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    “Today is going to be great.”

    Slamming her book shut, Rarity allowed a deviously pleased smile to grace her lips. She spent at least two library visits planning today, and there was absolutely no way it could or would go wrong. Today, she would stop being the only soul to know of Princess Twilight’s existence. Today, she would henceforth be able to face the odd stares with a bit more confidence. Today, she would no longer be crazy.

    Today, Fluttershy would meet Twilight, and then she’d believe in ghost stories, fairy tales, and Rarity’s claims.

    “Rarity?”

    Rarity turned around and looked over to where the princess was sitting, busy reading one of several romance novels Rarity had brought her. Though Twilight had no small amount of books, she’d expressed interest in more modern literature, and Rarity had decided there was no better place to start than romance novels. Light, fluffy, romantic—honestly, what wasn’t to love? The alicorn, in fact, had already made her way through two of the four novels, and she seemed close to finishing the third one.

    Rarity knew Twilight would love them.

    “Yes, Princess?” Rarity asked in a sing-song voice, running through her mental checklist of questions Princess Twilight might still have about Fluttershy—or her thrilling novels.

    “Are all modern novels this predictable?” Twilight asked, looking up at the unicorn with a concerned frown. She levitated one of the other books and waved it around. “The last three have had the same core plots save for a few differences.”

    For the sake of her perfect day, Rarity pretended she did not hear that incredibly misguided question. Rarity wasn’t one to point out just how much the princess lacked taste where finer literature was concerned. The poor dear. “Princess, do you have any other questions before I leave to get Fluttershy?”

    Twilight lowered the book. “I… Are you sure this is a good idea?” she carefully asked. “Ponies are not usually very… enthusiastic when meeting me.”

    “Oh, don’t be silly! It’ll be perfectly fine,” Rarity reassured, waving off Twilight’s worries with her hoof. “You just need to relax a bit more, darli—Princess.” Rarity had slowly been warming Fluttershy up to the idea for the past few days, and it would be difficult for Twilight to make a bad impression when everypony involved knew their part to play. “I’m sure you’ll get along splendidly with her. Besides, there are plenty of books here that might interest her, so if worst comes to worst, you can always bring those up. She’s quite the reader, you know!”

    Twilight looked unsure but argued no further.

    “All right,” she relented. “You mentioned she takes care of animals? I can compile some books she might find useful.”

    “Yes, and she’s very good at it, too!” Rarity replied, looking around the library. Speaking of animals, where are the owls?

    “Rarity,” Twilight said, having returned to her enthralling reading, “I notice the protagonists in these books are all similar to yourse—”

    “Now, where are Elara and Themis?” Rarity interrupted quickly, hiding the faint reddening of her cheeks by looking around for the two birds. “I was hoping to take both of them with me so Fluttershy would feel more comfortable in coming to the library.”

    “They’ve been waiting outside ever since you told them you were leaving—about five chapters ago,” Twilight informed matter-of-factly, receiving a nervous laugh in reply.

    “Ah. I forgot.” Rarity cleared her throat and took her saddlebag from a nearby table, putting it on and grinning at the princess. “So! Shall we review our steps before I leave?”

    “No talk of the Spirit, only animals and caretaking,” Princess Twilight repeated monotonously, turning the page of her book. She closed it, then took the last one from the stack and turned it around, her brow furrowing deeper with every passing second she read the summary. Eventually, she looked up at Rarity with what could only be described as a look halfway between disgusted and condescending. “Rarity, this is rea—”

    “Princess, let’s not judge a book by its blurb, hmm?”

    Twilight opened her mouth to protest, frowning at Rarity, before sighing and opening the book up to the first page. “I suppose not…”

    “Have fun!” Rarity called, trotting toward the tunnel and out of the library before the princess could further insult her literary repertoire. “I’ll be back in an hour or so!”

    She made her way up the stairs and into the forest, finding the two owls huddled together on a branch, enjoying a nice nap. “Come on, you two,” she called, watching as they woke and flew down to meet her. “Fluttershy must be waiting for us already.”


    “Today is going to be perfect.”

    Aiming toward a “great” day was far too little for Rarity’s standards. She needed the day to go along perfectly if Twilight and Fluttershy were to become friends.

    Fluttershy took a drawn-out sip of her tea before putting the cup on the table and looking at Rarity hesitantly. “Rarity, are you sure about this?” she asked, lifting her hoof so as to gently pet Elara, who’d contented herself with eating insects from a bowl while Themis played with the other animals inside the cottage.

    Yes, I’m sure,” Rarity repeated for the millionth time, reminding herself not to let her frustration show. If she wanted things to go without a hitch, she needed Fluttershy to be confident in going, and that required patience and support. “Darling, we’ve been planning this for days! Don’t you want to meet her?”

    Fluttershy nodded. “Oh, I do!” But just as fast as her excitement appeared, so it faded away. “But the forest is so dangerous, and… and what about the pony who followed you the other day?” She folded her hooves on the table and pressed her ears against her head. “I don’t know, Rarity…”

    Rarity bit her lip. It was true that she’d never found out who the mysterious intruder in the library was, but… “There’s nothing to worry about, Fluttershy! They must have been a lost traveler or some such thing. I very much doubt a pony who’d gone there with the intention of spying or attacking me would have been careless enough to scream or make themselves known as they did.”

    Fluttershy did not answer.

    “Oh, Fluttershy, pleeeease. There’s absolutely no way we can get lost, and it’ll be perfectly safe!” Rarity insisted, pawing at the table and jutting her lower lip in the most adorable pout she could muster. She was pleased to see Elara, too, was looking at the pegasus with adorable wide eyes, wobbling around as cutely as she could. “Please, please, pleaaaa—”

    “All right,” Fluttershy finally said, delicately pushing her teacup away and getting up from the table. Elara cheerfully flew up and sat atop her head, eliciting a giggle from the pegasus.

    With a gleeful squee, Rarity stood and cantered toward the door, levitating Fluttershy’s saddlebag and placing it on its owner before putting her own bag on. Themis flew up and landed atop Fluttershy’s back, earning a glare from the bunny who’d been very insistently asked to stay home.

    “Do you have the postcard?” Fluttershy asked after she’d finished giving last-minute instructions to the critters wandering around the cottage.

    “Yes, yes! I put it in your bag! Come on, darling!” Rarity urged, opening the door and gesturing outside. “Princess Twilight is waiting and we—” Her voice faded to a stop when she noticed that she in fact was not gesturing toward an empty garden, but rather two familiar fillies standing at the door, heavy-looking bags on their backs and their hooves raised as if about to knock.

    “Girls! What are you doing here?” Rarity asked, eyeing the two fillies curiously.

    “Oh, hello girls!” Fluttershy called, trotting forward. “I wasn’t expecting you so soon!”

    The fillies gave a simultaneous downhearted sigh. “Cheerilee said we had to come today instead,” they replied.

    “‘Come today’?” Rarity asked, looking back and forth between the fillies and her friend. “Is there something I’m missing?”

    Scootaloo did not reply initially, looking at anything but Rarity, whereas Sweetie Belle only said something under her breath.

    Their faces fell even further when Fluttershy frowned and prompted, “Well? Aren’t you going to tell her?”

    “…Cheerilee gave us extra biology homework as punishment for skipping school last Monday,” Sweetie Belle informed, too ashamed to look up at her sister. “Fluttershy is going to lend us a book for the essay…”

    “Well, I’m very disappointed to hear that, Sweetie Belle,” Rarity scolded, frowning sternly at her younger sister, and friend. “That is very irresponsible!”

    Sweetie Belle winced. “I’m sorry, Sis…”

    “Why would you even skip cla—”

    And then it hit her with such force, her anger reached boiling point in a mere second. “No,” Rarity whispered, taking a threatening step toward the two fillies, who reacted by stepping back with confused expressions. Before either could speak up, Rarity lifted her hoof and pointed it at the two fillies. “It was you, wasn’t it?! The pony who followed me!”

    Of course! No wonder that scream had sounded so high-pitched! They’d already been following her all day, hadn’t they? They made it perfectly clear they knew she’d been going to the forest frequently! That must have been the next logical step of their incredibly ill-thought-out plan!

    “U-us?” the two ponies squeaked, looking at each other with even more confusion than before.

    Oh, acting innocent, were they? How daft did they really think Rarity was? As if they were the single most horrid piece of clothing she’d ever laid eyes on, Rarity circled the two fillies, eyes narrowed as she shot accusations at such a rate she didn’t notice Fluttershy gesturing for her to keep quiet.

    “I’m amazed at how incredibly brainless you both are! Following me into the Everfree Forest?! I don’t think I’ve—”

    Scootaloo shook her head vigorously. “B-but, Rarity, we nev—”

    “—ever in my entire life been as foolish as the two of you! I thought—”

    “Uhm, Rarity, you—”

    “—it was somepony dangerous who followed me into the library! I could have attacked you!” she accused, stamping her hoof against the floor. “Didn’t you learn anything from the last time you went into the forest?! That place is not for fillies to be wandering about, under any circumstance, ever!”

    The two fillies remained quiet for the longest time, and it wasn’t until Rarity stamped her hoof again and asked “Well?!” that Fluttershy reacted, stepping next to Rarity and whispering, “It was all-you-can-eat ice cream morning for three bits at Sugarcube Corner last Monday…”

    “Oh.”

    Oops…

    A nervous smile painted itself on Rarity’s face, followed by a stern frown. “Th-that is still very irresponsible, girls! For shame!” she continued scolding, trying to ignore the growing smiles on the fillies’ faces. She patted them both on the head before clearing her throat and trotting away. “Now, do your assignment and we’ll be off! Goodby—”

    There’s a library in the forest…?” Scootaloo asked, turning to look at Sweetie Belle.

