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Illumination

Celestia woke to the rhythmic ticking of a clock, a sound of the highest importance. Time was everything when you had stars to raise. She observed it sleepily. It looked to be around five. They would have to make haste. She placed an arm around her sister's shoulder.

"Luna... Time to wake up, dear."

The other yawned. "Morning, Tia."

"It isn't yet! Somepony's got to raise the sun."

"I did say I'd do that today, didn't I?" She sighed. "Five minutes, please?"

"Alright. I'll have the servants prepare breakfast."

She exited the room, smiling to herself. She'd have to bring the moon down, too. Even the most beautiful things had to rest, after all.


Trixie lowered the pillow she had apparently adopted as a shield in her sleep. The sun wasn't out yet, but the sky was of a lighter hue. She'd have to get a move on- few things were worse than having to move a filled cart under the heat of the blazing sun.

She rummaged around for her map and looked it over quickly. She'd hoped to make for Fillydelphia, but it seemed a (very) small village that wasn't out of her way would make a better venue to reinvent herself. It was precariously close to Manehattan, but that would be no problem.

She stepped out of the caravan and admired her surroundings. Minimalist, but beautiful nonetheless. She would have to attempt to replicate this plain's success.

Then her stomach grumbled. Truly the best motivation.

She headed to the front of the vehicle, where a modest metallic knob would soon be the focus of her attention. It was made of a material that quite eagerly absorbed magical energy, making the task of moving a whole cart slightly less precarious. It still wouldn't be a light load, she knew.

But it helped if you started small.


As the two sisters walked along the cobblestone path, the sound of their hoofsteps rang out with an air befitting their emotions- especially Luna's.

"Oh my goodness! I haven't handled that star of yours in... a long time. When this mind has trouble remembering something..."

"2746 years, 5 months and 19 days."

Luna scowled, then smiled again. "Oh, and it will be so delightful! The Royal Equestrian Brass will be there, yes? And they shall play the Song of the Sun as I make my ascent, a glorious melody to bring out an ardent spirit in all our subjects!" She blushed and shrank away.

"That... would indeed be the most logical piece for the occasion." She chuckled as they stopped before a corner. "Alright, here it is. Are you ready?"

Luna nodded and they walked out onto the square. She immediately wished they hadn't.

Their appearance drew the attention of a small crowd, who bowed in respect. A small filly remained standing, watching the new arrivals eagerly, before a hoof pulled her down. The brass section was there, at least.

Luna gulped, but then set her gaze straight again. These were her subjects. She couldn't be afraid of them, could she? No, she had a sun to raise and a day to start and these ponies were simply here to watch her. Well, to watch Celestia, but she was sure they wouldn't mind a surprise.

She made her way to the gathering, facing them, and cleared her throat. "Greetings, loyal subjects."

No response.

"I'd bid you good morning, but as my sister kindly pointed out to me, the morning has not arrived yet."

Blank looks again.

"The more... vigilant among you may have noticed that today it is not Celestia who is preparing to bring sunlight to Equestria. The two of us have decided to switch our duties for the day. I do hope my performance will be adequate for you dedicated spectators!" She added a somewhat forced hint of enthusiasm to her last sentence and resisted the urge to cringe.

Instead, she spread her wings and sought out the sun with her magic. Her horn glowed, spurring a light drumroll. The melody developed and grew in volume as her wings began beating with greater determination, and she closed her eyes, taking in the vibrant tune. One drove the other on, it seemed- she yearned to hear their singing and they were... a band. It was their talent, just as raising, well, the moon, but really any heavenly body, it seemed, was hers.

Having pondered this, she decided to open her eyes again. Quite a fair bit of progress she had made- she wasn't sure exactly how high she was supposed to take that flaming orb, but the sound would guide her. Perhaps the players didn't know any more than her, but the two parties had confidence in each other and that was what mattered.

A ringing, brilliant climax that was everything she associated with Celestia's star reached her ears and she sighed, releasing her hold. She let the magic of the moment wash over her until all was quiet. Then she headed down, stopping before the musicians. They bowed.

