• Published 15th Nov 2018
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The Girl Who Orbited the Sun - Dee Pad



When a newly-crowned Twilight Sparkle finds an old book hidden away in the royal archives, she discovers a piece of her mentor's past she had never been told about. And the more she read, the more questions arose. Just who was Sunset Shimmer?

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Chapter 19 - Prominence

The Girl Who Orbited the Sun
By Dee Pad
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Chapter 19: Prominence

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Sunset Shimmer's eyes cracked open, her eyelids practically creaking audibly as she forcibly pried them apart. Even though half her face was sunken into her soft, plush pillow, it may as well have been a rock under her head. The first thing her sight fell upon was the clock upon her bedside table. It was ten o' clock. Sunset was pretty sure she'd never slept in this late in her life, even before she made a habit of getting up to watch the sunrise every morning. Yet there was not an iota of panic or guilt in her mind like the other times she'd missed the sunrise. If anything, the long, exaggerated groan that escaped her throat was a response to having woken up at all. Never in her life had she ever expected to be disdainful towards the morning, but here she was.

But as much as she wanted to roll over and pull the sheets over her head to get a few more hours of sleep, she knew it would only be a matter of time until somepony came to find her; people might start getting worried if they didn't see her around the castle in the early morning. It was just as well to suck it up and get up and about.

Sunset made no effort to throw off her blankets, instead rolling herself to the edge of the mattress and slithering off the side. She hit the floor with an unceremonious fwump, flipping head over hooves onto her back, her hind legs dragging the bedsheets down onto the floor with her. It was her hope that the impact would help wake her up, but having been returned to a reclined position with her sheets back on top of her, it was hard not to fall back to sleep right there, despite the slight pain in her back.

She laboriously turned her head toward the door. She was pretty sure her brain was sending the right signals to tell her body to get up and walk over there, yet she didn't move. All she could manage was rolling over onto her stomach and wriggling her way along the floor like a lazy caterpillar. It was only when she reached the door that her body managed to muster enough strength to reach up and grab the knob, using it as a crutch to pull herself to her hooves.

Sunset's eyes squeezed shut the moment she opened the door. Her living room was filled with the bright light of the sun, its rays reflecting off of the white walls and all seemingly redirected right at her grumpy face. In any other situation, Sunset would have chastised herself for seeing Celestia's sun as a nuisance, but right now, she didn't care in the slightest what blasphemous thoughts ran through her mind.

The unicorn's jaw widened to let out a loud yawn that reverberated throughout the tower, like the roar of a lethargic lion. If she was going to be able to do anything today, she'd need to wake herself up properly first. She'd always been more of a tea-drinker, but this morning, she was considering taking a page out of her father's book and getting herself a big cup of coffee. That was the first thought that actually managed to put a crack in her disgruntled grimace, a slight smirk of amusement creeping onto her face. Her attitude this morning was reminding her of her dad and how much he typically loathed mornings. It made her wonder if coffee really was the only thing that kept her father in a good mood all day. She'd find out in due time.

Sunset started down the spiral stairs of her tower, gripping the railing as tightly as she could manage in her weakened state of somnolence, carefully making her way down. While it was coffee she was aiming for right now, a growl from her stomach reminded her that she was also late for breakfast. And now that the thought was in her mind, she could already feel her sleepiness begin to dissipate, a weak, yet eager smile spreading across her lips, accompanied by a pass from her tongue. If anything good came from sleeping in like this, it was that she was hungrier than usual, which meant a bigger breakfast would be needed to sate her rumbling tummy. The images of her plate and all the breakfast foods she wanted right now flashed in her mind's eye. Two slices of marmalade toast, a short stack of pancakes drowning in maple syrup, a big, buttery, blueberry muffin, a pile of crispy hash browns with a generous serving of ketchup, and a tall cup of freshly-squeezed orange juice with plenty of pulp. Now it was just a matter of what to have for lunch afterward.

In all of her daydreaming about breakfast, Sunset hadn't even realized the trance she'd ended up in. She'd already found herself at the dining hall, having left a trail of drool in the carpet behind her. But, as if by some sort of divine intervention, all of the wondrous scents she'd been fantasizing about suddenly manifested within reality. The dining table was already lined with every sort of breakfast amenity one could imagine—even extending beyond the ones present within Sunset's fantasy. Had the cooks somehow predicted the future? Whatever the case, she wasn't about to complain.

But it quickly became obvious that the sizable spread was purely coincidental and had been prepared for somepony else. That fact was made evident by the presence of both Starswirl and Princess Celestia, both enjoying their breakfasts and engaged in an enthusiastic conversation. But once the doors had opened, their attention was diverted to the amber mare walking over to the table, eyeing the food that was laid out.

"Oh, good morning, Sunset," Princess Celestia greeted with a chipper lilt in her voice. However, she raised an eyebrow as she looked her student over. "Did you miss the mirror this morning?"

