The Last Time
Sometimes, not often, but once in a while, things just seemed to go smoothly.
It was shaping up to be one of those days, and it was about time. The past few weeks had been a constant trial of Sunset’s willpower. On good days, school and work left her too tired to worry much about anything else.
As for bad days… well, it didn’t get much worse than waking up with a hangover in the woods with an empty bottle of vodka, vomit on her jacket, and no clear recollection of how she got there. At least she had apparently had enough sense to get herself and her bike off the road, but the paint on one side had gotten scratched up pretty bad, and she had to look around for her helmet.
That had been her lowest point, but the ‘good’ days were infrequent. It was getting harder to tell whether the hallucinations or the memories were worse. Either way, it was almost time to leave them for good. If the woods had been her low point, this would be her high one.
There was a certain thrill in knowing that everything was being done for the last time. Her alarm went off for the last time, and she’d gotten ready for school the last time. The ride from her house to school had only been the second to last time, but it was the last time that she’d ever have to deal with the morning rush to find parking. Each class period had been the last time with those subjects, and she’d already gotten through three of them.
Which brought her to her last lunch at the school. Sunset was too excited to eat, which left her with half an hour to kill. That thought almost managed to bring her down, but then she remembered that after this, she would never have to wander the school aimlessly again.
There were no more schemes to follow through on. No more plans to continue. There weren’t any students to issue reminders to, there weren’t threats to make, or people to speak with. There was nothing at all that mattered anymore.
It felt strange. Sunset had expected the last day would feel like wasted time. Surely, it was; she’d spent years building what she had, and soon, it was all going to be gone. There was nothing to take with her when she left, nothing that would give her any benefit. By the time the day was out, everything she had might as well not exist anymore.
But when it came down to it, she felt… relieved. It was difficult to place why that might be, but Sunset didn’t try too hard. She was going home. Why shouldn’t she be happy?
Sunset’s destination as she walked the school’s halls was neither planned nor random; it was more so that it was the only place that made any sense to go to. Almost everything in the school was now pointless, but there was another reason that this day was a good one: Principal Celestia had decided that since the Fall Formal was being held at the end of the week, it’d be a good idea to put the crown on display.
And it was good. Not for the school, but for Sunset. She wouldn’t be around to win the crown, but she was going to make sure no one else did either. This was her crown, and Sunset had already been replaced one too many times.
It was a necessary step, evidently. As Sunset walked up to the crown, she saw someone was already admiring it. “It really is a thing of beauty, isn’t it?” Sunset asked as she walked up behind the other girl.
“Sunset Shimmer!” Rarity shot up straight, her muscles going rigid as she jumped back. “It, er, it is quite lovely.”
In actuality, Sunset didn’t care for the design. She liked the gold part well enough, but the front centerpiece was awful. It was a six-pointed purple star, and ever since she’d seen it, Sunset had hated it. It looked familiar, but she couldn’t place where she might have seen it.
But those thoughts were better kept inside. “Hmm, do you think I’ll look just as stunning in this crown as I did in the one from the Spring Fling?”
The smallest sign of aggression showed in the way Rarity squinted her eyes and frowned, but she soon corrected herself with a nervous smile. “You’ll be as stunning as always, I’m sure.”
“Of course, how could I not be? This is me we’re talking about.”
“Well, best of luck, of course.” Rarity took a few steps away, but Sunset wasn’t quite finished with her yet.
“Oh, I won’t need luck.” Sunset closed the distance that Rarity had put between them. “No one in this school would vote against me, even if I wasn’t running unopposed. That is, unless you know something I don’t.”
“No! I didn’t mean anything at all by it, I was simply saying –”
“Rarity.” Sunset fixed her with a glare that stopped her in place. “Let’s cut to the chase for once. We both know that you’re one of the most popular girls in this school, even after that unfortunate video went viral during the Spring Fling.”
Unlike Fluttershy, Rarity had a limit to how much she would be directly pushed around. It seemed Sunset was reaching it. “Some might say ‘slanderous’ would be a more accurate description.”
“What was that?”
