• Published 1st Nov 2014
  • 20,639 Views, 1,634 Comments

A New Sun Rises - CommissarAJ



Sunset Shimmer has never needed anyone or anything - she had her magic, she had her ambition, and she had intellect. Others just stood in her way or held her down. So what do you do when your plans for world domination fall through?

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Act III-V

By late-afternoon, Applejack and I had managed to sell every scrap of food we had in our stock. While I couldn’t speak for my workaholic friend, the experience left me practically dead on my feet. The queue for our stall seemed to stretch on forever and ever, and I swear there were a number of patrons that came back for seconds and thirds. Applejack kept insisting that the overwhelming sales were thanks to my impassioned pleas, but I was skeptical that I had that profound of an effect on people. If anything, Flash Sentry had more to do with our success than me, and perhaps Trixie deserved some thanks as well since she had brought such a large audience with her.

With all of our stock gone, Applejack and I were able to take a well-deserved break on the bleachers that overlooked a small fenced-off field being used for horse rides. I laid on my back, feet dangling over the side, while Applejack sat next to me with her legs outstretched to the empty row below us. It wasn’t quiet, but it was peaceful: the sky above was beginning to tint orange and purple with the setting sun, and the once bustling crowds of the festival had died down to ‘Monday morning at the mall’ levels. You could hear yourself think, you could talk to your friend without having to shout, and you could sit on the high levels of a bleacher without having to worry about some brat trying to take a peek up your skirt.

There were some issues that lingered on my mind even as the day drew closer to its conclusion: Flash Sentry’s sudden show of support, the fact that Trixie still had my headpiece, and the piece of paper with Twilight’s number written on it. I wasn’t quite sure how to deal with any of those, as each felt like treading upon thin ice suspended over a minefield.

“I don’t know how you manage to do this on a regular basis,” I commented idly with a tired sigh.

“Well it’s not like I do these festivals every weekend,” Applejack replied.

“I mean the whole honesty and integrity stuff,” I clarified. I tucked my arms behind my neck and tilted my head up just enough so that I could see Applejack. “When that mob showed up, if the old me had been you, she would’ve thrown the current me under the bus faster than you could say ‘freshly baked.’ You could’ve saved yourself and your business with far greater certainty if you had just gone with Trixie’s scheme.”

Applejack just gave me an incredulous look, as if I had just asked her to throw her hat into a bonfire. “I wouldn’t be a very good friend if I did something like that,” she remarked. The confusion in her tone seemed like even considering my idea was an alien concept to her. It was enough to make me feel guilty for having thought of it in the first place.

“But this business is your family’s livelihood. I don’t want to be the one responsible for damaging it.”

My friend just chuckled and shrugged before leaning back against the adjacent bleacher row. “No need to be so melodramatic, Sunset,” she said. “Sure, a bad day of sales wouldn’t be great, but it ain’t like my family’s hanging on by a thread. Heck, the second year I did this festival, we lost about three-quarters of our stock when a wayward firework from Trixie’s show set the whole stall on fire.”

And I thought I could have streaks of bad luck. Applejack had a point, though; I was being far too hard on myself again. I had always aimed for perfection throughout my life so it was difficult to settle for less. It was hard to let mistakes slide when you felt like you were already on your last chance in life.

“At the risk of sounding redundant, thanks for taking a chance on me, AJ.”

“Don’t sweat it,” Applejack said with a dismissive wave of her hand. “That’s what friends are for.” My friend fell silent for a few moments as she stared off at the grassy enclosure below. I could see a pensive look in her eyes, but it took a while before she finally found the right words. “Do you think you’ll return home when that portal opens up again?”

“I honestly haven’t given it much thought,” I answered. Unfortunately, such a prompt response was because it was prepared in advance and I realized I wasn’t being entirely honest with my friend. I was still stuck in the mindset of trying to avoid upsetting any apple carts. “Okay, that’s not entirely accurate, I’ve given it some thought.”

“And?”

