• 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 VII-III

In the days following the study session, the situation regarding my finances and gift-hunting had improved somewhat. Ms. Yearling was able to wrangle a few students free of their original tutors to toss my way, all of whom, I’m told, jumped at the opportunity to be tutored by the Sunset Shimmer. Save the school from a bunch of Sirens and all of a sudden everybody loves you again.

Also, Rarity convinced Sweetie Belle and her friends to get some extra lessons from me, though when we did our first session, I discovered that they were unaware that I was expecting to be paid. They thought I was doing it out of the goodness of my heart and as a favour to Rarity. I tried to tell them the truth, but after they gave me a bunch of homemade cookies as thanks, I couldn’t bring myself to ask for money. It was a good thing I never got a job in retail because I would’ve been a horrible salesperson.

At least I got some cookies out of it.

In the end, with the students that Yearling got for me to tutor, it looked like I would be able to afford some modest gifts this year. It still hinged on the tutoring that Shining Armour was arranging for me. That job alone was still going to make up the majority of my holiday budget, so despite my misgivings about Lightning Dust, I was determined to see it through. We didn’t need to like each other for tutoring to work: students learned from teachers they loathed all the time. At the same time, however, nobody ever credited a teacher they hated for their academic success.

As cynical as it sounded, whether Lightning passed her exams or not wasn’t going to affect my payments; so long as I made a genuine effort to teach her from now until the start of the exam period, I would be okay. All I needed at that point was to receive confirmation of the first session.

The only other problem I had going forward came from when Twilight texted me about finally getting Sombra to agree to a meeting. According to her messages, it took some time just to get a hold of him due to end-of-term work, and even then he had his reservations about the whole idea. It wasn’t that he was suspicious of us, but apparently meeting with people at the behest of a student could be construed as favouritism.

It made me wonder what the other students at Canterlot High thought of Principal Celestia for taking me in. As far as I knew, none of my friends or classmates had ever raised any objections to how much time I spent with Celestia outside of school—not that I spoke about it much—but maybe Sombra was referring more to the parents than the pupils themselves. Crystal Heart Academy was a private school, after all, and an expensive one: tuition fees came with a lot more expectations.

For the sake of keeping a proper appearance of neutrality, the meeting point with Sombra was set at a local coffee shop. A part of me would’ve preferred the familiarity of Sugarcube Corner, but I knew that I couldn’t afford putting what little money I had at risk. Moreso since they introduced their new salted toffee milkshake.

Despite the sensitive nature of the subject, I asked for Rarity to accompany me. It would save me the trouble of relaying all the information to her when I invariably fail to come up with a gift idea on my own.

As the final classes of the term had come and gone, and our holiday break was underway, we met with Sombra early in the afternoon. The winter was still mild, but the walk to the coffee shop from Celestia’s house was long enough that I was grateful for the miracle of central heating. The shop itself was not too dissimilar from that of Sugarcube Corner, with a warm but spartan decor of barebone furniture and re-used mason jars that brought about a sense of homeliness to it, as if having gathered in your friend’s kitchen rather than a place of business. Rarity and I arrived to find the headmaster already at a small table in the far corner, past clusters of aspiring writers and toiling college students, reading one of those fancy e-book tablets while sipping his coffee.

“Good afternoon Mr. Sombra,” I greeted before taking a seat at the table. “Thank you again for agreeing to meet with me.”

“Ms. Sparkle can be very persuasive when she sets her mind to it,” he replied as he set his tablet down.

I gestured over to my friend beside. “This is my friend, Rarity, by the way.”

“A pleasure to make your acquaintance,” Rarity greeted with a quick, polite bow.

“Likewise. Now, would you girls like to get some refreshments first?”

“I’m… on a bit of a tight budget right now,” I declined.

Rarity, on the other hand, took up the opportunity to get herself a light lunch. While she was gone, I figured I may as well get straight to the point.

“This is about Celestia, isn’t it?” Sombra asked, beating me to the punch. It appeared he had little interest in making small talk either.

“Ah, yes, actually. Did Twilight tell you already?”

