Bitter cold wind swirled around her body as the Sun Princess stood alone on the snow-covered hill. She was unaffected by the buffeting effect of chilling air upon her coat and mane. Through the years, she had found herself becoming unaffected by many things. Weather. Aging. Death.
She took a deep breath, feeling the freezing air rush into her lungs and spread through her chest, though it did nothing to numb the pain taking residence there. It never got any easier, no matter how many times the events may repeat. The burden upon her was always the same, whether she wanted the emotions to be there or not. Celestia was in control of many things in her life, but she was never able to master the will of her own body. A lack of control was the one thing she hated most, and yet still, she never failed to carry out the task that she felt needed to be done.
The bouquet of flowers in her mouth, wrapped in the finest silk available, contained a broad range of flora from all throughout Equestria and beyond. Many of the flowers were picked from her personal garden, where exotic plant life flourished within the hedges, creating a colorful environment of utmost peace. Peace not unlike that brought by the silence and solitude of her current location, though that peace existed for entirely different reasons.
Still more components of the bouquet were imported from distant lands, carrying with them the need for handling with gentle hooves, and therefore, a heavy price. Celestia didn't care. Money was no object to her, especially in this moment. A moment which mattered to her above all others on this particular day. A moment of remembrance. A moment to reflect on something dear that was lost to her in the ever-forward march of time.
Time. Another thing that Celestia could not control. Another thing which she loathed, a feeling which she kept hidden from the public behind her charming and regal smile. She had heard other ponies say that time healed all wounds. That time was an essential constant, a reassuring process in a chaotic and unfriendly universe. But the alicorn knew a different face of time. Time had not been kind to Celestia, though her physical form and wellbeing was not affected by it. Time had ravaged her heart on various occasions, tearing it asunder and laughing in her face as she struggled to pick up the pieces alone, maintaining her confident and reassuring air for her subjects all the while.
She stood mere yards away from her destination, blinking and unmoving. Thinking about the cruelty and unfairness of the world, of all that it had taken from her. Stalling in any way that she could. No, this never got any easier, no matter how much of a routine it became. She sniffled, a singular tear descending from her light magenta eyes, working its way slowly downward across her pure white muzzle, where it froze, clinging to the base of her lower jaw. She could never stop the tears, though sometimes she could prevent them from beginning until further into her visit. This was not one of those times, and she knew that it would not be long before any hope of her face remaining dry would be long gone.
Though she considered herself a strong pony, a pony more than capable of dealing with the harshness of life, she still needed to vent her emotions, just like anypony else. She knew well the value of close friends, of a shoulder to cry on, of a reassuring speech and a well-meaning smile. Of a night on the town, forgetting sorrows amongst beloved company, of the relief that came with pouring one's heart out and entrusting another with her very soul.
But she also knew that such friendships, and such comfort, was not something for her. Not any longer, not after the amount of close friends she had lost, the things that she had seen that nopony else could understand, the love for her charges that caused her such pain as they all passed on before her. She preferred to release her emotion alone, away from concerned gazes and idle gossip, away from the ponies who thought they knew their Princess. She saved her affections for only a few ponies, keeping a barrier between herself and those closest to her, carefully regulating the distance between them at all times. To all others, she was polite and generous, willing to assuage their fears and listen to their problems and complaints as she hid away her own.
The flowers left her mouth, moving to hover in front of her face as her long, slender horn began to glow. She sighed, wiping her nose with a hoof covered by an ornate shoe of purest gold. It was time to stop running from reality and hiding inside of her thoughts. Time was infuriating for more reasons than just its constant wear upon her mind, chief among them being that it would never stop. Celestia had other affairs to attend to during the coming day, and with time against her as always, she could no longer afford to delay what she had come here to do, what she hated doing, but dared not stop, lest her heart become cold.
She began her slow walk forward, each step carrying with it the weight of her emotions, her protected hooves dragging through the fluffy powder that coated the darkened earth. Her head tilted back, taking in the pinpricks of light that surrounded the moon. The moon where her sister was housed, the moon that reminded her each night of her greatest failure. Another burden that she would not share, another piece of herself that she preferred to keep hidden from all who would seek to comfort her.
Her gaze came back to the air before her as she continued walking, weaving her way through the stone tablets that protruded from the covered ground. One such monument in particular drew her interest as she came closer to it, and the free flowing of tears finally began. The droplets left small holes in the snow alongside the larger prints created by her hooves, outlining the path that she had taken through the small graveyard to reach her destination. As she arrived at the marker, her bouquet descended slowly to the ground, lying across the front of the stone, where a few candles and other singular flowers lay. She had not visited in over a year, and the guilt of her weakness combined with her heartache, doing much to undermine her mental state.