“I don’t know,” I sighed. “On the one hand, I want to stay here where I have friends, and something resembling a stable life.” Yet at the same time, I wondered if I was fooling myself into thinking I had stability in this world. What kind of future could there be for a washed-up magic prodigy? High school didn’t last forever, and I doubt Celestia and Luna would let me stay with them indefinitely. “But Equestria is still my home. I’ll always be a pony pretending to be a human. And…”

I trailed off at the end, unsure if mentioning the last part would be appropriate. Considering how it led me down such a dark road in life, it seemed counter-productive to my rehabilitation, but it was an unavoidable truth. I don’t think there was anything that could ever fill that hole in my life.

“Is it selfish to want my magic back?”

“Can’t say I know the answer to that,” Applejack said with a reluctant shrug. She sounded disappointed in herself, as if not having an answer was something to be ashamed of, even if she never understood what having magic was like. “I reckon that depends on why you want it back, and what you’re willing to give up for it.”

A part of me was scared to consider that question as there was still a good chance the answer was ‘anything and everything.’ Perhaps in a few years’ time, when the portal opened up again, I would have a more definitive answer, but for now it might be best for my own sanity just to push the question from my mind. I knew for certain, however, that I wasn’t prepared yet to give up my friends for it. If I tried to go through life alone, again, I’d wind up right back where I started, except in Equestria that pit would be somewhere at the bottom of Tartarus.

“Maybe if we see Twilight again I can—” I halted my train of thought when I noticed Applejack making a ‘stop talking’ gesture with her hand. For a brief moment, I was puzzled but then I glanced in the direction she was looking and noticed an unexpected face standing at the base of the bleachers.

It was Flash Sentry.

Suffice to say, his arrival brought flashbacks of yesterday's disaster to mind. "What's he doing here?" I asked my friend in a hushed whisper.

"Your guess is as good as mine," Applejack replied with a shrug of her shoulders.

“I can hear you,” Flash said before walking a few steps up the bleachers.

Annoyed, I once again looked to Applejack with an expression that screamed ‘suspicion.’ I already had enough encounters with Flash for one weekend, and I wasn’t going to sit by and let myself get made a fool of again.

“Don’t look at me, I had nothing to do with this,” Applejack insisted. Given how apologetic she had been about yesterday’s ordeal, I was inclined to believe her. She could be stubborn even at the best of times, but even she knew a lost cause when she saw it.

Though apparently Flash didn’t share that sense of pessimism. “Applejack, do you mind if I have a word with Sunset in private?” When we both gave him a skeptical glance, he donned a reassuring and disarming grin. “I won’t bite; I promise.”

I was beginning to suspect why Flash had sought me out. It couldn’t have been a coincidence that he chose to do so now that Applejack and I were, in a way, indebted to him. I’d even say it was very clever of him if I didn’t also know for a fact that Flash Sentry had all the tactical acumen of a pigeon trying to play chess. However, even if this hadn’t been schemed in advance, he nonetheless held a significant advantage over me, and I just hoped that he wouldn’t use it to browbeat me.

Applejack looked nervous, too, though perhaps for different reasons. Her day had already reached its quota for disasters and insanity, and the last thing she needed was her co-worker making a scene in the middle of a fairground.

“I’ll be fine,” I assured her. I felt I owed it both to her and myself to give Flash a honest-to-goodness chance at a dialogue. He waited for me at the bottom of the bleachers, and then led me away until Applejack was out of earshot. There were still scattered gatherings of people nearby, but nobody was going to be eavesdropping on a couple of teenagers at a festival. “So what is this all about Flash? Calling to collect on my debt already?”

“Are you hungry? I haven’t had anything since the pie,” Flash commented, as though ignoring everything that I had just said. Maybe he was trying to deflect the issue, or perhaps he was genuinely hungry.

I was growing suspicious, but I played along. “I suppose I’m a bit peckish as well,” I answered.

“Wait right here.” Flash didn’t even give me an opportunity to speak before hurrying off to some vendor off in the distance. That just left me standing about looking confused as I tried to make sense of what he was doing. He was up to something, but I didn’t know what exactly. The uncertainty grated at my mind until I was ready to wring his scrawny neck when he returned carrying a pair of some unknown food that had been put on a stick and deep-fried. “So, Sunset, on a scale of one to ten, how badly do you want to take one of these corn dogs and stab me in the eye with it?”

