• Published 25th Sep 2016
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Spectacular Seven - The Albinocorn



As graduation draws near, magic begins to awaken in the human world, drawing out old rivals and opening the doors to new adventures. It's up to Sunset and her friends to keep Canterlot safe, all while dealing with their looming futures.

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Phoenix Rising II: Crimson Waltz Under the Moon

Memories.

Dozens of memories rushed through Sunset. Painful ones. Things she wished she had forgotten. Broken promises, yells of accusation, rebellion, manipulation, underhanded and petty schemes, and a long fall from power.

They dragged on, one after the other with no respite. Sunset wanted to scream and cry and beg for them to end. She hated that part of herself: the selfish, arrogant, spiteful tyrant who thought the world was her birthright. Sunset tried to raise her arms to block the pour of memories, but it was like someone had strapped iron weights to her wrists.

A scream finally tore its way out of Sunset’s throat as she relived putting on that fated crown and the painful transformation that followed. Her voice echoed back to her, rattling her eardrums, and she finally found the strength to raise her arms and cover her ears.

The memory faded, leaving only a black stain across Sunset’s vision. She closed her eyes and willed the nightmare to end. When she opened them, the darkness remained, an empty void of nothing, save for Scarlet. She too had her claws pressed against her skull. Her eyes opened and she twisted about, flapping her wings to stay airborne, whereas Sunset found firm footing on an unseeable ground.

Scarlet threw her gaze upon Sunset. “Where are we? What did you do? Why did I see all those disgusting, happy memories?”

“Memories,” Sunset said in a daze. “My memories.” She looked at Scarlet, truly seeing her for the first time. So alike, yet so different. Two halves of the same whole. “I understand now.”

“Understand what?” Scarlet lifted her hand, conjuring a fireball to light up the darkness. “Explain what’s going on before I kill you!”

Sunset flinched back for a moment, but clenched her fists and squared her shoulders. “I don’t know how I know, but we’re in the space between the two halves of our souls.” As she said it, Sunset could feel the other half of her emotions, the pieces of joy, excitement, and courage, along with all of her missing anger, guilt, and passion. It flowed from Scarlet’s direction, hitting her like a warm wind. Scarlet winced and dropped the fire from her hand. Sunset could feel empathy, kindness, and love blowing against her back.

Scarlet shook off the emotional gale and flexed her claws. “So what? Is this your little ploy to get me to come back with you? It won’t work! I hate you! And in case you’ve forgotten, you’re terrified of me!” Two orbs of fire appeared over her outstretched palms. “This is finally where we say goodbye.”

Sunset met Scarlet’s advanced, slowly marching forward, feeling the wind bring back her confidence. “You’re right,” she said, the tremble leaving her voice. She forced herself not to look away from Scarlet. “I was terrified of you. I ran from you. I ignored you. I rejected you.”

The orbs of fire dimmed and Scarlet froze, her malicious gleam and victorious smirk disappearing. “What are you doing?”

“Something I should have done a long time ago.” Her voice found an even and confident rhythm. “I did a lot of terrible things in my past. Hurt a lot of people just to get to the top. Sometimes I hurt them just because I could. I’m not proud of it. I came to resent it, hate it. I wanted to bury it and leave it dead, but it always came back to haunt me, so I came to hate it even more.” Sunset raised a hand.

Scarlet started gliding backwards, staying just out of Sunset’s reach. Beads of sweat trickled across her forehead, and she refused to meet Sunset’s eyes. The fireballs fizzled out and scattered into embers. She snapped her fingers, trying to reignite them, but gained only sparks.

“Sometimes I wished I could forget. I hid from you behind my friends, fending you off until I thought I could deal with you.” Sunset moved with more confidence, her voice growing stronger with each step. “But the truth is, I never intended to deal with you. I was going to keep running. I didn’t know if the path would take me anywhere. I still don’t know. But anywhere was better than my past.”

Sunset stopped moving, and so did Scarlet. “They say you should never look back, never look behind you. Just keep moving forward. But sometimes, you need to look behind you to see how far you’ve come—to gain a new perspective on where you are now, and where you need to go.”

Scarlet snarled and lifted her claws, finally forming a writing bundle of flames. She hurled it down at Sunset, grinning maniacally when it made contact.

