• Published 28th Jun 2012
  • 17,953 Views, 1,427 Comments

A New Hero - Alex The Lone Wolf

What if there was another pony who joined the pony gang? (Look at longer description...)

  • ...

PreviousChapters Next
Celestial Advice

"What do you think I should do?" A touch of hyperactivity brushed off the surface of her tongue as she turned her head in front of the mirror. Her eyes locked on to different parts of her face ranging from her ears, eyes, and hair. "I totally feel like asking Rarity to give me a new manestyle just for the occasion. Oh, and I'm really in the mood to dress up in something cute! You think I should try some makeup?"

"Easy there." I recommended. "I'm not trying to rain on your big day, but it's just a simple ceremony. You don't need to dress up or anything. I don't think you'd want all the attention on you for being the only one spruced up, do you?"

"Mm, you're probably right…" She managed to turn away from the mirror and face me. "Sorry, I'm just so excited! Do you know how many good things have happened to me lately? It's like my luck suddenly turned around! I've got such an adorbs cutie mark, I was able to give a lecture to school ponies with so much confidence, and most importantly, I was able to help save everyone from the gruesome Queen Chrysalis! Now, I'm getting a medal of honor! I never thought I'd ever be in a position like this!"

Athena's eyes sparkled in excitement, and it was honestly quite a joy to see her so happy. Comparing to the times she'd be so doubtful of herself, it was inspiring to see how far she progressed through her hardest moments.

With a stretching smile, I raised my hoof and lightly ruffled her mane with it. "It's really amazing, alright. I'm happy for you. Really. Proud, to be exact."

"Hehe…" She giggled lightly. "I'm really happy to hear that. I may be a brat from time to time, but I always love making you proud. So, thanks for tolerating me for as long as you have."

"I don't know what you're talking about." I answered. "You make it sound like I was forced to put up with you."

"Oh? In that case…"

A knock sounded at the door, pulling us away from the conversation we had been having with each other. A few seconds after, the head of a unicorn poked in and faced us. "Hey hey! Just wanted to know if you were ready, Athena. Everyone's practically already assembled."

"Oh, sure!" Athena chirped. "I'll be right there!"

Twilight closed her eyes and smiled cheerfully before she pulled back and closed the door.

"We better get going." I advised. "Don't want to be late for the big event, after all."

"You got that, right!" Athena agreed, initiating our walk to the ceremony hall.

Athena and I ended up being on that stage on differing receiving ends. She stood on the end of those that were being awarded, and I stood on the end with the other princesses giving the awards. I wasn't sure if she had been expecting me to be up on stage with her since I noticed her glancing at me every now and then with an embarrassed grin before she'd either turn to the crowd or to the one who had been speaking during the ceremony.

"Starlight, Trixie, Thorax, Athena, and Discord were brave in the face of danger, resourceful when things got challenging, and proved that the bonds of friendship, no matter how unlikely, are stronger than any adversity. By stopping Queen Chrysalis, not only did they save Equestria; they set the changelings free from her reign."

"Go, Discord! Yahoo!" Discord suddenly appeared in the audience dressed up in sporty garb and belted out loudly. It wasn't a surprise when his unnecessary hurrah was hardly welcomed; Starlight Glimmer was the only one heard giggling to herself.

"And that's why we're proud and honored to give them the Equestrian Pink Hearts of Courage!" Celestia continued, allowing Luna to pick them up with her magic and hover them over to the bowing recipients. Actually, she picked up only four out of the five, based on a personal request I had made prior to the event.

I picked up the last one on the pedestal and drew closer to my sister, but having been bowed with her eyes closed, she didn't notice anything at first. I carefully drew the necklace around her head and positioned it gently until it stayed put when I released the hold I had on it. She picked up her head once officially receiving the award and opened her eyes to find me standing in front of her.

Once again, my actions seemed to have come across as a shock for her since she appeared to subtly jump in place at the sight of me. Eventually, her shock was short-lived when an amber glow ignited within the surface of her cheeks.

This moment had unexpectedly been cut short when we heard sounds of a small struggle nearby. My mother had been having obvious trouble when it came to Thorax, as the strap wouldn't quite fit due to the width of his horns. Not to mention, Pinkie was heard from the viewing party loudly broadcasting the state of her progress. Thankfully so, Luna managed to finish the job with small beads of sweat dripping from her face.

"We are so proud of you all!" Twilight concluded, garnering applause to sprout from the onlookers.

"This medal is so cute!" Athena observed the memento resting on her chest. "It actually looks a lot like my cutie mark, doesn't it?!"

"It does, actually." I began to notice after she brought it up. "It's almost like you were 'destined' to get this award, isn't it?"

She giggled lightly. "You might be on to something there."

A soft yet firm beat began emanating from a particular corner of the room. Turning our heads, we found a set of recognizable speakers blasting out loud yet tolerable music that may have seemed a little too relaxed for the aftermath of an award ceremony.

"Oh, it's Vinyl!" I recognized the pony mixing up her usual beats and turned over to Athena. "You two haven't officially met, right? Come on, I'll introduce you."

"Kay." She stated nonchalantly before following me over to the mixing table.

