This story follows the events of "In Search of the Sun". It is highly advised that you read it first. Check the description for a link.
Two weeks had passed since the Lightless Crisis, as the various news organizations had dubbed it, mostly in part to the near rhyme it formed when read aloud. Princess Celestia had since returned to her true self, the Panacea of Eternity having restored her power and health, and after a few "Solstice Overhang" days, the land she and her sister governed returned as well. The plants slowly grew back to their green, vibrant tones, ponies again filled the streets, though adorned with sunglasses to adjust at first, and soon the entire incident slipped into being just a story to pass down the family lines. The Princesses both appeared to their public, giving an official statement on the crisis, though nimbly avoiding mention of Discord's release. A ceremony was held to commend the brave adventurers for their actions in the face of danger, which if not for the addition of a certain young dragon would have seemed strangely familiar to any who attended.
All in all, it was just another page for the annals of history, fated to fade and yellow away from memory.
Sometimes, however, the story continues past the record.
Twilight Sparkle trotted down the glorious halls of the Canterlot Palace, an eager hop under each gaiting hoof. A worried expression was worn on her face, nerves jittering with uncertainty.
"I'm sure it's nothing," she mumbled to herself, hoping to calm the racing thoughts that always led to fearful results. "Just a call to the palace like any other." A nervous twist caught her in the gut, fueled by her ever-present paranoia. "Just an unsettlingly brief, non-descript yet urgent call to the palace like any other."
It was just before noon, and she and Spike were busy preparing the library to cater to the school's impending visit.
"Okay, Spike," Twilight began, going through the checklist she had had him prepare earlier. "Double-double checked the organization of the shelves to ensure absolute ease of locating specific literature?"
Spike turned from the shelf, standing atop a small ladder with a feather duster in his claw. "What?"
Twilight sighed, rubbing her temple with a hoof. "Are the shelves in order?" she restated.
"Oh, yeah!" the dragon exclaimed, perking up. "Alphabetic and numerical!"
"Very impressive!" Twilight giggled.
Spike stuck out his chest, proud. "Yeah! I've been reading some."
The unicorn continued down her list. "Put away the anatomy and 'Reinaissance art' books?"
"Uh, yep," Spike replied, though with darting eyes. "And I didn't peek at them, if you're wondering..."
Willing to ignore the obvious, Twilight passed questioning further. She resolved, however, to have a talk with the young dragon later. "And finally, dusted the shelves?"
"Working on it now!" the dragon happily chimed, turning back to finish cleaning.
"Great!" The unicorn rolled up the parchment, placing it on her desk. "Everything's ready for Cheerilee and the school-ponies!"
Sliding down another row of shelves, Spike continued his final chore. "Why are they coming by again?"
Twilight rolled her eyes. This must have been the third time she had told the dragon. "Well, given the recent scare with Princess Celestia's illness, Cheerilee thought it'd be good to let her class research previous crises." She reflected over her brief time in Ponyville, recalling how many such incidents she had been in. "Princess knows we have enough of them."
"That's for sure!" Spike laughed. Below his breath, he added, "And I better be in the next book, too." As his duster passed over the last of the books, Spike leaned back, admiring his work. He was, after all, the Number One Assistant for a reason. A tiny smirk spread over his cheeks as he twirled the duster in his claw. "Let's see Owlowiscious top this!"
Just then, a familiar pressure filled his gut briefly, before erupting from his mouth in a blaze of green flames. The tiny dragon was knocked back off of the ladder by the sudden belch, rolling across the floor as he landed. His eyes spun in his head as he shook away the dizziness, finding when his wits returned that a letter was left where he had previously stood. "Uh, Twilight? We got mail."
Without removing her gaze from her daily planner, the unicorn picked up the scroll with her magic. The letter didn't come as much of a surprise, since she had sent Princess Celestia a letter of her own the night before detailing the school-day to be had at the library. "I'm sure it's just the Princess inquiring about the big day!"
Spike rolled onto his belly, lifting himself up again. "Why do you still say 'the' Princess? Aren't there, like, two now?"
