• Published 8th Jul 2021
  • 1,701 Views, 50 Comments

A Moon and World Together - Evilhumour

With the Royal Sisters reconciled at last, Equestria and the Lunar Republic continue their journey towards a peaceful alliance.

  • ...

Chapter Two

Chapter Two

As Celestia's sun peeked over the horizon, Cadance awoke with a yawn, and began her usual morning routine, plus a little extra as she fed Ray.

Once she was done, she went to join her aunt in the dining room for breakfast, and found that Celestia was not yet in, but Directors Inkwell and Spice were already present and enjoying a plate of eggs, toast, fruit and hay bacon.

"Good morning, Princess," Director Inkwell greeted her. "How was your night?"

"Peaceful," Cadance said. "And yours, Directors?"

The pair smiled at her. "The same," Director Inkwell said.

"Good." Cadance smiled as she sat down and accepted her plate of food from the servers hanging around the periphery of the room.

"Though I did get a message from Director Luna, which she asked me to pass on to you," Director Inkwell said. She pulled a scroll out of her saddlebags. "Rainbow Dash gave her the contact information for her parents and for that little filly and her family, so that you could reach out to them, and I copied it out for you."

"Oh, good," Cadance said, as she accepted the scroll and began to study it. Then she frowned slightly as she looked at two of the names. "Snap Shutter and Mane Allgood... those names sound familiar, where have I heard them before?"

"They work for us," Celestia said as she walked into the room, radiant as always. "Good morning, everypony." She peered at Cadance. "What brought those two up?"

"Their daughter is the filly Aunt Luna mentioned, the one Rainbow Dash is wanting to have brought up to the moon," Cadance explained as her aunt took her seat and accepted the plate that was put before her.

Celestia nodded understandingly. "Of course," she said, absently eating her breakfast. "I'll have to go through my files, see where they're supposed to be working for now, so we can contact them."

"And in the meantime, I can see about talking to her aunts and Rainbow Dash's parents," Cadance said.

Director Inkwell cleared her throat. "Speaking of this filly's parents, what do they do for you?" she asked.

"They study plants and animals from around the world," Celestia answered. "Their research has helped with our own medical studies a great deal, primarily in crafting new medicines - I believe you would be interested in some of the plants they've discovered, Director Spice.".

Director Spice nodded with a smile. "And so would Well Wishes," she said. "He does disdain certain more primitive aspects of our past development as a species, but if these plants would help make better medicines, I am certain he'd appreciate it."

"Indeed. I look forward to meeting him," Celestia said with a tip of her head. "Along with the rest of your fellow active Directors." She looked in Cadance's direction with a smirk. "And I suspect my niece will have an interesting time meeting one of them in particular."

Cadance blushed at her aunt's words, but she was speaking the truth.

"Oh yes," Director Spice said, smiling in her direction. "And I expect Velvet will be most interested in meeting you, Princess."

"Speaking of Director Velvet, what's she like as a person?" Celestia asked, tilting her head slightly.

Both Directors turned and looked at her contemplatively.

"She's a good pony," Director Inkwell finally said. "A loving wife and mother, not afraid to take a firm hoof when it comes to settling disagreements. And stars forbid anypony should ever try to harm a member of her family, or they'll wish they weren't alive to regret it. I highly doubt that even Director Luna would try to go against her when she is in that state of mind."

Director Spice nodded in agreement. "Velvet is a friend of both of us, and to our fellows, but she can be downright scary when she wants to be," she said. "Most of the time though, she's one of the nicest ponies you could ever meet." She turned and smiled at Cadance. "You shouldn't have anything to worry about, Princess."

"Either of you," Director Inkwell added. "Director Luna trusts both of you, and I trust her." There was a meaningful look on her face as she looked at Celestia, who didn't try to hide the look of shame on her face.

"For what it's worth," she said, "I'm sorry if I've offended either of you or your fellows during the time you've been here. I was... not in the best of mindsets, until Luna and I finally talked things out and realized how badly we'd both messed up so long ago. Myself far more than my sister." She sighed. "I lashed out, then and now, because I'd felt that she'd abandoned me by running off like she did, after I'd been happy for her finding new friends who appreciated her night for the spectacle that it was. I gave her space to be with them, to grow and develop by herself, but she didn't see it like that... and I didn't realize, until she told me, that she'd felt I was neglecting her by my actions."

