• Published 13th Oct 2011
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The Quiet Place - Aynine



Twilight fights against sinister manipulations, struggling to overcome a deep-seated darkness within. As she battles to preserve everything she cares about, she will sacrifice anything necessary to succeed. But the price of victory may be herself.

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Chapter 3: Icy Allure

The Quiet Place

By: Aynine

[Disclaimer: I own nothing of the MLP franchise and all rights are reserved by Hasbro and the respective parties involved.]

Chapter 3: Icy Allure

-One Year, Two Months Later-

A single pin crashed inaudibly to the floor, embodying Twilight's overflow of disappointment. Above it, a massive ball of pins and needles were held together in the air within the tight confines of a multilayered purple aura. They occasionally shifted within themselves, but no more had managed to slip free and join the first on the floor. Twilight clenched her teeth while her horn glowed, the purple aura around the ball rippling all over with precision and skilled magic, the aura's layers wrapping over and in itself, constantly shifting around the ball.

"Very good, Twilight. You're almost there," cheered Celestia softly.

The unicorn glanced to her, her heart fluttering at the praise, but the momentary lapse in concentration became a critical error. Her magical grasp faltered and hundreds of pins began falling to the floor. She didn't blink and prepared to shield herself from the potential spray of danger, but the crash to the floor never came.

The princess had taken the ball of pins in her own magic, catching each pin in its own aura. "As you know, it is far easier to project a field over a group, rather than to assert control over many individual objects at once."

"I'm sorry, Celestia," Twilight panted, "It's just so exhausting to hold each pin separately." She collapsed to the floor huffing, hanging her head at the behest of fatigue. Sweat had matted strands of her mane to her face and neck, and she gazed through her mane at the single pin that had escaped from her magic and made it to the floor. "Do archmages really need to do this?"

Celestia released the ball of pins into a bowl on a nearby table and collected the single pin from the floor to hold in front of Twilight. "Acute control of magic is very important. Unicorns are not permitted to learn and use greater magic without first demonstrating absolute control over their current magic. The potential for destruction is... catastrophic."

Twilight gazed at the pin in wonder. "Has a unicorn ever caused such a disaster?"

Celestia turned to gaze out of a window. The sun was beginning to crest the horizon and set. Soon it would be time to exchange it with the moon. The moon... The thought brought back a harrowing memory and she twisted her lips into a guilty frown. She set the pin on the table beside the bowl.

"Yes," she answered simply. "Archmages are few and far. Frankly, we don't need many of them. They offer council and can be sent to assist anywhere in the world. It could be anything from cleaning up natural disasters to fending off wild animal assaults..." She trailed off, closing her eyes.

"But?"

"Never mind it, Twilight. They are a truly helpful force. The rigorous tests we put them through are to ensure that they never lose control of their own magic." Twilight stared back at her curiously. "As I recall, one little pony in particular lost control of theirs at a very young age."

"Yeah... About that..." Twilight let out a nervous laugh while Celestia leaned down to nuzzle her.

"It's alright. It happens and it is best to coach young and latently powerful unicorns so that it doesn't happen when their magical powers grow with age and practice." Celestia returned the pin to the bowl and moved to loom over it. "A single unicorn in an ocean of them has the potential for Archmage status, but even that one, single unicorn must contend with the entire pool of elite candidates from all around Equestria to stand as one of the distinguished Archmagi."

Twilight absorbed the words and then moved to the window. Celestia followed her movements with her eyes and smiled. "Eager to see another of her magic shows I presume," she said with a hint of glee.

The unicorn turned around with a light blush. "Is it that obvious?"

Celestia cast her a warm smile. "Must you ask? You're not very good at hiding your feelings from me, you know. You've been at this for little over a year now, though. Do you believe she will come around?"

Twilight bit her lower lip and let her eyes dart across the floor. "Maybe," was all she could come up with. It was a rare instance where her mind's logic could not come to a decision over the difficult feelings within her heart. She looked up at Celestia, hope glimmering within her violet eyes.

