• 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-VI

There were not enough words in all the languages on either side of the magic portal to describe how much I wanted to crawl into the deepest, darkest pit and just hide for the rest of my life. Despite the temptation to run out of the restaurant, screaming and wailing like a banshee, I had to stay one step ahead of Twilight if I was going to make it out of this with some semblance of my dignity intact. I had to take control of the conversation.

“Twilight, what are you doing here?” I asked despite having a good idea of what the answer was. If she was at a nice restaurant wearing the fancy new clothes Rarity had bought for her, then she had to be on her date with Flash. “Last time we spoke, you said you were going to wait until the weekend for your date.”

“I did, or I mean, I was,” my friend explained. “But when I asked some of my friends in Equestria for advice, Rarity over there said I should be assertive and ‘seize the opportunity’, as she put it. Since that’s basically what the Rarity here said as well, I decided to stop thinking and just go for it!” There was a growing giddiness in her voice: a kind of teenaged excitement that only came from smashing through personal boundaries and realizing the freedom that came with it. I could practically see the energy radiating from her, as well as a spring in her step and the ear-to-ear grin. “Next thing I know, I’m jumping through the portal, then I got Rarity and Pinkie’s help, and just showed up at Flash’s door. It was just so… wild and spontaneous—my heart’s still racing a little bit from it.”

“That’s putting it mildly,” I remarked, feigning disbelief. Just my luck that she decided to be spur-of-the-moment on the least convenient day for me. At least she was happy about it, so I couldn’t begrudge her sudden paradigm shift. “Still, that’s great to hear! I bet Flash was surprised to see you again so soon.”

“You should’ve seen the look on his face,” Twilight gushed with a giddy bounce in her step. “But what are you doing here?”

“I… uh…”

“Unless…” she continued as a sudden realization dawned upon her, “you’re here in case I need any help with my date!” Before I could consider correcting that belief, my friend threw her arms around me in a tight embrace. “Oh, thank you, thank you, thank you!” she exclaimed. “I was nervous about this whole night, but knowing you’re here is going to be a huge relief!”

Far be it for me to correct somebody when they were making a mistake in my favour. “W-well, you know me, always trying to help,” I said while patting her on the back. “I was trying to figure out a way to let you know, but it seems you’ve already beaten me to the punch.”

It was easy to get somebody to believe a lie when they practically gift-wrap it for you. I was able to breathe a little easier, and not just because Twilight released me from her bear hug. Now that I had her reading from the right script, it was just a matter of keeping her from getting too curious about my business at the restaurant.

“So here’s what I was thinking,” I started my proposal, “you continue your date as usual and if you run into any problems, you can text me. Did you manage to get a cell phone from anyone?”

“Yeah, Pinkie Pie’s letting me borrow hers for the night.” Twilight pulled out the familiar pink device, beaming with pride as she no doubt spent hours practicing her texting. “Are you sure texting is the best, though? Couldn’t I just run over to wherever you are when I need help?”

“Oh no. Nonononono,” I hastily corrected her. “It’s best if you don’t let Flash know that I’m here. He might think I don’t trust him and that I’m keeping an eye on you two. Let’s just keep this our little secret, shall we? In fact, unless it’s absolutely necessary, just pretend I’m not here either.”

Though a little uncertain, Twilight nodded in agreement. “Um, okay. If you think that’s for the best.”

“Trust me, this is for the best,” I reassured her.

Granted, it was for my best, but that wasn’t too far from the truth. Her date would end in a spectacular fashion if my dinner companion discovered a doppelganger dining at the same restaurant. Or worse, if Flash accidentally confused his Twilight for mine. For everybody’s sake, I had to keep the Twilights separate and oblivious to the other.

“Now you be sure to have fun,” I said as I excused myself. “And remember, just be yourself. There’s no need to overanalyze things.”

Said the girl who spent most of the day overanalyzing one text message.

Given how I had spent over half an hour waiting for one Twilight Sparkle without noticing the presence of the other, it was a safe bet that she and Flash were somewhere on the other side of the crowded restaurant. With any luck, they’d never notice us, and all I really needed to worry about was keeping my Twilight Sparkle from noticing the other one. If necessary, I could at least explain myself to Flash Sentry and Princess Twilight without anyone going into an existential crisis.

