She almost couldn't believe her eyes. After what seemed like a night that would never end, the sun was finally rising. Twilight stood in the middle of the ruined castle, surrounded by the friends she'd made. Rainbow Dash, Applejack, Fluttershy, Rarity and Pinkie Pie. All of them had, much to her surprise, become incredibly important to her, and together, they'd achieved a great victory. Not only had they discovered the long-lost elements of harmony, but in doing so, they had also vanquished the mare who had threatened the land with eternal night. Nightmare Moon.
But now that they had won, the sun's first rays were creeping over the horizon, and with them came a familiar voice. To her friends, it was strange, but to Twilight, it brought a smile to her face. She knew that voice well, and the pony it belonged to. As the sun rose, another light approached the window of the ruin. There was a blinding flash as the six mares covered there eyes. But when the light dimmed, they looked on in joy and surprise as there, standing with wings outstretched, was none other than Princess Celestia herself.
Twilight's new friends bowed at the sight of their monarch. But the young unicorn, overjoyed at the sight of her beloved mentor, merely smiled and rushed forward.
"Princess Celestia!" She called out.
The princess, seeing her student approach, also smiled. Twilight reached her and the two brushed their heads against each other in an affectionate manner, as they had done so many times before. Twilight had known Celestia since she was a young filly, to the point where she now considered her akin to family. And there had been a time on this long night when she feared she may never see her again, that Nightmare Moon had succeeded forever in keeping Celestia from her people. But here she was, their ruler once more, and Twilight could not have been happier.
Celestia too was happy at what had happened.
"Twilight Sparkle! My faithful student".
The two broke away from each other and Celestia smiled down at twilight.
"I knew you could do it!" She said.
Twilight tilted her head in confusion at Celestia's confident remark.
"But......I thought you said it was all on old ponies' tale?" She said.
Celestia's smile grew a little.
"I told you that you needed to make some friends. Nothing more. I saw the signs of Nightmare Moon's return, and I knew that it was you who had the magic inside to defeat her. But you could not have done it until you let true friendship into your heart."
Twilight looked up at her teacher and smiled before turning around. There, she looked upon the still-smiling faces of her new friends. She had spent so much of her life focused on her studies and her magic, and had never really gone out of her way to make friends with others. She'd always considered doing so to be less important than all of the other things she'd been doing. Even when she was sent here, Nightmare Moon's return concerned her more than socialising with others.
But Celestia was right. Although her time here had been brief, it had changed her. And she now understood just how important it was for her to have friends in her life. The moment she understood that, when the "spark" had ignited in her, had been a happy moment for her, and now she could never imagine her life as it was before, with few or no friends to rely upon. And, as she looked upon the faces of her new friends, she knew they were thinking the exact same thing. Being friends with them had helped her to do something incredible today, and she valued each and every one of them.
But the smiles on their faces faded a little when Celestia spoke again.
"Now.....if only another will as well."
The tone of her voice was less happy than it had been moments before, and Twilight turned to look upon her. She saw immediately that Celestia's expression was one of concern, a rare look for her. But Twilight soon noticed that it was no longer her or her friends that the princess was looking at, and so followed her line of sight to the other side of the chamber. There, her eyes widened with shock as she saw a pony lying on the ground. It was the same spot where Nightmare Moon had stood when the elements had defeated her. But this was not Nightmare.
Instead, there was, to Twilight's surprise, and alicorn. In all her life, she'd only ever known of the existence of two such ponies. There was Celestia, and her old foal-sitter, Princess Cadence. She'd never have thought that there would be a third. She was smaller than Nightmare, or even Celestia, and her colouring was a dark blue in her coat and a light blue in her short mane. She bore a black necklace emblazened with a moon crest, and a small black crown upon her head. Beside her lay the shattered remains of Nightmare Moon's armour.
Celestia spoke as she approached the unmoving figure.
Upon hearing her name, Luna's eyes snapped open and she turned her head to see Celestia walk closer. The look on her face was a mixture of both fear and shame, and Twilight could not believe that this tiny creature had, mere moments ago, been the greatest threat she'd ever known Equestria had faced. Luna looked upon Celestia, never moving from her spot, and Celestia continued to walk towards her.
"It has been a thousand years since I have seen you like this."
Once Celestia reached her, she got down on all four knees and brought her head close to Luna.
"It is time to put our differences behind us."
Luna looked away, clearly uncomfortable with what Celestia was saying to her. But nevertheless, the sun princess continued.
