Although she was still shivering, enough energy had returned to her body to let Night Glider rise to her hooves. She looked back at the door.
“W-why was it locked?” she asked, shifting her gaze towards Princess Luna.
“Some memories remain hidden in the back of our minds,” Luna said as she stood up. “They can take many forms: forgotten incidents, repressed memories, or in your case, memories simply pushed to the side for convenience.”
“Oftentimes, we become so focused on one goal that we push aside thoughts and memories that may get in the way,” Luna said. She stomped her hoof, and the door shot off into the distance.
“Oh,” Night Glider said, looking down at her hooves. “So I’ve just been ignoring it this whole time…”
“I doubt that,” Luna replied. “At least, I do not believe you were ignoring it on purpose. I think it was your subconscious ignoring something that went against your journey.”
Night Glider continued to look down at her hooves, just thinking. Princess Luna trotted over to her and rested a hoof on her back.
“I didn’t want you to see what was behind that door all at once,” Luna continued. “It could be quite a lot for a pony to deal with all at once.”
“No,” Night Glider said. “I’m glad I saw that.”
There was a long, uncomfortable silence. Night Glider looked around: there were no doors left anywhere around her, just a vast starry emptiness. As she stared quietly at them, she could still hear voices ringing in the back of her mind.
“You’re a total weirdo!”
“Yeah, you can do everything we can do, but about half as well.”
“He said that he still doesn’t trust her.”
“You don’t belong with us. You don’t even belong in this town.”
A sudden whooshing sound rang in Night Glider’s ears. She looked up to find the door she had slammed shut was directly in front of her. She could even hear the conversations happening again from behind the door.
“Night Glider,” Luna said quietly.
“I know what I said,” Night Glider muttered. She turned away. “I said I hated Modus.”
“As I said, having to experience all of those memories at once was probably not the best for you. It will take some time for you to process everything.”
Night Glider shook her head. “No. I… I meant what I said. I really do hate Modus.”
She sighed. From afar, doors began to swirl back around the two of them, randomly opening and shutting. Night Glider looked into each one, seeing brief glimpses of Modus.
“I have some fond memories of Modus,” she said. “But only a few. So much more of it is hard for me to even think about. There were a lot of ponies who were so hostile towards me from the moment I was born, so many ponies who never gave me a chance. That’s just what Modus was like.”
“Modus has always been isolated from the rest of Equestria,” Luna said. “Outsiders are few and far in between. It is not surprising that they would treat you so differently; I doubt a pony such as yourself will ever be born in Modus again.”
“I don’t care about that!” Night Glider said. “I don’t care that I can’t do everything they can do, because no matter what happened, I still tried! I did my best to keep up with them, and a lot of the time, I did!”
Another door swirled in front of her, and swung open. For a brief second, Night Glider could make out the noise coming from behind it; the sounds of ponies yelling in a frenzied panic, and the roar of a manticore. She turned her head away, reached out, and slammed the door shut.
“But a lot of the time…” Night Glider said, her voice trailing off.
“Ponies in Modus would likely focus far more on your mistakes than your successes,” Luna said, waving her hoof and sending the door flying into the distance.
“They had been waiting for me to screw up,” Night Glider continued. “And I did. Pretty badly, too.”
“Mistakes happen,” Luna said.
“But mistakes usually don’t cost you your home!” Night Glider retorted. “I lost everything that makes me who I am for a year because of that incident. I’m only now starting to pull my life back together!” She paused for a moment, then looked back at the ground. “And… now I’m just going back to Modus. To try to start everything over again...”
Night Glider stared blankly into the distance. She sat down, and the stars slowly stopped moving in the distance, until everything around her was still. She took a long breath and exhaled slowly.
“I have no idea what I’m doing here,” she said. Princess Luna trotted over and sat down as well. “I didn’t think anything about this through, and now I’m just here, about to go back to Modus. After everything that happened, after everything they did to me, I’m going back for more.” She shook her head. “I’m so stupid.”
“Not at all,” Luna replied calmly. “It takes courage to know when you are in over your head, or have made a mistake. However, I’m not quite sure I would go that far.”
