• Published 24th Jan 2017
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Stranger in the Forest - TrixterCat



When Fluttershy encounters a new creature in the Everfree forest, how will the ponies deal with its strange ways and its inability to speak?

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Chapter 19 - A Royal Visit

“Everything’s not fine!” Twilight moaned. Her tail was swishing from side to side in agitation as she paced around the library. Spike and Scruffy followed her with their eyes, the latter feeling nervous himself, and constantly fidgeting with his hands.

“Twilight, maybe you should calm do-”

“Calm down? Calm down?! How can I possibly calm down?” Twilight half shouted while hopping in place. “The Princesses are coming Spike! And we are nowhere near ready!”

“Twilight…” Spike tried to interject, to no avail.

“The town’s not ready, everything’s still being set up, and Pinkie’s still in the middle of baking, and and and…”

“Twilight!” He tried with more force, and managed to snap the mare out of her spiraling thoughts.

“Ooooh...why did Princess Celestia only inform us yesterday evening that they were going to visit TODAY?” Twilight sat down, eyes and ears downcast.

“Twilight...i-it okay. You calm now, please?” a voice rather similar to Twilight’s asked, making the other two beings in the room cringe.

It had been nine days since Scruffy was given the voice transmogrification amulet by Twilight and the Royal Sisters, and each day Twilight had helped him learn to use it to speak Equestrian Common. It was a tiresome task for both of them, Scruffy having to not only further his studies in the new language, but also learn to speak again. Since the amulet widened the range of sounds that he could effectively produce, he often caught himself accidentally making a different sound than what he intended. Luckily, the amulet worked by drawing energy from Scruffy’s own thaumic pool, so at least Twilight didn’t have to charge it constantly.

Twilight, on the otherhoof, had to constantly make minor adjustments to the amulet, fixing errors and tweaking the translation matrix. The translation matrix, which she had provided for the amulet, acted as the framework for the amulet’s ability to alter Scruffy’s speech. When he said something, it would compare the way he said the word, to how Twilight would say the word, and alter Scruffy’s voice accordingly. They had managed to nail most of it down, except for one, small, tiny, little oversight.

It also altered the sound of Scruffy’s voice to closely resemble Twilight’s, if Twilight was several decades older, and had spent several of those years smoking a Saddle Arabian hookah.

Despite her best efforts, Twilight hadn’t found a workaround for the unwanted feature yet, short of adding another layer of spellwork to the already complex array of runes adorning the amulet. Since it hadn’t been hindering Scruffy’s learning of Equestrian Common, it hadn’t been much of a problem. At least, not until today.

“Look, Twilight,” Spike began. “I’m sure that Celestia and Luna will appreciate whatever we manage to get done, even if it isn’t as grandiose as what they are used to.”

“J-j-yes...Princess yo-our...teacher? Will love, uh, our little display. I sure,” Scruffy added, although his jittery fidgeting wasn’t easing Twilight’s own panic.

“I’m really sorry, Scruffy. You must be so nervous, and I’m not helping at all…”

“I uhh, not met royal...ro-royalts before. Exciting, yes. Also, uh, scary,” Scruffy admitted.

“But Princess Celestia is the nicest pony there is! And Princess Luna is too, once you get to know her,” Spike said.

“I, I trust you, Spike. Still, new...umm, feeling? Wait, uhh...experience, what I mean. Not easy for me.”

“It’ll be fine, I promise,” Twilight responded, standing up. If she could have reached, she’d have patted Scruffy on the back, but calmingly stroked his leg with her hoof instead. “Just don’t be surprised when you see them. Remember, they are Princesses. They have both wings and a horn, and they are close to being as tall as you.”

“Right. S-S-Selestia, and, Ljuna. Llluna. Hmm, hard to say.”

“You’ll get the hang of it. There’s still a bit time left, if you want to practice,” Spike offered.

“It fine. Umm...any atvice? Do I greet them how? Any special way?”

“A respectful way to greet would be a bow, but you aren’t an Equestrian citizen, so it is not required. As long as you remember your manners, and greet them as you greet any other pony in Ponyville, it will be fine. Although, if you want to, I remember reading how ponies used to greet each other when Equestria was formed, where you-” Twilight explained, before she was interrupted by a crash from the front door.

“Hey Twilight! Hey Spike and Scruffy!” Rainbow gleefully greeted them.

“Gah! Rainbow, how many times do I have to tell you not to slam my front door like that!” Twilight admonished, before gasping, and quickly turning around with a huge smile. “Rainbow! You’re back!”

“Yep! In all my glory!” she boasted happily, wearing her Wonderbolt cadet uniform with the leadpony insignia on it. The two of them shared a hug.

“Hey, Dash. Great that you made it back in time,” Spike greeted Rainbow with a hoofbump.

“I wouldn’t leave you guys hanging like that. I took off as soon as Spitfire released us,” Rainbow smiled, and flew up to Scruffy. “How’s it going big guy? Everything in check for the big visit?”

“Yes. Feel little sca-ared, but will do fine...I hope,” he responded, and ruffled the baffled pegasi’s mane.