Twilight had tuned out the dragon, focusing on the scroll she had unrolled before her. She read aloud. "Dear Twilight Sparkle,"
"And for that matter," Spike continued, walking up behind her. "What about Princess Cadance? I mean, how long has she been a Princess? And of what! Where?"
"Your presence is urgently requested," Twilight read, her smile dropping as the mood shifted. "Please come to Canterlot Palace as soon as possible."
"Who's Prince Blueblood supposed to be, anyway? I mean, he's not even an alicorn! Is he related, or married in, or is it just a name? Like 'The Pony Formerly Known as Prince Blueblood' or something?"
"A chariot will arrive shortly. I eagerly await your arrival."
"And where the hoof are all the Queens and Kings!"
"Signed, Princess Celestia..."
"I swear, this system doesn't make any sense to me."
Twilight placed the letter on the table, trepidation frozen over her. She spun, facing her assistant. "Spike! Did you hear that!"
"Did you hear me?" the dragon asked, cocking a smug brow. He walked back to the shelf, retrieving the ladder to wheel it back to the supply closet. "Sometimes I think I'm just talking to myself around here."
"Spike! You don't understand!" the unicorn pleaded, rushing in front of the dragon with speed to rival Rainbow Dash's. "Something must be wrong!"
Spike sighed, rubbing a claw down his face. "Twilight, it's just a request!"
"An urgent request!" Twilight shot back, lowering her face to Spike's level. "Urgent is bad!"
"You're being paranoid again!" Spike returned, putting more emphasis into his voice. "I'm sure it's just a call to the palace. Maybe lunch or something!"
Twilight groaned, tossing back her head. "The last time I got a message like this, Spike, Princess Celestia was on her deathbed and the Sun couldn't rise!"
Shifting his gaze, Spike casually looked out the window across the library. He glanced back to the unicorn, holding his thumb up towards the aperture. "The sun's already up, Twilight. Think we can rule that one out." He walked around the unicorn, resuming his task of putting up the ladder.
"Well... What if it isn't Princess Celestia this time!" Twilight replied, her mane slowly curling out of its place as she worked herself into a panic. "What if Princess Luna is sick now! What if the Moon can't rise! What if we have to walk all the way to the Eternal Realm again, before all of Equestria - Neigh! - the entire world gets burned to a crisp under an eternal Sun!"
Pushing the ladder into position within the supply closet, Spike looked back to the unicorn. "Twilight, you're probably getting worked up over nothing! Just stay calm, and we'll go see what's up."
The ever-growing tension in the room was released, if only for a moment, by a knock at the door. Twilight hopped up, running on air for a moment as she attempted to reach the door. "That must be the Royal Guards!"
Quickly whipping open the three-panel door, Twilight was instead met with the warm faces of Cheerilee and a dozen excited school-ponies. "Hello, Twilight!"
"Cheerilee?" the unicorn asked, tilting her head. She then remembered what day it was, and her responsibilities prior to the distressing letter's arrival. "Oh! Cheerilee! The study session!"
Cheerilee gave a bubbling giggle, unaware of the worries the librarian was fighting. "Yes! And judging by the chariot outside, I'm wondering if we have a very, very special guest waiting to talk with us?" She gave a sly wink, nudging her head to the golden chariot sitting just beside the library. Two alabaster pegasus stallions, clad in shimmering golden armor, stood before its helm, ready for flight. The teacher moved in closer, whispering in Twilight's ear. "I didn't know you could get the Princess to make personal calls! This is so exciting!"
Spike walked over, overhearing the hushed words. "Princess Celestia's not here. But why does everypony keep saying 'the' Princess? Isn't that, I dunno, disrespectful? How would Princess Luna feel if she heard that?"
Twilight didn't have time to explain. "Sorry, Cheerilee, but I have to go!" She darted past the group, the students all quizzically watching as she charged towards the waiting chariot.
Cheerilee bit her lip at this sudden news. "Oh, well, what about the study session?"
"Spike can handle it!" Twilight called back, hopping aboard the vessel.
"What?!" the dragon called, eyes growing wide as the school-ponies quickly filed into the library.
As soon as Twilight's haunches hit the plush seats, the stallions whinnied into action, twisting the cart around to head back along the skies to Canterlot. "I know you can do this, Spike! Number One Assistant!"