Both Directors looked at her in surprise as she continued. "Despite our differences though, no matter how distant we became, I never stopped loving my sister."

The two Directors traded meaningful looks, before Director Inkwell nodded. "And she never stopped loving you, Princess," she said. "Director Luna may not have worn her heart on her sleeve as much as some ponies, but for the most part, she always spoke fondly of you, even when she was grumbling about something."

Cadance could almost feel her aunt's heart swell at that, but further conversation was delayed by the arrival of the castle staff with a second course for their breakfast. Once each of the four had taken some time to enjoy the food, their talk picked up again.

"Do you think you could arrange for me to meet with some of the farming clans down here?" Director Spice asked. "I'd like to see their farms and techniques for myself."

Celestia nodded. "I'd be happy to," she said. "The closest are down in Ponyville; the Apple family were the first to settle there, not far from the borders of the Everfree Forest, and the land was well suited for other farms as well."

"Ah." Director Spice seemed pleased at that. "I'd be honored to meet with them then. There is much we can learn from one another."

"As well as gain access to a wider range of crops," Director Inkwell said, tipping her head towards the other mare who gave a small snort at that before frowning.

"Yes, and I doubt that most of them would agree to our style of barter," she let out a small sigh. "How much currency do we have allotted to this again?" She then looked at Princess Celestia. "Please do not take any offence but I am not too inclined to accept a loan from your own hooves, Princess. It is not our way to do things; take half of a deal and come back to finish it at a later point."

"Completely understandable; though I could offer you and the rest of your team a tab to operate under while you establish your currency system so you would not need to dip too heavily into your reserves of old bits," Celestia said without any hesitation. "Speaking of your team, I have just come off of the medical wing to see how everypony was after the attack and how well both medical teams were cooperating."

"Considering the lack of any shouting, ponies running towards you or our guests and that you are not complaining, I'd guess very well?" Cadance said with a small smirk.

"Better than I could have hoped; the Lunarians clearly have the greater knowledge and tools and our own doctors are only too willing to learn their methods while sharing our own magical techniques," Celestia said, taking a small fork of her food into her mouth. "A lot of our injured guards should be up and ready to go help pacify and patrol the rest of the city soon enough."

"And the attackers?" Cadance asked, looking at her aunt carefully, as did the rest of the Directors.

At that, Celestia's entire body language shifted. "They were brought to stable condition; that is all we are willing to give them currently. Any disfigurement or loss of limb is being left as it is until further notice."

"And your medical professionals are fine with this?" Director Inkwell asked stiffly, clearly probing for answers.

"They are aware that these individuals tried to stage a coup and therefore qualify as enemy combatants; they are treating them to stabilize them so they can appear before a court and nothing more," Celestia said, giving her a stern look. "Your own medical team agreed to this, though with some small complaints lodged initially."

"But nothing enough that they saw fit to inform us about," Director Spice said with a tilt of her head. "Not that I am criticising your decision; they turned against you and giving them any of our technology to replace lost limbs or tend to really disfiguring injuries could imply we sympathize with them."

"As well as give them a potentially dangerous advantage," Cadance said. "If they brought it in to somepony that had enough technology know how, they could try to reverse engineer it, right?"

"Exactly," Celestia said. "That's the last thing we want." She sighed. "Though depending on the results of the trials, some of them may receive further treatment. And I do intend to personally interview at least some of the culprits at some point."

"May I ask why?" Director Inkwell asked.

"As my niece well knows," Celestia responded, "Those who were taken into custody can be divided into three groups. The third is the most worrying to me, and they are also the ones I want to speak with. Based on what we have found so far, they honestly thought they were doing good by their actions yesterday." She sighed. "The thing is, I expect they're the ones my sister would be most offended by."

"Why?" Director Spice asked. "What did they claim was their reasoning for taking part in this insurrection?"

Celestia looked at her. "They genuinely believed that Luna was manipulating me somehow, be it with magic or just words, and thought that I needed 'saving'," she said. "Which is why I want to talk to them, and get it through to them that she wouldn't need to manipulate me. Nor has she," she quickly added. "Luna is my sister, and as I have said, I never stopped loving her, nor stopped hoping she and I could meet peacefully again some day." Her ear twitched. "Even if I did let my crankier side get the better of me at times during said meeting."

Both of the Directors nodded their heads at that, though they kept quiet on the entire matter.