“Uhh, Twilight? Why does he still sound like you?” Rainbow asked, which caused Twilight to grumble unhappily to herself.

“Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a way to solve the issue in the limited time we’ve had. He’ll just have to...sound like that, for the visit.”

“Huh. That’s gonna be a bit weird.”

“Yes, well, can’t do much about it right now, but enough about that,” Twilight dismissed the matter, not wanting to talk about it “How did the rest of your week at the academy go after our visit?”

“Oh, it was awesome being the leadpony, and I did great together with my wingpony, Cloud Nook. We got along...perfectly! We did even more intensive training than before, like training to fly in a storm, what to do if you hurt one of your wings during a performance and emergency first aid, and all other kinds of cool stuff! Too bad that you two couldn’t come visit me at the academy,” Rainbow said to Spike and Scruffy, who both shrugged their shoulders. Spike had unfortunately been sick on the day they visited Rainbow, and couldn’t make the trip. Scruffy had been interested in the idea of visiting the academy, but once he realized what their mode of transportation would be, had quickly agreed that perhaps it was better he stayed in Ponyville, nursing Spike back to health.

“And what about Lightning Dust?” Twilight asked. Rainbow made an annoyed grimace.

“As much as I wanted to tell that featherbrain to just beat it afterwards for endangering you like that, I didn’t. I...I guess talking with Trixie made me see things in a different light... So I talked with Spitfire after you left. We agreed that she would fail the academy, of course, but I, uh, argued that she should be allowed to apply again next year. Spitfire agreed after giving it some thought. She had kinda allowed her behavior, after all.”

“That was very mature of you, Rainbow,” Twilight smiled happily.

“Uh, thanks,” Dash muttered, her ears twitching happily.

“Very good, RD. Like this, you will be big, responsible pony soon,” Scruffy added with a cheeky smile, causing Spike and Twilight to giggle.

Ha ha ha, very funny,” Rainbow rolled her eyes. “Anyway, anything I can do to help with the visit?”

“I was going to ask if you could do a weather inspection, and make sure everything is right on that front,” Twilight said.

“Leave it to me!”

“But!” Twilight stopped Rainbow as she went airborne. “Instead, I would like to ask you to repair the door you just broke,” she finished with an unhappy stare at the unhinged door.

“Ehehe...oops?”

********************

“Luna, would you quit fidgeting and just sit down?” Celestia said with faux annoyance to her sister, who couldn’t stay in place as the pegasus chariot took them towards Ponyville, constantly turning in place and flexing her wings. When Luna turned to look at her, Celestia offered a smile, and wrapped her wing around Luna.

“I-I apologize, sister. I’m just really nervous…”

“It’s okay Luna. But I promise, everything’s going to be fine. I’ll be there with you.”

“Yes, of course...I’m just being silly. It’s just...you know I don’t do well with, informal meetings like this...” Luna dawdled, hating that she couldn’t control her anxiety, which resurfaced after her return. She hadn’t felt so uncomposed since the time before they became princesses of Equestria.

“I know, Lulu,” Celestia replied, and leaned her head against Luna’s. “It’ll take awhile to become comfortable spending time with your friends again, but I’m here for you. Think of this as a ‘formal introduction to a foreign delegate’.”

“I very much doubt that our wayward visitor is a foreign delegate,” Luna scoffed.

“You never know. It would certainly be an exciting development,” Celestia replied with a chuckle, allowing her imagination to run wild for a moment.

The two of them went back to watching the scenery around them, Luna continuing to fidget despite Celestia’s efforts. She needed another strategy, or Luna would start chewing the rails of the chariot before they reached Ponyville. Something to distract her. Hmm…

“So, on a scale of 1 to 10, he’s a 10, right?” Celestia suddenly inquired. Luna froze, and Celestia could see Luna’s train of thoughts crashing and burning in fiery wreckage.

“I...what...?” she asked, not sure if she had heard right.

“I’m asking if he’s good looking,” Celestia helpfully added, face completely neutral, and her voice matter-of-fact.

“Wha...but...huh?”

“You spent so much time and effort getting your mane done, and all that time applying makeup, polishing your regalia, choosing the dress...I just assumed you did it because you wanted to impress him.”

“...” Luna just stared at her sister in complete and utter bafflement, mouth hanging open, her anxiety completely forgotten, and her brain in a desperate need of a repairpony.

“Maybe I should have worn a dress too, after all…” Celestia idly thought, trying to hold back her laughter for as long as she could.

“B-b-but...I w-what? I di-...I mean...uhh...” Luna stuttered, trying to formulate a response. Celestia finally started to giggle, pulling her sister closer in to her winged embrace.

“Oh, Luna. I was just teasing you a bit,” she said between giggles. “But, just between us...he’s a looker, right?” Celestia whispered not-so-quietly as she leaned closer with a big smile.

“Sis!” Luna shouted, forgetting her formal tongue as embarrassment finally caught up with her. Celestia laughed merrily as Luna pouted, and the two pegasi guards pulling the chariot kept pretending not to listen, smiles on their faces.

