• Published 19th Aug 2017
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Enemy of Mine - Ice Star



A few years after Luna's return it seems that Equestria will finally know an era of peace and appears to be on the verge of a new renaissance. Ponies are happy. Luna is recovering. Celestia is miserable.

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Interlude 4: Letters

My Dearest Twilight,

I'm afraid it's been a while since I last wrote to you. Keeping up a regular correspondence and holding one's duties in the other hoof at all times can be quite the challenge sometimes, can it not? Still, it is mandatory as well as familiar to me. Your wings may still feel new to you, my Faithful Student, but my crown has never felt like it has been anything but an extension of my very bones!

I trust Gallant and Stellar Streak, as well as the rest of your family, are more than well? Gallant and Stellar Streak must have had such a fine time at school with so many exciting holidays to partake in with their classmates. I trust they still are making good marks? And that you and Rarity had a lovely Hearts and Hooves Day? No troublesome surprises?

Dissy and I had a lovely time gardening in Chaosville. His little god's dimension has quite the plant life. There are fly traps that refuse to have anything but beetles, roses that spew forth multicolored fog from their bud, yodeling lilies, and much other exotic flora that I could fill a whole other letter about. I'm not sure that all of it — and certainly not most of it — would be found in the books in your castle library. Perhaps the Everfree Forest could provide you with some examples of flora in Discord's world. I know that some plants of his were no doubt pulled from the Forest's outskirts, and while it may still be a dangerous place, no matter your skill, I trust that you of all ponies would be alert and not careless.

Has anything changed around Ponyville this season? I'm sure all the decorations for Hearts and Hooves Day and banners for the Princess Pen Pal Palooza will be a breeze to take down, and Winter Wrap Up must feel as though it is on the horizon, no? I still miss you at the Wrap-Ups in my citadel... and your home city, my Twilight of Canterlot... and how you watched, mystified as sorcerers and other unicorns of every class and trade pulled away all the dreariness of winter and give life to the world again, so raw from how it slept. You watched weather deliveries with as much care as I arranged them. In all my years, I never bothered to stay and observe what the earth pony and pegasus way was like so much as I simply nodded and approved of them, officiating this and that. It never struck me as anything to fixate on.

I was able to find the letters of almost all the foals from Ponyville that wrote to me. Gallant and Stellar certainly have much better penmanship than many foals their ages. Now, was it you or Rarity who taught them that, I wonder? It was such a dear thing to get one last letter from young Sweetie Belle before she heads off to Manehattan. I'm sure she'll make a fine music teacher one day, such an optimistic and innocent young mare. It is good to see she wishes to give back to others, instead of using her talents on something more frivolous. I hear that there are plans of organizing the Cutie Mark Crusaders into a youth organization all across Equestria in the future, from what she has written of Apple Bloom and Scootaroll's discussions with her.

All of them are grown up now, sixteen years old, all three of them. I know I have little knowledge of them as you do, but I still remember them as young fillies standing in my shadow. To think that Scootaroll was still a filly then! Each needed to be told about how their actions as 'Gabby Gums' and publishing anything about royalty was, especially gossip, was far from legal and had serious consequences to any adult who did it knowingly. Knowing they've been on their best behavior since then is good news, too.

I understand that the map of the Tree of Harmony has been more steady in how it dictates things, no longer leading you on any wild, horrendously out of control adventures. For that, I can be nothing but glad. I have never forgotten the stress that you have endured from such chaotic events, and how unneeded they are. Oh, I certainly have grown used to chaos, as I'm sure you know! You have always been a different story, one for routine, organization, and normalcy. It is always something to respect, and in a silly sort of way, I think the map almost does too, though the Tree of Harmony obeys none, choosing to send you only to things that are more respectable for a princess show what is important.

Grand travels are not so grand, and it is service that is paramount, and you serve Equestria well, Twilight. There is stability in Equestria, something that can not be obtained when you are called to other dimensions to defeat ancient evils via blaring, nonsensical rock music as Harmonia herself manifests around you. She's fickle in such things, is she not? You have never talked with her personally, and may you never have anything to do with the spirit of the World Tree. Every night, I see the newest feature of the starscape that is my sister's domain, 'Nova's Tree' as she has mysteriously declared it, and I feel it has marked something terrible.

Canterlot is odd without Raven, and odder still with Sombra. I dislike this greatly, for I still cannot fully understand this stallion. His private finances must be truly a strange sight, for he frequently orders artifacts and mechanical things to be holed away in his study. I greatly suspect he hoards some of these things within his god's world, something that is absolutely unheard of beyond my Dissy's mess of this and that within his own, but I can think of little else to keep frighteningly organized, mad arrangements of everything from airship parts to crystal balls and scrying stones. Unfortunately, I can only say that I can discern little else of his purchases. It is simply that I can't imagine where he has such a steady cycle of funds that would be needed to fuel his insanity so well. He may be an eccentric tinker, but he is not one who can exist in multiple locations, can he? That simply cannot be within his power, and he is no changeling queen, who rules over nearly thoughtless drones with an inherited hivemind.

Any theory of yours would be one I like to know, yet this is not why I write to you. I write to you to discuss the news of... drama, silly drama within the castle surrounding two ponies, and the tiny trifles about these discoveries.

