Twilight furrowed her brow as Rarity excused herself, followed by the sound of her running out the door. An awkward silence hung in the air. She turned towards Applejack’s and Fluttershy’s voices curiously, “What was that about?”
“I don’t know, sugarcube. Smooth as apple crumble, that one,” Applejack replied, sounding confused and perturbed.
Twilight sighed and shook her head, “Was it me?”
Am I already a burden on you?
“Don’t be silly! I’m sure Rarity just had some stuff she needed to take care of like... lockin’ her laundry in the pantry,” Applejack replied, sounding more confused as she quoted Rarity.
Twilight nodded slowly. In truth, she didn’t believe it. It had to be something about her. Perhaps Rarity had simply found the situation too awkward. Maybe that was why Rainbow Dash left as well.
Twilight forced a smile, “I guess you’re right, Applejack.”
“Maybe they’re planning something?” Fluttershy’s voice quietly sounded.
“Like what, sugarcube?” Applejack asked.
“I don’t know... maybe they’re helping Pinkie with the party... or... something.”
Twilight couldn’t help but giggle, “Do you remember the last time either of those two helped with a party? Rainbow Dash set traps in everything in her party, and Rarity refused to let her party go ahead due to the colour of the curtains.”
The amusing thought of Rainbow Dash’s desire to prank everypony conflicting with Rarity’s decorative ideals appeared in to Twilight’s mind. She could only imagine the drama those two could conjure up if it ever came to that.
Twilight leaned back in to her bed and smiled genuinely, the thought struck an amusing chord.
“I hope they’ve found far better things to do.”
Rainbow Dash huddled under her blue cloak, stealthily sneaking around the corner. Each step, each breath was as important as her life. One mistake could cost her everything. If she was seen, her entire life would be over.
She peaked around the corner to find nopony looking at her. Slowly, carefully she approached her destination, following the route she had mentally planned before entering this treacherous and forsaken area.
She slowly placed the book on the table in front of her, pushing it across to the colt at the other end. She pulled the hood further over her face, hunching down to further hide her features. She glanced around once more, taking a deep breath.
“I’d like to buy this.”
The store owner cocked a brow at the odd behaviour, “That’ll be 15 bits,” he looked over the cover and smiled, “I’ve read this, it’s a good one. Granted, I’m more in to Clove Cutter, myself. Have you read his work?”
Rainbow Dash shook her head, throwing the bits on to the counter, “No, I haven’t.”
The cash registered clanged loudly at the transaction, causing Rainbow Dash to look around desperately.
“We have a few of his books down on the shelf to the right. If you’re interested—”
“No! It’s fine!” Rainbow Dash quickly stuffed the book in to her bag, turning to hurry out the door.
She froze, the colour in her face draining, Oh no.
“Rainbow Dash!” Pinkie Pie shouted loudly, “What are you doing here? I didn’t know you came here! Do you come here often? You know this is a book store, right?” She bounced up to her friend and gave her a hug.
Rainbow pushed Pinkie back and flailed her hooves in front of her mouth, vainly trying to quiet her, “Sssh! Pinkie Pie, be quiet! I don’t want anypony knowing I’m here!” She hissed, hunching under her hooded jumper.
“Why? Oh! Are you on a secret mission? I thought Rarity was too, she was running like it was the end of the world or something, but it wasn’t, she just said she had to come to the book store!”
Rarity shook her head, pushing passed the pink mare with a bemused look. She stared at Rainbow for a while, incredulous shock reaching on to her face. The sharp gasp she gave left one to wonder if it was truthful, or an attempt to draw attention to her obviously unwilling friend.
Rainbow sighed, retracting the hood around her shoulders. There was little use in trying to hide it now. “Hello, Rarity,” she sulked, her cheeks burning.
Rarity’s facial expressions contorted rhythmically between confusion and amusement, “What on earth are you doing here, dear?”
Rainbow noticed the book levitating in front of the unicorn, gesturing at it with a hoof, “I could ask you the same question. I’ve never seen you read.”
“Actually,” Rarity huffed, “I’m quite fond of romance novels.”
“Fifty Shades of Hay?” Rainbow snickered. Fifty Shades of Nay, more like it.
