Echoing Silence

She was only trying to help.
In a flash of light following her biggest mistake, Twilight Sparkle is banished to the Dusklands, a vast amount of wasteland outside the borders of the kingdom of Equestria. Here, the only thing the sisters control is the time of day and Twilight is left to defend herself in the barren lands that her most trusted ally exiled her to. After finding a city in such lands, Twilight worked hard to make a place for herself within it's walls, but when her past comes to find her, she finds it difficult to look at it the same way she did all those years ago. With the threat of war on the horizon for Twilight's new home and an old enemy returning to destroy the harmony of Equestria, Twilight will have to choose where her loyalties lie.
But just how far is she willing to go in order to save the ones she loves the most?

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4. Three

               “T-Twilight?”

Her heart shuddered at the sound of that name, blood pounding in her ears while her mouth went dry. She swallowed, trying to quench her suddenly parched throat as she turned towards the patient. It was that unicorn with the marshmallow white coat and deep indigo mane, watching her with wide, disbelieving blue eyes. It was one of them.

Memories from a lifetime ago flashed before her. She saw the inside of a building with various banners hanging from the ceiling in brilliant and vibrant colors. Before her was the mare gasping about her mane. The image shifted as the mare spoke her name again and she was standing in front of a river where a sea serpent was wailing. Her name eluding Diadem in the memory, the mare cut off her own tail and with a radiant smile, gave it to the serpent. The image changed once more to a familiar, nightmarish scene. She stood in the back of an ivory white room watching the unicorn fiddle with her gown, frowning as she spoke to her. Her name surfaced as her voice practically whispered in her ear like a snake.

Told you she was an absolute gem!

The passing nurse gasped, snapping Diadem from the vexing remembrance and the elk healer immediately trotted to her side. She didn’t want to be here, hoof already raised to leave, but Diadem couldn’t move.

“I knew it!” the mare gasped, “Oh, I knew that we’d find you, darling!”

Diadem visibly cringed at the endearment, finding it difficult to breathe. It was if a hoof had been thrown at her stomach, knocking the wind out of her, and then proceeded to step on her chest. She regained her senses and stepped back, preparing to flee the room, but the unicorn pushed herself up and smiled at Diadem. That smile sent a shiver through Diadem’s body and she felt a spark in her chest as it constricted painfully.

She’s….happy? What right does she have to be happy?!

“I can hardly believe it! Girls! Girls, we found her!”

Her heart sunk as the commotion behind the curtain went silent for a moment before she heard shuffling and the sound of hooves echoing in the room. The curtain was ripped to the side as the foreigners ran in, each of them scanning the room with wide, expectant eyes. Diadem found it harder to breathe as she took in their faces, each one bringing forth a pang of something dark to the surface of her mind, and she turned away from them to look at the unicorn again as her name finally escaped the haze of Diadem’s memory.

Rarity.

Her hooves shook as she trembled, taking a step back as gasps and murmurs came from the four standing mares. Her eyes fell upon the one on the left and she gulped. Breaking hold of her restraints, her memories flooded her. The soft pink pony’s mouth was hanging open, the edges of her mouth twitching up into a smile. The burning she felt intensified as another memory came up to the front. She opened a door and had confetti thrown in her face. The pink pony bounced up to her, talking a mile a minute as the scene changed. The pony was now laughing in a dark forest, bouncing around until she flipped into a gown. Her laughter had died and instead she wore a worried frown. Her eyes showed her apprehension as she watched Diadem and biting her tongue, her anger bubbled more. Her name was a namesake for the color of her mane and coat.

I think this reception is gonna be perfect! Don't you?

Pinkie Pie.

Beside her was the pale yellow pegasus that watched her with astonished excitement. Her soft, cotton candy pink mane was not covering her light teal eyes which welled up with tears as she smiled. The image of the pegasus in her memory’s eye was different. The pegasus was cowering from her, whispering her name in greeting before she was picked up and licked by a manticore. She fluttered away from his paws and landed, giving Diadem a disapproving glance as she trotted away, leaving her alone.

Can you believe it? We're gonna be Princess Mi Amore Cadenza's new bridesmaids!

