• Published 17th Feb 2018
  • 2,211 Views, 63 Comments

Compatī - Corejo



Sunset Shimmer lived a perfect life. Nightmare Moon destroyed it. When Luna seeks reconciliation years later, past demons resurface to threaten all that Sunset holds dear. Though she is willing, the question remains: is there a limit to forgiveness?

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II - Arcanonaturamancology

Seven years ago

Arcanonaturamancology.

The study of magic and its magio-chemical interactions with the physical world, taught only at Celestia’s School for Gifted Unicorns.

Also known as 'what?’ by freshman, and as ‘Bend-over-ology’ by those that flunked out. Coincidentally, it inspired the name of a particularly sadistic mixed drink at a local bar.

Of course, Sunset Shimmer was a good pony and didn't partake in underage drinking or any other sorts of activities that would detract from her studies. She, unlike many, found her high in discovering the secrets of the world, the intricacies that made up life’s doldrums.

Sunset Shimmer loved Arcanonaturamancology.

She loved the massive chalk diagrams filling the three-stack chalkboard at the front of class, the smell of The Nature of the Arcane open on her desk, the excited bounce of Professor Wizened Reed’s voice as he lectured.

“And as the levitation spell is applied to the object—” he wrapped the 1kg weight in his magic, giving it a smile as he dipped his nose low “—we can look at the scale and see that the needle actually ticks up just a bit—to 1.1 kilograms.”

The needle danced on the 1.1 marker, and all the students leaned forward for a closer look, Sunset Shimmer included.

“Now,” Professor Wizened Reed continued. “Does anypony know why that is?”

The class was silent.

A dozen thoughts whirled through Sunset’s head. Was it some sort of manipulation of gravity? A change in the density of the object that somehow messed with the scale?

“Is it something to do with gravity?” Coppertone, Sunset’s best friend, said from the row ahead.

Professor Wizened Reed shook his head. “In a particular sense, yes, but not quite.”

“Are you pushing down on the weight just to mess with us?” Page Turner, one of the few athletic types in class, asked in his usual snarky manner. The class laughed.

Professor Wizened Reed laughed alongside them. “If only I was clever enough to pull those sorts of pranks on bright minds like yourselves. No, no… leave that to Miss Hoodwink in her Illusions courses.”

The class laughed again.

He adjusted his glasses and took a moment to sigh away what might have been a fond memory.

“No, no. I am not pushing down on the scale. Watch closely as I lift the weight.” He raised the weight, and for a split second, the needle flicked to 1.2 before bottoming out at 0. “Did you see it?”

“It got slightly heavier?” Sunset said.

Professor Wizened Reed smiled at her. “Ah, no, that's not what happened, but you did see what I was referring to. No, it did not get heavier. No matter what sorts of ideas you have in your head about magic, it still obeys the laws of physics as we know them. And remember: matter cannot be created or destroyed.”

The class nodded collectively. Some wrote down his words.

Sunset Shimmer leaned forward in her seat. This sort of thing was what she loved most about learning—the conceptual information, the ideas behind the inner workings of magic.

Sure, the math could be fun, and there was no shortage of calculus and linear algebra that went into the concepts they had learned and had yet to learn. But those were technical details, the nit and grit that let her experience the concepts in full. The math would come later. Before her now was the mystery that drove her detective brain.

“What if I were to tell you,” Professor Wizened Reed said. “That when we levitate something, we are not only interacting with the object, but the space around it as well?”

A few whispers drifted over the class.

“What's he mean?”

“Is he sure it's not affecting gravity?”

Sunset curled her lip into a thoughtful frown. “Is it, like, air pressure or something?” she wondered aloud.

The class turned to her, then back to the professor.

Professor Wizened Reed's smile practically reached from wall to wall. He swung his hoof in a can-do manner. “Now you're thinking like an arcanonaturamancologist.”

Sunset blushed beneath the direct praise of her favorite teacher. Err, second favorite teacher. Celestia might not take too kindly to holding that number two slot.

“Yes, it is indeed air pressure that causes the needle to jiggle,” Professor Wizened Reed said.

“So then you are pushing down on it after all,” Page Turner said.

Professor Wizened Reed chuckled. “So I am, technically speaking. I guess you caught me.”

