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Embracing the Night 3

By AutoPony
Created: 18th December 2020 11:06:20 AM

  1. >You slowly stir from sleep as you roll over in bed, aware of a slight chill in the air.
  2. >Hardly surprising, as you realize in the events of the evening prior, the thought to stoke the fire before bed slipped your mind.
  3. >With your mind settled upon that note, you become fully aware and open your eyes.
  4. >Sunlight is just beginning to shine through the window over your bed, lending its subtle warmth to your home, and in particular, Luna.
  5. >She still sits in your chair, eyes closed, but in the direct path of the sun's rays.
  6. >Good - she probably doesn't feel too cold.
  7. >Though you can't help but wonder if she's still at work in the dream realm, or sleeping.
  8. >You would have to assume sleeping, as you begin to note the slightest sound of a snore emanating from her.
  9. >With that in mind, you ease yourself upright and plant your feet on the floor, sliding yourself closer to the stove, while you keep your eyes peeled for signs of life.
  10. >One of Luna's ears twitches ever so slightly, honing in upon the rustling of your sheets.
  11. >Dammit.
  12. >A sudden inhale of air, and Luna's eyelids creep open, groggily taking in her surroundings before her eyes take focus upon the origin of the disturbance.
  13. >Happiness quickly lights up her face.
  14. >"Good morning," she quietly greets.
  15. "Good morning. Sorry for waking you," you apologize.
  16. >Her mood doesn't diminish in the slightest as she shakes her head.
  17. >"Nay, I was resting my eyes for a short spell - I was not asleep," she replies. "I was required to be up an hour ago to lower the moon, so my sister's sun could take its place in the sky."
  18. "So, you snore while resting your eyes?" you suggest.
  19. >Luna bites her lip as she averts your gaze, playing coy.
  20. >You let her have her fun for now.
  21. "How does that work, anyway? How do you two keep on a schedule?" you ask, fumbling for a poker as you shuffle over to the woodstove.
  22. >Upon opening the front grate, it's clear the effort is futile - there are no embers to stoke.
  23. >"Allow me, Anon," Luna calls out from behind you.
  24. >Turning to see what she means, you find her focused upon the stove being you, her horn ablaze with a blue aura as she motions for you to sidestep.
  25. >Heeding her wishes, you move as a bolt of magic shoots into the leftover ashes, instantly igniting into a small batch of hungry flames.
  26. >Well, that's a hell of a lot easier than fighting with it on this cold, damp morning.
  27. >You throw a couple of logs in and close the door, finding the enchanted flames all too eagerly use the fuel for rapid nourishment.
  28. "Thanks."
  29. >"You are welcome, even though it is to my benefit as well," she chuckles. "As for your question, regarding day and night cycles, it is much easier than one thinks, for Celestia and I are in contact with our respective celestial bodies."
  30. "They're sentient?!" you exclaim in shock.
  31. >"Perhaps not in the sense most would consider sentient, the sun and moon do not hold conversation well," she teases. "But they sense when it is time to rise or set, and they... I suppose sort of give us a mental nudge as a reminder."
  32. "I guess I didn't realize you two are that closely connected to the sun and moon," you muse.
  33. >Luna blinks, looking quite dumbfounded.
  34. >"Of course we are. Tending to our respective bodies is our calling, it is what makes us - well, us," she replies, pointing a hoof toward her posterior.
  35. >In particular, the black splotches that adorn her hindquarters, as well as the contrasting white crescent moon.
  36. >You had noticed it before but - well, you don't really want to gawk.
  37. >But you can't deny she's pleasant to the eyes.
  38. >Quite coincidental how those markings sort of draw the focus toward -
  39. >"Anon, are you feeling well?"
  40. >You suddenly take note the room feels a lot warmer.
  41. "Yeah, absolutely. Why?" you ask, startled.
  42. >"Have I embarrassed you in some way? Your face is bright red," she replies, wary and confused.
  43. >How do you explain to her looking at her rear is...
  44. "Difference in culture, Luna," you say rather awkwardly. "It might be normal here to direct attention to your rear because of your markings, but where I'm from, it's-"
  45. >"I am so sorry, Anon, I did not mean to put you in an uncomfortable position," she gasps, sitting up straight. "I - that is why you wear clothes at all times, yes?"
  46. "Yeah, it's kinda taboo to walk around, er - naked, I guess.
  47. >"Well, it is - that is the norm around here," she says, giving you a grin of uncertainty. "I apologize, I did not mean to make this awkward."
  48. "No, it's me, I just don't want to be a pervert and stare," you explain.
  49. >"No need to worry, but how about we shift the subject to something more palatable," she replies, blushing a bit. "How did you sleep last night?"
  50. "Very well, thank you. Surprised I fell asleep as quickly as I did, considering everything going on. How was your night, anything notable?" you ask, taking a seat back upon your bed.
  51. >"As I expected, I was overdue for a busy night, and last night did not disappoint in that regard," she replies. "I am afraid I cannot go into detail pertaining to my duties - it is my own personal rule I keep such personal dreams confidential."
  52. >She pauses a moment, sliding off the chair in which she has been seated and down onto the floor.
  53. >"There was one dream that intrigued me last night that I can detail. It belonged to a particular mare who felt a certain attraction toward somepony dear to her heart, and that love was returned in full, much to her surprise and delight."
  54. "That sounds awfully familiar, Luna," you joke.
  55. >She sashays up to you, rearing up and resting her forelimbs upon your thighs, as she leans in.
  56. >"Odd, did you have the same dream?" she says, batting her eyes.
  57. >You lean forward and kiss her nose, which gets a playful giggle out of the alicorn.
  58. "I might have. Or, it could be that reality is stranger than a dream."
  59. >"Strange, but oh so wonderful," she whispers, planting her lips upon yours for a brief kiss, before she wraps her legs around your torso.
  60. >You note how tantalizing those ears of hers appear, and you gently reach out and caress one.
  61. >It quickly draws a sigh of pleasure from her.
  62. >"I still feel as if I am dreaming. Never in my life did I believe this situation would turn out the way it has," she murmurs, her head pressed up against your chest.
  63. >Mindful of her horn, of course.
  64. >This positioning makes you fully aware of how long it is, as well as how formidable of a weapon it could be.
  65. >Well, she was once a warrior princess.
  66. >The thought makes you chuckle a bit.
  67. >"What is it?" Luna asks, shifting about so she's looking up at you.
  68. "Nothing, my brain is just being stupid," you say, dismissing her concern. "I'm surprised at how excited you still are about our confessions last night."
  69. >The statement causes her to pull away from you, though her enthusiasm is hardly diminished.
  70. >"I cannot help myself, this - everything, it is just so wonderful!" she all but shouts, her wings spreading open wide in full display. "I feel as if I could fly, even without my wings!"
  71. >A loud groan interrupts and surprises both of you, before realizing where the sound originated.
  72. >You place a hand upon your stomach.
  73. "Apparently it's breakfast time."
  74. >Luna laughs.
  75. >"I would say so, with a rumble as audible as that one. What is on the menu?"
  76. "Slim pickings, I'm afraid. I got plain oatmeal or toast with apple butter - or both, depending on how hungry you are."
  77. >Luna stares, perplexed by something you said.
  78. >"I am content with one or the other. But what is apple... butter?"
  79. "You live in a castle with virtually anything you want, and you've never heard of apple butter?"
  80. >Your response is a fervent headshake.
  81. "Well, that easily settles the debate," you announce, getting up and heading over by the woodstove, where your pots and pans reside in a cupboard.
  82. >"As I mentioned, there are many terms and items that have been developed over the years during my absence, I can only assume this apple butter is one of these developments," she quickly explains almost sounding a bit guilty in her lack of knowledge.
  83. "That's part of what makes you so much fun, Luna," you reply, spinning around with a skillet in your hand.
  84. >The other hands finds its way to her nose and boops it.
  85. >"What is this madness that has come over you?" she asks, giggling madly.
  86. "Maybe I'm in a good mood too. After all, you weren't the only one to get things off of your chest."
  87. >Now it is a matter of waiting, the skillet needing some time to heat up before you can toast bread.
  88. >Ponies really need to figure out electricity.
  89. >And invent toasters.
  90. >For now, you turn your attention back to Luna.
  91. >"I assume you already have plans in mind for the day ahead?" she asks.
  92. "Yep. It's grocery day," you say tongue in cheek. "I completely forgot with everything that's taken place, which is why I'm so short of food items. Not to mention, with someone else living here, I need to have a larger stock."
  93. >"I can return to Canterlot and retrieve some bits from my own stash," she suggests.
  94. >But you shake your head, much to Luna's surprise.
  95. "Believe me, I got this. I appreciate the offer, though."
  96. >"But I recall you mentioning at dinner with my sister that you do not possess much money. Surely you do not expect me to sit idle while you pay for my needs as well as yours."
  97. "I have enough to cover you and I, but money won't be necessary," you tell her.
  98. >She remains quite skeptical, eyeing your face for some sort of tell.
  99. >Part of you wants to let her stew on this, but honesty wins out in your mind.
  100. "I do a lot of bartering for my supplies. I help out ponies with various odd jobs, and in return, they help me out with what I need. It started when I had nothing but the shirt on my back, and it has just snowballed from there. I have quite a few good working relationships around Ponyville. But I always have some money just in case."
  101. >"You consider these individuals friends as well, I assume?"
  102. "Sure. Friendship isn't limited to just someone you converse with on a regular basis or hang out with - sometimes it's a person you can rely on and can work with to accomplish a common goal."
  103. >"Odd, I had not considered an idea like that," Luna muses.
  104. "Have you ever tried getting to know any of your guards at all?" you ask, surprised.
  105. >Luna shakes her head.
  106. >"I am afraid it never occurred to me to converse with my guards - even the ones beside me as I sit upon the throne," she admits. "I believe my sister does, but as I am sure you have begun to understand, I am somewhat lost in the past - casual conversation between ruler and subject was quite uncommon."
  107. "It might not be a bad idea to open up a bit on boring nights when you return - you might be surprised."
  108. >As you're about to reach for the loaf of bread on the counter, it floats over to you, wrapped in a haze of blue energy.
  109. "Thanks," you say, turning back to Luna.
  110. >Even better, it seems she already cut a few slices for the two of you, making it as simple as tossing them in the heated skillet.
  111. >"Have you ever - I believe 'dated' is the correct term, yes?"
  112. >The question surprises you as it comes completely out of nowhere, taking you a moment to respond as you process it.
  113. "Yeah, that's the correct term," you reply, keeping an eye on breakfast.
  114. >Nobody likes burnt toast, after all.
  115. >"Have you ever dated before?"
  116. "It's been a long time, Luna," you answer, grabbing a spatula and turning each slice. "I only dated once, and that was enough for me."
  117. >"I... I do not want to intrude if you feel uncomfortable with sharing, but may I ask why?" she inquires hesitantly. "After all, you seem quite receptive to the idea between you and me."
  118. >You let out a sigh as your brain tries to come up with a suitable answer.
  119. >After all, things are so different here.
  120. >It's not all about the material goods like it was back on Earth.
  121. >It's not all about impressing everyone with your status, flaunting what you have.
  122. >How do you even explain that without coming off as nihilistic?
  123. >That in itself is quite a story - you personally have changed since arriving here.
  124. >Of course, some of that has to do with the optimism and welcoming atmosphere surrounding the inhabitants of this realm, but the situation you were dealt also forced you to adapt.
  125. "I'll give you an answer on that sometime soon, but it's complicated."
  126. >"You need not answer if you feel it is not right," she says.
  127. "I'm only hesitant because it's a long story, I need to sort it out. For now, let's just say I'm a much more open and optimistic person than I used to be."
  128. >As you finish up with toasting and grab the jar of apple butter from the cupboard, Luna is eerily silent.
  129. >Meanwhile, a closer look jogs your memory - you need to make more apple butter.
  130. >There's barely enough for one person - or pony.
  131. >Dry toast for you it is - oh well.
  132. >The clink of silverware on glass cuts the quiet in the room, as you empty out the contents of the jar onto one plate of toast.
  133. >"You need not clarify in the future - I believe I understand."
  134. "Huh?"
  135. >You whirl around as you finish up, heading over to your desk - which doubles as your table - where Luna is now seated.
  136. >"You have been on a journey of self-discovery. Just as I am currently transitioning through, you had a life-altering occurrence that forced you to shift your mindset and adapt - for the better, of course. Hence, you can empathize with what I am dealing with in terms of emotions and stress."
  137. >She pauses as you place one of the plates down in front of her before you pull up a stool and take a seat yourself.
  138. "If you have more to say, I'm all ears."
