Chapter Thirty Six - Date Night in Las Pegasus

Oh. My. Gosh. My feather fell out of my magic, spilling leftover ink all across the desk I’d been writing at, but who cared. I was done. Finished. Concluded. Finitoque. Was that the right conjugation?

Eh, whatever. I let my head crash onto the table, finally, finally done. This had been entirely too much writing, even for me. I was used to taking notes and giving oral reports to Luna, not writing epic-length essays. Now I knew why Dash, and Fluttershy, and Twinkleshine, and everypony else in the world hated writing written reports.

“Ugh…” I moaned as I slowly, painfully pulled my head back up. Eight days straight of jam-packed schedules with no time for myself was brutal. I couldn’t even remember the last time I’d seen Twinkleshine, or Spike, or my parents. Was it two days ago? No, I ground out a couple dozen pages then.

But wait, wasn’t two days ago when I gave a magic lecture? Yeah, it was. I’d asked Twinkleshine to be my assistant for that. Right, I remembered that now. So it was two days ago that I’d last seen her in particular, at least.

Well, with my letter to Celestia finished, I should have so much free time now that everypony would get sick of me. They’d be like, “Go away, Twilight. We need some space, too.”

Oh sweet Celestia, Sparklebutt, go to sleep. For my sake, if not yours.

Nope. I could at least make it until my normal bedtime. That was only… Ugh, why was my sense of time so screwed up?

Whatever. Not having a clock in my room, I cast my senses far afield into the universe to find out where the moon currently was. From there, it was just basic trig. Fourteen hours remained until moonset. I could last that long.

I remanifested a new body for myself, one that hadn’t been exhausted yet. It wasn’t a real solution to sleep deprivation – it didn’t reset all of the parts of me that needed rest – but I at least physically felt more awake. Then just for good measure, I stretched out my neck, and my back, and my everything to get myself back in working condition.

I knew I had no business complaining about this, but I’d been sitting in one place for way too long. With a book, I could at least roll around and sprawl however I wanted, but ink was more demanding.

Well, I could create a localized gravity to work with ink upside down, but that was an awful lot of work – and was rather distracting – to do every single time I rolled over.

But then as an alicorn, maybe scrying for extended periods wouldn’t hurt my eyes anymore. I should give remote writing a try next time. Or if I wanted to be boring, I could just magic the words onto the paper, I supposed.

Groaning with the effort, I coaxed one last crack out of my left wing. I grabbed hold of my letter in my magic then got to my hooves. Normally, I’d just teleport down to the dining hall, but the exercise would do me good. Maybe I’d even bump into somepony interesting along the way.

I made my way over to the door, opened it, then immediately said, “Oh, buck this.”

The room I’d acquired for myself at Luminance was in one of the higher towers. No way was I going to descend ten flights of stairs right now. It wasn’t worth it. Instead, I teleported to the base of the stairwell.

Anyway, my trip through the hallway was peaceful enough. Every other pony I bumped into was a moon native, and everypony from Equus was polite enough.

Everypony except Twinkleshine’s parents, that was… Still, we had a ‘if you pretend we don’t exist, we’ll pretend you don’t exist’ kind of deal going on. It wasn’t strictly speaking the healthiest relationship possible, but it was far better than trembling in fear of a goddess while screaming and yelling at her again.

The massive dining hall doors stood open to admit anypony looking for a late breakfast. A wingful of ponies were still present, including Dash and Fluttershy. Instead of trying to navigate the maze of tables and chairs, I simply flew up and over the obstacles, shortly after landing next to my target to the soft clop of hooves on stone.

“Hey, Dash.”

Muffled by a rather delicious looking blueberry muffin, Dash presumably said, “What’s up, Twi?”

Fluttershy swallowed first before saying hello herself.

“I’m heading to Equus for a little while, so try not to do anything…” Instead of saying ‘stupid’, I substituted, “That would require my help.”

“Yeah, sure. Hey, while you’re there, would you pick up that new Daring Do movie? Pupa told me it’s pretty good.”

“Just don’t tell Cherry Berry you have it, alright?”

“Yeah, yeah,” Dash mumbled through more muffin, waving her hoof dismissively.

I turned my attention to Fluttershy and asked, “While I’m at it, do you need me to pick up anything? From Equus or the Nebulous?”

Fluttershy shook her head. “Thanks for asking, though.”

“Alright. And remember, Dash, if the wards go off while I’m gone–”

“I’ll demanifest and run away,” Dash interrupted. “You’ve told me like a thousand times. I get it, alright?”

“So long as you know.” The wards would alert me on Equus, too, but my response time would be non-instantaneous. So long as Dash got out safely, I should be able to either rescue everypony or bargain for anypony who was taken hostage if I really screwed up. “Anyway, I’ll see you two later.”

I waited long enough for Dash and Fluttershy to wave and say goodbye, then I teleported away. It’d be a lot easier if I could just manifest on Equus, but I couldn’t bring anything with me that way, which included letters, unfortunately.

However, I was pretty sure there were loopholes to that. Luna had told me it was flat out impossible to manifest something that wasn’t me, but I was pretty sure Celestia had left the Nebulous by demanifestation, and her regalia went with her. Maybe it was considered part of her body somehow. Hmm…

But that was another future project to work on. Or maybe I could just ask Luna. As it was, I stuck with teleportation for now. I made it most of the way to Equus on the first jump, and I still couldn’t get over that. Being an alicorn was almost like cheating. Everything was too easy.

Well, at least things with brute force solutions were. Just like you couldn’t solve every economic problem by throwing lots of money around, you couldn’t solve every magical problem by throwing lots of magic at it. Still, I’d have to try making an intergalactic teleport sometime, just to say I did it.

I made a second jump to just inside Equus’s thermosphere.

Hmm… Magic was fast – much faster than light even – but it wasn’t instantaneous. An intergalactic teleport might take quite a while to actually finish, maybe even a couple days or more. I shouldn’t go about doing that willy-nilly, then. Not that it wouldn’t be fun to do once or twice.

I made another jump to a ways off the ground above Las Pegasus, minimizing my magical output. So long as I made my approach to the planet right, Celestia wouldn’t know I was here. I’d know if there were any planet- or country-sized spells in Equestria to detect me, and there weren’t. The only way she could notice me was if I used a giant burst of magic all at once.

I made my last jump to a skyscraper’s rooftop in the city, soon after descending into weak little giggles. I’d gone to so much trouble just to reach one little comet, and now, as Cherry Berry would say, I could make casual field trips to and from the moon. It was just too much fun.

Ah, well anyway, time to do what I came here for. I pulled out my letter and separated the bottom page from the rest. It had the instructions for how to send things from my flame to Celestia’s. I’d practiced with Spike, but I hadn’t bothered to memorize the spell keys necessary to direct it toward Celestia instead of him.

I took a deep breath to prepare myself, then on the next one I stoked the fire within me, bending it to my will.

But then just as I was about to exhale, a thought struck me. After I sent this, Celestia might decide to break her word and go on the offensive. If I wanted to do anything on Equus before Luna returned, I should really do it now.

Small flames crept out from between my lips, reminding me to smother the rest of them. I huffed out the flames that already existed, then cut off the flow of magic making more inside me.

With that taken care of, I invoked a different kind of flame.

The green fire characteristic of changeling magic ran over my body, sculpting it to my will. The process tingled and numbed a bit, but was otherwise painless.

The last of the fire licked over me, and I stretched out my considerably smaller, now white wings. I gave them a few tentative flaps, then practiced hovering in place. I blew a puff of air upward to blow my boring, dirty-blue mane out of my eyes.

Comfortable with my new wingspan, I landed back on my hooves. I gave my wings a once over and straightened a couple feathers. Now ready, I promptly galloped forward, then leapt straight off the edge of the roof. My letter and Celestia’s instructions suspiciously followed behind me in my magic, not that anypony would make the connection. Worse come to worst, they'd probably just assume I had an enchanted paper clip on them or something.

If there were anything to complain about with changeling magic, it was how unhelpful it was with adapting to new bodies. A simple recoloring wasn’t a problem, but changing height or wingspan, or worst of all, getting a new horn, could really throw off my sense of balance and my magical precision.

Even so, I managed a simple glide well enough. A stray thermal nearly sent me spiraling into a building… Well, there was no nearly about it. I ran into the building, but I did so hooves first and pushed off of it, falling back into a glide.

I silently thanked that I was flying higher right now than pegasi normally had any reason to. Nopony had seen that, I hoped. With no particular destination in mind, I had nothing better to do than follow the magic pulsing through one of the city’s monorails’ spell matrix.

My path took me over a few of the smaller buildings but mostly stuck to the busy streets. Even this late in the day, this city didn’t slow down, and air traffic was just as bad as ever. I eased myself into the flock of pegasi flying above their land-bound cousins.

And then I promptly bumped into several pegasi and received dozens of complaints of various volumes. After the fourth angry and slightly drunk looking pegasus had clipped my wing, I made a vow to ask Dash about flying etiquette. Not growing up as a pegasus meant I didn’t understand their customs.

My hoof met my face. No, on second thought, Dash was not the right pony to ask. I could ask her about flying safety…kind of…but not etiquette. I’d have to ask Fluttershy…instead…

Oh, come on! Why didn’t I know any pegasi who were normal fliers? Sigh… Maybe Fluttershy’s parents could give me some advice. I remembered Fluttershy’s dad was a doctor in Cloudsdale, so his flying patterns were probably within a standard deviation of the norm. Probably.

I eventually managed to reach the bottom layer of pegasi, where they thinned out. Ten or so hooves below that was a crowded skywalk. There wasn’t anywhere to land, at least not for ponies who weren’t Dash, but I supposed I could take a page out of her book anyway and make room.

“Excuse me,” I called out as I came down without any regard for other ponies’ safety. If I just looked confident and showed no signs of hesitation, ponies would move out of my way.

