• Published 27th Mar 2015
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Dusk Falls - NorrisThePony



Celestia discovers an eldritch conspiracy in the small beach town of Dusk Falls. Luna fights back growing feelings of jealousy and isolation.

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Formerly Luna's Problem (VIII)

i

With the neon lights and loud music constantly assaulting the eyes and ears of anypony in a mile’s radius of the boardwalk, it might seem odd to call what it became by the end of the next day a ‘spectacle.’ But boisterous as it might have been on every other day, I do believe what it became when I descended from Luna’s top floor suite was still something else entirely.

Banners were hung across buildings, depicting the sun rendered as it appeared on my cutiemark. Every store bore a flag depicting either the solar symbol, or Equestria’s flag which showed Luna and I flying in tandem around the sun and moon. This flag was quite antiquated and archaic, and had largely fallen out of use outside of celebrations, which I had mixed feelings of. I had never quite liked how it fashioned us as goddesses, but neither did I like the solar flag that had largely begun to replace it in these celebrations. Luna had been quite expressive of her distaste towards it as well, and as a result I sometimes felt a perverse sense of guilt upon seeing it.

Regardless of my personal preferences, ponies were happily decorating the boardwalk in all kinds of magnificent colours and patterns, and I watched them with a slight grin as I flew overhead.

In contrast to my subtle smile, however, my mind was analyzing the situation carefully. How many of these ponies truly cared about the celebration they were helping bring forth? And how many more truly loathed my very existence, and how I had arrived to interfere with whatever evil their plans had in mind. I could only imagine what they would be thinking; after decades of unbroken success, flawless planning, and beautiful progress, I had arrived from nowhere to lay my flank down by the beach and stick my snout into their matters without hesitation.

Luna had looked down at the preparations from her balcony, jokingly telling me that I might as well let them raise the sun as well, so intense was their determination. And while I chuckled lightly at her joke, my own thoughts were quite a vivid contrast to what her’s seemingly were. I myself was wondering whether or not I would face another near-assault on the boardwalk as I did three months prior, perhaps one with malicious intent in place of maternal desperation. When I expressed this thought to Luna, she smiled and told me that they “wouldn’t be the first ponies I’d pissed off.” To what extent she believed her gibe was somewhat difficult to tell from the emotionless tone she delivered it in even while wearing that thin smile.

Besides, regardless of whether she believed it, it really was true. You can’t rule a nation for a couple centuries and not make a few ponies displeased with the job you’re doing. And then, when somepony like Sombra emerges and things spiral into chaos for a few gruelling years, there are always scars that won’t heal, and ponies who will always use those scars as proof that whatever it is that I am doing to help Equestria, it clearly isn’t enough. No matter how well you believe you are doing something, somepony else will always believe they can rise above and do it better. Perhaps many times they can. I'm not usually in any mood to face death in order to find out.

I had asked Luna if she would like to eat breakfast on the boardwalk, but she denied my request, calling it “commoner food,” and that it was improper for us to consume it so casually. It had birthed yet another squabble between us, one which I promptly cut short before irritation swelled into anger, as it too frequently did even with the most trivial of matters. She had not actually given me a reason for her refusal, leaving me with no choice but to declare it a simple matter of stubborn pride.

Instead, I left alone, finding a quaint little coffee shop and bakery and enjoying a cup of coffee and a bagel. It was quite busy within the small cafe, and the sensation of having a dozen eyes trained on me as I took delicate sips of my coffee was admittedly quite awkward, so much so that I instead rose from my seat and began making conversation with the pony working the counter.

Eventually, Luna decided to leave her suite and look for me on the boardwalk. To the tune of a flourish of gasps I turned to see her enter the cafe and approach me. Ponies in the busy cafe instantly parted ways to let her through wordlessly, too shocked to actually descend into a bow right away, as I had grown quite accustomed to seeing. She wasn’t smiling nor frowning, although the face she gave me as she strode up to the counter was one of well hidden irritation.

“Enjoying yourself, sister?” she said flatly.

“You should try the coffee here, Luna! I don’t even like coffee and I think it’s sublime!”

“That’s great, Celly. Are you quite finished here?”

“I suppose I am,” I sighed. There were at least a dozen eyes on us, and Luna’s irritable disposition was on full display for them all to see. “What exactly is your rush, Luna? Where is it we must be?”

“The unnatural stone rock formation,” she said, withdrawing her journal and flipping to the sketch I had made, with her brief commentary directly beneath. “I wish to see it myself.”

“Very well.” I nodded. Uttering a quick thank you to the stallion at the counter and giving our audience a smile, I followed Luna as she led the way into the sunny morning light. More ponies parted way for her as she walked a short distance onto the boardwalk, but she didn’t travel much further before spreading her wings and lifting off with two heavy flaps. After she had taken flight, she wordlessly slowed to allow me to pass and lead the way. Neither one of us spoke across the entirety of the short journey, the largest interaction we shared across the five minute flight was a quick glance I had cast backwards in an attempt to gauge her expression. Her mouth was twisted in a slight frown and her eyes were narrowed, making her look positively irked, although what from I did not ask.

If this was the disposition Luna always carried when faced with dark magic and otherworldly menace, I was quite thankful it was a problem she chose not to bring to my Day Court sessions too frequently. Nevertheless, this was Luna’s domain and I knew better than to question her about it. I suppose when one has no choice but to surround themselves with dark magic, the best way to maintain any sort of sanity in the long run is to let go of one’s equinity briefly in situations where it simply cannot be of any benefit.

Soon we arrived at the cove, which was every bit as deserted as it had ever been. Luna’s notebook was already opened up and flipped to the correct page, and she cast the occasional glance at it while pacing around the cove. I simply let her investigate the area on her own, as I had done, and diverted my wayward glance at the glistening surface of the water whose strange secret lay underneath the thin but efficient veil of waves.

Eventually, Luna came meandering back to the shore, standing beside me and sighing loudly through her nose.

“Well, shall we do this?” I asked, sensing her impatience.

“Yes please. Why wait, right?”

Quite fortunately for us, I had previously written down the spell that I had used the last time I had been at the cove into my journal, and Luna’s enchantment meant that we still had it even if I had left mine on my desk at home.

“I’ll cast the spell,” I said. “I’m more familiar with it. This way, you’ll have your magic free to investigate the stone.”

“Good idea, Celly.” Luna agreed.

Without any further hesitation, I began casting the spell. Exactly as before the waves began to part, although with a better sense of what area I needed to access I could salvage some of my strength and instead isolate it around a more centralized area. The towering walls of water looked similar, although the area was only as large as it needed to be this time. They were also divided from us by a distance of about a hundred feet, making them look like some shimmering spire jutting out of the ocean.

