Hi everyone! Here's the second installment of everyone going off on their own adventures - I hope you enjoyed the ride lol!

The Most Chaotic Life Ever!

Chapter 9:

Arrivals and Departures (Part 2)

The group had been flying for a day or so, heading far north. They were wrapped in blankets now as snow started to fall from the sky. There was more room in the chariot without Tirek, and yet Chrysalis and Cozy Glow stayed close. And Luster Dawn frequently huddled together with them.

Discord kept snapping up chocolate milk clouds, putting them over a flame, and dishing out cups of hot cocoa to everyone. "Don't worry, we'll be through the safety barrier of the Crystal Empire soon - it'll be less icy and windy. And I can guarantee there'll be warm crystal berry pie waiting for us."

Chrysalis sighed, shivering. "Just hurry. Make those ridiculous pigs fly faster!"

"Hey, they have names, and those names are Discord Jr., Lil' Chaos, Celestia Jr., Tiny Luna, Smooze II, and Ridiculous," Discord corrected. "And their wings are cold. Just keep pretending you're only huddling together for warmth when really also you like being close. We'll be there before you know it!"

Chrysalis and Cozy Glow grumbled but didn't move away from each other. Luster snuggled in closer. She looked to Cozy Glow. "So, Cozy…you're going to start basic training. That's amazing!"

"Whatever." She scowled.

"Do you know who your instructor will be?"

"I don't know her name. Some super old mare who's done this her whole life."

"…What are you looking forward to most?"

"Not being asked fifty questions about it!"

Chrysalis nudged Cozy Glow. "If you need to have an attitude to deal with this moment, fine, but don't get snarky with Luster. She's just coping in her own way which happens to involve asking fifty questions."

"It's okay, Chrysalis." Luster Dawn assured. "Cozy, if you don't want to talk about it, we don't have to. I just…think you're really brave. And I admire all of the hard work you've done and that you're willing to do. And I'll miss you." She shrugged, looking down, her smile faint.

"Whatever…" Cozy Glow mumbled. She had her eyes down, hiding her face a little.

Chrysalis saw the glint of a tear there. Caught off guard, her gaze softened and she opened her mouth to say something.

"We're here!" Discord suddenly announced. The chariot lurched as it passed through the barrier, and instantly the winter weather was much more bearable. The castle was shining in the distance. "Next stop, another castle full of food and friendly faces and also so many fireplaces. Onward, team of pigs!" Discord snapped the reigns, and the pigs continued to the castle and eventually landed in the courtyard.

Cadance, Shining Armor, and Flurry Heart were right outside to greet them.

"Uncle Discord!" Flurry Heart flew over as soon as the chariot touched down and gave the chaos master a big hug. "It's so great to see you again! Watch what I can do now!" Her horn and eyes glowed with white light, and then a huge protection spell instantly surrounded the castle. She blinked and it was gone.

"Wow!" Discord flew up. "Okay, you have been training and it shows." He smirked. "Want to spend some time while I'm here goofing off and making your mother regret me being such a big influence on you growing up?"

"Yes!" Her eyes laughed together and then she flew over to the others. "Luster!" Flurry Heart hugged her and pulled back. "It's so good to see you again."

"I've missed you too, Flurry Heart." Luster Dawn smiled. "It feels like it's been so long since you were in Ponyville but it's only been a few months."

"Don't worry, I'm planning to visit again after my coronation." She winked and then flew over to the remaining guests. "Chrysalis! Welcome to the Crystal Empire! My Mom is so excited you're here!"

Chrysalis smirked a little as she stood up. "And your father?"

Flurry Heart rolled her eyes to the side. "He…accepts the excitement around the fact that you're here."

"Hmm, he's that nervous?" The changeling chuckled. "Well, at least that means I can have a little fun while I'm here. If I can't amuse myself with Twilight, her brother really is the next best pony."

Flurry Heart laughed. "Aw, I know you'll be nice."

"Princesses have far too much optimism."

Flurry Heart flew over to Cozy Glow. "And Cozy Glow - or should I say soon-to-be Junior Private Cozy Glow." She saluted. "Your trainer is here today. She wanted to meet you early."

Cozy Glow sighed and stood up. "Yeah, great…I'm sure she's just as excited as I am."

Flurry Heart's eyes hazed. "It's okay, I was nervous before my first training too."

"I'm not nervous!" Cozy Glow buzzed into the air. "I just…can we just go inside already? I'm freezing!" She zipped into the castle through the nearest window.

"I'll talk to her, Flurry Heart," Luster Dawn assured. "It's just been a long trip. She wants to be here though - believe me, if she didn't she would have taken off sometime during the trip."

Everyone got out of the chariot and went over to Cadance and Shining Armor.

"Cadance," Luster Dawn bowed her head, "it's so wonderful to see you again! And Prince Shining Armor, it's an honor to meet you."

"Heh," Shining Armor grinned, "hey, you don't need to be so formal - you're my sister's student. Just call me Shining. It's great to meet you, Luster." Shining Armor offered her his hoof and they shook.

Discord flew over and gave the prince and princess each a hug with an arm. "Cadance, it's always been too long - Celestia and Twilight and Luna send hugs and kisses and love and promises of princess sleepovers." He turned to Shining Armor. "Shining Armor, you, me, and whoever wants to join us - a rousing game of O&O tonight. We have to catch up!"

"I'll play."

Everyone turned to Chrysalis who had an amused smirk on her face. She sighed and looked at the castle then to Cadance. "Cadance, a glittery crystal castle - how…on brand for you. It doesn't have secret death traps like Celestia and Discord and Luna's castle, right?"

"No, just lots of pretty decorations." Cadance smiled.

Chrysalis nodded. "Perfect, I love it already." She turned to Shining Armor, an eyebrow raised. "Shining Armor, it has been a long time."

The prince swallowed but kept up a polite smile. "Hey…Chrysalis. Yeah, it…whew, how long has it been exactly?" He rubbed the back of his neck.

"A good thirty years. And just to clear the air, I know I look even more utterly ravishing in this form then I was in your wife's form back then, but do try to control yourself. I'm too tired for anything to be awkward. Now let's go inside, I'm freezing!" She walked right past him.

Shining Armor stood there blushing with his jaw dropped while Cadance and Cozy Glow held back so much laughter that they were starting to cry. Discord was trying very hard to keep himself together for the sake of his friend but failing miserably. And Luster Dawn just sighed with a hoof to her forehead.

Shining Armor cleared his throat, and one of his eyes twitched. "Okay, so, I'm going to head out on patrol for the next three days. Discord, do you want to come?"

"Oh come on," Cadance held back her laughter and nudged him, "it'll be fine. She was just breaking the tension. She's really kind of nice to get to know, Shining Armor. You know, as herself and not as me."

He pouted. "I don't like this."

"But it's for our daughter and her new little student. Please?" Cadance nuzzled her head against his.

He sighed and smiled. "Okay." He glanced to his daughter. "For you, Flurry."

Flurry Heart hugged both of them. She flew over to Luster Dawn. "Come on, Luster, I'll take you and Chrysalis on a tour around the castle. And I'm sure we'll find Cozy Glow eventually."

Luster Dawn smiled and nodded then trotted inside after her.

Discord sighed and stood with Cadance and Shining Armor. "It's gonna be a dilly of a weekend, just so you know. But it won't be that bad. Tirek's trip actually turned out pretty fun. Seriously - I owe Luna five bits because nothing exploded. Now let's all get inside and welcome Cozy and help Luster and humor Chrysalis and maybe eat some warm crystal berry pie because I'm hungry and cold!"

They started to head inside together. Shining Armor shook his head, but he was smiling a little. "Okay, but don't egg on Chrysalis - the last thing she needs is encouragement. Let's all just try to be adults."

"I mean, I'm hopeless when it comes to that level of maturity but I'll try to make an exception for you, buddy," Discord replied.

"Thanks. Cadance?"

She was smiling a lot to herself. "I won't encourage her…but if she makes another joke like that one, I can't make any promises about resisting laughing."

Shining Armor sighed, but he was still smiling too.

They all went in and prepared for a lot of hard work.

Once inside, Cozy Glow had just flown through halls at random - anything to get away from everyone. But she quickly realized that she was a bit lost in the huge castle of crystal that just kept going on and on. She sighed and started to walk instead. "Ugh, could this place be more bright and cheerful? Even Twilight's castle in Ponyville wasn't this obnoxiously princessy." She looked down. "And now you're stuck here, Cozy Glow - living in the realm of the mushiest princess in a place full of crystal that's covered in snow all year long and about to become a soldier. Where in the name of all that is bad did you go wrong?" She shook her head and rounded a corner.

She bumped into someone and fell down.

Cozy Glow shook her head then scowled at the creature in question. "Hey! Watch where you're going! Don't you know I'm a special guest of the princess?"

The creature was a mare with a dark maroon coat and a cropped mane and a black armored tunic. She had green eyes with a scar over one of them. And her horn was…broken.

