• Published 15th Feb 2012
  • 14,082 Views, 610 Comments

Tears in the Snow - Wintergreen Diaries

Twilight sees a vision after casting a spell to see the future and ends up saving a mysterious colt.

  • ...

The Seventh Element

Chapter 24: The Seventh Element

Every muscle in Cerulean's body tensed as he prepared to strike. Bangles yawned and regarded him with utter disinterest, though she secretly found his visceral rage to be quite... stimulating. She began to giggle, her cheeks flushing slightly and only angering Cerulean further.

"Yes, just like that. Oh, how I've missed those eyes of yours, Cerulean." With a howl he charged, and she threw out her hoof, sending a host of shadows towards him. All the years spent studying the art of fighting flooded through his mind as he cut a swathe through the darkness, swinging his horn in skillful arcs and dispatching the shadows without taking a scratch. He took the skies and lunged towards Bangles, who narrowly dodged the initial strike. As Cerulean circled she opened the Codex and began to chant.

"Howl, mourn and weep for the miseries which are coming upon you." The runes around her legs began to glow red and a massive black claw burst from the ground, grabbing Cerulean and hurling him through the skies. His wings helped break his fall as he landed in the forest, and he shrugged off the pain and stood, repairing his wings and dodging to the side just in time to evade a large rock that landed where he had been standing not moments before. "Yes, let your anger burn. Let me feast on your hatred!"

His mind was suddenly clouded by darkness as he felt his anger forcibly ripped from his chest, the runes around Bangle's legs glowing brightly. He fought to calm himself, and slowly the pain eased and he could again breathe normally as he pushed the malice from his mind.

"I will not fall to your tricks, Bangles. You're not worth giving in to the anger."

"Oh? Such confidence, it doesn't suit a hollow ragdoll such as yourself." With that she summoned a sickle to her hooves and charged him. He parried deftly, deflecting her flurry of blows that seemed to require no effort on her end. As she raised her weapon he stomped a foot, winding her with a blunted column of ice and charging to where she lay. He leapt into the air, slamming a hoof into the ground where she had been a second earlier, freezing a small patch of the earth. Instinct kicked in and he raised a wall of ice around him, hearing it shatter a split second later as Bangles attacked him from behind. He flew into the air to gain his bearings and gave a cry of shock as Bangles appeared in front of him. "Too slow," she whispered as she jammed a hoof to his chest. "The darkness consumed the land, and none could stand before it." A dark wave launched him to the ground, the force leaving him lying in a small crater.

Twilight's frantic knocking roused a very grumpy Rarity as she groggily answered the door, face still smeared in foul smelling cosmetic cream. She gasped as Twilight barged in, setting Spike down on a stretch of fabric before bolting back outside.

"Twilight, what's going on?" Rarity called after her.

"Bangles tried to kill me and Cerulean, and I'm returning to help him fight. Rarity, gather the Elements of Harmony, and once you are all together come to the library. We will hold her off until you arrive."

"Twilight, I don't understa..."

"Rarity, there's no time! You need to go now!" Twilight shouted before teleporting away, covering half the distance and running the rest of the way. Rarity allowed herself a brief moment to sulk before heading to Sugarcube Corner to grab Pinkie Pie. Pinkie Pie immediately grabbed her flying contraption and made for Cloudsdale while Rarity ran to Sweet Apple Acres, where Applejack joined her as they made for Fluttershy's cottage. Rainbow Dash and Pinkie met them there and together they made for the library, hoping to Celestia that they wouldn't be too late.

Celestia paced back and forth in her room as Luna looked out the window towards Ponyville. They could both quite clearly sense the intensity of the battle being waged, but they also knew that they would be powerless to interfer. While they may have been able to contain the Codex for a time, there was only one pony that could banish it completely. They could only wait, and hope that the seventh element was born in time.

Cerulean's chest heaved from exertion. He glanced down at himself, noting that he was now covered in wounds. Every time he'd get close to Bangles she would chant something from the book that stopped him short. He stood still for a moment trying to form a strategy as he watched the shadows multiply, spawning from the ground at Bangles' beckoning.

