• Published 11th Sep 2013
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Second Princess of the Night - Senyu



With King Sombra gone, is Equestria truely safe from harm? Or will another foe as old as the Crystal Kingdom itself appear now that the dark unicorn's position of evil is vacant? What new danger will threaten the land and the Elements of Harmony?

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Act III - Chapter 45

As Twilight stepped out onto the port ramp, she kept a continued and fascinated stare upon Dusktown. With the airship now docked against extended ramps that stretched like crossbeams into the air, the town’s gentle and sparkling lights could be seen more clearly. Wordlessly, she followed Celestia and Luna who were the first to disembark. At the end of the ramp and in the middle of the docking port stood a group of guards that consisted of pegasi, unicorns, and bat ponies.

Rarity exited after Twilight and kept close, casually treating the high altitude experience as if it were nothing more than a stroll down the street. Rainbow Dash came next, followed by Pinkie Pie along with Lunar Pearl who had spent the majority of the trip hiding herself away within the cabin. Finally came Fluttershy, leaving only Applejack, who remained firmly attached to the ship's railing.

Applejack nervously glanced at the distant ground below, then back to the ramp between her and the plateau that was Dusktown. She felt as if her stomach had flipped upside, and the fact that everyone else was drawing further away from her by the second wasn’t helping. She didn’t expect the same reaction from her friends that had wings, but she had at least hoped that maybe Pinkie Pie or Rarity would sympathize with her. But despite Rarity’s previous life-threatening experience with heights, she crossed without so much a glance downward, and Pinkie Pie’s hopping only made Applejack’s stomach sink further.

“Are you alright, miss?” Applejack flinched at the voice, and saw one of the aircrew members readjusting some rope while looking at her curiously.

“Y-Yeah… Just peachy…”

Turning back towards her dilemma, she saw that everyone else had already crossed and were grouping on the docks. Oh boy… Come on, cowgirl. You can do it. Gulping once more, she timidly walked out onto the ramp, keeping her body as rigid and straight as she could, like how she imagined a trapeze artist might do. The wood groaning beneath her hooves was making each step harder than the last.

Somewhere around the halfway point, Applejack noticed everypony had turned to watch her, including the welcoming group who appeared to be waiting for her to finish crossing before they began. Applejack gulped again, and she found that her legs were now locked in place. Frozen, she stared at her friends with pleading eyes.

“You okay there, AJ?” Rainbow Dash called out.

Applejack hardly moved her head side to side for fear that she might fall over with anything more.

“Hold still for a moment, darling,” Rarity announced before walking out to her. Applejack watched her casual approach with a mixture of relief and awe. Rarity’s face was so composed and calm, and while it was reassuring, it unfortunately reminded Applejack of the ancient family curse that beset Rarity. Though, as awful as it was, Applejack was just a smidgen glad for it at the moment, and drew strength from the fearless atmosphere Rarity emanated. While Rarity’s face was for the most part passive, Applejack saw a hint of amusement in her eyes as she stopped in front of her and turned around, then flicked her tail. “Hold on, but not too tightly. Twilight and I had just brushed it.”

Applejack gave a tiny smile at that, relieved there at least some things that hadn’t changed with Rarity. Then, after taking a gentle hold of offered tail within her mouth, she slowly let herself be guided forward, keeping her eyes glued to Rarity’s mane until the eventual and comforting presence of stone echoed beneath her hooves. Applejack released Rarity’s tail immediately and tilted her hat forward to cover her face, a poor but desperate attempt to hide her beet red cheeks from everyone else, especially from Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie’s snickering faces.

“Princess Celestia, Princess Luna, Princess Twilight, and esteemed guests…” a humble and old voice said. From the awaiting group an elder bat pony stepped forth and bowed low. He held tinges of silver from his ears down to his tail, his frail wings stuck close to his sides, and he was adorned with a simple blue silk cloth that was wrapped around his shoulders and hung down to his hooves. Even as he spoke, Twilight felt Ruby’s increased interest at the similarities that reminded her of another batpony of similar age. “I welcome you to Dusktown.”

Celestia and Luna bowed in return, as did Twilight and the rest moments after.

“Elder Grove,” Luna replied as she stepped forward. “It is good to see you well after the attack.”

Grove’s lips parted into a faint smile. “I was lucky enough to only have small injuries. Thankfully, the rest are in good hoofs with the medics you sent. I was informed just earlier this night that the survivors will make a full recovery.”

Luna let a relieved sigh. “That is indeed good to hear. I feared that perhaps we had been too late.” Luna then stepped to the side and extended a wing towards Twilight. “We will visit the wounded soon enough, but first there are pressing matters we must tend to.”

Grove’s face became tight as he looked at Twilight, and she found it hard not to squirm under his intense stare. “Yes, let’s continue this conversation within the hall,” he said shortly. “Please, after you, Princesses.”

Celestia and Luna both nodded, as did Twilight before she quickly trotted to their sides. With the alicorns leading the way as everypony else followed, they passed through a wide archway that was at the entrance to the docking port, and stepped out into Dusktown.

