Looking Glass

by Krickis


29 – Burned Bridges

Chapter Twenty-Nine

Burned Bridges

To say that shit hit the fan after Sunset stole the crown would be a massive understatement. Everything had been looking up just the day before, but all at once, everything had gone straight to hell.

To start with, she’d been in Equestria all night. It had been somewhere around midnight when she first went through the portal, then between walking around the Crystal Empire and reading about Twilight Sparkle’s perfect little life, the entire night just slipped away from her. By the time she came back through to the human world, the sun was just starting to rise.

Which shouldn’t have been a problem. Missing a night’s sleep was hardly a concern in the face of everything going on, and she still had three days to figure out what to do with the Element of Magic. But when she came out from the portal, it was nowhere to be seen. Since there had only been seconds in between the crown going through and Sunset going through, her best guess was that inanimate objects travelled through the portal faster since they didn’t require any transformation.

Which was a fascinating idea in and of itself, but it didn’t really console Sunset much in the wake of her crown going missing. As it turned out, Fluttershy had found it and gave it to Principal Celestia, who didn’t even seem to realize that it wasn’t the Fall Formal crown. But since she was only incompetent at her job it wasn’t convenient for Sunset, she decided to not put the recently stolen crown back on display.

Without any way of knowing where it was, the only option left was to win it back. Which should have been easy, considering she was running unopposed. But then Twilight Sparkle just had to follow through the mirror as well, and lo and behold the Princess of Everything Sunset Ever Wanted just couldn’t be kept down.

Sunset had tried, of course. When Twilight announced her plan to run against Sunset, Snips and Snails had filmed her making a fool of herself. Sunset put together a video, which spread through the student body and showed everyone what an idiot her opponent really was. Sunset was positive no one would vote for her, but Twilight Sparkle found a way.

Because no victory of Twilight’s would be complete without tearing apart everything Sunset worked for, she’d managed to reunite the school. Worse, she’d reunited Applejack and her friends, as well as became friends with them herself. It wasn’t enough to have the pony Applejack, Twilight Sparkle needed both.

And since Twilight was just as useless as Cadance, Applejack and her friends were basically pulling her weight. Twilight clearly didn’t know anything about life as a human. Even the dragon that she’d brought along for some reason proved more competent than her; he played the role of a dog perfectly, while Twilight stumbled around on two legs and couldn’t seem to grasp how to use her hands.

The first two days had gone so well. Victory had been practically guaranteed for Sunset on Thursday afternoon, but then Friday at lunch Applejack and her friends somehow turned it around with, of all things, a song. Sunset had watched the scene with glee as it started, thrilled that Twilight clearly couldn’t manage a real plan

But it seemed she underestimated how idiotic the student body was. After only a few minutes of singing and dancing around the room, everyone seemed to change their tone in an instant. Suddenly Twilight Sparkle was not only back in the running for Princess of the Fall Formal, she was looking like the more popular candidate.

Not one to give up so easily, Sunset formed a new plan. If the school cared so much about this stupid dance, then what if their precious little princess was caught messing it up. Sunset told Snips and Snails to cause some damage to the decorations and edited some pictures that incriminated Twilight. That should have settled things, but the universe seemed to have no problems bending over backwards for its favorite pony princess.

The problem was two-fold. One, Flash somehow proved that the pictures were fake – because, of course, Flash Sentry was absolutely fucking smitten with the bitch as well. Why wouldn’t he be? By this point, It was a miracle that Snips and Snails hadn’t switched sides yet.

But that might not be such a good thing. Even worse than Flash’s involvement, when Sunset told Snips and Snails to cause some damage, they apparently thought that meant to absolutely trash everything in sight. Sunset looked at the scene of the dance in horror, wondering how they could possibly think that she wanted the dance canceled after she had put in so much work to win it.

But, of course, the god damn wonder horse came to the rescue again. And this time it wasn’t just Applejack and company helping her out; dozens of people from every clique showed up to get the decorations finished in time. It was sickening, but even Sunset had to admit this was for the best.

“You’re lucky she was able to pull this off,” Sunset told Snips and Snails as they watched in secret from a supply closet. “Next time I ask you to make a mess of things, try to show a little restraint! I need this Formal to go on tonight just as much as she does.”

Students were casting their votes as they left the gym, and Sunset had no doubts as to whom they were voting for. She closed the door as they left so that no one would see them.

“So... what are we gonna do now, Sunset?” Snails asked.

“There’s only one thing left to do. I will get that crown, no matter what.”

“Do you think they’ll still vote for you after that?” Snips asked.