When the smoke cleared, Sunset still stood with the same determined expression.

“What?” Scarlet screeched. “What do you want from me?”

Sunset’s eyes softened. “You’re a part of me. And while I didn’t want to admit it, you’re a part I need. It’s not what you need to do, it’s what I need to do. Something I should have done when I learned I had friends who accepted me despite my past and wanted to help me grow. Something I should have done when I was on stage, and they told me I had nothing to fear from my magic. I want to accept you. My past.”

A white light engulfed Scarlet’s arms and spread its way across her body. She didn’t scream, or yell, or cry in agony. She just stared at Sunset with wide eyes and an open mouth, until the light covered her completely. Her outline shrank and contorted, remolding itself within the light. The new form touched down on the invisible floor, and when the light faded away, what was left was a small unicorn with an amber coat and a curling mane of crimson and gold. Her eight rayed yellow and red cutie mark was printed on her flank.

The pony Sunset Shimmer sniffled and wiped at her eyes. “You’re a real sap, you know that?”

Sunset smiled. “Yeah. The price of having friends, I guess. You get a little sentimental from time to time.” She took a knee, keeping her hand extended. “What do you say? Think it’s time we stopped fighting ourselves and become friends?”

The little pony turned her head away. “Maybe I like fighting. Maybe I like being alone.”

“Yeah. Being alone is nice. But we both know we’re happier when we’re with someone. And don’t worry. Rainbow and Trixie will give us plenty of fights.” Sunset jerked her head to the side. “And there’s a certain rich girl begging for a beatdown.”

She slowly began to turn her head back to Sunset, hesitation still in her eyes. “What about the future?”

Sunset raised her other hand and made a fist. “We’ll face it together. Once we stop worrying about the past, the future will be no problem. Promise.”

Their eyes met, two sets of teal staring into two halves of their soul. Sunset saw the guilt of her past, the fear of her future, and the crushing loneliness within her pony’s half. To balance it out, she filled her eyes with reassuring warmth, fiery confidence, and the promise of friendship.

The pony swallowed and nodded. She reached her hoof out, tears falling off her face as she did. “I’m sorry I made so much trouble for you.”

Sunset shrugged. “It made me a stronger person. And hey, it’s in the past now. A past I can accept.”

A bright glow blossomed between them when their hoof and hand connected. Pony Sunset smiled and burst into hundreds of gold lights that floated into Sunset. An intense warmth spread throughout her body, like she was on fire from the inside. It was a pleasant fire, comforting like a hearth on a snowy day. She stood up straight and looked at her hands, watching a gold aura overcome her as the dark void became white.

“I accept my past and what I’ve done, and I won’t run from it. But I won’t let it define me...”

*******

Sunset opened her eyes in time to see Lamia fall to the ground, unconscious. Several things happened at once after that.

Her friends shouted her name, and a pair of arms wrapped around her middle, just as the fiery warmth bloomed through her body and burst free. A golden shimmer flowed around her, and the soothing fire now ran across her skin. There was a yelp behind her, and the pair of arms released themselves. Sunset swirled around, finding Twilight being held upright by Applejack, them along with the others staring with their mouths open.

“What?” Sunset asked.

“Did Sunset just go Super Saiyan and I missed it?” Rainbow yelled. Sunset looked up at her and Moondancer, still hovering in the air.

“The hell’s a Super Saiyan?” Sunset asked, knowing it was probably another dumb pop culture thing.

“Sunset’s back!” Pinkie cheered, jumping into the air. “And she’s got her fire back! Literally!”

Sunset felt a nerve begin to twitch. “What are you talking about?”

Rarity pointed just over Sunset’s shoulder. “Your wings and tail seem to be on fire. Your hair looks amazing though.”

Sunset craned her neck to finally see what everyone was gaping at. Sprouting from her shoulder blades yet somehow not harming one thread on her dress were golden, fiery wings to match the long tail extending off her tailbone. They flickered and danced like flames in a bonfire, and with a single thought, her wings flapped.

“Celestia’s golden horseshoes,” Sunset said in awe. It wasn’t just heat flowing through her—it was power. Similar to the rush she experienced at the Fall Formal, only this time, there was no pain to accompany it—no madness. Just the desire to protect everyone she loved.