"Yo!" Vinyl called out at the sight of us. "This is so crazy! I never even knew the changelings had invaded Ponyville! If we had, you bet your flank Tavi, the Derps, and I would've come running!"

"Vinyl's right." Octavia joined in on the conversation from a few steps away. "I can't believe you were all abducted right underneath our noses. I must say that I feel a little guilty for not knowing." Right on cue, Derpy slowly pulled up with a muffin in her mouth and began pushing the one in her hoof towards Octavia in a silly manner. "O-Oh. No, thank you." Octavia politely declined.

"I've gotta admit. It's a little weird not seeing the usual crew up there." Vinyl mentioned. "You know, the one group of ponies that've saved Equestria how many times now?"

"That's actually kind of why I'm here." I returned. "I wanted you to meet the pony who has a knack for having my back." I turned my head towards Athena.

"Hi." She lifted a hoof and sent a friendly smile.

"Oh, hey!" Vinyl observed Athena for a good while before she stepped forward. "I've seen you around before. Like at the Hearth's Warming party, am I right?"

"You're totes right." Athena jubilantly answered.

"Haha, 'totes'." Vinyl repeated, finding enjoyment out of the peculiar part of Athena's vocabulary.

"Vinyl, Octavia, and Derpy, ergo Ditsy Doo, yes?" Athena called as she shared a glance with each one of them. "I hope you don't think it's weird I'm familiar with your names. I've known about you all for a while now. I just never really got the chance to meet you for real." Afterwards, she shared a grateful bow. "Thanks for helping look after my brother."

"Brother?!" Octavia and Vinyl exclaimed in surprise while Derpy silently shot open her eyes.

"Dude! You didn't say this mare was your sister!" Vinyl felt the need to push the topic towards my face.

I already knew to answer that was going to be a toughie. There wasn't really any point going into all the dirty details about the little predicament between us, but at the same time, it wasn't easy to explain without being vague.

"Yeah, it's kind of complicated." I merely responded with.

I could hear Octavia lightly sighing as she softly shook her head. That kind of behavior was a bit questionable to me, but she seemed to get back on track when it came to the previous topic of introductions.

"It's pleasure to meet you, Athena. Your name is rather unique, but I find it quite alluring and comforting, especially since you're one of the ponies who rose up against the Queen's pitiful attempt at a disgusting reign."

"Hehe, thanks." Athena looked a little disoriented by Octavia's words, but she seemed appreciative of them nonetheless.

Vinyl's head suddenly swung back towards the mixing table. "Oh, shoot! I better get back to working the beats! They aren't going to mix themselves, you know!"

Derpy returned an enthusiastic wave before dashing back over to the refreshment table.

"Mm." I heard what sounded like a groan come from Octavia. She looked away for a moment as she held her left leg with her right hoof. It wasn't completely noticeable, but there seemed to be this sort of sad look in her eyes. "Well, I'm sure you have business with the rest of your friends. It was nice seeing you."

Afterward, she began to walk off into another unknown section of the party.

"Hm…" I heard Athena slip out as her eyes appeared to remain locked in the direction Octavia had left. For some reason, a look of slight worry had formed on her face, leaving me curious about what had been on her mind.

"What do you look worried about?" I asked.

"I don't like the way she looks…" She muttered to herself yet answered me at the same time as she closed her eyes to seemingly think seriously for a moment.

"Huh?" I felt a bit shocked hearing that from her. For a second, I almost thought she had been commenting on her physique and complexion.

"Has she always been like this?" She opened her eyes and turned to me.

"You mean Octavia? What do you mean?"

"Yes, her. I don't know how to put it into words, but she seems really…reserved. It was one thing to see it at the Hearth's Warming party, but unless it's a really rare coincidence, I don't like this pattern. You know, I haven't seen her that many times before, but if I remember right, I don't think I've ever seen her really happy."

"You're kind of confusing me here." I mentioned.

"I'm saying that it seems like more than just a bad day, dummy." Athena somewhat clarified. "This is just a hunch, but I feel like something's bothering her. And I'm not talking about a small temporary something. I mean a sort of trauma something."

"What? Are you serious?" I asked as I began turning in the direction Octavia left to see if I could spot her.

"Obviously, I don't know what it is, so I'm not saying she's suffered some kind of abuse or anything. All I know is that it seems to be something she's been dealing with for a while now."

I began thinking to myself at that moment. I wondered if it had anything to do with what she was going through back at the Hearth's Warming party. I remembered her mentioning that she would come to me if she needed it. Could the party be stopping her from talking to me? Ugh, so confusing.

"I don't know if you'll get a chance to talk with her today." Athena told me as if she had read my mind. "It seems there's going to be a lot going on because of the ceremony and stuff, but you should probably try to schedule some time with her. I mean, I don't want to force you to do anything or get involved. I would totally try to help her out, but we're not exactly as close to each other as you are…"

"No, no…" I shook my head at the idea of doing nothing to help a friend in need. "She's done so much for me. I'd have to be a jerk to just ignore her if she's going through something that she could really use a hoof in. Yeah, okay. I'll try to get through the festivities today, then I'll see what I can do after for her."