Fluttershy.

Next to her was the cyan coated pegasus with a brilliant rainbow mane, staring at her with her mouth agape. Diadem tried to shake off the memory, not wanting to see anymore, but it still played. She watched the pegasus in her past clear the clouds in the sky in ten seconds, back flipping as the scene changed and the self-proclaimed stunt pony emerged from a dense fog with the rope for a bridge in her teeth. She grinned, dancing as she adamantly spoke of her special ability, excited to recreate it for the royal wedding coming up and it was as she trotted away that she saw the cyan pony roll her eyes at her.

You sure this is what I should wear? Doesn't seem all that aerodynamic.

Rainbow Dash.

Diadem gritted her teeth, digging her right hoof into the rocky floor as she tried to regain control of her mind, but the images refused to relent. A bright red barn filled her vision as the scent of apples, a fragrance she had long forgotten, reached her nostrils and she inhaled the sweet aroma as the scene unfurled. The orange pony bucked a thick trunked tree, forcing the apples to fall from their branches and into baskets lined around the foot of the tree. A small sound was caught in her throat as the apple farmer ran towards her, throwing herself to the ground and skidding towards her and reaching a hoof out to save her from falling off a cliff side. Diadem refused to grab the hoof, knowing full well what would happen later, but that did not stop the scene from changing. Now, she stood in that abysmal room with the white marble columns and walls, watching as the orange pony glared at her, tossing her mane back over her shoulder as she fixed her trademark Stetson on her head.

C'mon, y'all. Let's go check on the princess.

Applejack.

Their names were expletives to her as she stumbled back and away from the five, breathing heavily. Astral Mace practically materialized beside her, reaching a hoof out to steady her as she blinked back the memories, forcing them back into that tiny box in the darkest part of her mind. It had been years since she had remembered any of those events against her own will and the vivid recollections caused her insides to constrict and burn with an inferno she had become a bit too familiar with while in the Den’s care. Her heart pounded in her chest as she looked around, leaning into Astral Mace as Nereus stepped in front of his two children, scowling at the group of ponies before him. Astral held Diadem up, refusing to take his eyes off of her while his father guarded them.

Dia…

His thoughts flitted to a time where he saw the timid unicorn crying in her sleep, reaching out for comfort. He remembered her tears and how she had not let him in, knowing that it would only bring her more pain. He had accepted that truth and dropped the subject, but he was always there for her when she needed him like she did right now. He tightened his grasp around her as she shook her head.

“Ah…Ah don’t believe it—” Applejack breathed, “Is…is that really you, Twilight?”

Her trembling was too much for her. She ground her teeth together, trying to get a handle on the emotions that were swirling around in her body like a furious typhoon. Her attempts lingered with her analytical thoughts. Was she shaking from fear? Anger? Or was she going into shock? Either way, these foreigners needed to stop calling her that godforsaken name.

“Not a step further.” Nereus cut in as he bent forward in a slight crouch, preparing to defend his children if necessary from this group of mares as he watched them with narrowed golden yellow eyes.

“Look, dude! We’ve been lookin’ for Twilight forever!” Rainbow Dash shouted, flaring her wings. “Get out of the way or I’ll make you!”

“No,” Nereus denied, baring his fangs at the aggressive pony. “You five have complicated our situation and refuse to be cooperative. I cannot allow you to further jepordize the situat—”

The pegasus flared her wings and took flight. Diadem heard Astral call out to their adoptive father with a warning. But as the stallion flared his own wings, he cringed from the pain. His injuries were no longer forgotten and he cursed his messed up wing. The cyan pegasus flew towards the creature, ready to get in his face and—

BAM!

The hotheaded pony flew back as a body collided into her, sending her onto the hard, rocky ground back-first. She opened her eyes with a groan only to find her long lost friend standing over her. She wanted to smile and hug the egghead, but the cool metal against her throat gave her pause.