And most of them did. One rather young colt that I hadn’t seen in time didn’t quite get out the way. I flapped my left wing extra hard to tilt myself. My right hooves touched down first, and I awkwardly balanced on them with my wing keeping me upright. The colt scurried out from beneath me to rejoin his mother, finally letting me stand on all fours again.

Right, then. Where was I? There was a castle, and next to it was a pyramid. Oh, and there was a giant lion. And I remembered seeing a volcano earlier with a pirate ship further down the street.

This city was weird. But then who could really object to the architecture?

I set off toward the lion building. If I remembered correctly, a film company owned that one, so I could probably find the Daring Do movie for sale in there. I’d have to buy a new projector, too. I vaguely remembered Pupa saying the one we took on the Nebulous was out of date.

I stepped to the side of the sidewalk once I’d reached its end and glanced toward my letter, riffling through it to make sure I hadn’t lost any of the pages somehow. Satisfied that it was all there, I entered the lion, and the noise of the crowd immediately doubled in the enclosed space. Dozens of shops lined up on either side of me, and I had to stop to take it all in.

At least until somepony bumped into me from behind.

The stallion uttered a gruff, “Excuse me,” before disappearing back into the flow of ponies.

Stars, it’d been so long since I’d seen civilization; I was acting like a country mare on her first trip to a big city. How embarrassing.

The crowd swept me away as I started walking once more, no longer making myself an obstacle. I passed by several clothing stores, a novelty shop, and a half dozen food stands in the middle of the hall. There was even a magic shop with a poster of–

What the buck? I stopped in my tracks and fought my way across the crowd to just beside the magic shop. There were posters advertising four other shows in town, but the biggest and most prominent one with a very familiar light-blue mare on it was all that concerned me.

One night only,” it read. “See the Great and Powerful Trixie live on stage. Summer 8, 999. Support research on Snowdrop’s Disease

And that was all well and good. I’d actually kind of like to see Trixie’s act; Pupa said she was pretty good. It was for charity, even. I’d say it’d be a good present from me to me, but there was no way a one night only show just happened to fall on my birthday, especially not considering the subtitle.

With special guest Twilight Sparkle.

Then on the opposite side of Trixie, there was an image of me looking just as hyper with a getup almost as ridiculous as Trixie’s. Well, not me exactly, but the more idealized version of unicorn me that Pupa used.

What on Equus was Celestia thinking? Why would she set this up? I wouldn’t show up to such an obvious trap, and neither would Pupa. How did she even get an advertising campaign up this quickly? I’d stumbled onto this ad pretty fast, so it must be littered throughout the entire city.


I dashed inside the magic shop with all due haste and locked onto the register at the back of the store, or more specifically the cashier there.

“Can I help you find something?” the unicorn mare behind the counter asked.

“No, but could you me tell me how long that poster for the Great and Powerful Trixie has been out there?”

The mare’s eyebrows raised in obvious confusion, but she answered anyway. “Since about mid-Winter, I think. It went up after Hearth’s Warming, at least.”

Ah, so this wasn’t some new plot of Celestia’s. Somepony else’s hooves were at work here. Well, she could still be behind it, I supposed, but I could just as easily put it on Trixie or Pupa. I’d have to ask Pupa about this later, but no rush.

“That’s a very nice illusion, by the way.”

What?” I accidentally let out at the traditional royal level. The poor mare right in front of me cringed and her ears fell to her head. “I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean – you just surprised me. I’ve been having some trouble with my…throat,” I finished lamely. That was perhaps the most unbelievable excuse ever, but it was technically true.

“No. No, don’t worry. It’s okay.” Once the mare had recovered, she continued normally, “I know having your tricks revealed isn’t very fun. I promise not to tell. But really, those papers in your magic are a bit of a give away.”

Oh. Awkward. “Whoops. I guess you caught me. I forgot it’s not as crowded in here. I was just so confused. Trixie and I talked about maybe doing an act together, but I didn’t know she’d gone through with it.”

“Wait, you’re Twilight Sparkle?”

“One of many,” I answered truthfully. On the extremely off chance this was a trap, word of a suspicious ‘pegasus’ mare would find its way back to Celestia anyway, so there really wasn’t any reason not to. Then since the cashier looked rather confused again, I clarified, “Yes, I’m Twilight Sparkle.”

“Oh Celestia! Can I get your autograph?”

It was my turn to raise an eyebrow. “I guess? But why?”

“Well, it’s just, I’m a big fan of the work you’ve done with Princess Cadenza.”

Um, what? “I see.” Just go along with it, Twilight.

“And if you make it big as an entertainer, too, I’ll be able to say I’ve had your autograph since before you were cool.”

Alright, that got a few giggles out of me. So I was the stuff of hipsters now, was I? I didn’t entirely know how I should feel about that, but I supposed it couldn’t be a bad thing.

“So what do you want me to sign?”

“Ah, one second.” The mare made a mad dash through a door and reemerged less than a minute later with a pair of custom saddlebags that bore her cutie mark and a marker. I signed at the bottom right corner, much to the mare’s delight.

“Thank you so much.”

“No, it wasn’t really that big of a deal.” I reached into my own saddlebags…which I didn’t have…to give her a real tip for the information. Well…she looked happy, I supposed. I couldn’t believe I’d forgotten to bring money with me. That was what I got for spending half a decade without it.

“Anyway,” I said, “thanks again for the information.”

With that, I made my way out of the shop and back out into the hall, quickly getting swept up in the crowd again.

That…had been weird. I needed to talk to Pupa back on the moon before investigating further, and I couldn’t even get Dash’s movie without either fetching some bits or making some. That meant I should hold off on delivering my letter even longer. How annoying.

I made my way off to a quiet corner and tucked myself behind a wall where nopony would see me vanish. Here I was teleporting back to the moon like a pauper instead of manifesting there.

But then did I actually have to? A smile grew on my face as I considered just disappearing for a day or two. The moon would manage without my presence just as well as it had for the past thousand years. As much of a hassle as it was, I could go visit one of Luna’s accountants and get a bag of bits, then spend the night in Las Pegasus.

I sighed inwardly. No, that was a little too irresponsible. I at least needed to talk to Pupa. There wasn’t a huge rush with that, but the sooner the better. I supposed I was making a trip to the moon either way.

Oh! And I could bring Twinkleshine back with me for a night on the town. That would be excellent. Well, not tonight, since it was a little late for that, but I could make the arrangements today and then bring her here tomorrow.

Yes. Yes! I loved this plan! I just needed to pick the right hotel.

When the coast was clear, I teleported back far above the city to get a bird’s eye view of the various pools it had to offer.

Hmm… That one was pretty fancy, and it had a lazy river, but it wasn’t what I was looking for.

That one was just plain boring.

Ooh! I liked the temple theme there, but it still wasn’t quite right.

Oho. There was a nice, large hot tub with a few water slides at the regular pools. Aaaaand…yes! There was a spa attached. Perfect! That was exactly what I wanted.

I glided down toward the back entrance, away from the crowds of pegasi and non-pegasi. An odd pony or two wandered about, but that was no problem for landing easily.

So before I went back, I needed to get a room for the next three – no, four days, just to be safe. I might need to make reservations at the spa. I needed to obtain some money for when it came time to actually pay for things. Oh, I should see about making reservations at a fancy, overpriced restaurant with a view, too. Along with that, I’d need to scout out somewhere for Twinkleshine and I to buy dresses. I should probably see about getting some show tickets, but then I should probably wait for Twinkleshine’s input on what she’d want to see.

This was going to be a wonderful mini-vacation, just like visiting the moon had been years ago!

Oh. Oh my. My face flushed as yet another idea took shape in my mind. I thought I could pull it off…maybe…but I’d need Pinkie Pie’s help.

But anyway, first things first. I entered the hotel and followed the signs to check-in.

With a burst of magic, I appeared in the skies above Luminance. I stored my door stopper of a letter in my room to the tune of my own grumbling, wishing I could’ve left it in my hotel room without constantly fretting about somepony stealing it.

After that, I also teleported the Daring Do movie along with the new projector to play it into Dash’s room. I sent Dash a short note telling her where it was, then I set about looking for Pupa.

“Let’s see…” Pupa’s magic didn’t seem to be in the castle, at least not on my initial inspection. It wasn’t in the town either, nor was it in the hinterland.

Strange, Chrysalis’s magic was absent, too. If anypony here could circumvent my wards without letting me know, it’d be her, but I rather doubted she had: there was no point.

So then, where were those two cooped up at? Luminance, as defined by where there was actually oxygen, only extended perhaps a kilometer up past the castle, and they weren’t–

Oh. Huh. Okay. Pupa and Chrysalis were both in the quarry slash mine thing inside the Hornburg. I didn’t really know what they would find interesting in there, but it wasn’t like it was otherwise occupied. Maybe they were just indulging in a little low-danger spelunking or something.

I toyed with the idea of flying to the cave and walking through it myself, but in the end, I decided not to bother. Instead, I simply demanifested and reformed myself nearby the changelings’ magic.

And the very first thing I heard was Pupa’s shriek. “Don’t move!”

Then the first thing I felt was Chrysalis’ magic running over me. She picked me up and borderline-gently tossed me to the side. My wings popped out and pulled me into a glide, a natural reflex, but they hadn’t accounted for the confined space. I flew straight into a rock wall in less than a second before my vision could focus.

A small thud echoed through the cave as I plopped to the ground on my withers, a little disoriented but otherwise no worse for the wear.

“What just happened?” I asked, my vision dancing.

At the same time, I twisted myself around to glance behind me. Both Pupa and Chrysalis were hovering protectively over something luminescent and green. Now that I looked closer, there were just the tiniest stirrings of magic within it, almost like smoke from a tiny little candle. And in fact, there were another two–

“Are those eggs?” I shouted. All three ovoids were faintly glowing with light-red polka dots the exact same shade as Pupa’s natural eyes. Surrounding each was some sort of…strange gooey substance.

