• Published 17th Nov 2014
  • 19,896 Views, 186 Comments

Sizable Differences - Karrakaz

Being turned into a fully grown alicorn was bad enough. But having to contend with a sudden interest from her mentor that reawakens long forgotten feelings? Twilight's life just got a whole lot more complicated.

  • ...

Unhappy Medium

Celestia was enjoying a rare moment of peace. The racket from the kitchen had stopped after Rarity had excused herself, and aside from the ambience, the library had gone completely silent. She wasn’t tired, or at least told herself as much, but it nevertheless felt wonderful to rest her eyes while listening to the soft turning of pages. Sweetie Belle had taken her words to heart and had apparently decided that sitting down and reading through the entire tome on the basics of magic was as good a place to start as any.

The peace was shattered when Twilight stumbled out of the kitchen, almost taking down a bookcase with her when she face planted on the hardened oaken floor.

For Celestia keeping her eyes closed suddenly became a challenge. Her ears had already identified the unfortunate pony by the sound she made when she crashed, and now she wanted nothing better than to open her eyes and watch her student move about. Twilight wasn’t exactly graceful in her new form, but Celestia nevertheless found herself looking forward to seeing how she moved again.

She again checked herself for a beguiling spell. Just in case.

“Were things as bad as they sounded in there?” she asked, turning to Twilight who had just rolled over to a prone position and shaken her head.

Twilight folded her ears back and smiled sourly. “Worse. I broke most of the glasses, and I think I might have broken a cupboard by running into it.” She ran a hoof through her flowing mane and sighed. "I guess I'm still not used to any of this."

"But you just made tea yesterday."

Both mares briefly looked at Sweetie Belle, whom, despite her apparent focus on the book had had enough presence of mind to contribute to the conversation. Celestia then looked back to Twilight and arched an eyebrow. "Did something change between yesterday and now?"

Twilight sighed again. You. For just a moment she wanted to lay everything out on the table, consequences be damned. But while her body had grown threefold, and her power possibly even more than that, her mind still belonged to an insecure young mare who let logic guide her actions. And right now, logic warned her that a direct confrontation would result in heartbreak, followed by sadness, ridicule, and possibly exile.

A small voice in the back of her mind spoke of hope, promising wonderful things and an end to the constant tension she carried with her, but it went ignored. Once again, Twilight chose safety and tried to swallow her feelings. But that tiny voice was not so easily silenced and instead of making an unrelated excuse like she normally would have, she heard herself say; “I think it's because of you, princess.”

The effect of her words was unmistakable. Celestia stiffened in her seat, shoulders tensing and wings splaying in an instinctive fight or flight response. It was a wonder to behold, and yet, the reason was less than wonderful.

The little voice of courage was silenced by a sinking heart that, in spite of her trying to stay safe, had been wounded, and Twilight hastily continued before the princess could denounce her. “I-I mean... All of this is because of a mistake that I made and I guess I was... am more worried about what you might say than I thought I was.”

“But it's not her fault! She was just trying to help me learn magic.” Sweetie jumped on the table and looked up at Celestia with a frown that outshone Twilight’s. “All of this happened because I wanted to get my cutie mark, and yet everypony blames Twilight.”

Hearing the filly speak out in defense of her teacher brought a gentle smile to Celestia’s face. It reminded her of a filly who had done something similar, by shouting at a diplomat for ‘accusing the princess’ of wrongdoings. “Owning up to your mistakes is a very admirable trait, Sweetie Belle,” she said. “Try not to lose that honesty as you grow up.” She let her smile fade before turning to Twilight. “However, when a student does something they shouldn't in a field, the teacher always shoulders most of the blame.”

Twilight bowed her head respectfully. She had known that there would be some recompense for her mistake—besides being whined at and used as a living doll by Rarity that is—and now that it had, she was relieved. Not knowing what the punishment would be had always been far worse for her, as her overactive mind conjured up punishments the likes of which probably never even entered the princess' thoughts. “Just tell me what I need to do, Princess.”

“Well...” Celestia got up from her seat and walked over to Twilight, giving her nuzzle, taking care to keep it friendly. Who ever thought I would be happy to have a pony lie down for a simple nuzzle? she thought with a smile. “I think that your current situation is punishment enough.”

“What?” “Really?”

Sweetie jumped from the table and landed right next to Twilight, turning around to look up at Celestia with a hopeful smile. “Could you make it so that I’m no longer grounded?”

The mares shared a laugh and Celestia shook her head slowly. “No, Sweetie Belle, I’m afraid that even I don’t have the authority to overrule your sister when it comes to matters of punishment.”


“Are you sure it’s okay, Princess?” Twilight asked. Her smile lingered, but she couldn’t help but feel like she was getting away with something she shouldn’t have.

For Celestia, that very smile made it hard to think. For the first time in what could be considered forever to most ponies, did she feel the stirrings of longing. A wish for something more. She smothered the feelings with ruthless efficiency and cleared her throat to buy herself some time. “I’m sure, my faithful student. I would like to know how you created the spell that gave Sweetie Belle enough magic to set this whole debacle in motion, however.”

