• Published 15th Jun 2017
  • 3,301 Views, 205 Comments

Two in Exile - River Road



Running away from her entrance exam, Twilight Sparkle stumbles through a magic mirror. Now Sunset Shimmer has to take care of a little filly turned human.

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The Bully

Sunset watched Principal Celestia and the girl with a stunned expression, but her mind was racing. The filly had followed her, obviously, and then gotten caught. And to make matters worse she had somehow managed to drag Sunset into her mess. Not that she cared about what happened to the filly, but once people started asking questions about her and getting no answers – or even worse, if they did get answers from the filly – they were going to ask those questions about Sunset next and going by all she knew it would make her time in this world a lot less pleasant.

In the end, it came down to two options. Deny everything and try to divert the attention as soon as possible, as thoroughly as possible. If it worked, everything would be fine, but Sunset could see half a dozen ways it could go completely wrong and no way to effectively prevent them other than hope and luck. The other option…

“Twilight, what are you doing here?!” Sunset walked over to Twilight, putting on as much of a concerned expression as she could muster without looking obviously fake.

Twilight flinched a bit at her voice, still staring down at her hands folded in her lap.

“You know this girl then, Miss Shimmer?” Celestia looked at Sunset, not reacting to Twilight if she had noticed the flinch.

Sunset nodded, trying to force a natural smile. “She is my little sister. She must have followed me here.” She put one hand on the filly’s shoulder, gripping it with just a little more force than necessary. “You know you aren’t supposed to go out all by yourself. What if you had gotten lost?”

Twilight flinched again and tensed, but stayed quiet.

Celestia looked between them for a moment, raising an eyebrow as she considered this turn of events. Then she leaned forward. “Is that true? Is Sunset really your older sister?”

Twilight nodded almost imperceptibly, mumbling. “Y-yes, Ma’am. Sorry, Sunset.”

Celestia stared at her for a few more seconds, then sighed and leaned back to look at Sunset again, steepling her fingers. “This is the first time I hear of you having a sister. The first time I hear of any of your family, in fact. It raises a lot of questions, especially why she has not been enrolled at Canterlot High yet. She seems to be the proper age for the undergrad classes.”

Sunset took a deep breath, forcing herself to shrink back a bit. “I would rather not talk about that right now. Not right now, and especially not in front of Twilight. I can tell you that she was homeschooled, though.” It was a bluff, of course, but both common sense and predictable human TV shows told her that trying to make up an elaborate cover story on the spot would lead to problems, more lies and hijinks. Sunset hated hijinks.

Celestia stared at her for a moment, trying to read her. She wouldn’t see any signs of deceit, of course; if she had managed to keep secrets from a millennia old alicorn, for however short a time, then standing up to a high school principal was laughably easy. Of course the woman would have her suspicions, something that earned her slightly more favor than the Princess had with Sunset, but she wouldn’t just act on it without reason and she certainly wouldn’t accuse Sunset of lying in front of what might be her little sister.

Celestia took a deep breath and let it out, then started to write down some notes. “Very well. We will talk about this later. Furthermore, I expect Twilight to be enrolled at Canterlot High by next week. That means Friday afternoon at latest she will have to come here again to give the necessary information and sign the necessary forms, in attendance of her parents.” Celestia paused, this time noticing the visible flinch and quiet choke that went through the filly. “…or her legal guardian, as it were. That is all for now. You can take the rest of the school day off to bring her home and tend to her.” Celestia went back to writing, muttering under her breath. “Heavens know your in-class studies are the least of your problems.”

“Thank you, Principal. Come on, Twilight, let’s go home.” Sunset turned around to leave, pausing and looking back with a frown as the filly didn’t seem to want to move. “Come on, Twilight.”

Twilight slowly stood up and moved to follow her, still keeping her head down. Sunset did her best not to grab her and drag her along as they made their way back through the thankfully still empty school halls. It took her twice the usual time to walk back to her apartment complex, having to wait for the little filly every couple steps. The closer they got, the more Twilight seemed to be dragging her feet. Finally Sunset stomped back to her, crossing her arms to glare down at the filly. “You know, you’ll have to move a bit faster if we want to be home before sundown.”

