The Light Goes Out

by AbsoluteAnonymous

Chapter 1: The Light Goes Out

Is there something wrong, Twilight Sparkle?

No, Princess. I'm just not very thirsty.

That's too bad. I made this tea myself, you know.

Yes, I know.

... are you sure that nothing's wrong?

Yes. I'm sure. But... can you close the curtains, please?

With a gentle flutter of magic, Celestia drew the curtains shut, sealing out the sunlight and dimming the room.

Silence fell over the two of them. The alicorn sipped her tea, wearing the same beatific expression as always. Her student remained still, making no effort to take up her cup. Curls of steam rose from her undisturbed drink.

The princess eyed it, but said nothing.

... Princess?

What is it, Twilight?

Why have you done all this?

Done all what?

Everything. Everything right now is... wonderful. So soft and bright. It was never like this before.

A smile, touched slightly by the gentle sense of humor brought upon by centuries of experience.

Perhaps your perception of things has changed. That can happen with age, you know.

Not this much, I'd think. Even the sunlight feels different.

Different how?

Everything feels... so warm and gentle.

And that disturbs you?

It's unnatural. Nothing was ever like this before.

Was there fear in those eyes?

No, not fear.

Uncertainty, maybe. Hesitance. But not fear.

And Celestia was certain that her own eyes reflected nothing but love and pride, for that was what her student brought out in her, and that was what Twilight Sparkle deserved to see in them.

The princess might have spoken at that moment, to say something of this, but Twilight interrupted her.

It feels like you're trying to make it easy for me.

Easy for you? What do you mean?

The tea, the light. The peace. It's like the way parents break bad news to their foals - as gently and easily as they can. I should know. I did the same thing with Spike. When he was little, whenever I had to tell him something upsetting, I made sure to have a gem on me.

That's silly. You know perfectly well that I keep nothing from you anymore. There's nothing going on that you don't already know about.

A quiet room, once flooded with light and made entirely of soft, melted, butter-gold sunshine, was now dim with the coming evening and filled with the scent of early autumn. No music, but the sounds in the distance - the rustling of leaves and wind, the droning of bees, the tweeting of birds. Celestia took another sip of her fragrant tea as her beloved pupil continued.

Sometimes I think that knowing is worse than being left in the dark.

Well! A Twilight Sparkle who's afraid of a little knowledge? What in Equestria happened to you?

A wry smile; one that had once been habitual to the unicorn, but had become one of her less frequent expressions as the years had passed. Now, it seemed almost wan. Wistful.

I grew up, I suppose.

You did indeed. And you did so marvelously, if I may say so. I couldn't be prouder of you.

... sometimes I think it would've been easier if I'd never known just how little I knew. The way things are now, all I can think is, it's not enough, it's not enough, I'm not done yet. But it's not like I have a choice, do I?

Of course you do. There's always a choice. You choose how you react. You can choose to see yourself as not having done as much as you wanted to, or you can choose to see yourself as having done everything you could and everything you needed to. Either interpretation would be correct, and it's up to you to decide.

Rows of her beloved books lined the shelves of the quiet, bright room. The musty smell of old pages and worn leather spines mingled with the fragrance of fresh tea and clean air, filling the room with a comforting scent well known and well liked by Twilight Sparkle.

Even if she could no longer read them, possessing neither the strength nor the inclination at the moment, their mere presence was, in itself, a comfort. A reminder of days long past, when she had been the eager schoolfilly; studying not only through habit, but through desire. After all, once she'd been accepted into magic school, the unicorn had been a true scholar through and through, studying for the joy of learning rather than for any worldliness of hers.

You say that like it's easy. I can't just decide that I've been everything I could be. The fact remains that there's too much I haven't done. I'm not ready. I can't be.

What could possibly be left, my dear pupil?

... Princess, who am I?

Oh, dear. Has that brilliant mind of yours worn out at last? You're the unicorn Twilight Sparkle, of course.

Very funny. Have you always been this way, or am I only just now noticing?

I believe I've always been this way. At least, I've always been.

You're smiling. You know exactly what I mean.

Her tone was accusing, but she smiled herself.

And I answered. You are Twilight Sparkle, nothing more and nothing less; and I believe that should be enough to satisfy you, my little pony. It satisfies me, at least.

But what does it mean, to be Twilight Sparkle? What have I done with myself?

Far too much to list from memory - but I'll try, if you like. Hmm. You're my pupil, for one.



You could always take on another, couldn't you?

Do you think I want to?

An accomplishment that depends on another pony is no accomplishment at all, is it? All it would take for it to lose all meaning would be for the other pony to have a change of heart. Being your student was an honor, to say the least, but not an achievement, really. It was nothing that I earned. It was... luck.

