Chapter 7: You Know What This Calls For?!
Before the basket had even touched the landing platform, the six stallions were leaping from the gondola and galloping into the castle. Their thunderous travel reverberated throughout the halls as they made their way to Celestia's chambers. Without a second thought, they careened through the door, sending it bursting open and hitting the walls with a resounding crash.
"We have the artifact!" Dusk Shine called, panting heavily. He undid the ropes tying the object down and levitated it up to Celestia's field of view, flashing Celestia a weak smile. Seeing Celestia's shocked expression, he cast a look behind him, taking in the dented door and terrified courtiers. Realizing what they had done, he immediately said "Oh, goodness! I'm so sorry, we should have knocked first!"
The Princess shook herself and gave a light chuckle as she stood up from her desk. "It's quite alright, Twi-" Her tone changed from bemusement to worry as she noticed the large bruise upon Dusk's face, and Celestia started forward with a concerned expression."By the stars, how did you get so hurt?"
Dusk looked back to Blitz, who was doing his best to avoid eye contact with Celestia. "It's... uh... a long story," The lavender stallion replied, with a mischievous grin.
The princess raised an eyebrow and started to say something before thinking better of it. "Perhaps you can share it later. For now though, I'm sure that there's a counter spell to be made that all of you have been waiting for." Taking control of the artifact with her magic, she floated it to her desk, not bothering to even move the papers resting upon it.
"Whew... I'll be glad ta be mah old self again..." Applejack said, letting out a sigh of relief.
"However..." Celestia continued, opening one of the drawers. She sifted through it and brought out several pages of parchment full of writing and diagrams. "It will take quite some time before the spell is ready to be cast."
The group of stallions sighed collectively.
"How long, princess?" Dusk asked, frowning softly.
"I'm not entirely certain, Twilight. My apologies," Celestia replied, putting the papers down and turning back to the group. "I will, however, contact you as soon as it's done." She then closed her eyes, and her horn began to glow.
Can you hear me, Twilight? went through Dusk Shine's head, startling the unicorn. It didn't take him long to realize what happened, though, and he answered.
"Yes, I can hear you."
Celestia opened one of her eyes and looked to Dusk, saying "Don't speak... think."
Dusk nodded, then thought I can hear you... can you hear me?
The Princess smiled, replying with Indeed, I can. Before you leave, I would advise you to not stray far from Canterlot. Even with my magical ability, the spell will only go so far.
"I understand," Dusk Shine said, looking up to Celestia and smiling.
"Hey, hey. What's that all about?" Blitz asked, his eyes shifting between Celestia and Dusk Shine.
"Oh, the princess can speak to me magically," the unicorn answered, with a smile. "And we can't leave the city, or the magic link will break. Is that okay with everypony?" Various murmurs and nods of agreement sounded from the other stallions.
"Excellent. Now, if you'll all excuse me, I must start working," she replied, giving a polite nod. The six of them bowed, then turned around and left the room, leaving Celestia to prepare. The princess approached the artifact and began to look through her notes.
- - -
"What should we do now?" Butterscotch asked, walking alongside the rest of the group. They were just now passing through the large entrance gate to the castle. Their hooves lightly clopped against the wooden bridge underneath them, leaving behind the faintest of echos.
"I'm not sure." Dusk hesitated, his mind going through a list of potential problems. "But I'd rather we don't go too far from the castle." Just then, they reached the residential district of Canterlot.
"Well, Celestia did say she she needed rather a lot of time, did she not?" Elusive asked, looking to the other unicorn.
Dusk nodded, at the same time giving Elusive an inquisitive look. "Yes, she did... why?"
"I was just thinking that we could do a bit of light window shopping is all," he replied, giving Dusk an innocent smile.
All the unicorn could do was sigh. "I would really prefer if you didn't - you can go shopping at any other time."
"But we're in Canterlot! It's not every day that I have the luxury of being around the glamor and fashion in royalty!" Elusive protested, pouting.
"Celestia probably won't be-"
"Please?" Elusive interrupted, inching closer to Dusk Shine. "I won't be long, I promise! It'll just be a quick browse!"
"We should stay to-"
"Please?!" The white unicorn interrupted again, getting even closer. His pout had turned into a full frown and his eyes were glistening, as if he were on the verge of tears.
Dusk let out a sigh and rolled his eyes, and looking away from Elusive, said "Fine... but don't be gone too long..."
"Yes!" he cheered, his purple mane bouncing just as he did. "Oh, I can't wait to see all of the new fashions! Perhaps I can even get some ideas for a new line, and maybe-"
"Nah ah. Not so fast." Dusk was the one to interrupt this time. He turned his head to look at Blitz, who was absently looking to the sky. "Blitz is going with you."
"I'm doing what?"
"He's doing what?"