    Rarity gulped audibly and looked back to the two awed fillies. “No, there isn’t,” she quickly said, trying to sound as convincing and stern as she possibly could. “Now, come, stop stall—”

    “I… was right?” Sweetie asked, turning to look at Scootaloo.

    Rarity shook her head, gesturing for Fluttershy to help her. “No, you weren’t! I was just being drama—” Her sentence was drowned out by the flurry of questions the two fillies shot at her, practically throwing themselves over Rarity in the process. Her own cries of “no!” were lost amongst “where is it?!” and “is it scary?!” and other gleeful inquiries.

    The unicorn got a moment of reprieve only when the fillies jumped away to vividly discuss between themselves their theories on the library and what they would do once they got there and what Cutie Marks in lost-library-finding would look like.

    Girls!” Rarity snapped, finally silencing the two excited ponies. Well, there was no turning back, but if she couldn’t reverse the wheels of time, she could at least prevent the fillies from going to the library. “You are not going into the Everfree Forest again! If there is a library, which I am not saying there is, it is not a place for fillies to wander to!”

    “W-why not?!” Scootaloo asked.

    “We want to see the library!” Sweetie Belle added.

    “And I want to be a queen, but not everypony can get what they want, hm?!” Rarity retorted.

    “We would have found it first if you hadn’t sent us away on Seeking Night!” Sweetie said with a huff, sitting herself on the ground and crossing her forelegs. “It’s not fair…”

    “W-what about Apple Bloom?! The filly living at the Apple farm!” Scootaloo continued, signaling for Sweetie to get back up, obviously not giving up the fight. “She takes lessons with Zecora, and she and her big sister get to go into the forest all the time!”

    “Well, that’s entirely Applejack’s decision, but I am not condoning either of you going into the forest, and that’s my final say on the matter,” Rarity said threateningly, thankfully impervious to the puppy-dog eyes her sister was regaling her with.

    “Come on, girls,” Fluttershy added in a much gentler tone, smiling amiably at the fillies. “Rarity is right. The Everfree Forest is very dangerous.”

    Sweetie Belle opened her mouth to protest, but she was cut off when Scootaloo’s hoof landed on her muzzle.

    “You’re right, Rarity! We won’t go into the forest anymore,” she said, suspiciously serious. The pegasus ignored the curious look her friend threw at her, and instead pushed Sweetie toward the inside of the cottage. “We’re going to do our homework, right, Sweetie Belle?”

    Sweetie blinked at Scootaloo before quickly nodding her head. “Yeah! We’re going to do our homework! We don’t want to see the library anymore!”

    The two fillies waved goodbye to the mares before stepping into the cottage and closing the door, leaving Fluttershy to stare after them while Rarity placed a hoof against her face and exhaled a sigh so deep, she was sure Princess Twilight could hear it.

    “Rarity, you don’t really think they’re going to do homework, do you?”

    “Of course not.” She exhaled another long-suffering sigh and took her hoof back. If the fillies hadn’t been the ones who followed her before, now they would be. She looked toward the door and enveloped the knob with magic, ready to twist it open. “I suppose we’ll have to take them with us.”

    Fluttershy looked aghast at the idea. “Take them with us?!”

    Rarity nodded. “We have to. I can assure you they’ll be going with or without us, so wouldn’t you rather it be with us?”

    “But what about…” Fluttershy glanced at the door briefly before whispering, “…Princess Twilight?”

    “Well, I…” Rarity said, letting go of the doorknob and rubbing her hoof against her cheek.

    While the library itself wasn’t really grand enough to warrant coming back almost every other day, Princess Twilight sure was. If Rarity couldn’t keep herself from going, the two fillies surely wouldn’t either if they met her. And then what would stop them from trying to find the other two princesses? Rarity was an adult who could afford the risk, but Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo?

    “Princess Twilight will have to keep herself hidden. They can’t meet her,” she said finally, taking hold of the doorknob again. “We can’t risk them going after the princesses or the lost books.”

    Though Fluttershy still didn’t look very comfortable with the idea, she didn’t object further. “All right…”

    “It’ll be fine, darling,” Rarity reassured, smiling at the pegasus. “Elara and Themis have always taken me through safe paths, and both the library and its princess are perfectly harmless. The girls won’t see the princess, and they won’t want to come back after that.”

    As soon as Rarity opened the door, Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo fell face first onto the floor, the aftermath of having been leaning against the door trying to eavesdrop. They got up just as fast as they fell, though, and immediately hugged the two mares.

    “You’re the best!” Sweetie cheered before letting go and rushing toward the forest, followed closely by Scootaloo. “Come on, let’s go, let’s go!”

    “Ah ah ah! Not so fast, hm?” Rarity called, pulling the two fillies back with her magic. She dropped them right in front of her and lowered herself to their eye-level. “Let us establish some ground rules, shall we?”

    “Yes, Rarity,” they groaned, rolling their eyes.

    “First rule: you are to stay next to Fluttershy and myself at all times. Second rule: when we get to the library, you will continue staying next to the both of us, as well as refraining from touching absolutely anything in the library. Third rule: you are to do anything we tell you to do, and finally, fourth rule.” Rarity narrowed her eyes and spoke slowly but loudly, “If you break any of the previous rules, I’m taking you straight back to Ponyville and will not design the costumes you requested for your club. Are we clear?

    Once the fillies excitedly nodded, Rarity straightened herself up and looked in the direction of the library. “Let’s get this done, then.”

    Her words were drowned out by elated cheers as the two fillies ran off again, leaving Fluttershy and Rarity to chase after them.

    Despite her initial reluctance, Rarity thought to herself that as long as she handled everything carefully, the outing shouldn’t bring any problems. It’ll be a quick trip to the library, a quick look around, and that’ll be the end of it.


    Today could still go somewhat well.

    “It’s so big…”

    Four ponies and two owls stood in front of the lost and forgotten Ponyville library: a familiar sight to the elder unicorn, but a relatively new and noticeably disconcerting sight to the other three. Rarity could barely stop herself from staring at her three companions, trying to figure out what they were thinking —Fluttershy, especially.

    Scootaloo was the first of the four to trot toward the oak tree, Themis resting on her back and enjoying the ride. She failed to notice the trapdoor, her attention drawn instead toward the plaque hammered onto the bark.

    “Donated by Princess Twilight Sparkle,” she read aloud.

    As soon as she did, Rarity heard Sweetie Belle softly whisper Twilight’s name with such wonder, it was enough to draw a smile from the mare. Maybe… Maybe them meeting Twilight isn’t a bad idea, after all, is it?

    She shook her head. Stop it, Rarity. It’s far too dangerous.

    Sweetie looked up at Rarity and tugged her foreleg, drawing the attention of her elder sister. “Rarity?” she asked softly, timidly enough that it got Fluttershy’s attention as well. Sweetie glanced at the tree and asked, “Have you been inside already?”

    Rarity giggled. “How else would I know it’s a library, darling?”

    “Oh, yeah…”

    Rarity lifted her hoof and affectionately brushed Sweetie’s mane. “My, my, a bit scared, are we?”

    “N-no!” Sweetie exclaimed defensively, shaking her head and taking several definitely confident steps all the way to the tree and Scootaloo.

    Rarity took advantage of the fillies’ absence to speak to Fluttershy privately. “What about you, Fluttershy? You do still want to go through with this, don’t you?”

    The pegasus nodded slowly but surely.

    Sudden excited yells from the two fillies caught Rarity’s attention, and she noticed they’d found the trapdoor leading into the library. Before they could go in without her, Rarity quickly trotted over. “Wait, girls, I’ll go first!” she exclaimed, opening the trapdoor once the two fillies moved aside. She watched briefly as Elara and Themis flew in first, before carefully stepping down the stairs, issuing several warnings to the fillies and Fluttershy.

    “It’s so dark,” Scootaloo said. The faint glow emanating from the tip of Rarity’s horn was their only guiding light.

    Stepping into the dark library, Rarity noticed Star was nowhere to be seen. She was secretly relieved by the fact, since a floating magic chandelier was sure to arouse interest in Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo. Then again, a floating magic candelabra would no doubt have the same effect, wouldn’t it?

    “Do you think it’s dark because ghosts hate light?” Scootaloo asked Fluttershy, squinting her eyes and staring out into the room.

    “Shh! Princess Booky might hear you, Scootaloo!” Sweetie immediately scolded, stepping closer to Rarity.

    “Her name’s not ‘Booky,’ dummy! It’s Twilight Sparkle!” Scootaloo shot back.

    Speaking of which, Rarity thought as she looked around the room, where is Princess Twilight? She supposed she should be used to Princess Twilight always appearing late, but for once, she couldn’t risk having the princess randomly appear as she so loved to do.

    “I’m going to find a candelabra or something of the sort,” Rarity said, turning to her companions. “Fluttershy, darling, can you look after the girls until I’m back?”

    “We don’t need that, Rarity!” Sweetie quickly exclaimed. She cleared her throat and closed her eyes, apparently deep in concentration. Sparks shot out of her horn, and Rarity was proud to see a soft shining glow appear at the top of the filly’s horn. “I did it!” The glow flickered several times, shooting more small sparks that made Sweetie wince, before finally dying out. She looked down at the floor and batted at a nearby stack of books. “Aw…”

    Rarity patted her on the head affectionately. “That was very good, Sweetie!” she praised, earning a pleased smile from her little sister. “Just a bit more practice.”

    “Wait, lemme read the spell again!”

    As Sweetie reached into her saddlebag to retrieve a book, Rarity looked around again. Still no sight of Star or the princess. She saw a normal candelabra nearby and quickly levitated it over, lighting it up with a simple enough fire spell.

    “Right, I’m going to find another candelabra to light our way properly,” she announced, setting the lit one down next to the fillies. The faster she found Star, the less risk there was of Sweetie or Scootaloo finding it. She wasn’t certain she was good enough at improv to come up with an explanation for a floating candelabra that didn’t involve ghostly magic.

    Fluttershy nodded, glancing uneasily to her side.