“I doubt you’re looking to enroll at Crystal Heart Academy, so I can’t think of any other reason for you to be so determined to meet with me,” he explained. He spoke with the calm, deliberate pace I expected from a school administrator. Even the pauses in which he drank his coffee seemed to be placed at the precise moments to add the most weight to his words. “The only common ground we have at this point is Celestia and Ms. Sparkle, the latter of whom was the one who arranged this meeting in the first place.”

“Heh, guess there’s no pulling a fast one on you,” I said with a nervous chuckle. I hadn’t expected my intentions to be so predictable, but if he already knew and agreed to the meeting then perhaps my chances were better than I first thought. “I’m just hoping to find out more about her so I can find the perfect gift for her this Hearth’s Warming. With everything she’s done for me, I want to make this holiday special.”

A warm smile crossed his stern, angular features. “Have you considered getting her a book?”

“It’s been suggested a few times.” I was beginning to wonder if there was something behind the constant book recommendation, as if there was an inside joke that I was too obtuse to pick up on. “But I can get her a book anytime of the year. Hearth’s Warming is special, so I want this gift to reflect that.”

“If Celestia knew the lengths you were going to just for her sake, she’d probably consider that enough of a gift in itself,” Sombra said, followed by a quiet, nostalgic sigh. “She was always sentimental like that.”

I nodded in agreement. The fact that Celestia wasn’t a very materialistic person was part of the reason why I was having such trouble to begin with. Before I could say anything else, Rarity returned and took a seat next to me. She had brought back with her a small sandwich, but I also noticed she had two glasses on her tray, one of which she set in front of me.

“I thought you might like a smoothie,” Rarity explained.

“Thanks. My throat’s actually feeling a bit dry already.”

As I drank some of my mango-strawberry smoothie, I wondered if I would ever be able to match Rarity’s talent for generosity. Even without me even saying so, she anticipated the dry weather’s effects on me, as well as what I would like. I used to be able to do something like that as well, except that I took people’s desires and dreams and crushed them, so why did it feel so much more difficult when I wanted to do something nice for them?

“If you don’t mind me asking, how did you and Celestia first meet?” I asked, opting to approach the subject at a casual pace.

“Did you really come all this way just to hear me talk about old college stories?” Sombra replied with a good-natured chuckle.

“I bet it was something romantic,” Rarity said.

“She broke my ankle.”

“What,” Rarity and I said in unison.

Our response left Sombra in a brief fit of laughter, but he flashed a reassuring smile once he had calmed down. “There’s a bit more to it than that. We first met back in college—she was just a freshman, but I was already in my third year by then. The faculty of education was holding this sort of ‘meet n’ greet’ party where the students could mingle and chat with their seniors and chat with some of the professors. It was mostly just an excuse for the new kids to meet others in their program, and for the older ones to get together and drink.”

I had a lot of trouble picturing Celestia as a college student, if only because my image of such people stemmed primarily from movies and TV shows. Most depictions painted them as ill-kept sloths that slept through classes, drank all the time, and wore bed linen to parties. Just seeing Celestia in a wrinkled t-shirt during laundry day still made me double-check that I hadn’t stepped into an alternate reality.

“During the tail end of the gathering, a bunch of my classmates and I were talking about some big changes in the education system that the government was proposing. It got… a bit heated at some points: we were all a little drunk at that point, and some more than others. Suddenly out of nowhere, this pink-haired girl butts into the conversation and just starts weighing in with every criticism she had of the proposed changes. And I’m not talking just like vague talking points, I mean she went through it piece by piece like she had spent the entire night researching it.”

Which, knowing Celestia, was entirely possible. Still, I was a little surprised she was so passionate about teaching even during the first year of college. That wasn’t much older than I was, and I still had no idea what I would do with my future, or even which side of the portal I would do it on.

“And I take it you were smitten by Celestia’s eloquence and passion?” Rarity asked.

“Actually, at that moment I was pissed because some drunk, uptight, little freshman was butting her nose in on my conversation.”

Sombra’s remark left me scrambling to keep my jaw from hitting the table. “Celestia was drunk? Wouldn’t she have been… like, eighteen at most?”

