“So beautiful. Graceful too. Elegant, with a hint of sophistication and true...” Celestia cut the rose from its spot on the thorny vine, taking care not to damage any of the delicate petals. Inhaling deeply, her eyes fluttered to the back of her skull at the rich, invigorating smell of the rose petals wafting into her nostrils. She sighed deeply out, a content smile on her face. “Perfection.”
Celestia smiled, admiring the beauty of the rose again. She never got tired of how nature could create such vivid images of perfection: from the clouds that dotted the sky to the dew that hung off the grassblades in the morning; truly nature was life’s greatest artist.
Glancing downward from her place atop the balcony high above the ground, Celestia gazed over the garden. Spread as far as the eye could roam, the garden encroached within the castle walls was truly a sight to behold. Fields of exotic flowers from all corners of the globe bumped elbows with trees whose origins came from islands of yonder to mountains of old. Just taking a stroll down its center was like experiencing all the botanical wonders of the world.
But the view of the gardens wasn’t where Celestia’s eyes wandered. Rather, it was a particular spot near the edge of the garden where her gaze strayed. And in that spot was a pony, humming a tune as she bent down to stare at a low hanging flower.
Celestia would be lying to herself if she said she didn’t take a peek. Her pristine white cheeks turned an exact shade of red to the rose she was holding. Then that old shame that wrapped itself around her gut returned.
However, the feeling expelled itself as she took a new breath of air.
“There’s no reason to fear that anymore,” Celestia told herself, closing her eyes as she continued to inhale the intoxicating scent of the roses growing on her balcony. “It’s all in the past. Twilight is yours now.”
Opening her eyes, Celestia glanced back down at her student. Or rather, lover. Twilight had grown exceptionally over the years since her coronation. Taller and more grown into her wings, she had all the pose and allure one would expect from a princess. Truly a breathtaking sight for Celestia’s eyes.
“Taking a gander at something?” a playful voice asked behind her. A dark and malevolent presence hung in the air, tarnishing the smell of the roses.
“None of your business,” Celestia replied. She choose not to turn around and respond properly to the irksome bother. That’d just give him too much satisfaction.
Discord slithered forward on the air, his oddly shaped visage entering her field of vision. Blinking either one of his misshapen eyes in a lazy manner, he said, “Oh, my mistake. Of course it isn’t. What is my business nowadays?”
Celestia furrowed her brows and turned her head away from Discord. “Not bothering me too much in my private time.”
“Wouldn’t that be in your chambers with Twilight?” Discord asked, smiling a snaggle-toothed grin at her while wiggling his eyebrows in a mischievous manner.
A blush appeared on Celestia’s cheeks. But this blush didn't have the rose hue from before—more like the blazing red one would see from a fire.
“I would appreciate it, Discord, if you didn’t stalk me or my student like you’re some type of perverted colt,” Celestia said, slow and steady, her voice as hard as iron.
Discord only smiled wider. “But aren’t I one? You should know well enough, if memory serves me correct.”
“Oh wait, my memory is a faithful servant!” Discord interrupted, raising a claw to silence her. “Why, not too long ago such a set of events played out in nearly this exact order.”
Celestia remained silent, biting her lower lip. Glaring hard at Discord for several moments, she finally succeeded to his stare, returning her gaze back to Twilight below.
“Yes, yes, I remember it fondly enough,” Discord continued, tapping his chin in wonder. “With another ‘student,’ if I remember correctly. What was her name again? Sunset Spinner? Sunny Shimmer? Perhaps Sun—”
“Sunset Shimmer,” Celestia said, closing her eyes in a sigh. “Her name was Sunset Shimmer.”
“Yes. Little ol’ Sunset. Such a bright, cheery gal, wasn’t she?” Discord asked, holding his hands together in joy.
“She used to be…” Celestia admitted.
Discord pursed his lips, leaning closer to Celestia. “What ever did happen to her, do you suppose?”
“You already know of this,” Celestia murmured, head hung in shame. “Why ask?”
“Because,” Discord said, lifting up her chin with a finger, “you know how much of a bother I can be.”
“Sunset was impatient,” Celestia said, pushing back Discord’s hand. “When she could not acquire the things she desired as quickly as she would like, she turned cruel and dishonest.”
“Ah, what a shame, what a shame,” Discord lamented, holding his head up high with the back of his paw on his forehead in a dramatic pose. Dropping down to lean against the balcony railing, he lowered his head to flash Celestia a wicked grin. “But there’s more to the story than that, right? I remember seeing something quite different, in fact.”
