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    Rarity sometimes likened Twilight to light.

    It was a peculiar word to describe somepony, wasn’t it? Or that’s what Twilight would say, at least. She’d roll her eyes and point out that light was a concept, a notion, the result of the sun shining overhead or a candle flickering in the darkness. And yet, Twilight Sparkle was like light.

    Rarity could be clever and point out that the word itself was inscribed in the alicorn’s name, or that her first name represented a shifting in light between day and night, but those weren’t the reasons for the description. There was a time—Rarity couldn’t remember when exactly—that the lights in the library had gone out, and there was nothing but the voices of a unicorn and an alicorn.

    This is what it feels like, Twilight had said, out of nowhere, a statement of unprompted, unplanned sincerity. It feels like I can’t see the light, only the dark.

    At that time Rarity had said nothing, remaining silent because her heart did not yet dare to prod further, but she remembered it nevertheless. She remembered the statement, and it wasn’t until that moment, watching Twilight quietly read, that the answer came to her.

    Of course she wasn’t able to see any light.

    How could she when the light was coming from her, when her very presence had drawn Rarity to her time and time again, like a moth to flame without care for whether it burned or not?


    Chin resting on her hooves, Rarity smiled at the alicorn sitting on the other side of the table, who’d apparently lost interest in her book.


    “What are you thinking about?” Twilight asked, closing the book with her magic and fixing Rarity with that intensely curious gaze of hers. Twilight never simply looked at Rarity, did she? She saw her, made her the focus of all her attention, much like she was the center of Rarity’s.

    Rarity hummed. “I was thinking about you.”

    Twilight blushed with embarrassed pleasure at this, and Rarity was hardly able to stop her smitten smile from growing wider.

    “Haha…” Twilight rolled her eyes and softly smiled, and what a heavenly smile it was, Rarity thought. “What are you really thinking about?”

    Rarity giggled audibly, much at Twilight’s expense, who was now sporting a brighter red. “I was wondering how much longer it would take the girls to arrive.”

    Twilight opened her book again. “I still don’t understand why you didn’t go with them. Pinkie hasn’t met Applejack, has she?”

    “No, but Pinkie Pie specifically stated in her letter that she wanted me to stay with you,” Rarity replied, leaning back. “She believes my presence here would make you less inclined to change your mind halfway through.”

    Twilight frowned. “I wouldn’t do that.”

    “I know, sweetheart, but this means a lot to her. She wants to make sure everything will turn out perfectly, for her and you.”

    Twilight’s ears flicked down, and she stared at her book. After a moment, she looked back to the unicorn and asked, “Do I look all right?”

    Rarity thought it a silly question. It was as if Twilight had forgotten she was currently stuck in the same, unchanging physical appearance. She felt inclined to point it out, but instead she sighed in an exaggeratedly dreamlike way and said, “Dearest Twilight! You are a sight for the sorest of eyes, the sunshine of this dark and dismal wor—mmph!

    Her sentence came to an end when a flustered Twilight magicked her muzzle shut.

    “Thank you,” the alicorn pointedly said, and Rarity would have giggled again if she could have.

    When Twilight finally let go, Rarity continued, “You did block the stairs, didn’t you?”

    Twilight nodded. “I cast a barrier spell to stop them from trying to go downstairs. They’d have to knock me out to dispel it.”

    Rarity nodded. “Fabulous! We’re all set then.”

    The last thing she wanted was for the sleepover to be canceled, or for them to be in danger throughout it, so she and Twilight had spent most of the week making sure the library was as secure as it could be. The maze had become increasingly irate toward Twilight, activating itself the second she approached, but immediately calming whenever Swirl deployed a book barrier.

    Only Applejack and Fluttershy knew what had happened a week prior. Fluttershy had been apprehensive, but the attack did not deter her from wanting to visit Twilight. Applejack had also relented once she’d seen the security measures implemented.

    “They’re here!” Sweetie’s voice called out in the distance, ending the conversation. “Rarity! Princess Twilight!”

    Rarity stood up, clapping her hooves. “Showtime, darling! Now shoo! Go hide somewhere!” she urged, gesturing to her crush.

    Twilight threw her a playful look before teleporting away. That done, Rarity got up and called the chandelier to come down. Star immediately obeyed, transforming into a candelabra and submerging the library in darkness. With Star illuminating her path, Rarity made her way to the library’s entrance.

    “Come on, Rarity!” Scootaloo called; she, Sweetie, and Apple Bloom were waiting at the threshold.

    The four of them made their way through the tunnel and ascended the stairs. When they emerged from the trapdoor, the group found Applejack, Fluttershy, and Pinkie trotting toward the edge of the depression.

    “—and it’s not sooooo bad, Applejack! Lots of ponies don’t believe me, either!” Pinkie was saying, loudly enough that the entire forest could probably hear. She was blindfolded, again at her own insistence. “I’m sure Fritter Cobbler isn’t mad at you, or your parents, or your grandparents, or your grandparents’ grandparents, or your grandparents’ grandparents’ grandpa—”

    “All right, sugarcube, you can finish that thought later,” Applejack interrupted, seeming relieved to have to put an end to the conversation. She was carrying a large basket with her, and Rarity pictured the apple pies she’d promised to bring within.

    “But, I still have a lot of ponies left!” Pinkie protested, still walking straight toward the hole until AJ pulled her back. “Why’d we stop?! I didn’t trip again! Or did I?” she asked, blindly waving her hoof around.

    “Hello, everypony!” Rarity called out, eliciting a surprised gasp from Pinkie.

    “Rarity?! That sounded like Rarity! Was it Rarity?! Does that mean we’re here?!” she asked in a flurry. Before anypony could reply, she tore her blindfold off and her eyes widened at the sight.

    Rarity watched with delight as Pinkie’s mouth fell open, her eyes glued to the oak tree. Without warning, Pinkie rushed forward, and much like Rarity when she first found the library, fell face-first into the hole surrounding the tree.

    Rarity rushed to help the mare up. “Pinkie! Goodness, are you all right?!”