The reactions of those who had never seen it before were unanimous.

While the buildings were not as tall or wide, Dusktown felt very close to Canterlot in terms of awe and presence. Everywhere they looked they saw unique and oddly designed buildings with intricate carvings and artworks fashioned into them, and nearly every one glittered from gems that were wedged or built into the stonework. Whether it was by torch light or moonlight, each gem shined like a tiny star. The group looked on with wide eyes as they passed the various decorations. From colorful murals, to more simple and modest designs, each was distinct from the others. Many of the buildings were also covered in painted or glass stained murals, though they were always appeared to be done with dark colors as if to recreate the night sky on the stone surfaces. How many years some of the buildings took with such precision and care with their decorating, none of them could say.

But what caught their eye more were the faint lights that their eyes could not quite focus on. At times it was as if the stone was a window to the stars themselves, showing thousands of tiny bright colors that twinkled in and out of existence at even the slightest shift of the head. However, with some time, some of them concluded it was due to having used slabs from the Unicorn Range itself as raw building material in such a way that their natural beauty was kept intact, recreating the sight they had seen when passing the mountains by air. The most impressive cuts and delicately assembled sections shined in resemblance of the pictures the latest advances of astronomy had revealed, of wonderous images of faraway stars and clouds that filled deep space.

“This is the result of our centuries of residence,” Grove spoke, loud enough for everyone to hear as glanced at them with a proud smile. “We have treated our town with love and respect, carving our pride with each and every line and gem into these very buildings.” With a sweeping view of his eyes across the buildings they passed, his voice grew in strength. “As long as we are here, so shall we protect this place and continue to adorn it with the effort of our generations. Dusktown is a place of beauty and our home, and so it must stay.” His last words, however, held a firm tone as glanced back to Lunar Pearl, and she gripped Pinkie Pie more tightly.

Pinkie Pie looked down to Lunar Pearl in surprise, then to Grove who had already turned forward again. Her smile lessened somewhat, and she now began looking at the town with sense of unease that hadn’t been there before. Loopy doesn’t look too happy right now…

The only other pony that had even noticed the small event was Rarity, and she narrowed her eyes as she stared intently at Grove. Since their arrival, she had kept an eye on the surrounding bat ponies that made up their escort and on the ones they passed who stared at their group with wide eyes from their homes. Compared to her constant and somewhat obsessive attention to Twilight no matter what the situation, she found that the bat ponies only partially registered themselves to her Focus.

There was nothing overt about their presence that made her tense, but a lingering sense of unease drifted in the back of her mind. She felt confident enough to attribute the sensation to the latent vampirism within the bat ponies, and normally she should have abhorred the thought of been so wary and judging towards them. Yet, try as she might, she found that she simply didn't mind having such a perspective.

She believed with effort that perhaps she could have banished the notion from her mind and then berate herself for having even considered it. The Rarity from months ago would have done it on the spot, unable to help but feel awful at even thinking poorly of ponies she had only just met, especially ones who lived in such a dazzling town. But the effort to do so seemed wasteful to her, and so she carried onward, letting herself at least feel the normalcy of enjoying the beauty of the town that was already inspiring new dress designs. For now, the bat ponies would simply have to remain as a faint apprehension, and Twilight a shining beacon whose proximity could never be ignored, no matter what. This town had just been attacked Night Walker. I musn’t let myself become complacent.

Twilight on the other hoof, looked about the town with mixture of emotions.

This wasn’t was I was expecting…

Same here...

To think they built all of this. It’s beautiful.

It’s a bird cage.

Twilight had to make the mental effort to not physically frown. Is that all you can see it as?

Spare me, Twilight, Ruby replied in disgust. The fact that you can’t see it for what it is is making me wonder if I should have even ever trusted you. Yes, it’s beautiful, but that doesn’t change the fact they can’t leave it.

Elder Grove seems to like it here. And look at the rest of them. Twilight glanced at the various bat ponies around them who watched their group closely. They stood on the sides of the streets, poked their heads from their windows, and were even hovering a respectful distance from above. Many of them stared with wide eyes, but some were actually smiling in happiness, and a few even had tears. Does this place really look as awful as they made it out to be?

Twilight was aware of Ruby recalling her memories of the cave, though the imagery was somewhat hazy at Ruby’s reluctance to share them despite the increased connections they had formed on their temporary truce.

They were still right to leave, Ruby eventually said. Celestia and Luna get my thanks for not treating them horribly, but that doesn’t change the fact that they were prisoners.

Ruby’s grateful but somehow insulting tone made Twilight want to snarl, but she retained her calm and collected outer appearance. Well, it looks like things aren’t as bad as you thought they’d be. Everypony so far seems to like it here. I guess it’s just going to take time before you realize that the things those runaways and Night Walker told you were wrong.