********************

“And what about the decorations?” Twilight inquired of the ponies present.

“All done!” came from somewhere in the crowd.

“Cupcakes?”

“Yepperooni!” Pinkie’s unmistakable voice rang from a different direction.

“Drinks?”

“Eeyup!” Big Mac nodded.

“Weather?”

“Good to go!” Rainbow Dash exclaimed.

“I think that’s everything then. We’re all set,” Twilight sighed, relieved, as she examined the small area they had prepared for the princesses’ visit. They had set up several tables in the town square, with most of the catering provided by Sugarcube Corner and the Apple Family. They had decorated the whole area, set up a small stage where miss Octavia and miss Vinyl could play some music, and of course, arranged two seats of honor for the princesses.

“And none too soon. I believe that’s our guests arriving,” Rarity piped up, trotting next to Twilight, her eyes scanning the horizon. Amidst the sparse clouds, there was glint of gold from the royal carriage as it made its way towards them.

“Good eyes, Rarity,” Rainbow said, spotting the carriage too.

“Where’s Scruffy?” Twilight asked, not able to catch sight of their tall friend anywhere.

“He, umm, wanted to lie in the shade until the princesses arrive,” Fluttershy answered. “I think it’s the hot sun that’s making him feel dizzy. Oh, I hope he doesn’t push himself too hard,” she added, worryingly tiptoeing on the spot.

“We’ll have to make sure that he doesn’t stay out too long and get a sunstroke. Now, let’s go greet the princesses,” Twilight urged, and the group headed to the small landing area marked with clouds.

“Princess Celestia, Princess Luna!” Twilight happily greeted the two alicorns as their carriage settled down.

“My most faithful student,” Celestia warmly greeted back, hugging Twilight.

“Good day, Twilight Sparkle,” Luna greeted as well, although Twilight very quickly noticed her stiff stance and the restless, back and forth shifting of her balance.

“It is wonderful to see all of you again,” Celestia said to the rest of the element bearers, who greeted both of the princesses back in return.

“Princess Luna, I must say, your choice of gown is exquisite!” Rarity exclaimed, in awe of its stitchwork and design. Luna’s see through dress was made of thin, black silk with silvery lines woven in intricate patterns and reached slightly past her knees. A sash wrapped around her forelegs, ethereal blue like her mane. It snaked all the way up each of her legs and connected behind her neck. The collar of the ensamble was composed completely of silver, reminiscent of the bracer she usually wore, now absent. The other’s agreed, with even Applejack nodding approvingly.

“T-thank you for your kind words, miss Rarity,” Luna replied bashfully.

The group moved to where the rest of the townsfolk were gathered, Celestia taking note of all the decorations and refreshments present. Her plan to circumvent Twilight’s tendency to make her visits into huge events by informing her of said visit the previous evening had unfortunately backfired. Then again, she admitted to Luna later that perhaps it wasn’t one of her cleverer plans.

While the princesses were greeting everypony else, Rainbow sneaked away to inform Scruffy that they had arrived.

“Hey! Scruffy, wake up!” Rainbow said loudly as she glided down next to him. Scruffy was outside of Twilight’s library with eyes closed, resting on a chair that he had brought from his home to Ponyville.

“Hmm? I not asleep,” he muttered, straightening his back and blinking owlishly.

“Never mind that! The Princesses are here!”

“Oh...Oh!” Scruffy blurted, suddenly feeling more awake. He clambered up from the chair to his unsteady feet, giving himself a once over. He was wearing the shirt Rarity had made for him together with gray, neat trousers.

“Are you going to be okay, big guy?” Rainbow asked, placing a hoof on his shoulder.

“Yjes. Just, feel little faint,” Scruffy replied, offering a smile and reaching to ruffle Rainbow’s mane, but she was too fast and ducked away from him.

“If you’re sure. Just take it easy, I don’t want to carry your sorry rump all the way to the Ponyville hospital because you got heat exhaustion or something.”

“Okay,” Scruffy agreed with a smile.

The two of them headed towards the town square, where the other ponies were starting to party. Octavia and Vinyl were on the stage, playing jovial music for the crowd, which had prompted many to dance along. It was funny to see the two of them standing hip to hip, staring at each other in a way Rainbow could only describe as “making the googly eyes”, while still somehow flawlessly playing the same cello together. It was also odd to see Vinyl not behind her DJ set. Rainbow’s guess was that Vinyl had learned to play this one piece for Octavia, so that they could play something together.

Twilight, Rarity, and Fluttershy were talking to the Princesses, who had taken their seats, while Applejack and Pinkie had decided to join the dancing. Rainbow, having skipped any kind of breakfast to get back to Ponyville as soon as possible, was more eager to plunder herself some cupcakes.

“Hey, do you mind if I go nab myself something to eat? Because I’m starving,” Rainbow asked as she turned around to face Scruffy, her belly rumbling unhappily. Scruffy let out a brief chuckle.

“Yes. I manage.”

“Sweet. The Princesses are just over there,” Rainbow pointed towards them, and zoomed off.