Pupa sighed in relief, then finally turned around to face me. “Maybe,” she said sheepishly.

Ah… What was I supposed to say? “Congratulations?”

“Congratulations nothing,” Chrysalis said, giving her daughter a stern look. “Someone neglected to tell me she’d been breeding when we brought her here.”

“I said I was sorry!” Pupa whispered. “I didn’t want you to kick me out of the hive to start my own, alone. You know how much I love nymphs. You were gone, and the ones you left behind all grew up, and I was so lonely without you.”

And rather pathetically, that was all it took to melt Chrysalis.

As the two of them hugged, I asked, “Sooooo…do you need me to take you back to Equus? Or do you need anything from there?”

“No. Thanks, but my eggs should be fine here. Even if this is a subpar incubator, it’s really best not to move them.”

Not move them? Oh, Pupa, you’d just given me a wonderful idea.

“Actually, on the subject of being kicked out of Chrysalis’s hive, you’re welcome to start one here at Luminance. I’m sure Luna wouldn’t mind. And the locals just think Luna forgot to mention changelings for a few centuries, so nopony will think anything unusual about you being here.

“Also, you’d be giving the ponies here better communication back to Equus, which they could really use. Food wouldn’t be an issue either if you kept your hive relatively small; nopony here would deny you the love you need to survive. And I’ve been thinking about trying to set up a more convenient means of getting to the moon and back for non-alicorns. Not right away, of course, but maybe within a few decades. If that pans out, you’d be at the forefront of colonizing the moon!”

Pupa cleared her throat, interrupting my impromptu pitch.

“I’ll be sure to think on it, Twilight. But what was it that originally brought you here?”

“Oh right.” I’d almost forgotten. “I was in Las Pegasus just a little bit ago, and I had a couple things I wanted to ask you about.”

“Las Pegasus…” Pupa murmured to herself, tapping a hoof to her jaw. “Something about that rings a bell… Ah! Did you find an ad for a magic act with Trixie?”

So Pupa did know about that, and from the sound of it, she’d consented to the idea. Excellent. I’d hate to think Celestia had organized the advertisements without bothering to inform Pupa or getting her approval. Who knew what she would’ve been up to.

“Yeah, I did. I guess you two just forgot to tell me about it.”

“To be fair, you two” – Pupa gestured to Chrysalis and myself – “were really busy with the elements when Celestia suggested it.”

“Wait. Celestia asked you?” I didn’t need all of Mother’s memories to know that smelled rotten. “What for?”

“Mostly to wean me off of Cadance, I think.” Pupa licked her lips, then added, “She is kind of addicting.”

Uh… Right… Much like how Luna had told me not to start eating gems, I believed this just put love firmly on the list of things I should never ever eat as well.

Now frowning, Pupa looked down at her barrel. “I’ve been getting really overweight, too. But anyway, Celestia made the suggestion – or really, gave her permission – to see how well love collection goes in the show business.”

Just as I was about to protest further, Chrysalis gave an actual explanation. “That was the bribe, as it were, for us to play along. Trixie was apparently the brains behind the idea. I couldn’t see what possible malicious purpose it could hold, so I thought nothing of it.”

“Did you know it was going to be held on my birthday?”

“That,” Chrysalis began, mostly absorbed in her thoughts already, “is not something I knew. Pupa?”

Pupa looked up from fidgeting with one of her eggs and shook her head. “I don’t remember setting a date, but I really didn’t get involved with the administrative stuff.” Pupa’s expression melted into a warm smile. “But my guess is Trixie set the date. She’s such a sweetheart, really.”

I asked, “So it’s a birthday present?” I hadn’t spoken with Trixie personally in years, but she wasn’t exactly somepony I pictured giving birthday gifts, let alone remembering birthdays to begin with.

“Think about it, Twilight,” Pupa said. “Trixie is a fairly famous stage performer. Even without her own skills, her name and history alone would draw ponies. Twilight Sparkle could become a famous magician overnight herself if everything went well. Maybe she and Trixie would even form a more permanent duo act.”

I thought about it for a few seconds, but it didn’t really seem all that ‘sweetheartish’. No doubt sensing the mild distress in my emotions, Chrysalis added a few words of her own.

“Celestia attends almost all of her student’s performances in person. And don’t forget that a magic act requires, as the name should suggest, magic.”

“Oh!” I said as my eyes widened. “I get it. Trixie wanted to force Celestia’s hoof to teach me.”

Pupa waved a hoof back and forth. “Ehhhhh, probably not. She’s known to be a little jealous from time to time. It’s more likely she thought it would force Celestia to be around in case something went wrong, both during practice and during the actual show. Either way, Twilight Sparkle would get to use a little bit of magic without a suppressor.”

I supposed that did make a little more sense. “Well even then, you’re right. That’s really sweet.” But…

“Isn’t she just?” Pupa smile only grew at the question. “Sometimes I just want to give her a big hug.” Pupa sighed. “But then I know she’d just teleport out of it.”

I…didn’t know exactly how to describe what I was feeling right now. Pupa really liked Trixie; her smile said everything for her. But Trixie was friends with ‘Twilight Sparkle’. Her gift wasn’t really meant for either of us, but Pupa certainly deserved it more than me. I doubted anypony who knew Pupa’s take on Twilight Sparkle would even recognize me.

Especially considering how that mare in Las Pegasus reacted to me…

“Twilight? Is something wrong?” Pupa smiled and poked me in the leg.

I shook my head vigorously of the dark thoughts I was heading down. Maybe I could give Pupa my identity. Maybe she had more claim to it now than I did. Maybe I could pretend to be an ancestor when I came back. But even then, the ponies I was actually close to all knew the real me; that was all I really needed.

“I’m fine, thanks. I was just thinking about…things.” Before anypony could object to that vague statement, I added, “Anyway, if you want to go on stage with Trixie, I think I can make that still happen.”

“Can you!” Pupa asked, her forehooves clapping together. “I didn’t think I’d get the chance when I agreed.”

Seeing the rather pointed glare Chrysalis was giving me, I said, “I’ll make sure however we arrange it that it’s safe for everypony. Given the deal I made with Celestia, that shouldn’t be too hard.” At least in theory.

Pupa gave me a brief, yet tight, hug. “Oh my gosh, this is going to be so much fun! But I’m completely out of practice. Horseapples! I need to work on my illusions and evocations; I haven’t cast anything more complex than a polymorph in weeks. I don’t even remember the dialogue for–”

As much as I could sympathize with a good rambling panic attack – Pupa hadn’t pretended to be me for over half a decade without picking up some of my habits – I had some romantic encounters to plan.

“Pupa,” I interrupted, “I’ll leave you to it in a second, but could I ask a question?”

“Huh? Oh, sure. What is it?”

“Well, when I was in Las Pegasus…” Trying to sum up exactly what happened in a sentence wasn’t working, so I just asked, “Am I famous?”

“Of course! Equestria loves their royalty.”

Okay, I supposed I was officially a tentative member of the royal family, given my, and especially Shining’s, relation with Cadance.

“I meant more as in personally famous. For acts that you performed as me.”

Pupa brought her hooves close together and said, “Just a little bit. I did promise to do my best to make the public like you.”

That cashier’s reaction seemed like more than a little famous. Although I supposed actions that would result in a minor celebrity status plus being related to royalty would make Twilight Sparkle a bit of a household name.

“All I really had to do was stick to Cadance like glue,” Pupa continued. “I just had to help her out and make public appearances with her at charities and such. You know, simple, diffused love-collecting strategies blown up to the national scale.”

Huh. Apparently I’d left my PR campaign in the right hooves.

“Thank you, Pupa.” I hoped there wouldn’t be any inconsistency issues if we – when we switched back, but I wasn’t going to complain about that to the mare who did all the work for me.

“Don’t thank me just yet. The wealthy Canterlot elite are still skittish around you.”

Ah. Those would be the ponies who were actually at court the day Celestia had dragged Pupa in for my trial, most likely. Unfortunately, many of those ponies had a big say in how Equestria was governed.

“I suppose that’s going to be a bit annoying,” I began, “but I honestly couldn’t care less right now. I probably couldn’t have done better myself. You’re amazing, Pupa.”

I couldn’t help but notice Pupa licking her lips, and I pointedly focused really hard on the magic of Luminance, rather than watching the love draining process in any detail. Someday I would study it, but that day would not be today.

“Ehem,” I cleared my throat. “Anyway, if you need anything” – I gestured toward Pupa’s eggs – “let me know. I’ll make any trips to Equus that are necessary.”

“I’ll keep that in mind, Twilight. Thank you.”

With that said, I made my goodbyes and then remanifested back up to the castle courtyard above ground. First things first, I had to actually ask Twinkleshine out on an extended date. Then after that, I needed to track down Pinkie Pie.

As usual, Twinkleshine wasn’t very difficult to find. The last several days, she’d taken to digging through the library for star charts at night and star gazing during the day. As it was after moonrise, I knew just the place to find her.

My wings beat, thrusting aside such primitive notions as gravity. That fundamental force and I were barely on speaking terms nowadays.

I soared through the sky, circling about the castle to one of the library’s many windows. With a strong beat of my wings, I arrested my momentum and landed on the sill, gazing down like a falcon hunting its prey.

Hmm… Actually, with that simile in mind…

Slowly, carefully, oh so quietly, I leapt into the library and glided through the air to a bookshelf I could land atop. Technically I was breaking the no flying in the library rule, but this wasn’t actually my library, and I wasn’t Dash, so whatever.

A tiny series of clops emanated as I landed on my hooves and trotted to a halt. I waited for what felt like a minute before I looked over the edge. Twinkleshine was still engrossed in her work; she hadn’t heard me.


