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(Bat) Merry Moon Memorial - 2

NukePone Oct 23rd, 2013 (edited) 1,421 Never
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  1. >The musky scents of the dense forest around Hollow Shades fill my nostrils as I run beside my two oldest friends.
  2. >Between trees, under bushes, and over creeks, our laughter echoes through the forest.
  3. >Scree's, kee's, and screeches accompany us as more and more batp0nies follow suit.
  4. >The calls of night-time animals are music to my ears as they begin their symphonies.
  5. >A thousand years, little of which I can recall, has taken a toll on my senses and my mind.
  6. >This is all I need to recover.
  7. >My friends, my ancient children, and my night.
  8. >Dozens upon dozens of batp0nies follow as I lead Sunshine and Meadowlark to the skies.
  9. >My moon and my stars shine down upon Equestria, and more importantly, Hollow Shades.
  10. >We fly above the forest, just beneath the tops of the mountains.
  11. >The sight is breath-taking.
  12. >Dozens of batp0nies gracefully fly with one another, their wings folding to their bodies as they fall and reopening just before they touch the tops of the trees.
  13. >I land on a small cliff on the mountainside to view this spectacle.
  14. >It is as if they celebrate my return.
  15. >Sunshine sits to my left.
  16. >He looks exactly the same as the last time I saw him, but I can tell how much he has aged.
  17. >"It is amazing, is it not?"
  18. "Yes. To see a race born of hatred towards the day act so free and high-spirited."
  19. >Meadowlark yells with joy as he flies with the rest of his brothers and sisters.
  20. >I watch him with a smile.
  21. >"It has been so long since we've been happy, Luna. The days, at first, were so long and arduous."
  22. >My eyes catch his, and I feel the sadness in his heart.
  23. >"Though they eventually began to pass as quickly as a moment, I still counted every day since you were banished."
  24. >That is a feeling I know all too well.
  25. >Living for so long, one tends to forget that the passing of time is relative to those who experience it.
  26. >A p0ny with a thousand years on their shoulders may look upon their past years as mere minutes, while a child will look at them as eternities.
  27. >I have witnessed thousands of p0nies, many of whom I loved, pass before my eyes.
  28. >I can only imagine what Sunshine and Meadowlark have felt.
  29. >"Princess?"
  30. "Yes, Sunshine?"
  31. >"How do you deal with it? Your immortality?"
  32. >I turn my gaze to the moon and sigh softly.
  33. "I don't know if you remember, Sunshine. Your mother was one of the first batp0nies I created. She was one of the most loyal p0nies I knew."
  34. >I watch Meadowlark fly among the trees and the clouds, his form illuminated by the moon.
  35. "She gave the two of you to my regime when you grew older. I'm sure you remember where it went from there."
  36. >Sunshine nods and tilts his head.
  37. >"What does this have to do with your coping methods?"
  38. "I'm getting there. You and Meadowlark became my two best friends as you served me. You always knew what was best for me. But before the two of you, I had no friends. I held nop0ny dear to me, except my sister."
  39. >"Is that it, then? Distance yourself from everyp0ny except those like you?"
  40. >A nod of my head confirms his question.
  41. >"I wish I would have known that a thousand years ago."
  42. "I wish I would have been sane enough to give you that advice."
  43. >"If you were sane at the time, we would not be speaking at this moment."
  44. >He looks down into the forest, trying to keep the moon's light from shining on his face.
  45. >I can see the tears forming in his eyes, despite his best efforts to hide them.
  46. >All I can do is hug him tight.
  47. >"I fell in love with somep0ny, a long time ago."
  48. >There is nothing I can say as my very own heart shatters at his words.
  49. >Not because I know his feelings, because I do, but because I never once imagined my two closest friends growing up in such a way.
  50. >"It was horrible, Luna, the day she left. I could not go a single night without the very moon reminding me of her. And to live for such a long time, it was horrific!"
  51. >The moon.
  52. >Oh, Sunshine, please don't do this.
  53. >Between Sunshine and Meadowlark, I did tend to favor Sunshine the most.
  54. >Admittedly, I may have given the idea some thought, once upon a time.
  55. >Perhaps, now that I am once more sane, I may entertain the thought again.
  56. "Sunshine?"
  57. >"Yes, Princess?"
  58. >I give a quick kiss to his cheek, and as I pull back, I smile brightly.
  59. >His face lights up through his tears as he looks up at me.
  60. >He is positively surprised, his jaw hanging slack and his ears perking up.
  61. >Even in the pale light of the moon, I can see his cheeks burn with embarrassment.
  62. "I believe I am ready to return to my sister, and I would love to have you by my side once more."
  63. >I know that he is more than happy to oblige as he flies off towards his brother.
  64.  
  65. >My sister greets us on the castle grounds as Sunshine and Meadowlark lead me to the new city of Canterlot.
  66. >Its bright lights and fantastical machines and architecture amaze me.
  67. >I smile at my sister's work.
