The reception of Shining Armor and Cadance’s wedding was a whirlwind of joy and laughter. Ponies from across the realm of Equestria gorged themselves on Applejack’s mouthwatering treats and danced to the thumping beats of Vinyl Scratch’s latest mix. Everypony was celebrating not only the defeat of the unexpected changeling invasion, but also the union of two ponies whose bonds of love had literally saved the kingdom.
Everypony, save one. Try as she might, Twilight Sparkle could not enjoy herself at the wedding. She sat at one of the reception tables, her head laying motionless on top of its surface. A half-nibbled apple fritter and an untouched glass of sparkling apple juice stood guard around her. Her depression did not go unnoticed; the first pony to approach her was none other than the stallion of the hour.
“Long day, Twiley?”
Twilight snapped upright, spilling her flute of juice. She plastered as broad a smile onto her face as she could muster. “Shining Armor! Congratulations again!” She gave him a tender hug. “I’m so happy for you and Cadance. In spite of that whole ‘invasion’ business, this week has been truly wonderful.”
Shining Armor grinned from ear to ear. He looked out to the dance floor and located his bride, who was dancing with a trio of rambunctious fillies. “Thanks, Twiley. That means a lot, coming from you.” As Cadance’s gaze met his, the two newlyweds waved giddily to one another. Shining Armor turned back to his sister, and his chest sank. He nuzzled Twilight gently. “Now, come on. Tell your big brother what’s wrong.”
“Wrong?” Twilight’s eyes snapped away from her brother. She levitated the barely-touched apple fritter, studying it as though it had become the most fascinating object in the universe. “Nothing’s wrong. Why would you assume something’s wrong? I never said something went wrong.”
Twilight Sparkle sighed. “We can talk about it after your honeymoon. It’s really not that important. Today is the most important day of your life, and it would be incredibly selfish of me to—”
“Hey.” Shining Armor placed a gentle hoof against Twilight’s face, turning her back to face him. “Twilight, you’re my little sister. Your happiness is just as important to me as my wife’s or my own.” He smirked. “I could never call this the best night of my life if I knew that my lil’ sis was down in the dumps.”
She nuzzled him back. “Thanks, B.B.B.F.F.” She sighed, absentmindedly twirling her empty flute. “I—Where to begin? I guess I should start at the beginning of the week. I had just gotten your wedding announcement. Shining Armor and Princess Mi Amore Cadenza.” She cracked a weak smirk and poked her brother in the ribs. “You’re still not off the hook for that whole ‘not telling me’ business, you got that?”
“I know, I know,” he laughed. “I’m sure you’ll be telling the grandkids all about it.”
“Anyway. It got me thinking, I guess.” Twilight fidgeted with the hem of her best mare’s dress. “Marriage. Committing your entire life to another pony. Somepony that you hold closer to your heart than anypony else in the world. It’s quite a statement. A statement of love, I mean. And well, the more that—”
“Don’t tell me!” Shining Armor’s eyes lit up mischievously. “You confessed to your secret special somepony.”
Twilight felt her stomach drop into her back left hoof. “What?! No! Who told you my secret? I don’t have a special somepony! How did you know that I did? I’m far too busy with my studies for that kinds of frivolity. You can’t tell another living soul!”
Shining Armor’s head tilted back as he laughed wholeheartedly. “Jeez, hold your horses! You can be a real spaz sometimes, you know that?” He gave her a knowing glance. “It’s a wedding, Twiley. Pretty much everypony’s thoughts turn to love at these things. Do you have any idea how many new couples I’ve seen here tonight? I feel like that one prince from the old legend—the one who invented that love potion. But my own sister!” He pulled her into a headlock, scruffing up her mane with a hoof. “The old grey librarian of Ponyville, bitten by the love bug! Never thought I’d see the day.”
The horseplay was enough to temporarily snap Twilight Sparkle out of her funk. She playfully shoved against her brother, trying to escape the noogies and laughing in protest. “Okay! Okay! Sheesh. You don’t need to sound that surprised. And stop messing up my mane; it took Rarity over an hour to get it looking this way.”
“So!” Shining Armor planted his elbow on the table and rested his head on his hooves, doing his best impression of a gossiping schoolfilly. “Who’s the lucky colt or filly who’s stolen my little sister’s heart? Anypony I know?”