Celestia continued to smile, and looked out past the window as the purple twilight from the setting sun began to cast over the city, the lack of light tinting the tops of the buildings. "Go on. I must lower the sun anyway. You've more than earned the night off."

Twilight grinned. "Thank you, Celestia." She teleported out of the room and left the princess alone. A small whirl of dust pulled upwards, before swirling outward and settling where the unicorn vanished.

Celestia sighed and looked regretfully at the single pin her student had dropped. A single mistake...

***

In a white flash, Twilight appeared on the outer steps of the Canterlot castle's main entrance. She took a deep breath before holding her head up high and glancing up to the coming darkness. She cantered down the steps with ease and made her way into the city, guards and nobleponies curtsying her as they passed. As she walked, the light in the sky faded, disappearing as Luna raised the moon and everything was cast in its majestic tint. The younger, more trendy ponies wandered through the early evening with giddy energy; they prepared to enter clubs, seek out parties, or just spend a night in the city wandering about in innocent mischief.

Twilight moved through the bustling streets, evading other busy ponies in a hurry to their destinations. As time pressed on, she glanced around for a clock, her gait becoming more and more impatient. Trixie's magic show was soon to begin and she had a front row ticket she refused to squander. She wanted to teleport all the way to the show, but her exercises of the day had worn out her magic, but the ponies at her destination would frown upon her disruptive entrance. Finding a clock, she furled her brow in disdain and broke into a gallop. She managed to dash between other townsponies without incident as she took off, and she raced away before they could throw comments of irritation her way. Corner after corner she continued on, her eyes scanning signs as they flew by. She skidded to a halt as she came to her destination at last.

She looked up to see the bright, flashily designed sign. Starlight Grand Hotel. Twilight paused and adjusted her mane fastidiously, trying to fix her sweat-matted mane. Her heart sank when it appeared in its standard glory, her efforts to pretty herself up ending in vain when all she had managed was her usual style. Dropping to all four, she took in a deep breath and followed a red carpet, her hoofsteps becoming muting as they touched down onto it, and moved through large doors. They were framed with a golden metal to look fancier; the style was popular among all of the high class hotels and restaurants.

The door closed behind her with a low thump and she peered around the lobby. The red carpet stretched all the way to the front desk before spreading out down the adjacent halls. To her right was a small den-like area furnished with beige carpeting that bore symmetrical shapes alternating in a pattern. Top quality, yet generically designed furniture with red cushioning sat arranged around a coffee table in the center. Her eyes fell to a pony sitting alone and listlessly flipping through a magazine.

"...Derpy? What are you doing here?" she blurted out.

The pegasus dropped the magazine on the table and looked up. Fastened around her neck was a chain that held a small sapphire pendant. "Twilight? I didn't expect to see you here."

The unicorn moved closer and took a seat, a renewed smile on her face. "I could say the same to you. I'm here for the magic show. What about you?"

Derpy contemplated what to say in that moment, but settled on the truth. "I'm taking Rainbow Dash to see it."

"Rainbow Dash?" Twilight loosed a chortle, but silenced it when the pegasus maintained her expression "I didn't think she'd want to see any of Trixie's magic shows."

Derpy took on a glum look and sighed. "Yeah... It took a lot of persuading," she said as she slipped a hoof beneath the chain and held the pendant aloft. "This is what it takes to take her somewhere... magical. Even if she liked Trixie's show at her farewell party, she'd still rather go somewhere else."

Twilight giggled and leaned in to inspect the pendant. Upon a closer look, she realized it was a platinum chain with the sapphire boasting a flawless emerald cut. For a moment, she found the sparkling colors within to be captivating and nostalgic. "Wow..." she managed at last. "How did you afford one of these? I didn't know you had that kind of money as a mail mare."

Derpy let it rest back on her chest and put up a proud smile. "Oh, I just save up my bits for something special every now and then."

"Yeah, but Derpy. That must've cost a fortune. That looks like something Rarity would wear for a special occasion."

The pegasus gulped. "Eh, it's fine. Just splurging for somepony special is all." She studied Twilight's face as she took the words in. "Trixie never disappoints. Who knows, maybe the show will turn into a nice party." Derpy shrugged. "Rainbow likes to party."