Bubble Berry put a hoof to his mouth and giggled. "You guys sound funny when you talk at the same time!"
Ignoring the pink pony, Blitz and Elusive shared a smiliar look of bewilderment.
"You've seen what's been happening with our memories. I don't want one of you to wander off and forget who you are in the middle of Canterlot, okay?" Dusk said, his expression softening. "It's only to keep you safe."
"I guess I'll stay with Elusive," Blitz groaned, glancing over to the fashion pony. "But I can't promise I won't fall asleep out of boredom."
Dusk laughed and gave a warm smile to both of them. "I'm sure you'll be fine. Now, don't take too long. Meet us at The Prime Pegasus when you're finished, okay?"
"Certainly. We won't take long, I swear it," Elusive replied, returning the grin. He then looked to Blitz. "Come along then, Blitz. We have new fashions to peruse!"
"You have no idea how excited I am," Blitz said, sarcasm lacing his voice. Elusive didn't seem to notice, so Blitz kept his thoughts to himself. The two then proceeded into the business district of Canterlot.
- - -
The two stallions made their way through the bustling streets of the city, taking in the sights and sounds. Elusive was particularly enjoying the trip, looking into each clothing outlet and high end shop as a young foal would look into a toy store. After browsing the main displays of several places, they came upon a store by the name of The Distinguished Gentlcolt. In the window was a single suit, adorned with numerous small gems and intricate layers of fabric that formed complex patterns on the piece. Several lights focused on the design, and Elusive found his vision only focused on the expertly crafted article of clothing, as if he were entranced.
"Oh, we must go inside!" The unicorn exclaimed, admiring the finer details of the suit. He brought a hoof to the glass in a vain attempt to touch the delicate fabric.
"But you aren't even buying anything." Blitz sighed, looking to the clothing like it was any other piece of fabric. "Besides, it doesn't even look that great, and it's not like you can wear it when this is over."
Elusive turned his head, staring at Blitz in open shock. "Excusez-moi?! I'll have you know that this... masterpiece..." he briefly looked back at the suit, then returned his gaze to Blitz. "Is some of the finest tailoring I have ever seen! Clearly, you have no sense of style, or else you would see the genius put into this design."
Blitz snorted, then said "Ya think? When have I ever been into fashion?"
The unicorn brought a hoof up as if to start making a point, but then lowered it and creased his brows. "Never, I suppose. A shame, too. You'd look wonderful in a custom tailored ensemble."
"Pft, good luck getting me into one of those," The pegasus snapped, rolling his eyes. "You'd sooner find me in one of your lame coffee shops."
"They are not 'lame'!" Elusive huffed, frowning. "They are refined. Though I wouldn't expect you to know anything about that."
"Whatever..." Blitz retorted, looking away and giving his wings an agitated flap. "I'll wait out here. You can go look at your fancy clothes."
Elusive's only reply was a quick "Hmph," and he disappeared into the store. Blitz stood outside of the door for a moment, contemplating what he would do next, but his thought process was interrupted by a familiar sounding voice.
"Rainbow Blitz? Is that you?"
Blitz turned around to come face to face with the same mare from the bar - Octavia. She was without her instrument or bow tie, and this time had a soft smile on her face. Her purple eyes and dark mane shone in the daylight, and her presence caught Blitz off guard. He remained awestruck for several moments before she waved a hoof in front of his eyes and asked "Anypony there?"
He blinked several times and shook his head, then said "Oh, yeah. Sorry about that. I didn't think I'd see you again."
"I wasn't sure I'd see you again either, so it's nice to find you in the city. Speaking of... what are you doing here?" She asked, looking around like the city was foreign.
"I'm here with a friend." Blitz turned his head to look back into the shop. He could barely make out Elusive's purple mane through the display window. "I'm waiting for him to finish looking around this place."
Octavia nodded, looking in the same general direction as Blitz. After a moment, the two looked back to each other, and the grey mare asked "So, I was off to get lunch before I found you. Would your friend mind if you joined me?"
"Uh... I don't think so. Just gimme a sec," Blitz replied, walking into the store. Within the minute, he was back out, smiling to Octavia as he approached her.
She returned the smile and asked "Well?"
"It's cool. I just need to be back here in an hour or so. We've got time."
"Wonderful. I know a lovely place that isn't too far from here," The mare said, leading Blitz further into the district. A wide grin plastered across his face, the pegasus followed alongside her, confident that his unicorn friend heard him through the changing room door.
- - -
Dusk Shine rested his head on his hoof as he watched the seconds tick by at an agonizing pace. He continuously glanced to the door of the inn, then back to the clock, anticipating Blitz and Elusive to return at any moment, for it had been far longer than the 'quick browse' that had been promised.
"Yer bein' awfully quiet, Dusk," Applejack said, taking another gulp of cider. "It ain't like you to stay so hush. What's on yer mind?"