“An excellent performance, fillies and gentlecolts. I've always been fond of that piece, and your rendition was simply magnificent. Thank you for helping me begin this day on a, if you'll excuse me, high note.” She paused. “Tia tells me my speech may seem a bit dry or overly polite at times. I... truly am grateful. Your talents bring joy to my heart, and to others too, I am sure!”

She trotted over to the other group. “My duty has been performed, little ponies. I do hope you've enjoyed it, and wish every one of you the best of luck with the rest of the day.” There were a few scattered thanks.

The filly she had remarked earlier grinned at her admiringly. “Good job, Pwincess!”

Luna blushed and began walking away, stopping to lower her head and nuzzle her softly. She heard a few murmurs of agreement behind her. Talking to other ponies wasn't that hard, it seemed.

And she was only getting started.


The warm glow of dawn brushed against Pinkamena's face affectionately, and she gazed upon it. Somehow, it seemed brighter, if that was at all possible. But of course! It had to be brighter- today was the day her friends would see her for what she truly was. Happiness was sure to be in abundance for all, no matter how mystical for her. She turned over in her bed and was presented with Gummy staring at her, wearing his usual poker face.. A kindred spirit. She smiled at him. "Mommy's going to tell the whole world her secret today."

And she was. She descended the stairs slowly but with determination. The sound of tea being slurped interspersed with conversation she was too tired to understand greeted her.

"Good morning, Mr. and Mrs. Cake."

"Good morning, Pinkie," said Cup as her husband nodded. "Care to join us?"

"I'm fine. More than fine, actually."

"Alright then."

"Um... I was just wondering..."

"Yes?"

"Could I... Could I take the day off? There's some things I need to talk about with my friends."

The stallion lowered his beverage. "Of course, dear. You know how much we care about you."

She laughed. "I'll be going, then." She skipped across the room, exited the bakery and was faced with a world in bloom. The town square was as lively as it always was, spotted with vibrant hues in motion, and the light spring air flowed through her lungs. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath, then opened them again and set off for the library. There was a unicorn she needed to see.


As Trixie walked into the village, the sun had already risen. Her first task was to cure her hunger, and she entered a small restaurant. Far below her refined Canterlot standards, and yet its simple, quaint atmosphere appealed to her.

The owner greeted her, a smile on his face. "Good morning. What can I get you?"

This was no time to be fancy. "Er... hay fries?" A small part of her recoiled.

"Alright. Those'll be a few minutes."

She took a seat at a table as the stallion went off to do his cooking. She laid her head down on her forehooves and closed her eyes.

"Say, what brings you here, if you don't mind me asking?"

"Wha-? Oh. You... startled me."

"Sorry."

"Quite alright. I really ought to be waking up anyway. I'm a traveling magician."

"And you came here to do a show...?"

"Yes?"

"That's, uh... an interesting decision. Not the biggest crowds around here. Only one pony who's ever seen big crowds, really."

"Oh?"

"Yeah, a carpenter from Manehattan. He's got some relatives here; comes by to visit sometimes."

She swore a bit too loudly.

"You okay?"

"Y-yes! Please do excuse me! Hey, would those fries be done, do you think?"


Rainbow yawned, stretched her legs and lay still again. She smacked her lips complacently, then jerked up, remembering what had happened the other night. She hadn't overslept, had she?

The pegasus darted down to her living room and checked the clock. No, it was much too early to have missed her appointment. Hopefully.

She noted the time and dashed out the door.


"Salad, sprinkled with ground rosemary and cloves, topped with a vinaigrette that Her Majesty Celestia is rather fond of, if I recall correctly." The plates were set before them.

"Salad. A sensible choice."

"Thank you, Your Majesty, Luna."

The servants walked off, leaving the two alone at the table. One of them was eagerly devouring the greens.

"Alright, Tia... um." She sighed.

Celestia swallowed. "Yes?"

"I can't talk while you're eating. I feel so rude."

"Oh, sorry. Well, I can put that off. Salads don't get any colder."

