Twilight groaned as she held a hoof to her head, feeling dazed after being pushed through the portal and suddenly hitting the ground. She held her head up a moment later and opened her eyes, looking around. Although the area she was in was completely white, she could make out a few details. A circular spot on the floor with a five-pronged star on it, a staircase leading down, a circle of pillars going around, and the floor seemed like it was made of real crystal… "Am I in the Crystal Empire?" Twilight wondered aloud. She stood up and walked over to the nearby edge, taking a look below. Despite the lack of color, the view was familiar. She was definitely in the Crystal Empire.
The unicorn's relief at determining her location was cut short when she remembered something. "Wait a minute, where are my saddlebags?!" She looked around the roof of the castle frantically, muttering, "My book, the Elements of Harmony!" Finding no trace of her saddlebags or their contents, she ran over to the edge of the roof and focused on the street below as she channeled her magic into her horn. She disappeared and reappeared a moment later on the street leading straight to the castle. She looked around, wondering where to start looking for her saddlebags.
Just as she was about to head for the library, a flash of color caught her eyes and she turned to look at the castle. There, sitting on the ground near the Crystal Heart, were her saddlebags. Twilight grinned and nearly squeed before running towards the castle, eager to get her saddlebags back.
Before she could reach the castle, however, a bolt of dark purple lightning shot down from above, hitting the ground in front of Twilight, the unicorn managing to stop herself in time. Looking up, she saw the castle balcony, and there, standing at the edge, was Mare-Do-Well, her hat floating next to her head as a dark purple aura surrounded her horn. The masked mare looked down at Twilight for a second before her horn lit up and she disappeared, reappearing on the street a short distance in front of Twilight and placing her hat back on her head in such a way that her horn could still be seen.
Twilight glared at the masked pony, "Mare-Do-Well! What do you want from me?! Why did you bring me here?! Give me my saddlebags right now!" The mare's only response was tilting her head forward so her still-glowing horn pointed directly at Twilight. Then, without warning, she fired a beam of magic energy from her horn! Twilight yelped as she moved to the side, the beam flying past her. Twilight looked back at Mare-Do-Well and exclaimed, "Hey! What's the big-?!" She was cut off when Mare-Do-Well began firing more beams at her in rapid succession, some directly at her and some aimed down at her legs!
Twilight did her best to avoid these magic shots, but several scraped along her sides, slightly scorching her fur. She ducked down as one was just about to hit her in the face, dodging it and then turning and running away. Mare-Do-Well immediately gave chase, still firing beams from her horn. As she ran through the Crystal Empire and tried to dodge the beams, Twilight occasionally looked back at the masked mare over her shoulder, wondering, "How is she doing this? Shouldn't she have run her magic reserve down by now?"
As she faced forward again, Twilight gasped; there was a cart directly in her path! She dug her hooves into the ground, sliding as she tried to stop herself from crashing into the cart. Quickly realizing it was too late to stop, Twilight lifted her legs and ran to the side, managing to get around the cart without crashing into it. That ended up being the smart thing to do; a second after she went around the cart, a beam from Mare-Do-Well hit the cart where her head would have been if she had kept sliding.
Her attempt to slow down still cost her, however, as it allowed Mare-Do-Well to catch up slightly. And it also allowed her to track the lavender unicorn's movements better. As a result, the next beam she fired ended up hitting Twilight's left hind leg, causing her to stumble before falling on her face. Trying to block out the slight burning sensation in her leg, Twilight attempted to climb to her hooves, only for Mare-Do-Well to tackle her and pin her to the ground on her back.
Twilight looked up at the masked mare as she seemingly glared down at her, her horn still surrounded by her dark purple aura. She didn't know what the mare was planning to do with her and she didn't fancy the thought of finding out. "Even after everything me and my friends have been through, I was hoping I could avoid getting into a fight with… whoever Mare-Do-Well is. I was hoping I could lose her by running and then find a way back after I retrieved my saddlebags, but it looks like I have no choice now. I'm going to have to get my saddlebags back and fight her!" she thought to herself.
When Mare-Do-Well leaned down with her glowing horn, Twilight quickly channeled her magic into her horn and blasted her with the same spell she used against the changelings back in Canterlot. It didn't reveal who she really was like with the changelings, but it did knock her off of the unicorn and left her lying dazed on her back. Taking advantage of her daze, Twilight quickly thought of where she wanted to be and teleported away, reappearing on the street leading to the castle.
Climbing to her hooves, she dashed towards the castle, towards her saddlebags. When she was almost to the castle, she heard a pop behind her and increased her speed, knowing it was Mare-Do-Well. She managed to reach the castle and dove towards her saddlebags, grabbing them in her forelegs as a dark purple beam flew over her head. She sighed to herself, "Just made it…" before using her magic to place her saddlebags on her back where they belonged.
Standing up, she turned to face the Mare-Do-Well, only to see the masked mare almost on top of her! Twilight quickly cast her teleportation spell, but it didn't work and Mare-Do-Well tackled her, sending both mares rolling down onto the street in a flurry of flying hooves. Eventually, Twilight managed to lift her hind legs and press her back hooves against Mare-Do-Well, giving a hard push and kicking her away.
As she sat up, Twilight saw Mare-Do-Well running away. She was confused; why would the mare run away now of all times? Her eyes widened as she thought, "She must be planning something!" She looked back over her shoulder at the Crystal Heart while thinking, "I can't stay here. That would put the Crystal Heart in danger." She stood up and ran around the castle, heading for the Crystal Empire outskirts, where the rest of the empire would surely be safe from whatever Mare-Do-Well was planning.
Once she felt she was sufficiently far enough out, Twilight turned around and cast a force field around herself, the sides of the bubble a couple of feet away from her in the center. "Okay Mare-Do-Well, I'm ready," she muttered, steadying herself. As she eyed her force field, a thought occurred to her. "Maybe…" Lighting her horn up again, she thought back to what Silver and Blaze had told her while she started making a Psychic Knife.