"Sounds like Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie should go to these more often," muttered Twilight as she glanced up to a large glass chandelier.

"Oh, I think there's something else-"

The couch flipped forward and Derpy leaped from it over the coffee table, rolling and taking a combat stance on the opposite couch beside Twilight. Her eyes scanned the previous couch in focus until a certain cyan pegasus burst out laughing from behind it. Many of the other ponies walking about the lobby stopped to observe the scene with confusion, some offering frowns and rolling their eyes before moving on.

"Haha, you didn't see that coming," howled Rainbow Dash before she flipped the couch back over.

Derpy slid down onto the couch in relief and blushed. "H-Hi, Rainbow Dash."

"Hey. So, I don't go to a lot of magic shows, but a promise is a promise." Rainbow Dash's eyes wandered over to Twilight. "Whoa, hey Twilight. What're you doing here?" Dash stepped over and offered a hoof to help Derpy to standing.

The grey pegasus stared at it thoughtfully before accepting. "She's here for the magic show, too."

Dash peered at the unicorn skeptically. "Twilight, you could probably be the best magician in all of Equestria. I didn't think you came to these anymore."

"I'm meeting somepony special," she replied.

Dash raised an eyebrow. "Oh yeah? Who is it?"

"It's a surprise," she said with a devious grin.

Dash rolled her eyes. "Alright, let's go." She took the lead and exited the lobby to the left of the front desk.

They walked down a couple of large corridors that bore the same fancy decor as the rest of the hotel, passing by many of the hotel staff shuffling about. Eventually they opened up into a large showroom that hosted comfortable, yet private tables with walls just high enough for the booths that a pony couldn't quite see over while sitting. Several leafy plants adorned the tops of the walls to further add to the privacy vibe in the room. The booths themselves were arranged with a slight terrace near the back. Guests could see the magic show, but could not see the others attending. Twilight cocked her head as the lights were already dimmed in advance.

Some of the booths had already been filled by eager ponies awaiting the magic show. Twilight procured her ticket and gave it to a pony standing at the door. Derpy and Dash followed until the Wonderbolt couldn't resist the urge to speak.

"Sheesh, Twilight. I didn't know you had a front row ticket. The Wonderbolts get free tickets, but they're off to the side."

Twilight froze and turned around to force a smile. "Oh, Princess Celestia got me the ticket. Anyway, you two have fun." She nervously scurried ahead before she could be interrogated further.

The unicorn found her seat at the center of the front. It had a bird's eye view of the stage and Trixie would be doomed to see her throughout the entire display. More ponies filed into the room until every booth was filled, except hers. Twilight sat alone, as she had planned, eagerly waiting for it to start. A colt waiter in a fancy vest wandered by and set down a couple wine glasses and a bottle of expensive champagne. "Somepony sure has the VIP deal," he tantalized before walking away.

Twilight poured herself a few glasses and downed them as a pony stepped onto stage and talked through the list of tonight's acts. Barring Trixie's name, she ignored the rest of them. The flavor of the champagne overtook every taste in her mouth with an almost metallic, tangy flavor. After the champagne, she began to feel herself relax and loosen up, the apprehension of making an appearance at another one of Trixie's shows washing away.

To her delight, the show began only a few minutes later, along with the incoming tipsy euphoria from the alcohol. The room darkened and the stage lit up with a dark blue light as Trixie stepped through the curtain and up to the center of the stage with her signature magician's hat and cape, the familiar turquoise gem binding the cape at the neck. Twilight could've sworn she heard Rainbow Dash groaning from across the room at that point.

"The Great and Powerful Trix--ah!" she squealed upon glimpsing Twilight. She choked on the air in her throat briefly before forcing a smirk over her shock to resurrect her stage entrance again. Twilight shot her a sweet smile before pouring herself another glass.

Ugh! What is she doing here? brooded Trixie.

