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Embracing the Night

By AutoPony
Created: 18th December 2020 11:04:23 AM

  1. >You involuntarily shudder as another gust of wind suddenly howls outside.
  2. >Nearby, the fire burning in your wood stove flickers as the autumn breeze snakes its way down the chimney, causing the glow of the flames to dance along the walls of your cabin.
  3. >It's not very spacious by any means, but as winter approaches, that's a good thing - it will be easier to keep heated.
  4. >Especially considering some of your workmanship resulted in more than one drafty area.
  5. >Still, you never built anything more complicated than a birdhouse before this, so you did fairly well.
  6. >The clock on your desk distracts you as it let's out a chime - already a quarter past midnight.
  7. >Even years removed from working the graveyard shift, you've never been able to settle into a 'normal' sleep schedule.
  8. >Usually up at seven in the morning, get some sleep at two in the afternoon, then back up about six in the evening and up till three or four.
  9. >Odd as hell, but it works.
  10. >Admittedly, it leads to some very dull time at night, when virtually everyone else is asleep.
  11. >For the most part, you occupy your free time with reading anything you can get your hands on.
  12. >Thank goodness here in Ponyville, there's a fairly expansive library.
  13. >The caretaker, Twilight Sparkle, is always delighted to help you pick something out, sometimes a little too much.
  14. >You enjoy talking to her, but she can be susceptible to rambling lectures depending on the topic.
  15. >Even so, she means well, and it can be entertaining.
  16. >But aside from her, you don't really spend a lot of time being sociable.
  17. >It's not so much shyness; the odd hours just make it hard to find time, considering your days are spent doing odd jobs for various ponies.
  18. >You make a decent living, enough that you can live in fair comfort and not fear when winter comes, when work is a bit more scarce.
  19. >And judging by tonight's chill, winter is creeping closer.
  20. >A knock at the door makes you jump, the loud, sharp report cutting through the relative silence of the night.
  21. >You don't get many visitors at a normal time, who the heck is wandering around at this time?
  22. >Since arriving in Equestria, you have yet to meet a pony that has even a single malevolent bone in their body.
  23. >Despite the confidence, you feel uneasy as you pull yourself up from your desk.
  24. >You tug your zip-up sweatshirt a bit closer in an effort to keep out the expected onrushing cold air, before opening the door to meet your guest.
  25. >The night sky greets your eyes at first, thousands of glittering stars attempting to capture your attention at once, before you realize there's a pony attached to that.
  26. >A pony with not just a horn, but wings, unfurled behind her and just visible beyond her odd mane.
  27. >Oh crap, it's a princess.
  28. >"Good evening," she says, breaking the silence between the two of you. Her turquoise eyes shimmer with a subtle optimism, reflected by her serene smile.
  29. >You bow as you think of what to even say, how the hell do you greet a princess?
  30. "Yes, my pleasure to see you, your Highness."
  31. >A light chuckle erupts from her, catching you off guard as you rise back to normal standing posture.
  32. >Wait, this must be the other princess Twilight had told you about, Luna.
  33. >You met Princess Celestia on one of the first days of your unexpected arrival, that was a pants-shitting experience.
  34. >More due to the fact that she held your fate in her hands - er, hooves - than her demeanor, which was kind and benevolent.
  35. >But this is the first time you've seen her co-ruling sister, let alone talk to her.
  36. >"Please, there is no need for formalities this evening," she says, much to your surprise. "I am here at my leisure."
  37. "I... Huh?"
  38. >Your brain is at a loss of how to react; sentences are a lost cause.
  39. >Meanwhile, Princess Luna looks like she's trying her best not to laugh.
  40. >"I have noticed multiple times whilst enjoying the night over Equestria your home lit from within. I thought perhaps tonight, I would finally sate my curiosity," she explains.
  41. "So, you've been spying on me?" you ask, trying to relax yourself with a stupid joke.
  42. >Though accusing a princess of something like that may not be the best idea.
  43. >Fortunately for you, she is amused by your quip.
  44. >"Some would call it spying, I would consider it being overly observant of my surroundings."
  45. >The wind momentarily picks up again, sending a cold blast of air whipping around the two of you and into your cabin.
  46. "You know, maybe it would be best to get out of this breeze, it a lot warmer inside," you suggest.
  47. >Princess Luna nods, still apparently finding your awkwardness somewhat endearing, if her ever-present smile growing wider is any indication.
  48. >"I would be delighted to see the inside of your humble abode," she replies.
  49. >Stepping aside as you hold the door open, you usher the princess indoors, before quickly shutting off the cold air.
  50. >"I must say, I am not used to such living quarters," she says as her head darts around, inspecting your home. "But it is quite cozy. Do not sell yourself short on the pride that is deserved upon building such a lovely cabin."
  51. >Her comment strikes you as odd, considering this is the first time you've ever talked to her.
  52. >Or you're just overthinking her compliment.
  53. "Thanks," you reply after a brief hesitation.
  54. >The princess takes note of your sluggish response this time, turning to face you.
  55. >"Is something the matter? I apologize if I caught you in the middle of something important," she says, her tone quite apologetic.
  56. "No, I'm just... I feel like I'm missing something here. I'm guessing Twilight Sparkle writes to you about me?"
  57. >Princess Luna eyes you with skepticism, as if expecting a ruse.
  58. >You merely scratch your head and shrug, unsure of what else to even add at this point.
  59. >"We have had discussions about your home, have we not?" she tepidly asks.
  60. >The utter disbelief that courses through you forces you to recoil just a bit.
  61. "Princess Luna, with all due respect, I have never met you before tonight," you reply, trying to be as gentle and polite as possible.
  62. >You would consider she has you mistaken for another person, but you are unique in this world, that's impossible.
  63. >Right?
  64. >Meanwhile, Princess Luna looks positively flabbergasted and devastated by your response, her once perky ears falling in time with her enthusiasm.
  65. >"I-I'm sorry," she manages to sputter out. "You don't remember anything at all?"
  66. >You feel bad for thrashing her feelings so severely, even if you didn't mean it.
  67. "I don't know, I guess I'm confused here. What should I remember?"
  68. >The slightest spark of optimism illuminates in her eyes once again as she cocks her head curiously.
  69. >"I suspect you do not often remember your dreams, would that be a fair assumption?"
  70. "I can't remember the last time I had a dream at all," you say, shrugging. "But what's the significance of that question?"
  71. >"As the Princess of the Night, I have been gifted with the ability to tread through others' dreams," she says quietly, before directing a hoof toward you. "That is how I know you, how I know of your hopes and dreams, as well as your fears and problems. We have had many a discussion over the ensuing months since I first happened upon your dream realm."
  72. >You take a moment to wrap your head around what she's just dropped on you.
  73. >Is it even possible?
  74. >Then again, this world is where the impossible thrives.
  75. >But there's one thing you feel needs to be asked to get a better understanding.
  76. "If that's true, why wait so long to talk to me face to face?"
  77. >The princess's face turns beet red, her lips pursed uncomfortably as she shuffles a hoof across your wood floor nervously.
  78. >It's absolutely adorable, honestly.
  79. >"Well, I am quite busy, as a princess of Equestria," she cautiously begins.
  80. >You sense there's a 'but...' yet to follow.
  81. >"I suppose I must admit I found myself somewhat unsettled by the idea of meeting face to face. I am not very experienced when it comes to... erm, casual social situations."
  82. >Doing your best to keep a straight face, you bite your lip.
  83. >It's an impossible task; her bashfulness is just too damn cute.
  84. >A slight chuckle escapes you, instantly directing Luna's eyes to you.
  85. >Her anxiety has been replaced with tempered anger, though behind the facade, it's clear she's trying to hide the pain of betrayal.
  86. >She closes her eyes, turning her nose up in disapproval as she begins to walk toward the door.
  87. >"My apologies for bothering you tonight," she states. "This was clearly a mistake on my part."
  88. >Oh no, you've done it now.
  89. >Quickly, your rush to the door in an effort to cut her off.
  90. "Princess Luna, wait."
  91. >Whether it's because of your request or the fact you surprised her matters little - she comes to a stop, her eyes practically drilling themselves into you.
  92. >How do you even unfuck yourself at this point?
  93. >For her part, Luna is quite patient, remaining still and silent as you mull over what to say in your mind.
  94. "I'm sorry, it took a lot of courage to admit something so personal to me, I have a lot of respect for you," you start.
  95. >"Your kind shows respect by laughing?" she asks, raising her brow.
  96. "No, that was... it caught me by surprise. For whatever reason, it just got a chuckle out of me," you explain, pausing for a moment. "And I guess in a way, you just - I found your demeanor explaining it kind of endearing."
  97. >Her face turns cherry red at the last part of your statement, as she tries turning away to hide it.
  98. "Look, I don't know why I can't remember my dreams where we talked, but it obviously meant enough to you that you came all this way for a visit. Maybe - maybe we could start over?"
  99. >The suggestion causes her head to whip back around.
  100. >Her bright eyes dance across your face, trying to discern whether you are serious or setting her up for another disappointment.
  101. >Ever so slightly, you see her lips curl up into a content grin.
  102. >"I believe it is worth a try," she says. "After all, I did fly out here, and it is rather nippy out."
  103. >Her excuses are more a light-hearted jest than meant to be taken seriously, which gets a grin out of you as well.
  104. "That it is. Since we're starting fresh, I'm Anon," you say, putting your hand out.
  105. >The princess raises a hoof to meet you, shaking it gently as she lets out a slight giggle.
  106. >"I am Princess Luna. But please, there is no need for formalities. Luna is fine."
  107. "Fair enough. So, I'm sure we've already been through this, but humor me since I don't remember. You can really see other's dreams?"
  108. >Before answering, Luna looks around the room for somewhere to sit. You're more than happy to offer up your bed, which she gladly accepts, making herself comfortable.
  109. >Meanwhile, you take a seat back in the chair placed at your desk.
  110. >"Indeed I do," she finally answers your question. "It's an ability I use to help others, to help tame their nightmares and the underlying problems that cause these negative dreams."
  111. "So, how did you come across mine?"
  112. >She cocks her head curiously.
  113. >"I have to say I am confounded by your lack of memory regarding dreams," she muses. "But to answer your question, I sensed a nightmare an early morning months ago. You feared building this cabin, relying upon others for help, a fear of taking others for granted. 'Mooching' is the word you used to describe this manner."
  114. "Yeah, that sounds like me," you admit.
  115. >"Yet here you are, with a lovely home, and your debts paid in full, no?"
  116. "I think I've already given you the answer."
  117. >She chuckles at your response.
  118. >"Yes, you have. It took a while for you to understand there is no shame in asking for help, as long as one is willing to help his or her self."
  119. >Her statement strikes you as odd; the tone just makes it seem as if she is reminiscing about something from her own past.
  120. "Not to pry, but is that a lesson you had to learn?" you ask cautiously.