Cozy Glow tilted her head at that sight. "Huh…I didn't know unicorn horns could get like that."

The mare looked down at her with an icy gaze. "Young ponies ought to watch where they're going as well because it just so happens I'm likewise a special guest of the princess. And yes, horns can 'get like this' - aren't you an astute and unfiltered little creature."

"Don't call me little!" Cozy Glow buzzed up into the air.

"And temperamental too. Hmm…" The mare eyed her, still unfazed. "The passion is helpful but too easy to wildly misdirect in your case."

Cozy Glow scoffed. "Oh gee, talking to me like you know everything about me without really knowing me at all. What are you, another princess?"

"Oh no… I'm much more military minded than that. I heard you're the same." She smiled slightly.

Cozy Glow's eyes went wide.

"Cozy Glow!" Luster Dawn called out as she and Flurry Heart rounded a corner from one end of the hall and raced over. "There you are."

"Here they are!" From the other end of the hall came Cadance followed by Chrysalis and Discord and Shining Armor trailing behind. "Ah and they've already met!"

"Wow you two found each other fast!" Flurry Heart smiled.

Cozy Glow landed. "i'm sorry, what?"

A low laugh left the strange mare. "Captain Crown Princess Flurry Heart - always good to see you." The mare saluted and then bowed to Flurry Heart.

Flurry Heart saluted back and nodded her head. "And you too, Commander Tempest Fizzle."

Shining Armor stepped forward now. "Cozy Glow, meet commander Tempest Fizzle - she's going to be your boot camp drill sergeant."

"You're kidding me." Cozy Glow brought a hoof to her forehead, scowling.

"I'm afraid not - I'm not one for jokes." Tempest shrugged. "And yes, we just ran into each other. You were right, Flurry Heart - she does remind me of you at that age. But a little different also. I'm eager to see what kind of solider she'll be in the end."

"Hey don't talk about me like I'm not here!" Cozy Glow yelled. "And I'm still gonna be me no matter what I do while I'm doing whatever with you. And I am not the second coming of Flurry Heart - I am not like a princess at all."

"Wow, Flurry, you used to say stuff like that when your mom and I made you angry." Shining Armor observed with a smile. "She really is like you."

Cozy Glow gave him an absolutely black look.

He swallowed. "Er… sorry… never mind."

Seething, Cozy Glow glared at everyone. "If this 'boot camp' is just going to be some thinly disguised princess training to make me a good little pony then I'm out."

"It's not - if you were getting Princess training we'd be sticking you with my mom," Flurry Heart replied dryly. "Believe me, I had to do both at the same time - I know the difference."

"Oh I think we could fit in just a few tea parties and etiquette lessons," Cadance offered with a hopeful smile and bright eyes.

"Oh my gosh, can I just get five minutes alone without everyone staring at me waiting to decide my future!" Cozy Glow buzzed into the air and started to fly off.

She was stopped by a burst of magic from Tempest's horn right in front of her.

She turned to see Tempest standing there looking down at her. "One of the first things we'll be learning is how to excuse ourselves properly. Soldiers do not run when a moment overwhelms them. They take a deep breath, think through the situation, and then hold ground, attack, or retreat as needed. A calm moment of retreat is acceptable and helpful, Cozy Glow. But an angry impulse to run away does no good for anyone."

Cozy Glow was too stunned to speak for a moment. Then she blinked twice, her scowl faltering. "Who…who do you think…That's not how… You can't just…"

"Your educators in the past have been princesses and their friends and students. You'll find my methods different." She was still so calm yet her tone took on an even firmer quality. "I will not coddle or cower at your outbursts. I will lead you through them even if I have to hold your hoof while you kick and scream. Because you deserve to be your best self, young Cozy Glow. You deserve to rule over your powers and emotions and abilities and to let them bring you into your happiest life. This will not be an easy journey but it will be one you don't regret. And I will be here through all of it - I do not leave any pony behind. Do I make myself clear?"

Those green eyes were so piercing yet…they they were caring too. Tempest wasn't like a princess but she wasn't like a villain, and she was like both at once but also something all her own. Cozy Glow couldn't peg her down, and no response came to her mind. She just blinked a few times and nodded then sat down.

Tempest smiled a little more and her gaze softened slightly. "You'll do fine, you know. I'm very glad to have you aboard." She gave Cozy Glow a small salute. She turned to Flurry Heart. "Thank you for the fine recruit, Captain." They saluted each other and Tempest bowed again. She turned to Cadance and Shining Armor. "Thank you for inviting me to see her, Princess, Prince - I'm afraid I have to get back to prepare the barracks now and to plan our schedule together." She bowed to them then nodded to Discord. "Chaos Master, it's been a while - please give my regards to the Emeritus Princesses of the Sun and Moon." She glanced at Chrysalis. "Queen Chrysalis - pleased to meet you. I've studied some of your military tactics from the past - very inspirational." With a final salute to the room, her horn crackled and Tempest disappeared.

Chrysalis tilted her head. She glanced at Cadance. "Congratulations - I think you actually found a pony that can handle Cozy Glow just as well as Tirek and I did combined."

"Tempest is great!" Flurry Heart nodded. "She's tough but fair. And very smart. She really helps you find a sense of pride and joy in your life. She helps you grow up."

Cozy Glow just sat there, looking down, eyes wide. She wasn't scowling or frowning, just sitting and staring and thinking.

Luster Dawn stepped forward hesitantly. "Cozy Glow? Are you…"

She stood up, still not looking at anyone. "Is there a room somewhere where I can lie down? I'm tired."

Flurry Heart's smile wavered but she nodded. "Sure. I can take you—"

"Can you just teleport me there, please."

Flurry Heart hesitated then nodded. She powered her horn and sent Cozy Glow away.

Luster Dawn frowned. "Flurry, where is that room? Something's not right, I need to talk to her."

"Just one floor up, the last room at the east end of the hall."

"Maybe you should give her a moment," Cadance stepped forward. "She might just need some time to herself to process everything. Children take change a lot harder than adults." She smiled. "Why don't we get some warm cider first, and we'll show the rest of you to your rooms and then you can go talk to her."

"I agree with this plan, especially the cider part." Discord flew up and circled around them. "Just to be safe though, the guards put away the chariot under lock and key, right? She gets hold of that thing, and she could take off."

"Heh," Shining Armor grinned, "ever since Flurry Heart snuck out for that joyride as a teenager, they put every chariot away under lock and key."

"Ah, then we're all set! On to the cider!" Discord pointed forward. Cadance and Shining Armor lead everyone down the hall followed by the chaos master and Flurry Heart.

Luster Dawn lingered at the back and Chrysalis came beside her as they walked. "I think I'll join you when you talk to her. She really does need two creatures to work through her stubbornness so she can just say what's on her mind."

Luster Dawn smiled a little. "You know, Chrysalis, you've been really helpful during this trip. Thank you."

"Hmm…" Chrysalis shrugged, "well I do remember something about how to maintain a functioning society - our little road trip group is just a small version of that. And besides, what's the point of being difficult? I'm getting something I want at the end of all of this. Acting foolish would only keep my…friends…from getting what they want as well."

Luster Dawn swallowed. "You know, I still don't know if becoming a princess is at the end of all this stuff for me. But if it is, I think I could learn a lot from you. You're a better leader than you know, Chrysalis."

Chrysalis blushed a little then hissed. "Enough flattery. Just don't go to Cozy without me." She trotted ahead - Luster Dawn just watched her go with a smile.

Chrysalis came up beside Flurry Heart and her parents. "Flurry Heart, I imagine your mother has told you the story of our first encounter at her wedding many times. Would you like to hear the same tale but from my perspective? I really had some choice moments."

"Yes!" Flurry Heart clapped her hooves together as Cadance giggled.

"Very well. It all started with your father who was so giddily in love he couldn't tell his fiancee from a brilliant copy with a clear personality disorder…."

Shining Armor sighed deeply and Discord just patted him on the shoulder and shook his head with a smile.

After a brief refreshment, Luster Dawn followed by Chrysalis found their way upstairs and to the room Flurry Heart had mentioned. Luster Dawn knocked on the door. "Cozy Glow? It's Luster and Chrysalis. We brought you some cider and sugar cookies. Can we come in?"

There was a sigh from the other side. "Whatever."

Luster Dawn opened the door and they entered. They found Cozy Glow sitting in the middle of a big canopy bed staring up at the ceiling.

Luster Dawn set the treats down on her nightstand. "Would you like to take a tour around the castle grounds? Flurry Heart offered to show us round."


"What about playing O&O with Discord and Shining Armor?"

"Ugh pass…"

"Or we could take a walk in town."

"Not happening."

Chrysalis sighed and stepped forward. "I could continue to make awkward jokes about the time I almost married Shining Armor and you could watch him squirm?"