Diadem pressed her virgin blade against the pony’s throat with a heated glare. Years of fighting for her life kicked in and she had thrown herself at the pegasus without hesitation. Pinning the mare down, Diadem’s hooves ceased their trembling as her emotions shifted. Now, she was not as vulnerable to her feelings. Instead, her heart thrummed with adrenaline as her thoughts focused on one thing:

Eliminate the threat.

Although the pegasus had yet to move, Diadem refused to take a chance. She pressed her hoof down onto the bright Cyan wing, eliciting a cry of pain from her target. With each second that passed with her hoof on that wing, the risk was minimized. The threat was contained.

“W-Whoa, Twi,” the target cringed. “C’mon. You’re hurting me.”

Diadem gritted her teeth at the sound of that name again. The urge to shed the pony’s blood grew even as she added pressure to the dagger. Nothing would stop the unicorn from ripping the mare’s throat out if her father was in danger. Her memory, the infernal thing, brought up remnants of what she recalled about the pegasus and her brash attitude was blatant in the past.

Idiot. Diadem thought with a glare. Threatening a leader while within his base? Tch.

“T-Twilight?” Rainbow Dash spoke up again. “Could you put the knife away? Please?”

Instead of pulling back, Diadem pushed the blade down with just enough pressure to draw blood. Rainbow’s face paled.

Leave the enemy no quarter. Her instincts growled. Send the message: No tolerance will be given.

“Diadem.” Nereus warned.

She exhaled, releasing the breath she had been holding, as she sneered at her prey, “Try it again and I will give you more than a paper cut,” she whispered.

Diadem stepped away and sheathed her dagger. Rainbow Dash rolled over with a small cough, testing the wing that she had pinned down for signs of serious damage. The three standing mares rushed to their friend’s side, each one calling out her name. Rainbow Dash brought a hoof to her neck, smearing the miniscule amount of blood as she glanced at Diadem. Not sure of what she did to warrant such a reaction, she watched Diadem with wary eyes. She was afraid to ask.

Diadem scoffed. Rainbow Dash was fawned over until she got to her hooves. Diadem was immediately reminded of that day and how easily she had been tossed aside because no one had bothered to be there for her or try to give her a helping hoof. No one believed her, tossing her aside for royalty. Her fur stood on edge from the recollection. Sensing her distress, Nereus wrapped his tail around his daughter’s in comfort. The gesture soothed Diadem for a brief moment before Applejack whipped around, fixing a glare upon her with angry green eyes.

“What in tarnation is wrong with you? Ya’ could have hurt Rainbow Dash!” she exclaimed, stomping a hoof.

A retort came to her mind, but Diadem did not have the chance to respond because Astral Mace stepped in front of her and dipped his front low as if he were ready to strike.

“Your friend attacked first.” He shot back.

“No I—”

Rainbow Dash’s dispute faltered as Diadem glared at her. With a huff, Applejack averted her gaze from the stallion as he stood back up, content with the earth pony’s reaction. He took a few steps back and nuzzled Diadem, embracing her with a foreleg.

“C’mon, D. We should go.” He whispered.

Diadem returned the gesture. Astral Mace was attempting to give her a way out of this, but she knew that since they found her, she might not ever escape from them again. She shook her head. She knew that he had suspected this and she wanted to kick herself for not listening, but it was too late. All he wanted to do was protect her. All she wanted to do was protect her family.

“But Twilight, we’re your friends,” Fluttershy piped up. “There wasn’t any reason to do that to Dash.”

Friends?” Diadem spat the word like poison. “What a hollow word.” She snarled.

“D.” Astral whispered again, “Let’s go.”

Despite his urging, Astral Mace could not get her to budge.

“What’s wrong with ya’ Twi?” Applejack asked. “You sure are actin’ strange.”

She gritted her teeth. “Don’t—”

“Don’t what?” quipped the apple farmer. “Don’t talk to mah friend?”

“Stop—” she growled.

“New flash, sugar cube. You’re still mah ol’ friend Twilight and no amount of time could change that.”

“Stop.”

“Do you know how long we’ve been—?”

“Enough!” Nereus bellowed, slamming his front hooves down. “This spectacle has gone on for far too long!”