Don’t you dare call them that! Ruby threatened. The sudden wave of emotion that Ruby thus far kept buried caused Twilight’s steps to falter for a moment, but she quickly recovered from the stumble. Celestia and Luna both gave her a questioning look, and Twilight returned it with a nervous laugh before directing her attention back inward.

Will you stop that? It’s hard to focus when you freak out like that.

Yeah, yeah, whatever you say. I’ll just be quiet and act like nothing’s wrong, Ruby replied coldly, but otherwise complied with the request as she withdrew her emotions. I’m sure I can keep myself entertained with our beautiful soul while I’m stuck in here. I should be grateful that even though I can’t leave your body I can at least look at something pretty, right?

Ruby didn’t give Twilight a chance to respond as she sunk herself deeper into their being, far enough that Twilight would have had to stop walking and focus just to even reach her. Despite her memories of taking similar actions when she was on the inside, her urge to snarl only rose and she entertained the idea that perhaps she wouldn’t care if she did it in front of everyone. But Ruby’s words struck a chord with Twilight, and so she quietly fumed as she kept walking, now unable to help but think about Ruby’s statement of the town.

Dammit, Ruby…

They soon arrived at the town hall nestled within the very center of Dusktown. Twilight’s mental map of Dusktown was coming into focus, and she estimated that it was roughly half the size of Ponyville spacing wise, but was more tightly packed. From what she could recall there weren’t more than five-hundred bat ponies who lived within the town at any given time, even before Night Walker managed to lead some away.

She looked to the buildings again, and while they still sparkled in their beauty, she realized that despite the large amount of attention they had received, many of their windows were empty. Still borns, defects, and early deaths…

The few snippets of Ruby’s memories she could recall about the state of the bat ponies, coupled with Celestia’s confirmation, spun in her mind again, and she was finding her initial impression of the town beginning to weaken. This is still the best choice, isn’t it? she asked to no one in particular within her sectioned off mind space. Sure, there are problems, but this is right way to go about things. Night Walker is still wrong… Isn’t he?

It only took a few moments before she shook her head at the thought. The idea that Night Walker might not be evil was short lived, but she felt the dismissal of such a notion should have come more quickly than it had.

With the guards left outside, Twilight and the others entered the building, and they found it was largely hollow on the inside. Monolithic pillars adorned the edges of the room, and between them intricate murals could be seen, each one sharing the story of a legend Twilight did not recognize. Following the pillars upwards with her eyes, she lost her breath at the sight of the night sky above her. No, she thought afterward. It’s a ceiling…

Indeed, with further examination, she could notice the details of what had to have been the most complex illusion enchantment she had ever seen. The imitated stars were so close to their real life counterparts, but even more easily distinguished, along with subtle extra details that made it appear like a flowing painting. Twilight and the rest of the girls, with the exception of Pinkie Pie, had become lost for a moment as they stared upwards to the magical ceiling, until a gentle cough from Luna brought their eyes back down. There were no seats or tables in the circular space, so they stood arm length apart from one another in a circle, their escorts waiting outside as the Princesses, Twilight’s friends, Lunar Pearl, and Grove looked amongst each other.

“I believe a recap for those who are unaware of the details is in order,” Luna stated.

Grove nodded as he stepped forward and cleared his throat. “Princess Twilight and friends, as you know, our beloved Dusktown was attacked a few days ago.” Everyone was quiet as they listened to the elder’s voice, noting that confident and clear tone of his had diminished. “It happened just after sunset when the guards were exchanging places, from pegasi to bat pony, and the day shift unicorns to the night shift ones. It was sudden, but the battle lasted for over an hour. Unfortunately, some of the town was damaged, and we lost ponies…”

How he had ordered their loss caused Twilight’s attentive gaze to tighten slightly, a response that only Rarity noticed.

Grove sighed wearily as he closed his eyes. “We tried out best in stopping the invaders, but they were far more dangerous than we had thought.” Opening his eyes again, he gave a thankful nod to Luna. “The reinforcement of guards was helpful, but it was not enough to drive them away like we had hoped. Some of them were much stronger than they used to be, but they were nothing compared to that monster. In the end, we were unable to persuade those that left with him to change their minds. They have chosen to abandon everything we built here for his dark promises.” Grove’s voice had become hollow the longer he had spoken, and he ended with a solemn tone. “I still can’t help myself but wonder how this came to be. Why they had left…”

Ruby made a ‘tsk’, alerting Twilight she had brought her consciousness back in order to watch events more clearly. Twilight didn’t have any replies for the remark.

“How was Night Walker able to freely speak to Dusktown’s residents?” Rarity suddenly asked.

Everyone eyed Rarity in surprise, and Grove looked to her with a confused expression. “I… I’m not entirely sure. He used a strange magic and the unicorns had difficulty countering it. He must have spoken with them while holding our forces at bay.”

“What kind of magic? How did he use it?” she pressed.

Grove stared at her for a moment longer, then straightened his posture in realization. “I see… Young lady, you are a descendant of the Gemstones, aren’t you?”

There was a pause before Rarity replied, “Yes.”