Cozy Glow hesitated. But finally she turned away on the bed. "That's okay. I'll stay here."

Chrysalis nudged Luster Dawn and pointed her toward the bed. Luster Dawn nodded and headed forward. "Cozy Glow, what's wrong? Are you nervous about training? It's only for two weeks. Then you can come back here to the castle. You'll only be working with the guards on the weekends and the rest of the time you can explore and find hobbies and make friends."

"I already have friends, I don't get why I should have to make more." Cozy Glow tossed a throw pillow to the floor.

Luster Dawn climbed onto the bed and considered. "Are you nervous about trying?"

"I told you, I'm not nervous about anything!" Cozy Glow glared at her. "I just…I just…" She blinked a few times and some tears came to her scowling eyes. Luster Dawn frowned. Cozy Glow wiped the tears away and glared at her and Chrysalis. "You're really going to leave me here tomorrow! Both of you! You're just going to go! And Tirek's already gone! What is the point of making friends if they just go away! What's the point in trying to be anything new if it all just changes!"

Chrysalis moved closer and tilted her head. "You knew we were going on this trip to all go our separate ways for a while. Did you want us to fail?"

"No! I mean…I don't know… But I didn't think we'd actually pull off this plan!" She held out her hooves. "We have managed to be totally incompetent at so many turns! So, yeah, I thought maybe we'd all give it up and just go back to Ponyville to live in the castle together! But Tirek really went away and the rest of you really will go too! And I don't know what to do here!" Her breathing was heavy.

Luster Dawn hesitated. "Cozy, maybe…if you're this upset maybe you should come back to Ponyville with me and we can—"

"Absolutely not!" Chrysalis scowled and brought her face right up to Cozy Glow's. "I will not let you do yourself such a disservice! You have one of the most brilliant evil minds I've ever encountered and you are going to put it to use for something good for yourself! You are not going to hide or avoid or make excuses. Cozy Glow. I know you're scared - we are all utterly terrified! But you deserve to move on!" Her eyes flashed and her fangs were bared.

Cozy Glow sniffled, her scowl wavering.

Chrysalis took a breath. "I will write to you."

Cozy Glow and Luster Dawn blinked. "You will?" They said at once.

Chrysalis rolled her eyes but nodded. "Yes, I will. And you will write to me too. And you will write to Tirek and I'm sure he'll write back. Okay?"

Cozy Glow nodded. She glanced at Luster Dawn. "Luster, will you write too…or whatever?"

"Of course!" Luster Dawn smiled. "I was going to write to all of you!" She hugged the little pony. "Cozy Glow, even if we're not together, we're still your friends and we still love and believe in you. And you'll be back visiting Ponyville before you know it. And you'll all have so many great stories to tell."

Cozy Glow wriggled and got out of her grasp. "Okay, okay, don't get all sappy. Sheesh." She took a breath. "I'll stay. But can I still just have some time to myself up here alone."

Luster Dawn nodded. "Of course. We'll come get you when dinner's ready. Then…maybe afterwards you'll want to play O&O?"

"I'm joining, so it should be very awkward and amusing," Chrysalis added.

Cozy Glow smiled a little. "Maybe."

Luster Dawn smiled and nodded. She turned to head out.

"I'll be there in a moment," Chrysalis glanced at her.

Luster Dawn opened her mouth, about to question her, when suddenly there was a small explosion outside and chocolate milk splattered against the window. From the courtyard they heard Cadance. "Discord, Flurry, you're not playing chocolate milk fireworks, right?"

"Define playing!" came Discord's voice back to her.

Chrysalis sighed. "You should probably go help deal with that. Honestly, Discord's more likely to get us kicked out of the Empire than I am."

Luster Dawn laughed then nodded and trotted away.

Cozy Glow eyed Chrysalis. "What?"

Chrysalis glanced to the side with a pout. "I'm going to miss you too, you know."

"Oh don't get sappy on my, Chrysalis, I was actually starting to think you were almost cool."

"I mean it." She bit her lip. "After I was expelled from the hive I…had no creatures to take care of anymore. But then Tirek and I had you to watch over."

"Oh please, I was the one watching over the two of you and your shenanigans."

"Not always." Chrysalis smiled a little for a moment. Then she cleared her throat and went on. "I'm going to miss being someone who is around for you. I consider you…" she hesitated and grimaced but made herself say the words, "part of my brood, in a way."

Cozy Glow's eyes went wide then her look went dry. "I'm not your kid." She blushed.

"I know that!" Chrysalis blushed too. "But you are a kid of sorts… and I have enjoyed being around while you've grown. I wanted you to know. I like that we found each other."

Cozy Glow swallowed. "You and Tirek were the only grown ups I ever liked, you know. I'm glad we've been together too." She shrugged. "You're okay."

"You're okay too, Cozy Glow. And as a former military leader, I think you'll be one of the most formidable soldiers in history."

Cozy Flow smiled a little. "Really?"

Chrysalis smiled back. "Yes. I'm looking forward to sparing with you one day."

Cozy Glow smiled a little more. She looked to the treats Luster Dawn had left her. "Do you want some cookies?"

Chrysalis blinked but nodded. "Yes…okay."

Cozy Glow took a cookie and gave one to Chrysalis. "You know, I'll totally deny this if you ever ask me in public but… I kind of wouldn't mind growing up to be like you or Tirek or both."

"Just…pick the stable parts of us to be like. The rest is a headache."

"Yeah, like I could handle any more instability."

They two of them shared a small not-so-evil laugh.

The next evening Chrysalis, Discord, and Luster Dawn all left the Crystal Empire, and Cozy Glow was alone in her new home for the first time. That night in her big bed in her crystal room she tossed and turned and there were flashes of nightmares until finally she woke up, breathing heavily. For a moment she was ready to get Tirek or Chrysalis or Luster Dawn, but then she remembered they were gone. She considered…and then flew out of the room and found her way to Flurry Heart's room.

The protection princess was sleeping. Cozy Glow flew over to her bedside and nudged her. "Flurry Heart?" Flurry Heart continued to slumber. Cozy Glow pushed her harder and scowled. "Flurry Heart!" Flurry Heart tossed and snored but still slept. Cozy Glow rolled her eyes. "Flurry Heart!" she yelled and tossed a pillow at her. "Get up or I'll ask your mom to do all the tea parties possible with us!"

Flurry Heart sat up with a start - she looked around, blinking and confused. "Huh? No, no tea party - I'm busy. Wait…what?" Then her eyes found Cozy Glow in the darkness. She used her horn to make some light. "Cozy? Are you okay?"

Cozy Glow hesitated then landed on the edge of the bed and shrugged. "I had a bad dream. It's not big deal. But I thought maybe if you'd had one two, we could deal with it together."

Flurry Heart's smile softened. "I used to get nightmares a lot when I was younger. And even now sometimes. Auntie Luna says it's because I care too much about so many things that my head gets overwhelmed, and the dreams are how my heart expresses it."

"I don't think caring too much about others is my problem," Cozy Glow replied dryly.

"Maybe not - but you might just have a few things that you really care about a whole lot." Flurry Heart smiled.

Cozy Glow shrugged.

"Do you want a snack or for me to read you a story?"

"No. I'm not hungry, and the only stories I like are the ones Chrysalis tells about monsters and the hive and scary things in the night."

"Hmm… well I like scary stuff too but it's not the best for getting you to sleep after a nightmare"

"I don't know." Cozy Glow pouted and looked down. "Maybe it's just sleeping in that big room all alone. I'm not used to it."

Flurry Heart smiled and moved over. "Would you like to stay here with me and Whammy?"

"Who's Whammy?"

Flurry Heart held up the stuffed snail.

"You still sleep with a doll?" Cozy Glow smirked.

"Hey, Whammy is a great friend, and he helps a ton with nightmares." She winked.

Cozy Glow shifted into the bed and Flurry covered her. The little pony yawned right away. "Okay, but we're not brining this up to your parents, right?"

"No way - they'd act like it was so adorable or something. Not cool." Flurry Heart settled in and yawned too.

"Yeah, grownups are always so sappy." Cozy Glow closed her eyes.

"I'm glad to have a new friend around here, Cozy Glow." Flurry Heart's eyes closed.

Cozy Glow blinked. She watched Flurry Heart, her eyes wide, then moved a little closer and closed her eyes again. "Me too, Flurry Heart."

The little ponies fell asleep together.

Twilight and Luna always stayed up talking until late. And tonight Luna did not want the time together to end… mostly because she had decided that by the end of their night together she was going to say something direct to Twilight. But all too soon she saw Twilight yawning, barely able to keep awake. And Luna knew it was now or never.

"I'm going shut out my light, Luna. You can keep yours on though if you want to read." Twilight settled against her pillows.

"Actually, I…" Luna blushed, "I wanted to say something, I think. I mean, I do but…My apologies, tis complicated."

Twilight tilted her head. "What is it, Luna? Is it something about Sombra?"

