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Diamonds Amidst the Snow

by Novel-Idea

Chapter 1: The Snowbound Swords

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“Parry! Parry! Thrust! Thrust! Good!” Rarity swept Twilight’s blade away, nodded proudly and then promptly slapped Twilight’s flank with the flat of her sword.

“Rarity!” Twilight squealed as she leapt into the air, skidded across the snow and glared at the serene-looking doe. “What was that for?”

“Whatever do you mean, my dear princess?” Rarity said as she flourished her blade into the ready position once more. Twilight eyed her warily, trying to ignore her sleek figure encased in starsilver armor and trying to anticipate any additional attacks at the same time. It wasn’t exactly easy multitasking. “I was simply complimenting you on your fine performance!”

“By whacking my… my flank?” Twilight sputtered. She could feel the heat of her blush melting the drifting snow from above.

It wasn’t proper for the deerkin ambassador to the Diamond City of Canterlot to go around slapping the Astra Princess in any fashion, let alone her flank! Even during sparring practice in the isolated Court of the Paragons. With nopony around but the Astra Guard.

“Well, I happen to be somewhat fond of your flank, so I find myself unable to resist the occasional poke or prod time and again.” Rarity smiled and batted her eyelashes—which, of course, were completely free of ice and snow. “You can’t blame a lady for falling to temptation once in a while.”

“If it wasn’t the fifth time you’d done it this afternoon, I wouldn’t blame you!” Twilight pouted. She shook out the snow from her wings and tried to get into the proper stance, but the stupid snow made everything slippery. “Could you please try to behave yourself?”

On the cold benches ringing the sparring arena, the Astra Guard—Trixie Lulamoon and Starlight Glimmer—giggled like mad. Trixie almost fell from her bench, only to be straightened at the last second by Starlight’s magic. Trixie replied with a kiss on the cheek. Starlight’s cheeks were already red from the cold, but Twilight had a suspicion the kiss had caused a corresponding increase in blush.

“You two aren’t helping!” Twilight snapped. “Don’t you have somepony else to annoy?”

“Our solemn duty, Your Highness,” Starlight said as soon as she managed to get her laughter under control, “is to protect the Astra Princess against any threat that could possibly cause you harm.”

“She just slapped my rear with a sword!” Twilight shouted, pointing an accusing hoof at Rarity. “That could be harmful!”

Rarity held a hoof to her armored chest, the very picture of innocence. Twilight narrowed her eyes at the doe, but as usual, it had precisely zero effect.

“Indeed.” Starlight nodded gravely, somehow keeping a straight face despite her marefriend’s snickering. “However, I clearly recall your order telling us to disregard any yelps, cries or other similar sounds you may make in the Lady Rarity’s presence.”

Twilight’s whole body went crimson. She tried to sputter out a response, but only gibberish managed to emerge from her lips.

“I am quite sorry, my dear princess,” Rarity said, playing with the single strand of her mane that had escaped during their afternoon activities. “I fear I may have inadvertently co-opted your entourage.”

Now that she had something else to focus on, Twilight managed to respond. “I have a hard time believing you’re sorry at all!”

Trixie and Starlight broke into another round of giggles.

Rarity, on the other hoof, just smiled sweetly. “No, truly! It was not my intention to steal them away!”

“You still did it.” Twilight finally got her hooves under her and adjusted the elegant starsilver and crystalline amethyst blade in her magic. “And I don’t see you trying to change it.”

“Well, of course not!” Rarity looked honestly confused. It was quite annoying. “Why ever would I do such a thing? Having your personal guards as my allies offers me a great many advantages in our everlasting dance around one another. One must keep score in such things. To do otherwise is to admit defeat. Or worse… disinterest.

Rarity shuddered from her crystalline hooves to her wisp of a tail at the word.

“‘Dance.’” Twilight’s eyes narrowed again, trying to figure out just how Rarity was going to throw her off this time. “That’s all this is to you? A dance?”