Night Glider looked up at the princess. “What?”
“I do not believe it is a mistake for you to want to go back to Modus,” Luna continued. “From what I can tell from your memories, it was a very quick, harsh end to your time there. I doubt any pony would be able to fully process everything. I think a desire to return is perfectly understandable.”
Luna stood up and waved one of her hooves. A single door came flying back, and as it opened, Night Glider could again see the mayor standing in front of the town, screaming at her. She averted her gaze.
“I don’t believe what you have been looking for is acceptance,” Luna said. With another wave of her hoof, the door slammed shut.
“Then… what am I looking for?”
Luna shook her head. “I’m afraid that that is something I am unable to answer for you.”
Night Glider lowered her head. “Oh…”
“I understand your disappointment, but as I said, I only wanted to provide you with perspective,” Luna said. “So let me ask you: what is it that you want?”
Night Glider raised her head back up and looked around the starry world she and Luna were in. In the distance she could see a few doors floating by, all shut tightly.
“I want to know where I belong,” she finally said. “After everything that’s happened over the past year, I just don’t know anymore. Modus was never that great to me, but it’s the only home I’ve ever known. And the time I’ve spent outside of Modus I was either miserable, brainwashed, or thinking about Modus.”
Luna nodded her head. “It can be difficult to know where to go next, when most of your life you have only known isolation.”
Night Glider turned to look directly in the princess’ eyes. “What do I do?”
Luna shook her head. “Again, I do not have the answer for you. And I think you know that there is only one pony who does have the ability to answer that.”
“Yeah…” Night Glider said. “Me.”
“The way I see, it you have two choices,” Luna said. She raised her hooves, and two more doors floated down from the ether. The first door opened, and Night Glider could see herself inside, trotting through the town center of Modus. “You have a path back into Modus, and you can attempt to remain. It may not work, but the fact that you were able to be let in does say that there is hope.”
“I still think that I’ll be able to talk my parents into getting the mayor to let me stay, at least temporarily,” Night Glider said. “But after everything I remember now about Modus…” she trailed off and turned away, as the door slammed shut.
Luna nodded, then waved her other hoof and the second door opened. Night Glider could see herself laying in bed, staring out of a window. She recognized the town immediately.
“The other option is to go back,” Luna continued, “and create a new life. Although it isn’t where you have spent most of your life, there is a foundation there for you to build on.”
“But then my quest to Modus has been a failure!” Night Glider replied. “I can’t just go back! Neither of these options sound good.”
Luna closed her eyes, and waved her hooves, sending the doors away. “I’m sure that is one way of looking at it.”
Suddenly, the world around her began to shake and quiver. Night Glider leapt to her hooves as one by one, the stars started to go out.
“What’s happening?” she said as she turned to Princess Luna.
“Do not worry, you are merely waking up,” Luna said. With a flap of her wings she rose into the air. “It’s time for you to make your decision.”
“But—” Night Glider said.
“I believe you have everything you need to decide your future, Night Glider,” Luna said as her body began to shimmer and fade. “But know that whatever choice you make, know that you will have to live with it.”
With that, the princess faded completely into the air. Seconds later, the rest of the world faded.
Night Glider’s eyes fluttered open. The sky was full of stars and the moon hung directly overhead. She rolled off the tree branch she had been sleeping on and landed on the soft forest ground. She looked towards the moon, which for a brief second seemed to shimmer a bit brighter than usual.
She shook the grogginess out of her head, then turned to see that torches had been lit high-up, marking out the gates. For a minute, Night Glider just watched the flicker of the flames in the distance. She gently took her locket in her hoof and shook it, the jingling sounds reverberating off the forest around her. There was nothing in any direction, save for the town in front of her.
There was a gust of wind that made the flames dance about, briefly illuminating the gates between the trees. Night Glider let go of the locket, took a deep breath, and began the walk forward.
It only took a few minutes for a single line of trees to be all that stood between her and the great town in the forest. She paused behind a tree, and closed her eyes.
