Looking Up

by BlackWater

3 - Forgiveness

A cloaked figure stepped into the cold quiet night air of the town. The pony sighed at the once familiar sight. She put one hoof in front of the other and made her way to the inn near the eastern side of the small settlement. The only hope she had was that she wasn’t figured out before her contact met her there.
Warm air greeted her as she entered the cozy building that was the town’s only shelter for travelers. The pony behind the counter was alert and smiling even though it was so late that the moon was high in the night sky. He greeted her, but he couldn’t see the pony beneath the dark cloak.
“Need a room, my dear friend?” the innkeeper asked.
The cloaked pony only gave a nod that could be interpreted past the cloak, and flipped a few bits onto the counter top.
“Got a nice cozy room for you up in 11,” the keeper slid her a key. “No doubt you’ll get the best sleep you’ve ever had – what with the hour and all.”
She wanted to say thanks but knew it was best to wait. She didn’t want to alert him as to who she was. The keeper looked confused at first when she slid a note across the counter to him. He nodded slowly after reading it, though.
“I’ll tell your friend what room you’re in,” he assured her. After she was up the stairs and into her room, he couldn’t help but whisper out. “Goodness. A friend of Princess Twilight. Everypony in town will want to know when she gets here...”

“All I’m saying is that you should have told him earlier,” Night Glider insisted. The group of four was walking down Mane Street towards the south gardens. The morning was sunny and it was a rare but incredibly pleasant opportunity for all of them to hang out again.
“You know how busy my bakery has been, Nighty,” Sugar Belle defended herself and stuck out her tongue.
Party Favor butted in with a chipper expression. “You silly ponies thinking I need preparation time. Parties are a snap. Especially for a close friend.”
“Somehow, I feel useless,” Double Diamond joked with a pretend tone of depression. He looked down at the dusty road as it turned into the green grass of the garden.
“Aww,” Party Favor stuck out his bottom lip and then ruffled his coltfriend’s mane. “But I still love you!”
The group walked around the garden’s path to a small circular clearing that was surrounded by tall hedges and sprinkled with lush ferns that made one easily forget the place used to be a dirt field. A few large boulders were also present next to a trickling stream that flowed to hydrate the garden. Sugar Belle and Double Diamond both settled onto one of the large flat boulders beneath the shade of the massive elm trees.
“Don’t lay the honey on too thick, guys,” Night Glider pretended to gag after perching on a branch of the tree above them.
“Speaking of bees,” Sugar Belle tapped her chin. “Why do they call it the birds and the bees again?”
Double Diamond facehoofed.
“Haven’t we been over this before?” Party Favor rose a brow.
“Yeah, let’s pick a different topic,” Night Glider encouraged from her perch.
“And I have the perfect one,” a new voice declared right next to the dark pegasus.
“Gah!” Night Glider nearly fell off her branch.
“Twilight Sparkle!” Sugar Belle beamed from below. “You’re back!”
“Princess!” both stallions also brightened.
Night Glider trembled. “Warn me next time you do that.”
Twilight put a hoof on the mare’s shoulder. “Sorry. I couldn’t resist trying out my new silent teleportation spell. Anyways, I’m here to tie up some loose ends. That and I’m teaching my new pupil about facing the past. Isn't it great?!”
“Pupil?” Double asked, nervous due to the creepy overdone smile on Twilight's face.
“Past?” Night added, just as wary.
Twilight looked briefly at her surroundings. It was a bright day in a peaceful green garden. The four friends here seemed to be in good spirits. No dark clouds in the sky. Good. She quickly calculated the probability of success for this friendship lesson to be appropriately 92.395471%.
“Just promise me none of you will get scared or result to violence,” the alicorn requested first.
All four ponies looked to each other in confusion.
“Alright then!” Princess Twilight stuck her chest out in confidence, a look of determination on her face. “You can come out now!”
The four were alarmed when a cloaked pony suddenly teleported before them on the ground. She was standing just below the boulders they were laying on, but visible all for the better. It was only when she pulled her cloak back that the group gasped and held their expression of shock.
“Hi...” Starlight Glimmer greeted in an almost shy fashion. Needless to say, she was not standing as some proud dictator anymore. Her stance was as soft as the look in her eyes. Even her mane was done up differently.
“S-Starlight...” Double Diamond managed to breath out. He wasn’t quite sure what words were supposed to come next out of his mouth.
Night Glider was faster. “What are you doing back?” she asked nearly as an accusation. Her mind was able to put enough of the facts together to prevent words she’d regret, however. “And with Princess Twilight?”
Starlight’s forehooves pawed at the ground, which was where she was looking. “I...” she seemed to have difficulty in forming her words. Not so much with the blush of embarrassment on her face. Internally, she cursed Twilight for making her go through so much of this shame. “I wanted to...make amends.”
Birds were chirping from somewhere in the garden. The only reason anypony noticed at that particular moment more than any other point in time was due to the fact that the four were all silently passing looks to each other, trying to figure out how they’d proceed. None of them apparently wanted to be the first to say everything was okay.
Until Party Favor nudged Double Diamond to the edge of their shaded boulder.
“Uh...” Double stumbled at first. “Yeah. We’d be willing to put the past behind us.”
Then the inevitable came.
“Really?” Night Glider frowned.
Twilight opened her mouth to say something but closed it before a word was uttered. She reminded herself to let Starlight be the head of this. Otherwise, the lesson might fail.
The pinkish unicorn almost faltered at a response but then drew up her courage and stood tall. “Yes,” she decided out loud. “Whatever it takes to be friends and make it up to you – all of you. I want to apologize to the whole town. Just tell me what I need to do and I’ll do it.”
Sugar softened with Starlight’s puppy dog eyes and pouty lip. So did Party Favor. Double Diamond was a little reluctant but convinced himself it was right to forgive her. On the other hoof, Night Glider kept her stubbornness.
“I don’t think there’s anything you could do to stay here again,” Night crossed her hooves. “I mean, we already got our cutie marks back. What are you going to do? Sweep streets?”
“Actually,” Sugar Belle tapped her chin once again, “I think she could be in good graces with the town if she helped around with daily stuff for a bit...and fixed that bridge to the caves.”
“Yeah,” Double agreed, “those balloons are not a permanent fix.”
Party Favor flinched and blushed.
An insistent look from Sugar made Night Glider give in with a shrug. Sugar then looked to the stallions, who nodded back.
Double stepped off the boulder and offered his hoof the unicorn mare. “The past is behind us. Friends?”
Starlight looked ready to cry with all the water at the corner of her eyes. “Yes!” she replied with a hearty hoofshake.
“So what now? Tea?” Night Glider huffed.
“Please excuse us for a minute,” Sugar Belle smiled to the others as she motioned to her marefriend to follow her down the garden path.
Curious as to what the meaning was, Night soared effortlessly from the branch, over the hedges, and directly to the point in the garden where Sugar was headed. Flight really did make every path shorter.
“Huh?” the dark mare made a slanted mouth after landing. They were out of earshot now.
“Did you see how scared Starlight was? This is sincere,” Sugar huffed even more than Night Glider had before. “If you don’t lighten up and make her feel welcome than you’ll be sleeping in another bed tonight.”
“No nookie?” Night turned fearful, biting her bottom lip.
Sugar’s eyebrows flattened. “Not even a nuzzle.”
Not much remained for their private conversation and so they quickly returned. The pegasus was very enthusiastic with the hoofshaking after that intimate realization. She even awarded Starlight with a hug, which the other mare blushed brightly about.

