Dusk and Dawn

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Chapter 6

"So what are we doing again?" asked Moonlight. She was half tempted to drag Hermione out of the Archives, as she hadn't been seen in a week and the only indication she was even alive was that the bowls of fruit left out for her were all gone.

"Princess Celestia has asked us to oversee the Summer Sun Celebration in Ponyville, and she wants you to guide me around since you've been there recently."

"Is Hermione allowed to come?"

Twilight chuckled nervously.

"We have orders for a search and retrieval mission to get her out of the Archives. Apparently she hasn't been in her apartment for over a month, and rumor has it she's never come out," said Twilight.

"Yup, that sounds like Hermione. Girl would live in a library if she could get away with it," snorted Moonlight.

And so the twins went deep into the Archives, following the spell Moonlight had found to follow Hermione. Finally she found a flank with a familiar cutie mark and used her magic to drag the girl out by the tail.

"MOONLIGHT PUT ME DOWN!" shrieked Hermione. She was reasonably clean, wasn't starving, and covered in dust from some of the older books. A few wind spells cleaned that off though.

"Not a chance. You need to leave the library. Do you even remember what the sun looks like?" asked Moonlight rhetorically.

Hermione blinked rapidly when they got into the more public half of the library. The light was a bit painful to her eyes.

"Right. Until we can be reasonably assured you won't go nuts and live in the Archives again, Princess Celestia has asked us to bring you with us to an inspection of the Summer Sun Celebration in Ponyville. It's either that or spend an entire week with Dr. Practice being reminded repeatedly why your body and mind needs to rest from reading every once in a while, your choice," said Moonlight.

"I'd rather hang out with you. I've never liked hospitals."

Moonlight chuckled.

"Or flying, as I recall."

"What does flying have to...oh no. No, no, no! I am not getting on that!"

Twilight looked at Moonlight in question.

"Hermione has a fear of heights," she explained in amusement.

"Ah. You do realize she could lay there and keep her eyes inside the carriage right?"

"Or she could keep her eyes on Spike," snickered Moonlight.

"Who is Spike?"

"I am," spoke the tiny dragon.

Hermione blinked, then decided to talk to Spike on the ride there. By all accounts it wouldn't be a long one, but she still hated seeing the ground below her from the clouds.

Moonlight was trying not to laugh when Pinkie caught sight of Moonlight and Twilight. She gasped loudly and ran to get a party started.

"Who the hay was that?"

"Pinkie Pie. By the time we get to the library she'll have it decorated for a full blown party, I guarantee you. She's a real Party Pony!" snickered Moonlight.

Moonlight cheerfully went into the orchard with her sister and her best friend following her lead.

"Yeehaw!"

"Howdy Applejack!" said Moonlight.

"Welcome back Moonlight! Sure fine to see you again!" said Applejack.

"Princess Celestia sent us to oversee the Summer Sun Celebration. This is my twin Twilight and this is an old friend of mine, Hermione."

Applejack grinned and winked conspiratorially with Moonlight as she nearly shook their hooves off. Moonlight snickered. Since it would be easier to socialize with the Apple clan (they were there for the family reunion) than to leave, Twilight reluctantly stayed at the farm. She wasn't used to being around other ponies much.

Applejack stayed next to Moonlight.

"Yer sister doesn't get out much, does she?"

"Not really. Celestia thinks Twilight burned too many bridges so the idea was to send her here where she could make some friends. I was sent last year to remodel the library so she could stay here."

"And the other pony?"

"Hermione is being banished from the Royal Archives. According to rumor, she's spent an entire month in the deeper parts just reading, and the only way we knew she was still alive was that the bowls of fruits left behind on tables were gone. Until she learns to balance reading and socializing, she'll be here with Twilight for a while. I might stay too, if I can manage it," said Moonlight.

Applejack grinned.

"Oh...my...Celestia..." said Moonlight before she took a quick picture and hid the camera. Then she did the same thing Spike was doing and started laughing her flank off at the sight of Hermione and Twilight looking so...poofy! It was almost like they had copied Pinkie's hair style, only it had hairs out of place!

