• 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 V-V

In all the excitement of my impromptu slumber party with Twilight, I had neglected a few of my usual school-night essentials, such as setting my alarm clock for the morning. Things still worked out in my favour since the morning sun piercing through the nearby window, the curtains for which I had neglected to close for similar reasons, was enough to stir me awake.

In typical teenager fashion, my first response to the arrival of a new day was to grumble incoherently, pull the blanket over my eyes, and then huddle in closer to the warmth of my pillow. I tightened my arms around it, nestling my face into the soft, inviting contours, and letting my worries wash away beneath a soothing, rhythmic heartbeat.

Except pillows weren’t supposed to have heartbeats.

When my brain finally clued in on this, my eyes shot open and I discovered that I was not nestling my head into a pillow, but rather upon Twilight Sparkle.

Turned out I was a bit of a sleep-cuddler.

By some small miracle, Twilight had yet to wake up. Either she was a heavy sleeper or was far more exhausted than I had anticipated. Neither possibility did much to alleviate my paranoia that even the slightest motion or wayward breath on my part would rouse my friend from her slumber. Ever so gently, I lifted my arm that had been draped around her and pulled it back to safety, followed by a gentle roll to the side to extricate myself. With any luck, she’d wake up none the wiser about any embarrassing sleeping habits.

Woefully, it seemed as though I had exhausted what luck I had been allotted for the day, for when I tried to pull further away, I discovered that my arm was pinned underneath her. At first I wondered how I didn’t realize that sooner, but that was because I had lost all feeling in that arm. It was little more than a big, fleshy noodle attached to my body right now, and I couldn’t go anywhere until I found some way to get Twilight off of me. It felt rude to just wake her up, but I had no idea how long I might have to wait.

Maybe it would be better to just wait; eventually Twilight would arise and we could go about our day. It wasn’t like there was anything explicitly embarrassing about having my arm pinned under my friend. It wasn’t as though it were by any conscious action on either of our parts. But still, she got embarrassed easily, and I didn’t want to make her feel uncomfortable.

I couldn’t help but wonder why I was concerned about what she might think.

Eventually, I concluded that I needed to know the time before I could make a better judgement about whether to wait or just bite the bullet. That proved to be out of reach as well, as my alarm clock sat on the bedside table, which just so happened to be on the opposite side of my friend. After several minutes of contemplation and trying to spontaneously develop telekinetic powers, I finally decided to go for it and reached out for the clock.

Despite being so close, it was more difficult than I had anticipated, mostly due to one of my arms being pinned and half-numb. I had to lean precariously close to Twilight just to reach over her, close enough that I could feel her breath against my lips. It would be really awkward if she woke up right then and there. The blasted alarm clock sat just narrowly beyond my reach—I could feel my outstretched fingers just brushing against it.

I just needed a little bit more reach.

“Wake up, you two!” Luna’s voice suddenly bellowed from outside, followed by a thunderous pounding against the door.

There went all my hopes for subtlety.

There was no time and I was too close to move as Twilight lurched upwards in her half-dazed panic. I suspect she would’ve yelped something too, but due to my awkward position, her sudden movement led to her smashing her forehead square into my nose.

“Oh my gosh! I’m so sorry!” Twilight blurted out.

“No, it was totally my fault!” I hastily replied, one hand clasped over my battered face.

As Twilight backed away, it freed my arm at long last, so I tried to quickly get up. Except that in my haste, I tried to push myself up using the arm that had just been freed, which was still half-numb and had all the support and stability of a wet noodle. No sooner did I put weight on it did it collapse underneath me, and the conversation came to an abrupt halt as I headbutted my friend in the gut.

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

Twilight and I made for quite the spectacle when we eventually sat down at the kitchen island: my disheveled friend was still doubled over in pain and I had large wads of blood-stained tissue paper stuffed up each nostril. Luna was both confused and amused when she saw us, and at least she made the attempt to try and hide the smirking.

“Is everything okay?” Luna asked, setting down some glasses of orange juice for us.

“Nothing happened,” Twilight and I replied in unison.

Despite doing nothing to sate her curiosity, Luna was polite enough not to press for any further details. She just shrugged her shoulders and went back to preparing her morning cup of coffee. “Celestia had to go into work early today, so I’ll drive you to wherever you need to go,” Luna offered to my friend. “Do you need me to drive you straight home or…?”

“I have everything I need, and I’ve got a spare uniform at school; you can just take me straight to Crystal Heart,” Twilight answered. “I’m really sorry to make you go through all this for me.”

Luna gave her a reassuring smile. “It’s no problem at all,” she said. “I’m sure Sunset Shimmer will be more than willing to do a few extra chores around the house as compensation.”

