Chapter Two - A Kindred Spirit


“No, means no, Cadance,” I chided. My parents were out for the evening as a sort of farewell to Canterlot. Cadance was foalsitting me tonight, and if she got her way, tomorrow night, too.

“I’m not accepting a no this time, Twilight.” Cadance picked me up in her magic as I tried to retreat upstairs to my room. “You have been in an absolutely terrible mood all week, and this will be good for you. You spend all day every day–”

“Every night,” I corrected. If she was going to hold me against my will and force me to listen to this, she could at least use the proper terminology.

Rolling her eyes, Cadance continued, “You spend all night every night cooped up at home or in the archives. You need to get out more. Meet some ponies your age. Socialize. Develop a foalhood crush, or deepen one you already have. And above all else” – Cadance levitated me closer and looked me dead in the eyes – “we need to do something about that frown plastered on your face.”

Cadance looked at me as though she actually thought I would agree. Naturally, I deadpanned, “No.”

“Fine. I didn’t want to do this, but you leave me no choice, Twilight.”

I fell somewhat roughly to the ground. Cadance was still learning magic herself, and she was not exactly talented at it. Her fine control of heavy objects – such as fillies – especially left much to be desired.

“Twilight Sparkle, I am giving you a royal, princess, foalsitter, adult, alicorn order. You will go out with me tomorrow night, and you will try to enjoy yourself.”

A moment passed in utter silence. I couldn’t believe my ears. Did she really just do that?

“You’re going to pull rank on this?” I asked, still flabbergasted.

Cadance nodded. “It would seem that’s the only way I’m going to get you to agree.”

I still couldn’t believe it. “Really?”

“Really really,” Cadance replied unmoving.

After a short stare down, I sighed. There really was nothing else for it if she was going to go that far out of her way, and I certainly wasn’t going to go complain to the only pony who could overrule Cadance. Well, at least the only pony currently in Equestria. I also wasn’t going to run to Luna and have her reveal herself just to get out of this.

Despite how annoyed I was, Tartarus would freeze solid before I let myself lash out at Cadance like I had at Celestia. Not that I was anywhere near that upset. Cadance was my friend, and even if she was doing it all wrong, she was trying to cheer me up.

And besides, I knew this was the worst holiday to raise an unusually large fuss over. Sure, I didn’t like socializing, but this wouldn’t be any worse than any other of Cadance’s attempts to get me to make friends and to stop binge reading. I couldn’t very well claim I was scared, since I’d demonstrated otherwise from age four to seven. Nor could I believably claim I didn’t want the free candy.

Still, I was so totally going to remember this, and my revenge would be cruel and without mercy.

“Very well, Princess Mi Amore Cadenza,” I said as formally as I could, eliciting a twitch halfway to a gag from Cadance, “you win. I am your humble servant.”

Cadance suddenly wasn’t looking so enthusiastic as she tried to deny what she had just done. “Twilight, I didn’t mean–”

“Yes, you did, Princess” I said with a facehoof. Sometimes Cadance could be really thick. “You’ve given the order, so I’ll try to eke out whatever amount of fun I can from tomorrow night. Now can I go back to reading? I have some stuff from the archives I really want to get through. My move to Ponyville is just next week.”

I nodded toward the study where I could just make out the books related to the elements I’d taken from the archives. From where Cadance stood, she would no doubt be able to see them too if she turned around. I’d fetched them from the mines before Cadance had arrived, since I couldn’t very well get them after. Even waiting until she was asleep was a risky venture, considering how light of a sleeper she was.

Cadance looked over at the books and stared for a moment. She then had some sort of painful internal debate with herself, and it showed so clearly on her face that even eight-year-old Twilight would have noticed.

Not good. I nearly lost control of myself and paled, but I managed to bottle up my panic before it grew out of control for once.

There was no way anypony could know what I was really searching for in the archives. My choices were too littered with failures and dead ends to deduce anything without having at least one thing I considered a success first pointed out. Those were the magic words I repeated to myself as if they were a spell.