Rarity seemed hurt, choosing not to respond to that, “That’s not at all why I’m here. Twilight is due to be released soon, and I couldn’t bring myself to know that there would be nothing for her when she returned home.” She held the book up with an accomplished smile, “as it happens, this store has a small amount of books in Praille.”
Rainbow Dash cocked a brow, “I didn’t know that.”
She had only heard of Praille in passing, the books transcribed for sightless ponies. The subject was briefly covered in the school curriculum in Cloudsdale, however sleep had been far more entertaining.
“You wouldn’t, dear. It’s something you have to know, rather than something you would find. Now, you didn’t answer my question, what are you doing here?”
Rainbow Dash lowered her head, her cheeks burning hotter, “I bought another book,” she muttered quickly in to her jumper, in a similar vain to Fluttershy.
“I’m sorry dear, what was that?” Rarity learned closer.
“I bought another book,” Dash repeated quickly.
Rarity pulled her head back in surprise, screeching loudly, “Really! Well, this is astonishing. Which one?”
Dash sighed, “The first book in the Flight Angel trilogy.” She glanced behind over her shoulder to Pinkie, who had taken it upon herself to begin telling the cashier how his store would look far better with various party props and music.
Rarity seemed disappointed, “I see.” She moved passed Rainbow Dash to the cashier and smiled, going about her transaction.
Pinkie continued talking.
“How’s Twilight doing?” Rainbow asked, “Any better?”
Rarity smiled at the cashier, claiming her book. She motioned for the three mares to leave the store, “Her parents came to visit from Canterlot. Apparently, she didn’t tell them, or her brother.” Rarity glanced worriedly at her friend as they exited through the door.
Dash frowned, “That sucks. Even my family knew when I broke my wing. She’s stressing over the Princess again, isn’t she?” There was a slight amusement in Dash’s voice.
Twilight had proven time and again that Princess Celestia was her idol, and had come to believe that disappointing her was a fate far worse than being locked in a dungeon, exiled, or exiled and then locked in a dungeon. Dash had always wondered where Twilight’s priorities lay.
“Precisely. The poor dear. On the bright side, she mentioned to us that she would like you to continue Daring Do.”
Rainbow Dash smiled wide, “Really? Cool! We were getting to a really good part, too!”
Rarity giggled, “Yes, dear. Anyway, I’m on my way back to the hospital again. I needed to get this before the store closed. Would you like to come with me?”
Dash considered for a moment, and shook her head, “I dunno, Rarity. I mean, I really gotta check up on the weather patrol. Last time I was gone for a while, they completely screwed up the schedule.” She cringed at the memory of coming home to find the majority of Ponyville suffering weather damage.
Rarity rolled her eyes, “Then you’d best see to it.”
“I remember that! My Pinkie Sense was going off like crazy for the whole week! And then it stopped, like, poof!” Pinkie raised her hooves in the air and fanned them back to her sides in emphasis. “Oh, Dash, I need two jars of rainbows, can you get them?”
Rainbow Dash furrowed her brow scrutinisingly, “What do you need those for? You know they’re not made for any use outside of making rainbows.”
Pinkie Pie smiled and gave Dash a few pats on the head, “Don’t you worry about that. I’ve got it all figured out!”
Dash scowled as she fixed her mane, “Figured what out?”
“How to make Twilight see, silly! If we make her drink the rainbows, she’s bound to see again, with all that colour inside of her!” Pinkie sat on her flanks and smiled accomplishedly.
Rainbow tilted her head, her mind slowly clicking in to place as to what had been put forward. Pegasi were often very protective of their rainbows, and only ever used them for their designed purpose. Little research had been taken in to their use outside of rainbows. What had been tried, often failed, and was given the same conclusion: rainbows are spicy.
“Just you wait! You’ll see her so happy and bouncy, and we’ll have a party about how she can see again,” Pinkie ended her sentence with an upwards inflection, as if she were about to continue. Instead, she smiled and bounced off down the street.
Rainbow Dash stared at Pinkie incredulously as she bounced out of sight. She looked to Rarity, who had mimicked her exact expression. She could feel her brow furrowing further as so many unanswered questions piled around her.
“Are you going to get them?” Rarity asked simply.