As far as reparations went, taking out the trash and vacuuming around the house a couple of extra times over the next week was a small price to pay. As my friend and I set about fixing up a quick but hearty breakfast, things were still a little awkward between us. We both felt bad for accidentally hitting the other, but I suspected she was still silently pondering over why I was hovering mere inches away from her face. I wanted to say something, but I didn’t want to be the one to be the first to shine a light on the subject, just in case my suspicions were wrong.

“I know you said you have a change of uniform at school, but it might still be a good idea to take a shower and clean yourself up beforehand,” Luna suggested.

“I’d really appreciate it, if you don’t mind.”

“My sister would have my hide if I sent somebody off to school looking like you do right now.” Luna headed for the kitchen exit, grabbing a slice of toast on her way out. “I’ll go grab some spare towels from the closet.”

With Luna gone, I was left alone with Twilight and the awkward silence. I would’ve been content to preoccupy myself with eating, but my friend had other things on her mind.

“I don’t look that bad, do I?” she asked.

My first instinct was to insist that she looked fine, but I remembered that Twilight valued honesty over flattery so I gave her a quick lookover. “Well you do look like you slept in your uniform and just crawled out of bed,” I answered, noting her wrinkled clothing and frazzled hair. “Wouldn’t be a bad idea to spend a few minutes with a comb, either.”

“Oh, right. Of course,” she nodded in agreement, followed by a nervous chuckle. As she was about to take a sip of her orange juice, she paused and glanced my way again. “So, um, did you sleep well last night?”

Her question took me by surprise, and I was thankful for the fortuitous timing that I happened to be drinking at that exact moment, which bought me precious seconds to maintain my composure. Did she know about my sleep cuddling? She was sound asleep when I woke up, but that didn’t rule out the possibility that she might’ve woken up at some point during the night and saw. I couldn’t discount that she might just be asking to be polite. I decided to play it cool and wait to see where she went.

“It was fine: a completely normal and uneventful night of sleeping,” I replied.

“Good. That’s good. Very good,” Twilight said before taking a cautious sip. “Um, when I woke up, why were you—?”

She was about to ask the question that I had been dreading. I had told myself to just approach the issue calmly and politely, but instead I just blurted out, “I was trying to reach my alarm clock!”

“R-right! Of course, your alarm clock!”

“It was morning, after all,” I added as she appeared relieved at my explanation. “It’s important to know what time it was.”

“Especially with it being a school day and all.”

“Wouldn’t want to oversleep and be late for class.”

“That would be bad,” Twilight nodded hastily.

“Very bad.”

Extremely bad.”

“Glad that matter’s all cleared up,” I sighed in relief.

We both let out a somewhat forced chuckle, which helped ease tensions a little bit. When Luna returned to inform us that the shower was ready, Twilight was the first to get up and hurried on her way with a hasty thanks.

“Are you sure everything's okay?” Luna asked as she took a seat across the island from me. “Your face does look a little banged up.”

“We just sorta… forgot about each other when we woke up,” I answered with the best subtle alteration of the truth I could manage on short notice. “I suppose neither of us are used to the idea of slumber parties yet.”

“I must say, I’m starting to like this Twilight a bit more than the other one.”

“Why’s that?” I asked between mouthfuls of toast.

“For starters, I don’t have to worry about power-crazed megalomaniacs with this one,” she answered before flashing a quick smirk to let me know that she’s just teasing me. “I guess she just feels a bit more ‘normal’ compared to the other, though I suppose that’s only true for people originally from this world.”

I wasn’t entirely sure if I could consider either Twilight Sparkle to be ‘normal,’ but at the same time that wasn’t something that concerned me. They were both my friends, and one just so happened to live on the other side of a magic portal. Of course, with the portal to Equestria now able to function on demand, I suspected I would be seeing Princess Twilight more often and without the need for calamitous events to justify visits.

“You also seem a lot happier when she’s around,” Luna added, which caught me off-guard.

“I’m… happier?” I repeated in disbelief, as though such words were alien to me.

“It’s probably more of a combination of things,” she answered. “After all, the past couple of weeks have been eventful for you, especially with what happened at the Battle of the Bands. You’ve got a lot going for you now, but even when things were tough you always seemed more relaxed and less guarded when you were with Twilight.” She then offered an uncertain shrug and finished off the last of her coffee. “Or at least that’s how it appeared to me, but what do I know? Celestia’s the one with a major in psychology.”

