• Published 13th Feb 2015
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Twilight, Good Night - Carapace



To better herself, Luna has studied Twilight's actions and friendship reports. She never expected to find herself under the microscope in turn.

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12: I Shall Wear Midnight

Luna narrowed her eyes, glaring at the two pieces held aloft in her magic. Blue background, blurred white dots as if a they were a light glowing in the distance; the pieces appeared to match.

But those pesky inlets and links in their sides said otherwise.

Flaring her nostrils, she gently placed a piece back on the table and spared a glance to her section. The top-left corner of the puzzle, by the orientation of the sides and those of her fellow mares. But not nearly as much as she’d hoped to get done—she’d spent more time drinking tea and listening to the girls regale her with stories, only absentmindedly musing over the image. What was the scene they were meant to depict?

Deep blue, white dots, and a lighted building. She scrunched up her muzzle, trying to picture the image she’d only just glimpsed on the face of the box before Twilight stowed it away. A fortress, perhaps? Tia said many a time that Twilight had a great interest in history—among other things. But which fortress?

Certainly none that she could recall, not since her banishment, at least. From a later time, then? Perhaps one built during her imprisonment, when Celestia was faced with the extra burden of her duties on top of those already levied upon her.

And not to mention, taking on Cadenza as a student so soon after—

Stop! Luna gave herself a mental kick, forcing her mind away from those inner grumblings and back toward the puzzle before her. A fortress, or a building. Blue background and little glowing spots in the sky.

A nighttime scene?

Her wings ruffled, her eyes darted to the side. She caught a glimpse of Twilight’s happy smile, the way her tongue poked out between her lips as she carefully arranged the pieces of her own section, giving the tiniest squeak whenever she managed to match them together.

Fun. That’s all it was about. I am here to have fun and enjoy the company of Twilight’s friends.

A wave of laughter made her ears flick toward the other end of the table. Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie giggled with one another over one of their little jokes.

“—And then—oh, I couldn’t believe this—AJ just jumps, with me still conked out, lands on the dang thing and sends me flying into the air, straight into the library!” She thumped a hoof against the table, cackling presumably at the memory itself. “That’s the first time I’ve had an assisted crash landing!”

No, not a joke. Luna smiled, glancing up at the trio. Sharing stories with me—and teasing one another.

Applejack smiled ruefully and shook her head as she lifted her teacup to her lips. “The pair ‘o you are nothin’ but trouble,” she grumbled good naturedly in her country drawl. “An’ Dash, I’ll remember that one the next time I catch you nappin’ in my apple trees!”

“Aw! C’mon, AJ!” Rainbow grinned wickedly, she leaned over and draped herself across her friend’s back. Before Applejack could shrug her off, she quickly wrapped her hooves around the farm pony’s midsection, squeezing tight. “You know you love me!”

“About as much as I love a cramp in my hind legs…”

Another giggle fit, even fair Fluttershy couldn’t hide her smile behind her teacup. The words were biting, almost a shot across Rainbow Dash’s muzzle, but the playful little smirk, how it morphed into a comical pout as Applejack lightly nudged her away seemed like part of a routine. And held an edge of familiarity.

Like Tia and I. Luna allowed herself a little smile. I call her ancient, she pelts me with a pillow or smothers me in a hug and emphasizes how young I am.

Such a close bond between two very different mares, not even bound by family ties. Well, none that she knew of, at least.

Her eyes flitted to Rarity, an eyebrow raised. How did the socialite react to their play? Amusement toward her friends’ antics? Or muted horror that they would do so before royalty?

The corners of Rarity’s mouth twitched, she gave a soft chuckle and sipped at her tea. “Really, you two, would you like to just go outside and have one of your wrestling matches? I thought we agreed that you’d behave yourselves this time, hmm?”

“Aw, but I haven’t even brought out the flour bags yet!” Pinkie whined. “My flour run ins always steal the show!”

“And make us bathe twice,” Rainbow shuddered, wrapping her wings around herself protectively. “Do you have any idea how long it takes to get that stuff out of my feathers? I thought mud was bad!”