A hungry smile grew on my face as I hunkered down and prepared to pounce. A few intuitive trig calculations fired off in my head. I needed to make my angle of descent just so, or I’d end up crashing into Twinkleshine and hurting her.

I licked my lips and straightened my wings, then leapt.

My prey was in sight.

Her innocent ears twitched in distress at whatever she was working on. Her posture changed, and I accounted for it instinctively.

“Roar!” I said, pouncing on Twinkleshine. She let out the cutest little scream as I knocked her over onto her cushion. I landed on top of her, successfully having got ahold of her ear with my mouth. I nibbled on it a little as if I were going to eat her.

“Mmm,” I hummed.

“T – T-Twilight?” Twinkleshine stammered, apparently regaining her wits just a little bit. Her pupils, once dilated, returned to normal.

I let Twinkleshine’s ear go for the sake of conversation. “Yes, it is I. At long last, my draconian instincts have finally been thrust upon me. I hunger for pony flesh.” Just for effect, I snorted little burst of dragonfire out my nose, which stopped well short of Twinkleshine’s face.

“I… You…”

Every time Twinkleshine tried to form words, her expression warped to something new, yet equally confused. It was so adorable that I just watched it all work through her system.

Finally, Twinkleshine asked, “You’re not really going to, well, eat me, right?”

It was my turn to stare blankly.

“I – I mean…” Twinkleshine blushed. “It’s just… Um… I’m not… Here isn’t really…”

I tilted my head to the side.

“Er… Spike ate some of you when we first left.” Twinkleshine went on to whisper, “Yes, that’s it,” to herself.

“And he was very sorry when he woke up.” Besides, I’d self-inflicted worse with flares than a little flesh wound. I grinned as evil a smile as possible. “Just like I’m sorry I haven’t gobbled you up yet!”

Twinkleshine squeaked as I pounced once more. It took considerable effort, but I got my mouth a little bit around the upper half of her muzzle.

“Om nom nom.”

Twinkleshine mumbled something, which was far from coherent without the upper half of her mouth available for use.

“What was that?” I asked.

“I said, ‘How long has it been since you last slept?’”

It was more that I was overworking myself than that I hadn’t slept, but – “Not too long. I’m trying to get back onto my normal sleep schedule today.”

“I see.” For some reason, Twinkleshine sounded rather glum as she said that. “So what do you need?”

“Weeeeell, I thought you might appreciate a little mini-vacation starting tomorrow afternoon. Just you” – I poked Twinkleshine in the barrel, then turned my hoof back on myself – “and me.”

“Really! Where!”

Another grin crept onto my face as I answered. “Las Pegasus. I found a room and organized a fancy dinner, a spa date, a few shows, the works. It’ll be the most luxurious, self-indulgent, hedonistic few days ever, I promise. If all goes well, the next several weeks should be pretty free for me, too, not like the last couple.”

Here I was being serious, and Twinkleshine broke into giggles. Powering through them, she managed, “The most hedonistic?”

I nodded, although some small part of me had a bad feeling about this.

“Okay, but if I’m not bathing in chocolate while you fan me with a giant leaf and feed me grapes before it’s over, you owe me. Got it, Princess?”

Oh? I got to my hooves, still straddling Twinkleshine. “As you wish, My Queen.” With an exaggerated bow, I brought my muzzle back down to Twinkleshine’s and left her with a kiss. I let myself dissolve into raw magic as I did so, then set about my other task for tonight.

“Pinkie Pie,” I said as I manifested behind the mare in question. Very gratifyingly, I actually got to see her jump in surprise for once. Well, kind of. It was barely noticeable.

Still, moral victory.

Then while Pinkie Pie whirled in place, somehow not spilling the bowl of batter she held – on the ground, somepony else, or me – a small crashing sound emanated from behind me. Pinkie Pie had me locked in a hug, so I couldn’t check to see what happened the mundane way, but everypony’s magic nearby seemed normal enough.

Except for Pinkie Pie’s, but I tried not to look too hard at that. Figuring her out would be for another day.

“Twilight! I haven’t seen you in…”

The lunar pegasus mare on the other side of the counter helpfully suggested, “Since breakfast,” when it became clear that Pinkie Pie didn’t know the vocab for the rest of her sentence.

Wait… “Pinkie Pie, do you understand me?” I asked in Old Equestrian.

“A little smidge.”

“Bit,” the mare corrected Pinkie Pie. Now that I looked closer, she appeared to be coming out of shock, given the terse responses, vacant eyes, and rigid ears.

And that was probably my fault. “Sorry if I frightened you…Pumpkin, right?” I was pretty sure this mare was the local baker. And actually, that crashing sound I’d heard was probably from me startling somepony with my sudden appearance. I apologized to the kitchen staff at large.

“Ah, yes, Your Highness,” Pumpkin finally said in answer. Just the tiniest hint of a stutter was in her voice, but it faded quickly enough. “But please don’t worry. We’re quickly adjusting to having an alicorn truly with us once more.”

Perhaps, but I should probably be more considerate. Even on Equus, it wasn’t like ponies were used to unicorns teleporting out of nowhere all the time, and they had the benefit of growing up with ponies actually doing it. It didn’t really help matters that Dash and I went around casually doing things that, while not strictly impossible for our pre-ascension selves for the most part, tended to be rather impressive and sometimes beyond average mortal ken.

“So, Twilight, need a snack?”

I suppressed a cringe. “I hate to say this, but please speak in Modern Equestrian, Pinkie Pie. Your accent is atrocious.” Chamomile and Luna had called me out on mine, too, but I’d at least grown up with the language – effectively twice – so it wasn’t nearly as bad.

“Aw, fine,” Pinkie Pie pouted. This lasted for about half a second, at which point she perked right back up. “So what is it you need? We don’t have any butterscotch ready yet, but we have, like, two dozen kinds of muffins out of the oven, and another half dozen types of bread, as well as–”

I cut Pinkie Pie off there before she could really get going. “I’m not hungry. I just wanted your help with something, if you were free. But I can manage by myself. You seem fairly busy.”

“Nonsense!” Pinkie Pie exclaimed, a hoof wrapping its way around my withers. “What do you need help with? Is there a baking emergency somewhere? Or” – she gasped – “is there a party emergency somewhere.” For whatever reason, Pinkie Pie checked her tail and frowned.

And I was not going to think about that further right now, because I needed my sanity intact for at least another season. Sure, I only had a sample size of one, but right now, the set of all known time mages was equivalent to the set of all Pinkie Pies.

I shook my head, both at Pinkie Pie’s questions and at where my thoughts were going.

“No, Pinkie Pie, I just wanted you to help me write a song.” Given that the mare in question broke into song and dance at random and that I was pretty sure she wrote most of them herself, Pinkie Pie was the mare to go to for this.

“Oooooh,” Pinkie Pie said in sudden understanding. She nudged me with her knees and gave me a wink. “Say no more.”

“In less than a day,” I added.

I got a worrying hum in response as Pinkie Pie tapped a hoof to her muzzle.

“No. Sorry, Twilight, but even I can’t teach you to sing in a day.”

Hey! My singing wasn’t…awful. I wasn’t tone deaf. Still, that was beside the point.

“I know I can’t sing well. I just wanted to write the song. I mean…” My forehooves timidly tapped together as I blushed, thinking back to my first visit to the moon. Half-mumbling, I continued, “I-it’s not as much of a sweeping romantic gesture, but it’s more me, you know. I understand the basics of musical theory, and it’s just like math, and I think I could come up with something good if I had some direction.”

Another hum emanated from Pinkie Pie, but this one was more thoughtful than worrying. On occasion, she muttered random words.


“But then–”


“Super cheesy–”


And finally, Pinkie Pie grinned. “Okay! Let’s do this!”

While I was a bit worried about the particular words I’d caught from Pinkie Pie’s rumination, I smiled, too. “Are you sure you have the time?”

“Of course! I always have time for my friends. Besides, we can brainstorm while we bake!”

I stopped myself before I said I didn’t want to do any cooking. There was a very distinct memory floating around in my head criticizing me on the very subject.

“Alright. So…” I looked around for another apron. Not finding one, I shrugged and ignored it. Cleaning myself up was trivial with magic. “What exactly do I need to do?”

Pumpkin raised her eyebrows in surprise, which I took to mean those Modern Equestrian lessons the Luminance natives were getting were paying off at least a little bit. Princesses usually didn’t cook, after all.

“Hmm… Stirring and pouring stuff would give you the most time to pore.”

I didn’t cringe at the pun, but it boded poorly for the success of the song.

Oh stars, I’d just done it myself.

Heedless to my worries, Pinkie Pie continued, “I can come up with a melody in no time, and we can mix it up as we need to romanticize it. But the words” – I didn’t like how Pinkie Pie was looking at me – “I already know exactly what they need to mean, but only you can translate them into Twilight Sparkle.”

Translate them into Twilight Sparkle? “What do you mean?”

“Simple, silly! We’re going to write a proof!”

Oh dear.

With a little clacking of machinery that wasn’t perfectly soundproofed, the lift came to a halt right in front of Twinkleshine and me. The doors parted to allow us entry, and we stepped aboard.

“What floor, ladies?” the lift pony asked.

“Top floor, please,” I answered right away. There we would find one of the fanciest of fancy restaurants in town, at least in terms of fancy per unit bit. I had no doubt that there were more absolutely fancy restaurants in Las Pegasus that cost absurd amounts of money, but I highly suspected neither Twinkleshine nor I would enjoy them.

The doors to the lift closed, and the lift pony went to work. A faint, inaudible hum of magic whirled and danced as the machinery operated and elevated the three of us. I put it out of mind as best as I could, but there simply was no artistry to it. The spellwork was lazy and ungraceful, yet admittedly functional and somewhat efficient.