Astral and Diadem cringed. Nereus’ anger was a rare sight and neither of them were willing to test it. Stepping back, Diadem’s gaze fell to the floor as she frowned.

“Yes, father.” She said.

Rarity frowned, still upon the cot. “Father? Why, dear, your father is in Canterlot.”

“I have no family in that place!” hissed Diadem.

“Oh but Twilight—!” Fluttershy exclaimed. “Your parents have been so worried!”

Diadem shook her head in denial. There was no way. No way in Tartarus!

Nope. Nope. Nope. Came the thought. This is not going to happen!

She wanted to turn and flee from the room, but her legs were like lead weights chaining her there. The silence was thick with tension but the pink pony across the room didn’t care. She gave Diadem a broad smile that stretched from ear to ear and bounced around her friends.

“We found Twilight! We found Twilight!” Pinkie Pie sang, happily.

Her teeth ground against each other as she sneered at that name. Applejack stomped her hoof again. “Oh, c’mon! Quit actin’ like a filly!”

“Please, Twilight.” Fluttershy tried. “We’re your friends.”

“Friends?” Diadem snarled. “I don’t think so. I have no pony friends.”

“I don’t see what’s gotten into you, Twilight. Why are you actin’ like this?”

“You don’t…know?” Diadem’s whisper came, the words tumbled out of her mouth before she could stop them. “You have absolutely no idea why I am acting like this?!”

The sound that came from her throat after that was a strange mixture between a scream, a laugh, and a sob. Five years she spent away from her birth land, left alone to die and rot. Years of pain, loneliness, hunger and despair. Years of fighting, of blood, sweat and tears. Five long years of suffering for a crime that she had committed, trying to make her closest allies see the truth. Five very long and tiring years of danger. Of heartache. Of betrayal.

And they don’t know the reason that she was so hostile?

Nereus watched his daughter. Although her face seemed neutral, her eyes flashed with various emotions. As she became silent, he noticed the glassy gleam to her eyes coated with unshed tears. It was all too much for her to handle.

“No!” shouted Applejack.

Diadem closed her eyes and pushed away the tears that threatened to fall. The ignorant confession set her insides aflame and she stumbled back as if hit. Through the blazing torrent of her insides, her heart was feeling quite the opposite. Her heart was cold, as if encased in a Windigo’s ice filled with hatred, splitting and cracking as the frigid outer layer caused the splintered pieces to stab into the organ. She glared at the mares.

“Then I have no reason to be here.” She finally said. Her voice was low, taking a chilling tone.

“Twilight, dear,” Rarity attempted, “we—”

“If I hear you say that name one more time, I’ll cut your tongue out.” Hissed Diadem.

“D—”

“What’s the big deal?” Rainbow Dash butt in, cutting off Astral Mace. “It’s your name!”

A cold laugh escaped her. “My name is Diadem.”

“Don’t ya’ think yer bein’ a little dramatic, sugar cube?”

Diadem froze. A quick turn on her hooves and she snarled at the group.

Dramatic?!” she roared. “You think that I’m being—”

The conversation was derailing once again and Nereus’ patience was quite thin. He knew that his youngest was on the verge of an emotional episode. He ambled over and pulled her to him, embracing her.

“Diadem.” He said. “That’s enough, daughter of mine.”

Her hateful glare faltered as her father hugged her and she turned her attention to the floor. With a nod and an aching throb in her chest, Diadem leaned into her father while the tidal wave of emotions slammed into her. A piece of her wanted to cry, but she did not want to give the five mares the satisfaction of seeing her cry like a filly.

The five mares looked on as they watched the rather large creature squeeze their old friend tight. None of them could think of anything to say, but they finally took in Twilight’s appearance, each noticing something different about their friend.

Known as a fashionista, Rarity was the first to scan the unicorn’s appearance with a critical gaze and she cringed at the sight. The state of Twilight’s mane was horrifying. The once long mane was now cut short with atrocious split ends that framed her face from the lack of trimming and care, while her tail seemed like it had tufts yanked from the roots. Her mane looked as if it were cut into a makeshift bob that had been butchered severely. An absolute travesty!

