• Published 21st Mar 2017
  • 1,543 Views, 54 Comments

Little Truths - EbonQuill



No first-year student has ever been crowned the Autumn Liege at Celestia’s School for Gifted Unicorns. Lemon Hearts is going to change that, with a little help from Sunset Shimmer.

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Magic

“Do not fear your enemies.
Only a friend can betray you.”

- Poison Pen

The bare branches of the trees scratched at the cloudy sky, caught in a twisting autumn breeze. A timberwolf’s howl cut through the low-lying fog that curled up from its ponds, creating eerie shadows. Somewhere, a mournful dirge echoed from deep underground, like Tartarus itself yawned open nearby and all manner of dangerous creatures could be lurking nearby.

Nightmare Night was upon Celestia’s School for Gifted Unicorns.

The Lunar Meditation Garden had been renovated into a haunted labyrinth, and of course Lemon’s gaming group had wanted to explore it together. Lemon had agreed on the condition that they finish before sundown. Then she needed to change into her gown, do a final runthrough of her talent portion, and then there was the actual competition…

Minuette had silenced her with a hoof against her muzzle. “So go be Princess, then have fun with your friends!”

And she'd been shuffled off to the packed auditorium. She'd donned her gown, a gorgeous black sequined gown with bold white accents. Now, she was scouring the Masquerade Ball for ponies to review her body language cues with. She was the second of only three ponies to make it this far, so she had very little time to warm up for her cold reading routine.

She'd taken so well to her body language lessons for Psychology that Sunset had introduced her to the world of mentalism. Her eye for detail allowed her to see every little clue as to her target’s state of mind. Once she'd discovered how much she could learn by asking vague enough questions, she had become a mind reader. A demonstration with Green Fields where she'd identified that he had somepony at CSGU that he “really, really, really liked, and would happily share sundaes with,” had convinced her to do this for the school.

And she knew she was the lucky filly Green Fields would be sharing sundaes with, just like she knew she was going to be the first first-year Autumn Princess in CSGU’s history.

All thanks to Sunset Shimmer, the best friend anypony could ask for.

And there she was, alone near the punch, looking resplendent in her fuchsia gown. The ponies around her shied away, like they were afraid she'd bite them.

Can't handle power. Cowards.

She swallowed her distaste for the lesser ponies that she and Sunset towered above, and trotted up to her mentor.

“Hi, Sunset!”

Her face was summer fireworks. “Lemon! I thought you'd be backstage, getting ready!”

“Why, isn't Dream Cycle up first?” The pretty unicorn had a penchant for elegant illusions, and specialized in a form of shadow puppetry she’d learned from a zebra. She was going to be hard to top.

Sunset shook her head, displaying her glittering teal topaz again.

“Had to withdraw. Remember Ashen Aster’s poison joke potions from the beginning of the year? Dream Cycle gave him the idea. Inkwell discovered some notes they passed stuck in the back of that zebra alchemy text they swiped, and well, that was that.”

“Was she suspended?” Lemon gasped.

Sunset shrugged. “Slate hasn’t said yet, but she was barred from participation.” She smiled, and tousled Lemon’s mane. “It’s just you and me, now, Ms. Hearts. Now go wow ‘em.”

Lemon adjusted her coiffed mane, and smiled. “I will, thanks!”

As she turned to leave, Sunset stamped her hoof once on the marble floor. “Oh, I forgot! Green Fields was looking for you! He said he had something to tell you!”

Lemon did a little dance in her head, and made little fluttering sounds of joy. “Thanks!”

“Now get a move on, you goof! You’ve only got twenty minutes to get ready!”

Lemon raised an eyebrow, glanced at the nearby hourglass, and took off at a gallop.

The backstage was a claustrophobic tangle of stagehooves, make-up artists, costume and other behind-the-scenes showponies. They accosted Lemon the moment she walked behind the curtains with hushed anger.

“Where have you been?” One of them hissed. “You’re on in eighteen minutes!”

“Sorry!” Lemon said as they pulled her gown this way and that. “I got—” A particularly rough adjustment spun the gown around her waist a little, revealing a shoulder. “—Ow! I got caught up.”

“There. That’s perfect. Get Powder Puff,” a mare’s voice said.

“Now? But there’s too many—” a stallion protested.

“There’s no time! Fifteen minutes!”

“Fine, but it’s on you! I wash my hooves of it!”

“You always were small-minded. Get her! Everypony else, clear the area!”

Lemon peered into the dark, but couldn’t make out the two bickering ponies. They stalked off in different directions as a taffy-colored unicorn with a heather purple mane coiling into itself approached. She was wreathed in her own cyan magic, and looked absolutely bored.

“Y’ ready?” she asked, with a thick Brooklane accent.

Lemon nodded, a little afraid.

“Close y’r eyes. Dis might sting.”

Lights and pressure, bathed in blue magic. Powder Puff was everywhere.

And then nowhere. Her dress was now fitted and sewn, her makeup refreshed, and her mane pulled into a bun that sat high and tight on her head. In a flash of pale blue light, Powder Puff was gone.

Lemon was alone.

Until she felt somepony very close to her.

“Hey, sunshine.”

Lemon went stiff. She couldn't see him, but somewhere in the darkness stood Green Fields. “H-hey.”

A thin red light clicked on, revealing Green Fields. He stepped out from behind a curtain with a flashlight capped with a red piece of cellophane. “They sure keep it tight back here, don't they?”

“Y-yeah.”

Green Fields tutted, “What was that filly thinking? Here…” His jade magic enveloped her mane, and she shivered a little.

“Hey, Green?”

“Shh. Lemme concentrate.”

She felt her bun and braids unwind and trail down her neck. She felt his breath as he framed her face, and made adjustments to her mane. She felt her heart beating hard and heavy in her chest.