"Indeed. I'll be leaving after this meal. However, I haven't had time to really think of where I wish to go."

"Ah. And you want me to offer some destinations?"

"Yes."

"Well... how does Ponyville sound?"

"Somehow I had a feeling you would say that."

"Well, there's somepony I can easily contact there who can help you! She, too, was faced with joining society once."

"Fair enough. Then the Princess of the Night shall visit Ponyville. You will write that pony a letter?"

"Yes."

"In that case, we may consume these increasingly delicious-looking salads."


The great tree that was Ponyville's library stood before Pinkamena, a familiar destination for her. There was no reason to be nervous; she had been here to visit her friend countless times before. But those butterflies really liked it in her stomach.

She approached the door, raised a hoof, and then lowered it again. The world around her continued to move. Bitterly, she stared at the ground as the sun bore down on her. She had told herself she would do this. She had to do this. If she didn't, what had happened last night would happen again, and again, and again...

Pinkamena held her breath and knocked at the door.

Twilight Sparkle opened it.

“Oh, hello, Pinkie!”

“Good morning, Twilight. Can I come inside?”

“Of course.”

Pinkamena heard the sound of the door closing behind her but kept her gaze straight.

“So, what brings you here?”

“Well, there's... There's some things I wanted to ask you about.”

“Ask away.”

"It's not really that easy. Kind of private, actually."

"I'll listen to whatever you want to tell me, Pinkie. We're friends."

She smiled. This was it, then. "Twilight, I think there's something wrong with me, something I've been hiding from ponies. And now I'd like to know what exactly it is."


The entrance to Sugarcube Corner burst open allowing a blue pegasus to fly in and skid to a halt before a startled Cup Cake.

"Mrs. Cake what time is it!"

"Oh, uh... eight twenty-two!" she stammered.

Rainbow calculated her time, breathing heavily, then grinned in triumph. "Under three minutes. Ha!"

The older mare smiled at her. "Is there anything else I can help you with?"

"Hm... No, not right now. I'm waiting for somepony."

"That's alright."

"It is. I just hope she doesn't leave me hanging."


Morning came to Scootaloo on its own, without the somewhat annoying aid of her mother telling her it was time to get ready for school. Today was Saturday, and she wouldn't need to worry about that.

She wouldn't need to worry about anything, it seemed. She would be meeting with Rainbow Dash and they would do all sorts of things that involved flying and being friends and she simply knew it was going to be so much fun.

She stumbled out of her bed, spread her wings and prepared for an entrance befitting her mood, flying right past the kitchen, where her mother was busy cooking. She saw her daughter out of the corner of her eye and greeted her as she often did.

Scootaloo continued into the living room where her father was stretched out in an armchair, still attempting to wake up. "Morning, Scoot- are you flying!?"

A grin spread across and she stifled a triumphant laugh. "I am!"

Her mother rushed over with a look of joy. "When did you ever learn to-?"

"Last night."

"Last night... What were you doing up?"

"Um, well..." Her grin faded.

"It's alright, dear. We won't get mad at you."

"I was just... bored. And I tried to fly." She lowered herself to the ground, only to suddenly start hopping up and down excitedly. "Oh, and, and! I met Rainbow Dash, and she said we should get together again today and do some things!"

The two looked at her with what she hoped was empathy. Then again, she didn't remember if empathy was good.

"Well, that sounds wonderful! It's a bit sudden, but we're happy for you. Really, we are."

Scootaloo embraced the warmth of their smiles and walked to the door. "I'll be going then."

"Aren't you going to have breakfast?"

"Rainbow said we'd meet at Sugarcube Corner and grab something to eat."

"Sounds like you've got a busy day ahead of you. Oh, that reminds me! Did you finish your homework?"

"Just a few math problems, Mom."

"Alright then. Off you go!"

The stallion turned to her. "Hold your head up, filly. You've got places to see and ponies to meet."

Scootaloo nodded.


