• Published 1st Nov 2014
  • 20,636 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 IV-VI

The next morning, my journey down to the kitchen in a half-awake stupor was broken from its usual routine when I noticed a peculiar fragrance in the air while en route. It had a sweet and warm aroma to it, growing more intense and inviting with every step. When I found the source, I was greeted to a number of surprises.

Firstly, both Celestia and Luna were already in the kitchen, which was unusual as Luna was not what one would describe as a morning person. In fact, she hated mornings about as much as cold coffee and poor wifi reception and slightly less than frontal lobotomies. I had thought it would take a full-scale invasion to get Luna to wake-up early on a Sunday, but the second part of the surprise revealed something more compelling.

“Ah, good morning Sunset,” Celestia greeted me. “You’re just in time for waffles.”

Yes, waffles; and not the frozen, store-bought variety either. Sitting on the breakfast table before Celestia were pair of large, golden-brown waffles, smothered in maple syrup, whipped cream, and strawberries. These were freshly made, and their source proved to be the final piece of my morning’s surprise. Luna was making the waffles, standing over a waffle iron holding a bowl of what I could only presume to be hand-made batter. I was almost too stunned for words. Luna was the kind of person who thought a microwave pizza took too long, and here she was going through all the labor of making waffles from scratch. Had I stepped into another parallel dimension?

“We have a waffle iron?” I remarked in disbelief. “And you cook?”

“We do, and I do,” Luna chimed in response. “Given everything that happened yesterday, I figured we needed something to mark the occasion. And contrary to what some older sisters who shall remain nameless might suggest, I am not completely incapable of preparing my own meals.”

“True as that may be,” Celestia replied, “but you can’t subsist on a diet of waffles alone.”

“Not with that attitude,” the younger sister quipped.

Though I had yet to shake the sense of confusion, the idea of fresh waffles gave me something more enticing to think about. After fetching myself a glass of milk, I joined Celestia at the breakfast table. I noticed she wasn’t reading the newspaper like she usually did, but was instead reading over some papers in an open folder. I couldn’t make out what was on them aside from lots of numbers, but judging by the school district’s mark at the top of the page and Celestia’s expression that screamed ‘this is what makes school administrators wake up in a cold sweat,’ I figured it had to do with her meetings yesterday.

“How bad is it?” I inquired.

With a disheartened groan, she replied, “Better than I had feared, and worse than I had hoped.”

“So on a scale of ‘one to fired?’”

“I’d say a six,” Celestia said, thankfully managing a weak smile back. “The good news is that the board has agreed to provide some measure of emergency funding to the school; the bad news, though, is that it will only be for items they deem essential and will be approved on a per case basis.”

“Meaning that because the board has lost confidence in Celestia, they’re insisting that she has to come to them with hat in hand every time we’re about to run out of money,” Luna explained as she arrived at the table with a plate of fresh waffles in hand.

“Still, that does mean we don’t have to worry about losing teaching hours,” Celestia continued. “However, unless we can find other sources of funding, the school’s extracurricular activities are going to suffer the most. We might even need to cancel a few of the clubs just to save money.”

While normally I would’ve been lamenting the fallout of my sins, particularly on my fellow students, but it was hard to focus on anything when you were hungry and fresh waffles were staring right at you. The smell was so enticing I was tempted to jump out of my seat and snatch them from her grasp. I should’ve too, as what followed suit was nothing short of ‘cartoon villain’ level of evil.

“Now no more talking about work while in the presence of my waffles. It upsets the dining atmosphere,” Luna insisted, but had yet to set down the next plate.

“What would you suggest we discuss instead?” Celestia asked.

Luna suddenly looked to me and smirked. “We could always ask Sunset about her boy problem.”

“Boy problem?”

“I do not have a boy problem!”

Luna and Celestia just exchanged playful glances, all but confirming that this was just a clever ploy that the two of them were in on. It was like being hunted, except with words and an absence of the sweet release of death at the end.

“Well, without any breakfast conversation, there’s not much point in breakfast, now is there?” Celestia mused to her sister.