"They still aren't back yet," the unicorn replied, looking back to the door. He tapped his hoof against the tabletop rapidly.
"If you're worried, we can look for them, can't we?" Butterscotch asked, turning his head to Dusk.
Brows furrowed in thought, the unicorn brought a hoof up to his chin. "That would be a good idea," Dusk mumbled. After several more moments of thinking, he stood up, and after brushing a stray lock of hair out of his eyes, said "Okay, here's the plan. Butterscotch and Bubble Berry, you two go to the castle and tell the princess the situation. I would tell her myself, but it would be better to have you two already at the castle. We don't want four lost stallions, do we?"
"Oh, that would be bad..." the pegasus said, with a soft frown.
Dusk Shine turned his head to Applejack and continued, "AJ, you and I will search the town. Hopefully, they haven't gone too far, so we should still be able to find them in the business district."
All three nodded in agreement. Applejack stood up, followed soon after by Bubble Berry and Butterscotch. The unicorn then looked to Butterscotch and Bubble Berry and said "When you reach the princess, ask her to contact me, okay?"
The pink pony brought a hoof to his brow in a salute. "Yes, sir! Operation 'Get Celestia' is a go!" He stood on all fours, beaming towards Dusk Shine. "We'll find that princess is no time!"
Dusk nodded. "Great! Do whatever it takes to find her. Now, let's go!"
The four hastily left the inn and split ways, briefly nodding to each other as they separated. Bubble Berry and Butterscotch disappeared into the gates leading to the castle while Applejack and Dusk Shine went into the crowded streets of the business district. Before they got much further, Dusk stopped Applejack with a hoof on his shoulder.
"Applejack... take the necklace. I can't use it anymore, so it's better off with you." The amulet was encased in his distinct magic aura and levitated off his shoulders, quickly changing ownership to the orange earth pony.
"So... I jus' show it to 'em, right? And it'll work?" Applejack asked, glancing down at the new accessory.
Dusk Shine nodded and began walking again. "It's as simple as that. Just be careful that you don't accidentally look in it, alright?"
"Sure thing, Dusk," Applejack replied. The two made their way through the district, keeping an eye out for any signs of Elusive or Rainbow Blitz. After the fifth store, Applejack came out looking less than satisfied. "This ain't goin' anywhere," he said, looking to the unicorn with agitation.
"He could be in any one of these stores... and there are quite a lot!" he replied, craning his neck to look down the long road. The stores and ponies surrounding them stretched on for as far as he could see.
"Should we start askin' ponies if they've seen 'em?" Applejack asked, raising an eyebrow and briefly scanning over the crowd.
"It's either that or we keep checking every store," Dusk replied, gulping.
"Yeah... Nah." The orange stallion walked off and approached the first pony he found - an average dressed mare with several accessories and wearing a generous amount of makeup. "'Let's see if Ah still got it..." he mumbled to himself. Then, he cleared his throat and spoke, in a upper class Manehatten accent, "Pardon me, ma'am, but could you answer a question of mine?"
The pony in question raised an eyebrow, looking at Applejack like he had sprouted an extra head. It took a moment for her to regain her composure and respond, and she was still apprehensive about it. "And... what might that be?"
"I'm looking for two young stallions. One is an off white unicorn with a styled purple mane and the other is a brilliant light blue with a bright, spiky rainbow mane. They stand out quite a bit." Applejack replied, with a light chuckle.
"Oh. I believe I saw those two earlier," the mare replied, causing a smile to grow on Applejack's face. "Thought it was only in passing. If I'm not mistaken, they went... that way." She waved a hoof and motioned farther down the road - the only way they could have gone. The stallion's grin lessened slightly.
He tipped his hat forward and replied with "Thank you very much for your time." The mare nodded and continued on her way and Applejack walked back to Dusk, who had his mouth hung open in shock. "Ah thought you knew Ah could speak jus' like these fancy folks," he said, with a wink. "Too bad we didn't learn anythin' useful..."
Dusk Shine shook his head, then said "Let's just keep going. Maybe somepony farther down will know something."
"Maybe..." Applejack replied, starting to move down the street. The two stallions continued the pattern of looking through several shops, then asking a passerby if they had seen the ponies in question. Eventually, their search led them to an extravagant looking clothing store. The words "The Distinguished Gentlecolt" were emblazoned above the shop in gold, cursive lettering.
"If he ain't in here, I don't think we're gonna find him anywhere else," Applejack said, cocking his head to the side and looking over the lavish storefront. "It's certainly... shiny enough."
"Well, there's only one way to find out..." Dusk replied, walking towards the door. He opened it and stepped in, hearing a small bell ring from the top of the door as he did so. The unicorn was greeted by an array of mannequins, all displaying some new type of clothing style. They were each embellished with complex patterns, small gems, and various accessories such as bow ties and decorative flowers. Dusk did his best to ignore the florid designs and moved farther into the shop, and sure enough, he found who he was looking for.