Twilight Sparkle suddenly remember that there was an incredibly fascinating pastry sitting next to her. “Nope! She’s nopony. You’ve never met her. Or heard of her. She lives in Buenos Mares.”
“Okay,” said Shining Armor, rolling his eyes. “We’ll circle back to that one later. How did you do it, then? How’d you confess your feelings to our mystery mare?”
Twilight Sparkle felt her chest grow heavy, as if she were underwater. She felt a hot flush wash over her face. “The only way I knew how.”
Twilight paced around her bedroom in circles. The first few bands of the sunrise poked their way into her window, slowly rendering the room’s candles unnecessary. The sunlight illuminated the chaotic mess that was her bedroom. Amid spilled ink and snapped quills, her floor was covered almost entirely by a layer of parchment. Some pages had early drafts—heavily scratched-out, rephrased, and commented upon. Others had outlines, notes, or directions for what to change between the seventeen and eighteen draft. She had even resorted to stringing the pages together with red thread, visually indicating that the paragraph by the foot of her bed was meant to be interjected right after the soliloquy at the bottom of the staircase—except that the latter had a giant black X through it.
After a few minutes of reorganizing the physical web of the document, Twilight traced the red thread of the document and located the beginning. With a nervous glance to her bedroom door—Spike should still be asleep at this hour—she quietly read aloud.
“Dear Princess Celestia,
“The document herein is no ordinary friendship report. I consider this report to be a culmination of the last two years of study—a thesis of sorts. As such, I humbly beseech you to read this letter in private, where you can avoid distractions, interruptions, and the like.
“My ‘thesis’ is this: friendship is a magical and wonderful thing, and yet, there is so much more to life than friendship.
“At your direction, I have spent two years in Ponyville studying friendship. I started out small, with a tight-knit group of five close friends. As the years progressed, my circle of friends grew. I became friends with ponies from Canterlot to Appleloosa. I met unusual ponies, newborn foals, a variety of critters, and even a few rivals, all of whom I am now happy to call my friends.”
Twilight Sparkle frowned. There was a hastily written note at the end of this scroll, but she couldn’t tell if it was telling her to resume on page one hundred and ninety six, or page one hundred and eighty five. After some paper shuffling, she found the point to resume from.
“But all this time, something confused me. There was a piece of this puzzle that did not fit. There was one pony who felt strangely different. Despite the number of diverse friends that I was making, there was always a unifying, familiar sentiment between all of them. For this particular pony, the sensations were always inexplicably different.
“The pony was you, Princess.
“Please do not misunderstand. I am eternally grateful for your many years of tutelage, and I treasure our relationship. It is simply that I do not believe my feelings for you can be properly described as ‘friendship.’ I want to spend every day surrounded by my friends, but their absence is never quite as painful as when I have been away from you. I enjoy playing with my friends, attending parties, telling jokes, and so forth. Around you, these frivolities seem meaningless; I want the few moments we have together to count for so much more.
“With ‘friendship’ ruled out, I thought about alternative categories. Perhaps you were simply a ‘teacher’ or ‘mentor’? This didn’t fit. I’ve learnt so much from my friends in Ponyville, yet I’ve never worried that this dual role would jeopardize the friendship. Perhaps you were more like ‘family’? A ‘second mother’? Unequivocally no. My parents and brother mean so much to me, and you mean so much to me. Yet, these feelings are completely dissimilar.
“With you, Princess, every day feels like a warm spring morning, even during wintry months, e.g. December. With you, I feel lighter than air, as if I could fly alongside you, despite my obvious physical limitation of not having wings. With you, I feel as if the whole of Equestria slowly melts away, until only you and I remain—ignoring the absurdly of us surviving such a high melting point. It was only just recently that I was finally able to comprehend these quandaries, these rationalizations, and even these emotions, and put them into words—”
The words themselves were not present. This was as far as Twilight had made it in her thesis after an all-nighter of draft revisions. She knew now, though, that it was perfect. It stated exactly what she wanted to express, and she knew just how to finish it. She magically filtered through the room’s clutter for an undamaged quill, dipped it into her inkwell, and concluded the final draft.
“Q.E.D., I love you.
“Your faithful student, Twilight Sparkle.”
“A love letter!” laughed Shining Armor. “I shoulda been able to guess that one.” He threw his foreleg around his sister, pulling her close. “So, has the mystery mare written back yet?”