The show began with a fog sweeping down the darkened curtain behind the magician. It flowed down, over the stage, then to the floor and throughout the audience. Twilight looked around as the guests whispered among themselves in anticipation for the great show. Trixie tugged on the brim of her hat and the mist swirled around and expanded in volume. She pushed a hoof into it and it blasted over the crowd in a light breeze, filling the room with a smoky haze that cleared into simple wisps around the room.

She smiled and began a laser light show similar to the one she had done in Ponyville. The smoke allowed every laser to be seen as a bar of light shooting and ricocheting around through the smoke. Various colors danced through the air, vanishing and reappearing anew as a different color with a new vector. The lights multiplied into a distracting show and Trixie took the time to step off of the stage while no one would be fixated on her.

The magician approached Twilight's booth and sat down, quickly scooting close. "What are you doing here!?" she growled in a hushed voice.

Twilight levitated the bottle of champagne and poured the second glass for Trixie and slid it to her. "Having a drink and enjoying a good magic show. Why don't you share one with me?" Her euphoric, goofy grin only fueled the magician's annoyance at her presence.

"Just leave me alone, you spoiled brat!" she spat, nearly raising her voice loud enough for other ponies to hear.

Twilight grabbed her wine glass manually and tilted her head down. "I am not a spoiled brat." She lifted it, took a sip, then sat it down firmly before glaring at Trixie. "Are you mad that you kissed me back then, hm?"

The magician gasped before leaning closer, her own glare deepening. "That was a one time thing. It will never happen again," she rebuked.

"Oh?" blurted out Twilight automatically. She leaned closer and attempted to plant a kiss on Trixie's lips, but the magician gently pushed her back.

"You're drunk. Get out of here and leave me alone. I never want to see you again..." Trixie paused and looked at the bubbly champagne in the glass for a moment. She fought back tears, but ultimately huffed and departed the booth, returning to the stage. She breathed in deeply, the distracting laser show wearing away at her magic.

The light show stopped and all of the fog pulled back to the stage in a ball before Trixie. She bowed, and upon standing up again, found Twilight sipping more champagne and grinning to her. Truxue swayed a hoof outward and the ball of fog vanished. The purple unicorn smiled and waved goofily again, much to Trixie's chagrin. Leave, she mouthed to her with a heated look.

Twilight shook her head with the inebriated smile remaining, furthering the magician's ire. Unable to do more, Trixie continued with her performance. She threw her hooves to the sides, wisps of smoke splashing and expanding where she aimed, and more lights began appearing. A magical blue fire ignited before the magician that soon erupted into a tornado of light. The blue glow flickered onto the faces of the audience and forced the shadows to dance along the walls, a weak draft sweeping the room. The crowd saw focus on her face, but only Twilight recognized it as an unconscious scowl.

The purple unicorn clapped excitedly. "Oh, this one is fun," she cheered while throwing her hooves into the air. "Go, Trixie!"

Trixie could no longer control herself. The flame spiraled outward before splashing onto the stage and giving it a burning look. She grit her teeth together while glaring at Twilight. Suddenly, she broke into a devious smile. The flames soaked into the wood and vanished as the botched spell ended. Trixie dropped into a bow as unexpected cheering and applause began, and she drank in the appreciation. Rising again, she leaped off of the stage and took her seat at Twilight's booth again.

The glass of champagne that had been poured for her remained in its place, still bubbling. She took it in her grasp, tilted her head back, and closed her eyes. In one gulp she downed it and set the glass back on the table. Twilight gave her a dumbfounded look before Trixie returned a fierce glance. "I've got more shows to do. Good... night, Twilight Sparkle." Her first words came low, but sincere; however, she said her name with a grumble. A glint of regret and pain flickered in her eyes briefly, but she stood up and left without another word.

Twilight sat there staring blankly where Trixie had left until Rainbow Dash and Derpy came and took a seat with her.

"Hey, Twilight." Dash waved a foreleg in front of her face. "Twiiiiliiiight. You home?"

The unicorn snapped back to reality and smiled as she caught sight of the pendant around Dash's neck glinting in what little light there was. "Didja guyz like tha magic show?" she asked with a bit too much glee for comfort. The alcohol's effects had hit her in full force now, and her slurring only made Dash roll her eyes.