“But of course! And there is no better way to keep score than by your various shades of red, my dear princess!” Rarity laughed as if it was the most obvious answer in the world and spun her sword in an elegant flourish. “I do have to make sure I keep accurate statistics! Would you be satisfied with anything less?”

“That’s…” Twilight found herself sputtering again. How did she keep managing to do that? “That’s… an abuse of mathematics!”

“It is?” Twin blue diamonds laughed at Twilight in the doe’s obnoxiously gorgeous face. “Well, I shall endeavor to ensure such an abuse is not in vain.”

Rarity winked.

“Oh dear…” Twilight muttered to herself. “Here we go again…”

Rarity rippled out of existence. Twilight leapt back with a flare of her wings and immediately brought her blade forward to block the coming blow. A flicker of virtrung magic later and Rarity was upon her like an elemental fury. Their blades flashed and Twilight parried the first strike through sheer luck. Rarity’s eyes remained cool blue diamonds with every flick of her blade. Her faint smirk never changed as she lashed out again and again, forcing Twilight to constantly retreat in a desperate flurry of parries. Twilight didn’t even consider attempting a counter strike.

Her left hindleg slipped on a patch of ice. It cost Twilight a precious second, but she rolled into her stumble, a move Rarity apparently hadn’t anticipated. The doe’s blade hesitated. That gave Twilight a precious few seconds of breathing space and she used them. With a single heavy flap of her wings, she leapt back to her hooves as snow blasted out in a shockwave around her.

Twilight settled herself into a defensive stance. She tried to breathe and find some calm center within, but it eluded her, like usual.

Her lungs burned as Rarity stalked forward.

Twilight gritted her teeth and thought as fast as she could. She had to win this bout. She was the Astra Princess! She had to be able to fight. Even if the shadowkin were in retreat! Even if she performed adequately during the Battle of Harmony Gate! The Equestrian Realms deserved better.

Rarity deserved better.

It had been six weeks since the shadowkin army had broken against the defenses of the Harmony Gate. Six weeks since the Lady Rarity of the Day Woods had revealed her secret bond to the Astra Princess. Six weeks since Twilight had found herself completely unprepared for the intensely enthusiastic attention of the Lady Rarity.

Five weeks since Lady Rarity had offered to teach Twilight the fabled Dappled Shadow school of deerkin combat. It was the very height of deerkin combat techniques. It had been five hundred years since a non-deerkin had learned Dappled Shadow. It was a wonderful challenge! An unsurpassed opportunity, both tactically and culturally!

Four weeks and six days since Twilight had determined the style to be all but impossible to learn.

Twilight and Rarity circled one another.

It had only taken a single day for Twilight to come to an inescapable conclusion: the reason nopony had learned it in five hundred years was because it was impossible for a non-deerkin to learn the accursed technique! It was so maddeningly frustrating. So maddeningly subtle.

And while Twilight knew this to be her own personal problem, it was also so maddeningly unfair when your teacher—and opponent—was so distracting in her formfitting starsilver armor—

Rarity leapt forward with the inequine grace of her kind. Twilight yelped and ducked the first slash. Her blade swung up to deflect the counter and she spun her blade in a quick twist. It wasn’t a maneuver consistent with the school of the Dappled Shadow. In fact, the only time she had ever seen it used successfully was by a group of griffon swordbearers. Still, the unexpected maneuver should have startled Rarity.

Rarity tsked three times. With each tsk, her blade whipped against Twilight’s with a sharp snap.

Rarity lunged and struck out for Twilight’s forelegs. Twilight reared and avoided the swipe by inches. She backpedaled and grimaced. Rarity continued to maintain that small smile… until she vanished in a ripple of deerkin magic.

By the Solar Winds…” Twilight swore as she tried to sense her opponent’s magic.

A flash to her right. Then a flash to her left. A flash behind.

Twilight knew better than to react to any of Rarity’s feints. She had at least learned that particular trick. Then she felt something… above her?

Twilight looked up just in time to see Rarity descending from on high. Twilight reacted by instinct and flared her magic. She disappeared in a flash of magenta magic. When the sparkles of her teleport faded, she landed hard ten feet away. She almost went sprawling, but caught herself at the last second. Her chest heaved as she gasped for air and sought her quarry.

