Alfonz had been so certain. It was frustrating to think about; to think that he had been swayed this much by Luna's words. In truth, some of what he said may not have been truth, and it was something he would have to own up to should he change his mind. But even if he did not feel the same about Luna as she did about him, he couldn't help but notice he was taking her words to heart. He found himself struggling to deny her.
"Should I rethink my course of action," Alfonz began, choosing his words carefully. Already, Luna's eyes seemed to light up. "There will have to be changes. I can't live like this anymore. I don't have the willpower."
"I'm sure it will be fine," Luna responded with an eager smile. "Could you give me some examples?"
"First, I am allowed to go where ever I please, when ever I please," Alfonz stated firmly, watching as the alicorn's expression grew significantly more worried. "Unescorted."
"That can be arranged, I suppose," Luna replied, clearing her throat. He knew she was fearing for her hold on him, and he was fine with that.
"Second, should I run into trouble with the populace, I cannot be blamed for any injuries sustained defending myself."
"You are fully within your rights to defend yourself, should you believe you are in danger," Luna explained, pausing. "Within reason."
"Of course," Alfonz replied with a nod. He didn't exactly intend to maim any would-be attackers; they were small colorful equines, after all. "And you can forget the whole "Royal Consort" bullshi-...business."
Luna appeared openly alarmed at this. She gave the man a pleading, confused look.
"You no longer wish to stay in the royal palace?" she asked, trying to compose herself. "No longer be treated as a member of the royal family? No longer stay with...me?"
"I'm alright with staying in the palace, even in your room with you," Alfonz explained, conceding a bit in his demands for Luna's sake. "But if your sister or Cadance come after me again, I won't hesitate to pop them in the nose. Got it?"
"I...believe they will understand," Luna replied hesitantly, unsure. "I hope..."
"Good," Alfonz concluded, returning his gaze to the stars. "I think that will be all for now. I'm sure I'll think of something later."
"Does this mean...?"
"Yes," the man replied shortly with a sigh. "But let's just enjoy the moment, eh?"
Luna smiled widely, rubbing her head affectionately against his leg. Alfonz stifled the urge to react to his discomfort, and resigned to watch the stars with the only pony to ever show him some sense of true understanding. After what felt like eons, Alfonz released the hold he had on his own mind, watching as the dream began to melt away. Luna, still smiling contently to herself, disappeared with it, only to return a moment later, bowing her head at the man's side.
Initially, Alfonz wanted to vomit. His head was pounding, as if he had taken a serious beating; truly a far cry from the pristine, relaxing world he had just left. He groaned softly to himself, rubbing his head with his hands, trying to subdue the pain before he attempted to move.
The sound caught Alfonz by surprise, as well as sent a spike of pain through his body as the noise reacted with his headache. He held up a hand, attempting to signal for the speaker to quiet down, as he slowly sat up to observe his surroundings.
A short distance from his bed was the impressive form of Celestia herself, smiling softly at him as he turned to look at her. Initially, the man recoiled, having more than enough of the mare's presence in the past, before he remembered the conversation with Luna. Should the alicorn follow through with her end of the deal, he would no longer have a reason to fear Celestia, or any other pony for that matter.
"...Hi there..." he muttered groggily, shielding his eyes as they adjusted to the light. The pain in his skull had become a dull throbbing at this point. He noticed Luna lift up her head a few moments later, in a condition much better than his own. "How long was I out?"
"Half the day," Celestia replied, looking over to the nearby window. The sun was casting an orange glow into the room; dusk was approaching. "I presume everything has been...worked out?"
"Alfonz and I spoke for some time, and came to an agreement," Luna explained, moving around to the other side of the bed, closer to her sister. "The coma was a result of Alfonz's own inability to cope with his situation. I have assured him that I will do all that I can to make his life in Equestria easier."
"I did not realize you were under such stress, Alfonz," Celestia responded with a surprised blink. Her reaction appeared genuine; this did not stop Alfonz from scowling at her.
"Not like I tried to tell you or anything," he muttered angrily to himself, laying back down onto the pillow to rest. Despite being more or less asleep for half the day, he was already exhausted.
"Shall we discuss this agreement, while our guest recovers?" Celestia suggested, gesturing to the door with a wing. Luna nodded, and the two made their way to the exit.
"Luna," Alfonz called, stopping the mare before she strayed too far from the bed. "I have a request."
"Yes?" Luna replied, giving him an anxious smile.
"Is there any way I can counter a unicorn's magic?" he asked, giving her a stern look. Freedom was great and all, but if he could be manhandled by any unicorn with a brain, he wouldn't exactly get very far outside of the palace.
"An interesting request," she commented, surprised. "I shall look into it. For now, you should rest. You've been through a lot."
Just before the alicorn walked away, Alfonz stopped her with an arm across her chest.
"One more thing," he began, noticing that Celestia had already left the room. "About what I said, in the dream..."
"What about it?" she asked, frowning.
"I thought I was going to die," he explained, hoping that he wouldn't have to address it any further. Luna's confused stare told him otherwise. "I thought that that hilltop was the last thing I would ever see. I figured, what the hell? I had nothing to lose."
"Oh," Luna said simply, the implications gradually dawning on her. "Oh..."
"That's alright, I suppose," she sighed, giving him a soft smile. "All that matters is that you are here with us again. Perhaps, in time..."
