"And so, it is with great pleasure that I welcome you all to the first regiment of the Equestrian Royal Guard Mobile Response Team! Please step forward when I call your name to receive your rank and posting!" Princess Celestia announced.
The stallions and mares behind her on the stage stood at attention, many of them with a nervous look, wondering what rank they were going to start their military careers at.
Others simply looked amazed that the princess herself had turned out to welcome them to her guard.
One stallion in particular stood proud and tall, his pure white coat and two tone blue mane and tail groomed to perfection. It wouldn't be an exaggeration to say he would look just as at home on the model circuit than in the military dress uniform he was currently wearing.
His cutie mark was a purple shield with a pink six pointed star in the middle of it, his cyan eyes scanning the crowd until he spotted the ponies he was looking for.
A white unicorn mare with a streaked purple and white mane and a blue unicorn stallion with a navy blue mane. On the mare's back was a lavender unicorn filly with a navy blue mane,streaked with purple and pink.
"Shining Armor." Princess Celestia called out.
The stallion stepped forward.
"It is with great honor that I bestow upon you the highest rank one can achieve out of the academy. Congratulations Lieutenant Armor." She smiled as the pair of five pointed silver stars levitated from the case on the podium and pinned themselves to the shoulders of his dress uniform.
With a simple curt nod and exchange of magic for his assigned post he stepped back into line with the rest of the ponies.
'Just a little longer. then you can spend the rest of the day with them.' He thought to himself, waiting patiently as the rest of the ponies he has spent the last three years training with are issued their rank and orders.
"And now. I ask of everypony present to take the time to reunite with their families, as the day after tomorrow, you will be shipped out to your assigned posts." Princess Celestia finished before taking to the air and flying towards the royal castle.
The stallions and mares on stage then filed down either side of the stage and into the crowd.
Shining Armor wormed his way through the crowd of ponies, searching for the trio he had seen earlier.
'I wonder who that filly on mom's back was? Have they been foalsitting for a friend? Kind of hard to know when the address of our barracks was withheld from out families.' He thought.
"There he is." He heard a mare call out. "Shining. Son!"
He turned in the direction of the voice and spotted his mom and dad approaching him, the filly peeking out from behind his mom's mane and eyeing him with caution.
"Mom, dad." He greeted them as they moved in and hugged him.
"Good to see you again son." His father said.
"It has been far too long." His mother agreed.
The filly poked her head out again and looked at him.
"And the little one wants to meet you I think." His mother chuckled. "Go on Twilight. Say hello."
"Shimmer. Dear." His dad started to say.
"Oh Night Light!" Another pony called out.
"Midday Nova you son of a gun!" He called out, completely forgetting what he was going to say as he trotted off.
Shimmer Tail chuckled and turned side on so Shining and the filly could see each other clearly. "Twilight Sparkle, this is Shining Armor."
The filly looked down,keeping her eyes focused on him all the while. "H-hello."
Shining smiled and moved closer. "Hi there."
Twilight whined and tried to hide in Shimmer Tail's mane.
"Oh don't be scared little one. He's your big brother."
"He's my... brother?"
"She's my sister?"
Shimmer Tail chuckled and nodded. "She'll be four years old in three months."
Shining Armor quickly did the trivial math in his head. "I've been in training for three years and six months?"
His mom nodded. "She's not as much of a hooful as you were, but that's due to the fact she spends alot more time up in her room studying the magic books you left behind. Her magic has already reached the same point as yours when you were six."
Shining smiled and levitated his little sister onto his back. "A magical prodigy eh?"
The small filly nodded slowly and gave his exposed fur a quick sniff. "You smell like family." She said quietly.
He chuckled. "Well I should hope so little sister." He smiled as she cautiously sat on his back.
"She's a little... socially awkward. She doesn't have many friends her age." Their mother explained. "She's more of a studier than a sports pony like you were."
"Moom.." Twilight whined.
Shimmer and Shining chuckled as the little filly huffed.
"Oh. Looks like your father is done talking with his old school buddies. Let's start heading home."