An unbidden image flashed before Luna’s eyes; two mares, covered from tail to muzzle in pure white flour, glaring daggers at a cackling Pinkie Pie. The tips of their ears slowly turning red as the rest of their friends failed to hide their own amusement.

Luna bit down on her bottom lip and sucked in her cheeks. Do not meet their eyes! You shan’t be able to hold it in if you do!

“Hey!” Rainbow cried, pointing a hoof at her in mock indignation. Her cerise eyes narrowed, she pinned back her ears and set her jaw. “You’re laughing at us!”

Her teal eyes flitted up, she caught a glimpse of Rainbow’s cyan coated cheeks puffing out. And promptly squeaked. Drat! “N-Nay, I am not,” she choked out, the tiniest of giggles slipping through. Luna brought a hoof to her mouth, trying in vain to hide the wide grin stretching across her muzzle. “I-I am merely—snrrk—considering the prospects of—“

“Flour ponies?” Twilight put in slyly.

She snorted, her magic dissappated and dropped the pieces to the floor as she clamped her hooves over her muzzle just a second too late. The tips of her ears burned at the giggles and light teasing sent around the table. Giving a weak chuckle, she ducked her head and shifted in place, sneaking a glance in Twilight’s direction.

Their eyes met; Twilight’s danced with mirth, a mirror to the bright smile and happy swishing of her tail against her cushion, a few strands even brushing against Luna’s flank—just below her cutie mark.

A shudder ran through her body, from the very spot the silky ends of Twilight’s tail trailed against her, up her spine, to the very tip of her ear. Close. Very close. She blinked her eyes, shaking herself to discard the sensation. Friends are close, Luna. See how Rainbow Dash sits so closely with Applejack, even daring to lay herself across her back.

Friends allow themselves to come close to one another and tease to have fun, the same as how she and Celestia were.

Fun. Not at her expense, but together. The shared laughter, the teasing, it was all just part of their daily routine; part of the experience of being friends.

Six mares, six different personalities. She sat up straight and let her ears prick up. “Ah, yes, Twilight,” Luna replied, finally able to find her voice. “I suppose it would be quite the sight. Why, just imagine it: they could shake their manes to sprinkle flour into ingredients to be mixed!”

Twilight shook her head and laughed. “Oh, dear, please don’t give Pinkie any ideas!”

“Too late!” Pinkie chirped, bouncing on her cushion and drumming her hooves on the tabletop. “I have allllllllllllll of the flour pony-related plans now!”

“Oh, sweet, merciful Celestia, no!” The others groaned.

Rarity brought up her hooves to massage her temples, grumbling under her breath, “Pinkie Pie, I swear, if you bring even a single microbe of flour into my boutique, I’ll find a way to have you put on a sugar-free diet!”

Recoiling, Pinkie hissed,“Never!

By the stars and moon, these mares are going to be the death of me! Luna shook her head as she picked up a pair of puzzle pieces in her magic—a matched pair, but not of the same portion of the sky as her corner.

Still, every little bit helped. “Huzzah!” She cheered and fitted them together. With a merry rustle of her wings, she floated them over to the center of the table for all to see. “Friends, behold! These pieces are matched, but they are of a different part. Pray tell, do any of you need them?”

The girls leaned in, each squinting at the little image: part of the sky, certainly, but with something else.

A golden tip, standing tall and proud in the night sky and reflecting a bit of moonlight—a part of the structure. Gold is far too grand for any mere fortress, Luna thought. That would rule out most modern cities, as well. Manehattan shines with light and signs, but none of the buildings are made of gold. None that I know of, at least.

A castle perhaps? That would be more likely, but which?

“Um, Princess Luna?”

Her ear flicked toward Fluttershy’s voice. “Hmm? Yes?”

“I’m pretty sure that goes with my part.” Turning to her right, Luna found her reaching pointing to part of her own section: the top of the structure, still missing the final portion of the roof. “I mean, unless you think there might be another rooftop that extends into your corner.”

“Ah. Forgive me, I was merely lost in thought—“ she floated her pieces over to Fluttershy and gave a wink “—I fear that my age may be taking its tole on my concentration.”

