• Published 29th Dec 2013
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Unicorn x Unicorn - Typewrittensoul



An alternate Equestria that must be saved by three unlikely heroines.

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Prologue part 3

The Crystal Empire, which once spanned two continents and across five time zones, has fractured from centuries of endless war. Ranging from conflicts of rebellion to those of an internecine nature, several scholars have cited the Empire’s brutal campaign of colonization and terraformation as the primary factors to the “Eternal Empire’s” gradual decline. Its policy of slave labor and the treatment of its prisoners of war have strained diplomatic relations for generations, causing a calcification of antagonistic attitudes amongst those states that lie on the historical borders of, as well as those nations that have only recently re-emerged from the grip of, the Empire.

Theories abound for why the Empire has managed to remain so steadfast despite resistance and revolt from without and within. Arguably the best of which is the famous treatise by Starswirl the Bearded himself, who had written one of the earliest such accounts that made mention to the Crystal Empire nearly two thousand years ago. His forecast of the then-Crystal Kingdom’s rise to near absolute dominance during the great dynasties of Ibex, Gryffon, and Roc, is far and away the most detailed primary source still in existence, especially given how many if not all of his contemporaries doubted what Glashtyn of the Manx called, “A Yearling struggling toe[sic] graze the expired lands oef[sic] ice and snoew[sic]” to survive. But beyond the military paradigms of strategy and warfare, and without the academic lenses of economics and hippology, the territory held by Imperial forces certainly undergo a drastic change. Not simply by cultural means but literal, physical phenomena have been observed...

“...have been observed,” Twilight Sparkle muttered to herself and paused in her writing. She glanced over the opened book placed before her for a moment and quickly scanned the page. Her eyes crisscrossed the span of words for the relevant information regarding crystal formation, which had drawn her to this topic in the first place. Twilight was fascinated by her spontaneous desire to look more deeply into the subject. For example, it was remarkable to her that the few scholars that had touched upon the subject in any deep manner did so using solely mundane explanations rather than supplement those with arcane understandings.

Her casual look into the geology book laid open on her study table raised a question in her mind; an itch of curiosity that needed the salve of explanation from gathering the few texts in the Canterlot library that had readily available information. But for all of her researching the young mare only found herself asking more questions that needed answers.

For example, the eponymous crystals that became a prominent feature of Imperial territory and its colonies presented a number of puzzling roles and rituals throughout the Empire’s history and culture. Those very same crystals that were so unique to the Empire have unfortunately yet to be thoroughly looked at and analyzed, despite the centuries of their known existence. The small amount of samples that were carried outside of the Empire and looked at and studied were woefully inadequate, providing few discoveries. It seemed that their noted traits and purpose became all but naught to unlock once spirited away from their “native soil” due to “alien habitats,” as the naturalist Cyril of Ibexine had noted. Unlike the many mundane suppositions and theories that prominent scholars like Cyril, Manx and Goathe forwarded and built upon, Twilight was sure that magic was key to their formation and purpose.

Setting her quill down, Twilight reviewed what she had written with a feeling of satisfaction. The ever detail-oriented student pored over her work for any mistakes—aesthetic, factual, or otherwise. She took notice from the clock that it was already noon. Twilight sighed, almost regretting the action, since this meant her scheduled free study time was more or less over for today. She stretched her legs and let out a loud, unencumbered yawn before making her way to the vanity on the other side of her room. As she’s done countless times before, Twilight stroke her brush through her mane the proper number of times, proud of how kempt and straight her single-striped hair was.

She was never found wanting for the items required to remain looking and feeling proper. The various resources available to a student of her stature made sure of that. Room and board were taken care of, not to mention that maids and other cleaning staff were employed to take care of matters such as tidying up the bed and cleaning the students’ living spaces. She quickly learned the sorts of things the maids did and soon began to leave her room as they were trained to do before she left for the day. While she very much appreciated the time and effort that was put into making everything neat and tidy, Twilight didn't exactly agree with some of the decisions of where certain things were placed and how some of her items were organized.

