I wake up in a strange place. Disorientation overtakes me immediately and I look around for anything remotely recognizable. Thoughts struggle for dominance in my mind, making it difficult to remember what happened before.

Something happened, flashes of flames, panic, there was a scream of pain cut short when...

I died.

I look down at my body and realize my coat is a pale white fading to a pale blue at the edges. My hooves float a little above the floor, and I have to force myself to land on the uneven slope. The grass just goes right through my hooves, tickling me a bit. It is a strange feeling.

Why am I not scared?

The situation is as alien to me as it could be, but I have no fear of it. I realize I am dead, and that whatever fears I had in life will no longer bother me. It is a strange sensation, a sort of Zen-like state that I never experienced before, brought on by the simple realization that I cannot die more than once, to the best of my knowledge.

I am on the edge of a forest. The Everfree Forest from the looks of it. I woke up on the edge between the darkness of the canopy of the forest, and the openly lit grass just outside of its borders. Not in the forest, nor outside of it.

I take a tentative step out into the sunlight, turning my head a bit to take the light in. It, too, is a paler colour than I am used to. There is a blue tone to it as if it came from the moon instead of the sun. There is no stinging in my eyes as I look up at the large ball of light in the sky, it provides no warmth to my ghostly body. It is just there.

My hooves carry me further out of the forest, up the slope from where I had woken, up to the top of the grassy hill. Once there I turn my head in the direction of a large column of black smoke rising up from the nearby town. It looks like the pegasi are barely able to contain the fire it emanates from, buckets of water being flown in and dumped over the source of the smoke.

I can barely see anything from this distance, and start off towards the town. My hooves do not touch the ground as I run, my body floating forward more by my own willpower than by the pushing of hooves against the dirt that normally propels a pony. As soon as I realize that, my hooves come to a full stop under me and I drift upwards as well as forwards, taking my newfound ability to float in stride with the rest of the strange experiences.

A Pegasus flies by unexpectedly low, the tip of one of her wings brushing through my form as if I was not there, but even as I shiver from the feeling, I find her letting out a surprised gasp and watch as she tumbles down a little before she regains her composure enough to correct her flight path. Only a little water got spilt from the bucket she is holding on to.

I follow behind her, heading straight for the column of smoke, the crowd of ponies gathered around the fire getting more dense the closer we get. There are some guards trying to keep the crowd at bay in a circle around the houses that are on fire. Three houses and a marketstall that was set up in front of it are reduced to burning cinders and charcoal.

I slowly drift down to one of the houses and walk up to where the front door used to be. The heat of the flames does not bother me. In fact, as I approach the house the door shows up clear as day in front of me. The walls erect themselves again, the house is as new - though with a blue hue to them.

I push open the door and walk into the living room, reaching behind me to take my saddlebags off. "Mom, I'm home!" I shout, but there is no response.

I leave my saddlebags in the corner, one of my school books half falling out of them as I do, and walk further into the house, sticking my head into the kitchen. "Mom?" She is not there.

"Are you upstairs?" I call out, trotting over to the staircase.

A feeling of concern comes over me and I rush up the stairs as fast as my hooves will take me. There is a strange overlap of flames licking up along the walls. Why would there be flames? I shake away the imagined fire and rush into my parents' bedroom. "Mom?"

She is not there either, and I quickly go from room to room to find them equally deserted. She is not in the bathroom, not in my bedroom, not in the hobby room or the washing room... nowhere.

I sigh dejectedly and make my way back down the stairs and into the kitchen. Well, she could just be out getting groceries. Still, she said she would be here and make pancakes with me. The pancake batter and everything are already set up on the kitchen table.

Maybe I could surprise her by making the pancakes for her? Looking at the ingredients on the table, mom probably already measured them out to the right amounts, right? Four eggs, a large mug of milk, a bit of flour, why is there salt on the table as well? Maybe just a little then.

I eagerly put all of the ingredients together in one bowl, and take a spoon in my mouth to mix it all together. The egg shells make a crunching sound as I stir the batter around, but if the shells were not meant to be in the mix, mom would have broken them already.

It all makes a gooey mess before too long, and I can barely stir the spoon without having to hold the bowl with both hooves to stop it going everywhere as well! Ok, so the dough is done. What next? Right; the pan!

