• 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-VII

My mind was a maelstrom of thoughts and emotions as I stood outside the restaurant. They cycled through so quickly that I barely even had time to be consciously aware of what I felt at any given instant. Do I cry? Do I scream? Do I race down the street wailing like a grief-stricken widow? Do I punch the nearest wall and shatter every bone in my hand? Everything and nothing seemed like a worthwhile answer, and my inability to focus on one particular state meant I was paralyzed in indecision.

I wanted to chase after Twilight, but she had left in such a hurry that I had been forced to settle the dinner bill, which ate what precious little time I had in that window of opportunity. By the time I hit the streets, my friend was long gone and she wasn’t responding to any of my texts.

Whatever my next step was, I had to do it quickly because I couldn’t let Princess Twilight or Flash Sentry see me as I was. My mind was too fraught running through every doomsday scenario to have any chance of pretending I was anything but panicking. At some point in my disheveled thought process, I started walking in a random direction, perhaps if only to put some distance between myself and anybody I knew. I was about three or four blocks down the street before I even realized that I was sitting at a bus stop bench, gazing mournfully at my phone.

Her last message to me still lingered on my screen, a monument to my foolishness, along with about a dozen messages from me as I desperately tried to get her to talk to me again. Either she was ignoring my messages, or she stopped caring about them. How bad could things have gotten for her to be that callous all of a sudden?

“What am I going to do?” I whimpered, clasping one hand over my eyes as if I could contain what was already welling up.

It took some time before the shock wore off and something resembling coherency began to return to my mind. In all honesty, I wasn’t sure how long I had been sitting at that bench, but a cursory glance at my phone revealed it was now late in the evening. Twilight was probably home by now, and who knows what Princess Twilight and Flash Sentry were up to at this point. Knowing him, he was probably walking her home, though I had no idea whether that meant the portal back to Equestria or just the abode of one of her friends. At least they were still having a good night, so it hadn’t been a complete disaster.

Though if I had to be honest, it didn’t feel like much of a consolation prize at the moment.

I needed to fix this.

There had to be a way to make things right.

I had to talk to Twilight. If I could just speak with her, I was certain that all of this could be cleared up; that it was just some kind of misunderstanding.

The desperate thoughts of a desperate mind.

But if she wasn’t answering my messages, what were my options? Going to her house? I could see that going south very quickly, and knowing how parents could be, her mother would probably be in full-blown grizzly bear mode if I showed up at the door. Trying to steal a dragon’s horde would probably be an easier goal than trying to get past a loving mother with a hurt child. Besides, I didn’t know what exactly had set Twilight off. I had the picture, but that didn’t give me the whole story. A smart, rational girl like her wouldn’t just flip out at one picture.

Or would she?

I know Princess Twilight Sparkle wouldn’t give up at the first sign of trouble; she was as tenacious as they came. But I wasn’t dealing with an Equestrian Princess, I was dealing with a shy teenager who had a history of being bullied. I was her friend; her only friend as far as I could tell. Friendship was not something that could be underestimated: it was a powerful force, and more than enough to crush every dark ambition I ever held. At the same time, though, it was an uplifting force, too. Thanks to people like Applejack, Fluttershy, and all of the others, I was in a far better place, mentally and emotionally. They had become something of a lifeline to me, and I began to consider what I might’ve meant to Twilight Sparkle.

If something went wrong for me, I could always go to any one of my friends, and if the problem stemmed from one of them, I always had others to turn to. And beyond that, there was also Celestia and Luna, both of whom could offer their own particular brand of advice. I had a veritable safety net of friendship to cushion the landings I’ve endured and will encounter in the future, which given my track record was going to be numerous and frequent.

In contrast to my blessings, Twilight had only me and her family to turn to, and sometimes it could be hard to turn to parents about friendship problems. There was also her big brother, but I had no idea how much their relationship had been mended since we met. Whatever elation and uplift she gained from friendship, there was a good chance it had just been pulled out from under her.

Was that what the caption meant? Is that what happened? Did Twilight think I didn’t want to be her friend anymore? If I found out my closest and only friend had a birthday party in secret, I’d feel pretty devastated too. But why would she run off and not talk to me instead?