"Huh?" Sunset turned her eyes up, noticing several strands of her fiery mane sticking out and frayed. She ran a hoof through her hair, noting the knots within it. She wasn't somepony who ever made use of makeup, but she'd always took great care of her mane. Sunset grimaced as the unkempt state of her hair suddenly became noticeable now that it had been pointed out. "Ugh, sorry. Guess I forgot to brush it."

Celestia stifled an amused snicker, but flicked a hoof to dismiss the issue. "It's fine. Have a seat, Sunset."

The invitation brought a grin back to Sunset's face, and she happily pulled out a chair, sitting across from her father. She wasted no time grabbing a plate and piling as much food onto it as she could manage.

"You're up pretty late this morning," Starswirl commented with a touch of concern. "Didn't miss the sunrise, did you?" It wasn't as though it mattered to him whether she missed it or not, but missing it usually meant something was up.

Sunset briefly glanced at Celestia with slight apology in her eyes, but she seemed mostly aggravated, letting out a quiet groan. "Yeah... I didn't get much sleep last night."

"I can tell," Celestia remarked, noticing the dark bags under Sunset's eyes. "Is something the matter?"

Sunset hesitated. It wasn't like she didn't know why she was getting so little sleep—this had been a persisting problem for the past couple of weeks now—but it was something that she couldn't share with them. She was going to have to deflect the issue. "Nah, I've just been wrapped up in my studies, staying up later than I should. No biggie," she told them, following with a long yawn.

Starswirl stared silently as his daughter began to voraciously shovel down her breakfast. Celestia looked at her much the same.

"Sunset, I can't help but notice that you've been a little slow during our lessons of late," the princess pointed out.

Sunset's chewing came to a quick halt, her cheeks packed with pancake. The sympathetic expression on the alicorn's face was a tad worrying.

"You've been making such great progress recently that it's somewhat disheartening to see.

Sunset swallowed her mouthful and was quick to jump to her own defense. "I-I know, I'm sorry. I'll... I'll try to hit the hay earlier from now on."

Celestia smiled compassionately and reassuringly. "I know you're not purposely doing it. I understand how engrossed you can get in your studies. Your father and I have been in the same boat lately."

Sunset breathed an internal sigh of relief, detecting an opportunity to shift the subject away from herself. "Yeah? Making some strides on the whole 'magic of friendship' thing?"

"Quite," Starswirl affirmed with a chuckle. "It's actually rather exciting to finally be making some headway on the subject. I must admit, I was skeptical when the princess first told me about it, and even more so the longer I went without finding anything on the topic. But now that I've not only witnessed it, but utilized it for myself, I've been quite enthusiastic about it."

"Think you'll be able to restore power to the Elements of Harmony?" Sunset asked as she took a bite of a blueberry muffin.

"We've discussed that a few times, but we both believe we're a ways off from that yet," Celestia answered. "It's not enough to be able to harness the magic of friendship, but knowing how to do so."

"I remember you told me when I was a kid that you need six people who represent the virtues of the Elements," Sunset said, recalling the first time her teacher had shown her the relics.

Celestia nodded. "Yes, but that's easier said than done. Friendship is not something that can be forced. Some luck may be involved to get everything to line up in our favor."

"Which ultimately means we have no idea how long it will be before we can see the fruits of our labors," Starswirl added with a disheartened sigh. "But speaking of the Elements, we should really send somepony to retrieve them from the old castle, shouldn't we?"

Sunset chose a bad time to take a bite of toast, the crumbs catching in her throat and nearly choking her. She coughed and hacked and eventually forced her food down her esophagus. Her eyes were filled with panic at the suggestion, knowing the implications.

"Are you alright, Sunset?" Celestia asked with concern in response to her student's sudden coughing fit. "Perhaps you should drink something."

Sunset heeded her advice, downing a glass of orange juice before quickly jumping on her father's suggestion. "I-If you need somepony to get the Elements then, uh... M-Me and Hal can go get them!"

Starswirl gave her a reprimanding glare. "Not looking to plan another date to the Everfree Forest, are you?"

The amber mare blushed with embarrassment. "Um, no..."

"It's not necessary to have the Elements here," Celestia interjected. "If anything, they may be safer where they are. Besides, anypony who would be willing to steal them likely wouldn't have the capability of using them. And as it stands, they are nothing more than ordinary stones now. A potential thief may think them to merely be decorations."

Sunset let her heart rate level out. Her father had no idea the stress he was inadvertently inducing in her.

Celestia's face was graced with a smile once more as she looked to her student. "Sunset, how would you like to join us in our research on the subject today?"

The unicorn mare looked up, a slight twinkle in her eye. "What? Really?"

"Of course. I think you may need a break from our lessons anyway. It might make for a nice change of pace. You can even invite Halberd to accompany us if you wish."

Sunset grinned. As much as she wanted to focus on improving her own abilities in order to approach the point where she could feel comfortable revealing the news to Celestia, her teacher had a point. She was getting sluggish lately due to her lack of sleep. If she kept up how things were going, her progress was going to slow exponentially. This might be a good way for her to relax a little. And even if it turned out that she had nothing to contribute, she might be able to sneak in an afternoon nap.