Having ample amounts of scroll paper at all times, Twilight looked over her list of chores for the day, as well as her pre-planned itinerary. She was due to spend some time with Spike before catching up with her fellow classmates, Sunset and Trixie. With that plan in mind, Twilight made her way out of her room and down the spacious halls of the castle, politely greeting the wait staff as they passed her by.

Up ahead she saw her teacher and mentor, Princess Celestia, heading in her direction. Twilight observed the proper decorum and stood to the side of the hall, bowed her head and in greeting said, "Good morning, Princess."

“Good morning, Twilight," the princess said in a cheery fashion and replied in kind with a nod of her head. She then asked, "Do you have a moment?"

Still in mid-bow, Twilight shot up to look at the mare in barely restrained excitement. “Of course, Princess! What is it?"

Celestia couldn't help but chuckle as she continued. “Could you be so kind as to bring Sunset and Trixie with you and meet me in the throne room? Let’s say, around-...”

Eager for the opportunity to spend time with her teacher outside of class, Twilight dutifully cheered, “Yes, princess! Right away!"

"Oh no, it's nothing that important, Twilight," the princess quickly added, letting out a warm bit of laughter in appreciation to her subject’s response. "Please don’t be in a hurry on my account. Let’s meet at three o'clock this afternoon?"

"I..." Twilight blurted out, embarrassed from how she let herself get carried away. After taking a moment to regain her composure, Twilight said, "Of course, Princess. Three o’clock; me, Trixie and Sunset; throne room. Got it."

“I’ll see you girls then,” Celestia said with a regal smile. Twilight once more bowed as the princess continued her way down the hallway.

After the prescribed three seconds had passed, the young student took off in as casual a manner she could while excited at the prospect of a new assignment. Of course, Celestia never mentioned anything about an assignment for her students, but Twilight couldn’t think of any other reason. Her gait proceeded at the speed of a happy trot. Despite her excitement Twilight let out a long sigh, feeling more exhausted from that short talk with the princess than she did from her five hours of her morning self study. Not to mention famished. Her early morning breakfast was well long forgotten by her grumbling stomach. Thankful that no gurgling occurred for the princess to hear, Twilight trotted ahead to begin searching for her classmates, who she all but lost track of outside of class.

Besides the group lectures on Tuesday and practicums on Friday that involved all three of them, the princess made sure to give private lessons. Monday and Wednesday belonged to Sunset and Trixie, respectively, while Twilight relished the time she had alone with Celestia on Saturday to discuss magical theory.

The breadth of subjects and spells that Twilight strived to impress the princess with her knowledge of were only dwarfed by the number of magic spells that she had yet to read about. Celestia always managed to hint at some more astounding spell or archaic practice of ancient ponykind, driving Twilight to learn all she could so they could converse about them the following session.

Other than that, she and her fellow classmates had the rest of the week to themselves to practice and study what they learned, or in Twilight's case, to read and practice what they were scheduled to learn next.

However there was a task that took precedence. Twilight wondered where she would be able to find her classmates.

Trixie and Sunset couldn't have been a more different pair. It was understandable that they probably never would have associated with each other if it wasn't for Princess Celestia. And Twilight felt especially lucky to have them as her classmates in magic.

She smiled at the thought of Sunset's indomitable spirit; her decisive style of spell casting that was characteristic of unicorns with a strong affiliation to fire elemental magic. Sunset was famous for her stoic demeanor. While Twilight could agree to that assessment somewhat, she could never understand where whispers of her classmate being “haughty” and “stuck up” came from.

On the contrary, Trixie was quite open about her thoughts. So open in fact that she always seemed to get detention from professors all over the school despite the fact that Princess Celestia was technically her only teacher. The Princess was surprisingly lenient to the extent of appalling the highly vetted, oftentimes quite conservative magic experts that didn’t exactly enjoy the way Trixie “sullied” the esteemed traditions and history of unicorn kind.

Turning the advanced and complex formulae of weather and aging magic into sideshow acts and comedy skits tended to seem that way to ponies that spent their lifetimes on such subjects. She used makeup and props and did her fair share of name dropping—names were slightly changed to “protect” the sensitive—to poke at certain respectable professors that had tenure. The greater sin that caused the greatest ire was the lack of motivation, according to a number of professors that were brought in to supervise the progress of Celestia’s pupils. More often than not they would catch her playing with cards and practicing slights of hoof.