Her chest sagged. “No, not yet. She only received it yesterday.”
“She did, did she?” He smirked, scanning the dance floor. “If you know that much, then I’d wager she’s in attendance, visiting from... Buenos Mares, was it? Have you seen her face-to-face, then? What did she say to you?”
You have a lot to think about.
“T-Twiley!” He caught Twilight as her knees suddenly gave way. “Hey! Get ahold of yourself.” He gently propped her up, just like he’d originally found her, with her head resting against the table’s surface. Shining Armor rapidly motioned to a nearby waiter. The waiter, presuming that another guest had partied beyond their capabilities, raced over with a large pitcher of ice water and poured them two tall glasses. Shining Armor floated one of the glasses up to his sister’s lips. “Here, drink up.”
Twilight Sparkle took over the levitation from her brother, chugging down the refreshing water, trying to bury the rising sensation of nausea. She was covered in a cold, clammy sweat. She wiped the condensation across her face, at once cooling herself down and masking the tears that threatening to burst forth.
Shining Armor cringed. “I’m so sorry, Twilight. I should’ve been able to put two and two together. I didn’t mean to push the topic.”
“It’s okay. In truth, I was a foal for getting my hopes up like I did. But suffice it to say,” she said, closing her eyes, “she wasn’t pleased with me.”
You don’t know that! thought one part of Twilight’s mind. When she said that to you, you had just made a terrible accusation against Cadance. You turned out to be right in the end, but truth be told, you didn’t have any solid evidence at the time. That’s what Princess Celestia was disappointed over. You shouldn’t read too much into it.
The Princess’s voice played again in her head. You have a lot to think about.
No, concluded another part of her mind. Your first instinct was spot-on. She can be cryptic like that; you should know better by now. That scolding was as much about your love letter as it was about your outburst.
You have a lot to think about. Each replay of the rebuke brought a new type of pain— faintness, difficulty breathing, nausea, chills—most of all, a stabbing pain through her chest. Twilight covered her face with her hooves, wishing that her mind would stop torturing itself with this memory.
“I’m sorry, kiddo. Sometimes, these things aren’t meant to be,” Shining Armor said with a hug. “Just give her some time apart. Tensions will be lower, and the two of you can discuss things like grown-ups.”
“I guess you’re right,” lamented Twilight Sparkle. “I mean, between the invasion and the wedding, we’ve hardly said two words to one another. I mean, the most we’ve spoken today was when... when...”
The newlywed couple waved from the castle balcony, receiving a tumultuous cheer from the thousands of ponies who had traveled to Canterlot to behold the royal wedding. From inside, Twilight Sparkle and her five closest friends watched the procession, riding on the waves of high emotions.
Twilight felt a gentle hoof rest itself upon her back. She turned and looked upward, staring into the smiling face of her mentor. So serene. So beautiful.
“This is your victory as much as theirs,” said Princess Celestia. “You persisted in the face of doubt, and your actions led to your being able to bring the real Princess Cadance back to us.”
Twilight smiled back. In spite of everything, her brother had finally gotten to marry a wonderful mare, and Twilight herself was back in Princess Celestia’s good graces. Maybe her rejection of my letter isn’t the end of the world, after all. Maybe I can learn to move past this.
Princess Celestia closed her eyes, striking a pose which radiated sagely wisdom. She continued, “Learning to trust your instincts is a valuable lesson to learn.” She opened her eyes again, staring straight into Twilight’s. Twilight found herself getting lost in her magenta eyes, floating away on—
“My instincts!” belted Twilight Sparkle. She lifted herself up from the table’s surface, knocking her brother off-balance.
Shining Armor recovered himself. “What? Twiley, what are you shouting about?”
“She told me—” Twilight’s jaw snapped shut. He was on that balcony. I don’t want him to piece this together. Not just yet. “She told me that there might be a chance after all.”
“Awesome!” Shining Armor playfully ribbed her. “That’s my little sis. Don’t give up until all the cards are down. Just promise me one thing?” His jovial smile turned gentler, more sentimental. “Promise you’ll listen to my advice from earlier? Give her some time alone to think. Take things slow.”
She hugged her brother tightly. “Promise, B.B.B.F.F.”
