“Sounds like you had quite the eventful evening yourself,” Celestia said, smiling over her teacup.
“I’ll admit, it beat getting covered in Smooze goo.” Sunset and Celestia shared a laugh. They sat in the same room Celestia had received Sunset in when she first returned. It had been two days since the Gala, and though Sunset had heard the full story of Discord and the Smooze from Twilight, it was fun to hear her teacher’s perspective on it.
Celestia took a long sip of tea once their laughter subsided. “So, how did things turn out between your parents?”
Sunset made a lopsided smile, her ears pinned back. “Well, it’s no fairytale ending. But, they’re talking. I think they’re taking things slow and kind of starting over. Ultimately, I think I knew this would happen if everything went to plan, so…” She made a full smile. “Everything worked out in the end.”
“Indeed it has.” Sitting with her back to the window and the sun streaming through, Celestia looked like an angel outlined in gold. “I’m so very proud of you, Sunset. I told you, it takes a very brave pony to try and correct their mistakes. You’ve grown up so much since I last saw you. All I can say is, I’m proud.”
Sunset felt her cheeks might burn off. “Thank you, Princess.” She nibbled on a cinnamon and ginger cookie until the glow in her cheeks faded, her mirth going with it. “Princess, I still have a problem though.”
Celestia set her cup down. “What is it?”
The pillow Sunset was sitting on had become too soft, prompting Sunset to stand and pace the floor. “I made up with my sister and got my parents to talk. I couldn’t be happier about it.” Sunset stopped, shook her head, and kept pacing. “But, I still have friends and obligations in the human world. We can open the portal whenever we want, so I can pop over and visit my family, but…” Sunset looked at Celestia with wide eyes. “I can’t keep doing that forever, can I? I’m going to have to pick one world eventually.”
Celestia quietly stood and walked around the table to drape a wing over Sunset. “You don’t want to say goodbye to your human friends, but you’re worried about your family if you leave again.” It wasn’t a question. Celestia had always been good at reading Sunset’s emotions.
“Yeah. I can’t have it both ways. But I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to choose.”
“The time difference between our worlds is dramatic. It would be hard to keep up with both.” Celestia nuzzled the top of Sunset’s head. “I’m afraid I can’t help you make that choice. It’s one only your heart can decide. But, like I’ve told Twilight, friends and family stay with you, wherever you go.” She pressed a hoof against Sunset’s chest. “Your heart is big enough to carry love across two dimensions.”
Sunset crossed her hoof over Celestia’s. “Thank you.” She knew she wouldn’t get an easy answer, especially from Celestia. Still, Sunset missed hearing her advice. And Celestia was right, as she usually was; whichever world Sunset picked, her loved ones would still be with her. She was sure the choice would make itself clear in time.
“Well,” Sunset said, slowly pulling herself out of Celestia’s embrace, “I should probably head out. I’m supposed to be heading back this evening.”
Celestia nodded, gracing Sunset with one more radiant smile. “It was so wonderful to see you again, Sunset. I missed you so much.”
Sunset made an about face and threw herself back into Celestia’s chest, hugging her warm fur. “I missed you too, Princess. I’m sorry I ever ran away.”
“Shhh. No more apologies. I forgave you a long time ago.”
They stood there for what seemed like hours. Eventually, Sunset had to pull away and move on; they both had responsibilities to attend to.
As Sunset opened the door, Celestia called out, “Sunset, wait.”
Sunset turned back, ears lifted.
“I may not be able to make your choice easier, but perhaps there is something else I can do.”
The glass doors swung open, and Twilight led four ponies inside, making a sweeping motion with her hoof. “And this is the library.”
“Wow,” Dawn said breathlessly, “All of this is so amazing.”
“Looks kinda gaudy,” Spitfire whispered into Sunset’s ear. Sunset bit her lip to keep herself from laughing too loud.
They moved to the back of the library, where the mirror sat attached to its amplification device. Small hums and beeps bounced off the crystal walls. Sunset took a moment to appreciate the scientific and magical ingenuity that had gone into this device. Twilight had overcome space and time just to help her friends, and with incredible speed to boot.
Twilight picked up her journal and set it at the top of the machine, then flipped the main switch. The humming grew louder, and the glass flashed brightly before settling into a purple vortex.
Zephyr whistled. “That’s quite the contraption there.”
“Yep, this is the gate that connects our two worlds.” Twilight pointed to the receiver. “Initially, it only opened based on the positions of the moons in both worlds, but I was able to override that by creating a new foci—”
Sunset put a hoof on her shoulder. “Maybe later, Twilight.”
Twilight blushed. “Right, ruining a family moment. I’ll just—”
Before she could slip away, Sunset pulled her into a tight hug. “Thank you for everything, Twilight. I couldn’t have done this without you.”