Athena smiled brightly at my words before she suddenly gasped once locking eyes at a particular something in the distance. "Is that Zecora?! Oh my gosh!"

Before I could even open my mouth, she had already galloped off. Based on what I had learned from her side of the fight against Chrysalis and her army, it seemed that she had still felt extremely thankful towards Zecora. I supposed I didn't blame her. I would probably have strong feelings for the first pony I came across if I thought I was all alone.

"I'm still waiting to hear my thank you, you know?" I heard a voice intrude by my side. "It's the least I could get considering how I helped saved Equestria from imminent danger."

I turned around and wasn't all surprised to find Discord slithering by. The only kind of facial expression I could naturally muster up at the sight of him was an unamused one. The proud uplifting spirit I had been once feeling seemed to fade away, at least for the moment.

"You know, I heard that you had no plans to 'help save Equestria' until Fluttershy's name came up on the list of captured ponies. I don't exactly know if that warrants a 'Thanks' from me." I mentioned frankly, finding the initial idea quite offensive.

"That's exactly why you should be thanking me." He placed a claw around me and booped me on the nose with his paw. "Obviously, Fluttershy is so important to you, you would think it'd only be natural to be eternally grateful to the one who saved the pony you care deeply about. Doesn't it give you a peace of mind knowing that I can guarantee her safety at a whim?"

You know, I would feel a lot better if you could guarantee the safety of everyone, but I guess that's too much to ask for from you, right?

Despite my thoughts and his slightly flawed premise, I couldn't exactly argue with him that I managed to appreciate the fact that he had the power to keep Fluttershy safe from harm. If there's anything I could scavenge out of the chaotic nature of his character, it was just that. "I hate to say this, but I guess you do have a point…"

"Oh, goodie!" He clapped before bringing out some kind of equipment that I would expect to see Vinyl handling and held a microphone to my lips. "Anytime you're ready."

I sighed heavily, growing tired of his unnecessary shenanigans. However, if I gave him what he wanted, it'd all be over that much quicker. "…thank you, Discord." I felt myself reluctantly force out of my mouth.

He messed with his equipment for a bit until he finally decided to put it away. "I'll be sure to listen to that again every now and then. Although, I may need to make a few adjustments to make it sound just a little more…ahem…lively."

"…yeah, whatever." I decided to pass on questioning the uses of whatever he just recorded from me. "But, you know, you didn't do it all on your own. There's the others like—"

"Yes, yes." He cut me off, brushing away the topic with his paw as if he was tired of hearing it. "Thorax, Trixie, and Starlight."

"And Athena…?" I included.

"See, I keep hearing this 'Athena', but I don't believe I've ever met her, nor has she actually done anything that you could consider beneficial for Equestria." As he said this, he pulled out a large book and flipped through various pages filled with different kinds of pictures from different ponies, along with their names under each one of them. It actually kind of looked like a year book.

"Are you kidding me?" I questioned. "You were literally just standing next to her a few minutes ago?"

"Was I?" Discord licked his paw and adjusted the glasses he wore for the occasion as he continued to skim through pages of his book. "I'm looking through every pony I've at least seen, and I can't find an 'Athena' at all."

I narrowed my eyes and found that it was ridiculous that I was even playing along with his game.

"Try looking under 'Spirit'." I suggested.

"'Spirit'? 'Spirit'… 'Spirit'…" He flipped through many pages until he finally stopped at one and pointed directly at a specific picture. "Ah! The one with mismatched eyes. Yes. I actually find her interesting. You see, I don't think I've ever come across a pony whose—"

"That's Athena." I answered before he could ramble on.

"What?" He returned, looking a bit cluelessly.

"That mare that's named 'Spirit' in your book? Her name's Athena." I clarified.

Discord laughed and shook his head. "No, no. Her name is clearly 'Spirit'." He argued, taking another look at the page. "To think that you two are supposed to be 'close'. I must say that I feel sorry for you for having mistaken her name for so long…"

"You know what? Go ask her yourself. Then, come back and tell me what she says." I told him, growing tired of our stupid and unnecessary argument.

He stared back at me, appearing to find the serious expression on my face undeserved, so he raised his claw and snapped. Out of thin air, Athena appeared before us, and she looked around dazed and confused before she found the cause of her teleportation to be Discord.

"…Hey!" She faced Discord with an angry and unappreciative look.

"'Spirit'." Discord began to label. "Please, tell Alex that that indeed is your name."

"…what?" She returned in confusion.

"He thinks your name is 'Spirit' and not Athena." I gave her the shortest explanation I could think of.

"Huh? No." She turned back to Discord. "My real name is Athena. I thought you knew that?"

"What?!" He turned back to his book. "That's what every pony was calling you last I remember!"

"You have short-term memory loss or something? I know you haven't been around me or a lot of us often lately, but that's literally what every pony has been calling me since we fought the changelings together. 'Spirit' was just a, well, nickname, I guess."

"Well…this is embarrassing." His closed his book shut and put it away. "I suppose I need to make a few changes. Please, excuse me." Without another word, he disappeared from sight.

Afterwards, Athena faced me with an insulted look on her face.

"We practically fought side-by-side and he doesn't even know my name when it's constantly being said in front of him? How rude."