  68. >"Good evening, Luna. Did you have fun with in Hollow Shades?"
  69. "Yes, Sister. It was the most fun I've had in over a thousand years!"
  70. >"Well. I'd bet you're tired."
  71. >I nod and trot beside her as she begins to walk away.
  72. >Sunshine and Meadowlark follow me, naturally.
  73. >My sister will understand my desire to re-employ them as my guards.
  74. >She will not deny me this wish.
  75. >"Before I show you to your new bed chamber... There is something I'd love for you to see, as soon as possible."
  76. >I tilt my head and continue trotting beside her.
  77. "What could be more important than seeing my new bedroom?"
  78. >She smiles with a light chuckle as she leads me and my two best friends far into the castle.
  79. >We trot down several spiral staircases, into what I assume to be an archive of sorts.
  80. >She stands in front of a large wooden door with a crescent moon carved into the front.
  81. >"I would like to show you many of the things you have missed."
  82. >The old door loudly creeks on its hinges as it opens at a snail's pace.
  83. >My eyes widened and my heart drops as I enter that chamber.
  84. >The walls are littered and lined with pictures drawn in crayon, and letters written in charcoal.
  85. >There are trunks among trunks filled to the brim with preserved treats and fruits.
  86. "What is all of this?"
  87. >"Gifts. Tributes. They come from your children."
  88. >With one hoof in front of the other, I slowly walk deeper into the room.
  89. "For how long?"
  90. >"Since your banishment."
  91. "For what reason?"
  92. >"Their punishment. To celebrate you, to never forget you."
  93. "That is not much of a punishment for threatening to usurp you."
  94. >"I found it fitting."
  95. >I lift one of the fruits to my snout and sniff at it.
  96. >It smells as fresh as the day it was picked.
  97. "How old is this one?"
  98. >"All of the fruits in that chest are from about... seven hundred years ago."
  99. "Timelock spell?"
  100. >My sister nods and smiles as I take a cautious bite of the fruit.
  101. >I can not recall the last time I had something so delicious pass my lips.
  102. "What is this?"
  103. >"I believe they called it a mango."
  104. "Seven hundred years old. Is it still around?"
  105. >"Yes. I believe the cultivate it in the southwest portion of the forest surrounding Hollow Shades."
  106. >I move from the fruits, turning my gaze to the drawings that line the walls.
  107. >One in particular catches my eye.
  108. >"Ah, I remember that one."
  109. >My sister sits beside me as I hold the picture in my telekinetic grasp.
  110. >"It was drawn by an adorable little filly. Nectar, I think was her name."
  111. "Can I meet her?"
  112. >"Oh, I'm afraid not, Luna."
  113. "Oh..."
  114. >I can feel tears well up in my eyes, but I dare not cry.
  115. >I know that none of my little stars would wish for me to be sad.
  116.  
  117. >Six months have passed since my return.
  118. >I have quickly adjusted to the modern lifestyle.
  119. >Many ponies that have read the stories of what I did so long ago are still very wary of me.
  120. >I care little for them.
  121. >I have Sunshine, and I have Meadowlark.
  122. >They are all I need in this world.
  123. >Tonight, however, is the night of the Merry Moon Memorial.
  124. >My sister has told me much about it.
  125. >She has told me of the gifts that are offered, and the letters that are written.
  126. >She has told me of the many treats they prepare, and the festivities and games.
  127. >"Princess Luna?"
  128. >Meadowlark Frolicksome enters my bedchamber as I finish brushing my mane.
  129. "Yes?"
  130. >"Your chariot is ready."
  131. "Excellent timing as always, Meadowlark."
  132. >I follow him as he leads me through the castle and into the courtyard.
  133. >My sister and Sunshine await us beside a beautifully crafted chariot.
  134. >"Good evening, Luna."
  135. "Good evening, Celestia. Why are you here?"
  136. >"I thought it would be fitting to see my sister off for the one-thousandth Merry Moon Memorial."
  137. >With a smile, I thank her and board the chariot as my two guards buckle themselves into their harnesses.
  138. >"Have fun, Luna."
  139. "I will."
  140. >With that, my two favorite guards took to the skies with me in tow.
  141. >I laugh and smile as the wind blows through my mane and the lights of Hollow Shades come into view.
  142. >It will not be long now until I get to experience my very first holiday with the bat ponies.
  143. >Meadowlark turns his head to his brother as they fly.
  144. >"Are you sure it's a good idea for her to come here? I recall you mentioning leaving her unguarded most of the night."
  145. >"Did I? I don't see much harm in it. It's a celebration for her. Why crowd her when she has so many ponies to meet?"
  146. >"It's on your head, should anything happen."
  147. >"I doubt that. Have you forgotten how many promising guards we've been training to take our places?"
  148. "You two aren't going anywhere."
  149. >They turn their heads back in surprise.
  150. >"But Celestia's gift may be wearing off!"
  151. "I would imagine the two of you have several more decades to spend with me. Have you ever thought that maybe you've started aging normally, once more?"
