Ms Sparkle's History Class
"How could you not have noticed?!" Cadence screeched, taking a light swing at Shining Armor which he deftly avoided. The two soon-to-be-newlyweds stood arguing in the throne room. The city was in chaos, but the royal guard were quickly gaining control over the situation and soon the wedding could go ahead properly. Princess Celestia stood weakly next to the six bearers of harmony as they watched the two fight. So much for perfect love.
"Darling, I was enchanted! It's not my fault!" he protested, taking a step backwards and trying to stay out of the way. He knew full well that Cadence could be every bit as vicious as Chrysalis when she was in a bad mood. "Celestia didn't notice either!"
"I didn't agree to marry Celestia, you oaf!"
"Cadence, please! I couldn't have noticed, nobody could have! Tell her, Twily!"
Cadence turned to stare at Twilight. Twilight's throat went a little dry in the face of such hostility. "Well, uh, actually... I kinda did notice."
"See!" Cadence hissed, "Twilight noticed, and I haven't seen her for years!"
"But!" Twilight interrupted, "Shining Armor is right, he couldn't possibly have noticed! Anyway, you know what he gets like when he's busy, he probably wouldn't have noticed even if she hadn't transformed."
"Well, he is a Sparkle," Celestia interjected. Twilight rolled her eyes. She did fine under pressure, she was sure of it.
"Hmf," Cadence snorted. "Fine."
Cadence was clearly anything but fine, even if everybody else in the room thought she was being ridiculous. Twilight Sparkle knew all too well what it felt like to have everybody around you think you were being ridiculous.
"Pst, Shiny," Twilight whispered, just quietly enough that Cadence probably wouldn't hear. "Ask her to remind you how you first met."
"She's uh, never actually told me that one. She just appeared one day and wanted to talk, but she never admitted what it was really about. Then she left and I didn't see her for years."
Twilight was shocked. She thought all couples loved to share their getting-together story. "Why can't you just be a proper storybook couple like you're meant to be!" she hissed. "Ask her anyway!"
Shining Armor cleared his throat. "Cadence, there's something I've wanted to ask you for a while. When we first met—I mean, properly met, not a hello while you sat Twily—the first thing you said was I'm so sorry, and please don't ask why. Why?"
Cadence turned around and smiled weakly. "You remember that?" she asked. "I can't, I'm sorry. I want to tell all of you, you all mean so much to me, but you'll just have to tru-"
"It's okay," Celestia interrupted. "It has been long enough. It is time they all found out."
"Very well then. Gather round, everypony—this includes all of you."
Princess Mi Amore Cadenza strode through the large ornate gates of Canterlot Castle, nodding to the guards as she moved and ensuring she gave off the correct air of nobility.
It had been almost four months since the young Twilight Sparkle had begun her magical education and almost six weeks since Cadence had seen her last. That was altogether far too long, and Cadence missed her dearly.
Though she kept a straight face and ensured her movements were carefully measured and elegant, Cadence wished little more than to run. Twilight was a filly, but there were still some who would call Cadence by the same name—she was, as princesses went, very young. Though she wanted to pull Twilight out of her classes and run freely through the hills with her, Cadence knew she had expectations, responsibilities, and pressures that few others would ever know.
Cadence strode through the gargantuan and opulent hallways of the castle as she made her way to the throne room. Perhaps one day she would have her own seat there, but for now the kingdom was run by only one—Princess Celestia. A being as beautiful as she was distant, and as powerful as she was unreadable. Not that anybody else would agree with her; To her people, Celestia was a friendly and honest ruler.
Cadence knew better.
Celestia hid it well, but things had a tendency to go her way even when she played no obvious part in them, and problems that would be difficult to solve through conventional means had a habit of simply going away one day. Celestia's smile was wide and natural. Far too wide for a being that could never rest, or sleep, or take a minute for herself, nor one who was still mourning the loss of her sister.
Celestia also kept tight control over just who got to see the young Sparkle, hence Cadence's visit being to the castle rather than the school for Gifted Unicorns itself. Cadence had known Twilight was going to be special from the moment she had met her—the family of unicorns was nothing special, just one of many, and their children were promising but not overwhelmingly so. There were better potential candidates for every position that could be filled, and Cadence was sure the family was condemned to mediocrity.
