by KitsuneRisu

Chapter 1: Let us meet, just once more

The castle looked as it always did, with a few minor changes.

Instead of banners streaking the walls, there were now cracks where small animals made their homes.

Instead of crystal chandeliers, there were overgrown roots where sunlight could slip through the gaps.

Instead of six chairs and a table, there was Twilight.

She was the first to arrive. She always had been. Even back when they were gallivanting around the countryside, saving the world from this, that, and whatnot. It was only polite.

The space where the crystal map had been was now taken up by a large statue of Twilight and her friends. But that too had long gone unkempt, and slithering vines had crawled up, snaking around limbs and faces. The six of them had agreed, long ago, after retirement, to let life continue as it should, and give their glory to the next few who deserved it.

The castle had turned from base to museum to remembrance. And soon, people found new things to remember. It was simply the way of things, and it was quite a surprise how fast it happened, considering.

Twilight always mused about time. After all, she had an eternity to do so.

“You know, I’ve always wanted to trim that a little,” a voice came from behind her.

Twilight turned.

“Hey, babe,” Rainbow said, waving. A smile, as strong as she could manage, came out from behind aged eyes. The colour in her hair had faded, and resembled less of a rainbow and more of a box of pastel crayons — muted tones cut with grey.

The princess, still as young as ever, albeit a bit larger, returned the smile with a huge grin of her own.

“I don’t quite like that one there,” Dash coughed, pointing up at a vine that unceremoniously entangled her face on the statue. “Feels a bit disrespectful if you ask me.”

“So, go fly up and pull it down,” Twilight chuckled.

“Very funny, eggo,” Dash grumbled. “When are you gonna quit that, huh? You know I miss flying.”

Twilight smiled at the rumbling. Dash was never really complaining, although she had to, to keep up her character. She was happy now, even though it took her a long time to finally accept it.

“Maybe you could climb?” Twilight suggested.

“What, and get into another accident? You want me to break both my wings now?” Dash snorted. “Old age has made you mean, you know that?”

“You call it mean,” Twilight shrugged with a giggle. “I call it being realistic.”

“Oh, what do you know about realism!” Dash countered. “Between the two of us, it’s your head that’s still in the clouds!”

Twilight burst out laughing. “Ah, so true!” she chortled.

“Anyway. Let’s mark it down for next time, alright? Clean my face up. It’s pretty much the only part left of me that ain’t broken. I’d like to preserve that.” Dash nodded slowly.

Twilight’s laughter cut out. She nodded as well, looking up from the statue back down to Dash. “Sure. But you know? You should be proud. I hope you realise that.”

“Proud of what? Being the only one in history kicked out of the Wonderbolts?”

“You weren’t kicked out, Dash. You were honorably discharged.”

“Fine. Then I was the only one in history kicked out using a fancy word.”

“Dash. Come on. Every year we go through this.” Twilight pursed her lips.

“Yeah, well, humour me. You think my kids care? ‘Mommy, mommy’, they cry alllll day. ‘Read me the latest books, mommy’. Yeah well, read ‘em yourself.”

“Dash, you’re literally a hero. And a mother. Your work in the wonderbolts… well. It’s gonna last more than this place, definitely. How are your kids, by the way?”

“Dunno. Ask them the next time you see ‘em.” Dash shrugged, grumping.

Twilight snorked. “Yeah, yeah. Look. We’ll fix your face, okay? And then after that, we’ll remove the vines from the statue.”

“Thanks, Twi.” Dash said, smacking her dry mouth, before catching up. “Hey, wait.”

“You heard what she said!” another voice called out, echoing down the corridor.

Two other ponies walked up, both tired, both worn. Despite that, still pushing through.

“Heya, guys.”

Side by side they walked. One still refusing to give up her hat, and the other still as quiet as ever.

“Finally here, huh?” Dash commented. “Well, at least you’re not fashionably late, or whatever excuse Pinkie’s gonna give.”

“Ya know, every year you get more and more ornery. You know what it is? Not enough fiber in your diet.” Applejack said. “It’s true! I wrote the book!”

“She wrote the book,” Twilight chimed it. “It’s true.”

“That ain’t in your damn books,” Dash said, corner of her mouth stretching out. “You know what’s in your books? It’s just apple apple apple apple and oh, here’s another apple and then more apples.”