“And without breakfast, then there’s not much point to these waffles,” Luna added. She made an effort for a dramatic pivot before a slow and deliberate march towards the garbage bin.

Hunger made for a very powerful motivator, especially first thing in the morning, and it cannot be stressed enough about how intoxicating the aroma was. It was the sort of fresh-baked bouquet that would’ve made grown men push their own grandmother down a flight of stairs just to get at, and Luna was about to toss them away like week-old leftovers. The closer she drew to the garbage, the louder my gut snarled in protest. My mind fell into a panicked frenzy trying to quickly weigh what I had to gain with what I was risking, a process made all the more difficult by Celestia being not in the least bit subtle about how much she was enjoying her breakfast.

“This definitely needs more whipped cream,” Celestia announced.

“Oh, come on! Now this just isn’t fair!” I protested.

Alas, my words fell upon deaf ears. As I watched Celestia take another mouthful of her fresh-baked delight, my stomach was ready to climb up my throat and throttle my brain for its insubordination.

Finally, my willpower cracked. It was simply no match for the primordial need to feed.

“Okay, I’ll talk! Just bring ‘em back!” I yelped as I threw my arms up in defeat.

“I’m glad you’ve decided to see reason,” Celestia reveled in her victory. “So why don’t you tell us a bit more about this boy problem? Maybe we can help you find a solution.”

I sighed and groaned, more from the realization that my secrets could be wrested from my grasp with only a judicious application of fresh-made waffles. At least I had breakfast to soothe my wounded pride.

“For starters, it doesn’t involve any boys,” I answered before taking that first mouthful. To say that it was the best tasting breakfast I’ve had since living in Canterlot would be as much of an understatement as saying that Nightmare Moon was a bit of a grouch.

“Oh! So it’s a girl problem?” Celestia replied with a hint of surprise. “Well, I do understand that the adolescent years can be a very confusing time for a young woman. Why, back when I was in college, my roommate and I—”

“N-not that kind of girl problem!” I almost choked on my waffle in order to blurt that out, stopping the conversation before it went off in the wrong direction.

“Wait, wasn’t Ms. Yearling your roommate in college?” Luna asked.

“That’s right, and you know how Yearling is now, just picture how she was back in college when everyone was really adventurous and wild,” Celestia explained, chuckling quietly to herself as she began to reminisce. “Why, there was this one time during our third year at a friend’s birthday party when—”

“Lalalalala! I’m not hearing any of this!” I shouted with my hands clasped over my ears.

Now there were a lot of things I would have gladly endured instead of talking about my Twilight Sparkle-related problems: being coated in honey and thrown into a pit of fire ants; having my appendix removed by a blind and drunk surgeon; or even listening to the entirety of all Yak poetry, including the masterpiece ‘Ode to the Tangled Brown Knot of Fur I Found on my Belly one Autumn Eve,’ a poem that was once misconstrued as a declaration of war. As I soon discovered, there was something that could compel me, and that was listening to Celestia talk about her wild college years.

“Very mature, Sunset,” Celestia replied. “Why don’t you tell us about this problem then?”

“Well for starters it’s not really a ‘girl’ problem, rather it’s a ‘friend’ problem who just so happens to be a girl,” I began.

“If this is just a friend, why are you so secretive about it?” Luna inquired.

There was a question I wasn’t sure I wanted to answer. Telling either of them about Twilight was probably just as risky as telling any of my friends. However, they would just turn the thumbscrews more until this information was dragged out of me.

I would not make a very good spy.

“Well, the reason is… um, that friend… it’s Twilight Sparkle.”

“Oh god, did you steal something from her again?” Luna groaned almost immediately.

“It’s not like that at all!” I quickly insisted. “I mean, it’s not even the same Twilight.”

“Not the same Twilight?” Celestia repeated.

Lucky for me, Luna decided to alleviate her sister’s confusion and spare me from another long talk about the nature of Equestria. “You remember all the stuff I told you last night? About her world and how it has a Celestia and Luna in it as well.”