The white unicorn was chatting with the owner, motioning to one of the suits every so often. The shop owner looked very pleased, and nodded his head in agreement occasionally.
"Elusive, thank goodness you're in here," Dusk said, letting out a relieved sigh and beginning to walk towards the purple maned pony. Applejack silently followed him, glancing around with a constant look of discomfort.
Elusive glanced to Dusk Shine, then back to the owner. It took a moment, but his head snapped back to the lavender unicorn, and he looked at Dusk with great curiosity. "Dusk Shine? Applejack? Whatever are you doing here in Canterlot?"
Dusk felt his heart sink in his chest upon hearing the words. He gulped, then said "Elusive... we've been here the whole time, remember?"
Elusive rose one of his eyebrows. "Whatever are you talking about, Dusk? I've been in Canterlot since... since..." he trailed off, looking past Dusk. He then blinked a few times, then said "You know... for the life of me, I can't remember why I'm here. Isn't that curious?"
"Do you remember anything, Elusive? Anything at all?" Dusk said, inching closer to the unicorn. He wore a frown, and could feel beads of sweat starting to form on his brow. "Please tell me you remember something."
The white unicorn looked down in thought, then responded with "I'm terribly sorry, Dusk, but I've really no idea why I'm here... or even how I got here."
"So you don't remember being with Blitz? Or traveling with us the past few days?"
Elusive shook his head, with a look of concern on his face. "Nothing of the sort." He then looked to Dusk, studying the unicorn for a moment. "Are you feeling okay, Dusk? You seem a tad pale... and as though you could use a bit of sleep. Perhaps you should see the prince and get some rest."
A single word stood out. Prince. "What do you mean... 'prince'?" Dusk Shine asked, warily.
"Prince Solaris, of course. Who else would I be talking about? Then again, it could refer to Prince Artemis as well..."
Dusk turned to Applejack and said "This is bad, AJ... this is really bad."
"Well, Ah'm hopin' this works like you said it does." Applejack replied, not moving his gaze off of Elusive. "Hey, 'lusive. Check out this here gem." He took the amulet in his hoof and lifted it up for the unicorn to see.
"My, Applejack, that looks lovely. Wherever did you-" He was cut off by a rush of memory, which stunned him briefly. After closing his eyes tightly and wobbling in place, he slowly opened them and looked to Dusk and Applejack. Elusive blinked several times, then his eyes grew wide in terror. "Oh my goodness, Dusk Shine, I'm terribly sorry about all of this! One moment I was browsing the store, the next I had no idea why I was even here... I cannot apologize enough for taking so long!"
"It's fine, Elusive. Really," Dusk Shine said, a smile appearing on his face. It didn't last long, though, and his expression quickly turned to a more serious one. "What we need to know is where Blitz went."
"Rainbow Blitz? He came in earlier and said that he was... going to lunch. He mentioned some mare as well. The same one from the inn, I believe. Octavia, was it?"
Dusk brought a hoof to his face, letting it slide down slowly. As it did, he let out a groan of frustration. "We need to find him, now," Dusk said, motioning to the door. "We don't have much time."
Elusive nodded and replied with "I understand." He then turned to the owner, who was looking to the group in a mix of confusion and awe. "I'm terribly sorry, sir, but our business venture will have to continue at a later date. Farewell!"
The three stallions then galloped out of the boutique, leaving a speechless tailor in their wake.
"Okay, they went to eat, so that rules out everywhere but restaurants!" Dusk exclaimed, galloping through the streets. Elusive and Applejack followed right beside him, keeping up the brisk pace. "We need to look in every place we can get food, and quickly. Let's move!"
"Got it, Dusk!" Applejack called, glancing around for the nearest eatery. A building adorned with a large, crossed fork and knife caught his attention. "Over there!" he said, motioning in to it. Dusk and Elusive nodded, following him to the building. The orange stallion wasted no time poking his head into the building and looking around, only to find no sign of his rainbow maned friend. As quickly as he entered, he left, shaking his head as he made eye contact with Dusk and Elusive. "Nothin', but there can't be that many food places around here. And if he's with that Octavia girl, I'm bettin' they went to someplace fancy."
Dusk nodded, starting to head down the street. "Good thinking, Applejack. Let's keep going." As he began thinking about what sort of place Blitz would be in, Princess Celestia's voice flowed through his mind. Your friends have arrived at the castle, Twilight, and are safe with me. I am nearly done preparing, so attempt to find the Element of Loyalty as quickly as you can.
I'll do my best, princess. Dusk thought back, closing his eyes briefly in concentration.
Their search landed them in front of a small cafe, on a small side street in the district. Above the door was the depiction of a coffee cup, with a small tendril of steam wafting from it. The three of them looked over the building, then shared a glance.