“Oh, never mind me. Besides, I’m sure you must be far too busy to stop and chat like this. After all, I know it is terribly time consuming to plan a campaign to perfection.”
Sunset laughed warmly. “Yes, I suppose you do. Well, maybe not to perfection, exactly.”
“Yes, I suppose there were a few things I might have done differently.” Rarity thought for a moment. “And… I suppose I can’t say if our experiences are the same, exactly. As you know, when I was running for Princess of the Spring Fling, I had competition. So smart of you to get around that, it completely cuts out any need for you to deserve the title.”
Unfortunately for Rarity, Sunset had limits as well. “You know, you’re far too clever for your own good. But like I said, I’m not dancing around any subjects today.” Even though there were students around to witness, Sunset grabbed Rarity by the shirt and pulled her closer. “If I catch wind that you’re thinking about running for Princess of the Fall Formal, or any other dance, then it’ll be more than just your reputation on the line. Do you understand?”
All of Rarity’s quick-wittedness abandoned her the moment things turned physical, and she barely managed to stammer an agreement. “Y-yes, of course. I, er, I wouldn’t dream of it.”
“Good.” Sunset shoved Rarity and she fell to the floor. “I’ll see you at my coronation!”
Everyone moved out of her way as Sunset walked through the hall. There was a chance that any one of them would run and tell Principal Celestia what had happened. It might even get her disqualified from running for princess. But it wasn’t likely. They were all afraid of her, and Sunset loved it.
Well, almost all of them were afraid of her. Just before she reached her fourth-period classroom, a voice called out to her. “Sunset Shimmer! Get your ass back here!”
Sunset stopped with a grin, but she didn’t walk back. Instead, she stepped off to the side and waited for Rainbow Dash to catch up with her. “Well, if it isn’t everyone’s favorite athlete. What can I do for you?”
Rainbow glared at Sunset. Her hands were balled into fists and her jaw was clenched. “What the hell was that with Rarity?”
“Oh, so you did see that. Didn’t realize since you didn’t care enough to say anything at the time.” Sunset couldn’t scare Rainbow with physical threats. Without magic, Sunset couldn’t come close to matching her in strength or speed.
But even though Rainbow had to know she had the advantage, she just wasn’t the type to go throwing punches so recklessly. “I’m saying something now, and I want to know why you’re targeting her. You already sent your lackeys to make sure she wasn’t running against you.”
“It was just some girl talk. Nothing someone like you needs to concern yourself with.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
Sunset couldn’t overpower Rainbow, but that only meant she’d have to rely on other resources. Unlike Rarity, Rainbow was awful at navigating mind games. “Hey, I’m not saying it in a bad way. It’s just that sometimes it’s nice to talk about things among girls, and you’re practically a guy.”
Rainbow stepped closer and pressed her face into Sunset’s. “That wasn’t ‘girl talk’, and you know it.”
It was almost impressive; normally, Rainbow could be thrown off any train of thought by shifting the conversation onto her. “Sure it was. The Princess of the Fall Formal is a big deal for us girls that aren’t dykes.”
There it was. Sunset had pushed Rainbow just right, and she grabbed Sunset by the arms and pushed her back. There was a loud noise as Sunset hit the locker behind her, but Rainbow’s voice was louder still. “What the hell is your problem!? Why can’t you just leave everyone alone!?”
“Rainbow, stop!” Sunset said in the most pathetic voice she could manage. “Please, you’re hurting me…”
“Heh, you act all tough, but you’re really just a coward. Just wait until I–”
“What is the meaning of this!?”
Rainbow’s eyes shot open wide as she turned to see Cranky standing at the door of the room next to them. It was a joy to see, but Sunset couldn’t react to that just yet. This was going exactly as she had planned it, but her plan wasn’t complete yet.
“Unhand her this instant,” Cranky demanded.
Rainbow obeyed, then looked between Sunset and Cranky. “She started it.”
Sunset covered her face to make her laugh look like a sob. That was the best defense Rainbow could come up with? “I… I didn’t do anything, I was just walking to class and…”
“Yeah right! She’s the biggest liar in this school!” Rainbow was letting her temper get the best of her, which only made Sunset’s job easier. “She was just bullying another student two minutes ago!”
