• Published 15th Nov 2018
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The Girl Who Orbited the Sun - Dee Pad

When a newly-crowned Twilight Sparkle finds an old book hidden away in the royal archives, she discovers a piece of her mentor's past she had never been told about. And the more she read, the more questions arose. Just who was Sunset Shimmer?

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Chapter 7 - Altered Course

The Girl Who Orbited the Sun
By Dee Pad

Chapter 7: Altered Course


Sunset Shimmer's horn glowed fiercely, flickering and sparking with cyan energy. Sweat dripped from the filly's chin as she focused her magic, and although the strain was great, she forced herself to keep her eyes open, even if the moisture around them was starting to obscure her vision.

Her eyes were trained on her target: one of the marble statues in the castle's statue garden. A sculpture of an armored, unicorn soldier standing tall upon a solid stone block of perfectly-chiseled marble was wreathed in the cyan grasp of Sunset's aura, and the whole thing was hovering about six inches off the ground.

But that was about all Sunset could muster. She'd been managing to hold the statue in the air for about thirty seconds, but she'd quickly reached her limit. Sunset couldn't physically hold it any longer, a sharp twinge in her horn the sign that she needed to stop. The amber unicorn released her magical grip on the sculpture, and the stone stallion immediately dropped back to the ground with a thunderous crash, shaking the garden with its weight.

With a gasp of air, Sunset fell to her knees, panting for breath. She stared at the statue for a moment, a small smile managing to work its way onto her face. As worn out as she was, she was proud of this accomplishment. This was by far the most impressive feat she'd managed to perform since she started her training. It wasn't quite the sun yet, but it was at least an indication of progress.

Her head was throbbing slightly, but it wasn't nearly as bad as when she was struck by the solar flare. She wasn't burnt out this time, just exhausted, which was a relief. But with that thought in her head, something occurred to Sunset. It was not long ago that Princess Celestia had expressed that she didn't want her student going overboard with her magic, so it was odd to her that she hadn't instructed her to stop, despite how intense it clearly was for her.

Sunset wiped the sweat from her forehead, shakily rising to her hooves, then glanced up at the alicorn standing behind her. Celestia didn't even seem like she was paying attention, just staring off into space. Even the loud impact of the statue hitting the ground hadn't appeared to shake her from her thoughts.


The alicorn's head jerked up as though snapped from a trance. "Huh? Yes?"

Sunset frowned at the princess's oblivious expression. "You weren't even watching, were you?"

"Uh..." Celestia looked toward the statue she'd instructed Sunset to move. Although she'd certainly felt something just now, her mind hadn't really registered it. "Oh, sorry. Did you want to try again?"

Sunset furrowed her brow slightly at the question, a question that proved beyond doubt that Celestia's mind was elsewhere. "Are you nuts?" she responded between breaths. "I can barely stand up now."

Seeing the frustrated look on her student's face, Celestia let out a regretful sigh. "I'm sorry, Sunset. I'm afraid I've just been a little distracted today. Maybe we should cut your lessons short for today."

Sunset took a deep breath, wiping away another few errant beads of sweat. "I don't think I could do much more anyway."

With the decision made, the teacher and student started making their way back toward the castle. After a workout like that, Sunset felt she could use a shower and a snack. But even though the lessons were over for the day, Sunset couldn't help but notice that Celestia's expression was still much the same during the walk back: somewhat sullen and lost in thought.

"So you really didn't see me do that?" Sunset asked with a hint of disappointment.

"Er, no... And again, I'm sorry. But I'm sure it was quite impressive," she assured her student, though her smile looked rather forced.

Sunset turned away slightly with a pout, mumbling under her breath, "Probably would've made me stop before I could do it anyway..."


Sunset shook her head. "Nothing." Despite the uncharacteristic hint of contempt, Sunset turned up to Celestia with a concerned frown. "Is something bothering you, Princess? I don't think I've ever seen you acting like this; all distracted and stuff."

Celestia stopped walking as they neared the exit of the gardens, breathing another deep sigh. She figured she wouldn't be able go very long without bringing it up, but had secretly hoped to put the conversation off a little longer. "Luna's mad at me."

Sunset raised a confused eyebrow at first, but then she remembered how her teacher suddenly left that morning after she'd told her about her lessons with Luna. Celestia hadn't really said much about where she went or what she was doing, and at the time, Sunset had simply thought that the princess may have forgotten something and didn't bother inquiring about it. But now Sunset couldn't help but think that their brief conversation this morning may have been the cause of this. "Does this have anything to do with Luna giving me lessons last night?" Sunset asked with flattened ears.

Celestia looked her student in the eyes. As much as she wanted to tell her otherwise, she did promise never to lie to her again. On the other hoof, she also didn't want to get Sunset involved in her sororal dispute if she could avoid it. That being said, Celestia had some inquiries for Sunset regarding the subject that she was hoping could shed some light on things. "Sunset... Did you... enjoy your lessons with Luna last night?"

The amber filly was reluctant to answer. Celestia looked as though she was hoping for a particular answer, but Sunset wasn't sure if she could provide the right one. "Well, yeah. It was fun."

Celestia tried to maintain an unreadable expression, but she wasn't quite sure how well she was managing that. "Okay, that's good, then. I was worried you weren't getting along well with my sister."

"Then why don't you seem happy?"

The alicorn opened her mouth to reply, but no words came out. Luna's accusations toward her that morning echoed in her mind, but Celestia knew there was more to it than that; in her anger, she just didn't give her a chance to fully explain, and she was too flustered to respond. That's what she was telling herself, but now that she had more time to think about it, what was the full explanation? Why hadn't she thought of anything else?


Again, Celestia was jostled from her thoughts, having gotten distracted once more. Sunset was staring at her, looking increasingly concerned. For her student's state of mind, she had to say something, so she went with the first thing she could think of. "What... What sort of things did Luna teach you?"

Sunset managed a small smile at the question, hoping that her answer would help alleviate her mentor's worries. "Well, she let me try and raise the moon at first. I couldn't do it, but I didn't even expect her to let me try."

Rather than relieve her, Celestia's expression fell slightly at the answer. "Oh... I-I thought you wanted to raise the sun. Why the interest in the moon all of a sudden?"

Sunset simply shrugged. "Honestly, I just thought it'd be easier than the sun. I was wrong. But you two can raise 'em both, so I figured I might be able to, too."

This time the alicorn was somewhat relieved by the explanation, even managing a slight smile. "I suppose that's a logical presumption to make. But as far as we know right now, given your cutie mark, your magic might only pertain to the sun. Just keep that in mind. What else? You mentioned dream magic earlier, right?"

