• Published 8th Apr 2013
  • 4,616 Views, 428 Comments

Dusk Dawns - AlphatheGriffin17

Book IV Now taking up lessons with the Princess of the Night, datingthe student of the Princess of the Sun, coping with some bad memories and being the Seventh Element, Dusk certainly has a lot on his plate. And that's just stuff to do with hi

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Take It Down A Notch

Watching from the grandest balcony, of the tallest tower of Canterlot, Princess Celestia looked out on the kingdom of Equestria, bathed in the warm glow of the sun that she gave them every day. It was something she always did and it reminded her that, no matter how difficult her duties might be as ruler or how tiring it could sometimes be, it was always worth it to see this beautiful land enriched by the sheer beauty of the sun's rays.

She would close her eyes sometimes and try and picture her subjects, happy and content, going about their daily lives and fulfilling their own unique roles that they had all discovered themselves. It was this that brought a smile to her face, because it reminded her that they were all the same, in that respect. Even her, despite the crown and authority she possessed, that she sometimes wished she could do without. They all had duties to perform and they did them gladly. She did and so did her sister.

Speaking of which…

Looking down on one of the passages below, she glimpsed the midnight blue form of Luna, trudging along with her head low, obviously deep in thought. This was a little unusual, as she would normally be spending time during the day resting to perform her duties at night, which would have to be even more so now that winter was on the way, with the nights getting longer and the days getting shorter.

Still, she was pleasantly surprised regardless of this and was always happy to see her little sister. So, she spread her wings and soared off the balcony, gracefully turning in the sky before landing perfectly beside her. She had been watching her descent and rolled her eyes a little.

"Show-off," she remarked.

"There's not much point in being princess if you can't have a little fun, now and then," Celestia countered brightly. "It helps to make it more interesting."

"Don't I know it?" she said. "I still remember that time you sent a servant out to the market, for some elbow grease and waterproof towels. How long was he running around for?"

"Oh, a good few hours," she remembered lightly. "He was quite flustered at the end of it, if I remember correctly."

"That is an understatement." She let out a reluctant laugh. "I suppose it was rather amusing."

"Just some harmless fun," she dismissed. "So, what are you doing out so early, other than to reminisce with your big sister?"

Luna shrugged. "I just fancied a walk, to enjoy the day for a bit and relax before my tasks tonight."

She was trying to distract from the subject, but Celestia knew her sibling too well for that to work. She had an idea of what was bothering her.

"Am I right in guessing that one of those duties is another lesson with our newly discovered Element of Unity?" she asked.

"What of it?" Luna snapped. "You already have a student, why should you take interest in mine?"

"Calm down, I was only asking," she placated, obviously touching some sort of nerve. "How are they going then? You don't mention them much."

"You've never really asked," she replied.

"Apart from that offer of help, which you declined quite confidently, if I recall," she said. "But, I'm asking now, so how are they?"

"Fine, just fine." She didn't elaborate further.

"Is Dusk coping okay? Making progress?"

"He is managing and… perhaps not as much as I'd like, but he's fine, yes," she said, though not with much surety.

"I see." Silence passed between them for a bit. "You know, if you do want some advice, the offer still stands…"

"No!" she replied sharply. "I don't need any help! Now, stop asking about it!"

"All right, I won't," Celestia calmed. "I'm just looking out for you, Luna."

"Yes, Tia and I appreciate it, but I don't need it." She started making her way down the right hall. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I'll retire to my room."

"As you wish." Celestia sighed as she watched her go. Luna, stubborn as a mule as always and with the temper of a coiled hydra at the worst of times.

"Stand aside!" she commanded to a guard, who glared at her retreating back before resuming his patrol and fuming. Perhaps a dragon would be a more apt description.

She'd been rather short-tempered of late, especially when broached about the subject of her training of Dusk. While she did mean well, Luna could be rather proud of herself at times and usually wouldn't ask for help, unless she really needed it and only then with further prompting. Though she did respect her sister's privacy, Celestia knew enough that the sessions didn't seem to be going well at the minute. At least, not by her standards.

Why couldn't she just come to me and talk, she thought sadly. It would make things so much easier for her.

"Good day, Your Highness." She looked to see the arrival of Shining Armour, captain of the Royal Guard and probably the least uptight of the group. "Sibling trouble?"

"You could say that." That was something she liked about him. He wasn't afraid to speak his mind, despite her position. "She'll simmer down eventually, give her a few hours."

"Hope so, Hard Edge isn't really the type to talk to like that, even if you are royalty," he said, referring to the guard she'd yelled at. "Anypony try something like that with him and likelihood is most of your body won't be in Canterlot for very long."

"I'll bear that in mind," she laughed. "Have you heard anything from Twilight recently?"

"Not really and mom and dad haven't heard much either," he told her. "Still, Twily is usually busy having fun with her new friends, so that's better than just studying all day, like she usually does."

Celestia smiled at the affectionate nickname he had for her. "And you're usually busy yourself." She leaned in and winked. "Cadence rarely talks about anypony else these days."

"Yeah, well, she's a great pony," he said, a red tint in his cheeks. "Glad to know that she's thinking of me though."

"I'll bet." They laughed again, a thought coming to her. "So, Twilight hasn't told you anything recently? Nothing of great importance?"

"Actually, she did mention in her last letter that she had something pretty big she wanted to tell us, but she was going to wait a little longer first." He looked up inquisitively at her. "Why, do you know something about it?"

"I might," she teased, "but I think it's for her to tell you, not me."

"Aw, come on! You can't leave me hanging like that!"

"Yes I can. You forget who's in charge, captain."

"Hasn't stopped you before." He flashed a charming smile. "Come on, tell me."

"No, I won't."

"Come on, just a hint?"

"Don't you have a patrol to get back to or do I have to enforce royal authority?" she said pointedly, though not without a smile.

"Okay, okay, I'll get back to it," he assured and started marching off. "But I'll find out, sooner or later Princess!"

"I'm sure you will." She smiled at his retreating back, glanced in the direction Luna had gone off in and returned to her important royal duties. There was a slice of chocolate cake in the fridge with her name on it.

Being a princess did have some advantages after all.

Dusk was really trying his best, supporting fives small books upon on a colour cloud, concentrating with all of his might on holding it there and envisaging as best he could the image of a pillow in his mind. Though Zecora's potion was helping to keep the headaches at bay, they were still there, niggling in his mind like buzzing hornets. He so wanted to stop, just to rest for a second and regain his strength.

But if he stopped, he would have to cancel the spell and he couldn't afford to do that. He had to hold on… had to hold on… had… had to…

He let out a loud gasp, stopped the spell and fell at the same time the books did, with probably the same sound. His head raged like a fire and he barely had the strength to lift his neck, let alone stand up on his hooves.

"Can't… can't… manage… anymore…" Dusk gasped.

"Just rest, you did great," Twilight soothed. "Spike?"

"Two minutes, five seconds," he reported, looking around at the spilled books. "And one big mess."

"See Dusk, that's pretty good," she encouraged. "You've really improved."

"But… it's not… not enough," he replied. "It's never… enough…"

"Dusk, I'm sure once Princess Luna sees how far you've gotten with this spell and how much it's taking out of you, I'm sure she'll understand that you're giving it your all," she said bolsteringly.

"No, she won't… she never does… it's never enough." He sighed again, bowing his head. "What's wrong with me, Twi? Why… why am I not good enough?"

"Don't think like that." She lowered herself so her eyes met his. "You are doing wonderfully and I'm sure that this is a pretty big step for you, other than just making shapes with these things."

"Just too bad… I can't manage it now…" he muttered.

"But still, you've been teaching yourself control and improvement ever since you've discovered it. Even with my inherent magical ability, I still needed the princess's help to control it properly." She raised his head gently with her hoof. "That is truly remarkable and something to be admired."

"You… you really mean that?"

"Every word of it. You're a remarkable stallion, with a wonderful talent that's only now beginning to be developed and I'm sure that it'll be something really spectacular."

Despite her words, Dusk was still frowning. "Then… what's wrong with me?"

"The problem's not you, it's her," Spike put in. "It's like Twilight said yesterday, she is putting way too much pressure on you to do this stuff. Even I can see that."

"Exactly," Twilight agreed. "You need to speak with Luna about this and sort this out, because you just can't manage it."

