• Published 15th Mar 2015
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Six Nights (and a Day) With Sunset - EchoWing



Sunset Shimmer adjusts to her new life after the Fall Formal and gets to know her new friends better, while reflecting on her old one.

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Chapter One - A Night With Rarity

The final bell rang loud and clear, enough that it could still be heard over the many young colts and fillies as they eagerly made their way out of the school building. A grand and impressive structure that nonetheless came across as warm and welcoming, the Sunny Days Magic Kindergarten was, for many a young filly and colt, a stepping stone to greater things, with most of its student body going on to its parent school, Princess Celestia’s School for Gifted Unicorns, and a select few of its alumni having gone on to be her personal students. But very few thought of this as they left the building, their saddlebags on their backs and their parents eagerly awaiting them. They only thought of getting home and being with their mommies and daddies, of dinners and story times and of their soft beds.

“MOMMY!”

And one little filly was no exception. With youthful enthusiasm and a gleeful smile upon her face, she charged out the door towards her mother, who watched her with light teal eyes and a smile of her own.

“There’s my little Sunset!” Sunrise Glint caught her daughter with her front hooves and drew her into a tight hug. Her daughter was old enough to be embarrassed by such obvious displays of affection, but mature enough not to care as they nuzzled, the embrace ending far too soon. “Did you have a good day today?”

“Uh-huh!” A bob of her head for emphasis led to a bounce of her crimson and yellow mane. “And look!” A smile as bright as the sun on her face, Sunset closed her eyes and focused, an aura of opal-colored magic forming around her horn. After a second, a flap opened in her saddlebags, and a small book emerged, surrounded by the same aura of magic. She opened her eyes and beamed as she set the book back into her bag, “Nopony else can do it that good, Mommy!”

Sunrise smiled and nuzzled her daughter. “That’s amazing, Sunset. Your father will love to see that.” She nudged Sunset along and beckoned, “Now come on, let’s get you home so I can give the two ponies I love the most a great dinner.”

“Can we have spaghetti? Please?”

“We’ll see.”

Sunset continued to grin at the thought of having her favorite dinner as she trotted alongside her mother to their home. It was the rare unicorn who didn’t have some degree of wealth; having magic opened them up to all sorts of fields and opportunities, even in areas that earth ponies and pegasi tended to dominate. And that ignored those noble families that still retained their wealth from the days prior to the founding of Equestria, though they were few and far between. In the case of her family, however, her parents were employed in a way unique to unicorns; research and development into new forms of magic. The other two greater tribes could theorize or report on it, but they couldn’t do anything practical with it. She didn’t understand what they said about the specifics of their work, but she knew it was special, and she hoped that one day, she’d do something really special too.

After a short walk that still felt like forever, the two arrived home, a two-story house of stone that looked no different from most others save for the decorations on the front porch. Separated by the familiar address were a pair of symbols, the cutie marks for the two owners, carved in stone and lovingly painted. On the left was a full sun, four rays of light on either side shining outwards to suggest a glare. On the right was another sun, this one rising on the horizon. They entered, and a voice called out from the living room, “And just like that, my day’s gotten a little brighter.” A unicorn stallion revealed himself, his coat light yellow and his mane and tail a slightly darker due of the same, his golden eyes twinkling as he set them upon his daughter. “Hello Sunset.”

“DADDY!” With just as much enthusiasm as she had for her mother, Sunset charged and embraced her father, and received just as much affection in return. She shrugged off the embrace and beamed, “Daddy, look! I’m getting really good with my magic!” Once more, she performed her trick, picking up the book from her saddlebag and holding it up. “And someday, I’m gonna be as great as you and Mommy!”

Midday Gleam laughed and nuzzled her. “Maybe even better.”

-

“And here we are, darling.” The door swung open before them, and Rarity smiled and offered hopefully, “I do hope it’s satisfactory.”

With a grateful smile, Sunset Shimmer stepped into the guest room of her new friend’s home. “This is perfect. Thanks.”

The guest room itself wasn’t too elaborate, its walls an eggshell color with two large windows, one on the southern wall and the other on the western, covered by light purple drapes. The bed itself was placed at the eastern wall and to the immediate left of the bedroom door, fair-sized with a wooden frame and a queen-sized mattress and box springs, dressed in plain white sheets with a blanket folded neatly at its foot and two pillows at the head. At its right hand side was a small nightstand, an alarm clock and a small reading lamp atop it. A small closet door was on the northern wall, and a dresser was in place in the corner between the windows.

“Oh marvelous. I thought things would be awkward, given Twilight…”

“Rarity, I don’t mind, really. It wouldn’t surprise me if Twilight ended up moving into my old room in Princess Celestia’s castle.” She shrugged. “One more little parallel, I guess, her and me inheriting each other’s living spaces. I’m not going to be here long though, I promise.”

“Well, we’ll be happy to have you as long as…” The fashionista turned alarmed as Sunset slipped off her backpack and set it down on the floor against the nightstand, the gym bag she’d held in her hands finding its way onto the bed. “Oh dear, darling!”

“What? What’s wrong?” Sunset frantically checked herself over, only stopping as she noticed what had no doubt caught Rarity’s attention. A sizeable tear was in place on the right sleeve of her leather jacket, revealing some bare amber skin. She sighed in relief, and slipped the jacket off to better examine it. “Huh. Must’ve happened last night.”

“Oh, I’m sorry, darling. Usually I’m better at noticing these things. May I?” Sunset nodded and handed the garment to Rarity, who examined the tear with a practiced eye. “Well, the good news is that I can patch this up easily enough. It may take a while, however; something like this, I want to give a proper going-over. After all, you’ve had this as long as I can remember, and this tear isn’t the only damage it suffered from the Fall Formal.” Her attention turned to her friend as a thought crossed her mind. “Where did you get this, by the by?”