“No, not yet,” Cadance finally replied. “I’ve been meaning to talk to you about your reading material for…a while now, but I kept putting it off. And with the move and all… I – I need to know. Do you think that…that what you’re doing is…right?”

My eyes went wide, and I stared like I was facing my death, which I very well could be. Filtering out everything but Cadance, I wondered if I could break my suppressor if I deliberately tried to flare. She was obviously trying to figure out where my loyalties lay and – and – I didn’t…

But wait. Even alicorns had approximately equine anatomy. I didn’t have to flare. Cadance was a pushover in a fight. She’d be down and out in less than a second.

No. No, that way held madness. Cadance was my friend, and I was sure I was hers. I could talk her around, even if she was Celestia’s pawn right now.

No. No, that was still wrong. A little voice in the back of my head was telling me I was overreacting again and I had once again blown my chance to play innocent in whatever line of inquiry Cadance was really going to press.

Um… Or Cadance could press our bodies together into a hug. That was certainly a speech substitute, although I didn’t really think it counted as an interrogation.

I had two guesses for why she was hugging me, and they required very different reactions. On the one hoof, if this was about learning magic, I had to be strong but sad. If this was about Luna, I had to both act subtly scared of my mentor and be defensive of her while letting my anger toward Celestia seep out.

Whatever Cadance had meant, I had a terrible feeling I was about to lose access to the archives if I messed up even the tiniest bit. For now, I kept quiet and didn’t return her hug. That was the only truly neutral action I could think of.

“Twilight, I – I really don’t know how to talk about this with you. I know you’ve been reading books about magic.”

Cadance, that was the worst place to stop. That told me essentially nothing about what you were really talking about. You could be tricking me into responding wrongly for all I knew, even if it was out of character for you.

“And?” I asked, probing for more information. A bit of my anxiety accidentally came out in my voice, but that was okay in either case.

“I’ve known for a long time, actually. Princess Celestia always told me what the archivists reported to her. I’m worried about you.”

I sighed internally. If Cadance said she was worried about me, then this was about magic, not Luna. Luna would have been worded more along the lines of ‘I’m scared for you’, or something like that.

Not that Cadance hadn’t just – likely unwittingly – confessed something unpleasant to me. It went without saying that Celestia was going to have my activities in the archives monitored, but I hadn’t imagined she would be doing it herself.

But what really bothered me about that was I didn’t have a clue why she bothered, not unless she knew about Luna and me. But if that were so, she would have…taken care of me long before now, so that couldn’t be it.

She could be treating me as a case study in what a pony would do to cope after having their special talent denied to them. That’s probably what I’d do if I were in her position, old, mean, and bored. I’d have to look into that in the future and correct any published mistakes.

Still, whatever the reasoning behind it, I was safe from Cadance, at least. I liked to think I knew her well enough to know she was bad at wordplay and to know her speech patterns. She said worried, so this was about magic.

Now I liked to think of myself as a pretty logical filly, but Cadance would probably treat that as a symptom of depression or something if I tried to reason with her that way. I had to communicate with the Princess of Love on a very emotional and foalish level if I wanted to properly get through to her.

This…might be harder than I originally thought.

“It’s rude to snoop, Cadance,” I pouted.

“I know that,” Cadance half-shouted. “I know that better than anypony, Twilight. I – I’m not supposed to tell you this, but…I – I’m the Alicorn of Love.”

“I am aware–”

The realization sank in. Luna had given me the pieces, but I’d never put them together. Luna was the Alicorn of the Moon, or the night, or something like that. Celestia was her opposite with the day. They both had an iron grip on the moon and the sun.

So what did Cadance control? Thinking back, she’d once show me some of her magic when she patched up an argument between two ponies with a flash of her horn.

My eyes did not go wide. Cadance didn’t know I had enough information to realize what she was about to say, and I couldn’t let on that I did. But I couldn’t help shivering a bit. Not that she noticed.