Sombra nodded unabashed. “She wasn’t completely inebriated, but her arguments probably would’ve made more of an impact if she didn’t keep losing her balance,” he explained. “It was an official event, so we weren’t supposed to be serving alcohol to the underaged, but there’s always somebody who’s willing to impress the new kids by getting them something under the table.”

Rarity exchanged glances for a moment. I could tell she was thinking the same thing that I was: ‘Celestia broke rules? Knowingly?’ One would’ve thought that to be against some sort of cosmic imperative, or at least a municipal bylaw.

“So what happened next?”

“I did what any self-respecting college junior would do: I spent the next hour and a half arguing with her.” He let out a mirthful chuckle before calming himself with another sip of his beverage. “I was so infuriated with her, but at the same time I had never been driven to be so passionate about anything.”

“What exactly were you arguing about?” I asked, curious as to what could drive the two to argue for such a length of time.

“Honestly, I don’t even remember. Something trite, no doubt… but I guess it seemed important at the time.”

I discovered with a quick glance to my friend that Rarity was enjoying the details of this story far more than I was, albeit for entirely different reasons. I had been worried that reality wouldn’t have lived up to Rarity’s romantic expectations, but it seemed she was captivated by it all the same. At the back of my mind, I couldn’t help but still wonder how something that sounded like something out of a romance movie, or at least a romantic-comedy, could’ve ended with one side refusing to talk about it. All I could do was contemplate the possibilities.

“And even at the end of the event, I was still chasing after her, trying to argue my point,” Sombra continued on. His voice snapped me out of my speculative trance, and made me realize that I had zoned out for a couple of minutes. From the sound of it, however, I didn’t miss anything too important. “So we’re at the top of the stairs, and Celestia’s slinging a guitar case over her shoulder because apparently she came to the event right after a practice session. Both of us were so riled up from all the arguing that we weren’t paying much attention to our surroundings. She turned around abruptly and—pow! Guitar case hits me right in the head and down the stairs I go.”

“Not quite the fairy tale romance, huh?” I said with a half-hearted grimace.

“It wasn’t the most auspicious start, but breaking my ankle falling down a flight of stairs did help reset things between us,” Sombra continued on. “Oddly enough, it wasn’t until we were sitting in a hospital emergency department that we finally introduced ourselves to each other. Stayed with me for the entire time, too.”

“Oh, how sweet,” Rarity cooed.

“That is so Celestia,” I added. It matched what Yearling had told me as well.

“Once we had stopped arguing, things just sort of… progressed from that. We were dating before the end of the month, living together before she finished college, and married not too long after that.”

While it was interesting, it didn’t get me any closer to figuring out gift ideas. It was as Yearling described, that the younger Celestia was not fundamentally any different than the one I already knew. The nagging curiosity about what happened next in Sombra’s story persisted at the back of my mind, making me restless. How could I segue into something that was surely a difficult subject for him?

“Is this really all just about getting her a gift?” Sombra asked.

I had a mouthful of smoothie at that moment, which led to a hacking fit as I was taken back by the nature of his question. “What? Of course this is about the gift,” I insisted between coughs. “I-I mean, for the most part, it is… sorta.” I felt a burst of heat as I stewed in embarrassment, but Sombra’s expression remained unchanged. “I want to understand her better. I’ve been living with her for a while now and there’s still so much about her I don’t know. It feels like…”

“Like there’s still a wall between you two?”

Sombra’s words surprised me with their accuracy, as I could only nod in response.

“I wish I could say that’s something new, but she’s been that way for as long as I’ve known her.”

“Even during your marriage?” I asked, opting to play that card.

“Aye, even then,” he said with a somber nod. “I don’t think it’s ever anything personal, she just doesn’t like people seeing the less flattering parts of her.”

“Well, who would?” Rarity chimed in with her thoughts. “I know I always prefer to put my best foot forward. And it was a while before we could even talk about the Fall Formal around Sunset.”

“True, but if I asked you to name one of Ms. Shimmer’s worst qualities, what would you answer?”

Rarity didn’t answer at first, but instead looked to me with a hint of worry painted on her face. Naturally, she wasn’t about to just answer such a question with me sitting next to her, but I was curious as to where Sombra was going with this line of questioning, so I gestured for her to answer. I figured I was self-aware enough to know what my bad qualities were, which were numerous. If anything, I probably thought worse of myself than any of my friends did.

