Chapter Thirty Five - Peace and Quiet


The wind blowing on my face, the slight strain in my wings, the feeling of defying gravity. Oh, it was just so wonderful!

I spun myself in a slow circle, my wings and hooves fully extended as I reached the peak of my vertical ascent. My timing hadn’t been as good as I’d wanted, so I flapped my wings to keep myself level. Below me I could feel Dash blasting straight toward me at a reckless pace, burning through absurd amounts of magic. Chamomile and a dozen other overprotective lunar pegasi fled out of her way while still remaining nearby.

At the last second, I created a large cloud between me and Dash.

“Oh cra–” Dash shouted. Her cry was interrupted by a pomf as the rather viscous cloud – to pegasi at least – slowed her to a stop and trapped her.

For my part, I fell over laughing safely on top of the cloud.

“Nice one, Princess,” Chamomile said, flying up to me. When she was close enough, we high hoofed each other.

Below us, I heard Dash finally manage to crawl out of the cloud, even spitting out a chunk of it.

“Okay, Twi, I admit it. You’re not bad.”

“I told you I could beat you at tag with just pegasus magic.”

Chamomile chuckled, asking, “Princess Luna taught you this trick, didn’t she?”

“More used it against me, but yeah. How did you know?”

“She did the same thing to me once, too. I went face first into a–”

“Hey!” Dash called out. “I said you’re not bad. But I’m the best.”

Oh horseapples. Dash reached out to the cloud and ripped control of it away from me. Her magic spread through it and started to tear it apart.

I spread my wings back out, ready to stop myself from falling. But then just before the cloud burst, Dash’s magic receded and left the cloud in place. Instead of plummeting as I’d expected, the cloud shifted of its own volition and rolled me head over hooves inside of it.

And while I was stuck inside, a hoof nudged my barrel.

“Got ya.”

Ugh. I kicked the cloud, but nothing happened.

“Oh come on,” I complained, “are you serious, Dash? Fine, two can play at that game.”

I kicked the cloud again, but this time I put a little alicorn into my effort, just like Dash had when she’d cheated and reshaped it. This time, the cloud burst apart the way I’d intended, although I frustratingly didn’t quite dissipate all of it. Still, that left Dash right below me in plain sight.

But before I could nose dive into her, Chamomile caught me in her hooves.

I sighed. “Chamomile, I can fly, you know.”

“Sorry. It’s just after–”

“I’m not going to crash again,” I interrupted, my hoof flying up to my face. At the same time, I wiggled out of Chamomile’s hooves and hovered under my own power. “I just needed more time to adjust to real life pegasus magic.”

“And you gotta admit,” Dash added, “it was pretty funny watching Twi flail into the Hornburg in two seconds flat. That’s got my record beat for epic fail crashes.”

Yeah, yeah. Laugh it up.

“But anyway, you got wrecked,” Dash gloated.

I retorted, “You cheated.”

“Like you’re one to talk, Miss I Can See Magic,” Dash countered. “We agreed no alicorn powers.”

“It’s not like you can’t track the electrical charges in my nerves yourself, or the water in my veins. You and I both know we can’t turn our extra sense off.” Or at least we had no idea how to. It was like trying not to hear things. I, at least, could mute my magic sense by surrounding myself by lots of magic or focusing intently on something, but I couldn’t actually disable it. “Besides, it’s not like I was relying on it.”

“Yeah. Sure you weren’t.”

I rolled my eyes. I’d show Dash what relying on alicorn powers really meant.

I didn’t exactly have much practice at this, but it wasn’t that hard; it felt rather natural whenever I tried, like moving a limb I hadn’t known I’d always had. Dash’s magic was coursing through her wings and spreading out around her to keep her level. As ever, it had an almost astounding level of complexity to it, absurdly beyond what she actually needed just to hover.

But it was just magic. Without her æthereal essence pervading it, Dash’s magic was ultimately mine. Or maybe it was me. I still hadn’t puzzled out what it meant to be an alicorn.

Anyway, just like stretching a leg, all I had to do was shift a few things here and there around Dash’s wings, aaaaand–

“Twi! I’m going to–”

Dash’s scream as she plummeted cut off. She’d demanifested herself out of existence. Then before I could even blink, her voice returned from behind me.

“–get you!”

I whirled just in time for Dash to tackle me. She was barely more than a cloud when we first made contact, but she properly manifested in a fraction of a second.

“Not this time,” I replied as I demanifested myself, letting my body devolve back into magic.

The last time Dash had tried this – emphasis on last – she’d blown me into the ground with a hurricane gale past sonic rainboom speeds. I’d splattered into my component magics against the moon before I could even register the pain. Sure, that time had been an accident, but I’d made the mistake of telling her it hadn’t hurt.

I remanifested from the ambient magic of the moon way away from Dash. Unfortunately, she was preventing me from interfering with her magic again. Such a shame. But that was okay, because there were other magics here I could play with.

“By the way Dash,” I called out as I set my plan into motion, “please start counting.”

“What?” I just barely heard Dash call back as she flipped over to face my general direction.

“I’d like to know what the moon’s true gravity is.”

Dash just looked confused, but only until I interrupted Luminance’s gravity spell local only to her.

“Are you serious?” Dash screamed as she dropped like a rock, her wings struggling to support her drastically increased weight on such short notice.

Just shy of the ground, Dash managed to level out. She even managed to actually get some upward thrust out of her wings. If she weren’t an alicorn now, I’d be rather impressed by how much magic she was using to keep herself airborne.

Dash tried to remanifest away from the hole in the gravity spell, or at least that was what I thought she was trying. Like that would work.

But then Dash disappeared a second time. A gentle breeze picked up around my mane. And then Dash hit me from behind like a train, completely knocking the air out of me and sending a surprisingly short jolt of pain through me. I thought I even heard my spine crack.

“Okay, okay,” I wheezed. I let the gravity spell snap back to normal. Dash leveled out halfway to the ground, and after fiddling with my wings for long enough, I got them to respond and keep me aloft. “Let’s not escalate this any further.”

Knowing Dash, she’d get way too into it and unleash a natural disaster on Luminance.

“Ha! I totally won!”

Yeah, no. I’d been all kinds of holding back even after Dash cheated.

“Let’s just call it a tie. Unless you want this to end with me teleporting you to the other side of the moon with an anchoring spell.”

“Er…”

Dash suddenly didn’t look so confident, and I gave her a little smirk. She could make the trip back, sure, but she still hadn’t bothered learning how to dispel enchantments, so I could force her to remain manifested and fly back.

Really, more than anything, the return trip would be boring. Dash’s natural regeneration would heal her before suffocation could induce any real damage or pain, and without even that to distract her, she might have to – gasp – think to keep herself entertained. The moon certainly wouldn’t offer up much in the way of sightseeing.

But then maybe I should teleport her whether she yielded or not. Maybe that would finally motivate her to take her unicorn magic lessons seriously.

Ugh. No. That was the wrong way to motivate her. Crushing her in sports and drawing out her competitive spirit, that was the correct choice. If I made her frustrated and miserable, she’d try to outdo me, just to win. Maybe eventually she’d even prove herself to be a challenge that I could actually enjoy beating into the dirt; it was more or less like picking on a newborn as she was now.