“You see, I have certain…powers, as an alicorn. You remember when I showed you one of them, right? Spreading love?”

I nodded, albeit weakly.

“Spreading was not the right word. I don’t spread it, I…control it. In a sense. Among other things.”

That was all I needed her to say. “Cadance, have you ever–”

No.” Cadance put her whole heart into that rejection and nearly deafened me with its intensity. “I have never, ever messed with your emotions, or Shining’s, or your parents’. I don’t change anypony’s unless I really need to. The only exceptions was when I demonstrated it to you, and even that was only a temporary change; I didn’t tamper with any permanent feelings. Just the ones of the moment.”

“Okay,” I said. Cadance desperately looked like she needed the acceptance right now. Besides, she was obviously not lying. “I believe you. But I need you to promise me you never will, no matter what. Not even if I ask or beg you or if I turn into a supervillain.”

Cadance managed a flimsy smile and a short chuckle. “You? A supervillain? Twilight, I hate to tell you this, but you just don’t have it in you.”

“Villainy is a matter of perspective,” I explained, unable to let that point go. I then said, “But Cadance, promise me. I don’t think I can be comfortable around you otherwise. I’ll constantly be fretting over whether I should be ignoring my emotions or not.”

Smile turning to frown, Cadance replied, “I promise you on my honor as an alicorn, a princess, a foalsitter, and a friend, I shall never manipulate your emotions.”

“I’m so sorry, Cadance,” I said as I went in to give her a much needed hug, “but I really needed that. Thank you.”

Returning my hug, Cadance whispered, “I understand. Even I worry about myself sometimes.” And then a second later, her voice returned to normal. “But right now we’re talking about you.”

Horseapples! She remembered.

“Part of what I can do is…well, see isn’t the right word either. Feel, maybe? Yes, I can feel how ponies feel about each other. Twilight, you have a lot of hate in you.”

Oh no. “I–”

“Wait. Let me finish. I don’t blame you for that at all. I – I know I don’t have any idea what life must be like for you; my talents aren’t exactly something I use much, but I do get to use them. But…I have to ask. Are you studying for revenge? To prove Princess Celestia wrong? Or – or is it how you cope? I don’t want to see you waste your life, Twilight. Or k – injure yourself in a flare if you do something foolish.”

I thought back to how miserable I felt before I met Luna and managed to get the waterworks going. I needed to have a few tears and a sniffle to make this believable.

“Cadance, my special talent is magic! What would you possibly have me do instead? Even if I can never cast a spell again, I can at least learn the theory! Maybe even invent new spells!

“In some of those stories I’ve read, Smart Cookie was said to help Clover the Clever on her spellwork sometimes. I can be like Smart Cookie…” I trailed off into a whisper and finished, “Just a boring earth pony with a brain and an extra appendage. Twilight Sparkle…the earth pony.”

I got shivers from just thinking about it: a pale reflection of what my life could have been if not for Luna. Unintentional shivers – and I did take a second to berate myself for the lapse in control – but ones helpful for the act nonetheless.

Cadance scooped me up into another hug, and from the sound of it, she’d started crying, too, but was trying to hold it in.

“And that makes you happy?”

I whispered, “Happy enough,” and Cadance squeezed me tighter.

“You don’t know what a relief that is to hear. I’ve been so, so worried about you.”

“Thank you for worrying, Cadance,” I whispered. This was coming straight from the heart without my interfering. “You’re the best foalsitter and friend I could ask for.”

We spent at least a minute in that hug. Cadance didn’t seem to understand that I had to breathe – maybe she didn’t have to – but I made do. Setting me down, Cadance brushed away a tear with her wing and smiled.

“Still,” began Cadance, “you need to find something else in your life besides magic.”

Oh, not that again. She hadn’t revoked my access to the archives, but I still didn’t want to deal with her meddling right now. Or ever, really. Cadance was such a busybody.

“Come on, Cadance! We just had a heart-to-heart conversation, and you’re still going to force me to participate in Nightmare Night?”