“After we are done I’ll arrange for you to speak with our head guard,” Grove said. “He will be able to better inform you of the details.”

Rarity nodded, but the firm stamp of Celestia’s hoof resounded through the building. “No, I’m afraid that will not be possible.”

Turning her head to Celestia, Rarity’s so far stoic face cracked. “And why not?”

Celestia’s flinch at the response had been so subtle and brief that the majority of the room had not even noticed it, for they were far too busy staring at Rarity in disbelief. “Rarity,” Celestia said in a calm voice, “I understand how personal this may all seem to you. But it is not my intention to have you, or anypony else here for the matter, become caught up in a war with Night Walker. And while it pains me to say this, you and Twilight must be kept the furthest away.”

“Because of my connection to the Gemstones?” Rarity asked.

“Yes.”

“Then why did you even bring us here in the first place?”

The question caught Celestia by surprise, and before she could respond, Rarity took another step forward. “If you truly wanted Twilight and I kept away from this situation, you would have never brought us here.”

“It was not my intention to drag you into this,” Celestia replied in a soft tone. “I only wanted some of your questions be answered and perhaps find some closure.”

“Well, I certainly have questions,” Rarity said. “Why were there so few ponies here to guard Dusktown? How are the Gemstone’s involved with the security? Are you aware of any that may have undergone the Gemstone ritual? Are they still here, or did you have them all removed when it became known some of them had betrayed you?”

“Rarity!” Applejack exclaimed, but Rarity kept her gaze focused on Celestia who appeared pained with each question, and Rarity spoke more firmly with each word.

“Were there even any Gemstones here when Night Walker attacked? What are you doing to ensure he won’t be able to repeat all of this again? Why is it that his location could not be found despite leaving Dusktown with an attacking force and taking fifty of its residents with him?”

“Enough!” Luna bellowed as she marched herself to Rarity. “I will not permit you to speak to my sister this way! You may be an Element of Harmony and plagued by the effects of your ancestry, but you will show respect!”

For all her intimidation that was clearly felt by the rest of the room, Rarity stood firm and unwavering as she looked into Luna’s eyes. “My apologies, Princess Luna. But I can’t help but see the possible shortcomings of your actions. Ponies lives have been put at risk and if I can help it I will put a stop to it.”

“How dare you,” Luna echoed as the Canterlot Voice seeped out while she threw her wings open. “You believe that we are not doing the best that we can? That we would abandon our citizens to Night Walker’s shadows?

“I believe that he has gotten away with far too much already, and that he must be stopped no matter what the cost,” Rarity replied with a rising tone, matching Luna’s angered expression with her own.

Luna stared fiercely down at Rarity until she eventually sighed and folded her wings, only slightly easing the tension within the room. “I’ve heard such words from ponies before,” Luna disdainfully replied. “They too believed that there was no cost too high for their actions. Despite their skills, I still believe it was only with luck that any of them survived at all.” Though she appeared more composed than before, Luna still radiated an intimidating presence. “I will not speak poorly of the peace the Gemstones created, but neither will I dismiss their thirst for blood and ash that lead so many of them to their death. It pains me to see that same desire within you as well, Rarity.”

Rarity’s hair rose at the statement, and she lit her horn.

“Rarity!” Twilight shouted as moved towards her, but then froze in place after two steps. Rarity’s horn shimmered with considerable magic, far more than Twilight could ever recall Rarity summoning so quickly, and it was now pointed directly at her. There was a fierce cold within Rarity’s eyes as she stared at Twilight, and Twilight found herself petrified beneath the gaze.

Dead silence filled the room as Rarity kept her aim steady at Twilight, and when it seemed that the situation might further escalate, Rarity’s turned her head, letting the magic drift away harmlessly. Before anypony else could act, Rarity quickly walked towards the door.

Twilight was the first to recover and she began to follow. “R-Rarity!”

“Don’t follow me,” Rarity replied coldly, halting Twilight in her tracks. “I’m sorry, Twilight, but I’ll have to break our promise. There’s a lot I have to think about and I can’t do it with you nearby.” With that, Rarity approached the doors and threw them open, startling the awaiting guards as she left with a brisk pace down the streets.

It took some time for everypony to release the breaths they had held, and with a gentle nudge from Applejack, Fluttershy quickly left to accompany Rarity.

Everypony else stared, mouth agape at the open doors, and the tense silence appeared to have only partially lifted.

“Perhaps she is right,” Celestia said quietly.

“Sister, we will discuss this later,” Luna said as she came to her side. Celestia looked to Luna with a shaken expression, then nodded as she recollected herself. “Calm yourself,” Luna whispered before glancing at Twilight. “Do not let yourself succumb to your worries. Not now.”

With a reassuring wing stroke from Luna, Celestia solemnly nodded.

“My apologies,” Grove spoke. He wiped his brow with a hoof as he stared at the open doors. “It was my mistake. I thought that perhaps you had brought her to help but it seems… well, forgive me for assuming so.”