A minute later, as she was finishing up, something slammed against her force field and she cracked an eye open to look. She saw the splintered remains of the cart she nearly hit lying in front of her force field, and past them, she saw Mare-Do-Well running towards her, carrying various things with her magic (Twilight recognized some of them from the Crystal Fair she and her friends had set up during their first visit). Twilight closed her eyes and tried to focus on her Psychic Knife, looking for the right time to stop channeling energy while Mare-Do-Well pounded her force field with the objects.
Soon, Twilight's force field began to crack, and a second later it shattered as a wooden stick came through the force field, right at the lavender unicorn. Twilight leapt to the side to avoid it, holding her completed Psychic Knife in her grip, and looked at Mare-Do-Well to see the masked mare charging at her. Twilight steadied herself, "Got to time this just right…" Just as Mare-Do-Well was about to hit her, Twilight leapt to the side and quickly turned around, seeing the masked mare skidding to a stop. Before she could turn around, Twilight thrust her head forward, releasing her magenta-colored blade from her magic grasp, sending it flying at Mare-Do-Well.
The masked mare in question looked back over her shoulder and her eyes seemingly widened at the projectile coming towards her. She turned and tried running to the right, but while the knife didn't hit her directly, it did tear part of her costume, particularly around her left flank. Once she was sure it hadn't hit her, Mare-Do-Well came to a stop and pulled a complete 180, turning around to watch as the blade flew through the air. It kept going for a few more seconds before it broke apart.
Both Mare-Do-Well and Twilight looked at where it had been for a few moments before the latter gave a big grin. Silver had told her that a Psychic Knife would eventually break apart on its own, and that one had flown farther than any she had made before. "I did it! I actually used the Psychic Knife correctly!" she cheered. She calmed down after a moment, remembering the blade had cut through part of Mare-Do-Well's costume and turned to look at the masked mare, the ripped area in clear view due to the mare still standing seemingly in shock.
Twilight's eyes widened when she saw the cutie mark under the costume: a blue magic wand sprinkling light blue pixie dust. And the coat under the cutie mark was a brilliant azure color. "No! It can't be…!" she gasped, knowing only one pony that had that coat and that cutie mark. Mare-Do-Well was broken from her trance at Twilight's words and looked down at her flank. Realizing her disguise had been ruined, she glared up at Twilight for a moment before unleashing a bright flash from her horn, forcing Twilight to cover her eyes.
When Twilight's vision cleared, she looked and saw that her suspicions had been confirmed. There, standing where Mare-Do-Well had been, was a brilliant azure unicorn wearing a purple cape decorated with stars. As she watched, a matching magician's hat floated down and came to rest atop her head, covering up her horn. Twilight stared at her, her eyes wide with surprise. "T-Trixie?!" she exclaimed.
The unicorn opened her dark grayish violet eyes and looked directly at Twilight Sparkle at the sound of her name. Something seemed off about her eyes, not like when she was wearing the Alicorn Amulet, but Twilight didn't have time to think about it because Trixie started speaking, "That is correct, Twilight Sparkle! I, the Great and Powerful Trixie, have returned, and this time, I will have my revenge!"
Twilight stared at her in shock, "What?! All this… But before you left Ponyville that time, you said the Alicorn Amulet…"
Trixie interrupted her with a loud laugh. She then grinned at her, "You're a fool, Twilight Sparkle! Did you really think everything I said while wearing the Alicorn Amulet was said because of its influence? Why do you think I, Trixie, sought out such a thing in the first place? I only asked for your forgiveness at the time to get on your good side so you wouldn't suspect I still wanted my revenge! And you believed me, like I knew you would!"
Twilight stared at her, still unable to believe what she was hearing. "But… after that, when…"
Trixie once again interrupted her, "Oh, save it, Twilight Sparkle! I- Trixie has never forgotten what she went through after you showed her up the first time! Your little trick to get the Alicorn Amulet does not sit well with Trixie either! Well, Trixie has no need for that trinket now! Her magic is already at a higher level than yours!"
Twilight got out of her shocked state somewhat and narrowed her eyes slightly, asking, "So you want another magic duel? Is that what you're saying, Trixie?"
The other unicorn replied, "Of course! But this won't be like our last duel! When you lost last time, you were banished from Ponyville. If you lose this time-" She suddenly stopped in mid-sentence, her head suddenly tilting to the side as her right eye opened and closed a few times in quick succession and her whole body shook. Twilight looked on in confusion; what was she doing? Trixie straightened up after a moment and glared at Twilight, saying, "If you lose this time, the penalty is DEATH, Twilight Sparkle!"
Twilight looked at her with wide eyes, "What?! You would… you can't just…!"
Trixie smirked evilly, "Oh yes I can. After all, who's going to be around to witness it? Nobod- Nopony, that's who! And even if I was caught, what would… anypony do about it? I'm too powerful! And just to show you that I'm not bluffing this time…" She lifted her hat off of her head with her magic and her horn lit up, once again giving off a bright flash that forced Twilight to look away and take several steps back.
When she opened her eyes and looked back at where Trixie had been standing, she saw… translucent purple fur that looked like the night sky? And claws and a long tail that was the same color? As she looked up, Twilight's eyes slowly shrank as she realized what she was looking at. "That… This is a…" she stuttered.
She looked up as she heard a laugh coming from the massive creature's head and saw Trixie there, being held up by her own magic as she floated in front of the creature's face. She called down, "That is correct, Twilight Sparkle! It is a real Ursa Major! My magic not only called it here, but also makes it obey my commands!"
Twilight shook her head, "N-No! That can't be right! Not even dragons can be fully…!"
While she was paused, Trixie smirked, "Oh? Is that a touch of disbelief that I hear, Twilight Sparkle? Perhaps a demonstration is in order!" She floated up and perched herself on the Ursa Major's head. She then spoke, her horn still glowing, "Do as I tell you, beast! Grab that unicorn!"