Could she be just as distraught as I felt right now—barely able to think clearly as sorrow and anger battered against the gates of my mind like a barbarian horde. Friendship was life-giving, and thanks to my foolish and careless actions, that may have just been cruelly ripped from her life. There was no telling how she might react to that.

“I’m such a fool,” I murmured weakly. As I wiped a few loose tears from my eyes, I gazed at my phone once more. Still no messages.

I needed answers, and if I wasn’t going to get them from Twilight then my next best bet was to turn to the person who most likely sent the picture to her. I opened up my contact list, found Lightning Dust’s address, and began plotting my route.

I should’ve just gone home.

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

Finding Lightning Dust’s home wasn’t too difficult for me thanks to modern technology, with the only major obstacle being the sheer distance I had to walk. Thankfully, I was very motivated, and that only grew more intense the closer I got to my destination. The picture sent to Twilight was, without a doubt, taken by Lightning Dust. I could vividly recall the moment she pulled me aside for it. I remembered the warmth and joy I felt when she lifted the phone up: like a crowning moment of triumph to immortalize me bringing a new friend into my life.

But why would Lightning Dust send that to Twilight Sparkle? I know the two didn’t see eye-to-eye and generally kept to their own cliques, or rather Lightning stayed with hers while the latter was something of a loner at Crystal Heart Academy.

It still made no sense, even after I pondered the issue over for the hundredth time upon reaching her home. Lightning wasn’t cruel; while it was true that she had partaken in using the ‘Dorkle’ moniker before, I had thought those days were behind her. She was a good person.

Wasn’t she?

I didn’t know what to think anymore, and the more I tried to, the more irrational my thoughts became. What happened couldn’t have been an accident—the message that accompanied the selfie was proof enough of that. If it was intentional, then what was its aim? Why torment Twilight like this? By the time I reached the front door, I had half a mind to kick it down and start demanding answers.

“I swear, if Lightning is still bullying Twilight, I’m going to shove my foot so far up her—”

The door swung open, and Lightning Dust’s smiling visage greeted me. That just irked me even further, like she was taunting me or something. She better be innocent because Celestia help her otherwise.

“Hey, Sunset! What brings you here at this crazy hour?” Lightning asked. The smile on her face began to fade, however, when she realized my expression was not mirroring her sentiments. “Uh, is everything okay?”

“Did you send this picture to Twilight Sparkle?” I said as I held up my phone.

“Hm? Oh, yeah. That was me.”

The fact that she barely took more than a second to look and answer the question just enraged even further. It took every ounce of willpower I had left not to drive my fist into her face in that moment.

“What the—why would you do that?” I shouted in disbelief. For the life of me, I couldn’t figure out how she could be so flippant about it, especially as I stood there in abject horror at the news.

“Hey, no need to thank me.”

Thank her? Thank her? The only person that should’ve been thankful was Lightning Dust: thankful that I wasn’t choking the life out of her. I was becoming so embroiled with rage that it was taking every bit of concentration to not explode, which didn’t leave much mental energy to form coherent thoughts.

“I—thanks? What?” I stammered.

“Sunset, Sunset, there’s no need to be so coy around me,” Lightning said in an apparent attempt to calm me down. She saddled up alongside me and threw her arm around my shoulder, donning a self-assured grin as she pulled me close. “You’re trying to be the ‘good girl’, I get that, but sometimes you can be a little too good for your own good. You see some sad chick being all lonesome so you offer a hello and smile to be nice; the next thing you know, she’s hooked onto you thinking you’re her new best friend. Now she’s bothering you at all hours of the day, she’s crashing your birthday parties, and you’re so embarrassed by her that you’ve gotta shove her into the nearest closet whenever somebody you know is nearby, and you’re running out of lies to text her back with.”

Oh god, she knew. But how?

The party.

She must’ve seen me when I answered the door and saw Princess Twilight outside. Sure, it wasn’t the same Twilight as we were talking about, but she didn’t know the difference. All she saw was me screaming and slamming the door in my supposed friend’s face. But what about the text messages? How did she know I was lying to Twilight in my texts? She would’ve had to have gotten her hands on my phone…

“Hey, Sunset! Stop hiding in your phone; you’re keeping your adoring fans waiting.”

