• 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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16: She Who Searches, Finds

The single platform of Ponyville’s train station was packed to capacity; dozens of ponies jostled and bumped together as they tried to navigate the tiny loading area, unicorns carefully levitated their luggage overhead to avoid seeing it flipped over or stepped on.

Off to the side, Twilight stood with her saddlebags slung over her back, shifting from hoof to hoof as she relayed a few last minute instructions to Spike. “Now, you’re sure you don’t want to come with me? I could just teleport back to the library, hang a note on the door explaining that I went on a research trip to Canterlot, and you could just… have a day off or so.”

His brows flatlined, Spike crossed his tiny arms. “Twilight, for the love of Celestia—“

“Who would very much love to see you again, I’m sure! Remember how she used to watch over you when you were little and I was off at my lessons?”

“Twilight.”

She kept going, speaking over him in her absentminded ramble. “And Luna was a bit put out that you made those plans with the Crusaders. She wasn’t mad, so to speak, but she was hoping that you’d join us…”

“Twilight.”

“Oh, and maybe we could visit Cadence and Shining Armor while we’re up there—“

Twilight!” He snapped, his spaded tail flicking in agitation. “I’ve got this! You’ve left me in charge when you went on other adventures, I can handle watching over the library for a day!”

Her eyes flitted to the train and back to Spike. “I know, but you’ve been good about helping out, and cleaning up while I’ve been… er… researching.”

“You mean tearing through the classical arts section, and then pulling off each and every book in the history section to look for any mention of a ‘Dusk Ceremony’. How many did you find, by the way?”

Shifting around to show off the bag on her left, Twilight sighed. “Only two, with a vague mention in a third book, but that one mainly focused on Princess Celestia’s Dawn Ceremony. I’m hoping that there’ll be a few more in the archives. Or—“ she scuffed a hoof against the floor again “—maybe Princess Celestia could lend a hoof on the matter. But she has a tendency to be a little…”

“Mysterious?”

“Let’s go with that, that’ll do just nicely.” An awkward laugh, another rub at her shin. Twilight chewed on her lip, ducking her head low. “You don’t think she’ll be mad that I’m poking around into Luna’s past, do you?”

Spike hesitated a moment, giving a rather plastic smile. “Well… she’s never said anything about not looking into things, right? The most she’ll do if she doesn’t want you poking around would be just telling you to stop. Probably.” He twiddled his claws a bit, his smile strained. “Even so! You’re her favorite student! She’ll be nice about it!”

She ducked lower, her ears laid flat against her scalp. “I should’ve sent a letter first. At least then, I could know what I might be in for.” Heaving a sigh, she stood up tall and looked to the train.

The conductor stepped off the train and onto the platform, and cupped a hoof to his mouth. “Last call for passengers to Canterlot! Last call!”

“You’d better get moving,” Spike said. “The next one to Canterlot isn’t until the weekend. And Carrot Top’s birthday is this Saturday, and—”

“I promised Pinkie Pie that I’d take a break from studying, no ifs, ands, or buts,” Twilight recited, her lips curving into a small smile. “She’d come all the way up to Canterlot just to drag me back for the party.” With a shake of her head, she leaned down to nuzzle Spike’s headfins. “All right, you’ve made your point. But you’d better not cause any trouble while I’m gone, buster!”

Rolling his eyes, Spike crossed his arms again and fixed her with a deadpan stare. “Yeah, I’m gonna hold a great big party while you’re gone. Me, Big Mac, Caramel, Lucky, and Doc are all gonna have a super secret ‘guys only, no girls allowed’ party with cider and lots of messy food. Right in our sitting room.”

Twilight scowled, and made to retort, but the conductor’s call cut her off. Narrowing her eyes, she brought herself down to eye level with Spike and snorted. “If I find so much as a crumb on my bookshelves, Spike…”

“Oh, take a joke! I’m not gonna do anything! Most I’ll do is visit Rarity or spend a little time with the Crusaders, or maybe hang out with the girls when they stop by a bajillion times to check on me, like I know you’ve asked!”

That was all it took for Twilight to abruptly turn and suck in her lips. “I haven’t the faintest idea what you’re talking about! See you in a couple days, Spike!” Without waiting for his retort, she trotted off, hiding the streak of pink across her muzzle as she looked down and away while floating her ticket to the conductor.

The stallion hummed, the edges of his lips twitched. “Cutting it close, Miss Sparkle. Not like you to dally!”