Leaving the castle to begin wandering the surrounding grounds, Twilight continued to ask herself how she would find Trixie and Sunset. She was only with them during lectures, tests, study sessions, or the odd group assignment. Outside of class the other girls made it a habit to go off on their own. In a textbook example of finding someone in the least expected place, Twilight looked ahead and saw Trixie walking toward an intersection in the road up ahead of her. “Oh. Trixie!" Twilight called out to her classmate. “Do you know where Sunset is?”

Trixie frowned upon hearing that name and said, “No I don’t, Sparkle. And if I I could I'd wish it would remain that way.”

“O...kay...anyways, I’ve got news,” Twilight stated, earning the other pony’s attention. “Princess Celestia wants to see us at three, today.”

“Is it an… assignment?” Trixie grimaced upon hearing Twilight’s announcement. “She's not making us deal with that damn Phoenix again, is she?"

Trixie's comment quickly reminded Twilight of the week-long ordeal the three students had trying to take care of Philomena, the princess' pet Phoenix. None of them knew a thing about the bird species, which meant there were long days of trial and mostly error, and sleepless nights full of studying and researching.

“It wasn’t that bad,” Twilight cheered.

“Says you, Sparkle,” Trixie muttered and rubbed her temple for a moment.

“Well in any case, since it won’t be for a while, do you want to do a group study, Trixie? For the test we have coming up soon?”

“Sure...if you’re offering…”

“Great!” Twilight nodded and started heading toward the white spire closer to the main campus where she and Trixie usually studied. “Maybe if we run into Sunset we could have her join us.”

“Tsk. That’s unlikely.” Trixie grumbled while walking alongside her. “She never studies, yet gets the same grades as you do!” Twilight’s neutral reaction didn’t seem to be approved by the young mare as she began to say, “Most if not everything we’ve been learning is abstract theory. I consider myself a practical mare, Sparkle. If I had two bits for every time Professor Preakness waddles in to demand I work on my spell’s flourish instead of something useful like its, I don’t know, casting speed, I’d be a rich mare. You know how I like to learn things that I’ll actually use outside of the classroom. Or a beauty pageant. Can you believe that’s a thing? Anyways, honestly, what’s the point?”

“Oh, yes. I forgot who I was talking to for a moment, as a showmare that spends an hour perfecting how to face an audience just right needs useful things.” Twilight said in reply, which earned a hint of a smile from Trixie.

“Is that sarcasm I hear? Good. You’re learning.”

“Thanks!” Twilight felt her chest swell in pride at the compliment. Such a snide remark was exactly what Twilight had intended. The studious pony wholehearted put effort to fit ‘How to Strike Up A Conversation’ by Primrose Pageant as a part of her self study, alongside her research of the Crystal Empire, of course. Trixie needed not just somepony to talk to, but an opponent to exercise wits against. Since recognizing this Twilight aimed to deliver. Primrose’s book mentioned that it was important to connect through shared interests. ‘Chapter 2: What Do You Like?’ It was also imperative to show an interest in the other pony’s pastime or hobby.

For Trixie, Twilight knew just what to mention. She nodded to herself. Then, as casually as she could, said, “Speaking of which, I really enjoyed the recent show you did, Trixie.”

“Show?” The other unicorn repeated the word, unsure what Twilight was referring to for a moment. “Oh yeah, last week. Well, I can’t say I’m that surprised since you probably only saw it for Spike,” Trixie stated matter-of-factly.

“It’s true I went to see him help you with your act, but Trixie, you were really good!” Trixie gave her version of a neutral reaction this time, prompting Twilight to continue. “Your knowledge of magical principles showed in how steady you kept the illusions you were producing, even when Spike made a few mistakes during the show. The fireworks were also a really great application of Phoenix fire that we learned last week. I wouldn’t have thought to use them like pyrotechnics like that.”

“Thanks,” Trixie’s stone-faced demeanor finally cracked into an appreciative smile before she nodded and groaned out. Despite the sound a happier look remained on her face. "For what it’s worth, dealing with Philomena and her...’pranks’... helped inspire a few of my tricks from that show. But I'll be a happy mare to never have to see that deranged bird again."