Back at the party; she took away my phone for a few minutes. It wasn’t long, but my messages to Twilight must’ve still been on the screen.

“So now you got this total loser clinging onto you, cramping your style, and you’re too nice to tell them to just back off and give you some space,” Lightning Dust continued, having mistook my horror-struck silence as compliance. “We’ve all been there, Sunset; we’ve all had that one friend we don’t like hanging around us, but we can’t bring ourselves to do something about it. It’d be like… kicking a puppy.”

“S-so you…”

“I did it for you. I told her to buzz off, and when she didn’t believe me at first, I showed her the picture, and explained that you just didn’t have the heart to tell her the truth,” she said—neigh—boasted. Then she had the audacity to laugh, like this whole thing was just one big amusing joke to her. “Now I believe the words you’re looking for are ‘thank you’.”

“Y-you did this?”

“Well I can’t take all the credit for it,” my supposed friend interrupted with a modest shrug. “I was racking my brain all day trying to figure it all out, but it wasn’t until Gilda suggested that you were probably embarrassed by Dorkle but too much of a ‘goody goody’ to say anything about it. The ‘goody goody’ part is all Gilda, by the way.”

Gilda. Why did it not surprise me that she had her dirty claws in this affair. Silver lining, however, was the mentioning of that name gave my anger something to focus on. My thoughts became clear again, although tainted by a burning rage. I had a bad enough track record when it came to decision-making when I was calm and rational.

“How could you do that?” I finally snapped, pushing away from Lightning. That cocky grin of hers finally dissipated, and she stared at me with reluctant disbelief.

“Come on, Sunset, you don’t have to pretend anymore. I’m your friend; I ain’t gonna judge you.”

Flash Sentry once said my right eyebrow twitched when I was angry; by this stage it was probably doing the River Dance. “My friend? Twilight was my friend! I’m not embarrassed by her!”

“What, seriously? You and Dorkle? You deserve way better than a weirdo like her.”

“Stop calling her that!” I snapped as I grabbed Lightning by the shoulders. “And she’s not a weirdo: she’s shown me nothing but kindness and understanding and patience. I’m the one who is thankful every single day that she’s willing to put up with me and still call me her friend.”

It was only then that Lightning Dust finally got it through her head that I wasn’t stunned with gratitude, and that I was genuinely and justifiably angry with her. She didn’t look as concerned as I would’ve liked however, and it soon became apparent why.

“Well, you sure have a funny way of showing it,” Lightning said as she pushed my hands aside. “Maybe if you didn’t spend so much time running around behind everyone’s back, you wouldn’t be sending so many mixed signals.”

My more rational side was willing to accept that my hubris had played a major part in this, if not the vast majority of it, but I wasn’t about to have Lightning push aside her role in this mess. I didn’t make her hit the send button, and I wasn’t going to be remotely happy until she owned up to it. Of course, I was in no state to be concerned about rationality; I was angry and my sights were fixed on Lightning Dust.

“If you were confused, you should’ve talked to me first. You had no right to do this to her,” I shot back, punctuating my remarks by poking the other girl in the chest. “You are going to call Twilight right now and you are going to apologize and explain to her that you made up everything you said.”

“What? You want me to apologize to Dork—er, Twilight?” Lightning replied. At least she was smart enough to use the right name for a change, though that might’ve been influenced by how I tensed up the moment the ‘D’ rolled off her tongue. “You have any idea what’ll happen to me when the rest of the school hears that I had to pucker up and say sorry to her? Fat chance on that,” she scoffed and turned. “I’ve got it hard enough just being the new girl at school. I don’t need to torpedo my cred with this.”

“If you’re really my friend, you will fix this!”

“Why bother? You’re better off without her anyways.” She spun around to face me again, hands on her hips with a look of stubborn defiance upon her face. “And think about it: if she had really been as good a friend as you say, she wouldn’t have believed me so easily. Seriously, a few texts and a picture was all it took, so she must’ve already suspected it herself. In a way, it’s kinda her fault too.”

In hindsight, she may have had a point. If I had treated our friendship with the care it deserved, Twilight would’ve never doubted it. Lightning may have played a part in it, but this mess really was my fault. I failed our friendship. Were I in a better frame of mind, I would’ve recognized that perhaps by owning up to my failures, I could’ve better convinced Lightning Dust to take responsibility for hers, but instead I wound up doing something infinitely worse.