“But Professor,” said Crystal Violet, a shy, indigo mare on the far left of the classroom. “How does air pressure lift things when air’s so light? All those molecules needed to make that pressure would have to come from somewhere.”

Professor Wizened Reed snapped a hoof toward her. “Now you’re thinking like an arcanonaturamancologist!”

She ‘eeped’ and flattened herself against her desk. The class laughed.

He clomped his hoof on the desk, and everypony jolted. He raised his voice to a near shout and an energy more becoming of a twenty-something stallion overtook his old frame. “Where does that air pressure come from? All that air pressure needed to lift something?”

He wrapped his desk—a massive, singular work of intricate carvings and enough lacquer to cover the castle twice over—in a field of green and lifted it from the floor. “Where am I getting all this air pressure to lift this desk?”

The class was silent.

He smiled. “Trick question. I’m not getting it from anywhere.”

He grabbed another scale, one meant for ponies, from the far wall and set it at his hooves. He put a single hoof on it, and the needle rocketed past the farthest notch on its scale.

“Do you all remember the first thing you levitated as a foal? Do you remember the weight of that thing? The strain on your neck? It is because we take on that weight through our horn.” He tapped his horn as he said the words.

“As foals, we do not know how to lift objects properly, but in time we learn without thinking to disperse the weight evenly through our bodies, and as some of you may already be aware, project some or all of that weight into the ground beneath our hooves.” He stepped off the scale and set it aside.

“Then, with the weight of the object gone, it’s a simple matter of manipulating the air pressure above and below the now-weightless object, and viola, levitation.”

“But then why does the object seem to get heavier before you lift it?” Coppertone asked.

“Aha!” Professor Wizened Reed said. “Excellent question. It's because as we apply our magical field to the object, the magics that change and draw in the air pressure are already in motion well before the transfer of weight begins.”

“But then how do we pick things up so quick?” Page Turner asked. He had taken to hefting his copy of The Nature of the Arcane.

“You have to remember we're talking about magio-physical reactions, Page Turner.” He motioned at the air as if there were giant air molecules floating around that everypony could see. “Like chemical reactions, everything is happening in terms of nanoseconds, which, while that's nothing more than the blink of an eye to you and me, the difference of even ten or so is an eternity to the molecules themselves.”

Sunset only half-listened to the group conversation around her. She was still stuck on a previous question Nopony asked.

“Professor?” Sunset Shimmer crooked an ear to the side. “If the matter doesn’t move, then how are the forces of gravity that affect it being redirected to us? And what does that say about ponies who levitate themselves?”

Professor Wizened Reed set his desk down and fixed Sunset with an easy smile. It was a smile the class had never seen before, one of infinite pride that couldn’t rightly capture its magnitude.

“Arcanonaturamancology is the science of magic. But this right here, class, is the magic of magic. Of all the spells innate to unicorns, levitation is still one of the least understood.

“Arcanonaturamancology is a relatively new field of study. We still have much to learn. And you ponies sitting before me are the next great thinkers that will discover the secrets of the world that I never will.”

The school bell rang, and everypony eagerly packed up their things.

“Bah,” Professor Wizened Reed said, pushing his glasses up to his forehead and rubbing his nose. “I always seem to lose myself in these long-winded lectures. Read chapter eight for Thursday and answer the questions in the Read and Review section.”

Sunset Shimmer noted down the assignment, clipped her binder shut, and took off to catch up with Coppertone.

The hallway bustled with students eager to stretch their legs after whatever grueling two-hour lecture they had survived. Sunset could barely hear herself think over the din.

Maybe that was a good thing, though, because all she could think about was lunch, as she had hit snooze on her alarm one too many times and missed breakfast. It was Tuesday, which meant all-you-could-eat tacos. Oh, sweet Celestia, those tacos.

“So what was the point of that lecture?” Copper shouted over the din. She flipped her long, blonde mane out of her eyes. “All he told us was that we didn’t know what we didn’t know.”

“Not really.” Sunset smiled at her. “He told us that there’s more out there, that there’s more for us to discover.”

Copper snorted. “Jeez, Sunny, you already sound like a stuffy university professor. Any more of those lectures and I'll have to buy you a protractor for your birthday or something.”

