• Published 10th Apr 2014
  • 8,140 Views, 560 Comments

Seven Days in Sunny June, Book I - Shinzakura

A tale in the Berylverse. Meanwhile, a reality away, Sunset Shimmer's life has changed since she met Princess Twilight...and it's about to change even more, whether she likes it or not.

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October 19: When It Falls

As the crumbled concrete and broken rebar began to settle, Sunset Shimmer wiped tears from her eyes, wondering how she’d come so close to changing her stripes – and now had everything thrown back in her face, despite her vow to change.

It had been just about four years ago that she’d been the prized pupil of Princess Celestia, Mistress of the Sun and Moon and Regent of Equestria, the pony powerful enough to hurtle the celestial bodies in their orbits around their world. To be chosen as her protégée was an honor above honors, especially for a simple filly from an orphanage, and for years under Celestia’s metaphorical and literal wing, the alicorn had been more than just a mentor – she’d become a mother figure to Sunset, enough so that at least once somepony broached the question of whether the princess had plans to outright adopt the young filly as her daughter. That thought in itself brought the unicorn a pride that she could never quite express.

But pride, sadly, always came before the fall, and it was in the nature of things for a daughter to eventually come to blows with her mother. And so it was with Sunset: eventually, blinded by her own growing talents and showered by the attention of the nobility due to her status as Celestia’s pupil, she became obsessed with the trappings of her station, consumed by power, and began disregarding the warnings of her mentor. With increasing frequency – and certainly without her mentor’s permission – Sunset had gazed into a mirror once owned by Princess Platinum, which depicted her as an alicorn above alicorns, far above her mentor – possibly even more powerful than Celestia’s vaunted mother, Faust, herself.

Eventually it came to blows, quite literally: Celestia, angry at Sunset’s repeated abuse of the authority given to her, sternly admonished the younger mare, only to be blasted by a bolt of magic from an enraged Sunset’s horn. Hurt by her pupil’s betrayal, Celestia did the only thing she could: she ordered the Guard to restrict Sunset to her room while the sun alicorn began the procedures to expel her from both her position and her duties. Unfortunately, the princess couldn’t have expected the rebellious unicorn to outwit her escorts and to flee through the very mirror she’d first glimpsed her ideal destiny in, a mirror which turned out to be far more than a mere looking glass.

Eventually she arrived in a new reality, housed in a strange, non-equine body and a place with foreign and byzantine customs. And yet it was strangely familiar in its atmosphere: the City of Canterlot, while neither the capital of this world nor even its most important, seemed as though at times that it was here merely for Sunset’s comfort and succor – it had certainly been an eye-opener. Somehow, she’d found herself in the life of another girl with the same name as she, and so the former unicorn portrayed herself as somepon…no, someone who had run away from home the year before and had now returned. The truth, of course, had been different; Sunset had never determined what had happened to her counterpart in this world, but it was enough that she had a paper trail that the former pony could easily step into.

She’d parlayed that into a life, opting to continue her education at the local high school – which, much to her chagrin, was run by a headmistress which was entirely too much like the maternal figure she’d left behind. Even still, she determined to make the most of her life here and work her way to the apex of this world; if she could not have the other, she would have this one. She used everything in her arsenal to rise to the top, methods of both the carrot and the stick, and by her sophomore year had become the most socially influential person within the school – the kind of individual that even seniors, who longed to move beyond to the world of college, curried favor with and occasionally feared.

Even still, she knew her situation was precarious: no one had ever questioned where she lived or who her family was, and they never checked that the address she’d listed didn’t actually exist. Far from the supposed address of 11218 Primrose Court, Sunset’s real address was quite a different one: 306 Industrial Road, specifically the former warehouse of Flim-Flam Bros. Manufacturing Co. The company had been an appliance maker decades ago, but whoever owned the building now clearly retained it for the value of the land, leaving the structure itself to rot. For Sunset, however, it was home – a hellhole of one, she’d readily admit to herself, but the only thing she could claim; and thankfully one where, due to the incompetence of some corporate stooge, the utilities had never been shut off in the small living quarters for overnight shift workers, giving Sunset the closest thing she could have to her own apartment.

But in the past few weeks, everything had fallen apart – brutally so. Through divinations, she’d learned that she’d been replaced as Celestia’s student by another young mare named Twilight Sparkle…and the pony had become everything that Sunset felt she deserved, even to the point of ascension, becoming an alicorn! With that, at the first chance she had, Sunset returned to Equestria briefly to steal the new princess’ crown, and by that act, set herself on a course of wrack and ruin, which would ultimately end up with her being possessed by an evil power and having everything Celestia – both Celestias, actually – warned her about thrown in her face…

…only to be saved by the pony that she hated most: Twilight Sparkle. It had been Twilight that had united the five girls Sunset had picked on the most and turned them into close friends within a matter of days. It had been the six of them together that had harnessed magic – something that was not native to this reality – and undid Sunset’s wanton destruction and cured her of her demonic possession. It had been Twilight who had tasked the other girls to watch over Sunset, both as a type of jailer and an instructor, to lead her back to the path of light. And it had been Twilight that had asked Sunset to give not only the world but her own self a second chance; to become a better individual, whether that individual was a pony or human.

