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    It was an uncontested fact, or at least it should have been, that properly recovering from a meltdown was one of the most exquisite art forms.

    One should always apologize, of course, but more than that, there should be pride in the act! Yes, all the proverbial marbles had been lost, thrown overboard to drift in the sea of insanity, but it was an act of passion! An act of beautiful desperation, and one should own it! Wear it like a badge of honor, like a trophy to be disp—

    “You’ve been quiet, Miss Rarity. Are you perhaps contemplating when next to slam me against a wall?”

    Sitting on Professor Awe’s living room couch, Rarity took a deeeeep breath. “Professor,” she said, trying hard to remember that she did, in fact, deserve his ire. She put her cup of tea on a nearby table and watched as the stallion turned back to his chalkboard. “I understand you’re upset, and you should be! But for Denza’s sake, it’s been three days, and I’ve already apologized twenty times at least! Really!”

    Professor Awe snorted. “Ah, but apologies aren’t a very effective painkiller. Speaking of which…” With a smile, he excused himself and left the room, allowing Rarity to stew in her own shame.

    Rarity’s cheeks burned, and she directed a miffed stare at her tea. She felt inclined to call out to the professor that if his back still hurt after three days, then either he was lying or needed to see a doctor, but she refrained. In the back of her mind, she knew she had to keep her mouth shut, no matter how much she detested the constant reminders of her… incident.

    Though Pinkie and her friends back home had apparently let her off the hook for now, she could still feel her own judgement weighing upon her. She missed Twilight terribly, but dwelling on her actions would prove useless, wouldn’t it?

    Come now, Rarity. Now more than ever you must be positive.

    She stood up and trotted toward the large grey machine that sat in the room, long sheets of paper trailing down from its tray. She’d seen it once before, back in Rainbow Falls, and only vaguely remembered what it did. Some sort of magic analyzing device?

    The professor came back moments later, giving Rarity the opportunity to showcase her new positive attitude.

    “In any case, Professor, I must say I’m thrilled you’ve agreed to help us,” she said, poking at the machine with her hoof.

    Truthfully, there was some sort of liberation that came with no longer fighting the curse and accepting they were all doomed to live with it.

    She could think clearer now, at the very least.

    She glanced toward a nearby table where pictures of Twilight lay scattered along with some of the professor’s notes. She walked over and lifted one of the pictures, smiling at Twilight’s grinning face. For a moment, she felt her eyes fill with unshed tears, as they often did nowadays when she thought too long about her princess.

    Goodness, I miss you.

    She forced her eyes away from Twilight and settled them instead on the photo of the CMC’s look-a-like contest. Apple Bloom looked quite happy in it, a stark contrast to how she’d looked when Rainbow Dash had taken her back home.

    “A shame you think these are fake,” she said, forcing her thoughts in a different direction.

    The professor grunted, putting his chalk away and trotting toward his machine. “I am a stallion of science. I don’t believe in silly pony tales, but when there is something real and plausible to investigate, I will do as much.”

    Rarity noticed bags under his eyes. “You’ve had trouble sleeping lately, haven’t you?” she asked, watching as he punched data into the machine. “I heard you pacing at quite unheavenly hours. Something wrong?” She bit her lip. “…Unpleasant dreams, perhaps?”

    “I’ve had no such things!” he exclaimed, anger flaring for a moment. “And my sleep habits are none of your concern, might I add!”

    Rarity arched an eyebrow. What a strong reaction! Maybe he was visited by the princess… If so, she envied him. Three nights she’d spent in Hollow Shades, and the one time in weeks that she wanted dreams, she wasn’t having any!

    Then again, there was a very real possibility Princess Luna would give her the earful of her life, so perhaps there was some silver lining to the dark cloud of her dreamless nights.

    “All right, all right! No need to get riled up,” she said, moving on with the conversation. She cleared her throat and approached the machine. “So, how is this device supposed to help us…?”

    “Well, in order to show you, I need your magic receptacle,” he said, offering his hoof to her while continuing to look at his machine.

