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Note: This is my first pony piece ever. My dear friend, RandomUser674, inspired this. This goes out to all you Bronies out there. I only hope that I did the fandom a service and wrote something meaningful. Feedback is very much desired and appreciated. By all means, let me have it and don’t hold back.
Last One Standing
Long ago, a famous magician studied the Elements of Harmony and discovered that there were four simple truths to be understood about them. This is what they wrote:
“Truth number one: The Elements of Harmony are not so much objects or spells as they are concepts embodied in physical form. The forms can be anything; places, gemstones, and even living creatures.
Truth number two: The Elements of Harmony are neither good nor evil, but rather their effect is to restore natural balance and equilibrium to whatever nearby is chaotically out of order to how it was before, regardless of what observers may perceive as being good or bad. They are absolutely unsentimental and objective in their judgments.
Truth number three: The Elements of Harmony are eternal. However, their vessels are not.
Truth number four: The Elements of Harmony will move to new vessels as the old ones wear out due to time, damage, and change. They will gravitate towards the nearest vessels that most perfectly represent each element.”
Twilight Sparkle remembered the day that she had dictated those words to Spike. It felt like only yesterday, though it really was sixty year ago. So much had changed since then.
She looked out the window. There was Ponyville. She heard the bustle of the traffic outside on the cobblestones. Wheels and hooves collided in a gentle cacophony. She sighed. None of the ponies out there knew that there was a time when the circle around Golden Oaks Library was unpaved dirt. Most of them had not even been alive forty years ago when the circle had been paved. And none of them were as old as her, who had been there for the return of Luna, the parasprite invasion, Spike's rampage, and the first sonic rainboom.
Sighing and moaning, Twilight walked over and lay down on her bed. Everything that could be moved had been placed on the ground floor more than a decade ago. She hadn’t been able to manage stairs very well since her late fifties, and rarely ever left home except when in dire need.
Twilight talked to herself. “How did it come to be like this?” She sounded exhausted beyond measure. Twilight never had energy for anything anymore. Chronic illness had long sapped her of her strength for much of her life, but she could deal with it in the past, when she still had reason to live. That reason had come crashing down just a few weeks earlier in the form of a little unicorn filly.
What had happened was that she had received a letter from Princess Celestia asking her to come to the royal palace in Canterlot at once. The journey wasn’t difficult at all, for in her old age, Twilight had become an astonishingly powerful magician, even as her bodied atrophied into a husk. She had visited the palace so many times that she knew where Celestia would want to see her: in one of the many palace courtyards. It only took a moment’s work for her to visualize the destination and cast the teleport spell.
Twilight arrived exactly in the middle of a grassy quad. “Greetings, my dear student,” said a familiar beloved voice behind her. Twilight turned to see the speaker, a radiant white alicorn with a little red filly beside her.
“It is an honor to meet with you, Princess.” She said this mechanically, even as the little filly's presence began to make the rusty gears in her head begin to clank and work. She eyed the filly. Their eyes met and the filly retreated behind Celestia's forelegs. Twilight saw her reflection in the clear, dark eyes. Her bleached coat was now only just faintly lavender, retaining only anything resembling its old color in her mane. Her skin sagged and bones showed, just like old Granny Smith.
“You can be casual with me, Twilight Sparkle. I’ve known you longer than any other pony.”
She objected, “But, Princess, I could never disrespect you like that.” This had been their ritual for so many years that it had become a running gag with the palace staff.
“Twilight, there’s someone here that I’d like you to meet.” Celestia cast her gaze at the fily. The little red filly tried to shrink even further behind Celestia, but the princess swept her out in front with her leg. Twilight saw her death in those wide, innocent eyes.
“Go on,” encouraged Celestia in her most soothing voice, the very same voice that Twilight had been so familiar with during her apprenticeship. It was the voice that had comforted her after nightmares. That voice sung her to sleep when she was ill. It was the voice that had been at the bedside of so many dying ponies. It felt strange to hear that voice and yet not be the one it was addressing. A pang of loneliness and fear shot through her. She knew what that meant. Her heart understood perfectly, but her mind desperately tried to fight against the horrible realization dawning on her.
“I- I- I’m Ruby Jiselle,” trembled the little red filly, barely audible. A pang of longing shot through Twilight as she was forcibly reminded of a friend long gone.
Twilight’s heart gave an incredulous leap. She whispered barely, “Fluttershy?”
