• 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 VI-I

Life at Canterlot High had settled into a familiar and comfortable routine for me. Every day, I would head into school and spend the day with wonderful people I considered my closest friends. We’d laugh, we’d cry, we’d share embarrassing pictures of one another, and every few days we’d have a practice session for the Rainbooms in the music hall. I wasn’t just an outsider forced to cling to these girls as the only source of refuge in a school full of animosity and mistrust towards me; I was a part of a community again. When I spoke, people trusted me, and I no longer had this nagging voice at the back of my mind insisting that everyone was mocking me the moment I looked away.

Even better, the question of magic in this world wasn’t keeping me up at night anymore. Sure, it was still something to be concerned about, but it no longer represented an immediate danger to myself, the school, or Equestria. From my observations of Rainbow Dash, I hypothesized that she was gaining the ability to summon her Equestrian magic through great displays of loyalty. So far, none of the other girls have demonstrated spontaneous ‘ponying up,’ and even tried a few experiments with them. None bore any fruit. It made sense, of course, since one couldn’t just artificially create a sincere display of honesty or generosity in a lab. It’s also possible that the magic inside the others just hasn’t developed enough to trigger without the use of our instruments.

More research was going to be needed, but much to my friends’ collective relief, I decided against further experiments for the time being.

No doubt Celestia was glad to hear that as well.

I hadn’t even thought about magic much in the weeks following the venture with Ms. Yearling. That changed, however, when I was summoned to meet with her before class one day. Due to my position with the school newspaper, it wasn’t uncommon for me to meet with her outside of class, so I thought nothing of it until I arrived at her classroom.

Since her last run-in with her sister, Ms. Yearling had undergone something of a change herself. While she sat at her desk amidst a pile of graded papers and open textbooks, which was often the case when we met, she seemed more relaxed and at ease as of late. She regularly wore her hair loose, and I hadn’t seen her with her glasses for at least a week. In a way, she began to resemble her sister more now, or rather made less of an attempt to hide the familial connection. In her hand was a tablet, which was the focus of her attention when I arrived.

“Good morning, Ms. Yearling. You wanted to see me?” I greeted.

“Ah, Ms. Shimmer! I was just doing another read over your latest article,” Yearling said. She set her tablet down and gestured to the empty chair on the opposite side of the desk.

“I take it you don’t mind me exposing your big secret to the world?” I asked. The article in question detailed my experiences with Ms. Yearling and her sister, shedding light on the truth behind the legend of Daring Do. Granted, if it wasn’t me revealing the truth, then it would be Rainbow Dash sooner or later. She had a million and one pictures with Yearling and her sister, and it was only through desperate pleas and numerous autographs that they managed to convince her not to plaster all of those pictures over the internet. Still, it was only a matter of time before she broke out one of those pictures to settle an internet argument on those fan sites she frequented.

Yearling set the tablet down and gave me a reflective look. “My sister’s letting go of her childhood fantasies; I figured it’s due time for me to do the same,” she answered. “I’ve always liked the anonymity, and it’s certainly been amusing watching people on message boards try to piece together my identity. I even sometimes threw a red herring in just to watch the fans go rabid trying to fit it into their puzzle.”

She paused for a moment to chuckle quietly under her breath as she no doubt replayed such a moment in her mind. “Anyways,” she continued, “it’s a good piece of work. I’m, um, grateful you left out most of our… shameful moments.”

“Just because it was an expose didn’t mean I had to put all the details in. I know what it’s like to have done things you’re not entirely proud of.”

We exchanged warm, knowing smiles before Yearling reached down to something on the floor near her desk. She set down a sizeable box, which overflowed with numerous books and rolled-up parchments.

“It took me a while to dig it all up, but this is everything I used for research in Daring Do’s magical encounters,” Yearling explained with just a small hint of pride. “Or at least all the stuff that I could find translations for. A lot of this magic stuff is written in dead or secret languages. Almost as if they didn’t want people figuring out their secrets.”

