Twilight Sparkle had never run so fast in her life--not that she had lived very long.
She ran across green hills and plains, leaving Canterlot Castle and its festivities behind her. She expected to become short of breath any second, but it never happened.
Soon she could see a house in the distance. As it drew closer, she could see a white unicorn looking out the second story window.
He didn't notice her. He was probably studying the castle guards from a distance again. He'd always told her that he wanted to be one someday.
She went into the house, up the stairs, and bolted through the door to his room.
Shining Armor quickly noticed her voice and looked behind himself. When he realized what the both of them were in for, he held out his hooves. "Twilight! Slow down!"
"Wha?... oh, no!"
She planted her own hooves to stop, but it was too late. She skidded and crashed into him with considerable force, the impact causing the two to roll over and land in a heap.
"Oof!" Shining Armor groaned as his head hit the floor. "Sheesh, Twilight! Only pegasi are supposed to have that kind of speed factor. What's got you so worked up?"
Completely unfazed, Twilight Sparkle was back on her hooves, all smiles, jumping up and down. "Oh my gosh oh my gosh oh my gosh! I just got back from the Summer Sun Celebration with Mom and Dad!"
Shining Armor picked himself up. "Really? Did you enjoy the rides? How about the food?"
Twilight blinked and cocked her head to the side in genuine confusion. "Rides? Food? Those were there?"
Shining Armor went silent for a few moments before laughing. Twilight wasn't sure why. Did all the other ponies go for that stuff? It was the Summer Sun Celebration! The sun was the main attraction, wasn't it?
"Okay, sis, tell me..." He gave her a quick hug and set her before him. "...what happened?"
And in a move that surprised both of them, Twilight's smile got even bigger. "Princess Celestia was there! She raised the sun right in front of us!" She raised her hooves and darted around. "Her horn was all glowy, and then, just poof! She's all flying in front of the sun looking like one of those goddesses in fairy tales!" She tilted over and fell onto her back with wide eyes and a dreamy sigh. "It. Was. So. Beautiful."
Shining Armor took a quick glance back towards the castle through his window, then back at his sister. "Oh, right, of course. Celestia. Yeah, she makes it look easy, doesn't she?"
Twilight got back up again and nodded. "Uh huh, uh huh! I tried moving the sun a little more after she was done, but..." Her head drooped. "...I didn't get anywhere."
Shining laughed. "I remember trying that the first time I saw her too. Same results. Trust me, nopony expects you to be able to do what she does. She's on a whole other level from the rest of us. Besides, you're still just a filly. The older you get, the stronger your magic becomes."
"And I'll make sure of it! I'm gonna start studying all the magic I can, so when I grow up, I'll be just like her!" Twilight gasped as she flashed with an idea. "Oooh, oooh! Can we go to the library? If I borrow all of their magic theory books right now, I can get an early start!"
"Whoa, there, Twilie." Shining ruffled his sister's mane. "Take it easy, kid. You gotta remember: Celestia has a horn and wings."
Twilight nodded. "Just like Foalsitter Cadance, right?"
"That's right. You and I? We're just unicorns. Nothing to sneeze at, but there's a limit to what we can do compared to them in terms of magic."
Twilight's confused look was back. "How does having wings give them more magic than us?"
Shining Armor froze momentarily, then mirrored Twilight's expression. "Tell you the truth, Twi... I dunno. Not sure anypony does."
"Neither do I! So I've decided I don't care. I'll be like Princess Celestia, with or without wings."
"Heh. Now that'll be a sight when it happens."
Twilight gasped. "'When?' You really think I can do it?"
Shining Armor looked down at his sister with encouraging eyes and a smile to match. "Sis, you can do or become anything you want. And when you do, I promise I'll be there to see it."
And instantly, Twilight remembered why she never hesitated to spend time with him. Whenever they were together, her heart felt warm, and twice as big.
Shining Armor was always there. He'd always be there. And they'd be best friends forever. She leapt into her brother's outsretched forelegs with a huge hug.
"Thanks, Shining Armor!" She looked out the window, towards the setting sun. "You'll see. I'll soar higher than anyone!"
Twilight's recollection faded as she ran towards the castle.
He did always believe in me. I want to tell him that tonight. That I appreciate everything he's done for me. But where is he?
She began a sweep of the building. After three floors, she considered giving up. Upon reaching the fourth floor, however, she heard something that shifted her priorities completely.
A voice she recognized, groaning.
Instantly she gasped, jumped, and ran towards the room from where it came. The door was open a crack. Twilight peeked in. Her eyes and mouth went wide at the sight.
Princess Celestia... in pain?
A My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic Fanfiction
Part 1: "Fantasy Zone"
by Bookish Delight, 2011-2012
All characters and referred properties belong to Hasbro.
She was slumped over a large cushion in the center of the room. Several small blemishes could be seen marking her white coat. A dark pegasus unicorn kneaded her sides, while a pink one coated her with aquamarine light from her horn.
For an instant, Twilight believed the worst. Just before she was about to barge in, she heard Celestia speak.
"Now, are you sure this is a healing spell, Cadance? I'm not going to become one of your thralls before morning, am I?" Celestia managed a chuckle, which turned into another pained groan. "Oooooh.... note to self, laughter still out of the question."