“Uhm... sure. Just let me...” Twilight finally got up, gathering up some paper with her magic while making her way over to sit down next to Celestia. “I used a plant growth spell as the basic template and then recalculated the growth patterns—”

Twilight made rudimentary sketches for reference while she explained the theory to Celestia, but to Sweetie Belle, it all looked and sounded like gibberish. Rather than let herself be frustrated by it, however, she decided that going back to her studies would be the quickest way to learn what they were talking about. Maybe, if she became good enough, she could make her own spells. When she did, she was going to create a spell which made sure that nopony would ever have to wonder what their cutie mark was ever again! It proved more difficult than expected. She couldn't focus while the two mares on the other side of the table were talking.

“And where does the extra power come from?” Celestia asked, looking more tense now than she had when Twilight had told her that her presence was the problem. “You didn’t use the third necromagical law to tie it to a pony’s lifeforce, did you?”

“No, no. No.” Twilight chuckled weakly. “I mean... I thought about it, but I found a better way."

Sweetie Belle did her best to follow along, but there was a lot of talk about dreams and power sources which didn't make any sense to her; how could dreams make you stronger? Twilight seemed really excited about all of it, and Princess Celestia seemed just as interested. Actually, the princess seemed...

"Power siphoning?"

"Of a sort.”

Sweetie Belle frowned in thought. It was sort of... weird. Granted she’d only really seen Twilight up close, but did Alicorns usually act like this around each other? Princess Celestia seemed to be acting kind of like some kind of silly filly that had found a colt she liked, and Twilight wasn’t even a colt.

"So loss of consciousness?—"

"—Is inevitable, and it’s an important part of the spell.”

There it was again! They were even finishing each other’s sentences!

“So while its maximum duration is limited by the time the target can stay awake, it has virtually no drawbacks!" Twilight exclaimed, smiling broadly.

"Amazing, Twilight."

Both alicorns seemed to have forgotten that she was even there. On, and on it went... Studies, and potential applications. Prospects and potential problems... Praise from the princess, and embarrassed happiness from Twilight. If it hadn't been for the subject matter, Sweetie would have been convinced that she had ended up in one of Rarity's sappy romance novels.

Both the comparison and their enthusiasm was extinguished when Rarity stepped back into the room, a tray full of sweet smelling treats held in her magic. "Here we are. Tea and biscuits for everypony."

The spell was broken and the two alicorns separated discreetly, going back to their respective sides of the table. Even though they were still seated next to one another, the distance between them had magnified tenfold. The excited smile Celestia had worn throughout the conversation was gone, replaced by one that, while no less sincere, nevertheless looked...distant. Twilight’s demeanour had changed as well, although hers was much more obvious. She looked upset, even angry, at least until she turned around to smile at Rarity. “Thank you, Rarity, sorry for making you take care of the tea.”

“Think nothing of it, darling. You needed some time to talk to the Princess, and I was due for a break anyway,” Rarity replied airily, setting down the tray on the table and turning to her sister. “Sweetie, could you go ask Spike if he wants some?”

Sweetie got the distinct impression that her sister knew more of what was happening than she let on, but decided that, while asking now might get her an answer, it might also end with her being punished. Besides, she could always ask her sister about it later. “Okay, sis,” she said, bounding back to the room, her head full of all the things she had seen.

What were they so excited about? She tried to imagine being that excited about something, but the only thing she could come up with was getting her cutie mark, and Twilight and the Princess already had theirs. Maybe they were trying to find a cutie mark spell as well? it didn't seem very likely, but then again, she didn't even understand what Twilight did most of the time.

"Spike? There's tea if you want some," she said when she climbed up on the bed she and Spike shared. The room itself was small. Little more than a broom closet that had been cleaned out; big enough for one medium sized bed, but no room to walk around it.

A wall of comics greeted her, from behind which came a disinterested "'Kay."

She walked around the great wall of comics that separated Spike's side of the bed from hers, and plopped down next to the dragon. "I said, tea is ready."

Spike was lounging on his back, the latest issue of the Power Ponies held in his claws, while his eyes roved over the pages. "I heard you the first time," he said, briefly looking over to her before the comic sucked him back in. He looked back at her before turning the page and asked, "Something wrong?"

"I don't know," Sweetie admitted. "Twilight and Princess Celestia were talking about that spell Twilight used to make me stronger, but they were acting really weird."

Spike chuckled. "Don't worry about it. Twilight always gets like that when she's allowed to explain something difficult."

His explanation made little sense to Sweetie Belle. "But she's never this excited when she explains magic to me."

The dragon lowered his comic and treated her to a deadpan look. "Does she debate 'the intricacies of triple layered spells as proposed by Starswirl the Bearded' with you?"

The title alone was enough to make Sweetie scratch her head. "No?"

"Exactly. Normal magic might be difficult for you, but it isn't for her. Which is why she gets so excited when she talks to the Princess."

Sweetie merely tilted her head. "What does difficult magic have to do with the princess?"

With a sigh, Spike put away his comic and sat upright. "Princess Celestia might be the only pony alive who knows as much about magic as Twilight does. That means she’s the one pony that Twilight can talk to that she never has to stop and explain what she means.”.

“But I thought you said Twilight liked explaining things!”