A round of sarcastic clapping brought Sunset’s attention back up to Moondancer. “Oh yes, bravo! Once again, the universe bends to your whim! Isn’t she just so special!

Rainbow balled a fist. “All right, I’m sick of—”

Moondancer struck her in the chest with a bolt of light, sending her back to ground with a look of incomprehension. “Full disclosure: I never liked you either, Rainbow.”

“Rainbow!” Fluttershy ran to her side once again.

The fire around Sunset grew warmer, and with a single flap of her wings, she found herself at eye level with Moondancer. “You can rip my soul out as many times as you like,” Sunset said, her voice hard as steel, “but you don’t touch my friends.”

“Such noble sentiments. But I know what you really are underneath that glamour of light,” Moondancer spat.

“No, I don’t think you do. Yeah, you’ve seen what I used to be. Maybe that’s all you want to see.” Sunset spread her arms and her wings. “But that isn’t me anymore! My name Sunset Shimmer, and on behalf of my friends, I’m gonna kick your ass!”

Moondancer rolled her eyes, which, Sunset noticed, were quite sunken. “I tried to give you a mercy. You should have stayed in the Soul Lock.” Her mouth split into a maniacal smile. “But this is fine! I’ll prove that your flashy show of power means nothing! I am the leading actress here!”

Light gathered around her open hand and she swiped it through the air, slicing it with a sickle of magic. “This is your last scene, Sunset!”

In hindsight, it might been a good idea to see if I even have powers right now. Sunset dropped herself a few feet to avoid her face getting cut, then frantically flapped her new wings to back away from Moondancer’s rapier. She didn’t think Rarity would forgive her a second time for ruining a dance dress.

Sunset gave a powerful stroke of her wings to open the gap between her and Moondancer. The hot blast of air her wings created forced Moondancer to cover her face, leaving Sunset more time to try out a hunch. She drew upon her unicorn instincts, only instead of channeling her focus to where her horn should be, she directed it to her outstretched hand. Sure enough, a ball of fire burst to life, bright as a miniature sun.

“Hey, Moondancer! Catch!” Sunset lobbed the fireball at her.

Moondancer struck with her rapier, only to have the ball explode upon contact. She fanned the smoke away with her white wings, coughing and covered with soot. Sunset flew through the remaining ash clouds, spun around, and drove her heel into Moondancer’s stomach.

“That’s for Rainbow!” Sunset yelled as Moondancer tumbled back, wheezing. Sunset watched her recover, not daring to look back at Twilight. Sunset could only imagine the range of emotions twisting through her.

Moondancer righted herself, a hateful gleam in her sunken eyes. “How touching. Do you know what happens to people I care about?” A ball of light appeared in her hand, crackling with excess energy. “They get taken away!” She hurled it at Sunset.

It flew too fast to dodge, so Sunset swung her hand out of desperation, watching three scarlet trails follow along a few inches out. Her brief moment of marvel was interrupted when her hand connected against the light ball and rippling static coursed through her body, leaving her numb and her hand singed.

“Let the light burn the darkness!” Moondancer raised her rapier to the crescent moon above, then leveled it at Sunset’s heart. “Let this blade strike true!” She dove for Sunset and was jerked back by a multi-colored handkerchief tied around her ankle. Moondancer looked down. “Trixie, what are you doing?”

“Stopping you from making a mistake!” Trixie tugged on the rope extending out of her wand. “Moondancer, none of this makes any sense! Why are you working with someone who wants to revive Tirek?”

“That, dear cousin, is none of your concern!” Moondancer slashed at the handkerchief, cutting herself free.

Fortunately, Sunset had regained most of the felling in her body. She swung her hand out again, watching claws of fire extend from the space in front of her fingers. “This just keeps getting cooler.” She looked down at her friends, who all looked ready to spring to action. “Don’t worry, girls. I think I got this.”

As Moondancer let out a derisive scoff, Sunset charged at her, forcing her on the defensive. She evaded Sunset’s claws and struck back with her sword, glowing red against the fire.

Moondancer lunged, and Sunset weaved to the side, then swung her hand out, her fire claws missing Moondancer’s head by mere inches. With a gust of her angel wings, Moondancer pushed Sunset back, then aimed her free hand skyward and unleashed another volley of the light flares.