“Very impressive,” Luna said with awe, as she craned her neck to take in the vertical ocean looming ahead. “The things unicorns come up with…”

Even with a significant portion of my attention directed towards keeping the spell alight, I was still quite capable of leading the way into the shallow waters and towards where the strange stone formation would be. We had to fly a short distance to actually reach it, and even once we did the water had taken a shape like a bowl, permitting entry only through the top.

Or so it would seem to Luna, for while I joyfully flew straight through the wall of water and into unsullied space, she instead chose to fly the long way over the top. I landed by the stone first, and she was beside me in a moment. I pointed out the rippling lines in the shallow water where the sand gave way to stone, and Luna wasted no time in bending down to inspect it closely.

“It’s enchanted,” she said immediately. “Or...cursed, if you’d prefer.”

“But it’s a rock,” I replied, also leaning down to get a look at it even though I knew exactly how it looked.

“No, it’s not a rock. It’s an entrance.”

“An entrance.”

“Do you having hearing problems, sister?”

“I’m simply confused. Why would there be an entrance to anything buried under a foot of water in the middle of the ocean?”

“Precisely why it’s here. Because nopony would expect it.”

“Can we open it?” I prodded it with a hoof, taking care to keep my horn from touching it if what Luna had said was indeed true. With my magic so focused on keeping the wall of water in place, I could not extend it to the stone to search for enchantment as Luna must have, but I carried no doubt towards her judgement. “What lies beyond?”

“What am I, omniscient?” Luna said begrudgingly. I blushed slightly; in my excitement I had asked questions I should have known she’d have no answer to. “You’re free to try. I’m not touching that thing with my magic.”

She hesitated for a few seconds, breathed a weary sigh through her nose, and brought a hoof to rub her temples.

“I’m sorry, Celly. Please, don’t actually try. Not when there’s a chance you might get hurt.”

I arched an eyebrow in curiosity, and Luna elaborated further.

“I am detecting some sort of magical enchantment around it, one which might inflict damage if we try to touch it,” she explained. We’d both seen similar things before, Luna had once been asked to assist with dispelling a curse around a locked safe that had been found by a unicorn couple underneath the floorboards of the home they’d moved into. The curse around it had severed one of the poor unicorn’s horns clean off, and when the Royal Guard was brought in to investigate they’d sent specifically for one of us to see. Luna had enthusiastically travelled for miles to the city where it had been found, and spent several weeks trying to safely dispel the curse around it back home. Once she finally managed to, she found shy of a thousand bits which she gave to the unicorns, and an ancient spellbook of outlawed magic which she had ordered to be destroyed without so much as a second thought.

After what Luna had told me of that incident, I knew better than to doubt her when she warned about dangerous magic.

“Can you eliminate the enchantment?” I asked. A quick throb caused me to grimace as the trying nature of the spell I was casting reared its teeth inexplicably.

“It’s strong, Celestia,” she murmured after closing her eyes and lighting up her horn once more to check the enchantment again. I noticed the ghost of a pain-filled frown tugging at her lips as well. “It’s...stronger than I’ve ever seen before.”

“Verily?” I asked. “And the nature of the magic itself? Unicorn?”

“Difficult to tell, considering I’m doing no more than simply prodding it with my own,” Luna said sadly. “And what’s more, I can’t make any progress in dispelling it unless you’re always here keeping the waves parted.”

“It’s a two alicorn job.” I clarified.

“That it is.”

“And one for another day,” I shook my head and turned away. Another throb had torn through my temples, this time sending a splitting headache through my skull. I did not need to see Luna’s face to know that the same angry expression she’d given me when we were talking on the balcony had resurfaced, but this time she stayed her tongue after seeing the evident discomfort the water bending spell was causing me.

“Are you quite alright, sister?” she asked with concern.

“Yes, Luna, thank you.”

“It’s been almost two days since you’ve rested,” she pointed out. I could have sworn there was a tinge of regret and guilt in her tone. “Perhaps I was wrong to insist we come out here.”

“No, no, Luna. You weren’t. But I think I’m prepared to go back now.”

“Fine by me. I have a few choice questions for the Mayor of this town anyways.”

I turned my gaze from the towering water to look back at her. She was wearing a smug, terrifying grin which implied some form of hostile action beyond simple questions.

“Luna…” I said, meeting her eyes whilst narrowing my own. “I already spoke with him. I’d prefer if you did not...ah…”

I broke off, prompting Luna to raise a hoof to further my reply.

“Sometimes you can be...overly hostile…” It took the best of my ability to stop myself from looking away as her expression changed to one of feigned innocence.

“I mean no disrespect, sister,” Luna said earnestly. “But, if I see fit to ask more questions for him to answer, I will ask more questions.”

“Please, Luna, promise me you won’t be...confrontational.”

“I assure you I only wish to ask him questions.”

“Well then good luck,” I said. “I’m going to rest by the beach for awhile before flying back. I’ll see you around.”

“Certainly,” Luna nodded. Together, we flew through the suspended water. The moment we were through I gratefully ended the spell and allowed the water to fall back down with the same loud slapping noise that it had made before. While I swirled downwards to land back on the sandy beach, Luna did not break her set flightpath with the boardwalk ahead.

ii

I arrived back at the boardwalk only a several minutes after Luna had, and as a result I spotted her deep blue form quite easily. Somewhat to my advantage was the significant empty radius around Luna even with the crowded nature of the boardwalk. I quickly reformed with her; she mumbled a greeting without turning around, it seemed as though her focus was more on the ponies around her and not on myself.

“Quite a lot of tourists,” she commented after I landed. “They stick out like a sore hoof, even to me.”

“They must be here for the Summer Sun Celebration,” I agreed with a chuckle.

“They seem quite happy to see you, anyways,” Luna grumbled, analyzing them with narrowed eyes.

I hadn’t noticed it myself, but after Luna had mentioned it I realized she was right. The common reaction I seemed to be seeing in the faces of the passing tourists was less joy, however, and more relief. The sort of relief one would expect a pony finding water in a desolate desert to express. They had arrived for the Summer Sun Celebration, that much seemed to be a given, but why then would they be so surprised upon seeing me in the flesh?

“Perhaps they were expecting a castle to be here,” Luna suggested, as if reading my thoughts. “And yet here you are, walking down the boardwalk with me as if you’ve been living here since the day you were born.”

Luna proceeded to tell me how she was searching for Mayor Kleos, and how he was nowhere to be found at his home, which she’d already checked. Fortunately, his elusiveness meant she was forced to spend some time searching for him around Dusk Falls. Whether she was aware of it or not, she was presently fulfilling precisely what had fueled our argument earlier that morning; two sisters simply walking the streets of the town. Granted, it was with ulterior motives and imminent confrontation looming on the horizon, and would pass as soon as Luna found who she was looking for, but it would be nice while it lasted regardless.