"Nay," Luna shook her head at the memory of their last interaction. "It's about Chrysalis in a way…and what we talked about when we spoke on my first night here, in the throne room."

Twilight blushed a little but nodded.

Luna smiled gently. "We agreed we both consider each other very special friends. And Chrysalis being almost ready to approach you for a similar relationship is what made me bring up the topic. I just…I want you to know that I am not looking for any additional suitors, and if any came to me I would turn them down…because I have you, as far as I'm concerned. And I hope one day that you will be of the same mindset regarding me even if we have some details to work out still." She swallowed. "I love you in a special way, Twilight Sparkle."

Twilight just watched her with wide eyes, blushing considerably.

And then Luna felt far too wide awake to sleep. She stood up. "Er, I apologize for rambling a little. These days together have relaxed me quite a bit. I shall take a flight to calm my nerves. I shall see you tomorrow."


But Luna already had her wings spread as Twilight looked up at her, and then the alicorn was gone in a flash.

Twilight rested her head on her pillow and looked at the empty space where Luna had been. She laid her foreleg over it before sighing and trying to drift off to sleep.

The hour was late but Celestia was up - she was in Fluttershy's backyard taking Argos out to do some business before bed. She yawned, enjoying the peace of the nighttime out here. And then she jumped when her sister appeared before her. "Luna? What are you-"

Luna sighed. "I may have just utterly humiliated myself in front of Twilight and pushed her too quickly to define our relationship, and now I am here because I could not then spend the evening lying next to her in bed."

Celestia smiled and came forward to wrap a foreleg around her sister. "I'm sure it's not that bad. Come inside with me and Argos. I'll fix you some tea and then you can spend the night here with me. Okay?"

Luna nodded, hugging her sister back. She pulled back with a sheepish smile. "Are there any cupcakes or cookies inside by any chance?"

"No, but I believe there are some chocolate chip scones."

"More than acceptable."

The puppy came up and kissed Luna and Celestia. They laughed and petted him and then headed inside, the moon sister resting against the side of the sun sister.

The traveling group had left early in the morning for the next leg of their chariot ride, and Chrysalis sat in the backseat alone, just watching the landscape pass and change. Going from Tirek's home in the south to the Crystal Empire in the north all the way to Sequestria in the west had added time to their journey that could have been saved if the destinations of the three former villains had been rearranged a little. But Chrysalis had requested to go to her new destination last - she wanted as few creatures and as little pomp as possible, the better to start an attempt at a fresh life and figuring out what she wanted for herself.

"So…" came Luster Dawn's voice carefully, interrupting the changeling's thoughts, "Are you looking forward to seeing Ocellus? I'm not how well you remember her…"

Chrysalis blinked. "Ocellus?" Where had she heard that name… It sounded like a common enough changeling name, but she had a recollection of hearing it long after her banishment from the hive. "Wait - that little changeling runt who went to the school of friendship? I've never been introduced. Why am I seeing her? I thought the new Hive Ruler was supposed to be meeting us there to—" And then the realization clicked into place. She sighed deeply and brought a hoof to her forehead. "Oh Thorax, you couldn't have done a more ridiculous job at replacing me even if you tried, I swear…"

"Hey, everyone at the hive loves Ocellus!" Discord chimed in from the front. "She's really come into her own. Watching her grow up was sort of like watching Fluttershy grow up. She's still quiet and kind and a little shy and bookish - but mess with her hive and she lays down the law in the name of friendship." He smirked a little. "I think you'll like her as queen."

"I'm the only queen there ever needed to be." Chrysalis pouted and slumped in her seat.

Luster Dawn smiled sheepishly. "I'm sure you'll get along once you meet. She's very ready to assist with transitioning you into the sea pony and hippogriff land. And Silver Stream will be helping too - Ocellus' friend from the School of Friendship. She's the official Ambassador from Seaquestria to Equestria."

"All of this formality is ridiculous."

"I know it's a lot." Luster Dawn nodded. "But Tirek was just returning to his homeland, and Cozy Glow was just going to the Crystal Empire which is connected with Equestria. You're going to an entirely different nation - there's more protocols. But it'll be very simple and quick once we get there." She hesitated. "Are you sure you want Discord and I to leave as soon as possible? We could stay on a few days and make sure everything goes smoothly…"

"I'd like to make the break simple and clean. And the longer you stay, the more unnecessary attention I'll gain." Chrysalis looked out at the landscape again - they were over water now. "Don't worry, I can handle myself just fine. This isn't some monumental moment of growth for me or a heartwarming reunion. I'm just going somewhere to rest and think for a while. If anything, the extra solitude will do me some good."

"Well, we're at least staying for dinner," Discord added as a large island with a mountain came into view, "They've got some great delicacies, and I've got to snap pictures anyway for Celestia."

"You two and your ridiculous love," Chrysalis grumbled.

Luster Dawn smiled and moved to the back seat. She kept her voice low. "Maybe being here will give you a chance to find some love too…"

Chrysalis blinked and blushed then looked away with a scowl.

Luster Dawn put a hoof on her shoulder. "But for now, just take some time for yourself. I think that'll be a really good thing."

Chrysalis sighed and some of the pout went away. She quickly cleared her throat and changed the subject. "Remind me again how the hippogriffs and sea ponies look? I don't have them in my repertoire and I'd like to prefect the form as quickly as possible. It's something like this, right?" She changed first into a hippogriff with black and teal feathers and a teal and while mane, and then into a sea pony with similar colors.

"They look great," Luster Dawn assured. "But sometimes you can also just be yourself: I think they'll like meeting you like that too."

Chrysalis shrugged and transformed into her usual form. "Are we almost there so I can get this over with?"

Discord nodded. "Next stop, Eris!" He glanced over his shoulder. "And try to have some fun with this place, Chrysalis. Think of it as a taste of proper retirement - one you've earned."

Her eyes widened and she tilted her head at him. But Discord just chuckled and turned back to flying the pigs.

Chrysalis sighed and watch Eris loom closer in the distance. She hoped this ludicrous plan for her future that she had agreed to would lead her to something worthwhile.

The chariot landed, and already Chrysalis was having some doubts. This place was so bright and sunny - and colorful pony-like creatures flew around everywhere laughing and singing. She tried to keep some hope that the underwater portion of this land would be less flamboyant.

"Discord! You're all here! Yay!"

Discord turned and smiled at the sight of a familiar pink hippogriff waving frantically, beckoning them over. He hopped out of the chariot, and Luster Dawn followed with Chrysalis hesitantly bringing up the rear.

Silver Stream flew right up to Discord. "Was your trip great? Are you excited to be here? How is everyone in Equestria? Did you see Gallus before you left? Does he say hi? Can you tell him I said hi?"

Discord chuckled. "We're all fine and happy to be here, everyone in Equestria is great, and yes I did see Gallus." He snapped his fingers - a dimensional portal appeared at his side that opened to show the knot hole in his thinking tree. Discord reached inside and pulled out a wrapped gift. "And he asked me to give you this."

Silver Stream took the present and tore it open, her eyes sparkling. Inside was a snow globe of the School of Friendship. She giggled. "Look! It's something on land but it's in this water, and it's got the stairs and everything!" She shook it up and watched the snow fall in amazement. "Ooo and now it's winter! I love it!" She tucked the present away in her saddlebag and pulled out a gift of her own. "Will you make sure he gets this when you get back? I painted a picture of us at Mount Eris." And indeed there was the picture of the mountains with a waving Silver Stream and a serious Gallus standing close.

Discord chuckled and tucked the painting away into a dimensional pocket then snapped it closed. "Absolutely."

"Thank you!" Silver Stream announced. She flew up to Luster Dawn. "Luster Dawn! You're here! We haven't seen each other since you were just out of magic kindergarten and I was staying at the castle to help princess Twilight welcome Queen Skystar. You got so big! Amazing!"

Luster laughed. "Thanks, Silver Stream. It's nice to see you too."

Silver Stream flew over to Chrysalis. She gasped. "Oh my gosh, and it's you, it's really you! Wait right there!" She flew away.

Chrysalis just stood there, wide eyed. "Well, that was odd." She glanced at Discord. "And Discord, are you seriously sending little tokens of affection between her and whoever she admires in Equestria?"

"I'm an old romantic, what can I say." He chuckled. "Besides, I like helping 'the grandchildren.'"

"You're insane."

"No, I just think of all our friends as an extended family. And those two will be family to each other soon - Gallus proposed last spring."

Chrysalis sighed and was about to go back to the chariot and seriously consider her current life choices when she paused. There was the sound of fanfare. Then Silver Stream reappeared and behind her, with a small crown upon her head and walking tall with a stoic look, came Ocellus.

Luster Dawn bowed and Discord gave a slight one from the waist. Chrysalis decided immediately that she would rather be cast off in the middle of the ocean all alone to succumb to the elements than even begin to make the gesture.