"She told me she could see people's dreams and enter them, but said she wasn't gonna teach me to do that."

Celestia nodded. "Probably for the best. The ability to freely enter dreams is a power not to be taken lightly, much like raising the sun. I don't think it's necessary to teach you such magic, nor do I even know if it'd be possible. I can't even do it without Luna's help. Anything else?"

Sunset curled her lips in thought. "Well, most of it was just me asking questions, or showing her how strong my magic was. But she did give me some useful words of advice."

Celestia looked at her with a curious tilt of her head. "Like what?"

"Like when I couldn't move the moon, I tried to put on a brave face. But she told me I shouldn't try to fool myself and that it's okay to feel frustrated and disappointed, and use those emotions to encourage me to do better."

The princess's eyes widened slightly at what she'd heard, looking more concerned than ever. "What? Why would she teach you something like that?"

Sunset's ears folded back. She had thought that would make Celestia happy to hear. "Wh-Why? What's wrong with that? It sounded like good advice."

Celestia placed a caring hoof upon Sunset's back. "Sunset, I've always believed that in any endeavor, maintaining positivity and optimism is the key to motivation. As long as you don't get down on yourself when you fail, then you'll always have the will to keep going. You can't let things like frustration and disappointment guide you forward; then you're not doing it for the right reasons. You shouldn't let negative emotions control your actions, or the results will ultimately be negative."

Sunset's teal eyes turned down toward the dirt beneath her. "Oh... I... never really thought about it like that."

"I know my sister meant well, but we both know that she isn't quite as socially adept as she could be. Perhaps somepony who still has much to learn herself shouldn't be teaching others more impressionable than her."

Now Sunset felt bad that she had inadvertently caused this argument between the two sisters, knowing now that Luna may not actually be an appropriate teacher for her.

Celestia, seeing the guilty look on her student's face, gave her a reassuring grin. "I'm not mad at you for wanting to learn more, but I wished you'd have told me first, that's all. Let me talk to Luna again. Now that I know the details, I think we can fix this."

Sunset managed a small smile herself, trusting in her teacher to patch things up. "Okay."

"Now, why don't you go and have the rest of the day to yourself, hm? Let us princesses deal with all the 'drama.'"

The filly nodded with a cute grin before running ahead to return to the castle. Celestia watched with a fond smile as the little unicorn scampered away. But once she was out of sight, her smile vanished, replaced with a rather displeased grimace. She had some words for Luna alright, they just may not have been the same ones that Sunset was thinking of.

***** ***** *****

Another day had come and gone, but while the princess of the night normally relished in her act of raising the moon, she found little enjoyment in it this evening. A part of her wanted to simply leave it where it was beyond the horizon to spite her sister, but couldn't determine whether or not she'd take it as an act of defiance or surrender.

Luna let out an indignant snort through her nostrils as she stepped off her balcony and back into her room. She'd been absolutely fuming all day, and had lost sleep as a result. And it was all because of Celestia. Just thinking about it was enough to make the midnight blue alicorn tightly clench her teeth behind pursed lips. She couldn't wrap her head around just how selfish her sister was acting. Luna knew that Celestia may have had a somewhat inflated ego due to being in the limelight more often—she could accept that. But at the very least she had expected her to have some humility about it.

And that was the crux of it. Luna was well aware that her standing was not as favorable with the people as her sister's, but for Celestia to so bluntly flaunt it to her face and outright tell her that it was none of her business boiled the moon princess's blood.

And now she'd gone and wasted an entire day's sleep steaming over this. Luna had had arguments with her sister many times over the millennia, but never before had she cursed the ivory mare's name so many times as she writhed in her bed. What was worse, she was starving. All of the tossing and turning and groaning and grumbling had used up more energy than she'd normally spend during the day. It was not something she normally did, but Luna felt the need to put the cooks to work tonight. She had problems that she wanted to eat away.

With her stomach growling almost as loudly as she had been throughout her sleepless day, Luna descended her tower and made her way to the kitchen to demand an evening meal. She didn't care what, she just needed something to sink her teeth into.

The moon princess haphazardly threw open the doors to the dining room, and immediately halted in her tracks. She was met by the smell of food that had seemingly already been prepared, as though her needs had been anticipated. But one look at the person who was already seated at the long dining table told her that this was one hundred percent deliberate.

Luna knit her brow tightly, casting an incensed glower at the alabaster alicorn sitting on the left side of the table. Celestia was staring back at her, though not with any sort of apologetic expression as Luna would have expected. Her sister was gazing at her rather judgmentally, which only further fueled Luna's ire. What reason did she have to look at her so?

As aggravating as her sister's presence was, Luna was admittedly curious as to what exactly her plan was here. So, in an attempt to discern her intentions, Luna lifted her nose at the other alicorn as she inquired, "What art thou doing up so late?"

Celestia was unfazed by the venom oozing from her little sister's voice, responding with a dismissive shrug. "It's not that late Luna. The night has only just begun. But to answer your question, I thought I'd make you breakfast in the hopes that you'd be willing to sit and talk with me for a bit."

Luna's left eyebrow slowly rose, casting deep suspicion on her sister's seemingly innocent gesture, especially considering the lack of sympathy on the ivory princess's face. Luna cautiously approached the table to see what her sister had prepared. A grimace blemished her face as she noted the plates of pancakes stacked up and decorated with blueberries, strawberries, and whipped cream. Surely Celestia must've chosen pancakes on purpose to further irk her. But, choosing to be the bigger mare—figuratively, of course—Luna pulled out a chair on the right side of the table, opposite her sister, and sat down.

Celestia watched as her sister only continued to glare across the table at her, not even taking a plate. In order to move things along, Celestia placed a plate in front of Luna herself and gestured to the stacks of pancakes. "Help yourself."

Luna furrowed her brow further, but said nothing. As irate as she was with Celestia right now, and as much as she wanted to ignore her "generous" gift, Luna's stomach was still calling out to her. She reluctantly gave in to her hunger pangs, and using her magic instead of a fork, she forcefully snatched a short stack of pancakes from the main plate, dropping them with an unceremonious splat onto hers. She tore a small chunk off of the top pancake and bit into it, all the while never breaking eye contact with Celestia.

"How is it?" the sun princess asked rather nonchalantly as her sister chewed.

Luna didn't answer. She was still livid at Celestia over everything that happened that morning, so now wasn't exactly an ideal time to admit that the pancakes her sister had made tasted absolutely divine; it would have put a sizable damper on her credibility in the argument that she knew was coming. To that end, Luna was done with whatever it was Celestia was trying to do here. "Enough games, Sister. What dost thou want?"