  152. >Sunshine's ears flatten against his helmet as he frowns.
  153. >"Either way, Princess, we do not have much longer in this life."
  154. >"Aye, be it thirty or forty more years, that is nothing compared to how long we've lived thus far."
  155. >I sigh and shake my head.
  156. "I will miss the both of you dearly."
  157. >"Hey! No tears, dear Luna. We have a festival to attend!"
  158. >Sunshine makes a face at me, which I can not help but reply to with a laugh.
  159. "Fine, fine! Tonight is a night for happy memories. I will cast my worries aside for a later date, deal?"
  160. >Meadowlark flashes me a smile.
  161. >"Deal."
  162.  
  163. >Meadowlark points to a small clearing just outside of the town.
  164. >My guards carry the chariot down and park it.
  165. "Why land outside of the town?"
  166. >"Seeing the town unfold in front of you as you enter it is a treat in and of itself."
  167. >I hum softly as I look around at the trees.
  168. "Will there be mangos?"
  169. >"Mangoes, bananas, durians, melons, oranges, pineapples."
  170. >"Apples, lemons, limes, pears, tangerines-"
  171. "Okay! I get it, there's going to be a lot of fruit."
  172. >They snicker as they lead me through the woods.
  173. >After a short walk, they point up at the branches of some of the shorter trees.
  174. >"We'll need to fly up there."
  175. >I nod and take off after them.
  176. >As I land on the wooden platform, the breath in my lungs completely expels itself in a loud gasp.
  177. >All of the lights and bat ponies running around, laughing and having a good time.
  178. >It is a very pleasing sight.
  179. >My guards start laughing yet again as they look at my face, with my jaw dropped and my eyes widened with small tears dripping down my cheeks.
  180. >"They've gone all out this year, Princess."
  181. >As I walk away from them, I smile.
  182. >The paper lanterns that hang from the roofs of the builds light the streets.
  183. >Large ribbons with more lanterns span from roof to roof over the streets and alleyways.
  184. >Vendors, game booths, musicians, and dancers line the edges of the streets.
  185. >Almost all of the bat ponies I pass stop what they're doing and stare at me in amazement.
  186. >I would love to see their expressions once my powers return to me.
  187. >Sunshine trots up to my side as we approach the center of the tree-loft town.
  188. >It looks like this "town square" may have once been a very large, very thick oak tree.
  189. >It must have been cut in half once upon a time to make for this gorgeous plaza.
  190. >All of the sounds that I had heard early were now hushed, muted.
  191. >The entire town was silent as all of the bat ponies gathered in the center of their town.
  192. >They sit on the rooftops, on benches, on street fixtures, anywhere they can manage, just to look at me.
  193. "Why did they stop?"
  194. >"This is the first time many of them have seen you since you first visited Hollow Shades. And even still, some of them have yet to meet you."
  195. >A large statue stands in the center of the town.
  196. >An effigy of myself.
  197. >I climb onto its back and look around at all of the bat ponies before raising my hooves to them.
  198. "Tonight is a night that your race has celebrated for a thousand years."
  199. >They stare intently as I speak.
  200. "If you will have me, and allow me to partake in this ancient festival, I would very much like that."
  201. >Sunshine snickers.
  202. >I look down at him with a questioning look.
  203. >"As eloquent as ever, Princess."
  204. >I curse him under my breath and look back at the large crowd of bat ponies.
  205. "Your princess requires festivities!"
  206. >And the crowd goes wild.
  207. >They all disperse and return to their booths and their activities.
  208. >"Ma'am?"
  209. >I look down, expecting to find Sunshine or Meadowlark, but find two unfamiliar bat ponies standing side by side.
  210. >They snap a smart salute as I hop off of the statue and stand in front of them.
  211. >"My name is Echo. This is my partner, Gloom Wing. If it pleases you, we would be honoured to accompany you for a little while."
  212. "Well, since my guards decided to abandon me, I see no harm in that."
  213. >"Excellent! I know some of the better places to go around this town."
  214. >The second bat pony flashes me a grin and wink.
  215. >I do not like that.
  216. >Not one bit.
  217. >I fear for the plans these two have.
  218.  
  219. >I regret my decision to allow them to accompany me.
  220. >We have sat at a long table for the past fifteen minutes gorging our faces with fruits, drinks, and desserts.
  221. >They called it an eating competition.
  222. >I call it too much.
  223. "Are we... Are we finished, yet?"
  224. >Echo stares at with with half a banana hanging from her muzzle.
  225. >Gloom Wing snickers as she sucks down her twelfth fruit blend.
  226. >"Are you kidding me? We've just started!"
  227. >I feel myself begin to retch as these two continue their gluttonous behaviour.
  228. "Please..."
  229. >"Come on! It's just the three of us left, one of us is bound to win!"
  230. "Then... why don't two of us quit, so the third will win?"
  231. >Gloom Wing taps her chin with a hoof, shrugs, and looks at Echo.
  232. >"That could work, couldn't it?"