"If you've been around him long enough like I have, you kind of get used to it." I said.

"I don't think I want to be around him if I don't need to be." She shivered a bit before she shook it off. "I still can't believe Fluttershy is friends with him."

"Me either, but I guess we technically all are."

"Uh, Alex?" I heard a hushed whisper catch my attention. "Can I have a word with you?"

I turned and found that it had come from Twilight. Similar to what happened just a few minutes ago, it appeared that she had lost the proud grin that she had been wearing as well. Instead, it had been replaced with a concealed look of panic. She anxiously and repeatedly waved me over, urging me to follow her the very second my eyes caught a glimpse of hers.

"Uh…I'll be right back." I told Athena before I began walking off.

"Okay." I heard from her back before she seemed to become attentive towards something else. "Ooh…Thorax. I still can't get over how shiny and pretty you look…"

Twilight ended up leading me to the throne room before I felt the need to ask her why she had called me out, to begin with.

"What's going on, Twilight?" I questioned, noticing a few unexpected and extra characters in the room. At Twilight's seat sat Princess Celestia, and by her side was Spike. "Tia? Spike?"

"There's something I really need your help on." Twilight mentioned, pacing across the table with some kind of huge list that looked like it could easily span across the entire room. "It was recently brought to my attention that there just may need to be an abundance of changes necessary to be made."

"…huh?" I questioned in confusion as I tilted my head ever so slightly.

"You all saw what happened out there." Twilight pointed out. "I've always considered her more importantly as a friend, but in the end, Starlight is my pupil. It wasn't until just now where I realized that all the friendship lessons I had planned for her might not be enough anymore. If I were to keep giving her lessons, then I'd feel as if I was just holding her back. Even worse, I'd be bringing her down myself!"

"Hold on. Starlight?" I inquired, still too confused to ask for specific details.

"This is why I need everyone's input. Especially you, Princess Celestia." Twilight continued. "I had years' worth of friendship lessons ready to go, but when we were captured by Chrysalis, Starlight took charge and really stepped up. I'm not the only one who thinks that she needs something more, am I?"

"So, you have an overachieving student. Sounds familiar." Celestia lightly smirked at the topic, raising a chuckle from Spike when it was clear that she had been referring to the former pupil who stood in front of her.

"That's why I had to talk to you. You, of all ponies, would know what to do. I mean, you were me and I was Starlight. But, for now, I need you to pretend you're you and I'm me." Twilight clarified.

"Huh?" Spike questioned, looking as confused as I was.

"Heh. Go on." Princess Celestia chuckled in response and gestured her with her hoof.

"When I was your student, and you were in this place, you—" Twilight stopped all of a sudden. She seemed to stare blankly at whatever had been in front of her sight before she gasped sharply. "Oh, no! You sent me to Ponyville! Which means it's time for me to send Starlight Glimmer away!"

"H-Hold on!" I called out, finding everything I had been currently witnessing moving at too much of a fast pace for me to follow comfortably. "Send her away? She hasn't even been here for that long! You don't think you're overthinking things, do you? Yeah, she won a medal, but that doesn't mean she still doesn't have much to learn from you, don't you think? After all, didn't you study under Princess Celestia for years before you came to Ponyville? Starlight's hardly been here for that long."

"Things are different, Alex." Twilight returned. "For the majority of those years, I had been studying magic. I came to Ponyville to learn about friendship. Starlight was already a genius with magic by the time we met her, and it was only until I took her under my wing where I started teaching her about the magic of friendship. There's only so much I can teach her while she's cooped up in this castle!" She grabbed a firm hold of her head and shook it worryingly. Even though she had called me out here to help, I was afraid that there was nothing much I could do. Although I may have taught Starlight a few things indirectly, she was Twilight's pupil. I didn't have much of a grasp over their academic situation, so there wasn't anything I could say that sounded too convincing. "I can't believe it! It's really time for Starlight to go, isn't it?"

"Only you can make that decision." Celestia prompted as she gently stepped towards her former student. "It's a difficult one, but your heart knows what's right, even as it hurts."

"Where're you gonna send her?" Spike immediately asked out of excitement, but judging from the looks from the two princesses, it seemed he let his excitement get the better of him. "Uh, too soon?"

"No. This is something I have to do." Twilight declared before glancing over the glowing map. "Oh, boy."

"Twilight, maybe this is something you should talk with Starlight about." I suggested, continuing to find this big push from Twilight too forced. "You don't need to come up with a decision right now."

"It's a little too late for that…" Twilight glanced at me from the map. "A certain someone thought it'd be a good idea to start blabbing about how I have this big 'announcement' for Starlight to everypony. At any rate, I have to start coming up with a plan now! I'm her teacher. I'm supposed to be the responsible one!" She turned back to the map and began observing every nook and cranny she could find, leaving me to simply observe her from behind. "Come on, Sparkle! Think!" She began muttering to herself as she repeatedly looked over the entire map. "Gosh, I don't know... I just don't want to send her to the wrong place..." She mumbled on a bit before she suddenly gasped. "I got it! Since defeating Chrysalis, Starlight's given the changelings an opportunity to revolutionize their society. Maybe I can send her there."