"Oh, is that all? I recall you were once full of vigor." Bangles voice threatened to overcome him as he strove to control his rage, knowing that it would only dull his senses and feed into her powers. He closed his eyes, desperately flipping through the pages of his mind, trying to find a spell that would give him the upper hoof. "You're beginning to bore me."

"Bangles, I have a question for you." She narrowed her eyes and regarded Cerulean with a scowl. "What is the point of all this? You got what you wanted, why can't you just leave me alone?" To his surprise Bangles began to laugh quietly, her volume slowly building until it echoed through the night.

"Why, is that all you wish to know? Well firstly, you didn't play the game fairly. Oh yes, you may have given me your body, but you kept your heart locked away. I wanted all of it."

"For what purpose?" Cerulean fired back.

"You just seemed so... pure. I couldn't stand it, being looked upon with pity like I'm some kind of broken toy. So, I stripped away the purity but you still didn't give in. If I can't have your heart, then I have no use for you." Cerulean shook his head, unable to comprehend her delusional line of thought. Talk would get him nowhere, and he closed his eyes, extending his wings and drawing them back full stretch. With one powerful thrust he shot forward, sharpening the edges of his wings and slicing through the shadows. Bangles cried out in shock as he slashed at her neck, grazing her and causing a small trickle of blood. Not stopping to give her a chance, he swung his head again to follow through but not fast enough to finish it as she launched into the air, propelled by a dark mist. "Oh my, it seems we have an intruder. No need to worry, it'll just be the two of us soon."

Time slowed as he turned to see Twilight approaching, horn glowing as she prepared to enter the fight. Bangles slowly raised a hoof, extending it full stretch and opening the Codex. Her runes began to glow, and Cerulean raced towards Twilight as Bangles uttered a single word.

"...Disappear." A dark hole appeared in the sky directly above Twilight, causing her to stop in her tracks as Cerulean flapped his wings and shot towards her. A rain of blades poured forth, and Twilight stared as they fell, paralyzed. Suddenly her vision spun as she was thrown to the ground, and something warm and wet coated her body. Cerulean stood over her, transfixed by no fewer than ten of the blades and bleeding heavily. He tottered for a moment before falling to the ground. His lungs and heart pierced, he tried desperately to focus his eyes as Twilight cradled him. He couldn't hear her words, and he feebly tapped the his hoof in the blood pooling all around, his horn glowing briefly for a moment before fading. An overwhelming sense of fatigue came over him, and he closed his eyes, thankful for the time he had been blessed with in the world. As Twilight sobbed, she looked down and saw that he had frozen the blood to form words.

"I think I finally found a way to repay my debt."

"No... It can't be..." Tears filled Celestia's eyes as the last of Cerulean's magic energy faded from the world. "This can't be right, it's not supposed to happen like this!" Luna placed a hoof on her shoulder. "Do not give up hope, dear sister. There may yet be a way through this." Celestia nodded, forcing herself to calm down and placing all her hopes upon Fate, their final defense against the rampaging manifestation of Strife.

Cerulean sat in silence as the meadow he had enjoyed for such a short period of time withered and died. The flowers petals curled and fell as the stream evaporated, leaving him in a barren wasteland. He took no notice as the ground beneath him started to crack, and soon he was falling deep into a black abyss. Placing his hoof to his neck, he clung to the necklace Twilight had given him, ignoring his surroundings and focusing on his memories as they tried to slip away.

"To you, Cerulean Snowgleam, I pose a question." The voice came from deep within the darkness, and Cerulean found himself no longer falling. He could see an alicorn approaching, his coat was jet black; he would have been incredibly difficult to see were it not for the fact that his mane was white like his own, minus the teal streak. His wings were massive, each feather tinged with white at the ends. As a whole he was much larger than Cerulean, and his cutie mark was a set of scales. "Honesty, loyalty, generosity, laughter, kindness, and magic. These form the Elements of Harmony. So tell me, which of these is the greatest element?" Cerulean said nothing, pondering the question.

