Thank you to Wing Zero 032, Natureboy3, TheElementHero, Starsights, Sg91, Northgalus2002, AL3X TH3 H3DG3HOG, Pikachu913, Shado Room of Souls, Marshmellow Sundaes, TheHappyLol, BladeXFire, TheViperSniper, and bathroomstahl for their reviews! I definitely didn't get around to responding to everyone. I'm sorry, I was so preoccupied with moving back to school and then school itself and now midterms which I should be studying for but I'm not and ughh
ANYWAYS, some news for this story! It's now being translated into Spanish by Sg91! So if you prefer Spanish or want to brush up on your studies or something, you might want to check that out!
When Twilight had first arrived in Canterlot, she was more than relieved to see that, unlike Ponyville, its condition had remained relatively unchanged. As the pegasus guards soared her into view of the Crystal Empire, Twilight prayed that it too had managed to stay stable. Once Twilight caught a glimpse of the northern city, her jaw dropped; it looked completely different.
It looked better.
The city was quite literally shining in areas that were beyond its previous boundaries, and most of the old homes had been fully repaired and were sparkling with quality. Twilight knew she shouldn't be surprised; the city was one thousand years due for a refurbishment, but how Cadance had managed to make an already gorgeous empire even more so was beyond her comprehension.
Twilight grinned; Cadance always knew what to do.
The royal carriage touched down not far from the towering castle. Twilight hopped out, and the two guards unhitched themselves. "Follow us," one of the guards said. Twilight nodded and trotted behind them as they approached the castle.
Celestia's guards chatted in low voices to the Crystal guard ponies, who were not-so-subtly stealing curious looks at Twilight. The guards exchanged nods, then Celestia's pegasus guards stepped aside. A Crystal blue earth guard walked forward and bowed. "Miss Twilight Sparkle, please allow me to escort you inside."
Twilight thanked the pegasus guards as they prepared to leave, and followed the Crystal guard through a set of gigantic doors and onward into the crystallised palace that Twilight vividly recalled Rarity swooning over ten years ago. She smiled a little at the memory.
They hadn't walked very far inside when the guard held up a hoof to signal Twilight to stop walking. He turned his head around. "Please wait right here. I will be back with Sir Shining Armor."
Twilight nodded and watched as he disappeared around a crystal corner. Tall, blue crystal pillars staggered themselves skyward to where shimmering skylights reflected the sun's rays across the prismatic corridors. Twilight stared around the room in awe.
It was incredible to think that this entire palace belonged to her own brother. Not only that, but he was married to a princess – the nicest mare Twilight knew – and had a daughter. His life seemed to be perfect.
Her mind compared his life to her own, and wondered where she would be if she had not tampered with that spell. Would she, too, be the ruler of her own castle? Would she ever have found her special somepony? What about foals? These were all questions that Twilight had always dismissed as being too far into the future to know the answers to, but now that she was in the future…
Twilight recognized her brother's voice immediately, but the seriousness of his tone was unexpected. Twilight turned slowly, and her eyes widened as Shining Armor approached her with a furious glare and a frightening crystal spear. "How dare you…" He was practically seething with rage. Twilight's ears pinned back to her head. "How dare you impersonate my sister… who are you?! Reveal yourself!"
Twilight automatically moved backward as he jabbed the spear in her direction. "Shining Armor?" Twilight asked, her voice wavering fearfully. "I-it's me, it's Twilight! Where's that guard? Didn't Celestia tell you - ?"
"Silence!" Shining Armor barked. "My sister died ten years ago, almost to the day! I don't know what you are, but I promise that you will regret stepping foot on family grounds, fiend!"
Twilight shrank away, unsure of what her best move would be. "Shining, you have to listen to me! It's me, I swear it's – ahh!" Twilight hastily dove and slid across the crystal floor on her side as Shining Armor rushed at her with the spear. Dazed and terrified, Twilight couldn't react in time as her brother whirled around and jabbed the spear half an inch away from her neck.
"Tell me," he said, his breaths coming in short bouts through his nose, "Who. You. Are!" The tip of the spear was now resting against Twilight's throat. She was frozen, the stinging in her neck making her too afraid to risk even sparking her horn.