"At any rate," Celestia continued. "Regardless of what happens when I speak to them, they are clearly guilty of criminal trespass and violence against our ponies. I have little doubt that they will be charged and tried on those grounds. At the very least, given their motivation for doing so, I intend to propose that they be sentenced to mandatory counseling sessions." Her lip curled. "Whereas the lead group, those 'avengers' who outright sought to overthrow our government, will likely all be recommended to receive far harsher punishment."

Both Directors nodded again, before Director Inkwell spoke. "I presume that group would be one of the three you mentioned. Who are the last group?"

"The ones who joined in because they saw the opportunity to cause trouble for the 'fun' of it," Celestia said, sounding disgusted at the notion. "They were all just in it to be troublemakers and will be punished accordingly."

Both Directors nodded approvingly.

"Foalish mischief is one thing," Director Spice said. "But - I presume these were all adults?" At Celestia's nod, she continued. "But a group like that has no excuse for such behavior, given the extremes of what they joined in."

"We are doing our best to interrogate them all and get to the ringleaders," Cadance said. "We are not ready to offer them any deals yet, considering that we may have one of the leaders in custody, but this investigation is still in its early days."

Director Inkwell nodded. "Of course," she said. "One can't expect such a thing to be all done in less than a day, given the sheer scale of the attack. There is only so much that can be done at once."

All of them nodded in agreement, before Director Spice voiced another question.

"Shifting to a happier topic," she said. "Among my department's goals, there has been some discussion about bringing up new insects and other beneficial species to help with pollination and related things. And I must confess, I'd like to see some of the other wildlife down here at some point; I've never seen any non-sapient species in the flesh, beyond those insects we have."

Cadance smiled. "I'll introduce you to Ray as soon as I can, if that's what you're asking," she said. "Both of you, if Director Inkwell is interested too."

Director Spice smiled back. "I'd appreciate that very much, Princess," she said.

"As would I," Director Inkwell said, a slight smile on her own face too.

With that, talk turned in other directions until their breakfast was done.

Luna let out a positively massive yawn as she rolled over in bed, preparing to start her day.

It had been a very late night for her as she visited as many of the injured patients in the hospital as possible, including Red Rocket. And that was before she set about carrying out her usual night duties in the dream plane. While her physical body could rest for the most part as she did so, it was still mentally tiring, especially with the number of ponies who'd had nightmares after seeing the blasts in their dome or seen the attack on Canterlot Castle.

And today was going to be just as busy.

No sense in putting it off any longer, she thought groggily to herself, throwing back the covers and crawling out of bed before heading to the kitchen in her suite. Thankfully, she'd set the timer on her coffeemaker the night before; those mornings when she'd forgotten to do so were not fun.

And I will forever be thankful for the ponies who remembered to bring enough coffee beans with them to start an entire grove of trees when we first came here, she thought to herself after she'd downed her first mug a little bit later.

Breakfast was a hurried affair, before she headed out to the Lux Aeternam. She had quite a few meetings to deal with today, not to mention checking up on Twilight and her new friends again.

And seeing about making sure her extra rooms were suitable for pony habitation. She knew that Velvet would be in charge of arranging official accommodations for their future Equestrian visitors when it was time for them to come up, but she intended to invite her sister and niece to stay with her, and she wanted to make sure her living space was ready for them.

Speaking of... She saw Velvet waiting patiently in the central chambers.

"Good morning," she said as she walked up. "How are you doing today?"

"Well enough," Velvet said. "The doctors gave Twilight a clean bill of health and allowed her to return to her apartment this morning, and most of her friends went home with her. Fluttershy chose to stay with Rainbow Dash though."

Luna mentally sighed in relief at Velvet's first bit of news. "And how is Rainbow Dash doing?" she asked.

"So far, she seems to be recovering well, though she has yet to properly test her flight capabilities, according to Director Wishes," Velvet replied. "She is quite eager to do so, from what she has said, and given her personal history, I can certainly understand why."

Luna nodded. "Quite," she said.

She would have said more, except she heard hoofsteps, and turned to greet the rest of her fellow Directors as they arrived, including Director Onyx, somewhat to her surprise.

It must have been evident on her face, given his response. "Red Rocket insisted on my coming to this morning's meeting," he said. "He appreciated my company, but said he would be fine on his own for a few hours." Then he sighed, sounding as tired as he looked. "I'm just glad the doctors have said he'll make a full recovery."

Luna nodded sympathetically. "As am I," she said. "As are we all, I'm sure."

