The Return of Sunset Shimmer

by Never2muchpinkie

Chapter 10: The day of destiny

The morning sun shone down on the Everfree Forest, but it wasn’t much better than the nightly moon. The forest was still eerie and dark.

Sunset was panting slightly. She had barely allowed herself rest for the past few hours. She thought that if she was constantly active she wouldn’t have space to think. She wouldn’t have to think about all the lies and slander leveled against her; of the betrayals and deceit from those she had considered close friends; of having to save Twilight the only way she knew how; and of having to confront her former teacher.

With the rising of the sun Sunset knew she couldn’t just play around anymore. It was crucial that she get a little rest and prepare for the day. Today promised to be huge for her, and by the end of it either her or Celestia would be dead.

She had to consider the possibility that it would be impossible for her to defeat Celestia alone. She didn’t doubt the power of the amulet or her own abilities, but there was always a chance that even their maximum capabilities were still far outstripped by Celestia. Celestia had been alive and ruling for over a thousand years, while she was a mere two percent of Celestia’s lifespan. Who knew what tricks and skills she possessed. There were any number of things Celestia could use against her.

While she had been Celestia’s student there was relative peace in Equestria. There were no continental-level threats to the land, so she had never actually seen Celestia engage in battle. Even so, Celestia felt like a mountain, an impenetrable wall.

She already had her plan ready to circumvent those defenses. If she had to end Twilight’s life anyway, she might as well take advantage of such a horrible action. Celestia was cold and cruel, but even she would drop her guard if she found her carefully raised student dead before her eyes. When Celestia was distracted she would prepare as powerful a spell as she could manage, and then teleport in behind her and blast her full force.

It was crucial she end the battle in a single shot. Twilight was a powerful pawn in Celestia’s game. If Celestia lived she would be furious, and her temper would be like a raging inferno.

Even were she an alicorn and wearing the Alicorn Amulet she would still be terrified of facing Celestia’s rage. No matter how dubious her morals, Celestia was the ruler of their land for a very good reason, and that reason was, naturally, her overwhelming power. Very few could hope to match her in open combat.

She considered Twilight’s threat level. Twilight was a personal student of the princess as well. They had both been powerful unicorns, learning spell after spell with ease. Twilight was gifted with above-average intelligence, much like her. Twilight was an alicorn, while she carried the Alicorn Amulet. She knew Twilight wouldn’t be nearly as strong as Celestia, and for that reason she felt confident she could prevail if she just kept her wits about her and didn’t take chances.

‘Maybe… maybe I should just side-swipe Twilight as well,’ she thought. With the safety of the world in the balance, she didn’t feel there was any place for honor. What honor was there anyway, in a fight to the death? Better to end your foe quickly and spare them undue suffering than to drag out a battle.

She flashed back to her vision of Twilight, crying with that blank stare on her face, and she knew she couldn’t do it. She wouldn’t just attack Twilight from behind. If Twilight was crying even after Celestia wiped her memory that had to mean Twilight, the real Twilight, was still inside somewhere. It was an added risk for sure, but she had to try. If she could break Twilight of Celestia’s control then maybe the two of them could team up to take Celestia down.

Celestia was already expecting her to fight, and that Twilight was her obedient slave. If she got Celestia’s attention then Twilight could attack her from behind. She would never expect Twilight would betray her.

Maybe her dream of proving herself righteous and working with Twilight to take down a monster wasn’t so farfetched after all.

She walked back towards Zecora’s hut. For whatever reason she hadn’t been bothered by the creatures of the forest. She was close to Zecora’s house. Maybe Zecora had some kind of enchantment that kept her free of bother.

Now that she had stopped practicing a myriad of different thoughts assaulted her: Twilight crying, her friends talking, Celestia on her throne, Equestria in a state of ruin, her on the throne, ponies and humans alike glaring at her.

She entered Zecora’s hut, checking up on Zecora. The zebra was still out, breathing naturally. She saw herself assaulting the unwary zebra, and she grimaced. Just because she had mended the injury didn’t just mean she’d forget what she’d done.

Sunset sat down on the bed, feeling in a foul mood now. She felt murkiness in her body, like something didn’t belong.

She got up quickly, running outside. She ran to a tree, howling as she slammed her hooves against it.

“What are you doing, Sunset?” asked Stardust.

“Shut up!” she yelled. “I didn’t ask for this. I didn’t ask for any of this! Who do you think you are, turning my life upside-down again?”

‘Excellent,’ thought Stardust. ‘Blame others for your problems. It will only make your heart weaker.’

To her he said, “Sunset, what’s troubling you? I don’t like to see you so angry.”

“HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO FEEL?” she shouted. “HUH?” She huffed for a while as she kept hitting the tree.

She slid to the ground, her heart racing with her exertion, but her body feeling so heavy. “I’m… I’m all alone. Again! Everyone betrayed me. Twilight was the only that believed in me, and now she’s gone too.”

She forced herself up on her hooves, punching the tree again. “Do you even know what you’re asking? You spun me this great vision of Equestria under my rule, but you’re an even bigger idiot than I expected.”

“Why is that?” he asked neutrally.

“Celestia lives a powerful illusion of kindness, caring, and compassion. Even I was taken in when I was younger. In the public’s eyes she is exactly who she appears to be. Do you really think anyone is going to side with me if I killed her?” She shuddered. “Of course not! They’d see me as a monster!” She put her head against the tree, hugging it. “I’m already alone! I don’t want to bear the hatred of all of Equestria on top of it.”

She quietly sobbed against the tree.

“Sunset, I think you’re forgetting something important.” She didn’t respond. “You don’t need to worry about that. All you need is the backing of an important pony high up on the power scale, which you’ll definitely have.”

“TWILIGHT?” she said sharply. “Except according to your brilliant plan I’m supposed to kill her first!”

“No, no. Not Twilight. Princess Luna.”

Sunset glanced behind her, curious. “Go on.”

“You’re correct, Sunset. Very few ponies know the true Celestia. Only those that have been personally wronged by her and seen who she really is would truly believe what you did was a benevolent act. Princess Luna is among their number.

“Luna was jealous of the attention Celestia and her day got, so she eventually rebelled, letting herself be controlled by dark forces. It ultimately did her no good, as Celestia used the Elements of Harmony against her and sealed her in the moon.

“But she knows the truth, and is too afraid to stand up against her sister again. If you take down Celestia then Luna would be eternally grateful to you, and she could vouch for you. As the second most powerful alicorn she wields considerable influence.

“You don’t have to start out befriending everyone, you know. To start with you should be happy with just a few ponies, and expand outward. Luna will be your new friend, and as you prove yourself from then on you’ll slowly win public opinion over to your side.”

Sunset’s eyes furtively glanced around, uncertain.

Whispering, he said, “You’ll be the true Princess Celestia, the one she should have been all along.”

Sunset’s body and face clenched up. “I… I came here to make peace! Not to destroy! Not to start a war!”


“I… I’ve never killed anyone before.” She began trembling, fear coursing through her. “The only time I came close was when I was a raging she-demon.”

“Sunset!” he said sharply. “That’s enough of that! How could you even compare the two? They’re not even remotely the same!”

She hugged herself, still shaking hard. “H-how are they different? They feel the same to me.”

“Sunset,” he said gently, “you’re making an association that’s not relevant. ‘I attempted to kill in the past as a monster, so if I ever try to kill it must mean that I’m a monster again.’”

Sunset shuddered hard, panting for breath, her eyes fading out.

“So that is how it is, huh? Sunset, taking the life of another is not something that should be done lightly. The fact that you’re reluctant and hesitant is proof enough that you’re righteous, and certainly not being monstrous.”

“H-huh?” Sunset replied, feeling a little lightheaded.

“You attempted to kill Twilight in the past, as a monster. You did it for selfish purposes, just because Twilight was in your way. There was no hesitance about it. You didn’t care at all about the life you tried to snuff out.

“This time around you’re doing it for noble purposes, to save Twilight from herself. You comprehend the magnitude of the action you’re attempting to take, and what it might mean for others. Isn’t that difference enough, Sunset, to prove you’re different?”

Sunset put her hooves to her eyes, blocking the light, quietly crying.

Stardust backed off for the moment. He could sway her mind and thoughts by force, but his power was doubly effective if the target willingly made their own choices. If forced into a course of action they were essentially blameless, their only crime being too weak to fend him off. If they willingly decided to do something they only had themselves to blame for how things turned out. And because they believed in their own goodness the only way to maintain their self-image was to harden their heart and lie to themselves, thereby making them more susceptible to his influence.

He was a best friend, someone to confide in. He was someone they could trust. And he was right there whenever they needed an excuse, some way to justify their behavior. True corruption of others came not from mind control or stealing anothers free will, but from convincing the target to convince themselves of their rightness, no matter how horrible the action.

Stardust wondered how things were going to turn out. It was a lucky break that Sunset had already had a grudge against Celestia in the past, but he wondered if just one night cycle was enough to break Sunset to his will. Sunset was clearly balking at the idea of killing Twilight, though she seemed fine with the idea of killing Celestia.

