• Published 14th Apr 2018
  • 4,187 Views, 373 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 TWO

CHAPTER TWO:
ÆREST
VIOLET


"Again."

How I loathed the word.

Moving was a chore beyond my means. Every inch of my being throbbed with a twinge that pierced me to my bones, and the dust rising from the ground and coursing through my lungs did naught to ease my suffering. The blazing heat would be soon over, I knew, but before I could escape this insufferable field, I needed to complete the task at hand.

Another bolt of magic coursed from the Princess, with a haste just slow enough that I could track it.

With all of my might, I channeled the deepest depths of my magic. I could feel my body violently rebel, begging I lie where I stand and sleep for eternity, but I simply could not allow such a thing: I would succeed. Seconds slowed to centuries as I could envision the bolt in front of me, and while I still held it within my sight, I expelled my energy headstrong to the projectile. With a terrible, beautiful impact, our magic collided, and the sheer force of my counter strike cleaved the bolt in twain.

Yes! I thought, internally relieved with jubilation. The bolt was one of eight I had conquered in a row, and with such precision, it was likely Celestia would finally acknowledge my mastery--

"Again."

I know not what my countenance was when I gazed up from the dust, but I could imagine the shock of my visage.

Suddenly, I felt an overwhelming pain course through my side, and I wailed to the sky as I fell to the earth. I made an attempt to recover with a start, but forsooth, my body would not allow it: I fell to the ground again before I finally pulled myself from the dust. When I looked to Celestia once more, her piercing gaze had intensified tenfold.

"Thou art unprepared even still?" she questioned, motioning to the wound she'd just inflicted. I tried all I could to hide my gritted teeth, but I even I knew 'twas not of any use.

"Have I not mastered this craft?" I asked. I could feel my voice rise beyond my power as I spoke. "Eight bolts thou hath fired and eight I hath cast away. I beseech thee, Celestia--"

"Mastered? If truly thou knew the spell as thou say, thou wouldst have countered that bolt as thy did the others," she interrupted. "And here thy stand with a gash in thy side. There is still work to be done. Again." I merely shook my head in denial at those words, and I could feel the wound smarting with every movement of my body.

"I shall not partake again. I refuse," I stated, looking back up to my mentor, whose stone face had yet to change. "I have done all thou hath required of me. We must still practice transfiguration and the night draws closer." I was in hopes my words would be enough to sway her, but the Princess appeared unmoved.

"We will continue until thou hast become proficient. Thou art not yet proficient, Violet. Again." I took a step forward now, facing down my mentor with a gaze of iron, but Celestia refused to yield as always, matching my glare with a calm ease.

"By what standards is proficient? Ten times? Twentyfold? How much longer must I pay penance?" That had done it: Celestia's lips began to curl into the glimpse of a sneer, and as she replied her voice rose furiously calm like the eye of a raging storm.

"By the standards of a Princess," she spat, leaning forward ever slightly. "Until it is naught but an afterthought in thy mind."

By the standards of a Princess.

Time and time again, Celestia had often compared me to her late sister. Whenever I would fail a charm or spell, she often commented on Luna's precision in the spell, rather than mine own. If I did not succeed at a drill, I was never told to keep going or that I had even done well in my shortcomings, but instead that it did not meet the benchmark her sister had so conveniently provided. Here, as in countless days past, I could not escape her sister's ghost.

I'd rather have heard "Again" a thousandfold over than that.

"I am not a Princess," I began. I found myself walking to the Celestia now like a sort of automation, but it troubled me not. I thought I saw a hint of worry begin to wash over her face, but at the moment, my adrenaline had surely muddled my thoughts.

"I am not immortal. I am not a replacement. I am not thy sister. I am not Luna," Celestia seemed uneasy now, and her gaze turned from my body to the top of my head. She took a step back, her eyes wide with shock and horror, and she stared back into my eyes with a plea.

"Violet," she said, almost in a whisper. I did not heed her words as I continued my creeping charge.

"I am not Luna," I said again, my voice louder with every step. I know not whether it was her or myself I was attempting to convince, but I continued nonetheless. The world around me twisted and turned, with only the Princess of the Sun clear in my vision; I began to feel faint, but I staved the weakness off as I advanced.