“I was wearing it when I stepped into your world through the mirror. It was actually kinda big on me at the time, come to think of it.” She looked down at the rest of her attire, her boots and skirt and short-sleeved shirt, and noted, “I think the mirror converted it and my backpack from my saddlebags. Everything else I wore when I came through must’ve been created by it.”

Rarity brought a hand up to her chin and tapped it thoughtfully. “The portal created clothing for you?”

“That’s the only logical explanation. I normally didn’t wear clothing back in Equestria, except for special occasions. I didn’t really get a chance to go over how the mirror worked in depth before I was expelled.”

“Rather convenient, but what happened to what you were wearing when you went back through?”

“Most of it disappeared. The jacket and backpack went back to being saddlebags, but I wore a cloak too. Part of my costume from last year’s Halloween social.” At Rarity’s nod, she added, “I left that behind back in Equestria when I was making my escape here with Twilight’s crown. It’s probably still there.”

“Possibly.” At Sunset’s curious look, Rarity explained, “You remember the ensemble Twilight wore to the Fall Formal? It was something I designed myself in my studio at the Carousel Boutique. The clothes she wore when she came through were still there when I checked in earlier today, before I came and got you from school. I’m fine if I don’t get the outfit back, she looked wonderful in it, but is there a chance it can be recovered?”

“Maybe. I didn’t really read too much into it beyond it connecting your world and mine. I caught sight of the ascension spell I told you about earlier in the same book afterwards, and my mind just latched onto that. There weren’t even any details on it, just that there was one.” She sighed sadly and noted, “Guess I wasted my time with that, didn’t I?”

Rarity gently set her hands onto the girl’s shoulders and guided her onto the bed, then sat down beside her and changed the subject. “If you don’t mind my asking, what happened to the rest of the clothing you were wearing when you came through the first time?”

Some relief was clear on Sunset’s face as she answered. “I donated them to a thrift store in town once I outgrew them. I didn’t need them anymore, after all. I’ve actually been updating my wardrobe every few months since coming here.”

“So aside from the jacket and backpack, you’ve been without any connection to your home for the last thirty months.” Rarity wrapped an arm around the girl. “I’m sorry, darling.”

Sunset smiled and picked up her backpack. “Well, I didn’t lose everything.” She opened it and revealed a number of sketchbooks as well as an old leather-bound book. “After I got here, but before I started taking classes at Canterlot High, I started doing everything I could to get used to my new body. Walking on two legs I picked up pretty quick, but hands? Those took a while.” She pulled out one sketchbook and opened it, revealing a page full of semi-legible scribbles. “First priority was figuring out how to write. Back home, most ponies tended to just hold a pencil in their mouths when they were writing. Really dexterous pegasi could use their wingtips, but a unicorn like me? We held pencils and quills with our magic.”

“That would explain some of Twilight’s more unusual moments. May I?” Sunset handed her the sketchbook, and Rarity went through it page by page, noticing the steady and rapid improvement until she got to a number of sketches with accompanying notes. “My word! These are rather detailed!”

“Yeah, it didn’t take me long to notice all the little gestures everyone made with their hands. I figured taking notes on that would be a good idea.”

“I was reacting more to the sketches, dear! They look marvelous!”

Sunset nervously laughed and admitted, “Yeah, another little trick of mine. Eidetic memory; I can remember every spell I ever learned, every place I’ve been. Once I worked out how to draw, I ended up making little sketches of things from back in Equestria.” The next page revealed a detailed drawing of a magnificent castle coming out of the side of a mountain, and she explained, “My world’s Canterlot. It’s the oldest city in Equestria, even predates the nation’s founding by centuries. It’s where I was born, and where Princess Celestia held court and had her school.”

“It looks absolutely fantastic, darling.” She turned another page and saw another cityscape, this one with a number of smaller buildings surrounding a cluster of skyscrapers, the most prominent one topped by two spires. “And this?”

“Downtown Indianapoloosa. I lived there for a short while, after my parents passed.” Rarity turned another page to reveal a sketch of a trio of unicorns, a stallion and mare nuzzling a small filly between them as Sunset mused somberly, “That’s them. And me.”

Rarity closed the book and handed it back. “You miss them.”

“More than I ever thought.” Sunset held the book close to her chest. “The sad thing is, I’ve barely thought about any of my family since I came here. That last sketch you saw? I made it that first summer. I guess I was more homesick than I wanted to admit.” She put the sketchbooks aside and pulled out the larger book, her cutie mark emblazoned on the cover. “Probably explains why I held onto this.”

“It’s a rather impressive book. Your diary?”

“No. It’s a message journal.” She opened it to some of the earlier entries as she explained, “When I became Princess Celestia’s student, she gave this to me. Twilight probably never had one because of the enchantment on Spike’s fire breath. Plus, these aren’t easy to make. It’s one of a pair. Whenever I wrote a message in this book, a copy of that message would appear in another book that she kept in her private library. That way, I could contact her whenever I needed to.” She closed the book and looked over it sadly. “I had it with me when I came here. Thought about getting rid of it once or twice, but I never did. Too much sentimental value, I guess. And that says something; I sold that guitar Flash Sentry got me for Christmas last year.”

Surprise lit up Rarity’s face, but she chose to put the matter aside for now. Her gaze turned to the book, the bicolored sun emblem upon it, and then to the identical emblem on Sunset’s shirt. “Sunset, a question. That symbol of yours. It has some special meaning, I assume?”

“It’s my cutie mark.” A curious look crossed Rarity’s face, and Sunset elaborated, “You saw the symbols on the flanks of everypony in the bridge realm, right?”

“Oh yes!” Rarity looked down at her skirt. “I thought it odd that my little personal touch was on my pony counterpart. I thought it was some sort of brand for a moment.”

“Well it’s not. Ponies do get brands, but they’re like getting a tattoo here, and not everypony does. But a cutie mark is different. It represents a particular pony’s personal skill set or talents. We all earn them eventually, just like how everyone here goes through puberty. Some are more obvious than others; your counterpart’s is probably for her talents in fashion and design, if you’re anything to go by. As for mine, well…”

“Fire magic?”

