Her amethyst eyes fluttered open as the alicorn's internal clock told her it was time to raise the sun. She was groggy at first, but as her mind cleared, her plans for the day flooded back into her mind. Celestia hopped out of bed and shook herself off, then stepped behind her bed and went out onto the balcony.
She took a deep breath of morning air, smelling the crisp mountain side and fresh, dew-laden grass. It was her favorite time of day, when the sun was about to rise and Equestria was just beginning to wake. Closing her eyes, she focused her magic into her horn, which glowed a vibrant gold. On the horizon, the fiery orb crawled up and began following its course.
Celestia smiled, now gazing upon her country bathed in orange. “Today is going to be splendid.”
Walking back inside, she approached her desk and took a seat on the large, overstuffed cushion in front of it. In front of her rested a calendar that took up most of the surface of the desk, and each day was marked with a multitude of activities. There was one day, though, that was blank except for a single word: Twilight.
“Today’s the big day...” she hummed, leaning down and opening one of the drawers. From it, she withdrew a scroll. The parchment unfurled to reveal a list of items that had yet to be checked off, but that was about to be changed. Celestia took a quill and dipped it in the nearby inkpot, then looked to a miniature cabinet sitting upon her desk. It held several necklaces and decorative trinkets, yet there was one item her eyes focused on. With a light smile, she marked off one item of the list.
She rolled the scroll back up and started to stand, but her eyes caught a letter on the opposite side of the desk. Celestia recognized it as Twilight’s most recent friendship report. Setting herself back down, she took the report and started to read over it. “Oh, Twilight, my student... you’ve grown so much since you left. I just don’t know where I would be without you.”
The statement was meant in earnest, for Twilight and her friends had been there where Celestia had failed. The unicorn had proved herself to be loyal and faithful, and that was exactly what the princess needed.
Rolling the letter back up, she floated it over to a small chest and tucked it away with many other tied scrolls. Each and every one was proof of her students love and devotion, and each new one made Celestia’s days all the brighter.
Now, it was time for Celestia to show that she truly cared.
Taking her list with her, she began to prepare for the day ahead. There was much to be done still, and everything had to be perfect. The first order of business was to go to the castle cellar. There was a particular bottle of champagne she had her eye on.
Twilight Sparkle stood outside the gates to Canterlot with her violet mane fluttering in the breeze. On her back were a pair of saddlebags, and one of the flaps hung open. In front of her, encased in a deep red aura, was an unfurled note. Her eyes scanned over it as she tried to make sense of the text. It was a simple letter, not even breaking two lines of length, yet it still filled her with a sense of worry, and a bit of confusion.
My Dearest Twilight,
Please come to Canterlot as soon as you can. It’s very important! Also, I hope you enjoyed the flowers.
“I hope this is nothing serious...” Twilight mumbled, rolling the letter back up and tucking it away. The last thing she needed was another Discord or Nightmare Moon incident. With a light sigh, Twilight stepped through the gates and began walking towards the castle. As she stepped through the city, she couldn’t help but think of the lilacs the princess had sent her.
Twilight stood next to a bookshelf, horn glowing as she dusted off each of the shelves. Spike was on the opposite side of the room, doing the same thing. It was her monthly shelf cleaning day, so all the books were carefully put into stacks and organized outside the cases so the wood could be brushed and polished. Spike had always thought it to be a silly habit, but Twilight looked forward to it each month. It was fun!
Until something went wrong. With a groan, she looked behind her to see Spike stumbling into a pile of books that had toppled over. “Spike! We’re supposed to keep these in order. Now we need to spend more time organizing and less time cleaning.”
The dragon rolled out of the book pile and rubbed his nose. He then looked around himself and groaned. “Sorry, Twi. I think this dust gives me allergies or-” Spike paused and began to inhale, but instead of a sneeze like Twilight expected, he instead burped up an emerald flame. The fires faded off, depositing a scroll and oddly enough, a bouquet of lavender flowers. “Huh, that’s new.”