  139. >"Just as I once did, you kept yourself isolated, be it due to something that happened in the prior relationship you hinted toward, or perhaps the society you once lived among as a whole. Something tarnished your view, and you shut yourself off from everything and hardened your heart. But you could not do that here - and you allowed yourself to open your eyes and ears again."
  140. >Transfixed on her, you take a bite out of your toast, chewing slowly as Luna falls silent, eyeing her own food, before shifting her gaze to your plate.
  141. >"You do not have any sort of topping upon your meal," she comments.
  142. "I'm out. Had just enough for you - I'll make more once I stock up."
  143. >"Anon, no. I cannot take from you and leave you deprived, that is-"
  144. "Perfectly fine. I'm good, Luna," you interrupt her. "Try it."
  145. >She glances back down as if preparing an argument, before relenting as her magic seizes a slice of toast.
  146. >Luna takes a nibble at it, but as the flavor hits her palate, she quickly take a proper bite.
  147. >"This apple butter is quite the treat," she announces energetically. "You made this?"
  148. "Yeah. I mean, I'm no chef, but apple butter is rather easy to make - it just takes time," you say, shrugging a bit. "But thank you."
  149. >"You are quite welcome, though I wish you would take one slice with topping upon it."
  150. "Nope, it's all yours," you retort, flashing her a cheeky smile.
  151. >Luna cannot help but return with her own smile before indulging her taste buds.
  152. >You continue on with your own meal, quietly thinking about Luna's analysis she gave moments ago.
  153. >Frankly, she's dead on point.
  154. >It probably is part of why you initially became so enamored with her - she reminds you of yourself not long ago.
  155. >But you hadn't really noticed the changes you have made until now.
  156. >Hell, if she had approached your door that first night in the initial week or so of your arrival, you would have been formal to a fault, and never opened up personally.
  157. >Just left it at a bare minimum conversation to get it over with, and only because she is royalty.
  158. >The thought of what you could have missed out on is almost too much to bear.
  159. >"So, my explanation I gave. Was I correct?" Luna asks on cue.
  160. >You focus in on her again, finding an alicorn confident in her read as she takes another bite.
  161. "You hit the nail on the head, Luna," you reply, nodding.
  162. >Luna halts mid-chew, before scanning the surrounding area of the floor.
  163. "What's wrong?"
  164. "You said something about a nail, I am a little concerned," she replies, muffled and distorted by her food.
  165. >"No, it's a catchphrase," you reply, chuckling at her confusion. "'Hitting the nail on the head' is a way of saying you are exactly right. Also, don't talk with your mouth full, it's very unbecoming of a princess."
  166. >She gives you a playful glare and a sly smile as she finishes.
  167. >"Then it is certainly a good thing I am on a sort of vacation from my royal title," she says.
  168. "Fair point. But I have to say, it's impressive how you put that all together with just a few comments I've made here and there about how I used to be."
  169. >"Yes, you have made mention of some prior habits that once reflected my anti-social tendencies, but it goes a bit deeper than that," she replies, finishing up the last bite before continuing. "Managing the dream realm requires me to have some insight into the mind and the ability to interpret expressions and emotions, and symbolism that reflects those traits. So it goes much further than piecing a few notations together. I will admit I am a bit rusty in my abilities, but still rather accurate, it seems."
  170. "So you can just study someone and sort of know bits about them?"
  171. >"Absolutely. Both my sister and I do it as we govern over the land, dealing with various ponies and agendas - there are sometimes ulterior motives that lurk under the surface and unscrupulous beings who hope to dupe the gullible."
  172. "Or in my case, being able to trust someone to help a younger sibling adjust to modern-day society," you comment.
  173. >"Yes. My sister is much better in that respect than I, though considering she has had years upon years of practice non-stop, I would certainly hope that were the case."
  174. >Upon that conclusion, you reach down to your own plate and begin eating your last piece, only to find it sweeter and the taste of apple igniting your taste buds.
  175. >Yep, apple butter, you confirm as you take a gander at the piece in your hand.
  176. >Luna looks quite pleased with herself as she notes your reaction.
  177. >"I am also quite talented at distracting others and swapping out items. In this instance, toast," she muses, starting on her final, dry piece.
  178. "Just for that stunt, you have to help me make a grocery list this morning," you tease her.
  179. >Luna beams with pride at the suggestion.
  180. >"I will gladly assist you, Anon. Another new experience for me."
  181. "I think you are only the second person - er, pony, that I know of to get excited at the thought of making a list."
  182. >"Who was the fir - Twilight Sparkle," Luna blurts, answering her own question before even finishing it.
  183. "Her eccentricity is world-renowned, huh?"
  184. >"Celestia has shared with me some of her prior work. It is both impressive and startling at the same time."
  185. >You can't help but chuckle at her description.
  186. "To think, you haven't seen Twilight as she's creating the list. That in itself is something of a marvel..."
  187.  
  188.  
  189. >With a wagon in tow, you and Luna make your way to Ponyville's markets after a morning of discussion and list-making.
  190. >Luna had some suggestions for food items and meal ideas that should be possible with your relatively limited skills - at least on paper.
  191. >You're willing to give it a shot.
  192. >But for now, your focus is just enjoying the day, and seeing how your friend interacts with others.
  193. >She certainly is brimming with confidence and energy this morning - a far cry from yesterday's rather reluctant introduction to Ponyville.
  194. >It's a welcome sight, to say the least.
  195. >Her reception is toned down a bit, though there are still the occasional passers-by that seen shaken by the appearance of royalty within their quaint little town.
  196. >Luna doesn't let it bother her, though she is keen to stick closer to your side.
  197. >But that is as much as she's willing to do - despite her excitement with the bond you now share, Luna was adamant in keeping the revelation hushed.
  198. >You understand why - as royalty, being seen doting upon someone would be big news.
  199. >Nevertheless, Luna profusely apologized to you for her insistence upon this matter.
  200. >A reassuring hug finally got through to her it was not an issue.
  201. >However, as you reach the market stalls you frequent every week, there's something immediately off.
  202. >There's your usual suspects, such as Carrot Top and Bon-Bon, as well as some more... interesting fellows, like Hayseed Turniptruck.
  203. >But amongst them all remains an empty stall.
  204. >The one always arrives first in the morning, Applejack.
  205. >She always has her stall set up with some of the best apples you've ever tasted, greeting you bright and early.
  206. >Not today, though.
  207. >Maybe it's one of those once in a blue moon things where she's running a bit late.
  208. >"Anon, you seem troubled, " Luna comments quietly, snapping you from your inner musings.
  209. "Yeah, there's a pony missing that is always here during the week," you reply. "Strikes me as odd."
  210. >"Odd, or concerning?" Luna presses further.
  211. >You're distracted from answering by the sight of an aforementioned regular waving you over with a smile.
  212. "Come on, Luna, let's head over here," you say, pointing in the direction of the cream-colored mare trying to flag you down.
  213. >As you and Luna approach Bon-Bon's stand, her smile becomes more uneasy, likely grasping who is accompanying you today.
  214. "Good morning, Bon-Bon," you greet her.
  215. >"Good morning, Anon," she says, before her full attention is shifted to your left as she takes a polite bow. "It is a pleasure to see you, Princess Luna."
  216. >"I appreciate your formality, but please, the royal title need not be mentioned," Luna replies. "Just Luna is fine."
  217. >Taken aback by the request, Bon-Bon turns her head over to you, looking for guidance in this situation.
  218. "She's serious, Bon-Bon," you reassure her. "I'm teaching her how to be more open and friendly, helping her adjust to modern times."
  219. >While Bon-Bon still looks dazed by this whole scenario, she is at least able to nod her head and smile again, focusing on Luna again.
  220. >"Well Luna, welcome to Ponyville. I'm Bon-Bon," she says, holding a hoof out.
  221. >Luna likewise meets her gesture as the two shake hooves, her eyes lighting up with gratitude at acceptance.
  222. "So, what's up with you today, Bon-Bon? Sales are still going well, I hope."
  223. >"They are, though I'm surprised to see you here this late in the week - I always expect to see you on Mondays. I won't lie, you had me a bit concerned," Bon-Bon replies, motioning with her hoof as if she's scolding you.
  224. "It was a surprise for me too - I only realized I hadn't gotten food this week when I began to run out. I've been busy," you say, nodding your head in Luna's direction.
  225. >"I can't imagine how this whole thing came about," Bon-Bon quips. "After all, it was just months ago you didn't even have your own bed to sleep on, now you're brushing shoulders with one of our - you are still ruling with Princess Celestia, right?"
  226. >"Indeed, I am merely on a sojourn to better myself in the social sense. In time, I will return to my full duties," Luna explains.
  227. "I don't suppose you waved us over just to say hi, did you?" you ask expectantly.
  228. >"Was it that obvious? Though I did want to say hi, as well," she retorts with a smirk.
  229. >But that fades as she glances back over to the empty stall beside her.
  230. >"I can't help but be concerned, I haven't seen Applejack - or any of the Apple family this morning. You know as well as I do they are always the first to set up in the morning."
  231. "Yeah, I noticed it, too. Luna noted of my preoccupation with the missing vendor," you reply.
  232. >"This Apple family, where is their residence? Has anypony thought to check upon their general wellness?" Luna inquires.
  233. >"I haven't been able to step away from my booth all morning - actually, this is the longest break in sales so far," Bon-Bon replies, shaking her head. "It seems everyone has a sweet tooth for my candies."
  234. "If you can keep an eye on my wagon, Luna and I would be happy to check out Sweet Apple Acres," you offer, Luna quickly nodding her approval.
  235. >"Absolutely. I'm sure it's something minor that has come up, but I can't help but be a bit worried," Bon-Bon says with a sigh. "Just let me know what you find as soon as you can."
  236. "Don't worry, we will," you say, pulling your trusty cart up beside her booth, out of the way.
  237. >"Do not trouble your mind, we will get to the bottom of this mystery," Luna says, offering her own reassurances.
  238. >As Luna joins your side, you set off toward the outskirts of town, in the direction of Sweet Apple Acres.
  239. "You did awesome interacting with Bon-Bon," you tell Luna.
  240. >The compliment puts an extra pep in her step, trotting ahead of you before turning to face you, walking backward.
  241. >Her grin is practically ear-to-ear at this point.
  242. >"It felt quite natural, perhaps I can do this after all," she says excitedly.
  243. "There was no doubt in my mind you could be sociable, you just had to relax a bit and let your guard down," you reply, reaching out and brushing a bit of her mane away that drapes over the side of her face.
  244. >It's only in the midst of the motion you realize what you're doing in the public eye, quickly snatching your hand back.
  245. "Sorry."
  246. >"Do not fret - I am not concerned about such a minor gesture," she says, brushing aside your worries. "But this Applejack - I cannot help but feel I have heard this name before. What does she look like?"
  247. "Well, she's an earth pony, yellowish-orange, blonde mane and tail, basically always see her with a stetson hat-"
  248. >"The bearer of Honesty! I have seen her before," Luna interjects.
  249. "You... care to explain what you just called her?" you ask, the sudden interruption having caught you completely unaware.
  250. >"You recall last night's discussion regarding the Elements of Harmony, yes?"
  251. >Nodding as Luna turns to face the path ahead and rejoins your side, she clears her throat before continuing.
  252. >"There are six of these elements, each named for their own characteristic. Twilight Sparkle is the bearer of Magic, this Applejack bears the Element of Honesty, and four other ponies who Twilight has befriended possess the Elements of Laughter, Kindness, Generosity, and Loyalty."
  253. "So each is owned by one pony? I thought you and Celestia bore them alone for a long time."
  254. >"You are correct - it is but another mystery to these artifacts yet to be understood. My sister and I each possessed three, and for one instance, Celestia was able to use all six against me, before they ceased to hold any sort of power," she explains before her gaze falls to the path in front of her.
  255. >No, not this again.
  256. "Luna, don't dwell upon your past, we talked about this," you goad her.
  257. >She looks up at you, confused.
  258. >"I am not, Anon. It just occurred to me the odd circumstances surrounding the power of the Elements and bearers," she retorts. "Celestia was barely able to best me with the assistance of the Elements, while she and I were able to vanquish a number of enemies with relative ease before that time. But the power possessed by these six joined together goes beyond what even a pair of alicorns in possession of these magical artifacts could muster."
  259. "So... more is better?"
  260. >"Quite possibly, yes," she replies with a nod. "Sorry, I could not help but let my mind stray on that topic."
  261. "Hey, I'm not going to complain. You know I'm always curious."
  262. >"Yes, as am I. I can only assume by the name of our destination this is an apple orchard, yes?"
  263. "Right you are, Luna. One of the biggest ones I've ever seen in my life," you tell her. "I helped out a fair bit this summer and early in the fall with things around the farm. It's actually where I got the apples needed to make the apple butter you tried this morning."
  264. >Luna stops as you both hit the rural outskirts.