A nervous laugh escaped Sunset’s lips. “No, but one of the first spells I learned was a fire spell.” She rubbed one arm and explained, “It’s actually meant to represent my passion, and my ambition. Back home, I wanted so much for myself, and I channeled all of that ambition and energy into my studies. Over time, and especially after I came here, well…”

“It turned towards a lust for power.” A comforting hand found itself upon the flame-haired girl’s shoulder, and Rarity assured her, “Darling, there’s nothing wrong with being passionate, or ambitious. Why, if we had neither, then nothing would be accomplished. We’d be nowhere as a society, and no one would achieve their dreams.”

That did little to ease the fiery-haired girl’s mood. “I ended up dreaming of conquest and domination.”

“And that leads me to something else; passion and ambition are double-edged swords. They can help as well as hinder. What we want to accomplish is important, but how we get there is another matter.” She smiled and offered, “But I think you know that now.”

A sigh. “I hurt so many people.”

“And now, you have a chance to make up for it.” A phone rang from nearby, and Rarity shot to her feet. “Oh dear, that’s Mother and Father. They insisted on getting take out once they realized we’d have a guest for a while. Any preferences, darling?”

A shrug. “I’m okay with anything as long as it doesn’t have beef.”

The fashionista gave a relieved sigh. “Wonderful. You’ve no idea how much my father needs to avoid hamburgers.” She rushed out to answer the phone and called back, “I shan’t be long!”

Sunset smiled, relieved for different reasons than her new friend. She had no idea what Rarity had to do to convince her parents to allow her to stay, especially given the horror stories they’d no doubt heard about her, but she was glad they’d consented. As pleasant as the bridge realm could be, it had its drawbacks, and it was good to have a few walls around her rather than the seemingly unending void.

Which brought her back to this morning’s events. She’d never expected to be reunited with Princess Celestia, let alone forgiven. It made sense, she supposed, but how much did she know? Had Celestia’s counterpart kept her informed about everything she’d done? And what of her aunt and uncle and cousin – what did they know?

Her gaze turned back to the journal in her lap, and she realized there was a chance, albeit a remote one, that she could find out. She fished a pen from her backpack and opened the book to a blank page, and found herself thinking that it had been a very long time since she’d written something like this.

“Dear Princess Celestia,

“I don’t know if you can get this message, but I’ve thought about things since this morning, and I think I have more that needs to be said. First of all, thank you, for forgiving my mistakes. I don’t know how much Princess Twilight told you about what I did over the last few days, or what you know about what I’d done since I left Equestria, but trust me, very little of it was good. Putting on her crown didn’t turn me into a monster. I did that to myself. When it was all over, and I realized what I did, I felt…”

She paused, briefly tightened her grip on the book, and sighed. “Come on, Sunset. You started this, you finish it.”

“…I felt ashamed, and terrified. One of my last acts before Twilight stopped me was attempting to murder her. That’s the main reason I stayed behind, because I was afraid. I know what the punishment is for crimes like that, especially against a princess. That she didn’t force me to go back was just something I took as a gentle mercy, something I didn’t deserve from somepony who was genuinely better than me. That you forgave me, that she forgave me, means the world to me, and I’m going to do everything I can to earn that forgiveness. I only hope that I can do the same with the family I left behind, and that they can forgive me for leaving them as well. If you get this message, and you can speak with them, please, let them know that I’m alright. And that I miss them.

“Your former student, Sunset Shimmer.”

She closed the book, hoping that the message would get through. It was a long shot, but one of those had already happened today. Perhaps she was actually on a roll.

A knock at the door, and she turned to find Rarity standing there. “I hope you don’t mind Chinese food, dear.”

“Not at all.”

-

“Go on and have a seat, dear.”

Sunset did as instructed, a place set for her between Rarity and her younger sister and directly across from the two girls’ parents. “Thank you, ma’am.”

Rarity’s mother smiled. “Oh, you don’t need to ‘ma’am’ me. Call me Cookie, please.” The resemblance wasn’t obvious; in comparison to her eldest daughter’s elegantly-curled purple hair, hers was a greying indigo and blue done up in a beehive style, and while Rarity went for more elegant attire, she was more plainly dressed in white pants and a faded red blouse, accented by gold clip-on earrings and a pin showing three chocolate chip cookies, one with a bite having been taken out of it. Still, there was a certain way about her that made clear their relationship, between her stance and her blue eyes. “I have to admit, Hondo and I were a little surprised when Rarity told us we would have company for a while.”

“Not that we don’t mind.” Rarity’s father was much like her mother, garbed in a slightly-gaudy Hawaiian shirt and old blue jeans. Nonetheless, he had a solid, athletic build, even if he looked as though he’d gone slightly to seed. Sunset wouldn’t have admitted it out loud, but he wasn’t bad looking for an older human. He looked like a handsome television star, a dashing man of action. The moustache certainly didn’t hurt. “Either of our daughters having a friend over isn’t a problem. This was just a little short notice.”

Sunset offered an uncomfortable smile and said what was no doubt on their minds. “You probably weren’t expecting the friend to be me either. It’s alright. You’ve probably heard plenty of horror stories about me.” Just out of the corner of her eye, she noticed Sweetie Belle purse her lips, obviously restraining herself.

“Well, that’s a polite way of putting it.” Cookie pulled several white boxes of take out of varying sizes from a plastic bag at the center of the table and set them down, following with a set of chopsticks that she handed to her eldest. “I wasn’t sure what to get you beyond what Rarity said, so I hope you don’t mind chicken and broccoli.”

Alarm became clear on Rarity’s face. “Mother, Sunset’s a…”

“Accepting of chicken and broccoli, thanks, but I’ll do without chopsticks. I could never figure them out.” The fashionista gave her a surprised look, but she smiled and accepted the meal, some rice and a fork following shortly thereafter.