“N-no, I’m Ruby Jiselle,” said the filly more confidently. She gathered herself up and met Twilight’s gaze.
Twilight forced a smile and replied, “I’m Twilight Sparkle, pleased to meet you, Ruby Jiselle.”
"Oh, it's such a honor to you meet you, Lady Sparkle. Princess Celestia has told me so much about you--" Twilight's heart skipped a beat.
Celestia cut in, "Now, girls, there's work to be done. Ruby, would you please show Lady Twilight Sparkle what you've been practicing?"
"Yes, absolutely, Princess Celestia," chirped the little filly as she stood in the middle of a circle of stones. Her horn glowed and Ruby levitated several stones and arranged them in a neat, ordered pile. Twilight did not know her age, but she was undoubtedly several years ahead of the curve. Ruby managed to concentrate a weak ball of light onto the tip of her horn before projecting it forwards for a few inches, at which point it petered out. As the demonstration wore on, Twilight snuck a number of glimpses at Celestia. The solar diarch looked upon the little filly with pride. More importantly, it was the same sort of pride that Twilight had seen the princess personally beam at her during her youth’s education in Canterlot.
Ruby was completely engrossed in her next spell, which was to make basic nonliving things change color. Twilight took the opportunity to discretely peek at Celestia again. only to find her princesses large eyes looking expectantly at her. Celestia motioned over at the filly.
“What do you think, Princess?” It was a loaded question of the worse possible sort. Celestia gave her a knowing look. “She’s very good. I mean, she could definitely become great.”
Celestia nodded. “I’m glad to see that you agree," she said thoughtfully. They stood together quietly, a bit further apart than usual. Their old eyes were watching the young filly as she crouched in front of the dandelion, magic sparking from her horn, struggling to undo that sad, blue color.
“I’m willing to teach her, if that’s what you want.” Her voice wasn’t at all confident or calm. Rather, it was desperate and teary, as if the speaker did not quite want to believe what they were witnessing. Celestia knew that Twilight was pleading for the answer to be yes, as it had been on so many previous occasions. To her student, the alternative was just too dreadful to be true.
“She will need education in order to properly develop her considerable talents…” Celestia was being purposefully vague again. Twilight bristled just a bit as a knot formed in her stomach.
“Princess, what do you mean? Please, tell me! I’ll take her as my apprentice.” The other pony just sadly shook her head and looked away.
She raised her voice, “Ruby Jiselle, that’s very good. You may stop now.” Ruby snapped back into reality and looked unflinchingly at Celestia with adoration that the regal pony remembered very well.
“So, what do you think?” Celestia posed the question with an unreadable tone that Twilight had never been able to decipher.
“It’s uh, very nice, Ruby. Thank you.” Ruby's eyes met Celestia's, searching for approval. Twilight saw the princess's shadow dip its head just a bit as the filly's eyes widened, and then her mouth struggled to not break into a broad grin. Ruby's eyes met Twilight's puzzled face, and they narrowed a bit, with just the faintest hint of a frown, and maybe some reverence in them. Twilight gasped silently. The knot in her stomach formed a stone and filled her insides with lead. She cast her gaze away, but her ears could not help but hear what came next as clearly as a bell's toll.
“Twilight Sparkle, Ruby Jiselle is my new apprentice.” Internally, Twilight wanted to scream. In spite of everything that had ever happened to her, she still considered herself to be Princess Celestia’s one true apprentice. That was the way it had always been, for as long as she could remember. She even still sent weekly friendship reports even long after her assignment was deemed complete and they had maintained a long, intimate correspondence. She wanted to scream! She wanted to throw that little insolent filly from the highest tower! She wanted Celestia to admit that it was just a prank! But on the outside, she forced herself to remain calm and be polite, if only for her mentor’s sake. She wasn’t sure how she pulled it off, but was grateful that break was called immediately afterwards. Ruby trotted off to get a snack, leaving the two adults alone together.
Twilight glared wild-eyed at her idol, her mentor, her ruler, Princess Celestia. She lashed out before she could stop herself. "Princess Celestia, Why? How could you do this to me, dragging me all the way out to Canterlot just so you could parade your young prodigy in front of me like a new dress? Do you have any idea how hard it is for me to do anything at my age? Are you crazy?”