"Sure!" she chirped eagerly. "I'll let Halberd know to meet up with us." Sunset glanced at the plethora of food still laid out on the table, her stomach growling in response to the sight despite how much she'd already eaten. "Right after breakfast."

***** ***** *****

Sunset Shimmer let out yet another sleepy yawn as she rest her head against her fetlock. She was quietly observing as her father and Princess Celestia compared notes at a different table. Since the three of them had arrived at the royal archives, Sunset hadn't done much of anything. She had grabbed a few books from the shelves and one lay open in front of her, but she'd barely read a word of it. Her eyes had difficulty focusing due to her lack of sleep, and now she had a belly overstuffed with food to only exacerbate her lethargy.

Yet as little as she had been able to contribute to the cause, Sunset couldn't help but smile. Both Starswirl and Princess Celestia were discussing their work rather exuberantly. The two were almost like a pair of energetic foals talking about their favorite subjects. Sunset had to wonder if this was how her father felt when he used to watch her and Halberd hanging out.

Another yawn echoed throughout the spacious library, but this time it wasn't from Sunset. Her yawn had apparently spread to the armored pegasus standing beside her. Halberd was practically teetering in place, his eyes repeatedly on the verge of shutting, but would jerk open again before his eyelids could meet. He was barely keeping his grip on his spear, but the weapon may have been the only reason he was able to stand up right now, using it as a crutch to keep himself propped up.

"You okay there, hun?" Sunset asked, having to stifle another yawn herself.

Halberd didn't reply right away. He just kept staring forward, his expression blank and unfocused as his eyes began to steadily drift shut again.

"Hal."

The soldier's head jerked up with enough force to almost make him lose his balance. He lost his grip on his spear, the polearm clattering against the wooden table and prompting Starswirl and Celestia to glance in their direction with raised eyebrows. Halberd quickly and clumsily picked up his spear, an awkward and embarrassed grin on his face.

"You two alright over there?" Starswirl asked, noticing the darkness under not just his daughter's eyes, but Halberd's as well.

"Yeah, yeah, fine," Halberd responded perhaps a little louder than necessary.

"You both seem to be a little out of it today," Celestia observed. "Up late last night?"

The two younger ponies froze for a moment, a nervous bead of sweat upon both their foreheads. But the somewhat suggestive smirk on the alicorn's face seemed to implicate something more romantic rather than suspicious.

"H-He was just keeping me company while I was studying, that's all," Sunset lied with an exaggerated grin.

"Now, Princess, you shouldn't pry into their love lives," Starswirl corrected her with a chuckle. "Let them have their privacy."

Sunset and Halberd both blushed, but said nothing. They both knew it was better for them to believe that their sleepiness was due to a late night tryst rather than the actual reason.

Halberd was the one who decided to try and shift the subject to divert any possible suspicion. "Sorry if I seem inattentive, Your Highness. I'm, uh... not exactly sure what I'm doing here to begin with. Do you guys need a guard in the royal archives?"

Celestia smiled sweetly. "Halberd, you're not here as a guard, you're here as a friend. Given the subject of our current research, that seems conducive, wouldn't you agree, Starswirl?"

The bearded stallion nodded with a smile of his own. "Indeed. The more the merrier, as they say."

Hearing that, Halberd let himself relax a little, taking off his helmet and laying it on the table to lift the extra weight from his already heavy head. "You think me just being here might help advance your research?" he asked with no lack of doubt.

"It may," Celestia answered. "As Starswirl experienced, the magic of friendship can manifest at any time. Perhaps just by having friends around we'll reach some sort of revelation. Or maybe not. Who knows?" The child-like whimsy in the alicorn's eyes was a refreshing sight for everypony present. "But it is nice to simply spend time with loved ones, isn't it?"

"Yes, this isn't just a study and brainstorming session," added Starswirl. "It's a leisurely get-together. If we hadn't just stuffed ourselves at breakfast, we'd likely have Rosehip serve biscuits and beverages."

"Still, I feel like I should be contributing something," Halberd said with slight shame. "I'm on the clock after all. Lance would probably be a little miffed if he heard I was getting paid to just hang out with my girlfriend."

"You shouldn't feel obligated to do something to make yourself feel you deserve to be here," Celestia assured him. "But if you want, you can fetch another book for us. It's titled 'At the Heart of Hearth's Warming.' It should be in the back somewhere."

Halberd was happy to accept the task, regardless of how mundane or brief it would be. At least having something to focus on would help keep him from falling asleep.

As he started down the far aisle between the bookshelves, Sunset hopped up to follow him. "I'll help you look, Hal."

The two disappeared between the bookshelves, heading down toward the far wall. One good thing about the new library compared to the one at the old castle was its much more immense size. While the obvious practicality of that was the abundance of space for more books, it also provided a little privacy for the visitors.