    “The magic rece—? Oh, you mean the necklace!” Her hoof shot up to the broken necklace hanging from her neck. “Ah…” She took it off, her eyes observing the light green necklace. “You… Well, you won’t break it, will you?”

    The professor glanced at her. “It’s already damaged.”

    Rarity scowled. “Yes, I know that. But this necklace is the last thing I have of Twilight.”

    He smiled. “Ah, yes, the imaginary princess for whom you slammed me against a wall.”

    Rarity stamped her hoof on the floor. Really, it was getting excessive! “Professor! If this is going to be your attitude, then I’ll—!”

    “Find somepony else with a magic analyzer to help you?” he interrupted, turning back to the machine. When Rarity replied with begrudging silence, he smiled and extended his hoof toward her. “Necklace, if you please.”

    Rarity pursed her lips and made sure to take her necklace off in the single most indignant way she could. It was as if he wanted her to be in a sour mood. Once it was off, she delicately placed the necklace in his hoof, harrumphing for good measure.

    “If it breaks, Professor…” she warned.

    He turned to her with a smile. “You’ll sla—” Thankfully, for once, her deadly expression silenced him.

    Frowning, he opened a small slot in the machine and placed the necklace inside. Once it closed, he cast a spell on the machine and it quickly whirred into motion, an aura of magic flickering to life around it. Sheets of papers with what Rarity supposed were statistics poured out, sliding down to the floor at the base of the machine. It wasn’t until a considerable heap had piled up that the machine finally stopped, and the professor ripped the top sheet free and began to read.

    “Well?!” Rarity asked, trotting over and trying to read over his shoulder. “What does it say?”

    The professor cleared his throat. “The spell is of magic detection, as you said. However, it seems my machine cannot determine the magic inside the necklace. Considering I’ve acquired samples of nearly ninety-nine percent of magic creatures in Equestria, we can safely assume this is chaos magic.” He cleared his throat. “And that’s it.”

    “That’s it?” Rarity exclaimed. “That’s nothing! I already knew all that! There must be something else!”

    She tried to grab the sheet, but he pulled it away and continued reading.

    “It also has information on the caster, which is the section that really matters, since I’ll use it to prove you wrong!” he exclaimed with surprising glee. He cleared his throat and stood up straight. “As I assume you are aware, the books of the late Princess Twilight have a preservation spell. I analyzed it with my machine, and the result was an amalgamation of pegasus, earth pony, and unicorn magic, therefore an alicorn, and it says here that…” He squinted his eyes, reading the sheet, and a moment later, his smug smile vanished entirely. “Hm.”

    “What?” Rarity asked, and now she was the one smiling. “Found something interesting?”

    The professor coughed. “Not at all. I’ll have to run the test again, since there was a—hey!

    Rarity snatched the sheet from him, jumping away before he could take it. “Magic… Fifty percent… Spell… AH-HAH!” She turned to him, a wicked smile on her face as she practically hopped in shameless joy. “Alicorn! It says alicorn! Ha ha ha! Alicorn!” She then stopped herself, cleared her throat, and hoofed it back to him. “What an unexpected turn of events! Surprising for you, I assume, but—” She fluttered her eyelashes. “—these are the facts.”

    Before Professor Awe could voice his indignant reply, a door slammed open from beyond the room, and a piercing voice filled the air.

    “Professor Meanie-Pants!”

    The professor blanched. “Oh no.”

    Pinkie Pie bounded into the room, looking happier than ever as she quite literally giggled her way toward Rarity and the professor.

    “Soooooooooo,” she said, bouncing in circles around the increasingly irritated stallion. She finally came to a stop right in front of him, and the smug smile on her lips filled Rarity with pride. “What’cha think of Princess Luuuuuuuna, huh?”

    Rarity faux-gasped. “My, my, my, Professor!”

    Ex-excuse me, but I have no idea who you’re referring to!” he blurted out, the fluster on his face clearly indicating otherwise. “I think nothing of her because she is not real!”

    “Now, Professor, denial brings about nothing but misery,” Rarity chided. “I, sadly, know that too well.”

    “I am not in denial!” he protested, stamping his hoof against the floor. “And that is hardly relevant, so if you are done with this nonsense, I would like to get back to the princess! I mean, necklace!

