• Published 13th Dec 2016
  • 4,391 Views, 160 Comments

Sunsettle For This - Aragon



Twilight is a hammer in want of a nail. Sunset would rather a good screw. (A dramedy).

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First Chapter - You Could Have Been Great

Star-crossed lovers don’t get it.

Picture the most important table in the world. It’s plain-looking, just a plank of wood with three legs, but it decides the ending of every story that ever existed. Because, like many things in this life, what matters is not the object itself. It’s the things that surround it.

Fate, on the right.

Time, on the left.

The Love That Could Not Be is the name of the game. Mortals will always blame Fate for their misery, cursing the stars and burning Oracles at the stake because they can’t be together with the one they most desire—but they’re missing the point. Fate has nothing to do with this. The real villain here is Time, the enemy of all mortals. Time has no mercy.

Fate is constantly trying its best, really, but there’s just so much you can do when your opponent routinely murders every single thing that ever existed. Fate’s victories are short-lived. Time is really good at the long game.

This is a game of cards, but there are still pieces on the board, and Fate and Time place them with practiced skill. One of them, a pony, miserable and lonely in Equestria. The other, now a human, living a failed life in another world.

The pieces make the first move.

It starts with a little woman, named Celestia, back in the human dimension. She was the principal of Canterlot High School, and one particular Saturday she walked into her office, only to find she was not alone.

An ex-student of hers was there, bleeding out all over her carpet.

And to this, Principal Celestia just sighed and shook her head. “Sunset Shimmer,” she said. “Again?”


FIRST CHAPTER:
YOU COULD HAVE BEEN GREAT


There’s an art to being disemboweled. Anybody can bleed to death, but it takes a true professional to do it right.

It’s all about the details, really. You have to twitch to the left, for example, because it makes it easier to clean if the janitor is right-handed. If you’re wearing a skirt, point your knees inwards to maintain your decency. You say please and thank you before and after dying. This is all stuff you learn through sheer repetition. Practice makes perfect.

At this point, Sunset Shimmer had become an expert on being disemboweled. But she was too busy screaming to act like a professional.

“AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH,” Sunset screamed.

Because her liver had just fallen out.

“AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH,” Sunset continued.

“Your liver just fell out,” Celestia muttered, poking Sunset with her cane. “Are you okay?”

“AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH.”.

“Knees inwards, please. We’re not intimate with each other yet.”

“AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH.”

This went on for several minutes.

A softer, less experienced person, would have argued that “mild annoyance” was not the most ethical way to feel when facing a dying girl. However, Principal Celestia knew better.

It wasn’t like she hated teenagers. Far from it: as a teacher, she adored the abstract concept of young people. It was just the individuals she had a problem with, because Celestia had an extremely detailed idea of what an ideal teenager should be like, and they just refused to listen.

However, she was confident one day she’d meet one who wasn’t an absolute tool. Any day now.

“Say, shouldn’t you be in shock around now? Or at least unconscious?”

“AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH.”

Aaaaaany day now.

“I do not have time for such foolery, Sunset Shimmer,” Principal Celestia eventually said. She had trouble walking these days, even with her cane, but she still managed to go around Sunset and look at her disapprovingly. Disapproving looks were one of those things that came naturally with age. “Get better already.”

“AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH.”

That was enough of an answer to her. “Here,” Celestia said, dropping her cane on top of Sunset Shimmer. “Pick it up for me, please?”

Amongst the excruciating pain, Sunset Shimmer found the will to grab the cane. With shaking hands, she nudged it in Celestia’s direction.

And there was a flash!

Thirty seconds later, a now spotless – and furrier – Sunset Shimmer got up and coughed, her throat hoarse from all the yelling. “Eeghk,” she said. “Thanks.”

“Just for once, I’d like it for you to appear without being mortally wounded, Sunset Shimmer,” Celestia said, as she frowned and looked at the mess that was now her office. “It’s starting to get old.”

“Sorry, sorry. Ran into a little bit of trouble.” She coughed again, and wiped her mouth. “Believe me, I don’t like this either. It’s rather annoy—WOAH!” Sunset took a step back and gave Celestia a good hard look. “Oh my gosh. You look so old. You look way older than I thought you’d look.”

A moment.

Celestia sighed. “Please, don’t.”

“What are you, a hundred years old?!”

“Sunset Shimmer, we met less than two weeks ago. Please, stop trying to act like Rainbow Dash.” Celestia rested her back against the wall. “At times like this I can’t help but wonder if you would have survived this long if you couldn’t pony up with such ease. You’re misusing that gift.”