  121. >Luna's bright smile fades away just a bit with your question.
  122. >"Yes, it is why I was so determined to see you succeed where I once failed. Yet I think that is partially why I have developed an interest in you that went beyond one visit to rectify your situation."
  123. >She still looks a bit insecure with your prodding, which is something you don't want.
  124. "Why don't we just leave your history at that for now. If you ever want to talk, I'm willing to listen."
  125. >Your response gets the desired reaction, as Luna's enthusiasm returns in full.
  126. >But it goes beyond that; she chuckles just a bit, which is surprising, to say the least.
  127. "What?"
  128. >"If I did not know better, I would say you do remember what happened during our first meeting," she says, closing her eyes. "Respectful of boundaries, yet caring enough to offer a shoulder when the time is right."
  129. "I... you're welcome, I guess? I really don't remember, I'm just being genuine."
  130. >"I know," she replies, letting out a content sigh as she opens her eyes once again.
  131. >Those captivating pools of turquoise seem to shimmer in the dim light.
  132. >"That's what I find so special about you."
  133. "I... thanks," you respond, feeling your face growing hot being put on the spot like this.
  134. >Luna quickly takes note of your response, lightly shaking her head as her face shows a slight blush again.
  135. >"Sorry, I did not really mean to say that the way I did," she apologizes.
  136. "Nope, you're fine. I just didn't expect it, I guess."
  137. >Your mind begins to wander just a bit in that split second.
  138. >Exactly what kind of friendship did the two of you form in your dreams...?
  139. "So, you rule over the world during the night?" you ask, trying to both get to know her as well as dispelling the silence that endangers falling over the room.
  140. >Luna nods, almost looking a bit relieved that you have shifted the conversation.
  141. >"That I do. I believe you have met my sister before, Princess Celestia?"
  142. >You nod your head, signaling for her to continue onward.
  143. >"Celestia watches over the land during the day, tending to the needs of our ponies, protecting them, providing for them, and such. My duties tend to be a bit more relaxed, as one could expect."
  144. "Not a lot of night shift workers, huh?" you muse.
  145. "Not particularly," she replies. "But the silver lining to that issue is I have more time to help those afflicted by bad dreams over the course of a night."
  146. "Or pay a midnight visit to a friend," you add.
  147. >"I cannot refute the accusation," she teases. "But if I may ask, why do you stay awake until the wee hours of the morning?"
  148. "I didn't explain it in the dreams where we talked?" you ask, a bit surprised.
  149. >"You said you would like to start over since you do not remember those friendly discussions. Humor me."
  150. "Good point. Anyway, I always worked the night shift at home - er, where I'm from. It messed with my sleep schedule to a point I can't sleep all night like a normal person," you explain.
  151. >"Do you dislike being-" Luna pauses, her brow furrowing as she wracks her mind for the right wording. "Would you rather have a 'normal' sleep schedule?"
  152. "It doesn't really bother me. Sometimes it sucks feeling tired in the middle of the day and needing a nap to recharge, but I'm used to it at this point. What about you?"
  153. >"What about me?" Luna asks.
  154. "Do you wish you could live a normal life?"
  155. >Luna stares back blankly, making you think you've asked the wrong question.
  156. >Just as you're about to apologize, she breaks out into laughter.
  157. >"Anon, with all due respect, do you realize you're talking to a princess?" she asks.
  158. "Uh, yeah?" you respond, confused.
  159. >"'Normal' does not exist as a descriptor for me, in any sort of way," she jokes. "But I have been essentially nocturnal for many, many years, and I personally would not want to change. I enjoy the peace of night."
  160. "How long is 'many, many years,' if you don't mind me asking?"
  161. >"Oh, around a thousand years and change," she replies calmly.
  162. >Smartass.
  163. "You could have just said you didn't want to tell me," you remind her.
  164. >"I did tell you. I am serious," she replies with a deadpan stare.
  165. "You mean to tell me you're a thousand years old?"
  166. >"No, I never said that. I answered your question of when I adopted this lifestyle, which is when my sister and I rose to power. I am in fact much older."
  167. >You stare at her, wondering what the punchline to this joke is. She merely stares back, stoic and silent.
  168. "How?"
  169. >"To be quite honest, neither my sister nor I understand the mechanisms behind our longevity. Perhaps it has something to do with our ties to the celestial bodies we control, or perhaps it is another matter entirely. It remains a mystery."
  170. >You recall Twilight mentioning the rulers of this world controlled the sun and the moon as she gave you a brief on this world.
  171. >But you brushed it aside as a way to explain the day-night cycle, similar to the theories back on Earth long ago.
  172. "You're telling me that's true, too?"
  173. >Another curious head cock.
  174. >Damn, that's adorable.
  175. >"Pardon?"
  176. "You control the moon, and your sister controls the sun?"
  177. >"Yes, how else would they move?"
  178. "By themselves?"
  179. >Luna bursts out into laughter, making to attempt to contain it.
  180. >"You cannot be serious. They are not living beings, Anon."
  181. "Okay, show me," you retort, folding your arms.
  182. >Since this is something that can be proven, you want to see it for yourself.
  183. >Meanwhile, Luna is mildly amused by your challenge, her horn beginning to glow with blue-tinged energy.
  184. >"By all means, see for yourself out the window."
  185. >Pulling yourself out of your seat, you wander over to the window that is beside your bed, where Luna resides.
  186. >Hunching over, you look upward toward the sky where the moon had been earlier.
  187. "You gotta be kidding me."
  188. >The moon slowly wanders back and forth across the sky, dipping out of sight below the treetops in the distance before swinging back upward toward its nightly apex.
  189. >"Has my demonstration made you a believer in my power?" she asks, her voice teeming with a playful haughtiness.
  190. >This is absolutely insane.
  191. >All you can do is nod your head, dazed with disbelief as you sit back down.
  192. > Luna looks concerned as her body tenses up, as if ready to spring into action.
  193. >"You don't look well. Is something the matter?"
  194. "Aside from the fact that everything I know is turned upside down and I have a pony goddess in my home talking to me right now, nah, I'm good."
  195. >One of Luna's wings unfurls and curls around in front of her to mask her face.
  196. >But you still see her blushing the split second before she hides, as well as hear the giggling she tries to muffle.
  197. >You just look onward, unable to keep from smiling as she grabs a hold of herself.
  198. >"Anon, you flatter me," she says, before finally coming out from behind her cover.
  199. >Even so, she still can't help but possess a beaming smile.
  200. >"I am no goddess; I am merely gifted with a wealth of abilities due to my alicorn heritage. Underneath this exterior, I am no different from any other pony."
  201. "And how many alicorns exist in this world, hm?"
  202. >You already know the answer to that question, you just want to see her flustered and bashful yet again.
  203. >At this point, you feel like the sight is akin to an addictive drug - you just can't get enough of it.
  204. >On cue, Luna plays off your question, clearly embarrassed as she tries to wave it off with a hoof.
  205. >However, you start wondering if your antics could be misconstrued as flirting.
  206. >Which you aren't doing.
  207. >Because that would be weird.
  208. >"Yes, I admit, my sister and I are the only two of which we know exist," Luna replies.
  209. "Yet here you are, a princess, who has control of the moon, and one of only two of her species, sitting here in my little shack. Nope, totally not extraordinary," you tease.
  210. >"Sometimes it's nice to step away from the glitz and glamor of the castle," Luna explains. "Do not misunderstand, I take pride in my abilities and everything I have, but it does get dull; after a while, it becomes normal, just like how this "little shack" is nothing but a place of shelter to you."
  211. "I mean, I'm proud I was able to build it, but it's no castle," you argue, shrugging your shoulders.
  212. >Luna's hoof points accusingly at you.
  213. >"Exactly, it is not a castle. This little cabin presents an air of coziness and warmth one does not experience when in the residence I inhabit. For me, it is a wonderful feeling, just as anypony else finds themselves awestruck by Canterlot's castle."
  214. "I can't imagine what it's like inside, Twilight Sparkle showed me a picture of it, the damn thing looks massive."
  215. >"In that case, perhaps a visit is in order soon? I have sated my curiosity, it is only fair I do the same for you. In addition, a fine meal to repay you for your hospitality?"
  216. >Whoa, whoa, whoa.
  217. >This just escalated to a whole other level.
  218. "I... maybe. At some point in the future."
  219. >Caught off guard by your less-than-enthusiastic response, Luna's ears flatten as she grows uncertain.
  220. >"I did not mean to pressure you into a situation you find uncomfortable," she says, her tone quite apologetic.
  221. "It's not that I find it uncomfortable necessarily, it's just..."
  222. >You hesitate as your mind tries to form an explanation.
  223. >Luna leans forward, anxious to know what, if anything, she did wrong.
  224. "I feel like we've jumped from just meeting each other to a whole pomp-and-circumstance occasion."
  225. >You flash the most innocent and sincere smile you can, hoping she doesn't take it the wrong way.
  226. "Don't get me wrong, I enjoy talking to you, tonight has been enjoyable," you add.
  227. >Luna remains silent, her eyes darting down to the bed beneath her.
  228. >Okay, so that was not a good explanation.
  229. >Good work, dumbass.
  230. >"How easy it is to forget our understanding of each other is on two completely different levels," she says, looking back up.
  231. "What?"
  232. >"You are only beginning to get acquainted with me, while I have known you for months."
  233. >Oh right, the dream thing.
  234. >"My apologies, I did not mean to rush our..."
  235. >Luna suddenly is at a loss for the word she seeks.
  236. "Friendship?" you suggest.
  237. >She nods her head.
  238. >"Yes. Forgive my moment of absentmindedness. It is not a term with which I am familiar."
  239. >With that, Luna rises to her hooves and drops to the floor.
  240. >"As much as I would enjoy continuing to converse this fine night, I am afraid my duties cannot wait further," she explains, heading for the door.
  241. >You accompany her side for the few steps, opening it for her as the cold rushes inward.
  242. "I'm glad you visited, even if it got off to an auspicious start," you chime in.
  243. >"I'm am certain I will see you again soon. Goodnight, Anonymous."
  244. "Goodnight, Luna."
  245. >With one last beaming smile and a nod of the head, her wings spread out and she takes to the sky, almost soundless in flight.
  246. >Her mane seems to almost meld with the night backdrop, before she too eventually vanishes from sight, and you close the door.
  247. >Well, tonight has been a pleasant surprise.
  248. >Though it has also brought forth a number of questions to the front of your mind.
  249. >What the hell has been going on in your dreams?
  250. >To be fair, it's only the rare occasion you ever remember them.
  251. >But not remembering the last few months' worths, with what's apparently been taking place is incredibly frustrating.
  252. >Not just for you, but Luna too.
  253. >You feel bad for her position, evidently knowing much about you, but personally finding her to be a new acquaintance.