Celestia's expression finally let up, softening apologetically as she breathed a deep sigh. "Alright... First of all, I wanted to apologize for our altercation this morning. I didn't mean to say what I said."

Luna's brow remained furrowed, finding little reprieve in her apology. "Art thou sorry for what thou said, or art thou sorry that thou said it out loud?"

"I didn't intend to hurt your feelings, Luna. That's just how it came out, and again, I'm sorry."

"A simple apology does not make a problem go away, Sister," Luna retorted. "Thou made thy own feelings abundantly clear this morning, as well."

Celestia turned away ashamedly. "And I have been thinking about that since—about what you said. Perhaps you had a point: maybe I was being selfish."

Luna turned her nose up at Celestia with a scoff. She had a feeling she knew where this was going, but had no intention of giving her sister the satisfaction. "Art thou going to ask Us to continue tutoring Sunset Shimmer, then? Well, too bad. We refuse. Thou can take thy responsibility and shove it."

The shame and guilt that had been on Celestia's face had suddenly vanished. Instead, she glowered coldly across the table, much like she had been doing when Luna first entered the dining hall. "And that brings us to our second topic: I was speaking to Sunset about your teaching methods."

Luna wasn't exactly sure how to respond. Given the way Sunset idolized Celestia, would the filly be willing to tell her she had enjoyed learning from her sister? Or perhaps any enjoyment that Sunset had had was not as genuine as Luna thought it was. Had she told Celestia otherwise? Was that girl using this as a way to get back at her for antagonizing her in the past? What lies had she fed Celestia?

Luna narrowed her eyes suspiciously. "What did she tell thee?"

"She said she had fun."

The blue alicorn's scorn lifted quickly, relieved and, frankly, a little surprised. "She... said that?"

Celestia nodded.

Luna quirked an eyebrow. Despite this information, the slight scowl on her sister's face hadn't shifted. "Then what's the issue? We've done nothing wrong. The filly is happy, and We taught her a thing or two."

"But it's the things you've been teaching her that I take umbrage with."

The moon princess furrowed her brow once more. "What dost that mean? We taught her nothing that thou couldn't teach her."

"There's a difference between 'couldn't' and 'wouldn't,' Luna."

"Get to the point! What is thy issue?!"

"You told her to use her frustration and disappointment as motivation."

Luna paused briefly, vexed by the accusation. "So? Where's the harm in that? Our emotions are what guide us. We should use them to achieve our goals in whatever ways we can."

"But those—" Celestia took a deep breath to steady herself; she didn't want this to become a shouting match. She placed a hoof to her chest for a moment before looking at Luna with a more level gaze and tone. "Frustration and disappointment; these are negative emotions, Luna. We can't let our actions be dictated by negativity. Our emotions may guide us, but different emotions can lead you down a different path."

"And who art thou to decide what path she should take?"

"I am her teacher! It's my job to show her the correct path."

Luna felt it again; that roiling in the back of her head, just like she'd felt that morning. Luna shot up from her chair, knocking it over in the process and glaring icy daggers across at her sister. "And it just comes back to this again! I'm wrong and you're right! My philosophies don't precisely match yours, so that means they are objectively incorrect, is that it?! We may look at things differently, Celestia, but that doesn't inherently mean that my views are invalid! You'd know that if you'd step down off of your damn pedestal once in a while!"

During Luna's outburst that morning, Celestia had found herself falling into her sister's emotional clutches, letting her tears and her words sow guilt and remorse inside her. But now, Celestia instead grit her teeth, glaring almost as harshly back at her little sister. The ivory alicorn stood from her seat as well, stomping a hoof on the table and causing the plates and pancakes to shake and bounce from the force.

"Luna, that is enough!"

Luna took a step back in shock. While it wasn't uncommon for the moon princess to become irate, seeing her big sister glare so harshly was a rarity, one that slightly unnerved her.

"I am sick and tired of listening to you play the victim! All you do is complain about how much better I have it than you, and how little our subjects supposedly respect you! So instead of whining about it, have you ever considered, I don't know, doing something to earn their respect?!"

Luna hesitated for a moment under her sister's bellowing voice, but retaliated with a glower of her own. "And how art We to do that? Our subjects sleep during the night when We art active."

"And since when has it been a rule that you need to be awake all night and asleep all day? I know you monitor the night sky every night, but when was the last time something actually happened up there of any note? Why not just raise the moon and go to bed so you can be awake with the rest of us? I know I'd like to spend some more time with my little sister."

Luna turned away with a reluctant grumble. "It's not as simple as that... Why does raising the moon not warrant the same level of respect as raising the sun? We can do that, too, yet thou get all the credit..."

Celestia clomped a hoof on the table once more, firmly, but not angrily, making sure that Luna was looking her in the eye. "Luna, stop acting like an entitled brat. You're an adult. Perhaps it's time to start acting like one. And it's precisely that attitude of yours that's the reason why people treat you as they do. Our subjects aren't here to serve us, Luna. It's the other way around. And maybe when you manage to get that through your head, I'll let you teach Sunset again." Celestia adjusted the bangs of her colorful, flowing mane, fixing the stragglers that had fallen out of place during her uncharacteristic outburst before starting towards the door. She opened it with a surprisingly calm flourish of her golden magic, but took a brief glance back at her sister. The authority was still present in her pink eyes, but there was also a softness that belied the aggravation she was clearly feeling. "I love you, Luna. I want you to know that. Good night."

Celestia disappeared behind the door, shutting it behind her. Luna was alone now, and she fell back onto her haunches with a long sigh. She couldn't remember the last time she'd been so thoroughly chewed out like that, and it left her in much the same position that she'd left Celestia that morning. The tables had turned rather quickly, and Luna was not ready for the shift in inertia. In a way, Celestia reminded her of their mother when she'd scold them for misbehaving. It was a nostalgic feeling, and not entirely unwelcome.

Luna had a lot to think about as she stared at the disturbed piles of fluffy pancakes still sitting on the table. She quietly hovered a fork over to herself, taking another bite—albeit a listless one—from the breakfast her sister had so lovingly made for her.

***** ***** *****

"So, how's your training with Princess Celestia going? Have you raised the sun again yet?"

Sunset moaned sheepishly with an embarrassed blush at the question, not looking Halberd in the eye. "No..."

The silver pegasus gave his classmate a sympathetic look. "Oh, too bad. I guess it's not going well, huh?" he said to her quietly as he stuffed his school books into his saddlebags.

Sunset's expression shifted quickly, her voice becoming more defensive at Halberd's assumption. "N-No, it's going fine! Princess Celestia's an amazing teacher, it's just..." She turned away ashamedly. "It's me... My magic's definitely getting stronger, but I can't tap into the power I used when I did it the first time yet."