Onyx nodded back. "And I appreciate you coming to visit us last night," he said.

"It was the least I could do for a friend," Luna said.

Onyx smiled appreciatively, then went to his seat, Luna following his example once everypony was in.

Calling the meeting to order, she looked around at each of her eight Directors present. "These past few days have been... challenging, to say the least," she said. "And I have no doubt that the days ahead will be as well. But we will forge on in all of our goals. We will rebuild the Orion, we will continue negotiations with the leadership of Equestria, and when it is time, we will meet and begin negotiations with all the rest of Equuis's nations who are open to it as well."

That got her a mixture of nods, as she continued. "Some of you know this, some I have not had the opportunity to speak with about it directly. But let it be said now that I and my sister have recently had a long and informative talk, and we have both apologized to one another for the many mistakes in judgement we made so long ago, when my sister and I each began to draw apart despite our promises never to do so." She gazed out at them. "While I will never regret the friendships I made, or the many accomplishments we have achieved through our hard work here, I have..." she sighed. "I have missed my sister's company. And now that we have worked through our personal issues, we have made some important decisions."

There were some surprised looks, but no interruptions, so she kept going. "First and foremost, while some ponies down below would claim that we are a colony in rebellion-"

She had to stop in response to some of the angry mutters that got, but waited until they had all quieted down, then continued. "My sister, and the Speakers of Equestria's two Houses of Parliament, have accepted that we are our own people, and Celestia intends to make a public announcement on the matter soon, in which she will officially recognize the Lunar Republic as an independent nation, and as an ally and friend of Equestria."

That got several startled but approving looks.

"The next order of business," Luna said. "We will need to appoint a new Director of Education. I would rather we have a full Board before we go further on; it would reassure our people that our system endures and the mechanics still work. For now, I nominate Deputy Director Chelsea Porcelain as temporary Director of Education until a proper vote can be done within the department."

There were some frowns, to her dismay, before Well Wishes signalled that he had something to say.

"I cannot approve of that choice," he said sharply. "Deputy Director Porcelain worked with him for a long time; she was his right hoof for many years. I do not trust her or anyone currently with that department. I propose that a full purge of all of Neighsay's flunkies be initiated first before we start seeing to the new Director's placement."

There was a mutter of agreements from the rest of her directors; Onyx included. That was a bad sign to Luna. Silently, she wished she could tell them how she'd already conducted her own private examination of the mare in question in her dreams and seen her horrified reaction to Neighsay's crimes, but that was out of the question. It would be opening a can of worms far more disharmonious than she was prepared for if she mentioned her own Duties to them now.

Maybe, though...

"I acknowledge your lack of trust in her, and find it reasonable, given recent events," Luna said. "But for reasons relating to my... extra abilities, I do trust her. I offer a counter proposal to yours, that we begin investigations into all those whom Neighsay and the ponies he managed to convince to plant the bombs interacted with. We will interview and examine all the members of the Department of Education and see how much they knew about his plans, if at all. With Deputy Director Porcelain as the first."

"I vote in favor of Director Luna's proposal," Velvet said suddenly, drawing the attention of her fellows. "I agree that an investigation of all members of the Department of Education needs to be carried out. But Deputy Director Porcelain has been a part of that department since before Neighsay joined it - for that matter, she was there before most if not all of the rest of us were elected to our current positions, excepting Director Luna of course." Luna's ear twitched at that, but she allowed Velvet to continue.

"Furthermore," Velvet said, "Deputy Director Porcelain has never once said anything against the Equestrians that I am aware of, either during her time as a regular teacher or since she attained her current rank. I cannot see her being in support of Neighsay's actions."

Well Wishes frowned, but suddenly, there was movement from Onyx's direction, and all turned to see him close his eyes.

"I agree," he said. "I vote in favor of Director Luna's proposal, with the amendment that we call Deputy Director Porcelain before us now and question her directly to confirm what Directors Luna and Velvet have said of her."

"I accept your amendment," Luna said. "All in favor?"

It wasn't a consensus vote; it was split almost evenly, but in the end, five out of eight (with Luna abstaining, of course) had supported the measure. It was telling how divided the Board was, and she had fears that Porcelain would always have the taint of Neighsay's legacy over her and poison any vote or proposal she made to the Board.

Still, it had passed, so she sent the message that would summon the other mare into the conference room.

