Sunset Shimmer is MAD about EVERYTHING

by Justice3442

Chapter 8: The Old In and Out and then Back In Again.

Chapter 8: The Old In and Out and then Back In Again.

The entire castle seemed to shake as another energy bolt ripped through the air, firing straight up through the new ‘sunroof’ that extended all the way down to the nursery below.

Celestia blinked a couple of times as her vision adjusted back to normal and the scorching heat she felt on her face subsided.

“Sister?” Luna said as she trotted up to the dazed Princess. “Perhaps you should give the baby a little more space. That last blast almost took off your face.”

Pinkie giggle snorted. “Hehe… It’s almost like Zecora’s here…”

Luna turned towards Pinkie and gave her a small smile. “I do occasionally visit our striped mutual friend.” Luna’s smile fell as she stared far off into space. “She doesn’t have nightmares often, but when she does they’re objectively terrifying.”

Celestia shook her head and rubbed at her eyes with a forehoof. “Indeed Luna, perhaps I should take a break.” Celestia gently caressed the side of the back of the baby’s head as the little alicorn slowly closed her eyes. “It appears her magic is more powerful than that of a newborn unicorn.”

“Oh God no! Not you too!”

Celestia’s eyes shot open wide as the new voice joined the group. All the other ponies, save Shining Armor who was still snoozing on the floor, ceased chatting with the each other and turned as Sunset Shimmer trotted into the nursery doorway. Sunset had already put on a sour look on her face that she leveled against Celestia.

Pinkie’s smile suddenly shot open to an unnervingly wide degree and her head bent with a ‘click’ to 90 degrees, then another ‘click’ to 180 degrees, and yet one more ‘click’ so that it had moved an entire 270 degrees. “Welp, sorry everypony! Looks like we’re that much closer to the end of our lives! Assume the panic position!”

Rainbow Dash hovered in place with a ponderous expression on her face as she looked between the baby, Sunset, and Celestia as if she was deciding whether she was in for a show or if she should duck and cover.

Pinkie and Fluttershy suddenly dove behind Applejack’s flank again. Rarity turned and stared at Applejack’s flank with a serious expression, perhaps actually attempting to gauge its ability to stop a magical blast or two.

Applejack sighed. “Really?”

Celestia made a mad dash for the utility closet, threw open the door, and jumped inside, closing it behind her.

Luna sighed. “Really?”

Cadance, who had been talking to Twilight, suddenly stopped moving her mouth, letting it hang slightly agape as she stared at Sunset with a tired look on her face.

Twilight let out a groan and turned towards Sunset. “Really?”

“Hey! Don’t give me that look!” Sunset protested. “I came to help with the world’s cutest threat to pony kin-ImeantheBABY! I was even going to try being nice to Celestia!

Twilight gave Sunset a scrutinizing look.

“Alright! I was going to try ignoring her! Then she had to go and say that stupidly obvious thing about the baby!”

Twilight rolled her eyes. “Celestia had finally just stopped playing with the baby! I think she was actually going to start talking to everypony again!”

Sunset glanced at the closet. “Hey! I didn’t force her to jump into the closet! It’s not my fault she’s deciding to deal with her problem by hiding poorly and hoping it goes away.” Sunset turned to yell at the closed closet door. “It’s NOT, by the way!”

Luna she shot an annoyed look at the closet’s door. “I do not wish to go through the same rigmarole as before, so I’m skipping ahead a bit.” She turned to Pinkie. “Pinkie, I am once again in need of your assistance.”

Pinkie’s head suddenly spun back into place. “Okay!” she said cheerfully as she got up from behind Applejack’s flank. “But I’ll need a feather!”

Luna gave Pinkie a perplexed expression. “Very well…” she said as she extended a wing and picked out a large blue feather from them with her mouth.

“No, please wait!” Fluttershy pleaded as she reached out towards Pinkie. “I feel safest when I’m sandwiched between two big flanks.”

Pinkie winced slightly at Fluttershy’s comment. “Wow, that doesn’t feel nice!” she said as she collected the feather from Luna. She turned towards Rarity. “Rarity? I need you to help do my hair in a particular style.”

Erm… Of course, dear,” Rarity replied. “I’d be happy to,” she said as she trotted over to Pinkie.

“Hah!” Applejack exclaimed as she pointed at Pinkie. “Hurts like a bee-sting in December, don’t it?”

Rainbow Dash raised an eyebrow. “AJ, uh, why does the month matter?”

Uh, ‘cause it’s colder in December and hurts more! Obviously.”

Rainbow Dash scratched her chin with the back of a hoof and stared up at the massive hole in the ceiling. “Wait… shouldn’t it hurt less ‘cause… I don’t know… You’re kinda numb because of the cold?”

“Hey!” Applejack protested. “Do I pick apart your similes?!”

“No, because I don’t make any!” Rainbow Dash cried. “You’re the only pony I know who says this stuff and like… I don’t even think bees are active in the middle of winter! Where do you come up with all this?!”

“Hey! It’s not easy comin’ up with countryisms on the spot! They can’t all be as golden as the cider we Apples produce.”

Rainbow Dash narrowed her eyes. “I’m gonna let you have that one just because you mentioned cider…”

Across the room Twilight and Sunset continued their conversation.

“I thought you were helping Starlight!” Twilight exclaimed.

“Spike can handle it!” Sunset said with a dismissive wave of her forehoof. “If that stupid list of yours doesn’t screw it up, that is.”

Twilight narrowed her eyes and dropped her ears. “Excuse me?”

Sunset matched Twilight's irritated expression. “You heard me!”

“That ‘stupid list’ has been meticulously planned down to the most minute detail!”

Sunset rolled her eyes. “Right, because introducing even more levels the list can go wrong at should address the issue that it’s likely going to break down when applied to real life.”

Twilight glanced upwards, her expression still showing she was quite irritated. “So the list might have a few bugs in it. I’m sure Spike and Starlight can work around that if they encounter a slight hiccup.”

Sunset’s voice suddenly shifted from irritated to full-on angry. “Well maybe if you’d have tried using this method on another friendship problem before now, you’d at least have SOME idea of what to do ahead of time for when things inevitably don’t go according to plan!”