“Oh, well, I don’t mind, Princess. If you wanted to look a bit more, it isn’t much of a bother.”

Luna waved her hoof. “Nay, fair Fluttershy. I will wait until we are finished to gaze upon it. I merely wanted to see if I could determine what building is depicted in the scene—since our mutual friend deigns that our efforts be made just a tad more difficult.” She levied Twilight with a critical stare, her brow arched meaningfully.

Without missing a beat, Twilight picked up another pair of pieces to examine and hummed absentmindedly, “I just thought everypony might appreciate a bit of a challenge! Not to mention how much a surprise it’ll be when we do finish.”

“Twilight, dear, forgive me for saying, but your ‘challenges’ have a tendency to make me want to tear out my mane!” Rarity huffed and tossed her head. “Having no idea what it is we should be piecing together is a bit unfair, don’t you think?”

“It’s just something mom and dad used to have us do when I was a filly.” Twilight shifted awkwardly, her ears pinning back ever-so slightly under her friends’ scrutiny.

Uncomfortable. Luna cleared her throat, coming to Twilight’s aid with barely a second’s hesitation. “Worry not, Twilight Sparkle, I am quite up to the task. And I have full faith that the same mares who joined together to rid me of my affliction are capable of handling a little mystery puzzle—especially when done in mere fun.”

She smiled as Twilight’s ears slowly unpinned, her lips curving upward, returning Luna’s smile with a rather awkward one of her own.

But not quite all were so pleased with her. “Oh, dear,” Rarity groaned. “Now you’ve done it!”

“What?” She blinked, tilting her head and furrowing her brows. “What have I done?”

Rarity just shook her head and brought a hoof to her forehead, massaging between her eyes. “Just wait…”

“For what? I do not understand—have I misspoken? Is my verbiage incorrect?”

“Not so much incorrect as unfortunate.“ Twilight giggled, giving a little nudge to her side and gestured toward Rainbow Dash.

Raising a brow, Luna glanced across the table and was met with a harsh glare.

Rainbow had her hooves planted firmly on the table, on either side of the messy pile of puzzle pieces that she’d barely even touched. Narrowing her eyes, she snorted. “Did I hear that right? Coulda sworn that was a challenge, Princess!”

“I did not—“ she stopped short, the gears in her head whirring into action. Ah, yes. She thought, humming to herself. The ever competitive prospect to the Wonderbolts, I recall mention of her in several Friendship Reports. Not to mention her little pranks on Nightmare Night.

Just the opportunity she needed.

Grinning slyly, she steepled her hooves and leaned back into her cushion. “Why, yes, Miss Dash,” she purred, a fair imitation of some of the mares in her Night Guard, “it was, indeed. Unless, of course, you all think that you are not up to the task.”

A sharp intake of breath. Rainbow sat down roughly and directed her steely gaze to her pile. She glanced around the table, grimacing at each pile.

Noticed that you seem to be bringing up the rear, eh? Luna’s grin widened, almost sharklike in nature. Her age old talent, stirring up a little bit of fun with a few side remarks, a little bit of teasing to craft her own entertainment.

The very same kind that drove her dear, sweet sister to pull at her mane all those years ago.

Rainbow grumbled and, finally, set about organizing her pieces. “I’ll get this thing done. I’ll have it done faster than Pinkie can eat—“ she trailed off, slowly turning to glance at Pinkie.

“Yeeeessss?” Pinkie waggled her eyebrows, smiling so broadly it almost split her muzzle.

“Never mind. I’ll just do this thing and catch up.”

“Awwww! I was hoping for another bet! The last one was sooooo fun, Dashie!”

The mares, sans Luna, devolved into a round of giggles and teasing remarks as Rainbow Dash’s cheeks took on a deep reddish hue. She scowled and forced herself to look down and away from her friends’ grins. “Laugh it up!” She snapped. “Next time, I’m not ending up in that stupid chicken suit!”

Wait, what? “Forgive me,” Luna cut in, “would that, er, happen to be the same suit that Pinkie Pie wore on Nightmare Night?”

