The Virgin Princess

by GaPJaxie

Chapter 4

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Twilight needed help.

“Light?” she called, tapping on her sister’s bedroom window with a hoof. She cupped both hooves to her face to peek in through the glass, but the bed was empty. So she zipped to another window. “Light? Are you home?”

She glanced at the garden, but no creature was there—the trowel and watering can she’d seen Double using before abandoned among the plots. Seeing them made her ears perk up, and then she smacked herself with a hoof. “Stupid. Of course she’s in the studio. She’s an artist. Light!”

Twilight flew in through the studio’s open balcony doors. The drafts from her wings rustled the many bits of paper and canvas that filled the space. A sketch of a Double flew off the desk entirely, twisting through the air on the force of Twilight’s movements.

But Light wasn’t there. The painting Twilight’s arrival had ruined two days ago was still on the easel, and nopony had cleaned up the spill. Splattered red paint had formed a crust on the hardwood floor.

Twilight touched down. The floating sketch came to rest on the floor a few seconds later.

“Light?” Twilight called. She walked into the house more slowly, a frown on her face. She nudged open the door to the hallway and raised her voice: “Light, are you home?”

“Quiet!” a voice hissed from out the hall. Peeking out, Twilight could see over the house’s main stair and down into the living room. Double was asleep on the living room couch, wrapped up in a blanket. Light had been standing over her, though when Twilight saw her, she was already more than halfway up the steps.

With a gentle shove, she pushed Twilight back into the studio and shut the door. “Don’t shout,” she whispered, “Double’s asleep.”

“I’m sorry,” Twilight whispered back. She held her hooves tight together. “I was looking for you and I saw you hadn’t worked in your studio in days and… I got worried. Is Double okay?”

“She’s fine. We were up late last night is all.”

“Oh.” Twilight paused. Then she smiled a bit. “Up late, like, you know?”

“Yes. My lover is a shapeshifter. It’s really the best.” Light’s tone was quick and perfunctory. “Did you need something?”

“Oh, nothing important.” Twilight cleared her throat. “Well, a little important. I needed advice on something. You remember my reminder system? I wrote myself some notes awhile ago, and I’m about to disregard their advice. It’s fine. I mean, I know it’s fine. I just thought, maybe I should get somepony to check. In case I’m having a teenager moment.”

“Sure.” Light glanced at Twilight’s saddlebags, noticing they were stuffed full of paper. “Switching back to tea?”

“Oh, no, no. I’m sure coffee is good.” Twilight reached into her bag and produced a worn binder, many of the pages held together with tape. “I was going to ask out Diamond Shoal. On a… you know.” She paused. “A date.”

“A date.” The binder was labeled Romance. Light slowly grasped it with her magic, and flipped through the pages. “Isn’t he Rarity’s son?”

“Yeah, I mean. Yeah.” Twilight tapped her hooves together. “But, when you think about it, is that really weird? I mean, I’m an alicorn. Celestia has known multiple generations of the same family. Her teamaker Cozy Doily loves to hear Celestia tell stories about her mother, and her grandmother, and her great grandmother. They were all Celestia’s teamaker. The job has been in the family for so long.”

“Celestia doesn’t fuck her servants, Twilight.”

A hot blush rose to Twilight’s face at once. Her wings parted from her side. “Ewww! No. I wasn’t going to… you know. That. It’s one date. And how many teenage dates end that way? I thought we might kiss. Maybe. Kissing would be nice.”

Light flipped through Twilight’s binder in silence. The frown on her face grew. A few paces away, Twilight shifted awkwardly on her hooves.

“You know,” Twilight said, “ponies shouldn’t say the F-word. Say ‘feather’ instead. Like, ‘they can go feather themselves.’ Everypony knows what you mean and it’s less dirty. I don’t like how much ponies swear these days. The old girls and I never swore.”

“The instructions in this binder are pretty unambiguous.” Light turned it around to point at a page. “‘Do not do this,’ in all caps. ‘It is a terrible idea.’ And another note that says, ‘Do not ignore the first note.’ With three exclamation points.”

“Well, yeah. But when I wrote that, I was thinking intellectually.” Twilight gestured at Light’s drawings. “Sure, if I was being cold and calculating I’d see it that way. But it’s like Shining and Cadence. Love transcends all barriers. You know?”

“Love? You love him?”

“Well, no.” Twilight flicked a mane with her hoof, looking off into the corner. “Well, not yet. I mean, we haven’t courted. But -- but there’s a connection there.”

Holding her hoof over her chest, she went on: “He’s sensitive and caring and we like the same music and books. He really gets me. He sees me as Twilight, the mare, not Her Royal Highness, The Princess Twilight Sparkle. I know, dating for me is…” She scraped a hoof on the floor. “Difficult. But it could work if I found a pony who really cares about me.”