“Calm yourself, Twilight Sparkle!” Celestia used just a pinch of the royal Canterlot voice. Twilight immediately yielded. “I did not summon you just to show off Ruby Jiselle. I just need you just answer one me one important question.”
“Do you feel the Element of Magic within her?” There was no escaping the painful truth. It had been long overdue to happen at one point or another; that her replacement would appear, signaling that her time was nearly at an end.
Reluctantly, Twilight answered her. “Yes, I feel it too.” She felt weak and helpless. Tears began to stream down her aged features as the full force of the realization hit her. She lay down on the grass and began to cry in earnest. “I don’t want to die.”
Celestia knelt down beside her and sheltered Twilight with her wing, holding her dear student close. “Twilight, death isn’t such a terrible thing. Death is a natural part of life. We are born, we live, we age, and we die.”
“But I don’t want to die! Please, tell me that it’s not true!” Twilight’s grief was overwhelming. Being a pony of strictly scientific sensibilities, she believed that after death followed eternal nothingness. The thought terrified her and the long, lonely years had gradually eroded away any reason she had to live other than simply being afraid of death.
“Twilight,” Celestia soothed, “you know that it’s inevitable. Your replacement is here. Your predecessor died, you will die, Ruby will die... every pony must taste death. Dying isn't the worst thing in the world."
“How can you say that? It’s not like you have to die! I wish I could be immortal and live forever like you.”
“We all must face death, Twilight. Even Luna and I must eventually pass on when the world itself dies. I am unafraid.”
“But you have time, Princess. I thought I still had time, but I don’t! There’s so much I wanted to do- so much to see, but I just never did. There was always a book to read, an errand to run, or I just plain forgot!” Twilight wiped her eyes against Celestia’s warm, soft side.
“You’ve lived a great life, Twilight Sparkle. Most ponies don’t have lives even half as long, meaningful, or happy as yours. I’ve seen enough to know that.”
“But I don’t want to die. I don’t want to stop being you student! I don’t want to be replaced!” Her sobs settled down, but tears still flowed down her face.
“My dear Twilight, you know that I can never replace you. I share a special bond with every apprentice I’ve ever taught. Each one holds a special place in my heart, but I’ve never had the friendship of one such as you, Twilight Sparkle. I won’t forget you, ever. Even long after you’re long gone, Canterlot has crumbled, and this has all passed away into ancient myth, I will still remember you. Even in the final age of the last great Equestrian civilization, you will not be forgotten. And so long as somebody remembers you and your works still last, then one can never truly be dead. And your significance will never fade away, even until the end of days. Rest assured, my dearest student, that you have a form of immortality in the magics of friendship and memory. Starswirl the Bearded wrote that death was just another great mystery for the developed mind.”
“I know, Princess, but why do I still feel so afraid? I mean, unless it's something horrible like burning alive or drowning, it can't be too bad, I guess. And it’s not like me or my friends will be forgotten, but I just don’t want to die. I want to live forever, studying magic with you.” Celestia’s mouth twisted into a wry smile. It was always this way with the more cerebral ponies, especially when they had lived long lives of self-sacrifice. They always found themselves at the precipice of oblivion and realized that they had pleased everypony but themselves.
“Have you thought about what it would be like to live forever?” Twilight looked up at Celestia.
“No, Princess. What’s it like?”
Celestia’s kindly expression took on a very grim aspect. “Immortality is bittersweet, my dear student. On one hoof, I have seen so many wonderful things and got to see the finest moments in pony history with my own eyes. I’ve met many great ponies, famous and forgotten. I have overseen the rise of Equestia from a collection of bickering tribes, to its current splendor.” She suddenly became very grim. “But, I’ve also had to see everypony I’ve ever cared about die. Never has one climbed the long steps out of the Well of Souls. I’ve been there for all the bad times, and seen horrible things. The thousand years where Luna was imprisoned on the moon were the worst years of my life. I had to do the work of two all by myself, and without Luna, I could never truly get close to anypony because I knew that they’d die soon enough no matter what. It’s lonely living forever.”
“Princess, I’m so sorry..."
“Nay, it’s fine. What matters are the good memories you have of the pony while they were alive. Those will last forever. However, I feel guilt when I think about those whom I could not be with at the end. I at first tried to just ignore the problem, but I couldn’t. I’ve tried everything, even to make some ponies immortal, and even to revive the dead, but to no avail. It is possible to magically extend the lives of ponies so that they can live for however long they wish, but it is impossible to force life upon something and magic cannot extend life forever. No pony whose life I extended lived much longer than a couple centuries; after a time, the body becomes a prison and death the only escape .To some ponies, I was the first and the last thing that they ever saw. It was too much. Eventually, I became isolated and detached.”