"Ya... really think he's in here, Dusk?" Applejack asked, cocking his head slightly. "It's a bit... uh... cushy."
"It's as much of a guess as anywhere else, but we have to try," Dusk replied, opening the door. "Please be in here, please be in here..." he whispered to himself, closing his eyes and taking a breath as he entered the building. He exhaled as his eyelids fluttered opened and he looked around the interior of the cafe. His vision darted from patron to patron, and he was almost about to turn around and leave before noticing the top of a red and orange mane poking out from one of the booths. In the opposing seat was Octavia, holding a cup and having a conversation. Dusk sighed with relief, then walked out and told his other two friends to come inside.
Octavia noticed the three approaching and gave a warm smile, then waved them over. "Fancy meeting you three here."
The pegasus turned his head, giving a surprised look when he saw the three stallions. "What are you guys doing here?" he asked.
"The better question is, what are you doin' here?" Applejack asked, giving Blitz a look of confusion.
"I do recall you saying something about coffee shops being 'lame' earlier, Rainbow," Elusive chimed in, with a sly grin.
Blitz scratched the back of his head, then looked around the cafe. "Octavia caught up with me earlier and we went to this place... but now that you mention it, I don't really remember why I'm in Canterlot."
"Well, we're here to take you back to the castle, Blitz," Dusk added, moving between Elusive and Applejack, "The princess is waiting for us."
Octavia gasped, putting a hoof to her mouth and glancing between Blitz and the other three. "My goodness. I didn't know you had an audience with Celestia herself, Blitz. You should've told me you had important plans, or else I wouldn't have kept you so long!"
"Celestia...?" Blitz mouthed out, as if it were a foreign word that he had never heard before.
"Ya know what? We don't have time for this," Applejack groaned. He pulled up the amulet and put it in front of Blitz's face. "Lookie here, Rainbow. It's nice an' shiny." The pegasus went wide eyed and fell back in his seat, provoking a concerned look from Octavia.
"What in Equestria was that?" she asked, leaning over the table. She glanced nervously between Applejack and Blitz, who was just getting up.
Applejack let the amulet go, allowing it to fall and hit his chest. He then looked to Octavia and gave a smug grin. "That, missy, is a bit of alicorn magic for ya."
"Ugh, again? I told you to warn me before doing that..." Blitz moaned, rubbing the side of his head. He then blinked and looked around the cafe, finally looking to Octavia. He frowned, then said "This looks kinda bad, doesn't it?"
The dark mare nodded slowly, keeping her mouth closed.
"Uh... hmm..." The rainbow maned pegasus tapped forehooves against the table top. Glancing to his friends, he said "I'm sorry about this... but I kinda need to leave." He gave Octavia a sympathetic look, then slowly started to inch out from the table.
"Can I at least get an explanation of what you're doing?" she asked, with a light frown. Blitz halted his movement, then glanced to his friends with a look that said 'help'.
Elusive brought a hoof to his neck and cleared his throat, then said "Allow me to tell her, Rainbow." He looked around, then walked next to Octavia and began to whisper in her ear. She at first had a look of curiosity, which shifted to one of mild disgust. Finally, her eyes widened to give her a look of shock. As Elusive finished and stepped back, she opened her mouth a few times, and only on the third attempt did any words come out.
"I see." She flatly replied.
"So... yeah..." Blitz mumbled, looking to the ground as his cheeks began to grow crimson. "That's how it is."
The five of them remained silent, with the four stallions glancing to each other, waiting for one of the others to say or do something. Octavia stared at the table, blinking occasionally, but otherwise not moving a muscle. After the long and uncomfortable silence, she finally spoke. "Blitz... you should go and have that spell cast." She then looked up to him with a stern gaze. "And you shouldn't try and be somepony you aren't."
Rainbow Blitz gulped, watching her violet gaze pierce through him. "Octavia, I... I didn't mean to-"
"Hush. You don't have much time left, do you?"
"No... I don't." He answered, with a sigh. Moving from the table, he stood up and briefly shook out his mane and tail. He then looked to his friends and nodded. "I'm ready." The other three returned the nod and began to walk towards the door. As Blitz turned to follow them, he felt a hoof touch his shoulder. He looked over to find the grey mare standing next to him, with the faintest smile on her face.
"When you change back, Rainbow... come and find me in Canterlot."
Blitz blinked a few times, surprised at her request, but after the gears in his head had sufficient time to turn, he smiled as well. "I will." He said, giving her a cheeky grin. "You can count on that. 'Til then..." he continued, turning back to the front of the cafe. "...gotta dash."
- - -
The four stallions galloped into Celestia's chambers with more care than before, but with the same haste and determination. Bubble Berry was sitting next to Butterscotch in front of the princess's bed, and the two waved as the others made their way inside.