  254. >While she seemed just as perplexed as you with your blank memory, maybe Twilight Sparkle has something that could tell you a bit more about dreams in her library.
  255. >Of course, you probably could have asked Luna about more info or if she had any ideas, but the thought eluded you at the time.
  256. >You will certainly be paying a visit to Golden Oaks in the morning to see if you can find something.
  257. >Also, your mind cannot help but wonder how a princess could be lacking in social skills.
  258. >That's their whole schtick, isn't it?
  259. >Dealing with the public?
  260. >While you would love nothing more than to sate your curiosity on the matter, it's also impolite to dig into personal matters.
  261. >Best to just wait and let Luna explain when the time is right.
  262. >She seemed quite elated with your patient response.
  263. >But for now, it's best to get some rest.
  264. >Carefully opening the woodstove and tossing a couple of logs on the fire, you shuffle over to your desk and blow out the lone candle, leaving only the flames peeking through the stove's front vents to lend light to your home.
  265. >And with that, you clamber into bed and let yourself drift away.
  266.  
  267. =====
  268.  
  269. >Just as you're about to knock on the door of the Golden Oaks Library, the door swings inward with a creak.
  270. >You stand there like an idiot with a raised fist as a purple unicorn greets you with a smirk.
  271. >"Well good morning, Anon."
  272. "Hello, Twilight. Did you put up a motion detector to sense when someone is at the door?"
  273. >"I happened to spot you heading this way when I glanced out my bedroom window," she says with a giggle. "I've told you before, you don't need to knock before entering. This is a public library."
  274. "Yes, I recall you telling me that. That still doesn't change the fact that you also live here."
  275. >Twilight Sparkle rolls her eyes.
  276. >"It's not that big of a deal, Anon."
  277. "I'm stubborn, so I'll just keep doing what I've been doing."
  278. >Twilight shakes her head with a grin, knowing this argument will go nowhere with you.
  279. >Instead, she beckons you inside, holding the door open with her magenta-hued magic aura.
  280. >"So what brings you back here so soon? I can't imagine you already finished the novel you checked out yesterday."
  281. >You narrow your eyes at her.
  282. "You throwing shade at me?"
  283. >"No. Even I would take a little over a day to finish a Daring Do book," she explains. "But you also aren't as fast as me, so it's impossible for you to be finished."
  284. "What if I was skim reading?" you suggest playfully.
  285. >"That would be cheating."
  286. "It's also cheating that you spend almost every waking hour buried in a book, but you don't hear me complaining."
  287. >"Hey, I'm not as bad as I used to be," she retorts.
  288. "Really? Because it looks the same to me," you argue, pointing to the table 8n the center of her home.
  289. >On top of it lays a pile of books, most of which are open and at various points of completion.
  290. >"So, what was it you were looking for today?" Twilight asks, trying her best to save face as she gives you a sheepish grin.
  291. "That's what I thought. Anyways, I don't know if you'll have what I'm looking for, but it's worth a shot."
  292. >You get a laugh from Twilight.
  293. >"I guarantee I have something in here that can help you. If not, I can probably get it from Canterlot, which has *the* biggest selection of books anywhere in Equestria."
  294. "I remember that lecture, actually," you joke.
  295. >"Now you're just being dramatic. Anyway, what are you looking for today?"
  296. "I'm hoping you have something on dreams. More specifically, lucid dreaming, or dream recollection, if that's a thing."
  297. >Twilight's face contorts, making it obvious you've not only hit a topic that is obscure, but one she finds out of the ordinary.
  298. >"I think there might be a few books here on dream interpretation, or the psychology behind dreams, but I can't say I'm familiar with your specific inquiry," she admits.
  299. >You stand there as Twilight wanders around the shelves, quickly finding the section she is looking for, flipping through two of them at random.
  300. >"You're more than welcome to check these two books out, they're all I have," she says forlornly, levitating both of them to you. "Unfortunately, they are also rather vague and uninformative, at least for what you seek."
  301. "You got that from a rapid page flip?"
  302. >"What can I say? I'm a top tier bookworm," she says, her voice full of pride.
  303. "I suppose I can at least give them a go," you sigh, gently retrieving both of them from Twilight's magic.
  304. >Meanwhile, Twilight taps her chin with a hoof, deep in thought.
  305. >"There is one other thing that you could possibly do. Or, more precisely, somepony you could talk to..."
  306. "Yeah, I would assume you mean Princess Luna," you reply finishing her thought.
  307. >"Yes, if anypony could help you, it would b- wait, how did you know about Princess Luna's abilities?"
  308. "Because I talked to her last night?" you say, shrugging your shoulders.
  309. >You barely have time to finish your sentence as Twilight Sparkle rushes you, making you stumble backward into a chair.
  310. >At once, she is in your face, her magenta eyes wide in shock.
  311. >"You talked to Princess Luna? What did you do?!"
  312. "What?"
  313. >"What did you do to have her travel all the way from Canterlot to Ponyville to talk to you in person?"
  314. >Okay, so a night visit from the Princess of the Night herself is a big deal.
  315. "She wanted to talk," you say calmly, certain this will not be taken seriously.
  316. >Twilight stares, hard enough that you would swear she could see the thoughts in your head.
  317. >"Is this one of those things where you can't talk about an ongoing investigation?"
  318. "No. Twilight, I didn't do anything, I swear!" you exclaim, putting your hands up.
  319. >"So she just visited. For a casual conversation. In the middle of the night."
  320. "Isn't that her thing? Being up all night?" you question.
  321. >"Anon, I'm being serious!" Twilight huffs.
  322. "I am too!"
  323. >Whether she finally believes you or has given up on arguing isn't clear, but Twilight Sparkle finally backs off, giving you some space.
  324. "Is it really that odd that a princess might want to be social once in a while?" you inquire.
  325. >"Not to be rude Anon, but you don't know Princess Luna like everypony else does. To be honest, nopony knows much about her, aside from her past."
  326. >Well, that's a cryptic response if you've ever heard one.
  327. "I don't want her backstory, but answer me one question - would her history have resulted in, as she put it, 'a lack of experience in casual social situations'?"
  328. >Despite the deer in the headlights look you receive from Twilight, she at least is able to nod her affirmation.
  329. "Okay. Anyways, the reason I am looking for something about dreams is that she has apparently been visiting my dreams the past couple of months since freeing me from a nightmare. But I have no recollection of her, which made for an... interesting visit, to start out."
  330. >"You're kidding."
  331. "Why would I kid?"
  332. >"I didn't mean that in the literal sense," Twilight laments. "It's just - I'm sorry, I'm kind of taking my frustration and confusion out on you."
  333. "I understand, just breathe and take a moment," you reassure her.
  334. >She does as directed, silence befalling the library as Twilight eases her mind.
  335. >"I just hadn't expected any of this, it's so odd."
  336. "I hear that, though I didn't think it was bad."
  337. >"What was she like?"
  338. >It's your turn to feel confused now.
  339. "I thought you met her before?"
  340. >Twilight cringes a bit at the inquiry.
  341. >"Kind of. It's hard to explain without going into detail. It's public knowledge, I could fill you in if you wa-"
  342. "No, she didn't seem comfortable explaining it to me, I'd rather just wait and hear it from her."
  343. >"You think she's going to come back to visit? Maybe she was just curious and wanted to meet your face to face for once."
  344. "Considering she was all for inviting me to the castle and having dinner, I think she will be back."
  345. >"And you mean to tell me this is all after one visit?"
  346. "Like I said, Luna told me we had been talking in my dreams for months."
  347. >"Anon, she hasn't even been back for a year, let alone made more than one or two public appearances, not counting her night watches over Equestria!"
  348. "I'm just giving you the facts, Twilight. You ask I tell; that doesn't mean I understand the motives behind everything."
  349. >Still visibly flustered by the amount of surprising insight you've given her, Twilight does what she does best - tend to her bookshelves.
  350. >It's not an uncommon sight to see her sorting out the whole collection; though you have noticed her do it most often when stressed out.
  351. "Twilight."
  352. >"Hm?"
  353. "Are you jealous?"
  354. >She freezes in place at the question but remains silent.
  355. "Twilight?"
  356. >"It's just so weird, Anon. By the sounds of it, if you're telling the truth, you have talked to her more than anypony else in Equestria," she says, turning around to face you. "It's not that I'm jealous, it's that it just doesn't make sense to me."
  357. "And that bit alone bothers you."
  358. >Twilight nods.
  359. "But what do you mean by if I'm telling the truth? You don't believe me?"
  360. >Twilight fidgets nervously at your inquiry.
  361. >"I didn't mean it like that. I just - it's just hard for me to believe. I'm sorry."
  362. "Fortunately for you, I don't get offended easily," you tease her. "But thanks, I understand."
  363. >"I wish I could have been of more help," she replies, sounding defeated.
  364. "Well, I think I'm in uncharted territory now, so I'll just have to wing it."
  365.  
  366. =====
  367.  
  368. >True to Twilight's rapid perusing of both books she lent you, neither contained any help in terms of remembering dreams or lucid dreaming.
  369. >One was basically nothing but dream interpretation, while the other was just the science side of dreams and sleep.
  370. >To be fair, you didn't expect much even without Twilight's uncanny ability; neither book cracked two hundred pages.
  371. >Now, almost twenty-four hours later, since meeting Luna, you begin to wonder if you will be seeing her a second night in a row.
  372. >It's just a friendly visit, it's not really anything special.
  373. >So why are you feeling nervous and eager?
  374. >Yes, she's a princess.
  375. >Yes, she could smite you if you so much as looked at her the wrong way.
  376. >Those are the excuses you keep making.
  377. >In reality, you don't fear her.
  378. >She's just so...
  379. >A knock at the door disturbs your thoughts.
  380. >You almost jump out of your chair as you head to the door, opening it with excitement.
  381. >Instead of a night blue alicorn, you find a lavender unicorn.
  382. "Twilight? What are you doing here?"
  383. >She flashes you an overeager grin as a light laugh greets your ears.
  384. >"Anon, it just occurred to me as I headed to bed I never wrote down the books you checked out this morning!" she exclaims.
  385. >Yeah, that's not suspicious at all.
  386. "So you decided to get the information in the mile of the night?"
  387. >"Well, I know you're always up late anyways, and I certainly don't want to forget again. You don't have any company over that I'm interrupting... do you?"
  388. >Nope, completely normal.
  389. "I'm all alone. Who do you think would be over here at this time?"
  390. >Your question back trips Twilight up as she tries to come up with something.
  391. >You don't let her fuss and stew for too long, though.
  392. "Twilight, if there's some sinister reason why Princess Luna visits me, I'll be sure to let you know as soon as possible, okay?"
  393. >She quickly scoffs at that suggestion.
  394. >"I don't think she's up to anything sinister," she protests.
  395. "So you do at least admit that you're over here to sate your curiosity."
  396. >Twilight is about to argue but stops herself.
  397. >She can see the jig is up.