Sunset found herself in the days after agreeing to that, paying her dues and penance, and reaching out to the others; she wasn’t completely sure they were her friends, not yet, but maybe in the future she could have that confidence – especially Pinkie, who had been kind enough to put in a good word with her aunt and uncle, landing Sunset an afternoon job at the Sugarcube Corner Café, since bullying students out of their money wasn’t going to be Sunset’s primary means of earning cash any longer.

In the days and weeks to follow, life became a little more bearable, a tiny bit more tolerable: while few remembered that she had been the cause of the school’s damage, they certainly remembered that she’d been upstaged at the school’s Homecoming and Fall Dance – though curiously, the identity of the person who upstaged her no one could really remember – and that the queen bee was now reduced to nothing but a mere drone. Had it not been for the other five girls, the sharks that had begun to swim around her would have most certainly moved in the direction of the blood in the water.

And as the leaves on the trees fell, signaling the switch from September to October, and autumn’s brisk breezes and crisp air heralded the changing of the seasons once more, Sunset felt she was almost free of her past. She’d never quite be free; she knew that her only safety was remaining here in exile away from the maternal figure she’d once scorned and the certain punishment that awaited her if she ever returned. But for as long as she kept to her side of the metaphysical line and did not wander back to a world that didn’t want her, she was safe and continue to live unmolested. And with her almost-friends by her side, she even dared to believe that she found a tiny bit of redemption for all she’d done, both there and here.

But life wasn’t as simple; there would always be a monkeywrench in the works.

Unbeknownst to her, an audit had discovered that a squatter had used the building. Going in while she was at school, they’d found her clothing and assumed it to be a flop-house or a crack den or who knew what. The easier thing to do would have been to lock the door and cancel the long-used utilities, writing off the latter as an unexpected expense for the past four years. But the building’s current owner decided it wasn’t worth the effort and opted to sell and let the new proprietor deal with the issue. They were more than covered by plausible deniability, anyway.

Either way, it mattered little: a wrecking crew was now here, tearing down the old building as well as a few other adjacent ones. Down the building went in a cloud of gray smoke, her bastion and sanctuary pulverized to dust by the swings of a wrecking ball and the not-at-all gentle ministrations of bulldozers and demolition engineers. And then, as if injury needed to be compounded by insult, on a slightly overgrown patch of land in front of the complex a second group of workers were erecting a sign proudly announcing that Barnyard Bargains Inc. would be building a new warehouse and distribution center in town, providing jobs and opportunity for the community.

Jobs and opportunity for others, yes. But for Sunset? Loss and hardship – somewhere under the rubble was everything she owned, the meager possessions she’d built up over the past four years. Thankfully, she’d left her schoolbooks in her locker, but that was a small comfort: just about everything the former unicorn had spent years creating herself into a young woman named Sunset Shimmer was gone, leaving her once again as an enigma and question mark in the world.

She couldn’t cry. She didn’t have the strength left to do so. She could probably convince Pinkie or Fluttershy to let her stay over for the night, but what after that? Where could she go? To tell the truth was at best madness, or worse, could reveal that she wasn’t the real Sunset Shimmer of this world. And what if they found the actual Sunset Shimmer? Would some girl in Chicago, Vancouver or El Paso suddenly wonder why she had a doppelganger assuming her life in the town she once lived in? And if so, what would be the former pony’s ultimate fate then?

She was so focused on her misfortune that she barely felt the tap on her shoulder. She turned to find a police officer standing there, looking at her with eyes that seemed to bore into her soul. She read the thin plastic nameplate on his deep-blue shirt: S. ARMOR.

Great – one of those kind of cops who’s practically born for the job, she thought, glumly. Could her day get any worse than this?

“You know, miss,” he spoke in an oddly bemused tone, “we usually don’t get people down here on this side of town, especially on a Saturday afternoon. Usually only demolition workers are here, and while you’ve got the orange shirt down pat, leather jackets, skirts and knee-length boots aren’t typical OSHA-standard safety equipment.”

“Gee,” she drawled, her mouth working on overtime as usual, “I must’ve missed the memo.” The moment she’d completed her sentence, it was all she could do from facepalming; Principal Celestia had warned her repeatedly that her penchant for caustic sarcasm was going to get her in trouble someday – and it looked like that day had just arrived.

The cop, continuing to hold the stoic look on his face, folded his arms across his chest. “Way I see it?” he began, “You’re either really desperate to turn tricks if you’re working this part of town at this time of day, or based on the stuffed animal over there—” he pointed to a torn teddy bear sticking out from under a slab of concrete and glass, “—you were living in that warehouse. I’m going to take a guess and say it’s the latter, because if it’s the former, I really am not in the mood to write all the paperwork to explain why I just arrested an underage prostie.”