“But you’re not like that anymore, Princess.”
“That’s because I met you, Twilight Sparkle.” Celestia and Twilight embraced more tightly. “Your drive, talent, and friendship pulled me out of my isolation. I remembered that while my little ponies all have short mortal lives, their influence and friendship can last forever. It always hurts when a pony dear to me leaves for the last time, but grief always fades and it’s only a short painful episode out of many lovely years of joy. In a way, they never truly die, living on in my heart. And while their time is short, they don’t waste a single moment of it. The star that burns twice as bright is all the more glorious for its transient brilliance.”
“Thank you, Princess. I just want to ask you: will you be there with me at the end?”
“Yes, my dear student, I shall. It’s an arrangement that I have honored for all your friends and I’ll do the same for you.”
In the present, Twilight awoke from her dream and thought on how her friends had all passed away one by one. This was not counting Spike, who was on a long term goodwill diplomacy mission to Zebricy.
All of the Elements of Harmony had a sort of contest or bet going on who would be the last one standing. Interestingly enough, nopony figured that they’d be the last survivor, picking one of their friends to hold that bittersweet honor. Rainbow Dash put her money on Twilight Sparkle being the last to go, citing her safe indoor lifestyle. And Twilight figured that Rainbow would be the last one left, considering her extremely healthy lifestyle.
Years before any one of them had died, a mausoleum had been constructed to house their memories, likenesses, and stories. The plan was to house all ponies who hosted the Elements of Harmony within it. It was only too soon that they discovered that polished marble was a woefully pathetic replacement for a dear friend. Still, they kept that pony’s memory alive, even as their names and bodies were lost to time.
To everypony’s surprise, Rarity had been the first to go. She was still in her prime when she was struck by a piece of falling debris during an earthquake. She died three days later in the hospital due to internal injuries, surrounded by friends and family, including Celestia. Her last words had been, “Do as you like with me, but please, let me be fabulous.” She slipped into unconsciousness and expired shortly afterwards, holding Spike’s hand in her final moments. Befitting of the element of generosity, it was discovered that most of her estate was to go towards improving Ponyville. Spike was shattered by his love’s untimely death. In retrospect, it was probably this and what happened next that motivated him to leave for Zebracy.
Applejack was the second member of the group to die, several years after Rarity, although it felt all too soon for all involved. It happened at the time between when one’s youth ends and when one’s years begin to show. Spike was not yet absent by that point, although he had become more distant by then and starting to realize the awful truth about what awaited him should he choose to live with ponies. Her death was even more disturbing and much less expected that Rarity’s had been. They were discussing going on a tour around Equestria with Celestia, Luna, and the new element of generosity, Abundance in order to restore faith in the diarchs after the defeat of a plot which nearly threw the country into civil war. They were in one of the many grand palace galleries when suddenly, Applejack started to convulse and collapsed on the spot as blood started to flow from her body and stained the exquisite wood floor. Rainbow Dash tried to bolt for a doctor, but stopped when Applejack told her that there was nothing she could do. Her last words were, “I love ya’ll.” Nopony had ever dared to remove the stain as a memorial to her. It surfaced later that Applejack was murdered by a rebel magician who wanted revenge on the one she perceived as being responsible for her master’s downfall.
It wasn’t long after this that Spike left. The deaths of Rarity and Applejack really did a number on him and he was still a very young, impressionable dragon. He had tried to persuade Twilight and the others that he was doing it for Equestria, but they saw right through it. He had been forcibly made cognizant of the fact that he was going to outlive his friends and he couldn’t handle it. As far as he was concerned, the original six had all been his family, and in the blink of an eye from his perspective, almost half of his family had been wiped out. He and Rarity did have a life together and had adopted foals. Her death was like a stab in his heart and ripped away any hopes or delusions he might have held for lasting happiness. For the next several years, he tried to cope like the young dragon he was and attempted to simply muscle through the problem and ignore it. Spike tried to hang on and pretend that all was well for the sake of his friends, children, and Sweetie Belle, who had taken Rarity’s death particularly hard. Spike seemed to be managing fairly well and even appeared to have recovered from Rarity’s death when Applejack died. He was never particularly close to Applejack, but her death had fully awakened him to the reality that it was only a matter of time until all his pony friends and family died, leaving him all alone. Nopony blamed him for deciding to leave. He had been sent off with a great Pinkie Pie party and many tearful farewells. He said that he’d see them all again. Nopony was deceiving themselves.