Rarity had vanished again.

Her heart raced and her eyes scanned the area.

...until she felt the blade against her armored neck.

She sucked in a breath as she heard Rarity’s silky voice float from her right. She didn’t dare turn her head.

“Whenever shall you learn, darling?” Rarity hummed. “Teleports need not be so flashy. Subtlety is the key to Dappled Shadow.”

“You teleported with me,” Twilight said flatly. “You aren’t supposed to be able to do that.”

“With such a wild application of magic, it is quite hard not to be caught up in things. Come now, you’re better than this!” Rarity let out a low sigh. “It’s almost as if you find my presence distracting. I couldn’t fathom any reason why that might be, of course.”

“Why you would think that?” Twilight replied coolly. The red in her cheeks was simply from exertion and the cold. Nothing more. Unlike all the other times. “Nothing distracting whatsoever. I’m simply not used to fighting in inclement weather.”

There. A perfectly rational and reasonable explanation. Nopony can argue with such sound logic.

Trixie and Starlight giggled again. Twilight ignored them both. She was preoccupied with the blade at her throat.

“So, you claim that I don’t distract you, hm?” Rarity sounded fascinated by the idea. “My dear Twilight, I hate to admit it, but I believe you may be fibbing to me.”

“Completely true.”

“Is that so?”

“Of course. As Astra Princess, it is my responsibility to be in complete control at all times.”

“Really, now?” Rarity said. “Well, as somedeer who is as dedicated to the wellbeing of the Astra Princess as any member of the Astra Guard, I must assist you in maintaining that control, no matter the cost.”

“I’m glad you agree.” Twilight tried to keep her head steady and get a glimpse of Rarity out of the corner of her eye, but the doe stood just outside of her line of sight.

“Indeed, I do.” Rarity sounded quite satisfied with the concept. “I most certainly agree that the Astra Princess should remain in control at all times. No matter the situation. Or the provocation.”

The blade vanished from her throat. Twilight’s head jerked around, but Rarity had vanished again.

Then, two crystalline hooves grabbed Twilight’s head from the other side. Before Twilight could react, Rarity’s delicate lips were upon hers. Stars flashed in Twilight’s mind. Her knees almost went out from under her. Some distant part of her mind registered her wings flaring. Then she forgot it all and melted into the kiss, wrapping her armored forelegs around the doe. The doe hummed into the kiss and any sense of cold vanished in a flash of heat.

When Rarity’s head darted away, she wore a smirk beneath two glittering eyes.

“Uhh…” Twilight said in a brilliantly witty bit of wordplay. “That… errr…”

“Control, hm?”

“That’s… um… wow.”

Rarity’s eyebrows did a little dance. Then she took her blade and booped Twilight’s nose with the mouthguard. Twilight went crosseyed for a second and landed flat on her rear.

“That’s… that’s cheating!” Twilight tried to protest. It really was more like a whine, though.

“Please, do not make me quote such tired and trite cliches involving the fairness within certain endeavors of the heart, my dear princess,” Rarity clucked. “It is beneath one such as you. Though I admit… I find myself rather fascinated by the new colors I’m discovering upon your cheeks after adding the variable of a chilly environment. I daresay they may need to invent entirely new names for these shades of red to properly convey the sense of them! Don’t fret, I’ll ensure they’re named after you.”

Twilight glowered. Rarity smiled.

“Every.” Rarity’s head darted forward to give Twilight a peck on the muzzle. “Single.” Another peck. “One.” A final peck.

“You’re evil.”

“Why thank you.” Rarity took a little bow. “Considering when you tend to accuse me of such things, I take that as the highest of compliments.”

Twilight glared, but—as usual—there was no heat behind it.

The echoes of the Astra Guard’s laughter drifted through the Court of the Paragons. The snow continued to fall from the soft grey sky. The arcane willows lining the Court chimed as a faint breeze wandered through Canterlot, bringing the scent of construction and baking.