Twilight raised an eyebrow and approached the two objects, but focused mostly on the colorful blossoms. Levitating them in front of her, she gave them a tentative sniff. “Lilac...” she said, looking over the light purple petals. “My favorite... but why? Spike, can you put these in a vase for me?” She asked, picking up the scroll and placing the bouquet on a nearby table. Then, with a quick tug, she pulled open the letter.
A short walk through the residential district later, Twilight found herself just outside the entrance to Canterlot Castle. The wooden drawbridge was lowered, and two stallion guards stood in their positions at each side of the bridge. The only acknowledgement they gave the purple pony was a faint nod as she passed between them, and then they returned to their stone-like stances.
As Twilight entered the main hall, she couldn’t help but notice the lack of guards or other ponies. Usually there were at least a couple nobles lingering around, either awaiting an audience or on some other official business. To see the castle so empty was disconcerting, at the very least. Her nervous thoughts were put to rest, though, when she heard soft hooftsteps echo through the halls. Looking to the origin of the noise, Twilight found none other than Celestia descending the steps, with a playful spring in her step.
“Greetings, Twilight!” Celestia said, meeting her student at the base of the stairway. “I’m quite pleased you made it to the castle with such haste.” With a light flick, she brushed a bit of her ethereal mane.
“Well, you did say it was important,” the unicorn replied, with a slight smile.
“So, did you get the flowers I sent?” the princess asked, with a wider than normal grin. Twilight couldn’t put her hoof on it, but something was off about her today. She appeared too happy to see her prized student. Sure, Celestia was always happy to see her, but never like this. Smiling, practically bouncing in place, and having sent flowers beforehoof. It was all very strange.
So, she did the only thing she could and played along. “Why yes, I did. They were very beautiful, and they smelled great. How did you know they were my favorite?”
“Oh, I suppose it was just a good guess... and a bit of alicorn wisdom,” she added, with a wink.
That was when Twilight looked up and noticed that Celestia was wearing a pair of earrings today. They were shaped like the sun, with a small ruby in the middle of each. Judging by their luster and shine, they were probably real gold, too. Twilight couldn’t remember a time where the princess had ever worn jewelry besides her tiara, boots and chest piece.
Before she could think about it, Celestia spoke again. “So, now that you’re here, why don’t we walk together?” With that, the princess turned and looked back to Twilight, waiting for the unicorn to come beside her.
“Of course.” Twilight nodded, then began to follow alongside Celestia. It wasn’t until they reached the top of the steps that Twilight decided to ask about the letter. “So... princess-”
Celestia was quick to raise a wing and silence her student. With a sly grin, she said “Please, there’s no need to be so formal. Call me Celly.”
The unicorn could only look to her mentor and gulp. “Uh... okay. If you insist, pr-” A sideways glance from Celestia made her catch her imminent slip-up. “Celly.” The word felt foreign on her tongue, and she had to force her lips to make the sounds. The princess seemed pleased, though, so her effort had been acceptable. “So... Celly... what was so important that you needed me to come to Canterlot?”
Celestia looked to Twilight and gave a cheeky grin. “Oh, I just wanted to spend some quality time with my favorite student is all.” She then turned forward and began to hum an unrecognizable tune, bouncing lightly in time with the music.
“I... so... nothing serious is going on?” Twilight asked, trying to mask the dumbfounded look on her face. She had come all the way here because the princess wanted to see her? Nothing was threatening the safety of the world as they knew it? There were no monsters to fight or curses to break or ancient texts to study? That couldn’t be right. Surely, Celestia was joking.
“Nothing at all! In fact, Equestria is the most peaceful it’s been in many years.” The princess gave a wink, then added, “And I’m sure you had something to do with that, dear Twilight.”
The unicorn could only blink and look forward, still trying to grasp the idea that there had been summoned and rushed to Canterlot for nothing more than a meeting with Celestia. She furrowed her brows in thought. There has to be a reason I’m here... but what?
Before she could think about it more, a shadow came over her and she felt the touch of feathers at her side. They pressed against her and pushed her closer to the princess. Looking up, she saw Celestia keeping her pace as she nonchalantly wrapped a wing around Twilight. A chill went through the purple mare’s spine, despite feeling the warmth of Celestia’s wing. Things were getting a bit too weird, and a bit too touchy.