When Deputy Director Porcelain arrived, Luna took a moment to look her over. She was an elderly Earth pony mare, with a pale purple coat, bluish gray mane and tail, purple eyes, and a cutie mark of a tea set. But importantly, she carried herself with confidence and determination, not fear or cowardliness.

"Deputy Director," she said. "You know why you have been called."

The mare nodded. "I do," she said, looking at the eyes of the other Directors. Some were overtly hostile while others kept their opinion to themselves. There were only a few that were actually pleased to see her, Velvet among them.

"Then tell us," Luna said. "Were you aware of what your former Director was up to?"

Porcelain shook her head. "Stars' sakes, no," she said. "If I'd known what that stallion was up to, I'd have reported him in an instant. I've got no reason to see anypony hurt, and I've never had anything against the Equestrians like he did." She looked disgusted. "Above all else, I'm a teacher, not a terrorist."

"And yet you worked with him for so many years," Well Wishes said, clearly doing his best to hold back a glare.

Porcelain nodded. "I did," she said. "Never approved of his rhetoric though. I blocked more than a few of the things he tried to push through over the years, lessons proclaiming all about our superiority over the Equestrians. We're supposed to teach facts, not opinions." She sighed. "I tolerated him because he did a decent job running the administrative side of things, because I was happier overseeing the actual teaching processes than I would have been in his place, and because I and more than a few others could work together and block any of his bigoted vitriol from getting through to the next generation if it came up. I never realized he'd ever take it this far though."

Luna looked at her. "If you were offered the position of Interim Director for your department, would you accept it?" she asked calmly.

"If I had to, I would," Porcelain said. "But just until somepony else can get elected as Director and take it on full-time."

"You won't run yourself?" Water Wheel asked curiously, with Porcelain shaking her head.

"No, I'm better suited to my current rank," she said. "Besides, I'm not blind to the fact that I'm not wholly welcomed here. If this were any other Director temporary replacement, I'd have been brought here immediately and not have my potential position debated on by others."

Luna winced; she was right. This wasn't their way and it was clear that disharmony from Neighsay's actions were still having their impact felt. "I see," she said sadly. "You are correct and I do regret that we had to come to this but Neighsay's actions are too much for some to overcome."

"Mm." Porcelain nodded. "Besides, at my age I'd be retiring in a few years anyway, or at least taking a lower-ranking position. Should have done it a few years ago, but I couldn't make any real recommendations yet for a proper replacement - we needed somepony who could do the regular work while still keepin' Neighsay's bigotry out of our schools as well as I did."

Luna could see several of her Directors looking... well, there were several expressions racing across their faces, before they all nodded in what looked like agreement, as their prospective new member's words made sense. She gestured to Porcelain to keep talking, and the elderly mare nodded.

"Now that he's out," she said, "It seems to me that what you really need in a new Director for my department is somepony who can clean house and catch anything of his that I missed, on top of the usual Director's work. I'd be glad to help out as long as I can."

"Anything else you would do?" Well Wishes pressed, staring hard at her.

"No; restoring the dignity and trust of the education Department as well as conducting our fair share of our contributions to the Republic are paramount," she said, meeting his eyes.

"Well said, Acting Director of Education," Luna said with the rest of the Board nodding their heads with more warmth, including Wishes. "If this is all settled, we can move onto the next item of our agenda." She waited for any of her Directors to voice their complaints but they said nothing. She smiled to herself as Porcelain took her seat before she braced herself for this next topic. "Please send in Deputy Stony Moore," she said to the intercom with all of her Directors stiffening up as they prepared to deal with this issue. "As we are now preparing to interact with Equuis on an official and lasting diplomatic basis, we must have a means of securing goods and services the likes of which they are accustomed to. Equestria will not push for payment from us anytime soon, but I would like us to be prepared for when they do. Director Inkwell has had her team prepare a detailed and extensive proposed payment system for everyone in the Republic, as well as several different possible currency options." She looked around, seeing everypony open up their dockets on the information the Resources Department had sent them. "On that note, during our initial investigation, the members of the teams I sent down confirmed that Equestria's own monetary system is still exactly the same as it was a thousand years ago; the old funds that I had saved and sent with the teams were accepted by local shops with no issue whatsoever."

"Barring the fact they will have the old design with you and Princess Celestia on it and thus be more valuable to collectors," Deputy Moore said as he stepped in. "That's if they are aware of the true nature of the old coins; otherwise they might consider the coinage fraudulent and thus worthless. Though Director Inkwell has already made plans to exchange the coins if need be with a reliable contact, i.e., your niece."