Cadance’s eyes widened slightly at Sunset’s outburst. “Er… I better keep an eye on the baby…” she said with a worried look as she trotted over to the crib.

Twilight pulled her head back as Sunset turned up the volume on her side of the conversation. She gave Sunset a perplexed look. “But… this is Starlight’s very first friendship lesson and she’s my first friendship pupil! When would I have an opportunity to try this out before?” Twilight thought for a moment. “I mean… I suppose if I there was more time, I could have maybe field tested a list with Spike, or maybe one of my friends here…”

Sunset clamped down on her teeth hard. She began shouting, “RIGHT! BECAUSE IT’S NOT LIKE YOU KNOW ANYONE ELSE WHO COULD HAVE USED HELP WITH FRIENDSHIP!”

Twilight’s ears dropped down and she closed her eyes and turned her head as Sunset all but screamed at her. Once again, most of the eyes in the room where focused on Sunset and whichever pony she had ended up starting drama with this time.

Still looking away from Sunset, Twilight opened her eyes and put on a thoughtful expression, her eyes briefly darting back and forth as she stared at nothing in particular. After a few moments the widened, and she turned towards Sunset. “Sunset, I’m sorry I didn’t consider you before.”

Sunset let out a sigh and as her expression softened. “It’s alright, Twilight… As long as you see that now.”

Twilight smiled and nodded. “Of course! You’re absolutely a viable pony to help test the ‘Anytime Workshop Friendship-based Utility List.’”

Sunset felt a sudden and rather brutal shift in her emotional state, much as if they had been ran over by a large, purple ‘friendship bus’. Her head tilted sideways slightly as her facial muscles seemed to pull into a thousand different directions at once as her squashed psyche attempted to recover and come up with a response to what she had just heard and the incidental dismissal that came with it. Her mind reached out for the first thought could pull together. “I… You really think that’s a good name?”

Twilight shrugged. “I suppose it’s a bit of a mouthful, but I wanted to clearly convey the properties of the list in the title.”

Both of Sunset’s eyes began to twitch erratically. “Oh, it certainly does that, alright.”

“Ready! Let’s get this show on the road and a pony out of the closet!” Pinkie exclaimed as Rarity floated brushes and combs away from the pink mare’s hair. Pinkie’s hair had now been done up into cornrows and she approached the closet with a smile on her face.

“I’M NOT IN HERE!” Celestia cried from inside the closet.

Luna sighed and shook her head. “Not even going to dignify that one with a response, sister…”

Pinkie spoke up again, “Now everypony pipe down and let me pipe UP the music!”

“Alright, sister,” Luna said.  “Just remember that you brought this on yourself!”

Pinkie began to sing, this time her tone a bit more in line with a rhythm and blues song instead of the normal upbeat rhyming scheme she tended to lean towards. “Now, I’ve been asked to come and get you out of the closet again! Man, this is some crazy—Pinkie paused and glanced over at the baby “—STUFF! Why won’t you come out of the closet? And Celestia said…” Pinkie placed an ear against the closet door expectantly.

There was a beat of silence before a muffled “Oh…” came out of the closet followed by the sound of a throat clearing. I’m not coming out of the closet, so you can just go away!” Celestia sang.

“But everypony wants you out the closet!” Pinkie sang back.

“That doesn’t matter ‘cause I’m going to stay!”

Pinkie narrowed her eyes, scrunched her nose, and pursed her lips. Now I’m startin’ to get angry,” Pinkie reached down and pulled up the feather in one forehoof, and the baby in the other, so I pull out my feather and killer magical alicorn BABY!” 

The baby burbled happily and attempted to reach out for the large, dark blue feather. Cadance stared down at the crib in confusion, noting it was certainly now missing a baby.

Luna’s eyes suddenly flew open wide. “Sweet mother of my sister and me! Everypony dive for cover!” she cried as everypony but Pinkie, Twilight, Sunset, Cadance, and Shining Armor suddenly gathered together and huddled in a mass as best they could behind Applejack’s flank.

“Oh, come on!” Applejack protested as she looked behind her.

With a tired look on her face, Cadance trotted over to Shining Armor and put up a barrier around her and her husband.

Twilight and Sunset continued to stand in place, staring at Pinkie as she brandished the baby threateningly.

Sunset blinked a few times, deciding the current situation deserved her attention more than her conversation with Twilight which was now lying in the street, broken and perhaps even bleeding to death. She looked at Pinkie in front of the closet then across the room to the empty crib. “Okay... just… what? How did Pinkie get the baby?”

Twilight raised an eyebrow. “You’re seriously questioning how Pinkie does anything?”

Sunset sighed. “Touché.”

Pinkie continued her song. “I’m gonna give you to the count of three to open this closet door, one – I’m gonna blast you with a baby, two – I’m gonna cap some wavy-haired bit—”

“Okay! Okay!” Celestia cried. “Just… Put down the baby.”

“Alright!” Pinkie answered cheerfully. She lowered the baby and the feather onto the ground. “Okay! You only have to worry about accidently being baby disintegrated now!”

The closet door began to slowly open, meanwhile the baby cooed playfully as it magically floated the feather to itself and began batting at it.

Cadance lowered her shield and winced. “Pinkie, given the current circumstances that might be more likely than you think. Can you please take the baby back to her crib?”

“Sure!” Pinkie said cheerfully as she lowered her head. “Ill get right—” Pinkie’s head suddenly shot straight up, her hair having returned to its normal curly glory. Her eyes opening wide with fear despite the massive grin on her face, both slightly covered by the baby who had latched onto her face and was giggling mirthfully. “The closer I am to danger the further I am from harm!” Pinkie said shrilly. “THE CLOSER I AM TO DANGER THE FURTHER I AM FROM HARM! Ahhhh! AAAAAAAHHHH!” Pinkie bolted one direction than the other as the baby giggled and burbled in delight.

Cadance sighed. “Good enough…”

Celestia stepped out of the closet once more. She avoided eye contact with Sunset as she once again removed cleaning supplies from herself. Sunset, in turn, merely rolled her eyes and said nothing. One by one, ponies left the huddled ‘safety mass’. Rainbow Dash sheepishly took flight once more right before Luna stood up and trotted over to a nearby window. With a pink hue on her cheeks, Rarity also left the relative safety of Applejack’s hindquarters. Fluttershy, however, opted to stay in place, much to Applejack’s chagrin.