I grabbed Lightning Dust by the collar and pulled her in real close. “You are going to call Twilight right now, or I swear I’ll—”

“Or you’ll what?” Lightning scoffed back with a look of dismissive amusement. “Hit me? Good luck with that. If you couldn’t take Gilda in a straight-up fight, you probably wouldn’t last half a minute against me.”

The threat of force was good when the person was already weak and afraid of you, but if you wanted to convince somebody normally confident that they needed to fear you, then you had to go with a different route. For someone like Lightning Dust, the key was finding the thing in life that would make them, as Luna would put it, reevaluate their priorities. Lucky for me, I already knew where to apply the pressure.

“Like I’d need to lift a finger against you,” I shot back as I tightened my grip and my resolve, “because if you had used your head for a second, you’d remember who Twilight’s big brother is.”

“H-hey, wait a second! A-as far as Twilight’s concerned, you’re the one who’s been stringing her along,” Lightning shot back. For a brief moment, however, I saw her resolve start to waver. That was all the opening I needed. “Shining’s gonna be mad at you, not me!”

“Twilight’s at home, probably crying herself to sleep right now, so as far as Shining is concerned, I’m still his lil’ sis’ BFF. How hard do you think it’ll be for me to convince him that poor Twilight is being bullied again and is too scared to say anything about it? He’s already got a weepy-faced sister and your lies all over her phone. Just imagine the tales of misery I could weave for him.” Between my words and the malicious grin across my face, Lightning was soon crumbling under the pressure. I could see the fear in her eyes already as she no doubt knew where I was ultimately going with this threat. “You’ll be on the bench faster than you can say ‘white knight’, and I bet you’ll be real popular with the college scouts when you’re stuck on the sidelines. Good luck getting your sports scholarship after that.”

“Y-y-you w-wouldn’t! Y-you can’t!” Lightning stammered. The last of her resistance had come crashing down, now replaced by an overwhelming sense of self-preservation and damage control.

“Just watch me! You were at my party; you’ve heard the stories about me,” I barked, pulling hard on her collar so she was pulled up onto the tips of her toes. “Now I want you to text Twilight that you were lying to her, and then you will leave her alone. If you so much as even look at her funny, I’ll find out, and I’ll show you why everyone at Canterlot High was terrified of me!”

“O-okay, you win! I’ll text her!” Lightning pulled out her phone as she raised her arms in surrender. “L-look, I’ll do it right now, too! Just chill out, okay?” I just scowled and waited for her as she frantically typed her messages in. Once she hit ‘send’, she turned the phone around to show me the proof. “There! It’s done! I can’t promise she’ll read it or believe me.”

With nothing left to do here, I let go of the other girl while giving her a light shove towards the door. “For your sake, you better hope she does.”

“I can’t believe you’re picking her over me!” Lightning barked back in a futile effort to save face. At this point, I was far beyond the point of caring what she thought of me. “I thought you were cool, Sunset, but you’re just as Gilda said.”

However, that didn’t mean I was going to just let her fling mud at me, even if it was of no threat. “Gilda is a brute and a vulture, but as much as I didn’t like her, I was willing to respect that you two were friends!” I was done here, so I turned to leave. “And if you can’t understand why I’d pick Twilight over you, then I don’t want anything to do with you anymore.”

“You’ll regret this!” Lightning Dust shouted from her doorway, a final stab of a wounded pride. “This is the biggest mistake you’ll ever make in your life!”

And then the door slammed shut, leaving me alone with my thoughts.

“One of many…”

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

Twilight wasn’t the only one who’d be crying themselves to sleep that night. By the time I finally got home, it was late in the evening and I was drained both physically and emotionally. The maelstrom of my mind had gone silent, but in its wake was a pervasive numbness that left me unable to even utter a hello to Celestia when I passed by her in the hall while en route to my room. Once I was within the darkened confines of my sanctuary, I crawled under the bed sheets and prepared for a long night of wallowing in my self-loathing.