Twilight felt awful about lying to her brother on his wedding day, but as she rationalized it, advice should be taken with a grain of salt. His heart’s in the right place, but he doesn’t know the Princess like I know her. He doesn’t know that the door is open, if only a crack. This might be my only opportunity to change the Princess’s mind. She drew in a deep breath and exhaled it sharply. I have to act tonight!
The guard who was walking alongside her, upon hearing the loud breath, responded in turn with a noisy yawn. “Tell me about it. Your brother’s wedding was delightful, truly, but I can’t wait for my shift to be over already.”
Twilight flinched. “Sorry about that. I didn’t mean for my audience request to keep everypony up even later.”
“Don’t worry yourself,” he said with a laugh. “Everypony in the guard knows how highly Princess Celestia thinks of you. My sarge told me that she approved your request without a moment’s thought.”
She thinks highly of me. Twilight felt butterflies threatening to tear their way out of her stomach. Everypony can see it! I can see it! Can she? Can I help her to see it?
The pair of ponies stopped in front of a set of grand double doors. “And here we are. Not like you need much help finding your way around, really,” he chuckled. “I just ask that, out of respect for the Princess, you keep the late hour in mind.”
“Of course,” she said with a polite curtsy. “Thank you for the escort. It shouldn’t take more than a minute.” Or perhaps it will take all night, she couldn’t resist adding. She suppressed her urge to giggle wildly.
As the guard slowly disappeared down the hallway, Twilight braced herself emotionally, took a deep breath, and knocked lightly on the towering wooden door. Did I knock too softly? She probably didn’t hear—
A shiver ran down her spine. Twilight gently nudged the door open, entering into Princess Celestia’s private chambers. A roaring fire was ablaze in the room’s central stone fireplace. Circling around the room was an impressive astronomical mural depicting the stars, planets, and naturally the sun. In the back of the room, the balcony doors were open and letting in a gentle, warm summer breeze.
Princess Celestia was seated next to a low coffee table. She had removed her royal crown and slippers, instead wearing a violet silken nightgown. A brush magically ran itself along her flowing, luminescent mane, straightening it before bed. “Ah, Twilight,” she said warmly. “How wonderful to see you. Please forgive my appearance. Today has been such a long day, and I assumed that you wouldn’t be offended by the informality.”
Twilight Sparkle stifled a squeal of delight before it could escape her throat, making it sound more like a hiccup instead. She’s comfortable around me! She feels fine letting her guard down and showing me her true self. And sweet Celestia, that gown is—
Her eyes snapped back upward, meeting the Princess’s. “Yes! Yes, Your Highness?”
She motioned to a velvet pillow which rested on the ground beside her. “Come. Sit with me.”
Twilight walked next to the Princess, moving in a light daze. The majestic alicorn filled her field of vision as she approached. Even her perfume—lilacs, perhaps—was overtaking her consciousness. She bit her tongue, trying to keep her mind rooted in reality.
Princess Celestia set her manebrush on the coffee table and turned to face her guest. “Now, Twilight Sparkle, what is it that you wanted to discuss?” She smiled peacefully down upon her student. Her radiant mane rippled gently across her back, moving against a breeze only it could feel.
Don’t screw this up. You’ve got one shot! Make it count! “W-Well, Princess Celestia,” she stammered, “I’m glad that everything worked out in the end. We were able to stop Queen Crysalis, and Princess Cadance and my brother’s wedding was incredible.”
The Princess smiled, closing her eyes. “I too am glad. This was quite a series of events, but in the end, it was love—the love of Cadance and Shining Armor—which saved the day. Theirs is a wonderful example for all of Equestria.”
“That’s just it, Your Majesty.” Twilight Sparkle bit her lip. “There’s something that I still don’t understand. Something that has me terribly confused.”
“Oh?” She tilted her head. “And what would that be?”
Twilight felt her chest tightening again. Dozens of voices were screaming in her head, each giving rash, conflicting commands. Her heart banged against her rigid chest, threatening to escape and take the Princess for itself, should Twilight’s body not comply.
A look of concern came over the Princess’s face. She lowered her head, now sitting nearly eye to eye with her star pupil. “What is it, Twilight? Tell me.”
For the first time in her life, Twilight Sparkle didn’t think.