"We were meant to rule together, little sister."
With those words, the eyes of Twilight and her friends widened with shock.
"Sister?!" They all said together.
Little sister? This unknown alicorn, Luna, who had only recently been Celestia's deadliest enemy, was her own flesh and blood? Twilight especially had a hard time grasping with that concept. After all, she'd known Celestia for most of her life, and in all that time, the princess had never once mentioned that she had any family, let alone a sister. Twilight did not know if it was because she didn't want Twilight to know, or perhaps it was because she was ashamed at what here sister had become. But whatever the reason, it was clearly something Celesta had never wanted others to know.
But still, Twilight could not tear herself away from listening in on this, admittedly, rather private conversation. And she looked on as Celestia stood tall once more, looking down on her long-lost sibling.
"Will you accept my friendship?" She asked.
Twilight and her friends looked on with baited breath. Here before them were two ponies who had been separated from each other for longer than any of them had been alive. None of them could imagine being apart from their loved ones for that long, nor could they imagine the pain such an absence would have caused them. They watched as Luna looked down at the ground, having taken in every word her sister had said, and Celestia stood there, awaiting her answer. After what seemed like an eternity of silence between them, Luna finally answered.
"Celestia.......I have been gone for a very, VERY long time. Not a moment went by when I did not think of you."
The younger princess stood up, reaching a height taller than Twilight or her friends. Her expression was no longer that of the demure figure they'd seen mere moment earlier.
"Trapped within the darkness born of my jealousy and spite, there was nothing I wanted more than to be with you again. United with my beloved sister".
Celestia gave a small smile at that, perhaps thinking that this would lead to a reconciliation between therm. But that smile faded when Luna looked up at her with bitterness in her eyes.
"But.......I.........I cannot accept what you offer me."
Celestia's expression became one that made it clear to Twilight that she was crestfallen with Luna's answer. Twilight too was surprised at what the moon mare had just said. Celestia was, after all, her sister, and one that had offered friendship to her after everything they'd been through. She could not believe that Luna would simply reject that offer like this.
"I know you did what you had to. I know you had to protect the ponies of Equestria from what I had become. But even so, I cannot forget that you still imprisoned me. And worse, I cannot forgive myself for what I did. My jealousy led me to become a monster."
Luna looked away, her expression clearly one of pain and regret. Twilight looked over to her friends, and every single one of them looked at her with faces that made it obvious that they too knew that it would be unwise for them to intervene in this. Instead, they simply kept on listening as Luna spoke again.
"There is nothing I'd want more than to stand beside you in friendship again sister. We have been apart from each other for too long. But......"
Luna looked up at her sister, the latter becoming increasingly distressed over how much her younger sister was hurting over all this. Luna meanwhile, opened her mouth to speak, but it was as though her words couldn't make it out, stopped by her own sense of regret and shame over her actions. Eventually though, she managed to force the words out.
".......but I cannot. Too much has happened between us for us to simply forget what has happened. We cannot simply pretend it never transpired. You cannot ignore my actions. Nor can I ignore the fact that the ponies of Equestria ignored my beautiful night. They ignored ME! I was their princess and I was like a ghost to them."
Luna looked away as her eyes began to well up. Celestia too was on the verge of tears, but she tried her best to remain strong as she looked upon her sister's exposed back.
"If I were to return today, nothing would have changed."
It was here that Celestia decided to finally respond to all this. She stepped forward and gently placed a hoof upon her sister's shoulder, gaining her attention. The younger sister turned to look into her elder's eyes.
"But things HAVE changed sister! I promise you, things will not be as they were in ages past."
Luna took in Celestia's words, but rather than accept them readily, as the former no doubt hoped, she instead frowned at them.
"Do they hold the day and night as equals? Do they come out to adore the stars and moon in their thousands, instead of shun them? Will they, dear sister, love me as they have loved you these many centuries?"
Twilight could practically feel the pang in her heart that Celestia was undoubtedly feeling at that remark. She knew her mentor far too well to think that she would just go ahead and say "yes" to Luna in response to that question, no matter how much she might want Luna to feel happier. Twilight knew the truth. Although the night had gained more appreciation than tit had a thousand years ago, things were far from equal. Ponies, by and large, still held the day with greater admiration than the night, much like they had done centuries ago. And although it pained her to think of it, she knew that Luna would not simply be welcomed back as Celestia's equal.
It was also clear to Luna, who was now looking past Celestia and towards Twilight and the others. The blue mare stepped past her sister and pointed her hoof at them, gaining Celestia's attention.