Silver Stream gestured to Ocellus. "Ta da! Presenting Queen Ocellus!"

Ocellus smiled a little. "It's okay, Silver Stream, this doesn't have to be so formal. They're our friends." She looked up at Discord. "It's so good to see you, Discord."

"Always a pleasure, Ocellus."

"And Luster Dawn," She came forward and touched hooves with her to shake. "I'm so glad you came. Twilight writes about you all the time. She's so proud."

"Oh thank you." Luster Dawn blushed and smiled. And then she swallowed and gestured behind her. "And, erm…here's Chrysalis."

Chrysalis took a deep breath and stepped forward with her head held high.

Ocellus blinked at first but then resumed her proud and stoic stance.

"My," Chrysalis managed, "you've certainly grown."

"Yes. Growing has become a lot easier for the hive for the past generation," Ocellus replied, unwavering.

Chrysalis scowled a little. "Are you here to assist my transition or to make passive aggressive comments about how I ruined your childhood?"

Ocellus pouted a little. "I'm here because Twilight asked me to be here. And because the hive doesn't leave any changeling behind, even you."

Chrysalis considered then smirked and bared her teeth with a light hiss. Ocellus blinked and swallowed. Chrysalis chuckled, head tilted. "Are you still afraid of me, little changeling?"

"I used to be. But now I'm not. And I'm not little either - I'm a Queen." She took a breath. "So for all our sakes, let's just work together to help today be a success - okay?"

Chrysalis hesitated, the smile gone. "Do all changelings feel such disdain for me as you do?"

"Not all…" Ocellus looked down. "Pharynx admires your military history and Thorax still genuinely hopes you're happy." She looked back up at Chrysalis. "I'm working on feeling that way too, so one day I'll be as good and kind a King as he was."

"Hmm…" Chrysalis considered her, "well, you stood up to me - that's a start for being a good leader of the hive." She didn't bow but did give Ocellus a very slight nod. "Let's go and meet the Queen of this place then." She moved past the teal changeling.

Ocellus bit her lip. Silver Stream came beside her and smiled, and Ocellus smiled again too. Discord and Luster Dawn joined them and they all headed to the shore.

Fanfare sounded again, and out of the sea rose a palanquin holding Queen Skystar in her sea pony form. She changed into a hippogriff and came onto land. Ocellus bowed her head along with Silver Stream and the others. Chrysalis hesitated but then gave a slight bow of her head as well.

Skystar smiled. "I see our new guest is here, and her attendants too. Discord, good to see you again!" She shook with him. "Twilight's student Luster Dawn - a pleasure!" She came forward and hugged Luster Dawn. Then she turned to Chrysalis, eyes bright. "And Emeritus Queen Chrysalis of the Changeling Hive. We're happy you want to call Eris your home for a little while!"

Chrysalis hadn't lost her capacity for displaying a Royal bearing. She nodded and replied, "I appreciate your efforts to accommodate my request. You have a truly…unique home. I am eager to be part of it."

Skystar smiled more. "Of course! And we are happy to get to know a fellow shapeshifter. If you want to stay in your current form, we have accommodations ready for you on the mountain. Otherwise if you want to change into a sea creature of some kind, we have a place set up for you underwater too."

"Today I will stay on land as myself, and in the future I will take the form of a hippogriff while on land and a sea pony while under water." Chrysalis explained - she glanced at the bright and social atmosphere of Mount Eris again. "I would like to transition to living under water as soon as possible."

"Hmm… if that's what you want, absolutely!" Skystar nodded. "Oh, and we'll be having a small dinner celebrating your arrival this evening on land."

Chrysalis grimaced. "I appreciate the gesture, but I would prefer to be quiet about my sudden arrival."

"Oh please come, Chrysalis!" Silver Stream flew up to her. "We made lots of great food and it'll just be us and Skystar's mom - My Aunt Novo. It's really important to hippogriff's to welcome creatures properly! Please, please, please!"

Chrysalis hesitated but finally sighed and relented. "Very well. Thank you for your efforts. But I'd prefer to spend some time alone before the dinner."

"I'll take you somewhere you can rest," Ocellus offered and flew up.

Not seeing much choice in the matter, Chrysalis put on a resigned look and flew after her.

Luster Dawn smiled at Skystar. "Chrysalis is a little nervous. She's happy to be here though."

"It's all right." Skystar giggled as she watched the changelings go. "We sort of specialize in being a home for 'fish out of water' here."

Silver Stream burst into laughter and Discord chuckled too.

Ocellus lead them to a large hut near the base of the mountain, fully furnished. "This is the diplomatic quarters. It's where I've been staying. There are plenty of extra beds and fresh water. And, well…" she blushed a little and went into a room then came out with a saddlebag, "I brought a few things from the hive I thought you might like." She took out a thermos of soup and some chocolates and a few cakes made of leafy greens. "One of our specialties now is making food with a lot of love - literally. Everything has some love added to it, and all the ingredients come from near the hive."

Chrysalis hesitated then took a chocolate and ate. Her eyes widened and her horn glowed. She sighed deeply as she swallowed. "I feel…better."

Ocellus smiled a little. "Good." She took a deep breath. "As long as you're here to feel better, I want you here and I want everything to go well for you. I have a lot of trouble trusting you. But I trust Twilight and she trusts you now. So I'm here to help if you need me."

Chrysalis laid down on the sofa, examining her. "You've adopted the leadership style of ponies, haven't you? No more unquestioned decisions and strict orders. Every new situations is considered and discussed by all and carefully handled, isn't it?"

"It's a better way to lead," Ocellus replied simply.

"Hmm… perhaps." She sighed and rested her head on a pillow. "Next time you see Thorax and Pharynx tell them thanks - they'll know what it's for."

"I will." Ocellus nodded, smiling a little. "I'll see you at dinner Chrysalis."

Chrysalis just yawned and closed her eyes. Ocellus left her.

The dinner was probably a small affair by Eris standards, but still a bit much for Chrysalis. Decorations, a lavish spread, a big welcome banner. Why every new event with other creatures needed to be a party she still didn't understand. But she sat at one end of the table and picked at her food and let the others have their brief reverie… until Discord started doing his stand up comedy act for the table - the one he apparently still did at the hive once a month. At that point, she needed a break. She got up with her cup, pretending to need to refill it at the spring, and then headed down to the shore instead. At sunset the water was quite beautiful. She dipped her hoof in it - the temperature was pleasantly warm. She really had a feeling she'd feel better hidden in its depths for a little while.

It was then she heard a rustling in the trees. She turned and hissed, ready for an attack on reflex. But the figure that came out of the bushes was Queen Novo in her hippogriff form. Chrysalis raised an eyebrow. "Queen Novo? How did you find me?"

"Who said I was looking for you?" Novo smiled easily. "I just needed a break from the festivities. Skystar and Silver Stream, always with the parties ever since they were girls." She sighed. "And of course I had to make sure you weren't sneaking off for anything I should know about."

"It would be nice if you could trust me," Chrysalis countered.

"Trust is all fine and good - but it should be earned. Even if I'm retired as queen, I have to keep an eye on my kingdom's safety," Novo replied. She smiled a little. "Though I think you're all right. I have a good feeling. I know what it's like to be a queen in need of a break. For example, I need a chance to get out of this form. I really prefer fins to forelegs. Do you mind?"

Chrysalis tilted her head and shook it.

Novo nodded in appreciation and transformed into her sea pony form. She sat in the surf, looking at the sunset. "Franky I'm looking forward to having you here. I could use a more serious-minded creature like myself around Eris." She raised an eyebrow. "You don't sing do you?"

Chrysalis rolled her eyes. "Only when I'm about to embark on an evil scheme, and I have no intention of doing one of those in the foreseeable future."

Novo laughed. "Good. Skystar and Silver Stream already sing enough for everyone on the land and sea put together."

Chrysalis considered the water. "May I get your opinion on my sea pony form? This is a new transformation for me."

"I'd be honored."

Chrysalis blinked at the reply but then shook her head and transformed. She sat in the surf in a dark grey body with a green gossamer tail and fins. Her mane was loose in teal waves of a few different shades and her horn was shorter and swirled like a shell.

"Hmm, impressive likeness." Novo acknowledged. "I like your colors. You could probably go a little bigger with the tail fin though - you'll need the extra power down there to work through the currents."

Chrysalis made the change.

"There we go, now that's a tail fit for a queen." Novo winked.

In a strange turn of events, Chrysalis felt herself blush. She shook her head and changed back to normal. "Thank you for your assistance. I plan to start life here in the water."

"Good, that's where I stay too. More quiet and privacy. Maybe you'll let me show you around sometime - I'll take you on the fun tour of all the old battle sites and the best restaurants, and the place in the throne room where Twilight Sparkle almost stole the source of our power…"

Chrysalis snorted through her nose. "So that rumor is true?"