“I meant... ugh...” Spike chewed on his lower lip thoughtfully. “Okay, imagine trying to explain what it’s like to use magic to Apple Bloom. I mean yes, it might be fun at first, but eventually you’d start to get a little frustrated because there’s no way she’s ever really going to get it. That’s how Twilight feels all the time.”

“Oh...” Sweetie replied, frowning to herself as she tried to remember what explaining magic to either of her friends had been like. “I think I see what you mean.” What Spike said made sense, but even with the new information, it felt as though she was still missing part of the picture. Deciding that it wasn’t super important at that very moment, she shook her head and smiled at Spike. “So... tea?”

Spike snorted and shook his head. “No thanks, I’d rather just read a few more comics.”

It was a little disappointing, but Sweetie Belle none the less smiled. “Okay then.”

She hadn’t even set foot inside the living room before Twilight called out to her. “Sweetie Belle? Could you please bring the mageweight-spheres with you?”

"Okay." She ducked back into the room and looked around for the twin silver spheres. She remembered practicing on them right before bed the previous day, but couldn’t remember what had happened to them afterwards. They weren’t on the bed—Rarity always insisted she make her bed first thing in the morning— and there were few other places in the room they could be. A peek under the bed revealed the spheres in a corner against one of the bed’s legs and Sweetie was reminded of her frustration from that evening. Her magic hadn’t wanted to cooperate then either, and she had cursed her horn before going to sleep.

“Looking for something?”

Sweetie bumped her head against the bottom of the bed, startled by the sudden question. “Yeah,” she replied, rubbing her head. “But I already found it.” She took a deep breath and lit up her horn which sputtered and faltered before she had good and well cast her levitation spell over the spheres. No, no, no... not now! taking another deep breath, she tried to feel the spell in her stomach, just like the Princess had said. The effect wasn’t as immediate as she’d hoped, but her aura nevertheless grew and solidified until she could finally pick up the spheres with confidence.

To say that all her magical problems had been solved would be an overstatement, but she did carry the two lazily orbiting spheres back to the table with few problems, and she didn’t even drop them once. “Here.”

Twilight smiled at her before picking up the orbs in her own magic. “Thank you, Sweetie Belle.”

The alicorn closed her eyes in concentration and the lavender aura that surrounded both her horn and the mage-weights grew darker until it resembled the color of her coat. It wasn't like anything Sweetie had ever seen before, and a quick glance to either side revealed that she wasn't the only one spellbound by what Twilight was doing; Rarity's mouth hung open in a very unladylike display of the same, and even all of Celestia's attention was on whatever spell Twilight was casting—Or perhaps she was simply looking at Twilight again, Sweetie couldn’t be sure.

The entire thing lasted for no more than a minute before Twilight's posture slackened somewhat and she opened her eyes, smiling self consciously at the four pair of eyes that looked like they were trying to burn holes in her face. "Sorry, I guess I should have known something like this would happen."

Sweetie Belle was confused until she looked to the princess for clarification. Celestia's attention remained focused, but for perhaps the first time that day, it wasn't on Twilight. Twilight's aura retained its darker coloration, but the silver spheres she had been holding hadn't; one of the orbs had gone from silvery-white to a deep, warm, orange. While the other had only gotten whiter, to the point where it emitted light. The two floating miniature suns retained their spherical shape only so long as Twilight held them in her magic, and the moment she put them down on the table they dissolved into puddles of molten silver. Apparently Twilight hadn’t thought that part through because she picked them up straight away after the edges of the twin puddles quickly began to blacken. Sweetie looked at her mentor in awe. “What did you—”

“Well... that certainly isn’t how we measured it back when I was a filly,” Rarity interrupted her, eying the two red hot orbs with just a hint of trepidation. “I always thought the idea was to hold them in the air for as long as you could?”

Twilight nodded sheepishly. “That’s the idea, the enchantment is supposed to make them heavier which means that you have to put more energy into keeping them aloft, which in turn gives the spell enough magic to make them even heavier.”

“So what did you do differently?”

“She overloaded the enchantment,” Celestia answered in Twilight’s stead, looking at her former pupil with a smile and no small amount of fascination. "And I daresay that she did so faster than I ever have."

"But you said you couldn't!" Twilight sputtered, going red in the face when Celestia arched an eyebrow. "B-back when I was..." She pursed her lips. "Ten! You told me that even you sometimes had trouble keeping both spheres the air, never mind being able to melt them!"

Celestia nodded thoughtfully. "Correct. Though I recall you were having doubts about your magic when I told you as much." She lifted her cup and took a sip of her tea before continuing. "What do you think you would have done if I had told you that I could muster enough magical power to melt them in under a minute while you were struggling to keep them airborne?"

"Well I... I... I would have—"

"—You would have been crushed and possibly have given up on magic altogether." Celestia interrupted her stammering. The princess then drained the rest of her cup before continuing in a wistful tone. "You have always wanted to be the best at everything you set your mind on, experience of other ponies be damned."

Hearing about Twilight's own struggles with magic and her shortcomings as a pony was difficult for Sweetie Belle. Ever since she had started practicing with the alicorn, Twilight had become somewhat of a role model to her. A perfect example of what a pony could achieve if they tried their very best, even if she didn't have the same level of ambition. And now that perfection was being stripped away to reveal that Twilight was a pony just like her. On some level she knew that it had always been that way, but that she simply chose not to see it. It did, however, help her understand how Twilight must have felt. Their student teacher relationship had only been a few months long. Twilight's relationship with Celestia however, had been most of Twilight's life. It made some of what she had seen before make more sense, but she still didn't have the whole picture.