  265. >"How much more distance is to be covered between here and the farm?" she asks.
  266. "I don't know, maybe one or two miles. You getting tired already?"
  267. >The suggestion coaxes a smirk from her as she shakes her head.
  268. >"Not a chance. I may not be used to treks on hooves like this, but that does not mean I am out of shape by any stretch of the mind," she challenges. "I only wonder if we are better served scouting the path from the air to cut down on time."
  269. "That's not a bad idea, Luna. You plan on waiting for me when you get to the farm or find Applejack, or come back to me?"
  270. >"You misunderstand what I suggest, Anon. By 'we,' I imply you and me together," she replies.
  271. >To emphasize her point, she spreads her magnificent wings, turning her head and motioning with a nod toward her back.
  272. >You aren't sure if this is a joke, or if Luna is seriously suggesting this.
  273. >Considering you're around a head taller than her, she can't be serious.
  274. "Luna, is that really a good idea? I get you want to help, but I don't want you to risk hurting yourself," you protest cautiously.
  275. >Luna's expression turns queer as she processes what you're saying, before bursting out into laughter.
  276. >"Anon, don't be silly," she says with a final bout of laughter. "The moon is no trouble for me to move about the sky, you are light as a feather in comparison."
  277. "You move the moon with magic though, don't you?"
  278. >"Yes, and how do you think I manage to fly with ease, as well as pegasi?" she challenges, somewhat amused by your ignorance.
  279. "Strong muscles? I don't know, you seem pretty light to me," you say, shrugging as you remember the first hug you gave her.
  280. >"I appreciate the compliment, even if it was unintentional," she replies, blushing despite her comment. "While unicorns can use magic for various purposes, pegasi and earth ponies possess magic as well, just confined to specific attributes. For pegasi, flying and cloud manipulation, while earth ponies possess supernatural strength and closer ties to the earth itself. As an alicorn, I possess all three forms of magic - none of which are necessarily confined to a specific attribute. Thus, flight can be bolstered by strength, and if need be due to circumstances, unicorn magic could be used to permit flight without wings. Simply put, all magic flows together."
  281. "In other words, you won't take no for an answer. But what if someone sees us, weren't you nervous about rumors getting started?"
  282. >"This outlying area seems to be quiet and rather uninhabited, I am not concerned about it. Besides, this is more important than mere gossip if somepony is in trouble."
  283. >She does have a point there, though you're still somewhat hesitant to climb on her back.
  284. "You don't find it demeaning at all?"
  285. >Luna just snorts.
  286. >"If I did not think it appropriate, I would not suggest such a thing, Anon," she says, giving you an encouraging smile. "I promise, I have no doubts in my mind. In fact, I would have to say I find myself rather eager to try this."
  287. >Evidently you give Luna an odd look, for she quickly begins to backtrack as her face grows redder by the second.
  288. >"I mean to say that this is not only a quicker way to find your friend, but also a chance to see how it is to fly with somepony upon my back. I have never experienced such a thing, for it takes a fair bit of trust in somepony to allow them such a position. After all, it is somewhat of a compromising position - especially flight, for one could interfere with weight distribution or, to a more nefarious degree, interference with my wings themselves," she quickly rambles. "Not that you would do such a thing, I do not imply that at all. It is only an example. Not to mention my strength can overcome any weight issues, as I mentioned moments ago."
  289. "Luna, relax," you say, reeling from her sudden shift into paranoid territory. "I didn't realize you were this serious about it."
  290. >"I am" she replies, shuffling a hoof in the dirt. "I suppose, taking you for a flight is somewhat... well, it is somewhat intimate in nature. By that, I mean a lot of trust and care, not the - not in a physical sense."
  291. >It's very difficult to keep a straight face as Luna flusters herself over an idea that originated from her mind.
  292. >But you manage it.
  293. "How about we do less thinking and just get on with your plan?" you suggest, trying to help her out.
  294. >Luna lets out a relieved sigh, nodding her head as she ruffles her wings and shifts them forward in preparation.
  295. >You hope this isn't too uncomfortable, seeing as you are bigger than her.
  296. >Probably will look a bit silly, too.
  297. >Nonetheless, you heed her wishes as you throw one leg over her back and very slowly lower yourself to a seated position.
  298. >Despite your presence, Luna's posture doesn't shift one bit, and you feel no movement in her muscles to compensate for you.
  299. >She wasn't lying about strength.
  300. >And really, you don't feel like you're having to scrunch yourself up to fit on her, either - yes, you have to bend your knees a bit to get your feet off the ground, but not too bad.
  301. >"How does it - are you comfortable?" Luna stammers.
  302. "Yeah, I'm surprised a bit," you admit, becoming more aware of the power within her that lies in wait, as she trots forward and moves around a bit to get used to the foreign sensation.
  303. >"Then if you are ready, I suggest we take flight."
  304. "What... where should I hold on?" you ask, feeling awkward.
  305. >"You are more than welcome to lean forward a bit and put your arms around my neck, like a hug," she says, unable to keep herself from smiling as she turns her head to meet your eyes. "But I can assure you, there is no danger in falling off. I will see to it."
  306. >Even with her assurance, you feel more comfortable holding on, leaning forward and draping your arms around the base of her neck.
  307. >You remain mindful of her wings - interfering with how they work would be bad news while up in the air.
  308. >Finally settled down, you give Luna a nod, who turns to face forward once again.
  309. >While you expect a running start - or at least some sort of forward movement to get going - Luna's wings beat downward once and instantly propels the two of you into the air by a couple of feet.
  310. >In a matter of moments, you're up above the tops of the few trees scattered about the immediate landscape.
  311. >"Do you still doubt my ability to carry you?" Luna sasses playfully.
  312. "Hey, I was just looking out for you," you retort, unable to keep yourself from running your hand down her neck and into the tuft of fur on her chest.
  313. >The motion elicits a giggle from Luna as she begins moving forward, her wings only occasionally flapping to keep up momentum and altitude.
  314. >This practically uninterrupted view is awe-inspiring, forcing you to scan the land all around before your objective returns to the forefront of your mind.
  315. >"Do you believe we are just trying to locate Applejack or others?" Luna asks. "I recall Bon-Bon mentioning this is an entire family that tends to the farm."
  316. "Should just be Applejack, or maybe her brother. Sometimes he watches over the market, but not often. The others are undoubtedly busy with other things around the orchard. Trust me, there's always something to be done - maybe not so much during winter, but we aren't there yet."
  317. >While you try to keep as much focus on the ground below for signs of your friend, you can't help but take some time to revel in the experience, as well as marvel at all the little things Luna has to do to keep aloft.
  318. >Just the slightest dip in one wing or a certain shift in weight beneath you sways the pair of you to either side in a graceful, smooth motion.
  319. >Yet, even as Luna flies along at a speed akin to a full-out sprint, the air is surprisingly calm.
  320. >Her mane gently flows back toward you, adding to the surreal contrast of the velocity of flight and its effect, but only providing a minor distraction as your eyes lock onto the beaten path below.
  321. >"That is the orchard up ahead, yes?" Luna asks, point a hoof to direct your attention.
  322. >Upon a hillside in the distance, a large red barn dominates the landscape, only slightly rivaled by a thick patch of trees beginning to manifest upon the horizon.
  323. >Fall has only just begun to set in, everything still remaining relatively lush and green.
  324. "Yeah, that's the Apple family farm, but for now, let's focus on-"
  325. >Your vision hones in on movement down below, a blot of orange interrupting the sea of dull brown and endless green.
  326. "Luna, right below us!" you shout, pointing at what you now recognize as Applejack and her cart.
  327. >You feel light as Luna darts to the right without warning, beginning a series of clockwise turns as she descends.
  328. >The sudden maneuvers make you instinctively clutch tighter around Luna's neck, even though you really aren't in danger of falling off.
  329. >With one final powerful flap of her wings down and forward, Luna gracefully touches down a few feet from Applejack, who hasn't seemed to notice her visitors.
  330. >At least Applejack looks okay at a glance as she dotes over her cart full of fresh, juicy apples from the farm.
  331. >You can't help but be just a bit wobbly on your footing as you climb off of Luna's back.
  332. >Judging by the cant of the one wheel you can see, the problem is obvious - the car's axle has given up after years of hauling.
  333. >As you approach Applejack, you twist and shuffle your feet, trying to make as much noise as possible upon the dirt trail to announce your presence.
  334. >Fortunately, it's enough to warn the mare, as she turns her head to see who's there.
  335. >Meanwhile, you note Luna has lagged behind.
  336. >"Anon? What the hay are you doing here?!" Applejack shouts in surprise.
  337. "I should be asking you the same thing, AJ. Imagine my surprise when I go to the marketplace this morning and find a disturbing lack of apples. I can see why now."
  338. >Applejack hangs her head just a bit at that last comment, blushing just a bit in embarrassment.
  339. >"Yeah, I got a bit of a late start to the morning," she replies, playing coy for the moment.
  340. "Did it start out late, or did it become that way?" you ask, motioning Luna to join you.
  341. >Surprisingly she doesn't hesitate in the slightest - she must have only been waiting for you to start off the introductions.
  342. >At the same time, Applejack turns her head to focus on her busted cart, taking off her hat as if in mourning.
  343. >"I did get up a bit later than normal, had to rush to try making up time," she laments. "Granny Smith told me to be careful until we could get the replacement axle for our apple cart, I reckon I didn't do a very good job of that."
  344. >She turns back to face you, but her emerald eyes lock onto your companion instead, widening at the sight of the unexpected guest.
  345. >But Luna takes it all in stride, extending a hoof out quickly before Applejack can begin to bow.
  346. >"Good morning to you, Applejack," she says somewhat sheepish. "It is a pleasure to meet the bearer of the Element of Honesty."
  347. >While still looking perplexed by the whole turn of events, Applejack is at least able to piece together the sign of a hoofshake, meeting Luna's gesture with a bit of trepidation.
  348. >"I... it is a pleasure to meet you as well, Princess Luna. You'll have to excuse me, I wasn't expecting, uh - well, I don't know what I was expecting."
  349. >"It is completely understandable. I have come to find this reaction to be expected, so fear not. But please, the royal title is not needed."
  350. >"Come again?"
  351. "Luna isn't here on diplomatic business, she's here to learn about friendship," you explain.
  352. >Luna nods, before slightly bowing her head.
  353. >"Anon is correct. But before I say anything else, I wish to offer my apologies for my past misdeeds toward you upon my initial return."
  354. >"Well, I do appreciate it, but don't sweat it, sugarcube," Applejack replies, pausing as she notes Luna looking a bit befuddled. "Er, you don't mind me saying that, do you?"
  355. >"I believe it is fine. I assume it is a term of endearment extended toward friends."
  356. >"Yeah. It's kinda an Apple family thing," Applejack replies with a chuckle. "But really, it's good to meet you properly after everything that happened."
  357. >"I share the same sentiment,  especially considering you and your friends are the reason I am afforded the opportunity."
  358. >With pleasantries exchanged, you feel the time is right to shift back to the situation at hand.
  359. "So, you broke the axle on the cart? You didn't go back to the farm for help or into town?"
  360. >"No, I've just been pulling it as is - it's my fault it busted anyways," she replies. "It's just been slow going."
  361. >Disturbed by her rather passive response, you shake you head.
  362. "So, what if you end up hurting yourself - pulling a muscle or something? Then what?"
  363. >"I - well, I won't do that," she barks back quickly, though shaken a bit by the thought.
  364. "Applejack, we all screw up sometimes, that doesn't mean you should punish yourself for it. You should have asked for help."
  365. >"I know, I know," Applejack replies, frustrated. "It just doesn't feel right to ask for help with a problem I caused."
  366. >"Yet did you not admit that this was an issue that threatened to pop up at any moment of time? You mentioned a replacement axle is in the process of being acquired," Luna calmly points out.
  367. >"Well yes, but-"
  368. "So it could have happened regardless of how careful you were today," you interrupt.
  369. >"So you should have no qualms with us helping you get to your destination," Luna firmly suggests.
  370. >"Well, I figure since you came all the way out here to find me, I can't just turn you back," Applejack answers, trying to dance around an acceptance.
  371. >It's good enough for you - Applejack is just as bull-headed as Luna has proven to be from time to time, if not moreso.
  372. >But looking over the cart, you have to hope Luna has a better idea than just pushing, considering it is filled to the brim with bushels of apples.
  373. >And Applejack isn't going to just stand idle while Luna levitates it into town with ease.
  374. "Well Luna, how do you propose we get this into town, the three of us?" you ask, trying to emphasize the team effort aspect.
  375. >On cue, Luna trots closer to the cart, lowering her head to look underneath at the damage.
  376. >"Oh my, the axle is split almost clean in half," she muses. "But it is fortunate the retaining pieces are intact."