  233. >Echo closes her eyes and sighs, placing her head in her hooves.
  234. >"Free. Food."
  235. >The orange-eyed mare continues to stuff her face as I turn away from the table.
  236. "I... quit."
  237. >Gloom Wing chases me as I start to walk away.
  238. >"Hey! Wait up, Princess."
  239. >The mare looks me up and down and hums.
  240. >"So you're the one we're all training hard to get to protect when Sunshine and Meadowlark kick the bucket?"
  241. >She circles me and continues humming.
  242. >"You're not very big. Why's Celestia so much bigger than you?"
  243. "I lost my power when I was banished. It hasn't regenerated yet."
  244. >"Ah. You've got something else hangin' heavy on you though."
  245. >I raise an eyebrow and stare her in the eye.
  246. "What do you mean?"
  247. >"Aha, I know that look! You're havin' love trouble."
  248. >She turns and starts walking away.
  249. >"Strange, considering you've only been back for about six months, right? Anyways, I know just the girl you need to see!"
  250. >I roll my eyes and follow this very strange mare.
  251. >I doubt she'd be competent enough to guard me in place of either Sunshine or Meadowlark.
  252. >And that other one, Echo, seems even less competent.
  253. >After a short walk down one of the main walk-ways, we arrive at a small booth.
  254. "A therapist?"
  255. >"The best therapist."
  256. >With a shake of my head, I approach the small booth.
  257. >"Welcome to Pull Tab Therapy. Pull Tab's the name, five-minute therapy's my game."
  258. "Only five minutes?"
  259. >"First five minutes will fix your problem, or your money back."
  260. >She coughs into her hoof and looks up at me, her brow raising.
  261. >"Of course, for Princesses, the whole session is free, regardless."
  262. >I smirk and sit on a small stool in front of the booth.
  263. "Alright, amuse me."
  264. >She sighs and moves from the back of the booth.
  265. >She begins dancing in a very sultry manner, one not dissimilar to how the gypsies of yore moved.
  266. "What exactly are you doing?"
  267. >"It gets me in the zone. If it bothers you, ignore it, but don't face away from me."
  268. >She closes her eyes for a minute as she does a slight twirl.
  269. >"You're having trouble, somewhere deep in your heart."
  270. >I tilt my head as she sways her hips to some internal beat.
  271. >"It's a male. An old friend of yours. You've only been back for six months, after a thousand years, so any old friends of your should be long gone."
  272. >She missteps and stumbles awkwardly.
  273. >"It is one of your two guards. One of the two ancient founders of our village that few are aware of."
  274. >I try to open my mouth to speak, but her remarkable answers have silenced me.
  275. >"It's the silly one, isn't it? Sunshine?"
  276. "How did you..."
  277. >"He's one of my regulars. Comes by the club every Saturday to talk about his problems. He alludes to you a lot."
  278. "And the dancing?"
  279. >"Like I said, it puts me in the zone."
  280. >The mare steps back behind the booth.
  281. >"By the way, Gloom Wing ditched you. Continue down this walkway in the opposite direction in which you came. There's a black-maned male with green eyes. Another regular, but he'll show you around."
  282. "How..."
  283. >"Like I said, another regular. He visits me every chance he gets to talk about some mare he's known his entire life."
  284. >In stunned silence, I trot away from her.
  285. >I will request that mare should I run into any emotional or mental trouble.
  286.  
  287. >As I walk toward my next destination, many more bat ponies pass by me.
  288. >Many of them have their coats painted a dark gray.
  289. >White bones are painted amidst the black.
  290. >On their faces, they have skulls painted.
  291. >It's quite spooky when they jump out of alley ways, or from behind barrels and yell "boo."
  292. >Each time they do, I yelp in surprise and quickly start to giggle.
  293. >Most of them apologize as soon as they see me though.
  294. >After a brisk walk down the walkway, I come across a male bat pony with green eyes and a black mane.
  295. >He sits on a barrel beside another pony with green eyes and a blue mane.
  296. >I approach him with a smile.
  297. >He blushes and starts to sweat.
  298. >"U-um. H-hello."
  299. "Hi. I'm Luna!"
  300. >"I'm... A-Aux."
  301. "A nice pony named Pull Tab told me to come find you. She said you could show me around?"
  302. >He nods and swallows hard before nudging the mare beside him.
  303. >"I'll catch you later, Hekesuh."
  304. >"Alright."
  305. "Hang on. Is this your marefriend?"
  306. >I smile at the blue-maned batpony.
  307. >"I-I'm not a girl!"
  308. >The apparent male, stomps off in a huff.
  309. "O-oh. I'm sorry!"
  310. >I turn back to look at Aux and smile.
  311. "I didn't know he was a boy."
  312. >"A lot of ponies don't."
  313. >He starts to sweat more, and refuses to keep eye-contact with me.
  314. >Maybe he's afraid of princesses?
  315. "So where are we off to?"
  316. >"I-I don't really know. W-What do you want to do?"