She wasn’t really aware of the kiss until it was nearly over. It wasn’t until she was pulling away that she became aware of all of the senses she was feeling. The soft touch of Celestia’s supple lips against her own. The faint taste of strawberries. The Princess’s hot breath gliding across Twilight’s neck. The sensations were nothing like Twilight expected them to be; they were infinitely superior.
Twilight pulled her head back and opened her eyes. She looked up at the Princess, trying to gauge her reaction. She saw... nothing. Princess Celestia’s face was stoic, unphased, and unreadable. Twilight was at a loss. Do I continue? Stop? I never made a contingency for her standing around like a statue! She said the first thing that popped into her head: “Well?”
Princess Celestia remained silent, causing Twilight to wonder if perhaps the Princess hadn’t heard her. After a moment, she finally replied. “I had hoped that you would have thought better than to act on this, Twilight Sparkle.”
No. No-no-no. Twilight felt as though a vacuum were sucking all of the air out of the room. This can’t be her answer. She’s the only pony I’ve ever adored! “B-But, Princess!”
“I am touched by the sentiment in your thesis and in... your actions. However, you have to have known that we could never share that type of relationship.”
“Known that—” Twilight stumbled to her hooves, awkwardly backpedaling off her pillow. “But today at the wedding! You told me to trust my instincts.”
Princess Celestia rose and walked toward Twilight, slowly closing the gap between them. “I had expected your instincts to be better founded in reality and maturity. The Twilight I know and care for wouldn’t leap upon such rash actions.”
Twilight’s jaw dropped. Rash? I’ve felt this way about her for years, and she’s calling me rash? She tried to speak her objections, but her voice refused to obey her.
“My most faithful student, I am the co-ruler of Equestria, and bound by all of my royal duties. I have lived for thousands of years, and will still be here long after you are gone. A courtship between yourself and I would never be tolerated by society.”
Twilight glared at the pillows on the floor, unable to bring herself to meet the Princess’s gaze. “I don’t care about any of that. I care about you, Princess. Who says we need to get everypony’s permission?”
The Princess sighed and unfolded her wings. Under normal circumstances, her magnificent wingspan would have stolen Twilight’s breath away, but these were anything but normal circumstances. “My beloved Twilight, please try to understand. I do care deeply about you. You are one of my most prized students. I have felt truly blessed to watch you grow, learn, and develop into the mare you are today. Your studies of friendship have been a true joy to behold, and have even reminded me of a valuable lesson on one or two occasions. It has been a great honor to know you as well as I do.” She stepped up beside Twilight and lowered a broad wing across her back. “However, this is the extent of my feelings right now. I do not—and fear that I cannot—reciprocate the kinds of feelings that you feel for me. It would be unfair of me to let you believe otherwise.”
Twilight Sparkle stared down at her hooves. Please, Princess. No.
Princess Celestia tightened her wing, pulling Twilight in close against her body. “Come now, Twilight Sparkle. Let’s not focus on what could have been. You and I share a truly special bond. While it may not be the love that you seek, it is still a bond that is quite strong and magical.” She smiled and gave Twilight a playful wink. “Perhaps you should start by amending your thesis with this new information?”
Twilight Sparkle felt an emotion bubbling up from within her heart. This sensation was unlike anything she had ever felt toward the Princess. It was not love.
She shoved the Princess away from her, breaking apart the wing-hug. “Are you mocking me?”
Princess Celestia’s ears fell flat. “Twilight? What are—”
“Is this your solution?” Twilight flailed her foreleg about, slashing through the air with each sentence. “Here I am, pouring my heart out to you, and this is your clever response? ‘I’m out of your league’? ‘You ought to know better’?”
“Twilight Sparkle! I—”
“Wait, wait! It gets better!” Twilight’s dry laugh echoed against the walls of the bedchamber. “‘Congratulations! Your confession has been rejected by Princess Celestia, almighty ruler of Equestria. Your homework for tonight is to write an essay about how getting dumped on your flank has been the greatest thing to ever happen to you!’” She paused for a moment, waiting for a possible reply, but none came.
“Let me tell you something, Princess,” she continued. “I love you, alright? Not like how some little filly loves ice cream. Real love. I care about you. I yearn for you. I want to devote the rest of my life to you. I don’t care if some stuffy Canterlot bureaucrat doesn’t approve. I don’t care that you’ll always be busy with royal responsibilities. I don’t care if I’ll only be alive for a sliver of your life. I don’t give a flying feather about any of that.” She punctuated her words with a stomp of her hooves. Even on the plush carpeting, her hoofsteps sounded off with a bold thump. “All I care about is you, Princess. Just me and you, together. And if I can’t have your love in return, the least you could do is not treat me like some stupid little filly!” Her chest rose and fell with heavy breaths. Her anger had sapped all of her strength.