“The crowds have already started to gather,” Luna commented while looking outside.

Applejack trotted over to the window and looked outside while Fluttershy cringed and dove behind the nearest pony’s flank.

Rarity looked behind her with an indignant look. “Alright, this is a tad bit insulting…”

Woo-wee,” Applejack said as she gazed outside at the gathering group of both crystal and non-crystal ponies. “This is gonna be some shin-dig!”

“Hey! I’m the one who gets excited about parties!” Pinkie cried as the baby batted at the pink tuft of hair that dangled in front of her face. “How would you like it if I started doing countryisms when YOU'RE indisposed because there's a baby on your face?!”

Applejack raised an eyebrow. “But... Ah mean... There IS a baby on your face!”

Pinkie nodded her head up and down rapidly, causing the baby to giggle. “Right, but not on yours, so that means I'm free to do countryisms at will!” Pinkie cringed as she crossed her eyes with the tiny forehooves on them and pulled in her bottom lip to give herself the appearance of buck teeth.  “Like… Like... This heer baby here is stuck on mah face tight’r thun an alien what hugs faces and whatnot.”

Applejack’s brow tightened. “Ah mean… I guess I’m sorta upset, or offended might be the better word, but also… ‘what’?”

Rainbow Dash shuttered slightly. “Hey, I just got a shiver down my spine for some reason…”

Applejack sighed. “Pinkie, you were plenty excited about a party hours ago, hootin’ and hollerin’ on the table! And it takes me just sayin shin-dig to dig under yer coat?!”

“At the shins, Applejack! The shins!” Pinkie exclaimed. Pinkie narrowed her eyes as best as she could with a baby grabbing hold of her eyes. “You know what?! FINE! I'm going to start taking an unusually holistic interest in Apples! How do you like them apples?!”

Applejack’s face lit up. “You want to get in apples?! Oh, this is the best day ever!”

Pinkie let out an exasperated sigh. “Look… My point is” Pinkie leaned back onto her haunches and pulled at the baby with both forehooves. “Oh, Celestia!” Pinkie exclaimed.

“… Yes?” Celestia asked.

“The baby really IS on my face tighter than an alien what hugs faces!” With that Pinkie resumed her screaming and running about.

Celestia sighed. “I really should encourage ponies not to use my name like that... At least not while I’m in the room.”

“Ahhh! AHHH! Get it offa me! GET IT OFFA ME!”

Cadance glanced briefly at Pinkie with concern then walked over to the window and peered out. “Do you think we should call it off?”

Rainbow Dash scoffed. “Um, we’ve all faced a lot worse than baby magic.”

“Ahhhh! AHHHHH!” Pinkie continued to scream as the baby happily gripped onto her face, it’s tiny hooves still digging into her eyeballs.  “I’M SORRY, BUT YOU REALLY DON’T HAVE ANY PAST OR PRESENT EXPERIENCE TO MAKE THAT CALL, DASHIE!”

Sunset’s face tightened as she watched Pinkie flail about with the baby on her face before looking up at the hole in the ceiling. “Well… Pinkie’s input not dismissed, it’s certainly true each of us have faced more direct and organized threats… Still, the baby still possesses a clear threat to safety. We at least need somepony to be a magic sneeze guard so nopony gets baby melted.”

The other ponies turned and stared at Sunset.

“I just volunteered myself, didn’t I?” Sunset said.

The other ponies nodded.

Sunset shrugged. “I’m not even mad.”

Rarity smiled. “Well, I can’t imagine canceling such a beautiful and important ceremony over something so potentially adorable!”


Fluttershy raised terror-filled tealish blue eyes over Applejack’s flank as she watched Pinkie continue to run back and forth through the massive nursery. Applejack also watched the display, but with an unamused look.

Sunset  turned to Rarity, blinking a few times. “I mean… just playing Devil’s Advocate here—”

Twilight raised an eyebrow. “You really going with that phrase?” she asked.

Sunset turned and shot Twilight a dirty look. “I DON’T HAVE TO NOT USE CERTAIN PHRASES FOREVER BECAUSE OF ONE THING!”

“Alright, alright…” Twilight said raising a forehoof in front of her.

“ANN-EE-HOW,” Sunset continued, “The baby CAN destroy walls with its magic… Let’s all just keep that in mind.”

Luna nodded. “The baby’s powers are considerable.”

Celestia trotted up towards Luna and chimed in, “In light of the little one's abilities, this Crystalling might be more important than ever.” She turned towards Cadance. “Perhaps you should address your subjects and remind them of that.”

“Wait, what?!” Sunset exclaimed. “Mom, are you eating the same stupid pills everypony is having and/or caught the same moron disease everypony else seems to have today?”

Celestia cringed, but turned to face Sunset with a blank look. “Sunset, I haven’t the foggiest notion of what you’re talking about.”

The other ponies in the room froze in place—

“Aaaaaaahhhhh! Oh, She’s in my eyes! My eyes! AAAAAAAHHHHH! AAAAAGGHHHHH!”

MOST of the other ponies in the room froze in place. Their eyes widened in concern as they all drew their attention to Celestia and Sunset once more. Luna and Cadance elected to take a few steps away from Celestia as Sunset continued to fix the alabaster princess with a vexed glare.

Sunset let out a vexed grunt and trotted closer to Celestia. “Would you just look at your niece for like half a second?!” Sunset said, motioning to Cadance. “She looks like she can barely keep herself up! Mom, she hasn’t even slept since she GAVE birth! FRICKIN’ birth, mom! I know we’ve all had to deal with some pretty serious issues before and bravely ‘soldier forth’, but I’m guessing there’s not a lot that tops pushing a combination narwhal-albatross out of one’s baby hole!”

Rainbow Dash snickered to herself.