Several times she had told me I had no obligation to be with her, which seemed to be her subtle way of telling me to leave, but I did not. Our conversations had actually become natural, without foreboding lining their outskirts; as they had been when she had shown up unannounced one month prior. This time, however, there were no untold secrets between each other, and therefore nothing to denounce the lighthearted anecdotes Luna shared of her life back home.

While I was enjoying innocent conversation with Luna for the first time in awhile, my gaze was several times forcibly fixated on the seemingly growing number of tourist ponies, all of whose eyes seemed to be unsubtly locked on me.

I do not recall whether my own mind had conjured up a prediction of what their attention meant, or if it had caught me by surprise, but eventually the first of what would be many ponies conjured up the courage to step into the unsullied circle in the crowd Luna and I had unintentionally formed.

“Excuse me...Princess Celestia?” Amazingly, I actually recognized the beige unicorn mare with a dark brown mane and tail. Her mane was kept in a posh looking bun, and she likewise carried her noble appearance in her dignified attitude as well. I had seen her during Day Court in the Everfree Castle on several occasions. A courtier, if I was not mistaken.

“Yes, darling?” I asked without hesitation, wearing a casual smile that would have appeased her but been meaningless to anypony who knew me beyond the monotony of Day Court. Luna seemed to recognize her as well, and gave a nod of both acknowledging respect, and bitter disdain.

“My name is Fine Line. I...I served in your Day Court?”

“Indeed, I remember you quite well,” I nodded. At the drop of her name, I recalled her identity more clearly. I had correct in believing she was a courtier, it seemed. “Wait...you said served?”

“Yes. Served. Past tense.” she turned her gaze to Luna and awkwardly scratched an ear. “I...ah...resigned, not long after you left.”

Luna let out an indignant grumble and out of the corner of my eye I saw her turn and keep pacing ahead, giving us space either out of respect or out of anger. I had my unfortunate doubts that Luna’s anger and Fine Line’s apparent resignation were not linked, and both of us clearly identified the unspoken correlation between her reign and the end of a previously unsullied career.

She had already crept well into the second third of her life, but it came with surprise to me that she had resigned so early. If this was indeed the same mare I recalled seeing frequently during my Day Court, it was with surprise that I was confronted with this fact; she had been so spry and vocal during the Day Court sessions I had seen her in. Then again, (and with the majority of the nobles I had seen) Fine Line could never lift a hoof again in her life and still have enough bits to live a life above the more humble of subjects, not that I had ever known her to be anything even resembling lazy and apathetic.

“What brings you to Dusk Falls?” I asked, once Luna had travelled beyond earshot and stood watching our exchange from a distance.

“Like most ponies...the Summer Sun Celebration...”

My light chuckle caused her sentence to trail off, and look at me expectantly.

“With all due respect, I find that unlikely,” I said. “If you’re anything like the mare I remember, you’re not here on vacation.”

She blinked in surprise, and then exhaled through her nose and looked to her hooves.

“Yes, you’ve got me, your Majesty. I took the Summer Sun Celebration as an opportunity to come speak with you. If I would have known you were so active amongst this small town community, I wouldn’t have waited for a reason.”

“I understand. So then what was it that you wanted from me specifically?”

“It’s in regards to a trading agreement with the Griffon Empire that was presented to your sister,” I felt a tinge of irritation which I repressed better than Luna had. I had suspected something like this would happen since I had first arrived in Dusk Falls. “Princess Luna turned it down, without presenting any just reason, and at the cost of what could have been ten thousand bits annually for Equestria with little to no notable liabilities. On behalf of several concerned Equestrians, I’ve decided to attempt to sway you into reversing her decision.”

“Do you have the paperwork for me to review?” I said after a sigh.

“I do,” she replied, withdrawing a manila envelope from her saddlebag. “If you could just take a look at it yourself...and forward it back to us, you would be making dozens of ponies very happy.”

“I doubt I will find a reason in here to reverse a decision my sister has already seen fit to enforce,” I said firmly, raising the manila envelope upwards to emphasize my statement. “But I will look regardless.”

“Much obliged, Your Majesty,” she said whilst giving me a curt bow. “If I may ask...when do you plan on returning to Equestria?”

“Why?” I questioned. With a blink my gaze had turned to Luna watching us from beyond earshot, for but a moment before snapping back to Fine Line. “Is it in shambles without me?”

“No. That isn’t what I mean.”

“I know it isn’t what you mean. But I hope I’ve made my point?” I asked. She followed my gaze towards Luna and nodded. “I’ll return when I so desire. I see no necessity to rush back presently when Equestria has been in fine hooves during my absence.”

“I’m sorry, Your Majesty. My intention wasn’t to offend.”

“Nor was mine to be confrontational,” I assured. Holding the manila envelope up once more, I decided to switch my tone instead of scaring the poor mare any further. “Thank you for bringing this to my attention, Fine Line. And I wish you luck wherever your life takes you. I quite enjoyed having you in my court.”

“I quite enjoyed serving you, Your Majesty. Thank you for your time.”

She bowed again, and quickly scurried off. She was lost to the crowds in moments, leaving me to wonder how many other nobles and courtiers had been shocked by my sudden departure. It occurred to me then that it had been quite insensitive of me to leave so unexpectedly. I had not even taken the time to say any farewells to my guards, royal servants, or anypony else beyond a select few back home.

Luna rejoined once she saw our exchange was over. Even though she had been kind enough to leave us to talk alone, she was quick to ask me what it was we had talked about, which more or less defeated the entire purpose of the gesture anyways. Nevertheless, I told her, and if she was visibly annoyed by it (which I knew she was) she had no comment.

I myself was practically praying Fine Line would be an isolated incident, but to my disdain I was approached almost a dozen more times by ponies whose problems had already been brought to light to Luna months ago. For whatever reason, her judgement had not sufficed, and my own was apparently needed. It seemed that, simply put, they desired a second opinion. When I was not agreeing to whatever judgement Luna had made weeks or months ago, I was instead telling them what I had told Fine Line. I would ‘look into it,’ which basically only meant I was to once more reiterate what Luna had said but at a later date instead.

I quickly realized the reason for the vast amount of determined looking tourists who had flocked to Dusk Falls. It wasn’t for the Summer Sun Celebration at all that they had arrived, that had been a mere justification for their miles long treks.

Again, whether there was any prompting incident, or if it simply happened out of sudden spontaneous action, I genuinely cannot recall, but after a certain number of ponies approached me on the boardwalk something clicked in my mind and I excused myself from Luna. I flew up until I landed on the summit of a particularly tall looking store, garnishing an embarrassed look from my sister and an amazed look from everypony else.

“Good afternoon, Dusk Falls,” I announced in a loud voice which carried easily across the crowds. “I realize many of you have come with concerns that you wish to express. I would like to make it clear that when I am on the boardwalk, I am not hosting Day Court.”