“…Hey, not my fault if the magic of friendship has lowered its standards,” Sunset said. “But that doesn’t mean I’m not gonna take what I can. Shame the mess didn’t disappear, though.” She crossed her arms and kicked something that minutes ago had been inside her stomach. “Maybe if I befriended the carpet…?”

“You have an intimate enough relationship with my furniture already, Sunset Shimmer.”

Sunset made a face.[1]


[1] It had happened once, and she had never lived it down. It’s not like Celestia had even owned that desk, for heaven’s sake.


Ignoring the glare, Celestia just shook her head. “Whatever happened to you, Sunset Shimmer? You could have been so much more. You could have been great. And yet…” She made a broad gesture, pointing at the entire office. “This?”

“Hm?” Sunset arched an eyebrow. “Ah. Uh. I stabbed a policeman on my way here.”

Silence.

Celestia arched an eyebrow.

Sunset summoned a sheepish smile. “…And then he stabbed me back.”


A world away, there lived a pony named Twilight Sparkle.

Twilight Sparkle was a princess, and a darn good one, to boot. Her castle was made of crystal, which, albeit slightly uncomfortable, was admittedly really royal. Her main aide was a dragon, with all the status that brought. She had five fabulous friends who also happened to be the Chosen Ones, Saviors of the World. She had achieved a higher form of existence on her own merits.

She’d had, in short, a fantastic life.

Which ultimately proved that it was possible to win your way up to failure.

“Twilight!” Pinkie Pie kicked open the door to her library with an urgency usually reserved for those who had severely misread the expiration date on a yoghurt eaten a night ago. “I need your help!”

Twilight’s eyes shone like pearls in front of a house on fire. She closed the book she’d been reading and got up immediately, wings open in excitement. “Yes? Is there a problem? Anything I can help with?!”

“Indeed!” And Pinkie produced a book from her mane. “I need you to look at this!”

Twilight only got more excited. “What is it? Is it a Friendship Problem?! Is it a threat to Equestria?!” She had to stop herself from jumping around. “Is that book going to put everything we know and love in danger?!”

“No!” Pinkie replied, her voice still on fire. “It’s just my finances!”

“Your finances!”

“Yes!” Pinkie was serious. “They’re a mild inconvenience! At best!

“That is extremely disappointing!”

“I know! So, are you busy?”

And Twilight sighed. “Not really. Come in, Pinkie.”

Win your way up to failure, all right. For the last ten years, life had been extremely flipping boring.

Twilight Sparkle was an alicorn, but she was still mortal,[2] and no mortal can stand the passage of Time unscathed. It’s in their nature to look back with rose-tinted glasses on, and discover how quickly happiness fades, and how fast it turns into misery once it’s gone.


[2] That was the leading theory, anyway. Her mom had strictly forbidden any experiment destined to prove or disprove her mortality, in a move Twilight had deemed embarrassingly unscientific.


Equestria was a utopia nowadays. It was ruled by two immortal sisters, which meant that the government was really really really good at long-term thinking. A meal on every plate, a roof over every head, and Twilight wanted to pull out her teeth in frustration, because her entire lifestyle had been built on her ability to solve conflicts.

She had made it. She had ended every war, befriended every monster, and solved every problem. She had won at life. And now there was absolutely nothing to do.

It didn’t matter how you went about your life. Time always found an angle.

Ten minutes later, sitting with Pinkie to help with her finances, Twilight couldn’t help to frown as she opened the book [3].


[3] She didn’t frown at the book, of course. She wasn’t a barbarian. She was merely frowning in the general direction of the book.


“We were great once,” she said as she absent-mindedly turned the pages, eyes gracing through the numbers without really registering anything. “Do you remember, Pinkie? Fighting monsters, discovering new ways to work on our friendship, saving the world…”

“Uh-huh.” Pinkie was also looking at the book. “See, I just think that there’s way too much red in this book for it to be right! There shouldn’t be all this red, right?”

“I mean, nothing wrong with peace, don’t get me wrong.” Twilight sighed. “It’s just, don’t you sometimes miss it? I have nothing to do these days. At least Princess Celestia raises the Sun, but I just sit in this castle and read my days away.”