“Yepper-depper! You should’ve seen it, Princess! We had a rainbow chicken pecking and squawking around Ponyville!”

“Laugh it up. Just you wait, one of these days, Pinkie Pie. One of these days…”

Another wave of giggles, even Luna couldn’t resist a titter at the sight of Rainbow’s lip jutting out in a rather poor attempt at a pout, completely ruined by the tugging at the corners of her mouth.

Far too used to your friend’s antics, I think—you enjoy this little game just as much as the rest. Learning in the midst of an evening out, Celestia would certainly be pleased.

“I’ve got it!” Rainbow cried, thumping a hoof against the tabletop. “I can solve this quicker than Twilight can tame an Ursa!”

A little squeak from her left drew Luna’s attention. Twilight’s ears pinned back once again, her muzzle tinged a deep pink. She shifted in place, unwittingly brushing her shoulder against Luna’s wing. “I-It wasn’t that quick! And that took a lot more magic than you all realize…” Glancing toward Luna, she gave a very weak smile. “It was all just a combination of a few tricks, nothing that big…”

Still she finds herself uncomfortable? And “just a few tricks”? Luna hummed to herself as the others objected to Twilight’s assessment. Later. Save it for later.

Pressing Twilight in front of her friends would only lead to more awkwardness; Luna’s little investigation could wait. Unfurling her wings, she lightly ghosted her feathers over Twilight’s side, a small show of comfort and support. “Perhaps not to you, but to those who watched and read of your deeds, t’was quite an impressive feat.”

“Hear, hear!” Rarity said with a solemn nod, a sentiment echoed by the others.

Twilight’s blush deepened, she ducked her head and, perhaps unwittingly, pressed herself against Luna’s side.

Almost as though trying to hide beneath her wings…

Luna had to shake herself. Tia. She picked that up learning from Tia. Don’t draw attention to it, let her stay and be comfortable.

Smiling, she brushed her feathers against Twilight’s side again and let her eyes drift back to the puzzle itself. The teasing and giggling lost on her as she was drawn back to the incomplete scenery.

Specifically, she found herself drawn to the rooftop displayed on Fluttershy’s section. Something about it nagged at her, the little voice needling her to look closer, to find that detail that slipped right under her nose.

Artist’s eye, Luna. Where is it? Where’s the clue? Golden spires, a slight bell-shaping in the curve leading down to a marble tower. And was that—could it be…

Levitating another piece before her muzzle, Luna took a deep breath and pushed that thought away. The only way to actually see would be to finish. If her suspicions were wrong, oh well—it was still a lovely little thing. If they were right…

Putting the cart before the pony, aren’t we?

The puzzle. Just finish the puzzle and all would be clear. And have fun along the way.

But as she sifted through her pieces, carefully searching for one that might match with the star-spotted night sky, she felt it—like somepony nosing against her cheek, and, yet, not entirely there. Her teal eyes snapped open, Luna blinked owlishly. Had the time gone by that quickly?

“Lulu…” Her magic flickered, the puzzle pieces fell to the table with a dull thud. Luna’s ears pricked up, her muscles tensed as Celestia’s voice reached her ears, almost as if carried on the wind, unheard by the others. “It’s time, little sister. The day is done! Bring forth the night!”

“Yes,” she muttered, staring off into the distance. “I’m ready.”

“Er… ready for what?”

Luna jolted out of her reverie and turned, coming muzzle-to-muzzle with Twilight Sparkle. “Excuse me?”

“You said ‘I’m ready’. Ready for what, Luna?” she tilted her head to the side, her brows knit together in confusion. “Is there something you came here for beside this? An errand, perhaps?”

She glanced to each pony in turn, finding similar expressions shared in each young mare’s face. Did I… Oh, my mouth again. “Not so much an errand, persay.” She cringed, rubbing a hoof against her shin. Six ponies, all friendly and kind to her since the day they’d rid her of the nightmare that plagued her for a thousand years.

But to share something like this with them…

Heavens, when was the last time ponies actually watched me make the night sky?