"I do not know if this will change your answer, but come, take a look." Cerulean walked to his side and looked down, having a clear view as the battle with Bangles continued without him. Twilight had given in to her hatred, nullifying her ability to use her Element, and one by one his friends fell before Bangles. There was no way that the other ponies even stood a chance, not being accustomed to any kind of combat. Cerulean stared in horror as Bangles dispatched Pinkie Pie with her sickle before turning to Applejack, sending forth her minions.

"Make it stop! Please, you have to help them!" Cerulean pleaded, dropping to his knees as Applejack finally caved to her wounds, covered in raking gashes from the shadows that towered over her.

"Help is not mine to give in the land of the living. Do you wish to save them? Then answer my question." Cerulean tried to think but as he saw Twilight begin to back away from Bangles his thought processes broke down. "Are you really going to let her, all your friends, and your child die tonight, Cerulean?" His child? He heart simultaneously filled with joy at the words, and then despair as he saw how close he was to losing it all. Twilight tripped over his corpse, falling to the ground as Bangles sauntered over.

"No greater love has one than this, than to lay down his life for a friend." The mysterious stallion raised an eyebrow at Cerulean's words, his voice full of determination and confidence. "If you combine all the elements into one, there is only one word to describe it." He placed a hoof over the necklace around his neck and shouted his answer. "The greatest Element... is Love!" The black stallion approached and tapped his horn to Cerulean's necklace, causing it to shine.

"Well spoken, Cerulean. You are indeed the seventh element." The light eminating from the necklace grew increasingly bright, banishing the darkness around him and lifting Cerulean from the abyss. He set his sights on the sky above, the meadow returning once more to life as he rose above it.

"Well well, it seems we've reached an end." Bangles said with a giggle, staring Twilight down as she clung to Cerulean's still form, weeping. Her grief was as much for losing her friends as it was knowing that she had played a part in their deaths, her hatred feeding into the Codex and causing Bangles' power to grow while rendering the Elements useless. "I must say, your friends were quite entertaining. Especially that yellow pegasus, it was exceptionally quaint the way she shouted at me. But I tire of this," she said, summoning a sickle to her hooves and raising it above her head. Twilight closed her eyes, the memories of her life flashing before her as she was overcome with regret. She had failed, and Cerulean's sacrifice had been in vain.

"Cerulean... Forgive me..." A massive shock wave knocked both Twilight and Bangles away as Cerulean's form rose in the air, his wounds closing on their own and the necklace emitting powerful magic waves. Twilight watched as the necklace's color changed from silver to gold, and a snowflake formed in the center of the amethyst. She gasped with wonder as her own wounds began to heal, and her body was flooded with warmth. Her amazement turned to joy as one by one the rest of the Elements of Harmony slowly stood, looking at their bodies with confusion; no traces of the battle were visible, no sign of any scars. Cerulean was glowing with a lavender aura, the same color as the heart that adorned his flank, and even his burn scars disappeared in the cleansing light.

"What manner of sorcery is this? I killed you once already, and I can do it again!" Bangles shouted, summoning a horde of shadows from the ground. The mane six gathered behind Cerulean, but to their surprise he turned to them and shook his head.

"Do not interefere, Elements. I alone shall be the arbiter of justice in this trial." Cerulean's voice sounded different, and Twilight approached him cautiously.

"Cerulean? Is it... is it really you?" To her relief he drew her close, holding her tightly.

"Aye, Miss Sparkle. It is I, the great and powerful Cerulean Snowgleam."

"I thought you were gone for good, Cerulean. I couldn't handle the thought of..." she started, before he cut her off, kissing her deeply and cradeling her face with a hoof.

"Our child needs a father, Twilight." Her eyes grew wide with wonder at his words before he turned to face the raging Bangles, a veritable army of shadows collected underneath her.

