• Published 30th Aug 2017
  • 5,410 Views, 42 Comments

A new path forward - chris the cynic



In the aftermath of (Dainn's version of) the Anon-a-miss incident, Sunset Shimmer forges her way without the five girls who were supposed to look after her.

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A day in the aftermath

“Breakfast is getting cold, wake up!”

Sunset groaned and rolled until her legs fell off the bed. Once she was laying belly down and had her feet on the floor, she pushed herself upright, then she stumbled out of the room.

“It was supposed to be one night,” she said as she made her way to the kitchen. She kept her left hand on the wall for balance and support. “You let me stay here one night, the guilty are punished the next day, I go home.”

“That was before I saw what you looked like,” Luna said.

Sunset collapsed into the chair across the table from Luna. “Nothing you can see is even bothering me right now.”

Sunset didn't even look at what was on the plate in front of her, she closed her eyes, planted her elbows on the table, and held her head in her hands. The world was suffering.

“Ok, so I probably should have guessed that you had a concussion when you told me thirty people beat you up,” Luna said. “I honestly didn't think of it.”

“When do I start sleeping again?”

Actually Sunset was sleeping a lot. Several times a night and sometimes a time or two during the day. The problem was that she wasn't sleeping well or long.

Sunset heard Luna sigh.

“Brain injuries are extremely hard to predict,” Luna said. “We've had students bounce back in three days--”

“It's been more than three days.”

“--and others took months.”

Sunset gave a flat, “Yay.”

“I haven't done any kind of study of the matter using the student body as test subjects,” Luna said, “but recovery times have definitely gone down, in aggregate, since doctors started recommending 'brain rest'.”

“Brain rest being the thing that means I can't look at anything with screens,” Sunset said. “Have I mentioned that computers and TV rank highly among the things that make the lack of magic in this world bearable?”

“Several times,” Luna said. “This is the seventeenth time you've mentioned TV, alone or in combination, and the twenty-third time you've mentioned computers, under the same conditions.”

Sunset opened her eyes. She was still resting her head in her hands, so her view was straight down at her plate of breakfast. Fake bacon and eggs. The bacon-like thing gave her a distraction and she took it. She might have mentioned computers twenty-three times, but she'd never told Luna about pig farming.

“In Equestria no one would even think of eating pigs. We use them to till the soil; it's why they're usually found on farms.”

“I'm not sure if anyone does that here,” Luna said, “but I do know that people rent out sheep and goats to be organic lawn mowers.”

“Yeah, caprinae are good at that. Not just grass either,” Sunset said. “Take an overgrown field, put a fence around it, drop off some sheep or goats, and pretty soon the brush will be cleared away. Then you bring in the pigs. Once they've done their part, you've got land that's ready to farm.”

“You know a lot about farming?”

“No, I just know a little about a lot.

“Even though I was studying magic, my teacher made sure my general education was very broad,” Sunset said. She smiled looking back on it. She finally took her head out of her hands and looked up at Luna. “I resented her for that. I was only interested in magic, because I only wanted to become more powerful. My physical strength was average at best, so magic was the path to power. Everything else was a distraction.

“Now . . . almost everything I know about my motherland comes from her insisting that I know at least a little bit about everything.”

“Not from living there?”

“Before I met her I knew some of the streets of one city, I knew how people ignored you when you weren't wanted, I knew fear and hunger and loneliness. After she took me in I knew the inside of one castle. She tried to get me to make friends, but I didn't think that was even a real thing.”

“You didn't think friendship was real?”

“My whole life had been defined by the strong doing whatever they wanted to the weak. People who operated in groups were stronger than they had been as individuals. I thought 'friendship' the name people gave to such alliances when the members didn't want to admit that they were so weak they needed a gang to support them.”

“That's terrible.”

Sunset nodded. “I was pretty terrible.”

“I wasn't talking about you,” Luna said. “I was talking about the situation that could lead to a child believing such a thing.”

