The nightmare's final moments were lingering and painful. Luna made quite sure of that, using her magic she slowly burned away particle after minute particle until nothing of the parasite remained. Still her victory was incomplete, she would always have to live with the part of it bonded with her body. Like it or not for the rest of her artificial lengthened lifespan she would remain looking like Nightmare Moon.
She was left wondering what she would do now that the nightmare was gone, should she try and repair her relationship with her sister? Go off and live out her days in solitude? No that didn't seem like a good idea, she had been asleep for so long, a life alone was not appealing in the slightest. "Maybe, maybe i could try talking to the ponies here? Perhaps they can help us?" she said almost unsure of her own reasoning.
From further in the castle she could hear their steps as their hoofs struck the stone floors. They were now entering the foyer, "Well now's a good a time as any," said Luna, with that she whisked herself away. Still somewhat nervous, Luna thought it best to listen in from afar for a time and work up her courage first before confronting them, so she hid behind an oversised bust of one of her ancestors.
The six ponies were gathered around the stone console in the center of the room, the object was shaped like a model solar system. A large marble sphere was at the center and orbiting it was five smaller spheres with simple geometric shape reliefs on them. "Well this looks important, think this is what were looking for?" asked Lyra.
Pulling the hefty book out of her saddle bag, Twilight compared the two. "Let's see there are only five known Elements of Harmony but when they are combined the sixth will be revealed. Well if these are the elements then we should be seeing a sixth one somewhere."
"What did the book say earlier, about virtues?" asked Berry.
"Here it is! That the bearers must display virtue to use them, Kindness, Loyalty, Laughter, Generosity and Honesty," said Twilight.
The six ponies looked around at each other, judging where if any of those qualities were in them. "Well Lyra's definitely not the kind one," said Derpy.
"Hey! Come on i'm plenty kind! I just, you know, kinda suck at it." She said plodding the ground with her hoof.
"If anything i'd say your virtue is observation," said Twilight, she was about to laugh about it when one of the orbs on the holder began glowing a similar shade to Lyra's. The stone sphere ripped itself off the structure and began hovering above Lyra's head.
"Wow, if i had any clue what this meant i'd be really impressed right now," said Lyra with awe.
Twilight gave it some thought. "I think it means your the bearer of this element, maybe the virtues listed in the book were only what the writer knew about." Twilight said, geeking out at the prospects this brought up.
"Call me ignorant or whatever but i don't think Observation is a virtue," remarked Berry in a dry tone. As she finished saying that the stone sphere lost it's glow and regained it's affiliation with gravity, falling squarely on Lyra's noggin.
"OW! What did i ever do to you rock? Why do you hurt me so?" said Lyra
"Berry it was working! Look maybe it's just when you call out a quality in you that you excel at. Like for you i'd say Berry Punch who's determination to return home safe and sound and protect those she loves. She represents The Element of Motherly Love!" As Twilight finished her dramatic speaking another orb began glowing, this time the same shade of magenta as Berry and took the same position above her head like Lyra's.
"Hey Twilight i don't think that Motherly Love is a-" Lyra was cut off by Twilight's glare.
"Let's stay focused here, Um how about, Louts Blossom who's hard work for family and friends goes hoof in hoof with her realistic view of what needs done, She represents The Element of Balance!" New verse same as the first, another orb began glowing, this time blue and took it's place above Lotus' head.
"Let's keep this going, Lyra Heartstrings who's keen eye saved us all from certain doom by the manticore. She represents the Element of Observation!" Once again the orb took it's place above her head, though this time she was not looking on in awe but eyeing it with distrust and covering her head with her hooves.
"Derpy Hooves, who's incredible posterior saved the day on multiple occasions, represents the Element of-" Twilight was cut off.
"The Element of Derp!" said Derpy while purposefully making a silly face.
"I was going to say Dumb Luck! But i guess Derp is OK too," said Twilight, a fourth orb detached and began glowing metallic grey.
Twilight turned to the last in line. "Cloudchaser who... who. Huh, you didn't really do that much tonight," said Twilight scratching her head.
"What do you mean? I did plenty of stuff to help tonight!" Cloudchaser protested.
"Yeah but i can't really recall any virtuous behavior," said Twilight.
"Maybe she could be the element of being a smarmy jack ass. No offence," Somewhere a donkey said none taken and he didn't know why.
The six looked at each other, the voice didn't belong to any of them. "Who's there? Show yourself!" commanded Twilight.
Out from behind the statue walked Luna, though she still looked very intimidating. "Have no fear citizens it is only i your princess."
"Oh so now you are wanting to be our princess too huh?" said Lotus.
"One can see how you might be confused by our appearance, it is true that we once were the being known as Nightmare Moon but we have vanquished the darkness and, i Princess Luna have emerged victorious." Luna said with pride, striking the breast plate she wore with her hoof.
"I would say 'A likely story' but that was too far fetched even for that." said Lyra.
"Please believe me, I mean you no harm." said Luna.
