• Published 22nd Mar 2018
  • 9,459 Views, 261 Comments

Terms of Forgiveness - Fylifa

With the memory stone crisis behind her, it's time for Sunset to deal with an even bigger challenge: Princess Celestia wanting to visit her...on Earth

  • ...

Chapter 1- An Overdue Assignment

“—and then they stepped in to save me, even though at that point we’d both lost our memories of each other.” Sunset Shimmer reported before she added. “I suppose friendship is… umm stronger than magic, after all.”

“That’s a mostly correct answer,” Celestia replied with a hint of amusement.

Sunset wasn’t sure if anything other than an emergency could have convinced her to talk with Celestia again. Even now, after the confrontation with Wallflower, she felt like she was spinning in an emotional whirlwind. It was so strange to be back here in Canterlot, as a pony, in front of Celestia herself.

Celestia sat on her throne and looked down at Sunset. It was an image that still gave Sunset pangs of anxiety. All the times she’d thought of coming back she was afraid of that unforgiving royal stare. Yet, now, the princess was simply smiling at her.

“I guess I have a lot to learn still,” Sunset said.

“Mmm.” Celestia’s tone was contemplative.

A moment of silence passed between them.

“I’m getting better, honest,” said Sunset quickly, feeling like Celestia had been waiting for more. “Every day I learn something new about making friends and relationships and how to—”

“Oh, Sunset, I believe you,” Celestia murmured. “After all, you’ve written so much to Twilight that we had to craft a new friendship journal.”

Sunset fidgeted at that and rubbed the back of her neck with a hoof. “Y-Yeah… umm, that isn’t a problem is it?”

“Not at all. Though you must understand that I can’t read either of them now that they’ve become so personal.”

Sunset blinked. Celestia kept smiling in that coy way of hers, still expecting something. It wasn’t long before the idea came to Sunset.

“You… want me to write a friendship journal for you?”

Celestia’s smile broadened into a grin.

“She wants you to write a friendship term paper?” Princess Twilight asked, incredulously.

Sunset sighed. “I know. It’s—”

“Wonderful!” Twilight exclaimed and clopped her hooves together. “We have so much material to work with! This is a great opportunity to show her just how much you’ve learned over the years.”

“—yeah… wonderful.” Sunset finished with small eyeroll. Though it was hard not to get caught up in Twilight's enthusiasm. She let Twilight lead the way from the Cutie Map room to the study where the mirror portal to Earth was situated.

Twilight floated both versions of the friendship journal from a nearby shelf and spread them out on a table. “Where should we start? Sometimes it’s best to show an event that acts as a microcosm of who you are now and then expand that out into a grander thesis.”

Sunset chortled. “I haven’t rescued any cats out of trees lately if that’s what you're going for.”

“Oh, there must be something. You’re a good pony, and good ponies do good things. Even without thinking about it,” Twilight answered confidently.

“That’s nice of you to say,” Sunset said, touched by the sentiment. She moved in a little closer to watch Twilight for a time, amused that the princess could speed read two books in tandem.

Twilight added a scroll, quill, and inkpot to the floating objects, taking notes while she skimmed. She barely noticed Sunset's proximity.

Curiosity took hold of Sunset, and she leaned in to bump her nose on Twilight’s cheek.

Twilight turned her head and returned the nuzzle with a nose-on-nose stroke. The motion was natural to the point of being automatic. “Did you want to read along too? Unless you can remember a specific entry,” Twilight said as she tipped the books towards Sunset.

“Sure. I’ll see if I can remember,” Sunset replied and held back her giggle. Twilight’s lips had grazed hers and Twilight hadn’t skipped a beat. Personal space in Equestria was such a loose concept compared to the human world.

Either that or Twilight simply didn’t mind. That thought brought a silly smile to Sunset.

“Mmm? Did you think of something?” Twilight asked.

“Just something funny. Human humor.”