Sunset rolled her eyes. Yeah, Copper wasn’t really the type for all that mysticism stuff. But honestly, that’s what made them such great friends. They both had that concrete mindset, just Sunset was more… tolerant, of the whimsy of the unknown. If that made her a stuffy university professor, then that made her a stuffy university professor.

Besides, Sunset could always use another protractor.

“I still don’t get how you even got into that course,” Copper said. “You’re a sophomore.”

While Aracanonaturamancology was a 400-level course available only to seniors and the occasional outstanding junior, Sunset had the golden ticket.

“I told you the last time you asked,” she said. “And the time before that. Celestia let me take it.”

Copper flicked her ears back, still not used to hearing Celestia's name without the title. Few ponies in the world could claim themselves on a first name basis with the Princess herself.

Sunset tried her best to never let that go to her head. Didn’t stop it from happening anyway, though. She coughed to suppress any smug smile she might have been wearing.

“Must be nice,” Copper said. “Having the Princess as your teacher.”

Sunset shrugged. “All it really means is more homework and higher expectations.”

“And getting to do pretty much whatever you want.”

“I don’t get to do whatever I want.” Sunset frowned at the notion. Did Copper really think it was all fun and games living under that sort of microscope?

Copper laughed. She stepped around the far side of a freshman brewing something definitely not for homework in his alembic. She flashed a smirk at Sunset.

“You get away with whatever you want,” she said.

“What?” Sunset blew a raspberry. “No I don’t.”

Copper raised an eyebrow. “Plague of frogs?”

“That was one time!”

It was actually two, but if Copper knew she had accidentally let loose an uncontrolled frog-spawn summon again in Mrs Doily Do’s Home Ec classroom, she’d never live it down. Everypony thankfully assumed it a copycat prank.

“You still got away with it.” She grinned like a pony waiting to lay down a royal flush.

“Whatever. Can we just go get some tacos?”

Copper snorted again. “You're all about those tacos, aren't you?”

“They're the best thing they serve here. Besides, are you going to eat Sloppy Joe’s mystery veggies today?”

Copper wrinkled her nose. “I don't think anypony in their right mind eats that compost.”

They shared a laugh, and Sunset bumped her with her flank.

“You're the worst,” she said.

Copper flank bumped her back. “I learn from the best!”

“Watch out!” somepony shouted.

They ducked in time for a spiralling trio of magic fireworks to sear overhead. The fireworks looped around and exploded in a crackle of rainbow lights.

At the far end of the hall stood a frazzle-maned unicorn mare. She was the only one standing, everypony else having wisely ducked, dove, or otherwise scrambled out of the way. She gave the hallway a sheepish grin and lifted a hoof to her mouth. A blush showed through her corn-yellow coat.

“Uh, sorry,” she said.

“Shower Sparks!”

The hallway went deathly quiet. Nopony moved when Mrs Phoenix Flare shouted like that.

Mrs Phoenix Flare was something of a legend at CSGU. Head pyromancy teacher and department chair for the Conjuration Arts, she held her fair share of clout among the teaching body. But along with the responsibility of organizing the largest and most diverse school of magic came the frustration of keeping in line 'all you rabble-rousers’ as she put it. And with that came her famous—or rather, infamous—temper.

She stepped out from a nearby classroom, a heavyset yellow-orange mare with a mane like fire and a scowl that could singe the eyebrows off anypony that looked at her funny. Which students usually did, because of the enormous scar that ran down the side of her face.

The seniors spread rumors that it came from a summoning spell that went haywire a few years back, and to never mention manticores while she was in earshot. Nopony knew whether or not to believe them, but they weren't about to test the theory. Everypony liked their eyebrows the way they were.

“How many times have I told you, no pyromancy outside my classroom!” She pinched Shower Sparks by the ear with a sun-yellow aura and dragged her down the hall toward probably detention. Or worse, magic kindergarten.

Shower Sparks’ “Ow ow ow I'm sorry!” trailed down the hall until everypony felt safe to go about their business.

Sunset had to hand it to this place. Celestia’s School for Gifted Unicorns boasted many gifted unicorns, even if some of them were only gifted in mischief. Either way, there was never a dull moment around here.

“So anyway,” Copper said. She brushed a curl of her mane out of her face. “Tacos do sound pretty good right about now. Let's hit up the cafeteria.”