Halberd let out another yawn as he scanned the spines of the books on his way to the back of the aisle. Sunset cast him an apologetic look.

"I know you're tired, Hal. Trust me, I am, too," she whispered, stifling a yawn herself.

"These late nights are doing a number on me, Sunset," Halberd told her with a sigh. "Scabbard's already told me off a few times for nearly falling asleep at my post."

"We have to go out late," she reminded him. "We can't risk getting caught again, and late night is the easiest time to avoid being seen."

"I know that, but do we have to go out there every night? I've gotten no more than ten hours of sleep total so far this week."

Sunset rolled her head around, the weight of it threatening to drag her down to the floor in her tired state. "Alright, but only because I really need some sleep, too. Let's just head down there tonight, and we can skip tomorrow night. You have the day off Saturday, right? So you can sleep in then."

Halberd managed a weak smile. "That sounds good. I know its important to keep an eye on your—" He glanced over his shoulder, paranoid that Starswirl or Celestia might have been eavesdropping for some reason. He leaned in closer to Sunset, his voice barely audible. "Your 'you-know-what,' but I think we need to be in better shape if you want to take proper care of it."

"Point taken," Sunset conceded, pulling out the book that Celestia had asked for.

The pair headed back to deliver the book, then took their seats at their table once more. Sunset turned her gaze down to the book she had open in front of her. She didn't even remember what it was about anymore, but tried to pick up where she left off regardless.

Starswirl held aloft the book Celestia had requested. "You think we'll learn anything from this?"

"Six representatives of the three races managed to quell the fury of the windigos long ago. Perhaps that number is not merely a coincidence."

"Ah, so you're saying that the story behind Hearth's Warming is not simply a tall tale for children."

"It's a known fact that it was the camaraderie between them that melted the ice and snow caused by the windigos. The magic of friendship has been utilized more often than you may realize throughout Equestrian history, even without the Elements. The Elements are merely conduits through which that power can more easily be focused, as well as drastically amplifying it."

"Hmm..." Starswirl hummed in thought. The idea that the power he'd output during their excursion to the Everfree Forest was what he could do without the Elements only served to intrigue him further. And Celestia and Luna had been able to subdue Discord—a being able to manipulate reality itself—with them, and Celestia insisted that even she and her sister have never been able to utilize their full power. Exactly how powerful were these relics? Was there even a limit to what the magic of friendship could do?

Starswirl was snapped from his thoughts by a loud snort. Both he and Celestia glanced over to the other table. Halberd's head was nestled into his fetlocks on the table, and Sunset's head was resting against his shoulder, the two of them having fallen fast asleep. Sunset was snoring rather loudly, but despite her proximity to Halberd's ear, the pegasus didn't stir in the slightest; a testament to just how tired they both were. Although the trail of drool dripping from the corner of Sunset's mouth was dangerously close to staining the open book next to her.

Celestia grinned fondly, having to hold a hoof to her mouth to quiet her amused giggles. "Perhaps we should take this discussion elsewhere and let them rest," she whispered.

***** ***** *****

The night sky was overcast tonight, heavily so. A big storm was scheduled for the next day, so the weather ponies had spent the evening getting all the clouds in position in preparation. All that meant for tonight was that the stars and moon were not visible, which to the average pony meant little. But to Sunset Shimmer, it was a relief. The less light there was, the more difficult it would be for her and Halberd to be spotted by somepony on their way to the Castle of the Two Sisters.

Sunset was currently outside the castle, near the barracks where the soldiers did their combat training. She was inside the storage area where most of the weapons and equipment—and, more pertinently, the chariots—were kept to avoid the bite of the wind. The storm wasn't supposed to start until tomorrow morning, but the winds were already fairly strong, though Sunset had no reason to believe they would provide any trouble for Halberd. Still, though, she wasn't able to entirely escape the chill, as the large entrance of the storage room was open to the nip of the night air and had no door to close, but it was better than nothing.

She simply sat quietly in the corner of the room, idly flipping through her notebook and reviewing the progress of her creation. She peered outside for a moment, glancing up into the sky. Not finding what she was looking for, she turned back to her notes.

Checking up on her sun had become a more arduous task as of late than it used to be. She and Halberd used to be able to sneak off to the old castle under the pretense of going on a date; if the two of them weren't around, everypony would just assume they were out to dinner or taking a long, romantic walk. Now, though, there was too much suspicion surrounding them. They'd been caught out in the Everfree Forest once already, so it was too risky to try and head out there when there were still people around who could catch them. Lance and Starswirl in particular seemed to be keeping a close eye on them, which was understandable considering what had happened. Sunset just counted herself lucky that nopony happened to look inside the castle.