Though I was too exhausted to be angry anymore, I nonetheless hated myself, completely and utterly. This entire ordeal—all of the grief, heartache, and despair—was because of my failings, both as a friend and as a person. I destroyed one friendship, and another one was still up in the air about whether it would survive the next few days or not. No amount of mental gymnastics could rationalize away the pain, and the truth was as unavoidable as the tears that were soon staining my pillow.

This was my fault, and I deserved every bit of misery that came with it.

I hadn’t felt this hopeless since the days after the Fall Formal; in fact, it felt about a hundred times worse. Both times I fell due to my own foolish pride, but what made this so much worse was that I should’ve known better. Back then, I was an angry and ambitious rebel, bent on getting revenge against those who I felt had wronged me. I didn’t know any better, and that’s why Princess Twilight and the others had no hesitations about giving me another chance. They saw a seed of goodness in me, a hope for redemption, but now I’ve just let everybody down and proved that I hadn’t learned a darn thing.

What’s worse was that I was going to have to own up to this mistake to all of my remaining friends, as there was no chance I’d be able to make it through the week as an emotional zombie without them noticing. They probably won’t hate me for it, but I could easily see them getting quite upset about it with me. I had gone behind their backs and repeatedly lied to their faces about it.

I wouldn’t blame them if they wanted to cast me out. Who’d want to be friends with a habitual liar crippled by trust issues?

After some time, not that I was paying it any heed, there came a knocking from my bedroom door.

“Sunset? Is everything okay?” Celestia’s voice called out from the other side.

If I said ‘yes’, I’d be lying to her as well; if I said ‘no’, then she’d come in to try and help. Even just admitting the truth, that I was far from okay, felt like a lead weight lodged in my chest. As much as I wanted to say anything, I couldn’t muster the strength to do so. All I could do was curl into a ball, and hug my tear-stained pillow closer to my chest. Knowing my always-perceptive caretaker, she’d understand what the silence meant.

Sure enough, a few moments later there was a noticeable shift in the mattress as Celestia sat down next to me. The bed sheets were slowly pulled away, and she coaxed me up. She didn’t say a word; she didn’t need to. The sight of her warm and compassionate smile was enough to break down the last few emotional walls I had left. As they came crumbling down, I threw my arms around her and buried my face into her chest, and allowed all the anguish and emotion to pour out.

For her part, Celestia knew that all she needed to do at the moment was to hold me close and give me the time I needed to vent. I think I cried for a good five or six minutes, but it could’ve been longer since the minutes seemed to blur like the rest of my tear-filled vision.

“It’s okay, dear,” she whispered.

Except it wasn’t Celestia’s voice; it was something far darker and more familiar. I pulled away, and instead of the sight of my caretaker’s sympathetic eyes, I was greeted to the sinister and piercing gaze of my own demonic visage. As I tried to break free, her claws tightened their grip around me, and she bared her fangs in a toothy grin.

“Just remember, you’ll always have me to look out for you,” the demon spoke.

“No!” I shrieked. “I’m not you! Get away! Get away!”

I awoke with a panicked gasp, bolting upright in bed as I frantically searched for signs of any sort of demon lurking nearby. It took a few moments of sitting in the darkened silence of my bedroom, save for the jackhammering of my heart, before the rational part of me realized that it was just a bad dream. After a few more breaths, I felt calm enough to lay back down.

“Must’ve dozed off,” I murmured under my breath. I confirmed as such on my phone, noting that it was a little bit after midnight. At least that meant I wasn’t literally confronted by my demons, but it was only a small comfort to my troubled soul. There was a deep, sinking feeling in my chest, and it was only getting worse.

Unsure of what to do, both in the short and long term, I climbed out of bed. I trudged out into the hallway and up to Celestia’s bedroom door. I wasn’t sure if this was the best idea, but it was all I had left. I knocked on her door, then opened it just enough to poke my head inside.

“Celestia?” I called out, my voice still as dampened as my spirits.

After I called her name a second time, I heard a quiet murmuring from the darkened room, followed a second later by a click as a bedside lamp was turned on. A confused, half-awake Celestia stared at me from the bed, her face partially obscured by a curtain of disheveled hair.

“Sunset?” she murmured before stifling a yawn. “What time is it?”