“Like that. See?” Pinkie pointed. “That’s a lot of zeroes, too. Is that normal? I’m not that good with numbers. Oh! Did I tell you about the yoghurt I ate the other day and—”

“Hmm.” Unable to really read anything, Twilight just closed the book and gave it back. “It’s all good, Pinkie. No reason to worry.” It wasn’t like anything bad was going to happen anyway, so there was no reason to fret.

“Twilight?” Pinkie frowned as she took the book and immediately put it back in her mane and out of her mind. “Are you okay? You look gloomy!”

“Hm? Oh!” Twilight blinked, shook her head and smiled to her friend. “Yes! Of course I am okay! It’s just… I’ve been thinking a lot, Pinkie. That’s all.”

“Are you sure? Maybe I can help!”

“I wish. That would mean we had a problem on the first place.” Twilight just stretched her wings and walked towards the window. “I’m struggling a bit with… growing up. One can say.” A frown. “Or not growing up? It’s vague. The feeling of stagnation.”

“Stagnation?”

“Yes.”

The most chipper of smiles on Pinkie’s face as she said her four favorite words: “I don’t get it!”

“Nopony does,” Twilight muttered. “You can move on with your lives, it’s just me who… If there was only somepony who understood my situation…”

Then something blinded her, and she had to look to the side and blink three times. The sun had come out from behind the clouds and was shining bright, bringing light into the library.

“Somepony who understands my situation,” Twilight repeated, this time louder.

And silence filled the library.

Pinkie looked at Twilight, then at the window, then at Twilight again. The princess was whimsically staring right into the sun. No words were said.

Three seconds passed.

“Um. Twilight?” Pinkie ventured.

“Hmm?”

“Are you having a moment of realization, or are you just trying to blind yourself? Because I need to use your bathroom—boy, never eating yoghurt again—but maybe I shouldn’t leave you alone.”

“Hmmm.” Twilight’s finally closed her eyes. “Little bit of both,” she said, and then she turned to Pinkie without opening her eyes, her face the perfect image of calmness. “Pinkie. I know what do now.”

“Oh. Sweet! Does it involve blinding yourself?”

“I doubt so.” Twilight opened her eyes. They were red. “I’m going to Canterlot.”


Some lessons are learned through age, but many more only come after a particularly bad string of mistakes. Principal Celestia realized this when she asked Sunset Shimmer how, exactly, she’d made it all the way up to her office with a stab wound like that in the first place.

“There’s a short answer and a long answer to that,” Sunset said, simply.

“The short one. How did you make it?”

Barely.

Celestia resisted the urge to scratch the space between her eyes in frustration, because she knew that the moment she gave in she was just never going to stop. Sunset Shimmer was not a nice person to be around. “Perhaps the long one would be better, please?”

And that was her second mistake.

What followed was a long and horrifying conversation on Sunset Shimmer’s latest adventure, which did not involve otherworldly foes, magical feats, and the power of friendship, as it might have done back in the days. No, this one involved a lot of mud, rabid ducks, an egg sandwich, a surprising amount of foul language, and a rather show-stealing appearance by a homeless man named Squattin’ Steve.

Mind that Squattin’ Steve didn’t necessarily steal the show because he was a great protagonist; the man was the literary equivalent of dunking your head in a pool of diuretic acid. No, the reason why Squattin’ Steve became the centerpiece of the entire dialogue was because Sunset Shimmer really went into excruciating detail when it came to the hobo.

The thing about Squattin’ Steve, she explained, the thing was—you thought you didn’t know the origin of his nickname? But you did. You really, really did. The moment he showed it to you [4] was the moment you realized you’d known all this time. You were just too afraid to think about it.


[4] And he would, because shame was one of the many, many virtues Squattin’ Steve lacked.


Of course, knowing that Principal Celestia would probably never meet the man—the myth!—himself, Sunset Shimmer was polite enough to end her recounting with a dutiful explanation on the mysteries that surrounded the figure of Squattin’ Steve.

“Okay!” Principal Celestia said, gripping her cane with both hands so hard her knuckles went white. “Please, Sunset Shimmer, please shut up.”

“I’m not done, though! See, then he gets his hands like this and—”

“If I want to be terrified, I just watch the news, Sunset Shimmer.” Celestia stroke the cane against the ground twice, toc toc, and it echoed through the room with ghostly strength. “Now please, stop talking about the homeless population of the city, and pay attention.”

“Well. Okay.” Sunset Shimmer stuffed her hands in the pockets of her jacket and looked around. “So, why did we come to the library?”

“Because I need to show you something.” Celestia pointed to one of the computers. “Help me turn it on.” She’d never got a hand of the blasting things.