“C… Can you please explain to me,” Twilight managed to say, wiping the few tears that had appeared. It pained her to do so at the chance Rarity might come back, but she reluctantly closed the doors and turned to face Grove. “Please, I have to know what she’s going through. I have to find out how close the Gemstones are tied to all of this.”

Grove looked to Luna and Celestia for an answer, and was given a nod from Luna. “Very well,” he said, followed by another cough to clear his throat. “I’m not sure how much you know, but the Gemstones were initially our guardians when our town was first created. I hadn’t had known it was because of our vampirism, but now that I know, I can only be thankful for them.”

He straighten his posture as he spoke more clearly. “Fully awakened Gemstones are rare, I myself have only met two in my life before Rarity.”

Twilight frowned. “But she isn’t awakened.” She turned to Celestia. “Right?”

“She isn’t, but it is troubling to see how close she appears to be,” Celestia replied, looking more herself now. “I don’t know why so many of the Hunter’s traits are active in her, but I am certain she has not undergone the ritual.”

“Can she still be awakened, as you put it, without it?” Twilight asked.

“No, it’s magic does not work like that. Though, with everything that has happened, perhaps there is something I missed…”

Twilight turned towards the girls. “Can any of you remember when Rarity starting behaving differently?”

“A… Ah’m not too sure,” Applejack replied. She turned to Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie, but they didn’t appear to have a definitive answer either.

“Well, she did act funny in Fillydelphia,” Rainbow Dash said as she ran a hoof their her mane. “But I just thought that was because of what was going on with you, Twilight.”

“She did mention that she felt different in that fight,” Applejack added. “Back in the yard when Rarity and I tried to help ya, Twalight.”

“I remember some of that,” Twilight said. “But there has to be something else, right? How could this have just appeared out of nowhere?”

“Maybe it was just slow?” Pinkie Pie said, drawing their eyes. “I mean, it was a little noticeable back in Ponyville, but I thought we were looking for when she got zapped by these Gemstone Gummies or something.”

“What was noticeable, Pinkie?” Twilight asked urgently.

“What? Are you saying you all totally didn’t see her acting more in charge when Twilight became a kitty vampony?” Their clueless faces answered her. “Come on! She was all like ‘Let’s find out what’s wrong with Twilight’ and took charge and stuff. She was like a detective.”

“She was worried, Pinkie,” Applejack said. “Any of us would’ve done the same.”

“But Rarity wouldn’t have gotten us together, asked us really hard questions about everything Twilight had done, and went to a dinner party without dressing up,” Pinkie Pie replied. “Was I really the only one who didn’t think it was weird she didn’t dress up for a dinner party?”

The rest of them stared wide-eyed at Pinkie Pie.

“Pinkie,” Rainbow Dash said, “How come you can pick up these really, really small details, but can’t tell when you’re scaring Fluttershy out of her wits sometimes?”

“I have no idea!” Pinkie Pie said smiling.

“It’s almost so small as to not even consider, but if that’s true,” Twilight said, “then this problem has been building ever since this all started. She probably didn’t have any idea it was happening until it became worse and worse. And now… now she can barely be anywhere near me…” Twilight and Pinkie Pie frowned at each other until, then Twilight turned to Celestia. “Do… Do you think the Elements of Harmony would help her?”

“I thought I had an idea on how the Elements worked,” Celestia replied, “but if they did not remove the vampirism within you, then I can’t say anything is certain. They are strange artifacts that Luna and I found near our old home. How old they are or what their full power is, I cannot say.”

“That may be something we’ll look into at one point,” Twilight replied. “But for now, please, Elder Grove, tell us everything else you know.”

“O-Of course,” he replied, having been caught up in the conversation. “Awakened Gemstones are rare, but I always figured there were a few unawakened ones posted as our guard at all times. These days things are much more relaxed between us and the guard. Long ago the idea of a guard and a bat pony falling in love would have been met with hostility, but these days it is accepted, and we bat ponies are able to join the Royal Guard.”

Grove turned to Luna and gave a thankful bow. “Your return, Princess Luna, has resparked much hope for us. Ah, that isn’t to say we aren’t thankful for everything you have done, Princess Celestia.”

“It is alright,” Celestia said, smiling for the first time in a while.

“Other than that, there isn’t much else to say about the Hunters that I know of,” Grove said. “I’m sorry, Princess Twilight.”

“Celestia?” Twilight asked, turning to her.

Lines appeared on Celestia’s face again, and she lowered her ears. “Rarity is correct in that I recalled the ponies who I knew were affiliated with the Hunters. Their actions in Fillydelphia made it clear I could not be certain of who I could trust, and aside for a few rogue ponies who have yet to be accounted for, their leaders complied with my wishes. They are stationed within Canterlot as the local guard for the time being.”

Twilight grit her teeth, and she began pacing back and forth. “Everything is so scattered… Just what are we supposed to do?”