“Oh. Forgive me dear, I thought you were a vegan.”

“I eat some meats, Rarity.” During her time in the human world, Sunset had found herself with more than a few odd urges for food, among them things she’d rarely eat as a pony. “Not beef or venison or mutton or shellfish, but I’m fine with chicken.”

“Pretty specific stuff to avoid there.” Hondo accepted his pork with relish. “Shellfish I get – Rarity hates the stuff.”

Rarity proudly took a sampling of chicken lo mein as she explained, “You know full well that I think crabs are the most horrid creatures to ever grace this earth.”

“Venison too. Never did like the idea of eating Bambi’s mother.” Cookie gave her husband a playful slap on the arm at his attempt at black humor. “Beef, though? And mutton?”

“I talked to cows and sheep when I was younger. They’re surprisingly good listeners.” This was the truth, but she didn’t elaborate. No reason to tell them she was from a place where the cows and sheep talked back and worked for a living. “And I’m just glad you were willing to let me stay for a while, given my situation.”

“Yes, we heard about the little incident last night.” Cookie looked uncomfortable as she asked, “What on earth drove you to cause a gas explosion?”

“Yeah, that.” Sunset had been given a very detailed cover story in regards to the Fall Formal; the damage to the school grounds was the result of a gas explosion, one which she had caused alongside of her two minions, Snips and Snails, in an attempt to disrupt the event after her landslide defeat to the new girl, Twilight Sparkle. That was the official version, anyway, but she suspected someone would start putting the pieces together before too long; it was too obvious a denial of what had happened, and no way did the light show go unnoticed. “I don’t have a good excuse for what I did. I don’t think there even is one for all of that. I’m just lucky no one got hurt, and that I’m not locked up.”

“Your parents must not be happy about this.” Cookie gave her husband another slap, this time for letting his mouth get away with him and joined by Rarity.

“No, they wouldn’t be.” Sunset somberly picked at her food with her fork as she admitted, “My parents passed away when I was really young. Some kind of industrial accident where they worked. I lived with my aunt’s family for a while, but I moved out before I started attending CHS.” Again, the truth, albeit with some details removed. “My landlord definitely wasn’t happy about it – he kicked me out of my old apartment. That’s why I’m glad to be staying here, at least until I can find a new place. My aunt’s family lives in another city, and going back and facing them isn’t going to be easy. Besides, I have to fix things here first.” A lie and some half-truths; she didn’t have a landlord, but staying in the bridge realm didn’t seem right after everything that happened.

“Serves you right.”

“Sweetie Belle!” Rarity glared at her sister, then turned back to her parents. “I admit, Sunset and I have had our differences, but I can tell genuine regret when I see it. She’s had a life-changing experience, and she is in desperate need of help. And I for one will not turn her aside.”

Both of her parents beamed at that. “Good for you, Rarity!”

“But Daddy – !”

“Sweetie Belle, we’ve heard all the same stories you have. But that doesn’t mean we should be turning away someone who needs our help.”

“Precisely. You remember being told about Sunflower? Applejack and Apple Bloom’s older cousin?”

“Yes, but…!”

“But nothing. If she came to me asking for assistance, I would offer it.” Rarity smiled and added, “Besides, Sunset’s apologized quite thoroughly for the debacle last spring. She even gave me the crown she won that night.”

“The crown that should’ve been yours in the first place,” Sunset admitted with a grin. “I just wish everything else could be so easily fixed.”

Cookie offered the girl a sympathetic smile. “Give it time, dear.” She turned the topic elsewhere. “Now, any preference on drinks?”

“Milk is fine, thanks.”

The dinner continued, Sunset mostly keeping quiet as Rarity and her parents talked and she tried her best to ignore the odd sideways glares coming from Sweetie Belle. Even as she continued with her meal, she found her thoughts going back to the last time her life had changed so profoundly.

-

It was another day of school for Sunset as she sat at an activity table, idly working away with a crayon as she colored in a picture of Princess Celestia as she raised the sun one morning of the Summer Sun Celebration. Her parents told her once that she’d attended one year, when Celestia had performed the ceremony in Canterlot, and she tried her best to color in all the differing hues of the sunrise that she could remember. She was too young to remember everything perfectly, but she remembered a lot.

She was also too young to really notice that the other foals were at other activity tables, or had immersed themselves in books. It didn’t really bother her much either; if nothing else, she didn’t have to worry about asking another kid to borrow a crayon.

“Sunset Shimmer?” She looked up from her coloring to find her teacher looking over her shoulder. “Could you stop and come with me please?”

She did as she was told and hopped down from her stool, following her teacher out of the room. Uncertain of what was going on, she quietly asked, “Miss Sweet Honey? Am I in trouble?”

A gentle smile crossed her teacher’s lips as she answered, “No dear. You haven’t done anything wrong.”

Sunset wasn’t sure how to react to that answer. If she wasn’t in trouble, then perhaps her mommy had come to bring her home early for some reason? It wasn’t her birthday, so that wasn’t it. Maybe this was something else? She kept her worried silence as her teacher led her to the principal’s office and knocked on the door.

“Come in!” The door gently swung open, and Miss Sweet Honey led Sunset inside where two adults were waiting. One was the principal, Mister Hightower, an older unicorn stallion with a thinning mane. The other was a pegasus mare with a golden coat, her mane going from deep red at the roots to light yellow at the ends. She looked at Sunset with surprise, her bright blue eyes going wide with shock. “Ah, Sunset Shimmer. You have some news, little filly.”

The unknown mare recovered herself, then knelt down and tried to give a friendly smile. “Sunset Shimmer. That’s a lovely name.” At the filly’s lack of comprehension, she sadly asked, “You don’t know who I am, do you?” She reached into her saddlebags with one wing and pulled out an old photo album, laying it out for her to see. “Did you ever see this picture?”