“Alright,” Dash finally let out, her dissatisfaction obvious on her face. Maybe that would get her thinking about at least learning a brute force counter spell. It really wasn’t that hard. “Tie.”

Dash reached out with a hoof, and I somewhat reluctantly shook it. After our hooves parted, Dash flew over to my side and wrapped the same hoof across my withers.

“Anyway, good game, Twi. We should totally be flying buddies. If you put that space bubble thing on me–”

Space bubble? Were you serious, Dash? It was just a simple shield spell and an air spell. Any unicorn guard knew the former, and any unicorn miner knew the latter. They were trivial spells. Learn them yourself!

“–then we can totally have races across the universe. Just think about it.” Dash’s free hoof slowly moved from left to right in front of us. “We start on Equus and fly all the way out to the nearest star, banking off the gravity instead of air pockets. How cool would that be!”

“Pretty cool, except for the fact that it’d take us years to finish.”

“Pft.” Dash flew off of me. “You’re such a stick-in-the-mud. But whatever. I guess we could just race to the sun.”

“You might call that endurance training,” Chamomile said, finally gliding in to join us.

“I’m pretty sure anything that long would have to be called intensive training.”

“Ha!” Dash punched me in the shoulder. “See? We’ll make an athlete of you yet, you egghead.”

Yeah, when the sun burnt out and the universe ceased to be, which was never going to happen. I was done with this conversation.

As I flew off back toward the palace, Dash flew into place next to me and asked, “So what do you think about ‘Alicorn of Typhoons’?”

I facehoofed. It’d be wrong to name Dash for her, but this was getting so annoying. “Dash, there hasn’t been a typhoon on Equus in… I don’t even know if centuries is the right answer. There probably hasn’t been one since Discord was defeated.”

“The Cloudsdale Weather Factory organizes one annually for weather ponies to practice dispersing. Just in case, you know.”

I hadn’t known that, actually. I’d never really paid much attention to weather, what with staying indoors almost all the time.

At any rate, I said, “Okay, but still, it’s not really an appropriate or accurate name.”

“Are you sure she’s not the Alicorn of Pegasus Magic?” Chamomile asked, flanking me on the opposite side as Dash.

She’s not.” Although I wouldn’t have been surprised if the universe hated me enough to spontaneously add pegasus magic to Dash’s domain. “Luna was very clear that I’d know if our domains overlap. I don’t know if they do, so they don’t.”

And Luna only knew that because hers and Celestia’s domains heavily overlapped. They could both be more generally described as Alicorns of the Celestial Bodies. Luna had a slightly stronger association with satellites, planets, and miscellaneous space stuff, and ironically, Celestia in turn had a stronger association with stars, in particular the sun. But given their characters and their talents, they went by Alicorn of the Night and Alicorn of the Sun slash Day respectively.

“Okay, well what about the ‘Alicorn of Lightning’? I could show up everywhere as a lightning bolt and legitimately say I’m as fast as lightning.”

Oh my gosh. I face hoofed again.

“Dash, ponies are going to learn to refer to you practically forever by what you introduce yourself as. First impressions matter. Please try to pick something accurate and something that you won’t want to change every other decade.”

“You’re a total stick-in-the-mud, Twi.”

I sighed. Fortunately, Chamomile picked up the conversation for me.

“What exactly can you manifest out of? Is that the right question? Or is it more about what you can feel?”

“Nah, I don’t really feel the stuff. It’s just…part of me, I guess.” Dash scratched her head with her hoof. “Yeah, let’s go with that. I mean, I know there’s a cloud behind and above me like I know where my hoof is. And I can ‘feel’ the tiny little natural winds everywhere in this place like it’s my own breath. There’s this spot just behind the castle where it’s both freezing and hot. Oh, and that river is totally evaporating, and there’s water vapor everywhere.”

Dash’s eyes closed, and she fell into a simple glide. “And if I focus hard enough, there’s a blizzard in the Frozen North on Equus. And a thunderstorm not far from my parent’s house, I think.” Her eyes opened again in time with a beat of her wings. “It all gets kind of fuzzy that far away.”

“You’ll get better at it,” I commented.

Equus kind of itched for me. There was so much magic there in use and moving in every which way. Every once in a while, I got the strangest urge to scratch it, but who knew what that would do? Or even if I could. I didn’t even know what it would mean to scratch magic.

“Why don’t you just call yourself the ‘Alicorn of Weather’ and be done with it?” I asked.

“Because that’s not cool,” Dash protested. “Maybe I could be the…‘Alicorn of Wind’? No, that’s not good enough either. The ‘Alicorn of Storms’? Hmm… Yes. No. Yes. Yes! I love it! Storms are dangerous and powerful, and they have the kind of raw beauty – no, majesty that befits me. That’s like twenty percent more awesome. It’s perfect!”

I swore, at this rate most of my alicorn regeneration was going to be recovering from facehoofing injuries.

“You do realize if you call yourself that, ponies are going to blame you for bad weather, right?”

Chamomile asked, “Is weather not manufactured on Equus as well? I could’ve sworn…”

“It is,” Dash answered. “But why wouldn’t they blame me anyway if I called myself the ‘Alicorn of Weather’?”

I conceded that that was a fair point.

“Besides, if anypony wants to complain, they can do it to my face.”

Oh. My. Gosh. Dash needed a thousand lessons in public relations. That was not how a princess – ugh, I shuddered as that thought ran its course – behaved. Dash needed to learn to be less overtly confrontational; it’d save Luna, Cadance, and myself a daily headache if she did.

Whatever. Some other time. The three of us all touched down in the palace courtyard. The few ponies tending the gardens stepped aside with a bow to make way for us as we walked, as did the wingful performing restoration work on the decidedly nonmagical statue Celestia had left behind on the Nebulous. It needed a little more polish, a careful chiseling for detail work, a new coat of paint, and probably a new inscription, but it otherwise looked as good as new.

Hmm… Or perhaps I should say as good as old. Saying it was as good as new more implied a return to proper form, while saying it was as good as old had more of a ‘picking up right where you left off’ vibe. I supposed they both had good points.

But then I suspected Luna would be more inclined to the former. She’d never really struck me as longing for the past or resisting change, especially given how much she looked forward to indulging in modern culture and technologies.

At any rate, as soon as the artisans were done, all the statue needed was a big, fancy bow, and it’d make a wonderful surprise. I could feel a happy little grin growing on my face.

We exited the courtyard for the castle proper, where we were greeted by nearly a dozen ponies who all put their business on hold just to bow, and on occasion, smile and wave. The waves at least I returned, and my earlier smile still lingered.

At this point in my life, I was completely used to royal treatment; there were a hundred ponies up here all the time now, making the castle properly livable again. All of them treated me exactly as a princess should be, which included the good, the bad, and the extraordinarily annoying aspects. Even when I lived on Equus I’d already had a little taste of the experience, although not much.

But Dash was a different story entirely. She went on fidgeting next to me as usual. It was pretty ironic that she loved attention and praise but couldn’t really handle deference. I supposed they weren’t quite the same thing, but still, I always got a small, private laugh out of it.