"I guess that makes sense…?" I commented before the entire room shifted in perception.

It was the first time I had ever seen this kind of spell in action, and I actually had no idea that such a spell existed in the first place. Spike seemed to be in the same boat with me as he noticed every part of the illusion Twilight had been putting up look certainly life-like. It was just as if the creatures we witnessed were actually there with us.

"If Starlight goes to the changeling hive, she can help them adjust to their new way of life." Twilight hypothesized before giving us a debatable demonstration in regards to how she and Thorax would civilize the newly reformed changelings.

Long story short, Thorax and Starlight were conversating with each other and making a clear point about "compromising", using the subject of what to eat for lunch as an example. Spike didn't really seem to agree with it, finding Starlight and Thorax's behavior questionable. Nevertheless, Celestia came to Twilight's aide by reinforcing the idea of there being "no wrong way of fantasizing".

In the end, it seemed the idea was well-received by Celestia once she began giving her thoughts on the matter.

"This seems like a lovely path for Starlight. The changelings have so much to learn about how to enjoy love through friendships. Starlight would be busy for a very long time, but her work there would be very rewarding."

I still don't even know if we should still be hooked on this idea of sending her away. It all seems way too sudden.

Twilight held a soft smile on her lips, but it soon drew away to the opposite corners of her mouth. "Or dangerous." She brought up. "It would only take one changeling to deviate from the pack."

In the next arc of her fantasy, a rogue changeling went on to pretend to be Starlight, anger other unsuspecting changelings, and cause a heap of trouble for the real Starlight in the end. I suppose I couldn't argue against the possibility of there still being a changeling who wasn't open to change ironically, but at the same time, I didn't think it was anything that couldn't be resolved efficiently.

"Uh, that probably won't happen." Spike believed after the end of the showcased likelihood.

"But it could!" Twilight argued. "I can't just send her off to Celestia-knows-where without thinking it through!"

"Hmm. I was not aware that I was an expression." Celestia mentioned with an intrigued smirk on her face, genuinely surprising me.

"Really?" I felt the need to ask. "I think everypony says it all the time."

"Be that as it may, it is an appropriate one, of course, for even I don't know the answer." She continued seriously. "This is a momentous decision. You must consider all the possibilities."

"Maybe you don't have to send her anywhere?" I tried to throw in my own two bits, which, admittedly, weren't exactly thoroughly thought out in the first place.

Nevertheless, this idea completely flew over Twilight's head as she dashed over to the map once more. "Rethink, rethink, rethink!" She swung her head side-to-side across the map before she stopped to look at a particular place. "What about the dragons? I can send Starlight to the Dragon Lands! She and Ember would totally hit it off!"

"The Dragon Lands?" I began saying. "If you think the changelings are going to be trouble, then the Dragon Lands is definitely—"

Before I could finish my sentence, Twilight had already begun getting to work on firing up another fantasy spell. From there, we were left to witness a completely out-of-character Starlight adopting a tough and fearless personality when it came to interacting with Ember. This personality didn't even really fit Ember too well. In fact, she seemed to act more like the type of dragon she hated the most.

"Okay, that doesn't sound anything like Ember or Starlight." Spike clearly voiced after observing the scene in front of him.

"Who knows what their dynamic would be, Spike?" Twilight reasoned with before we were left to witness the continuation of Starlight interacting with all the other rough-and-tumble dragons, including Garble.

While Twilight seemed to be open to the idea of sending Starlight with the dragons for some weird reason, it was undoubtedly only a matter of time before she'd find a reason to change her mind on a whim. This reason was similar to the one with the changelings, and that was the possibility of not every dragon getting along with a pony in their land.

Summing up the bad end to Twilight's vision, Starlight gets dragged into diving into a pool of lava with Garble.

"Twilight, this is crazy!" Spike rose up against. "Starlight's really good with magic. She could just stop herself from falling into a pit of lava."

"What if she didn't realize it was happening?! You just never know, Spike! I just need to think of someplace safe to send her! Someplace safe, someplace safe, someplace safe..."

As Twilight took another look at the map, I softly mumbled to myself, knowing it wouldn't be heard or listened to in the first place.

"Or maybe just don't send her anywhere at all…?"

"I could send her to the Crystal Empire to continue her magical studies with Sunburst!" Twilight formulated before firing up another scenario with her magic. "It'll be perfect! Sunburst's knowledge of magic is only matched by Starlight's abilities." We were now given a scene with Starlight and Sunburst as they both worked together on some pretty advanced-looking assignments for their magic. "They could challenge each other into becoming the most talented unicorns Equestria's ever seen!" As expected, it was only a short moment into the fantasy where her positive outlook had been tainted by a negative one. "Of course, the study of magic is a lifelong pursuit, and Starlight could be there for a while, especially once they start attempting the really complicated stuff!"

"Three, two, one..." Spike timed her reaction just right.

"What if they become too ambitious?!" Twilight feared heavily.

Another long story short, Starlight and Sunburst get sucked into some huge gaping black hole that sucks up the entire existence of Equestria.

"Starlight, noooooo!" Twilight cried out, getting a little too invested into something that was only a figment of her imagination.