Sunset Shimmer grinned at her. “I thought you'd never ask.”

They made it to the cafeteria entrance without any further incidents. Being just after eleven, the lacrosse team had finished their morning practice and crowded the line ahead of them. Their light-hearted backtalk blended with the chatter coming from the cafeteria proper.

“Oh, Celestia,” Copper whispered to Sunset, fanning herself. “They’re so hot.”

Sunset snickered. “You think every stallion on campus is hot.”

“Tell me I’m wrong?”

Well, yes, she could probably find a not-so-good-looking stallion or two, but statistically speaking, Copper knew her stuff. Too bad for her most of them were probably already taken. Not that she wouldn't try anyway.

She elbowed Sunset and grinned. “Oh, come on, you're such a prude. Have you ever even had a crush once in your life?”

Sunset blushed. “Yeah, I have. It's just that they ended up either being really weird or complete jerks.”

“So…” Copper got that half-lidded, mischievous look about her. “Have you ever kissed a stallion before?”

Seriously? She was asking this stuff now? Wasn't this, like, slumber party material? Sunset smiled.

“You know,” Sunset said, “it might surprise you, but I actually have.”

“Your dad doesn't count.” Copper winked.

Sunset laughed. “Wow, and you call me a smartass.”

“Like I said, I learn from the best.” She brushed a lock of mane out if her eyes. “But really, you’re what, seventeen, right?”

“Yeah? What's your point?”

Copper cocked her head and raised her eyebrows. “My point is, have you gotten any farther than first base?”

“Have I what? No.” Sunset grimaced. “No. I don't have time for that. Not with all my school work I have to do.”

“‘Don't have time?’ Please, everypony has time for a good round in the sheets.”

A blush overtook Sunset's face. “Copper, why are we talking about this?”

“I bet you even Princess Celestia gets it on the regular.”

“Sweet Celestia, please.” Sunset looked up at the ceiling, ears back, begging for this line of conversation to end.

“You think that's what the stallions say when she—”

“Copper, stop. Seriously.”

Copper laughed. She punched Sunset's shoulder. “Calm down, jeez. I’m just joking.”

Sunset raised an eyebrow at her. They both knew very well she wasn't.

The lacrosse team noticed their little argument and shared smirks and hushed whispers among themselves. Their eyes roved over Sunset’s body, glossed over where they should have stared and lingered where they shouldn’t. Typical stallions.

Sunset rolled her eyes, but Copper threw on a roguish smile, the one that meant nothing good was about to happen.

“Which one do you think’s the cutest?” she asked.

Sunset flustered and stepped back. “Uh, I don’t know? I don’t stop to think about these sort of things?”

“Oh, come on.” Copper brushed up beside her. “It’s not rocket science. You already know the answer, whether you think you do or not.”

Uh, no. In truth, she really didn’t. She didn’t know which one was cutest. She didn’t know anything about any of them. She didn’t even know how this conversation started.

“You like tall and slim on the left? He’s got a pretty sexy, chiseled jaw.”

“Copper, please stop.”

“Or are you more of a musclehead kind of girl?”

“Copper—”

“No.” Copper said it with such conviction that Sunset found herself nodding without hearing the rest. “Tall, Tan, and Handsome, right in the middle.”

“Uh, I guess?”

“Good, cause I want Captain Hunk with a side of Commander Chisel Jaw.” Copper pushed Sunset toward the tan stallion, much to her surprise. “Go get em, tiger.”

The stallions toward the front of the line were already filing into the cafeteria, while the others closest to Sunset stuck around to enjoy the show.

“Uh,” Sunset said and crooked a half-hearted smile at Tall, Tan, and Handsome. She caught his eye but looked away just as quick. The moment lasted a beat longer than it should have and it was still lasting and oh why was this happening this was so awkward.

She whinnied when Copper pushed her nose to nose with him. She looked back briefly. “Would you—”

“Hey.” His voice drifted over the cafeteria din. It had a casual, flirtatious lilt to it.

Oh, Celestia, he was talking to her.

Sunset put on her best smile, but her golden coat did nothing to hide her blush that was bright enough to safely land a squadron of Wonderbolts on a foggy night. “H-hey.”

He laughed. So casual, like this sort of thing happened to him all the time, and that bright smile and those robin’s egg blue eyes and that rugged frame and wavy brown mane and oh my gosh he was so gorgeous.