“Ah,” Twilight said before she turned her attention back to her note-taking scroll. “So I catalogued some of these entries from the past two weeks. Let’s see… on the eighth, you helped Twilight, human Twilight that is, with some math on a computer?”

Sunset nodded. “For her selfie drone.” Seeing Twilight's blank look, Sunset clarified. “It’s kinda like a mechanical bird that takes pictures.”

“I see, and on the twelfth you stayed late after school and spared Twilight some... dollars?”

“They’re a kind of money made of paper.”

“Oh! You gave her some paper… bits to get a snack? Even though it meant you had to skip lunch yourself. Aww, how generous!”

“I can spare to lose some pounds, and she’s due to gain some.” Sunset grinned.

Twilight snorted. “If only ponies thought that about me over here.” Turning back to her notes, Twilight picked out the next entry. “Well, it looks like you both had an expensive dinner on the fourteenth. Who is Saint Valentine? Is there an important religious tradition to share a feast on his day?”

“Something like that,” Sunset said while she forced her expression to stay neutral.

Twilight squinted. “I think I’m seeing a pattern here.” She glanced again at the scroll. “How... unfortunate.”

Sunset took a breath. Best to get it out in the open. “Twilight, we’re dat—”

“You spend so much time with our friends that there isn’t much opportunity to show you doing something amazing.” Twilight continued on, still looking at the scroll. “I guess other me is somewhat hapless to need your help so many times over so many little things.”

Sunset coughed to cover the rest of her interrupted sentence. “Umm, ahem. H-Hey, I got an example. When we were trying to figure out where the memory stone was, I met up with Trixie.”

Twilight put a hoof to her chin and considered. “Human Trixie? The one who pulled the trapdoor on us? Did she give you any trouble?”

“Actually, she was kinda nice. Well, not nice. She’s still a pain in the a— err… flank.” Sunset corrected. “But now I understand her a little better. She brags, but it’s because she wants to be someone people could look up to. I figure everybody wants that in one way or another, she’s just… loud about it. Maybe she’s trying to convince herself as much as other people.”

Sunset shrugged. “I probably bungled that explanation, but she did help me, and I couldn’t have done it on my own. I’m sorry it took a magical crisis to show me that even those you write off or overlook could be made friends. That applies to Trixie as much as Wallflower.”

Twilight was quiet for a long moment before she smiled and slid a quill and fresh scroll over to Sunset. “That’s a perfect place to start.”

Sunset reached for the quill. She fumbled with it first with a hoof then her mouth before remembering her horn. After tense concentration with her tongue out, she showed the scroll to Twilight. “Unf, I’m out of practice but how’s that?”

Twilight looked at the scroll and in the gentle voice of a true teacher said, “We’ll... figure something out.”

Sunset had thought to leave the report behind on Celestia’s desk and scamper away until the next time the princess called for her, but Celestia had insisted that she stay in her chambers while she read. At least the Princess seemed to be an accomplished speed reader as much as Twilight and moved quickly through the pages.

Even then, there were a lot of pages and Sunset was stuck there seated on the other side of the table awaiting judgement. She felt like she was in Principal Celestia’s office.

Then again, I was a pony first, so shouldn’t the Principal’s office feel more like being before Princess Celestia? Sunset pushed down the thought before it could crack a nervous giggle out of her.

“I was about to commend you on your calligraphy. It’s very neat and orderly, but this is typed, isn’t it?” Celestia asked.

“It’s umm… Times New Roman.”

Haec non Roamana,” Celestia replied.

Sunset blinked and squinted as she remembered her old lessons. “Est alia significatio.” She gestured with a hoof. “It’s a font, a style of writing the typing machines on Earth can write in.”

Celestia inclined her head. “I am unfamiliar with that, though the way the words are chosen and how it’s structured is familiar. Twilight helped you with this, hmm?”

Sunset flustered, and her first impulse was to deny, though she knew she’d already given it away with the hesitation. “She did. I told her you had a project for me and she wanted to help so… err… are you mad?”