“Green Fields?”

His eyes danced across her mane, and down her muzzle as he brought her curls along her face. “Keep still. You don't want me to make a mess of your mane before your big moment, do you, sunshine?”

I kinda do….

She watched him work, and swallowed hard against her nerves. It took all of her focus to maintain a steady breathing rhythm.

He glanced back to his hiding place, and levitated out a headband made of large teal beads and a cluster of three pink flowers. He balanced it on top of her flowing curls, and tucked her ears within.

Oh, gosh…

He took a step back, and surveyed his work. A small grin played on his lips. “Well alright, sunshine, I think we got this.”

“Sixty seconds, Miss Hearts!” The testy mare’s voice called from the shadows.

“Oops! Sorry, took longer than I thought. But you look amazing, sunshine.”

It was now or never. She'd never be able to focus on her act if she didn't move this instant.

“Green, I— I r-really like spending time with you.” She felt her face flush hotly.

“Yeah, kid. You're a lot of fun, too!” He leaned forward and kissed her forehead, directly above her horn. “It’s like hanging out with the little sister I never had. Now go knock ‘em dead!”

She felt ice creep into her chest, and felt a cold wetness on her muzzle. She couldn't move.

Sister? Little sister? Little sister?

She racked her brain, struggling to find something, anything she could latch onto. But no, even that betrayed her. Moments that she'd assumed he was being a gentlecolt or playing coy now shone as Green Fields being a playful, encouraging older brother.

He loved her, but not like she loved him.

He looked back, a big grin on his face. He nodded encouragingly.

She tried to smile, tried to see through the watery haze in her eyes.

The curtains opened, and the gathered host of students and professors cheered her as a spotlight bathed her in its fierce light.

She didn't know what to do. What to say.

“H-hi, ev-everypony. My n-n-name’s…”

I should have known better. Who'd want me?

A sharp pressure at the base of her throat kept her from breathing without an audible catch. A burning in her eyes made it hard to see, the mass of ponies blurring into a sea of color.

“In a p-pony’s mind, there are m-many—” Her voice sounded small and insignificant.

She watched as the front row began to whisper in concerned tones.

“—m-many hiding places for se-se-secrets.”

“Speak up, please, Miss Hearts,” Dean Slate said from the first row. His cultured voice showed some strain. “There are those who can’t hear you. And we do so wish to, do we not?”

The auditorium cheered for her. Somewhere, a voice shouted, “Yeah, don’t be so sour, Lemon!”

Her eyes widened, as she shook with rage and betrayal.

There, in the front row, with a hoof around Sunset Shimmer, was Green Fields.

He still wore his goofy smile, like he hadn’t just destroyed her world.

Like he hadn’t just brought the name she’d moved across the country to escape screaming back home.

Sunset Shimmer kissed him on the cheek. He blushed a little, and his grin widened. Had she not learned how to read ponies, she would have missed it entirely.

He loved her like a sister, but he was in love with Sunset Shimmer.

She ripped off the headband he’d given her and threw it at him.

The tears she held back for so long, going all the way to that first awkward day, came pouring out as she ran.

From behind her came the voice of Dean Slate. “Sour Lemon, everypony. Hooves together.”

* * * *

She ran through the school, ripping away at her gown as it snagged on things or tripped her up. It was a ragged mess by the time she had run out of breath and ducked inside the nearest classroom. She dove in, almost tripped over some desks, and sat down at a lab table.

She tore off the rest of her dress, let Sour Lemon out, and dissolved into a weeping, sobbing mess.

How long have they been together? How could I not have seen it?

She shot bolt upright with a realization that crystallized every little moment.

How long has she been lying to me?

She heard hoofbeats outside, and held her breath. She didn’t want to see anypony. Not like this.

A familiar globe of the world caught her eye. Out of habit, she reached out with her magic and spun it. Its soft squeaking settled her nerves some.

Until the door opened, and she walked in.

Lemon tried to push away, to make herself smaller, to disappear, but no. She wasn’t her, after all.

“They’ve gone. They think you’ll be heading for your dorm. Or Minuette’s.”

Sunset Shimmer gently shut the door behind her, and strode into the room. Her hooves clacked off the hardwood floor like the ticking down of some terrible clock.

Lemon Hearts wished she could teleport. Make herself invisible. Anything.

“Stupid, I know. Anypony with a brain would know you come running here after every little setback so that Big Sister Sunset can make it all better.”

Lemon gasped like she’d been slapped.

Sunset sneered. “Pathetic.” Sunset cricked her neck, as if she was relaxing after carrying a yoke. “You have no idea how hard it was to keep this going as long as I have. Weeks. Months, even.”

“H-how long—”

“Oh, Lemon, dear, how rude of me!” She said, her voice thick with false humility. “I’ve forgotten the first rule of mentoring, ‘Always show your work!’”

Sunset grabbed a piece of chalk, two rolling chalkboards, and a seat in one fluid burst of teal magic. They almost danced as they swirled about her.

“Now, let’s see… I believe the first incident you were here for was the poison joke, right?”

A blur of chalk, and the faces of Ashen Aster and Mulberry Bush graced the chalkboard to Lemon’s left. On the right was an image of a magazine.

“They had a brilliant idea involving distilling alchemical reagent via plant biology. It would have been amazing to see, probably would have revolutionized an industry or two.”

She erased them in one swipe of her magic.

“However, I needed one more publication to be honestly considered for Best Young Mind In Canterlot. So they had to go.”

“Over a title? You ruined somepony’s life over a—”

Sunset silenced her with a look. It was cold, piercing, and held none of the warmth Lemon was used to. “Do be quiet, Lemon. We’ll be here all night if you keep interrupting.”