"I… I…" The spear dug into her every time she drew a panicked breath. She stared into the enraged eyes of her brother pleadingly. "I…"
The spear moved a safe distance away from Twilight's throat as Shining Armor whirled around to find Cadance, out of breath and magically holding a letter. "Stop it, Shining!" Her eyes shone with tears, and she was staring in Twilight's direction. "I-it's Twilight! It's really Twilight!"
Shining Armor hesitated, glancing between his wife and his sister uncertainly. "That's impossible, Cadance," he finally spoke in a bitter tone.
"Read it! This is why Aunt Celestia left in such a hurry!" Cadance shoved the letter into Shining Armor's face without looking over and trotted directly to Twilight, who shifted her gaze away from the spear that had every potential to end her and directed it at her old foal-sitter.
"Cadance, it's me," Twilight said as she shakily tried to stand up. "I-I… I messed up a time travel spell; all I did was teleport myself to the future. I never died." Out of the corner of her eye, she could see Shining Armor's head turn away from the letter in disbelief.
"Twilight…" Cadance spoke softly, more to herself. She dipped her head, and a soft blue glow enveloped her horn and danced to surround Twilight's body. Twilight held still, recognizing the spell as a way to confirm her identity.
The glow faded away, leaving Cadance wide-eyed. Twilight grinned and stuck out a hoof. "Sunshine, sunshine…?"
Both of Cadance's hooves went to her mouth as tears flowed out of her eyes. "Ladybugs… awake…" she murmured, then reached over and touched Twilight's outstretched hoof with her own. Their rhyme remained unfinished as Cadance suddenly enveloped Twilight in a sobbing hug. "I-I-I can't believe it! It's you! It's really you!"
Twilight shut her eyes and buried her nose into Cadance's mane. A loud clang startled her eyes back open, and she followed the noise to discover that Shining Armor had dropped his spear. He was standing in the same spot, his eyes fixated on her and Cadance and his mouth slightly agape. A silent tear escaped one eye and trailed a path down the side of his face.
Cadance realized where Twilight was looking, and released her. Both mares gave small smiles over at Shining Armor. Twilight took her first step forward, but she kept stealing wary glances at the spear beside him. Shining Armor noticed, and picked up the spear magically. Twilight hesitated with one foreleg raised, but Shining Armor grunted and tossed the weapon across the room as far as it would go before he ran and embraced her.
"I'm so sorry, I'm so sorry…" His grasp was far more powerful than Cadance's, as if he was afraid that Twilight might disappear again if he dared to let go. "Are you okay? Did I hurt you?" He frowned and moved her away to inspect her neck. "You're bleeding a little, Twilight." His ears went flat against his head. "I'm so sorry… I-I thought…"
"It's okay," Twilight said and embraced him again. "It's my fault." The words hung in the air for a little longer than they should have, considering she was only trying to apologize for appearing so suddenly in his castle. She moved away, and winced as she looked at her brother's expression.
"What were you doing with such complicated magic?!" Shining Armor shouted.
Twilight stared at him in surprise, but couldn't handle much of his furious glare before she averted her gaze. Not everypony was going to let her off as easily as Princess Celestia. Twilight bit her lip; who was right? Was everything that happened her fault?
"How could you do this to us?" Shining Armor continued, but his angry tone had been replaced by somewhere far more painful; betrayal. "I know it was an accident, but why would you risk it? What were you even hoping to do?!"
"Sir Shining Armor!" The voice of the crystal guard who had left Twilight in the entryway hurriedly approached and bowed, and Twilight was grateful for the interruption. "I… uh, please accept my apologies, sir! I didn't imagine you would be on duty, sir!"
Shining Armor's eyes flicked to Cadance, who raised an eyebrow at him. "On duty?" Cadance questioned. "You promised me you were taking a break from that!"
Shining Armor sighed. "Being a guard is a part of who I am, Cady! It's not that simple!"
"Not that simple?!" Cadance growled. Twilight herself took a step backward, childhood memories of Cadance's lectures running through her own head. "You have a daughter, and you're saying that your priorities are not that simple?!"
"You need to spend more time with her, Shining!" Cadance groaned. "No wonder she never gives me straight answers when I ask how much fun she had playing with you… The poor thing must be trying to defend you!" Cadance hesitated, a look of confusion washing over her. "…Although, why would she defend you?"
Shining Armor looked at the ceiling. "Well, err…"
Cadance's eyes narrowed. "You bribed her."