He thought about the different way things might go, and considered just drawing things out for another day so he had more time to work on Sunset. He discarded the notion quickly. Sunset believed Twilight to be just a brainwashed pawn at the moment. Celestia was also going to leave Canterlot, away from her alicorn sister and army of guards. She’d be at her least protected, at least as far as others were concerned. He had to forget about just attacking Celestia first and leaving Twilight for the time being. Twilight would naturally protect Celestia if Sunset began attacking her.

He didn’t have any choice but to go with the original plan, and just wait to see what happened. If need be he could sway Sunset through force, but he really didn’t want it to come to that. If he lost Sunset’s trust she might take him off.

He’d done all he could with the little time he had. Now he just had to wait for Sunset to catch up.

It took a while for Sunset to compose herself. Her heart was heavy, her expression matching it. “I… I said…” She gulped, sounding more determined than she felt as she continued, “I said that I’d do anything to help Twilight, even if it meant taking her down. I can’t take it back now. So many others are counting on me, and if I want to be a true alicorn then I can’t put one single pony above the world. I have to do what is necessary for the betterment of our species.”

She swayed, dizzy. Her vision was swimming and she felt nauseous. Knowing that didn’t make it feel any easier.

As she tilted over she put a hoof out to break her fall. ‘Do… do I really have the strength for this?’ she thought. ‘Is this really what I want to do?’ She felt like she was standing at the top of a tall mountain, staring down into a black abyss. She was being asked to jump blindly into it, with no idea of what would occur when she did.

She curled up into a ball on her side, crying again as she squeezed her stomach. “Twilight,” she said in a broken voice. Twilight seemed like the type that always had some helpful advice, but Twilight couldn’t help her any longer. There was no one to ask for advice. There was no one else to turn to. She had to make the ultimate decision… one that she could never take back once it was done.

Did she really want that on her conscience the rest of her life? Even after she ascended and spent the next few years gaining everyone’s trust would she ever be able to forget that Twilight had fallen by her hoof?

Stardust gently probed her. “Of course not,” he said. “You shouldn’t ever forget it, or how you felt. This is no small matter that should just be swept under a rug and left forgotten. You should keep those feelings at the forefront of your heart, lest you ever forget the gravity of such an action.

“The whole goal of your ascension is that you not turn out like Celestia, who has long since forgotten the feelings of others. If you ever forgot how horrible it felt to kill Twilight you could go down her same path, destroying all those that stand in your way. Do not become overwhelmed by what is necessary, but neither should you dismiss the enormity of it. When it comes to any difficult matter you can either be crushed by it, or learn something valuable from it. The choice is yours, Sunset.”

Sunset settled down slightly, biting her hoof. She pushed herself to a sitting position, considering what she had just heard.

“I can only guide you and offer you advice. You must blaze your own path, and be held responsible for the choices you make. As you said, a true alicorn must be a pony of the people. They will look to you for advice, and you must consider every one of them as valuable. That will be expected of you.”

Sunset slowly breathed in, then just as slowly let it out. “My heart feels like it’s tearing in two. My mind is stuck alternating between ‘I don’t want to’ and ‘I have to.’ And the latter thought is right. There are plenty of things none of us want to do that are necessary. If it was easy everyone would do it.

“A true hero must put everything aside for others, even if it costs them their life.” She lifted a hoof to the sky. “Why did I gain this power? Why did I find you? What’s the point of it all if I don’t do something with it? No one else can do it. Luna is too terrified, and I guess Cadance doesn’t want to go the same route as Luna did.

“Only I can do it. Only I can save everyone. Even if it costs me my life I’ll at least take Celestia with me. That is my obligation as the holder of this power. There is nothing to fear.” Sunset ignored the slight tremble in her hoof as she said that.

“Sunset, you shouldn’t dismiss fear, either. As is said, the truest courage is not a total absence of fear, but pushing past everything despite the fear. Fear can be a powerful motivator. You have to make even your negative emotions work for you, instead of the other way around.

“You still have a ways to go, Sunset. You’re still too controlled by your emotions, and it will lead you astray from the path you seek.”

Sunset lowered her hoof, silent for a minute. “Finding you flipped my whole world around. Am I supposed to be calm and composed when today is supposed to entail killing a mind controlled puppet and the most powerful pony in the realm?”

“Of course this is a big day. I understand that, but you won’t be an effective ruler until you can reign in your feelings and let your determination lead the way. You must strike a delicate balance between detaching yourself from your feelings while at the same time not abandoning your morals and values.”

Sunset closed her eyes, focusing on her breathing. “I… I understand.” She took another few breaths before suddenly raising her leg and biting her hoof. She just couldn’t take it all in at once.