Yet, she had been asked very specifically to offer her services as a foalsitter. Cadence was the avatar of Love itself, and held the hearts of her subjects in her hooves. Foalsitting had been beneath her, and yet one does not deny a request from Celestia under any circumstances. Those that do risk becoming one of those problems difficult to solve through conventional means.
So she had foalsat. Her prices were reasonable and families from all across Canterlot jumped at the chance to have a princess watch over their children. Cadence had hated it, at first, but as time went on she began to learn to appreciate the joy of youth. One young filly in particular stole her heart in a way she could never have anticipated.
Cadence hated it when Celestia was right.
Cadence walked up to the huge intricately emblazoned doors that separated the throne room from the corridors and bowed her head to the guard present to request entry. Very few ponies could deny royalty anything, but Celestia was one of them—not that she ever would. Celestia always had time for anyone.
"Cadenza!" Celestia exclaimed with a smile on her face and a glint in her eye as Cadence walked into the room and the grand doors swung shut behind her. "How nice it is to see you again. I trust your foalsitting is going well?"
Cadence gave a sharp laugh. "Hello to you too, Celestia. My sitting is going fine, though I miss the young Twilight Sparkle dearly. I do wish you would allow me to continue sitting her."
"I feel it is time for her to learn to stand alone. That filly has great things in her future."
"Is that a prediction or a promise?" Cadence accused, knowing how much Celestia meddled even if she managed to hide it from most. Celestia smiled slyly in response.
"A prediction, this time," she admitted. "Some things are beyond even me."
How cryptic, Cadence thought. Regardless, she had not come to discuss Celestia's plans for the kingdom, she had simply come to see Twilight. "Indeed. Regardless, I would like to see her; It has been too long since I saw her smile."
"Of course." Celestia walked over to the door and pulled it open effortlessly before motioning Cadence to follow. "Twilight has been cared for well, Cadenza, you need not worry. She is learning very quickly, you were right to ensure her application to the School was successful."
Cadence took the compliment, though she feared Celestia was putting too much faith in her. She'd slipped the application through because Twilight's smile had been so wide when her parents had told her they were sending it in that she simply couldn't bear to see her dreams crushed, not because she'd believed for even a minute the filly would have succeeded. Her greatest hope for her would have been that she would be noticed as being of above average capability and offered a place at some lesser school on the outskirts of town. Twilight had surprised everybody that day.
Everybody except Celestia.
"And what of Spike?" Cadence asked. The dragon egg was used as a test of a unicorn's abilities because the tough shell was resistant to both physical and magical interference, and simply moving it at all was an achievement most fully grown unicorns couldn't match. It was never meant to be hatched. A dragon egg can stay dormant for generations if not incubated with enough heat, and it had served the school well.
"He seems very attached to Twilight Sparkle. She was the first thing he saw, so he seems to think of her as a mother of sorts. I have several ponies working on raising him properly, and I suppose in a few years he will make an excellent assistant for Twilight," Celestia explained.
The two continued to walk through the streets of Canterlot towards one of the towers near the centre, where Twilight would currently be staying. This time of day was during her non-directed break time, when most of her classmates would be playing or eating, or both. Not Twilight, though.
"Has Twilight lost control again?" Cadence asked. Her outburst on the day of her test could have been disastrous, had Celestia not been prepared to intervene. It was important for the safety of the entire city that it did not happen again.
"No, and she shall not. I enchanted her that day, her abilities are limited until she can control them. I have been tutoring her on controlling her gift personally, as none of the professors there can really relate. Ah, here we are." Celestia gestured up towards the tower they stood before, and nodded to the two guards at either side of the doorway. The door swung open at their command, and the two princesses were granted entry.
As they entered onto the floor containing Twilight's favourite classroom, Celestia quite uncharacteristically raised her hoof to her mouth and let out a quiet "Shh." to ensure Cadence did not speak. Rising up on her perfectly white wings, Celestia silently moved down the corridor and peered into the class. Cadence followed, standing behind her and looking in.
Twilight Sparkle stood resting her forehooves on a small wooden podium. In front of her lay a book which she appeared to be eagerly reading with an excited voice. Her hindlegs were supported by various other tomes—presumably ones she'd already read—and the chalkboard behind her was filled with notes and pictorials.
