Rites of Ascension

by CvBrony

Call to a Brighter Night

"I can't believe I'm not scheduled for three shows!"
"What kind of captain barely trains?"
"I thought you said I'D get to lead that formation!"

Rainbow Dash didn't know where it had all gone wrong. She had worked hard and persevered, pushed her body and flying abilities far beyond what she'd ever dreamed possible. She had gone to boot camp, the Wonderbolts tryouts, her first show, her fiftieth show, and now wore the captain's rank on her shoulder. It was a dream come true: the undisputed best flier in all of Equestria and beyond.

"You can't just ignore us!"
"Don't tell the Captain what to do!"
"Quit brown-nosing, this is important!"

So why was she repeating "Bravo Mike Lima" over and over in her head to drown out the buzzing? Maybe she should've kept repeating the names of the Elements instead of the military euphemism, but somehow the venerated Elements didn't seem appropriately cuss-worthy enough. It didn’t take long for the last vestiges of professionalism in her to quickly wear away and she started thinking the phrase “Buck My Life” properly. Profane, but more soothing.

Oh, wait, that wasn't buzzing she was trying to drown out, it was her "team" whining at her. The Wonderbolts were supposed to be disciplined and professional, but the truth was that the they were filled with the same kind of ponies as her. Prima donnas, showoffs, and glory seekers; all with a spirit boot camp couldn't break.

Soarin' was the first to leave after she joined. She took it personally at first, until he came to visit her in her cloud home. And her bed. And her couch. And her ceiling. It didn't last, but it was fun, and they were still friends.

"Why are you always trying to change the routine?"
"If we don't keep it fresh, ponies will stop coming!"
"It's about tradition, not ticket sales!"

Rainbow took another drink of her cider and gagged. This wasn't cider, it was swill. Not like Sweet Apple Acres' cider. Not even like Flim-Flam cider. She didn't even recognize the label, it just... tasted like she felt. She popped the collar on her brown flyer's jacket and tried to pretend she couldn't see or hear the annoyances around her, crowding her in this false sanctuary.

She thought that, with such a high-end bar, she could get away from such madness here. She had newbies proclaiming themselves to be the best thing to ever happen to flying and then asking her how their flight suits worked. There were no less than three different ponies trying to badmouth her to military command to steal her job. One accused her of sexual harassment, and only failed because he was an idiot who couldn’t keep his story straight. Even the “friendly” veterans she looked up to seemed to have their own hidden agendas.

She let out a loud sigh and tried to give obvious nonverbal hints to let everypony know she didn’t want to be bothered. It wouldn’t work, but damned if she wasn’t going to try. As she looked around, the disharmony between the light, fancy decor and the attitudes of the ponies in it became abundantly apparent. The cloud walls and floor were compacted enough to let anything stand on them, enchanted or not. The iced bar-top, the fancy windows, even the bottles stayed in place without falling through the vapor. Rainbow mused that because they spent so much on the decor they couldn't afford a decent mug of cider. It was a complete bait and switch in her mind, just like the dream she had chased all this time.

"Every pony in this bar is crazy!"
"Well, then welcome to the loony bin, toots."
"Call me toots again..."

It all fell apart after she became captain when Spitfire retired. Rainbow was the best flier, after all. It only made sense for her to step up. They all looked up to her... well, her fans did. The others? Not so much. They all had chips on their shoulders just like she did. She wanted to step down at the first sign of trouble, but the bits that came with the job were mighty enticing. It was only later that she realized she had nowhere to spend them. Everything she owned she carried with her from show to show, and it could all fit in the extensive pockets of her captain's jacket, which doubled as saddlebags. “Listen to your instincts, they're usually right,” her boot camp drill sergeant had said, all that time ago. He was right, and so was that little voice in her head screaming, “told you so.”

Now, she flew less than she did as a weather pony in Ponyville. She spent her days managing rosters, listening to whining from her fliers wanting more show time or more prominent spots or solos, managing back office drama, and generally trying to keep the whole damn thing from going down in flames. She had no idea how Spitfire had put up with it. Or rather, how she’d stomped it out without it coming back a second later. For now, though, she just wanted a tiny piece of quiet.

