by Muramasa

Feel Alright

I had heard the word "dinner". Typically, when a you go to another person's house for dinner, it's a very small gathering of no more than a few individuals where the main focus is to have food, and maybe talk a little bit afterwards. As such, I hadn't done anything superbly special for the occasion, as I had it in my mind that I was just going to be formally meeting the rest of the Elements of Harmony.

So naturally, upon seeing Princess Celestia, Princess Luna, Princess Cadance, three children whom I could not identify, a group of individuals who I'm assuming belonged to the Apple Family, a rather attractive stallion in formal guard clothing, some blue mare with an ice colored mane, and even the mare I saw for a split second at the boutique just a few hours prior, along with the Elements of Harmony, I was very confused.

"Twilight," I muttered, leaning to the my left side as we headed towards the gate. Me, Twilight and Starlight had been walking in a straight line formation, with Twilight on my left and Starlight on my right; the walk to the farm had been rather pleasant (Starlight Glimmer was hilarious; she could easily do stand up if she wished), but at the sight of literally everyone, my nervousness that had been fading away came back with a vengeance. Twilight looked towards me and gave a questioning "Hmm?".

"This is not a dinner. This is a large, large gathering, and it raises a ton of problems," I told her. Starlight looked at me curiously.

"How so?" she asked. We got to the gate, and Applejack, who had been chatting to one of her family members, saw us arrive; she waved and began to head in our direction, which gave me just enough time to explain the absolute Charlie Foxtrot I had just been placed in.

"Well, for starters, that's the mare I had the really awkward run in I told about because you neglected to tell me that Rarity ran the Carousel Boutique," I whispered angrily. Starlight seemed to not care at all about the fact that I had directly called her out, instead opting to nod carefully, so I continued.

"And see the fancy pink princess, Cadance? She hates me, with the passion of a thousand fiery suns. I was hoping I could settle that privately, but here we are at a massive party," I finished. At that particular remark, Twilight rolled her eyes.

"Oh, come on," she began, "Cadance is one of the nicest, most forgiving ponies I could possibly think of. There's no way she's held on to that grudge for this long." Coincidentally, Cadance saw me from across the field where the party had been set up; her entire expression immediately switched from the very relaxed and carefree expression she had come to be known for to an angered surprise, her eyes clearly alight with rage. Twilight saw it, too, and gave a silent "ooh".

"Okay, yea, she's pissed," Twilight quickly whispered before standing upright with a smile. I quickly did the same, as Applejack had finally made it to the gate to greet us.

"Well howdy! I'm glad y'all showed up tonight!" Applejack quickly directed her attention to me.

"Sunset, I've already told all the other girls what's goin' on. I reckon they'd love it if ya'd introduce yerself formally," said Applejack. I nodded, keeping my smile; the nervousness was once again starting to fade away again.

"Absolutely, Applejack. And...thanks. I appreciate you accepting me, even if it isn't a big deal to you," I told her. Applejack held up a hoof in front of her face.

"Don't mention it. Now get along now; you've got some ponies to talk to! Dinner 'll be ready soon, too!" She said, clearing the way for us to enter. I bowed my head a bit as we walked on through, and I knew then that I'd have a good time; however, as I had previously stated there was a particular matter that I needed to clear up with a certain somepony.

The party was being thrown in the area right in front of the barn, in a very large open field area. There were tons of small tables, mainly with party snacks and various drinks, with the large number of ponies at the event stationed at all of them, socializing to their heart's content. After a quick scan, I found exactly what I was looking for; there was an area to the side of the barn where nobody was, and where nobody was likely to go.

Cadance was right near it, at the far side of the party; the very attractive stallion in the guard uniform was right next to her, so I assumed that he was her coltfriend or husband; I mentally cried on the inside for about a second before directing my attention back to the princess. Her face was still fixated on me, although this time, she had been whispering to her husband during her stare. I began to walk over in her direction, and when she recoiled as a result, I waved my hoof towards the secluded spot I had picked. She leaned over to look at the area in question and, thank Celestia, got the message; I needed to talk to her alone.