“Princess,” Crescent began after all the bowing was done and over with. He awkwardly added an, “es,” before continuing proper. “Have you ascertained your plans for the immediate future yet?”

“Yes, actually. Oh, but before I forget, please tell Astral that I should have some free time after moonset to offer him and his team some more in-depth pointers and suggestions than during my last visit.”

“Of course, Princess.”

I nodded in thanks, or maybe in confirmation. I really didn’t know exactly what my ponies made of the whole smile and nod routine, but they seemed to like it for whatever reason.

“But yes,” I said, “I’ve talked it over with Princess Luna, and we’ve decided to stay here for the time being.”

We’d decided to stay even though Luminance was kind of a really obvious place for Dash, me, and the rest of the crew to hide out in. An anonymous corner of space would’ve been a lot safer. But, well, these were my ponies. Even if all I could do was teleport them away if Celestia appeared, I needed to be here to protect them. Not to mention the sudden influx of parents, siblings, and assorted other loved ones from all over Equestria.

Although I had played with the idea of simply removing Luminance from the moon. I'd discarded that plan, though, on the grounds that I'd probably break the city unless I took weeks and weeks to prepare, and if I was going to be here that long anyway, why bother?

“Very well then, Princess. In that case, I’m afraid I must request assistance either out in the fields or in town and at the castle. We are unfortunately a little shorthoofed accommodating such a large population influx.”

I nearly facehoofed at my carelessness. We’d probably increased the moon’s head count by at least thirty percent. I should have seen labor issues coming from day one.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t even think of that. I’ll see what I can do, but I imagine everypony will be willing to lend a hoof.”

Aside from general relaxing, exploring the castle, and helping Luminance natives learn Modern Equestrian, there was little else to do here without knowing the vernacular. I’d already heard more than one complaint about boredom, although not nearly as many as I’d feared.

“Thank you, Princess. Unless you need anything” – Crescent paused long enough for me to shake my head – “then I will take my leave. Good night.”

With Crescent gone, Dash, Chamomile, and I continued our journey into the castle, occasionally running into either a native or somepony we’d brought up from Equus. Every time I saw somepony gawking at the paintings, I reminded myself just how much I needed to explore the entire castle myself.

Sadly, since I’d arrived, I’d learned that the castle ignored geometry, just like Canterlot Castle did. It was kind of a cheap trick to use magic, but it did make the whole painting history task actually doable. But I’d kept that little secret to myself. Knowing detracted from the awe and disbelief.

“Alright, Dash,” I began. She was going to turn left, while Chamomile and I headed further in to a quieter part of the castle. “I’ll see you later this morning. We’ll see if we can actually get at least telekinesis to work for you this time.”

“Ah. Nope. No can do, Twi.”

I let out a sigh, but I at least restrained my urge to facehoof. “Why not?”

“I have a date with Flutters tonight.”

Nope. It was facehoofing time after all. Dash chose a date over learning magic that was not only insanely useful, but also the first step toward being a useful combatant. Clearly she had her priorities straight.

“I see,” I grumbled. “Well, have fun, I guess.”

“Yeah, we’ll see. Our parents are getting involved. They’re still not over the whole alicorn thing as well.”

Well, having your daughter slash daughter-in-law switch species was a bit of a change, at least for normal ponies. Once Dash had wandered off and disappeared, I let out another sigh. The equinox was only three days away, and we only had a season left after that to whip Dash into shape, just in case.

Oh well. I set off with Chamomile. If Dash was going to ignore her lessons, I supposed that freed up some more time to figure out how alicorn blessings worked for me. I hadn’t had much luck following Luna’s vague advice so far, and apparently, the process was slightly different for every alicorn. Still, I thought I was getting close. I hoped.


Wait, wait, wait! “I think I’ve got it!”

“A-are you sure?” Chamomile squeaked out. On the surface, she looked rather comfortable lying on her cushion, but I could see her magic twitching through her wings. It did this every single time I failed.

I bit my lip. I almost had it. Again.

Damn it. I let my æthereal grip slacken, and Chamomile’s magic fell out of my grasp. It took far, far too long to settle back into its natural state. Chamomile herself didn’t even manage to suppress her sigh of relief or the faint traces of tears in her eyes.

“Did it work?”

“No.” Why couldn’t Mother just beat me over the head like usual and tell me how Celestia had done it? A second perspective would help me generalize the process.

Because I don’t know, you idiot. I didn’t even know that was a thing.

Ugh. I was living every filly’s worst nightmare: having my mother constantly watching over me and making judgmental comments.

“I can take it, Princess.”

I flicked Chamomile’s magic, something I’d done whenever Chamomile called me Princess in private, like training a cat with a squirt bottle. I put up with it in public, but at least when we were alone, I wanted her to call me Twilight.

“Er…Twilight. You don’t have to stop. Please continue.”

“No, I’m done for today. I’m going to break you if I keep trying.”

Chamomile insisted, “I’ll be fine. It’s just like being pinched is all.”

“Not every injury is obvious. If your magic isn’t already screaming at you, it should be soon.” Not that I’d know anything about that.

“Really, Twi–”

“No!”

Horseapples.

I calmed myself down with the usual breathing exercises, then said, “Sorry. I didn’t mean to snap at you.”

“It’s okay. I’m sure it’s frustrating for you to find magic difficult.”

“No. Just…no.” I loved difficult magic. It always gave me a real opportunity to challenge myself mentally. I wished more magic was difficult, even. “Chamomile, I know how to turn a ninety-year-old mare into a four-year-old colt. I’m no stranger to difficult spells.”

“Then what’s wrong?”

“It’s nothing.”

Immediately, Mother hit me over the head with an imaginary hoof.

Are you serious? You’ve told Twinkleshine, like, a million times not to bottle up negative feelings.

So what? It doesn’t mean I have to talk to everypony who crosses my path.

Well, then who are you going to talk to?

I wanted to say Luna, but I wasn’t going to complain about Luna to Luna. Not without a real complaint, at least. Of course I didn’t really want to complain to anypony else, either, especially Chamomile.

Oh shut up and just do it, Sparklebutt.

Before I could retort, Chamomile said, “Princess?”

A sigh managed to escape me even as I flicked Chamomile’s magic again.

“Twilight…” Chamomile corrected herself.

“It’s really nothing, Chamomile. I’m just…worried I can’t do this, I guess.”

In no uncertain terms and without the slightest hint of doubt, Chamomile said, “Of course you can.”

“No, I meant, literally can’t. I…”

Was I really going to do this? I…supposed Chamomile was my knight; it was hard to get more trustworthy than that. And this was the kind of things friends did all the time, right? I told Luna everything. I should at least tell Chamomile something, especially when that something might affect how well I could protect myself in unexpected ways.

I gulped. Here went nothing.

“I – something happened to me when I was younger. I might” – before I could say, “be broken”, I substituted in less awful words – “not be completely healthy, even as an alicorn.”

Just for having said that, I breathed a sigh of relief.

One of Chamomile’s wings came up to brush away tears that definitely weren’t on my face, and she had a sickeningly sweet, pitying smile.

