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    Twilight Sparkle had never been to the Sapphire Carousel before. In fact, to be precise, she’d only ever been to the Lunar District once: the day she came to my boutique to see me.

    Ever since she’d found out about Lady Luna’s establishment, as far back as that delightful dinner with Fluttershy and her mother, she’d never dared venture and see the place for herself. It had always felt… not dangerous, no, but forbidden. A place she could know about, but like any proper and decent individual, should never be within a hundred feet of.

    This probably explained her attire.

    Hidden underneath a black cloak, the hood obscuring most of her face, Twilight Sparkle quietly traveled the busy streets of the Lunar District, her eyes jumping back and forth between the many people crossing her path.

    You might think her silly for doing so. Why would she hide her face?

    This wasn’t the Sunswept District, after all.

    There were no posh boutiques here, no luxury spas or high-end restaurants. No wealthy aristocrats who might recognize her as they strolled about, flaunting their wealth with every golden ring on their finger, and every casually deliberate mention of their prestigious friends, prestigious businesses, prestigious lives.

    Instead, there were run-down shops like Holly Rose’s Remedial Emporium which promised potions and remedies of dubious origins for all sorts of predicaments. There were vagrants meandering about, pestering for coins and spitting at the floor when people pointedly walked past them; children playing games on the street, snickering at the fortune-tellers promising (or, rather, yelling) to lead passersby down the right path; shop owners enjoying smoking breaks on the sidewalk, debating whether the man five shops over had both a wife and a lover (he did, just so you know, and recently all three visited my work at the same exact time).

    Realistically speaking, not a single person in the Lunar District had any reason to recognize her.

    But she still felt compelled to hide.

    After evading a particularly pesky peddler that followed her for almost two blocks, Twilight’s attention was drawn towards a large group of rather well-dressed men walking past her, some of them holding an identical ticket to the one folded inside her pocket.

    She trailed behind for a few blocks, until finally they arrived to their bustling destination.

    The Sapphire Carousel.

    Lounging at the edge of Satine Plaza, the Sapphire Carousel dominated the view with its tower-like center, lined with decorative pillars and unicorn sculptures all along the five stories of its exterior. It was framed by two rectangular buildings–the brothel and our dormitories, respectively–on either side. These were similarly gilded with pillars and unicorns. The glittering marquee lights around the roofed entryway called the public’s eyes to the doorway, where music greeted the decently sized crowd.

    I asked Lady Luna once why she decorated her establishment with unicorns of all things, the widely-accepted creatures so pure and perfect, every fairy tale out there said only virgins could catch them.

    Was she being ironic? Making a statement, perhaps? Was she amused by the idea that something so pure guarded something generally considered impure? Was this, perhaps, a dig at Lady Celestia, and how perfect she thought she was?

    Lady Luna then informed me that she quite liked unicorns, actually, and not everything was about her sister, and that was the end of that.

    In truth, Twilight Sparkle was surprised by the Sapphire. She’d seen brothels before, known them to be questionable establishments hidden away in back-alleys, so she was startled to see one that was, well, so flashy. So joyful, and artsy, and almost inviting.

    She noticed a commemorative marble statue, as well, sitting right in the middle of the plaza. She wondered, as she made her way towards it, if whoever it was commemorating was offended at the establishment towering over it. She certainly would feel uncomfortable if any statue of hers was placed in front of a brothel.

    The statue, carved from marble white as snow, was of a beautiful woman no older than Twilight sitting on a bench, a lovely necklace hanging from her neck. The palms of her hands were pressed against the bench, providing support as she leaned over and grinned at Twilight, one of her eyes partially obscured by her long hair.

    Not for the first time, Twilight thought of me. Perhaps this woman too was a prostitute who seduced strangers by bringing up wildly morbid facts.

    After smiling at her own joke, she noticed a plaque near the base of the statue.

    In Memory of Sapphire Snow
    May her kindness and beauty last eternal

    Interesting, she thought. Was the Sapphire named after her?

    It’s important that you know, dear friend, that Twilight will find herself in front of Sapphire’s statue twice that day. The first time was right then.

    The second time will come later that night. She won’t be alone.

    She will wish that she were.

