Leaving Spike and Firebolt alone to 'get acquainted', Nightshade, the mane six, and Scootaloo headed into town. Pinkie had finally licked off the last of the syrup, but Dash was still wearing the pin in her mane.
"Oh, Dashie, I thought you didn't like girly things." He said teasingly.
"It's not girly, it's awesome! It's a Wonderbolt's pin, and I wear it proudly." She defended herself.
"I say, it really does look quite fetching my dear." Rarity added. "Well, Shade did always have an eye for fashion."
"Speaking of having an eye for something, Rarity, has Spike still been chasing you around like a love sick puppy?" He asked.
"Oh, goodness no. About 8 months ago he gave up. I do kind of miss the attention, but, we're just not meant for each other." She said, musing.
"Ah, so, going after a handsome prince?" He asked. Rarity looked on in memory, then shuddered. She had just remembered something particularly unpleasant.
"Well, let's just say I have lowered my standards quite a bit. Who needs royalty anyway?" She said.
"I findst the fact that thine opinion of royalty is as such quite disturbing." We all looked behind, to see none other than Luna standing behind us.
"Oh, princess, that's not at all what I meant. What I meant was..." Rarity looked nervous.
"Oh relax, I know you're talking about Blueblood. I never could stand him, spoiled little brat." Luna had apparently taken up her sister's hobby.
"Hello there my little Loony, how have you been these past two years?" Everyone but Luna seemed shocked with how he was speaking to the princess.
"Quite well, Shady. Since you trapped Nightmare, the whole of Equestria seems much brighter. And now that it is, how you said, buried eight miles under my sister's bedroom, things are looking much brighter still." She replied with a laugh. She knew how much he couldn't stand that nickname, it made him sound like a kid. Well, Luna always childlike, despite being several thousand years old. Ah, the young at heart.
"She took that seriously? I figured she'd just lock it up somewhere, but it's actually in the mountain under Canterlot castle? I guess that's her way of playing a joke on me. So, will you be attending Pinkie Pie's party in a week?" Nightshade asked.
"Actually, no. Neither myself nor my sister will be able to make it to Ponyville on that date, in fact, all of you are required to come to Canterlot on that occasion. If you must, you may host the party there." Pinkie's eyes lit up and her face had her signature 'Imma throw the biggest party ever' look. They all agreed, and Pinkie went to tell Spike and Firebolt.
"Say, before we go further into town, what have Applebloom and Sweetie Belle been up to?" He asked.
"Applebloom is at the farm right now, she's running an interior decorating business out of it." Applejack said.
"Sweetie Belle was on tour, but she's in Ponyville, at my boutique. We were actually planning on heading off to Canterlot in three days to celebrate your birthday. Oh dear, neither of them know you're back yet. We should go tell them!" Rarity exclaimed. With that, the two each headed off to their own place of residence, agreeing to meet up at the library.
"Nightshade, are you, okay?" Twilight asked. "You seem a lot, happier, then you were before. Not that there's something wrong with that."
"Well, when you spend two years in stone, you tend to get bored. I guess I'm just really happy to be out. I had to make up all sorts of games, that also got boring after a while. I may have gone slightly crazy in there, but when I came out, I was a little more like Pinkie Pie. I understand your concern though. I mean, I did just eat an ancient unspeakable evil, then came out of it more chipper than a chipmunk. Maybe I should have the princesses give me a check up? You know, make sure I don't get indigestion?"
The way he spoke about eating Nightmare like it was a tub of ice cream made everyone laugh. Sure, he was a little different, and a lot happier, but what didn't he have to be happy about? He was out of stone, Nightmare was gone forever, he was surrounded by friends, he had the worlds softest feathers, which he continually HAD to touch, just loving their feel. Fluttershy also kept rubbing against them. At first, she was worried that he might get annoyed, but when he wrapped his wing around her to make it easier for her to do, she lost all her embarrassment.