“Twilight,” Celestia said, waiting patiently until Twilight looked her in the eye. Celestia stared hard and long at her, the weight of so many things apparent in her gaze. “Please, do not push yourself deeper into this matter.”

The gravity of her implication made Twilight straighten, and she felt her breath become tight. She had been doing exactly what Ruby said she would do only days ago. She was trying to solve the problem, to figure out the details of what to do next. She was planning on how she was going to stop all of this, and inevitably, stop Night Walker.

That stallion’s chilling laugh and blood red eyes flashed across her mind, and anger and apprehension filled her.

A knock sounded on the doors, causing Twilight to nearly jump at the distraction from her inner thoughts.

“Enter!” Luna shouted.

The door opened and a pale looking bat pony guard stepped inside. “My apologies, Princesses, Elder Grove, and guests, but… There… There’s a message for you, Princess Twilight..” He lifted his hoof revealing a rolled parchment held by a single twine. “It just dropped in front of us… It was being carried by a bat and-”

Luna exploded into action, throwing the doors open with abandon as she flew into the night sky with her horn alight. Celestia was only moments behind, all aspects of weakness and uncertainty vanished for the moment as she furiously scanned the night sky. The two sisters blazed with light and shadow as they warily looked about, causing everypony within sight to stare mouth agape.

“P-Princesses!” one of the guards called from below. After ensuring they could detect nothing was waiting for an opening, they peered down and saw one of the other guards holding a tiny bat within his hooves. They quickly landed and Luna marched to the quivering pony and lit her horn as she magically scanned the bat. After a few tense moments she stopped and gave a weary sigh. “Ensure that bat is kept healthy but locked away. It mustn’t return to its master,” Luna ordered as she and Celestia stepped back inside.

After closing the doors, Luna began pacing back and forth as her wings bristled. “The fiend always manages to do this! Timing his messages with precision and impact! When we capture him he will… he will!” Luna’s voice trailed as she mumbled a series of curses. Then reality caught back up with her, and she spun towards Twilight who was already reading the message.

She and Celestia converged on her, both of them resisting the temptation to pull the letter from Twilight’s hooves and read for themselves immediately. “What does it say?” Celestia asked urgently.

Twilight was slow to respond, but eventually did so with a quiet and hesitant voice. “Dear Princess Twilight…”

”I hope you are recovering from your ordeal without issue. Having your memories kept locked away then returned in such a forceful manner can be dreadfully uncomfortable, but I trust that you’ve handled the experience quite well. I’m confident enough to say that you have, more or less, regained your strength and are ready to continue where we left off. I can’t imagine it will be too much longer before you visit the Sister’s beloved Dusktown. Needless to say, it leaves Ponyville rather unprotected.”

Guards!” Celestia bellowed. Immediately, the guards rushed in, but before she could issue an order, Twilight spoke loudly.

”But, rest assured, I won’t lay a hoof on Ponyville or its residents.”

Celestia stared at the parchment with a contemplative expression, then turned back to the guards. “Send word to Canterlot. Double the forces within Ponyville, now.” They bowed at the command, then rushed forth to complete it.

Everypony waited for Twilight to continue, and she did so after swallowing the lump in her throat.

”Twilight, as the many writers of this day and age might say, we have unfinished business, you and I. Prove to me that I was not wrong in choosing you. Show me that you can still be that powerful and unyielding mare that I fashioned. Make me believe that you are indeed a vampony. I will be waiting for you, Twilight, and rest assured, everything will be settled when we meet again for the last time. Signed… Night Walker.”

Visibly shaking, Twilight dropped the letter, and Celestia grabbed it before it even came close to the ground. She and Luna read it over to confirm its contents, and twice more on the possibility of discerning a subtle clue of some sort. Twilight, however, found herself subconsciously walking away from them while staring at the floor with unblinking eyes.

What do we do?

...

Ruby!

What!?

I need help here!

You think I’m not freaking out as well? Night Walker just challenged us!

Do… Do we answer it?

Yes! No, we might not… Augh! I don’t know!

Their emotions intermingled nearly to the point of coalescence. Fear, anger, doubt, vengeance, everything Night Walker had instilled into them. Bittersweet memories of his caring facade burned inside them, a shadow of the twisted and shredded soul they had seen within him back in the cave. He was a fragmented pile of connections, having forcibly stripped and reconnected his own essence on uncountable occasions. Whether anything he actually felt or showed was real was questionable, and it only made it worse for Twilight at the mention of how easily he could have attacked Ponyville.

No, he’s far worse than that… she said in a low voice. He could kill every single stallion, mare, and child without feeling a hint of remorse if he chose to. All he would need to do is shift himself a little more…

And our bat ponies are with him!

Twilight found herself agreeing with her, but paused as she realized what Ruby had said. You said ‘our’ bat ponies.

The sensation of surprise from Ruby flowed through Twilight, followed by embarrassment. Our connection isn’t complete. You must have imagined it.

