In one part of the jungle
Knuckles looked around as the flower began to lose altitude, noticing that they were flying above a swampy part of the jungle. As he glanced around, Sweetie Belle spoke up, "Um, are we going to be landing soon? I'm
feeling a little nervous right now."
Cream looked down at her and said, "Don't worry, Sweetie Belle. I'm sure there's some solid ground here in the jungle. It won't be long now." Cheese chirped in agreement.
The rabbit, Chao, and Crusaders looked up as Knuckles spoke, "Hey, look! It might not be very safe, but there's a spot where we can land." They followed his gaze to see part of a green path above the swamp water. They had to agree; it was better than nothing. Knuckles looked up at the flower, saying, "I don't know if this thing is going to be able to make it over there, though." He looked down at Cream and asked, "Cream, if I let you go, do you think you can fly the rest of the way? I'd offer to let you ride on my back, but unless Cheese can carry those two, you've got your hands full."
Cream replied, "It's okay, Mr. Knuckles! You can count on me!" She then began to flap her rabbit ears, Knuckles letting go of her hand when he saw that they were flapping fast enough. The rabbit faltered for a moment after he let go, but then she wrapped her free arm around Scootaloo, Sweetie Belle, and Cheese and headed for the patch of land. Knuckles let go of the flower soon afterwards, letting it fly off in another direction while he glided after Cream, landing soon after she did.
Cream set Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo down after Knuckles landed while Cheese flew up out of her arms and fluttered next to her. Scootaloo turned to her and Knuckles and exclaimed, "Wow, that was great! So you two can fly too?"
Knuckles scratched the side of his head as he said, "I wouldn't exactly call that flying. More like gliding on the wind currents. I can't glide upwards after all."
Cream added, "That's very nice of you, Scootaloo, but I'm not as good a flyer as Tails or Miss Rouge."
Scootaloo grinned, "I still think it's cool, Cream! And so is that gliding thing!"
Sweetie Belle looked around worriedly before asking, "Hey, where's Rarity and everypony else?"
Knuckles glanced around and said, "They must have landed somewhere else." He then rubbed his head and muttered, "Guess that means I'm stuck with babysitting duty
His comment went unnoticed, thankfully, as Cream walked over to Sweetie Belle and knelt down in front of her, saying, "Don't worry, Sweetie Belle. I'm sure your sister, Sonic, and the others are all looking for us right now, so we should look too. We'll be able to find them as long as we all stick together." Cheese nodded in agreement.
Scootaloo came over and said, "Sounds like a plan to me!" She then looked at Sweetie Belle and, noticing the look on her face, asked, "Are you okay, Sweetie Belle?"
The white unicorn filly looked at her friend and said, "Yeah, I-I'm fine, Scootaloo. I just want to find my sister and go back to Ponyville. I don't like being in this jungle anymore!"
Cream nodded and stood up. She then looked over at Knuckles and asked, "Is everything okay, Mr. Knuckles? We really should find our friends, but we don't have to leave right away if you're not feeling well."
Knuckles looked over at her in surprise, clearly not expecting her to say such a thing. He then looked away for a moment, sighing to himself before turning back to her and saying, "No, I'm okay. Come on, let's get going!" Cheese and the girls nodded and they all set off into the jungle, walking under some large, flat-capped mushrooms as they followed the path in front of them.
Meanwhile, with Tails' group
"Sweetie Belle! Are you out there?! Can you hear me, Sweetie Belle?!" Rarity screamed at the top of her lungs.
Tails winced at her loud screaming. "I had no idea she could scream that loud," he thought to himself. He then looked over at Spike (who was holding a new leaf in his claws) and Fluttershy and whispered, "She must be really worried about her little sister, huh?"
Spike shrugged, "Eh, yeah. Still, she doesn't have to make this big a deal out of it."
Fluttershy said, "Oh Spike, that's just Rarity's way of showing she cares."
Before Spike could respond, Rarity came over and cried, "Sweetie Belle's not here! What should we do now?!"
Tails spoke, trying to sound reassuring, "Now don't panic, Rarity. Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo were with Knuckles, Cream, and Cheese last time we saw them. There's no doubt in my mind that they're safe. We just landed in a different part of the jungle than they did. We're sure to find them if we look for them."
His words seemed to do the trick, as Rarity's expression began to brighten. "You're right! I don't know about Cream and her
little friend, but you're right about Knuckles! He can surely protect Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo until we find them!" she exclaimed.
Fluttershy hesitantly murmured, "Yay?" A moment later, a frog croaking could be heard in the distance behind the shy pegasus. Fluttershy turned her head to look over her shoulder and said, excitedly but softly, "That sounded like one of the big frogs that live here in the jungle! Maybe he knows where Sweetie Belle is!"
Rarity gasped, "That's right! You can ask him, can't you, Fluttershy dear? Go on and meet him; I'm right behind you!" The pink-maned pegasus nodded and flew off in the direction of the croak, Rarity trotting after her. Tails and Spike looked at each other for a moment before running to catch up with them.
The two of them soon stepped around a red plant and found themselves in a clearing. They noticed Rarity standing a short distance away and walked over to her. When they were standing alongside her, they could see Fluttershy fluttering in front of, as she thought, one of the jungle's giant frogs. Tails gasped when he noticed the frog's black coloration and shouted, "No, Fluttershy! Don't talk to that frog!" But he was too late; the frog had already begun croaking.