“If you’re unwell, what does that make the rest of us? Shambling corpses?” Chamomile paused just long enough for me to barely laugh. “No matter what, Princess, you’re amazing. Don’t forget that. And all of your friends are here for you if you ever need a shoulder to cry on.”

“I know. I just… If this blessing thing doesn’t work, it’ll be the first time I’ve ever noticed something physically wrong with me.” While it was still a problem, at least.

Humming first, Chamomile asked, “Well, how long did it take Princess Luna to learn how to impart a blessing?”

“Years, I guess. And only centuries after she became an alicorn.”

“See? You’re expecting too much from yourself.”

I really wanted to bat off the hoof Chamomile had placed on my withers, but I let it stay; it’d be rude.

“Luna didn’t even know what she was doing at the time. She was doing research. I’m just trying to replicate her results. Stars, I bet even Cadance has already figured out how to do this.”

Would Cadance answer a letter? Or if I went to her for advice, would she talk to me? As embarrassing as it would be, it’d help me a lot if she had some words of wisdom to share.

I glanced at Chamomile’s magic, which was still mutely protesting its rough treatment. I should really make a point of talking to Cadance soon, or…even Celestia if I had to. Duty to me or no, I didn’t want to keep doing this to Chamomile. Blessing was supposed to be a painless process. I’d felt it myself as Sunset, and it’d been mildly uncomfortable at worst. Yet here I was not making it that.

All I had to do was partially manifest from the part of Chamomile’s magic that was attuned to my alicorn domain, which was all of it. I couldn’t go wrong. I just had to reach in and leave part of myself in her magic without tearing it from her again.

Leaning back, nay, collapsing into my cushion on my back, I said, “I just don’t know, Chamomile. I know my ascension fixed some of my related health problems. I’m probably fine. Luna thinks I’m probably fine. But even then, it’s hard to not worry.”

The two of us sunk into a companionable silence, or at least what I thought was companionable. I didn’t know how comfortable Chamomile was with it, but I supposed she’d have to get used to them. They were more or less part of the job description, especially for me.

After who knew how long, I fought to roll myself over and back onto my hooves. I grunted with the effort, and briefly considered just manifesting on my hooves, but I wasn’t that lazy. Yet.

“Anyway, Chamomile, we’re done for today. I’m afraid I’m probably going to take up much of Astral’s time this morning, but do you have any other plans for the rest of the day before bed?”

“P-P-Pr-Princess!” Chamomile sputtered, her face ablaze at my words’ implicit assumption. “I’m not – we’re not – I haven’t – it’s been years since – no.”

So cute! “In that case, would you mind being on translation duty for me? I wanted to spend some time with my parents, Cherry Berry is off in town doing research, and Pupa said she’ll be busy with Chrysalis today doing something important, which just leaves Twinkleshine, and she can barely ask where the bathroom–”

My eyes widened as one of the spells I’d added to Luminance’s magical core triggered. My horn immediately flared to life in reflex, preparing to evacuate Luminance in the precious second or two of safety we had. All the enchantments were set up in advance and awaited only the necessary power to trigger.

But then my mind caught up with the warning it’d received. Something had hit my shield without penetrating it, or even stressing it at all, really. It wasn’t a teleport. It wasn’t an alicorn manifestation. It wasn’t any number of other transportation spells. Mostly likely a rock had fallen off of the Hornburg onto us. It wasn’t exactly a common event, but it didn’t warrant a full-scale evacuation.

Still, this did warrant caution. I set about scanning the town and surrounding area for any magic I didn’t recognize. At the same time, I fired off some more conventional – and known to be reliable – detection spells.

When everything turned up negative, I said, “False alarm. Something mundane and non-magical hit the shield.”

“Do you know what it is?”

I shook my head. It would be a rather good idea to track down the object, just in case Celestia had thrown a chemical bomb at us or something. That wouldn’t get through the shield, but I’d need to know in advance if she intended to do that kind of super rude crap.

Oh, please. Sunbutt only has three ways of doing things: winning, throwing the fight, and showing off.”

“Is something wrong?” Chamomile asked after I’d facehoofed.

“Nothing important,” I mumbled back.

Chamomile rose to her hooves, stretching her back and wings. “If you say so,” she moaned, several bones cracking on the last word. “You’d know best, Prin…Twilight.”

I gently let Chamomile’s magic settle back into place instead of letting it snap back. In hindsight, I was pretty sure I’d missed one or two ‘Princess’es in our conversation.

“Do you want me to look for whatever hit the shield?” Chamomile asked.

“N…”

It’d be a lot faster and easier for me to just do it myself, but I didn’t want Chamomile to feel useless. But I also didn’t want to just give her boring tasks anypony could do and trivialize her job.

Ugh. Whatever. I was probably overthinking this. “Go ahead. Knock yourself out.”

Wings spread wide, Chamomile turned about to face the balcony of the room we’d sequestered ourselves in.

Just as she took her first step and flap, Chamomile aborted her flight. “Oh,” she began, “where might I find you if trouble arises?”

That was a good question, one I didn’t really know the answer to. “I’m going to guess down along the river, but I’m not sure. If my parents haven’t eaten yet, I’ll probably be down there with them having a picnic.”


“Oh my gosh! I just can’t get over how cute you are,” Mom said as she pinched my cheek.

I restrained a groan. I’d agreed to this after all, and it’d been my suggestion to begin with. I’d overheard Mom and Dad waxing melancholic over ‘missing’ my filly years.

Which they totally hadn’t. I’d kept in contact through Chrysalis and Pupa, even if I maybe should have kept in more frequent contact instead of reading a few less than important books. But my point stood.

Anyway, Mom and Dad had been looking at some of Luna’s historical art, and Mom had said something along the lines of, ‘I wish I could see our little Twilight one more time.’ I’d offered to fulfill that wish. Basic changeling magic for shapeshifting hadn’t been that hard to pick up from Pupa.

And, well, here we were. Mom leaned into an enthusiastic nuzzle as we strolled through town, looking for the local baker, Pumpkin. Whatever we scrounged up there would complement the fruit salads we’d brought down from the palace.

“You are rather adorable,” Dad said, briefly turning toward me where I rested comfortably on his back.

Honestly, riding on Dad’s back was something of a guilty pleasure. I’d carried Spike around so much that I’d forgotten how much I enjoyed the other side of the act.

Continuing on with the rather excessive gushing – which I was very glad nopony around but us could understand at any appreciable level – Mom said, “And these tiny little wings are so endearing.”

“Although the dyed mane is a bit worrisome, even if it isn’t as crazy as that Rainbow Dash’s. You’re not starting your rebellious years, are you?”

A full blush erupted onto my cheeks. I didn’t know how much more of this I could take. It was one thing to be subjected to this kind of treatment as a filly, but as a mare, it was just plain embarrassing.

Mother just had to ruin it. “You should tell them.”

And with that, I promptly told Mother to shut up. She was right, of course, but that didn’t mean I had to do it right now. I wasn’t going anywhere. Mom and Dad weren’t going anywhere. Telling them I was adopted could wait.

Before I could even get a word in edgewise, Mom replied in mock dread, “Oh no. She has been rebelling against Princess Celestia. It’s happening. Now she’s going to stay out all night, and start having promiscuous sex, and get into fights.”

