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    Everything felt like a blur.

    Somepony escorted her out. Was it Rift? Another one of the guards? She didn’t remember, and she didn’t much care. It felt very much like her entire world had shifted, but not like it had when she met Twilight. There was no sense of wonder and excitement to the discovery she’d just made.

    There was just horror.

    Horror at realizing just how deep the rabbit hole went.

    A glass of water was set in front of her on the table. She looked up and she saw Rift Shield, a pony now, standing on the other side of the table.

    “Drink, Rarity,” he said. “It’ll help.”

    She didn’t feel like drinking, but she obeyed regardless. She started to use her magic, but she made it a point to use her hoof instead. To feel it, to know without the shadow of a doubt that things were real and she was not submerged in a world-shattering dream.

    She took a long drink, and when putting it down, her ears flicked at the sound the glass made against the table.

    “How long has… have you changelings…”

    She faltered, because it was still hard to accept it.

    “Since it started,” he replied, sitting down on a floor cushion and folding his hooves on the table. “Not me, obviously. Changelings don’t live that long, but everypony in Heart’s Haven has been doing this for a very long time. Only changelings know. No pony save for the Captain of the Guard has ever been promoted beyond lieutenant to avoid finding out.”

    Rarity swallowed. The entire royal family had been a farce for over a thousand years, and nopony knew. The mere implications of such a fact would send her off into a dizzy spiral if she weren’t in it already.

    “And nopony else? What about Spike?”

    “…He knows, too,” he confessed. “He and the princess had a massive falling out centuries ago, because they… Well, everything was rough on them.” He shook his head. “Anyway, he’s never told anypony. Not even Rainbow Dash knows. She just knows Princess ‘Denza’ has changelings working for her. I know he hates the princess, but even he knows that a secret like this is something that Equestria’s society wouldn’t be able to handle without falling into chaos, like it did a thousand years ago when the princess tried to come clean with it.”

    Rarity did not reply.

    “They say she… She’s the reason it became a legend,” he continued, his voice sounding far away, like she could only just barely process it. “Ponies would come and she herself would tell them, and then they’d all be cursed, and she didn’t even know ye—”

    “You’ve already told me this, Rift,” she interrupted.

    “It eats her up inside. You have to understand this,” he continued, pleadingly almost, as if trying to justify the princess’ actions against the no doubt centuries of ponies accusing Princess Cadance of not doing anything to help. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen her smile a real smile in my life until today.”

    “Do you know how to free her?”

    Rift faltered. “N-no… She says the Spirit just cursed her and told her what he’d done to the others.”

    Of course he would, she thought, taking another drink of water. What’s the point of being a monster if ponies don’t know what you’ve done.

    “Rarity, listen—”

    “I need a moment, Rift,” she interrupted, burying her hooves against her eyes, and when no reply came, she continued, “Thank you.”

    Truthfully, though there were many things to think about and process and accept, Rarity’s thoughts were consumed not by Princess Cadance and her predicament, but by Twilight. She could still feel it, the complete and utter destruction of self she felt through the necklace.

    Through the necklace… Stars only knew how it must have been for her. How it must be for her now. Rarity cast the communication spell, ignoring Rift’s inquiry, and quietly waiting for an answer. She waited, and waited, and waited until several minutes had passed and no alicorn answered.

    So she got up.

    “I need to go home now,” she informed, levitating her things from the nearby rack and putting her cloak on.

    “Wait, you can’t!” he exclaimed, similarly getting up. “Don’t you realize what you’ve just found out?! You can’t leave!”

    “Why?” she asked, her patience wearing thin. “Because I’ll tell ponies? Because they’ll believe me when I tell them the monarch of our kingdom is a thousand-year-old pony cursed to live between fragments of time as an ethereal being? I’m positive my forced therapies with a psychiatrist will be lovely.” When he did not reply, she continued. “I’d like to talk to Princess Cadance more, but right now, I have another princess to concern myself with.”

    Rift sighed, but he protested no longer, putting his helmet back on instead. “Are you going to tell Princess Twilight, then? I’d like to come with you and explain the situation to her. I can go the day after Seeking Night. I’d go now, but…” He glanced toward the door. “I have my own princess to take care of. This…” He gestured at Rarity. “This is going to change a lot of things.”