"…You know how much she likes cookies - "
"SHINING ARMOR! YOU SHOULD BE LOOKING AFTER HER RIGHT NOW! WHERE IS SHE?!"
Shining Armor hesitated, and the blue crystal guard cleared his throat. Three heads swivelled toward him. Twilight had nearly forgotten he was there. The guard looked sheepishly up at the attention before continuing. "She is having a, um, a tea party with a few of the royal guards, your highness," the guard said in a serious tone. He coughed nervously. "…I, er, was looking for you and - "
"Can you go find her for us, Varn?" Cadance asked with a sigh. "We will be waiting in the left rotunda on the third floor."
The guard bowed. "Of course, your highness." He gave a pitiful look to Shining Armor before rushing away.
Shining Armor smiled nervously. Cadance rolled her eyes. "Shining, take Twilight upstairs, please."
Shining Armor tipped his head. "You, uh, aren't gonna come with us?"
Cadance glared at her husband, who flinched away. "I'll be by after I sort out the guard schedule."
"O-okay… have fun!" Shining called after her. Twilight watched in amusement as Cadance huffed and walked off. Shining Armor nudged Twilight and grinned. "Don't worry about her. I guarantee she'll apologize as soon as she comes back."
"She's right, though…" Twilight said, causing her brother's grin to fade. "Your daughter should come first!" Twilight narrowed her eyes as if angry, but a small smile betrayed her true feelings. "I mean, she's my niece..." Twilight was smiling widely now and giggled. "Oh my gosh, I can't believe I have a niece! This is so incredible!"
Shining Armor chuckled. "Skyla always comes first, Twilight! I just want to protect her so badly… that doesn't make me a bad father, does it?"
Twilight shook her head. "No way." She poked his chest. "…but you have other guards for a reason."
"…I guess…" Shining Armor smiled over at Twilight sadly. "I can't believe I'm talking to you right now, Twilight. We all thought you'd… you know. There was a funeral and everything. You have a gravestone!"
The mental image of her own gravestone sent shivers through Twilight's body. "Y-yeah, I know… but," she looked over at him with a determined expression, "I was talking to Princess Celestia, and I think that even though I've missed a lot, I'm here now, and I want to start making up for the missed memories." She reached for Shining's hoof and tugged it like she had when she was a foal. "So come on! I want to see my niece already!"
"Okay, okay!" Shining Armor laughed and took the lead. Twilight followed him up several flights of spiraling crystal staircases, then led Twilight to the end of the hallway. A guard stood posted at the door, but nodded and moved aside as they approached.
The room they entered was circular and spacious, with high ceilings and large windows that allowed the sunlight to stream in and reflect off of the crystal architecture. Twilight vaguely remembered being inside of a similar room during the games inspector fiasco, though she couldn't remember if it was the same one.
"Pretty nice, isn't it?" Shining Armor asked.
Twilight nodded eagerly. "It must be so amazing to live in a place like this. I mean, look at it! It's a palace made of crystals, and you get to be the prince!"
Shining Armor smiled. "It is pretty incredible. Being able to help Cadance restore the empire was one of the best experiences of my life." He sighed in contentment. "I love it here, Twilight. I think about you all the time, and I always wished you could visit."
Twilight looked around the room in awe before turning her attention back at her brother. "Shining, do Mom and Dad live here too?"
Shining Armor slowly nodded. "Yes… yes, I should send notice to them right away."
The high-pitched voice made Twilight gasp and turn. Standing in the entryway, accompanied by the blue Crystal guard, was a young magenta alicorn. Her coat was a bit darker than Cadance's, and her bright blue eyes mirrored her father's. Her curly mane was a mix of yellow and purple, and a tiny golden crown sat perched atop her head. Her vision flicked from Twilight to Shining uncertainly.
"She's an alicorn…" Twilight said slowly, and looked to Shining in confusion. Alicorns could not be born, only made. It was a privilege that was usually earned only under very special circumstances and years of proving themselves ready. "She was coronated this young?"
"I was born a unicorn like Dad…" Skyla took a few steps forward, but still seemed confused. "But…"
"She was born with very powerful magic, but as a unicorn she did not have the capacity to control it," Shining Armor said, then gestured his daughter closer. "Skyla, how about you come stand next to me for a minute?" Skyla readily complied. "Varn?" Shining addressed the guard. "Can you please send notice to my parents that Twilight has returned?"