“Mooooom,” I groaned.

“See? It is happening.”

Dad nodded. “I have it on good authority that she does all that already, too.”

I hung my head in defeat, and eventually I just let it rest on Dad’s back as he prattled on back and forth with Mom. Not that I was ever allowed to be out of the conversation or to recover my dignity. My parents were just enjoying teasing me far, far too much.

Well anyway, we found a rather confused Pumpkin, and I made the request for some picnic-worthy food. We made off with a strawberry pie, and Pumpkin had dug up a mix of water lilies and chrysanthemums from a neighbor. I almost sent the lilies back – I’d been allergic to them as a filly – but I figured I might as well try them again now. If I was still allergic as an alicorn, I’d have to go complain to…the æther or something.

“You know,” Dad began, “this place kind of reminds me of Ponyville, don’t you think?”

I pulled my head up from where it’d rested, more than eager to have something other than me to talk about.

“Luminance has some cultural contamination through Luna, which also includes architectural style. The available building materials here are primarily organic, although if you head clockwise around the Hornburg, there’s actually a…well, it’s not quite a quarry since it goes underground, I think. I’m not actually sure if quarries have to be open-aired.

“But anyway, the ponies here don’t mine much, so they tend to use wood and straw as their primary building materials. Luna made the palace herself, although I was a little disappointed when I found out she cheated. There’s some dimensional magic on the structure which warps the geometry to suit Luna’s artistic needs. Oh stars, don’t tell anypony that. It’s demystifying. But anyway, there’s actually a similar spell on Canterlot Castle – which totally explains why I used to get lost in there! – and I think the old castle also… Why are you two laughing?”

“Nothing, Sweetie. It’s just so good to see you in pony again.” Mom gave me a huge smile. “I think your dad was more referring to the lifestyle and ponies, though, not the architecture.”

I let out a sheepish, “Oh.”

“This place is such a quiet little town,” Dad said, “even if you brought us up here during a three-day-long celebration. I mean, if you want bread, you go to an actual baker. I’ve never seen an actual bakery before. Sugarcube Corner came close, but it was more of a cafe.”

The appeal was rather lost on me. There was nothing wrong with it, but I didn’t understand why Dad was making such a big deal of it. It was so much more convenient to just have one cook like Pinkie Pie be responsible for everything, even if she decided to delegate.

“Ooh! That looks like a good place to eat.”

I hopped off of Dad and hovered in the air at eye level, pointing toward a small, relatively flat area near some bulrushes. The river had a minor babble as I glided closer, but nothing distracting or annoying.

“Hurry up!” I called back. It wasn’t really fair that I had wings and they didn’t, but they were taking an awfully long time to join me at their snail’s pace. And they had the picnic blanket too, so I couldn’t even get set up.

“Hold you horses, young lady,” Mom said. “Grown up or not, you can wait. We’re not as young as we used to be.”

Oh, right. I’d forgotten about that. I flew back over to my parents and landed on Mom’s back this time to a small, “Oof.”

“Say, Mom, when do you think you were most crazy and energetic?”

“Ha. That was more your father’s thing. When we first started dating, he dragged me all over Equestria.”

“Not all over,” Dad said, lightly bumping into Mom. “And you loved it.”

I could almost hear Mom rolling her eyes as she turned to Dad. “I was a young, lovestruck mare. Of course I enjoyed it when you swept me off my hooves on an adventure.”

Dad leaned in to kiss Mom right on the lips. “We should do that again,” he added.

“How old were you two?” I asked.

“I was just a year older than you, and your dad was twenty-three.”

Alright, well that sounded like as good of a target age as any.

“Ah, those were wild times.”

While Dad and Mom went on reminiscing, I put a simple illusion on my horn to hide my spellcasting. After that I set about crafting a pair of age spells. Mom was spreading the picnic blanket when the spells were finally ready and triple checked for errors, and Dad had the silverware and plates out. I readied myself to catch the breakables with my magic and let my spell go to work on both of them.

“Twilight, what’s hap–” Dad began, although I didn’t know if he was talking to me or Mom. The spell taking hold properly on him knocked the coherency out of him as it did its work.

For her own part, Mom hadn’t managed anything coherent at all, not until the process ended and she got her first look at Dad.

“Nighty, you’re…young.”

‘Nighty’ – I couldn’t help but giggle at that – looked up from his hooves to stare at Mom. I also couldn’t help but wonder if that was where Cadance got ‘Shiny’ and Shining got ‘Cady’ from.

After failing to find words for quite a long time, Dad said, “You’re gorgeous.”

“What, and I wasn’t before?”

“Wait, no, that wasn’t what I–” Dad said, backpedaling in a mad scramble.

Mom interrupted him with a chuckle. “I’m just teasing.” Her magic picked me up by the tail and floated me hanging upside down in front of her. Then with her scolding face, she asked, “So are you responsible for this?”

I nodded weakly. Even as a grown mare, Mom’s scolding went straight through all my higher brain functions and struck at some primitive part of me.

“Is this permanent?”

I nodded again and squeaked out, “I can undo it.”

“Is it safe?”

“Yes,” I said in an even smaller voice than Fluttershy’s.

Mom spun me a bit to level me out, and her magic let go. My wings took over when I was released, and I fluttered down to land just in front of them.

Being a filly again had advantages. I brushed off a few old skills and looked up at my parents with puppy dog eyes.

“Are you mad?”

Dad started, “Of course n–” but a sharp jab from one of Mom’s hind hooves cut him off.

“Twilight, you should always ask permission before you use magic on ponies. I shouldn’t have to tell you this at your age. It’s very rude, and some ponies might be traumatized.”

I supposed… Fluttershy was pretty skittish about everything, although Dash and Pinkie Pie didn’t really ever mind, and Twinkleshine was completely fine with it.

When I didn’t reply right away, Mom added, “Understood?”

“Yes…” I mumbled. “But you just did to me.”

Somehow Mom heard that last bit. “That’s different. That’s parenting.”

“Seriously,” Dad added. “You had that little unicorn filly Berry Pinch with you. Did you ever ask Berry Punch how she managed to control her newborn daughter?”

I tilted my head to the side. “No?”

“Oh gosh,” Mom sighed, exasperated. “I don’t know what we would’ve done about you and Shining without a horn of our own. We caught him levitating cookies from the kitchen at midnight while he was in his bedroom.”

And that was such a crime? That sounded like a perfectly good use of magic to me. I’d have to give Shining a hoof bump the next time I saw him.

Dad picked up the slack as Mom’s eyes faded out and her mouth moved without speaking. “And when you were a newborn, wow, I thought I was going to go insane. Infants let out their magic in large – but thankfully infrequent – bursts. There was one day we couldn’t find you, and it turned out you’d made yourself invisible. Shining eventually bumped into you, and we removed the illusion.”

Teeeeell theeeeem,” Mother wailed like she was a ghostly voice in the wind. All she needed was a pair of chains and somepony making fake ghost wails, and the cheese would be complete.

I kept my sigh to myself. That hadn’t been me in Mom’s and Dad’s memories, but I could still appreciate cute stories about Aurora.

“Okay, fine,” I replied. “I’m sorry. I wanted to surprise you, but I guess I messed up. Do you want me to age you back up?”