Sunset examined what was before her. In the album was a picture of the mare before her in a silly-looking gown, several other mares in identical gowns beside her. The one standout was a mare in a very nice and very big white gown, like she’d seen in fancy stores with her mother. The picture was familiar, and she thought she’d seen it…she had seen it! “That’s my mommy there! This was her wedding day!” She put two and two together and asked, “You know my mommy?”

“Ever since we were born.” A sad smile crossed the mare’s face. “My name is Solar Flare. I’m your mother’s sister. Your auntie.”

Sunset looked down at the picture again. “Mommy never said she had a sister.”

The explanation was short, sad, and very unclear. “We haven’t spoken in a long time, not since a little bit after you were born. Your mommy and I…we said some bad things to each other.”

Sunset looked back up and asked, “Did’ya come to talk to Mommy?”

Solar Flare closed her eyes sadly. “No. But I wish I’d come sooner.” She scrunched her lips and said, “Sunset, I came here from Indianapoloosa. It’s a city not too far away from Canterlot, towards the east. I got notice from your mommy’s workplace; I’m one of her emergency contacts.”

The little filly’s eyes lit up with alarm; she knew what an emergency was. “Did something happen to Mommy?” She looked to her teacher, and then to her principal. “Where’s my Mommy?!”

“Sunset, there was an accident where your mommy worked. She…”

“Where’s my Mommy?! Where?!”

“Something bad happened.” Sunset turned back to the pegasus as she explained in a pained voice, “She got hurt.”

“Are you gonna take me to see her?!”

Solar Flare shook her head. “No dear. You can’t see her again. Not for a very long time.”

Sunset stared at her in disbelief. What was this stranger telling her? That her mommy had gone away? “Where’s Daddy?! Why isn’t Daddy here?!”

“Sunset, your father was with your mother when…” Miss Sweet Honey turned quiet as she tried to find the right words, but the only ones that came out were woefully inadequate. “I’m sorry dear, but they’re gone.”

The little filly’s eyes went from her teacher, to her principal, to the mare who claimed to be her aunt. She was hearing them, but she didn’t want to believe what they were saying. “No! No, you’re lying!”

“Sunset, we’re not…!”

“I want my Mommy! I want my Daddy!”

“Dear, we can’t…!”

“I WANT MY MOMMY AND DADDY! PLEASE! I WANT THEM NOW!”

“I’m sorry, but…!”

“I WANT THEM! THEY CAN’T BE GONE! LET ME SEE THEM!” Not knowing what else to do, she rushed into the embrace of her teacher and sobbed, “PLEASE! THEY CAN’T BE GONE! THEY CAN’T!” Her screams quieted down, and she sobbed, “They can’t…”

Solar Flare gave a sad sigh. “They are, Sunset.” She laid an uncertain hoof on the little filly’s head. “I’m sorry.”

The filly didn’t answer, only sobbing further in her teacher’s forelegs and wishing that this was some cruel joke. But it wasn’t.

-

“Okay, no offense, but your parents aren’t what I expected.” Her belly full of decent food and her mood lightened despite her self-reflection, Sunset returned to the guest room with Rarity in tow. “Don’t get me wrong, I get where you got your generous spirit, but…”

“But there is a marked difference between myself and my mother and father, yes.” The fashionista looked uncomfortable as she admitted, “I won’t deny that I’ve made an effort to distance myself from my parents, present an image of sophistication above my place in the social ladder. But they do genuinely love me, and I them. That they’re so supportive of my dreams, even if they don’t quite relate, is a comfort.”

A sad smile crossed her face. “I get that. I know my parents would’ve been proud of me making it into Princess Celestia’s school; my aunt and uncle certainly were.” Regret was obvious as she added, “They did so much for me, and I just…”

“Oh, come now! I’m certain they miss you, dear, and that Rainbow Dash’s counterpart will be able to find them and let them know you’re alright. And if not her, then perhaps even mine, hmm?” She pulled a pair of red glasses from nowhere and placed them on her face. “For now, we’ve more important matters. If I’m to repair your jacket properly, or do anything else, I’m going to need your measurements. Just give me a moment, I shan’t be long.”

Sunset stood dumbfounded as Rarity darted out, only to return shortly thereafter with a pencil tucked behind one ear and a notebook and measuring tape in hand. “Is that really necessary? We do have similar body types.”

“Yes, but there are all sorts of subtle differences. Besides, I have notes for everyone else who’s close to me, freshly redone in preparation for the Fall Formal, and it’s only reasonable that I do the same for you.” Sunset relented as Rarity went to work, checking over her figure and jotting notes every few seconds. “Besides, this gives me a chance to do some proper girl talk with you, if you don’t mind.”

“Go ahead.”

“So then, tell me. Flash actually bought you a guitar?”

“A Gibson Flying V that matched my eye color perfectly. He’d spent months teaching me how to play, and then he surprised me with one of my own. Kinda heavy, but great sound.” A sad smile crossed her face. “Must’ve cost him a fortune.” She sighed and admitted, “I was horrible to him. And not just what I did last night, but before. I liked him, but I didn’t like him, you know what I mean? He was nice, decent, good-hearted, and the way he ended up tripping over himself just made him a little more endearing. But the only reason I dated him was to be more popular.”

“That brings up something else I’ve been curious about.” Hesitation was obvious in her voice, but Rarity pressed on as she kept up her work. “Why did the two of you break up? You were practically the school’s power couple last year.”

Sunset considered that as she answered. “I guess it was building for a while. He noticed some of the things I did, my little power plays and such. I’m not sure whether he ignored them or just put them aside, tried to focus on what he liked about me, but after what happened with the Spring Fling, what I did to you and the other girls, well, I think he just couldn’t take it anymore. He confronted me about it, pressed me on the issue, I admitted it and, well, he dumped me. Right after the dance.”

Her measurements finished, Rarity put her tools aside and slipped off her glasses as she rose to face her friend. “I’m surprised you didn’t have some elaborate revenge for him.”