I take the frying pan out of the cabinet and put it on top of the stove, staring at the latter for a moment. How did mom turn it on again? We have some matches here somewhere... It takes me a moment of searching, but I finally manage to find and light a match with my mouth, and turn the stove on with a nudge of my hoof against the dial. The stove lights up, and I throw the still-burning match away towards the sink.

It bounces off of the edge and lands in the windowsil instead, and I let out a sound of surprise as the curtains catch fire a moment after!

"Oh shit, oh shit," I cry out, trying to figure out what to do! Water! But the water comes from the sink, and the sink is on fire! I need to get water from the bathroom upstairs, then!

I turn around, kicking over the bowl with batter, and run upstairs into the bathroom. I open the faucet, then realize I did not bring anything to bring the water down in, and rush back down again!

I skid into the kitchen, my hooves catching on something sticky. Half of the room is on fire now and I find my breath catching in my throat as I realize it is way out of control! No amount of water I could provide could stop the fire from spreading, and I move to turn and run out the door to get help from somepony else.

...and that's when I realize the batter, warming up due to the fire around it, has stuck my hooves to the ground!

I panic, screaming for help, tugging at the sticky stuff with all my might, but the fires enclose me before too long and my cries soon get cut-off as the fire and smoke overtake me.

I curl up in a ball and cry as the image of the house around me slowly makes way for the smouldering ruins, the few embers remaining getting doused by the water the pegasi bring from the nearby lakes. I close my eyes and barely register any of it. Not the heat from the embers, the cold from the water, not anything.

It is not until all fires are extinguished, and some ponies move in to inspect the ruins that I move again, if only to move out of their way. I watch them sort through the rubble, hear them pondering about the reason for the fire, watch as one unicorn lifts a burnt support beam to uncover my lifeless body...

The cry my mother makes at the sight of my corpse cuts through my soul like a shard of ice, numbing every feeling after it and making me turn away from her in the realization I can't give her back her foal. I can't do anything anymore.

I drift out of town while the crowd disperses, no goal in mind, just drifting in a random direction. What is the use anyway? I am a ghost. I am dead. Where would I go? I would have thought Celestia would have taken me up to Heaven, or maybe Discord could have dragged me down to Hell... but neither event happened.

I am just here, in Equestria, unable to touch or do anything. What is the use of it?

I find myself at an odd treehouse, and drift up and through a wall to have a look inside. It looks nice and cosy, with drawings, half-finished crafts works, and a trio of capes hung on hooks to the side of the door. It feels comfortable here; the place itself feels almost alive, as if a lot of energy was put into it.

I perk my ears up as I hear voices approach. Young voices. They are talking about the fire. I know I am dead and all, and nopony can see me, but I still look around for a hiding place as I know they're heading this way and I don't want to be seen as an intruder!

I decide upon the hole in the ceiling leading to a smaller attic-like room with a telescope in it, and look down from my new vantage point through the hole in the ceiling I drifted up through.

The door opens to reveal three fillies; a white unicorn with a curly pink mane, an orange Pegasus with a rebellious purple mane, and a yellow earthpony with a long red mane with a bow tied in it. They immediately reach for their capes and don them, and I listen as they continue their conversation.

"D'ya think miss Cheerilee will talk 'bout the fire t'morrow?" the yellow one asks, moving over to one of the crafts projects.

"Did you see how high the smoke went? I'm sure Rainbow Dash could fly higher than that, but the smoke almost touched the sun!" the Pegasus orated, having missed the question entirely.

The unicorn looked thoughtful, then nodded her head. "Yeah."

"I can't believe we didn't even consider them for our club; they didn't have a cutiemark either!" the Pegasus snorted with a shake of her head.

"What do you think happened?" the unicorn wondered of her companions.

"Some magic gone wrong?" the earthpony shrugged.

"Magic isn't that difficult, you know?" retorted the unicorn.

I sighed and lifted a hoof to my forehead. I never had any magic myself, being an earthpony, but I had always been interested in it.

"Well how the hay would I know?" said the earthpony, turning to glare at the unicorn.

The Pegasus moved in between them and shook her head. "No use fighting, girls. We should prepare for our next meeting. Did you get the banner done yet, Apple Boom?"