“Yes. Nothing has changed. You need to learn how to make friends your own age before you slip out of my grasp. And maybe go through a crush or two…” Cadance trailed off suggestively.

“H-hey!” I nervously shouted. Apparently, her alicorn powers were letting her know I had a strong relationship but not that it was with Luna. I’d really dodged a bolt there. But then again, Luna probably already knew that was how Cadance worked somehow.

“Oh, Twilight. You can’t hide love from me.”

I groaned.

“Oh, don’t be like that, Twilight. This’ll be fun! Start sharing!”

“Can’t we just work on a costume?” I found it hard to believe that I actually preferred preparing for the worst holiday ever, but Cadance had managed to find something even more troublesome.

The mare in question waved a forehoof dismissively. “Oh, pish posh. We can spend all afternoon tomorrow designing one, and then I’ll just put an illusion on you. If you’re comfortable with that.”

“If I said no, would you drop the love talk?”

“Nope.”

“Then that’s fine,” I sighed. “Unless you’ve managed to learn one of the polymorph spells?”

“Um…no. That’s still way too advanced for me.” Cadance sunk into thought for a moment before she snapped back to attention and said, “Nice try, but you’re not getting off that easily. So start talking. Tell me everything.”

“Cadance,” I sighed, “it’s not what you think.”

“Oh, but it is! Whoever this handsome colt is you have your–”

“Mare.” I hoped the interruption would shut down Cadance’s line of inquiry, or at least redirect it away from romance.

“That’s–” gasped Cadance. “I’m so sorry for assuming. But how old is she?”

Falling on my rump, I rubbed my temples with my forehooves. Cadance could be so annoying when her love flag was triggered. “I told you it’s not like that.”

“Don’t even try, Twilight. You have so much love for this mystery mare of yours that she must be on your mind all the time.”

“Well, I admit that’s true. But in a what would she do or think sense. I really look up to her as a mentor.”

“You have a crush on a teacher,” squealed Cadance. “That’s so cute! Is she somepony from before you started homeschooling? Or did your parents hire a tutor? Oh! Or is she somepony you had a moonlit encounter with where she passed down some amazing advice to you? Or – hey! Are you even paying attention?”

It seemed that Cadance finally noticed that I’d busied myself with the book I had been reading before this whole horrible conversation started. I answered her question by not answering it.

“Twiliiiiight. You can’t do this to me. I have to know.”

I turned a page, embarrassingly fumbling with it for a few seconds with my weak magic.

“Twilight. Twilight. Twiiiiiliiiiight.” Cadance moved closer and whispered in my ear, “Twilight.”

I didn’t so much as turn my head to acknowledge her. She would pounce on the first sign of weakness. If I kept quiet until she got bored, she’d fill in the details herself however she wanted. That was one of Luna’s first lessons for me: give a pony just enough information to let them do your lying for you.

Cadance closed my book, and I made a quick note of exactly where I was cut off.

“Twilight,” Cadance whined, “pay attention to me.”

I opted to lay down and rest my head on the floor. It was late enough that I might be able to get a short nap in despite the mild discomfort of the floor. Luna might even notice and visit me.

My respite was denied to me by constant prods from one of Cadance’s hooves.

“Hey, Cadance,” I mumbled as if I were deathly tired. “Do you know where the flyswatter is? I think there are some mosquitoes in here.”

“Wha… I’m not a mosquito!”

I laughed inwardly and yawned, “Sorry, I’m afraid I couldn’t tell the difference.”

“Urgh! How rude! I don’t remember raising you to say things like that.”

I yawned again.


I looked at myself in my bedroom mirror. I’d resisted the urge to dress up as Luna and give candy to foals, but wings still looked pretty good on me despite being a filly’s underdeveloped version. I barely believed I’d never thought to put an alicorn illusion on myself before. Still, there was one problem.

“I said I wouldn’t accept frills, Cadance.”

“But, Twilight, you look so adorable like this.”

“No, I don’t.”