The simple answer was, of course, “far too long”. Half a century before her banishment, in fact. The dusk, when she proudly raised the moon, a sight ponies once saw as beautiful and glorious as dawn Celestia brought. Those days had long since passed into obscurity—ancient history, as the foals might say.

To share her night again, to show ponies how she so lovingly set the moon in the night sky and then painstakingly arranged the stars; her greatest pride and joy, to paint on a canvas that no other could even dare to touch.

“Even in a thousand years, I could not even begin to craft the sky with the beauty and majesty you brought, Lulu.” Celestia admitted upon her return. “Your return, and the return of your art, bring me joy brighter than the sun itself. I missed you so…”

Luna forced herself to look toward Twilight, her smile straining. “I, er… I may have neglected to consider that the timing of our festivities—“ she waved a hoof over the table “—would coincide with my duties. T’will take but a few moments, I just need to, er, take care of something.”

Traitorous mouth! Obey, and speak properly!

“Duties? Like what?” Applejack quirked a brow. “Have you got some visit to the mayor you forgot to mention? I’m no political whiz—“

“That’s putting it lightly—Ow!” Rainbow yelped at the hoof Applejack jabbed into her side.

“Shut it, you! Anyway, if you gotta go to a meetin’ with the mayor, we could cut it short. Dunno how long she’ll keep you, really…”

“No!” Wincing at her own volume, Luna gave herself a mental kick. “Er, no, dear Applejack. I do not have a ‘meeting’ of any sort with the mayor.” Just say it, you silly mare. Out with it. “Rather, I must bring the night. ‘Tis sunset.”

Twilight gasped, she brought her hooves to her mouth and bounced in her cushion. “You mean like how Princess Celestia raises the sun every morning? Really?”

Luna chuckled awkwardly and rustled her wings. “Well, yes—“ she leaned back, her smile straining “—my, er, sister and I have a sort of connection with the land; when the time comes for the sun and moon to rise and set, we simply know. It is a sort of ceding of the land to one another, for lack of better word. In short—“

“You’re more comfortable at night! Oops!” Twilight covered her mouth. “Sorry! It just hit me, I didn’t mean to steal your thunder!”

“I do not understand. How have you stolen from me? I can still bring down the lightning and booming thunder!” She pounded a hoof on the table top for emphasis, a flash of light and rolling thunder sounded in the distance. Cringing at the way Fluttershy squeaked and flared out her wings, ready to fly away to safety, Luna brought her hoof back to her lap. Oops. “Er, was that wrong?”

Pinkie Pie giggled and brought her hooves together so they were almost touching. “Just a little bit off! But don’t worry! No pony’s gonna steal that talent from you, Princess!”

“No kidding! I need a thunder cloud to pull that off! Say, how’s about you, Pinkie, and I join up next Nightmare Night for a little—Ow! For the love of—Applejack! If you keep jabbing me, I’m gonna call abuse!”

Snorting, Applejack pushed her hat out of her face and smirked at Rainbow. “Uh-huh, the day you don’t settle a score pony to pony, I’ll eat my hat!” She turned to Luna, her expression shifting from a teasing smirk to a kind smile. “Well, we can wait for you to take care ‘o things. Don’t see any reason to be rude an’ go on without you.”

Nods from Rarity and Fluttershy made Luna sigh in relief. She folded her wings against her sides, bringing a hoof to her chest. “Thank you, ladies. Though, truly, I do apologize for the oversight—I should have arranged to have it done beforehoof.”

A tap on her shoulder, light and shy, drew her attention to Twilight once more.

Gazing up at her with stars in her eyes and her hooves clasped together, like a puppy begging for treats, Twilight squealed. “Can we watch?”

Luna reared back, her eyes as wide as dinner plates. What? “E-Excuse me?”

“You raising the moon and putting the stars in the sky—can we watch? Please?” She leaned forward, almost pressing herself up against Luna. Her brilliant purple eyes locked on Luna’s teal, all signs of her previous nerves and that excessive humility vanished without a trace. “I’ve seen Princess Celestia raise the sun hundreds of times, and even raise the moon, but she used to always say it was nothing compared to the original!”