Light nodded once. She considered the binder for a few moments more, turning the pages. “Spend a lot of time with him?”

“Well, maybe not a lot.” She cleared her throat, then smiled. “But we see each other all the time around town. He helps sing chorus in my musicals. Like, as one of the background ponies? He says I have a beautiful voice.”

“So you don’t know him very well.”

The smile vanished off Twilight’s face. “Light, I came here so you could reassure me I’m doing the right thing. Not so you could snipe at my one chance in life of finding actual love. What if he’s the Shining to my Cadence? What if he’s the pony I was meant to be with, and I blow it because I’m nervous about some stupid social conventions?”

For a few seconds, the two of them stared at each other. Light was frowning. Twilight was glaring. “I’m just…” Light said slowly. She bit her lip. “How do you know he’s caring?”

“I’ve been to all his poetry readings.”

“He’s a poet?” Light asked. “Does he write about you?”

“Well, no. I mean, he’s not a poet. But he reads poetry.” She spoke with her hooves, holding one over her heart. “He likes Kerriling. And that’s my favorite too. And the way he reads it, I can see how much it moves him. He connects with it.”

“Kerriling is a very popular poet.” Light bit her lip harder. “Twilight, I see a note here that says, ‘Hire a replacement for Spike’?”

“Oh. Yeah.” Twilight waved the question away. “I’ll get to that later.”

“I see a few notes that say that. And didn’t you say you also had a few at the castle?”

“Those are my thoughts. They’re private.” Twilight’s horn glowed, and she wrenched the binder out of Light’s grasp. In a single motion, she tucked it back into her bag. “I’ll hire a replacement for Spike when I feel like it. That’s not what I came to you about.”

Light looked between Twilight and the door to the house. “Well, if he’s the love of your life, I’d like to meet him. Maybe you could bring him by or—”

“I’m not bringing him by my little sister’s house.” Twilight curled her lip. “That’s weird.”

“I just think it’d be fun to meet him.”

“You think I need a chaperone.” Twilight let you a sharp snort. “You know,” she said, voice tight. “Maybe the reason I keep hanging out with teeangers is the adults keep treating me like I’m stupid. I get it. I have teenager moments. But when you were a teenager, I didn’t treat you this way. When you got involved with Double, I trusted you to make your own decisions.”

“Twilight, that was…” Light let out a breath. “That was different.”

“You’re right. You wanted to date an intelligence operative of a nation we’ve been at war with five times in the last twenty years. And I wanted to date a dressmaker’s son. Wowee.” Twilight’s voice rose to a shout. “Better watch out for Twilight. Ever since she became an alicorn, mare is craaazy!”

“No, please. I’m just trying to—”

“You’re trying to treat me like a foal and you keep getting surprised I notice.” Twilight turned away, back towards the porch door. “Thank you for help.”

Before Twilight could go or Light could say anything more, the door to the house opened. Double Time walked in, still in her insect form, her gossamer wings held low by her side. “Hey, Twilight,” she said.

“Oh, no. Dear. You should be asleep.” Light rushed to Double’s side, but Double gently pushed her away.

“All this talk about love, you think I’m going to sleep through it?” She walked up to Twilight, getting muzzle to muzzle. “You think he’s the one, huh?”

“Um.” Twilight hesitated. Her eyes with the floor. “I mean, he might be. He could be. Don’t I need to see if he is?”

“Sure.” Her gossamer wings buzzed. “Let’s conduct a test. Ready?”

“What am I getting ready for…” Twilight asked. Her voice slowly trailed away to nothing.

In a flash of green light, Double Time transformed into Diamond Shoal. She -- now a he -- stared into Twilight’s eyes. “Hey, Twilight,” he said.

Their muzzles were only inches apart. The flush in Twilight’s cheeks returned, and spread to the rest of her body. Her tail flicked of its own accord, and her wings parted from her sides.

After a moment, she managed, “Uh…” She licked her lips. “That’s a pretty good fake.” Then she looked away. “So, do I love him?”

“Results inconclusive.” In a flash, Double reverted to her natural form. “You know I’m not him, so it’s not like you love the illusion. We won’t really know until you two go on a date.”

“Oh.” Twilight’s head jerked back up. “So I should go?”

“Of course. Just take the necessary precautions. Talk to Rarity first, get her blessings, you wouldn’t want to hurt her feelings. And talk to his friends. Make sure there’s nothing scandalous about him you don't know. And if all goes well?” She clicked her tongue. “You go mare.”

“Right. Right, those are good ideas.” She pulled her binder from her saddlebags again, using a blank page in the back to write down Double’s instructions. “I should have gone to you first.”

“Love is kind of my thing.” Double glanced back at Light. “I’m not going back to sleep today anyway, and I’m kind of sick of being cramped up in the house. Why don’t we walk Twilight down to Rarity’s?”