As a stampede of fillies and colts marched by, Spike was carried back into the maelstrom that buzzed about the library. "Wait! Twilight! TWILIGHT!"
Upon arrival at Canterlot, Twilight was instructed to head to the Royal Gardens, where her trembling hooves now carried her.
She tried to take Spike's advice, concentrating on positive explanations. Perhaps she was getting an award for being such a studious student? Maybe Princess Celestia was just bored and wanted somepony around for company? Maybe it was a new holiday she wasn't aware of?
Perhaps another dragon was in Equestria, trying to make the palace his keep? Maybe the Changeling Queen was preparing another strike with her legion. Or maybe, the Changeling Queen had already taken the form of Princess Celestia, wrote the letter to lure Twilight away from her friends, and was planning to take them out one by one!
She shook her head. "Positive thoughts, Twilight. Positive thoughts."
In any case, the gardens were just before her now, separated from the palace by a huge, ornate doorway, each panel a brilliant pearl and gold work of art themselves. She pushed open one side of the door, unsure of what to expect.
Sunlight poured in from the open-ceiling of the garden, temporarily blinding her with a flash. Immediately, her ears were met with the warm laugh of her mentor, Princess Celestia, the alicorn happily conversing with another. As colors slowly faded back into the world, she could make out a small table, set on the edge of the marble tiling before the royal gardens. At one end, Celestia sat on a posh cushion, a teacup held daintily between her hooves. On the opposite sat a familiar face, finding ease in holding his teacup in his mismatched hands.
Discord waved his paw, signaling to the unicorn. "Ah, Twilight! Finally made it to the party?" He sat in a chair more fitting for his anatomy, with a raised seat and arched backing for support.
Celestia turned, facing the unicorn. "Twilight! So glad you could make it!"
The amicable atmosphere quelled the pangs of paranoia that were boiling within Twilight. As well, seeing the Princess again in good health always made her feel at ease after the previous scare.
Twilight let a genuine smile grow over her. "How could I turn down a request from..." She reflected briefly to Spike's rant. "a Princess?"
"Flank-kisser," Discord quipped, smiling as he brought the cup to his lips.
A quick glare was sent his way by the alicorn, though one that also carried a friendly charm. "Hush, you."
Twilight marveled at the two. The whole scene was oddly serene, despite known opposites sitting across from each other. She stood back, silently awaiting to be addressed.
It didn't take long for Celestia to notice. "Don't be so distant, Twilight. There's a spot already set for you."
Taking note of an empty seat, Twilight moved to join the party. She wiggled into a comfortable position on the pillow, sitting adjacent both immortals. As she stared across at an empty space of the table, seeing only the garden courtyard opposite, a thought occurred to her. "Princess? Where's Princess Luna?" Though the alicorn that watched over the night would have been asleep at this hour normally, something unseen told Twilight that this exact moment held an importance that both rulers should attend.
"I'm afraid Luna cannot join us at this meeting," Princess Celestia responded, setting down her cup. "She's presiding over it from afar." With a hoof, she pointed towards a distant tower beyond the gardens. On its balcony stood the Princess of the Night, eyes vigilantly observing the gathering. Turning back to Twilight, she added, "You may have noticed that your magic is restricted."
In fact, Twilight hadn't even noticed. Just then, to confirm, she tried lifting her own teacup by levitation. Without even a single shudder, the demitasse stayed in its place.
"That's her doing," Celestia continued. "A precaution, is all. She can't be in the field she's placed over us, so she's spectating." A warm smile crossed the Princess as she turned towards the tower again. "Luna's always had a way with magic."
"If she ever comes at me with another necklace," Discord joined, narrowing his eyes towards the tower. "I'll put her back in the moon myself."
Twilight found herself stifling a giggle. She almost wanted to chastise herself for her fearful thoughts before. "And Discord!" she announced, facing the draconequus in question. "Nice to see you again. Seems the Lowlands didn't do much to change you."
Discord gave a bellowing laugh. "Maybe not, but I think I changed them!"
A million curious thoughts as to what condition the immortal had left the dreary setting she had once passed through flickered through Twilight's mind. She finally settled into a comforting state of not even trying to guess, in a mix of both apathy, and possibly more in fear of knowing the answer. Some questions still persisted, however. "What brings you back to Equestria?"