Trixie stared at herself in the mirror. This was nothing new. She had set up her cart in the spot that vaguely resembled a plaza, put up some flyers (making sure to indicate the time the show started and that donations were very welcome), gotten dressed, and she had even attracted an audience. So why did she have to keep herself from sweating?

She turned, the sun peeking in through the veil before her. Whether she was willing or not, it was time to shine.

She brought her hoof down on a switch, causing the curtains to swing open. Fireworks and a small fanfare punctuated the entrance.

"Fillies and gentlecolts, the Great and Powerful Trixie invites you to feast your eyes upon magic unmatched in beauty in all of Equestria!"

Somepony yelled a half-hearted "Yeah!" She gulped.

Then she noticed Dusty Wood, carpenter and destroyer of delusions, and almost gulped again.

But, she reminded herself, there were roses to produce from thin air. She would win these ponies over. She had performed before royalty, for goodness' sake; a few villagers were not going to end Trixie.

And if they didn't enjoy Trixie, they would enjoy her magic.


Scootaloo's pace quickened as she left her home, getting quite close to a full gallop as she reached the town's center. She stayed on the ground, however. Not only did she think it best to keep her newfound skill secret for now, but if she knew Rainbow Dash in the slightest, she'd be needing them soon.

She stopped, spotting an apple stand, courtesy of the Acres. Applejack was at the helm, with her sister at her side, eying the goods wistfully. She approached the duo.

"Howdy there, Scootaloo! Yer here fer Apple Bloom, aren'tcha?"

"Yeah. No, wait." She lowered her voice. "Eeyup." The others giggled. "There's something I wanted to show you guys, but it has to stay secret. No telling anypony; not even Sweetie Belle. That goes for you too, Applejack."

"Well, a' course! Show us!"

"Alright." She grinned again. She really ought to stop doing that. It made her look some giddy little foal. But for now she had to focus on flying.

The filly spread her wings and flapped them, gradually increasing her speed until she reached a steady rhythm. As she did so, her altitude increased slightly, and soon she was a whole half-foot above the ground. A modest distance she hoped wouldn't attract attention.

Applejack smiled at her as Apple Bloom admired her proudly. The mare was first to speak.

"Mighty impressed, Scootaloo. That there is some fine flying, if a bit low."

"Congratulations, fellow Crusader! That's another step to getting your cutie mark, ain't it?"

"Ha! I hope so." She realized she hadn't even thought of that conundrum until now. That... wasn't bad, she was sure. Her cutie mark was another worry, for another time. She had a pegasus to meet. She bid the others farewell and galloped away.

Applejack gave her a mock scowl as she disappeared. "Pegasi."


Rainbow Dash sighed. "What time is it, Mrs. Cake?"

"Half past nine, dear."

"So... I've been waiting for over an hour."

"Y-yes." She gave her a look of pity. It stung her a little.

"I'll be going, then." She headed for the exit.

"Miss Dash, I don't mean to sound overbearing or anything, but-"

"Yeah?" She realized she'd cut her off and looked away again.

"Please don't be upset. I'm sure whoever you were waiting for just got caught up in something."

"Yeah, of course. I'm sure they did. Just... couldn't make it." Her voice wavered and she hurried out of the bakery, eager to avoid any further scrutiny.

Instead she found an out-of-breath Scootaloo.


“Anything else, Pinkie?”

“Anything else? Well, I don't like to talk about this too much, but-”

“It's alright if you don't want to.”

“No. I need to tell you as much as I can.” Pinkie looked her straight in the eye, and the unicorn resisted the urge to shiver. “Anyway. Remember my last birthday when you ponies surprised me and I was kind of... bitter?”

Twilight nodded.

“Well, when Rainbow came to pick me up I was in the middle of another party.”

“Oh?”

“With some rocks.”

“Oh. Uh.” She tried to find a polite way of expressing what she felt.

“I know it sounds weird.”

“It doesn't-”

“Yes, it does.”

The purple mare grimaced.

“I had friends much like those; rocks and vegetables and lint and whatever else I could find on that miserable farm- you know about the farm, don't you?”

“Yes.”