"Look at them, sister. When they look at me, they do not see a beloved princess, returned from a long absence to be accepted into their hearts. They see a stranger. Entire generations have passed since I was a princess of this land, and in that time, even my true name has been forgotten. It is replaced instead by the name of Nightmare Moon. A figure of fear for the ponies of our land. To them, I am little more than a myth, or worse, a tale pony parents tell their children to scare them into behaving."
Celestia's eyes had, at this point, finally begun to let loose their tears. It practically broke Twilight's heart to see her like this, to be brought down by Luna's words. But the fact of the matter was that the moon princess was not speaking falsehoods. If she did return to her former duties, the ponies of the land would not simply accept it immediately. Such a change would be met with confusion and suspicion. Luna was, as much as Twilight didn't want to admit, completely unknown to their kind now, which, sadly, made her situation worse than it had been in the time when the rift between her and Celestia had begun.
Luna lowered her hoof and looked up at her sister, their eyes locked on each other now.
"If you wish for me to return as the guardian of the night, I will do so."
Luna's expression became one of sadness, much like Celestia's. She stepped forward and gently placed a hood on her sister's side, probably the first time she'd done so in a thousand years.
"But I will never be the princess you are sister. No matter how much I might want to be."
It was here that the two finally broke down, they embraced each other for the first time in centuries, their tears flowing steadily now. Twilight and the other too were almost becoming tearful at the sight of their princess' bittersweet reunion with her sister. Twilight especially wanted nothing more than to go over there and comfort her mentor. But she knew that this was between her and Luna. Instead, they simply stood there and observed as, for several minutes, the two princess' were reluctant to leave each other. Eventually though, they did so, and Luna, her face still wet from her tears, spoke.
"I love you, big sister. But......but things can never be as they once were."
Celestia wanted to say something, anything, to convince Luna that things would be good between them once more, that she would be welcomed by Equestria with open hooves. But if there was one thing the elder sister had never been able to do, it was lie to Luna. Instead, she kept her mouth shut and turned her face away, her expression one of pain and regret. Luna meanwhile finally stood up and began to walk away from her sister. Twilight looked at her friends, unsure of what to do, as the moon princess approached. But, as Luna reached the halfway point between Celestia and the group, she stopped. Showing hesitance, she looked behind her to her still-weeping sister, a look of regret upon her face.
"I am sorry.......sister."
Her voice had been a hushed one, and if Celestia had heard it, all it did was make her feel worse than she already was. Twilight knew that Luna would not want to do such a thing if she didn't want to, but she also knew that they were words that probably needed to be said regardless. The younger princess then resumed her march towards the group, and once Luna had reached her, she stared at Twilight, Even though she was not as large as Celestia, Luna was still far larger than most mare, and her gaze was rather intimidating.
"You freed me from the darkness of my heart?" She asked.
Twilight hesitated for a moment, but soon nodded at her in response. There was a pause for a few seconds before Luna bowed her head at Twilight.
"You have my gratitude."
After having spent years in the company of royalty, Twilight's instincts kicked in and she bowed back to Luna. The latter then walked past Twilight and her friends as the group watched her. She was, no doubt leaving to resume her duties as the princess of the night. Twilight had no doubt that this news would come as a shock to Equestria, but they would simply have to cross that bridge when they came to it. The young unicorn then suddenly remembered that Celestia was here, and turned to look upon her. The elder princess was still on her knees, looking forlorn at the ground.
Twilight had never seen her like this, but she couldn't blame her for being this way. After all, Twilight too had a beloved sibling, her elder brother, Shining Armour. The thought of somehow losing the bond she shared with him was, to her, a terrible thought, and she hoped with all her might that such a thing would never happen. But such a thing had happened now to Celestia, and Twilight moved away from her new friends towards her. Upon reaching her, Twilight placed a hoof on Celestia's shoulder, and the elder alicorn turned to look at her student.
"Princess? Are you alright?" Twilight asked.
Celestia looked at Twilight, her faithful student, and hid nothing. Her face was still raw with all of the loss and anguish and regret that she'd been bottling up for a thousand years. She had hoped throughout these many centuries that, when she and Luna were finally reunited, that they could have put the pain of the past behind them. But it was now all too clear to Celestia that such a thing was not going to happen, at least not so soon after her return. What the future held for the two princesses now, she could not say. All she could do was answer her beloved student in the most honest answer she could give.
"I am no worse, Twilight, than I have been for the past thousand years."