Celestia looked at Sunset steadily before she broke the tension with a chuckle. “If anything how it was written shows how you’ve changed, almost as much as what was written. You would have never let anypony help you with an assignment before.”

Sunset looked towards the table and shrugged. “Yeah…” There was a rustle of feathers, and suddenly a touch on Sunset’s cheek as her muzzle was raised by Celestia’s wing.

“That wasn’t a criticism. I truly am proud of you. Of what you’ve accomplished, of what you’ve become. To have you back now, to be able to talk to you and—” Celestia halted and took a breath. “I am sad that I had to miss so much of your life.” She reached to pat the stack of papers with a hoof. “Reading about it afterwards, well it’s not quite the same.”

Sunset’s muzzle worked though no words came out. Was Celestia being... emotional? Sunset had remarked to Twilight before that it was strange to see Celestia with a sense of humor, but apparently even more had changed in the decade that passed in Equestria while she was on Earth.

“Maybe you will give me a tour? I’d like to see first hoof how you're doing over there in the human world.” Celestia suggested to the silence and to Sunset’s shocked expression.

“S-Sure,” Sunset stammered out to her old mentor before her brain caught up with just what she agreed to. Old student habits did die hard.

Sunset had reservations about bringing Celestia through the mirror. On the way over from Canterlot she talked herself into expecting that Twilight would make some well reasoned, logical arguments against the idea, better than what Sunset could come up with.

“You can’t go!” Twilight exclaimed once they were in the Mirror room.

Welp, so much for that. Sunset thought. Apparently, Celestia was the one mare that could make Twilight into a frazzle-maned mess.

Celestia smiled at Twilight. “I believe I’ve saved enough vacation time to have some hours to myself.”

“But your duties!”

“You can see out the window that the sun is up and shining quite nicely.”

“What about the court and Canterlot and laws and… and… everything else a princess does!”

Celestia raised a hoof to her chin and looked thoughtful. “I suppose you’re right.”

“I-I am?” Twilight said in an unsure tone. She’d expected more deflection.

“Mmhmm. It would be irresponsible of me to leave Equestria while my sister sleeps and with nopony around to perform my royal obligations. Cadance certainly couldn’t do it from the Crystal Empire, not on such short notice.”

Twilight closed her eyes and relaxed with some practiced breathing. “I’m glad you came to your sens—” She stopped when she felt a weight settle on her head. Her eyes opened and immediately shrank to pin pricks.

“I want to take this opportunity to compliment you on how studious and talented you are,“ Celestia said while her mane swirled to fill in where the tiara used to sit.

Twilight reached up with her hooves. They stopped short and trembled, afraid to touch the crown now on her head. She found her voice instead and cried out, “I can’t! I can’t be like you and be responsible for everything and everypony!”

“Twilight, if you stopped to hear yourself you would know just how silly of a thing that is to say. You’ve been responsible for the future of Equestria itself on at least eight occasions.”

Twilight sputtered and went through several expressions before dropping her hooves and crossing them. “It… it was only five,” she retorted sullenly. “Spike was the one who fought Sombra, and it was my brother and Cadance who fought Chrysalis the first time. Also, it was Starlight who fought her the second time.”

Celestia rolled her shoulder in a shrug. “My apologies. They do tend to run together some.” She smiled again. "Still, I'd say that more than qualifies you for a few hours of princess work."

With that, Celestia turned from Twilight and faced the mirror, but Twilight appeared in front of her in a teleport flash. “Please… just… please don’t go,” Twilight begged.

Celestia took stock of Twilight for a long moment. Eventually, her stance softened and with a golden pull of her horn-magic drew Twilight close for a hug with both hooves and wings. “Maybe that was too much teasing. But I was serious about how sure I am that you can deal with this.”

Twilight sniffed into Celestia’s chest. “What if something happens?”

“Then I am sure you will fix it,” Celestia murmured. "You have proven quite reliable at making right from wrongs. Especially my own wrongs."