"Twilight… I… I don't know… if I can," he whispered.

"You have to, it's for your own good and she needs to realise that too," she urged. "I don't know what it is she expects of you, but you simply can't handle this level of pressure."

"Yeah, you're sweating so much, I'm having to mop it up." He held out the cleaning tool for emphasis. "Just bring it up in your next lesson, you gotta!"

"I… I… I don't know…" Summing up what little strength he had left, he pushed himself back up to his hooves, wobbling a little. "I'm going to… get some fresh air… think about this more…"

"Of course, take your time. We'll be waiting here for you. And Dusk?" She stopped him, just as he reached the door. "I meant what I said, okay?"

"I know…" He smiled back at her. "Thanks…"

"You're welcome, but I didn't just mean that." She nodded slowly. "Talk to her."

Dusk didn't reply, closing the door behind him and taking in a few deep breaths of the crisp air before walking off into Ponyville.

Though the air was soothing and the relative peace welcoming, Dusk still had an ache in his head from both the practice he had been doing and the looming subject that was coming up this evening. It was his next lesson with Luna and he still hadn't improved to the level that she wanted him to, despite spending the rest of yesterday and most of today practicing his magic. Even with all that, it still wasn't enough for him to please her when the lesson came.

Needless to say, he was very distressed about it. He wasn't sure if it was these feelings of extreme worry, the levels of which Luna had set for him or a mixture of both, but he simply couldn't get any better other than what he was currently managing, which he knew she would see as pitiful at best and intolerable at worst. She'd made it very clear that she expected a major leap forward on their next lesson and Dusk didn't want to fail her. But it looked like he was going to.

He tried to shake his head clear, but it didn't do him much good and earned some concerned looks from a few passing ponies. Despite how he knew how he felt about it, he found himself seriously considering Twilight's advice to him from before. Almost ever since they'd started their lessons, Luna seemed to have some kind of expectation or standard that she expected him to meet, a standard that he could never meet. If he couldn't meet it and all he was going to do was fail her, would it be better to just… stop?

Admittedly, it wasn't a very pleasant thought. Luna may be strict as his teacher, but she was also his friend. He didn't want to insult her by ending his lessons like that, simply because he was unhappy and having problems. She'd want him to persevere and endure. He also still wanted to see what potential he could unlock with his magic, even if some of it would be used for the violence he so despised. He'd never be able to discover that potential without her guidance and wisdom to help him along.

But then… if she was truly his friend, why was she being so harsh with him? Why did she seem to have no sympathy for when he was clearly having difficulty? Why didn't she just tell him what she wanted of him, rather than constantly pointing out what was wrong? It was these thoughts that made Dusk's anger simmer, something that was rather rare with him, but not entirely unfounded. It was enough to make him consider getting something out of her, whether he was offensive or not.

But could he have the courage to do that? Would he do it?

"Incoming!" He snapped his head up, but didn't have the time to move before something barrelled into him at full speed, knocking him over into the dirt.

"What the-?!" He looked up and saw himself to be entangled in a familiar cyan Pegasus, who smiled sheepishly.

"Oh, hey Dusk… sorry about that." She quickly got off of him and held out a hoof. "Here, lemme help you."

"Thank you," he said, but not without a bitter tone. "You should really be more careful when you're flying."

"Yeah, my bad," she admitted. "Still, must be happy I took the time to bump into you."

For some reason, her attempt at humour just made him more annoyed. "Rainbow, you could have seriously hurt yourself, with me included. Just watch where you're going next time."

"Okay, okay, I said I was sorry, geez," she placated, a little annoyed herself. "What's gotten you so uppy all of a sudden?"

Shame now replaced his anger. Dusk realised now that he was letting his anger get the best of him and heaping it onto Rainbow. He took a few deep breaths to calm himself down before looking back up at her.

"My apologies, Rainbow," he said sincerely. "I didn't mean to snap, I've just… got a lot on my mind right now."

"Eh, don't sweat it, everypony has a bad day once in a while huh?" She tilted her head to one side. "You wanna talk about it? I've got nothing better going on."

"If you don't mind…"

"Hey, I never mind if one of my friends is in a jam, even the geeky ones." She chuckled a little and punched his arm. "Just kidding man, you're cool." She set equal pace beside him as they walked. "So, what's the buzz? I haven't seen you, for like, years."

"A slight exaggeration," he remarked. "Sorry for that too, but I've been busy."

"I remember the last time you said that. Hey, hey," she quickly said, when he knew what she was referring to, "I was only kidding, I believe you. Being student to a princess has gotta be a full schedule, huh?"

"That isn't the half of it," he admitted. "Thanks for the understanding."

"No probs, some ponies are busier than others. Me, for example, I'm always busy practicing, flying, napping, managing the weather, napping some more, being awesome, you know." She shrugged and stretched her limbs. "Pretty full time stuff, I barely manage to squeeze in anything else."

"Yes, I can imagine you wouldn't want other appointments to conflict with your daily states of unconsciousness," he quipped, with a small smile.

"Finally, somepony who understands!" They both laughed a little at that and Dusk was glad for the relaxed atmosphere she bought. "So, what's up with you then? Apart from the sky?"

"How do you mean?"

"You know, what had you snappier than Gummy before?" She nudged his leg with a sly smile. "Problems with the missus?"

"Um… not quite…" he mumbled, blushing from her referral to Twilight. "Me and Twilight are doing fine."

"Well, good for you two," she said with a smile. "I bet you really like spending time with each other, huh?"

"Oh, we do, it's great!" he replied enthusiastically. "I've never felt like I have before when I'm with her. Just a few days ago, we-"

"Hey, I said I thought it was good you're doing good," she cut off. "I didn't ask for A Dusk and Twilight story, as narrated, written and edited by Dusk. Keep the mushy stuff to yourself when I'm in the vicinity."

"Right, sorry, I forgot," he muttered. "I don't think anypony would want to write a book about me though."

"You never know, they might," she replied. "Not that I'd read it, I'm not into that stuff. But anyway, we're getting a little out of the way here. What's going on that's gotten you more uptight than Twilight when she's lecturing?"

"Well, it's um…" He sighed again and bowed his head. "It's about my lessons with Luna."

"Ah right, I get you. What about 'em?" she asked.

Dusk explained, as best he could, about his predicament with the Princess, about the high standards she seemed to have and how he'd been told to talk with her about it, but just didn't really know how to begin, or even if he should.

"I don't even know if there is a problem, or if it's just me being weak," he finished. "I just… I just don't know what to do…"

Rainbow looked at him thoughtfully a moment, before a determined glare fixed on her face. "Dusk, I know that you're a lot of things: skinny, a little underdeveloped, nerdy, geeky, timid, have a self esteem lower than a diamond dog's house-"

"Is this meant to be making me feel better?"

"But one thing you are definitely not is weak," she finished confidently. "You're tough, but in your own way and the problem is most definitely not you, it is most definitely her."

"You… you think so?"

"Well, duh!" She flew up and spread her forelegs out to emphasize her point. "She's just pushing you and pushing you and pushing you, without any rhyme or reason and that's just completely, totally uncool. And you have gotta say something about it, even if she kills you for it, because she's gonna anyway if she keeps this up."

"Is um… that right?"

"Well, of course, not literally," she clarified. "But pushing yourself until you're ready to collapse every time you work out isn't healthy, in fact it's worse for you."

"But I don't even know-"

"No, no, no, that's not what you say." She shot down next to him. "Right, here's what you're gonna do. Next time you have your lesson…"

"Tonight," he supplied quickly.

"Tonight, right and you're not happy with the way she's doing things, here's what you do." She demonstrated physically while she spoke. "You draw yourself up, chest out, head up, eyes forward. Come on, lemme see."

A little nervous about this, Dusk did his best to mimic her. She looked him over, adjusted him in some spots and nodded.

"Right, good. Then, you march right up to her, look her straight in the eye," she said, again doing what she said as she said it, "and you say, 'Listen here princess, I've had enough with how you're doing things and you either go and change things up, or I go home!'"

Dusk nodded slowly, unsure whether or not to avert his gaze. "Right…"

"Right." She didn't move away and kept her eyes locked. "Now, come on, let's hear it."