He turned his head slightly and dipped the bridge of his nose to faux look up at her. He cocked an ear playfully.

“You okay there?” he asked.

Sunset laughed. She raised a hoof, set it back down, looked away, looked back at those eyes oh my gosh. She laughed again. “Um… I, uh, I think so? Heh…”

Commander Chisel Jaw burst out laughing. He punched Gorgeous Eyes in the shoulder, jerked his head toward the cafeteria, and headed in.

Gorgeous Eyes gave him a quick glance, then back to Sunset. “Name’s Doppler. Maybe I'll see you around sometime?”

“Well, I mean we both go to school here, so I mean probably?” Wow. Smooth as silk.

His casual smile twisted into one of poorly contained amusement. His eyes flicked over her shoulder then back to her, and his smile grew wider. “Yeah, we do, don't we?”

“I… we… you… uh, yes. That's, I… I'm just gonna stop talking now.” Great. Perfect. Conversation ruined. Way to go, Sunset.

He turned around, but kept his gaze on her a moment longer. “Well alright, Just Gonna Stop Talking Now. I'll see you around.”

Before she could process what he said, he had already turned the corner for the lunch line.

“I would clap,” Copper said. “But I think that would be an insult to the concept of applause.”

“Go eat a rainbow. I didn't want to talk to him in the first place.”

Copper laughed and placed a hoof on Sunset's shoulder. “From the way your face lit up like a Hearth’s Warming tree, I'm pretty sure you did.”

“Wha-I… That’s not the point!”

Copper took a step toward the cafeteria. She looked back over her shoulder, a hoof to her chin. “You know, you’re right. The point is to enjoy seeing you go brain dead in front of a super hot stallion.”

Sunset scowled at her. It must have been worse than she thought, because Copper laughed before she could speak.

“You're so uptight, Sunny. You need to loosen up.”

“I'm not uptight.” Sunset looked away, ears crooked to either side. “I've just had bad experiences is all.”

“Does he look like a bad experience to you?”

Sunset stared through the cafeteria doors. She could still imagine those robin's egg blue eyes looking right back at her oh my gosh.

Copper tail flicked her on the flank, and Sunset yelped. “Didn't think so,” she said, heading in.

“Hey!” Sunset rubbed her flank. Right on the cutie mark of all places. She groaned. Give your best friend one little tidbit of gossip on your sex life and suddenly she's the ultimate relationship guru.

“Come on, little Lovebird,” Copper said, sweeping a hoof toward the taco line. “Your true love is waiting for you.”

Sunset rolled her eyes and followed her past the check-in counter.


Lunch was tacos, tacos, and more tacos, piled high with veggies and beans and salsa and all the melty cheese Sunset could convince the lunchmare to part with. And hay fries. Because why not?

They found seats at a two-pony table in the back corner, one of Copper's favorite pony-watching spots. She wiped it clean with a napkin before they set down their trays.

Sunset dug in without a moment's hesitation.

“I still don't get how you don't get fat eating like that every day.” Copper said.

Sunset looked up with an inequine-sized bite of taco in her mouth. “Wuyyoumean?”

Copper’s wide green eyes hinted at a mixture of admiration and disgust. “I mean you've got how many tacos? Nine?”

Sunset shoved a hoof full of fries in her mouth and frowned as she chewed. Not enough salt. She levitated a salt shaker over from the table behind her, earning frowns from the two mares sitting there.

“Uh, yeah? I think?” She honestly hadn't counted.

“I wish I could eat like that.” Copper took a humble bite of her single taco and wiped her mouth with a napkin.

Sunset wiped hers with her forehoof. She glowered at the crumbs and nasty bits on her hoof, then wiped them on the table cloth. “Then why don't you?”

“Cause I'd get fat?” She raised an eyebrow at Sunset.

You get fat?” Sunset laughed and rolled her eyes before another bite of taco. “I'd like to see that happen.”

An uncharacteristic silence overtook Copper, and the sounds of the cafeteria filled in the gaps.

Sunset came up for air. “You okay? I didn't actually mean that, you know.”

“Yeah, I know. I just…” Copper seemed lost in thought, her ears to the wayside. Her eyes absently passed to Sunset’s right, and her ears perked up hoof in hoof with a disarming smile. “Romeo’s lookin’ at you.”