Sunset shrugged. She didn't see herself as a victim of her circumstances. Others had faced the same and not become monsters. Besides, it was just how things worked.

“It's like that in this world too,” Sunset said.

“It's terrible here too,” Luna said.

There was a silence that Sunset used to finally start eating.

“Do you know why we let new students into the school with no questions asked and no paperwork?”

Sunset shook her head. She hadn't even known they did that until Twilight showed up and was treated as an ordinary student in spite of obviously not belonging. If she'd known the school acted that way at the start, she could have saved herself a lot of trouble by not forging the necessary documents to enroll officially.

“Free lunches,” Luna said.

That threw Sunset a bit and she just looked at Luna, unsure of what to say. Plus she was chewing.

“As long as they aren't harming our students,” Luna said, “anyone who is the right age can walk through our doors, stay where it's warm and dry, and get one absolutely free meal every school day.”

Sunset had food in her mouth again, but she also had something to say, so she swallowed in a hurry. That proved a mistake as it hurt a bit, but at least she could speak.

“That sounds monumentally unwise,” Sunset said.

“The school-board would have our heads if they knew,” Luna said, “but I think the secret's safe with you.”

Sunset was pretty sure Luna wasn't doing it on purpose, and that somehow made the fact Luna just admitted to trusting Sunset with a secret without hesitation feel even better. There was a twinge of sadness about others who had been quick to think no secret was safe with her, but mostly there was satisfaction that at least someone trusted her.

Of course none of that had to do with the topic of the administration of a school choosing to allow random kids who weren't actually students to come in and roam free. On that topic Sunset said:

“Even so, how can you be sure it won't explode in your face?”

“We don't know it won't,” Luna said. “So far, though, the problems we've faced with the student body have been from students who are actually legally enrolled.”

Sunset nodded, “The Dazzlings and I forged the paperwork needed to make our enrollments legit.”

“True,” Luna said, “but I wasn't thinking about magic.”

“For the first three years and change I didn't use magic,” Sunset said.

“I'm not going to lie and pretend you weren't that bad,” Luna said, “and a lot of people would disagree with how Celestia and I feel now, but I think you were worth it.

“I wish we'd been able to do something about you, but you were too good at keeping anything from pointing at you directly. You only acted in person around people who would never give us your name, and what you did electronically always pointed to someone else.”

“Thank so much for that trip down memory lane.”

“Your deadpan snarking needs work, maybe we can get you in a remedial class,” Luna said.

It made Sunset smile even though she didn't want to reward such a corny line.

“There was, however, going to be a 'but',” Luna said.

“You're a butt!”

Luna laughed. “I'm sorry we can't watch that movie together right now.” Luna glanced at something, “And for that matter I can't be here for much longer right now.”

“That why you woke me up today?” Sunset asked.

“I wanted to make sure you ate,” Luna said, “but before I go let me finish that thought.

“We might not have been able to act against you –because for any given thing we usually had about a dozen suspects and we knew that they weren't all guilty– but that didn't mean we couldn't do anything. We worked to help your victims. Yes, that includes the ones who could have told us who you were but flat out refused.

“I think you did a lot less lasting harm than you believe.”

“That's mildly comforting,” Sunset said.

“I have to go now, the school-board called an emergency meeting.”

“You're still refusing to deal with the parents?” Sunset asked.

“Celestia and I have office hours. If someone wants to yell at us about how babysitting duty is too harsh of a punishment for attempted murder, they can wait until we're in the office.”

“Aren't you technically on call--” over winter break, Sunset had been planning on saying.

“If they care so much then they should be willing to show up on a school day,” Luna said. Then she switched to serious mode and said, “Now I really have to go.”


Sunset's boredom was interrupted by her magical journal glowing and vibrating. That meant inter-dimensional text messaging. Inter-dimensional text messaging that included no screens.

Sunset took a look.

I'm going to make the amulets, the message from Twilight said.

That was very good news. The sirens might have tried to take over the world, they might be unrepentant, and they might be parasites that could only survive on the suffering of others, but they didn't deserve to die a slow painful death via magical starvation.