Ruby… You can’t hide that kind of thing from me. Ruby didn’t respond, but her feelings were fluctuating in a way Twilight hadn’t felt for some time, or more accurately, refused to acknowledge. Twilight physically took a deep breath as her own emotions began to waver from what she was about to ask, finally facing the thing she had purposefully put off. With a gulp, she tentatively asked, Ruby… Please show me your memories.

Ruby’s mood was instantly replaced with suspicion. Why are you asking for that?

Please, show me, Twilight whispered, pushing all her emotion onto Ruby.

Ruby flinched at the sensations, and she became very quiet as Twilight’s feelings washed over her. There was still uncertainty, even fear mingled within it. But its essence was true and honest, and Ruby shivered at finally feeling Twilight open herself towards the bat ponies. It wasn’t with Ruby’s level of affection, but it was a start, and Ruby choked a bit as an inner wall crumbled.

Alright... Just… Give me a moment.

Twilight waited as Ruby prepared, consciously aware as things within her shifted. She did not know how much knowledge of the soul bled over to her from Ruby, but she knew for such an intense share of memories, to feel them as clear as Ruby had, their tattered connection needed to be rebuilt and strengthened. So when Ruby tentatively poked at a point that was Twilight’s, Twilight willingly allowed her entrance, and Ruby fastened the various fibers she had pulled together.

Twilight was more than nervous. Ever since she regained herself she had done all she could to distance herself from Ruby, to ensure everything that was in her was only her. But in truth, she had been there with Ruby the whole way. The bat ponies meant the world to Ruby, and though Twilight never interacted with them directly, it did not mean that Twilight hadn’t come to know and love them as well. That truth was what she had been afraid to face, so very afraid. And so, now having the courage to face that fear, Twilight let Ruby extend her being onto her.

Slowly, the memories came. One by one they appeared, and to Twilight’s surprise, in a much less jarring fashion than her own memories back within in the field. Ruby’s memories came and went in a soothing manner, easing from one to another instead of thrusting their way forward. They were pleasant, dreamlike, and they resonated deep within Twilight. These memories were filled with love.

Now and then, an unpleasant memory appeared, but it would quickly leave for another that was much more pleasant. Though they were Ruby’s memories and so would fade from Twilight’s mind after they came, Twilight would retain her own perception of them. Faces appeared before her, seen from Ruby’s eyes. Smiles were given to her, and Twilight felt the phantom sensation of smiling in kind. Emotions and thoughts that were so similar to hers, but weren’t at the same time. Happiness, anger, sadness, joy, fear, all so few compared to Twilight’s much longer life, but no less vivid. These were real connections made between real ponies, and unlike the invisible observer she used to be who could only grasp and understand what Ruby felt, she now felt them as her own, if only for a moment.

A tear fell down Twilight’s cheeks.

Twilight understood then that she and Ruby were the same at their cores. But though that might be, they were now significantly different from each other, and they had changed even more since the night they had split.

They were two ponies within one body now, and though they had no idea how it would all work, they could not help but feel a sense of determination to figure out a way. Ruby was no longer a split personality to Twilight. She was developed far beyond anything that they had seen replicated within Night Walker. How it had come to this, even Ruby did not know despite the days she had been locked within Twilight since their role reversal, spending so much of her time focused and analyzing their split soul. All of that, however, would be put aside. Right now, they could at least agree on one thing. They could focus their soul on a singular goal.

All of this was shared within moments as their mental landscape reappeared again, and Twilight and Ruby met before the mirror. Many of the glass shards had returned to their places, leaving only a few blank spots left they felt confident would return again someday. The mirror would never be the same again, and the cracked lines from the time it had shattered would forever remain apparent and visible. But now, they would try to mend those cracks, hoping that with some luck, they would be able to bring about a connection they never had before.

Twilight placed a hoof onto the mirror, and Ruby did the same, and they met eyes. They would never be this close to another pony, to be able to feel them in such a way and know their heart and thoughts. And while they were still split on certain matters, they were unified on something that was very important to the both of them now.

You know that they won’t be the only ponies in our lives, Twilight said.

I know, Ruby replied quietly. As much as Ruby had shared with Twilight, so had Twilight shared with Ruby. Though, Twilight’s memories were substantially larger than Ruby’s, more than enough had been shared for Ruby to come to understand Twilight more closely. I… I would like to get to know your friends better.

Twilight smiled. I feel the same about yours.

Ruby nodded. So it’s agreed then.

Yes. We’ll rescue the bat ponies. And then...

And then we kill Night Walker.

Twilight gulped, but otherwise remained determined. Yes. We’re going to kill him.

Ruby smirked, and raised her eyebrow at Twilight. I never thought I would see Twilight Sparkle actually wanting to kill somepony.

Maybe you’ve have finally rubbed off on me, Ruby Sparkle, Twilight replied in a playful but still nervous tone.

Ruby’s ears lowered as she spoke solemnly, It’s only because of you that I became who I am, or even exist at all. We may be different, but some parts of me… some of the best parts of me were from you. Your kindness that I showed to the bat ponies… Your willpower… Everything that I am came from-

Stop, Twilight said, closing her eyes as she gently pressed her horn against the mirror. We’re in this together now, and that’s enough.