“You were trapped in stone at the time,” Celestia reminded him. “With your eyes closed as well.”
“But it was a sure good thing my ears weren’t closed, huh?” Discord chuckled. He turned his back to Celestia, leaning over the railing to get a glance at the garden. Mostly at Twilight in particular, still oblivious to the pair of spying eyes trained on her. “See, I wasn't deaf. I heard things in my prison. Hushed voices, whispers, secrets. Things you’d rather not let be known.” Discord turned his head to stare at Celestia, that same smug grin on his face. “Am I right, Celestia?”
Celestia balked at his claim. “I have nothing to hide, Discord.”
“No, no, of course not.” Discord winked. “Nothing illegal, at least.”
“What do you mean?”
Discord barked out a quick laugh. “Oh Celestia, you always were an obvious one, you know that?”
Celestia gritted her teeth and grimaced. “If you’re going to say something, just spit it out already!”
“What’s there to say?” Discord asked with a shrug. “About how you were the impatient one instead of Sunset? About how you turned cruel and dishonest when you didn’t get the things you wanted quick enough?” Now the smile on Discord’s voice grew twofold, an unnatural upwards turn of the lips that would be impossible on anyone else’s face. “About how Sunset didn’t swing that way?”
“Quiet!” Celestia snapped at him, the unflappable mask of collected calm that she normally wore breaking for just a moment as her impulses took rein. But most importantly, her fear caused her to lash out with harsh words instead of the calmness that she was renowned for.
“Ah, so the princess does have some bark to her bite,” Discord laughed, tugging at Celestia’s cheek with a pinch before she slapped his hand out of the way. “What, can’t accept the truth?”
“I don’t accept lies,” Celestia replied bitterly.
Discord held his hands up, almost in surrender. “Hey now, who said anything about lies? I’m here to have a nice discussion is all.”
“I won’t stand here and be criticized. Especially by someone like you, Discord.” Celestia pointed to her balcony doors. “Either leave at once, or I shall depart myself.”
With a shrug, Discord complied, heading to the doors. Before his hand touched the handle, however, he turned back to Celestia and asked, “So it would be a lie if I said you groomed Twilight to her position?”
“What do you mean?” Celestia asked.
“I just can’t help seeing the similarities is all,” Discord admitted. “I mean, two magically gifted students both versed in powerful feats of magic ability. Seems pretty strange, right?”
“I run a school for magically gifted unicorns. There is nothing ‘strange’ about it,” Celestia replied with a bit of snark in her words.
Discord nodded slowly. “True, true.” With an aimless wave of his hand in the air, he looked Celestia dead-center in the eyes. “But you took one of them as your student at a much younger age than the other. You can’t deny that.”
“There is nothing to deny,” Celestia said, stony faced expression her only show of emotion. “Twilight was but a filly when I took her on as my student, while Sunset was well into her teens when I took her as my own. I still do not see what you mean by this.”
“Oh, nothing really…” Discord opened the doors, one leg out. “Twilight was just easier, I suppose.”
Discord took another step forward, counted to three in his head, then stopped from taking a third when Celestia said, “Wait! What do you mean easier?”
Turning back, Discord said, “Why, in age, of course. Those younger minds are much easier to shape, am I right?”
“Just cut to the chase, Discord,” Celestia stated firmly, hooves planted evenly on the floor.
“Aww, but that’s no fun,” Discord complained. Seeing Celestia wasn’t going to be swayed, he shrugged, drifting closer to her while on his back in the air. “Well, it’s quite obvious, is it not? Young minds are easier to groom than old.”
“How does Sunset and Twilight’s age difference matter with anything in their teachings?” Celestia asked.
“It matters when you couldn’t teach one of them to love you,” Discord outright answered for her.
This statement left Celestia so flabbergasted her eyes widened significantly as she found it troubling forming a response, much less picking her jaw off the ground. But before she could, Discord continued onward.
“Sunset didn’t return your feelings, did she, Celestia?” Discord asked. “Not that I expect much of an answer. Both of your actions ring crystal clear. She left you. And you moved on. A bit wiser, I must admit. You weren’t going to make the same mistake again, were you?”
“Please, Discord…” Celestia sighed, rubbing a hoof at the bridge of her muzzle.