"Don't believe her lies girls, she know that were this close to being able to use the one weapon that can stop her for good," said Twilight.
Twilight's words cut deep, the prospect of being locked away again or even worse had not crossed her mind. "I said i don't mean you any HARM!" Luna shouted stomping her hooves on the ground, the shock wave shot out towards the six. In a flash Cloudchaser jumped in front of Twilight taking the brunt of the wave, the rest of it's power shot through the elements and shattered them into small fragments.
"Oh dear i think i don't know my own strength," Luna said blushing.
Helping up her fallen friend Twilight responded, "Try as you might Nightmare Moon, you can never destroy the Elements of Harmony! Because the elements aren't these stones. They are the unbeatable spirit of right hearted ponies like my friends. Cloudchaser who willingly put herself in harms way to defend her friends from danger, she represents The Element of Selflessness!" Shards from the last unclaimed orb began glowing lavender and circled above Cloudchaser's head.
"And when these elements combine they create the most powerful element of them all, the Element of Magic!" From thin air materialized the sixth element, unlike the rest this element was not a stone but an intricate golden crown, set in it was a gem in the shape of Twilight's star cutie mark. As soon as the crown set upon her head a wave of energy shot out. The five others began floating and the element shards reformed into gilded necklaces all with an inlay gem resembling their cutie mark.
"No! NO! Say it isn't so!" Luna cried out with tears in her eyes.
A spectrum of light emitted from the elements and their bearers all joining together into Twilight's crown. As Twilight prepared to use this power she looked on at her foe, she was trembling like a scared filly, her tears ran freely down her cheeks. Though Twilight could not hear what she said, she could see her mouthing 'I'm sorry sister, i'm so sorry'. The full power of the elements reached Twilight and it was overwhelming, white light shown through her eyes making her look like nothing from this world.
The feeling was like no other, time seemed to stop completely, a sense that anything could be done filled Twilight.
"There has been too much pain tonight."
As time resumed it's flow the six were scattered around the room, the power that had just been used was unlike anything any of them had ever experienced. "Is everypony alright?" asked Lotus.
Checking themselves they found they were all in one piece and some in better shape than before. "Hey my tail grew back!" excitedly said Twilight.
"And look you're not fat anymore!" said Lyra.
"Oh thank Celestia!" said Twilight, who then became dour. "We-we never found out what Nightmare Moon did with the princess." The whole group became silent in respect for the grieving student and their lost ruler.
But all of that was interrupted by the return of the sun, as it rose high into the sky it shown it's bright daylight all over Equestria. It took a while for the group to adjust to the long absent source of light, so long they almost missed a miraculous event. From a shaft of light spoke a familiar gentle voice, "Well done my little ponies." Out of the light stepped the towering figure of Princess Celestia, her mane whipping slowly back and forth in the breeze.
It was Twilight's turn now to break down in tears, she ran up to her mentor embracing her. "Princess i- i thought you were gone forever, i didn't know what to do,"
"Hush child, you did well. I had faith all along that you would be the one to stop the nightmare." said the sun princess.
"Me?" asked a confused Twilight.
"Indeed, you displayed one of the most important qualities in a leader, justice when necessary but mercy whenever possible," Celestia motioned to the unconscious form of Luna, now freed from the nightmare completely. All that remained of it was crystallized chunks of what once made up Nightmare Moon's armor.
"Now if you will excuse me i need to go talk with my sister. It has been one thousand years since I've gotten to speak with her," said Celestia.
"Whoa, she actually was a princess!?" said Lyra, shrinking back.
"It has been too long dear sister, even longer since i have seen you like this." said Celestia.
Luna who had just awoken looked at her self, she was not the same as she remembered that day one thousand years ago, but instead resembled herself as a filly.
"It is time to put our differences behind us. Will you rule with me, at my side as it was meant to be?"
Luna looked down at her hoofs, the pain in the past seemed small in comparison even to her tiny hooves. "Of course, i wan't nothing more than to be with you again. I'm so sorry for the pain i caused you," Luna cried out, embracing her sister who towered over her even more than her student.
"Well, this is not how i expected my day to go when i woke up last morning." said Berry.
"Not to put a damper on things but were still stuck in this forest, it took us hours to get through so we'd better start back. We don't wan't to leave everypony waiting," said Twilight.
Luna and Celesta looked at each other, "Hours? Back when we were little, Celly and i could get though here in thirty minuets flat." Boasted Luna.
"Yeah i'd like to see you try," said Cloudchaser.
"Your on feather head! Come on sister time is wasting!" Luna said grabbing Celestia and running out the door.
It clicked with Cloudchaser, "Wait it was you! You're that shadow punk!" But the two were already too far away to hear and in too a good a mood to care.
"Come on girls we can't let a couple of thousand year old fogies beat us in a race! Let's GO!" Shouted Cloudchaser. Pumped up by the challenge the six happily stampeded out the doors leaving the ruined castle and it's dark history behind them. Next stop home.