"Oh. But... you're still making progress, right?"

Sunset nodded, managing a small grin. "Yeah. But..." And as quickly as it had appeared, her smile faded. "Apparently it might be a long time before I get strong enough to move the sun again. Like, most of my life. I might be an old mare before I can do it."

"But it'll be exciting when you do, right?"

The amber filly looked her classmate in the eye again. He was wearing a rather reassuring smile. The years didn't seem to bother him much, but then again, he wasn't the one who was trying to raise the sun. Regardless, Sunset was still able to force a smile of her own. "I guess." She fastened the clasp on her bags, ready to head home after another day of school. "But even if it takes a long time, that just means I get to spend more time with Princess Celestia."

A slight frown curled Halberd's lips down as the two foals left the schoolhouse with the other children. "I guess that means you're going straight home again, then, huh?"

Sunset nodded eagerly, oblivious to the colt's downtrodden tone. "Yup. The princess wasn't really in a teaching mood yesterday, so I basically missed a whole day of lessons. I gotta make up for it today."

"Okay..." Halberd groaned quietly, hanging his head slightly. Despite his sullen attitude, he still managed to give Sunset a friendly smile goodbye. "I'll see you tomorrow, Sunset."

Sunset barely acknowledged his goodbye as she galloped over to where the colt's older brother was waiting for her with the golden chariot. "Alright, Lance! Let's go!" She skidded to a stop next to the armored stallion, noticing that he wasn't even looking at her. He didn't even so much as greet her. He was just staring off into the distance. Sunset quirked a curious eyebrow. "Lance? Hello? You hear me?"

"Um..." was all he said in response. However, he did acknowledge her presence with a slow raise of his hoof.

Sunset tilted her head in confusion at the soldier's odd behavior, but followed his pointing hoof down the main road of Canterlot. The filly's teal eyes widened in surprise, disbelief, and more confusion, her expression mirroring Lance's.

Not far down the street, out and about in the middle of the day and within the public eye, was Princess Luna. She appeared to be conversing with a pair of mares, though the two civilians looked a tad uncomfortable in the alicorn's presence.

Having noticed the situation himself, Halberd walked over to Sunset and his brother, unable to take his eyes of the blue alicorn. "Um... Is that Princess Luna?"

"Uh, yeah. It is," Lance responded, though he still sounded uncertain himself.

"What's she doing here?" Sunset whispered.

"I have no idea. She just showed up a few minutes ago and started randomly talking to people on the street."

The two mares to which the princess was talking were steadily backing off from Luna, and one of them forced an awkward smile and seemed to gesture that they needed to be elsewhere before briskly taking their leave of the alicorn's presence. Luna appeared accepting of their departure, but quickly began looking around, presumably to find somepony else to speak with. It didn't take long for her eyes to fall upon Lance, Sunset, and Halberd, the princess immediately recognizing her armored employee and the fiery mane of her sister's student. She trotted over toward them with a rather exaggerated gait, holding her head high.

"Ah, good afternoon," Luna greeted, though her own voice seemed to stop her in her tracks. "Goodness, it's been quite some time since We've said that. In any case, We were hoping to run into thee here."

"Uh, yeah, good to see you, Your Highness," Lance greeted somewhat awkwardly, still pretty puzzled by her presence. "If I might ask, what exactly are you doing here?"

"Yeah, aren't you supposed to be in bed?" Sunset asked.

"What? Are We not allowed to consort with Our subjects? Is that not the duty of a princess?" Luna replied rhetorically, dodging the question.

"No offense, Your Majesty, but since when do you do that?" inquired Lance.

Luna narrowed her eyes at the soldier's skepticism. "Thou seem to be implying that We have no interest in Our subjects' lives."

Lance raised a hoof defensively. "That's not exactly what I'm saying."

Sunset cast a knowing frown at the princess. "Does this have anything to do with the fight you and Princess Celestia had?"

Both Lance and Halberd stared at Sunset, a little surprised to hear that.

Luna, however, dropped the act finally and breathed a deep sigh. "We had a... sobering conversation with Our sister last night." She straightened up, briefly puffing out her chest defiantly. "We maintain that Our argument still hast merits, but... Celestia brought up some good points..."

Princess Celestia hadn't really shared any specific details about their argument with Sunset, so the filly wasn't entirely sure what these "points" Luna was talking about were. But however curious she was, she decided that it wasn't really any of her business, even if her lessons were an instigating factor. Sunset thought it might be best if the royal sisters could work this out for themselves—plus, she didn't want to inadvertently make matters worse by interfering.

"So what does that have to do with you being here in broad daylight?" Lance continued to ask.

"As per Our sister's suggestion, We are attempting to garner favor from Our subjects by interacting with them directly," Luna elaborated. However, her ears drooped slightly. "Though it hast not been going well thus far. Everypony We've tried talking with seems to hath prior obligations and quickly excuse themselves from Our company. Is there an event today that everypony is busy with?"

"Not as far as I'm aware," Lance answered.

"It might have to do with your face."

Luna grimaced, insulted by Sunset's insinuation. "Beg thy pardon?"

"She's not kidding," Lance added. "You look more than little haggard right now."

Luna turned to a nearby shop window, approaching it and examining her reflection. Sure enough, the area around her eyes were sunken and darker than usual, with unappealing bags underneath them. Indeed, her current appearance was quite off-putting. She breathed another sigh as she walked back over to the stallion and two foals. "Our apologies. After Our fight with Celestia yesterday morning, we had difficulty sleeping throughout the day. And We attempted to sleep last night in preparation for Our excursion today, but We art not yet accustomed to sleeping during the night. We've essentially been awake for over twenty-four hours at this point."

"That doesn't sound healthy," Lance commented with concern.

"But necessary if We are to improve Our relationship with Our subjects," the alicorn claimed confidently. "Besides, We'll likely have little difficulty getting to sleep tonight after this." She punctuated that by stifling a tired yawn.

"So, what, you're just gonna wander around Canterlot and randomly strike up conversations with people on the street?"

"Is there a more efficient method?" Luna asked with genuine curiosity.

Lance shrugged. "I'm just saying that it might be a bit time-consuming to chat up everypony one at a time."

"Ah, We understand. Thou art suggesting that We make a public address to inform the people of Our presence and intentions."

The armored stallion blinked. "Uh, that's not quite what I—"

"One moment..."