Sunset continued, “Why not try cutting her a little slack! I mean… If you’re wanting to avoid worrying the subject of the Crystal Empire of which, she is the princess of, then I don’t think putting her in front of them before the Crystalling where everypony will share their love and light with the crystal hear—God damn it! Now I’m doing it, too, for some reason!” Sunset sighed. “Just Goddamn… I sound like Mojo-freakin’-Jojo…”

Celestia frowned as she took a few steps towards Sunset. She placed the back of her forehoof onto Sunset’s forehead right below her horn. “Are you feeling alright? Maybe you’re coming down with—”

Sunset’s eyes went wide and she quickly swatted at Celestia’s forehoof with both forelegs before backing away slightly.

Celestia grimaced, flashing a hurt look before she closed her eyes, took a deep breath and resumed looking at Sunset blankly.

Sunset also took a deep breath. “I’m just saying, I’m not sure sticking her in front of them when she looks like she needs the world’s longest nap is a great idea!”

Celestia shook her head. “Sunset, I’m afraid you still don’t fully understand the sacrifices one must make when one is a princess.”

“Damnit, mom!” Sunset stamped a hoof down. “Not everypony has been doing this for over a thousand of years! In fact, you might be the only pony ever to have done this for so long! Cadance can’t help anypony if you drive her into some sort of nervous breakdown.”

Celestia narrowed her eyes, her voice suddenly breaking. “I’m not driving her towards a breakdown, Sunset!”

Sunset let out a long sigh.  “I’m not saying that’s what you’re trying to do, but it’s what’s going to happen if she doesn’t at least get a little rest! Maybe you’ve figured out the secret to working like crazy without collapsing into an unconscious heap, but the rest of us mere mortals are still working it out.”

Erm… Sunset?”  Twilight interjected tentatively as she extended a wing and pointed at it.

Sunset sighed. “It was just a figure of speech, Twilight. Just…” Sunset turned back to Celestia. “You’re going to turn Cadance into a neurotic mess like—” Sunset trailed off briefly then motioned towards Twilight “—like Twilight if you push her so hard.”

“Hey!” Twilight said in protest.

“What?” Sunset countered. “You and I know that’s true…”

Twilight sighed, “Okay… but… but…”

Celestia spoke up. “Twilight was already kind of a neurotic mess before she became my pupil.”

Twilight nodded. “Yeah! That!” she said, pointing towards Celestia.

Sunset rolled her eyes. “Sure, fine.” Sunset leveled an accusing forehoof at Celestia. “But I bet you didn’t do her any favors in that department when you took her on as your personal student!”

“But I’m happy Celestia took me in as a student!” Twilight protested.

The other ponies—

“Ahhhh! AHHHHH!” Pinkie cried. “Seriously! How much do I need to scream until some pony helps get this baby off of my FACE!”

Again, most of the other ponies in the room continued to listen, their heads now turning to the three princesses engaged in a conversation.

“I’m not saying it was a bad thing!” Sunset said to Twilight. “But…but how many times have you freaked out because you’re afraid of disappointing Celestia?”

Erm… Define ‘freaked out’,” Twilight said with a slightly sheepish look.

“Come on, Twi!” Sunset said. “If you have to think about it, obviously it’s happened a few times!”

Twilight pursed her lips into a tight frown. “Well…”

Celestia also frowned, but in concern. “Twilight… If I’ve ever pushed you too hard, I apologize from the bottom of my heart.”

Twilight raised a forehoof. “No, it’s fine. Really!” She said with a nervous smile. “Really, there’s nothing to worry about!”

“See!” Sunset exclaimed. “You can’t even tell Celestia what’s going on because you’re so scared of disappointing her!” She turned and focused her vision on Celestia, her eyes narrowing slightly. “It’s just so hard to live up to your example and you almost never let any pony know when you yourself are on the verge of collapsing! At some point you must have convinced yourself that’s just normal because you keep doing it and encourage everypony around you to join into this insane pace of working until complete exhaustion!”

Celestia's eyes opened wide. “But I… I… don’t...”

Sunset took a step closer to Celestia. “You never know when to take it easy or when you should tell other ponies they can take a break so you just end up running everyone around you ragged until we snap and do something stupid!”

Celestia suddenly stood rigid as a statue as her face managed a slightly lighter shade of white.

Luna, who like everypony to this point had been quietly observing, also reacted, wincing hard at Sunset’s comment. Twilight’s response was slower, but her eyes slowly opened wider and wider as if she was processing the full implications of Sunset’s statement. Cadance’s reaction was also slightly delayed, but soon her tired eyes carried a twinkle of realization.

Sunset seemingly took no notice of the sudden shift of Celestia or anyone else in the room, instead she continued her rant without losing any of the moment she already had going, “You don’t mean to do it, but this is what you do! You bring ponies into your life and then we all just fall apart or turn into giant messes because we can’t help but try and keep up with you and sometimes we just can’t do that and you’re too stuck in ‘princess mode’ to even notice!”

Sunset paused as if waiting for a response, only then taking note of the fact that Celestia’s body language had shifted dramatically. Although she still stood straight, it looked somewhat unnatural as if Celestia had tensed every muscle in her body. Instead of the dignified, controlled look she had been giving Sunset, Celestia's lilac eyes showed a new pain and hollowness behind them and her lips began to quiver.

It was Sunset’s turn to widen her eyes in surprise. “Erm… Uh… This is part where you start yelling back at me…”

Tears began to trickle from Celestia’s eyes as she looked at Sunset, then Twilight, followed by Cadance, and finally her sister Luna. “I’m… I’m sorry…” Celestia shook her head as the trickles from her eyes turned into streams.

Sunset recoiled in slight surprise from the apology before she bit her lower lip as she took full stock of Celestia’s current demeanor. If Sunset’s aim was to get back at Celestia by hurting her emotionally, there was no doubt in the orange alicorn’s head that she had just succeeded.

So why did she feel even worse than before? Hadn’t she spent many angry nights wishing for this? But… but she wasn’t trying to hurt Celestia right this moment… Was she? Sunset briefly stared upwards, thinking back through the moments that led up to this point and what she had just said. Her eyes shot open wide as she briefly glanced at Luna and thought a bit more about her own situation.  “... Mom?” Sunset began in a tentative tone. “I… I didn’t mean to suggest—”

 “I… I have to go…” Celestia closed her eyes, lowered her head, and bolted past Sunset into the hallway.