  398. >"I'm just really curious," she confesses.
  399. "If there's anything to tell you, I will," you assure her. "But, only if Luna is okay with it. I don't want to break her trust."
  400. >Satisfied with the answer - or at least knowing it's the best she's going to get, Twilight offers the slightest smile.
  401. >"Thank you. Goodnight, Anon."
  402. "Goodnight, Twilight."
  403. >As she turns and heads for home, you close the door and turn around, leaning on it for a moment as you sigh.
  404. "I swear, she's not quite right in the head."
  405. >"It has been said that those of high intelligence often blur the line between brilliance and madness."
  406. >You damn near jump out of your skin at the muffled response to your muse, quickly scanning the room.
  407. "Who the hell was that?"
  408. >"Please do not tell me you have forgotten me overnight," the voice replies.
  409. >Now somewhat expectant of the answer, you can tell it's not coming from inside your cabin, but just outside the door.
  410. >Whirling around again, you open it, finding a regal blue alicorn standing attentively, already looking up to meet your gaze.
  411. >"Good evening."
  412. >You snap your head up to look at the surrounding area, finding no trace of Twilight Sparkle despite leaving only a minute or two ago.
  413. "Hello, Luna," you finally greet her, directing your attention back to her. "You - I'm not necessarily accusing you of anything, but wasn't Twilight just here? Like, where you are now?"
  414. >"Yes, indeed she was at your door mere moments ago. I happened to be gliding down to land when I spotted you and her having a discussion, so I waited."
  415. >You blink, dumbfounded.
  416. "Where? There's a dirt path out here, a few small shrubs and a tree. Where are you going to hide?"
  417. >Luna flashes a coy little smile as her horn glows before she fades away into nothing.
  418. "So, magic."
  419. >"I have many tricks at my disposal," she replies, her voice coming from behind you. Turning around as you once again close the door, you find Luna already laying atop your bed, just as last night.
  420. >She looks absolutely thrilled with her little show, and your noticeable look of surprise.
  421. >"But that was the only trick I have played tonight, I assure you," she says, her tone becoming serious. "I must apologize, I could not help but listen in to your conversation."
  422. "So you know Twilight's paranoid and wondering about you?"
  423. >"I do," Luna says with a nod. "Even if I had not overheard her rather eccentric dialogue, the simple observation of Twilight galloping off after you closed the door would draw some thought."
  424. >You take a seat in your familiar chair, facing your guest.
  425. >Unlike last night - not to mention just a moment ago - Luna looks visibly uneasy, her legs shifting about underneath her as she tries to get comfortable.
  426. "Why not just drop in when she and I were talking, Luna?"
  427. >"I did not want to intrude on your conversation," she says.
  428. >It doesn't take a genius to figure out that's a lie.
  429. "Okay, what's the real reason you didn't want to be seen?" you press.
  430. >Her gaze falters at the question.
  431. "Luna, I'm not trying to be antagonistic."
  432. >"No, I am not upset with you. I am... I find myself vexed with how exactly to be a good friend. The last thing I desire is to make the wrong impression upon somepony and drive him or her away-"
  433. "-and you feel like the solution is to avoid everyone outside of ruling hours," you finish for her.
  434. >Surprised that you finished her thought, Luna snaps back to meet your eyes, her body tense.
  435. >"Yes," is all she can muster, barely above a pained whisper.
  436. "Before you ask, no, I don't have mind-reading powers," you joke. "I've been there, done that before. I can only imagine your relatively recent return from an extended absence is the reason for that anxiety."
  437. >Her ears lay flat upon your utterance of the last bit.
  438. >"So you have heard my tale," she laments.
  439. "No, that bit is all I got before I stopped Twilight from telling me."
  440. >"You are serious?" Luna gasps.
  441. >You nod in affirmation, which only leaves Luna with a look of absolute amazement.
  442. >"Why?"
  443. "I feel like with as uncomfortable as you looked when it was first mentioned, it was only fair I get the story from you, and not secondhand. I intend on keeping it that way until you're ready to talk."
  444. >Upon your explanation, Luna's mood dramatically shifts, as her eyes glisten with moisture.
  445. "Hey, there's no need to do that," you reassure her.
  446. >You can't stand seeing her on the verge of tears like this, as you climb out of your chair and sit on the bed next to her.
  447. >"I don't know what you are referring to," she replies, a hint of a chuckle beneath the undertones of a choked-down sob.
  448. >You don't really know what to do now, or even say at this point.
  449. >Despite what your mind argues, you follow your heart's direction and place a comforting hand upon her - shoulder?
  450. >Front shoulder?
  451. >You don't know pony anatomy at all, not that it really matters.
  452. >Upon your gentle touch, the muscles underneath reflexively tense up, but quickly relax.
  453. >In fact, you can sense Luna has overall become ever so slightly relaxed.
  454. >"You barely know me, yet you're going out of the way to protect my feelings?"
  455. "It wasn't for lack of trying," you reply, pointing her attention to a pair of books stacked neatly on your desk. The binding is clearly visible to her, and as she sights the titles, she lets out a slight chuckle.
  456. >"Even I do not understand some of the more intricate mechanisms of dreams, those books are merely a beginner's introduction," she says.
  457. "It was worth a shot. I didn't have much confidence, either," you admit.
  458. >Your hand starts stroking the fine coat of fur upon Luna's shoulder, drawing a wavering sigh from her.
  459. >"I have to apologize, I usually do not let my emotions get the best of me," she mumbles shamefully.
  460. "There's no reason to apologize, it happens to everyone," you reassure her.
  461. >"I just... it's just so hard to live with what I've done. Talking about it just renews the pain."
  462. "You don't have to, you don't owe me anything."
  463. >She quickly shakes her head.
  464. >"No. No, I do owe you. You gave me a chance when I barged in last night, and now you're trying to comfort me while I try to make excuses for my odd behavior. I owe you a great deal."
  465. "Well, let me ask you this - did you tell me your past in my dreams that you visited?"
  466. >"The last night I visited you in your dreams, less than a week ago," she replies softly.
  467. >Well then.
  468. >That tidbit hits you like a runaway train.
  469. >It couldn't be so bad that would mind blocked off all memory of her, could it?
  470. "You don't think that has something to do with my lack of dreams, do you, Luna?"
  471. >"I do not know. It is a coincidence that scares me," she says. "It had only finished explaining everything before I must assume you were awakened. There was no discussion of... well, how what I did, whether that changed your opinion of me."
  472. "I can assure you it doesn't," you tell her.
  473. >A sharp laugh catches you by surprise, as a fresh batch of tears gathers upon Luna's eyelids.
  474. >"I respect your optimism, I do," she says slowly. "But I... it's best I just begin now."
  475. "At least let me help you," you say, gingerly raising your hand from her shoulder to her cheek to brush aside a stray stream of moisture as she sniffles.
  476. >It hurts you to your core to see her like this, a polar opposite of her giddy, optimistic attitude from last night.
  477. >There has to more to this than just reliving a painful memory.
  478. "Luna, you aren't afraid that I'm going to turn my back on you after discussing this, are you?"
  479. >In an instant, she's completely silent, stopped mid-sniffle.
  480. >Bingo.
  481. "I can promise you I'm not going to do that."
  482. >You can see by the sudden spark in her eyes Luna is about to protest, but you don't let her.
  483. "I can make that promise and keep it. Right now I'm looking at a beautiful mare that is absolutely devastated and ashamed by her past and is eager to put it behind her. Whatever you did - no, whatever that pony did is not the same one that is beside me on my bed right now."
  484. >That statement shocks her into absolute clarity, as even her tears have stopped, leaving her to stare silently into your eyes.
  485. >The silence lasts for what feels like an hour, with her shimmering turquoise eyes locked on you.
  486. >"You mean that," she says, more of a dumbfounded statement than a question.
  487. "I'm not one to lie when it comes to stuff like this. To be honest, I was looking forward to your company tonight."
  488. >Oddly, she shakes her head.
  489. >"You said... you told me... you used the word beautiful toward me," she stammers, each hitch in her attempt causing a brighter blush upon her face.
  490. >Er, did you?
  491. >You run the short speech back through your head.
  492. >Shit, you did.
  493. >But...
  494. >Well, that doesn't mean anything, right?
  495. >She is beautiful, from her flowing mane and hair to those captivating turquoise eyes.
  496. >Not to mention her graceful form.
  497. >Ever her coloration is pleasant upon the eyes, the subdued shades giving a notion of sweet, serene peace.
  498. >Physically, she is a sight to behold.
  499. >Er, from a visual standpoint.
  500. >It doesn't *have* to mean anything beyond that.
  501. >Though you can't deny that in the moment, you were thinking with your heart, rather than your brain.
  502. >Stop denying it.
  503. >But with her questioning - what if that's like an insult to her?
  504. >You literally just told her you wouldn't lie to her - you can't go back on that.
  505. >Simply put, the die has been cast.
  506. "Yeah, I did," you confirm in an innocent voice.
  507. >From the depths of her despair, Luna's face ever so slightly shows a glimmer of hope, a thin smile overcoming all odds.
  508. >"It's... nopony has ever said that to me before," she admits, finally using a hoof to wipe away a few gathered tears under her eyes.
  509. "Really?" you ask, blindsided by her revelation.
  510. > Your response serves to continue chipping away at her depression, the smile growing a bit more as she gives off a slight chuckle.
  511. >"No, never. I think ponies are too intimidated by the title of princess."
  512. "I was the first one dumb enough to say it to you, I suppose."
  513. >Something brushes up against your back, startling you as the sensation makes its way to your other side.
  514. >A quick glance to your right reveals Luna's wingtip, as her whole extended wing has wrapped itself around you.
  515. >Your eyes dart back to Luna, whose once pained eyes are once again filled with a familiar warmth, her head ever so slightly cocked to one side as she gives off one final sniffle.
  516. >"Perhaps - I would say you were the first one bold enough to say such a thing," she says quietly.
  517. "Definitely a nicer way of saying it. Truth be told, I wasn't sure whether that was taken as an insult to your power or a compliment."
  518. >"Very much a compliment," she replies.
  519. >Her wing pulls you just a bit tighter to her.
  520. >This is...
  521. >Words fail you at this moment, as you find yourself lost in Luna's gaze.
  522. >But a sudden gust of wind outside whistling through your woodstove's chimney breaks the both of you from your stupor.
  523. >Luna shakes her head, freeing it from an invisible fog while you scratch your head awkwardly.
  524. >"I suppose there is no reason to delay discussing my past any further," she says in a loud voice.
  525. "I - yeah, that was a thing we were about to do," you add, feeling a bit stupid.
  526. >"I am afraid my emotions may return, it is painful to relive such things."
  527. "Just take your time and if you need a break, that is perfectly reasonable," you encourage her.
  528. >It's only now you note that even after that brief moment of... whatever - Luna's wing remains draped around you.
