get them undetected. She had came up with an alternative way inside. Rose dug into her bag in the dim light. In the secret compartment were two blocks of plastic explosives. They were molded into the same shape as the keyholes, only a bit smaller. Rose took the first one in her mouth and carefully inserted it inside the keyhole. After all the trouble it took to get them, she couldn't afford to waste any. She took the other block in her mouth and put it as close to the locking mechanism as she could. The power of the explosives was calculated so it would destroy the locking mechanism, allowing the door to be opened without the keys. Rose backed away from the door while counting her steps. She stopped after she had gone far enough that the shockwave from the blast wouldn't affect her. She faced away from the door and took the detonator from her bag, carefully placing it on the ground. She took a deep breath and stepped on the detonator. A loud explosion rang from behind her. As loud as the explosion was, the tunnel was so deep that the sound shouldn't have been loud enough to reach outside of it.

Rose went back towards the door. The smell of smoke became stronger as she got closer. The light from the torch reached the door, allowing her to see the effects of the explosion. The deep hole inbetween the keyholes made her feel relieved. Nothing but pieces of metal were left of the locking mechanism. Rose took several pieces with her as a memento. Pushing the middle of the doors made them open with a creak. Rose stepped inside the underground vault.

Rose had reached the room she worked so hard to get in. She was overjoyed, but forced herself to calm down. Her mission wasn't complete yet. She looked around in the large, square room. It contained many artifacts on golden pedestals, sealed inside glass cases. Rose was only interested in one of them, she paid no attention to the rest of them. The light from the torch had a short reach, so she had to walk close to the cases to see what was in them. She looked at the cases one by one as she went past them, until one of them caught her eye.

Inside the glass case was an eerie object. The organic surface shaped like a brain flickered in wild colors. The eyes etched onto its surface stared at Rose. It was just as the book on ancient artifacts had described it. The day had finally come. What Rose had been searching for was right in front of her. All she had to do was reach for it and it would be hers. She lifted the case with her shaking hooves. She dropped it to the ground, causing it to shatter to pieces. Nothing stood in the way of her precious artifact. She grabbed the slimy object and put it inside the hidden compartment.

“After that, I simply walked out of the castle. The guards acted their part and nopony suspected a thing. What a bunch of naive fools.” Rose said with a satisfied look.

“So you're the one who broke into the vault!” Luna said.

“Yes, it wasn't much of a challenge. You should hire better guards. Not that you'll ever get the chance to. You'll never escape on your own and I have no intention of letting you go.” Rose said.

“Why did you drag me into your plan? I barely even know you!” Twilight said.

“You were a last minute addition. It's the only flawed part in my plan. You know what they say, even geniuses make mistakes.” Rose said.

Rose was euphoric on her way back to Ponyville. The hardest part of her plan had gone perfectly. The rest would be much easier. She was confident she could do anything. It wouldn't be long before her dream would come true. She would leave all those neighsayers behind and become the famous reporter she wanted to be. It would be so satisfying to see them get what they deserve. In fact, she could do that. To represent them, she chose a pony she truly hated. Twilight Sparkle, the pony whose face was full of disgust when she was introduced to Rose's beloved paper.

The moon had risen by the time Rose got to the library building. All of the lights in the building were off. Rose climbed the back of the tree onto the balcony. Rose gently pushed the balcony door. It wasn't even locked. Rose quietly opened it and went inside.

The moonlight only barely reached the house. Thankfully, Rose didn't need to see anything. Her hearing was enough. She heard snoring from two different sources. The louder, low pitched one came from upstairs. The quieter one came from near the entrance. The quieter one was likely her target, as it sounded feminine. Rose slowly sneaked towards the sound. Her eyes gradually got used to the dark. She could make out the source of the snoring. It was a purple, sleeping unicorn. The unicorn laid on her stomach, using an open book as a pillow. Rose quietly began her operation.