While what she said held truth, I was still a bit skeptical about whether I was ‘more relaxed’ when around Twilight Sparkle. If anything, her arrival usually brought along some source of worry, mostly pertaining to magic, but it was hard to deny that I did feel a connection to her that I didn’t share to the same extent as my other friends. I figured it was by simple virtue of Twilight being the first friend I chose for myself, rather than being given, but maybe there was more to it than that. I didn’t know enough about friendship to have a definitive answer.

In the end, the fine details didn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. If anything, it just meant that I needed to step up and be a better friend with the others so that it didn’t feel like I was favouring one over the others.

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

By the time I arrived at school, my concerns had shifted away from Twilight Sparkle, and back to the important matter facing me: my research into the magical phenomenons surrounding me and my friends. With Twilight continuing to make progress in her own endeavours, I needed to keep pace if only to stay one step ahead of her. It was a haunting possibility that was as difficult to ignore as the heavy piece of hardware that I had unwittingly agreed to carry around with me. Considering it was about as portable as carrying a cinderblock, I decided to just leave it at the bottom of my locker for the time being so I could worry about it later.

Maybe I could even take it apart later just to see how Twilight was making her monitoring equipment.

For now, though, I wanted to pursue my own avenues of research, and I decided to follow up on one of the suggestions that a friend made: consult with an expert. Princess Twilight Sparkle might’ve been on the other side of a portal, but now with an easy and reliable means of communication, her advice was always within reach. Once I had stashed my books and the other Twilight’s experimental device into my locker, I grabbed my magic journal and sat down to make a quick note.

Hey Twilight. I know we haven’t written each other as much as we should, but I suppose we’re both busy now with our new roles in life. I can’t begin to imagine how time-consuming being a princess must be. Still, I could really use your advice right now. As you know, even without you here, our friends are able to pony up, but now Rainbow Dash is able to do so without playing her music. It makes me think her magic might be changing. I’m trying to figure out how and why, as I want to keep magic under control here at CHS, even if I haven’t quite wrapped my head around it. I’m not sure I have enough experience with friendship magic to solve this, but people will be looking to me for answers. I don’t want to let any of them down. I hope to hear from you soon.

PS - a certain mutual acquaintance continues to ask about you. Should I tell him anything?

Once my message was complete, I put the book back into my locker. As much as I wanted an answer, I figured it could be a while before I got a response and I didn’t want to disturb any of my classes with my magical, vibrating book.

“Hey Sunset!” Rainbow Dash’s voice called out just as I finished putting the last of my things away. She was accompanied by the rest of my friends, each of whom bid me a good morning in turn. “What’cha writing to Twilight about?”

“Just hoping to get some advice,” I answered while slamming my locker shut, “this whole magic thing is proving to be a bit trickier than I had expected. I figured my best bet would be to consult with somebody that’s got experience with magic in this world.”

“Maybe that means she’ll come and visit again,” Fluttershy remarked, clasping her hands together at the thought. “It’d be so nice to just hang out without having to worry about sirens or demons or anything like that.”

There was a round of nods in agreement, and I felt a similar sentiment; it would be nice to maintain a connection with Equestria that didn’t revolve around having to stop rampaging monstrosities; plus consultations would be infinitely easier face-to-face.

“I’ll be sure to let you girls know the moment I hear back from her,” I reassured my friends. “I just hopes it’s soon because I’m really grasping at straws with this whole magic business.”

“You know, Twilight isn’t the only expert you could try reaching out to,” Rainbow Dash mentioned as she saddled up alongside me and threw her arm across my shoulder. “There are other experts in magic, you know?”

While I would jump at the opportunity for more help, seeing all of my other friends rolling their eyes or hiding their faces in shame did not fill me with confidence. Applejack even went so far as to mutter under her breath, “Not this again.”

“You’re not going to suggest Trixie, are you?” I asked with all due caution.

“Of course not,” Dash scoffed, much to my relief. She reached into her backpack and pulled out a book to hold out for me. “I’m talking about real magic.”

The book, unfortunately, inspired in me the same sentiments that our other friends had just expressed, though I had enough sense not to display them so openly. “This is a Daring Do book,” I deadpanned.

Despite the five-against-one odds, Rainbow Dash remained undaunted in her belief. “I’ll have you know there’s strong evidence that suggests that the whole series is based off actual real world events, and that Daring Do is not just a pen name,” she insisted while continuing to ignore the disapproving glares of the others. “And if you’ll recall in ‘Daring Do and the Temple of the Silver Moon,’ the cultist leader was able to use, and I quote, ‘ancient, long forgotten magics.’”

“For the last time, Rainbow Dash, she ain’t real!” Applejack shouted.

“Ignore these nay-sayers,” Dash once again brushed aside the criticisms of her friend and led me away. “Just come with me and I’ll prove it to you.”