“Um. No,” Dad emphatically said.

Mom spared Dad a sharp glare, no doubt upset that he’d basically undermined her whole lecture. But she did agree.

“Apology accepted, Sweetie. Please ask first next time you want to do something like this. But I agree. This is a wonderful gift. I haven’t felt this good in ages.”

Twenty-eight years to be exact.

“So long as you understand,” Mom added, “let’s get this picnic started.”

I smiled up at Mom and Dad. Afterward, I ran over atop the blanket and set about setting up. With nopony joining me, I glanced back toward my parents to find Dad whispering in Mom’s ear, who giggled soon after. My ears perked up to listen in, and I regretted it soon after.

“Doesn’t this remind you of our first anniversary? We might want to recreate the experience after Little Twilight scampers off.”

Oh, squick. Interrupting Mom’s blush and borderline sultry smile, I said, “Please don’t flirt in front of me.”

Mom turned even more crimson at being overheard. Her blushes always stood out on her light-gray coat. Dad just laughed, though, apparently enjoying both my and Mom’s reactions.

Anyway, that aside, I set up the rest of the picnic by myself because my parents were…well, reasonably distracted. Once everything was in place, I plopped myself down and snuggled against Mom’s barrel. Being curled up with Spike was nice – like, really nice – but there really wasn’t any comparison to being the smaller pony in a parent–foal cuddle.

And really, this was something I’d missed so much. We just needed Shining now, and it’d be just like old times again, back when I hadn’t had any responsibilities or worries beyond household chores. For the first time in years, almost everything was absolutely perfect.

I let out a little contented sigh, then took a bite of my delicious fruit salad. Mom and Dad were chatting about nothing important. I listened in and occasionally made a comment or asked a question. Things were looking up.

It wasn’t until we were mostly done eating that Mom noticed my occasional nervous fidgeting.

“Is something wrong, Twilight?”

A sinking feeling grew in my stomach. I asked, “You mean besides the whole ‘Celestia could show up here anytime and arrest me or worse’ thing?”

“You’re not normally this jumpy.”

Dad took over, asking, “Is it just relaxing that’s hard? I know I used to get the jitters pretty bad when I had nothing to do but sit and watch the grass grow. From what you’ve told us, you’ve kept yourself pretty busy these last several years.”

“Yeah, I guess that’s it…” I mumbled.

As I stared at my hooves, I couldn’t help but notice in my magic sense that Mom’s and Dad’s magic in their heads moved suspiciously like they were looking at each other, probably worriedly.

And then Mother had to go and say, “Honesty starts with admitting you have a problem.

I knew I had a problem! But…Mom and Dad didn’t. And that was what Sunset was getting at.

“Yes.”

“Hmm?” Mom hummed. “I didn’t hear you, Twilight.”

“Yes,” I repeated a little louder. “Something is wrong.”

Dad asked, “Do you want to talk about it? You can tell us anything.”

“No. No, I don’t want to talk about it at all, but it’s really important, and I have to tell you, but I can’t, and I know you love me, and I know you always will, but I’m so scared that you’re going to hate me, and I know that’s stupid, but I can’t help it, and if I don’t say anything, it’ll eat me up inside, but if I do say something, it’s going to hurt even worse, and–”

Mom made a shh sound as her hoof slowly ran across my back in gentle strokes. “It’s going to be okay,” she cooed. “Just take deep breaths.”

As she said those magic words, a cloth napkin flew up in Mom’s magic from the pile and fell into place right in front of my muzzle.

And then to make things worse, something passed through Luminance’s wards. After entering full on panic mode, it registered in my mind that whatever it was had gone from the inside to the outside. And then I realized that Chamomile must’ve found whatever hit the shields earlier, which was a bad sign, because that meant it probably hadn’t been a rock.

But I could worry about that later. I made a short term change to the wards to let Chamomile actually come back in through her shadow jumps, and I made a mental note to tell her that this little stunt could’ve gotten her killed if I’d just teleported everypony away without thinking.

And…now that I was done panicking over that, I realized that I wasn’t as out of it as I’d been just moments ago. Leave it to a potential crisis to distract me from social problems; those I could manage.

Still, I blew my nose, because the mucus already there wasn’t going to go away on its own.

“Thank you, Mom.”

“No problem. Now would you like to tell us what’s wrong?”

Dad added, “You know the two of us will always love you. You said it yourself. We’ll try to take whatever it is in stride.”

This wasn’t exactly the kind of thing a pony took in stride…

“I… Okay. But” – I dispelled the changeling magic on me, awkwardly shoving both Mom and me sideways as I regained my proper size – “I can’t do this as a filly. I need a fully developed frontal lobe.”

“Whatever you want,” Dad said. “Honestly, today was really nice, but I much prefer the wonderful mare our daughter has grown into.”

After recovering from being knocked onto her side, Mom leaned over to nuzzle me. “You’ll always be my little filly, even if you grow as big as Princess Luna or Princess Celestia.”

“T-thanks. I think.” I knew Mom meant well, but it was kind of embarrassing all the same.

I took a deep breath to prepare myself. But where to start? I couldn’t just come out and say, ‘I’m adopted.’ Mom would have some pretty reasonable objections, and then I’d get all flustered again, and I’d start rambling, and it’d all go to Tartarus so fast.

No, I was more organized than that. I’d start with the related details and work my way up.

You’re just trying to avoid the issue.”

I promptly told Mother to shut up even though she was probably right. After that, I put a little magic into a small illusion in front of us.

“This is…Sunset Shimmer,” I explained. Celestia walked into existence in the illusion to join Mother. “She was Celestia’s apprentice before Trixie.”

I couldn’t help noticing both Mom and Dad eying the yellow and red stripes in my mane suspiciously. Or maybe it was just curiously. I didn’t know right now.

“Yes, we know, Sweetie,” Mom said.

“You do?” I asked, but I immediately facehoofed right after the words had left my mouth. Of course they knew.

“Of course,” Dad answered anyway. “Everypony over thirty would, I’d imagine. Maybe thirty-five.”

“Right, well, then you know she just disappeared, right?”

I got a nod from Dad and an affirmative hum from Mom.

“Well, you see, the thing is,” I began, awkwardly fiddling with my hooves while I modified my illusion. Instead of just showing Mother and Celestia, I’d animated it to depict what I intended to explain. “Mo – Sunset was being trained to use the Elements of Harmony to philosophically assassinate Luna. It’s the only known way to kill an alicorn. I mean, the elements aren’t strictly necessary, but they make the whole task a lot easier, since pinning down an ancient alicorn like Luna is kind of really hard, although if you have a thousand years to prepare, maybe not that hard, and–”

Mom cleared her throat.

“Sorry. I was rambling again, wasn’t I?”

“It’s fine, Sweetie. It’s kind of obvious you’re not at your best right now. Just know that if you feel uncomfortable, we won’t hold it against you if you feel like you need to stop.”

“Please stop giving me excuses to never tell you,” I didn’t say. I could keep secrets forever if I had to, but this was one secret that I’d never forgive myself for not revealing.