“Oh right,” Celestia nodded in understanding. “So the Twilight Sparkle we met was the one native to Sunset’s original home, and the one in question here is the Twilight that’s native to this world. But then why all the secrecy?”

I let out a quiet groan as I mentally braced myself for what would surely come. “Because none of my friends know that I’m friends with her. I’m worried that if they find out, they’ll want to be friends with her too in order to compensate for the other Twilight’s absence, and then something will eventually slip that reveals the other Twilight’s existence and that’ll just lead to a lot of questions that I’ll have trouble answering.”

“That actually makes sense,” Luna remarked.

“Wait, you agree with me?” I replied in disbelief.

“Well, you could maintain plausible deniability if it were just a slip of the tongue, but there are photos from the Fall Formal of her,” she explained. “The school board is breathing down our necks enough as it is without drawing more attention with doppleganger students or magic portals.”

Now I felt even worse for bringing this subject up. I hadn’t considered what it could mean for Celestia and Luna, though the risks to Equestria were still a greater concern in my opinion. At least Luna was understanding, which was a small, yet surprising, comfort; Celestia, on the other hand, was less so.

“She’s still keeping secrets from her friends, though,” Celestia pointed out, more to her sister than to me. “This isn’t good for her in the long run, especially since we’re trying to avoid any further deceptions.” She then turned to address me again. “How did this even happen? If you knew it would be a problem, why did you go along with it?”

“It just… sort of happened, you know?” I offered up as a paltry excuse, as though friendship was something you could just trip and fall into. “This Twilight… she’s not like the other one. I mean, they have a lot in common, but she’s not nearly as confident or outgoing. When I met her, it seemed like she didn’t have any friends at all, and I knew how that felt.

Celestia sighed and gave a half-hearted smile. “Well, problems or not, I’m proud to hear that you’re out there making new friends” she said. “I might not agree with you keeping this from your friends, but I understand your concerns.”

“It won’t be forever. When I think she’s ready, I’ll introduce her to the others,” I insisted. “Not that it really matters at this point; I’m not sure Twilight is going to want to speak with me again.”

“Oh right, the girl problem,” Luna mused.

“Must you keep calling it that?”

“Apologies. I just find this… refreshing. It’s nice to deal with a problem that doesn’t involve magical beings from other dimensions running rampant.”

Though her chuckling did annoy me, I couldn’t fault Luna for finding amusement where she could. Given my recent track record for problems and the resultant collateral damage, a mere disagreement between two friends was seen as a walk in the park.

“Anyways,” I said as it finally came time to explain the heart of the problem, “Twilight found out that I used to sell essays and such online, in particular to a classmate who frequently gives her a hard time.” I could still remember the look on my friend’s face when the realization set in. Though she never outright said it, that sense of horror and betrayal was self-evident. Having a conscience was no fun, especially when your past mistakes kept coming back to ruin the few good things in your life. “Twilight is a model student; she prides herself on her academics. She knew I used to do bad things—I’ve told her so—but I don’t think she expected helping others cheat.”

As I sat in silence, eating my waffles in order to avoid looking too anxious, Luna and Celestia exchanged glances and began to mull over my problem. For a moment, it looked as though the two sisters were conversing using some form of psychic connection, but the more probable explanation was that they just knew how the other thought well enough to know the outcome.

“You can handle this,” Luna announced to break the silence. “My way would’ve been more fun, though.”

“Why am I getting a sudden sense of dread and terror?” I asked as I watched the younger sister walk away from the table.

“She’s just being melodramatic,” Celestia reassured me. “I think I know how to fix this, but you’ll have to trust me on this.”

*******************

On the list of unexpected things to find on a Sunday morning, the look on Twilight’s face when she opened the front door and saw me standing on the other side suggested that I ranked somewhere below ‘finding a rabid wolverine in your underwear.’ On the bright side, she didn’t immediately slam the door in my face, so at least I had an opening to say what I needed.

“Hi Twilight,” I greeted.

“S-Sunset? I—but… what?” Twilight stammered at first. I gave her a few more moments to try and unclog her brain. “How—I mean, what are you doing here? D-did Shining tell you where I live?”