Her ears burned. “I was dealing with a rather mouthy baby dragon.”

A hearty chuckle and nod. “Of course. Well, everything’s in order, as per usual!” He stepped to the side and bowed, giving a sweeping gesture of his hoof. “Please, go aboard, Miss Sparkle. We’ll depart as soon as you’ve found your seat.”


The bumping, jostling, and clicking of the train wheels against the age-old tracks did nothing to distract Twilight from her work. Back at the library, she’d only just skimmed through texts, looking for the slightest hint of anything regarding ceremonies of day or night, the sacred works of the Eternal Sisters.

What she found was far more precious than she could’ve imagined.

It was all there! Just as her research into Luna’s history as the Matron of the Arts yielded such lavish praise, and such vivid description of how musicians paid Luna tribute before performing, the two texts she’d found described the Dusk Ceremony with something more akin to worship than a recounting.

Reverence. Awe. The very same way Twilight herself watched Princess Celestia raise the sun each and every Summer Sun Celebration since she was but a little filly. Luna’s nights, the way she raised the moon and so lovingly dotted the sky with twinkling stars, were beloved by all who watched, the envy and inspiration of artists far and wide.

Even Princess Celestia, Equestria’s guiding light for countless centuries, was said to gaze up in awe of her sister’s craft, basking in the majesty of the stars above.

“… Of all the works in this life, there are none as impressive or majestic as those created by our benevolent princesses, the Mistresses of Day and Night.

“With Her Majesty, Princess Celestia’s bright, shining sun brings warmth and comfort. Her Dawn Ceremonies are as neat and orderly as the mare herself; her horn is wreathed in a golden aura, matching the great body she moves across the sky. Her wings unfurl, and with one mighty flap she ascends into the air, raising the sun with her and chasing away the darkness of night, bringing the clear blue sky we all know and love and play in.

“But when it comes time for Her Grace, Princess Luna, to step forward and bid the land goodnight with her Dusk Ceremony, even her sister’s unflappable serenity is broken. There is no word in any language to describe it. One truly has to witness it to behold the true splendor of the night.”

Twilight flicked her tail, and looked up from the book, her gaze flitted to the mid-afternoon sky, still bright and blue with the sun hanging high in the air. A picture perfect day, soon to become a picture perfect night.

Truly, she wasn’t sure if she could try to describe the process—no, the artwork—that went into Luna bringing the night sky to Equestria. Raising the moon was a spectacular feat in and of itself; one only matched by a team of ancient unicorns in Unicornia and the princesses themselves. But to see her put the stars in place…

Breathtaking. Awe-inspiring. Enchanting. They were words, wonderful words that ponies threw around each and every day.

Watching Luna that night… those words were utterly useless. They were bland, emotionless, and simply didn’t come close to measuring the sheer majesty of the sight, or the privilege Luna had granted Twilight and her band of friends when she agreed to let them watch.

The first Dusk Ceremony that Luna had taken part in since her banishment. Or further? How long ago had it fallen out of practice?

And, more importantly, why hadn’t the princesses revived the practice?

Princess Celestia had been all too thrilled that the Elements of Harmony had purified Luna of her darker influences, ridding Equestria of Nightmare Moon once and for all. Knowing her as well as Twilight did—or, as well as Twilight thought she did—that would’ve been one of the first things expected to return.

Especially given how enthralled Luna was as she set about dotting the night sky with each and every twinkling star.

“Like Rarity while she designs her dresses,” Twilight muttered to herself. “Or Rainbow Dash while she practices one of her crazy tricks.”

So focused, so in tune with everything, almost as though she were the night itself. Like the night sky was the greatest gift she could give to the ponies she so loved.

A frown marred Twilight’s muzzle. “Princess Celestia would definitely push her to start the Dusk Ceremonies again. Like how she pushed me to visit Ponyville to make friends, convincing Luna to return to her duties, especially one she loved so much, would’ve been high on her priorities. Unless…” she brought a hoof to her chin, her eyes narrowed in thought.

Luna’s fidgeting, the hesitation in her eyes just before she agreed to let them watch, like she was afraid to expose herself in such a manner to them.

Afraid of letting somepony else in that close. Twilight flicked her tail again, her ears pinned back to lay flat against her scalp. It’s something precious to her, that much is obvious. Something she used to be so happy to share, but shies away from now. Is she scared of being rejected? Of no pony wanting to come out and see?