Rose opened her bag and dug into the hidden compartment. She took out the artifact and placed it on the floor. The bag had a knife Rose always carried with her. She took it into her mouth, with the sharp edge pointing ahead of her. She crouched next to the artifact and cut out a small piece of the slimy substance. It looked like the eyes of the artifact cringed as she did so, but Rose thought she must be seeing things. She put the knife away and took the flickering piece of slime onto her hoof. Keeping the hoof up, she crawled next to Twilight. She used the free hoof to slowly raise her mane and stuck the slime onto her neck. It was slippery and kept falling off. That wouldn't do, it needed to stay still.

Rose had to improvise. She couldn’t hold the slime still by herself, she needed something else to do it with. After some thought, she picked up one of the pieces of metal she took from the tunnel. She put it on the ground and stuck the slime on it. One of the pockets in the bag had a stick of strong glue in it. Rose applied it at the edges of the piece of metal. This should hold the slime still. All she needed to do was to get it onto the unicorn’s neck. Rose took the piece of metal onto her hoof, while raising Twilight's mane with the other hoof. She stuck the piece of metal on the neck. It easily held in place.

Only one step left in the plan. This was the moment she'd been waiting for so many years. In her impatience, she decided to perform the last step right now. She stood in front of the artifact and mentally prepared herself. She would leave this world behind and live out her dream. All it took was one simple move. Rose crouched next to the artifact. She poked its eyes with her hooves. She stuck them as deep as she could reach, feeling the goo inside. The artifact shook and flickered rapidly. The goo wrapped itself around Rose's hooves, pressing against them. It hurt, but Rose did her best to stay still. After a moment, the artifact calmed down and stood still. Rose took her hooves off the artifact. Nothing seemed different, yet Rose knew everything had changed. She was overjoyed. She quickly packed her bag and sneaked onto the balcony. She recklessly jumped off the roof. The landing hurt her hooves a bit, but she barely noticed.

Rose ran on the road leading to Canterlot. Ponyville was the same as before. Judging by the surroundings, everything had gone perfectly. There was only one way to make sure the artifact worked. In order to confirm that, she dashed at the road. Just as she expected, she soon hit a wall. This was proof she wasn't living in reality. This was her dream.

Twilight was nothing more than a guest who overstayed her welcome. Rose tortured her by ruining her trust in herself. Twilight's intelligence was useless when the world played by Rose's rules. One day, Rose would have the satisfaction of watching Twilight destroy herself. She simply modified her dream in ways that would make her lose confidence in herself. The newspaper she so hated would become her doom. The plan would've succeeded if it wasn't for the one thing she couldn't predict. Princess Luna's arrival. The two princesses were the only ponies powerful enough to enter her dream. Rose had no idea Twilight knew them. Magically sent letters can cross dimensions, one must have given away the location of her dream. A third being from reality entered the dream, siding with Twilight. Luna made Rose's goal of driving Twilight insane much harder. Twilight was no longer alone. Luna's comfort allowed her to stay sane.

“That’s how my brilliant plan went. Before you say anything, I'd like you to know that tomorrow's headline has already been prepared. Twilight Sparkle Dies a Gory Death. I'm sure that'll be our new best seller.” Rose said and chuckled.

“You're crazy! This dimension makes no sense, just like your articles! This isn't a dream, it's a nightmare!” Twilight said.

“It's my dream, not yours. Everything is just the way I want it to be.” Rose said with a mad grin. “You two are the only thing that stands in my way. All I have to do is get rid of you and things will be perfect. You know what? I'm not going to wait for tomorrow. I'll kill you with my own hooves!”

Rose leaped at Twilight. Twilight barely had enough time to react and dodge to the side. Before Twilight could do anything else, Rose grabbed her neck. She pushed her to the ground and strangled her with her front hooves. Twilight struggled to get away, but Rose had her in a tight grip. Twilight was about to run out of breath, when the pressure on her neck went away. The hooves were still around her neck, but her grip had loosened. Rose was standing still, as if she was frozen. Twilight got up and looked at Luna, whose horn had just stopped glowing.