    By now, Sweetie Belle had taken out the book from her bag. “Easy Spells for Beginning Unicorns: Volume Two,” she read aloud. She then hesitated and pulled out another book. “Or was it in Volume One?” She pulled out yet another book. “Or Volume Four?”

    “Geez, Sweetie, how many of these didja bring?” Scootaloo asked, pulling from Sweetie’s bag what Rarity presumed was Volume Three. The pegasus opened up the book and squinted, scooting close to the feeble candlelight and trying to read despite the bad lighting. “Levitating small objects…”

    “No, no! I need illumination or fire spells,” Sweetie said, giving Fluttershy one of the volumes before starting to leaf through the pages of another.

    With the three of them occupied, Rarity took off into the depths of the library.

    “Princess Twilight?” she called quietly, brushing her hoof against the books as she trotted around. She was sure to look back every few moments or so, having learned her lesson on Twilight loving to scare her.

    Where is she?

    It wasn’t like Princess Twilight to take so long to appear.

    Rarity stopped against a bookcase and selected a book at random, taking it out and putting it back into its slot on the shelf several times. “Come on…” She looked around as she did so, but still no sign of the alicorn. There had to be a better way to call Princess Twilight. Playing hide-and-seek every time she stepped into the place was starting to get a bit annoying.

    After a few more moments of unsuccessful searching and book fiddling, she headed back, maneuvering around the rows of bookcases until she reached the library’s entrance. To her relief, everypony was still in their place. Fluttershy was busy reading from the book, Sweetie Belle was trying to be as close to the light without burning the pages as possible, Scootaloo looked dreadfully uninterested in reading about magic spells, and Princess Twilight looked incredibly fascinated by whatever she was rea—

    Princess Twilight?!

    Rarity’s hoof barely reached her mouth in time to muffle her horrified shriek. What is she doing there?! Twilight was sitting right behind Fluttershy and Sweetie Belle, a faint glow emanating from her horn as she read. Rarity could feel panic rushing through every vein in her body.

    Princess Twilight! Fluttershy!” Rarity hissed, waving her foreleg around to no avail.

    Oh, what was she going to do? Calling any louder would catch Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo’s collective attention, but her current volume was doing nothing to help. To her further misfortune, the owls were nowhere to be seen, so she couldn’t even use them to get Twilight’s attention.

    “Ugh, reading is boring,” Scootaloo said as she turned another page of her book, drawing a very displeased look from Twilight, which would have made Rarity laugh under other circumstances. “Let’s just use the candles and go exploring already…”

    “Now, Scootaloo, we need to wait for Rarity,” Fluttershy insisted, looking up from her book and finally noticing the fourth reader. Her mouth opened and Rarity expected a terrified yelp to come out, but was immensely relieved when Fluttershy’s scream was a muted one.

    Rarity sighed.

    This was certainly not how she had envisioned everything would pan out. Gone were her fantasies of Twilight and Fluttershy meeting under proper, perfectly controlled conditions. Oh well, she should be used to nothing ever going as planned, shouldn’t she?

    “Maybe the spell is in the fifth volume,” Sweetie lamented, making a move to put her book away.

    “N-no, no! Keep looking, I’m sure it’s there!” Fluttershy squeaked, gently pressing her hoof on Sweetie’s head to keep her from looking up. “J-just keep looking.” She then looked around and finally spotted Rarity, throwing her a pained look. “What do I do?!” she mouthed, glancing nervously at the alicorn who was still entranced in her reading.

    “Call her!” Rarity mouthed back.

    Fluttershy nodded and turned to Twilight, opening her mouth. Rarity watched Fluttershy’s lips move, but she failed to hear even the teensiest bit of sound actually come out from them. It didn’t help that every time Fluttershy “spoke,” she shrank away from the princess and lowered her voice even more.

    Fluttershy, for Denza’s sake…

    When the pegasus turned to Rarity again with a helpless stare, Rarity bit her lip and gestured for Fluttershy to poke Twilight for attention. That ought to work… if only Fluttershy didn’t look so horrified by the suggestion.

    Fluttershy put her hoof against her chest and shook her head. “I can’t do that!” she mouthed, glancing from Twilight to Rarity.

    Rarity rolled her eyes and kept gesturing for Fluttershy to do something, anything.

    Fluttershy took a deep breath, steeling herself, and shakily lifted her hoof. Her face turned almost as white as Sweetie’s coat when her hoof went right through the princess, but Rarity was glad to see her friend didn’t faint from shock. This was enough to finally get Twilight’s attention. She looked up at Fluttershy curiously and Fluttershy wordlessly—and shakily—smiled and pointed toward Rarity.

    Twilight finally looked toward Rarity and raised her eyebrow at Rarity’s frantic waving. Nodding briefly at Fluttershy as thanks, she teleported away, book and all, and appeared behind the unicorn. “Hello Rarity,” she said, still reading. “I didn’t want to interrupt your friends while they read.”

    “P-Princess,” Rarity gasped, still trying to catch her breath from the fright. “What were you doing?!”

    Twilight looked up briefly. “Your sister requested help in finding a spell,” she replied, turning back to the book. “And I’d never seen these books! Is your sister very interested in magic spells?”

    “Princess! Sweetie doesn’t kno—” Rarity cut herself off, noticing the two of them were still visible to Fluttershy and the fillies. “I need to talk to you in private,” Rarity whispered, briefly forgetting the princess was a spirit as she lifted her hoof to push the princess away. The second her hoof went through the alicorn, a chill ran down her spine and she quickly took it back, shaking off the odd feeling. I’m never getting used to that…

    She trotted off, Princess Twilight close behind, and stopped only when she’d reached the other side of the room, far away from the entrance and out of the others’ earshot. Princess Twilight stopped as well, lowering Sweetie’s book and finally paying full attention to the mare.

    “I wasn’t expecting you to bring ponies other than your friend,” Twilight continued. “I was waiting for your sister to finish reading so I could lend her a different book on spells. Does she have any more books I could borrow? Yours were a bit… Hm…” She drifted off while looking back at Sweetie’s book, opening it up and missing Rarity’s offended scowl. “Sweet Celestia, these are terrible. I’d like to show her ones that are not only much easier, but far more effective than these ‘spells.’”

    Though Rarity didn’t know who this Celestia was, she knew things would be terrible if Twilight talked to Sweetie. “Princess, as much as I appreciate your offer, and I truly do, I think you shouldn’t talk with my sister or her friend,” she said, smiling apologetically.

    Twilight looked up and frowned. “…Why not? That is why you brought them here, isn’t it? I thought you wanted me to meet your friends…”

    Rarity’s smile turned into a nervous one. “Well, uh, yes! I do, of course, but the… how shall I say it? The offer was extended to Fluttershy only. My sister and her friend weren’t supposed to be here.”

    Twilight was quiet, her eyes narrowing ever so slightly. “Why not?” she asked again, an edge to her voice. “You told me before that your sister and her friend first went into the forest because they wanted to meet me, whereas you found me by mistake. Why won’t you let them meet me?” The princess looked down a bit and muttered what sounded like, “I’m not that unpleasant.”

    Rarity faltered, not wanting the princess to possibly misinterpret her reasons and think Rarity didn’t want others to befriend her. “On the contrary, Princess Twilight!” she exclaimed as loudly as she could without alerting the others, offering a charming smile. “You’re far too interesting.”

    “Really?” Twilight asked, the sarcasm dripping from her words only accentuated by her raised eyebrow.

    “Yes, really,” Rarity shot back, rolling her eyes playfully. “Honestly, Twilight, look at yourself! A beautiful alicorn princess literally right out of a fairy tale? Meeting somepony like you must be every filly’s dream!”

    “…Really?” the princess asked again, though the sarcasm had all but disappeared. Her ears lowered and her expression softened into one of… hope?

    “It was my dream when I was my sister’s age, at least. The Princess in the Library was always my favorite princess from the tale,” Rarity said nonchalantly, remembering hours spent as a filly designing dresses for the lost princesses. “And it certainly doesn’t help that she is also Sweetie’s favorite princess from the legend. If she met you, you’d have a little filly rushing here every single day to be with you. As nice as that may sound, that is why, Princess, she can’t meet you,” she said finally, carefully watching Princess Twilight’s expression. “You wouldn’t really want a filly crossing a dangerous forest all the time, would you?”

    “I suppose that makes sense,” Princess Twilight murmured, taking back the book and flipping through the pages, apparently lost in thought. Her ears flickered up and she asked in a curiously soft voice, “I… I was your favorite princess?”

    A crimson blush decorated Rarity’s cheeks, but she smiled—if awkwardly—despite this. “Oh! Uh, well, yes, you were!” she informed, suddenly feeling rather embarrassed about the time as a filly she had dressed up as “Princess Booky” for Seeking Night. Well, she doesn’t have to know about that, does she? I don’t think she’d approve of a dress made out of book pages.

    “Now we know why I keep coming back! Ha ha…” she continued before clearing her throat. “In any case, I think for now you should remain in hiding unti—” Her sentence was interrupted when the princess teleported away in a rather rude fashion and reappeared atop the bookcase, apparently looking at something on the other side of the bookcase. “Princess Twi—”

    The princess lifted her hoof to silence her, and moments later, another voice very near to Rarity spoke up.

    “Rarity?” Fluttershy called, suddenly appearing at the corner of the aisle, carrying the candelabra. “Oh, there you are!” She seemed to be looking for somepony else, but after a minute trotted toward Rarity, Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle trailing behind her. “The girls were… getting a bit bored,” Fluttershy quickly added.

    In other words, Rarity thought, they were going to start exploring whether you liked it or not.

    “Didja find another lamp, Rarity?” Scootaloo asked, idly reading the titles on the spines of books. Behind her, Sweetie Belle continued to read from her own book, practically pressing it against her face in what was no doubt an attempt to read with no light.