Ignoring anything further, Luna flapped her majestic wings and took off into the air, flying high above Canterlot. The civilians in the immediate area watched with confusion and caution as the princess rose above them, overlooking the entire town. Once she was certain that she was in full view for everypony to see, Luna cleared her throat and inhaled deeply.

"Salutations, citizens of Canterlot! It is I, Princess Luna!"

Lance, Sunset, Halberd, and everypony else in the capitol winced at the sheer volume of Luna's voice as she bellowed down to them. Despite how high up she was, the alicorn's voice boomed like a shock wave, practically shaking the windows of nearby houses and threatening to crack them.

"We hath chosen to grace thy fair town with Our presence this day as a gesture of camaraderie! If anypony wishes to converse with Us, by all means, do not hesitate to approach Us!" With that, Luna descended from the sky and alighted back where Sunset and Lance were with a slight self-satisfied smile. "There. Now we need only wait for Our subjects to come to Us. A brilliant suggestion, Lance."

"What?" was Lance's response as he rubbed his ringing ears.

Luna stared down the street as she waited, looking to the several ponies who were still passing along. However, while pretty much all of them were looking in the princess's direction, none of them appeared to be taking her up on her offer. "They... aren't coming," Luna observed, her ears folding back slightly in dejection. "We made it clear who We were, right? Why are they not interested in talking with Us?"

"They're probably a little weirded out," Sunset told her.

Luna quirked an eyebrow. "What dost thou mean?"

"Well, they're not used to seeing you out here in the middle of the day. Or ever, really."

"So? Our sister rarely makes public appearances either. Usually if anypony needs to speak with one of us, they come to the castle. Do they look at Celestia the same way?"

"And when exactly do people usually show up at the castle?" Lance posited, already knowing the answer, of course.

"During the... day..." Luna frowned slightly as she put the pieces together. "Hath they simply forgotten who We are?"

"Probably not, but people don't really know what you're like either. They might think you have some sort of ulterior motive for being here," Lance explained.

"Then We'll make another address," the princess declared resolutely. "We'll make it abundantly clear that We're here to talk and only talk, with no other purpose."

"No, no, there's no need for that!" Lance hastily interrupted, wanting to save his eardrums from any further discomfort. "That would probably only make them even more suspicious."

"Then what do We do?"

Sunset observed the falling expression on Luna's face as the hope steadily drained from her. She wanted to help her, but Sunset knew from experience that Princess Luna doesn't exactly give a good first impression, and she probably wasn't doing a very good job of remedying that today. But that's when a light switched on in the filly's brain, and an idea hit her.

"Actually, maybe what you were doing in the first place was right," the little unicorn suggested with a grin.

Luna gave a curious tilt of her head. "Thou mean just talking with random strangers on the street?"

"Kinda. See, I first heard of Princess Celestia in school, and after that I wanted to meet her so badly. So maybe the people you've already talked to will tell their friends about it, and that'll make them want to come talk to you."

"Word of mouth, huh? It's not the craziest idea," Lance remarked with a grin of his own.

Luna held a hoof to her mouth as she contemplated the idea. "So We generate buzz, and that, in turn, generates interest. But We've already let the people know of Our presence. What more could this do?"

"But people's personal interactions with you would probably be more interesting," Sunset informed. "You yelling at everypony from the sky isn't really something that people are gonna talk about for very long cause everypony heard it already. But if somepony told their friends that they actually talked to Princess Luna directly, they might think that's cool."

"Then do We simply wait and allow those We've already spoken with to spread the word, or shall We continue to seek Our subjects out?" Luna inquired.

"That depends," Sunset replied. "Did they like talking with you?"

"Surely they must have," Luna presumed confidently, though not without a hint of doubt. "After all, We are their princess, their ruler. For Us to take time out of Our day—time which We would normally spend sleeping—should be seen as a momentous occasion. The average citizen dost not receive such a gifted opportunity often. Surely they will relish the occurrence."

"I don't know, Princess," Lance doubted with a scratch of his neck. "From what I saw, those people seemed a bit uncomfortable when you were chatting them up, even before your 'public address.'"

"Then what doth thou suggest We are doing wrong?"

"You could try speaking like a normal person, for one," Sunset answered.

Luna scowled slightly, feeling a tad insulted, and scoffed at the suggestion. "This is how royalty is meant to speak. We know Celestia chooses to not, but that is her prerogative."

"Then maybe just try being a little more friendly. Instead of talking about yourself, why don't you ask them about themselves?"

Luna paused for a moment. In that moment, she remembered what her sister had said to her the night before: their subjects weren't there to serve them; the two of them existed to serve their subjects. "So... We should... offer... assistance?"

"I guess?" Sunset replied with a touch of uncertainty. "I mean, if they need help, I guess you can help. But I kinda just meant get to know them a little better. Princess Celestia likes to show an interest in other people's lives."

The alicorn grimaced at her. "We are not trying to be Our sister, so We would appreciate it if thou wouldst stop comparing Us to her."

"Didn't you say she was the reason you're out here right now?" Lance reminded her.

"Yes, but... We only wish for Our subjects to respect Us for Our own merits, not necessarily the ideals set by Our sister. We are both princesses, but we are our own people."

The stallion rubbed his temple gently, sighing as he became more and more annoyed by this whole situation—not that he'd say so out loud in front of Princess Luna. "Honestly, it sounds like you didn't think this through before you came here, Your Highness."

"Yeah, it kinda sounds like you expected people to love and respect you just because you're a princess," added Sunset.

Luna leaned down toward the filly with a grumpy pout. "Do not spout hypocrisy, little one. Did you not become enamored with Our sister simply because she's a princess?"

Sunset stared back defiantly. "No, I liked Princess Celestia because I learned about all the stuff she's done for Equestria."

Lance stepped in, pulling Sunset away from the alicorn before either of them could trigger the other into starting an argument. "Look, we could talk about this all day and not get anywhere. When it comes right down to it, what you expect to happen, Princess, is not gonna happen in just one day. Earning the respect of an entire kingdom is gonna take time."

Luna straightened up again, breathing a resigned sigh. "Yes, thou hath a point. But We must start somewhere, and We are losing some of that valuable time simply talking about it. We must continue with Our endeavor, but We need to find somepony who is willing to speak with Us more openly..." As she began to look around the area again, Luna's eyes eventually fell onto the small, pegasus colt that had been silently standing there with them the entire time. "Thou hath been staring at Us for quite some time. Who art thee?"

Halberd gulped nervously. Having been dumbstruck by the rare presence of Princess Luna this whole time, the colt had been rendered speechless. And now that she was actually addressing him directly, he found his short legs begin to shake under her inquisitive gaze and his wings held fast against his sides. "I-I-I..." was all the awkward kid could manage to muster up.

