• 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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5: The First Strains of Music

The warm blades of grass tickled Twilight’s belly as she sat in Ponyville Park. She hummed to herself, reading through a book as Owlowicioius slept on her back.

She giggled at his soft snoring. Her nighttime assistant needed to catch up on his sleep before the others arrived with their pets. Pet playdate always meant that he would lose a few hours during the day in favor of flying around in the sunlight with his fellow pets.

Early once again, Twilight had brought a book to pass the time as they waited. Her eyes skimmed the pages, taking in every word. Her tail swished behind her. Nothing was giving her any hint into Luna’s past. It was all just a summation of the Legend of the Mare in the Moon.

Historical texts, mythology, even astrology, any mention of Luna began with the opening lines from the old legend and ended in nothing but speculation or theory.

They ruled together, Princess Luna fell to her jealousy and darker urges and became Nightmare Moon. What else? Twilight growled at the text. No matter how she looked at it, Twilight just couldn’t find anything substantial.

The tale introduced Princess Celestia and Princess Luna as Equestria’s rulers, but then leapt straight into the latter growing jealous because ponies were fearful of her night. Certainly, that must have played a part—Princess Luna herself expressed her sincerest remorse, begging forgiveness the moment Princess Celestia had approached her and asked if they could be friends.

But there was something else. Princess Celestia acted as though she was just as sorry. What’s more, she kneeled before Princess Luna when asking for her friendship!

Classical mythology or not, the Royal Sisters were still ponies; they felt, thought, and acted as such. Thus, it was logical that there must be some reason, some act that sparked the younger sister’s fall to her darker emotions.

Every action brings about a reaction, Twilight hummed as she turned the page. Slowly, she took in every word, despite it being the same tale she’d heard since she was a filly. And Luna…

“In a fantasy world, one night of goodness in one town may have restored my reputation. But we do not live in such a world, young Spike. I have a great many things to answer for.”

She spoke of a reputation lost long ago. But what?

The texts mentioned her only as the Princess of the Night—the lonely mare who walked in the light of the moon, when other ponies were tucked in their beds. She was portrayed as a mare who had no pony. It was possible that this was accurate…

But it contradicted everything that the Princess of the Night herself had hinted at. Just what is it she wants to recover?

The question plagued her mind. It taunted her, leaving only speculation but no real answers with every word she read, every page she turned. Without specifics, Twilight couldn’t put the pieces together. Sisters! They might as well be from entirely different puzzles for the complete lack of insight they gave.

Twilight shifted in place, her lips curving into a small frown. “Why can’t you tell me what I want to know?” She glared at the pages, as if hoping to scare answers out of the dusty old text.

But it was the same as each time she reached that point: a complete and total dead end.

With a sigh, Twilight turned her attention skyward. At least the pegasi had done well to clear the clouds today—not a one blotted out the sun her teacher so lovingly raised and lowered as it shone bright in the deep blue sky.

I shouldn’t be acting like this, Twilight shook herself. I’m supposed to be happy about spending an afternoon with all of my friends, I should be happy to help Princess Luna—er, just Luna, find her place again. Oh, I’m turning this into another project, aren’t I?

She was falling into the same old trap again; trying to turn real life situations with her friends into a lesson of some sort so she could “make the grade” for the princesses.

It wasn’t a place she wanted to revisit. Twilight lowered her head, letting her muzzle thump against the pages of her book. Something between a whine and a groan escaped her lips. She should know better than to go that route again!

But I do know better! Twilight lifted her head, ears perking up. She refocused on the section before her, eyes narrowed and ears perked up. It was more than just some project—it was a literal part of a friend’s life!

Princess Luna was counting on her help! She had gone out of her way to visit, out of the blue, and levy praise for Twilight’s deeds. Even more so…

To ask if I would be her friend.

Twilight sighed and steeled herself to read through the same passage she’d already read in countless variations. “There has to be something.” Twilight shifted in place, the grass rubbing against her belly as she made herself comfortable again.