Her breath clenched in her chest. “She said that? Truly?” Even to your own student, Tia? Not merely for my benefit?

Twilight nodded happily, oblivious to Luna’s confusion. “Yes! She used to just stare up at it and frown, like she thought it couldn’t measure up to somepony’s work—I can’t believe I didn’t realize she meant you back when we first met!”

Luna’s mind raced! It wasn’t that Celestia had been particularly subtle on how greatly she missed Luna, far from it, in fact; but to have it reaffirmed by Twilight herself, and so casually at that…

She had to bite her lip, her hoof bounced on her cushion. Excitement, jubilation, both at the affirmation of her sister’s love and affection and the prospect of displaying her pride and joy—the greatest work of art she had ever given this world.

Time to move past my old mistakes, Tia would say. This is my chance. Luna stood, her legs shaking. Anticipation? Fear? Excitement? All three? She couldn’t say for certain.

So many years had passed since the last Dusk Ceremony. So many faces of ponies, long since passed on, flitted before her, each of them gazing in wonder up at her sky.

“It has been quite some time—” She tried to keep her voice level, but to no avail. The utter glee at the prospect; her voice quivered, she swished her starry tail, unable to hide her joy. “—since the last time anypony wanted to see…”

Twilight waved a hoof toward the rest of the girls, each of whom made to stand. “I think you’ll find that there’s five ponies with a bit of a casual interest, and me with something a bit more than that!”

“And by that, she means she’ll fangirl harder than I do over the Wonderbolts!” Rainbow quipped as she hopped nimbly to her hooves. “C’mon! This I gotta see!”

“You, er, do not mind that I interrupted our puzzle endeavor?”

“Uh, I’m gonna go with a solid ‘no’ on that one—no offense, Twi.”

“None taken!” Twilight chirped, lightly bouncing on her hooves.

“Cool. But, seriously: puzzle—“ she turned to Luna and held up both hooves like a she was imitating a set of scales “–watching you raise the moon. I don’t think it’s much of a contest.”

Luna’s ear tips burned. She ducked her head shyly and mumbled, “And putting the stars in the sky—“ she pawed lightly at the ground “—I do that too.”

“Yeah, like I said: not much of a contest. So—“ Rainbow zipped around behind Luna and pushed her toward the door “—let’s go!”

What? She yelped, digging her hooves in to fight against Rainbow’s pushing her along. “W-Wait! Now, see here! I did not agree to a public display in the middle of Ponyville!”

“Um, Princess? We can’t really sneak you out and not expect ponies to be curious.” Fluttershy pointed out. “I mean, if you don’t mind me saying, they’re bound to be a bit antsy if they saw you arrive—especially if your guards brought you again.”

Cringing, Luna pinned back her ears. Oh, confound my theatrics! Three Night Guards and her seneschal were wandering around the town, awaiting her order to leave.

Arriving in her chariot, much like on Nightmare Night, was quickly becoming a detriment to her wants. The subtlety she instilled in her Night Guards upon their formation, she’d let it fall by the wayside, falling back into the habits Celestia so desperately wished to see:

“I seem to recall a mare from many moons ago. At one time, she could walk into a room full of the highest dignitaries with her head high and a spring in her step, the room was hers as soon as she set hoof in it.”

Luna chewed on the inside of her cheek, her eyes darting from Twilight to Rainbow to the window and back again. “Er, perhaps there might be an alternative exit? I do need clear view of the sky in order to place everything properly, and I would prefer not to disrupt the townsponies’ lives for something such as this.”

“Ooh! Ooh! I know! I know! Pick me, pick me!” Pinkie chanted, jumping and waving her hooves in the air like she was trying to get Luna’s attention through a crowd.

“Er, yes—“ she glanced toward Pinkie and raised a brow “—Pinkie Pie.”

Stopping in place, Pinkie pointed to the kitchen door. “Well, there’s a back door where all our supply deliveries come! So, you could just sneak out—“ she crouched low and pranced in place “—raise the moon, put all the stars in the sky, then sneak right back in before anypony else sees you! It’s foolproof!”