She flashed Celestia a grin before pushing the wing away and taking a step to the side. Celestia glanced at Twilight and gave a soft frown, but after a few moments was back to her cheery demeanor. “So!” she piped up, looking down to Twilight. “About your most recent friendship report, did Rainbow Dash and Applejack ever get that fight sorted out?”
That was when things began to click together.
The flowers. The attitude. The earrings. Touching her mane and wrapping a wing around her. Asking about the last thing they talked about. These were all things Twilight had been told to do in Dating Advice 101, for when you had feelings for somepony but didn’t want to tell them. She silently cursed herself for not seeing earlier, and now it was too late. There was only one option, and it would be a long shot.
“Actually, they didn’t!” She exclaimed, looking to Celestia with surprise. “In fact, I think I needed to talk with them today!” Twilight then chuckled, “You know how those two can get sometimes.” Taking a step back, she did a half turn. “So, you know, I should probably get back to Ponyville and help them out. I mean it was nice seeing you, Celly, but they could use my he-”
“Oh, nonsense, Twilight,” the princess interrupted, encasing Twilight in a gold aura and turning her back. “I’m sure those two can handle one afternoon by themselves, don’t you think?”
There went that plan. With a gulp, Twilight put on false grin and said “Heh... I suppose they can...”
“That’s what I like to hear.” Celestia began to walk again, with Twilight having no choice but to follow her. “Besides, you should take some time and relax. I’m sure you’re very busy, are you not?”
“I guess I am...” the unicorn croaked, still forcing her smile. By this point, they had reached a stain-glass door that led outside, which Celestia had already walked through. Twilight followed behind her, quickly finding herself in the midsts of the royal Canterlot gardens. Here, flora and fauna from all around Equestria existed, and it was hailed as one of the most beautiful places to exist.
“Ah, the royal garden,” Celestia mused, breathing in the garden air. She stepped lightly along the stone path that guided visitors through the scenic landscape. The princess then turned to Twilight, who was walking quietly along next to her. “Did you know that the royal garden is one of the most romantic places to go? At least, that's what I keep hearing.”
She was right, of course. Couples were always frequenting the gardens, and it was a surprisingly common place for ponies to propose to their mates in. However, today it was more quiet than normal. “Yeah, I did know that...” Twilight said looking around the garden. “Aren’t there usually more ponies here?”
Celestia chuckled, then said “Oh, usually, yes. However, I had the gardens reserved today. It’s just you and me, Twilight.”
“Oh. Uh... great,” the unicorn replied, feeling the hairs on her neck prick up. “It’s... It’s a very beautiful garden, that’s for sure.” Continuing their walk, Twilight began to observe the types of plants around them. They had moved into a section that comprised of many varieties of flower, from roses to lilies to petunias to... “Lilac.”
There, off to the side, was a fresh bed of purple flowers that swayed in the light breeze. Now she knew where her bouquet had come from.
“So, Twilight, I’ve been consulting with my gardeners on a new flowerbed. However, I value your opinion greatly, so I would like your input as well.” Celestia motioned to an area of tilled dirt that was surrounded by decorative fencing. “Now, I’ve been considering either a combination of yellow rose and chrysanthemum, or the slightly more exotic lunar tulip, mixed with snow daffodils. What do you think?”
Twilight pondered the question, but her mind was focusing elsewhere. She blinked a few times before saying “Oh, uh, lunar tulips are nice...”
“I was thinking that as well. I suppose I’ll have to go out and find some, then.”
Now, they had reached the opposite side of the garden and the exit out. Celestia opened the door and stepped inside with Twilight, only to go across the hall to a pair of large double doors with Celestia’s cutie mark emblazoned on the wood. There was no noticeable methods of opening them, until the princess’s horn began to glow. With a low creak, they swung inwards, revealing a dim room.
“Please, step inside.” Celestia waved a hoof, motioning for Twilight to step inside. The protege's violet eyes darted from the princess to the room, and after a moment, she gave a sigh and walked in.