    Once she’d steeled herself, she made her way towards the Sapphire, feeling some small amount of vindication over her cloak when she saw that the crowd was much more diverse than she’d expected. Workers, residents of the Lunar district, artists, the lower and middle classes, foreigners, and even elegant men and women surrounded her, all rubbed shoulders in this sanctuary for the debauched.

    “You’ve seen this before?” a man asked another as she stood behind them in line.

    “Third time,” he replied. He took his ticket out of his pocket and showed it to his acquaintance, delighted. “Front row seats for the best view.”

    Twilight glanced at her ticket and realized I’d seated her near the back.

    “How about you? What seats do you have?”

    “Near the back,” he replied, and then offered a grin. “But that’s fine. I’m staying after for a private show with one of the girls.”

    His friend elbowed him, laughing. “Maybe she’ll still be wearing her costume,” he said, unaware of my dear beloved blanching behind him.

    Not for the first time that night, she wondered if this was a good idea.

    Once she’d handed her ticket over, she followed the crowd into the almost completely obscure theatre, illuminated only by the dozens of floating candelabras guiding guests to their seats—a fascinating sight that quickly reminded her Lady Celestia was not the only master mage in the city.

    A candelabra floated down towards her, and having seen others do similarly, she told it her seat. It flashed once, and then floated away, my darling dearest following behind, her mouth half-open with fascination.

    A fascination that grew tenfold when, once everyone was seated, the candelabras floated up towards the ceiling and transformed into beautiful grand silver chandeliers, bathing the theatre in blue light.

    And reminding Twilight where exactly she was when she saw Lady Luna on stage.

    Standing under a white arch decorated with carvings of waxing and waning moons, the Lady of the Night smiled and bowed graciously at the thunderous applause that erupted from the audience. When it died down, the chandeliers dimmed their lights and a stage light cut through the dark, enveloping my Lady as she spoke.

    “Ladies and gentlemen.”

    And Twilight Sparkle, most of all.

    “This is the last call,” said Lady Luna. “And the show, much like life, must go on. For those of you still wandering about, please take your seats as the Sapphire Carousel proudly presents its grand show…”

    Crimson Lips

    The stage light turned off, and Twilight sat in her seat, her hands gripping her armrests as she waited, waited, and waited for whatever came next.

    What came next was a female voice, delicate, gentle, proper, audible throughout the entire room, yet sounding as if it was whispering in her ear began to play.

    A voice that she knew very well.

    “Let us remember, boys and girls,” I whispered into her ear in a way she’d only dreamed about, “the proper rules to being a lady.”

    The stage lights returned and Twilight’s heart somersaulted in her chest at the sight of a dozen beautiful women dancing on stage, each and every single one wearing intricately designed form-fitting short dresses. Artsy colorful cabaret attires that accentuated their every curve, their every shape, complemented them each individually in colors and design and accessories, and most importantly, left little to the imagination yet made you want for more.

    I made sure of that.

    Twilight’s eyes shot down to her hands, her cheeks flaming hot as my voice again whispered in her ears.

    “A lady always smiles at strangers.”

    Dashing men in equally dashing suit-like costumes danced onto stage, ensorcelled by the girls and their smiles as they danced around them, the men’s hands reaching out towards them to pull them in.

    Their hands trailed their bodies, fingertips grazing the thin fabric that separated skin from skin, and my poor darling beloved, not for the first time, imagined me in their arms. She imagined me in a bed, and much like the men from earlier wanted, the fictional individual with me wasted no time in peeling my costume off.

    Stop, she thought to herself, fighting these images, trying not to think of the many men and women I’d gone to bed with. Finally, my voice provided brief respite, drawing her attention back to the women in men’s arms.

    “A lady,” I advised, “must play hard to get.”

    The women took this to heart, pushing the men away in rhythm with the music. How torn they looked! How confused and rejected as these women they held danced away from them, not whispering a word on why. They could only go after them in kind, the accompanying music encouraging them as the women lead them on this literal merry little dance.

    So the show went on, women and men with progressively less clothing spiritually rebelling against these rules Lady Celestia had once taught me as a child. This absolutely stunning showcase both in artistry and pettiness, being witnessed by the Lady’s prodigy student.