"Enough! All of you, back to the barracks! That's an order!" Rainbow yelled at the top of her lungs, pointing at the door. She might not yet know how to deal with this, but by Celestia that didn't mean she had to put up with it while drinking her ever-so-lovely cider. She watched as her disgruntled, potentially mutinous 'team' filed out the door. It wasn't until her next drink came that she noticed that one of them was standing behind her and on the other side, still there, not leaving. Staring at her. Standing in the Wonderbolts' flight suit, just looking at her. Still not leaving. She didn't want to look at him because he might- oh now she saw him and yep, there was that smug grin on his face that she hated with all the passion of all the stars in Luna's sky twinkling in the windows.

"What do you want, Lieutenant?" The disgust in her voice was as pointed and sharp as she could make.

"Now, is that anyway to talk to the best flier in Equestria?" The grin on his face spoke volumes; he was up to something.

Rainbow found herself looking at his obnoxious blond hair to avoid having to look at his obnoxious eyes or his obnoxious mouth. "Of course not, but if I was talking to myself I'd be committed. Now, why aren't you grumbling off out the door like the rest? Was 'buck off' not clear enough?"

"Oh, I don't recall you saying that."

"You must be deaf, I just did. And I'll do it again. Buck. Off."

"Why, so you can make me leave and then hump me in your bed?"

"What did you just say?" Oh, it was on now. A lieutenant talking to a captain like that? There was friendly banter and teasing, but this...she was going to make him hurt for this insubordination. Maybe ten thousand laps around the track. As a warm-up to pulling the trailer to Appleloosa.

"Well, I just thought that's what you always did when your charming voice makes somepony clear out of the unit."

Rainbow's teeth were starting to grind. He didn't deserve to wear that flight suit. If she had any chips she could cash in at all with Celestia, she would gladly trade them all so that this pony would be a statue on her lawn by the end of the night. If she had a lawn. Okay, revenge plan fail, but this couldn't stand. "Lieutenant, you are about to enter a whole new world of hurt. The beasts of Tartarus are going to fear me after what I do to you."

"No, Captain, they aren't." The son-of-a-mule pulled out a scroll with an official military seal on it, and unfurled it. "I'm here to deliver an official communique from HQ."

"What?" This day just kept getting better. Another chew-out about the state of her unit and it was getting delivered by him? Forget fearing her; the beasts behind the Gates were going to be her new best friends after she fed some ponies to them.

"Yuh-huh. Ahem! Da-da-da-da-da!"

Oh, the smugness. It was overwhelming. Even the fake little horn sounds were mocking her and her uniform. Could her jacket catch fire? She was almost certain her rage was burning that hot.

"Captain Rainbow Danger Dash... Really? Danger is your actual middle name?"

"Keep talking to find out why," she said through her grinding teeth.

"Uh-huh.... Captain Rainbow Danger Dash, by decree of her Royal Majesty Princess Celestia, because of your service blah blah blah, blah blah, blah blah blah blah blah, you are hereby transferred to the duty of Royal Guard, effective immediately. Report to the Castle Canterlot gates for blah blah blah. Blah blah, Princess Celestia."

Rainbow Dash was never known as the smartest mare in Equestria, but what she lacked in book smarts she made up for in street smarts: the ability to think on her hooves and know her trade. She was almost never caught speechless or flat-hooved. This, however, took her several moments to fully appreciate. The princess had just saved her. She had no idea why she was being pulled into the Guard, she definitely wasn't the type for it, but knowing that the princess knew her personally she must have something fitting in mind. Even if she didn't, anything had to be better than this.

"Uh, Captain? You there?"

Rainbow Dash just blinked. Once. Slowly.

"So, anyway, Captain, I don't take orders from you anymore. Which means I can say whatever I want. And I say you always sucked as a captain."

Rainbow Dash blinked again, and smiled. She smiled so wide she couldn't remember being this happy since she first performed the Rainboom and gotten her cutie mark. "You know what, Lieutenant? You're right!"

Well, that wiped the smug look off his face. Now it was just stunned surprise. "I am?"

"Yup. I may be the best flier, but I'm a lousy Captain."

The wide eyes just got wider. "... You are?"

"You bet!" Rainbow Dash's face now wore a friendly smile, with just a tiny hint of deviousness, not that he was smart enough to detect it. She reached into her jacket's considerable pocket and pulled out a bag of bits with her mouth and poured its contents on the bar-top, showering it in valuable coins. Not the ones, fives, and tens normal ponies carried. These were hundreds and two hundreds pouring out of the bag, sure, but most of them were five hundreds. There was likely a comfortable year’s salary for most ponies right on the table.