Canterlot High School was a top school, and as such, its computers were both old and low-quality. There was nobody else in the building at the moment, however, so the internet connection was fast—and that was all that Celestia needed.

It still took the thing around fifteen minutes to boot up, though.

“Hmm.” Celestia sat down right next to Sunset and looked away. The library looked bigger without all those teenagers walking around with smiles on their faces. It looked emptier. Lonelier.

Better. It looked better. She wished it could stay this way forever.

“I hate seeing you like this, Sunset Shimmer,” she said, looking back at the girl. “Even though we have our differences, you’re still my ex-student. This is not right.”

“Hey, it’s not that bad. Homelessness is good once you throw away your shame. Can I crash at your sofa?”

“I’m not talking about homelessness. I’m talking about…” Celestia made a vague gesture. “This. Everything. You being stabbed by a policeman, Squattin’ Steve, ponying up because you made the magic of friendship feel ashamed of itself. I understand that it was hard, your position, after everything that happened, but—”

“Yes, yes.” Sunset rolled her eyes as the screen finally lightened up, and she logged in. “I know how this goes, I’ve wasted my potential. Can I crash at your sofa or not?”

A frown. “I’m trying to be serious, Sunset Shimmer. Could you please stop trying to abuse my hospitality?”

“Look, at one point in life, everything boils down to abusing somebody else’s hospitality. Excuse me if I just go straight to the point.”

Celestia chose, quite wisely[5], to ignore everything Sunset was saying and just continue with her speech as she took the keyboard. “You could have been great,” she said, typing slowly. “You were a good student. You only live under a bridge because you gave up too easily.”


[5] In her own opinion, anyways, which was the only one that mattered.


“Hmm.” Sunset rested her chin on her hand and looked at Celestia with calculating eyes. “Say,” she said after a moment. “Did I ever tell you that you rule the world where I come from?”

A pause.

Principal Celestia took her eyes off the screen, blinking. “Sorry?”

“Yeah! Your pony self is both immortal and queen of the land. She never ages.”

“…Immortal?”

“And queen of the land. She rules the world.” Sunset smiled. “The whoooole world. One and only authority. Total adoration from her subjects.”

And despite her best efforts, Celestia leaned towards Sunset, suddenly interested. “So she’s in charge?”

Sunset felt her face tense up with a smile.

It didn’t really matter how long you’d been reformed, or how true your remorse was—once you were a true villain, you always knew how to think like one. It just came naturally to you, and redemption meant keeping yourself in check.

But one didn’t live near Squattin’ Steve for so long without resorting to every trick up their sleeve. Sunset had her priorities straight, and Celestia’s couch was famously comfy. Empires fell not with violence, but with sweet, flattering words. It wasn’t an exact science—if each failure was a strike, Sunset had been dangerously close to an out many a time.

If she made it, though? Then, she could turn anything upside down.

So she spoke.

“Oh, she has been in charge forever—we don’t really like democracy in Equestria,” Sunset said. “Way we see it, makes more sense to just give all the power to the one pony we’re sure knows what she’s doing. The one that really matters, you know?”

Celestia looked down, and she interlocked her fingers on top of the cane. This sounded familiar. This sounded extremely familiar. Like an old dream she’d gave up on a long time ago. But—no, this was foolery. Unless… “And everybody does what she asks them to do?”

“Benefits of being a benevolent dictator. Crazy, huh? You even get to say what ‘benevolent’ means.”

Would Celestia dare to dream? She shouldn’t, and she knew, but Celestia felt the words leave her mouth whether she wanted or not. “Even… Even the teenagers?”

And this was the real kicker. Manipulation was all about saying the right things at the right time. So knowing she had landed this one, Sunset leaned in, put on her best smooth voice, and whispered the words the Celestia so desperately wanted to hear.

Especially teenagers.”

And Celestia gave out a soft gasp.

“Why,” Sunset said, “I can tell you more, if I want. I just need to… To crash…”

And then she blinked, and her train of thought came to an abrupt end. She’d caught something out of the corner of her eye, in the computer screen—a picture of a woman. The thing Celestia had wanted her to see.

She didn’t say any more words.

Celestia, forgotten, got up, a new spark of determination in her eye. Her mind was full of old projects, and one particular idea she’d always wondered if could work. Nothing to lose, nowadays. She was too old to pay for the consequences anyway. “I need to go, Sunset Shimmer.”

“Hmm-hm.”