She shook her head, and banished those thoughts. “Don’t make assumptions, that’s the first rule of research. Be open to all possibilities, consult credible sources, and interview any who might be able to give insight into the subject. Princess Celestia taught me that.”

At that, Twilight smiled and shook her head. How funny things worked, that she’d turn around and find that Princess Celestia, the very mare who taught her basic research methodology, would be the only credible interviewee on the matter, other than Luna herself.

And given Luna’s reception to the idea that Twilight would help her reintegrate, how she tried to object right up until Twilight made her final push, she wouldn’t be so forthright with the information needed.

Hopefully, Princess Celestia isn’t in one of her playful moods. That would be… quite troublesome.

With a sigh, she shut her book and stuffed it into her bag. Too many distracting thoughts, from Luna’s reasons to Princess Celestia’s habit of prodding Twilight to find the answers herself.

She’d be better served to just close her eyes, sit back in her seat, and rest until the train made it to Canterlot.

If only her wandering thoughts would cooperate and let her get a bit of rest; a battle she’d been losing since witnessing the first Dusk Ceremony in over a thousand years.

“Damn it, Luna,” she muttered, the smile on her muzzle a contrast to her words. “You just had to show me—us. How in Equestria am I supposed to ignore that?”

Laying her head against the back of her chair, Twilight closed her eyes, the answer as clear as the sun hanging in the sky.

You aren’t, a voice, eerily similar to Luna’s teasing tone, echoed in her mind. Silly mare, the best sort of art is that which stays with you.

A snort of amusement. Twilight shook her head, her smile growing into a full-blown grin. “Even in my head, you’re so much like Princess Celestia, it’s almost scary.”

Twin grins, purple and teal eyes shining with mirth and mischief, backed by ancient knowledge, flashed before her. The voice was silent as she drifted off to sleep.


Twilight was jolted awake by the sudden lurch of the train. She shook herself, blinking owlishly as she checked her surroundings.

Canterlot Train Station’s cobblestone platform was a familiar sight from her fillyhood days. Ponies hustling and bustling to get from one platform to the next, station hooves dressed in their red and gold trim uniforms with caps set neatly upon their heads pushed patrons’ luggage carts, and the ever-familiar Night Guard, in their perfectly polished obsidian armor, standing at rapt attention brought her back.

Once, this was her home. Equestria’s greatest and oldest city, shining atop Mount Canterhorn like a glimmering beacon, would always hold a special place in her heart, no matter how much a Ponyville mare she’d become.

She stood, lighting up her horn and floating her saddlebags onto her back. A groan escaped her lips, her muscles, stiff from the journey and her little cat nap, protested her every move.

Short line trains aren’t really designed for comfort, Twilight told herself as she shook her legs to work out her muscles. Next time, stay awake as planned and don’t nap in such an uncomfortable position.

“All passengers,” the conductor boomed from the front of the car, “we have arrived in our destination: Canterlot, the capitol of Equestria. Please exit via the doors at the front of the car, and remember to take any carry on luggage you brought along. If you checked any with us, it will be unloaded at the dock once we have gathered it! Thank you for traveling with us today!”

Twilight made to take a step forward, but had to withdraw her hoof as a mare leapt out of her seat, her bags floating beside her in her bright fuchsia aura, and bolted for the doors, nearly bowling over an earth pony couple and their tiny foal in her haste.

Snorting, Twilight shook her head and made her way up the aisle. “Seems that there’s a shortage of good manners these days,” she muttered. Once she came within earshot of the family, she stopped, and offered a kind smile. “Is this your first time in the city?”

The parents gave matching smiles. “Yes,” the stallion replied, “we wanted to come up on vacation and show our son around. Came all the way up and stopped with a couple friends in Ponyville!”

“Yep! Canterlot is always a lot of fun!” his wife added, though her smile dropped as her gaze flitted to the door. “But, sometimes the manners of these city ponies can be a bit…”

“Lacking?” Twilight supplied sheepishly, giving a nervous chuckle at their nods. “Well, not all of us are like that—just a few who forget themselves. I hope you enjoy the rest of your visit! Oh, be sure to check out the Royal Museum and catch the Royal Guards during their daily routines, they’re both a real treat!”

She bade them farewell, and continued on her way toward the door. With a nod and a bright smile to the conductor, Twilight trotted through the open doorway, down the tiny steps, and onto the platform.