    He turned around, opened a different compartment in the machine, and extracted a small grey rectangular device with antennas, a light bulb, and a glass-covered indicator with an arrow for measuring, Rarity supposed, magic.

    “Oooh, what’s that for?” Pinkie asked, apparently falling for the professor’s distraction.

    “This,” the professor said, showing the device to Pinkie and Rarity, “is what we will use to discover the source of the chaos magic in Hollow Shades, if there truly is any, as Miss Rarity claims. It’s something I’ve been working on for quite some time now!”

    He turned back to the machine and lifted the necklace again. Rarity felt inclined to warn him again not to damage it, but she instead withheld the desire and watched as he opened a small compartment on the portable device and placed the necklace inside. When the door clicked shut, the lightbulb turned on and the arrow moved upwards a quarter of an inch.

    “As long as we have this, we can trace the source of the chaos magic,” the professor continued, turning off the larger machine with his magic and trotting away from it. He grabbed a saddlebag from a chair and turned to the two mares. “I suggest we find the limits of the chaos magic, first. I take it you don’t know when your necklace began to glow?”

    Rarity coughed awkwardly. “Ah, I fear not. I was a bit, er, distracted at the time,” she replied.

    “Well then,” he replied, trotting toward the exit of the room. “I hope you ladies enjoy exercise.”

    “How curious, Professor,” Rarity said, going after him. “I thought you’d be the least interested in helping us prove the existence of long-gone princesses. Did you have a change of heart?”

    The professor stopped and waved his device. “This has changed things, Miss Rarity. I’d never been able to study chaos magic before, but now… Now I’ll see what role it played in the princesses’ assassinations!”

    Rarity sighed. I should have known.


    After a precursory investigation, Rarity and the others discovered that the chaos magic was effectively contained to just Hollow Shades, much like in the Everfree Forest. Unfortunately, though it was a valuable piece of information, it didn’t in any way help them.

    “I don’t understand,” Rarity complained, looking up at Princess Luna’s statue, as if beseeching her for an answer. “What’s the point of it?”

    “Point?” Pinkie asked, blinking. “Silly Rarity! There is no point! The magic is a big circle around the town, not something with a pointy part!”

    “I believe she meant what the chaos magic is here for, Miss Pie,” Professor Awe said, fiddling around with the device. “And the unfortunate answer is that there seems to be no reason for it.” He looked up and gestured vaguely with his hoof. “It just seems to be there.

    “There must be a reason!” Rarity insisted, turning to them. She liked to think she’d learned enough of Discord’s modus operandi to know that something had to be happening somewhere. “The Everfree has those forsaken timberwolves, the library has the maze, the caves in Rainbow Falls have the drawings!”

    She stepped toward the town, thinking back to how she’d managed to trigger the magic on previous occasions.

    “I know where Princess Twilight is!” she exclaimed, narrowing her eyes and glaring at her surroundings, expecting something to happen. “I am freeing her, and nothing you do will stop me!”

    “Yeah!” Pinkie jumped in, glaring at the ground and stamping her hooves against it. “She’s gonna be free, and she’s going to come here, and free Princess Luna, and then you’ll be super sorry about what you did!”

    Rarity turned to the professor. “Well?” she asked, watching as he inspected the device. “Any luck?”

    The professor didn’t look up. “None.”

    Rarity let out a frustrated sigh. As much as she hated to admit it, there was a possibility that the chaos magic truly wasn’t doing anything at all. If it was, the townspeople would have discovered it centuries ago, wouldn’t they? Rarity very much doubted the entire town was keeping secrets from Pinkie and the professor specifically, after all.

    “Come on! Tell us!” Pinkie insisted, practically yelling now as she continued to stamp her hooves against the ground, trying to will the magic into doing something. “Meanie, meanie, meanie!”

    “…Is there a problem, Pinkie?”

    A stallion had approached them, and rather than concerned, Rarity could only describe his expression as “put off.” She quickly stood up, realizing she and Pinkie had been making something of a scene, but before she could excuse herself on Pinkie’s behalf, the pink pony spoke up.