Lance gave the colt a pat on the head. "Oh, right. Sorry, we were so distracted by your presence that I completely forgot to introduce him. This is my little brother Halberd. Hal, greet the princess."

Halberd stared wide-eyed at Luna, who was staring back expectantly. He opened his mouth to speak, but was too intimidated to properly form words.

Lance shook his head with a quiet chuckle at Halberd's nervousness. "Sorry about him. He's a bit shy, and probably a little starstruck."

That was when Sunset jumped in with a smile and an idea. "Oh! Maybe this is a good opportunity to practice! Princess, try giving Halberd a friendly greeting."

Lance stifled a snicker at the idea of Princess Luna using his little brother as a guinea pig in this experiment, but was still curious as to how it would go.

Luna nodded in agreement. "Very well." She cleared her throat and lifted her head high, staring down her nose at the uncomfortable colt. "Greetings, young one. We are Princess Luna, ruler of the night."

The alicorn held out her hoof to the colt as though expecting him to kiss it. Halberd didn't know how to respond, looking to his big brother for guidance. However, Lance could only offer a dismissive shrug and a slightly amused smirk.

"Just say hello, Princess," Sunset corrected.

"That hardly sounds formal," the alicorn argued.

"There's nothing formal about this," Lance added. "Hal's not a foreign dignitary or anything. You're just talking to somepony."

Luna hesitated, looking a tad apprehensive about abandoning her usual air of sophistication and authority in front of one of her subjects. "H-Hello."

Sunset smiled at even that little amount of progress. "Okay, now, introduce yourself and ask him for his name."

The princess was puzzled by the instructions. "But we know one another's names already."

"This is practice. Just do it."

Luna wasn't entirely fond of being told what to do, especially not by a child, but went along with it anyway, looking back at Halberd. "Our name is Princess Luna. What is thy name?" she asked, though her greeting was rather forced and stiff.

Once again, Halberd found it difficult to respond, the princess's odd demeanor and this whole contrived scenario making things feel just a little awkward.

"Come on, Hal," Lance encouraged his brother with a grin. "You met Princess Celestia before, didn't you?"

"I-I didn't actually talk to her," Halberd replied, finally managing to get some words out.

Lance rolled his eyes, getting a little fed up with all of this. "It's not hard, Hal. Mom and Dad told you how to greet the princesses if you ever met 'em, didn't they?"

Halberd looked back up into Princess Luna's eyes. Admittedly, as nervous and as awkward as he felt right now, he could see that the princess looked much the same, struggling to maintain eye contact and with a slight, embarrassed blush in her cheeks. She was clearly in the same boat as him, and, somehow, that made him feel a little better, knowing that even royalty wasn't exempt from social anxiety.

Halberd bowed to the princess, though his legs were still a little shaky. "H-Hello. M-My name is Halberd. It's an honor to meet you, Y-Your Highness."

Lance gave his little brother a firm pat on the back, startling the colt. "There you go. That wasn't so hard now, was it?"

"Was that sufficient?" Luna asked Sunset.

The filly gave the princess a pleased grin, nodding in response. "Yeah, that was great. If you just introduce yourself like that, then maybe people won't feel as weird."

Luna spread her wings confidently. Although it felt a little humiliating to receive advice from somepony so young, it was better than nothing. "Excellent. Then We shall continue Our efforts."

Sunset nodded, giving the alicorn an encouraging smile. "Alright, good luck, Princess. Come on, Lance. Let's go home."

"You sure you don't want to stay a little longer? You know, help out Princess Luna?" Despite mentioning the princess, Lance's eyes briefly glanced toward his little brother, though Sunset didn't seem to notice.

Sunset shook her head. "Me and Princess Celestia gotta make up for the lessons we missed yesterday, so I wanna get back to the castle. I'm sure Princess Luna can manage by herself. Right, Princess?"

Luna nodded. "Yes, We'll be fine."

Lance shrugged. "If you say so." He hitched himself up to the chariot and Sunset hopped aboard eagerly. "Hal, you can keep the princess company if you want."

"Huh?! But I—"

"Later, kiddo!" Lance called out to him as he got a running start down the street, ignoring Halberd's attempt to argue with him.

The pegasus colt watched his older brother and his classmate take off into the sky and toward the Castle of the Two Sisters. He could feel Luna's eyes continuing to stare at him, making him feel a little uncomfortable again, especially now that the two of them were alone.

"Should we practice small talk?" Princess Luna suggested.

Halberd gulped, unsure how to feel about this. "Um..."

***** ***** *****

"Are you sure you weren't too hard on her, Princess?"

Princess Celestia breathed a regrettable sigh, but held fast to her actions and decisions. "Honestly, it was a long time coming. I should have had this conversation with Luna years ago. I wish I didn't have to, but these are the circumstances as they've been presented to us. My sister needed somepony to give her that kick in the flank, and nopony else was going to work up the courage to do it if I didn't."

"Do you think you got through to her?" Starswirl asked as the pair wandered the halls of the castle.

"That's hard to say. I took my leave a little sooner than perhaps I should have, but I wanted to give her the night to think it over. I suppose we'll see when we see her tonight."

The stallion chuckled in mild amusement. "You know, you and I may have more in common than I first presumed, Your Highness. I know I've spent my fair share of time scolding a stubborn child."

Celestia giggled, as well, in response. "Perhaps so, but mine should have grown out of such childishness ages ago."

"Speaking of children," Starswirl segued. "How has Sunset been faring in her training?"

The alicorn gave him a proud smile. "She's making notable headway. At first, I was worried it would take a long time before she was able to even come close to tapping into the power within her. But she's improving quickly, far faster than I had expected."

The bearded unicorn analyzed the expression on the princess's face as she thought about Sunset. Though there was most certainly great pride in her voice to think of the progress her student was making, her eyes held a tinge of concern. Given that this was his daughter they were talking about, Starswirl felt the need to inquire. "Too quickly?"

Celestia glanced down at him with a touch of uncertainty. "At her age, it may be a bit much. I'm honestly a little worried that it may be more than she can handle at this time, even with training. I don't want her to hurt herself again."

Starswirl nodded in understanding. "I trust your judgment, Princess. I know you've put this responsibility on yourself, but if you believe that this is moving too fast, or if you think she can handle it, I trust you to make that choice."

The ivory mare let out another sigh. "As much as I'd hate to say it, I fear Luna may have put some ideas in her head that I don't agree with. After thinking about it for a while, I do feel my sister may have had a point that Sunset can decide for herself what path she wants to take, but it may be wise for me to focus on figuring out exactly what that path is."