Fluttershy died after Applejack. This was the first time that they saw it coming in advance. Fluttershy had always been rather weak and sickly. This did not mesh well with her love of the outdoors and of animals. Honestly, it was a miracle that she had made it to middle age. What had happened was that Fluttershy became very ill after staying out in a blizzard in order to protect some orphaned fox kits. It took several weeks for her to finally succumb, but she didn’t give in until the end. They all gathered at her bedside with Celestia and with Juniper, the new element of honesty. She thanked them all for being there and apologized for dying. The last thing she said was, “I’m not scared. It’s really not so bad. There’s this wonderful light, and I can hear such pretty music. Goodbye, my friends. Thank you. I hope I haven’t caused you too much trouble.” Fluttershy’s death hit them all hard, even the replacements. It reminded them uncomfortably of two things: that they were getting older, and that half of them were already gone. It painfully reminded them of why Spike had left more than a decade previous.
Her replacement as the element of kindness was Miria. A serious gripe that everyone had was that the replacements were inevitably young; typically they were fillies just old enough to have recently obtained cutie marks, or they were still in late adolescence. It wasn’t so bad with Abundance, because she hadn’t been too far removed from them in years. However, the problem became noticeable with Juniper, who was a full twenty years younger than the youngest one of the original six. And it only got worse with Myra, who was younger than some of Fluttershy’s foals’ offspring. Twilight realized that it was absolutely necessary that this happen in order to guard against too many of the bearers from dying at once, which would break the chair of friendship needed to make the Elements of Harmony function.
Next went Pinkie Pie, who had always burnt the candle at both ends. A life of craziness, fun, parties, and hedonism wore out her body when she was first beginning to grey. As usual, the other elements and Celestia were there, having by now established that she would be there at the passing of every single element. In true Pinkie Pie style, however, she managed to turn the most solemn of occasions into an affair that nopony would ever forget. Instead of everyone gathering round her bedside, she instead had thrown a “life completed” party in town hall. She was also surrounded by a veritable herd of family, having had a truly astounding number of foals with an endless supply of fathers. When Pinkie Pie died, she shouted, “Bye bye, everypony- it’s been fun! I’ll be waiting for you!” Unlike with Rarity, Applejack, or Fluttershy, Pinkie Pie’s replacement had been found approximately a month before she died.
Her replacement was a pre-adolescent pony named Blue Bash. By this point, it was painfully obvious how wide the gulf was between the different elements. It was very difficult to overcome, but the elements eventually bridged the multiple generation gaps and continued on in friendship. Unfortunately for Twilight Sparkle and Rainbow Dash, they were both significantly older than their comrades, and they were also the last of the original six. They made new friendships, but the pain of losing the old never completely dulled. They found themselves struggling to connect and bond with the newcomers, and they inevitably did, but these relationships had neither the strength nor the closeness as they had shared with those long since departed.
Rainbow Dash and Twilight Sparkle long wondered with morbid anticipation to see who would be the last one of the original six standing. Indeed, for quite a while, things maintained a sense of normalcy. Twilight and Rainbow were old yet otherwise fine. Abundance was at the cusp of old age. Juniper was about midway through life. Myra was in her late prime with Blue Bash experiencing the full flower of youth. This comfortable balance was maintained until Rainbow’s aging brought out the worst of an old flying injury. In her youth, she had done many daredevil stunts and suffered a fittingly high number of suitably severe crashes. Becoming a Wonderbolt and eventually becoming their captain had only increased the wear on her body. It started with a painful stiffness in her right wing, which gradually became more painful and increasingly interfered with her ability to fly. Eventually, she was forced to retire from the Wonderbolts. After that, things systematically went downhill for the old pegasus. She became totally grounded not three months later. She was still in excellent shape, but losing her ability to fly was a blow from which Rainbow Dash would never recover. She kept her wings, adamantly refusing amputation. She took up running, swimming and adventuring in order to remain active in her old age. While she wasn’t advanced in years, she was definitely past the point where most ponies would have decided to just stay in bed and idly while away their remaining few days. Rainbow instead went on an amazing series of historical adventures and still left the young athletes in the dust on her dying day.