“Well, I mean…” Applejack laughed, “you ain’t wrong there. Write what you know, right?”

“Yeah, but I never expected you to be the one to do word stuff. You know?”

“Hey, and what is that supposed t’ mean?” Applejack widened her eyes, staring down the rim of her brow.

“What I mean is that farmers don’t usually have the, you know, stuff! To write!”

“And just what kind of stuff is that? You know, as a published author, I can tell you that ya word choices are real bad!”

“You want words?” Dash shot back. “I got words for days!”

The bickering had begun. As it was every year, the two of them never denied the opportunity to butt heads.

“Just like old times, eh?” Twilight said, sidling up to Fluttershy, who was watching from the corner with bemusement.

“Oh, most definitely so,” Fluttershy said. “It’s healthy, actually.”


“Mmm. Yes.” Fluttershy nodded. “You see, as we age, and as you know, we… are of that age, we simply need outlets. Life gets stressful, after all. Life is complicated. We need ways to get it out, as it were, and sometimes, arguing with a best friend is a great form of catharsis. Of course, you’d probably want to step in before someone starts throwing punches.”

Fluttershy giggled.

Twilight looked on.

It was strange, sometimes, how people changed. Fluttershy was a prime example of how someone can both change the most and nearly not at all at the same time.

She now sported a shorter hairstyle. Something neat, clean, and altogether appropriate for the clinical work she did in her practice. She now sported an impressive vocabulary, and was pinpoint precise at digging down to details — something that Twilight was personally extremely proud of.

And yet, she still spoke softly, securely, calmly, and with a gentleness that made any one of her patients comfortable enough to spill their secrets and open up their hearts.

“So, these two nutcases aside,” Twilight asked, “How’s work?”

Fluttershy shot Twilight a look. “Now, now. We never use the word ‘nutcase’ to refer to patients. First of all, it’s not polite. And secondly, they might be allergic to nuts.”

“Doctor Fluttershy!” Twilight gasped. “Was that a joke?”

“Yes. I make jokes now. Do you like it? It took me two years in an advanced course to finally get the nuances. I nearly failed the test, but luckily I remembered that puns were a form of humour, too.”

Twilight couldn’t help but snort. “You’ve come a long way, haven’t you?”

“I like to think so.”

The two of them watched Applejack and Rainbow Dash fight for a while. They had moved on to the benefits and disadvantages of chunky peanut butter.

“Do you ever miss the simple days?” Twilight asked.

“Yeah. Sometimes. It was quieter then. Literally, for me.” Fluttershy responded.

“Man, you’re on a roll today.”

“Thank you.”

“But, you know? We meet once a year now. And it’s… weird.”

“How so?” Fluttershy flicked her eyes sideways.

“Because back in the day, and I don’t even mean when we were doing all that harmony stuff, but we saw each other nearly on a daily basis. And we never ever ran out of things to talk about. Things to do. But here we are now.” Twilight turned as well, to look Fluttershy in the eyes. “Meeting only once a year and… every year starts to feel the same. Everyone arrives. We talk. They fight. And then we leave. Has it become that predictable?”

“Well,” Fluttershy said. “I think that’s just part of life, isn’t it? Once we live this long… well. It’s not like any of us have done anything particularly new for the last few years, have we? There’s just no new stories to tell.”

Fluttershy tilted her head.

“Well, except for you, probably! You’re the one always doing new stuff! And every year you never share. You should, Twilight. This year, maybe. Tell us a story. You know we’ll always listen.”

“Yeah. Maybe.” Twilight’s smile faded. “We’ll see.”

The argument suddenly took over, fading back into earshot as Dash gave off a sudden burst of defeat.

“Okay! Fine! Beetroots aren’t a good substitute for toothpaste. Okay?” she yelled, throwing her legs up.

“That’s all I wanted ya to say,” Applejack huffed.

“Hey. Hey.” Dash motioned to Fluttershy. “Come here! Listen, I got a head question for ya. Okay?”

“Sure,” Fluttershy said, flitting over.

“Look, is there like some kind of… you know, brain thing which explains why somepony might prefer crunchy peanut butter over smooth?” Dash asked.

“Oh, I’ll be a monkey’s bottom,” Applejack cried out exasperatedly. “She still ain’t done!”

Twilight quickly rushed over. “Okay, how about we go talk over there instead?”