“I can try... I don’t think I’ll be successful, though. You saw how many ponies work the rainbows, it’s pretty hard to be around when nopony is looking. I might be able to get one, even that’s a stretch.” Rainbow Dash shrugged, “It’s not like any harm can come from it, ‘cept maybe keeping a bucket of water around.”
Rarity cringed, “Oh my, you’re right.” She glanced at the clock in the distance, “I’d best head back now. Do come down and see Twilight when you can.”
Rainbow Dash nodded, flying off in to the sky. She sighed deeply as she entered the empty skies, her isle of solitude, her ‘happy place.’ It was a place where nopony could bother her, or distract her from her thoughts. In this vast expanse, there was no danger of being discovered sleeping, or simply staring off in to space. Up here, she was a needle in a haystack.
She alighted on a cloud and lay down, watching as the ant-like ponies went about their business before the sun went down.
So what if she lied about going to the weather factory, it wasn’t as if it mattered right now. The depression in Twilight’s room had really cut through her. It was almost as if nopony was in the room at all. It had been like sitting in a room, by yourself, for the entirety of her stay. Yet, she couldn’t bring herself to leave.
“Hey Twi’? Hello?” Rainbow Dash prompted from the side of her friend’s bed. Twilight had been completely silent since they’d arrived. Despite three epic chapters of Daring Do, Twilight hadn’t even grunted. She hadn’t even smiled as Dash donned their Daring Do hats again.
Rainbow Dash sighed, “C’mon, Twi’, It’s getting good.” She knew it wasn’t the best time to lighten the mood, however, it was the only thing she could think of to feel useful, “I mean, she punched a Sphinx in the face! How cool was that?”
Twilight didn’t respond.
“Hey, Dash? This is a bad time for that.” Spike croaked from his chair. Spike had barely said anything, himself. He only sat on the chair, staring at the back of Twilight’s head with a haunted expression.
Rainbow Dash sighed and shook her head, “Fine. I better go and do stuff anyway.”
She had been insulted. She knew, deep in her mind, that it wasn’t Spike’s or Twilight’s intention, and that ultimately, she would chalk it up as being a stupid reaction. For now, it only hurt. She couldn’t do anything to help, and simply just ‘being there for her,’ wasn’t working out either.
Admittedly, it was relieving to hear Twilight talking again. Yet, she wanted it to be her that managed to do that. Another trophy on her wall, and another medal around her neck: Rainbow Dash, the mare who helped her friend!
That didn’t happen.
Maybe, it didn’t need to. Maybe instead, she should simply be happy that her friend’s mood was improving slowly. The fact that Twilight had sat up, should be a blessing in itself. Maybe, she should be happy that Twilight won’t simply be moping around for the rest of her life.
Rainbow raised her head with a smile. That’s how it should be.
“Ms. Sparkle?” The doctor walked in with a smile, “You’ll be able to leave in the morning. As soon as we finalise these tests, you’re free to go. However, I cannot stress how important it is that you understand your condition thoroughly.”
Applejack gave him a cool look as he calmly explained the situation. She wasn’t impressed that he could explain it as an everyday occurrence. Somepony’s life had been changed forever, and he treated it with little more emotion than another fact.
“I’m going to leave these brochures with your belongings on the chair here,” he produced the same information that Rarity had picked up in the lobby, placing it gently on top of Twilight’s saddlebags.
Applejack assumed that Spike had brought the bags over during one of his visits.
“Why can’t she leave now?” She inquired, raising her brow. Surely the doctor knew who his patient was.
“As I just said, we have tests we need to finalise,” the doctor replied impatiently, “also, one of our specialists will be teaching Ms. Sparkle various spells and ways to help cope with her new lifestyle.”
“Actually,” Twilight said, “I know the Praille spell, as well as the spell for echolocation,” she smiled.
Applejack nodded, “It wouldn’t be surprisin’, actually. See, Twilight is the Princess’s student.” She crossed her arms, nodding once again to further emphasise her point.
The doctor paused, seemingly considering the situation, “Be that as it may, we will still need to go over it. It is procedure, after all.”
Applejack rolled her eyes. She knew Twilight was smart enough to be able to take care of herself for the most part, or at least figure out new ways to cope on her own. Applejack almost felt insulted for her friend. Yet, Twilight only nodded in response. She didn’t look particularly hurt by the insinuation.