"Twilight, snap out of it!" Spike waved his claws in front her wildly, quickly moving to calm her down once she threw her projection of the spell aside. "Easy, Twilight. It didn't happen."

"But it could!" She stuck with. "I just don't think I can send her anywhere. What am I gonna do?"

It was at this moment that an extremely hearty laughter escaped into the unfitting environment where each one of us turned in the direction from whence it came. I believed all three of us had been caught extremely off-guard to find that that it had been Celestia laughing out loud. In fact, she had been laughing so hard, I didn't think any of us had ever witnessed her laugh like that before.

"…are you laughing at me?" Twilight asked with a shocked expression planted on her face. Celestia hysterical laughter continued, causing even Spike to slowly step away from her. On the other hoof, Twilight looked like she was at a complete loss instead of worrying about the dial on Celestia's funny bone being cranked up way over max. "I can't believe you're laughing at me."

"…wait a minute." I began to realize as her laughter started dying down. "You went through the same exact thing Twilight's going through now, didn't you?" I asked, having pieced two and two together.

"Precisely." She managed to confirm, wiping a lone tear out of her right eye. "I'm laughing because you remind me so much of myself. It's like staring into a mirror."

"Huh?!" Twilight exclaimed in confusion.

"Let me tell you a story." Celestia sat, causing for the rest of us to do the same and face her. "Once upon a time, there was a very bright young filly. She was truly one of my best students."

"Are you talking about Twilight?" Spike asked, pointing towards his head. "I can't see what you're thinking about."

Celestia softly sighed. "Yes, Spike. I was constantly surprised and impressed with her discoveries. But I noticed that her pursuit of academia was preventing her from reaching her full potential."

"You mean it was keeping her isolated and alone?" Spike intervened once more.

"Uh, yes, Spike." Celestia answered in a slightly dejected tone, losing the charm in her voice for a short moment after having had a taste of Spike's guilelessness. "I had a decision to make. Oh, but it wasn't easy. I knew there was a special group of fillies in Ponyville, but I kept inventing all kinds of reasons why I shouldn't send you. 'What if she runs into a manticore? Or what if she gets pulled into Tartarus? Or, worst of all, what if she doesn't get along with anypony?!' There were nights I almost couldn't even sleep through because of all of the worrying I had been doing. In the end, I kept you in Canterlot longer than I should have. Eventually, I realized all the anxiety I felt was because I didn't want you to go."

"Really?!" Twilight leaned forward, clearly touched by Celestia's story.

"I loved having you as a student." Celestia confessed. "You challenged me and taught me just as much as I taught you. I am embarrassed to admit it, but I was afraid if you made friends, you wouldn't need me anymore."

With tears escaping from her eyes, Twilight shook her head. "Princess Celestia, that is so not true. I will always need you."

"I think Starlight Glimmer might feel the same way about you. If that is what you're afraid of." Celestia shared.

"Maybe it is. Just a little." Twilight confided.

"Oh, it definitely is. Like, a lot." Spike frankly blurted out with a chuckle, obtaining a sharp glare from Twilight before Celestia resumed speaking.

"Here we are after all these years, Twilight. We are living proof that letting someone spread their wings doesn't mean you no longer have a place in their lives."

"Thank you." Twilight expressed gratefully.

"And if you're still worried, you can always make her write you letters." Celestia referenced with a wink.

Spike chuckled once more, which wasn't a surprise considering he was the one dragon who was always sending the letters back and forth. To tell the truth, I began remembering back then and all the good times I secretly had, even if I didn't know it at first. However, after learning a little more about Celestia's feelings when it came to Twilight, I couldn't help but come across a question of my own within my mind.

"That reminds me…" I began saying as I faced Tia. "What made you take me in when I was just a colt? I know I didn't make it any easier on you by refusing to go back to my own family, but couldn't you have just, I don't know, find another family for me to stay with or something? I don't think I ever asked you about this before."

"You…were a bit of a complex process." Celestia honestly returned with a small and warm smile. "Originally, I figured the best path to take was to wait and keep an ear out for any reports of a missing foal back at Fillydelphia. However, I had heard none, at least, none that fit your description. So many things ran through my mind, and I grew more worried by the day when I figured there was a genuine reason why you didn't want to go back. You were scarred by things I had no clue of, and I couldn't find it in my heart to simply abandon you and 'find you a new family'. I couldn't confidently come up with a decision on what to do, but I believed I had settled on having you stay in the castle in the event that your family would perhaps end up reaching out. As much as I had looked into it, that day never seemed to come."

"Back when Cadence would babysit me, I remember there was a certain point where she was…sad." Twilight brought up. "She used to be the one who taught you back in Fillydelphia, right? She didn't get into details, but I remember her looking so sad and talking about how she couldn't believe a family, I'm assuming yours, could exist. After being absent from school for a few days, I think she tried to reach out to your parents, and she was shocked when they didn't seem to know anything about you. I believed she almost thought she had gotten the wrong house, but there was no one else she could speak to. It was just like you had disappeared from history, or as if you had never existed, to begin with. I didn't understand it at first being so little, and by the time I grew up, I practically had already forgotten about that story she had told me."