Sunset straightened when Celestia glanced at her for the second half of that sentence.

Twilight, unaware of the glances over her head, asked, “Just for a little while?”

“Only a little while. This isn’t some scheme to retire. This old mare still has a few thousand years left, hmm?” Celestia winked at Twilight. “Though I wholly expect when I return you’ll give me a dozen suggestions to streamline our bureaucracy. It's terribly bloated as it is, see if you can better optimize it around friendship and ponies.”

“Maybe only half a dozen,” Twilight said with a giggle, visibly calmer as she stepped back from Celestia’s hug.

“When you get to the castle, look for Raven Inkwell. I left a list with her for you. She should walk you through most of the pomp and circumstance of the morning routine.”

Twilight blinked, opened her mouth as if to stay something before she shook her head and laughed. “A list huh? You could have said it was going to be easy.” She teased. “Okay, You two have fun.”

After the emotional parting between those two, Sunset felt odd being left alone with Celestia. She turned and asked, “You knew? What if she said no or just let us walk through the mirror?”

“You know her almost as well as I do and how impossible that would have been.”

Sunset rubbed at her own shoulder with a hoof, unable to really argue against that point. Though now that they were genuinely facing the prospect of traveling, a particular problem reared its head.

“We are going to have to do something about how you look,” Sunset said, hesitantly.

“I beg your pardon?” Celestia asked, lifting her eyebrow.

Sunset had a sense that eyebrow raise was probably responsible for several wars in Equestrian history.

“You look like Principal Celestia… or um… well, Principal Celestia looks like you. If you go over there looking like that, then most of the students and probably the town will recognize you,” Sunset finally managed.

“Ah, so you want me to wear a disguise?”

“It would help, maybe a wig?” Sunset suggested before her mouth dropped open when Celestia gave a vigorous headtoss. All at once the rainbow flow vanished, and Celestia’s mane fell straight. Straight and pink.

Celestia smirked at Sunset’s reaction before her expression became one of sharp intensity.

Sunset fidgeted under the critical gaze and started. “What are—” she then gasped when Celestia’s horn flared, and the colors shifted. The pink mane deepened in color becoming red with highlights while the white of Celestia’s coat became a pale gold shade. Even Celestia’s cutie changed, the sun icon turning red with pink radiance lines and getting what looked like a ruby set in its center.

“How’s this?” Celestia asked, blinking her now-blue eyes while she smiled at Sunset.

Sunset looked in the mirror that showed herself next to the newly golden and red-maned Celestia. She sucked in a breath, feeling her heart skip a beat at the resemblance before she tamped down the emotion. “It’s… practical. If we look related, nobody will question an adult hanging around with a teenager.”

“Mmm,” Celestia replied simply. Her smile faded into a more neutral expression.

Well, there’s another look that’s probably ended one country or another. Like the eyebrow raise before, Sunset wondered if she had said something wrong. Though before she could muse too much more on it, Celestia was approaching the mirror.

“Hey, wait up! Let me go first and check if the coast’s clear. If I don’t come back waving my hooves about you can come through?”

Celestia hesitated, looking between the mirror and Sunset before she nodded. “I trust you.”

I trust you.

It wasn’t until Sunset had traveled through the mirror did the impact of those words strike her.

“Is she afraid I’m going to run away… again?” Sunset asked the open air. Though as she looked towards the marble of the pedestal, she felt a twinge of guilt. She had once before, and this time she couldn't pretend that Celestia didn't care.

She certainly cared enough about Twilight at least… cares enough to give her wings and even the whole country for a day.

That thought slowed Sunset's step. It’d been a while since she felt that old jealousy. As she grew close to Twilight, she knew the purple princess earned every ounce of adoration.

Yet… when Celestia was some remote, abstract thing, it was easy not to be envious. Seeing her with Twilight, how they talked and teased. The warmth the two shared. Why hadn’t Celestia been like that with Sunset? Did she just not stack up?