“I’d say a seven,” I said with a harsh frown. “Did you just pull that in order to aggravate me?”

“I wanted to see how you’ve changed,” he said as he handed me one of the corn dogs.

The scent of fried oil and mustard did little to help my focus as it teased at my growing hunger, but I pushed that aside to focus on Flash. “If you want to make sense, I would suggest you start doing so before I get stabby.”

He just laughed at my attempt to sound menacing. No doubt wearing a maid outfit did not help my position. “Yesterday, I made the mistake of convincing myself that absolutely nothing had changed about you,” Flash explained in a surprising show of frankness. “I was so certain of it that I went in looking for even the slightest sign, and I pounced on it once I saw what I had wanted. I didn’t show you the smallest degree of trust, and I’m sorry about that.”

Needless to say I was a bit surprised. After yesterday, I did feel an apology was deserved, but I hadn’t expected to get it. “Well… yeah, you should be,” I said with an unsteady tone. “And, um, I… guess I should say sorry too.” My eyes drifted back to the item in my hand. “And how does the corn dog tie into this?”

Flash smiled and took a bite out of his snack, most likely using the chewing time to work out what he wanted to say. “Sunset, I know today went badly, and one person tried to ruin things for you. But if you want people to trust you, you need to start trusting them first.” He took another bite, this time not even bothering to finish before continuing. “I mean, if you can’t even trust me enough to eat a simple corn dog, how are you ever going to enjoy life?”

That was a very peculiar way of demonstrating his argument. Indeed, I had spent most of my time since the delivery pondering whether the snack in my hand was safe to eat. I was a vegetarian, after all, so a deep-fried sausage on a stick was about as appealing as a rotting carcass. Yet how many people spent their days weighing the pros and cons of accepting offered food? I needed to stop fretting over ulterior motives, and the only way I could see to do that was to open wide and take a big bite out of it.

In retrospect, it should not have surprised me that I was greeted with a familiar flavour. The inner portion of the corn dog was actually tofu. Were I not so caught up in my paranoia, I would’ve trusted Flash Sentry to remember this most basic of preferences.

“I couldn’t even trust you over tofu on a stick,” I lamented.

“See? I’m not that forgetful,” Flash replied. He gave me a reassuring pat on the back, but stopped when he noticed that my expression had grown even disheartened.

“You were never forgetful,” I said. If I was going to start trusting people, then he deserved to know that he was never the horrible boyfriend I routinely painted him as. “You never forgot the birthdays because I never told you my real one. It was never even the same date from one year to the next—I’d just swipe your phone and change the calendar on it so that it looked like you had missed it.”

“Wait, are you saying you moved your birthday?” Flash asked. He looked less surprised than I had expected, although given everything that I had revealed about my past proclivities this probably seemed obvious. “Ha! I knew I wasn’t going crazy!” he suddenly exclaimed. He threw his arms into the air, cheering and dancing like a frat boy at a party. “I was right! I was one-hundred percent, undeniably, without a doubt, right!

Normally I would contest somebody breaking out into a spontaneous victory dance, but I decided that it was the least I could do for him. A part of him had probably suspected foul play over the forgotten birthdays since the beginning, but who in their right mind would accuse their girlfriend of intentionally lying about their birthday? Somebody who wanted to be single, that’s who.

Flash, always late to the party, paused in mid-stride when he realized that his actions may not be the most appropriate. He tossed me an embarrassed grin as compensation. “Ah-heh, guess I should save that for later, huh?”

“Up to you. I think you’ve earned it,” I answered with an indifferent shrug. He decided to take up my offer and resumed the victory jig for a few more rotations. For a brief moment, things between Flash and I felt surprisingly… normal. It reminded me of some of our dates back when we were together, particularly when he took me to a sports game and I had to watch him break out the embarrassing victory dances when our team scored.