"Bangles, you who have lived your life in malice and hatred, shall now be judged upon the scales of justice. You will be repaid according to your actions," Cerulean declared, his voice firm and unwavering. Bangles howled as her runes glowed and her blades rained down once more. Cerulean threw up a single hoof, deflecting every blade away from Twilight and her friends with a purple barrier. With a cry of rage Bangles commanded every last shadow to attack. Cerulean ran forward into the writhing mass as Twilight and her friends looked on, their hopes resting upon his shoulders.

In Canterlot Celestia heaved a sigh of relief, drying her tears as she felt life return to Cerulean, Twilight and the other elements. She turned and faced the black alicorn as he slowly approached.

"Thank you, Fate. You have just saved many lives."

"Do not thank me, Celestia. The victory belongs solely to Cerulean." He disappeared in a small flash of black flames. She turned and joined Luna at the window.

"Prevail, Cerulean. Bring Twilight and the others home safely."

The shadows rose up around Cerulean, but he refused to be overcome. Summoning a small blizzard he propelled them back and then closed his eyes, countering Bangles' chants with his own.

"A light shone in the darkness, and the darkness could not overcome it!" Out of the ground materialized six swords made of ice, their hilts adorned the Elements' cutie marks. Controlling them all simultaneously, he cut down every shadow that Bangles threw at him. As he finished the last one, he began to walk slowly towards her. The massive black hand rose from underneath him, holding him firmly in it's grasp for a moment before being eviscerated by the swords swirling around him. He landed lightly on his feet, pulling out his wings as he fell.

"A great darkness shrouded the land and the inhabitants fled, seeking peace but finding only sorrow!" Bangles cried, causing black clouds to form above her. A bolt of lightning cracked the skies, heading straight for Cerulean.

"Now these three endure; faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these..." he stopped, raising a hoof as the lightning struck. There was a bright flash, causing Twilight to blink as she was momentarily blinded. Relief flooded through her as Cerulean stood his ground, lightning crackling all around him but not making connection, his hoof still outstretched. "...the greatest of these is love." The six swords combined to form one brilliant blade, and he charged as she summoned her her scythe once more, meeting him head on. The Elements watched in silence, knowing that they could do little more than hope and put their faith in Cerulean.

Bangles was hard pressed to keep up with Cerulean's skill with a blade, and where she had once been on the offensive she found herself being steadily driven back under his onslaught. Reaching down she wrapped a shadow around his legs, causing Cerulean to trip. He raised the sword behind his head just in time to deflect the blow before launching himself to his feet once more. "No more games. I've suffered your insolence long enough, Strife." His horn began to glow, eminating magical waves on par with Celestia's. He slowly opened his eyes, now a soft violet as the seventh Element's power flooded through him, and brought his gaze to match Bangles'. Her crimson eyes blazed as she mentally ripped him apart again and again. "Repent, for the pit you have dug for another shall consume you whole."

Bangles took a step forward, and Cerulean stomped a hoof, generating a pillar that struck her from behind, throwing her off balance. Another stomp, and another made connection with her chest, winding her. His gaze was cold as he jumped once, slamming all four feet to the ground in unison causing a monolithic spire to appear underneath her, launching her into the air. Taking flight he met her as she fell, freezing her solid and hurling her towards the ground, the ice shattering at the impact. She lay in a daze, limbs outstretched and fighting to retain consciousness. He waved his hoof in a wide arc, splitting the sword again into six. He met her gaze briefly before dropping his leg, sending the swords raining down.

Bangles cried out in agony as a sword pinned each limb to the ground, the other two crossed against her throat. Feebly she tried to lift the Codex with her magic but Cerulean firmly stomped his hoof atop it. "It's over, Bangles." He slowly lifted the Codex before him, and his eyes shone as a piercing beam shot from his horn, transfixing the book. "Elements, lend me your strength! Focus upon the Codex!" The six ponies rush over, surrounding the book releasing the Elements. Millenia of hatred and violence evaporated under the force, the sound of screams tearing from the pages. A great darkness raged against the power of the elements but could not prevail, and as the light died down the now harmless book fell to the ground. Cerulean picked it up and flipped to the final page, reading aloud. "To the pony who treads in darkness, I have this to say; turn back. There will always be a light to overthrow the darkness."