The earthpony, named Apple Bloom, shook her head and returned to her brush. "I just need to get this here thing done. I don't see why I need to paint it, though."

"Because Sweetie Belle is writing the notes this time around, and I'm doing the music," the Pegasus returned, turning her head for the unicorn. "How are the notes coming, Sweetie Belle?"

"How do you write 'superawesomespecialness'?" Sweetie Belle wondered in turn.

"Well, duh, S-O-O-P-E-R..." the earthpony started, but got cut off by the Pegasus.

"Do we really need that word in there?"

"If you wanna invite Rainbow Dash to the meeting, yes?" Sweetie Belle shrugged.

The Pegasus looked pained, then nodded heavily. "Yes, of course she should be included. Sooperawesomespiciness..."

"Awesomeness," corrected Apple Bloom.

"No, specialness; superawesomespecialness." returned Sweetie Belle.

"Well, I dunno then." shrugged Apple Bloom, turning back to her painting.

I had to giggle at it all, but stopped as the unicorn's ears twitched and she looked up at where I was hiding. "Did you girls hear that?"

"Hear what?" Apple Bloom offered while drawing lines with her paintbrush.

I stayed quiet, but the Pegasus nodded and looked up as well. "I did. Who's up there?"

"Up where?" Apple Bloom wondered again, finishing the line and looking up with the paintbrush still in her mouth.

"There was somepony giggling. It came from the attic," the Pegasus offered to her.

"Yeah!" said Sweetie Belle. "Who's up there?"

Apple Bloom spat the paintbrush out into a bowl with water in it, then tilted her head a bit. "Now how the hay would they be up there? The ladder's down here on the ground."

"Maybe they're a Pegasus?" Sweetie Belle shrugged.

"Pegasus or not, I'm going to have a look!" the Pegasus decided, her small wings fluttering as she tried to fly up to the hole, but she barely made it a hoof-length up above the ground.

"Maybe ya want to use the ladder?" Apple Bloom sighed, walking over to it and lifting it up from the ground.

"Yeah.." Sweetie Belle agreed, still peering up at my hiding place.

I sighed at their insistence on coming up, still a bit bewildered that they had heard me. "Please don't," I begged of them, and noticed all six ears perking up to me.

"Ok, now that I did hear," Apple Bloom nodded, stopping her attempts to push the ladder upright.

"Well, if you don't want us to come up, why don't you come down instead?" the Pegasus demanded.

"Yeah! What Scootaloo said!" Sweetie Belle agreed.

I looked back at myself for a moment, then back down through the hole. "I don't know if you can actually see me... but don't be afraid, ok?"

Sweetie Belle tilted her head, looking confused. "Huh?"

"What kind of question is that? Of course we won't be afraid!" said Scootaloo boldly, although there was a light flick of her tail betraying her nervosity.

Apple Bloom just peered up and narrowed her eyes slightly. "Yer sure ya don't need the ladder?"

I started drifting down through the floor, my hooves showing through the ceiling above the ponies heads' first, then the rest of my body, and lastly my head and mane. "I'm sure," I offered weakly, landing on my hooves on the floor in front of them.

Their eyes were on me the whole time, and I noticed a visible shiver go through Scootaloo's form, her ears alternating between being perked up and falling down low. Sweetie Belle was doing no better, her pupils as small as they could be, and her body trembling as if she was trying to decide whether to flee or not.

Only Apple Bloom was just staring at me, looking me over. Just as the silence became too much, she opened her mouth and spoke "Why, hello! I'm Apple Bloom, and this here is Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle. What's your name?"

I opened my mouth to answer, but Scootaloo shook her head quickly and berated Apple Bloom. "Apple Bloom! That's a ghost you're talking to!"

"I know that," Apple Bloom snorted, "but she's still a filly like us!"

"Y-yeah," said Sweetie Belle carefully.

"But how did she get here in the first place?" Scootaloo still demanded.

"Well, I kind of drifted over here?" I shrugged. "Not much to do when you're dead and all..."

"Wait... You're not Cinnamon Bun, are you?" Sweetie Belle wondered, and I turned to face her properly.

"That... sounds like my name, yes." I answered, realizing I had totally forgotten about my name until now.

"Sounds like?" Scootaloo repeated, and I nodded to her.