For a moment, the Ursa Major just stood there, but then it looked down at Twilight and reached down with its right paw, the lavender unicorn's eyes widening at the sight. She turned around and ran from her spot, just narrowly avoiding the Ursa's paw. Trixie saw this and said, "Stay after her!" At that, the Ursa Major lowered itself to the ground on all fours and started lumbering after Twilight.
Twilight looked back as she ran towards the Crystal Empire, each step from the Ursa Major matching her running speed. "O-Okay Trixie, you've made your point about the Ursa Major! You can call it off now!" she called back.
Trixie merely smirked, "I'm afraid I can't do that, Twilight Sparkle. This is my spell for our magic duel. Where's yours?"
Twilight yelled, "I didn't even agree to the duel, Trixie!"
Trixie responded, "Oh yes you did. By going through that portal, you automatically agreed to this duel." She grinned evilly, "Now get back here, little pony. I'm not done with you yet!" The Ursa Major kept lumbering after Twilight for a few more seconds before the lavender unicorn's horn lit up and a bright flash emanated from it a second later.
Trixie looked away when she saw the flash, but when she looked back, Twilight was gone. The traveling magician looked upset for a moment, but she soon calmed down and said, "She can't get back from here. She's just playing hard to get. Well, she'll show herself sooner or later… one way or another." She then directed the Ursa Major to continue onward to the castle.
Inside the Crystal Empire library, Twilight was huddled up against the side of a bookcase near the entrance, her body shaking with fear as the hopelessness of her situation caught up with her. She'd been lucky enough to put the spells she had been practicing to good use when Snips and Snails lured the Ursa Minor to Ponyville, but even if she had wind, cattails, and warm milk, she wouldn't be able to soothe the Ursa Major the same way, even if it wasn't under Trixie's control.
As she leaned against the bookcase, she thought to herself, "I don't understand. I wouldn't be surprised if Trixie's been practicing since our last duel, but it hasn't been that long! How'd she go from tickling Rainbow Dash to being able to not only summon an Ursa Major but also control it in such a short amount of time? She's the one who took Zecora's potions; if she'd somehow found the Alicorn Amulet while she was at her hut, then maybe I could see it. But she doesn't! So how did she learn how to do that?"
As she thought about her rainbow-maned friend again, Twilight's thoughts went from analytical to regretful. "Rainbow Dash… I was ready to fight Trixie when she was disguised as Mare-Do-Well to see her and the others again, but now… I don't know how I'm going to be able to beat her. Yes, I've learned a lot, but I don't see how a lot of it is going to help break a magic hold on an Ursa Major, much less defeat it."
She shuddered as she felt the ground shake from one of the Ursa Major's footsteps. It sounded like it was right outside; had Trixie found her? The wind from the impact blew into the library. "What do I do, what do I do, what do I do?" she asked herself as she squeezed her eyes shut. Another footstep rumbled outside, causing another wind to blow into the library.
"You gotta be true to yourself!"
Twilight's eyes shot open at that. She looked around in confusion, "Sonic…?" Another footstep rumbled outside; was the Ursa Major walking past the library? Once again, the wind blew inside.
"Nothing starts until you take action!"
Twilight was still looking around. "It… it sounds like he's right here talking to me…!" One more footstep rumbled out past the library, the wind just barely making it through the front doors.
"If you have time to worry, then run!"
Twilight stopped looking around as that passed through her head. She thought long and hard about it, not even noticing the shaking or the retreating sound of the Ursa Major's footsteps. After a minute, she looked up and muttered, "You know… that is actually good advice. Trixie's going to find me no matter where I go here in the Crystal Empire, and I don't know how long it'll take for my friends to find a way here, if that's possible. But if I want a chance at ever seeing them again, I'm going to have to do something. Worst case scenario, hiding from or confronting Trixie is going to end the same way, but if I'm willing to face the possibility of failure, I might just find a way to defeat her." She gave a wry smile as she added, "Come to think of it, I should be a natural by now at experiencing failure."
A few minutes later…
The Ursa Major stood on all fours in front of the castle, Trixie looking down at the Crystal Heart underneath it. While stroking her chin with a hoof, she mused, "So this is the Crystal Heart, is it? This supposedly protects the Crystal Empire? It doesn't look like anything spectacular…" She shrugged a moment later, "Well, I'm sure I can use it for something. I'll just take it with me." Without being told to, the Ursa Major lifted a paw and started reaching for the Crystal Heart.
Before it could reach the heart, both the Ursa and Trixie froze at a loud shout of, "TRIXIE!"
Trixie straightened up a moment later and ordered the Ursa Major to stand up and turn around. It did as she commanded and she looked down to see Twilight standing on the street below, her horn pulsing with her magic. Trixie smirked down at the lavender unicorn, "Well, you decided to crawl out of your hole, Twilight Sparkle! Trixie doesn't know what you're hoping to accomplish, but Trixie certainly wouldn't call this one of your smarter decisions!"
Twilight yelled up at her, "Well, with you walking around with an Ursa Major under your control, you were going to find me sooner or later, Trixie! Why prolong the inevitable? Let's just get this duel over with!"
Trixie huffed, "Hmph. You would never make it in the show business with an attitude like that. You're supposed to draw out the suspense and keep your audience on edge! But if you want to do this quick and easy, then who is Trixie to say no?" She glared down at her rival, "Go ahead, see if you can make Trixie laugh, Twilight Sparkle!"
Twilight responded by sweeping her head up and down, forming a vertical Psychic Knife with her magic. As she saw it being formed, Trixie chuckled, "Oh, I see you're getting the magic butter knife out again. This should be worthy of a great and powerful laugh!" Twilight finished preparing her blade of magic and then looked up at the Ursa Major, flicking her head to send it flying. Trixie sighed, "Block it, beast." The Ursa Major held up its left arm at that, the blade striking its wrist and holding there for a few seconds.