"Yes sir!" Varn gave a hasty salute before exiting and closing the door behind him.
"Anyways, Twilight, Celestia felt it was in Skyla's best interest to be changed as early as possible. She's one of the only foals known to be born from an alicorn, and since we know so little, it could have been dangerous to keep her as a unicorn when her magical potential matched her mother's." Shining Armor smiled and nuzzled Skyla softly. "Skyla, do you know who this pony is?"
Twilight watched as Skyla tipped her head curiously. "You called her Twilight, and she looks like my Aunt Twilight," Skyla said, and Twilight's heart leapt at how fast her niece had come to that conclusion. "…But I know that's impossible, Daddy."
Shining Armor nodded and smiled. "That's right, Skyla; this is your Aunt Twilight. Do you remember when I told you Aunt Twilight accidently performed a spell that was too powerful for her, and it made her go away forever?" Skyla nodded. Both ignored Twilight flattening her ears in embarrassment at being used in lectures for two foals now. "Well, it turns out that while she went away for a long time, it wasn't for forever."
Skyla gasped and her eyes lit up. "You're my aunt!" she exclaimed, and her tiny wings propelled her into the air. Before Twilight could fully register what was happening, Skyla had dove and both of them toppled onto the ground.
"Y-Yes…" Twilight panted for breath as she tried to regain her bearings. "That's me."
"Wow!" Twilight felt a weight lift off of her, and looked up to see the little beaming alicorn princess hovering in front of her. "You look just like in the pictures! You're just like I imagined!" A few golden sparks shot from her horn, and she flew in figure eights around the room, giggling ecstatically.
"Skyla!" Shining Armor scolded with narrowed eyes. "That is not an appropriate way to say hello to somepony! Come down here right now!"
"No, no, that's fine," Twilight said, watching the filly with a smile. "It's more than I could have asked for. Wow though, she's a really good flyer for her age, isn't she?"
"Thanks!" Skyla landed in front of Twilight and ran a hoof through her mane. "I practice a lot with Mom!"
"How old are you, Skyla?" Twilight asked.
Shining Armor's ears flattened. "Uh, Twilie - "
"I'm nine!" Skyla said with an innocent smile. "Well, nine and a half! I'll be ten in November!"
There was silence for a few moments, where Skyla looked expectantly between the two adults for a response. Twilight didn't need to do the mental math. She rounded on Shining Armor. "I've been gone for ten years… and she's nine and a half?!"
Shining Armor looked at the ceiling. "Uh - "
"Would you care to explain this to me?!" Twilight growled. "Were you seriously planning another wedding repetition?! 'Announcing the birth of Princess Twilight Skies, daughter of Princess Mi Amore Cadenza and Prince Shining Armor… oh yeah, and the niece of Twilight Sparkle, but she doesn't know that yet, so shhhh'?!"
Shining Armor perked up for a second. "You know her full name alre - "
"Don't change the subject!"
"Twilight…" Cadance's voice flowed from the entrance of the room. Twilight hesitated, then turned to face her.
Cadance glanced between the three ponies in the room with a frown. "Twilight, I…" She sighed. "I know how this looks to you, but not telling you before you left us was one of the biggest regrets of my life."
Shining Armor walked over to Cadance, and draped a foreleg over her back. "We don't need to worry about that anymore, love. Twilight's right here with us. I think Skyla loves her already."
Twilight stole a glance over at her niece, and smiled as she noticed Skyla was looking at her as well. The filly's demeanor had completely flipped, and she now sat up straight and quietly, but she offered Twilight a small smile in return. Skyla then stole a glance at her mother and quickly averted her gaze to the floor.
"A few months after you left," Cadance continued softly, "we held a private baby shower. We invited all of your friends, and almost all of them showed up. We made the decision not to disclose Skyla's gender or name until her birth, but we did hint that we would incorporate your name into hers and they were very touched by our decision."
"But she was born in November," Twilight said, the hurt still clear in her voice. "You planned this. I didn't even know you wanted to have a baby a-and…" Twilight sighed and shook her head. "No, ignore me. I know that you had reasons for why you didn't tell me, and that should be enough."