He tossed the book over to Twilight, who stepped away from it rather than catching it. "Burn it. The world has no need for relics such as this." Twilight happily complied, and it was soon a smoldering pile of ash. Cerulean nodded his approval before turning back to Bangles who still lay transfixed by his blades.

"Please, have mercy. I don't want to die!" Bangles whimpered, cringing as Cerulean stood beside her.

"To one who shows mercy, mercy shall be returned unto them." Bangles began to sob as Cerulean stood over her.

"Bangles, the debt must be repaid in full." With that, Cerulean placed his horn to hers. A lavender bolt of lighting cracked the sky gravitating directly to her horn, and he stood back as her face contorted in indescribable anguish, the full measure of every pain she'd ever caused others being compounded into her mind at once. Her screams pierced the night sky, carrying for miles as her vision was flooded by every moment she had wished ill on others, the pain of the betrayal she'd caused others now being multiplied within herself. After a long sixty seconds the spell reached it's end and her horn cracked and shattered. Her mind and body were unable to hold out any longer and she passed out, blood running down her muzzle from where her horn had once been.

Twilight approached as Cerulean's eyes returned to normal, regaining their teal hue that she had come to adore so much. He stood shakily for a moment then fell, the strain of manifesting the Element of Love taking a heavy toll.

"Is it finally over?" Twilight whispered, stroking Cerulean's mane as she laid his head in her lap.

"No Twilight," he responded with a weak smile, placing a hoof over her stomach, "It's only just beginning."

The sensation of body wide pain pulled Bangles into consciousness. Her limbs were unresponsive, and even the thought of moving them seemed to be cause lancing pains to shoot through them. A splitting head ache towered over all of these, and she did nothing but lay there, as confused as she was thankful that she was still alive. She cracked an eye open and let out a small whimper as she found Cerulean sitting by her bed side, watching her intently. She struggled feebly but couldn't coax her limbs to move, the gaping wounds from Cerulean's swords having rendered them immobile.

"It's good to see you awake, Bangles. You've been unconscious for three days." She froze, staring in utter confusion at the statement. "Make no mistake, I have no intention of being your friend. However, I do no want the blood of another on my hooves." He shook his head, standing and walking over to her. She closed her eyes, expecting pain that never came. She opened her eyes to see a soft, lavender light coming from the gold necklace around his neck. As the light faded he began to unwrap the bandages, revealing the newly restored limbs. "You will never be able to use magic again. Perhaps now you will think twice before tearing apart the lives of others. You may leave as soon as you feel able." Bangles watched him leave, bringing a hoof to her forhead. A small indentation into her head was all that remained of her horn, and she cried softly as she was crushed by something she hadn't felt in a very long time - guilt and remorse.

Twilight was waiting for Cerulean as he exited, and he appeared quite visibly relieved to have left Bangles' presence.

"So what happens now?" she asked, none too happy about leaving Bangles to her own devices.

"I don't think she'll pose a problem to anypony now. I could be wrong, but I will not be the one to strike her down." Twilight smiled as she beheld the conviction in his eyes, her admiration for his strength of will overcoming her anxieties. "Come, Twilight. There's a lot to do."

"What do you mean?" she replied, turning towards him and cocking her head to the side.

"Well, for one I'd like to petition Celestia to formally add me to her payroll as your official assistant in the research of magic, as we've all seen me working at Sugarcube Corner has disasterous results." Twilight giggled as she followed him out of the clinic, recalling the frosting incident.

"Well, aside from a building burning down and a couple dozen ponies waking in the middle of nowhere, it wasn't all bad," she said with a smirk. "Oh, except for Lyra. She was sick for nearly a week, poor mare."

"And I do so well when I'm in your kitchen, too. I just don't know what went wrong," he said, faking confusion. "And there are other things to think about as well, like how the hay are we going to make a library foal proof? Oh yes, that's after we rebuild it."

