• Published 15th Feb 2012
  • 9,449 Views, 235 Comments

A Better Place, A Better Time - Mental_Zero

A young shape-shifter finds himself in a very unfamiliar place, a long way from home.

  • ...

The Grand Galloping Gala

The sun was just starting to set as I sat on the hill, waiting for Twilight. Fail and Safe decided to step out of my head and get some fresh air while we waited, each perched on my shoulders. They turned to each other after a short while, then Safe looked at me,

"Boss, you do know why Miss Sparkle asked you to come with her to the Gala, right?"

I glanced at him,

"Well, yeah. The other Elements each got a ticket, Spike didn't want to go to the Gala, so I guess she figured why not take me."

He sighed defeatedly, "With all due respect, Boss, and despite the fact that you are intelligent enough to earn a doctorate in genetic virology, you are dumb as a stump."

I couldn't help but look at him indignantly, and Fail cut me off before I could respond,

"Have you seriously not noticed how Twilight acts around you? Nervous, a bit skittish, admiring?"

"Well, yeah, I figured that was because I'm the only one of my kind, and you know she's a scholar by heart, of course she'd be excited to be able to study such a thing. And she's never been the best with social graces..."

It sounded like his teeth nearly cracked from how hard he was grinding them, "No, you twit, she has a crush on you, she's fallen for you like a comet, she's in love with you."

I looked at him disbelievingly, "What? No way, she just sees me as a friend."

A moment's pause, "Boss, if I could manage it without destroying Safe and myself, I'd kill you right now for being this clueless. What, is it because of Vinyl? You've been so goddamned dead-set on getting with her that you're completely missing the mare that's been practically serving herself up on a silver platter to you since the day you arrived!"

Before he could continue berating me, the distinct sound of hoofsteps could be heard coming up the hill. Fail and Safe quickly disappeared as Twilight appeared. She was wearing a deep blue dress adorned with white stars around the edges, as well as shoes that looked not far off from Cindarella's glass slippers. Her mane was tucked back in a neatly braided ponytail, coming around to the front of her neck. I couldn't quite tell what perfume she was wearing, but it was good, whatever it was. I couldn't help but stare at her when she stopped in front of me, "Uh, wow, Twilight, you look great."

She smiled shyly, blushing, "You think so?"

I nodded assuringly, glancing down at the two-piece suit I was wearing, "Yeah, you're making me feel underdressed."

Her blush deepened, "Um, thank you, Ryan, that means a lot."

I quickly cleared my head, "So, did you grab the goggles?"

She pulled them out as I began setting up the appropriate constructs on the trees, "Yeah. Now that we're here, can you tell me why I need them, and how we're getting to Canterlot, for that matter?"

I quickly finished the constructs and turned to her, "Simple, we're going to fly. Goggles on, please." She gave me an odd look, but obliged. I walked behind her, "On your back legs, lean into me." She did as I asked. I wrapped my arms around her chest to steady her as tendrils snaked out and began wrapping around her. She let out a small squeak and looked up at me, unnerved, "Uh, Ryan, what are you doing?"

I quickly checked that everything was in place, "Just hold still, Twi. Don't want you falling off now, do we?"

She swallowed audibly, "Falling off?"

I didn't respond as the tendrils finished wrapping around her, securing her to me. I threw out two thick coils of tendrils, each wrapping around one of the trees. I started walking backwards, stretching the coils until they couldn't go any further, the trees nearly breaking from the tension. I smiled at Twilight playfully, "Hang on and enjoy your flight."

With that I hopped up, the tension from the tendrils sending Twilight and I rocketing between the trees and out into the sky towards Canterlot. I spread my wings and let myself glide, flapping occasionally just to ensure we didn't lose too much speed. After a minute or two Twilight stopped yelling and went quiet, looking out at the countryside below us, "It's beautiful..."

I smiled brightly, "Who ever said the express route couldn't have a good view?"

We spent the remainder of the flight in silence, the only sound being the roaring of the wind in our ears. We touched down quietly in a quiet square a several blocks from the castle, lit by oil lanterns and storefronts. I released Twilight and looked around the square while she fixed her dress and mane. I could feel the age of the city we stood on, the magic of having two goddesses and so many more living beings staying there throughout the millennia it had existed, making the stone itself feel alive. When I turned back to Twilight, it looked like a scene out of a movie, the gentle light from the lanterns illuminating her, catching the sparkle from the stars in her dress. I couldn't help but smile,

"Ready to go?"

