• Published 11th May 2018
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The Issue of Multiple Sunsets - Hopeful_Ink_Hoof

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Salty apples

Trixie zipped her hoodie up all the way and turned the air conditioner down. Way down. Off. She even considered turning the heater on. Despite the warmth of the day, the inside of her van was freezing. Tilting her head, she looked in the rearview mirror (which quite honestly was pretty useless for its named purpose in this thing) at the source of the arctic level cold.

In the middle area of the van sat Adagio Dazzle and Applejack. Adagio sat in one seat, legs crossed as she filed her nails. Applejack sat facing Adagio, one leg resting on her knee and her arms crossed as she watched the former siren with a scowl.

"You know, Applejack," Adagio said as she looked at her cuticles, "I get the feeling that you don't like me very much."

"Really?" Applejack asked in as flat a tone as she could manage. "What reason could I possibly have for not liking you? You just spent untold years using magic to manipulate people into fighting, then went and did the same thing to my school, putting pressure on my friends and me until we ended up arguing, then used the power you collected to try and turn everyone into mindless zombies to do your every whim."

Adagio turned to look at her, eyes narrowing as she smirked.

"Oh come now," she purred out. "Sunset did similar with the intent of having an army to invade Equestria, as well as years of bullying beforehand, and your Twilight tore numerous holes in the very fabric of reality." Her gaze flicked toward the front. "Plus, it was actually dear Trixie who trapped you, if you recall."

"Sunset..." Applejack looked in the back where pony Sunset and siren Sunset sat "... our Sunset expressed genuine remorse and regret for what they did, and tried to make up for it." She pointed a finger at Adagio, nearly touching her nose. "You have shown no remorse whatsoever, and your only regret is the consequences of your failing."

Adagio tilted her head, and made her eyes as wide as possible.

"Would it help if I said I was sowwy?" she asked, pursing her lips and batting her lashes.

"Maybe if you could do it with any sincerity. Even then, don't mean I'm gonna trust you right off. You know the story of the scorpion and the frog?"

Adagio turned to face Applejack full and directly now. She raised one eyebrow.

"You honestly think I would do something to you, even if it meant harming myself in the process?" she asked.

Applejack leaned forward, moving to rest her arms on her knees as she looked Adagio Dazzle right in the eye.

"I think you're a lying manipulator," she said, "and you've been doin' it for a long time. I think you know enough to do it even without your magic." She leaned in more. "More importantly, I think you're so used to it, that you'll double-cross us to your benefit without a second thought just because it's how you are." She then straightened up. "Because you've been doing this stuff so long, you don't know how to be honest with anyone."

Adagio's eyes narrowed as her lips pressed tight. She let out a snort through her nose.

"You want honesty?" she growled out. "Fine. I'll show give you an honest little bit of information about me."

Adagio lifted her leg up, pulled off her boot and dropped it onto the floor. She then pulled off her sock and stuck her now bare foot into Applejack's lap.

"Take a look at that."

Applejack looked down at Adagio's bare foot.

It was not what she expected.

If Applejack had actually put any thought into what Adagio's feet, she would have imagined them like the rest of her. With smooth, soft, healthy skin in her pale yellow tone, and carefully cultivated to be as perfect looking and sexy as possible. Maybe with some bright red paint on the nails or something.

In reality, it was nothing like that. It was almost entirely scar tissue. Large patches of skin that was red, and far too smooth and shiny, interrupted by raised lines of white and the occasional patch of dark brown. The toes were just as bad, with the smaller four looking like the melted remains of candles, and missing the nails.

"...What happened?" Applejack finally managed to ask.

Adagio pulled her foot away and started putting her sock back on.

"Some people tried to burn me at the stake for witchcraft," she answered. "Not for anything I actually did, either." She grabbed her boot. "Being three unwed maidens was enough to rouse suspicion at the time in itself, meaning that they distrusted us to begin with, and suspected we might be witches already. So when one of the 'devout' and 'pure' wives decided they didn't like how her husband was looking at me -- or maybe it was a mother about her son who was 'of age' -- I was accused of using black magic to enchant the men to do my bidding." She held up a hand. "And yes, I'm aware of the irony on that. Anyway, I couldn't exactly prove myself innocent of it, even though I didn't, and plenty of men were willing to let me be accused of enchanting them instead of admitting their own hormonal lust. So, I was found guilty, and sentenced to burn at the stake. And with my magic, I was able to survive it long enough for Sonata and Aria to save me. Although, as you saw, even with my abilities, I didn't get out unscarred. And speaking of the morons, they have stories of their owns as well. There's a reason Sonata never exposes her back, and Aria's bracelets aren't just for punk fashion."