“Why does everyone keep saying these things about me?”
“What’s your name?” Cranky asked.
“Don’t I know you from somewhere? You’re not one of my students, are you?”
“No, sir.” Rainbow grinned. Even in these circumstances, she was clearly far too eager to show off. “But I am on just about every sports team. CHS’s star athlete, Rainbow Dash.”
“Hmph.” There were only a few things that impressed Cranky, and sports definitely wasn’t on the list. “Well then, Miss Dash, what do you think the school’s policy on its athletes getting into fights is?”
Sunset hadn’t even counted on that one. She knew she could goad Rainbow into a fight and alert a teacher easily enough, but getting her banned from sports? That was just too perfect. The only downside was that she couldn’t rub it in with Cranky being right there.
“I wasn’t fighting, I was…” Rainbow looked to the ground as she failed to find another answer. She clenched one fist and used her other hand to point at Sunset. “Well, what about her!?”
“Let me worry about Miss Shimmer.”
Rainbow glared at Sunset, and the realization showed on her face. She knew that it was over, that Sunset had this whole situation under her control. “Fine. I’m sorry. It won’t happen again.”
“It better not. Now get out of here, and don’t let me hear you’ve been causing problems again!”
Rainbow left with a scowl that Sunset would treasure the view of forever. Everything about this day continued to be simply perfect.
Now she just needed to take care of things with Cranky. “I can’t believe that happened.”
“Why don’t you step inside and we can talk about it.”
It wasn’t hard to spin a story that he believed. She played up the sob story about Flash breaking up with her, and how he had been talking with Rainbow regularly. It was stupid and didn’t make perfect sense as a reason for Rainbow to attack her, but Cranky had been teaching for long enough to realize that sometimes high school drama was honestly that stupid.
Besides, he already wanted to believe her. He and his wife had been the ones to find Sunset when she first went through the portal, and they both had taken an active interest in her activities at CHS. All the students knew she wasn’t some someone to mess with, and some of the teachers were catching onto her as well. But Cranky and Matilda? They refused to see Sunset as anything short of the golden child.
Since Cranky was her fourth-period teacher, Sunset simply took a seat once they finished talking. He taught geography, and despite his less than enthusiastic demeanor, he was actually pretty good at it. He’d traveled around the world when he was younger, and loved to regale his class with stories from his own experiences.
Even with her excitement for the day to be over, the class passed quickly. It was one of the only subjects Sunset was actually interested in, since human geography certainly wasn’t something that was taught in Equestria. She wondered if maybe she ought to have taken better notes about the world she’d been living in. A thorough study of another world had to be more impressive than anything that stupid purple unicorn had ever done.
But it was too late to go compiling research now, and besides, Sunset had plenty of stories of her own to regale ponies back home with. All that was left to do was get there.
But first, fifth period. The bell rang, cutting off the story Cranky had been in the middle of. He told the class to remind him where he left off tomorrow, but Sunset would never hear the end of that tale.
Amusingly, Sunset’s fifth period was English with Matilda. She doubted that it was a random chance that saw her in both of their classes, but she always wondered if having them back to back had also been by design.
This was a class Sunset could do without. Matilda wasn’t bad, per se. In fact, most of her students actually loved her. She was caring, approachable, seldom stern, and basically everything anyone could want in a teacher. She reminded Sunset of Rose Petal.
The class took turns reading passages from a book that Sunset had already finished. She barely followed along, and even that was just so she could know what she was supposed to read when it was her turn. About halfway through the class she took off her jacket and placed it under her seat. It was too cool out to go without a jacket comfortably, but she’d be coming back for it soon.
Once class was over, Sunset left with everyone else. It was time for the last class period she’d ever go to, and she was practically giddy with excitement.
Not that there was anything exciting about the lesson. Even armed with the knowledge that she’d never have to listen to her algebra teacher drone on again, Sunset still couldn’t bring herself to actually pay attention.
It didn’t help that her eyes kept falling on another girl who sat a few rows over from her. Applejack was too focused on her work to notice Sunset’s glances. It would be the last time she ever saw Applejack, and she wasn’t sure what to do about it.