    “I will prepare everything for your arrival in two days, then,” Rarity replied. She turned to him, her stare hard as stone. “Bring everything you have regarding Princess Cadance and the others. Anything Twilight can use to understand the situation. Evidence, scrolls, I don’t care what, but don’t you dare step into Ponyville empty-hooved, Rift Shield.”

    “I won’t,” he said, and so she turned around to leave. “Good luck with the princess.”

    “Thank you. Goodbye.”

    Two guards stood outside the room, waiting to escort her out. The walk to the castle gates went by in silence, Rarity observing the guards and wondering whether they were ponies like her. Oh, the good professor would have a field day with the truth behind Princess Denza of Equestria.

    When she stepped into the city, her heart shrank in her chest at the sight of ponies putting up Seeking Night decorations wherever they could. Banners, flags, posters and more, celebrating what they all thought was a silly holiday based on a made-up story.

    It was just for a second, but for one terrible moment, Rarity was jealous of them and their blessed ignorance, because now? Now the holiday was painful, insulting, damaging to four ponies who’d been suffering for a thousand years.

    It made her sick.

    To her great misfortune, there were no trains she could take back home yet. All tickets were booked already by ponies either heading into Canterlot for the festivity, or heading to the other towns to celebrate back home. As such, she was forced to spend the day waiting with a stomach ache and heartache for nighttime to arrive and with it the train taking her home.

    She thought, in the back of her mind, that she could go back to the castle and ask Rift to send her back home in a chariot, but truth be told, she was afraid. No, afraid wasn’t really the word. It was more that she didn’t know what to do.

    She considered herself to be an eloquent pony, but the more she thought about it, the less she knew what she could say to Twilight.

    What could she even say?

    The question burned her throughout the day, and kept her up late into the night, the dusky landscapes of Equestria rushing past the overnight train’s windows. She tried calling Twilight again. She tried five times, in fact, all to no avail, and every time Rarity’s heart sank a little bit more.

    When she woke up the next morning, the train a quarter-hour away from pulling up at the Ponyville train station, it felt odd to think that exactly one year ago she’d woken up to organize Ponyville’s Seeking Night. A week ago, she had been looking forward to Seeking Night. Two days ago, she’d been looking forward to Seeking Night. But now, on the day of Seeking Night itself, she wished it had never come.

    She didn’t expect anypony to be waiting for her at the station, and frankly she didn’t want anypony to be waiting for her. However, it seemed that things continued refusing to go the way she wanted, and she found Rainbow Dash standing on the platform, her face marred with discomfort.

    Rarity almost wished she didn’t have the obligation to ask.

    “Rarity!” Rainbow Dash exclaimed. “Princesses, that train took forever! Did it get delayed or what?!”

    “No, it was perfectly on time,” she replied, adjusting her saddlebags. She paused for a moment, a split second of time, and forced herself to ask, “Why? Is something the matter?”

    “Yeah,” Rainbow Dash said, her ears flattening, and Rarity could only pray and pray that a familiar name did not follow. “It’s Twilight.”

    A pain seared through Rarity’s chest.

    Of course it would be Twilight. Of course.

    “I see.”

    Rainbow Dash looked surprised, as if she’d expected Rarity to react with shock or surprise. Despite this, she did not press the issue and instead flew up to the air. “Come on, the others are with Spike. It’ll be easier to talk there.”

    It was painful to walk through Ponyville and see the decorations were already up. It wasn’t the sort of pain one would acquire from a sudden accident or wound. It was slow, like a specially crafted poison, crawling up her body, not enough to stop her from moving about, but enough to make it uncomfortable and difficult to walk, talk, breathe.

    “Oh, Rarity!”

    Rarity and Rainbow stopped, watching as Mayor Mare came rushing toward them, a bright smile on her face. Immediately did a smile affix itself to Rarity’s face, burning with well-rehearsed sincerity.

    “Mayor Mare!” she exclaimed. “Good morning! I see that Seeking Night preparations are going along splendidly?”

    “They are! Isn’t it wonderful? And look at your cloak! Already getting into the mood, aren’t we?” the mayor said, puffing out her chest with some amounts of pride. “I did hope you’d like them! It’s a shame you couldn’t help with festivities this year. You had such big plans for it even before last year’s event even happened!”

    Rarity kept smiling. “I did, didn’t I? You know me, Madame Mayor, always planning ahead!”

    “Rarity,” Rainbow said, indiscreetly moving her hoof in a “move it along” gesture.

    “Oh, don’t let me keep you!” the mayor said, laughing awkwardly. “In any case, there’s always next year, Rarity!”