I returned to my table to find the other Twilight Sparkle in almost the same state that I had left her in. If anything, she had gotten a little worse as she now had a second computer sitting on the table and was alternating between the two, much to the curiosity and confusion of the other patrons.

“So… have you decided what to order yet?” I asked in a desperate attempt to remind my friend of where we were. If she kept using the table as a workstation, there was a good chance Princess Twilight might notice her. “Surely you can do this all when you get back home.”

“Why would I wait?” Twilight mumbled, glancing upwards from her screen.

I gestured to her surroundings with the hopes she’d clue in on what I meant, which she thankfully did a few moments later when a faint blush crept across her face.

“O-oh, right. Dinner.” She was just about to grab one of her machines when she stopped herself, then glanced over to her other computer, and then once again back to the first. She bounced between the two a couple more times as the indecision soon overwhelmed her. “Uh, could I keep at least one out? Please?”

I started feeling bad for her, so I had to compromise. “Okay, but only one,” I said.

And just like that, Twilight was back to being all smiles and sunshine as she put one of her laptops away, and resumed her work on the other. I couldn’t help but wonder what dinnertime must be like at the Sparkle household, and how often her parents must have had similar discussions in the past. Still, her eccentricities were what made her who she was, and I honestly wouldn’t have her any other way.

“My goodness, some of the data here is beyond anything I had anticipated,” Twilight said as she toiled on her work. I was still trying to decide on an appetizer when she spun her computer around to show me a number of charts and graphs, all of which were adorned with colourful wavy lines. “Look at this! Do you know what this all means?”

Now I was smart, especially for a high school student, but what she was showing me was beyond my ability to comprehend with only a cursory look. With enough study, I’m sure I would reach whatever conclusion had my friend looking so giddy, but in the meantime I just had to respond with a befuddled stare.

“These are waveform patterns from the energy readings I’ve been gathering over the past couple of months,” she explained while pointing to the relevant figures. “Look at these: some of the patterns are identical to one another!”

“Meaning…?”

“That this isn’t just some random natural phenomenon like I originally hypothesized; these are discrete, recurring energy patterns. Whatever is creating these, it’s exhibiting signs of… intention, of control. Whatever this is, it must be something that’s harnessable.”

Taking a closer look at the data and their timestamps, I was able to hypothesize what some of the readings must have been. Though nothing major had occurred at school lately, that didn’t mean our magic sat idle the entire time. Our band rehearsals, for starters, often resulted in all of us ponying up, and Rainbow Dash used whatever excuse she could to sprout her wings so she could fly about. Those moments had to be the recurring patterns that Twilight’s device had detected.

“W-well, if it’s something deliberate, then it might not be as extraordinary as you think,” I remarked. “Maybe your machine is just picking up somebody’s science experiment.”

“I highly doubt it at this stage,” Twilight said, spinning her computer back around. “Canterlot High’s electricity use has remained fairly consistent over the past month, with no spikes in energy consumption corresponding to the appearances of the anomalies. Whatever’s the source, it’s not from conventional means, which is the most puzzling part.”

“How so?”

“It’s just… these energy spikes come out of nowhere and then disappear just as suddenly,” she explained. The strain of uncertainty on her face made me begin to wonder how often she stayed awake at night pondering this over to no avail. It reminded of the look Applejack often had when she ran into a math problem she couldn’t figure out. “It’s like it’s ignoring the very Laws of Conservation, like some kind of…”

“Magic?”

There was a flash of indignation on my friend’s face before she promptly settled down and smirked. “Right. Joke,” she murmured, mostly to herself.

“You’re catching on faster these days,” I mused before offering my friend some tea. “Would you like to take a look at the menu?”

“I… I guess I should do that, huh? Kind of silly to invite you out to dinner and not bother with the dinner part,” Twilight apologized, followed by a sheepish laugh to hide her own embarrassment. I watched as her eyes began to scan across the menu and the enthusiasm visibly drained as she turned the pages. “Oh, um, these are certainly some… uh, interesting choices.”

“I take it you don’t eat eat much exotic foods, do you?”

“W-what? No!” Twilight stammered. “I eat… other stuff. Just not this stuff. Usually.” She gave me a sort of pleading, apologetic stare for a moment. “Does instant ramen count as exotic?”