I had made no prior arrangements, but it more than likely would not have mattered. If the Town Hall had been needed for anything else, my will would have overpowered it with little to no protest.

“Instead, I invite you to attend the Day Court session that I will be presiding over, in the courthouse of this town. From sunrise until sunset, tomorrow. I presume that’s why many of you are here anyways.”

When I landed back down next to Luna, I was too embarrassed to actually gauge how she had reacted. Thankfully, it seemed she had not been insulted by my unorthodox course of action.

“I suppose they are not used to my word being final,” she said. While she did not sound insulted by the actions of our subjects, some part of me knew she had been anyways.

“It shall be an entire day of me just confirming what you have already said,” I replied, detecting her discomfort. “And reminding them that your word is as final as mine.”

“You don’t need to patronize me, sister.”

“Damn it, Luna!” I was nearly gawking in disbelief at her reaction. “I’m trying to help you! Why must you always interpret my actions as some act against you?”

Silence fell, unbroken for a long while. Luna stared at her hooves as we continued walking. Eventually, she trotted ahead in order to face me face to face. She attempted a smile, but it was as unnatural as the dozens of others ones I had grown used to seeing.

“I’m sorry, Celestia. Thank you.”

“You’re welcome.”

If we had not been in public, our interaction may have bloomed to further peaks of personal expression. Even with her forced smile, I could see genuine appreciation in its pained lines. But while it was unmistakably there, it did not last for even a shadow of a moment, before vanishing to make way for the same determined expression she had maintained throughout the entirety of her boardwalk search for Mayor Kleos.

With my spontaneous Day Court plans suddenly set in motion, I realized that I myself had committed the very crime I had grown irritated with Luna for committing. We were both here together in Dusk Falls in order to spend time with each other before the ceremony, but I had just sacrificed the entirety of the next day, as well as the remaining portion of the present one, since I would have to actually prepare the courthouse for Day Court.

With this revelation, I decided to ask Luna something I had been desperately hoping she would not see as folly.

“Luna...there’s a play on the boardwalk tonight. A dramatization of the Crystal Empire’s Fall,” I reported. Part of me was morbidly curious to discover how interpretation of the story that was now ancient history had been carried down throughout the years. “I thought it would fun...and perhaps even humorous, if we could go watch it together.”

“A play?” she repeated, sounding as if I was only being granted a portion of her attention. “I’ll consider it, Celly.”

“With my day completely gone tomorrow, I was thinking we could go later tonight. There’s a showing at—”

“Wouldn’t it just be a less accurate retelling of events we ourselves know better?” Finally she turned her attention to me, instead of painstaking analyzation of the busy crowds. “I prefer not to have the reminder of how misinterpreted our so called ‘Goddess-like-victories’ have become.”

I sighed, succumbing to defeat. At least my suggestion had not been met with outright hostility, which, as pathetic as it seemed, was at least a somewhat success on my part.

“I’ll consider it,” she repeated, hearing my dejected sigh. “Good luck with Day Court planning, sis.”

iii

Not that it had surprised me in the slightest, but Luna had not followed up her word that she would "consider it." I did not bother hunting her down to confirm it, either. Between overseeing the preparations for the Summer Sun Celebration in two days time, and the temporary conversion of the Dusk Falls Courthouse (which was no more than a humble section of the Town Hall) into what would be my Day Court the next day, I did not return to Pink Sunset until late in the evening. Luna was not there waiting for me, and I was exhausted anyways. I would have been willing to force down coffee and stay awake simply to spend time with her, but if she could not be bothered to make an effort then neither would I.

Angered and slightly saddened, I sat on my porch once I had finally reached Pink Sunset, finishing the last of the cognac I had opened earlier that month. Even though it was approaching midnight, I had spotted many ships sailing towards the harbour on my flight home. None, however, could be seen from the porch. North of the Crimson Coast was nothing but wilderness...perhaps many ships had sailed when the Crystal Empire had still stood, but now they had no reason to come from the Northern waters.

The next day would be difficult and busy. From morning to night I would be preoccupied with hosting Day Court, and when it finally came to a close the Summer Sun Celebration would only be several hours away. It was tradition for ponies to stay awake all night in anticipation of the dawn, which meant it would yet another full stretch of twenty-four hours without sleep for myself. Unless Luna's sudden arrival in my dreams could actually still be counted as sleep, I had not rested for more than two days, and yet I was still awake watching the waves. It was a humorous paradox; if I went to sleep earlier I would be better rested, but I did not actually wish to sleep because I did not wish for the next day to arrive. I had squandered the precious few hours of Luna's visit, aiming to spend them with her and instead only seeing her a select few times and not even getting along with her when I did.

She had planned to return to Equestria the morning immediately following the raising of the sun and conclusion of the Summer Sun Celebration, but perhaps I would be able to persuade her to stay another day. It was worth making an effort, anyways, and at the worst I could just at least convince her to stay if I promised we would be spending the entirety of her time chasing Dusk Falls' infernal conspiracy. Surely we would be able to find some further evidence of the Smooze beyond a mere circumstantial clue within the pages of a stolen book.

I retired long after midnight, sleeping soundly and waking early for Day Court. Quickly, I fixed my mane, donned my regalia, and set out with a piece of toast still in my magic as I began walking towards the town. I was in no rush to actually get there, and as such I’d decided not to use my wings. When I eventually did arrive at the Town Hall, there was already a large multitude of ponies who had begun gathering outside in anticipation of my arrival, but they formed a clear and defined line to the two the moment they saw me approach.

The courtroom had been refit to serve as my temporary Day Court, but the changes were so little that I hardly even noticed. What would have been my throne was the judge’s elevated stand, and it was there that I dutifully walked up to and stood facing the small courtroom as it quickly filled up. In minutes the benches had already reached the maximum capacity of ponies they could have filled, and it was with minor dread that I realized that throughout the day I would have to preside over what every one of the perhaps two hundred ponies had to say.

When all had settled in their places standing beside their benches, I smiled and gave a single nod, and they all sat in unison.

And thus commenced one of the most boring fourteen hour stretches of my life.

I had always loathed Day Court even in its regular form, but to be forced to attend it in such a concentrated fashion was more than straining. As I had greatly suspected, many of them had problems which had already been brought forth to my sister, and as I had known I would I once more repeated what she had already decreed. At least for the most part I did, anyways, occasionally I was presented with an example of Luna’s decisions which, frankly, I thought were ludicrous. These occasions were in the minority, but they did happen and when they did I repeatedly made a mental note in my head to ask Luna why she had decreed it necessary for a farmer to be taxed at no visible benefit to the public, or why some businesses were being forced to stay open for later hours even when doing so was hurtful towards their revenue.

I had no power to reverse decisions Luna had already made..or, rather, I did, but to practice it would require directly confronting Luna, which I would be doing at a later time anyways. As such, when I was conflicted over an issue, I took a note of it and used my tried and true method of telling the pony that I would be “looking into it.” Those three simple words had yet to fail me.