“I believe you have everything you need to decide your future, Night Glider. But know that whatever choice you make, know that you will have to live with it.”
She opened her eyes and slowly walked between the trees, trying to ignore her heartbeat as she approached the gates of Modus. As she got close, one of the guards noted her, then took off into the air and over the gate. She could hear him say something behind it, and the gates swung open.
Night Glider swallowed down the lump in her throat as she stared at the entrance to Modus. The town looked like it hadn’t changed a bit; huts and other buildings dotting the ground, with numerous more suspended up in the trees. Ponies were going about their night, very few of them paying attention to the gate opening. Directly behind it was the mayor, accompanied by two guards. Night Glider stepped forward and he nodded.
“You have half an hour,” he said.
He nodded to the guards. “They are here to escort you to your parents’ home. If you wish to go anywhere else in Modus, you will need explicit permission from one of them. But I will reiterate: half an hour.”
Night Glider nodded. The two guards motioned to her, and she closely followed them as they walked into Modus. For a moment she hesitated on the threshold, but slowly lowered her hoof and placed it on the stone path.
Her heart was still pounding as she walked behind the guards and surveyed the city. There was a calming feeling in the air that quickly came rushing back to her. Modus could be so peaceful at night, even with how active it was. Night Glider closed her eyes and just took a moment to listen to the world around her. It was as if she had never left; everything was exactly as she remembered it.
The serenity was broken by whispers. She opened her eyes and glanced to the side, where she could see a few ponies perched on a low branch. One of them was pointing at her, but immediately dropped her hoof when she saw that Night Glider was staring at them. They were whispering to each other, cautiously eyeing up her and the two guards around her.
Night Glider ground her teeth together and turned back to the path, following the guards. The more their path took them through Modus, the more voices she could hear. Everywhere she looked, she could see more and more ponies staring at her. None were coming forward, none were confronting her, but it was clear that they were all watching.
She kept trotting, trying to push their whispers out of her mind and focus instead on what she was going to say to her parents. She had no idea what was going to happen when she opened the door, but she wanted to be prepared for anything.
A voice pierced through the air, shattering the serenity of the town. Night Glider glanced over to see a pony standing in the doorway to a building, his face red with rage and his yellow eyes narrowed as he glared at her. In a flash he was airborne, racing straight towards Night Glider.
She snapped to attention and her muscles tensed up. The two guards leapt in front of her, and the pony racing towards them quickly came to a halt.
“What are you doing back here?” he snarled.
“Hello, Onyx Shock,” Night Glider snarled right back. She looked him over for a second, then zeroed in on his right wing. “Your wing is healed, I see.”
“Answer my question,” he quickly replied. “What are you doing back here? You were exiled. You shouldn’t be here.”
“The mayor allowed me back in,” Night Glider said. “He gave me a half an hour to talk to my parents.”
“That is a half-hour too much,” Onyx said. “Modus doesn’t want you here anymore. Modus has never wanted you. I thought we had finally gotten rid of our problem once and for all. And yet here you are, back to screw up everyone’s life again!”
“I told you, I’m just here to talk to my parents! I’m not going to be doing anything else.”
“I don’t care what you’re here to do. Just you being here is bad enough!”
There was a long silence. Night Glider could feel the stares of the ponies who were gathering around the confrontation. She looked over at the guards, who were monitoring the situation closely.
“This is about what happened at the hunt, isn’t it?” Night Glider asked, turning back to Onyx.
“Of course it is!” he said, unfurling his wing. “We put our trust in you, and it went exactly as I expected. It took me a month before I could fly again. But make no mistake, this is about more than that. This is about your mere existence being a threat to Modus.”
“How am I a threat?”
“Because never once in your life have you been able to keep up with anypony here,” Onyx said. “Because when you were given responsibility, you got ponies hurt. And every moment you’re here increases the likelihood of it happening again.”
“I don’t see how talking to my parents is going to cause—” Night Glider stopped herself. She again glanced around to see more ponies had gathered, and she could hear the deep breaths of Onyx as he seethed. She lightly shook her head, then looked him square in the eyes.