Twilight flinched again, wrapping her arms around herself and mumbling. “I-I’m sorry. I should just… leave you alone and find somewhere else to spend the night. In fact, I-I think I’ll do just that, get out of your mane.” She turned around, looking almost relieved as she tried to get away.

Sunset grabbed her shoulder before she could even make her second step, holding her with an almost painfully strong grip. “Oh no you don’t. You got me into this mess and now we are both stuck in it, and by the stars if I’m going down I’m taking you with me. Besides, you wanted to have a place to stay so badly, didn’t you?”

Twilight, tensed and shook her head, still trying to back away. “No! I-I mean, it’s fine, I’ll be fine. You really don’t have to–“

Sunset poked at the filly’s chest, then pointed at the front door with the same hand. “In. Now. We’ll talk once we are in my apartment, and it will not be fun for either of us if I have to pick you up and carry you the whole way.”

Twilight flinched back and teared up, nodding with a quiet whimper and running past Sunset to get into the house as quickly as she could.

Sunset rolled her eyes and followed, unlocking her… their apartment door and locking it behind them once they were both inside, leaning against it and crossing her arms. “Alright, time to talk. What was all that about? Why were you following me? How did you even know my name, I’m pretty sure I never told you.” She narrowed her eyes. “Did you snoop through my things while I was asleep?”

“N-no!” Twilight shook her head rapidly, backing away until she bumped into the couch. “I-I didn’t do anything, honestly. I just overheard your name when I was in that school, ponies… or hyoomen or whatever they are called here… they talked a lot about you when you weren’t around.”

“It’s humans. In fact, that’s probably one of the first things we have to teach you.” Sunset frowned and walked over to the table, opening her laptop. Everyone talking behind her back was nothing new to her, even before she came to this world. At least it meant that the other students knew her and most likely knew her standing in the school hierarchy too. “I’ll have to draft up a cover story for you first. I don’t care what you do, as long as you don’t leave the apartment, don’t go into my bedroom, don’t annoy me and don’t touch my stuff.” She turned her head to give the filly a challenging glare.

To her surprise, Twilight just whimpered and nodded quietly. Sunset watched as the filly climbed onto the couch, grabbing the spare blanket she had left there this morning and pulling it over herself as she curled up.

Sunset frowned, turning back to her laptop and trying to write before she sighed and rolled her eyes. “Alright, I’ll bite. What’s wrong now? Yesterday I couldn’t get you to stop talking and now I barely get a single word out of you.”

The lump under the blankets mumbled something, completely incomprehensive through the fabric.

Sunset rolled her eyes and stood up, walking over to the couch. “You’ll have to speak up if I’m supposed to understand you.”

The lump shifted, a tear-streaked face poking out of the blankets and glaring up at Sunset with a surprising amount of both fear and anger as it yelled at her. “Because you’re a big bully!”

Sunset blinked. “What?”

“I saw you in school. You’re nothing but a big, mean bully and… and…” Twilight shrunk back again, lying down and curling up so she was facing the back of the couch. “Magic Kindergarten is not fun if you like books and can’t even use your magic to turn a page…”

Sunset scoffed. “That’s it? All that trouble just because I’m a bully? Well, I’ll let you in on a little secret.” She put a hand on Twilight’s shoulder and leaned in, smirking. “I’m not just any old bully. I’m the biggest bully in the whole school.”

She waited a few moments for a response, frowning when none came. The little filly only started to curl up more, shivering under Sunset’s hand. After a while Sunset stood up and walked back to the table again. “Whatever.”

She tried to write on their cover story, but found that she just couldn’t concentrate properly, glancing over at the filly every few minutes.

After two hours of barely getting anything done, she pushed the laptop away to prepare an early dinner. Twilight got up to eat a little, but still didn’t say anything and kept avoiding Sunset’s gaze.

