"Greetings, Sunset Shimmer. My name is Principal Celestia. Welcome to Harmony High."
Sunset cursed mentally. *Of course. Of COURSE she'd be here.*
As soon as Sunset had seen and heard Twilight Sparkle, she had realized what Planet Uma truly was. Even though this world's version of Twilight seemed to be substantially older than the filly she'd seen playing with Princess Cadance, Sunset had long been aware of the ridiculously intelligent little unicorn with magical talent to rival her own. That combined with her unmistakable, distinctive mane coloration and bright, expressive purple eyes...
And yet, even upon realizing that Planet Uma and Equestria were parallel worlds, it never occurred to Sunset that she would run into another version of the old nag here. And now, here she was, right in front of her, and she was the principal.
Sunset laughed bitterly.
Celestia raised an eyebrow. "Did I say something funny?"
Sunset held up a hand, wiping away a tear of ironic laughter as she clutched at her side. "S-sorry," she said. "It's just...you remind me so much of the old nag I left Equestria to get away from. It just...I've had a long day, and the irony got to me."
Celestia's lips thinned. "I was under the impression everyone in your world adored my analogue there."
Sunset tensed. "Y-you know—"
"That your Equestria and this world exist in a parallel state? Yes." Celestia folded her hands primly. "That my analogue there is effectively your world's God-Queen? Also yes." She fixed Sunset with a level gaze. "Interesting that you hold her in such contempt, and that you say you left your world to get away from her."
Sunset grimaced. "We...had a falling out," she said. "I was her personal student. It was...I was ready to learn something she had no intention of teaching me, and it drove a wedge between us."
"Hmm." Celestia considered this. "That troubles me, but it's none of my concern. The portal has closed and will not reopen for thirty months. That means—"
"I have to adapt to this world, and quickly, or I don't have a chance of surviving to go back," Sunset said. "I understand."
"Do you really?" Celestia asked.
"I just watched a girl who can't even look other people in the eyes blow a crater in the schoolyard because a couple of idiots were teasing a dog," Sunset said. "Between that and reading up on the history between this world and Planet Sadala, I've pretty much already figured out this whole world is a crazy death trap."
Celestia raised an eyebrow. "You've been busy," she remarked.
"I don't believe in wasting time being confused and stupid," Sunset said. "If I don't know what's going on, I find out. And then I deal with it."
Celestia hummed thoughtfully. "Nevertheless, this world and its ways tend to be dangerous to your kind." She frowned. "There have been others from your world who blundered into ours. They...rarely survive."
"I can believe it," Sunset muttered. "As soon as I realized what I'd landed in, I tried to go back, but the portal was already closed." She shrugged. "So I have to get used to the fact that for the next thirty moons, I'm stuck in this world, in an Uman body, and this body's fighting power is like...some kind of beacon or something." She pursed her lips. "And that's already a problem, I had to bluff my way out of a situation that could've ended badly for me..."
Celestia sighed. "It's only going to get worse the longer you're here, I'm afraid," she said. She fixed Sunset with a serious stare. "In any event, I'm prepared to assist you to a certain degree. I have more than sufficient resources at my disposal, and whatever falling out you had with my counterpart, I have to believe that she would rather see you returned to her safe and unharmed, so I'm going to personally ensure that." She began typing rapidly on a keyboard set into her desk. "I've already enrolled you as a first year student in class 1-C. There's an apartment I maintain in the southeast district for..." She coughed. "Personal reasons, but I'm not expecting to have use of it anytime soon. For the time being, that will be your home in this world. I'll set you up an expense account for food, sundries, educational materials, and incidentals. Don't go overboard. If I decide you're spending too much, I'll make you get a job." She looked up seriously. "As to the matter of adapting to this world's...customs...that's entirely on you. I expect you to find someone trustworthy, confide in them that you have no idea how to fight or control your power, and have them train you. Otherwise, you won't survive a week at Harmony High."
Sunset nodded, fighting the urge to flick her eyes over to Luna. "I can do that," she said.
"Good," Celestia said. "Tomorrow's Friday..." She bit her lip. "You'll start attending classes on Monday," she decided. "That gives you three days to get settled in." She glanced at Luna. "I still have work to do," she said. "Can you take her to the apartment?"
"Of course," Luna said.
"And Luna? Take the skycar," Celestia said in a pained tone. "I don't think the poor girl can handle another climb tonight."