She didn’t say anything further, just looking at him, waiting for the cuffs to be slapped on and her life made worse. Countless seconds passed as she waited for his demand to put out her wrists so she could be shackled, or for him to lead her to the backseat of his police cruiser.

But instead, a patient smile suddenly etched itself on his face. “C’mon, we’re done here,” he said. “I was about to go get lunch, and you look like you could use some yourself.”

A few minutes later, they were having lunch at the Burger Shack. Seated by the window, Sunset looked particularly nervous, because she was just a block away from the Sugarcube Corner, and though she wasn’t scheduled to work today, all it would take would be Pinkie’s aunt or uncle walking past the Shack and getting the wrong idea about Sunset being with a police officer to end that job.

“So,” Armor said, looking at her, “tell me the truth: runaway or abandoned by your parents?”

“Don’t have any,” she told him. “No, I wasn’t abandoned, and I’m not a runaway.” Technically, I’m a fugitive, not a runaway, she mused to herself, though she didn’t share that info. “I’m an orphan.”

“From where?” The cop’s answer was met with a silent stare, and he sighed. “Look, kid, I’m just trying to help, okay? Don’t give me a hard time.”

“And why should you care about me?”

“Well, one, it’s my job. And two, aside from that…I have a sister and a cousin, both about your age, and if they were in this situation, I know I’d hope that someone would care about their safety. Look, do you have anyone you can turn to? It seems like you’re getting help from somebody.”

“My age?” Oh, that was a point of contention with her if there ever was one: technically, she was almost thirty by her count, at least insofar as the Equestria Standard Calendar was concerned. But somewhere in the reality-shifting, morphing from pony to human bodyframe, and the like, when she stepped onto this world, she’d reverted in age by at least a dozen years or so, along with all the fun of having to relieve the biological “joys” of pubescence once more. Now, apparently sixteen – or so her faked ID stated – it always irked her that everyone assumed she was younger than she actually was…and every time she’d heard that, she found herself practically wanting to reach for a cider – and not of the non-alcoholic variety, either.

She gave him a vicious grin as she told him, “So what if I told you I was actually in my late twenties and that a magic spell made me look like I’m just barely north of fifteen?”

Of course, somehow he’d already expected that and had a pat answer ready: “I’d have to say you need to stop reading those Spellbound novels that are popular with girls your age, since they seem to be a bad influence; also, you’d be an adult and I’d have to arrest you for trespassing at that abandoned warehouse,” he told her. “But anyone can clearly see you’re still just a high school student, so you’re lucky I’m not buying that. Anyway, again, is there anyone you can turn to?”

“No, not really.” Now more than ever she didn’t want any of her “friends” to walk by the shack, not a single one of them. Not just because they’d think the worst, but she didn’t want to be responsible if one of them decided that they wanted to take pity on her and beg their parents – or in Pinkie’s case her aunt and uncle, since her family lived on a farm in Arkansas – to take her in. She was already a drain on them by dint of their vow to Princess Twilight Sparkle; how much worse would it be if she ended up living with one of them?

“So you’re getting your stuff by shoplifting, then?” he wondered aloud. “The mall has reported a rash of thefts lately, and the main suspect is a girl, if I remember the videos on the security cameras….”

No! Are you kidding? I’m in enough trouble as is!” she spat. If anything, she wouldn’t be surprised if it pointed to someone like the school’s resident juvenile delinquent, Gilda; as bad as others considered Sunset, she was merely a problem child, while in Gilda’s case, there was a girl who was probably destined to spend extensive time behind bars in her adult years, if not worse.

The officer did not look convinced. “Then how did you—”

“There was a stash of money in the warehouse,” she interjected. Fortunately for her, that had been true: when she replaced the stained mattress she’d first used with another one from one of the unused beds in the factory bunkroom, she found a stash-hole in the first. Within it had been about $1000; it had been a fortune during the 70s or 80s, based on the age of the bills, but for a young woman alone in her first days in a new world? It was a fate’s wheel turning in her favor.

Seeing that he was still expecting clarification, she added, “Look, it was sitting there forever, and I’d been living there…awhile…so, finders keepers, right?”

“Okay, I’m going to let that one slide, since I’ve no idea if you’re telling the truth, and trying to find out is going to open a whole new can of worms on top of everything else.” He then stared at her again and asked, “You didn’t find anything else in there, did you?”

“Yeah, I did, but I flushed it all down the toilet – I want nothing to do with that kind of stuff.” Admittedly, at first she had no idea what they were, merely plastic bags filled with white powder and dried leaves, and she’d assumed it to be alchemical gear left behind by a shaman, similar to the zebras on her world. But as she didn’t want to risk that they could be volatile, she disposed of them. Years later, when she realized what they were, she was glad she got rid of them, though based on what she’d been told, she could have really used the money for what their street value had been.