I honestly felt a small tinge of pride in my friend: clearly she was a creature of habit, but here she was forcing herself outside of that comfort zone for my sake. And how did I repay her? With lies and obfuscation. It was enough to make me question who was really teaching whom about friendship.

“They have some proper ramen actually,” I suggested while pointing to it on her menu. “Way better than anything you’d cook in a microwave.”

After a few minutes, she eventually decided upon a chicken ramen, while I ordered something called a yasai itame, which I had no idea what it meant, but the description sounded absolutely delicious. While we waited for our meal, my curiosity eventually got the better of me.

“So Twilight, what was this thing you said you needed to talk to me face-to-face about?”

“Oh! That?” Twilight suddenly stammered as her face started turning red. “W-we don’t need to talk about that just yet! We can save that until later.”

Her sudden bout of anxiety did little to allay my own, but I knew better than to push the issue. Even if my curiosity was gnawing away at my mind like a pack of rabbits on a fresh head of cabbage, I had to exercise more patience. Before I can say anything further, however, my phone began to buzz. I checked my messages and it took me a second to remember that the other Twilight Sparkle had Pinkie Pie’s phone, so the messages from her were showing up under the latter's name.

Pinkie: Flash is asking me about what music bands I like. I don’t know any of the musicians here. What do I say?

“Is everything okay?” the Twilight across the table from me asked.

“A friend of mine is on her first date,” I answered truthfully as I saw no need to lie about that particular detail. “She’s a little nervous, so I offered to be available for advice if she needed it. I just wasn’t expecting it quite so soon.”

“That’s very nice of you to help her out,” Twilight replied, much to my relief. “Is your friend okay?”

I waved her concern off with a playful chuckle. “Nah, just a bit of her perfectionism playing on her nerves,” I insisted.

“Well, I know what that’s like,” Twilight said with a laugh.

“Just give me a second to answer her back.”

Pinkie: Help! He’s giving me a weird look. I can only stall for so long!

Sunset: Just tell him the truth. Or mostly truth. Tell him you only really know local bands from where you live.

With the message sent, I was able to turn my attention back to my friend. It took a bit of coaxing, but I was able to get Twilight talking about things not related to her scientific pursuit. We caught up on the latest happenings at our schools, and what we’ve been up to since we hadn’t had much opportunity to chat over the weekend. She went on for a while about her research project at the Canterlot university library, which was far more interesting to listen to than I would’ve expected. I didn’t know a lot about this world’s history so it was a good opportunity to learn something new, and Twilight seemed to enjoy teaching me the subject. It only stopped when our food arrived and we became far more preoccupied with tastier matters at hand.

“Hey Sunset, can I ask you something personal?” Twilight inquired while stirring her noodles about.

“What’s on your mind?”

“What made you choose to be a vegetarian?”

I gave an indifferent shrug, if only to buy myself some time and give the impression the subject wasn’t that significant. It gave me time to devise a truthful answer better than ‘because I was a horse.’

“I’ve always been one: my parents were vegetarians and they raised me as one,” I answered. “Meat was never really an option around my home, so I never thought twice about it.”

“So you’ve never tried meat? You’ve never been curious?”

“Well, I’ve tried a bit of seafood on a few occasions. It was a dinner party I got dragged into so I had to make nice and be polite.”

To be frank, those occasions had been more about keeping Princess Celestia happy than the griffon diplomats that she was entertaining. The last thing either of us wanted were unhappy griffons because one little pony wouldn’t slurp down an oyster or two. They took a lot of pride in their cuisine, and were rather sensitive about any perceived slights.

And my friend wasn’t the only Twilight to be curious about vegetarian entrees, as my phone buzzed once more.

Pinkie: Sunset, help! We need to talk. Meet me in the washroom.

“Is your friend okay?” Twilight asked, having noticed my expression dropping the moment I read the message.

“It’s uh… I think my friend is overthinking things,” I explained. “Will you excuse me for a moment? I need to make a call.”

Thankfully, the Twilight across from me was understanding and I hurried off towards the washrooms with the hopes that I could talk my other friend down from whatever mental ledge she had perched herself upon. When I arrived, she was already impatiently pacing back and forth, and only stopped when she saw my presence. I soon noticed the menu she clutched in her grasp, and had a strong suspicion what the problem was.