The corners of Sunset’s lips fell as panic suddenly gripped her features. “Wait! MOM!” She cried as she extended a forehoof. “I REALLY DIDN’T MEAN TO—”

“Sister! Wait!” Luna broke into a gallop, slowly only slightly to fire off a disdainful glare at Sunset as Luna shot past her.

Sunset felt her forehead tighten as water began to pool under her eyes. She turned and blinked hard before she lowered her forehoof back to the ground.

Once again, silence descended over everypony with the notable exceptions of the baby’s excited coos and Pinkie’s terrified screams.

“I have dreamed a dream,” Sunset murmured. “But now that dream has come from me…”

Cadance trotted up to Sunset and sat down next to her. She stared out through the open door for a moment, doing her best to ignore the holes in the wall caused by her newborn. With a calm expression on her face, she turned towards Sunset. “Well, that sounded deep,” Cadance commented. “Did you come up with that yourself?”

Sunset shook her head. “No. It’s sorta from the most published book in the whole world back where I live now.” Sunset’s cheeks flushed slightly. “But it’s more a mangled quote from a movie over there…”

Cadance gave Sunset the slightest of grins. “I see…”

Sunset let out a sad sigh and shook her head. “Cadance… Why am I such a f*^% up?”

The other ponies present let out sounds of protest and reminders about a baby present until Cadance raised a forehoof and silenced them.

“THIS IS NOT HOW I WANTED TO DIE!” Pinkie screamed.

Again… most of them.

“Oh Sunset, you’re not… You’re not that. You’ve just made a few mistakes, but still… You’ve come such a long, long way…”

Sunset turned and gave Cadance a look as if she might deck the pink princess right there on the spot.

“Sorry!” Cadance said as she raised a forehoof in front of her defensively. “But my point is you’re an alicorn now… and from what I understand that was after you basically saved your world twice! Heck. You maybe even saved Equestria one of those times… Sunset, I’m sorry about how I acted before. You’ve clearly earned everything that’s come to you.”

Sunset winced hard.

Cadance’s eyes widened slightly. “Sorry! Sorry! That came out wrong! I’m just so tired! I didn’t mean—”

Sunset shook her head. “It’s fine!” Sunset said, cutting off Cadance. “You’re right… I did earn becoming an alicorn but…” Sunset clamped down hard on her eyes. “But yeah… I deserve this… I could have avoided all of this if I just didn’t fall right back into bad habits!” Sunset shook her head. “I’m sorry everypony, I’ll go back and check on Starlight now… and… and I’ll try to stay out of everyponies’ faces while I’m here.” With that, Sunset trudged out of the nursery.

Twilight frowned slightly as she walked up to Cadance. “Well? What do you think we should do?”

Cadance turned and looked into the room. “I guess somepony should wake Shining and I’ll…” Cadance turned and looked back out the nursery. “I’ll try to figure something out… The ponies are still gathering outside at least, so I guess that’s not an immediate concern.”

“FOR THE LOVE OF THE SUN AND ALL THAT IS HOLY!” Pinkie exclaimed as she attempted to pry the baby off her face with a pink crowbar. “WHY HASN’T ANY PONY COME TO HELP ME?!” she added as the baby cooed playfully in response as the crowbar did nothing to remove it.


Still by the statue that depicted his heroic exploits, Spike sat on his stool and on top of Twilight’s list in the middle of a group of Crystal ponies. He motioned dramatically as he spoke to them all. Starlight lounged in a red-and-white striped lawn chair as she munched on popcorn, watching Spike as he concluded his story.

“…and that’s how we found the Crystal Heart, defeated King Sombra, and saved the empire!”

The Crystal ponies all cheered in response.

“We love you Spike!” A pink crystal foal with purple hair tied up in a braid exclaimed.

“Yeah! Tell the one about the Equestria games!” An off-white crystal foal with light-blue hair added.

“Well, as much as I love reliving my heroic deeds, Starlight and I have an important lesson to do—” Spike pulled out the list he was sitting on “—by order of the Princess of Friendship!”

The foals in the audience let out sounds of disappointment.

Starlight’s eyes went wide as she gulped down the popcorn in her mouth. She put on a smile. “Aw, come on Spike! I want to hear about the Games too!”


Starlight clenched down on her teeth hard as heard a very loud and very rude sound. She slowly turned her head and found herself caught in the veiny red webs of Sunset’s irate glare as the orange alicorn held a forehoof up to her lips.

Starlight swallowed. “Sunset! We were just about to—”


“Oh, Celestia! Sunset, I’m sorry but—”


Starlight let out a few desperate sobs.

Meanwhile, Spike finished writing his autograph for the last of the Crystal foals present. “Ya done, Sunset?” he asked.

Sunset just shook her head. “Just one more!”



“WHY!” Starlight exclaimed.

Sunset narrowed her eyes. “Oh, you know why!”

“Yeah, come on, Starlight!” Spike said as he walked up with the list. “I know you're nervous about seeing Sunburst, but it says right in step 3, to, uh...” Spike searched through the list with his claw then pointed at an item. “Deal with your fears by facing them, not by putting it off.”

“See!” Sunset said indignantly. “Even Twilight’s ridiculous list is telling you to get on with it.”

Starlight sighed. “Ugh. Alright... Let's go get this over with.” Starlight got up from her chair and soon her, Spike, and Sunset were trotting down the streets of the Crystal Empire.

Spike smiled over at Sunset. “So how’s everything back at the castle?”

“Great!” Sunset said with a giant smile. “No one is scared they’ll be killed by the baby and I managed to deal with all my lingering problems involving my adopted family so now everything is good and will remain that way forever!”

Starlight shook her head. “That bad, huh…”

Sunset nodded her head. “Oh, yeah…”

“You know your fake smile probably won’t fool very many ponies,” Starlight said. “I could probably help you out there.”

Sunset thought about this for a moment. “You know… I might just take you up on that.”

Soon the trio were walking down a narrow street between purple crystal houses. After some walking they came upon a modest teal crystal house with double doors, and an uneven, light orange crystal roof that seemed to even have crystal rumples leading up all the way to a something of a lopsided point. The whole formation gave the appearance that the house was wearing a wide-brimmed, crystal hat with tapered point.