    Twilight remained unspotted by the three new arrivals, still standing high above the bookcase and looking down at Sweetie Belle. When Scootaloo started looking up, she quickly teleported to the opposite bookcase, still focused on Sweetie and her book. Could she even read from up there?

    “Oh no, I haven’t!” Rarity said, drawing Scootaloo’s wandering eyes toward her. She brightened the light from her horn a bit more to make up for the lack of light, which led Sweetie to take the candelabra from Fluttershy.

    “Okay, let me try again!” she exclaimed, putting the book down, blowing out the candles and focusing her sight on the one nearest to her. She bit down on her tongue, narrowed her eyes, and grunted and groaned as nothing but a few sparks shot out from her horn. “Come oooooon!” she whined, practically glaring at the candles until another spark shot out from her horn and a tiny flame appeared—and died out immediately afterwards. “Ugh!

    “Hey, isn’t this your book?” Scootaloo asked, picking up the book Twilight had unceremoniously dropped when she’d teleported away to the bookcase.

    “Now, now, Sweetie, I’m sure you’ll manage one day,” Rarity soothed, taking the book from Scootaloo and floating it inside Sweetie’s saddlebag. She glanced up again to find that Twilight had left. She then relit the candelabra and continued, “Now, why don’t we leave? As you’ve seen, there’s nothing really interesting here besides books.”

    “No! We haven’t found Princess Twilight yet,” Scootaloo protested, taking the candelabra, trotting off and turning around the nearest corner, Sweetie Belle following behind with her nose again stuck in her book. “Princess Twilight! Where are you?!”

    “Where is the princess?” Fluttershy asked once the fillies had left.

    “I don’t know. She was up on that bookcase a minute ago, but now she—” Rarity cut herself off, noticing Fluttershy’s eyes had grown wide and were fixed on something behind the unicorn. “Ah, Princess!” Rarity said, turning around and smiling at the impassive alicorn standing behind. “There you are.”

    “Your sister’s technique is hindering her progress,” Princess Twilight informed, re-reading the book Rarity distinctly remembered having put back into Sweetie’s bag. “Her own desperation for the spell to be successful is what’s preventing its success. She needs to properly concentrate and feel the magic flowing within her.” She closed the book and teleported it away, hopefully into Sweetie’s bag again. “She has potential, but it needs to be honed.”

    As much as Rarity would have loved to discuss the subject further, she was more interested in other matters. Specifically, the pegasus next to her staring at Princess Twilight as if she were—and indeed was—a ghost. “Er, Princess, if I may interrupt.” Rarity nodded toward Fluttershy. “You’ve met—”

    “Fluttershy,” Princess Twilight said, prompting a barely audible squeak from the timid mare. The princess bowed her head, acknowledging Fluttershy’s presence.

    It was actions like those that reminded Rarity that Twilight’s generally stoic attitude was, in fact, also due to her being royalty. This was only emphasized further when Fluttershy replied by immediately bowing down. Oh dear, Rarity couldn’t even remember the last time she’d bowed down to Twilight. Had the princess taken offense to it?

    “P-Princess Twilight,” Fluttershy greeted her nervously, still bowing down. Probably out of fear more than respect.

    Now Twilight looked a bit awkward, glancing from the bowing pegasus to Rarity. “You may rise now,” she said, looking even more uncomfortable when Fluttershy failed to do so. It wasn’t until Rarity nudged her friend that Fluttershy drew herself up.

    Rarity looked back and forth between the two mares, expecting them to start talking and become the absolute best of friends. Instead, they just stared awkwardly at each other, occasionally sending Rarity pained glances. The increasingly awkward silence was thankfully halted by the hooting of the two resident owls. Themis and Elara flew down to the trio, settling themselves on Fluttershy’s immediately outstretched hoof.

    “Oh, there you are,” Princess Twilight said, obviously relieved at finding something to distract her from that disastrous—in Rarity’s opinion—attempt at conversation.

    “They… They live in the library?” Fluttershy asked finally, looking from the owls to Twilight.

    “Yes. Elara was born here,” Twilight replied, obtaining a hoot from the owl in question. “She brought Themis here when he was an owlet. He’d been injured outside, and after we nursed him back to health, he decided to stay here.”

    As Twilight spoke, Rarity noticed Fluttershy became much more attentive. Twilight raised her hoof and softly brushed it past Elara, sending a chill down her spine which came out as an adorable shivering hoot. What was even more adorable, however, was the giggle it drew from Fluttershy.

    “They’re very fond of you,” Fluttershy said, smiling softly at the princess.

    Twilight’s ears perked up. “O-oh, thank you. I am very fond of them too.”

    Could it be? Where they actually hitting it off? Rarity wanted to kiss both owls for having arrived at the perfect time. Maybe things would still work out even despite Swe— Oh. Rarity looked around, having completely forgotten about the two fillies.

    “Uhm, Princess,” she interrupted with reluctance, “I do hate to cut this short, but I think it might be best we take the girls home now, and come back later.”

    “Oh.” Twilight nodded. “All right.” She turned to Fluttershy. “Rarity had mentioned you enjoyed books on flora and fauna. Would you like to look at some when you return?”

    “Oh, y-yes, please,” Fluttershy replied, once more bowing down low. She then got up and turned around, “I’ll go find the girls…” She bowed again. “Goodbye, Princess.”

    Princess Twilight bowed her head in acknowledgment before turning to Rarity. “Are you all right?” she asked, moving back upon finding Rarity standing very close with a very wide grin.

    “Sooooo, what did you think of her?” Rarity asked, fluttering her eyelashes. Ah, she couldn’t wait to hear it. Oh Rarity, she was a very delightful pony! So kind and gentle! You truly do have the best taste in friends! Twilight would say, to which Rarity would reply: But of course, darling! Was there ever any dou

    “She was nice,” the princess replied simply.

    “‘She was nice’? That’s it?” Rarity asked, deflating a bit. So much for her grand taste. She sighed dramatically and shook her head. “For a pony who reads so much, it’s surprising how laconic you are sometimes.”

    Twilight looked indignant by the remark. “But— Well, I mean—” she sputtered, before raising an accusing hoof. “I didn’t have much time to talk to her and make a proper assessment!”

    “Come now, I was just teasing you, Twilight,” Rarity said, laughing at the princess’ concerned expression. She cleared her throat and looked around. “I’d better go, then.” She turned to the princess and noticed she seemed lost in thought suddenly. “…Everything all right?”

    Twilight blinked, brought back to reality. “Oh, er, yes.” She paused. “It’s just that… that’s the third time you called me by my name without acknowledging my title. You did that when you came back from Canterlot, as well.”

    Rarity was aghast by this revelation. “Oh dear, have I?! Princess, how terribly disrespectful of me! I didn’t mean it!” she quickly said, now deeply regretting all the lack of bowing she’d been doing. Goodness, if Princess Twilight still remembered Rarity doing that from the visit before last, that meant she must have been really bothered by it. “I’m very sorry!”

    “Rarity, you don’t have to apologize,” Princess Twilight replied. “I wasn’t offended by it or anything of the sort. I just noticed it, that’s all.”

    Rarity was having none of that, however. A Princess should be treated with proper respect! “Still, that was not appropriate of me, Princess. Please accept my apologies.” She cleared her throat and continued, “However, I should press on now, so I’ll see you in a few hours. Goodbye for now, Princess Twilight,” she said making sure to bow down. However, when she looked up, Twilight again looked ill-at-ease. “…Is something wrong?”

    “N-no, it’s just… Why did you— You don’t have to bow to me, Rarity,” she said, fidgeting slightly.

    Rarity raised her eyebrow. “Why not? Fluttershy did! It’s proper etiquette, after all.”

    “Well, yes, but you— It’s just odd when you do it,” Princess Twilight replied lamely, looking more than a bit flustered. She pawed at the ground and bit her lip. “You don’t have to treat me like that, Rarity. You’re my—” She cut herself off and hastily corrected, “Just please don’t do that again.”

    As much as Rarity would have loved to continue teasing her, she refrained. “All right, Princess. Goodbye for now,” she replied instead, waving playfully.

    Princess Twilight acknowledged the gesture by not acknowledging it at all. Instead, she simply teleported away, off to read more books no doubt.

    Rarity smiled to herself, shaking her head before trotting off to find Fluttershy.

    Twilight still had a ways to go with social etiquette, but foal steps, no? Besides, it would feel odd if the princess suddenly stopped being, well, her. There was some sense of normality now when it came to Twilight and everything she represented, even more so with Fluttershy added to the mix. During her first visits, Rarity had always felt as though Princess Twilight and the library would disappear at any given moment—now she had grown used to trekking through the forest, sure that both were waiting for her. Thankfully, despite this, her interest in the princess and the library had yet to wane. On the contrary, it felt like every visit still had something new or thrilling for her, something to keep her interest strong.

    Like screams, for example.

    Rarity’s trotting halted when two loud and familiar high-pitched screams echoed through the aisles. That sounds like the girls! There wasn’t anything dangerous in the library, was there? Well, technically speaking there was Twilight, but Twilight had made it clear that she wouldn’t talk to the fillies.

    Unless…

    The blood drained from her face at the exact same time as a terrifying thought entered her mind. Unless whoever broke into the library came back… For once, she was glad to know that no matter how powerful whomever broke in was, they surely couldn’t outmatch a thousand-year-old alicorn.

    “Rarity.”

    Rarity’s terrified shriek rivaled—or perhaps even surpassed—the ones from the girls, slamming herself against the wall and looking at Twilight. Her terror soon faded into relief, and after a moment of gathering herself, it faded into anger. “Princess Twilight, I swear to Princess Denza that if you—”

    “Are you all right?” Twilight interrupted, utterly failing to care about the heart attack she’d almost given Rarity. She seemed to be inspecting Rarity for any type of noticeable injury, and Rarity would have been more moved if she wasn’t irate.