I immediately grabbed the first book within reach and began to flip through the pages. It was one of Derring Do’s journals from her expeditions, not too dissimilar to the one I found when I broke into Yearling’s desk. As I expected, it detailed a lot of about old myths and legends from ancient civilizations, though one of the sketches included caught my attention. It was an image of a relic composed of a diamond-shaped jewel set in an amulet bearing the visage of a horse with wings and a horn.

“Hold on, is this the Alicorn Amulet,” I muttered under my breath.

Though intended as rhetorical, Yearling heard my words and expressed her own confusion. “It is, but how did you know that? I changed it’s name and appearance in the novel.”

“Back in Equestria, I read about such an artifact. It was said to bestow whoever wore it with unparalleled magical abilities,” I explained to my teacher. “I guess it’s not just the people that have duplicates on this side of the portal.”

“For what it’s worth, my sister said she wore it for a while and didn’t feel anything magical.”

Yearling then looked into the box, pushing aside a few books and scrolls and rummaged around the bottom in search of something. She then pulled out what I thought for a second was the actual Alicorn Amulet, suspended from a small metallic chain.

“Now are you sure your world’s amulet looked like this?” Yearling asked.

“Identical. Is… is that really—?”

“Of course not,” she answered, putting my concerns to rest. “The real thing is worth millions of dollars, after all. This is just a copy. The museum we gave it to thought about selling these in their gift shop, and I got sent a few copies for approval. Eventually, it was decided these things were a little too pointy to be selling to young children.”

Upon closer inspection, the amulet Yearling held was an obvious replica, crafted with cheap plastics and tin rather than ancient magics and the souls of the damned. We packed everything back into the box, and with a few grunts, I hefted it into my arms.

“Well, thanks for all the material. Hopefully I’ll find something useful in all of this,” I said. I then began the slow process of trudging towards the door whilst carrying twenty pounds of old books. “If nothing else, I know a few people who will be super jealous I get to read these things.”

“Glad to be of help. Feel free to keep it for as long as you need. It’s not like those things were doing me any good taking up space in the attic,” Yearling said as she turned back to her work. “Oh, and happy birthday, by the way.”

Those last words stopped me dead in my tracks. “Wait, I never told you when my birthday was,” I remarked. “Let me guess, Pinkie Pie told you.”

“In a manner of speaking,” Yearling replied.

“Listen, I really don’t want to make a big deal out of it,” I said in a desperate plea. “It’s hard enough knowing that Pinkie’s probably got this huge party all planned out for me. You think it might be possible to keep it all on the down-low?”

“Uhhh…” Yearling trailed off in a worrying fashion as her eyes made a nervous glance towards the far side of the classroom.

I followed her lead and that was when I saw it.

Strung along the entire length of the back wall was a massive banner, painted over with all manners of sparkles, streamers, and festive iconography. Most importantly, in large, vibrant letters were the words ‘Happy Birthday Sunset Shimmer’. Knowing my friend, there was probably one of those hung in every room I had a class in, which meant by lunchtime, everybody would know what day it was. I hadn’t a hope in this world or Equestria of escaping that fate. I just stared at it in disbelief, slack-jawed and dumb-struck.

“In all fairness, you probably should’ve seen this coming,” Yearling remarked.

“And yet I never seem to learn,” I grumbled to myself.

Granted, as far as problems went, having a friend that cared too much was about as selfish as they came. As I turned to head to my locker, I reminded myself that the worst case scenario was that I might feel a little uncomfortable at some point; on the other hand, I would probably have a better-than-average day thanks to this. Perhaps I could even leverage the special occasion for an extra parfait from the cafeteria.

Since my hands were full carrying my new personal library, opening the door again involved a delicate juggling act involving balancing the box upon a raised leg. No sooner did I open the door, however, did Pinkie Pie suddenly burst into view, accompanied by a spray of confetti and a deafening blast from a party favour.

“Happy birthday, Sunset Shimmer!”

Once again, I should’ve seen that coming. Instead of smiling and thanking my friend for her thoughtful greeting, I shrieked like a spastic banshee and toppled over beneath a pile of old books. So much for meeting the day with dignity. Now make no mistake, Pinkie Pie was amongst my closest friends, but there were days where it felt like she would be the death of me.