"So, the plan is to use this time less for strengthening her magic, and more so to develop her mindset," Starswirl presumed. "Does that conflict with your original intentions? You were worried that her innate power could hurt her if she didn't learn to control it."

"Controlling one's magic is just as much a mental exercise as it is physical," Celestia explained. "I just think now is a better time to focus on the former, while her young mind is still malleable." She gave Starswirl a reassuring grin. "Besides, she's already proven that she's quite strong already, more than anypony I've ever seen at her age. There may not be any need to advance further than where she is right now, at least for the time being."

Starswirl groaned quietly. "But surely you know she'll be persistent. We've both seen how that girl is when she sets her mind to something. She's not likely to accept a hiatus on her training and will probably continue to practice in secret, perhaps even seek out your sister's tutelage behind your back to make up for it."

"Yes, you're probably right," the princess reluctantly agreed. "Rest assured, I'm going to discuss this thoroughly with her to make sure she fully understands my intentions."

The unicorn gave her a grin. "Well, in the end, that filly respects you above all else—perhaps even more than she respects me. I don't believe you'll have difficulty convincing her that you have her best interests in mind."

"Let's hope so," Celestia replied with a lighthearted chuckle.

It was at this time that the two of them had arrived at the castle's throne room. As luck would have it, their timing was spot on, as entering from the main entrance at the exact same time were Sunset Shimmer and Lance. Upon seeing the princess, a wide, beaming smile spread across the filly's face and she galloped across the throne room to meet her.

"Hi, Princess! Hi, Daddy!" Sunset chirped cheerily.

"And hello to you, too, sweetheart," Starswirl greeted back, tousling his daughter's fiery mane. "How was school?"

"Fine." Her response was rather dismissive, but that was par for the course, as both her father and Princess Celestia knew what she was expecting now that she was back. Sunset immediately looked up at the alicorn with eager anticipation. "But I'm always excited to come home and start my real lessons."

Celestia and Starswirl exchanged glances, both of them thinking on their prior conversation. The princess smiled softly at the filly, speaking tenderly, yet cautiously. "Sunset, there's actually something I want to discuss with you about your lessons."

Sunset's ears flattened back a little. "Does it have to do with Princess Luna?"

Celestia's smile faded. She understood why Sunset might think that given recent events, and she could tell by her expression that the filly felt bad about the whole debacle, but she was somewhat surprised to hear that that was the first assumption her student would make. "No, it doesn't. Are you still concerned about that?"

Sunset kneaded a hoof into the carpet underneath her. "Well, I know you and Princess Luna had an argument last night, too. I just don't want you two to fight."

Celestia took a short breath through her nose before gently placing a hoof on the filly's shoulder. "Sunset, you may not know this because you're an only child, but siblings butt heads occasionally. Sure, the two of us are upset with one another for various reasons, but I see no reason to believe that we won't get over it—we always do."

Sunset managed a small smile and nodded in understanding. "Okay. I was just a little worried because Princess Luna seemed like she took what you said pretty seriously."

Celestia quirked a curious eyebrow at the statement. "When were you talking to Luna?"

"Just now."

"She's still awake?" said Starswirl. "That's certainly unusual."

"Actually, she's in Canterlot right now," Lance interjected as he sauntered over to join the trio. "We were talking to her before we came back."

"Canterlot? What's she doing up there?" Celestia asked, surprised and baffled.

"Taking your words to heart, apparently," Lance replied with a shrug.

"She's trying to earn your subjects respect by going around town and talking to them," Sunset added.

Celestia breathed a sigh, rubbing the back of her graceful neck. "I see. I know I suggested she do so, but I didn't expect her to jump right on it."

"Well, that's a good thing, isn't it?" Starswirl commented. "Princess Luna should get more involved with the kingdom and its people."

"True, but she's been rather disconnected from society for a long time. I feel like this is something she should ease herself into rather than dive in, head first."

"Then you probably should have told her that, too," Lance remarked.

"But we told her," Sunset chimed in with an optimistic grin. "We even gave her some pointers."

"I suppose she has to start somewhere," Celestia said with a quiet shake of her head. "But I wish she'd have told me she was going. I could have accompanied her. That might have made things easier."

"Judging by what she told us, I doubt she would have accepted that offer," Lance told her with a slight grimace. "She seems like she wants to differentiate herself from you."

"That makes sense," Starswirl agreed with a nod and a stroke of his beard. "Judging from what I've observed of Princess Luna, she seems like the sort who would prefer to garner respect on her own merits rather than having you tell people to like her, Your Highness."

"Perhaps," Celestia said with a sigh and a nod. "But I am still a little concerned about her being out there on her own."

"Did you not say it yourself, Princess? You were the one who wanted her to start acting like an adult," Starswirl reminded her.

Celestia raised her head, her expression becoming more resolute in response to his words. "Yes, you're right. If Luna believes she can handle this, then I shall not interfere unless asked. I just hope she can stick this out." The alicorn cleared her throat, looking down at the young filly again. "Now then, I said we had things to discuss, Sunset. Why don't I accompany you as you drop off your schoolbags and we can talk, alright?"

Sunset nodded eagerly, following Princess Celestia out of the throne room and toward the staff quarters.

Starswirl let out a quiet chuckle as he turned to Lance. "Well, I certainly wasn't expecting to hear such a thing today."

"You're telling me. I had to watch it," Lance agreed with a laugh of his own.

"How is Princess Luna faring out there?"

The pegasus responded with a somewhat uncertain and crooked grin. "Ehh, she's got some work to do, I'll say that. She's pretty out of touch. You should have seen the looks she was getting."

"I can imagine. Suspicions must by high to see the princess of the night suddenly out and about," Starswirl laughed.

"That's exactly what I told her."

Starswirl looked to the soldier curiously. "Sunset said you were giving her advice. Was she very receptive? She doesn't strike me as the sort of person to do things somepony else's way."

"And to a extent, you're right. Thankfully, she was willing to listen to us, although she seemed pretty insistent that she didn't want to do things exactly as her sister would."

"Yes, you mentioned that. Which raises the question as to what approach she is going to take," Starswirl wondered, exhibiting both concern and curiosity. "Was Sunset helpful? I've been a little worried about her relationship with Princess Luna."

Lance breathed a slight sigh as he removed his helmet, the hairs of his white mane falling down around his forehead so he could run a hoof through it. "Yeah, actually. I think she gave the princess some great advice; nothing I wouldn't have said myself."

Starswirl raised an eyebrow. What Lance had said didn't exactly match his tone or body language. "Is there a problem, then? Did she do something I should know about?"