She nodded, and we set off towards the Castle. It seemed I was faster than I expected, as we got near the front of the line when we arrived at the castle, no one was even going in yet. I couldn't shake the feeling that ponies were looking at me, but I did my best to brush it off. There was a taller-looking stallion walking among the guards, he appeared to be their captain. He glanced our way and he seemed having trouble between deciding whether to look excited or suspicious. Twilight gave him a cheery wave, which finally got a happy smile from him. He quickly returned to checking on his men, I glanced at Twilight,

"Who was that?"

She looked after him proudly,

"That's my big brother, Shining Armor. He's the Captain of the Royal Guard, and the lead military adviser to the Princesses."

I recalled that look of suspicion, taking into account the amount of power he likely had, both political and magical to get to a rank like his, especially since he seemed to only be in his mid to late 20's, "Oh, that's nice."

A few minutes later the gates were opened. The inside of the Castle was positively gorgeous, flawlessly formed marble from floor to ceiling, with elegant gildings placed sparingly enough to not be obvious, but enough to compliment the marble. Standing at the top of the stairs in the entrance hall was Princess Celestia, not dressed up but looking none the worse for it. She smiled at us warmly when we got up to her,

"It is good to see you again, Twilight. And you as well, Mr. O'Connor."

I bowed respectfully, "It's always a pleasure, Princess."

Twilight looked up at her teacher, beaming, "It's so good to be here, Princess, we have so much to catch up on."

I let out a small chuckle, "I guess I'll just head off for now, let you two catch up."

Twilight quickly turned to me, "No! I mean, no, it's okay, you can stay, Ryan."

I waved her off, "No, please, I don't want to impose. Catch up with Celestia, I promise I won't wander too far."

She pursed her lips, hesitant, "Okay..."

I smiled at her and headed off into the party, seeing if I couldn't spot a few friendly faces. Unfortunately, that search was cut short a few minutes in by a cry from one particularly rude guest,

"By my aunt's beard, what is that thing?!"

I stopped dead, turning to the source of the voice, it being a taller stallion, white coat, blonde main and tail with electric blue eyes. His expression was a mix of fear and disgust, and he was looking straight at me. There was maybe 10 feet between us, and every pony in our immediate vicinity was looking at the two of us. I straightened myself up and folded my arms,

"Can I help you?"

He recoiled when I spoke, "Egad, it can talk?"

I felt my face dropping to an unamused frown, "Yes, I am capable of speech. Again, can I help you?"

He looked around for guards, "What is such a ghastly creature doing here? Guards, remove it at once!"

My frown deepened as I held up my invitation, "I am here as Miss Twilight Sparkle's plus one. And I'm a human, homo sapiens sapiens, for your information."

A dose of confusion was added to his expression, "And why would the personal student of my Aunt Celestia invite you?"

I could hear my tone becoming drier and more toxic by the second, "First of all, I imagine it's because I don't conduct myself like you do."

He put on that typical bratty, rich-kid face whenever they're challenged, puffing out his chest, trying to look bigger "And just what does that mean?"

I didn't move, "You are a blatantly xenophobic and ignorant fool who apparently has so little social tact that he cannot see a member of a different species without completely freaking out."

His face began to turn red, a mixture of anger and embarrassment, "You dare speak to me like that, peasant? I am Prince Blueblood, nephew of Princess Celestia and Luna, and Duke of-"

"Haven't heard of you. Moreover, you seem pretty proud for being about as closely related to either of the Princesses here as anyone else, considering their age. Second of all, I would suggest you learn a touch of humility if you wish to remain the ruler of anything for long, as us peasants rarely like or respect leaders that act like you do."

I could feel his anger bubbling up, that same kind of bratty, spoiled kind of anger that makes you wish the person, or pony, in question was spanked more when they were young. He began to march over to me, clearly planning on getting in my face, yelling, but not much more than that. However, his intended outburst was interrupted by the sudden appearance of Equestria's other ruler,

"Is there a problem, gentlecolts?"

We both turned to her, Blueblood looking like a kid caught with his hand in the cookie jar. I just smiled at her pleasantly, "None at all, Luna. Prince Blueblood and I were just having a small debate that got a bit heated. I apologize for any disturbance that we may have caused."

She looked back and forth between the two of us, settling on me, "We apologize for our nephew's behavior, Ryan."

I waved off the apology, grinning slightly at Luna's informality in front of everyone, "It's quite alright, Luna, nothing I haven't dealt with before."

She nodded slightly, looking back to Blueblood, "Prince Blueblood, you are a member of the Royal Family and the Duke of Trottingham. We ask you to behave as such."

He lowered his head, on the verge of whimpering, "Yes, Aunt Luna."