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

By some grace of a divine power, I managed to make it through the first half of the day without any of my worst fears being realized. To be fair, those worst fears included things like Pinkie leading a marching band through the halls to sing me happy birthday, and the school being overrun by clowns. With those metrics, the day had been a success thus far. In fact, with the exception of Ms. Yearling and Pinkie, nobody had made much mentioning of my birthday at all, even despite the giant banners in class. It made me increasingly nervous as the day dragged on.

Maybe I had hyped up my fears too much. Maybe Pinkie Pie had given me a false sense of how much people cared about the birthdays of others. As a whole, the school and my friends had all been remarkably quiet about the whole affair.

Too quiet, in fact.

My suspicions only grew when lunchtime rolled about, and I saw no sign of any of them between leaving class and arriving at my locker—not even so much as a wayward speck of glitter. I was even half-expecting Pinkie to somehow burst forth from my locker the second I opened it, even going so far as to physically brace myself as I swung the door aside. Of course, there was nothing but my coat and books inside because only a person who had taken a complete leave of their senses would’ve expected Pinkie to hide in a locker like some kind of birthday guerrilla.

“Are you okay, Sunset?” Flash Sentry’s voice perked up from behind me.

“I’m good; just paranoia slowly eroding the last vestiges of my sanity,” I replied in jest.

“Wow. I never realized the whole birthday thing had you this worked up.”

“It’s my own fault, really,” I reassured him. “I’ve gotten myself so convinced that my birthday would just be a horrible mess of guilt and bad memories, that I’m starting to subconsciously look for reasons to justify it.”

As I put away my books, Flash leaned against the lockers beside me and put on his familiar, goofy but reassuring smile. “Well if anybody can change your mind about this, it’ll be Pinkie. I gotta say, I’m a little jealous of you now. She’s never planned a birthday party for me before.”

“That’s because I didn’t let her, remember? I think I threatened to throw her party cannon into a lake if she tried.”

“Oh… right.”

I doubt it was Flash Sentry’s intention to remind me of how much of a control freak I had been during our sham of a relationship: he was far too much of a harmless goofball for that. Nonetheless, I made sure to reassure him of that before his embarrassment threatened to devour him. A quick snicker was enough to convey my sense of levity and all was right with the world again.

As there was still no sign of any of my other friends, I figured they were laying in wait for me somewhere. There was no point in keeping them waiting so I put the last of my things away and headed towards the cafeteria.

To my surprise, Flash fell into step alongside me. “So I heard the birthday party was going to be this weekend.”

“No point having it in the middle of the week,” I answered. “Pinkie keeps telling me that it’s going to be a surprise party, but I don’t quite see how I’ll be surprised given that she hasn’t stopped talking about it.”

Normally I wouldn’t second-guess somebody wanting to keep me company, but my vigilance had been set to maximum for today so it didn’t take long for the voice in the back of my mind to start nagging as to why Flash was still here. He usually ate with his bandmates, and given that he hadn’t even mentioned Twilight Sparkle yet, he must’ve had ulterior motives. Given that Flash Sentry was well-versed with my ‘suspicious gaze,’ he quickly deduced what was going on in my mind.

“Come on, Sunset, I’m trying to get back into your good books, remember?” Flash said in an attempt to cut-off my accusations before I could make them. “You’re making me feel like a criminal with that look.”

“Okay, okay. I’m sorry, I’m just—you know, a bit on edge.”

“Just relax! It’s your birthday: nothing’s going to suddenly jump out and bite you.”

“You’re right,” I said with a resigned sigh. “I’m just so used to things going wrong for me. I want this day to be good, but it feels like the moment I drop my guard is the second things will go sideways.”

“Don’t sweat the small stuff, Sunset. So what if things go a little sideways? As long as you keep your chin up, you can fix things in no time. Besides, what’s the worst that could happen?”

“Another interdimensional monster tries to take over the school?”

We stopped just outside of the cafeteria to have a good laugh, which worked wonders on easing my nerves. It was still hard to believe that a few months ago, I would’ve dreaded bringing up anything related to the Fall Formal, but now I was able to laugh about it, at least in certain company. Perhaps I had been getting too paranoid with Flash. It was obvious now that he was just doing what he always did: trying to get me to relax and not stress out over trivial matters. I was just about to thank him for his efforts, but then I realized he deserved more than just a few trifling words for everything he’s done for me.