From the looks of things, this was Celestia’s personal chamber. A great bed stood at the end of the room, with large windows around it in an arc. However, they were covered by flowing maroon curtains which had been drawn over them. They served their purpose of blocking the day, as the only other light source in the room were many candles spread about, along with a ornate chandelier, it’s flames flickering and casting shadows along the floor and ceiling.
The candles were of various scents, which blended together to form an inviting aroma. Twilight could pick up hints of lavender and the trace of vanilla in the mix. Stepping into the room farther, she could swear she felt petals under her hooves, but didn’t want to check to see what kind. In her mind, though, she knew they were rose. Then, Twilight’s eyes trailed to the foot of the bed, where a silver vase sat. Poking from the top of it was the neck of a bottle, and the fine mist permeating from the opening of the container told her there was ice in it.
“Oh yes!” Celestia chimed in, walking past Twilight. Behind them, the telltale sound of two doors closing reverberated. The princess then walked in front of Twilight and motioned around. “Well? What do you think?”
“It’s... uh...” Twilight looked around and frowned softly. “It’s... relaxing.”
Seemingly unaware of Twilight’s mood, Celestia nodded and turned around, looking over the room. “That’s just what I was hoping. Nice and relaxing for my student and I...” She then stepped to the bed and climbed on it, shifting around until she was comfortable. Celestia turned her head to Twilight and patted the area next to her. “Come, Twilight. Have a seat. Enjoy yourself.”
The unicorn took one last look to the closed doors before sighing, setting her bags aside and walking forward. She put on a smile, but each step was tentative and forced. A multitude of thoughts spun through her head, most dedicated to what was going to happen in the following moments, and more importantly, what she was going to tell Celestia.
Twilight crawled onto the bed and took her place next to the alicorn, but at a comfortable distance. She looked up to the princess, who merely smiled back. Then, both of their faces became illuminated by the glow of Celestia’s horn. From the ice filled vase came the bottle, which was filled with a bright golden liquid and plugged with a crude looking cork. Champagne. Celestia brought the bottle near her face and looked over it with approval.
“You wouldn’t guess it, but this bottle of champagne is over a thousand years old. It’s been around since before the Nightmare Moon incident, and I’ve been keeping a close watch over it ever since.” She floated the bottle near Twilight so she could get a good look at it. “I’ve been saving for a very special occasion.” She then brought the bottle back to her, where her eyes scanned the label for a moment. “In fact, this bottle was-”
“Princess, please. Just... just stop.”
Celestia look up in alarm and turned to Twilight, who had one hoof covering her face and the other held up in silence. The princess glanced around and gave a light laugh before asking, “Twilight, dear... is something wrong?”
Twilight sighed and shook her head. “I know what you’re trying to do, Princess...” She then looked to Celestia and hardened her gaze. “And I’m sorry, but I have to decline.”
Celestia’s magic faltered for the briefest second as the bottle of champagne fell a small distance before being snatched back up in a faint gold aura. A gulp came from the deity as she looked to her student. “I... Whatever do you mean, Twilight?”
The purple mare frowned before continuing. “I’ve seen all the signs, princess. The earrings, the compliments, your general mood...” She then motioned to the room as a whole. “And all of this.” Turning back to Celestia, she said “I think it’s fairly obvious what you’re trying to tell me, and I hate to say it, but I’m just not that kind of mare.”
“But Twilight, we’ve known each for so long. I’ve looked after you since you were but a filly, and I’ve taken much consideration into this,” Celestia said, the smiling fading from her face.
“I know you must have, princess, but... things just wouldn’t work between us.”
Celestia’s mood changed to that of desperation as she opened her mouth to say something. On the third attempt, she croaked “Well... why not?”
Twilight brought a hoof to her mouth and cleared her throat before giving the princess a solemn look and speaking. “For one, you are thousands of years old and are practically a goddess. No matter what, you are going to outlive me, princess. Even if you could cast some sort of spell to make me live longer, it would make no difference at the end. I would still pass on before the first signs of aging appeared.”
The princess gave a slight nod and stayed quiet, so Twilight continued. “Second, you are far too busy to be involved in a serious relationship. My years of growing up around the castle have shown me that. Every day, you are constantly attending to royal matters and keeping Equestria in check. Even if you put your sister in charge of some duties, you still wouldn’t be able to give a lover the appropriate amount of time.”