“It doesn’t matter. If they won’t make me their princess, then I’ll just get the crown from the princess herself.”

“Uh, do you really think she’ll give it to you?” Snails asked. “She went through a lot of effort to win it.”

Sunset clenched her fists. “She got carried by those other girls. Twilight Sparkle is useless on her own.”

“I don’t know, Sunset. I think she’s doing –” Snails was cut off by a harsh glare from Sunset. He held his hands in front of him as he corrected himself. “I meant, uh, yeah! She’s the worst!”

Sunset scowled for a moment more before opening the door to check if the coast was clear. Everyone seemed to have left, so she left the door open as she turned to Snips and Snails. “Twilight will give me the crown, because I’m not going to give her a choice. The dance is in a few hours, so go get dressed up or something so you two can blend in, then meet me in the courtyard.”

“What do you want us to do at the dance?” Snips asked.

There wasn’t a whole lot for Twilight to care about in this world. After all, she’d only spent a few days in it. But she’d stupidly brought the dragon, and that could give Sunset some leverage. “When Twilight’s getting crowned, you two are going to steal her dog. Make sure she sees you and bring him to the courtyard.”

Snips and Snails exchanged uncertain looks. “Don’t you think that’s going a little too far?” Snips asked.

“Oh, we won’t hurt him. Twilight is going to hand over the crown, so there won’t be any need for that.”

“If so say so, Sunset…” Snips said.

“Trust me, I know her type. She doesn’t have it in her to make hard decision. Now go get yourselves ready.”

The two of them usually ran off in a hurry to follow her orders, but this time, they left with some reluctance. Still, they left, and Sunset knew she had to make the most of this time. Truthfully, she didn’t trust something so important to the two of them, so she knew she’d have to find something better to threaten Twilight with.

There was no telling what would possibly be helpful, but unless Twilight cared deeply about sports equipment, Sunset wasn’t likely to find anything in the gym’s supply closet. She took a look around anyway, mostly because she didn’t know what else to do.

When nothing of interest popped out, Sunset left the closet. The gym was decorated and ready for the Formal, but it was empty. There was nothing to do in the gym either, so Sunset left that as well. She had no idea where to go, but she knew that there was no point in staying where she was.

Her thoughts on what to do next were derailed as soon as she walked out of the double doors. Someone was waiting for her out in the hallway, and aside from Twilight Sparkle herself, it was probably the last person Sunset wanted to talk with.

“Sunset Shimmer,” Applejack said. “Can we talk for a second?”

Sunset pursed her lips and didn’t look at her. “I don’t think we have anything to talk about.”

Applejack sighed. “Look, I get that you’re still mad about me not talkin’ with ya a few weeks ago, but we do have something we need to talk about.”

Sunset started walking down the hall with no particular destination in mind, and Applejack followed. She debated just refusing to answer, but she never could manage to keep her mouth shut when Applejack was around. “No, we really don’t. I’m not stupid, I know it’s over. Twilight won and I lost.”

“Yeah, you’re right about that part.” Even now, Applejack didn’t sound like she was gloating. She had every right to, but she didn’t. There was something else in her voice, though, and Sunset couldn’t place exactly what it was. “Which is why I’m not here to talk about the dance. I’m here to talk about you.”

“There’s nothing to talk about there either.” Sunset knew she should just ditch Applejack as soon as possible, but it seemed that even now, she couldn’t bring herself to get rid of her when she wanted to talk. “How’d you find me anyway?”

“Had a hunch you’d stick around to see what happened. Then I saw Snips and Snails slinking around, and I knew you wouldn’t be far.”

Why did she even bother with them? Those two couldn’t even leave the gym without drawing attention. “Yeah, well, congratulations on figuring it out. But I’m not gonna trash the gym again or anything, so you can run along to your precious little friends. I’m sure they’re waiting for you.”

“Nah, I told them I’d catch up with them. They’re all off gettin’ gussied up for the dance. Don’t reckon they’ll miss me none, at least not for a while.”

Sunset sighed and turned to face Applejack for the first time. That same thing that Sunset had noticed in Applejack’s voice showed on her face, and Sunset realized it was resolve. It seemed that Applejack had come to talk about something serious, and she wasn’t liable to leave until she’d said whatever was on her mind. “What do you want?”

Applejack inhaled and looked off to the side. She may be resolved to talk about whatever it was, but she clearly didn’t know how to talk about it. “I, uh, talked to Twilight about somethin’ mighty interestin’ earlier.”

“Oh yeah? What, you catch on that she’s not even a student here? The fact that she’s even allowed to run is a joke.”