Sunset’s forehead pulled forward as she looked over the strange house and took note of several diamond-shaped windows of different sizes set at various, random looking places in the house and and hat-roof. “Did… Did Dr. Seuss design that house?!”

“I told you!” Starlight said, motioning to the house. “Wizard!”

“There’s no such thing anymore!” Sunset insisted. “Maybe the house is just really old in addition to being really stupid-looking.”

“Well I think it looks okay,” Spike chimed in.

“Whatever,” Sunset replied. “The whole empire probably looks like a delicious buffet to you.”

Spike chuckled nervously and scratched the back of his head.

“Well, here goes nothing,” Starlight said as she trotted up to the double doors and reached out to knock on one.

“Wait!” Spike exclaimed.

Sunset sighed. “Oh, what now?”

Spike unfurled the list. “Knocking on the door isn’t the next thing on the list!” he said.

“Seriously?” Starlight replied.

“Damnit, Spike!” Sunset exclaimed. “I trusted you! You were the chosen one!”

Spike back and forth between the two mares. “I know Twilight can be a little nitpicky…” He said holding up two claws a short distance from each other to signify ‘a little bit’.

“A little?!” Sunset exclaimed. “Spike, that stupid Anytime Workshop Friendship-based Utility List probably tells Starlight exactly which topics to bring up or avoid so to maximize some sort of bizarre ‘conversation coefficient’ Twilight made up!”

Spike’s brow tightened as he stared at the list. “Okay, she can be very nitpicky, but this is Starlight’s first lesson as her pupil, and it's important that we do it right!”

Starlight paused as she mauled over Sunset's previous statement. “Wow. Did you come up with that name yourself?”

Sunset shook her head. “That’s the worst part! TWILIGHT came up with that name and she’s not even trying to be ironic!”

Starlight swallowed. “This information does not fill me with confidence…”

“Come on, girls!” Spike said. “We should at least give Twilight’s list a chance!”

“Fine!” Sunset said in an irritable tone. “But for the record, I bet believe that whole list is going to be completely useless here!”

“Alright,” Spike said with a smile, “your comment has been noted.”

“So, what is the next thing on the list?” Starlight asked.

Spike cleared his throat and began to read from the list, “’Before they see each other, be sure to highlight the importance of the meeting.’”

Starlight glanced upwards. “I'm pretty sure we can skip that.”

“Second,” Sunset chimed in.

“I don't know...” Spike said as he thought about it. He turned towards Starlight, “I mean if we skip it, the whole lesson could go south! And then you might end up taking a giant step backwards instead of forwards!” Spike continued, stepping back then forward on Sunburst’s steps to emphasize his point. “Maybe you'll never be able to learn anything about friendship at all!” Spike said in a borderline panicky tone.

Starlight’s pupils shrank in fear from this potential revelation as Spike quickly stepped up, grabbed ahold of her cheeks, and stared her dead in the eyes. “It's almost like your whole future depends on this moment.” Spike dashed away, leaving Starlight to ponder her potential figurative future-destroying action she was about to take.

 “‘Highlight the importance of the meeting’” Spike read off the list as he walked back down the steps. He crossed it off. “– check!” He glanced up at Starlight. “I can't believe you wanted to skip that!”

Sunset glanced up at Starlight and smirked. “Alright, I suppose I stand corrected about everything on the list being completely useless.”

Her lips puckered hard in worry. Starlight closed her eyes and softly wrapped on one of the doors a couple times. She backed away and waited for the doors to open. After a beat, she turned and stared down at Spike.

Spike shrugged.

Starlight turned away from the door.

Sunset raised a foreleg up to her lips.

Starlight’s eyes shot opened wide and she turned to face the door once more.

The door opened a crack.

“Sunburst?” Starlight said.

The shadow of a figure with a long goatee and glasses that reflected the sunlight appeared in the doorway. “Yes?” A unicorn stallion stepped into the light. He had a mane of red-orange hair and the facial hair to match. His coat was a bright orange and he had a white mark over his muzzle. “What can I do for you?”

It's... It's me—”


Starlight turned toward Sunset with a mortified expression on her face.

Spike looked the over the list in his claws and then scowled at Sunset.

“You know what you did!” Sunset exclaimed at Starlight as she raised her foreleg back up to her mouth.

Sunburst glanced past Starlight as he adjusted his glasses slightly.

“Well at least let me tell him who I am!” Starlight exclaimed.

“Fine!” Sunset replied.

 Starlight took a deep breath. “I’m Starlight. We used to—“


Starlight spun around. “OH, COME ON!” 

“What?!” Sunset said in a protesting tone. “You said you just wanted to get your name out.”

 Starlight turned to face Sunburst. “WeUsedToBeFriends!” she said quickly.

“PRRRRF-Dang it!” Sunset exclaimed.

Sunburst stepped out into the light more, which better exposed his blue cloak held together with a round blue-silver clasp as well as the slight mess his hair was in. He thought about this for a moment. “Oh, of course! S-Starlight! My goodness, it-it's been a long time! What, uh, what have you been up to?”

“WHAT?!” Sunset exclaimed. “You mean you had to jog your memory to even remember Starlight?!”

Starlight turned towards Sunset with a sad pout on her face.

“Eeessssh!” Sunset exclaimed. “Harsh…”

Sunburst looked Sunset up and down. “Excuse me, but are you Sunset Shimmer?”

Sunset stared up at Sunburst in surprise. “Wait… You recognize me?”

Sunburst nodded. “Of course! Everypony who attended Celestia’s School for Gifted Unicorns from around the time I did knows who you are.”

“Huh!” Sunset exclaimed. “Erm… why...?”

’Why’?!” Sunburst parroted in disbelief. “You where Celestia’s personal pupil before your mysterious disappearance!” Sunburst stared at Sunset’s wings. “And I don’t know what happened there, but I see you’ve returned having learned a great deal.”

Sunset smiled and turned to look at her own wings as she unfurled them to their full length. “Yeah…” she said with a proud smile.

“Can we focus?” Spike said in an irritated tone. “We’re here for Starlight!”