"And that's... 36 minutes and ten seconds on the dot! Looks like you won the bet, 'Scotchy! I thought they would be way slower than that." Bubble chirped, looking to his bare hoof.
"I'm just confident is all," the yellow pegasus replied, with a soft smile.
Dusk Shine broke away from the group and walked towards Celestia. "I'm sorry for the delay, princess. It took us a lot longer than I hoped to find Blitz, and we tried to get-" He was interrupted by Celestia's armor clad hoof touching his chin. As he stopped talking, he noticed a large vial hanging by a strap around Celestia's neck. It was capped with a foam cork, and contained a gold, dust like substance that seemed to give off a faint glow. A light prod of the princess's hoof brought his attention upwards to her face.
She smiled and said "You don't have to apologize so much, my student." She then let go and looked over Dusk to the rest of the group. "Is everypony ready?" She was met by nods and murmurs of agreement. Nodding herself, she said "Excellent. I'm going to bring us all to Ponyville, so please stand around me.
The other five stallions quickly made their way to Celestia and circled around her. She closed her eyes and her horn began to glow a brilliant white. Shortly after, a bright flash emanated from the alicorn's horn, bathing the room in light. When it faded, the seven ponies were nowhere to be found.
In Ponyville, however, they had reappeared with a similar bright flash. It garnered the attention of several passerby, who stood and stared at the new arrivals.
Celestia looked over the stallions, who were shaking their heads and doing their best to stay upright. "Goodness... I suppose I should have warned you that it might be a bit severe," she said, frowning slightly.
"It mighta been nice," Applejack shakily replied, falling back onto his haunches.
Celestia watched the farmpony for a few moments before turning her head to Dusk Shine, who had recovered already. "Now, before I begin, is this everypony?"
"Not quite," Dusk replied, looking to his library in the distance. "I still have to get Spike."
"Very well," The princess replied. "I'll begin preparing the spell circle while you fetch your dragon companion."
Dusk Shine nodded, then galloped off in the direction of his home.
The unicorn reached the library door at a speed even Rainbow Blitz would be proud of, and opened the door with the same urgency. "Spike! I'm back! Where are you?!" He yelled into the library, looking around. The library looked clean and well kept - evidence that Spike had been doing his job even when Dusk wasn't around - yet there was no answer. "Come on, Spike! Are you sleeping this late in the day?" He then heard a crash from upstairs, followed by a rustling of something. "That might be a yes..." Dusk mumbled to himself, walking up the stairs.
He reached the door and turned the handle, but as he pushed the door forward he heard a yelp, followed by "Wait, Twilight, don't come in!"
"What could be so wro-" Dusk started, opening the door all the way. He then trailed off as he noticed what Spike was doing. The feminine dragon was surrounded by an assortment of clothes, and upon further inspection, they turned out to be dresses. Spike herself was halfway through removing one, still gripping the edge of the skirt. The two stared at each other, unsure of where to even begin. Spike broke the silence first.
"Twilight, I can explain! I just don't know what came over me! There were a bunch of dresses, and some makeup, and-"
"We don't have time for this, Spike. Just..." he paused, looking over the dragon in a mix of confusion and disgust. "Just get ready and come downstairs. We're going to fix this." With that, he turned around and groaned, then left the room.
Spike shrugged, then pulled the remains of the dress off. She took one last look in the mirror before wiping the poorly applied makeup of her face, then broke into a jog downstairs to meet with Dusk. The pile of dresses would wait until later.
- - -
Celestia was handling the golden powder with the utmost care as she sprinkled it across the ground in an intricate pattern of circles and lines. As the flakes touch the ground, they seemed to absorb into the ground like ink to parchment, and stay there even if touched. She was just connecting the circle together as Bubble Berry spotted Dusk and Spike running towards them.
"They're here, they're here!" he excitedly said, bouncing in place. Celestia looked up as she finished and smiled in the direction of Dusk.
"Take a circle, everypony," she calmly said, turning to her student, who was still galloping towards them. The five stallions stepped in a circle and waited for their next instruction. Dusk got closer to them, but began to slow down to a canter. Spike passed him, looking back with a bit of surprise. "Hm?" Celestia quietly hummed, raising an eyebrow curiously at Dusk's change in pace. He then slowed to a walk, and the princess noticed a growing look of confusion on his face. Mere feet away from the group, he stopped entirely.
"What are you all doing?" He said, looking to each of them. "And... who is that?" He motioned to Celestia.
Applejack gulped as he felt his heart sink. He looked down at the amulet, knowing that Dusk had already used his three chances to get his memory. "Tell me this ain't happenin' now..." The farmpony whispered, looking back up to Dusk.
"Why, we're here to change back. It's what we've been striving for this entire time." Elusive said, looking to the lavender unicorn with concern.