“I need you to come with me,” I explained. I gestured over my shoulder to Celestia and the car parked by the side of the road. “It won’t take long, but there’s something I have to show you.”

“Oh, um… I can’t. I, uh… I have a lot of work to do and—”

Just then, another voice spoke up, causing Twilight to freeze on the spot. “Who’s that at the door, dear?”

An older woman walked into view, standing behind Twilight with a curious but optimistic look upon her. It wasn’t hard to deduce that she was Twilight’s mother as my friend looked thoroughly embarrassed, though because of which of us was left to be seen.

“Oh! Are you Twilight’s friend?” she inquired.

I nodded and bowed my head politely. “I like to think that we’re friends. My name is Sunset Shimmer.”

“Twilight Velvet; it’s a pleasure to finally meet you.”

At first I had been a bit nervous being faced with Twilight’s mother; you can never be certain if they’re the sweet and doting kind of mother or the ‘grizzly bear in disguise’ variety. I had yet to see evidence of which, but at least she was welcoming despite the recent troubles.

“I was hoping I could just borrow Twilight for a little while,” I explained to Velvet. “It’ll only be for an hour or so, I promise.”

“Of course, of course! Just be sure to bring her back in one piece,” Velvet replied with a quick chuckle under her breath.

“B-but Mom, don’t I have… chores or things to do?” Twilight replied, apparently desperate for a valid excuse to stay home. “I mean, Dad asked if I could—”

“Don’t you worry about your father. He’ll be fine on his own,” Velvet insisted as she gently eased her daughter out the door. “Just be sure to give us a call if you need a lift or are planning to stay out late.”

“R-right, of course,” Twilight nodded, unable to refuse her mother’s instructions by her rigid adherence to being the dutiful daughter. As the door shut behind her, Twilight looked at me with nervous and uncertain eyes. She was still torn about what to think of me in light of the recent revelations. “I-I should go back inside, I think I forgot my coat and—”

“Twilight, please.” I grabbed her by the wrist, stopping her before she could retreat back into her home. I took care not to hold on too tight; just a firm enough grasp to let her know how I felt. “I know learning about the things I used to do was a shock, and I’m sorry you found out in that way. I… I wish I could say I would’ve told you eventually, but the truth is that I was too ashamed to admit it.”

“Ashamed?” Twilight repeated, though not in the curious or uncertain manner. “I spoke to Gilda after you ran off; she said you’ve been running this business for years, that you’re one of the best in the business.”

“Well, yes, I did operate for a long time,” I replied, trying to avoid sounding like I was bragging or even remotely proud of that. “I don’t know about being the best, but I had a reliable client list.”

“How many?”

“Clients? Oh, I… I don’t know. They came and went so fast—”

“How many!” Twilight repeated, firmer this time.

“Five hundred and eighty-seven individual clients, and a fifty-nine percent retention rate.”

For a moment, Twilight just stared at me in bewilderment, perhaps unsure of whether to be mad or impressed by the volume. Sadly, she did not share Celestia’s sentiments about my old business.

“I can’t believe this,” Twilight murmured to herself. She began pacing a circle around me, frantically running her hand through her mess of hair. “I thought we were friends, but all this time you’ve been undermining the foundation of our education system; the very cornerstone of civilization.”

“Okay, now I think you’re just being a teensy bit melodramatic.”

“Is it?” Twilight snapped back, pointing an accusatory finger at me. “The human race used to be just a bunch of hunters and gatherers living in caves and being terrified of their own shadows. It was only through learning that humanity began to progress, understanding and mastering the world around them, and passing this knowledge on to the next generation. And once we mastered the written language, humanity could amass a whole generation’s worth of knowledge, and not just preserve it, but build upon it.”

I never realized how passionate on the subject Twilight was. I knew she hated cheating, but I just had it pegged down to her being a goody-two-shoe and nothing more. This was far more than just a moral standing; this was like an insult to the very fabric of her universe.