    “Oh! Hi, Odyssey!” she squeaked, bolting upright and away from him toward Rarity, holding onto the unicorn. “This is my friend, Rarity!”

    “Oh, hello!” Rarity greeted, smiling brightly despite the concern she felt at just how tightly Pinkie was grasping her. She remembered the treatment Pinkie usually received from the other townsfolk, and her chest tightened. Nevertheless, she would remain courteous until given a reason not to be. “Lovely to meet you!”

    He smiled at her. “Same.” He turned to Pinkie and playfully raised an eyebrow. “So, I’m guessing she doesn’t know about Moonlight Lullaby, then?”

    “You mean Princess Luna?” Rarity asked immediately, hardly able to keep her smile at, unfortunately, realizing her show of faith had been misplaced.

    The stallion laughed. “Heh. Imaginary friends can be whoever you want them to be, right?” he asked, and the wink that followed clearly demonstrated he expected Rarity to follow along with his “teasing,” if it could even be called such.

    “H-hey!” Pinkie started, obviously a fighter until the very end. “She’s not imagina—”

    “What a curious thing for you to imply,” Rarity interrupted, allowing her previously genuine smile to lose all of its sincerity. She tilted her head to the side and frowned. “Don’t you believe in the princesses? Hollow Shades is known for its enthusiasm for the legend, after all.”

    The stallion shrugged. “Stuff like that pulls a lot of tourists here. Town’s in the middle of a forest. Gotta bring in money somehow,” he said.

    “But they are real!” Pinkie protested, letting go of Rarity and taking a step forward. “And it’s not nice that ponies only care about Princess Luna because she makes money for them! She doesn’t even see one bit of it!”

    The stallion breathed out a long-suffering sigh and rolled his eyes, completely missing Rarity’s unimpressed stare. Goodness, he was being very rude for no reason, wasn’t he? “Okay, Pinkie.” He adjusted his saddlebag and turned to leave. “Anyway, keep doing your thing.”

    They are!” Pinkie insisted, suddenly taking hold of Odyssey. “And just because you don’t believe me doesn’t mean you get to be a big jerk about it!”

    And now this, it seemed, struck a nerve.

    Odyssey turned back to her, arching an eyebrow. “Jerk? Jerk about what?” he asked, having apparently forgotten he was in the presence of polite company. “About not helping you find a fictional princess you’ve been looking for since we were in school? I don’t know if you’ve noticed everypony’s really tired of it?”

    Well, then, Rarity thought irritably, deciding she’d seen quite enough. If that pony wanted to be boorish with no prompting whatsoever, then Rarity would gladly end the conversation then and there.

    Pardon me, but—”

    Her sentence was interrupted when the previously silent professor held her back with a hoof, preventing her from interfering in Pinkie and the oaf’s conversation. She turned to him, intent on demanding why he wasn’t doing anything but before she could say a word, he turned the device toward her, allowing her to see the arrow shooting up.

    What…?

    “Pardon me, sir,” Rarity finally interrupted, her eyes briefly darting back and forth between the device and the stallion. “Why is it so difficult for you to entertain the idea that these princesses might be real?”

    And again, Odyssey’s irritation seemed to grow. “Because it’s a pony tale,” he insisted, and Rarity noticed the device detect a higher presence of chaos magic.

    “And where is your evidence of the fact?” Rarity pressed, wanting to know how deep the rabbit hole went. “As the professor here would be glad to show you, there’s enough proof in Equestria that the princesses were real.”

    “No, they weren’t!” he exclaimed, slamming his hoof against the ground. His eyes, Rarity noticed, seemed unnatural, lightly glazed over. “And will you stop acting like they are?!”

    “But they are real!” Pinkie protested, angered now.

    The argument went on, a back and forth between Pinkie and Odyssey, and Rarity’s horrified understanding grew and grew along with her anger for the stallion. For every sentence Pinkie protested in the princesses’ defense, the stallion’s own anger increased, and the device detected more and more chaos magic.

    “It seems,” the professor whispered rather somberly, “you have found your answer, Miss Rarity.”