    The rules went on, and Twilight watched and watched, as women revealing what was under their dresses gasped when I reminded them that ladies never crossed their legs when wearing a skirt. She watched, my darling beloved, as I advised them a lady never kisses until the third date, but stayed silent when men assumed this only applied to kisses on the lips, not on their hands, on their arms, on their necks, and the rest you can imagine, I’m sure.

    It was transfixing in how uncomfortable it was for Twilight. She, who’d been raised by aristocrats from the north, who’d been taught that sex and intimacy were for those in love, who was trying to hold onto the image of the proper charming woman she’d met on a bench… Oh, my darling dearest beloved, how she struggled to tell herself that sex was a biological need, it was, it was, it was, just that and nothing else.

    All of this bubbled under the surface of her soul, building and building but never fully able to actually release simply because she hadn’t seen me yet. Every new rule, every new dance, where I again failed to appear on stage, it would leave her feeling relieved but only more afraid of the next.

    Eventually, after another performance, the music died down, the light following shortly after, taking with them her thoughts and imaginings. What felt like an eternity went by, until finally the stage lights reappeared and converged once more, but not on the stage, oh no.

    They were pointed towards the ceiling, and everything died down–the music, the roar of the crowd, all of it–as who descended from a suspended ring but I.

    Wearing nearly nothing.

    “A lady remembers,” I whispered in her ears, as she wanted to look away but couldn’t, “that modesty is never overrated.”

    There I sat on my ring, looking off into the distance but not towards the crowd. Not towards her. Simply sat there, the ring slowly twirling me around as I descended, one hand holding onto the ring and the other balled into a fist.

    “And finally, one must always remember the most important rule of all.”

    Twilight swallowed, everything around her fading away when I opened the lipstick tube I’d been holding and delicately applied a fresh layer. She watched, this motion I’d done so many times before, this little habit I had that she believed was hers and hers alone, until the ring was nearly at the bottom and men and women walked towards me from all sides.

    The lights went out.

    They came back on.

    Everyone save for me was gone.

    And what littered my body but dozens of crimson lips, as I whispered in her ear:

    “A lady never leaves a mark.”

    And in this moment, my beloved realized that though I had never left a mark, it’s true, this did not mean that, to her, the rest of the world hadn’t left their mark on me.

    So she gathered her things, got up and left.

    She wasn’t in the lobby when I came out after the performance, a long black coat hiding my skimpy costume away.

    “Twilight?” I called out, pushing my way past the crowd still gathered. “Twilight!”

    Gods, gods, gods.

    I looked and looked, distraught as I was forced to engage people–most of them regular clients–who greeted and congratulated me both for the performance and the costumes.

    As the crowd thinned and she failed to appear, I told myself that maybe she hadn’t come.

    But if she did, a voice whispered in the back of my mind, the fact that she left already isn’t a particularly good sign, is it?

    Maybe she was outside. Maybe, after a sight like that, she just needed a burst of cold air to… to… I don’t know. Something.

    I rushed outside into the moonlit plaza, and her name died in my throat when I finally saw her standing by Sapphire Snow’s statue, her arms crossed and her eyes lifted towards the deceased woman.

    There she was, my darling beloved.

    I might have gone numb with anxiety if the biting cold wasn’t keeping me alert.

    “Twilight!” I called out, running to her, putting on a mask of delight. “There you are!”

    “Oh, Rarity.” She hugged herself, and I pretended I didn’t notice her having a hard time looking at me. “Hi.”

    I made a show out of catching my breath. “I was afraid you’d left! But here you are!” I exclaimed, losing my nerve when she did not reciprocate my enthusiasm. She simply stared at me, apparently unsure of what to say, and my growing terror forced me to get it over with. “So? What did you think? Did you like the performance at the end with the chandeliers? It’s a wonderful display of magic, isn’t it?”

    Her nails dug into her arms, and she continued to avoid my gaze.

    “The chandeliers? Ah, I…” She swallowed. “I didn’t see that, sorry.”

    I frowned. “…You didn’t see it?”

    “No, I…” She closed her eyes. “I left before it finished.”

    I took a step back.



    I somehow found the words to continue.


    Twilight opened her eyes again, but still she refused to look at me. “I’m not sure. A quarter of the way in. It was just when…” She faltered, and it hurt me. “When… When you came out on the ring and did the lips—”

    “Ah,” I interrupted, feeling too sick to hear the rest.