Even with my limited knowledge of fashion, I knew that frills did not mesh well with the wise mage look I preferred when I absolutely had to put on clothes. Although, the warrior princess look that Luna sported was an okay second choice.

“Your idea was ridiculous, Twilight. You don’t want to be seen in public like that. This is much better.”

Alright, Cadance was being really annoying now. One simply did not insult the most important spell caster of the Pre-Classical Era.

“Star Swirl the Bearded had exquisite taste in clothing that perfectly merged the beauty of the night sky right into his cloak and hat. It’s not my fault if you can’t get your illusion to replicate them perfectly.”

Cadance mumbled something incoherent.

“I’m not going outside like this, and if you float me out, then I won’t cooperate in any way.”

“Fine,” huffed Cadance, her horn glowing as she reworked her illusion.

She wasn’t good enough with the spell to change everything at once, so watching the changes in the mirror was an odd experience of sudden patchwork modifications morphing my dress into a star-studded cloak. Lastly, the tiara on my brow changed into a floppy wizard hat with bells dangling from the brim.

It looked pretty good overall, even if the stars on the cloak and hat were static and unrealistic. A little awkward around the wings, but Cadance had done her best. However, she had forgotten one important thing.

“What about the beard?”

“Not happening,” Cadance answered. “You look ridiculous enough without adding a beard to it. Putting aside the fact that you are both female and a foal, when was the last time you saw a pony with a beard?”

“Never,” I grumbled.

“And that’s exactly how often I am going to put a beard beneath your muzzle.”

I thought about protesting, but the wings, my size, and my gender were inaccurate anyway, so arguing for historical accuracy was a moot point. And I would have a hard time explaining how I knew Star Swirl had tried to ascend, if I was being such a stickler for fine historical details.

Instead, I put my saddlebags over my back and sighed, “Let’s just get this over with.”

As Cadance led me out of my bedroom door and down the stairs, she said, “Turn that frown upside down, young filly. Tonight is about fun and meeting new ponies. Nopony is going to like you if you’re nothing but mopey.”

I plastered a huge, obviously fake smile onto my face. Just because Cadance was forcing me outside didn’t mean I had to make it easy on her.

“Hmm… Better, I guess…”

As we passed through the foyer, my dad met us at the door and gave me a somewhat sympathetic look. Out of Cadance’s line of sight, he dropped a bag of cookies into my saddlebags and winked. No doubt they were a reserve treat in case I lost my temper tonight.

I was so glad Cadance hadn’t insisted my parents participate in this wretched holiday as well. I would not have been amused, to say the least.

Dad gave me a quick hug and said, “Do try to have some fun, Twilight.”

“Alright, Dad. I’ll see you tomorrow morning for dinner.”

“Just don’t eat too many sweets before then.”

“We’ll see.” I giggled as Cadance led me out the door. Even if I didn’t like the holiday, it would be a waste to throw all the free snacks away.

As the two of us walked through the streets, Cadance explained what she intended to do tonight. Apparently, she’d found a group of fillies within Celestia’s School for the Uncriminally Gifted who lived on campus, each of which was supposedly some variation of socially awkward to complement my semi-misanthropy.

Oh, Cadance, you could just color me every kind of excited right now. This was going to be one big disaster.

As we arrived at the dorms and Cadance finished explaining her ‘grand plan’ for the night, I mumbled, “I want to go home already.”

The inside of the dormitory lacked any particular interest. Just the same white stone with gold and blue trim as everywhere else in Canterlot. A few other colors made appearances in furniture in what I assumed was a common room, considering the games, bookshelves, and selection of variously aged ponies spread throughout it.

Cadance left me to wait by the door as she had a few words with the dorm mistress. Looking out at the crowd gathered in the common room, I guessed that I’d have four ‘friends’ with me tonight. There were more ponies in costume, but only four that were near my age. Honestly, I’d prefer the older foals, but Cadance wouldn’t share my opinion.

After deducing that and growing sufficiently bored, the one filly I didn’t want to see came charging in through the door. She was fully dressed in a Clover the Clever costume complimented with saddlebags which had her staff-shaped cutie mark embroidered on them.