"I have reasons."
"Got old fast, huh?"
Discord gave a much more controlled laugh this time. "Starting to get the picture, are you?" He took a sip of his tea. "Don't get me wrong. It was fun at first, gallivanting around the swamps, using my omnipotence to mystify beings of every species. The fact of the matter is, it left me bored."
Twilight rolled her eyes playfully. "Same old Discord."
Celestia placed her cup back onto its saucer. "Before we continue," she began, addressing Twilight. "May I ask how is Rarity?"
Taking her teacup in her hooves, Twilight took a small sip before replying. "Oh, she's doing much better. Zecora's medicine really helped her along. She's back to herself again!"
"Maybe she learned something about caves," Discord added, picking up a small teacake from the table before popping the entire snack into his mouth.
Twilight had, from their travels, learned how to ignore the draconequus when she had to. "And how are you, Princess?"
"Booooring!" Discord wailed, slamming his forehead down onto the table. The glassware gave a chorus of clinks as the jolt passed through. "Here's the short of it," he spoke, with his face still against the table. "She's fine, Luna's fine, all the guards are fine, Cadance and your brother are doing fine, and I'm doing just fine myself."
Celestia giggled. She whispered to Twilight. "He never was one for small talk." The alicorn repositioned herself, sitting up properly. "Very well. The negotiations can recommence now."
Twilight felt the mood shift as Celestia assumed her formal poise. "Wait, negotiations?"
Discord sprang up, suddenly taking a very sophisticated position in his seat. One leg crossed over the other as he held his teacup and saucer in his hands. "Very well then."
It occurred all at once to Twilight that this was a diplomatic meeting between the two immortals. Once before she had attended such a negotiation between Celestia and King Aurumquill of the Griffon Highlands, where she acted as witness on behalf of Equestria. Where that dispute was over border lines and the settlement of a pony outpost, an air of cold business between, there existed a strange energy here that made her all the more curious. She watched in reverent silence as the royal affairs proceeded.
Without her magic to use, Princess Celestia reached over to the vacant side of the table, grabbing a scroll in her teeth. Placing it before herself, she unfurled the parchment. "One 'Discord', draconequus, Element of Chaos and Disharmony, has requested citizenship in Equestria. Given his past actions within this land, on two discrete occasions, this request cannot be taken lightly."
"Oh, Celestia, you know it was all in good fun!"
The Princess let this outburst go, though not unnoticed. She accented her next word to punctuate her control over the hearing. "However, your most recent actions have been quite noble, whether your intention or not, and your peers have expressed admiration for this. I am therefore disposed to consider your application on good faith." She turned to Twilight. "I have here the pony, one 'Twilight Sparkle', with which you led an expedition to the Eternal Realm."
Again, Discord cut in. "To get a remedy for somepony, I recall."
Celestia's gaze immediately shot back to the immortal across the table. This time, she was not as soft on the matter of his interruption. "Silence!" she demanded in a calm yet assertive tone.
Twilight gave a start, stiffening in place. The air froze at the alicorn's command. It wasn't often that the Princess issued an irrefutable order, but whenever she did, everypony took notice, even if they were not the one addressed.
A devious smile twisted along the draconequus' lips. "Apologies," he reconciled in a purring voice, poorly veiling a mischievous humor beneath.
With order restored, Celestia again took chair. She returned her attention to the unicorn beside her. "Twilight Sparkle. Given your recent encounter with the candidate, what say you?"
It was as if the spotlight had focused on Twilight, and if not for the magic that bound the draconequus' own at her side, she was certain he would have made the sensation literal. "W-well..." she started, shrinking into her seat. Though normally fine with attention and public speaking, even taking roles as organizer for such major events as Winter Wrap-Up, she now felt a heavy burden placed upon her. On one side, her mentor, and co-ruler of Equestria, gazed upon her. Though her pink eyes carried all the love and warmth of a parent, there was a presence of formality that stood with authority behind them, applying an immense pressure unto the question. On her other side sat the object of the hearing, Discord, whose verdict depended upon her word. Though he kept a placid expression, she was sure he must have been just as focused on her as the Princess was.