Very well, then, though I must say I disagree. Let's see, let's see... you're also the Element of Magic.

But that's not something I did or earned, either. That's something that just sort of happened.

You're the archmage for the Council of Magic. How does that sound?

I don't know. That's... well... well, what kind of accomplishment is that? It's the same as being your student. All it means is that I'm just as good as the pony who came before me, and someday, there will be another. It doesn't mean that I, personally, did anything of worth.

Of course you did. You've surpassed my expectations of you hundredfold.

I don't want my accomplishments be tied to the expectations others hold of me. I don't want them to be defined by somepony else. Not even you.

Fair enough.

There had been a time when it never would've even occurred to Twilight to have said such a thing. The approval of her teacher had meant everything, once upon a time.

Nothing had ever brought Twilight Sparkle happiness quite like the feeling of cracking open a new tome or unrolling a fresh scroll of parchment, waiting to be filled with scribbled words and diagrams. Nothing, perhaps, but the happiness of having discovered a new fact or learning a new lesson and putting it down on paper for Celestia to peruse.

And here she was now, saying that she didn't want her sense of self-worth to be defined by others - all the while defining self-worth by using the expectations of others as her parameters.

... I'm sorry, princess.

For what?

I've failed you.

Twilight had never stopped learning. Had never stopped sharing. The unicorn had always wanted to know and be more than she was, while meanwhile, all Celestia had wanted was to tell her that she'd always been exactly right. But her approval was not enough.

Not her approval as it had once been, at least.

Firmly held - and mistaken - beliefs pervaded Twilight's every move, her every step, as though the unicorn was utterly convinced that Princess Celestia had such high expectations and demands of her that she couldn't afford to slip up once. She couldn't drop. She couldn't rest.

She couldn't let go. Not until she had done enough. Not until she had done her teacher proud.

Ever the faithful student. No matter what she claimed to the contrary.

You haven't failed me. I don't believe you could fail me if you tried.

But... but there's still so much I don't know! So much I haven't learned! I mean, I haven't learned everything about friendship yet - I haven't written you enough friendship reports. Even if I don't want accomplishments to be defined by others, that, at least, was something I wanted for myself, too!

It is impossible to learn everything there is to know about friendship, Twilight.

You wanted me to learn, though.

And so you did.

But there's still so much left.

Indeed there is. But you've uncovered most of it. Of what there was, at least. Friendship isn't a static concept; it's one that's ever-changing and ever-growing and ever-shifting.

It feels like my first Winter Wrap-Up all over again. I don't know where I belong or what I can offer. Or what I could offer, I guess. And if I don't figure it out soon, I'll miss my one chance for it to even count.

"Twilight," the princess of the eternal sun wanted to say. "You have no further obligations to me, nor to Equestria. You've met and exceeded my every expectation and I desire nothing else from you."

But you understand it, now; you know what it is. And you were both willing and able to study it - that was what I wanted for you. Not to become a master of friendship, but to have friends. To discover the happiness of loving and being loved.

It's not just that, anyway. It's part of it. But... I mean... I haven't said goodbye to everypony yet.

Isn't it wonderful that you have so many friends to say goodbye to?

And yet I haven't! That's what I mean! I haven't learned or done nearly enough - I couldn't even tell everypony how much they meant to me, in the end! I couldn't even do that much!

I remember a Twilight Sparkle who once believed that she didn't have time for friendship, and yet here you are. You've made so many, and have met so many dear ones during the years, that you don't even know what to do with it all. They all care for you deeply, and you for them. It's magical, in a way; how one's family can grow so much in no time at all.

... I miss them.

"As your princess, I'm telling you... "

You will see them again.

How do you know?

Believe me, dear Twilight. I know. I know more than you might think.

Can you tell me what will happen?

That, I cannot do.

... I guess I should've known better than to think you would, huh?

It's not that I don't want to tell you, or have some sort of oath preventing me from speaking. It's that the concept itself is far too complicated to be expressed and communicated through mere words. But know this; you have no cause for fear.

"That it's okay to let go."

Will they be there?

You will be with them again, yes.

I wish... that I could've let them know, somehow. How much I loved them all. I hadn't even realized... I didn't know that I could feel that much. But I loved them. I love them so much.

And they loved you.

... do you think they knew?

They did, and they do. They always will.

... how do you know?

Because I know, plain and simple; so naturally, they must, too.

Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie and Applejack and Rarity and Fluttershy and Spike... and mother and father, and Shining Armor... all of them... I loved them so much...

They know. Trust me.

... I trust you, Princess.

Thank you.

Did it get easier, with time? Saying goodbye to these fleeting mortal lives, so brief, so insignificant when compared to the sun?

