• Published 14th Apr 2018
  • 2,806 Views, 236 Comments

Dear Faithful Student - Muramasa



Celestia has been alive for thousands upon thousands of years, and as a result, has had more than one student who have studied under her. When her long dead students appear in modern day Equestria in their youth, Twilight must discover why.

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CHAPTER ONE

CHAPTER ONE:
KINGDOM COME


Canterlot was my home.

Sure, I'd come to love Ponyville. I met my five best friends there, and learned so much about friendship and the power it has. I can still smell the Saturday Morning Market in the center of town, and the distinct aroma of every food, drink, pet, and handcrafted amenities blending together seamlessly in the heat. I can feel the grass beneath my hooves, every step sinking ever so slightly into the earth, and most vividly of all, I can see the sunset swallowing the farmland in a rural scene that has to be seen to be appreciated.

I loved Ponyville, but it wasn't my home.

It wasn't the cobbled streets I'd run up and down on when I'd chase my brother in a game of tag. It wasn't the towering buildings that I always felt safer under when I was a filly or the tsunami of ponies that would swallow me whole in the city's beating heart. I was born in Canterlot, I was raised in Canterlot, and whenever the universe finally tires of me, I'll probably be buried there, too.

It was nice to be back, and it was even nicer to be back with a pony who I know felt the very same way.

Sunset Shimmer had spent a very long time in the human world, but sometime last week, she'd decided she was ready to return. There was no fanfare for her arrival: no trumpets coursing through the great hall and no velvet carpet laid out across the floor. She arrived through the mirror today, and that was that. Celestia had long forgiven her for her crimes, though that didn't stop the both of them from tearing up.

"Twilight, can you pass the salt?" came a disembodied voice. My eyes jumped upward and my neck jolted to the left to see Sunset, a warm smile gracing her face from end to end. The actual sunset was just beginning to make its downward descent behind her, the light refracting off the window for its last precious moments.

"Uhh, yeah, sure. Sorry," I said, quickly using my magic to float the salt over to her. Sunset took it with ease, but not with a chuckle escaping her as she began to gently move the shaker across her hay fries.

"Spacing out there, Twi?" she asked, turning back to me. I sighed, feeling a slight grin escape the left side of my face as I replied.

"Yeah, just thinking about everything. I'm really glad to be back, and it's kinda surreal to see you here with us, you know? I'm really happy you're here." Celestia, sitting across from the two of us at the dining table, swallowed the food she was chewing before she nodded curtly.

"I am over the moon that you two are here. I thought I'd never see my faithful student again, and now to think I have two of my pupils here in front of me... " Now it appeared to be Celestia's turn to space out, and I watched her eyes get lost in the world around her. Celestia had a lot more to think about than me or Sunset, so I quickly spoke to snap her out of her hypnosis.

"So Sunset," I began, turning to face her. "I'm glad you're back, but if I may ask, what made you think it was time?" It was an obvious question, but it was one that, surprisingly, Sunset had yet to answer. She'd only just gotten here, of course, but I was curious to know, and by the way Celestia's eyes quickly snapped from their daze and were locked on to Sunset, I could tell that she was equally interested.

"This gonna sound really weird, but... I just kinda felt it. Like I had these weird feelings in my chest, and I suddenly didn't feel comfortable in the human world. I don't know if it was like, urgent or anything, but I just really felt like I needed to be back here. Does that makes sense?" I began to nod, and I saw Celestia mimicking me in the corner of my eye. She looked like she had something to say first, so I leaned back in my chair and let her say her peace.

"I think so," she began. "Home is where the heart is. You can be used to some place, and have lived there for quite some time, but you never really outgrow where you came from. I'm sure your heart was just pulling you here because you've been homesick since you turned a new leaf." I turned to Sunset to gauge her reaction, and though I could see just a hint of confusion still lingering in her eyes, she slowly began to bob her head as she looked out one of the massive windowpanes that surrounded us.

"Yeah, I... guess that's it," she said, hurriedly changing the subject. "Regardless, it feels so good to be back. Thank you so much for the dinner, Celestia, and for letting me have my own room back. I... didn't know you never touched it."