Twilight focused her eyes back onto the target of her tirade. The Princess was silent, and her expression was blank, just as before. Unlike before, however, her emotions were not unreadable. Twilight felt a chill run down her spine, and an unnerving sense of dread.
“Is that all, Twilight Sparkle?”
Twilight’s hind legs collapsed, and her rump fell to the floor. Her ears curled up flat against her mane. “Princess, I am so sorry.”
“As am I.” Princess Celestia closed her eyes. “I had seen the signs. Known the risks. I thought that, in the end, your sense of logic and reason would keep you from acting recklessly.”
“Truly, due to my own inaction, I am perhaps more responsible than you are. I had been too afraid to address the issue head-on. Now that it has reached this stage, it is no longer possible to ignore.”
No-no-no, please, Princess, don’t do this.
Princess Celestia stared into Twilight’s eyes. The young student could see an emotion clear as daylight in the old teacher’s eyes—a depth of sadness. “Please believe me when I say that I never wanted for you to suffer. I naively thought that everything could work itself out. But now I can clearly see how much this is tormenting you.”
Twilight reached a hoof out toward her idol. “Princess! Don’t!” she croaked.
“We must do what is best for you in the long-term, even if it is painful in the short-term.” She turned and slowly stepped her way toward her balcony. “Namely, we should both take a step back from this situation, in order to see things more calmly. We should provide you with an opportunity to let your rationality—one of your most admirable traits—guide you once more. You need to gain perspective, yet your current assignment is preventing just that.”
Twilight Sparkle collapsed to the floor. She covered her ears with her hooves, hoping beyond hope that this could somehow prevent the Princess from speaking.
Princess Celestia did not turn back around to face her. “Twilight Sparkle, effective immediately and until further notice, you are no longer my student.”
Twilight looked up from the floor at the Princess who was no longer her mentor. She waited for yet another emotion to overtake her, but none came. She tried to talk, or scream, or cry, yet nothing worked. She couldn’t make any sounds escape her lips.
“The guards shall be returning shortly, and shall help escort you to your room for the night. After that point, your business is your own concern. Farewell, Twilight Sparkle.”
At last, Twilight found a set of muscles which proved to be functional. She rose up to her hooves, turned, and galloped out of the room. The grand double doors flew open with a surge of magic.
Princess Celestia turned at the last possible second, catching one final glimpse of her former prized student before she fled through the door and disappeared.
The next morning, Twilight Sparkle plodded along the cobblestone road leading east of town. Her suitcase from the wedding scraped along the road behind her, barely levitated by her magic. She took one last sorrowful look behind her. The towering majesty of Canterlot Castle was slowly fading away into the horizon. Beyond it, she could make out the tiniest glimpse of Ponyville. I’m not studying friendship anymore. I’m no longer Princess Celestia’s student. She faced forward, staring down at the stones that passed underneath her hooves.
From in front of her, she heard the sounds of an approaching carriage. She sauntered off to the side of the road, not bothering to look up. What does it matter? I’m no longer hers. I have no reason to go back.
“There you are!”
Her eyes dilated. That voice! She looked up just in time to be on the receiving end of a tight embrace.
“Twiley! We were so worried about you.”
She pried herself away from the hug and looked up at her brother. “Shining Armor! But how? Weren’t you supposed to be on your honeymoon by now?”
Princess Cadance stepped down from the carriage and approached her sister-in-law. “Come on, Twilight. Didn’t Shining Armor tell you last night? We couldn’t run off and enjoy ourselves while our favorite little filly was feeling miserable.”
Shining Armor winked. “Turns out Cadance cared about your situation just as much as I did. When I told her what you told me last night, she insisted on turning around and helping you out.” He blanched. “Uh, which, by the way—sorry about telling her your secret like that. Y’know, marriage, and not keeping secrets, and all that.”
Twilight didn’t pay heed to her brother’s stammered apology. She turned to Cadance. “But I don’t understand. How did you find me here? How did you know that I...” she said as her eyes dropped to the ground, “that I screwed up?”