More often than not, however, the more frequent statement I made was that “Luna’s word was equally as final as mine” and that there would “not be an exception.” This was repeated so frequently that after awhile I noticed ponies who had not yet brought forth their concerns rise and leave the courtroom, apparently predicting the same statement once again being made but instead directed towards their problems.

Even after I had set the sun (and taken a short recess to do so) the courtroom was still full of about three dozen ponies. It was already well past seven, but my Day Court session ended up stretching on for an extra two hours.

A couple had been the last ponies to approach me, although there were many more still waiting to be assisted. Had it not been for the gasps and disapproving glares from the remaining dozen ponies, my attention towards the couple before me undoubtedly wouldn’t have faltered, but so rich were the whispered words between them that I silenced the two with a raise of a hoof and rose to my hooves. The gathered company had been stealing disgusted glances backwards at the mare standing in the entranceway of the town hall, and leaning into each other’s ears to ask their certainly justified questions.

While it was almost difficult to recognize her from the deep gash across her face, Indigo Posy had just entered, and I wasn’t about to let her humbly wait her turn as she seemingly was aiming to. My eyes locked with those of Indigo, and she smiled wearily and rose a shaking hoof in a greeting gesture. Even with the simplicity of the movement, she winced a little in pain but kept it hidden behind her weak, forced smile.

A scornful “humph!” was heard from the older mare before me, whose complaints I had clearly stopped paying any attention to, instead diverting the full extent of my attention at the familiar light-pink pegasus in the entrance. Her husband coughed awkwardly, and I finally looked down at them both with a small frown tugging at my lips.

“Out.” I commanded, surprising myself with the sternness in my voice. “Everypony out. I need a word with my friend in private.”

My request was met first with surprise, and then irritated complacency as the ponies rose from the benches and began milling towards the entrance. But whatever had happened to the three ponies I had sent to Manehattan, it was more important than whatever anypony else had to say to me.

“Thank you, Princess Celestia,” Indigo said after the last pony left and the heavy oak door slammed behind them. She began walking down the hall towards me, although she did so with an evident limp and a slight scowl on her face.

“What in Tartarus happened to you?” I trotted up to her so that she didn’t have to walk any further. A long gash had been cut across her face and onto her neck, and her sides were littered with bruises and long strands of medical tape. Only one of her wings was visible, the other was lost to a thick mass of bandages and dried blood. Under the layers of bandaging, there might not have been a wing at all and I most likely would not have been able to tell.

Whatever injuries she had sustained, it was clear she hadn’t given them enough time to recover before rushing back to Dusk Falls.

“Your Majesty, I...we...we were attacked.”

I didn’t try to hide the surprise in my face as I sat down on one of the courtroom benches. Indigo did the same, although she had to sit somewhat awkwardly to prevent her broken wing from making contact with the hardwood bench.

“Are you okay, Indigo?” I asked softly. She looked a little surprised that my immediate response wasn’t to request she further elaborate, but rather was focused on her present personal condition. “Your wing isn’t…?”

“It’s...gone, Princess,” she said, attempting a smile whose insincerity would have been clear to a foal. “I guess I’ll have to switch to the Earth Pony regiment now.”

She had evidently meant it as a joking remark, one whose intent was to break the impossibly thick layer of tension, but it worked only slightly, and was next to worthless when she next spoke.

“Princess, Morning Glory is missing,” Indigo said, her voice as quiet as a breezie, but firm all the same. Despite the melancholic silence in her tone, her words struck me with immense force all the same. For several seconds I could not utter a word, until eventually a single one escaped my lips.

“No…”

“Princess, I’m sorry,” her voice wavered and her eyes watered, but she composed herself and spoke as solemnly as she could. I’d always known her as a very sensitive mare, but it would seem that whatever had happened had caused her to push her own feelings aside. As I’d realized with Luna earlier; when one is dragged to the edge of what their mind can handle, to feel and think is to truly lose one’s sanity for good.

“It’s all my fault,” she muttered.

“What...what happened?” I asked, doing my best to stay calm. A strange feeling swept over my senses, one I had grown used to keeping well restrained. It did not last for more than a moment, but despite its brevity I recognized it immediately. It was the animalistic fury anypony gets when something or someone they truly care for is wronged in a way in which you cannot do a damn thing to help them.

And presently, I had no one but myself to direct that anger towards. For whose fault, other than mine, could this be?

“We were flying, me and Deepsy. She was in the chariot, and…” she shuddered, as if the memory of what had just happened had come clawing its way back to the forefront of her mind’s eye even as she tried to repress the horrible sight.

“I think something hit Deepsy. I didn’t see it, but all of sudden I felt a lot of dead weight on his side of the chariot. When I looked over, he was unconscious and his skull looked like it was bleeding badly.” Once again, a vicious tremor shattered through her, which in turn caused her wing to inadvertently strike the wooden bench. She grimaced but carried on as if nothing had happened. “I might’ve been able to keep it flying, or at least land it, but the chariot hit a tree before I could even react. I must’ve lost consciousness, because when I woke up only Deepsy was by the chariot.”

“Is he alright?” I warily asked, desperately wishing the answer wouldn’t serve to fling me into a state of anger any more than I presently was.

“He’s been unconscious since the crash, but the doctors in Manehattan say it’s because of the magic that hit him, and not because of any severe injuries to his skull. They say should be fine,” she said waveringly. “I hope they weren’t just telling me that…”

Her gaze had been shamefully locked on her hooves since she had first sat down, but they met mine as I extended a hoof and gently raised her head to look into her tired eyes.

“I am very sorry about your wing, Indigo,” I said, and she thanked me, although her words were silent even as her mouth moved to mutter them. Truly, I felt sorry for much more than that, but I had my sincere doubts she did not already know that. I had cleared the courtroom of other ponies for a multitude of reasons, and the clear guilt they would have seen in my expression was certainly one of them. And to draw Indigo’s already guilt-stricken mind towards matters which had clearly cut through her mental state was an insult to any concept of friendship I had built between us.

I wouldn’t vocally dwell on the things I yearned to scream out at the boardwalk and start demanding truths from the bewildered residents of Dusk Falls. Nor did I hope to make any progress by doing so. As much as it pained me, I had no choice but to keep my anger and guilt within me, and try to fashion my alien desires for retribution into as calm of a firm goal as I could.

“Can you tell me what happened to your wing, Indigo?” I asked gently, pointing a hoof at the bundle of reddened bandages.

“When the chariot hit the tree, my harness came off, but my wing was still caught. When the chariot fell to the ground, my wing was still stuck in the harness, but I was tangled up in the forest canopy.”

I recoiled a bit as my mind conjured a visual of what would have happened next.

“Do you know what it was that struck Deepsy?” I asked her.