The first is that I learned somepony I am aware of is asexual, or so I learned recently. This likely sounds simple, but I have no experience and little knowledge on the matter, other than simply knowing what it was. I have not personally known anypony who was asexual before, and I am not sure this has ever explained all of their behaviors properly. If you have any words or particularly helpful books in your library, it would be a pleasure to be able to borrow one. I try to think of anypony I have known to be so, I can think of absolutely nopony and no creature, or at least, none that I ever suspected or knew for certain. I have never been involved in anything related such as this in all my years of ruling Equestria; it simply is not a subject that comes up. And of the many friends I have had over centuries, there was none who could relate such an experience to me, or had this condition, so I am vastly inexperienced with it.

The second is an issue much more within your experience as a princess and a friend. You see, a silly foal's trifle has occurred recently... and I have been encouraged to befriend a pony who is without a particularly good reputation, and a few foul antisocial behaviors. I am not sure if it would simply be appropriate for me to be an insincere 'friend' and keep their company, for an insincere companion is better than none at all, or if it would be best to actually attempt to be genuinely kind with them, as opposed to merely civil. What I know of this pony isn't pleasant, nor are they, and I know and can say safely that this pony is one of the few who is absolutely undeserving of any friendship, something I know that you will understand. However, somepony who matters immensely to me will be devastated if I do not put forth an effort to be more tolerant of this pony. It would feel wrong to befriend this pony, but if it hurts somepony I care for, should I still try? None of my meditations over tea have made this choice any easier, and as always I simply seek to do what is good.

Sincerely,

H.R.H. Princess Celestia

...

Dear Princess Celestia,

Things in Ponyville have been going great. I can't wait for this year's Winter Wrap Up, and I'm still looking through letters from the Palooza. It's great to see how many little colts and fillies are interested in friendship, and I still get many about my adventures, but that's in the past. Lately, the most adventurous thing that I have been happening with me is trying to raise two foals. Okay, maybe that's not true. I've had to keep some tourists away from the Everfree Forest, and a couple of little fillies searching for herbs got too close to the outskirts and were almost attacked by timberwolves. Thankfully, nopony was hurt, but Fluttershy says she's been seeing more will-o'-wisps collecting around the outskirts lately as well.

Rarity and I went to a wonderful local spot for a fantastic dinner on Hearts and Hooves Day. I got many compliments about the new blonde streak that's showing up in my mane; it seems to be an emerging sign of some lingering magical imprint that's no longer latent, and clearly leftover from when my friends and I used the Rainbow of Light against Tirek.

I've never really understood how the Elements of Harmony work, and lately I've dealt with them directly less and less, simply going where the map has been telling my friends and me. Last week we had to work out land agreements with the buffalo tribes. Appleloosa certainly isn't the only frontier town with problems, but lately, they've been an example of friendship I think others could learn from.

I can't imagine Gallant with a fillyfriend or a coltfriend already! He's far too young! Instead, he's been going on non-stop about this and that about the Royal Guard even more than normal, and all the stories Shining Armor has been telling him all the tall tales of the EUP. Now he thinks he's a grand hero and can run around the town going on 'adventures' just like a grown stallion can. I always hope that he won't want to go on real ones, these ones are problematic enough.

Stella has been a mess of questions lately now that she's really gotten used to being in grade school. I'm so proud she was able to skip kindergarten! Cheerilee finds her to be such a well-behaved filly, compared to some of her peers. Because of my rigorous tutoring, she's never turned in homework that's less than perfect! Isn't that just fantastic? She's been using her mandatory after-school study hours so productively, I can't help but skip about with glee! To have such a studious daughter is something to beam about, no matter how many times she comes home with her blouses muddy and torn from recess, now that she's finally graduated kindergarten. That has been a bit of a problem.

Her mom goes through such a hard time making sure her clothes are respectable (and trendy for a foal) and she gets paint and food all over them, and dirt from playing outside. I have to keep giving her Lecture #27 — Just Because the Other Foals Don't Wear the Nice Things You Have Does Not Mean You get to Ruin Them, mixed in with a bit of the classic Number #8 Set an Example for Others, since she's a little filly, not a ruffian. As an adult, these things will have sculpted her into a model citizen, if Rarity doesn't have to scrub paint out of plaid skirts every other day.

Maybe when she gets to the grade level that Cheerilee teaches, I can trust that some of her habits will be straightened out. Even though I may be a demigod, she's the real miracle worker.

Having Spike around would have made things much better, even if he just rolled his eyes and said I was having a 'Twilight moment'. He's still such a young drake, and I can't help but be worried about him as he follows the dragon sightings and migrations of Equestria, looking to find his way, because he'll still always be my little brother. He writes often, sends presents and postcards, but Stella and Gal loved having their Uncle Spike around the castle. I loved having him around the castle. Now, sometimes I'm forgetting to write grocery lists. Hayburger dinners are going to my hips, and Rarity will never let me wear mom jeans!

Gods, I never realized how lucky ponies are, having pants as an option and not a requirement for our species. I would be doomed, since this household has a 'no-fashion crimes' policy.

I think I'm lucky Spike is a gem-eating ground dragon, too. An omnivore he may be, but if he was a winged breed, I can't imagine all the trouble he'd be getting into right now. I keep flipping through the limited bestiaries in the library here, scanning for anything about dragons that would be helpful to write to Spike about, as well as making sure he's still polishing his scales and filing his talons. There's such a limited amount in the books, but with how nomadic dragons tend to be, and potentially dangerous to ponies, I still don't blame anypony for not researching them. I certainly wouldn't want to, and I still know more about dragons than most.