He trotted off, defeated. Luna looked back at me, the coldness fading to a small smile, "And how have you been, Ryan? It's been a while since we have seen you last."

We started walking through the crowd, I shrugged, "Not much, honestly. I'm still employed, still living with Twilight, not stirring up trouble. How about you?"

We headed out to a balcony with a good view of the moon, "Oh, not much, having to sleep during the day and managing the Night Court at night doesn't give us much time to do anything on our own. Despite what many may think, the life of royalty is usually tearjerkingly boring."

I nodded thoughtfully, "Is the Night Court really that busy?"

She shook her head, "No, but we must remain regardless, in case anything important arises in that time. We had to schedule quite some time in advance to even get our visit when we first met you."

I looked at her, "You know, I might know a way to remedy that, if you're alright with bending the rules a bit."

She raised an eyebrow at me, "Oh? And how would you do that?"

A copy of myself stepped out of me, "Simple, we just make a stand-in. I will provide the appropriate biomass, it will link to you, and if you ever need to step out for something, it can remain in your place. With a bit of extra work, it can even communicate to you from great distances, in case something important that you need to handle personally arises."

The copy slowly shifted to replicate Luna. She observed it, curious, "You are positive that this is safe?"

I nodded, "It will have to remain linked to you when not in use, but in that state it's essentially dead, no thoughts, no ambition, no danger. When it's in use, it will be a copy of your personality to the letter, only handling problems as you would, and the only independent thoughts it would be allowed is when there is something very important, in which case it will telepathically contact you. Granted, the bonding process will be a bit painful, but nothing unbearable.

Luna studied the now mirror-image of her, "Hmm, we will have to think about it. We mean no offense, Ryan, it is just that this is a bit unusual, even for us."

I reabsorbed the copy, "No problem. Just let me know when you make a decision."

She nodded. We stood there in silence for a few minutes before she glanced over her shoulder, "I believe it's time for us to take our leave. Be seeing you, Ryan."

I flashed her a quick smile, "See you around, Luna."

She trotted out and was almost immediately replaced by Twilight, who was still beaming, I assumed from her conversation with Celestia. I gave her a quick smile, "Hey, Twilight."

She smiled back, trotting up next to me, "Hey. So, how has Princess Luna been?"

I glanced up at the moon, "Oh, she's been good. Same old, same old, you know?" She nodded slightly. She inched closer after a moment, brushing up against my side. A thought suddenly popped into my head. I glanced down at her, "You know, Twilight, there's something I've been meaning to tell you for a while, and I guess now's as good a time as any."

She looked up at me with barely contained excitement, "What is it?"

I knelt down and smiled at her warmly, "Well, I just wanted to thank you for letting me stay with you these past couple weeks. You've been an absolutely gracious host, and have shown me nothing but kindness, and I want to thank you, truly and honestly, for everything."

Her expression changed to one of crushing disappointment, "Oh..."

It looked like she was about ready to start crying. I brushed back a strand of her hair, making eye contact, "Are you alright, Twi?"

She looked at me, barely blinking, looking hesitant. There was a small poof,

"Twilight, please, for everyone's sake, just do it."


That little motherf-mmph, mmph! Quick as a flash, she wrapped her legs around my neck and kissed me. Not knowing what to do, I just froze, trying to process what was happening. She pulled away after a minute, blushing brilliant red. I stumbled back a step, landing on my ass, staring at her blankly, "We told you."

We sat across from each other for a moment in silence before Twilight spoke again, "Did-did you like it?"

All I could do for the moment was sit there and frantically think about what just happened. All I could do was just let out the stream of consciousness and attempt to keep a calm tone, "Um, uhh, listen, Twilight, you're a great girl, you're funny, intelligent, sweet, so on and so forth. But I-I'm just not sure about this kind of thing, not now. N-not to say that I won't ever consider it, I'm just not so sure about a relationship now." Her eyes began to well up again, a sight I could barely stand to see. I quickly got up and went back over to her, "Twilight, Twilight, listen, I'm not saying 'no'. It's just that a lot of things have happened the past few weeks, and I'm not sure about getting into a relationship right now. Just please, for the love of god, don't cry."

She wiped away the tears, "You swear?"

I nodded quickly, "I swear on my unbeating heart that I will think about it very seriously."

She nodded slightly and straightened back up, wiping her face, "Okay."

I smiled at her slightly, breathing a sigh of relief, "For now, let's just have fun here, as friends, then we'll talk about things later, alright?"

She nodded again, and we headed back into the Gala. The rest of the night, I couldn't help but feel like a certain military stallion's gaze was burning a pair of holes into my back.