“Look, Onyx,” she said. “I’m sorry.”
Onyx tilted his head. “Sorry?”
“I’m sorry for what happened at the hunt,” she continued. “I’m sorry that you got hurt. I’m sorry I screwed up. I’m sorry for never being able to ‘keep up’ with you. Is that what you want to hear?”
Onyx stomped his hoof. “Do you really think an apology is what I’m looking for? An apology isn’t going to undo you almost killing us!”
“It was a mistake!” Night Glider yelled. “I don’t know what else you want from me.”
“I want to never have to look at you again!” Oryx seethed. “I want to you know that you’re somewhere where you can’t screw up our lives anymore.” His eyes narrowed. “To be honest, I want to knock some damn sense into you.”
In the back of Night Glider’s mind, something snapped.
“Well if that’s what you want, what’s stopping you?” she said in a hushed tone. “But if you try, I’m going to fight back.”
Onyx bared his teeth; his fangs glistened off the torches that lined the streets. “Gladly!”
He suddenly leapt at her. Before he could get there, a figure landed between them. He extended his black wings in front of each of them.
The mayor stood between them, glaring back and forth at them. All the ponies around them immediately snapped to attention as he turned to Night Glider.
“I made a risky judgement call even allowing you back into town, Night Glider, and I am not thrilled to see that you have immediately gotten into a fight!”
Night Glider lowered her head down. Onyx Shock smirked.
“Exactly,” he said. He opened his mouth again, but the mayor turned his attention to him.
“It is not like you are fully innocent either, Onyx,” he said. “You are deliberately provoking her.”
“And challenging her to a fight?” The mayor scoffed. “There are a great many things that I feel about Night Glider. But you of all ponies should know that we do not condone physicality between our kind.”
Night Glider raised her head, to find Onyx’s eyes burning. His face was shaking with rage, and he stepped directly in front of the mayor.
“Our kind? Our kind?!” he shouted. “I would never attempt to hurt anypony in Modus. I would never harm anyone of us.” He pointed a hoof at NIght Glider. “She is not one of our kind!”
“I do not like Night Glider either,” the mayor said, “but, by blood, she is one of us.”
“I don’t care about blood! She’s just a pathetic pegasus, she will never—”
“Stop!!!” Night Glider screamed. The mayor and Onyx Shock immediately went quiet and looked at her, as did all the ponies who had gathered. She closed her eyes and shook her head. “I… I get it. I’ll never be like you guys. I’ll never be like any of you. But I don’t care!” She turned to the mayor. “I don’t care about any of that. I just want to talk to my parents.”
The mayor stoically nodded. “Good. The guards will take you there immediately. Cause no more trouble.” He glared at Onyx Shock. “That goes for you, too.”
Onyx glared back at the mayor, then at NIght Glider before he took off into the air, back to his home. He shot her one last glance before he slammed the door behind him. The guards continued their walk to her house, and Night Glider followed closely behind as the crowd dispersed.
As they approached their destination, Night Glider looked back at Modus. Ponies were still going about their night, but many of them had their attention turned towards her. As she went from pony to pony, she felt a chill on her back.
She suddenly felt very, very alone.
The guards came to a stop in front of her house. Like so much of Modus, it hadn’t changed in the least since she was last there. The guards stepped aside and she slowly made her way up the door. She took a long breath, let it out, and knocked on the door.
A few seconds ticked by before she heard the door unlock. Her heart skipped a beat as the door opened, and her parents stood on the other side.
Night Glider opened her mouth, but for a few moments, no words came. She looked at her parents for the first time in a year, but all she could focus on was the same things she had focused on when looking back at the rest of the ponies in Modus. Webbed black wings, slitted eyes, pointed ears… the feeling of loneliness had begun to melt away, yet a voice lingered in the back of her head.
She is not one of our kind!
The two bat ponies inside momentarily glanced at each other, then back out at their daughter.
“Hello, Night Glider,” the mare said.
All Night Glider could do was muster a smile.
“Hey Mom, hey Dad.”