All these things take less and less time away from magical pursuits. Motherhood, princesshood, and being a demigoddess... and everything, really, means so much more than old experiments and sorcery. I like getting to see Ponyville foals smile at Twilight Time more than I want to be reading scroll after scroll of magical theory any more. I definitely don't want to step near any more political theory than I've already been saddled with, especially not if it will take away from time with Rarity, Gallant, and Stella.

I'll always be introverted, princess, and very much so, and I love curling up with a good book — or a stack of them — just as much as I have before. But now, I found out can't be the student I was... and it feels strange. It's like every day I fix a nutritious, perfectly balanced meal instead of delving into the arcane arts, I'm losing something I don't know how to describe. I write about interpersonal relationships and what I've learned in Ponyville more than I'll ever do so about the truest of techno-magical advancements and raw, academic topics of magehood. Yet, it's a trade I'm more than happy to make, even if sometimes I think I feel something in me that's empty, I'm always too busy, or ignoring it, or anything.

But it worries me that the void where Equestria's intellectual voice should be isn't filled by me any longer... I hear about Sombra's work. Like the scepter and orb that mark royalty, he's held the attention of too many ponies as he writes of subjects of magic and philosophy. I can't stand it. The 'existentialism' that has no place in an optimistic land like Equestria is abhorrent, and so much more is...

Aren't the things that he writes getting a teeny bit close to being heresy? At this point, I'm just really surprised that nothing he writes has landed his whole works on the Solar Index.

Oh, I apologize, princess. I started scribbling away with my quill so ferociously that I let myself get carried away by my own thoughts instead of minding the purpose of my letter.

It is always good to hear that you are doing good. I can't imagine a day when you're unhappy. One of the things that inspires me as a princess is your tireless work to be upbeat and do what's good, and how good it feels to be around you. You're such a happy, extroverted pony, and I can only be one of those things. I still want to be just like you, and make the choices you make. I feel that by following your example, and your heroics, Equestria can be a better place.

On the subject of the two ponies you mentioned, I think I can help! I learned a lot about asexuality through Rainbow Dash, who has been a great friend in teaching me about it — as well as flight magic. Since she's asexual herself, she has been able to give me a lot of interesting information that I hadn't been able to glean from any books in Golden Oaks or my castle library. I may never understand it as personally as I could, but I know that it isn't really a 'condition'. Rainbow was who she was, just like I am how I am. What it means is that somepony has no physical attraction to anypony — and yes, that's hard to imagine for anypony who isn't asexual — and not because of any pre-existing medical problems or conditions, such as a pony who previously wasn't asexual now starting to seem different. If that's the case with your friend, then he or she might have a medical problem.

If that's not the case, your friend is just asexual. He or she is still might feel romantic attraction, but Rainbow doesn't. She always talks about it as feeling passionate about other things, like flying and being in the Wonderbolts reserve instead of pursuing a relationship or even thinking about one. Many asexual ponies — they're often called 'aces' — can find it very hard to be in relationships according to all the books I've read and what Cadance has told me. I can understand why, because many choose to forgo physical intimacy, since it's not something they can feel the desire for. Personally, I don't think I would get along with an asexual partner, but I could always use some more friends!

While I don't have any books specifically on asexuality, I do have some that have entire chapters devoted to it, and will happily send some via dragon-fire, since it works best for larger packages.

Ponyville has so much change on the horizon, and not just spring. Many familiar faces are leaving, and there are new things around the town. The first troop of the Royal Guard ever to be stationed in Ponyville received a warm welcome, and the schoolhouse is seeking more teachers. Now that Applejack has moved to the Crystal Empire and is managing Crystal Apple Acres, it's still hard to remember that she's not down in Ponyville, bucking apples over at Sweet Apple Acres or selling her family's wares in the market. With Apple Bloom and Sweetie heading off to school in Manehattan as fillyfriends and fellow Crusaders, only Scootaroll will be left living in Ponyville.

Big Mac is now the head of the family, with Granny Smith's health becoming increasingly... notable. She's retired to an easy life to let her son and daughter-in-law manage the farm, and their colt is an absolute pleasure at Twilight Time. Mac and Fluttershy have been thinking about officially combining their properties so that the Acres has well, more acres, and an amazing nature preserve as well. I'm absolutely thrilled at the possibility!

Rainbow has been traveling a lot more lately, with Reserve shows taking priority over Ponyville. If she continues to work hard and succeed at her shows, she really has such a great chance of becoming an official Wonderbolt! I still miss having her napping on clouds around town.

I have opened my castle library to Ponyville's public entirely, and am more focused on obtaining reading materials that the community would find optimal than personal projects. I may miss everypony who isn't here, but I don't have to bear quiet times; there are too many other lives to be involved in as a princess and a mother that I really don't think I should be focusing on my own. Plenty of friends still live in Ponyville. Cheerilee, Pinkie Pie, Zecora, the Cakes, Lyra and her wife are all still here. I have so many friends to write to, and newer friends that there's really no point in missing the old ones, no matter how much closer they are to me.