"Wow!" The bartender was eyeing them deeply, like he'd never seen that much from one pony. He probably hadn’t. "Are you buying everypony one round or fifty?"

Rainbow Dash let out a laugh. Oh, no, they weren't getting alcohol from her. "Nope, not buying rounds. That’s for the windows."

"Windows?" The bartender pony asked, clearly utterly confused.

"You bet! And hey, Lieutenant, do you know what else you're right about?"

" ... What?"

Oh, he was probably scared now. Good. "You don't have to listen to me anymore! We're in different branches. No more chain of command here."

"I'm right?"

"You're right."

"Oh... right. I'm right! Well, I'm glad you sa—" Crack!

The stallion's body moved in an unnatural tilt as Rainbow's hoof impacted into the side of his face. The sheer force left him completely dazed and with a probable concussion and possible broken jaw. She quickly stuffed the decree scroll into her jacket’s pocket and bent over to lift the dazed flank-hole. With her powerful legs, she started spinning him around until she could feel the inertia pulling at her arms, begging her to release him, and she did, right at one of the fancy design-laden windows the bar had chosen to buy instead of Sweet Apple Acres’ cider. The nearly-unconscious colt turned over once in mid-air before hitting the glass and blasting right through it with a tremendous crash. They might try to arrest her for this on her way to Canterlot, but they'd have to catch her first.

The rest of the bar stood frozen, stunned at the unexpected violence. Rainbow ate it up. It might not have been the admiration she lived for, but it was still some good old fashioned attention, and a type that wasn't whiny. This was a meal she truly missed.

"Looks like the princesses need my help, everypony! Sorry I can't stay and sort through the drama, but I gotta go save the world! Later!" She bent down and spread her wings, looking out the broken window. In an instant, her mind processed some nostalgia. It had been many years since she had helped get water to Cloudsdale and set her 16.0 wing power “record”.

The small crowd that had formed stood speechless as she called upon her primary feathers, and they separated and buzzed, vibrating faster than the eye could see and crackling with the Wonderbolts’ signature lightning. She felt the air and magic around her, and used her pegasus abilities to push it out her wings, creating a massive air current which sent her flying off and out the broken window with precise aim. Her wake tossed glasses and lighter ponies like toys as her rainbow-colored lightning and dark smoke arced behind her and across the night. The takeoff speed was something familiar yet all too uncommon as of late as she aimed for a modest yet steady climb. She had gotten clear of the buildings in less than a second, rocketing higher and higher into the atmosphere.

Sixteen wing-power. Pfft. She understood now why she wasn't allowed into the Wonderbolts back then, or back in the Best Young Flyer's competition. She hadn't been ready yet. She didn't have the strength, and more importantly, she didn't have the magic, which is how the Wonderbolts measured wing power. Back then, she probably had what equated to less than ten wing-power by their standards. Now? Now she would give herself mandatory drills if she fell below one hundred wing-power, and she was going to leave while making certain everypony in that bar... no, everypony in Cloudsdale knew why she was the best as she kept flying upwards, never arcing down.

The patrons of the bar didn't have long to collect themselves before being knocked on their rears again. Less than six seconds after the cyan pegasus blasted off through the window, a mesmerizing blaze of colors seared into their retinas. Every imaginable hue shined forth, and a second later the shock wave hit: the "boom" part of the Sonic Rainboom. The concussive force had all the ponies covering their heads and ears as every window in the bar shattered into splinters.

“I’m sorry if it was painful. I wanted you to truly know what was ahead for you.”

Words, Twilight recognized what those were. She could feel her thoughts slowly coalesce into something resembling “normal”.

“If it’s any consolation, you’ll have two alicorns to guide you, and an abundance of loyal friends to support you. Alicorns need friends even more than normal ponies. They keep us grounded, and remind us why we exist.”

Meanings were starting to fall into place and nerve signals were reaching her extremities again as her hooves began to twitch a little. Progress toward sentience! Now to try moving a limb for real. Success was reported back as her blurry vision started to focus itself and a foreleg moved a bit to get under her.

Her vision shook as she forced herself back up. Focus returned to her and she saw Celestia facing her fireplace, laying down on the ground, her regalia stashed in a corner. Realizing the significance of this would have to wait for another time; she was still too out of it.

Taking a step forward caused the ground to give more than she expected. Waking up more, she looked down to find herself standing on Celestia’s alicorn-sized bed. Her back straightened as a jolt of nerves shot up to her brain and forced her out of it in a jump as her mind started screaming at itself.