    “Oh, how terribly rude of us!” Rarity suddenly exclaimed, putting a hoof on Pinkie’s shoulder and snapping her out of the argument. Ignoring the mare’s confused expression, Rarity offered the stallion an apologetic smile. “It completely slipped my mind that we have business to attend elsewhere! Though I’m fond of being fashionably late, it would be dreadful if we’re late for our meeting!”

    Odyssey frowned, stepping back. “Don’t worry. I was done with the conversation, anyway.”

    “Wait, but, who are we meeting?!” Pinkie exclaimed, looking absolutely horrified and fortunately forgetting all about the oaf she’d been arguing with. “Is it Dashie?! She’s here?!”

    “Yes, yes!” Rarity lied, seizing the opportunity presented to her. She bowed her head to the stallion before quickly trotting off, rather forcefully gesturing for the others to follow. “Come along now!”

    Once they were far away enough, Rarity stopped and turned to her companions.

    “Why are you stopping?!” Pinkie asked, anxiously. “Dashie and Spike are waiting for us!”

    It was the professor who spoke up, explaining to Pinkie Pie what they had just discovered while Rarity buried her face in her hooves and tried to make heads and tails of the situation. Was that truly the purpose of the chaos magic? Manipulate ponies into refusing to believe the legend was real?

    That’s why Princess Luna was trapped, wasn’t it? If Twilight was consumed by guilt, Princess Luna was consumed by… feeling forgotten? Abandoned?

    And how could she not when…

    Pain shot through her chest suddenly, her mind dragging her back to Twilight. If Princess Luna had remained trapped for centuries because she felt abandoned, what damage had Rarity now done to Twilight? Oh, she talked big in her letter, promising she’d have faith, but faith wavered when faced with hopelessness and… and…

    “Rarity…?”

    Rarity looked up and saw the professor and Pinkie were staring at her, both sporting concerned expressions. She realized her hoof was pressed against her chest, and her breathing was rapid and shallow.

    “Are you okay?” Pinkie asked, taking a step toward her, which prompted Rarity to quickly step back.

    “Y-yes, of course, darling!” she insisted, forcing a smile. Positive, Rarity, be positive. “I simply got caught up in my thoughts…” She ran a hoof through her mane, determined to make the best of what she’d learned. “Professor, we need to find more ponies. I’d rather not make any decisions based on one experience.”

    “Spoken like a scientist!” he exclaimed. “I assume your princess would be proud.”

    Rarity laughed softly. “I believe she would be, yes.”

    And so it began, one pony after another stopped and questioned, and the further Rarity pressed each one of them, the angrier they got and higher did the needle go.

    What, and next thing you’ll say is that Princess Denza works with the Spirit? Who’s also real?” A stallion snorted, rolling his eyes and pushing his cart away.

    Pinkie, really, at some point you have to let go of your imaginary friends.” A mare sighed, shaking her head and returning to the magazine she’d been reading.

    Mare after mare, stallion after stallion, all treating the legend and those who believed in it as nothing more than a joke.

    “Now, really,” an elderly shopkeeper said, furrowing her brow, “this nonsense talk is ruffling my feathers. I can’t say the same for these two, but you, Pinkie, should know better after everything Elder Moonshine’s told you.”

    “But they are real!” Pinkie whined, ears lowering and mane deflating. “You just think they’re not because the Spirit wants you to think that!”

    The elderly mare stamped her hoof against the ground. “Now, Pinkie, stop it!”

    “But Gran-gran!” a voice interrupted. “The princesses are real!”

    Rarity turned toward the source of the voice, and though she initially found nopony, looking down revealed who’d spoken. A little pegasus filly stood next to her, fixing the elder mare with the iciest glare a filly could muster.

    The shopkeeper’s disposition changed immediately. “But of course they are, darlin’!” she exclaimed, smiling widely at the filly. “Princess Luna won’t bring you a sweater next month if you don’t believe in her!”

    The filly nodded her head. “She’s going to bring me my favorite sweater ever! Just like every year!” She turned to Pinkie and clapped her hooves. “What’s she bringing you, Pinkie?!”

