It had been nearly a week and a half since Elara had taken up temporary residence at Fluttershy’s cottage. Rarity thought it a testament to Twilight’s growing trust in them that she didn’t protest—too much—at having the owl away from home. Rarity knew how important the owl was to Twilight, though—and so when Elara was ready to go, she wasted no time in picking her up, telling the Cutie Mark Crusaders “no, for the twentieth time, you cannot come along today,” and heading off to the library.
The first thing Rarity noticed—or rather, heard—when she stepped into the library was a series of loud slams coming from the lower floor. They were the exact same sounds she’d been hearing all week, and they only fueled her ever-growing desire to know just what Twilight was doing.
“Twilight?” she called out, but the sounds from below only grew louder and louder.
Humming thoughtfully, she looked down and concerned herself with Elara, who was now waddling into the library, Themis following behind. Rarity had initially wanted to keep Elara’s return a surprise, but it was hard to surprise somepony who liked to appear out of nowhere every chance she got.
“Stay here while I fetch Twilight,” Rarity said, receiving two simultaneous hoots in reply.
Rarity trotted deeper into the library’s corridors, calling out again for Twilight. Every so often, she brushed her hoof against passing books in hopes of summoning Twilight, but alas. Must be on the lower floor, Rarity thought, trotting toward the staircases.
To her surprise, unlike her previous visits, no pink barrier prevented her from descending the stairs. Part of her argued against going down, pushed back against ignoring Twilight’s wishes, but… if whatever she was doing involved protection against the Spirit, then Rarity ought to be allowed to know what was going on, oughtn’t she?
With that in mind, she placed a hoof on the first step, and when no barrier appeared, she descended. Moments later, as the lower floor came into view, she stopped in her tracks to stare, wide-eyed.
As it turned out, the magic maze was the culprit for the loud, almost earth-shaking slams she kept hearing. Rarity knew the maze could be, well, chaotic, but this was an entirely new level of disorder. Up and down, sideways and diagonally, the bookcases zoomed into the air, spun around in a frenzy, and came crashing down with a deafening thud.
Rarity finally found Twilight trapped in the middle of the maze—though “trapped” didn’t really seem accurate. Twilight just stood there, looking like a predator stalking its prey, and she only reacted whenever a bookcase floated up in the air, allowing her to quickly zoom to the next area. If anything, it seemed as though she was looking for something, but… what?
Rarity returned her gaze to the maze, scanning for who-knew-what, and it wasn’t until a couple minutes passed that she saw it. Out of all the erratic bookcases floating around, Rarity noticed one was enveloped with a yellow-black aura, as if overflowing with magic. She noticed, too, that it was moving faster than the others, and where the other bookcases may have tried to block Twilight’s path, this one was actively avoiding her.
“Twilight!” Rarity loudly called out, and finally Twilight looked up at her.
Rarity had suspected that the princess hadn’t been expecting company, and judging by Twilight’s expression, Rarity was entirely correct. However, her staring was cut short when, out of the blue, a bookcase came slamming down in front of Twilight, blocking her from Rarity’s view.
“Will you STOP that?!” Twilight yelled, sounding exasperated.
She reemerged seconds later, but only because she had now resorted to trotting through the bookcases, unceremoniously ignoring the bookcases slamming down in front of her—and, to Rarity’s horror, in one case slamming down through her.
Taking advantage of the moment, Rarity quickly trotted back to the upper floor. Now that she’d been sighted, she might still have time to rush back to the owls and surprise Twilight. Besides, it looked as though she needed the distraction.
Practically galloping, Rarity reached the entrance only to find that Elara had disobeyed her, Fluttershy, and by the look on his face, Themis too. Rather than staying put on the floor, she’d used her newly healed wing to fly up to the table, disregarding Themis’s scowl as she ordered the stray scrolls scattered there.
“Elara!” Rarity scolded, momentarily forgetting Twilight was certainly on her way. “You know you’re not supposed to—”
Rarity looked around, and indeed, Twilight had teleported to the entrance, thus ruining the… attempted dramatic reveal Rarity had planned. Without even bothering to say “hello, how are you?’” or even offer a “thank you,” Twilight rushed to the table and used her magic to levitate Elara into the air. She nuzzled the owl, which, to Rarity, looked a little odd—her face phased right through Elara. The owl could apparently feel her master’s touch, however, because she cooed happily and rubbed her head against Twilight’s incorporeal muzzle as though it were solid matter.
“Are you all right? Are you feeling better?” Twilight asked when she finally placed the owl back on the table. When Elara nodded and carefully extended her wing in reply, Twilight relaxed visibly and offered a smile wider than she’d ever offered Rarity—not that Rarity cared, of course. “Oh, I’m so relieved…”
“See? I told you Fluttershy would take excellent care of her, didn’t I?” Rarity asked, finally drawing Twilight’s attention.
And, to her surprise, Twilight’s elated disposition didn’t cease. If anything, it was as if she’d forgotten her serious ancient alicorn self, and Twilight moved forward, expressing effusive gratitude to the unicorn while lifting her foreleg to hug her.
Or, attempt to hug her, at least, until she noticed she’d accidentally phased through Rarity. In an instant, a light flush appeared on her cheeks and Twilight drew back.
“Oh, er, sorry,” she blurted out, taking a step back.
“Er, that’s quite all right,” Rarity replied, finding a light blush decorating her own cheeks, too—not to mention a chill running down her spine at, well, having been more or less hugged by a ghost.
Who are you trying to fool? a little, sneaky voice at the back of her mind asked, a little voice that had been making alarmingly frequent appearances. You’re just pleased she hugged you. That’s why you felt chills, isn’t it?
“Thank you, Rarity,” Twilight repeated, thankfully silencing the voice teasing Rarity. Though there was still a blush on her cheeks, it seemed as though Twilight had finally reverted to her serious, normal self and—
And, actually, was the serious Twilight really the… “normal” Twilight? Why did Rarity feel as if she’d just glimpsed not only a wholly different alicorn, but a more real Twilight who had been slowly surfacing over the past months? The more she thought about it, the more she wished she’d been able to meet Twilight before she was imprisoned. Had she been a happier pony? Or was she really just as serious as she was now?