More to the point, they weren't even talking about the most important parts! "But why didn’t they become heavier when I practiced with them? And what am I supposed to practice with now?" she asked the alicorns, both of which looked up in a daze as though they had forgotten all about the rest of the table.

“Because the enchantment hadn’t been activated, Sweetie Belle.” “I think I have another set downstairs, let me go get it.”

A sentence a piece later and Sweetie still didn’t have the answers to her questions, if only because they talked through one another. She watched Twilight get up and canter towards the stairs with a face that resembled a tomato, Celestia’s eyes following her all the way while her sister, in turn, seemed to be having a staring contest with the back of the princess’ head and wasn’t any of help either.

She looked, first to the princess and then back to her sister. “Sis?”

Rarity’s only response was a brief smile which was only half aimed at Sweetie Belle as her eyes were still locked on Celestia.

“Sweetie Belle, could you please go with Twilight?” Princess Celestia asked, refilling both her and Rarity’s tea cups. “It seems your sister and I need to have a word in private.”

“Is something wrong?” Sweetie asked her sister.

“Not at all, Sweetie. There’s just something the princess and I need to talk about, mare to mare.” It sounded like Rarity was trying very hard not to bite the tail end off of her sentence, which usually meant that she was having a hard time not blowing up at somepony.

“O...kay.” Sweetie replied, beginning to resent being sent away all the time. She decided that she wasn’t going to stop pestering Rarity until she had a good explanation for all this weirdness later. It didn’t seem like she’d be able to get a straight answer at the moment anyway. She jumped off of her seat and slowly trotted around the table, looking back at her sister one last time before descending the stairs.

Rarity’s eyes were sparking, which usually meant that she was really angry, but too polite to start anything while other ponies were around. For just a moment, Sweetie felt sorry for the princess.

After Sweetie Belle’s hoof falls had disappeared, Rarity turned to Celestia expectantly. “So,” she said, sipping demurely at her tea. “Are you deliberately leading Twilight on, or are you merely blind?”

“I am not ‘leading her on’ as you say. Twilight is a grown mare, and, like you said, she has become quite attractive.” Celestia paused to take a sip of her own tea. “That does not mean, however, that I am obligated to indulge every little fancy she can conceive of.”

“So, blind it is, then. I’ll talk to Fluttershy about a seeing eye dog.” Rarity smirked at the princess. “But in all seriousness, you know how horribly awkward she is, if you can see how she feels how can you let her suffer in silence?”

“I could say the same about a certain dragon hatchling, you know—”

“That’s not the same and you know it.” Rarity snapped back, irritated. “Spikey has an adorable little crush and I don’t want to hurt his feelings. Besides, he knows very well I don’t feel the same. It doesn’t have to be said.”

“Does he?” Celestia sighed and rubbed the side of her head with a hoof. “All I ever hear from him is how great, and wonderful, and kind you are to him. Does it really sound like nothing has to be said?”

Rarity’s cheeks colored, and she looked away from Celestia. “It’s perfectly fine if he wants to admire me, but he—”

“—is holding out hope against his better judgement?”

Rarity harrumphed irritably, “So is that what Twilight is doing then? At least I let Spike know that I knew how he felt, even if I haven’t dissuaded him enough, apparently. What exactly have you done?”

Celestia glanced at the stairs down which Twilight had disappeared. “What could I do? What I said about striving for perfection back there holds true in every aspect of Twilight’s life. Rejecting her outright would more than likely crush her. She’d be convinced that she isn’t good enough for anypony to love... A problem I have sadly seen her deal with before.”

“And why would you need to reject her? I would think her a fine romantic partner, social anxiety aside. You share the same interests, go about problems the same way... and you practically finish each other’s sentences!”

“I agree,” Celestia said simply. “If all else were equal, I would love nothing more.”

“Equal? For goodness sake she’s royalty as well, isn’t she? Intellectually, socially, and I daresay even magically she’s more than your equal.”

“It is not power or social status that I am talking about young filly,” Celestia replied hotly. “I am not the virgin saint many ponies these days describe me as. I have had lovers, noble and common born alike, and I loved them all equally." Her fire and passion left her all at once, leaving her looking tired and pained. “It inevitably ends in tragedy,” she finished softly.

"Do you think she’d love you any less for failing to grow old with her?” Rarity demanded. “Because if you do, I will tell you right now that you are doing her a disservice.”

Celestia chuckled sadly. “It is not her love I am concerned about. Surviving your spouse—lover—beau, once in a life-time is bad enough. For most ponies it is such a deep blow to the soul that they follow their lifelong partners to the grave within a year...” She petered out and took a deep breath to steady herself. “I have held nine ponies I cared about as they breathed their last, and I never want to go through that again.” Moisture had gathered in her eyes but she shook it away angrily. “That, Rarity, is why I choose to do nothing.”

Rarity considered that for a long moment. “I suppose that must be very hard, I admit I am having a hard time imagining what it would be like. Generally a pony finds the one and that’s it, if they are lucky enough to find them at all.”

