A Place to Call Home

by CrimsonWolf360

First published

Tempest tries to find her place in Equestria after returning from her travels. After some time feeling like an outcast, Tempest begins to question her decision to come back. That is, until Twilight drags her to a Wonderbolts show. It doesn't go well.

*Note, the suicide/self harm tag is only there just to be safe. I can't say any more without spoiling a huge part of the story.

*Note #2, This story is prewritten and will be uploaded bi-weekly.

After returning to Twilight's castle, Tempest is eager to find her place among ponykind. However, most ponies still only see her as the villainous commander of the Storm King. Despite Twilight's best efforts, Tempest just doesn't feel like she belongs with the rest of Equestria.

Takes place the day after Scars. If you haven't read that story, I implore you to please read it first. A lot of what happens in the first couple chapters of this story are going to reflect on that story, and you won't really understand what's going on too well or why Tempest's mindset is the way that it is throughout this story unless you read that story first.

Edited by my buddy AJ, as always.

Chapter 1: Second Verse Same as the First

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As the sun rose in the East, the many ponies of Equestria began to rouse from their slumber, and the sounds of breakfast being prepared, along with children crying out in vain for 'just five more minutes' filled the air. All over the beautiful nation, families began to rise and commit themselves to their daily rituals. All except for one.

The glistening rays of early morning sunshine pierced through the shadow of darkness that cascaded itself over the Castle of Friendship, and finally, it's residents began to stir. Twilight lazily rolled out of bed and gave a hefty yawn before rubbing the sleepiness out of her eyes with a hoof and making her way over to the shower. Adjacent to her room, a small purple dragon committed himself to the same routine, making sure to waste no time before heading downstairs to make breakfast for the castle's inhabitants.

However, further down the hall, there was significantly less stirring. Instead, the curtains shielded the interior from the light, and a mulberry unicorn mare laid in her bed, unmoved. Her tired eyes stared blankly ahead at the nothingness she knew from a sleepless night, and even the sight of a few rays of white sneaking in through the folds in the curtains did nothing to move her.

The sound of running water quickly filled the castle halls, and unfortunately, the ceiling of Tempest's room was a focus point for all of the water lines in the house. As such, the sound was particularly loud and disruptive.

"Ugh... Why did I ask for this room again..." Tempest muttered under her breath.

Eventually, the sounds of morning preparation came to a halt, and Tempest's ear flicked side to side as she involuntarily scanned for any signs of trouble. She aggressively slapped a hoof over the offending ear, and held it in place.

"For Celestia's sake... I haven't had to fight anyone in over a year. Give it a rest." She chastised her own appendage.

Once she was satisfied that her ear was no longer functioning as a mini radar detector, she brought her hoof back to her side, closed her eyes, and relaxed back into a more restful position. A moment later, there was a knock at the door, and her ear angrily flipped back up at the source of the noise.

"Uggggggggggghhhhhh..." She groaned.

Tempest shot her eyes open and glared out at the dark room as if her piercing gaze alone could set fire to the world around her. When it was clear that she possessed no such power, she tiredly sighed and rolled over in bed. She dropped down to her hooves with a muffled *Clop* and made her way over to the door. Along the way, she snagged her jet black bodysuit and began dressing herself.

Once the last zipper was cinched all the way up, Tempest walked over to the door and paused. She took a deep breath, squared her withers, flexed her back, and straightened her neck to give her the most elite appearance she could before unlocking the door and pulling it open.

Twilight sheepishly smiled back at her from the other side of the door and gave a timid wave. Tempest raised an eyebrow, but kept her expression otherwise unreadable.

"H-Hey, Tempest... Are... Are you feeling any better today?" Twilight asked through multiple stutters.

"I'm fine, thank you, Princess. Was there something you needed?" Tempest coolly asked.

"Uh, no... Not really... I was just wondering if you wanted to come down for breakfast. Spike's making some fantastic omelettes and I don't think I've seen you eat anything since... well... yesterday morning."

Tempest cringed slightly, "W-While I appreciate the gesture, I think I'll pass. I have some things I need to take care of in town today that I need to get started on soon anyways." She quickly replied.

Twilight deflated completely, "Oh... A-are you sure?" She asked, almost pleading.

"I'm sure. Regardless, thank you for th-" Tempest began, only for the sound of gurgling to cut her off.

The both looked down at Tempest's barrel to find that her stomach was, indeed, the culprit. A dark blush immediately formed on her face, and she hastily looked away from Twilight to prevent any further embarrassment. Meanwhile, a look of complete surprise adorned Twilight's face, which quickly turned into one of understanding.

"Tempest... You really haven't eaten anything since yesterday, haven't you?"

A small blush quickly formed on Tempest's neck and face, and she hastily faced away from Twilight before she could notice.

"I'm fine. I'll just get something in town. Really, I'm alright. Thank you." She replied, keeping her face out of Twilight's gaze.

A frown formed on Twilight's face, "A-alright... If you're sure... If you change your mind, we'll be here all day." She replied, noticeably downtrodden.

With that, Twilight turned tail and walked away, leaving the doorway empty for Tempest to proceed. Once she was sure the coast was clear, Tempest turned back around and peaked down both lengths of the hallway.

"Stupid stomach... You would wait until then to do that..." She muttered under her breath.

Once both lengths were cleared, Tempest made her way out of her room and locked the door behind her. She headed down the hallway to her right and reached the staircase. Upon reaching the bottom, the sounds of chatter and other ponies enjoying breakfast resonated past her ears. She walked further until she was just outside the dining room and could clearly pick up on the voices and their owners.

"-est isn't coming down. Sorry girls, she's just... not in a good mood." She heard Twilight say.

"She's never in a good mood. I mean, have you like, seen her scowl? I think it's just the way her face is structured." A raspy, yet feminine voice that could only belong to Rainbow Dash replied.

"Now don't be a jerk, Rainbow. Ya know darn good an' well why she's usually in a bad mood. The poor girl hasn't had a fair shake since she got to Ponyville." Applejack replied, her southern twang on full display.

"And let's just say that I didn't exactly help her any..." Twilight dourly added.

Tempest turned away and walked towards the front door before she could hear anymore. Upon exiting the castle, she was met with bright light that forced her to squint her eyes from being cooped up in her room for the past day and a half. She scowled slightly as the return of her sight brought on an immediate headache.

Tempest quickly scanned the surrounding area to find, as usual, that it was quaint, and reticent, what with most ponies still rising from their slumber and eating breakfast. The majority of shops and businesses in town would still be closed for another hour or so. That gave Tempest plenty of time to go grab something to eat and prepare for the day, or so she thought.

Hushed whispers quickly echoed through the air as the early morning residents of Ponyville noticed her presence. A tense look here, and a fearful shake there, and Tempest already knew how this day was going to go. She tiredly sighed and began her trek through town to Sugarcube corner.

All along the trip, ponies of all walks of life stopped dead in their tracks as the mulberry unicorn in a suit of black armor walked past them with her mind on a mission. Her steely gaze made several ponies step back in fear, or match it with their own aggravated stare. With her head held high, Tempest continued onward through the worst of town, that being the most densely populated portion, and proceeded to the front door of Sugarcube corner. She knocked three times, and within a few moments, the door quickly opened to reveal a pink blur that immediately wrapped her in a hug.

Tempest blinked in surprise as she was embraced, and despite her initial reaction being to fight off whatever pillowy creature had latched onto her, she managed to only look around at the ponies watching her from all sides.

"Hi, Tempest!" Pinkie shouted in her ever cheerful tone.

"Uh... Hi, Pinkie," Tempest replied, steadily pushing the pink pony off with her hoof, "Could you... um... let go? Please?"

"Oh, right! Sorry about that. I was just hoping you'd come by and then you did and when I heard you knock I thought, 'Could that be Tempest? No, she wouldn't be up this early! But then again, she's an early riser, so she could totally be up this early! So when I came down the stairs and saw it was you-" A flood of words poured out of the party ponies mouth, only to be stopped by Tempest literally shoving a hoof into the offending orifice.

"Right... Thank you, Pinkie. No need for a recap. Could I come in?" Tempest evenly asked, despite a slight twitch of her eyebrow.

Pinkie leaned back slightly, freeing her mouth from Tempest's horseshoe, "Yes-in-deedily!" She chirped.

Pinkie spun around on her hooves and hopped inside. Tempest stared after her for a moment with a slightly dumbstruck look on her face before sighing and following her inside. The bright colors inside of Sugarcube corner did nothing to help her now pounding headache, and after another particularly drawn out sigh, she continued following Pinkie.

The pink party pony quickly led Tempest towards the guest seating area and pulled a chair out for her. She took the offered seat with a quick word of thanks, before Pinkie again disappeared in a pink blur of motion, only to reappear a few moments later with a tray of food on her back. Pancakes, muffins, croissants, and cinnamon rolls filled the tray and quickly made Tempest's stomach growl in anticipation.

Tempest furiously blushed and cast an angry glare at her mutinous stomach while Pinkie simply giggled and placed the tray down on the table.

"Go ahead. Eat as much as you like." Pinkie chirped.

Tempest took a moment to look over the presented food before giving in to her stomach's demands and grabbing a muffin with her hooves. She bit into the fluffy pastry and nearly moaned from satisfaction. Banana flavor and bits of cinnamon exploded over her taste buds and as she took a few moments just to savor the taste, her stomach growled again in desperation for sustenance.

She quickly swallowed the bite and satiated her stomach for a brief moment. Without missing a beat, she took another bite, and another. Soon the muffin was completely gone and she was greedily grabbing another, completely ignoring the beaming pink party pony watching her with glee.

After a few minutes, and four muffins in total, Tempest finally set the tray aside. She gave a happy sigh and turned to Pinkie with a grateful smile.

"Thank you. I needed that." She said.

"No problemo, Tempest. You sounded like you needed some good food." Pinkie coolly replied.

"Right. How much for the muffins?"

"Oh, don't you worry about that, Tempest. Friends don't pay for silly things like that." Pinkie explained, dismissively waving a hoof.

"A-are you sure? I mean, I have some bits. I can pay for this-" Tempest began, only to be cut off by Pinkie's hoof covering her mouth.

"Like I said, friends don't pay." Pinkie confidently asserted before removing her hoof from Tempest's mouth.

The mulberry unicorn stared back at the pink earth pony for a few moments while she tried to decide if her words were genuine. One her gaze met those baby blues, she was certain of it. There was no deception behind those eyes. No lies. Only the honest truth.

Tempest felt a slight tingle in her heart before she had to turn away from Pinkie, "Thank you. I really appreciate that."

"Anytime, Tempest! But, could I ask you a quick question?" Pinkie replied.

"Sure."

"Why'd you come over here for breakfast? I know Twilight was having all of us over this morning. I wrote it on every calendar I own! And that's a lot!" Pinkie questioned, pointing at several calenders with the current date circled.

Tempest immediately cringed and began to fidget in her seat.

"W-well... I just... I had some things I wanted to do today and I didn't really have the time..." She stammered, pointedly averting her eyes from Pinkie's.

"Uh-huh... But... why didn't you just ask Twilight to start breakfast a little earlier? You're usually up super early." Pinkie replied, tilting her head to the side.

"I just... didn't want to be a bother to Princess Twilight or Spike... Besides, I am in a rush, so I should just get going anyways." She hastily replied before hopping out of her chair and making way for the door.

"But Tempest-" Pinkie tried to say.

"I really appreciate the food and hospitality, Pinkie. Really, I do. I'm sorry to leave so quickly, but I have a lot I need to get done today. I'll talk to you some other time. Goodbye." Tempest cut her off before heading out through the front door and closing it behind her, ending any chance for a rebuttal from the pink party pony.

Pinkie deflated slightly at Tempest's departure, but just as she was about to pursue her outside, she took a look at the clock to find that it was already seven o' clock.

"Oh no! I'm gonna be late to Twilight's!" She shrieked before hastily gathering a saddlebag's worth of pastries and dashing out the door.

Pinkie dashed right through the growing crowd of morning ponies and arrived at Twilight's castle in record time. She hastily pounded on the front door until it was pulled open by a small purple dragon.

"Hey Pinkie." Spike greeted.

"Heya, Spike! Is everypony still here? I know I'm running late and I really, really didn't mean to but I was busy helping Tempest with her breakfast and I forgot to look at the time and I had to rush all the way across town but there was one pony who-" Pinkie quickly explained in one breath.

"Pinkie! It's fine. Fluttershy just got here a few minutes ago. You're good. Breakfast is just starting now." Spike interrupted, far too tired at this early hour for Pinkie's marathon explanation.

"Oh!" Okie dokey lokie!" She replied before bouncing inside.

Spike rubbed the bridge of his nose while she bounced down the hall and closed the door.

"It's gonna be a long day..." He muttered.

Chapter 2: Breakfast

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As Pinkie and Spike arrived at the main dining room of the castle, the sounds of the rest of their friends chatting and enjoying breakfast echoed through the halls, and within seconds, they arrived to find the group seated around the dining table.

AppleJack and Rainbow dash were in the middle of a heated hoof-wrestling match while Twilight talked to Fluttershy about her animals. In the middle of it all, Rarity managed to apply her makeup with a small mirror. She immediately noticed Pinkie and Spike entering the room and waved.

"Pinkie! Darling, there you are. We were just about to go find you. Whatever took so long?" She called, her silky smile conveying genuine curiosity and getting all eyes in the room to turn to the pink earth pony.

Pinkie sheepishly rubbed the back of her neck, "Well, I kinda had to help Tempest out, hehe. Sorry if I'm late."

Twilight immediately tensed at the mention of Tempest.

Rarity frowned slightly, "Oh, will she not be joining us? I was so looking forward to asking her about her plans now that she's staying in Ponyville."

Pinkie merely shrugged. The gathered ponies in the room all shared curious looks until their eyes all seemed to be pulled toward Twilight.

"Well..." Twilight trailed off.

"Ya did say she was upset about yesterday, didn'tcha, Twi?" AppleJack asked with a curious glance.

Twilight sighed.

"Yeah... It was my fault..." She trailed off.

"What did you do?" Rainbow asked.

Twilight looked over to Spike for answers but found him only shrugging. She sighed once more and addressed the group.

"Yesterday... Tempest and Spike went out for smoothies... While they were gone, I went through mail, and came across a letter for Tempest. I took it to her room, but there was a crate in the corner. You know how she is; she barely has anything, so all of her belongings were in that box. I know I shouldn't have... but I've been having a hard time getting her to open up, and I just wanted to know about her past so much that I..." She trailed off again, a guilty frown adorning her face.

"Um... What did you do, Twilight?" Fluttershy asked, her timid voice was overwhelmingly loud in the silent room.

"I... I went through her stuff," The room gasped, "I just wanted to know why she did the things she did! I know it was wrong... But my curiosity got the better of me..."

Rarity brought a hoof over her muzzle, "Even so, Twilight. Going through another pony's belongings is wrong."

"I know. I screwed up... The worst part is that she walked in while I was going through her stuff..."

"Oh... My..." Fluttershy chimed in.

"I know... She was really upset. Even worse than that, she was hurt... I know it's hard to imagine, what with her being as stoic and scary as she can be... but I swear that look in her eyes was by far the worst part of the whole thing."

The room lapsed into silence. Nopony knew exactly what to say to that, but one thing was clear: They all felt bad for Tempest.

"Huh. So I guess that's why she seemed to be a grumpy goose this morning." Pinkie piped up.

"Yeah... I really screwed up." Twilight morosely admitted.

"Well... there has to be a way to make it up to her, right?" Rainbow asked.

"Shucks, Rainbow. It just happened yesterday. I doubt she's gonna get over it just like that." AppleJack commented.

"She's going to be angry about it for a while, I know that much... Even so, Rainbow is right. There has to be a way for me to at least make this right. That's sorta why I asked you all hear so early. Originally, I wanted Tempest here so that I could try to gauge her mood before I proposed anything... but I think I already got what I needed to know from an extremely short conversation with her earlier this morning... Anyways, it would really mean a lot to me if you guys could help me fix this." Twilight explained.

"Absolutely!" Pinkie chirped.

"Why, of course, darling." Rarity said.

"Count me in!" Rainbow exclaimed.

"Ah think I can help." AppleJack added.

"Well... Tempest does need some friends... I'd love to help." Fluttershy quietly asserted.

Twilight surveyed her friends for a few moments while a gentle smile tugged at her lips, "Thank you all so much. You're the best friends a girl could ask for."

The girls all shared Twilight's smile for a moment before Spike decided to chime in.

"So, uh... How exactly are you gonna make it right then?" He asked.

Everypony in the room furrowed their brows in thought over the dragon's question. Twilight in particular scrunched her muzzle up as she tried to come up with some way to make it up to the broken unicorn.

"Well... What if we got her something? I'm not saying we can buy her forgiveness, but something that has a lot of sentimental value might show her that we all care." Twilight suggested, a little bit of excitement worming its way into her voice.

"True, although like we said earlier, Tempest isn't quite keen on having many personal possessions." Rarity rebuked.

Twilight deflated immediately, "That... that's a good point. Darn it... Anypony else got any ideas?"

"I could get her into a WonderBolts show?" Rainbow said, shrugging her shoulders.

"I don't think she's a fan." Twilight replied.

"Well watching the WonderBolts always makes me feel better..." Rainbow muttered as she sagged back into her chair.

"And Tempest is has darn near nothin in common with you, Rainbow. She doesn't like watching pegasi do fancy-smancy tricks." AppleJack commented.

"Um... What does she like doing?" Fluttershy questioned.

Once more everypony in the room lapsed into silence as they thought over the answer to that question. This time, it was Pinkie that broke the quiet.

"Well... She does like smoothies. Spike and her came by yesterday like Twilight said." She said.

"I don't think smoothies are gonna solve this one, Pinkie." Twilight replied, sinking further into her chair.

"Well there has to be something that that mare likes doing!" Rainbow nearly shouted.

"Darling, she has a broken past. She didn't really have the time to enjoy much of anything. If I were being honest, I'd have to say that I think she genuinely enjoys fighting. At least... She seems very good at it." Rarity rebutted.

"Well we're not going to encourage her to go around and fight with ponies. I'm not even sure there's any way for us to encourage that behavior without being hugely irresponsible." Twilight replied.

"Was there anything that you found in that crate you mentioned? I mean, there has to be something from her past that she enjoys, right?" Rainbow pressed.