Twilight scrunched her eyes closed and seemed to concentrate. A piece of chalk shakily rose up behind her and slowly pressed itself against the board, before scraping sideways and marking a horizontal line. Twilight's eyes opened and her mouth opened in joy as she realised she'd done it—the chalk was hers to command!
"Yes!" she squeaked, "I bet Starswirl could lift ten- no, a hundred chalks at once!"
Cadence moved to enter the classroom and say hello, but Celestia's leg shot to the side to block her path. Celestia turned back and whispered, "No. You don't want to interrupt her during a class."
Cadence was confused, but Celestia often confused her. She stepped back and to the side, trying to see more of the room. Just in front of Twilight's podium stood a tiny desk, one that could only possibly fit a toy or doll. It made sense, then, that Twilight's doll sat within it.
Smartie? Smarty? Cadence couldn't exactly recall. The doll had been a gift from her parents on the day of her exam success. It was meant to be a "Well done", but ended up being more of a "Going away" present, and it looked like Twilight had bonded with it.
Twilight Sparkle cleared her throat.
"Hello, class! I am Ms. Sparkle and I will be your tut... tuto... teacher today! Today's class is on Starswirl the Bearded, who is this guy from my history books who's really cool!"
Cadence smiled. That sounded like the Twilight she knew.
"Starswirl the Bearded lived a very long time ago, and he made loads and loads of spells! There's even an entire library wing dedicated to him!" Twilight said to the artificial audience while carefully writing "Starswirl" on the board behind her. The writing was messy and some of the letters were the wrong way around. Her horn control was a skill she was still perfecting.
"And," Twilight continued, "he had a beard! One day I'm gonna make a spell to give EVERYONE beards, because they're cool!" Twilight's chalk scraped across the board, drawing a rough outline of a beard—which she then labelled with beard and an arrow—below a similarly rough depiction of a magic hat.
"Among Starswirl's many achievements," Twilight said, reading from the book in front of her. "is the amn... amni... um..."
Twilight looked around sheepishly as she struggled to pronounce a word. Her brow furrowed and her lips began to quiver as attempt after attempt was met with failure.
"Amniomorphic," Cadence announced, unable to stop herself.
"Princess Cadence!" Twilight shouted, jumping off of her bookish tower and bouncing over. Cadence rushed past Celestia into the room with a grin on her face.
When they were no more than a foot away from each other, they both bounced a little higher on their hooves and began to sing.
Again moving as one, they reared up and knocked their hooves together. "Clap your hooves," they sang, before spinning around and shaking their bodies in each other's direction. "And do a little shake!" they finished, before falling to the ground laughing.
"I've missed you, Twilight," Cadence admitted. She liked most of the other children she sat, but Twilight was something special. Something that demanded extra attention.
"I've missed you, princess! All the ponies who take care of me here are nice, but they're not you," Twilight replied, rolling over and rubbing her nose against Cadence's cheek.
Celestia watched on with a half-smile. Merely a year earlier, she knew Cadence would never have been so relaxed around what she would have seen as "just a unicorn"—but that was why Celestia had instructed her to take up sitting, and get to know the subjects that she would one day be ruling.
That was one of the reasons, anyway.
Celestia's smile didn't break into a full smile unless one of them looked at her because she knew this rendezvous was to be bittersweet. But that could come later, there was no sense in ruining the mood now.
"Oh yes, Princess Celestia is teaching me really well! Did you see me writing?" Twilight replied to a question Celestia hadn't quiet caught. Cadence nodded. "I've been teaching Smarty Pants all about Starswirl the Bearded! Do you know who he is?"
Celestia froze. She hoped Cadence knew who he was, because Twilight could rant for hours about her new-found hero. When Celestia had given her a book on the various royal mages Canterlot had housed over the years, she hadn't expected Twilight to latch on to one in particular so fiercely. It was a good outcome, though, and it seemed to be filling her with even greater enthusiasm.
Luckily, Cadence nodded. "Yes, I'm quite familiar with him. He sounds like he was a great stallion."
Twilight nodded enthusiastically and opened her mouth to add something further.