    She had left. She had left. She had left, and I supposed I ought to have felt comforted by the fact that she waited it out. Maybe she’d stayed to say she was okay with it. Maybe she’d stayed to tell me she wasn’t.

    There was only one way to find out.

    “Well?” I asked her, composed.

    She sat on her answer a moment until finally she uncrossed her arms and her impassive gaze met mine.

    “I don’t understand.”

    “How… How do you mean?” I asked, my voice weak with fear; a fear that grew as she spoke, hugging herself again, every word a carefully sharpened knife.

    “I don’t understand why you would do this. Any of this,” she said, looking to all of the Sapphire. The theatre, the brothel… “I can’t… I can’t understand why you would choose this life for yourself.”

    I felt faint.

    “Twilight… Twilight, you…” I struggled to speak. “You don’t have to understand,” I pleaded. “This doesn’t change anything. This is just… Twilight, it’s just…” I choked on my words, my chest crushing my heart. “You don’t have to understand.”

    “Yes. I do. And I don’t understand why you’d want this.”

    I was afraid to speak. Frankly, I didn’t know if I could even speak at all.

    But as my Lady had said, the show must go on.

    “…What do you propose, then?” I asked, my voice a whisper that turned into a gasp when she extended her right hand towards me for a handshake.

    “…Twilight?” Tears filled my eyes. “What…What is this? What are you… Are you saying goodbye to me, Twilight?”

    And when she said nothing and simply held her hand in the air, I felt my entire world collapse around me.

    I covered my mouth with my hand, aghast, speechless, faced with an absolutely shattering realization. For years now—for years—I was convinced that nothing in the world would ever devastate me as much as Celestia rejecting me would.

    I was wrong.

    I was lacerated with pain in a way I’d never been before.

    “Twilight… Twilight, I…” I stammered the words, only inches away from practically sobbing them. “I…”

    I love you.

    I love you, is what I wanted to say, but not because I wanted to confess it, or I wanted to plead for her to reconsider, but because I was indignant. I was betrayed.

    loved her.

    I would have killed for her, I would have died for her, and that meant nothing.

    My body mattered more than my heart.

    “I thought you were different,” I spat instead, indignant.

    She didn’t reply.

    “I really thought you were different,” I continued, and now my anger turned into an incredulous laugh. Silly, stupid Rarity! “I really did! I actually thought you…”

    “I’m sorry,” she finally said, quietly.

    “Sorry? Sorry?! Darling!” I laughed again. I must have looked mad. She certainly looked at me like I was, and you know? I think I was. Driven mad with pain. “Da-a-a-rling, why are you apologizing? Twilight Sparkle, you should be happy! Delighted, even! Darling dearest! Don’t you see?”

    I stepped forward and hissed every word.

    You’re just like your teacher.”

    So I gathered my shattered heart, and as I had years ago, turned around and left.

    She watched me go, lowering her hand and shoving it into her pocket.

    Watched, quietly, until I disappeared inside the Sapphire Carousel, and only then did she turn around and leave.

    It was a long trip back home, quietly sitting in the back of the inner-city train, her hands folded on her lap, her gaze set on the passing scenery, and her mind repeating my statement over and over.

    You’re just like your teacher.

    She was, make no mistake. Twilight Sparkle was just like her teacher in more ways than one, but I’d been wrong when I said that to her.

    I don’t blame myself for doing what I did, I don’t, but I was too blinded by pain to realize what she was doing. She could have asked me to stop as Celestia had. She could have asked me to change and only then she’d come back.

    But she didn’t. Even as she destroyed me, not an inch of emotion on her face, Twilight Sparkle showed more respect towards my choice than Celestia ever had.

    At the ding of the train, she got off at her station and walked home, politely smiling at people as they passed by, and even stopping to give directions to a lost tourist.

    “Twilight?” a voice called when she walked through the door. Lady Celestia appeared atop the stairs moments later, an envelope in her hands. “Twilight! Welcome home! You caught me just before I left!”

    If Twilight had wanted to be left alone, she was too polite to show it.

    “Oh. Hello, Lady Celestia,” she greeted, trying not to think of my words even as they whispered in her ears when the Lady descended the stairs. “I’m sorry I’m so late.”