  529. >Not that you mind, no reason to make it awkward again.
  530. >Meanwhile, Luna closes her eyes and takes a deep breath, readying herself to begin...
  531.  
  532.  
  533.  
  534. >"I suppose the easiest way for me to start is to be clear about my past - my sister, Princess Celestia, has ruled over Equestria for over eleven hundred years - I have lost count, and I get the notion she no longer is sure how long it has been either."
  535. "Okay. I'm guessing that's not the same for you?"
  536. >Luna shakes her head.
  537. >"No, not even half of that time - in fact, not even a quarter of the time she has spent upon the throne."
  538. "Are you really that much younger than her?"
  539. >Your question gets the slightest smirk out of the night princess.
  540. >"No, it is only a matter of a couple of years," she replies, pausing a moment as her expression turns queer with an errant thought. "Though considering what happened, and the time I spent suspended... perhaps I have not aged in that time. I am unsure."
  541. >Er... suspended?
  542. >What the hell?
  543. >Luna takes note of your troubled mind, placing a hoof upon your leg to bring you back to the present.
  544. >"It will make sense in time. My apologies, I could not help but consider the notion you put forth, even if it was inadvertent."
  545. "Alright then, keep going."
  546. >"As Twilight Sparkle mentioned, I have not been back for quite a year. I am still adjusting to life back in Equestria after a thousand years away."
  547. "Where were you?"
  548. >Another pause from Luna as she takes a breath, composing herself.
  549. >"The moon," she finally says.
  550. "Is - sorry to interrupt, but do you mean that in a figurative sense, or literal?"
  551. >"You have no need to apologize," she reassures you, managing a smile. "But I do mean the moon in a literal sense. It was my prison for many, many years."
  552. >You keep quiet, only nodding in understanding.
  553. >"My sister and I - Equestria was not always a peaceful land. Before we began our rule, the land was divided, strife amongst ponies and with other creatures was common. Griffons, dragons... other, more unique beings, et cetera."
  554. "So you two actually made Equestria, holy crap."
  555. >Your astonishment is enough to coax a chuckle from Luna.
  556. "Indeed. It took many years to do so, as well as some choices that were not easy to make, but in the end, ponykind was able to flourish."
  557. >Luna's brow furrows, the pride of her last statement fading away as she focuses on what lies ahead.
  558. >"Celestia and I had been raising our respective celestial bodies for many years by that time, and as we began our watch over Equestria as newly-crowned princesses, she and I decided it would be best to co-ruling by watching over our coinciding times of day and night. So, while Celestia tended to the needs of our ponies under the light of the sun, I was to guide the land during the hours between dusk and dawn."
  559. >That sounds like a reasonable plan, but obviously you wouldn't be hearing this if everything turned out fine.
  560. >You nod your head again.
  561. >"It went well enough - for a time. Just as you referred to me as a goddess last night, so too did our ponies view us as beings of divinity. Both of us were rather hesitant to be seen as such, but it was not our choice to be made - inevitably, there were groups that went so far as to worship us."
  562. "That's... well, that's a lot of pressure. Was it too much?"
  563. >Luna hesitates, but eventually shakes her head glumly.
  564. >"No, the task was not overwhelming, in the sense that it was the main issue. It would be easy to use such an excuse, but to lie to myself as well as you would not be right," she says. "The first years proved difficult, certainly, as we did not have any sort of experience in diplomacy or ruling. Not to mention, it is not as if all opposition and strife disappeared at once. But those trying times inadvertently led to my sister and me with less time to spend with each other."
  565. "There wasn't any overlap where the two of you were awake? What about now?"
  566. >Luna looks a bit troubled by your questions, though it's unclear which one bothers her.
  567. >"It was difficult. You must understand, the stress from our tasks resulted in fatigue; I do not believe either of us was keen in discussion after hours of organization - I can say for certain my priority was rest."
  568. "I understand you don't want to use your work as an excuse, but it sounds like that was the main problem of... I'm guessing you and Celestia had a falling out, by the sounds of it."
  569. >"That would be an understatement, but you are jumping ahead a bit," she says, at least confirming your suspicions. "To continue onward, my sister and I had a close bond before we became princesses, but that began to change. It was no fault of hers, nor mine - the differences in schedule made it difficult to interact like we once did. There was no animosity - we just grew apart."
  570. >Luna wavers just a bit with the last sentence, but steadies herself.
  571. >You feel her wing ever so slightly tighten around you.
  572. >"While I mentioned neither of us were enamored with the idea of being worshipped as deities, it carried onward - we begrudgingly accepted it. But I am afraid that in doing so, I began to taint my own mind."
  573. "What does that mean?"
  574. >"Consider our average night in Ponyville, because that is familiar to you. How often do you see ponies milling the streets?" she proposes.
  575. >It's a very simple question with an equally simple answer, but your mind can't help but search for any strings attached.
  576. "This isn't a trick question, is it?" you finally concede.
  577. >Luna narrows her eyes, confounded by your inquiry.
  578. >"No, I am merely looking for an honest answer, Anon."
  579. "Alright then. Not many."
  580. >"Yes, that was what I was looking for in a response. Just as now, ponies in the past were up during the day, and slept through the night. As I began to believe the delusion of my own divinity, I viewed the habits of our subjects as disrespectful toward my half of the sky. I began to view my own sister as a competitor, and as these feelings progressed and jealousy built up, an obstacle."
  581. "So, why not just talk to her?" you ask bluntly. "I get you two have two different sleep schedules, and - well, I probably shouldn't have asked that, I don't know your sister that well."
  582. >Luna slowly shakes her head once again.
  583. >"Again, you have no need to apologize. You have a valid point, and one that I never considered due to my state of mind, which only continued to get worse."
  584. >Something about her tone with the last part of that sentence sends a shiver up your spine.
  585. >Honestly, Luna doesn't look much better at this point.
  586. >She looks quite weary, and rather reluctant to continue as she stares down at her hooves.
  587. "Luna, do you want to take a break?" you suggest.
  588. >"I fear if I do so, I will falter. No, I should continue," she says with solid conviction.
  589. >However, her head remains low.
  590. >"What you must understand is the mind has a terrifying way of convincing itself one's subjective perspective is factual, particularly when in isolation," she mutters. "With the peace of night and lack of activity, I fell within that trap, and let my own jealousy consume my thoughts and rationale."
  591. >Luna's gaze suddenly snaps up, locking eyes with you.
  592. >The pain and regret that wells deep within her is almost palpable.
  593. >"It reached a point where I had finally settled upon the delusion that my sister was not merely an obstacle - Celestia was a foe. She was preventing me from finding happiness, from being adored. It was her fault, she was purposely defying me. I dared not talk to her - nay, I dared not talk to anypony, for I was sure everypony was against me."
  594. >The disapproval within her voice magnifies as she speaks, until she is practically spitting venom with every syllable.
  595. >"Of course, there came a tipping point where I felt compelled to act. I made up my mind that if nopony would adore me of their own accord, I would *make* them worship me. Even if it meant ridding Equestria of my sister."
  596. >Whoa.
  597. >You reach over and place a hand on her shoulder again for comfort.
  598. "Luna-"
  599. >"No," she snaps, her gaze hardened and defiant, pulling away from your touch, as well as folding in her wing. "I do not deserve pity."
  600. "I get you're ashamed of what you did, but-"
  601. >She scowls at your protests as tears once again begin to gather in her eyes.
  602. >As much as you want to stop her and calm her down, she will have none of it.
  603. >She is determined to see this through.
  604. >You can't help but also consider you may be the first person, pony - anything that she has opened up to about this subject.
  605. >If so, it certainly makes sense how upset she is - this is years upon years of emotion bottled up and kept to herself.
  606. >Albeit reluctantly, you fold your hands together and lay them in your lap, looking down at them before returning your eyes to Luna.
  607. >She nods sharply, her nostrils flared as years of emotions are exhaled.
  608. >Her gaze drops back to her hooves.
  609. >"I made up my mind, and I did not yield to my sister's sun as daybreak approached," she continues, just a bit calmer than moments ago. "I unleashed a tirade of anger and hatred toward her, justifying my actions. But Celestia's inability to decipher the ravings I put forth only served to deepen my disdain. I let go of all pretense to rid Equestria of her. I..."
  610. >Luna struggles with her composure as she raises a hoof to her face, wiping away tears.
  611. >"I decided sororicide was the best way to deal with this issue, permanently."
  612. >As those words fall from her mouth, it feels as if the whole room has grown colder.
  613. >You were expecting a story of betrayal, but attempted murder of a sibling?
  614. >That sounds more like it belongs in your world, not this place.
  615. >But now, Luna is silent, leaving you uncomfortable.
  616. >So you just sit there silently as well, focusing on the sounds of the night outside as you occasionally glance over to your friend.
  617. >Minutes pass like this until you hear Luna exhale.
  618. >"I thank the stars above I failed in my endeavor. But my actions resulted in Celestia resorting to powerful magic to seal me away, ensuring I could bring no harm to anypony."
  619. "But you made it out and came to your senses, obviously," you chime in with positivity.
  620. >Luna's head raises back to level, but her gaze remains straight ahead, aside from a brief moment she takes to glance at you out of the corner of her eye.
  621. >"No, I am afraid my time in isolation did nothing to temper my anger. Upon return, my heart was still consumed by hate, and it was only by the combined strength of Twilight Sparkle and her friends, bound with the same powerful magic my sister had used long ago, that I was finally freed from my self-inflicted turmoil."
  622. "Wait, Twilight saved *you?*"
  623. >"Indeed," she says, nodding her head ever so slightly. "I nearly caused her harm on multiple occasions, as well as her companions. But again, I was fortunate to fail, and equally as fortunate to be forgiven for my actions, and returned to my former position alongside my sister."
  624. "Which is good, right?" you ask.
  625. >It feels like a stupid question, but her flat tone is not very reassuring.
  626. >Luna finally turns to face you.
  627. >"It is, but I feel there perhaps should have been more repercussions for my actions. It was quite surprising to have my sister approach me and propose a return to the throne so soon."
  628. >Yeah, forgiveness seems to be rather hasty around here, by the sounds of it.
  629. >But that seems to be their culture - leave it alone.
  630. >"I must admit, I was not expecting to get through all of those memories without becoming an emotional wreck," she muses with a sigh.
  631. "It's probably better you talk it all out. I'm assuming I was the first one you talk to about this - I mean, I understand a lot of Equestria probably knows the gist. But have you at least talked to your sister about it?"
  632. >Luna's face contorts, perplexed by your question.
  633. >"What would that matter? She was there for both events, Anon," she replies with obvious skepticism.
  634. "That doesn't mean she knows your side of the story," you tell her. "I know, you don't want pity, and that's not the point I'm trying to convey. I suggest that because it's obvious you still have a lot of unsettled regret and pain and sharing might help you."