Without anything but her saddlebags, she had the good fortune to forgo the usual mad scramble to the loading dock. A shudder went down her spine at the memory of a few of those—her tiny hooves straining to maintain their hold around Shining Armor’s neck as the family galloped through the station.

Not fun. Especially when we had to keep an eye on Spike. She turned left, making her way toward the exit, her saddlebags thumped against her sides.

A pair of Day Guards stood in her path, just a short distance from her. “Miss Sparkle,” they greeted in unison, each snapped a quick salute.

Twilight stopped short, with one hoof in mid stride. Her ears flicked toward the crowd, burning at the hushed whispers and gossip—the Royal Guards didn’t break from their post unless there was trouble, or somepony important was visiting.

As Princess Celestia’s student, she certainly qualified as the latter. But these guards were ready to meet her upon arrival. Not to mention the fact that, by right, they should be off duty if the Night Guard was deployed to watch over the platform.

“Gentlestallions,” she replied, bowing her head. “How may I help you?”

The guard on the left smiled. “Her Majesty, Princess Celestia, received word that you’d taken the train with intent to visit her, and asked that we meet you here. One of the palace carriages is waiting outside to take you to her.”

Twilight blinked, her ears stood up straight. How did she… “I never sent a letter.”

“No, Miss Sparkle, but your assistant did. Princess Celestia had quite the giggle, if I may say so.”

His partner nodded, speaking for the first time, “She was quite happy to hear that you’d be visiting, Miss. Though, she did mention that we should heavily imply that, should you have sent word sooner, she would’ve been happy to greet you herself. But, she had one or two straggling petitioners left to take care of.”

“I understand,” she replied. Flicking her tail, Twilight made note to find out just what Spike had put in that letter to make Princess Celestia so amused. Cheeky little dragon. “Well, then, shall we?”

The pair stepped to the side, and motioned her on, ready to take up positions on either side of her. “After you, Miss Sparkle,” they said in stereo.

Twilight nodded and trotted forward, her escorts fell into step beside her. While Spike’s intervention was a bit unexpected, at very least, she could speak with Princess Celestia without feeling awkward about the subject material.

With a spring in her step, she passed through the turnstile doors at the main entrance.

A shiver ran down her spine as the cool night air tickled her coat. Smiling, she glanced up at the moon hanging in the sky—marveling at how brightly it shone down upon the city, the stars twinkling around it like little foals crowding their mother.

Like they were crowding Luna herself… Her smile became a grin that threatened to split her muzzle, she gave a little swish of her tail as she trotted toward the ornate carriage waiting at the curbside. How very fitting.


Her hoofsteps echoed off the castle’s high arching walls, a sound so familiar from the days when she walked the halls with her saddlebags laden with books, and one floating in front of her face.

Twilight winced. Her time in Ponyville, living in a hollowed out tree that dulled such sounds only served to exaggerate the echo. She pinned her ears back to block it out, her tail gave a tiny flick. How did I ever manage to focus on reading in the middle of the hallway?

Familiarity. That was it. She’d been so engrossed in her books back then, so used to casually navigating her surroundings without looking up, hardly giving fellow ponies a nod as she passed them by.

These days, she couldn’t go through Ponyville’s marketplace without losing at least an hour of her schedule to chatting with her friends or other towns ponies—something that would’ve driven her mad only just a few short months prior.

Funny how time and friendships change things.

Twilight trotted toward the Throne Room, flanked on either by her guard escorts. Up ahead, a pair of Night Guards stood stationed on either side of the opened doorway snapped to attention.

“Good evening, Miss Sparkle,” they greeted in unison and gave a salute with their spears.

She ducked her head to hide a little blush. Such formality! Had they always greeted her in this fashion? “Good evening, gentlestallions. The Princess isn’t, er, busy with anypony, is she?”

The guard on the left—a sergeant, if she read the rank logo on his shoulder correctly—shook his head. “No, ma’am. Upon receiving the letter from Spike, Her Majesty asked that Day Court be cut short so she could make ready for your arrival, the last appointment just finished up a short while ago.” He gave a nod and added, “If you’ll permit me to say, she’s rather eager to see you again.”

Her ears perked up. “She is?” A merry swish of her tail, the corners of her mouth tugged upward.

“Very much so, Miss.” In a rare break from protocol, he returned her smile with a fanged grin. “I do believe I heard something about a want to catch up with you—dinner, if my ears didn’t deceive me.” He wiggled his ears at her. “Haven’t lied to me yet, though.”