But in the end, what else was there for her to do? When the bell rang to let them go, Sunset approached Applejack before leaving.
Applejack looked at her suspiciously. “I don’t know what ya want, and frankly, I don’t care. I ain’t in the mood to deal with none of your nonsense today.”
“And here I was trying to give you a friendly heads up.” Sunset shook her head sadly. “I heard some kids talking earlier, something about you and your cousin.”
Applejack rolled her eyes. “Real clever there, Sunset. Ya know, after all these years, ya could at least try coming up with something original.”
Sunset feigned a hurt expression. “What? Applejack, I’m only telling you what I heard. I would never approve of students spreading such malicious rumors. I’m CHS’s most darling student, after all.”
Applejack roughly shoved all her things into her backpack and stood up. “Just you wait, Sunset. You’re gonna get what’s coming to you soon enough.”
“What, everything I’ve always wanted? Can’t wait.”
Sunset wore a grin as Applejack stormed out of the room, but it fell away once she was gone. That was it. The last time she’d ever see Applejack.
This was what she always wanted. Applejack hated the fact that Sunset got away with all her deceit more than anything. It was true that any power the incest rumors had once held over Applejack was long gone, but it was also a reminder of exactly how long Sunset had been treating her horribly.
Any chance of Applejack forgiving her had already vanished, and with any luck, so would any chance that Applejack would stop hating her after she left. Keep everyone she cared about distant so she couldn’t hurt them once she was gone. There was no other way.
Sunset gathered her things and left the classroom. She stopped by her locker for the last time, grabbed her helmet, and dropped off most of her other things. She wouldn’t be needing them anymore. The box collecting dust at the bottom caught her eye, but she ignored it.
She left the building, but rather than head for the student parking lot, she went to the staff one. A quick look around showed that Matilda wasn’t anywhere in sight, but her car was.
Perfect. Sunset waited, keeping an eye out for the teacher. It was incredibly dull, since she didn’t want to risk missing her by using her phone as a distraction, but it was also too important to pass up. This was her only chance to end her time at CHS in her own terms, and she wasn’t going to let a little waiting around stop her.
It took almost an hour for Matilda to finally show up, all of which had been spent doing nothing but watching the faculty go home. But even if she had been stuck waiting the rest of the day, it would’ve been worthwhile.
Sunset watched as Matilda exited the building and waited until she reached her car to call out to her. “Mrs. Matilda!”
Matilda turned to her with a confused look. “Sunset? Is everything okay?”
Sunset grinned sheepishly. “Yeah, everything’s fine. But I, uh… I think I left my jacket in your room. Did anyone from last period turn it in?”
“I don’t have a sixth-period class,” Matilda said. Sunset had known that; not having anyone there to find it had been part of her plan. “But I didn’t see it anywhere. Did you leave it on your desk?”
“I think it was under my desk.” Tucked away so that it was hard to see, of course. “I would just wait until tomorrow to get it, but it’s for safety. Not that I’ve ever fallen off my motorcycle, but if I did and I wasn’t wearing my jacket, I’d get roughed up pretty bad.”
“I really do think you’d be better off without that motorcycle of yours.”
Sunset chuckled. “I know. I hate to ask you to go all the way back to your class, though…” She smiled as if an idea had just occurred to her. “If you want, I could just take the key and get it myself. I’d be there and back before you know it, and I’d make sure to lock up on my way out.”
Matilda looked apprehensive. “We’re not supposed to let students have classroom keys, you know.”
Sunset nodded. If she tried to convince Matilda, she risked revealing that she wanted to go by herself. “Right, of course. That’s completely understandable.”
“But I suppose since it’s you…” Matilda pulled a small set of keys out of her purse and handed them to Sunset. “Hurry on back, though.”
“Will do! Thank you, Mrs. Matilda, I’ll just be a minute!”
Sunset walked off as quickly as she could without actually running. She only had two stops to make, but she didn’t have long if she was going to get to them both without Matilda growing suspicious.