    Rarity gratefully bowed her head. “Oh, I don’t think I should, Madame Mayor. But—”

    “Now, now! If you want to do it, you should!” the mayor insisted, trotting off with a final addition, “knock on wood, but one never knows when it’s their last Seeking Night!”

    “Come on!” Rainbow pressed, flying ahead when the older mare had gone.

    Rarity swallowed the knot in her throat, quietly following after Rainbow Dash.

    As the pegasus had said, when she reached Spike’s valley, she saw Applejack and Fluttershy gathered around the dragon, neither of them looking as happy as the Ponyvillians getting ready for Seeking Night.

    “Hello, everypony,” she greeted them solemnly. “Rainbow Dash tells me something’s the matter with Twilight?”

    “Tell her, Fluttershy!” Rainbow Dash exclaimed, flying atop the other pegasus.

    “Uhm… Well…” Fluttershy stumbled on her words, clearly uncomfortable, though Rarity could not tell if it was because she was in the spotlight or because of what she had to say. Maybe both.

    “Yes…?” Rarity pressed, a little more irritated than she’d have liked, trying to keep a level head despite her shrinking heart.

    Fluttershy swallowed, clearly steeling herself. “I went to see Princess Twilight yesterday, and I couldn’t go in.”

    “Couldn’t go in?” Rarity asked, the knot reforming in her throat. Stars, if the curse had returned, she would… “What exactly do you mean by that? You couldn’t find the library? You need to be much more detailed than that, Fluttershy.”

    Fluttershy cowered under Rarity’s stony gaze, but she continued. “There was a bookcase on the other side of the tunnel. I… I tried knocking, but the princess didn’t answer, or move it, and I didn’t want to intrude…”

    Rarity’s heart thundered in her chest, the sound of it practically drowning every other. She felt faint, but she steadied herself. “You’re positive it was a bookcase?” she asked, surprising herself with how calmly the words were coming out despite the suffocating fear of the ones coming next. “How do you know it wasn’t the barrier keeping you out?”

    “It wasn’t,” Applejack interjected, and the confidence in her voice assuaged some of Rarity’s bubbling panic. “I went this mornin’ to check, and I know wood when I knock on it.”

    “Maybe she just wants time alone?” Fluttershy offered with a forced smile. “I’m sure she’s just preparing a nice surprise for Seeking Night.”

    “What? By locking herself in the library without telling anypony why?” Rainbow Dash said, folding her arms and shaking her head. “No way. Something’s wrong, and she isn’t telling us what.”

    “Rarity.”

    She looked up toward Spike, who had finally decided to end his unusual silence.

    “Twilight asked you to go to Canterlot, right?” he asked, his stare piercing into her. How similar it was to Twilight’s. “To go get Princess Denza? Right?

    “She did, yes,” she replied.

    “Oh, gee, that’s great! Bet that would have been useful!” Rainbow Dash snorted, rolling her eyes. “What, she said no? What was her reason? Too busy doing nothing while others do her job for her?”

    Anger flared through Rarity, the knowledge of Princess Cadance’s situation fresh in her mind, but she held her tongue.

    “Not at all,” she said, and she turned to Spike, locking eyes with his. “She was simply indisposed.

    Though Rainbow Dash snorted at the remark, Spike did not. His eyes widened, in fact, and a tacit message passed between him and the unicorn.

    “Everypony,” he said, raising himself, his expression nearly as grim as Rarity’s own. “I need to talk to Rarity alone. Can you give us space?”

    Fluttershy hesitated. “Is something wrong?” she asked, and Rarity nearly felt bad about keeping her in the dark.

    “I need to tell her something about Twilight,” he continued. “It’s private. I’m sorry. I promise it’s to help her.”

    Applejack adjusted her hat. “Well, I can see when insistin’ won’t get us nowhere. As long as it’s to help the princess.” She trotted off, the disconcerted pegasus following behind. She then stopped and, alongside Rarity and the others, looked to Rainbow Dash, still flying next to Spike. “Well? You heard him.”

    Rainbow Dash frowned. “What? Pfft, no, he meant you guys. He and I are a team.”

    “No, Dash,” Spike said, no hesitation in his voice. “Please go with them.”

    “What?!” Rainbow Dash gasped, turning to the dragon and looking very much like she’d been slapped in the face. “Are you kidding?! What’s wrong with you? We don’t keep secrets from each other! And especially not about this!”