"I'm afraid not... all I found was some extra armor, clothes, and a few brushes." Twilight replied, pointedly refraining from mentioning the journal.

"Ugh... We're stuck." Rainbow muttered, once more sagging into her chair.

"Well who else has talked to her lately? I mean, somepony should have, right?" Pinkie suggested.

Twilight's gaze fell to the floor for only a moment before a sound caught her ear. She followed the extremity as it twitched and soon found her gaze pointing at Spike while he munched away at a gem-encrusted muffin. At her gaze, and soon everypony else's in the room, Spike hesitated mid bite.

"Uh... Whapf?" He asked, his voice muffled by the muffin.

"Spike, we're trying to think of ways to help Twilight here... You're just kinda munching away at a muffin." Rainbow asserted.

"Well excuse me! I'm hungry. It's early and last night was a long night. We can still think while I eat, jeez..." Spike begrudgingly replied after finishing his muffin.

"Hold on a second..." Twilight said, "Tempest went with Spike yesterday to get smoothies..." She recounted.

"And?" Rarity pressed.

"Well, she got along with him pretty well, and told him a lot about her past, didn't she, Spike?" She asked.

"Well, uh... I mean, she was hesitant to talk about certain stuff, but she told me a decent amount when I asked her and didn't press too hard." Spike recalled, scratching the back of his neck.

"So maybe you could get some more information out of her, right?" Twilight pressed.

"Well, uh-"

"Yeah! That's it. She actually likes Spike. All he has to do is figure out what she likes and tell us, and then we just give her that thing!" Rainbow excitedly proclaimed.

"I don't think-"

"Perfect idea, darling. Spikey, could you do that for us? We'd be forever grateful." Rarity chimed in.

"Ugh... Fine." Spike replied, sagging his shoulders in defeat.

"Thank you so much, Spike. This really means a lot to me." Twilight said.

"Yeah, yeah. I'll go find her." Spike said as he hopped off his chair and walked toward the door, "You just better get me something nice for all this trouble on a Sunday morning." He called back as he headed outside.

"Wait, Spike! You don't have to go now!" Twilight shouted, but her voice failed to reach him, as the doors were already closed.

As the ponies in the room watched the purple dragon make his exit, one thing was apparent on almost all of their faces: confusion.

"Uh... What's his problem?" Rainbow asked.

"Ah haven't seen him that upset in a while. Did somethin' happen with Spike too, Twi?" AppleJack asked, tilting her head to the side.

Twilight sighed.

"No... It's my fault. I've just been asking a lot of him lately, including breakfast... Which we kind of just asked him to leave from. He's seventeen already, so he's also a bit more easily aggravated these days. I hope he's not too upset..." She explained.

"Well, while we're waiting for Spike to return with the information on Tempest, why don't we do something nice for him in the meantime?" Rarity suggested.

"I like that idea." Fluttershy commented.

"Oh OH OOOOH! I have the perfect idea!" Pinkie cheered, readying her party cannon.


Spike walked along the dirt road through Ponyville with one thought on his mind. He was annoyed. About everything.

"First I get woken up at five in the frickin morning to make breakfast for everypony... Then I have to deal with Pinkie practically screaming in my ear as soon as she shows up... And now they don't even let me finish breakfast that I made before kicking me out to go look for Tempest..." Spike muttered to himself, "Tempest... where would she even be? It's not like she knows Ponyville very well yet. She's only been here for a couple weeks."

The purple dragon walked into the town square and stopped. He brought one claw to his hip, and this other to scratch his chin as he pondered on the many possible locations the mulberry unicorn could have run off to. He turned to face Sweet Apple Acres and tried to imagine any reason for Tempest to head in that direction. He bit his lip as he thought over it, but eventually couldn't find a good reason to search that way and turned around to face the Everfree forest.

"Now I know she could hold her own in there... But I don't think she'd want to go in there... Unless she's just fighting monsters to take out some anger... Nah." Spike dismissed.

He turned yet again toward the town park. There were dozens of ponies out and about, making their way to and from the park, and after reconsidering the previous two options, Spike decided to make way for the park. He headed off without another word, and soon found himself walking alongside Lyra and Bon Bon. The mint coated unicorn seemed afraid of something, if her jittery appearance and constant glances side to side were anything to go off of. At one point she almost seemed to be hiding behind Bon Bon's cream colored coat while they approached the park entrance.

"Did you see her?" Lyra said.

"Yeah, she passed through about fifteen minutes ago. I think she's on the far side of the park. Let's stay away from that side." Bon Bon replied.

Spike, curious to the conversation at hand, decided to chime in.

"Uh, who are you guys talking about?" He asked.

Both Lyra and Bon Bon turned to face him before looking behind their backs and back to him again. Spike raised his eyebrow at the attempt at secrecy before the Bon Bon spoke.

"That... Tempest pony... You know, the one with the broken horn." She explained.

Spike's spirits immediately rose at the prospect of not having to search for Tempest all day.

"Oh, perfect! I was just looking for her." He said before departing from the group and heading into the park.

"Wait, what!? Why are you looking for her!? Are you trying to get yourself killed?" Lyra questioned as Spike walked away.

"Uh, no? I just need to talk to her. Besides, you know she lives in the castle with me, right?" Spike asked, giving her a confused look.

"Wait, that evil pony lives with you and Princess Twilight?!" Both Lyra and Bon Bon shouted in unison.

Spike cringed at their volume before sighing, "Yeah, she lives with us. Believe me, I still don't fully trust her either, but I need to talk to her." He declared, turning back around and heading into the park.

Lyra and Bon Bon looked at each other for a moment before shaking their heads and turning away from the park.

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.

.

.

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Spike wondered through the far side of the park for a while with no luck. He searched low and high, near and far, but could find no trace of the broken unicorn anywhere in the park. Despite his best efforts, she seemed to completely allude him without even knowing she was being searched for.

Once the sun was high in the sky, Spike was sure he was wasting his time.

"Ugh... She probably already went back to the castle." He grumbled.

A lone tree to his left caught Spikes attention, and as the mid-morning sun reigned down on him, he decided to take a quick nap under the shade of the tree. He quickly walked over to the darkest side of the tree and sat down, laying his back against the tree. He sighed in contentment as his body began to sag and he began to drift off to sleep. That is, until a gentle sound caught his ears.

"Hmm?" He grumbled, not happy about some strange sound rousing him from his rest.

There was no reply, although now that he was more awake, he could actually place the sound. It sounded like soft breathing. He looked all around him for the source of the sound but found nothing, not even on the direct other side of the tree. He scratched his head in confusion before a thought dawned on him and he looked up. Not even three feet above his head, was Tempest, sleeping soundly on the branches of the tree.

She was wearing all of her armor and appeared to be slightly wedged into the branches in such a way that she actually looked fairly comfortable. Her closed eyes and soft breathing were the only indication that she still hadn't noticed him or woken up.

Spike scratched his head for a moment, "Huh? How did I not see her?" He asked himself.

"Hmm, probably because you were just as tired as I am and didn't think to look up?" Tempest answered for him.

"Huh!?" Spike nearly jumped at the sound of her voice, "You're awake?"

"You woke me up when you leaned against the tree." She replied.

"Oh... alright. Uh... You alright?" Spike asked, scratching the back of his neck again.

"I'm fine, thank you." Tempest calmly replied.

"Well uh... Why are you up in the tree though? Wouldn't the ground be a bit more comfortable?" Spike pressed.

"I figured this way ponies wouldn't be as inclined to avoid the park entirely. Some might not even notice that I'm here."

"Huh... Okay. Well... This side of the park is kinda deserted. You wanna come down here?" Spike asked.

"Not really." Tempest said.

"O-kay then... Well, you mind if I just hang out with you here then?"

"Go ahead."

"Thanks."

With that, Spike took up his resting position under Tempest and set about taking his nap. She eyed him curiously for a moment before shrugging slightly and relaxing back into her makeshift nest. Within a matter of minutes, the purple dragon was softly snoring under the mulberry unicorn, and she couldn't help the thin smile that traced her lips at their current situation. Only a minute later, she joined him, and they rested peacefully under that tree until the afternoon.

Chapter 3: Gifts of Grandure

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"So, what do you like to do when you're not... uh, you know... invading Equestria or trying to get your horn back... and stuff?" Spike asked from his seated position against the tree.

Tempest raised an eyebrow before rolling her eyes and shaking her head.

"Not much, Spike. Not much." She coolly responded, recasting her gaze to the lake at the edge of the park.

Spike groaned, "Aw come on, Tempest! There's gotta something you like doing!" He exclaimed.

"Spike, I know you're only asking because Twilight told you to." Tempest shot back.

Spike was taken aback at how quickly she figured him out, and stumbled over his words for a few moments, much to Tempest's amusement.

"W-well... Uh... I mean... Alright, fine. You got me. You can read me like a book." Spike admitted, causing a ghost of a grin to appear on Tempest's face.

"Some would say that that's endearing." She replied. Her gaze lingered on the lake for a few moments longer before falling down to the dragon seated beneath her.

"Well... Are you gonna tell me anything then? I mean, I don't want things to be heated between you and Twilight anymore." Spike said, keeping a careful eye on the mulberry unicorn.

Tempest did not reply for some time. She wistfully sighed and averted her gaze from Spike. When she finally did speak, her words came slow and deliberate.

"I'm not angry anymore, Spike. I'm just tired..." She relented.

"You're not? That's great!" Spike exclaimed, "I-I mean, I'm glad you're feeling better, but... it seems a little sudden."

"I just don't want to be angry anymore..." She said. Her voice was almost as quiet as a whisper, and Spike had to strain to hear her.

"Ugh... D-do you wanna talk about it?" He timidly asked.

"I... I don't know... There are some things I've done that I just don't think anypony is ready to know about yet... And I would never be able to forgive myself if Twilight found out and was repulsed by me because of it..."

Spike tilted his head to the side. He hesitantly looked away from her at the surrounding scenery and into the direction she was previously looking at. Upon seeing nothing worthy of note, he looked back up at her and frowned.

"T-Tempest... Whatever you did... Twilight would never hold that against you. You don't need to be ashamed of who you were. What matters now is who you are. I mean, what did you even do that was so bad?" Spike asked, after much consideration.

Tempest sighed and rose to her hooves. She jumped out of the tree and landed with a audible *thump* next to Spike. He nearly jumped at her sudden appearance next to him, but managed to calm his erratic heartbeat once she took a few steps away and stared out over the lake once more.

"I don't think I'm ready to talk about it yet, Spike... To anyone..." She admitted, keeping her eyes glued to the lake the whole time.

It was Spike's turn to sigh, and he pushed himself up until he was standing upright before walking over to Tempest's side.

"Well... If you really don't want to talk about it, I understand... But, could you at least let me try to make you feel a little better? Rainbow Dash thought a WonderBolts show might do the trick, but I don't feel like that's really your style.

Tempest chuckled, much to Spike's surprise, before fixing him with a slightly softer gaze than before.

"Well... To be honest... An air show might be a nice distraction from all this." She answered.

Spike immediately perked up, "Really!?"

"Yeah... I think it'd be nice to just go and enjoy something like that for a bit."

Spike grinned ear to ear, "Awesome! I'll go let Rainbow Dash and the rest of the group know!" He exclaimed before turning tail and running off toward the castle, "I'll see you later, Tempest!" He called back.

Tempest gave a friendly wave back to him before turning back toward the lake. She stared into it's depths for a few minutes before quietly whispering to herself, "Maybe one day..."

She turned around and headed back into town.


Spike barged into the castle at lighting speed. He sprinted so fast that he almost slammed into the wall. Scaly feet came to a screeching halt as he tried to slow himself down, and he just managed to stop precariously close to the wall. Breathing out a quick sigh, he turned on his heels and made his way over to the dining room at a much more modest, fast-walk. Within seconds, he arrived to find Twilight and the rest of their friends cleaning up and priming the party cannon. His arrival did not go unnoticed by the group, and they all turned their heads toward him as he entered the room.

"Spike, there you are," Twilight addressed, "You've been gone for hours! I tried to tell you that you didn't have to leave right away-" She tried to explain, only for Spike to cut her off.

"Forget about that! I can't believe I'm saying this, but Dash was right. Tempest actually does want to go to a WonderBolts show!" He exclaimed, much to every mare in the room's surprise.

"Ha! I knew it! Everypony loves the WonderBolts! Even Tempest!" Rainbow boasted, flaring her wings out in victory.

Twilight's jaw dropped slightly, "W-wow... I guess you really never know with that mare..." She admitted, shaking her head in disbelief.

AppleJack, Rarity, and Fluttershy all adorned winning smiles while Pinkie nearly exploded from the excitement building inside. She happily bounced around the room in joy while the rest of the group converged on Twilight and Rainbow Dash.

"So what're ya'll gonna do then? Just... give her a ticket and tell her to meet us there?" AppleJack questioned.

"That's easy! We'll just wait for her to come back, I'll give her the ticket, and then we all take the train on Wednesday. Easy as pie!" Rainbow Dash cheered.

"Spike, are you absolutely sure that she wants this? It wasn't just her agreeing to get you to leave her alone, was it?" Twilight inquired, much to the dragons chagrin.

"What? Of course not! I mean... She sounded like she really wanted to go. She said it'd be a nice way to get her mind off of things." He explained.

"And what better way to get your mind off things than the fastest, most daring, most awe-inspiring dare-deviling ever to hit the sky!?" Rainbow quickly interjected.

"Rainbow, darling, are you sure you're not exaggerating just a tincy, tiny bit?" Rarity deadpanned.

"What!? No way! As an official WonderBolt, I can say for complete, no, one hundred and twenty percent certainty that our show is by far the best in Equestria! Maybe even the whole world! Scratch that, definitely the whole world!" Dash defensively exclaimed.

"Riiiiiiiiiiiiight... No bias there at all..." Rarity muttered under her breath.

"Anyway-" Twilight interrupted, redirecting attention to her, "-now that we know she wants to go to the air show, we need to properly think about how to give her the ticket. I mean, I honestly feel like it should be me, but I also don't know if she even wants to talk to me right now, so it might not be the best idea..." She trailed off.

"So... should I give it to her?" Spike asked.

"Oh, OH, OH! I can totally give it to her at her 'First WonderBolt Show EVER' party!" Pinkie shouted, causing all eyes in the room to turn to her.

"Uh, Pinkie, you know Tempest isn't really the party type... Especially not when it comes to parties for every little thing." Twilight explained.

"Aw... But I already got the party cannon..." Pinkie whined, pointing at it with both hooves in the process.

"Um... what if we all just give it to her?" Fluttershy suggested, much to everypony's surprise.

"Well shoot, Fluttershy. That might be the best idea ah've heard all day." AppleJack complimented, causing the butterscotch pegasus to blush.

"I'm not too sure how she'll react, but I think that's the best option we can hope for right now." Twilight reasoned.

"Alright, so we just need Dash to get the ticket for Tempest and then we wait for her to get back here?" Spike asked.

"What'doya mean 'wait'?" Dash asked, pulling a ticket out from behind her back, "I never leave home without at least one of these babies with me."

Everypony in the room shared a glance before Twilight coughed and turned back to the rest of the group.

"Um... Alright then. So now we just wait for Tempest to get back. Spike did she say anything about when she was coming back?" Twilight asked.

"Uh, no. No she didn't say. I kinda headed off after she told me that she wanted to go to the show. Last I saw her was at the edge of the park." Spike recounted.

"What was she doing in the park?" Rainbow asked.

"Uh, she was kinda chilling in a tree? I mean, I think she was taking a nap until I got there. She looked really tired." Spike explained.

"Hold on a second! She told me she couldn't stay after breakfast because she was so busy today! You think she... lied to me!?" Pinkie exclaimed.

"Well... I don't think we can say for sure what Tempest defines as 'busy', so... no?" Twilight shrugged.

Pinkie was silent for a moment. The gears in her head slowly turned and she processed Twilight's explanation as the rest of the girls and Spike shared worried glances with each other. Finally, she seemed to reach a conclusion, and took a deep breath.

"Oh, okay!" She chirped.

Everypony else in the room shared another quick glance before a sound caught all of their attention. It was the sound of the front door opening once more, followed immediately by heavy, metallic hoofsteps. There was only one pony in Ponyville that those could belong to.

Rounding the corner, Tempest raised an eyebrow at the scene in front of her. AppleJack and Fluttershy were sitting at the table, trying as hard as they could to look interested in the wall across from them. Rainbow Dash was hovering in the middle of the room, her hooves behind her back and her wings disturbing everything on the table with every flap while she tried to whistle as inconspicuously as possible. Pinkie was pretending to be bored, but the the sheer excitement she clearly had made her entire body vibrate with energy. Lastly, Twilight and Spike simply stared back at her with wide eyes. They were, by far, the least conspicuous.

All of this hardly fazed Tempest so much as it seemed too drain her even more. She shook her head and cleared her throat, drawing all eyes in the room in the process.

"Tempest!" Rarity called.

"Well, there you are!" AppleJack enthusiastically exclaimed.

"Bout time!" Rainbow Dash said.

"Yay!" Fluttershy quietly cheered.

"OhmygoshTempestit'syouIthoughtyouwerebusybutIguessyouaren'tthatbusyI'mtotallynothurtatallthankyouforaskingbutanywaysI'mgladthatyou'rehere!" Pinkie shouted in one breath.

Tempest's face turned to one of confusion.

"Uh... What?" She asked.

"Nothing! Perfectly! Fine!" Pinkie again shouted.

"Right... Anyways... Spike said something about a WonderBolts show? I take it that you all wanted to invite me or something of the sort." Tempest recalled, hastily getting to the point.

"Oh, uh, yeah! Rainbow!" Twilight announced.

Rainbow immediately dropped to the floor and pulled the ticket out from behind her back. Twilight quickly enveloped the ticket in her magic while the rest of the group gathered around her and faced Tempest.

"Ahem, Tempest, I know that what happened the other night can't be fixed with a simple gift, but I, no, we all hope that you'll at least accept this ticket to the WonderBolts show on Wednesday." Twilight announced.

Twilight and her friends looked at Tempest expectantly for a few eerily silent moments before she finally spoke.

"Thanks."

With that, Tempest swiped the ticket out of Twilight's magic and walked out of the room. Everypony shared a confused look, particularly Rainbow, while Twilight simply blinked and stared straight ahead.

"Well... She sure isn't very good at showing gratitude, is she?" Rarity whispered, still unsure of whether or not Tempest could still hear her.