First was the classroom. She quickly grabbed her jacket and threw it on, then walked over to a window. She unlocked it, opened it just enough to make sure it wouldn’t be jammed shut when she needed to open it later, then closed it again. She left the window unlocked but made sure to lock the door on the way out. If someone checked the door and realized it was open, then they might check the room more thoroughly.
With her way back into the school secured, Sunset hurried along to her second destination. As she suspected, there weren’t many people in the halls, but there were still a few students lingering around where her crown was on display. No one was paying it too much mind, however.
Sunset approached the case under the guise of staring at the crown. When she was fairly certain no one was paying her any attention, she slipped one of the keys into the lock. It didn’t turn. Neither did the second one she tried. But on the third attempt, she found the right key. The lock opened easily, and she shoved the keys back into her pocket.
She lingered for just a few moments more, then walked away. She couldn’t take the crown when anyone else was around, but she had her way back into the school. It was as good as hers already.
Once she put a little distance between herself and the scene of the crime, Sunset picked up her speed. She practically ran back to the staff parking lot, desperate to keep Matilda from deciding to come after her.
A million things could have gone wrong with the plan, but it was just the kind of day where everything seemed to go right. Matilda and Cranky were both at the car when Sunset returned, and neither of them suspected a thing. She returned the keys, thanked Matilda again, and promised that she’d be careful on her way home.
Home. It was so close. There were still a few hours before the portal opened, however, so Sunset would have to keep filling the time. She was supposed to go to work, but she’d been debating if she’d bother all day. It’s not like she’d be around to get another paycheck.
But there wasn’t anything else to do, and by the time her shift ended the coast would be clear to go back into the school. And anyway, it’d be a good day. There wasn’t any reason to take anyone’s shit anymore, and the idea of telling off any rude customers was incredibly appealing.
It was time. Sunset could practically feel it in the air as she stepped out of the store. Night had come, and the portal would be open.
It was with no regrets that she left the store. Her time there was getting worse; working for Flash’s uncle after breaking up with him was a miserable experience, but he couldn’t fire her over something like that and she had still needed the money. The only small downside to this being her last day was that he hadn’t been there to tell off.
In the end, she hadn’t managed to go out in style as she had hoped. Although she hadn’t been anywhere near the level of fake happy they expected of her, her shift went by without any incidents. But walking away from working in retail was liberating in its own right, and she couldn’t find it in her to feel bad about the missed opportunity.
Just one more quick stop before she could finish her time in this miserable world. Sunset drove back to her house to change out of her uniform and pick up a couple things.
The house had been a goal of hers for so long, but in the end, the solitude was only one more nightmare to add to her own personal hell. She barely glanced around as she made her way through the house. She didn’t bother to do anything with her uniform once she changed, opting to just leave it on the floor.
Her bag sat on the bed, already packed. There wasn’t much she wanted to bring with her anyway. Although there were things from this world that she enjoyed, she had a feeling they would only serve as reminders of her misery. So instead of carrying her torment with her, she was only going to bring a few things in the saddle bag she’d brought with her when she first went through the mirror. Her wallet just in case she was pulled over, a black cloak that she would use soon, a novel and a comic from Equestria, and a bag of bits that would soon actually be usable as more than something to reminisce with.
She grabbed the bag from the bed and slung it awkwardly over her shoulder. It wasn’t made to be carried by a human, but that wouldn’t be a problem for long. She left the bedroom and started making her way to the front door when she stopped and turned around. Although she was dying to leave, she decided to check one last thing first. She walked into the bathroom and looked in the mirror. “Anything to say before I go?”
Her reflection wasn’t demonic, but it did grin while her own expression remained stoic. “You say that as if I’m not coming with you.”
“You’re not. I’m stronger than you, and this is the last time I’m going to sit around talking to myself.”
Her reflection laughed. “Okay, believe that if you want. We’ll see in the end. But Princess?” The reflections eyes narrowed and the mirror surroundings began to catch fire. “Do not screw this up.”
Sunset only smiled and walked away. There was no need to answer; she didn’t need to convince herself of anything anymore.