"Okay um…"

"No, no, keep eyes on hers, don't look away."

"Okay." He took a deep breath and took his cue. "L-listen here… princess…"

"Come on, are you lulling a baby to sleep or yelling down a princess?" she demanded. "Louder, no pauses, come on!"

"Listen h-h-here, princess-"

"No stuttering and louder, pick it up!"

"Listen here, princess!"

"That's it, come on, a little more, really yell it out!"

"Listen here pirncess!" Dusk yelled, letting it flow through. "I've had enough with how you're doing things!"

"Is that right?!" Rainbow demanded.

"Yes, it is!" he yelled back, "and you either go and change things up or…!"

"Or what?! Huh?!"

"Or I'm going home!"

"I can't hear you!"

"Or I'm going home!"

"Yeah, now you've got it!" she cheered.

"Yes, I do!" He was brought back to his senses and realised a good few ponies were staring at them "Ah… right…"

Rainbow, however, was unfazed. "There you go, that's how you do it." She slapped him jovially on the back. "So, tonight, when she's pushed you enough and you can't handle it anymore, you just tell her that, yeah?"

"Yeah," he agreed, though not feeling as hyped up as before. "You really think this is the right thing to do?"

"Swear on it, trust me, this is gonna be a cake walk."

That sounded true enough in that moment and Dusk believed in it too. But by the time he'd waited long enough in his home that night for Luna to show up and once again found himself remembering the last time she'd gotten angry with him for shouting, he knew this was going to be anything but a 'cake walk'.

At first, the lesson went on as normal, with Luna giving him the warning that he'd better have been practicing before commencing the next round of sweating, glaring and aching. Dusk's fear kept him silent, his willingness to not disappoint, but by the time he'd tried and failed for the fifth time to reach her expectations, and earning nothing but more glares and stern expressions, he was at his breaking point.

He collapsed on the ground again, having failed to hold the spell for the expected time, which he hadn't been told and his head pounding like diamond dogs going at it with their pick axes.

"And again, the same," Luna chastised, speaking more than just 'again' each time he stopped. "Every single time, every single lesson, it is always the same."

"I'm… I'm sorry… princess…" gasped Dusk, on the floor and not entirely sincere. "I just… just can't…"

"Cannot or will not?" she asked disdainfully. "I am trying my best to teach you, Dusk, but I cannot help but feel that you are not doing the same for me."

"I… I don't…"

"You claim to be practicing, as I instruct, yet every lesson, I see little to no sign of any improvement, whatsoever," she snapped, with no sympathy in her voice. "I do not truly think you are as dedicated to your studies as I first thought."

"That… that isn't…"

"Isn't true? I do not think so," she dismissed. "Here, in Ponyville, there are too many distractions for you, too many things to divert your attention. Clearly, you think that wasting time with your friends and spending frivolous pursuits with Twilight Sparkle are more important than our lessons. Worse still, you are probably distracting her from her own studies too."

"What… what are you… saying?"

"I'm saying that perhaps you need a change of pace. Perhaps I should have you move back to Canterlot, so that you can have more time to focus on your studying and less time for foolishness." She glanced back at him. "I wish it did not have to be so, but you have left me little choice in this matter. You've disappointed me, Dusk. I expected more of you."

That was it. That was the tipping point. At this time, he didn't care if she was a princess, if she was his teacher. All he knew now was that she was being completely unfair to him and had been for the past, painstaking weeks. He'd put up with it, gritted his teeth and carried on, but now he had had enough of it.

He pushed himself up and returned her glare, though her back was now turned. "And what is it exactly that you expect of me?"

"What?" He could see her eyes narrow as she glanced back again. "What did you say to me?"

"I said, what do you expect of me exactly?" he asked, in a low, but angry voice. "Because I don't know exactly what that is. Ever since these lessons started, you have done nothing but tell me to work and work and work, but never tell me what I'm working towards. What is it that you want from me exactly, princess?"

She rounded on him now, but Dusk stood his ground. "I expect you to be at your best and I do not expect you to take that tone with me, Dusk. I am your teacher and I am your princess, do not forget."

"I haven't forgotten, but do you know what I also haven't forgotten?" He looked right back into her eyes. "I haven't forgotten you saying that our lessons wouldn't make you any less my friend. Your friend, remember? Because, unlike me, it's clearly slipped your mind."

"What?!" Her eyes narrowed even further. "How can… how can you…?!"

"I can because, even though you don't seem to think so, I have a right to say what I think." He took a step forward. "Ever since these lessons started, I've had splitting headaches, endless hours of practicing and you telling me that it isn't good enough and insulting me by telling me that I've been lazy and that my friends aren't important!"

"Dusk, I am warning you-!"

"Warn all you like, because you've clearly forgotten, along with a few other things that, without this unimportant, time wasting triviality that is called friendship, you and I would have never even met. You would still be locked away in the moon, trapped in stone and being used as a garden ornament by a being with the same sense of twisted humour as a medieval torture master!"

"SILENCE! We have heard enough of this!" She was using her royal voice now, storm clouds billowing around her. "Now, you listen well, Dusk-!"

"NO! NO I WON'T!" He shouted back, determined not to let her beat him. "Now, you listen here princess, I've had enough with how you're doing things and you either go and change things up, or I go home!"

"WHAT?! You dare-!"

"Yes, I dare! Twilight was right, you have been pushing me too much and I just can't take it anymore!" he cried, some tears welling up. "I've tried, I really have, but I've had enough of it. I've had enough of the pain, of the constant disappointment I get, no matter how hard I try, but more than that, I've had enough of you!"

That did it. She was struck dumb by that acclamation, her mouth wide open in utter shock and he could swear he saw her eyes shimmer a little. He almost regretted what he said and was about to apologize, but his anger was still there. He needed to say that. Every word had been honest and he wasn't going to take it back.

Just like Rainbow had told him. And it had worked.

"I suppose that's settled then." He started to walk away from her, moving back to his home. "Good night, Luna. I hope you were expecting that."

He didn't turn back, didn't look back, he just kept walking until he was back inside. Luna didn't try and stop him. She didn't grab him or yell or shout. She just watched him go, in complete silence. He thought he glimpsed her raising her hoof at one point, but he was sure it was nothing. If she'd wanted to do something about this, she should have recognised what was wrong and did something then. It was too late now.

Just as he'd stormed back upstairs, slammed the door and set aside his hat, he happened to glance out the window. She was still there, out in the field. He couldn't see her face in the dark, but he was sure he saw something glistening fall down her cheek and splash onto the ground. Like a star falling from the sky. She then whirled around furiously and took off into the night, back towards Canterlot with the speed of the wind.

Not really sure how to feel about that, but knowing he was still angry with her, Dusk climbed into bed, removed his glasses and lay down to sleep. Only as he closed his eyes and gave into his slumber did his own tears start to fall down his cheeks… and the guilt begin to well up again.

He was stood in the middle of a starlit meadow, bathed in the pale glow of the moon and the many twinkling lights of the stars above. Normally, he'd consider the sight to be beautiful, awe-inspiring, but the stars didn't seem as bright tonight, nor the moon as enchanting. He found himself wishing it were completely dark, with no light at all, just so he could hide away in it and rage in peace.

He thought he was alone out in this field, finally achieving a little peace now that he was no longer being scrutinized for every failure. But he didn't feel at peace, or calm. If anything, the loneliness, the quiet, it was even more oppressive than his teacher's presence had been. There was no hooting of owls, no chirping of crickets, no rustling of the leaves in the breeze. Nothing. All the beauty he found in the night was gone, replaced with… nothing.

And yet, he knew something else as well. Despite how quiet he was, how much the weight of silence was pressing down upon him, he wasn't alone. There was something else here, waiting in the darkness. Waiting for him. And it wasn't friendly.

"Hello?" His voice seemed to echo in the silence, but that was the only reply. "Is there anypony there?" Still nothing. "Luna…?"

"How wrong you are." He came into view, as if the shadows themselves had spawned him, those jade green eyes boring into him.

"Doom…" he whispered.

"Hello, Dusk," he growled. "What are you doing out here, all alone? In the dark? It's dangerous for you, such a state. Anything might happen to you and none would be able to find you if it did."

"I'd say I would need the company, but your presence is far from comforting," Dusk retorted, not in the mood to be intimidated.