"Alright. I'm taking you home, you're too drunk..."

Twilight snagged the bottle with her magic and poured another glass. "No, no, no, no! Just another glass. And then we can go, 'kay?" Dash reached for the glass, but Twilight's magic pulled it away and she managed to drink it quickly, but falling short of Trixie's speed. "O-K! We can go!" she announced happily. She scooted out of the booth behind Dash. After taking two steps, she lost her balance and fell forward into Derpy's awaiting hooves.

"Yep, definitely gonna need some help," said Dash, holding a hoof to her face.

Derpy stood in front her giggling all the while supporting the drunken unicorn. "We'll take you back to the castle."

Twilight cast them a whimsical smile before shakily righting herself. "I'll be fine. Just a little... guidance 'd be appreshiated, ya know?"

Rainbow Dash hoisted the drunken unicorn onto her back, laying her perpendicular, and moved to leave the hotel with Derpy. They received looks of bewilderment and disapproving glances as they walked out. It wasn't long before Twilight passed out to the rough motions of her carrier's gait.

"Hey, Rainbow Dash, I've been meaning to ask you something..." started Derpy with a nervous tone.

"Sure, what's up?" came the eager reply.

"Well..." Derpy looked to the cobblestone streets for help. "I..." she brought her golden eyes up to match the anticipating stare of Dash's magenta. "I... I..." she tried.

Suddenly a voice broke the moment. "There you are," cut in Princess Luna. She stepped up to Rainbow Dash, ignoring the others, and knelt down to look Twilight's unconscious form in the face. "Hey, hey," she echoed into the unicorn while prodding her.

Twilight stirred and shifted, a tendril of drool running along her muzzle. "...Huh? What?" she mumbled.

Dash leaned back and allowed the unicorn to slide off and into a standing position, shivering as the warmth from Twilight's body faded. "Wake up, Element of Alcoholism. Princess Luna is here."

Twilight stared at her blankly before wiping her mouth and turning to Luna. Suddenly, she burst into laughter. "Haha, I get it now!"

Derpy smiled softly while Dash groaned and smacked herself in the forehead with another hoof, chuckling behind it.

"Come now. Inebriated or not, you and I are taking a walk through the night, Twilight." Luna whipped her head in the direction they were to go and they began walking off. The princess had to slow her eager pace as Twilight wobbled and occasionally stopped to catch her balance. Reluctantly, Luna slowed and walked beside her for support as the unicorn leaned against.

"Well, I guess that solves that." Dash turned from watching them leave to meet Derpy's eyes again. "Wanna catch a movie or something?"

The grey pegasus's heart beat heavily in joy. A light blush coated her face, but the darkness of the night helped mask it. "Yeah... sure. That sounds good."

Dash took the lead and they began walking down one of the main streets. Light posts of an unusually elegant craft lined the sidewalks of the more luxurious areas of Canterlot, illuminating their way. Their pale yellow glows offered a calming, yet upbeat effect to the evening atmosphere. The night was still young and many ponies continued about in a rush of energy. Derpy took comfort in the commotion being a distraction from her demeanor, and she began to daydream.

"So, what'd you want to see?" Dash said to interrupt Derpy's romantic fantasies.

"Oh, umm..." Derpy paused and put a hoof up to her chin. "How about a romantic movie?"

Dash visibly gagged at the idea. "How about an action movie? Explosions and magic and stuff."

Derpy giggled and looked off in the direction of the castle. "Oh, I see enough action. Come on, you might like it."

Sighing in defeat, Rainbow Dash continued the lead to a nearby movie theater. To Derpy's delight, a showing of a new and popular romantic comedy was about to begin. They paid for their tickets and Dash splurged for drinks and popcorn, Derpy's magnificent pendant a gentle reminder her she should pay for them. They took their seats in the second row to the massive screen as the lights dimmed and faded. While the ads scrolled by, the grey pegasus continued to hide her blush in the darkness of the theater.

Dash ran a hoof over the necklace and smiled. She turned to Derpy, and in a hushed voice whispered, "Thank you for the necklace. I'm never going to take it off."