“Close the door after you go. And don’t forget to turn off the lights.”

“Hmm-hm.”

And then Celestia left.

Sunset didn’t.

She spent a lot of time in front of that screen, looking at the picture Celestia had searched, reading the text that came with it over and over. It was a newspaper clipping—something about a lawyer landing an extremely difficult case. Big news, huge precedent. Important stuff.

Sunset Shimmer played with her hair as she read it for the tenth time. Her hair, which hadn’t changed with time, just like the rest of her body. It was still as long as it had always been, framing her teenage face, matching the skirt she’d owned for so many years now. Her backpack, filled with what little possessions she still had. The shoes she’d never grown out of. The jacket that still fit her like the first day.

So much time had passed, but she hadn’t aged a single day.

Because of the way Equestrian magic worked, Sunset Shimmer was an eternal teenager. It was probably something related to how dimensions mixed together; an impossible miracle made mundane.

But that wasn’t the case for the lawyer who had won that important case. She was definitely an adult. She looked like she hadn’t slept well lately in that photo, and her suit didn’t fit her perfectly, but she looked happy. Like she hadn’t squatted in her entire life.

Her name was written at the bottom of the photograph: Sunset Shimmer.

Her human self. Her adult self.

When she finally left the library, she forgot to turn off the lights.


“I’m afraid I don’t understand you, Twilight Sparkle.” Princess Celestia closed her majestic wings and looked at her faithful student from her throne, sunlight coming from the window behind it, making her white coat look like gold and fire. “I am perfectly content with my life.”

Twilight’s face fell. “Really?”

Celestia nodded. “Really.”

“Not even the slightest bit of depression? Not a single modicum of ennui?”

“I’d say no. I’m rather happy.” A pause. “Sorry to disappoint.”

Silence.

Celestia squinted. “…Why are your eyes all red?”

And thus, the trip to Canterlot to find somepony who felt frustrated about the constant victories was deemed an absolute failure. Her first real failure in over ten years. Twilight did not appreciate the irony.

Still, this was a surprise. Of all ponies, Twilight had assumed Princess Celestia would understand her struggle. Surely, an immortal like her had lived through much more interesting times. Surely, she would get what Twilight meant when she said she was discontent about the lack of obstacles in her life.

“Um. No.” Celestia shot her an awkward smile. “That’s—that’s called peace. We all like peace. That’s what we always fight for, Twilight Sparkle.”

Well, okay, good point, but Twilight wasn’t talking about that. She was talking about the stillness, the lack of any thrill in her life. Didn’t Celestia hate the boredom, the frustration, as much as Twilight herself did?

“…Why would I fight for peace if I hated it?”

Twilight left the Throne Room.

Walking down the endless corridors of Canterlot Castle, she couldn’t help but grit her teeth. It was dumb of hers, she knew, but she’d hoped Celestia was going to give her some kind of advice, or at least to relate to her.

Maybe that’s what it was all about, she supposed. Her hooves echoed along the hallways. She didn’t want Celestia to solve all her problems, but she wanted to have somepony to talk to, somepony who would get her. It was normal to be disappointed like this; after all, she’d been looking forward to not feeling this—

Wait a second.

She felt lonely?

The realization almost made her stop in her tracks. Twilight Sparkle, the mare with a thousand friends, and she felt like she couldn’t relate to anypony else. She was lonely. Constantly surrounded by crowds, supported by the most wonderful friends she could hope for, and yet?

“And yet I’m lonely,” she muttered. “I can’t believe—I’m the Princess of Friendship and I’m lonely?!

“I don’t know, Twilight Sparkle. Are you?”

The voice made her yelp, and Twilight turned around. Princess Luna came out from the shadows [6], mane and tail floating dark, hooves making no noise against the floor as she walked. Her face was perfectly neutral, no sign of a smile on her lips.


[6] There were no shadows in that hallway. It was half past noon on a cloudless day. However being the Princess of the Night came with some benefits, and the ability to be pointlessly ominous no matter the situation was one of them.


She gave Twilight one of those looks that could melt an iron chair and have the sitting pony say thank you, and then looked back to the Throne Room, face still unreadable. “Because I don’t think you are.”

“Princess Luna?” Twilight’s heartbeat almost managed to get back to normal, and she allowed herself to breathe. “You scared me!”

“I’m sorry. That was not my intention.” Luna gave her an apologetic nod. At least Twilight hoped that was an apologetic nod. “Are you lonely, Twilight Sparkle?”