He wasn't going to let his darker side scare him. Not tonight.

"I appear to have touched a nerve," he taunted. "Such animosity, and anger. I'm almost proud of you. Almost."

"My mistake, sorry," he snapped.

"There it is again." He smiled that horrible, empty leer. "You know, now that I think about it, I am quite proud of you."

"For what?"

"Why, for your handling of your dear royal friend." He cast his eyes around the meadow. "I don't see her here, do you? She's always interrupting our sessions, but I don't think we'll be interrupted tonight. You saw to that, so I thank you."

"You don't scare me.!"

"Still the terrible liar, yet an excellent shouter." He stepped closer. "You really broke her down and put her in her place, well done. I would have punctuated with some violence, but still… little steps, don't you think?"

"Shut up! I'm not like you!" he shouted.

"Oh, but you are. More than you think, I would imagine," he purred, but still with that anger.

"No… no, I'm not!"

"Denial isn't healthy, Dusk. You should know that," he smiled, with a few more steps closer.

"Stay back! I'm… I'm warning you!"

"Warn all you like, because you've clearly forgotten, along with a few other things that, without this unimportant, time wasting triviality that is called friendship, you and I would have never even met. You would still be locked away in the moon, trapped in stone and being used as a garden ornament by a being with the same sense of twisted humour as a medieval torture master!"

Blackhole was mimicking his words, putting on a twisted mix of Dusk's voice and his own. It was horrible to listen to, but made even worse when he could tell that it was his voice that he was using.

"No… no, stop!"

"I've had enough of the pain, of the constant disappointment I get, no matter how hard I try, but more than that, I've had enough of you!"

"Stop it! Please, just stop!"

"Look at you, little Dusk, with such anger bubbling up inside." He was close now, his jade eyes piercing Dusk's emerald. "We are so much more alike… more than you ever thought."

"No… no…" Dusk could see it, in his eyes. A near perfect reflection. Brown mane tinted with white, fur darkening to black. Even his voice, it was starting to match. "No!"

"Look at that, such a resemblance. Why, we could almost be twins." A mirror appeared before them, Blackhole standing beside him… and Blackhole's reflection staring back, instead of his own. "Now we really are… brothers!"

"NOOOOOOOOO!" But Dusk's scream went unheard. Nopony could hear him here…

Dusk trudged to the library the next morning, certainly not feeling as cheerful as he usually would. His headache had lessened, but whereas before that would have been a blessing, he now wished to have it back, for it would have helped to remind him that, even though he'd disappointed her, at least he hadn't done what he'd done last night.

He was in mixed minds about his actions. On the one hoof, he was glad that Luna at last knew how he felt about their lessons, making it very clear how much she'd been hurting him. Though it hadn't exactly been easy, it had been something that he needed to do. Twilight had said so, Rainbow had helped him to do it, how could it not be the right thing to do? It was about time, he thought, that I stood up for myself in something.

And yet… he could still remember seeing that tear rolling down her face, the complete silence that he'd put her in, the shock that registered on her face once his rant against her had reached its final, terrible conclusion. He hadn't even seen her in the dream world after that. Guilt was mixing with the righteous stance that he'd taken to make himself feel better about it and that was a worse pain than any migraine could give him.

Of course, that was made only worse by his experience that night. While he had small nightmares before, they weren't as bad. They were unpleasant, but he knew that Luna was always there, helping to keep them at bay. But tonight, they'd been worse than they ever had been. Though Blackhole was gone, his presence remained. Whether it was memory or lingering magic, Dusk didn't really know. All he did know was that he had tormented him that night worse than he ever had before, in the little shreds of memories he had.

He yawned loudly and rubbed his eyes in a bid to stop himself dropping off, for he hadn't gotten much sleep due to constantly waking up and screaming, drifting back off to sleep to have the same thing happen again, or else just lying awake, flinching at every sound, his eyes wide with terror for what should happen if he should ever close them. Accompanied by the thought that, perhaps, he hadn't done the right thing after all.

"Whoa, somepony woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning," Spike remarked when he slouched into the library.

"Oh my gosh, Dusk you look awful!" Twilight was at his side in an instant, helping him to stand up and guiding him to a table. "Here, rest there till you feel better."

"Thanks," he muttered, rubbing his eyes again and trying not to doze off on the table. "But I don't think that'll happen… any minute soon…"

"What happened last night?" She sat opposite him, leaning across the table. "Did Luna keep you up even later than normal? Did you talk to her about this like I suggested?"

"And that I supported," put in Spike.

"To the former, yes, in a manner of speaking…" He paused to yawn again. "To the latter… yes, I did."

"You did?" The surprise was evident in her tone. "Well, good then. What did she say?" She suddenly gasped. "Did she lose her temper and make you work twice as hard as a result? Oh my goodness, if she did, I am so sorry, I had no idea she would-"

"Twilight, it's okay. This," he said, gesturing to his exhausted state, "isn't from my lessons. I just… had a rough night."

"I hear you, so did I," said Spike. "Did you have a nightmare that a giant gem wanted to eat you up that made you scream like a little filly when you woke up?"


"Oh good, because I uh, totally didn't…" He looked around shiftily and sidled off.

"Anyway," Twilight said, returning to the matter at hoof, "did you just not sleep well? Why not?"

"Just… nightmares," he replied in a low voice, shivering from the recollections. "Nothing to worry about…"

"Are you sure? What were they about?" she asked out of concern.

"Just… bad memories."

"You want to talk about it?"

He thought about it for a moment before answering. "Not really, no. It's not something I… can talk about easily."

"Right, I understand. I won't pry," she assured, though she still had a look of worry on her. "So, how did it go with Luna? Has she agreed with what you think and taken steps to improve? If she hasn't, I can talk to her as well, if you like."

"That's kind of you, but… I don't think that will be of any help," he replied dejectedly.

"What do you mean?" Gradually, he started to tell her about what happened until her concern shifted into utter shock. "You quit your lessons?!"

He recoiled a bit from her. "Um… yes. I um…" Now he definitely wasn't convinced he'd done the right thing.

"Dusk, what were you thinking?!" she shrieked. "When I said I was concerned about your lessons, I didn't mean that you should just give up on them!"

"I know, I know," he moaned. "I don't really know what came over me, but… I was just so angry and she was threatening to take me away from Ponyville, saying I wasn't good enough and… it was just an idea, it just… came up."

When she next spoke, she'd obviously calmed down more. "Dusk, I can understand that you were angry and I wouldn't want you to leave either, but you had to have stayed calm. Losing your temper wasn't going to solve anything and quitting certainly wasn't. I thought you would have known better than that."

"Well… it wasn't really my idea…" Now, he felt truly ashamed of himself. "I know… you're right, I should have known better. But… you can't have known what it was like, Twilight. Every single time, no matter how much I practised, or how hard I tried, I was never good enough for her. She was always disappointed, always expecting more and I just couldn't take it anymore. Maybe you could have, but… I can't."

Twilight looked as if she was going to reply, but she closed her mouth again, bit her lip and eventually sighed.

"You have a point there. I don't think I would have been able to stand that for very long either." She looked back up, frowning. "You said that it wasn't really your idea to quit? Who could have given you an idea like that?"

Almost as if she'd been waiting for her cue, the library door burst open and Rainbow Dash soared inside, coming to a stop above them.

"What's up, bookworms?" she greeted enthusiastically. "So, how'd it go last night Dusk? You tell that stuck-up alicorn what you think of her?"

Twilight's frown deepened. "Never mind. I think I've figured it out."

"What? What's going on?" She turned upside down and cocked her head quizzically. "What's with all the frowns?"

"You should know, Rainbow," Twilight said sternly. "Thanks to your questionable advice, Dusk has just lost out on his education with one of the royal pony sisters!"

"Huh? I never told him to do that!"

"Either go and change things up, or I go home? Sound familiar?"

"Oh. Oh," she repeated, her face falling. "I… I never actually meant he should do that, I just meant it is as like a threat. You know, to make him sound tougher. I didn't think he'd actually do that. Wait, did you?"

Dusk nodded, feeling more like a fool than before, but still sort of standing by what he said.

"Whoa dude, there's gutsy and then there's… wow, you really…?" She laughed disbelievingly and rapped his shoulder. "Wow, you're braver than I thought."