Ruby blinked in surprise, then gave a soft laugh, and closed her eyes as she too placed her horn against the glass. Together.

“Equestria to Twilight, hello!”

Twilight jumped as she realized Rainbow Dash was practically in her face, hovering only inches away with an annoyed look.

“S-Sorry! I was just lost in thought!” Twilight said as she scrambled backwards. She turned her head around and saw everypony was staring at her curiously.

“Twilight, is everything alright?” Celestia asked.

“Y-Yes, just fine,” Twilight stammered before flashing a smile. “I’m okay. Just… Trying to take all of this in.”

The fact that she was smiling filled everypony with unease, and they glanced amongst themselves with worry.

“The airship will be departing tomorrow night,” Celestia said as she looked to Twilight, Applejack, and Rainbow Dash. “I would like all of you to head back to Canterlot on it.”

“Our priority is keeping you safe, Twilight,” Luna added. “Despite the reports from the attack confirming your statements that Night Walker is now able to create vamponies without you, I still believe it is for the best to keep you as far away from him as possible. The fact that he has somehow learned to remove our alicorn magic only makes the situation more dire.”

“Right…”, Twilight said slowly. It was Shade Flare, wasn't it? Because of us, he’s able to make vamponies now.

I remember, Ruby replied slowly. Though, now that she thought about the matter more closely, she remembered she never did learn the reason as to why it was possible.

We need to get to the bottom of this, and soon.

I know where we can start.

Where?

Mist Hoof and the others. With any luck, they’re still waiting for us like Lunar Pearl said. Ruby shared the image of a small glen some distance away from Fillydelphia, the meeting place she and Mist Hoof had decided to use for an escape location during their stay in Skyline Tower.

Then we need to get to them quickly once we’re done finding out everything we can here. We have until tomorrow night.

Then we better start now.

“Twilight?” Celestia asked again, and this time with a more serious tone.

“Yes?”

Celestia gave her a very long and hard stare, causing Twilight’s heart rate to rise. Eventually, though, Celestia spoke, “You should get some rest, soon, and rekindle things with Rarity. She needs you as much as you need her.”

“Yes, I’ll do that,” Twilight replied, dropping her ears at the reminder of that situation.

“And for the remainder of your stay, you’ll have a constant escort. Even though Luna and I are here, we cannot take any chances. I want to ensure that you arrive in Canterlot safely. I trust that you understand and accept?”

The implied tone of escort and Canterlot were very clear to Twilight, and she nodded in reply. “R-Right.”

Celestia gave her one last look, then turned back to Luna and Grove as she joined their conversation.

Alright, first problem. Getting out of here once we found out everything we can.

It shouldn’t be that hard, right?

Twilight quickly recounted the various times she had as a filly attempted to be sneaky around Celestia. Despite all her attempts, whenever her mentor had firmly stated Twilight not to do something foalish, she had always prevented Twilight from ever coming close to her warned objective.

Great. Just how suspicious do you think she’s going to be? She has to have at least some trust that we aren’t going to do what we’re going to do.

“Oh, Twilight, one last thing. After we are done here, I would like your assistance in setting a detection barrier. Night Walker has various methods of infiltration, and while he said that he was waiting for you, I can’t trust that it isn’t a ruse and that he won’t come for you before you leave.”

“Of course,” Twilight replied.

Bat wings.

This might be harder than I thought it would be.

We’ll figure it out, Ruby said dismissively. First things first. I want to explore Dusktown, and we’re starting with the hospital.

Are you sure?

I’m just as apprehensive about it as you are. But we need to see it. They’re our ponies now, and we have to take care of them.

Right, Twilight replied, though not without a note of fear at the prospect. We’ll come up with a plan to escape while we explore town.

Then we go for Night Walker.

... You know this is a stupid idea, right?

Just as well as you know it.

Twilight physically exhaled, then lifted her chest as she excused herself, trying hard not to pay attention to guard ponies that wordlessly followed her and her friends who still cast a suspicious look towards her.

Author's Note:

Twilight and Ruby are getting for action, and it's about dam time! Also, if you hadn't been aware, a new side story has been written for 2POTN and it's actually complete! It's just one chapter and my attempt at improving my first person perspective. The story is called "Last Road" and can found right here in this link. To give a brief synopsis, it's Sun Petal's view from the time she left her families house in Hunter, Slayer, Corpse, up to the point she attacked Ruby back in Chapter 23. Additonally, Hunter, Slayer, Corpse is currently undergoing a rewrite and won't be updated for a bit while longer.

Hope you all enjoyed this chapter and what's coming up next. Second Princess of the Night is now starting to come to a close, and while it's story may end, there are still the three sequels I have planned. Twilight and Ruby are only one pony within the world, and there are still two Shepherds to go. The other girls have been largely neglected in this story, and it would be just a shame if they never got their screen time in some fashion or another.

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