Twilight’s dignified posture didn’t last long, however, and she suddenly slumped forward, apparently forcing herself to relax. “I… If Elara had…”
“Twilight, don’t even think about that. The only thing that matters is that she’s back home, safe and sound,” Rarity said, brushing away Twilight’s words with a wave of her hoof. “Honestly, what really concerns me is whatever in goodness’ name is going on downstairs. Since when has your maze been trying to—well, it can’t actually kill you, but it seems very keen on trying.”
Twilight grimaced. “Oh. That. It doesn’t matter,” she said.
Rarity blinked. “Oh. I see! Well, if you say s—”
“It’s Chaos magic, with a capital C,” Twilight interrupted, because apparently it did matter. Or maybe she just wanted to explain regardless. “The maze is completely enveloped with a Chaos magic field. It’s never done much harm before, except for being very aggravating, but I…” A spark of magic shot out from Twilight’s horn, and a scroll appeared before her, which she unfurled and read. “I was hoping to harness some of the magic to create a detection spell, but it… it seems to be against it.”
“Against it?” Rarity asked, raising an eyebrow. She didn’t know magic itself could be against anything.
“Chaos magic works differently than our magic,” Twilight elaborated, gesturing with her hoof while trying to find the words to explain. “It has a life of its own, and it knows what I’m trying to do with it. One of the bookcases downstairs is the source of the magic, but I haven’t been able to get it to stop moving around.”
Rarity hummed thoughtfully. “I suppose it might be difficult to wrangle a moving bookcase, yes.”
Twilight sighed, teleporting the scroll away. “I have a book I want to show you,” she said, her tone of voice lightening as she trotted toward a nearby table, Rarity following behind. On the table were two large books, one of which she picked up and levitated toward Rarity. “It should work until I can find a way to harness Discord’s magic. If I help you practice, you should be able to learn the spells in a little over a week.”
Rarity looked the book over, brushing her hoof against the cover. It was obviously aged, yet was in perfect condition, like every other book in the library. “The Science of Teleportation,” she read to herself, furrowing her brow. How was this supposed to help? Surely Twilight wasn’t planning to teach Rarity how to teleport in one week.
“Twilight? Isn’t this the wrong book?” she said politely, levitating the book back toward the alicorn. She glanced toward the other book, which was no doubt about simple yet effective magic spells. “I assume that one must be the correct one?”
Twilight raised an eyebrow. “No, this is the right one,” she replied, pushing the book back toward Rarity. She trotted next to Rarity and magicked the book open. “There are some exercises you can start with today, and tomorrow we’ll formally begin with short-distance teleportation.”
“Twilight, darling, I think you may be mistaking me with somepony possessing astounding magical abilities if you expect me to learn teleportation in a week,” Rarity pointed out, again ever so polite.
Twilight didn’t immediately look back at Rarity, and instead furrowed her brow. After a moment she looked toward Rarity and sized her up, looking somewhat disappointed by Rarity’s less-than-enthused reaction. “Well, maybe a week is a bit of a stretch,” she conceded, turning back to her book. “A week and a half should work, then. Maybe two weeks.”
Well, that was certainly a vast change.
“Twilight, I—” Rarity’s protest was cut short when a piece of scroll fell out of the book. Her curiosity piqued, she picked it up and looked it over. “What’s this?”
Twilight took the scroll in her magic and looked it over. “Oh! Sorry. I was using that scroll earlier as a bookmark. You can put it on the table,” she said, floating the scroll over to Rarity and returning her gaze to the book. “As I was saying, if you train twelve hours a day, we should be able to move on to the next lesson by Tuesday.”
While Twilight rambled on about the necessary magical training, the unicorn entertained herself with reading the scroll. There were some notes on teleportation spells, on earth pony magic, and the last notes were about a… long-distance communication spell?
Now this was interesting. Not to mention useful. And perhaps even within her actual magical capabilities.
“Twilight? What’s all this about?” she asked, rousing Twilight’s attention and showing her the corresponding text on the parchment. “It says you can talk with somepony else through a focus of some sort?”
Twilight took the scroll again and looked it over. “Oh. Er, yes. It was a spell I had been working on before my imprisonment. Something you said last week reminded me of it.”
Rarity waited a moment for Twilight to continue, and when it was apparent she wouldn’t, Rarity cleared her throat and spoke up. “And… when were you planning on telling me about it? I would have assumed a communication spell would be very helpful in our situation,” she said. “Much more so than teleportation, which I probably won’t be able to learn regardless of how many weeks we spend on it.”
“It doesn’t work,” Twilight replied, still looking at the book and only briefly glancing at Rarity. “It’s a modified version of an ancient communication spell that was already barely functional before I tinkered with it. It had a whole swarm of problems and limitations, and even after I was trapped here and tried to reduce them, I only managed to get rid of a few of them. Trust me, I’ve tried to make it work. It just won’t.”
“And what would those limitations be…?”
“For one, the range of the communication is dependent on the power of the ponies using it, and a connection to the magical ether that I still don’t fully understand. However, increasing the area of effect of a spell is quite simple even from a technical standpoint, so in theory, I was at least able to succeed there.”
After a pause, Rarity pressed, “And the other limitations?”
Twilight wasn’t telling her everything. Worse, it felt like the alicorn was making a conscious effort not to mention it at all.
And it seemed as though she was right, judging by Twilight’s flickering flustered expression.
Twilight lowered the book and explained, “Well, we would need to have two nearly identical objects to use as foci for the spell, and we don’t have anything like that.”
Don’t have anything like that? Hm…
“We do, actually,” Rarity replied with a devilish smile, toying with the crystal necklace hanging from her neck.
“Oh… Right,” Twilight said, looking at Rarity’s necklace. After a moment, though, she turned back to her work. “I don’t know…”
“Twilight, we can at least try, can’t we?” Rarity pushed, finding she was having a hard time not raising her voice. Honestly, why was Twilight so adamantly negative all the time? “We don’t lose anything by trying, and frankly, I’d like to have a spell like that! Wouldn’t you?”