  317. >I look up to the sky and hum in thought for a brief moment before I look back at him.
  318. "I want to play a game."
  319. >"What... what kind of game?"
  320. "I don't know. What's fun to play?"
  321. >"Um... We could pl-play hide and seek?"
  322. "That could be fun! How about, instead of one of us hiding and the other seeking... We look for this mare you've known your whole life!"
  323. >"What?!"
  324. "Yes! Pull Tab told me you always talked about her. If I nice guy like yourself talks about a mare that much, she'd be worth meeting!"
  325. >He scrunches his nose up and taps his hooves together.
  326. >"I-I don't know..."
  327. >I sigh and pick him up in my telekinetic grasp and whisk him away.
  328. "Tell me what she looks like."
  329. >"Sh-she's kind of a pale purple color and has glasses..."
  330. >And so we begin our quest to find this stallion's friend.
  331.  
  332. >After an hour or so of fruitless searching, we finally happen upon the mare.
  333. >She sits at a little table outside of a cafe, drinking some sweet-smelling tea and reading a small book.
  334. >"H-hi Amber."
  335. >"Oh. Hey, Aux. Who's th-"
  336. >She gasps and slams her book down before scrambling out of her chair.
  337. >"P-Princess, oh my goodness!"
  338. "Hello."
  339. >She stumbles over her words as she tries to comprehend this scene.
  340. >"Aux! How!"
  341. >"Sh-she kind of... kidnapped me to come find you."
  342. >"Find me? Why?!"
  343. "I thought that if a stallion as nice as this had a love interest, she would be worth meeting."
  344. >"L-love interest?! Aux, what is she talking about?"
  345. "He hasn't told you? He's sure told his therapist quite a lot."
  346. >"Princess, pl-please stop."
  347. >The youthful mare taps a hoof against the wooden walkway.
  348. >"No, Princess. Kindly go on."
  349. >The stallion stares up at me with pleading eyes.
  350. "Well, apparently he's mentioned having a bit of a crush on you to his therapist."
  351. >"No I haven't!"
  352. >The mare starts to blush and wave a hoof beside her cheek.
  353. >"Is this true, Aux?"
  354. >"S-sort of?"
  355. >He winces as the mare approaches him.
  356. >I take a step back in fear that she may hit him.
  357. >Oh, these bat ponies are such an entertaining bunch!
  358. >I watch as the mare hugs the stallion tightly around the neck.
  359. >"You know you could have just told me, Aux. It's not like I bite or anything."
  360. >The mare giggles as she looks back at me.
  361. >"If you'll excuse us, Princess. We have a festival to enjoy."
  362. >I wave as they turn and trot away.
  363. >As I turn to explore more of the festival, the first of the two bat ponies from the eating contest blocks my path.
  364. "Oh! Hello."
  365. >"Hi! Where did Gloom Wing go?"
  366. >I shrug and look around.
  367. "She kind of told me to see a therapist, who told me to find a bat pony named Aux, who was supposed to show me around, but I unintentionally got him a date with his crush."
  368. >"Aux? As in black-mane, green eyes Aux?"
  369. >I nod and tilt my head.
  370. "Is there something wrong with him?"
  371. >"No! Not at all, but why him? And what therapist?"
  372. "Pull Tab, I think was her name."
  373. >"The stripper?"
  374. "What is a stripper?"
  375. >"A kind of dancer. That isn't important."
  376. >Echo sighs and rubs a hoof between her eyes.
  377. >"Anyways, I'm supposed to be showing you around the festival. At least until we run into Midnight Blossom."
  378. "Is she another future guard?"
  379. >"One of the best. Rumor has, she has a daughter that she's been training since birth."
  380. "Interesting. Do you think we'll see her?"
  381. >The mare shrugs and starts to trot off.
  382. >"If I can be honest, I really hope not. She's extremely dedicated to her job, even when she's off-duty."
  383. "Well, if she's one of the best guards around, I'd like to meet her."
  384. >Echo sighs again.
  385. >"Fine. If we run into her, I'll leave you in her care, but I'll be gone."
  386. "Sounds like you two have a little history. Rivalry?"
  387. >She nods and scuffs at the wooden walkway.
  388. >"Sunshine and Meadowlark chose her to replace one of them. It's down to me, Gloom Wing, and a few others for the second position."
  389. "Are you worried you won't make it?"
  390. >Another nod, this time more reserved and sheepish.
  391. "I think, if you do your best, you'll do just fine."
  392. >"You really think so?"
  393. "I know so, little bat."
  394. >She smiles softly and hugs me around the neck.
  395. >"Thank you, Princess Luna. Oh, by the way."
  396. >The mare stuffs her face into a small bag on her hip and extracts a small letter.
  397. >"For you. I figured it would be better to give this to you now, instead of having it sent to Canterlot with the rest of them."
  398. >Taking the letter from her, I open it whilst trying to hide my excitement.
  399. >"Dear Princess Luna,
  400. >Thank you, for everything.