“Right. Well. Those friends kept me happy. Happier than the others ever could. And when I came to Ponyville, I... tried to forget them. It worked for a while.”

“Did anypony else know about them?”

“Granny Pie walked in on me once.”

“How was that?”

“Called me crazy.”

Twilight looked at her uncomfortably.

“Oh, I was fine. My heart's pretty tough, you know.”

Twilight struggled to find her words.

“That's it, I think. What's wrong with me, doc?” She smiled.

It went unnoticed.


"Hello, Rainbow Dash! I came as fast as I could!"

"Hi there. Good morning and all that." She sighed. First she had expected a little filly to not wake up late on a Saturday, and then she had almost lost faith in her arriving at all.

"Is something wrong, Rainbow Dash?"

"No. Well, actually, yes."

Scootaloo looked at her worriedly. "What is it?"

"You keep using my full name. Don't idolize me like that. We're friends, and friends are equal."

She was met with humbleness and confusion. "Alright... Rainbow?"

"That's it. Or Dash. Or anything you like. Speaking of which, can I call you Scoot?"

"...sure."

"Well then. You wanna grab something sweet before we fly?"

The question didn't need to be answered and they entered the Corner. Cup, who had been watching the scene, tried to hide her grin.

"Welcome back, Rainbow! Can I get you two something?"

"How's two slices of pie sound, Scoot?"

"Great."

"What kind, then?" Cup's smile refused to fade, especially as her suspicions that the pony Dash had been waiting for had arrived became certainties.

"Uh... cherry?"

"Blueberry?"

The two exchanged glances.

"Blueberry."

"Cherry."

The earth pony laughed. "I'll get you one of each."

"Oh, and could you cut the slices in half too?" asked the blue one.

"Sure thing."

She turned to Scootaloo. "I just thought you'd like to share."


Trixie gorged herself on the applause, however meager. She resisted the urge to grin, and bowed. "Thank you; thank you, all. You've been a wonderful crowd, but I'm afraid I've been keeping you for as long as I can!" She backed away and delicately slid out a metal box with a slot from behind the curtains. "Donations go here. Not required, but Trixie would appreciate them."

She slipped from their view, pushed open the back door lightly, and left her caravan. She headed for the same restaurant that had welcomed her here.

After greeting the stallion and picking out a table, she proceeded to lay back and let out a long, deep sigh.

"Well?"

"I'm not ready to order."

"I meant your show."

Was this empathy? And, if so, why did she act so awkwardly when met with it? "They liked me, I should say. A good performance, I think."

"I guess you'll be leaving us now."

"Yes. A traveling showmare must travel. But I shan't forget this day. It means quite a lot to me."

"Course."

The door opened again. "Hey, Top." The voice snapped her from her lazy rest, familiar in every wrong way.

"Morning, Dusty. Want something?"

"Eh, just a fruit salad." He noticed Trixie. "Morning," he stated calmly.

She froze, staring at him with wide eyes. "H-hello..."

"Though, ha, it's evening, I guess."

"...yes."

"You mind if I sit with you?"

"Go ahead." She tried to get her heart to stop thumping. "Rather forward, wouldn't you say?"

He laughed. "Always. But you already know that."

She wondered if this conversation would test her more than the previous performance.


“Okay, let me try it again. Schi...?”

“Keep going.”

“...zoid. Schizoid.”

“That's it.”

“Wow, how do you spell that?”

“S-C-H-”

“Don't answer that. But that's what I've got?”

“Yes. Socially withdrawn, emotionally cold and with an- I'm guessing- elaborate imagined world."

The magenta one sighed. "Not what most ponies think when they think Pinkie Pie, eh?"

"I guess not. But if you say it's who you really are, then I... have to respect it."

She nodded. "So I guess somepony like me wouldn't have that many friends."

"No..."

"I'm not leaving you behind, unless you want me to."

"I'll always be here for you when you need me, Pinkie, just like I always have. How can we be anything but happy for you?"

She chuckled a little. "Alright, we'll see. I've gotta go." She turned and flashed her flank. "Have to see if I'm still good with parties."