I found the hesitance in Sunset's voice rather strange, so I made a mental note of it and reminded myself to ask about it as soon as I was able; she wasn't entirely alone in her feelings. Regardless, I didn't come back to Canterlot to worry, so I took another bite of my hay fries before glancing up to see out the window wall facing towards me.

The sun was over halfway below the vine wall that made the border of the royal gardens of Canterlot, a slivering crescent the only part revealed. The sky was still lit a brilliant orange, however, giving the dining room that pleasant warm glow I remembered from my years studying under the Princess directly. It was beautiful, and at that moment, an idea materialized in my head.

"Do you guys want to take a walk in the gardens?" I asked, looking over at Sunset specifically. "I'm sure they aren't the same since you've been gone, and they really are beautiful. Luna's going to put the moon up soon, so we should go while we have the chance!" Celestia was smiling before I'd even finished the last sentence, and though Sunset began to open her mouth, Celestia didn't let a word escape it.

"I think that's a great idea, Twilight," she said. "Hang on, let me take off all my regalia really quick and then we'll head out." Celestia rose from her chair, the screeching noise from its movement extra audible on the tile floor, and exited the room, walking slowly but unable to conceal her excitement with an ever-so-slight spring in her step.

"Man, it's great to be back, huh? I know I've said it a billion times, but still," Sunset said, turning to me after she watched Celestia's last leg disappear behind the doorframe. I smiled back at her and nodded, leaning a little further back into my chair.

"Yeah, it really is... so, uh, about what you said earlier. About wanting to come here. There's something I need to tell you." Sunset turned towards me and cocked her head to the side in confusion, her eyes eyelids drawing in ever-so-slightly.

"What is it?" she asked. I looked up at her, and while I didn't know exactly what expression I had on my face, I knew I probably looked somewhat like Sunset did only moments ago.

"I feel the same way," I began. "It's... weird, isn't it? And like you said, it wasn't urgent or anything, and I suppose I really didn't have anything particularly important going on at the time, but I don't know. When Celestia told me you were coming, I definitely wanted to come see you, of course, so I jumped at the chance. I may just be paranoid, but I felt like there was something else, and with you saying all of this, I have this uneasy feeling... do you get what I'm saying?" I realized I was looking down at the table when I started to talk, so I looked back up at Sunset, who was already nodding her head.

"I don't know, Twilight," she told me, looking back at me with a suddenly stern countenance. It didn't last very long, however, because she immediately let out a frustrated sigh and looked at the ceiling. "You know, it really is probably nothing. We've both missed this place, and it probably just so happened that we wanted to visit at the same time. I'm sure it's nothing, yeah." Sunset beamed at me before taking her hoof and giving me a light shove. Her grin was infectious, and I couldn't help but match it.

"Hey," she said. "Let's just have fun, okay? I've always loved the gardens, you know. Whenever I was pissed at Celestia, I'd always run out there and pace around for hours. I wonder how it's changed."

"I think you'll still find it familiar," came a voice from behind us. I turned with a jump, and Celestia, sans any of her regalia, stood waiting in the doorway. Her mane seemed to flow much easier without the crown, and without the rest of her royal decor, her posture wasn't nearly so tight like she usually carried herself. She must not have heard us talking, as she currently wore one of the largest smiles I'd ever seen from her.

Or maybe she did hear, and she just wanted nothing to be wrong for once.

"Are we ready? We'll get to see it right while the sun is coming down, I'll make sure of it," she said, her hoofs moving ever so slightly in excitement. Sunset and I looked at each other, and I was certain we could see the twinkle in each other's eyes; this was something I knew we both needed.

"I think so," Sunset replied.


Every time I visit the gardens, I convince myself that they're never going to be as spectacular as they were the last time I visited them.

Every time, I'm wrong.

To call the gardens a maze would be technically incorrect, but it really did seem that way. To either side of anypony going through the gardens was a wall of green, somehow looking brighter than any plant or leaf I'd ever seen in my life. I've asked numerous times whether they were enhanced with magic: once to get the answer, and many more times because I simply didn't believe it. Across the green wall were sparse instances of exotic flowers from places all across the globe, from Saddle Arabia to Griffonia. The Royal Gardens were open once a year to the public, and everypony was allowed to take them home whenever they visited. Thus, the gardens typically remained new and fresh, and brilliant yellow flower speckled with blue I was currently looking at seemed as if it'd just bloomed yesterday.