Maybe these kinds of spells were what made Equus itch for me. They got the job done, but whoever was enchanting the parts for this lift clearly didn’t fully understand what they were doing. Although to be fair, to service the magical demands of a nation the size of Equestria, a lot of enchanters would end up being non-specialists.

A small sigh escaped me, and I hoped Twinkleshine didn’t hear it and take offense. I stole a glance at her just in time to catch her in the act of staring at me. She turned away with a blush, but the tiny sound of hooves on tile suggested she was inching toward me.

I unfurled a wing and let it rest over her, pulling her all the way to my side with a small squeak and an even deeper blush. I rested my head against hers, and she reciprocated within moments. Our two adjacent forehooves naturally found themselves intertwining.

And then the magical bubble isolating us from the world popped. The lift pony cleared his throat rather awkwardly and said, “We’ve arrived at your destination, ladies.”

“Yes, thank you.” I reached underneath my dress and pulled a couple bits out of my purse, soon after tossing them to the lift pony as a tip. It was rather crude sleight of hoof, but unless somepony were already suspicious of me, they probably wouldn’t question how a pegasus managed to pull bits out of an unseen bag with one hoof.

I fidgeted a bit in my dress as I withdrew my wing so we could walk. I wasn’t quite tall enough to move like that comfortably with Twinkleshine, especially not dressed as we were.

Really, I should have thought a little harder about my selection of apparel when I was out shopping with Twinkleshine. Sure, it’d looked great when I’d bought it, but I didn’t understand how mares wore this kind of stuff all the time in Canterlot. It was kind of cramped when worn for extended periods, especially around the dock.

I couldn’t help but look at Twinkleshine’s rear in envy. She’d had the clarity of mind to buy something less formal that let her tail hang free out the back and clung to her legs.

“Alright, let’s go.” I said, taking the first step myself. Twinkleshine followed suit, still rather close to me, occasionally brushing against my wing.

Actually, once we were off the lift, I noticed that my adorable date was fidgeting herself, and it didn’t seem to be from the dress. I took her hoof in mine once more and gave her a reassuring smile.

“Is anything wrong?”

Twinkleshine shook her head somewhat vigorously. “Just nervous, I guess. Luminance was one thing, but I’ve been in space for so long. Being around this many ponies again is…different. And I don’t really know how to act. I mean, the spa was really nice, and kind of embarrassing, but there weren’t, you know, rules.”

“Ah. Well, the others on the Nebulous haven’t rubbed off on you at all. You still have a perfect upper class Canterlot accent, just like me. Ponies, at least ones outside of Canterlot, generally tend to overlook social missteps if you sound fancy.”

Squeezing my hoof all the tighter, Twinkleshine said, “Thanks. But what if I use the wrong spoon or something and get us kicked out.”

I couldn’t help snickering at that, as much as I tried. I felt like I was looking at a really young me fretting over the silliest of things.

A frown briefly passed over my face as my thoughts automatically went to the most pessimistic explanations for my weird quirks as a filly. Everything had to be perfect: perfectly organized, listed, nitpicked, orderly. Being around other ponies was even worse. Maybe something had broken in my brain for a while, or maybe I’d subconsciously remembered good manners and drove myself up a wall over not being able to consciously remember and act on them in social settings.

“It’ll be fine, Twinkleshine. Don’t worry. This place isn’t that fancy.” I wasn’t sure if there even were places that fancy.

“Well,” Twinkleshine began hesitantly, “how fancy did you say this place was again?”

“It’s certainly not uptight enough to toss anypony out for how they privately behave at their own table. But, well, pretty fancy. It’s Prench food on the top of an expensive resort overlooking the whole city at night, and if I didn’t have access to Luna’s absurdly deep pockets, I’d have had to rob a bank to afford this.” Or have had to make a rather large amount of gold or diamonds, I supposed, but that ruined the imagery.

I turned to Twinkleshine just in time to catch her squeak and watch her eyes glaze over.

Suppressing another inappropriate snicker, I led Twinkleshine forward by the hoof into the lobby proper and away from the lifts.

Twinkleshine took a deep breath. “I don’t think I can do this, Twilight. I’m going to get us kicked out for sure. Is this dress even formal enough?”

Formal or not, Twinkleshine certainly passed the eye candy test. They’d let her in on that alone, if nothing else.

“You look stunning. And if you’re about to make any real mistakes, I’ll stop you in time, okay?”

“Since when are you Ms. Manners?” Twinkleshine asked, diverting her worries to me, which was just fine. Better she fret about me than about herself.

“Hold that thought,” I whispered aside. Then to the maître d' awaiting us, I said, “Hello again, Monsieur Brackett.”

“Ah, Madam Sparkle,” Brackett replied, looking up from his work. “Welcome back. Please allow me to show you to your table.”

As we walked, Twinkleshine nudged me and whispered, “Did you place the reservation under your own name? Is that a good idea?”

Not bothering to whisper back, I replied, “There are a lot of Twilights in my extended family, and I have a unicorn… Oh, I forget how she’s related to the family. I think she’s my father’s, cousin’s mother. Well anyway, she’s also named Twilight Sparkle. I’ve only met her once, though. My mother told me she got into some kind of trouble.”

“I see.”

Apparently Twinkleshine had gotten the hint. As long as we didn’t act suspicious, I could walk around normally minus my horn, and nopony would be the wiser. Honestly, even if we did act suspiciously, I doubted anypony would call us on it.

And really, it seemed more pettily vindictive than I’d imagine Celestia could be for her to put out ‘do not serve’ orders to every business in Equestria, and she certainly wouldn’t issue ‘arrest on sight’ orders.

After a moment of contemplation, Twinkleshine asked, “Is that true?”

“Mhm.” There really was another Twilight Sparkle in the family…besides Aurora. And besides Pupa. Right…

Okay, but she did exist, and I’d only met her once at a family gathering. Of course, she was a unicorn, not a pegasus, and she didn’t look like how I did now, but nopony would call me on that. That Twilight Sparkle was decidedly not famous or infamous.

After being led through the small maze of tables and chairs, about half with ponies at them, Brackett stopped at a table beside the all glass walls facing out toward the town. Perhaps not the best table in the restaurant, but it was certainly one of the better ones.

“Your table, madams.”

The two chairs pulled out for us at Brackett’s words. We took our seats, although I saw Twinkleshine visibly suppress her simultaneous urges to gape and stare out the window with her hooves on the glass and to run away from the window because she wasn’t a pegasus and couldn’t fly and heights were scary.

“Your waiter will be with you presently. While you wait, would you care for a complementary bottle of chardonnay? We recently acquired some direct from Prance, vintage ‘79.”

“No thank you,” I said.

At the same time, Twinkleshine emitted a nervous, “Yes, please.”

I locked eyes with Twinkleshine. Then a second later, I suppressed a sigh.

“Yes, that will be fine,” I said.

Brackett bowed and went off to fetch the promised bottle.

“You know, Twinkleshine,” I began, breaking her off from staring out the window with misty-eyed awe, “the solution to nerves isn’t alcohol.”

“I know that. But I won’t have that much. And I’ve only ever had the stuff Pinkie and Dash distill with Punch’s help. I’m sure this will be way better. I have to try it.” After I rolled my eyes, Twinkleshine added, “You should have some, too. You don’t have to worry about flaring anymore, right?”

“Well, no, but it’s kind of pointless.” Not to mention that getting drunk would be highly irresponsible of me. I was the only pony standing between Luminance and anything Celestia might want to do with it and the ponies who lived there, after all. And that was disregarding that I just plain didn’t like the idea of being drunk to begin with.

“Oh, come on. Just for tonight?”

I sighed and reluctantly agreed. It was a horrible idea, but I’d indulge Twinkleshine. I didn’t do that nearly as much as I should.

“Your wine, madams,” Brackett said as he returned. The bottle was held suspended in his orange magic.

As he started pouring our first glasses for us, I asked, “Excuse me, but would you happen to have any moonshine?”

It was only for a split second, but Brackett broke his usual polite facade and looked at me like I was the scum of Equus. I hoped I hadn’t just ruined our chance at good service tonight.

“No, I’m afraid we do not stock moonshine nor any other high proof liquors.”

“Ah, well, forget I mentioned it, then.” So much for actually getting drunk tonight. There was a reason moonshine was called moonshine. It was Luna’s drink of choice, and supposedly, it was originally her personal recipe. It was also the bare minimum required to get an alicorn – or a dragon – drunk for any length of time.

Hmm… I wondered what Celestia did at these kinds of places. Did she place an order in advance? Did they run out to a liquor store to find what she wanted on demand? Was there some special codeword?

Mother?” I asked.

Ah, no idea. Sunbutt did her drinking alone and infrequently. She otherwise mostly stuck to hard cider.

Well that was unhelpful. But I supposed this was fine, too. I really shouldn’t get myself drunk, even if it probably wouldn’t cause any problems tonight. Still, I could at least drink what Twinkleshine was having.

I lifted my glass up with a hoof, clutched in my earth pony magic. Hopefully nopony would think too hard about that if they looked in our direction.

Twinkleshine’s glass floated up in her magic in turn. We brought the two glasses together briefly to clink together.

“Cheers,” I said.

Twinkleshine echoed, “Cheers,” and we both took our first sip.

Once the glasses were replaced upon the table, I asked, “Thoughts?”

Twinkleshine hummed, took another sip, hummed again, and swirled the wine around in her mouth a bit.

“A little bitter, and a little ticklish. Not bad, but…different, I guess.”

“I’ve heard that wine is a bit of an acquired taste,” I idly commented. Some part of me was unsure if I’d heard that or if Sunset had heard that. Not that it really mattered, I supposed.

Before Twinkleshine could form a response, our waiter arrived. We quickly went through the motions of ordering our dinners, mostly based upon what was recommended to us.

Once we were alone again, or at least as alone as we would get in a public restaurant, I said, “Twinkleshine, I’ve been thinking a little bit about something my parents said to me.”