  401. >The moon, the nights, creating us, and watching over us in our sleep.
  402. >It's really nice sometimes, not feeling all alone in the world.
  403. >So, thanks again.
  404. >Love,
  405. >Echo."
  406. >I smile as I finish the letter and fold it back up.
  407. "It fills my heart with pride to read these letters, you know. All of those thousands upon thousands of letters of ages past. Each one of them made me feel just as proud and as happy as the last."
  408. >Echo blushes and looks away.
  409. >"Thank you, Princess. It means a lot to hear you say that."
  410. "It means a lot that you write to me."
  411.  
  412. >We walk by many fruit vendors as we explore the town.
  413. >Echo insists on stopping at each one to browse their selections.
  414. >I must endure this batty little mare and her love of food.
  415. >She continuously offers to share, but I still feel sick from the contest earlier.
  416. "I do not know how you can eat so much."
  417. >"I don't see how you can stop eating. This stuff's delicious!"
  418. >I chuckle a little bit as she bites into a mango.
  419. "It is delicious, but I don't have the stomach to eat as much as you."
  420. >"You're missing out, you know."
  421. "I know."
  422. >The mare aimlessly leads me back to the center of town and stops beside the large statue I stood on hours earlier.
  423. >"Do you see a white-coated bat pony anywhere?"
  424. >I look around and shake my head.
  425. "No. Is that Midnight Blossom?"
  426. >"No, it's Florence. She's almost always around Midnight. Too young to join the guard, but she has a lot of potential and talent."
  427. "A white bat pony?"
  428. >"It's weird, I know. I asked Sunshine and he said there has never been a white bat pony before."
  429. >The little bat pony chuckles softly and shakes her head.
  430. >"I followed Midnight on her patrol once. She usually goes alone, but I decided to spy on her. Near the edge of the forest, closest to Canterlot, there was a hooded pony waiting for her. I didn't get a good look, but when they departed, I noticed they had a golden-yellow tail."
  431. "Have you told anyone?"
  432. >"No. I don't want to make any false accusations. Especially since Florence is a little over fifteen years old."
  433. "I won't say anything if I happen to run into them."
  434. >"Thanks, Princess. You're the best."
  435. >Echo flies off without another word.
  436. >She must be nervous.
  437. >I would not mind having her as one of my guard, she seems very determined and very loyal.
  438. >A little hoof taps on my shoulder, which surprises me.
  439. >The little filly that sits beside me jumps a little when I gasp and gaze down at her.
  440. "Oh, hello there little one. What's your name?"
  441. >"I-I'm Heartbeat. I lost my babysitter, c-could you help me find her?"
  442. "Of course I can! Get on my back, I'll carry you around until we find her."
  443. >The filly shyly nods and climbs onto me.
  444. >Her forelegs wrap around my neck as her hindlegs straddle my shoulders.
  445. "And away we go!"
  446. >The filly giggles as I start to trot out of the town square.
  447. >However, I stop after realizing I have nothing to go on.
  448. "So what does your babysitter look like?"
  449. >"Um... She has a dark gray coat."
  450. >That narrows it down so much, thank you Heartbeat."
  451. >"And orange eyes."
  452. >That might have actually broadened the possibilities, somehow.
  453. >"Blue hair."
  454. "What about her cutiemark?"
  455. >"Oh! It's a golden heart with big white wings stretching out of its sides!"
  456. >I look around the town square very briefly and notice a mare fitting the description sitting not far from where the filly found me.
  457. >The mare has a very quizzical look on her face as she stares at me.
  458. >Heartbeat starts squealing and giggling and bouncing atop my back as I approach the mare.
  459. >Another little filly appears from behind the mare as Heartbeat jumps off of me and rushes to her babysitter.
  460. >The fillies pounce on one another and start rolling around between me and the mare, who finally decides to speak up.
  461. >"Good evening, Princess Luna."
  462. "Likewise, miss..."
  463. >"Speck."
  464. "Miss Speck."
  465. >She smiles softly as she points her nose down at the two playful fillies.
  466. >"And these are Heartbeat and Sirocca. Heartbeat was the one you took for a little ride."
  467. "My apologies, I had not known you were close by. Are their parents around?"
  468. >"Parents? No, Heartbeat lives at the local orphanage. I adopted Sirocca shortly after her parents..."
  469. >The mare gives a sharp click of her tongue.
  470. >"But, I love them as if they were my own. They're best friends. I wish I could have adopted them both, but my job does not permit that."
  471. "What do you do?"
  472. >"I babysit on the weekends, obviously. During the week, I help watch the foals at the night-care centers."
  473. "Do you need assistance? I'm sure I could convince Sister to-"
  474. >"No, no. The orphanage is funded directly by Princess Celestia, I couldn't ask you to aid me personally."
  475. >The mare smiles at the two fillies in front of her.
  476. >"The fact that I'm able to take care of one while knowing that the other is just as well off makes me happy enough."
  477. "But they are separated now, are they not?"