She winced as Owlowicious’s talons dug into her back for balance. A glance over her shoulder showed that her nocturnal friend’s eyes were still closed. He shifted in his sleep, giving a low “Hoo” as he settled in again.

“At least one of us is enjoying himself.” She whispered, covering her mouth to stifle a bout of giggles at the way her pet fluffed up his feathers. “Must be quite the dream you’re having!”

A researcher who doubles as an owl perch. Oh, Shiny would just laugh himself silly! Twilight shook her head and turned back to her book. She could already hear one of her brother’s teasing little quips. “It’d be something about me never moving and owls being confused as to why somepony would make a furry purple perch, I’d imagine.” She grinned, turning the page with a flick of her magic.

Shining Armor always did seem to have some little jab to send her way, one she could never ignore in favor of her studies. Always something to say to pull her mind out of her books and make her spend time with him.

So much like my friends. She’d have to find a way to introduce him to the girls one day. They’d love him. And Cadence, if she could find time to come down for a visit. Twilight would have to send each a letter after she was done in the park. It had been far too long since she’d seen them.

Of course, Twilight had to make it through her latest effort in research before she could do either. And as she scanned the discussion section of the chapter, reading through Critical Thought’s analysis of the lore, Twilight was ready to say that it was in vain. Yet again.

“While it there has been some discussion as to whether or not the sudden appearance of Nightmare Moon may be naught but a metaphor for a darker period in our Princess’s life, damage to the ancient Palace of the Royal Pony Sisters and the surrounding area suggest that a battle of some sort did indeed take place. However, the lack of supporting evidence for the existence of the entity known as Nightmare Moon, save for the legend itself, is significant. With this in mind, an alternative theory to the Nightmare’s origins could be the Everfree Forest itself—known for the dangerous creatures that inhabit it. In this case, it is possible that Princess Luna was a casualty of the creature, perhaps akin to a parasite taking over a host body…”

This research is out of date. Twilight snorted and flipped to the inside cover to check the publish date again. Twenty years out of date. Hardly his fault, information is rather scarce.

She closed the book with a snap, massaging her temples with her hooves. Golden Oaks Library just didn’t have the resources she needed. It was—admittedly—a small town, public library, not the full-fledged research based Royal Canterlot Library.

Twilight’s ears lay flat at the memory of her last visit. She buried her muzzle in her hooves to hide her heavy blush as a weight settled on her withers. It was quite fortunate that Princess Celestia had been more amused than peeved, though that didn’t mean Twilight was completely off the hook.

Each of her teasing little references flitted through Twilight’s memory. Never again. I will never hear the end of it!

A few deep breaths, slowly filling her lungs with the warm spring air. It was just a little teasing between student and teacher, nothing to worry about. Princess Celestia had assured her of that several times. It was all just a silly misunderstanding.

The weight lifted, and Twilight was able to lift her head just enough to prop her chin on her hooves. She closed her eyes, humming softly to herself.

Twilight gave herself a mental shake to jolt out of her little funk. Grumbling and whining won’t help me find the answers I need, and they certainly won’t help Princess Luna. I’m looking at this the wrong way.

She glanced at the book laying at her hooves. Maybe a bit of unwinding with her friends was needed to put her in the right mindset. A day with the sun on her back and spending a few hours with her closest friends would do her good.

Her eyes screwed up. My schedule for the rest of the day is rather open. And Spike said he could handle the library until closing in exchange for a few hours off tomorrow, so maybe I could stop early and step back. What was that Princess Celestia used to say? Too much studying and I’ll—

Twilight nearly jumped at a sudden, excited yip before she was bowled over by a small dog. Owlowicous was startled out of his nap and took to the air with an indignant hoot at the pair rolling about in the grass. His owner was supposed to be quietly reading, not playing yet!

She shrieked with laughter as she was tickled by soft fur and the warm tongue licking her face. “Winona! Down, you silly girl!”

Her assailant stopped, wagging her tail and barking before jumping on her again. Twilight managed to get her hooves up in time to catch the energetic little pup. “Yes, I’m happy to see you too.”