The chalkboards hummed with her magic again, and the face of Raspberry Tart replaced the unlucky alchemists’ on the left. On the other was a sketch of Dean Slate and the CSGU campus.

“Raspberry Tart, ah, she was fun. You should have listened to her more closely, Lemon. You may have learned something. She knew what the score was, and knew it would take someone who didn’t know me to take me on.”

The placid mask of Sunset’s face twisted into a sorrowful expression, like one would give a foal who’d just spilled their milk. “She put her faith in you, dear. Wasn’t that silly? And the first thing you do with her advice is run right to me with it! Asking me to take you on as an apprentice! Isn’t that sad?”

“So you and that dotty old bat Inkwell buy me some time to find her weak spot. Or didn’t you think it odd that I wanted to meet in the library, and why I sent that foal after you? Can you imagine how hard it was to keep her threatening me while you and that useless mare took your sweet time?”

She glanced at her hooves, and puffed on one. She shined it on the ruins of Lemon’s gown. She never broke eye contact.

Lemon’s brain was spinning.

I’ve been dancing to her tune this entire time? Everything I’ve done, every little— Wait!

Sunset laughed. It was harsher, more guttural than the laugh Lemon had heard so many times over the last few months. This one was without artifice or constraint. It was rich, full-throated, and left Sunset with little tears at the corner of her eyes.

It was an honest laugh.

And it left Lemon shaking.

“You’re thinking that you somehow earned your place beside me, which is adorable. You never had a choice, Lemon. From the moment you raised your hoof after brewing the poison joke antidote, you’ve been my puppet. My catspaw. Do you know what a catspaw is? Hm?”

The chalk buzzed in her magic again, revealing Lemon herself on the left and the Autumn Liege crown on the right.

“Thanks to my assistance, you shot past most of the competition for the crown, which meant I didn’t have to lift a hoof. Either they couldn’t hack it, or were so embarrassed at losing to a first-year—” She said it like the phrase was made of nettles. “—that they gave up on their own. The only rough spot was Dream Cycle and her foalish little puppet show.

“So a little forgery here, a little buttering up of Inkwell there, and lo and behold, new evidence regarding the poison joke prank comes to light.”

She flipped her mane over her horn, and smiled coldly. “If I’d had my way, you would have been the one to discover the notes, but I couldn’t pry you away from that stupid game you and your fillyfriends play all the time, even by getting Gaffer’s marefriend a scholarship to Manehattan Academy of Fine Arts. All that work…”

She sighed. “But oh, well! That’s the way the brownie burns, right? Still, you were going to be a challenge, no matter what I did. And you never socialized with Tart’s circle, so they couldn’t let you in on my little secret. So I hope you can appreciate how relieved I was when I caught you mooning over Green Fields.”

The icy chill grabbed Lemon’s heart again.

“So I suggested to him that you and he spend some time together, since you were new in town, had no real friends, and were so young and vulnerable. Of course, he ate it up, the big-hearted foal. And you fell right along with him. Getting him backstage tonight was almost academic. The rest is history.”

Lemon felt her eyes stinging with tears. In a voice one part frog and one part manticore, she growled, “Why?”

“‘Why?’” Sunset sneered. “Because I can. Because I have a destiny, and you were underhoof. That’s all.”

Lemon couldn’t stop herself from weeping. “H-how could you… after… I just…” The sobs tore from her, despite her attempts to bite them back. Sunset blurred as tears streamed hotly down her cheeks. “After— we— you just used me… you knew and you used him against me…”

“Yes, I did. That’s how the game is played.” Sunset smirked a little as she nestled the Autumn Princess crown in her mane. “I do have a consolation prize for you, though. You have potential, if you decide to grow up some. Here.”

Her horn glowed as she pulled an old book out of her saddlebag. “Father gave me this when I was a little younger than you. It’s required reading if you want to play the Great Game. Read it, and maybe you’ll be at least interesting the next time we meet.”

She set it down next to Lemon’s cerulean mane. Lemon could barely make out the words through her tears.

Little Truths, by Poison Pen.

“Or maybe you’ll throw it away, which would be a waste. Now, kneel before your Autumn Princess, Miss Hearts.”

Lemon collapsed into a maelstrom of sobs and tears.

A smile edged its way up Sunset’s face as she walked out of the room.

“Very good. Be sure to clean up when you leave, Lemon. The cleaning staff have enough problems without having to deal with your trash.

“Good night.”

And the door clicked softly shut behind her. It didn’t open again until morning.

The room was spotless.

Comments ( 48 )

Ah yes, a story so good people already know that it's going to be good before even reading it, ever.
And the people that are smart (or haters) therefore click the dislike button.
But the people who actually like you and follow you hit the Like button.
Oh conformity, we can never escape you.
*hits the 'Like' Button*
#Conformity Is Evil.
(The above is a joke, do not take too seriously, please)
That being said, I look forward to reading this... eventually.

8038982
Of all the comments I've ever received, this is surely one of them.

Real talk for a moment, I really can't figure out what you're trying to say with this.

8038995
Basically I'm saying that I have heard your name so often in association with other people (e.g. Novel-Idea) that I will automatically assume that it's good (like with any story) until proven otherwise.

Do you think you'll win the contest?

8039035
Hope springs eternal!

I'll admit, while I did indeed give the green light for this story... it still scares the hell out of me.

If you wanted to know why things went down the way they did in The Alchemy of Chemistry and Bards of the Badlands, this is it. Ever feel that Lemon Hearts seemed to be overreacting? Why Slate simply hated Sunset? What was the deal with Raspberry Tart? This is it.

