Chapter I ~ Then For My Own Sake
Celestia wasn’t perfect.
She had never been perfect. Contrary to what many of her subjects thought of her, she was far from it. Yes, she was the ruler of Equestria, but she was still a pony. Her title didn’t grant her infallibility out of principle. She wasn’t regally exempt from making any of the mistakes that her citizens made every single day, if anything, she was probably more at risk.
If she was perfect, she thought to herself, then she would know how to help her sister.
“Please, Luna. Will you not grant me this one request?”
“I am sorry, my sister, truly, but nay, I cannot.”
“I only have your best interests at heart. You know that I would not insist upon this if I didn’t know that it would help you.”
“Yea, I trust thee in thine intentions, my sister, but it wouldst be far greater of a help for thee to trust me to help myself.”
Princess Celestia sighed, knowingly. It had not taken long since Luna’s return for that to become her least-favorite kind of sigh. Celestia lightly treaded the velvet carpet beneath her forehoof, visibly to find the right words to say.
“It isn’t that I distrust your judgement, Luna. It’s just that I worry for you, and I worry that for as much as you take solace in your solitude, persisting in it is only going to make you feel worse.”
Luna arched her back, indignantly, trying to stand eye-to-eye with her sister, disregarding how much shorter she was than Celestia. Dislodging her gaze from her sister, Luna’s head fell towards the ground. Celestia tried to take a step forward, but Luna’s head shot back up, and she put another foot of distance between them.
“Celestia, I understandeth your concern, yea, for your fears are justifiable, but I plead of thee to let me handle this my own way, to show thee that I can handle this.”
“I’m trying, Luna. I really am. The last thing I want to do is to impose my will over yours. That wouldn’t be fair, you are just as important to Equestria as I am, and more-to-the-point, you’re my sister. I have no right to control you, or force your hoof.”
“...But if it ends up that you can’t pull yourself out of this despair, and the hour draws too late, then would it not be my fault for not doing something while I had the chance? Please, Luna, consider my plea. If not for yourself, then for my own sake.”
It was Luna’s turn to sigh. Potential responses raced through her mind, but she didn’t have it in her to peruse them. She was tired of this argument; she was tired of finding herself in it every single time she let her guard down around her sister. She was tired of trying to justify, both to Celestia, and to herself, her apathy towards her own well-being.
She was tired.
This time, as Celestia once again stepped forward, Luna made no effort to elude her sister’s embrace. Celestia lowered her head to rest against Luna’s neck, and, despite Luna’s attempts to maintain even an iota of her composure, she felt herself resignedly pressing her side against Celestia’s, returning the embrace. Along with it, an unspoken vow that Luna found herself making all too often.
“I’ll try my best.”
Luna didn’t like dreaming.
The few times she had confided this sentiment in somepony, they usually did either one of two things: ask why, or laugh politely, realize that she wasn’t joking, awkwardly clear their throat, and then ask why. She supposed it wasn’t an unfair assumption that the princess with the power to control and manipulate dreams would find a natural safe haven among them, but as founded as this notion was, Luna couldn’t help but scoff at it. Before her banishment, she might have occasionally found slight reprieve through her nigh-omnipotence in the world of dreams, but her expatriation - not to mention the Tantabus - had well-since tainted any longing for such youthful discretion.
Even now, as the Tantabus had since been vanquished, Luna kept her slumber strictly banal. She hadn’t allowed herself to indulge in more than an anemic sliver of her vast nocturnal imperium, dominion of her subjects’ dreams notwithstanding. If queried, she wasn’t sure that she would know how to answer why she was so stringent with her power. Maybe it was to prevent a relapse of events from Nightmare Moon or the Tantabus, or maybe it was her ongoing struggle to rid herself of the compunction from either of the two aforementioned demons which had chained her down for so long. Maybe it was some subconscious yearning to replace those chains. Either way, she drew the same conclusion each time: she was to secure the peaceful slumber of her sister’s subjects, while her own dreams were kept under mandated scrutiny.
Luna felt pained. She felt pained because she knew that even as Celestia slept, she still grieved for her little sister. For millennia, she had resolved to not intrude upon Celestia’s dreams, but even so, she heard the faint whispers of Celestia’s heart. They called to her, unceasingly, and it took all of Luna’s self-restraint to not light her horn and paint Celestia a world as vibrant and beautiful as her sun, but she knew that Celestia didn’t want her younger sister doting upon her, she got enough of that from the servants. Upon reflection, despite Celestia’s steadfast assurance that it was her will to be subjected to these feelings, Luna still felt guilty for it. Why was it that Celestia was so insistent that Luna not bear her trials alone, yet resolved to unironically bottle up a decent margin of her own emotions? Luna reflected upon the words of her sister, only a mere couple of hours ago. How easily, now, they could be turned right back against her, had Luna the will to use them.
“If it ends up that you can’t pull yourself out of this despair, and the hour draws too late, then would it not be my fault for not doing something while I had the chance?”
“O, my sister. My poor sister. Beholdest thou the mote in mine eye, but not the beam in thine?”
Still, Luna was, if nothing else, respectful. She was respectful of her sister’s will, almost to a fault, so she would just do what she usually did.
In the nethers of Celestia’s subconscious, a violet presence began to bubble and form upon the surface. Slowly, this tabula rasa sprouted a orchid horn, and a majestic pair of silky lavender wings, beginning to form a familiar silhouette.
Luna couldn’t put her hoof on what exactly in Twilight Sparkle’s presence calmed her sister’s nerves, but if Luna’s previous experiences with the prudent alicorn were anything to go by, she knew that she could rattle off plenty of reasons, so she didn’t spent much time dwelling on it.
All she knew was that if anything could put her sister at ease, it was Twilight Sparkle.
“My dearest Twilight,” Spike read, aloud, “you are cordially invited to an extended visit of Canterlot…”
Spike paused, ruminatively. He cleared his throat, and continued.
“in consideration of your continuous efforts to preserve peace and harmony in Ponyville and Equestria alike. I know this is sudden, and I also know how prone to panic attacks you are when presented with anything spontaneously, but I would sincerely appreciate if you would humor my invitation posthaste. We’re all eager to see you, especially my sister. I feel that she has been a bit troubled lately. and I'm certain that your presence will alleviate her concerns. Yours truly, Celestia.”
Spike turned to Twilight. He smiled, seeing that she was still conscious, and gave her a congratulatory clap on the back.
“Huh-hey,” Spike mused, “you’re not takin’ this nearly as poorly as I thought you would! Way to go, Twilight!”
Twilight said nothing for a moment, fixated upon the parchment lying atop her desk with a feeling of anxiety rapidly growing in the pit of her stomach, like she was staring down the throat of a hungry Ursa Major.
“Princess. Wants. Me. Canterlot. Now?!”
Spike sighed, wistfully, dropping his arms to his sides. “I’ll start packing your stuff.”
With that, Spike went to fetch Twilight’s suitcase, as well as a paper bag to help squelch her quickening hyperventilation.