Sunset hadn't actually promised to get them the magical amulets they'd need to sustain themselves, she'd only said she'd talk to Twilight, but she had never planned on leaving it at merely trying. It was a huge weight off of her to know she wouldn't have to think up a way to convince Twilight to help.

Thus, this was very good news.

It took Sunset a while to actually respond –damned concussion– but she finally wrote, That's good, back at Twilight.

You didn't write me anything while I was thinking it over, Twilight wrote. Are you ok?

I have a concussion, Sunset wrote, it's hard to think sometimes.

Cue freakout in three, two, one . . .

A concussion‽ You said you were just scratched up!

Of course Twilight would write out an interobang. If Sunset wanted to keep up she'd have to break out the asterism. That was for later, though.

At the time the symptoms hadn't set in, Sunset wrote. They operate on a delay for some reason.

That's because Never mind. You should have told me when you found out, Twilight wrote.

Why? Sunset asked. It's not like I got injured again, and I'm healing now.

Because That's not I strongly disagree with your decision not to tell me, Twilight wrote, but right now just get some rest.

I will, Sunset wrote.

Goodbye for now, Twilight wrote.

Sunset marked the end of the conversation with an asterism.

Sunset didn't open her eyes when she heard the door open, or when she heard it close again. In fact she pushed herself deeper into the couch.

She did ask, “How was the school-board?” though.

“As expected,” Luna said. “A few of them are up in arms about how we're handling the situation, but they're not going to act against Celestia and me because they they really don't want to draw attention to the fact that so many of our students were involved in such a serious crime.”

“But this could be a teachable moment,” Sunset said, further burying herself in they couch. “Never has there been a more perfect reason to make students sit through assemblies about the negative impact of crowd psychology, scapegoating, extrajudicial punishment by an informal groups, escalation of commitment, and the desire for quick action over accurate information.

“You could do a whole series. Every day a new sensitivity slash 'don't commit murder' assembly.”

“Are you finished?” Luna asked.

“Maybe,” Sunset said. “I'm not really sure.”

“Is there some reason you prefer pushing the cushions out of place then lying between them and the rest of the couch to actually lying on top of the couch cushions?” Luna asked.

Sunset wasn't sure, her head seemed to feel better when she actively pressed it against the couch, but that that pushed her into the couch, and pushed the cushions out of place, was a side effect, right? Or was it part of why her head felt better?

This would require some serious thought.


Sunset woke up and it was very dark. She wasn't sleepy. She was weary. She was tired. But she wasn't sleepy. She wanted to growl at the gods of all things neurological . . . and possibly wage a medium sized war on them. She could try to rest but not sleep, but that would leave her painfully bored.

She couldn't watch a movie because she'd had her two hours of screen time for the day and, as much as she hated the whole brain rest thing, she had to admit that it worked. Things did get worse when she used things with screens and better when she stayed away.

She couldn't read a book because the LED lights in the house were too bright and the only other lights were CFLs Luna hadn't gotten around to replacing yet. Florescent lighting was as bad as screens.

She tried to think of something else to do, but found herself with few options. If she wanted to heal quickly --and she desperately wanted that because every waking moment involved suffering, and the best she could hope for was distraction, not relief-- there wasn't much she could do after dusk's twilight faded.

She got out of bed and hoped that Luna was still awake.


She found Luna just outside the back door, in the snow, looking through a telescope.

“Are you the goddess of the night here too?” Sunset asked.

Luna jolted a bit in response to to Sunset's voice so Sunset said:

“Sorry.”

“There is nothing to be sorry for,” Luna said. “I'm just not used to having company.”

“Looking at something interesting?”

“The Andromeda Galaxy,” Luna said. “Despite how far away it is, it would look six times larger than the moon in a world where the sky was actually dark enough to see the whole thing. As is we can only see the core with the naked eye, and that just looks like a fuzzy star.