"You got that right. That's a ticket to the WonderBolts! And all she had to say was 'thanks'? I mean, Tank shows more gratitude than that and he's a tortoise for Celestia's sake!"

"Dash! Quiet! She can probably still hear you!" Spike whisper-shouted.

"Well... Maybe she's just still a little upset. Maybe... in her own way, she's showing her gratitude?" Twilight half-heartedly suggested.

"Ah think she's the type of pony that isn't very good at expressin' herself... Or maybe she's kinda like Maud, in a way." AppleJack replied, turning a thoughtful eye to Pinkie.

"What're you talking about, AppleJack? Maud shows waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay more emotion than that!" Pinkie explained.

"Girls, I think we should just take what we've got and accept that that's all Tempest was willing to give us." Fluttershy interjected.

Twilight furrowed her brow in thought for a few seconds before sighing and readressing the group.

"I guess that's all I could ask of her after what I did. If she really wanted to, she could have slapped the ticket out of my magic and spit on it, and she still would have been justified." She reasoned.

"Uh, how about no? Like I said, that's a ticket to the WonderBolts! You don't just spit on a WonderBolts ticket!" Dash asserted, more than a little resentment boiling over in her voice.

"Well either way, she took the ticket, and she said 'thank you'. Knowing Tempest, that was probably all the thanks she was willing to give." Spike replied.

As the argument continued on in the dining room, a lone pair of ears flicked back against their owners skull, and she frowned as she turned away from the doorway to head back to her room. Tempest quietly sighed to herself while making her way up the staircase and into the long hallway that led to the first place she'd come to call home in over seventeen years. Each hoofstep seemed to echo endlessly in the long hallway, drowning out even the reverberating voices of the Elements of Harmony bearers and Spike as they bickered back and forth about her.

Even so, she could hardly keep her eyes off the floor. The crystal tiles lining each segment of floorboard was stunningly unique and majestic in its own way; yet as she saw her reflection in those crystalline panels, her stomach twisted into a knot, and her armor grew heavier with each step. When she finally arrived at her own door, Tempest slowly pulled the key out of her bodysuit and held it in her hoof for much longer than intended before unlocking the door and stepping inside.

Chapter 4: Am I Worth All This

View Online

Two Hours Later

The sound of hoofsteps approaching up the stairs echoed through the empty space of the door, and alerted Tempest to their presence. She quickly rose from her bed and dropped to the ground as quietly as possible before stepping to the door without making a sound. Only a few moments later, the hoofsteps reached the door and stopped. Tempest tilted her head to the side as she waited for the pony on the other side of the door to make up their mind as to what they wanted to do. She didn't have to wait long, and within seconds, there was a polite knock at the door. Already knowing who was knocking, Tempest took a deep breath and opened the door to reveal Twilight.

"Can I help you, Princess?" Tempest addressed her with the most calm, collected voice she could.

"Um... Can I come in?" Twilight hesitantly replied.

Tempest stuck her head out of the doorway and looked down the hallway both directions. After finding no prying eyes or listening ears, she nodded and stepped aside to let Twilight in. The princess quickly walked into her room, and the door was promptly shut behind her.

Now standing in Tempest's room, Twilight surveyed its contents once more. As was the last time, there was no sign of any personal belongings in the room, save for the crate bearing what remained of the Storm King's logo. She turned back around to find Tempest staring at her with a mixed expression on her face.

"Listen, Tempest, I-" Twilight tried to say.

"I know. Look, I'm still trying to adjust to everything and I'm not used to so many ponies offering me... well, anything, really... So I'm sorry if I came across as ungrateful back there. I just let my old habits get the better of me." Tempest interjected, causing Twilight to do a double take.

"Tempest... I understand. Thank you for that. It really means a lot to me that you feel that way, but that wasn't why I came up here. I honestly think you'd be completely justified in feeling the way you did." Twilight replied, her face adorning a friendly smile.

Tempest looked confused for a second, "Then... if that's not what you're here for... then why are you up here?" She asked.

"Well... If I'm being honest... I just wanted to see how you were doing. Not just with regards to what happened yesterday, but in general. Ever since you got back, and please don't get mad about me saying this, but you've been looking kind of... sad. Like, there's just something hurting you and you don't want to talk about it." Twilight explained as carefully as she could.

Tempest took a few seconds to digest Twilight's words before allowing a thin trace of a smile to form on her face.

"You know I'm not a filly, Princess. I can handle my own emotions just fine. Don't worry about me." She replied.

"I have no doubts about that, but it never hurts to have a wither to lean on." Twilight said.

Tempest lightly chuckled to herself for a moment, "You know, I don't think I've had anyone to lean on in almost twenty years."

"All the more reason to start now, right?" Twilight suggested, a trace of excitement lingering in her tone.

Tempest cast her gaze to the floor. Once more, it's reflective surface showed her a mirrored version of herself, and after a few moments, she turned away and walked over to the window.

"I don't know... The only creatures I ever have leaned on either left me or stabbed me in the back..."

Twilight visibly cringed at that.

"W-well... Um... What about what you want to do? Your cutie mark has to have something to do with smoothies or fireworks, right? I mean, you could be one of the best magical fireworks pony's in Equestria! At least, if your work in Canterlot that night was anything to go off of." She replied, finding more steam in a new subject.

Tempest's gaze darkened immediately. She glanced back at her crate for only a moment before turning back around to face Twilight.

"I don't think it's that easy, Princess." She distantly replied.

"Well... What did you want to be when you were a filly? There's got to be something that you've always wanted to do, right?"

"You really like to pry, you know that?" Tempest responded.

That took Twilight by surprise, and for a few moments, she only stuttered with her words as she tried to think of what to say.

"W-well... I'm sorry if I come across as naggy or wanting to know a lot... But I only ask because I care. You know that, right?" Twilight finally asked.

Tempest gazed out the window for a few moments before replying, "I suppose... Still, you want to know more about me than any other pony I've ever met... Why?" She asked.

"Because I believe that unlike anypony else, I saw the real you. Even if it was only for a few seconds at the Friendship Festival... I'd like to see that Tempest again." Twilight explained.

Tempest sighed, "Heh, you really are persistent."

"Again, only because I care."

"So how do I get you to stop?" Tempest asked, a trace of playfulness in her voice.

"Maybe if you indulged me for a bit?" Twilight suggested.

"Right, right... Well... If we're going back to those days... I remember wanting to be a royal guard more than anything. My friends and I used to play pretend and I would always be the guard, protecting the princess from the evil witch or mage or whatever we came up with on that particular day... The thing about that... is that I've gone so far in the opposite direction of what I wanted to be, that I don't think I could ever find my way over there again." Tempest mused, keeping her eyes on the horizon while Twilight walked up to her side.

"You put yourself in harms way to protect my friends and I from the Storm King." Twilight offhandedly suggested.

"Perhaps... but those dreams are long dead, Princess."

"Well, Tempest, that doesn't have to be a dream anymore! I'm a princess with no guards to speak of. You're quite possibly the most qualified pony in Equestria to protect somepony else. Why don't you be my guard? I could even have Celestia help me make it official and everything!" Twilight excitedly explained.

"Hehe... That's just the thing, Princess... I just can't see myself doing it anymore. All the wrong I've done... All the ponies I've hurt... Why should you, of all ponies, trust me to protect you? I couldn't even protect myself when the Storm King betrayed me..." Tempest replied, her gaze never straying from the outside world.

"Tempest... he had the magic of all four royal alicorns... I don't think anypony could stand up to him at that point... I've had that much power before. It's unreal."

Tempest sighed. She turned to face Twilight and gave her a melancholy look, "I appreciate the thought, Princess. I really do. However, I just don't think I can be your guard. Honestly... I'm starting to wonder if I even should have come back in the first place."

Twilight's heart sank immediately, "Wha- But Tempest... You've only been back for a couple weeks...Look, I know I screwed up yesterday. I am truly sorry for that, but please don't think that you have to leave because of that!" She pleaded.

"It's not about that. I'm just... not too sure I belong here. You might trust me... Some of your friends might trust me... But the rest of Ponyville... The rest of Equestria... They're only ever going to see me as an evil outsider that came here to take over and enslave them. I don't think any amount of convincing on my part is going to change that... And to be honest, I don't know if I deserve any different any more..." Tempest trailed off, her gaze once more falling to the floor.

"What do you mean? Why would you think that?" Twilight asked, flabbergasted.

"I've done a lot of bad things in my life, Princess. I'm starting to look at it as this just making up for it... You know, karma and all that." She explained.

"It doesn't have to be that way, Tempest! You've changed! We all see that... Why can't you?" Twilight asked.

Tempest didn't reply for some time. Her eyes seemed glued to the floor while her mind tried to come up with the right thing to say. Every reason she could think of rapidly entered her train of though and was quickly dispelled before a new one took its place. Despite her best efforts, Tempest simply could not find the right way to explain her logic to Twilight without revealing things better left... unknown. Eventually, it wore on her and she sighed.

"Look... I don't expect you to understand. You've been in Equestria your whole life. You haven't seen the things I have. You haven't done the things I have..."

"Tempest... I know you did some bad things... but that doesn't mean that you're a bad pony... Don't you think that maybe, just maybe, that you earned a second chance when you saved me and my friends that day?" Twilight implored her.

"One good deed does not undo a life of selfishness and evil, Twilight... I was ready to have my horn back... I was ready to take over the world and show every creature in it what I could do... The only reason we're here right now and talking is because the Storm King betrayed me... and that's what makes me sick. The fact that power was all I wanted for so long... I got a second chance, yes, but I don't know if I will ever deserve it."

It was Twilight's turn to sigh. As much as she hated it, this was how most extended conversations with Tempest went, and although she felt like some progress was made, it didn't change the fact that at the end of the day, Tempest was still far from even considering her advice.

"Well... if nothing else... Can you at least promise me that you'll go to the WonderBolts show? I don't know how much it will actually help you, but if by any chance it does, then please let me know. I want you to feel like you belong here, Tempest. Even if you feel like the whole world is against you, I want you to know that you'll always have a place here." Twilight offered, after some length.

Tempest hesitantly turned her head until she was looking right at Twilight again. Her soft gaze reminded her of home, and despite her presumptions, there was nothing but honesty behind those eyes, and she couldn't help but feel like Twilight's words were completely genuine. It was an ultimately alien feeling that left a strange stirring in her heart, and Tempest wasn't quite sure as to whether it was a good feeling or not. Alas, she found herself trusting Twilight's words, albeit with some hesitation, and allowing a thankful smile to grace her lips for only the second time in decades.

"Alright, Princess. Thank you." She said.

Twilight instantly felt a weight lift off her shoulders, and she quickly released a breath she wasn't aware she was holding in.

"Thank you, Tempest. I know things between us have been pretty strained since yesterday morning, but I really appreciate you trusting me that much. Like I said, my goal has only ever been to help you feel like you belong here." Twilight replied.

"Well, despite the town pretty much avoiding me at all costs, I think Ponyville is beginning to look like the closest thing I'll ever have to a home away from home." Tempest admitted with a slight chuckle.

"Well... they'll warm up to you. Trust me, I know they can be a little hesitant to accept strangers into town, but that'll pass within a few weeks. If it makes you feel any better, they were super scared of Zecora for the longest time. Weird prejudices against zebra's and the like for some reason. I'm still not quite sure why they were so afraid of her." Twilight recalled, scratching her chin in thought for a moment.

"Well... I think we both already know why they aren't exactly lining up to meet and greet with me..." Tempest quietly remarked.

"Like I said, they'll come around in time." Twilight replied.

"I'm not sure if you're right, Princess... But thank you." Tempest admitted.

"Of course. As always, if you ever need to talk about anything, please just come over and find me. I'll make time for you, promise."

With that, Twilight headed out the door and left Tempest alone to her thoughts again. The broken unicorn stared after her long after she was gone, and only when she could no longer hear her hoofsteps in the hallway, did she turn around and head for her personal crate. She swiftly unlocked the padlock on the hinge and swung the lid open, once more revealing her only personal belongings.

Her journal greeted her with its usual paperback scent, and she slowly reached in to pull it out of the crate. Her hooves gently caressed the cover before she flipped it open to the last few pages of her entries. Her eyes settled on the torn edge of the last page. With a procrastinatory gulp, she flipped the pages until she reached the back cover. She finessed the edge of the cover with her hoof for a moment, before the corner un-creased and a single piece of paper with a torn edge greeted her. She grabbed the page and pulled it out of its tomb before unfolding it and revealing it's contents.

-

I'm writing this as a memo to myself... Failure is not an option... After the things I did on Mt. Aris... I thought the pain was done... I thought it was over...

I was so wrong...

-

Tempest felt a tear slowly trickle down her cheek and drip onto the page in her grasp. She blinked back the rest of the tears before they could stain her mouthwriting and continued to read.

-

If nothing else... The extra pair of scars on my flanks will serve as a reminder... 'Failure' is what he told me they meant as he carved the symbols into my flesh... Not again... Never again...

I'll never have a cutie mark now...

-

Tempest folded the paper back up and inserted it in its private slot in the back cover. With one quick motion, she closed the book and set it back inside her crate, making sure to close the lid and properly lock the padlock in the process. She glanced out at Ponvyville through her window and sighed.

"Maybe one day..."

Chapter 5: Hostile Reintroductions

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Wednesday

Tempest walked toward the Ponyville train station with Twilight and her friends at her side. Despite her previous hesitation to travel alongside the Princess of Friendship and her friends in public, she was quickly finding that the group attracted little attention as they traveled through town. Were it not for Twilight's assurance that her presence wouldn't cause a disruption when they arrived, Tempest would have taken a separate train, and left several hours earlier in the morning to find a secluded spot where hardly any ponies would notice her.

Even with her reservations brought forward for the whole group to hear, they assured her that she wouldn't be noticed in the crowds of potentially thousands.

Tempest sighed quietly to herself while she walked. Every now and again, she could feel a pair of wandering eyes fall on the group, only to turn from at friendly gaze to a hateful stare as those eyes fell on her. Even with her position in the center of the group, she could tell when a pony saw her and directed their hate in her direction.

Eventually, the group arrived at the train station. Twilight and her friends fanned out on the platform to occupy themselves as they waited for the train to arrive. Spike sat down with Pinkie who somehow pulled a platter of cookies out of her mane to share with the little dragon while Fluttershy simply observed and smiled when he greedily grabbed a handful. On the opposite side of the platform, Twilight sat with Rainbow Dash and AppleJack, who apparently held some measure of interest in the dynamics of flight routines the WonderBolts were poised to show off today.

Tempest observed the group of ponies around her and found herself to be standing in the center of the platform, all alone. That is, until an alabaster white hoof tapped on her wither. She turned her head to find Rarity standing beside her with a friendly smile on her face.

"Tempest, darling, why don't you take a seat? The train isn't going to arrive until at least ten thirty. We've about a twenty minute wait before it gets here." She calmly informed her.

"Oh... Um, sure. Why not?" Tempest hesitantly agreed, and followed the white unicorn to a bench toward the back of the platform.

"So... are you excited for the show?" The fashion pony pried, much to Tempest's chagrin.

"Um, yes. I'm sure it will be a show worth going out to Canterlot for..." Tempest replied, her tone just barely losing strength the longer she spoke.

"Well... I'm sure it will not only meet, but shatter your expectations." Rarity offered.

"Yeah... I just wish I had known it was going to be in Canterlot before I agreed to go..." She admitted.

"Well, darling, you don't have to go if you really don't want to. You certainly won't offend any of us... We understand why that might be a location you'd prefer to avoid for a little while longer." Rarity replied, taking the most sincere tone she could.

"I... I probably should just not go... But I already gave Princess Twilight my word that I would... So I'm going... I just hope they don't notice me that easily." Tempest admitted.

"Well... While I can certainly appreciate the gesture... perhaps you should consider leaving your armor back at the castle... It might attract attention." Rarity delicately suggested.

"Hehe... Trust me, I'm less noticeable with it on." Tempest muttered, more to herself than to Rarity, but the fashionista picked up on it anyways.

"What do you mean by that?" She asked.

"Don't worry about it." She replied.

Rarity awkwardly rubbed her foreleg and chewed on her cheek while she tried to come up with something to say to that. Eventually, she found nothing and decided to allow silence to reign over them until either the train arrived, or Tempest decided to say something.

The train came first.

.

.

.

.

.

The train pulled in to Canterlot and came to a screeching halt, alerting everypony onboard that is was just about time to depart. The whistle blew one more time after the train was completely stopped, and the ponies inside headed out of the opening doors. They were immediately met with a crowd of Canterlot ponies hastily making their way on board. As each door opened, and the ponies inside funneled out, the crowd grew closer and closer to the train in an effort to take the best seats before anypony else could.

This back and forth continued for less than a minute before there was a loud gasp, followed by dozens of ponies freezing in place and a even few galloping away from the station, leaving a confused crowd in their wake. At first glance, there seemed to be nothing wrong. Princess Twilight, her dragon assistant, and the bearers of the elements of Harmony were simply exiting the last car. That is, until a shadowy figure emerged behind them. Still donned in the very armor she conquered them in, Tempest Shadow finally exited the train.

Many more gasps and several more ponies fleeing from the terrifying sight caused a small frown to appear on Tempest's face, but it went unnoticed by the rest of the group as they hesitantly continued onward.

"So, uh... This is kind of a weird reaction..." Spike acknowledged, still looking into the crowd of frozen onlookers.

"Meh, we expected some of them to still be scared of Tempest," Rainbow thought aloud, "I just figured they'd be super excited to see a Wonderbolt just before the show..."

"Riiiiiiiiiight..." AppleJack muttered.

"Uh... Speaking of that, Rainbow, shouldn't you get to the stadium? The show is in about thirty minutes. I'm honestly surprised you didn't go ahead with the rest of your team to prepare..." Twilight suggested.

"Well, I wanted to make sure that somepony actually used the ticket I gave her." Rainbow lightheartedly accosted.

"I made a promise that I would attend the show. I don't go back on my word." Tempest replied, not even glancing at Rainbow as she made her way out of the train station.

"Uh huh. Alright, well, Twi's right, I should probably get over there. The show starts soon, so don't be late, guys." Rainbow announced before taking off in a prismatic blur.

Twilight and the rest of the group watched her rainbow trail soar skyward and arc heavily toward the stadium before disappearing into the clouds. After she was well and out of sight, they turned towards Tempest, who, by the looks of things, had decided to just keep walking, before taking off after her.