After several spins into his dance, the inevitable dizzy spell kicked in and he stumbled about in hopes of regaining his balance. I couldn’t help but laugh at his antics, which I suspected were intentionally inflicted upon himself. Then I said something that I don’t think either of us expected to hear. The sort of thing that if somebody that morning had told me about, I would never have believed them.

“You’re a good guy Flash Sentry,” I said in almost a wistful sigh. “I really hope nothing I did ever makes you think otherwise. And if Twilight knew what she missing out on, she’d find a way to come visit sooner.”

Apparently I still had a talent for making Flash turn several shades of red. “R-really? I mean, the stuff you said yesterday made the Twilight thing seem so final.”

I had almost forgotten about the Twilight-related barbs I had thrown about the day before. There were many things about yesterday I now wished I could do over again, and the stuff pertaining to Princesses in other dimensions came in near the top of the list. It wasn’t so much how blunt I had swung the truth hammer about, but rather what I would need to do now in order to make amends for it. As this was not something I wanted anybody to hear, random stranger or not, I motioned for Flash to follow as I led him to a secluded area between some tents.

I did a few more quick checks to our immediate surroundings to make sure that nobody could eavesdrop on the conversation. There was the occasional person who walked along the nearby path, but that was about it.

“Okay, so you know how Twilight is, um… different from most people right?” I began. Despite knowing that this explanation was going to sound ridiculous no matter how well I phrased it, I still felt foolish as I fumbled through my words.

“You mean the whole sprouting wings part?” Flash quipped with a chuckle. Always like him to try and make every situation feel a bit like a joke. “Or the part where she dances like she’s got two left feet?”

Somehow it didn’t surprise me that Twilight was a horrible dancer. To be fair, neither was I when I first came through the portal, but I took measures to help familiarize myself with the bipedal lifestyle. But regardless of Twilight’s choreography, I still had to figure out how to explain the situation to Flash without revealing too much to him. It wasn’t that I didn’t trust him, but rather I felt that the more detail I went into, the crazier it would sound. After pondering the issue, I finally had an idea.

“Give me that for a second,” I said as I snatch the half-eaten corn dog from his hand. “Okay, so here we have two corn dogs, or at least so they appear at first glance.”

“I know, Sunset, I bought them. Remember?”

“Don’t interrupt me, I’m trying to explain things so that even the little hamster inside your head will understand,” I deadpanned in response. “As I was saying, at first glance both appear to be the same: they both have a corn-batter coating that’s deep fried, and smothered in various sauces and seasoning. Inside, however, they are quite different and that’s because they have very different origins.” I wasn’t sure how well my corn dog analogy was going with Flash, but he seemed to be following along so far. Having dated for some time, I knew what his ‘glazed over’ face was. “So while this corn dog was raised on a pig farm with all sorts of other piggies, this other one actually originated in a field of soybeans. It came from a world very different from the pig’s world, so different that the pig would probably never be able to fully understand the soybean’s world. Do you understand what I’m saying?”

“Are… you saying that Twilight is made of tofu?”

“It’s a good thing you’re cute,” I said with a tired sigh.

“Does this make you tofu as well?”

If I had a free hand, I would’ve buried my face in it, but I had to settle with giving Flash the most disappointed stare of my life. “What I’m saying, Flash, is she’s from another world. That’s why you can’t get in touch with her, and why she’s stuck there for at least another few years.”

“With the tofu people?”

“Now you’re just doing that on purpose!”

Despite the initial burst of ire, the two of us were soon having a good laugh over it. I realized he was just trying to ease me away from the tension and anxiety that must have been evident in my mannerisms. He could be a real dork at times, but he had a knack for being able to get me to relax.

“Twilight’s from a world that’s very different from this one,” I continued, now without the weight of worry upon my shoulders. “And it may be for the best if those worlds were kept as separate as possible.”

“You’re still here, though, so it might not be that bad an idea,” Flash replied with a hopeful grin.

At this point, I had to just ask him the question that had been on my mind. “How in the world can you still pine for a girl after everything I just told you? I mean, I know you can be a hopelessly romantic cornball at times, but even this is pushing it. Please don’t take this the wrong way, but what chance do you honestly think you have?”