“Well, that was part of it, kinda…” Applejack nervously adjusted her hat. “The thing is, well, she told us about where she’s from.”

That stupid little bitch. It wasn’t bad enough that she was insufferable, she had to go and keep proving that she got everything Sunset had ever wanted without so much as the smallest trace of worth. What had she seen in the past couple days that so much as hinted that this was anything but a god awful idea? All Sunset could do was feign ignorance and hope she wasn’t already incriminated. “And I care because…?”

“You already know, don’t you? About the pony world?”

Sunset forced a laugh as she looked around to make sure they were alone. “I gotta tell you, that’s literally the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard you say.”

“Sunset…” Applejack placed a hand on Sunset’s shoulder, and she knew it was over.

Sunset looked down at the floor and resigned herself to whatever was coming. “So what’d she tell you?”

“About you? Nothing. She didn’t have to.” Applejack let go of Sunset and placed her hands on her hips. “I got to wonderin’ if you’d put up such a fight if ya knew how important this crown was to her, and that got me to wonderin’ why you wanted it so much in the first place.”

“So? I’ve been collecting crowns for the past year.”

Applejack nodded. “Right, that’s what I thought at first too. But I couldn’t help but think there was somethin’ more. It took a little while, but then it hit me. When we were little, you came to my farm to see a pony.”

No one had brought up that day in years, and Sunset would’ve been happier if no one ever brought it up again. True, it would settle into her thoughts regularly, but that didn’t mean she had to talk about it too.

“That was a long time ago, but I think I remember you insisting that ponies and horses were different. And I definitely know ya don’t have any family in this world. In fact, I remember you sayin’ ya didn’t know if your parents were alive or not, which would make a lot of sense if they aren’t in this world. Now, I may just be one of those country folk that aren’t very bright, but it wasn’t too hard to figure out that the two of you might come from the same place.”

Sunset hadn’t even noticed balling her hands into fists, or clenching her teeth, or tensing her muscles. At some point, every part of Sunset’s body had gone rigid, and it was only when Applejack stopped talking that she noticed it.

Sunset closed her eyes and forced a deep breath. When she opened them again, she looked directly into Applejack’s. “Equestria,” she said as calmly as she could manage. “The place Twilight and I come from is called Equestria.”

“Equestria.” Applejack nodded, and Sunset knew that she believed her. For the first time in her life, someone believed her about Equestria, and it was Applejack. “Now, here’s the part that really worries me, Sunset. Back in middle school ya told me that you’re afraid of horses, as well as some other stuff that makes me wonder about you.”

Sunset grinned, if only to hide whatever other emotions might work their way into her face. “I did say you didn’t really understand me.”

“Yeah, yeah ya did.” Applejack scratched the back of her head. She looked away for a moment, then looked back with concern in her eyes. “Sunset… have you been stuck here this whole time?”

Sunset already couldn’t manage to keep up her uncaring grin, so she folded her arms and looked away. “Why do you even care?”

Applejack placed a hand on her forehead. “Jesus, I can’t even imagine what that must’ve been like. And you’ve been here since way back when we were five?”

“Seventeen.” Sunset wasn’t sure why she was telling Applejack anything. She didn’t like talking about herself or about Equestria, but she couldn’t stop now that they were on the subject. “I was seventeen when I went through the portal. It made me a kid again, I don’t really understand it.”

“Really? So then wait, how old are you?”

Sunset hung her head and laughed. She hated thinking of that question because the answer was so complicated. “Seventeen? Twenty-nine? To tell you the truth, I just don’t fucking know anymore. It all kinda blurs together, especially since it fucked with my brain chemistry too. It’s pretty hard to feel like an adult when you have the body and mind of a child, no matter how many years you’ve been alive.”

“And ya haven’t told anyone about any of this, have you?” Applejack asked. It was phrased as a question, although she clearly already knew the answer.

“I tried once. Didn’t work out for me.”

Applejack reached her hand out towards Sunset. “Sunset, I –”

“Stop.” Sunset stepped away before Applejack could touch her. “This is just like when you found out I lived at an orphanage. You want to pretend like now that you understand me, you can just come into my life and make things better. Well, you don’t understand me, Applejack. And you have no idea what you’re dealing with.”

“You’re right, I don’t understand.” Applejack shook her head. “But you’re wrong about me thinkin’ I can make things better. I know I can’t, and I know that what ya been through ain’t an excuse for what ya done. Because you’ve been horrible to everyone at this school, especially me and my friends. And to tell the truth? I’m still pretty damn pissed off about all that.”