And then, to both unicorns shock, the knife sliced right through the Ursa Major! Its massive paw fell from its arm as the Psychic Knife broke apart, the paw suddenly fading away before it hit the ground. "W-W-What the-?!" Twilight exclaimed.
"Uh-oh…" Trixie squeaked.
Twilight's eyes narrowed as realization hit her, "That's not a real Ursa Major! It's just an extremely lifelike illusion!" Her horn lit up again and she fired a beam directly into the chest of the Ursa Major illusion. As soon as it hit, it began to spread across the illusion's body until the whole thing was magenta-colored. A bright flash erupted from it a second later, and when it cleared, the illusion was gone and Trixie was falling to the ground, screaming all the while.
Just before she hit the ground, Trixie used her magic to slow her descent and set herself down on her hooves. Looking up, she saw her hat falling and the precious object inside of it. She used her magic to retrieve both, making sure the object didn't fall out, and perched her hat back on top of her head. She then glared at Twilight, who said, "Show's over, Trixie. Looks like your magic isn't as powerful as you think it is."
Trixie huffed, "Says you, Twilight Sparkle! Did you not see how I teleported, the fact that I was able to create such a convincing illusion in the first place? My magic may not be what I said it was, but I'm still more powerful than you!"
Twilight asked, "That other Mare-Do-Well, she was another illusion, wasn't she?"
Trixie replied, "That is correct. She's also the one that has your zebra friend's saddlebags. It makes no difference to me if she was caught or not. She broke up your little group, allowing me to get you all alone."
Twilight asked, "Why are you doing this?!"
Trixie growled, "I already told you! We are having a duel! I want revenge! At the end of this day, one shall stand, one shall fall!"
Twilight glared at her, "So that's how it's going to be, is it?" She used her magic to pull her book out of her saddlebags and levitate them off, setting them down away from her. She then created a sizable force field around them so that they wouldn't damage parts of the Crystal Empire, by accident or otherwise. She then said, "I'm ready."
Trixie grinned, "Excellent. Let's d-d-d-d-d-d-duel!" Her last word came out sounding weird because she once again had a strange spastic attack, her head tilting to the side and her legs shaking as Twilight looked at her in confusion. Trixie straightened up after a moment and glared at Twilight, using her magic to position her hat on the back of her head. They both glared at each other for a minute.
Then Trixie said, "Draw!" and fired a dark purple beam from her horn at Twilight. The lavender unicorn responded by holding her book up in front of her and channeling her magic into it. When the beam struck, a miniature force field formed around Twilight, holding back the attack. After Trixie's attack was over, Twilight's horn lit up and she teleported in front of the azure unicorn, still holding her book. Unfortunately, Trixie seemed to have predicted this, as she raised her right foreleg as soon as Twilight appeared and punched her across the face, pushing her back a few steps.
Shaking her head, Twilight looked to see Trixie leaping at her, her forelegs outstretched. Twilight caught her with her magic when she was a little closer and spun around, throwing Trixie towards the force field. The unicorn managed to right herself and hit the force field hooves first, bending her knees and jumping off of it towards Twilight, the lavender unicorn leaping up to meet her in midair.
As they were about to collide, Trixie brought her hind legs up and kicked Twilight in the face, knocking her onto her back while Trixie landed hooves down. Twilight managed to climb to her hooves, but she had just barely gotten up before Trixie smacked her with her cape. She managed to back away and avoid a buck to the face and held her book up in front of her. When Trixie dashed towards her to attack, Twilight swung the book, hitting Trixie across the face and then following up with several more strikes before delivering an uppercut with it, knocking Trixie off her hooves. Twilight leapt up after her, delivering several punches with her hooves before landing on her hooves while Trixie landed hard on her rump.
After recovering from her hard landing, Trixie looked up at Twilight and thrust her left foreleg across her chest and into her cape. Twilight looked confused for a second, but then Trixie swung her leg back out, throwing some kind of blue powder at the lavender unicorn. Twilight let out a yelp as she turned her head away. It didn't seem like there was anything dangerous in the powder, but some of it still got in her eye. While she was trying to get the powder out, Trixie leapt at her, knocking her to the ground, both of them rolling and trying to punch each other.
Eventually, Trixie managed to kick Twilight away, the bookworm hitting her force field back first. When she recovered and stood up, she saw Trixie's horn glowing, the magician soon firing a sphere of magic energy at Twilight, who ducked to the side to avoid. For some reason, she could swear that the color of Trixie's magic was a lighter shade of purple, but didn't have time to ponder this as the showmare began firing magic shots at her, forcing her to run to avoid them.
After running for a few seconds, Twilight teleported right next to Trixie, startling the azure mare. Trixie immediately tried to retaliate with a beam, but Twilight dropped down, causing the beam to hit the force field instead. While Twilight was down, she set her book on the ground and opened it; seconds later, when Trixie looked down, a magenta blast of magic energy burst out of the book, knocking her upwards. Twilight immediately followed her to attack, not giving her a chance to recover. When they landed, Twilight held her book in front of her, opening it to a certain page. Trixie saw this, as well as Twilight looking away, as she climbed to her hooves, but she had no time to avoid the beam that came shooting out of the book.
After recovering from the attack, Trixie got up and the battle continued for a short while. During this time, Twilight's force field began to develop noticeable cracks and Trixie's magic aura slowly became lighter and lighter until it was back to its usual pale, light grayish magenta. By this time, her magic had stopped having the effects it initially did, causing Twilight to suspect that however Trixie obtained her magic boost, it was only temporary.