“Yes you could have. You need to believe in yourself a little more.” Twilight pulled away and took a step back, leaving Sunset to face her family.
Dawn and Zephyr stood shoulder-to-shoulder, almost leaning into each other. They both looked at Sunset with a mixture of pride and dejection.
Sunset stepped up and hugged both of them, becoming crushed between their combined weight. “I love you both so much,” she whispered.
“We love you too, sweetie,” Zephyr said.
“And this isn’t goodbye. I’ll come back, I promise. Just think of this as… summer camp.” That got both of them to laugh. Sunset wiggled out from their hold and reached into her saddlebag, pulling out a lightly wrapped package. “Here, this is for all of you.”
Dawn took it and unwrapped it, revealing a brown journal with Sunset’s cutie mark stamped in the middle. “What is it?”
“It’s a magic journal. Princess Celestia made a second pair, and I have the other one. With this, I can stay in touch and talk to you whenever.”
Dawn clutched it against her chest. “Then we’ll take good care of it.” She wagged a hoof at Sunset. “You just make sure to check in often, okay? Or else I’ll send your father to go check on you.”
“And don’t think I won’t do it,” Zephyr said, his threat lessened by his smirk.
Sunset kissed both of them on the cheek. “I wouldn’t doubt it. I promise, I’ll write whenever I can.” She turned to Spitfire at last. “So…”
Spitfire waved a hoof. “Spare me the emotional stuff, we’ve done enough of that.”
“Agreed.” Sunset still pulled her in for a hug, which Spitfire quickly turned into a headlock and gave Sunset a noogie. “Okay, okay, I give!”
“Whoohoo!” Spitfire let go and threw her hooves up. “Still the champ!”
Sunset fixed her mane and massaged her scalp before punching Spitfire in the shoulder. “I can’t stand you sometimes.”
“Feeling’s mutual.” Spitfire wrapped a wing around Sunset and pulled her in for a half hug. “But I wouldn’t have it any other way. You did good, dodo.”
“We did good.”
Spitfire lightly pushed her off. “All right, go on, get out of here. Just promise you’ll come back soon.”
Sunset walked up to the dais and looked back at the four ponies she loved. “I promise.” As she turned away, a chorus of goodbyes rose up behind her. She brushed the tears away before stepping into the swirling vortex.
Dear Mom and Dad,
It’s Sunset, writing you your first letter from another dimension. See? It’s just like summer camp. Or an interdimensional exchange program. I hope both of you are doing well.
There’s so many things I could tell you about the human world. You probably wouldn’t believe half the things I said though. I’ll try to stagger them so I don’t overload you guys.
I got here the day before school started, thankfully, so I didn’t miss anything. My friends were so happy to see me again, and were glad I made up with everyone. I wish I could introduce them to you. You’d know I was in good hands, er, hooves once you met them.
School’s going good. I get top grades as usual. That didn’t come out arrogant, did it? Anyways, everyone’s excited for the Friendship Games that start next week. It’s a competition between our rival schools. Well, maybe excited isn’t the right word to use. Everyone’s anxious for the games, since the Shadowbolts (our rivals) beat us every time the games happen. Maybe it’ll be different this year. Rainbow Dash thinks so.
That’s all for now, I think. Yes, I’m eating well, and I’m properly dressed for the weather (did I tell you that humans wear clothes like, all the time?). I miss you guys and I’ll try to visit soon. Tell Spitfire I said hi.
Sunset closed the journal, the front showing off her parent’s and her sister’s cutie marks. She leaned back on the steps of Canterlot High, watching the sun sink behind the mountains. She bent her arms and stretched her fingers, still getting a feel for her second body.
More maneuverability and flexibility, less magic. It wasn’t the best trade off, but Sunset knew how to make it work. Her eyes fell to the portal housed inside the Wondercolts statue. Here or Equestria? The great unknown or home?
Before she could get carried away with her thoughts, her journal buzzed in her lap. Sunset made a small squee at the quick response.
Way to remember me at the very end. I’m touched.
Smirking, Sunset uncapped her pen and began to write.
Sorry, I didn’t think you were around. I figured Mom or Dad would hang on to it. What’s up?
Nothing much. I’m crashing on Mom’s couch right now. She and Dad are cooking in the kitchen.
Don’t get all excited, they’re just cooking. Oh, and they say hi.
Tell them I said hi.
Done. So, you gonna kick flank at these ‘Friendship Games’? Lame name by the way.
Don’t ‘maybe’ me. You better go out there and win!
Ma’am, yes, Ma’am!
That’s better. You better come visit when they’re done, too. I wanna hear all about it.
I dunno. Are you gonna have security chase me away again?
Depends on if you win or not. Consider that an ultimatum.
Only to you. Well, gotta go, time for dinner. Good luck with those games.
Thanks. I love you.
Love you too, sis.