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    In the depths of the Everfree Forest, past abandoned houses, past Timberwolves and frightening beasts, was a trapdoor at the base of a grand old oak tree.

    Blue magic delicately surrounded the handle and pulled. Dirt and dust rose into the air when Rarity opened the trapdoor. She stepped back, trying to protect her coat from the mess. When the dust settled, she had no choice but to remain there for a moment, taking in the implication of dirt and dust and time collected on the door.

    She lifted her hoof to her chest, a habit so very hard to break, and she was surprised to be surprised at the fact that her hoof found no necklace to toy with.

    Why should it?

    She finally moved forwards, down the stairs that creaked under her step, and into the tunnel scarcely illuminated by her horn. There was light at the end of the tunnel, the sight of a library in the distance, and she was filled with… sadness? No, that wasn’t entirely accurate, was it? Resignation, perhaps? No, that too was a feeling long past.

    At the sight of the library, Rarity felt acceptance, the final step in the so-called stages of grief.

    She strode forward and soon enough was bathed in the light of the magic chandelier, powered by the alicorn lying on a blanket and reading a book.

    Rarity stood by the entrance of the tunnel and allowed herself a moment to smile at Princess Twilight much like one would smile at childhood photos of days long, long gone. She felt quietly proud that sadness no longer haunted her.

    “Rarity?” asked Twilight Sparkle, turning a page of her book. “What does ‘La La Land’ mean?”

    Rarity stepped closer. “‘La La Land’? It’s… I suppose it’s a state of being more than anything. Somepony who’s always very fanciful or always lost in dreams and fantasy.” She grinned. “In other words, nearly the entire population of Los Pegasus.”

    Twilight did not look up, but she smiled. “And you, too?”

    Rarity laughed. “On occasion, perhaps.” She glanced at the book. “What are you reading?”

    Galaxies Bleed Stars by Solar Rose,” she replied. “It’s all right.” She turned another page. “But you’re not here to ask about my book.”

    A beat, one in which Rarity contemplated the alicorn and replied, “No, I’m not.”

    She levitated a pillow over, placing it on the floor and planting her hindquarters on it.

    “I went on a date today, Twilight,” she declared with a winning smile.

    “You’ve gone on those before,” Twilight pointed out, turning back a page for a moment before returning it back to its proper place. “Was it Rift?”

    “Goodness, no,” she quickly replied.

    True, she’d pondered the idea before but … but he was too involved. Far, far too involved.

    “Was it the scientist again?” Twilight asked, turning the page. “Crystal Beaker? Or the librarian? Page Turner?”

    “No, no, neither one, no,” Rarity replied quickly. “It didn’t work out with either, though they were lovely ponies.”

    “Why didn’t it work out?” Twilight asked, and the ghost of a smile passed through her lips.

    Rarity laughed. “Now, darling, we both know the answer to that, do we not?” She took a breath and continued. “No, her name is Citrine Spark. She’s a unicorn like myself, and she has a very endearing affinity towards …” Rarity wrinkled her nose. “Explosions.”

    “Citrine Spark,” Twilight repeated, slowly and carefully.

    “We went on a lovely date today,” Rarity continued. “She asked me all about my newest designs! I’m working on my winter range, you know? Found myself inspired by floral patterns and so on.” She laughed softly. “I fear I might have been a tad too technical with my terms! The poor dear had trouble keeping up.”

    “I didn’t,” Twilight replied, and so another page was turned.

    “Well, If she likes me, truly and sincerely, she will learn the terms,” Rarity said defensively.

    “Just like you learned the Starswirl Decimal System,” Twilight again added, and Rarity smiled.

    “I didn’t think of you, Twilight,” she finally said, her tone losing its cheer and instead dripping with that silly little word so similar to resignation. She spoke with acceptance. “For the first time in over a year, I went on a date with a lovely pony, and I did not compare them to you. I did not think of you.” Her laughter nearly bordered on sad. “It was almost liberating.”

    “Almost?” Twilight asked. “Why almost?”

    Rarity’s voice fell to a whisper. “Now, my darling, we both know the answer to that, do we not?” Silence reigned, loud and screaming and haunting, and she felt muted.

    “I can tell you what you want to hear,” Twilight said, still not looking up from her book. “If it’ll help you. Would you like that? Ask me your question.”