“Say, Flash, you think you might be interested in coming to the party this weekend?”

“Is that an invitation?” Flash replied in disbelief. “I heard you wanted it to be something small. You know, just you and your friends.”

“It is, I mean I do, or at least I think I do. I’m… I’m not entirely sure what I want anymore,” I tried to explain myself. It probably came off more as a ramble than a coherent plan. “What I’m trying to say is, I’d like for us to be friends again, and I’d really like for you to be there. I understand, though, if this is a bit too quick.”

“Oh, don’t worry. I’m used to you moving at your own pace,” Flash laughed off my concern. He was, of course, referring to how we first started dating, which included a very upfront request from me. Always taking the initiative helped keep me in control of the relationship.

I dared to flash a hopeful smile. “So… you’ll come to the party?”

“Sure, I’d love to.”

It’d be a lie to say that my reasons for inviting Flash Sentry were entirely for my own benefit, but I wanted to make it a surprise for him so I kept quiet about what I really had in mind. Just because it was my birthday party, didn’t mean I couldn’t have my own plans in the works.

“Oh, before I forget,” Flash said as he suddenly reached into his coat pocket. “I got you a little something for your birthday.”

“What?” I remarked in disbelief. “Flash, you really didn’t have to get me anything. I think I’ve put you through enough birthday-related grief to last a lifetime.”

“Yeah but I wanted to anyways,” Flash answered, still struggling with whatever he had tucked into his coat. “Pinkie said you had some bad experiences with birthdays and that was why the whole thing bothered you so much. I thought, you know, maybe I could help fix that by showing you that there’s nothing to be scared of—even a gift from your ex.”

Just as he finished speaking, he finally freed the item that had somehow gotten entangled in his coat. However, he somehow managed to also lose his grip on it and a small velvet-covered box tumbled from his grasp on to the floor. It was long and narrow, about the length of my hand and half the width of my palm, which left me curious as to what he might’ve gotten me for a gift.

“Oh geeze, sorry. Don’t worry, it’s not fragile—I think,” Flash said in haste as he dropped to a knee to pick it back up. He quickly inspected it for any sign of damage, then smiled and held it up to me. “See? It’s still good!”

At that instant, the cafeteria doors burst open as Pinkie Pie and the rest of my friends poured out to a jubilant cheer of, “SURPRI—… ise?”

Their cheers and joy took an abrupt shift hard enough to give them all collective whiplash as their eyes laid upon the sight before them. For at that instant, what they saw was Flash Sentry down on one knee, holding aloft what appeared to be, due to his hand obscuring part of the box, a palm-sized velvet box. The seven of us just stared at one another with slack-jawed looks of varying disbelief, ranging from ‘forgot to study for the final’ to ‘waking up to discover your family’s been replaced by changelings, all of whom are now in the form of Maud Pie.’

That last one was mine.

Applejack was first to finally break the silence. “Well I’m certainly surprised.”

“Okay, very funny girls, but this totally isn’t what it looks like,” I said in an attempt to drown my embarrassment beneath a generous serving of bravado. “Flash here was just—get back up, Flash!—he was just giving me a little birthday gift, that’s all.”

“It’s just a pen, seriously!” Flash exclaimed, opening the box to show my friends. “It’s a harmless little gift.”

“Wait, you got me a pen?”

Flash turned to show me his gift. It wasn’t just any random pen from a dollar store shelf, but a proper fountain pen. It had a black body stylized with gold lacquer, creating a sunrise-like pattern that wrapped around the whole length, save for a small space where my name had been engraved on a small brass plate.

I was still staring in disbelief as Flash slowly set the box into my hands. “This is… nobody’s ever given something so thoughtful before. It’s beautiful, Flash. Thank you.”

Back when we were dating, I never gave him much control over birthday gifts. I always insisted on something specific and, almost always, very expensive. He was eager to please so it never took much effort to get him to buy what I wanted. I never even bothered to keep any of his gifts for more than a few weeks, often either tossing them out or using them as bargaining chips in my fool-hearted quest for domination.