    “Twilight, please. You’re an adult.” The Lady laughed. “You can come home at any time you’d like, as long as you can get up in time for class!” She noted Twilight’s cloak and raised an eyebrow. “Where did you go?”

    “I went to see someone,” she replied.

    “Oh, how wonderful! A friend?”

    And for the first time that night, her voice nearly cracked.


    “Ah…” said the Lady, but did not press. “Well! Still, don’t ever apologize for coming in late. I used to be just like you, you know? Always a night-owl.”

    Twilight smiled thinly. “Oh.” She cleared her throat. “You’re going out?”

    “Yes, unfortunately.” She made her way towards the coat rack. “I completely forgot to take this letter to Silver Dunes to the post-office, and it has to go out as soon as possible. I think the post office in Miller Road is still open, isn’t it?”

    “I can take it for you,” Twilight suggested, not out of a desire to please, but because that’s who she was.

    “You?” She shook her head. “Don’t be silly! I can’t make you go out so late, especially when this was my fault.”

    “It’s really no problem. I have my coat and shoes on already, anyway,” Twilight insisted, suddenly eager to get away from the house, from Celestia, from the traces of me that still lived in every room.

    After mulling it over a bit, the Lady relented.

    “…Well, all right, then.” She handed Twilight the envelope. “Thank you so much, dear.”

    Twilight smiled. “Of course.”

    That said, she turned around and left the house again, shivering when cold air nipped at her nose. She made her way into the street and walked alone, her sights and thoughts set on the letter.

    Unfortunately, when she reached the empty station, she saw the train speeding off in the distance, which meant she had a ten minute wait until the next. Taking a breath, she sat down on the bench and waited.

    She waited, and waited, idly looking around until her eyes fell on a plaque on the bench’s backrest.

    In loving memory of little orphan Silver Blue
    carried off to a better life by winter’s night

    Not for the first time, Twilight Sparkle thought of me.

    She thought of the day we first met, her doing equations on a notebook, me staring at her with fascination. She thought of how lovely I looked that day, and she thought of the very first words I ever uttered to her.

    A boy died here, you know?

    She laughed. Laughed at the memory of a silly yet charming woman’s attempt to make small talk.

    She laughed until the memory was too much, until tears filled her eyes, until she buried her face in her hands, until she reckoned with exactly what she’d done, and…

    For the first time of many in the weeks to come, Twilight Sparkle wept long into the night.

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    1. Silver Mint
      Sep 21, '22 at 12:54 am

      There’s a lot to unpack here.

      Twilight is at odds with herself. She wants to understand why, why is this a job career path anyone would pick for themselves but most importantly why Rarity would pick it for herself. Like me, Twilight wants to know why Rarity gave up such a pampered, privileged life to make a living at a brothel. It’s not just the fact she puts up burlesque shows, it’s also the fact that Rarity sells her body.

      Twilight really, really wants to understand, because understanding things makes us not afraid of them. She can’t, she comes to a dead end where she can’t find the answer and she actually quits.

      This breaks Rarity, she wants Twilight to understand, but she knows she can’t and is definitely heartbroken when Twilight presents her exit. It’s easier for Twilight at the moment to throw in the towel and this breaks Rarity. Rarity feels how her past has come to haunt her again, how she’s reliving what happened with Lady Celestia yet again and this reveals to her that she’s not over it. She is definitely not over the pain of Celestia turning her back on her (but did she ever?)

      Rarity lashes out, understandably, and in a way that really hurts Twilight. Twilight is simply in shock, still racking her brain, still trying to understand, but it only sinks in when she’s finally given time to stop and think that she has made a mistake, that while she doesn’t understand, she’s willing to try and understand.

      She understands that Rarity deserves better than this, but so does she.

      It’s beautifully tragic and emotionally charged, and while my favourite chapter is still the one where Sweetie Belle is revealed to beat up kids because they call her sister whore, this one is probably the best chapter in Crimson Lips.

    2. A Deer
      Sep 4, '22 at 9:26 pm

      My heart. There it is on the floor. Trampled. I had a feeling this would be a heart wrenching chapter.

    3. platinumSKIES
      Jul 8, '22 at 9:52 am

      …..ow….my heart…