“Hmph!” Applejack harrumphed, a sound she stole from her brother. “Every year. It’s always th’ same. Arguin’ about silly things.”

“She’s old, AJ,” Twilight said.

“We’re all old. Ya don’t see me actin’ like that now, do ya?”

“Well. You sorta kinda just did, to be fair.”

Applejack stood there, adjusting her jaw.

“Yeah, aight. You gotta point there.”

“So,” Twilight continued, continuing to steer Applejack away. “What happy things have been going on in your life?”

Applejack sniffed. “Well, ya know. Farm’s going well under Applebloom’s management. But you knew that already, didn’t ya.”

“Yeah. I mean, the reports come in frequently.”

“I guess everythin’s fine, really. Ain’t much else ta tell ya. You know I’ve been too weak to continue farm stuff on acount of this weird thing I have in my back. But my books continue t’ sell well, and I think we’ve really gone quite far helpin’ out all those orphans thanks to that.”

“Trust me,” Twilight said happily. “There’s never been a more generous case of philanthropy in all of Equestria.”

“It was Bloom’s idea, ya know? After a certain year, she just said, ya know? Why don’t we just help others with it? Not like I need the money anymore, all things considered.”

“You never needed ‘the money’ though,” Twilight mused. “You only ever used what you needed.”

“And that’s how we all should live, if y’asked me. Not wastin’ our hard-earned bits on buying some silly fancy yacht or whatever.”

Second yacht, I believe you mean,” came the fifth voice, appearing out of nowhere.

With a vibrant ‘oh ho ho’, Rarity swept in, suddenly stealing the attention and thunder from everyone else in the room. Around her neck she wore a boa made out of a hundred phoenix feathers, and across her back she draped what appeared to be silk lined with ursa fur.

“I am here, ladies! The party may now begin!” she trilled, dancing to the center of the room.

“Oh, dear lord,” Applejack muttered.

The room fell silent.

You could hear a crystal shatter.

“What, too much?” Rarity asked, cheekily.

Finally, Twilight spoke. “You nearly had us there for a moment.”

“Oh, blah,” Rarity said. “Can’t a girl have a little fun?”

She pulled the boa and cloak off, tossing them into the corner. When they landed, it was much clearer to see. The feathers were stiff, plasticy, and were hastily glued onto a thick piece of rope, and the cloak was merely cotton and sewn together in a rush.

“Rarity, we really can’t tell, sometimes,” Dash said. “It was almost as surprising as your first epiphany.”

“It’s fun to pretend, once in a while,” Rarity said. “Dusting off the old sewing machine. It takes a while to get back into it, you know! But perhaps it’s just been too long.”

“Man, I didn’t know you even kept that thing,” Applejack commented.

“It’s the only thing I kept, darling.” Rarity said. “To remind me.”

“So where’s your regular… outfit? Thing?” Dash asked. “Ain’t you supposed to wear it everywhere?”

“First of all, they’re called monastic robes, dear,” Rarity said. “Second of all, no, actually. That’s a misconception. You see, living with the world simply means being fulfilled with the least amount of anything that you need.”

“I’m glad to see it’s working out, Rarity,” Fluttershy said from the back.

“Oh, my dear. You know, I almost thought you were insane the first time you suggested it to me. But now, what a relief! I feel things again, my head is clear, I no longer have that weight in my chest, and food! Did you know food tastes good?”

“Yes, Rarity,” Fluttershy chuckled. “We do remember.”

“And the most surprising thing of all, my fellow ponies, is —”

“ — I don’t miss any of the old days,” every other pony chorused.

Rarity coughed.

“Well. I might have told this little story before.”

“Yeah, maybe a little!” Dash said. “Only every year!”

“But well. I still feel it now, and I still definitely recommend our dear friend Doctor Fluttershy for all your mental anguish needs!”

“What’s it like working out there, though?” Applejack asked. “In the dragonlands.”

“Oh, the relief efforts grow daily. Perhaps it isn’t progressing as fast as we like. It’s been at a standstill for a few years now, due to the tensions causing more and more displacement, but… oh! You know?” Rarity suddenly remembered. “I run into Spike sometimes. He’s grown!”

“Oh yeah,” Twilight nodded. “He used to send letters back to me saying he met you here and there.”

“Ain’t you afraid of the danger, though?” Applejack asked.