"Alright, so the show is going to take place at the new stadium in the lower district. As long as we don't get delayed too much, we should be able to get there with plenty of time to take our seats before the show." Twilight announced upon catching up with Tempest.

"Well, as much as I would have liked to see Fancy Pants again, I suppose it is in our best interest to make haste." Rarity melodramatically replied.

"Rares, you've seen him four times in the last two months. If ah didn't know any better, I'd say you were catchin' feelings for him." AppleJack teased.

Spike instantly pouted. No one noticed as they walked down the street into the city square.

"Oh ooh oooooh! Can we go to Donut Joe's after? I haven't had any of his donuts in fiveever!" Pinkie exclaimed.

"I'm sure we could spare the time after the show." Fluttershy replied.

"So we can go to Donut Joe's and ruin our figures, but going and meeting with an old friend is a no-no?" Rarity sourly interjected.

"Ugh, I'm sure we can spare some time for you to go and mingle with Fancy Pants. For right now, can we please just keep moving. I want to get there before the majority of the crowd does. It's going to be super... packed... already..." Twilight sternly insisted, only for her voice to trail off upon actually entering the busy streets of the marketplace.

There were absolutely no ponies to speak of. It was as if the entirety of Canterlot had disappeared in the blink of an eye, and the seven of them were the only living creatures left in the whole city. Even Fluttershy was startled by the complete silence that weighed over the streets like a blanket, with only the sounds of their hooves and claws on stone to fill the air.

Each pony in the group swiveled their heads around in search of some form of life, but only found a deserted street.

"M-maybe they're all at the stadium? It... It is a WonderBolts show... right?" Spike nervously suggested.

"There's no way... That stadium can only hold around two thousand ponies... There's more than three times that many living in Canterlot... And this is the busiest market in the city. There's no way ponies wouldn't be out here..." Twilight replied, scratching her chin in thought.

AppleJack glanced at each building surrounding them, until her gaze fell on a lone pair of eyes peaking out through a slightly ajar doorway. Upon noticing her gaze, the eyes darted back inside and hastily closed the door, earning the rest of the groups attention in the process. AppleJack warily made her way over to the door and lightly knocked before pressing her ear against its wooden frame and listening intently.

The sound of scurrying hooves inside the residence quickly reached her ear, and AppleJack immediately frowned.

"Uh, we know yer in there. Could you do us a favor and just tell us what happened here? Where is everypony?" She asked.

There was no answer for some time. The pony inside simply refused to answer with whatever spooked him/her still outside.

The rest of the group watched AppleJack knock on the door again with mixed emotions. Behind all of them, Tempest stared at the building with quietly building anxiety.

"Uh... We should just go. Whatever's going on here, it doesn't seem like it's a problem at the stadium, and we're already running a little late." She explained, nervously glancing left and right the whole time.

Twilight turned to her and gave her a confused look, "But Tempest, what if something bad happened here? I don't want to miss Rainbow's show either, but if something bad happened and the princesses don't know it yet, we might have to make a serious detour to the castle, or at least get the royal guard here." She replied.

"Well... I get that, but I think that this might just be... because... I'm here..." Tempest admitted.

"Now darling, I know you're worried that the ponies in Canterlot still don't fancy you being here, but I seriously doubt that they'd all hide in their homes upon your arrival. I mean, Starlight just reformed the changelings not too long ago and they've been welcomed back like old friends." Rarity chastised.

"Something tells me that you're wrong..." Tempest muttered under her breath.

"For the love of- Will you just open the door and tell us why yer all hidin' inside!?" AppleJack shouted at the pony behind the door, earning the attention of the entire group.

Finally, a muffled, petrified voice spoke out from behind the wooden frame, "I-is... She still out there?" The pony asked, putting a venomous emphasis on the word 'she'.

"Um... w-who is she?" Fluttershy asked the door.

"t-tt-t-Tempest?" The voice clarified.

A deep frown immediately formed on Tempest's face and she turned away to the street.

"No... She's not." She whispered before walking off.

"Tempest, wait!" Twilight called out.

Tempest did not listen, and instead continued to walk down the street towards the stadium. Twilight quickly motioned to Pinkie and Rarity to follow her, and within a moment, they were both off after the broken mulberry unicorn. With Tempest's situation at least being dealt with, Twilight decided to stay with AppleJack and at least determine why the ponies in the marketplace were still so scared of her friend.

Chapter 6: All I Ever Wanted

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Tempest sighed for what must have been the tenth time in her short walk away from the marketplace. A booming voice in her head told her that they were right to fear her, that they should know their place beneath her might, and that if they dared to treat her like an outsider any longer that she would personally break their doors down and enslave them again.

Another voice told her that she was crazy for even thinking that way anymore. She was a changed mare now. She had a new life, and thinking like that was corrosive and wrong. In the end, what won out was not a single voice in her head, but rather, a sickening feeling in her heart. A feeling of complete rejection and ostracization enveloped in her chest and made a knot form in the back of her throat. It shouldn't have come as a surprise at all. She expected this kind of reaction after all. So why did it still hurt so much?

As Tempest pondered why her heart stung like it was just stabbed, Rarity and Pinkie followed behind her at a distance. Despite their reservations, they knew that they had to do something to help make Tempest feel better, lest she devolve back into her old ways and decide that friendship was a lost cause. They shared a look and took a deep breath before pressing forward and arriving alongside Tempest as she continued to walk.

"So... Uh... Darling, I'm sure what happened back there was simply a misunderstanding. The ponies in Canterlot just don't know you as well as we do... a-and... they might still be a little standoffish, sure, but I promise you-" Rarity began to explain, only for Tempest to cut her off.

"Rarity, I don't need a recap. It's exactly like I expected. They still hate me... And they have every right to. I don't have any reason to be upset. I'm just trying to get to the stadium before anymore ponies notice me." She explained with a noticeable edge in her voice.

"Yeah, but you don't have to hide out and away from everypony! Sure, you tried to take over and enslave Equestria, but that's all in the past now! I bet those ponies were just scared of something that sounded like 'Tempest'. Like... a... a DENTIST!" Pinkie excitedly exclaimed.

"Pinkie... Just... don't." Tempest seethed.

Both Rarity and Pinkie cringed at her tone. Another quick glance told each other to tread lightly with their next attempt at cheering up the scariest pony they'd ever met.

"Well, perhaps the show itself will serve as a welcome distraction to the day's unpleasantness..." Rarity offered.

Tempest did not respond as they continued to walk to the stadium. Pinkie and Rarity again shared a look before hesitantly following behind her until they arrived at the stadium.

Contrary to the marketplace, the stadium was teeming with life, and the three ponies heard it long before they were able to actually see it. Rarity breathed a sigh of relief upon seeing that Tempest wouldn't feel like an outcast once more, and found a slight bounce in her step while they approached.

The massive stadium bore an equally massive banner on the side of that read 'WonderBolts' in fiery lettering. Even standing at over four stories tall, and with a completely roofless construction specifically for WonderBolts shows, the stadium was packed with thousands of ponies form all over Equestria that had made the journey to watch. The sound of so many ponies cheering and celebrating was enough of a distraction to bring a small smile to even Tempest's face.

The group approached the front door to find the ticket pony ushering the last ponies before them.

"-Alright folks, just head on up to row seven and you'll find your seats," He finished addressing them before turning to Tempest's group, "Hi, welcome to... the..." He trailed off upon noticing her.

The ticket pony audibly gulped upon his brain registering just who he was addressing, and a thin bead of sweat quickly began to form on his brow.

"We're here for the show. Can you just let us in and then you won't have to see me anymore." Tempest deadpanned.

"Uh.. R-right. Uh, thank you..." He took their tickets, albeit with massive hesitation upon taking Tempest's, and motioned to the door, "Um... Just proceed down the hall and over to row three... You'll find your seats there..."

"Thank you." Tempest replied, proceeding in without giving him a second look.

"Yes, thank you, darling." Rarity said, following behind Tempest as quickly as she could.

"Thank you!" Pinkie cheered, doing the same.

The trio made their way to into the stadium until they arrived at the end of the dark hallway. The bright lights blinded them momentarily, but once their eyes adjusted, they fell on a stadium filled to the brim with thousands of ponies from every walk of life. The sound of cheering and hooves stomping was almost unbearably loud as the WonderBolts zoomed in from overhead.

Tempest gazed around to find that the ponies around her paid her no notice. They only held their heads skyward, their attention completely focused on the electric trails of the WonderBolts. It was enough to make a genuine smile appear on her face. A tap on her shoulder made her swivel her head back to find Rarity looking at her with a warm smile.

"Feeling any better!?" She shouted over the crowd.

"Honestly... A little!" Tempest yelled back.

"Why are we yelling!?" Pinkie interjected.

Rarity and Tempest gave her a lopsided look before turning around and making their way over to their row.

"What!? Was it something I said!?" Pinkie shouted after them.

Tempest took her seat with Rarity sitting right next to her. A moment later, a pink blur zoomed past her and took the opposite seat next to her. Tempest rolled her eyes at the pink party pony's eccentricities before the sound of lightning caught her attention and she turned her head to the sky.

The WonderBolts, sporting their trademarked sky blue uniforms, easily distinguishable by the yellow lighting bolt running down their chests and stomachs, took their places on a lone cloud floating in the center of the stadium. From Tempest's position, she could just barely make out a rainbow mane and tail in the center of the group. A moment later, a canon fired, and the seven WonderBolts took off from the cloud.

It was a slow start, with the group flying in a "V" formation and doing slow aileron rolls around Rainbow Dash while she flew in a slowly ascending arc. The smoke trails formed by each member of the team created a unique spiraling effect as the formation quickly accelerated into a straight vertical climb. Within seconds, they were nearly a thousand feet above the stadium, and seemed to pause mid-air. Only a moment later, they fanned out and arched back towards the ground. Once more, the smoke trail effect behind the six outward 'Bolts gave off a memorizing spiral effect that soon intertwined with their original trail, creating a double helix in mid air.

Several ponies stared in awe at the sight before the WonderBolts theme music began to pick up on the speakers, and the pegasi themselves picked up their pace. They quickly accelerated until they were only a yellow-bluish blur streaking through the sky, leaving a prismatic trail of smoke in their wake. Ponies began to cheer and chant as the lighting fast pegasi began to circle above the stadium over and over again until they seemed to blur together into the shape of a floating ring.

Just when the ring seemed to be spinning at it's maximum velocity, a rainbow blur broke off from the segment and arced skyward. Ponies stared in awe at the prismatic trail as it soared straight vertically into the sky. Within seconds, it was several thousand feet in the air again, before quickly arcing back toward the ground and diving for the ring. It quickly picked up speed, forming a cone of air resistance around its form as it plummeted down toward the stadium. Ponies gasped in shock as it blazed downward with no signs of slowing down; in fact, it only fell faster. Shocked cries of alarm rang out throughout the crowd for a few moments before the prismatic blur of lighting speed reached the spinning circle in the air and broke the sound barrier.

A deafeningly loud crack filled the air as rainbow waves of energy pulsed outward from the center of the explosion, and the six spinning WonderBolts ricocheted off the momentum into a dazzling pattern of spiraling smoke throughout the circular multi-colored wave of energy. Only a moment later, did anypony notice the rainbow trail heading straight back up into the sky and ending on a cloud thousands of feet above the stadium.

All throughout the crowd, ponies cheered and shouted their praise at the marvelous display of aerial prowess and acrobatics. The deafeningly loud shouting was enough to rock the entire building, and nowhere in its concrete walls was free from the powerful vibrations of excited ponies stomping their hooves in approval on every row.

With the crowd thundering around her, and all eyes skyward, Tempest allowed herself a small moment to smile - to simply enjoy the serenity of it all. With no ponies screaming in terror, and instead cheering in celebration, she felt the warm feeling of bliss wash over her entire body and sighed a deep, pleasant sigh. It was the most at peace she'd felt in a long, long time.

That moment would be her undoing. As the ponies around her began to calm and settle from their explosive uproar or applause, more and more eyes began to drift down to the ruby red mohawk and black armor they all knew and feared. It was slow at first, but as more and more gasps of fear began to ring out though the stadium, it grew more and more obvious that there was something scaring the ponies around her. Tempest swiveled her head back and forth to find the ponies around her backing away and screaming.

A feeling of dread welled up in her heart as ponies began fearfully scrambling to get away from her. Despite the world around her descending into one of complete chaos, the only thing Tempest could do was lower her head and quietly sigh to herself. Rarity and Pinkie desperately tried to reassure the ponies around them that she was not a threat, and should be given a chance, but she already knew it was all for naught. She slowly allowed her gaze to rise from the seat in front of her to find that the show had completely stopped, and that even the WonderBolts themselves were staring at her with mixed emotions visible on their faces.

Further down the row, Twilight, AppleJack, Fluttershy, and Spike stepped through the tunnel leading into the stadium to find the fearful screams of the masses suddenly turning into screams of hate and anger. Twilight frowned and turned her head to find Tempest sitting at the end of her row with her head hung low. The empty seats around her told the story quickly enough, but before the lavender alicorn could even attempt to make her way over there to comfort her friend, she witnessed something that ripped a hole in her heart.

A shiny tomato, soared through the air and struck Tempest's face, spattering red all over the seats next to her. For a brief moment, all sound in the air died, and everypony stilled. Complete, dreadful, and frankly terrifying silence took hold of the entire stadium, making every living creature freeze from the overpowering lack of sound present.

Tempest visibly recoiled from the shock before bringing her hoof up to her cheek and wiping the sticky mess off her coat as best as she could. Her expression was one of surprise, pain, and for the first time in a long time, fear. It didn't take long for the masses to pick up on her weakness, and before she could react, a second tomato slammed into the back of her head. Then another struck her wither, and another hit her barrel. Within seconds, the entire stadium seemed to unanimously declare in one voice that she was not welcome there, and she would be reminded of it by any means.

Tempest quickly scrambled to her hooves and galloped for the doorway to her right while food and other choice items were thrown at her. Her metallic hoofsteps echoed in the long hallway, and she silently thanked whatever luck she still had that there were no more ponies in her way before she would be able to completely leave the stadium.

Meanwhile, Twilight, Rarity, Pinkie, AppleJack, Fluttershy, and Spike all chased after the broken unicorn while dodging wayward food and other items that were lobbed their way just by proximity. They hurriedly galloped into the hallway they saw Tempest head through and followed behind, the stadium cheering uproariously for having vanquished the threat, behind them.

They all darted out from the stadium to find an empty street with no sign of Tempest to be found. Twilight swiveled her head back and forth but could find no trace of the broken unicorn. When it became apparent that she was already gone, she turned back to her friends, finding them reaching similar conclusions.

"We need to find her. Let's split up and search the city. She couldn't have gone too far yet." Twilight announced.

"I'll take the upper district with Pinkie." Rarity declared.

"Ah'll search the lower district with Fluttershy." AppleJack decided.

"And we'll search the middle district." Spike asserted.

Each pony in the group nodded in agreement before breaking into teams of two, and fanning out into the city. Twilight trotted through her district with spike flying just behind her. Her gaze frantically searched from building to building with only one thought on her mind.

"Oh I just hope she's okay..."

"I got that ponies in Canterlot were slow to forgive, but that was ridiculous... I mean, why did they have to start throwing food and trash at her?" Spike questioned, more to himself than to Twilight.

"I'm not sure, Spike. If we can find her, then I'm sure we can get to the bottom of things... But if what that pony back in the marketplace told us is right... then I don't think Tempest did anything... They're just still angry at her." Twilight replied, sadly.

"I can't believe that! I mean, yeah she did some bad things, but if any of these ponies took the time to get to know her just a little bit, they'd see that she's not that bad..." Spike asserted, frowning deeply.

"I know, Spike. Listen... if none of us end up finding her... We'll need to go to Princess Celestia and have a search party organized. I know a bunch of guards are the last thing that Tempest will want to see right now, but Celestia told me that if I ever lost track of her, then I'd need to alert her... It was part of her agreement in avoiding time in the dungeons."

Spike gave her an odd look, "Wait, really? Then what about the last year while she was gone?" He asked.

"She was never alone. Celestia made sure to keep at least one pair of eyes on her the entire year. Knowing Tempest... She probably knew the whole time too." Twilight replied.

"Woah... I didn't think anypony would try to keep track of her like that for a whole year."

"I hate to say it... But the ponies of Canterlot have very valid reasons to dislike Tempest. It only made sense for Celestia and Luna to keep track of her in case something like this or worse happened."

"Right. Well, let's find her then. No need to call the guard if we get her back first, right?" Spike said, flying ahead.

"Right." Twilight replied, galloping after him.

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Tempest trudged through the gateway leading into Canterlot with her head hung low. The red stains of wiped away tomatoes left her coat matted and sticky, and her once intimidatingly well kept armor was now covered in a thin layer of crimson juices. She hardly cared. Her eyes were trained to the ground, and they would stay that way until she had a reason to look forward again. Even her ears carried a faint ringing sensation that didn't seem to want to go away any time soon.

Thoughts ran through her mind as to what went wrong, but no matter what rationale she tried to use, she kept coming back to the same conclusion: she was bad, rotten and evil, all the way to her core. No amount of apologies and good deeds were ever going to fix that.

She sighed as the road in front of her turned from pavement to gravel, and again as it turned to dirt. The sun quickly rotated through the sky and before she knew it, it was already beginning to set. After quite some time, she found grass under her hooves, and for the first time since she started walking, she brought her gaze up just high enough to properly see what was in front of her.

She was surprised to find a cliff not twenty feet in front of her. A couple boulders were scattered here and there, but the edge of the cliff was unmistakable. After a moment, she realized that she could hear the sound of rushing water. The ringing in her ears quickly dissipated and for the first time in a while, she could hear clearly. Cool wind breezed past her and wisped at her mane while her tail freely flowed with the rushing air. With the sun setting on the horizon, it was honestly one of the most beautiful sights she'd seen in a long time.

"Wow..." Tempest breathlessly whispered to herself.

She took another tentative step forward, then another, and another. Her pace was slow, and measured, and she eventually found herself just one step away from stepping off the cliff-side. She paused at the last step and cast her gaze downward. The cliff was littered with jagged rocks and a long draw that eventually tapered off into several rushing waterfalls. Clouds gently floated about in the empty air space between her and the bottom of the cliff, and framed the pooling lake at the bottom as an inviting vacation from the stresses of life.