Every few feet was a sculpture crafted every twenty years by an artist hoof-chosen by Celestia (and now Luna once again). It was a huge honor, and its results were quite incredible: sculptures dating as far back as ancient times graced the gardens, and their most recent addition was from a sculpture just two years ago, commemorating Luna's return to Equestria. We'd stopped to look at one that was crafted by a sculptor named Iron Shaper whose sculpture depicted Equestria's industrial revolution at about the time it happened, the piece a towering mix of gears and parts that, when assembled, created Celestia's cutie mark.

"Wow," whispered Sunset, admiring the gleaming metal creation. "Can you imagine? The world changing before your eyes?"

"I certainly couldn't," began Celestia from behind us. She was observing the sculpture as well, but there was a reminiscing glint in her eyes that neither Sunset nor I would likely ever understand.

"Really?" I asked her. "I'd think you'd seen plenty of crazy things by then." Celestia looked down from the sculpture back to us before shaking her head.

"As you know, the industrial revolution didn't come from the court. Our scientists and engineers certainly contributed, but it really came from the root of the citizens. This world is still dominated by the use of ponies' natural magic, to be certain, but back in those times, it was all anypony had. Once ponies began to create these contraptions and machines, I really had no idea what to do." She moved between us and approached the sculpture from another area, looking directly at its side.

"I was very hesitant to the changes," she began. "What was lifetimes to the ponies of Equestria were merely blinks of an eye to me. It was happening so fast... production had changed forever, medicine was advancing and our world was bathed in coal. There were a few members of our court that warmed me to the process, though," she turned to us, probably seeing both our eyes locked upon her intently.

"Wow," I said, mimicking Sunset's exclamation moments earlier. "I've asked you about a lot of Equestrian history, but never anything about its industrialization. We should have a talk about that sometime." Celestia chuckled a little bit, and I couldn't help but smile back at her: I knew I'd said that very same phrase about a thousand different topics.

"We will, Twilight. I promise. Sunset, do you remember this part over here? One time we were walking through and--" her voice immediately became washed out in a sea of steps, and we all turned around to see four guards come to a screeching halt. Celestia had explained to her personal guard, dubbed the Sunspears, that we were going for a walk in the gardens and to only interrupt us if there was an emergency, which meant that whatever they were about to say must have been important.

"Princess, there's an intruder in the castle! She just walked into the throne room, but we have her surrounded. She is not being hostile, but we've been unable to aprehend her. She's a unicorn, and she's countered all of our binding spells." Celestia's worried expression immediately flipped to a stone cold glare as she addressed the group.

"Have you notified my sister? And what has this mare said?" The guard, clearly nervous and not expecting anything out of the sort to occur on such a quiet evening, stammered the words out immediately.

"We have, Princess, and she's coming down now, though I am certain we'll get there first. The mare has refused to speak, though the one thing she said was that you knew her." Princess Celestia has already begun walking, and Sunset and I hurridly quickened our pace to meet her. The gardens which had seemed so beautiful and serene only moments ago, now felt uncomfortably claustrophobic, as I didn't want to be in any sort of maze when something appeared to be seriously wrong.

"There's one more thing, Princess," said the guard, his armor awkwardly clanking as Celestia's steps began to hasten slightly faster. "Her voice... it was strange. A bit like Princess Luna's, but a little different." With those words, Celestia's face gently twisted in confusion, and her voice was tinged with curiosity as we rounded a corner of the garden.

"Well, Luna's accent is still Canterlotian from when she was banished a thousand years ago," she mentioned. "But that doesn't make any sense..."

Sunset tapped me on the shoulder as we rounded another corner and began to make our way to the back of the palace where we entered the gardens. She had a worried look plastered all over her face, though she was engaged in her best effort to hide it.

"What do you think this is? Sounds like it actually might be serious," she said. It was tough to concentrate on anything but walking with the pace Celestia and her guards were moving, but I managed to get a side glance at Sunset before I answered her.

"I have no idea," I began, "But a binding spell isn't easy to counter, and especially one coming from the Sunspears. The version they cast is made specifically for apprehending magical beings, so whoever this is, they aren't just a mare from the street." The words did nothing to assure Sunset, who's mouth twisted slightly in frustration as she turned her head to the side.

