I looked on towards the distant Horizon as the magical aura around my horn subsided. The Sun was rising now, and with it a new day dawned. This was far from the first time I raised the Sun all on my own, obviously. My coronation was many, many moons ago and Celestia and Luna had left me to my own devices ever since. I was admittedly a bit... frightened at the prospect of ruling such a big nation all on my own at first. All the mistakes and mishaps I could do by accident would have had immense consequences after all.
But then I heard my friends' voices as they waltzed into the throne room, one after another. I reminded myself that I wasn't alone. Not back then, not now, and hopefully never in the future either. The majority of statecraft was obviously still in my own hooves but my friends were more than willing and able to help when I needed them, despite living so far away in Ponyville. And so, time passed. Everypony grew older, and along with them, their friendships matured, growing stronger.
I couldn't help but smile as the sun rose above the fields and pastures of Equestria in the distance. The bright rays of light of the sun slowly but surely illuminated Canterlot, painting the skies above in a colourful mix of yellow and orange. I'd seen this colourful spectacle many times before now but... it still brought a tear to my eye, sometimes.
Today wasn't a normal day though. Or... well, I suppose no day is really all that 'normal' for the Princess and Ruler of Equestria. In any case, today was a special day. It was the first day in quite a long time that I would get to meet my most promising and faithful student of all again: Luster Dawn.
About three months ago, she had come to me in person, asking about the real importance of friendship. She believed friendship was temporary, that it would all wither away in due time. Accordingly, she thought friends to be nothing but a waste of time and effort, since all of them would be gone soon enough anyhow.
It's safe to say that she wasn't quite right on that. Me and my friends showed her what true friendship can look like, and showed her the magical place where we grew to become friends ourselves, the place I myself had been sent to when I was but a Unicorn student of Celestia: Ponyville.
And sure enough, it took her just a few hours to make friends there. She loved this small little town just as I did. In fact, she loved it so much that she came to me in due time once again. However, this time it wasn't about her disinterest in friendship, but rather the opposite.
She requested to leave the School of Magic, move to Ponyville and attend the School of Friendship instead. I wasn't exactly surprised, though. She reminded me a lot of... me. When I was younger and had been sent to Ponyville by Celestia. The only difference was that I was sent sort of against my will, while Luster was eager to go. Oh, and Nightmare Moon returned right as I got there, so there's that.
In any case, I was happy to support Luster and accept her request. Of course, with a slight, tiny little catch to it. I couldn't just let my most promising student wander off, after all. So I did what a certain Princess once did to me: I told her to report back to me and tell me about her friendship lessons in Ponyville. Although, unlike me, she didn't have a Dragon companion to send scrolls for her. Instead, she had to come all the way to Canterlot. Not that I minded that too much regardless. I read scrolls all-day now, which I guess comes as a perk with all the governing business and whatnot? I'll always enjoy meeting a pony face to face the most.
A part of me felt... weird though. This made me realise just how far I have gotten. After all... I used to be Luster. I used to be that faithful Student in Ponyville looking to explore the magic of friendship. And now? Now I ruled Equestria as the Princess of Friendship.
Times really do change. I'm just glad my friends haven't.
I waved towards Gallus as he opened the doors to the throne room. It was always a joy to see him all grown up, in armour and everything.
I marched on towards my throne as he closed the door behind me. Such a huge and yet empty room. Sometimes it felt a bit... lonely in there. Spike wasn't there to assist me that day either, he was off handling friendship business in Zebrica at that time. Stuff that a younger me probably would have done herself but... I was too busy to handle all of that on my own now. I'm just glad I have him as my assistant and friend to help me take care of things.
I landed on the throne and rested my hooves. Next to the throne was a small mountain of scrolls, all of which were, naturally, addressed to me. Problems, notes and requests of various kinds from various ponies and creatures, all directed to the Ruler of Equestria. I suppose it's a good thing I was never bothered by paperwork, otherwise these scrolls would have probably left a mark on me in a way.
I levitated the first scroll of the bunch in front of me and began reading.
To Princess Twilight Sparkle.
Hello Twilight! I've heard of your plans for a new Helping Hooves Music Festival. My new Manager brought me your message just now, and I'd be thrilled to come back and perform in Ponyville again!