“Princesses…” Scruffy muttered to himself. He ran his hand through his short hair, taking a deep breath and letting it out slowly. He would shortly be meeting real life, actual, magical princesses from a mystical pony land. Scruffy scoffed, taking a few more calming breaths. Keep it together… You have come this far, no use getting cold feet now.

He continued his trek slowly, giving himself time to go through in his head how he should behave, and how to avoid embarrassing himself in front of everyone. Or ‘everypony’, as they would say it. Walk up to the Princesses, take a bow, greet them and introduce yourself. Or, wait...do I have to wait for them to introduce themselves first? Whatever you do, don’t forget to address them formally and remember to be respectful. Scruffy was so deep in thought, that he only realised that he had reached the Princesses when Celestia addressed him.

“Greetings. You must be our esteemed visitor,” Celestia offered with a bright smile as she got up, Luna following soon after her. Celestia took in Scruffy’s appearance, from head to toe, excitement bubbling inside her at meeting a creature she had never seen before.

“Uh, hail, my friend! It’s good to see you again!” Luna nervously greeted, knowing very well that several pairs of eyes were following their every movement. For heaven’s sake, Luna! You are a Princess, it shouldn’t be so hard to greet somepony you know without acting like a foal.

Scruffy lifted his head and glanced at the Princesses, before realising that he was already before them and took a knee somewhat hastily.

“Ah, h-hallo,” he greeted back, almost slipping back to his own language. He kept his head down, staring at the intricate shoes the Princesses were wearing.

“Friend, uh, S-Scruffy, you do not have to bow to us,” Luna said, taking a further step forward. Scruffy frowned slightly, something tingling at the back of his mind. He knew that voice but couldn’t tell from where. It sounded uncannily familiar...

“Yes, please rise,” Celestia urged.

Scruffy lifted his head, and as he was about to stand up, he locked eyes with Luna, and halted. They stared at each other for a moment, Scruffy’s expression morphing to that of a confused puppy whose favourite toy was just taken away, while Luna’s ears went down as she smiled awkwardly.

“Hi!” she greeted again, her voice becoming high pitched.

“Huh…? But thought…” Scruffy mumbled under his breath. Luckily, for the both of them, Twilight came to save them from just staring at each other awkwardly for the rest of the day.

“Ehehe, so, uh, why don’t you formally introduce yourself to the Princesses?” she instructed Scruffy, gesturing towards the Princesses.

“Oh. Uh, sorry… Um, I am Scruffy. Pleased, ah, meet you?” he said unsurely, still staring at Luna, while quickly glancing towards Celestia.

“My name is Celestia, the pleasure is mine,” she greeted with a small bow, and took a step closer to her sister to offer her moral support.

“I-I’m Luna, we have, uh, met before,” Luna said and held out her hoof for a hoofbump, hoping that her more casual greeting would relieve some tension from them both.

Scruffy, being confused beyond measure by the presence of someone he had only ever seen in a dream, completely forgot how ponies greeted each other, and thus couldn’t figure out why Luna was holding out her hoof, as it certainly wasn’t for a handshake. As he tried to scrounge the depths of his mind as to why, something Twilight had said came to his mind. She had mentioned some other, older way of greeting the Princesses, so this must have been it. How it was supposed to go? He had no idea.

Seeing that the dark blue Princess was getting nervous keeping her hoof outstretched, and not wanting to appear rude, Scruffy fell back upon old tropes he knew about greeting royalty. He carefully took hold of her foreleg with one hand, brought it closer, and kissed her royal hoof above the silver shoe.

There were gasps erupting for portions of the crowd, while other ponies, Twilight included, had their jaws hanging open. Pinkie was bouncing with a huge grin on her face, while Applejack pulled her hat down to cover her face. Rarity swooned right in to Spike and Fluttershy’s outstretched limbs, while Celestia simply covered her mouth with a hoof in surprise. Luna, on the other hoof…

This was the second time that same day she froze in place, shock on her face, all of her thoughts scrambling in to a mess and scattering to the winds. She recovered faster this time, and the surprise quickly changed to a spreading wave of crimson upon her cheeks. Her wings fidgeted hesitantly, like she wanted to hide behind them but had managed to stop herself. Her gaze fixated on the floor as the blush spread to the tips of her ears, turning them a striking pink color.

Scruffy blinked owlishly and alternated looking from the blushing Princess of the Night to the Princess of the Day, who seemed to be on the verge of a giggle fit.

“Scruffy!” Twilight finally managed to say, equal parts surprised and shocked.

“Uh...I...do someting wrong?” Scruffy asked, turning towards Luna again, who had a smile somewhere between awkward and happy.

“No, not, not at all,” Celestia explained between giggles. “It’s just, it’s just such an old practice, I didn’t think anypony remembered it anymore!” she continued, allowing her giggles to turn in to proper laughter.

“How did you even know about that?” Twilight muttered more to herself, rubbing her forehead with a hoof.

“Huh...? But, thought you say the-ere other way to, to greet Princess?” Scruffy asked in confusion.

