• Published 12th Jan 2020
  • 1,943 Views, 93 Comments

Distance Beyond Any Measure - Ice Star

How do you tell a child that she will never be enough?

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Chapter 1: Eagerness of Youth

“All of this is my room?” squeaked the wide-eyed, gangly filly. Her accent, an Equestrian-Istallion hodgepodge, lent an unusual rhythm to her words. Princess Celestia had spent enough time with the filly – including an especially long carriage ride from her village – to know some of the chatter-prone teenager’s way around words.

“Of course,” Princess Celestia said, smiling pleasantly, not bothering to give the chambers much of a second glance. It was only the standard fare for the lesser towers. “You can’t mean that you never had a bedroom back in Wispgrove, hm?”

The filly’s expression told her everything. Another little pony was staunchly immune to the idea that when it was appropriate, their princess teased. There was some relief in knowing that a merry teen like this filly might grow responsive to such things, which was something so different from Sunset Shimmer’s sullen habits.

“Umm.” Mi Amore Cadenza’s starstruck gaze fell to the floor, and she traced a hoof along the magic-infused marble. “No, Princess. I had one… it just wasn’t so big.”

“If you want something smaller-”

“No, no! I don’t mean to sound ungrateful!” The little one beamed up at her, lavender-tipped wings spread wide with the barely contained excitement that had been the young one’s constant state since her departure. “I’m not! I couldn’t be, Princess! This is just all so much! I don’t know where to begin thanking you-”

“Nor do you have to, Mi Amore Cadenza.” Especially since this is close to the three-hundredth time you've thanked me… “Just be sure to bring a list of furnishings you would like to my secretary, Raven. I’ll have you two introduced at evening tea-”

“FURNISHINGS?” the filly squawked. “That’s a full canopy bed!” She pointed a forehoof, hiding another odd chirp as her new horn drizzled a few sparks of blue magic with her energetic outburst. “I spy an armoire! A vanity that nearly wraps around the corner! OHMIGODS! I EVEN HAVE A BALCONY?!”

Princess Celestia’s smile shrank, and she took two graceful steps away from the doorway. Her (slightly weary, if she must admit) confusion buried itself behind much-needed patience. “Yes, furnishings. What you see here is a very bare bedroom, and I can’t imagine that your bathroom even has a toothbrush in it-”

“MY OWN BATHROOM?!” came the eager shrieks of the volume only permitted to teenage fillies (Celestia would know, long ago she had been one). If it weren’t for the big blue bow holding back her mane, the colorful curls of the teen would have spilled over her face with each ecstatic jump.

“Goodness, if your cottage did not even allow you a bathroom to yourself, are you going to tell me that you didn’t even have your own toothbrush?” Celestia feigned a gasp.

Hiding a smile was her true test of composure when she saw the utter confusion that drove the filly to silence. Standing in Celestia’s shadow, Mi Amore Cadenza cocked her head to the side and looked up at Princess Celestia, verging on bewilderment. “No way! I totally had on my own toothbrush, Princess. I just don’t get why I should have even more stuff…”

Her last words had trailed off into near-mumbles. One pink hoof reached up to rub under her bangs, but when they bumped that new horn, the filly couldn’t hide her flinch.

“There are many things you will need in your time here, and I’ll be sending you to stores with my Faithful Student when tomorrow comes to make sure you get the right supplies for your lessons. Sunset is close in age to you, and I’m sure she’ll know all the hippest spots you fillies like to get mane supplies and essentials. Until your parents mail some of your things, I want you to feel at home. You were talking about a band you liked on the trip here. Wouldn’t you like some posters?”

Which band?” Mi Amore Cadenza asked innocently, unaware that Celestia could only so much chatter about Death Carriages for This or the Thin White Duchess of That before her ability to indulge in polite interest waned and her ears numbed totally.

“All of them?” Celestia offered, wishing that the filly might not detect that she was, in fact, asking a question.

Aha! Celestia thought when she caught sight of the light budding deep in the purple eyes of Mi Amore Cadenza. She had far too many Faithful Students not to know the sight of teenage scheming in a pony’s eyes – even if Mi Amore Cadenza was slightly older than her personal students, nor was she one.

“Yes, my dear. You may purchase all the posters you like – oh, and an alarm clock. You’ll certainly be needing one in the future!”

“Princess, I don’t know what I’m supposed to use to buy all these things. I don’t remember if I put any of my allowance in my saddlebags before leaving.”

Princess Celestia tutted. “Don’t worry about that matter, I’ll be setting you up with one from me eventually. Until then, just pick what you like and I’ll see that it is covered.”

A high, thin creaking kind of sound emanated from Mi Amore Cadenza’s mouth as it hung agape. The longer it went on, the more Princess Celestia found it to be not unlike the sound made by a squeaky door she had to fix last week.

It was only when Celestia offered a reaction: one gold-clad foreleg raised with the same uncertainty that Mi Amore Cadenza registered moments later.

Before the kind words to excuse herself came to mind, a pink blur barrelled forwards and Celestia’s front legs were grasped in a hug.

“Thank you! Thank you! Thank you so much!” Mi Amore Cadenza squealed, squeezing what she could hold of the towering princess as tightly as possible. “Grazie mille! Sei il migliore insegnante che ci sia!

A cruel lump lurked in Princess Celestia’s throat, threatening her with the potential reaction that her dry eyes knew not to show. “You’re welcome, Mi Amore Cadenza.” With hesitance and nagging thoughts about boundaries, she patted the filly’s head. “I wish for you to feel at home here, never forget that. If there’s anything that can be done for you, please just let me know.”

“Cross my heart, Princess!”

“That’s nice, dear,” Celestia said softly, trying to remember the last time Sunset Shimmer offered her such adoration. “Your future is important to me, my little pony.”

‘Future’ was such a funny word, too. Perhaps even a cruel one at times.

To be entirely honest – something that often felt uneasy even within the privacy of her own thoughts – Celestia had no idea exactly what she was supposed to do with Mi Amore Cadenza in the long run. At least, not concretely. She wasn’t a Faithful Student, but she would need to learn magic. However, she wouldn’t be able to have the dual classes at Celestia’s school that every Student had. After all, Mi Amore Cadenza didn’t have unicorn magic and she was too old compared to a normal attendee. Even if she had unicorn magic teachable to the school, poor Mi Amore Cadenza would find herself left behind diving into such a strict education so suddenly.

She would be a fool to ever pass up on the chance to shelter this filly, who would be such a target for danger without her. The horn and wings combo was all the evidence needed that she would be useful, even if it was not for all that Celestia wished. Not accounting for particularly troubling domestic situations, there was no nation that would not look upon the teenager as useful in ways much less kindly. For a mortal to bear horns and wings was an unprecedented event that any leader in the world would rub their hooves greedily over. Yet, it was now Celestia who ensured Cadance would stay in Equestria, never to be taken from her against either of their wishes.

There were many things that this filly could be, and none of them matched up with Celestia’s usual gambits. Too much disqualified her from being a Faithful Student, but she had to be taught anyway. The lists in the mind of Princess Celestia went on with the possibilities she had been considering thus far. A future diplomat was a nice, promising one. A loving, exuberant nature resided in this one.

It only made it more hurt that Celestia wished Mi Amore Cadenza was any different.