They went to bed early, or rather Sunset went to bed while Twilight slept on the couch again.

~~~~~

Sunset’s ear twitched at the sound of children’s laughter. She turned her head to see a group of unicorn foals in the distance, pushing around a little human girl and playing keep-away with her book. She watched as one of them tripped the girl and sent her into a mud puddle, cantering away laughing and leaving the girl crying on the ground next to her now muddy book.

Sunset turned away with an indifferent shrug, ignoring the small twinge in her chest. This wasn’t her problem. If the girl was too weak to stand up for herself, that wasn’t Sunset’s fault. Besides, she had an important meeting.

“Sunset Shimmer. I see you have returned.” Princess Celestia was standing in front of Sunset, giving her one of her calculating looks. With Sunset as a human, the Princess was actually at the same height as her, a fact that made Sunset smirk, even more so when she imagined her as one of the dumb horses from the human world.

“So I have. What are you going to do about it?” Sunset casually walked past Celestia, leaving the mare to catch up.

Celestia cantered after her as expected, frowning a bit before she inclined her head. “Nothing. Regardless of my own opinion on things, you have shown both the power and application thereof required for… an ascension.”

Sunset actually stumbled a bit at that, eyes going wide. That was certainly not what she expected. “An ascension? You’re serious? No more riddles, no more stringing me along with half-truths and secrets?” She noticed they were walking towards a door, the bright light fading to reveal the balcony of Canterlot Castle looking out over crowds of ponies.

“No more guiding you. I have done all I could and you have rejected what I wanted to teach you.” Celestia sighed, stepping out onto the balcony and gently pushing Sunset along to the railing with one of her soft white wings.

A shrill scream startled her and made her take a step back in reflex. The ponies down on the plaza had started to panic, many of them suddenly turning tail to run away as fast as they could, carrying foals along. Sunset watched in confusion as some of the ponies pointed up at her, shouting things that she couldn’t understand from her height.

“What’s wrong? Why are they all acting like… Princess?” She turned her head to find herself alone on the balcony. With a frown she looked around, nose twitching as she picked up a faint smell of fire and brimstone that was quickly getting stronger. It would explain the sudden panic, but she couldn’t see any fires or even smoke…

Oh, nevermind, there they were. The buildings around the plaza were definitely in flames and collapsing. Oh, and the ground was bursting open in places to spew even more fire. It really looked rather impressive from up on the balcony.

“Doesn’t it just? Nothing like some screams and fire to make a day.”

Sunset tensed, realizing only now that the brimstone smell was not coming from down on the plaza but from behind her. She turned around to tell the intruder off, but stopped cold when she came to face the creature: A red demon with leathery wings, easily seven feet tall and looking down at her with an unsettling grin.

“Who…” She frowned as her voice cracked and started again, channeling all her anger and frustration. “Who are you?”

The demon actually seemed to grow a bit from that and grinned wider, leaning forward slightly. “That’s the thousand Bit question, isn’t it? Why don’t you guess?” It pulled its hands apart in front of itself, gathering magic to create the illusion of a stylized sun, half of it a warm yellow while the other half was a healthy red.

“W-what do you… no. I’m supposed to be an alicorn, not some kind of… monster!” Sunset watched in horror as the yellow side of her cutie mark started to burst into flames from the bottom, the yellow turning into into a sadistic shade of red that made her skin burn just from looking at it.

“An alicorn? You?” The demon started to laugh, rearing her head back. “You are selfish, short-tempered and have been lashing out at your fellow ponies for years, and now you make life for these humans a living hell. I can assure you, the differences between us are purely physical.” Before Sunset could reply, the demon spread her wings and charged at her with a manic grin, arms stretched out and body wreathed in fire. “And when I’m done we will really be one and the same!”

~~~~~

Sunset sat up with a gasp, eyes wide in the darkness of her room. Her heart was pumping in her chest and her body felt soaked in cold sweat. Her blanket was too warm and stuffy, like she was burning alive. Or maybe she really was. She shuddered as the details of her dream came back to her far too vividly.