"You know, I just can't get over how much I love these wings. Still, if I had to choose, I would have picked the past two years with you all instead of them." Everyone gave an 'awww'
"Didn't really get a choice though." Nightshade looked a little sad, but then perked up. "Oh, and I'll have to do something about these teeth. They really look like a monster's, like they're meant for eating ponies. While they look awesome, I don't want to go around scaring everyone. Hmm, I guess they'll get used to it in time though, I mean, they probably won't even notice since my wings and all." He said, mostly to himself. Once again, being in solitude had made him start talking to himself. He was so distracted that he didn't even notice he had been tackled by two of the crusaders.
"Nightshade!" They both screamed.
"Hey kids, although, I guess you aren't kids anymore are you? Geez! Scoots joins the Wonderbolts only 3 years after learning to fly, you're running your own interior decorating business out of the old barn, and you're a famous singer? I go away for two years and look at you! You're all grown up, Spike's grown up, everything has changed!" Nightshade said.
"Actually, one thing hasn't changed." Then he kissed Fluttershy on the cheek, making her blush. "God she is cute when she does that." He received stares from everyone present. "I said that out loud again didn't I? Doesn't matter!" He grabbed Fluttershy under his arm, and tucked his wing around her, letting her nuzzle in the soft feathers.
"I've missed you all so much!" He had a tear in his eye, but it was a tear of joy.
The sound of whirring machines was overwhelming, light poured out of the contraption, blinding any who dared to look at it. A small explosion, then darkness.
"Damn it! So close! Shut it down. We'll fix the machine, make some modifications, and try it again next week!"
Spike and Firebolt caught up with the rest of them, who were walking quite slowly. They kept glancing at each other, and blushing slightly. Figures the dragon and the fire ball would fall in love. After a full round of introduction to their new friend, Luna left, headed back to Canterlot.
"See ya later Loony."
"See ya later, Shady." They teased each other so much. When Firebolt asked a strange question.
"So, are you and the princess lovers or something? From the way you talked with her, you seem closer than 'just friends'."
"Lovers? No. Although she tried during mating season, I made it quite clear who my heart belongs to." Nightshade said glancing at Fluttershy. "I still get the feeling Luna likes me, but I can't tell if it's real, or she just likes to tease. She still is a kid inside after all, and likes to cause embarrassment, just like her sister. Which means when you meet them at Canterlot, keep an eye out. They'll probably try some sort of prank, they always do." Firebolt was happy to have an advanced warning.
"Also, you may want to stick with Spike. Since he's the only one of us who's fireproof, I'm sure he'll take care of you well. Won't you Spike." He said, giving him a 'go get her tiger' look. Firebolt got a little embarrassed and blushed, and started to flare up..
"Maybe I shouldn't do that." He said, not wanting to burn the town down. "I just remembered something. Isn't the day we had planned for the party, the same day that we all have to go to Canterlot instead, also the same day as the Grand Galloping Gala?" Everyone got a look of sheer dread on their faces, save for Nightshade, Spike, and Firebolt. They all remembered how dreadful it had been, Spike didn't see the commotion because he was in a doughnut shop the whole time, and neither Nightshade nor Firebolt had ever been.
"What's with the long faces?" (Lol, horse joke)
"Well, it's just that the gala is so dreadfully dull." Rarity spoke up, clearly not telling the whole story.
"A whole bunch a fancy ritzy type folk that don't got their heads on straight." Applejack added.
"It's a party, but it's not fun." Pinkie Pie, looking glum.
"It was.... nice...." Fluttershy, saying nice in the way she did when you knew she hated something.
"Yeah, we only FINALLY had some fun once everyone did what I intended all along." Spike piped up.
"Still going on about that Spike?" Twilight growled.
"Hey, I don't see what the problem is, I mean, how bad can it be when you're surrounded by your friends? Why don't we all go, together. It's sure to be much more fun that way." Nightshade's idea wasn't bad. Everyone else looked at him with an 'If you only knew' look.
"Well, I'm actually performing at the gala." Sweetie Belle said.
"And I was hired to do the decorating." Applebloom added.
"Me and Dash are in the Wonderbolts, and were performing again this year, so we kind of have to be there.
"I got hired to bring the food!" Pinkie squealed. Everyone knew she'd be eating most of it anyway.
"Really? I think I've got an idea. How many of you know how to play an instrument?"