"Yeah, it's... I didn't really think of my name before now. It's like I just forgot. Like it wasn't important or something. Being dead is weird."

"But didn't Cinnamon Bun have a dark coat? What was it, brown? Orange?" Scootaloo frowned.

"Brown," Sweetie Belle nodded, "with a yellow mane."

"She looks white now. All white." Apple Bloom offered.

"There's blue too," returned Sweetie Belle.

"I can see right through her," said Scootaloo.

I just looked between each as they offered their observations, then walked up towards Scootaloo and said "And I can do this too," while walking straight through her.

The shivers were much stronger this time, and Scootaloo let out a surprised yelp at them, then bolted for the other corner of the room, standing there trembling and with her wings fluttering nervously.

"Wow..." Sweetie Belle gasped in amazement, but Apple Bloom giggled in Scootaloo's direction.

"Oh, get a grip, Scoots. Yer not scared of our classmate, are ya?" she asked.

"S-She walked right T-T-THROUGH me!" Scootaloo returned while breathing heavily, trying to get herself back under control.

"It feels weird, doesn't it?" I realized, looking back at her. "How did it feel for you? I get these strange shivers when it happens."

Scootaloo just stared at me in absolute terror, unable to answer my question.

"Can I try?" Apple Bloom wondered of me instead, and I nodded at her.

"Sure. It's a bit of a ticklish feeling for me," I explained again, "but it's not a bad feeling?"

Apple Bloom grinned and took a quick gallop at me, then passed through me without stopping, although I did notice she closed her eyes just before we would hit. I turned to look at her as she came to a stop, her body trembling with a shiver that went down from the tips of her ears to the tip of her tail.

"So?" I wondered as she started to turn back to face me.

"It's like wakin' up on a winter's mornin' and gettin' out of bed," she started. "That feelin' of cold passing through ya when you come from yer warm bed... It's a bit like that."

Sweetie Belle snorted at the idea. "No chance of that in our house. Rarity always puts the heater up before she comes out of bed. She always feels cold."

Scootaloo slowly made her way back to the group, nodding at Apple Bloom. "She's right, though. It felt exactly like that. Like when I came out of my sleeping bag during the camping trip and a cold breeze flew past me."

Apple Bloom nodded. "Or when ya go swimming in the cold water on a warm day."

"Yeah, or when you eat an ice cream too fast and it melts your brain!" Sweetie Belle squeaked.

Both Apple Bloom and Scootaloo turned to look at her, then the latter turned to me and nudged her head towards Sweetie Belle. "I don't think she gets it yet."

"I could walk through her as well?" I offered, and Sweetie Belle's pale coat got a little bit more so.

"Ah, no.. that's not needed," she offered, backing up into a wall. I floated forward to her, then sped up as she scrambled sideways to get away, and flew straight through her, the wall, and turned around outside to return to the treehouse.

Sweetie Belle was still shivering as I landed beside Apple Bloom, her pupils as small as they could be, and a look of terror on her face.

"She does a good impression of you, Scootaloo," Apple Bloom giggled, and Scootaloo snorted in return.

"I don't mean to make you girls afraid, you know?" I sighed. "I was just showing what I could do."

"Oh, it's alright Cinnamon Bun," Apple Bloom offered with a smile in my direction, and even Scootaloo nodded.

"Yeah, you're not making me afraid at all!" she decided, and I smiled in her direction.

"That was weird," Sweetie Belle gasped out, twitching a bit still. "Totally not like ice cream."

"Hey, Cinnamon Bun," Apple Bloom started. "How come we can see ya anyway?"

I shrugged. "I don't know, Apple Bloom. I don't think anypony else saw me when I went back home..."

"You died in the fire, then?" Scootaloo asked, and I sat down on my haunches, looking down a bit.

"...yeah. All I wanted to do was make pancakes for mom."

"I made food once," Sweetie Belle started, "but Rarity didn't like it at all."

"At least you didn't get yourself killed in the process, Sweetie Belle," I offered with a smirk. "You've done better than me."

Apple Bloom lifted a hoof to rest it over my whithers, but it sank right through my ghostly body and she pulled it back again. "Don't say such things, hun. Ya meant well, right? Do ya think yer mom would feel better if somepony told her why you're no longer around?"

I shrugged. "She screamed so loudly when she saw my lifeless body among the rubble..."