"There are two kinds of idiots - those who don't take action because they have received a threat, and those who think they are taking action because they have issued a threat," Dusk quoted dully in response.

"O…kay," she replied unsurely. "Well, it's no big deal. Just go say you're sorry."

"Rainbow, he lost his temper with a princess!" Twilight reminded her. "It's not like he can go apologize with a fruit basket and a cake."

"What she said," Dusk added. "Besides, I don't feel ready to apologize yet. I thought we were friends and she would know better, but… well, you heard."

"He has a fair point, she was acting like a jerk," agreed Rainbow.

"Though I don't want to admit, I do have to agree with you there as well," Twilight said reluctantly. "She wasn't exactly being fair to Dusk, but then, you're not really blameless either Dusk. You might have hurt her too. I'm sorry to say that but it's true."

"I thought honesty was Applejack's field." He smiled bleakly, though there was no humour in it. "I'm not saying I disagree with you and I really… regret some of the things I said, Twi, but I still need some time to think… I suppose we're both going to have to wait. If she'll ever forgive me for what I've done…"

"There's always hope." Twilight placed a hoof around him and he felt a little better.

There was an awkward, heavy silence for a few seconds, with only the sound of Rainbow's wings flapping regularly in the air, that was broken by Spike who came rushing back into the room.

"Hey, did I hear somepony mention cake?"

Just as Luna would normally be sleeping and resting during the day, conserving her strength for the night, Celestia would also be doing the same for when her younger sister came out to bring out the moon and stars, something she still marvelled at, for she knew how difficult the task could be. Normally, Celestia would be more than glad for a chance to rest from the days events, not only from raising the sun, but also from many of her many royal duties that she had to attend to. Such things would leave her exhausted and ready for a long sleep.

But tonight, she didn't go straight to her luxurious chambers and curl up next to the roaring fire as she usually did, perhaps reading the latest of friendship or relationship reports she had received. No, tonight her duties weren't quite finished. But not as a ruler of Equestria, but as an older sister who's younger was in need of comfort.

She had been surprised when last night, she'd found out that Luna had returned earlier than she usually did from her lessons with Dusk. She'd just stormed straight to her own chambers, locked the door and refused to see anypony. Knowing that even she would be included, Celestia had known enough to stay out of her way. Luna had quite a temper when it showed and she knew it was wiser to let her calm down, rather than attempt to talk to her when she was in any state of anger. A servant had learned that the hard way last night and he was apparently still recovering from the shock of it.

She had also remained in her room for the whole of today, barely even coming out for meals, usually just having them sent up. She'd been reportedly raging for most of it, crying for some and then in complete silence for the rest, with Celestia not really being able to decide which was worst. But again, she'd given her a little longer to quiet down and be assured that she wasn't going to take her head off once she stuck it through the door. Just now, Celestia had been told that she had, at last, left her sanctuary and was now at the Star Tower, looking out at Equestria from the balcony there.

The Shadow Guards watching the door had told her that she didn't want anypony seeing her, but once again, being a princess had its advantages. They'd let her through and she quietly, but swiftly, ascended the stairs, until her younger sister was in view. She couldn't make out what her expression was, as she had her back to her, but it was evident she was in some sort of distress over something.

Celestia stood in silence, waiting to be acknowledged. One had to be careful when dealing with an angry, upset Luna. Only a slight shift of her head came when she finally spoke.

"A little late for you, isn't it?"

"I think it's only fair, since you were out earlier than normal yesterday." Luna didn't respond to this comment. "What's wrong, my sister?"

"Nothing," she replied sharply. "Why would you ask that?"

"Mainly because I haven't seen you act like this since father told you that you couldn't wear your favourite hair piece in your mane. He even took it off you to prevent it." She stepped a little closer. "Do you remember? The little flower with the star in the middle?"

"I was eight years old," she said irritably.

"That didn't make it any less important to you," Celestia countered. "What's happened, Luna?"

Instead of answering, she tried to change the subject. "You know, for the longest time, I forgot the splendour of my night sky."

"Did you?"

"For a while, after I was saved, I was scared that, once I started bringing up the stars again, I wouldn't want to take them down again. I'd want to leave them there, so everypony would always see the beauty that I saw. I even felt ashamed once I resumed my duties, that I didn't really deserve the privilege anymore. But, soon, I started to see their beauty again. He helped me along with that…"

Celestia knew perfectly well who she could be referring to, but she didn't comment on it. In fact, she didn't say anything at all. She wouldn't, until Luna addressed the real issue at hoof here.

"Say something!" she demanded.

"Are you going to talk about what's bothering you?"

"Not unless I want to."

"Then I shall remain as silent as the stone Discord has become, until you're ready to talk."

She didn't have to wait too long, until Luna started speaking in a dejected, forlorn tone. "I failed him. I'm a bad teacher, Tia…"

"You mean to Dusk?" The younger princess nodded, whilst the elder started to step closer. "What happened?"

"I lost my patience with him. I was getting disappointed from his lack of progress, but I was still willing to hope that, with enough time and dedication, his full potential would start to show. I thought he would be of the same mind. It turns out I was wrong." Now, she could see her hurt, pained expression on her face. "Now, I've lost my student… and I fear I may have lost my friend too…"

"Luna, there's no such thing as losing a friend." She draped a wing comfortingly around her. "How can a bond so strong ever hope to be broken? Damaged, perhaps, but never truly shattered."

"Easy for you to say," she replied. "I wanted to say something, to command him to stay, but… the things he said… I just couldn't. I… I had no idea…"

"Ignorance can lead to mistakes, but its wisdom that helps us to learn from them," advised Celestia.

"Then from the amount of mistakes I've made, I must be a complete idiot," she chastised. "I've never been a teacher to anypony before, Tia. I thought I'd try and do what you might do with your student, to make him work as hard as he could to reap the benefits. If Twilight could manage it, I don't see why he couldn't."

"That's fair enough," she agreed, "but perhaps that's where your problem lies. Dusk isn't Twilight, as much as you might want to think that."

"What do you mean?"

"I'll let you figure it out. For a start though, I think you should reconcile with him."

"Reconcile?!" She whirled around in anger. "Why should I be the one to apologise? He said that he would be better off without me, as a teacher and a friend! He was rude, inconsiderate and insulting to me! A princess! If anything, he should be the one on bended knee begging for my forgiveness!"

"I see your point, but you know how Dusk usually is," she replied sternly. "I think we both know he wouldn't have said those things unless he had really been pushed to his limits. Even he has them, though he might not seem like he does."

"Even so, from what he's said, I'm tempted to consider not even accepting his apology when he does give it." She snorted angrily. "I don't even really need him as my friend anyway…"

"Do you really mean that?"

Luna was silent for a long while, before her expression softened and she sighed. "No… I admit that, as curt as he was… he was the only friend, apart from you, I had in a thousand years. The only one who wasn't scared. I… I don't want to lose him."

"I didn't think so," nodded Celestia.

"You always seem to know, don't you?" She looked back up at her elder again. "What do you think I should do?"

"I think I'll leave that up to you," she said, with finality. "Ultimately, this is a problem you have to solve yourself. I know how much you prefer to do things yourself."

"Yes…" A small smile came to her lips. "I still managed to get that flower back, you know."

"That was what I had in mind. Father certainly learned of your limits that day." The two of them laughed at the memory. "Good luck, Luna."

"I'll need it. And Tia?" She paused on her way out. "Thanks."

"Anytime, my sister, anytime." She gave her an encouraging smile before finally returning to her chambers, secure in the knowledge that she had done her duty.

Now it was just to see if Luna would do hers.

Similar to her teacher, Twilight Sparkle was also ready for a good night's sleep. Prompt at nine o clock as always, making sure that she'd brushed her teeth fifteen minutes before, cleared away all her books she'd been studying with fifteen minutes before that and just about to make sure that Spike would be tucked away in his own little bed, before climbing into hers.

Tonight though, she lingered by her bedside, looking out of the window in the general direction where her fellow royal student resided. Or rather, former royal student, after the events he'd confessed to her today.