Twinkleshine didn’t say anything, but her eyes betrayed her interest and confusion. I wondered where exactly she thought I was going with this, but I doubted her guess was right.

“They told me I needed to find somepony besides Luna to…well…to talk to about my issues. I know it’s not the most romantic thing to dump on you–”

“Of course I’ll listen!” Twinkleshine cut in, more enthused than any polite pony had any reason to be at the subject. “What’s wrong?”

I took a deep breath, or maybe it was a sigh. Which it was, I wasn’t exactly sure.

“Well…” I hesitated, but the subject was broached. There was no turning back now. Twinkleshine’s curiosity could be almost as bad as mine when awoken. “How much has Dash told you about what happened during her and my ascensions?”

“Not much more than what I weaseled out of you.”

I rolled my eyes and offered a small grin. Silently, I thanked Dash for the favor.

“To answer your earlier question about when I learned etiquette requires a bit of explanation.”

Twinkleshine frowned. “You’re not going to tell me you looked into the abyss, and the abyss filled your head with the knowledge of the universe, are you?”

Through a few escaping snickers, I said, “No, I’m still in my staring contest with the abyss. Neither of us has blinked yet.”

And on that awkward line, our waiter choose to appear with a pair of salads for us. I tried to ignore his bemused and somewhat pitying expression.

“I…can’t tell if you’re joking,” Twinkleshine finally replied.

“I was,” I said before taking the first bite of my salad. It was…alright. No, it was fantastic, but I’d been spoiled my whole life by dream food and Pinkie Pie. I had unrealistically high culinary standards.

I continued, “But anyway, while ascending, I did recover a lot of memories I’d lost, which I suppose you could say were implanted into my head.”

“And manners were part of them?” Twinkleshine asked. Her tone conveyed her utter confusion. “The universe decides to make you a goddess, and it implants etiquette into your head? Doesn’t that kind of go against the whole ‘the universe doesn’t care about anything’ line that you’ve said to me?”

I quickly cast a few dozen privacy spells even as Twinkleshine carelessly dropped the word ‘goddess’. And by cast, I meant I commanded the magic around me to move into the appropriate forms, no horn required. I probably should’ve done that to begin with, but oh well. Nothing we’d said yet was particularly sensitive information without context.

“Sort of. I’ve been nursing a theory that ascensions are part of some grand magic laid upon the entire universe in days gone by when technology and magic were far more sophisticated than our current levels.”

“Wait, what?”

Through a mouthful of green, planty things, I delivered the horribly ominous words, “Don’t worry. I won’t let anypony make any apocalyptic mistakes again.”

“No, time out.”

Twinkleshine’s forehooves covered her face as she took deep breaths. Her salad went untouched, and I took the opportunity to steal some of her tomatoes. She didn’t really like them, and I did, so no worries. I even gave her some of my carrots in return.

“Okay. Okay. Okay,” Twinkleshine said, each word at varying levels of distress. “We’re not in any trouble, right?”

I shook my head, and swallowed. “Not likely. I don’t think any of us, that is the current five alicorns, are desperate enough to fight to that level of collateral damage. But also, I’m really hoping I can push Luna and Celestia to fight alone and off planet. We don’t need another Everfree Forest.”

Twinkleshine held up a hoof. “No, stop, Twilight. I – can you please try to be less…blunt about this?”

I idly played with my salad, nodding. Twinkleshine took a few moments to recover again while I poked at my food.

“Is…is this what’s bothering you?”

“No, we sort of got off on a tangent.” I hated to say this next part, but it had to be said. “But I should emphasize that you will not tell anypony about any of this or anything else I tell you tonight. I’m sorry, but that’s an order, not a request. If you’re not comfortable with that, then we’ll–”

My hoof was dragged across the table in Twinkleshine’s magic, and she grasped it with both of her own.

“Twilight…” Twinkleshine didn’t seem to be able to find the right words, but her eyes said everything I needed to hear for her.

I gave Twinkleshine a smile in return, then reached out with my other forehoof to return the sentiment.

“I’m sorry,” I whispered.

Twinkleshine would do her best to keep my secrets, just like she always had. Her track record was spotless; she deserved more of my trust than I’d given her. I’d be on my way to becoming Celestia if I couldn’t at least trust a lover who’d proven she had tight lips.

Once Twinkleshine and I had broken apart, I asked, “Do you happen to remember who Sunset Shimmer is?”

“Sunset Shimmer,” Twinkleshine echoed the name in thought. “Oh! Yeah, the last Flare. There were pictures of her at Celestia’s School for Gifted Unicorns. She went missing or something, right?”

I nodded. “You’re looking at what’s left of her.”


Now that I had to be less cryptic, I bit my lip. “She’s…something between a mother and a past life for me.”

After some hesitation, Twinkleshine asked, “Is reincarnation real?”

Damn my cowardice. I’d told Cadance already; she’d taken it well enough, and she’d known Sunset. I could do the same with Twinkleshine. And then I could finally tell my parents with Twinkleshine’s support.

“No, but age spells and memory spells are.” Was that too vague? No. No, Twinkleshine was a smart mare. She could fill in the blanks for me so I wouldn’t have to say it myself.

“So you’re Sunset Shimmer,” Twinkleshine said slowly, each word tentatively released, no doubt waiting for me to deny them, “but you’re…aged down and memory wiped?”

“I’m Twilight Sparkle,” I insisted. “But…yes, this was originally Sunset Shimmer’s body.”

It obviously took a few seconds for Twinkleshine to fully parse that. But when she had, she asked, “Wait, how old are you? Do I need an adult?”

I really hoped Twinkleshine only said all that because she knew I was so good at reading expressions. It was a wonderful attempt to make me upset at something entirely different, but if I were anypony else, it probably would’ve backfired spectacularly.

“A season ago, I would’ve told you I was approximately nineteen. During my ascension, I would’ve told you I was seventeen, if you wanted to be strictly accurate. Now…well, I recovered a lot of Sunset Shimmer’s memories, so one could argue that I’m fifty-five or so.”

I smiled as best as I could, then added, “But thank you for the sentiment. It means a lot to me.”

Twinkleshine smiled back. “Your welco–” Then I saw the math click in her expression. “Wait, seventeen? You were born two years old? Then you’re adopted?”

I sunk into myself as I whispered, “Yes.”

“Do your parents know?”

“No,” I whimpered. “I’m too scared to tell them.”

Twinkleshine frowned. “Twilight, I’ve met your parents. They love you.”

“I know…”

“They’ll always love you,” Twinkleshine added.

“I know!” I said. “I just… I’m scared to see how they look at me after they know.”

That’s not why and you know it,” Mother chided.

I told her to shut up.

You’re worried they’ll tell you Princess Luna was wrong.

I already knew what Luna had done was…understandable but less than ideal. Wrong, but not bad, or evil. Just…the desperate action of a scared and scarred mare. Not that I had any real right to complain about existing in any case.

And above all, you’re worried they’re going to tell you to abandon Princess Luna.

Those words felt like a solid buck to the barrel, even though I’d known them in some vague terms already.

Oh, and then you’ll have to choose. And you know who you always choose.

My growl slipped out into the real world. My eyes widened immediately as I realized the mistake I’d made and watched Twinkleshine flee backward in her seat.

“I’m sorry,” I forced out as calm and composed as I could make myself. “I was…elsewhere. That wasn’t directed at you.”

“It’s – it’s okay, Twilight,” Twinkleshine interrupted, but the quiver in her voice said it was not okay.

“Twinkleshine, I’m really, really sorry. There was a false dichotomy that…was on my mind. I’m not…entirely mentally stable right now from recovering all those memories.”

“Twilight, it’s really fine,” Twinkleshine insisted.

Regardless, I pressed on. “I don’t expect it to be a problem, but if you think I’m about to hurt you or anypony else, please scream or something.”


I’m serious, Twinkleshine.” I stopped myself from slamming my hooves on the table at the last second. That wasn’t me. That was my questionable sanity and slipping grip on my temper talking.

Not that that was any better.

I deflated in my chair. “I’m so sorry.”

Some time later after I’d awkwardly poked at my salad, Twinkleshine said, “Well, I can see the mother–son resemblance now, at least.”


“You looked like an angry dragon for a second there. Smoke came out of your mouth and everything. It looked a little silly coming from a pony, actually.”

Heh. That would look kind of absurd. Good thing I didn’t set off any smoke alarms.

Our brief, subdued laughter was interrupted when our first course arrived. I had… I didn’t actually know what I’d ordered. It was something I couldn’t pronounce and involved exotic plants I wasn’t familiar with fried to a crisp, golden brown. Whatever it was came recommended, and it was fried, so no doubt it would be delicious.

Twinkleshine had ordered something equally unpronounceable that involved tofu and at least a half-dozen esoteric spices. Pinkie Pie had at least a hundred strains of spice and seasoning still growing on the Nebulous, but I didn’t recognize any of the ones on Twinkleshine’s meal.

We both took our first bites. After reassuring our waiter that everything was delicious and to our satisfaction, we were left alone once more.

Twinkleshine’s fork and knife came to a rest on her plate, and it seemed she'd mistaken her lip for her dinner, given how she was gnawing on it. It was some time before I noticed.


I was just about to poke her with magic when Twinkleshine, who'd otherwise been unresponsive, finally spoke. “Twilight, can I ask you a…”

“A deeply personal and painful question?” I suggested.

“Succinctly put.”

A sigh escaped me as I set my own silverware down. “Go ahead.”

Twinkleshine opened her mouth, then closed it. She repeated this action again several seconds later, but this time she shook her head vigorously to herself.

Finally, Twinkleshine spoke, but it was far from the question I’d been expecting. “Would you be okay if we put off the rest of this conversation until tomorrow night?”

I leaned my head back to stare up at the ceiling. That might be for the best. Mother had pushed too many of my buttons too recently; I might as well be a vat of nitroglycerin next to a cliff right now.