    Rarity didn’t know whether the change of expression in Pinkie was heartwarming or heartbreaking.

    “Oh! Uhm, uhm!” Pinkie clapped her hooves together, sticking out her tongue as she pondered her reply. “She’s gonna get meeeeeeeeee… a trip to the moon! To the popsicle moon!”

    The filly gasped. “She can do that?! Can I go too?!”

    “Miss Rarity,” Professor Awe whispered, drawing Rarity’s attention away from the filly. “Look at this.”

    Rarity blinked, taking the device and to her great surprise, the arrow had nearly gone back to its initial low reading. While it was clear that chaos magic was taking some effect on the foal, it wasn’t nearly as strong as with the adults.

    They turned around, away from Pinkie and the filly, and so began their wild speculation. There was a certain thrill to it, admittedly, yet a pang shot through Rarity’s heart upon thinking how much Twilight would enjoy being there.

    “It seems to be a condition that affects them throughout their entire life,” the professor said, clicking away at buttons on the device.

    “But this doesn’t make sense! You’re not affected by it, and neither is Pinkie Pie!” Rarity exclaimed. She bit her lip and rubbed her hoof against her mouth. “Unless…”

    The professor arched an eyebrow. “Unless…?”

    “Pinkie Pie hasn’t lived here her entire life, has she? She moved here as a foal from Tall Tale,” she said, turning to him. “And you only recently moved here as well, did you not?”

    The professor’s eyes widened. “Yes… Yes, of course! Hollow Shade’s residents have been conditioned since birth to distrust the legend, but we weren’t! Although…” His sudden excitement died down. “Although that brings us few solutions. We can’t possibly fight an influence that has been with most of these ponies all their lives.”

    “And we won’t! We won’t even concern ourselves with the adults!” Rarity exclaimed, the cogs in her head shifting into high gear. She glanced at the filly Pinkie was talking to. “It’s the foals we must deal with! They still haven’t been completely affected by it! Whatever is going on here is obviously what’s keeping the princess trapped, and if we can stop it, we might free her!”

    The professor furrowed his brow. “It could happen… If we truly plan this correctly, we could change the mindset of the next generations, but…” He looked at Rarity somberly. “It’s a long-term plan, Miss Rarity. I don’t think months or even years would suffice. This will be decades of effort if we want to change the mindset of an entire village and its coming generations.”

    Rarity’s excitement withered at this, and the chest pains returned. Decades. Decades, or even a century, before Luna could be free, and more than that, decades before… before Rarity potentially saw Twilight again.

    “Rarity… We have to help free the princesses… even if…”

    “…Even if it won’t happen in our lifetime.”

    She swallowed hard, trying to focus on Pinkie’s words. “It— it doesn’t matter!” She stamped her hoof against the floor, as determined as Twilight would want her to be. “This is the only lead we have. This might be our only hope of rescuing Princess Luna, and I am willing to work at it my entire life if it means we can do something to help.”

    “Hey, whatcha talkin’ about?” Pinkie asked, her conversation with the filly finished. She blinked at the two unicorns and gasped. “Didja figure out how to save Princess Luna?! You did, didn’t you?!”

    Rarity smiled, sincerely and genuinely. “We believe so, Pinkie.”

    I hope…


    As the hours went by, their theories about the foals proved to be correct. Only they seemed mostly free of the chaos magic’s grip, which further proved that if Rarity wanted to fight the chaos magic’s influence on ponies, she’d have to start before it could wholly take over.

    Now she and Pinkie sat at the professor’s kitchen table, having spent the past two hours detailing ideas about how to thoroughly influence an entire generation of foals.

    “If the chaos magic’s purpose is to stop ponies from believing in her, then the obvious path to freeing her is having foals believe in her and keeping it that way.”

    “Maybe we can tell them Princess Luna’s really real every hour of every day?” Pinkie suggested, resting her chin on her hooves.

    Rarity tapped the tip of a pencil against her chin. “I’m not quite convinced that would be the most efficient method, darling,” she said. “We need to somehow prove to them that Princess Luna isn’t a product of mere dreams. Sew dreams and reality together, so to speak.”