    Pinkie nodded effusively, apparently too excited to care about her fall. She trotted over to the tree, leaving Rarity to wait for Applejack and Fluttershy to join her. After a moment, when she looked back toward the tree, she found Pinkie and the Cutie Mark Crusaders huddled around the trapdoor.

    “Rarity!” Pinkie exclaimed, pointing to the metal plaque on the tree. “It’s just like you said!”

    Rarity smiled, trotting over and lifting the trapdoor with her magic. “Shall we?” she asked, laughing when Pinkie eeped and practically threw herself down the stairs before awkwardly coming back up and asking if Rarity would like to go first—it was dark, after all.

    With Rarity providing illumination, one by one the mares followed her into the dark tunnel, Pinkie right behind Rarity. As they trotted further in, the mare blurted out a plethora of questions, such as whether Twilight would like her, what was the library like, and were the books like ghosts too?

    “That doesn’t even make sense!” Scootaloo said, the last one to step into the dark room.

    “But it totally does!” Pinkie protested, squinting into the darkness. “Where’s the light switch?”

    “Fluttershy? Would you like to do the honors?” Rarity asked, ignoring her sister’s protests over how she wanted to do it, Rarity!

    Fluttershy, somewhere in the darkness, giggled and then cleared her throat. “Star? Light, please.”

    “Who’s Star?” Pinkie whispered urgently. “I don’t remember you telling me about her! Or him? Them?”

    Her question was answered when Star levitated itself toward the ceiling, Pinkie’s enthused gasp filling the room when it turned into a chandelier and illuminated the entire library in a sweeping motion.

    “Oh. My. Gosh,” Pinkie said, eyes wide.

    Rarity could hardly contain her giddy giggling.

    “Impressive, isn’t it?” she said, trotting forth before turning to Pinkie and gesturing toward the bookcases with her forehoof. “Welcome to Princess Twilight Sparkle’s library! You are a much-anticipated guest, Miss Pie.”

    Before another word could be said, Pinkie rushed forward, the fillies running behind her in an impromptu exploration of the library, who in turn were followed by Fluttershy just to make sure they went nowhere near the currently off-limits maze.

    “So, where’s the princess?” Applejack asked, placing her basket on a nearby table. “Figured she’d be waiting for us.”

    Rarity trotted off toward the bookcases. “She’s hiding, I hope! I thought Pinkie might like it if their introduction came as a surprise!”

    As she ventured deeper into the library, she could hear Pinkie’s voice in the distance, still as excited as ever. After a moment, the mare appeared, seeming intent on reporting her findings.

    “Rarity, I can’t find the princess!” she exclaimed, though she didn’t seem all that disappointed. “But I found a bunch of really old books on rocks! Do you think maybe Princess Twilight will let me borrow them for my family?! My sister Maud loves rocks!”

    “I’m sure she’ll be delighted to do so,” Rarity replied. “Why not go and pick them out now?”

    “Okie-dokie-lokie!” Pinkie exclaimed, running away and again disappearing from sight.

    Where is Twilight? Rarity wondered, thinking that perhaps the surprise could wait no longer. She looked up, a habit she’d developed thanks to Twilight’s bookcase-top trekking habits, and she couldn’t help a smile at the sight of the alicorn standing atop a nearby bookcase, watching Pinkie.

    After a moment, the princess teleported down, ignoring Rarity’s presence, and instead peeked into the hallway, following the pink mare. A terrible idea formed in Rarity’s head, which she simply couldn’t resist. As quietly as she could, she crept up behind Twilight and then, summoning all her magic, teleported right in front of her.

    “Ah, here you are!”

    Twilight eeked and stumbled back, startled by the unicorn’s sudden appearance.

    “My, my, my!” Rarity said, smiling deviously. “The tables have turned, have they not?”

    “Rarity!” Twilight whispered urgently, using her magic to pull Rarity into the aisle. “Don’t scare me like that! I thought you wanted me to surprise her!”

    “You know, I think I’ve changed my mind,” Rarity cheekily replied. “Now, hush! Don’t move!” She turned around, cleared her throat, and exclaimed, “Oh! Twilight! Here you are!”

    A distant gasp filled the room, and Rarity stared at the corner of the aisle with bated breath. A moment or so later, her patience was rewarded when slowly, very slowly, a pink face peeked into the aisle and then quickly disappeared after having caught sight of the two mares waiting. Not even a split-second later, however, Pinkie’s face reappeared and she cautiously stepped into the aisle, eyes fixed on the smiling alicorn.

    Rarity stepped to the side, content with watching the scene unfold.

    After several slow steps, Pinkie finally reached the princess. Pinkie stared at Twilight, and it was quite odd to see the pink mare so completely speechless for once. Furthermore, out of all of Rarity’s envisioned outcomes, she had certainly never expected to see tears bordering the earth pony’s eyes.

    “You look just like… like Princess Luna showed me…”

    Twilight faltered for a moment, but when Pinkie let out a childish smile, her resolve returned and she smiled back.

    “Hello, Pinkie Pie. It’s nice to meet you,” she said, and was thrown off when Pinkie gasped.

    “She knows my name!” Pinkie whispered urgently. “She knows my name…” Her awed statement dissolved into a fit of nervous giggles, and in but a second, the old Pinkie Pie returned, jumping up and down in place despite the tears still bordering her eyes. “H-hi, Princess Twilight! I’m Pinkie Pie! Princess Luna told me lots about you!” She bowed down several times, but continued talking before Twilight could interrupt. “And look! I made you something!”

    She reached into her saddlebag and took out a plastic bag with a cupcake inside.

    “It’s a bit squished ’cause I tripped in the forest, but it still tastes really good, I promise!” she insisted, nodding eagerly. “And I know you can’t eat it yet, but if you leave it in the bag, it’ll last up to three weeks thanks to a spell the local bakery helped me with!”

    Rarity nearly snorted. Twilight free in three weeks! That would be a miracle…

    “Oh, er, thank you,” Twilight replied, taking the bag in her magic and admiring the cupcake. She teleported it away and fell silent.

    This disconcerted Rarity momentarily. Twilight had been dying to ask Pinkie Pie all sorts of questions about Luna, so why wasn’t she doing as much?

    “Princess Luna told you about me?” she suddenly asked, as if the question had come without permission.