Her final day came a little bit after seven years since her grounding. Rainbow Dash had long been resisting the great weariness in her body and continued on partially out of stubbornness, partially out of competition, and partially because she didn’t want to leave Twilight Sparkle all alone. Her grandfoal had sent notice to the rest of the Elements, who in turn contacted Celestia with news that Rainbow was at death’s door. They already knew that her replacement would be a teenaged pegasus by the name of Falkner Wing. It was because of this that they knew that out of all the times the mare had been bedridden, that this really was the end. The other Elements surrounded the bed, along with a few of her adult children, her former Wonderbolt teammates, her third husband, and Celestia. Twilight held her hoof when she breathed her last, comfortably leaning onto a pillow and telling her, “You’ve won, Twi, you wonderful egghead.” Then she looked everypony else in the eye and said, “Thanks for showing up to The Dash’s last performance, everypony. It really means a lot to me. You won’t see anything this awesome ever again. Bye’.” For a brief moment, Dash opened her eyes a little bit in surprise and a huge smile shot across her face as she reached for something with her hoof. Then, just like that, Twilight felt the life go out of Rainbow Dash and the body fell lifeless. For a few moments, she was stunned into silence, realizing at least that all her friends were gone. And then she fell onto Rainbow Dash and burst into tears.
Ever since that day, Twilight Sparkle had never truly recovered. She dove ever deeper into the world of books, magic, and seclusion, trying to distract herself from what she saw as the end of her world fast approaching. In her youth, she believed in an afterlife where ponies would go when they died. That belief was broken when she became a scientist and saw no evidence for such a thing. She had spoken with Princess Celestia a few times on the matter, but seldom made any headway over it. The princess had reassured Twilight that death was not truly the end, but never gave any definitive concrete answers other than that every single pony would face irreversible death. Some had deathbed visions of potential afterlives like Fluttershy, probably Rainbow Dash, and maybe Pinkie Pie might have experienced. She had spoken a few words though in the wake of Rarity’s death. “Nothing lasts forever, but in some way, things always come back to us in the end.” When Twilight tried to get answers from her mentor, she simply replied back, “You will understand.” She didn’t get it, even on her last day.
The Elements of Harmony were probably all together by now and getting along splendidly. Celestia had introduced Ruby to them at the first possible opportunity, never mind that one of their number was still alive. In spite of the slight sense of abandonment and betrayal, Twilight rather liked the replacements for her friends, but never really got over the fact that they were stepping into the shoes of dead ponies very dear to her.
Twilight had felt her strength wane gradually over time due to a chronic wasting illness that had plagued her most of her life. Magic, fate, and will had kept it controlled for a long time, but they could do nothing other than slow it down. Year by year, inch by inch, it had claimed her body. The old pony was emaciated and losing large amounts of hair. It was as if years of repressed progress were being made up for at breakneck speed. It had only been three weeks since her fateful, and final visit to the palace. Twilight saw the sun rise bloody and red from the east. It was a fitting omen.
She knew that the end was near; she wouldn’t see another day. With great difficulty, she magically wrote to Celestia, “Dearest Princess Celestia, I feel that my time is near. My strength is leaving me and the world is starting to fade away. I probably won’t make it to tomorrow. Please, come now. I’m in the library, usual place.” Then she teleported it away.
There was now nothing to do but try to be comfortable in bed and hope that Celestia came before it was too late. As the sun rose, she reflected upon the world. It was a magical place, and having even the briefest of existences upon it was truly a wonderful gift priceless beyond compare. There were no words to summarize how lucky she was to have ever existed, let alone had the privilege to dig into and decipher its secrets. She felt content with that. It’s not like her life had been wasted in blind dedication to pure academics either; there had been adventure, growth, love, and so much more within her infinitesimally brief time upon the world. She comprehended that there was no need for more time; she had long done more than her share and that almost everything had just been gravy.