“I didn’t mean that!” Twilight denied when Luna, Celestia, and several other ponies turned their gazes towards her. “I meant the cheek kiss! It was a common greeting at one point, and was often used between ponies of high class!”

“That was also several hundred years ago,” Spike helpfully noted.

“I didn’t mean that he should do it! I just...I mean...I thought that maybe his people had something similar, so I just wanted to mention it!” Twilight rattled off in embarrassment.

“Oh,” Scruffy said lamely, feeling suddenly very silly.

“Well, sister?” Celestia said, holding a hoof over her mouth to stop herself from chuckling more. “Are you going to respond, like it’s tradition?” she further added with a huge smile.

“I... Do I…uh...” Luna mumbled, her blush returning with vengeance. She gathered herself for a moment, before leaning closer to Scruffy. “W-we, the Princess o-of the Night, accepts thy pr-proclamation of adoration with gratitude,” she recited from memory with an old accent, before tapping Scruffy’s forehead with the tip of her snoot. After she was done, with a quick charge of her horn, she used a teleportation spell and disappeared in to Twilight’s library, causing Celestia to fall on to her chair with laughter. Scruffy was left in a state of perplexity, still on one of his knees, looking at the equally bemused expressions of most other ponies, and asking himself one simple question.

What the heck just happened?

********************

After everypony had had a chance to calm down, Twilight and Celestia explained to Scruffy that kissing mare’s hoof was an even older tradition than the cheek kiss that Twilight had mentioned. The gesture was used before Equestria was born and sometime afterwards to proclaim one’s devotion and respect towards others among high-society, especially when seeing a princess.

It eventually fell out of fashion, because a millennia ago personal hygiene wasn’t as good as it is in modern Equestria. Kissing somepony’s dirty hooves wasn’t a pleasant experience, no matter what the intent. Which is why it was supplanted by the custom of cheek kissing, which only lasted for a little over a hundred years. Members of other races didn’t find it quite as charming as the ponies did, griffon’s especially finding cheek kissing to be rather hard to reproduce with their beaks. Eventually, ponies settled on a simple hoofbump in everyday situations and a small bow for formal occasions.

“So, uh, hello...again,” Luna meekly greeted Scruffy for the fourth time, as the two of them walked calmly on a small path through Ponyville park. After Celestia had managed to help Luna calm down again, she had suggested that maybe the two of them should have a walk together, so that Luna could do some explaining without anypony else bothering them.

“Yes, hello…” Scruffy replied, still in a bit of a daze.

“I, um, take it that you recognize me?” Luna questioned, deciding to start with something simple.

“It, take moment...you from dream.”

“Yes! Um, allow me to explain.”

“Please,” Scruffy replied with anticipation. The two of them stopped, as Luna turned towards Scruffy.

“I am Luna, co-ruler of Equestria, and the Princess of the Night. One of my tasks, as a Princess, is to guard the dreams of ponies.”

“Dreams?”

“Yes. Twilight Sparkle has told you a little about magic, correct?” When Scruffy nodded, Luna continued. “Using my magic, I am able to enter the dreams of ponies and help them banish any nightmares they might be facing. I, uh, visited you in your dreams, before.”

“O...okay?” Scruffy scratched his beard, trying to absorb all the information. It was all a bit too much for him, honestly.

“However, you differ, somewhat, from my usual charges. Whether this is only you, or typical for all of your kind, I do not know.” Luna indicated with her hoof that they should keep walking, and they continued their stroll. “Ponies dream easily, and most are able to, hmm, ‘be awake’, during dreams. They can experience most sensations the same way they would as if they were awake. This allows me to more easily become a part of their dreams. Your mind, however,” Luna stopped her explanation, turning to look Scruffy in the eye. “You only seemed to be partially conscious as to what was happening in your dreams. Even a small amount of stimuli would wake you up, and my magic had a hard time keeping you in a dreaming state while I visited.”

“I never, uh...hart, hard to wake. I sleep light.”

“Hmm, nevertheless, I brought this up because I wished to explain why you might not remember some of the times I visited, for your dreams are fleeting.”

“Yes, uh, I remember some.”

“What do you remember?” Luna asked, suddenly a bit excited.

“I remember...we talk fishing. You wished, I teach you. We had tea,” Scruffy rubbed his temples, trying to remember.

“Indeed. Maybe we can...continue, our lessons, someday? With a real fishing pole,” Luna hopefully asked. Scruffy was surprised by the request, but soon had a small smile.

“If you want,” he replied and was about to tousle Luna’s mane, before remembering she was a Princess, and sheepishly pulling his hand away. They walked in silence for a while, Scruffy mulling over what Luna had said, and Luna preparing herself for her next question.

“Umm...Scruffy? I, I hope you are not mad with me?” Luna carefully asked, ears slightly drooping.

“Uh...no?” Scruffy blinked, cocking an eyebrow. “Why I m-m-m-...angrey?”