  478. >"Not exactly. They see each other just as much as they did when they were both in the orphanage."
  479. >Both fillies perk up and stare at me.
  480. >A brief glance passes between them and they leap upon me.
  481. >Speck gasps softly and covers her mouth with a hoof while I allow these two fillies to assault me.
  482. >"I-I'm so sorry! You two st-"
  483. "It is quite alright, Miss Speck. Have these two been around the festival yet?"
  484. >She shakes her head slightly.
  485. >"I was actually getting ready to take them around to all of the games."
  486. "Would you mind if I joined you?"
  487. >"Oh, not at all! It would be an honor!"
  488.  
  489. >Speck leads me down a path that I have yet to explore.
  490. >There are no ponies dancing on the sides, and very few adults.
  491. >Nothing but games and foals running around and playing.
  492. >"They set a special street up just for the foals every year. Games, prizes, treats. Most of the vendors won't take a single coin from the children either."
  493. "That's fantastic!"
  494. >"It really is. They have little talent shows, drawing contests, raffles. There are beanbag tosses, whack-a-bat, and screech competitions."
  495. "That's a lot of stuff to do. Do the foals tire easily after so much?"
  496. >"Surprisingly, no! A lot of the bat foals have enough energy to play through an entire night and day."
  497. >The two fillies scramble off of my body as they rush over to a fruit-walk, leaving me with their guardian.
  498. >"So how does it feel? Being back in Equestria."
  499. "It's... Shocking? Different? Strange? I hold no animosity toward my sister, Sunshine nor Meadowlark, but being back here. Them thinking nothing of it, almost as if nothing's changed?"
  500. >I sigh softly as I watch all of the foals rush around and have the time of their lives.
  501. "Sunshine told me to cast away my worries for the night, but I feel burdened by this though. Do you mind?"
  502. >"Not at all, please go on."
  503. "The night I came back, Sunshine had mentioned some things. I'm scared, because he may not have much time left on this plane."
  504. >"Luna?"
  505. >I turn to face the mare.
  506. >"Sometimes it's better to just do something without thinking it through, you know? If he doesn't have much time left, and if you love him, go for it."
  507. "Maybe you are right. Thank you, Speck. I have to go find him now."
  508. >"Alright. Before you go, though. I have all of the letters and pictures from the orphanage and night-care if you'd like them now."
  509. >She extracts a large bundle of papers from a saddlebag and offers them to me.
  510. >I take them in my telekinetic grasp and place a hoof on her nose.
  511. "You stay safe, and take care of those fillies, Speck."
  512. >"I will, Princess."
  513. >I teleport the papers to my bedchamber in Canterlot before setting off toward the center of town once more.
  514. >As the large statue of myself comes into view, a hooded pony bumps into me.
  515. >With a quick apology, he starts to run off, but I halt his escape with a quick magical grab of his tail.
  516. >Lying on the ground between us is a small golden locket, its contents opened to the sky.
  517. >In it is pictured two bat mares, one with gray fur and a purple mane.
  518. >The other, a white coat with blonde hair and blue eyes.
  519. >The hooded pony places a hoof over the locket as he turns to me.
  520. "Do you know where I can find them?"
  521. >"I do not. I am looking for them myself, actually."
  522. >My eyes must play tricks on me, for I notice this male's white muzzle lacks the apparent fangs that all of the other bat ponies have.
  523. "Allow me to search for them with you, mister..."
  524. >"Skipper. Cloud Skipper."
  525. >What a familiar name.
  526. >I know I've heard it before.
  527. >He turns and starts to walk away after placing the locket back around his neck.
  528. "Was that your daughter?"
  529. >"Yes."
  530. "And your wife?"
  531. >"... Fiance."
  532. >I trot beside him and look around for the two pictured ponies.
  533. "How did you meet?"
  534. >"I'd rather not go into that."
  535. "Please, I won't tell Sister."
  536. >He halts and I feel his gaze shift beneath his hood.
  537. >"I was patrolling the base of Canterlot Mountain one night, sixteen years ago. I saw something strange watching me from these woods."
  538. "The gray one?"
  539. >"Yes. We met in secret each night. We sparred, we talked, we... You know. One night, she had disappeared. I didn't see her for months, and I assumed she had been caught and had gotten into trouble."
  540. >A smile forms on his muzzle as he begins walking again.
  541. >"She had presented me with the information that she had a foal. It brought so much joy to my heart, and at the same time, so much sadness. I could not see my daughter for such a long time."
  542. "Because of the banishment."
  543. >"Yes, however, Midnight had always brought Florence out to the forest where we first met to train her. I always watched from a distance, and my heart swelled with pride."
  544. >I look up as we walk and notice the two pictured ponies walking toward us.
  545. >They do not notice me and Cloud Skipper, as Cloud Skipper does not notice them.
  546. >The stallion looks to the ground and sighs as their voices come within hearing.
  547. >"Your father is an excellent guard, one to be proud of. He is the love of my life, Florence, and I have trained you to be better than the both of us."