Fluttershy’s eyes fell to Diadem’s body, taking in the unicorn’s thin frame. Before her banishment, Twilight had been a healthy mare. Now, it looked like she had suffered hard times where food was scarce like she had given up food. She was a lot thinner than Fluttershy remembered, but her features that were once soft were now rigid from years of living in the wastelands.

The cold hard look in Twilight’s eyes told Applejack that she had gone through her fair share of trials while away from Equestria, but still held a semblance of respect for those around her. Her glares were what truly gave the apple farmer a fright and her sharp tongue was giving them a good lashing. Applejack remembered how Twilight was always a sweet gal with the best intentions in mind, always putting others before herself and leading them against their enemies with confidence. This Twilight before her was…childish. They had gone all this way to find her and she just screams at them like they had wronged her in some unfathomable way!

Little white lines on Twilight’s hind legs caught Rainbow Dash’s attention and she squinted her eyes to try and see them better from a distance. The small, white blemishes dotted Twilight’s legs and trailed towards her stomach where they disappeared from sight. The dark slash on her cheek was the most prominent despite its small size and she wondered what the egghead had done to gain such mars.

As a party pony, Pinkie Pie had an instinctive handle on what could make people smile, but with the new Twilight standing in front of her, she could only see the dull coloration of her once vibrant and fun-loving friend which gave her an almost lifeless appearance. Her mulberry coat, as well as her sapphire mane with the rose and straw streaks were now faded and the colors were muddled with dirt, giving her hair and fur a greyish tint. A frown finally graced her muzzle as she looked at the pony who was once her best friend, finding her reaction unnerving. This Twilight refused to smile no matter what they said or did and Pinkie Pie was dejected at the thought.

“Enough of this.” Nereus rumbled. “The damage has been done. We must find the Queen.”

Diadem nodded as Applejack scoffed. “Ah don’t see what the problem is. They’re just bugs.”

“Those bugs,” Nereus quoted, a hint of disdain in his voice, “Are our allies. They are one of the clans that have been trading with us to keep this city stocked with supplies. Without the trading system in place, none of the cities would survive out here.”

It took the mares a moment to digest that bit of information and Rarity gasped. “And our actions may have caused those trades to stop?”

“With the only two ponies in the Dusklands being from the Den, the changelings could easily blame us and cease dealing with us.” Astral Mace agreed.

“Well, we can’t let that happen.” Rarity replied. “Is there anything that we can do to help?”

“I’m afraid not.” Nereus answered. “This is a dilemma for the Den to solve.”

“I agree.” Astral Mace nodded.

“Same.” Diadem muttered to her father before pulling away. “Outsiders would only get in the way. It’s a liability that I’m not willing to risk.”

Silence befell the room and Nereus stood proud and tall. “Come, my children. We have a hive to find.”

As he turned to depart, the Ki’rin dipped his head low and nuzzled Diadem, silently comforting her before he strode from the room. Diadem forced herself up onto her hooves and followed him with Astral Mace at her side. She walked out without a single glance back.

Their departure left the room in an awkward silence. None of the mares moved. Each one took in the situation, each coming to their own conclusion and as the last nurse left them all alone in the room, Fluttershy broke the silence.

“What happened to Twilight?”

“I…I don’t know, darling.” Rarity sighed. “But she seems to have changed.”

“Looks like that thing she nearly killed Dash over is the cause.” Applejack spat, eyes still narrowed at the doorway.

“B-But Applejack. Twilight said—”

“Ah know what she said ‘Shy, but we all know that her parents are in Canterlot. We spoke to ‘em before we came out here!” Applejack shouted.

“Hang on a sec! Maybe Flutters is onto something!” Rainbow exclaimed. “Maybe she thinks of him like a dad ‘cause she’s been here this whole time!”

“That would explain the reasons behind her calling him her father. If she’s been here this entire time and he is the leader of this place, then he’s probably been watching over her for the past five years.” Rarity surmised.

“Either way, we need to tell Twilight what’s happening in Equestria!” Rainbow Dash exclaimed, slamming her right hoof into her left. “The egghead will jump into action like she always does!”

“Ya’ think so, Dash?”