Leaning forward, Adagio brought her hands together, pointer fingers touching each other, and brought them up to her face.

"Now tell me, Applejack, do you think my being honest and telling them the truth would have saved me from what happened?"

She touched her fingers to her lips as raspberry eyes stared at Applejack, unblinking. She kept at it until Applejack turned away.

"I thought so," Adagio said, giving a smirk before turning away.

"Uhm... do you want to trade places?" Fluttershy asked from the back, where she sat between pony Shimmer and siren Sunset.

"I'm fine," Applejack mumbled.

"I've spent enough time with fussy sirens, thank you," replied Adagio.

"Mm fmmk msmlf!" shouted siren Sunset around her gag.

"I know what you said," Adagio retorted, "and that is not very polite or proper."

"Mmf!"

The rest of the drive was in silence, although the interior was not as chilly as it had been. The entire thing did still have a note of tension in the air, but it had eased a little at least.

When they pulled into Principal Celestia's driveway, Pinkie and Trixie got out, with Trixie stretching a little. Fluttershy made her way toward the side-door, climbing out.

"I think I'll stay here," said Applejack. "Keep on eye on the siren in back."

"I should stay as well," offered Adagio. "Considering all that happened, I'm sure that the principal would not be too happy to see me."

Fluttershy poked her head back in, looking into the backseat.

"Do you want to come with us, Sunset?" she asked. "Give you a chance to walk around, and children like ponies, so your presence may help."

"May as well," unicorn Sunset said as she made her way toward the door. "It will give me a chance to see how this world compares to my own."

The house was pretty nice, especially for someone who worked in public education and was single. It was two stories tall, painted a soft yellow, with red shudders. The yard was well tended, and there were several small garden areas set around it. The entire thing was even surrounded by a white picket fence.

"Huh," Pinkie Pie said as she looked up at the place. "I was expecting something more... castle-y."

Trixie turned to look at Pinkie, raising an eyebrow.

"You do know she's not actually a princess or anything, right?"

"Of course, silly," Pinkie replied with a grin. "I knew that."

As soon as Trixie looked away, Pinkie's eyes went wide and filled with tears. Pulling out a notebook with THEORIES! written on the front, she flipped to the Principal Celestia section, and crossed out "secretly royalty?" She then slipped it back before anyone noticed.

The four of them, three humans and one unicorn pony, made their way toward the house. Pinkie took the lead, bouncing ahead of everyone else. Reaching the door first, she pulled her arm back as far as she could, then gave a machine-gun fast series of knocks.

Principal Celestia answered the door, and she also was not how they expected. For starters, her hair was still pulled back in a ponytail, a scrunchie holding it in place. She was still dressed in the worn out old jeans with the grass and dirt stains on the knees, and a faded purple shirt.

"Glad you girls could..." the rest of Celestia's statement drifted off as she caught sight of the small orange unicorn near the back of the group.

"Is... that..."

"PONYYYYYY!"

Little girl Sunset shot out through the doorway, smacking against Celestia's leg in the process, but did not care if she even noticed. She bolted past Pinkie and Trixie toward the unicorn, slamming into hard enough to force it to take a step back as she wrapped her arms around its neck in a hug.

Unicorn Sunset froze as she found herself being hugged by a small, human version of herself. This was weird on so many levels. Should she say something? Like, not simply to the child at all, but should she admit to being capable of full speech? There was no reason to keep it secret, but there was no reason to admit it either. Plus, it was kind of weird to see another human version of Celestia. And this one was a Principal?

"This is amazing!" little Sunset cried out. She then turned to look up at Fluttershy. "Where did you find it?" She then turned to look at the pony again, eyes going wide. "It looks just like me."