One bout. I want to win one bout before dinner.

Twilight forced her blush away through a supreme effort of will. She straightened herself and folded in her wings. Then she took three measured steps back from Rarity and lifted her sword in the traditional Helmic Bond salute.

Rarity’s eyes went wide. Her delicate mouth formed a tiny little ‘O.’ She even shivered slightly.

“Oh my,” Rarity licked her lips. “Somepony is quite serious this afternoon. I must say… I have seen you only that determined a hooffull of times before. Upon the Diamond Wall, below the master waygate… and, of course, two nights later.”

Twilight refused to let her—the—doe rattle her. She pushed aside the stray thoughts conjured by Rarity’s words—eighty-nine percent of said thoughts being about that rather singular night—and lifted her chin in challenge. She did not say a word.

Rarity didn’t blush. She flushed. She looked almost… well, despite all logic, Rarity appeared hungry.

“Oh, my dear princess… I have a simply wonderful feeling about this.”

“Twenty bits on the princess.”

Twilight glanced to her right. Trixie and Starlight were locked in a heated discussion. She tilted her ears slightly, trying to make out the words.

“No way. Hey, I love Princess Twi, but Lady Rarity’s gonna mop the floor with her,” Trixie hissed back.

“Well, put your bits where your mouth is,” Starlight whispered.

“Deal, but winner gets to choose—”

“You are both aware that any member of the Royal Guard—no matter which Princess they may serve—is not permitted to gamble? Solis Order forty-seven, paragraph sixteen, subsection twelve?” Twilight snapped in her most imperious voice.

Both Starlight and Trixie tried to snap to attention while sitting down. They barely avoided toppling over.

“Uh… yes ma’am?” Starlight—who was the Captain of the Astra Guard—replied with a salute.

Rarity stifled a giggle. Twilight ignored her.

“Good. As long as that’s clear.” Twilight nodded and turned back to face Rarity. “Starlight?”

“Yes, Princess?”

“Put me down for fifty bits.”

“Yes, ma’am!”

Rarity’s eyes were dancing. “Somepony’s feeling daring today.”

Twilight raised an eyebrow.

Rarity licked her lips and shivered once more. “Still the silent treatment, hm? And only fifty bits? I’m not quite sure how to feel about that.”

Twilight twitched her blade—still in the upright position.

“Oh, very well, dear Twilight. You seem rather determined. And I must admit it is rather fetching. You wish a duel without restraint, I gather?”

In response, Twilight turned her blade to point downward.

“Oh my, this will be… most thrilling. If you don’t mind, I believe I shall place a wager of my own upon this bout.” Rarity conjured a scroll and a pre-inked quill, then scribbled something upon it. Her hooves still glowing with blue magic, she floated it over to Twilight. “What say you?”

Twilight didn’t bother reading it. She simply flipped her blade into the upright position.

Rarity shifted slightly in her armor, as if it were slightly too warm—or too tight. Foolishness, of course, as Rarity’s skill as an unparalleled starsilver mage. Still, Twilight contented herself with a small self-satisfied smile, though she kept it entirely on the inside.

“So be it.” Rarity nodded. The scroll vanished. Rarity’s matching blade rose to mirror Twilight’s.

As one, they lifted them up into the air and positioned themselves into defensive stances.

“This should be…,” Rarity hummed, “quite stimulating.”

Only three days ago, Rarity had declared their sparring matches to be free-for-alls. At first, Twilight hadn’t known what that had really meant. After all, her practical experience with warfare came down to a frantic hour or so atop the Diamond Wall and attacking the master waygate. Plus, there had been the whole ‘I’m fighting the most gorgeous doe I’ve ever seen that for some silly reason seems to actually like me’ part.

In every other bout since the new phase of her training, Twilight had hesitated.

She didn’t hesitate this time.

Twilight swept forward with a single powerful lunge. The motion sent a wave of snow crashing around Rarity, but the doe didn’t blink. She parried the blow with casual ease and tried to riposte, but Twilight counter-parried it away. She spun and her great wings created a maelstrom of frost around the two combatants. A brief flurry of blows later and Rarity fell into defensive pose.