“Your anxiety is natural, Sunset. Let me help you for now. This control will be artificial, but it will help you get through the day without your mind breaking in two. If we only had more time things could be different, but we don’t.”

She took her hoof out of her mouth, setting it down. “What do you mean?”

“I’ll give you… hmm, how do I put this? You already have courage, as well as determination, but you’re inexperienced with leadership and controlling your emotions to do what is necessary. I mostly led a solitary life as I grew older, but I do have those qualities.

“I want you to grow and mature on your own, of course, but as I just said we don’t have the luxury of time for you to learn. Twilight is expecting you and Celestia is coming shortly after that. I can help you.”

Sunset frowned. “How? By making me just like Twilight? By turning me into a mindless puppet?”

“No, no, no!” Stardust quickly replied. “You misunderstand me. You will still be in full control of your body and thoughts. I will simply be managing your emotions so you do not become overwhelmed by them. If you let your emotions control you then you could let personal feelings overwhelm what needs to be done for the safety of others.”

Sunset looked down at the ground, her eyes closing slightly. “And… you think it’s better to rule by cold logic? To treat others like they’re not even ponies with needs and feelings?”

“I didn’t say that. Sometimes there are no right answers, and decisions must be made that do not entail a fairy tale ending. It’s another thing you must learn to balance out in time, between the honest truth and how you wish things could be.

“At times what you wish is unobtainable. That is one of the most important things you must learn if you are to be a ruler. If you cannot accept that then you’ll never be fit to be queen.”

“I… I know that. In an ideal world we’d all be equals, everyone would eat heartily, and all that other flowery prose. I guess it’s just hard to wrap my head around all of this so quickly.” She put a hoof to her face. “I… I can’t handle this all by myself. At least not now. I need your help.”

Stardust was happy. With a little bit of his influence guiding her actions she would be well-equipped to be his servant. He just had to leave her enough room to still be her own mare making her own decisions.

The jewel in the amulet glowed red, and Sunset had that icky feeling inside like when he had tested her. She clenched her eyes tight, her body clenching up. She felt like she was losing something valuable to her, but she didn’t know what.

Her fearful eyes grew stern and unemotional. Her slight tremors had ended. All her whirling, raging emotions and doubts had silenced themselves. All she was left with was herself. She stood up on her four legs, feeling heavy. Her coat seemed to have lost some of its luster.

She took a deep breath. “Is this it?” she said, more to herself than Stardust. “I don’t think I care much for this, even if the inner silence is a relief.”

Stardust went to speak, but she cut him off. “Quiet! I don’t want your input right now. What do you really know about me? You were always beloved by all, given the highest honors. I was mistrusted and put down.” She roughly threw her hoof through her mane.

‘Jealousy, now?’ Stardust mused, chuckling.

“Twilight’s the same. Everyone loves her, adores her… it’s not fair! Why am I so different? All I ever did was work hard, and my efforts were thrown back in my face.” She put her hoof through her mane again. “Well… I can’t deny that I admire Twilight as well. She’s far more noble than Celestia is, that’s for sure.”

Sunset felt irritated, trotting in place. Everything she thought about just egged her on even more. “I can’t sit still anymore!” she said harshly, her horn glowing. She crafted a pair of magic wings and attached them to her back. “I need action! I need to accomplish what I set out to do while there’s still time.”

“Of course, Sunset. I understand. Let us leave immediately.”

Sunset raised her wings, preparing to take off. She stopped suddenly. “No… not yet. There is one thing that needs to be done before we go.”

“What’s that?”

“Tell me something. Do you know how to do a duplication spell?”

“Duplication? Ha! That’s child’s play. Why do you ask?”

“Twilight has multiple layers of protection. If we don’t acknowledge that we’ll lose. This duplication spell is insurance.”

“I see… so that’s what this is about. Very well. Watch closely, Sunset, and learn the spell well.”

Sunset felt Stardust enter into her body again, lifting up a log. With a flash of her horn a duplicate appeared next to it, exactly the same as the original.

With a bit of practice Sunset mastered the spell herself.

Sunset felt ready. There was just one last thing to do. Going to Zecora’s hut she broke the sleeping incantation on the Zebra and implanted a memory of the two of them parting amicably. Zecora would find nothing suspicious about that. She grabbed her traveling cloak, putting it on. That was going to be important later on. She had to cancel the wing spell and recreate it to put it on top of the cloak, though.

The moment was upon her. She stood in silence, mentally preparing herself. There was no turning back now.

Crouching slightly she unfurled her wings to their maximum and jumped, flapping her wings to take to the air.

Now was the time of destiny! Now was the time to change the world!