Luna chuckled darkly. "As you wish, Sister," she said. "Come, Sunset Shimmer." She turned and floated out of the room; Sunset followed her. Luna led her down a side hall, to a room with a wide, shuttered window. A small chariot sat in the center of this otherwise empty room. Sunset studied it, noting the two seats within. Luna settled into the one on the right; Sunset climbed into the one on the left. With a few button presses, the shutters retracted and the window slid open, and the chariot powered up with a quiet roar of turbines, carrying them out into the night sky.
* * * * *
"So that new girl," Rainbow Dash said as she washed the dishes from supper; her scouter was in phone mode and connected to Applejack. "The one who was fightin' Pinkie Pie. What do you make of her?"
"Ah dunno," Applejack responded, her voice scratchy and staticky.
"Well I think she's full of shit," Rainbow said. "This is as low as I can push my power, pah! What a load!"
"It's a mighty bad idea t' write somebody off jes' 'cuz they talk a bad game," Applejack said. "Remember that whole mess you got inta with Bruss an' Sprout?"
Rainbow made a stuck noise. "Wh—well how was I supposed t' know they had a whole gang? What kind of lame-ass Saiyans roll a twelve year old kid anyway?"
"An' if me an' Big Mac hadn't'a been there, you wouldn't'a had yer fifteenth birthday last month," Applejack said calmly.
"Tch..." Rainbow growled, nearly snapping a plate in half. "I coulda beat 'em," she said petulantly.
"You're damn lucky I broke Super Saiyan 2 in that fight," Applejack said grimly. "So am Ah, fer that matter," she muttered almost inaudibly.
"Okay okay, you made your point," Rainbow grumbled. "Just because somebody talks shit doesn't mean they're full of shit. Still, I dunno...I think this Sunset Shimmer's a fraud."
"Ah dunno whut t' tell ya, sugarcube," Applejack said; Rainbow could practically hear her shrug. "Anyway, you goin' campin' this weekend?"
"Hay yeah!" Rainbow said, brightening to the new topic. The girls continued to chatter long into the evening, the subject of Sunset Shimmer long forgotten.
* * * * *
Sunset looked around the tastefully appointed apartment, whistling loudly. "Wow," she said. "This is nice."
Luna smirked. "This is Celestia's love nest," she said in an amused tone. "Her Saiyan lover disappeared somewhere in Universe 7 several years ago, and this other lover she's taken recently...let's just say it isn't safe for them to be caught together so she's had to break it off. So that leaves this place she won't let go of, but nobody to use it." She shook her head. "Sad. Anyway, get some rest. You have a busy day tomorrow." She turned to leave, then paused. "By the way, I suggest you find a student at Harmony High to pretend to be trained by. My sister is likely to check up on that."
Before she could stop herself, Sunset asked, "Why do you keep calling her your sister? I mean, you're...kind of not even the same species..." She immediately felt like shrinking into herself, certain she'd just signed her own death warrant.
Luckily, Luna seemed coldly amused by the question. "I crash landed on this planet a very long time ago, with no memory of who I was or where I came from," she said. "Celestia took me in and nursed me back to health, accepted me, gave me a home and a purpose. I have long since remembered my life before Planet Uma, but I see no reason to return to who and what I was before. I have a good thing going here." She smirked. "Sleep well, my little pony." With that, she left.
"What the heck does she mean by 'Universe 7'?" Sunset wondered idly as she circled her new home, examining the expensive-looking, tasteful furnishings. The chairs and sofas were all upholstered in soft black leather, while all the tables and shelves were a dark, rich hardwood. The kitchen held appliances whose purposes seemed readily apparent to Sunset; she decided she'd need to learn how to use them before too long. A quick investigation revealed an empty refrigerator and a pantry stocked with preserved quick-prep boxed foods, but nothing in the way of fresh fruits or vegetables. Not that she was hungry at the moment; the senzu bean had seen to that.
What she was, was sweaty, stinky, and filthy. Sunset continued her exploration.
She found a large bedroom with a queen-size bed, a pair of large dressers, and a walk-in closet with two sets of clothing, hung neatly to the sides. Various shoes sat in neat rows on the closet floor. Another door led to a spacious bathroom with a pair of compact machines tucked under shelves containing what seemed to be various cleaning products. An empty wicker basket stood in a recess between the machines and a wide, square bathtub, next to which stood a shower stall with a thin plastic curtain. Fragrant soaps and shampoos stood ready for use on a shelf in the shower.