Twilight’s ears went flat against her head. “Um. I don’t know. It’s—”

“I don’t think you’re lonely.”

Twilight’s ears perked up again.

“Walk with me,” Luna said, and then she started moving without waiting for a response. “I know a lot about loneliness, Twilight Sparkle. You might say, I know more than anypony else.”

Just like every time that Luna referenced her genocidal past, Twilight didn’t exactly know how to react. A noncommittal noise with her throat seemed like a good option, so she tried that.

It came out as “Gmrk.”

Luna paid it no mind. “Yes, indeed. After all, being immortal is a heavy burden. It’s hard to relate to ponies, when you know that you’re going to outlive them.”

Twilight blinked. “Gmrk?”

“And all those ponies I tried to kill, of course. Very lonely, that. Both before and after.”

“…Gmrk.”

“And it’s precisely because of that, Twilight Sparkle,” Luna continued, and she looked at her now, “that I know that you’re not lonely. Not really.”

That was more along the lines of what Twilight wanted to hear. “But how can you know that?” She asked. “Did you walk in my dreams again, or…?”

“I didn’t need to. Loneliness,” Luna continued, facing forward, “is not what you’re feeling. Why are your eyes red?”

“Uh. I got whimsical and stared at the sun.”

“Of course. Happens to the best of us.” Luna dropped her voice to something similar to a whisper. “Loneliness, Twilight Sparkle, is crushing. It’s crippling. It breaks your very mind. It makes you forget what you are. It makes you try to kill so many—

“Please, don’t finish that sentence. I’ll choke if I try to stay noncommittal much longer.”

“Hm. You’re not lonely, Twilight Sparkle. You just have a void, somewhere in here.” And Luna stopped, and placed a hoof against Twilight’s chest. Her crystal shoe felt cold to the touch. “It is similar, yet not the same.”

Twilight looked down, at the hoof on her chest, then back at Luna. “A void?”

“An emptiness,” Luna continued, her voice barely more than a whisper. “A hole. Something you’re lacking. Something that everypony else has—that’s why you feel you can’t connect with others.” She looked away, and the faintest shadow of a frown appeared on her features. “But you can. You are not alone.”

“But what’s that hole, then? What am I lacking?” Twilight frowned. “Because I think I don’t lack anything. That’s kind of the entire point, actually. Everypony else seems to be content with how things are right now—and, I mean, I’m content too—but they just don’t seem to…”

Her words died in her mouth.

“To hate peace?” Luna suggested.

“Not my favorite choice of words, but yes,” Twilight admitted. “Kind of. So what am I lacking? Why am I like this?”

“That is for you to find, Twilight Sparkle.” Luna gave her a smile, now. It was soft, but gentle. “I can only nudge you in the right direction. I wish you good luck. I know you will do what’s right.”

And with that, Princess Luna left.

Twilight watched her go, mind blank. This would be a good time to think, but she didn’t even know where to start. She approached the nearest window and peeked through it, this time making sure not to stare whimsically at the sun. Her reflection returned her gaze, and she pondered about—

About nothing.

Wait a second.

Twilight blinked, and took a better look. Something went click; maybe in her head, maybe in her chest. It really depended on how literally one took Princess Luna’s metaphors.

Her reflection was nothing out of the ordinary—her eyes were still a bit red, though—but it made her remember. It made her think of mirrors, and more specifically, one mirror. The special one, back in her own castle in Ponyville.

Perhaps what she was lacking wasn’t something new. Perhaps it was just something she had forgotten.


Few things in this life are worse for the heart than the sure knowledge that there’s something wrong with you and you’re to blame. When facing a constant and unavoidable attack to one’s self-worth, the brave work to better themselves, and the coward scheme to worsen others.

Sunset Shimmer did neither. Because she had her priorities straight.

“…and that,” she finished, after fourteen minutes of careful explanation, “is the reason why I believe you have the moral obligation to let me crash at your place for a while. Like, at the guest room, or something, I’m not picky.”

Absolute silence followed.

It was four in the morning, Sunday was Adult Shimmer’s only day off, and she had just been woken up by a random teenager who had broken into her house with talks about multidimensional clones and a man who could squat like no other.

Adult Shimmer did the only thing one could do in this kind of occasion.

She called security.

“OH SWEET MERCY, NOT IN THE FACE, NOT IN THE FACE!

“Go for the face,” Adult Shimmer said.

NO!

They went for the face.


