Oblivious. There was simply no way that Amora could have possibly known just what kind of trouble she had caused.
"Who was that, Cerulean?" Amora questioned, hooves still wrapped around Cerulean's trembling form. He shoved her hooves away and she backed off, genuinely terrified of the expression he now wore.
"Why now..." She opened her mouth to speak but drew further back as the floodgates of his anger opened. "Why, Amora? Why did you have to find me now, of all times? I told you it's over, and nothing you could ever do is going to change that!" he shouted, knowing all too well exactly how it must have looked to Twilight, made worse by the fact that he was still wearing her gift. He stamped a hoof in frustration, grabbing the book Twilight had dropped and running off before Amora could respond. Time was running out. He knew he had to fix things, and quickly, or things may never be repaired between him and Twilight. As he drew near the palace gates the guards barred his entry, dismissing his obvious agitation.
"Halt! Authorized guests only passed this point." A burly unicorn guard with a dark coat shoved him back a few steps, preparing for trouble.
"I know Twilight Sparkle is staying here. Please, I need to speak with her, it's urgent!" The other guard noted the desperation in his voice with a grunt, and entered the palace for a short time before returning.
"Twilight is not accepting visitors right now. Move along," he commanded, narrowing his eyes as if daring Cerulean to try and proceed. He gave a cry of shock as Cerulean summoned his wings and jumped over them, rushing towards the castle doors. When they slammed in his face, he brought his hooves down hard, bashing through them with a column of ice and racing inside. Frantically scanning the interior, he knew he would never make it to Twilight's room; there were just too many corridors to search. Instead he dashed straight forward, evading guards when possible and freezing those that got in his way, heading towards the audience chambers.
If I can just make it to Celestia, then maybe I have a chance. If Twilight’s her student, then she should listen to her teacher. It shouldn’t be too much... A sudden impact from behind caused him to fall to the ground, and as he struggled to stand another blow landed on his back, forcing him to his knees. He feebly reached out a hoof towards the doors that seemed so close, before a final blow to his skull rendered him unconscious, the world around him quickly fading to black.
Celestia stood with a start as the doors to the banquet hall slammed open and four members of the royal guard approached, dragging something behind them. Cerulean's still form was dumped unceremoniously to the floor in front of her amidst cries of shock and disgust from the dinner guests.
"Who is this?" she asked, her usually calm tone slightly shaken as she noted the burn scars and bruising to his body. The guards had shackled his legs and placed a magic sealing device around his horn to prevent any attempts to escape his bonds.
"I don't know, your majesty. He was stopped at the gates but broke into the castle, wounding several guards and heading towards the audience chambers. We assume he was trying to get to you. He was also carrying these," the guard reported, setting down the small wooden box and the book Twilight had dropped then standing at attention, awaiting orders. Celestia examined Cerulean's cutie mark and instantly knew who he was, recalling Twilight's retelling of their story from the day before. She sat in thought for a moment, then a soft glow emitted from her horn, rousing Cerulean. The urgency returned and he attempted to stand, though the nausea-inducing throbbing from the concussive blow from the guards seemed to have invited a rather rambunctious migraine to take residence within his cranium. Upon seeing he was standing before Celestia, he immediately dropped to his knees and bowed his head, closing his eyes as his vision swirled.
"What is your name?" she asked, her regal voice frightening Cerulean a good deal more than he expected it would. He forced his thoughts onto Twilight and drew courage from the memories and hope for restoration.
"Cerulean Snowgleam, your highness."
"I believe the guards made it quite clear that Twilight wasn't accepting visitors, and yet you still broke into my palace and attacked my guards. Do you deny this?" He shook his head.
"I do not. And I will accept any punishment given, but I would like to make one request of you before I am taken away."
"And what might that be?"
"Please let me speak to Twilight. After that, I will..." but he stopped as Celestia's firm reply cut him short.
"No. You may not." He looked at the ground, gritting his teeth.
"It can't end... not like this," he whispered. Celestia said nothing. "If... If I can't see her, then could you at least give her that box and book?" He breathed a sigh of relief as Celestia nodded, lifting the articles to one her guards and instructing him to take them to Twilight's quarters. "Thank you for your kindness, Princess. I will accept my punishment now."
"As you have plead guilty to breaking and entering, and also to assault, you shall be jailed in the castle dungeons until an official trial date is set." He nodded silently and offered no resistance, marching silently between the guards and looking straight ahead. There were no traces of regret in his eyes, only determination. "Don't give up, Cerulean," Celestia murmured, walking back to her seat and looking out the window towards Twilight's room.