“Oh…” Light hesitated a moment, but when Double gave her a sharp look, she quickly changed her answer to, “Sure. That sounds good.”

Double and Twilight flew off the balcony. Light used the front door, and they met outside the house to walk into town. For a little while, they walked in silence.

“Double?” Twilight asked. “When you said, ‘making sure there’s nothing scandalous about him’ what did you mean?”

“What do you think I mean? Is there anything about him that might scare you off?”

“No. Not really.” Twilight shook her head. Then she added, “I mean, I’m pretty sure he’s not seeing anypony else. Though he is handsome. But no. He’s not. And I know he plans to stay in Ponyville forever. I mean, of course he does. I’m planning to stay in Ponyville forever, so, you know.”

Her ears folded back. “But he does travel a lot with Rarity.”

“So nothing serious then?”

“What?” Twilight looked up. “What would be serious?”

“Well, he is a young intellectual who travels outside Equestria. A motivated young stallion. A creature of his convictions. Politically active.” Double paused, then shook her head. “No, nevermind. It was a silly thought.”

“What was a silly thought?” Twilight paused. “No. No, that is a silly thought. Rarity runs three businesses. Reading a lot and being worldly does not mean a young stallion is part of the International Party.”

For a few seconds, they walked in silence.

“Oh my gosh.” Twilight looked at the ground. Her tone became distressed, fear worming it’s way into her words. “But what if he is? What if he’s my one chance at finding romance and the bad guys got to him first? What if the love of my life is a communist?”

Diamond Shoal was not a member of the International Party. But some young ponies were.

One of them was named Cloudbank. Two years ago, in secret, he’d been awarded the Order of Boreas in recognition of his service to international revolution.

Four years ago, he’d joined the Equestrian Royal Guard. They tested him every month to make sure he wasn’t a changeling. He wasn’t.

As Twilight was walking to Ponyville, Cloudbank was stationed at a communications tower on the Equestrian coastline. A message came to him from one of the observation posts.


But he didn’t forward the message to the next base up the line.

And in any case, that’s not what this story is about.

Twilight burst into Rarity’s shop. In one massive breath, she explained that she wanted to date Diamond Shoal, that she was sorry if that made things weird between them but that it was true love, and that she really hoped he wasn’t a communist spy who was also seeing another mare.

As Twilight stood there panting, Rarity considered the matter.

“I’ll make you tea,” she said. She flipped the sign in the boutique window to Closed.

“Twilight prefers coffee,” Light said.

“Light Step, darling, you can make her coffee if you like,” Rarity flicked her tail like a whip. “I’m making tea and scones. Double, I shall think affectionate thoughts about you as I do so.”

She gave Twilight a scone, poured them each a cup of tea, and once everypony was seated around her lounge table, she told a story. “Twilight, do you remember the first Ponyville Days festival? The one with that stallion from Trottingham who was crushing on Applejack?”

“Oh, yeah. What was his name?” Twilight thought. “Traders Hoof or something?”

“Trenderhoof.” She let out a long sigh. “It’s quite a long story. Let me tell it from the beginning. You see, you and I met in front of the town hall…”

Rarity told the story in detail. She told it at length. She told it like Twilight wasn’t there. Oh, certainly, she referenced Twilight as having been present, but she never made any accommodations for Twilight remembering the events she was describing. She told Twilight how she kept her mane that day, what she’d said, and how she felt.

If one substituted the word “You” for “Twilight,” Rarity could have been talking to a group of young fillies. Light kept her eyes on the floor, and Double held her with a leg.

When the story was done, Twilight laughed. “We were silly at that age.”

“We were!” Rarity tittered. “Oh, we all were. Running around Equestria, battling spirits and monsters and social anxiety.”

“I still do all that.” Twilight drew a deep breath. “And I’m still silly, aren’t I?”

“Now and again.” Rarity lifted a hoof to hide her smile. “Do you still want to see Shoal?”

“A little. I don’t know. I can see how absurd I was being but he’s cute.” She let out a breath. “Would you object if I did?”

“No. He is very much a young stallion, with all the downsides that entails, but he is a kind creature. I just don’t want him to turn into another Koipur.” She tsked. “You were inconsolable for days.”

“I was. Wasn’t I?” Twilight glanced at the clock. “I don’t want to take up too much of your time, but could you tell me about that?”

“Certainly.” Rarity launched into another story. “You met Koipur on a Thursday, right after the Running of the Leaves. He was the son of one of the astronomer ponies at…”

As Rarity trailed off into silence, Light Step started to cry.

When nopony could make the tears stop, they agreed to walk Light back.

“I’m sorry, Twilight,” she’d said. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I know you don’t like it when ponies treat you like a foal. And you’re not, I…”

The tears stifled her words, and she could manage no more defense than: “How could Celestia do this to you?”