My cutie mark is the Spark of Magic, and will always be the Spark of Magic just as yours will always be the sun, but sometimes I like to think that they are stars. Wouldn't that be something if they were? I mean, you, Luna, and I are a bit of a perfect trio, in a way: sun, moon, and stars. All my friends are like stars, they may not be as close to me anymore, but we still share the same sky. I don't think they would like it if I was wasting stray, unorganized thoughts on them when I can just look forward to visits and letters instead.

There are rare times, if I'm not exhausted or busy, when I still remember to stargaze for a for moments. I see Nova's Tree too, and think often about how abnormal it is, and the starry purple branches and truck splatter Princess Luna's night. I know that you said Luna told you it was called Nova's Tree, but you never told me anything of its magical nature, and a projection like that is undoubtedly magical. No reports from astronomers or weather crews have reported anything on it beyond confirming it to be from some great divine magic and having originated somewhere very remote around the Barren Sea, in the year that Luna and Sombra disappeared together. As a goddess yourself, do you have anything to tell me about it?

Your Hearth's Warming presents have really been useful too, so thank you again for the calendars and bookmarks. Rarity and I hope that you are making good use of the wineglasses that we got you! Did Princess Luna like the necklace I sent her? What did she say when she opened it? She didn't say anything to me the last time I saw her, but I'm sure she was listening, since she's just such a quiet pony. It's very hard to say anything to her that isn't at our Princess gatherings or for any official events, and I'm sure that isn't her attention, since we are friends. Healthy communication between friends is important, and it does seem like she's still considerably unaware of how to properly manage relationships and what are normal social cues.

About the second pony you mentioned, the antisocial one that you are meant to befriend, I would certainly call this a problem fit for a princess like myself. I think what you should do is go to your other friend, who has asked you to do this, and tell them that their desire to spread friendship is understood, but they are not going about it the right way. As you said, the pony that was discussed is one of the few who manages to be undeserving of friendship, like a villain is... or somepony equally warped and monstrous. This is something that you taught me and I never reflected on it until I stood in front of those who didn't.

I fought Tirek as best as I could when I was given the magic of you, Cadance, and Luna. Though I could not manage it with the skill you could and put it to its full potential because of how unskilled I am with powers great and foreign, and I saw him. I saw how heartless he is, and that he will not get friendship, forgiveness, redemption, and anything he never deserves. He will spend eternity imprisoned and alone for his unspeakable crimes. Chrysalis is another being of evil I have tackled with, who kidnapped Cadance and did unspeakable things, like mind control and worse, to my own brother. I am relieved to know that she has ended up in Tartarus, her soul tormented for all eternity, knowing she lost to good and love and spent the rest of her life trying knowing she led to the death of her own hive.

I think of Sombra, but only with great difficulty. I still have nightmares about shadowed bookshelves in a place I do not know from time to time, and I feel that he has something to do with him. I'm afraid of him, princess. He's powerful and terrible. Being with him in the Arctic that one time, cut off from everypony I loved and played like a piano by an evil maestro's evil schemes was a trying, frightening experience. But I know that he is evil, and that all of them are. Among all the good ponies that I am now princess of too, I know that there are those who are evil, and that this is Equestria, and evil never wins. It's such a disgusting way to be, and it is doomed. This is Equestria, and it is a good place and my home. To be evil is to be wrong; it is to be cruel, sadistic, arrogant, selfish, stubborn, cynical, blunt, crude, pessimistic, cold, antisocial, wicked, scheming, solitary, abnormal, dark, insane, abusive, miserable, outspoken, resistant, untouchable, unbelievable, undeserving, mocking, withdrawn, and a whole landslide of descriptors that are ultimately wrong. Nothing can be won like this.

I know that something has or has yet to befall everypony above, and that it will. I know that you have spent so much time, more time than I'll ever be alive, trying to rectify, purge, and perfect this. So, thank you, princess. You deserve it so much! Anypony who sits down and wonders why Equestria is such a good, optimistic place should know that they have you to thank. Maybe one day they'll thank me, too!

Your friend should realize this too. I don't believe in no-win situations. They absolutely do not, cannot, and will not happen. Your friend is not being a good friend by asking you to do this, and making you of all ponies fit into the 'lose' when only the other two will gain anything. That's selfish and unacceptable. No-win situations are not wheels that crush good ponies, they simply don't exist, so you should not be cast under it. They can't ask this of you, when here you have written to me that you know what is right, and offering friendship towards this pony is the wrong choice. You may be his or her friend, but you're still Princess Celestia, and they cannot order and request these kinds of things of you. Are they blind to how your duties are more important than their single desire, that you've always acted as an example to everypony and can't waste something undeserved on a bad pony?

Princess, you don't need this pressure and I'm sorry that somepony decided to dump it on you. You need to talk with your friend about what it means to be true and kind. If a minor conflict between you, the bad pony, and your friend happened, it should not be your responsibility to be held accountable for something that clearly wasn't your fault, but instead, somepony else's. You should ignore the pony who is at fault, because as you said, they aren't deserving of your attention.

May things turn out well for you, and as always, I eagerly await your next letter!

Sincerely,

Twilight Sparkle

...

My Dearest Twilight,

Hearing such good is happening in Ponyville makes me smile as I read it. Seeing you learn about the changes time can bring firsthoof is a valuable one to learn as the path you and your friends and subjects take, now that Harmony has been restored and the period of turmoil that opened this millennium has begun to know. I dread any more escaped prisoners of Tartarus, nation-shaking events, and adventurous upheaval. It seems as though recently somepony thought Equestria was like a tree they could simply uproot, shaking dirt that was better left where it was upon my little ponies.