"Ok, stop talking about all the things that could go wrong please. You're making me worry."

"My apologies. I suppose I could change the subject to happier things," he offered, looking towards the sky as if to seek inspiration. "How about this, I have a surprise for you, but you can't have it until tomorrow morning. Moving on, I..."

"Oh no, you can't do that to me! Come on, tell me please!" she begged, stomping a hoof in annoyance as he vigorously shook his head. "You do realize that I'm going to be thinking about it the rest of the day, right?" Cerulean nodded, grinning. "And that means you're sleeping on the couch." Cerulean frowned at this, looking at her with pleading eyes.

"Come on, Twilight. That's blackmail."

"Yes, yes it is. I'm glad you understand your position," she said as she cantered off ahead.

"But... but that's not on today's checklist!" Cerulean exclaimed, shocked by her breach of conduct.

"Well, I believe a certain stallion I know has been a bad influence on me. I'll just have to write it in when we return to the farm," she called over her shoulder, walking a short way before turning to the now crestfallen Cerulean.

"We don't even have a couch anymore, remember?" She heaved a sigh at the statement, remembering that he was unfortunately correct. She was about to say something when he galloped towards her and tackled her to the ground, kissing her in the middle of the road. He chuckled at her confused expression before continuing his journey to the library, which was still in ruins after Bangles had destroyed it.

"That's cheating," Twilight whispered to herself as she picked herself up and galloped after him, secretly smiling. The library had to be reconstructed from the ground up, and most of the books were completely destroyed in the collapse, much to Twilight's anguish. Many ponies were pitching in to help though, and at the rate they were working it would likely be only a week longer until it was finished. In the meantime Applejack had offered to let them use a spare room at the Apple family estate, which they gratefully accepted. As they arrived at the construction site they eagerly pitched in, and the sun had fully set when they left, returning to Sweet Apple Acres and climbing wearily into bed. Twilight curled up against Cerulean's chest, and they were both soon fast asleep.

Twilight groaned as Cerulean shook her awake, noting that the sun had not yet risen. "What could possibly be so important that it can't wait until daybreak?" she whined half heartedly, groaning and rolling away from him.

"Well, I figured you'd want your surprise." Twilight came alive as she heard this, her anticipation from the previous day coming back like a tidal wave. Cerulean grabbed a small basket in his mouth and motioned her to follow. Cerulean smiled around the basket as he noticed Twilight's admiration as he summoned his wings, motioning her to come closer. She closed her eyes and let herself become weightless, her trust unwavering as Cerulean held her tight and took off. Flying a fair distance into the sky they landed on a large cloud and Twilight followed Cerulean to the edge, laying beside him. Levitating the cover of the basket away he offered Twilight an enormous strawberry, which she eagerly devoured, followed by several more shortly thereafter. Cerulean lay back, watching the sky grow lighter as the sun's first rays prepared to shine upon Ponyville.

"Twilight, I brought you here because I wanted to ask you a question."

"Cerulean, what is it?" she asked, a tinge of worry in her voice as she watched him stand. His horn began to glow, and soon snow started to fall all around them. The sun breached the horizon, lighting every flake like a myriad of fireflies and setting his face aglow. Twilight's eyes filled with tears as he pulled a small box from the basket, opening it slowly to reveal a beautiful platinum band that matched perfectly with necklace, containing a diamond offset by two smaller sapphires. "Twilight... Will you marry me?"

* * * * * Four Years Later * * * * *

"And mommy said yes?" The young unicorn looked up at Cerulean with wonder, her flowing golden hair falling in her face as she tilted her head to the side. She had her mother's horn and her father's teal eyes, her coat a light blue like the morning sky and hair like the sun. Cerulean and Twilight instantly agreed to the name Dawnlight the moment she was born.

"Why, what's so shocking about that, Dawn?" Cerulean replied, just as confused by his daughter's reaction.

"Well mommy is so smart! And you're... just strange!" Dawn giggled as Cerulean faked a heart attack at her cutting words.