Twilight looked taken aback, and Rarity realized she had raised her voice after all.
“I— Well— But—” Twilight blurted out, apparently at a loss for what to say. “All right, fine,” she finally relented. She placed the book back on the table, and with a few sparks of magic, her own necklace appeared next to her, as well as a scroll.
“Thank you,” Rarity said, smiling and stepping back, allowing Twilight to unfurl the scroll and read it.
Actually, thinking about it, she was quite thrilled by the idea of being able to instantly talk to Twilight—not only because that was sure to make the search for the books infinitely easier, but because just the idea sent giddy butterflies fluttering around in her stomach.
“All right, then. We’ll need to cast a primary spell first. If it works, and we have the needed connection, the necklaces will become magic receptacles,” Twilight said, enveloping her necklace in her magic. “It works purely based on our magic aura, so it shouldn’t matter that I don’t have a physical body. As you know, our magic is our very essence, and according to Star Swirl’s Fifth Magic Thermo—”
“Yes, yes! What’s the spell we have to cast?” Rarity interrupted, too excited to care for decorum, or the offended look Twilight threw at her.
“Well, we…” Twilight faltered and flattened her ears against her head. “Rarity, you have to understand that I don’t think it’s going to work, and—”
“Twiliiight,” Rarity whined, rolling her eyes. “Darling, last year I thought you were a fairy tale, and yet here we are! I do believe that, between the two of us, you can afford to have a little more faith, hm?”
Twilight opened her mouth, looking as if she was about to protest, but a sigh came out instead. “All right.”
The first spell wasn’t as hard to memorize as Rarity had anticipated. She knew olden ponies relied mostly on runes, and with Twilight there to translate and dictate, it only took a few minutes to learn properly. Of course, the runes themselves were the easy part. The hard part was actually casting the spell, made difficult by Rarity’s growing worry that it wouldn’t work.
“Now, when you cast the spell, you need to focus on the necklace and the pony you want to connect with. The spell makes it so that you can enter a pony’s mind, and allows them into yours. There won’t be any barriers between our minds.” Twilight instructed, and Rarity could tell Twilight was somewhat nervous. “You need to be…” She faltered again. “You need to be thinking of me, and you need to see me very clearly.”
Rarity nodded, and she felt an odd pressure in her chest. It felt like she was being tested. Of course, it was a test in the sense that they were trying to get a spell to work, but it seemed like so much more than just that. If it worked, it would prove to Twilight that Rarity wasn’t just a pretty face, but that she did, in fact, have good ideas. Not everything she did landed her in the path of an ancient god of chaos or a jail cell. Moreover, if it worked, she just knew she could convince Twilight that they would gather the books and free her.
“On the count of three, we’ll both cast the spell,” Twilight said ominously, and Rarity was proud of how dramatic she was being.
Rarity nodded, levitated the clear crystal necklace in her magic, and waited for the countdown.
“One… Two… Three!” Twilight exclaimed, closing her eyes.
The last thing Rarity saw was Twilight’s horn flashing before she too closed her eyes, mentally repeating the spell she’d learned. As she did so, she could feel the magic flowing out of her horn, and she focused herself on thinking of Twilight.
She thought of her physical form first, insofar as Twilight possessed a physical form. She thought of her violet eyes, and her long mane, and how it seemed to have magic flowing through it. She thought of Twilight’s lavender coat, how it was always in pristine condition, and how she sometimes wished she could brush her hoof against it. The fact that she couldn’t led her to think of Twilight’s incorporeality, which in turn led her to think of what Twilight had once been to her. Not a pony, but a legend of old; a forlorn spirit who attacked anypony who came near her out of fear.
Her first memories of Twilight were of a spirit with a perpetual frown on her face, and yet thinking of the Twilight she knew now, it was surprising to see how far they’d come. From the alicorn who’d been furious beyond words at Rarity’s attempts to help her, to the mare who was now trying hard to find a way to keep Rarity safe despite the odds.
The spell was long forgotten, lost in the torrent of memories that flooded Rarity’s mind. She remembered how hateful Twilight was of the maze, and how not only a week later she was gleefully playing in it with Sweetie and Scootaloo. How she had yelled at Rarity for getting herself thrown in jail, and later how excited she was to finally hear news about Princess Luna.
And more than that, she thought of the little memories, the inconsequential ones in the grand scheme of what they were doing. She thought of all the books Twilight made her borrow, thinking they were a fail-safe way to get Rarity to return; she thought of the moment when Twilight had allowed her to call her by her name, and the silly adorable smile that followed afterwards. All the times she’d shown Twilight something new, like the camera or the projector, and how she’d never seen Twilight look so… so carefree, so unrestrained in her fascination of such mundane things.
Rarity wouldn’t say that her main motivation wasn’t rescuing the princesses, but she found that maybe one of her motives might be making Twilight smile just a little bit mo—
It was with no small amount of shock that Rarity realized she cared for Twilight. As a friend, of course, she knew that—but more than that as well. Twilight was like… like…
The high-pitched tone broke Rarity’s concentration, and she opened her eyes to find that the spell was over. Twilight had opened her eyes as well, and they both immediately looked down at their… completely unchanged necklaces. A momentary silence fell upon the room, until Rarity lifted the still-translucent necklace.
“I… Did it work?” she asked hesitantly, only for her heart to drop at Twilight’s expression.
The alicorn was looking at her amulet with her ears pressed against her head and a look that could only be described as distraught. “I thought that— I was so sure—” Twilight sighed deeply and shook her head. “I told you this wouldn’t work.”
“Maybe it just didn’t work this time?” Rarity suggested, trying to find some way to cheer her friend up. She really hated seeing Twilight like this. “I’m sure we could do it if—”
A flash of light caught her eye, and she looked back down at her necklace, which had begun to glow with a dull pink shimmer.
Silence filled the room, and neither mare said a word as they blinked at their respective necklaces. It was Twilight who finally reacted first, looking from her pendant to Rarity as if she couldn’t quite believe what had happened.
“Oh,” she said eloquently.