I see that you have been finding that life is winding into a hazy, normal stretch. To never have much to worry about than what type of tea to have on each occasion. Raven and I have been having more than a few exciting games of chess, and I think that is all the excitement I shall ever need: the muffled shuffling of pawns and the warmth of sunshine, this coming spring.

I do not know of Luna wearing a necklace, nor did I see any package from you. Luna has made alterations to her regalia's necklace so that the moon on it is inlaid with her wedding ring, which is certainly a highly nontraditional display, to for both partners to openly wear such bands for so long is unheard of, as far as my memory knows. She told me that her Hearth's Warming gifts were airship models from myself, an exquisite custom snow globe from Cadance and her family, a new sword from Sombra. The last one is something I find to be a gruesome and highly inappropriate gift for any occasion. Regardless of how she loved it, such a thing is not right. Still, beyond these ones, I saw no others. Outside of personal gifts, she received a fine amount from our subjects, and many donations to foal's mental health organizations were made with her name invoked by the donors as their inspiration for such charity. Yet, in all this, I cannot imagine where your necklace is. Could you please describe it for me, and I shall see where it might be found? I certainly hope it isn't lost.

Sombra proves difficult, sadly. He is a stone among marbles, and I find even his appearance to be rough. He overflows with ideas, and I wish he would mind the behaviors of others, muting himself and flowing into the status quo. He has recently enjoyed participating in events around the castle, but he cannot do as others do. For the Princess Pen Pal Palooza, he an outrageous and unneeded letterbox. Still, despite all the difficulty I have with him, may he absolutely adore the furniture polish I gifted to him this past Hearth's Warming.

And I'm afraid he is still a subject I must discuss further with you. Twilight, the two ponies that I mentioned as 'friends' were not those I can simply give a reminder of my rightful rule by saying that I cannot be expected to deal with these particular troubles at their level when my greater priority is the safety of my subjects overall. These are those who are closer to me in a greater degree, and I know that the outcome of my choice would impact Equestria by how it impacts them.

The asexual pony I mentioned was Luna. I fear my relationship with her has always been complicated, and ask you to never inquire into an explanation on that statement, instead, be content with what you already know. It is wrong of me to lavish such unneeded complaint with this subject when there are always more pressing issues, but Sombra is like a wedge between Luna and I. Or maybe there was already one there, I do not know. Her newfound asexuality is just a pebble on the mountain of things about her I cannot fathom. Though, perhaps I do not know as much about the topic as I should, regardless of how unrelated it is to any of my fields of expertise.

You see, I thought that Luna taking an interest in a stallion — even a terrible one — could have been a sign that she and I would be able to gossip so on the subject, or engage in some sisterly ribbing. Instead, there is a distance I know but cannot name between us, and she is apathetic to my attempts at jokes.

I've also always regretted that Luna wed a stallion she knew for two years. Such hastiness, don't you think? Forget his identity, she had eternity ahead of her to lose her heart to stallions. But instead, she picks the first one she fancies, as though something about them is eternal, other than their lifespan. It's such a shame, because you see, she still has so much to experience, as I certainly did. Regardless of this unexpected revelation, I will not refuse her support for who she is, I only am unsure how to give it to her.

At least before she confessed her orientation to me, I was able to guess what fueled their peculiar arrangement, now I am uncertain why it is that they are together. I felt that was the most acceptable conclusion to have as to why their courtship was quite short and Luna never sought my blessing for her union. Could she not have sought her sister for advice about which sort of stallion is a keeper? Did she truly fear that nopony would love her and snatch up the first stallion who seemed to? With this new information available to me, I find it more likely that they are much more like friends than anything else, because wedding a supposed partner she cannot even feel attracted to makes that possibility seem more clear than ever.

Twilight, as the mare closest to Luna, and the one who has always tried to be there for her, I always have lingering worry about my little sister. It is a burden that never leaves me, and I mourn knowing of her inner demons, and the apparent insecurities that sculpt her relationship with the one she calls her husband. Do you think that I am wrong to do so, when even talking to her causes my doubt to be nurtured?

I do not think I should say any more on this particular matter, and I already regret writing it. Twilight, I do not know who else but you it is that I can confide in, even if I do not enjoy revealing such needlessly negative things when our letters are so filled with positivity and real problems. I greatly apologize for spilling such much ill ramblings and gross imperfections within this letter. My quill flies ahead of my mind, and though I nearly wish to scrap the whole thing at this point, sunset draws near and tomorrow shall be busier than usual. I would rather write something to you than nothing at all.

Sombra is not the problem in this, which is astounding, for he is to blame for most things. Or, he is not the kind of problem you think of, but an insect upon the foul spider web that I find my poor self entangled in. Ech!

You see, Luna and I... we had a fight. Or perhaps a few. I can't quite call this a tiff. The subject of it was Sombra, and you know how I loathe him more than you could ever fear him. She made it clear I am to treat him differently. It's a radically unfair request.

What I want more than anything right now is change. Equestria is built on positive change, and lately, there have been too many negative surprises with the whole dour affair of Sombra & Luna. I have always taught you that change is a great thing, and for things to endure as they are reeks of stagnation, and I feel that is no different here.