Spike looked up at the fox and asked, "What's the matter? It's going to summon rain, same as all the other frogs we've seen, right?"
Tails replied, "Well, yes and no."
All of a sudden, the rain started falling and Spike held the leaf he was holding up over Rarity. "Thank you, Spike," she said nicely, but then she noticed that, unlike with the green frogs' rain, the area seemed to be a little darker while the rain fell. "That's strange
Something seems different about this rain," she noted.
Tails nodded, "Yeah
" He then looked up at the leaf and said, "Uh, Rarity? You might want to shield your hair with your hooves. Like, right now." The white unicorn looked at him quizzically and then followed his gaze up to her makeshift umbrella. She gasped as she realized it was quickly wilting and dropped to the ground, placing her hooves on top of her head as the rain drops began to pelt her. The rain persisted for another couple of seconds before clearing up.
The black frog croaked something at Fluttershy and then quickly hopped away. The yellow pegasus watched him hop away with a surprised look on her face and squeaked out, "I'm sorry, Mr. Frog. Did I say something that upset you?" But even if she shouted, the frog was already well out of hearing distance, so she got no reply back. A second later she turned around to face her friends and gasped softly when she saw all the wilted plants. She quickly flew over and landed in front of the trio, asking, "Wh-what happened to all the plants?"
Tails sighed, "Those black frogs are a little different from the green frogs we've seen so far, Fluttershy. Their rain causes plants to wither and die instead of grow."
Rarity looked at him and asked, "Rain that plants are unable to survive under? If I hadn't seen it just now, I never would've believed such a thing existed!"
Tails nodded, "Yeah. I guess it's because those black frogs are a lot like poison dart frogs. Their toxicity must somehow affect the rain they summon." He looked around a moment before saying, "We should still see some green frogs out here, but we'll have to try to watch out for those black frogs as we go, okay?" Spike, Rarity, and Fluttershy nodded in agreement. The four of them then started walking again, resuming the search for their friends.
Sonic, Twilight, Applejack, and Rainbow Dash were all stopped along the side of the path they had been following through the jungle, all of them having agreed to stop and rest for a few minutes in order to get their bearings. Earlier, Rainbow Dash had tried to quickly find everybody else by searching from the air, but was unable to do so due to how dense the jungle had become.
As she leaned back against the tree she was sitting next to, Applejack sighed, "Shucks, how'd we manage to get split up like this? This ain't like when we were in the Canterlot Hedge Maze and Discord made those hedges rise up ta separate us."
Sonic glanced over at Twilight for a second from the rock he was reclining on, the lavender unicorn quietly flipping through a few more pages of her book as it lay on a dry patch of moss. He then looked over at Applejack and said, "We were pretty much at the mercy of the wind back there, Applejack. And the wind can't be controlled any more than the rain or the seasons."
Rainbow Dash looked over from the low-hanging tree branch she was resting on and asked, "What are you talking about, Sonic? Of course things like the weather and the seasons can be controlled! That's how Equestria works!"
Sonic raised an eyebrow, "Huh?"
Applejack tilted her hat up and looked at Sonic, explaining, "We got a pretty tight control on things in Equestria, Sugar-hog. Princess Celestia moves the Sun, Princess Luna moves the Moon, and we ponies pave the way for the seasons. Like with the Running of the Leaves, to get the trees to drop their leaves for autumn. And of course there's Winter Wrap-Up, where everypony in Equestria spends the last day of winter gettin' everything ready for spring."
Rainbow added, "And Cloudsdale is the home of the weather factory, which makes all of Equestria's weather and everything related to it. Snowflakes, rainbows, clouds
you name it, the weather factory makes it. We schedule all sorts of weather occurrences with the weather factory; they can even create wind!"
Sonic shrugged, "Huh. Well, things are a little different here, Rainbow. We don't have a place like the weather factory that supplies all of our needs. Besides, you might be able to create wind, but that's about all you can do. The wind is totally free; you can make it, direct it, what have you, but it'll still do what it wants to do. That's one thing you can't control."
Rainbow Dash glared at him and spread her wings, getting up off her back and flying over to the hedgehog, getting right in his face. "Is that so? Well, I happen to have a portal leading straight to Cloudsdale in my house! Why don't we go there when we get back and we'll find out from the pegasi working at the weather factory!" she yelled. Sonic said nothing in return; he simply looked back at her, his calm gaze meeting that of the cyan pegasus'.
Applejack called, "Simmer down there, Rainbow. This ain't the time or the place to be startin' up somethin'." Rainbow Dash slowly lowered herself to the ground, her eyes still holding a bit of fire in them. The orange earth pony then added, "Besides, even if it was, we got better things to do than have Twilight break up an argument between the two o' you. Ain't that right, Twilight?"
The lavender unicorn flinched, having not expected to be made a part of the conversation and being jerked out of her thoughts so suddenly. She cleared her throat and replied, "Yes, you're absolutely right, Applejack. In fact, we should probably get moving soon." She used her magic to close her book and levitated it back into its saddlebag. She then stood up and said, "Before we go, though, I'm, uh, going to go to the little fillies' room." Before anyone could say anything, she trotted over to a nearby bush and leapt over it, leaving a trail behind her with her magic as she scurried away so she could find her way back.
Applejack stared at where Twilight had gone for a moment before saying, "That was
a bit odd fer Twilight. Ah hope she doesn't have somethin' on her mind."