"Oh!" Celestia interrupted, "Will you look at the time! Twilight, you'd better get to class. And don't forget our session tonight, I shall come to your room at 4."
Twilight's face fell for a moment, but she quickly recovered. "Bye Princesses!" she waved before grabbing Smarty Pants and placing him on her back and bouncing away down the corridor.
Cadence stood up and started at Celestia. "Was that necessary? I haven't seen her for months."
Celestia sighed. "And you won't see her for many more, I'm afraid."
"Nor will you be continuing your other duties, or your foalsitting. I have not been idle these past few months-"
"No, you never are." Cadence interrupted, "But it's never you whose life gets hit by it, is it?"
"Cadenza, that's not fair. I give everything for my subjects, and wi-"
"I'm not your subject!" Cadence snapped. "You can't just tell me what to do, I'm not some pet to be led around. I've looked forward to seeing Twilight for weeks because you keep her so controlled it's impossible to get inside. You're a tyrant, Celestia!"
Celestia was silent for several very long and awkward moments. When she finally spoke, her voice was steady and did not betray her emotions, though the harsh edge made her resolve clear. "Cadenza, I do not act for the good of myself. Everything I do is to ensure the kingdom is safe and happy. Twilight is under my protection because she is a very special child, and she must be protected at all costs. I realise that you are young, but the world is more dangerous than most realise. Our kingdom's peace has not been without sacrifice."
"Luna?" Cadence asked. Her voice was somewhat breathless and shaken by Celestia's overly calm and stony manner. She had never seen Celestia without a smile, no matter how trying a situation they had found themselves in, and Celestia was most certainly not smiling now.
"And others, yes. Luna is the most pertinent here. You realise that it has been almost one thousand years since her banishment?"
"You're missing her."
"Of course, but that is irrelevant. The banishment does not—could not—last forever. Soon she will return, and I am ill-equipped to stop her. The Elements of Harmony left me once they realised what I had done and that I could no longer embody so many of their traits. The kingdom needs new heroes, Cadenza."
"And what does Twilight have to do with this?"
Celestia gave a short laugh. "Twilight is one of those heroes. I have been able to sense it since her birth, but could not detect exactly who until recently. Did you never wonder why all of the children you foalsat were of exactly the same age?"
"You used me," Cadence accused.
"Of course, but you needed to do it just as much as I needed you to do it. You were not fit to rule then, and you are closer now. Regardless, you were able to watch over the potential bearers until she revealed herself, and now she is safe and in training."
"So why can't I see her? Is she so important that she must be kept away from even those who would never dream of hurting her? Or do you consider me a threat?"
"No, no," Celestia replied, letting a slight smile return to her face to calm Cadence's fears. "Twilight is quite safe here, but you have a job to do. Twilight is not especially kind, nor generous, nor does she embody any of the other elements. She is the distillation of Magic, but that alone will not be enough. We must find the other bearers."
"So you can do what, lock them away as well?"
Celestia ignored the accusatory overtones, and continued. "No, simply observe. Most of them have yet to reveal themselves, but when the time comes it is of the utmost importance that they are near enough to each other that the elements can finish the job and bind them. I fear my sister will act quickly and not grant us much time to act, so being prepared is vital."
"So why can't I see Twilight?" Cadence asked, almost whining. She had really wanted to see Twilight.
"I cannot search the lands for five others. I have a kingdom to run. My every movement is tracked by a thousand eyes, and not all of them are friendly. You, however, are relatively free. We shall call it soul-searching, or trying to find out who you really are, or anything you desire, but you must leave and begin your search immediately. Furthermore, time is limited and Twilight needs all the training she can receive. Unfortunately I cannot allow distractions to creep into her schedule. The sooner we find these bearers the sooner our plans can be put into action."
"You mean your plans."
"Of course," Celestia admitted.
Cadence sighed. Of course Celestia's plans were for the good of the kingdom, they always were. She just wished that she played less of a part in them. Regardless, she had no choice—she never had a choice.
"So what do I do?"
"Go to Cloudsdale. Somepony caused that magical anomaly that set Twilight off, and you need to find out who. From there, I admit I do not yet know. You can send letters with your magic, correct?"
"Then keep in touch. Oh, and give this to Twilight's brother," Celestia added, pulling a sealed letter out of the air.