"Say no more. It was a pretty tough assignment,” Twilight agreed despite the fact that Philomena was the princess’ pet. “Just one thing," she added, catching the other mare's attention. "Your stage name, 'The Fantastic and Mesmerizing Trixie'? Doesn't exactly roll off the tongue."

"Yeah, I figured as much," Trixie said with a shrug. "You wouldn't believe how many times I flubbed it in rehearsal."

"Trust me, Spike gave me an earful!”

"Oh did he, now? The little worm..." Trixie pouted and grumbled to herself. “Maybe I should go ahead with that sawblade trick, after all?”

"Would it be ok...to attend your next rehearsal? I figure in exchange for how much help I give you with homework and studying, and all."

Her train of thought broken for the moment, Trixie eyed Twilight with an arched brow. “Really? That's all?"

"Well...yeah, I guess. You've always been really private about the shows you do."

"Only because I know I'm not much of a unicorn compared to you and Shimmer..." Trixie nickered and shrugged her shoulders.

"Oh don't be like that, Trixie. I think you're great at magic.

"Hmph. I get enough patronizing from the seniors when I perform at the retirement center, Sparkle. Trust me."

“I'm not trying to patronize. And I wouldn't lie to you or Sunset. We've been studying under Princess Celestia together since we were foals. We're practically like sisters!”

Trixie paused from hearing that. "Sisters?” She turned around and watched Twilight earnestly nod her head and the stagepony seemed to take the simple gesture wholeheartedly. They started walking side by side, the both of them lightly smiling. “Wait...but then wouldn’t that make Shining Armor my brother?” Trixie started to deeply contemplate the ramifications, so much so that she stopped walking for a moment.

“Trixie? Equestria to Trixie, hello?” Twilight waved her hoof in front of the mare’s eyes, trying to grab her attention.

It seemed to have worked, as Trixie was quick to reply after a fluttering set of blinks. “It’s nothing.” She began to walk once more with a noticeably faster gait.

Twilight shrugged and followed. “Oh. Ok, then.”

--

The girls eventually entered the main campus, where classes for Celestia’s School for Gifted Unicorns took place for primary and junior high students. It was also where most of the faculty offices and administrative departments were, so that the young colts and fillies that first entered the school would be under the careful watch of professors. The high school and college branches were placed farther away from the main campus.

It didn’t take long after entering the quad that Twilight noticed a purple and green baby dragon chatting with a trio of unicorns, whom she recognized as senior high school students. She waved when Spike looked her way and he enthusiastically reciprocated.

Twilight assumed that he said goodbye as the trio began to walk away, and she watched as Spike hurried over, panting by the time he reached where she and Trixie stood. It took only a short moment for the baby dragon to catch his breath.

“Hey...Twilight. You finished with self studying?” He said in greeting, looking up to her as a result of his smaller stature.

“Yes I am, Spike,” she replied dutifully as she brushed back one of his spines with her hoof.

He accepted the gesture without much difficulty, though he made sure to return the favor but parting his claw through a messy strand of hair in Twilight’s mane. “That’s great! You wanna come over to the party?” He asked, looking mostly toward Twilight after he was sure the slight tangle was corrected.

“Party?” Twilight wondered aloud, not sure what he was referring to.

“Yeah. The birthday party! Moondancer’s holding a big bash at her place and nearly everypony’s been invited, remember?”

“Can’t...say I do…”

“Whether you remember or not, it’s gonna be fun. Come on, Twilight!”

“And have to deal with your lame jokes?” Trixie grimaced at the thought and rolled her eyes after interjecting. “No thanks.”

“I wasn’t talking to you, anyway,” Spike quickly returned fire and proceeded over to the other unicorn. “C’mon, Twilight. You really oughta spend some time with ponies other than Trixie all the time.”

“Oh, I don’t know, Spike. Princess Celestia just told us that she’d like to see me, Trixie and Sunset later, and I’d really like to be ready to meet with her at the assigned time without being tardy, and...”

Trixie shot the dragon an irritated look. “Hey, I’m the problem? What about Shimmer?”