Rainbow Dash shrugged, "Eh, it's probably nothing, AJ. If Twilight is worrying about something, it's probably something silly and totally not worth getting worked up over."
Sonic looked at her quizzically, "And you don't think someone should talk to her when she has something on her mind, no matter how small it may be?"
Rainbow replied, "Come on, Sonic! Spike told us about how, when she ordered some cupcakes this one time, she was so intent on making sure each cupcake had EXACTLY the same amount of frosting that she tried to fix them herself and ended up leaving almost no frosting on them. Or the time she apparently woke him up in the middle of the night because she was freaking out about planning her schedule for the month or something. Can you believe that?" She started laughing at how precise her bookworm friend tried to be while Sonic just gave her an odd look.
After a moment, the hedgehog slid off of the rock and, after stretching, started walking in the general direction of the bush Twilight had leapt over. Applejack watched him curiously and asked, "What're ya doin' there, Sonic?"
Sonic stopped and looked at her and said, "I'm just gonna go stretch my legs, Applejack. I'll be back in a bit." He then walked past the bush before stepping over some foliage, soon leaving Rainbow and Applejack's sight.
The orange earth pony raised an eyebrow, "He's actin' kinda strange too."
Rainbow Dash said, "He's probably thinking about what we told him about Equestria and Cloudsdale, especially Cloudsdale. He and Tails told us a lot of cool stuff and we told him some cool stuff. We were just returning the favor."
Applejack rolled her eyes, "Right
Rainbow turned to her and said, "We should probably make sure we're ready to leave when they get back. Want to hoof-wrestle and stretch those muscles out?"
Applejack stood up with a grin, "You're on, Rainbow." She trotted over to the rock Sonic had been resting on and stood on the side opposite to Rainbow Dash. They then held out their hooves, loud grunts soon filling the air as the two friendly rivals tried to overpower each other.
Twilight was lying down on her stomach in front of a large tree, the same way she had just a minute ago. Her book was once again open in front of her, but she wasn't reading it. Instead, her chin rested atop its open pages and she had her hooves on the side of her head as she muttered to herself. "I've got to stop thinking about these things
Just listening to my friends talk about them is enough to bring those feelings back
No, no, it's not their fault! It's never their fault. Oh, how I wish that were always true
but no! In this case, it isn't! I'm the one who
Come on, Twilight, you've been through this before and it usually hasn't ended as well as you'd like. Keep it together for once! You can get over this."
Twilight's head jerked up and she gave a light gasp at that sound. She looked back over her shoulder in the direction she had heard the twig snap and asked, "Who's there?!" Her eyes roamed around, but she didn't see anybody. Suddenly, there was a gust of wind coming from her front and she faced forward. Again, though, she saw nothing. Looking down, she gasped, "Hey, where did my book go?!" She leapt to her hooves and started frantically searching the immediate area for it. As she trotted around the side of the tree, she spotted a familiar blue figure sitting up against it, holding her book. "Sonic?!" she exclaimed.
The blue hedgehog said, "Interesting book you have here, Twilight. I don't really get a lot of the stuff I'm seeing here, but maybe that's because I'm not a magic user." He closed the book and then held it out towards the unicorn, adding, "Nice to know you're not just using it as a weapon. Personally, if I was going to use a book for that reason, I'd use a dictionary."
Twilight angrily snatched the book out of his hand, stuffing it back in her saddlebag and saying, "You know, if you wanted to look at it, you could've just asked me! You didn't have to sneak up on me like that!"
Sonic shrugged, "Yeah, I could have. But then I would've interrupted that conversation you were having with yourself."
Twilight's eyes widened at those words and she reeled back for a moment. She then bowed her head and blushed, asking, "You heard that, huh?"
Sonic replied, "Just the tail end of it. So, uh, what's up with you recently, Twilight?"
Twilight looked away and asked, "What do you mean?"
Sonic looked straight at her and said, "Come on, you know what I'm talking about. I've seen you staring off into the distance in the middle of a conversation and then acting like nothing is wrong, you acted all nervous when Applejack made that joke, and that whole thing just now with Applejack and Rainbow Dash
Something's on your mind, Twilight, and unlike Rainbow Dash, I think it's something big."
Twilight lowered her head in defeat. "Okay, you got me," she muttered.
Sonic stood up and asked, "So are you gonna tell me what it is, or
Twilight looked up at him and said, "Well, we can talk. It's just, uh
" Sonic looked at her face as her eyes trailed off. He soon had an idea what her current problem was.
He pointed over his shoulder with a finger as he said, "Come on. Maybe a walk will help you get your thoughts in order." Without waiting for a reply, he turned and started walking away. Twilight watched him for a moment before quickly trotting towards him and then slowing her pace to walk alongside him.
After a few moments, Twilight hesitantly asked, "So what did Rainbow say about me?"
Sonic answered, "Basically that you're a worrywart who obsesses over even the smallest details."
Twilight looked miffed for a moment, but then she sighed, "That's
not too far from the truth, you know."
Sonic replied, "I didn't say it wasn't. But I do think she could have found a nicer way to say it."
Twilight said, "Well, that's just the way Rainbow is occasionally. That's not a bad thing, of course, but sometimes we wish she'd show a little more emotion, like earlier with Scootaloo."
Sonic nodded in understanding. Thinking for a moment, he asked, "Is that what you were thinking about? Your friends or something related to them?"
Twilight looked at him in surprise and said, "N-no! It has nothing to do with my friends! Well, maybe a little, but that's not
" She growled to herself as she trailed off, silently cursing her lack of social skills.