So, I really am not left with any choice beyond two options, I am sure you realize that. Is it not so great a thing that when things matter most, and the greatest of our choices are to be made, we are left with absolutes at the end of all things? I too, am not immune to this.

But Twilight, I want to make the choice that will bring about the most good for all.

If you have anything to share, I await it eagerly.

Sincerely,

H.R.H. Princess Celestia

...

Dear Princess Celestia,

I found myself in disbelief as I read through many parts of this letter. To hear that Luna is fighting with you and causing you problems is terrible. This is definitely beyond a friendship problem, or anything I could figure out. Yikes! You and she really are as different as night and day, I think. It makes me think about how lucky I am to have a sibling I can get along with and find shared interests in, instead of one who is different. One of the most common problems young ponies write to me about is family problems, and mostly with siblings. None of them are at this level. Plus, asking for family blessings for spousal choices is something that's so common in Equestria! I don't understand why Luna thought that this should be a surprise.

Hearing that Luna is asexual is a shock. In previous years, you told me that she was having a hard time coming out as a lesbian, and needed ponies to be there for her. You helped set us off on what was supposed to be a fantastic date when Rarity and I went through a break-up period years ago, and always encouraged me to pursue her. Hearing that she told you this does feel a bit like taking a horseshoe to the face, and it came out of nowhere. Your letters to me are always so cheery, but I still feel sour from the previous one.

Things about how I've felt towards Luna are so complicated, Princess. With Rarity being the romantic, I still have to borrow some of the clichés from her romance novels now and then, when my own voice of reason fails me. To use one, Luna has always been the one who got away for me. I shouldn't be writing about her, not like this. That's the subject for another letter, but I still think about how before she became Sombra's wife, and they were dating, he never used to come by the castle. I'm sure you forbade him from doing so, and that always was a good choice. It made me feel safe, too.

But before then, I used to think about how you had me over for tea and treats, and we would sit across one another at a table and talk one another's ear off, while Luna sat between us, but with enough space separating us to make her feel so alien. She always looked liked she was dragged to each tea time, but I always chalked that up to her being rude. She would look absolutely and impolitely bored as you told me about Discord and I talked to you about Rarity. When subjects turned to your friends or my friends, we laughed and continued to talk and she frowned, I think, the few times I looked aside to her, when I did. I loved sneaking glances at her because if I squint past the imperfections of character, she's quite the beautiful mare. Rejection can't wash away that, because as a princess, I feel that sometimes I am taunted with the company of her, even if she's cold. Sometimes, I just had to look.

(I used to think I could be the one to melt all that gloom away, and pull the real her out of the ice and that we could have a Luna without darkness and moods, and she would be like you: light and happy.)

She looked so bored, and barely got a word in. You and I were lucky that we were able to turn the conversation away from Sombra whenever she tried to mention him and join in. That was always cause for an internal sigh of relief, wasn't it? When Cady came by, having to listen to her want to hear about Sombra and manage to draw a few words out of Luna about him when it came to significant other talk was hard to sit through. I know it was for you too; I saw it in the slight way you set her jaw. Before Sombra, I realized that she never used to talk at all.

I may be an egghead, too, but I can at least participate in mare talk, even if you and Cady are the queens of that, and Rarity too. Luna just couldn't manage at all. She kept trying to talk about airships or something, didn't she? I forget. I do remember even after Sombra that she was apathetic or non-responsive to a lot of innuendo and gossip, but after so many years and fun times being with you and Cadance, I forget if she had any other reactions because I wasn't always paying attention. We were four mares, and three of us had a blast.

I think that when Luna says anything at all to me, it is a shock. She has that effect, because she is still as unfamiliar to me as the first and only Nightmare Night I saw her. My words fail me around her, and I can only say things are complicated.

Things with her are clearly complicated for you too, princess. Though, for different reasons. I'm sorry for rambling, but you said it yourself: the quill flies. Our letters have always been personal, I don't think I could forgo that just for one.

I don't know how deep Luna's problems are, not anymore. You make her sound so miserable and unhappy. I'm reminded of when Shiny went off to military school. All his letters came back telling us how much he missed us, and that other than being, well, a magical prodigy he felt like he didn't fit in with the other colts his age. So, he was homesick and he didn't have any friends, while I was anxious and lonely. My father noticed just how much I missed him, and the whole family knew how bad things were seeming for my BBBFF at first that my dad knew he had to teach us a lesson.

That lesson was to 'fake it until we made it'. It sounded cheesy and dumb at first, but he explained to us what he meant. For Shiny, it meant that he would salute as the other colts did, and march as they did. Everything they did to fit in, and the body language they would use, he would too. For me, it meant I had to stay busy and pretend I wasn't lonely or sad that my big brother was gone so that one day, I wouldn't have to pretend I wasn't having a bad day, because I would be having a good one. It worked, too! Shiny found friends at school that loved sports and joking around just as much as he did, and I started having really good days again.

What you should do for Luna and yourself is similar. Keep trying to have a good day when you think you might be having a bad one by telling yourself that you are. What you need is for Luna to talk to you, so instead of always trying to understand somepony who is so purposefully difficult, just pretend that you do, and she'll be talking to you more than ever in no time.