With her eyes glued to the bottom of the cliff, and her senses dulled to the point of blurring into a mess of disinterest, she slowly took a step forward.

"Hey!" A voice called out from behind, the shock making her retract her hoof and swivel her head around.

Standing just ten feet behind her, was a crimson pegasus, with a soft, almost golden brown mane and tail. His features were friendly and charming, although his chocolate brown eyes conveyed a sense of alarm and fear. Tempest took a step back from the edge before turning around and properly addressing the stallion.

"Who... Who are you?"

Chapter 7: Even a Broken Clock is Right Twice a Day

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"My name's Sky. Who are you?" Sky asked, giving her the same scared look.

"You... You don't know who I am? I thought every creature in Equestria would know my face by now..." Tempest replied, turning around to fully face him.

"Well, you're the first unicorn I've met that looks so beat up, but otherwise I can't say I remember you." Sky explained.

Tempest looked at herself for a moment to find that yes, she did indeed look pretty beat up. Scuff marks on her armor along with a couple ripped portions of her bodysuit were clear indicators of that. Memories of how quickly she'd galloped away from the stadium and tripped flashed through her mind before she blinked them away. Even the tomato juices still smeared into her coat and on her armor told the tale of distress she'd been in since the entire crowd turned on her.

"I've... had better days... Were you not here when the Storm King attacked or something?" She asked, eyeing him curiously.

"Well, no. I was up in the Crystal Empire with my wife that entire time. We never even saw the Storm King's army. Hehe, Twilight kicked his ass in less than a week. Not much of a real threat to be honest." Sky replied with a shrug.

"Hold on, you're referring to Princess Twilight so casually that it's throwing me off here," Tempest said, taking a few more steps from the edge, "Do you know her personally or something?"

"Well yeah. She's one of my best friends." He answered, "I was actually going to go into Ponyville on Friday to go say hi to her. Do you know her?" He casually replied.

"I-I do... Suffice to say that she's the closest thing to a real friend I've had in a long time... Even if her ideas are terrible and get half the city to try to eat me alive just like I told her they would..." She bitterly trailed off.

"Uh... I take it that that's why you look so... rough around the edges? Why did half the city turn on you?" Sky asked, tilting his head to the side.

"Ugh.... Look, I'm... I've done some bad things here. If you really don't know who I am, then I'd prefer to keep it that way. I don't need any more ponies hating me today." She replied, plopping down on her haunches.

"Well now you've got me super curious, but if that's how you feel then I guess I can't force you. I mean, as long as you didn't kill anyone or anything like that, right?" He joked.

Tempest tensed up immediately, then cringed at herself for being so overly dramatic. If Sky noticed either of those actions happening, he didn't show it.

"Probably already calculating how long it'll take to fly down to the nearest guard post and tell them where I am..." Tempest thought to herself while letting out a long sigh.

"Do you really not know who I am?" She asked, almost in disbelief.

"Honestly, no. I really don't." Sky replied, shrugging.

Tempest let out a dry chuckle, "I honestly can't believe you don't know who I am... It's kind of... refreshing, actually." She admitted, allowing a half smile to form on her face.

"Well, I mean, the more you talk about me not knowing who you are, the more I want to know, but I guess I can indulge you if it'll keep you from doing what you were about to." He shrugged again.

Tempest turned her head to eye the cliff side again, "Oh, right... that." She mumbled.

"Listen, why don't you come back with me to my place and calm down. I don't know what happened to you, but my wife makes a mean cup of hot chocolate, and you look like you could use a shower. Just saying." Sky offered, a friendly smile on his face.

Tempest bit her lip. Tempting as his offer was, she wasn't quite sure if she could trust the strange pegasus just yet. She cast her gaze back to the cliff side once more before sighing and nodding.

"Alright. You win." She said.

Sky beamed before pointing at a house just down the hill on the other side of the pasture, "Right over there."

"Huh?" Tempest tilted her head to the side, "How did I miss that?"

"Well, your eyes were kinda glued to the ground for a while there. Kinda hard to notice a house in the distance when you don't even look in its general direction." He teased, "Now come on. I bet you've never had hot chocolate this good.

"If you insist..." She replied, hesitantly taking a step forward, as if he would turn on her the second her guard was down.

One step led to another, and then another, and eventually, she was steadily walking through the grass towards the inviting home with the crimson pegasus at her side. Something that caught her eye was how tall the stallion was. Being the size she was, Tempest dwarfed most ponies, but this pegasus stood right at her height. She cast her gaze downward and noticed the gentle breeze blowing over the grass while slightly bristling her coat and Sky's feathers. She stifled a small giggle at his much puffier appearance but once again, if he noticed, he said nothing.

Soon they were at the back door of the house and taking a small detour around to the front.

"My wife is kinda insistent that I bring guests in through the front door. It'd be kinda weird if you brought someone your spouse had never seen before in through the backdoor and then they get surprised by that, you know?" Sky mentioned.

"Mmm-hmm. Say, what is your wife's name? You just keep referring to her as 'your wife'." Tempest asked, cocking an eyebrow back.

"Oh, sorry about that, hehe. We just got married a couple weeks ago and I've just been so excited to refer to her as my wife instead of girlfriend. Her name's Midnight." Sky replied, scratching the back of his neck.

"Oh. Well, congratulations then." Tempest said with a genuine smile.

"Thank you. We actually just got back from our honeymoon last night." Sky responded, climbing up the front stairs onto the porch.

"Where did you two go off to?" Tempest asked, following behind him.

"Oh, we went all over the place. Appaloosa, Las Pegasus, and even a couple days in Mt. Aris." He excitedly answered.

Tempest felt her stomach twist at the mention of Mt. Aris, but managed to keep from making any kind of awkward expressions. She managed a pleasant smile before Sky opened the door and motioned for her to follow him.

"Mid! I'm back! We've got a guest, could you make that hot chocolate you do such an amazing job on!?" Sky called into the house.

"One second!" A feminine voice called back from upstairs.

Sky gave a friendly smile as he held the door open for Tempest to enter. She took a few steps inside before he closed the door behind them and headed for the living room. She followed him with a mix of emotions on her face before reaching the quaint living room.

"Here, take a seat on the couch. I'll go see what's got Mid busy right now." Sky said.

Tempest nodded, and he headed back through the entrance way and up the stairs. With him gone for a moment, she took the time to examine the living room and its furnishings. The L-shaped couch was comfortable and made of a soft cloth material with multiple blankets strewn over the edges. Looking up, she saw a fireplace made out of stone. The soot marks on the inside were a clear indicator that there was recently a fire in there, most likely from last night.

She turned her head to the left to find the kitchen and a nice little booth for up to four ponies to sit at. Turning left, she saw a hallway that led into a couple more rooms, but the doors were all closed. One more glance straight ahead revealed the large windows to the outside world. Warm light filtered in through the glass, and gently heated the room to somewhat warmer temperatures than what would be considered comfortable, but not enough to be unbearable. Perhaps it was just her armor adding extra heat.

Tempest ceased her observations when she heard hoofsteps coming down the stairs. Two sets from the sound of it. Her ears instinctively flicked back and twitched as she heard them step from carpeted stairs to hardwood floors, and she turned her head to properly greet her hosts.

"Hello." Tempest greeted.

"Hi there." Midnight replied.

Her coat was a dark grey, almost charcoal color, and her beautifully spiraled horn made Tempest just a little envious. An ebony black mane and tail complimented her coat color nicely, and behind it all were two deep blue eyes that seemed to look at her with the kind of friendly compassion one would expect from a long time friend.

"Sorry about that. We had to finish putting clothes away. Kinda forgot to do that when we got back last night." Sky explained, scratching the back of his neck.

"We were super tired and just crashed on the couch, hehe. Got a fire going at least." Midnight added.

"Perfectly fine. To be honest, I don't even know why you're apologizing. You were very kind to invite me in, Sky." Tempest replied, trying her best to be as polite as poossible with her words.

"Ah, don't mention it. We just kinda wish we'd cleaned up a little better, hehe," Sky replied before turning to Midnight, "Anyways, Mid, could you get the drinks, please?"

"Oh, right! One second." She answered, hastily trotting off to the kitchen.

"You both have a lovely home. It... reminds me of my old home in a way." Tempest said, loud enough for Midnight to hear her from the kitchen.

"Oh, it's nothing special. Just something I got when I finally saved up enough bits. Sky kinda just crashed in here one day and well, we've been stuck together ever since." Midnight replied while levitating three mugs from the shelf.

"Well, I didn't literally crash 'here'," Sky continued, motioning to the house as a whole, "Mid over there stumbled onto me on her way home one night and brought me back here. Suffice to say she's had my heart in her hooves ever since." He explained, dreamily looking back at the graphite mare while she worked.

"Hehe, you both seem very happy. You're lucky to have found each other." Tempest replied, as genuinely as she could.

"Oh you have no idea. Mr. featherbrain over there is from a completely different planet. It took months for him to understand how things work around here." Midnight said, walking into the room with three steaming mugs of hot chocolate in her magical grasp.

Tempest chuckled at her obvious exaggeration before gratefully taking a mug in her hooves. Sky quickly took his, and Midnight hopped onto the couch next to him with hers.

"Thank you for all this. You're honestly the kindest ponies I've met in a long time." Tempest said, making sure to convey her gratitude as best as possible.

"Oh, don't mention it. Sky told me you've had a rough day, and I can't help but feel bad for you. You're uh... kinda covered in tomato juice. I bet that wasn't fun." Midnight replied, wincing slightly at the sticky mess Tempest's coat was quickly drying into.

Tempest took a moment to look herself over and frowned, "Yeah... It's been a long day."

"Wanna talk about it? If there's one thing I learned from my time here, it's that having an ear to listen can sometimes be the best thing for a crappy day." Sky replied, giving a friendly smile.

"It's... Ugh, I don't want to bore you with a long story. It's not exactly pretty either." Tempest said, looking away from him.

"Well, we've got nothing but time. Mid and I were just going to put clothes away for the rest of the day. This is way more interesting." Sky said.

"Well..." Tempest sighed, "Suffice to say... Canterlot and I have a bit of a history... and ponies didn't take kindly to me showing up again uninvited." She explained, pointedly avoiding any details that would easily clue them in on to her true identity.

"Well what did you do?" Midnight asked.

"Did it have something to do with how you broke your horn?" Sky asked.

"Sky!" Midnight exclaimed, lightly smacking his wither with her hoof, "Don't be rude." She pressed.

"Sorry." Sky replied, looking noticeably downtrodden.

"It's fine, really," Tempest interjected, "Honestly, I'm surprised you didn't ask about it much sooner. It's kind of a talking point whenever I meet somepony new. To answer your question, no it didn't have to do with my horn. That happened a long time ago when I was just a filly." She explained.

"Oh, alright. If you don't mind me asking, what happened?" Sky asked, tilting his head to the side.

"Well, I was playing with my friends when the ball we were using got away from us and ended up in a cave. I went in after it... and ran into an ursa minor. Being the... arrogant child that I was, I thought I could fight him off with my magic... I was wrong." She explained, a noticeable pain in her eyes as she recounted the story.

"Wow... I'm so sorry that happened to you. That couldn't have been easy to deal with, especially as a filly." Midnight replied after a moment.

"It... It's been a difficult obstacle for me to overcome, but I think I've finally gotten over it, at least, for the most part." Tempest explained, clearly having to put serious thought into her response.

"Well, I think it looks awesome. Especially with the scar running down your face, you look like a complete badass." Sky excitedly replied.

Tempest owlishly blinked a few times before his words registered with her properly and she managed to come up with a proper response.

"Hehe, you know, I've never really thought about it like that. My whole life I've looked at it as a hindrance, and an ugly scar. To hear that it looks 'badass' is... kind of nice, actually." She replied, smiling.

A wide grin split on Sky's face, "Honestly, with the mohawk and black armor, you're really killing the look. I'm kinda jealous. I think mares like a guy with some sick scars, but Mid keeps telling me that I shouldn't go and pick any more fights." He explained, turning an accusatory look at the graphite mare.

"Wha? Oh come on! You had enough scars I had to patch up when you first got here. Not to mention your scuffle with the royal guard the very next day! It's an absolute miracle you aren't completely covered in cuts and bruises." Midnight exclaimed.

"Hold on, you got into a fight with the royal guard? Now this is a story I need to hear." Tempest asked, her curiosity peaked.

"You bet I did. Kicked half their asses before they finally took me down. There must have been, what, twenty of them total?" Sky recalled, turning to Midnight for confirmation.

"I think the actual number was twenty two. They did bring the cavalry to take you down, big guy." Midnight replied with a wink.

"You took on twenty two guards by yourself?" Tempest asked incredulously.

"Well, for the most part, it was only one or two at a time... but pretty much, yeah." Sky bashfully replied.

"Still, that's incredible!" She exclaimed.

Sky blushed at the compliment before noticing something.

"Hey, you haven't tried the hot chocolate yet. Try it, I promise, you'll love this stuff. Midnight seriously makes the best kind around." He insisted.

Tempest immediately looked down into her drink, "Oh, sorry about that. I completely forgot I was holding this." She sheepishly explained before bringing the mug to her lips.

Warm, chocolatey flavor exploded over her taste buds, and made her withers sag as she experienced the sweetest hot chocolate she'd ever tasted. She took another sip, then another, and another. Soon Tempest was downing the drink faster than an alcoholic at happy hour.

Before she knew it, the drink was completely gone, and she found herself licking her lips to get the last of the flavor down before it was lost to the air. The sound of snickering caught her attention, and pulled her gaze down from the heavens to Sky and Midnight as the looked at her with a mix of amusement and laughter.

"So I take it you liked it then?" Midnight warmly asked.

"Yeah, you kinda chugged that stuff." Sky teased, suppressing a snicker.

Tempest blushed slightly and set the mug down on the coffee table.

"It... You were right, that was the best hot chocolate I think I've ever had in my entire life." Tempest replied, trying to hide the blush on her face.

"Well, I'm glad you enjoyed it so much. I can make you another if you want." Midnight offered.

"Thank you, but I think I should pass. Any more and I won't be able to stop myself from forming a habit." Tempest gratefully replied.

"Eh, what's a few bad habits?" Sky shrugged, "Live a little."

"Thank you, but I'll pass for right now. Really, I appreciate it." She answered.

"Alright, no sense in pushing her," Midnight relented, "So anyways, how did you two run into each other? Sky never mentioned a tall, mulberry unicorn in black armor before." She continued, glancing at Tempest curiously.

Tempest could feel her blood freeze in her veins. She turned to Sky to find him biting his lip and giving her an unsure look. With no time to think of anything else, she said the first thing that came to mind.

"We, uh... We actually just met. Today... At the... Library." She lied, her eyes glancing back and forth between Midnight, and Sky for for confirmation to keep going.

Sky nodded while keeping an eye on Midnight to make sure she didn't notice his movements.

"Y-yeah, I was renting a book about... Poetry... and we kinda bumped into each other. I invited her back here because, you know, half the city was throwing tomatoes at her... and yeah... Tada?" Sky clumsily finished the lie, adding an overly exaggerated smile for emphasis.

Midnight looked at the both of them skeptically for a few moments.

"Hmm... I'm almost sure you're lying... And I know for a fact that Sky's lying... So how's about the truth?" She asked, giving a stern look to Sky, who seemed to shrink in on himself at her gaze.

Tempest sighed, "Alright... Look, I've been down on both my luck, and my hopes lately, and... well..." She trailed off.

"What happened?" Midnight pressed, a trace of concern weeding into her voice.

Tempest sighed again, "I was over by the cliff... Sky saw me, stopped me, and asked me to come inside and talk." She explained.

All of a sudden, the big, scary mare with the broken horn looked very small. Even with all her armor on, and the fact that she stood a few inches taller than most stallions, for the first time in a long time, she felt like the smallest creature in the room.

It only took a moment for Midnight to register exactly what Tempest meant, and her gaze quickly shifted back to Sky for confirmation. One sad nod was all he had to give, and she again brought her eyes back onto Tempest, who seemed to shrink away from such a small movement.

"Oh my gosh... I-I'm so sorry. Are you alright? Is... Is there anything we can do to help?" She offered.

"It's fine, really. Thank you for offering, but I'm alright." Tempest replied, holding up a hoof to halt any further offers.

"I think we can talk about it later," Sky asserted, "If you want to." He finished, eyes trained on Tempest.

"I... I'd prefer that. Can we just talk about more menial things for a bit?" She timidly asked.

"Of course." Midnight replied, smiling once more.

"Thank you."

"So what do you want to talk about?" Sky asked.

"Well... Can you tell me more about how you met each other? That sounds nice." Tempest hesitantly answered.

"Oh, well, that's a story." Midnight replied.

"I think I'd really like to hear something happy right now."

"Well, it all started two falls ago..."

Chapter 8: See No Evil, Hear no Evil, Speak no Evil

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"What do you mean you couldn't find her!?" Twilight shrieked at her friends.

"Exactly what ah said. We can't find a trace of that mare." AppleJack replied with a frown.

"Ohhhhhh, this is not good. Not good at all." Twilight mumbled.

"Calm down, darling. We'll find her. We just need to widen our search. It's been a few hours now, so I think it's safe to say she's at least out of the city. If she was still here, we would have found her with at least one of your scanner spells." Rarity explained, casting her gaze to the front gate of the city.

"I hope so, Rarity. After everything she's been through... This might just be what it takes to make her leave forever." Twilight woefully admitted.

"What? What do you mean?" Pinkie gasped.

"Tempest told me that she was starting to reconsider coming back to Equestria, a few days ago... Just with everything that's happened as of late and how ostracized she's felt since she came to Ponyville, she's starting to think that she'd be better off in a far away land where nopony knows her."Twilight explained.

"We can't just let her leave thinking like that!" Fluttershy exclaimed, surprising everyone with her volume.

"Yeah!" Pinkie chimed in after only a second, "We need to get Fizzy back!"

"Indeed." Rarity agreed.

"Ah'd hate to leave on such bad terms. Let's bring her back." AppleJack added.

"I'm glad you all agree... I just wish Rainbow was back already. This would be so much easier with her searching from the sky." Twilight mused.

As if on cue, a rainbow blur rocketed through the air and came to an abrupt halt in front of the group.

"Twilight! There you guys are. Sorry I took so long, I had to finish the show and get away from the fans." Rainbow quickly explained.