Sonic turned his head towards the lavender unicorn and calmly spoke, "Look Twilight, if you don't want to tell me, I'll respect that decision. You should know, though, that I'm not judging you. I'm asking you to share your problems with me because you're a sensitive girl and I'm worried about you."
Twilight looked at his face, studying it for a moment. "He does look like he is genuinely concerned
" she thought. She then asked, "Are you sure about that? You're not going to look at me funny if it turns out to be a small problem that nopony else would worry about, like Rainbow Dash said?"
Sonic replied, "I might joke around a little from time to time, but deep down, I take concerns and problems of all sizes seriously. Like when those Shadowbolt guys challenged us to a race."
Twilight remembered Tails' words while they were working on the damaged saucers he had found, that Sonic was secretly taking her concerns about the race seriously. Still, she looked away and said, "Well
you still might be surprised by how I feel about failure."
Sonic shrugged, "When it comes to failure and loss, I think a loss is easier to get over than a failure. Failing at or with something seems like it would leave a bigger mark on someone than a loss would, but that's just me."
After a moment, Twilight spoke, "Well, my friends and I are often getting into mishaps and other situations, but the ones I've been at the center of lately, I'm not proud of." Sonic eyed her curiously; she explained, "Like the mistake I mentioned to you, Tails, and Cream when I was telling you about the friendship reports. When Princess Celestia gave me the assignment, she wanted to hear from me regularly. And up until that point, I had been sending her a letter on friendship every week."
Sonic guessed, "So you started to associate regularly reporting in with sending her a letter at least once a week?"
Twilight nodded, "Yes. And when I learned it had been a week since the last time I sent her a letter, I
kind of went overboard with trying to find something to report to her. Since my friends were
busy, I tried to make a friendship problem to resolve. That quickly led to me casting a 'want it, need it' spell on my old Smarty Pants doll that, like I said, just about all of Ponyville got caught under the influence of because I lost control of it. Thankfully, Spike had written to Princess Celestia beforehoof, so when she came to Ponyville and found out what was happening, she was able to remove the spell."
Sonic said, "Well, that was nice of Spike. So what happened to the doll?"
Twilight looked at him with an odd expression, finding it hard to believe that he was asking about that of all things. The look on his face told her he did want to know, though, so she answered, "I later found out that Applejack's big brother, Big Macintosh, took it after the spell was broken. I guess he really did like Smarty Pants, even without having the spell on it
Sonic chuckled, "Heh, that's kind of cute, actually. He must be a big softie, deep down."
Twilight asked, "Why did you ask about that, anyway? Aren't you at least a little appalled that I lost my rationality and tried to make a problem just to please my mentor?"
Sonic replied, "No. I don't mean to speak bad about her, since it sounds like you really respect her, but it seems to me she could've been a little more specific as to what 'regular' meant. You clearly didn't know, and since she didn't give you any feedback on what you were doing, it must've seemed like you were doing what she asked. Anyone could've put two and two together and come to that conclusion, not just you."
Twilight just stared at him, dumbfounded. By this time, they had circled halfway around the tree and were now walking back to where they started. Twilight soon regained her composure and said, "Well, okay. But then there was that time where I met myself."
Sonic raised an eyebrow, "Met yourself? What, like by time travel?"
Twilight nodded, "That's right, and she- I'd come to deliver a message to myself. But I was so amazed at the thought that time travel was actually possible that I didn't give myself a chance to speak, except to tell me where the time travel spells were kept. She- I ended up disappearing before I could give myself the message."
Sonic smiled, "I could see Tails having a similar reaction if he met a time-traveling version of himself. So what happened?"
Twilight explained, "When I first saw me, the time-traveling me, she was in bad shape. She was wearing a torn cat suit, her hair was a mess, and she had a bandage and eyepatch on. Since I didn't get the message, I assumed some sort of disaster must have happened by next Tuesday morning, which was when she- I time-traveled. I managed to convince everypony that there could be a disaster coming and supervised the disaster-proofing all of Ponyville, making sure the dam wouldn't break and bridges wouldn't fall and all that." Sonic nodded in understanding; Twilight then added, "Shortly after that was done, Cerberus came into town."
Sonic asked, "Cerberus? You mean that huge, three-headed dog?" At Twilight's nod, he said, "I thought he was a myth."
Twilight replied, "No, he and Tartarus are very real. He looked like he was ready to destroy Ponyville, but Fluttershy was able to calm him down in no time at all."
Sonic asked, "Fluttershy managed to tame Cerberus?" He whistled in amazement.
Twilight nodded, "Yes, and with a little help from Pinkie Pie, I was able to get him back to the gates of Tartarus before any monsters escaped. I thought the future had been changed after that, but I reconsidered that when, after I returned home, I received a scar exactly like the one on Future Twilight's face. And after that, by late Monday night, I looked exactly like Future Twilight."
Sonic asked, "So then what?"
Twilight said, "I was still sure that there was a disaster coming, so I tried to follow up on what Future Twilight had told me and tried to find a time spell in the Canterlot Archives that would stop time. Tuesday morning came before I could find any time-related spells, though, and I found out that there was no disaster. Pinkie Pie then found a spell that would allow me to travel back in time once and I decided to use it to tell my past self not to worry about a disaster that would never happen."