She slowly sank back onto her pillow, hands over her face as she tried to calm down. Sleep was definitely out of the question for the night. She waited a few minutes until the worst of the shaking stopped, then stood up and started to get dressed for the day. She moved around the apartment as quietly as she could so the filly wouldn’t wake up, making her way into the kitchen.

A squeeze bottle of pancake mix was still waiting for her in the door of her fridge, something she usually kept for weekends. For a teenager living alone without a stable income, it was as fancy as breakfast would get. Just what she needed as a pick-me-up.

She reached out to take the bottle, but pulled back as her stomach tightened painfully and the dream echoed through her mind again. Eating pancakes after her past actions and life choices had been thrown in her face like that just felt wrong in a way nothing had felt wrong to her in a long time. Even if it was all just in her head, they would probably taste like ash to her.

If she was lucky. She didn’t care to find out what brimstone tasted like.

~~~~~

Twilight rolled over and pulled the blanket around herself, trying to block out the sounds of dishes and sizzling oil. The unsettling feeling of her weird new ears not twitching woke her up for good, however, and she rubbed her eyes with a sigh.

“Finally awake, huh? Just in time, I’ll have to leave soon.” Twilight tensed and curled up under her blanket at the sound of Sunset’s voice, only slowly pulling it back to look in the direction the voice had come from. The older mare was sitting at the table, eating a sandwich and staring back at Twilight with a neutral expression.

“I made some pancakes. Only had enough mix left for one of us, though.” She pointed at a stack of pancakes on the other side of the table, right in front of the only other chair she seemed to own.

Twilight said nothing, just looking between her and the pancakes. Even from over by the couch the stack looked big enough that both of them wouldn’t go hungry until lunch at least.

Sunset waited a moment for an answer, then shrugged when none came. “I also left you the laptop open… if you’re going to enroll at that school you’ll have to know at least some basics about this world. History, pop culture, stuff like that.” She pointed to the old laptop where she had copied several dozen Wikipedia pages into documents and disabled the internet, then hid some of her more personal files and triple-checked that the internet was disabled just to be sure. She wasn’t that stupid, even at her worst. “It’s probably not all completely accurate, but it’s not like they’ll expect a girl your age to know all the historical dates and names of random political figures. Don’t go snooping around my stuff, don’t pull out the charger - that’s this cable here - or the laptop will turn itself off after a while, and don’t go snooping around my stuff.

Twilight kept staring at her silently, pulling the blanket closer to herself again.

Sunset groaned and stood up, putting on her leather jacket and grabbing her backpack. “Whatever. Just don’t go outside and try not to burn the apartment down. I’ll try to be back as soon as I can.”

Twilight waited a minute after Sunset closed the door behind herself, then stood up and slowly made her way over to the table, dragging the blanket along against the morning chill. She poked the strange machine with the glowing screen a few times, then turned her attention to the pancakes and sat down. Looking around the table she found a butter knife and a mostly full jar of what seemed to be some strange, brown spread.

Twilight opened the jar and took a sniff, then peered inside and grimaced. It looked like somepony had taken a pound of perfectly good chocolate and made it wrong in every possible way. She pushed the jar as far away as her arm could reach and turned back to the pancakes, wondering just how she was supposed to eat even half of them, not to mention without syrup.

~~~~~

Fluttershy froze, stopping near the statue in front of the school. Sunset Shimmer was standing at the bottom of the short flight of stairs up to the school’s entrance, leaning against the right railing with her head tilted up and her eyes closed, looking almost peaceful. It wasn’t her pose that made Fluttershy nervous, though, so much that Sunset was standing in the exact spot Fluttershy usually took when she was looking for volunteers for the animal shelter… something she had hoped to do again this morning. She looked to the left corner of the stairs that was occupied by a trashcan, then back to Sunset.

Sunset tilted her head back down and opened her eyes, immediately spotting her and smiling. Most people would have compared her smile to that of a shark, but Fluttershy liked sharks. Sharks could be friendly and wonderful animals if you were careful and considerate with them.

She swallowed nervously and hesitantly stepped up to the other girl, clutching her stack of flyers to her chest like a shield, not that it ever helped much. “Uhm… S-Sunset?”