“And generally, they do not have to deal with the pain of losing more than just the one.” Celestia flexed her wings and twisted her neck, trying to get rid of the anger she was feeling in a non-destructive way. She knew it was difficult for ponies to understand why she did what she did, but always being second guessed and forced to relive painful memories was difficult. “Were I a few thousand years younger, I might have agreed. But the happiness is always fleeting, whilst the pain is cumulative.”

“If you truly feel that way, at least do her the kindness of telling her she has no chance, princess.” Rarity said, sighing heavily. “It really isn’t fair to keep her pining away like this.”

“As I told you, if I were to do such a thing, she would think herself unworthy of anypony’s love. The best I can do is ignore her for now, and hope that she finds some other pony with which she can be happy.”

Rarity laughed bitterly. “Let me tell you about that, princess. Love is a rather stubborn thing, not easily shaken. I’ve fallen in love many times myself, with ideas of ponies I never met, who I wish I’d never met in the flesh, to be honest. But at the very least I had the opportunity to have it dashed on the rocks of reality, heal, and try again. She won’t just give up because you refuse to see how she feels.”

“Then what?!” Celestia near shouted. “Apologise and tell her that I love her but we can never be together? Make up an excuse? Send her off to some remote location perhaps?” The teapot crumbled in her magical grip and only after she noticed did she take a few deep breaths to calm down and regain her composure. “I keep my distance for a reason, my little pony. Losing a friend is difficult enough, and I have lost a lot of friends. I don’t— cannot allow myself to grow closer than that to anypony, knowing that they will leave me within a few short years.”

“A few short—” Rarity sputtered. “Majesty, have you forgotten why you were asked to be here? Let me remind you: My boutique was turned to dust by the selfsame spell that hit Twilight. Yet there she stands, having aged who knows how many centuries. So, tell me again, what exactly is the problem?”

Celestia looked at her like she had sprouted a second head, opening and closing her mouth without actually producing any sound. Eventually she shut it, and stared at her teacup with an intensity Rarity had, before today, only seen on Twilight when she was focused on a particularly engaging research question.

“So why do you and princess Celestia finish each other's sentences?” came the question from Sweetie Belle, while she looked around the basement laboratory.

Twilight, red faced and extremely embarrassed, coughed and continued to root through the shelves and chests that might contain the mage-weights. She had hoped that offering to get Sweetie Belle’s balls for her would give her some respite after the way she made a fool out of herself in front of the princess.

No such luck.

“And why do you always blush when the princess asks you something?”

“Sweetie Belle..?” Twilight asked, groaning softly.


Plumbing the depths of her mind for a competent excuse came up empty, and with a sigh she decided to go with the truth. “I don’t really know why, okay? I think it’s because I get embarrassed when I make mistakes.” And maybe just a teensy bit because she’s so kind, and beautiful, and patient and... no! Bad Twilight! She shook her head vigorously. “How about we focus on finding for the mage-weights?”

The filly remained motionless for a few moments before nodding. “Okay!”

Despite what she’d told Sweetie, Twilight’s searching was scatterbrained at best. Her thoughts kept returning to her— the Princess. Even after the several years she had spent learning about friendship in Ponyville, she still did not think of herself as being very good at reading social cues, but Celestia’s looked had been so unabashed and overt that even she couldn’t have missed them. Every time she thought about it, it sent a tingle through her stomach, making all the butterflies that made it their home scatter.

Sluggishly did she make her way through one of the closets at the back of her laboratory, letting her mind wander while she absently picked up each item on the shelves with her magic before identifying it as being something other than the mage-weights and putting it back. Halfway through, she realised that the shelf she was searching only held alchemical components, but continued to pick the items up one by one anyway; if nothing else, it gave her some more time alone with her thoughts.

Why would the princess look at me like that without saying anything..? I suppose she did say that I looked different, maybe she’s just curious? Twilight sighed again and suppressed the idle fluttering of her wings suggesting more hopeful ideas. Even the princess can be caught unawares by something. She’s just a pony after all. Just a beautiful, gorgeo— dammit.

“What’s that?” Twilight jumped, very nearly dropping the alchemical flask she was holding in her magic when Sweetie suddenly appeared next to her. “Sorry,” the filly continued, “You were just looking at it so intently that I thought it could be important.”

Twilight needed only glance at the label once to remind herself what exactly the vial contained, and chuckled. “This is a plant growth potion, which I used as the basis for the empowerment spell.”

“Empowerment spell?”

“It uses the same growth formula to strengthen the ley-lines in a pony’s body so that they can handle the extra—” Twilight stopped, having to mentally adjust for the fact that she was no longer talking to Celestia. “—You know how plants become bigger, taller, and stronger as they grow older?”

Sweetie smiled and nodded, remembering her biology lessons on plant growth; it made more sense than magic at least.

“Well,” Twilight tapped the vial with a hoof. “this makes all of that go faster, and I used the same idea for the spell I cast on you.”

She realised it was a bad idea to bring it up about two seconds after Sweetie Belle’s smile had faded and the filly hung her head. “I’m sorry for making you older, Twilight.”