    “Rainbow Dash,” he repeated, his voice an octave lower. “I said, please go with them.”

    “But—! Spike!” she protested, eventually gritting her teeth and flying off toward Applejack. “Fine. Whatever. I’ll be waiting somewhere if you need me, I guess.”

    Rarity watched in silence as they left, and it wasn’t until they were but a speck in the distance that she turned back to Spike.

    “You know, don’t you?” he asked, again piercing her with his gaze.

    Rarity smiled. “Know what? That Princess Denza is a thousand-year-old spirit and her entire personal guard are all changelings? I do.”

    His gaze and expression did not waver. “Did Twilight know before this?”

    “No, she did not.”

    “And so you told her…?”

    Rarity blinked. “Told her? Oh, no, no, no, goodness no!” She raised her hoof and tapped her necklace. “She found out with me.”

    Spike raised a claw to his face in reply, uttering an expletive Rarity thought was quite appropriate. After a moment, he lowered his claw and let out a humorless laugh. “So much for telling her tomorrow.”

    “I need to go to her,” Rarity said, adjusting her saddlebag. “I’ve tried calling her to no avail at least a dozen times, and I’m quite certain the chest pains I’m currently enduring have stripped ten years from my life, if not more.”

    “I want to help, but this forest…” He gritted his teeth, raking his claws against the ground before turning to the distant forest and slamming his claw against the floor. “This sun-forsaken forest won’t let me do anything!” He huffed in frustration, side-eying Rarity. “Please. Don’t let her blame herself for this. Don’t let her, promise me.”

    “I won’t,” she said before trotting off, having made a promise she was terrified she wouldn’t be able to keep.

    A dozen minutes later, Rarity found herself walking through the Everfree Forest, just like one year ago. Both times, the trot through the forest had felt painfully long, but for altogether different reasons. She wanted to go fast, she wanted to run, for Twilight’s sake if not hers, but it was paralyzing to try and do so.

    It was just so much, and she wanted more time to process. She wanted time to go to the Boutique, to draw a bath, to sink herself in misery and anxiety and have somepony else comfort her, but life dictated she had to be composed. Wasn’t she a lady, still? Or had she been stripped of such a title in the past year?

    Two owls awaited her when she arrived at the oak tree. They sat high up on a branch, hooting at her, and near the base of the tree, she saw an inkwell presumably filled with fresh ink. It seemed like even for Themis and Elara, the Princess of the Everfree Forest was unavailable.

    She jumped down into the hole, trotting forward and coming to a dead stop in front of the trapdoor. She breathed in and out, in and out, and affixed a bright smile to her face. After all, a lady always smiles, no matter how badly things might be going.

    The trapdoor opened before her, her magic releasing the handle and levitating the inkwell instead. She looked down into the abyss, and then, stalling no more, stepped down the stairs, her hoofsteps echoing and filling the air.

    There was no light at the end of the tunnel, and still she trotted through it, her horn guiding her. When she crossed it entirely, she saw the bookcase Fluttershy mentioned, and relief poured over her when she brushed her hoof against it and felt solid wood, not magic.

    She knocked two times.

    “Twilight?” she called out, hoof pressed against the furniture. “Twilight, it’s Rarity! May I please come in?”

    No answer.

    She knocked again, three times now, more urgently than before.

    “Twilight, darling?” She laughed, a fake awkward laugh, and joked, “And you said you’d never send me away!”

    A raspberry magic suddenly enveloped the bookcase, and the tunnel’s barrier instantly crackled in reply. She stepped back, ears flattening against her head at the groaning sound of the bookcase being dragged to the side.

    When the dragging stopped and the path was cleared, Rarity hesitantly stepped in, looking around and finding Princess Twilight Sparkle sitting by a table, her gaze cast toward a book before her. Rarity swallowed and walked toward her, trying to keep the smile on her face.

    “Darling, it’s not polite to close the door without warning!” she chastised, sitting at the other side of the table and placing the inkwell on the table. “Your poor owls couldn’t deliver your ink!”

    A page of the book turned.

    “You’re wearing your cloak again,” Twilight said, tonelessly, not even looking up and momentarily throwing Rarity off. That certainly wasn’t what she’d been expecting to hear, if she’d been expecting anything at all.

    “I am! It’s quite fitting considering the day,” she said, dusting it off with a hoof. “I do love how my cutie mark looks on it.”