“It worked, didn’t it?” Rarity asked, holding up her glowing necklace. Surely it had done something. She was quite sure that her necklace hadn’t been glowing before, but the look of astonishment on Twilight’s face was maybe the only reason she didn’t trust what she saw.
“Well, uhm— hmm…” Twilight said, furrowing her brow.
Was that a blush on her face? Had she, Rarity, a normal mare, outsmarted an ages-old alicorn with her predictions? She couldn’t help the smug smile that formed on her face as she let the necklace fall and swing from her neck. “See? I told you it would work! I knew we had that… whatever it is we needed,” she said, giggling when Twilight replied with an even more pronounced blush. “So! What comes next?”
“I don’t know,” Twilight confessed, taking the scroll in her magic and looking it over. She opened and closed her mouth several times, still looking back and forth between Rarity and the necklace. “I’ve… I’ve never been able to get this far before.”
“Well? What are you waiting for, then?” Rarity asked, excitement ringing in her voice. When she tried to take the scroll, her excitement was quickly extinguished and followed by a disappointed whine as Twilight quickly levitated it away. “How does it work? Will I be able to hear your voice in my head? Can you at least pretend like you’re a little excited?”
It was curious, but with a sudden clarity, she understood how Twilight must have felt when faced upon a modern device she didn’t grasp the intricacies of.
“No, it doesn’t work like that. It’s not so much a verbal spell as it is a visual spell,” Twilight explained, waving her hoof around, the opportunity to explain something trumping her previously flustered attitude. “It links the minds of the casters, so whatever one of them is thinking, the other can see it or think it too. It isn’t communicating so much as it is sharing a single mind. Princess Celestia used to have a very fascinating book on the subject, as part of the Celestial Knowledge Compendium, which I should have a cop—”
“Twilight?” Rarity interrupted, smiling softly.
“Yes?” she asked, only for Rarity to playfully flutter her eyelashes and levitate her glowing necklace. “Oh, right.” Twilight looked back to the scroll, apparently deep in thought, but before Rarity could once more nudge her toward doing something, a quill and two large blank scrolls appeared next to her. “Let’s do the first test.”
“The first test?” Rarity asked, tilting her head to the side.
“Now that we have the magic receptacles, either one of us should be able to cast the communication spell. When she does, it should send a signal to the other necklace and the other one can open the link,” Twilight explained, writing something down on one of the scrolls. “The spell isn’t too dissimilar from the one used to link the necklaces.”
Once Twilight hoofed the scroll over, Rarity was quick to try and memorize it. After reading it over several times, she looked back up to Twilight and noticed the other blank scroll still floating around. “What’s that for? Is it for the test?”
“The original spell mentioned in the book talked about a mare who brought to life her partner’s creations. I thought we could use the same basic idea for the first test. You can go outside into the forest, cast the spell, and then think of an image for me to draw,” she suggested, making a quick scribble on the scroll in demonstration. “That way we could test whether the barrier affects the range or not, as well.”
That… sounded fairly more simple than what Rarity had imagined. She’d honestly expected the test to be something akin to… Actually, she really had no idea what to expect of the spell save for being able to communicate with Twilight without limitations whatsoever.
“All right, then,” Rarity exclaimed, enthused despite her ignorance of whatever would happen next.
She turned around and trotted off toward the exit, the scroll with the spell floating before her as she continued working to memorize the spell. Twilight had also added a brief explanation to the scroll, which Rarity read over while crossing into the tunnel. By the time she’d climbed up the stairs and reached the forest, she felt she had a good enough grasp on the mechanics.
The forest was, as expected, devoid of anypony else, and Rarity admittedly had missed being alone with Twilight. If Sweetie Belle or Scootaloo had been present, she’d no doubt presently be fighting over ownership of her now-magical necklace.
Speaking of which…
Rarity gingerly lifted the pink necklace in her hoof, and she couldn’t help but giggle excitedly in anticipation. She gave the spell one final read-over before rolling up the scroll, lighting up her horn, and speaking the incantation under her breath. She waited one, two, three, four, five whole endless seconds when suddenly the necklace emitted a soft glow, just as it had before.
She held her breath in anticipation. The first step had worked, and if Twilight’s instructions were accurate, she’d know Twilight had “answered” her call once the necklace’s glow became brighter. She waited, and waited, and waited, her horn still glowing with magic, and she felt as if she had been waiting for ages.
Hurry up, Twilight…
Why was it taking so long for Twilight to reply? The spell had worked, hadn’t it? Twilight had said that they were good to go as long as the initial contact was established, hadn’t she? Unless… Unless it really didn’t wor—
And just like that, in the middle of her sentence, the pendant flashed once and glowed brightly.
Her mind went blank for a split second, processing the change in color, until she finally let out an excited gasp. It’s working? she wondered, suddenly unsure of how to proceed or what came next. Though her horn still glowed with magic, she didn’t feel any different. How was she supposed to know if it was working?
Without any way of knowing, Rarity decided that the only way to find out was by actually going through with the test. She closed her eyes, biting her lip, and mentally reviewed Twilight’s idea.
An image for her to draw… An image for her to draw…
Rarity’s mind clung to the idea of a drawing, and rather than actually picture something, she instead imagined a single black dot on a canvas. She pictured the dot trailing into a continuous line, as though an invisible quill was elegantly sketching out an image in but a single stroke. She tried to make her vision as vivid as possible, as if somepony were actually watching what she was thinking—which, in fact, was exactly the case.
An instant later, Rarity’s mind was filled with the drawing of a black kitten, its small paw reaching out toward a butterfly. A simple enough drawing, but elegant in its design, if she said so herself.
She held that image in place for several moments, almost like a photograph, and wondered when she should stop the spell. Her answer came shortly afterward when she felt a shift in her magical aura and, opening her eyes, she deduced Twilight herself had broken the enchantment.
Rarity stopped her magic in turn and let out a breath she hadn’t realized she’d been holding. That was it, then, wasn’t it? If she’d been giggling in anticipation before, now she found herself nervous. Had Twilight stopped the spell because it had worked, or had she stopped it because it hadn’t? Rarity really hoped it was the former.