“Oh thank Celestia you’re here!” Twilight exclaimed as she raced over to me. “I don’t understand half the stuff on this menu. Could you help go over it with me?”

“Of course, Twilight, but I think that’s a bit excessive,” I replied. That didn’t dissuade her from shoving the menu in my face, so I took it and showed her the vegetarian section. “Okay, so here’s the section that you’ll want to order from. Some of these are pretty spicy so avoid anything with the little red chili next to the name if you don’t want to burn your tongue.”

“What about this?” Twilight asked, pointing to another menu item. “What’s a bok choy? I’ve never heard of that.”

“I don’t think that grows in our neck of Equestria,” I answered. “It’s a kind of a mix between a cabbage and a celery, but it’s got a really strong taste to it. I think you’d like it.”

“So what do you think I should order?” my nervous friend asked.

“Why didn’t you just ask Flash?”

“I… I didn’t want him to think I was dumb because I couldn’t figure out the menu.”

Spurred on by the pang of sympathy I felt, my put an arm around my meek and anxious friend and gave her a reassuring squeeze. “Twilight, you’re probably the smartest girl he’ll ever meet,” I reassured her. “Stop worrying about being perfect, and just be yourself.”

“But Rarity said—”

“She meant putting your best foot forward, not second-guessing every step you take,” I interrupted. “You want your friends to be the kind of people who accept you—imperfections and all. Relationships aren’t any different in that respect.”

Slowly, Twilight’s confidence was able to rebuild itself, and she eventually smiled back to me. “Thanks Sunset,” she said before giving a quick hug. “By the way, Rarity also said something about ‘showing a little cleavage.’ What did she mean by that? I’m not going to have to handle anything sharp, am I?”

There was a conversation that felt as welcoming as a bout of dysentery. “Don’t worry about that,” I said as I guided my friend to the door. “You can ask Rarity about that later, but for now you need to get back to your date before he starts getting curious.”

Just before we exited the washroom, I made sure to check outside so that we didn’t bump into the other Twilight. Once I knew the coast was clear, I sent my friend on her way and hurried back to my own dinner.

“Disaster averted?” Twilight asked as I sat down in my seat.

“For the moment,” I sighed. I had a feeling this was not going to be my last trip to the washroom for tonight. Not wanting my meal to get cold, I ate a little bit faster to make up for all the lost time. There was a pleasant heat to my meal, though I wouldn’t have minded it being a bit spicier. Either way, this restaurant was going on my list for repeat visits.

Twilight paused partway through her own dinner and eyed my food with a curious gaze. “What did you order again?”

“Yasai itame,” I said with a mouthful of stir-fried vegetables. “It’s got, um, noodles in a spicy soup topped with a whole bunch of vegetables and peppers.”

“Is it good?”

“I’m enjoying it.”

“Could I try some?”

Twilight’s request caught me by surprise; soups weren’t typically a sharing food, at least not when you didn’t have any spare bowls on hand. But if Twilight was as picky an eater as I suspected, I didn’t want to squander the opportunity to help broaden her horizons.

“Of course,” I said with a smile. Using my chopsticks, I stirred up a small bundle of the noodles, snagging a few bean sprouts and onions in the process, and then used a spoon to scoop up some of the broth and an assortment of mushrooms and greens. I held it out to my friend, who nervously eyed my offering for a brief moment. “Come on, Twi, it’s not like I have cooties.”

“No, but you could have infectious mononucleosis.”

“I don’t have mono, Twilight,” I deadpanned. “I’ve only kissed one person in the last six months and I was her first.”

“Her?”

“Don’t change the subject.”

Twilight looked to my offering once more, a flicker of apprehension on her face, before she glanced back to me. “Y-you know, I’ve read in some studies that mononucleosis can be transmitted up to a year and a half after a patient’s shown no signs of—”

Now she was just getting cold feet, so I opted to give her the nudge she needed and shoved the food into her mouth mid-sentence. There was a muffled, surprised yelp, but she didn’t have much choice at that point but to chew and swallow.

“See? It’s not so bad,” I reassured her.

At first, Twilight just stared at me with an open mouth, as if about to unleash some kind of tirade about personal boundaries and informed consent, but all that came out was a strained, drawn-out murmuring. Her face began to turn red and tears collected at the corners of her eyes as her grumblings finally coalesced into words.