    “You’ve been wearing it every day since you came back,” Twilight continued, still not looking up. “I noticed.”

    Rarity stumbled on her words. “Well, I— Well, yes, I have, but…” She offered a forced smile. “Why? Is it not fashionable, you think? I rather like it. Gives off an air of…” She waved her hoof. “Je ne sais quoi. Mystique, perhaps?”

    “Oh.”

    Another page turned, and Twilight did not say another word.

    “Twilight, I—”

    “Shining Armor wanted three foals,” Twilight interrupted, and another page was roughly turned over.

    Rarity fell silent, her eyes boring into the table. She couldn’t think of something she could say, so she chose not to say anything at all.

    “Or, at least, I think he did. I don’t remember. I’ve been here for so long, I don’t remember anything, really. I remember some good things, but they’re gone now, so really, they’re bad because they’re gone and I can’t have them back because I’ve been here for a thousand years.” Another page turned. “Anyway! Anyway, I remember he wanted two colts, so they could be a part of the royal guard.” Another page, tears brimming around her eyes. “And he wanted a filly, and he’d say it was because of Cadance, but I knew it was because he wanted his little prin—” She choked on the word, and Rarity felt like she’d been stabbed in the heart. “Sorry! Sorry. Anyway, he wanted me to teach her magic. I was going to teach her magic, and teleportation, and…”

    And she fell silent.

    “I’m sorry, Twilight,” Rarity whispered, her own eyes watering, because, stars above, what else could she say? Nothing. “I am.”

    “I saw it in your memory,” Twilight continued, another page turning. “And I wished so hard, Rarity. I wished so hard that I was wrong. I really wanted to be wrong.” A hollow laugh left her lips, and she levitated the book, hiding her face behind it. “It makes sense, doesn’t it? The one time I wanted to be wrong was the one time I was right! Of course! Of course!

    The book slammed down on the table, revealing her gritted teeth and tightly shut eyes.

    “Of course.”

    The silence screamed in Rarity’s ears, and oh, she struggled to keep her sights set on the alicorn.

    “Twilight, I unde—”

    Crack!

    Rarity inhaled when Twilight teleported away, and not even a moment later did she hear a second crackle behind her.

    “Rarity!” Twilight exclaimed, the nearly manic grin on her face in stark contrast to her broken gaze. “You’re wearing your cloak! I can’t stop noticing it! It’s just there. All the time! Isn’t it hot? I mean, I wouldn’t know what hot even feels like because I can’t feel anything at all, but you must be dying under it!” She paused for a second. “Oh! Rarity. You know what? I almost forgot! It’s Seeking Night, and you wanted to talk about what happened a thousand years ago, right?”

    “Yes,” Rarity carefully said. “But not like—”

    Great!” Twilight exclaimed. “Let’s talk about it right now!

    Another crack of magic, and she teleported further away, Rarity’s book of legends now floating beside her.

    “Okay, okay, okay!” Her voice was brittle now, her magic turning the pages of the book non-stop. “The Legend of the Four Princesses! Ready? Here we go! It’s a great story.” She cleared her throat. “Once upon a time, a thousand years ago, Princess Celestia asked her student to find the Elements of Harmony. She didn’t! Mistake number one! Oops.

    She teleported away, now nearly next to Rarity.

    “So, after she didn’t find the Elements, the princesses decided to give her another chance! And what did she do? She failed again! And she tricked the Spirit of Chaos into believing she won, which she didn’t, because if you remember mistake number one, she had no Elements of Harmony! Who knew somepony could even fail so much, right?!”

    “Twilight, stop it!” Rarity snapped, stamping her hoof against the floor. “What’s the point of this?! You did not—mmph!

    “Silly Rarity,” Twilight said, shaking her head and muzzling Rarity with her magic. “I’m not finished with the story.” The book floated in front of her. “Where was I? Oh, yes! So, after she tricked the Spirit into reforming, the Spirit was actually starting to be nice! Oops again! Except then he found out about being tricked, because of course he would! And what did he do?! He trapped them as spirits all over Equestria for a thousand years! And you know whose fault it was?! Mine!

    She slammed the book shut and looked at Rarity again, letting the muzzle magic go. “There! We talked abo—!

    Rarity snatched the book away and slammed it against the table. “You know damn well that’s not what I meant, Twilight!” she seethed. “And, mark my words, if you keep saying that this was your fault, I will—”

    “It was, Rarity!” Twilight cut off, wings flaring. “Princess Celestia counted on me, and I failed! Princess Luna counted on me, and I failed! And because of it, look at what happened to them! And now Cadance! All of them and it’s my fault!”