  635. >Luna mulls your reasoning for a bit before she responds.
  636. >"I will admit, I feel a bit better sharing with you," she acknowledges. "But, I am curious - and I want you to be honest with me. What I have shared with you this evening... does it change your opinion you have of me?"
  637. >Just at a glance, you can tell she's quite tense even asking such a thing.
  638. >So much for feeling a bit better.
  639. >Nevertheless, she wants you to give her the cold truth, no matter the outcome.
  640. >Yet you don't think she will believe you.
  641. >In all honesty, you don't look at her any different.
  642. >Sure, the past is - well, it's a lot darker than you could have ever anticipated.
  643. >But with how upsetting it was for her to relive all of that as she spoke - what you said earlier rings true.
  644. >You see a mare separated from who she once was, and regrets the turmoil she created - for herself and everyone else.
  645. >Though you suspect that regret is also the same reason she remains rather isolated from society, and why she is so keen on hearing your opinion.
  646. >She fears her reputation will always precede her.
  647. "No, I stand by what I said earlier Luna. What you did in the past has no influence on how I look at you."
  648. >In an instant, Luna's mood makes a complete one-eighty, her sorrow evaporating as her eyes light up.
  649. >"You cannot fathom how relieved I am to hear that," she cheers. "I was so concerned when you told me you had no recollection of me."
  650. "Nope, just forgetful, I guess," you concede.
  651. >"I just - it feels as if the weight of the world has been lifted from me. I must apologize for snapping at you, however."
  652. "No worries, Luna. I figured it was a heat of the moment sort of thing. I'm just glad to see you happy again. To tell you the truth, it almost hurt seeing you so glum and worried about - well, everything, I guess. I'm more than happy to have helped you."
  653. >She nods fervently, seemingly teeming with energy now with her conscience cleared.
  654. >Without warning, she stands and faces you, tempering her exuberance for a moment as she takes stock of you.
  655. "What's wrong?" you ask, puzzled by her actions.
  656. >There isn't something else that bothers her, is there?
  657. >She blushes just a bit in embarrassment, but says nothing.
  658. >Instead, you watch as her wings unfurl and she rests on her haunches, holding her forehooves out wide.
  659. >That's...
  660. >Luna is so adorable.
  661. >You don't need to ask for clarification, recognizing the universal sign for a hug right away.
  662. >Giving her a welcoming grin, you hold your arms out wide to accept her offer.
  663. >Luna wastes no time as she almost leaps into your arms, her wings as well as her forelegs cradling you in a soft embrace as you likewise hug her.
  664. >A faint, pleasant fragrance of lavender greets your nostrils as her whimsical mane brushes past your face.
  665. >"Thank you so much for listening," she says.
  666. "Not a problem, I'm here any time," you reassure her.
  667. >After a time, the pair of you return to separate seated positions, with Luna not losing a bit of glee.
  668. >"I hope I did not make you uncomfortable. Hugs are something friends do, are they not?"
  669. "If they arent, they should be," you joke. "Besides the fact, you were sort of hugging me anyways earlier with your wing when I was trying to calm you down."
  670. >A sheepish grin and a slight chuckle is the response garnered from your notation.
  671. "You know, I think you should talk to Twilight Sparkle at some point, too," you suggest. "I get the feeling she is more concerned about how you're doing than concerned about the past. But I think it would help relieve your mind, too."
  672. >"I... I would not have considered such an idea before, but you have opened my eyes tonight," Luna admits. "Perhaps shying away from society is not the answer to my woes."
  673. "It's not," you say, shaking your head. "It might feel safer, but in your recap, you said it yourself, isolation is what made your problems come to a head. If I may be blunt, you might be harder on yourself than anyone else."
  674. >"You have given me a lot to think about tonight, Anon," she says, unable to keep from flashing the biggest grin you've seen from her to date. "I know it may seem unimportant, but being able to share what happened with somepony with no prior knowledge of the events - you may be right, it is not out of the realm of possibility that my reluctance and fear is misplaced."
  675. >As you're about to respond, Luna suddenly freezes in place, her eyes beginning to glow with a stark white light as her expression blanks.
  676. "Luna?"
  677. >Nothing but silence hits your ears as she remains still, her eyes completely whited out and almost blindingly bright.
  678. >Unsure, and more than a little disturbed, you carefully wave a hand in front of her face.
  679. >Nothing.
  680. >What the hell is going on now?
  681. >Abruptly, you get a sign of life as she blinks.
  682. >In an instant, her eyes return to normal as her body relaxes.
  683. "What was that?" you blurt, not giving her a chance to speak.
  684. >"Apologies, it would seem somepony's dream requires my attention," she says calmly - and a bit disappointed.
  685. "That whole... trance, eye thing - that's how you visit dreams?" you ask, shocked by her nonchalance.
  686. >"Of course. It is not a physical plane one can visit in the flesh. But I am afraid I must take my leave tonight."
  687. >You find yourself a bit disappointed as well by the news, but it can't be helped.
  688. "I hope you visit again soon, glad I could help you out," you tell her.
  689. >"And I thank you again for that help, Anon. Rest assured, I will return again soon for a visit," she gushes.
  690. >As you're about to get up to see her out the door, she raises a hoof to stop you.
  691. >"No need, I must get back to Canterlot at once. Teleportation is much faster than flight."
  692. "I - okay."
  693. >Without another word, Luna's horn erupts in a flash of light, consuming her body and disappearing in an instant.
  694. >An abrupt end to an eventful night.
  695. >But what a night it's been - you can't stop grinning like an idiot.
  696. >Sleep is out of the question for a while, that's for sure.
  697.  
  698. ----
  699.  
  700. >A knocking at your door rouses you from sleep, forcing you to groggily glance out the window above you.
  701. >The sun is out, but just barely.
  702. >Who the hell would be bothering you this early?
  703. >As you reluctantly pull yourself up and out of bed, the answer dawns on you.
  704. >Twilight Sparkle.
  705. >That eccentric, high-strung unicorn.
  706. >With a sigh, you shuffle toward the door, already regretting not just ignoring the disturbance.
  707. >It's too early to be playing twenty questions.
  708. >But, too late now.
  709. >You lazily pull open the door and look down at your guest.
  710. >And find yourself promptly pushed back inside by a blur of lavender.
  711. "Twilight, what the hell?"
  712. >Twilight closes the door quickly with her hind leg as you regain your balance, the frantic unicorn glancing around your quaint home before looking up at you.
  713. >"What did you do?!" she shouts.
  714. "I woke up and answered the door, what's it look like?" you snap back, frustrated with her.
  715. >"I'm talking about last night, Anon," she says, her voice betraying her frayed nerves. "What happened last night?"
  716. "Ugh, can I at least get some caffeine before I start answering questions, Twilight? I get you're curious but- "
  717. >Parchment obscures your vision without warning, the surprise almost sending you reeling backward.
  718. >"Do you know what this is?" Twilight barks.
  719. "I'm sure you're going to tell me, so go ahead."
  720. >She pulls it away from your face and back to her own level.
  721. >"It's a letter from Princess Celestia, requesting *me* to pass along the message that she wants to see *you* in Canterlot Castle this afternoon for 'personal matters.'"
  722. "Um, okay?"
  723. >Twilight looks like she's about to explode.
  724. >"Anon, *nopony* gets summoned to the castle on a whim! Especially not 'personal matters!'" she cries.
  725. >Your mind reflects back on last night's events, with Luna sharing her secret and your attempts to help her.
  726. >Such as getting her to talk to her elder sister.
  727. >That - maybe that didn't go well.
  728. >No, don't be Twilight, don't freak out for no reason.
  729. >Maybe it's something else entirely - after all, Luna had invited you to the castle the first day she visited.
  730. >But then again, if it was Luna inviting you, she would have undoubtedly wrote to you herself, right?
  731. >And then there's 'personal matters.'
  732. >That doesn't really sound upbeat.
  733. "Well Twilight, I guess I should probably get spruced up for a formal visit today, yeah?"
  734. >An exasperated groan is your answer.
  735.  
  736. >Your footsteps echo throughout the cavernous interior of Canterlot's castle.
  737. >Holy crap, this place is absurd.
  738. >It's one thing to look at the exterior and marvel at it, but now, actually viewing the interior...
  739. >Wow.
  740. >Most of the morning was spent getting a lecture from Twilight Sparkle and figuring out what to wear for the occasion.
  741. >The appearance bit was the easiest part of the day.
  742. >Twilight took you to one of her friends, a fashion designer of all things.
  743. >Rarity.
  744. >You've met her in passing a few times, admittedly taking her at a glance as snooty.
  745. >That was a mistake.
  746. >Appearances aren't everything, as Rarity was more than happy to lend a hand - okay, hoof - in making you look proper and appropriate for a royal visit.
  747. >Some time spent measuring aspects of your physiology, and then a mere wait as she got to work.
  748. >You at least made a request for something not too flashy, which she happily obliged.
  749. >You're grateful for her generosity to take a request on short notice, especially considering the exotic nature of what she was creating.
  750. >Then again, she seemed excited about the challenge.
  751. >But no sooner had you left the boutique, Twilight dragged you into her library, and the lessons began.
  752. >Manners, courtesies, important historical background.
  753. >But you listened to it all.
  754. >For the most part.
  755. >You fell asleep once.
  756. >She let you know it.
  757. >But you know under her frantic obsessive-compulsive exterior, she means well.
  758. >Come afternoon and after dressing in your new black suit, a golden royal chariot arrived to escort you to Canterlot.
  759. >Pulled by two pegasi guards, no less.
  760. >Maybe that's normal?
  761. >Hard to tell - Twilight's reaction all day has been hyperactively paranoid, you couldn't use it to judge.
  762. >It was probably for the best she did not accompany you.
  763. >A bit lonely, but for the best.
  764. >It's been absolutely silent since you arrived and stepped onto solid ground again.
  765. >Two more guards, this time unicorns, were there to meet you at the gates.
  766. >With a motion, they directed you to follow, which you did not hesitate to oblige.
  767. >But they stopped short of the atrium that leads to what you can only assume is the throne room, where Princess Celestia likely awaits.
  768. >Okay, now you're starting to feel your nerves build.
  769. >One final guard is there to meet you as you reach the towering double doors that stand between you and a discussion of 'personal matters.'
  770. >This one is a well-built earth pony - the first one you have come across in the castle.
  771. >You stop a few steps away from him as he eyes you, his weapon blocking a door ahead.
  772. "I was summoned by the Princess. Princess Celestia," you explain, your voice coming out rather meek.
  773. >Hey, he's holding a pike in one hoof that could easily run you through.
  774. >Actually, how is he holding that...?
  775. >"Your name, please," he states in an emotionless tone.
  776. "Anonymous. Everyone just calls me Anon, though."
  777. >Without another word, he nods, raising his pike again to a straightened position to let you pass.
  778. "Uh, thanks."