Sonic smiled, "Let me guess. You were unable to deliver the message because Past Twilight kept interrupting you." Twilight nodded slowly. Sonic shook his head, "That's pretty crazy. That sounds like something that should've happened to me during my time on the Little Planet. Well, at least you managed to get out of that loop, and I'll bet you learned something valuable from that whole experience."
As they returned to the front of the tree near where they started, Twilight came to a stop and Sonic did as well a second later and turned around. Looking down, the lavender unicorn said, "Well, yes, but
And then there was my brother's wedding, when the Queen of the Changelings tried to replace Princess Cadance
" Sonic looked back at her for a moment before walking over and standing next to her, turning to face the same direction she was. He then placed his right hand on the back of her head. Before she could ask, he suddenly started pushing against her head while starting to run. "Sonic, what are you doing?! I'm not used to running this fast!" she exclaimed.
Sonic replied, "That's okay. Just hold your head up and run!" With that, he began to direct her with his hand, both of them circling the tree again. Having no idea what else to do in this situation, Twilight decided to listen to Sonic, raising her head high and lifting her legs as he pushed and ran alongside her. She stumbled a bit at first, but as they began to go back around to the front, her movements began to feel
right. It seemed like a strange thing to feel, but she decided to embrace it.
Sonic began to slow down as they came closer to the front of the tree, coming to a complete stop when they reached their starting point. Sonic took his hand off of Twilight's head and stepped away, turning to face her and asking, "How did that feel?"
Twilight looked at him in amazement before saying, "I
The only time I've ever run like that is when there's trouble. I've never really run like that on my own for fun before. It
feels better than I thought it would. It felt great, in fact."
Sonic nodded and then said, "Listen Twilight, I think I have a better understanding of why you've started feeling off your game, and I'd like to help you get back on it. Thing is, you haven't told me the exact reason why, but that's okay."
Twilight asked, "Really?"
Sonic nodded, "Yeah. It's obviously something deep, something that affects you on a personal level. Since you're intent on keeping it to yourself, I'd have to really go digging to get it out of you, and I don't feel like invading your personal business like that. If you can tell me honestly that talking with me helped, though, and that you'll try to remain focused, I'll back off and let you try to sort out what you need to do on your own."
Twilight looked down, her eyes running over the ground as she thought about how she felt. "It's still there, but
talking with Sonic did feel good. And that run just now actually did raise my spirits a bit." After a minute, she looked back up at him and gave him a nod.
Sonic nodded back, "Good. And if you start feeling those thoughts come back, try to think about the good things that came out of those events you mentioned. Your old doll found a new home, disaster-proofing Ponyville rooted out things that could've turned into problems later on, you ultimately saved your brother and his wife from those changeling things, and I'm sure some good came out of anything else you're thinking of. Some things do need a push or a pull to begin, like Celestia sending you to Ponyville to make friends, but nothing truly starts until you take action." Twilight nodded in understanding; Sonic then added, "If you have time to worry, then run!"
Twilight managed to crack a full-blown smile at that. "Was that supposed to be a piece of advice?" she asked.
Sonic smiled back, "You never know. Besides, I was looking to see you smile. It means something good did come out of this."
Twilight's smile, which had faltered for a moment, returned at his words. "That sounds like something Pinkie Pie would say," she commented.
Sonic said, "Then I guess the both of us like seeing other people smile." The two of them shared a friendly smile at that.
Suddenly, they both heard Applejack call, "Twilight! Sonic! Where the hay are both o' ya?!"
Twilight looked back at Sonic sheepishly, "Sounds like we've kept everybody waiting."
Sonic nodded, "Yeah. Let's get going." Twilight nodded and they both hurried back along the path Twilight had marked to go meet up with Applejack and Rainbow Dash.
How much longer does this jungle go on?" Sweetie Belle whimpered. They had been walking for quite a while now, but so far hadn't seen any sign of Tails or Sonic's groups. And all the while Sweetie Belle was getting more and more desperate to find her older sister.
"Please don't get sad, Sweetie Belle. Everything will be all right," Cream tried to reassure her. She looked to Knuckles and asked, "Is there any way we could try to signal to the others or leave a message for them, Mr. Knuckles?"
Knuckles came to a stop, as did the rest of the group, and he scratched his head. "I can think of a few, but I don't think they'd be very effective here. We could build a fire, but the smoke might be hard to see. I could mark the trees, but they'd have to be paying attention to notice them."
Scootaloo looked at Sweetie Belle and said, "Try calling her again. Maybe she'll hear you this time."
The white unicorn sighed and yelled, "Rarity! Are you there, Rarity?! Can you hear me?!"
Silence followed for a few seconds, but then they heard an unmistakably familiar voice, "SWEETIE BELLE!"
The little filly gasped in joy and ran in the direction she had heard it from, calling, "RARITY!" The rest of the group ran after her, soon coming across her standing next to a ledge. "Rarity, I'm up here!" she called.
The group moved over to the ledge and looked down to see Tails' group (minus Fluttershy) down below. Tails and Spike waved up at Knuckles and the others while Rarity exclaimed, "Sweetie Belle! Oh, thank Celestia you're okay!"
Sweetie Belle crouched down and then leapt forward, jumping off the ledge. Before she could start falling, Knuckles moved quickly and grabbed her in his hands. Pulling her back up, he said, "Easy there, kid. I understand you're excited, but you don't want to go getting seriously hurt in front of your sister after just finding her." He then picked up Scootaloo and leapt over the ledge himself, gliding down while Cream and Cheese flew down after him.