Traffic had died down for the evening, so the final drive to Canterlot High was an easy one. Along the way she reflected on how she was making every turn and stopping at every light for the last time. Every house she passed, every stop sign, every landmark, all of it. She’d never see any of them again.
It made her laugh out loud, although if any sound escaped her helmet it was surely ripped away by the wind. It was finally time. She was going to be free.
Since she didn’t want to draw attention to herself at the school, she pulled into the parking lot of a nearby store. It barely mattered, but she still locked up her bike and helmet. If something went wrong, she could always try the portal again when school started in the morning, but walking back to her house was not going to happen.
She tucked her keys into her saddle bag and walked the rest of the way to the school. It was hard to not run. But if she wanted to break into the school, she had to keep a low profile. Still, the closer she was to the portal, the more she wondered if she’d even care about some stupid high school crown once she was back in Equestria.
Once the statue was in sight, she had to pause to breathe. ‘Better to leave with no regrets,’ she reasoned. And if someone had locked things back up and stopped her from stealing the crown? Then to hell with it, she could leave the damn thing and run straight to Equestria.
She stopped in the shadows to pull the cloak out of her bag. She wasn’t sure what kind of security the school had, but if there were cameras, she wanted to protect her identity in case something did go wrong. If it wasn’t possible to just run straight to the portal, she needed to be able to come to school in the morning. And she definitely didn’t need to wind up spending the three days the portal was open in a police station’s holding cell.
Satisfied that the cloak would keep her identity secret, she made her way to the outside of Matilda’s classroom. A small part of her hoped the window wouldn’t open. She could be satisfied in knowing she tried, and she could just get on with things. But just as she had expected, it slid open easily.
Climbing in proved a little harder, but she managed. As carefully as she could, she closed the window behind her and took a look around. There was no sign of anyone, and most of the lights were off. As much as it would be nice to see things better, she didn’t dare touch the light switch. The less she interacted with the things, the better.
She stumbled through the dark in the classroom, but things were a little better lit in the hall. Before stepping out into it, she made sure to unlock the door. She wasn’t sure if she was going to exit the same way she came in, but knew better than to rely on being able to improvise a way out.
It was eerie walking through the dark. There were no sounds besides the fall of her footsteps, and half-lit objects took on monstrous appearances, shadows looked like they might hide anything.
Sunset pulled her cloak closer to her chest. ‘Just get my crown, and get out.’
If Sunset hadn’t stopped to look at the crown so much in the past couple days, she probably would’ve walked past it. No light shone on the glass case that housed it, but Sunset didn’t need any. She stopped as she reached the case, admiring it through the glass one last time.
“Being a princess must be earned.”
Sunset wheeled around to find there was no one there. Even if they sounded the same, Sunset knew immediately which Celestia’s voice she heard. But she also knew better than to let thoughts like that get away with her. Sunset would see Princess Celestia for real once she was in Equestria, and there was no way her former mentor was going to pop up before then.
Still, her heart raced at the thought of what could be lurking in the darkness. It was time to get on with it.
The bag of bits would probably be heavy enough to break the glass if someone had locked it, but there was no need. No one had checked it since Sunset unlocked it earlier, and it slid open without any problems. Even as shaken as she was, Sunset couldn’t help but grin as she took the crown in her hands. “Eleven years of my life spent in hell, and this is what I get from it all. I have earned this.”
The way back felt much shorter. Once the crown was in her hands, there was never any stopping her. Even if someone saw her now, the odds of them being able to catch her before she got to the portal were slim.
Not knowing which other doors would open, she went back to Matilda’s classroom. She locked the door behind her and exited through the window. She wasn’t sure why she bothered, but she closed it once she was through.
She was so close. All she had to do was walk around the building to get to the portal. Every step filled her with anticipation as she drew closer and closer to the end of her misery.
Until there were no more steps to take. She reached the statue and briefly looked back at the school for the last time. She wasn’t going to miss it.
She turned back to the statue and used it to look at her reflection. She smiled and placed the crown on her head. “How do I look?”
“Magnificent, Princess,” her reflection answered back. “Now let’s go home.”
“You got it.”
Sunset stepped forward, and the world disappeared around her.