“Where exactly are we going?” I inquired, reluctant but not unwilling to go along.

“To the library!”

“There’s three words you rarely hear from Rainbow Dash,” Applejack chuckled to herself.

“I heard that!”

As there was still time before classes began, I saw no harm in following this lead for now. While all logic told this would probably end with me telling Rainbow Dash not to believe everything she read online, there was still the tiny, minute possibility that there was a kernal of truth hidden amongst the absurdity. Plus, I was still a relative newcomer to this world, so it wasn’t impossible that magic existed at some point and got lost to history.

It sounded almost reasonable when phrased like that.

When we reached the school library, I had expected, or rather hoped, to be led to the history section; instead, I was taken to one of the computers where Dash fired up a web browser. Five minutes in and I was already beginning to second-guess my decision. Nonetheless, I remained silent and waited to see what corner of the internet I was about to be taken to.

“‘What Would Daring Do? The Number One Daring Do fan forum,’” I read aloud once the page loaded. “I’m not about to read some nonsense about lizard people and chemtrails, am I?”

“Please, Sunset, give me some credit,” Dash scoffed at my skepticism. “I and several other like-minded individuals have spent the past few years scouring the internet and the world, amassing the greatest collection of evidence that all points to the undeniable truth that Daring Do is real!”

She then clicked on a link labelled ‘Daring Do: Myth or Truth?’ As the forum itself was a disorganized mess of nerds arguing amongst each other, sprinkled with flashy avatar pictures and posts that were three-quarters gigantic, self-aggrandizing signatures, it was hard to make out what evidence Dash was referring to. Somewhere amongst all the bickering, I imagined Rainbow Dash’s own comments existed, but until she pointed to her forum name of ‘Daring_Dashie’ I probably wouldn’t have noticed.

“For undeniable evidence, this ‘QPants99’ fellow seems to think you’re spouting a load of nonsense,” I remarked as I pointed out to one particular post on the forum. It was filled with condescending remarks about the intelligence of anybody who prescribed to Dash’s theory, and went on far longer than any sane person would consider reasonable for a discussion.

Granted, that was perfectly normal on the internet.

“Don’t believe his lies,” Dash snapped in disgust. “He’s just some stuck-up ‘original trilogy’ elitist who wouldn’t know an awesome story if it came along and smacked him in his stupid, ugly face!”

“Gee, Dash, and I thought you only got this competitive when you were on the playing field.”

My quip went unnoticed as Dash became preoccupied with defending her online honour. “Call my theories stupid will he,” she grumbled in the midst of furious typing.

Realizing this might take longer than I had expected, I pulled up a chair and waited for metaphorical arrows to be loosed. After several minutes and what I estimated to be at least a few thousand words’ worth of impotent rage, I decided to attempt to nudge things back to what was important.

“Come on, we don’t have all day,” I reminded her.

“I can’t just stop, Sunset,” Dash barked back. “He’s wrong! And I have to tell him that!”

My resultant palm-to-forehead was loud enough to provoke a call for silence from the librarian, but none of that stopped Dash from her one-girl crusade against the slanderous QPants99. Eventually, I had to give her an ultimatum.

“Sixty seconds and leaving, Daring Do or not,” I warned her.

“Alright, alright!” Dash protested. “Lemme just finish this up. ‘And that is why book number six is the best of the second-trilogy novels.’ Ha! Let’s see him stand up to that scathing rebuttal!”

“I’m sure he’ll be inconsolable.”

“No more distractions, let me show the evidence,” Rainbow Dash said, finally getting back on task as she opened up a new web page displaying numerous images of newspaper articles. “Right, now as it has been clearly established through all the novels, these books do not take place in a fictionalized world. Even the earliest books make references of real world events, such as the upset win of Trottingham over Manechester City back in oh-six.”

I didn’t know enough about this world’s history to have ever noticed or refute such a claim, so I nodded in response with the hopes that it would move the conversation along. For her part, Rainbow Dash was far more enthusiastic than I had ever seen her before, at least for something not related to sports. Normally she avoided things such as research like the plague.

“Now the first book is ‘Daring Do and the Quest for the Sapphire Stone.’”

“A classic, might I add,” I chuckled briefly.

“Well by extrapolating the approximate time period based on references to real world events and narrowing the possible geographical locations, we were able to find this!”

“A newspaper article in… who knows what language?” I replied once I saw the ‘evidence’ my friend presented. There was a caption of translated text beneath the picture, but I had no way of verifying that the work was accurate and not just what the person wanted it to be.