“Smart kid,” he answered. “It’s clear that you’ve been taking care of yourself, and if I had to guess, you’re probably an alright person, just a kid on the rocks trying to escape some orphanage for some reason.” He took a sip of his soda, then finished off his burger before continuing. “Even still, you’re just a minor and that means you need help. So….”


He shook his head and she heard him mutter under his breath, “Can’t believe I’m even about to do this.” He then looked at her and said, “Look, I’m going to make a call outside, so I’ll be right back. Meanwhile, finish your lunch and you can wait right here.”

Once again, her mouth was running ahead of her brain: “And if I don’t?”

“Then you’d better hope you remembered everything you just told me, because you’ll be repeating the same thing in front of a judge at Juvenile Hall.” The tone of Armor’s voice indicated that he was serious, and in that statement Sunset realized she was now trapped. Wordlessly she nodded agreement, and with that, he stepped outside and pulled out his cellphone to make a call.

Seconds turned into minutes, and by the time he finished and went back in, the call was about thirty minutes of an agonizing wait, three of which were spent cringing into her seat as none less than Applejack and Pinkie walked past the Shack’s window, with Pinkie looking in for reasons that were, as usual, only obvious to the cotton-candy-haired girl. Fortunately, her attention had been pulled elsewhere and Sunset had escaped being noticed, thus saving her the embarrassment of not only having to explain her situation, but also why she was eating lunch at the Shack instead of Sugarcube Corner Café.

As Armor returned to his seat, he said, “Whenever you’re done, we can get going.”

“Where?” she asked. “Social? Didn’t know they were open on weekends.”

“Always a problem somewhere in town,” he said sadly. “Luckily for you, that won’t be the case. That is, unless you’d prefer going there.” From the look on his face, it was clear she wasn’t going to get any other answers immediately, so that avenue was closed.

Looking at her half-eaten burger, what was left of her appetite vanished, replaced by a sense of dread. “Well, I guess I’m ready for wherever, then.”

Wherever turned out to be not quite what she’d been expecting.

“…and you’ll also be expected to help around the house and some other chores,” a woman told her, brushing locks of purple and gainsboro away from her lively ice-blue eyes. “Otherwise, we’re not going to impose anything on you that we wouldn’t on our own daughter, or our niece, since she stays over often.”

Standing there, Sunset didn’t know whether to praise or curse her luck. Wherever turned out to be the home of the cop’s parents, in the affluent suburb of San Palomino – 482 Golden Oaks Drive, to be exact. To make matters both better and worse, it turned out that Armor’s mother was the assistant director for Equestria County’s Department of Social Services. While Twilight Velvet, as the woman was named, had a Ph.D. in Child Psychology, more importantly she had the expertise that could only be gained by raising three children of her own. Furthermore, her husband, Night Light, was the physics professor over at Canterlot State University, just down the road and was clearly just as involved in his childrens’ lives as their mother had been.

Standing next to her, Night grinned as Sunset squirmed slightly. “You can relax now. You’ll be fine here, I promise. Of course, as my wife mentioned there will be some adjustments: for example, you’ll have to adjust with sleeping in a boy’s room for a while…provided that my son did clean up his room.”

Armor rolled his eyes. “Dad….” he groaned. “You know, there is a reason that Cady and I moved in together….”

Night just chuckled. “And here I thought it was because you wanted to keep your brother from getting into your comic book collection.” As the son rolled his eyes once more, Night addressed Sunset again. “Don’t mind Shining, miss. He’s a good kid and he’s marrying a wonderful gal. And I trust my son’s judgment, so if he says he thinks you’re okay, then you should be.”

A thought suddenly came to Velvet’s mind. “Oh, also, where are you attending school? Canterlot, County, or one of the ones outside the city?” the older woman asked.

“Canterlot, ma’am,” Sunset replied. As her eyes darted around, looking at the police officer, the older gentleman and the woman, there was something about them that the former pony couldn’t put her finger on, something that seemed unnaturally familiar about them that she couldn’t yet define.

A light blinked on in Velvet’s mind. “Oh! Tia! That will make things easier, then!” Seeing a confused expression come onto the teen’s face, Velvet explained, “Your principal is an old friend of mine. I guess I should call her and let her know about your change of status.”

Sunset’s eyes suddenly widened in panic – if things were problematic before, things just went nuclear, as far as she was concerned.

Twenty minutes later an all-too-familiar white Hyundai Tiburon was parked on the street behind Shining Armor’s police cruiser, its owner now sitting at the table and looking intently at Sunset.

“I should have known there was a reason why I’ve never been able to get a hold of your parents,” Principal Celestia said, sipping from a cup of coffee. Sure enough, once informed of the situation, Celestia was over in less than twenty minutes. “You know, you could have told me,” the headmistress said, an apprehensive look etched on her face.