“Well, duh!” Rainbow Dash replied as she rolled her eyes at Applejack. “This is Twilight we’re talking about!”

Pinkie Pie sat back on her haunches and put a hoof to her chin. Her thoughts travelled to her bestest friend Twilight as she thought of a way, any possible way, to change the frown and awfully mean looks she was giving them into smiles!

“Rainbow’s right.” Fluttershy said with a small smile. “Twilight wouldn’t let someone destroy Equestria.”

“Then it’s settled.” Rarity stated with finality. “We will get Twilight to listen to us.”

“Now, how do ya’ reckon we do that?” Applejack said, reigning her friends in. “Ah mean, she’s made it clear she don’t want nothin’ to do with us.”

Rarity hummed as she tried to think of a solution to their dilemma. Princess Celestia had entrusted them to find Twilight since she was preoccupied with the war, knowing full well that the Elements of Harmony were unusable without her and somepony had to keep Equestria calm in the time of war. Despite her best efforts, even Princess Celestia had been unable to locate Twilight’s magical signature and Princess Luna could not sense her dreams. They feared the worse, as did Twilight’s family, but here they were. Twilight was alive and well, living in a city out in the Badlands. But what could they do to get Twilight to listen to them?

What indeed. the unicorn thought with a sigh.

“Why don’t we get her new friends to help!” chirped Pinkie Pie, bouncing around her friends. “She’ll listen to them for sure!”

“Pinkie, that’s brilliant!” Rarity exclaimed with a smile. “She’s obviously protective of her new friends here, so why don’t we ask for help?”

“Girls, we don’t know anythin’ about this place. How are we supposed to do that?”

Before anyone could respond, a different nurse came in. “How are you all doing? Is anyone in pain?”

Rarity gave her best smile. “Not at all Miss…?”

“Lavender.” The nurse replied, ambling toward the group of ponies.

The mares watched the nurse with the sash carefully. It was one of those creatures, like the leader of this place, with a body like an elk with scales along the sides of her torso with an elongated tail with a tuft of hair at the end. Her mane was a deep violet, almost black, and her eyes were a soft amber. None of them knew what to say or how to react. Rarity stretched and shook off the twinges of pain she received.

“Miss Lavender.” Rarity affirmed with a nod. “If I may, we have a few questions.”

The lilac scaled ki’rin hummed softly as she examined each of her patients. They seemed to be fine, each one standing on their hooves without any sort of open wounds and she nodded.

“What questions do you have, little ones?”

Rainbow Dash and Applejack narrowed their eyes. Neither of them liked the idea of being spoken to as if they were fillies again, but Rarity still smiled.

“Well, I am curious. I mean no offense, dear, but what are you?”

Lavender laughed. The melodic sound filled the room. “It is no offense at all. I am a Ki’rin. I assume Lord Nereus said nothing about our kind?”

“To be fair, I don’t think my friends gave him the chance. They were being uncooperative.” Rarity answered. She gave Applejack and Rainbow Dash a disapproving glare.

“I heard there was a ruckus. I had no idea it was coming from in here. I was tending to the other patients.” Lavender said. “What else did you have questions about?”

“Well, I wanted to know where our friend Twilight might have gone off to.”

A beat of silence passed as Lavender’s carefree expression changed. Her smile fell into a frown as she watched the five apprehensively.

“You speak of Lady Diadem.” She stated. “She has not used that name in years.”

“Well why not?” Rainbow Dash asked.

“That is not my story to tell. If Lady Diadem refused to explain it, then I will respect her wishes.” Lavender stated.

“You say ‘Lady Diadem’?” Rarity asked.

“Yes, because she is Lord Nereus’ daughter. Nereus is head of the Ki’rin clan which resides here amongst the others who have ventured out to make this place their home.” Lavender explained, careful with her words. “She is our Lady. Although she prefers informalities, the title is still there. I suppose you might call her a princess where you are from.”

Rainbow Dash’s laughter made the rest of them jump. She fell to the ground, kicking her hind legs as she rolled around giggling hysterically. “Twilight a princess?! Ahahaha!”