Celestia’s bed! I stood on it! Oh no she’s going to-

A telekinetic grip of magic lifted her up and her legs locked below her as the magic placed her back on the bed, laying her down and wrapping the blanket over her again.

“Lay down, Twilight. You’ve just had a lot revealed to you, and there’s much more to come.”

Some relief came to her at first. She’d never actually been in Celestia’s bed before. She’d seen it, but never got to lay down in it. It was practically lulling her to sleep already. Her body then jolted awake when a memory sparked back to life in her mind, rushing to the foreground. “A- Alicorn!?”

“I see you remember now. And yes, it’s true.”

Twilight began shaking again as Celestia got up off the ground next to the fireplace and turned around to approach and face her student. She lay back down at Twilight’s eye level, the soon-to-be alicorn raised ever so slightly on the bed, shaking from nerves and looking down at the blanket. She couldn’t bring herself to look at Celestia as she broke down crying.

Seconds, minutes, hours, days, years, centuries… Alicorns could live forever. Maybe she could cry forever, too. Time certainly seemed to stop having meaning for a while as the tears flowed. After a while, she almost forgot why she was upset, but the tears kept flowing over that. It wasn’t until a pure white cloth moved over her eyes and nose, cleaning her, that she realized Celestia had lain down next to her, and was stroking her back with a wing.

“The emotions are intense, aren’t they? At first you don’t even know where they come from.”

Twilight nodded, pulling as much comfort as she could from her mentor’s voice and presence.

“When the enigma of the alicorn mind realizes itself, a battle begins in the core of your soul. The mere knowledge of what’s happening to your magic and your body causes your emotions and instincts to shift and intensify as the mind tries to reconfigure itself to that of an alicorn. It’s natural that you’ll be scared and confused for a bit, and even experience quick changes in mood, but eventually your alicorn-self will be stronger for it. Oh, you should have seen Luna and I panic when we found out. She flew straight into a wall, she was so distracted.”

One lone laugh came from her before she silenced herself; she didn’t really feel much like laughing. “How did this happen?” she wondered aloud, not expecting an answer. She got one anyway.

“As I said, it’s basically a matter of power. A unicorn that has enough begins to change, and you’ve crossed that threshold. You may have done it a while ago, and your spell was proof. I know it’s scary, but do not feel alone or threatened. When Luna and I ascended, we were looked on as rivals and upstarts by other alicorns; now, for you, the only two alicorns in existence are welcoming you with open wings and hearts as a beloved family member.”

Twilight was almost back asleep, resting her head on the warm super-sized pony next to her and focusing exclusively on the words and her rhythmic breath for a long time before her mind let her actually think on her situation again. This did not provide much comfort, only speculation, which quickly started to drive itself into dark territory. She shook her head and stopped herself before it got out of hoof.

“I still feel so lost here,” she said. “There’s so much I don’t know.”

“It is understandable to have many questions, my dear student. After all, ascendancy is rare and hasn’t been seen in countless lifetimes. Nor has it been documented or explained to the public; it’s always been a thing shrouded in mystery.”

The nod she used was just enough to overcome the shaking and answer affirmatively as Celestia’s naked hoof was placed on her back.

“You can relax, Twilight, I will answer any questions you have of me. In fact…”

Twilight’s gaze went up to meet her mentor’s, her gentle smile putting her slightly more at ease.

“You know I’ve always encouraged you to ask me questions. I’ve loved answering them as much as you loved learning, but if you’ll recall there were certain questions I’ve refused to answer. That ends now. Any question you ever have of me, I will answer. Truthfully and fully. You may not always like the answers, and I may have to delay the answer until I can tell you in private, but anything you ever wish to know from me will be told. On my crown, this I promise you.”

Twilight Sparkle’s precious little world just broke. She was exhausted, scared, nervous, and shy, but also ecstatic. The words that had just been spoken to her were akin to having her library spontaneously quadruple in size, with a fresh shipment of boxed-up ultra-rare books to fill it all. Knowledge, vast sums of it just sitting before her, begging to be read and categorized. It wasn’t just books though, oh no. There were secrets in this world that were privy to Celestia and Celestia alone. Secrets she had just promised to tell her, all she needed to do was ask. The possibilities were endless and were filling her consciousness faster than she could consider them. She sat there, lost in her own mind, eyes wide as dinner plates, contemplating what vast mysteries of the cosmos she might solve with a few simple words. Then, a new voice derailed her train of thought hard enough for the wreckage to skip postal codes.