The two winged equines ate as they walked, making quick work of the pastries. Neither of them had had breakfast, and they welcomed the still-warm sweetness.

Rainbow looked to the sky. "Well, here we are. Ready to go up?"

"Isn't it... a little far?"

"Well, yes, but I'm sure you can do it. You've got a lot of potential in those wings; I saw that last night. And don't forget I'll always be right by your side."

Scootaloo nodded sternly.

"Now, you want me to guide you, or...?"

"I can do it." She spread her wings and gained some altitude. Rainbow followed her.

"Uh, you're gonna have to get a little faster there-"

Suddenly the foal flew off, extending her forelegs in instinct as she accelerated.

The older mare sighed and began to chase her.


The door to Ponyville's most renowned bakery opened and a brightly-colored mare stepped in.

"Welcome back, Pinkie! Done already?"

"Not yet, I think. I was hoping to host my friends a party, if you don't mind."

"A party? With you as the host? Why, I think it goes without saying I'll allow it! Just, uh... if you could host it somewhere other than Sugarcube Corner..."

"Sure thing."

"Just remember it's coming out of your paycheck."

"Mrs. Cake, I thought I got an hourly- oh. Ha." She smiled, though more at the fact she could still have normal conversations than at the joke.

"Ah, I just remembered. Some ponies came asking for you."

"Who was it?"

"First Rainbow Dash, and then later a pegasus filly joined her."

"Orange coat?"

"Yes."

"Scootaloo."

"That would be her."

"Did they say anything else?"

"No. A surprise, perhaps?"

"Well. I've got my own surprise coming, and they're both invited."

"I'll get out of your way and let you work, then. Good luck, dear."

Pinkie wondered if she needed luck for a moment, then hopped off to find some balloons.


Luna rocketed through the skies, relishing the feeling of freedom. Tia had suggested a carriage, but she had politely reminded her that she preferred to fly by her own means.

Now there were things to attend to. She would have to enter Ponyville, obviously, though she guessed she would disguise herself. She wasn't quite ready to see how the world would react.

Then she would have to find that Twilight Sparkle. Apparently she had been in a similar position once as well. There was, she hoped, a thing or two she could learn from her.

Her sister had already mentioned a few of the more interesting shops that had sprung up while she had been away, though she remembered Ponyville as a simple little town that she had been fond of visiting in her earlier centuries.

She stopped. Below her, it seemed as if somepony had torn off a corner of Cloudsdale and moved it to the outskirts of her destination. She simply had to take a closer look.

In her eagerness to explore, Princess Luna even forgot to hide her identity.


Exhausted, Scootaloo plopped herself down on a cloud, barely even bothering to keep her eyes open. Rainbow Dash stood by her. "How was that?"

"That was... tough. Hey, wait, I'm on a cloud!"

"Yup."

"That's so cool! Like, I knew pegasi could do that, but it's just so... ha!"

Dash only smiled fondly. "Alright. Since you're still not used to long flights or pacing yourself, I don't think you're really in any condition to be doing flying tricks today."

"Aww..."

"I do see that you're interested in clouds though, so I think I'll introduce you to pegasus magic."

"Magic?"

"Oh yeah. Unicorns aren't the only ones who have it. Hay, even earth ponies. It's not as flashy, of course, but you shouldn't, you know..."

"Make fun of them?"

"Yeah." She tried to get memories of insults, delivered and received, out of her head. "Anyway! Let's start with something simple. Clouds are what your magic affects. Pegasi are the only kind of ponies who can stand on them. Well, except alicorns, and I'm pretty sure Twilight knows a spell that- ugh, now I'm rambling. Do you get it so far?"

"Mm-hm."

"If we just take a little cloud from somewhere..." She searched around, and having found a target, flew up, landing on the wooly mass and maneuvering it to her student. "Now just try bending it a little."

Scootaloo reached inside with a hoof experimentally, then pulled it up slowly. Nothing happened. "Uh..."

"Oh! Gosh, I'm so stupid sometimes. You can't just bend a cloud if you don't want to. Try again, but this time really concentrate on what you want to do with it."