She really, really hoped so.
A quick trot back toward the tree, and she soon found herself back inside the library, dousing her hornlight as she was drenched in the chandelier’s glow.
Twilight was still sitting at the table, as though she’d been waiting for Rarity to return. The scroll was floating beside her, but her drawing, if she’d even drawn at all, wasn’t to be found on the side facing Rarity.
“Did it work?” Rarity carefully asked, making her way toward the alicorn. Twilight’s silence wasn’t very reassuring, but at the same time, she’d probably have said something already if it hadn’t worked. “Did you see anything?”
Twilight glanced back and forth between the drawing and Rarity several times before taking a deep breath and turning the scroll around, staring Rarity down with nervous anticipation.
Though Twilight wasn’t perhaps as artistically skilled as Rarity, the drawing on the scroll was by no means bad. In fact, in Rarity’s opinion, it was perfect. It was wonderful, even, unlike anything she’d ever seen, and she made absolutely no effort at all to hide her gleeful smile at the sight of a black kitten and a butterfly.
“It worked,” Rarity said, simply, unceremoniously, as though she still couldn’t really believe it, because she couldn’t even though she was seeing it.
“It worked?” Twilight asked, looking back to the drawing and then to Rarity, and it seemed like she, too, had difficulty believing it. “W-wait, where are you going?!”
“Let’s try it once more!” Rarity exclaimed, rushing to the exit, a bubbly feeling rising up all throughout her body. She had to be sure. She had to be sure, even though she was giggling, and even though she’d seen her drawing on that scroll.
She hadn’t even made it to the stairs before she began casting the spell, and she’d barely just jumped out into the forest when she took her necklace in her hooves and waited impatiently for Twilight’s reply.
“Come on, come on, come on,” she muttered between nervously excited giggles, practically jumping in place and why was Twilight taking so long?! Come on, come on, come on, com—
Suddenly, the necklace flashed, and her thoughts came to a crashing halt, her breath hitching. But just as fast as they had stopped, the cogs of her mind spun back up to top speed, and her chest was filled once more with the absolutely excited, nervous bubbling. In fact, whereas before it had been easy to think up the cat, now she found it so terribly hard to concentrate.
Rarity closed her eyes, focusing on the magic flowing from her horn as she clutched the necklace in her hooves and tried to think of something, anything. Except that it couldn’t be something simple like a kitten; it had to be something so ridiculous, so outrageous, so outlandish, that Twilight could only possibly draw it if Rarity had shown it to her in the first place.
But what? What could she picture, what could she think of, what could she—
No, no, no, too simple, too recent.
A… A… An… elephant…?
Rarity pictured an elephant, like the ones she’d seen in a magazine article on Saddle Arabia. She pictured the massive creature, how elegantly they always carried themselves, and then she pictured it wearing… a ballerina’s tutu… with… oh goodness, it was hard to focus when she was giggling so much…
Come, Rarity, concentrate, she told herself, picturing the elephant in the tutu, and giving it a tiny umbrella as a ridiculous final touch. She held the image in her mind for as long as possible, and again it felt like she’d been standing there casting the spell for an eternity until finally she felt the magical aura shift.
Rarity didn’t trot back to Twilight.
She galloped, descending the stairs nearly three steps at a time, and not even bothering with lighting her horn as she rushed into the tunnel and toward the library. When she entered the room, she was confronted with a much different scene than before. This time, rather than waiting in silence, Twilight immediately stood up, showing Rarity the scroll with a very cross expression.
“Rarity! When I asked for you to think of things for me to draw, I meant simple things! Not this!” she blurted out, displaying her drawing of a hastily sketched elephant with a badly drawn tutu and an umbrella in the wrong place.
And yet, Rarity thought it was the single most magnificent drawing she’d ever seen. She loved it so much, in fact, she wanted to take it, and frame it, and put it on display in Carousel Boutique, and make an entire fashion line based on the drawing because it works, it works, it works!
“It works, Twilight!” she repeated, over and over, taking the drawing away from Twilight and practically skipping around her, as overexcited as a filly. She couldn’t bring herself to stop when Twilight called her name several times, and couldn’t even bring herself to care when Twilight magically forced her to a halt.
“Rarity, please,” Twilight said, but even she couldn’t hide an excited smile, and even she couldn’t force down a giggle.
“It’s your turn!” Rarity all but exclaimed, still clutching the drawing against her chest and using a free hoof to gesture toward the exit. “You leave the library, and I’ll draw something! Come on, off you go!”
Carried away by the unicorn’s boundless enthusiasm, Twilight let go of Rarity and rushed off toward the exit. “I’m going, I’m going!” she exclaimed. It seemed both of them had been so wrapped up in the moment that they forgot Twilight’s situation—until she came to a crashing halt against the pink barrier keeping her trapped.
Immediately Rarity’s enthusiasm snuffed out, replaced instead with worry and guilt. “Twilight!” she exclaimed, taking a step toward the alicorn, whose back was turned to Rarity as she recovered from the barrier’s blowback. “Are you all right?”
Twilight didn’t reply, and Rarity felt her stomach sink. Everything was ruined now, wasn’t it? If moments ago Twilight had forgotten her situation, now she’d been brutally reminded of it and what it had taken away from her.
Except, when she turned around moments later, there wasn’t a frown on the princess’s face, but a small, embarrassed smile.
“I think we should try a different test for me,” Twilight suggested.
Relief washing over her, Rarity allowed herself to smile now that Twilight had made a rebound. Or maybe smile because Twilight herself was smiling, and just seeing the alicorn smile was enough for Rarity to want to smile, too.
Twilight teleported herself next to Rarity, furrowing her brow. “Hmmm…”
“Why not bring the book on the subject?” Rarity suggested, thousands of test ideas formulating in her mind. “Maybe we can borrow from other stories in there? Or you could simply just go downstairs, you know.” Oh, she couldn’t wait to see what Twilight would picture!
“I could, but…” Twilight straightened herself up, donning a serious facade, “Looking at the book might be useful before we proceed, but I think you should go get it, Rarity. Mental Schemas and Spells by Celestia, found in class three hundred, division three hundred eighty, row D, slot thirteen.”