    “It wasn’t me! It was the girls!”

    Rarity!

    It all happened a bit too quickly for even Twilight to react and teleport away. Scootaloo rushed into the aisle, words shooting out of her mouth at a quickfire pace that made her hard to understand. She rushed to Rarity, pulling at the mare’s forehooves, but stopped when her eyes finally found the infamous Princess Twilight “Booky” Sparkle.

    Scootaloo’s grasp on Rarity weakened, and she let her forehoof fall to the floor. Twilight did naught but stare back at her, almost as if Scootaloo was the ghost rather than the other way round. This left Rarity to be the only one actually taking action instead of gawking around.

    “Scootaloo!” she snapped, catching the startled filly’s attention. “What happened?! Where’s Sweetie Belle?!”

    Scootaloo looked back and forth between Rarity and Twilight. “Wait, b-but— Rarity! Look!” She pointed at Twilight, making it clear she didn’t understand why Rarity was completely unfazed by the ghost standing there.

    Focus, Scootaloo!” Rarity said, stamping her hoof against the floor. “Where’s Sweetie Belle?!”

    Scootaloo shot Princess Twilight one last glance before going off in hasty explanation. “Sh-she was practicing her spell, and she was doing okay, and I told her I wanted the lamp, so she started looking for one, and then she found one, and she tried doing the spell, but then the lamp floated by itself, and she got scared, and her horn did something weird, and she set a table on fire, and then I—”

    “Wait.”

    There was silence as Rarity and Scootaloo turned to look at the alicorn. She looked perfectly calm if a bit concerned, her hoof raised slightly. And then— “She what?!” Twilight exclaimed, her wings flaring up, ears shooting upright and expression turning panicked.

    Before Scootaloo could even reply, Princess Twilight teleported away, no doubt leaving the greatest of impressions on the poor filly. There was a split-second of silence before Scootaloo’s face twisted into one of pure and utter horror.

    Wait, Princess Booky!” she screamed, galloping away from Rarity and into the maze of bookcases. “Please, she didn’t mean it! Don’t trap Sweetie Belle in the library forever!

    With Scootaloo gone, Rarity took a second to stand there and reflect on the sheer absurdity of her situation. Some ponies had normal lives. Some lived for decades, and even centuries, leading absolutely perfectly normal lives. Maybe she too would have led a similar life. Maybe she did in some alternate universe. Maybe she became a celebrated fashion designer, got married, had some foals, lived to a healthy old age and died surrounded by her loved ones.

    And, perhaps later, when she had more than a second to reflect on the situation, she’d realize that a so-called “normal life” sounded, quite frankly, boring.

    Thankfully, that was not her destiny. Her odd destiny had brought her to that moment inside a mythical library in a forest in the company of two hysteric fillies, one probably equally hysteric alicorn, one no doubt fainted pegasus, one floating candelabra, and— Her train of thought was interrupted when she saw Star rising up toward the ceiling and transforming into a chandelier, lighting up the entire room.

    And so, snapping back to reality, Rarity took a deep, deep breath, before rushing off with a… “Princess Twilight, please, wait!

    By the time Rarity reached the entrance, the fire had been put out, probably by Princess Twilight, though the now-crispy, blackened table Sweetie had set ablaze still smoked slightly. Rarity wasn’t sure that she wanted to know how old the table was. The princess was standing several feet away, scorched parchments floating all around her. She was so busy reading the remains of one, she hadn’t even noticed Rarity arrive.

    Ohhh dear… Rarity thought, hoping that whatever was written on the parchments wasn’t vitally important. If it was…

    She looked around and finally found the fillies and Fluttershy. The older pegasus remained thankfully unfainted. In fact, she looked much calmer than Rarity would have expected. The same couldn’t be said of the two ponies behind her, clutching onto the pegasus’ hindlegs as they stared at the muttering princess.

    Rarity immediately checked her sister for any visible injuries and was half-relieved to see the filly looked scared more than hurt. Her horn seemed to be in good condition, too. It was probable she’d simply had a magic surge after being scared by Star, and thankfully, more than painful, they were just messy—and fiery, apparently.

    “Er, Princess Twilight?” Rarity asked, ignoring Sweetie and Scootaloo frantically waving their hooves so she’d quiet down. When Twilight didn’t reply, she trotted even closer and, raising her voice, asked, “Princess? Was there much damage?”

    “Yes,” Princess Twilight replied, flatly. “Though it’s nothing I cannot rewrite.” She sighed and turned around to look at Rarity. “May I borrow your book on Equestrian fashion again?” After Rarity nodded, the princess turned back to the parchments’ remains, again seeming to forget the three other ponies in the room.

    Or, she forgot about them until Rarity loudly cleared her throat.

    Twilight looked up at her and then at last toward Fluttershy and the fillies. It was as if her mind took a minute to process the implications before her eyes widened. She turned to Rarity, at a loss of what to do.

    Rarity let out a long sigh. She turned toward Fluttershy, her eyes lowering toward the two fillies still glued to Fluttershy’s hindlegs.

    “Sweetie Belle?” she called out, trotting toward the two fillies and older mare. “Are you all right?” she asked, only for Sweetie Belle to quietly nod, still unable to tear her eyes away from Twilight. A few more moments of staring ensued before Rarity decided the unrehearsed show must go on. “Girls,” she began, gesturing toward the princess. “This is my friend, Princess Twilight.”

    “She… She’s not going to banish me here forever?” Sweetie asked Rarity, eyes still glued onto Twilight.

    “No, she isn’t,” Rarity replied. She turned to Twilight and nodded toward Sweetie. “Isn’t that right, Princess?”

    “I would never do that to anypony,” Princess Twilight said, ears lowering and frowning at the filly, almost as if she were offended by the insinuation. “No matter what they did…”

    For a moment, Rarity wasn’t sure Twilight was still talking about Sweetie Belle. “See?” she interrupted, not wanting to dwell on the thought further. She used her magic to gently push Sweetie away from Fluttershy and toward Princess Twilight. “However, I do believe an apology for the burnt table is in order, isn’t it?”

    Sweetie gulped audibly, taking several shaky steps toward the princess. “I’m sorry I burnt your stuff, P-Princess Twilight.”

    Twilight took a step forward, her expression softening, but when Sweetie Belle winced and stepped back in fear, the princess did the same. “I, uh, I accept your apology,” she said finally, looking ill at ease with the entire situation. She looked at Rarity before addressing the filly again. “Your magic has potential, but you need proper training to channel it effectively and”—she glanced at the table—“avoid accidents.”

    Well, that turned out better than expected, Rarity thought, glad to see all was forgiven. Silence permeated the room soon after, and she realized neither Sweetie nor Princess Twilight knew quite what to say. Rarity was about to say something to break the ice, but to her pleasant surprise, Princess Twilight was faster.

    “You’re Sweetie Belle?” she asked, receiving a shaky nod from the filly. “Rarity has told me a lot about you. She says you and your friend came looking for me once?” She received yet another shaky nod but nothing else, prompting her to, again, look at Rarity. It was clear that foals were not the princess’ area of expertise, but Rarity thought she’d been doing quite well.

    “The Princess in the Library was your favorite, wasn’t she?” Rarity asked Sweetie, hoping to use that bond to get things moving.

    Sweetie nodded, reassured by her older sister’s intervention. “I helped make Princess Booky’s costume this year,” she said, earning a slight frown from the princess, who repeated her “nickname” to herself under her breath. “A-and Rarity used to dress up as her when she still lived at home with me. She had a dress made of book pages,” she continued, completely ignoring Rarity’s frantic waves for her to be quiet.

    The response Rarity feared was immediate. Taking into account all the things that had happened since they met, Rarity had never seen the princess look so indignant before. “You used book pages as fabric for a dress?! Why would you do that?!”

    Rarity’s cheeks went crimson. “It was a torn-up old textbook! At least half of the pages were already missing!”

    When Princess Twilight opened her mouth to no doubt give a lecture on why Rarity was wrong in every possible way, the lecture was cut short by somepony. The two arguing mares turned around and found both Sweetie and Scootaloo giggling at the scene. Fluttershy, off to the side, looked amused by it all, even if she had a little more composure than the fillies.

    Reminded of the second filly’s presence, Rarity gestured toward her. “That’s Scootaloo, Princess Twilight,” she introduced, making the aforementioned filly hold on tighter to Fluttershy. “She and Sweetie Belle are the ones who originally went looking for you. They have a little club called the—”

    “Cutie Mark Crusaders,” Scootaloo filled in, finally detaching her hoof from Fluttershy’s hind leg. It had become a habit of Scootaloo to say the name before Rarity could, largely thanks to the times the unicorn had referred to them as the “Cutie Mark Invaders.”

    “It’s because we don’t have our cutie marks yet,” Sweetie explained, for once proudly displaying her blank flank, “and we wanted to get one in princess finding!” She suddenly stopped and stared at the princess. “Do ghosts have cutie marks?”

    Princess Twilight blinked at her. “Yes, of course,” she replied, before hesitating and looking at her flank to make sure. “It’s practically impossible to lose a cutie mark unless very powerful magic is involved.”

    “Oh! Can I see it?” Sweetie asked, trotting toward the side of the alicorn without waiting for permission.

    “W-wait, I wanna see too!” Scootaloo blurted out, running toward Sweetie Belle, her fascination with cutie marks trumping her fear of Princess Twilight. When she reached her destination, she puffed out her cheeks in disappointment. “Aw… It’s just a star… I thought it was gonna be scarier…”

    “It looks just like your crown!” Sweetie Belle pointed out, trotting back in front of the princess and looking at the tiara on the alicorn’s head.

    “Oh, that’s not my crown,” Princess Twilight replied, glancing at the object. “It’s one of the Elements of Harmony, specifically the Element of Magic.”