“He didn’t mean anything by that, Trixie,” Twilight said, breaking out of her train of thought to be diplomatic between the pony and dragon on either side of her. “And Spike, be nice.”

“Sure, sure,” Spike said half-heartedly, then returned to the original topic. “And y’know, it just so happens that Shining Armor’s gonna be there,” he ever so subtly tacked on this bit of information while looking ahead at Twilight for her answer, making Trixie tense a bit in anticipation.

Trixie’s ears perked at the sound of the stallion’s name, but did her best to keep her aloof composure. All while steadily making her way closer, step by step, toward the pair.

“I-it wouldn’t hurt to spend some time with our fellow classmates, right?” Trixie asked Twilight and moved ever closer to the still-indecisive pony to start nudging her forward.

“I still don’t know.” Twilight voiced her hesitation when her stomach decided to chime in with its opinion.

“There’ll be food there,” Spike said. Persuaded now, Twilight let the baby dragon lead the way. He chuckled as the the three of them began to walk to Canterlot town, outside of the palace’s gates.

Moondancer’s parents were low ranking nobles that worked as managerial clerks on several important councils. While students in general were expected to live on campus in the dormitories there were of course, exceptions to that policy. As nobles of all ranks lived within walking distance of the school, their attending children were given the luxury of staying home. They were, however, still held by the curfew in respect to their grade and class standing.

The birthday girl herself was quite renowned in magic. As class president, despite being Twilight’s age, Moondancer was already in charge of the student council. Well known and overall liked by both the students and instructors, few ponies were able to garner as much excitement as Moondancer for social gatherings that wasn’t a ploy to jump ahead in the social ladder. That was quite obvious to Twilight when she, Spike and Trixie arrived at Moondancer’s house. Correction: as they arrived at the end of a line that extended all the way from the front door, through the yard, and down the sidewalk for a full block.

“I can’t wait to get in by the time it’s curfew, Spike,” Trixie scoffed, sounding a bit more anxious than usual.

“Wait, nothing. I got this. Trust me!” Spike marched on to the front of the line, looking as cool as a cucumber despite the annoyed looks on the faces of the ponies he passed by. Hardly five minutes had gone by when he returned, gesturing for the girls to come over. “Twilight, Trixie, hurry up already!” Thinking that the mares didn’t hear him, Spike began to hop in place and frantically wave his arms. “TWILIGHT! Trixie! OVER HERE!”

The two of them could only smile awkwardly as several pairs of eyes suddenly shot over toward them, curiosity mixed with awe cascading the unicorns over the fact that they were being allowed to move ahead. The ponies quickly moved from their spot in line toward the exuberantly cheering dragon, slipping through the front door to take in the sight of the ornate interior.

As spacious as the house was, the sheer number of ponies present made it difficult to move without bumping into someone. It took some effort for Twilight and Trixie to follow Spike as he weaved through various groups of students talking amongst themselves until they pushed into a relatively clear space toward the outer edge of the open concept living room.

“I’ll be back in a sec,” Spike said loudly enough to pierce through the party’s din then scampered off to disappear into the crowd toward where the beverage tables were.

There didn’t seem to be any signs of the birthday filly from where they remained near the snack table. Which, in Twilight’s case, led to an awkward moment of trying to choose what chapter was the most appropriate to employ. “Chapter seven? No…” she muttered to herself. “How about nine? Maybe...Oh, I know!

“Sunset’s birthday is coming up soon,” Twilight finally said aloud, hoping to start some idle chatter.

“What do I care?” Trixie snapped in reply.

Twilight thought about how to continue the conversation, like how Primrose Pageant suggested. She remembered the five points to staying on track that was explained in ‘Chapter 5: Keep It Up’ and decided she was already in need to keep the topic positive. “It’s her birthday, Trixie! You can’t ignore your fellow classmate’s birthday like that!”

“Well I’ll simply be returning the favor.”

Twilight wasn’t sure if Primrose had ever gone over this sort of situation. ‘Perhaps in another book of her ‘Friends Are Just Ponies You Haven’t Met Yet’ series? In any case, ‘Chapter 12: The Good, The Bad, and the Hyperbole’ will have to do. Particularly the section regarding perceived slights and rumors.'