"What is it?"
"Acceptance into the royal guards. Twilight needs to concentrate on her studies, and this should keep him occupied. Who knows, he may even be well suited for the job."
Cadence took it, but didn't accept Celestia's feigned ignorance as to why she was doing it. Celestia never took visible action unless she had to, and if she did it was for more reasons than she admitted.
"Can I say goodbye to Twilight first?"
Cadence left without another word and headed straight to Twilight's classroom, just down the door. She stood outside the window and waved until Twilight noticed and asked to be excused.
"Princess!" she exclaimed the moment she was out of the room, and immediately began to dance on her hooves. Cadence weakly smiled, but Twilight could tell something wasn't right. "What's wrong, princess?"
"Nothing, Twilight. I just have to go away for a while. I want you to know it's not because I don't want to see you—in fact, I'm going to miss you a lot—but I'm going to be very busy on important royal business." Cadence explained. Her eyes quivered, but she managed to hold back the tears and keep her tone steady.
Twilight's face fell. "Oh... how long will you be gone?"
"I don't know, Twilight. A long time."
"Oh... I'll miss you, princess."
"I know, Twilight. Now, it's very important that you concentrate on your studies, okay?" Cadence continued, still trying her hardest to hold back the tears. Just a year ago she would never have let herself get this attached to "just a unicorn", but... Twilight was so much more than "just a unicorn", wasn't she? Even without her gifts, she was amazing. Cadence was going to miss her.
She felt the warm tear slowly trail down her face and immediately turned around. "Goodbye, Twilight," she said, and began to walk away.
"Wait!" Twilight interrupted. "Take this!" she insisted, closing her eyes and concentrating as hard as she could. Slowly and very unsteadily, the apple she had given to her teacher rose from his desk and moved out of the room. Nobody appeared to notice, and Twilight shakily pushed it towards Cadence's grasp, making her take it. "Please come back as soon as you can," she asked.
"I will, Twilight. I will."
Cadence walked away with her head down. The moment she was outside, she spread her wings and took flight. She had never really liked flying, but it wouldn't do for everyone else to see her in the state she was in now. The apple trailed behind her as Cadence flew in the vague direction of Twilight's old house, where her brother would still surely be. Cadence had never really had time to speak with him, Twilight had always kept her occupied, but now she would have to.
His life was about to be turned upside down just like hers had been, all through the machinations of Celestia. He deserved some explanation, even if she couldn't give him all of it, or even the whole truth. Just because it was for the greater good didn't mean that nobody got hurt.
"So... Huh," Shining Armour replied after a few moments of silence as the gathered ponies began to digest the tale. "I'm a royal guard becau-"
"You're a royal guard because your loyalty and strength are second to none. Your position was in no way influenced by Twilight," Celestia assured. "I would not compromise my people with such selfish actions."
"Heh, I knew you guys should have noticed something as awesome as my Sonic Rainboom! I wondered why nothing ever came of it," Dash said, flexing her wings as if to remind everybody she had them.
"So that's why you kept saying you were sorry, huh? Well, I can't complain if it finally made you talk to me, even if you did vanish for a few years afterwards," Shining Armour said.
Cadence smiled, her earlier worries forgotten. "I thought you'd be mad if I ever told you—all of you—I sneaked around behind your backs, I did things in secret and-"
"Far as I care, Princess, y'all did what you had to do. Ain't nothing more to it," Applejack assured.
Twilight had remained quiet silent throughout the whole tale, and hadn't broken that yet. Her ears were flattened securely against her head as she tried to hide her disappointment. As the conversation reached a natural silence, Twilight spoke up.
"You promised you'd keep in touch." Twilight's voice wavered as she spoke. The tale had reminded her of a lot of things, but the one that stuck in her mind most prominently was the nights of waiting for Cadence to one day return. She'd eventually given up, and by the time she moved to Ponyville and found new friends, she'd almost forgotten what Cadence had been like.
"Oh, Twilight... I'm sorry, it just didn't feel right. Not after all those years when you were getting along so well, I couldn't come back and throw your life off course."
"I wouldn't have minded," Twilight whispered. "I missed you, Cadence."
"I missed you too, Twilight."