Both of the Astra Guard gasped when Rarity began to retreat.

Twilight’s mind calculated geometries, statistics and angles for each strike with blinding speed. Her mind sifted through strategies and techniques she’d read in a blink of an eye. She shifted between multiple combat schools with four separate blows. Rarity deflected or parried every blow.

A bead of sweat trickled down Rarity’s brow as she backed through the snow-filled courtyard. Twilight capitalized on it with a quick diving strike. She used her wing advantage without hesitation, though she discarded the idea of teleporting again.

Instead, she focused on control.

Twilight ignored how swiftly the doe dodged. She ignored her supple motions and graceful parries. She ignored her gorgeous snow-white coat and the intricate, spell-crafted armor that hugged every curve. She ignored the expertly coiffed purple mane.

She ignored it all and focused upon the doe’s blade and the doe’s eyes. That is, until Rarity’s flush became a full-on blush. At that moment, Twilight shifted strategy.

Instead, she fell back. Rarity seemed startled by the sudden shift in the combat, but pressed her advantage. Rarity’s strikes were delicate, fluid and graceful. Every creative shard of the doe’s soul shone in her movements. Rarity’s hooves burned with brilliant blue light as the snow melted around her.

Twilight fell back another half-dozen steps. She watched Rarity’s eyes and her cheeks, keeping only a vague sense of the doe’s blade. And somehow, it was enough. She had no trouble blocking each strike and thrust. She even managed to get in a few counter-attacks, though none landed.

They were in the dead center of the Court of the Paragons when Twilight struck. She dodged a swing aimed at her left forehoof and darted inside Rarity’s reach. As the move was utterly against any tactic Twilight had used before, the doe hesitated for just a split-second. That split-second normally wouldn’t be enough for Twilight to land a blow.

However, when Twilight followed up her move with a sudden hard kiss—that was enough to throw Rarity. The kiss lasted mere seconds. Twilight leapt backward, leaving a furiously blushing—and furiously flushing—Rarity in her wake. Twilight’s own heart hammered in her chest as she focused on her target.

Then she lunged forward and rammed her blade into Rarity’s breastplate, directly through the center of Twilight’s engraved soul mark.

Rarity froze. Her magic faded. Her blade clattered to the ground. She glanced down at the blade in her chest—the very same blade Rarity had crafted for her six weeks ago during the Battle of Harmony Gate. The runes continued to glow gently as the interwoven metal and crystal collected a few flakes of snow.

Her eyes lifted up to Twilight. The flushed cheeks remained, but now her expression was one of utter shock. She lifted a single crystal hoof to the blade. Upon touching it and finding it to be no illusion, Rarity fell backward in a slow, sweeping collapse, snowflakes fluttering around her fallen form.

“Oh… what cruel fate!” Rarity cried as she raised a hoof to her forehoof. “For the student to surpass the master… only to strike her down!”

“Rarity.”

“To be brought low by the very pony who bonded to me half a world away!”

“Rarity.”

“To leave that poor, beautiful alicorn alone forevermore.”

“Rarity!”

“I… I can almost see her pining eternally for the love she destroyed with a single stroke of the blade crafted for her and her alone by a doe of exquisite talent and refinement!”

“Rarity!”

“My heart! Pierced by adoration and death in equal measure!”

“Rarity!”

“What a cruel world… a cruel world… to survive the shadowkin… only to die from the blade of passion—”

“Rarity!”

“Excuse me!” Rarity’s head snapped up and she glared at Twilight with undisguised annoyance. She blew a few snowflakes out of her face. “Do I interrupt you when you’re dying horribly?”

This time, both Trixie and Starlight fell off the bench. They rolled around in the snow, completely overcome by fits of giggles. Twilight pointedly ignored them.

“Yes, actually,” Twilight replied, completely nonplussed. “You’ve interrupted my imminent death at least twice and interrupted my actual death once.”