    No, it is not—!”

    Three. Foals,” she interrupted, tears rolling down her cheeks. “They wanted to have foals, Rarity! They had a life planned! All of them! My brother—!” She choked on the words, like they seared her, and they probably did. “My brother spent his entire life unable to hold his wife or have foals because of me!”

    They forced you into this, Twilight! You were forced to decide, then and there! And frankly, this was the only thing you could do! He was a monster, Twilight! He is a monster! You were not wrong for doing what you had to do!”

    “Yes, I was!” Twilight said. “He was reforming, and I was going to turn him to stone! To stone!

    “But you didn’t!”

    I would’ve if I’d actually found the Elements!” Twilight shot back. “And he didn’t deserve that!”

    Oh? And I take it you deserve being trapped in a library for a thousand years?!”

    Yes!” Twilight thundered, and Rarity’s ears pinned against her head. “Maybe I did deserve this, Rarity!”

    “Twilight, for goodness’ sake, look at what he’s done to you! Forget what he did to your body! Are you even listening to what you’re saying?!” Rarity said, an agonizing pain ripping through her core at truly seeing the extent of the damage Discord had wrought on Twilight’s very being. “How can you think you deserve this?! No wonder you’re powering the chaos magic!”

    Twilight’s voice turned cold. “Cadance watched him die, Rarity.”

    Rarity faltered. “Twilight, I—”

    “She watched him die, trying to save her. Do you even realize how awful that is?” Twilight continued, stepping toward Rarity. “Do you?”

    Rarity held her ground. “Twilight, you’re ups—”

    Of course I’m upset, Rarity! Because I know how that feels! I know what it’s like to watch the pony you love wasting away their life trying to save you!” She pointed an accusing hoof at Rarity. “Look at your cloak! The one you’ve been wearing every day since you came back! Look at it!

    Rarity slammed her hoof against the floor. “Why do you care so damn much about my damn cloak?!”

    “Because it’s a reminder that you almost died because of me.”

    And to that, Rarity found she had nothing to say.

    “I can’t free myself, Rarity,” Twilight continued. “I have tried. I tried when you nearly got killed by dragons because of me. I tried when you were cursed because of me. I tried and tried and tried when the only information I had about you was a letter telling me you’d barely survived a timberwolf attack because of me. Tell me why I haven’t freed myself. Tell me!

    “I-I don’t know, Twilight!” Rarity exclaimed. “If you’d stop blaming yourself for—!”

    “And if that doesn’t work?! Then what?!

    “Then we find something else! We find another way!” Rarity shot back. “I’ll find a way to free you even if I have to spend the—”

    “The rest of your life?! And then you die, and then what?! I get to spend the rest of eternity sitting here wishing I could have died with you!”

    Again, Twilight pointed an accusing hoof at Rarity, and the unicorn felt like she’d been stabbed in the heart. “I was fine before you came here, Rarity! I was fine! But then you came into my life, looking for your little fairy tale, and you got it. But what do I get? I get to be forced to see the extent of the damage I did. I get to watch somepony else I love suffer because of me.”

    Twilight’s voice fell to a near-whisper, unwavering and cold and unhesitant. “You’re right. Discord is a monster. But his revenge wasn’t trapping me in a library for the rest of eternity.

    “His revenge was making you come back for me.”

    The dagger in Rarity’s heart now twisted. Tears stung at her eyes.

    “Y-you don’t mean that…”

    “Yes,” Twilight hissed, tears sparkling in her own eyes. “Yes, I do.”

    And then, as if to drive the point home, it happened.

    BOOM!

    A deafening explosion sounded from the floor below, shaking the library to its very core and tumbling Rarity down as chaos magic seeped up through the floor, gurgling and hissing until another explosion rocked her and the chaos puppet formed inside the room, twice as big as before.

    “It’s back!” Rarity gasped.

    Immediately, Star flashed with magic and a barrage of enchanted books shot at the chaos puppet, but it screeched in anger and threw them, completely unfazed.

    Twilight’s entire disposition had shifted. Gone was the anger, replaced now with the terror of what she had summoned upon them.

    “Get out,” she said almost in a shocked whisper, her wings splayed out, her horn lighting up. “Get out, Rarity! Please!

