Under the Starry Skies

by Wintergreen Diaries

Chapter 1: New Town

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Chapter 1: New Town

Some ponies would call Manehatten a triumph of modernism. Complex skyscrapers built by the finest earth pony technicians, nearly every kind of entertainment a pony could dream of, and one of the leading cities in medical research. Many a pony flocked to the numerous attractions, and a number of highly lauded universities covering every topic imaginable made it a hotspot for young adults wanting to make a name for themselves. And it was all these things that made a young stallion decide to leave.

Too much complexity, shallow ponies with no depth of character, an utter lack of respect for others; this was the other side of Manehatten. And perhaps, most disheartening, was the lack of starlight. The cities lights never seemed to die, and try as he did many a night, the only celestial bodies he could ever seem to spy were the sun and moon. Using his somewhat limited knowledge of conventional magic, he levitated his bags alongside him as he made for his parents’ house to bid them farewell. Arriving at the ten story apartment complex, he forsook the elevator and made his way up the stairs to the sixth floor, knocking on the door and releasing the bags from his grip as his parents answered the tapping on the woodwork.

“I know we can’t stop you, son. Know that your mother and I wish you well, and whatever happens, we’ll be proud of you. It takes a lot to try and open your own business.”

“And you’ll always have a home here in Manehatten,” his mother added, fussing over his mane and coat. “Be sure you treat your cousin kindly, and be a proper gentlecolt.”

“Thank you mom, dad. I’ll be sure to write and let you all know how I’m doing once I’m settled.” He gave them both a firm embrace, allowing his mother a kiss on the cheek before heading towards the train station. He caught the midnight train, and while he could feel sleep calling his name, he fought back with foal-like enthusiasm as the train departed. The city lights quickly receded into the distance, and as if by magic, the sky filled with a sea of stars.

Surprises of all shapes, kinds, and possibly dimensions, were something Pinkie Pie thoroughly enjoyed. Anticipation, on the other hoof, was not, and as soon as the news about a new business opening in Ponyville reached her ears she was immediately curious. A few weeks later the structure was complete, but there was no indicators about what it could be. From the outside, the building looked like a diner of some kind, except that it had a small second story. Just this was enough to flood the mare’s brain with all kinds of wild fantasies of exotic foods and sugary treats she hadn’t even conceived yet. She, along with the rest of her friends, paused their stroll through town as she stopped to stare at the blank sign for the umpteenth time.

“Pinkie, starin’ at it ain’t gonna make it open any faster,” Applejack said with a sigh. While she may have finally let go of Cerulean, it only made the growing loneliness that much worse. Her friends did their best to comfort her, and between their constant support and working the farm, it was rare that she found time to sulk, though some days were harder to smile through than others. Today was just plain bad.

“I know, I know! But aren’t you all just a teensy bit curious?”

“A little curiosity never hurt anypony, Pinkie Pie. And besides, an element of mystery just makes the revelation that much more fabulous, like the lifting of a curtain before a full audience,” Rarity quipped, remembering her grand performance at the Hearth’s Warming Eve celebration a few years back. “Say, where is Fluttershy? I thought she was coming too.”

“Angel got sick, so she’s staying home to take care of him,” Twilight explained.

“I’m with Pinkie Pie, I wanna know what it is too,” Rainbow Dash said, defending the hyper mare as Rarity attempted to rain on her parade with her pesky logical reasoning. “What about you, Storm?”

“Mark me as indifferent.”

“Pfff, lame! What about you two, Cerulean, Twilight?”

“Two? Why, I believe Ms. Dash has lost her ability to count, my dear lady,” Cerulean chuckled as he pulled his daughter from her perch atop his head. “Dawn, what do you think? Are you curious?” While still only six months old, the filly had clearly taken more after her mother in the intelligence department, and she adopted a serious expression for a moment before spouting off what he was sure was a valid assessment. “Twilight, a translation, if you will?” Broken from her adoring trance, the lavender mare shook her head lightly before speaking.