“I wanted to make sure. Not all creatures want me meddling with their dreams, and since I haven’t encountered your kind before,” she explained, letting out a breath she had been holding, “I wasn’t sure how you’d feel after I reminded you of my visit.” Luna was clearly relieved that Scruffy wasn’t upset with her.

“Mmh. I do, do say...this all very strange for me,” Scruffy said, rubbing his neck. Luna let out the tiniest of chuckles.

“I’m sure of that.”

“...Umm…”

“Yes?”

“I should say sorry,” Scruffy apologized, to Luna’s confusion.

“Sorry for what?” she asked.

“For...for kiss your hoof.”

“Oh,” Luna mumbled, getting slightly embarrassed by the memory. “How, um, did you know about that old custom?”

“I not know. Uh, Twilight and S-Selestia explain that me.”

“Then...why did you do it?”

“I, uh, I confused. I-it all bit too much at then. Twilight mention old way to greet Princess, so I think you want it when give hoof.”

“Ah.” Luna looked in different direction, trying to hide her small blush.

“So, I did first thing that come mint...mind,” Scruffy rubbed his neck again nervously.

“Does your kind have similar tradition then?”

“Aah, read in old tales. Not thing done often, I think.” Luna turned back towards Scruffy with a pleasant smile.

“Whatever your reason was, I thank you for it. Ponies don’t practice that tradition anymore, and it reminded me of...well...a different time,” she explained, a tinge of sadness entering her voice. Scruffy noticed it, but decided that perhaps today wasn’t the best day to ask about it.

“Can ask something?” Scruffy questioned, feeling more comfortable now.

“By all means.”

“It true? Are you Princess...uh, Pri-Princessesses really...really old?” Luna almost missed a step when she turned towards Scruffy again. She quickly started to chuckle.

“Hehehe… Yes, my sister and I are both quite old compared to everypony else.”

“But...1000 years? Seems long time.”

“It is, but it is something you get used to. Neither of us really know how long of a lifespan an alicorn has.”

“There no others?”

“There is a third alicorn, niece Cadence, Princess of Love. Has Twilight not mentioned her?”

“I not remember. Maybe I forgot.”

“My turn to ask now,” Luna said, smiling giddily.

“Okay.”

“I would like to know your real name. Twilight told in one of her letters how your name is written in your own language, but I would very much like to know how it is pronounced.”

“Ah. Hmm… My name, Toivo,” Scruffy said, turning off the amulet when he spoke his name by tapping the gem ensconced in the amulet with a finger two times.

“T-...T-Toj-Thooijwo?” Luna’s face scrunched as she tried to say the foreign word. Scruffy held a hand to his mouth to hide his amusement when Luna tried a few more times.

“Thooiivo.”

“You get close,” Scruffy encouraged, while Luna rolled her eyes.

“What does your name mean?”

“Huh? Repeat?”

“What is the meaning behind your name?”

“Oh. Aah...it not m-mean, a thing, like you ponies names. I learnt you ponies have mark, and name, umm, important detail of you.”

“Your kind doesn’t have descriptive names?”

“Uhh...no?” Scruffy answered, only mostly sure what Luna had asked. “Name, can mean a, a thing, I guess. My name mean, ah ‘hope’, if you...literal. We not often, hmm, mean a thing with a name. My name, Toivo, not ‘hope’. If you, understand?”

“I see. It is a great name, regardless.” Luna smiled.

“Thank you...L-Llluna,” Scruffy replied. They both blinked at each other at the same time, and burst into chuckles.

********************

“How was your talk with my sister?” Celestia asked Scruffy, taking a sip of tea that Twilight had brewed. After Scruffy and Luna had returned from their walk, Rarity had insisted that Luna come with her to the boutique. She excitedly tittered about her newest line of fashion as she dragged away the helpless Princess of the Night to model for her. When Luna turned to Celestia with a pleading look, hoping that Celestia would save her from the jabbering fashionista, Celestia warmly and genuinely smiled at Luna and mouthed to her ‘Have fun’. Luna should have fun with her friends more often anyway, Celestia mused. With no other interruptions forthcoming, Celestia decided to have her own talk with Scruffy.

“It go well,” he smiled stiffly. Something about the white alicorn was a bit overwhelming.

“That is good to hear,” Celestia said, lowering the teacup down on to a small table next to them. They were sitting on the balcony of Twilight’s library, the party having ended as the day turned to evening. “My sister doesn’t often spend much time free from work. It is nice to hear that she has a friend she can visit and talk to,” Celestia smiled her usual motherly smile.

“She has no many friends?”

“Not many, unfortunately. Not in Canterlot at least, and those that she has, all have something to do with her duties as a Princess.”

“Hmm. Maybe she go have vaca-ation?” Scruffy suggested. Celestia let out a few chuckles.

“If only I could make her do that, I would,” Celestia said, taking another sip of tea. “My student told me in her letters that you have spent a lot of time studying our language ever since you received our gift,” she stated, poignantly glancing at the enchanted jewelry hanging from Scruffy’s neck.

“Yes, thank you for this,” Scruffy replied happily, holding the amulet. “Much easier not have to carry scroll and pen all places.” They both chuckled.