"Oh yes." Novo nodded. "To be fair she was under a lot of stress, but it's an event I remind her of sometimes in a joking way. No pony is perfect. I've made mistakes too…so has she…so have you… Doesn't hurt to learn from them as we move forward."

"I suppose." Chrysalis sighed. "Do you think they're missing us back up at the dinner?"

"Well, I hear Discord's stand up can go on for a while but… I'm sure they've at least noticed we're gone by now." She changed back into her hippogriff form. "Shall we head back?"

Chrysalis nodded and moved alongside her as they turned away from the shore toward the mountain together.

"Maybe we can get lunch some time and continue getting to know each other."

"I'd like that," left Chrysalis before she could stop herself.

Novo laughed. "Great - my little section of the sea castle is nice and quiet. You'll like it there."

"Yes… perhaps I will."

They headed side by side back up to the dinner. And Chrysalis tired to ignore how much she suddenly liked Novo but found herself failing miserably. And the worst part of all was the realization that she wanted Novo to like her too.

The chariot was set to leave first thing in the morning. But Chrysalis couldn't let it leave without a special sort of goodbye. She found Luster Dawn's hut and entered it and was surprised to see that Luster Dawn was still awake.

"Chrysalis?" Luster Dawn blinked. "What are you doing here? Is something wrong?"

"I should be asking you that." Chrysalis raised an eyebrow. "You should be sleeping."

"I guess the trip has just been a little exciting for me, and now going home is too. And once I'm there I have to figure out for myself what I'm moving on to next."

"Don't tell him I said this, but I suspect Discord has some plans about that."

"How do you know?"

"Because whenever you bring it up he gets one of those cheeky all-knowing looks on his face like he's got a secret he's dying to tell."

Luster Dawn laughed. "Well, I hope his idea for me is a good one. But what do you need, Chrysalis? Is there anything I can help with?"

"Oh you've already helped far too much." Chrysalis sat down, blushing slightly. "In fact you have utterly changed my life. And since it doesn't appear to be for the worse, I can only assume it's for the better."

"Chrysalis, I'm honored I could—"

"Let me finish, please. I'll never get all of this out otherwise." She took a deep breath. "You are a good friend, Luster Dawn. And if you were to become a leader I think you would be the ideal one. And whoever you help next is fortunate to have you."

Luster Dawn wiped a tear away, smiling so much.

Chrysalis turned to her, her look softening. "And I just wanted to say…I wanted you to be the first person to whom I say…" She scrunched up her face then quickly wrapped a hoof around Luster Dawn in a hug. "I love you!" She spat out the words, breathing heavily. And then she felt some love magic build inside of her…and then she gave the tiny pulse of magic over to Luster Dawn.

"Chrysalis?" Luster Dawn sounded stunned. "Did you just…?"

Suddenly Chrysalis felt strange and realized she was glowing. She pulled back and ran off into another room. "Yes I did! And don't look at me! I don't know what's going to happen!"

Luster Dawn could see the glow in the room brighten and then fade. There was darkness there now. "Chrysalis? However you changed, it's okay… And thank you for the love. I love you too. And if it'll help, you can come out here with your eyes closed if you're not ready to see yet."

Silence, and then slowly Chrysalis moved out into the light with her eyes shut tightly.

Luster Dawn smiled.

"Is it bad? That's all I want to know. Do I look like a pastel clown?"

Luster Dawn laughed. "Not at all. You look like you. Just a more complete you. I'm sorry, it's hard to describe. It's subtle."

Finally, hesitantly, Chrysalis opened her eyes.

"There's a mirror on the wall over there."

She approached and looked. No pastel colors or glitter or eyes like gumdrops. Her colors were the same. But there were little differences. Her wings were whole and not tattered, her horn was a little straighter, her mane and tail were a little fuller and less ragged, and her legs…the holes were gone. She blinked as tears came into her eyes. "If…If I don't change much more than this going forward, I will be satisfied."

"I think you're beautiful." Luster Dawn offered.

Chrysalis hissed. "Just don't tell Discord. When I see you off in the morning, I will change my form to look like I always have. I just…I wanted to try but I wanted to try with a friend first and I wanted that friend to be you and I wanted to do it now just in case I found anywhere here who I ended up wanting to try with." She blushed very much and willed herself to shut up.

Luster Dawn smiled warmly. "It'll stay between you and me." She hugged Chrysalis. "Your love felt very warm and real and caring."

"Don't get sappy on me…"

"Okay." Luster Dawn pulled back. "Have a good night, Chrysalis."

"Good night, Luster Dawn. I look forward to the next time we meet." With a nod Chrysalis left the room and stepped back into the cool night air. She looked down at herself for a moment and smiled contently. And then she went back to her room to rest.

The next morning after the chariot had left, Chrysalis laid low for a little while. She left the hut when all the pomp and circumstance had passed (and once she was sure Ocellus was gone). When she came out, she did so in her new form. She swallowed as she looked down at herself again. It wasn't so different and no one here had seen her much - perhaps it would go unnoticed. At the very least she knew it wouldn't be remarked on once she got to the shore and changed into her seapony form.

"Chrysalis? Is that you finally rising and shining?"

Chrysalis blinked and almost tripped forward in the sand at the sound of this greeting from Queen Novo. She looked over at a lagoon nearby to see the former Queen lounging in the sun.

"Er, yes." Chrysalis righted herself and cleared her throat. "I wanted to be discreet. I was going to look for Silver Stream and see if she might direct me to where I'll be staying underwater."

"Oh I'm afraid Silver Stream went off with Ocellus to the hive. You know the young people - paperwork and professional responsibilities. And Skystar is busy holding court for a few hours." She sunk lower in the lagoon, smiling more. "I can show you though. I've got absolutely nothing to do these days, and it is delightful."

"Very well, I appreciate your help," Chrysalis managed, coming closer.

Novo blinked and raised an eyebrow. "Say…did you get a makeover or is that new look a changeling trick?"

"I…" Chrysalis blushed as she sat down by the lagoon edge. "Love given by a changeling to others can affect a changelings natural appearance. This was a sudden shift last night - I'm still getting used to it."

"I see." Novo cleared her throat. "Did someone special bring that about?"

"No, no!" Chrysalis pouted and shook her head. "Just a friendly love shared with someone as I was saying my goodbyes." She sighed and looked at her hole-less hoof. "I'm honestly just thrilled I didn't become a neon colored mess of sparkles."

Novo laughed. "I agree. I think your form is already beautiful - you just look a little more comfortable in it now.

Chrysalis's eyes widened and she blushed more. "Yes, well, I…agree?" She looked down and pushed away some magic building inside of her. When she glanced up she was even more stunned to find Novo blushing a little.

The former queen swirled her tail through hotel water. "You know, before I take you down below, would you like to spend some time here? The lagoon water is always warm and I was just about to have a snack." She clapped her hooves twice. A hippogriff appeared with a tray bearing two coconut halves with liquid in them and straws, and a variety of fruits. He bowed to the queen and departed. "The best thing about being retired - I still get all the queen perks, none of the headaches."

"I can stay. Thank you - I am hungry anyway." Chrysalis's look of confusion was interrupted by a small smile. "And it has been a while since I was waited on." She entered the water and changed to her seapony form. She took one of the coconuts.

Novo took the other and raised it up. "To new friends."

Chrysalis hesitated but raised hers up as well. "To new…experiences."

They clinked coconuts and drank.

"You know, we could get massages after this. My treat - your first day deserves to be memorable." Novo winked at her.

Chrysalis felt herself unable to help smiling very much. She nodded. "You're my kind of ruler, Novo."

"I try." Novo smiled more, eyeing her.

Chrysalis took a chance and eyed her back.

Discord and Luster Dawn were the only ones left for the ride back to Ponyville - and Luster Dawn spent quite a lot of the time sleeping. When she woke up, they were almost home. She came to sit in the front seat with Discord.

He smiled. "Would you like a little hot cocoa to perk you up? Maybe some breakfast too."

"Just the cocoa please, Discord." Her smiled was weak. "I'm not that hungry."

Discord nodded and snapped up the drink. "You know, you are a tremendously strong pony, Luster Dawn."

She blinked. "Discord, I haven't done anything so strong or great. I just helped three creatures who needed it and made some friends." She yawned. "I honestly don't know why I'm so tired."

"You're tired because you formed a deep personal bond with those three - something that requires a lot of thought and heart and action. And because you just sent them off into the world and put your trust into them to do good with their new lives." He smiled to himself. "I could never have done something like that with the girls if I'd been the one to reform them. All these years and I'm still a fixture at Fluttershy's house. I'm just grateful she never needed to stray too far from Ponyville to find her calling in life. But you saw those three friends of yours needed to get away and you let them and helped them. I admire you, Luster Dawn."

Luster Dawn sat there staring down into her cocoa with her lip wobbling and tears in her eyes. Discord's eyes widened. "I miss them, Discord." She sniffed.