She moved to lie down, tucking her limbs under her as she lowered her body into the cold snow. Her throat became dry. Her heart ached. She read the epitaph that she knew so well again and again, finally closing her eyes as silent tears trickled down her face, leaving cold trails as they froze in the crisp air. Her mane continued to flow in an ethereal breeze, one separate from the very real, unforgiving wind whipping around her. All was silent bar the wind.
Many times before, she had tried talking to the stone. Telling her lost friend about events in the court, trials which she had personally overseen, celebrations that she wished the fallen pony could have attended, confessing her most childish dreams and expecting no reply. She had tried carrying on one-sided conversations, asking questions that she knew would receive no answer. Nothing eased her mind or heart, short of forgetting entirely one of the many students she had loved and practically raised from foalhood. However, simply forgetting was not something that she was willing to do.
Knowing that all of her previous attempts to soften the situation and save herself from her emotions were in vain, she elected to remain silent. She opened her eyes, looking at the stone, lost in memories as she lay there for what felt like hours. Her tears eventually stopped, and she allowed herself a final sniffle. The marks upon her flank began to tingle. It was time.
She gave the marker that denoted the final resting place of her student a sad smile and a small nod, silently pledging to herself that her next visit would be sooner than the time between her last visit and the present. She rose and turned, facing the entrance to the small burial plot, as she spread her feathered wings. Her former student had always loved watching her raise the sun, and the Princess had never denied her the privilege. She did not intend to start now.
Her massive wings gave a quick downward beat, sending flurries of snow scattering about the ground as she pulled a front hoof into her chest while she began her slow ascent. Her light orbs took shelter behind her eyelids as her horn began to glow, gaining intensity the further she rose into the air. The stars and moon were blown out, the world becoming shrouded in total darkness for a brief instant before the edges of the horizon became painted in a soft red glow. A titanic sphere of fire crested the mountaintops in the distance, bringing light and the new day as it slowly rose, its harbinger hovering in the air as she focused completely upon the task of raising the giant star. Once the sun had gained momentum and began its slow path across the sky, Celestia pulled in her wings, dropping gracefully to the earth below without a sound.
She opened her eyes once again, letting them stare directly ahead as she stood in place, unmoving. The graveyard looked so different in the daylight, and as the scenery changed to accommodate a different atmosphere, so did her focus shift to acquiesce to her other responsibilities. The time for introspection and release was over. The time for benevolence and instruction had arrived.
Giving a silent goodbye to her lost friend, she began a steady walk forward and out of the graveyard. She stepped onto the cobblestone road connecting the site to Canterlot, a road which was easily a two hour journey by foot. Celestia set out at a moderate pace, forgoing the convenience of teleportation for the false sense of comfort that came with being alone for just a little longer. She was confident that she would arrive in time for her first obligation of the day, and so she walked onward, back to the capital and her scheduled appointments.
She had arrived just in time to the School for Gifted Unicorns. Her decorated hooves clicked upon the marble floor as she maneuvered through the empty halls to the room where her student would be waiting. Her mind was blank as she walked. Her personality would need to shift as soon as she entered the doorway, and she braced herself for the sudden change.
As she passed through the door, the violet unicorn with the tricolor mane seated at a desk at the front of the room rose before bowing to her. The filly then looked up to the alicorn with eager eyes.
"Good morning, Princess Celestia!"
The elder mare smiled, a warm, reassuring smile. A smile that made her feel slightly sick given how far away from smiling she actually felt.
"Good morning, my faithful student. How are you today, my little pony?" A tilt of the head. A display of genuine interest. A gesture of caring.
"I'm fine! How are you?"
Celestia's smile faltered for a split second. She wanted so badly to break down, to reveal her secrets, to confide in the small filly before her, the filly that she had known for less than a year. The only pony that she could call friend at the moment stood feet away, asking a question that she knew not the depth of. Celestia knew that she couldn't be that selfish. She knew that she needed to put on a mask, to be there as the unshakeable portrait of security and reassurance for not only her student, but the country at large. She couldn't reveal her true self to the girl, no matter how much she wanted to. At least… not yet. Perhaps one day, she would find the strength to share her weaknesses once again. Her smile regained its full status.
"I am well, Twilight Sparkle. Let us begin the lesson for today."
Author's Note: I really feel that there is more to Princess Celestia than she lets on, and that being alive for well over a thousand years would bring with it a bunch of uncomfortable burdens and a sense of powerlessness, no matter how powerful one may be. I intend to do more stuff with Celestia in the future, including a possible collection of one-shots dealing with various aspects of her life, ranging from serious to entertaining. However, those stories are for another time.
I actually didn't even plan on writing this particular one-shot anytime soon, I just sat down and started writing when I hadn't planned on getting anything done tonight. Sometimes it's best to just let things happen like that. Hope you liked this little window into Celestia's life, and thanks for reading.