    Pinkie quickly nodded. “Uh-huh! All the time! Sometimes, if she’s in a really good mood, she’ll show me silly memories of you and her! Like, that one time, in the astronomy tower, when a cute little rat came in and you screamed so hard you almost broke the telescope and—”

    Rarity blinked. “You what?”

    Twilight pointedly ignored the question. “But, I mean… she doesn’t have…” She faltered, gesturing aimlessly with her hoof. “She didn’t say… bad things about me…? She’s not angry?”

    Rarity frowned at Twilight. “Twilight, we talked—”

    “Angry?! Why would she be angry?!” Pinkie asked, aghast. “Don’t be silly, silly! Unless it’s fun silly, and then you should tooootally be silly, but you’re not being the good kind of silly! You’re just being plain silly!” Pinkie shook her head and then once again reached into her saddlebag, except rather than pull out another mushed-up cupcake, she extracted a neatly sealed envelope and hoofed it to Twilight. “Here!”

    Rarity leaned over, inspecting the envelope. The swirly pink calligraphy made it obvious who had penned it, but what Rarity found curious was the name written down as the sender.

    “From Princess Luna?” she asked, blinking at Pinkie. Wasn’t that, well, impossible?

    Pinkie nodded. “Uh-huh! Princess Luna wanted to write Princess Twilight a letter!” she replied, hopping up and down in place. “See, I told her I would help, but ohmigosh, it was sooooo hard! Because Princess Luna told me the letter in dreams, so then I’d wake up to write it down, but I kept forgetting what she told me! I had to keep sleeping and waking up because I only remembered a few words sometimes, and then other times I remembered the ending but not the middle and it took us a whole week to write it! That’s like forever! But we did it! …Weeeell, maybe I missed a few words, but I think I did okay! Unless I didn’t, but I could try again if you want me to!” She took a deep, satisfied breath and then remembered something. “Oh! Oh, and I promise I totally don’t remember anything I wrote! Except maybe all of it, but I promise I won’t tell!”

    Rarity turned to Twilight, expecting the alicorn to thank Pinkie, but seeing as Twilight was transfixed by the envelope, she decided she might as well do it.

    “Why, Pinkie! That was terribly kind of you to do that,” Rarity said, bowing her head to the mare. “I’m sure Twilight is very grateful, aren’t you, Twilight?”

    Twilight looked up. “Huh? O-oh! Yes, thank you, Pinkie Pie! I really appreciate it…” She drifted off, her attention once more caught by the letter she no doubt was dying to read.

    “Come on, y’all,” Applejack called from the distance. “I ain’t setting up this table and the sleepover stuff all by my lonesome!”

    “Oh! I want to help!” Pinkie exclaimed, rushing past Rarity and Twilight.

    Twilight’s ears flicked down. “Oh… Er…”

    Rarity smiled at Twilight. “We’ll handle it, darling. Why don’t you go read your letter?”

    Twilight frowned, no doubt considering doing so. To Rarity’s surprise, however, she shook her head and teleported the letter away.

    “I’ll read it later,” she said, and offering Rarity a smile, gestured toward the library’s foyer. “Let’s go?”

    Rarity wasn’t entirely sure she liked Twilight putting the letter off, especially if she was correct in her belief that Twilight was afraid of reading it—a belief supported by the apprehension written on the alicorn’s face—but she did not press the matter further. Instead, she smiled and followed after Twilight.


    “Twilight, I understand how you must feel, but could you at least try not to look so miserable?”

    Sitting around a table littered with the remains of delicious apple pies, Rarity wished she could do something about poor Twilight. While everypony had been treated to a delicious feast, she’d been forced to sit and watch with hungry eyes—so much so that Rarity feared she might actually start drooling.

    “Besides,” Rarity continued, “I was under the impression you couldn’t feel hunger.”

    Twilight dejectedly stared at the last slice of pie. “I thought that too…”

    “Aw, don’t fret none, Princess,” Applejack consoled, helping Rarity pick up the dirty plates and put them in a basket. “I promise whenever you’re outta here, I’ll bake you a pie so good, you’ll be licking your hooves for hours.”

    Unfortunately, rather than console her, the statement only worsened Twilight’s state.

    “Darling, I’m sure you’re not even hungry, and you just think you are,” Rarity insisted, covering the pie so Twilight could no longer look at it.

    Twilight huffed and turned around. “Where did everypony else go?”

    Rarity looked around and, indeed, the others were nowhere to be found. “Ah, they’re just finishing up their props for the contest,” she replied, turning back to the table. “They’ll be along.”

    “Contest?” Twilight asked, turning back. “What contest?”

    Rarity shrugged. “Oh, a little thing Pinkie suggested after remembering our usual Seeking Night costumes. We all went off to prepare for it while you and Applejack were busy with your farming questions.” Before Twilight could correct her, she turned back toward the distance. “Girls? Are you nearly ready? It’s getting late!”

    A chorus of voices sounded off in the distance, ranging from positive to negative to in between. Rarity shook her head. Honestly, making fake wings and crowns wasn’t that hard.

    It was Fluttershy who emerged first, smiling brightly at the three mares. “They’re almost done,” she announced, giggling when her eyes landed on the increasingly suspicious alicorn. “I like Apple Bloom’s idea best.”

    “Ah ah ah! Save the judging for the contest!” Rarity scolded, watching as Fluttershy settled down next to her.

    “Fluttershy?” Twilight asked, leaning toward the pegasus. “What contest?”

    Fluttershy’s smile disappeared, and she looked to Rarity. “You haven’t told her?”

    “Told me what?” Twilight asked, turning toward Rarity.

    “Why ruin the surprise, darling?”

    “Rarity!” Twilight insisted. “What are you talking about?!”

    “Well,” Applejack said, sitting down next to Twilight. “This oughta be good.”

    “Ladies and gentlecolts!” Pinkie’s voice erupted from beyond a nearby bookcase. “Welcome…” She slowly emerged from behind the bookcase, sporting a poorly crafted paper version of Twilight’s crown. “…to Ponyville’s First Annual Princess Booky Look-Alike Contest!”

    Twilight turned to Rarity, unimpressed. “What?