“But I do have to wonder… Don’t you have anything else you need to do during the days? Twilight reported that you spend almost all of your time in Ponyville.”

“I, not have much do-doing. It exciting, ah, meet you two. Wanted not to, take longer.” Scruffy tried his best to explain.

“Is that so?” Celestia said, mulling over the information.

“I not...not at work anymore, spend my time at home. I do...umm, other things, like fish.”

“Oh. Why is that?” Celestia’s inquiry caused Scruffy to burst in to laughter.

“I old, Se-...uh, Princess. Can not work hard, my health not as good as young.”

“Don’t sell yourself short. I can still see plenty of strength in you. And please, call me Celestia.”

“Okay, uh, Selestia,” Scruffy rubbed his neck, bashful about the compliment. Celestia smiled, and took another sip of tea as she contemplated her next question.

“Still, it must not be an easy task to walk through the Everfree forest each day to visit Ponyville.”

“It not a long walk. I walk the forest often, young and old.”

“Truly?” Celestia asked surprised.

“Always like it. Calm and nice. Can find berry...berryyyee...plant and, and other food there too.”

“And you are not afraid of...that you might encounter any animals?”

“No. Never seen, hmm, big animal. Not seen bear, or others.”

Celestia frowned. For somepony who regularly walked in the Everfree forest, he seemed awfully cavalier about all the dangers lurking there. How would he be able to avoid all the perils of Everfree? Surely it can’t be because of simple camouflage clothing. She needed more information.

“Do other’s venture in to the forest often?”

“Uh...not understand word?”

“Oh, my apologies. Are there others of your kind who like to take walks in the forest?”

“A few,” Scruffy replied, thoughtfully playing with his beard. “Others like going to forest for food. I not know if they like have a walk.”

“And yet, there haven’t been any other visitors in Ponyville.” Scruffy gave her a smile and patted her hoof resting on the table.

“They not know you live here. Not worry, I not reveal secret.”

I didn’t know that Ponyville’s existence was a secret. Unless he means something else, Celestia pondered, but smiled back nonetheless. There’s something strange going on. She decided to change the subject, just in case Scruffy was getting suspicious of her questioning.

“I hope you have enjoyed visiting Ponyville.”

“It wonderful,” Scruffy replied happily. “It all like from a tale, hmm, for foal.”

“The word you are looking for is ‘fairytale’,” Celestia helpfully noted. To him, visiting Ponyville is like a fairytale? Hmm. Twilight did mention in her letters, when they first met him, he had been surprised when she used magic. Have he and his kind really come from so far away that they have no knowledge of Equestria?

“Yes, thank you. It fun to meet new pony in town, most nice, and all so...so li-liv-lively,” he continued with a chuckle. “Also, eager. They make party for you Princ-...uh, you and Llluna fast.” Celestia giggled at how Scruffy pronounced her sister’s name.

“Yes, so they did. It was a bit unexpected. They didn’t have to go through all the trouble for us.”

“Huh? You not like it?” Scruffy asked carefully and looked around, hoping that Twilight hadn’t heard them. Celestia quickly caught on and also lowered her voice.

“I do appreciate everything they did today, and it was a wonderful little event.”

“...But?” Scruffy persisted, and suddenly Celestia felt a bit self-conscious.

“But… When my little ponies hold a party or have prepared an elaborate event every single time I go somewhere, it can get...predictable,” Celestia admitted, smiling bashfully.

“Ah. Do one thing too often, it then feel dull.”

“I, wouldn’t quite say that. But, I would have hoped that we could have had just a normal, uneventful visit this time.”

“Umm...why not just say Twilight not to make party?”

“I won’t go in to details over it, but suffice to say, it could have led to a certain other type of ‘predictable’...reaction, had I told her not to do anything for our visit,” Celestia smiled apologetically, leaving Scruffy to scratch his head.

“Can ask question? Want to ask, but forget when talking with Llluna.”

“Please.”

“Twilight tell you Princess. But you also ru-ule, uh, area? Umm...land!”

“That is true, yes.”

“Twilight not mention...I not know word, but, umm, what Princess father and mother be.”

“Hmm? Oh! Are you wondering if there is a Queen or a King? Somepony else who rules besides us, but higher?”

“Yes.”

“Hehe, I have had that question asked of me several times by foreign dignitaries, but there is an explanation for that. To put it simply, before Equestria, unicorn lands were divided for the different Princesses to rule over, with the capitol left for the Queen and King of the head noble family. Both Luna and I rose to be Princesses at one point, and when Equestria was formed, we decided to keep our titles of ‘Princess’, rather than take the mantle of ‘Queen’. There is more to it than that, but it’s probably best if you ask my student about the details. I’m sure that she would be more than happy to tell you.”

“I ask her later. I just…”

“Go ahead,” Celestia encouraged.

“I just wonder, that you and Llluna live long, over 1000 year, but I not never heard Twilight say king or queen…so…”

“Ah, I see,” Celestia hummed, keeping her gentle smile. “It is quite alright. Our parents passed away a long time ago. Only me, my sister, and our niece are Alicorns. They were a normal unicorn couple.”