As soon as he landed, Knuckles set down both Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle, the latter immediately running to Rarity. While the two sisters rejoiced at being reunited, Tails and Spike walked over to the rest of the group. Tails spoke first, "Hey Knuckles, Scootaloo, Cream, and Cheese. I'm glad you're all okay."
Knuckles nodded, "Same to you guys. I see you managed to keep Sweetie Belle's sister from getting her makeup ruined."
Spike shrugged, "Yeah, we managed."
Scootaloo grinned, "You make it sound like it was easy, but I bet it wasn't."
Cream looked around and asked, "Hey, where's Miss Fluttershy?"
Even Rarity and Sweetie Belle looked up at that question. Tails looked around and said, "That's strange. She was right here a minute ago."
Rarity eyed a nearby tree with a hole in its front for a moment before releasing her sister and walking over to it. She tapped a hoof on the tree next to the hole several times before saying, "Please come out of there, Fluttershy darling. It's just some of our friends that we got separated from." A few seconds of silence followed before Fluttershy's blue eyes appeared in the hole. They blinked twice and then the shy pegasus pulled herself out of the tree.
While watching Rarity and Fluttershy come back over, Knuckles asked, "What's eating her?"
As the two friends came to a stop near the whole group, Tails said, "We ran into some of the black frogs that live in this part of the jungle. And, well
Fluttershy nodded meekly, "They were all so rude
Tails looked at her worriedly for a moment before turning back to Knuckles and saying, "We haven't seen Sonic or the others so far. Did you guys see them at all?"
Knuckles shook his head, "No such luck. Knowing Sonic, though, he's probably getting into trouble or something."
Tails giggled, "I wouldn't be surprised, especially since Rainbow Dash was with them."
Cream asked, "Should we look for them?"
Rarity said, "I don't think that will be necessary, dearie. Since Rainbow Dash is with them, I'm sure they'll find us."
Before anyone else could say anything, Tails spoke, "Hey, did anybody hear that?"
Spike asked, "Hear what?"
Knuckles said, "I heard it too. It sounded like it came from the swamp." Tails and Knuckles moved over to a spot where they could clearly see the water in the swamp, everybody following after them. After a couple of seconds, they could see Sonic swinging through the swamp towards them, both Applejack and Twilight hanging onto his legs and Rainbow Dash flying alongside him as he leapt from one vine to the next. But almost immediately after seeing them, they saw something chasing them! "What's that?! It's huge!" Knuckles exclaimed.
Tails quickly recognized what was behind them and yelled, "It's a giant alligator!" Spike and all the ponies began to panic at that. All except Fluttershy, who remained where she was a moderate distance behind Tails, Knuckles, Cream, and Cheese and stared at the approaching alligator while everypony else ran around frantically.
As they got closer, Tails, Knuckles, Cream, Cheese, and Fluttershy began to hear Sonic's group talking. "Rainbow, what is it with you and kickin' things ten times yer size?!" Applejack was yelling.
"Hey, he was the one who woke up and started floating towards us! I was giving him a warning not to even think about eating us!" Rainbow yelled back.
"Why did it wake up anyway? I thought for sure we could get by it quietly on our log!" Twilight moaned.
Sonic ignored the conversation, focusing on getting Twilight and Applejack to a solid footing. As he began to approach the patch of land where the others were, he noticed them and said, "Hey, there they are!" He then called down, "Twilight, Applejack! We're coming up on our friends and some land! Get ready to let go!" Both ponies tensed up as he approached the last vine, both of them letting go as he swung, Sonic and Rainbow Dash immediately following them down to the ground. As soon as they touched down, they all ran, as did Tails, Knuckles, Cream, and Cheese as the alligator began to drag itself onto land.
Fluttershy remained where she was, staring at the alligator as it pulled itself out of the water. Something began to course through her as she looked on. She'd tried to take it in stride and keep her head up like everybody else, but she had had it with this jungle. First the battleship that attacked them, then the black frogs being rude or otherwise mean, and now this alligator thinking he could eat her friends
The expression on Fluttershy's face changed, her eyes narrowing as they now sported a firm and strong gaze.
Sonic's group, along with Tails and Knuckles, were trying to get everyone else back under control and regroup when Sonic saw that Fluttershy hadn't moved at all. And that alligator's jaws weren't very far from her! He dashed towards her, trying to grab her, but before he could reach her, she suddenly flew up, towards the alligator! "Fluttershy, wait!" he called.
Fluttershy came to a stop about halfway down the alligator's snout, hovering above it as she screamed, "LISTEN!" It was such a powerful shout, such an unusual shout to hear from the yellow pegasus, that the alligator stopped trying to get out of the water and everybody else stopped what they were doing and stood where they were, watching quietly.
Fluttershy landed on the gator's snout and walked towards its eyes, yelling, "You can be big, ferocious, and snappy all you want, but you DON'T get to do whatever you want!" She stopped right in front of one of the gator's eyes, giving him the full force of 'The Stare' as she continued, "I don't take kindly to anyone who tries to hurt my friends, much less eat them! One of them may have kicked you, but that does NOT give you an excuse to go and try to eat someone much smaller than you! Now you'd better get back in that water and go back to floating like a log, or I'm going to find your mother and tell her about what you've been doing! Do you understand me?!" After a second, the alligator gave a low grunt and began to slide backwards, Fluttershy flapping her wings to remain airborne as the gator disappeared back into the water.
