• Published 17th Nov 2020
  • 8,162 Views, 285 Comments

Six Little Words - SpectralFury



Six little words slowly destroy Twilight’s faith in her mentor, and lead her to a different destiny.

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Defiance

Celestia had a test for her. A test. The word had grown to become synonymous with a curse to Twilight. Every time she heard the word, she immediately began analyzing what was said, what was not said, what was done, and what was not done. Chrysalis’ plot on Canterlot wasn’t Celestia’s fault, but it had only continued to erode Twilight's trust in Celestia. Where before she was simply manipulative, now she was fallible to the point that if Twilight hadn't stepped in, Equestria may have fallen.

She was still unsure that Celestia's failure wasn't a calculated move.

She entered the throne room at a sedate pace, glancing at the stained glass windows that adorned the walls. One of them depicted her and her friends’ defeat of Nightmare Moon. Another was of their defeat of Discord. The newest showed Twilight and Luna seeing through the changeling’s disguise, and capturing her.

The amount of changelings that were throwing themselves on Luna’s shield numbered in the thousands, but it still held. Luna refused to tell Twilight exactly what she had done to coerce Chrysalis, but the insect queen eventually gave in.

Celestia and Luna didn’t exactly hold it against her for wanting to feed her starving subjects. After all, they fed on love. It was either commit to attacks like this or die, so they had been merciful. Chrysalis was under house arrest, and rather than condemn the changeling species to extinction, there was a system being set up to feed them.

Cadance had been found in the old crystal mines of the Canterhorn, roughed up but otherwise fine. The wedding had been postponed, and Shining was horrified that he fell for the bug’s manipulations, but Cadance had forgiven him. The sun seemed to shine brighter with their love as they kissed at the wedding.

Alas, relaxation and calm wasn’t meant to be, it seemed. Celestia had a test for her.

“Trust me, little sister,” Celestia said to a frowning Luna. As Celestia turned to Twilight, Luna gave the unicorn a look, and that was all that was required. This was a part of Celestia's plan.

“You wanted to see me, Princess? I brought my supplies.” Twilight said. She had brought her test taking supplies, quills, parchment, and the like, on the off chance that this was a more normal exam. She had hoped this was something along those lines, but Luna had just confirmed that this was not to be.

Celestia’s expression was soft, but serious. “This is a different kind of test, Twilight. The Crystal Empire has returned.”

Twilight wracked her brain for the term, but came up with nothing. “The Crystal Empire? I’ve never heard of it.”

Celestia explained that it was an old nation, ruled by an evil unicorn named King Sombra. He enslaved his subjects, forced them into hard labor, and used them as shock troops in a war against Equestria. Celestia and Luna were able to defeat him, but not without cost. Before his defeat, he managed to curse the Empire, forcing it to vanish. Now, after more than a thousand years, it had finally returned, most likely with Sombra clinging to it like an infection.

The Empire needed to be protected, as its aura spread across the land. If hatred and fear took hold there once more, it would affect all of Equestria.

“You want me to help protect an entire empire?” Twilight asked.

“It is, as I said, a different kind of test. But one I'm certain you will pass.”

I knew you could do it.

Twilight took a breath. So far there was nothing odd about this. They were heroes. It was what they did. “And how am I supposed to do this?”

“You will join Princess Cadance and Shining Armor in the Crystal Empire.”

Twilight blinked. “Shining is there? What about his recovery?”

Celestia smiled faintly. “I have been assured that he is well enough. You will not be alone, either. Your Ponyville friends will join you as well. I have every confidence you will succeed. And when you do, I'll know you are ready to move on to the next level of your studies.”

Those words would have given Twilight an untold amount of elation mere months ago. The prospect of new material to research? New knowledge?

It was drowned out by reality.

“And if I fail-”

“You won’t,” Celestia assured. Twilight fought to keep herself from glaring at the interruption.

“If I-”

“You won’t.” Twilight’s lips curled back for a split second. If Celestia saw it, she didn’t react. “Twilight, in the end, it must be you and you alone who ultimately assists Princess Cadance and Shining Armor in doing what needs to be done to protect the Empire. Do you understand?”

“No.”

“Then g- what?” Celestia’s eyes widened. “What do you not understand?”

“Why are you sending me and my friends against a warlord? Why did you send two ponies, both of which recently suffered from mind control and malnutrition, alone to the Crystal Empire?”

“Because I am confident that all of you can succeed,” Celestia said evenly.

I knew you could do it.

“Very well,” Twilight said. “So we will be taking the Elements with us?”

“They will not be necessary, Twilight. You need only to trust in yourselves.”

Twilight glanced over to Luna, who was looking at her sister with disapproval. “What about a guard detail, then? You couldn’t with Discord, but surely you could spare some here?”

Celestia frowned. “As I said, my student. This test is for you and you alone.”