Quick! Ask her how much she weighs!”

Twilight’s and Celestia’s heads both turned with enough speed to make the air whoosh as they spied a smiling, pointing Luna standing next to the conspicuously unopened door to Celestia’s chambers.

The princess of the night stood in contrast to her sister in more ways than one. Celestia, from Twilight’s perspective, was as unchanging as a mountain. She always looked and dressed the same. Luna, on the other hoof, had been re-growing ever since being defeated by the Elements. It had been a bit of a shock seeing a new form that Nightmare Night so long ago, but she had kept growing even after that. She now stood taller than ever, though still shorter than Celestia, and her coat had become a mix of dark blue and deep gray. Her ethereal mane had become much larger, and it was darker, too, with more stars visible. Her black regalia had been replaced with a light gray set; a similar color to that of the moon. It was hard to believe this was the same mare as the Princess Luna that was welcomed back so long ago. Even her wings were larger, rivaling those of the sister now giving her a bit of a scowl.

Luna! That is not appropriate!” Celestia snapped.

Twilight shrunk herself again. She had been about to laugh, too.

Luna rolled her eyes. “Oh, Tia, lighten up. You deserve it for not telling me we were finally bringing her into the fold tonight!”

Twilight backed up just a bit as Luna trotted up to her and stared her in the eyes from a distance so uncomfortably close she couldn’t see the grin on Luna’s face. Nor could she see the forelegs that had snapped around her and brought her into a hug tight enough to conclusively confirm to Twilight that alicorns did indeed possess crazy earth pony strength.

“EEEEEEEEEEE! Finally! I have a new alicorn to talk to! Oh, it’s been too long!”


“Yes, Sister?”

“You’re crushing my student.”

Luna looked down at the not-breathing, extra-purple mare in her limbs.

Twilight gasped for breath as the night princess released her, lungs thankful for the gift of air rushing in.

“I apologize, Twilight Sparkle. We ... do not know our own strength. Pray, forgive us.”

After a few deep breaths, her vocal cords starting responding again. “It’s… fine…” Responding, but only just. The words were still much weaker than she wanted.

Either way, Luna shook her head in response. “No, it was careless of me. You’re still starting this journey. For what it’s worth, Twilight, I'm here to help you through this, now and forever. I can't begin to repay you for what you've done for me: saving me, giving me friends and hope, even teaching me how to speak in a modern tongue... most of the time. But I'll always try. Whether you need me to explain something or poke fun at Tia, you can count on me.” She paused for a moment, then grinned mischievously. “Especially for poking fun at Tia. We're sisters. Pushing each other's buttons is our mandatory hobby."

Twilight giggled at this, remembering her brother. Oh, her brother. There was a fun little thought. His dorky little sister was about to show him up by becoming an alicorn. That's just about the ultimate trump card. "Hey, bro, what did you do with your life?" "Well, I became the youngest Captain of the Royal Guard ever and married the most loving princess in the world with an amazing happily ever after! How about you?" "Well, I cooped myself up in a library, didn't learn about friendship until too late in life, and oh yeah, became an ageless prin—" That was when another realization hit her so hard she almost became ill from the mental impact.

"Um... Princess?" she said, choking through the words.

"Yes, Twilight?" Celestia's voice was instantly calm and motherly again, completely recovered from Luna's jokes.

"I'm not going to have to become a princess too, am I?"

The two princesses looked at each other with a strange worry, unspoken in words but clearly communicated. Celestia hesitantly answered, "Not if you don't want to, but..."

"I know it’s customary, but if you two both rule Equestria, can't you change the rules? Make it so alicorns don't have to become royalty?"

Luna lay down to face Twilight, her face hinting at nerves that Celestia may have been better at hiding.

Celestia took a deep breath. "My student, the problem isn't so much that alicorns must become royalty. There is no such law. If you truly wanted, we would be happy to let you live your life, long though it may be, free from such things."

"Really?" Twilight asked, raising an eyebrow and tilting her head while failing to stop herself from looking ‘adorkable’.

“Truly. Think about it. Once you become a full alicorn, there will be precious little that anypony will be able to force you to do.”

Luna picked up the thread. “But ponies have an internal instinct to revere and respect alicorns while in their presence. It’s suppressible, and only works in their direct presence, but can still be potent. Sometimes ponies even experience it while near winged unicorns like Cadence, though she isn’t a true alicorn. And since you’re starting to become like us...”