After enduring a series of physical strikes from Trixie, Twilight used her magic to shield herself from the next strike and then strike back herself, pushing the azure mare away. When Trixie charged at her, Twilight teleported behind her and closed her eyes as she focused; this was going to take all of her concentration. Trixie skidded to a stop and looked back at Twilight to see what she was doing. Not suspecting the unicorn was planning anything, she charged at her again, this time leaping at her as she got close.
As Trixie reached the height of her jump, Twilight's eyes opened and she lowered her head. Trixie had only seen them for half a second, but she knew Twilight's eyes were completely white. The lavender unicorn floated up off the ground as Trixie came down, a dome of magenta-colored magic energy suddenly spreading out of her body and catching Trixie within it. At the center of the dome, Twilight's body twitched as she channeled her magic out of her body, Trixie unable to move at all in the dome. A second passed before Twilight jerked her body forward towards Trixie, releasing one last burst of magic energy at her.
And that did it. The force of the magic burst sent Trixie flying through the weakened force field, causing it to collapse as Twilight dropped to the ground. Looking up, Twilight saw Trixie land on her back on the street away from the castle, her hat landing on its side a short distance away from the unicorn. A closer inspection revealed something had fallen out of her hat and, after putting her book away in her saddlebags and retrieving them, she ran towards Trixie to find out what it was.
Once she had reached the hat, she could clearly see what it was and she gasped. It was a necklace with a purplish-pink diamond-shaped jewel in the center of it. "The Element of Generosity! But how did…?" She stopped short when she heard a groan and looked to see Trixie climbing to her hooves, looking… well, more than a bit dazed. As the unicorn tried to maintain her balance, she raised her right hoof to the side of her head and gave it a good smack.
As Twilight watched, something fell out of Trixie's left ear. She then heard the magician groan as she lowered her hoof, "Finally… I thought I'd never stop…"
Something was definitely different about Trixie, Twilight noted. Her eyes looked normal again, and with all the panting and heaving she was doing, she looked like her regular old self. Not like the death machine she had been acting like not even a minute ago. Twilight took a few steps towards her and ventured, "Trixie?"
The azure unicorn looked up at that, her eyes going wide at the sight of her rival. "Twilight Sparkle!" she gasped. Her eyes soon narrowed and she stood up, turning away and holding her nose up as she spoke, "Well, that's that, then. Congratulations, Twilight Sparkle, you have completely showed up Trixie. You can have that silly necklace Trixie had as your reward, now go!"
Twilight looked at her in surprise. Trixie sounded angry, but there was something beneath the anger, something she had heard only once in Trixie's voice before, and it wasn't this heavy. "Trixie…" she started.
The azure unicorn interrupted her, "Oh fine, fine!" She looked back at Twilight over her shoulder, her horn beginning to glow, "I'm sure you saw the thing that fell out of Trixie's ear! Take that as well! Take it far away from Trixie! In fact, why don't you take Trixie's hat as well?" Her magic picked up the remains of what Twilight could now see was some kind of machine and dropped them in her hat before thrusting it at the lavender unicorn, which awkwardly caught it in her hooves. Trixie's magic then surrounded her cape as she added, "And take Trixie's cape while you're at it so you have everything Trixie owns! Now leave Trixie alone!"
She threw her undone cape at Twilight and it landed on top of her. The unicorn lifted it and her saddlebags off of with her magic and moved both of them, along with Trixie's hat and the Element of Generosity, off to the side. She took a few steps towards Trixie, trying again, "Trixie…"
Only to have Trixie interrupt her again as she turned away again, "Begone from Trixie's sight, Twilight Sparkle!"
Twilight shook her head and persisted, "Trixie!"
The azure unicorn turned around to face her fully and screamed, "LEAVE ME ALONE!"
Twilight took a step back at the scream, but was held back from taking any more by Trixie dropping her use of the third person. "Trixie…?" she asked.
Trixie continued to glare at her for a second before she gritted her teeth, tears springing to her defeated eyes as her defenses began to crumble. Her legs buckled, unable to hold her up any longer, and she covered her eyes with her forelegs, trying to hide her tears. She heard hoofsteps coming towards and weakly asked, "Why are you still here, Twilight Sparkle? Why won't you leave the Ashamed and Traitorous Trixie alone?"
Twilight looked down at the mare in front of her, "'Ashamed and Traitorous'?"
Trixie whimpered, "You know what I mean… Everything I did just now… This isn't like when I was wearing the Alicorn Amulet… I didn't have a lot of control over myself due to its corruption, but I at least had something. This… I was powerless to stop this…"
Twilight asked, "What happened…?"
Trixie lowered her hooves to the sides of her face as she spoke, "I… can't remember it all completely… When that strange thing was put in my ear, it blocked out a few things from my memory, and I could not see anything for a while afterwards… But I remember hearing something about magic increasing its power before it was placed in my ear… I remember drinking a mixture to temporarily boost my magic… And I remember being ordered to kill you… After that, I… I think I've been trying to regain control of myself, to stop myself… And while I was trying to do so, I… I could see everything my body and magic were doing to you…"
Twilight murmured, "Trixie…"
The showmare said, "The only other thing I can completely remember is being ordered to take that costume you saw me wearing before I lost control… and thanks to that magic burst, I can't even return it now because it's been burnt to nothing…" Twilight walked to her side and placed a hoof on her shoulder as she wept, "Banishing you was bad enough, especially when the Alicorn Amulet made me want to do it, but this… If you hadn't fought back, I would've killed you, and I didn't want that… To have to watch as both my body and my magic betrayed me, going against my wishes… I was hoping we could start anew after all that trouble with the Alicorn Amulet, but how can you possibly trust me now, after I tried to kill you?"
Unnoticed by either of the two mares, the Warp Ring appeared near the castle and Sonic and Tails stepped out of it. After Tails retrieved it, they both saw Twilight and Trixie and ran towards them, hiding behind a nearby building to observe the scene.