Twilight leaned down and gave her student a gentle nuzzle. “It’s okay, Sweetie Belle. I told you before; we all make mistakes. Besides...” She smiled for the filly’s benefit. “I don’t have to look up to the princess anymore.” Sweetie’s smile remained absent, and Twilight deflated a little. “Let’s find the mage-weights and get back upstairs,” she said, putting the vial back on the shelf and walking towards the chest she should have been looking in all along.

Before she’d had a chance to open it, however, Sweetie spoke up. “So... why is okay for me to make a mistake, but you get embarrassed when you do it?”

Twilight let the lid of the chest drop and turned around. Sweetie Belle hadn’t moved beyond turning to face her, though she looked more curious than downcast which was an improvement at least. “Because you’re still young, and I should know better,” she replied.

“But that’s not all, is it?”

Twilight gritted her teeth. "I don't know. Sometimes I wish there could be more, but it's not a decision I can make on my own." She delved back into the chest without another word, levitating the entirety of its contents in one go, and picking out the twin spheres from within the chaotic mess which she then floated over to Sweetie Belle. "There you go. Let's go back upstairs.”

It was frustrating not getting any straight answers. Everypony was treating her like a dumb filly that couldn’t understand anything, even Twilight who was supposed to be her teacher wouldn’t tell her what puzzle piece she was missing. Sweetie pouted and said, "But you haven't told me what—"

"—And I don't want to!" Twilight screamed. Sweetie Belle recoiled at the harshness of Twilight’s tone, backing up a few paces and falling onto her rump which made Twilight close her eyes and sigh before lowering herself next to the filly. The size difference was still laughable, but anything to help lessen the disparity helped. "I'm sorry, Sweetie it's just..." She glanced over at the stairs. "It's something personal and I would rather not talk about it." She started towards the stairs, silently fretting over her actions and her feelings. Sweetie Belle wasn’t responsible for her dilemma, she had just been the catalyst that made her have to deal with those feelings. She stopped when Sweetie piped up again, timidly, but nevertheless curious.

“Is it because you’re so old now?”

“No, Sweetie Belle. It’s not because I’m old now.”

“But it feels strange, right? The spell said that you could make ponies younger as well so wouldn’t you want to...”

An icy feeling of panic set itself up in Twilight’s stomach, giving the butterflies a hard time. If she was honest with herself, aging a thousand years in a day wasn’t what she would ever have wanted. There was too much to acclimatise to; from her size, to her magic, to even the way everypony reacted to anything she did. On the flipside, Princess Celestia finally looked at her as something more than just the awkward filly that had been her student for years.

“I think so,” she said finally, shooting a smile back to Sweetie Belle, mostly in reassurance. “Being big can be kind of fun, but it’s really more trouble than it’s worth.”

A few minutes later, Twilight was busily trying to keep her brain from running away with her imagination. The princess had looked when she and Sweetie Belle stepped back into the living room, but it had been a look of such bewilderment that Twilight reexamined anything and everything she had done that day; not at all helped by the unprecedented silence from the princess. “S-so... did anything happen while we were downstairs?” She asked, trying to forestall her worst fears from playing through her mind like she knew they would.

Two more cups were emptied and refilled in the oppressive silence that hung over the room like a thick woolen blanket, before Rarity finally dropped her own icy gaze, which had on the princess the entire time. “Nothing important, darling. The princess and I were just talking how much of a difference a thousand years can make for a pony, and how well you’ve acquitted yourself so far.”

One of Celestia’s ears perked up and she shot a sideways glance at Twilight before returning to her silent tea-cup-staring-contest. She remained silent, letting Rarity talk, and talk, and talk some more.

It fueled Twilight’s concern, but Rarity was still going. “—And after that, I tried to explain to the princess how far you’d come with your research into a counterspell, but I realised that it couldn’t have been easy. My constantly designing dress around you must have been terribly distracting,” the unicorn said with an amiable smile. “And the princess was kind enough to offer her assistance.”

“I should go,” Celestia said, pushing her teacup to the center of the table and almost stumbling to her hooves. “Thank you for the tea, miss Rarity.” She briefly turned to Twilight and opened her mouth, but nothing came out; after a scant thirty seconds, she gave up, simply nodded to her student, and vanished in a blinding flash of light, leaving a confused trio of ponies behind.

Twilight, who had gotten up when the princess did, whirled around to her friend. “Rarity... what did you do?”

“What do you mean, darling? She and I were merely—”

“You broke the princess!” Twilight yelled in a panic, having galloped halfway up the stairs before remembering that Spike’s room had been moved. Perhaps she could save, or at least help what was left of the princess if she got a letter to her fast enough. Why didn’t I ever take the time to learn how to send scrolls? she quailed, ineptly trying to turn her weight around on the stairs which were suddenly too small. Three missteps, and half a fall later, she was facing down on the stairs which lasted for all of three seconds before she tried to skip most of the walking by spreading her wings and gliding the rest of the way. When she arrived at the door however, she found it blocked by the light blue glow of Rarity’s magic.

“Calm yourself, darling,” Rarity said sternly, swatting her on the rump once again. “The princess doesn’t ‘break’ that easily.”