    But how…

    She reached for a blank sheet of paper and began a sketch of Princess Luna giving a toy to a little filly. It’s a tradition for Hollow Shades foals to receive “gifts” from the princess, isn’t it? If we could somehow make this a reality…

    Perhaps if Twilight were there, she might have a book on extracting presents from dreams.

    “But, wait! Is this curse the same as Princess Denza’s curse?” Pinkie asked.

    “I don’t think it is, no,” Rarity replied. “I highly doubt all of Hollow Shades’ inhabitants have personally met the princess or any of her guards.”

    Pinkie groaned, furrowing her brow and rubbing her eyes with her hooves. “There’s so many curses…”

    Rarity sighed, rubbing the side of her head. “Yes, it’s rather aggravating. Our only saving grace is that Princess Denza’s curse doesn’t seem to prevent us from speaking to Princess Luna in dreams.”

    She wondered for a moment if she ought to go up and check on the professor, but he had clearly expressed his desire to be left alone and tinker with his contraptions. Though she was curious, she didn’t want to interrupt, so for now she could only hope he hadn’t damaged her necklace.

    “Do you think Dashie found anything from Spike?”

    Rarity didn’t look up from her sketch. “I doubt so, darling. She would have already come to tell us.” She looked up and pointed her pencil at the mare. “You and I have our own mission, remember?”

    Pinkie blew raspberries. “I know, I know. We need to find out everything we can before you meet Spike…” She grabbed a stray pencil and drew circles on a piece of paper. “But two weeks is sooooooo far away…”

    “Two weeks is very little time, Pinkie, and especially for a creature who’s waited thousands of years,” Rarity pointed out, going back to her sketch. “I can’t waltz up to him unprepared.”

    “I guess…”

    Rarity changed her design, now drawing a small dragon. Truth be told, she was admittedly rather concerned about properly meeting Spike. Going off what she’d learned from Rainbow Dash, the dragon had become jaded regarding the prospect of ever finding help and had long ago turned to searching alone.

    Her chest tightened, as it so often did nowadays. How would he react when he saw her? What possible aid or comfort could she bring him? How could she face him when she was no longer a beacon of hope, but another failure?

    She quickly shook her head. No, Rarity, she thought, this is not who we are! The last thing Twilight would want us to do is to sit and mope about! We already did enough of that last week, did we not?

    “Spike has waited over a thousand years for this, and I do not intend on being anything but hope for him,” Rarity continued, putting the pencil down and looking at her friend. “I will prove to the world that the Spirit of Chaos will not best me!”

    “Maybe that’s what he wants,” Pinkie said, furrowing her brow and drawing a sad face on the paper. “You say he says this is a bet, so maybe he wants you to win! Because if you win then he wins and if he wins then he wins… he wins…” She petered out. “I don’t know what he wins, but he’ll win it big time!”

    “Maybe there isn’t a bet. Frankly, I think he was simply trying to get under my coat,” Rarity said confidently, even knowing full well she was still trying to convince herself of the fact. “Nothing he does makes sense, so we can’t expect him to have some sort of plan or intention.”

    Although…

    She took a new sheet of paper and drew what she could remember of the draconequus.

    “He seemed angry,” Rarity reflected, remembering just how viscerally he’d reacted at the mere idea that he’d betrayed Twilight and the others. “He said that Twilight betrayed him, and I…” She lifted the pencil and bit the tip, deep in thought. “I actually believe he truly and sincerely meant it.”

    “Princess Twilight did something,” Pinkie said suddenly, drawing a star on the paper. “Princess Luna says that he got reeeeeally mad about it…”

    Rarity blinked at her. Wait a moment…

    “Pinkie,” she said, putting the pencil down and regarding the mare as though she were completely foreign. “Pinkie, do you know what happened? Has Princess Luna told you about what happened a thousand years ago?”

    Pinkie quickly shook her head. “Oh, no! She never wants to tell me! Sometimes she soooorta tells me something, but then she realizes, and she stops and she never finishes! It’s totally awful! Like an unfinished storybook!” She paused and hummed. “Except it’s a sad storybook, so I don’t know if I really want to know how it goes.”