So, now they were forced to relegate their trips to the old castle to the late night, when they were certain that everypony had gone to bed. There were still guards patrolling the halls of Canterlot Castle during the night, but Sunset had no difficulty sneaking out with her teleportation, and as long as Halberd flew low with the chariot and down through Canterlot Valley, nopony would see him through the windows of the castle. The problems arose when the morning rolled around. It was currently three a.m., and given how early Sunset typically got up, she'd only get a few hours of sleep. Both she and Halberd had been pretty tired lately, and they were starting to get worried that people were getting suspicious. It was a necessity, though; she had to keep tabs on her sun, but she was certainly looking forward to going to bed early tonight as she'd promised Halberd. They were going to have to start spacing out their trips if they didn't want their daily lives to suffer as a result, especially since Celestia had mentioned her slowing progress with her lessons.

Sunset glanced outside again, staring up at the overcast sky. Again, she saw nothing. She stepped outside to get a better look, having to hold her mane out of her face now that she was subjecting herself to the wind. Her mouth contorted into an disgruntled grimace, and she tapped her hoof on the dirt impatiently.

She'd been waiting there for almost an hour. She knew this change to their plans was more difficult for Halberd since he still lived with his family and had to pick and choose when he decided to sneak out of the house to avoid being caught. He didn't live in a spacious and sparsely-populated castle and didn't have the luxury of teleportation. Still, he'd have usually shown up by now. Halberd has never left Sunset high and dry before.

Sunset groaned. She couldn't really afford to wait any longer, and she promised him she wouldn't go out there by herself anymore. Even if he did show up now, by the time they got back, they'd get even less sleep than usual. Sunset was going to have to cut her losses and give it up for the night so she could get at least a little sleep.

She started heading back toward the castle proper. It felt like a waste to have stayed up this late only to end up not going, but what could she do? She'd suggest that they abandon their original plan of heading to bed early the next night to make up for it, but figured Halberd would disagree, knowing they needed at least one good night's rest.

She hesitated for another moment longer to look back up into the night sky, hopeful that Halberd might show up at the last second. Unfortunately, he didn't, so she reluctantly trudged her way back to her room.

***** ***** *****

Celestia observed as her student focused on the task at hoof. She had once again provided a challenge for Sunset to overcome. While she had proven in the past that her aim and situational awareness were impressive, there had also been evidence recently that there was definite room for improvement. Allowing herself and Halberd to be beset upon by a cockatrice showed that she had a tendency to get complacent and overconfident still. Either that, or she was simply distracted staring into her boyfriend's eyes.

As scheduled, a storm was beating down around them, raindrops bombarding the statue garden in an unyielding deluge. Celestia was at least considerate enough to create a golden barrier as an awning above the two of them to protect them from the elements, but the unrelenting downpour added an extra level of challenge.

The current test should provide an adequate estimation of her ability to react to a situation without having the time to assess it. The statue garden was an ideal place to hold this test, as the sculptures acted as obstructions. Behind some of them—Sunset didn't know which—were the same glowing orbs of magic that Celestia would often create as targets for Sunset's more "hero-oriented" lessons. Sunset knew that those orbs were going to fly out at her when she least expected it. It was her job to react quickly and take them out before they hit her, a task made more difficult by the sound of the rain drowning out the hum of magic and the curtain of falling water and lack of light reducing visibility. And Celestia had assured her that hesitation in this scenario would be punished. She wasn't pulling any punches today apparently.

The problem was, "focused" was perhaps not an apt term to describe Sunset right now. While the amber mare was indeed glancing around at the various statues surrounding her, her teal eyes were glazed over and she seemed to be having difficulty just keeping them open.

Celestia decided to test her current attentiveness. With a discreet glow of her horn, an orb quickly emerged from behind a statue directly in front of Sunset. The ball of magic careened straight for the unicorn, its golden glow in the dark, stormy weather alerting Sunset enough for her to react and blast it with her own cyan magic.

Sunset let out a short breath, relieved that she'd reacted in time, though it had only been a few feet away from her before she managed to hit it. Unfortunately, her decision to relax would be a mistake, as a second orb zoomed out from behind the statue of Discord and struck Sunset squarely in the right flank. The orb popped with a flash of golden magic and Sunset let out a pained yelp, staggering from the impact and falling over into the mud.

Sunset inhaled sharply through her teeth as she propped herself up. She glanced back at her flank, a mild magic burn next to her cutie mark; nothing serious, but it was probably going to sting for a while. Celestia really wasn't holding back today.

The princess sighed in disappointment, shaking her head, but also giving her student a sympathetic gaze. "I suppose this sort of training isn't feasible today. I'm sorry. Are you alright, Sunset?"

Sunset rose to her hooves again, wiping off some of the mud and rubbing the afflicting spot on her flank to try and assuage the pain. "Yeah, I'm fine... And I should be the one apologizing," she claimed, hanging her head.

"Still haven't been sleeping well?" Celestia surmised, to which Sunset replied with a shake of her head. "You've been pretty into your lessons of late, haven't you?"

Sunset couldn't help but notice the slightly scolding tone of her teacher's voice.