Sunset could barely meet the educator’s eyes. Please don’t look at me like that. It might have been human eyes that Sunset was facing, but all she could see were the eyes of an alicorn a reality away, gazing at her with sorrow, hurt, and disappointment. I never meant to hurt you, Princess, Sunset wanted to say. I never had the chance to say how sorry I am…and I’ll never have that chance now.

“Is there something you wish to say, Ms. Shimmer?” Celestia inquired. Sunset turned her head away, lest she let something slip that might cause even more of an embarrassment, if not make the situation worse.

“Well, if there’s nothing else for me, my shift ended an hour ago, so I’m headed home,” Shining said. “Mom, you know how to get a hold of me just in case.”

“That won’t be necessary, son,” she replied.

“Actually….” Night dug in his pocket and pulled out his wallet, handing over a credit card to his son. “She’s probably going to need some replacement clothing and other things, so do you mind taking her? You can use my car.”

“Yeah. Are my spare clothes still in Spike’s room?” When Velvet nodded yes, Shining added, “Okay, let me change real quick, then call Cady and let her know I’ll be home late.” As Shining stepped out of the kitchen, the three adults then chatted breezily about other things in the meanwhile. This, more than anything else, set Sunset on edge, as she knew the topic would change the moment she left – and the new topic would be her. How much would the principal tell them? That she was a hellion, or that she was an extradimensional being that had briefly become a monster due to her own greed and failings? That she was being kept under control by five other girls, who served as both her friends and her wardens?

Part of her wondered at that point about the life that had been buried under rubble just a few hours ago…and if it would have been better if she’d been buried along with it.

“You’re awfully quiet,” Armor said to Sunset ten minutes later as the pair turned off of Appletree Road and into the parking lot of the local Target.

“Yes, officer, I’m wondering how much of this Faustian bargain I’m going to survive,” she muttered. Part of her statement made her wince inwardly again; though “Faust” on this world referred to a book written centuries ago, shame coursed within her as she recalled when she looked into Platinum’s magical mirror ages ago and saw herself as an alicorn outstripping even the most powerful of them all – Princess Celestia’s mother, Queen Faust.

He gave her a smile. “Hey, you don’t have to call me that while I’m off-duty, especially since you’ll be staying with my family. You can just call me Shining, okay, Sunset? It is Sunset, right, or do you prefer something else?”

“Sunset’s fine,” she muttered.

“You don’t need to be so defensive,” he told her. “I understand this isn’t going to be an easy adjustment for you. And even I wasn’t aware that your principal and my mom have been friends since childhood. But this won’t be a cakewalk for my family, either: Mom and Dad…well, I’m out of the house now, my sister will be going to college in a few years, and all they’ll have left is my little brother, and frankly, he can be a handful at times. But I know my Mom: when she wants to do something, she’ll do it, logic be damned.”


He nodded. “Hell, I just vouched for you with my parents, which probably is pushing mine and Mom’s luck, considering our jobs. After all, I’m a cop and you can’t just take strays in, and though my mom’s the assistant head of Social Services, even she’s gotta play by the rules. What we both should be doing is taking you down to the local family shelter until Social Services can find a foster home for you. But I meant what I said earlier today: I can see something in you that says you’re a decent girl at heart – but it’s clear you need help and I think you’re worth the risk.”

“Thanks,” she blurted as they parked, blushing slightly at the compliment. It had been quite a while since she’d had an authority figure of any kind give her a response that wasn’t disdain, scorn or apathy.

“Tia, tell me everything – don’t leave anything out.”

Celestia looked at her oldest friend. “Fine, Vel – part of me wants to tell you to have your son drop that kid off at the family shelter while you still can.”

“You know I’m not going to do that,” Velvet said, taking a drink from her own coffee.

“Tia, I’m getting the feeling there’s something about her that’s more than the obvious, isn’t there?” Night asked.

She nodded. “Well…if she was just a mere queen bee, I wouldn’t be too worried.”

Velvet blinked. “Wait – she’s just a sophomore, if I’m guessing right. She’s the school’s Alpha Bitch?”

Celestia nodded. “You got the sophomore part right. As to the other part, she was. Remember the incident at my school? That happened the night of the Homecoming Dance, and apparently the students got fed up with her and elected someone – anyone, I really don’t remember who – as Homecoming Queen. Which brings me to my other concern.”

“Which is?”

“She’s got a temper on her. You could say it borders on the demonic.” Celestia paused to gather her thoughts. “Velvet, you and Night are my friends. I was your bridesmaid at your wedding. You were there when I broke up with Discord—”

“Still don’t know what you saw in him,” Velvet said.

Celestia laughed. “Vel, you do know that he’s a world-famous hard rock musician now, right?”

Velvet shrugged. “Sorry, always preferred jazz to rock.”

“Well, I’m cautioning you as a friend: I’m not really sure this is worth it. I have dealt with that girl since she was in Seventh Grade and she is a problem, a disaster in waiting. I have two female students at my school that are huge fucking problems, both of which will likely end up in jail or dead…and Sunset Shimmer is a hair’s breadth from becoming number three.”