“Since the moon isn't out right now, the sky's a bit darker. Unfortunately there's nowhere you can go that's free from human light pollution. Not unless you take a boat far enough into the ocean to have the horizon block out light from the continent.”

Sunset thought about that for a bit.

“The light pollution thing doesn't surprise me,” she said; “after all of the time I've spent here, the universe still surprises me.”

Luna was definitely confused when she asked, “What about the universe surprises you?”

“Everything,” Sunset said. “That it exists.”

And Luna's confusion obviously wasn't cleared up based on the way she repeated, “That it exists?”

Sunset was going to explain, and then realized it wouldn't make sense. She thought up another way to explain it and got as far as opening her mouth before stopping, deciding that wasn't going to make sense either, and dismissing it with a, “No.”

She ran through a few more possible approaches in her head before reaching the conclusion, “I'm going to have to explain Equestrian cosmology from scratch for anything from there to make sense to you.”

“Ok,” Luna said in a way that Sunset recognized as inviting her to say more.

“This could take a while.”

“I'm not busy,” Luna said.

“Equestria is . . .” Sunset realized she had to stop right there. “Ok, the planet, if you want to call it that, doesn't have a name. The ponies of Equestria call the whole world Equestria because the ponies of Equestria think everything is about them. They use the term 'everypony' to mean 'everyone' or 'everybody' without ever considering that the language is exclusionary to zebras, donkeys, dragons, griffins, changelings . . . and everyone else who isn't a pony.

“But, I was talking about the universe, not social things.

“The nameless world that Equestria is a part of can be represented quite well as the surface of a sphere and you will find globes there, but for our purposes tonight it's actually easier to think of it as flat.”

“A flat surface in spherically curved space?” Luna asked.

“It's significantly more complicated than that,” Sunset said. “The complications aren't what matter when discussing the goings on in space though. What matters is that if you shine a light on the outside of a sphere the light can only directly hit half of it at time.” Sunset held out her right hand in a fist. “If the sun is shining on this part,” she covered the left half of her fist with her left hand, “it necessarily follows that it can't be shining on this part,” she covered the other half of her fist.

“It doesn't work like that on the other side of the mirror. So it's easier to think of the world as the top of a flat surface, say my palm.” Sunset said while opening her right hand and flipping it to palm up.

"When the sun is above the surface plane,” Sunset used her left hand to illustrate the sun, “it shines on the whole world, or my whole palm as the case may be.” She moved her left hand below her right, “when it's below the plane it shines on none of it –just the back of my hand, which we don't care about at the moment.”

“So your point is that if the sun is up it's up for the whole world and if it's down it's down for the whole world?” Luna asked.

Sunset nodded. “The sun, the moon, the stars, meteors, whatever,” she said. “The entire world sees the same sky.

“And when I talked about the sun being in different places, that wasn't some sort of metaphor. The sun and moon do move around the world there,” Sunset said. “They bring day and night respectively. Unlike here the moon is never up in the daytime.” As soon as she said it Sunset realized it wasn't true. “Well, one time it was. That was after I left Equestria so I didn't see it for myself but apparently about half of the sky was night, about half of the sky was day, and the thin area between the two 'about half's was twilight.”

“So the day runs on magic,” Luna said, “like half of the other things in that world.”

“Right,” Sunset said. “Anyway, it's very much not just the sun and moon that revolve around the world. Everything is centered on the world.

“We have a lot of the same terms, but they don't mean the same things. Stars are not other suns. The galaxy isn't a huge thing that makes the world seem tiny in comparison, the word 'universe' is pretty much interchangeable with 'galaxy', and while planet refers both to the world and to the things in the sky that sometimes have moons orbiting them, the two things aren't even close to alike.

“The sun and the moon go around the world for a value of around that doesn't work if you're thinking of the world as a sphere, farther away is a partial shell that contains the stars and planets. They really are as about as small as they appear in comparison to the sun and moon because they aren't much farther from the world than the sun and the moon themselves.

