Shylight - Chapter Seven - I'm Not Enough
A month passed by for all involved. The Princesses had been spending their time scouring the Everfree when they had any spare time at all. They had tested hundreds of plants, insects and various other substances found there to see if any were the cause.
None had proved to be the cause.
"This is frustrating," Princess Celestia said as she picked yet another flower. "There are literally millions of things in this forest between flora and fauna... add other substances such as blood or excretions, and that number just skyrockets. I never thought I'd ever have cause to say this in my lifetime, but this may be a lost cause."
"Sister... we cannot simply give up," Princess Luna said. "We have two ponies depending on us... three if you consider Shylight herself. You've never given up in your life on anything. This would be a horrible time to pick up that bad habit."
"You may be right..." Celestia said, though her confidence that they would find the missing piece of the puzzle was waning. Sighing, she picked up another specimen. "We should head back to the castle for the day and test these things we've found, see if any of them are the cause."
Luna sighed. "Okay, Sister... but that doesn't mean we're giving up, right?"
"Would you really search this place for all eternity, looking for one needle among all this hay?" Celestia said, partially equating the current situation to an old metaphor.
"As far as either of us know, we do have eternity to search," Luna said, "but Shylight doesn't. We must continue."
"Then we'll be back out here at the same time tomorrow," Celestia sighed as she leaped up into the sky.
Luna sighed. "I know this is starting to wear on you, Sister... but we can't stop now," she thought as she too leaped into the air, dodging tree branches and indigenous birds until she reached the open sky.
Shylight was going about her daily routine in Ponyville. Having spent the morning sorting books with Angel and Spike, she was heading to the Carousel Boutique to meet up with Rarity for their weekly spa trip. While they had mutually agreed to put it off until Shylight felt ready to resume the activity, Shylight was ready to try to get some normality back into her life.
As she arrived at the Boutique, she knocked on the door... then freaked out from the noise.
There was no response - nopony was responding... it was complete silence. She couldn't even hear the clopping of hooves against floor.
She knocked again. There was no response this time either. "Rar-Rarity?" she squeaked. "Are you there? It's Shylight... I-I'm here for our weekly spa trip..."
There was still no response.
Shylight looked over to the window. All the lights were out, and then she noticed the "Closed" sign. "Oh... she must be g-gone already..." She turned to go to the spa to see if Rarity had already went on her own.
Both Princesses coughed as yet another test of the materials from the Everfree blew up in their faces. Their plan was to take flowers that did not appear in the Everfree - specifically, two types whose only relation was that they were both flowers - and teleporting them with various substances from the Everfree Forest.
None of the experiments had yielded a hybrid as of yet. Some of them survived the teleport... but most would end up resulting in something catastrophic.
"Well, it's not leaves of Poison Joke," Celestia said, laughing nervously.
"There's only manticore saliva left from today's samples," Luna deadpanned as she magically cleared the soot from her face. She waved an attendant over, then whispered to him. He left in a hurry.
"What was that about?" Celestia asked, her mood lightening from earlier.
"I had the servant fetch us some antidote from the Royal Infirmary," Luna said. "Poison Joke likes to play tricks on ponies who touch it, remember? We must be careful in case its ashes can have the same effect."
"True," Celestia said. "It would be tragic if you ended up shrunken to the size of a field mouse."
"Or if your tongue became so large that you couldn't speak, Sister," Luna said, glancing slyly at her sister.
"Or if your voice ended up really deep like this," Celestia said, her voice acquiring a false deepness with the last two words.
"As if our little ponies don't fear me enough," Luna said, yawning. "But they'd fear you more if your hair ended up so overgrown that you looked like a monster."
Celestia shrieked slightly. "Don't even joke like that, Sister, or you might end up with a limp horn!"
Luna laughed. "Better that than having your wings upside down so you couldn't fly properly!"
Both Royal Sisters enjoyed a good, long laugh.
After a few minutes, Celestia blinked and looked to her sister. "We should go fetch the antidote ourselves."
Luna wiped her eyes - she had laughed so hard that she was crying. "Yes... it has taken entirely too long."
Eventually, the attendant returned with the antidote. After the Sisters each took some of it, they both got up and finished the last experiment.
The result? Nothing.
Luna yawned. "Perhaps we should resume this after a quick rest..."
Celestia looked down at the table. "Go ahead... I'll get a nap later tonight after I put the sun away."
Luna took a quick look at her sister as she left. "I'll be checking to be sure you do. We're not even close to done yet..."
It took a few minutes, but Shylight managed to reach the spa. As she was about to go inside, though, Rarity walked out with a pinkish-purplish earth pony with a cutie mark of a strawberry and a bundle of grapes following her.
Rarity's mood crashed as she saw her friend. "Oh... oh dear, Shylight?" she stammered. "I... was today our normal spa day? I figured..."
Shylight sighed. "No... no, I understand, Rarity... I kind of fig-figured you wouldn't want to stop going just because I wasn't feeling up to it... but who's the new pony?"
"Ah... this?" Rarity said, nervously. "This is... ah... Berry Punch. She accompanied me this week because she was interested in a... a complete makeover for an upcoming event and I... well, I can make outfits for her and the like, but... there are so many aspects of beauty that are better handled at the spa..."