Sunset threw herself back to get out of their range. Thrusting a hand forward, a burst of fire shot from her palm and hit one of the flares, vaporizing it. She alternated hands, throwing pitch after pitch of flame to stop Moondancer’s attacks from reaching her friends. The fire never burned against her palms. Like her wings and tail, it felt pleasant as it left her.

Moondancer fired a quick lance of energy at Sunset during her target practice. Sunset tried to maneuver to the side, but the beam cut a hole through her right wing.

Augh!” Sunset stumbled, but the hole was quickly covered by more fire and she righted herself. Okay, so I can feel pain with these. Good to know. Lots of learning happening tonight.

Moondancer rose higher in the sky and spread her arms wide. A dozen beads of light popped into existence around her, growing larger by the second. They formed wings and beaks and started to twitter with an otherworldly echo. With a sneer and a point of her blade, the ghostly birds dove at Sunset.

Sunset turned and flew as fast as she could, hearing their tiny wingbeats right behind her. She heard Moondancer give a mad cackle and looked back to see her directing them like a symphony conductor.

The twittering grew louder, and Sunset had to dive to avoid one bird from side-swiping her face. She banked hard left in front of the hotel, forcing two of them to crash into the building where they disintegrated. She was headed straight for the distorted skyline. Furrowing her brow, Sunset pulled herself into a sharp ascension as she got to the edge of the terrace. Three more birds kept going and vanished just over the balcony.

So that’s how it is. Sunset brought herself into a backward loop, seeing the terrace float above her for a second before coming around and heading for the barrier again. This time, she kept going.

It was like passing through a thick veil of mist. Sunset felt wet for a moment, but that was either part of the illusion, or her wings dried her off with impressive speed. The bright lights of the real Canterlot spread out before her; glowing roads and sparkling towers of downtown teemed with life. The real moon glowed above, smiling down on the city. And here Sunset was, soaring above it all.

Her heart swelled. She threw her arms out and let out a whoop of delight. She was free! She was Sunset again! She felt elated and strong and loved and… she just felt!

A dive bombing bird broke her reverie. She spiraled to the left to avoid it and looped back around toward the hotel. From here, it looked like the terrace was dark and empty. She could remember where Moondancer had been floating before though. Rolling over another bird, she shot back toward the barrier, a scarlet trail behind her.

One second, the terrace was dark, then, there was the cool sensation of mist, and Moondancer and everyone else blinked back into existence. Sunset rushed toward Moondancer’s back side then dropped into a steep dive. She heard Moondancer give a pained shout above her.

Moondancer gripped the back of her head while she kicked her legs about. Her remaining birds vanished into wisps of silvery air. She looked down at Sunset with narrowed eyes.

“I… grow… tired of this!” she said between her teeth.

“That makes two of us.” Sunset blasted her with a short flame. Moondancer threw a hasty shield up that blocked only part of the blast. The remainder of it snuck through the cracks and set fire to the sleeves of Moondancer’s dress. She wildly flapped and smacked at it until it went out, leaving a singed hole and an angry welt.

With a wild yell, Moondancer threw herself at Sunset again. Her lunge was lopsided and sluggish, evidently still dazed from her blow to the head. Sunset moved to the side, letting Moondancer stumble past her. She then grabbed Moondancer’s arms and pulled them behind her back, giving them a sharp twist so she dropped her blade.

“You hate me, I get that,” Sunset said. “But Trixie’s right, siding with some soul-stealing warlock? He already took you mom.”

Moondancer thrashed in her grip. “Don’t talk about things you don’t understand!”

Sunset gripped harder. “Listen, I saw her when you shoved me into the medallion. She wanted me to tell you—aaugh!” She released Moondancer and held a hand to her sore nose, finding blood.

Don’t you dare speak to me about my mother!” Red splotches covered Moondancer’s wet cheeks. “How? How does filth like you crawl out of the darkest abyss, while my mother—who could escape anything—continues to languish there?” She threw a hand above her head and began gathering moonlight.

“She chose to stay! She chose to fight Tirek and stop him!”