I really should be better than this. Luna had taught me to be better than this. I should be able to hold my temper and check my other emotions to approach this whole situation calmly and logically.

But apparently I wasn’t.

I sighed silently as I finally nodded. “Can I ask why, though?”

“You need some time to relax and enjoy life, I think.”

Twinkleshine smiled as she said that, but I could see all of her tells signaling that she was lying, or at least not telling me all of the truth. No doubt she wanted some time just to think about what I’d already told her and to decide if I was too weird or dangerous to be around.

But I wouldn’t call her on that. She had every right to break things off with me if she felt unsafe. Or for any other of the many reasons she could give…

I sighed to myself as gloomy thoughts overtook me.

Rarely, I felt like I did more harm than good to Twinkleshine. Some part of me even worried that Twinkleshine was still incapable of breaking things off with me like she’d admitted on the moon all those years ago. It wouldn’t be surprising. I’d dug my claws too deep into her and only realized it after the fact.

I shook those dark thoughts from my head. They were perfectly legitimate concerns, but I didn’t trust myself to fairly evaluate them right now. For now, I’d just have to trust that Twinkleshine could grow to hold her own against me, so to speak, if I kept pushing her forward. If she wasn’t at that point already, of course.

On the other, far more optimistic hoof, I had evidence that I was a nice pony who did nice things for the ponies I loved. If I were to follow Twinkleshine’s advice, that was just what I needed right now. I hadn’t intended to do this quite yet, but it couldn’t hurt to give Twinkleshine the fruit of my labor a little early.

“Thank you for the sentiment,” I began. I reached out into the magic back at our hotel room and teleported the score Pinkie Pie and I had written to just below our table. “I have two more surprises for you. I was going to give you this one tomorrow, but…well…now seems like a better time, I think.”

Twinkleshine’s fork, which had gone back to work, slowly set back down onto her plate. “Oh? What is it!”

“I… Um…” I ran a hoof nervously up and down my mane. “Well, it might not be perfect yet. I kind of ran out of time before we left Luminance. But I think it’s okay. And Pinkie Pie said it was a high stakes gamble on whether you would like it or not, but I think it’s nice.”

“Twilight, come on,” Twinkleshine whined. “What is it? What is it!”

Oh Stars, just thinking about actually showing the song Pinkie Pie and I had written to Twinkleshine sent a rush of blood to my face. This was the cheesiest thing I’d ever done or probably ever would. And yet it was really, really catchy and coherent.

“I – I can’t sing like you do for me, b-but I have the next best thing. Composition is mathy, in essence.”

Twinkleshine’s eyes widened. “You wrote a song!”

“Pinkie Pie helped,” I whispered. Barely able to say anything else – my face was burning and it was kind of hard to breathe – I levitated the score from below the table to hoof, then from hoof I passed it to Twinkleshine’s magic. “Here.”

I thought I heard a little squee from Twinkleshine, but I couldn’t be sure. Either way, she eagerly dove into the song.

And then Twinkleshine’s eyebrows rose, and she showed me that cute little lip twitch she got when she was confused.

“Finite Simple Group?” Twinkleshine read off the title.

“Of – of Order Two,” I added meekly. It’d be okay. Twinkleshine liked math too. Maybe not pure mathematics like me, but she could at least appreciate it. “Have you read any group theory overview or introductory texts?”

Twinkleshine shook her head.

Ponyfeathers. “W-well, it’s okay. I don’t perfectly understand all of it – the song, that is, myself.”


“My education focused on magic, not math.” My forehooves nervously tapped together. “I know definitions but sometimes not applications.”

Twinkleshine hummed thoughtfully, or maybe skeptically. I couldn’t trust my hearing to filter between the two right now, seeing as it was mostly preoccupied with filtering out the pounding of my own heart.

At any rate, Twinkleshine indulged me and hummed the melody as she read. It was far from a continuous process as she stumbled and reread over and over again. Occasionally I would catch her mumble a few words from the lyrics.

“You’re my Axiom of Choice.” I could see Twinkleshine’s hooves coming up to her face, but they stopped halfway through their journey.

“Without loss of generality… Seriously?” Twinkleshine hadn’t said it to me, but I nodded as well as I could anyway.

And then the snickering started. “A kernel of a rank-one map. I get that one.”

Okay, laughing was better than nothing, and way better than pity.

“Proved – proved my – my prop – propo – proposition!”

Twinkleshine was openly guffawing by this point. She’d long since lost the ability to hum the music. She almost looked like she was in pain from the wheezing sound she made on occasion when she actually stopped to breathe.

Finally, Twinkleshine let the song fall to the table and reached out for her glass. It was clearly a struggle, but she managed to down some wine, no doubt to get some moisture back into her throat after abusing it so much.

“So…” I began very hesitantly. “Thoughts?”

“Oh – oh gosh, Twi – Twilight,” Twinkleshine said, gasping for air. “That was – the nerdiest thing – I’ve ever seen ever.”

My ears fell to my head. “Was it at least adorkable?”

Twinkleshine shifted her weight and fell out of her chair. No, she was just struggling to get up. She leaned on the table for a bit of support as she walked to stand right next to me. Then her magic seized my muzzle and pulled me into a deep, long kiss. All of the tension in my withers melted as I returned the affection.

Sadly, this wasn’t the place to make out, and Twinkleshine knew it too. She pulled away, utterly out of breath again. Instead of walking back across to the other side of the table, she levitated her chair over to right where she stood and collapsed in it.

What I suspected was the last of Twinkleshine’s wheezing passed. Even then it was clearly a bit of a struggle to speak, but she managed.

“Twilight, that was, without a doubt, the most adorkable thing in history. I barely understood half of it at best.” Twinkleshine leaned over to kiss me on the cheek this time. “Thank you for being you.”

“Ah. Y-you’re welcome. It still needs some work to get the rhythm just right on the lyrics, but I think all of the core meanings and words are right. Pinkie Pie suggested the, well, generic unmathy words, and I did the translation. The third verse in particular–”

“Twilight,” Twinkleshine interrupted, somehow having found one of my hooves and squeezing it with her own, “it’s wonderful as is. Thank you so much.”

My eyes found their way to the floor as I erupted into a full blush again. “You’re welcome,” I said again dumbly.

“So, is the other surprise as good as this?”

“I-I like to think so!” I squeaked. The other surprise was easily twice as embarrassing, if that was a valid heuristic.

“Hmm? Well, I’m looking forward to it then.”

Twinkleshine held her wine glass up again invitingly. I grabbed my own and bumped it against hers again.

“To surprises?” Twinkleshine suggested.

“To a” – hopefully – “bright future,” I returned.

It was bound to happen eventually. The city was filled with them, after all. I was more surprised that Twinkleshine hadn’t noticed one of them yet; we’d passed by at least a dozen yesterday and another half-dozen so far today.

To be completely fair, about half of them had been billboards placed high above the city streets. There was some truth to the old saying that only pegasi ever bothered to look up, as I’d discovered recently. There was a strict, finite limit on the number of times I could bump my head on something before I finally internalized the lesson the universe was trying to teach me.

“Are you sure this is safe?” Twinkleshine had asked me.

“Of course it is,” I’d replied. Most pegasi had a maximum load far in excess of their body weight, and Twinkleshine weighed slightly less than I did. Somehow.

Anyway, a flight through the sky, far removed from the sweltering ground below, had been in order, even if Twinkleshine had it in her head that it was a brilliant idea to strangle the pony keeping her airborne. Spring in the San Palomino Desert was brutal, especially for Twinkleshine, who still had a bit of her winter coat.

Now though, Twinkleshine’s forehoof pointed off at one particular billboard without a care in the world, much less a scream or a shiver.

“Can I go to that, too?” Twinkleshine asked.

I tried not to groan. “I…suppose so.”

“Yay!” I could hear Twinkleshine’s smile in her exclamation. “I haven’t seen Trixie in forever! Is she still…you know?”

I suggested, “Does she still speak in illeisms?”

“Um… I’m going to assume that word means ‘talks in third person’.”

“She does. Or at least that’s what Pupa says. I haven’t spoken with Trixie myself in a long time either.”

We flew in silence for what could have been hours as easily as minutes. The wind flowed across my feathers wildly and uncontrollably. Unpredictable thermals would send us skyrocketing at random, and Twinkleshine would squeal like I was a roller coaster. She had the good sense to hold on tighter then, though, rather than putting her hooves up.

The daytime skies of Las Pegasus weren’t for the faint of heart, yet they were almost as relaxing as the near perfectly calm air above Luminance. All I had to do was hold out my wings, glide, and not drop Twinkleshine.

It really was such a wonderful thing to soar free under one’s own wingpower. Maybe I should take up Dash on one of her crazy race ideas. A trip around Equus did sound like fun.

Twinkleshine said something.

“Sorry, wasn’t paying attention,” I said. “What was that?”

Practically shouting into my ear over the roar of the wind, Twinkleshine asked, “Can we go visit Princess Celestia’s School?”

I frowned at that. Returning to Canterlot was decidedly not a safe course of action. And yet…so long as I was careful not to walk into any dangerous wards, I should be able to teleport us away in time. I’d have to have the spell constantly ready to trigger, just like the one I had in Luminance, but that was no problem. If Twinkleshine wanted to go, I didn't see any problems with it.

My wings tilted ever so slightly, pulling us into a wide circle. I leveled out when we were pointed toward Canterlot. We were too far off to see the mountain, let alone the city, but all of its magic was dead ahead.

“Do you mind if we fly there?” I asked. “We’ll want to visit after the school day ends, I’d imagine.”

Twinkleshine’s thoughtful hum was just on the edge of my hearing. “How long will it take?”

“I’ll try to time it so we arrive just before supper, so maybe a couple hours? We should be flying slow enough to take in the scenery below.”