  377. >"Yeah, that's why I could drag it as far as I did. It just doesn't roll that well because it's squeezing the wheels into the sides," Applejack explains forlornly.
  378. >"Which is why I propose to relieve some of the pressure by lifting up with my magic while you continue to make your way toward Ponyville. Anon and I will watch to ensure the axle halves do not roll themselves out from the retainers."
  379. >You're actually kind of impressed with the plan.
  380. >Applejack seems happy with the idea as well as she trots over to the front, slipping herself back into the yoke.
  381. >"With both of you helping, maybe today won't be a complete loss!" she shouts triumphantly.
  382. >At the same time, Luna horn illuminates, a quill and piece of paper manifesting in front of her with a flash before she rapidly scrawls something down.
  383. "What are you doing?" you ask, trying to take a peek.
  384. >"But Luna quickly shifts the note away from your prying eyes, shaking her head with a sly grin.
  385. >"Ah ah, I cannot tell you," she teases. "It is just something minor to send to my sister."
  386. >With that vague explanation, she rolls up the hastily written correspondence,  before sending it on its way with a surge of magic.
  387. >"Shall we head back to town now?"
  388.  
  389.  
  390. >"So, don't get me wrong, but how did this whole scenario come about?"
  391. >With the little small talk that had taken place while your group trekked back to Ponyville, it was inevitable curiosity would win out.
  392. >Not that you necessarily mind, but in this instance, Luna glances over to you expectantly for the answer, her horn still aglow with magic as she relieves the weight upon the wounded cart.
  393. "Luna happened to respond to a series of nightmares I was experiencing and sorted them out. After that, she kept coming back to talk on a somewhat frequent basis."
  394. >"Anonymous was probably the first... being that I have been able to connect with since my return," Luna adds, nodding in approval at your explanation. "I have had a difficult time adjusting back to life after being away for so long, so both my sister, Princess Celestia and I thought it would be productive for me to accompany my new friend in order to get a better understanding of friendship."
  395. >"Well, I'd say you got a pretty good teacher. And as for a classroom, you can't beat Ponyville for its good old fashioned hospitality," Applejack gushes.
  396. >"I have found myself taken aback and pleased with the calm atmosphere in this small town. It is quite the shift from Canterlot, though I will admit, I did not venture out much beyond the walls of the castle."
  397. >"Yeah, I've never been much for that ritzy lifestyle. I tried it once when I was real young, didn't suit me one bit. Sweet Apple Acres is where my heart lies."
  398. >While the two converse, you note the axle and the wheel on your side beginning to walk its way out from the body of the cart.
  399. >A swift kick gets it going back inward for the time being.
  400. >"So forgive me for asking, but what is it you do in the orchard? Anon tells me he helped you this summer, but I am unsure of the processes required to bring apples to market."
  401. >"Well, spring and fall are the busiest times of the year. In the spring, we tend to the trees and the ground - cleaning up dead branches, maybe even uproot some trees that didn't survive the winter if need be and plant new ones. But we grow other crops on the farm too.  Corn, carrots, celery, that sort of thing."
  402. >"That sounds like an astonishing amount of work. Your family helps you, yes?" Luna asks.
  403. >"Yep, it's been the family business for a long time. My Granny Smith came here years ago and founded this farm, and she still helps out a lot. My brother, Big Macintosh, he's incredibly strong - any time something heavy needs pulled or a field needs plowed, he's up to the task. Even my little sis Applebloom does what she can," Applejack proudly gushes. "It's all about teamwork in tending to a farm, and the Apple family has it down pat."
  404. "But, there are still times when you need help, like a summer storm disrupting the normal routine," you add.
  405. >"Heh, yeah. That was one doozy of a storm. Haven't seen anything like it before or since."
  406. "I helped out a lot after the weather team let a storm get out of hand and hit the farm," you explain to Luna. "Brush clearing, fence and barn repair, there was a lot to be done to keep on track for a good harvest."
  407. >"And thanks to what you did, we had a great harvest even with all the setbacks," Applejack chimes in. "That's a debt I'm gonna owe you for a long time."
  408. "As I said, it's not a debt, it's a two-way street of helping each other out," you remind her cautiously. "Which is part of the reason we're out and about today - I'm all out of apples and all the concoctions I make from them."
  409. >"I recall asking you last week while you were in town if you needed to stock up, and you said you'd be good for a while," Applejack proposes with an air of playful skepticism.
  410. "Evidently I didn't look very hard at my stock," you reply, shrugging your shoulders.
  411. >"It was most fortunate Anon had just a bit of a spread he refers to as 'apple butter' left. I understand he made it with your supply of apples, and I have to say, it was absolutely delicious," Luna comments.
  412. >"Thank you kindly. I'm confident enough to say our apples are the best in all of Equestria. And I'm curious as to where Anon learned how to make apple butter..." Applejack quips, craning her neck in order to glance at you and wink an eye.
  413. "Old family recipe," you jab back, earning a chuckle from her.
  414. >"I have to thank you for saving my hide today and snapping me out of my stubbornness," she says, her face lighting up with a gratuitous smile.
  415. >"I know all too well how a strong will has disadvantages that accompany the advantages," Luna chimes in. "Sometimes it is easier to keep trying to push forward through a problem rather than stand back and assess the situation, or accept help."
  416. >"Boy, don't I know it. It was about a year ago Big Mac was ill and I tried to buck the whole orchard by myself, in addition to getting everything else done around the farm. That ended up a mess until I finally listened to my friends and accepted their help. Seems that's a lesson I haven't quite learned yet."
  417. >"It comes with time," Luna says, chuckling. "I am only now beginning to grasp the errors of my ways. Twilight Sparkle helped me understand just yesterday how critical I am of myself, and how that has hindered my return to Equestria. It seems Ponyville is the ideal place to learn about friendship, considering my elder sister sent her student here, and now I have arrived."
  418. >Applejack bursts out into laughter, causing you and Luna to exchange perplexed expressions across the top of the cart.
  419. >"Hoo boy, you should have seen her when she first arrived in Ponyville," Applejack says as she finally comes down from her high. "That mare was jumpier than a cat on a hot tin roof. She's mellowed out now, but-"
  420. "You consider Twilight Sparkle mellow?"
  421. >"Well, somewhat. She's at least calmer than before," Applejack replies. "Not that I mind - she's a wiz when it comes to solving problems - like you said, advantages and disadvantages. But together, we all help each other and make those flaws insignificant."
  422. >"That is quite an interesting way to view friendship," Luna replies. "I would have never considered such a concept, but now that you say it... the Elements of Harmony make so much more sense."
  423. >"I gotta ask, since you and Princess Celestia are the only ones who would know considering - well, you know."
  424. >"Pardon?" Luna questions, taking a moment to knock her side of the axle back inward.
  425. >"Well, you had them before we all did, where did they even come from?"
  426. >Luna lightly chuckles as she shakes her head.
  427. >"No need to fret, I am not sensitive about my age, if that is what you mean to imply," she says, drawing a slight sigh of relief from Applejack.
  428. "Yeah, she's pretty forward about that," you add, drawing a sly grin from Luna.
  429. >"But I am afraid I cannot answer your question with more than a mere fragment. My sister and I retrieved them from what is known as the Tree of Harmony, off in the wilderness of Equestria," Luna explains, her face reflecting her serious tone. "How such a tree exists - or where it came from, for that matter, is completely unknown to us. Much as how my existence was considered a myth for centuries, the Tree of Harmony was merely a last chance of desperation when we sought it out."
  430. >"So, you're telling me all of those scary stories and myths I heard when I was a filly are real?"
  431. >Luna is quiet, making you wonder if she actually heard Applejack's question.
  432. >"Do you truly desire an answer to your inquiry?" she replies hesitantly.
  433. "That kind of answers the question indirectly, doesn't it?" you propose.
  434. >"You make a fair point, Anon. But I digress, some of them are mere tales meant to be frightening. Others are based on true events, with varying degrees of fantasy stewed in for dramatic effect."
  435. >"You know, I had a feeling you were going to say something like that before I even asked the question."
  436. >A round of laughter erupts across the countryside at the remark, before a sight reveals itself upon cresting a hill.
  437. >"Well, it looks like we aren't too far off of Ponyville now. Better late than never, I suppose," Applejack quips.
  438. "You really aren't *that* late. Maybe two hours tops," you say, trying to ease her mild disappointment.
  439. >"I know, that's just how I'm wired. Like my Granny Smith always says, the early bird gets the worm. I like getting started as soon as possible," Applejack replies as your group begins to officially hit the outskirts of town.
  440. >There are a lot of surprised - and relieved - faces that greet you as you make your way through.
  441. >Applejack doesn't stop, but exchanges greetings with a number of ponies along the way.
  442. >She's determined to get set up as soon as possible - after all, her goal is to return home with an empty cart every day.
  443. >That will certainly make it easier for her to return home with the busted axle.
  444. >Though you hope she'll at least ask for assistance from one pony.
  445. >Actually...
  446. "Applejack, let me know when you're heading home this evening, Luna and I will be happy to help," you tell her.
  447. >As expected, she waves a hoof in casual dismissal.
  448. >"I appreciate the offer, but it won't be an issue," she says.
  449. >"I have to say I agree with you, Applejack," Luna comments.
  450. "What?"
  451. >Luna turns to face you, a glint in her eye that tells you what you need to know.
  452. >"I think Applejack will have no trouble returning home at the end of the day," she replies.
  453. >You suspect that note she quickly scribbled down and sent has something to do with that comment.
  454. >Nevertheless, you let Luna have her fun and surprise - whatever it may be.
  455. >In the meantime, all attention is directed to Applejack as she finally reaches her market stall, a sigh of relief visibly emanating from her.
  456. >"There you are! You had most of us regulars worried sick!" Bon-Bon exclaims as soon as Applejack slips out of her yoke.
  457. >"Yeah, it was a bit of tough sledding this morning. Sorry to keep you all waiting," Applejack replies.
  458. >"No need to be sorry, I'm just glad everything seems to be okay. It is, isn't it?"
  459. >"The axle on my trusty old cart has seen better days, but thanks to these two, I made it," Applejack explains, pointing a hoof toward you and Luna as you join the group.
  460. >"Once we realized you were unharmed, I have to say that was rather fun going on a search mission," Luna says.
  461. "I'm assuming there was something in particular you enjoyed?" you ask as her gaze wanders upon you.
  462. >"That's hard to say for sure," she replies, though with a wink, she confirms the particular method used was a highlight for her.
  463. >No one else really seems to pick on the hints of a more in-depth explanation for your question, though Luna still takes a moment to stride over to your side and playfully swat you on your arm with a wing.
  464. "Ow, that wasn't nice," you say quietly, earning a giggle from her.
  465. >Applejack scarcely has time to ready her stall before customers begin arriving, eagerly awaiting the delicious cargo she has to offer.
  466. >While the market area already had a fair number of ponies milling about, it's clear the Apple family really brings in the business.
  467. >"Well Anon, I owe you and Luna at least a couple of bushels for getting me here. How many you want today?" Applejack asks as she takes care of her first few customers.
  468. "I think two will be good," you answer, walking away a short distance to fetch your trusty wagon.
  469. >You note that unlike when you left it beside Bon-Bon's stall, it is no longer empty.
  470. >In fact, basically everything on your list is already neatly stacked within.
  471. >Looking up at Bon-Bon, she pretends not to notice your shock.
  472. >Or know the reason.
  473. "Bon-Bon?"
  474. >"Hm?" she says, abruptly snapping to attention.
  475. >You point downward at the wagon, and she is unable to keep from cracking the slightest smile.
  476. >"Oh my, I'm so sorry," she says, feigning shock and horror. "I must have not been paying attention for a split second, and somepony must have dropped all these items in your wagon."
  477. "Is that the story you're going to stick with?" you ask jokingly.
  478. >"Yep. But seriously, you left your list behind, and I couldn't help but quickly gather everything you needed since you were going out and setting my mind at ease," she says, laughing. "Besides, I figured for the most part, most everypony had you covered, and I was right. All you owe is three bits, and I'm not worried about it."
  479. >Not taking no for an answer, you fish through your pockets and take out five bits, placing them on her counter.
  480. "You're awesome. Take these, they're just collecting dust anyway. And no, I won't take them back."
  481. >She smirks, but nonetheless heeds your wishes as she slides them over to her side and plunks them in her purse.
  482. >"Thanks again Anon," she says. "Hope your friendship lessons continue to go well for you and your student."
  483. "It's going very well, and thank you again," you say, rejoining Luna at Applejack's stall.
  484. >Despite only being steps away, Luna seems to have not noticed your discovery, for as she turns to take stock of you, her eyes widen.
  485. >"How did you already finish our list?" she asks.
  486. "I didn't - Bon-Bon did while we were out on patrol, you reply.