The orange filly focused on the formation determinedly and moved both her forehooves across it, creating an odd bulge on the right side. "Like that?"

"Just like that! Really, I'm impressed. It doesn't come that quickly for most ponies. Now you can try other things with it, like... Try hitting it really hard."

Scootaloo did, causing the cloud to vanish in a puff.

"Best part about being on the weather team right there. Oh, speaking of weather, I need to teach you about that too! Except I'll have to get some more interesting clouds. That's where the real fun is. Don't they teach you any of these things at school?"

"Not really."

"Such a shame. You should know what you can do!"

The two sat in strange silence for a moment.

"So that's all I got, Scoot."

"Aren't you going to give me homework?"

"What? Oh." She giggled. "You kidder."

"No, I was being serious."

"I guess I am your teacher now, too... Work with those clouds. Form them, shape them, do everything you can with them."

"Alright! I guess that's it for today?"

"Yeah... Hey, sorry we didn't do much. It's all just so sudden. But I hope we can be good friends."

"No, it's fine! I... I still can't believe I've got Rainbow Dash teaching me!"

"Hey, what'd I say?"

"Oh, sorry. Good-bye, Rainbow. See you around."

"Can you make the trip back down?"

"Of course."

Suddenly a dark figure landed on their cloud. Dash gasped and bowed. Scootaloo turned to see who had intruded on their meeting. "Morning, ponies. I just happened to be flying here and I noticed- oh dear, why are you bowing?"

"...shouldn't I kn-kneel before Her Majesty?"

"Pardon? Oh!" She blushed. "Please, rise. I am not here as a princess. Not yet."

The mare did as she was told.

"Anyhow, I was just passing over you when I noticed your house's exquisite architecture!" She grinned.

"Thanks. It's a nice little reminder."

"A Cloudsdale pony?"

"Yes. I moved here when I was little."

"It's a pleasant town. And quite vital to the nation's weather. Who are you, then?"

"Rainbow Dash."

"Oh, yes, Rainbow Dash! Tia's mentioned you. Loyalty?"

"That's me."

"Ah, and who would you be, little one?"

"That's Scoo-"

"I didn't ask you. Speak up, filly."

"I'm Scootaloo..." She looked up with fear, still not quite sure who the stranger was.

"Are you... afraid of me?"

"N-no."

Luna sighed. "I am Princess Luna of the Night, in case you did not know, which seems to be the case as you are shivering in your horseshoes, so to speak."

"Am not!"

"That's more like it. Well. I hope our paths may cross again, Rainbow Dash and Scootaloo. I'm afraid I have other matters to attend to, but it's been a pleasure meeting you. What you see next is to remain completely secret." Her horn began to glow, and an aura of magic enveloped the alicorn, changing her appearance into something decidedly different. When the spell finished, a shorter mare with a stunning emerald green mane, pearly white coat and a rose for a cutie mark stood before them. Her horn had vanished. "Call me Rose Petal."

Her subjects admired the goddess-turned-pegasus. Rainbow was the first to break the silence. "Hello, Rose."

"The pleasure is all mine. I believe a filly will be accompanying me?"

"Yeah."

"Then let us go, Scootaloo."

"Okay. Hope to see you soon, Rainbow!"

"See you around." Rainbow watched the pair fly off. The little one was still speeding. That made her feel a little relieved. It meant she didn't just feel the need to push herself when near her mentor.

And as nice the first day of their friendship had been, she still hadn't had an opportunity to open herself. If Pinkie wasn't available, she would need to seek somepony else.

She'd give them a few minutes; running into them again so soon would be odd. Then she herself would leave her home and find another's.


"This is the town, Pri- Rose."

"I noticed."

"I'll leave you to do whatever it is you want to do here."

"Wonderful."

"Just, if I could ask one thing..."

"Yes?"

"See, there's these fillies in my class- you know, high-class and stuff- and they're always teasing me and my friends because we're..." She sighed and showed her companion her flank.