Liar!” The light gathered into another orb, quickly doubling in size. “She loves me! She wouldn’t choose to stay in some dark pit! She would pick me! Somebody has to pick me!”

Sunset clenched a fist, feeling it heat up. “You’re right, she loves you. That’s why she chose to stay. She’s trying to give you a better world.”

I’m trying to create a better world! And to do that, Tirek must be revived!” The sphere had reached the size of a car and looked like the full moon. “And you must die!” Moondancer flung her arm down, bringing the magic bomb with it.

Let no one say I didn’t try to reason with her. Sunset pushed her hands out, releasing twin jets of fire against the light. They crashed against the surface, sending embers flying in every direction. Sunset could feel the weight of the ball trying to crash down on her and her friends.

“Here’s the finale, Sunset Shimmer!” The glow and wind from the clashing powers cast a lighting across Moondancer’s face that gave her a look of grinning insanity.

Sunset grunted under the magic’s weight. Despite Moondancer’s exhaustion, she still had quite a lot of magic left to throw at Sunset. Cheers floated up to her ears, and she looked over her shoulder to see her friends shouting her name.

“Ah’ve heard enough of her fancy talk!” Applejack said.

“Yes, show that drama queen what’s what!” Rarity added.

Fluttershy let out an impassioned yell.

Sunset grinned. For you girls? Anything.

Her flamethrowers turned gold and pushed the orb in reverse. Moondancer held her position, eyes growing frantic. As the ball edged closer and closer, she finally released her grip on it, ducking as it sailed past her head and high into the sky, where it exploded like a gold and white firework.

Sunset blew the smoke off her hand. “Show’s over, Moondancer.”

Moondancer doubled over, clutching her arm. Her breaths came out in ragged gasps and her ethereal wings flickered, nearly dropping her. Her face contorted in concentration, getting them to fully manifest again, but Sunset knew she had reached her full extent. Around them, Sunset saw the illusion barrier flicker and fade out.

“How… how are you so much stronger than me?” Moondancer asked, her voice heavy with desperation.

Sunset balled her fists by her side as she drifted closer. “I could list a number of reasons. But I’ll give it to you straight: you’re drawing magic from a world still depleted of it. You’re not like the other Lulamoons. Magic doesn’t flow through your veins.”

“Don’t you—”

“So you had to gain it the hard way, didn’t you?” Sunset asked over her. “You trained your soul to tap into this world’s magic. But it’s not enough to stand up to me. My magic comes from my homeworld. It still flows within me.” She held a hand to her heart and grinned. “It doesn’t hurt that I’m drawing on the strongest magic of all. Can you guess what that is?”

Moondancer didn’t answer opting to bare her teeth instead.

“It’s friendship. That’s where I get my strength from.” Sunset raised a hand over her head, a sheath of fire coating her fingers. “So, word of advice, Moondancer...” She brought her arm down, clawing the air and leaving ribbons of light behind.

“Don’t screw with my friends!”

The cry of a phoenix covered Moondancer’s scream and echoed across the night sky. Moondancer stumbled back through the air, her wings fading again until they were mere outlines. She dropped to the rooftop, her wings catching her one last time to break the fall. She pressed her hands against the left side of her face as she hunched over on her knees, shaking and sobbing.

Sunset touched the ground and quickly found herself surrounded by her friends, all trying to avoid her fiery wings. It was Pinkie who latched onto Sunset and gasped, not out of pain, but in satisfaction.

“Your wings make your hugs extra warm now!”

Rainbow ran a finger through Sunset’s wings. “Wow, she’s right. Doesn’t burn.”

With that, Sunset was promptly glomped by all of her friends in the warmest group hug to date. She made an exaggerated eye roll, but smiled.

“I missed you girls.” She allowed herself to enjoy their embrace a moment longer until she could no longer ignore Moondancer’s whimpering sobs. She fidgeted, giving her friends the hint, and was released from their hold.

Twilight kept herself by Sunset’s shoulder as they approached Moondancer. The girl lifted her head, keeping a hand against her face. Sunset could see tips of the cauterized lacerations across the bridge of her nose and her neck.

“D-don’t th-think you’ve b-bested me,” Moondancer said, trying to swallow her tears. She pushed herself up, knees shaking. “This is far from o-over! I will—”

“That’s enough, Moondancer,” a cool voice said.