Even then, Rarity still looked as if in the midst of a fierce battle between curiosity and conscience. Finally, though, she uttered out, “She… still has trust issues.”

Despite the mental preparations, hearing that from a friend still stung.

“But you still consider Ms. Shimmer a close friend, correct?”

“Of course!” Rarity quickly insisted, perhaps to redeem herself from her previous statement. “She’s my very dear friend, and I think the world of her.”

And just like that, the sting was gone.

“I’ve no doubt she is; that’s why you were considerate of her feelings while at the same time able to express your own,” Sombra continued on. “With Celestia, she just buried those parts of her. It was a long time before I found out the truth about what happened between her and Luna. And it’s not about pride, I can tell you that much. It’s more… a skewed perspective. A misguided belief, perhaps? It’s hard to put into words.”

Watching Sombra as he considered his words and spoke, I felt a hint of reluctance behind them. I felt like I understood that apprehension: talking about Celestia in a remote coffee shop felt like we were going behind her back and conspiring against her. I remembered when she asked me to not ask about this chapter of her life, and I was betraying that trust in a way. There was no shortage of guilt swirling inside me, but the more I heard, the more compelled I was to see this through. I had faith that whatever I learned, I would still cherish my relationship with Celestia; that she would still be the same wonderful person that I had gotten to know over the past few months.

How naive I was.

“What happened to you two? Why won’t she talk about it?” I pressed on, despite some of my deeper concerns.

His expression grew more listless, the smile on his face and the shimmer in his eyes going almost as gray as his complexion. It dawned on me, far too late, that trying to force this conversation was as difficult for him as it would’ve been for Celestia. I hadn’t even stopped to consider how he might’ve felt having to recount such memories. He had seemed more at ease with his past, but just because he appeared that way did not mean it was what he felt inside. Before I could even begin to apologize, he spoke up again.

“I’m sorry, Ms. Shimmer, but I can’t tell you,” he said, a defeated slump of his shoulders.

“Can’t… or won’t?” Rarity challenged.

His silence and averted gaze was all the confirmation we needed.

“Seriously?” I snapped as all sense of sympathy fell to the wayside. “You said yourself that you suspected what this was all about. Don’t tell me you came all this way just so you could say ‘no’ to my face!” It took me a moment to realize that I had let my voice get out of control, and when I noticed the concerned glances from the other patrons in the coffee shop, I slunk back into my seat. “Sorry,” I murmured. “I’ve no right to get angry with you. I just don’t want to leave empty-handed.”

“I had come here wanting to tell you,” Sombra admitted, followed by a quiet sigh. “In truth, I had been debating whether to tell since the day I met you. But seeing you here today… I’m afraid I just can’t do it. For what it’s worth, I do think you deserve to know, but it’s a conversation you need to have with Celestia, not with me.”

Now it was my turn to hang my head in defeat. “Okay, I understand.”

While I was busy feeling dejected, Rarity took it upon herself to try and salvage the situation as best she could. “Please, Sombra, there must be something more you can suggest for a Hearth’s Warming gift,” she spoke, soft and sweet, “Sunset is really hoping to make it something more personal than a book you can pick up at any online store. If you have anything more you could offer, we’d be in your debt.”

It took a stern heart to be able to resist Rarity’s charm, and even Sombra was soon breathing a quiet sigh as he began to reconsider his position. I could never manage her skill at persuasion.

“The kind of gift you want is one that tells a story,” Sombra suggested after a lengthy pause. “So rather than just trying to look at Celestia alone, think about the history you share. Get her something that she’ll look at and go, ‘I remember the time’.”

The history we shared; that gave me a lot to consider. It hadn’t even been half a year since I was taken in by the person whom I regarded only as a Principal up until then, and even for a short while after. Still, in that short period of time, a lot has happened between us, and we’ve grown closer than I ever thought would’ve been possible. I was certain there would be something in all of that time together that I could draw upon for inspiration.