“Princess Cadance!” Trixie shouted. “Can I come, too?”

This night just went from unpleasant to miserable. There was no way the ever-loving Cadance would be able to reject somepony as persistent as Trixie without my backup, and I despised playing the poor little crippled filly card.

Really, I didn’t blame Trixie for being Trixie, but she was naturally annoying – and by that I meant she never shut up – on the rare occasions when I saw her in the archives. Not that I ever approached her myself; I left that privilege to the archivists. Her being Celestia’s precious student certainly didn’t make me any more inclined to like her, although I did try hard not to hold that against her; it was something completely outside of her control. At least she wasn’t speaking in the third person yet.

Cadance bit her lip and looked nervously in my direction. I sighed and waved my hoof, reluctantly accepting this unpleasant twist of fate. At least I got a small laugh out of Cadance’s surprise.

Once Cadance had nodded and had pointed in my direction, Trixie came to join me.

“Greetings! I am the Great and Powerful Trixie.”

The trial had begun. I could have just told her I already knew who she was and thus could’ve skipped the inevitable ramble that followed – which I tuned out – but I wasn’t eager to inflate her ego anymore than it already was.

I took the entryway being quiet again as my cue to reply. “I’m Twilight Sparkle.”

“Hmm…” Trixie eyed me up and down. “You seem familiar, but I don’t recognize you from this school. Have we met before?”

“Not really. I use the archives a lot, and I’ve seen you there sometimes.”

Technically, we had seen each other much closer before then at our exams, but I didn’t want to help Trixie remember. I doubted that little fact would come to her mind unprompted.

“You have access to the archives? How does that work?”

The Great and Powerful Trixie was clearly not impressed with me – which was just fine – but she was obviously intrigued. I’d much prefer if she just didn’t talk to me tonight – or ever again – so a simple, boring answer would be best. The kind of answer a young noble would give.

With a faintly haughty voice, I said, “I am homeschooled with some family connections. That’s all.”

“Oh,” Trixie said flatly, clearly less interested than before. I didn’t know what she could possibly have been expecting.

Thankfully, Cadance appeared at the lull in the conversation with the other fillies before Trixie could say anything else. No more alone time with Trixie! I was nearly ready to get down on my knees and praise Cadance for her divine favor like the goddess she was, but that would have been grossly inappropriate, especially coming from an aspiring goddess.

“All right, fillies, let’s do some introductions. I’ll go first. I’m Princess Cadance.”

Oh yes, like there was anypony in Equestria that didn’t know that. It wasn’t like princesses just appeared out of nowhere.

Trixie decided to go next and introduced herself. This time she fortunately kept her monologuing to a minimum. It did, however, set a bad precedent that the other fillies picked up on. I thought I saw Cadance cringe, but I wasn’t paying much attention to her.

The filly wrapped in a toilet paper mummy costume went next. “I’m Minuette. My special talent is dentistry, just like my mom’s.”

Fantastic, I needed to come up with a fake special talent. Also, I had no idea what part of her seemed ‘socially awkward’ to Cadance.

Hmm… Now that it was brought to the front of my mind, Trixie was all kinds of socially awkward herself. Perhaps she did belong here.

Next went the…well, I didn’t really know what her costume was supposed to be. She’d turned her coat black and put what I could – with my magic and magical senses sealed – only hope were illusions of holes in her mane, tail, and legs.

“Lemon Hearts. My special talent is empathy magic.”

I took a half step away from her at the expense of moving closer to Trixie. The distance wouldn’t actually help if she cast anything on me, but it felt appropriate. I could definitely see how a pony would have social problems with that as their special talent.

On another note, I decided to go with astronomy as my special talent. I had stars for a cutie mark, and Luna had taught me more than enough to fake my way through any questions that might come up during the night.

“Oh, oh! Me next! I’m Lyra Heartstrings, but everypony just calls me Lyra.”