He put an arm over her and patted her shoulder. "Hey, shh, it's really okay. They are going to be back here before you know it. And you'll write. And listen to me - if anything comes up and you really need to see one of them, you come find me and I will teleport you there myself. Okay?"

She nodded, the tears slowed down. "Okay." With a smile she sat up and held her cocoa firmly again. "Thank you, Discord."

"Don't mention it." He winked. "Always happy to serve little ponies." He smiled more. "I know I was going to drop you off at the Ponyville Castle but why don't you come to the Everfree Forest castle with me, huh? You can spend a couple of days amusing yourself while three doddering old magical relics entertain you. And we can brainstorm ideas for your new living arrangements."

"Are you sure you wouldn't mind? I know you and Celestia and Luna have all been away from home the last two weeks. I don't want to keep you from catching up."

"Nonsense! You'll be a wonderful addition, trust me! And we can tell you embarrassing stories about young Twilight." He chuckled.

Luster Dawn laughed a little too. "Okay, let's go."

Discord snapped the reigns and the pigs headed toward the Everfree Forest, which could be seen faintly in the distance.

When Celestia woke up the next morning at Fluttershy's, Luna was already gone. She left a note saying she had returned to the Everfree Forest castle for some private contemplation. Since Luna being at the castle was exactly what was needed for the next part of Discord's plan, Celestia went about helping Fluttershy with her morning chores around the sanctuary and taking care of Argos. The pup was a handful, but sometimes when he was sleepy Celestia would lift him up in her magic and rock him, and it was nice. Their little family was already very attached. She couldn't wait to bring him home so they could both see Discord again.

But first there was an arrival happening at Fluttershy's house that was very important to see to before heading home.

Fluttershy looked out of her window and gasped with a smile. "Oh, Breezy is here! The Cloudsdale chariot just landed in the clearing!"

"Perfect timing." Celestia entered the living room. "All the chores around the sanctuary are done now. You'll be able to just relax together and catch up."

There was a timid knock on the door. Beaming, Fluttershy headed over and opened it wide. "Breezy! I've missed you!"

There stood a young light blue pony with dark blue hair streaked with yellow. Her mane and tail were wavy and thick and short. She wore silver rimmed glasses and had a dark blue scarf over her head and a sunhat. She smiled at her Aunt. "Aunt Fluttershy, hello. I missed you too. Thank you for having me. Oh!" She gasped once her eyes met Celestia but then smiled again. "Hello, Auntie Celestia. It's very nice to see you." Her eyes brightened. "Is Uncle Discord here too?"

Celestia smiled more. "No, I'm afraid not. But he's due back at our castle very soon, and I know he would love to see you. Fluttershy, would you and Breezy like to head there for tea now and to catch up?"

"Are you sure?" asked Fluttershy. "I know you and Discord and Luna are looking forward to everyone's homecoming."

"I insist." Celestia winked. "I think everyone will enjoy a good visit."

"In that case, we'd love to." Fluttershy turned to Breezy, tilting her head at the hat and scarf. "Breezy, is sunlight still hurting your eyes?"

She nodded. "Yes. They've gotten more sensitive to it. Usually I go outside on cloudy days or in the evenings, but I wanted to get to you as soon as possible today."

Celestia's eyes hazed. "Let's all head over now - there's plenty of shade along the forest paths. And you can help me walk Argos."

"Who's Argos?"

Celestia opened the back door. "Our new puppy! Surprise!"

He dashed inside and Breezy's whole face lit up as he raced up to her and kissed her. She laughed. And pretty soon the group was out the door and on the way to the castle.

Discord and Luster Dawn finally landed outside of the Everfree Castle and disembarked. Discord let loose the pigs and snapped up some oats and veggies on the ground for them. He led her inside. "Come on - I'm not sure if Celestia and Luna are back yet but…" They walked in on Luna with her mouth stuffed full and a plate of chocolate chip cookies in front of her. "Hey, sis…everything okay?" Discord asked with a hesitant smile.

Luna swallowed and quickly cleaned herself up and sent away the cookies. "Yay and verily!" Her smile was wide and nervous. "I was just having a snack. Heh… Luster Dawn, so good to see you!" Luna trotted over and shook hoofs with her (almost lifting Luster off the floor).

Discord smiled a little more and decided he would ask for the details of whatever the crisis was later.

"And Discord, welcome home, brother!" She dove at him in a big hug and Discord hugged her back.

"Ah, I've missed random alicorn hugs. Speaking of which, is Tia back yet?" He glanced around.

Luna let go of him and shook her head. "Not yet I'm afraid. She ended up staying with Fluttershy for the last weeks while I stayed with Twilight." She cleared her throat. "I'm sure she'll return soon…"

"Discord?" There was the sound of the front door closing and then Celestia entered the room. She blinked at the sight of the draconequus and smiled.

The chaos master's whole face lit up. "Tia!"

They both tried to teleport over to the other but ended up on opposite sides of the room. They laughed and tried again only to end up right back where they were. Then Discord just rolled his eyes and snapped his fingers - Celestia was cradled in his arms. "There we go, perfect! I have very much missed you."

She kissed him then pulled back. "Me too." They shared a nuzzle for a moment. Then Celestia glanced at Luna and teleported herself to standing. "Welcome back, Luna. I hope you had a pleasant trip and night." She turned to Luster. "And Luster, I'm so glad you stopped by. It's perfect timing really - you can meet someone."

Luster Dawn blinked. "Oh! If you have guests already, I don't want to -"

Discord sighed with a grin. "Luster, you're not a 'guest' here, you're family. And so are the creatures who I suspect are here. So it all works out. Okay?"

She nodded, smiling sheepishly.

Then Fluttershy and Breezy came forward into the room.

"Breezy?" Luna tilted her head. "I did not know you would be visiting us."

"Actually she's going to be staying nearby for a while," Celestia smiled.

Discord's eyes brightened again. "Ah, two of my favorite girls in the world! Fluttershy!" He wrapped around her in a big hug. "And Breezy!" He got down on all fours to look right into her eyes. "Did you enjoy meeting your new little cousin?" Just then Argos raced into the room, running around, licking Celestia and Luna.

Breezy laughed. "He's wonderful, Uncle Discord - I love him already!" The puppy ran up to her and Breezy patted his head. He instantly calmed down and started to kick his back leg and doze off.

Discord flew up and gestured across the room. "And Fluttershy, you know Luster Dawn of course."

"Oh yes!" Fluttershy waved. "It's very nice to see you, Luster Dawn."

"And Breezy, you have to be introduced." Discord landed and gestured for Luster Dawn to come closer. The little pony complied.

Luster Dawn waved. "Hi, I'm Luster Dawn. I'm Princess Twilight's student. Nice to meet you."

Breezy swallowed and looked down shyly but then glanced up and replied. "I'm Breezy - Fluttershy is my Aunt. It's nice to meet you too. Did you have a nice adventure with Uncle Discord and your friends?"

Luster Dawn nodded. "Yeah, but I'm just happy to be back home now. Well, back here. I kind of don't have a home at the moment - or I do, I just need a new one. It's complicated."

"Oh, I understand." Breezy shrugged. "I'm between things a little myself. I just finished school and I'm going to be staying at Aunt Fluttershy's cottage and helping her with the animal sanctuary while I figure out what I want to do next."

"Heh, wow, I'm trying to figure out the same thing for myself."

Their smiles grew.

"Well, if you need any help figuring out your plan I'd be happy to listen and offer suggestions," Luster Dawn offered.

"Thank you. I'd be happy to help you too." Breezy nodded. "And I hope you find a place nearby to live soon."

Discord could hardly contain his excitement. He looked to Celestia who held back a laugh and nodded. Then Discord looked to Fluttershy and winked at her. She nodded back to him.

"Actually," Fluttershy stepped forward to the girls, "Celestia and I were talking, and there really is so much work to do around the sanctuary, and I want Breezy to have time for other things too so… we were wondering if you might like to come and live in my cottage, Luster? There's room and in your free time if you could help with the animals I'd be very grateful. And Breezy, then you wouldn't have to worry about taking care of any of them during the brightest hours of the day."

When Luster Dawn raised an eyebrow, Breezy shrugged. "My eyes are a little sensitive to sunlight. I prefer being outdoors in the evenings and at night."

Luna raised an eyebrow, and Discord and Celestia both noticed. "I didn't know that, Breezy."

"Oh, yes, Auntie Luna - it wasn't so bad when I was younger but now I just prefer cloudy days or nighttime."

Luster Dawn smiled. "I'd be happy to help, Fluttershy. But I can't ask to live with you. I know you and Breezy are quiet ponies who like your privacy. And I'd just prefer to find a place for myself, especially after living in Twilight's old castle for so long."

"Are you sure?" Fluttershy prompted.

Luster Dawn nodded.

Breezy swallowed. "I understand what you mean, Luster. I've always wanted to find a place for myself. I thought about looking in Ponyville but I want to be near the sanctuary."