    Rarity furrowed her brow. Elements of Harmony? That sounds familiar… Her eyes widened when she remembered the gemstones she’d used for Seeking Night. The magical gems used to defeat the Spirit! She looked at the crown under a newfound light. If memory of the legend served, it said that the Spirit had scattered all the gems except for one inside the princess’ crown. Why hadn’t she ever thought about it before? Then again… if those were really the only things capable of defeating the Spirit… And they only had one… Gulping, Rarity found she wasn’t so excited about her discovery after all.

    “How do you keep it up on your head?” Scootaloo asked. She gestured toward the golden collar and horseshoes Twilight was wearing. “Can ghosts wear clothes? Why don’t they fall off?” She lowered her voice, glancing at her sides. “Can you walk through walls?”

    “She can walk through walls,” Rarity answered, unable to stop a grin when the two fillies gasped and stared at Twilight in awe. “It’s quite the sight.”

    “Can… Can you walk through us?” they asked, smiling with far too much excitement for somepony who’d just asked… well, that.

    Twilight frowned. “Yes, but I’d rather not,” she replied curtly. “As for my regalia, I was wearing it when I…” She faltered, gesturing with her hoof. “…lost my physical form, so I assume it’s become a permanent part of my being.”

    “Wait a moment,” Rarity interrupted. “Wouldn’t that mean the Element of Magic is unusable?”

    For a split-second, Twilight’s expression darkened. “In theory, yes.”

    Had that been another of the Spirit’s intentions by spiritifying Twilight? How were they supposed to stop him then, if he was indeed still out there? There were so many questions with no answers, and it frustrated her endlessly.

    “So, uhm, are you dead?” Sweetie Belle asked innocently.

    Rarity slammed her hoof on the floor. “Sweetie Belle!” she blurted out, completely aghast by the incredibly tactless question. “You can’t just ask somepony if they’re dead! Where are your manners?!”

    “What does it feel like?” Scootaloo added to the question, completely ignoring Rarity’s second horrified gasp. Manners, it seemed, were completely and utterly lacking in the younger generation, and Rarity was going to have a stern talk with her parents in the near future regarding the matter. “Does it hurt?”

    Girls!” Rarity turned to the princess, embarrassed out of her wits. “Princess, I’m so sorry, please forgi—”

    “Actually, I am not entirely sure,” Princess Twilight replied, seemingly unaffected by the emotional load behind the questions. Her horn flashed and a scroll appeared next to her, which she unfurled and glanced at as she spoke. “As I’ve said before, the tests I’ve run on myself did not yield any conclusive results. Logically, if I was merely a spirit, my body should have been interred somewhere…” She petered out and read from the scroll briefly before she sent it back from whence it had come.

    “But according to Meager Offering’s Research into the Stability of the Soul, a spirit wouldn’t possess the capacity for any emotion besides sadness, anger, or wrath, and while I’ve certainly felt all of those… I’ve also been happy”—her furtive glance toward Rarity did not go as unnoticed as she might have liked, but she shook it off and swiftly continued—“which leads me to conclude that I cannot be dead.”

    She paced back and forth in front of the fillies, apparently unaware that she was disconcerting them a little as she phased through the remains of the table every time she turned around. “My current theory is that my entire body is under the effect of a physical shift spell, which essentially means that I am out of sync with the ‘real’ world, and therefore cannot interact with it by any other means than my magic, which doesn’t seem to be affected. I suppose the spell has also affected my basic bodily functions, seeing as I don’t need to sleep or eat.”

    Fluttershy, who until then had been listening quietly, cleared her throat. When everyone turned to look at her, she immediately seemed to regret her action, shrinking away slightly, but nevertheless persevered. “What about the Spirit?” she asked. That had been one of her recurring questions, and it made sense that she’d be more concerned about the being who cursed Twilight rather than the after-effect. “Where is he?”

    “I…” Twilight faltered, taken aback by the question. “He was defeated…” she replied lamely, clearly not truly believing in her own affirmation. “The princess must have defeated him.”

    The princess? Did she mean the other Princesses? Rarity thought back, remembering Princess Twilight mentioning somepony called Celestia. Why did that name feel familiar? She’d heard it before, a while back, but where?

    “Then why are you still a ghost?” Sweetie asked.

    Princess Twilight winced. “I… I don’t know…” She pressed a hoof against her forehead, looking visibly nervous. “I… I assume he must have been defeated. He said he’d be back the second time he came here, but he never did come back, so I—”

    “Wait!” Rarity interrupted, startling the alicorn who’d gotten caught up in her own ramblings. “You mean to tell me he returned here after trapping you?!” Why had the princess never mentioned that before? Just another thing to add to the many things she kept hidden away under lock and key—unless fillies came snooping, apparently. “Why? What did he want?”

    “I, I don’t remember. It was before Owlowiscious came, and I had no way to write down the event.” Princess Twilight blurted out, not having expected Rarity to join the impromptu question and answer session. “He came back to try and trick me again, told me that the library wasn’t cursed, and I could leave whenever I wanted, and that there was no map, b-but it was a trick.” She started to pace around again, looking more distressed by the second. It was clear that by this point, she was no longer addressing the other ponies in the room. “I can’t get out, and even if I could, leaving would make the map disappear, and if there was no map, why hasn’t Spike come back for me? He would have come back, wouldn’t he?”

    “Spike?” the fillies asked, snapping the alicorn out of her thoughts. “Who’s that?”

    Twilight’s eyes widened, almost as if she’d only just realized she’d perhaps said more than she wanted. She took several steps back from the curious fillies, trying to find a way to salvage her situation. “I… I don’t… I…”

    This was Rarity’s cue to intervene, as she realized perhaps the questioning had been taken too far. “Thank you, Princess,” she said, loudly and clearly enough to snap Twilight’s attention to her. “I do believe we’ve asked you enough for one afternoon.” She looked at the fillies and offered her best threatening glance, “Haven’t we?”

    The fillies’ heads dropped. “Aw…”

    Twilight seemed sympathetic toward them, despite her near meltdown seconds before. “Maybe we can talk a little more the next time you come visit?” she suggested, much to Rarity’s dismay considering she’d started that whole day hoping there wouldn’t be a next time. Had Princess Twilight forgotten what Rarity had told her? “I enjoyed answering your questions, and the books you brought.”

    “Can we come back tomorrow?!” Sweetie asked, delighted by the princess’ positive response.

    “And the day after tomorrow?!” Scootaloo added. The two fillies went on and on until Rarity cleared her throat after they’d asked to come every day for a month.

    “We can bring you all our school books!” Sweetie added. “Until we graduate!”

    “And I can lend you my Daring Do books!” Scootaloo added, looking through her bag. “I have the first one here… Or do you, Sweetie?” she asked, prompting Sweetie to similarly look through her own bag.

    Rarity used the fillies’ distraction to her advantage, trotting over to Twilight. “Princess Twilight?” she whispered. “May I have a word?” It took a moment for the princess to stop watching the books they were taking out, but once Rarity had her full attention, she sympathetically said: “Princess, I hate to say this again, but it’s not safe for them to make the trek to the library every day…”

    The princess blinked. “Oh?” She then processed the information, and her ears dropped. “Oh… right.”

    Great. Now Rarity felt bad. “I am sorry, Princess,” she said sincerely. “Though I know Elara and Themis would never take us down a dangerous path, I simply can’t ask the owls to stand guard in Ponyville and guide them here whenever they fancy. I already have to figure out how I’m going to get them not to come here with or without the owls…”

    “I understand…” Twilight paused and frowned. “Unless… If they come with you, that should be fine, shouldn’t it?” It seemed like she had an idea, but Rarity was honestly afraid of finding out what that could be.

    Rarity nodded slowly. “Well, I suppose that would work out.” But then again, she didn’t really want to have to take care of them every single time she came to the library. What if they wandered off? What if they broke something? What if Rarity wanted to talk to Twilight but they interrupted? But if Twilight wanted to see them, it wasn’t right for Rarity to stop that from happening, was it?

    Rarity and the princess’ collective attention was caught by an annoyed groan coming from the two small ponies. “Aw, we don’t have it here…” they muttered, closing their bags with an annoyed huff. Though she’d never read them, the Daring Do books were all the rage, so Rarity understood why they’d be disappointed at not being able to share them with the princess.

    Maybe it would have gotten a better reception than her sorely unappreciated romance novels, but she had her doubts.

    “That’s fine!” Princess Twilight replied, bowing her head as thanks. “Why not bring it in a week?”

    “Next week?” Sweetie asked, disheartened. “Can’t we bring it tomorrow?”

    “Tomorrow? Hm…” The princess rubbed her chin, scrunching up her brow. “Do you think you’ll have enough time to write an essay in one day?” When the two fillies replied with a perplexed look, Twilight’s horn lit up and another scroll appeared. As she unfurled it and read, she elaborated, “This is a complete description I made of Ponyville when it was founded. I take it it is very outdated, so I was hoping you two could help me by writing a new one? And, in a week, Rarity can bring you back here and we can look it over.” She rolled up the scroll and levitated it over to the two. “Here. You can borrow mine to use as help.”

    After arguing for some time on who’d carry the scroll and ultimately deciding Rarity should do it, the two fillies nodded enthusiastically, looking even more excited after the princess thanked them. Rarity herself was quite pleased with the excuse—or perhaps serious request?—because that at least meant they wouldn’t be wandering into the forest. Besides, bringing them to the forest once a week wasn’t too bad, was it?

    “Speaking of essays, don’t you two have one on biology to write for Cheerilee?” Rarity reminded, earning two groans in reply. Rarity felt like groaning too, admittedly. The princess had barely been able to talk to Fluttershy. There was always next time, she supposed. Or hoped. “We should head home. It’s getting very late, and the forest is no place to be wandering at night. And didn’t you need one of Fluttershy’s books for the essay due tomorrow?”