I could have never written this story. The sheer amount of guile and manipulation Sunset shows in this... well, when I first read it, I think I used the term "psychological terror." I still don't think that's too far off the mark. Ebon is a master at spinning complex tales like this. In fact, he's the reason the plot of Alchemy ended up working as well as it did. He helped me put it all together. He actually had this idea several months ago, but I shot it down. But when FoME's Imposing Sovereign contest came up... it called to him. And, I finally relented (though in truth, he could have written it anyway). I had two conditions: I get first crack at it and I get to declare if it's canon or not to Wavelengths.

You know what's interesting? When you can recognize just how freaking good a story is even while being horrified of the events that occur within. That's what happened with this. This is simply masterful... and I was completely swept in despite the fact that I knew everything that was going to occur. Hell, I even know what happens sixteen years from this story. After all, Sunset does have a flashback to the end of this story in Bards. But I still couldn't stop reading until I finished.

Now you've gotten to see the rest of it. Kinda gives everything that Sunset's gone through a whole different texture, doesn't it? Even now, this story gives me the chills. This is what Sunset Shimmer is capable of. And what the Sunset Shimmer in Wavelengths is trying so very desperately to get away from. If she succeeds in that or not... well, you'll have to wait and see.

I hope you enjoyed it. Because it's a damn good story... even if I had to read Alchemy directly afterward to remind myself of who my Sunset was. In the end, we all have our demons we have to face. You just got a glimpse on just how powerful Sunset's demons really are.

That feeling when you see the Newly Posted queue on the front page with a sub-3 hour complete turnover rate and not a single story that's breached ten votes and just know something good is getting buried.

...I do feel Sunset was being a little tropey at the end, though. What I think would have made this story even better is if it was clearly demonstrated (to the audience, not Lemon) that at least one of these things she actually wasn't responsible for and was merely trying to take credit for as much as possible. Put the possibility in, but then let readers wonder exactly how much she really did. After all, villains who are evil because they can have no qualms with taking credit for others' crimes (and especially bad luck), just to bother the good guys.

8039644
Thanks! Glad you enjoyed it!

If you're interested, I'm planning a 'Director's Cut,' if you will, that expands on the surrounding events greatly.

Lemon is unlucky enough to be the central pawn in a chess game between Sunset and Dean Slate. Everything she says she did, she did. I can explain how. I can show each move, counter-move, and each gambit in its entirety.

I just thought that might get a little dark.

8039649 I'll keep an eye out for it. Darkness is no problem at all!

Ouch, that was painful. Not because it was a bad story, quite the opposite, but because you know these characters are about to be run over and have no idea. (Something like that, I'm not that good at analogies.) This reminds me of a line from the first EQ movie, something Applejack said about Sunset- she'll play nice, then stab you in the back. Yeah, this is a perfect example of that. Honestly its kind of painful to read about Sunset in this phase of her life, especially from somepony else's point of view. Who would ever expect somepony like that to change, especially without a friendship rainbow laser involved.

Curious to see the Director's Cut. This is Sunset at her most ambitious (and amoral), I wonder if we'll see her thought process. How someone like that could grow up under Princess Celestia's tutelage and turn out like that... then again Twilight missed many of those lessons too (and sometimes students just don't listen). And the chapter titles are quite deliberate too of course, though I wonder about Empathy.

8039917
Thanks for the kind words!

Who would ever expect somepony like that to change, especially without a friendship rainbow laser involved.

Believe it or not, this is in large part why this fic exists. During the planning/editing phase of Novel's Alchemy, we talked over and over about the emotional beating Sunset gets. I felt at the time that it didn't feel quite earned. Sunny gets this huge karmic bludgeoning, and we never get to see why she deserves it.

So I took the threads from Alchemy, and had an idea.

8039470

I get to declare if it's canon or not to Wavelengths.

Just double checking then, but this is fully canon, right? Neither your comment nor the story description make that 100% clear.

8039470
This was indeed a gripping tale. I could see the hammer poised over Lemon the whole time, and every chapter made me dread the drop more and more.

I iust have one question for you, Novel: Would Sunset have delivered that villain monologue at the end? I find it hard to believe she'd admit her involvement to anyone, even when they were at their lowest.

Aside from that, this really shows just why Lemon took so long to forgive Sunset. And honestly? I can't blame her. Thank you for this, Ebon, and best of luck in the judging.

8040407
Thank you for the prompt!

I find it hard to believe she'd admit her involvement to anyone, even when they were at their lowest.

If I can sidle in here, I can explain a bit. If you note the reaction of other students around her, she's not been hiding her methods regarding anything else. And, if we look at Moon Dancer's explanation for writing to Princess Celestia in Alchemy, theres a whole lot of students who've been on the receiving end of this kind of thing. Finally, taking EQG into account, she appears to stop hiding her involvement the moment she gets what she wants, since each of the huMane 5 know exactly what she's doing and how she works.

Sunset's a creature of ego, especially when her Angry Little Pony's less of a passenger and more in control.

At least, that's my take on it.

8040275 Fine. You caught me. I was still waffling. Yes. It happened. Little Truths is canon to Wavelengths on the condition that I never have to write this version of Sunset! :twilightoops:

...and Sunset will be paying the penance for her acts for a very long time. We've already seen Sunset trying to fix the wrongs she's done. Now I'll likely not go through everything. But the Sunset you come to know in Wavelengths is still fighting against this old Sunset... and that includes doing her best to repair the damage, as we've seen in Bards.

8040407

I just have one question for you, Novel: Would Sunset have delivered that villain monologue at the end? I find it hard to believe she'd admit her involvement to anyone, even when they were at their lowest.

I'd say yes. First of all, they're in private. If Lemon went forward with this information, it would be Lemon against her (and we all know who would win that battle).

Second, this Sunset is arrogant as hell. She truly believes she cannot be touched. Her ego and pride allow her to enjoy the fact she utterly crushed her enemy. She wants to make sure her enemy knows it.

