• Published 3rd Mar 2019
  • 2,441 Views, 72 Comments

I Thought You'd Never Ask... - Rockstar_Raccoon

Twilight Sparkle brings the Student Six through a series of field trips to each others homelands as they mature. | Long-form exploration of the Student 6 and their homelands | Followup to "What's Your Problem?"

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Prologue - Do You Really Wanna Know?

Princess Twilight Sparkle, headmare of the School of Friendship, sat hunched over her desk. He hooves massaged her temples as she went over the papers in front of her, her mind battered by the questions which were now obvious.

How could she be so stupid?

How could she not have realized it?

Why did it never occur to her?

Five files had been laid out over her desk, each with pictures of a different student... five students, sent by the governments of five nations. Each exceptional in their own way, two by achievement, one by connection, one by seemingly random whim.

It seemed so obvious now.

A Princess of Equestria had opened a school. She had specifically asked for students from the nearby nations, and of course they had obliged. How could they not?

After all, for anyone seeking greater diplomatic favor with Equestria, this was the perfect way to get closer to the Princess of Friendship.

“Maybe if I'd thought about it, maybe if I hadn't been so focused on Chancellor Neighsay, maybe if I'd actually done some research on who was being sent and why...”

“It’s a reasonable oversight.” Celestia said, sitting calmly on a pillow across from her, “We like to think ourselves perceptive enough to catch these things, but often, the truth is only obvious after the fact.”

Twilight looked at the pictures of the grinning yak and a smirking dragon, “Yona and Smolder are probably the least troubling. Rutherford and Ember sent two normal students who they thought would succeed. Granted, Rutherford picked the best student he could find, whereas I'm not even sure if Ember had criteria.”

She placed a hoof on a file with a photo of a small blue and red changeling on it, smiling shyly up at her, “Thorax may be inexperienced, but he's smart, and all changelings are trained in the art of subtlety. He cares so much about his people... I should've assumed he'd use this as an opportunity to help them, especially with the current crisis in the hive.” she closed her eyes, “Ocellus is a great student, but by now she has to have realized she’s not just here to study, assuming he didn’t tell her and she’s keeping it a secret.” she looked at Celestia again, “We wouldn’t know: she’s a changeling. We’re lucky she’s so engaged, or else we’d have to worry about her impersonating teachers to get out of classes.”

She moved onto one with a giddy Hippogryph, who looked as if she could barely contain her excitement as her claws gripped the stool they’d been taking the photos on, “Queen Novo sent her own niece because apparently she thinks this is a good school to train a diplomat, and I'm not even sure she's mistaken. But Silverstream is barely even fifteen, how could Novo put her in this position?”

Finally, she picked up the file with a bored looking gryphon, whose blue feathers were an extremely rare trait, “And Gallus? I'm not even sure what to think!” she dropped the file again for punctuation, “I assumed Gruff was bringing him because he cared, I assumed that bluff about bringing a griffin army was out of concern, but now I'm starting to think this was all a long con: he gets rid of a street urchin for the rest of griffonstone, while simultaneously positioning himself as a political figure for us to go through. He scares two birds with one stone. For all I can tell, he doesn't even care if gallus lives or dies!”

She threw her hooves in the air, flailing, “They've turned my school into some sort of international political scheme!”

“And all this is a problem?” Celestia finally spoke.

“Um... Is it not?” She'd learned from her years as a student not to assume she knew the answer when Celestia asked seemingly obvious questions.

“Twilight,” she stated calmly, placing a hoof on the desk, “there are factions beyond the borders of Equestria whose very way of life would mean the wholesale murder and enslavement of our people. The Storm King and Queen Chrysalis were only two such threats, the only difference being they were bold enough to attack. The leaders of the other nations know this, and it’s likely they assumed you did too. After all, you have been trying to strengthen our relations with them.”

She glanced down at the desk, “I can't say for certain that Gruff is being entirely honest with us, on the contrary, I agree with your suspicion that he is simply a con artist trying to maneuver his way into power. However, he wouldn’t be the one we were talking to if not for the fact that he is literally the only griffon who we can talk to. Griffonstone is a failed state, and what’s left is rapidly dissolving. We’ve had a refugee crisis with them ever since Guto lost the idol, and it’s only a matter of time before they abandon their crumbling cities and go back to being solitary wandering hunters and mercenaries. When Rainbow and Pinkie Pie intervened, it showed them another option, and there are plenty of griffons who are jumping at the chance to be something again. If this continues, it won’t be long before an alliance is mutually beneficial.”

“As for the Hippogriffs, I've known Queen Novo for a very long time. Watching her people fall to the Storm King, losing her own husband in the fray, shook her to her core. She's never had to be a hooves-on ruler, but she knows her people can't defend themselves from every threat. Hippogriff soldiers may be strong, but Mount Eris is only a city state: the size of their army is limited, and I think it’s very obvious at this point that they won’t last much longer without forming ties to peoples they can depend upon for extra forces in an attack. The siege of Mount Aris lasted for days before she and her people were forced to flee, plenty of time for us to have sent reinforcements had we only been aware of them.”