A shrug. “Didn’t see the point in it. I just put him out of my mind, sold the guitar and went on with my life. Him and me being different species helped. A little. I was kinda bitter about it, but I never did anything about it until…well, you know.” A sly grin formed on her face as Sunset turned conversation elsewhere, “Speaking of, were you really doing what I thought you were doing?”

Rarity turned alarmed. “What? What was I doing?”

“Oh come on, there isn’t that much difference between our worlds. I saw the way you looked at Shining Armor.”

The fashionista blushed and nervously laughed. “Well, I…” Faced with Sunset’s sly expression, she sighed and relented. “What I was saying earlier about ambitions, dear? One of mine is to find the proverbial prince charming. If Twilight does indeed have a counterpart in this world, and counterparts show so many similarities, then it stands to reason…” She glumly shook her head and noted, “But I suppose Cadance has one as well.”

The grin turned to a smile as Sunset admitted, “If it makes you feel any better, I think he’s cute too.”

“Well yes, but you’re both unicorns. A human girl showing attraction to a pony, even a magical talking one, isn’t really approved of around here. And as for his counterpart, well, as I said, no doubt out of my reach.”

Sunset looked over the girl before her, finally really seeing the whole of Rarity for the first time. Her first impressions had been less than charitable; she’d written off the young fashionista as some vapid girl obsessed with clothes and boys, not worth her time until she’d become a threat. Her schemes, her interview, had been precisely to get at Rarity’s weak points and drive a permanent wedge between her and the rest of her circle of friends, as between the five of them, they could – and did, once Twilight had entered the scene – dethrone her. Perhaps it was due to a different perspective, or simply the generosity she’d been shown despite past experience, but she was seeing Rarity in a different light, one she could sympathize with. She gently laid a hand on the girl’s shoulder, surprising herself, and offered, “You’ll find your prince someday, Rarity. Might not be where you expect to find him, but you will.”

A small smile. “I only hope that he isn’t already spoken for when I…” She was interrupted by a very loud buzzing sound coming from Sunset’s backpack. The two girls looked down and caught sight of a magenta glow from within, and Rarity wondered aloud, “Sunset, is it supposed to do that?”

Sunset quickly knelt down and pulled the book out, opening it to where she’d left her message earlier. Her eyes scanned the page, and grew wide with delight as she recognized the very familiar script. She sat down on her bed and explained, “It’s from Princess Celestia!” She looked up to Rarity and explained, “I wrote her a quick message when you went to answer the phone! She must’ve gotten it!” She looked back down at the book, doing her best to hold back tears. “All this time…”

Her own worries and regrets forgotten, Rarity started to make her way out. “Well, I won’t…”

“Rarity, stay, please. Let me read it to you.” She complied and sat down as Sunset recited her former mentor’s reply.

“Sunset Shimmer, my dear former student. Let me begin by stating how relieved I am that you held onto something from Equestria. That it was the journal I gave you, and that you would find it in yourself to send a message to me using it, gives me further assurance of what I saw this morning. You have indeed changed for the better, my little pony.

“I should point out that Princess Twilight did indeed tell me of what you had done. I feared the worst, but could never bring myself to ask details of my counterpart during our assorted meetings since your exile began. We both made mistakes, and I hold the mistakes I made with you second only to those I made with my sister. That I failed to see the signs both times, and subsequently lost someone dear to my heart on both occasions, is something I am not proud of. In your case it was perhaps worse; I knew that Luna would return one day, and did my very best to prepare, but with you, I had no such assurances. All I could do in your case was…” Here Sunset smiled in joy and relief. “…Was ask my counterpart to look after you as best she could. I suspect I have her to thank for you finding the bridge realm.” She looked up at Rarity and explained, “I’ve had a bank account since just after I got here, money for clothes and books and food and things. Never questioned where it came from. I just chalked it up to good luck and someone else’s misfortune.”

“So she was looking out for you, despite everything.” Rarity smiled and beckoned her to continue. “Go on.”

Sunset turned back to the note and continued, “As for why I never tried to speak to you directly in all these years, it was because I thought it wrong to try and force you. Your choices, for good or ill, have always been your own, and my coming to you before you were ready to speak to me would have done the both of us little good. You were full of anger and resentment and rage, and one cannot reason with another in such a state. You needed to find your way to clarity yourself, and while the road was harsh, you did so, and that speaks volumes for your true character.

“So far as your ill deeds are concerned, yes, you’ve accumulated quite a few. But the majority of them were committed outside of Equestria, and thus beyond my ability to punish. What crimes you did commit here have already been addressed. You were expelled for breaking into restricted areas and making demands of me, and as for the theft of Twilight’s crown, well, the theft is punishable by a fine, which I’ve already seen to. The total amount has been paid from your personal account in the Bank of Equestria. Given regular deposits and interest, you should still have a fair sum leftover. The worst of your crimes were done while you were under an outside influence, and once your right mind was returned to you, you expressed remorse for them. Remorse that I and all of your new friends know to be genuine. I do not deal out the harshest of penalties to those who admit their guilt; if I did, then Luna would not be back at my side.

“I doubt this does much to negate whatever guilt you may feel; I fear you will carry that remorse with you for some time to come, as I and Luna do for our actions a thousand years past. And time will only tell whether or not those not privy to the full facts will come to forgive what you’ve done. But time will help to heal these wounds, as it always does. School is not the entirety of a person’s life, after all, only a stepping stone to greater things. And once enough time has passed, should you choose to do so, you will have a home waiting for you in Equestria. I know for certain that your aunt, uncle and cousin eagerly await your return home, just as much as I do.

“Sincerely yours, Princess Celestia.

“PS – As you are now her student rather than mine, I will be passing my journal along to Twilight. If nothing else, you’ll have a more convenient means of contacting her.” She closed the book and turned thoughtful. “I guess that’s it. If I’d known…”

“Sunset, some advice? It does no good to think of what could have been. You are who you are because of what you do, not what you could have done.” Rarity laid a hand on her shoulder and smiled comfortingly. “And you have a genuine second chance. Thus far, I’d say you’re making a very good go of it.”

