All Princess Celestia could do was hold Cadence as she cried. They watched out the window as Shining Armor exited the castle below, his trotting slowing to a stop to let several escort guards catch up. He took one last look upwards to the mares, then turned and left for deeper parts of the Empire.
Cadence tried to be brave, steeled herself to watch him go, but as he grew smaller and smaller in the distance, tears forced themselves back into her eyes. The Sun Princess had walked away back towards the door, but turned at the sound of Cadence’s suppressed sobs, seeing her withers shaking with the effort to withhold her feelings. The weight of the monarch’s guilt that this was all her fault made her feel an intense pang of sadness.
The pink princess felt Celestia’s hoof on her withers. She looked up.
“You know, dear, part of me feels guilt, but another part could never.” She nudged Cadence’s mane affectionately with her head. “And do you know why?”
Cadence sniffed. “Why?”
“I could never regret having you, dear,” she replied gently. “If I hadn’t, the Empire would be lost and with it, all the love in Equestria would eventually be swallowed up by Sombra’s pain.” She sighed, moving to the window again. “I once thought I could stop the darkness from taking over his soul. Love conquerors many evils and heals many wounds, but only if you let it.”
“I remember one of your lessons,” Cadence recalled. “‘Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate - ‘“
“ - and ‘hate leads to suffering,’” the Sun Princess finished with her, lifting her daughter’s chin with a hoof. “What does that tell you about what Shining’s going through right now?”
Cadence thought, but it only took her a second to realize what Celestia was driving at. Her eyes grew big in excitement. “Of course!” Then she settled down, biting her lip in concern. “It didn’t even occur to me that’s what he’s going through right now!”
Celestia bent down to her daughter’s head where she could rub her cheek. “You have that capacity I always admired in your father when we courted. He was so smart and level-headed in a crisis. Then, after a battle, he would bounce back seemingly effortlessly.”
The Love Princess drew back, thinking about that. Her mother could almost see the thoughts it brought up and the questions she was forming. “It did not mean he was not affected by the cost of war, dear, the deaths, the suffering. He kept that rather close to his chest, so to speak, neither discussing it nor letting affect his judgment. It gave the appearance of being cold sometimes, true, but as a ruler, I understood it. Luna is much the same way.”
Cadence drew back. “Shining isn’t that way, mom. Maybe we rushed into marriage too soon. If he can’t handle - “
Celestia put a hoof to her lips. “I believe he has the capacity to grow in that way, but unlike Luna and myself, he will have you to express his feelings to in private. You can be his guide and with your help, he will be a fine Prince Regent. I have faith in both of you. If I had not, I would have come to the Frozen North to take care of Sombra myself.”
“If Shining ever fell, I - I don’t think I could do what you had to do,” Cadence whispered.
“I hope you never have to find that out for yourself,” the solar monarch said seriously. “For now, we have to wait. Let him work this out on his own. He loves you, Cadence. You know by now how powerful that love can be. It will keep him safe.”
The Princess looked up, a question poised on her lips, but then she thought better of it and opted to only nod instead.