“You say that as if I’m supposed to know where that even is, Twilight,” Rarity replied. She really needed to learn that silly classification system.
“Oh, I know you don’t know where it is,” Twilight replied matter-of-factly. “But I do. In fact, I can clearly see where it is just by closing my eyes.”
Rarity raised her eyebrow, not really following Twilight’s line of thinking. “As wonderful as your memory seems to be, darling, unless you can somehow put that image in my head, I think we’d waste less time if you— ooooooooh.”
And now Twilight offered a little smug smile, levitating her necklace into the air. “Exactly,” she said, her smile only growing when Rarity replied with a string of excited giggles.
Rarity held her breath and watched Twilight’s horn light up, a small flash of magic shooting toward the necklace floating in midair. The necklace flashed once, and immediately did Rarity’s gaze drop down to her own necklace. Nothing seemed to change, and just as she was about to urge Twilight to try again, she heard a soft ping and her necklace emitted a strong, flashing pink glow.
“Oh!” she exclaimed, stamping her hooves against the floor. “How do I answer? Is it the same spell?”
Receiving a nod in reply, Rarity quickly got to the task, lighting up her horn and murmuring the appropriate runes. She felt her horn glow, and when a spark of magic shot toward her necklace, the pink glow became even stronger. Twilight almost immediately closed her eyes, and Rarity followed suit, waiting impatiently for the moment of revelation.
Of course, it was hard to be enlightened when one’s mind was busy reeling with thoughts and ideas. She was looking for Twilight’s message, for anything in the slightest bit foreign, but it was hard to find something she didn’t even know how to look for. Oh dear, what if looking for it was preventing her from finding it in the first place? Was it maybe like meditation, where one had to clear their mind in order to see the… library?
Suddenly, she was seeing an aerial view of the library in her mind, but she couldn’t help but feel she hadn’t thought of it. It was like somepony had implanted an image in her mind, but the more she thought about it, the less she felt it wasn’t her own mind’s creation.
“I… I see the library!” she blurted out excitedly, her closed eyes forcing her to blindly wave her forehoof around.
She didn’t hear Twilight reply to her comment, but it seemed like she would be seeing Twilight’s reply. Moments after her declaration, the image in her mind shifted, and she noticed a soft, raspberry-colored glow enveloping the bookcases. She forgot all about Twilight, all about the spell, and instead marveled at how it felt like—no, at how she knew all those books.
She could see the system in which they were classified, she knew what every book was, what section it could be found in, but more than that, she could see a second, more global classification to it. She suddenly knew why every book was where it was, and she could understand why Twilight herself had organized them in such a way. It was as mind-boggling as it was natural, as if her own brain understood the magnitude of the information pouring into it, but instead of struggling to understand, it was like she was merely remembering something she’d forgotten.
In that moment, Rarity knew the library as seamlessly as she knew each and every one of her dozens of dresses.
And then, the vision shifted again, and the overhead view she’d been basking in plunged into the library. It was like she was trotting through the aisles of bookcases, but not aimlessly. She was headed somewhere, or rather, being led somewhere. Finally, the answer came when the vision stopped in front of a bookcase filled with dozens of books. And yet, despite this, there was one red book in particular that stood out, that begged for her attention and made all the other books dim in comparison.
It felt like the vision stayed in that image for eons, and it only stopped when her entire magic aura shifted, and the vision was cut off as if somepony had flipped a switch.
Finally, Rarity opened her eyes, and only then did she close the mouth she’d left agape and lower the forehoof she’d left hanging midair. She blinked once, twice, thrice, and engaged in a staring contest with the alicorn. Twilight seemed much less shocked than Rarity felt, and at the back of her mind, Rarity supposed it made sense. What was seeing a cat and a butterfly to seeing an entire world of knowledge?
“Did it work?” Twilight asked, carefully, hesitantly, furrowing her brow ever so slightly.
Rarity didn’t reply. She had processed Twilight’s question, but the question itself was lost amidst the now fading images that had flooded her mind. All the information she’d learned was coming undone at the seams, but there was one sensation that remained as clear as crystal: the location of the book, and how to get there.
“Rarity?” Twilight asked again, and Rarity replied not with words, but action.
Wasting not a single second, Rarity sped off, past Twilight and into the rows of bookcases which she’d perfectly known less than a minute ago. She galloped into the labyrinth, scarcely hearing Twilight teleport atop the bookcases and run atop them, eagerly following the unicorn’s trail. She could only think of the tour she’d been led on, and how to recreate it.
Though she had long forgotten the system, her artistic mind had remembered the patterns. While Twilight remembered in numbers, Rarity remembered in colors. She remembered the bookcase with six green books in a row, signaling for her to turn the corner. She remembered the look of the path, and eventually, at the end of her running, she saw a bookcase with a lone red book surrounded by blue and green volumes.
Her gallop slowed to a canter, and she came to a full stop before the daunting bookcase. She felt she needed to stop, needed to take in the moment. It was like the calm before the storm, but “storm” wasn’t the right word, was it? It was like the brief moment of respite before everything changed, before everything shifted, before…
Rarity blinked and looked up to the alicorn atop the bookcase. Twilight was looking down at her, her wings half splayed open, and there was something in her gaze. Hope, but… fear, too? Even now, Twilight kept her distance from atop her throne as she had so often before, as if still protecting herself from… from what?
Rarity didn’t say anything, instead looking back to the bookcase, eyes fixed on the red book. She lifted her hoof and let it stay there for a moment, not so much deliberately creating an air of suspense as finding herself genuinely hesitant to discover the result of their test. Eventually, she finished the movement, and when she placed her hoof atop the red book, Twilight’s very audible gasp drew a smile out of her.
Despite how giddy she felt inside, she settled for an air of composure, delicately withdrawing the book from its place. She brushed her hoof against the cover, reveling in Twilight’s silence, and with incredible satisfaction, she read aloud, “Mental Schemas and Spells, by Celestia the First.” That said, she turned to Twilight, and with the single most charming smile she could muster, levitated the book toward the stunned alicorn.