"I wouldn't mind being a little outside of Ponyville - I've been the center of attention living in that castle and I'd just like to try having a normal life." Luster Dawn sighed.

Discord had been pondering ever since Luster Dawn had turned down the offer to live at Fluttershy's cottage. But now his eyes widened and he snapped his fingers as an idea came. A butterfly made of a stick of butter accidentally appeared - he snapped it away then went over to Celestia and whispered something to her. She considered then smiled and nodded. He hugged her then flew over to the girls. "You know, I might have a fun proposition for you both. You see, Celestia recently created a very elaborate treehouse near the edge of the Evergreen Forest by the sanctuary for Fluttershy or I to use for sleeping if we have to spend time with the nocturnal animals. But there's a lot of room in it - more than enough to house a few creatures. Would you girls be interested in moving in together? You could take care of it for us when we're not around."

Luster Dawn's eyes widened. "Discord, I couldn't ask—"

"Before you continue, remember, you're family."

Luster Dawn smiled. She glanced at Breezy. "If you'd like to live there alone I understand. I get what it is to be shy and need privacy. I spent the last few months with no privacy in the castle actually, heh."

Breezy smiled. "Actually, I…I'd like someone around. I'm not very good at making friends but you seem nice. It would help to have someone to try out new things with too."

Luster Dawn smiled. She looked to Fluttershy. "Is it really okay, Fluttershy?"

Fluttershy nodded. "Of course, I think it's a wonderful idea!"

Luster Dawn hugged Fluttershy, and Breezy hugged Discord.

"Huzzah!" Luna smiled. "A perfect solution!"

"Almost…" Celestia grinned. "There's one more piece to everything."

Luna raised an eyebrow.

Discord flew over to Breezy. "Breezy, dear, tell Auntie Luna some of your recent hobbies. She hasn't been to Cloudsdale to visit you in a while."

Breezy blushed and shrugged. "Oh, um… well, I like animals of course like Aunt Fluttershy - I always have. Bats are my favorite actually. And I like to study history. And I like to write scary stories. And I like to study the stars." She blushed more. "I've always admired your lunar magic very much, Auntie Luna, even though I'm not a unicorn."

"You don't have to be able to do magic to understand my kind of magic better." Luna swallowed, holding her breath, eyes wide. "I wish I had known, Breezy. We could have written to each other."

"I was never sure what to ask about exactly." She shuffled on her hooves.

"You know," Discord shrugged, "I think a great solution to this whole situation would be Luna offering to give you some lessons directly - maybe in the evenings sometime. Maybe it would help you figure out what you want to do next, Breezy."

Breezy's eyes sparkled. "Could I really do that, Auntie Luna?"

Luna had to wipe away a tear quickly - she smiled and nodded. "Yes! Yes, indeed! I would like such company a great deal!"

"Me too!" Breezy flew over and hugged her. "Thank you, Auntie Luna!" Luna hugged her in return.

"Well, now that that's settled," Discord snapped to make a table appear with snacks and tea. "How about we all have something to eat - and Luster and I can regale you all with the tales of our journey."

Everyone nodded and headed over to take a seat.

Then there was the sound of the front door opening again. Heads turned - Twilight entered the room.

Luna blushed completely.

Celestia noticed and instantly trotted forward with a smile to intercept their guest. "Twilight! What a nice surprise! Er, we were all just sitting down to tea - would you care to join us?"

Twilight smiled but shook her head. "I really need to get back to the castle. I just wanted to say welcome back to Discord and Luster." She nodded to them and they waved. She blinked as she saw the other guests. "And hi Fluttershy and Breezy! Welcome!" They waved back to her. Twilight cleared her throat. "And I wanted to talk with Luna for a moment." Her eyes went to the moon pony.

Luna swallowed and put on a smile. "Er…of course. Let's go to my room." She blinked and blushed. "I mean, let's go to your usual room!" More blushing. "I mean…the library, let's go there." Cringing internally she teleported them away.

Celestia sighed. Discord flew over beside her. "Everything okay there?" He whispered.

"Luna's a little smitten with Twilight and finally told her so directly. I think Twilight was a bit surprised."

"Hmm, that explains the cookies."

Celestia raised an eyebrow.

He smiled. "I'll tell you later." He kissed her forehead. "Come on, let's eat. I'm sure they'll be fine." He squeezed her hoof. "I really did miss you a lot."

She kissed his cheek. "I missed you a lot too."

Holding hand and hoof they headed back to the table to join the rest of the group.

In the library Luna stood very still and tried not to feel like a ridiculous mess. Twilight sat down before her, smiling shyly. "I was surprised you didn't come back to the castle this morning."

Luna took a breath. "I just felt…perhaps you needed some time. And there were tasks to complete here, and…"

"I'm sorry."

Luna blinked and looked to her.

Twilight glanced down. "I didn't mean to respond with…shock like that. It just happened. I hope I didn't hurt your feelings."

Luna shrugged. "I was a little confused and overwhelmed. But not hurt. You did nothing wrong."

"Love - the kind between two ponies - is not a magic I have a very good handle on. It's always felt a little slippery to me."

"You don't have to explain—"

"But I want to." Twilight looked to her again. "Because I want you to understand that the relationship we have, it's not something I could see escalating in the ways most ponies escalate relationships…but I like it for what it's become. I like being near you and talking and spending time together. I like waking up together. I'm happy with you, Luna. And I actually felt a little relieved when you said you weren't looking to have a partnership like that with anyone else. I was never looking for a partnership like that to begin with but… somehow I found you." She smiled. "Luna, I love you too in a special way."

Luna blushed very much, her eyes wide. "You understand my sentiments then. You agree that we… And I haven't caused a problem for us?"

Twilight laughed. "You did not cause a problem. And I understand. And I do agree." She swallowed. "If you're okay with the way we're together right now - without weddings or foals or a lot of grand displays - then I'm okay too."

Luna smiled as well. "I feel a little more passionate about the subject but I've also always been a very private pony, Twilight. I'm certain we could find a very good middle ground if you are willing to try." Luna held out her hoof.

Twilight nodded and held out hers to shake.

Then Twilight leaned forward and very quickly popped a small kiss onto Luna's mouth. She pulled back blushing considerably.

Luna blushed considerably as well with a small happy smile.

Twilight cleared her throat. "Do you want to go downstairs and join the others?"

"Oh, er," Luna blinked and snapped out of a moment of reverie. "Yes! I would like that very much! Shall we sit together?"

"I think that would be nice."

They shared a small laugh then teleported back to the throne room to join the party.

It was a while before everyone went back to their homes and rooms and got settled. And by the time Discord had the pigs back in the chaos realm and Celestia had the puppy walked and Luna had finished gushing to Celestia about her progress with Twilight, it was nightfall.

The moment Celestia headed into bed, Discord wrapped his body around her in a big hug. She laughed, hugging him back as best she could. "You really did miss me."

"You don't know the half of it." He cuddled her. "I just can't sleep alone anymore. I barely rested for that entire trip. I feel so much better with my favorite soft mare in my arms."

She sighed happily. "I feel better too. I was able to fall asleep while you were gone but every night I'd roll over and not feel you there, and then I'd wake up." She nuzzled his chest.

"We've absolutely spoiled each other." He chuckled.

Celestia laughed. She pulled back a little to look into his eyes. "The puppy helped a little. It's nice, having a small one around who needs you. Raising him is fun."

"And raising him together is absolutely delightful." He smiled more. "Is Argos still sleeping in Luna's bed each night?"

"She sets up pillow for him and everything. I don't think that dog bed we got him will ever get used."

"Wily scamp. The three of us will spoil him too. Just a big family of creatures who have everything they could ever want." He touched her face. "Are you sleepy?"

"Not at all really. I'm enjoying cuddling and talking."

"Want me to pull out the pictures I took and we can look at them together? As long as we're both feeling like a late night?"

Her eyes sparkled. "Yes! I love foreign lands and new adventures."

Discord snapped and made the photos appear floating over their heads. They looked up at them together. "So we'll start with pictures of our time on the way to our first destination. Me, Luster, and those three in chariot for days - look at Cozy Glow slap-fighting Chrysalis and Chrysalis trying to trip Tirek and Tirek looking to the sky like he's not sure how he ended up cursed to be there."

They laughed and cuddled in close as more pictures appeared and moved and Discord recounted everything. And eventually in the small hours of the morning they fell into a deep and restful sleep in each other's arms. A new part of their life was starting and they were so content to be heading forward into it together and with all their loved ones too.


And now Chrysalis and Cozy Glow's fates are revealed lol! Thank you for reading and reviewing! This story is very close to ending - only a chapter or two left! Next time we'll jump ahead in time a little to the first visit the trio makes back to Equestria (with special guests), and we'll see one more new character appear! Then we'll do a time skip farther into the future to see how everyone has grown. Thank you for joining me on this ride that spanned three stories and probably half a million words 3

Happy New Year!