"Come now, give your father a little more credit, young lady," Twilight said with a smile, joining the two. "Despite his track record, he's actually quite clever." Dawn rolled her eyes, laughing as Cerulean expired on the floor. The library was even better than the way it had been before being destroyed, with a whole other floor and an additional room for their daughter. Celestia had even replaced all the books and then some, much to Twilight glee; she still hadn't read through all of them. "All right Dawn, bed time." The filly was about to protest when a cavernous yawn forced her to reconsider, giving in without a fight. Cerulean followed them up the stairs, and kissed Dawn gently on the horn, which she immediately proceeded to wipe away, making a face. Twilight's kiss, on the other hand, was well recieved, and Twilight laughed quietly as she turned out the light and returned downstairs. Cerulean stayed for a while, watching as Dawn drifted off to sleep.

"Twilight, do you remember our wedding?" Cerulean asked as he returned downstairs, Twilight's nose already buried in another book. She gave him a quizzical glance at the ridiculous question.

"It was only the biggest party in Canterlot, hosted by Celestia herself with over a thousand ponies in attendance. How could I forget?" she replied before getting a dreamy look in her eyes as she recalled the event. "Why do you ask?"

"No reason in particular, I just... Thank you, Twilight. For everything." Twilight smiled and set the book down, walking over to the record player and putting on a slow piece. Cerulean accepted her invitation and they began to dance, careful not to trip on the many books littered around the floor. Between researching magic and caring for Dawn, cleaning often took a back seat, especially since Spike had moved out. Twilight was sad to see him go, but he stayed in Ponyville and still helped them quite a bit, especially with their daughter. They continued to dance through the night, recalling their fondest memories in hushed whispers and every bit as in love as the first day Cerulean confessed to her. They eventually crawled into bed, Twilight taking solace in Cerulean's heartbeat as she lay her head on his chest and quickly drifting off to sleep.

A sudden impact to his gut thrust Cerulean into wakefulness and forced the air from his lungs. He coughed weakly as his daughter lay perched atop him, grinning widely.

"C'mon dad, we're gonna miss it!" she urged him, impatiently stomping her hooves on his ribs.

"Dawn, how many times have I told you not to cannonball onto your father like that? You've been spending too much time with Pound Cake," Twilight reproved her gently, causing Dawn to hide behind her hair.

"Sorry daddy, are you ok?"

"Hmmm, one two... four cracked ribs? That's it? You must be taking it easy on me this morning," he replied as he once again found the ability to breathe, quickly sitting up and tickling her furiously. She squealed and tried to break free, and Cerulean let her escape, watching her scamper a short way downstairs before poking her head up just enough to give him the evil eye. Cerulean took this as a challenge and bounded out of bed, chasing her around the main floor. Twilight lay back a moment and grinned, listening to the two make far too much noise too early in the morning, though this had become the norm and she was expecting it. "Twilight, you coming? Hate to say it but this little antagonist is right, we're gonna miss it if we don't hurry!"

"All right, I'm coming." Twilight joined them, and she and Cerulean both summoned their magically designed wings. Dawn wrapped herself around Cerulean's neck as they all took flight, finding a high cloud and landing. Dawn clambered onto Cerulean's head and began to bounce lightly, anticipation of the coming sunrise filling her with excitement. It was something she never seemed to tire of watching, and it had become something special they shared every morning. They all closed their eyes as the first rays of Celestia's sun warmed their faces, the start of a new day holding untold promise. Cerulean pulled Dawn from her perch and squeezed her tight, tears creeping from the corners of his eyes as an overpowering joy flooded through his being.

"Daddy, what's wrong? Does something hurt?" She reached up and wiped away the tears as the dripped down. Cerulean hugged her just a bit tighter.

"No, Dawn. Daddy's fine." He looked at Twilight, smiling through salty eyes before turning back to his daughter's concerned face. She lay her head against his chest and returned his embrace as she smiled at her father's words, relieved that he was all right. He set her atop his head once more, staring into the horizon as Twilight drew beside him, nuzzling him gently. "I'm finally... where I've always wanted to be."

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