"Violet, thou must listen to me," said Celestia, her voice instilled with the confidence of a fleeing fox. She did not move any longer, however, and planted her hoofs firmly in the dust below her. It took but a few moments for me to reach her, and I pressed my snout to hers as I stared her in the eyes.

"I. AM. NOT. LUNA!"

I cannot remember how I spoke it. Conviction, anger, desperation: it could have been one, or two, or all of them. I can recollect, however, that as soon as I completed my outburst, I felt a charge release from my horn. It was powerful, to be certain, and with my head so close to the Princess, I had immediately feared for the worst when the bolt set to fly.

Suddenly, I felt the energy course through Celestia as well, and her own magic discharged mere moments after my own. I closed my eyes shut, awaiting an impact that would surely be the last of me.

It was an impact that would not come.

The dust took quite some time to settle, and I could feel it infiltrating my senses. I attempted to open my eyes, but I quickly learned of my mistake, and I backed away from Celestia as I began a fit of coughing. When the dust fell back to the earth, I was greeted with the sight of the Princess entirely unmoved, and while I expected a visage of anger and rage, I instead found worry and fear washed upon her face.

"Careful with thine emotions, Violet, they are connected to thy magic. Art thou in good health?" she asked, a soft inflection coursing through her voice. I should have liked to laugh at that, had my lungs allowed me; after the Tartarus she had put me through, she had the gall to be concerned. Once I finished my hacking I looked back to her, panting heavily from the rapid turn of events.

"Good health," I replied, slowly gaining back the air that had been stripped from my lungs. "I am in good health, yes. Perchance thy might have asked such a thing earlier when a bolt collided with my side." I knew not how much bite my words held, but Celestia no longer seemed interested in butting heads: she merely turned her gaze to the ground in surrender as she answered my words.

"Violet, I am sorry," she began. "But thou must remember to control thine emotions. Thy magic is directly connected--" I held a hoof to my face, indicating her words merely passed through me, and upon this gesture, Celestia halted her speech and began to listen intently.

"Prithee, spare me," I began. I knew now for sure that my words carried venom. "Day after day as we train, I assure myself that it will one day be different, that anon thou would realize I have no desire to replace thy sister." I turned at those words, as I felt I had not much else to say at the moment, and I began to walk back to the city's center. 'Twas a long walk, to be certain, but my mind needed clearing and time among the bustling streets of Canterlot would surely do it well.

"I shall be here again at daybreak on the morrow," I spoke, though I found my voice to be softer this time. I knew I would not stay angered at Celestia for long, but I would not back down from my feelings now. As I began to walk back to the city, I heard Celestia speak from behind.

"Would thou like to watch the sun fall? Thou hast yet to miss it."

I stopped my pace at those words. 'Twas true: I adored watching her put to rest the sun and raise the moon to the night sky, and I stood beside her every night to watch the event, trying and failing to count the stars that hung so gently in the void. Throughout our bickering, it always seemed as if it were the one thing that, at day's end, we could unite upon and put our quarrels to rest.

Not tonight.

"Leave it hanging in the sky," I replied, continuing my steps. "Mayhap then I shall be free of thy sister's shadow."


With every visit to Canterlot's hectic core, I always found myself thinking of home.

I was born in a very small hamlet called Hourton. There was nothing inherently special about it, other than its distinction of being located just south of the Crystal Mountains and Rainbow Falls. With its towering rock formations and close proximity to the mountains, mining was the main trade for the ponies of Hourton, and it is what my mother and father tirelessly devoted their life to in order to take care of me. When I came of age, they always said, I'd take up the pickaxe and join the ranks myself.

They never saw the day.

When Celestia swept me away from Hourton and declared me her new protégé, I knew not what to expect from the outside world as, quite understandably, I had never seen it. Equestria as I knew it had been the humid air and the desolate desert of my home, and thus when I first saw Canterlot I thought myself to be within what could only be described as a storybook.

News did not reach Hourton quick, as we were located in an isolated plain right on the edge of a neighboring kingdom we hardly interacted with, but I had heard whispers of Equestria's capital as I grew older in the village. None of it, however, prepared me for the sight when I first set hoof upon its expanse.

I remember stopping to look at every marketplace stall, as merchants from lands I'd never heard of sold wares I'd never seen. I remembered the fortified walls and the soldiers that stood atop them, their armor gleaming gold and their watchful eyes gleaming brighter still. I remembered the castle, how despite only just built only years ago seemed to tower over the rest of the city, watching over it much as Celestia watched over her subjects.