Indigo shook her head slowly.

“I didn’t see it. But our armour is supposed to deflect unicorn magic, right?” I noticed trace amounts of the same guilt-ridden anger creeping into her voice, too. “Well, enchanted or not, it didn’t do shit for Deepsy. And now Morning Glory is missing, or worse...and it’s all because I couldn’t land the damn chariot.”

“Indigo, please relax," I said as her growing guilt began dragging her voice higher in intensity and pitch and into a panicked parody of what I had grown to expect from her.

"That chariot is designed to safely carry myself and occasionally my sister," I reminded her, "Not the majority of a ponies personal possessions. If what happened is anypony’s fault, it’s mine,” I rested a comforting hoof on her shoulder, taking care to keep it clear of the injuries lining her form. “And yes, your armour could probably deflect a magical energy blast from such a great distance. Something capable of that precision and strength is either one talented unicorn, or…”

I trailed off briefly, as the striking familiarity of my next sentence rung clear.

“...or not a pony at all.” I reluctantly finished. “But whatever it was, it shall greatly come to regret bringing harm to my friends. I can assure you of that without so much as a shadow of uncertainty.”

“Princess Celestia, do you think this was done as a way of...ah...making you mad?”

“Most certainly. But I’m not angry,” I replied. It was a lie on my part, but a well veiled one that she did not seem to catch. “I’m simply more motivated than I was before.”

She smiled—a genuine one this time—and nodded once.

“I am more than ready to help you, Princess Celestia.”

“With respect, no you’re not. Take it easy, for heaven’s sake,” I said. “You lost a wing. I’d think that’s enough of an excuse to relax a bit.”

“Thank you, Your Majesty.”

“Please, don’t mention it. Do you know what hospital in Manehattan Deepsy is being cared for at?”

“Manehattan General. But they’re not letting him have visitors. They said something about the spell keeping him unconscious being dangerous.”

I doubted it would have been too dangerous to me, nor that any permission to visit him would be kept from me. And the Summer Sun Celebration hardly took priority over the well-being of my friend. I could delay it at best, or cancel it entirely at worst. It might stir up some shock, the tradition had gone on uninterrupted even through wars and plagues for centuries, and I could not begin to imagine the chaos that would emerge if I cancelled it for a single pony in need.

Alternatively, I could let Luna do it. In fact, the thought of her having the honours of performing such a well respected ceremony filled me with hopeful optimism that it might further elevate how she was viewed by our subjects.

iv

After several minutes of searching, I found Luna standing alone on an elevated portion of the boardwalk, gazing up with idle curiosity at the spinning form of the Ferris Wheel. There wasn’t a single pony in a fifty foot radius of her.

“No, absolutely not,” Luna shook her head the moment I had asked her if she would like to cover for me at the Summer Sun Celebration. “It’s your ceremony, Celestia, and it’s to celebrate your sun, not my moon.”

“It’s not to celebrate my sun, it’s to celebrate the peak of summer,” I argued.

“What difference does that make, exactly?” Luna arched an eyebrow. “It’s still a ceremony designed by you, for you.”

“I didn’t have anything to do with its inception!” I protested, flaring my wings in self-defence. “And it’s not designed for me! It’s designed for the sun!”

“Which is why your image is plastered across every flag they’re wielding out there,” Luna pointed out. “Imagine their displeasure when I show up in your stead. ‘Oh, hello Equestria! I know you were expecting my sister, but hopefully I suffice.’”

“Luna...what’s gotten into you? What did I do to offend?”

“Celly, I’m sorry, but I’m quite amazed you thought I would be alright with this,” she turned away from me and from the Ferris Wheel to look at the lonely waves.

“I thought you would like the atten—” I began, and then quickly stopped myself. I cursed myself internally, but the wound had already been dealt by my stupid, senseless words.

“You did?! Seriously, Celestia? You thought I would like second rate attention recycled from your glory? Why do you even want me to do this, anyways? Raise your own damn sun!”

“Do you remember the two guards who accompanied me to Dusk Falls?” I asked. Hopefully the truthful explanation I was about to provide would sway her prideful refusal.

“Yes. I chose them.”

“They were escorting Dune Shores’ mother to Manehattan, and they were attacked. I wish to visit the hospital there to make sure all is well.”

I had been expecting Luna to understand after that, and perhaps accept my request if not to at least assist me, even if it came at the price of her own pride. Unfortunately, she surprised me by having a reaction quite opposite to the one I’d been expecting.

“I...you are joking right now, right Celestia? There are so many things senselessly foolish about that sentence that I’m unsure of how to begin.”

“Luna! What is the matter with you?”

“Did the repetitive stupidity of this town make you forget how to be a leader?” she spat. “First of all, I told you this would happen!”

“You didn’t!”

“I did! When we first entered this town. I told you that two guards was an alarmingly miniscule number. And you brushed my warning off, like it didn’t matter.”

The sad truth of her statement left me without a response, and allowed Luna to further continue her judgemental assault of my choices.

“And now you want to further destroy the respect these ponies have for me by dumping your damnable festival into my hooves, just so you can check up on your incompetent guards?”

“Luna, stop! Keep this between us. Don’t drag my friends into this!”

“Friends? Celestia, they are guards. They’re glorified employees.”

“I’m done speaking with you, Luna,” I said spitefully. “When you wish to stop acting like a child, come talk to me. I’ll stay and raise the sun, but I think you should be going home after the festival is over.”

I turned away from her and started to slowly walk away. Some part of my mind was screaming for me to stop, to turn around, and to apologize to Luna, and yet another was screaming out for her to do the same. I did not stop as the distance between us grew, but I was desperately praying Luna’s apologetic voice would give me a reason to.

It didn’t. When I finally turned around with an apology on my tongue, she had vanished into the pitch dark morning sky.

Time passed quickly, and without fully understanding what I was doing, I flew back to Pink Sunset and dug out my ceremonial regalia that was reserved for the Summer Sun Celebration alone. Perhaps it was out of spite that I decided not to cancel the festival that day. Perhaps it was out of some subconscious obligation to withhold the same tradition every year for hundreds of years that I donned the silver, mirror like crown and regalia, so similar yet so different from the golden variant that I wore more frequently. I don’t truly know. All I know for certain is I was prepared in less than ten minutes, which was fortunate since the celebratory band fanfare had already begun as I was urgently flapping my wings to take my place on the makeshift stage on the boardwalk.

I’d been late for the Summer Sun Celebration several times in the past, although never without notice. My arrival was met with a few relieved, wide eyed gazes as I gracefully came to a landing on the elevated platform.

There was another platform beside me. It had always been there for every year of the festival even through war and strife between Equestria, between other nations, and between sisters. It was the same platform I had once scolded a poor pony for being built lesser. The platform to which my gaze would turn when I stumbled on a speech or needed a comforting smile.