Sunset sighed and shook her head, focusing on the task at hand and scouting Canterlot High’s entrance. With it being early on the weekend the place looked deserted. That was a relief, as Sunset wasn’t eager to have to explain the concept of doubles to the human Celestia. The principal probably still thought Twilight had a twin sister.

“One less problem. Thank Celestia for that,” Sunset murmured before she blinked and laughed outright at herself. It had been some time since she'd reflexively slipped back into her old pony habits.

Finally, the pedestal rippled and Princess Celestia crawled through on hands and knees. Any worry that the disguise wouldn’t hold was quelled when Sunset saw that Celestia kept the regular look-alike hair in human form. The mirror with its subtle enchantment even went as far as to give her a perfectly adult-appropriate blouse and skirt with the changed ruby-sun cutie.

Sunset was ready to help her up, but to Sunset’s surprise Celestia stood and dusted herself off, not even stumbling from the changed form.

“Huh, most ponies have trouble with the first few steps over here,” Sunset observed.

“This isn’t my first trip through the mirror. Though it has been quite some time,” replied Celestia while she made a few experimental snaps and wiggles with her fingers.

Sunset opened her mouth to ask just when Celestia came over, but she abruptly shut it. Idiot! You damn well already know when. She looked away, flustered until Celestia snapped her fingers in front of her.

“Something on your mind?” Celestia asked.

Sunset straightened. “Just wondering where to take you now that you're here.” She forced a smile and waved at the school. “Ta-da.”

Celestia looked at the school then back to Sunset. She crossed her arms in a way that was so very much like the actual Principal. “I would hope there is more to your life than high school,” she said flatly.

Sunset snorted. “Now, you say that, but you’d be surprised at how much a girl’s life revolves around this place.” She took a fresh glance at Canterlot High and shrugged. “I guess I could show you my apartment. Though only if you promise not to nag me about the mess.”

“I’ll make no such promise!” Celestia declared before she softened her tone with a grin. “... but I’ll help you clean up if it’s too messy.”

The public bus ride from the high school was an experience that kept Sunset on edge. Any minute she expected someone from Canterlot High to show up and wonder about their principal. Or for Celestia to make some embarrassing pony-in-human-world faux pas.

Though, as Sunset soon found, most humans were oblivious. Especially on public transportation. If anything, Sunset’s gawking at passengers was more out of place than Celestia’s quiet curiosity at the bus and occasional glances out the window. Most humans just wanted to tip tap on their phones or listen to music.

It was still a relief to get off the bus, though on the walk up the steps to Sunset’s apartment building she was struck by how… comely it looked.

I should have risked a mural, it would have covered up all the chipped brick and rust. Sunset turned to Celestia with a nervous smile. “I know it looks a little run down, but I’ve fixed up the inside to make it look a lot nicer. I really can’t touch the outside though, because I’m only paying for one room in the building and even though I’ve asked him, the landlord still won’t get around to—”

“Sunset.” Celestia interrupted in a firm, but patient, tone. “I know how apartments work.” After she saw Sunset blush, she added, gently. “What it looks like doesn’t matter as long as you're safe here. Is it a good area to live?”

Sunset chuckled and shook her head. “Oh don’t worry about that. Before Twilight hit me with her magic I built up a reputation for being a big biker bitc—” She coughed suddenly to cover herself. “—girl.” She amended, lamely.

Instead of the lifted brow or the ‘Hmm’ Celestia inclined her head and asked, “A biker?”

“It’s a person that rides a motorcycle. Umm, a motorcycle is like a mechanical horse that you saddle up in,” Sunset said, remembering how she explained the selfie drone to pony Twilight.

Celestia blinked at her. Now she gave Sunset a new expression of both brows raised.

Sunset inwardly groaned at this fresh can of worms. “Okay whatever you're thinking, I promise you it’s not as horrible as it sounds. It’s a machine with wheels. Maybe if human Twilight’s done fixing it up, I could drive you around later. I left it with her before I visited Equestria.”