The love struck pegasus nearly fell from her seat at the praise. "D-Don't mention it... I'm glad you l-like it," she stammered.

Dash threw a foreleg around her neck and pulled her into an awkward, yet playful embrace. Derpy found her head resting in the crook of the other mare's neck. "You're one of the few ponies who could get me to watch some sappy love story, you know that?" She loosed a chuckle and gave Derpy's head a gentle noogie.

Derpy offered a weak laugh in response. "I kinda like the sappy love stories..."

Dash glanced to Derpy, cocking her head and raising an eyebrow. "Really? I didn't think you'd be into this kind of stuff. I thought you liked comedy or something."

"I like a good love story, too..." The movie began and Derpy sat up to get comfortable. Her face burned and tingled at the same time, and she forced herself to avoid eye contact with Rainbow Dash as much as she could.

They sat in silence as they watched, Derpy forcing herself not to scoot up in anticipation. The protagonist of the film was a young pegasus colt. Madly in love with his foalhood best friend, a unicorn mare, he struggled to confess his feelings for her. Derpy sympathized with the character, lamenting her own lack of courage in the same situation. As the colt gathered advice and found himself in amusing situations, he managed to finally confess his love for his friend at the climax, albeit awkwardly for humor.

The film ended after an hour and a half, and Dash downed the last of her beverage. They stood up and stretched before the cyan pegasus smiled. "Alright, I'll admit it. That was pretty good... for a sappy love story."

"I'm glad you liked it. It's one of my favorites," chirped Derpy.

Dash paused and arched a brow again. "Wait a minute. You've seen it already?"

Derpy quickly held her forehooves over her mouth and sheepishly smiled. The embarrassment coiled into the pit of her stomach as butterflies, and she threatened to faint at any moment.

"Well... I guess I could watch it again with a special somepony."

The air in Derpy's throat froze in suspense of Dash potentially connecting the dots, and she stared at her in silence as the lights came back on.

"It's getting late. Let's get out of here."

Derpy nodded and breathed out subtly. Oh my, Celestia! That was close.

Departing the theater, they stepped back into the streets and began heading towards Dash's hotel. Derpy stared at the ground while they walked in silence, though awkwardly for the grey pegasus. They reached the lobby and looked around, noticing most of the night goers had disappeared now.

"Alright, Derpy. I'll see you later. I've gotta get some sleep for a show tomorrow." Dash took a stop then stopped and turned her head. "Hey, if you get some free time, you should come and visit. I know Ponyville is kind of a long ways away, but I can get you VIP tickets," she added with a wink.

Derpy grinned sheepishly, nearly reigniting her blush. "Oh, yeah. I'll try to come by if I can. Maybe I can find a carriage."

Dash nodded and waved goodbye. The lonely mare sighed hollowly and trudged out of the hotel. Almost... She tilted her head up to the night sky and took in a deep breath. Coiling down, she leaped into the air at high speeds, the flaps of her wings effortlessly propelling her through the crisp air. She soared around aimlessly for a few minutes before gliding off in the direction of the castle. Almost... her voice echoed in her mind.

***

Twilight shuffled along beside Luna through the empty streets, drunkenly bobbing her head back and forth in a free-spirited manner. The lights from the street lamps and the occasional colorful neon club signs bloomed in her vision like fireworks. Everything appeared even more amazing until she looked at the moon. She paused and sat down to stare at the white orb, now devoid of the surface markings of Nightmare Moon and her occupancy of the lunar prison. For a moment, she felt as if the moon was all there was in the sky, illuminating everything in the endless black.

Luna walked ahead several paces before realizing the unicorn had stopped. She turned and observed Twilight before following the unicorn's gaze up to the moon. Twilight seemed fixated on it, ignoring others that walked on by. Even loud noises failed to distract her from its glory and beauty.

"What was it like..." Twilight started. Her eyes glazed in imagination, yet with a hint of sorrow. "...as Nightmare Moon, alone for a thousand years...? If you... don't mind me asking."