Velvet sat there, quiet for the longest time. Night sat there, also quiet, but his silence was different, Celestia knew. When it came to her old friend, it was because she was about to “pull a Velvet”, as people were fond of saying even as far back as high school. When it came to Night, his thoughts mainly involved trying to figure out how he was going to keep the two women from arguing.

“Tia? Fuck you,” Velvet said simply.

That’s real mature, Vel.”

“You’re like a sister, which is why I’m being nice. But I’d like to remind you that you’re a school principal. You chose this job in order to help grow future minds and shape the course of young minds – hell, if you didn’t do this, you’d probably have become a politician or something. But I can’t believe I’m hearing someone I know so well give up on a girl.”

“She’s not a normal girl.”

“No, she’s a girl that’s been living on her own for at least, what, four years that you’ve known her? Can you imagine what that would do to a little girl? She probably had to face tons of things completely by herself, and many of them are not nice, especially when you’re female.” Velvet rose from her seat, her face scrunched in anger. “Tia, I am not giving up on that girl – someone has to be there for her…and I suspect she’s looking at you for guidance.”

“Me? That’s rich.”

“Have you fucking looked at her – really looked at her? She can’t face you! Every time you looked at her she flinched like she was afraid of you!”

“Me? But I—”

“I dunno. Maybe you remind her of her mother or someone important in her life for some reason. Or maybe you’re the first major authority figure in her life that she hoped she could reach out to for help…and here you are, telling me to give up on her? Really?”

“I know what I’m talking about,” she insisted.

“Just like when Lulu was going through that Goth phase? Using black makeup left and right and insisting everyone call her ‘Nightmare Moon’ – and your answer then was to pound some sense into her…literally. Tell me, does she still complain about the arm you broke still twinging now and then?”

Tia rose from her seat. “That’s uncalled for, Vel – besides, my parents and my older sister chewed my ass off over that. Or did you forget that I was grounded for a whole month because of our fight?”

“Yeah, and you deserved it for being such a bitch – and Luna ended up spending a week at my place because she was afraid of you!”

Night rolled his eyes. “Ladies? Every time you argue, you bring this up – which means that you’ve already blown your tops and if you were still younger, you probably would have thrown punches. Good thing I’m here to remind you that A, you two will have to explain black eyes if you do; and B, we still have to discuss the fate of a young girl, right?”

“We don’t,” Velvet said. “I’m keeping her, and that’s final – and you’re going to help me,” she said, pointing at Celestia.

“Fine,” Celestia grunted through gritted teeth. “But we’re doing this my way, got that?”

Velvet glared at her old friend – and a second later, a wide grin came over her face. “Deal.”

“Good,” Night said. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go call NORAD and tell them they can stand down from DEFCON 1.”

Forty minutes of shopping later, Sunset and Shining returned to his parents’ home. Seated at the kitchen table was Celestia; it was clear that she’d been waiting for their return. “Shining, if you don’t mind, I’d like to have a word alone with my student.”

“Fine by me,” he told her. “Cady’s probably going to kill me for being home so late anyway,” he said with a grin. “Where’s Mom and Dad?”

“Both of them went off to pick up your brother from a birthday party he was at, I believe?” she told him.

“Okay, I’ll just call them later, then. Take care, Celestia. And you too, Sunset.” With that, he departed, leaving the two alone in the kitchen.

It didn’t take long for Celestia to begin. “I’m guessing you’re wondering what I told them?” the educator asked, and Sunset nodded. Giving her student a softer glance, she answered, “Don’t worry, I didn’t mention that. I owe a debt of gratitude to that alien princess for fixing everything, and I am a woman of my word, so I’m going to keep my promises to her. Plus, even if I could explain it all, I doubt Velvet would believe me or Luna anyway. Besides, most people just think that the incident was the result of poor construction when the school was built.”

“Thank you,” Sunset said in a soft voice.

“Oh, I’m not done yet,” Celestia said, and the smile disappeared. “I just had to lie to my best friend, someone I’ve known nearly all my life, just to cover for you. Velvet and I have been friends since before high school, so she’s like family. Furthermore, Shining is marrying my niece, and so that will make them quite literally my family. So as you can see, this is very personal for me.” Celestia took a drink from her coffee, and then continued.

“So I want to make this crystal clear, Sunset Shimmer. This chance you’ve been given? It’s your last. I won’t tolerate any more lies, deceit or whatever you have on your plate. As of now, Velvet will be giving me weekly reports on how your life is here, and likewise, I’ll be doing the same for your schoolwork – so that means no more getting Snips or Snails to do your homework for you.”

Sunset shifted in her seat. “They don’t speak to me anymore since…you know,” she said, starting to wish she was somewhere else at the moment. She wasn’t sure if they even remembered what she’d done to them or even what they’d done to their fellow students, but the two did recall enough to know they wanted to stay the hell away from her.