“Yes, Fluttershy?” Sunset’s voice sounded unusually calm, almost serene with a sting that was very well hidden. It made her only more nervous, causing her to stammer and fumble.

“I-I uhm, that is… y-you’re kind of standinginmyspot.” She squeaked.

Sunset looked around herself in mock surprise as if she’d only just now noticed where she was. “Why what do you know, I am.” She leaned forward, her smile growing slightly. “You know, it always seems to me that you’re scared of going up to people and talking to them. It’s probably why you always stand here and hope for students to come up to you, isn’t it?”

Fluttershy looked away, fidgeting. It wasn’t much of a secret, but it still stung to be called out on it like that. “U-uhm… maybe?”

“And I might be taking a shot in the dark there, but I’d say you’re also scared of me, yes?” Sunset leaned even closer, far too close for Fluttershy’s liking.

“T-terrified,” She squeaked out, shivering slightly and clutching her flyers even tighter.

Sunset suddenly pulled back, grinning. “Wonderful. You know, I had an idea for an experiment and I’m just dying to know the answer. It’s easy, really. I’m going to stand right here, until either class starts… or you’ve managed to hand out all those flyers to people. Or of course you could just head inside and disappoint all those poor little animals at the shelter.” She pouted, giving Fluttershy a strange look of faux disappointment.

Fluttershy stared up at her in confusion. “W-what?”

Sunset frowned, crossing her arms. “I thought it’s rather simple. You can either stand here, right next to me, or you can pony up and actually talk to people. Clock is ticking.” She pointed towards the street where the first groups of students were already arriving after the few lonely early risers.

Fluttershy turned and fidgeted, looking back at Sunset and wincing at the raised eyebrow the other girl gave her. She gulped and pulled up her shoulders, then hesitantly stepped into the way of one group of students.

~~~~~

It took way longer and way more conversations than Fluttershy was comfortable with. Surprisingly enough however, to herself the most, she did not give up and run inside. In fact, she couldn’t help but feel good about herself, despite every part of her body being tense and sweat running down her back towards the end.

The five-minute bell rang out just as she finally got back to the waiting Sunset Shimmer, looking up at the girl nervously. “I-I did it. I talked to all those students and I-I got them to take flyers a-and oh gosh…” She shivered and tried to take deep breaths to calm down.

Sunset simply watched her, raising an eyebrow at the last flyer clutched to her chest. “And what’s that, then?”

Fluttershy felt another shiver down her back and took a deep gulp of air, closing her eyes as she jerked her arm forward, holding out the flyer. “Pleasetakeaflyer? The local animal shelter would, uhm, appreciate your help. Probably.

She felt something tug at the flyer several times before she finally managed to open her tense fingers and let go of it. Opening her eyes nervously she saw Sunset Shimmer already heading up the stairs into the school, stuffing the flyer carelessly into her bag and glancing over her shoulder down at her. “Whatever. Good job, I guess.”

Fluttershy let out a long sigh as she finally managed to relax, slumping against the railing. She stayed there for a few minutes, catching her breath and trying to calm down until the bell made her jump up again. “Oh no, I’m going to be late for class!”

~~~~~

Twilight groaned, hanging in her chair with a teaspoon sticking out of her mouth and holding her stomach. An empty plate stood on the table in front of her, next to an empty jar, every last dreg scooped out.

“Too much… chocolate…”

Author's Note:

And there you have it. Sunset's big turning point... or something like it, at least. Don't worry, she won't suddenly lose her snark (or any of it, at all, ever), but it's a start.

I will probably make a blog post about it sometime in the next days, but if you have any ideas for Slice of Life chapters (things that might be interesting to see) feel free to send them to me. While I have the relevant parts of the story pretty much planned out, I'm drawing blanks when it comes to prompts for the less relevant slice of life chapters that I'm sure many of you want to see eventually.

Also, I want to thank all of you for getting this story into the Feature Box, and earning it my best rating yet (88:0 Upvotes, at the time of this Author's Note). Here's to hoping I can keep the story at this quality and without too many long delays.

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