Over Sunset’s shoulder, the lacrosse team was crammed into a single table at the cafeteria’s far end. Amidst all the motion of passing condiments, throwing of hay fries, and general backtalk, Doppler stole glances at her. Sunset turned back toward Copper and brushed her mane behind her ear.

This really was a great pony-watching spot. Maybe too great.

Sunset slammed her hooves on the table with enough force to disturb their trays. She stared at Copper as if she were Death herself come for Sunset's reaping. “Oh, ponyfeathers. I forgot to tell him my name.”

Copper ripped open a taco sauce packet and squirted it onto the leftover half of her taco. She didn’t even bother looking up. “Nah, you're fine. That'll actually play in your favor, cause he'll spend all day wondering what your name is.”

“Or he'll just forget about me and move on to the next mare.”

That earned a raised eyebrow. “Sunset, we really need to work on your self-confidence.”

“I have plenty of confidence.” She took a big gulp of her soda. “I just…”

“You just lack any and all semblance of self-worth?” A smile worked its way onto Copper’s face.

“That’s not what I—”

“Sunset, you're the most beautiful mare I’ve ever met. Seriously. All you have to do is not act brain dead for two seconds and you could have any guy you want.”

Sunset blushed and set both hooves on the table. She made a nervous motion of bunching up the tablecloth and then smoothing it out.

Calling her beautiful… Projecting much? All the looks, all the stolen glances their way were at Copper, not her.

What Sunset wouldn't have given to be as beautiful as her. That long, wavy blonde mane that always fell so perfectly at her shoulders, her naturally long eyelashes that didn't need mascara to have all the stallions drooling, those green eyes that would make the most dazzling emeralds jealous. And that frame—all those perfect curves in all the right places. It wasn’t farfetched to think even the straight mares in school would go gay for a chance at her.

All Sunset had going for her was a half-hearted wave in her mane and a few smartass quips that enjoyed making themselves scarce whenever she needed them.

She did have her smarts. And she had a lot of them—more than most ponies could ever hold a candle to. But that didn't get her very far on the social side of things.

Sunset was the bookworm. The sidekick. The afterthought.

Copper was looking at her, but Sunset instead stared into her tacos. They didn't seem all that appetising anymore.

“Sunset, how long have we known each other? About a month?”

“Since the start of term, yeah.”

“And what did you do all of last year?”

“I took all my first- and second-year courses so that I could take Arcanonaturamancology this semester.”

Copper blinked. “Wait, really? You took, like, sixty credit hours in one year? On second thought, why does that surprise me? Whatever. You’re weird, you know that?”

“Maybe.” Sunset smirked at her. “But then we never would have met, would we?”

“Probably not.” Copper put her hoof to her forehead and shook her head. “Sorry. Got off track there. But yeah, just a month. That's all I've known you. And already I can say without a doubt you're the most wonderful pony I've ever met.”

Copper took the last bite of her taco and talked while chewing. “You put all your time into studying and freaking out about making sure Princess Celestia thinks you're the best.

“And really, you are.” She swallowed and burped unexpectedly. She made a surprised 'o’ with her lips, and they both laughed. “But seriously. You're the only one in that class that has an A. Like, a real A. A non-curved A. You heard Professor Wizened Reed. You're the first pony to do that in that class in four damn years.”

“Okay? Where are you going with this?” Sunset chanced a nibble at her tacos and found her appetite had returned.

“Where I'm going is that you really should give yourself more credit, and you can afford to let yourself enjoy life some.”

“But I do enjoy life.” She took a drink of her soda, but was met with that hollow sound of disappointment. She frowned at her empty cup.

“Says the girl who hasn't gotten past first base.” Copper smirked.

Sunset rolled her eyes. “I told you, I don't need any of that to be happy. I don't count my successes in how many times I score a homerun, or whatever the phrase is.”

Something about what Sunset said made Copper lean forward. That mischievous grin of hers slowly formed, to the point of sending shivers down Sunset's spine.

“You have no idea how into you that stallion was, do you?” Copper asked.

“Who?”

She nodded at the now empty table across the way. “Tall, Tan, and Handsome.”