“Then that sounds wonderful!”

I took a deep, anticipatory breath. “Alright. Hold on tight.”

One of my shield spells fell over Twinkleshine. It’d keep her warm and would make it so she could actually hold on to me, rather than the wind speeds ripping her legs off. With a strong beat of my wings, the two of us shot upward.

We burst through one cloud, then two clouds, upon which I stopped counting because there were only two. As far as I could see, there weren’t any other clouds around.

And still higher we yet rose. The temperature dropped rapidly as the world below fell away. The once enormous buildings were reduced to mere toys, and the ponies were barely visible.

The air was thinner, too, but I would manage. Twinkleshine might have a bit of a hard time, though, so I added another spell to give her a proper supply of oxygen, just in case.

“T-Twilight? I-isn’t this a l-little high?”

Well, I could fly lower, but it’d be much less efficient. Even this high up, a trip to Canterlot would be a marathon at the very least for a pegasus. Not so much for an alicorn, though.

“Think of it this way,” I began, “if you fall from this height, there’s no way in Tartarus that I won’t have time to catch you.”

“Good p-point. I’ll get used t-to it.”

Just to make sure my guess was right, I scryed just behind my head. And indeed, there was Twinkleshine with her head buried in my mane. Her eyes were probably sealed shut as well.

I didn’t bother to hide my giggles.

“It might help if you take a look around at some point.”

“I’ll get to it when I’m good and ready!” Twinkleshine squeaked. “Some of us still have unicorn brains that experience vertigo.”

I conceded that this was a fair point. “Still, you grew up on top of one of Equestria’s largest mountains. Surely that counts for something?”

Just fly.”

Well, no sense refusing the order. My wings raised. My magic tensed. The air about us stilled.

And then there was a great, mighty whumph as the two of us launched forward. My vision blacked out for a moment, even with pegasus magic coursing through me.

Too much acceleration. But also, too little. To quote Dash, that. Had been. So. Awesome!

“Note to self,” I mumbled when the adrenaline high wore off, “acceleration sucks, even if it’s not gravitational.” Then, louder, I asked, “Are you okay?”

No answer.

“Twinkleshine?” I shouted much louder.

Horseapples! Okay, okay. Panic was the enemy. The changeling magic on me swept away, leaving me with a horn again so I could work magic more comfortably.

Twinkleshine’s heart was…still beating. Good. Her lungs were still breathing. Great. Her miscellaneous organs were not damaged. Excellent.

The next step was to try an awaking spell.

Twinkleshine’s body jolted as she returned to the realm of consciousness.

“Twinkleshine?” I called out hopefully.

I got a moan in response. “Ugh. What happened?”

“I accelerated too fast.” Rather sheepishly, I added, “Sorry.”

“Accel–” Suddenly remembering where we were, or perhaps looking down and remembering, Twinkleshine’s hooves squeezed around me all the tighter. “Oh. Okay. Right. F-fly on.”

Well alright then. I hadn’t put Twinkleshine off of flying forever. Fantastic.

For the next couple hours, the two of us flew over Equestria with the kind of freedom only pegasi had, chatting about nothing important. It was rather relaxing after Twinkleshine managed to relax herself.

Once we finally made our way out of both the desert and the nearby mountains, we found actual signs of life. Farms littered the countryside below us, and with them we saw the occasional pony out and about working on them, whether that be planting seeds or plowing fields.

Beyond that, we stumbled upon what I was sure was the river that connected to Saddle Lake in Ponyville, and then to the Canterlot waterfall even further upstream. We followed that for a time, occasionally running into a small town that had grown about the water source.

Eventually, Twinkleshine spotted one of the backbones of the Equestrian Railway. If we followed that, it would take us straight to Ponyville and then to Canterlot without meandering through Froggy Bottom Bog or the Everfree Forest. Seeing as neither of us wanted to fly over the Everfree, we turned northward along the tracks to give the forest, which even now loomed upon the horizon, a wide berth.

And then there was Ponyville. It hadn’t been my home for long, but it was still home. I kind of wanted to go visit and see what had become of my birthday present library after I’d taken most of the books, but I let the opportunity fly by.

Twinkleshine must have noticed me picking out my house in the distance, since she suggested I take a break to rest, but I refused the idea once more. To begin with, it wasn’t safe to go home, but also, it just wouldn’t be the same without Mom and Dad there waiting with hugs to welcome me back.

At any rate, from Ponyville, it wasn’t long before we arrived in Canterlot, or at least in the airspace somewhat close to Canterlot. I had to poke around in the city’s magic for what had to be at least a half-hour to make sure I wasn’t about to fly the two of us into a trap. It seemed unlikely Celestia would set up city-wide enchantments, but it never hurt to be sure.

Fortunately, it seemed Canterlot Castle itself was the only seriously dangerous spot. There were an uncountable number of more benign spells littered throughout the city, but there was only one large area spell.

Encircling the entire city was an extremely strong shield enchantment, although it lay dormant and completely unpowered. At full strength, it might have stopped me as a unicorn, maybe. But as an alicorn, particularly as the Alicorn of Magic, it posed little threat. It should be okay to leave it alone.

Celestia’s School wasn’t much more secure than the rest of Canterlot. Yes, there were thousands of wards and protection spells placed over it, but so far as I could tell, nearly every last one was intended to protect its occupants, not to attack or subdue. There weren’t any teleport wards either; I could even sense a few ponies blinking from room to room on occasion.

And really, what else could I have expected? I remembered Twinkleshine once mentioning that magical accidents like setting things on fire happened all the time. With the magical, youthful talent gathered here, the students would need all the protection from themselves that they could get.

I disguised myself as just an ordinary pegasus once again, then brought the two of us in for a landing just outside the gates of the school. The guard on duty was quick to offer a cheery hello to Twinkleshine as we passed by him, and he made note that there was a visitor on campus.

Much to my annoyance, Twinkleshine introduced me, her guest, as ‘Sunset’. It’d clearly been a snap decision made in a bit of a panic, but she could’ve come up with a better alias than that.

Sigh. Oh well. We had more important things to worry about right now.

“Are you sure you know where you’re going?” I asked.

With the ‘utmost confidence’, Twinkleshine replied, “Of course. The college section is…this way. For sure.”

I withheld the urge to facehoof for as long as I could. But when we ended up back at the clock tower again, the impulse was simply overwhelming.

“I’m going to ask for directions,” I said. There was nothing strange about a pegasus, who was obviously a visitor, asking for directions.

I tracked down somepony who looked old enough to know where the eldest students lived and studied. The stallion I found was nice enough – or perhaps rude enough, depending on the perspective – to enchant a crude map for me and left without a word. The map itself gave my position and had a number of buildings labeled. I located the dormitories for the college-level students and ran off back to Twinkleshine.

As we walked, Twinkleshine commented, “You know, this place is both bigger and smaller than I remember.”

It…was possible that the campus had acquired some more land shortly after I’d severed Canterlot into n plus one pieces, for some large n. Property values had dropped significantly for years after that.

I didn’t even bother to keep my sigh to myself.

“You okay, Twilight?”

“Yeah,” I sighed. “I’m fine.”

Twinkleshine stopped to frown suspiciously at me for a moment, but thankfully ended up letting it drop. As we approached the dorms, she made herself scarce and told me to go inside and ask after her room. She’d come in a couple minutes after I did.

Entering the building, I found the front desk quickly enough. The pony on duty had her legs kicked back on the desk, and she awkwardly sat hunched on a chair as she read. I couldn’t imagine how that was comfortable.

And something about that was ringing a few bells, but I couldn’t quite put my hoof on why…

Oh well. “Hello?”

That was sufficient to get the mare’s attention. “Hmm? Oh! Um, welcome to Princess Celestia’s School for–”

I cut off the mare who was clearly reciting from a script she’d barely memorized.

“I’ve visited before. Don’t bother on my account.”

“Ah, alright, then. My name’s Lyra. What can I do for you…”

I grudgingly replied, “Sunset,” for the sake of consistency. “I’m looking for Twinkleshine’s room.”

Lyra frowned. “She’s been missing for a couple weeks now. Do – do you happen to know where she is? She left without saying anything.”

Oh horseapples. I’d walked muzzlefirst right into this one, hadn’t I? I supposed it was time to start making stuff up.

“Yeah. She had a family emergency. We split up when we arrived on campus. She said she needed to do a few things first.”

Lyra let out a sigh, and her nerves went with it. Then she asked, “What happened?”

“You’d have to ask her,” I said to hopefully shut down this line of inquiry. Twinkleshine could make up whatever excuse she wanted later on her own.

“Fair enough. Her room is on the fourth floor if you want to wait there. It’s number–”

Lyra didn’t get a chance to finish as I whirled on whoever was trying to cast a spell on me. A changeling shapeshifting counter spell of all things!

The threads of magic that had been reaching out to me stopped dead in place.

I winced when I began shutting down the source’s magic to render whomever it was harmless, then slowly relaxed my grip on her magic. I knew how traumatic that could be for a mare.

And I was facing a mare. Two, actually, if a sheepish looking Twinkleshine behind her counted.

“Twinkleshine!” Lyra shouted, hopping over the desk and landing roughly on all four hooves. She galloped over and swept Twinkleshine up in a great, big hug.

“Hello, Lyra. It’s great to see you again.”

I tuned out the happy reunion. I was engaged in a staring contest with a flabbergasted Trixie.

And then because the universe hated me, I felt a teleport just outside the dorm. It didn’t bring an alicorn with it, but it brought somepony almost as bad.

“Twilight Sparkle! You get your flank out here this instant!” Shining shouted.

If you’ve never heard of UTby_e4-Rhg/url[, then you are truly a poor, deprived soul. Highly recommended to all who love math. It speaks straight to the heart.]

Prereaders – Starlight Nova, Strange Reasoning, The Great Eater

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