Luna gave Twilight a hard stare, but it eventually softened a moment later. "If it were anypony else, I would not share the answer to such a question. However..." she moved to sit next to the unicorn and gaze up at the moon herself. "I have lived for millennia and experienced more than you can fathom, even in the time before my banishing." She paused and regarded her memories for a moment, a glum look appearing briefly. "The mind is yours to command, and with magic and the eventual siphoning of the stars, we--err, I, was able to cope. Though I must admit, I do not recall much of my time there. Perhaps that is for the best."

Luna's phrasing piqued Twilight's interest and she stood up. "You can transform into the Nightmare Moon, right?"

"I do not see how simple illusion magic is--"

"You said 'we' first. I thought you were Nightmare Moon when... you know..." she trailed off as Luna frowned.

Luna rose and placed a hoof out. "No more of this conversation. I do not wish to dwell on my dark past. For now, let us just be friends, merry in a night on the town, alright?"

Twilight cast a defeated look to the ground. There was no budging the princess on the subject now, but she nodded respectfully anyway. "Alright. Where do you want to go?"

"Let us take a walk to the park." Luna took the lead again with Twilight shuffling behind her, wobbling between every few steps to catch her balance. The drunken mare continued walking, occasionally throwing giggles and constantly beaming her delight with everything, forgetting the conversation she had initiated only moments ago.

They passed a bickering white unicorn and grey earth pony outside of a theater. Her eyes cast over them: a refined earth pony with a neatly groomed black mane and an adorable bowtie. The unicorn had a bleached white coat with dark shades and a messy two-toned neon blue mane. Despite attempting to eavesdrop as they passed by, she was unable to discern what they were arguing about.

After half an hour of momentary interests and walking, the pair arrived on the northern side of Canterlot to a quaint park. Twilight didn't even realize they had taken a long and scenic route to get there. A few couples meandered through the pathways giggling and enjoying the quiet evening away from the city, muttering whispers of in-jokes and flirts to one another. Luna dashed ahead to a swing set and quickly began to gain hang time in the air. Twilight made it to the swing beside her and sat in it, just watching the alicorn through the drunken haze.

"I didn't know you liked to swing," mumbled Twilight.

"Of course, I..."--she whooshed by--"like to have fun!" she finished swinging past again.

Twilight lazily threw her hind legs back and forth to gain altitude. As she continued picking up speed, the pair began to synchronize unintentionally. After reaching peak height, Luna leaped off and landed as far as she could without her wings. She landed gracefully and coiled down into a crouch before rising as if nothing had ever happened.

"Come now, Twilight. See how far you can jump," the princess called to her with an excited huff.

Determined but lacking in judgment, Twilight leaped from the swing courageously. She soared through the air and landed on her hind legs, falling down to all four and crouching to disperse the energy... or at least that's what she imagined she would do.

The unicorn shrieked and flailed from the moment she let go of the swing, and fell face first into the earth. She hit the ground and slid slightly forward, a small rim of dirt forming a crater around her face. Luna dashed over, trying not to laugh and remain composed. She lifted the dazed unicorn to a sitting position and winced. Twilight's face was covered in dirt with a few scrapes, but otherwise alright.

"I underestimated how much you drank. Forgive me... for that," managed Luna before bursting out into laughter and falling on her back.

Twilight stood up tall and looked at the moon. "It's so pretty," she mumbled, reaching a hoof up to it.

Luna glanced away and took on a glum look. "About my banishment," she started to gain Twilight's attention. The unicorn looked at her with mild eagerness while rubbing dirt from her face and mane. "I don't recall all of it. It's as if... Nightmare Moon was a different pony. I do not entirely understand what happened to me... or us. Everything is all just... blank. Strange, isn't it?"

Twilight turned to glimpse the moon again. She opened her mouth to speak, but instead fell to the ground heaving, and vomited.

"Somepony is going to be hung over tomorrow..." said Luna, planting a forehoof to her head and cringing as the putrid smell found its way to her nostrils.

Author's Note:

5/6/2013 -- A section in the middle of this chapter will be undergoing significant revisions in the near future. However, nothing plot related will be altered.

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