"Perfect timing as always." AppleJack smirked.

"Rainbow, thank goodness you're here. We can't find Tempest anywhere in the city. I think she's out in the countryside but we need your speed to find her." Twilight replied, more than a little relief evident in her voice.

"No problem, Twi. I just can't believe that happened... At a WonderBolts show too." The prismatic pegasus admitted.

"I know. Trust me, Rainbow, none of us thought the crowd would react that negatively to her..." Twilight responded.

"It's just... this was my idea... and the way the entire stadium just... attacked her... this is my fault." Rainbow dejectedly muttered.

"Now don'tcha go blamin' yerself, Rainbow. None of us knew that would happen. If we had known, we wouldn't of even offered her the ticket." AppleJack chastised.

"Still... I'm gonna go search around Canterlot. She's only been missing for what? A few hours? She couldn't have gone far." Rainbow replied, finding some of her confidence along the way.

"We'll split up. Fluttershy, you go with Rainbow and look for her outside the city. Pinkie, Rarity, Spike and AppleJack, you four search the train station and see if anypony has seen her come through. Maybe she got on a train and got out of the city already. If that's the case, then we can just follow that train." Twilight ordered.

"Got it. Wait, where are you going?" Rainbow asked.

"I... I have to talk with Princess Celestia... If we can't find her soon... She'll send the royal guard out to search for her." Twilight admitted.

"She's already the most hated pony in Equestria and you want to send guards after her? What do you think everypony else will think when they see armed guards running around with 'wanted' posters of her!?" Rainbow exclaimed.

"I know it's not ideal! I wish I didn't have to, but that was the deal she made with Celestia when she was released last year, and that's the deal I was told to ensure she followed!" Twilight shouted back.

Every pony in the group recoiled slightly at Twilight's outburst. Even Rainbow was taken aback at how quickly the mare had gone from slightly distressed to outright angry.

"Geez... Uh, Twilight, are you okay?" Spike asked, as gently as he could.

Twilight sighed, "Yes... I'm sorry. It's just that this is my fault. I made her promise to come today, and everything that's happened since she got back has just been compounding on each other until now... until now she's gone... And I have to go tell Princess Celestia that she broke the agreement they made." She woefully explained.

There was a pregnant moment of silence while everyone thought over Twilight's words. Each emotion ranging from despair, to melancholy, to depression shown on the ponies' face. That is, until an idea popped up in Fluttershy's head.

"Well, not if we find her first, right?" She timidly questioned.

Everypony turned to the butterscotch pegasus like she'd just invented the light bulb.

"You're right, Fluttershy!" AppleJack exclaimed, "Twi, how long until you absolutely hafta go to the princess?" She pressed.

"Well... The deal was that if she didn't stay within a certain distance... but I can give her permission to go further than that... twelve hours." She recalled.

"Alright, how long's she been missin' for?" AppleJack asked.

"So far... About four hours." Pinkie replied, suddenly wearing a watch on her foreleg.

"So we've got eight hours to find her!" Rainbow interjected.

"Indeed! I'm sure we can find her in that time frame with Rainbow Dash searching the skies and all of us searching on the ground." Rarity chimed in.

"You're right. Okay, everypony, let's split up and find her." Twilight ordered, her spirits rising quickly.

"Where're you gonna search?" Rainbow asked.

"With you and Fluttershy. If she left the city, I might be able to pick up her trail with a tracking spell," Twilight explained before turning to the rest of the group, "If any of you find her or find out where she went, we'll meet back up at the train station in four hours."

"Got it." They all said.

With that, they split up. Twilight, Rainbow, and Fluttershy immediately fanned out and soared out of the city while AppleJack, Rarity, Pinkie Pie, and Spike all headed for the train station.

Rainbow headed South in the direction of Ponyville while Fluttershy headed North towards Cloudsdale. Twilight veered off to the East and headed for the far side of Canterlot Mountain.

"It's a long shot... But maybe he's seen her..." She said to herself.


"Hold on, so you asked her parents for permission to marry her the first time you met them?" Tempest asked, dumbstruck.

"Hehe, yeah. In hindsight, it was a little fast-paced all things considered, but it did end up taking a little over a year to actually get to the wedding, so I got to know them a lot better in that time. I don't know how she does it, but Sapphire makes the best mango cookies you've ever seen." Sky explained.

"Wait, how do you get mango into-" Tempest began to ask.

"Trust me, we've asked. She won't tell." Midnight interrupted.

"Hehe, I guess it's a mother's secret recipe after all." She relented.

"Yeah. She was a little overbearing at first, but I think that I kinda grew on her. When your new in-laws move in for a couple months, that tends to happen." Sky recalled.

Tempest tilted her head to the side, "Why did they move in with you?"

"Well, their place got kinda banged up when the Storm King invaded. They were fine, but their house was kinda trashed. They just moved in while construction teams rebuilt the whole street." Sky answered.

It was the absolute last answer Tempest wanted to hear. An icy pain shot through her heart as guilt found its way pouring over the walls of comfort she'd built up during their conversation, and she couldn't keep her gaze from drifting to the floor. Sky and Midnight immediately noticed her saddening features and shared a quick look to discern what to do next.

"Hey, uh, why don't you go ahead and stick around for dinner. You can use the downstairs shower to get those tomato stains out of your coat too." Sky offered.

"Y-yeah... I'm sorry, I must be staining your couch right now..." Tempest muttered, her eyes falling to the floor.

She hopped off of the couch to find that, yes, there were stains present in the fabric.

"Oh, don't worry about it. I have a spell that'll get that right out. You just go ahead an shower up. Get that sticky stuff out of your coat. I can wash your suit while you're in there too if you'd like." Midnight offered.

"T-thank you, but you've already offered me so much... I can't ask you to do that..." Tempest replied, trying to blink back the beginnings of several tears.

"You've had a rough day. Don't worry about it." Midnight pressed, smiling in that same, friendly manner.

Tempest did not reply, she simply nodded and walked towards the hall.

"Last door on the left. Just toss your clothes out when you're ready and I'll take care of them by the time you get out." Midnight explained, while simultaneously lighting her horn up to remove the tomato stains from the couch.

Tempest found her way into the room in question and opened the door. A modest, one pony wide shower greeted her, along with plain white tiled floors and the typical porcelain accommodations one would expect in a bathroom. What caught her gaze, however, was the mirror, or rather, the pony she saw in the mirror. She slowly walked into the bathroom, her eyes glued on her reflection, and it took all her willpower to not break down and cry at the sight she saw.

Her coat was sticky and matted. Slimy juices made her once pristine armor look ugly, and strange. Some tomato seeds were still stuck to her bodysuit while her mane and tail were a mess of loose ends and sticky tangled hair. Worse of all, was her face. Her bloodshot eyes betrayed her facade of calmness, and her lip trembled as she saw the mess she actually was for the first time.

She couldn't look for long. Eventually, she ripped her gaze away from the mirror and proceeded to undress. The armor unclipped easily enough and slid down to the floor. Next, she stepped out of her steel horseshoes and unzipped her bodysuit. Her fur bristled outward as she unzipped, and soon enough she was completely out of the suit and naked, her scarred body once again freed from the confines of her clothes. With practiced effort, she grabbed all of her armor and clothing and placed them outside of the bathroom. She waved to Midnight while keeping most of her body concealed by the doorway. Midnight smiled and waved back before making her way over to the doorway.

""All good?" She asked.

"Yes, thank you." Tempest replied, pointedly keeping her body out of sight.

"Alright. I'll have these ready when you get out of the shower." Midnight replied.

Tempest promptly closed the door and turned on the water. Refreshingly cool water immediately spilled out of the showerhead before she adjusted the knob to a hotter setting, and soon the shower was filling with steam. She stepped inside and sighed in relief as the warm water soaked into her coat, washing away the tomato juice and painful memories. As her mane was slicked back against her scalp and she held her eyes closed, she tried to keep her mind blank. If nothing else, it at least kept her spirit at ease as she washed away her demons.

All too soon, it was time to leave, and she hesitantly turned the water off. With droplets dripping from her coat every second, she reached out of the shower and grabbed a towel. She quickly dried herself off as thoroughly as possible before dropping the towel in the bin to her right and heading for the door. Upon opening said door, she was caught completely off guard by Sky standing directly in front of her with her bodysuit held by his wings. Time slowed down to a crawl as the unicorn and pegasus simply stared at each other, eyes wide and neither knowing what to say.

Eventually, Sky's eyes drifted down and he nearly gasped as he saw the sheer measure of Tempest's scars. Right below the neckline of where her bodysuit would have been, there was a small scar, right next to her jugular. On her right wither, there was a deep horizontal scar, and three more vertical scars on her barrel. However, nothing compared to the massive, grotesque scars on her flank, where her cutiemark would have been. Sky's jaw dropped on it's own accord, and before he knew it, her gaze darted back up to Tempest's face, to find two pleading eyes looking back at him.

"I... I'm sorry... I was about to knock..." Sky managed.

"Please... j-just don't say anything..." Tempest whispered, her eyes falling to the floor.

Sky hesitated for a second before nodding and handing her bodysuit over. She gratefully took it out of his hooves and closed the door once more. A few moments later, the door was pulled open again, and Tempest stepped out with her bodysuit on. She gave him a thankful nod, which he kindly returned and they both walked into the living room once more.

Upon entering the room, Tempest reclaimed her seat, finding no stains to speak of anymore. Sky sat down across from her while Midnight reentered the room. An awkward silence momentarily overtook the group before an idea popped into Sky's head and he quickly whispered into Midnight's ear. Tempest tilted her head to the side as she watched, but before she could even ask, Midnight nodded and Sky turned back to her again.

"So, uh, Tempest... Would you want to... I don't know, maybe stay the night? I mean, we have a guest bedroom right down the hall, and I wouldn't really feel right just kicking you out after dinner." He asked.

Tempest slowly brought her eyes down to the floor and searched for a response for a moment.

"T-thank you, but I don't think that... wait... I never told you my name." She said, eyes squinting in realization.

Sky couldn't help the look of shock that quickly painted his face before fumbling for a response.

"Y-yeah you did. Remember? At the cliff?" He offered, obviously grasping at straws.

"I know for a fact that I didn't... I made a point not to... You... You knew who I am this whole time? Both of you?" She asked, looking back and forth between sky and Midnight.

After a long moment of painful silence, a heavy sigh escaped Sky's lips and he slowly shook his head in defeat.

"Alright. Guess I gave us up. Yeah, we do know who you are." He admitted, although curiously, he showed no signs of anger or revulsion. Instead, he simply looked like she'd beat him in a game of tag, nothing more.

"Why... Why were you pretending to not know of me? Don't you... Don't you hate me?" She asked, eyes once more falling to the floor.

It was Midnight's turn to respond, "While... news of what you did shocked us, and rightfully upset us when we found out that my parents were affected... I can't say that either of us hate you. You seem like a mare who's had a lot thrown at her."

"That's no excuse..." Tempest mumbled.

"Let me put it to you this way: When I walked up on you over at that cliff, I didn't see the scary mare that attacked Canterlot and hurt innocent ponies... I saw a mare who's had the entire world against her for one reason or another. As someone who's been in a similar situation... I felt like it'd be wrong of me to just sit back and do nothing." Sky added.

"What do you mean? What situation were you in?" She asked.

"Well-" Sky began, only to be interrupted by a knock at the door, "Hang on."

Sky walked over to the front door and opened it to reveal none other than Princess Celestia herself.

"Is Tempest here?" She asked.

Chapter 9: Mending a Broken Heart

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Tempest felt her blood run cold for what could have been the third time in just as many minutes. Her eyes quickly widened to the size of saucers while a knot formed in her stomach and her throat simultaneously dried up. She quickly glanced to her left to find Midnight smiling away while Sky led the alabaster alicorn into the room. Each hoofstep made her ears splay back further and further until they were decidedly flat against her skull.

After a moment, the Princess of the Sun was standing just in front of the broken unicorn, with Sky and Midnight reclaiming their seats on the couch. Tempest couldn't bring herself to speak. All she could do was stare into those magenta eyes and hope that she wasn't there to put her in a jail cell. Strange enough, instead of the harsh, cold glare she expected to find in those eyes, Tempest only saw Celestia's face relax, and a look of concern quickly cover her features.

"Are you okay?" She asked the broken mare.

Tempest's jaw moved to speak, but no words came out.

"What's wrong with me? Why can't I speak to her? Why am I so afraid right now? I didn't used to be like this..." She thought to herself.

After a moment, she finally regained control of her mouth and spoke, "I... Yes... I'm alright... W-why are you here?" She asked, trying her hardest to sound polite.

"I received a letter from Sky and Midnight informing me of your particularly distressed state when he found you. Taking that along with what I've just heard of the WonderBolts show earlier today..." She trailed off.

Tempest slowly turned to face Sky and Midnight. She gave them a confused look before Sky spoke up.

"Uh, when I went upstairs to talk to Mid. That's when we, uh... sent a letter. I know you probably didn't want anyone else involved, but I wasn't really sure how to deal with what happened... I just wanted to make sure someone important enough knew."

Tempest struggled to digest his words before movement to her left caught her eye, and she swiveled her head to the side to find Celestia stepping closer to her. She instantly backed up further into the couch away from the solar princess, until she was firmly pressed against the arm of the couch.

Celestia tilted her head to the side at Tempest's reaction before sighing quietly to herself.

"I'm not here to hurt you, Tempest. If you're afraid of retribution of any kind from me, I promise that that's not why I'm here. I simply wanted to be sure that you were okay." Celestia calmly explained.

Tempest looked back and forth between Celestia and the couple that invited her into their home several times before Midnight decided to speak up.

"Um, do you want us to give you both a little time to talk?" She asked.

"No!" Tempest immediately shouted.

"Tempest-" Celestia began.

"H-how... how can I trust you?" Tempest asked, looking into Celestia's magenta irises, "Y-you told me that if I broke my curfew with Twilight that you'd throw me in a dungeon and throw away the key..." She finished.

Celestia frowned at Tempest's words before turning to Sky and Midnight to find them both glancing curiously at her.

"Tempest, surely you know by now that I wouldn't actually do that. I was simply... upset at the time and thought that a stern warning like that would steer you in the right direction... You did some very bad things to all members of Equestrian royalty. Having said that, I am a firm believer that time heals all wounds, and after the last year, I've come to believe that you were genuine when you claimed to have changed. At this point, I'm no longer worried about you causing mayhem and destruction, I'm worried about you as a pony. I've seen firsthoof how difficult it can be when you're cast out by my ponies. It's a fate I'm sad to say Sky over there has suffered through fairly recently." She explained, a motherly look once more adorning her face.

Tempest turned to face Sky with a confused look once more creeping onto her features. Sky awkwardly scratched the back of his neck while all eyes in the room gravitated toward him.

"Uh, hehe, so I guess you want that story now, huh?" He said.

"You mean you haven't told her yet? Knowing you I'd have thought you'd have opened with that." Celestia asked, tilting her head to the side.

"Well, I was about to, but then you knocked." He replied.

"Right, go ahead."

"Alright, anyways," He said, returning his gaze to Tempest, "When Mid said that I'm from another planet... she wasn't really exaggerating... like, at all. I'm actually from a completely different galaxy." He explained.

Tempest's face quickly turned from one of confusion to outright disbelief.

"Originally, I wasn't a pony either. I'm not sure if you heard anything about an alien crash landing in Canterlot a couple years ago-"

"I... recall hearing something to that extent over the last year during my travels... But I always assumed it was another little filly's tale..." Tempest interrupted.

"Ah, well, there you go. That's why you haven't heard of me. I was once a human being. We kinda skipped any details on that earlier when we told you about how Mid and I ended up together, but the reason I got sick was because Equestrian magic and my body didn't exactly mix, and I was dying. For about six months, I was slowly losing my mind and decaying... but Mid never stopped taking care of me," He gave a loving look to Midnight, who returned the gesture with a gentle nuzzle, "-and thanks to Twilight, Luna, and Celestia, I was given another chance at life. The trade off, was that I had to become a pony. That was... just around a year and three months ago if I remember right." Sky finished explaining.

Tempest stared wide-eyed at the crimson pegasus for a few moments before looking over at Celestia to gauge her reaction to the story. One look was all it took for Celestia to confirm to her that everything Sky said was the truth. Disbelief washed over her being while she dropped her gaze to the floor and pawed at the couch cushion while her mind tried to rationalize everything she'd just heard.

"So... You're an actual alien?" She finally muttered, after some length of time.

"Yeah. Listen, when I say I know what you're going through, I mean it. My first month here was spent cooped up in a castle, and the first time I went out into town, I was hounded by nobles and told that I should leave. That I shouldn't have come here and whatnot. It was a pretty nasty time for me. Especially since I was still dealing with the loss of my friends in the crash. Point is, I can definitely sympathize with what you've been through lately." Sky replied.

Tempest tilted her head to the side and looked at him curiously once more.

"What... what happened to your friends?" She asked.

Sky's features darkened slightly, and his brow furrowed slightly, "They uh... They died on our ship. All three of them got sucked out into the vacuum of space while I barely managed to survive myself. It...It was a rough landing." He explained.

It was some time before Tempest managed to find the words to respond to his words. Even when she finally found them, they were few and far in between.

"I... I see. I'm sorry that happened to you."

"Thank you. I know that's a lot to take in all at once. That's why we kinda skim past all the 'I'm an alien' bits when we meet someone new." Sky replied.

"If you take anything from that story, please just take the fact that we get what you're going through. Honestly, I think everypony in this room has experienced something similar. Whatever you were going to do at that cliff, please don't think that it was your only choice." Midnight added.

"What's this about a cliff?" Celestia asked with some noticeable concern weeding into her voice.

"Don't worry about it, Princess. I was just... not thinking clearly." Tempest hastily replied.

"I'm not so certain that I believe you..." Celestia replied.

"Really, I'm alright." Tempest asserted.

"Tempest..." Celestia began.

"Princess, honestly, it was just a stupid, spur of the moment decision that Sky stopped me from anyways." Tempest interjected.

"The fact that something so horrible was even on your mind in the first place is what concerns me so much, Tempest. I couldn't care less how close you were to actually acting on it, the fact that those kinds of thoughts were in your head to begin with is deeply concerning." Celestia responded, taking a step closer to the mulberry unicorn.

Tempest immediately leaned back away from her as Celestia took another step forward. Celestia quickly noticed Tempest's obvious fears and frowned.