Celestia solemnly shook her head and looked away. "I had no idea at the time that you were the offspring of my sister when I took you in. For obvious reasons, you couldn't stay with her, and I thought I knew the perfect family to raise you in. A family I was saddened to hear that they had lost a child they had been expecting. I didn't think it would backfire."

"Hm… It's all really weird…" I responded as I slightly leaned back. "No matter how nasty the path was, it was like all bound to happen."

"You asked why I took you in." Celestia repeated. "I believe another reason why is that you reminded me a lot of my sister. As you all already know, every moment she came into my mind out of every day, I couldn't stop missing her. Perhaps it was a way of making up for what I did to her."

"You did your best when you didn't even have to." I stated. "I couldn't ask for more than that."

A smile stretched out on her lips, and she softly nodded. "You two were just like each other in extremely different ways." She said as she glanced between Twilight and me. "You two needed to experience friendship in your own ways, and I was afraid of what would happen to each of you." She turned towards me. "I decided you needed to learn at your own pace, no matter how slow it was. You certainly weren't learning anything being all by your lonesome at the castle."

"It was definitely a scary experience." I remembered being ripped out of my most comforting zone. Despite the thought, I smiled at the sight of Twilight. "But, you definitely made the right choice sending over Twilight. If it wasn't for her dragging me all over the place, I'm not so sure I would have welcomed the idea of friendship."

Twilight seemed to blush after looking back and giggling at the memories engraved into our minds. "I think I feel a whole lot better now. I'm not sure if my plan for Starlight is as 'grand' as Celestia's was, but, I think what I have to do is just follow my heart."

"Think about the place she really belongs." I advised to Twilight as seriously and deeply as I could. "Just as Celestia had done with us."

Twilight stared back in the same sincere manner before turning away and thinking to herself until she finally nodded. "I think I'm ready."

I watched Twilight take matters into her own hooves as she opened the path to the reception hall. She walked towards the stage with a neatly wrapped box, the ribbon precisely perpendicular across and along every edge until it came and met together in the center to form a uniformed bow. For some reason, it reminded me of Twilight and Starlight Glimmer. Maybe it was their journey together that I kind of felt a little bad in not being more apart of, but either way, it was a little sad believing that this might be the last time I would see her for a while. After all, we had just started getting a little closer only recently.

Despite being a royal duo, I decided to hang back this time and silently cheer her on from the crowd. Due to this choice, I could only shake my head at the sight of Discord approaching Twilight with more of his shenanigans. This time, he had some kind of technical and lighting setup going on as if Twilight was going to make her announcement to all of Equestria.

In response, Twilight grew visibly nervous and worried. I began putting a hoof forward in an attempt to step up and help her out somehow, but she turned to me and softly shook her head. Fortunately, it wasn't long before Discord put an end to his disruptions. He soon disappeared and reappeared somewhere in the audience, bringing his unnecessary equipment with him.

Twilight focused her attention towards a particular table and obtained a glass to tap a spoon with.

"If I could have everypony's attention!" She called, gathering the eyes of everyone in the room, especially Starlight. "As you all know, Starlight Glimmer's been my pupil for a while now, and I'd hoped she'd be my pupil for a long time yet to come. But it turns out that's just not meant to be."

As expected, a collective group of gasps from her audience followed shortly after.

"Starlight, you have proved yourself to be a kind, loyal, strong, honest, and truly magical friend." Twilight continued. "Just looking around this room at all the new friendships you've made, I know there's nothing more I need to teach you. So we have a second reason to celebrate today. Three cheers for Starlight Glimmer on her graduation day!"

"What a great surprise!" Pinkie squealed shortly after the applause and cheer in the room nearly deafened everything else.

"The future's in your own hooves now." Twilight told her former student.

Hold on a second. Does this mean…Twilight's giving Starlight the option to move?

"Wow. I was not expecting this!" Starlight Glimmer shared truthfully.

Thorax and Trixie reunited with her to spread their congratulatory remarks, and it took me a moment to realize that one pony was missing from this particular group.

"So, is this my graduation day too?" Her voice sparked.

I turned my head and found her eyeing me with a beaming smile on her tilted head.

"What are you talking about?" I asked, chuckling a little. "You weren't my student or anything."

"True. I wasn't exactly your student, but you were teaching me a whole lot I was scared to learn." Athena admitted. "When we first met, you know, after the mess I made, I felt the only pony I could ever trust was you. I thought there was no place in life for me anymore because I thought all I was was just trouble. But you've shown me that even though you might make a bad choice, it's not the end of the world. In fact, what you may think is a 'bad' choice can actually end up being a good one in the long run. Not that I'm saying that it's okay to make bad choices, to begin with." She giggled heartily. "Anyway, you've taught and shown me a lot. I feel like I can finally be myself again. I promise I won't be so needy and clingy anymore. I'm ready to do my own thing, but it is okay if I keep being by your side, right?"

"Of course, it is, sis." With a heavy smirk, I used my hoof to mess with her mane quite a bit as if she was the younger sibling. "I just don't want me to keep you from living your life to its fullest. So, sure. You could say this is your graduation day too."