Third, in a twisted way, I think Sunset is trying to help Lemon Hearts. Now before you yell foul, hear me out. Now that's she destroyed Lemon, Sunset wants to teach Lemon how the world really works--at least as far as this Sunset is concerned. This is simply what's done (why she believes that is something I will be exploring). In a way, this is her trying to teach her about reality. Her final lesson, if you would.

Finally, if Lemon Hearts actually does read the book and "learn" what Sunset wanted her to "learn," then Sunset's actions are validated. And we know people like Sunset usually have crippling insecurity and fear (though I'm not saying that she has that... it just fits the typical mentality)... so to have her foe end up walking her own path would be validating indeed. While this could put Lemon Hearts on the road to being a threat, Sunset's sure enough of herself to make sure that never happens again.

Please note that this is written while I'm half-asleep, so I'm hoping this is as logical as I think it is.

8040477 8041204
Makes sense to me, especially the aspect of twisted tutelage. Plus, we have seen that Sunset had a tendency to gloat even in the canon timeline...

Yeah, objection withdrawn.

8048395

Seabreeze

A lovely seafoam green unicorn whose special talent is in tidal manipulation. She's gonna work with pegasi to maintain the Equestrian coastline.

And not at all because I forgot breezies were a thing. :derpytongue2:

Oh.

Well.

Ouch.

~Skeeter The Lurker

Let's see, how do I want to put this...this is Sunset Shimmer at arguably her most anglerfish-y. In a dark world she casts a bright light that attracts others, putting on her bright and friendly persona who is all too happy to mentor a first year and help out and all other sorts of great things!

But it's all just a distraction from the big ol' mouth getting ready to eat you whole.

Very good work on this. For a moment I almost forgot that Sunset was inevitably going to stab poor Lemon Hearts in the back.

8053186
Thanks for the kind words! I'm glad you enjoyed it!

8048685
Yeah. The epigraph for "Magic" was supposed to be the warning.

Hope you enjoyed it!

8055953

I did. You've earned an applause and a giant middle finger from me.

~Skeeter The Lurker

8039470
Congratulations. You just made me both want to read this story and want to stay the buck away from it even more than I already did. Surely the coming weeks will be filled with hemming and hawing on whether or not I should take the plunge.

8066830
Hey, you can always read Alchemy after, it does wonders.

8066892
Im sensitive, alright? Alchemy already put my feelings through the wringer. You're basically saying "don't worry about hopping in the industrial washer, this here wringer will dry you right off afterwards." :derpytongue2:

(I know I can't stay away from this story forever. I will read it when I least expect it, I will love it, and I will lie awake for nights thinking about it and cursing us both for me having read it.)

So... how precisely did this lose to anyone, much less the actual winners?

As far as I'm concerned, this is the single best story to come out of the Imposing Sovereigns contest. And I say that as someone so new to Novel-Idea's universe that I thought it was one where Sunset Shimmer was nice.

8069052
Thanks for the kind words! The competition was really fierce!

There was a lot of really good stories submitted, and I freely admit mine has a couple pacing problems. Not being privy to the inner debates of the judges, I can only guess that this, coupled with the fact that it is a little reliant on someone else's world, may have cost it.

Still, I'm glad you liked seeing what she used to be, and I hope you read the rest of Wavelengths to see where she goes from here!

8069493 Please. The competition was laughable. Yours is the only one of the three winners that's entirely typo-free, the only one with a twist that both seems natural and seems surprising, and the only one that separates its 10k+ story into chapters for improved pacing. Being a bit overzealous with the time-skips is a very minor flaw, compared to the flaws of everything you supposedly lost to.

PresentPerfect
Author Interviewer

little sister

It would have been far more easier to accept Green Fields as the bad guy than this. D: You absolute monster.

I will admit a certain level of "that's it?" at the ending. It feels like there should be one more chapter here, to tell us what happened to Lemon afterward instead of just leaving her out to dry. I mean, she deserves better, but this also doesn't feel finished. :B

8082430

I mean, she deserves better, but this also doesn't feel finished.

This is meant to lead straight into Novel Idea’s excellent Alchemy of Chemistry, and Bards of the Badlands. This is just to set the stage, as it were.

... Also, the contest's deadline and word count limits...

However, I am planning a "director's cut," if you will, so there will be more expansion of events.

Thanks for giving it a chance!

PresentPerfect
Author Interviewer

8082621
Looking forward to it!

...Does...karma ever hit later on in the wavelengths story? Cause...this is...

Yeah. This is VICIOUS.

8102319
It sure does. The very next story, in fact. Check out The Alchemy of Chemistry for that!

Bloody hell that ending was vicious.

Now I have got to read the other stories to see how this ends...

Chapter 4:

sugarfloss

That...doesn't seem like it would make very effective floss...

More reading. More theory. When, in the sweet name of the Sun, do I get to the ‘Applications’ part?

I laughed.
Just a bit longer, Lemon. Lemmy? Lems? Hearts? Hearts.
Just a bit longer, Hearts, and a few more (text)books about alchemy and chemistry.

“Miss Tart!” Professor Inkwell said sharply, shattering the tableau. The malicious grin Raspberry Tart wore disappeared, replaced by wide-eyed terror. “You will not speak to other students in that way! The Dean shall hear of this! Threatening another student, I never!”

Woah, nice timing on this setup, Sunny. Or at least good for you for staying in character. "Malicious grin", tho? Maybe a righteous anger sort of expression, but a grin? Ras, are you really a good guy here?

Gosh, I’m so sorry,”

Gosh this and Gosh that. You guys and your PG curses. Use some real sentence enhancers every once in a while.