Twilight frowned, book in front of her, and then put the quill down. “I don’t know if I should do this,” she said. “Part of me thinks it’ll help, but I can’t help but think I’m being a little… silly?”

“Why, of course you have to do it! It’s exactly what you’ve been looking for, now, hasn’t it?” Rarity said, from the left.

“Nah. You’re bein’ silly,” Applejack said, from the right.

A moment of silence.

“Well,” Twilight said. “That helps a lot.”

The Cutie Map Room was quite lively, for once. With the Map itself being dead quiet for the last ten years, the gang had naturally stopped gathering in that particular place. Because, really, when you got to it? Individual personalized thrones were great and all, but there were better places to get a coffee.

But not today. Today, Twilight had pulled the curtains open and called her friends to a bona fide Friendship Council Reunion, because she felt she was facing the first real problem in a long time. And, personal as it was, it sort of counted as a Friendship Problem.

“What do you think, girls?” Twilight asked, turning around to face the rest of the group. “Should I ask Sunset Shimmer to come here, or…?”

“See?” Pinkie Pie was sitting on the ground, Fluttershy, Dash, and Spike huddled around her, and they were all looking at a familiar book with absolute concentration. “Twilight said this is a viable financial plan! I can keep doing this forever!”

“Wow.” Spike’s eyes were moving side to side like crazy. “This changes everything!”

“I know!”

“Hah! Told you, Fluttershy.” Dash punched Shy’s shoulder ever-so-slightly. “You were worrying for nothing. Up top, Pinks!”

“Yeah!”

They hoof-bumped.

“Um. I don’t know.” Fluttershy was hovering above them all, rubbing the place where Dash had punched her. “Are you sure she said that? I think it looks a little wrong. As if you were actually in huge de—”

“Weeeell. She didn’t say there was anything wrong with it. Which means everything’s right!” And the hope and happiness in Pinkie Pie’s eyes could have outshined the sun itself. “Somehow, my plan of spending scandalous amounts of money on parties and never getting any of it back is working perfectly!

And two meters away, Twilight rolled her eyes and went back to the book. “Well. That was useful.”

“Ah don’t think you should go for Pinkie or Dash if you want ethical advice, Twi.” Applejack tipped her hat at Twilight, and she managed to pull it off as charming. “Just sayin’.”

“They do lack a certain nuance, I agree,” Rarity added. “We’re much better suited for this job. Maybe Fluttershy could offer some new perspective, but…”

“She would probably just throw bunnies at me till I feel better, I know.” Twilight sighed. “Doesn’t matter, really. Now, back to my existential crisis: what do I do?”

“Ah honestly think you’ve got no crisis nor nothin’,” Applejack said. “You’re just bein’ a crybaby.”

“Applejack!”

“What?” Applejack frowned at Rarity. “Ah mean no offense! And she knows it! Right, Twi?”

Silence.

“Gmrk.”

“Atta girl. Noncommital’s always the answer. Look, you’re just not used to peace yet.” She patted Twilight on the head, motherly love in her eyes. “But y’know what? That’ll come! You just gotta relax, realize that’s actually what you want. Sure you might want to feel young and happy again, but this is what life’s all about!”

Twilight squinted. “What? Enduring the boredom and the neverending dread of knowing that the best part of your life’s over? Fooling yourself into thinking that you’re happy, just because you’re too afraid to face the truth and realize that you have nowhere else to go?”

“Eeeeyup.” Applejack nodded. “Word-for-word.”

An arched eyebrow, on Twilight’s face. “Really, now.”

“Sure! Granny Smith used to tell me that every day when I was a filly. Builds character.” AJ put on her best dashing smile. “Traditional earth pony upbringin’, but I’ll be darned if it doesn’t work. Y’all just too unicorn-y for this, Twi. Magic made your life too easy. Got used to the good stuff, didn’t you?”

“Oh, puh-lease.” Rarity glared at Applejack as she rested a hoof on Twilight’s shoulder. “Excuse us for daring to ask more of life! Twilight, dear, I think your problem is extremely serious, and your solution is particularly smart. By all means, call this Sunset Shimmer to Equestria.” She giggled. “I’ve always wanted to meet her, anyhow!”

“Ah don’t know, Twi. It doesn’t sound like the good thing to do.”

Twilight looked down. “Hmm. It does sound a little…”

“Twilight, no, let me be frank.” Rarity picked up the quill with her own magic, and nudged Twilight with it. “You don’t know what to do, I accept that. But who are you going to listen to? Me? Rarity?” She pointed at herself. “Or…” And she pointed at Applejack. “Her?”