  487. >Luna leans to catch a glimpse of the aforementioned mare behind you, waving a hoof and grinning ear to ear.
  488. >Applejack is ready for you when you shuffle back to her stall, with quite the haul of apples with which to return home.
  489. >"Got you all set up Anon, thanks so much for your help today, even if I wasn't quite accepting of the idea at first," Applejack says as you grab one bucket and place it in your wagon.
  490. "Not a problem, happy to help out," you reply, as Luna glances around uncertainly.
  491. "Hey Luna, would you mind carrying this other bushel?" you ask.
  492. >"Yes, but perhaps we could wait just a moment?" she replies.
  493. >Before you can respond, her eyes catch on something behind you.
  494. >Without an explanation, she trots past you, forcing you to turn to follow her sudden interest.
  495. >Luna approaches a well-built tan stallion, his mane and beard a silvery gray.
  496. >He bows slightly to Luna, before the two of them begin walking back toward you and the stall.
  497. >Somehow, it's only now you notice the massive enclosed trailer he's pulling along, at a pace that makes his load seem weightless.
  498. >Luna eyes you, flashing a cheeky grin as she directs her acquaintance over to Applejack's cart, at which point the stallion slips out from his haul to get a better look.
  499. >Applejack quickly intercepts the unexpected guest, who stops and stands still in waiting.
  500. >"Can I help you?" Applejack asks with heightened suspicion.
  501. >"You must be Applejack, I'm Axel," the stallion replies, putting out a massive hoof. "I was told you got a wagon that needs repaired."
  502. >Applejack freezes mid-hoofshake at the last statement, eyes wide in bewilderment.
  503. >"Wha?"
  504. >"I decided perhaps it was time for Princess Luna to make an appearance, if only to take care of a friend," Luna comments.
  505. >"Princess Luna, I can't accept that! You've already done so much for me today," Applejack protests.
  506. >"You can accept this as a token of my gratitude, for you have done so much for me," Luna replies. "Not only have you and your friends have given me a chance to redeem myself, you have been willing to help me learn about friendship today - and I have learned so much from you. Please, I am in your debt. Allow me to do this for you."
  507. >Applejack's mouth just hangs agape, unsure of what to even say from the wealth of information thrown at her.
  508. >"I'm - should I start working?" Axel says, confused as his hoof is still caught in midshake with Applejack.
  509. >That finally gets Applejack to snap out of her stupor, shaking her head free of the cobwebs.
  510. >"Yes, thank you. I appreciate it," she says, finally completing the hoofshake before letting go."
  511. >"Whatever the cost, be sure to bill it directly to Canterlot. Specifically, either me or Princess Celestia," Luna says.
  512. >"Of course, your Highness."
  513. >"Thanks again, you two," Applejack gushes, before accompanying Axel to her cart to begin the repair process.
  514. >With that, your focus turns back to Luna.
  515. "How did you accomplish that in such a short window of time?"
  516. >"My sister and I have ways of making things happen," she says, playing coy as she eyes your wagon. "That is quite the load, are you sure you can pull it back home?"
  517. "I normally do - this isn't that much more," you tell her. "I just need someone to carry the extra bucket of apples."
  518. >Luna's magic flashes toward the wagon, focusing on the handle as she experimentally tugs upon it.
  519. >"Allow me to do the bulk of the work, Anon," she instructs. "It is not often I do manual labor, perhaps today should be a day of using my brawn, even if this is trivial in nature."
  520. >You can't help but laugh and acquiesce, picking up the lone bushel of apples in your arms.
  521. "Lead the way home, mighty Luna."
  522. >A short burst of laughter, and Luna delightedly trots forward, with you by her side.
  523. >Well, what was supposed to be a mundane grocery shopping experience turned out to be way more than you bargained for.
  524. >By the sounds of it, Luna has yet another friendship report to write - and by the way she's practically skipping back toward your home, the homework doesn't bother her a bit.
  525. >It's fascinating watching her adapt and open up, and makes your heart melt seeing her so full of energy.
  526.  
  527.  
  528. >It takes a bit of time to get everything sorted away once you get home.
  529. >You have never gotten this much food at one time before - the cupboards are jam-packed.
  530. >Perhaps it's too much - you won't know until a week spent with Luna.
  531. >Just the thought of that make you want to reach over and surprise her with a bear hug.
  532. >But that wouldn't be a very good idea right now, considering she's holding a knife with her magic.
  533. >Once everything had been put away, the suggestion you had expected was proposed by Luna.
  534. >She wanted to learn about the wondrous, almost magical world of... cooking.
  535. >Her words, not yours.
  536. >It was endearing to see how the idea intrigued her so much - you couldn't say no.
  537. >Not that you would have - it was tough starting out, but now, the process of putting something together was an enjoyable pastime.
  538. >So, with the abundance of apples your endeavors this morning had furnished, it was time to begin with the condiment Luna has been raving about - apple butter.
  539. >Secretly, you wonder if she's going to try it on everything she possibly can.
  540. >The mere thought makes you chuckle a bit, catching Luna's attention.
  541. >"What is it?" she asks, sounding just a bit uneasy as she continues to peel away at her pile of apples.
  542. "I'm picturing you loading a plate of spaghetti up with apple butter," you reply.
  543. >Luna laughs, shaking her head at the absurd mental picture.
  544. >"I am not that adventurous, Anon," she says, resuming her work. "I remind you I had not heard of such a thing until I tasted it this morning - and even then, I only was able to savor a bit of it on one piece of toast."
  545. "Hey, I was going to let you have what was left, but you wouldn't let me," you remind her.
  546. >"No matter, this is why I am helping you," she says. "I will admit, I am intrigued by the art of cooking, as well."
  547. "I get that you have ponies to fix your meals now, but before you were royalty, you must have done *some* cooking, right?"
  548. >"No, I have never dabbled," she replies quietly. "Even before Equestria was formed, if my sister and I were not foraging or accepting a meal from others, Celestia was the one to prepare nourishment."
  549. "Your parents only showed her, and not you?"
  550. >A thump beside you is your initial response - looking over, Luna has fumbled and dropped the apple she was peeling.
  551. >Uncomfortably, she picks it back up with her magic, cringing just a bit as she mulls your question.
  552. >You hadn't considered her younger years would be a touchy subject, but then again, maybe that's what drew these two alicorns to unite and form Equestria.
  553. "Sorry, I didn't mean to pry," you apologize.
  554. >" No, you have no need to apologize. The question caught me by surprise," she replies. "It really is not an issue for me - I was just a foal when my sister and I were forced on our own. I have no memories of my mother and father. Celestia might have some memories, but she was quite young as well, and I have never seen a reason to ask."
  555. "I'm sorry to hear that Luna - you still didn't get a chance to form any memories."
  556. >"No, but I do have fond memories of my childhood. Celestia took care of me, even as we wandered. After a few years, we were able to settle in with a village of our own kind."
  557. "Of your own kind? I thought you and Celestia were the only alicorns in Equestria," you blurt out in surprise.
  558. >"Indeed, yet you miss the specific wording - 'in Equestria', she explains, stopping as she turns to face you. "I do not know if they still exist, but there was for a time a village on the outskirts of this land where alicorns lived together. They were quite the secretive sect, but that is to be expected - this was still a time where different species of pony were wary and untrusting of one another. Even my sister and I - alicorns ourselves - were not accepted by everypony in the village. We were not born within their midst, which made us outsiders."
  559. "I... geez," you mumble, blindsided by the rather harsh nature of her younger years.
  560. >Luna is quick to pick up on your feelings, sauntering over the few steps and lie between you and brushing your back with one of her wings.
  561. >"Do not fret, I am not saddened by reflecting upon those days so long ago," she reassures you, smiling. "Yes, there were times of hardship, but as I said, I have fond memories as well. Both the highs and the lows of life have shaped me into the pony that stands before you - and with what I have now, I am grateful for it all."
  562. >Just as she is about to return to her prep work, Luna pauses for a moment.
  563. >"I am not meaning to sound as if I am obsessed with the past, but there is something of note on my mind now," she says.
  564. "I'm all ears, Luna."
  565. >"I cannot help but note these past memories - of everything my sister had once done to ensure my safety and health - such thoughts were absent when my mind began to turn more sinister," she says. " Even know, I admit this is the first time in ages I have given it thought, and I have never thanked Celestia for what she endured during her younger years to provide for me."
  566. "It's never too late to do that," you reply, reaching over and pulling her next to your side.
  567. >"Of course. It would seem two letters are to be written at some point today," she says, leaning into you as she meets with your eyes. " Perhaps a jar of this spread, if there is enough to share."
  568. "There will be plenty, and I think that's an excellent idea," you reply, earing a short giggle of joy and approval from your friend. "Nothing says love like a little home cooking. And it will mean even more considering this is your first creation."
  569. >She nods excitedly, returning back to her rapidly dwindling pile of unpeeled apples.
  570. >"So, what else is there to apple butter? Apples and butter certainly, but surely that cannot be it."
  571. "Actually, no butter. That's just part of the name," you reply. "Basically, it's just apples, sugar and depending on what you're looking for in taste, some spices. I like mine with a fair bit of cinnamon, maybe a bit of nutmeg as well."
  572. >"That does not sound nearly as difficult as I had imagined," Luna admits. "I do not mean so sound demeaning in any way."
  573. "That's why this is a recipe I can do," you say with a chuckle. "But seriously, a lot of food items are intimidating until you really break them down into a simple recipe."
  574. >"One must not look at the end product, but rather, the items and processed needed to get to the desired results."
  575. "Exactly," you reply with a grin.
  576. >With Luna making great strides in peeling pound after pound of apples, you get your hands dirty slicing them up and ridding them of cores.
  577. >You don't have a dedicated tool for decoring apples, so it's simply a matter of slicing around the tough center and seeds while cutting up the fruit into smaller pieces for cooking.
  578. >"I understand you said arriving here forced you to begin learning to cook, but what did you do for food in the past where you're from?"
  579. "Nothing healthy, I can assure you that. A lot of fast food, precooked frozen meals, stuff like that. Didn't really taste great most of the time, but I was more about keeping myself going rather than indulging."
  580. >Luna merely nods at your explanation as you glance over at her, though by her furrowed brow, it becomes clear she is deep in thought.
  581. >"Living here has changed your outlook, has it not?"
  582. "Huh?" you respond, the question catching you completely unaware.
  583. >"Your response to me, it just seems so... it sounds like it was less about enjoying the experiences life offers you, and more akin to doing the bare minimum," she explains quietly. "While I do not mean to pry if you feel reluctant to share, it is in my nature to listen and sort of draw my own conclusions."
  584. "I know, and you aren't wrong," you admit to her. "I won't lie, I had a rather pessimistic outlook on life. It's hard to explain without going into great detail, but the world where I lived - it doesn't lend itself to optimism at all."
  585. >"Your world did not lend itself to optimism, or did you not allow yourself to be positive?" she asks, cocking her head.
  586. >Part of you really wants to argue your side, and that Luna could never understand the fucked up place you come from.
  587. >But you have to remind yourself that Luna could have used the same excuse when explaining her past to you, and didn't - she was honest.
  588. >Too harsh on herself, yes - but honest, nonetheless.
  589. "It was both," you admit to her, gaining a head nod of understanding. "I just got too frustrated with everything, and shut myself off."
  590. >"Yet here, you allowed yourself to change, to open yourself up to the possibility of the sky being the limit, rather than hedge your bets to a pessimistic extreme."
  591. "How odd that I then am teaching you about opening up and making friends, huh?" you propose.
  592. >"On the surface, yes," she says cautiously. "However, considering the change is fresh in your mind and you are still making strides forward, those lessons are easier to teach, in my personal opinion."
  593. "I hadn't thought about it that way."
  594. >Luna hums with content as she resumes her work again, while you start making a dent in the pile as the sliced up bits make their way into a pot atop the stove.
  595. >"Do you miss your old world?"
  596. "Do I even need to answer that question?" you quip.
  597. >Luna doesn't respond, nor does she show any sort of reaction to your wisecrack.
  598. >This isn't a rhetorical question, it seems.
  599. >But in all honesty, you love it here - this realm is just so much more bright and wondrous, with less of the stress and bullshit.
  600. >Though you have to admit, some of the comforts you used to enjoy are sorely missing from Equestria - for better or worse.
  601. >Electricity would make things a hell of a lot easier.
  602. >So too would transportation - whether it be automobile or public transit.
  603. >Being without them for so long at this point - those don't seem anywhere near as bad as perhaps the initial couple of months.
  604. "There are things I missed, I suppose," you say after some thought. "Mostly things that made life easier - but made me lazier, too. I don't feel much in terms of longing for my old life."
  605. >"Forgive me if it is a sensitive subject, but what of your family and friends?"