“Do you have any more questions?” The doctor asked, glancing to each pony individually. He tapped his hoof on the ground rhythmically.
“No, thank you.” Twilight said.
“You’re sure she can be released tomorrow?” Applejack asked, quirking a brow.
“Yes. If all goes well, she can be out by mid day,” The doctor replied, giving a quick glance to Fluttershy, who had fallen silent once again, “If that’s all, then I’ll see you tonight, Ms. Sparkle. I expect the specialist will be here before then.” He gave a final nod of acknowledgement to Applejack and Fluttershy before leaving.
Applejack looked between Fluttershy and Twilight as the doctor left the room. Fluttershy had moved over to Twilight’s side, looking over her friend with gentle eyes. Every time she met with the unicorn’s eyes, she would turn away.
“It’s okay,” Twilight said, “it’s part of the necessary procedure. I would prefer to know that I have everything under control. Who knows, maybe I’ll learn something new.” She forced a laugh.
Applejack nodded, “If you say so, Twilight. I’m still sure you’re capable.”
“Well,” Twilight shrugged, “at least I’ll know that I have everything under control.”
“Y’r sure y’r not tellin’ the Princess?” Applejack asked with a concerned sigh, “She’d be might peeved if she found out, y’know.”
“She won’t find out,” Twilight replied simply. Her response was filled with far more confidence than it warranted.
“What makes you think that? She’s the Princess after all.”
“Because,” Twilight’s paused made Applejack twist her lip, “I know that I can handle it.”
“I don’t reckon you can, sugarcube. No offense, but she’s kinda cluey on this stuff.”
Twilight shook her head, “I can do it, I just—”
The room jumped as Rarity burst in to the room, panting heavily as she halted at the foot of Twilight’s bed. Her magic faltering as she held a large book in front of her. She forced a smile, catching her breath before managing to speak.
“I... found you... this!” She said between breaths.
Applejack furrowed a brow at Rarity’s lack of stamina, “What is it?”
“P-Praille! It’s a book... in--in Praille!” Rarity managed to sound accomplished during her gagging.
Twilight sat up quickly, a mixture of excitement and apprehension in her face. She leaned forward, smiling wide. Her eyes lit up in a reminiscent way of Twilight Sparkle before this accident.
Applejack smiled. The Twilight they knew was still there, only different now. Given the right opportunities and facilities, Twilight Sparkle would always be herself.
“That’s amazing! How on earth did you come across it?” Twilight’s bright eyes stared directly at Rarity.
Applejack felt uncomfortable seeing Twilight ‘look’ at Rarity. The knowledge that Twilight couldn’t see her friend, made her gaze suddenly seem distant.
“Oh, you know, dear. Around.” Rarity smiled, shrugging off any expectant look as she laid the book open in front of the unicorn, “There you go, dear. I hope you find it interesting, at least. It’s on the biological differences and functions of earth ponies, pegasii and unicorns.” She took Twilight’s hoof with her own, placing it on the page.
Applejack craned her neck, examining the open page. She had never seen a book in Praille before, let alone seen a pony read something from it.
The immediate difference was the type of paper used. It was thicker, with a yellow hue. She noticed the engraved letters on each of the page. It was written entirely in their language, yet each letter had been indented in to the paper, leaving a deep engraving.
The engravings made it somewhat harder to read, seeing the words physically, and without ink. It was almost like reading a plaque or engraving on a statue. The more she looked at it, the easier it became to read.
Twilight took no time in lighting her horn, using her hooves to touch around various points of the page. The book began to shimmer with the familiar light of Twilight’s magic, as every etched letter lit up fiercely. Her eyes focussed on it, following each word on the page.
Rarity, Applejack and Fluttershy exchanged a worried look as Twilight became silent. Both her horn and the book had dulled to a low shimmer.
“Twilight?” Rarity prompted, “Can you... do you?”
Twilight smiled up at Rarity, although a disappointment prevailed in her features, “Yes... although not well. I only knew the spell; I never had a chance to practice it.” The disappointment faded from her face, “With practice, it won’t be a problem.”