Her business finished, Fluttershy flew down to her friends with a smile, her happiness restored. She landed in front of everybody and looked at them. They all had varying levels of shock and amazement all over their faces, but none looked more surprised than Sonic and his friends. Knuckles' eyes were wide as he gave Fluttershy an open-mouthed stare, Tails' left eyelid twitched as he looked at her, and Sonic, Cream, and Cheese looked at her with wide eyes. Rarity was the first to speak, "Goodness! Fluttershy, you were most impressive, darling! That uncouth alligator stood no chance against 'The Stare'!"
Sonic looked at her and repeated, "'The Stare'?"
Sweetie Belle piped up, "Yeah! Fluttershy's the Stare Master! Any animal that misbehaves on her watch is gonna get a dose of 'The Stare'!"
Scootaloo added, "She scared off a cockatrice, and even changed a full-grown dragon's mind, with it!"
Cream asked, "What's a cockatrice?"
Fluttershy, reverting back to her usual timid self, meekly explained, "It, um, it's a creature that has the head of a chicken and the body of a snake. They're fearsome and dangerous, and they can turn other creatures to stone with their gaze."
Cream gasped, "Oh my." Cheese murmured a bit worriedly.
Knuckles asked, "You managed to out-stare something like that?"
Fluttershy replied, "Yes. Um, I hope I didn't overstep myself by doing that
Sonic held his thumb up, "I thought it was pretty epic, actually."
Knuckles grinned, "No argument here!"
Tails cheered, "Yeah! You should totally do it again sometime!" Cream, Cheese, Scootaloo, and Sweetie Belle all joined in on the cheer.
As she observed Fluttershy's blushing face, Rarity leaned over to Twilight and Applejack and whispered, "The poor girl's probably drowning in testosterone right now." Both Twilight and Applejack smiled at her, albeit a little weirdly.
As he and Knuckles bumped fists, Sonic noticed something out of the corner of his eye behind some bushes. He couldn't see it clearly from the distance he was at, but it almost looked like a white tuft of
something. Sonic watched it for a moment when, suddenly, it disappeared behind the bushes! "Is someone back there?!" he wondered. Without warning, he suddenly shot in the direction of the bushes, startling everybody. As he neared the bushes, he leapt up, going right over them and landing on the grass behind them. He then looked up.
And found three petrified figures looking back at him. One of them he clearly recognized as Espio. The other two were earth ponies, one a mare with a cotton candy-like mane and tail and the other a young filly with a bow on her head. Everyone else came through the bushes as he stood up and quickly saw what he was looking at.
"Apple Bloom!" Applejack exclaimed as she rushed over to her little sister.
"Pinkie Pie!" Rainbow Dash said, flying over to the (at the moment) no-longer pink mare.
"And Espio too!" Knuckles added as he went to check on the chameleon.
Tails looked at Sonic and said, "You found them, Sonic!"
Twilight asked, "How did you know they were over here?"
Sonic weakly grinned back and shrugged, "Guess I got lucky." He then glanced away and thought about what he had seen. "I don't think I just imagined seeing that
But I didn't exactly get a good look at what it was either."
He was brought out of his thoughts when he heard Rainbow Dash speak, "Come on, Tails, get that ring going and get us out of here!"
The fox nodded, "Right!" As he pulled out the Warp Ring, Sonic walked over to help Knuckles with Espio and Twilight and Fluttershy went over to Pinkie Pie and Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo went over to Applejack and Apple Bloom. Tails tossed the ring up and it grew bigger with a familiar *PHVWOW*. Everybody then stepped through it, the ring vanishing afterwards.
Everybody stood in front of Sugarcube Corner, waiting for the life to come back to it and the three figures in front of them. They didn't have long to wait before a white wave crept up Sugarcube Corner, restoring its bright colors. Shortly afterwards, the wave did the same first to Apple Bloom, then Espio, and finally Pinkie Pie. As soon as Apple Bloom was back, Applejack scooped her up in a hug and exclaimed, "Apple Bloom! Are ya okay?"
The little filly, although surprised by the sudden action and returning to her body, asked, "A-Applejack? Where am Ah? What's goin' on?"
Applejack held her out and said, "It doesn't matter, sis. You're back now, so everything's okay."
Espio, due to a combination of his sudden return and the reunion in front of him, looked around in alarm before leaping up, performing a spin in midair. After spinning once, he held his left hand up in front of his face, his index and middle finger up as he looked around quickly. He soon spotted Sonic, Tails, Knuckles, Cream, and Cheese below him, amongst the gathering of ponies, all looking up at him. His mind quickly made sense of the scene before him and he dropped down. He then stood up and faced everybody and said, "Thank you, my friends. But beware, for I have looked into the soul of our enemy and I saw only darkness." Sonic, Tails, and Knuckles all nodded in understanding.
Suddenly, the front door of Sugarcube Corner swung open and both Mr. and Mrs. Cake stepped out onto the top step, both looking around. Cup Cake was the first to speak, "Oh my
goodness! What is
what's happened to Ponyville?!"
Carrot Cake looked towards the group and his eyes widened at the sight of Sonic, Tails, Knuckles, Espio, Cream, and Cheese. "What
" Taking another glance around, he noticed Pinkie Pie and asked, "Pinkie Pie, did you have something to do with all this?"