“I paralyzed her with my spell. I had to cast it quickly, so it won't last too long. We don't have much time. We have to stop tomorrow's The Flower from being printed!” Luna said.

Twilight and Luna were circling the office building. Every door inside was locked, so they had to find another way to get further inside. The dilapidated building only had two entrances and few windows. The two arrived at the back door. Twilight pushed and pulled the small door, but it was locked tight. Luna tried to unlock it with her magic, but the door resisted. The lock had an anti-magic barrier around it, just like all the other doors in the building. Rose must have prepared them to secure the building. They had to find some way inside, before the paper would be printed. The sun had already gone down, there was no time for detailed plans. If the doors wouldn't let them in, they'd have to go through the windows.

The two walked next to the closest window. The wide window was located at the near the end of the building. As expected, it was locked and reinforced with the same barrier. The glass was fairly thin and it wasn't reinforced at all.

“Could you break this window with your magic?” Twilight asked Luna.

“A princess breaking in like a common thief... What would my loyal subjects think?” Luna said and shook her head.

“Not much in this dimension. Just break it, nopony will ever know.” Twilight said impatiently. Luna frowned, but backed away from the window with Twilight anyway. Standing a couple of steps away from the window, her horn began to glow. The glass began to glow white, with a magical aura flowing around it. The glow grew in intensity, until the glass shattered in pieces. The room behind the window was dark, with nothing visible from the distance.

“Good job! I'll go see what's inside.” Twilight said and walked towards the window. While peering inside, something shiny at the other side of the large room caught her eye. There was something sticking out of the wall, with three shiny blades in it. As Twilight put up her hooves on the windowsill, the blades suddenly launched towards her. Twilight reflexively ducked before they flew past her.

“Watch out!” Twilight yelled at Luna. She quickly ducked as the blades flew over her. The blades kept going, until they hit the wall of the nearby house. Only the metal grips were visible from the wall.

“That was close. Those blades would have pierced our skin if we hadn't dodged them in time. It seems Rose was also prepared for us to break through the window.” Luna said.

“Thank Celestia we weren’t hurt. I'll check for more traps, I'll let you know if it's safe.” Twilight said. Twilight hopped through the window, while Luna waited a couple of steps away. Twilight carefully looked around in the room. The lights were off, so most of the room was shrouded in darkness. Nothing shiny anywhere, that must've been the only blade trap. Twilight flipped the light switch near the window, but nothing happened. Great, the lights must be broken. Magic was needed to light up the room. Twilight motioned Luna to come inside. She sprinted towards the window and hopped inside.

Luna’s magical ball of light lit up the room. The bright light that followed Twilight allowed her to see the entire room. A large machine took up most of the space in the room. It went all the way to the ceiling, with a chimney reaching outside. It was an old steam-powered printing press. It must’ve been what caused all of the events. There had to be some way to destroy it and prevent it from doing more damage.

“It's awfully big. Could you try to destroy it with your magic?” Twilight asked. Luna nodded in response. Her horn began to glow as she concentrated her magical powers. The ball of light flew higher. It grew in size and became harder, resembling a huge wrecking ball. It flung towards the printing press. An orange barrier became visible in front of the machine. It absorbed the power of the impact, leaving the printing press unharmed. Luna flung the ball again, putting all of her power into it. The ball flew at the machine at an unnatural speed, but it did no damage at all. Her face full of frustration, Luna stopped casting the spell. The ball of light turned back to normal.

“It's no use, the barrier's too large! I can't break it on my own!” Luna said. If only Twilight could help her. Why did her talent have to fail her when she needed it the most? She tried casting a spell, but all she got was a jolt of sharp pain in her head. It made her even more annoyed. She needed to let out her frustration. Twilight ran towards the printing press.

“Stupid machine!” Twilight said and kicked it. The collision caused the cover of the machine to fall off, leaving the mechanical parts exposed. Twilight was dumbfounded. Her anger had proven more useful than she expected.