“H-h-h-h-h-ho-ho-hooooot,” she squeaked. She began panting heavily while using her hands to try and fan the sweltering heat in her mouth. “Too hot!”

I wasn’t sure whether to feel sympathy or just laugh as Twilight searched for something to quench the inferno on her tongue. Sadly, we had no milk on hand so the only saviour she could turn to was the lukewarm tea, which she chugged back with frantic abandon. As her cup ran dry, the weary teen fell back into her seat with a cathartic sigh.

As for me, I went back to eating my noodles.

“Drama queen,” I said between mouthfuls.

“How can you just eat that stuff without even so much as a twitch?” Twilight, still red-faced from the ordeal, asked in disbelief.

I shrugged before eating another bite, making sure to exaggerate my enjoyment. “Mmmmm, so good! It’s just got that perfect balance of heat and savoriness.”

At least Twilight was able to laugh at herself, and after a quick giggle she was back to eating. For a brief moment, I was able to relax and just enjoy the moment with my friend. With everything that had happened over the past few days, it felt like I had spent more time worrying than living carefree like a teenager should. Why couldn’t I just let my hair down and unwind like Princess Twilight? She didn’t fret late into the night about implications of humans crossing into Equestria or being stranded on this side of the portal forever.

If anything, Princess Twilight had more to worry about when it came to the long-term safety of Equestria. If the worst came to pass, she could seal the portal from her end of it, and leaving me stranded in the human world was hardly the worst fate to endure. The fact that I hadn’t even bothered to visit Equestria since the portal became a more permanent fixture just emphasized the extent of my reluctance.

As I watched my friend slurp up her ramen, I couldn’t help but wonder if maybe Equestria wasn’t what I was afraid of losing. Maybe I just kept telling myself that because it sounded less selfish that way. Maybe Twilight wasn’t the only person at the table I was routinely lying to.

“Is something wrong?” Twilight’s voice perked up, snapping me from my trance. I must’ve been staring at her longer than I realized for her to have noticed. “Is there something on my face?”

Thinking quickly, I pointed to my nose. “You got a little soup there,” I lied.

“Oh! Thanks,” Twilight said before cleaning the non-existent blot. “Did I get it?”

“You’re good.”

And then my phone buzzed again.

“Seriously, what now?” I mentally groaned as I reached for my phone once more.

Pinkie: emgency need wrdsnow goin t ou.

Oh, sweet Celestia; she’s panic texting now. There was no time to contemplate what sent the other Twilight into such a tailspin because I deciphered the last part of her message meant she was coming over to talk to me. I had to get my dinner companion out of sight before somebody had to start explaining the finer details of interdimensional travel.

What was I going to do? I had to act fast.

With my friend momentarily distracted by her meal, I slapped my cup of tea with enough force to fling it and its contents across the table, splashing across Twilight’s clothes. Thankfully the tea had spent enough time cooling that I didn’t have to worry about scalding her. Then it was just a matter of some good old fashion manipulation.

“Oh my goodness! Twilight, I’m so sorry!” I yelped in feigned distress and shock. “I am such a clutz.” I grabbed the few napkins we had in a fruitless attempt to clean up the mess whilst continuing my spew of apologies. “H-here, lemme help with that.”

“It’s fine, really. Accidents happen,” Twilight insisted, right on cue. “I’ll just go tidy up in the restrooms.”

My timing couldn’t have been better, as Princess Twilight showed up at the table less than a minute later.

“He wants me to talk about myself!” she said unceremoniously as she dropped into the seat across from me. “Like what my home is like and who my friends there are and stuff!”

“That’s pretty normal for dating,” I deadpanned as my patience for her neurosis had reached its limits.

“But what am I supposed to say? That I’m the Princess of Friendship who also happens to be a winged unicorn and I happen to have six friends who all have the same name of the friends I have here, and I grew up in Canterlot, which just so happens to be completely different from this place despite having the same name, and was taught magic under an immortal Princess named Celestia who happens to act the same as the Celestia you know!”

Her rambling only stopped when she started to hyperventilate.

“Breathe, Twilight,” I said with a stern tone.