“She’s like her mother, always ready to learn something new. That makes three more for the curious side.”

“Woohoo, we win, we win! C’mon, everypony! Let’s check it out!” Pinkie squealed, levitating for a moment before shooting towards the building.

“Pinkie, I wouldn’t try,” Twilight warned, though not able to get the words out fast enough to keep an overeager Pinkie from smashing face first into an invisible barrier.

“What the hay? Twi, did you do that?” Applejack inquired, tilting her head to the side.

“No, what I was about to say is that there are magic wards around the building to keep anypony from snooping.”

“Well, can’t you take them down?” Rainbow Dash pressed.

“Yeah, I probably could, but I don’t feel like breaking into somepony’s place just to take a look around.”

“What if it were filled with rare books?”

“I might consider it.” Dawn giggled as Twilight went starry eyed, imagining the opening of a new bookstore in Ponyville. Mother or not, knowledge pertaining to magic was still just as enticing as ever. As Twilight’s imagination ran wild, the foal’s mirth quickly spread to everypony present, and even Applejack’s depression was no match against the adorableness of the filly.

“All right, then. Here’s your license, and the deed to the establishment. Is there anything else you will be needing, Silver Moonshine?”

“No, Mayor Mare, I think this is everything. Thank you for the opportunity here in Ponyville.” She nodded and went back to the papers scattered across her desk. Silver quietly excused himself and out of Town Hall, stopping for a time to admire the new town that was to be his home. Even though it had only been a matter of hours since he arrived, just watching the interactions between the residents showed that there was a much tighter sense of community than anything he had beheld in Manehatten.

He knew his cousin was waiting for him, but he was extremely eager to examine the building that he had poured every spare bit he could scrape together into building. He was slightly surprised to see a small crowd gathered outside it, and his surprise turned to a pained grimace as he watched a pink mare break off from the group and make an unexpected collision with the wards he had ordered to be erected upon the buildings completion. Feeling it was his duty to apologize for the mishap, he made his way over to the group of friends in the distance. Drawing near he noticed that they were all around his age, and most of them mares. Having spent much of his time as a bartender, he wasn’t particularly worried about being stunned by any beauties in the group. Approaching from the side, he noticed them drop silent as he approached Pinkie Pie’s twitching form, offering his hoof to help her up.

Applejack regarded the stranger with mixed emotions. He was quite handsome, with a neatly combed mane of a deep blue, cut short much like his tail. His coat was silver in color, well cared for, and a second glance revealed a small goatee that gave him a mature, distinguished look. However, the jacket he was wearing seemed to scream “posh” loud and clear. It also effectively covered his cutie mark, and her unease with the new stallion only grew as his smooth speech rolled from his tongue like honey.

“Easy there, sweetheart. Those wards are as good as any wall, and it won’t do you any good smashing your pretty face against them.” His hoof was deemed unnecessary as the presence of a new pony sent Pinkie’s systems to full alert. He pulled back a little as she launched upright, eyeing the mare with faint amusement and a smidgen of curiosity.

“Hey, somepony new! You’re new, right? I haven’t seen you before.” Such an avid display of energy was normally only given to ponies under the influence of something other than the socially accepted norm, but having dealt with plenty of far scarier customers in Manehatten, he retained his cheery composure and answered in turn.

“Yes, today is my first day in Ponyville.” The mare turned towards her friends with shining eyes, and they all knew what was coming.

“You know what this means, right everypony?”

“A party!” everypony but Applejack shouted, who was still trying to understand exactly what was going on in her head.

“A party? Well, I’m much obliged. Actually, how’d you like to help me with the grand opening in three days?”

“Opening? What are we opening? I hope they’re presents, I love presents! Are they, uh... what’s your name?”

“Silver Moonshine, at your service,” he replied, bowing politely and letting a genuine smile show.