“But what if she did?! I have to write her a letter and—”

“Twilight!” Twilight was yanked away from the door by an ear and pulled down to Rarity who looked less like her longtime friend and more like the harsh headmistress at the school for gifted unicorns. “What I told the princess might very well have rattled her a little, but trust me, darling, it was a wake up call that was sorely needed. Now, you and I are going to go back to what we were doing and let the princess sort herself out.”

“What about me?”

Rarity looked over at her sister and let her expression soften. “I do believe that there’s still cleaning to do, and after you are finished, perhaps we can all go out and get some ice-cream.”

“Ice-cream?!” The door to the former closet opened to reveal a hungry young dragon who rubbed his stomach with one claw while the other snatched Sweetie Belle in passing, and dragged her up the stairs to continue their assignment.

“Uh... Rarity? Could you...”

Belatedly, Rarity realised that she was still holding Twilight in a magical hold and let go with a sheepish smile. “Terribly sorry, darling. Shall we get back to the dress designing then?”

“But I—” Twilight sighed and hung her head. “Okay.”

“Splendid! Now where did I leave my measuring tape?”

Twilight spent the rest of the day in a state of mild panic, which was assuaged every now and again by Rarity. The fashionista wouldn't hear any of her wild theories about what could have made the princess leave so suddenly and repeatedly assured her that; "Even the princess needs some time to herself sometimes, but that doesn't mean that she is going to ignore your request for help.”

How she was going to tell Rarity that her letter hadn’t included any such request, Twilight didn’t know. What she did know, as the sun set and time came for them to put Sweetie Belle and Spike to bed, was that she was scared.

“Rarity?” she asked after the two youngsters had been put to bed, and they had each settled down with something to read. Rarity had once again taken it upon herself to make something to drink for the both of them, which Twilight was grateful for; she didn’t trust herself around glassware.

The unicorn did not reply beyond humming thoughtfully.

“Do you think I should do it?”

Rarity looked up from the romance novel she had opened after finally putting away her designer implements and cast a quizzical glance her way. “Do what, darling?”

“Reverse the spell.”

“Well, whyever not?" Rarity used her magic to idly stir the tea leaves. She looked graceful, even while merely reclining on a few pillows, making Twilight wonder why she could never seem to stop being so awkward, which in turn lead to her wondering if that was the reason for Celestia’s dismissiveness. "I thought you said this entire age spell was more trouble than it was worth.”

Twilight nodded slowly. That was exactly what she'd told Sweetie Belle, and yet she wasn't sure anymore. “I know... I know... I’m just... scared.”

All Rarity did was arch an eyebrow and yet Twilight understood the silent question as if the unicorn had screamed it at her.

“You saw the way the princess looked at me, right?” She asked before chuckling weakly to herself. “Of course you did, you’re good at that sort of thing.” When Rarity didn’t reply immediately, she continued, trying to fill the silence that seemed unbearable.“It’s just...” Twilight sighed and scoured her mind for an explanation that made sense. “I saw it too. And it made me feel... pretty? Or... wanted, I guess? I liked it. I liked it a lot, but now...” She blushed and used the book she had been reading to hide her face from her friend.

“Now, you’re worried that nopony will look at you that way once you reverse the spell?” Rarity hid a smile behind her hoof, but got up and gave Twilight a friendly nudge before more doubts set in. “Darling, you were already beautiful before all of this happened. The spell merely helped refine it.”

“No, not everypony has to look at me like that but... but this is the only time the princess has..." Twilight petered out, taking a deep breath and then another, trying to rephrase her fears. "Before I got hit with the spell, she never so much as glanced..." The second time she failed to finish her sentence she groaned in frustration and looked at Rarity, imploring her to divine and understand what she was trying to say. "What if this the only chance I have? Once we undo the spell, she'll never look at me like that again."

"Twilight, darling, if Celestia only cared for your looks, then she wouldn't be the right pony for you anyway."

Twilight’s ears flattened themselves against her skull, and the butterflies in her stomach twisted into unreal mockeries of themselves making her feel nauseous. “So I was just being a lovestruck filly?” she asked, wanting nothing more than to run to her too small bed and hide. She got another nudge from Rarity, and then another when she lowered her head to the floor and hid her eyes behind her hooves.

“I said ‘if’, darling.” Rarity poured herself another cup of tea and took dainty nibbles from a cookie. “I am not a mind-reader, Twilight, but I can tell you that Celestia is at the very least interested in you, even if she doesn’t show it.”

“Technically, looking like she did is showing interest,” Twilight said with a sigh. Her stomach was uncoiling itself little by little, but she still felt tense. “But why wouldn’t she say anything?”

Rarity remained silent for a moment, looking at Twilight in a way that made her feel more uncomfortable than she already was. “Have you considered the idea that the princess might be as scared of admitting her feelings as you are?”

Considered it, mulled it over, ran tests on it... Of course I did. Rather than utter a word of what she was thinking, Twilight responded with a noncommittal grunt. “Maybe.”

“Think about it, darling, despite everything, Princess Celestia is still just a pony. She can be strong, and intelligent, and everything else besides, but even the greatest of ponies get scared sometimes.” Rarity yawned into her hoof and smiled. “Well, I am just about ready for bed. Try not to worry about it overly much, darling.”