“The sun and moon there are of equal size and at an equal distance from the world, by the way.”

“That's all very different,” Luna said, “though it doesn't explain why you said the existence of the universe surprises you.”

“There's the world, there's the sun and moon, there's a shell of stars and planets, and that's all there is. The universe just stops. That's the galaxy, one world with a shell of stars around it. That's everything.

“The idea that there could be other suns –other worlds, not tiny ones but ones comparable to the world people live on, around some of them– and not just one or two but an entire galaxy of them, is mind blowing. That there's more than one galaxy here, that space seems to go on forever and be filled with stuff, that there could be other people on worlds beyond this one, it's just so . . . amazing.”

“You should have told me you were interested in astronomy,” Luna said. “I have so much I can show you.”

“Until this fall I wouldn't have cared,” Sunset said. “It was a distraction. I didn't have time for wonder, I wanted power.”

“But you care now,” Luna said, clearly doing her best at being encouraging and even succeeding a bit. “Until you're back on computers we'll want to stick to books, but there are some incredible books out there with photographs that you wouldn't believe.

“Obviously the view through my telescope can't compare to the pictures professionals take, and it's also the case that those photographs are often enhanced by converting infrared or ultraviolet details into colors we can actually see, but I've always felt there was something special about seeing with my own eyes,” Luna said.

There was silence for a few moments.

“Wanna look?” Luna asked.

Sunset was vaguely aware that 'wanna' was the most informal thing she'd ever heard from Luna, but she was more interested in actually seeing a galaxy.

When she looked through the telescope the view was truly amazing.

Author's Note:

I never really expected that the fact my sister was a pig farmer (and likely will be again, it's a long story) would help me write fanfic, but then I had to decide what Sunset saw when she opened her eyes with her head still held in her hands. Bacon and eggs seemed like a decent idea, of course ponies are vegetarians. Vegetarians who still farm pigs.

Sheep and goats will blast through basically anything smaller than an adult tree (fresh trees are absolutely doomed if faced with them) but they wont get your soil tilled for you. Pigs will get that done.

This assumes that when Sunset was Princess Celestia's personal student, Celestia made her learn about things other than magic in addition to her magic education.

Concussions are strange and terrible things that I recommend never getting. Ever. I've had two and I'm pretty sure that was at least three too many.

Sunset is with Luna because that's where she was at the end of Dainn's story, though (as noted by Sunset) it was only supposed to last one night. I just have trouble seeing Celestia or Luna being comfortable having a girl who was just beaten by around thirty people left to live alone.

Sunset has naturally been to a doctor who told her relevant things about concussions, but the doctor isn't at the breakfast table for her to complain in the general direction of.

With the exception of things like the horizon, which wouldn't exist on a flat earth (you'd be able to see until something higher than you blocked your view, no matter how far away that thing was), Equestrian cosmology works a lot better if the world is flat. Especially things like throwing it into eternal night. Unfortunately for that explanation, they use globes.

I originally had the idea of Sunset and Luna bonding by geeking out over the astronomy of the different worlds for a very different story in which Sunset would be Princess Luna's guide to human-world astronomy.

As mentioned everywhere, the entire point of this story is to look at how things might play out in the aftermath of Dainn's story given that Sunset has severed ties with the human element bearers.

The Friendship Games were cancelled (presumably a Canterlot forfeit) but because human-Twilight became sure of the strangeness of Canterlot High as a result of Rainbow Rocks she's already on the case regardless.

As a random bit of trivia, the words "alicorn" and "amulet" both have different meanings in MLP. I was going to go with "pendant" instead of "amulet" until I remembered the Alicorn Amulet.

Speaking of friends, I’ve got five of them. Would you like me to name them for you?

[. . .]

Twilight, Principal Celestia, Vice Principal Luna, Snips, and Snails. The rest of you are just people who happen to go to the same school as me. Nothing more and nothing less.

-- Sunset Shimmer, Anon-a-Miss (by Dainn), Chapter 13

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