I heard audible gulping from three throats at once, and looked up to see Sweetie Belle with tears in her eyes, Scootaloo trying very hard to look tough and not at all affected by what I said, and Apple Bloom wiping her hoof over her eyes.

"We have got to let her know," Sweetie Belle decided.

"D'ya think ya can find her and lead us to her, Cinnamon Bun? We could tell her what ya told us?"

I looked them over and saw the determination in their eyes. They wanted to help me give my mother the answer she needed; why did her daughter die in a fire?

"But why? Why would you do this for me? I'm dead, you know? There's nothing I can do back for any of you." I reasoned.

"Because we're friends! And friends help each other out, even without needin' a reward." Apple Bloom explained, smiling up at me.

"But we only saw each other in passing, in school. We never really spoke or anything," I muttered. "How can we be friends?"

Scootaloo frowned and put her face inches from mine. "We've seen you at the meetings we had before. Don't you remember? We all agreed that Rainbow Dash was the most awesometastic pony in Ponyville. You were there, I remember you there."

I shrugged and tried to remember. "Maybe? I don't really remember it that well."

"Yeah! And you're a blankflank too, so we would have invited you to join our club; the Cutiemark Crusaders really soon too!" Sweetie Belle added.

Apple Bloom smiled at me again. "We would have been the best of friends, ya know? So that means we're friends now, even if we weren't officially so. Applejack keeps talkin' about the magic of friendship an' all that, so you're gonna have to accept that we three are your best friends."

I did not know what to say to that, and finally just nodded. Some tears fell from my muzzle to the floor, and right through them, and I wiped my eyes in surprise. "Huh.. didn't know ghosts could cry.."

"If ya weren't so incoreopeal, incoroporal," Apple Bloom started.

"Incorporal?" Sweetie Belle offered.

"Incoreopal." Scootaloo decided.

"Well, whatever. If ya weren't like that, we'd have hugged ya silly, ya know?" Apple Bloom offered with a wide grin. "You're our friend. When you're ready, let's go find yer mom?"

I nodded again and pointed a hoof in a random direction. "I think she's that way."

Scootaloo ran up to the window, her wings buzzing. "Hey, that's in the direction of Princess Twilight's library!"

"Maybe she's staying over? Twilight would be nice enough to offer," Apple Bloom offered.

"Let's go find out!" Sweetie Belle exclaimed, running for the door - her cape fluttering over her flank from the movement.

The other two set in motion after their friend, and I just floated after them, back down the tree, through the applefields, and back into Ponyville. They were galloping with boundless energy - having a goal to work towards - but I fell behind as we passed by the rubble that used to be my house, feeling a sting in my chest as I looked at the workponies clearing up the mess.

I shook the feeling off and sped up to rejoin my 'friends', just in time to watch them burst through the door of the library. The poor little dragon companion to the princess twirled around from three fillies rushing by him, and looked surprised at the sudden visitors.

Princess Twilight was seated at a table with my mother on the other side of it, both of them looking up at the cutiemark crusaders moving to them.

"Er.. Can I help you, girls?" Princess Twilight Sparkle wondered, putting her cup of tea down on the table.

"I am a little busy, you... know... hm." Twilight continued, but then stared right at me as the last of her words were spoken slower and softer than the others.

"Princess Twilight, we need to talk to Cinnamon Bun's mother!" Apple Bloom offered.

"Yeah!" said Sweetie Belle.

Scootaloo nodded along. "We have to tell her what we know."

Mom looked so tired, her eyes red from crying, and just glanced over the three fillies in front of her with weary eyes. "Whatever could you.." she started, but Twilight lifted a hoof, still looking straight at me.

"You may want to listen to what they have to say, Honey Bun."

Mom looked up at Twilight with a perplexed look on her face, but then sighed and looked back at 'us'. "Did you know my daughter?"

"She was in the same class as us, madam," Scootaloo offered.

"Yeah!" Sweetie Belle added.

"An' she said she only wanted to make sum pancakes for ya, but then the house caught on fire an' she couldn't get out." Apple Bloom blurted.

Mom fell back a bit startled at the sudden news, shaking her head in confusion.

"Is that what happened, Cinnamon Bun?" Twilight asked, and mom looked even more bewildered at the question.