"Sounds like a good idea. I can't wait to have a taste of your cooking, a proper shower and a sleep in my own bed. And I'll spend the entire day tomorrow with my little sister."
Twilight smiled slightly and nuzzled his neck as they trotted through the crowd and towards the exit. "How long will you be staying with us big brother?"
Shining looked back and smiled sadly. "Just a day little sister. Then I'll be gone for the next... twenty or so years." He sighed. "If I'd have known you'd have been born I would have requested to leave my training until you grew up."
Twilight looked down. "Twenty years... that's a long time..."
"I know little sister. And I'm sorry I can't stick around."
"Big brother... can we have a photo taken together so I don't forget you as I'm growing up?"
"Of course we can little sister."
Twilight smiled and yawned softly, laying down on his back and closing her eyes.
"Awful late for a filly of your age, get some sleep little sister. I've got one more day of peace to spend with you tomorrow."
The next day flew by as Shining Armor spent time with his little sister out in the city, playing in the park with her and taking her to the movies to see an animated movie from Neighpon before having their picture taken together in the park.
They took two more pictures.
"One for me." He said as he magically coated one and slid it into the pocket of his dress uniform before buying a heart shaped locket, cropping the second picture magically and placing it into the locket, draping it over Twilights neck.
"One for you. and one for mom and dad." He smiled. "Now Twilight, can you promise me that no matter what happens you'll wear that locket every day?"
Twilight nodded and hugged him tightly. "I promise big brother. Thank you." She smiled. "I just wish you didn't have to leave tomorrow..."
Shining hugged her back, being careful not to hurt her. "Neither do I little sister." He smiled and carefully shifted her onto his back and started trotting towards home. "I also want you to promise me that you'll grow up to be a successful mare in your own right. I don't want my little sister to think she has to follow after me to prove something."
"I will big brother... mom and dad already have me signed up to take the entrance exam to Celestia's school for gifted unicorns a few days after my birthday."
"My little sister, the magical scholar."
The morning sun crept into the sky and illuminated the train station that all the newly appointed guards were standing on.
"Get your gear in order Fillies and Gentlecolts! We ship out in ten!" Shining ordered.
A few grumbles could be heard from the group of ponies on the platform.
"I gave an order, I expect a 'Yes Sir!' in return. Do I make myself clear?" Shining frowned.
"Yes Sir!" Came the synchronized response.
"Very good." He nodded in approval.
"Big Brother!" A voice called out, causing the stallion's ears to twitch before something wrapped around his foreleg.
With a smile Shining Armor lifted his foreleg gently and pulled Twilight into a hug. "Hey little sis. Did you come here by yourself?"
The lavender filly shook her head and pointed behind her. "Mom and Dad came by to see you off..." she said with a frown. "I don't want you to leave though.. why can't you stay?" She asked, nuzzling his chest and staring up at him with big wobbly eyes.
Shining looked up at his parents, who were standing a few feet back to give the two of them some room. He returned his gaze to the young filly who had started sniffling.
"It's not fair... I only got to know you for a day..."
The sniffling pushed a button in his brain he never knew he had and turned on a protective mode.
"I wish I could stay sis, I really do, but I have a job to do, but I have whole new reason to do it now." He smiled at her, ruffling her mane.
"Y-you do?" She asked. "What's that?"
"You." He replied. "Before I was just doing this because I wanted to, now, I'm going to do it to protect you. Even if I can't be around to protect you here from things like bullies and the scary things that make noise at night. I'm somewhere far away making sure that worse things can't hurt you in the future."
"R-really?" Twilight asked, a look of awe in her eyes.
"Really. And if something really bad happens here, then I'll come galloping home, regardless of my orders, because I'll have more to fight for here than over there." Shining smiled down at his little sister.
The filly smiled back up at him and hugged him tighter.
"Last call for the guard train to Zebrafica!" the PA announced.
Shining gave Twilight a small peck on her forehead. "I'll see you soon little sister." He said as he put her down on the platform. He waved to his parents before levitating his bag and stepping onto the train.
As it began to pull away he spotted Twilight, now perched on their mothers back waving sadly.
He gave her a sad smile and waved back until they were nothing more than a speck on the distance.