Cadance set her hoof gently on Twilight’s shoulder and smiled. “Oh, just a hunch. Even though Shining Armor said that you had promised to take things slowly, I suspected that you might get carried away and make a move last night. Knowing Celestia, I can imagine what her answer was, and knowing you, I can imagine how you took the news.”
Twilight Sparkle’s jaw dropped. “How—”
“Wait, what?!” yelled Shining Armor. He stared wide-eyed at Twilight. “Sis, you’ve got the hots for Princess Celestia? You never told me that!”
“She didn’t have to.” Princess Cadance smirked. “Love is kinda my thing, remember? I sort of have an eye for this.”
Shining Armor grinned widely. “Wow, my little sister actually put the moves on Princess Celestia. I can hardly believe it!” He gently bumped her. “Gotta say, Twiley, I’m impressed! That takes some serious guts.” He winked at Cadance. “I guess ‘having a thing for royalty’ runs in the family, huh?”
Princess Cadance gave him a silent, admonishing glare.
He coughed. “Right. I’ll, um, I’ll just wait by the carriage.”
She returned her gaze to Twilight Sparkle. “So you confessed your feelings, but they weren’t reciprocated? What will you do now?” She looked at the suitcase lying discarded on the side of the road. “Run?”
“Cadance, you don’t understand!” Twilight Sparkle held out her hooves in protest. “All these years, I thought that I was getting closer and closer to the Princess. Now I learn that I was just a big mistake to her! A problem that she should’ve taken care of years ago. A silly little filly with a childish crush.” She heaved a deep sigh. “I can’t face her again. Not after that.”
“What about your friends?” Cadance asked, looking toward the speck in the distance that was Ponyville. “Is their love so unimportant that you would run from them too?”
Twilight felt a sharp kick in her gut. I never even said goodbye. “Of course my friends are important! I care deeply about all of them—I really do!” She buried her face in her hooves. “But the only reason I met them in the first place was... because she told me to. Ponyville just has too many memories tied to it now.” She shook her head. “Besides, the feelings I have for them is just ‘friendship.’ It’s completely different than what I felt toward the Princess.”
Cadance laughed, full-hearted and carefree. “Oh, Twilight. Of course it’s different! Love comes in so many different shapes and forms.” She pulled Twilight into a soft embrace. “Everypony that has played an important role in your life has loved you. Your parents and brother have loved you. Your favorite foalsitter has loved you. Your fellow Elements have loved you. Your young dragon assistant has loved you. The residents of Ponyville have loved you. Yes, even your teacher has loved you.
“Each of these individuals’ love is different and unique. No two ponies feel the exact same way about you. That’s what makes love so special and powerful.” She placed a hoof on Twilight’s chin, raising it until they were staring eye-to-eye. “Sometimes, as you just experienced, we wish that one pony could feel a different type of love toward us. Sometimes this is possible; sometimes it isn’t. But even if a pony cannot change the way in which they love you, it doesn’t mean that they don’t currently love you, in their own way.”
With a rush, Twilight felt her mind replay the conversation she had had the previous night. I do care deeply about you. You are one of my most prized students. I have felt truly blessed to watch you grow, learn, and develop into the mare you are today. She felt a hot sting as her eyes were overtaken with tears. “T-That’s what she tried to tell me! Oh Celestia, what have I done?” She fell into Cadance’s open forelegs, weeping into the alicorn’s shoulder. Shining Armor stepped forward and joined them, as the three family members shared a heartfelt embrace.
After some time, Twilight Sparkle lifted her head and wiped a foreleg across her nose. She looked up at her older brother and sister. “Thank you, both of you. I’m sorry. I don’t mean to take over your honeymoon any more than I already have, but could I get a ride back to Ponyville?” She smiled through her remaining tears. “My loved ones are waiting for me.”
Shining Armor smiled back and ruffled his sister’s mane. “It’d be our pleasure, kiddo. So, is all of this going into another one of your friendship reports?”
Her smile wavered. “No. I’m no longer Princess Celestia’s student. I don’t owe her any more reports.” She chuckled. “Besides, I honestly haven’t learned enough to write to her about this. Not yet.” She turned to Canterlot Castle and smiled. “But someday, I’ll know. And when I do, maybe I’ll send her another thesis.”