Lavender tilted her head a bit confused. “I see nothing funny, little one. Since her arrival, Lady Diadem had been under Nereus’ protection. It was not long before he claimed her as his own daughter, thus making her our clan’s princess. They’re inseparable, those two. Sometimes, I wonder how they could stand one another.”

“Why is that?” Rarity asked.

“Let’s just say that Lord Nereus does not act his age.” Lavender disclosed. “And Lady Diadem tends to act more mature than he does at times. She’s had to act like the parent in times where he wished to act like a child. It makes you wonder.”

Her musical laughter filled the room once more.

“Any other questions?”

“U-um…I have one…if that’s okay.” Fluttershy spoke, her small voice barely audible. “Y-Your lord mentioned a festival to that stallion we saved…I was wondering what it was?”

Lavender smiled. “That is one of our annual festivals. The Viridian Harvest is our celebration for the crops we have grown through the year and distribute it all to the members of the Den. There is music, dancing, food and more.”

“Oh! Oh! Like a party?!” Pinkie Pie exclaimed.

“Yes. Quite like a party.” Lavender smiled.

“I love, love, love, LOVE parties!” the pink pony shouted while she bounded around the room.

With a light chuckle, Lavender nodded. “Fantastic. All those in the Den’s walls are expected to be there, including the injured and weak. As it nears sunset, my assistants and I will bring up all the patients here in the infirmary. You five are no exception.”

Pinkie Pie stopped in front of Lavender and grabbed a cloven hoof, shaking it eagerly. “Hurray!” she cried, bouncing around again.

“That would be marvelous.” Rarity said.

“The festivities start at sunset. We will come get you girls a little bit before that so we can get you all up there.” Lavender informed them as she turned to the door. “I will see you all then.”

The five watched the ki’rin nurse exit their room, moving onto the next patient. Rarity smiled. “Do you know what this means, girls?”

“That we got a long time to do nothin’?” Applejack deadpanned.

“No! We can figure out a way to get Twilight to talk to us! This festival is the perfect place!” Rarity replied with a giddy expression.

“That’s perfect!” Rainbow gasped. “We can totally talk to somepony and figure out what happened to her, too!”

“Um…girls?” Fluttershy tried.

“Oh! Oh! And we can show her how to smile again!” Pinkie chirped.

“Uh…girls—”

“Maybe we can talk some sense into her.” Applejack agreed. “It ain’t right. She shouldn’t be treatin’ her best friends like that.”

“Girls—”

“Then its settled. We can—”

“Girls!” Fluttershy whisper-yelled. “I don’t think that Twilight would appreciate us doing that. If she wanted us to know, then she would talk to us. We’re her friends.”

“Ya’ heard ‘er ‘Shy.” Applejack said. “She ain’t got no pony friends, remember?”

“Don’t be so spiteful, Applejack.” Rarity admonished. “We don’t know what she’s been through. All we can do is show her that we care and are still her friends like we always have.”

“If yer sure.” The apple farmer muttered.

“Then its decided. We’ll talk to these…ki’rins at the festival and then try to talk to Twilight.” Rarity finished with a nod.  

“Yeah. Sure. But shouldn’t we talk to like…that Nereus dude or somethin’?” Rainbow Dash suggested. “I don’t think he’d want to talk to me, either.”

“Or me.” Applejack admitted. “He seemed awfully mad ‘bout the whole changeling thing.”

“Well, I think Fluttershy and I can talk to him.” Rarity answered. “Maybe you and Pinkie can talk to the townsponies?”

“Yes!” Pinkie Pie exclaimed. “That way we can make tons of friends, too!”

“Sure.” Applejack agreed.

“I’ll try to talk to that stallion, too.” Rainbow Dash added. “Strudal or whatever.”

Applejack facehoofed. “A strudel is somethin’ ya’ eat, Rainbow.”

“Whatever! I’ll talk to the stallion, ‘kay?” the cyan flyer huffed.

“Alright. We’ll all talk to them then meet back up before talking to Twilight. Let’s get our friend back!” Rarity yelled.

The others cheered. “Yeah!”

 

 

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