She ruffled Winona’s fur, making sure to tickle behind her ear. Winona darted forward to steal another lick to Twilight’s nose.

Wrinkling her muzzle, Twilight held the dog tight and gave a mock glare. “You’re not supposed to do that when I’m reading, missy!” Her comment earned her another yip and playful lick. “Oh! You goof! Where’s Applejack, hmm? I need to have a word with her!”

A snort and a familiar laugh sounded. “Who do you think sent her over?”

Twilight sat up, letting Winona nuzzle under her chin as she regarded Rainbow Dash and Applejack. She raised an eyebrow at the wide grins and mischievous twinkling in their eyes. “And just why would you do that?” She tried in vain to fight the smile spreading across her face.

“Hon, you were in one of your lil’ zones.” Applejack sidled up next to her and shooed Winona off. She sat down, nudging Twilight with a shoulder. “We called a couple times.”

“But you were off in lala land!” Rainbow finished with a cackle. She turned to face Tank, who was seated on her back, and bumped him with her nose. “Go on, ya lug! Go play!”

With a flick of a switch, the gyrocopter mounted on his shell turned on. Tank hovered around his owner, pausing to give a slow nuzzle to her cheek before flying over to his fellow pets. Winona yipped and chased him about, jumping to try and catch her friend.

Twilight turned to Owlowicious and jerked her head toward the others. “Go on. You too!” She ducked as he swooped low and lightly nipped at her ear before veering off to catch up with the others. “Cheeky bird!” She called after him.

Rainbow cantered over to sit beside her friends. “So, what’s got you all zoney today?” She picked up the book, looking over the title. “A Discussion of Equestrian Lore? Bleh! Sounds way too egg-heady for me!”

“What a surprise!” Applejack leaned up and tweaked her ear. “You think anythin’ not Darin’ Do is ‘too egg-heady’, Sugarcube!”

Rubbing her ear, Rainbow glared. “I do not! And if you’re gonna bite my ear, at least buy me dinner first!”

Applejack snorted. “I’m a farmer, not a idiot. Buyin’ you dinner would cost me a full day’s worth of sales!” She took the light jab to her side with a laugh, and then turned to Twilight again. Applejack nudged their shoulders together. “Playin’ aside, what was all the sighin’ and puttin’ your face in your hooves when we were walkin’ up? And ‘zoney’, as Dash said.”

Twilight blinked. They saw that? She shook her head, pasting a big grin on her face. “Nothing! Well—something—but nothing to worry about. Just a little project I’m having trouble with.”

“Uh huh. Pull the other one Twilight.” Rainbow scooted herself over so that she was on Twilight’s opposite side and threw a wing around her. Rainbow pulled her in close, in a rare show of affection. “C’mon, tell us what’s up. If it’s somepony botherin’ you, we just need a name and a couple hours to track his sorry behind down!”

Twilight couldn’t help but laugh and shake her head. “No, no pony is bothering me.” She snuggled against her friend, giving a quick nuzzle to assure her. “It’s just me thinking through a problem, is all. And it’s… not easy.”

Applejack put a hoof on her shoulder. “You can tell us anythin’, hon.” She raised the brim of her Stetson to give a clear shot of her vibrant green eyes. “What’s goin’ on? Get a bad grade on a report or somethin’?”

“No, nothing like that. Princess Celestia has been pleased with my work. I’ve been thinking on how to help Luna lately and… well, it’s proving rather difficult.”

“Fluttershy said somethin’ ‘bout her visitin’. What does need help with? No problems, right?”

Twilight shook her head. She bumped her nose against Applejack’s, giving a small smile. “Nothing too urgent. She’s just trying to find a way to reconnect, so I offered to help.”

“Heh, always up to help a friend, eh?” Rainbow nudged Twilight with an elbow. “So, what’s the big problem? You helped her on Nightmare Night and that went great! A few of the foals got a huge kick out of her pranks! She got me with a good one, for cryin’ out loud!”