“Education, Sunset, is what lets each generation make itself greater than the last, rather than just stagnating in a pool. We stand upon the shoulders of those who came before us, reaching to ever greater heights! Cheating undermines this entire principle, not just depriving one’s self of knowledge but ruining the chances of those who depend upon you to know.”

And here I had foolishly thought I could not feel any worse about this situation than I already did. What a fool was I. Hopefully Celestia knew what she was getting me into with this plan of hers, because I wasn’t sure how much longer I could last.

On the bright side, at least she relented long enough for me to get a word in, despite every urge I had to run and hide.

“I know I’ve been something of a disappointment for you, Twilight, and I’m sorry,” I began. “I can’t change what I did, and I don’t want to stand here making excuses. I’m just asking for a little bit of your time. I want—no, I need to show you something… about me, and who I really am.”

After a brief spell of her pondering her options, Twilight finally sighed and nodded. “Okay, I’ll come along. Lead the way.”

*******************

It was an awkward and quiet car ride for the three of us. There was enough tension in the air that even one poorly-chosen word could make the car explode, which made me grateful that Celestia chose to remain silent beyond a brief introduction. She didn’t want to intervene as I needed to fix this problem on my own. A couple of times, Twilight asked for more details about where we were going, especially as the car drove through unfamiliar parts of town, but I remained steadfast in my secrecy.

Our initial arrival didn’t help my friend understand much. When we pulled up to the run-down-looking building in a somewhat sketchy part of town, I think she was left even more confused. It was only until after several flights of stairs, thanks to an elevator that’s always broken, we arrived at our destination.

“Okay, this is it,” I announced as we stood outside a rather ordinary wooden door. “I think it goes without saying that I have a lot of trust issues. I lie, obfuscate, deflect, avoid, or just flat-out deny a lot of things because I don’t like feeling vulnerable. The people that know you the best are the ones that can hurt you the most, and when you can’t trust people, that makes anybody close to you feel more like a threat.”

Now I was just stalling, and the rational part of me knew that; just babbling on while I pretended that finding the key in my pocket was like digging for lost treasure. With a moment of clarity, I forced myself to unlock the door before doubt tried to steer me off-course again.

“Anyways, so here’s something that I really don’t like people knowing,” I said.

I pushed the door open, revealing a tiny room, all but empty save for a bare-bones bed frame that sat in the corner. Slowly, Twilight walked further into the apartment, not that it took many steps given that it was about the size of a shoebox.

“What is this place?” she asked.

“This was my home,” I explained. When I took the last of my things and left that apartment, I had hoped to never have to step foot in it again. It was just an ugly reminder of what my life used to be like, but now I had to give Twilight the guided tour. “Everything I was used to fit inside this tiny little space.”

“But… this is a dump,” Twilight replied. “How could a family even live in this little space?”

“There was no family,” I answered. Her eyes widened as the realization sunk in. “It was just me, alone in this room: no friends, no parents, and no overbearing goofball brother.”

“It was just… you? Alone?” my bewildered friend repeated. “How long were you—”

“Three years.”

“What about your parents?”

“Gone.”

I gave my friend some time to process this information, which it seemed like she needed. Maybe it was because I didn’t come across as the type who lived alone in squalor, or maybe she just lived a sheltered life, but she had a lot of trouble comprehending that this nightmare of a room used to be my reality.

“How could you—how could anyone live like this?” she asked.

“By doing whatever it took to survive,” I answered bluntly. “I lied, I stole, I cheated. I once swiped a whole box of fruit cups from my cafeteria. But for money, my mind was the only thing I had available to me. I’m not denying that it was wrong, but it was what stood between me and having absolutely nothing.”

Once again, my friend took a moment to consider my words and continue examining the apartment. The air still reeked of old fish from the neighbors and the light still flickered from time to time. She walked over to the lone window and tried to get it open in order to get some fresh air, but alas the window had been broken for ages and would likely remain that way until the end of time.

“I can’t believe you used to live like this,” Twilight murmured under her breath. She turned to me and offered an apologetic look. “Didn’t you get… lonely?”