“Ah, but note the location,” Dash said as she invited me to take a closer look. “That’s less than fifty miles from the stretch of jungle featured in Sapphire Stone. And also look at this: a picture of an ‘unnamed explorer’ that was credited with finding the lost temple.”

Now just like with Bigfoot or the Yeti or UFO’s, no picture was ever clear or definitive; after all, if we did have an undeniable picture of Daring Do, there wouldn’t need to be any speculation about it. To that end, all I saw was a black and white, blurred photograph of some woman wearing a pith helmet who happened to be hacking her way through some jungle growth with a machete.

“That could literally be anybody,” I pointed out.

“Yes, but check out this photo from an article of ‘Old World Archaeology’ magazine,” she continued unabated while pulling up the next picture. At first there was nothing out of the ordinary in the picture: just a bunch of archaeologists and their underlings proudly standing before their latest find, which was still half-buried in the desert sand. “Notice anything familiar?” Dash inquired.

It took me a few seconds since I was more focused on the people in the foreground, but eventually I noticed somebody toiling way off in the background: it was a woman, dressed in khakis and wearing a familiar-looking pith helmet. I had to admit that there were some similarities, but the picture didn’t allow for much detail to be made. At least it was in colour, however, so whoever this woman was happened to have a tan complexion and gray hair. It might not be ‘literally anybody,’ but it didn’t narrow things down much.

“That dig site is the same one featured in the third novel,” Dash added. “She doesn’t take credit, but she’s always there at all the big finds.”

Rainbow Dash proceeded to showcase a whole gallery’s worth of pictures, all following the same trend of featuring explorers and professors working in the field with a familiar pith helmet-wearing woman conspicuously in the backdrop. In all honesty, it was a lot of circumstantial evidence at best; that woman could just be a reliable guide or research assistant, or even just a photographer with an affinity for archaeology.

Now to the credit of my friend, now bordering on crazed stalker, and her like-minded associates online, they had managed to stockpile a massive collection of pictures and random newspaper articles. However, aside from making me feel kind of sorry for whoever this woman was, I saw no real evidence that this woman was Daring Do or that the character even existed. I was just about to call it quits when one of the pictures caught my eye.

“Hold on a second,” I said as I pointed to the lower portion of the screen. “Could you make that image down there bigger?”

Though confused at first, Rainbow Dash was curious enough to follow my instructions without any questions. The picture that had caught my attention was as poor quality as most of the others, likely taken on somebody’s cellphone, that appeared to show the familiar helmeted woman at some kind of bazaar. While you couldn’t see her face, as was common in most of the pictures, you could see what she was examining at the behest of a vendor. It was an amulet: one made of gold and sculpted into a very beetle-like shape.

“I’ve seen that amulet,” I said as I turned my attention back to Dash, “Ms. Yearling was holding it while she was on the phone with somebody the other day.”

“Are you sure?” Dash asked, visibly surprised.

“Well either that amulet or at least one very darn similar to it.” On any other day, I might’ve dismissed it and chalked it up to a mere coincidence, but in light of Dash’s ‘evidence’ it created a mystery that I couldn’t justify ignoring. “But how many people have giant, gold-bug pendants?”

Rainbow Dash leaned back in her seat to take a longer look at the pictures. She folded her arms behind her head and began humming to herself, sounding reminiscent of a high-voltage powerline, as she mulled over my observations. “Doesn’t the woman in the picture remind you a bit of Ms. Yearling?” she remarked.

As I paused to look at the picture, along with some of the accompanying photos that seemed to follow the figure through the bazaar, I couldn’t help but notice that she did look vaguely familiar. The colours matched, but without a clear image of her face in any of the pictures, it was impossible to say.

“I don’t know, that could still be anybody,” I said with a half-hearted shrug. “And Ms. Yearling wears glasses, not to mention she’s our English teacher.”

“Our English teacher who just so happens to love using Daring Do books for teaching material and routinely talks about the historical background of the settings,” Dash reminded me. “Haven’t you always found it weird how Ms. Yearling always has the latest Daring Do books before their street release?”

“Wouldn’t know, Dash, because some of us don’t obsess over those kinds of details.”

Rainbow Dash shot me a quick pouty frown before replying, “Well she does, and it is weird.”

“This is absurd,” I scoffed, folding my arms across my chest. “Ms. Yearling is our teacher; she couldn’t possibly be Daring Do. Where would she even find the time?”

“I dunno, during summer vacation maybe,” Rainbow Dash answered with an uncertain shrug. She logged off of the computer and got back to her feet, taking me by the arm in the process. “Easiest way to get to the bottom of this is to go confront Ms. Yearling ourselves.”