There were memorials to Rarity, Applejack, Pinkie Pie, Fluttershy, and Rainbow Dash in Ponyville. They were arranged radially around the main fountain with a gap in between Rarity and Fluttershy which was to be occupied by Twilight Sparkle. Twilight had always felt that they were hopelessly incapable of replacing her departed friends and seeing them only made her feel worse. That was why she seldom went into town anymore. In hindsight, it had been weak and foolish to avoid the pain. It not only was a disservice to her friends, but it also inhibited the grieving process, artificially worsening and prolonging her suffering. It also meant that she had wasted so many years of her life in seclusion ever since Pinkie had died. She could have been out in Equestria doing things, making friends, and living life to the fullest instead of trying to fill the hole in her heart with rationalization and avoidance. There could have been so much more, but now it was too late. Ordinarily, Twilight’s reaction would have been regret, but she was already too tired to care. Now, she just wanted to make peace, rest, and meet her friends.
Celestia did not appear until the sun was high in the sky. The princess observed that Twilight was not in the best of spirits. And even though the mare looked fine now, she knew the pattern all too well. Those at the edge of death frequently would have last rallies of strength against the howling dark. There was no mistaking it, today was her last day.
“Princess!” Twilight looked positively delighted to see her old mentor standing before her.
“Twilight Sparkle, please, call me Celestia. Just for today.” The alicorn also wanted to form some final good memories with her favorite pupil. She wanted to be truly close to her for once.
“Okay, Celestia.” They both laughed. After a while, Twilight asked, “The others are coming, right?”
“I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised, Twilight.” There was silence again for a long time as the two basked in each other’s warmth. Celestia spoke first. “Twilight, this is not an easy thing to ask of you, but would you like to meet your end in a much more fitting place for such a great pony?”
Twilight looked sleepily up at Celestia. “Sure, I’d like that, Celestia. Thank you.” Moments later, Celestia teleported them to a hill far away from any settlements. They sat overlooking a very familiar valley with a town and a forest in it with what must have been Canterlot off in the distance. The breathtaking vista was illuminated beautiful by the afternoon sun and the air was a wonderful warm temperature with a gentle breeze blowing through the flowers surrounding them.
Again, they sat in silence. “Celestia is anypony coming? Do they know we’re here?”
“They know, Twilight, but I wanted to be alone with you one last time.” The sadness was obvious in her speech, but Celestia had long since learned to hold her tears. This was a happy moment. Mourning would come later. “So, could you please give me one last report on the magic of friendship?”
“My dear Celestia, over the past eighty-six years, I have learned that the magic of friendship is what matters the most in a pony’s life. Life is full of moments and interesting things, but it’s all pointless if you don’t have anypony to share it with. Friendship can overcome anything. Even dying isn’t so bad if you have good memories of that pony, and your friends will remember you long after your own death. I am your truest friend, Twilight Sparkle.” Twilight shivered as the first cool breeze of the oncoming night caressed her decrepit body. Celestia protectively wrapped her wing around the dying unicorn as they faced the sunset together. For another few minutes, Celestia was silent. Finally, she spoke.
“Now you’ve got it, Twilight! You’ve learnt everything there is to know about the world. You can rest easy knowing that you truly did come to know everything about everything.” Her tone betrayed great adulation and joy, but her eyes began to mist up with tears.
Twilight noted this almost immediately. It had been many years since she had last seen Celestia display such overt sadness. Even at the deaths of the other elements, she had been quietly stoic, giving at most only a sympathetic smile, sometimes a frown, offering comfort, but never tears. “Celestia,” she asked. “Are you crying?”
“Yes. I have not felt pain like this for many years. It hurts to lose your friends, Twilight, but it hurts even more to lose your final and best friend, and yet be forbidden from mourning. You, Applejack, Pinkie Pie, Rainbow Dash, Fluttershy, Rarity, and Spike were all my friends. Once again, I’ve lost all of you!” Celestia now had tears beginning to trickle down her face.
Twilight’s leaded into the alicorn’s side and nuzzled against her. "Celestia, don't cry. It's not so sad. It's not so terrible to die. It doesn't even hurt." For a third time, there was a melancholic silence between them. This was their last time together ever, but they couldn’t find anything meaningful to say. Quietly, silent tears ran down their cheeks under the soothing, orange sky. In the unearthly beautiful vista, Twilight's head began to sag on her withered neck. The old mare just felt so tired, as if a veil was falling between her and the world. She murmured, "It's like my eyes are opening... What is -- this isn't in any of my books..."