After a short silence, Twilight spoke, "Trixie… I can't claim to know what you went through, and I know this isn't going to help you much right now, but you said that that device, whatever it was, was manipulating your actions and left you with little control over yourself. And I see now that those times where you were acting strangely were you trying to regain control, which, to me, means you're telling the truth. So I forgive you."
Trixie looked up at her, her eyes still wet with tears, "Do you really mean that? How can you say that?"
Twilight replied, "I was mad at you when you first came back to Ponyville because you were messing with my friends and the other ponies of Ponyville, but even when I was banished, I never hated you. I was more concerned about the way you were acting and what you were doing. Whatever was guiding you this time gave me no choice but to fight back. I was hoping all the while that I could get you out of whatever possessed you to try to kill me, and I see now that I have. So no, I don't hate you. And I know my friends won't hate you either."
Trixie looked doubtful at that, "How do you know?"
Twilight smiled softly, "Because I made a new friend today, and he's proven that he can look past what somepony has done to find out who they really are and try to make others understand what he learns. He'll do the same for you. I know it."
Trixie asked, "Really…?"
Twilight nodded, "Yes. And I may not know him well enough yet, but I think I know what he'd say." Trixie watched as the unicorn took a few steps away from her, her eyes closed. Trixie rose to her hooves, looking at her in confusion. After a few seconds, Twilight opened her eyes and began to sing:
Take a look inside your heart
What seems fair today,
Tomorrow it may not.
Just a walk or a journey
Don't stop reaching high.
Don't let the time pass you by.
So many ways that you can,
Try to forget.
So many ways you'll find,
Wake up to regret.
We'll say live life, I know!
Don't let go,
Don't lose sight.
Twilight had her head lowered as she sang out the last part, but it jerked up when she heard the sound of applause. She and Trixie turned to see Sonic and Tails stepping out from behind the building they'd been behind, clapping. Upon seeing them, Twilight had several questions, but they were forgotten when Sonic opened his mouth:
Feeling like the road.
It's winding you on every turn.
But there are lessons to learn.
Tails stepped up as he finished:
Take a look inside your heart.
What once seemed impossible,
Today is not!
Twilight smiled at them and turned back to Trixie:
So many ways that you can,
Try to forget.
So many ways you'll find,
Wake up to regret!
Trixie noticed them all nod to her. She started out slowly and hesitantly, but she put more feeling into it at their encouraging looks:
We'll say live life, I know!
Don't let go,
Don't lose sight.
As they all came together, none of them noticed the color beginning to return to the Crystal Empire as they all sang together:
We'll say live life, I know!
Don't let go!
Sonic then sang by himself:
Making it on your own!
You got it inside,
You got it inside of you!
So let it out!
They all came back together:
We'll say live life, I know.
Don't let go,
Don't lose sight!
One day, (One day)
We'll say live life, I know!
Don't let go,
Just live life!
After a short pause, Tails sang:
Another paused followed before Twilight sang:
Don't let go!
Trixie sang after another short pause:
They all then huddled together and sang to the sky:
They all held together for a few seconds before the sound of applause caught their attention. Looking around, they saw that a circle of crystal ponies had gathered around them, all of them stomping their hooves in approval. Tails immediately noticed their shiny appearance and whispered to Twilight, "Who are they?"
Twilight whispered back, "They're the crystal ponies, and we're in the Crystal Empire."
Sonic heard her and, as the four of them separated and stood next to each other, muttered, "I guess that makes sense."
They all took a moment to look around. They Crystal Empire had fully regained its color. It seemed as though the Crystal Heart was active again and protecting it, as they could even see the clear blue sky above them. Twilight turned to Trixie as the applause began to die down and the crystal ponies began to scatter and asked, "Do you remember the kind of magic I used in our second magic duel, Trixie?"
The unicorn nodded, "Yes. You said you used the magic of friendship. Your friends helped you when you needed them the most."
Twilight replied, "And it's exactly the same here. We all joined together as friends to sing, and that magic was felt by the Crystal Empire itself. That's why it's back to normal now."
Trixie asked, "Friends? Are you sure…?"
Sonic walked up to her and said, "Of course! I know I wouldn't sing with someone I didn't think I could be friends with, and neither would Tails." Behind him, the fox nodded in agreement. Sonic then placed a hand on his chest, "I don't think we've been properly introduced yet. My name's Sonic. What's yours?"
The unicorn meekly replied, "T-Trixie."
Sonic said, "Well Trixie, I'll have you know that Twilight was right. I'm not going to judge you on your past actions alone. Oh sure, I wouldn't be too happy if you tried to punch me or whatever, but I'm willing to look past whatever caused you to do something like that and see if there's more to you than that. Honestly, it takes a lot to get me to really dislike someone."
Twilight looked at Trixie and asked, "Do you feel better now, Trixie?"
The unicorn turned to her and said, "A… a little. But I…"
Twilight asked, "Yes?"
Trixie sighed, "I don't see how I'm going to get over what I've done, if that's even possible…"
Sonic spoke, "Well, you won't be able to forget it if that's what you're saying, but you can definitely get over it."
Tails nodded, "Yeah, especially if you have people, or rather ponies, I guess, who are willing to stand by you and help you through it."
Trixie looked uncertain, "I don't know…"
Twilight laid her right foreleg over Trixie's shoulders and said, "We still have a lot to do to restore Equestria and Sonic's world, but when this is all over, we'll talk, Trixie. We'll take it one day at a time if that's what you want. Because I can understand what you're going through right now."
Trixie looked at her, her eyes starting to fill up with fresh tears. "I-I…" Unable to hold back any longer, she turned and wrapped her forelegs around Twilight, sobbing softly on her shoulder while the lavender unicorn stroked her back.
While she was comforting Trixie, a thought occurred to Twilight and she turned her eye to look at Tails and said, "Tails. What's left of the device is in Trixie's hat. Do you think you can…?" She trailed off, but Tails understood what she was asking.