She was not exactly selling herself as a social misanthrope.

“My special talent is playing the lyre, but I’m way more interested in humans.”

The other three fillies from the school groaned, and the pieces fell into place. Like Trixie, Lyra must drive everypony away with her personality, rather than having issues with ponies herself. Although with that said, I did find myself curious as to what a human was, but I knew better than to ask now. I’d ask Luna later. I’d probably ask her about Lemon Hearts’s costume, too.

Last before my turn came the pirate. She interrupted quickly before Lyra could say anything else.

“I’m Twinkleshine,” the pirate half-whispered. “My special talent is astronomy.”

Oh stars. I couldn’t go with astronomy now. Twinkleshine would want to talk shop – which I’d probably enjoy – all night, and there was no way she wouldn’t see through the lie.

“I’m Twilight Sparkle, or just Twilight for short. My special talent is…magical theory.”

“What?” chorused Trixie and Lemon Hearts. Leave it to the two with magic based talents to call me out.

Rather awkwardly injecting herself into the middle of the group, Cadance ushered us towards the door and said, “Okay, we’ve finished introductions. Time to hit the streets.”

And we did just that with some gentle nudging from Cadance’s magic to hurry us along. As we walked away from the school and castle and back toward the residential area, the seven of us fell into a few distinct groups.

At the front was Cadance with Lyra and Minuette. The three of them were engaged in some sort of small talk. Near me, yet a fair distance off, were Trixie and Lemon Hearts. From the occasional glances they threw my way, I would guess they were talking about me and probably would be talking to me if I weren’t fending them off with Twinkleshine.

After much prodding and some application of my own knowledge, I’d managed to get Twinkleshine to open up about her interest in astronomy. It would seem that she was the shy one of this group. And as much as I would hate admitting it to Cadance, she was actually enjoyable to talk to.

And yet it seemed that Twinkleshine was not as effective of a Trixie repellent as I’d hoped. We’d visited only a single house for candy before Trixie and Lemon Hearts interrupted us and quieted Twinkleshine.

“So,” Trixie began as we walked, “you only know magical theory.”

“Yes,” I sighed.

“Well, that explains the sloppy work on the illusion,” Lemon Hearts commented.

“Not really. This is her work,” I said, pointing at Cadance. Lemon Hearts looked a bit sheepish. I probably would have laughed if Trixie hadn’t spoken up.

“Then you can’t cast your own illusions?”

“Yes.”

“That’s so sad,” Trixie said and set my teeth to grinding. There was something about the way she said it that put me on edge. “What can you do?”

Asking like that was not getting you any friendship points.

“Research.”

Lemon Hearts asked, “Just that?”

“Yes.”

“Boring,” said Trixie. “But I suppose not everypony can be as interesting as Trixie.”

Interrupted by another round of free candy, everypony’s attention was drawn away from me, and I facehoofed. Did Trixie really just say that? It was like talking to a five-year-old. And not in the way that Cadance claimed was fun.

I collected my candy and returned to the back with Twinkleshine. It seemed Trixie and Lemon Hearts had lost interest in me and were leaving the two of us to ourselves.

“So, where were we?” I asked Twinkleshine. I’d actually forgotten due to those two annoyances.

Twinkleshine’s face did a complete tone shift from a bit scared to full-on excitement.

“We were talking about comets!”

“Oh, right. Did you get to see Shimmer’s Comet a half season ago? It was absolutely beautiful.”

“I wish! That’s one of the few comets we can see at night! The dorm mistress wouldn’t let me stay up that late, though.”

Now that it came up, I wondered how many comets we’d be able to see if the sun went away forever. Well, that was a thought for another time. Right now, I had a sad filly to deal with.

Having seen Twinkleshine eye my latest candied good, I tossed it over to her, and she caught it with her magic.

Her eyes lit up as she asked, “You’re giving this to me?”

“No, I just want you to hold it for me for no reason.” I rolled my eyes at how serious Twinkleshine took me. “I’m joking. Yes, it’s yours. Cheer up. You can see the comet yourself in a couple years.”