For the first time in so many years, Luna’s position at my Summer Sun Celebration had been vacated.

A feeling of strangeness swept over me. Soon, its alien uncertainty formed into a more concrete sense of understanding and obligation. There was no confusion in my mind about why Luna was not there, nor any delusions of carrying out an obligatory tradition that hadn’t had meaning for so long.

There was simply a problem, manifested as an empty space where Luna had once stood, and a solution to be found through my actions alone.

I had carried out the Celebration after all, and yet tradition had been shattered to nothingness all the same. If this was to be the case, then I had no qualms about further laying waste to the infernal, sacred nature of the ceremony.

“Good morning,” I began. “I realize it is unorthodox for a speech to accompany the raising of the sun. I have always maintained that the Summer Sun Celebration is not a celebration of my reign, my sun, nor myself. As such, I have stayed my tongue during it, and silently raised the sun so that you all could bask in the morning warmth it shall produce. I apologize for making an exception this time.”

My words echoed across the packed boardwalk. There was not a sound to be heard, and although I was using no spell to enhance the volume of my voice, it was undoubtedly heard by all regardless. My eyes swept the crowds, searching for a familiar face. I saw Mayor Kleos, and Indigo Posy was standing a couple rows behind him, looking with expectant eyes. Directly across from the long line of ponies towered the hotel. At the very summit, looking out from the balcony, I could see a hint of two shades of blue, as Luna looked on from so far away.

“I see so many joyous faces in the crowd. You have all come so far to witness what is so natural to me, and I appreciate it greatly. I imagine you are all quite confused why I am taking this opportunity to address you. Well, over the many years, I have been carrying out this same tradition. And every time, I notice that gradually the purpose of the festival is lost on myself. Every time I ask myself why I am doing this, and I cannot come up with a proper answer. It is a tradition whose meaning has been lost to time, and it is now a mere celebration of my own grace.

“It is for this reason that I...I won’t be carrying out the Summer Sun Celebration any longer. I extend an apology to everypony who has come to know this. I know that many have been moved and inspired by the Summer Sun Celebration, but I know that still others are affected differently by the vast shadow that the sun’s light casts.”

She must have taken flight when my gaze had swept across the bewildered faces of the watching ponies, because when Luna swooped into my line of sight I started a little in surprise. With a great flap of her wings, she came to a landing on the formally empty platform. There was no embrace on either of our parts, nor was there even an expression of gratefulness or apology between us. There was not even a glance, but the sight of Luna back where she belonged at my side, and not so far away, was more comforting than any of those expendable expressions could have bade.

Luna’s arrival was met with gasps, followed by applause. It was clear that the meaning behind my words had been lost to the vast majority of the onlooking audience. That seemed fine to Luna, in fact, I firmly believe she preferred it this way.

I was grateful for her return for more reasons than the obvious. It had served as a fine division between the shocked silence following my announced cancellation of the Summer Sun Celebration. The papers would certainly assail my choice in the morning, but my feelings towards how any media perceived me had already been whittled down to nothingness. Or so I was content telling myself.

With no more to be done, and with morning already several minutes late thanks to my spontaneous speech, I took a single step forwards as my horn began to light the darkness with its orange aura. As I rose into the air, so too did the sun before me. Gasps echoed through the street, the band’s triumphant song resumed at greater intensity, and nearly every head was craned upwards to watch.

For the majority of these celebrations, I kept my eyes closed, focusing instead on raising the sun as if I were doing so in circumstances no different from what I faced every day. It wasn’t only practical to do so, it was safer; interruption while such a great feat of magic was being caught could (albeit rarely) result in extremely destructive magic feedback that would momentarily lay waste to any connection I had with my own sun.

This particular time, however, I chose to instead look at the ponies who were looking back up at me. Most of their expressions were predictably similar. Amazement, admiration, jealous respect. The very things that had fueled my decision to end the tradition entirely. Even the ponies I had seen before in Dusk Falls looked with open mouths and wide eyes, which I found humorous since it had been something they would have seen on the boardwalk many times before.

Amidst the predictability, however, my eye caught something very distinctly separate from the rest.

Fire.

In the crowds was a small fire. The sun slowed a little in its ascent as I tried to focus, too subtly for anypony without a stopwatch to discover, but slower all the same. I narrowed my eyes as I strained to see what was burning. To my surprise, it looked like a ponies shape, but slightly larger, more similar to Luna or my height. I initially thought it to be a pegasus, but a horn revealed it to be an alicorn instead.

I cast the sun into the sky swiftly as my thoughts clicked into place. It was an effigy. I swirled back down to the stage quicker than before, where Luna had visibly tensed as she too saw it.

“Celestia, look to the crowd! They are burning an effigy!” she leaned in towards me and growled, her voice low. The fury she had earlier had returned, albeit directed at a source other than myself.

So, too, had a few members of the audience seemingly seen it, because an intense ripple of excitement erupted through them as hooves were pointed where it had been and whispered words culminated into a foreboding drone of fearful voices. Evidently, the effigy had served to bring forth attention, perhaps the same way Deepsy and Indigo had been attacked was to bring forth anger within me. If this was indeed the truthful reasoning, it was lost to Luna and I both in that moment, instead we knew not much more than shock and indignation.

“Luna, it’s an alicorn,” I whispered. “Remember what you said earlier about us pissing ponies off?”

“I...I don’t remember seeing an effigy of myself since Sombra’s days,” she said with cruel, dry humour, "How nostalgic."

Before I could protest and point of that we had no indication that it was of Luna or even myself, she had taken off to track down whatever ponies had lit it. Shocked gasps rang out as Luna soared low above the crowd. I stayed on the stage, looking on, as Luna swept at a height dangerously close to the audience below.

“The Summer Sun Celebration is over.” I announced before things spiraled into chaos. Nothing else had been said to ease their fearful whispers, and as the moments dragged on word of what had briefly been lit and promptly snuffed out was traveling through every hushed voice across the entirety of the boardwalk. Luna had vanished into the night once again, and ponies still remained, dumbly looking on as if expecting me to say something more, or else chattering fearfully amongst themselves.

“It’s over!” I repeated sternly. I had done no more than repeat what I had just said, but the vastly different tone of voice in which I spoke caused them all to scatter in near-unison, nervously trying to fit into a routine even though the boardwalk was packed more densely than it had a right to. The band song ended in a cluttered frenzy of abandoned instruments, as the Ferris Wheel ground to a screeching halt, with pegasi already fleeing from the swinging baskets.

I stayed on the elevated stage for nearly half an hour, simply watching as the crowd dispersed urgently. The boardwalk still remained very busy even as ponies began milling towards the hotel, their homes, or out of Dusk Falls completely now that morning had broken and the festival was over. Having stayed awake all night, I imagined many of them would be willing to head back to their homes or hotel rooms and get some much needed sleep, but many others seemed content on staying on the boardwalk. The diners whose hours had been extended for the Summer Sun Celebration were all filled with ponies that I could see through the wide windows.