“I was in a bad place during those years,” I offered up as explanation since ‘bent on revenge and world domination’ felt a bit unbelievable. “I thought I didn’t need anyone, especially since I had the students at my school under my thumb. Once I lost my standing, though, I realized how wrong and, yes, how alone I really was. But this is who I was: one forgotten teenager living in squalor, trusting nobody but herself. I don’t want to be that person anymore. I want to trust people again, and I want people to be able to trust me as well.”

When Twilight walked up to me and smiled to me, I felt a huge weight suddenly jumping off my shoulders. “I’m sorry I got upset with you. I guess it’s easy for me to act like a saint when my life must seem like paradise compared to this,” she said before taking my hand. “Gilda made it sound like you did it because it was easy money and you didn’t care about school or working hard. I got too caught up in my emotions when I should’ve realized that doesn’t sound anything like the person I’ve gotten to know.”

“Well, to be honest, it was usually pretty easy money,” I replied with a half-hearted chuckle. “Gilda didn’t exactly take advanced courses.”

As Twilight let out a restrained giggle, I felt my world brighten a hundred fold. So overwhelming was my relief that I immediately wrapped my arms around her and embraced my friend in a crushing hug.

“Sunset... rib cage... breathing!” Twilight managed to gasp out.

“Oh! Right, sorry,” I offered a quick apology while pulling away. “I’m just really relieved. My mistakes have cost me a lot already, and I didn’t want them to take you away too.”

Twilight offered me a much gentler hand on the shoulder to reassure me. “I’m not going anywhere, Sunset.”

Now while I would have enjoyed continuing to bask in our renewed friendship, the lingering stench of dead fish can ruin any atmosphere, so we made a quick exit.

“So, any other secrets you need to get off your chest while we’re here?” Twilight asked as we made our way down the stairs.

Without missing a beat, and just because I was feeling playful and optimistic, I replied, “I’m secretly a magical unicorn from an alternate dimension.”

As I expected, Twilight had a good laugh at that. We both did, and it was a much needed one, too.

“And the woman in the car, Celestia, she’s…?”

“Just my principal,” I answered. “She might’ve… strong-armed me into moving in with her and her sister when she found out about my living arrangements.”

“At least that means she cares.”

“Have I mentioned that woman is terrifyingly good at knowing exactly what to say or do to get somebody to do what she wants?” When I phrased it like that, it almost made it sound like Celestia was some master manipulator, which wasn’t the image I was trying to get across. “Like, you know how in those movies where the hero goes to see the fabled oracle or prophet or whatever? But instead of telling the hero what he wants to hear, he says something contradictory, which winds up being exactly what the hero needed to hear. Celestia is like that prophet: always seems to know exactly what I need to hear.”

Twilight giggled a bit at my analogy. “It sounds like you both admire and fear her.”

“I swear that woman must have, like, a triple PhD in psychology.”

“I don’t think that’s a real thing.”

“I’m sure she’d find a way to still have one.”

Heaven help us all if Celestia ever decided to start using her powers for evil instead of just giving life advice to juvenile delinquents like myself. If she had been the Princess of Equestria, perhaps I would still be studying magic at the Royal Palace instead of learning high school algebra. Unless tossing me out was what I needed back then, too.

Twilight and I returned to the car to find Celestia still waiting for us; her expectant smile turning all the brighter when she saw that the two of us were in good spirits. “Everything’s right with the world again?” she asked, even though she didn’t need an answer.

“Was bringing me out here all her idea?” Twilight inquired.

I didn’t have an immediate answer other than trying to hide my embarrassment behind some sheepish laughs, but thankfully Celestia was there to provide yet another save.

“I might’ve given her the suggestion,” she said, “but it was Sunset’s determination to fix things that mattered most.”

“Well thank you all the same,” Twilight replied. “You must be really dedicated to be willing to take in a student like you have.”

“I’m just trying to do the right thing,” Celestia insisted with a dismissive hand wave.

Before we got into the car, Twilight paused all of a sudden and stared at our driver with a curious and scrutinizing eye. It left Celestia and I a little confused, at least until Twilight popped the question.