“Yes, it went well. But this is just one town. Luna mentioned that she still had a long way to go to regain ponies’ trust. There’s something she said that’s been bugging me. Something about her past that I haven’t seen or heard anything about until now.” Her tail swished behind her. “And so far, I’m still not seeing anything that would help. A lot of it is… just what we already know. Just the old story.”

“Huh.” Applejack furrowed her brows, her mouth forming a thin line. “Really? Nothin’ else?”

“Just some speculation, some theories, and a lot of outdated information.” A sigh escaped her lips. Twilight dug a small divot into the dirt with her hoof. “Not that I can really blame them; there wasn’t much known about the Fall of Night to begin with.”

“Didn’t the story say something about jealousy?” Rainbow tilted her head.

“Yes. It says that Luna was jealous of how loved Princess Celestia was and how ponies loved the daytime, but hid away during her nights. Nothing before that, though. Just sudden jealousy and then the Nightmare appeared… almost out of nowhere.”

Applejack’s ears pricked forward. “That ain’t the problem, is it?”

“It’s part of the problem, but not the major part.” Twilight chewed on the inside of her cheek. Her thoughts flitting back to the midnight meeting with Luna.

A meeting which took place in the middle of the night, without escort or announcement. Everything pointed to a sense of awkwardness, and a desire for secrecy. A good friend would respect her wishes. But… Perhaps another perspective would do her some good. Sorry, Luna. Twilight dug her hoof deeper into the ground. But if I’m going to help, I have to be open to any avenue. She took a slow breath before beginning again. “Luna wants to restore the reputation she had before her banishment. Some connection she had.”

Applejack and Rainbow Dash exchanged looks of utter perplexion. “That’s… new.” Twilight caught the hesitance, the underlying uncertainty in Applejack. The farm mare scratched at her ear idly. “I can’t say I’ve heard much of her doing anythin’ other than movin’ the moon and rulin’ over nighttime.”

“I thought that was all she did, besides run part of the court.” Rainbow scrunched up her nose. “What else is there? Watching over some dangerous animals, or something?”

“That’s the problem.” Twilight let out a sigh, snuggling into her friends’ embrace for comfort. “There’s nothing in my library about her before that! It’s all just about her ruling the night until she became Nightmare Moon. There’s nothing else!”

There was a moment’s silence as Twilight ground a new divot into the dirt. Her friends held her in their embrace, letting her slowly work out her stress in her own way. The warmth they shared with her expanded into Twilight’s chest, the very same way it had when they had become element bearers on eve of the Summer Sun Celebration. Just as she was always there when they called, her friends were ready to offer support whenever she needed.

Applejack spoke first, giving a nuzzle to her cheek. “No offense, Twi, but I think you might be lookin’ at this whole thing the wrong way.” She held up a hoof to forestall any arguments. “But you’re goin’ about it for the right reasons.”

“I… don’t quite follow. How is research the wrong way?” Twilight gave Applejack her full attention, her ears standing at full height.

“Well, think about it, Sugarcube. Luna came to you, askin’ to be friends, right?” Twilight nodded once. “She trusts you—for darn good reason, when ya think about it. So, why not just try to get to know her a bit?”

“Yeah, totally!” Twilight winced at Rainbow Dash’s sudden outburst. She rubbed her ear, aiming a stern glare toward her louder friend. But Rainbow just grinned and bumped their shoulders together. “Aw, c’mon! You know we’re right! Besides, wasn’t that half the fun of making friends in the first place?”

She jolted up, her eyes wide. That’s right. The majority of her early friendship reports were about how she learned each of her friends’ quirks, habits, peeves, and the little things that made them smile. But what makes Luna smile? I’ve seen her angry, offended, and even embarrassed… but what makes her happy?

Her thoughts wandered back to their conversation, to a point just before Luna had levied praise on her. Twilight shuffled in place at the mere memory of the fabled Princess of the Night speaking so highly of her. She was just a student conducting research on the magic of friendship. Nothing of particular notable status, save for being the personal student of Princess Celestia.