“It’s late, I know,” I answered, “but I… I really need somebody to talk to right now…”

I tried to keep a straight face, but I had no strength left to pretend that I was anything but desperate. I was at the end of my rope, and I think she could tell just by looking at me. I could feel my eyes beginning to tear up again, and I prayed she didn’t tell me to ‘wait until morning’ because I probably would’ve broken down right then and there if she had. Instead, she brushed the unruly parts of her hair to the side, and smiled to me.

“Of course,” she said in that calm and soothing tone that felt like a warm blanket around your soul. She got out of bed, grabbed her robe, and came over to me. Putting an arm around my shoulder, I was drawn in close as she accompanied me down the hall.

At first, I was a little confused as to why she led me down to the kitchen. As far as places go for supportive heart-to-heart talks, it was not the first place that came to mind. Her reasoning became clearer after I sat down at the island while Celestia walked over to the fridge. A moment later, a plate with a slice of left-over birthday cake was set down in front of me, and then she sat down next to me with her own piece.

She didn’t say anything right away, so for the first few minutes, the only noises were the clattering of forks as we ate in silence. I had to admit, this wasn’t quite the talk I had envisioned, but there was a small comfort to be had in the tranquil, pressure-free setting. Celestia was giving me the time I needed to work up the willpower.

Once I was ready, I told her everything; all the lies, all the deception, all of the running around behind my friends’ backs to keep them in the dark, and how I treated my friends like chess pieces in some twisted game. I explained to her how my lies led to my friend believing a falsehood and then betraying my trust, which while wrong did little to justify resorting to threats and extortion in order to gain her compliance.

“… And that’s how I managed to betray one friend’s trust, and burnt down the bridge with another. Two friendships made, and now two friendships destroyed; I’m a real piece of work, aren’t I?” I said as I ended my long-winded confession with a sigh. I had only eaten about half of my cake, and the spent the rest of my time just playing with some of the crumbs with my fork.

For her part, Celestia remained quiet, as I had expected. If she disapproved of my actions, she didn’t let it show, instead maintaining her look of support and sympathy. The only time her expression flickered was when I mentioned what Lightning Dust had done.

“How do you feel?” Celestia asked, finally breaking her silence.

“Awful,” I said as I buried my face into my free hand. “Like I’m the worst person in the world. Like everything I did and learned these past few months has been completely undone because I dove right back into my old habits when things got difficult. I’m just… I feel like a complete failure right now.” I tried to keep it hidden, but I soon began to sob. “I’ve let everybody down…”

I then felt Celestia’s hand in my hair, and she began to just gently rub the back of my head. There was a curious warmth to it, one that seemed to permeate through all the cold misery I was feeling. Funny how even a seemingly innocuous bit of human contact could make all the difference when you felt like an overused septic tank.

“Stumbling doesn’t make you a failure, Sunset,” Celestia said. “You made some mistakes and the results are regrettable, but this doesn’t have to be how this story ends.”

“But… but what if Twilight doesn’t want to hear me out? What if… what if I can’t fix this…”

Life was so much easier when the biggest problems I faced were those of a magical nature. When studying under Princess Celestia, I either knew the answer or I didn’t. There wasn’t any wiggle room, and it didn’t matter what the textbook thought of me, it couldn’t deny me the results if I knew what the answer was. If something went wrong with a spell, the problem was with me, and I could easily fix it with further study.

People, on the other hand, were fickle and capricious things, oftentimes driven more by emotions and biases than anything else. My own actions were proof enough that even the academically gifted were prone to bouts of irrationality and hysteria. Sometimes knowing the answer didn’t make any difference, and you could do everything right and still wind up losing. Whether or not I figured out how I could fix things with Twilight, there was no certainty she’d give me the opportunity or even be swayed by it.

As always, uncertainty was the poison eating away at my heart.

“Then you accept her decision, mourn what you’ve lost, you move forward with your life,” Celestia explained, “and you pray that, in time, hearts and minds will change.”

After digesting her words, I sniffled and wiped my tears away, feeling a bit more confident now. “And what about Lightning Dust? I’m not sure what to do about her. I’m still angry at what she did, but… what I did wasn’t any better. I still can’t even understand why she did this in the first place.”