    Rarity, in return, simply flashed a smile, her camera appearing in her hooves moments later.

    “And now, for the judging!” Pinkie continued, trotting over and taking several pencils and blank sheets of paper from a nearby table. She distributed them among the four other mares before officially starting the contest, much to Twilight’s cautious curiosity.

    The first category was the “non-pony” one, which was met with a round of cooing and awwing when a joyful Themis waddled onto the stage, wearing an adorable makeshift crown. Elara followed suit moments later, wearing an equally adorable crown, though her expression made it clear she had probably been unwillingly dragged away from her daily scroll-organizing routine.

    That particular round ended in a tie, for nopony could decide who was cuter—though Twilight making sure that everypony voted the same for both owls didn’t help.

    After that, the pony category began.

    The first one to step onto stage was Apple Bloom, wearing a pair of paper wings, a paper horn, and her own paper crown—all of which earned a heartfelt cheer from her elder sister, which was in turn followed by a stern reminder from Twilight about not being biased. Apple Bloom cleared her throat and approached the judges, smiling demurely.

    “Ohhh, that’s very good!” Fluttershy whispered since, much like Apple Bloom, she had only ever seen the more sociable side of Twilight.

    “My name is Princess Twilight,” Apple Bloom announced, obviously doing her best attempt at mimicking Twilight’s own Canterlotian accent, “and I’m the best at magic!”

    Rarity glanced at Twilight, who had a big smile plastered on her face. “My, my, I do believe you already have your winner, don’t you?” she teased.

    “Well, she’s not wrong,” Twilight whispered back. “But no, I’ll wait for the others.”

    After a few moments, Apple Bloom spun to leave and Scootaloo arrived next, costume horn and crown nearly falling off her head. She trotted toward Rarity and the others, and then watched them in silence for nearly an entire half a minute, prompting the adults to awkwardly stare at each other.

    Suddenly, out of nowhere, Scootaloo let out a pained gasp and fell to the floor, her eyes firmly closed and her tongue sticking out of her mouth. After another moment of silence, she loudly cleared her throat.

    “Oh! Sorry!” Pinkie said, taking a flower from the table and rushing it over to Scootaloo, who blindly waved around for it before placing it on her chest, again sticking out her tongue.

    It was Fluttershy who reacted first.

    “Oh dear…”

    “Well,” Applejack added, “that sure is somethin’ all right.”

    “I’m not dead!” Twilight blurted out next, indignant. “I’m just displaced in time!”

    “Come now, Twilight! I thought that was a wonderfully dramatic display!” Rarity replied. She took Twilight’s pencil and waved it toward her. “Quick! Give her almost full marks!”

    Twilight blinked, her displeasure fading. “Almost? Why ‘almost’?”

    Before Rarity could answer, Pinkie dragged Scootaloo away, giving way for the next contestant.

    Sweetie appeared, wearing a crown and fake wings which were, in Rarity’s opinion, the best so far. The filly was carrying with her a picnic basket, which she placed in front of the adults. She then opened it up and extracted a little blanket, which she carefully laid down on the ground.

    What was she doing?

    Next, she took out a little candle, which she tried to light up with her magic. After three failed attempts, she gingerly approached Twilight.

    “Princess Twilight? Could you please…”

    Twilight blinked once, twice, thrice before casting a spell, a flame appearing on the candle’s wick. Sweetie Belle placed the candle on a platter in the middle of the blanket and then returned to the basket and extracted two paper cups, the words “fancy cups” scrawled on them in crayon. She placed one on either side, then did the same with two paper plates.

    The more Rarity looked at it, the more she felt it looked like an adorably romantic—if childish—picnic, and it wasn’t until the thought left her mind that she remembered just who Sweetie had been constantly teasing.

    Oh, please, no, Rarity thought, dread rising within her as she watched Sweetie Belle return to the basket. Oh dear, if anything even remotely resembling Rarity came out of that basket…

    Thankfully, Rarity’s fears were soon replaced with confusion when Sweetie Belle took out a book. She watched as her sister carefully placed the book on one side of the blanket before settling down on the opposite side.

    She then cleared her throat and then sighed in an overly dramatic fashion. “Oh, Book! I love you!” she exclaimed. “I wanna marry you!”

    And now Twilight audibly reacted.


    “Well!” a delighted Rarity exclaimed. “It seems we have an unquestionable winner! What a remarkably accurate impression!”


    “Hey! You’re not supposed to say who you’re gonna vote for, silly!” Pinkie chastised, lightly swatting Rarity on the head with a sheet of paper.

    After five long minutes of arduous voting, during which Rarity and Twilight both failed spectacularly at keeping their decisions private and the Cutie Mark Crusaders whined their way into voting too, the result came in: Scootaloo and Apple Bloom tied with two votes, and Sweetie came first with a grand total of four votes, which came hoof in hoof with the grand prize of the last slice of pie.

    While everypony reluctantly agreed to Sweetie’s demand they all watch her enjoy her victory feast, Rarity escaped the punishment under the guise of accompanying the alicorn who obviously did not want to watch.

    Rarity trailed after Twilight, ending up in front of Sweetie’s makeshift picnic.

    “Marry a book…” Twilight said, sitting down and rolling her eyes. She then turned to Rarity, who’d sat down next to her, and playfully raised her eyebrow. “I suppose you were the source of that?”

    Rarity gasped, indignant. “Moi? Don’t be silly. Why would I spread such false rumors? That’s utterly beneath me!” she exclaimed. “Besides, we already know who you’d rather share a picnic with, do we not?”

    “Do we?” Twilight asked, her smile betraying her intent to not play along.

    “It’s all right, Twilight,” Rarity continued, tilting her head to the side. “Luckily for you, I’m not bothered by your total dependence on my presence.”

    Twilight retaliated with a smug smile. “Oh? That’s an interesting thing to say coming from somepony who’s moved half of her studio here at her insistence.”

    Now did Rarity feel her cheeks burn. “Touché, Princess,” she said, lifting her hoof and pretending to boop Twilight’s nose, an action which made the princess smile, softly now. Rarity looked back to the theatric picnic, lifting up Sweetie’s discarded crown. “You know though, it’s a shame I didn’t participate in the contest. I daresay I’d have wiped away the competition.”