“Good. Also, I’ll be informing the vice principal of this as well. I know it’s rumored in the school, so let me spell it out for you: yes, Vice Principal Luna is my younger sister. But what that means is that in this arrangement, she’ll have just as much involvement, including getting a hold of Velvet should she need to, understood?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Lastly, I feel that your friends should be made aware of the change in your residence.”

At that, Sunset panicked. “No! Don’t! Please!”

Though she kept it off her face, Celestia was shocked – she now saw the fear Sunset had on her face, completely directed at her. Shit. Velvet, you were right. The thought shamed Celestia slightly and she forced her anger and mistrust of the alien teen to subside. “I didn’t say I would be the one to tell them; I think it should be you.”

“I…I can’t,” Sunset told her.

“Sunset, one of the things you need to learn about humanity is that we rely on each other. I don’t know how things were for you on your homeworld, but if that princess’ actions were typical of your kind I suspect that your species and ours aren’t really that different. Maybe someday there will be an official meeting of the worlds and we’ll find out, but until that time, you’re just a human girl and you need to rely on…well, human nature. And part of that is your circle of friends.

“So I’m going to give you until Monday to tell them – but if you don’t, I will. I’m aware that you work part-time afterschool for the Cakes, and as the guardians of their niece they deserve to know about you and your situation, but that much Pinkie can tell them. Regardless, they are your friends, and they’re likely concerned about you, as that’s what friendship is about, after all.” She drained the remaining coffee, then looked at the teen once more. “Now, do you have any questions for me?”

“No, but I do have something to say, ma’am: it sounds like you really don’t have much faith in me.”

“Given your track record, can you blame me? Fortunately for you, I have a promise to keep and faith in my students…including you.”

At that point, the front door opened, and a second later, Velvet wandered into the kitchen. “We’re back. Hopefully you two had a nice little chat.” Seeing the slightly guilty look on her friend’s face and the shattered visage of the young teen, Velvet shook her head. “Tia, what did you do?”

“Just as we discussed, nothing more, nothing less,” Celestia lied again. She knew Velvet knew she was lying, but also knew this wasn’t the time to call her on it. “In any case, I need to get going, since you’re back and she’s under your care now. Besides, I have plans for tomorrow and I have some paperwork to catch up on as well.”

Both adults briefly stepped out of the kitchen while Velvet saw Celestia off; she heard some slight murmuring and knew they briefly continued their conversation, but it was a moot point as a second later, Velvet was back. “Well, with everything going on, I guess I should just order delivery tonight. What sounds good to you? Chinese or pizza?” Sunset didn’t answer; she was still recovering from what she’d just processed. But Velvet had seen enough of that in her kids and she knew what that meant.

“Look, Sunset,” she said, taking the seat Celestia had been in just a minute before. “Don’t worry too much about whatever she told you. While Tia and I don’t always see eye-to-eye, we do agree on a lot of things and one of those is that you’re worth taking a chance on, regardless of what she may have said. Believe me, I’ve seen much worse kids than you get hauled off to Juvie, and you’re not even remotely one of those types.”

“But I—” Sunset began.

“And I don’t care about that,” Velvet cut her off gently. “It’s in the past, so let it stay there. You know, I remember a saying that one of my college professors once told me at the start of his course: ‘It doesn’t matter what you were in the past: if you’re awesome now, no one can tell you otherwise, but if you’re a loser now, no one will ever believe you were once awesome.’ And I’ve taken those words to heart.

“Celestia told me that you had problems in the past, and given what my son told me, that’s rather obvious. But I’m not inviting the girl that was then into my house, I’m inviting the girl that is now. And the question is: what kind of girl does she want to be?”

Sunset smiled timidly. “A girl who likes moo goo gai pan?” she voiced.

“Excellent! I love kung pao chicken, myself, the spicier the better. Anyway, let me find out what the boys want, and we’ll make the order.”

The “boys” turned out to be Night Light and their youngest son, eight-year-old Spike. As they ate, Sunset thought there was something familiar about the youth, but she couldn’t figure out just what. In any case, Spike turned out to be rather chatty and a smartass for his age and certainly bold enough to challenge Sunset to several rounds of Super Smash Bros. Wii U, which he turned out to be pretty good at…and that she completely sucked at in comparison. But eventually, he had to go to bed, thus sparing her further embarrassment.

As he went upstairs, Night gave Sunset a smile. “Well, Spike likes you, so that’s a good sign,” he told her. “You’ll meet the final member of our family tomorrow – my daughter. She and her cousin are out of town right now, but she should be back sometime tomorrow. You’ll have plenty of time to get to know both of them, hopefully; I think you three will get along great.”

“Unfortunately, I have to work tomorrow,” Sunset told him.

“Well, I can drop you off, and if you get off early enough, maybe we can all go out to dinner afterwards,” Velvet suggested.

“You know, that’s not a bad idea; she should probably meet Cadance, anyway,” Night said. “Cadance is a real sweetheart, and we absolutely adore her.”