  606. >Oof.
  607. >Somehow, your mind didn't conjure up that subject.
  608. >That's not to say you haven't thought of it before - but again, it's something that has faded with time.
  609. >You didn't lie when you said your life back home was one of relative seclusion - the friend bit didn't bother you at all, with only a few people you conversed with.
  610. >But what family you had remaining - that was harder to take.
  611. >Even if it wasn't contact on a regular basis.
  612. "It's only fair, I asked you about your personal life," you reply, waving aside her doubts. "I can't help but think about my family from time to time, yeah. However, I disappeared there and reappeared here - I hope they have been able to cope. I guess I try not to think about it much - it's not like I can do anything."
  613. >"I understand, and I appreciate you being willing to share," Luna says.
  614. "It didn't come to mind when you first asked me, because I don't think I would change what happened. After all, not being here - well, I wouldn't be here. With you."
  615. >"I thought that might be your reasoning for a lack of desire to return," she says teasingly.
  616. >Despite her confident response, you see a hint of red color her face.
  617. "In all seriousness, I think I appreciate life much more than I ever have before. My whole outlook has changed since arriving here."
  618. >"I certainly understand that, though I do not know how appropriate it is that I am thankful for everything that has transpired to lead me to this point," she replies sheepishly. "Nonetheless, I feel I must reiterate that after all these years, everything around me is awe-inspiring and wondrous. Hence why something as mundane as cooking is a fascinating pastime."
  619. "Speaking of wondrous, you did great today. I can't remember if I commented on how the day went, but even if I did, I can't say enough how well you did with Bon-Bon as well as Applejack."
  620. >You can practically feel the pride radiating from Luna as she ruffles her feathers, smiling brightly as she searches for something to say in response.
  621. >"Thank you Anon. Today was much easier than yesterday's meeting with Twilight - while I think much of it has to do with finally getting some experience talking in a casual setting, I cannot deny my inner qualms regarding my feelings for you was detrimental as well," she replies.
  622. "Was... well, what happened between us in my dreams and what you did to neutralize them, was it that bothersome?"
  623. >"Of course," she says bluntly, taken aback by your question. "After all, while I have done my best to make things right by admitting to you what I had done, that was still a major trust issue. It still is, in some sense - I cannot deny that I was rather irresponsible with my power and my duties."
  624. "So, both of us would have been better off had I actually spoken up, yeah?"
  625. >"Maybe, but you said there was a fear within you that such a confession would drive me away, correct?" Luna asks. "To try to place blame is foolish and pointless, considering we have conquered that obstacle. Questions of 'what if?' can be asked, but the end result does not matter."
  626. "Good point," you reply, dropping the subject.
  627. >About the same time, Luna reaches the last apple destined for the concoction.
  628. >But instead, Luna sets down her cutting tool and levitates the apple up to her mouth, taking a bite with a crisp crunch.
  629. >The sight and the sound makes you chuckle as you continue making headway with your own preparations.
  630. >"The temptation of peeling all of those apples was too much to bear anymore," she muses playfully. "My word, these are quite good."
  631. "Applejack wasn't lying when she said Sweet Apple Acres has probably the best fruit in the land," you reply. "Is that very sweet, or rather restrained?"
  632. >Rather than an answer, Luna's magic levitates the apple up to you, allowing you to take a bite and judge for yourself.
  633. >You never get tired of these - the taste is immeasurable as you savor the juicy fruit.
  634. >It is indeed a rather sweet harvest - there is no need for much sugar, if at all.
  635. >But this is Luna's first creation - she should have the final say.
  636. "Very good, thank you. Now, with that in mind, do you think we should sweeten it up just a bit? Some of that will go away during the slow cooking process."
  637. >Luna takes another taste test of the sample, paying closer attention to the senses as she snacks.
  638. >"I believe this will be even better with the sweetness dulled down just a tad," she finally replies. "I suggest we skip adding extra sugar."
  639. "My sentiments exactly. You're a natural, Luna," you encourage her, earning a chuckle from her.
  640. >"Now, now. No need to get carried away," she lightly scolds. "However, I do think it would be quite delicious with cinnamon. Did your previous batch have any added?"
  641. "Not as much as I would have liked," you reply, as another mass of sliced apples makes its way into the cooking pot. "That batch was created about four months ago, and it was the first time I had added cinnamon to the recipe. I was afraid of overdoing it."
  642. >"Do you have a better idea of how much is needed?"" she asks, joining your endeavor in core removal and slicing.
  643. "A better idea than before."
  644. >"That answer does not sound very reassuring," Luna replies cautiously.
  645. "It's all about trial and error. Sometimes you just have to take a shot in the dark and try something. But I usually hedge on the conservative side, so don't worry about it being too strong."
  646. >With Luna assisting you, it's not long before the final preparations are completed, and all that's left to do wait for the long slow cooking process.
  647. >"So that is all there is to cooking this? Just waiting?" she asks, skeptical.
  648. "Yep. Simple, isn't it?" you reply. "All that needs to be done is occasional stirring while that sits on the stove, for the next several hours."
  649. >"Do you have a wooden stirring utensil?"
  650. "Uh, yeah," you reply, perplexed by her question.
  651. >Reaching across your countertop, you fetch your tried and true wooden spoon, showing it to her as she takes stock of it at all angles.
  652. >"If you would rather not have the inconvenience of remembering to keep this stirred as it cooks, I believe I have a spell that can help," she says after a short period of silent thought.
  653. "Really? That would be kind of nice, considering I'm sure both of us are going to want a nap this afternoon. How does it work?"
  654. >"It is relatively simple - I have just not used it in a long time," she replies. "It is an animation spell based upon the natural fibers of what was once a living thing."
  655. "Like plant necromancy?"
  656. >The suggestion gets a short burst of laughter from Luna as she takes the utensil in question from your hand, floating in the air with aid from her magic.
  657. >"I suppose your suggestion is not wrong," she teases with a sly grin. "But I must admit, I have never heard that viewpoint. But anyway, all I need to do is to tie my magic in with those fibers and... well, I suppose instruct it what is to be done, to put it in simple terms."
  658. >Upon finishing her explanation, her magic surrounding the spoon abruptly brightens, shimmering as she directs it into the stockpot with your concoction.
  659. >Luna nods as your glance at her, unsure of whether that is all there is to the spell.
  660. >Somewhat cautious, you peer over the brim of the pot to see her plan in action.
  661. >Sure enough, you see her magic giving off the faintest light as the spell gradually moves the spoon in a wide arc around the pot.
  662. "That's impressive, simple or not."
  663. >"Thank you. But with that work done, what should we do now?" Luna inquires.
  664. >You glance at the clock on the wall ticking away, just about ready to hit one o'clock.
  665. "If you're feeling tired, we can take an early nap. Or we can just chat - I don't really have any plans," you admit.
  666. >"Well, I could show you some of my work," she says, putting a hoof to her chin. "After all, I have gotten to see your routines, it is only fair I show you mine."
  667. "What do you mean?" you ask, confused by her vague suggestion.
  668. >"The dream realm. It should be rather simple to enter it with you - and it will be quiet, considering it is the middle of the day."
  669. "Hey, that's not a bad idea at all. what do I have to do?"
  670. >"Nothing," she replies. "All that is required is we be close together in order for my magic to bring you in with me in sync."
  671. >There's a glint in her eye upon her explanation, leaving you to suspect an ulterior motive.
  672. "Such as taking a nap together on my bed?" you ask.
  673. >"I believe that will work," she replies, unable to contain her glee at the suggestion. "Embracing will make it all but certain I bring you in with me."
  674. >You lean down and plant a kiss on her snout.
  675. "I certainly don't want to take any chances, so I think that's a fine suggestion."
  676.  
  677.  
  678. "So, what do I need to do?"
  679. >Luna flops down unceremoniously next to you on your bed, before scooting up next to you.
  680. >"Nothing noteworthy, it is up to me to bring you in sync as I enter the dream realm, rather than just entering your dreams," she says.
  681. >You can only blink as your mind tries to fathom the difference between a dream and 'the dream realm', which draws a chuckle from the mare.
  682. >"You look thoroughly confused right now, Anon," she muses.
  683. "Don't worry, I am," you reply, which causes Luna to only laugh more.
  684. >"I do not mean to laugh at you, but I cannot say I expected such a response," Luna replies, leaning in to nuzzle you. "Where did I lose you in that brief description?"
  685. "I guess I figured your use of the word 'realm' was just a more broad description of dreams as a whole, as opposed to a singular dream. But the way you said that, you make it sound like a thing all its own."
  686. >"Ah, but it is, Anon," she quickly responds, now fully understanding your hangup.
  687. >That was a really helpful reply.
  688. >As if reading your mind, Luna places a hoof upon your arm.
  689. >"Each and every dream is its own separate little world, but all exist within the dream realm, which is in essence, a separate plane of existence beyond our conscious mind," she explains, hesitating a bit as she carefully picks out her words. "While all ponies dream - and thus exists a little world in each of us - all dreams are tied to the realm, which is my entry point to each and every pony's dream. To my knowledge, I am the only being able to pass the threshold between the realm and individual dreams - and vice versa."
  690. "Back up. Now you're telling me dreams are real, if I understand the term 'plane of existence'," you interrupt.
  691. >"It is... complicated," she replies, treading carefully. "No, dreams are not real in a physical sense - and no, they cannot harm you. But even when one is awake, I can in fact visit his or her dream - it just tends to be an empty void during waking hours. So in a sense, dreams are real - but they transpire upon a plane separate from this one, and cannot interact in the physical sense of this world. Does that help clear up some of your confusion?"
  692. "Sort of?"
  693. >"Perhaps it is best to not delve too deeply into the intricacies of dreams, but instead, allow you the experience of traversing the realm as I do."
  694. >With that final statement, Luna inches closer, resting her head upon your pillow as she lies on her side opposite you, face to face.
  695. >"Now, it has been ages since I have done this, so bear with me," she laments.
  696. "Anything I can do to help, just say it."
  697. >"Well, I suppose it might help if we are in touch, in a physical sense," Luna replies.
  698. >It's crystal clear to you she's trying to be coy about this, yet failing horribly.
  699. >Not that you necessarily mind, easing your arm behind her back and pulling her closer to your body.
  700. "Something like this? Will that work?" you ask, playing dumb.
  701. >"Yes, I think that will do," she says, chuckling quietly. "Now, close your eyes and clear your mind."
  702. >You do as instructed, letting all of your thoughts drift away into the abyss, a deep exhale pushing them away with authority.
  703. >At the same time, you feel the breath of your companion ever so slightly brush your face, slowly honing in toward your lips.
  704. >"You may open your eyes now," her voice quietly calls through the silence.
  705. >Both surprised and just a bit disappointed, you gradually become aware of your surroundings as your eyes refocus, first taking in Luna's form as she stands before you, her face inches away from yours.
  706. >But she drifts away from you a bit to give you a view of the setting.
  707. >This certainly isn't your cabin's familiar interior.
  708. >Instead, the coziness of your home has been replaced with the vast expanse of outer space, the dark void surrounding you is almost overwhelming.
  709. >Yet as your eyes adjust to what seems like an empty, endless abyss, stars begin to make their appearance known, their twinkling lights offering comfort.
  710. >So too does the beautiful colors of far-away nebulae, and various galaxies soon catch your eye as well.
  711. >Allowing yourself to look around, you also became acutely aware of another oddity - everything you see is ever so slightly in motion, revolving around you and Luna.
  712. >No, scratch that.
  713. >It takes another glance toward your friend to see the sights are not only revolving around her, but condensing into her mane, and flowing outward - making it hard to tell the difference between the two.
  714. >"Welcome to the dream realm, Anon," she finally says, her eyes faintly glowing as her mane absorbs a distant luminous nebula.
  715. "Outer space is where the dream realm is located?" you joke.
  716. >"Nay, this is merely how the realm presents itself, catered to my desires," she says with a slight chuckle. "Just as dreams can be manipulated by my power, so too can the central hub. This is not space - it is a collection of the individual dream worlds of each and every pony in Equestria."
  717. >You take a moment to glance around again, gaining a better appreciation of how big the nation truly is if each star is a dream.
  718. "How do you even know where to begin?"
  719. >"Pardon?"
  720. "No offense, but this doesn't seem organized at all. How do you find a particular pony's dream? How do you know when one needs your help?"
  721. >As you focus on Luna again, she seems delighted by your inquiries, for the serene smile she has been sporting grows wider.
  722. >"There is no need for organization - whomever I decide to visit - or if somepony is in need of my assistance - that particular portal finds its way to me on its own."
  723. >Luna turns away from you, her gaze seemingly unfocused as she peers out into the stars.
  724. >But as you're about to speak up, a single orb abruptly races towards the two of you, slowing down as it approaches, before stopping just mere feet away, illuminating the vicinity in a brilliant white light.