I remember feeling safe in a place I had only just arrived.

As I pranced through its charming streets now, I still felt safe in Canterlot. To be certain, pickpockets and conniving thieves ran abundant in Equestria's capital, but for an odd reason, this never deterred me. When I peered at the stark white walls and the castle looming over the city, I never felt a moment of danger, and that included this one. The sun was falling in the sky--Celestia had indeed commanded it to begin its slow march to oblivion--and soon the moon would rise.

Luna was up there, somewhere.

I began to round another corner in the city's maze when I felt a hoof brush against my side. It had been some time since a cutpurse had attempted to rummage through my bag, as the last pony to try such a thing did not leave unscathed, but I always remained prepared nonetheless. Violently I turned, igniting my horn as I did so to confront the thief.

"I give thee one choice--"

I was greeted instead with a pair of striking green eyes. The stallion's fur, mane and tail were a dark, rooted brown, and as soon as he grinned from ear to ear upon meeting my gaze I knew instantly the identity of the would be "thief".

"Slate, thou musn't keep startling me!" I exclaimed, my magic fading and a beam beginning to form. "Fortnights from now I may mistake thee for a cutpurse." Slate merely stepped backward and mockingly bowed, gazing into my eyes as he did so.

"M'lady, would a cutpurse look so striking?" I was never one for excessive laughter, though Slate was a master at his craft: I found the chuckling emerge from me beyond my means. After smugly reveling in his camaraderie as my laughter died down, he retracted from his bow and trotted over to me, planting a buss upon my forehead as he always did upon our greeting.

"I trust thy lesson with Celestia went well?" he inquired, looking back to me. I could not help but look away, and I could feel his gaze shift as he peered upon my reaction.

"I am afraid not," I began. "I traveled hither to free my mind. We quarreled, and I let my temper slip from me. I... I feel guilt for what I hath said." Slate nodded as I spoke.

"Did she compare thee to her sister anew?" he asked, his brow furrowing. I gave to him a gentle smile in return, informing him 'twas not quite the case.

"Not directly, no," I replied. "We were in training for a new counterspell, and I was struck in the side unwary. She remarked she held me to the standards of a Princess, and... I know not what came over me." Slate began to walk to the edge of the pathway, leading us astray from the crowd of pedestrians passing quickly by us before he replied.

"Violet, thou hast every right to be angered at her constant comparisons," he began. "But she holds thee to a high standard due to thou being of a high standard." I merely nodded at those words, though I could feel a red flush washing over me: no matter how many times Slate showered me with praise, I never took it without embarrassment.

"I know," I replied. "I just tire of it, Slate. I know how much she misses her sister, more than anything in this world, and I know I was not chosen to merely fill a void... I cannot help but feel this way occasionally. Am I a fool to think so?" Slate chuckled a bit at my words before gently resting a hoof upon my shoulder.

"No, Violet," he assured. "I understand. I believe if thou are to calmly assert this to Celestia, mayhap thee can repair thy differences." Slate looked up to the sky, which had noticeably dimmed during our conversation, and turned back to me with a devious twinkle in his eyes.

"I fear I must be off, as the stonemasons are to meet soon, but after thou hast spoken to the Princess--really spoken to her--" he began, "perhaps we can steal away to the barns once more? There may yet still be time for fun as the witching hour approaches." He delivered the last line with a suave only Slate could ever manage, and I found myself rolling my eyes as I looked back to him.

"I fear I cannot tonight, Slate," I began, playfully shoving him. "By the time Celestia and I are finished in our words, I fear it may be morning on the morrow at such a rate." Regardless, I began to eye him with the same flirtatious nature he exhibited towards me.

"However, were thou to wait by the barns tomorrow at midday, there is quite the chance I will show." I quickly ran up to him and placed a quick peck upon his lips before steadily beginning to withdraw to the castle.

"I love thee, Slate. Please be safe." Before I turned, Slate nodded gently and looked back at me with that beaming, precious smile I had come to know all too well over the past years.

"Of course, m'lady," he replied. "I love thee also, and to thine as well."