Velvet yawned and said, “Well, it’s been a long day for me, so I think I’m going to turn in for the evening.”

“Yeah, I’ve got to grade some term papers, so I should just go to bed now and get up early tomorrow – think I’ll join you,” Night agreed. “Sunset, you don’t have to knock out just because we old farts aren’t young enough to stay up to watch Saturday Night Live like we used to.”

“Besides, I’m not even sure it’s worth it anymore since Wordplay and Smartalec both left the show,” Velvet added.

“Actually,” Sunset said, standing up and stretching, “I probably should as well. It’s been…a stressful day and tomorrow’s going to be just as long; besides, I need to figure out how I’m going to tell my friends about all this.”

“Well, you know where your room is, Sunset,” Velvet said, gently, “and you should be fine – unless you want to be tucked in for the night.” Seeing the mortified look on the teen’s face, the older woman laughed. “Have a good night, Sunset.”

She stood in the center of a great spotlight. Around her was darkness. And she was in her original form: hooves, horn and fur. But something felt very wrong to Sunset, very of—

“ENOUGH!” a voice thundered and the unicorn bristled. She turned around to see eyes of flame and rage looking at her. “You dare to return, Usurper?” Celestia, Regent of Equestria and Mistress of the Sun and Moon, glared at her former student with enough intensity to melt steel.

“I…I’m sorry! I’m sorry,” Sunset sobbed, her words catching in her throat. “I didn’t mean any of it!”

“You should have thought about that sooner, Usurper,” Celestia snarled, her horn glowing like a star. “Instead, you nearly caused a cataclysm on two worlds and imperiled countless lives. ‘Sorry’ doesn’t even begin to undo the damage that you’ve caused! And to think! I had such high hopes for you – I had even hoped to take you in as my daughter, as I’d hope you’d ascend. But you met my kindness with greed, and you’ve chosen to take the Left Hoof Path. Well, I’ve dealt with threats before, Usurper – and I will crush you just as easily.”

“Please, forgive me!” Sunset shouted, hoping to reach the mentor and mother figure she’d loved. But before she could say anything, the princess was gone.

“You did this to yourself, Sunset,” a voice said from behind her. Sunset turned to see Twilight Sparkle, Princess of Magic, behind her. “You could have been me – you were supposed to be me. If things had worked out different, I might have even been your student. But here we are, and I’m an alicorn…and you’re Public Enemy Number One.”

“But I’m changing, Twilight!” Sunset said. “You told me to find it within me to be the pony I was, and I’m trying!”

“But not fast enough – not nearly fast enough,” Twilight said, sounding disappointed. “Furthermore, you hurt Celestia, and it’s been up to me to be the balm for the injuries you’ve caused her. But those scars will forever remain, Sunset. I hope you realize that.”

“But she’s the Princess! She’s a goddess! She’s all-powerful and benevolent!”

“Even the benevolent can be pushed too far,” Twilight said as she disappeared.

“I told you that you were a screw up.” It was Celestia’s voice once more, but somehow different. “How long will it be before you ruin another foster mother’s life?” Sunset turned around to find Principal Celestia standing there, anger in her eyes. “My best friend will suffer because of you!”

“So even now she continues her traitorous ways?” Celestia’s voice – this time the princess – asked the educator.

“Of course – does a tiger ever change its stripes?” one Celestia asked the other.

“Never,” the alicorn said, her horn charging with immense power.

“Then she needs to be removed before she becomes a cancer on both your world and mine,” the principal advised the royal.

“And gladly!” Princess Celestia said, arching her wings up. A huge ball of fire began to form in the space between her wingtips, the sphere of power being fed magic by the princess’ white horn.

“And all you had to do was to be a decent pony,” Twilight Sparkle said as she appeared between the two Celestias. “And in the end, you couldn’t even do that.”

“DIE, USURPER!” Princess Celestia roared as she launched her massive blast at Sunset.


—OOOOOOOO!” Sunset shouted, sitting up in bed. She was gasping heavily, her heart pounding faster and harder than the drummer for Discord’s band. She found herself shaking, shuddering from the cold that she knew wasn’t coming from the lack of temperature in the room.

Celestia – my Celestia – is going to kill me the next time she sees me, Sunset realized with utter terror. And what’s more?

I deserve it.

The tears came as the teen buried her face in her hands and wept uncontrollably.

Author's Note:

Well, here we go! This was a much-needed break from the world of All-American Girl (though that's still ongoing, of course!) and the chance to not only pay Blue back for all the help he's given in the AAGverse, but also a chance to mess around with someone else's legendarium. :twilightsmile: 7DSJ will not only put his Berylverse in a way it's never been before, but will also set the stage for the third main story in the series.

The plan is, Book I will be under my aegis, Book II will be launched by him, and then back to me for the aftermath of Book III. We've been planning this one for a while, so we hope you'll enjoy this detour!