“What? Sunset hasn’t ignored you. She’s given you a gift every year, hasn’t she?”

Trixie seemed to bristle at the question Twilight posed. “She might as well have been ignoring me. You remember, right? How she gave me bottles of glitter for my birthday the first five years we knew each other? And then she has the nerve the next six to give me nothing but pinecones! Without any reason, at all! I swear, there’s something wrong with that girl. She’ll probably give me glue the next seven years, just you wait.”

Twilight let out a nervous chuckle, not sure if she should mention her growing collection of rubber ducks over the years. “W-well, pinecones aside, weren’t you happy to get that glitter from her?”

“Yes,” she admitted. “At first. Then after the third year of the same brand, the same color, even the same card and gift wrap accompanying it? What am I supposed to do with that much of the same exact glitter?”

“Can’t say I know,” Twilight said, trying to hold back a smile. “But what’s more, I’m surprised, Trixie. Based on what you just said, you’re willing to tolerate seven more years knowing Sunset?” she asked the mare with a raised brow.

Trixie was stunned. Frazzled even, as though Twilight had just accused her of a high crime against the princess, herself. “I...what? No! I-it’s just a figure of speech!”

Twilight chuckled at her reaction. “Sure.”

“Hmph!” Trixie huffed and practically stomped away into the crowd.

“Spike, could you make sure she doesn’t disappear on us again?”

“Do I have to?” the dragon groaned out with cups of punch in each claw, clearly familiar with what such a duty entailed.

Nonetheless, Twilight asked with a saccharine tone. “Please?”

“Oh, alright. But you owe me.” The little dragon sighed and gulped down the punch he had, then hurried to catch up with the silver-maned unicorn as she made her way into the crowd.

“You've got a sapphire with extra fine cuts waiting at dinner tonight, Spike,” Twilight added as an extra incentive and then went off to find her brother after the dragon went off after Trixie.

--

Looking around, Twilight recognized a few of the unicorns as fellow magic students, though she didn’t really know them by name. Mostly by face as they moved from class to class at Celestia’s School for Gifted Unicorns. Being accepted to the school was no easy feat. As the name implied, Celestia’s School for Gifted Unicorns had a level of prestige that opened doors for a unicorn that sought entry into the nobility, or to keep up her family’s expectations of excellence if they already came from nobility.

Strangely enough Twilight belonged to the rare, third kind of student: a unicorn that simply wanted to learn magic for magic’s sake. Like many of the ponies that entered with this frame of mind before her, Twilight put a good deal of thought in becoming a researcher or professor of magic and everything related to it. Of course, the vast majority of ponies that sought entry to the school didn’t have such lofty or altruistic goals. Not to mention that she couldn’t recall any pony being taken under the princess’ wing for private tutelage, either.

Satellite schools existed in cities all throughout Equestria, and several private academies had also been founded. The quality of life had improved by leaps and bounds, not to forget the contributions of Earth ponies and Pegasi, of course. In any case a good majority of unicorns never went beyond magic kindergarten and instead go into apprenticeships for different trades or sometimes pursue a destiny based on their cutie mark.

There were also unicorns that sought to learn magic to protect their fellow ponies. Ponies such as, “Shining Armor!” Twilight said happily in recognition of the stallion that appeared through the crowd.

“Twiley! Hey, I knew Spike wouldn’t let me down.” Embracing Twilight in a familial nuzzle, Shining Armor chuckled and stepped back to look around the crowd. The stallion had a quizzical expression on his face when he turned back to his sister. “Where is the little guy, anyhow? Not to mention your partners in crime?”

“Trixie’s around here, somewhere,” Twilight shrugged and said in an unconcerned tone. “She was actually really excited to come here until just a moment ago. Spike just went off to find her.”

“Alright.” He nodded in understanding then next asked, “Any reason you’re leaving Sunset out of the fun?”

“Leaving her out? No, I’m not leaving her out of anything,” Twilight replied. “I...I was looking for her before Spike told me and Trixie to come here.”

“Oh, really? Didn’t mean to hold you up.” Twilight didn’t know how to react about her brother not questioning her willingness to just leave a party.