Luna nodded as she consulted her notes, grateful that one of her ponies had caught this oversight she'd missed. "Good point. I'll have to ask Deputy Armor for more detail; he's made a very thorough report on his time down below and noted that the shopkeepers accepted his coinage without any issue, but he didn't say if they reacted differently on seeing it."

"But onto the actual topic at hoof," Deputy Moore said. "My team and I have been in contact with Director Inkwell, who has been doing interviews with Equestrians as well as gathering as much data as possible. What we have here is what we believe to be a fair wage proposal for the entire Republic's workforce. We are fully aware that this is still a best guess estimate and we can adjust the payscale to better reflect the situation here as we move forwards."

"I would certainly hope so," Director Clear Flow said with a frown across his face. "I see that my Department has the lowest salary on average compared to the other Departments." He tilted his head angrily towards Moore. "We provide an essential service to the Republic to keep everything clean and flowing properly and we also have to deal with the prisoners sent to our Department as a punishment."

"I also have an issue with your proposal for my doctors," Director Well Wishes said, eyes glancing off the tablet and at Moore. "I have not had the time to fully read the data as Director Flow here has, but from what I have heard, doctors of our caliber would receive far more. This appears to be what an average medical professional would receive."

Luna watched Moore withstand the criticism that the Directors began to level against the Resources Department for a while before lifting a wing to call for order.

"As Deputy Moore stated," she said. "This is just the first version of the wage proposal. It is open to revisions, and you are all more than welcome to submit such to the Resources Department for consideration and review, with the final version to be implemented once everypony is satisfied with them."

"Thank you Director Luna," Deputy Moore said, unperturbed by how the Directors acted towards him, showing a remarkable strength of character. "In addition, we are ready to integrate our barter system into the national currency when the time comes that it is enacted, with a several years wait before we begin to collect taxes so our citizens can get used to the concept and have the funds to pay them. We also have multiple different mockups and possible designs for our currency. Excluding the ones that were proposed in past centuries and which Director Luna specifically vetoed at the time, of course."

Luna nodded her head as they continued to go over the finer details of the proposal while sighing internally; having to reintroduce money into her country was not something she was eager to do. It would create divides between her citizens; create classes of those who were on the top and could afford more and those who were on the bottom and could afford less. It would create disharmony in her people, especially if they had to re-enforce that they had to use money for everything now.

At least she'd been able to ensure that their new currency wouldn't have her image on it. That had long since been established as one of her hard points, her ponies reluctantly accepting her stance on the matter.

Though even with that part settled, with everything else they still had to discuss, it looked like this was going to be another long meeting.

It was several hours before she was able to call for a recess and late lunch break, with all involved returning afterward, and Luna was grateful that everypony present had agreed with her on that matter.

With each of them bidding their farewells for now, she saw some of her Directors leaving in groups, including Well Wishes and Onyx Plate both heading for the hospital together, while Velvet stood by Luna's own side.

"Do you think Twilight would mind if we dropped in on her?" Velvet asked.

Luna shrugged. "I wouldn't mind at least saying hello," she said. "But I hesitate to interrupt her spending time with her new friends."

"We could always call ahead and ask," Velvet said.

"True." Luna brought up the communications program on her PCA and tapped in Twilight's number. When Twilight's face popped up on the screen after just a few rings, the younger mare looked very excited.

"Director Luna! I've been hoping you'd call!" she said happily. "Do you have some free time?"

Luna blinked. "I was actually about to ask if you were available," she said. "Your mother and I were hoping to drop in; we're on a recess and lunch break from our current meeting..."

"Oh, come on over!" Twilight said. "We'd love to have you join us." She glanced away for a moment, then back to Luna. "Spike's fixing something for us all, and he's spectacular in the kitchen."

Luna smiled. "We'd be happy to accept your invitation," she said. "We'll be in as soon as we can."

With a cheerful "See you then!", Twilight disconnected, and Luna looked down at Velvet. "Well, you heard her," she said.

Velvet smiled back at Luna. "Of course."

The two began trotting out of the building, and once they'd stepped outside, they headed in the direction of Twilight's apartment.

Luna walked with a smile and an extra spring in her step as they went; not just because she was on her way to see her beloved student (though that was certainly a part of it), but also because she could feel her magic pools finally beginning to recover from so many years of maintaining the spell that had kept anyone else from teleporting to her moon. Now that she'd dismissed that spell, she had a lot more magic available to her, which she was very glad of. It would be some time before she had full access again but she did not think she would need it anytime soon. At least, she hoped she didn't need to have it soon.