Twilight shook her head. Focus! Luna! This is about Luna! She said something… something about the mess? A stack of books sat atop her table that night, remnants of a long day of studying music of the Pre-Banishment Era. Her ears perked up! That’s it!

Music. Luna had commented on her taste in music!

Something so little, so very inconsequential to anypony else had made Luna pause to approve of era of music she was studying! She had even mentioned Tempo Rubato and Beethooven, two of the most famed composers of the time!

Slowly, a grin worked its way across her face. “I think I may already know something she likes.” Applejack and Rainbow leaned around to look her in the eye, a light prod for more information. “She likes music. Enough so that she mentioned discussing it later.”

That was all she needed for an idea to take root in her head. When she wanted to spend time with them, she didn’t just sit around and wait for the rest of her friends to come by. Certainly, there were times that she was busy with her studies, but she tried to balance being proactive with being invited along by the girls.

Who was to say she couldn’t do the same with Luna? Why couldn’t she simply invite Luna to the library for a visit to discuss classical music? Maybe they could even compare it to how it had changed in modern times!

Twilight threw her hooves around the girls and hugged them tight, sparing each a nuzzle. “Thank you. You have no idea how much you’ve helped!”

A magenta aura engulfed the doorknob and twisted it. Twilight pushed the door open and stepped in, Owlowicious lept off her back and flew over to his perch.

Twilight brushed a bit of dirt off her foreleg. Trust Pinkie Pie to see three of her friends hugging and take it as cue to engulf them all in her patented “flying tackle hug of extra super hugginess”—Pinkie’s words, not hers—and start up an impromptu game. Rarity had been dragged into the mess as well, but Fluttershy… well, no pony thought to include her into such a rough game.

Until, of course, she simply tapped Pinkie on the back and softly wrapped her hooves around her withers, muttering “Um, caught you… if that’s okay with you” and was promptly declared the winner.

Only Rainbow and Pinkie could start up a game of “hug everypony” and have there be a winner, Twilight chuckled as she shook her head. At least they all had fun. Sure, it was different than their usual pet playdates, but a little change of pace could be nice.

Patches of dirt matted her coat, her fur was ruffled and stood on end from where she’d been hugged, ruffled, and snuggled every time she’d been caught.

Just another day in Ponyville.

With a flick of magic, her book was floated over to its place on the shelf and carefully slipped into the gap. A quick adjustment later and one could hardly tell that any book had been moved out of place.

Perfectly organized and arranged. Twilight hummed as she climbed the stairs, her ears perked up as she caught the sounds of light snoring from the little basket at the foot of her bed.

As she drew close, she had to bring a hoof to her mouth to forestall a little coo.

Spike lay on his back, his mouth hung open as he slept soundly. Twilight giggled at the sight of a trail of drool running down the left side of his face. She picked up a tissue in her magic and gently dabbed at his cheek. Little dragon wore himself out again. Twilight kissed his forehead, taking care to keep her hoofsteps light as she backed away from Spike’s bed. I’ll have to treat him for taking such good care of the library while I was out.

Perhaps a word to Rarity about possibly procuring a few gems and having them sent to Sugarcube Corner would be in order. Yes, he’d like that. Then, Pinkie can just happen to have the special ingredient for his favorite gemstone sprinkled cupcakes. A perfect plan, if she did say so herself.

Twilight trotted over to her desk and sat down on the soft, purple cushion. She levitated a sheet of parchment over and took a quill in her aura.

She had written plenty of letters to Princess Celestia during her years as a student, formality had been drilled into her from an early age.

But Twilight couldn’t default to such an official style when writing a friend. Coming off too formal or too cold might give the wrong message and make Luna feel as though I don’t really see her as a friend…

Her lessons in noble politics dictated that she treat a princess with respect… but those learned with her friends howled and demanded that she treat Luna with the same warmth and familiarity as she did those closest to her.

Just as she treated Cadence; her old foalsitter, her friend, and a princess of Equestria.

Twilight nodded, smiling as she dipped her quill into the inkwell. “Dear Luna…”

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