• Published 20th Oct 2018
  • 9,047 Views, 567 Comments

A Sparkle in the Darkness - tom117z

Following the return of the Crystal Empire, Twilight begins some intensive research into the history of the Empire and its late king. What she finds changes everything she knows about herself.

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19 - Differing Perspectives

“Crystal Empire, here we come!” Rarity gushed, a rather large collection of bags following on behind her held within a shimmering field of magic. “Come, darlings. There is hardly a moment to waste.”

“Where did you even get that stuff!?” Rainbow asked in exasperation as she idly glided through the air alongside her friends as they started to approach the train station. “You barely brought a thing to Canterlot!”

“I had a little more notice to prepare this time, Rainbow Dash,” Rarity retorted. “As for where I got them, I enlisted Pinkie Pie’s help in ensuring I had all the essentials required for a visit to that glorious city.”

Pinkie giggled as Rainbow’s dagger stare shifted towards her. “I have a few things stashed away in case of Rarity emergencies.”

Twilight rolled her eyes. Of course she did.

“Just let ‘em have it, we’ve got bigger varmints to fry,” Applejack pointed out. “What’s the plan when we get there, Twilight?”

“Any advice from the devil on your shoulder?” Spike quipped.

Twilight bit her lip. “No… He’s been a little quiet all day. I actually think he might be a little mad at me.”

“The King of Evil is mad at you, what a shocker,” Rainbow Dash deadpanned.

“Rainbow!” Twilight hissed defensively, before she then gave a quiet sigh. “But yeah, he hasn’t said a word since I talked with the Princess. I’ve tried reaching him, but he’s been silent every time.”

“That’s just family for ya’ll,” Applejack mused. “They get mad when you do something they don’t think you should and give the cold shoulder, but that’ll only last until they’ve cooled off.”

“This is Sombra we’re talking about!” Rainbow Dash objected. “I don’t think he’s capable of ‘cooling off’!”

“Family is family. Twi’s is just a bit… unique,” Applejack said hesitantly. “Ya’ll know I don’t rightly agree with any of this. But I know family, and I know they always make up eventually.”

Twilight wasn’t entirely convinced. The Apples were as closely knit as families could get, but not everypony had that kind of luck.

Still, she hoped she was right. How could she even begin to save his soul if he refused to speak to her?

“Anyway…” the alicorn started to continue. “Him aside, you were asking about our plans?”

“I think so, yes,” Fluttershy confirmed with a small nod.

Twilight took a breath. “Alright. Well, first thing to do is find Cadance and Shining. Spike’s sent them a letter, they should have already started an investigation of their own. Best case, they’ve already discovered something by the time we arrive.”

“Which is, let’s face it, not gonna happen,” Spike said with barely hidden bemusement.

“And if not…” Twilight continued, giving the young drake a quick flick with her tail for his snide remark, much to his protest. “We can slide right in with the others and help out. This is all we’ve got, either Sombra and I hit upon something or we’re running straight into a dead end. And if that’s the case…”

“What happens then…?” Fluttershy asked nervously.

“Then we can only wait for the culprit to maybe show up again somewhere down the road. Which, it goes without saying, is not ideal.”

“I don’t know, I think we can take them,” Rainbow commented.

“And what about the ponies caught in the middle before we can get there?” Applejack deadpanned.

“I don’t know if you realise this, AJ, but I’m preeety fast.”

“Right. That just leaves the rest of us to catch up, then.”

“Either way, it’s not something we want to happen,” Twilight interrupted. “The consequences of this dark mage succeeding could be devastating.”

“Slightly wishing we hadn’t left the Elements in a tree,” Pinkie Pie said with a small bit of worry.

“Well, we did beat the biggest dark mage of them all without them already,” Spike pointed out. “After all we’ve been through over the last year, as long as we stick together you probably don’t even need the Elements!”

“Beyond you, they are all mere peasants playing in the game of gods and demons. Their entrustment with such things, and their continued success, is nothing short of a miracle. It cannot last.”

“Thanks…” Twilight deadpanned.

“What was that, dear?” Rarity enquired.