Celestia seemed to sense the weight she had put upon her pupil. Breaking formality, she smiled. "Twilight, don't look so petrified." She gave a gentle laugh. "You act like you're on trial!"
Twilight found herself laughing as well, her nerves uncoiling. This shift in mood helped to alleviate some of the tension. "Well," she was able to continue. "He wasn't too unbearable. And he helped us on more than a few occasions."
"And I rescued your little newt," Discord hastily reminded, taking a quick sip of his tea afterwards to look completely innocent from Celestia's darting gaze.
Twilight gave an amused smirk towards the immortal. "Yes, and he rescued my friend, Spike." The intellectual part of her brain nagged her further. "And by the way, newts are amphibians. Spike is a dragon, which is a reptile. So ha-ha!"
The Princess gave a small laugh before returning to her formal stance. She again turned attention to Discord. "Very well. Your favorable actions have been noted. Now, we continue with the conditions of your citizenship." She looked back to the open scroll. "You vow, under Equestrian Oath, to, under your own accord, cease the use of greater chaos magic within the realm of Equestria, including, but not limited to, the altering of reality, bending the will of others, both pony and non, and any destructive acts that interfere with the progress of ponykind."
A pause was taken as Discord sipped the last of his tea, turning the cup over into his mouth. "Aye."
"In return, you will be granted Equestrian citizenship, and all privileges and responsibilities that come with such. You will be granted, as per your request, 'Chaos Manor', formerly 'The Ancient Castle of the Royal Pony Sisters', located within the Everfree Forest. You have requested the use of greater chaos magic within the walls of said housing, which I will allow."
Twilight found a smile growing on her face. As strange as the idea of Discord being a citizen sounded, the conditions seemed quite hospitable, even to have him as such a close neighbor to Ponyville.
Celestia moved to the next item. "You have requested the use of lesser chaos magic within the realm of Equestria." Reading this, the Princess looked up from the parchment, narrowing her eyes towards the immortal. "Elaborate."
With a playful grin, Discord shrugged his shoulders. "What? I couldn't be any more harmful than Pinkie Pie is, and she's in the clear. Just a few things here and there; teleporting and shapeshifting and the like. Maybe a singing flower or two to liven up the park. Harmless fun!"
Celestia mused over the notion. "Very well. I will allow it. But as a warning, you had better be on your best regard. I don't want to hear so much as one complaint."
The alicorn moved to the final portion of the legal document. "Finally, you vow loyalty and honor to the laws of Equestria, both communal and governmental, common and greater, with respect to the commands of its rulers, both Princess Celestia and Princess Luna, as well as to the edicts of the High Court of Canterlot. To show you understand the significance of this order, you will be put under the supervision of my pupil, one 'Twilight Sparkle', reporting to her once a week until such a time as she has assessed your transition and has provided me with the report." A reassuring smile was given to the unicorn beside her. "If she accepts such a task, obviously."
Twilight mulled it over with a small giggle. "I believe that's acceptable."
Across the table, Discord quietly whispered in a sing-song voice, "Flank-kisser~!"
Rolling her eyes, Celestia continued with the finalities of the treaty. She bit her lip, knowing the next part quite well. "And in return, you demand one romantic evening, id est, a 'date', consisting of dinner, a movie, and a scenic walk, within the time of 18:00 to 23:00 on the day of signing, with one 'Twilight Sparkle', unicorn, Element of Magic."
Mid-sip from her teacup, the words caught the unicorn in question, causing her to abruptly spray the contents of her mouth across the table. "WHAT?!"
"Correct!" Discord replied with glee.
Celestia was less than amused, yet kept up decorum. "Explain yourself, Discord."
The draconequus cocked a brow, putting on a bemused look. "What's the problem? It's a simple demand, and one that harms nopony, as per the contract."
Twilight stood, placing her forehooves on the table. "But why a date? With me!"
With another signature grin, Discord replied. "Why not?"
Aghast, Twilight turned to her mentor. "This can't be a serious request. He's got to be joking!"
Celestia sighed, rubbing her forehead with a hoof. "I'm afraid it is, Twilight."
This announcement didn't help the confused unicorn. "But how! Why?!"