“W-what am I going to do? What am I going to say?” Twilight continued as he clasped her head in her hands and leaned upon the table. Clearly her battle between rationality and panic was becoming a sordid affair. “I’ve never had to go into that kind of detail about myself before. I haven’t even explained anything about the magic portal.”

“Then why don’t you?” I postulated, which left Twilight staring at me as though I had started speaking in tongues. “Maybe it’s time to start easing him into who Princess Twilight Sparkle really is. I mean, he’s seen enough magic to know you’re not an ordinary girl, so he’s probably ready for the next step. Now you don’t have to go into every detail about Equestria, but there’s no harm in explaining how you were the personal student to the Princess of the realm, and have spent most of your life studying magic.” I offered her a quick, reassuring smile, which seemed to alleviate some of her anxieties. “Flash likes you, and I mean he really likes you: so put a little bit of trust into him. What’s the worst that could happen?”

“He thinks I’m weird?”

“He’s already seen you dance.”

I was certain Twilight knew this already, but the added confirmation from a third party was enough for her to push past her worrisome nature. The panic began to fade from her expression, replaced with a self-assured smile as she looked back to me. “You’re right. I keep telling myself that I have to be perfect tonight, but… I don’t. I just need to be who I am,” she said with growing confidence. “My goodness, I can’t believe I’ve been running to you over every little hiccup. I must’ve looked like a complete fool.”

“A little, but it’s part of your charm,” I said with a playful smirk.

Twilight snickered at my wisecrack, which hopefully melted away the last of her worries.

“I suppose I owe Flash an apology then, and not just because I intentionally spilled soy sauce on him so he’d go to the washrooms and I could sneak away to talk to you.”

Flash Sentry was in the washrooms? As in the washrooms that were three feet to the left from the one that the Twilight Sparkle was in right that moment cleaning herself up as well? There were so many words that were unsuitable for uttering in polite company that I wanted to shout at that moment, but instead had to settle with something less thought-out.

“Golden throne of Canterlot, you sent Flash to the washrooms?” I exclaimed, slamming my hands on the table as I bolted to my feet. “Are you insane?”

“W-wait, what? That’s bad?” a panicked and confused Twilight stammered back.

“There’s no time to explain! Just get back to your table, now!” I pulled Twilight from her seat, ignoring her confused wailing as she tried to comprehend what social faux pas she had just committed. As I had neither the time, nor the inclination, to explain myself, I just had to settle with covering my tracks by sheer calamity. “Fly you fool! Before all is lost!”

I shoved my friend back towards her table and, thankfully, she raced off without further protest. Once she was far enough away, I turned and booked it for the washrooms. Knowing my luck, it would only be a few more moments before Flash and Twilight exited their respective bathrooms and wound up with an unexpected face-to-face. I had to run interference if I were to have any hope of surviving the night.

The plan was simple: I’d just have to distract Twilight in the bathroom for a few minutes until I felt it was safe to bring her back out. I could probably just go on another apology spiel about spilling my tea all over here—I wouldn’t need to keep her occupied for too long.

Too bad plans never survive first contact with the enemy. Just as I arrived at the washrooms, the door to the men’s room opened and out came Flash Sentry.

“Sunset!” he said, surprised for only a brief moment to see me.

“O-oh! Hey Flash, f-funny running into you here,” I lied with the biggest grin I could muster. He just hardened his gaze in response. “Well, can’t blame a girl for trying.”

He sighed under his breath. “I guess I should’ve realized sooner you’d be here.”

“I thought Twilight could use the emotional support. I was hoping to just stay in the background,” I explained myself. “I had no idea that she’d get this… worked up about a date.”

“You ever thought she got worked up because she knew you’d be here?” Flash suggested. I couldn’t tell if he was annoyed by my presence, or just relieved that his date’s behaviour had a logical explanation behind it all. “Twilight can take care of herself, but if you’re here then she knows she can run to you every time she hits the slightest bit of doubt. I know you’re trying to help, but I fear you might’ve been more of a crutch.”

In hindsight, everything he said made sense. I thought that Twilight knowing I was here would be the support she needed to be confident, but instead she just ran to me with every question rather than trying to learn how to stand on her own. Sure there might’ve been a moment of nervousness and discomfort, but Twilight probably could’ve worked through that if she hadn’t an easy out with me. Even though she had asked me to stay in touch for that support, it might’ve been the greater kindness to let her discover the way herself.