“Do you know a man named Sombra?”

“I—uh, y-yes,” Celestia stammered back, for once caught off-guard by somebody. “How did you know?”

This captured my interest immediately as the subject of Sombra was something that I was still immensely curious about, but could never bring myself to pry deeper out of respect for Celestia. Twilight, thankfully, had no knowledge of this.

“Sombra’s the headmaster at my school,” Twilight began, oblivious to Celestia’s unease with the subject. “He’s got an old picture in his office of him with a young woman, who I’m guessing is you. Although she had pink hair in the picture.”

“Oh god, he kept that picture?” Celestia groaned in despair.

My thoughts, however, fixated on a different detail. “You had pink hair?”

Celestia immediately flustered red, bristling as she replied, “I was young! It was a different time; lots of people dyed their hair back then!”

It took considerable willpower not to start giggling out loud. “I know, but… pink?” I replied. “Are we talking like hot pink? Neon pink? Cotton candy pink?”

“It was more of a baby pink. Like the colour of clothing for infant girls,” Twilight answered.

I couldn’t hide the look of amusement on my face, much to Celestia’ chagrin. “Just get in the car,” she instructed with growing impatience. “And the next person to mention pink gets to walk home.”

After that little revelation, I wouldn’t have had any problem walking as I would’ve had the mental image of a pink-haired Celestia to keep me entertained during the entire journey. While with Luna I had the stories of her misguided youth to remind me that she was a mere mortal, it was still difficult at most times to picture Celestia as anything but the patient and benevolent school administrator she is now. It wasn’t as bad as Princess Celestia, whom you couldn’t separate from her royal heritage with a precision cutting laser, but she was still an adult through and through. It was as though everything from before her days as a principal no longer existed and she was just born into the world this way.

The ride back home was quiet for the most part, in part because I was too busy trying to keep from smirking or giggling at the thought of Celestia with a hot pink haircut. I made a mental note to later ask Luna if there were any photos of Celestia during those particular ‘adventurous’ years. I was content to sit in silence, but Twilight still had questions.

“Did you really spend all those years in that apartment by yourself without any friends?”

“More or less,” I answered with an indifferent shrug. “It wasn’t like I was completely isolated, though. I had… associates at school, and my business clients.”

“But what did you do for fun?” Twilight asked. “It must’ve been rather boring.”

It was hard for me to explain the absence of boredom since I couldn’t elaborate on how I had been so dead-set on taking over the school and Equestria that recreation rarely entered my mind. How do you explain that kind of fanatical devotion? I couldn’t just shrug it away; I was trying to hold myself up to better standards.

“I know she liked to relax with her guitar,” Celestia chimed in. Whether her interjection was an act of mercy or just a desire to be a part of the conversation, it mattered not as it gave me something truthful to give in response.

“I’m not sure I’d call it relaxing,” I answered. “To be honest, it started out as just another assignment for school.” Looking back on it, I first started playing guitar because it helped with my manual dexterity. I had always viewed it as just another piece of work, but I continued playing even long after I had mastered the use of these five-pronged appendages. Perhaps a part of me did enjoy the music, even if the revenge-obsessed part of me didn’t acknowledge it.

“Maybe I could hear you play some day.”

“Oh, you wouldn’t want to hear that. I’m so out of practise, it’ll sound horrible,” I insisted in a rare display of modesty.

“Don’t listen to her,” Celestia intervened once more. “She’s much better than she gives herself credit for. I dare say that she probably could’ve made decent money with her performances rather than having to resort to doing other people’s schoolwork.”

“Like anybody would pay money to see some high schooler play,” I said whilst rolling my eyes.

“You shouldn’t dismiss the idea so readily,” Twilight replied. She sounded less like she was trying to be emotionally supportive and more her usual logical self, which in itself was more reassuring. “People in this city have always been very supportive of the arts. At Crystal Heart, we’ve used ticket sales from recitals to fund a number of field trips and purchase new equipment.”