“Thanks, Rarity. Hey, can I ask a favor?” She tipped her head towards the door. “Could I use your tub? It’s been a while since I’ve taken a good bath.”

“You needn’t ask, dear. Go right ahead.” Another stray thought came to her, and Rarity asked, “Speaking of, that bridge realm you were staying in. Did it have any sort of bathroom or kitchen?”

Sunset shook her head. “I found a chamber pot once when I really needed to go, but otherwise, no. Any time I needed to shower or take care of business, I had to step out into the school, and the only food I had in there I’d bring with me. Got into the habit of keeping a flashlight with me at all times, just in case I needed to use a toilet or get a drink from a water fountain.”

Rarity shuddered. “I’d never be able to deal with something like that, let alone for two and a half years. All the more reason to be glad you don’t have to stay there any further. If you want, I can…”

“No, I can run my own bath. You’ve done enough as it is.”

-

A gentle knock sounded at her door and prompted Twilight’s attention. “Coming, just a minute!” She trotted over and opened it with her magic. “Princess Celes… I mean…”

Her fellow princess chuckled gently at her former student’s statement. “It’s alright, Twilight. Being a princess is still new for you, and old habits are hard things to put aside. May I come in?”

“Of course, please.” Twilight stepped aside as Celestia entered, Spike snapping to attention with a scroll in claw. “Is something wrong? We didn’t forget something today, did we?”

The dragon checked over the scroll and reported, “Nothing missing from the checklist…”

“No, nothing’s wrong. I just thought it a wise idea to give you something to help with your new assignment.” A soft magical aura formed beneath one wing, and the senior princess lifted it up to reveal a leather-bound book adorned with her cutie mark. “You weren’t only unique from my previous personal students in that you became a princess in your own right, Twilight. None of them could get messages to me with enchanted dragon’s fire. Instead, I would give them one of these.”

The younger alicorn’s eyes lit up in amazement. “A message journal!” Checklist put aside, Spike approached as Twilight explained, “Spike, do you know what this is?”

“It’s a magic book that’ll let you keep in touch with Sunset Shimmer without using the other mirror.” At the odd look from his friend, he shrugged. “What? I’m not stupid, I can figure stuff out without a lot of crazy details.”

A chuckle as Celestia passed the book to Spike. “Indeed. I’ve kept this close to me since Sunset Shimmer left Equestria. Her journal, the mate to this one, has been missing since her departure.” She opened the book and flipped through its pages to the most recent entries with her magic. “With this most recent message, however, I can safely confirm that she took it with her to the human world. Now that she is your student, I thought it only right that it pass to you, so that she may contact you for advice or assistance whenever needed. At the very least, you’ll be able to coordinate your meetings a little easier. There’s just one more thing I need to do with it. Spike, if you could close the book please?” The dragon did as asked, and Celestia lowered her head, touching the tip of her horn to the book’s front cover, dead center to the image of her cutie mark. A soft glow formed over it, and her mark was swiftly replaced with that of Twilight. “There. The message journal is yours now, my fellow princess. Take good care of it.”

“I will. Thank you, Pr…” Twilight caught herself and corrected, “Thank you, Celestia.” The elder alicorn nodded, smiled and departed, closing the door behind her, and Twilight managed a nervous but eager smile as she took up the book in her own magic. “Wow.”

“Wow?” Spike regarded her with a raised eyebrow. “That’s what you’ve got, ‘wow’?”

“I know, not the most profound thing to say, but this is still sinking in.” Twilight looked up, her eyes staring into space. “I have my own student now. Celestia trusts me to pick up where she left off and succeed where she failed.”

“Well, you’ve kinda done it before.”

“I know, but…” She felt a reassuring claw on her shoulder, and turned to her assistant. Despite his presence, she couldn’t help but spiral into uncertainty. “But so much could go wrong! If I fail her like Celestia did…!”

“Twilight, come on! You’re not Celestia, you’re you! And neither of you are perfect.” He gently tapped the book and noted, “Case in point?”

Twilight sighed, and smiled, remembering something she’d learned since arriving in Ponyville. “You’re right, Spike. All I can do is exactly what Celestia could do, what anypony can do; the best I can.” She laughed and added, “But it’s still weird thinking of Sunset as my student. She is older than me, after all.”

“So think of her more as a friend who needs advice from time to time. Just don’t sweat it for now.” A yawn, and Spike walked over to his basket. “At least this way, you’ve got a better chance of being there when she needs you.”

Twilight laughed. “You’re right, Spike.” She set the book at her bedside, next to her crown, and climbed into her own bed, glad for the day’s worries to be over. She’d deal with tomorrow’s as they came. “Speaking of advice, do you think…?” She was interrupted as faint snores sounded from the dragon’s bed, Spike already nestled beneath his sheets. She shook her head, turned down the lamps, and pulled her own sheets up over her body, wings tucked in comfortably. “Goodnight, Spike.”

-

A light buzz roused Sunset from her slumber, one hand turning off the alarm clock at her bedside as she sat up and stretched. She tossed her hair back, running her fingers through it, and smiled. Her sleep had been pleasant enough, albeit dreamless, just as it had been her previous slumber the morning after the Fall Formal. Maybe that was a good sign. Better no dreams than nightmares, after all.

Another buzz, and Sunset turned with surprise to the message journal at her bedside as it glowed and vibrated in place, threatening to fall off the nightstand. She caught the book and opened it to find a new message scrawled within, immediately after the last one she’d received from Princess Celestia. The writing was unfamiliar, but there was only one pony from whom it could have come.

“Sunset Shimmer,

“I wasn’t sure which of us was intended to write the first message, so I thought that I would take the initiative and do it myself. Is it as awkward for you as it is for me, the younger student teaching the older one? To tell you the truth, I’m nervous, and excited at the same time. Or ‘nervicited’, as Pinkie would say.”