Rarity leaned forward as Twilight reached out to her, pulling her in to a tight embrace. Despite Twilight’s awkward position on the bed, she managed to hold the hug for a while, “Thank you. Thank you so much.”
Rarity squeaked as Twilight’s embraced tightened, “You’re welcome, dear.” She patted the unicorn on the back before pulling back with a gasp.
Applejack grinned, “Well what do you know, it looks like things mighten be so bad after all.” She felt a pang of guilt as the words left her mouth. If she was wrong, would they hold it against her? The inherent silence in the room further fuelled her worry.
“Yes, well,” Rarity smiled, brushing her hair with a comb she apparently pulled from thin air, “I’m glad you like it, Twilight. I’m just glad that I was able to make it in time. “
Twilight smiled, “This... is wonderful, Rarity. Thank you.”
“Would you like to hear some?” Twilight sounded so hopeful in those words, like a little filly who had just learned how to help around the house.
The three friends nodded, sharing the same smile, “Sure, Twilight.”
Twilight sat on the edge of her bed pensively, her horn lighting up every few minutes, and dying down quietly. Fluttershy watched her quietly, not wanting to interrupt her thoughts or spells she was attempting.
The yellow mare had promised to come down today, to help Twilight get home safely. Today was the day they had been waiting for. Twilight would be free to resume life outside the hospital, in hopes that things wouldn’t prove to be too difficult.
Twilight had voiced a few objections to her life, as her mind continued to process to realisation that there were changes that needed to be made. Yet, her thoughts still seemed overly raddled and confused, as her objections often conflicted with themselves, leaving her friends confused and unable to help.
Fluttershy felt a great sorrow for her friend, finding the thought of being blind to be one of the most frightening things she could ever have to live with. To never be able to see her animal friends again would tear her apart, let alone allow her to live the lifestyle she maintained. It was in this, that she found sympathy, and almost pity, for her friend. She had to make sure that Twilight was safe and sound.
Twilight nodded, “I think I’m getting it. It’s not an easy spell, but... I’m getting the hang of it.”
Fluttershy smiled, “That’s wonderful, Twilight. Does it... hurt?”
Twilight gave her a quizzical look.
Fluttershy waved her hooves in the air defensively, “I mean the spell. Does it hurt?”
Twilight shook her head, “No. It’s disorientating, for now.”
When Twilight had first tried the spell, she marvelled at what she could see, claiming it to be like looking at a sketch. However, her magic quickly halted as she dizzily held her forehead.
“Will it get better?” Fluttershy asked.
Fluttershy stopped herself as she began to ask yet another question. She had asked too many already. Instead, she took to staring out the door, waiting for the doctor to finally give the word that they could make the trip home.
In truth, Fluttershy had little idea of how she was going to lead Twilight home. The only viable option seemed to give Twilight her tail to cling on to, despite how demeaning that would be.
“Ms. Sparkle, it looks like you’re free to go!” The doctor smiled widely, “Your back will heal itself eventually, just make sure to take it easy. As for everything else, if you ever find yourself in need of support, you only need to contact one of the contacts on the brochure.” He took the papers from the clipboard at the end of Twilight’s bed with his magic, folded them, and tucked them in his shirt pocket.
Twilight tentatively slid off the bed, and stretched her legs. It was the first time Fluttershy had seen Twilight walk since the accident. She had no trouble standing, at least.
Fluttershy brought over Twilight’s saddlebags, fastening them securely around her torso. She had packed the ‘get well soon’ gifts in the two bags without too much trouble. However, she’d taken it upon herself to carry the flowers in her own bags. They seemed too fragile and precious to pack with everything else.
“Thank you, doctor,” Twilight replied. “You’ll forgive me if I say I don’t hope to see you soon.”
The doctor chuckled, “I hope so too, Ms. Sparkle. Please, do take care of yourself.”
“Fluttershy?” Twilight looked straight ahead, passed the doctor.
Fluttershy came from behind Twilight, “I’m here, Twilight. How um... would you like me to lead you?”
“Let’s try talking, first,” Twilight said. “If that doesn’t work, we’ll try something else. I’ll need to practice the spell before I use it outside.”