“Pish tosh,” Rarity huffed. “Details, details. I must take you to the theater more often. Now, where was I?”

“‘Blade of passion.’”

“Ah yes, thank you, my dear princess.” Rarity returned her hoof to her forehead once more and gasped in agony. “At least I shall perish, young and beautiful. I only pray the statues erected in my honor will do me justice… and… and… capture my… essence…” Rarity’s left hindleg twitched pathetically. “But I… I fear… that is… a… a… vain… hope…”

“Ugh.” Twilight facehoofed.

“Come closer Twilight…” Rarity rasped. “Please… before it is too dark to see anything…”

Twilight groaned and rolled her eyes, but came closer until she could feel the doe’s warm breath against her cheek.

“Whenever… whenever you blush… think of me…” Rarity rasped.

Rarity lifted one trembling hoof as if to caress Twilight’s face… then promptly booped her in the nose. Twilight went crosseyed for a split second.

Then the Lady Rarity’s hoof fell to the snowy stone. Her eyes slid closed like two heavy seals over the gaping entrance to a snowy tomb.

“And… deathhhhh…”

Rarity stuck out her tongue, crossed her eyes and made some strange gargling noise.

Twilight couldn’t help but groan. “Sun and Stars, Rarity…”

Rarity peeked from under her eyelids and promptly began to pout. “Not a single tear shed for your dead lover?”

Twilight thought about it for a few long moments. “Not when you’re milking it that hard.”

“You never let me have any fun, darling.” Rarity’s pout intensified. “I thought you deserved a reward for finally landing a blow upon me. And using such… unorthodox tactics. I do hope you do not plan to kiss any shadowkin in such a fashion though.”

Twilight shuddered. “Uh… no. No, no, no… no.

“I’m delighted to hear it. Now, would you be a dear and pull this sword from my chest? Having weapons of war sticking out of you may be all the rage amongst the shadowlords, but even the Diamond Court frowns upon such avante garde fashion.”

Twilight rolled her eyes again and gently pulled the blade away from Rarity’s breastplate. As she did so, the enchanted armor restored the blade inch by inch until it came free. When Twilight raised it to the sky, the magic sword was whole once more. Rarity’s chestplate shimmered as the training spell reasserted itself. The blade hadn’t even left a scratch.

“I do hope you plan on teaching High Armorer Striker that technique,” Twilight said as Rarity adjusted her armor. “It would be extremely useful for training maneuvers.”

She reached out and helped Rarity to her hooves.

Rarity smiled serenely and stroked the chestplate delicately, as if it were a beloved pet. “As I told your dear brother, the training techniques afforded by starsilver are nigh-impossible to replicate on more traditional metals. Anyway, why are you thinking of such things? Should you not be celebrating? You did win the bout.”

“I suppose I did.” Twilight smiled a little. “I have been trying for hit you for nearly five weeks now.”

“And all you had to do was do something that comes oh-so-naturally in any other circumstance.” Rarity stepped up to the taller alicorn and smiled coquettishly. “Whyever did it take you so long?”

“I… I…” Twilight cursed herself. How did Rarity manage to get her tongue-tied so often? It wasn’t fair! “I don’t know…”

“Well, no matter, I have to say….” Rarity licked her lips once again. “Seeing that… rather impressive display? I think I’d be happy to see more of that in the future, my dear princess. Anytime. And I do mean anytime.”

She didn’t mean anytime. She means a very specific time.

Twilight couldn’t help herself. The blush exploded on her cheeks, though she managed to keep her wings down.

Rarity’s eyes glittered again. They both knew who tended to come out the victor in these sorts of battles. Twilight didn’t stand a chance. And she knew it. They both did. Though, she had to admit, she didn’t really mind losing. Especially to somedeer like Rarity. She tended to make losing rather… fun.

Rarity gave her a soft peck on the cheek. “Well done, Twilight. We’ll make a warrior of you yet.”

“But… the technique I used can likely only be used once!” Twilight protested. “It… wasn’t really fair. And it’s not going to help against shadowkin.”