"That is why I summoned you," Celestia continued, meeting eyes with her pupil again. "Discord entered this as part of the treaty. It's one of his conditions on signing."
Twilight sat back, letting the words sink in. "But, Princess, you can't really be allowing this!"
The Princess leaned forward, returning to her more familiar tone with the unicorn. "I am, Twilight." She looked across the table, directing Twilight's gaze as well. Discord sat just as calm as before, refilling his cup from the teakettle. "He's giving up a lot for this, and under very agreeable conditions. All save for this last one."
It was true, Twilight considered. Essentially, Discord was going to give up what made him Discord, at least within Equestria, for a castle in the middle of nowhere and a single date. Still, it was a tall order, at least for her. "And what if I say no?"
"If you say no," Discord answered, dropping three cubes of sugar into his tea, "then no deal."
Celestia picked up the reply. "Citizenship will be denied, he'll be escorted as best as possible to the outskirts of Equestria, and, given his nature and power, he will be disallowed from returning."
Twilight was left with reeling thoughts. "I don't understand. Why is he asking, of all things, for a date?"
Celestia sat up again. "Before, I was unable to inquire, as we had no witness, but now that you are here," She turned to the immortal across from her. "Why did you request such a thing?"
"Doesn't matter," came the solemn reply from Discord. "It's either yes or no. Yes, and I'll sign away, trusting the conditions to be met. No, and I'll leave, with no promise of behaving myself. Your call."
With a defeated sigh, Celestia looked to her pupil. "I'm sorry, Twilight. He's quite adamant about this. The choice, however, is yours to make."
Twilight looked back to the draconequus. He had requested a date. No; he demanded one, lest he refuse to sign the treaty. She was now in the hot seat, being the primary focus of the hearing. If she agreed, Equestria would gain a powerful ally, and would be free of having to worry about another chaotic coup. However, as close as she and the immortal had become in their adventures, she still wouldn't put it past him to try anyway, disregarding the treaty as he did any conventional rules. But more than that, it meant she had to go on a date with him! A 'dinner, movie, and scenic walk' date! What motivations could he possibly have to want such! Though 'romance' was written in the doctrine, she knew better than to believe that as the truth. Even then, she wasn't the kind of pony for the dating scene, much less for going on one forced upon her. If she denied, she would be spared whatever ploy the draconequus had planned, but would require turning down the immortal she had indeed come to know. Though they were not on the best terms, she could still call him a friend in the right context. Moreso, he was giving up much of his freedom, at least legally, to become a citizen. Too many questions were raised by this, and there wasn't much being granted in the way of answers.
The decision was upon her.
She narrowed her eyes. "One date, right?"
Discord smiled, eyes never breaking contact as he sipped his tea, like a predator glaring down its prey. "Just one."
She took a deep breath. "Fine. I accept."
A deep cackle rose from the immortal. "I knew you would!" Sobering his tone, he gave a scowl. "I would have made confetti for the occasion, but Princess Moon-Butt up there is still keeping this a boring affair."
"Speaking of," the Princess began, looking off towards the tower. "With a settlement reached, we no longer need to keep Luna from her rest." With a wave of Celestia's hoof, the distant Luna dropped her magic, releasing the group from the binding spell before retreating into the darkened archway behind her.
Instantly, a barrage of confetti burst from the teakettle on the table, covering the trio as phantom music rang out. Discord shot into a hover over his seat, arms outstretched in jubilation. "Mazel tov, everypony!"
Twilight groaned, whispering below her breath. "It's going to be a long night."
Celestia leaned over, hundreds of pieces of confetti stuck in her flowing mane. "Thank you, Twilight. I know he's a hoofful, but I'm sure you can handle him." As the teacups began to chase each other around the table, she sighed. "However, we should finish this meeting before I change my mind."
The final condition met, both immortals signed the document, with Twilight signing last as witness. With the meeting over, and legalities decided, the group gave their parting farewells to one another. Discord vanished in a blink of magic, while Celestia proceeded to her chambers to prepare for the daily Court meeting. Twilight made her way back to the chariot, with Ponyville as the destination. She had to get ready herself, because tonight, whether she liked it or not, she now had plans.