“And you may never,” Celestia said, which didn’t alleviate any of my guilt or worry. “What you need to keep in mind, though, is that she is a girl just as you are: full of worries and fears and insecurities. She may look to her actions no differently than you did to all your deceptions; something that needed to be done.”

“Still… I can’t believe she would try to drive Twilight away like that,” I said with a tired sigh. “This wasn’t like her at all, but then again, maybe I didn’t know her as well as I had thought.”

“Just remember, you may not be the only person still struggling to understand what friendship means,” my caretaker reminded me. Her hand moved to my shoulder and pulled me into a gentle embrace. “All I can ask is not to be so quick to give up on her.”

I wasn’t prepared to write-off making amends with Lightning Dust somehow, but at the same time I knew it would be some time before I could be in the same room as her and not want to punch her in the face. How long it’d take for her to stop feeling the same way about me was anybody’s guess, but all I could do for now was hope for friendship to win out in the end.

“So… what do you think I should do?” I asked, feeling a bit nervous. I doubt she’d just hand me the answers on a silver platter, but she’d know what to say to put me on the right path to finding them.

“Tell me, why have you been keeping Twilight separate from everything else in your life?” she asked in that rhetorical fashion that hinted she knew what the answer was but wanted to hear me say it anyways.

“B-because she might… uh, she might…uh,” I stumbled over my words, trying to figure out a response that sounded less than foolish. “Y-you know, to protect Equestria and… stuff.”

Unsurprisingly, Celestia was less than convinced of this. “Was it really?”

I sighed and hung my head low, as if all the weight of my misdeeds decided to bear down upon me at that moment. “I’m scared I’ll lose her,” I said in a pathetic whimper. “Maybe she’ll see our magic and freak out, or maybe she’ll realize that compared to the other girls I’m a horrible person, or maybe she’ll just forget about me because she’ll have all these awesome new friends: friends that would never lie to her or hurt her…”

“Do you really believe that Twilight Sparkle would do something like that?” Celestia suggested. She lifted up my chin so that our eyes met again, and she gave me a hopeful smile. “The friend who texted you so regularly that I could set my alarm clock to it? The friend who’s turned to you time and time again whenever she needed help? The friend who sought you out in the middle of the night? Does that sound like someone who’ll just forget about you?”

“I… I guess it does sound kinda silly when you put it like that,” I answered with a small, sheepish smile. It was funny how certain I could be of something without realizing how foolish it sounded until someone else came along and pointed it out. Perhaps if I hadn’t tried to do everything entirely on my own, somebody could’ve been there to smack some sense into me sooner. “I’m in for a lot of apologizing, aren’t I? Think I should bake a cake?”

Celestia smirked and patted me on the head. “It’s not a bad place to start,” she said. “But perhaps now is the time to face your fears, and stop letting them cloud your judgment.”

I sat in silence as I digested her advice, along with the last few morsels of my leftover cake. I wish I could’ve been strong enough to stop being afraid of every little uncertainty in my life. The more I tried to run from the things that scared me, the more I became the thing I feared the most: the old Sunset Shimmer.

“Thanks Celestia,” I finally spoke up before rising from my seat. “I think I know what I need to do now.”

I returned to my bedroom and grabbed my phone. Despite it being the dead of night, I sent a text message to Twilight with the hopes that she might read it at some point.

Sunset: Twilight, I don’t know what exactly Lightning Dust has told you, but I want you to know that I’m not about to give up on our friendship, and I’m not giving up on you. I want to make this friendship work, and I’m willing to do whatever it takes.

Sunset: I know I’m asking a lot, probably more than I deserve, but your my best friend, Twilight. If that still means something to you, I’d like to meet up again. There’s too much that needs to be said to be done over the phone. Tomorrow after school at Sugar Cube Corner.

It was a long shot, but it was all I had left. If this didn’t work then I’d probably spend the next few days curled up with a tub of ice cream. I was just about to set my phone down when all of a sudden it buzzed in my grasp. At first I thought I was just imagining things, that it couldn’t possibly be what I’d expected. There was only one reasonable answer for who could be texting me at this time of night, which meant I was both anxious and terrified of what the response could be. Feeling a lump in my throat and a heavy, sinking feeling of dread in my chest, I looked to my phone.

Twilight: *You’re