Tails walked over to Trixie's hat and fished a hand around inside of it for a few moments before closing it around the machine inside. Pulling it out, he looked at it for a few seconds before saying, "I'll have to take a closer look at it, but I think I can figure out what this is."
Twilight nodded and released Trixie, the azure unicorn taking a step back. Twilight then used her magic to lift the Element of Generosity and place it with the other necklaces, lifting her saddlebags up and placing them on her back while saying, "We'll hang onto this." She then wrapped her magic around Trixie's hat and cape and levitated them over to her, putting them on the unicorn as she said, "But these belong to you and only you, Trixie." Trixie gave her a small but sincere smile at that.
Sonic spoke up after a moment of silence, "If everything's okay now, we should probably get going. Tails and the others already found Vector and Big Macintosh by the time my group got to the Gaia Gate, and now everyone else is probably waiting impatiently in Ponyville to hear that Twilight's okay. You can come with us, Trixie; maybe you can rest up or something for a while."
Trixie nodded a bit, "I think… I would like that. Twilight Sparkle does have a mean left book." Twilight grinned sheepishly at that, but she calmed down a bit when she saw that Trixie was just joking.
Before any of them could move, they could hear something coming from what was left of the crowd that had gathered around them and turned towards the castle to look. From the look of it, some of the crystal ponies were parting to let somepony through. After a few moments, a white unicorn stallion with two tone blue hair stepped through the crowd. As soon as he saw the lavender unicorn in the group, he asked, "Twily?"
Twilight gasped, "BBBFF!" A second later, a pegasus unicorn with a pale, light grayish cerise coat came up behind the stallion, causing Twilight to say, "And Cadance!" before rushing over to them.
Sonic raised an eyebrow as he looked at the two newcomers, not noticing Twilight and Cadance do their usual greeting as he asked, "'Twily'?"
Trixie looked confused as well, "'BBBFF'?"
Tails thought about what he heard for a moment before looking at Cadance and starting, "Twilight called her Cadance, so," he looked at the stallion as he finished, "that must be her brother, Shining Armor."
Trixie looked surprised, "Twilight Sparkle has a brother?"
Sonic nodded, "Surprising, I know. Guess we should go over and meet the big guy and his wife. Stay behind us just in case, Trixie." The showmare quickly caught on to what he was getting at and nodded, the three of them walking over to Twilight, her brother, and sister-in-law.
The latter, Cadance, noticed them coming over and said, "Oh my! Twilight! Who are they?"
Twilight turned partway around to see Sonic, Tails, and Trixie come to a stop right next to her. She looked at her sister-in-law as she spoke, "Oh, I'm sorry, Cadance! I haven't introduced you yet!" She looked at Sonic and Tails and said, "You guys remember when I mentioned my brother and Princess Cadance." They both nodded, so she turned back to Shining and Cadance, saying, "Shining, Cadance, these are some new friends of mine." She gestured to Tails as she said, "This is Tails."
The two-tailed fox stepped forward and nervously waved, "Hi…"
Cadance happily replied, "Hello there, little fox! I must say, I've never had the pleasure of meeting a fox before!"
Shining awkwardly nodded, "Yeah, it's… different." He honestly didn't know what to make of the strange fox, especially when he noticed it had two tails instead of one.
Twilight gestured to Sonic as she said, "This is Sonic."
The blue hedgehog stepped forward and gave a casual wave, "Hey. It's nice to finally meet you two."
Cadance nodded, "And it's nice to meet you too, Sonic!"
Shining Armor didn't say anything, prompting the others to look at him. It wasn't that he didn't have anything to say, it was just that Sonic started looking at him closely after his wife said hi. The blue hedgehog looked down at his hooves and looked up towards his face, then peered to the side to get a good look at his cutie mark. He then looked at Twilight before he looked back at the stallion and shrugged, "Okay, I see it."
Shining looked confused, "Uh, see what?"
Sonic replied, "The family resemblance. There's not a lot similar between you two, but your hair is kind of similar. It's got the same tones and you both have a similar hairstyle. That's pretty cool!"
Shining awkwardly smiled, "Oh, uh, thanks."
Twilight looked over at Trixie nervously, wondering if introducing her to her brother was such a good idea. The showmare looked nervous as well, but she nodded for Twilight to go ahead. Twilight turned to her brother and former foalsitter and said, "And this is Trixie."
Shining Armor's ears perked up at that name, "Trixie?" He looked at the azure unicorn carefully, saying, "I remember Princess Celestia mentioning the name Trixie to me once. Have you ever been to Ponyville before?"
Trixie laughed nervously, "W-Why, Trixie has been… all over Equestria in her time as a traveling magician! It is not easy to remember the name of every town she has visited!" She glanced at Twilight out of the corner of her eye, silently begging for help.
Twilight noticed this and looked at Sonic and Tails, silently telling them it was time to go. Sonic nudged Tails and the fox nodded, moving his left tail behind Sonic as he spoke, "W-Well, that's probably not such a big deal right now. I mean, normally it might be, but we've got other things on our mind to worry about."
Cadance asked, "What do you mean?"
Tails said, "Well, it seems like the Crystal Empire itself is somehow protected, but out there…" He looked at the force field surrounding the empire and noticed, beyond it, whiteness. He pointed, "I don't know if you can see it, but there's white out there, and it's covering all of Equestria right now. And that's bad, very bad."
Shining Armor looked confused, "White?"
Sonic nodded as he quietly slipped his left hand into Tails' tail to get the Warp Ring, "Yep. It's swallowing up the world, man. But don't worry. We've already met with Princess Celestia and Princess Luna about it."
Cadance asked, "You've met with my aunts?"