Their path through Ponyville to her house took them past Twilight’s castle. Twilight nudged her head that way, and Double agreed, the two of them guiding Light up the castle steps. They took her to the library, and there sat her down in a chair.

“Light,” Twilight said. “I remember all of those events that happened. Rarity told me stories because that helps me remember how I felt. The lessons and the wisdom come back for a little while, better than they do with sticky notes. And she knows I like hearing stories about myself. That’s all it is.”

“And when Rarity dies one day?” Light’s voice was so thick she struggled to speak. Her face was damp with tears. “When there’s nopony left who remembers that story? It’ll be gone, Twilight. It’ll all be gone. It’ll be there, waiting for something to remind you of it, but nothing ever will. You’ll never remember it again.”

She ripped a book from Twilight’s shelf at random. When she pulled it open, sticky notes fell to the floor. “You used to love reading new books. You always had something interesting to say. Now you just read the same books over and over. Do you even bother stocking the library with new volumes? Or do you just circle the room once a decade?”

“I’m perfectly—”

“I know!” Light snapped, the words emerging ragged. “I know. I know you’re perfectly happy and you’re perfectly healthy and you’ll be young and upbeat forever. And you’ll always have friends and you’ll always sing those stupid musicals. But it’s a lie. You’re not happy because your life is going well. You’re not happy because you’re satisfied or because your duties are meaningful. It’s because you were happy at one point, and Celestia won’t let you remember anything else. She destroyed the part of your soul that knows how to remember.”

Light Step buried her face her her hooves, and for a few seconds, lost the ability to speak. The sobs wracked her body. “And she knows it’s a lie. That’s why she surrounds you with censors and propagandists and builds statues of you everywhere. Because she wants ponies to think alicorns are divine. But this thing she made you isn’t holy, it’s sick and it’s wrong and if ponies knew the truth they’d never forgive her.”

When neither Twilight nor Double answered her, Light screamed. “Is that all we are!?” she demanded of them. “I believed in Celestia. And magic, and harmony. And you. But you’re not divine, are you? None of you. Alicorn rule really is a lie. You’ll all trapped in a moment. Celestia can’t even understand why what she did to you was wrong, because she can’t experience horror anymore than you can. She probably thinks she actually was doing you a favor.”

Then she said: “Double’s been crying at night because Amaryllis tortured her, and Cheval tortured her worse. My sister is a brain-damaged eternal child because the tyrant who rules my country wanted an eternal daughter. My niece overthrew her mother and sent her into exile, and turned my other niece to stone. Everypony in my life is suffering and there’s nothing I can do to help them.”

She reached out and pulled Twilight and Double into a tight hug. Her voice cracked. “I love you both so much.”

“I know. We know.” Twilight hugged Light in return, but then gently pushed her back. “And I love you too. But I brought you to the library because I wanted to show you something.”

Twilight’s horn glowed. Inside the wall, mechanisms clicked, and then one of the bookshelves slid away. Behind the shelf was a safe. Inside that safe was another safe. Inside that safe was a cube of solid iron that could only be safely opened by magic. And inside that cube was a book.

It had a single sticky note on the cover. “DO NOT USE FOR ANY REASON.”

“This was the first note I ever wrote to myself,” Twilight said, holding the book up to Light. “When I realized I was going to start forgetting things, I panicked. How could I not? I needed to…”

There was a sound in the castle. It came from outside, and wormed its way in the windows. It bounces off the hard, echoing floors and off the ceilings. It came to Twilight’s ears, and it silenced her.

A mare was screaming. Then a stallion screamed as well. Ponies were shouting, baying. The noise carried far.

Double and Twilight both looked up at once. Light needed a moment more, unable to hear the sound over her own crying.

“One second,” Twilight said. She and Double both trotted over to the nearest window. Looking out into the streets, they could see the ponies of Ponyville fleeing in all directions, dashing for their homes and scooping up their children. One unicorn with noble intentions but little sense fired a laser blast into the sky.

The sun was setting over Ponyville. When Twilight tried to follow the laser blast to its intended target, she had to squint into the sky. All she could see were vague black dots against the sun. The dots flew in formation.

Double shouted: “We are in a target!” She turned to run back to Light.

Light stopped crying, looking up from where she sat.

A bomb crashed through Twilight’s castle. Its sheer weight crushed the ceiling, two intervening floors, and the table decorating the center of the library. It wasn’t much to look at—a metal canister the size of a pony, packed with explosives. It came to rest three feet away from Light.

In the time it took a pony to blink, Twilight teleported three times. First she moved to Light’s side, then she moved herself and Light to Double’s side, then she moved all three of them out of the building.

Then the bomb exploded.

Next Chapter: Chapter 5 Estimated time remaining: 6 Minutes
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