“Aw, shucks, it was nothing,” Flash insisted, a sheepish chuckle under his breath. “You always seemed to like writing, even back when we were, you know, dating. I figured a serious writer deserves a serious pen, and that there is very… um, pen… ish.”

“You don’t need to sell it, Flash. I already love it.”

With one last playful laugh, I snapped the box shut, and turned to my friends, a few of whom were trying to hide their snickering. Once they realized I was looking their way again, they all straightened up.

“Now what exactly have you five been scheming up?” I asked.

“Oh, nothing much,” Applejack insisted in an unconvincing manner. “Just a lil’ something to show our appreciation.”

Before I could say another word, Rarity and Fluttershy hurried to my side, with each taking me by the arm to guide me into the cafeteria. I felt less like a birthday girl and more like a convict being led to the hangman’s noose. I began to have flashbacks to my first birthday party at the Royal Castle: a cold deluge of indifference drowning any hope or aspiration. It was only by the grace of Fluttershy and Rarity’s reassuring presence that kept me from hurling the nearest water fountain through a window and sprinting for the hills.

As I was led into the cafeteria, a wave of relief washed over me when I realized that I wasn’t being led into some balloon and confetti-covered hellscape. In fact, the cafeteria was exactly as it always was, with the lone exception of an empty table with a colourful tablecloth laid overtop. No prizes in guessing where I was being taken to.

Everyone else in the room just went about their business as usual, except that everyone I passed paused for a moment, turned to smile and wave at me, before wishing me a happy birthday. Nothing dramatic or over-the-top; just a simple ‘happy birthday Sunset’ before they continued on their way. It was warm, but not overwhelming, and somewhere along the way, as the well-wishes continued pouring in, I stopped being scared. I still felt lost, like a child being led through a crowded mall, but I had my friends with me so I knew I would be okay.

I was finally guided into a chair that had been adorned with plush, red velvet cushion that had Rarity’s handiwork written all over it. It was perhaps a bit opulent for a mere birthday, but I wasn’t about to turn down an opportunity to avoid using the cheap and hard plastic chairs in our cafeteria. It was all about easing myself into the spirit of the day, one baby step at a time.

“I thought you said you said you were going to keep things small at school,” I said to Pinkie Pie.

“This is small for her,” Applejack answered instead. “You should’ve seen what she did for my birthday last year. We’re still finding wayward apples around the school.”

“And I’ll have you know this is the smallest cake I could find,” Pinkie added. She set a plate down before me, upon which stood a lone cupcake. Even despite it’s size, it was adorned with mounds of frosting, sprinkles, and a sun-shaped wafer biscuit. And somehow, she still managed to get ‘Happy Birthday!’ written on it in red frosting.

“Wow. You do not do things in half-measures,” I remarked in a mix of disbelief and awe. I would’ve expected at best a cupcake from Sugarcube Corner and a birthday card, but even in the face of my stubbornness, Pinkie kept her personal touch all over every aspect.

“This is… this is better than I ever could’ve hoped for,” I stammered while unsuccessfully trying to keep my emotions in check. “I know I’ve been a bit irrational about this whole affair, but it means a lot to me that you were all still willing to cater to these childish whims.”

A hand fell upon my shoulder as Fluttershy sat in the seat next to me. “There’s nothing wrong with being scared of something that’s hurt you in the past,” she reassured me. “We’re always here to help you with any problem, even the ones you think are childish.”

“Oh, you girls are just the best!” Overcome with emotion, I reached out and pulled the two nearest in for a hug, which prompted the rest to join in.

“Yay! Group hug!” Pinkie shouted in glee. She practically threw herself atop of the rest of us as she embraced us tight.

With everyone bundled up close, Rarity whipped out her cell phone and snapped a picture of the six of us together. If nothing else, at least I would have that picture to remind me that I no longer needed to be held down by my past. I was able to breathe easy, knowing that I could look forward to the coming party with renewed hope.

But as I said, the moment I let my guard down is when things start to go wrong.