"Change back? Change back to what?" Dusk quickly asked, his eyes darting from pony to pony. His gaze ended on Celestia, and he furrowed his brow. "What's wrong with them? What have you done?"
"She hasn't done anythin' to us, Dusk! This here's Celestia. Your teacher? The one ya'll look up to every day?" Applejack added, cracking a faint smile as he waved a hoof at the princess.
Dusk Shine took a step back, looking at Applejack as if he'd just been insulted. "Her? That isn't Prince Solaris!" He looked back to Celestia with fire in his eyes and grit his teeth. "What did you do to them?"
Celestia frowned, looking to her student with a forlorn gaze. "Twilight, I've done nothing to your friends. I know you don't remember, but please trust me when I say I am only trying to help you."
"She's right, Dusk. You need to change back to normal too." Butterscotch added, moving more into view so he could give Dusk Shine a compassionate look.
"You gotta step in the circle, Dusk!" Blitz snapped, tapping his hoof impatiently. Elusive threw him a stern look, which he simply snorted at and continued looking at Dusk. "I need to get back to weather patrol."
Dusk Shine took another step back, and he began to frown. His face turned to a look of fear as he looked at his friends in disbelief. "I... I don't believe you! She's changed you somehow!" he yelled, taking a third step back.
Celestia shifted her eyes to look at Applejack, who was standing next to her. "Applejack... I don't know how much more time you all have. It's imperative that you get Twilight into her rune circle," she whispered.
"Ah'll get him..." the orange stallion whispered back, opening his saddlebag slowly. "Ah never go on a trip without mah rope." He then looked to Blitz, who was looking back at him. The two briefly nodded at each other, then turned their gaze back to Dusk. "Dusk, ya gotta come here. As the Element of Honesty, Ah'm tellin' ya the truth. There ain't nothin to be afraid of!" he called, as genuinely as he could.
Dusk Shine shook his head, then shakily yelled "N-no! I don't believe you! Somethings wrong with all of you!" As he finished, he turned to run away.
"Blitz, now!" Applejack yelled, pulling the rope out of his saddlebag. Blitz flared his wings and gave them a powerful flap, shooting forward towards Dusk Shine. The unicorn looked behind him, his horn lighting up as he did so. A magic barrier shot up in front of Blitz, which the pegasus narrowly avoid by diving to the side.
"Get back here, Dusk!" Blitz yelled, flapping his wings to avoid another glowing wall which had shot up in front of him. He briefly looked behind him to find Applejack hot on their trail, swinging the rope above his head. The pegasus continued forward, his tail starting to leave a rainbow streak behind him. He was rapidly gaining on the unicorn, even with all of the obstacles being put in his place, and after several more wing beats, he could almost touch the unicorn's tail.
"Stay away!" Dusk yelled, looking behind him and shooting a purple bolt of magic at Blitz, who spun to the side to avoid the blast.
"Whoa!" he cried, feeling the heat of the blast pass by his body. Dusk had gotten ahead with the distraction, but Blitz was quicker than that, catching up to him almost instantly. He anticipated the next magic blast, and as it passed him, he used the opportunity to make one more strong push forward, tackling Dusk Shine to the ground. The two twisted and spun around each other, kicking up dirt as they flailed.
"Watch yerself, Blitz!" Applejack yelled, throwing the lasso ahead of him. The cyan pegasus rolled out of the way in time to watch the loop catch around Dusk's legs, and with a strong pull, it tightened up and restricted him. "Now let's bring him back before he can use any magic!" Applejack then tugged on the rope, running back to the group.
Dusk struggled against the binds, desperately trying to free his legs and escape. His horn lit up as he attempted to cast a spell. "Oh no you don't!" Blitz intervened, pushing the unicorn around and breaking his concentration. He then pushed against Dusk's back and flapped his wings, trying to move the unicorn across the ground faster.
Celestia only watched with a pained grimace as her pupil was pushed around and dragged across the dirt like a wild animal, but it had to be done. She turned away, only hearing his struggling and angered swears as Applejack and Blitz brought him closer to the group. As the neared, her horn began to glow, and Dusk was encased in a soft yellow glow. "I can handle things from here. I'll bind her and dampen her magic enough so that I can perform the ritual."
"Yes, ma'am!" Applejack said, galloping into his circle. He then looked to Dusk, who was covered in dirt and being held down on the circle, and frowned. "I'm really sorry, partner..."
"We did what we had to do, AJ," Blitz said, flying to his rune circle as well. "He'll forgive us after this is all over."
"Are you all ready?" Celestia asked, one last time. They each responded affirmatively, except for Dusk, who was struggling even against the princess's magic binds. "My apologies, Twilight." Her horn then began to glow, and the markings below them started to light up and shine. Magic energy arced between the different symbols and letters, causing a soft hum to fill the air surrounding them. Celestia closed her eyes, brightening her horns glow, and the runes began to shine with power. Several of them put a foreleg to their eyes to shield them from the intense light.
