Celestia walked silently through the halls of the castle, taking in all the minute details of the elegant walkways, yet seeing none of it. The lavender flowers Luna had set up along the high windows faintly reached her nose, compelling her to notice the pale purple additions the most. Luna. Even though Startlight had helped them start down the path of rectifying their grievances, her sister was still a bit... dodgy.

She still didn't get to talk to her nearly as much as she liked, Luna still being the night owl she needed to be. Celestia gave a quiet sigh, a barely audible noise that sounded much to pervasive to her ears. It seemed to echo off the walls, bouncing around her as she walked on. Her hoof-steps making a soft cadence along the carpeted floor, the soft sounds slowly driving out the echoes of her sigh from Celestia's mind. Cadence. She wanted to go visit Cadence more often, but there were dozens of tiny things that needed to be addressed each day, dozens more each week, and the matters of the state that had been set aside had to be taken care of at some point. She hadn't seen the amiable pink Alicorn in some time, nor Shining Armor or their child, Flurry Heart. Celestia thought back to the days when Shining Armor was a constant presence in the castle. The guards hadn't complained as much, those days. Not that they did it a lot, but still, there was a noticeable change. Cadence was a sorely missed sight around the castle as well, her caring nature attending to the needs and complications of the castle staff. Luna now oversaw that, but it was different.

Shaking her head slightly, Celestia tried to clear her mind to more present tasks, like the meeting she was about to attend. Another dispute between nobles that had escalated in a much to childish manner, no doubt.

But her thoughts were not her own that day.

Celestia's mind wandered to Twilight. The young filly she could hardly believe had grown into a talented Alicorn in such a short time took up a great deal of her thoughts as it were. She cherished Twilight like a daughter, though she never said that when Mrs. Twilight Velvet was around. She didn't want to start a war. And yet her motherly nature couldn't help but yearn for the days when Twilight would be in her personal study, the two of them sharing hot chocolate while reading an account of one of Starswirl's exploits.

Celestia stopped in the hallway, glancing out the window, but not focusing on what lay beyond. Her thoughts turned from Twilight in a stirring sense of longing to Sunset Shimmer. Her equally talented student of long ago. Celestia regarded her as the oldest of her children, the few that she took in as such. After multiple incidents with the mirror, Celestia had thought of her more and more. A dull ache formed, a seed of something much more in the deepest reaches in her heart. Her mind thrust forth an old memory, of Sunset, running around one of the courtyards. Her delight was let loose in bits of laughter and gleeful cries, a ball of snow held aloft and chilled in her magic, in the height of the summer heat. Celestia and Sunset had spent the rest of the day throwing snow at the guards with Sunset's newfound spell, enjoying the surprised faces of their victims. There were a lot of complaints that day. And a few requests for it to happen again. A small smile tugged the corner of Celestia's mouth, and she finally took in what lay outside the window.

It over looked the garden maze, the vibrant green hedges budding with new stems and leaves, flowers curling along in colorful streams amidst the green, broken by the occasional statue. Directly in line with Celestia, was the empty pedestal where Discord once stood.

Discord. She hadn't seen much of him either. He spent most of his time with Fluttershy these days. She had heard an alarming tale of Discord nearly losing his physical embodiment, but luckily the gentle yellow mare had saved him. Celestia kept meaning to reach out to him, too. They had been such good friends once… if things had turned out differently, maybe one day they might have become something more. But it wasn't meant to be. Deep inside her being, Celestia felt that little seed of darkness quiver.

A guard rounded the corner, whistling a happy tune. The sound startled Celestia to the point where her head whipped around just as the stallion appeared from the corner. He stopped dead in his tracks, one hoof hovering over the ground, his face frozen in a rather perturbing expression of a whistle as his eyes took in the startling glare he found himself under.

"Sorry, it has been a long day, carry on, good sir." Celestia apologized, blinking fiercely to clear her mind again. The guard bowed, and shuffled past at a clearly forced pace, his eyes darting between the ground, and where the princess stood. Celestia sighed again, this time a little louder. Returning to her original task, Celestia made it to the throne room, where the nobles and their petty squabbles awaited.

She went the meeting largely in another place entirely, only snapping back to reality when something of the 'utter most importance' was being shared. At the end, Celestia gave them her ruling, which was of little consequence to her at the moment.

Her thoughts were being over-run with memories. Old friends in an age long gone, close acquaintances lost to the test of time. Places now no longer held on any map but her own. Places where beautiful things once stood, now turned to dust.

Not for the first time in her expansive life, Celestia began to wonder about the use of it all. Why should she keep getting attached to things that would never last? Why subject herself to the hurt of losing cherished ponies? A locked door, hidden deep within her mind opened. The loss of Starswirl still stung, fresh in her mind. Another close friend, gone.

Thoughts of a likeminded nature kept bouncing around her head as Celestia stopped at a random balcony to lower the sun. Luna, somehow knowing where she was, appeared beside her and raised the moon on its path. They shared a moment of silence, the spiral of thoughts keeping Celestia from remembering her earlier sentiment.

"I know that look." Luna said quietly, leaning on Celestia's shoulder, "Do you want to talk about it?" the younger sibling asked, prompting a moment of quietness to again take hold.

"Not right now." Celestia murmured. A new wave of tiredness creeping into her voice. The tiredness that comes from a weary soul.

"Are you sure?" Luna asked again, pulling away from her older sister, looking over at her in a curious and concerned manner.

"Yes, I am fine, Luna." Celestia lied. They both knew it was a lie, and each lied to themselves that it was true. Celestia's thoughts had brought up a new memory. This one of the hardest to re-live. Their parents. Their fleeting forms. The glowing embers in their eyes slowly fading as they become one with the natural flow of magic. Celestia had been much to young then, for them to leave when they did. Not only did it bring the ache in her heart to a full, it also reminded her of her eventual mortality as well. It was a long way off, but Celestia knew it was out there.

"Celestia, you know you can talk to me if you need me. Just don't… bottle it up forever, ok?" Luna asked, concern flaring over her sister from her eyes. In Luna's own mind, a sliver of an image stayed firm. Nightmare Moon, in all her glory, alone on the moon.

"Thanks, sister." Both of them relaxed. Celestia felt better, just saying it. Luna felt better, just hearing it. It had been a while since they had just called each other 'sister' in a conversation like this.

Luna gave her a quick hug before retreating inside to attend her nightly duties. Celestia stood for a moment longer, her eyes taking in the city of Canterlot below. From her viewpoint, Celestia remembered why she went through all of the pain.

There was never a single moment with her loved ones, her friends, that she regretted. Growing up with Luna and Discord, learning from her mother and father. Spending time with Starswirl. Taking students in under her wing, getting to know them and their families. She gave this nation her all. All her love and devotion. And the ponies she watched over loved her back, mostly. They cherished her as much as she cherished them, and that was why she had endured it all. Because they needed her to, and by the powers given to her through divine right, Celestia would fulfil that role to the best of her capabilities.

Even at the cost of a weary soul.

A/N: So, this is a bit different than what I normally do, and I know it has been done plenty before, but this is my take on a "Celestia contemplates the universe" type deal. I am really trying to focus on getting better at finer detailings, so if you read this and wouldn't mind, please let me know what you thought, and how I can improve!