“So then why are you here? What do you want from me?”

“I don’t know. I guess I want you to realize that what happened is in the past. Yeah, it was awful and ya probably didn’t deserve it, but there’s nothing ya can do about that now. What you can do is stop taking it out on people that had nothing to do with it! You could at least stop messin’ with Twilight since you know that crown is really hers.”

Sunset felt her muscles tensing up again. “Oh, I’m sure she spun quite the story about that! She probably told you all about the great things she’s done, and how she’s Princess Celestia’s favorite, and that everypony just loves her so much!”

Applejack took a moment to answer. “No, uh, she didn’t mention any of that. Although I gotta say, you’re not really making your case sound any better here.”

Sunset scoffed. “Whatever. It doesn’t matter, anyway. Twilight won, so this whole thing is over.”

“Don’t be like that. Look, I meant what I said about being angry at all the stuff ya done, but I am tryin’ to understand. So talk to me. Tell me your side of the story.”

“No. This conversation is over.” Sunset turned away, but cast one last look over her shoulder. “And you were too late, anyway.”

Applejack didn’t try to follow Sunset as she walked away. She still had no idea where she was going, but she didn’t care anymore. She just needed to get away.

So Applejack knew about Equestria. So what. In only a few more hours, Sunset was going to have the crown, then none of this would matter anymore. Not this world, not this school, and definitely not Applejack.

Just a few more hours. Everything would be over soon. Even if Snips and Snails failed, Sunset would find a way. Twilight had to return through the portal eventually, Sunset could stake it out. She’d figure out a way to get the crown, she had to. The crown was the only thing that could fix things. There was no other way.

“And what will you do when you’re back in Equestria?” Sunset’s voice asked her.

Sunset looked around, but she was alone. With no mirror to appear in, the demon could only follow her as a voice. “I… I’ll figure it out.”

Her voice spoke from within and around her, both a part of her and apart from her. “Do you think Celestia is just going to welcome you back, just like that? Face it, she likes Twilight better than she ever liked you. Why else would she share the secret to becoming an alicorn with her when you were the one who deserved it?”

“I know, but… She’ll understand, she has to. Somehow, I’ll…”

“You’ll never be her faithful student.” The voice was right behind Sunset, although she didn’t dare turn around to see. “But it’s okay. We don’t need her anymore anyway. Just get the crown, and we won’t need her anymore.”

“No.” Sunset bowed her head. “I’m not going to do anything to hurt Celestia.”

“Fine. Have it your way for now. But, Princess? Look behind you.”

Sunset was terrified of what she’d see, but she turned around. She couldn’t help it, she had to know what would be there. But there was no demon, or anything else to scare her. Just one red flower, poking up through the floor.

There was no need to examine it, but she did anyway. Just as she thought, it was a lycoris. Sunset looked around until she saw another. She knew how this worked by now; the flowers formed a trail for her to follow.

And Sunset did follow them. She never liked what she found at the end, but she followed every time.

The trail was hard to follow at first. There would be one flower, and then Sunset would have to look for the next once she reached it. But as she kept going, the flowers grew in number. A dotted path began to form, then a steady stream of red. They grew in the floor and on the walls, leading her through the school.

She knew she was nearing her destination when she heard the sound. It also started small, but grew louder the closer she got. It was a pulsating metallic sound. Like something was inside one of the lockers. Like something was trying to break through.

Before Sunset even had her locker in her sight she knew what it was. A box was locked away inside, one that Sunset had always done her best to ignore. It was trying to break through.

Sunset reached her hand down as she walked, feeling the soft flowers brush against her palm as she approached her locker. The vibration was strong enough that she could see the door rattling. She calmly dialed the combination on the padlock and pulled it off.

She brushed the blood-red flower petals off the box and opened it. There was only one thing inside: a heavy brown book with a red and yellow sun on the cover. Leaving it at school had been supposed to make it easier to ignore, for all the good that had done her.

Once Sunset pulled it out, It vibrated one more time in her hands, and then stopped. Everything was deathly still as Sunset stared at the book, trying to decide if she should trust it. It had vibrated so many times before, but there hadn’t ever been a new message in over eleven years. Still, she opened it every time.

Sunset placed her hand on the cover, but stopped short of opening it. “No.” She tossed the book back into the locker, causing a loud thud in the otherwise quiet hallway. “You had your chance. For years, you had your chance. But now? Now you’re too late.”

Sunset closed the locker and walked away. She heard the sound of her own laughter, from both within and around her. And Sunset smiled along with it. Her only regret was that Princess Celestia couldn’t see her now.