Celestia could already sense the shame in Sunset's expression. The unicorn was expecting another lecture about trying to fast-track her lessons. The alicorn gave her student a gentle and compassionate look. "You need some sleep, Sunset. Staying up all night studying is not conducive to what we're trying to accomplish."

Sunset breathed a defeated sigh, using her magic to clean up all the mud on her coat. "Yeah... But I promise I'll get some sleep tonight. Tomorrow, I'm gonna be in top shape for this."

Celestia frowned at Sunset with pity. The resolution in her words was belied by the weariness in her voice. "Why don't we have something to eat and we can just sit down and talk for a while?" she suggested, leading her student back to the castle and guiding her magic umbrella along with them. "If there's anything on your mind that may be bothering you, you can share with me if you think that will help."

Obviously there was a lot on Sunset's mind, but nothing she was comfortable openly talking to the princess about quite yet. Still, it wasn't like she didn't have more questions she wanted to ask. It was part of the reason she'd been taking notes so diligently. Maybe this would be another good opportunity to secretly compare notes with her teacher.

"Can I ask you some more questions about the sun?" Sunset requested.

Celestia quirked an eyebrow at her student, prompting Sunset to look away awkwardly. She'd been awfully interested in the mechanics of the sun as of late. The princess had to admit that Sunset had been making great strides in her training, and she may very well be nearing the point where she could finally achieve her goal of moving the sun. But it brought up the question: what exactly was Sunset planning to do after she successfully moved the sun?

However, while she had her suspicions, Celestia didn't want Sunset to think she distrusted her. She also thought that she may be overthinking this. Sunset had always been a curious individual in the constant pursuit of knowledge. Celestia recalled when the amber mare was still a filly and would constantly bombard her with questions about her past and the sun. But given how close Sunset was getting to her goal, such questions may simply be more pragmatic now.

"I suppose," Celestia obliged. "Go ahead."

"You've been incapacitated by solar flares before, right?"

"I have. I would be rendered in much the same state you were when it happened to you, though I was much older than you were when it happened to me. I'm still surprised that you actually survived that. Just a reminder of how powerful the magic within you truly is."

"Have solar flares always been consistent in their frequency? Like, has it always been one every decade or so?"

"Give or take a few years, yes. If you'll recall, the last solar flare was a few weeks ago, and the one before that—the one that struck you—was thirteen years ago. So there's some margin for error in that approximation."

"What about when you first created it, when it was still growing?"

Celestia closed her eyes for a moment, humming in thought. "That's going back to where my memories get hazy. I seem to recall not having too much difficulty with it until it started getting particularly big. During its infancy, it didn't really have enough magic within it to become unstable enough for a solar flare. I think..." The princess pursed her lips as she attempted to fish around in her brain for the misplaced memories. "...the first solar flare I remember happened maybe... six months after I created it? That sounds about right."

Sunset breathed a quiet sigh of relief. Admittedly, after Halberd had brought the notion up some time ago, she was a little worried about the prospect. She'd figured that it wouldn't be a big deal as long as she avoided using her magic on it during that time, but there were always unknowns involved. But hearing that information from the princess lifted a weight from her mind. She was confident she would be in a place to reveal the news to Celestia within six months.

"You know, I often envied Luna around that time of our lives."

Sunset stared at her with a quizzical expression. She hadn't expected Luna to come up, much less the amused grin on Celestia's face as she mentioned her. "Really? Based on everything I knew about her, she seemed more like the envious one."

Celestia's smile faltered for a short moment. "Yes, and that was true in our younger years, as well. I think she always felt a little jealous that our parents chose me to govern the sun, but I honestly believe that had more to due with our appearances than anything else. But Luna didn't have to deal with anything like solar flares with her moon, so I always thought she had the easier job." Her fond and mirthful smile returned in full force. "But we actually had a lot of fun growing the sun and moon. We were perhaps a little more reckless with them than we should have been. We would roast snacks on the fire of my sun and use her moon to play catch when they were still quite small. Mom and Dad got quite upset with us when they'd catch us doing those sorts of things," she said with hearty and boisterous laughter.

Sunset couldn't help but find her teacher's amusement contagious, grinning with a snicker herself. All things considered, if the two alicorns were so haphazard with their celestial bodies and nothing bad happened, what did Sunset really have to be worried about? "Wow, that was reckless. And as often as you say your memories of those days are fuzzy, you seem to remember some things pretty clearly."

A wistful sigh escaped Celestia's lips. "Yes... Ever since I had to banish my sister, I've found my most cherished memories of her being reawakened. Perhaps simply my conscience's way of making me feel guilty, but I can't say it's an entirely unwelcome occurrence. For as frequently as Luna and I would butt heads, our childhood and teenage years are some of my most precious memories of her, especially after our parents passed away and all we had left was each other." She shook herself out of her reminiscing, smiling somewhat apologetically down at Sunset. "I'm sorry, we seem to have gone off on a tangent. Did you have any other questions?"