“I do believe this is the book you were looking for, Your Highness?”
Twilight took the book in her magic, and regarded it with a cryptic expression. She opened it up, but rather than searching for anything inside it, she simply looked back to her friend, still at a loss for words.
“A bit for your thoughts, Twilight?” Rarity prompted, amused by Twilight’s silence.
“I…” Twilight drifted off, sitting up straight and folding her wings down against her body. It seemed as though, for all intents and purposes, she had gone back to her usual reserved self, which was nothing strange except for the fact that what followed certainly was.
A quill and blank scroll appeared next to Twilight, and questions poured from her as quickly as she scribbled them down. “Are you all right? How did it feel? Can you describe it?” she asked, teleporting next to Rarity, already lost to her own world of discovery.
Rarity laughed. “Darling, you do remember you did it too, don’t you?”
“But maybe it’s different from pony to pony!” Twilight blurted out, taking the book and leafing through it. “I should have asked Princess Celestia more about it, but I didn’t because it never seemed interesting. I mean, I always did think it was interesting, but I never thought I’d have somepony to do it with, and—!
“We should run another test,” she declared, still writing on her scroll. She then turned to Rarity, and for a brief moment, hesitation rang in her voice as the excitement ebbed and she asked, “Would you like to try again? We should try again, if you want. Can we try again?”
Once more, Rarity fluttered her eyelashes and asked, “What book shall we fetch next, then?”
And just like that, Twilight’s eyes practically lit up, sparkling with excitement as she let out an excited giggle and then exclaimed the title of a book and its corresponding section and subsection and division and other terms Rarity didn’t quite care for—not because she wasn’t interested, but because Twilight’s smile was miles more fascinating than some dusty old book.
And so, the game began again, and again, and again, because they didn’t just look for one more book. They looked for one after another, from Equestrian Social Dynamics by Tipsy Drinker to Seas and Beyond by Water Float, to everything in between. They soon reached the point where Twilight didn’t even say the names aloud anymore, where the only sounds in the library were the casting of the spells and Twilight’s quill furiously scratching against the now five scrolls she’d conjured up.
For several precious moments in time, there were no looming threats hanging above them, no dangers, no risks, not even a fairy tale or trapped princesses across the land. In that moment, where the only things that mattered were silly books and the giddy laughter filling the library, Rarity and Twilight were two friends having fun, nothing more and nothing less.
“All right, next we can look for Star Swirl the Bearded’s autobiography, and then we can try looking for two books at once, and inside the maze to see if Discord’s magic has nega—”
“Twilight, I think that’s enough book searching for today,” Rarity interrupted, leaning against a bookcase and idly glancing at the dozen books scattered around them. As much as she delighted in delighting Twilight, she’d probably done enough exercise to last her a month or more. “Not everypony here is an immortal ghost who can run for hours on end.”
But Rarity! Twilight’s expression seemed to scream, eyes widening. “Oh… All right,” she said instead, the sight of her lowered ears and disappointed expression almost enough to coax Rarity into another five rounds of their glorified game of fetch.
However, Twilight’s disappointment was short lived as another blank scroll appeared next to her and she once again began to write at a furious pace.
This momentary distraction allowed Rarity precious few seconds of respite, but only from the running. She sat down and silently watched as Twilight wrote and spoke to herself, and she couldn’t help but smile at the sight.
Truth be told, Rarity didn’t care what Twilight was saying so much as the fact that Twilight was blurting it out with an excitement she’d never really displayed before. She had seen a part of this Twilight before, when she’d examined some new modern device, but she’d never seen her quite as unrestrained in her excitement as she was in that moment—and Rarity loved it.
She wanted to see more of this Twilight, too wrapped up in her excitement to let whatever had happened in the past distance her from others. Her thoughts wandered back to the impression she’d had before, that the real Twilight Sparkle was hidden beneath years and years of solitude and withdrawal. And now, after what had happened, Rarity knew she had been right.
And, more than that, she realized that while she’d initially been drawn to Princess Twilight Sparkle, the legend of olde, she now wanted to know more about Twilight Sparkle, the real one, the awkward bookworm whose excitement for knowledge trumped her fear of letting others in.
In the same way Twilight was fascinated by the spell, Rarity herself was fascinated by Twilight. Everything about her intrigued Rarity, from the way she could effortlessly yet awkwardly go from regal princess to inelegant mare, to the way her smile made Rarity want to smile, and how adorable she was when she got excited, and how she cared for everypony, and… and…
In that moment, as a blush crept up her face and her hoof unconsciously reached for her necklace, it dawned on her that everything she felt toward Twilight, all the butterflies in her stomach, all the stray idle thoughts constantly creeping into her mind, the desire to see her and talk to her and be alone with her…
All of these things were things she’d felt toward the last pony she’d seen as more than a friend.
“Rarity? Is something wrong?”
Pulled back into reality, Rarity noticed Twilight had stopped writing long ago and now was staring back at her with those violet eyes that always seemed to see into Rarity’s very soul. Her ears were pointed upwards, and the scrolls had been levitated away so nothing would stand between them.
That was natural for Twilight, wasn’t it? To her, everything was something to be studied, analyzed, explored and comprehended, and there was something indescribably chilling about being the sole focus of Twilight’s attention. The library was filled with thousands upon thousands of years’ worth of knowledge, and yet in that moment, Rarity was the single most interesting thing there as far as Twilight was concerned.
Rarity looked away, the flush on her face feeling even more pronounced. “O-oh! I was just thinking about, you know, a matter I had to take care of, but it isn’t important,” she stammered eloquently, letting go of the necklace almost out of fear Twilight would somehow read her mind and the flustered thoughts now rampaging through it.
“A matter you had to take care of?” Twilight asked, and even though she wasn’t looking at her, Rarity could feel the stare, and, curses, it made her blush all the more.
“You know, we really ought to pick these up,” Rarity continued, taking one of the books and changing the topic of conversation with all the subtlety of a brick through a window. And perhaps even worse was that she knew very well Twilight was still staring at her, and she liked being a mystery to Twilight, she liked the attention, and more than that, she liked that it was Twilight who was giving her attention and—
And like a crashing wave, Rarity was hit with the realization that, though she still dreamed of prince charming, somewhere along the way she’d started dreaming of princess charming, too.