“No, I have to tell you two this. And Shining, too. If Cadance hasn’t already told him…”

I wouldn’t imagine Cadance wouldn’t tell him, although she might need Celestia to point out the fine details to her first. Hopefully I’d still be his LSBFF when I next saw him.

“So Sunset was being trained as an assassin, and she didn’t even know it. Instead of waiting to die, Luna – Luna did what she had to.”

Mom and Dad shared a look, and it was only a couple seconds before I found myself flanked by them. Each had a hoof over my withers, and their heads softly leaned against mine.

“Twilight, have you talked about this with anypony yet?” Dad asked.

“Luna.”

“Besides Princess Luna,” Mom added.

“Well, a little bit with Cadance, but we mostly ended up arguing.”

“What about Twinkleshine or Chamomile?”

I shook my head at Dad’s inquiry. “I don’t…can’t tell Twinkleshine much. I know she can keep a secret, but…”

I trailed off into silence. The essential part of a secret was knowing that a secret existed. But these were my parents…and that didn’t automatically qualify them for unconditional trust. But – but I really needed to explain, and – oh, to Tartarus with it.

“Some of the stuff I know are secrets that I can’t risk spreading. It wouldn’t be safe for other ponies. And if I just told that kind of stuff to anypony I was close to, they’d start being targeted, and then the people I care about wouldn’t be safe. I – I mean, Chamomile signed up for danger, and sometimes I tell her things I probably shouldn’t, a-and really everypony that lived with me on the Nebulous is potentially in danger or a potential security leak at this point, and I know I should deal with–”

Mom squeezed me tight to her chest with both fore hooves.

“Sweetie, my dear little Twilight, you don’t have to bottle everything up. You don’t have to tell us everything, but you need to find a healthier way of dealing with these feelings than whatever you’ve tried.”

“I…I know.” I knew that so well. And there was one thing that I knew would help, although I would’ve preferred Cadance to Mom and Dad for it, not that I’d ever admit that to either of them. “Could – could you two just stay here like this? And let me cry in your hooves? I-I haven’t had a chance to yet.”

“Of course,” Mom said. “What else are parents for?”

“T-thanks,” I managed, already on the verge of letting myself go. “A-and if I say…anything, I d-don’t mean it, okay? I-I’m just venting.”

Mom had apparently decided she’d heard enough, so she pulled Dad into our hug. And – and that sent me over the edge. She just held me as I cried, murmuring encouraging words, and Dad’s magic ran through my mane in loving strokes.

This…this was everything that I needed. I should have done this days ago.


I was halfway asleep next to Mom, still occasionally sniffling and nowhere closer to having told her or Dad anything important, when I felt Chamomile jump into my shadow. The Hornburg itself glowed above and behind us, and the ground was regular dirt inside Luminance, so while we always had shadows here, they were also very weak. If I moved much, I might accidentally knock Chamomile out of the shadows, as light as they were.

“Princess,” Chamomile said, partially emerging from the ground.

Mom’s head jumped toward the voice in surprise, as did Dad’s. However, while the latter’s eyes only bulged, Mom let out a bloodcurdling shriek.

I didn’t even have to look to know what the problem was. The only part of Chamomile’s magic that was properly three dimensional right now was her head and part of her neck.

“Chamomile, could you not do that in front of others?” I thought about asking her to speak in Modern Equestrian, too, but whatever she had to say probably wasn’t good news. I didn’t want to worry Mom and Dad.

“Ah, my apologies.”

Chamomile emerged the rest of the way and trotted around to speak to me face-to-face. Tucked under her wing was a piece of paper with several folds along it. She’d flattened it out, but the creases remained.

“I found this parchment beyond the boundaries of the village. I’m fairly sure this is what collided with your shields.”

I took the proffered paper in my magic, wiping the remaining tears from my eyes.

To whomever may find this letter,” the letter read. “I would sincerely appreciate it if you would see to it that (Princess?) Twilight Sparkle receives it through whatever means available to you. My own method of communicating with her appears to either be in hiding or has been abducted, although I suspect the former.

Oh no. My gaze fell all the way to the bottom of the letter, whereupon I discovered it was signed Princess Celestia. This was really…not that bad. She hadn’t addressed it directly to me, and since Pupa wasn’t in Canterlot anymore, the easiest way to contact me would be to send a message through Luna by means of a lunar pegasus.

I was kind of confused why Celestia didn’t just try to come here herself to deliver the message in pony. Maybe she knew I was here and didn’t want to scare me away. That would be–

What on Equus? Just next to Celestia’s signature was a doodle of her blowing a raspberry at me. I…I didn’t even know what to say to that. Was this…a taunting letter? Maybe?

Before I did anything else, I turned to Chamomile. “I don’t know how much good it will do, but can you put the Night Guard on alert?”

“Already done,” Chamomile replied. “I confess I may have…not wanted to interrupt you earlier. I didn’t think this letter was as important, so I went and spoke with Captain Starry first.”

I bit my lip as I thought about how to respond to that. If Celestia were a mundane threat, I wouldn’t have had a single objection, but she was an alicorn. Chamomile really should’ve brought this to me right away. But…I had really needed the time to just be Twilight Sparkle and not the pony in charge.

In the end, I just settled on, “Thank you,” before turning my attention back to the letter.

"Twilight Sparkle, if this letter reaches you through your mentor, you may ignore this, but two minutes of making demands of me is not the conversation you promised. As I have not received your replies to my questions yet, I shall assume the visit is unrelated.

Luna went to talk to Celestia already? And she’d threatened Celestia? I wanted to bang my head on the ground, but I trusted Luna knew what she was doing. I’d have to ask her what she was thinking right after this, but given that Celestia wasn’t here herself, maybe Luna hadn’t antagonized her too much.

That said, I am eagerly awaiting your letter now more than ever and hope to hear from you soon.

Fantastic. I was barely even a fourth the way done writing the darn thing, and now Celestia wanted her answers now. Thanks, Luna.

Of course, I cannot help but feel a little cheated. You sold me the information I asked for at a rather high price, and yet I came home to discover you gave much of it to my niece for free. Did demand suddenly skyrocket? I know I signed a bill outlawing such fraud at some point.

Well, I shall certainly be checking the answers you send me against the ones you gave to Cadance. I am very interested to see how well they match up. Cadance is rather concerned about you, too. I suspect she will want to know a little more about her little sister as well.

Oh horseapples. I hadn’t even thought about Celestia passing on all of that information to Cadance. I’d just assumed Celestia would act as an information black hole like she always did.

But I hadn’t lied to Cadance. I just hadn’t told her everything. She…wouldn’t be any more upset with me than she already was. Right? Right.

Sigh. Probably not. But at least she’d be mad at me this time. Maybe that would actually help things between us.

Anyway, after that last paragraph came Celestia’s signature and the raspberry. I wasn’t entirely sure what exactly she was trying to say with that. If I were to guess… No, I really didn’t understand.

Don’t ask me,” Mother said when I’d deliberately poked into her memories. “Sunbutt is an enigma, even if her actions make sense in hindsight.

I sighed and read the short postscript.

P.S. If you do not know what an alicorn blessing is, you should inquire further. If you are having trouble granting one to Dame Chamomile, you may wish to speak with your sister.