Sunset and Twilight whipped their heads around to the other end of the courtyard. Tempest stood in front of a swirling vortex of darkness, one arm behind her back while the other sleeve of her jacket wafted in the wind. A spike of fury shot through Sunset, and she hurled a crimson flare at Tempest.

She sidestepped it with a blase look. “I should thank you, Sunset. The magic generated here has been abundant, meaning Moondancer hasn’t made this a complete failure. You continue to show extraordinary expectations.” She looked past Sunset. “Now, Moondancer, return to headquarters before you embarrass yourself any more.” She lifted her hand, and a portal appeared behind Moondancer.

A blue plume of smoke burst up next to Sunset, and out stepped Artemis, wand at the ready. He spun in a half circle, looking from Moondancer, to Sunset, to Trixie, then to Tempest. “What in magic’s name is going on here?”

“Father?” Trixie ran up to him. “What are you doing here?”

“My magic senses suddenly started going haywire and I followed it to here. What is all this?”

“Moondancer,” Tempest barked, “we’re leaving.” She backed into the portal. “Keep up the good work, Spectacular Seven.” The portal faded into wisps behind her.

Artemis turned to Moondancer. “Sweetie, what’s…”

Moondancer backed into her own portal, her visible eye wet with sorrow. “I won’t ask for your forgiveness. But I ask you do not get involved.” Her eye found Twilight, and a lump appeared in her throat. “You’ll understand soon enough.” The portal closed around her and vanished.

A hush fell over the terrace. Sunset looked around, surveying the damage they had caused. Broken columns and tiles, scorched grass, and Lamia laying unconscious.

“Before we go any further,” Artemis said, “are you girls all right?”

Sunset wiped the blood from her nose. “A little bruised. But this is the best I’ve felt in a long time.”

“And after seeing Moondancer get pummeled, I think we’re all feeling pretty good,” Rainbow said. “Ow!” She rubbed her ribs where Applejack had elbowed her. “No offense.”

Twilight didn’t respond. Her eyes rested on the spot where Moondancer had vanished.

The girls took turns explaining the night’s events to Artemis, his expression growing more grim with every sentence. Trixie explained how Moondancer had been using the Archon Amulet Lamia had stolen to increase her magical abilities, and Twilight meekly confirmed that Moondancer had trained herself to be able to wield magic in the first place. Sunset had a grim satisfaction in the fact that she beat Moondancer even with her using magical enhancements.

Artemis let his head fall into an open palm and sighed. “I don’t understand. Why, Moondancer? If you’re in trouble, why didn’t you tell me?”

“Maybe she couldn’t,” Twilight said softly. “Maybe she still can’t.”

“Perhaps. I intended to get to the bottom of this. It’s already spiraling out of control.” He smiled at them. “I’m glad to see all of you got out of this unharmed. Some of you got even stronger.”

Sunset flapped her wings. “Brings up a few more questions than answers, but I won’t look a gift horse in the mouth.”

“Yeah, the night could’ve turned out a lot worse than it did,” Applejack said.

Artemis tipped his hat. “And you should enjoy what’s left of it. I’ll see all of you later.”

“Wait!” Sunset pointed at Lamia. “Could you take her with you? I know she’s the one who kidnapped me but… I think she might have been a victim in this, too.”

He tugged on his goatee. “Selena isn’t going to like this.”

“Just for a little while. I just want to talk to her when she wakes up.”

Artemis pulled his wand out. “All right. But that makes her your responsibility. I’m not cleaning up any mess she makes. Lulamoon!” And with another puff of smoke, he and Lamia were gone.

“We should probably get out of here,” Applejack said. “Ah hate leavin’ this place a mess, but there’s no way we could explain what happened.”

Rainbow waved it off. “Please, these people are rich enough to pay for it.”

“And Artemis is right!” Pinkie said. “We still have an hour left before Prom is over! It’ll double as our ‘Sunset is really back and kicks butt’ party!”

Rarity gasped. “And I need to tell Flash we’re all right. Let’s go, girls. If we hurry, we might see who the Prom King and Queen are.”