  725. >"This portal is yours," she says matter-of-factly. "You are correct in the sense that appearance-wise, this can be quite bewildering. But with my ties to everything dream-related, it is clear to me, and all it takes is a notion to get where I need."
  726. "So you just kind of... 'feel' when something isn't quite right, yeah?"
  727. >Luna nods.
  728. >"Yes. Perhaps the best comparison I can give is each dream is connected to me like an appendage, but rather than physical sensation, emotions can pass through to me."
  729. >You can't even fathom all of that raw information being fed into her on a single given night.
  730. "How bad was the learning curve? That had to be overwhelming in the beginning, didn't it?" you ask.
  731. >Luna is silent as she mulls your question, turning to glance at a constellation of stars as it slowly passes by.
  732. >"It was not beyond my understanding nor my abilities," she replies cautiously. "Much like raising the moon, traversing the dream realm felt natural - once I knew exactly what it was I had ventured into."
  733. "You didn't know?"
  734. >Luna shakes her head, giggling as she reminisces the past in her mind.
  735. >"Can you imagine my confusion? One moment, I am discussing current proposals and state of affairs with my sister, and the next moment, I am floating amongst the stars as you see now."
  736. "I bet your sister was thrilled you fell asleep," you joke.
  737. >Luna bites her lip as she stifles a bit of laughter from erupting.
  738. >"It was not well-received, but how can one who is used to being awake at night be blamed for dozing off during the day?" she replies. "But returning to the topic, I was confused but not in a panic; it felt normal, serene - even if I did not know how I had arrived. Moreover, I felt as if my mind had awakened in that instant - a piece of the puzzle had slid into place, and from that day forth, I was able to slip between this realm and the waking world on command."
  739. "So, this is sort of a staging area? You just wait to hear of someone in distress?" you ask, rather surprised by the idea of her standing around playing the waiting game.
  740. >"Oh, no. There is much more to this than that. In fact, this... well, I suppose hub is a fair term, yes?"
  741. >You shrug but nod in agreement.
  742. >"Anyway, this hub can be shifted just like any other individual dream. Sometimes I prefer the tranquil sights of the heavens, allowing dreams to float to me, while other times..."
  743. >A low rumble akin to the distant sound of a jet airplane abruptly cuts in, before a whoosh of air and blinding scenery rushes by on either side of you and Luna.
  744. >It startles the hell out of you, but Luna is calm, evidently expecting the interruption.
  745. >The intruding objects stops, then divide up and down rapidly, before you finally can make sense of what is going on.
  746. >Doors.
  747. >Thousands of doors spread across space, each one offering a low glow that combined, light up the darkness to a point the stars you once marveled at have faded away.
  748. >"Sometimes, I would much prefer orderliness, especially if I am having a more stressful night," Luna finally speaks.
  749. "You could have warned me about that," you lightly scold her.
  750. >"It was much more fun this way," she says with a giggle. "After all, you enjoy teasing me and making me blush, it is only fair I have my fun in return, yes?"
  751. "I suppose so," you exaggerate, folding your arms.
  752. >Luna's wings abruptly grow to astronomical proportions as she unfurls them, one gently taking hold of you within its warmth and pulling you beside her, while the other brushes away the clutter, bringing the beauty of the stars back to the forefront.
  753. "Wow," you say, dumbfounded.
  754. >This may be - in essence - a dream, but the sheer magnitude of her powers on full display leaves you with nothing else to say.
  755. >"I must confess, I enjoy having fun with my work from time to time," she announces sheepishly. "While I am certain I have made such an admission before, I feel it is necessary to reaffirm that this is a duty I once took for granted. I do not such thing any longer; this is perhaps my most cherished obligation of all that is requested of me."
  756. "How do you manage on a busy night? You said before, there are nights that are more troublesome than others."
  757. >"What do you mean?" Luna asks, cocking her head.
  758. "All those doors were dreams - or entrances to dreams, right?" you reply with your own question.
  759. >Luna nods in confirmation.
  760. "So what do you do on a night where, say, a hundred or so ponies are having nightmares? How do you get through all of them?"
  761. >Your clarified inquiry draws an unexpected trill of laughter from Luna as she hugs you tighter, her wings returning to their normal size as she encircles you within their soft warmth.
  762. >"A hundred ponies would be a rather easy night, if I am to be completely honest with you," she says, coming down from her high. "I am sorry, I do not mean to be rude or mocking of you, the question merely took me by surprise."
  763. "I know you didn't mean anything by it," you reassure her. "But my question still stands, how do you deal with all of those dreams in one night?"
  764. >"It is... I am afraid it is difficult to explain in a way that will be understandable," Luna replies, putting a hoof to her chin as she ponders.
  765. >You give her some time to mull over an explanation, while you marvel at Luna's created dream world, and how it interacts with her own starry mane.
  766. >That's not to say you haven't been awed by her ethereal mane before - it's just on a whole other level in here, melding together with the backdrop.
  767. >"Anon?"
  768. >Luna's voice snaps you out of your preoccupation, making you realize you've been staring at her for quite some time.
  769. "Sorry, you're very distracting," you reply.
  770. >It gets a chuckle out of Luna before she clears her throat.
  771. >"I can only compare my abilities in a crude idea - consider the possibility of being in multiple places at one time, conscious of everything around each scenario, and being able to act upon each in the appropriate manner. However, some circumstances do require my utmost attention, and it is at that point I will undertake a more personal approach to rectify the issue."
  772. >You try to imagine this extreme form of multitasking, solving each and every problem individually.
  773. >The mere idea makes your head spin.
  774. "It makes sense how you describe it, but I can't really fathom the actual process, so to speak," you admit to her.
  775. >Luna nods, content that you at least make sense of her explanation.
  776. >"I suppose nopony can truly understand it unless he or she was to experience it firsthand - which I do not believe is possible."
  777. "I get that you have almost unlimited power over all dreams, but can ponies at least control their own dreams?"
  778. >Your question receives a blank stare in response as Luna is left utterly befuddled.
  779. >Apparently so much, she waits for you to elaborate.
  780. "I take it 'lucid dreaming' is not a term in this world."
  781. >"If it is, I have certainly never heard of such a thing," Luna replies, shaking her head. "What exactly is this lucid dream state?"
  782. >Admittedly, you've never been able to accomplish it.
  783. >There were times you would try for a month, and with no progress made, give up shortly thereafter.
  784. "Basically, you are aware that you're dreaming, and as a result, can control what's going on in the dream. You can change minor things, or set up a whole new scenario yourself - kind of like what you have done here today."
  785. >Startled by your explanation, Luna opens her mouth to speak, but nothing comes out.
  786. >You hope your own curiosity didn't just break her.
  787. >"This is... is this common in your world? Were you able to do such a thing?" she finally sputters.
  788. "I don't think it's a common thing - and I was never able to get it to work. Dreams are more scientific than magic where I'm from - like most things," you reply.
  789. >Your answer sates Luna to a point that she regains her wits - though, by the serious look upon her face, she remains skeptical.
  790. >It is not a stretch of the mind to see the dream realm is important to her - and an alternative explanation from another world is borderline offensive.
  791. "Your work is much more impressive than a dull scientific theory," you add.
  792. >Just that little postscript is enough to get Luna to perk up - but barely.
  793. >"Thank you," she replies, pawing a hoof at the ground with a bit of unease. "I do not mean to be difficult, it just - to know there is somewhere out there that dreams are..."
  794. "Dismissed as run-of-the-mill?" you suggest.
  795. >"A fine description, yes," she says with a nod. "It does not sit well with me when I know how invigorating and, in contrast, how damaging dreams can be to the individual, for I have seen the effects with my own eyes."
  796. "It's likely dreams don't work the same way in our worlds, I shouldn't have said anything," you tell her, brushing your fingertips behind her ear.
  797. >"No, you are perfectly fine, Anon. I just foolishly took offense to what was merely your attempt to share," she says, leaning into you. "You may be correct - with as vastly different as our worlds seem to be, different mechanisms could be at play."
  798. "A good example of that is I often don't remember my dreams. A lot of people don't," you chime in.
  799. >"Well, I must add that ponies do not remember every dream they have, but I would suggest at least once every other night is filed away within the mind," Luna explains. "You say your dreams are not 'often' remembered - would you have a rough estimation of how many you can recall after waking?"
  800. "Two or three a month, maybe?" you suggest, not really sure about the answer yourself.
  801. >Luna's eyes shift away from you, her focus absorbed by something else as her expression becomes more serious.
  802. >The dramatic shift in her attitude is worrisome, to say the least.
  803. >You're just about to ask her what's wrong when a single twinkling star from the distant reaches of space gradually eases its way toward the two of you.
  804. >"You have ignited a great deal of wonder within me, Anon," she says in a tone more fitting a private thought rather than being directed toward you. "Do you think knowing this is a dream, you could try manipulating your own dream realm with this 'lucid dreaming' that you have described?"
  805. "I... I suppose I can try," you reply, thrown off by her sudden shift from skepticism.
  806. >"That is all I ask of you. Aside from the jerk of the knees when you first described this skill, I have to say this is quite an intriguing idea.
  807. >Jerk of the kn-
  808. "A knee-jerk reaction, Luna?" you gently inquire.
  809. >"Yes, that was the term I meant to use, thank you," she replies. "Nevertheless, I would like to see if this technique is applicable to the dreams that occur in this world."
  810. "I can try, but as I said before, I've never been able to do it," you remind her.
  811. >But Luna shakes her head fervently.
  812. >"I have utmost faith in you that you can accomplish this," she says, a mixture of an encouraging and mildly dismissive tone. "If you cannot, it is no problem, but I believe you will be able to shift something if it is possible to do so."
  813. >Even with the reassurance, you can't help but feel a slight pang of anxiety reverberate through you.
  814. >After all, you don't want to look like an idiot after going through this whole descriptive discussion.
  815. >A loud, low groan interrupts your thoughts, as what was once a backdrop of the endless reach of space slowly tilts away from you on four sides.
  816. >In its place is a plain white backdrop that expands into your vision as the previous backdrop's 'walls' gain momentum and fall completely flat, with a surprisingly muffled thump.
  817. "What was that?" you ask, looking around rather dumbfounded.
  818. >All that surrounds you is a blank canvas - even underfoot, and where the panels of the spacial backdrop had fallen.
  819. >"This is your dream," Luna replies in a matter-of-fact tone.
  820. "So, there's more to going in and out of dreams than starry portals and magical doors..."
  821. >The muse catches Luna by surprise as she giggles.
  822. >"Yes, I will admit there are numerous ways to shift between dreams. I do like to have fun every once in a while - and it is not often I get an audience with somepony fully aware and not in need of my expertise," she replies, grinning from ear to ear.
  823. >You give her a knowing smirk before closing your eyes and focusing on the task at hand.
  824. >For a moment, you consider what to manifest in your dream.
  825. >Should you go with something simple and small, or should you try to make your surroundings a particular environment?
  826. >Luna did say she could likely detect any shift in your dream, whether it fully materialized or not.
  827. >May as well go all-out - why not show her your old life, your old apartment?
  828. >Minus the general disarray that was the norm.
  829. >Tidiness wasn't much of a concern when you lived alone, and when work weeks lasted a minimum of sixty hours.
  830. >But it was home, even if it was a bit cramped - it also made it cozy, in a way.
  831. >You start picturing the miniature flat - the half wall separating the kitchen from the living room, the short hall that teed off to your bedroom and the bathroom.
  832. >The garish burnt orange shag carpeting from decades past lining the floors from wall to wall.
  833. >Okay, it was more of a shit hole than anything, now that you reflect on it.
  834. >At least, compared to the cabin you built with your own hands.
  835. >However, you shake the various thoughts running through your head now, just solely concentrating on going through every little detail of your old home.
  836. >Silence continues to pervade as you focus on mere sights, rather than the whole immersive experience.
  837. >After all, you have never gotten this far before - baby steps at a time is best.
  838. >Having never reached this point in any prior attempts to lucid dream, you really aren't sure what to expect.
  839. >Should you be able to sense the changes, since they are emanating from your imagination?
  840. >Maybe you shouldn't have your eyes closed, perhaps your sight is needed to direct your inner visions outward.
  841. >Or, it may not matter at all - it is a dream, rules may not apply at all.
  842. >For now, you give it a few more minutes of focus, as Luna remains silent.
  843. >At least, you don't hear her saying anything.
  844. >Nothing feels any different in the atmosphere around you either, forcing you to give up and open your eyes.
  845. >Just a split second view is enough to shock you - it actually worked!
  846. >Well, sort of.
  847. >Indeed, you can make out familiar sights from your old apartment, though what you can make out is rather fuzzy, as if looking through a smudged window.