I think this could help you solve your big problem with Sombra, too. You don't actually have to be his friend, but instead, pretend you are. That way, Luna will be happy again, and you two won't have to be divided over him. If you had to choose between having a fake friend, or no friend at all, chose the fake friend. A fake friend is still a step above isolation and antisocial behavior, and it doesn't mean that they can't be a real friend one day. I know that in the case of Sombra, you wouldn't want him to ever be your actual friend, but for me, what comes to mind is my old study group from your school. I always knew that you assigned them to be my friends, and while I never considered them my friends at the time, or at least not real friends, they ended up becoming my real friends later in life. Even though we're nowhere nearly as close as I am with the girls here in Ponyville, I wouldn't trade them for the world.

I've been faking it until I made it a long time now, I think. When I 'smile and wave' like a princess in difficult situations, I don't really know what I'm doing. Leading Sombra on like that won't be any different, and it will be just as okay if you're doing it for a really good reason like this. I'm just trying for the best when it comes to appearances like that. When I fought Tirek with divine magic, all I knew to do was to be angry and to use what little combat I knew from the things Shiny taught me if I was to have any hope of protecting Equestria. I used to do it when Rarity was explaining her craft and designer culture to me, when I wasn't able to research everything at the moment, that way I could still be a considerate listener, even if I didn't know what she was talking about. I would eventually, and at the time I was being a good girlfriend. Now, I don't need to.

Faking things can help with my anxiety, too. Using Cady's relaxation technique doesn't help me right away all the time, but I can pretend it does. This probably sounds bad to somepony, but don't you think that we fake far more things than we let on? Or at least, most ponies do. The only ponies I know who would disagree with me are you and Applejack. I don't think that you would lie to me, or to anypony, Princess. At least, not without good reason. Applejack has moved away, and without her around, and with how duties and motherhood can pile up all at once sometimes, I've found myself faced with many opportunities where fake things can do, and at times even work far better than the truth.

Among friends and loved ones, I can think of a few reasons for any dishonesty, though you and Luna might have to be a special case. I wouldn't lie to my family or my friends. Sometimes, I have to lie to my foals or the foals at Twilight TIme and tell them that things are okay when they are absolutely not. There are so many everyday reasons to let a lie settle things instead, and a little white lie is like a bandage. When harm comes to Equestria, it's best to say that things are okay even when they are not. All the little reasons keep piling up.

Ponyville has its share of lies too. That is something I've come to learn during my time here. Maybe without Applejack and there being time to be idle on my hooves lately, it's no wonder the musings would strike me. I've been a bit of a lie detective, looking for them about the town.

Caramel finally worked up the amazing courage to come out to his family, and Pinkie threw him the biggest and most rainbow-decorated party. Now, he's finally looking for a coltfriend, and Big Mac and Fluttershy have been asking to borrow books on polyamory. It definitely doesn't take a Faithful Student to unravel what's going on there. Mayor Mare dyes her mane because she thinks it makes her look more mature. Pound Cake did in fact push his sister in a mud puddle last Thursday. Now that Diamond Tiara is all grown up, the Riches don't have to 'stay together' for her any longer. It was the first divorce I ever had to preside over, and as a married mare, it does make me feel uneasy having to go through that experience. I couldn't even bother to tell Rarity I was okay, even though I wasn't.

Maybe I think so much about lying lately because of Starswirl the Bearded. And adoption.

Adoption was the easy part of all this. Stella knows that my parents are Canterlot-born unicorns, and have been as far back as the Tribal Exodus and all through first Equestria. I can say that I come from a purebred line that only blurs as the bloodline stretches into the Tribelands, and the family history too. While this is impressive, it's not uncommon for families to exist without any intermarriage with the other races in certain cities. But it hardly means anything. Most ponies tend to marry into their race, as statistics have shown, even if most ponies are all a little mixed-race, there are just as many exceptions. The Cakes are honestly a wonderful example of the average Equestrian family — heavily mixed ancestry — though, with double the surprise!

It means something to Stella, though, because she knows that Rarity's parents are unicorns, and her family tree is mostly unicorns too.

She's a pegasus. She knows she's adopted, and at such a young age too. It's far sooner than I could have anticipated. One of the first assignments she had for school was learning about family, and cutting and pasting and making a mess of glue to assemble a family tree to hang up. Gallant had to do the same thing in kindergarten (and I still wish that I could have sent him to a magic kindergarten, but Ponyville is an earth pony town that is sorely lacking in one) and he put Rarity and me on his tree, even though he knew that two mares can't have a foal and he is, in fact, adopted as well.

But Stella keeps asking. She actually failed her assignment because she wanted pictures of her birth mother and father, and those were pictures I could not give, and I would not give them to her when she's this young. Both her and Gallant were to wait until they were older, then Rarity and I would tell them about their respective birth families. I ended up lying and telling her about closed adoption because I knew she was too young to remember either of her parents. I'm not about to have such a lovely young filly think that she wasn't wanted.

Gods, she's just far too young. How in the name of the heavens could I possibly tell a foal that the reason I have them is that somepony else didn't want them?

With the Starswirl predicament, it was worse. I've been having to tutor Gallant in magic myself because of the lack of any magical education resources in Ponyville that would be needed at his age or present beyond a certain level. He does show healthy development, but not the inborn talent I had at his age, or the self-taught skill that Rarity managed, but that is obviously expected. We were reading about famous figures in magic, right from a young reader's textbook and I saw him, right there: a white-coated, normal-tailed illustration of a familiar wizard in a belled cap. It only just occurred to me that it wasn't just in Gallant's book, but there was a little about this famous but mysterious stallion in my old junior spellbooks that Gallant was using too.