Realizing the Princess could see me, I nodded slowly. "Yes Princess. I came home to find the house empty. Mom and I were going to make pancakes together, so I tried to surprise her by starting already so she would come home to freshly made pancakes. But then the kitchen caught on fire, and I got my hooves stuck in the batter, and.. well.. here I am."

The princess' horn glowed a bright purple, and I felt a tickling sensation going through my body.

Mom suddenly decried "CINNAMON!" and jumped forward and over the Cutiemark Crusaders, her forehooves held open as if she wanted to take me into a hug, but she fell right through me and landed on the floor behind me.

I turned to see her pick herself up from the ground, shivers going through her. Her face showed confusion, bewilderment, and a deep, deep sadness.

"I'm sorry, mom... I just wanted to make pancakes to make you proud of me." I offered, and she walked closer and carefully wrapped a forehoof around my neck, hovering it in place a bit as she realized it just went through me.

"My poor, poor baby... I was only going to be out for a little while getting a new pack of milk as we had ran out... I never meant for this to happen..."

Princess Twilight scraped her throat, and the five of us turned to look at her. "My spell only made her visible, Honey Bun. I don't know how much time she has left on Equestria before she'll move on. I'm sorry, but there is nothing I can do."

Mom let out a sniffle and nodded, looking back down at me and leaning in as if to kiss my forehead. "I'm so sorry... I should have waited for you to come home first. I should have hidden the matches. I should have picked you up from school. I should..."

"No, mom. It's my fault. I tried to do things I knew were for grownup ponies. I shouldn't have tried to light the stove myself. I just wanted to make you proud of me, mom." I cut through her.

I heard some sniffles from the side and looked over to see the three cutiemark crusaders hugging each other while tears ran down their cheeks. Mom's tears ran down her muzzle as well, falling right through me as they dropped down. Even the Princess and her dragon companion were affected, although the Princess herself was trying to stay strong.

"Cinnamon, do you feel like you have any unfinished business here?" she asked.

I looked up at my mom, who was desperately trying to stroke a hoof through my mane, and then looked over to the Princess again. "I don't know? I wanted to let mom know what happened so she would not worry. My friends wanted to help me with that. I guess... I guess that's done now?"

"Honey Bun, pony spirits can only remain here in Equestria for as long as they have unfinished business here. You're going to have to let go of her," Princess Twilight sighed. "Unless you want your daughter to be stuck here for ever, unable to do anything, only able to be seen by a few who are susceptible to seeing spirits... It's not a life one would wish upon another."

Mom swallowed strongly, shaking her head. "I can't... My Cinnamon. My daughter... You should have grown up to be a strong mare, not taken by a stupid fire! Can't you or Princess Celestia bring her back, Princess Twilight? Please tell me there's some way I can keep my daughter with me?!"

I backed away a bit from my mother at her shouting her question at the Princess, and realized there was a light shining on me from somewhere above the room's ceiling. "Mom..." I started, and mom's eyes grew wide as she turned to look at me again.

"No..." she breathed in a whisper.

"I think I have to go now," I realized, looking over to the Cutiemark Crusaders. "Thank you, Applebloom, Sweetie Belle, Scootaloo. You're really, truly, my friends."

"No." Mom decided, shaking her head.

"Thank you, Princess Twilight," I offered to the Princess, then looked back at mom who was crying again.

"No! Cinnamon, don't go... please don't go! Please... my daughter..." mom begged, but I felt something pulling at me and started to float up towards the ceiling.

"Mom, I have to. I'll wait for you, ok? Don't forget me," I sighed, holding a hoof out to her. "Just... don't forget me."

Mom reached for my outstretched hoof in dire need to touch me one last time, but her hoof went right through mine and I felt myself rise up faster and faster. I caught a last glance at mom falling apart crying on the floor and Princess Twilight Sparkle rushing in to support her before I floated through the ceiling.

Up I went, through the tree's branches, up through the air above it, past clouds and up over the highest mountain tops, and then everything just...

Princess Celestia stood before me, but there was nothing to stand on. There was no light, no darkness. We just stood in nothing.

"Hello my little pony," Celestia offered in a soft voice, reaching a hoof out to wipe a tear from my cheek. Her hoof was tangible, it touched my cheek, rubbed through my fur, took the wetness from it and wiped it away.