A sudden heat rushed to Sunset's cheeks. “He was just being nice.”

Copper stared at her a moment, then chuckled and shook her head.

“What?” Sunset said.

“Nothing.” Copper threw her magic around her empty tray and stood up.

Sunset followed suit. They emptied their trays in the garbage, set them on top of the counter, and headed out.

It was cool outside, and already the clouds had been moved to allow for a wonderful day of sunshine. Ponies that didn't have afternoon classes made themselves comfortable on the quad, sunning themselves, playing frisbee, or testing experimental spells without adult supervision.

They cut across the grass for the student dorms. Sunset's hooves soaked through with the dew that hadn't yet evaporated.

“You're done for the day, right?” Excitement tinted Copper's voice. Something about the fresh air after being cooped up in class all morning, probably.

The fresh air was infectious, and it forced a smile to Sunset's lips before she thought to smile herself. “Technically, no. It's Tuesday, remember?”

Just the thought made her stomach rumble. She could still taste the tacos and all that gloriously melty cheese.

“Oh yeah.” Copper put a hoof to her forehead and fake swooned. “You have to go have evening tea with Princess Celestia and learn how to have proper back posture.”

“You mean I have to go back to our room so I can freak out and try to remember everything I learned last week so I can tell her about it.”

“That too. But I prefer my version.” She stuck her tongue out at Sunset.

“It is a bit more theatric, I'll admit.” Sunset let a sigh escape her. “Though, I think she'll really enjoy hearing about what we learned in Arcanonaturamancology.”

Copper frowned at her. “Sunset, could you at least call it A-Chem like a normal pony?”

“But it's called Arcanonaturamancology.”

That earned an eye roll for some reason. A smile overtook Copper, and she swiveled her eyes toward Sunset.

“For me?” Copper bat her eyes and put on a pout that reminded Sunset just how jealous she could be of her friend’s looks.

Sunset rolled her eyes. “Fine, A-Chem. But you have to stop calling it 'Bend-over-ology’ like all those other ponies.”

“Okay, but what if I like bending over?” Her pout turned into a sultry lip bite.

Sunset groaned her frustration to the sky. “Why do I always walk right into those?”

“Because we're best friends and I know you better than anypony.”

Sunset smiled. She couldn't argue that. Though, she still had yet to learn what made Copper uncomfortable so that she could poke fun back. It was like there wasn't a single thing in the world that could get under that pony’s skin.

“So I'll see you after tea time?” Copper was half heading toward the sports fields when Sunset looked. There were a hoof full of stallions playing a unicorn-only version of hoof ball. Of course. Where else would she go?

Sunset smirked. “Of course. I wouldn't want to miss out on all the hot gossip about each and every stallion out there.”

“Oh, don't worry.” She brushed her mane out of her face and winked. “I'll get all their 'sizes,’ just for you.”

Sunset resisted the urge to gag. “Oh, you know how much I love measuring and math and stuff.”

That got a real laugh out of Copper. She hadn't heard her laugh like that since they first met.

“What can I say? Sometimes math is a good thing!”

With that, she headed toward the hoof ball fields, leaving Sunset to her thoughts and the smile on her lips.

Sunset sighed. Welp. Time to go freak out and get ready for Celestia. She headed for the dorms.

She didn't know what, but something told her today would be a particularly eventful session with Celestia.


They were right to fear me. They are right to fear me still.

These lunar shackles hold fast, and my flesh is raw where skin and sinew have refused their lesson in patience. But Nightmare is eternal—unshackled, unbridled.

Beyond the sight of Sister’s precious, little sun, the waning moon sharpens my power over dreams to a knifepoint. The dreams of our little ponies are oh so easy to bend when they slip into my nightly embrace. Hell is but a state of mind, and in the nigh thousand years I have spent in darkness I have elevated its craft to an art form.

Sister sought to replace me with these protégés of hers. Folly. They learned to rescind their titles, denounce her as their loving princess or else suffer my wrath. And her newest, this Sunset Shimmer, shall too understand the gravity of her trespass.

She will become my plaything, my instrument of Sister’s ruin. For I sense greatness in her.

Sister should never have crossed me. Her place in Tartarus was reserved the moment she refused me my birthright.

The new moon rises, and it is hungrier than ever.

Author's Note:

Onward and Upward!