Fluttershy got on her knee and crouched down, getting eye level with little Sunset.

"Maybe you should let go," she suggested softly. "She doesn't know you very well, and needs to be able to breathe too."

The girl looked at the from the pony, to Fluttershy, then at the pony again. Slowly she pulled away, unwrapping her arms from around the neck.

"Okay."

"We have some apples and peanut butter," Principal Celestia offered. "Maybe Fluttershy could prepare a snack for you and the pony while I talk to Trixie and Pinkie Pie."

Sunset looked at Celestia, then at Fluttershy. Somehow, her eyes managed to grow wider and wider, pleading without saying a word.

Fluttershy smiled and stood up.

"Well, I guess it wouldn't hurt."

She then held out her hand to little girl Sunset. It was immediately grabbed as she was yanked forward, running along to keep from being dragged into the house.

"A snack does sound good," unicorn Sunset said to herself as she followed along.

Once the three of them were inside, Celestia turned to the other two girls.

"Now, why do I suddenly have a little girl version of Sunset Shimmer in my home, who thinks I'm her mother?"

"I don't know," Pinkie Pie answered with a shrug. "One moment, we were watching Trixie do a magic trick with Sunset, and the next, KA-BOOM! --" she threw her arms out as wide as she could "-- The box exploded! Next thing we know, we find unicorn Sunset under the stage, and you, The Shadowbolts, and The Dazzlings are all calling us with even more versions of Sunset."

"Trixie would like to take this time to state her innocence for the record," said Trixie. "It was a perfectly normal box bought at a magic supply shop, and Trixie only has the power to teleport herself, which was to switch places with Sunset. There was nothing that should have caused the explosion or... " she motioned toward the house "...that..."

Celestia let out a sigh, rubbing at her head.

"I had so many options when I was younger," she grumbled to herself. "I could have been an actress, a model, even a writer. But noooo. I had to decide to go into educational administration. 'How hard could it be?'" She then rolled her eyes as she looked up toward the sky. "End up being in charge of a school that is the door to another reality, and where magic is actually a thing." She let out another sigh. "Maybe the TARDIS will show up and take me away from all this."

"Pretty sure this is the wrong genre," Pinkie replied.

"Thank you! Pinkie Pie."

Celestia closed her eyes and took a deep breath, working to compose herself. It actually took a lot of work to appear calm, cool, and collected at all times. Especially when things were not going as hoped. That was one of the nice things about having weekends, it gave her time to work out the stress from the week.

She did not know how her pony counterpart could deal with running a whole kingdom every day for a thousand years.

Although... if she had been doing for so long, she probably had lots of practice and knew a lot of helpful techniques.

Given the choice, however, Celestia would rather deal with teenagers than aristocracy. At least with teens, you could blame youth and hormones for their behavior.

Feeling calmer and more collected, Celestia returned her attention to the two girls in front of her.

"Okay," she said in a professional tone. "So, may I ask what you are planning to do?"

"Well, so far, we're trying to find all the Sunsets we've been told about," Pinkie answered. "And Rainbow is going to see if she can find Sunset's journal. Then we're all going to meet up at Sunset's and see if Princess Twilight knows anything that can help us."

Celestia studied the two of them a moment longer, then let her gaze drift toward her house.

"You said that The Dazzlings called out about one. Where is she?"

"Tied and gagged up in the car."

"Pinkie!" Trixie cried out. "You can't... just... you can't!" She then turned to Principal Celestia, arms waving frantically. "It's not as bad as it sounds. I swear."

"Right," Pinkie agreed. "It turns out that she's actually an evil siren, who can manipulate people with her magic through singing, causing them to fight each other and allowing her to feed off their negativity. So we have to keep her gagged and tied up, or else she'll try to use her powers against us." She let out a gasp. "Like using them on a police officer, to convince them that we kidnapped her, and so having them shoot all of us."

Once again, Principal Celestia looked up at the sky.

"How did my life reach the point where something so outrageous was actually plausible?"

No answer came from above, so Celestia returned her attention to earth.

"In that case," she pointed toward the house, "those two are staying here. I'm not letting a child ride around in a van with essentially a supervillain."