The was a beat of silence as Luna considered.

To be perfectly frank, no, it wasn’t entirely foolproof. Hardly one of her Night Guard’s more covert operations, but the best option she had presently. Well, other than simply glancing out the window and trying to guess at where she was putting things out of view.

She snorted at the mere notion. Never. Her nights were the greatest gift she had to give her ponies; anything less than her best effort was unacceptable.

“Very well. The back door it is. Lead the way, Pinkie Pie.”

Squealing with delight, Pinkie bounced—yes, bounced—toward the door. The girls followed in her wake casually, like this was just a part of their daily routine.

To be fair, Luna thought with a small frown, she did admit to playacting that she was afraid of me on Nightmare Night because being scared during the festivities is “fun”. I would not be so surprised.

She trotted alongside Twilight, butterflies fluttered in her stomach as the stepped through the door, past the pots and pans hanging on hooks above the counter, and toward a wooden door to the outside of the shop. They’d at least taken care of some possibility of drawing a large crowd, but still, the nerves just wouldn’t go away.

Still, afraid, Luna? Her ears perked up. The voice, that treacherous little voice, had returned to torment her again. You could always just run away again. Just like you do with all of your problems—call Captain Erebos, make an excuse, and race back to your ivory tower to hide.

For a split second, she faltered. Her hoof stopped in mid step as she considered the possibility. The easy way out, so very tempting. How many times had she taken it when she opted to put off her first visit to Twilight’s library?

Far too many.

I thought I rid myself of you. Snorting, she shook herself. It was just a voice, nothing real. You have no power over me! You are naught but a figment of my imagination, brought on by my own doubt! Begone!

I have as much power as you give me, Luna, dear. After all, I am you!

“Then take a hint and leave!” She shot back under her breath. Luna stepped forward, emphatically stomping as though the voice itself were manifested before her.

Twilight tapped her on the shoulder. “Luna? Who are you—“

She waved her off with a hoof. Blast my mouth! “Nothing, my friend, just talking to myself. I fear these incidents are more frequent with my age.”

Narrowing her eyes, Twilight regarded her silently for a moment, stopping just as they came to the kitchen door. She tilted her head to the side, her eyebrows knit together.

Luna tried to match her gaze, she pasted a grin on her muzzle and perked up her ears to their fullest height. Tia would have a field day if she were here. “W-We should not, er, dally, Twilight. Your friends await and I cannot delay the moonrise any longer.” Please, please, please do not press further!

Coward.

Twilight let out a breath, her nostrils flaring, but nodded. “All right, fair enough.“ She sighed and gestured to the door. “After you.”

A wince, a little rustle of her wings at the tone. Luna’s faux grin strained as she nodded and stepped past Twilight and outside. Her regalia clinked against the tightly-packed dirt walkway, run down to a hardened surface with the years of ponies running in and out with supplies—like a field of grass flattened by marching soldiers.

She trotted forward, her gaze flitting up to the sky itself, locking on the setting sun. Going slower tonight, sister? To wait for me or to give our ponies a glimpse of your own artistic flair?

A chuckle escaped her lips, she could almost hear Celestia’s reply: “Oh, no, Lulu! You and I both know that the arts were never truly my cup of tea—the entire Celestial Age is credence enough to that.”

One lesson she could never impart on her sister, that beauty was in the eye of the beholder; a battle that raged for millennia on end. Perhaps someday, she shall see that.

The sky was painted in fiery orange and yellow, backed by soft purple as the last edges of the sun’s light sank beneath the horizon. Those colors, so fleeting and gone so quickly, that she wished so fervently to stay a bit longer; painting the sky like the great artists of the Surrealist Age.

“And now,” she began, pausing to take a deep breath, “it’s time.”

Her horn lit up, wreathed in a soft blue aura. Luna let out a breath through her nose, focusing on the moon. Come out. Come out and light up the night sky.

Just as the last tip of the sun disappeared, the moon, shining pure white to give guidance to all who walked the night, peaked out from hiding. Slowly, Luna drew it from beyond the horizon, in perfect unison with the sunset. A counterbalance of celestial proportions, carefully practiced since their dawn.