“Well, for what it’s worth, I’m sorry,” Lemon said. “I’ll bow out of the race tomorrow. I don’t deserve it. I was just a pawn in somepony’s sick revenge scheme.”

Oh. Yeah. Nice, I can see that. Good play. And you didn't even have to metaphorically kill her. Just Ras.

They still glistened with tears, but her smile’s warmth finally glowed behind her eyes. “If you don’t mind a little friendly competition, I’ll try to keep up. What do you say?”

Wha...But Sunny! You had won! You put up some resistance to Hearts' idea of bowing out, and she wanted to anyway! Stop being so convincing!
Unless this is just you wanting her to remain a target for your cruelty. In which case I'd be very disappointed in you.

Chapter 5: Honesty

Over the last few weeks since Raspberry Tart’s suspension, Lemon Hearts and Sunset Shimmer had been almost neck and neck. The dean’s office had to add additional decimals to the tracking boards to distinguish them, which amused her friends to no end.

I am still really confused about how the Autumn Liege is selected. I don't understand how a points based system could possibly add decimal points to a competition to decide it, and any form of popularity contest doesn't make sense for this either.

Green Fields

Oh look, a strong pony for Sunny to break over her knee to prove how awesome she is--I mean a strong force for justice in this crazy Unicorn-spell-Unicorn world. For Sunset to completely destroy.

Lemon had never had much trouble with them. The secret was to make yourself look strong, and, thanks to her tutelage by Sunset, she had that in spades.

Yeeeeees, teach her, Sunny. Teach her the ways of the Sunny side.

“Change of plans! You would not believe how much stuff they keep in those storage closets!”

Aaaaand I'm nervous. Sunset and storage closets at CSGU makes me nervous.

Alteration thoughtforms

What was that? Did I hear a hint about how the magic works in this world? An incredibly vague hint? Who'm I talking to? No one?.

“What do you think about Green Fields, Lemon?”
This jarred her enough that her harmonic rhythm became a telekinetic thrust. A coral structure of a merpony toppled over as Lemon barked a curse. She turned to see a small smile on Sunset's face.

Heh, I don't know what game you are playing here, Sunny, but to be fair, poking fun at someone for a crush doesn't ever need an ulterior motive. Not that it can't have one.

“No? Body language, Lemon. Remind me to add that to our Psychology sessions.”

TEACH HER! TEACH SOMEONE! Preferably Twi THE RULE OF TWO, SUNNY! MASTER AND APPRENTICE!
Don't ask me anything about Star Wars, tho. That's basically the only thing I know from the Extended Universe and I don't even like the movie universe.

Lemon Hearts began to glow, her yellow coat now a rich orange.

Definitely thought Lemon Hearts was literally glowing at this point, and had to reread the last few paragraphs of the story several times before I remembered (I think) that Green Fields was the History tutor pony. Was thinking that Sunny was finally making her play on Hearts.

Yeah, Hearts, be awesome! It'll make your inevitable fall all the more beautiful I mean satisfying I mean, powerful. Yeah. That one.

Seriously, tho, Sunny. If you were intentionally building her up just to knock her down farther for no reason other than cruelty or some twisted sense of satisfaction, I am going to be rather vexed with you.

Chapter 6: Loyalty

“A pony divided by duty has no legs to stand on.”

Heh, duty. AHEM. It would take at least three duties, or two cuts, to prevent a pony from having more than one leg. Unless we are talking horizontal cuts, in which case, I guess it would only take one cut, cuz the top half would be seriously out of luck. Although the bottom half would have none of the important bits...

Princess Platypus?

I'm now imagining Rarity dressed as a platypus.

Lemon sniffed dismissively as she swooped her reading mat around her shoulders like a cape. “It is beneath one such as I to comment on such matters before the coronation,” she purred in a thick parody of a Trottingham accent. “Now, your future princess demands ice cream. Fetcheth it here.”

Dawwwww. Your eventual metaphorical death is going to be so harsh.

Green Fields cantered to the door. “Sunset was right, you’re really fun to be around!”
Lemon coasted on that for a while.

Shit, I'd be riding that for at least a couple days.

Lemon tossed her mane over her shoulder, and shot Tart a chilly glare.
Tart sighed. “You even look like her now. Ah—” She stood, and lashed out with her hooves at the fashioned stone walls. “— damn it. Forget it, kid. Maybe someday you’ll figure it out. I’m gone.”

Yay! Mane toss!

And with Sunset Shimmer back on her haunches, staring horrified at the vandalism, it wasn’t hard to guess whose.

Ras...Did you do that? I wouldn't think you would, but that malicious grin makes me wonder. I certainly ain't saying she doesn't deserve a lot of shit, but is this the best way to get her back? The real question is, is this a bit by Sunny to throw Ras even further into the hole? I don't know. But I hope I know by the end of the next chapter.

Chapter 7: Magic
Alright. I'm ready for the horrifying bomb drop. Lay it on me!

“Do not fear your enemies. 
Only a friend can betray you.”

What's this? Someone is going to be betrayed by a friend? It's probably Sunny. I knew Hearts was trouble the moment she almost cried on her first day of class.

The bare branches of the trees scratched at the cloudy sky, caught in a twisting autumn breeze. A timberwolf’s howl cut through the low-lying fog that curled up from its ponds, creating eerie shadows. Somewhere, a mournful dirge echoed from deep underground, like Tartarus itself yawned open nearby and all manner of dangerous creatures could be lurking nearby.

Wow.

Nightmare Night was upon Celestia’s School for Gifted Unicorns.

Oh, that makes sense. I thought we were suddenly playing O&O for a second there.