I know I may be past my prime, but I'm not ready to quit, just yet. Especially not if I can sing for a good cause. My Performance all those moons ago made even me cry, and it showed me who I really was. You have AJ to thank for that one. I also want to thank you and the others for helping me deal with Svengallop back then. I got a new Manager ever since then, one who knows who I really am and doesn't try to make me someone I am not.
So thank you, Twilight. And please send this thank you to AJ, as well, if you can. I owe her a lot, and I'll be glad to see her, you and all the others again for the Helping Hooves Festival this year.
I smiled, remembering the Festival and Coloratura's performance back then. Once again, friendship had prevailed, and it had made her stronger.
I wrapped up the scroll again and dropped it to the other side of the throne, the one where all the 'read' scrolls went.
"Come in," I said aloud, eyeing the doors.
After a brief delay, the doors opened, and revealed just the Pony I had been waiting for.
"Luster Dawn," I said with a bright smile as the young mare entered the room, "it's good to see you again."
"Yeah..." she replied anxiously, "it's nice to be back after all this time." She raised her head and looked around the room. "I almost forgot how big the Castle was. Everything in Ponyville is so much... smaller."
I giggled back at her. "Well, the Castle is pretty ancient, and it's where even Celestia and Luna used to rule from, after all. Obviously dimensions are gonna be a bit bigger compared to Ponyville."
"I... guess that makes sense, yeah." She nodded and stroked her hoof as she stared at me awkwardly. "Sooooo..."
I laughed again. "Luster, I know you're nervous. Trust me, I don't have to be an Alicorn Princess to see that. But there's no need. I'm your Teacher, your Friend. There's no need to be afraid of me." I smirked. "Right?"
"Yeah, you're right. I mean, I know that. Duh, obviously!" she spat out in quick succession. "What I mean is... that I'm just a bit on edge right now. Not because of you!" she reassured me, "It's... well, it's because..."
A worried frown formed on my face. "Luster? Is it because you couldn't make any friends?"
Luster shook her head in shock. "What!? Nononono! That's not it, Princess!" she said in denial. "It's... well, I'm just not good at presenting things in front of others, you see. That's part of why I never had many friends at all when I was young. I was always just too afraid to go out and present my ideas and thoughts to others, so I kept to myself and did it all on my own."
"I see." I stroked my chin for a moment. "I assume that's why you came to me for the first time? That's why you wanted to set-up your independent studies? So you could be alone?"
Luster's head sank to the ground and she gave out a deep sigh. "Yeah..." she answered, " I was just too afraid to make friends as a filly. That fear resulted in me just... never experiencing true friendship, I guess. It's why I came to think of friendship as something that wasn't worthwhile, which only made me more secluded from others..."
"Princess, I-" Luster gave out with a slight sob, "I'm sorry. You're the Princess of Friendship and I... I was your student. And yet I didn't care or know about friendship at all..."
I stood up from the throne and unfolded my wings. "Luster Dawn." With a mighty gust, I propelled myself in front of Luster, who began to shiver and cower as I towered above her. "You have no idea..!" I yelled with faked anger. "...no idea how similar I used to be."
Luster blinked and looked up to me with confusion. "W-what? Similar?" she asked, "but... you're the Princess of Friendship! You're basically the definition of friendliness, right?"
I smirked and laughed. "Not always, Luster. I used to be just a Student like you, who spent more time doing research and studies than going out and caring about friendship."
"You? A Student?" Luster asked in disbelief.
"Of Celestia, that's right. And it was because of that behaviour that I was sent to Ponyville by Celestia."
Luster stroked the back of her head, clearly a bit confused at all this. "Wait, so... you're saying you were just like me? And... you sent me to Ponyville to learn about friendship just like how Celestia sent you there?"
I nodded. "That was a long time ago, obviously. I was but a young Unicorn back then. It's when I met my best friends, the same ones that are still with me today. We stayed together throughout all these years, weathering the storm together. And it only made us stronger, both as ponies and as friends."
Luster raised a hoof to her chin as she thought.
"That's why I sent you to Ponyville. To experience the same thing as I did, to experience true friendship."
A bright smile formed on Luster's face as she leaned forward to embrace me, something that I happily exchanged.