Twilight absently bid her friend goodnight, going over the conversation in her head. Most of what Rarity had said made sense, the princess needing some time to sort out her thoughts for example, wasn’t uncommon and Twilight had seen it many times before. But inexorably, her thoughts were drawn towards the things she couldn’t believe; The fact that she was beautiful even without adding a thousand years to her lifespan, or Princess Celestia being scared of anything. Twilight had known the princess for the better part of her life, and yet she had never seen the princess be scared of anything. Angry, yes. Happy, yup. Disappointed? She winced. Definitely... But never scared.

“—oon, darling?”

Twilight blinked, realising that Rarity hadn’t disappeared up the stairs just yet. “Sorry, what was that?”

Rarity gave her a meaningful look that conveyed both disbelief and bemusement. “I asked when you were heading to bed.”

“Oh...uh...” Twilight looked around for a reason to forstal going to bed, and her erstwhile ally, the romance novel, readily provided one. “I’m just going to finish this chapter,” she said, patting the book. “It just got interesting.”

Rarity shook her head with a bemused smile. “I should have known.” She stepped forward and embraced Twilight in a brief hug. “Goodnight, Twilight.”

“Goodnight, Rarity.”

Unlike Rarity, Twilight’s mind did not seem to require rest. At least, it hadn’t in the days following the destruction of the boutique. She hadn’t slept in over a week and yet, oddly, still felt fresh. Any books she had consulted regarding Alicorn physiology had been theoretical at best, and downright speculative at worst. It had come to the point where she no longer knew if incredible stamina was part of her new form, or if Sweetie Belle’s botched spell had affected her in some manner that she couldn’t have foreseen.

Even if that hadn’t been the case, she doubted that she would have actually been able to fall asleep given how worked up she was. The day had turned out to be much more... difficult... than she had expected and she could do naught but doubt herself even more.

If the princess really is attracted to me like Rarity said, then why hasn’t she said anything? Rarity’s reasoning had been fear, but fear was Twilight’s neighbour, and the princess did not possess any. Given that, it naturally follows that either, A: the princess did not consider me attractive before, and simply doesn’t want to give me false hope, or, B: Rarity was wrong and the princess was merely intrigued and had never really been interested romantically.

Looking back, it was easy to see how point A could be the case. Compared to Celestia who, at least in Twilight’s eyes, was as close to physical perfection as a pony was ever going to get; She had a small stubby horn that lacked the length or surface exposure of leylines to effectively channel all of her power; her wings, while serviceable, looked awkwardly disproportionate to her body and made her walking gait look oafish; and her flanks had become a little wider than they probably should have, the result of too many hours spent studying in lieu of exercise.

With a half-smile she remembered the physical exercises that Celestia had foisted upon her when she became the princess’ ‘faithful student’. At the time, she had done little but moan and gripe about the, in her eyes, waste of time. They had grown on her, but had swiftly been discarded in favor of more intellectual pursuits when she moved to Ponyville.

Could that be it? I didn’t keep in shape and so....Twilight paled and shook her head violently. No. no no nonono “No!” She startled herself with the exclamation and quickly checked to see if anypony had heard her. She remained still for a full minute, listening for any movement from upstairs. When none came, she eventually relaxed, physically, if nothing else.

The princess should be back at some point to reverse the spell, if I don’t do it myself. Nodding to herself Twilight poured another cup of tea, finding her magic much more cooperative without all the stress that Celestia’s visit had caused. So, if I don’t do it myself, I have at least one more chance; all I’d need is a plan...

She eagerly got to work, pulling the blackboard that had been ousted from its normal resting place closer and quickly and decisively outlining her options. Keeping busy helped. It kept her mind occupied with constructive thoughts and ideas, rather than the crippling self-doubt and worry.

Not needing sleep was a cause for concern— Note to self: ask the princess about her sleeping schedule. —but at least it gave her plenty of time to come up with a plan that had a chance of working.

After two hours she had something that resembled a plan. A plan which boasted a whopping eighteen percent chance of success. A record by all accounts. Whatever drive or bravery that had made her resolve to work out a plan, seeped away when she realised how desperate she was if that low a number was acceptable. Eighteen? Is that really the best I can do? A brief jaunt through her memories sadly confirmed that, yes, it was.

Her spirits fell further when she listed already enacted plans in her head, many of which had been pulled straight out of a romance novel. She would have rated most as having a ninety-nine percent success chance, like giving the pony of her affection flowers, sending her a semi-anonymous gift during Hearts and Hooves day... she had even written a report on the flora of the Everfree, describing each flower and its uses in detail, simply because she knew that the princess dabbled in gardening on the rare occasion she had some free time on her hooves.

Counting the number of machinations, tactics and ideas brought her to the startling number of seventeen-hundred-and-sixty-two, none of which’d had any measurable effect.

So perhaps the princess doesn’t like me? She swallowed heavily shook her head once again. No! One more time. Just... just one more time. I simply have to do better and make it clear how I feel. She coughed, looked at the blackboard, and set her jaw. If the princess returns at around the same time she did today, that should give me a little less than ten hours. That should be enough to come up with something workable, shouldn’t it?

Less than ten hours to work out and refine the, arguably, most important plan of her life to in the finest of details. She was being tested, and for the first time in her life, she knew the despair of not being able to study for it.