Princess Luna rolled her eyes. "If you still have a sense of humor, then you can't be that hurt. Why did you not simply take a proper rest, instead of slapping a glamour spell over yourself until you were alone? Now we're tending to wounds that are twice as severe as they should have been! Cadance, I dread to ask--how many times have you weathered this cycle in my absence?"
"What was I supposed to do, Luna? Not run a kingdom?" Celestia huffed. "Not be present for the entirety of one of Canterlot's biggest events? Run off as soon as the bride and groom kissed, perhaps?"
"I'm a Princess as well, Celestia! As much a royal figure as you! Everypony saw what happened to you when you fought the changeling queen. They would have understood!" Her voice calmed. "I would have understood."
Princess Cadance held up one hoof. "Girls, please don't argue. Luna, we'll talk later, but... Celestia did go through a lot today. And worse, she had an audience for it. I'm sure her crankiness is simply a result of bruised pride to match her bruised body."
Celestia sighed. "Sister, I... I am sorry. Cadance is absolutely right. But that is no reason for me to take it out on you."
"I have been down that path, dear sister. I apologize as well." Luna leant forward for a hug, which Celestia accepted. The two parted with smiles. "But, truly, when you need me to stand in, please ask. I cannot make amends if you do not give me the chance."
Luna's massage resumed, and Celestia groaned again, communicating slightly less pain this time. "Believe me, you're doing just fine in that department. Luna, Cadance... thank you for aiding your eldest in her time of need."
Twilight had seen enough. With one second of concentration, she left the scene in a flash of light.
She reappeared in her old library workshop. She looked around at the masses of books on her shelves, and at her work table with satisfaction. Everything was as she had left it. A simple dusting spell to clear off the year or so of neglect, and it would be time to get to work-
"Twilight? Is that you?"
Twilight recognized the voice, and ran to the terrace to find a small purple dragon sitting in a lawn chair. "Spike? What are you doing here?"
"Somepony at the reception told me what a bachelor party actually was." He opened his mouth wide and briefly placed a claw in it. "After I was done being sick, I came here. Only place where it was quiet tonight." He looked at Twilight. "Why are you here?"
"Princess Celestia's hurt."
Spike shrugged. "I know. We all saw her get hit with that big magic blast."
"No, I mean she's still hurt. As in, she was just putting on an air for the reception."
"I know." Spike shrugged again.
Twilight recoiled. "You know?"
"Yeah. She put on a spell to cover it up, but I could tell the whole time. I think it's some kind of built-in dragon thing. I tried asking some other ponies if they noticed. Some thought I was crazy. Others thought I was trying to say she was a changeling." He paused. "I stopped asking pretty quickly after that."
"Well, if you knew, then why didn't you do anything else? Try to talk to her, try to heal her, try to..."
She trailed off when she saw Spike rise from his chair. He walked in front of her, and stared at her straight on. "Twilight, I'm a baby dragon. She's Princess Celestia. I can't perform spells, and if she can't shake off a magic attack, who can?"
"Apparently she can't! And..." Twilight slumped. "...and it's all my fault."
"All your-" Spike rolled his eyes and sighed. "Twilight. You don't seriously believe that, do you?"
"I didn't at first. But the more I thought about it, the more the pieces fit! The first time I outed the fake Cadance as an impostor, I let myself and everypony get fooled, which let her move forward with her plan. The second time I did it, I simply stood there and watched as Princess Celestia fought Chrysalis alone!"
"So did everypony else."
Twilight stamped the ground. "Everypony else doesn't have my responsibility! I'm Princess Celestia's number one student! Her personal protégé! Her-"
"So what?" Spike threw up his claws. "Seriously, what does that even mean?"
"It means that I... I..."
Twilight searched desperately for words, and came up empty. Spike's glare persisted, keeping the pressure on.
"...I don't know."
She looked back into the library. The masses of books felt like weights on her despite their distance. Her voice became subdued. "Spike, I don't know. What it means to be her student... I'm not sure I've ever known what it meant."
Spike calmed down and sighed. "Sorry, Twilight. I didn't mean for it to come out like that."
"No, it's okay. I think we needed this. It's just... it's been a source of personal pride for so long. Since I accepted the honor, I've gone through so much to learn so many lessons. Some happy, some sad, some frightening..."
Twilight paced around the room. Her eyes scanned several random book spines across the shelves. For every title she read, she instantly recalled the book's contents in the back of her mind.
"But even with all my magic training, all my tutelage directly under royalty, I was powerless against the changeling threat three times. I almost lost my friends and family. I saw Celestia fall without doing anything about it. I was captured while trying to obtain the Elements of Harmony... even with my friends beside me!"
"Twilight, you're just one unicorn. You can't do everything."
"I'm starting to realize that, Spike. Compared to Princess Celestia, I'll always only be able to do so much. Still, when she picked me to be her protégé, she said it was because I possessed a special gift. But if I can't protect the ones I love, or the ones who love me, then..." She closed her eyes. "...how special am I, really?"
The tiniest of mental voices screamed in her mind to the contrary. It was drowned out. A long silence followed, until a new voice called in from the doorway.
Twilight whirled around to see a white unicorn. "Shining Armor?"
"Twilight, I've been looking all over for you! I thought we were going on a balloon trip?"
"O-oh, of course!" She looked back at Spike, who simply nodded. "This way, Shining. I left the balloon at the rear entrance."