Sunburst’s mouth unhinged. “Is that… Is that the Great and Honorable Spike, the Brave and Glorious?!”  

Sunset turned to look at Spike. “Wow, the Crystal ponies sure don’t hold back when it comes to coming up with titles, do they?”

“Heh-Heeee…” Spike uttered as he rubbed the back of his head. “No WAIT!” He exclaimed. “This is supposed to be Starlight’s time to shine.”

Sunset smirked and stared up into the bright blue sky. “I’m glad Pinkie wasn’t here for that one.”

Spike pointed at Starlight. “Starlight! Go! Tell Sunburst of what you’ve been up to.”

“Me?” Starlight said motioning to herself. She turned to face Sunburst once more. “Oh! You know, some of this, some of that… Heh… Different... stuff. Right now, I'm sort of Twilight Sparkle's new pupil.”

Sunburst’s eyes opened in disbelief. “The Princess of Friendship?” Sunburst looked at Starlight, then at Sunset, then Spike. “So… you’re… you’re the pupil of Twilight Sparkle… AND friends with Sunset Shimmer and The Great and Honorable Spike, the Brave and Glorious?!”

“Uh… Kind of?” Starlight said as she rubbed the back of her head. “It’s been… It’s been an interesting few weeks…”

“Kind of?!” Spike said in protest. “Starlight, you Sunset and I are like this!” Spike said as he crossed a couple of claws. “I mean, we’re the founding members of PMS!”

Sunset smacked a forehoof against her forehead.

“You three founded something together?!” Sunburst exclaimed.

“Uh… Just a small society,” Starlight said. “Look, that’s not important.”

“What!?” Spike cried. “Starlight! How can you say that!”

Sunset rolled her eyes. “She just means ‘right this second’, Spike.”

“Oh,” Spike replied. “I knew that.”

“Anyway,” Starlight continued, “Twilight is actually kind of why I'm here. I mean, I know you're probably very busy.”

Sunburst’s eyes darted left than right. “What do you mean?”

Starlight glanced away briefly. Well, I figured after magic school, you'd go on to do important wizard work, but...”

Oh.” Sunburst replied. “No-y-yes! Uh, y-yes, that's me, yup.” Sunburst chuckled nervously as he stared up and away from Starlight. “Important wizard! Really busy with lots of,” Sunburst stared back at Starlight, “uh, wi-wizarding... stuff.”

Sunset began to cough, “Cough-FakeThing-cough!” 

Starlight and Sunburst paused awkwardly for a bit as both avoided eye contact with the other. “Right. Uh, well... good to see you,” Sunburst said right before he closed his door.

Huh,” Spike uttered, “Maybe we should have skipped highlighting the importance of the meeting after all.”

“Well, I guess that's that!” Starlight said with a smile as she turned and began to walk down the steps.

“Really?” Sunset replied. “You’re throwing in the towel after that pathetic display?”

Starlight looked at Sunset with an imploring look. “But… I talked to him!”

Sunset rolled her eyes. “Barely!” She snapped. “Starlight, that was just sad! I can’t believe after all the work I’ve done you’d even humor for a second that that sad attempt at a conversation was okay!”

Starlight winced, hanging her head sadly. “I’m… I’m sorry…” she murmured.

“Being sorry doesn’t fix your LIFE, Starlight!” Sunset cried.

Starlight’s eyes went wide as she stared back at Sunset with a hurt expression.

Sunset continued. “Being sorry isn’t enough to keep the people you care about happy or… or stop them from replacing you with some frickin’ purple unicorn.”

Starlight’s lips began to quiver and her eyes began to fill with water as if she might start crying at a moment’s notice as she hung her head and stared at Sunburst’s steps.

Uh, Sunset?” Spike said, raising an eyebrow. “Are you talking about Twilight or Celestia?!”

Sunset turned towards Spike, water having also filled her eyes. “YES!” she answered.

Starlight blinked a few times as she stared at Sunset, clearing the tears from her own eyes.

Sunset said nothing, opting instead to stare at Starlight with a blank expression. “Sunset? Maybe instead of talking to Sunburst, I can talk to you about—”


Starlight recoiled slightly from Sunset’s impassioned and outraged tone.

Suuunseeeet,” Spike said with a frown. “Give the girl a little credit! At least she tried.”

Sunset turned to Spike with an angry look on her face. “So frickin’ what? It’s not like she resolved anything!”

Starlight’s head jerked up and she glared at Sunset. “OH! Just like you haven’t resolved anything with Cadance, Celestia, OR even Twilight?!”

Spike stepped in between the two mares. “Alright, calm down you two… Yelling at each other is certainly not going to help anything and, it’s most certainly not on the li—”

Sunset grit her teeth. “Spike! If you mention that stupid list again, I’m going to feed it to you!”

“I know, right?!” Starlight chimed in. “How is that list supposed to magically just address all my unresolved issues with my only foalhood friend huh?! How?!”

Spike shrugged and shook his head. “Hey, I’m not sure.” He smiled. “But if it gets you two yelling at me instead of each other, at least it’s doing something.”

Sunset and Starlight paused, turned away from Spike and each other with shameful expressions.

“Sorry, Spike,” Sunset said. “It’s been a pretty rough day for me.”

Starlight nodded. “Yeah, Sorry Spike…” Starlight turned towards Sunset. “Sunset, I’m sorry about bringing up your problems with Cadance, Celestia, and Twilight.”

Sunset shook her head. “It’s fine… I deserved it…”

“No, it’s not fine!” Starlight insisted. “That was mean… I mean… My Sunburst problem really doesn’t compare at all your long-standing family stuff, or even sorta being replaced two times over… Maybe it’s too early for either of us to deal with this stuff right now.”

Sunset’s expression suddenly lost all emotion. Starlight gave her a scrutinizing look as searched the alicorn over for any hint of what Sunset was feeling. Sadness. Anger. Resentment. Anything! 

Nervously, Starlight continued, “Look, it’s quite clear neither of us are ready for this. Let’s just go back to Twilight… and I don’t know… Say that things are fine between me and Sunbur—”

“Stop it,” Sunset said in a gentle but firm tone.

Starlight stopped her sentence and stared at Sunset. “Er… Okay… but we both talked to—”

“Starlight, please stop talking right now and listen to me.”