“Oh no, you were going to make sure this one worked,” Discord said, smile turning ever the more devious with every word he spit out. “Besides, becoming an alicorn is a once in a lifetime opportunity. You needed to make sure whoever became one would work. Work for you, that is. And Sunset, didn’t fit in that equation, did she, Celestia? But Twilight…” Discord pointed to Twilight in the gardens, still humming that sweet tune as she collected a bouquet of flowers. Most likely for Celestia, Discord thought. “Twilight fit just fine once you were done with her.”
“I… I never...” Celestia gulped, controlling her breathing. She couldn’t let her emotions run out of control like this. Control was what she was made of. “I never touched her, okay. Never as a filly. You got that?”
“Oh yes, I get that,” Discord agreed, nodding. “Wouldn’t want to tarnish that perfect reputation of yours, I’m sure.”
“It wasn’t because of that!” Celestia shouted, but she immediately snapped her mouth shut, glancing down fearfully at Twilight in the distance. Luckily, she had heard nothing of that outburst. Turning back to Discord, Celestia said in a much more hushed voice, “I never would have done anything to Twilight. She was just a filly. Still so young, so pure, so—”
“Manipulable?” Discord guessed with a raised brow.
“Innocent,” Celestia answered him with a harsh glare.
“Whatever makes you sleep at night,” Discord said, leaning down to stick his tongue out at Celestia. “Or rather, should I say sleep with Twilight at night?”
“She agreed to that on her own free will,” Celestia said, frowning at his childish display.
“Oh yes! Free will! Of course, how could I forget about that?” Discord asked himself, holding his forehead with a claw. “It’s not like you personally sought out for her to become your immortal lover since day one. Nope, it couldn’t be.”
“It isn’t,” Celestia hissed through her teeth.
“Celestia, Princess of Equestria, wouldn’t possibly think of preparing her personal student to become an alicorn princess just so she won’t have a cold bed for the rest of her eternal life.” Discord shook her head, pacing around Celestia with his head turned to the ground. “Nope, couldn’t ever happen. Not in a million years. Not even a smidge of possibility.”
Celestia breathed in and out of her nose quickly, teeth pressed together harder and harder together as Discord continued his tirade. This built up to the point that Celestia’s left eye twitched uncontrollably.
“Will you be so kind as to shut up?” Celestia practically spat out, focusing her eyes on Discord like daggers. “Twilight is mine, okay? I found her when she was just a filly, gifted with magic beyond her years. She became the Element of Magic and saved Equestria on more than one occasion. She has proved to be a trustworthy leader and dedicated ruler to her nation. I couldn’t be prouder of her, or… or…” Celestia turned her face away from Discord’s line of sight, “or love her anymore than I already do.” A shudder along with a sigh escaped Celestia’s body. Giving Discord a sideways glance with tears forming in her eyes, Celestia asked, “Is that so wrong? To love her? She… she loves me back. Everything is good then. Wonderful, even. Which is why I ask… Why? Why are you here now?”
“Because, my dear little Tia…” Discord held her chin in between his finger and thumb, lifting her head so they were eye to eye. “I couldn’t be prouder of you, or love you anymore than I already do.”
“Please, no,” Celestia begged, tears falling freely down her face as a sob wracked through her body.
Discord brushed a claw down her mane. “You groomed her to perfection. You learned well, I have to admit. How could I not be proud of that?”
“There’s nothing to be proud of being like you,” Celestia replied.
“Ah, but to me it is.” Discord ended his brushing of her mane. Leaning close so that their lips were only inches apart, Discord whispered, “Your method worked.”
Celestia’s eyes watered further.
“But for how long?” Discord asked, releasing Celestia’s chin. He took a step back, hands behind his back. “How long do you think she’ll be yours, Celestia? I really am curious as to your answer.”
“She chose me, Discord. I didn’t force her,” Celestia said, wiping away her tears as she took a couple of shaky breaths of air.
“Of course you didn’t,” Discord replied, walking past her. Before he passed her side, however, he stopped, glancing downward. “But she can still turn on you. Even the best teachers can have failed students, as you well know.”
Celestia looked upward, right into Discord’s sneering eyes that poked fun at her to speak. “Twilight is different,” Celestia said, voice quavering slightly.
Discord laughed. It wasn’t a cheerful laugh. No, it had a darker tinge to it. An almost menacing snark in each chuckle that escaped his gut. “That she is, that she is,” Discord said, leaving her for the exit. “She’s better.”
He continued cackling the entire time as he left Celestia alone. Alone to sit on the balcony: to remember, to regret, and to cry.