The two mares soon arrived at Twilight's apartment, Luna taking a look around to see how it had been redecorated for the first time once they'd been let in. "Impressive work," she said.

"Why thank you," Rarity said as she closed the door behind them. "I did my best, adding my own special touches while still working with Twilight's desired aesthetics."

"Well I am happy that somepony was able to convince her to redecorate at long last," Velvet said. "It always seemed so... empty."

"Mo-om..." Twilight groaned as she came to greet them. "I had practical reasons for it." She gave both older mares a hug before continuing. "But I do appreciate Rarity offering to fix it up like she did, and I do like the new look she came up with." She flashed a friendly smile at the other unicorn, who was still standing by.

"It looks good to me too, sweetheart," Velvet said. "You did a very good job, miss Belle. Very... welcoming now, I'd say."

"Thank you," Rarity said with a bit of a blush.

Twilight guided them all over to the area she'd set aside for dining, and then once everyone was served, they dug in. Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy were absent, as were Applejack and Octavia (who were undoubtedly still visiting with Braeburn and his family, and Vinyl and hers, respectively), but the rest of their Equestrian visitors - Rarity, Pinkie, Sunset and Spike - and Moondancer were all present.

"I'm glad I finally got the chance to taste your cooking," Luna commented to Spike after taking a few bites. "Twilight's been most complementary of it, and I quite agree with her."

"Thank you ma'am," Spike said with a smile on his face. "I didn't have as many ingredients as I normally do as miss Twilight doesn't have a lot in her fridge but I am still proud with how I did."

Twilight blushed. "Yeah, I... don't go grocery shopping as often as I should," she said. "Unless I'm reminded."

Luna glanced in Moondancer's direction, giving her a knowing smile and receiving one in turn before Twilight continued. "And I actually was reminded when I was getting up a few days ago, but then I found out I was going to be in another country for a few days soon afterward, so I didn't think it would be a good idea to do it then, and... and I've been so distracted since I got back that I forgot until Spike pointed it out. And I'm babbling again, sorry about that..."

Moondancer reached over and laid a hoof on her shoulder. "Deep breaths, Twilight. That's it... just breathe slowly, count to ten a few times, and calm down..."

Twilight did as she was told, and slowly but surely eased up. When she'd finally settled down, she gave everyone present an embarrassed look. "This kind of thing happens to me from time to time, as at least some of you know," she said. "Usually when I get nervous or embarrassed as I'm trying to explain something about myself."

Sunset, who was sitting on Twilight's other side, reached and put one foreleg around her. "It's okay," she said. "We understand."

Twilight smiled gratefully. "Thanks, Sunset," she said, smiling fondly at the mare. Luna wondered if Cadance could sense the growing affection between the two from this far away.

"Besides, darling, at least your little speeches are... shall we say..." Rarity coughed. "Intelligible. Certain younger ponies of my acquaintance been known to speak so fast when they get excited that I can barely understand more than one word out of every dozen."

"And me!" Pinkie added cheerfully, before she sobered a little. "I know how I get sometimes. I have those days when I'm wilder than others, and I know it bugs some ponies..."

Luna felt for the mare. "We all have our good and bad days," she said. "What matters is that you recognize that, and that when you do mean well in your words or actions but end up causing offense, it's an accident on your part."

For a moment, Pinkie was silent, and then she was right by Luna, hugging her tightly. "You do understand," she said happily. "I just knew you would! Pinkie Sense never fails!"

Then she released her and was back in her seat in an instant, leaving Luna to blink for a moment. She seems to be more in tune with her destined Power than I expected, she thought to herself. If she was able to pick up the traces of Laughter left on me after all these years...

It very much impressed and pleased her. "Yes, quite," she said with a smile. "And I'm glad I could make you happy, Pinkie."

Then she looked around. "That said, how have you all been this morning?"

"I know I'm doing better, now that I've been pronounced fully recovered," Twilight said. "But I'd like to be there when Rainbow Dash does her full flight tests, see how she really does with the wing I made for her."

"She still hasn't flown yet?" Luna asked curiously, wondering if the dreams of the mare she saw last night really were an indicator of something more serious.