“Guess I should scratch off ‘dating advice’ from the list of things I could still be useful for,” I said with a weary groan. “I’m really sorry; I didn’t mean to make such a mess.”

“Your heart’s in the right place: you’re trying to help your friend,” Flash reassured me while patting me on the shoulder. He smiled that same goofy grin he always did when he wanted to cheer someone up, and it worked every time. I might’ve only dated him for popularity, but I could appreciate his charm. “She’s lucky to have someone like you looking out for her, even if it’s not always necessary.”

“Heh, well, you know me: can’t just let things be, can I?”

“It’s part of who you are,” Flash said with a nonchalant shrug. “But it wouldn’t hurt for you to relax a little bit. The world isn’t going to fall apart if you stop micro-managing it for a little while.”

“And here I thought I was going to be the one doling out all the advice tonight.” I chuckled quietly under my breath, feeling humbled once again by Flash’s astute observations. “I’m sorry if I messed up your date…”

Unsurprisingly, Flash just shrugged it off, like water rolling off a duck’s back. “Date wouldn’t be happening if it weren’t for you, so I’m not exactly in a position to complain,” he said. “And speaking of date, I should get back to mine.”

I would’ve let him go on his way, except just at that moment, the other bathroom door opened and Twilight strolled out. Thankfully, Flash had his back to her, so he remained oblivious to her presence, but I still needed to keep the conversation going for a little while longer.

“A-actually,” I spoke up just as he was about to turn to leave, “I should probably mention that… um, Twilight was rather nervous with regards to talking about herself. She’s worried you might think she’s… weird.”

“You know I’ve seen her dance, right?”

“That’s what I told her.” As I spoke, my eyes looked past Flash and kept track of Twilight as she headed back towards our table. I noticed her pace seemed a bit more hurried than one would expect, but I dismissed it as a girl just wanting to get back to her friend.

“Well, I’m not going to think she or her tofu world is weird,” Flash reassured me. We shared a quick chuckle, recalling the conversation we had back at the county fair. I was surprised he even remembered that, but then again, he was exactly the type to keep such details in mind. “After all, you’re from the same world too, and I never thought you were weird.”

I smirked and rolled my eyes in amusement. “Even when I turned into a demon?”

“That was more frightening than anything.”

“Oh, you,” I said as I gave him a playful shove. With Twilight out of sight, I could finally let Flash go back to his date without worry. Hopefully this would be the last of the fires I’d need to put out tonight. “Just be sure to keep an open mind, okay?”

“After the Fall Formal and the Battle of the Bands, kinda hard not to.”

I swear, nothing was ever going to phase him at this point. Between the demons and the magic girls, he’d seen enough crazy, inexplicable things to last a lifetime. Once I finished waving farewell to him, I raced off to rejoin my friend and, with any luck, finally finish my dinner.

Or at least that had been the plan. When I arrived at my table, there was no sign of Twilight or even her things. There was just a couple bills sitting on the table, no doubt payment for her portion of the meal. Where did she go? And why?

“Excuse me,” I said, waving down a nearby waitress. “Did you see where my friend went?”

The waitress looked to my table and thought for a moment. “Oh, she left a few moments ago.”

“D-did she say why?”

“Sorry, she didn’t anything to anyone,” the waitress answered with an apologetic shrug. “She was staring at her phone and looking pretty torn up, though; she must’ve gotten bad news or something.”

Bad news? What could be so terrible that she would leave all of a sudden without even so much as a good-bye? I whipped out my phone and tried texting her.

Sunset: Is something wrong? Why’d you leave?

After the longest, most agonizing minute of my life, a message came back.

Twilight: I’m sorry I bothered you. I’ll leave you alone.

Sunset: Leave me alone?

The saying goes that a picture was worth a thousand words, and when Twilight responded to my query with a picture, the only word that came to mind was far too rude to say in public. It was a selfie of me, Lightning Dust, Rainbow Dash, and Pinkie Pie at my birthday party. There was even a caption along the bottom: ‘shame you didn’t get invited’.

Who could’ve sent her that? Why would someone do that? The answer became apparent upon further examination of the picture and I saw who was holding the camera.

It was Lightning Dust...