  548. >"Do you think he'll be here tonight? I want to meet him, mom! Our banishment is up, shouldn't the other races be coming to visit us?"
  549. >"Maybe, Florence."
  550. >The mare smiles and looks up at me and smiles.
  551. >"Good evening, Princess."
  552. >The stallion looks up as he hears her voice.
  553. >"Midnight Blossom?"
  554. >"Cloud Skipper?"
  555. >"Mom?"
  556. >The two older ponies touch their hooves together and start laughing as if two star-crossed lovers had finally met for the first time in their entire lives.
  557. >The mare hugs the stallion around the neck as she cries.
  558. >"It's so good to see you again!"
  559. >The younger bat pony trots up beside them and looks at the stallion.
  560. >"Dad?"
  561. >I smile softly as the stallion hugs the young mare tightly.
  562. >I turn to leave, but am stopped by Midnight.
  563. >"Princess, wait."
  564. "Yes, Midnight Blossom?"
  565. >"With your permission, I would very much like to marry this pegasus."
  566. >A thought occurs to me, similar to one that my sister shared so long ago to punish the bat ponies for their support of me.
  567. "Well. As punishment for breaking the terms of this race's banishment, I am afraid I must say..."
  568. >All three ponies stare at me with looks of absolute horror.
  569. >I giggle to myself and boop Midnight on the nose.
  570. "Yes. You are hereby sentenced to a life time of happiness with this pegasus."
  571. >Florence starts squealing and hugs me tight.
  572. "I hope to see you grow into a fine young mare, Florence. And I hope one day you'll join my guard."
  573. >"I will, Princess."
  574. >"Princess, wait. Before you go, I wanted to give you this. It's from all of us."
  575. >Midnight gives me a small parcel from her saddle bag.
  576. >"It's candied mango. A delicacy here in Hollow Shades. I don't know if you've had any before."
  577. "Thank you. All of you."
  578. >"No, Princess. Thank you."
  579. >They wave to me as I depart once more.
  580.  
  581. >An hour, maybe more, passes as I trot around the town and admire the scenery.
  582. >The only light that shines down from the sky is that of the stars, for tonight the moon renews.
  583. >My search for Sunshine is completely fruitless, so I decide to sit beside my statue and look around town.
  584. >Those paper lanterns still light the streets, but the edges of town look to be getting darker as time goes on.
  585. >More and more bat ponies flood the center of town too.
  586. >The festival must be coming to a close.
  587. >Meadowlark trots up to me as more ponies crowd into the center of town.
  588. >"Did you enjoy yourself, Princess?"
  589. "I did, as a matter of fact! Have you seen Sunshine?"
  590. >"I have not. He doesn't usually stay anywhere for very long at these festivals."
  591. "Oh."
  592. >"Did you have something to tell him?"
  593. "Yes, actually."
  594. >"Well, I'd save it for the last part of the festival. Should be happening pretty soon."
  595. >The last of the lanterns by the streets get blown out, leaving the square in an almost complete darkness.
  596. >I can barely see my hoof in front of my own face.
  597. >A familiar voice calls over the crowd.
  598. >"Everyone ready?"
  599. >I look up to see Sunshine hovering above the square.
  600. >Every single bat pony in the square stays absolutely silent, which Sunshine takes as an affirmation.
  601. >"Set them up and let them go."
  602. >He quickly drops from the sky and lands beside me.
  603. >I smile sheepishly as the clattering of wooden sticks sound all around us.
  604. >Almost as soon as the sounds start, they stop.
  605. >I look around, but see nothing change.
  606. >Meadowlark shouts to the crowd.
  607. >"Go!"
  608. >Almost at the exact moment the word leaves his lips, hundreds of floating lanterns light and float toward the sky.
  609. >The bat ponies screech and kee as the lights trickle upward toward the sky and illuminate the town as they go.
  610. >Winds catch them and send them off in multiple directions, to be carried to different parts of Equestria.
  611. >It is a breath-taking sight and I feel myself start to cry at how beautiful it is.
  612. >"Is it everything you'd imagined?"
  613. >I look from the sky and notice that the square is lit by its hanging lanterns again.
  614. >Sunshine sits in front of me with a smile.
  615. >"Did you like it?"
  616. >I search for words to express myself, but it fails me.
  617. "It was worth every day I spent on that moon. Thank you, Sunshine."
  618. >He blushes and rubs his neck.
  619. >"It was nothing, we do it every year."
  620. "Maybe... I should have taken your gift before saying that?"
  621. >"My gift..."
  622. "Yes."
  623. >He shakes his head.
  624. >"I guess I forgot?"
  625. "No you didn't. Remember the night I came back? When we sat on that cliff?"
  626. >I feel the eyes of every bat pony in the plaza staring at us.
  627. >"I do... Oh. Oh!"
  628. "Yes."
  629. >"Yes?"
  630. >I nod and smile.
  631. >The crowd of bat ponies goes wild once more as I pull Sunshine into a tight hug.
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