While there were other things Sunset wanted to inquire about, she didn't feel like asking anymore. Some of her concerns had been adequately quelled, and she figured she'd let this conversation end on a positive note. "Nah, I'm good. I just want to get something to eat and maybe take a nap."

"Sounds like you have a full day ahead of you," Celestia quipped with a giggle.

The pair turned a corner in the hall, and Sunset paused when she looked down the way. Halberd was walking toward them. Given that he was just slipping his helmet on, he likely had just arrived for work and was on his way to his post—and Sunset knew he was late, too; he was supposed to have been at his post half an hour ago, and that meant that he'd probably slept in that morning. Even from across the hall, Sunset could see the apologetic look on his face the moment their eyes met, and she made sure that he could see the suppressed and slightly jealous ire on hers.

But her expression shifted rather quickly back to an affable grin as she looked up at Celestia. "You go on ahead, Princess. I wanna talk to Hal for a few minutes."

The alicorn nodded. "Take your time," she responded with a sly wink.

Celestia offered a brief greeting to Halberd as she passed by. He offered a greeting in return, but it was rather halfhearted considering his attention was focused on the once again grouchy grimace his girlfriend was giving him. Halberd and Sunset stood alongside one another for a moment, the mare waiting for Celestia to be out of earshot. Once the princess had rounded the corner, Sunset abruptly grabbed Halberd's hoof, pulling him close so that he could see the bloodshot veins in her eyes.

"Where were you last night?!" she snapped, the volume of her voice barely staying under control so it didn't carry through the hall.

"I'm sorry! I didn't mean to leave you hanging, I swear!" he said defensively.

"You've got a lot of nerve, you know that? I'm sitting up in the cold wind at three in the morning and you're at home, snuggled up in your bed and getting a good night's sleep."

"Look, I didn't get much sleep either, okay," he argued, pointing out the redness in his own eyes. "I was about to sneak out last night, but Lance happened to get up at the same time to use the bathroom. I had to pretend like I was just getting something to drink, but the look he gave me made it seem like he was skeptical. I couldn't very well sneak out if he was suspicious. He might've been listening to see if I was up to something."

Sunset let out a sigh, gently nuzzling his cheek as a way of apologizing for getting mad at him. "Sorry. I know sneaking out isn't an easy task for you. I guess I was just surprised that you didn't show."

"I'd never stand you up if I could help it, Sunset," Halberd told her sweetly. "If you want, we can go out there tonight to make up for it."

While she deeply appreciated his consideration, she shook her head with a small smile. "No, I promised we could have the day off and sleep in tomorrow, so that's what we're gonna do."

"You think it's okay to ignore it for more than a day?" Halberd asked with slight concern.

Sunset flashed a cute and reassuring grin. "Actually, I think its fine. I just had a conversation with Princess Celestia, and it seems like we have nothing to worry about in regards to things like stability and such for a few months."

"Yeah? Well, that's good news," Halberd said, breathing a sigh of relief and finally smiling himself.

Sunset gave him a playful and eager prod in the chest. "Yup. Which also means we can relax a little more. Maybe even cut down our check-ins to a couple of times a week." She leaned up against him, giving him a sultry gaze. "Which means more proper alone time for us." She punctuated that with a light, tender kiss to his lips.

Halberd blushed deeply, but returned her affection with his own, running a hoof through her fiery mane. "Sounds like a plan to me."

Sunset dropped the romantic attitude in an instant, looking more eager as she started making her way down the hall to catch up to Celestia. "Hey, me and the princess were about to get something to eat. Think you have time to join us?"

Halberd rubbed his neck with an awkward chuckle. "I don't think so. Lance already gave me flak for sleeping in while I'm supposed to be taking over for him on his day off. I probably shouldn't do anything to get myself into any more trouble."

"Alright. Then I'll catch you later." Sunset trotted back over to him quickly to give him another kiss before hurrying off to the dining hall.

***** ***** *****

Sunset stretched out with a satisfied moan, rolling over to let her right hooves dangle off of her plush, purple couch. True to her word, right after her meal with Princess Celestia she headed back to her tower immediately to take a nap. She couldn't even be bothered to make it to her bedroom and had simply flopped onto the couch in her living room. Sunset had always had difficulty sleeping during the day, mostly because the sun was what had always given her energy and because she typically went to bed early so she could watch the sunrise. But the bright sunlight itself just made sleeping difficult when it could so easily permeate one's eyelids. Thankfully, due to the storm, that wasn't an issue today, as the dark grey clouds blotting out the sky made it practically feel like night. Plus, the raindrops against the glass doors of her balcony made for some rather soothing white noise.

Sunset had found it surprisingly easy to drift off once her head hit the cushions. She hadn't expected to fall asleep so easily during the day. Admittedly, her frequent, late-night trips out to the Castle of the Two Sisters had messed with her sleep schedule. She'd still made it a point to get up early to watch the sunrise, but having to push her trips to even later in the night now made that difficult. Truthfully, the previous morning hadn't been the first sunrise she'd missed in the last couple of weeks, but she had just happened to overshoot that one by a lot more than usual, enough to arouse concern from her peers.