"Speaking of which," I reminded myself as my wings embraced Luster, "I'm sure you've made some great discoveries back in Ponyville since we last met, right?"
"Oh," the pink-coated mare gave out, walking back as she left the hug. "Well, you could say that."
"I wanna hear all about it, Luster. You're my best Student, after all. I'm sure you learned some pretty interesting lessons out there."
"Well, first off, and this has less to do with friendship than the other things but," she went on, "did you know Kirin can turn into literal Demons? I mean, quite literally! They burst into flames and everything!"
I cackled. "I heard about that from two friends of mine that went to the Kirin once. I never saw it first-hoof though."
"Really? Huh." Luster thought about something for a moment. "Oh! Why don't you come visit me and my friends back in Ponyville someday? I do have a Kirin friend, after all. She'll show you what it looks like. Probably. I... don't really know how it works myself, though."
"I'd like that very much." I nodded. "However, what I would like even more is to hear about your friendship lessons."
"Oh! Right! Uh, sorry," she apologised. Her horn lit up in her magical aura as she opened her saddle bag and levitated a scroll out of it.
"A Scroll?" I said with surprise. "Did you... write your lessons down?"
She smiled back at me. "You could say that. As I said, I'm not good with words in public, so I used some free time I had on my own to write down all the most important things I experienced for you."
I took the scroll from her and levitated it over to me. I took a deep breath before unravelling the scroll. I felt... surprisingly old seeing that scroll. I used to be the Student, like her, and now... now I was the teacher. I was the Princess, the Ruler of all of Equestria. It certainly brought up memories of my early days in Ponyville. Good memories...
I opened the scroll and took a last glance at Luster before reading.
Dear Princess Twilight.
For many years I spent my days all on my own, secluded and locked away from everypony else. I refused to go out and meet others, let alone make friends. My isolation made me think that friends were unnecessary, that friendship was but a temporary experience and that it wasn't worth striving to make friends at all. But you and your friends have opened my eyes to the reality.
Through your wise words that day, I managed to not just make myself comfortable in Ponyville, I managed to make friends! I met many wonderful Ponies and creatures in Ponyville, and especially the School of Friendship. I was initially a bit... hesitant on signing up for the School, since my Mum and Dad run it and... you know, I felt it was a bit odd and embarrassing at first. But I reminded myself of the words you told me when you first sent me to Ponyville.
It's safe to say that I never quite believed I would make friends at all, let alone friends that weren't even Ponies at all. And yet, here I am! I've made a lovely group of friends, made up not just of Ponies but of Griffons, Kirin and Yaks too. Seeing all these creatures united, working together and becoming friends made me realize and believe in the magic of friendship.
I had a few problems getting started at School, but my friends (and occasionally my Mum, too) helped me out whenever they could. It was... new to me, really. I never before had people come to help me, especially not during studies. I always just did those on my own. But... thinking back, it probably made a lot of things a lot harder for me. Doing it all on your own is nice, but doing it with your friends is even better!
I know that you are eager to get to know what exactly I learned here in Ponyville about friendship, but the truth is that... I don't know where to start. I've sat down and thought about it for days now and I just can't figure out where to even start. Friendship as a whole is... just entirely new to me, still. This whole experience is something I never had before. To boil it down to the length of a single scroll like this would be... impossible. It wouldn't do it justice.
Rest assured, however, that I now firmly believe in the Magic of Friendship as you do, Princess. When I made my first friends after you sent me to Ponyville, I knew that this place was something special, that there was something magica about it. And indeed, I feel as if friendship surrounds all of Ponyville.
When I came to you and asked to leave the School of Magic so I could move to Ponyville and attend the School of Friendship instead, I didn't just want to be with my friends. I realised that the School of Magic couldn't teach me anything important anymore, unlike the School of Friendship and my friends in it.
I'm more than happy to tell you that I will be leaving behind the ways of the School of Magic, and that I will now focus my studies now a new kind of magic to me: the magic of friendship. You know how tireless I am when working on something, so expect to hear of results in this 'field of study' soon enough! My friends will surely be helping me all along the way.
And no matter what will happen here in Ponyville, I will always remember what you told me when I first got here.
"The Greatest Spell you'll know... is how the Magic of Friendship grows."
Your most faithful and thankful Student,