It was approaching dawn and the last drops of morning rain were falling over Canterlot. It had been a long and relatively dry summer, but considering the fact that the pegasi were running low on adequately trained personnel for their weather managing committees, this was to be expected. Any amount of rain that could be managed was a relief.
Regardless, Twilight Sparkle barely noticed this particular rain shower as she trotted through the nearly empty city square, umbrella hovering above her head in order to shield her perfectly combed mane. This was the day that she had been anticipating all summer, meticulously counting down the days, hours, minutes, and seconds until it arrived. Everything that she needed to make this day perfect was contained within her saddlebag that she had slung over her back prior to departing that morning. And as she stopped for a moment to gaze at the elegant marble statue of Princess Celestia located in the center of the square, she could not help but feel as if she were fulfilling some sort of royal duty to the Princess.
The reason Twilight had so extensively prepared was that today was the young unicorn’s first day as a graduate professor at the Canterlot University of Magic. In order to earn her doctorate at the University, she and the other students in the program were first required to complete a full academic year of teaching an introductory course to freshmen undergraduates. Though her fellow students openly dreaded this part of the doctorate program, Twilight had embraced it with open arms. And so, when the time came for her and her fellow students to select which class they preferred to teach, Twilight took every necessary step to ensure that she was first in line for this process. In the end, she selected “Introduction to Magical History-117” and, considering her extensive knowledge on the subject, this appeared to be the perfect fit.
Shortly after signing up to teach the course, Twilight joined Princess Celestia for lunch, where she ecstatically informed the Princess of her intentions.
“I wonder how much of the course material has to do with Luna and myself,” Celestia jokingly mused aloud.
“Oh, I’m confident you and Princess Luna will be a central theme of the course!” Twilight replied, almost beside herself with excitement.
“I just hope you and the other graduate professors have enough time to review the course material before the next semester commences. From what I understand, the class you’ve selected for yourself is rigorous,” Celestia cautioned the clearly over-eager young educator.
“Oh, you worry too much about me!” the soon-to-be Professor Sparkle reassured the Princess, failing to realize that she now was pouring salt into her cup of tea.
“After all, I purchased the required books last week, and I should be able to master the material by the end of the summer. That’s if I manage my time properly, of course!” Twilight gleefully jabbered as she raised the teacup to her lips. Before she could indulge herself—and before Celestia could bring the young Unicorn’s attention to the tainted beverage—Twilight’s eyes widened with a sudden recollection.
“Oh! You don’t suppose I could trouble you for that old book in the Canterlot Archives on ancient unicorn magic, do you? I forget what it’s called, but I think it’s—”
“Twilight!” the Princess interjected.
The manic smile was instantly wiped from Twilight’s face as the stern voice of the Alicorn rang in her ears. “Y-Yes, Your Majesty?” she responded nervously.
Princess Celestia pointed to the saltshaker levitating beside the teacup. Twilight turned her head to see what exactly the Princess was attempting to indicate. It took a moment for the meaning of the gesture to register in her mind, but she eventually realized what she had done when Celestia began to giggle. Realizing her mistake, Twilight joined the Princess as the two enjoyed a hearty laugh. It was in that short moment, however, that Twilight could feel the collective stress of the past few weeks being hoisted off her shoulders.
Once their shared laughter over the situation had subsided, the two mares beamed at each other. After another moment, Celestia shook her head and sighed, still grinning widely.
“My faithful student... I cannot believe how much you’ve grown,” the Princess began, “I remember the day I first met you, when you were just a filly... you demonstrated talent that I’d seldom encountered in any unicorn of your age. That is why I took you on as my student: I knew you would go far in life, Twilight. And I was right.”
“Well... I couldn’t have done any of what I’ve done in life without you, Your Majesty,” Twilight said. By this point, her eyes had begun to water and she was doing all she could to prevent herself from crying.
Celestia merely smiled and continued, “To see you now preparing to teach students of your own... it just seems... well, perfect, in a way.”
Twilight realized the magnitude of what her own pending professorship had meant to the Princess. She attempted to prevent herself from crying, but her efforts were futile as tears began steadily streaming down her cheeks. Twilight could only manage to say, “Thank you, Celestia.” She procured a handkerchief from her saddlebag and began to wipe her face.
The Princess smiled warmly at her former apprentice and responded, “Just remember, my faithful student; just as you trusted me to guide you through your studies and to be there when you were in need, you must in turn do the same for these young ponies. After all, the true test of a teacher is what he or she does for their students.”
Twilight had heard the last phrase, or some variation, ad nauseum over the past few weeks as her professors had continuously drilled her and the other students students with during seminars aimed at the shear basics of teaching a large audience. She had heard the sentiment so many times that it had become almost meaningless. And yet, the fact that it was now coming from the Princess carried an enormous amount of significance that previous instructors had not been able to command.
“And remember, Twilight,” Celestia continued, “First impressions are everything. A student will not listen to an instructor who cannot command their attention, and will shirk from one who attempts to take it by force. As a teacher, you must learn how to strike the proper balance between coercion and hospitality.”
Twilight pondered the meaning of these words and realized that they too had been conveyed to her time and time again, during the same seminars by the same instructors. And once again, the Princess managed to express the sentiment to her in a much more meaningful and compelling way. Perhaps that’s what she was trying to teach Twilight to do: to make her own students sit enraptured at Twilight’s words just as Twilight sat enraptured at Princess Celestia’s ever since the beginning of her studies when she was a foal.
“And one last thing,” the Princess said while raising a piece of cake to her mouth, “Just as the preamble of the Hippogriffic Oath our doctors swear to uphold says, ‘Do no harm,’ the same should be applied to our teachers.”
Celestia took a ravenous bite of the cake slice hovering near her lips, momentarily leaving Twilight alone with her thoughts. Those three simple words rang in the young professor’s ears like none other phrase that she had ever heard. All she could do was repeat it over and over again in her mind, like a mantra: Do no harm, do no harm, do no harm....
And so, as Twilight stood in the center of the square, gazing at the statue of her beloved mentor, the phrase continued to reverberate in her mind more than three months after their conversation. The duty to these students that Twilight realized she had an obligation to fulfill also felt as if it were a duty to Celestia. And as Twilight’s eyes remained transfixed upon the statue, contemplating what was ahead for her, she failed to notice the weak, middle-aged stallion limping towards her from behind.