Then, an extraordinary flash originated from Celestia's horn, and a massive wave of yellow, crackling white energy erupted through the entire town.
- - -
Pain. Pain seared through her mind and her eyes flashed open, yet promptly closed when the equally painful light of the sun filled her vision. It took her a moment to finally open her eyes, and when the harsh brightness became more bearable, she saw the clear blue sky above her. Several more throbs of pain washed over her head before she realized she was on her back, and lying in some grass.
She put a hoof on the ground to steady herself, and with a weak push, Twilight Sparkle sat up.
The unicorn's vision was blurry at first, but the first thing she noticed was that her mane was in her eyes. Brushing it away, her sight began to clear up, and she saw the quickly sharpening images of her friends around her. Then, she heard their pained groans as they started to get up - most likely with the same symptoms she was experiencing. In the middle of it all was Celestia, resting on the ground and seeming very tired, but with a clear smile on her face.
"Princess...?" Twilight groaned, rubbing her head as she looked to her mentor.
"Yes, it is I, Twilight," the princess warmly responded. She had a very faint yet noticeable increase in her breath rate.
"Did it work?" the purple maned unicorn asked, beginning to stand up and survey the area.
"Indeed, it has. You, your friends and Spike are all back to your original forms," Celestia replied, getting on all fours as well.
A particularly loud groan took their attention, which belonged to Rainbow Dash. One of her wings twitched as she rolled upright and rubbed her forehead. "Jeeze... not even crashing into mountain has given me a headache like this."
"Ah can't say I've had worse than this either..." Applejack grumbled, getting to her hooves. She picked up her nearby hat and placed it on her head, not bothering to fix it's positioning.
"Anypony else feel like they ate too much candy?" a high pitched voice said, belonging to Pinkie Pie. She stood up and shook out her bouncy mane, wobbling in place slightly.
The final groan came from the white coated Rarity, who stood up on her third attempt. She kept her eyes closed as she massaged her temple and said "Goodness, I hope we never have to go through something like that again..."
"Me neither," Spike added, pushing himself so he was sitting upright. He kept his balanced with one arm before fully standing and shaking off. "Feels like I fell down the library stairs... again." Everypony, even the princess, gave a light chuckle at the dragon's comment.
"So... we made it," Fluttershy said, smiling to the rest of the group.
"Yes... yes we did," Twilight declared, giving the rest of the group a grin. A loud gasp from Pinkie caught her attention.
"You know what this calls for!?" She excitedly asked, beaming. Before anypony could answer, she grabbed all of them in a large embrace and pulled them together. "A big hug!"
The eight of them laughed as they shared the victory together, holding each other closely and warmly. They continued for as long as they thought necessary, and when the laughter died down and they separated, Pinkie piped up again. "Oh, hey! You know what this really calls for?!"
Applejack chuckled and said "Ah bet I can guess."
- - -
The whole of Ponyville had gathered in Sugarcube Corner, all packed together and surrounded by snacks and party goods. Applejack had spent all day baking with Pinkie, while Twilight and Dash had been inviting ponies to come. Rarity and Fluttershy worked together on decorations and custom party hats for the six of them. When everything had been finished and the moon began to rise over the horizon, everypony prepared for what would be one of Ponyville's biggest celebrations. Celestia herself attended the party, and after much convincing, finally got Twilight to settle down and enjoy herself.
They partied long into the night, and savored every second of it.
- Fin -
- - -
Well look at that! We've finally come to a close, and what a ride that was. For my first fanfic, I never expected such popularity and viewership, so this section is to thank all of you associated with this.
First and foremost, I would like to thank Trotsworth for designing the wonderful R63 characters. Without them, quite literally, this story wouldn't have been possible. So thank you, Mr. Trotsworth, for designing really awesome male versions of the mane 6.
Second, I would like to thank two of my writing buddies, CouchCrusader and PineappleSkitter. They painstakingly went through my chapters and gave me great tips and advice on how to improve the story, and my writing in general. Without their help, this story wouldn't be nearly as good as it is. Thank you for every comment you guys made on the documents - even the snarky ones.
Thirdly, I'd like to thank another writing buddy of mine. You may know him as NinesTempest, author of Epiphany, Out of the Blue and With a Spark. He was my go to grammar editor for this fic, and he helped me a ton with my punctuation, comma abuse and other ugly punctuation errors.
Lastly, expectantly, and probably cliched to heck and back, I thank all of you, my viewers and fans. Thank you for supporting this story and following it diligently through all of the months I've worked on this. Next time I write a fic, I'll be updating it much faster than every 2 months!
So, that's that. Thank you for reading my story, and I hope you continue to follow my progression as an author.