Twilight tried one more time. "Okay, what about Sombra? What do we know about him? What can he do?"

Celestia smiled at her serenely, but Twilight only saw it as patronizing. "It matters not. You have the power of friendship with you. With it, you can overcome any challenge."

Twilight’s face burned red with outrage before she could stop it. It must have been a doozy, because Celestia actually flinched at it. Enough of this. No more chess, no more incomplete information, no more gambling with lives, no more tests.

“No.”

Celestia’s eyes widened in visible shock. “No?”

“I will not put Equestria on the line just for a test. Millions of ponies are at stake. The only proper course of action is to do everything in our power to ensure that we will succeed.”

“And I have done so,” Celestia said sternly. “I am absolutely certain that you and your friends are all that are needed. Anything else is superfluous. Now go. Every minute you are arguing with me is another minute Sombra regains his strength.”

Twilight’s face twisted through all manner of emotions before finally falling into an expressionless mask. “As you command, your highness.” Twilight performed a customary subject's bow before leaving.

Luna looked at her sister, whose composure was starting to crack. Those five words had hit Celestia hard, and while Luna felt sympathetic, she refused to console her. Celestia had brought this upon herself.

“What just happened?” Celestia softly asked.

“You already know the answer, sister,” Luna said before walking out.

===

It was only an hour later that Celestia entered Luna’s study, frowning. “Luna?”

“Yes, sister?” Luna asked, not looking up from her book.

“The Elements of Harmony are gone.”

“How odd.”

There was a beat. “Four squads of your guards are missing as well.”

“Interesting.”

“A warship launched just ten minutes ago, and proceeded north. The dockmaster said you authorized it.”

“What a coincidence.” Luna scowled as her book was pulled from her grasp.

“We discussed this. Twilight needs to deal with this crisis herself.

Luna raised a brow. “Is she not?”

“With her lessons in friendship at the helm, not with violence. She must pass this test so we can be sure she is ready for her destiny.”

Luna frowned and stood, walking to the window and gazing out, spying the shrinking airship in the distance. “Do you know what I see, sister?” She turned. “I see a pony that passed the test the moment she chose to defy you.”

Celestia stepped back. “Wh-”

“I see a pony that refuses to let others stand in her way when it comes to protecting the innocent. I see a pony that will do all that is necessary to properly serve those she is charged with. What do I see? I see a heroine, one that does not compromise her ideals, even for those that she cares for.”

Celestia was speechless for a moment, but eventually returned to her displeased stare. “And you helped her.”

“I authorized nothing,” Luna dismissed. “Twilight assumed I would approve, and I do.”

“And if she did ask for your help?”

“I would have given it without delay. It is the mark of a wise leader that knows when they require assistance, sister, and when an advisor no longer contributes.”

Celestia was silent for another minute. “What is happening between me and my student? She hasn’t called me ‘your highness’ since…” She cringed. “Luna? Have you been speaking to her?”

“We exchange correspondence weekly, if not more frequently.”

“May I ask what you two speak of?”

“You may not.” Celestia recoiled. “I’m sorry sister, but what Twilight and I discuss is private.”

“Do you not trust me?”

“I am not the pony you should be asking that question.”

===

Six hours later, the HMS Prominence entered the Crystal Empire, and was attacked by a mass of shadow. Through the efforts of Equestria’s finest and the Elements of Harmony, King Sombra was ultimately defeated and petrified. A military occupation was ordered, food and supplies were distributed to the locals, and a temporary government was set up with Cadance as its head.

Twilight and her friends eventually discovered the existence of a powerful artifact, the Crystal Heart. Though the search took some time and careful disarming of several dark magic traps, they returned it to its rightful place. The encroaching winter, along with the remnants of Sombra’s influence, were blasted away by the power of the crystal ponies’ love and happiness.

Celestia had ordered Cadance to assume control of the Crystal Empire, however the crystal ponies had other plans. They respected Cadance for her efforts in staving off Sombra’s attack, but it was Twilight that led the charge, it was Twilight that found the Crystal Heart, and it was Twilight that they wanted. Twilight declined the crown, but offered to maintain the interim government while they figured out what they wanted to do. Cadance and Shining Armor returned to Equestria, much to Celestia’s surprise, and promptly began recovering from their second major ordeal in two months.

A month later, Twilight stepped down as Crystal Regent, leaving an extremely efficient and optimized governmental structure for the newly elected King Diamond Facet to step into.

Author's Note:

Here we have the scene that was my inspiration for the story. Mine isn't nearly as detailed as in Parting Words but it follows a similar scenario.

Also, really, Celestia? A city-state whose well being influences all of Equestria, and a slaver tyrant is back. What do you do? Send the army to help? Nope! First send your guard captain, alone, with a noncombatant. Oh no! They need help! How unexpected! Time to send the all purpose solution, Twilight and company! Oh, and no Elements of Harmony. And no backup, again.