Teary-eyed Celestia met her fading gaze. She asked, “Twilight, I may never die while the world lasts. Please, may I look through your eyes. I want to understand what it is like to be a mortal at the end of their life.” She choked back tears. The mare looked at her unquestioningly and with absolute trust. “Please, forgive me, my dearest student, Twilight Sparkle.” For a moment, understanding registered in Twilight’s eyes, poignantly bringing back their shine for a final time. She silently nodded just a little. Celestia mustered a tiny fraction of her great magical power and her horn shimmered. It took but a moment for her to search out Twilight’s consciousness and gain entry. She had done this in the past in order to check on her welfare, but had never used it for communication. It was an intensely intimate act to enter the consciousness of another, but to communicate directly soul to soul made that seem almost casual. Two ethereal essences rubbed together in a kind of closeness impossible to physically attain. It was simultaneously comforting and frightening, happy and sad, exciting and peaceful.
Upon gaining entrance to Twilight’s mind, Celestia immediately heard something she had never experienced once in her millennia of life. She heard an impossible, ghostly choir. It was utterly alien and incomprehensible to her, yet it filled her heart with a great longing that was unbearably painful, although the music was entrancingly beautiful. It also seemed weirdly familiar to her, as if it were sung by dear friends once close, now forgotten. She could have stayed there for an eternity, but a familiar voice called to her.
“Celestia, can you hear them, too?” She turned and looked at what must have been the raw essence of Twilight Sparkle. It was like and yet unlike Twilight as she had ever seen her. It looked like the dear child when she was young and healthy, shining with a faint radiance. But her steps and motions were measured, calculated as if she were of great fragility from weariness and age; a single falling rose petal or sycamore seed seemed sufficient to break her. But in her heart, Celestia knew that despite the soul’s age, she was still so much more ancient. She sensed that there was something more in the child's soul, a great pain. Celestia rushed to comfort her student, but something stopped their embrace.
She gathered herself and then responded, “I didn’t want this to be harder than it had to be, Twilight. My little ponies are so brave. You all were, from the very first.”
Twilight immediately felt an immense, crushing loneliness. It hit her like a physical blow from a sledgehammer. There was just so much of it, stretching back long into ancient realms and times now myth, and even some so ancient and primordial that they were entirely lost to knowledge and existence. That wasn’t all she felt. There was also guilt, regret, and longing. There was too much pain for Twilight to comprehend.
“I’m so sorry…” said Twilight. Strangely, Celestia smiled at her and a feeling of happiness emerged for the first time in innumerable years. It was so much stronger than the feelings of grief. It was as if the joy of an entire nation had suddenly encapsulated Twilight.
“There’s nothing to be sorry for,” replied Celestia. “Lives are fleeting, but there is always love. With love, nopony is ever alone, even if death separates you from those you love. That is the one thing you taught, me, Twilight Sparkle. You taught me the true value of friendship, and the strength of love, and how they can last even beyond the grave. Seeing you struggle so hard through your life and achieving so much made me realize that there are things worth striving for, and that with love and a little bit of courage, anypony can endure anything, even unending heartache."
The two broke the mental contact. The final rays of the sun were dying out and the moon was coming out. For Twilight Sparkle, it was time to die. Her strength was gone and she heard an unearthly chorus calling for her. She looked up at Celestia and said, “I love you, Celestia."
“I love you too, Twilight.”
“Mama, I can hear them calling me. Can you hear them too?”
“Yes, dear. I can always hear them.” A comforting lie to ease the passing.
This was it. “I think I understand now, Mom. I forgive you and I understand. Thank you so much for everything.”
“It’s no trouble at all- really. Farewell, Twilight Sparkle, my dearest daughter. Sweet dreams, my child.” Twilight shut her eyes and felt darkness overtake her. For a brief moment, everything went blank before she felt a floating sensation and awoke in a beautiful pasture being mob hugged by her friends. It had been so long.
Celestia looked up at the night sky. There was a new star in the heavens. She stayed with Twilight’s body until it grew cold and then called for her guards. As they carried the body away, she took a final glance at the lifeless shell and then flew into the sky. On the way back to Canterlot, she felt six warm presences reach out to her. She smiled at their message. “We’ll be back sooner than you think.” She couldn’t wait for them to return. In the meanwhile, there was more than enough love to sustain her for the rest of time. There would be innumerable happy days in the future, but now she needed to grieve, if only for a little while. Thus Princess Celestia allowed her tears to flow freely into the cold night air as in a distant plane, six friends cried tears of joy that they had finally been reunited.