“Excuse me, are you the owner of this building?” Twilight inquired, taking a step forward.

“That’s right. And I’d be quite grateful if you all came to the opening. It would be nice to have some ponies my age there, even if they are taken,” he laughed, pointing at Twilight’s ring.

“Well, what is it? It would kind of help to know,” Rainbow Dash asked.

“That would spoil the surprise. I will say that there will be something for everypony, from all walks of life. Now, as much as I would like to stay and chat, I’m sure my cousin is getting antsy to see me again. So, my friends, I bid you adieu, and sincerely hope to see you in three days time.” Applejack watched him go, and the chatter of her friends seemed to drift into the back of her mind as her mind was clouded by a single looming question; why hadn’t he noticed me?

“Huh, ah must be gettin’ desperate, thinkin’ like that. Come on, AJ, pull it together,” she muttered to herself, shaking her head and trying to enjoy the rest of the day. Unfortunately for her, the new stallion stole the spotlight for topics of conversation, giving her mind no rest from the roiling sea of confusion it was generating within. She would be thankful when night fell and she could leave the library, back to the solitude of the farm.

Silver’s knock on the door was met not with a polite greeting but a mess of giggles, clearly indicating that his cousin had already started her consumption of alcohol. To any other pony, she likely appeared to be the worst kind of drunk imaginable, especially given that she was a single parent, but Silver knew she never let the alcohol take over, and it was for that fact that they got along so well. Anypony who could respect it without abusing it was fine by him.

“Hey there, Silver. Long time no see!” Berry Punch chortled, not bothering to let him in but rather throwing her hooves around him in a massive embrace.

“Always a pleasure, Berry. It’s been, what, three years? Four?” he replied, wrapping a hoof lightly around her shoulders.

“I dunno, doesn’t matter. Come on inside.”

“That would only be possible if you let go of me first,” he laughed, gingerly prying her hooves away and following her inside. It came as a minor shock that the house was kept in such pristine order, and Berry acknowledged his shock with a grin.

“No, I haven’t changed that much, still a slob. Ruby is a huge help, and that’s what you’re seeing.”

“Speaking of, where is she? I was hoping to see her before heading home.”

“She should be returning home from school soon... I think. What time is it?”

“Time for you to ease up on the wine a bit. It’s only just past noon, it’s not a race.”

“Not a race? Have you seen the speed that the cup empties? It’s not my fault it goes down so smooth. Not like yours, though. You’re cruel, Silver. Making me wait three days.” Silver gave her a playful shove only to have her stumble a bit before falling to the ground. He instantly knelt down to make sure she was all right, but her excessive laughter eased his concerns. Even if she was family, treating mares with respect was something he didn’t take lightly, having seen his share of devious silver tongues back in Manehatten. It was revolting how many times he’d seen the Waters of Life used as a tool for the manipulation of the innocent, and he was already concocting ways to make sure that nothing like that would happen here, in a town as carefree and innocent as Ponyville. “Silver, you’re doing that scowly thing again.”

“Sorry, I was just...”

“Thinkin’ about Manehatten?” He nodded, before giving a short cry of surprise as somepony or something irreversibly attached themselves to one of his hind legs.

“Uncle Shiny, Uncle Shiny! You’re here!” Silver soon found his worries sealed back within the back of his mind as the filly locked him in a death grip.

“Well, if it isn’t my favorite little lady. Have you been being a good girl, Ruby?”

“Always. See?” she exclaimed, letting go and racing to the center of the living room where she stood beaming proudly.

“Wonder where you got all that responsibility from.” Berry shot him a sour look as he ruffled around one of his bags and pulled out a small bottle, levitating it towards Ruby who immediately downed the drink, much like her mother with any given form of alcohol. Even though it was during the day, she squealed with excitement as her body began to radiate a soft glow.

“You finally finished it?”