With a slightly worried look on her face, Starlight clamped her mouth shut and looked at Sunset.

Sunset sighed and shook you head. “You lose.”

Spike squinted at Sunset as he gazed at the mare in an almost analytical fashion.

“… Ex-excuse me?” Starlight replied.

“More accurately, we both lose,” Sunset clarified.

“I, er, I don’t follow,” Starlight said.

“I’m going to go back to the castle and talk to Cadance—” Sunset shuddered “—my mom… maybe even Twilight, and you are going to turn around, knock on that door, and try talking to Sunburst again.”

Starlight’s eyes widened in panic. “But—”

“Starlight, this is no way to live life.”

Starlight went silent again as she heard Sunset’s poignant, if vague statement.

Sunset continued as she trotted up to Starlight, “We should both know by now you can’t sit around waiting for other ponies just to come out and tell us everything is alright. That we can’t just sit and wait for messages or letters that are never going to come.” Sunset shook her head as she made it to the stop of the steps. “We both know you have to do more than hope the one pony you’re waiting for is going to come and save you from your loneliness, keep you from going down a path of madness you can’t even tell is mad because you’ve convinced yourself that what you’re doing is the only way to make things right.” Sunset took a deep breath. “Starlight, we have to take matters into our own hooves by doing something a lot harder than forcing ponies to notice us or follow us in the hope that we happen to catch the one pony in our net whose attention we’re really after… We have to go up to that one pony and tell them how we feel…”

Starlight and Spike said nothing. Did nothing. They both simply stared at Sunset, both seemingly still absorbing her words.

After a few more moments of silence, Starlight hung her head. “I’m sorry, Sunset… I’m… I’m such a coward.”

Sunset chuckled. “Says the pony who led Twilight Sparkle into a trap and dueled her to a standstill time and time again.”

Starlight sighed and looked up, a slight smile on her face. “And somehow that seemed easier than facing Sunburst… easier than thinking either him or I could have just done something as send a letter to keep me from being alone…”

Sunset nodded. “I know, Starlight… I know. And that’s why you have to go back up there and talk to him…” She turned to look at the crystal castle, a solemn look on her face.

Starlight began to sniffle. “Sun… Oh, Sunse—

Sunset quickly put her hoof up to Starlight’s lips. “No! No crying! If you start crying you’re going to set me off, and I have a feeling I’m going to need all the tears I have right now so I don’t get dehydrated and die.”

Starlight took a deep breath and nodded her head as Sunset removed her hoof.

Er…” Starlight began, “Not that I’m… you know… trying to get out of talking to Sunburst but… Maybe you’d like some company for when you talk to everypony?”

Spike frowned and looked between the two mares as if considering which one he should go with.

Sunset shook her head. “No, that’s fine. I suppose I could wait until you’ve had your talk with Sunburst, but I think this is something I should do on my own…” Sunset winced. “Also, I don’t really want any other pony to see a third shouting match between my mom and I…”

Spike and Starlight exchanged glances. “There was a second?” they asked in unison.

Sunset grimaced. “Oh yeah… And it was somehow much worse than the first one even though it was quieter.”

Starlight flinched slightly. “I’m sorry.”

Sunset sighed, shook her head, and smiled. “It’s alright… Guess I’m finally going to actually do something about it.”

Spike scratched the side of his head. “So… Should I just go back to the castle, too?”

Starlight’s eyes shot open wide as a panicked expression put her in a strangle hold.

Sunset smiled and shook her head. “Naw. You, should totally stay here and support Starlight.”

Starlight let out a sigh of relief as she began breathing again.

Sunset continued, “It’s not like she did anything personally to Sunburst she really needs to make amends for, and aside from him not thinking to send a letter, there’s not a lot she needs to shout at him for…”

Starlight sighed. “Well, it’s not like I sent him a letter either…”

Sunset wrapped a foreleg over Starlight’s neck and pulled her close. “Hey, ‘letter-writing chicken’ happens to the best of us and apparently has the side effect of worlds almost being destroyed. We just need to sort some things out so that’s not a problem anymore.”

Starlight smiled and hugged Sunset back. “Alright, Sunset. If you have the courage to face your family after everything I guess it’s a pretty small order to just try talking to Sunburst again.”

Spike smiled wide. “Alright! That’s my favorite PM—AH!” Spike was cut off as a turquoise glow grabbed him and pulled him into a group hug with Sunset and Starlight.

 “Spike,” Sunset said, “just shut up and don’t ruin the moment.”

Spike chuckled and held tight to the two mares, rubbing his head against their manes. “Alright…”

The three broke the hug as Sunset once again faced the crystal castle. With a smile she turned back to Starlight. “Ready to face your destiny?”

“Ready!” Starlight said with a smile.

“Good,” Sunset said with a nod as she turned back towards the castle. “I sure hope I am…” she uttered as she spread her wings and took flight.

Starlight turned to face Sunburst’s home. “Well… I guess I’m better off than Sunset here, but I still don’t know what I should say.”

Spike smiled. “Maybe just start with explaining what Twilight wants,” he said with a shrug.

Starlight scrunched up her lips and thought about it. “Well… It’s a start…” She knocked on the door once more.

The door opened and Sunburst stepped out.

Starlight gave him a sheepish grin. “Oh, hey! Sunburst… Er… Sorry about all the noise.”

“Noise?” Sunburst said, his voice almost breaking. “Oh… er… It’s fine… Totally… totally… er… fine…”

Starlight scrutinized Sunburst’s face for a moment. His sapphire eyes were puffy and bloodshot behind his glasses. “Have you… Have you been crying?!” She exclaimed.

“Oh. Yes-NO!” Sunburst cried. “I mean… umm…

Starlight gave Sunburst a hopeful smile. “Maybe I could come in and we could talk a little?”

Sunburst took another look at Starlight and then glanced behind him into his house.

“I’ll throw in a free autograph!” Spike exclaimed.

Sunburst turned back to look at Starlight. “All-alright, sure…” he said as she stepped back and held open the door.

Starlight walked inside followed by Spike. Sunburst took a deep breath and walked inside, closing the door behind him.