"Hehe, yay." She cheered softly. "Wanna treat me to some cake later on?" She dipped her head in front of me and looked at me with what looked like puppy eyes.

"Didn't you just have cake at this party?" I asked.

"Not ice cream cake. I could really go for some of that." She licked her lips happily.

"Yeah, sure." Despite her natural silliness, I couldn't be deterred away from how proud I was of her for her brave actions and choices lately. "I think you deserve the biggest cake you can get."

"Yay!" She jumped and cheered loudly. "No takesies-backsies now!"

"I'm not ready to leave!" We suddenly heard a cry over from the stage Twilight had been on. It came from Starlight, and that intense level of happiness that clearly came from Twilight's huge wide grin could have only meant one thing.

"Oh, good! 'Cause I'm not ready for that either!" Twilight hugged Starlight and brought over the gift she had been saving. "Here! I got you this present. It was going to be a 'congrats on getting a medal of honor' present, but then I was afraid it would have to be a going-away present, but now it's an 'I couldn't be happier you're staying' present! It fits perfectly over your dresser! I know. I measured."

Starlight sniffled as tears leaked out of her quivering eyes. "Thank you."

I turned towards Athena and gave her a little gesture with my head, suggesting that we join them.

"I may not know what comes next for you, but whatever it is, I promise I'll always be there for you." Twilight ensured, igniting another warm embrace between the two of them.

"So, looks like you're staying, huh?" I brought up after stepping up to them.

"Uh-huh!" Starlight answered wholeheartedly until the expression on her face drew back to one of uncertainty and a tad bit of embarrassment. "That isn't going to be a problem, is it?"

"I was actually hoping you'd stay." I responded, sharing a quick glance at Twilight. "You leaving would have felt way too sudden. I think I probably share Twilight's feelings on this, but I guess what I'm trying to say is that I haven't really gotten to know you enough."

"Same here!" Athena joined. "After embarking on a super ultra-dangerous journey to the changeling hive? We totes need to have some kind of girls' night out or something! Maybe stay in the castle and binge on all kinds of snacks while we play truth or dare!"

"That sounds like a slumber party to me." Starlight answered.

"Oh, I remember having one those way back." Twilight mentioned. "They can actually be pretty fun!"

"Anyways…" I attempted to get the conversation back on track before it could derail into an entirely different topic. "We're happy to have you here, Starlight. I just hope staying with us doesn't keep you from learning new things."

Starlight shook her head. "I might have graduated from friendship lessons with Twilight, but I don't think that means that there isn't anything more to learn. If you're not busy, maybe you should try teaching me a few more things one of these days."

"…but I wouldn't even know where to start." I doubted.

Twilight stepped over to my side and placed a hoof around me. "He may not teach things the way I do, but he certainly has a way of showing a few important things here and there to others."

"Well, if there's ever something you need, let me know and I'll definitely try and work some 'magic' to help."

"Will do, teach!" Starlight winked back playfully.

I found Octavia lingering around even with the reception practically at its end. Whether there was something she needed to speak to me about, or if she was just waiting for somepony else, I approached her as she sat at an empty table.

"Hey. You doing alright?" I asked casually, expecting a not completely truthful answer.

"Vinyl sure likes to take her time packing up her equipment." She answered.

"She wanted you to wait for her?" I took a seat next to her.

She seemed to hesitate for a bit with her response. "I just didn't want to leave when she may need help bringing her stuff home."

"She's a unicorn." I told her with a short chuckle. "I think she'll be fine. I'm sure she wouldn't want you to stay so long doing nothing."

She remained silent afterwards, and I was only able to assume the reason was that she didn't have anything else to say. However, I began growing more concerned when I started getting the feeling that she was intentionally trying to avoid eye contact me. It almost felt like she didn't even want to talk to me. I had only sat with her for a short time, but throughout that entire time, she didn't look at me once. It was almost like she had been too ashamed to look at me at all. Of course, I couldn't let something like this go so easily.

"Something's really bugging you, isn't it?" I inquired softly. "Does it have to do with what happened back at the Hearth's Warming party? I'm here if you want to talk, you know."

She continued to face away from me. Her eyes closed and remained shut for a change. Her head dipped low, and she inhaled and exhaled a deep breath.

"You're right." She answered.

"Huh?" I positioned my head a little closer to hers.

To my surprise, she placed her hooves on top of the table and pushed herself up, opening her eyes during the process. "I'm sure Vinyl wouldn't mind if I take my leave. She has her magic after all. Goodbye."

Octavia turned and began walking out of the nearly empty reception hall. I was left watching her tail swing side to side until she finally exited out through the doors. To be honest, I wasn't sure what I could have done at the point. It was obvious that something had been troubling her at that very moment, and it was only purely a guess that that particular something had to do with what she told me that other night.

Octavia had always been a pretty hard nut to crack, and the only way I could think of to approach the situation was the follow Athena's advice. According to her cutie mark, she was a specialist when it came to other ponies and their feelings.

I may have not been a 'Princess of Friendship' like Twilight was, but that didn't stop me from feeling the need to working out kinks in friendships like this. Octavia was in trouble, and at this point, I didn't exactly want to rest until I straightened the tangles in her heart out.

PreviousChapters Next