She sighed at the thought of him, alone in his home, with only his owl and whatever horrible memories he had for company. From when he'd walked into the library this morning, looking thoroughly depressed, Dusk hadn't gotten any better as the hours went on that day. He didn't do his tasks with the same cheer he usually did, had declined her offer to go out and meet some of the others for lunch and had mostly remained in complete silence, now and again having a little snooze to try and relax.

That was just what she needed. Another Spike.

Putting that thought aside, Twilight just wasn't sure what exactly to do. She'd tried to comfort him as best she could, but it didn't seem to have done much good. He was still resolute on not being prepared to apologise to Luna, which he'd said was because he was still sore about how she'd treated him in their lessons. From the states he was usually in, Twilight could definitely understand that, but there was something else too.

She knew that he was scared to face her again. From what he'd said to Luna, she couldn't really blame him. She had really pushed him to the edge with how she'd been teaching him, but she knew that this would have brought his confidence right down again, enough that he was terrified at the prospect of meeting her again. As much as she could empathise though, she also knew that he would have to face her again. She didn't want him to give up on his studies, not when he had so much left to learn.

But what exactly could he do? Was there anything she could do to help him? She hadn't exactly approved of what he'd done, but that didn't negate her helping him out. There had to be something she could do, perhaps-

A knock at the door interrupted her thoughts. Odd. Who could be calling this late?

"I've got it!" she heard a tired Spike call, as she made her way back downstairs. "Look… I'm sorry, but we're not interested in whatever you're selling…"

"Who is it?" she called to the obviously dozy dragon.

"Nopony, it's just Princess Luna." Twilight's eyes widened, as did Spike's about five seconds later when he noticed the implication of what he said and they both cried, "Princess Luna!"

Twilight hurried to the door, hoping she looked semi-decent and looked to behold the younger sister of Celestia on their doorstep. Yet there was something off about her, something about the way she carried herself.

"Good evening, Twilight Sparkle. I hope I am not interrupting anything," she greeted politely.

"Actually, we were just about to- OW!" Spike rubbed his arm from Twilight's sharp nudge to shut him up.

"No, no, not at all Princess," she assured, with a strained smile. "Would you like to come in? Can I get you anything?"

"I shall enter, but I do not require refreshment," she replied formally, stepping inside. "I have come on an important matter, one that I must discuss with you."

"Oh right, you just need Twilight? Good." Spike let out an exaggerated yawn. "Well, I guess since you don't need me, I'll just…"

"Spike, we have a guest!" she hissed at him.

Luna, however, raised her hoof. "It is fine, Twilight. Spike may return to his slumber if he so wishes. He is not essential to our discussions and I am sure he needs his rest."

"See Twilight, somepony understands?" Spike said with satisfaction. "Good night then, have fun talking about whatever…" Dragging his feet and tail, he trudged off upstairs and out of sight.

"Sorry about him, Princess, he can be a little… crabby when he's tired," Twilight informed her.

"Apologies are not necessary, I understand. It is irregular for one to receive visitors at a late hour, but I'm afraid this matter could not wait." Her formal stance had gone and she became saddened almost instantly. "I need your help, Twilight Sparkle."

Twilight was surprised by this, but she led the princess to a seat and sat down herself. "Of course, Princess, what can I do?"

"Please, call me Luna. You have more than earned that right, all of your friends have."

"Oh um, thank you, Luna." She wasn't really used to calling a member of royalty by name. Even with her teacher, she still addressed her as 'princess.' It was only proper. "So… what do you need my help with?"

Luna seemed to be struggling as to where to start, her eyes shifting around the room and fiddling with her hooves a little bit.

"Well… let me see… how um… how fares Dusk?" she finally asked.

"Not great," she admitted. "He's been really distant all day, tired and quiet mostly. He's not often like this, not anymore, so when he is… I get worried."

"Ah… I see…" She didn't say anything else and her face didn't give away anything.

"If I may," she ventured, "I understand the two of you had a bit of falling out about your lessons."

"That's one way of putting it." She looked back up at Twilight. "Your name was mentioned in it. He said that you had pointed out that I had been… taxing him."

"He did?" Worry gripped her and her mind went into overdrive. "Princess, I'm so sorry, I didn't mean anything by it. I only meant for him to say that to you, so that you'd be easier on him, so that his headaches would stop and he'd be able to cope, because he wasn't coping, but now he's quit, which I did not tell him to do! I swear to you, I didn't tell him to, that was somepony else who suggested that, but then she didn't mean for him to do that either and-"

"Peace, Twilight Sparkle!" Her raised voice instantly stopped her babbling. "I did not say that I blamed you for… what has happened. In fact, if anything, I am grateful to you."

"You… you are?"

"I am." She bowed her head a little and bit her lip. "Understand this, Twilight, I have… well, if I am honest… I have never taught anypony before, certainly not one of my subjects. The only referral point that I had was, of course, you and my sister. I thought that it could not be so difficult, for my sister never sought aid for your teachings, so I reasoned that I would be able to teach Dusk without any assistance."

Twilight nodded slowly. "But that didn't go so well. No offense," she added quickly.

"None taken, for that is the truth. My pride was what kept me from asking and I knew that you had been exceptionally talented in magic from a very young age. I assumed that the same would be true for Dusk and that, if I kept him working as hard as possible, that he would soon develop his own magic from what I was teaching him, like you did. But… I was wrong," she admitted.

"I see…" Twilight could certainly understand now why Luna had done this and she no longer felt animosity towards her for what she'd done.

It reminded her of when Applejack had attempted to harvest that whole apple orchard on her own. Thankfully, she'd come to her senses and, by the look of things, so had Princess Luna.

"I am sorry for any difficulty my methods caused you," she added. "I understand that you have been helping him."

"I have and, with all due respect, I don't think I'm the one you should be apologising to," she reminded her, hoping she wasn't going too far. "I mean, you never told Dusk, did you?"

"No, I thought him to be of the same mind as me. Which brings me to my main issue," she continued. "You know Dusk better than I do, for you have known him longer. Tell me, what should I do to improve my teaching?"

"Y-you want me tell you? Wait, do you mean you still want to carry on your lessons with Dusk?"

"I am… fairly certain, yes," she replied. "Provided that he does."

"Oh yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes!" She flushed when she noticed how excited she was getting in front of Luna. "Oh… sorry."

"Yes…" Luna gazed at her strangely before continuing. "So, what do you suggest?"

"Okay, well…" She stopped to think for a bit. "You said that, essentially, you set up your standards by comparing Dusk to me?" She nodded once. "Well, I think that's where we need to start. I do accept that, ever since I was a filly, that I've had talent in magic, so has Dusk. Like me, he took a good few years to develop his magic to the point where it is now, but I think that's where the similarities end."

"My sister has said much the same, but kindly… elaborate, if you please."

"Right, well, for one thing, Dusk never received actual tutelage for his magic. He always did it by himself, because he always kept it hidden. As such, he doesn't have the same kind of power that I have. That might still take a while to develop properly, provided that it's done correctly," she explained, starting to pace around while she did. "Another thing as well is that, because he's taught himself, he's not used to learning under the same conditions that I have been."

"I do not understand," Luna frowned. "You learned easily enough and the two of you share many common interests, education among them."

"Well, I learned easily because I sort of enjoy study and practice. I'm not saying Dusk doesn't, but he has his limits to what he enjoys with that sort of thing. If you want him to learn better, I think you should try teaching him in a way that he'll enjoy it. He likes you as a friend, as well as a princess and he likes to have fun with his friends. I'm not saying you have to treat every lesson like a game, but perhaps try relaxing a little more, try to have some fun with what you're teaching him. He told me that he tried that at another point and it seemed to work."

"Like on Nightmare Night… I enjoyed that very much…" She mostly speaking to herself now. "Now that I think about it, it might be easier if I… and then we… yes, I think that's it!" She looked up at Twilight, beaming now. "Thank you for your assistance, Twilight Sparkle! You have surely opened my eyes!"

"Right… no problem. Just one other thing," she added. "Don't expect him to be a great spellcaster overnight. He'll still need time to develop his powers, though I think he's doing great now." She then finished hopefully. "Did that help then?"

"Yes, very much so, thank you again, Twilight Sparkle." She rose up from the table, a lot better than before. "Now, I have another pressing matter to attend to!"