She sucked in her lips, hiding a grin that threatened to split her muzzle in two. Always making time to see me or talk to me, no matter what troubles I had. Some things just didn’t change.

Sparing both a nod, she trotted passed them and into the Throne Room. Her eyes lit up at the familiar splendor—the tall stained glass windows depicting tales of valor and heroism throughout Equestria’s history, the soft purple walls, the banners bearing the insignias of the Sisters of Day and Night hanging from the ceiling on either side of the throne.

And her teacher, seated on that very throne with a serene smile on her muzzle—two members of the Day Guard posted on each side of the dais, her personal guard. One that grew into a bright grin the moment she walked into the room.

Twilight stopped where she stood and bowed low. “Princess Celestia. Thank you so much for taking the time to see me.”

“My faithful student,” Princess Celestia greeted warmly. She stood, her rainbow mane and tail flowing in a nonexistent wind much like Luna’s, and gracefully made her way down the steps and onto the red carpet. Despite her larger frame, her steps were light, only making the faintest sound against the soft carpet as she approached.

Her head still bowed, Twilight glanced up as two pristinely-polished golden horseshoes came into view. She waited, a tiny smile played upon her lips.

A snort of laughter. Her ear flicked at the amused sigh, she snuck a peek to Princess Celestia’s face, catching sight of a little smile.

Clearing her throat, Princess Celestia spoke with an air of mock formality, adopting a more classical manner of speech, “As Princess of the Sun and Mistress of the Day, We command thee rise, Twilight Sparkle, and give Us a hug, thou silly filly.”

Twilight’s head snapped so quick her neck muscles strained. One look how Princess Celestia sat back on her haunches and held out her hooves, and gave a little waggle of her hooves in a sort of “come here” motion were all it took for the game to end.

With a happy squeal, she threw herself into the embrace and wrapped her hooves around her barrel.

The force of her sudden movement made Princess Celestia rock back, and very nearly sent her toppling onto her back. “My, my! You’re nearly as happy to see me as I am you, my dear!” she said with a chuckle, returning the hug and giving a little squeeze Twilight. Drawing back, she held Twilight at hoof’s length as if inspecting her. “Hmm, you’ve lost quite a bit of weight—a result of all the running around with your friends, or do I need to have a word with Spike about making sure you’re properly fed?”

Wrinkling her snout, Twilight huffed. “I’ll have you know that I’m well within the acceptable weight range for a unicorn mare of my size and stature!”

“Oh, phooey to those silly modern health pamphlets! They change on an almost bi-monthly basis!” Her hooves pulled Twilight in tight, a playful grin crossed her muzzle. Tutting, Princess Celestia reached up and patted Twilight’s head. “Clearly, there’s only one answer—I’m afraid you’ll just have to stay here with me until you’re fed to my liking.”

A gasp. She pulled back, trying to escape those powerful hooves. “You wouldn’t!” she cried in mock horror. “You couldn’t be so cruel!”

Princess Celestia’s belly shook with poorly suppressed laughter. “No, I don’t suppose I could. No matter how much I miss having my ever-faithful student and her little dragon brother at my side,” she admitted, laying her head atop Twilight’s and giving a wistful sigh. “Although—” her tone shifted from sincere to playful again “—if that ever-faithful student would remember that she can visit whenever she likes and send letters for more than her assigned Friendship Reports, then perhaps I might not be so tempted to make good on that threat.”

Her ears pinned back, Twilight gave a sheepish smile. Oops. “I’m sorry, Princess. I just get running around with my friends sometimes, and I know how busy you can get.”

“Indeed.” She replied, raising a brow. “But I’ll wager if I were to ask your parents, or perhaps your brother and my lovely niece, I would find a weekly contact exchange without hint of assignment.” She reached forward and booped Twilight’s snout, smirking at the way her captive student wrinkled her muzzle. “Do I need to make informal exchange between us an assignment, my dear?”

“No, Princess.” Twilight glanced downward. “I’ll remember to write more often.”

Beaming, Princess Celestia released her grip and stood. “Thank you. Now—“ she gestured for Twilight to walk with her toward the Throne, where a third guard so happened to have floated in a smaller cushion for her use “—Spike’s letter mentioned that you had a bit of a research project that you wanted some help with. Forgive me, but I don’t recall assigning anything. Though, that may be my memory playing tricks on me again.”