“Two years, one season, six weeks, and nine days to be precise.”

“Wow, you really want to see that comet.”

Twinkleshine blushed and said, “Well, it is my special talent.”

I didn’t really have anything to say to that. I had an incredible memory for magic myself. Not that it was any worse for anything else.

Except for languages, unfortunately. Luna had tried to teach me the minotaur language so I could dig into their engineering books, but that hadn’t panned out. Despite that, and although nowhere near as fluent as Luna, I did manage to pick up quite a bit of Old Equestrian.

“You’re right, you know.”

I paused for a few seconds to stare blankly skyward. Canterlot’s light pollution hid much of the beauty of the night sky, but it was still nice to look at.

“You should just put your hoof down and tell that mare to let you stay up next time. Your special talent is important to you, and she has no right to shut you down over society’s preferred sleep cycle.”

Twinkleshine sighed and said, “I tried something like that once. It…didn’t work out.”

“I could just get Cadance to get the dorm mistress to back off, if you want,” I said without thinking. I’d been trying to avoid letting everypony know how close I was to Cadance, lest I bring any unwanted attention to myself, but it seemed I’d slipped in my frustration with the world’s insistence on being diurnal.

“Princess Cadance? Do you really think she would do that for me?” Twinkleshine asked, completely ignoring my informality. I kept forgetting that fillies didn’t notice that kind of stuff.

“Yep. She’s a very nice princess and really likes foals.”

“Oh! So that’s why she’s taking us out tonight.”

Not really, but I wasn’t going to correct Twinkleshine.

“Um… Would you…” Twinkleshine began.

“Yes, I’ll ask her for you later tonight.”

Twinkleshine shook her head vigorously. “Would you watch the comet with me?”

My jaw fell nearly halfway down before I regained my composure. I…did actually like Twinkleshine on the whole astronomy level. And I probably would watch the comet anyway if I remembered. I’d certainly have teleporting down by then, too, so I could go to and from Canterlot on my own. Or I could just spend the night with Shining or Cadance and take the train home.

“If you don’t want to–”

“No, no. I’d be happy to. I was just thinking. I’m moving out of Canterlot soon–”

“There’s one during the day in two weeks and one day,” Twinkleshine said as fast as she could.

“–but I’m going to visit frequently for the archives…” Well, this was just a little bit awkward. “Ehem. My parents are moving early next week, but I can probably convince them to let me stay with my brother a little–”

I received a hug of opportunity. Yep, awkward. And it was only getting more so.

“Twinkleshine…we’re kind of being left behind.”

“Oh, sorry,” she said, releasing me from her grip. We trotted to catch up with the others. “There’s just nopony around that I can really talk to about this stuff.”

I rolled my eyes and said, “We are in the capital city of Celestia the sun goddess. It’s not really the ideal place to meet ponies that like stargazing.”

Twinkleshine giggled a bit and said, “True. So how often would you be visiting?”

“Canterlot?” I got a nod. “Honestly, not that often, I’d imagine. I have permission to raid the archives and take stuff, so I probably wouldn’t stay long, either.” Then since I was sure it was why she was asking, I added, “But I could spare a few minutes to say hi when I do.”

“That’d be so much fun! We could have a sleepover and stay up till midnight watching the stars and stuff.” Mumbling, Twinkleshine added, “And maybe help each other with our homework…”

I just pretended I hadn’t heard that last part. Or the part before that. Although, I did suspect a ‘sleepover’ would be a little fun if I was worn out mentally and needed a break.

Much like tonight. I had to admit, it was nice to wind down with somepony who knew less than me for once. I loved spending time with Luna, but on very rare occasions, that whole ‘I’m over a hundred times older than you’ thing got a little annoying. Even Cadance ultimately knew more than me in most matters apart from magic.

Regardless, I was just going to let tonight run its course, ignore Cadance’s I told you sos, and get back to reading about a devious little compulsion spell. Some might say I wanted it and I needed it.