    Twilight laughed. “Oh, really?”

    “Yes, really!” Rarity insisted, putting on the small crown, which looked a bit ridiculous on her. Afterwards, she levitated the equally small wings and used her magic to keep them affixed to her back. Finally, to perfect the look, she furrowed her brow as deeply as she could and said in a monotone voice, “I am Princess Twilight Sparkle, ruler of books and owls.”

    “I’m amazed, Rarity! It’s like looking into a mirror!”

    “Isn’t it?” Rarity asked, laughing haughtily. “I would say I’m surprised I make a better Twilight Sparkle than Twilight Sparkle herself, but I already know I excel at most everything.”

    “No, you don’t,” Twilight replied, failing miserably to look stern.

    Rarity fluttered her eyelashes and leaned in. “Don’t I?” she asked, and when a blush decorated Twilight’s cheeks, she smirked victoriously. “I’m glad you agree.”

    “W-well, not at imitating me, at least! I am not that serious! When have I ever made that face?!” Much like Rarity had a moment ago, she furrowed her brow to an almost comical degree, making it terribly hard for Rarity to stifle her laughter at having her point proven so wonderfully.

    “Rarity! Twilight!” Pinkie’s voice came. “Come on! We’re waiting for you!”

    Rarity turned around, realizing the others had already turned the library’s lobby into a circular mess of pillows, blankets, and a single mattress. Night had long ago fallen, and it was a sleepover, after all.

    “Shall we, Princess Seriousness?”

    Twilight rolled her eyes and trotted off toward the others, with Rarity right beside her.

    “So, who’s sleeping where?” Pinkie inquired when everyone was finally present, her question promptly answered when the Cutie Mark Crusaders threw themselves at the large mattress.

    One by one, the corporeal mares settled down on the floor, each taking a bundle of pillows and a blanket. When Rarity herself laid down, she watched as Twilight immediately trotted toward her and settled down as close to her as she could without, well, going through her.

    “So!” Pinkie exclaimed, clapping her hooves together. She looked conspiratorially to either side before cryptically whispering, “The time has come for the best part of the sleepover.”

    “Scary stories!” three voices chorused.

    “Uhm… maybe not scary stories, please?”

    “Reading followed by group discussion?” Twilight suggested, later blinking when Rarity raised an eyebrow.. “…What? Isn’t that the best part of anything?”

    “Goodness, you really would marry a book, wouldn’t you?”

    “No, sillies!” Pinkie exclaimed, giggling and preventing Twilight’s flustered protest. “Well, I mean, yes, sillies, because stories are the best part of a sleepover! And I have THE BEST ONE.”

    Sweetie Belle lifted her hoof in the air. “Oh! Oh! Is it when Rarity went to see the dragons?!”

    Pinkie blinked. “…Okay! Maybe it’s the second best story, ’cause the dragon story is like, the best story, especially when we told the dumb dragon what a meanie he was!” Pinkie cleared her throat and sat up straight. “It all started a really long time ago… when I was eight years old.”

    Everypony was riveted by what Pinkie called “The Great Missing Pie Mystery.” Apparently, when Pinkie was a filly, some foal stole a birthday cake she’d baked for a party, and the solution, clearly, was to drag Princess Luna around in an elaborate dreamscape detective investigation.

    “And then,” Pinkie said, “Princess Luna stepped back and boom! The dream changed into a nightmare!”

    “Into a nightmare?” Applejack asked, raising an eyebrow. “Take it that means lil’ Fizzy wasn’t as honest as the day is long, then.”

    “See?” Twilight whispered to Rarity, leaning down toward her. The alicorn had spent half the story deducing the culprit and excitedly sharing her theories with her crush. “I was right!”

    “But he seemed so nice,” Fluttershy countered. “And he did tell Pinkie where the platter was…”

    “Well,” Twilight spoke up matter-of-factly, sporting the smile she wore when she was about to be particularly smart, “taking into account what happened with Elder Moonshine, it’s actually easy to deduce what happened. If you recall…”

    As the discussion turned to the dishonesty of Fizzy Honey, Rarity couldn’t help but again be distracted by her favorite distraction. Despite her teasing, Rarity knew very well Twilight had long shed her impenetrability of the first few months.

    Twilight looked genuinely content in that moment, lost in her own explanation, her sparkling eyes an aftereffect from the thrill of listening to a story about Princess Luna. She was always a stunning sight to behold, but she was never more gorgeous than when she was happy.

    Rarity turned her sights to the others and focused on Pinkie. She too looked completely and utterly delighted to be here, her eyes focused on Twilight. Wasn’t this in many ways her dream come true? Wasn’t this all an impossible dream come true?

    Not one, not two nor three, but seven ponies gathered together in a place of myth, all there to be with Twilight, and all joined together by the desire to help her. Looking back toward Twilight and sighing in contentment, Rarity dearly hoped Twilight could see she would never be alone again.

    Eventually, the story ended, bringing with it Twilight’s immense satisfaction at having her deduction proven correct. Pinkie took the opportunity to move the conversation along to a topic that, surprisingly, no pony—not even Rarity—had really thought about: what would happen once Twilight was freed.

    When Pinkie asked what their plans were, Rarity hadn’t been sure how to reply. She spent so much of her time trying to figure out how to free Twilight from the library, she’d barely given thought to what came after they succeeded.

    “What d’you mean you don’t know?!” Pinkie asked, shocked. “I’ve known what I’m gonna do with Princess Luna since I met her! I’m gonna take her to the tippity top of Foal Mountain, and bring my telescope, and we’ll look at the stars all night, and then I’m taking her to Miss Frosting’s Bakery in Manehattan, and then… and then I don’t know!”

    “I know where I’m takin’ Princess Twi once she’s outta here,” Apple Bloom said. “Gonna show her around the farm and show her the old family portraits.”

    Twilight’s ears flicked up. “Ooooooh.”

    “What? But I wanna go with her first!” Sweetie Belle protested. “It was my idea to come and find her! I get to choose where we take her first! And I’m taking her with me on our field trip to Horseshoe Bay!” She turned to her sister. “That’s in five months, Rarity.”