Out of all the rants I've ever been on, focused on either a human or a pony, I probably hit Cadance the hardest. She had walked into my room one time without knocking on the door accidentally, thinking it was one of the castle staff's (my room was positioned directly to left of where the staff rooms began). I wasn't even doing anything unsavory at the time, and it was only the third time I had even interacted with her in my entire life. I don't remember what happened on that particular day, but I was absolutely pissed, and for whatever reason, I immediately unloaded on her. It makes me uncomfortable to even think about what I said to her that day, and even when I was still the supreme bitch of the universe at Canterlot High, it was the one thing I had always regretted. It was burned fresh in my mind the second after she had left my room overflowing in tears, and the worst part that had always made me feel guilty was the fact that I had never gotten to say sorry before I had gone through the portal. Tonight wasn't exactly the most ideal of conditions, but this was something that absolutely had to be done.

She met me at the place I had pointed out to her, and, lucky me, she was the first one to speak.

"What in Tartarus are you doing here?" she asked, malice dripping from her tone. I sighed and closed my eyes; this was gonna be a tough one, because I wasn't entirely sure I'd win her forgiveness.

"Okay, look, I was going to take a train to Canterlot and do this, but here we are, and so here I go. I'm going to start by saying that I am truly, absolutely sorry for what I said to you, but I know that the words that came out of my mouth were so horrible that saying I'm sorry just isn't enough. I...I was homesick, and s-so I came back here, and part of my whole deal about coming back here was to b-be a better person--er, pony. I've made numerous apologies while I've been here, but when it comes to this one, I just...I'm lost. I'm going to ask for your forgiveness, Cadance, and if you don't forgive me, I would completely understand. I'm so, so sorry, because no one deserves to hear what I said that day. I think you're beautiful, talented, and obviously a great mare if you've earned those wings, or horn, or both, I have no idea..." I had been looking at my hoofs the entire time because I couldn't look her in the eyes, and so I was very surprised to feel a wing wrap around me.

Upon looking up, I was greeted with Cadance smiling down at me. I felt a tsunami of relief wash over me, as well one of the massive weights upon my back I had carried for a very long time lift off of me.

"The apology could never win my forgiveness," she began, "but that fact that you meant it does. Thank you, Sunset; I very much appreciate it. Now go have fun; don't let me ruin the night." gladly, I smiled back to her, nodded my head, and headed off to where the party was.

I had a choice again. I could introduce myself to the Elements (properly), talk to the princesses, or acquaint myself with one of the ponies I didn't really know all too well. I scanned the field, and upon seeing a particular pony by one of the snack tables eating alone, made my choice; my curiosity could not be sated.

Because I had left in such a hurry, there was something new I got to notice about the pony that had seen me at the shop earlier. Besides the fact that, without her dress on, I could clearly see her absurdly in shape, well defined body, her mane style was rather out of place with the rest of the crowd. She let it grow all the way down on one side, but she had completely shaved off the other side. It was a style that I had normally equated to the punk-rock style students at Canterlot High, so I had seen it before; to ponies who had lived here a very long time, it must have been very awkward. More pressingly, though, was her necklace; her cutie mark was blocked one again, this time by the edge of the table, so I still had no idea why she was wearing the number 84 around her neck. I walked towards her, and as I was approaching her, she turned and spotted me; to my relief, her face lit up.

"Well, well, well," she began. Her voice was almost the exact same high pitch as Rainbow Dash's, but completely smoothed out and just a tinsy bit lower. "It's the "Shit!" mare from the shop earlier. You get over your Rarityphobia?" she asked. I rolled my eyes in response.

"Yes, I have, as a matter of fact. I'm sorry about that, by the way; it's a long story. Sunset Shimmer," I said, holding out hoof in greeting. She brought hers out to match, and it was actually frightening how powerful they looked.