At almost the same time the Princess of the Night was receiving advice from her sister's protégée, her student was taking a midnight walk through the darkened meadows that surrounded Ponyville, trying to find his own consolation in the stars above. Instead, he only ended up feeling worse when he imagined that each star was the disapproving eye of the princess who raised them, glaring down at him from above.

Many things were whizzing by in his memories: the grating pain from his headaches his anger towards Luna, when he'd lost his temper, the look on her face when he'd finished, Twilight's disbelieving tones, his own guilt mingled with his self-righteousness, which had admittedly been growing less and less in the latter and more in the former.

Despite what she had done, there had really been no excuse for what had happened. He shouldn't have lost his temper and he shouldn't have said those things to her, even if she had rather inconsiderate towards him, though he still wasn't sure why exactly she had been. He knew he had to apologise, after a lot of thought and consideration. And he still wanted to have his lessons, to develop his magic properly. He didn't want that to end… and he didn't want to lose Luna.

But… where was he supposed to even start? Would she even want his apology after what he'd said? Would she even want to teach him? What was he supposed to do? He needed help, but where was he supposed to get it? None of his friends would be awake now and he didn't want to be a bother by disturbing their sleep. Especially Rarity, for she could be very snippy when awoken from her 'beauty sleep'. Where could he go…?

He'd been so caught up in his wanderings and meanderings, that he didn't even notice he was going to walk right into something until he looked up and stopped in front of a metal wall. Reminding himself to be more mindful of his surroundings, he beheld where he had walked to.

One building, just off a little further away, was a basic home, like one of the many back in town, though he noted the roof was the same colour as the sky, as were the shutters. No doubt a personal touch. But there weren't any others around, which was strange, but not as strange as the building directly in front of him. It had the round base, the dome roof and, of course, the huge stargazing lens of an observatory. It was obvious who lived here, but he was still a little bewildered that anypony would live this far away from the town. Even his home was closer than this one.

So… who lived all the way out here?

Something stirred in his memory… Twilight had mentioned once before that the astronomer she'd been talking to at the celebration after Discord's defeat lived in an observatory, but he'd said it was far away from town. Nightfall, if he recalled his name correctly…

He couldn't tell if there was anypony inside either the house or the observatory, but the reminder of Luna and his general curiosity, as well as a slight feeling that something had guided him here, prompted Dusk to open the door and step inside.

Though he expected it so be small, the domed roof and the circular room made it seem so much larger on the inside than the outside. That reminded him of something, but he wasn't sure what… The ceiling was decorated like the sky outside, complete even with stars, planets and swirling nebulas. Somepony with obvious artistic talent had done that and he at first wasn't sure if he'd actually stepped inside anywhere. There was only one room with one other door, a bathroom presumably, with what looked like measuring instruments for astronomy work, a book shelf with books on the same subject and, of course, the viewing point for the telescope.

He would have liked to have had a look through it, but he couldn't have if he wanted to. Dusk could have expected this from the fact the door was unlocked, but there was already somepony using it, somepony he recognised. A unicorn stallion, with a dull grey coat that contrasted a little with his dark blue mane, with black running through it. His tail was longer than most stallions and his mane was styled in a sort of blown back fashion, like he'd been standing too long in a strong wind. His cutie mark was of two silver stars, both outlined in shimmering gold.

Indeed, it was him. Nightfall.

He didn't seem to have noticed that he had company. At first, Dusk was tempted to try and slip out, in case he got angry at the intrusion. But when he pulled his eye away from the eye piece to make notes, he looked up and noticed Dusk. He almost jumped and let out a small cry, but was more curious at his presence than taken aback, though he did seem to have a bit of a timid demeanour.

"Um… how long have you been standing there?" he finally asked.

"Only a few seconds," Dusk told him. "I'm sorry I disturbed you, I'll be on my way…"

"No, no, please, don't feel you have to leave on my account." He moved away from the telescope. "It's just um… I don't often get any… visitors, you know, out here."

Dusk couldn't help but be reminded of the last time he'd met a supposedly shy studier of natural philosophy. Though that made him a little wary, something told him that, unlike that stallion, who just seemed to be hiding something, Nightfall looked genuinely uncomfortable at his sudden arrival.

"I can certainly see why." He offered him a comforting smile. "I really should have knocked, to be fair."

"Yes, well, perhaps I… I should have locked the door. I keep um… forgetting to do that…" He stared off for a bit, but then shook his head and returned the smile. "Anyway, what brings you here um, sir?"

"I was just wandering around, I noticed this place and I got curious." He shrugged. "I didn't even know this place was here really."

"Well, it is quite out of the way and it's only been recently built, so I can understand your surprise," he said, apparently relaxing a little. "Do you have an interest in astronomy?"

"Not really, but I've been rude enough without… well, telling you my name." Dusk tipped his hat and bowed his head slightly. "Dusk Noir, at your service. Pleasure to meet you, Nightfall."

The use of the stallion's name surprised him. "You… you know me?"

"Not personally, but my marefriend mentioned you to me," he explained, not wanting to seem creepy. "Twilight Sparkle, you know her?"

"Oh, oh yes, I remember her. Very intelligent and she knew quite a bit about astronomy too, I was surprised," he said lightly. "You said she was your marefriend?" Dusk nodded. "Then… wait, you're the Dusk Noir! Seventh Element of Harmony! Unity, isn't it?"

"Um, yes," Dusk mumbled, embarrassed by the sudden praise.

"Of course, why didn't I recognise you before?! You were one of the reasons that celebration was held in the first place! Sorry though," he added, when he saw Dusk's reaction, "you probably get that a lot from being an… an Element of Harmony."

"Actually, not all that much…" Dusk frowned in thought. "Come to think of it, the others don't seem to get much of that either. Curious, I never thought about it…"

"Really? That is curious," he agreed. "Still, maybe you're better known in Canterlot, not so much out here."

"Perhaps…" Drawing away from that, he pressed on to know a little more about Nightfall. He seemed friendly enough. "Well, I remember seeing you at the party, at any rate."

"Me too, but I didn't want to bother you. Still, that was a good evening though, nice to be home again," he agreed. "I was only there because my old professor invited me along to it."

"That was nice of him. I grew up in Canterlot too, you know," he added, glad to find some common ground.

"Really?" he asked brightly, reflecting his feelings. "That's interesting, I thought I sensed that air about you. Not the snobby kind of thing like the elite have, but you seem… polite, I suppose."

"Thank you. Same to you." The unicorn smiled at this mention, while Dusk gestured around the room. "You must have done well for yourself, to have an observatory built for you."

"Yes, well, Professor Quantum, the one I mentioned before, had it built for me at the end of my final exams at Canterlot University. I did pretty well. Perfect score," he added quickly, with a proud smile. "But yeah, he decided to give me bigger responsibilities by giving me this and a home in Ponyville. I have to report to him on astrological phenomenon, but I can do whatever I want."

"That's quite a privilege," Dusk noted. "It's the same with me, in a sense at least." He decided not to mention exactly what the circumstances were and pressed on. "Do you like it here?"

"Very much so. Strange, being away from home for a while, but everypony here was really welcoming. I even got a party thrown for me when I arrived here."

Dusk grinned at him. "Pinkie Pie?"

"None other. The same for you?"

"Exactly the same. She is quite a character."

"Agreed." The two stallions laughed a little at their personal memories. "But I settled down in the end, made some new friends… met somepony," he added with a blush.

"Ah, I think I've seen her." Dusk said, nodding. "You were out on Nightmare Night with her."

"Yes, that's her… Shimmer…" The smile on his face grew when he mentioned her name. "Probably the best thing that's ever happened to me."

"I know exactly how you feel," Dusk said with utter sincerity. "Looks like we're both lucky stallions, Nightfall."

"Yes… lucky…" Something changed in Nightfall for a minute there.

It was subtle, but he saw it. His eyes, which were a bright yellow, suddenly filled with a deep sadness and they moved around a bit, like he was watching something replay before them. They glistened slightly with a small build-up of tears and his lips quivered. Enough signs for Dusk to know that something had happened to him. He knew, for he had that same look himself when he recalled his own memories. It wasn't quite the same, but it was eerily similar.

But just as Dusk was about to ask, he blinked rapidly and forced a smile. "But yes, I'd uh, say we're both lucky, yes." He shifted his eyes away and hurriedly returned to the telescope.