“It’s not a problem. Rather, I want to know how you’ve been! Did you get a chance to see mom and dad?”

“Yeah, I stopped by home on my way over here. Mom talked my ear off about getting you to visit more often.”

Twilight blushed from hearing that and said, “I’ve really been meaning to, Shining. In fact, I’ll go right after I speak with the princess, later. Now quit turning the subject back to me and tell me more about how you’ve been doing? How’s the frontline?”

“Oh, y’know. Chilly. Captain Pauldron figures that I might have what it takes to start leading a team, soon.”

Twilight nodded, waiting for her brother to say more.

“Uh...the other guards really liked the cookies that Trixie sent last week?”

“Uh huh…” Twilight sent Shining Armor a knowing look, which made him stammer all the more as he clearly understood what it was she wanted to find out about. The stallion rubbed the back of his head and explained,

“...I haven’t been able to get in touch with her.”

Twilight was clearly disappointed, but didn’t let it overwhelm the fun party mood that she had. “Oh. Well, I’m not surprised that she’s busy, all things considering…”

“Yeah…”

A moment’s pause settled between the two amidst that chatter and music going on around them.

“I’m going to find Sunset and see if I can get her to join us!”

“I won’t wait up,” Shining Armor chuckled out as Twilight left through the front door much to the surprise of the ponies in line waiting to get in.

She decided to head toward the palace, which required her to cut through the main campus. As classes had already finished for the day, and most students were either in town or taking part in their clubs or extracurriculars, the area was mostly empty.

Even after all these years Twilight didn’t know just where Sunset manage to disappear to from time to time.

It seemed to become an ever increasing occurrence the last few days.

Coming closer to one of the several study towers that contained a small library archive, Twilight decided to pause to figure out where to start looking first. Her eyes were naturally drawn toward the tower as it jutted into an otherwise clear skyline. Like the towers like it on campus, it was available to students as an extension of the primary archival collection at the palace, allowing for a rotation of books and other primary sources for perusal as well as ordering a specific book without having to go all the way to the palace.

This one in particular was the one where she and Trixie held most of their group study sessions since it was so close to the town, main campus, and relatively quiet compared to the other study towers more frequented by younger students. Twilight looked around to contemplate where to start looking. “If I were Sunset Shimmer,” she began to mutter to herself, “where would I…” By a stroke of luck a distinct-looking mare ran into her field of view. Twilight watched nonplussed as the fiery-maned pony galloped up the steps of their study room, at the top of the ivory tower. Twilight quickly followed, making her way to the brightly-light study that overlooked a great deal of the campus and Canterlot town below. Through the open doorway found at the top of the stairs, she spied her fellow student picking out a book from the top-left portion of a shelf several stacks high and carrying it in her magic out of sight.

Twilight proceeded forward, unable to believe what she had just seen. “Sunset?” she asked. Though quite sudden, her appearance didn't seem to cause much panic in the other pony. “What are you doing?”

“Who's there?" Sunset took notice that she wasn't alone and moved to hide something behind herself. She stepped in front of a platform where Twilight was sure a book had been placed. "Sparkle?" Her guard relaxed somewhat when she realized who had found her.

"Are you...studying? Ah ha! I knew that you studied, Sunset!" Twilight smirked and took a step forward.

"Of course I study," Sunset admitted without hesitation. "Only an airhead like Lulamoon would actually believe that I don't."

"Oh," was all Twilight could say to Sunset's statement. "So...what is it that you're hiding?"

To this the mare did not immediately have an answer. In fact she took a moment to show how she weighed whether to explain at all. Sunset wasn't one to waste words, Twilight found, but wasn't sure what to make of a Sunset Shimmer that didn't have anything to say.

It was honestly surprising that even Sunset could take moments of careful consideration. "It's okay," Twilight spoke out, lending a polite smile. "If you don't want to talk about it, I won't pry." As she turned around, Twilight heard Sunset's voice cut through the silence.

"It’s...a prophecy," she announced.

What caught Twilight's attention wasn't so much the content as it was the way Sunset had called out to her. A hint of desperation, almost like a plea.