“Finally, I’m... well...” Twilight’s cheeks began to turn a bright crimson as she averted her gaze and looked downwards. “I’m what you would consider... straight.” After a brief pause, she took a breath and looked back to the princess with as much dignity as she could muster. “So, it wouldn’t work in that regard. And... I’d like to be a mother someday. Only a stallion can help me accomplish that... so... I’m sorry.”
“I... see.” Celestia murmured, lowering her head and looking down at her forelegs. The two of them remained silent, with the only noise being the flickering of the candles and the soft swaying of the princesses mane. In the dim light, Twilight could make out Celestia’s eyes beginning to glisten.
“Oh, no, no, no...” the unicorn started, reaching a hoof out. The princess was quick to raise her own, halting Twilight’s movement.
“Please, Twilight,” the alicorn whispered, closing her eyes. “I need a moment to collect myself.” Twilight pulled back her hoof, hurt, but not as hurt as she knew Celestia was. While she had no dating experience of her own, she had read enough advice books and novels about the subject to understand that a great blow had just been dealt to the princess's heart. Twilight would need to plan her next words with care and consideration.
She waited several moments, giving both Celestia time to reflect and herself time to think of what to say. Finally, she took a breath, then began to speak in a soft, caring tone. “Princess... I know you’re feeling hurt right now, and I’m sorry for that, but... it isn’t all bad.”
Celestia opened her eyes partway and glanced to Twilight, but remained silent.
“Even though I don’t love you as a partner,” she moved over a bit and placed her hoof on Celestia’s own, “I still love you as a teacher... a mentor... and a great friend.”
“We’ve known each other so long that we’ve formed... a special kind of bond together. You’re like a second mother to me, Princess, and I care for you very deeply... just... not the same way as you care for me.” She gave Celestia a pleading look. “Surely, with your years of wisdom, you understand that?”
The princess brought a hoof to her face and wiped her eyes, revealing a smile as she rested it on the bed. “I didn’t expect the evening to go like this, but... I suppose I’m glad to have asked now rather than later. It would have pained me more had I waited longer.” She then took a breath and continued. “And Twilight, I thank you for being honest with me. There are few ponies who would turn down a princess, so your bravery is appreciated.”
Twilight let out a sigh of relief and rubbed her brow. “I’m glad you understand.”
“Now, do not misinterpret me. Just because I’m smiling on the outside doesn’t mean I’m content on the inside. It will take some time for me to... accept your decision and come to terms with the disappointment,” Celestia added, her look briefly becoming stern.
The purple unicorns smile faded and her voice lowered to a murmur. “I understand...”
Another silence fell over the two as they had run out of things to say. Twilight had made her stance clear and Celestia had confessed her pain. There was nothing more that needed to be said. One problem that had gone unresolved, though, was the bottle. A cold drop on her leg caused the sun princess to perk up and look to the container. Beads of water were condensing on the surface and sliding to the bottom of the cold glass.
Celestia glanced from the bottle to Twilight several times, then asked “Twilight... would you still like to share this bottle with me?”
Twilight blinked a few times, surprised at the question. “I... Are you sure? I thought you were going to save it for something special.”
“This is special.” Celestia smiled and brought out two champagne glasses from behind the vase, then floated one in front of Twilight, who took it in her own aura. She effortlessly uncorked the bottle, which gave off a fine mist. Tipping it to her student’s glass, she filled it part way, then did the same to her own. Finally, she set the bottle back in the ice.
Celestia lightly sighed and began to tip the glass to her mouth, but paused. “We should perform a toast,” she said, lowering the glass. Motioning to Twilight, she asked, “Would you care to do the honor?”
The unicorn thought for a moment, looking to her mentor. Even though things hadn’t turned out as planned, they were still there for each other. They did not harbor any negative feelings, and they still cared for each other like mother and daughter. Celestia would always be there for guidance and support, and Twilight would always be there for learning and training.
“To the greatest of teachers,” the student said, with a soft smile.
“To the most faithful of students,” the mentor replied, returning the gesture.
Then, they tapped glasses together and drank.