They moved for the door, but Sunset noticed Twilight lagging behind, her eyes looking out over the horizon. “You girls go ahead. Twilight and I will be there soon,” Sunset said. None of them gave any disagreements. They all just smiled knowingly.

I hate when they do that. She turned back toward Twilight, trying to think of a comforting word. “Hey—ooof!”

Twilight threw herself against Sunset burying her face into the crook of her neck. Sunset held her, feeling warm tears roll down the front of her dress. They stood in embrace on the rooftop, their silence broken only by Twilight’s sniffles.

“I’m sorry,” Twilight said, wiping her eyes.

“You keep saying that. What are you sorry for?”

“A lot of things. About Moondancer, about not being able to tell you were missing an actual part of yourself, about not being able to protect you.”

Sunset ran a hand through Twilight’s hair. “None of those things are your fault. So don’t worry about them, okay? I should be apologizing to you about Moondancer. I can’t imagine what you must be feeling right now.”

Twilight squeezed her eyes closed and pressed her face against Sunset’s neck again. “Confusion mostly. A little betrayal. A little stupid. I thought you were getting along. I had no idea she wanted to…”

“Neither did I. I guess I should apologize again. I kinda lied to you. Moondancer and I never really got along. She was jealous you were dating me, and I… just didn’t like her. We tried to look past it for your sake though, but…”

Twilight shook her head, her hair tickling Sunset. “I guess it doesn’t matter now.” She hiccuped. “Did she really do all this out of jealousy?”

“I think it was only part of it.” Sunset looked off toward the city, spotting Canterlot Tower, the lights turned off for the night. “I think something else is at play.”

“Magic,” Twilight said with a hint of bitterness. “I remember when everything made sense and had rationale. Now… it’s all a confusing mess. Even what I’m feeling is confusing. I should be furious at her but I’m just… sad. And I feel so useless.”

Sunset lifted Twilight’s chin. “You’re not useless. You’re the furthest thing from useless as can be. I’ve told you before, Twilight, you’re amazing. You’re a rare kind of amazing. You don’t have to have magic to be useful; your scientific brain has already done a lot for us.”

She moved her hands down to Twilight’s waist and began to slowly rock from side to side. “The fact that you stood up to Scarlet and Moondancer is amazing on its own. That took courage, and courage isn’t useless.” Sunset added a little foot movement to their rhythm. She moved one hand and placed it in Twilight’s. “While my soul was away, it was dreaming. Do you want to know what my dream was?”

Twilight nodded.

“It was of you. Us being together.” Sunset blushed. She couldn’t give Twilight the full details. Not yet. She didn’t want to get either of their hopes up that far. “And when I was trying to get out, your love for me was what helped me escape.”

A goofy smile broke across Twilight’s face, her cheeks burning brighter than Sunset’s wings. “I just… I missed you.”

“I missed you, too.” Sunset guided Twilight through more decisive steps and a slow rotation. They moved to a song that played only in their heads. Sunset wanted to think it was Symphony of Angels. “Before when I said it, I couldn’t fully mean it. My heart wasn’t in the words. Or, my soul, really. But now…”

Sunset closed her eyes and pressed her lips against Twilight’s. Twilight moved her arms around Sunset’s neck and hung on like her life depended on it. It felt so similar yet so different from the first kiss they shared at the Winter Ball. That had been a kiss for understanding, for Twilight to know just how honest Sunset’s blossoming feelings were.

This kiss shared that quality, but had its deep passion as well. Her fledgling feelings had evolved from that dance half a year ago. Sunset felt it now. She nibbled Twilight’s lip and explored her mouth, then allowed her to do the same. A radiant heat bloomed in Sunset’s chest as she wrapped her arms around Twilight’s middle. They slowly pulled apart, both of them smiling.

“I love you,” Sunset said breathlessly. Her heart danced in her chest.

Twilight leaned in for a second, shorter kiss then said, “I know.” She laughed when Sunset pinched her side, then rested her head against Sunset’s shoulder as they continued their slow dance.

“Are you scared of heights?” Sunset asked, looking up at the sky. A few light clouds had rolled in.

“Not particularly. Why?”

Sunset scooped Twilight up into her arms. “Hold on tight.” Before Twilight could make any protests, Sunset leaped into the air, giving her wings a powerful beat. The terrace grew smaller and smaller as they headed up toward the moon.