A shake of her head. “No, Princess, it’s not an assignment. It’s a personal project—well—“ she chewed her bottom lip, thinking of a better word for it “—it’s more a project to help somepony special in the long run.”

“I see.”

They reached the dais. Princess Celestia swept gracefully into her Throne and Twilight hopped onto her cushion—seated on the right side of her teacher, like her fillyhood days.

Just the right feel, too, she thought as she made herself more comfortable. Like she custom orders them for me.

No, that was silly. Even taking the Royal Family’s wealth, it would be a frivolous use of bits—Princess Celestia imparted that lesson on her years ago.

“So—” Princess Celestia’s voice brought her out of her thoughts “—tell me about this project of yours. All I got from Spike was that it involved certain parts of Equestria’s history that were rather vague. Any area in particular?”

“Yes, well, it’s not so much an area or period in particular,” Twilight began. “It’s about Luna.”

A brow raised. “Oh? Pray tell, what part of my sister’s history managed to catch your eye?”

“Er, that’s just it, Princess. I’ve come up empty in my search.” Sighing, she pulled her books from her saddlebags and held them aloft. “After talking with her about music, I managed to find a few connections there to find a time period to start—“

“A wise decision,” Celestia praised. “I suppose you meant to cross-reference her presence in the art community?” At Twilight’s nod, she smiled. “Very good, I’m pleased to see you took my lessons to heart. So, where are you ‘coming up empty’, as you say?”

“For a time, I was having a lot of trouble matching up her capacity as ‘Matron of the Arts’ with other duties. Certainly, I was able to find a few books on her influence in the art community, but they didn’t really do much to help match her up elsewhere. Well, until she showed me something else…”

“Something other than her records? My, my, and here I thought that she was willing to share those with you was indicative of just how much she values your friendship!” She gave a merry swish of her tail and prodded Twilight lightly on the shoulder. “Well, what did she show you? Did she sneak a couple paintings out of her room while I wasn’t looking?

Twilight shook her head. “Not quite. While she was with us the other night, Luna let us watch her raise the moon and put the stars in the sky—it was really amazing!”

A beat of silence. Princess Celestia stared a moment, blinking owlishly. “Did she?” she asked, her voice missing her usual serenity and poise. Instead it held a hint of something else. Excitement? Jubilation?

Either way, her smile seemed to broaden, spurring Twilight on. “Yes! Oh, it was wonderful!” she babbled excitedly. “I mean, I always suspected that it was rather similar to the way you raised the sun every morning, but I never imagined it could be so… so…” she trailed off, rolling a hoof through the air.

Princess Celestia chuckled. “Indescribable? Incomparable?”

“Er, yes. Those fit nicely.” Her cheeks burned, her ears swiveled back to lay against her scalp. “Excuse me, I just couldn’t find the words.”

“Very few can, my dear. Even having seen Luna craft the night sky as many times as I have, she still manages to take my breath away whenever I see it. One of many things I missed while she was banished…” she gave a wistful sigh, stealing a glance toward the stained glass windows. Another happy sigh, she turned to face Twilight again. “Well, what do you think of my sister’s night? Far better than my attempts, is it not?”

Twilight nodded once, rubbing a hoof agains her shin. “No offense, but yes.”

“None taken. After all, it was I who told you that the original artist far exceeded my abilities in the first place.” She hummed to herself, fixing Twilight with a sidelong glance, as if considering her a moment. “If Luna let you and your friends watch, she must hold you in rather high regard.”

The heat in her cheeks returned in full force. She ducked her head, mumbling, “I just try to be the best friend I can.”

“I’m certain you do, and I appreciate your efforts—that my sister finds companionship with you sets my mind at ease. While I cannot pick Luna’s relationships for her without playing ‘overbearing big sister’, I will admit that there is no shortage of bias in whom I’d try to push her toward if I felt so inclined.” A shrug of her shoulders, she gave a small smile. “We all have our faults, mine is being nosy, I’m afraid. That said, I must ask—would I be correct in believing that you mean to ask me for help in your ‘research project’?”

Twilight gave a sheepish nod, shifting in place under her teacher’s gaze. She felt small—like she was a filly again, looking up to Princess Celestia with baited breath, silently praying for approval. “I managed to find these books on the old Dusk Ceremonies, but not much else. Like I said, Golden Oak Library wasn’t really stocked with such intensive research in mind. It’s more for the foals, or more base-level research.”