So Cadance had blessed somepony already. I wondered – no, I didn’t wonder who she’d blessed. It was kind of obvious. Her knight in shining armor had always been one pony, and I’d have to kill myself if I ever used that pun again.

Still, I did wonder what Cadance’s blessing did. It probably wasn’t anything like her usual alicorn powers if she felt comfortable giving it to Shining, or anypony at all, really. But then that was also putting the cart before the pony, since she wouldn’t know what it did until after Shining had it.

Well anyway, it really would be helpful to have Cadance’s perspective on the blessing process. Maybe I could organize a clandestine meeting of some kind on Equus. But then maybe that was the trap. Or maybe worrying that it was a trap was the trap to make sure I didn’t talk to Cadance. Or maybe I was overthinking this and letting paranoia win the day.

Although on the other hoof, maybe I just shouldn’t even try. I didn’t really want to know if Cadance would show up or not. With eternity ahead of us, I hadn’t broken her trust in me forever, but it’d still hurt if she didn’t trust me right now.

And…maybe she’d be right to not trust me until this was all over. Cadance was probably still on Celestia’s side, but both Celestia and I could classify her as under ‘me and mine’. If I wanted to take Cadance away with me against her will for her own safety, it might not quite be violating the spirit of ‘leaving me and mine’ alone. Maybe. Maybe that was just a rationalization.

I let out another sigh, then turned my attention to a little mystery I knew I could solve. The whole ‘letter from Celestia’ situation didn’t seem like it needed particularly urgent attention. I did need to do a few miscellaneous things, and I really needed to talk to Luna, and apparently I needed to get back to work on writing that letter to Celestia, but I could spare a minute or two for this.

“Chamomile, how was this folded when you first found it?”

Step by step, Chamomile instructed me on how to undo the unfolding process. I only got three folds in before I felt like facehoofing.

When I was done folding, I paused a moment to admire Celestia’s admittedly impressive work. But I didn’t need to keep this around, so I tossed the letter off and set a corner of one of its wings ablaze.

For a short time, the letter, now a paper plane, flew slowly through the air. I’d never been much for origami myself, but apparently Celestia was a master. If I’d tried to come up with a plane design, it would’ve crashed into the ground long ago a second or two after I’d thrown it.

The plane burned to ashes mid-flight, and I made a small wind to scatter them. After that, I rose to my hooves and stretched my wings, preparing to take off.

“Mom, Dad, I’m really, really sorry, but I have some princess stuff to take care of. I promise I’ll talk to you later. And if I don’t…hit me in the head or something.”

“Go take care of whatever you have to,” Dad began, “we can wait until you’re free and ready.”

“Thanks.” I gave both of them one last hug, then launched myself into the sky with Chamomile following close behind.

Ever since I’d ascended, I’d noticed my hearing was a lot better. Not Pinkie Pie, ‘breaking the laws of physics’ good, but far better than average. Below us, I heard Mom and Dad talking to each other.

“Do you think we made the right choice?”

“Of course we did,” Dad replied. “We had no reason not to let Princess Luna teach her. I’m sure Princess Celestia has a few skeletons in her closet, too.”

As I slipped out of even my range of hearing, I cast a subtle little spell to listen in longer.

Mom sighed. “You’re probably right. At least we know why she dyed her mane and tail now. Or at least we know a little bit about it. That obviously wasn’t nearly everything.”

At some point, I needed to tell them my mane and tail weren’t actually dyed. I didn’t know why, but the accusation made me feel kind of offended. It wasn’t like dying your mane was bad or anything. Just…yeah.

Anyway, Mom and Dad fell silent for a few seconds, but then Dad said something I really wished I hadn’t heard.

“Not to ruin the mood, but I haven’t had this many hormones in me in decades.”

“Oh sweet Celestia, don’t I know it.”

“We got a prince consort, then a princess. Wanna try for an empress?”

I skipped flying all together and demanifested away from my parents.


“Luna,” I began much like I was a disappointed parent with a disciplinary letter from my son’s teacher in hoof, “would you care to explain why I got a message from Celestia about threatening her?”

“Ah…sorry. Did that make any problems for you?” Luna did look genuinely apologetic, not playfully so as she usually would in this kind of situation.

I shrugged. The more I’d thought about it, the less sure I was. “Maybe. Part of the letter was a ‘reminder’ that she was expecting her answers soon. And that whatever you did didn’t count as the conversation promised. But it could be that she was already impatient and just took your behavior as an excuse to press for answers.”

“Perhaps…”

I gave Luna as long as I could stand to think before I complained, “So anyway, what was this about a threat?”

“Oh. Well, since you promised I would visit her dreams–”

I emitted a weak, “Sorry,” as I had every other time this had come up, but Luna paid it no mind.

“–I’ve been trying to figure out why she asked for that. As you suggested, it could be just to waste our time, but it could also be something more sinister. I went to her dreams last night to catch her off guard. If she had any traps to spring, I thought perhaps she might use them then in haste, thinking it would be her one chance.”

Well that was a pretty solid line of thought, actually. I couldn’t argue with that, although I certainly could argue with the choice of topic.

“You could’ve at least done something besides deliberately antagonizing Celestia.”

This time it was Luna’s turn to shrug. “If I didn’t do that, I have no idea what I would’ve said instead. I went in with a clear purpose beyond checking for traps, and I left. It’s embarrassing, but I honestly don’t know if I could’ve done any better.”

My hooves took over without a conscious signal from my brain and gave Luna a hug. Underneath the rather stoic frown, I’d seen the burning rage and suppressed pain in Luna’s eyes, even if it was just a flicker. Meeting Celestia in pony for the first time in nearly a thousand years couldn’t have been easy.

In fact, that Luna wasn’t burning with fury or sobbing like a foal was probably a good sign. Relative aloofness was good. It showed she’d managed to put at least some distance between herself and Celestia emotionally over the past several years. Gaining perspective was the first step on the road to healing.

Probably. I really needed to read up on this stuff as soon as possible.

“It’s alright, I suppose. But what did you say exactly?”

Luna cleared her throat. “Word for word, I said, ‘If you so much as dare to pluck a single feather from Twilight, I promise you Equestria will be on fire before you can remove a second.’”

“That doesn’t seem like a very credible threat,” I replied, not that it wasn’t sweet in a horrifying sense. “There’s no way you’d ever do that.”

“No, but I doubt everypony is under that impression. I might as well make use of that.”

Fair enough. Celestia did seem to regard Luna as a monster, and she’d passed that impression on to Cadance as well. I supposed I – and Celestia – could believe a monster would have her evil minions burn down cities in her place should it suit her purposes.

“Anything else?” Luna asked eagerly for whatever reason.

“No?” I replied questioningly. “Just that. I just put myself into a power nap to ask the what and why of your actions.”

Luna’s eager smile turned into a rather exaggerated frown.

“Um… Did you have something you wanted to do?” I asked.

Luna gave me the look. “Twilight, you’ve unearthed centuries of mostly ignored and repressed feelings. What do you think I want to do?”

Faster than anything could catch fire, a blush erupted on my face. “I-I – I mean we have time to make out. Just a little bit.”

“Glad you asked,” Luna said just before she captured my muzzle with hers.


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