Gasps. An exclamation of awe and wonder made her ear flick, but she forced herself to maintain concentration, just barely stopping herself from turning to see. Do not falter, there is still work to be done.

Twilight spoke, seemingly from a distance; incomprehensible as Luna pulled the moon across the sky, to its very zenith. The fiery orange faded, soft purple seemed to billow and bathe the sky itself in darkness, the shadow of night hanging thick over Equestria.

Her domain.

She could feel the chill of night air, her senses extending to reach over the land. Her sight was clearer, she could hear every heartbeat from the group of friends, her friends.

“Beautiful…” Her ears pricked up at the sound of Rarity’s voice, little more than a breathy whisper to most, but clear as the stars in the sky to her.

Or, rather, the stars she’d soon bring.

Come forth, little ones, she called, as if to her own foals. Time to awake and shine through the darkness.

Slowly, Luna raised a hoof, slipping back into old habits as she played up the weight of the act. As though she were lifting a star, readying herself to throw it into place, she jabbed out, pointing to the vast emptiness of the sky. Clover, there!

A burst of light, a star twinkled and shone just as brilliant as Clover had been in life, hanging in the night sky for all to behold. An everlasting homage to a pony wise beyond her years.

“Oh my goodness!”

“Dude. That’s awesome.”

She had to withhold a snort. One star was all it took? Ponies these days. Let us see how you like this. Platinum, you next. Another jab of her hoof, and a star as bright and beautiful as the Princess of ancient Unicornia burst forth to the right of its sister.

Without hesitation, Luna followed up, quickly dotting the sky with her beloved little stars. Hurricane, Pansy, Smart Cookie, and Puddinghead joined their fellow founders, arranged into a hexagon; six ponies, unicorns, pegasi, and earth ponies, united despite their differences to bring their tribes together.

Her very favorite constellation; the first she’d arranged and the first she always painted the sky with.

Glancing over her shoulder, she smiled at the mares behind her. Their eyes were locked on the stars above, their jaws dropped as they beheld it. Six of them, so different, in personality and in spirit, united in friendship.

The founders’ legacy is strong in these lands. They would be proud to see a sight such as this.

Twilight dropped her gaze to stare at Luna, her mouth formed a small ‘o’ of wonder. “I… that…”

Luna smiled, ignoring the way her heart fluttered at the wordless praise. “Not yet finished,” she chided before turning her attention to the sky once more.

Tempo Rubato. Fortissimo and Sforzando, to your father’s side. Fil di Voce, with them please. Four stars, memories of her musician friends, stood side by side in the night sky, shining merrily down on the land below.

Two more jabs, two more stars appeared near the quartet. Beethooven and Werner, you two go there—Werner, stop goading Tempo to argue over time signatures! The two friends, true students of the art from such different races, who could bicker and banter like none other, flashed into existence above Tempo's star, eager to pull him into their never ending debate.

Luna frowned, glaring at the one on the right. Don’t be contrary, Werner. Shine brightly. She licked the front tip of her hoof and made a rubbing motion, like ridding metal of a smudge. There! She beamed as the star shone brightly, falling into line with its brother after a little push. Funny, how you all seem to retain their personalities.

With each jab of her hoof, another star dotted the sky, some with names of friends, lovers, and comrades long since passed—Captain Noir, Lieutenant Shade, and Sergeant Silent Night stood proudly in formation, the first three officers of her vaunted Night Guard—while others were yet unnamed, awaiting the day she would find ponies worthy of gracing her sky.

Erebos and Moondancer certainly will, many years from now, I hope. Luna swished her tail and turned to face the girls, her eyes flitting over each. From the exuberant Pinkie Pie to kind Fluttershy, to hardy Applejack to speedy Rainbow Dash, to splendorous Rarity and finally resting on dear Twilight Sparkle.

Her first friend since her return.

Those eyes, those brilliant purple eyes were locked with hers. Wide and hungry for knowledge, but with something else, a spark of something she knew familiar. Something she knew from nights spent reciting the practiced speech in front of a mirror:

Admiration.

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