"They're building up to that," Twilight said. "I talked with Rainbow Dash and her doctors this morning about it, since I am the one who built her wing, and they've done all the tests to confirm that it's been fully connected and integrated into her magical and nervous systems. She passed those tests with with flying colors."

Pinkie giggled, and Luna couldn't help but be amused by the pun herself. "Go on," she said.

Twilight nodded. "Director Well Wishes wanted to hold off on having her actually try to get off the ground again until he could be there for it though. And since he had a Director's meeting this morning, that delayed it a bit. Rainbow Dash says it's okay though; she's eager to get up and fly for real again, and normally she can't stand not being able to get off the ground, but... well, since her new wing's integrated with the rest of her so well, she says it feels like she was born with it, and she just knows it'll work just fine. So she doesn't mind waiting a little longer to try to fly with it." She smiled. "And having Fluttershy there with her helps."

"That is good to hear," Luna said before tilting her head, having a greater feeling of what was going on in Rainbow Dash's mind. "And before I forget; Note, make an appointment with T later," she said into her computer with those around her giving her an odd look. "Sorry; it's a last-minute thing that you reminded me of, Twilight."

"Who is this T person?" Velvet asked with Luna tsking and shaking her head.

"An old colleague of mine," she said. "As well as a friend I suppose; though he is not the social type. He doesn't do well with others, to be honest, considering that his position and duties grant him access to a less pleasant world view."

"Sounds like he needs a party to cheer him up," Pinkie said, her mane poofing up a bit as she began to look excited.

Luna shook her head. "A kind idea, but not a good one, unfortunately," she said. "Knowing T as I do. His work tends to be very time-consuming; he is a dedicated stallion who does what needs to be done." She gave the group a smile. "I wouldn't be able to do my extra duties as well as I do if not for him."

"Extra duties?" Twilight asked curiously.

"Well, Director Luna is an alicorn, Twilight," Moondancer said, covering for Luna as she had slipped a bit too much information. "I am sure there are a whole lot of extra things she does for us without us even noticing. Like keeping the moon in a steady orbit around Equuis."

Twilight nodded understandingly at that and didn't ask any more questions.

Moondancer then turned to Pinkie. "As for your idea of giving him a party," she said. "I know you have good intentions here, but really, and I speak from experience, not all ponies do well with crowds, for one reason or another." She looked back at Luna. "I'm guessing the stallion you speak of is the same?"

Luna nodded, seeing what her fellow Lady was getting at and silently thanking her. "He is a very private person who only rarely allows anypony to have any sort of contact with him, even me, Pinkie, and we tend to work on the same matter from time to time," she said, remembering some of the worse incidents in the dream realm they'd had to solve together. "It's just the way he is."

Pinkie nodded thoughtfully. "Like Fluttershy, but more so," she said. "Okie-dokie-lokie."

Luna nodded. "Exactly," she said. "Except he's less shy and more... weary and withdrawn from the world, as a result of his experiences. He made it clear to me a long time ago that he mainly wants to be left in peace and solitude to focus on his work, unless some important matter comes up that requires his special talents, and even then he prefers that I contact him ahead of time to request a meeting. So I have respected his wishes." She looked at Pinkie. "I am sorry, but any attempt to involve him in any sort of celebration would only result in his being annoyed and reacting poorly."

Pinkie nodded. "I gotcha," she said. "But when you meet him, can you at least tell him I said hi and wished him lots and lots of happiness?"

Luna chuckled. "Of course," she said, already imagining his reaction to it and doing her best not to snicker.

Talk turned to other things, and Luna couldn't help but beam with pride as she saw Twilight getting along so well with her new friends.

And they all seemed so interested in getting to know Luna herself as a person too, not just as the highest-ranking pony in the Republic, something she vastly appreciated.

Regrettably, it had to end at some point, and Luna and Velvet bid them both farewell before leaving for the Lux Aeternam once more.

As they walked down the streets, Velvet looked up at Luna. "That was relaxing, wasn't it?"

Luna nodded, smiling. "I've found it is very easy to relax around Twilight," she said. "In all my years of teaching her, she's become one of the few ponies I know who sees me as more than my title, and I've always been grateful to her for it. As I am grateful that her friends are all following in her example." She looked at Velvet. "You and Night have raised her well and have every right to be proud of her and what she's accomplished, Velvet."

Velvet blushed. "I am," she said. "And I'm glad you care for her too."

The rest of their walk was occupied with small talk, and finally they settled back down into the central meeting room, ready to resume the day's work.