"MOONLIGHT!" growled Hermione.

"Oh relax Hermione, we have to see Rarity anyway. She might be able to tame that mane of yours, or at least give you an idea of what to get," snickered Moonlight. Spike was still snickering on her back.

Moonlight waved to Rainbow Dash, who had finished clearing the clouds when she heard Twilight's doubt on her ability. Rainbow waved back, before finding another cloud to nap on.

As Moonlight had expected, the second Rarity saw the state of their manes, she went into her usual freak out mode. She stopped everything she was doing to drag Hermione and Twilight to her shop to fix their manes and give them a new look.

From the amount of grumbling Hermione was doing, it was clear that she considered Rarity a far more intelligent version of Lavender or Parvati.

The two made their getaway as quickly as they could, since they weren't fashinistas like Rarity.

Rarity turned around to find only Moonlight left, looking somewhat embarrassed by her sister and friend.

"Sorry about that Rarity, Twilight and Hermione aren't used to dressing up..." she said abashed.

"That's quite alright dear. I suppose I did get carried away when I heard you three were from Canterlot. Now I hope you've brought something to wear for this special occasion?" asked Rarity.

"Rarity, I was more interested in dragging Hermione out of the Archives than bringing clothes. So no."

Rarity had an unholy spark in her eye as she dragged Moonlight through the shop for something to wear. Moonlight allowed it with good humor, as Rarity, who was very passionate about her job, was just being her usual self. It wasn't like it would hurt anything and Moonlight was used to wearing clothes thanks to her stint as a human.

At least she was able to keep the fashinista pony from putting her in a dress, which she barely tolerated on good days. Besides, she had a feeling she would be fighting later anyway.

Moonlight caught up with her sister and best friend right before they entered the library.

"Where were you?"

"Apologizing to Rarity. Leaving like that was unbelievably rude you know," said Moonlight flatly to her sister. Twilight and Hermione looked embarrassed that she had pointed it out. The resolved to apologize to the pony the first chance they had.

"And now for the amusing part. Get in there!" snickered Moonlight.

She knew Pinkie from her time in Ponyville. No doubt the pink pony had already set up a party!

Moonlight was outright laughing at the look on Hermione and Twilight's faces when they found the party already going. Hermione glared at her friend.

"You knew this would happen."

"Of course I did. I got to know the ponies here while I refurbished the library. Pinkie Pie is a pony that will throw a party for any reason she can find," said Moonlight, still snickering.

Hermione sighed in defeat, and went to enjoy herself. Clearly she wasn't getting out of this one, no matter what she tried.

Moonlight was by far more sociable than Hermione or Twilight was being at the moment, as she wasn't interested in reading the books or getting any sleep.

To be fair, Hermione hadn't slept properly in days, so she agreed to wake the girl up once it was time for Celestia to raise the sun. She had never seen the event in person, and it would be quite an interesting thing to watch.

They stayed up well into the morning, though Moonlight did leave the library briefly for some fresh air. It was for that reason she noted the four stars drawing ever closer to the moon, and remembered that odd legend she had read earlier that week.

"Bugger. Looks like I was right to avoid that dress," said Moonlight.

She had still bought it, because she had liked the way it looked. She just preferred shorts and form fitting shirts when it came to fighting, less chance of her clothing catching on anything.

Moonlight watched in shock and some annoyance as the shadowy figure became a rather ticked off dark blue alicorn wearing what could only be military armor. Once she had laid down her terms, she took the chance to race off after the shadowy fog while Applejack was busy keeping Rainbow from going after the mystery alicorn.

Hermione followed her, as six years of chasing Moonlight in Hogwarts had lead to a natural instinct to follow her friend into danger, no matter how stupid the idea was.

The fact Moonlight tended to get them out of danger as quickly as they got into it also had a factor in this.

"Where in blazes are we?"

"Everfree forest. Somewhat like the Forbidden Forest back in Hogwarts, only we don't have to deal with Acromantulas, ticked off Centaurs or the chance of a werewolf."

"What is in here?"