Rarity picked up her blade in a flare of blue magic and flourished it twice before returning it to the scabbard on her right side. Twilight did the same—though she didn’t flourish the weapon. Twilight didn’t have nearly enough confidence in her swordsmareship to do anything like that. At least not when Rarity was right next to her.

“It’s true,” Rarity admitted with a delicate shrug. “That particular technique would definitely not work on a shadowkin…” She paused and tapped her chin in thought. “At least, I certainly hope it wouldn’t. However, the key to any true combat is improvisation, my dear. That’s why, though I endeavored to teach you the Dappled Shadow techniques, I never once protested when you used something else. Indeed, I had to all but beg you to think outside the box!”

Twilight nodded thoughtfully and glanced at the benches. She pretended to ignore the snow in Trixie and Starlight’s manes and tails. They had obviously done a bit more than fall into the snow. Though considering the display Twilight and Rarity had put on, she couldn’t really blame them. Much.

“Trixie?” Twilight said, once again using her imperious voice. “I would remind you of your wager.”

Trixie’s blush doubled in intensity and she bowed low. “I will settle all accounts, Your Majesty.”

Rarity tittered beside Twilight as the bells of the Amethyst Hall began to chime.

“It looks like our sparring is at an end for the day,” Twilight said, glancing at Rarity. “We’ll be expected at… well, you know.”

Rarity nodded serenely. “On a similar subject, how should I accompany you tomorrow at the Feast of the North Star?”

Twilight swallowed hard. Rarity’s voice sounded casual, but Twilight knew it was anything but.

According to protocol, Rarity was a only foreign ambassador. The ambassadors of the griffons, buffalo, dragons, diamond dogs and zebras all had their own compounds within the Diamond Wall. However, they had staffed those facilities for centuries. The deerkin consulate had been the only one outside the Diamond Wall. It had not survived the shadowkin rampage through the outer city during the siege.

While it was no secret the deerkin ambassador to the Equestrian Realms had taken up residence within the Tower of the Heavenly Sisters, most of Canterlot still believed it to be only a reward for her heroics in the Battle of Harmony Gate. They did not know she had taken to spending her evenings—as well as nights, mornings and several other times—in the chambers of the Astra Princess. Nor did they know she had done so since her arrival.

Nonetheless, the rumors had begun to spread. A few questioning eyebrows had been raised as they had attended state functions together. Some saw it as unseemly for one of the Royal Five to be spending so much time with any ambassador. Some saw Rarity as a sign for the disregard the deerkin had for the rest of the Equestrian Realms.

And the Feast of the Northern Star was the greatest of Canterlot traditions. It was the celebration of the founding of their city and the salvation of their kind.

Yet, as Astra Princess, she would be required to attend the High Table with the rest of the Royal Five before a vast host of citizens of the Equestrian Realms.

Tradition stated that all attendees—even the Royal Five—were to be accompanied by those closest to their hearts. Which left Twilight in a rather awkward situation.

Rarity had never onced asked Twilight to make any grand declaration of their status. After all, it was difficult to describe exactly what they were to one another. Bound to each other through the stars for ten years while half a world apart? It defied any simple explanation.

And yet… Twilight knew the lack of definition bothered the doe. It had to, at least a little!

“I… I don’t know,” Twilight admitted. She stared at her armored hooves. “There’s… there’s no precedent for this, Rarity. I told you… the deerkin… well…”

“We aren’t the most popular of peoples, I know.” Rarity’s ears twitched as she brushed the snow off a stone bench and settled herself down. She sighed. “And I have no desire to create a scandal… or worse, a rift between your citizens and the Royal Five.”

Rarity closed her eyes and her brow furrowed. Her beautiful crystalline hooves began to pulse with magic. Trixie and Starlight stood a respectful distance away, both of them wearing the starsilver armor Rarity had crafted for them before their fateful journey to the top of the Diamond Wall. Twilight’s eyes were drawn—as always—to her own soul mark upon the two breastplates. The mark of a master starsilver mage. It never ceased to amaze her. Twilight’s own soul mark was Rarity’s personal signature.