“Sombra spoke, finally,” Twilight reported. “He thinks the rest of you shouldn’t be able to save Equestria.”

Applejack huffed indignantly. “Well, Mr Sombra, just because we’re not fancy alicorns and dark mages don’t mean we can’t do nothin’. We’ve come a long way together, the Princess trusts us because we’ve proven we can do what most ponies don’t.”

“You tell him, AJ!” Rainbow supported. “And I’M going to be accepted into the Wonderbolt reserves soon! Part-time EUP commission! Besides, we’re clearly good enough to beat his sorry flank.”

“As stated, a miracle. And one that is to my eternal shame.”

Twilight rolled her eyes.

“Oh! What did he say now?” Pinkie asked, eager for the scoop.

“It doesn’t matter,” Twilight dismissed. “Besides, we’re here.”

The group stopped right outside the main entrance to Canterlot’s train station, a fresh wave of ponies piling on out indicating that a train was currently sitting on the platform. Not their train, unfortunately. No, they still had a little while to wait until the Crystal Express was due to arrive.

Twilight led the way inside, several ponies gawping, staring and occasionally bowing as one of the alicorn Princesses of Equestria casually passed them by.

Twilight cringed each time, and every time she did so she could feel yet more of Sombra’s disapproval. She didn’t care if he thought she should revel in their reverence, it still felt as uncomfortable to the mare as it always had.

From there, the group of seven proceeded to one of the ticket booths and procured their seats on the next train. The pony behind the counter was far less fazed than some of the bystanders, Twilight recognising them as one who she’d dealt with on more than one journey through the station in the past.

And she had been doing plenty of travel via train as of late.

With tickets in hoof, and Rarity politely declining assistance from staff to help with her bags due to not wishing to ‘be a bother’, the friends made their way out the back of the building and onto the platform. There were a few ponies already waiting, eliciting more stares as they found an empty pair of benches and made camp there for the time being. As they made themselves comfortable, Twilight’s eyes were drawn to a nearby clock and board listing the day’s arrival and departure times.

They had around forty-six or so minutes until their train was due to arrive, barring delays or even early arrivals.

“And now we wait. Because that’s totally the best part of any adventure,” Rainbow quipped.

“We can always talk to each other to pass the time,” Fluttershy suggested, a small amount of sass in her tone. “Anypony?”

“Mare or stallion?” the rainbow-maned pegasus then abruptly asked.

Everypony looked at her oddly.

“The dark mage. I’m picking up bets, guy or gal? I’m betting mare, five bits!”

“Really scraping the bottom of the barrel for topics there, RD,” Applejack deadpanned.

“Hey! Fluttershy asked, I answered!"

The buttery pegasus hid a little behind her mane. “Maybe we should try something else. Um, but only if you want to…”

“So how did your talk go with Celestia anyway, Twilight?” Rarity quickly switched the subject. “We know it went ‘well’ of course, but I wouldn’t be prying too hard if I asked for details would I?”

“I’m a little curious about what Princess Luna wanted myself,” Applejack noted.

“Luna just wanted to help, she put things into perspective for… well, the both of us. But…” Twilight bit her lip again. “It’s a little touchy, girls. We’re okay now, mostly. But…”

“It’s still a little sore. We gotcha,” the apple farmer confirmed in understanding.

“They’re a big happy family again, that’s all that matters,” Pinkie Pie supported.

Speaking of family, Twilight felt Sombra’s indignation increase again as they talked about the subject of Princess Celestia and Twilight’s reconciliation.

“Uh… Could you girls excuse me for a moment?” Twilight asked, vacating the bench as the others gave her worried looks. “I need to use the bathroom.”

“You okay, Twilight? ‘He’ isn’t bothering you, is he?” Spike asked cautiously.

“Not really, just… Back in a moment.”

Twilight quickly retreated to a nearby lavatory, rapidly swinging the door open and jumping inside before she could inadvertently worry her friends even more. All the while, Sombra’s internal grumbling continued, and Twilight was starting to feel more than a little annoyed herself.