I would later presume that Luna had intentionally waited for some of the crowds to die down before she returned, most likely not wanting an audience for what she was about to do, but nevertheless I saw her sweep back over the boardwalk with a flight more purposeful than before. She swirled around in a quick maneuver, landing directly in the middle of the audience. Ponies close to her had barely enough time to dive out of the way as she hit the boardwalk, sending long, spindly cracks in every direction.

It took me a moment to realize that she actually had a set destination in mind. The crowd parted ways fearfully as she stalked her way towards Mayor Kleos, who shirked back a little in fear as she loomed over him.

“You are the Mayor of this town of darkness?” Even despite the distance, I heard her stern voice all the same. The crowd around them backed off even further, so that there was a large circle surrounding my sister and the grey unicorn.

“Y...yes…” he fearfully stuttered. “How can I assist you, Your Majesty—”

“Answer my questions only! Don’t speak otherwise.” she cut in. “I couldn’t care less about what mindless lies you have to disguise what your intentions truly are.”

I had taken off into the air and landed in front of her in the blink of an eye.

“Luna!” I hissed. “What in Tartarus do you think you are doing?!”

“Stand down, sister! Let me address that which fearfully lurks in the shadows like a coward!”

“Just calm down, Luna!” I said in a hushed whisper. I was half tempted to ask her whether she had been drinking, but I already knew that she had not. Something had snapped in her when she had spotted the effigy, it would seem, and her mind had clicked towards the first pony she had distrusted when we had initially arrived in Dusk Falls so many weeks ago.

“Luna…” I repeated, after several seconds passed and nothing else happened. I leaned in towards her, extending a hoof that I’d intended to lay on her shoulder in an effort at comforting her. “He has nothing to do with what you saw earlier.”

“Celestia, I’m done arguing with you today, and I’m done with shirking away responsibility as you so love to do,” she swatted my hoof away and advanced closer towards Kleos; forcing him to take a step backwards in response. “I’m taking action, because even as your friends are assaulted by this menace you chose not to.”

As she turned her attention back towards the Mayor, I watched on in desperate silence. I had no choice but to intervene, to firmly tell her to stop, and yet I knew that I would not be able to without ripping open the wound that had just healed with the Summer Sun Celebration.

“Now, tell me, Mayor, what monster you stumbled upon, and how you managed to convince this poor town to assist in your villainous agenda.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about! I just—”

“Stop lying to me!”

“Luna, please!” I begged, only for her to ignore me.

When I saw magic spring to life from her horn, and her aura build around the Mayor, I stepped forward. My horn began to glow as well, easily cutting Luna’s magic short. She blinked in surprise as I stepped in front of the Mayor, dividing him from her threatening approach.

“I’m sorry, Luna. I want you to go home right now.”

“Celestia, you fool. Have you any idea how many ponies are suffering right now because you insist on getting all the answers before taking action? I’ve been right about everything so far and you’ve been mistaken, and yet you still treat me like I am a spoiled child—”

“Go home.” I said, bringing a hoof to the bridge of my snout and closing my eyes. “Please. I’m begging you.”

When I next looked at her, Luna was nodding slowly, a small, malicious grin on her face.

“You know, you’re right, Celestia. You can concern yourself with your issues, the ones you see me unfit to assist with.”

“Luna, come on! I didn’t mean that and you know it! But you can’t go about assaulting ponies on a hunch!”

“I can do whatever I please. Who are you, exactly, to stop me?”

“I’m your sister, damn it! I’m a pony who loves you! Is that not enough to validate my feelings towards your actions?”

“With respect, Celestia…” Luna sighed, her head lowering in sadness. “No, it is not. I wish you good luck here in Dusk Falls. Because you’ve made it quite clear to me that it’s not my problem.”

With nothing more to say, Luna turned and took off into the air, but not before giving the Mayor a filthy look. Once her attention towards him was over, he quickly scurried away almost comically, disappearing into the crowd in moments. Luna did not turn as she flew off, and she did not so much as call out a farewell as she vanished into the blinding light of the newly raised sun. I watched helplessly as my sister gradually shrank into a mere blue pinprick against a morning sky of vivid reds and oranges. Soon, even that tiny blue dot was no more. A mere moment, a blink of an eye, and one would have missed her departure, but the impossible stretch of time it had felt in my heart was a vast contradiction to what my eyes had watched unfold.

“She’ll be back, Your Majesty,” A familiar voice said behind me. I turned and saw Indigo standing with her armour on. She’d folded her other wing against her side instead of letting only one poke out from the holes in the armours side. If I had not known her personally, she would have passed for an earth pony easily.

“I certainly hope so. I’ve never seen her so upset with me.”

“You should see me and my older brother on Hearth’s Warming Eve,” she said lightheartedly. With the tension as thick as it presently was, I was beginning to grow very fond of her innocent, well meant jokes. “Siblings always fight. I guess even ones as powerful as you two.”

“How much of our argument did you see, Indigo?”

“Ah...well, I heard all of it.”

So, too, did half the boardwalk, I realized with disdain.

“Was I in the wrong in getting upset with her? Or was she being dangerously thick-skinned?”

“Princess, I can’t speak against Her Majesty Princess Luna like that,” she said, and although she was still smiling I certainly did not mistake what she said as another joke. If she had borne witness to my sister blatantly insulting Deepsy and herself earlier, I wonder if she would have kept the same valueless respect. Something in me believed she would have, even after the perhaps unintentionally hurtful things Luna had said.

“Yes, I suppose not. Thank you, Indigo.”

v

Underneath the red morning sky I sat on my porch, with a full letter to Luna already written on paper, an ink soaked quill, and my journal.

While I’d seen no justifiable reason why I was obligated to, the letter was largely full of apologetic implications, although I’d refused to explicitly state the words “I am sorry” at any point. Because truly, I was not. Luna had been in the wrong, she had let her paranoia and anger escalate to violence and I had corrected her. That was no cause for apology…right?

I opened the journal with the intention of copying what I had already written into its lines pages for Luna to read when she so chose to reinsert herself into the problems Dusk Falls was facing.

My quill stopped halfway on its journey to the journal, as I beheld the charred and destroyed papers within. With the exception of the journal’s front and back covers, the whole book looked as though it had been salvaged from a terrible fire, one which had claimed the entirety of its contents and left it a mere worthless waste.

I had kept the book safely stowed away in a locked drawer in my desk. There could not possibly have been any fire to damage it from within.

Quickly, I realized what had happened to our two-way journals, and cursed myself for so foolishly not realizing it before. I crumbled my letter, grabbed my journal, and threw them both into a wastebasket as I trotted back into the living room of Pink Sunset.