    Rarity laughed. “I have a deadline now? I see.”

    “But, Horseshoe Bay is, like, really boring!” Scootaloo protested. She turned to Twilight. “Don’t worry, Princess. I’m gonna take you to someplace awesome. We’re going to Rainbow Falls, and we can see the dragons, and cool stuff!”

    “No, no! Bring her to Hollow Shades!” Pinkie interjected.

    “I want to take her to Whitetail Woods,” Fluttershy said, folding her hooves. “Remember, Princess Twilight? I told you about it. There’s all sorts of wonderful creatures, and—”

    “Oh! Oh! And you mentioned there are new plant specimens there!” Twilight added.

    Fluttershy nodded enthusiastically.

    “Pardon me,” Rarity spoke up, drawing the attention of everypony, “but please remember I’m the one doing the rescuing here, so I feel I should decide. Then again, while I personally want us to go to Manehattan, the decision is ultimately up to Twilight.”

    “I agree,” Applejack said, shooting the others a stern look. “Don’t y’all think she should be the one choosin’ where to go?”

    Twilight sat up straight. “Well, all of you suggested what sound like wonderful places, but…”

    “But Manehattan is obviously the best choice?” Rarity added, fluttering her eyelashes at the princess.

    “But,” Twilight continued, “I want to go to Hollow Shades and see Princess Luna first.”

    “YES!” Pinkie exclaimed, hopping up to her feet. “I win! I win! Omigosh, Princess Twilight, you’re going to have so much fun! We can throw nightmare bombs, and then we can meet Elder Moonshine, and I can take you to the main plaza, and then we can visit Professor Meaniepants and show him he’s wrong, and then we can meet Princess Luna, and then we can have her—”

    “Woah, slow down, sugarcube!” Applejack said. “Why don’t you wait ’til Princess Twi is actually there before making up your mind?”

    Pinkie groaned. “But I’m already too excited!” Much like Sweetie Belle had, she looked toward Rarity and whined. “Rarityyyyy, find the books faster!”

    “Pinkie, I’m doing my best but I am not a miracle worker!” Rarity protested. “And you’ve yet to get the books from the dear professor, may I remind you!”

    Pinkie’s mane deflated a bit. “Oops…”

    “Speakin’ of them lost books.”

    Applejack got up and trotted toward her saddlebag. She searched inside and moments later pulled out what Rarity recognized as Twilight’s book.

    “My book!” Twilight exclaimed, teleporting next to Applejack.

    “You got it?! Granny actually agreed to return it?” Apple Bloom asked, jumping up.

    “Granny Smith didn’t make it as difficult as I thought she might. I reckon she knows we’ve met the princess.” She smiled and hoofed it over to Twilight. “It’s mighty overdue, Princess, but here it is. Just don’t go chargin’ us any late fees, you hear?”

    “I don’t charge late fees, Applejack,” Twilight quickly said, and Rarity privately thought that, even if she did, the necessary bits would be impossible to get. “Thank you for bringing it back.”

    “How many books do you have so far, Rarity?” Fluttershy asked, turning to the unicorn.

    Rarity hummed thoughtfully. There was the book she got in Canterlot, Fritter Cobbler’s book, the two she got from Manehattan, the three books Spring Showers had, the one from the dragon merchant, the one from Heart’s Haven, the three books from Professor Awe—which, granted, they didn’t technically have yet—and now Applejack’s book.

    “Thirteen books, so far!”

    “Only thirteen?!” Scootaloo exclaimed. “That means there’s, like, fifty left!”

    “Seventeen,” Twilight said, having teleported back to her spot next to Rarity.

    “Ohhh, maybe Princess Denza will have the rest!” Pinkie suggested. “You can all ask her when you go!” When Applejack approached, she turned toward her. “Maybe you can bring her an apple pie, Applejack! I’m sure she’ll be suuuuper happy!”

    Applejack blinked. “Bring a pie to Princess Denza? Well, that’s a fine idea, sugarcube, ’cept I ain’t goin’ to Canterlot. Only Rarity is.”

    “What? Just Rarity?” Pinkie asked, perplexed. “But why?! The princess can’t say no to helping if all of you are there!”

    “She’s right!” Apple Bloom exclaimed. “I wanna help!”

    “Yeah!” Sweetie and Scootaloo added, jumping up on the mattress.

    “I’m sure the guards will be nicer if they see it’s a lot of us,” Fluttershy added.

    Rarity mulled it over. “It does seem like the smart thing to do,” she agreed. The more ponies who were there to defend Twilight’s existence, the more chances they had of being believed. She turned to Applejack. “What do you think, Applejack? I’m going on a weekend, so school will be out and the fillies can come.”

    “Well, if it ain’t gonna bother Apple Bloom’s school, then I don’t see why not.”

    Finally, Rarity turned to Twilight, finding the alicorn unusually silent. “What do you think, darling? Do you want us all to go together?”

    Twilight opened and closed her mouth, her ears lowering enough for Rarity to tell something was wrong. She cleared her throat, and smiled. “I think that sounds like a great idea!” she exclaimed, and it was evident from the cheers of everypony that only Rarity had noticed Twilight’s fake smile.

    Despite this, she did not press the issue. She would not forget it, of course, but there was no need to put Twilight into a difficult position in front of the others. Besides, it was nearly bedtime for the fillies, so she settled down on the floor, resting her chin against her crossed forelegs, and spoke up.

    “How about you tell us a bedtime story, Princess Twilight?” she asked innocently, smiling broadly when Twilight raised an eyebrow at Rarity’s use of her formal title. “I’m sure you must have something in your immense library that could quickly put these girls to sleep.”

    Twilight frowned. “…Are you calling my books boring?” she asked, rolling her eyes when Rarity childishly giggled. Nevertheless, she stood up, unfolding her wings and turning toward the bookcases. “Though, I do have a book I’d like to read to them…”

    “Is it about dragons?!” Scootaloo exclaimed. Rarity’s trip had certainly left a lasting impression on her.

    “Is it about a princess being rescued and falling in love?” Sweetie asked next.