"Twilie…" Shining Armor wrapped a foreleg lovingly around his sister's neck, and Twilight imitated him so that they were hugging. "Please don't be mad at us. If we had known you'd be going somewhere, we would have told you, I promise. It's…it's just…"
"There were risks," Cadance explained. "I was the first pregnant alicorn in over one thousand years. Nopony was sure if she would be born without complications, or if she would even make it…"
"But I did," Skyla said with a wide grin.
"That's right, kiddo!" Shining Armor moved away from Twilight and ruffled Skyla's mane. "You're a little fighter."
Skyla wriggled away from Shining. "Daddy!" Skyla protested, and tried to fix her mussed mane with a hoof. She shot a glare at her father, which unfortunately for her was far too adorable to be taken seriously.
Cadance laughed softly. "If I could change the topic, Twilight… Celestia wrote that you were coming from Canterlot. How long had you been in Canterlot for?"
"Two days, one night," Twilight said. "I spent a night in Ponyville, too. That's where my spell landed me; I had to teleport to Canterlot."
Shining Armor and Cadance shared a serious look that made Twilight feel a bit uneasy. "You stayed at the palace, with Luna?" Cadance asked.
Twilight shook her head. "The guards wouldn't let me in until the next morning. I stayed with Sweetie Belle."
"Sweetie Belle…?" Shining Armor asked. "Who's Sweetie Belle?"
The question took Twilight off-guard, but she supposed that Sweetie likely never had the opportunity to meet them like her older sister had. "She's Rarity's younger sister."
"That makes sense," Cadance said. "Everypony knows how preoccupied Rarity is nowadays. Don't feel bad that you couldn't visit her, Twilight; I haven't seen her since her daughter was born."
Twilight opened her mouth to correct her, but Shining Armor spoke before she could. "Wasn't there something wrong with her daughter?" Shining Armor asked. Twilight shut her mouth and looked to Cadance curiously.
Cadance nodded. "Some sort of terrible birth defect, according to her interviews. Rarity almost never allows her outside… I can't even imagine, the poor little thing…"
Twilight tipped her head. "What do you mean?"
Cadance shook her head sadly. "Well, Rarity's very well-known in the fashion world. The paparazzi have only managed to catch a few photographs of her daughter, but she's always heavily bundled in hats and thick coats. Rarity claims she was born with some physical anomalies, and I think she's trying to protect her. I have to wonder if she's doing the right thing, though. Foals shouldn't be made to feel excluded, or ashamed of who they are."
Twilight felt a chill go down her spine as she recalled the little filly trying gleefully to leap from the couch. She was perfectly normal and perfectly healthy, guilty only of possessing wings in a unicorn-dominate city. "She really said that about her daughter?"
"Yes, why do you ask?"
Twilight bit her lip. "N-nothing."
Cadance quirked a brow and Twilight averted her gaze. Did Rarity truly believe that she could hide Moonstone for the rest of her life? Her own mistakes would wreak havoc on her daughter's quality of life once the truth was revealed, and even before then she would be cut off from society: isolated for something she could not control.
It was… selfish.
"So you visited Luna today?" Cadance asked. Twilight flattened her ears at the memory, and gave a meek nod.
"I take it that didn't go well?" Shining Armor asked. Twilight shuffled a hoof and shook her head.
"Oh Twilight…" Cadance went over and gently patted her back. "You have to understand that the past ten years have been really hard on her. With you not being able to ascend the throne, she - "
Twilight jerked back in surprise, and Cadance moved aside as Twilight stared in disbelief. "You knew about that?!"
Cadance and Shining Armor glanced at each other. "About what, Twilight?" Cadance said.
"My coronation!" Twilight exclaimed and stared between her brother and sister-in-law. "How many ponies know about that?!"
"Just us, Twilie, I promise," Shining Armor said. "With permission of Princess Celestia, I told our parents as well. Now, Twilight," Shining Armor's face hardened, "I need to ask you a serious question."
Twilight was still shaken over the gossip about Rarity and the reminder of Luna's anger. The last thing she wanted was to be asked a difficult question, but she bravely looked at her brother and nodded anyways. "Okay?"
"When you were playing with those time spells, was it because of your coronation?"