  779. >You still feel his wary eyes upon you as you reach the doors, pushing in on one.
  780. >It's not as heavy as it looks - it yields with ease despite the sheer size, at least fifteen feet tall.
  781. >Magic, probably.
  782. >After you ease through, it closes on its own with a resounding thump, loud enough to give you a jump.
  783. >Okay, chill out.
  784. >This is probably nothing, just a simple visit.
  785. >If it was serious, you'd be bound and chained, or snatched away by the secret police or something.
  786. >Ahead of you lies a red carpet, a road leading straight toward the other end of the room, where steps await.
  787. >Upon a landing at the top of those steps, you already spy the slightest movement, a brilliant display of colors slowly shifting, looking like a miniaturized version of the aurora borealis.
  788. >Except this version is attached to an alicorn, the other half of the diarchy in this world.
  789. >No sense in prolonging this.
  790. >Pushing onward, the room is quiet, your steps muffled by the plush carpet runway.
  791. >Surprisingly, there are no guards here protecting the princess.
  792. >Then again, does she really need protection, considering her power?
  793. >But you clear your mind as you reach the steps, glancing up toward Celestia before taking a bow.
  794. "Princess Celestia, I got your letter," you announce, rising back up to view her.
  795. >She has her trademark comforting smile as she nods slightly in acknowledgment.
  796. >It makes you feel a little bit better.
  797. >"Anonymous, I am glad you could make it on such short notice," she replies, rising from her gilded throne.
  798. >Step by step, she gracefully makes her way down to ground level, much to your surprise.
  799. >Maybe this is normal - you just didn't expect it.
  800. >Her positive aura about her doesn't fade in the slightest as she approaches - maybe you are just here for a visit?
  801. >"I have to say your timing is impeccable; not a moment too soon."
  802. "Why is that?"
  803. >"My time on the throne today is over," she replies. "Which means I do not have to delay discussion any more today. Please, come along with me."
  804. >With her short explanation, Princess Celestia dawdles no longer, making her way toward the doors through which you entered just moments ago.
  805. >You can help but stand there, dumbfounded.
  806. "So this is an informal visit?" you can't help but ask.
  807. >Celestia stops and turns her head to look at you.
  808. >"There is a reason I called you. But I see no need to rush," she says in a calming tone. "I suppose my student, Twilight Sparkle - she was not very calm or reassuring in delivering the letter I sent to you, was she?"
  809. "Not really, no. She was paranoid."
  810. >Celestia chuckles to herself, shaking her head.
  811. >"I should have expected as such. No need to worry, Anon, you are not in trouble. But please, join me."
  812. >With a sigh of relief you suddenly feel much more at ease, magnified by Celestia's bright smile.
  813. >You catch up to her quickly and walk beside her as the doors open for the pair of you.
  814. >"So, did you have a comfortable journey here?" she asks.
  815. "Yeah, I appreciate you sending out a chariot to pick me up."
  816. >"You're very welcome," she says. "I felt it was only fair considering I contacted you on such short notice, and I was also unsure whether you had the money for a train ticket."
  817. "I might have been able to scrounge up some money, would have been close."
  818. >Celestia looks a bit saddened by your reality check of an answer as she turns her head to face you.
  819. >"Twilight Sparkle has kept me informed of your progress and adjustments you've endured since arriving here in Equestria, but she did not mention any financial woes."
  820. "It's not really fair to call my lack of bits financial woes, Princess," you console her. "I have the things I need to survive, and then some. I do odd jobs for peop- ponies in Ponyville, and rather than pay me in money, they usually provide me with what I need, be it food, firewood, and so on."
  821. >Celestia's face lights up again, relieved to hear your explanation.
  822. >"Very good. You had me concerned for a moment. But please, I'd like to get to know you a bit better, if that is alright with you."
  823. "I... yeah, sure," you say, deciding it's best to go along with her wishes, considering she shows interest and empathy in your way of life.
  824. >Honestly, your knee-jerk reaction is to protect your privacy, since that's what you are used to.
  825. >But it can't hurt to sate her curiosity, right?
  826. >You don't have anything to hide.
  827. >"Twilight has told me you have a rather... peculiar daily schedule, in terms of sleep. Why is that?"
  828. >Well that's a weird question.
  829. "I've just always been a night owl for most of my life. I try to balance it out the best I can, so I usually sleep in about four hour blocks. I suppose it's weird to everyone else, but it works for me," you explain, shrugging.
  830. >Celestia nods.
  831. >"To be fair, it isn't like you are the only one with a different lifestyle. As you know, my sister, Princess Luna, is of the nocturnal sort, to a more dramatic degree than you."
  832. "Speaking of which, how is she?" you ask nervously. "I mean, I know it isn't any of my business, but-"
  833. >"She is well, thank you for asking," Celestia responds, with an all-too-knowing tone. "I'm just making you increasingly anxious as I dance around why I asked you to come, aren't I?"
  834. "A little bit," you concede. "A lot, actually."
  835. >"That wasn't my intention, Anon," she says. "Yes, my sister is fine. In fact, I may say she is better than ever since her return to Equestria. I felt compelled to invite you here after Luna and I had a long talk this morning."
  836. "A good one, I hope?"
  837. >"One that I suppose I had not pushed for due to my own reluctance, and one that my sister shied away from, due to shame. In short, it was very constructive."
  838. >You exhale deeply, feeling a weight taken off your chest with the revelation.
  839. >The reaction draws a chuckle from the princess.
  840. >"You weren't afraid your advice had started a rift between us again, did you?" she asks.
  841. "I wasn't confident in my advice, no."
  842. >"I want to thank you for giving Luna the encouragement and confidence to speak to me this morning," Celestia says quietly. "Rest assured, you have had a positive effect on our bond, and one I believe we both sorely needed."
  843. "You're welcome," you reply, taken aback. "It wasn't my intention to get involved, but Luna just seemed so upset, I couldn't stand seeing her so torn up."
  844. >"Yes, she mentioned you are quite empathetic. Unfortunately, time was a bit limited this morning, as I had a full schedule ahead of me," she says somewhat regretfully. "How did the two of you meet?"
  845. "Well, Luna apparently helped me with a nightmare a few months back, and ever since then, she says we have been talking quite a bit, until she abruptly couldn't find my dream anymore. So, she visited me in person two nights ago, which was a bit - it was rather awkward."
  846. >"I'm just a little confused - you don't sound confident that you and her met in your dreams."
  847. "I don't remember any of the past few months' worth of dreams. Not even the nightmare I had, though it does coincide with a period where I was struggling a bit with self-confidence."
  848. >This whole time you have been speaking, the two of you have traveled down the halls quite a ways.
  849. >But now, Celestia halts beside another pair of oak doors on the left.
  850. >"Do you trust her, Anon?" she asks.
  851. "What?"
  852. >"By no means am I trying to insinuate my sister *hasn't* had discussions with you while you dream," she quickly backtracks. "But I have to be honest, that was quite a leap of faith to believe her and spend time talking with her when you quite frankly did not know her."
  853. >Celestia does have a point as she eyes you with trepidation - but you had not thought of it at any point.
  854. >It was just a very tense few moments when she first arrived.
  855. >Yet you were rather quick to get familiar with her, it really didn't feel like a leap of faith.
  856. "It really didn't matter to me at that point, once I got the explanation. She was friendly enough, she made me feel comfortable."
  857. >Your response brings back Celestia's cheery mood in an instant, but she says nothing as she opens the door standing in front of you and ushers you inside.
  858. >A few steps into the room and what lies before you makes your jaw drop.
  859. >Holy shit, it's a whole buffet awaiting in this expansive dining room.
  860. >"I thought it was only fair I provide you with a meal as a token of my gratitude, Anon," Celestia says, amused by your reaction.
  861. "Princess, you really didn't have to go through this trouble, but thank you," you tell her.
  862. >She waves off your protests with a hoof as she heads for a seat at the table.
  863. >You waste no time to follow her, taking stock of what is offered before you.
  864. >While the vegetarian smorgasbord is no surprise, the sheer amount of different fruits, vegetables, and breads is impressive.
  865. >Trying to tell yourself to not go overboard, you settle on a garden salad with what looks like freshly picked lettuce, carrots, and tomatoes, with plenty of croutons.
  866. >Celestia looks eager to feast on a fruit salad, something you will have to try as well.
  867. >"There is one other reason I brought you here this afternoon, but we will get to that when the times comes," she says cryptically, just before digging in.
  868. >You don't hesitate, realizing you haven't eaten anything since this morning.
  869. >It's well worth the wait as you take your first bite.
  870. >You've never been much of a salad person, but this new world has forced you to adapt.
  871. >If you had something this flavorful and crisp among your first days here, the switch would have been easy.
  872. >A creak from a few meters behind you breaks your indulgence, and you spy Celestia with a look of approval and accomplishment upon her face before you turn to investigate.
  873. >The visitor is just as surprised to see you as you are taken aback by her arrival.
  874. >Though you really shouldn't be shocked.
  875. >After all, this is Princess Luna's home.
  876. >"Anon," she finally spits out. " I am surprised to find you joining us this evening for... a feast?"
  877. >Her turquoise eyes dart from you to what you can only presume is her elder sister, who sits across from you.
  878. >"I felt it was only appropriate after our productive talk this morning, Luna," she says. "Join us."
  879. >You flash her a grin as best you can with a mouth full of greens, which she somewhat uneasily returns.
  880. >Nevertheless, she blushes just a bit as she indeed joins the two of you at the table, sitting beside you and also across from Celestia.
  881. >"I do hope it is not too much of a bother if I sit here," she says quietly. "I always sit across from my sister."
  882. "No, it's fine, I had no idea," you reply, beginning to get up from the table. "I can scoot over if you wa-"
  883. >"No, heavens no, you are fine where you are," Luna quickly interjects, motioning for you to sit down.
  884. >Across from you and Luna, you hear a muffled giggle.
  885. >In unison, the pair of you turn to see Celestia trying her hardest not to laugh, her wing in front of her muzzle.
  886. >"Sorry, it's nothing," she says, her voice breaking up just a bit with laughter.
  887. >Out of the corner of your eye, you also see Luna peeking at you.
  888. >She smirks just a bit, but remains silent as she fixes her own plate of food.
  889. >"As my sister said, I took your advice to heart and visited her when she awoke," Luna says. "I will admit, I was nervous at first, but the further I progressed, the easier it became."
  890. >"I was concerned to bring up the topic with Luna - I did not want to stir up painful memories," Celestia admits. "So I was surprised that she approached me wanting to talk about what happened. Surprised and relieved."
  891. >"I just felt it best we put the past behind us, but I found my thoughts still troubled," Luna adds. "I did not realize you were concerned about me, else I would have approached you."
  892. >A clatter erupts as Celestia drops her fork in the salad bowl in front of her.