"Manticores, Timber Wolves, and a hydra or two. There's also a rather friendly water dragon, if what Zecora told me was true," said Moonlight.

Both girls had their horns light up with a basic light charm.

Walking closely to the inner half of the cliff, Hermione screamed in fright as she suddenly slipped and started to fall off it.

Moonlight didn't think twice, she cast a by-now very familiar spell and had a pair of gorgeous monarch butterfly wings on her back.

Hermione was whimpering as she clutched to Moonlight like there was no tomorrow.

"Easy 'Mione. You of all people know I would never let my best friend get killed if I could prevent it," said Moonlight soothingly.

"I know...I just hate heights..." whimpered Hermione. She was shaking like a leaf.

Poor Hermione was still trembling when she landed safely on the ground, having held Moonlight in a death grip.

They started walking again, and were quickly confronted by a manticore. Hermione was all set to confront it, but Moonlight had another idea.

She had seen ribs under it's fur. The poor thing must have been starving!

Moonlight instead raced to the nearby river she had seen on the cliff, and used her magic to hook some fat fish.

Just as she had suspected, the manticore had been starving, the poor thing. She levitated the fish over to the beast and it lost all interest in them, aside from purring near Moonlight.

Their next task was walking through some darkened woods, which didn't bother them one bit. Hermione and Moonlight outright laughed at the 'scary' faces the trees were making, having faced down much more terrifying creatures in their five years at Hogwarts to even consider these trees frightening. Behind them, the trees returned to being normal trees.

Nightmare Moon watched the progress of the two unicorn fillies with interest.

Not many unicorns could manifest such magnificent wings, let alone be able to sustain them long enough to hold another. Temporary wings were notorious for using a lot of magic up.

As she watched the two progress, it was clear to her that they had been through far worse than her little tests had conjured up so far. And the purple one was definitely a fighter, yet she didn't wear the traditional uniform of the Royal Guard.

She would keep a close eye on the one with butterfly wings.

After a minor spell to fix the serpent's manicure (she learned it from Lavender, after one too many complaints about how bad her nails looked) they continued on. Finally they reached a bridge which had seen better days. Hermione took one look at the broken panels and gulped.

"Hermione, I want you to focus on me. If any of the wood breaks under you, I promise to catch you before you fall too far," said Moonlight, flying backwards. The spell would hold up for a few hours more, as she had cast it so many times that she could calculate how long it would last.

Hermione gripped the ropes like a life-line, to avoid looking down. She kept her eyes firmly on Moonlight, who was talking to her like one would talk to a frightening unicorn in the Forbidden Forest. And it worked, very well in fact. A shadow swept under the next plank of wood, and Hermione screamed as it broke under her weight.

"Mione!" shouted Moonlight. She flew under her friend, catching the terrified girl before she fell more than a foot.

Moonlight placed Hermione safely on the ground again.

Behind her were four pegasus ponies.

"We are the Shadow Bolts."

"Not interested," said Moonlight flatly.

The Shadow Bolts weren't dissuaded in the least, as they offered to become her own personal army to conquer other worlds. In exchange for leaving her family and friends in the dust of course.

"What part of not interested don't you get? Why would I want to loose the most precious thing I will ever have for a fleeting chance of power?" asked Moonlight.

The 'pegasus' ponies hissed at her, before vanishing into the mist. But not before they undid the knots holding the bridge to the posts.

Moonlight spent five minutes calming her friend down, as Hermione still had trouble handling a near death experience.

A few minutes after Hermione could think straight again, they could hear company coming.

"I think Twilight and the others caught up," said Moonlight.

"Should we wait for them in the citadel?"

"Probably. Besides, we can head off anyone trying to attack them first," said Moonlight.

Moonlight and Hermione entered the citadel, only to discover... Nightmare Moon waiting for them. Her smile was cold and chilled them to the bone. She didn't care who she had to destroy, so long as she took out the Elements of Harmony before they could properly be formed.

"Let's dance, shall we?" she sneered.

"I agree. It's about time I got to put all that training to proper use," growled Moonlight. Hermione took position behind her as support, like always.

And with a single, unheard signal, the two ponies clashed.

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