“Danger, schmanger,” Dash interjected. “Ain’t no point doin’ anything if you ain’t gonna have a bit of risk, right?”

“Certainly right!” Rarity agreed. “And besides, nothing will happen to me. I have Spike out there somewhere to save me, don’t I?”

Rarity turned to Twilight, winking.

“Yeah,” Twilight said, smiling, but only barely so.

“So… we’re nearly ready to start the reunion,” Applejack said. “But… where’s Pinkie?”

“Heya,” Pinkie said.

Five heads turned all of a sudden, staring at the dark corner.

A figure stood there, leaning casually against a broken boulder, dressed in a trenchcoat and a wide-brimmed hat.

“Been here a while, really,” Pinkie held out a hoof as-a-matter-of-factly.

“Ah. Of course. As usual,” Dash rolled her eyes.

The pink pony pushed herself off the rock, standing up straight, gliding slowly to the rest of the group. “You know, I keep doing it just to see when any of you are gonna notice me. And you never do. You’d think after so many years you’d have realised already.”

“Not all of us are as smart as you, yeah?” Dash told her.

“Hey, hey now. No need to be bitter,” Pinkie said calmly.

“You know, you’re the opposite of Rarity.” Dash said.

“How so?”

“I kinda wish we had the old you back.”

“Well, you know. I’m still kinda sorta here,” Pinkie said. “I’ve just learned to… apply the energy differently.”

“See, this is why thinking too much is bad,” Dash claimed, pointing an accusatory hoof. “This is what happens when you put all your extra energy into thinking. You turn into some kinda…. Some kinda Shetlock Hooves.”

“I mean, that is actually my job, now,” Pinkie said. “Soooo…”

“But you’re pink, and you appear out of nowhere!”

“You know, interestingly enough, pink is a very hard colour to see in darkness, and being able to move silently to surprise people is kind of useful to my line of work.”

“Yeah, but the parties, Pinkie! The parties!”

“We’re too old for parties.” Pinkie shrugged.

Dash gasped, loudly, and far more obnoxiously than required. “The day has come when you said that thing that you just said!”

“Real smooth, Dash.”

“Yeah, I know, right?” Dash grunted.

“We all gotta grow up sometime.”

“Naw, we don’t!” Dash argued. “Twi? What do you think?”

Twilight stood there, blinking at the question.

“I… don’t know,” Twilight answered. “I’m not really sure.”

“Well, thanks for helping!” Dash cried out.

“Speaking of parties,” Pinkie said snidely. “I love what you’ve done with the place this year. I especially like how you covered up the worst part of our statue with vines.”

“Oi!” Dash cried.

And soon, they were fighting again. A boisterous, energetic fight where a straight-laced Pinkie teased and goaded a cranky Dash; where a concerned Fluttershy tried to defuse the situation while a chaste and humble Rarity recited word of dragon wisdom; where Applejack just stood by and commented on things as they did.

Every year.

Twilight turned from it all, walking slowly back to the statue in the middle of the room, letting the words and noise fade into the back of her head.

She looked up, again. At the vines.

With a burst of magic, she pulled on the one wrapping around Dash’s face, letting leaves and twigs and detritus gently scatter to the floor.

“There, Dash,” she whispered. “I’ve done what you asked.”

She turned, slowly. Looking at the room.

Instead of banners streaking the walls, there were now cracks where small animals made their homes.

Instead of crystal chandeliers, there were overgrown roots where sunlight could slip through the gaps.

Instead of six chairs and a table, there was a statue, and five shiny plaques attached to five shiny marble markers.

One by one, she greeted her friends.

In the line of duty, in service of the Wonderbolts.

Of sickness, and poor health.

Of old age, peacefully in her sleep.

In a landslide, while doing relief work along the borders of the dragon lands.

During her job, with one too many surprising elements.

Twilight cleared her throat.

“So…” she said, her voice wavering. “I wanted to tell you about my year.”

She stopped there, lowering her head.

She always tried.

She always wanted to tell her stories.

She knew they’d always listen.

But the words never came out.

She opened her mouth, but all she could afford was a choke, as tears started pouring down her face.

She grit her teeth and squeezed her eyes together, gasping, rubbing her face with a dampening leg.

And then she turned, facing the empty room and cobwebs.

And slowly made her way back home.

They were old now.

And all they had left were reunions.

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