She'd taken so well to her body language lessons for Psychology that Sunset had introduced her to the world of mentalism. Her eye for detail allowed her to see every little clue as to her target’s state of mind. Once she'd discovered how much she could learn by asking vague enough questions, she had become a mind reader. A demonstration with Green Fields where she'd identified that he had somepony at CSGU that he “really, really, really liked, and would happily share sundaes with,” had convinced her to do this for the school.

And she knew she was the lucky filly Green Fields would be sharing sundaes with, just like she knew she was going to be the first first-year Autumn Princess in CSGU’s history.

All thanks to Sunset Shimmer, the best friend anypony could ask for.

AHHHH! No! You can't suddenly become capable! Now I'll actually feel bad if you get metaphorically killed! You were just a puppy to kick before now!

Can't handle power. Cowards.

My god, Sunny, you've done it! It's beautiful. She could be an incredible ally. Also I didn't actually think that whole Sith Master/Apprentice thing was going to be quite this appropriate.

“Had to withdraw. Remember Ashen Aster’s poison joke potions from the beginning of the year? Dream Cycle gave him the idea. Inkwell discovered some notes they passed stuck in the back of that zebra alchemy text they swiped, and well, that was that.”

Wow, nice. No reason to set up another mess when you can just milk the last one a bit more.

His eyes danced across her mane, and down her muzzle as he brought her curls along her face. “Keep still. You don't want me to make a mess of your mane before your big moment, do you, sunshine?”

God, I'm so paranoid right now.

I kinda do….

Awwww Yea--Wait, no. Have to be serious.

“Oops! Sorry, took longer than I thought. But you look amazing, sunshine.”

AHHHHHH WHAT DID HE DO!?! LOOK IN A GORRAM MIRROR BEFORE YOU WALK OUT THERE! CHECK FOR MAGIC! THIS IS WHY I DETECT MAGIC LITERALLY EVERYTHING I OBTAIN IN D&D!
sigh
Not that I really think it's fair to expect you to do or even think of those things, given the circumstances, but yelling impotently into the uncaring void of the internet at stories already written and published restores a mild amount of my calm. Back to the comedy.

“It’s like hanging out with the little sister I never had. Now go knock ‘em dead!”

She felt ice creep into her chest, and felt a cold wetness on her muzzle. She couldn't move.

Oh. Well. I see.
Turns out he was deadgay the whole time!
Or
Turns out the mare he wanted to share sundaes with was actually Raspberry Tart! And this whole thing was a giant ploy to tear apart Sunny by going after the ponies she cares about. Sunny is the victim, she hooks up with Hearts and everypony (that I like) goes home happy.
Right?

The auditorium cheered for her. Somewhere, a voice shouted, “Yeah, don’t be so sour, Lemon!”

FINISH HER!

Sunset Shimmer kissed him on the cheek.

FATALITY

From behind her came the voice of Dean Slate. “Sour Lemon, everypony. Hooves together.”

Okay, what the hell is wrong with you? Obviously Hearts is having some serious trouble. Maybe you didn't know that nickname meant so much, but your job is to support your students, not kick them while they're down.

Sunset grabbed a piece of chalk, two rolling chalkboards, and a seat in one fluid burst of teal magic. They almost danced as they swirled about her.

“Now, let’s see… I believe the first incident you were here for was the poison joke, right?”

Wait, Sunny, you won. Don't tell anyone how you did it. You have to wait for the statute of limitations to run out before you publish your book about how awesome you are.

“However, I needed one more publication to be honestly considered for Best Young Mind In Canterlot. So they had to go.”

SUNNY! STOP IT! DON'T CONFESS TO THAT!

She glanced at her hooves, and puffed on one. She shined it on the ruins of Lemon’s gown. She never broke eye contact.

Excellent touch, and the Raspberry thing was fine, nothing criminal, but YOU SHOULDN'T HAVE CONFESSED TO THE FIRST THING! Dammit, Sunny, keep your gloating in check! You know you're awesome and everyone else fears you already!

Thanks to my assistance, you shot past most of the competition for the crown, which meant I didn’t have to lift a hoof. Either they couldn’t hack it, or were so embarrassed at losing to a first-year—” She said it like the phrase was made of nettles. “—that they gave up on their own.

Okay that kind of justifies keeping her in. I guess I could see it.

“So a little forgery here, a little buttering up of Inkwell there, and lo and behold, new evidence regarding the poison joke prank comes to light.”

SUNNY! You keep BACKSLIDING INTO BAD TERRITORY!

“‘Why?’” Sunset sneered. “Because I can. Because I have a destiny, and you were underhoof. That’s all.”

I'm really conflicted here, Sunset. On one hand, you're a badass in a lot of ways, but...you pulled some shit, Sunny.

Congrats, Ebon, you finally made me feel for the normal loser ponies that the big bad always tramples on their way to godhood. In all honesty, I probably wouldn't feel bad about it if she had actually attained near-godhood. Knowing that she falls right after this makes all of this pain seem pointless. Feels like a lesson, right there. All the sacrifices and pain feel like they're worth it when the goal is in sight, or when you have crested the mountain and look back. But when you fall and look back to see the shit you did in pursuit of a goal you didn't attain, you don't have the satisfaction of victory or drive to succeed to drown out the empathetic pain. The ends didn't justify the means.

...

Bleh. What are these things, Ebon? These...unironic feelings. Yuck. Get them off me.

“Yes, I did. That’s how the game is played.”

And there is a pun in here somewhere about "when life gives you Lemon, make lemonade." Something about aiding Lemon or maybe raising her, picking her, cutting out her Heart, wringing her out, throwing her away, and enjoying the sweet sweet taste of a job well done. Something, something, easiest way to take someone down is often through the Heart? Hmmm. Heart of the matter? There is a lot of area for puns with Lemon's name, I just need to find the right one.