"Where.." I started, but Celestia moved her hoof to my lips.

"We have little time," she stated, then reached down with her horn to touch my forehead and I felt an unfamiliar surge of energy flow through me.

When Celestia lifted her head again, I lifted mine to look up at her and saw her for what she was; just a pony thrown in a role she was forced to fulfill as there were no others who could handle what she had seen and done. She suddenly looked a lot older, a lot more tired, and wise beyond reason.

"I am going to ask you a simple question, my little pony, and your answer will decide where you go from here." she spoke in a soft voice, and I nodded slowly.

"What I want to return to Equestria as," I offered as a statement, and she nodded.

"How badly do you need somepony to support you, Princess?" I asked, and she took a step back in surprise.

"Support me?" she repeated.

"If I can choose to return as anything I want, but not as who I once was, not knowing where I came from, the dice of my fate thrown again to a destiny unknown to me... I would seek to be there for you. All my life I have been taught about the struggles you've gone through. Coming into Equestria after the pony unification, fighting Discord, we just started to learn about the Crystal Empire. Princess Twilight Sparkle growing into her own in the same town I lived in..."

Celestia nodded slowly.

"I have seen the problems. The pain my mother felt as I died is not something any pony should feel. The friends I made who just accepted me, even if I were a ghost, showed me how honest friendship could be. They went out of their way to tell my mom what happened. I want to help them live in a world that nurtures friendship like theirs. I want to help keep Discord as nice as he's been trying to be. Even if he occasionally comes to Ponyville and turns things upside down."

Celestia sat down in front of me and motioned me closer. "What are you saying, dear?"

"I see your hidden pain, here in who-knows-where," I started, pointing around a moment. "You've been fighting on your own for a thousand years while the mare-in-the-moon served as a constant reminder of your banishment of your sister."

Celestia swallowed strongly and nodded.

"I can't ask to be born an Alicorn Princess like yourself, all-mother Celestia. But perhaps I could return to Equestria with the chance, with the ability, to grow as Princess Twilight has done? To grow into a protector of my friends and all the good they stand for. To become a Princess when I have learned all there is to learn about being one and helping you out to keep ponies from having to suffer through things like their foals dying in fires."

Celestia chuckled lightly and nuzzled her head around my neck, pulling me close a bit. "All-mother, hmm? I guess I have been treating all of you like you were my children. And still I am surprised when I see how wise even the younger among you can be."

I leaned in to Celestia's larger form and sighed softly. "I don't know why, Princess Celestia. Having died and coming to this place, I feel like I know so much more than I thought I did. Like I've been here many times before."

"You have," Celestia offered in a soft tone, "and you are right. It is difficult to lead a country, a world, to constantly be the one pony everypony else looks up at for guidance. Even with the return of my sister, with Cadance and Twilight being there to help out, it is a heavy burden. But one I gladly take on to the betterment of all ponies in Equestria."

"Allow me to carry some of that weight, Princess? I will not remember having been here, but if you give me that chance, I am sure I will feel the need as pressing as I do now. The need to learn all I can, to grow into a strong mare, to join you in support of you."

Celestia smiled weakly and pressed a kiss to my forehead. "I have always wondered what it would be like to have a daughter?"

I blinked up at her, but her facial expression was just as honest and loving as my mom Honey Bun's had been. "I would be honoured, Princess."

"It is decided, then. Go to sleep, my little pony. When you wake up it will be in a new life." Celestia stated, nuzzling me close against her again.

I wanted to say something more, but my mouth only opened to a long yawn as I quickly started to feel tired. My eyes closed as I rested against the white coat of my mother-to-be, and soon I knew only darkness...

Celestia returned to Canterlot castle to find Luna already waiting for her on the balcony. She landed gracefully beside her sister, and folded her wings to her sides.

"Again, I must ask; do you think it wise, sister?" Luna wondered, her own wings stretched upwards and her eyes set on the horizon where her moon would soon show itself.

Feigning ignorance, Celestia turned to follow her sister's gaze. "I don't know what you mean, dear Luna."

"As long as you don't expect me to be her nursemaid, Tia," Luna offered with a light narrowing of her eyes.

"Not at all, dearest sister," Celestia chuckled. "I will carry that burden myself."