Sunset chuckled. Pinkie probably would say something like that.

“I guess I should start off by saying this. I know a little of what you’ve been through, as we were both taught by Celestia. I’ll never pretend to understand exactly why you’ve done what you’ve done, or how you’ve gotten to where you are now, but it doesn’t take much imagination to figure out that, had things been different, you and I could have ended up walking the exact same road. I don’t hold any grudges about what happened; when I said I’d forgiven you, I meant it. We’ve both made mistakes, some bigger than others, and if someone is willing to own up to their mistakes and do better, then you shouldn’t turn them down. I know I’m supposed to be the teacher, but I hope that I learn from you as much as you learn from me. That’s one of the best things about having friends; learning from one another. And yes, I do consider you a friend. And I hope you can think of me as one too.

“Anyway, I hope you can find a new place soon. That bridge world is nice and all, but I don’t think whoever created it intended for someone to live there all the time. For the time being, I know that your stay with Rarity will be a pleasant one. Trust me, she’s a wonderful hostess and a great friend, as a pony or as a human. All of the girls are, and there’s so much more to them than you’d think at first glance. And there’s more to you too. That’s the Sunset Shimmer I’m looking forward to getting to know.

“Your friend, Twilight Sparkle.”

Sunset smiled and pulled a pen from her bag, collecting her thoughts before she started her reply.

“Twilight,

“This is awkward, but after what happened yesterday morning, not so much. I hope you don’t mind my admitting that I’m still a little jealous of you. Guess that makes me ‘nervicited’ too. But knowing that you and Celestia both have forgiven me for my mistakes helps, and it’s the same with the girls. And you are right – there’s a lot more to Rarity than I thought there was, and she is a great host. And her parents are surprisingly sympathetic about, well, you know. I just wish Sweetie Belle wasn’t giving me the hairy eyeball all the time, but maybe things will improve. I can always hope, can’t I?

“I’ll keep you informed about what’s up at my end. Hopefully, I’ll get a new place for myself before my suspension ends. I might even figure out a way of sending a picture through, give you a good glimpse of it. But if you do it first, I wouldn’t mind seeing where you stay. It’s not every day you see a library fit for a princess.

“Your friend, Sunset Shimmer.”

Sunset closed the book and set it to one side, then got to her feet and into her slippers. She straightened out her pajama top, her cutie mark emblazoned upon it, and stepped out of the guest room and into the upstairs bathroom. She took a deep breath and closed her eyes as she stepped inside and let her memory guide her to the bathroom sink. She turned to face it, opened her eyes…

…And saw the demon staring back at her, a wicked grin upon her face.

She squeezed her eyes shut again and tightly gripped the sides of the sink. She’d avoided looking into the mirror directly the previous night, convinced that she’d see the monster she’d turned herself into staring back, but she’d hoped that this morning, after everything that had happened in the last twenty-four hours, she could be able to look at herself again without guilt distorting her reflection.

But there were some things you couldn’t forget. The maniacal laughter, the euphoria of absolute power, the glee at…

“No.” She opened her eyes, her reflection looking back at her. Her human reflection. “That’s not who I am. Not anymore.” She’d move past this. She’d been forgiven. And maybe one day, she’d forgive herself.

A smile crossed her lips, and she turned to leave the bathroom…

“AUGH!”

…Only for a stream of water to spray into her face. Sunset brought up her arms to protect herself, but the damage was done even before the stream died down. She was sopping wet, her pajamas and undergarments soaked and her hair wet and clinging to her face.

She opened her eyes just as Rarity emerged from her bedroom, clad in a nightgown and sleep mask and with her hair done up in curlers. Her sleepy expression faded as soon as she caught sight of what happened and shrieked, “SWEETIE BELLE! WHAT ON EARTH…?!”

“She’s an evil demon, Rarity!” Between the two of them stood Sweetie Belle, an enormous squirt gun in her hands with a few odd droplets of water dripping from the barrel tip. “She might’ve pulled the wool over your eyes, but I’m not gonna let her hurt anyone again!” The younger girl turned back to Sunset and half-squeaked, half-bellowed, “Now hurry up and melt already!”

Totally aghast, Rarity approached and chastised, “Sweetie Belle, she isn’t the Wicked Witch of the West!”

A critical look went from the squirt gun to the target as Sunset grabbed a towel and started drying herself off. “You’re right. I knew I should’ve gotten some holy water first.”

“Oh of all the –!”

The purple-haired fashionista’s cries of alarm were silenced as Sunset finished drying herself off. She looked at her host and regretfully sighed, “Rarity, I don’t think this is going to work out.”

Author's Note:

Well everyone, here we are, the first chapter to my first story to be posted here incomplete. The remaining seven chapters are being worked on, I assure you, but time is sadly an issue. For now, expect updates either every two weeks, or the weekend following the completion of each chapter.

The names and descriptions of Sunset Shimmer's parents, Midday Glare and Sunrise Glint, come from the story "Bringing a Holiday Miracle for Sunset Shimmer" by X LunarRepublican X aka Midsummer Ocean. They're used with permission. Sunset's aunt, teacher and principal, however, are all my creations.

Parts of this first chapter, I admit, take some inspiration from "Asking A Favor" by Tinybit92. It's a fantastic story, and I happily recommend it to anyone interested. I didn't copy dialogue or anything, but there are similar story beats; they've been cleared in advance. If folks think that it's too similar, my apologies.

I'll admit, I know nothing about electric guitars. Master of Pie was kind enough to inform me properly about Sunset's guitar from "Rainbow Rocks", however, so my thanks to them.

EDIT on 9/10/2015: I've changed a little bit of Rarity and Sunset's discussion concerning Twilight's clothing. I figured what I'd previously established seemed a little silly, so I've changed things a bit in preparation for a future story.