“We still need to test the range.”
And, just like that, Rarity was once again pulled back to reality by the sound of Twilight’s voice.
“Th-the range?” Rarity asked, trying her best to look like she hadn’t just finished privately admitting to a potential crush on a thousand-year-old ghost.
“Yes, the range,” Twilight said matter-of-factly, raising her eyebrows. Obviously, she had noticed Rarity had been off in cloud cuckoo land. “As I said before, the original spell only had a limited range. I tried magnifying it, but there’s a chance Discord’s barrier dampened the extended range.”
“You mean we won’t be able to talk from a distance?” Rarity asked, trying to keep herself focused on Twilight’s questions, which was hard now that she was aware of her feelings, and how much she liked Twilight’s voice, and for heaven’s sake, Rarity, you’re not a schoolfilly anymore!
Twilight shook her head. “The barrier prevents my magic from leaving, remember? So it stands to reason that the spell won’t work as well as I’d want it to. There’s a chance it may only extend a mile or two,” she said, rolling up the scrolls and teleporting them away.
“A mile or two? That’s practically nothing!” Rarity exclaimed. “Well, this is disappointing news.” So much for using the spell to find books or talk to Twilight whenever she wanted.
“We can test it later after your exercises,” Twilight replied.
“Yes. Your teleportation training. You thought I forgot, didn’t you? That’s what you didn’t want to tell me a few minutes ago,” Twilight informed, the smugness in her expression showing just how right she thought she was.
“Actually, I was thinking of something else,” Rarity said innocently. “I was thinking of how I’d never seen you smile before as much as you did today. I must say, it was quite a nice sight.”
For a moment, Twilight was taken aback, a blush creeping up her cheeks. “Oh… I hadn’t noticed…” she confessed, looking down to the books scattered at her hooves. “I suppose it was just really interesting to get to know you better.”
“I feel the same way,” Rarity reassured, before adding with a smug smile, “By the way, what was that silly condition we needed to ‘pass’ in order for the spell to work? I’d like to know so I can properly gloat about how wrong you were about us.”
“Oh, well, er…” Twilight drifted off, looking at anything but Rarity. “It was a magic factor, really. This spell was made by alicorns originally, so I wasn’t sure you’d have the magical stamina to make it work,” she replied, the stammer in her voice evidence of her lying,
But Rarity didn’t press her on the matter. There would be plenty of time for that, and it really didn’t matter why the spell worked so much as the fact that it worked to begin with.
“It’s too bad, though,” Twilight continued, taking one of the scrolls and, in a curiously dramatic way, so much so that Rarity wondered if Twilight was imitating her, saying, “you aren’t as strong as I thought if you got tired that quickly.”
Initially, an indignant Rarity was going to tell her that yes, it was too bad, boo-hoo. And when she opened her mouth, she still had that same intention, except that…
“Fiiiiiiine,” she sighed as dramatically as she possibly could, if only to show Twilight the proper way to do it. “I suppose we can do a few more rounds since you liked it so much.”
“Yes, yes, yes!” Twilight exclaimed, clapping her hooves on the floor, and only stopping when she realized Rarity was staring at her. She quickly cleared her throat and apologized. “Oh, er, sorry. Let me just finish my notes.”
As Twilight started jotting down more notes on her scroll, Rarity noticed the original scroll lying on the floor. Knowing the second limitation was explained there, her curiosity got the best of her and she carefully picked it up, unfurling it so as to read further along.
Rarity mentioned a communication spell when she was here earlier, the scroll read.
It reminded me of the telepathic spell I had been working on before Discord imprisoned me. I… I want to tell her about it. The range should be larger with the original modifications I did, and she could let me know when she’s arrived safely to Ponyville whenever she leaves the library.
But… I still haven’t been able to eliminate the trust limitation, and I don’t think I ever will. I’ve been reading Princess Celestia’s book on the matter, and it seems that it’s the pony’s mind itself that blocks the spell. It’s a survival instinct, as giving somepony complete and unfettered access to your mind can be extremely dangerous.
Until I figure out a way to bypass this limitation, I won’t tell Rarity about it. I believe she trusts me enough to allow me access into her mind, but… it worries me to think I don’t trust her enough for it to work.
Or, maybe, it worries me to think I might truly trust her that much.
“All right, are you ready?” Twilight asked. She was still looking at her book, giving Rarity just enough time to put the scroll back in its place.
When Twilight finally looked back up, Rarity could do nothing more than offer a sincere and admittedly borderline-smitten smile.
“What’s wrong?” Twilight asked, lowering the scroll. “Why are you looking at me like that?”
Rarity tilted her head to the side. “I was only thinking how fortunate I am that you trust me enough to share these things with me,” she said, carefully weighing the meaning of her words, and not once losing her cool despite Twilight’s widening eyes and ever so slight fluster.
“Oh, I feel the same way,” Twilight admitted, slowly, before clearing her throat and looking back to her book, her pleased smile not lost on Rarity. “Right, uhm, let’s start.”
And as Twilight started the spell, biting down an excited smile and closing her eyes, Rarity allowed her own smile to linger on her lips as she closed her eyes and cast the spell.
It was curious, wasn’t it, how fate gave her what she wanted but with little twists. Perhaps she hadn’t fallen madly in love with a dashing prince like she thought she would, and mad love wasn’t the feeling consuming her now, but curiously, there was something much nicer, much more fitting about her growing crush on Princess Twilight despite any subtle uncertainties it gave her. Everything about it was different from what she’d asked for, and yet she found she wouldn’t have it any other way… yet.
At the back of her mind, she knew that much needed to happen before she could even think of what to do about her newfound feelings. It wasn’t necessary to deal with them at the moment, but she didn’t have to completely hide them away either, did she? She could simply let them be, let them be present, grow if they should, and only when the time was right would she think of what came next.
Instead, for now, she would focus on what—or rather, who—really mattered.