A pause.

“Well.” Twilight nodded. “That’s a good point. Thanks, Rarity.”

“You’re welcome!”

“Say, what? What?!” Applejack slammed her hoof on the table so hard it almost broke it. “What are you talkin’ about?! Ah’ve been right more often than no other pony in this group! Ah’m always right! Only reason Ah’m not the leader’s Ah got no fancy wings on my back!”

“Exactly, Applejack,” Twilight said, as she grabbed the quill Rarity was holding for her. “But that’s the thing. You’re always right.”

And without saying another word, she hunched over the old magic diary, the book that connected Equestria and the human lands, the book she hadn’t opened in over ten years, and wrote three simple words with impeccable hoofwriting. Then, she closed it.

And she turned to Applejack.

“And,” she said, “I think I need things to be wrong for a while.”

Applejack opened her mouth, ready to reply, but the words never made it out. She was interrupted by the unmistakable sound of powerful magic happening somewhere else in the castle, and then a magical portal letting somepony pass through. The book shimmered and trembled.

Everypony stood in silence for about three seconds.

Then, they all rushed for the door.


It wasn’t easy, being young. And it only got worse with age.

Such were the thoughts of Sunset Shimmer as she made her way back to Canterlot High School. Twice she’d tried to land a place to sleep today, and twice she’d failed. It was getting harder and harder to abuse people’s hospitality lately.

And just as she thought about this, something in her backpack moved. A sudden jump, the sound of something shaking.

The journal, she realized. It hadn’t moved in ages, and now of all times…?

Inside, three simple words.

I need you.

This gave Sunset Shimmer pause.

Being an immortal was stressing. Being an immortal teenager was a nightmare. Especially when your friends didn’t let you stay at their place anymore and security guards punched you in the face. But still, she had left Equestria once, and she’d swore never to return.

Like it or not, this world, the human world, was where she belonged. You can’t stay so long in a place without forming a bond with it. Sure, she was going through a particularly rough patch, but Sunset still had some really good memories in the human lands. This world was home.

So, for a moment, she thought about closing the book and letting it be. But five words kept her from doing so.

You could have been great.

Any other day, she wouldn’t have minded it. But today, today in particular—she couldn’t help but think of her adult self, and how her house had been pretty great. Really comfy. Really different from sleeping under a bridge.

And, she thought, Twilight Sparkle was a princess in Equestria. Maybe her house would be great, too.

Twice she’d failed today. But some say third time’s a charm. She wrote two words right under Twilight’s impeccable hoofwriting and took off running.

I’m coming.


Picture the most important table in the world. It’s plain-looking, just a plank of wood with three legs, but it decides the ending of every story that ever existed. Because, like many things in this life, what matters is not the object itself. It’s the things that surround it.

Fate, on the right.

Time, on the left.

The game has truly started. Both opponents play their cards with the skill of an avid gambler—but through it all, Fate is smiling, because it thinks it’s got it. Sunset Shimmer has crossed the portal, even though Time has pushed her away from every friend she ever had. Even though Time has destroyed what little life she had.

She had crossed the portal. She’s going to fulfill her fate. And Fate couldn’t be happier.

Until it notices that there’s a grin on Time’s face.

Without any flourish, Time puts another card on the table, and the game changes wildly. Fate’s confidence vanishes. He’s not sure if he wants to keep playing, now.

But Time sure does.

It’s already won.


Twilight Sparkle rushed into the Mirror Room, friends hot on her tail, and paused as soon as she got to the door. There was somepony else in there already.

An old friend of hers. Bleeding all over the carpet.

“Gaaagh,” Sunset Shimmer croaked. “Ow. I hit my face. Why is it always the face.

Nopony replied.

Twilight could have said many things. She could have ran to Sunset Shimmer and hugged her, thanking her for appearing. She could have said something funny, something sentimental, something serious.

Instead, she said nothing.

Sunset Shimmer’s coat wasn’t as shiny as it once had been. Her hooves looked smaller, weaker. Her back was arched in a weird way. Her face looked like a prune stuck to an old shoe.

Because of the way Equestrian magic worked, Sunset Shimmer had been an eternal teenager in the human lands. It was probably something related to how dimensions mixed together; an impossible miracle made mundane.

Now that she was back in Equestria, that wasn’t the case anymore. And no mortal can stand the passage of Time unscratched.

Oh my gosh!” Dash yelled. “You’re like a hundred years old!