He wasn't a mystery to me. I knew about Starswirl. I knew that his coat was periwinkle, that his leonine tail indicated ancestry from the Prancian area that he would never have known about, that he was a horrible pony. I remember everything about that awful trip where I learned the truth, that Starswirl was not my hero, and how that made my heart break. I know that he did terrible things to you and Luna.

I don't want to write more of what he did.

When I saw him on that page, I was very good at pretending that I didn't see him. But Gallant asked about Starswirl, because he is a child and he finds his mother to be smart. Since my trip to the Arctic, and our conversation afterward about the real nature of the wizard, I had told nopony about Starswirl and what he was really like, even if it was the truth. It was such an ugly truth, and it goes against everything I ever knew about him. That last statement is so, so obvious, princess, but I can't ever shake it and I live with it every time the Starswirl the Bearded Traveling Museum comes to town, I hear his name in Canterlot, that a book in my library has it, and so much more. My breath catches, I feel a sudden sadness, and I just have to ask myself over and over: why?

When Gallant asked me what he was like, I found myself faced with the two absolute choices that you wrote to me about. I realized that this wasn't just a young foal asking me about a famous conjurer either, but my son looking to me for an important answer. I could tell the truth, or at least enough for a child to understand. I could turn history on its head gradually, simply by telling a young foal that history as he knew it was a lie, and it was built on the fragmented skeleton of evidence and artifacts that nopony knew how to put together.

Or, I could lie. Every young colt and filly would have their hero, no upheaval would occur, no light would be cast on anypony accusing them of lying, no abuse would be uncovered, and history would go unraveled. No domino would fall. And I did the latter. I told him the same things about Starswirl, most of which I learned from you when I was a filly. I told them he was a hero, and a good pony, and absolutely everything I knew before I ever set hoof in the Arctic.

I know now that I made the right choice because I had a duty as a mother and princess. The truth couldn't matter if the truth was downright awful. Bad ponies do not need to be remembered, no plague, or war, or anything terrible should ever get the spotlight like that. Equestria isn't a place about the negative, and its history is to be full of heroes. Starswirl doesn't exist so that the truth about him, and by extension the tribes and more, can be shown and everypony can know that things were awful, and so awful that they weren't things I would learn about. History and Starswirl exist to teach ponies, and that can't be done if anything tragic and dark is to be remembered.

Starswirl doesn't get to exist as an abusive and cruel stallion anymore, but as a tale of heroics, Harmony, and a positive example that matters more to ponies than any truth ever could. Awful ponies don't get to be remembered, or to be awful. Their memory is purged, and instead, each new generation gets examples of good ponies. Starswirl was a good pony, and now, he will always be a good pony. I will tell Stella this, and may Gallant tell this to his own foals. I want to tell my grandfoals and my great-great-great-great grandfoals that Starswirl was a good pony as well, and to see their eyes light up when I recount his heroics and efforts to contribute to the development of ponykind.

I think that I know why you did what you did now, Princess, when it comes to the problem of Starswirl. You didn't want ponies to know that such awful things were possible, and that the world could be a dark place, and so much more. It was a very wise choice, and thank you for showing me a side to history that renews my love for it.

In your previous letter, you wrote about 'ill ramblings' and 'gross imperfections'. None of that is true. You weren't ill and you didn't ramble. I always love to write to you and to get a letter from you, even if I no longer pen friendship reports. You have helped me change more than anypony else in my life. Without you, I wouldn't have met my friends, taken steps to become a princess, or be where I am today. Princess Celestia, you are a kind, amazing, fun, humble, bright, and the best and most flawless pony I have known, who I could always come to for advice and who has taught me great lessons that I use every day.

Don't let anypony think or call you imperfect.

Every day that goes by and I spend more time as a princess, I look to your example more and more. You are selfless, and I try to be. You are calm, and that gives an anxious pony like me something to aspire to. When I think about who knows how to make good choices and can be counted on to make them, I think of you. That's why I know you won't befriend Sombra because he hasn't been a friend to anypony. As a little filly, I wanted to be just like Starswirl. Now, I'd take almost anything else. Being Twilight Sparkle has its perks, but I've learned about imperfections, misery, and dark sides that lurk within ponies. I know that only you have none these.

I want to be just like you!

Sincerely,

Twilight Sparkle

P.S. How is Qilin doing? You rarely write about her, but Gallant and Stella are eager for a play date, and I'm trying to see who is going to be available soon.

Author's Note:

But before then, I used to think about how you had me over for tea and treats, and we would sit across one another at a table and talk one another's ear off, while Luna sat between us, but with enough space separating us to make her feel so alien. She always looked liked she was dragged to each tea time, but I always chalked that up to her being rude. She would look absolutely and impolitely bored as you told me about Discord and I talked to you about Rarity. When subjects turned to your friends or my friends, we laughed and continued to talk and she frowned, I think, the few times I looked aside to her, when I did. I loved sneaking glances at her because if I squint past the imperfections of character, she's quite the beautiful mare. Rejection can't wash away that, because as a princess, I feel that sometimes I am taunted with the company of her, even if she's cold. Sometimes, I just had to look.

[Revised for print on 12/12/2020]