    “Aww…”

    “It’s okay, girls. You’ll be back in a week,” Fluttershy pointed out, trying to reassure them that Princess Twilight wasn’t going anywhere.

    Rarity noticed Fluttershy hadn’t said anything about wanting to come back herself. She sincerely hoped that today’s unexpected events hadn’t made the pegasus’ anxieties worse. Denza knew when she’d agree to come again without hours of pleading from the unicorn.

    “Come on, girls, say goodbye to the princess,” Rarity prompted, nodding toward the alicorn. When the two fillies pouted and made no signs of willingness to leave, she added: “The sooner you finish your own essay, the faster you can start on the one Princess Twilight asked your help with.”

    Princess Twilight nodded. “I would be very grateful.”

    When the princess spoke up, the two fillies immediately straightened up, acting as if they hadn’t just been pulling their best puppy-dog faces.

    “We’ll write a super good essay, Princess Twilight!” Sweetie Belle exclaimed, smiling widely at the princess. Considering the previous essays she’d read from the fillies, Rarity couldn’t help but think that one page hardly counted as an essay, but she held her tongue. “We’ll even make it two pages long!”

    Rarity half-expected Twilight to say something about that, but she was surprised when the alicorn merely nodded gravely, thanking them again for their assistance.

    Scootaloo instead tugged at Sweetie. “Come on! The faster we get home, the faster we can get started on the essay!”

    That said, they both hurried off toward the entrance, calling out an enthusiastic, “Goodbye, Princess Twilight!” They made no signs of stopping when Rarity warned them to wait at the entrance, right up until they screeched to a halt in front of the exit.

    “Goodness, I’d never seen Sweetie Belle so excited over an essay before,” Fluttershy noted, laughing at the sight of the fillies arguing over who’d be going first into the scary, dark tunnel.

    Rarity smiled, turning to Twilight. “I think that makes you a very dangerous force, don’t you agree?”

    “Does it?” Twilight asked, raising an eyebrow. “Essays are not dangerous, Rarity. Ponyville used to be my home, and I simply want to know what happened to it.”

    “Oh, I don’t doubt it, Princess, but I wasn’t referring to that,” Rarity clarified, cheerful expression turning into a deadly serious one. “I simply mean that if you are capable of making those two want to run home eager to finish their homework, then heavens knows what else you’re capable of.” Her expression turned back into an amused one when the princess replied with a stare followed by an eye roll.

    “Oh, wait! I brought you a postcard, Princess,” Fluttershy exclaimed, reaching into her saddlebag. The aforementioned postcard was a suggestion Fluttershy had made a few days prior, after remembering Princess Twilight’s connection to Princess Denza.

    While Fluttershy looked inside her bag, Twilight scooted over to Rarity, looking a bit flustered. “What’s a postcard?” she asked quietly, obviously embarrassed at not knowing what she was about to receive.

    Rarity was thrown off by the question, suddenly reminded that Princess Twilight was indeed not of her era. There was something endearing about it, really. “It’s a small card with a drawing or photograph you can send to somepony. You just need to write down the address and you can add a short message if you want. It’s usually for tourists.”

    Twilight nodded slowly. “Tourists…?”

    “You know,” Rarity said, trying to find the words, “ponies who visit a lot of places. Take photographs everywhere.”

    Before Twilight could inquire further, Fluttershy interrupted. “Found it!” she exclaimed, taking out the postcard.

    The postcard, still in its wrapper, depicted Princess Denza. Though Rarity hadn’t seen the picture in a few days, it was hard to forget the grace and beauty with which the alicorn carried herself. Standing atop a marble staircase, a long elegant cape that covered her back and cutie mark, but left enough space for her to spread her wings if she so desired. A kind, gentle smile and a mane that flowed in the air. She was a sight, was she not?

    With a “thank you,” Princess Twilight carefully took the postcard with her magic, extracting it from the wrapper. She looked at the blank side at first, asking a few questions about it. Why was it so small? Why not make larger versions of these “postcards”? It wasn’t until Rarity politely encouraged her to look at the picture on the back that the princess’ questions stopped altogether.

    She looked at a loss for words, staring at the picture and barely managing to stammer out, “This… This is…”

    “Rarity told me that Princess Denza is a descendant of your brother. I thought you might like a picture of her,” Fluttershy explained, closing her saddlebag.

    Princess Twilight unceremoniously sat down on her hindquarters, still staring at the picture. What must she be thinking? Rarity wondered. She wished the princess were more expressive, yet at the same time, the alicorn seemed to be saying a lot. Princess Twilight’s expression had softened, but more than sadness, Rarity saw affection.

    “This is Princess Denza?” Twilight asked quietly, her answer not directed at anypony in particular. Her eyes were twinkling, though whether out of joy or oncoming tears, Rarity wasn’t sure. She hoped for the former, but the idea of the latter only endeared her more to the alicorn. “She looks just like Cadance…”

    Fluttershy and Rarity looked at each other, smiling in place of the princess. It was funny how a simple object such as a postcard could mean the world to somepony. It reminded Rarity of all the moments so far when the princess had treated what was a common object for Rarity as if it were something wonderful or fascinating. The magazine, the camera, now this. Perhaps what made it even more fascinating was that Princess Twilight herself breathed new life into these objects for Rarity. If those little actions could bring happiness to the princess, then Rarity felt compelled to do more.

    She thought back to her camera, and how the photographs had thrilled the princess. Maybe that’s where she’d start. If the princess couldn’t go out into the world, then Rarity would bring the world to her.

    “Come ooooon! What’re you waiting for?!”

    The three mares turned around and found Sweetie and Scootaloo staring at them expectantly. Princess Twilight was the first to react, standing up and shaking her head. Once she’d composed herself, she turned to Fluttershy and bowed her head, an action which flustered the pegasus.

    “Thank you for giving this to me, Fluttershy,” she said earnestly, glancing at the postcard again. When she looked back, she frowned a bit. “I apologize. I should have assembled books for you to take, but now…” Twilight glanced toward the exasperated fillies.

    “Oh, that’s all right,” Fluttershy said, smiling earnestly. “I can come back with the girls next week.”

    You will?!” Rarity exclaimed, her excitement getting the best of her. Immediately afterward, she cleared her throat and stamped her hooves against the floor with lady-like levels of joy. “That sounds like a splendid idea, darling.”

    “I’ll make sure to have the books ready for you then,” Princess Twilight added.

    Satisfied, Fluttershy nodded. “I’m glad you liked your present,” she said, before bowing down to Princess Twilight. Once she rose up, she trotted toward the girls, looking back to wave at the alicorn. “Goodbye, Princess Twilight.”

    “I’ll be right up, Fluttershy,” Rarity called, watching as Fluttershy trotted into the tunnel, followed by Scootaloo and… and… When Sweetie failed to move, instead just staring at Princess Twilight, Rarity sighed and made her way toward the filly. “Come along, Sweetie Belle! Or else you’ll be all alone in that tunnel!”

    “That’s okay,” Sweetie replied cheerfully, stepping into the library and sitting herself down. “I’ll wait with the princess until you’re done saying goodbye.” Or she would have done so, had Rarity not picked her up from the floor when she reached her. “W-wait! I still have lots of questions! Five more minutes!” Sweetie Belle protested as Rarity ushered her into the tunnel. “Can’t we sleep over?!”

    Rarity rolled her eyes, failing to see the appeal of sleeping on the floor of an ancient and rather cold library. She lit up her horn, illuminating the tunnel and their exit path. “Don’t be ridiculous,” she reprimanded, ignoring Sweetie’s annoyed huff. “You’ll come visit Princess Twilight next week, and then you can ask her all the questions you want.”

    “But next week is sooo far away!” Sweetie glanced behind Rarity, reaching out toward the library. Her attempts were thwarted when Rarity levitated her into the air and trotted toward the exit stairs. “Why can’t I come tomorrow?! I can stay up all night and finish both essays!”

    “Because I say so, and that’s that.”

    It was common knowledge that a big sister’s word was usually the final one, but the appeal of the princess was too much for Sweetie to care about the unspoken law. “It’s not fair,” she muttered, crossing her forelegs and pouting—a comical sight considering she was now floating upside down next to her sister.

    When Rarity deposited Sweetie Belle on the third step of the stairs and gestured for the grumbling filly to go up, Sweetie Belle made sure to do so in the slowest way possible so as to properly express her dissatisfaction. Once she’d reached the trapdoor, she pushed it open before looking back down at her sister. “She’s not your princess!”

    Most of the time, Rarity tried to act like a proper adult. Sure, she could lose her temper or go into theatrics sometimes, but she was always serious when the situation called for it. This time, however, she allowed herself to forget she was an example to follow. Instead, she decided to be a proper teasing sibling.

    “Isn’t she? After all, I did find her first, did I not?”

    Sweetie Belle looked as if she’d just been slapped in the face. “I would have found her first if you hadn’t sent me home! And then she’d be my princess!” Knowing she couldn’t hope to win against her sister, Sweetie settled on glaring at Rarity before finally trotting outside, closing the door with a loud and squeaky “hmph!

    Rarity laughed at Sweetie, endeared by her sister’s desire to see Twilight. It was something they shared, after all, and had positions been swapped, Rarity would have had to be dragged out of the tunnel kicking and screaming. Thankfully, that was not the case.

    After lingering for a minute to make sure no filly tried to sneak back in, Rarity made her way back into the library. Princess Twilight had now moved over to a nearby table, still entranced by Denza’s postcard. She watched as the princess carefully picked up the postcard to examine it more closely before putting it back down again.

    “She’s beautiful, isn’t she?” Rarity asked, drawing the attention of the princess. Princess Twilight replied by looking back at the picture and nodding slowly, another subtle gesture Rarity found curiously endearing. When she reached the princess, she glanced at the picture. If only I could have met her, she thought, the princess might be looking at the real thing instead of just a photograph.