Alfonz stared at her, unsure what to say. Luna smiled wider, and trotted out of the room.
The man spent the next hour drifting in and out of sleep. His worried, indecisive mind kept him from obtaining any peace, however. He was so close to a decent existence in Equestria, but there was still so much left uncertain. Would Celestia comply with his demand, and leave him alone? Would Luna really allow him to leave the palace grounds without an escort? Would he be able to hold off the population of Canterlot even if he did leave?
The return of Princess Luna interrupted his thoughts rather violently. As she entered, he noticed a brilliant gold necklace floating in front of her; it was adorned with various gems and other precious materials. Truly, a piece of jewelry fit for royalty.
"Here you are, Alfonz," the alicorn said as she approached, dropping the necklace into the man's lap shortly after he sat up. Alfonz examined the artifact quizzically, confused.
"This is supposed to help ward off unicorn magic?" he asked, holding the necklace in the light to better look at it. Luna nodded.
"While wearing this amulet, you will be unable to be influenced by unicorn magic," she explained. "This means that they cannot cast spells directly on you. This does not mean you will be immune to magical attacks aimed at you, however."
"That should work," Alfonz replied, pleasantly surprised. A thought occurred to him, however. "If that's the case, how did you bring it in like that?"
"The amulet will make the wearer and itself immune, but should it be removed through some other means, it can be manipulated with magic just like everything else."
"Right," he responded with a nod, carefully placing the amulet around his neck. Much to his surprise, despite being made for ponies, it fit quite well. "And you just so happened to take this priceless artifact for yourself?"
"Perks of being a princess," Luna retorted with a smile. Alfonz returned the gesture.
"I can't thank you enough," he said, striding over to look into a nearby mirror. Luna soon joined him, giving him an approving nod. He paused. "One more thing: this may protect me from unicorns, but there's still the issue of earth ponies and pegasi. I don't think I have to strength to contend with some of the more athletic kind."
"You wish to become stronger?" Luna asked, giving him an unsure look. "Isn't that overdoing it a little, Alfonz?"
"Believe me, its not," he replied, recalling the strength of Rainbow Dash and the pain he felt at the hooves of Applejack. "Besides, you want me to be safe out there, right? It's not exactly practical to train my body the usual way just to go for a stroll or go to the market."
Luna thought for several moments, pacing in a short circle around him. Eventually, she conceded.
"I think I have a spell that might help you," she explained, though she seemed unsure. "It should allow you to increase your physical attributes at will. But you must not abuse this power, Alfonz."
"I just want to live without constant fear of being attacked, not rob pony banks and steal candy from fillies."
"I trust you, love, but it is not your motives that are in danger," Luna retorted, shaking her head. "Too much could destroy your body."
"Everything comes with a price," Alfonz replied with a sigh. It didn't discourage him much, however. "I'm ready when you are."
Luna escorted the man - slowly - out of Celestia's quarters and across the palace, to a place more equipped to deal with intense spellcasting. The room itself was incredibly plain; a generic tan in color, it was completely barren other than a series of intricate runes inscribed across the floor. His alicorn guide made her way over to one near the center and stood in front of it expectantly. Alfonz joined her, standing directly on the rune itself.
"These markings are designed to make the casting of spells less taxing on the caster," she explained with a pleasant smile, while Alfonz glanced around nervously.
"Quite the creepy place, to be honest."
"It is the perfect place to conduct our business," Luna retorted. "Are you ready to begin?"
"Yes," Alfonz said, calming his own nerves. "Go for it."
Just before Luna began her work, she stopped. A few moments later, she coughed, gesturing with a wing to the amulet that still hung from the man's neck.
"Oh right," he murmured, giving her an embarrassed grin as he removed the amulet and set it aside. Luna, smirking, entered an intense focus. The princess' eyes suddenly began to glow a solid white, while her horn became a fountain of brilliant blue energy.
The amount of energy at her command made the man shrink back in fear. He knew Luna was powerful, as an alicorn pseudo-deity, but he had been lulled into thinking she was harmless, mostly by her behavior around him. The sight before him now was eye opening, to say the least.
Suddenly, all of that energy was directed toward Alfonz. He felt every muscle tense; he felt every hair on his body stand on end, energized by the spellwork. He found himself slowly rising into the air, strange energies clouding his view as he did. Despite the somewhat violent display around him, the process did not hurt; it merely left the man with a strange, almost indescribable sensation all across his body, as if he were struck with lightning, minus the pain.
Almost as soon as it had begun, it was over. Luna's form returned to normal, and Alfonz slowly returned to the slick runed floor, the energy around him fading. Despite feeling as though his hair was as rigid as a board, he didn't really notice a difference.
"Did it work...?" he asked, examining his arms. Alfonz suddenly tensed his muscles, watching in surprise and horror as they grew rapidly in size. As soon as he relaxed, his arms returned to normal, and he felt quite sore as a result.
"It speaks for itself, does it not?" Luna replied with a grin, proud of her work. Suddenly, she grew very serious. "Remember what I said, Alfonz. Do not abuse what I have given you. I do not wish to lose you again."
"I promise to use this responsibly," Alfonz assured with a nod, not sure what to think. He was a little frightened by his own display, and didn't exactly like the idea of doing it again...