"Jennet Galloway. It's nice to meet you, Sunset Shimmer."

For the second time that day, I was at a loss for words. It was as if I had a thousand piece puzzle in shambles in front of me that had instantaneously solved itself; she was Jennet Galloway, wide receiver in the Equestrian Hoofball League. 84 was very obviously her number, and the reason she was so in shape was because she pushed her body to the limits and had to work out constantly to be a major player in the league. I leaned over the table to catch a glimpse of her Cutie Mark, and low and behold, three footballs (hoofballs, now) arranged themselves in a triangular formation on her flank. I recoiled when she said her name, causing her to laugh.

"The Jennet Galloway? The mare that caught the pass to win the championship game for the Monarchs? That Jennet Galloway?" I said, still in disbelief. Jennet rolled her eyes.

"I also broke the Mega Bowl record for most yards from scrimmage in the following game, but nopony seems to care about that," she remarked. She took a sip from whatever she was drinking before continuing. "But yeah, that Jennet Galloway. I gotta tell you, now that I'm here in town full time, it's very nice. Not so crowded like it was in Canterlot. But anyways, I'm curious; how do you know Rarity?" she asked me. I gave her a smile.

"Well, actually, I don't really know her all too well, but I'm friends with Princess Twilight," I began. As soon as I mentioned Twilight's name, Jennet's widened in excitement, which was followed by a childish grin somehow even more exaggerated than the last.

"You know Twilight? That's crazy! It's been insane so far to meet the Princesses formally, aside from visiting the castle back when I won the Mega Bowl when I still played for the Monarchs, but of course, Twilight wasn't even a princess then! Is she here? I've been dying to meet her!" she said, bouncing around in excitement. I looked behind me to see Twilight talking to Cadance and that blue stallion I had kept seeing; I pointed them out to Jennet.

"There she is. Go talk to her; she doesn't bite, I promise," I told her. Jennet rolled her eyes at that.

"I've encountered much, much worse out on the field," she replied. She took a few steps towards Twilight but, to my surprise, turned her head back to face me.

"You know, I just got traded a week ago. I know the first game of the season is on Sunday, but I still don't know the town all too well. Would you mind showing me around tomorrow? I supposed to do it with Rarity but she's got one of those snobby rich dudes from Canterlot coming in," she said. Still kind of shellshocked that I was even talking to her, I nodded my head in the affirmative.

"Yeah, of course," I replied. She smiled in response and began trotting away in the direction of Twilight.

See, Sunset? You're already making new friends, I thought to myself as I watched her go. As I was just about to scan the party for something else to do, I heard Applejack project her voice louder than I had previously believed was physically possible.


* * * * * *

Apples were to be expected, of course. This was the Apple Family, and they were going to feed you the particular fruit until you had grow sick of it, which, trust me, happened frequently. I was ready for them tonight, however, and was able to enjoy them to the fullest extent possible; and so I did, and they were delicious.

Applejack had moved everypony to the inside of the barn to eat, on a very long table. I had found myself sitting in the exact middle of it, right between Princess Celestia and Luna at their request; across from me was Sunset Shimmer, Starlight Glimmer, and Trixie Lulamoon, who I had no idea was even here until she sat down. Applejack had told me earlier in the night that she had not expected the event to be this packed, but she had welcomed it none the less.

There were about fifty different things going on at the same time during the course of the dinner. Starlight, Sunset and Trixie were getting along very well, and at the moment Starlight was telling a very politically incorrect joke about a Griffon and a Donkey; I scolded her as she delivered the punchline, but that didn't stop everypony from laughing, including (to my absolute shock) Celestia and Luna. On the very left end of the table was Rainbow Dash, Jennet Galloway, and the Cutie Mark Crusaders (who were no longer crusading); based on her hoof motions, she was telling a story about a particular game, as Rainbow and the Crusaders were absolutely captivated. Finally, the right end of the held the rest of the elements and my brother Shining Armor, along with his spouse, Princess Mi Amore Cadanza. Cadance was telling a story, too; I wasn't following it very well, but it had something to do with a Canterlot noble visiting the Crystal Empire.