  848. >Furthermore, some areas are missing entirely, fading into a blank white, like patches of soupy fog have scattered around the area and obscuring your view.
  849. >Taken aback by the results, you wordlessly turn your attention to Luna.
  850. >She is just as surprised as you are, gazing wide-eyed at what you have managed to accomplish.
  851. >After a moment of silent gawking, Luna finally focuses on you.
  852. >"This place... is this where you lived?"
  853. "Yeah, a few things are missing, but that's the old pad," you reply, cringing a bit internally at your slang.
  854. >"I - I cannot believe you were actually able to manifest this," Luna replies, returning to a tone of astonishment and wonder.
  855. "Well, I kind of succeeded," you say. "It's not exactly complete or crystal-clear."
  856. >With no reply, Luna raises a hoof, clopping it down with authority and a resounding, sharp report.
  857. >The sound echoes, distorting the view as it creates a visible wave, akin to the splash from a rock tossed into a pond.
  858. >Yet, as the vibrations subside, everything becomes clearer - and complete.
  859. >It's just as messy as you remember, much to your chagrin.
  860. >The kitchen counter has a pile of dirty dishes stacked atop it, while your little dining table is littered with mail, receipts, and anything else it could catch after a long day at work.
  861. >At least the living room is decent, aside from a mess of blankets and pillows heaved upon the couch.
  862. "I wasn't the best at keeping a tidy living space," you say with a half chuckle.
  863. >"I do not judge," Luna replies with a slight smile. "I have no right to do so, considering much of the cleaning in our castle is done by others."
  864. >Luna tiptoes around the room, her curiosity stoked by the unfamiliar sights of a world apart from hers.
  865. >"I certainly hope we may revisit this 'lucid' dream again, so I may properly get to explore and understand all that this abode contains," she says quizzically, her wings spreading wide.
  866. >With that split-second movement, the starry backdrop from before seems to leap out from her unfurled wings, as if she had been stowing the sky away within their plumage.
  867. >Momentarily awestruck by the sight, you nevertheless shake your mind free of the daze.
  868. "What do you mean? It's only been ten or fifteen minutes, hasn't it?" you ask cautiously.
  869. >Luna replied swiftly with a shake of her head, her lips twisted into a grin of slight amusement.
  870. >"Such is the whimsical nature of the dream realm, Anon," she muses. "Time has very little meaning here, especially when one is caught up in the excitement this plane has to offer. But we have been here for a few hours now, believe it or not."
  871. >That really should not have come as a surprise, now that you think about it.
  872. >Dreams always seem to be but a flash, whether on Earth - when you could remember them - or here in Equestria.
  873. "So what kind of tricks do you have to wake us both up?" you tease.
  874. >"Just one," Luna replies with a cryptic, quick answer.
  875. >You ready yourself for... well, whatever she has in store.
  876. >But nothing happens, as Luna directs her attention elsewhere and remains silent.
  877. "Okay, and what is it th-"
  878. >In a single, swift motion, Luna strikes - turning and leaning in toward you and planting a smooch on your lips.
  879. >With a jolt, you suddenly become aware that your cabin's familiar interior has manifested.
  880. >Luna lays beside you, just as before.
  881. >Though her face now sports a bemused, content grin.
  882. >The rich, sweet aroma of apples and cinnamon fills your nostrils, underlining how long the two of you had been asleep since setting the apple butter concoction on the stove to simmer.
  883. >"Good evening," Luna says in a playful, albeit sweet tone that caresses your ears.
  884. "Good evening," you reply, reaching up with a had to brush a stray few strands of hair away from Luna's face. "That was certainly a nap I won't forget."
  885. >The quip extracts a light chuckle from Luna.
  886. >"I suppose not, as that was quite memorable for me as well," she says. "What you have demonstrated only shows that I still have much to learn when it comes to dreams."
  887. "You aren't upset at all, are you?" you ask carefully, remembering her response to the initial suggestion that you could manipulate your own dreams.
  888. >But Luna lightly shakes her head, her smile hardly diminishing, if at all.
  889. >"No, I am not. I will admit, my initial feelings were... well, they were quite selfish," she says, the last few words coming out more like self-scolding than a response to you. "I certainly do not want my duties to become essentially honorary in nature and unnecessary if ponies could take care of their own nightmares. But said aloud - I do not wish to see my subjects afflicted by nightmares, either."
  890. "You won't get replaced, I can assure you that," you reply, warning just the slightest bashful chuckle from Luna. "After all, you helped me with a nightmare, didn't you?"
  891. >"I had forgotten about that, to tell you the truth," she gasps.
  892. >A small flash of light above the two of you interrupts your conversation, disappearing as soon as you try to snap your vision upward toward it.
  893. >In the brilliant light's wake, a scroll drops down onto the bed, right in front of Luna.
  894. >While you find yourself utterly perplexed, Luna seems more curious than confused about the intrusion.
  895. >Her magic slowly encircles the item, gradually unfurling the note as it reaches her eyes.
  896. >Her face remains emotionless while her eyes dance across the page.
  897. >Your own curiosity begins to burn, and while you want to know what this sudden message is about, you respect Luna's privacy and remain mum.
  898. >A moment later, and she sets the note down by her forehooves, her attention squarely upon you.
  899. >"Is something the matter?" she asks.
  900. >The general innocence of her question catches you by surprise, your mind blanking in an instant.
  901. "What?" is all you can manage.
  902. >"You just seem tense - and not to mention, you are staring," she replies, almost embarrassed by her notations.
  903. "I didn't mean to," you reply, raising your hands to rub at your eyes. "The sudden letter made me paranoid, I guess."
  904. >Luna glances down at the correspondence, then back at you, before the dots connect in her head.
  905. >"Oh, no need to fear. This is merely a copy of the bill for the repair work on Applejack's cart earlier today," she explains, flashing the writing to you as evidence. "But why would a letter make you uneasy?"
  906. >You shrug, but Luna keeps a keen eye upon you.
  907. >But any attempt at a proper response is thwarted by a violent rumble that rattles the windows.
  908. >Both of you jump at the loud interruption.
  909. >Luna, caught in the midst of her movements to stand up, loses her balance on the uneven, yielding cushion of your mattress, falling forward into your chest.
  910. >"That was embarrassing," she says after a short chuckle. "Sorry."
  911. "No worries, that scared the hell out of me, too," you reply, taking the opportunity to give her a squeeze before she sits upright again. "But what the heck was that?"
  912. >As if on cue, your attention is drawn to the window, as the sound of fat raindrops begin to slowly plink against the pane of glass
  913. >"It was a bright and beautiful day out earlier, I am surprised the weather has so drastically changed in a matter of hours," she muses, turning her head to look out the window.
  914. >You straighten yourself up and follow her lead, finding ominous black clouds beginning to roll in, just as a short flash of lightning streaks out from below them.
  915. "Maybe the weather team got a little carried away again," you suggest.
  916. >"Is it a common occurrence that the weather is unpredictable?" she asks, raising an eyebrow.
  917. "Not really," you say, shaking your head. "From what I've been told, it usually happens when they have a group of fresh trainees work solo for the first time. Either that, or someone showing off and getting in over their head."
  918. >"Hm, I suppose an evening storm is not so bad," she says, relaxing as her gaze returns to the window amidst another low rumble of thunder.
  919. >But with everything settled, your mind turns to the aroma that has finally hit your senses - the apple butter.
  920. >The clock on the wall shows the two of you were out for about four hours, as it creeps closer to six o'clock.
  921. "I'll bet the apple butter is ready to cool down, I'll be back," you tell Luna, throwing your legs over the side of the bed.
  922. >"Allow me to help you," Luna says, her voice volume and tone increasing with anticipation.
  923. "All I have to do is take it off the heat, Luna," you say with a laugh as you turn to her, standing up and stretching your arms out above your head. "I appreciate the offer, though."
  924. >You see the slightest hint of either disappointment or embarrassment upon hearing your response, but she smiles and nods nonetheless.
  925. >The sound of the slow and steady patter of raindrops upon the windows mixes with the medley of a simmering, thick brew ever so slightly beginning to bubble as you reach the stovetop.
  926. >As you go through the motions of removing it from the heat source and to a safe spot on the counter, your mind wanders off.
  927. >It's just so funny and endearing how the smallest things fill Luna with excitement.
  928. >With everything her life has entailed - just of what you know - being able to slow down and take in the world is a new experience in and of itself.
  929. >Such an odd idea, considering she is centuries old.
  930. >Hell, with what little you know about her early years, it doesn't sound like she had much of a childhood, either.
  931. >Er, foalhood?
  932. >Fillyhood?
  933. >Doesn't matter.
  934. >Who knew someone would find your mundane existence so interesting?
  935. >Or find you interesting, for that matter?
  936. >"Anon, I believe the storm is closing in quickly," Luna says with a hint of trepidation.
  937. >The unexpected interruption draws you over to Luna just as you set out the heat pads on the counter.
  938. >Is she afraid of storms?
  939. >You turn to find her glued to the window.
  940. "I know, it will be okay, Luna," you say, trying to reassure her.
  941. >"No, I am fine, but somepony is outside, I don't believe they are going to get indoors before the storm strikes," Luna replies quickly.
  942. >You follow her gaze past the rain-pelted glass the best you can to see a blurred image of a buttery-yellow and soft pink pony trudging along slowly on the path outside.
  943. >You vaguely recognize her as one of Twilight's friends - Fluttershy.
  944. >But you can hardly consider her a friend - more of a friendly acquaintance.
  945. >Rarely have you had a conversation with the rather timid pegasus - she's not one to engage in conversation easily, and you have never forced the issue.
  946. >But judging by her pale blue saddlebags that sag over her frame and movement, Luna is right - there is no was Fluttershy is going to make the remaining half mile to her home before the full force of the storm hits.
  947. "I'll go invite her in, could you take the pot off the stove and place it on top of the pads on the counter?"
  948. >Luna nods with purpose and determination as she turns away from the window and hops off the bed.
  949. > At the same time, you head over to the door and pull it open, stepping outside and bracing yourself for the inevitable cold spatter of raindrops to greet you.
  950. >Even anticipating the shock to the system isn't enough, as you're pelted by a noticeable increase in intensity from just a few moments ago.
  951. "Fluttershy!" you call out, waving a hand to catch her attention.
  952. >The pegasus is visibly startled by your voice, stopping mid-step and quickly scanning her surroundings before her eyes set upon you.
  953. >"Oh, hello Anonymous," she replies, barely audible from the distance between you two. "I dont mean to be rude, but I really have to get home before the storm hits."
  954. "I don't think you have enough time, come on in," you say, beckoning to her with a wave of your arm.
  955. >"Oh, I don't want to be a bother an-"
  956. >A bright flash of lightning lights up the immediate area, with only a few seconds to spare before the crack of thunder echoes back.
  957. >Its enough to get Fluttershy moving quickly, galloping over to you as if she had forgotten the weight of her cargo.
  958. >"M-Maybe a visit wouldn't be such a bad idea," she mumbles as she reaches you.
  959. >An uneasy smile finishes her attempt to brush off the anxiety coursing through her.
  960. "Come on in, you can drop your saddlebags wherever, " you say, trying to be as welcoming as possible, holding the door open for her as the rain becomes more steady.
  961. >Fluttershy seems to lose some of her tension, allowing a slight - albeit genuine - smile to grace her face as she walks into your home.
  962. >This really isn't all that easy for you to brush aside the awkward and unexpected visit - but maybe this will be a good lesson for Luna.
  963. >It shows you have some to learn too, even as her mentor.
  964. >"I do appreciate you offering me shelter," she says. "I just don't like to be a bother."
  965. "Nonsense, we don't mind."
  966. >Something you said makes her abruptly tense up, as the sound of rain on the roof becomes audible in your quaint, quiet cabin.
  967. >"Oh, I didnt know you already had comp-"
  968. >Fluttershy's response abruptly halts as she spies Luna at the counter.
  969. >Luna spins around at roughly the same time, finished with setting aside the pot and extracting the enchanted stirring spoon she had placed in there earlier, which still hovers in the air within her magic's grasp.
  970. >Luna's face goes from a content smile to one of surprise as she gets a good look at your visitor, the spoon dropping to the floor.
  971. >"I'm sorry, your Highness, sorry!" Fluttershy bursts out, dropping to the floor and bowing her head.
  972. >Her whole body slightly trembles, not daring to look up at Luna.
  973. >Meanwhile, Luna averts her gaze at the sight, her ears drooping as her shoulders slump in embarrassment and shame.
  974. >No, not shame.
  975. >Regret.
  976. >This night has become stormy in more than just the weather.
  977.  
  978.  
  979.  
  980.  
  981. [Originally posted 9 November 2019]
Anonymous Princess Luna romance wholesome AIE moon

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