“I do have a consolation prize for you, though. You have potential, if you decide to grow up some. Here.”

Her horn glowed as she pulled an old book out of her saddlebag.

Ayyy! The book! Poison Pen!

Holy shit those last 10 paragraphs made me smile so wide. I'm glad I got all those feelings out of the way.

Aaaaand now I'm thinking about it again. Dammit.

This was...This was a very good story. Far, far from my normal fare, but damn good. Made me think in ways I rarely do. 9/10 but with bonus points for having Sunny be the villain and having her win, even if we know it is short-lived. Also for making me feel, but I don't know if I want to be encouraging that.

Full review here, but in brief: a very good tale of an alternative Sunset. I haven't read any other Wavelengths stories, which may be why Lemon Hearts' background felt a bit too shadowy, but one moment in this absolutely floored me. (Not the ending!) That's actually what gained it a fave.

Oh boy the rage, this should really be the first story anyone who goes into Wavelenghts reads as otherwise they know the deal and its less powerful and probably more torture to come to the ending. :fluttershbad:

I've only read part of the Wavelengths stories, but after reading this one? Not only am I surprised that Lemon Hearts forgave Sunset so quickly- or at all- but it's pretty much convinced me that Sunset, Slate, and Celestia are ALL monsters, even if they aren't all the same level of monstrosity. There comes a point where so much damage has been done that an entire lifetime of trying to fix mistakes still isn't enough payback for redemption.

It is, however, a fictional world which is obviously kinder and gentler than our own. In the real world, the Origins arc either never would've gotten started or else it would have ended with a homicide.

Alright... the following contains spoilers, so you should probably read the story first. It's a well-written, fascinating character study.












And it's possible you'll hate everyone in it. Now, this would be a fine prequel to a Kill Bill-esque revenge romp where Lemon Hearts goes nuts and just straight up murders Sunset Shimmer... and possibly Dean Slate as a warm up. Hell, she even has a coat that matches up. Unfortunately, this is a prequel to a story in which the villain here becomes the protagonist there who is seeking to redeem herself from... basically this story. From the point of view of that tale... this certainly sheds some light on just why Sunset Shimmer feels the intense guilt that she does... once she manages to pull her head out of her...

...Ah, rated T. Out of her ass. I suppose there's not much more to say about her, though. She manipulates everything flawlessly and no one who can do anything about it will because she's Celestia's student. We can assume Celestia doesn't know the full extent or that she just doesn't care enough to step in, ymmv and I'm not in the habit of bagging on Tia (not her fault the show can't handle what they created with her). Sunset's so confident, in fact, that she goes full villain monologue at the end. ...That honestly bugged me. Because that would be the point where some kind of actual resolution would take place with a normal story tempo. Either Lemon would find some courage and actual stand up to her, or someone would overhear, or something... but this is a prequel. None of that would happen... and so it fell flat. We sort of need it, though. Without it we're in the same 'what just happened' mode that Lemon is.
And speaking of... that's it for her, too. We don't see any comfort for Lemon, or any vindication for the idea that this isn't how to be. In the end we're left with a story that just builds a protagonist to tear her to shreds. And the shredder? Yeah, that's who we're supposed to root for in the next installment. ...Wat? And where's Lemon in that story? Scarcely a footnote... and one where she gets basically nothing. Ah well. We can't all be Sunset Shimmer. Some of us just fade out, and no one cares. There's your moral, enjoy! To really drive the point home that Lemon is garbage and we should all just let her go... even Dean Slate couldn't properly remember her name. Cue the deleted scene where Sunset informed him Lemon preferred that nickname. Practically any action she'd have taken there would have had consequences, because she's just completely outclassed by Sunset. And she always will be.

It's one thing to have Sunset get away basically scot-free when you don't know the details of just how vile she was. And before you point out Alchemy, I'll point out that that was just a scare. Nothing actually happened to her other than nearly getting framed. She got a wake up call that effectively cost her nothing. Now, it was an effective wake up call, in that she feels real guilt, and right now I don't care about that in the slightest. Because that's not this story. In this story... she just plain wins. Lemon does nothing; everypony does nothing. The villain wins, the hero never had a chance, the end. It's like a high school AU of a cosmic horror.

...And I deserved to read it. In the past, I've taken authors to task for going too soft on the 'poor Sunset' angle. They'll write everything to make it 'not her fault' and 'she did nothing wrong' and blah blah bullshit. She did. Canonically, she most certainly did. Treason and grand theft are pretty damn bad, but hell let's set those aside. Set aside everything demon Sunny did, because you can argue she wasn't in control. But by all accounts, before any of that, she was a bully for years. Much like here, she did it through social clout and manipulation. If you forget those things, you aren't really forgiving her so much as pretending they didn't happen. Seeing her for what she really is, and really was, is far more difficult. Forgiveness... real forgiveness, is far more difficult. It's so difficult that this amazing work had to sacrifice Lemon Hearts and Green Fields on an altar to the muse just to reach a proper level. Real forgiveness requires real understanding of the events. I have that now, for this story going forward.

...Now just give me a few days to process it. Have an upvote... this one doesn't go on a shelf because speaking bluntly, once was enough. But once was very worthwhile, and I'm glad I got around to reading this. As a sidenote, I have to assume that Poison Pen only knows about that 'friend betrayal' thing secondhand.

9013537
Thanks for the read!

8954126
I would actually get a laugh out of Lemon going on a Kill Bill rampage and offing Sunset and a bunch of other ponies, promptly screwing up Celestia's plans for dealing with Nightmare Moon, Discord, or any number of other villains. And then when our clueless, psychopathic, or incompetent (pick one) Sun Princess asks "WHY??!!" as Equestria falls to the villain, Lemon's explanation shows her what she had overlooked can come back to bite her.

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