“A prophecy?” As she turned to face her classmate, Sunset stepped aside to show the large tome sitting atop the low pedestal. Twilight approached the pedestal and began to sift through the book’s contents, her eyes rapidly moving back and forth as she scanned the words. “The Mare in the Moon?" She ultimately sighed, finding the whole situation more adorable as a result of who it was that showed it to her. "More like an Old Pony’s Tale, Sunset,” Twilight chuckled at what she was seeing.

Sunset didn’t seem to find the observation as chuckle-worthy, making the levity Twilight tried to bring feel a bit awkward when she glanced at the pony beside her.

“I’ve been reading up on something called the ‘Elements of Harmony’ which were used to defeat an evil pony called ‘Nightmare Moon.’ And the books here mention an evil pony that was sealed in the moon by the Elements of Harmony, the Mare in the Moon.

“And you’re saying that Nightmare Moon and the Mare in the Moon are one and the same,” Twilight concluded, finding some sense in what Sunset told her.

“Next year’s Summer Sun Celebration marks one thousand years since Nightmare Moon’s banishment,” Sunset explained, pointing at the page with her hoof. “And her prophesied return.”

“...and the stars aid in her escape from the moon,” Twilight easily recounted the tale. She couldn't immediately jump aboard to the idea of what Sunset was saying, but something about this situation stoked her curiosity. "Are you going to tell the princess?"

Sunset gave a soft exhale and replied in a somber tone, "Who knows…?"

--

The three students met in the throne room at the appointed time as they had all those years ago. This time, Celestia was already present as Twilight, Sunset and Trixie approached. “Girls, it’s good to see you,” she spoke in a friendly greeting.

“We’re ready for the assignment, Princess!” Twilight skipped forward and then stood excitedly before her teacher. Trixie and Sunset sidled up on Twilight’s left and right, waiting for Celestia to speak.

“Assignment? Oh no, Twilight, this isn’t an assignment,” Celestia said with a bit of a giggle. “It’s really more of a request. An invitation, actually. To the north.”

“Princess Celestia?” Twilight asked with surprise hinted in her voice, her guess for this meeting now thrown into the wind. Hearing Celestia speak with such vague terms caught her off guard, but she was hard pressed to think of ‘The North” to mean anything other than toward the border with the Crystal Empire. “What is it that you need us for?”

“You’re making us go on an adventure, aren’t you?” Trixie asked flatly, knowing full well what the princess’ answer was going to be.

Not at all fighting the less-than-enthused pony’s expectations, Celestia flashed a dazzling, albeit mischievous smile. “You’re absolutely right, my dear Trixie. You always seem to know what I’ve got hidden up my sleeve.”

“Oh. Goody,” she sighed with a tiny pout at her teacher’s ever incisive assortment of puns.

Twilight had to admit that there were times when it was difficult to figure out if the princess was joking or not. Hearing her reply to Trixie like that certainly didn’t help things.

Celestia gave an amused chuckle before speaking to her students altogether. “It’s been decided that this year’s Summer Sun Celebration will be held in Neighagra Falls. I want the three of you to go ahead to help make sure that the preparations are on schedule; setting up the displays, coordinating with the Mayor and the local leadership there. Sunset, this will be your main responsibility.”

The young mare in question nodded her head

“In addition, I need this letter delivered to a special envoy. I’m afraid I’ll be busy speaking with Captain Pauldron and his fellow council members to do it myself. And it’s simply too important to give to a normal courier. Twilight, can I depend on you to do this in my stead?”

“O-of course, princess! If it’s really that important!”

“Wait,” Trixe stated in a guarded tone. She then asked, “What about me?”

“Why Trixie, you have the most important task of all.”

Trixie perked at the princesses’ happy demeanor, her tail waving slightly in curiousity. “I do? What is it, Princess?”

“Inspecting the quality of the entertainment! It wouldn’t be good for the attendees to be bored, now would it?,” Celestia teased yet again.

“We won’t let you down, princess,” Sunset declared confidently.

“You can count on us!” Twilight added enthusiastically, spurred on by Sunset’s confidence.

Trixie remained steadfast where she was, slouching slightly more than usual. “Woo,” she chimed in like a deflating party balloon.

Author's Note:

Twilight's chapter sure is wordy. In any case, now the main story can begin...