Sonic replied, "Uh-huh. And Twilight, her friends, Tails, and I are helping them take care of this crisis." He slowly lowered his left hand down, keeping it behind his back as he said, "And now that we know the Crystal Empire is safe, but still in the middle of it, we'll put it on the list. We'll take care of it." He then smiled, "So it was great meeting you and all, but…" He opened his left hand, the Warp Ring falling from it. Before it hit the ground, he brought up his left foot and kicked it backwards. The ring flipped a few times as it flew through the air before it expanded to its full size. "We gotta run! See ya!" he finished, turning and running towards the ring, Tails, Twilight and Trixie doing the same.
Shining stared dumbfounded for a moment before saying, "What?! Hey!" He galloped after them, Cadance following him after a moment. Sonic, Tails, Twilight, and Trixie jumped through the ring, Shining and Cadance leaping through after them before it closed.
Spike and the others stood in front of the schoolhouse in Ponyville, the still-frozen forms of Vector and Big Macintosh next to them and Zecora's saddlebags still on Applejack's back as they impatiently waited for Sonic and Tails to return with Twilight and the hopefully bound up Mare-Do-Well. It had taken a lot of convincing to get them to leave it to the duo, and now, considering how long as they had been waiting, they were starting to regret agreeing to that decision.
Any thoughts of starting something were quelled when the Warp Ring suddenly opened up in front of the group and Sonic, Tails, Twilight, and, surprisingly, Trixie came through it and landed on the ground. Before anypony could say anything about the magician, two more ponies came through the Warp Ring and landed awkwardly on top of the four of them, all of them letting out a shout as they fell to the ground, Tails dropping the remains of the machine still in his hands and something flying out of Twilight's saddlebags. "Huh?" was all anypony could utter as they saw Shining Armor and Princess Cadance lying on top of Sonic, Tails, Twilight, and Trixie as the Warp Ring shrunk down and landed on the ground beside them.
Sonic recovered first and looked up at Shining Armor, saying, "Dude, I said we'd take care of it! What word didn't I emphasize enough?"
Rarity glanced down at the object that flew out of Twilight's saddlebags and realized it was her Element of Generosity necklace! She quickly scooped it up, saying, "My Element of Generosity! Darlings, I can't thank you enough for finding it!"
As she and Shining climbed to their hooves, Cadance looked around and wondered, "What's going on here…?"
Noticing Trixie as she, Tails, Twilight, and Sonic stood up, Spike asked, "Why is Trixie with them?"
Applejack nudged him with a hoof and said, "Hush up fer now, Spike! It's startin'!" Sonic, Tails, and Twilight noticed that the schoolhouse and the schoolyard were beginning to regain their color and walked over to the others to join them, Trixie, Shining Armor, and Cadance soon following. Soon, all the color had returned.
They then looked at Vector and Big Macintosh as their colors started to return. As soon as his colors were back, Applejack ran over to Big Macintosh and nuzzled him while Braeburn smiled at him. Once Vector was done making sure he was back, he turned to everyone and spoke, "Thanks, you guys! You know, I got a hunch someone or something is controlling that monster." He made motions with his hands and fingers to emphasize his point.
Big Macintosh drawled, "Eeyup." The others nodded in understanding save for Shining Armor and Princess Cadance.
Any questions the royal couple had were put on hold when everyone heard screaming coming their way. Looking to the right (or in Vector and Big Macintosh's case, the left), they saw Apple Bloom, Sweetie Belle, and Scootaloo running towards them screaming their heads off. Shining Armor and Cadance instantly recognized them as the flower fillies from their wedding. The Cutie Mark Crusaders ran up to their respective sisters and hid behind them. Rainbow looked down at Scootaloo and asked, "What's the matter, Scootaloo?"
The orange pegasus filly replied, "She's crazy!"
Sweetie Belle added, "That hammer is scary!"
Apple Bloom pleaded, "Help, please!"
Sonic, Tails, Vector, Spike, Twilight, Applejack, and Rainbow Dash all soon realized what they were getting at while the rest of them looked confused. They all looked up to see Amy coming towards them, thankfully not carrying her hammer. Once she got close enough, Tails said, "Uh, hey Amy! What's going on?"
The pink hedgehog curtly replied, "Oh, hi Tails. I was just chasing those fillies hiding behind you guys just now."
Twilight asked, "Why were you chasing them?"
Amy said, "Because when I passed by that Sugarcube Corner place earlier, I overheard them telling Celestia and Luna about some kind of love potion! I wanted them to tell me how they made it, but they kept saying no!"
Sweetie Belle exclaimed, "I'm telling you, it was a love POISON!" Big Macintosh inwardly frowned a bit at the memory of that particular Hearts and Hooves Day.
Amy shrugged, "Eh, details. If it was as strong as you made it sound, then it would've been just fine!" She clasped her hands together as she sighed, "I know Sonic loves me. He's just afraid to admit it. A little bit of a love potion or poison would help him, and then he'd never want to leave my side! We'd be together forever!"
Sonic sweat dropped, "Uh, I'm standing right here, Amy…"
Amy turned to him and smiled, "Oh, hi Sonic! Well, don't you worry! I don't need a silly potion or whatever to get you to admit your feelings for me! I'll get you to tell me the right way!" She then skipped away, Sonic glaring at her with half-closed eyes.
Of course, Rarity had to pipe up with her two bits, "That sounds SO romantic! You'd better start thinking now, Sonic! When this is all over, it'll be the perfect chance to tell her how you feel! It'll be so wonderful!" Rainbow and Applejack immediately looked at her like she was crazy.
All of a sudden, the doors leading to the schoolhouse basement burst open, causing everyone to turn around and look. They all saw Cheerilee stepping out of the basement, beginning to look around. "What in Equestria is going on here? What's all the commotion? Why is…?" She stopped short when she saw the group for several reasons: Big Macintosh, Vector, Sonic, and Tails. Some of her students that had been in the basement also popped their heads up to look and they all froze when they saw the three animals. For a minute, nothing was said from or between either of the two sides.
Then Sonic broke it by shrugging, "Well, THIS is awkward."
Big Macintosh nodded, "Eeyup."