  893. >"Of course I am concerned about you, Luna," she replies. "The last thing I want to happen is to let our relationship revert back to being distant. I didn't really understand what happened, at least not from your side."
  894. >"I have to say I did not give a thought to sharing my side of what happened, considering I was the aggressor," Luna says, embarrassed.
  895. "Sharing your memories probably makes the problem between you two much clearer, which is why Celestia was hoping to open up a dialogue with you at some point," you interject.
  896. >"You are right on point, Anon," Celestia confirms, resuming her meal. "I don't think I realized how little we interacted after taking charge of Equestria."
  897. >"To be fair, we both had our waking hours filled with tasks to accomplish and problems to resolve," Luna clarifies, finally settling down in her seat with a salad like yours and a decent portion of carrot cake.
  898. >Oh lord, how did you not see the carrot cake?
  899. >"That doesn't make it right to ignore each other sister," Celestia says in a disappointed tone. "I should have tried a bit harder to overlap our waking hours."
  900. >"I could have done the same, or at least discussed how I was feeling," Luna laments.
  901. >"It is better late than never to correct mistakes. I'm always here for you, Luna," Celestia says.
  902. >"I will gladly put my previous misdeeds to rest and try to be more open. Thank you, Celestia."
  903. >Both princesses, for the first time tonight, seem to both be at ease, ear to ear, heartfelt smiles being exchanged.
  904. >Over the ensuing half-hour or so, the conversation shifts to lighter topics and casual conversation, as well as some questions from both princesses intended to get a better understanding of how you have handled adapting to Equestria.
  905. >Despite this, you can't help but notice Celestia eyeing you with every answer.
  906. >That's not to say there is any disapproval behind it - quite the opposite in fact, as she seems to be pleased with your journey thus far.
  907. >But in a sense, you feel like you're being... well, observed.
  908. >Celestia did say there was another reason she brought you here.
  909. >Man, you hate waiting.
  910. >But, with dinner over and Luna getting up to begin her night, Celestia motions for her to remain seated.
  911. >"I won't keep you long, Luna," Celestia speaks up. "And not to worry, there are no matters left over from the day that need your attention."
  912. >Luna looks a bit anxious with the sudden change in atmosphere, but nonetheless heeds her sister's wishes.
  913. >Meanwhile, Celestia's attention falls squarely upon you.
  914. >"Anon, let me start off by saying there is no pressure behind what I am about to propose. You do not need to come to a decision tonight, or even a week from now."
  915. "Uh, okay," you say, your heart rate increasing with the ominous intro.
  916. >Celestia notices right away as her smile fades just a bit.
  917. >"You're not in trouble, there's no need to be concerned," she adds.
  918. "I believe you, it's just kind of - I get nervous sometimes. I'm fine," you reply.
  919. >Celestia nods in understanding before she resumes.
  920. >"As I said before, I want to thank you again for helping encourage my sister to talk to me. But with everything you have discussed with me regarding how events unfolded, I find myself quite surprised."
  921. >Celestia flips her head back toward her sister.
  922. >"Luna, I do not mean to be negative, so please do not take what I am about to say as disapproval. I have noticed while you have adjusted well to modern-day Equestria in the time you have returned, you have shied away from the social side of life."
  923. >Luna's smile she's possessed over the course of the evening fades in an instant as she hears her sister's words, her shoulders slumping a bit as she nods solemnly.
  924. >"My apologies, sister," she says.
  925. >"Luna, I'm not scolding you," Celestia consoles her. "I'm only stating an observation; I cannot fathom how difficult it is to be thrust from solitude to the spotlight. In that respect, I have a better understanding of your hesitance to return to the throne beside me."
  926. >Whoa, she actually mentioned that to her sister as well?
  927. >She really opened up to her sister, about everything.
  928. >But upon that note, Celestia turns her attention to you again.
  929. >"Twilight has written to me on a fairly regular basis detailing your progress as you begin life here in Equestria. It has been pleasing to hear how well you are doing, both in my student's letters, as well as from your own firsthand account. Furthermore, just in the short amount of time spent talking to you today, - and just listening - I see you have a good heart."
  930. >The room suddenly feels uncomfortably warm as you're put on the spot by her words.
  931. "Thanks, but I wasn't doing anything for recognition," you tell her.
  932. >"That is how I know you are genuine in your empathetic nature," Celestia responds, pride filling her voice. "Despite having no recollection of my sister's prior visits to your dreams - and despite her title - you cared enough to listen to her and help guide her."
  933. >Out of the corner of your eye, you see Luna is quite embarrassed by this discussion as well, judging by her red face.
  934. >"I don't know what exactly drew my sister to you, nor do I completely understand the connection the two of you share, but it is trivial. Anon, if it interests you, I think Luna could benefit from spending more time with you to help develop her social skills. Help her get out into the public eye and be comfortable, rather than shy away from the limelight."
  935. >Shocked with the idea, you turn to Luna, who has also been blindsided by this proposal, her jaw practically hitting the table.
  936. >"Luna, you have a say in this too, do not feel like I am demanding you take part in this," Celestia clarifies. "If you both decide to undertake my request, I only ask that you remain vigilant in your duties regarding the dream realm, as well as any diplomatic meetings that may take place from time to time. Other than that, I will gladly handle all other tasks during the day time."
  937. >"Celestia, I cannot make you shoulder such a burden," Luna protests, almost pleading with her big sister.
  938. >"Luna, I mean no offense, but I was able to rule Equestria on my own for quite some time. I believe it will be no trouble to do it again. Especially if it means brightening up your life and strengthening your self-confidence."
  939. >No sooner does Celestia finish, a flash of green flame manifests above her.
  940. >Almost as soon as it appears, it dissipates, leaving a neatly-rolled scroll in its wake to descend upon the table before the solar princess.
  941. >Celestia's magic unfurls the scroll and levitates it to eye level, quickly perusing the contents.
  942. >"Ah, it's a friendship letter from my student," she says with a smile.
  943. >For a moment, her happiness fades away, but comes back with the slightest hit of a smirk as she eyes you and Luna over the top of the scroll.
  944. >"A friendship letter and a thinly-veiled inquiry regarding the two of you."
  945. >Hardly surprising.
  946. >Celestia rises from her seat, pushing in her chair gently.
  947. >"I suppose before I retire to bed for the night, I should respond to Twilight and finish up a few more matters. Anon, you are more than welcome to spend the night here in the castle - we have plenty of guest rooms."
  948. "I think I may take you up on that, thank you," you reply, garnering a polite nod of acknowledgment from Celestia.
  949. >"You are quite welcome. I will be awake for a few more hours if you have any questions, and my sister will be available for much of the night, I am sure."
  950. >"Yes, sister. Get some rest," Luna says with a smile.
  951. >Celestia hums with content, before graciously strolling out of the dining room and disappearing behind oak doors.
  952. >Leaving you and Luna to discuss what just transpired.
  953. "So... how was your day?" you ask, trying to prevent an uncomfortable silence that inevitably endangers the atmosphere.
  954. >Instead of words, Luna responds with a hearty laugh to your question.
  955. >It continues for some time, leaving you a bit confused as to what has befallen the night princess.
  956. >"I am sorry," she says as she comes down from her high. "I had not expected such a... a nonchalant question, especially after what my sister had to say."
  957. "It's a better opener than digging right into how you feel about her suggestion," you muse.
  958. >With that, Luna becomes much more serious.
  959. >"I am curious to your opinion regarding her proposal," she retorts.
  960. "I don't want to influence your decision."
  961. >"Then it would seem we are at an impasse, for I have the same reason for hesitance."
  962. >Dammit.
  963. >Personally, you sort of like the idea, if only because you get to talk to Luna a bit more.
  964. >There's just something about her personality and demeanor you enjoy.
  965. >Not to mention how bashful she gets, it's too much fun to tease her.
  966. >But it is a serious concern - you don't want to back her into a corner to agree to this if she doesn't want to do it.
  967. >You don't know her quite well enough to assume where her mind lies in the thought process.
  968. >And even though Celestia insists this is an opportunity with no pressure, that doesn't make it true - after all, you're basically taking one half of the diarchy of this land under your arm.
  969. >In a figurative sense, of course.
  970. >You come out of your inner reflection to see Luna looking down at the table, her brow furrowed as she no doubt debates her options.
  971. "I'll go first if you promise not to let my opinion sway you. However you feel about it, let me know, just like how I let you know my honest opinion of your past last night."
  972. >She solemnly nods her head, but you sense the anxiety that lies behind those eyes.
  973. "I sort of like the idea. I mean, it's a little unnerving since - look, I don't really see you as a princess when we talk, but to think about what I'm being asked to do, I can't help but take notice of your position," you blurt in almost a single breath. "But I don't look at us - well, our friendship, connection, whatever you want to call it - Celestia is right, I don't base it on that. I otherwise don't think about it. In a respectful manner, of course."
  974. >Luna snorts just a bit in amusement as you finish stumbling your way around a response.
  975. >That could have gone better.
  976. >"I have to say your opinion is intriguing, if a bit long-winded," she says, teasing just a bit.
  977. >You find it surprising to get a glimpse of a sense of humor from the mare.
  978. >Sure, she's been polite and enthusiastic, but as far as you recall, it's the first attempt to get you back for the light prods you have given her the last couple of nights.
  979. "I might have butchered that just a bit. Maybe I should have taken some time to think it out better," you admit.
  980. >"Maybe, but I found your explanation amusing," she replies. "It is only fair I share my opinion without taking the time to organize."
  981. "Be honest with me, you won't hurt my feelings," you remind her.
  982. >"Fear not, Anon," she says quietly.
  983. >For a moment, Luna is quiet, looking like she is trying to compose herself before speaking.
  984. >It doesn't work too well, as a smile creeps upon her face as she tilts her head.
  985. >"I cannot hurt your feelings, because I share the same sentiment as you. I too like the proposal laid before us, but I would be remiss if I did not mention I also feel some nervousness."
  986. >Well then.
  987. "I - what exactly makes you nervous about it?" you ask.
  988. >"There are multiple factors. First and foremost, I do not want to intrude upon your daily life and personal space," she says, growing more serious. "It is also not lost upon me that this is a task which will require me to tread away from a more comfortable - but isolated - path and learn to be, erm, casually social?"
  989. "I think that works for a description," you tell her. "I'll admit, I'm not particularly a socialite myself, so it's not a walk in the park for me either."
  990. >"I understand. In that respect, this could result in a benefit for both of us," she replies. "But enough of that for now, we will inform my sister of our decision in the morning."
  991. "Okay, so what now?"
  992. >Luna slides out of her chair and onto the floor, a confident grin gracing her face.
  993. >"I must be getting ready to preside over Equestria this evening," she says. "Care to join me? I can show you around the castle as well."
  994. "Count me in."
  995.  
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  999. [Originally posted 19 September 2019]
Anonymous Princess Luna romance wholesome AIE moon

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