Shylight just looked at Rarity. "It's okay... really... I-I'm not angry or anything..." Her eyes were saying something completely different, though. "I...I should probably head back to the cottage... the books won't s-sort themselves..." She turned and started walking away.
"No... no, you don't have to leave!" Rarity shouted, but Shylight broke into a run as she spoke. Sobbing could be heard in the distance before she got too far away to hear.
"...What was that about?" Berry Punch asked as she approached Rarity.
"I... oh, I... I think I let down a friend..." Rarity said, on the verge of tears. "I... I forgot today was normally our spa day..."
"Eh, the makeover can wait a few hours, Miss Rarity," Berry said. "I've got to get a couple of other things set up anyway before this thing can happen... go check on your friend."
Rarity smiled back at her customer. "Oh, thank you so much for your understanding! I promise you, though, we'll get that makeover finished today!" She ran off in pursuit of Shylight.
The sound of hooves striking apple tree could be heard as far away as the dirt path near Sweet Apple Acres.
"Yeah, hit it again!" Rainbow Dash cried as she watched from a cloud overhead.
Applejack looked up, annoyed, at the blue pegasus. "Or... y'know, you could come on down and help me just a little bit. Y'know Mac ain't been himself lately, an' we're fallin' behind bad."
Rainbow Dash thought about it for a second. "What's in it for me, though, AJ?"
Applejack groaned. "How 'bout a five-second head-start next time we race in the park?" She blinked, and when her eyes opened back up, Rainbow Dash was gone and the sound of hooves cracking against another apple tree reverberated through Sweet Apple Acres.
Rainbow Dash was standing underneath an apple tree surrounded by baskets of fallen apples. "Deal," she said, her smile stretching widely. "Ten seconds if I clear what's left before you do!"
"Oh, you're on," Applejack said, smiling back, "but if Ah finish 'fore you do, Ah get the head start instead!"
"Done and done!" Rainbow Dash said as her hooves struck another apple tree.
A shriek could be heard from the front gate as Dash's hooves struck the tree.
"What was that?" Applejack asked.
"Dunno," Rainbow Dash said. "Wanna go check?"
"So you can get that head start easier?" Applejack said. "Not a chance in..."
There was another shriek as Applejack's hooves struck the tree.
Both Applejack and Rainbow Dash sighed. "We'll both check," they said at the same time.
When they arrived at the gate, they saw a shaking and sobbing Shylight curled up on the other side with her hooves over her ears.
"Bit for your thoughts," Applejack said softly.
Shylight looked up at Rainbow Dash and Applejack with tear-filled eyes. "I... I'm sorry... I was hoping th-that Macintosh would be here but... but then it got so noisy and..."
"It's okay... I didn't realize AJ was being so loud," Rainbow Dash said.
"Me?" Applejack said, feigning surprise. "When you bucked that one tree, you coulda woke the dead, RD!"
"Mine wasn't that loud!" Rainbow Dash protested. "When you were bucking all those trees, it sounded like a war zone!"
"Uh... I-I'll just go..." Shylight said as she turned to leave.
"Nah, you ain't gotta go an' do that, girl," Applejack said. "You know how competitive me an' Rainbow are an' all, remember?"
"She should remember... I'm still sore that we tied for last in the Running of the Leaves," Rainbow Dash said, though her tone suggested she wasn't really that angry.
"C'mon, we'll let Mac know you're here," Applejack said as she opened the gate. "Come on in, girl."
"Oh...ok... if that's fine with y-you..." Shylight said as she slowly walked into the Acres.
Rarity arrived at Fluttershy's, now Shylight's cottage a few moments later. She knocked on the door gently. "Shylight? Shylight, are you there?"
The door soon opened, and Spike responded, tiredly, "Huh? Rarity? She went off a couple hours ago to go see you..."
"You mean she didn't come back?" Rarity said, shocked. "I... we had a little misunderstanding in town today, and I wanted to apologize..."
Spike sighed. "What upset her this time?"
"I..." Rarity began. "I forgot that today was our spa day, so I went there today with a client... she must have gotten upset because I forgot..."
Spike thought for a moment. "Maybe you should go check with the others. Usually, if she gets upset around here, she'll go to Rainbow Dash's place or something until she gets her head back together. It's been pretty rough lately ever since the Macintosh thing."
"Macintosh... thing?" Rarity asked. "By Celestia, I'm really out of the loop, aren't I?"
Spike shrugged. "Everything's so strange around here lately. Living with an owl was hard enough to get used to, but it's hard to get any kind of sleep here with all of Fluttershy's animals around..."
Rarity sighed. "I suppose I'll just check with them, then... thank you, Spike. By the way, I have to acquire some more gems in a few days... do you think you could come along with me to dig them up?"
Spike looked to Rarity. "I want to... but I'll have to ask Shylight first. She needs me now more than ever..."
"I understand... hopefully she can give you up for a couple of hours..." Rarity said as she turned back down the path.
"Rarity, wait!" Spike called out. "I... I miss seeing you around... I hope you and Shylight patch things up."
Rarity gently dabbed a tissue in her eye to clear out a tear. "I hope so too, Spike... I hope so too..." She went on down the path to go check with her friends...