Fluttershy nodded, cringing at the thought of her friend’s safety being entirely in her hooves. It was a disconcerting thought that if Twilight were to trip, or walk in to a wall, it would be her fault. “Okay, um... the door is in front of you. Just... need to... walk through it.”
To her relief, Twilight managed to walk through the opened door without any trouble, taking a slow and steady pace until she heard Fluttershy’s voice tell her to continue walking forward. It didn’t seem as hard as she’d originally imagined it to be, however she dreaded the inevitability that they would need to do this the entire way back to the library.
Leaving the hospital hadn’t been particularly hard, despite Twilight almost colliding with a tray of food. Fluttershy felt oddly accomplished, in being able to help her friend, yet she couldn’t shake the feeling that she was treating her like one of her animals.
“So, if I remember rightly, the ducks would fare far better at the west side of the pond, as opposed to the east. That is at least, what my books have said,” Twilight smiled toward her, slowly walking diagonally again.
Fluttershy smiled, “Oh... um, yes. I’ll try that. Move slightly to your left, Twilight. You’re... heading across the road... again.”
Twilight stomped a hoof with a groan. She was able to walk in a straight line for a time until she started talking to Fluttershy again. Apparently, facing who she was talking to, did little to help her innate sense of direction.
Her frustration had been growing each time Fluttershy had corrected her direction.
Twilight stopped and shook her head, “I’m sorry, Fluttershy. This is... it’s just so hard. I don’t know where I am, or which direction I’m facing. I try to feel as if I’m walking straight, or in the right direction and I just... can’t.”
Fluttershy stopped beside her friend, draping a wing over her side, “It’s not... that bad. You’ll get used to it.”
Twilight frowned, “It’ll never be the same. Where are we?”
Fluttershy looked around, “We’re near Sugarcube Corner. Your house isn’t too far from here.”
Twilight nodded and sighed deeply, “Let’s keep going.”
Twilight began walking forward, leaving Fluttershy sitting on the ground behind her. It took the yellow mare a quick trot to catch up with her, once she realised they were moving again.
“If we keep following this road, it won’t be too long until we reach the library,” Fluttershy said gently, “Sugarcube Corner is on your left.”
A small smile crawled on Twilight’s face. She seemed to appreciate the extra effort of the visual descriptions. Fluttershy’s mind dug deeply for as much detail as she could muster, trying to find as many landmarks and descriptions as she could possibly think of.
Calmness began to set in between the two, as the connection grew stronger. Twilight hadn’t once looked towards Fluttershy, yet she had heard every word. She began to question things, asking for more detail. This made Fluttershy smile, her fear slowly beginning to drain as she adapted to what Twilight both desired and required.
If Twilight began walking diagonally again, even slightly, Fluttershy found it far easier to change her descriptions to help the unicorn right herself, rather than to simply call her out on it.
“We’re walking past Sugarcube Corner now. Some ponies are lining up through the door, I think there must be a new recipe. Your library is barely visible in the distance, but it’s there. Be careful, there are rocks there... that’s right. The road is going slightly left now...” Fluttershy announced as they walked side by side. She hadn’t ever thought of describing things, or having spoken so often. Yet, Twilight needed and appreciated her effort, and that was enough.
Fluttershy continued quietly as Twilight began talking once more, “So, I was wondering... do you know what Pinkie has planned?”
“There are two ponies on our right – I don’t know. I think she was going to invite everypony to Sugarcube Corner for a private party. – On your left, there are some bushes. Be careful not to walk over them...”
Twilight twisted her lip, “I’m slightly concerned about what she has planned. Things are... different now, and I don’t know if she understands that. She barely visited me in the hospital.” She sounded disappointed and hurt.
“I don’t know.” Fluttershy responded simply, describing the slight change in the path’s texture.
“I guess Pinkie Pie is just being Pinkie Pie,” Twilight said with contempt.
Fluttershy couldn’t respond to that. She had no desire to speak ill of her friends. Instead, she continued to describe the local scenery as they continued down their path.
They arrived at the library with an audible sigh of relief. The journey had been more taxing than a simple stroll through the town as they had been accustomed to. She felt accomplished in lending a hoof to her friend, as well as managing a way for both of them to manage to walk together.
Fluttershy opened the door at Twilight’s request, using a hoof to guide her through the entrance.
“Spike, I’m home!”