“I leave it in your hooves to be the tour guide then.”

“You mean hands. We have hands here.”

When that got an eyeroll out of Celestia, Sunset felt victorious. Finally, something other than ambiguous signs of judgement.

The good feeling only lasted as long as it took for Sunset to press the buzzer. The intercom decided to be fussy. Annoyed, Sunset mashed the button.

The button popped off to spite her.

Ugh, so much for saving even one little hassle today! As Sunset got her keys out and painstakingly worked the lock, she could practically feel Celestia's eyes on her, watching every move.

They made it past the entrance and climbed the steps to Sunset’s apartment door. Sunset hesitated with her hand on the knob. “Uhh, can you give me a minute to tidy things up?”

That earned Sunset an eyebrow lift and an arm cross from Celestia. Though she was smiling in that serene way of hers. “There wouldn’t be much point in coming all this way to see how you live if you were going to sweep it all under the rug.”

Sunset puffed. “Oh come on! I wasn’t expecting guests. I’m just trying to be a good host.”

“I’ve walked through the depths of Tartarus on more than one occasion. I very much doubt you could have anything in there that would horrify me.”

Out of arguments to stall with, Sunset relented. “Fine, but you’re going to be disappointed.” She threw open the door and waved dramatically. “After you, princess.”

Celestia took Sunset’s grousing in the same stride she made into the apartment proper. Sunset wasn’t sure what to expect though she wouldn’t have been surprised if Celestia ran a finger over her bookshelves hunting for dust.

The apartment wasn’t the largest, merely a single room with a lofted portion for a bed and a cooking nook. Sunset’s hobbies took the rest of the available space with her guitars, box of art supplies and her prized entertainment system.

Celestia wandered by the television and electronics then turned to study the guitars. “This is a cozy place.”

Sunset nodded, distracted. “Yeah? You like it?” She surreptitiously edged towards a discarded takeout box left on the table.

“It shows much of your personality. I am only sorry that I didn’t know how much appreciation of music you had.”

“You’ve heard me sing before.” Sunset lifted the takeout box and blanched at how the front of it showed a very colorful, very obvious picture of fried shrimp and roast pork.

Celestia laughed. “Everypony sings at some point in their day.”

“I guess that’s true.” Sunset steeled herself for the slow walk towards the kitchen.

Celestia twanged the guitar with a finger, “Sing, but not play. I am trying to compliment you. Must you make it so difficult?” She peeked over her shoulder.

Sunset spun and hid the take out box behind her. “Umm… yes. I mean no! I mean… thank you?”

Celestia’s brow furrowed momentarily, before she shrugged and continued her tour. She came up against the entertainment center and looked towards it with a finger on chin.

That gave enough time for Sunset to trash the incriminating take out. She sighed in relief.

“This world does enjoy their gadgets. I’ve seen this one in a dozen variants on the way here.”

Sunset startled, Celestia had found her cellphone! Though she relaxed when she remembered it had a passcode. “Those are useful things. They are like a combination of a small magic mirror that let you see things. A camera and uhh… Spike.”

Celestia turned the phone over in her hands before holding it out in a pinch of finger and thumb. “Like… Spike? Does it shoot flame?”

“Some of them do. But I made sure to avoid that model this year,” Sunset replied with a grin. She liked the perplexed expression on Celestia’s face.

“Hmm, why does it buzz when there is a picture of Twilight? Was that part about Spike not a joke?”

“Hah, that was a jo—“ Sunset began before she blinked. “Wait, it’s vibrating while showing a picture of Twilight?”

Movement outside the large studio window caught her attention and the buzz of a familiar toy filled her ears. Before Sunset could rush over and shut the blinds, there was a flash as the selfie-drone snapped a picture of them both.

“What was that?” Celestia asked.

Sunset groaned as she looked out the window. Human Twilight was waving up from the sidewalk with her phone to her ear. “Trouble.”

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