I gave up on trying to coax any further information out of Sombra, at least with regards to my selfish curiosity. It didn’t stop Rarity from probing for more details about his romance with Celestia, such as where they went for their honeymoon, how he proposed, and such, but my quest was about Hearth’s Warming, not Hearts and Hooves Day.

By the time Rarity and I left the coffee shop, I was no closer to an idea than I had been that morning, save for the nagging thought that maybe I really should just get her a book.

“I don’t know about you, but I found that to be a very enlightening experience,” Rarity commented as we strolled down the sidewalk.

“Really? And what did you learn from all of that?”

“That Sombra is still very much in love with Celestia.”

“Yeah, I got that impression too, though I wouldn’t have been confident enough to say for certain.”

Exposed once more to the crisp winter air of Canterlot, we hurried along until we were able to find some measure of refuge in a bus shelter. A few minutes of waiting in the cold was preferable to walking all the way home. We sat in silence for a while, huddled close together with our hands tucked into our armpits in an effort to stay warm for just a little longer. For my part, I was lost in thought about Celestia and Sombra, wondering whether love and relationships were all they were cracked up to be if somebody as compassionate as Celestia couldn’t make it work.

Some days adults just didn’t make any sense, and it was moments like those that made me realize I still had a lot of growing up to do.

“I feel like we left that with more questions than we began with,” Rarity commented, breaking the silence.

I nodded back. “In hindsight, I shouldn’t be surprised. Celestia told me a while ago that this would happen if I tried to talk to Sombra about them.”

“Still, it was an enlightening talk,” Rarity said, flashing a warm smile that somehow managed to melt away my worries in an instant. “He cut quite the dashing figure, don’t you agree? Handsome, in a sort of ‘leading actor’ kind of way.”

“Come on, Rarity, this is supposed to be about Celestia. Focus more on the gift ideas, less on the headmaster’s chiseled good looks.” We both had a good laugh, which definitely helped me because I was getting far too wrapped up in my quest for the ideal gift. If I kept worrying, it would just make me anxious and I’d lose sight of the bigger picture or do something crazy in my desperation for an answer. “Although I’m not sure if there’s anything we can use in what we’ve learned today.”

“Yes, that is a bit tricky, isn’t it?” Rarity murmured, cupping her hands over her face to puff a few breaths of warmth upon them. “If I had more time, I’m sure I could design her a lovely work ensemble, or brainstorm some better ideas.”

“Tell me about it,” I said with a resigned sigh. “Feels like she’s been dedicated to teaching ever since she started college. Probably even before then, knowing her.”

I had expected some form of moral support from my friend, be it a literal or figurative pat on the back, but instead she fell silent as her eyes narrowed, as if focusing on some unseen object before her. A surge of excitement sprung up in my chest: she was about to have a flash of inspiration! It was still just formulating, but I could almost see her brain churning away to turn a hazy and vague concept into something concrete and tangible. This was why I brought her along in the first place. This was the genius insight I had hoped for.

As her eyes lit up and an excited, triumphant grin crossed her features, I could feel my own excitement beginning to overflow. She turned to me, and with absolute joy and pride in herself said, “You should get Celestia a book!”

I must’ve looked pretty stupid as I stared dumbstruck at my friend, stunned as my train of thought slammed the brakes so hard my brain smashed against the inside of my skull. That had to be on purpose.

“Come again?”

“A book, darling,” Rarity repeated with a clap of her gloved hands. “A scrapbook, to be precise—filled with things from her years of teaching and your time together. It’d be a celebration of her career.”

“A scrapbook, huh?” I murmured, more to myself than any sort of clarification. At first it sounded strange, but the more I mulled it over, the more it made sense. As Sombra said, I just had to look at our history together, which while brief has been full of memorable moments. I wasn’t sure how much there would be to build a scrapbook from, but lucky for me, there were readily available sources for the highlights of her teaching career. “I think I’ve seen copies of Canterlot High yearbooks at our place. I bet we could get lots of pictures from that.”

“You could probably ask Photo Finish or someone from the yearbook committee if they’ve got files of the originals you could use,” Rarity suggested. “I can give you their numbers if you don’t have them already.”