"Oh. No cutie mark yet. And that's why they... why, how despicable!"

"Yeah."

"And how can I help you with this regrettable situation?"

"Well, I was thinking how you're kind of the Princess of the Night and you could maybe just go and visit them and..." She looked away. "Give them a little scare?"

Rose blinked a few times, incredulously. Then she laughed. "Scare those awful fillies?"

Scootaloo sighed and began walking away.

"W-wait, please! I'm sorry if I hurt you."

She stopped.

"What I meant was that you shouldn't lower yourself to their level like that. If they want to pester you for something so meaningless as how late you get your cutie mark, let them be. Having me 'scare' them, presumably referring to you by name, is only going to cause them to feel threatened, and that will make their attacks even more vicious. We don't want that, do we?"

"I guess not."

"Besides, I wouldn't enjoy the company of those ponies either. And one last thing."

"Hm?"

"Be strong. Don't let anypony own you or get at you. Especially not some shallow, vain socialites."

"...thanks. I'll remember that." She blinked. "Wait, what's a socialite?"

"Never you mind. You'll be heading home now?"

"Yes."

"Then I bid you good day. And please, stop being so intimidated around me."

"I-I'll try!"

"Is that a stutter I hear?"

"I said I'll try!"

"And may you be unfaltering always."


Rainbow Dash stared at the door before her, the door to Fluttershy's cottage. Then, not giving herself time to reconsider, she knocked at it loudly.

The mare poked her head out shyly. "Y-yes? Hello, Rainbow. You knocked a little... hard."

"Sorry about that."

"Oh, it's fine."

"Actually, it's kind of what I wanted to talk to you about. In a way. It's complicated."

"If you want to talk to me about something, go ahead and come in."

"Right." She accepted the invitation and entered.

"Would you like me to make us some tea?"

"Sure."

"What kind?"

"Just something hot. Help me relax."


Twilight opened the door carefully. Yet another visitor? Why couldn't the town just let her finish a chapter of that romance novel Rarity had let her borrow? "Hello. May I ask who you are?"

"I am Rose Petal, sent by Princess Celestia with a message."

"And why couldn't the Princess send a letter?"

"It is a message of the highest importance that requires a messenger to deliver it."

The unicorn groaned quietly. "Alright, come in." She closed the door behind them. As she turned she froze and, regaining her sense, stooped. "Wh-when did you get here, Princess Luna?"

"Good evening, Miss Sparkle. It is most joyful to see you still remember me."

"Of course I do. A disguise spell?"

"Indeed. Please never tell anyone of Rose Petal. I'm rather fond of her."

"I promise."

"Now then. If you'll kindly try to ignore the fact that I am royalty, I'd like to discuss some matters with you."

"I'll do my best."

"I'm sure you will succeed. My sister tells me you were in a situation much like mine."

"Then what is your situation, Luna?"

"I... wish to become accustomed with the ways of society once again. I find myself somewhat uncomfortable among ponies and that's no way for a ruler to be, now is it?"

"I can see how that would be a problem. Have you already thought of something you can do to, well...?"

"Yes." She glared. "I really do wish everypony would stop losing the ability to speak as soon as I address them!"

"I'm sorry, it's just... you're the Princess."

"Perfectly understandable." She shook a little. "Just a little outburst; everyone I've spoken to today has done that same thing. Anyhow. I wanted to ask you if you happened to know of any occasions I could get involved with today, though in my earlier apparition."

"Rose Petal?"

"Her. I feel I shouldn't make my entry as Luna quite yet."

"Well. There's lots of great places to see in Ponyville! I could show you around the town, if you like- or even better! One of my friends told me she's throwing a party later today, actually. I'm sure she wouldn't mind an extra guest."

"That sounds most grand, Miss Sparkle. But I would still like it if you could show me the rest of this town."

"Not a problem. I have a feeling you'll like it."

"Once, this was one of my favorite villages to visit..." For a moment she stared off at nothing in particular wistfully. "Ah, but that was long ago! Different memories for a different time, no? Let us go out."

The sun was smiling upon them.