“Sometimes the simplest solutions are the best ones.” Luna said and giggled. She walked next to Twilight and peered inside the machine. She put her head inside and looked around. She soon withdrew her head and looked at Twilight with a surprised expression.

The artifact's inside! I know what it is, it's called a dremer! I had no idea it was in the vault, it must have been put there during my absence. It created this dimension as a duplicate of our own and modified it based on the words it read. Everything in this dimension is as real as in our dimension, even if it is artificially created. This dimension will vanish if we destroy it. It's the only way we can escape!” Luna said. She reached inside the machine, trying to get a grip on the artifact.

“Not so fast!” A voice from above said. A whizzing sound came from the center of the room. Twilight and Luna were drawn towards it against their will. Twilight struggled to resist it, but the draw was too strong. She was forcibly pulled to the center of the room, where she hit Luna's flank. The two were stuck next to each other by an unseen force.

“Take that!” The voice said. Twilight looked up to see Rose looking out of a window in the ceiling. She threw an orange item that was shaped like a spray bottle. It landed close to where the two were stuck. It blew up, forming an orange barrier around the blast.

“Gotcha!” Rose said. She jumped from the window to the top of the machine. She hopped from one platform to another, wearing her reporter's bag. Her movements were swift as she made her way towards the floor.

“A magical magnet and a barrier grenade, how dirty. I can break them, but it'll take a moment.” Luna said. She concentrated as her horn began to glow. The magnet’s draw began to slowly weaken.

“What is she, an ace ninja?” Twilight said.

“I wanted to be a ninja reporter, but I deserve the title of a ninja master! I am the master of my dream! As the ruler of this dream, I will judge you for your crimes! I declare you guilty of resisting your master! Your punishment will now be executed!” Rose cackled and pulled the large switch on the side of the machine.

The machine made awfully loud noises as its cogs began to turn. With the barrier blocking their magic from reaching outside, the two could do nothing but watch as the printing press activated. The first sheet of paper reached the part that printed words. The eyes of the flickering artifact stared at the words as the headline was printed. The flickering grew in intensity as it read the words. Once the sheet of paper was filled, the artifact began shaking.

Flames. Flames everywhere. In the blink of an eye, the entire building had begun to burn. The change happened immediately, as if it had always been that way. The temperature rose to match the situation. Going from pleasant coolness to extreme heat in under a second was suffocating.

“What did you do, you maniac?!” Twilight yelled.

“I laid my judgment upon you sinners. You will be burned by the flames of justice. Screaming in vain, the sinners shall die alone. Your master has abandoned you. That will be the end of your nightmare. Today's headline: Factory Building Burns in Invincible Flames. Farewell, my little ponies!” Rose laughed madly as she took the artifact, stuffing it into her bag. She skillfully jumped towards the ceiling window, landing at the areas the flames didn't touch. Despite the raging fire in the room, she managed to hop out of the building unharmed.

“That fool doesn't realize what she's done. The dremer takes commands literally. Those flames cannot be extinguished by any means. They will spread until the entire Ponyville will burn down.” Luna said, frowning. The flames were spreading around the building. They had formed a circle around the two, slowly closing in on them. The roof was on fire, with burning planks falling down. With a crackle, the magnet broke down.

“Get on my back, we'll fly outside!” Luna ordered. Twilight quickly got up on Luna's back, firmly gripping her with her hooves. Luna spread her wings and flew up in the air. She flew towards the ceiling, skillfully dodging the burning planks on the way. Twilight held on tight and hoped for the best. Luna reached the cloud of smoke that had formed in the ceiling. Using the ball of light to light up a way, she spotted a hole in the ceiling. The two held their breaths as Luna dashed towards the hole.

The two had escaped the building, floating in the sky. Twilight took a deep breath. The night air felt so fresh, as the cool wind blew on their manes. Luna scanned the rooftops around them, until she spotted a pony. Rose was sitting on the roof of a house next to the burning building, watching it burn as she laughed to herself. Luna dashed towards her.