"Tempest... You don't have to be afraid. Nopony here hates you." She offered, once more taking a small step forward.

"I... I understand that... Please, I just... I-I'm not comfortable talking about it." Tempest struggled to speak as she quickly ran out of room to scooch backwards on the couch.

Celestia stepped ever closer, and within seconds, she was within a foreleg of the broken unicorn.

"I know that look in your eyes, Tempest. It's a look I've come to know well through my sister's eyes. Forgiveness isn't just something you seek because you feel guilty for what you've done... You also want to forgive yourself, don't you?" Celestia offered, reaching out with her foreleg.

Tempest didn't answer. Her eyes were glued to the alabaster white hoof that found its position just a few inches in front of her muzzle. The golden horseshoe shown with her reflection, and once more, that broken horn, and ugly scar shown themselves to her. It was all she could do to not look away in shame.

"Princess... You don't know the things I've done... The things I've really done... This place... Equestria... It'd all be better off without me." She muttered, her gaze drooping down to the hardwood floor below.

"Hey now, don't even say that. I know you've done some bad things, but that's no way to think." Sky said, dropping off the couch and walking over toward Tempest.

"Yeah, you can't think like that," Midnight added, following Sky's lead, "I mean, think about it. For every bad thing you did, there's some good you can do to make up for it... If you just ended it... You'd never be able to make up for it." She offered, taking her place on Tempest's opposite side.

Tempest looked back and forth at the ponies surrounding her and felt her world closing in. Her heart pounded in her chest, and beads of sweat began to form on her brow, but even with every nerve in her body screaming for her to leap of the couch and gallop away from these ponies, away from everything... she couldn't. She couldn't even bring herself to lean away as Celestia brought her hoof to her chin and gently lifted until she was looking at into her eyes once more.

Celestia's eyes radiated with such warmth and kindness that she'd never seen before. Even with everything that she'd been through, for just a moment, the only thought that crossed Tempest's mind was the motherly way Celestia looked down at her.

"You don't have to be alone anymore. There are three ponies right here who would love to be there for you, even when times are tough and you feel like you don't deserve the second chance you've been given." She softly spoke.

Movement to her right and left caught her attention, and the couch cushion was slightly displaced by Sky and Midnight as they climbed onto the couch with her. Tempest hesitantly looked left and right to find Sky and Midnight just a foreleg away on either side of her body. A moment later, she felt a gentle tug on her chin, and brought her eyes once more to Celestia's.

"If it means anything at all, I forgive you." She said.

It wasn't much. Just a few words spoken with honesty and heart, but they were all it took to break the dam. Tempest's lip trembled and her eyes quickly began to water. She hastily pulled back, looked at the floor, and screwed her eyes shut in a desperate attempt to keep the tears from streaming out in front of these ponies she still barely knew.

It would all be for naught, however. Just as she felt control over her emotions beginning to come back to her, a pair of hooves wrapped around her barrel, and she felt the soft warmth of another pony hugging her. She quickly glanced over to her right to find Sky tightly holding onto her. A moment later, she felt Midnight wrap her hooves around her barrel as well, and her eyes quickly scanned downward to the two pairs of hooves seemingly interlaced around her chest and barrel.

Tempest hesitantly looked back up to Celestia while tears streaked down her cheeks. Her entire body trembled and a knot formed in her throat, making it physically hurt to speak. She grit her teeth in one last desperate attempt to save face and not cry in front of the Princess, but once more, it was all for naught. Celestia sat down on her haunches and gently pulled Tempest's head to her chest with her forelegs.

The sound of pained crying filled the room as Tempest finally let go. Her tears poured out and dampened Celestia's chest fur while she sniffled and cried even harder. Every emotion she'd suppressed over the majority of her life was freed and made known to the world around her.

The pain she'd clearly gone through was enough to bring a tear to Midnight's eye while Sky simply gave a half smile held her tighter. Most notable of all, however, was Celestia. Even with over a thousand years of life behind her, Celestia found that the desperate cries of the broken mulberry unicorn held gently against her chest caused an unbearable ache in her heart. A deep frown covered her face and she gently inched ever closer to her. To Celestia's complete surprise, Tempest shot her forelegs out and wrapped them around her neck, pulling her in even closer.

Two long decades of pent up emotions poured out into the world, and no matter how hard she tried to hold back, the damage was done. The once mighty and fearsome Tempest Shadow was beaten and destroyed, and now, she was a weeping husk of her former glory. She couldn't find it in herself to care though. To her surprise, despite the humiliation of crying so cowardly in front of nearly complete strangers, she felt oddly freed from the emotional chains she'd been wearing for so long. It was as if a weight was slowly lifted off her chest with each passing second of emotional release.

She wasn't sure how long she cried for. Maybe it was a minute, maybe ten. Maybe it was the better part of an hour. All she knew was that through it all, those three ponies in the room held onto her like her life depended on it. After a while, Sky even incorporated his wings into the mashup of limbs. It was the strangest feeling, being surrounded like she was. In the past, being surrounded meant an imminent fight that she might very well not make it out of, yet here, she felt nothing but peace, and warmth. It was enough to melt even her cold, hard exterior and allow her to finally be herself, even in a room full of ponies she barely knew. For the first time in her entire life, she felt free.

Eventually, the sound of knocking at the door rang out through the entry way and into the living room. For just a moment, every pony in the house unanimously decided to ignore the door and just stay as they were, but as the knocking grew more persistent, Midnight hesitantly released her hold on Tempest and hopped off the couch. Tempest immediately felt colder on her left side, but she said nothing, instead opting to lean further into Sky and Celestia while they held onto her.

Midnight smiled at the scene before turning on her hooves and heading for the door. She quickly glanced through the window and nearly gasped at who she saw. She hurriedly walked over to the door and opened it.

Chapter 10: Second Chances

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"Twilight!" Midnight exclaimed.

"Midnight! It's good to see you again. How are you?" Twilight happily asked.

"I've never been better. How about you?"

"Well... I... kinda need your help." Twilight replied, awkwardly scratching the back of her neck.

"You need to find Tempest?" Midnight responded, cocking an eyebrow back.

Twilight was clearly caught off guard by her assumption, "I... Yes... I take it that you've seen her then."

"She's in here. Celestia came by a little while ago too. They're all in the living room but, uh... You might want to take it slow. It's been a rough day for Tempest." Midnight said, motioning back inside of the house with her foreleg.

"Thank goodness you found her. I was so worried I-wait... you said Celestia's here?"

"Mmhmm. She's with Tempest right now. Come on." Midnight replied, turning around and leading Twilight inside.

Twilight followed behind through the entrance way and into the living room. What she saw upon entering the room made her stop in her tracks, and broke her heart. There, on the couch, was the broken unicorn in black that everypony was still so darn afraid of. Only, she wasn't. Scary was the last word Twilight could think of to describe her at that moment. Her coat was still somewhat wet from her recent shower, but even then, her cheeks were noticeably damp with tears that still seemed to be leaking out, and it seemed as if she was completely ignorant to her presence; That or she simply didn't care who saw her cry anymore.

Twilight looked over to see Sky holding onto the distraught mare with both his forelegs and his wings, and upon her gaze he gave a friendly smile. One that Twilight was quick to return. However, what took her breath away the most, was the large alabaster form of Celestia, gently cradling Tempest's head against her chest fur and hugging her ever so softly. Twilight had always seen Celestia as a second mother, but it was rare to see her show such kindness to one of her subjects in person.

After a few seconds, Celestia turned her head to the side to see Twilight looking at her with a mixture of bewilderment and surprise on her face. She gave a welcoming smile, and after a moment, Twilight snapped out of her trance and reciprocated in kind. She quietly stepped closer until she was just a few feet away and sat on her haunches.

"So..." She whispered, "How long has she been here?"

"I don't know. Perhaps a few hours. Perhaps less. I've hardly concerned myself with watching the time since I arrived." Celestia quietly responded.

"Is she okay?" Twilight asked.

"I hope that she will be better than she has been. This poor mare has been through a lot."

Twilight looked down to Tempest to find her face buried in Celestia's chest fluff. Her repeated sniffles and muffled cries made it obvious that the mare in question was still very much awake and most likely heard everything they were saying.

With no other ideas in mind, Twilight leaned further in until she was just a few inches away from the mulberry unicorn and gently patted her wither with her foreleg.

"Hey, Tempest... Are... Are you going to be okay?" Twilight asked as softly as she could.

A muffled sniffle was the only response she received for quite some time. Twilight turned to Celestia for advice, but found the Princess simply shrugging and shaking her head. She turned to Sky to find him giving her much the same reaction. So, she opted instead to just comfort her as best as she could. She gently rubbed her wither, bristling the slightly damp fur with her hoof, and sat down on her haunches in a bid to wait for Tempest to finish.

It took some more time, but finally, the broken mare pulled her face out of the white fluff she'd been crying into for the better part of an hour. Her eyes were deeply bloodshot, and her cheeks were matted and damp with the wept tears of a deeply shattered heart. Once she was completely out of Celestia's embrace, she turned to Sky and gave him a shaky nod along with a half smile. He returned the smile and took the hint, releasing her and hopping off the couch to go sit with Midnight. All that left, was Twilight, who by now had noticed that she was completely alert and aware of her presence.

She hesitantly brought her hoof back to the floor and looked at Tempest with a mask of concern over her face. For a moment, it seemed that she dared not to even look at the Princess of Friendship, however, after a few moments of painful silence, she turned to face her.

Twilight felt her heart break again as she properly saw the state Tempest was in. She rushed forward and pulled her into a tight hug, one which Tempest surprisingly did not resist at all, in fact, she leaned into it, and wrapped her hooves around Twilight's barrel. They held the hug for a few moments before Twilight let go and took a step back.

"I... I'm so sorry... Today, with the show... that never should have happened. I swear, I-I'm going to do everything I can to make it up to you." Twilight quickly offered.

Tempest took a moment to reply, but when she did, her words came out like a weak croak from a dying frog.

"It... It's okay..."

"No! It's not okay! I had no idea that they would act that way. Maybe a few hostile glances or a mean pony here or there, but for the whole stadium to attack you like that... It's not okay! This was supposed to be fun for you and it's my fault for pushing you like I did. I'm so sorry." Twilight exclaimed.

"Really, it's okay... I think... I think I kind of needed this. Feels kind of good to let it all out after so many years of keeping it inside." Tempest reasoned, with a bit more life behind her voice this time.

"What... what do you mean?" Twilight asked, tilting her head to the side.

"I've... been holding a lot of trauma and pain inside for a long time. It's made it hard to... you know... move on. I guess it just felt good to... to vent a little. Even if it was a bit dramatic." Tempest explained, a tiny trace of a smile appearing on her lips.

Twilight looked to Celestia for conformation, and after a brief nod from the princess, returned her attention to Tempest.

"So... Really though, are you sure you're alright?" She asked.

"Really, I'm okay, Twilight. Thank you." Tempest replied, wiping away the last of the tears from her cheek.

Twilight turned back to Sky and Midnight to find them both happily smiling at her.

"I take it you've all met?" She asked the room as a whole.

"Oh yeah, we're basically besties now." Sky teased.

A surprising sound suddenly reached Twilight's ears, making them instantly flick backwards. It was soft, but unmistakable. The sound of giggling, and it came from none other than Tempest herself. Twilight spun around in place to ensure her ears weren't deceiving her and found, to her complete surprise, that they weren't. Tempest was softly giggling at Sky's joke. It wasn't destined to last, however, as Tempest quickly noticed the eyes now on her and stopped herself short.

"What?" She asked.

Twilight stared dumbly at her for another second before finding a response, "N-Nothing... I've just... never heard you laugh like that before. It was... really nice." Twilight said, an honest smile on her face.

Tempest blushed slightly and looked away.

"Heh, guess I should probably laugh a little more, shouldn't I?" She said.

"I think we'd all like that very much." Celestia replied.

Tempest slowly turned her head until she was looking up at Celestia again.

"Princess I... just... thank you... I don't deserve your kindness, but it means more to me then I could ever put into words... Thank you." Tempest said, looking up into Celestia's bright magenta eyes.

"Tempest, as I have already stated, I forgave you for what happened long ago. You do deserve my kindness, as you are still one of my subjects. By that right, I am more than happy to give it to you, especially when you needed it so desperately." Celestia softly replied, smiling down on her.

Tempest looked like she wasn't sure what to do next for a moment, but eventually, she lunged forward and hugged Celestia once more. Upon the contact, Celestia's smile widened somewhat, and she gently returned the hug.

A few feet away, Twilight could barely keep her excitement contained. All her effort to learn more about the mulberry mare was finally paying off, and for the first time since they'd met, she seen her heart bore open for the world around her. It was enough to make her wings ruffle in excitement.


Once Celestia and Tempest were separated again, the Princess of the Sun rose from her seated position in the room and walked over to the couple in the far side of the room while Twilight took to conversing with the broken mare.

"Sky. Midnight." She addressed them, giving a nod to them respectively.

"Princess." Midnight replied.

"Tia." Sky replied.

"I can't thank you both enough for sending me your letter and getting me here in time. It appears that once more I will have to reprehend all of Canterlot with a sternly worded speech voicing my disapproval." Celestia said, shaking her head.

"Oh, let me know when you're gonna do that. We missed the last one, this should be gold!" Sky excitedly replied.

Celestia suppressed a giggle behind her hoof, "I'm sure you would enjoy it a just a bit more than you should." She replied before turning to Midnight, "Was there any trouble here before I arrived?"

"No, Princess. We didn't see any other ponies. It was just her by the cliff." Midnight responded.

"Good. I am at least glad that you two were not forced to deal with any angry Canterlot ponies. Especially right after your honeymoon. How was that by the way?" Celestia asked, genuinely curious.

"Oh it was amazing! We had the best two weeks ever!" Sky exclaimed.

"It was probably the most fun we've had since Sky first got here. We'll have to tell you all about it later." Midnight added.

"Indeed. Perhaps tea with Luna later this week?" Celestia pressed.

"We'd love to. Just let us know when." Midnight replied, giving a happy smile.

"Perfect. I'll send you a letter." Celestia said before turning around and facing the rest of the room, "Now, unfortunately, I must be heading out. I do have a sun to lower." She said.

Tempest and Twilight stopped their conversation to give their full attention to the Princess of the Sun. they both hopped off the couch and made their way over to her as she headed for the doorway.

"Oh wow, it's already late, isn't it?" Twilight said, looking outside at the already setting sun.

"Indeed. We've been enjoying each other's company for quite some time now. A few hours at least, I'd say." Celestia replied.

Once at the door, Celestia headed outside, with the rest of the group following behind her into the warmly lit world outside.

"Now, I'd better be going," Celestia announced, turning to face Tempest, "But as I said, Tempest, you have friends here. Should you ever need help, or just a wither to lean on, you needn't look any further than the ponies around you right now. In fact, consider your curfew null and void. You're now free to travel Equestria."

"I... I will. Thank you, Princess. For everything." Tempest replied, her voice overflowing with gratitude and warmth.

"I'm glad to hear that. As for you two," She said, looking at Sky and Midnight, "I'll look forward to seeing you later in the week."

"You'll see us. Just make sure you have the good stuff, I'm kinda high maintenance." Sky teased, giving a cocky grin.

Celestia let out a hearty chuckle before turning once more to Twilight, "And thank you, Twilight, for coming to find her. I'm glad to see that she already has a pony that cares for her like a true friend."

Twilight cringed slightly as memories of looking through Tempest's crate immediately resurfaced, "Thank you, Princess, but... actually-"

"She's not just my friend," Tempest interrupted, "She's my Princess."

All eyes, particularly Twilight's darted to the mulberry unicorn.

"You offered me a position before, as your personal guard... I refused out of spite and my own fears... but... after everything that's happened... I think I'd like to give that a chance." Tempest clarified, slightly shying away from all the attention she was suddenly receiving.

"Tempest, I... A-are you sure? You don't have to take the job if you don't want to." Twilight offered.

"If I'm being honest with myself, Princess... I think it's the only way I'm ever going to redeem myself for the things I've done." She replied, finding much more confidence in her voice as she thought her position over.

"If... if you're absolutely sure, then I would love nothing more than to give you the position." Twilight replied, finding a genuinely happy smile adorning her face.

Tempest and Twilight shared a smile before turning to Celestia to find her giving them both a friendly smile in return.

"I'm very glad to hear that. I'll have to go to your knighting ceremony." Celestia commented.

"It would mean everything in the world for you to be there, Princess." Tempest replied.

"Then I shall be there. Now, I must take my leave. It must be nearly seven in the afternoon by now." Celestia said, turning to look at the sun once more.

"Wow, it's already that late? I can't believe-WAIT! Ohmygoshweneedtogetbacktothegirlsitotallyforgot!!!! Twilight shouted."

"Uh... What?" Tempest asked.

"No time. Thanks, Sky, thanks, Midnight. I'll talk to you later!" Twilight called out, quickly igniting her horn and teleporting herself and Tempest away.

Sky and Midnight stared at where Twilight and Tempest formerly were before the sound of wings unfurling caught their ears, and they turned to see Celestia stepping away from them.

"Heh, Twilight never was good at being tardy, was she?" Midnight asked.

Celestia let out a mirthful chuckle, "No, no she wasn't. Have a good night you two."

With that, she gave a good flap of her wings, and took off into the air, leaving Midnight and Sky on their front porch.

"Welp, my good deed is done for the day. Time to go be a bum." Sky announced.

"Hehe, I guess you earned it for today, big guy." Midnight replied.

"Well, I just thought to myself 'what would Midnight do'?" Sky shrugged.

"Hehe, you're sweet." With that, she planted a small kiss on his muzzle, and they both headed inside.

Chapter 11: A Better, Brighter Tomorrow

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2 Months Later

"Alright, so I'm not sure exactly where this spot is, but Tempest said that Spike knew where to go, so I asked him and now I'm completely lost." Sky complained.

"Well, I'm sure it's not too far into the park. Look, I think I see her over there by the water-line." Twilight replied.

Off in the distance, beside a lazily leaning tree, and a brown picnic basket, a mulberry mare with a broken horn waved them over. Sky and Twilight broke into a trot to quickly meet her, and within a few minutes, they were once again face to face.

"Tempest!" Sky cheered, "How've you been?"

"I've been doing very well, thank you. How have you and Midnight been? Speaking of which, where is she?" Tempest responded, tilting her head to the side.