    “Is it the bedtime story you promised you’d read to Apple Crisp?” Apple Bloom asked quietly, and Twilight’s expression was an adequate reply, her ears lowering slightly and her lips curving into a sad smile. “I asked if you could read it to me tonight, remember? ’Cause the ponies we love are always watchin’.”

    Twilight didn’t answer with words, but with actions. Her horn lit up, and an old book appeared in front of her. As she laid down and opened the book up, everypony else got cozy, snuggling up against pillows and blankets. Rarity inched as close as she could to Twilight, and Twilight moved the book so it would be right in front of the two of them.

    Rarity couldn’t help but smile at the cover: Twilight had chosen a fairy tale. She wondered if Twilight ever thought about how she herself had become one of the heroes of old she read about in her books.

    “Thank goodness. I was afraid you’d read us a science book,” Rarity teased in a hushed voice, laughing when Twilight promptly shot her a miffed glare.

    “Right! The Weary Travelers of Caelum by Grayscale,” Twilight exclaimed after a moment, and a genuine smile graced her lips. “Our story is about the deadly illness of a beloved king, and the princess and her guard who scale the highest mountain of Equestria to ask the Goddesses for their help.”

    Twilight spent the next hour or so reading, her voice filling the library while everypony listened with rapt attention. Her voice was mesmerizing, Rarity thought, almost hypnotic, as one by one the fillies’ eyes began to close. Even Rarity eventually succumbed, snuggling up to the thin air that made up her beloved and letting herself be lulled to sleep by Twilight’s storytelling.

    A few hours later she awoke, finding the lights dimmed to almost complete darkness and hearing the others sleeping beside her. She counted Applejack, her hat serving as a makeshift sleeping mask; Fluttershy, the two owls sleeping next to her; the Cutie Mark Crusaders, all three huddled up on their mattress, and…

    Where’s Pinkie Pie?

    “Yep! And it’s really fun ’cause I get to help fight the nightmares,” Pinkie’s voice came, approaching Rarity and the others.

    Rarity quickly laid back down again, closing her eyes but peering through her lashes so that she could see without alerting anypony that she was awake. She saw Pinkie Pie emerge from an aisle of bookcases, her voice lowering to a whisper. Swirl was with her, having changed to its candelabra appearance, and behind Pinkie emerged Twilight, her nose stuck inside one of Pinkie’s dream journals.

    “Wait, lemme get the next one!” Pinkie continued, trotting past the sleeping mares and heading to the entrance where her saddlebag waited.

    Rarity watched as Twilight looked around, glancing at each sleeping pony before trotting toward Rarity herself. The unicorn quickly closed her eyes, waiting for a moment before she felt Twilight’s magic take her blanket and… tuck her in? Her tail was gently and magically moved to fit beneath the blanket, and once she was fully covered, she felt Twilight’s magic delicately brush against her cheek, much like one might lovingly caress their lover’s face.

    Rarity was wholly unable to stop herself from smiling, her cheeks turning a shade of red as a terribly pleased expression settled itself on her face. Moments later, a whispered voice made its way to her ears.

    “It might have been better if you’d woken up while I was still telling the story.”

    Rarity giggled, opening her eyes and looking up at the unamused alicorn. “It’s hardly my fault your voice is so soothing.”

    She got up, undoing all of Twilight’s magic work with the blanket, covered a yawn with her hoof and then brushed back her mane. As she did, Pinkie returned, greeting Rarity with surprised enthusiasm.

    “What have I missed beyond Princess Diamond’s dangerous adventure with her intrepid bodyguard?”

    “Not much!” Pinkie replied, both whispering and shouting at the same time. “Unless you wanted to hear me talking about Princess Luna to Princess Twilight, because then you missed a lot!”

    Twilight looked around, making sure everypony was still asleep, before gesturing back to where they came from. “We should go back before we wake up the others,” she suggested, promptly trotting off with Rarity and Pinkie following behind.

    As they trotted, Rarity stifled another yawn and wondered if she ought to go back to sleep instead. As much as she’d love hearing about Princess Luna, she knew Twilight would take some degree of offense if she fell asleep halfway through it. Pinkie quickly sat down, fluffing her pillow and covering herself with her blanket.

    The sight made Rarity shiver, but before she could excuse herself to get her blanket and pillow, they were wordlessly teleported to her by Twilight, who took the extra care to make sure the blanket fell properly on Rarity’s shoulders. Rarity sighed with delight, thanking Twilight before lying down, watching as the alicorn did the same.

    “Princess Twilight told me about the maze,” Pinkie said to Rarity. “That must have been really scary…”

    “It was, but Twilight managed to get it under control,” she replied.

    “I asked Pinkie if she’s ever had something similar occur to her,” Twilight began, “but it seems like her only contact with chaos magic was during your trip to Rainbow Falls.”

    Pinkie nodded her head. “Uh-huh! And all the chaos magic I’ve seen before that has been in Princess Luna’s memory orbs, and she told me that the Spirit can’t go into dreams!”

    Rarity sighed. So much for Pinkie being able to help. The maze had yet to attack again, but just because it had calmed down didn’t mean it might not try again—not that it could even get past Twilight’s security measures, but still. The library was one of Rarity’s safe havens and her favorite place, and the idea that it was dangerous was a hard pill to swallow.

    “Although… maybe in my other dream journal…” Pinkie got up and sped off before she could be questioned. “Be right back!”

    Once she was gone, Rarity turned to Twilight and found the alicorn looking back at her, her brow furrowed.

    “Something on your mind, Twilight?”

    “You,” Twilight replied, and smiled when Rarity laughed.

    “What’s this? Stealing my lines now, are we? For shame!” Rarity reprimanded, shaking her head in a scolding manner. “I’ll steal yours, then!” She cleared her throat and asked, “What were you really thinking about?”

    “You,” Twilight repeated, and with a spark of her horn, Luna’s letter appeared next to her. “I wanted to tell you I read Princess Luna’s letter.”

    “You did?! That’s wonderful, darling,” Rarity exclaimed. “I take it your fears were unfounded?”

    Twilight looked down to the letter for a second before levitating it toward Rarity. “Here. You can read it and see for yourself.”