Tails looked over at the pink pony when he heard her name and noticed that she hadn't moved at all. Even though she had regained her color, she still stood in the exact same position, her face still having the same expression on it as before. "Why isn't she moving?" he wondered worriedly.
Twilight turned and called, "Pinkie Pie?"
No response. So Rainbow Dash flew up and landed in front of the party pony. She then waved a hoof in front of her face, saying, "Hey, Pinkie Pie! Anypony home?" Still no response from Pinkie Pie. So Rainbow lowered her hoof and moved her head so her face was right up against Pinkie Pie's. She looked into the light blue eyes of the pink pony, narrowing her eyes.
Then she heard a snort. Rainbow Dash was so startled she leaned backwards, now noticing a grin on the pink pony's face. A second later, Pinkie Pie burst into laughter, causing Rainbow Dash to fall onto her back in surprise. She then glared up at Pinkie Pie and shouted, "Pinkie Pie!"
The pink pony continued to giggle, but through her giggles she said, "Sorry, Dashie! You just looked so weird with your face all scrunched up like that! It was SO funny to look at!" As Rainbow Dash stood up, Pinkie Pie started bouncing around the group, rambling, "Not that I haven't seen it before! I'm just more used to seeing it from Twilight when she's trying to read something or from Applejack if I try to visit her and she's collecting apples or from Rarity when she says she needs to concentrate on making a dress! I don't get it all that often from you, Dashie! Or from Fluttershy, come to think of it!"
The shy pegasus in question tried to interject, "Um, Pinkie?"
"I mean, there were a few times she did after she took that seminar, but she's never used 'The Stare' on me! Ooh, I don't know what I'd do if she did that! I bet I'd go all melty and turn into a pink puddle! Kind of like ice cream soup, only I'd be a Pinkie Pie soup! And if I had Gummy with me when that happened, he'd probably try to slurp me up!"
Applejack spoke, "Pinkie."
"Hey, I just noticed I can be heard and seen again! That means I'm back in my body and not floating around like a ghostie anymore! Whoo-hoo! Though it was kind of fun being a ghostie! Nopony could see me and I could go through walls and float around!"
Rainbow Dash loudly said, "Pinkie!"
"Ooh, but there were bad parts to it too! It was kind of lonely with nopony able to see or talk to me, and ghosties don't eat, so I couldn't eat either! Or could I? I didn't even try it! Oh well, it was fun and that's all that matters, because
Twilight had had enough of Pinkie's rambling and yelled, "PINKIE!"
Pinkie Pie froze in midair for a second before dropping down onto the ground between the group and Sugarcube Corner. "Yes, Twilight?" she asked sweetly, batting her eyelashes afterward. Twilight pointed her left forehoof upwards and Pinkie followed it, looking up at complete whiteness. She then looked down at Twilight with the same innocent expression, the lavender unicorn grimacing before pointing her right forehoof at Sonic and his friends. THIS got a reaction out of Pinkie Pie. Her eyes widened and she gave one of her famous floating gasps before suddenly shooting over everybody's heads. By the time everybody turned around, she had disappeared somewhere.
Sonic pointed in the direction Pinkie Pie had shot off in and asked, "Is
that normal for her?"
Twilight sighed, "For the most part? Yes."
Cup Cake spoke up, causing everyone to turn back around, "Could somepony please explain what's going on?"
Applejack spoke before Twilight could launch into lecture mode, "It's kind of a long story, Mr. and Mrs. Cake. All ya really need ta know right now is that ya should stay indoors for the time bein'. Mayor said so herself."
Carrot Cake looked confused. "Why?" he asked.
Suddenly, the ground shook and a vortex opened up above Sugarcube Corner, the creature the group was looking emerging from it and flying overhead before disappearing through another vortex. Sonic pointed up at where it had been, "Aside from the creepy white world you're in right now? That thing."
Carrot Cake stuttered, "Uh
Good enough for me!"
Cup Cake gasped, "Oh, the twins! We'd better make sure that Pumpkin Cake and Pound Cake are okay!" Mr. Cake nodded and they both disappeared inside, shutting the door behind them.
Twilight called, "Don't let them go inside of Pinkie Pie's room! There's something in there they shouldn't go near!"
Rainbow looked up at where the monster had been and asked, "Man, what's up with that thing?! Why does it keep disappearing and reappearing like that?!"
Tails spoke up, "As near as I can tell, when that thing goes through time, it tears space apart, ripping holes in our universe and leaving parts of yours dead. That's where all the portals are coming from and why Ponyville and probably the surrounding areas are in this weird, white limbo."
Applejack asked, "Tearin' holes in space? Ain't that, uh, dangerous?"
Tails replied, "Well, yes, it is. Something similar happened the first time we met Blaze, when our worlds were in danger of colliding. I don't want to jump to any conclusions just yet, but something like that could happen if we don't do something about that thing."
Twilight said, "But when we go through the portals, we restore color and life to Ponyville. Maybe the portals are affected somehow too?"
Tails brought out his radar and held it up towards Sugarcube Corner. After a few moments, he lowered it and turned back around, saying, "I think you're right, Twilight. The readings seem to have stabilized, so maybe going through the portals is preventing the holes from becoming bigger. That would mean we're fixing space as we go along. That would also explain why the color is coming back to Ponyville."
Sonic spoke, "Then I guess we have to work like there's no tomorrow, or there won't be a tomorrow!" Everybody nodded in agreement before setting off to find Pinkie Pie, no one noticing a figure disappear into the shadows as they headed back into Ponyville.