"Eh, well she tried to make it, but there was something last minute with Luna and the Night Guard. She wanted to make it, she really did, but with the whole Cozy Glow incident a few months ago, they've been trying to completely revamp the Guards and Mid's been pretty much at the center of all that." Sky explained.

"It's fine. I completely understand. I'm just glad you made it at least." Tempest happily replied.

"Well, I wasn't going to miss your big day. I've got to tell you, it blew me away when Twi told me she didn't have any kind of guard detachment for herself all this time."

"Well to be honest, I've never really needed guards before. However, with everything that's happened over the last couple of years... Getting ponynapped by changelings, stuck in Tartarus, and so on... It just seems like it's become more of a necessity lately." Twilight explained.

"Hehe, hopefully I'll just end up standing around until I'm too old to fight and you'll just have to retire me." Tempest teased.

"Oh, even if that's the case, that won't be for a long time." Twilight said, dismissively waving her hoof.

"I don't know, I am almost thirty. I can already hear the joints popping." Tempest chuckled.

"Sometimes I forget that you're almost five years older than me." Twilight recalled.

"Wow, now I feel like the baby of the group." Sky commented.

The two mares shared a friendly chuckle while Sky just tilted his head to the side.

"Uh... What's so funny?" He asked.

"Don't worry about it, Sky," Twilight replied, "It's nothing."

Sky frowned but dropped the topic nonetheless.

"Alright, so what do we have here? A picnic?" He asked in a bid to change the subject.

"Yes. I was thinking it'd be kind of nice to just relax and enjoy each other's company for a little bit before the ceremony. I'm not one to get cold hooves, but this will be my first real public experience since, well... you know." Tempest explained, frowning slightly.

"Ah, don't worry about it. You're gonna be great. Everypony is gonna see you dressed up in that armor, looking like a real royal guard, and they're gonna see that they were wrong about you." He replied.

"Actually... I've already discussed this with Princess Twilight, but I'm going to be keeping my old armor. Although I've had her cutie mark etched onto the flank guards." Tempest explained, turning to show off the new pink starburst displayed on her armor.

"Oh, nice!" Sky exclaimed, "So what made you decide to keep the badass black armor instead of some shiny royal guard stuff?" He asked.

"Well... It's kind of a personal thing. It's hard to explain and I don't really want to bore you with the details... well that and the royal guard armor is just plain bad. It offers almost no protection and limits your movements." Tempest explained.

"Hehe, maybe the old stuff, but ever since I got that titanium armor forge started up in Canterlot, they've had some of the best protection ever. Seriously, I saw another pegasus crash into the castle at top speed and he only broke a wing." Sky replied.

"Hmm... In that case, refer to my first reason." Tempest said, a thoughtful look on her muzzle.

"Hehe, fair enough."

"Anyways, how's about we get this picnic started. I haven't eaten since morning, and as the resident child of the group, I need food to grow big and strong like the rest of you." Sky joked, causing a moment of uproarious laughter from Tempest and Twilight.

With that, the three ponies sat down amidst their laughter and opened the picnic basket. Twilight levitated out the picnic blanket and spread it out on the grass while Sky and Tempest unloaded the food. It only took a few moments for a display of daisy sandwiches and fruit.

"This looks great, Tempest. I have to say that I wasn't expecting you to be the type for picnics like this. It was very kind of you to invite us." Twilight remarked, giving a friendly smile.

"Well... that's kinda because it's usually... not my thing... I wanted you both here before the ceremony because I want-no, need to thank you both." Tempest explained, a trace of a blush forming on her face.

"What for?" Sky asked, tilting his head to the side.

"Well, you for one, stopped me from doing something horrible. I was ready to end it all that day, but you stopped me; Even though you had no real reason to. You knew who I am, or at least who I was, and instead of seeing the evil in me... You saw the good. You could've turned me into the guard, or left me to my own devices as soon as you talked me away from that cliff... but you didn't. You invited me into your home and just talked to me. For a long time I didn't feel like I belonged here, but talking to you... having another pony who knows what that's like... I needed that. So thank you. It's an honor and a privilege to call you my friend." Tempest said, trying her best to keep the wavier out of her voice.

Sky looked like he was about to cry for a moment, before lunging forward and wrapping his hooves around her in a bear hug. Tempest broke into a genuine smile as she allowed Sky to hug her tightly, drawing a beaming smile from Twilight as well.

Sky eventually released his vice grip on Tempest and sat back on his haunches, smiling brightly the whole time.

"Thanks for that. I think that's one of the nicest things anyone's ever said to me." Sky said, wiping away the beginnings of a tear from his eye.

"Hehe, don't mention it," Tempest replied, before turning to Twilight, "And as for you, Princess... I'm not quite sure how to even go about thanking you... From when you saved my life when the Storm King turned on me... to letting me live in your castle... and even this opportunity to finally achieve a fillyhood dream of mine... It's all more than I deserve, and I want you to know that I won't waste it. That's a promise." She said, finding a smile resting on her face as she finished.

Twilight took a moment to respond, but when she did, her voice was filled enough joy and warmth to heat a small cottage.

"Thank you, Tempest! I'm so happy to hear that. You have no idea how much that means to me!" Twilight exclaimed.

While it wasn't quite as forceful as Sky's hug, Twilight also wrapped her hooves around Tempest and squeezed her into a tight hug. Tempest happily accepted the hug before separating and turning back to the picnic basket with a thoughtful glance.

"Alright, so... Now that we've gotten all of the sappy stuff out of the way... How's about we eat this lunch? I'm not exactly looking to get knighted on an empty stomach." She said, eyeing a particularly tasty looking daffodil sandwich.

"I like the sound of that." Sky said, grabbing a dandelion sandwich and taking a bite.

.

.

.

.

.

"Oh boy... this is it... I can't believe this is it right now and I'm still sitting here talking to myself like a scared little filly..." Tempest said to herself.

She stood in the entrance way of the Castle of Friendship, dressed in her armor now adorning Twilight's cutiemark. In front of her, the massive double doors were shut as the Princesses and other distinguished ponies prepared for her ceremony.

"It's fine, it's fine. It's just Twilight and Celestia, no big deal. I can handle this... Gah, why am I so nervous!? It's not like this is even that big of an event! There's only a few ponies from town in there... Ugh..." Tempest groaned.

She gazed out one of the crystal glass windows, finding the denizens of Ponyville continuing on with their days as if nothing out of the ordinary was happening just down the street. With a resigned sigh, she turned around and walked over to the center of the room, only to pace around in a circle as she waited for somepony to come get her.

Minutes slowly ticked away and away until Tempest was sure she was beginning to lose her mind. Even after everything she'd been through, and even with her nerves spiraling out of control, she found herself quickly growing bored.

"Ugh... Can we just get this started already? At this point I'd rather just go in there and deal with it." She said to no one in particular.

"Well... they're almost done in there, but I'm sure you'll be able to go in soon enough." A feminine voice spoke out, causing Tempest to nearly jump.

She quickly turned her head around to see a pinkish unicorn mare with a purple mane and tail. Much like Twilight, there was a streak of color running through her mane and tail as well, only instead of hot pink and dark blue, it was a simple turquoise.

Tempest only owlishly blinked at her for a few moments before realizing that she did in fact speak to her just a moment ago.

"I-I'm sorry... I'm not quite sure who you are..." She said, eyeing the new mare curiously.

"Oh! Right, sorry, where are my manners. I'm Starlight Glimmer. Twilight's former pupil and her head student councilor at the School of Friendship." Starlight introduced herself.

"Oh... I'm sorry, I remember Twilight telling me about you now. I'm, uh... Tempest... but I'm sure you already knew that." Tempest hesitantly replied.

"Oh, don't worry about it. It's better than being told I look exactly like her, hehe... A-anyways, I'm sorry I didn't introduce myself sooner. I just wasn't here when you first got here, and with the school running all year and all the other work I've been trying to deal with, I just, uh... had a hard time finding the time." Starlight nervously replied.

"Oh, don't worry about it. I wish I had come to find you earlier too. Twilight told me about what you did when she first met you and I have to say, I think that we would've become fast friends." Tempest chuckled.

"Who says we can't now?" Starlight beamed, "One former villain to another?" She asked, holding out her hoof.

Tempest looked down at Starlight's offered hoof for a moment before allowing a thin smile to form on her lips, and she slowly reached forward to bump Starlight's hoof with her own. Upon pulling away, the sound of double doors opening caught both of their attention, and they looked over to see Rarity waving them over.

"Tempest, darling! It's showtime!" She called over.

Tempest nodded and turned to face Starlight again, "Guess that's my cue. Nice meeting you, Starlight."

"Likewise. Good luck in there." Starlight replied, giving a toothy grin.

With that, Tempest turned and headed for the doorway. As she got closer, she felt her nerves begin to return in full force, but she managed to shake them off. After all, what was she worried about anymore anyway?

Chapter 12: We Could be Heroes

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Tempest took a step into the large foyer and almost stopped dead in her tracks. The immaculately decorated room and royal guard ranks on either side of the center aisle stunned her into a small gasp. Before she could even think of anything to say, her eyes darted up to the end of the room to find Princess Celestia, Luna, Cadence, and Twilight all sitting on their respective thrones, with Sky sitting in a seat off to the side, waving to her with a wide smile on his face.

Each member of Equestrian royalty looked at her with a mix of emotions, however, they all seemed to exude calmness as Tempest stepped forward again. Celestia managed to retain her classic poker face while somehow also managing the faintest ghost of a smile on her regal lips. Luna gave her a curious look, but kept her thoughts hidden well. Cadence merely smiled like she was meeting an old friend after a long time apart. In the center of them all, Twilight beamed with the happiest smile Tempest had ever seen on her face. One look and it was clear who was the most excited about the ceremony.

Tempest suppressed a chuckle at how Twilight seemed to literally bounce with excitement as she approached, but did not try to hide the smile that quickly formed on her face. Soon enough, the mulberry unicorn was standing not ten feet in front of the princesses, with her head held high and her spirits higher than they've been in ages.

Twilight looked down to Tempest and gave her a wink before Celestia nudged her with her wing.

"Ahem, this is the part where you say your bit, Twilight." She whispered.

"Oh, right!" Twilight whisper-shouted, blushing heavily.

"Attention!" She shouted, and in an instant, the royal guards lined up on either side of Tempest snapped to the position of attention, their backs rigid, and their heads facing straight forward.

"Tempest Shadow, you stand before all members of Equestrian royalty, with the intent to serve as the first of new line of royal guards. The duty you will be charged with upon accepting this new role must be taken with the utmost of care and resolve. You will be responsible for maintaining not only the safety of this Castle and it's occupants, but for my personal safety as well. Do you accept these terms?" Twilight began.

"I do." Tempest replied.

"The life ahead of you will be tough, and you will not always be privy to the freedoms the rest of Equestria experiences day to day. Even so, your position as a royal guard will serve as an example, and a shining beacon in the dark for all ponies to follow and strive towards. Do you accept this challenge?" Luna continued.

"I do." Tempest replied once more.

"There may come a time when you are faced with a difficult decision. A time may come when you are forced to choose between saving your own life, or saving the life of the Princess you are being tasked with protecting. Will you show courage in the face of adversity, and pledge to lay down your own life so that others may live, should the situation arise?" Cadence continued.

Tempest looked to Twilight for a fraction of a second before turning back to Cadence and speaking, "I will."

"And last, but certainly not least, do you swear to live your life according to Equestria's values and beliefs, foregoing even your own personal grievances or desires, for the sake of the ones you are pledging to protect? To strive every day to show the values of honor, compassion, loyalty, and duty, not only to your princess, but to the rest of Equestria together?" Celestia finished.

"I swear." Tempest proudly proclaimed.

"Then kneel." Celestia commanded.

Tempest dropped to one knee in a practiced, fluid motion. A moment later, Twilight rose from her throne and brought life to her horn. A ceremonial sword, with a pink starburst on the handle, and thus far hidden behind her throne, appeared in the air, and was swiftly levitated over to the kneeling unicorn.

Twilight quickly unsheathed the sword, it's leathery sound echoing throughout the otherwise silent hall. She brought the sword down and rested it on Tempest's right shoulder.

"Be brave, bold, and loyal," Twilight said, before raising the sword and bringing it to Tempest's left shoulder, "Advance, Knight, in the name of Equestria."

Twilight brought the sword back to it's sheath and levitated it back behind her throne. When she turned around, once more, she found Tempest standing back up at her full height. She gave her a quick smile, one which Tempest was happy to return, before Celestia addressed the guards in the room once more.

"Company, dismissed!" She called, using her royal canterlot voice.

The royal guards in the room immediately broke down their formation into rows and orderly filed out through the doorway. Not a single head looked back, and within seconds, the room was completely empty, save for Tempest, Sky, and the princesses.

Once they were completely alone, Tempest turned back to Twilight to speak, but was immediately wrapped in a bear hug by the lavender princess.

"Oooh I'm so proud of you!!" Twilight cheered.

"Ahehe, thank you, Princess." Tempest replied.

"Not gonna lie, that was pretty badass." Sky commented as he walked over to the group.

"It feels good. To finally be doing some good with my life instead of selfish things." Tempest replied.

"We're all incredibly pleased and impressed with how far you've come, Tempest. I know it wasn't easy, but I think I speak for all of us when I say that we're tremendously proud of you." Celestia said, warmth radiating from her voice.

"Thank you, Princess, but I couldn't have reached this point without the help of my friends, and you of course." Tempest said, giving them all a warm smile.

"All the more reason I'm glad you serve Princess Twilight now then, I suppose." Luna chimed in.

"You really have come a long way, Tempest. I hope to see the Ponyville Royal Guard grow and prosper with you at the head, leading them one day," Cadence added, "Also, it's good to know my little sister-in-law has somepony as strong as you to keep her out of trouble now." She teased, winking at Twilight.

Twilight blushed a little at Cadence's teasing, but said nothing as Tempest turned to face her.

"It's the least I can do after everything she's done for me." Tempest said, smiling warmly.

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Tempest stepped out onto the balcony to find a setting sun on the horizon. The warm rays of fading sunlight gently illuminated the world around her as the ponies of Ponyville readied themselves for bed, and even though she felt tired herself, she stood alone, watching over the town with an ever watchful eye. That is, until the sound of hooves on crystal reached her ears, making them flick back on instinct. She turned around to find Twilight walking up to her side, and greeted her with a cordial smile.

"Lovely view up here." Tempest said.

"It really is. To be honest, I'm surprised to see you up here. You've never struck me as the kind of pony that cares much for a view." Twilight replied, looking out over Ponyville.

"Hehe, well let's just say that lately I've had a lot more to look at."

"I'm grateful for that... I know I've said it a few times already, but I am really, truly proud of you." Twilight said, her gaze still locked on the horizon.

"Thank you. That means a lot, coming from you..." Tempest trailed off.

"It's the honest truth," Twilight replied, before glancing over at her to see a contemplative look on Tempest's face, "Something on your mind?" She asked.

"Well... it's just..." Tempest trailed off again, her eyes falling down to the crystal balcony.

"Tempest? Are you alright?" Twilight asked, furrowing her brow in concern.

"Hehe, if I'm being honest, I don't think I'll ever truly be alright, but I'm okay right now. Thanks to you, Sky, Midnight, and Celestia. I guess I just wanted to say... Thank you... for not giving up on me." It was faint, but there was a waiver to Tempest's voice, and Twilight turned to properly look at the mulberry unicorn before replying.

"You know I'd never give up on you... Like I've said before, if you ever need anything, ever, just tell me. I'll make time for you, no matter what. I know you've bottled a lot of your emotions up for the majority of your life, but you don't have to anymore. If you're ever hurting again, please just say so." Twilight said, placing a comforting hoof on Tempest's wither.

"Oh, don't worry about me, Princess. I'll-" Tempest started.

"Twilight"

"Um, what?"

"Call me Twilight. None of this 'Princess' stuff anymore. You're my friend, and my friends call me Twilight." Twilight said, a small smile on her muzzle.

"...I'm not too sure if that's appropriate... I am your guard after all." Tempest replied, looking at her thoughtfully.

"Only during the day. How about this, consider it a standing order." Twilight said, playfully punching Tempest's wither with her hoof.

Tempest chuckled for a moment, "Hehe, alright, Twilight. You have a deal."

"Good. Now, are you sure you're feeling alright?"

"Some days are better than others... but I finally have a purpose again. Like I said, I'm not sure I'll ever truly be alright, at least not like you and the rest of your friends, but I'll be better than I ever was before I met you, that much I'm sure of." Tempest replied.

"Well, it's a start. One of these days, I'll get you to think a bit more positively than that." Twilight teased.

"Here's hoping you prove me wrong sometime soon." Tempest replied.

For quite some time after that, the two ponies lapsed into a comfortable silence, both just content to watch the sun set slowly turn into the moonrise. Tiny speckles of stars slowly appeared in the young night sky, and as the world was bathed in darkness, Twilight turned back to Tempest.

"Well, it is getting late. As much as I'd like to stay out here and stargaze with you, I do have to wake up pretty early tomorrow." She said.

"By all means, don't let me keep you up. I'll head back inside in a few minutes." Tempest said.

Twilight nodded and turned around to walk back inside. She made it all the way to the doorway before she paused, and turned back around to look at Tempest again.

"Hey Tempest?" She said.

"Hmm?" Tempest replied, turning around.

"I'm not sure if I've said this yet, but it's good to have you back."

Tempest smiled, "I've been back for a while, Twilight." She teased.

"Yeah, yeah I guess you have. Still, I'm glad all the same." Twilight replied, smiling warmly.

Tempest felt a warm feeling in her chest. It wasn't much, but as the cool night breeze gently set in, it was more than enough to keep her warm while Twilight headed back inside, leaving her alone on the balcony with her thoughts once more.

Tempest looked back out over the horizon once more to find the world illuminated by the night sky, and as the dazzling display of celestial beauty slowly danced across the sky, she found that for the first time in her entire life, her heart wasn't empty any more. It was enough to bring a single tear to her eye. She hastily blinked the tear away and once more gazed out over Ponyville and its quiet occupants.

The night proceeded onward while the stoic mare simply enjoyed the beauty of the moment, but eventually, the days events caught up with her, and she felt a weary voice in her mind call out for the peaceful embrace of sleep. She smiled to herself one more time before sighing peacefully and turning around to walk back inside the castle.

"Maybe some day..." She whispered, "But not today."