“You can’t be serious,” I protested, though only verbally at the moment. “This is just… crazy!”

“As crazy as three magical sirens from another world hijacking a music competition to feed off the energy of a hypnotized populace?”

We stood in absolute silence for a few moments with Dash gazing at me with a cocksure grin plastered across her face. She had me; she had me against the ropes and she knew it. The sheer amount of willpower it took for me to utter the next few words would have been enough to lift the moon, pluck it from orbit, and then smash it into Canterlot High, which would have been a preferable alternative to having to admit to the truth: I just got outwitted by Rainbow Dash.

“Okay, you win,” I relented with a tired sigh. “Let’s go see what Yearling has to say about all of this.”

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

Since the discussion in the library had been so close to the start of class, we had to wait until the lunch break before we had the free time to approach Ms. Yearling with our suspicions. Despite my initial misgivings, I couldn’t help but feel a small tinge of excitement when Rainbow Dash and I proceeded on our way to Yearling’s classroom. There was definitely some real mystery in play here, and I wanted to get to the bottom of it. Perhaps I could even make a half-decent article for the school newspaper out of the experience.

However, compared to Rainbow Dash, my enthusiasm was like idle whistling to a full-throated opera. She was about as close to flying down the hallways as one could get without the use of wings. It might’ve been for different reasons, but it was refreshing to see my interests aligning with those of my friends for a change. I had been worried I would be chasing magic around this world all by myself for the most part, save for what help I might be able to get from Twilight Sparkle when opportunity arose.

“What do you think we should do? Maybe we should tag-team her—you be the good cop, and I’ll be the bad cop!” Dash suggested as we drew closer to our destination.

“I’m thinking we just have a frank discussion with her; we present our findings, and see how she reacts,” I replied.

“Gah, why do you have make everything sound so boring?”

“Hate to break it to ya, Dash, but that’s how life usually is. It’s not all magic and laser beams.”

“A girl can still dream, can’t she?”

When we arrived at Yearling’s classroom, I was greeted to the very surprising sight of the remainder of our friends waiting patiently at the door. Not that their presence was a bad thing in any way, but I hadn’t expected any of them to tag along given their previous skepticism of Rainbow Dash’s theories.

“Hi girls, what are you all doing here?” I asked, opting to cut straight to the chase.

“Well, seeing as Rainbow Dash went on all morning about what you two had dug up in the library, we’re all naturally a little curious to see what happens,” Rarity explained.

“And wouldn’t it be so cool if there really was a big celebrity like Daring Do hiding under our very noses?” Pinkie Pie chimed in with her own reason for being excited. There was a round of nods in agreement from the others, save for Applejack who maintained her skepticism of the claim.

“Of course, now I’m on the hook for a cider if it turns out Dash is right,” Applejack added, glancing over to her overly-competitive friend. “I’m just here to make sure she doesn’t try to pull a fast one over me.”

Feeling a bit more comfortable knowing that my friends were with me, I cut ahead of the eager Rainbow Dash. “Given I have a fairly good rapport with Ms. Yearling, let me go in first and handle all the talking,” I suggested.

I grabbed the door, turned the handle, and proceeding to push it open, or at least that had been the intention except the handle didn’t turn in the slightest. Given I hadn’t expected Yearling’s door to be locked, I was halfway through the push before my brain even realized the door hadn’t actually budged and I slammed my face into the door like an idiot.

“For Celestia’s sake, right in the snout!” I cursed, clasping my hands over my already-abused nose.

Fluttershy was the first to rush to my side. “Oh dear, are you okay?” she asked as she pulled out a handkerchief. Moving my hands aside, she started dabbing at my still-tender nose, checking to make sure I wasn’t leaking.

“I think I’m good,” I eventually reported. “I think it just felt worse because my nose was still sore from this morning.”

“What happened this morning?”

Fluttershy’s inquiry caught me off-guard, more because I had forgotten that none of them could really be privy to what had actually transpired. My brain froze on the spot, and in that momentary panic, I spat out the first thing that came to mind.

“I walked into a door!” Of course, I didn’t realize that was what had just happened until five seconds after that knowledge would’ve been useful.

My friends all started to giggle, now convinced that I had some affliction that drove me face-first into doors. “Gee Sunset, don’t they have doors in Equestria?” Dash remarked between chortles.

“Oh, har har,” I scoffed in an attempt to hide any hint of embarrassment on my part. I gave the door another test, but to no surprise it was just as locked as it had been ten seconds ago. “This is really strange: Yearling usually isn’t the type to lock up at lunch hour.”

“Ms. Yearling took the day off,” Fluttershy informed us. “Something about a family emergency.”