To her relief, her nod was returned. “Consulting a primary source. Very good, Twilight, full marks. I’d be happy to help in your project—but—“ she held up a hoof to forestall any cheering “—this information comes at a price. Rather hefty, I’m afraid…”

Her shoulders slumped, Twilight felt her heart sink. Of course it would. She was asking Princess Celestia to help dig up her own sister’s past—not a happy tale for either of them.

“What price?” she asked weakly.

Princess Celestia grinned slyly and steepled her hooves. “Since I don’t get to see you quite as often—and since I have to explicitly ask for letters…” she raised a brow, almost daring Twilight to counter.

She didn’t.

“My price,” she continued, “is that your foray into the archives—yes, Spike told me that you wished to visit—will wait until tomorrow morning. Tonight, you’ll dine with me. We’ll talk about whatever you wish, but your search waits until the morning. Then, you’ll sleep in your old tower and be up in time to meet me on the Observatory as per our usual routine.”

There was a beat of silence between the pair. Twilight raised a brow, but smiled all the same. “That doesn’t seem like much of a punishment, Princess.”

Well, if that’s the way you feel, I have no choice but to insist that you have dessert as well—and there will be no polite refusals, young mare!” Princess Celestia wagged a hoof at her. “No student of mine will be skin and bones if I have anything to say about it!”

Unable to hold it back any longer, Twilight laughed and shook her head. She hopped off her cushion, landing nimbly on her hooves, and floated her books into her saddlebags. “Shall we, then? The main dining room?”

“If you like, yes. But on nights like these—“ she stole another glance to the window “—I prefer to sit on the balcony with Cadence and Luna, if they’re available. Since we haven’t quite had that chance, I thought we might take our meal there.”

Princess Celestia stood, pausing briefly to shake out a bit of stiffness in her hind legs, before she trotted down the dais with Twilight in tow.

The shifting of metal and heavy cadence of hoofsteps, made Twilight’s ear flick back. A peek over her shoulder revealed that the Night Guards were following, as per their duty.

A smile and nod to the pair. Erebos has them drilled well. The pair made their way out of the Throne Room, nodding to the Night Guards as they passed, and trotted down the hallway. As they rounded the corner to the grand staircase, Twilight caught sight of a familiar face.

Coming toward them with a clipboard held aloft in her mulberry magic glow, was Moondancer. Her eyes were focused on her list, she mumbled softly under her breath as she raised a pencil to check off various things she’d completed or make note of anything important she encountered.

“Moondancer!” Twilight called happily.

White ears flicked. Moondancer looked up from her clipboard, confusion written plainly across her muzzle. She cocked her head to the side. “Twilight Sparkle?” Her eyes shifted to the clipboard again, searching for something. With a hum, she looked back, frowning at her former classmate. “I didn’t realize you’d scheduled a visit—Princess Luna certainly didn’t say anything.”

Before Twilight could reply, Princess Celestia all but leapt in, that playful smile on her muzzle again. “You’re quite correct, Moondancer!” she tittered. “It would seem that my dear student felt a surprise visit was in order tonight. Otherwise, I would’ve insisted that Luna stay for dinner rather than run off on her—ahem—errand.”

Moondancer and Twilight shared a look, each hid matching smile behind a hoof.

Typical.

Quickly schooling her expression a smaller, more professional smile, Moondancer spoke, “I see. Will you be staying long, Twilight? Princess Luna would be thrilled at the chance to spend time with you again.”

“I’ve got a bit of research that I plan on doing in the archives, but—“ Twilight glanced to Princess Celestia, and received a smile of faux innocence in reply “—I will be staying the night in my old tower. I’d be happy to see Luna again once she gets back.”

“Good! I’ll have Captain Erebos greet her at the main entrance once she returns!” She scratched a quick note on her clipboard, then brought it to hover at her side and bowed low. “Thank you, Princess, and you, Twilight. Princess Luna will be so excited that you came!” With a bright smile on her muzzle, she trotted briskly down the hallway, turning down the same corridor they’d just come from.

A soft chuckle made Twilight flick an ear toward Princess Celestia.

“She’s come quite a ways,” she said, more to herself than Twilight. Shaking her head, she waved a wing toward the stairs, gesturing for Twilight to join her in climbing the stairs. “Come. If we dally any further, I’ll have Quick Quill breathing down my neck about my schedule again.”

“Still?”

“As constant as the rolling tides, my dear. But I wouldn’t trade her for any other. Now before we get to business, I’m curious; how are the pancakes in Ponyville?”

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