Tears immediately began pooling in Twilight's eyes and she sank to the ground in defeat. Shining Armor's expression softened, and he crouched down to her level. Twilight sniffed and covered her face. "I-I-I was so s-scared, I-I…"
"Okay, okay I get it…" Shining Armor sighed and looked away. "I'm sorry; I shouldn't have just sprung that on you."
"Aunt Twilight?" To Twilight's great surprise, Skyla had flown to her side and was staring at her with big eyes and a small frown. "Um… everypony makes mistakes sometimes, even princesses! But it's how you learn from that mistake that matters more than anything."
Twilight froze as a strong surge of déjà vu rang through her mind; she recalled herself as a filly after accidentally exploding Shining's homework while practicing a spell that she wasn't very familiar with. Cadance was looking after her, and after hearing the doubtlessly resounding boom, had rushed into the room to find the cause. Twilight remembered looking at the charred bits of paper, and realizing she was caught, burst into tears. 'I'm sorry, I'm sorry! I was trying to make the homework finish itself b-but…'
Cadance had scooped her up and snuggled her. 'Oh Twilight, everypony makes mistakes.'
'Not you, Cadance! Princesses don't make mistakes!'
'Even princesses make mistakes sometimes, Twilight, but what matters the most is what you can learn from them. What do you think you can learn from this one?'
'N-not to practice spells on important things before you test them first?'
'Yes, that's a good lesson. Is there anything else?'
'How about not crying over spilt milk?'
'W-what's that mean?'
Cadance had smiled and lifted Twilight above her head to squeals of laughter. 'It means sometimes bad things happen, but you can't do anything about it. If you can't undo your mistake, then you need to look past it.'
'But Shining will be really mad at me!'
Cadance laughed and gave Twilight a wink. 'I think I might have an idea…'
Shining Armor went to class the next day with a hoof-written note that his younger sister had literally blown up his assignment. Had it not been signed by the niece of Princess Celestia herself, he might have been in serious trouble. Instead, he got an extension, plus some one-on-one help from the apologetic babysitter…
Now that Twilight thought about it, that was probably the first time Cadance and Shining Armor had spent alone time together. That incident really had turned out for the better…
Twilight turned away from Skyla. Cadance smiled at her knowingly, and gave a wink. Twilight grinned back, then wrapped Skyla in a hug. "You know what, Skyla? I think you're right. I think that this mistake is giving me a lot to learn from."
Skyla giggled and hugged her aunt back. "Really? Like what?"
"Well, besides that I shouldn't meddle with spells that I don't know much about," Twilight snuck another glance at Cadance, who laughed. Twilight blushed and looked back at Skyla. "There's a lot of ponies I know who need my help. It's just like you said before! If I can learn what happened to cause them to make mistakes, then they can learn and grow from it!" Twilight's voice rang out confidently around the spacious room. Her friends had so far proven that while they may not trust each other, they all could trust Twilight. She wasn't from this time period – she was neutral, unbiased. If she could use that to her advantage, then maybe this whole fiasco could prove positive.
It would be like putting together a puzzle, and though the reference picture was blurry, Twilight could already see parts of it coming together. Applejack has decided to live in solitude because all of her friends left her one by one – Twilight could see the logic. There was a glaring gap where the motives of the other ponies involved needed to go: Fluttershy, sure, she knew that something terrible had happened between them, and Big Mac had ultimately sided with her. But what of Rarity? Rainbow Dash? Pinkie Pie? Apple Bloom?
Twilight would find each of those pieces one by one, and once she had put the whole picture together, she would be able to devise a plan to inform each pony where they went wrong and how to resolve their individual issues.
A wide grin spread across Twilight's face. Finally having a concrete reason to finish making a plan was very reassuring. She looked around the glimmering room to the three royal ponies that stood in it, and understood that as much as she wanted to stay here, this was not where she was needed.
"I want to see Mom and Dad right away," Twilight said, directing her voice at Shining Armor, "and then I'm going back to Canterlot."
Skyla's birthdate and personality are a reference to the Princess Skyla Replies tumblr blog. The actual character is by Hasbro.
I figured Shining Armor and Cadance would be more suspicious after being the target of a changeling invasion once already.
The next chapter is one I've been planning out and dying to write for… jeez, probably six months now. You'll finally get a darker insight and figure out where Rainbow Dash stands in all of this.
But that's not until next time so until then leave a review and I'll love you.