Rose flinched as she looked up at Luna. She ran away, hopping onto the next rooftop. Luna chased her as she hopped from one rooftop to another. Behind them, the grass around the building had lit on fire, causing the flames to spread everywhere. The residents of Ponyville had taken notice, struggling in vain to put out the flames. The screaming woke up the entire village, filling the streets with ponies running around in panic.

Rose jumped from one building to another in an irregular pattern, trying to lose her chasers. Luna did her best to keep up, but Rose ran slightly faster than she could fly. On top of everything, a flight eater had also appeared. Luna had to take a detour on her flight path to avoid it. The demon watch were unaffected by the panic, concentrating on fighting the demon. Twilight caught Rainbow Dash's eye as she flew past her. Dash followed the two, flying next to Luna.

“What's up? Why are you flying around?” Dash asked.

“We have to catch Rose! She's the one who started the fire!” Twilight said.

“Really? I'll take you word for it. I'll make catching her our top priority once the demon's dead. We'll calm down the crowd and get them to fight against her. The demon watch is on your side, we'll do our best to help you!” Dash said and flew away.

After a long chase, the fire raged everywhere around the two. Rose was struggling to find rooftops to jump on, as most of them were already on fire. The only one she could jump onto was Colgate's, which had been repainted recently. Rose's hooves caught paint on them, causing her to leave blue hoofprints behind. Rose was forced to get back on the ground. She ran on the streets, trying to get onto alleyways. Many of them were blocked by ponies standing in the way. They had followed the hoofprints, using them to see where Rose had gone. Rose desperately tried to find places to run onto, but ponies from all around her were closing in on her. She had little choice in places to run to, causing her to pick the only way that was open to her. The ponies blocked every street she tried to turn onto, forcing her to run out of Ponyville.

Rose refused to give up. She ran towards the Everfree Forest, with hundreds of ponies chasing her. At last, she was pushed against the end of the dimension. With her back against the wall, she breathed heavily as sweat dripped down her face. Everypony in Ponyville surrounded her, glaring at her. Twilight hopped off Luna's back in front of the crowd and looked at the nervously laughing Rose.

“C-come on. I didn't mean any harm. Let me go and I'll write you into paradise.” Rose begged. She took the artifact out of the bag and put it on the ground. She hastily dug back into her bag. “Pen, pen. Where's my pen? I can't find it! Anypony have a pen? Anypony?” Everypony simply kept glaring at Rose. Twilight stepped forward from the crowd.

“You're wasting your time. Nopony is going to trust you after what you did.” Twilight said as she walked towards the artifact. “Your dream ends now!” Twilight stomped on the artifact, breaking it into half.

The dimension began to warp. Everything around them was mangled into unnatural shapes, flashing in wild colors. Sounds abruptly ended and began, forming a cacophony that hurt Twilight's ears. Everything stopped making sense in the broken dimension. What had once been a convincing clone of Ponyville was now a surreal mix of sights and sounds lacking any reason. In this broken dimension, only Twilight, Luna and Rose remained the same. Rose was shaking in the corner, with her eyes firmly closed. Luna looked at Twilight confidently and nodded. Twilight smirked and nodded back at her. Twilight kept stomping the artifact over and over. With each stomp, a shrill sound grew louder. The randomly varying shapes slowed down in intensity. Twilight stomped on the small remains of the artifact, until it was completely destroyed. A cracking sound played as the shapes vanished.

A beautiful scenery appeared around Twilight. It was the outskirts of the Ponyville she knew and loved. The silence was so calming. Twilight admired the peaceful night in the distant Ponyville. The nightmare had finally ended.

“Looks like we made it back in one piece. I'm so glad we got out of that mess.” Twilight said and breathed a sigh of relief.

“So am I. I'll make sure she doesn’t get away.” Luna said, looking at the pony lying still on the ground.