Twilight didn't stir as the guard's solid knocking broke the silence, her tear stained pillow hiding her face. The guard approached slowly, and set the book and box down on the table.
"A trespasser broke into the castle a few minutes ago, and his only request was that you receive these items." She made no motion to move, and the guard left quietly. After a few minutes she raised her head and stared at the box, thinking something was wrong with her vision; it looked exactly like the one she had given Cerulean. The book was now of little interest to her, her studies being the farthest thing from her mind. Curiosity eventually overcame her and she slowly approached the table, stopping next to it and continuing to stare at the container that had once housed her gift. Had Cerulean really sent her the empty box just out of spite?
In a fit of rage she hurled it against the wall, and as she watched it burst open she saw something glint in the light as it flew through the air. The metallic ring echoed throughout the chamber as the article landed on the stone floor, the sound lingering in her ears. She cantered over to find a necklace that matched the one she had given Cerulean, only the gemstone was a beautiful sapphire nearly matching the color of his coat.
Her mind reeled as she struggled to understand what could possibly be going on in his mind, sending her a gift like that after meeting up with whoever that green mare was. As she turned back towards the broken box she noticed a slip of paper on the ground. Her hooves trembled as she slowly brought it to her eyes.
"To the mare that has given me more than she could ever know, I give all that I am. Thank you, Twilight."
Twilight jumped as the door creaked open and Celestia entered. The princess approached and read the contents of the letter over her shoulder, a slight smile playing on her lips.
"Princess, what do I do? I'm so confused, I just don't know what to believe anymore," Twilight asked, too emotionally drained to even try to think.
"I think that he at least deserves a chance to explain himself. But not tonight, you both need some time to rest and think about your actions," Celestia said gently, wrapping Twilight in a warm embrace. Twilight gave no fight, collapsing against her as she gave in to the overwhelming urge to escape the present. Celestia gently lifted her into bed and tucked in the covers, closing the door quietly and heading towards her chambers. It was only early evening, but Twilight needed all the rest she could get, and drifted off into a deep sleep.
While Celestia may have adapted to various changes over the last one thousand years, the dungeons were largely unused, and thus hadn't been modernized in any way. Cerulean hung from the wall, each forehoof shackled with just enough slack that he could still breath if he relaxed his muscles. It was still quite difficult, and since his body was recovering from the events a week prior the position wasn't just uncomfortable, it was excruciatingly painful. He made no sound, and the guard assigned to watch him regarded him with great curiosity.
"You sure don't seem like a criminal." Cerulean smiled, glancing at the cell door.
"I try my best," he said weakly, hardly able to talk in his strained position.
"So if you're such an upstanding citizen, why the hay did you break into the castle?"
"I had to make a point." The guard scoffed loudly, clearly thinking Cerulean was nothing more than a crazy pony that happened to lose it. "If everything you held dear to you walked away, and you knew where to find it, wouldn't you be willing to risk imprisonment to win it back?" The guard shook his head.
"What could possibly be so important?" The guard watched in awe as an enormous grin stretched across Ceruleans muzzle. He struggled to raise his head and look the guard in the eyes.
"Twilight Sparkle." The guard burst out laughing.
"You strange little foal, she's way out of your league," he said with a smirk. To his surprise Cerulean laughed for a moment too before it degenerated into coughing.
"You're definitely right on that point. There's no way I deserve another chance, but I had to try. I still haven't given up hope, not yet."
"As well you shouldn't, Cerulean." The guard yelped and backed away from the door, bowing low as Princess Celestia approached. The door swung open and she entered the tiny room, standing face to face with Cerulean for a moment before her horn filled the room with a pale light. The shackles popped open and he slumped to the floor, groaning as blood again flowed evenly to his limbs. "You will see Twilight tomorrow. Be thinking about what you're going to say, as she will be the one to decide your fate." With that, Celestia deposited some water and bread on the floor, along with a few blankets and a pillow before exiting the cell, returning to the surface.
The guard stared at Cerulean in silence as he gleaned what sustenance he could from the stale bread, relishing the water as it soothed his parched throat. He set a small amount aside for the morning and laid out the blankets which offered surprising comfort from the stone floor. The guard tensed for a break out as he removed the horn limiter, but after five minutes of nothing, he relaxed and resumed his stalwart defense of the cell.
Staring at the ceiling did little to help, and Cerulean’s mind raced to find a way to right the growing pile of errors that had created the rift between himself and Twilight. Regardless of whether or not most of it was a misunderstanding, the pain he had caused her was real, and reparations had to be made.