“Well why didn’t you say so before I smacked my face into the door like an idiot?” I snapped.

Sadly, I might’ve come across too strongly as Fluttershy recoiled slightly, making a prompt and timid apology. “I-I’m sorry, I thought you all knew already,” she squeaked.

“No no, it’s my fault! I shouldn't have snapped at you like—I’m sorry,” I quickly apologized in turn. “But I guess this little mystery is stuck waiting for a while longer.”

While I had been reluctantly willing to wait another day for answers, Rainbow Dash was less inclined to admit defeat. “Not unless somebody uses their amazing lock-picking skills?” she suggested in a none too subtle fashion. She grinned knowingly, nudging me with her elbow as if I hadn’t already figured out what she meant.

“Dash, I am not breaking into Yearling’s classroom,” I scolded her. “I can’t believe you would even suggest that.”

“It’s a victimless crime,” Dash replied, still undeterred. “You said she had the amulet in her desk—we just go in, take a quick look, and leave. That way we’ll at least know for certain it’s the same amulet when we actually go talk to her. I know you wanna know as badly as I do.”

Rainbow Dash’s last remarks weren’t entirely inaccurate: a part of me did really want to get some answers. “I suppose it wouldn’t hurt to take a little peek,” I mused to myself. After a quick check for any teachers or staff, I set down my bag and fished out my lock picking kit.

“You still carry those with you?” Applejack remarked in disbelief.

“It’s a legitimate hobby,” I shot back. “And sometimes I need to get into places that people accidentally lock.”

Applejack probably rolled her eyes in response given the guttural tone of her response, but I was too busy focusing on the lock before me to notice. For reasons I was not proud of, I knew the locks intimately and it took me only a few seconds before being rewarded with the ‘click’ of a yielding door. I gestured the others to follow, and despite some of their misgivings, everyone soon shuffled through the door.

Once we were inside, I locked the door behind us and we made our way to Yearling’s desk, save for Applejack who kept watch at the door. Perhaps she felt if she didn’t personally benefit from my breaking and entering, she could consider herself not to be an accomplice of it.

Breaking into the locked drawer that I saw Yearling stash the amulet proved to be no more challenging than the classroom door—the price one pays for ‘built by the lowest bidder.’ Inside the drawer, not only did we find the amulet, but also a thick, leather-bound ledger.

“This is definitely the same amulet we saw in the picture,” I remarked. I lifted the amulet out, taking the utmost care with it since it looked very expensive, which was often synonymous with fragile. “But Ms. Yearling said that someone gave this to her. Maybe she’s not the person in the picture.”

“What’s that on the back?” Fluttershy asked, pointing to the amulet’s opposite side.

Turning the amulet over, we all saw what appeared to be some kind of hieroglyphic etched into it. “Don’t have the slightest clue,” I remarked. The marking looked like a backwards ‘c’ with a star in the middle, though for all I knew that was just the signature of the artisan who made it. “It looks like there’s a hinge right here too; I think this amulet might actually open up or something.”

“Well it wouldn’t be a Daring Do adventure without a mystery to unlock,” Rainbow Dash suggested.

“This doesn’t prove anything. Ms. Yearling could’ve gotten this amulet in any number of ways,” I replied.

As I had been so fixated on the beetle-like trinket, I hadn’t noticed that Rainbow Dash helped herself to the ledger and had been flipping through the pages. Her eyes were now widened like a child that’s just awoken to Hearth’s Warming Day.

“Check this out,” Dash said as she set the book down for the rest of us to see. In it were numerous pages of handwritten notes, along with pictures and other pieces of paper pinned to the pages. There were a lot of hand-drawn pictures and maps, including hieroglyphics that looked very similar to the one on the amulet. Dash’s finger was pointing our attention to one particular passage. “‘August fifth. Confirmed my suspicions: Caballeron is in pursuit. Spotted one of his favourite henchmen scouting the bazaar today. I fear my previous contact may have gone turncoat. That or I’m getting sloppy. I’m too close to leave now. Meeting with the vendor is still on for this afternoon. I’ll just need to get creative to get past Caballeron’s eyes.’”

“That sounds vaguely like—”

“Like somebody writing about their adventure?” Dash interrupted me. “I think these are Daring Do’s notes! She must keep a journal and then turns them into a novel later once the adventure’s over.”

I leaned in for a closer look, examining the numerous pages of the journal: some were written with diligence and careful attention to detail, while other entries looked as though they were scrawled while riding on horseback. Some of the illustrations drawn displayed a keen eye for detail, including one that detailed some kind of statue of a canine-like deity, complete with jeweled eyes. There was also a smaller note of ‘might make a good cover?’ scrawled beneath it.