Then Flash surprised me once again. I think that’d be the third or fourth time tonight, which was quite the streak for him. He just shrugged with that same goofy smile on his face as if I had asked him something as simple as ‘what are you doing tonight?’

“Honestly? I probably don’t have any chance at all,” he stated outright. “Yes, I’m probably setting myself up for disappointment, but the one thing that hurts more than disappointment is regret. I’d rather try to fly and fall, than never dream of the sky, you know?” He reached over and took his corn dog back, finishing it off in one giant bite while I still mulled over his words. “You used to be so ambitious before; that was one of the things I had always liked about you.”

“And look where that got me.”

“So? Just means you need to change your goals, not abandon the game altogether,” Flash said with his mouth still full of food. “I like to think I know you well enough to at least say with confidence that you’ll never be happy just sitting back and playing it safe all the time.”

“You think you know me?” I replied with a skeptical smirk.

“Sure; your favourite colour is red, but it has to be the same shade as a rose. You like your coffee black because you think sugar distracts from its purpose, and that milk should only be used alone or with cookies. You spent a year with an umbrella tucked in your backpack because you still don’t trust weathermen. In class, you routinely ignore questions or get them wrong despite knowing full-well what the answers were. You push people away, but are terrified of being forgotten. And you have this tic where your right eyebrow quivers whenever you get angry.”

That was five times now, and I was beginning to wonder if Flash had some insider information on me that I was unaware of. I just stared in a dumbstruck awe as I tried to fathom when and where he picked up on those things. Had I given him far less credit than I should have? Given how quickly he was listing them off, it wouldn’t have surprised me if that list went on another minute or two.

“Wait, you knew that I wasn’t angry with you earlier today?” I asked.

He gave a modest shrug. “I might not know when you’re lying, but I think I’ve seen you angry at me enough times to know when you’re faking it.”

It felt like everything I had thought I knew about Flash Sentry had just been thrown out the window. In retrospect, I was so self-absorbed back then, it was entirely possible that I wrote him off as a threat simply because I was so confident in my initial impressions of him as being an easy mark. I should’ve realized that when he managed to work up the courage to dump me before I had a chance to bring my plans to fruition. Looking back at it now, I wondered how long he knew I was a messed up, lost cause when we were dating.

“Did you actually eat that pie to help out Applejack?”

“I’d be lying if I said that was my only reason,” he answered with a half-hearted shrug. “I guess a part of me still couldn’t just stand by and watch that crowd eat you alive.”

I knew it. “Gotta save the damsel in distress,” I said with a quiet chuckle. “You are such a cornball, Flash Sentry.”

“Old habits die hard, I guess,” Flash said as he joined in on the laughter. He looked skyward and let out a long, contented sigh. I envied his ability to stay so cheerful and optimistic, even after everything the last few months had put him through. Even the knowledge that Twilight was far away, unable to reach him, didn’t seem to dampen his spirits. “I should get going,” he announced all of a sudden. “You got a friend to get back to, and if too many people see us chumming it up, they might think we really were in cahoots.”

“Thank you, Flash; I really needed this talk,” I said. For a moment, I felt a bit awkward about how to part ways with him. He lingered in a sort of limbo of relationship, neither friend, enemy, nor acquaintance, and I wasn’t sure how to express my gratitude. Finally, I just decided to throw caution to the wind and I leaned over to give him a quick peck on the cheek. “I hope you find the girl you deserve.”

Now it was Flash’s turn to be surprised. I imagine he didn’t expect that kind of a thanks even if I had been sitting at a fairground kissing booth. He flustered and tried to hide his embarrassment behind a forced chuckle. “Don’t mention it,” he said in a haste. “Just do me a favour and stop being so scared of things; it doesn’t suit you, and you deserve to find your own happiness.”

“There you go being cheesey again,” I laughed before giving him a playful push.

“Hey, you started it!”

I decided then and there that I would heed Flash’s advice; it was time to stop being afraid of every action and consequence, or how it might affect my life at school. And there was a phone number written on a piece of paper in my pocket that was the perfect place to start.