Rose had hit her head and lost consciousness when the wall behind her had suddenly disappeared. Luna sealed her in a bubble with her magic. Even if she woke up, she wouldn't be able to get anywhere. Rose silently floated in the bubble.

“Is everything okay? Does your head still hurt?” Luna asked, looking slightly worried.

“I'm fine, just a bit tired. My horn still doesn't work, but don't worry about that. It's happened before, I just overused it. It'll heal within a week.” Twilight said.

“That's good. That dremer won't harm anypony anymore.” Luna said while pointing at the pile of junk drenched in goo. “The design is so complicated that it's impossible to reassemble it when it's in that state. I'll take it with me and dispose of it just in case.” Luna made another bubble for the junk and floated it beside her.

“You're going to take Rose with you too, right? What will her punishment be?” Twilight said.

“Celestia has the final say on that. I'll explain the whole incident to her and see what she thinks. Considering what she did to us, I can't imagine she'll get anything less than a life sentence in prison.” Luna said. There was a hint of resentment in her usually calm expression.

“That's what I thought. The Flower isn't going to survive without her. Honestly, I think it's for the best. Their motivations were always wrong. Being a reporter is about informing the public, not about becoming a celebrity. They chose the wrong career for that.” Twilight said.

“I agree. I'll head over to the castle. It was a pleasure getting to know you, although I wish it had been under better circumstances. Goodbye!” Luna said and flew towards Canterlot, with the bubbles following her. Twilight waved at her as she left. Luna flashed a smile at her before disappearing into the starry sky.

A quiet walk in the night. Such a simple thing felt very pleasant. For the first time in a week, there was no rush to get anywhere. Admiring the scenery, Twilight strolled towards Ponyville. It looked exactly the same as yesterday, yet it felt very different. It made her feel comfortable, as if this was where she truly belonged. It was the very definition of home.

In the distance, two ponies were looking around. One pink, one yellow. They soon saw Twilight and ran towards her.

The first one was Pinkie Pie. The wingless pony had a wide smile on her face.

The other one was Fluttershy. Clearly in the shape of a pony, her eyes shone brightly.

The ponies tackled Twilight into a hug. They snuggled her, making Twilight feel warm all over. Seeing their familiar faces was very comforting. Twilight was so glad that she had returned. The life she wanted to return to was right here. No imitation could ever match her love for reality.

“We finally found you! I missed you so much!” Pinkie said.

“Me too. I was so worried about you.” Fluttershy said.

“I'm glad to see you two again. Promise me you'll never change. I love you just the way you are!” Twilight said.

“Sure thing! Where were you? We've been looking for you all week!” Pinkie said.

“Let's just say I was having a nightmare. No need to worry, I'm alright.” Twilight said.

“Great! We haven't been able to sleep since you disappeared. Good thing we decided to look for you tonight!” Pinkie said.

“How's Spike? Is he okay?” Twilight said.

“Oh, yes. I took care of him while you were gone. He's sleeping in my house.” Fluttershy said.

“Thank you so much!” Twilight said. Everything really was the way it used to be. Overwhelmed with emotion, happy tears began to slowly drip down Twilight’s face. She was so relieved to be back in her normal life.

“It's okay, just let it all out. I don't know what happened, but you're safe with us.” Fluttershy said as she stroked Twilight's head.

“We have to let everypony know you're alright. I know! Let's have a party tomorrow! I'll send invitations to everypony in Ponyville. They'll be so happy to see you there!” Pinkie said, bouncing in excitement.

“That sounds wonderful. Twilight needs some rest first, so let's let her go to bed. I'll help Pinkie with the preparations, see you tomorrow!” Fluttershy said.

Twilight nodded and went to the library. It was so nice to return to her real home. It may have looked the same, but the atmosphere was much more pleasant. Twilight got into her bed. It felt so comfortable on her back. Tomorrow, she would meet all of her friends again. The real ones she had missed so much. Twilight pulled the sheet over her and fell asleep.