Thankfully, the bathroom was completely empty.

“Sombra, what the hay is your problem!?” Twilight bluntly asked.

No response.

“So Celestia and I made up, so what!?” she shouted. “Friends make mistakes, we get hurt. But we don’t let it keep us apart forever. If it can survive that, we become stronger for it.”

“I sense no strength in what you have done,” Sombra dismissed as he finally materialised before Twilight. “Only pain buried beneath delusion and a step taken back from your potential.”

Twilight scoffed. “Yeah, well, if my potential means pushing away the ponies I love then you can launch it into the sun.”

“Now you act as if a child,” Sombra snarled. “You return beneath the hoof of Celestia and thus shall forever remain beneath her. She is not worthy of your affections.”

“You don’t think anypony is, you wanted me to cast off my friends!” Twilight retorted. “Which is really hypocritical considering the whole Radiant Hope thing, by the way.”

Sombra’s eye gave a subtle twitch. “They are not worthy of your affections, but your bond is infuriatingly undeniable. Yet even when I reveal the only way to protect them, you fail to grasp the need and thus fail them as well as me.”

“That’s bogus and you know it!” she snapped. “How was your relationship with the mother of your son by the end, hm?”

“Twilight…” he said warningly.

“Not great! So, don’t lecture me on friends, that’s my job!

“And a tragic waste. Your foolish actions are a ruination of all our progress.”

“I’m NOT being your heir, Sombra!”

“And I shall drag you to greatness whether you yet appreciate it or not, Granddaughter.”

“And I will drag you into friendship whether you value it or not! So there, we can agree on something! Dragging each other until we both go crazy!”

Twilight let off a load defeated groan, turning around and leaning against a nearby sink, planting her head into her hooves as stress wracked her body. Her breaths remained heavy and laboured for several moments. After several more moments of attempting to apply Cadance’s breathing tactic, Twilight looked up and into the mirror. She couldn’t see Sombra’s reflection in the mirror, but she knew he was still standing there.

“You still hold spite for the Princess of the Sun,” Sombra noted with narrowed eyes. “And yet you fight the only natural response to her betrayal. For all I see in your mind, I cannot fathom your naïve actions.”

“You can see what I feel, but you cannot feel it. I wish you could because then maybe you would get what happiness actually feels like.”

“I knew happiness,” Sombra dismissed. “For the briefest of moments, I did. Before you precious Celestia took them both, took him. And now you, apparently.”

“There’s more for you that you realise, Grandfather,” Twilight quietly responded. “But us staying mad at each other won’t help. We still need to find this thief.”

“That we must. But you do not need Celestia to achieve anything. Her teachings will continue to lead you towards one inevitable outcome.”

“And that is?”

“Death,” he responded factually. “A time will come where the petty freedoms you so laud, the friendships you hold so dear, will not be enough to protect yourself or those you hold close for reasons I cannot understand. And it is in that moment that you will understand the truth of my words, and how power and domination is the only security necessary for their protection.”

“But then I’d never be happy,” Twilight softly argued. “You’re wrong, Sombra. I once believed I could go it alone, but Nightmare Moon proved me wrong without a shadow of a doubt.”

“We shall see…”

There was a knock on the bathroom door, Sombra immediately evaporating into shadow.

“Um, hello?” a mare’s voice came through the door. “Is there something wrong in there? I kinda need to go, but there’s a lot of shouting…”

“Um…” Twilight blushed with embarrassment. “Sorry, just… venting! I’m coming out!”

The Princess gave a sigh, returning to her own reflection and studying herself. The bags under her eyes betrayed her continuing exhaustion, and a part of her wondered if she could ever actually succeed in saving him. Was he too hurt? Too set in his ways?

No. She knew there was good in him, she had seen it for herself.

It was ridiculous to think he could be right at all. She’d reconnected with Celestia! He’d never seen that coming…

Yes, completely ridiculous…

She shook her head violently, trying to clear the tired cobwebs and mental conflict. She would need a very long rest when this was over, but for now…

The Crystal Empire awaited. Back where it all began.

And where, hopefully, it would end.