    “But I want to know!” Rarity exclaimed, slamming her hoof against the floor. “Frankly, I deserve to know! I can’t be expected to somehow fight this curse and the Spirit without knowing why this all happened! I can’t consult Twilight anymore, and Princess Luna refuses to see me for stars know what reason, and I need leads! I need answers, Pinkie! Something!

    She turned back to the drawing, took the pencil, and drew an angry sort of scribble, wishing Princess Luna could somehow see it and feel Rarity’s irritation.

    “Rarity?”

    Rarity looked up to find Pinkie intently staring back at her.

    “If Princess Luna tells you what happened, do you really think it’ll help you break the curse?”

    Rarity faltered for a moment. “I… I don’t know if it’ll provide any solution for the curse, but I need to know what happened if I ever hope to save Twilight from whatever turmoil is plaguing her.” She looked down and started to sketch out the familiar alicorn. “How can I be there for her if I don’t even know what she blames herself for?”

    “Okie-dokie-lokie!” Pinkie exclaimed, stamping her forehooves against the table. “If you promise to do your best to help Princess Twilight and Princess Luna, I promise I’ll get Princess Luna to tell you everything, okay?”

    Rarity felt like snorting, but refrained. “You have my word,” she said sincerely, even though she’d like to see Princess Luna agreeing to it. “In any case, what will we do about your princess’s curse? It might be a good idea for you to consult with her and see what she has to say on the matter.”

    “Rarity?”

    Rarity once again looked up, but now she found Pinkie staring intently at the sketch she’d been doing of Twilight.

    “Rarity, what if…” Her ears lowered, nearly clamping against her skull. “What if Princess Twilight really did do something bad? What if that’s why Princess Luna never wants to tell me what happened?”

    Rarity sighed. The thought had been voiced, and she’d be lying if she said she wasn’t keen on outright denying it. She didn’t know the full story of what had happened so long ago, but from what little she did know, she could at the very least tell that things were not as black and white as she’d always believed.

    She was, however, certain of one thing.

    “Whatever happened, Pinkie, does not justify what Discord did to them,” she said with confidence. “I don’t care who was at fault, but Twilight has suffered for far too long, and even if she’s incapable of forgiving whatever deeds she thinks caused this, I am not.” She pointed the pencil at Pinkie. “I will find her again, and mark my words, I will get through her thick skull.”

    “And knowing what happened will help?” Pinkie asked again.

    “Yes,” Rarity replied. “I honestly think that’s the only way I’ll be able to truly do something for the princesses.”


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    1. Zanna Zannolin
      Sep 26, 22 at 8:24 pm

      i’m completely enraptured by this chapter btw like ohhhh man it’s such a fun little mystery! i love seeing the inner workings of discord’s curses be revealed. i love picking apart and solving what’s going on! it’s SO interesting what you’ve done with the chaos magic and how it might take actual generations to undo. it’s like…i dunno, it makes me think a little bit of just. life. how we as one generation have to make the decision to start moving for change and betterment even if it means we might never see it happen in our lifetime. because somewhere down the line, someone’s life will be better. and even if it feels unbearable to see someone else reap the reward you worked for (cough amethyst wind dreams cough) that doesn’t mean people shouldn’t have that chance. like. wow i’m sitting here thinking about climate change and student debt and universal basic income and ending poverty MONO YOUR PONYFIC HAS ME HOPING FOR A BETTER WORLD HOW DID YOU DO THIS.

      coughs. anyway. brazened awe hes like a son to me….a sonbrother….sonboy…..i love him. i would read an entire book about him. i love the banter between him and rarity and pinkie! every time he’s here i can’t help but smile in delight. he provides a delightful straight man for pinkie to bounce off of. and also him wigging out because he’s trying to cling to his denial about the whole princesses thing but you see by the end he’s planning to help free luna like the other two…like he’s so gone! welcome to the team professor awe my brother in arms! you’re stuck here forever now!!!!!

      also :(((( luna trapped by feeling abandoned I GUESSED THIS I FIGURED THIS OUT but also does that make it hurt less. NO. princess luna gets me right in the feels EVERY time.