With some difficulty, Sunset stripped off the layers of sweat-soaked clothes she wore and crammed them into the wicker basket, boots and all. Her nose wrinkled as a wave of stench assailed her nostrils. Shaking her head, she padded into the shower, drew the curtain, and spent a few minutes figuring out the taps. Once she had the water at a comfortably warm temperature, she lathered her hair and body, then spent several minutes meticulously scrubbing down her smooth-skinned body and wild, spiky hair. Once she felt reasonably clean, she searched around until she found a stack of thick, fluffy towels, then thoroughly dried herself. Now clean and dry but feeling the chill of night, Sunset padded back to the bedroom, peeled back the thick covers on the bed, and slipped in. The warmth of the sheets and blankets soothed her, and she lay her head back on the fluffy pillows, closing her eyes.
*Well, as deathtraps go, at least it's a luxury deathtrap...*
* * * * *
A freezing cold jet of water striking Sunset in a very sensitive area brought her to full, terrified consciousness with a start. She shrieked in alarm and jumped straight up. Every nerve in her body jangled; her eyes searched the room warily. "WHA!! What, what, what, wha..." She landed on the bed with a soft *fwumf*, heart hammering wildly in her Uman chest. She looked up to see Principal Celestia standing at the foot of the bed, holding a squirt gun in one hand and smirking at her.
"Lesson one," Celestia said calmly. "There's no rule against sleeping in the nude, but most people prefer some sort of sleepwear." Her lips quirked into a smile. "I brought some breakfast. Hurry up and get dressed, we've got a lot to do today." She tapped a pile of clothes that sat on the foot of the bed. "I don't suppose you got around to washing the clothes you arrived in last night, so I'll put those on to wash for you." She started to walk out of the room.
Once Sunset's heart calmed down, she levered herself gingerly off the bed, her face red and severe irritation and humiliation burning through her body. Those were quickly replaced by an insistent pressure, and her face darkened. "Umm...I need to, y'know..."
"The little pink door in the living room," Celestia said from the bathroom, where she was cramming Sunset's sweaty clothes in one of the machines. With a grimace, Sunset padded across the apartment, opening the pink door to find a complicated-looking toilet and a lavatory.
Several minutes later and feeling very foalish, Sunset returned to the bedroom and slowly, carefully dressed, getting used to the way Uman clothes fit onto her new body. When she was done, she ran her fingers through her hair, then walked out into the living room, where Celestia now sat on the couch, several containers of warm food and two large paper cups spread out in front of her. Sunset sat down across from her, the scent of food rousing a hungry growl from her stomach. "Eat whatever you want," Celestia said. Nodding gratefully, Sunset helped herself. Most of what Celestia had brought consisted of scrambled eggs, sausage, bacon, and fried potatoes mixed together with melted cheese and salsa in either bowls or tortilla wraps; Sunset hungrily wolfed down two large wraps, savoring the spicy, salty goodness of the meal, then drained what turned out to be a large cup of orange juice. Celestia watched her, eating gracefully but quickly from a breakfast bowl.
"Ff gd," Sunset mumbled through a mouthful of eggs. She swallowed, then wiped her mouth with a napkin. "There was meat in that, right?"
"Yes," Celestia said. "Is that a problem for you?"
Sunset shrugged. "Not really," she said. "As long as it didn't come from anything sapient. I've had fish, but that's about it. I've heard of ponies eating pig."
Celestia nodded. "Well, that won't be a problem here," she said. "None of our livestock are sapient, and we don't eat horse."
Sunset snorted. "Good," she said, taking a bite of a hash brown. "I've never been this hungry before," she muttered.
"That's to be expected," Celestia said. "For whatever reason, you came out of that portal as an Uma-Saiyan. Saiyan physiology tends to come with a rather large appetite. Get used to eating far more than you're accustomed to."
Sunset smacked her lips. "If it all tastes this good, I think I can live with that."
Celestia nodded. "I've taken the day off today to help you settle in. We're going to go shopping for food and clothes, plus everything else you'll be needing. After that, I'll get you up to speed on the basics of how everything works here. Then we can work on figuring out who you should see about some basic training."
Sunset nodded along, all the while thinking about how strange it was for her to be here, dependent upon Celestia yet again, not even a full day after the raging argument that had led to her banishment from Canterlot Castle and subsequent flight through the mirror portal. *Is this some cruel universal joke? Am I condemned to be at the mercy of some version of Celestia for the rest of my life?*
And yet...this world presented a tempting opportunity.
If a girl like Fluttershy could blow a hole in the schoolyard, what could she do if she mastered the power that came with this new body?
What would she become in the thirty moons between now and the opening of the portal?
What would she do then? Would she return to Equestria and challenge Princess Celestia with a terrible alien power?
Sunset finished her breakfast, wiped her hands, and stood up. "Let's get started," she said with an eager smile.