"Are you… feeling okay?" Dusk asked.

"Yes, yes fine, just… some bad memories," he murmured sadly.

"Oh… do you want to talk about it?"

"Um… no…" he whispered.

"Are you sure? I could-"

"No! Thank you," he added quickly from his sharp answer, refusing to look at Dusk. "So um… what brings you out here then, Dusk? There are uh, not many ponies out… this time of night, you know?"

"Yes…" Dusk decided not to broach that subject, if he didn't want to talk about it. "Well, I couldn't sleep very well, so I fancied a walk."

"I see." He kept his eye to the telescope, at the same time wiping away at them. "So, why couldn't you sleep? Something on your mind?"

"In a sense, yes." Dusk felt the guilt sink in again as he was reminded of why he was out here. "You probably don't want to hear about it though…"

Nightfall looked back up at him sympathetically. "Well, I'll understand if you don't want to talk about it, but I'm willing to lend my ear, if you like."

"You're sure?" He nodded honestly. "Well, okay um… I receive a sort of personal tutelage from somepony, who's also a friend of mine." Again, he didn't feel like telling him the exact circumstances of his problem.

If he noticed though, Nightfall didn't pry. "Right, I see. Carry on."

"Okay, well, I wasn't um… happy, let's say, with how she was teaching me. It was difficult, I didn't like it and she was just being so forceful and unsympathetic, despite my discomfort. Eventually, I lost my temper with her, something I don't really do and… I said some things… things I regret. Among other things, I told her I didn't want her teaching me anymore and… well…"

"You left it at that," he finished for him. "Right… and do you want to apologize? Do you still want her to teach you?"

"Yes… and yes," he said quietly. "But, after what I said, I… I'm just not sure how to do it. I'm just… I'm scared…"

He felt pathetic, admitting that to a stallion he only just met and didn't even know. But Nightfall certainly didn't seem to see him as pathetic. He was looking at him with complete understanding and also… a quizzical look.

"Dusk, I understand, but I really don't see what the problem is." Dusk stared at him in disbelief. "There's no special procedure for apologising, just tell her that you're sorry and that's enough."

"What?! Bu-b-but after what I said-"

"What does it matter what you've said, as long as you're sorry for it. If you really are friends, then you'll forgive each other," he said simply. "That's what friends do."

"But… how can you know that?"

"Okay, well, do you want to know how I see it?" Dusk nodded for him to proceed. "Friendships, romances, they're just so much better than the things that can spoil them. Life could end at any time, in any way, you might as well strive to make it as happy as you can, while you can… before it's too late. And it starts with an apology."

There again was that sadness in his eyes and again, he turned away from Dusk and back to his telescope. But just from the way he said it, the complete sincerity and how much he was convinced by his own beliefs, that was enough for Dusk. He knew it would still be hard, but he also knew that it was better than doing nothing and losing his friend… and his teacher.

"You know… you're right, Nightfall."

The stallion looked up from his telescope again and smiled. "Of course I am. I've had friends long enough to know how much they mean to me."

"Same here. Thanks for that and Nightfall?" The stallion looked up, that sadness remaining. "I don't know what's happened to you, but all I can say is… I'm sorry for you. Truly, I am."

Nightfall stared at him, dumbfounded, before pasting over it with a small smile and a shifting of his eyes away from Dusk again.

"Thanks…" was all he said.

"No problem." Filled with a renewed vigour, Dusk stood up and stood straight. "Right, now I just need to find some way of reaching her. Now…"

But it turned out that wasn't going to be a problem. Without them realising it, the door had opened again and in it stood the very pony they'd been inadvertently talking about, the light of the stars beaming around her.

Reminded once more of how hard this was going to be, but swallowing, Dusk greeted, "Evening, Your Highness…"

"Dusk," she returned curtly. "You are well?"

"Not really." Silence passed between them awfully. "How… how did you find me?"

"A spell I know," she replied. "It led me here. Strange, I was not aware there was an observatory in this town."

"Who's this?" Nightfall looked around and his mouth dropped open. "By the stars! P-p-p-princess Luna! This… this is an honour, Your Highness." He sprang forward and sunk into a low bow.

"Greetings, good sir. You are the owner of this station?" He nodded vigorously. "Well, allow us to commend you for your décor and your work. It is good to meet one who watches my night, as you do."

"T-t-thank you, princess. Your words mean… a g-g-great deal to me."

"Good, for we mean them." She smiled down at him before looking stony again when she walked over to Dusk. "Now then, I assume you know why I am here, little Dusk."

"I… I do…" He did his best to look her in the eye. "And, before you say anything else, I just want to say… I'm sorry."

Luna watched him for a bit, allowing the silence to sink in. "For what?"

"For everything. I'm sorry for shouting at you, for losing my temper, for saying I'd had enough of you, for everything. I know I was angry, but that doesn't excuse any of what I said." He sunk into a bow as well. "You're my princess, but… you're also my friend and… that was what made it worse. I can't take back what I've said but… I only hope you can forgive me and, if you don't then… well, I'll know why."

"Wait," Nightfall said, "she's the one you were talking about? You were being taught by… Princess Luna?!"

Neither of them responded to his comment. Once again, a heavy silence pressed down on them. Dusk didn't even dare to look up at Luna now, for fear that a single glance would spell doom for him. His heart sank when her voice was still cold when she at last spoke.

"For what you said to me, and how you treated me, I would see to it that you were punished in whatever way I saw fit. Speaking in such a way to a member of royalty, to me, could never be condoned for any reason. But," she added, her voice growing softer, "that was then and this is now."

Wait, did that mean there was still hope? Dusk looked up to see a regretful look on her features that almost matched his own.

"Your anger was not entirely unwarranted Dusk. I treated you unfairly and set my standards too high for you. I was an ignorant teacher and a poor friend, but I believe I can learn from my mistake. I am willing to forgive you, Dusk, if you are willing to do the same and give me another chance at teaching you, if you so wish."

Dusk felt a smile starting to grow. "You… you still want me to be your student?"

"I do, if you do."

"Then, if you do, I will do too because you do."

"Then, because you will do, I will do because you do and because I do and you do want to too."

"I do. Do you?"

"Yes." They stared at each other for a moment and then, as if nothing had happened, they both burst out laughing and hugged each other, thankful that this issue had now passed between them. It was a perfect moment of comfortable tranquillity.

"Um, excuse me? Can I stand up now, please? My back hurts…"

After they left Nightfall to his work and thanked him for his help, he still being flustered from being thanked by a Princess, Dusk knew he'd definitely learned something today. Rather than waiting till tomorrow, Luna volunteered to take his report to her sister if he cared to recite it and write it out for her.

He did so, gladly.

Dear Princess Celestia.

This is a report for something both myself and your dear sister have learned about friendship today.

When you set your sights on a high goal that others have met and fail to reach it, it can be easy to get angry about it and even give up. The important thing to remember is that while it's easy to see it like this, to never keep that attitude. Keep at it, don't set your standards too high because what may have worked for another may not work for you.

Always remember that your friends are there to help you along the way, to try and have fun with it and do it in a way that works for you. It may take a while, but sooner or later, you'll reach it.

Your faithful subject, Dusk Noir

And your loving sister, Princess Luna.

"That sound good?" he asked her.

"Very much so, though I find it strange to have to do this," she admitted, taking the scroll and adding her seal to it. "Still, it is done now and, seeing as how we missed our session yesterday, we can make up for it tonight."

Dusk sighed, but he kept his smile. "Okay, where do you want me?"

"A moment, Dusk. Let us make this a little more interesting. Come." She guided him away from his home and spun around to face it. "Now, we are going to try and reach your home from here."

"That sounds simple."

"Ah, but there is a condition," she added. "We can only do it using solid light colour platforms, without touching the ground. We shall interchange, you hold me up and let me move forward while I hold you and vice versa until we reach your home. If you fail, the penalty shall be most severe."

"And… what's that?" He yelped as a small bolt of lightning zapped him in his leg, just enough to sting him.

Luna smiled mischievously. "So, do you accept this challenge?"

Dusk let the sting subside and, though this might hurt a bit, it would at least be fun and his house wasn't too far away.

"I accept," he said with a grin. Things were certainly going to get a lot better with them, he could tell already.

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