"I just wanted everything to be normal today," she muttered as we passed through the doorframe and the cold palace air assaulted us all at once. I couldn't help but laugh at that, as ever since I became a Princess, I began to miss those days in Golden Oaks where I could kick back and read a book more than anything in the world. Sunset let out a chuckle as well at my reaction, though I had a feeling hers was more to alleviate some stress she had built up since the guards came to meet us.

We were getting close to the throne room now. I could feel the maroon velvet carpet suddenly take its place under my hooves, and the hallways I had often wondered when I was a student were all too familiar. The royal palace was a relic in itself that first began its construction shortly before Luna had been banished, and with the passing ages had only become more modernized and beautiful. It hadn't changed all too much since I first saw it as a filly, save for some of the art pieces and updated tapestries, but it managed to dazzle me every time I visited.

"Here we go," I heard Sunset mutter beside me. I snapped out of my trace and looked ahead, and sure enough, we were here: the throne room of the palace. It was where Celestia sat and watched her kingdom and where Nightmare Moon floated gently above the ground and declared the night would last forever. It was where history, for generation upon generation, had been forged.

I sincerely hoped whoever was waiting in the throne room would not add to its pages.

When we emerged through the ornate doorframe, the scene became apparent rather quickly. The Sunspears, with the stained glass light glistening perfectly off their golden armor, had something surrounded in the dead middle of the throne room. Luna had not made it here yet, as she had to come all the way down from the top of the palace. I crept up on my hooves in an attempt to get a closer look, but it was all in vain, as I couldn't quite make out the figure they were surrounding. A quick brush on my back gave me the indication that Sunset was attempting to do the same, but Celestia made sure we wouldn't have to wait for long.

"CLEAR!" shouted Celestia, her voice booming with intensity. The Sunspears looked back at her nervously, but with a direct order from Celestia they scurried to the side.

The mystery mare in question, who had been finally revealed, had to be perhaps one of, if not the most beautiful mare I had ever seen. Her fur was dark black, but not quite dark enough to be unpleasant. Her mane and tail was a mix of purple and blue like Rarity's mane, but whereas Rarity's mane was more blue than purple, hers was far more purple than blue, and it was an electric purple that seemed to almost shine. Her manestyle was very similar to Fluttershy's, in which she wore the large majority of it on one side and wrapped the back of it around, but hers was pushed to her right instead, resting gently on her horn. Her eyes were perhaps the deepest blue I'd ever seen, perfectly muted yet shimmering in her gaze.

Her cutie mark, however, was the most important feature, as it beared a symbol I instantly recognized. Much like Starlight and myself, she had a star with a smaller white star behind it as the central theme of her mark, indicating that her talents lie in magic. Hers, as was every magic user who earned the mark, was slightly different than ours, however: her star was eight-pointed, and where I had more stars and Starlight had a ribbon, her star was accompanied by what appeared to be a bolt of magical energy piercing through its center.

"Celestia, I'd be careful," I said, turning to her. "She is clearly skilled in--"

When I saw her face, I stopped dead.

Her jaw was agape, looking as if it could fall to the floor at any moment. Her head was tilted back ever-so-slightly in a defensive position, but the biggest tell that something was wrong was in her eyes. Her pupils had constricted to resemble pinpricks, and her eyes were opened uncomfortably wide.

I had seen Celestia scared plenty of times, but this was something entirely different. She wasn't just horrified, she was downright shocked.

"Princess," said the mare. Her voice was gentle and soothing, but I could immediately understand what the guard said earlier. It was slightly reminiscent of Luna's accent, but the similarities were very small and it was unlike anything I'd ever heard before. I looked over to Celestia to see that she had taken a step back.

"You sound just like her," muttered Celestia in a half-whisper. I glanced over to Sunset, who, at the sight of a trembling Celestia, stepped out in front of her.

"Celestia, who is this? Why are you so afraid?" she asked. There was an edge to her voice, but even that couldn't mask the fact that Sunset was getting more and more frightened every time she looked at Celestia's face. Celestia appeared to be trying to form an answer, but the reply came from the mystery mare.

"I am called Violet," she said simply. "I am Celestia's apprentice... former apprentice, in truth."

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