Lance briefly glanced at Starswirl, but turned away again, unsure if he wanted to get into this topic again. "It's just... she had plenty of good advice to give Princess Luna about being sociable, but... it seems weird to me that she doesn't make use of her own advice."

The bearded stallion tilted his head. "How do you mean?"

"She has the personality and the charisma to make plenty of friends, but she seems content to spend all her time at home, studying and training."

Starswirl nodded in understanding, giving his white beard a slow stroke. "Ah, this again. I see."

"Look, I'm sorry. I don't mean to keep harping on this. It's just a little disappointing to see such a energetic kid waste her time stuck indoors with her nose in a book."

Starswirl stared somewhat sternly at the pegasus in response. "Well, I'd hardly call it a waste of time. All of her studying will be good in the long run. She's going to do great things for this kingdom someday."

"Yeah, yeah, and that's all well and good, but I'm just saying that a person can put the books down every once in a while. There's nothing wrong with having a bit of fun every now and then."

"Studying is fun for her, though."

Lance let out an exasperated sigh. "I guess you wouldn't really understand, huh? From what I gathered, you were pretty much the same when you were a kid, right?"

Starswirl remained silent. He hadn't talked to any of the other staff members about his past much, specifically about his rocky relationship with Sunset's mother, so he wouldn't have expected Lance to fully sympathize with him. But Lance had a point: he didn't really want Sunset to endure the same things he had to in his youth due to their naïveté.

"If you wanna look at it like this," Lance continued, "Do you want Sunset to wind up like Princess Luna?"

At that question, Starswirl smiled confidently. "I'm not really concerned about that. Princess Celestia doesn't exactly get out much either, but she's still a highly respectable and sociable mare. Given my daughter's enthusiasm and how much she idolizes her, I'd like to think Sunset is more similar to Celestia."

Lance sighed in resignation. "I guess you've got a point. Look, sorry for bringing this up again. I just thought it was a little odd, that's all. Anyway, I gotta get back to my post. Later, Starswirl." He placed his helmet back on his head and gave his colleague a halfhearted wave as he headed back to the castle's main entrance.

Starswirl returned the farewell with a wave of his own. "Have a good day, Lance." And with that, the bearded stallion decided that since Princess Celestia was occupying his daughter, he may as well do some silent study in the royal archives.

***** ***** *****

"Does all of this make sense, Sunset?"

The filly stared outward at the mountains as she thought over what Princess Celestia had suggested to her. Reducing her lessons was not something she wanted to do, but she could still use that time to study. Still, though, after being told that it may take her whole life to raise the sun again, she was hesitant to sacrifice her training just because Princess Celestia was a little worried about her safety.

Sunset stared up pleadingly into Celestia's eyes. "Do you not trust me?"

While the look of dejection in the young unicorn's eyes was heart-wrenching, Celestia held firm to her decision. "Of course I do, but there's a difference between confidence and overconfidence. Just because you believe that you can handle something, doesn't mean you're actually ready to do it."

Sunset stared down at the canopy of the Everfree Forest below them with a slight pout. "What happened to being able to do anything you put your mind to...?"

"That saying implies dedication, hard work, and knowing how to overcome one's limitations. In other words, it takes time, and overdoing it can just result in those goals moving further away."

"I can handle it..." Sunset grumbled under her breath.

Celestia sighed in exasperation. "Your father said you'd be stubborn about this. I suppose I'm just going to have to put my hoof down on this matter. I know you don't like it, but I could turn your own question back on you: do you not trust me, Sunset?"

Sunset groaned with a grimace, laying her chin upon her fetlocks as she leaned on the balcony railing. Celestia had deliberately backed her into a corner, knowing that she'd never say no to that question, and it irked the filly slightly to know that she was so easily manipulated. But still, she did trust Princess Celestia. As sure as she was that she could handle her training, her teacher's judgment was probably more reliable than her own.

The alicorn observed the reluctant look on her student's face. She felt a little guilty, but she knew this was for the best. Still, Celestia always thought that a smile looked better on Sunset's face than a grumpy pout. So, to get things back on the right track, Celestia started with a smile of her own. "It's not like we have to completely phase out your training. If we did that, your magic might start getting weaker."

Sunset lifted her head, looking up at her teacher hopefully. "So I can still practice?"

"Of course. However, I'd like to make a few stipulations," Celestia stated sternly. "If you're going to practice, practice with me. I need to make sure you aren't overexerting yourself."

Sunset nodded with a grin.

"Also, I'd rather if you didn't request lessons from my sister. It's not that I don't trust her, but her tutelage may conflict with my own. And besides, it sounds like she has her own stuff going on now." Celestia stared off into the distance at Canterlot, wondering for a moment how Luna was doing in her endeavors.

Sunset followed her gaze to the town built into the mountainside. She was equally curious about Luna. "Okay."

Celestia glanced back down at Sunset. It didn't sound like she liked that idea, but it didn't seem as though she questioned her teacher's decision on that front. Their discussion on the subject the previous day must have held fast in her mind. Regardless, she feared that Sunset's reluctance now and her inherent impatience in regards to her training might lead her to make questionable decisions.

The alicorn leaned down, placing her hoof gently on the filly's shoulder and looking her straight in her teal eyes. Her gaze exhibited both compassion and authority, wanting Sunset to know exactly how important this was. "Sunset, I want to reiterate that this is all for your own safety. I know you may feel like this change is going to hold you back, but trust me, in the long run this will be for the best. You just have to have faith and not become frustrated if it seems as though you aren't making progress."

Sunset stared into her teacher's caring, pink eyes. It wasn't like she expected Princess Celestia to have some sort of personal agenda fueling this decision, but a part of her wanted to find some sort of argument to make her change her mind. But it was clear that everything that the princess said and did was done with her in mind, so for now, she chose not to argue anymore, putting her trust in the princess.

Celestia could still see a hint of apprehension in Sunset's expression, but accepted that she was never going to be completely satisfied with this change. All she could do was continue to reassure her. To that end, Celestia gave her student another smile. "You're a smart, young filly, Sunset. I have no doubt that you'll only continue to improve as you grow. And I'll be there for you every step of the way."

As simple as that statement was, Sunset couldn't deny that it did feel reassuring. Princess Celestia's words could always put her at ease when she really tried, and she didn't want to worry the princess anymore than she had already. In fact, Sunset felt that she needed to apologize for any of the emotional turmoil she'd inadvertently caused recently.

Celestia was a little caught off guard when the filly suddenly threw her forelegs around her long neck, hugging her tightly. But feeling Sunset's smile against her neck was all she needed to know that her student trusted her and was relying on her, and she was going to do everything she could to ensure that trust was well placed.