“If I could just find a way to tell her what’s in my heart... without saying something stupid or sarcastic, then maybe I could... wait, that’s it!” The spell was something he treasured, but rarely used. It brought back painful memories of a time when things were happy, but it was his best shot. It would be difficult, but maybe it would be enough to at least earn forgiveness for everything that was weighed against him. Twilight... I’ll find a way. A way to fix all of this, a way to undo the hurt... a way to tell you that I love you.
Twilight awoke calmly, feeling refreshed and amazed that she had managed to stay asleep for so long. It was morning the following day, meaning she probably got a good twelve hours of sleep at least. Heaving a mighty yawn she sat up, feeling confident it would be a good day of studying in peace. At least, until she saw the necklace laying on the table, and the memories came rushing back to torment her once more.
That first day, when he woke up after I let my jealousy take control, he seemed so adamant that everything was alright. But, with each passing day, it just felt like he was drifting further away. Should I have done something different? I read all those books so I could find a way to fix things, but I... must have taken too long. If that were true, then why... why is he here now? How can I ever say I’m sorry? And that mare... I just don’t know what to think about anything! She slammed her hoof to her face a good deal harder than she meant to and winced as her head throbbed for a few seconds, after which she walked to the bathroom and showered. It served as a good distraction, if only for a short time, and as she dried herself and exited the room she steeled herself for the fated reunion.
“Cerulean? Let’s go, it’s time.” He slowly stood, waiting patiently as the guards replaced his shackles and magic limiter. He marched in silence between the guards as he was led into a large audience chamber, with the princess seated in the center. There were ponies lined on either side, eyeing him with disdain and whispering quietly to one another. His heart flooded with excitement and regret as Twilight entered the room, taking her seat beside Princess Celestia and avoiding eye contact.
Cerulean's countenance fell as he noticed she wasn't wearing the necklace. The only thing she had brought with her was the book she had dropped which she set on the lectern in front of her. He sought to quell the fear and doubt that threatened to suffocate him as he desperately fought to keep his plan in mind. As the last of the ponies filed in, Celestia tapped her hoof a few times and silence descended.
"You are all here as witnesses. Twilight Sparkle alone shall be the one to judge this pony's fate, the punishment being as strict or lax as she sees fit." Celestia then nodded to Cerulean, and all eyes turned to him. "You may speak."
Cerulean, please, just give me one sign that you still care for me. I don’t want things to end like this. I don’t want you punished... I just want you back.
"Before I make my defense, I would like to ask that the magic seal be removed from my horn, as well as my shackles. If I make any attempt to escape or behave in any way that could be seen as violent, my life will be forfeit," he stated without hesitation, looking straight at Twilight who was visibly shaken by his words. She looked to Princess Celestia who gave her a slight nod, and Twilight motioned to the guards. They removed the seal and shackles and backed away slowly, ready to strike should he try anything.
Cerulean attempted to generate his magic, satisfied that it built at normal speeds. He closed his eyes, intense focus stamped on his face as he created a circle of snow around himself in preparation for his plan. However, as he recalled a spell from his past, he could feel that the strain of the spell was going to be too much were he to attempt to use it simultaneously with his snow. The room grew silent as a somber melody arose, the gentle notes resembling that of a piano and emanating from his horn. He slowly lifted his voice to match it, singing softly.
"I wandered through life,
cold and alone.
Never finding a place
that I could call home.
You gave me hope,
a will and a way,
to fight the fear inside
each and every day.
But what did you receive
but a portion of my pain?
I could never hope to escape my past
or wipe away the stain...
So I reached out my hoof,
to a shelter from the storm,
and with a touch I tore it down
consumed by hate and scorn.
I'm sorry that I hurt you,
I know I made you cry...
You know that I would understand
If you wanted me to die?
So if that's your desire,
then to the grave I'll go.
But before I leave this world,
there’s one thing you should know..."
"Twilight..." he whispered, looking her in the eyes briefly before throwing this head back and crying out his final words to the heavens, clinging to the necklace he wore about his neck.
"You're worth this,
every scar and every pain -
every time I see your smiling face.
I wouldn't trade a single second,
of the time I spent with you.
Please, just one more chance,
and I know we'll make it through!
I don't want to lose it all,
the heart that I call home.
Please, can you forgive me,
because I... don't want to be...
The final notes faded, and the only sound that remained was Cerulean's quiet weeping as he sat alone shedding tears in the snow. Twilight cracked open the book and looked down at the necklace that she had wedged inside. She took it out and fastened it around her neck before slowly approaching, her hooves making a quiet crunching on the powdery snow. She wrapped her arms around him gently, pulling his head to her heart as his tears trickled down her chest. Her own tears fell unnoticed onto his mane, as her words washed away the sorrow in a cleansing cascade of hope.
"Cerulean... You're worth every tear."