"… they'll start bowing to me inside of a few years whether I like it or not." Twilight facehooved, discouraged. "Still, I can live with that. Don't get me wrong, Princess, in many ways being at your side as an equal would be a dream come true for me. I know I felt that way as a filly, seeing you raise the sun for the first time. But I don't want to leave my friends! And I really don't think I have the wisdom or experience I need to rule the country!"

Celestia’s response was so fast it must have been practiced. “True. But we’re also worried about what might happen in an emergency if we weren’t available for some reason. Ponies would look to you instinctively. You would become a de facto leader unless you exiled yourself permanently, which would be extremely ill-advised.”

Twilight’s despondency stoked a desire to bang her head on something, but the ultra-soft cushion Celestia used as a bed would’ve made a poor candidate. “So I’m stuck. Either I become a princess for real, or the second something goes wrong everypony will make me one.”

“No, we think there’s a way we can keep a balance here.” Celestia’s calm helped reassure her a little bit.

That was certainly welcome news. “There is?”

Luna’s playful smile was again in full effect. “Indeed! There have been others, in the past, that began an ascension under our guidance. You already know who they are, Twilight. The Grand Mages Starswirl the Bearded, Crimson Spectre, and Stellar Horizon.”

Hummingbirds had nothing on Twilight’s heart as it beat in excitement as she sat up and bounced just a little. “Starswirl!?” Her heartbeat then started racing for an entirely different reason: fear. “Wait... they all died. Crimson Spectre in battle... against...”

Luna’s playful smile retreated instantly. “Me, yes. Nopony said this would be easy, Twilight Sparkle. A Grand Mage’s job is dangerous, but it will prepare you for the trials that we alicorns inevitably face. Important events have a disturbing way of... gravitating towards us during ascension, even more than what you’ve already been through. This could help us guide you to challenges you’re more suited to.”

“More importantly,” Celestia hurriedly interjected before Twilight could speak, “the position will give you our authority, but keep you enough of an outsider that you may stay with your friends while not on missions. It will also shield you from the more dreary aspects of our job. No court sessions.”

Now things were getting confusing. “Your ‘authority’?”

Celestia smiled warmly at her student. “Quite nearly full authority of the Solar Throne - as if you were me or Luna. You can do anything you need to do, as long as you can justify it to us.”

“But that would still make me...” Twilight looked down at her hooves. Her little, purple hooves. She thought back to when she first became Celestia's pupil. The sheer awe she felt when she approached Celestia for her first lesson. The terror, the trepidation, and the idolization. Princess Celestia, Procer Celestia Invictus, the Unconquered Sun, was asking her to step into shoes her little hooves felt they could never fill. "Princess, " she said. "You are my idol. My hero. And the hero of millions of other ponies. You are the sun, larger than life itself, the beacon which the world follows! You're asking me to become like you. How can I? I'm just—"

Luna cut her off. "Twilight Sparkle, you are not giving yourself the credit you deserve. You lie there afraid of your possible failure, but in less than two decades you have saved both me and the world from the tyranny of Nightmare Moon, sealed Discord, a god of chaos, in stone, saved your village countless times, saved this nation countless times, travelled through time, quelled an Ursa Minor rampage, sent both my sister and the allegedly most learned unicorns in the country scrambling to comprehend your research, and gained more magical power in your short life than any other unicorn has ever amassed in such a time, ever."

Twilight stifled a grin at this. She couldn't help it. She loved praise. She lived for it. This time however, it only made her more scared. She backed up and tried to make herself even smaller, while trying to turn the grin into a bit of a shameful smile, lowering her head.

Luna focused her gaze hard into Twilight's eyes. "Name me one living pony on this great, large world with a better list of achievements. Name me just one, and I shall force my sister to send you home to your library. You'll never worry of this again."

Twilight looked into Luna's eyes, and thought. Really, really thought. It was an enlightening question, to say the least. Try as she might, she couldn't rise to Luna's challenge.

Twilight closed her eyes, laid her head down, and took a deep, long breath. Her inner voice snickered to itself. "Welcome to a larger world, little filly."

Steeling herself, she stood up with her eyes closed, but opened them with a newfound resolve that she prayed she could keep up. "What do I need to do?" she asked.

Celestia smiled with pride. "What you've always done, my brilliant young apprentice: Learn."