“Yes indeed, Ruby. All right, Berry, come on. Time to brave the wicked sun and get our business set up.” Offering only a few complaints, the trio made their way back to the two story diner. Everypony stopped to stare as Silver removed the ward and let Berry and Ruby pass before erecting it once more and following them inside. Rumors were bound to spread in such a tight knit town, but the buzz would be good for business. He gave a wave at the prying eyes before heading inside to examine his investment.

Flipping on the lights revealed an expansive dining area, freshly carved tables arranged around the room with chairs stacked neatly atop them. An opening in the back led them to the kitchen, which would soon be serving all manner of cuisine from different places around Equestria. One thing that Silver had appreciated about living in a sprawling metropolis was the diversity of ponies and foods that flowed through, and he was determined to share that. Leaving the kitchen they made their way over to the a smaller portion of the room that was partially closed off, which would serve as the bar. A two drink limit would be placed on any pony ordering alcohol outside of the bar, but when everypony saw the bouncer, he didn’t anticipate having many problems.

“Whoa, this place looks really neat!” Silver wasn’t easily startled, but hearing a sudden fourth voice caused him no small surprise, and he jumped back to find the pink mare from earlier giving her surroundings a thorough examination.

“How did...”

“Don’t try to understand it, Silver. Last pony that tried to figure that pony out literally burst into flames, I hear,” Berry chuckled, not the slightest bit concerned over Pinkie’s intrusion. Her cousin’s secrecy was likely unnecessary, since most everypony could guess that, whatever the building was, it would have to do with food.

“Excuse me, miss. I can see you’re excited, and while I appreciate your enthusiasm, we aren’t opening for another...”

“We? Oh, you and Berry Punch must be a couple! I always wondered who Ruby’s father was. That’s so exciting!”

“Wait, what? No, we’re,” he immediately started before the pink jumped atop a table, balancing precariously on the neatly stacked chairs.

“You came to the right pony, Silver Moonshine. In three days, you’re gonna have the best opening ever!” Her declaration made, she rushed out the door and disappeared from sight. The snickers of the remaining two mares only added to the stallion’s flustered state.

“One drink limit for that mare. No exceptions,” he muttered as he ignored his cousin and her daughter, heading upstairs to examine his living quarters. The room was barren, a simple bed and a small desk being the only pieces of furniture present. It was clean. Simple. Exactly what he was hoping for. Berry entered the room to find him laying down with his eyes closed, a contented sigh escaping from his lips as he pondered the reality of being completely on his own in a new town. The air was clean, the ponies kind... he couldn’t have hoped for more. Well, maybe a decent mare, but there was plenty of time for that to happen.

Forcing a smile wasn’t something Applejack had ever been something she felt like she’d need to master. Besides, showing emotions that weren’t a true reflection of what was inside was lying, wasn’t it? Even still, she couldn’t bring herself to be the raincloud on a sunny day, especially with Rainbow Dash and Storm being back for a few weeks. Everything that could be said on the matter had been already, so continually drawing their attention to an unsolvable problem wasn’t a position she wanted anypony to be placed in. She left the library around nine, slowly making her way through the rows of apple trees, veering away from the house and heading instead to the barn. Climbing the bales of hay stacked high around side of the building, she lay down and stared up at the stars.

“Everypony considers me t’ be strong an’ dependable. An’ maybe ah was, but now... Heh, ahm actin’ like a love sick little filly,” she muttered, chuckling a bit as she berated herself for acting so foalishly. She gazed at the stars for a moment more before shutting out the twinkling lights, recalling the joy that had filled the hearts of two of her best friends; a joy that she couldn’t fill herself. “Love sick... maybe ah am.” Even as the weakness she despised rose from within, she opened her eyes and searched again for an answer. “Luna, if the stars ‘elped you escape yer prison, could you maybe let ‘em do the same fer me?” There was a faint flash as a single star shot across the sky, and the earth pony allowed herself to believe it was an answer, a small tear slowly running from the corner of her eye as she dared to hope.

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