No, of course not.

But it had never been impossible to begin with, and so, Celestia was able to survive the time of fading light.

She was the sunrise, the symbol of birth and renewal and growth, and these times of ending were always difficult for her, going against a part of her very nature. But she was also the sunset; so she knew the truth, as it was.

The sun did not disappear entirely when it set in the evenings. It always rose again come the dawn. Always. Brighter than ever before. A cycle, eternal and unyielding.

Does it still not feel like enough, my faithful student?

You can't rest until you know that you've finished your duties.

A mare like Twilight Sparkle couldn't, at least.

Meticulous, precise, and organized to the last, needing permission, needing structure. Even as she claimed she didn't want her purpose to be dependent on another, those who loved her knew better. She needed the authority of it. She needed to know that she wasn't disobeying any regulations, wasn't breaking any rules.

That she was all clear to go.

I, I don't know. I don't know.

Then... know this, at least. No matter what else you did, no matter what else you were, you were loved.


You were loved, Twilight. You were loved by many. And you, in turn, loved them back. Isn't that enough? To know that you gave others a reason to cherish you? You may not have learned all there was to learn about friendship, but you were a worthy friend, and you know this because you yourself had worthy friends.


It's a cycle, Twilight. You love others, and they love you for that; and so you love yourself, knowing that you are worthy of it. Their love strengthens your love, and your love strengthens theirs. It's never-ending. There was a time, when you were very, very young, when you didn't even know how to love yourself; but that's changed, now, hasn't it?


You were loved. You were cared for. You were loved because you loved. You were loved because you deserved it. And that is the most anypony can ever claim for themselves. Material goods are temporary. Accomplishments as you define them are always dictated by others, and are meaningless once their whims change or they replace you. Good looks fade with age. So all that leaves to define you is what you are and what you do, and what you did was win the love of others.


You ask what you are. You are Twilight Sparkle, and you are loved. By your friends, by your family, and by me. Don't you think that's enough? That is the meaning of your existence. Your life brightened the existence of others. Don't you think that's enough?

... yes. Yes, that's enough. That's what I needed to hear.

You are loved, and you are wanted.

... I ...

A mare lay in the bed before Celestia; a bed much like a hospital bed. Somber, plain, neat, clean.

The room had been made as cheerful as possible, but not even that could disguise it for what it was.

The mare was a mare who had seen many days and months and years, both her own and others. A mare who had watched foals from her youth grow into mares and stallions of their own right. Who had done and seen much, and had befriended many. Who had watched, one by one, as her friends had slipped away.

Quiet, peaceful ends, befitting lives well-lived, and that was what the aged, graying mare was at last beginning to discover for herself.

Twilight Sparkle sat before her teacher, seeking her final grade before allowing herself to be dismissed.

Ever the faithful student.

I love you too, Princess. You were - you are like a mother to me.

I love you as well. You are like a daughter to me. There will never be another Twilight Sparkle.

I'm not afraid.

I didn't think you would be.

Could you open the curtains again? Please?

Of course.

And the curtains blew open, letting in the last fading light of the brilliant setting sun.

It's so beautiful, Princess.

A teacher and student, a mother and daughter, a pair of friends.

Thank you.

With a contented smile, the aged mare turned to her teacher. Her mother. Her friend.


With a gentle smile, the eternal sun turned to her student. Her daughter. Her friend.

Yes, my faithful student?

The fading light of the sun.

Thank you for everything...

Like she was falling asleep.

You're so bright, princess...


As are you, my Twilight Sparkle.

A final smile, and the dimming of once-bright eyes.


And the light in Twilight Sparkle's eyes went out.

... oh, Twilight.

Only silence.

The sun could not grieve for the dimming of a single flame.

But she was not the sun, and Princess Celestia felt, in that single moment, a burst of grief rise from within her, somewhere deep inside.

And then, just as completely, she felt relief.

The sun did not set forever.

And in time, Twilight's brilliant, glimmering spirit would rise again, bigger and brighter than ever before.

So she would not mourn.

Whether others understood or not, she and her beloved pupil were now closer than they had ever been before, bound in a way the living couldn't understand.

For Twilight had been loved, and that love still blazed in Celestia's heart, as endless and eternal as Celestia herself.


Hello, Luna.


... yes.



Oh, Tia.

It's all right, Lulu. I'm all right.

The light had gone out; and yet it would live on, immortalized within her memories.


I'll be fine.

No, sister, look! The sky.

... oh!

A sky of a deep, brilliant violet stretched out before them, the faintest prickle of stars shining through the darkness.

It's... it's twilight...



Perhaps... I will wait to raise the moon tonight.

...thank you, sister.

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