    And Rarity did.

    “How are you, Twilight?”

    And finally, Twilight looked up with eyes black as the night and set them on Rarity.

    “I’m fine, Rarity,” she said with a smile. “It’s only another thousand years.”

    Eternity passed in a moment, until she heard hoofsteps behind her and a familiar voice.

    “Rarity,” said Princess Luna.

    “I really didn’t think of her,” Rarity said, staring at the petrified dream-construct of her long-gone hopes. Of a pony that had locked herself away a little over a year ago. “I really didn’t.”

    “Pinkie told me,” said Princess Luna, her voice a soothing song. “She was at war with herself over it, but I am glad she did this despite her doubts. This Citrine Spark mare sounds most pleasant.”

    “She was,” Rarity replied.

    “Will you be seeing her again?” the Princess asked, and Rarity laughed humorlessly.

    “I don’t think I shall. She was lovely, and I’m certainly glad Pinkie arranged the date, but… we’re simply not a perfect match, as it were. Which is no trouble at all, since I don’t think I even have the time to go on dates.”

    Silence loomed.

    “You still love her,” Luna noted. Not a question, not a theory, but a fact plainly stated. Life marching ever forward did not mean that feelings did as well.

    Rarity lifted her hoof once again and placed it where a necklace would be. “I forget it’s not there, sometimes. I reach out to hold it, and it’s not there, and I can feel the panic setting in all over again.”

    When she moved down her hoof, a bright pink necklace hung from her neck.

    “Pinkie asked to guard it, did she not?” Luna asked.

    Rarity laughed, shaking her head. “She was practically forced to! I don’t doubt ponies thought me vain! That strange unicorn that kept glancing at her necklace every other minute, diamond-obsessed surely, staring and staring and waiting and waiting for… for what? For it to glow?” Her voice grew quiet. “For it to not glow?”

    “You wait for it not to glow?”

    Though Rarity noticed the concern in the alicorn’s voice, she felt no inclination to alleviate it.

    “I… I don’t wait for that. I would never,” she said, “and yet…”

    There, in her dreams, in the most private thing she had…

    There, she could confess what no other but she and Princess Luna were allowed to know.

    “It frightens me, Princess Luna,” she said, and she could feel the tears hot in her eyes. “It frightens me even more now that I’ve moved on. Now that I look back and see. Now that it’s been so long. I want it so desperately, but I’m afraid.”

    “You are afraid? What of?”

    Her hoof brushed the necklace again.

    “What will I do?” she whispered. “If it ever glows again.”

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    1. Zanna Zannolin
      Oct 17, 22 at 9:06 pm

      getting to see rarity’s perspective again after so long reading exclusively from north ridge or twilight’s pov is absolutely devastating. like you really built up this sense of unease based on rarity’s distance and all the information we’re missing from the two year gap in the story and then you dropped it all onto the reader at once with this chapter. and HOOOOWEEEE oh my god it’s. phew it’s rough but in the best way. i am deeply upset and i’m thrilled about it.

      the vibes of rarity sitting and telling twilight about the date she went on, and the vague implication that she’s dreamed this before (or in the context of the dream, she’s done this before anyway) as twilight lists off the other ponies rarity dated, and drops such little heartwrenching lines about the star swirl decimal system and acts of love…it’s incredible honestly. and the way it all builds up to twilight looking up at her with black eyes and saying “it’s only another thousand years” DOOOOO you want me dead that’s fantastic. that’s exquisite. my heart is on the floor.

      and i love how we get to see rarity in her sort of post-grief state. the thing about grief is even when you hit acceptance, it never really goes away. somewhere down the line you’re always struck by it again, by what you’re missing, and it’s this unique kind of aching. and seeing rarity go through that is WHOOF wow okay it’s a lot. and i think this interlude is a fantastic way of sort of illuminating us to what’s going on with rarity and how she’s doing.

      also the implications of pinkie setting up rarity on dates i’m just :((( they all care about her so much man

    2. A Deer
      Aug 21, 22 at 3:56 am

      Rarity seems like the one who’ll have to overcome a major internal struggle this story. She’s been hiding it from Twilight and the others and I think she’ll have to confront that belief that she can’t or shouldn’t be open with them. Fear and shame might be the reason for that belief. I wonder if it’ll mirror Twilight’s internal struggle from the first book.