“S-Sunset! Wait! What are we doing?” Twilight kept her arms fiercely locked around Sunset’s neck. This time her life really did depend on it.

“Well, they were still around and I couldn’t go back to the dance with them. I figured, why not have some fun?”

Canterlot stretched out below her, glittering lights of buildings and cars and neon signs. Multicolored stars of different shapes and sizes scattered over the land. Just maybe, this Canterlot had something over hers. Sunset flew higher still, the warmth of her wings keeping the chill away.

Twilight had her face pressed into Sunset’s chest, her eyes squeezed shut. Sunset lowered her head and rubbed Twilight’s cheek with her nose.

“Go ahead, look. I promise, you’re safe.”

Twilight took a chance and peeked down. Her gasp was lost on the wind, but she said, “It’s so beautiful. I’ve never seen Canterlot like this.”

“Yeah, it’s pretty incredible.” Sunset closed her eyes, savoring the wind on her face and the excited flutter in her stomach.

They stayed just below the cloud layer. Sunset hoped no one could see them this high, though if any one person did spot them, she felt they would have a hard time being believed. She flew Twilight over downtown, across the countryside, and all the way to the ocean’s shore.

Sunset brought them a little lower so they could hear the waves. The moon glinted against the water, giving it glossy shine that proved hypnotic. As they flew along the coast, Sunset inhaled deeply, taking in the scent of the sea.

Twilight looked up from the view and into Sunset’s eyes. A few tears flew out, carried off by the wind. She leaned up and kissed Sunset passionately again.

“I love you.”

“I love you, too.”

********

Moondancer collapsed onto the bottom step in the entrance hall, still clutching her face. The blistering pain renewed itself every time Moondancer so much as twitched. It felt as if someone had pressed three strips of burning metal against her face and wouldn’t move them, no matter how much she begged.

The rest of her didn’t fare much better. Every muscle in her body was tired, and she had a splitting headache. Then, there was her heart, lying in a shattered pile back on the rooftop.

Tempest stood in front of her, something like triumph on her face. “Well, Moondancer, you utterly failed to bring any of the souls you promised.”

Moondancer looked at the floor. This was it. All her plans were about to amount to nothing. At least she would see her mother again.

Tempest began to pace, gesturing lazily with her hand. “And we’ve lost Scarlet. Though I suppose you can’t be blamed entirely for that one. All in all, this has not been a good night for you, has it?”

Moondancer didn’t answer. The heat of the Archon Amulet burned against her skin, but she had expelled all her rage with her last attack.

“But…” Tempest halted. “Your little showdown did manage to generate an unexpected amount of magic. And seeing those girls develop their powers might have given me an idea…”

Moondancer inched her head up, wincing at the movement. Did she dare hope?

“As much as I’d love to do it… taking your soul isn’t going to undo our problems. So yes, Moondancer, you get to live another day.” She knelt before Moondancer, raised her hand, and pressed it against the hand Moondancer was using to cover her face.

She let out a short yell of pain at the pressure. It was what she imagined an animal being branded felt when the poker was pushed into them.

Tempest spoke in a low, smug voice. “Remember this pain next time you think of doing something foolish. Remember the humiliation you just suffered. Then, remember I can make it ten times worse.” Tempest let go and straightened up. “You’re not to have anymore contact with anyone. Period. Not that you have anyone left to talk to outside.”

With a sweep of her cloak, she walked away, passing Night Shade as he stood at the mouth of a corridor. Moondancer paid him no mind. She couldn’t with the tears blurring her eyes.

Night Shade cleared his throat. “Lemon Fresh,” he said sorrowfully to one of the maids. “Fetch some ice and ointment for my daughter.” He turned and followed after Tempest.

When Lemon Fresh bowed and hurried from the room, Moondancer reached into her blouse and ripped off the amulet. A rush of cool air washed over her, flooding her mind with calm thoughts… and regret. She leaned back against the stairs, fighting the sobs building in her throat.

She had been scarred. She had betrayed her family. And she had lost her only friend.

With a quivering sigh, she looked up to the ceiling. I’ll get it all back soon. I just have to survive.

Author's Note:

Sunset vs. Moondancer

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