    Rarity crawled away from the puppet, but she still looked to the other mare. “But, Twili—!”

    Please, Rarity!” Twilight yelled, helplessly turning to Rarity. “I can’t los—”

    Her sentence was cut off when the chaos puppet roared and flung itself right at the alicorn.

    “Run, Twilight! Run!” Rarity shrieked, only to watch in horror as the chaos magic plunged into Twilight, slamming her against the table, the inkwell smashing against the floor.

    Rarity stared in muted horror, watching as the alicorn writhed on the floor, her entire body overflowing with chaotic energy, until after an eternity she finally stopped.

    “…Twilight?” Rarity called, and subsequently fell back into silence when the alicorn began to move.

    Twilight groaned audibly, struggling to get up, and when she turned to look at Rarity, the unicorn saw not the violet eyes of her beloved, but pitch-black ones. Twilight blinked once, twice, thrice, groaned again, and when her hoof lifted and reached for the table, it did not go through it.

    “Twilight…” Rarity whispered, for a moment forgetting the black eyes, the chaos magic, forgetting everything but the fact that Twilight was lifting herself up by physically grabbing onto the table.

    And again, when she was standing up, Rarity saw it. Black ink covering Twilight’s forelegs and hooves, and the ink marks she left behind as she tried to steady herself.

    “Twilight!” Rarity yelled, desperately. “Twilight! Look at your hooves! Look at the floor! Look! Please!

    “Get out,” the alicorn replied instead, staring at Rarity through glazed eyes.

    A loud crackling noise shot off behind Rarity, and when she looked back, the tunnel’s barrier had flared to life, no longer raspberry-colored, but grey, crackling with overflowing magic.

    Fear gripped Rarity, and she stepped back, returning her gaze to the possessed alicorn.

    Twilight…

    “Get out,” Twilight repeated, louder now, her eyes narrowing as the chaos magic around her flashed and turned darker. A beam of magic shot out from her horn, and Rarity felt herself float into the air.

    “Wait, no, Twil—!”

    GET OUT!” Twilight roared, throwing her into the tunnel like a ragdoll, and the moment Rarity’s body crossed the barrier, it crackled one last time, turned pitch black, and solidified.


    Silence.

    A deafening, piercing silence.

    Princess Twilight Sparkle stepped back, her eyes fixed on the barrier, her breathing unsteady, and her mind… Her mind was a void as empty as the silence inside her library, because she wasn’t Princess Twilight Sparkle anymore, was she?

    The real Twilight was gone now, hidden away in her own body, having used the last of her will to protect the only pony that mattered from the real monster—herself. She stayed there for a minute or maybe ten, the magic in her body finding no pleasure in anything but the barrier in the distance.

    There was no pain if there was no way to confront it, was there?

    Her horn flashed, and the room was plunged into darkness, her ears barely twitching at the distant sound of a chandelier forcibly turning back into a candelabra.

    The alicorn smiled.

    Darkness was good, wasn’t it, Princess Twilight? Good for sleeping and sleeping and never waking up, never dealing with reality, and pain or anything else.

    A light emerged in the distance, and the princess walked toward it, a frown marring her face at the sight of a glowing necklace tossed aside on the floor. She levitated it, and for a moment, she felt it.

    Guilt. Sorrow. And the terrible yearning for Rarity to come back.

    In reply, she tossed the necklace on the floor, watching as it landed and slid under a bookcase, and Twilight Sparkle’s consciousness surrendered to the chaos monster within.

    Now everything was as it should be.

    Now was the time to sleep for days, months and even more.


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    1. Zanna Zannolin
      Oct 3, 22 at 8:29 pm

      man the way you write twilight this chapter, teetering just on the edge of manic, poised to snap at any second, is absolutely phenomenal. you can feel the teeming emotions this chapter just building and building to a breaking point and wow does it ever break. the bit about three foals is devastating and it’s. wow it’s so upsetting to think about cadance and shining armor like i already ranted about it last chapter but it’s really upsetting hooooly shit. you’re just SO good with these big chapters and then following them up with the aftermath, and the way this all gathers up into one perfect storm of twilight giving in finally and sealing herself in the library…and on seeking night, the one year anniversary…goooodddddd.

      anyway i am unfortunately. about to fall asleep. so i must cut my comment much shorter than usual BUT I REALLY LOVED THIS CHAPTER AND I AM UPSET </3 can't wait to keep reading tomorrow though i am really getting through the school year one chapter at a time.