Twilight swallowed and looked back in time to see the sphere of silver-white liquid fountain from the depths of the earth. The starsilver sphere rotated gently in Rarity’s magic as she took a slow, languid breath. Then, she concentrated once more and her delicate deerkin armor transformed from solid into liquid in a blink of an eye. It slipped from her elegant frame and pooled around her glowing hooves, before rushing across the snow and up into the sphere of mystic metal.

Only her blade remained, cinched to her side by a narrow strap of loose chainmail. Then, with a smile—though she didn’t open her eyes—Rarity’s magic washed over Twilight. Twilight’s armor did not rejoin the sphere. Instead, it rippled away in a pulse of virtrung magic, teleported back to Twilight’s chambers. The sensation always left a strange warm tickle along Twilight’s coat.

Her blade remained at her side, just as Rarity’s had. Simply because the shadowkin army had broken didn’t mean the threat had vanished.

Rarity let out a long, slow breath and rose to her hooves. She smiled demurely at the Astra Princess. Twilight forced herself to breathe and took in the pristine white coat, the arctic blue belly and matching spots upon her flank, the curling purple mane, the shining azure hooves and, of course, the three blue gemstones. As her magic faded, the delicate patterns of swirling light upon each of her legs shifted back into their natural lavender hues.

For the thousandth time, Twilight studied the three gemstones and marveled at the ancient magic that had bound them together, even from half a world away.

“Much better,” Rarity said as she shook herself a little—her tiny tail bobbing up and down hypnotically. “While I do pride myself on crafting only the most comfortable of battle attire, even my starsilver can chafe after a time.”

“Rarity…” Twilight began, trying to figure out what to say

“Hush.” Rarity stepped forward and put a hoof on her lips. “Forgive my words, Twilight. I did not mean to sour the moment. You know my feelings. And despite all that has transpired between us, I would not force you into a declaration you are unprepared for.”

“I should be,” Twilight said, her ears going flat. She found herself unable to look Rarity in the eye. “I should be ready for this, Rarity. Exactly for that reason! But… I’ve… I….”

“You are a creature of science and magic, Twilight Sparkle,” Rarity replied, her voice infinitely kinder than Twilight deserved. “You need definition and structure in your life. I know I am far from easily defined. I also know you happen to cherish me for it, my dear princess.”

Twilight blushed a little bit—but only a bit.

“Come, we only have to worry about dinner with your wonderful family this evening. Tomorrow, we will sit together as friends and comrades. None shall deny us that right.”

“But…” Twilight whined. “You deserve better!”

Rarity kissed Twilight on the cheek once more and Twilight’s blush deepened further.

“What I deserve does not matter to me,” Rarity corrected gently. “What I want is what concerns me. And believe me, darling, I am getting precisely what I want.” Her smile became just a bit wicked. “After all, did I not tell you upon our first meeting that I tended to get exactly what I want?”

Twilight giggled. She couldn’t help herself. Then she looked up and smiled at the doe.

“There’s the Twilight I know,” Rarity said with a hum of approval. “The brave Astra Princess who charged the master waygate of the shadowkin with naught but the Astra Guard and the stunningly gorgeous deerkin ambassador at her side.”

Twilight rolled her eyes and smiled a bit wider.

“Come, now.” Rarity began walking toward the great arch that connected the Court of Paragons to the rest of the Diamond Palace. “One should always be fashionably late… but if we are any later, I fear that sister of yours will once again put her mind to further mischief.”

“You rarely seem to mind,” Twilight pointed out as Trixie and Starlight fell into step behind them.

“That’s true,” Rarity replied. She winked at Twilight. “But, I simply cannot abide her getting more hues of red than I. It would be a shame for her to take the lead in such things.”

Twilight shook her head and pointedly ignored the blush that definitely wasn’t on her cheeks.

Author's Notes:

Just remember, if you ever shove a sword through your deerkin "friend" during fencing and they're milking the death scene, just roll with it. This has been another Novel Life Tip! :duck:


If you come across any errors, please let me know by PM!

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