“Thorax cares for his own people, and he knows that we trust him. The changelings may be recovering from their revolution right now, but in the past, the Swarm was responsible for the utter destruction of nations many times their size, without the need for any sort of technology or diplomacy. Do you really think the other world leaders believe he is safe to leave in power? Do you know just how many within our own government have proposed my sister and I wipe them out in their moment of weakness? You're right, Thorax knows the game he's playing, and he’s one wrong move away from extinction. He wants to show the world that the changelings are better as an ally now than they were as an enemy, and he wants to use us as the example, because he knows that we know that he would never even consider betraying us.”

“Ember has been thrust into the leadership of a people who can no longer continue with their current ways. Any Pony can tell you why dragons are feared, but do you understand the consequences of fear? I can easily recall a time when my own sister was called a hero for every dragon she’d slain. They may be strong, but what little ‘society’ they have would never keep up with technological development. I’ve treated them with mercy so far, but it's only a matter of time before a less peaceful nation recognizes that the various treaties the Dragon Lords have agreed to over the centuries are more for their own protection from the outside world than any sense of shame. The real reason Torch didn't want his daughter to become the dragon lord was because he knew she might spend the last moments of her reign watching her people being slaughtered and subjugated by foreign powers. However, Spike may have saved all of dragon kind when he gave her the scepter, because she’s one of the few dragons who is capable of understanding this: everything she does is out of desperation to save her people, because she knows that if they don't change, they aren't going to survive. Twilight, she isn’t even twenty, and she’s had the survival of her entire species hoisted on her shoulders. I’ve been there, and it’s not a place I would wish on anyone.”

“And you think Yakyakistan only sent Yona because she was a good student? Warrior cultures do not develop in a peaceful setting. I shudder to think what enemy is so horrible that such a proud and xenophobic people would suddenly want an alliance, but I have no idea how to ask Rutherford what sort of horror they’re fighting. All I know is that Yona isn’t just here to represent Yaks, she’s here to build goodwill towards them, something she is exceptional at.”

“Twilight, the free world as we know it is in peril. There is a crisis coming, and those who see it have been powerless against it. The leaders sent those students because they saw this as the perfect opportunity to build relations without the politics of formal diplomacy. I am sorry that this has fallen on your shoulders in your youth, but there is a war coming, not today, not even next year, but it will come to our doorsteps, and when it does, we will need to stand together.” she stood, giving Twilight a hardened look, “Your little experiment here may be our last chance for securing a future.”

Twilight was shivering now. She looked down at her desk, files beginning to blur as her eyes began to water with the weight of understanding, “But... why me?”

Celestia stepped around the desk to stand at her side, putting a foreleg around her for comfort as she sat on the carpet. She spoke softly, “Because you're the only one of us who can.”

Twilight looked up at her.

Celestia stroked her gently, “I've tried to build alliances with them for centuries, and I've never had any luck. They know I scheme, and they think it means I'll trick them. They're coming to you because they think they can trust you.” Pride began to swell within her voice, “After all, who else would be serious enough about friendship to let the Yaks badger them into a party? Who else could a dragon trust to treat them as an equal and not a monster? Who else is willing to give the changelings a chance? Who else would go to nations they know nothing about to save them from conquest by tyrants? Not I. Not them. Of all the triumphs we've had as leaders of our people, this is where we've all failed utterly. The simple act of friendship. This is a task we have been at for centuries, and we have proven ourselves worthless compared to you.” She lowered her head, placing her horn on Twilight's shoulder, “Princess Twilight, you are our greatest hope.”

Twilight sat there, staring at Celestia's pure white coat, as she had many times since they'd first met. She'd thought she knew every wave of her coat, every length of every hair, but now, the details that she'd never contemplated had come into clear focus...

The age...

The loss...

The fear.

It was as if she was looking at an entirely different Pony, in a world light years from the one she knew. Princess Celestia Sol Invictus, crowned ruler of Equestria for over a millenium, de facto leader of the free world, was but a mere pony before her, trembling in the face of impending defeat.

“Celestia...” She finally asked, quietly, “What should I do?”

“You tell me.” the mare responded, looking into her eyes with a soft smile, “As I said, you've been succeeding where all of us have failed miserably. What do you think the next course of action should be in order to make friends?”

“Well... They each sent me a student... They sent them to me... Like sending them to my house... And I've been trying to show those students how to make friends...”

“Okay,” Celestia nodded slowly,”That's one way of looking at it. So, what would you do in response?”

“...I need to return the gesture.”

Author's Note:

Here it is, as promised, the sequel to What's Your Problem? As previously stated, this will be a similar story, but in long form, with the Young Six dealing with both their coming-of-age problems and the great expectations placed upon them, over the course of a series of short, mostly standalone arcs dealing with the various nations they come from.

Hope you all enjoy!