“It’s strange...but I like it,” the mayor nodded to Twilight next to him. They were standing on the old snowy mountain path, overseeing Starlight use her impressively powerful magic to reconstruct the stone bridge. “They don’t call you the Princess of Friendship for nothing. Town’s getting cozy with your blessing over this. Lot of ponies aren’t real keen on her, I’m sure you know. Now they are.”
“I try to help. That’s all,” Twilight shook her head. “She was the one that wanted to do this.”
The stallion hummed to himself. “Could use a good mare like her in our town. Strong as a princess with that magic of hers. A shame she’ll be going back with you.”
“She’s got hopes and dreams just like any other pony,” Twilight explained. “I don’t control her.”
“But you sure had an effect on her,” Night Glider said as she swooped down onto her hooves next to the alicorn. “I didn’t think this was sincere at first but I’m glad I was wrong.”
“Thanks for giving her a chance,” Twilight thanked the pegasus on behalf of the unicorn, who had just finished magically assembling the bridge supports. “I think we’re all better for it.”
“Yeah, well,” Night shrugged, “I don’t like grudges anyways.”
A spray of snow interrupted Twilight from what she was going to say next. Double Diamond was skiing by above them on the ridge and some of the snow had sprinkled down. The stallion didn’t head down to them, though. Instead, he launched into the air, landed on a steep downward slope, and rocketed to an impressive stop just off the trail near Starlight.
“Starlight,” he greeted in his smooth carefree tone while taking his goggles off.
“Hey, Double Diamond,” Starlight greeted back without taking too much of her concentration away from the bridge-building. She focused on the stone walkway forming in front of her hooves.
The white stallion couldn’t help notice the sad tone in her voice, as if she were avoiding a pain she didn’t want to relive. So he walked up to her, put a hoof to her shoulder, and made her look into his eyes by tilting her chin up.
“We’ve forgiven you, Starlight. I’ve forgiven you. What’s wrong?”
The unicorn met his gaze and frowned. “I don’t know. I just feel…empty for some reason. Is this all there is to turning over a new leaf?”
“I don’t know what you think it’s about but being forgiven just means accepting the other pony and not holding the past against them,” Double insisted. “You went way beyond that by helping the town and even opening up that shortcut for me to get to the drifts.”
Starlight faintly blushed. “I just wish there was something I could do that would make me feel...I don’t know...like I earned the forgiveness.”
“You know what I’ve learned so far in my life?” Double sat back into the snow beside the path. His skiis stuck up from the fluffy bank he had stashed them in.
“What’s that?” Starlight finally paused her magical construction. The aura of her horn faded out in the chilly breeze of the white mountain. She sat down next to him.
“If you want to have a good life, you have to look up,” he smiled at her, placed his forehoof on hers, and then looked up to the sky of slowly swirling clouds that sprinkled light snow from on high. “Sure, you have to face problems and obstacles. But you’ll never enjoy the time you have if you’re thinking of everything that’s wrong or what you have to do to feel like more than a mess-up.”
“You were always easy-going like that,” Starlight smiled at her distant memories when she first came to the town.
“You’re already all you need to be, Starlight,” the stallion hugged her, to which she gently returned. “Don’t worry about ‘making up for the past.’ You’re already doing that by being a good friend.”
“I’m a good friend?” Starlight asked, her voice wobbling for some reason she herself didn’t know.
“Yes, Starlight,” he drew back from the hug to look her in the eye. “You did something not a lot of ponies do.”
“What’s that?” Starlight’s lip trembled.
“You decided all on your own to let go of your fear and anger. You gave love and friendship a chance,” he answered.
Twilight looked on at her pupil from a distance. Starlight seemed to be crying into Double Diamond’s chest. But the Princess of Friendship knew it wasn’t a bad thing. Sometimes feelings were hard to let go.
And sometimes tears could heal a broken soul.