Twilight’s words left me pondering in silence for a moment, but not about my own guitar skills. Instead, it was on another issue close to home. “Hey Celestia, you said the school needed to raise money, right?”

*******************

“Are you sure about this? The student response to this Musical Showcase has been overwhelmingly positive.”

“It’s going to take more than just a ‘this was my idea’ to get people to trust me again,” I answered as Celestia and I made our way down the school hallway. “Trust is something I’m going to have to build slowly, not with huge, grand gestures. If people found out I had something to do with this, it might hurt ticket sales, and I don’t want to ruin a good thing.”

“If you say so,” she replied, still unconvinced but reluctantly accepting my decision. She was just about to continuing speaking when my cell phone started chiming. Once I was done checking the messages on my phone, she asked, “Was that your friends?”

“Yup! Rarity and the others are making posters for their new band in the gymnasium and they want me there to check out the finished product,” I explained. It was hard to hide the excitement in my voice at this stage. I was elated to be able to give something back to my friends, even if they weren’t aware of my involvement. Rainbow Dash in particular had been excited about the music festival, proclaiming that it would be the ideal venue to ‘showcase her awesomeness.’ Quite frankly, I’m surprised she hadn’t thought of something like this sooner.

“I couldn’t help but notice on the registration forms that the Sonic Rainbooms only has five members,” Celestia added, adding extra emphasis on the number in particular. It was easy to guess why she was bringing this up and the scrutinizing gaze just cemented the fact. “Have you even told them that you can play the guitar?”

“I’ve… been meaning to get around to it,” I replied with much reluctance. “I just didn’t want to hurt their chances, you know? Who’d pay to see the most hated girl in school?”

Celestia let out a disheartened sigh. Even with all the progress I’ve made, there were a lot of things I was still hesitant or outright afraid of.

“Just promise me you will after the showcase. I know they’d all love to have you be a part of their band.”

“I will, I promise,” I said with a quick nod. “Maybe after this showcase is done, people will be in a better mood and they’ll start to forget about me.”

Our stroll through the halls came to a stop as we reached the gymnasium doors. I was just about to head in when Celestia stopped me.

“You know, if you’re looking to improve your reputation, I might have an idea,” Celestia suggested, catching my attention almost immediately. “We have some new students transferring to the school today, and I was thinking it could be of real benefit to you and our new students if you were to give them a tour around our facilities.”

“You want me? To show new students around?” I replied with enough skepticism to make a person question the colour of the sky. It seemed like an absurd proposition, but when Celestia simply nodded in response, I was forced to give it some more thought. “So you want these brands new students to have me as their very first contact at this school? If you’re going to pick somebody to make introductions, shouldn’t it be somebody with a better reputation?”

But no sooner did those words leave my mouth, did I start to realize the fallacy of my assumptions. Celestia didn’t even need to answer as she smiled knowingly while I trudged through the mental swamp.

“Except they’ll be new here and won’t know anybody’s reputation,” I continued, although now speaking more to myself than Celestia. “Which means they’ll be able to get to know the new me before anybody has a chance to start telling them about the old me.”

The ear-to-ear grin was enough to let Celestia know that I was on board with the idea, but nonetheless she had to make sure.

“I take it that’s a yes then?”

“Oh, hay yes!”

“Excuse me?”

“Pony saying—don’t judge me.”

Thankfully, Celestia merely chuckled and spared me any further embarrassment. “I’ll see to it that you’re notified when the new students arrive,” she informed me before we parted ways.

I was once again feeling excited and even optimistic about my future. It was still going to be an uphill battle, but I knew I had my friends to turn to whenever I needed help. As tempting as it was to plot some grand stunt to try and win back the hearts of everybody at the school, like maybe convincing Celestia to bring back Frogurt Fridays, the atmosphere still wasn’t right. Anything I did would just be viewed with skepticism at best and revulsion at worst. Besides, it would take something of equal magnitude as me mind-controlling the entire school to undo the damage I did, and things like that just don’t happen at Canterlot High.

After all, it’s not as though there’s anyone else from Equestria to stir up trouble.