I do not remember much of Slate fading away into the mass of the crowd, nor the long walk back to the castle itself and all of its twisting and turning. When I walked through those castle doors, climbing the seemingly endless staircases and turning corner upon corner in the castle's vast expanse, there was one place I always went to at night, and it was a place that I knew Celestia would waiting for me.


My mother gave birth to me outdoors in the dead of night, my father watching over her with his mining axe ready to defend her against any would-be bandits. My mother always liked to tell me that from the moment I arrived in Equestria, I was watching Luna's stars. It appeared to stick with me all my life, and whenever I found myself perturbed or vexed I always looked to the night to ease my nerves. Now, I was heading to the castle balcony, which would give me the greatest view of the heavens Equestria could offer.

'Twas a tinge of irony in this event, I supposed, how often I looked to the mare I despised.

When I walked out to the balcony and peered just beyond the doorframe, Celestia was indeed waiting. She had her back to the door, peering out at the stars as she knew I often did.

I said naught at first. Instead, I merely approached her from the side and sat next to her. I looked up to her, but she seemingly ignored me, opting instead to gaze at the night. I followed suit, beginning to count every star I saw hang above me, and it wasn't until the numbers slowly began to blur that I spoke to my mentor.

"I swore upon thee once I would count all the stars in the sky. Doth thou remember it?" I asked her. She nodded slowly, seemingly attempting to do the same herself as her head gently floated from dot to dot.

"Thoust told me that I could do whatever I thought of. And so there I would sit, on the grass, in the carriage, on this balcony, and I would count. I still do, to this very day, But not once have I ever counted them all. I am in doubt I ever will." I turned to her now, who I found to be looking at me as well. There was a somber air about her gaze, but as always, she kept her composure, staring steadfast as I forced the words out I had been looking to say all along.

"I apologize, Celestia," I said. "For so long I have grown to detest a mare I will never meet, and I have not been considerate of thy feelings for Luna. I am sure she was a wonderful mare, and my outbursts of violence are inconsiderate and dangerous. I swear to thee it will not happen again."

The moon looked as beautiful as ever tonight. I was not yet born when Luna was banished, as it had occurred seven years prior, so I had often wondered what ponies around Equestria thought as they looked to the moon.

"How often dost thou think of her?" I asked her. Despite being her apprentice for nigh on two years, I hadn't ever yet asked the question, likely due to my growing hatred of the mare I'd never met.

Celestia did not speak for quite some time, but after a heavy sigh, she began to formulate her somber reply. I could have sworn her gaze turned slightly to the moon as she spoke.

"Every day, Violet," she began. "Every hour, every minute, every second. 'Twas the only thing racing through me on that carriage ride to Hourton. 'Tis the only thing racing through me now." Celestia turned to me now, a grave expression flooding through her countenance.

"I had heard tales of thy magic from here, Violet. A young mare from Hourton whose bursts and bolts could shake the mountains." She chuckled only fleetingly before she continued. "But then I saw thee, studying thy mother and father work the mines. I saw how thou watched the stars, and I saw the twinkle in thine eyes as I showed thee only mere party tricks." Celestia sighed for what had to be the thousandth time that night, and I could detect only the faintest hint of tears begin to materialize in her eyes. As she gazed at the moon once more, I wondered if she was looking for a spec or a dot that would tell her her sister was safe and sound.

"There was naught thou couldst do that did not remind me of Luna. There is naught thou can do, even still. Luna was a firebrand, to be certain, but her thirst for knowledge and her care for those of lesser birth and fortune were unrivaled, just as thine exhibited. That purple in thy fur, Violet, those deep blue eyes... 'Twas if she were by my side once again.

"Luna loved everything, Violet, and then one day she only loved most things. I... I apologize as well, from the bottom of my heart. I knew not how much I had compared thee to Luna, and I swear on her name that I do not love thee because of thy similarities. I love thee, Violet, because of the mare that thine are, and I have failed thee greatly in showing this."

I moved closer to her and, as carefully as I could, wrapped my arms around her. I felt the soft and gentle touch of her wings return the embrace, and together we stayed there and thought of the stars for what seemed to be an eternity. Once we finally unraveled, Celestia looked at me with a smile I will admit I had missed since our quarrel.

"How show we train on the morrow, my little pony? Transfiguration? Illusion?" I looked to the side for a brief second, considering my options, before I turned back to her with what I knew had been a glint in my eyes.

"The counterspell," I replied. "Again."

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