    Rarity took the letter, blinking at the alicorn. “I… Are you sure?” she asked. It wasn’t very polite to read other ponies’ correspondence, and much less so when the writer hadn’t been consulted on the matter.

    Twilight nodded. “There’s a part I think you’ll like.”

    Rarity carefully unfolded the letter, aware of Twilight lying down next to her and watching quietly, much like Rarity had done hours earlier with the bedtime story. The letter itself was neatly written in pink ink, a few words scratched out and rewritten here and there, and after receiving one last nod from Twilight, she began to read.

    Dear Twilight Sparkle,

    There is much I would like to tell you, but it would take more time and paper than Pinkie Pie could have.

    Do you remember the stars we watched every night from my observatory? It has been long since I last saw them, and I know the same holds true for you. I think of you whenever I gaze up at the night stars in foals’ dreams. I miss our conversations and even our arguments. I have known of our legend for many centuries now, and it is most pleasing to know your books have kept you company. They always were your second most faithful companions, were they not?

    By this time, I hope you’ve talked with Pinkie Pie. She is a curious and odd mare, but she is very dear to me. She has brought back a joy inside me I thought lost.

    She has spoken very highly of your Rarity. Pinkie scolds me for the pronoun, but that is what Rarity and Pinkie are to us, are they not? The rare ponies who have offered to help us. I assume Rarity has told you about our meeting. I was not able to converse with her much, but I saw enough to know she would go very far for your sake. You should trust her more.

    It is, after all, because of her that for the very first time I believe we might be able to meet again soon. There will be much to talk about, and there will be time to do so, surrounded by these strange mares who have chosen to help us. But some things cannot wait.

    I don’t know what you feel toward me now, but my feelings have plagued me for longer than a pony can stand. The role we both played in this haunts me. It was never your fault. Please do remember that. I do not hold anything against you, for there is no reason to do so, and I in fact want to apologize, Twilight, for whatever harm I have caused you.

    I await our meeting,

    Princess Luna

    P.S. Pinkie pinkie-promises she will not remember the content of this letter.

    As Rarity finished, a warm feeling washed all over her. She carefully folded the letter and hoofed it back to Twilight.

    “Well?” she asked. “Are you happy?”

    Twilight faltered for a second, and it almost seemed like she was about to cry when she nodded her head. “Yes. Yes, I am,” she said, eyes twinkling. She then looked at Rarity and asked, “What did you think about it?”

    Rarity didn’t reply, but instead lifted her hoof toward Twilight. Twilight stared at it for a moment, unsure of what to do, before finally lifting her own hoof and gently hovering it against Rarity’s, the bottom of it brushing against the unicorn’s, making her tingle.

    “I am getting you out of here, Twilight,” Rarity said, looking up to meet Twilight’s eyes. “You know that, don’t you?”

    Twilight smiled. “I know.” She paused, and her ears fell a little, her eyes focused on their hooves. “…You’ll be careful in Canterlot?”

    “Of course, my darling,” Rarity replied with a soft smile.

    “I’m back!” Pinkie exclaimed, and the two mares quickly pulled back their forelegs.

    Pinkie settled herself down next to them and hoofed her journal over to Twilight, both mares continuing a previous conversation about Luna. Or, rather, Twilight spoke and Pinkie listened.

    Rarity laid down, resting her head on the pillow and smiling when Twilight once again carefully tucked her in. She marveled at how Twilight could do such little gestures while holding a completely unrelated conversation with somepony else. Wouldn’t it be marvelous if she could move over and bury herself against the alicorn’s coat?

    For now, though, listening to Twilight excitedly speak about Luna, she was content with snuggling up and closing her eyes, feeling grateful she didn’t feel so tired anymore.

    Sleep would be impossible, after all, considering she was sitting right next to the brightest light in the library.

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    1. A Deer
      Jan 22, '23 at 1:03 pm

      This was a very happy and joyful chapter to end Act 2 on. Which can only mean pain will follow. Tell the audience to look under their seats for a special gift – the gift of pain. It’s going to be handed out like gifts from Oprah.

      The characterization really stood out to me in this chapter. Their personalities felt very natural. It came out well in the various interactions. And the relationship between Twilight and Rarity showed it’s growth. Like Twilight fixing Rarity’s blanket. Love those details that display things like that. Twilight opening up over the course of the story has been interesting to read. There are the ways she is more emotional and trusting. But then there is the scene where she is hungry for the pie. I think that shows her wanting more to be with others. Not be closed off to them. She wants to enjoy the pie with them. But she can’t and she’s reminded of why.

      The picture collage at the end was great. Especially the one about why Scootaloo was grounded. Luckily I never had to worry about the wanna be tattoo artist friend.

    2. Zanna Zannolin
      Sep 18, '22 at 8:27 pm

      oh my god the end of act ii…oh NO THE BAD THINGS ARE COMING NOWWWW NOOOO IM GONNA BE SO SAD. oh act iii we’re really in it now. god the pain and suffering i am about to go through (<- can't even remember half the plot) when rarity was like ooo what if we all went to canterlot i almost shrieked "NO DON'T DO THAT" out loud but it's 10:30 at night i am going to sleep after this so there was no shouting aloud. in my heart….in my heart there was.

      i love how this chapter brings out twilight's more sociable, happy personality and how well she gets along with other ponies (i will never tire of seeing her meet new ponies and interact with them!!) and just let herself be happy for a while. and she's so full of love, really, with all her little gestures. not just towards rarity (though all of those made me aww aloud) but doing things like reading stories and listening to everything pinkie has to say and wanting to go places and do things with all of them after she gets out. like she's just so down to learn what people love and that!! that is a form of love! that is a love language right there! twilight sparkle you are so full of love and care and ohhhhh this next act is going to hurt.

      also the banter and humor coming through this chapter was perrrrfect! i keep saying you balance things well i know but at risk of sounding like a broken record you did a fantastic job blending the emotions this chapter. there's such an honest undercurrent of sorrow and melancholy about luna and twilight's situation and apple crisp but there's lightheartedness and silly antics and joy and there's little acts of love and jokes and conversations and i just. you know. i just love them a lot. and i can't wait until rainbow dash gets to be a part of this too and we get the mane six all together….ohhhh my beloveds i'm so excited.