“I, sorry,” Scruffy said, feeling uncomfortable for having brought the subject up.

“You do not have to apologize for asking a question with no malice,” Celestia said, reaching with one of her wings and gently brushing Scruffy’s forehead with the tips of her feathers.

“I HAVE HAD ENOUGH OF THIS!”

A loud bellow caught both of them off guard, their heads snapping towards the unmistakable voice of the Princess of the Night.

“But Princess Luna, I-”

“No! No more! I refuse!”

Soon Celestia’s sister galloped in to view from behind a building on the street below with Rarity in tow right after her, and the two onlookers who had been quietly conversing were at risk of being drawn off the library’s balcony as they leaned over the rails to do a double take. Somehow, someway, Rarity had managed to convince Luna to wear the most vibrantly pink and abundantly frilly dress either of them had ever seen.

“But I was almost finished! Just a few more touches, and it would have been perfect!” Rarity complained, running after the Princess. Levitating after her were pins, measuring tape, several illustrations, and some more of the garishly pink fabric.

“I do not care if you are a famous seamstress or not. This. Does. NOT. SUIT ME!” Luna complained right back.

“Careful with the dress!” Rarity wailed as they continued out of sight, leaving Scruffy and Celestia to stare back at each other before bursting into uproarious laughter.

********************

“Uuurgh…” Luna moaned pitifully as the two sisters were sitting on the chariot, heading back to Canterlot.

“What’s the matter, Lulu?” Celestia asked, still chortling slightly.

“What’s the matter? What’s not the matter…” Luna muttered, leaning against her sister.

“I thought that today was an excellent day.”

“I made a complete fool of myself.”

“Luna, dear, if there’s anything that I have learned from our little ponies, it’s that if whatever you do makes them laugh, they usually view you in brighter light afterwards.”

“Mmmh...doesn’t feel like it in the moment.”

“Still, you were able to have a conversation with Scruffy, weren’t you? And he didn’t run away from you, like you were afraid of.”

“Mhmm,” Luna mumbled, tired from everything that had happened. “It was strange to hear a scratchy Twilight’s voice whenever he spoke.”

“It certainly was, and it is a shame that I forgot to ask him to take the amulet off so that I could hear his own voice,” Celestia giggled. “Perhaps next time.”

“Mmm.”

The two of them leaned against each other as they watched the Sun finally reach its destination on horizon. Celestia charged her horn with great magic, and with her help, the Sun sunk below the horizon completely. Luna powered her own magic, bringing the Moon to its proper place in the night sky.

“Luna?”

“Hmmh?”

“After you went walking with Scruffy, you didn’t feel anxious any more, did you?”

“...No. No I did not.”

Celestia smiled and wrapped a wing across Luna in a hug.

********************

A lone figure made its way on the beaten paths of the Everfree forest, clearly agitated. How was it possible that it still hadn’t managed to find that thrice damned amulet the zebra had hidden? It had looked everywhere, yet there was barely any sign of it! I know it’s here somewhere, it must be! There’s no way that simpleton would have the means to destroy it! It angrily snarled to itself.

The figure stopped for a moment and kicked one of the nearby trees, scaring several birds from it. Not being able to find the amulet wasn’t the only reason for its anger. In its thoughts it had accidentally wandered near that village at the edge of the Everfree. A foolish mistake that could have revealed its presence, but thankfully, there hadn’t been a soul in sight. What there had been, however, was a golden chariot that had taken off from somewhere inside the village. The creature had followed it with its gaze, frowning angrily until it disappeared in to the clouds.

Not feeling any calmer, the creature had decided to stop the searching for today, and return. Patience, it reprimanded itself. It needed to focus on finding the amulet and not get sidetracked with other business before it was time. But when it found the amulet, then...then there would be tartarus to pay.

Author's Note:

Poor Luna. :rainbowlaugh: I think her brain got a bit scrambled there, bless her soul.
(A bit of an intense gif, so epilepsy warning, just in case)
http://grumpyluna.tumblr.com/image/145685863954

Yay for a new chapter! It has been a long week writing this, as I have been sick for the most of it. But me and my editor persevered, and here it is for your reading pleasure. :twilightsmile:

Now, I still haven't found an apartment for myself, so I'm not "back" from my hiatus per se. I just have had enough time to write, and since my hands have been itching to continue the story, I have done just that. :pinkiecrazy:

I did a blog post some time ago, where I asked if I should put all the FSxAJ stuff on a different story, and most who commented on that though it'd be a good idea. So I might do that, as I really have nothing against it. Might write something for it or my second story next time I write.:rainbowkiss:

I have a Patreon if you want to support me and my tea addiction. :twilightsmile: It would be greatly appreciated, and you will also get a shout out at the end of each chapter if you do. :pinkiehappy:

My patrons:
MonsterMyrr
Atronosthelast
And as always, a special thanks to Lordelliott, who helps me edit this mess that I write. :rainbowlaugh:

Have a nice read, and a nice weekend. :twilightsmile:

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