After bouncing a few ideas and suggestions back and forth, I was left feeling confident once more about Hearth’s Warming. A scrapbook would take some time and effort, but those I had plenty of.

“I’ve never made anything like a scrapbook before. I… don’t suppose you could help me a little bit with this? Maybe a few pointers or a reference guide?”

Arts and crafts were not one of my strong suits, at least not when it came to things like paper and glue. If someone were to ask me to assemble an ad hoc magic analyzer from the school’s tech lab equipment then I would be okay, but cutting paper in a straight line with scissors? I was still a pony playing the part of a human.

Rarity threw an arm around my shoulder and flashed a heartfelt smile. “Of course I’ll help you out.”

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

Fortunately for us, Celestia was busy with school board meetings, which not only meant that Rarity and I had the next few hours to rummage freely through old photo albums and yearbooks, but it also meant that my friend could join me in playing my newest, favourite game with Luna: arguing over which take-out to order because Celestia wouldn’t be home to cook dinner. It was a contest of not only trying to put forth the strongest points of your preferred ethnic take-out, but also appealing to Luna’s fickle appetite.

It was sort of like a debate club, except the moderator could arbitrarily decide that she’s in the mood for shawarma after twenty minutes of debate over pizza toppings.

“This one’s from two years ago. I think there’s some good pictures of you and Celestia together at the Fall Formal,” Rarity said as we sifted through the stacks of old yearbooks. As it turned out, Celestia kept more than just a few of them from years past, she kept all of them. We had turned the living room into a book fortress with all the stacks we made, sorted by the quality and quantity of usable images, as well as subject matter. “And do you think we can get tacos delivered?”

“I’m not sure Celestia wants reminders of the low-points in my life. Regardless of how nice it might look, the me back then was just a lie,” I replied without lifting my gaze away from the photo album I was scouring through. It had a lot of pictures from her youth, but nothing that really hinted at ‘Celestia the educator.’ “There’s a good taco place nearby that does take-out. Luna might be willing to make the drive if we make a good case. We should have a couple alternatives just in case she’s not interested.”

Rarity had moved to another book, one notably much older if the numbers I saw on the spine were correct. “We can always go with pizza as a backup,” she suggested. “Oooo! This book’s from the year that Celestia won the ‘Educator of the Year’ award for our district.”

She flipped the book over and showed me a page-sized picture of Celestia standing holding an impressive-looking little trophy. All around her were what I could only presume to be her students, as the picture’s caption referred to her as ‘Canterlot High’s Rising Star,’ so it had to have been from before she became principal.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen Celestia look quite so happy,” Rarity commented.

She did look radiant, I had to agree. It looked like the kind of beaming smile that came from a happiness you only experienced a handful of times in your life. I wouldn’t have been surprised if even her wedding photos paled in comparison to this.

“We definitely need to include this,” I said as I gestured to a nearby pile. “Put it over there with the other ‘must haves’.”

“Do you think we should include some pictures from the Battle of the Bands?” Rarity asked. She set her book aside and grabbed a new one from the pile to continue her search. “I mean, it might not have been pleasant being under a Siren’s spell, but it did help turn things around for you.”

The school event itself was a bit iffy, in my opinion. Under normal circumstances, it might’ve made for some good memories, but thanks to the Sirens, it had been mired with petty squabbling and infighting. Everything from after we had dealt with them, however, had potential. Then again, I didn’t want to make this scrapbook all about me, so we decided to put that idea in the ‘maybe’ stack for now.

Noting that we were beginning to reach the bottom of our piles, I got back to my feet to scour the bookshelves once more. Unfortunately, a quick walk around the ground level revealed there to be no further shelves with which to pull from.

“Feels like there should’ve been more yearbooks,” I muttered to myself after I did a quick tally of our current stacks. I headed upstairs to consult the other source of Celestia-related knowledge we had available. “Luna! Do you know of anywhere else that Celestia might keep old yearbooks or photo albums?”

“Check the basement storage; there should be some boxes from when she taught in Fillydelphia,” Luna’s voice responded through her bedroom door. “Also, have you two decided on dinner?”

“We’re thinking tacos.”

“Is there even anybody who delivers?”