“Okay, I’m starting to think there might be some credence to your ‘Daring Do’ theory,” I said, much to Rainbow’s delight.

Before we could explore the journal any further, though, Applejack started waving for our attention. “It’s Ms. Yearling, she’s heading this way,” she whispered as loudly as she could without alerting anyone outside the room.

“What? I thought she wasn’t in today?” I yelped in disbelief. While Dash and I had wanted to speak with Yearling about the Daring Do theory, getting caught red-handed breaking into her desk was not the best way to open a dialogue.

Not unless we wanted that dialogue to end with us getting dragged to Principal Celestia’s office.

Everyone looked to each other in hopes that somebody would have a plan. “What do we do?” Fluttershy asked in growing panic.

Well if nobody was going to step up and take control, then it fell on me to save our collective butts. “Quick, the supply closet!” I ordered as I put the amulet and book back into the desk.

While the others raced for the closet, I had to stay behind to make sure everything was exactly as we had found it. One by one, my friends piled into the tiny storage space that was never designed to hold five teenagers, let alone six once I dive in.

“Sunset, hurry up!” Rainbow Dash called out to me.

“I have to lock this back up,” I replied. While unlocking the drawer may have been a walk in the park, reversing the process while seconds away from being caught in the act made it feel more like bomb disposal. When I heard the doorknob begin to jiggle, I threw all caution to the wind and brute forced the lock closed, which twisted my torsion wrench into a horrid shape. It got the job done, however, and I dashed for the supply closet, diving headlong in anticipation of the classroom door opening any second.

To say the inside of the closet was cramped wouldn’t be doing the situation justice. The locker I got stuffed into was cramped, but even that felt like an auditorium compared to this. Being the last one in, I was pinned between the door and who I presumed to be Pinkie Pie considering how squishy she was. It was too dark to tell who was where, but I was more concerned about the doorknob that was pressing into my spine.

“Is everyone okay?” I whispered.

“Somebody’s hand is on my butt,” Rarity protested.

“Well excuse me, but I can’t exactly move at the moment,” Applejack replied. “Maybe if somebody would get their knee out of my back, I could.”

“I-I’m sorry,” Fluttershy whimpered.

“Mmphhhff urrmph imff burffferf!”

“Who was that?” I asked.

“I think that was Rainbow Dash,” Pinkie Pie answered.

As one of the closet to the door, I had the luxury of being able to hear what was happening in the classroom. I whispered for everyone to quiet down and pressed my ear against the door. I heard the classroom door finally open, which took a lot longer than I would’ve expected for somebody who should have keys for the classroom. The footsteps that soon followed were very subtle, almost like they were sneaking as well. After that came a minute or two of rummaging through drawers.

“Ah-ha! Found it,” Yearling’s voice sounded from the other side of the door. “I knew this was a good idea—advantage goes to Daring.”

After a short, self-congratulatory chuckle, I presumed Yearling raced out the door because her footsteps were more hurried and the door slammed shut a second later. After giving it a few more moments so I was sure we were safe, I turned the doorknob and the six of us were belched out from the closet.

Last one in, first one out, and thus I was at the bottom with my friends all piled atop. Just beside me was Rainbow Dash, whose head had somehow been lodged into the tangled, infinite void that was Pinkie Pie’s hair. Released from the closet, Dash was able to finally pull free, gasping loudly for air before collapsing to the ground.

“I have stared into the abyss… and it was pink,” she panted between heaving breaths.

While my friends collected themselves, I pulled myself out from underneath the heap and headed back over to check on Yearling’s desk. I had my suspicions as to what had transpired, but I needed to confirm it for myself. Sure enough, the drawer was unlocked and the amulet was gone.

“Looks like she took the amulet,” I reported to my friends.

I was just about to mention what I heard through the door when I noticed something amiss with the drawer. There was something thin and metallic just barely sticking out of the lock. Shame I didn’t have my magic to just grab the mystery object, but at least with my fingers I was able to work it free. The item in question was a twisted piece of thin metal, more specifically it was a broken bobby pin.

“Something fishy is going on here,” I called out to my friends. “Why would Ms. Yearling need to break into her own desk?”

“Well it’s a little bit too late to ask her now,” Applejack remarked, now standing by the windows. As I joined her, she directed my attention to Ms. Yearling, who had just hopped onto a motorcycle parked on the side of the road. After a few quick revs, she sped off down the road, taking with her the amulet and any chance of getting answers for today. There was no way we were catching up to somebody on a motorcycle, especially since we still had the rest of the school day to finish.

“Great,” I sighed in dismay, “now I want to know even more.”