    “Well, I think today went along quite well, don’t you?” Rarity asked. And it was true, wasn’t it? Princess Twilight had met new ponies, Fluttershy had made a smashing impression with her present, and the fillies wouldn’t be wandering into the forest unaccompanied. There was the matter of the burnt table, however, but that would come later.

    Princess Twilight stared at the picture for a bit more before looking up at Rarity. “When will you be coming back?” she asked.

    Rarity mulled it over. There had been several customers’ orders she’d neglected because of her now-recurring escapades. “Next week? The same day as the others?” That should give her enough time to finish up early and make her sorely needed visit to the spa.

    “Next week?!” Princess Twilight asked, almost as horrified as Sweetie a few moments ago. Her horn flashed and her calendar floated beside her. “But that’s seven days!”

    Rarity laughed. “Why, Princess! That’s the same date as the others. What difference does it make if I come back with them?”

    “Well, none,” Princess Twilight replied lamely, lowering the calendar. “I just hop— thought that you would come back sooner…”

    For the sake of it, Rarity sighed as dramatically as she could. “I suppose…” she began, running a hoof through her mane as if running a mental scan of her very busy schedule. Which it was, but how could she say no to the princess? “I could come by in four days? That should be enough time for me to finish my orders.”

    “All right,” the princess replied, looking back to her postcard with a visibly satisfied expression. “Four days.”

    Rarity felt like asking if she should take a book, but considering the princess hadn’t forcefully shoved one on her, she refrained from doing so. It was a good sign, wasn’t it? They didn’t need any more silly books tying them together, and frankly, those things could be obscenely heavy sometimes.

    “Right, I’ll be off then!” Rarity exclaimed, flashing the owls a smile. When she turned to the princess, she bit her lip. “Farewell, Your Highness,” she said in the most dignified voice she could muster, unable to resist playfully bowing down to the mare. Before the alicorn could say a word, Rarity fluttered her eyelashes and turned around. “Goodbye, Princess Twilight,” she said playfully, looking over her shoulder to wave.

    “Wait, Rarity!”

    Rarity stopped in her tracks. Please, Princess Denza, let her not ask for me to take an extended encyclopedia again.

    She turned back and smiled. “Yes, Princess?”

    The princess suddenly looked nervous, regretful of her outburst. “Er… I simply, uh…” She cleared her throat and regained composure. “You can stop calling me Twilight,” she informed the unicorn, nodding her head once as if to reassure herself. When Rarity frowned at the statement, the mare realized her blunder and quickly corrected herself, losing all the composure she’d acquired. “Uhm, wait!” she exclaimed, clearing her throat again. “I meant you can stop calling me Princess Twilight! You may call me Twilight, if you wish.”

    Rarity didn’t know what to say in reply. She merely blinked at Princess Twilight, staring her down as if she had grown a second head. “I can?”

    Princess Twilight looked more than a bit uncomfortable, probably not having expected that reaction. “Yes, you can.”

    And then did Rarity react. “Really?!” she exclaimed, ears perking up and tail almost wagging. It was not a very lady-like display at all, and she’d be ashamed were she not so thrilled by her new privilege. “Are you sure?” First-name basis with a princess?! This was unprecedented in her lifetime! “All right then, Twilight,” she said, as serious as she could, before melting into nervous giggles.

    “…Are you all right?”

    “I apologize, Princess Twi— Twilight,” Rarity corrected herself, flustered. “It’s just that I’ve never been on a first-name basis with a princess! It’s a bit of a unique experience, and quite… exciting,” she explained. Come now Rarity, this isn’t the time or place to act like a giggling schoolfilly. “Well then, I’ll be taking my leave, Princess Twilight. I mean, Twilight!” She groaned and rubbed her forehead. “I’m not very good at this, am I?”

    When she looked up at the princess, however, she found maybe it didn’t matter.

    The previous concern on Twilight’s face had all but vanished, after all, replaced instead with an amused smile.

    The first she’d ever given her.

    “I’m sure you’ll get used to it,” Twilight said, her smile now more teasing than anything.

    It was odd, but the sight of it thrilled Rarity more than anything else.

    “I’m sure I will, Twilight!” Rarity said, making sure to emphasize the “Twilight” and the lack of title. “Now, I do believe I should take off before Sweetie Belle tries to sneak back in here,” she continued. “So unless you need anything else, Twilight, I’ll be taking my leave,” she said, completely unprepared for the answer she’d receive.

    “Well,” the princess said, “if you’re going to say my name every other sentence, perhaps I should revoke your first-name privileges.”

    It wasn’t the playful tone which got to Rarity, nor was it the still-present smile. It wasn’t the fact that there was a twinkle in the alicorn’s eyes or that she had tilted her head in a curiously teasing fashion.

    What made that statement so unexpected was the playful, soft laughing that accompanied it. Rarity realized she had never heard the princess laugh before, and she was certain she’d never seen the princess look so carefree and happy, even if only for a brief moment. Though Twilight’s giggling was nothing like Rarity’s or even Fluttershy’s, it was still loud and silly enough to spread a warmth in Rarity’s chest and widen the smile on her lips.

    “Yes, I see your point,” Rarity said, her smile accentuated by her rosy cheeks.

    Rarity!” Sweetie’s annoyed voice rang in the distance.

    “I’m coming!” Rarity called back, rolling her eyes. Honestly, couldn’t they have the courtesy of letting her revel in the progress she’d made with Twilight? She turned to the princess and smiled. “I’ll see you in three days, then?”

    Twilight’s smile vanished. “Three days?” she asked, blinking at Rarity. “I thought you said four days.”

    “Oh, I did, didn’t I?” Rarity said. “Well, actually, I don’t think I need four days to finish my work. I can come in three days!” She waved her hoof dismissively. “It’ll be easy, really. I’ve pulled all-nighters before and still gotten rave reviews!”

    And once more, Twilight giggled slightly. “All right, Rarity.”

    And once more, Rarity felt a delighted tingle in her chest, and she wondered perhaps if she was skilled enough to finish her orders in two days. Maybe she could just bring that old sewing machine she had lying around and permanently leave it in the library? Smiling widely, both in reaction to the princess and to her brilliant plan, she nodded firmly and trotted toward the exit. Themis, their guide on the way back, finally made a reappearance, flying onto the unicorn’s back before hooting once at his owner.

    When she reached the entrance, Rarity turned back to find the princess looking back at the postcard. “Goodbye, Twilight,” she called out, grabbing the alicorn’s attention.

    “Goodbye, Rarity,” Twilight said simply before looking back to her postcard.

    Rarity lingered for a few moments before finally stepping into the tunnel, lighting up her horn, and, with a rather goofy smile, making her way through and then up the stairs. Once outside, she found the two fillies heatedly arguing over the design of a cutie mark in essay writing. There was still some light out, which helped Fluttershy feel a bit more at ease about the time. She certainly looked much better than she had when she’d first arrived, at least.

    As the four of them began making their way back home, the image of a smiling Twilight was plastered all over the walls of Rarity’s mind. This, in turn, made Rarity smile too, an action which did not go unnoticed by Sweetie Belle.

    “What’re you smiling so much about?” the filly asked.

    “Oh, nothing,” Rarity replied nonchalantly, smiling as she recalled Twilight’s grin, “I was just thinking about how today was a perfect day after all.”


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    1. A Deer
      Nov 12, '22 at 10:08 pm

      Rarity, take ten bells and weave them into Twilight’s mane. A new and loud fashion statement. And you can put on your resume that you were a hairdresser for royalty. And be cardiac arrest free.

      The slow build of what happened with Twilight and the other princesses has been very enjoyable. Also like that the present day myths of the princesses clouds what the reader understands is true or what may be added as part of the celebration. Makes it a bit more of a puzzle.

      This chapter felt nice and warm. Good mix of humor and heart. The end where Twilight finally smiles and teases Rarity was a great way to end the chapter. A nice show of growth for Twilight and her relationship with Rarity. This feeds Rarity’s want to help Twilight. Rarity now has more incentive to sacrifice her own wellbeing and work for Twilight – for the princess. For the Booky. For love. Maybe like one of her romance novels. Rarity is courageous because she is starting to understand what risks there are and has to face. And she has more incentive to do it. Also just tell her it’s like being in a romance novel too. Extra incentive.

      1. A Deer
        @A DeerNov 13, '22 at 6:23 am

        Forgot to add a dramatic pause before “For love”. I’ve failed being dramatic and my inner Rarity has been shamed.

    2. Zanna Zannolin
      Aug 29, '22 at 9:41 pm

      Rarity: there’s absolutely no way this can go wrong
      Narrator: it did, in fact, go wrong

      no but for real this chapter is simply delightful. i love the mischief, the humor that runs throughout. it feels similar to watching a scooby doo episode, all the running around and hiding and dramatic mishaps. it really captures the cartoon energy of mlp:fim but in a more refined and eloquent way, if that makes sense. it’s very much distinctly You, Your Style, but capturing a lot of the heart and silliness of the show without losing the integrity of the story.

      also I’m so weak for this chapter, for twilight meeting more ponies, twilight making more friends, twilight letting people in. twilight being on a first-name basis with rarity *muffled scream of delight* there is nothing so wonderful as characters who only call each other by titles or their last names developing to the point where they use the first time. this was on par with mulder calling scully “dana” for the first time in the x-files i could jump for joy.

      also i don’t know if i’ve mentioned but you have this incredible way of writing relationships in a believable way. it doesn’t feel rushed or too drawn-out, doesn’t feel overdramatized. it feels natural and real and full of heart. as a reader watching rarity and twilight interact i am delighted with each step forward but not baffled by any of it. it just makes sense that this should be happening and it’s so great. i’ve read so many rushed, underdeveloped romances in my time (it’s part of why i almost never read romance or shipfics willingly tbh) but you craft it in such a compelling way that i can’t help but root for it. again, you legitimately converted me to shipping raritwi with the way you write them. it’s so full of love <3