“No, but there’s a place that does take-out about ten minutes from here.”

There was a brief, pregnant pause while I waited at the top of the stairs.

“Have your orders ready soon. Tonight, there shall be tacos.”

“Huh, got it on the first try,” I mumbled to myself with a hint of satisfaction.

With the topic of dinner settled, I headed down to the basement storage to look for the boxes that Luna had mentioned. The storage contained an assortment of old boxes, all of which were neatly stacked and labeled, which was unsurprising given Celestia’s professionalism. Passed boxes marked ‘college’ and ‘Luna’s old stuff,’ there was one tucked away in the corner with the word ‘Fillydelphia’ scrawled across the side, although it lacked the tidy penmanship that the others had.

I hefted up the box and returned to the living room, where my friend and I set about searching the contents of our newest repository of Celestia-related history. “Hey Rarity, do they call Fillydelphia the ‘City of Sisterly Love’ here, too?”

“That’s what I’ve heard,” my friend agreed, “though I’ve never been there myself. Have you?”

“Only in Equestria. I used to live there before I enrolled in Celestia’s School for Gifted Unicorns. I don’t remember much about it, to be honest.”

Inside the box was an assortment of odds and ends: an old desk lamp, some outdated textbooks, a flag that said ‘Go Tigers!’ that I presumed belonged to the school she taught at, and our sought-after stack of yearbooks. There were five of them, and on the cover of each were the words ‘West Fillydelphia High School.’ We each grabbed a book, and set to work.

Flipping through the pages, it wasn’t too unlike our own yearbook, except older and feeling a bit more generic and sterile, as if the people on the yearbook committee didn’t want to risk breaking from tradition. It didn’t take long, however, to find a picture of Celestia, still young and adorned with her pink hair; she stood alongside Sombra and several other faculty members, and I couldn’t help but notice that she was the only one that looked happy to be there. Reading through a few of the captions confirmed what I had suspected: this book was from her first year teaching full-time.

“Looks like she was very popular with her students,” Rarity commented.

She flipped her book around to show me a picture of Celestia standing amongst a crowd of seated teenagers. It was a scene that we were all too familiar with, but rarely did I see a teacher in the midst of a lecture so clearly holding the attention of everyone in the class. Not a single face looked bored or disinterested, and while I couldn’t make out what book Celestia held in her hand, the size suggested it was a novel of some sort. Just below it was another picture of several teachers being taped to the walls of the school, and amongst them was an almost entirely-taped over Celestia. It must have been a charity event judging by all the enthusiasm on display.

“Looks like they’re having loads of fun,” I remarked, feeling almost a bit envious of them.

“Makes you kinda wish she was our teacher, doesn’t it?”

“A bit, but then again if it were her, it would kinda feel like being I was being taught by my mom.” I was half-way through a chuckle when I noticed Rarity was smirking while raising an eyebrow. A flash of heat struck my face as I realized what I had just said. “N-not that I think of her like that!” I hastily stammered.

“Of course you don’t, darling,” my friend said, hiding a teasing laugh behind the yearbook. She made a show of flipping to the next page, still giggling as she watched me stew in my embarrassment.

I was content to just sit and wait for the burning sensation to go away when something caught my attention. Rarity’s eyes suddenly went wide as she let out a gasp. She stared at the yearbook for a moment, then her gaze flickered to meet mine. For the briefest of moments, I swore I could see… fear. I had seen enough terrified faces to still recognize it in an instant.

“What’s the matter, Rarity?”

“N-nothing! I… uh, j-just got a papercut!”

People did not gasp in horror at papercuts, unless you were particularly squeamish, which I knew wasn’t the case here.

“Let me see that!” Without even waiting for a response, I took the book from her, and what I saw left me speechless. It was a simple picture, like so many others, and for a moment I thought that my mind was merely playing tricks on me. It was Celestia, standing at some sort of award ceremony alongside a teenager who had all-too familiar red and golden hair.

Just below it was the caption, whose words hit me like a thousand tiny, sharp rocks.

‘Sunset Shimmer credits her stunning victory at the District Math Olympics to her teacher and mentor, Celestia.’

“Luna, Sunset… I’m home!”