None, of that, however, mattered; I had only come here for a singular reason, and it was clear to me that I had accomplished my goals; Sunset Shimmer was, for the first time since coming home, happy. For the past few days, I could see her past weighing her down, but tonight, it was as if the burden had been lifted. She was telling stories and jokes, and laughing at other ponies stories and jokes, having a genuinely good time.

I must have been staring at her, because both Celestia and Luna leaned the ear on their side, creating a very awkward position and leaving me very conflicted. Celestia looked over to her sister with a smile.

"You first," she said, causing Luna to smile back.

"I was just going to say that I noticed it as well. I'm not sure you've realized it, but she's made a major step in the recovery process because you took her here tonight; well done," said Luna, who proceeded to lean back to her normal position. Celestia, however, stayed where she was.

"I can't express how proud of you both I am. It warms my heart to see you two, my former students, striving to help each other, especially now that you have a student of your own in Starlight Glimmer; who, I might add, is quite the personality," said Celestia. I smiled back, and knew myself well enough to know that I had to be red all over at this point from embarrassment.

I had been paying so much attention to Celestia and Luna that I hadn't really taken in what was happening in front of me, but a soon as Celestia leaned away and I had a clear view of it, I couldn't help but laugh.

Sunset Shimmer, Starlight Glimmer, and Trixie Lulamoon were all magically levitating a salt shaker about five feet above their heads, staring at it intensely. I knew precisely what this was; they were going to see who would be the last to keep their salt shaker up in the air before they grew tired and had to drop it. What made it even funnier was that everypony at the table immediately stopped eating to watch it transpire.

"Trixie is superior," said Trixie very quickly as she continued to stare intently at the salt shaker.

"We'll see about that, Abracadabra," said Starlight, causing everypony to laugh. Sunset stayed quiet, opting instead to focus all of her concentration on the shaker. It was hard to say whether Starlight or Trixie would drop out first, but I knew for a fact that it wouldn't be Sunset; she had gone very far under Celestia's tutelage, something the other two mares simply could not compete with.

By the three minute mark, I could clearly see the pain in all three faces, and knew one of them was about to drop it very soon. Sure enough, Trixie gave a sharp grunt and let the shaker go; it hit her head with what had to be a painless impact before cascading to the hay floor below.

"And then there were two," said Sunset. They both gave devilish grins at the prospect, but there a slight twist that indicated the extreme discomfort they were both in. Quietly, I leaned over to Celestia.

"What are you thinking here?" I asked her. Celestia was silent for a few moments before she spoke.

"Sunset's going win this, but just barely. Starlight's good, but she's putting just a bit more effort in it than she should be, something I've trained Sunset to control," explained Celestia.

The minute I leaned back to an upright position, I saw the contest come to an end. Starlight gave the same grunt as Trixie did before dropping the salt shaker; Sunset waited just a second before doing the same and immediately proceeding to raise her arms to the ceiling in victory. The other two defeated ponies merely slouched in their chairs and both rolled their eyes at the exact same time. It didn't help their pride that the entire table began to cheer, including myself. After a few moments, Starlight and Trixie both grabbed ten bits each with their mouths (their horns were certainly sore) and threw it in Sunset's direction.

"Aw, guys, don't get salty," she said in response, with a massive emphasis on the pun. Both of the defeated mares reached their hooves out for a shove, causing Sunset to recoil to the side and throw up her hooves in defense.

As the dinner went on, both Starlight and Trixie wandered off to other ponies for discussion, leaving just her across from me, Celestia, and Luna.

"So, Sunset, how are you? You seem to be having fun," I told her. She looked up at me and gave a large sigh of relief.

"You know, Twi, for the first time since arriving back home...I feel alright."