An involuntary smile managed to crease Sunset's lips as she dozed. Perhaps part of the reason she'd managed to fall asleep so easily was because she no longer felt that weight on her shoulders. Most concerns regarding her sun had been quelled, so she felt like she could finally take it easy again. She especially felt relieved that she wouldn't have to put Halberd out as much any more. He was probably more worried than she had been, and she felt bad about dragging him into this and placing some of her burden on him. But they didn't have to ruin their sleep schedules anymore; one trip every few days would probably suffice from here on until Sunset was ready to tell Princess Celestia about her sun, which shouldn't be long from now if Sunset's estimations were correct. But even then, she had a few months of leeway to work with.

Sunset was jostled from her slumber by the sound of light rapping against her balcony doors. Whoever it was, it didn't sound urgent, so she took her time to open her eyes, taking a moment to stretch once more before propping her head up onto the arm of the couch and forcibly pulling her eyelids apart.

She'd kind of been expecting it to be Halberd, but was surprised to find Princess Celestia standing on her balcony, giving her a smile and a friendly wave through the glass. Sunset must have been asleep for at least a few hours. It had stopped raining, and while the sky was still overcast, the sun managed to shine through what gaps the weather pegasi had already made in their effort to clean up; they had even saw fit to have a rainbow arc across the sky, making for a rather picturesque view from Sunset's balcony and giving Princess Celestia a fittingly beautiful backdrop to stand against.

"Come in," Sunset called out with a welcoming smile, followed by a yawn as she rose from the couch.

Celestia opened the doors, stepping inside to join her student. "Did you rest well?"

Sunset stretched her back, causing a few audible pops in her vertebrae that even the princess could hear. "Yeah, actually. I'm feeling pretty good after that nap."

"Good to hear, but I'm sorry if I woke you. You looked rather content," Celestia said with an apologetic grin.

"Nah, I was about to get up anyway. So, what brings you here, Princess? Something up?" Sunset asked curiously.

"No, no, I had some free time, so I just thought I'd stop by to say hello. But, if you're feeling up to it now, we could resume your lessons. The storm is over, so we could head back to the gardens, if you'd like."

While Sunset appreciated the suggestion, she shook her head. "You know what? I think I'll pass. I might go and keep Hal company. He's probably having trouble just keeping his eyes open."

Celestia's smile faded, looking a little disappointed. "Oh... Well, alright. I guess I'll just have to find something to occupy my time."

Sunset quirked an eyebrow. "What, you don't have anything to do right now? No meetings, nothing to schedule, or anything?"

"I was supposed to be with you for most of the day. I finished all of my royal duties while you were asleep."

"Oh. Well, I guess I can spare a little time. What'd you have in mind?"

Celestia contemplated for a moment. "Hmm... Well, I don't want to keep you away from your boyfriend for too long," she teased with a smirk. "I'd just like to feel like we did something today. I know you've been hard at it recently, and while I've been hoping you would take a break, I'd feel bad if we left our lessons for the day off on such a weak note as it had this morning. I'm sure you feel similarly."

"You'd be surprised, actually," Sunset corrected her with a grin. "I actually feel like I want to take it easy from now on."

"Oh? Well, that's certainly unexpected. Normally you'd never turn down an opportunity to learn and improve."

"And I still feel that way, but I know how tough I'll be making it if I push myself too hard. Plus, I've got Halberd to think about now. I wanna help him out a little since it's kinda my fault he's been staying up so late." Sunset tensed slightly, quickly adding an addendum to that statement before Celestia could inquire. "Uh, k-keeping me company while I study. He's been pretty supportive of me, so I feel like I have to show him the same appreciation, you know?"

"Yes, yes, that's completely understandable."

"So, what, you wanna do a little target practice or something before I head off?"

"No, nothing so time-consuming. And I don't really want to risk hurting you again."

Sunset gave her a cocky smirk. "As if I'd let that happen again. Besides, it barely stung."

Celestia glanced over her shoulder, gazing out the open balcony doors. The sun could be seen between the gaps of the clouds, bathing the kingdom in its warming light. The princess mulled something over apprehensively before looking back at Sunset. "Want to have another go at the sun?"

Sunset was taken aback by the suggestion. "What? Really?"

The look on Celestia's face indicated that she was not joking.

"I mean, I guess I can, but I don't think I've really made that much progress since the last time I tried."

"Then think of it as strength training. Just give it as much power as you can."

Sunset shrugged. "Alright. I'm feeling pretty limbered up after my nap, so why not?"

The amber mare sauntered out onto her balcony, working a few kinks out of her neck. She stared up into the cloudy sky, gazing at the glowing orb shining down from above even through the clouds. It was still puzzling to her that she was having so much trouble moving Celestia's sun when she'd managed to make one herself, but perhaps it simply was just a matter of needing more power due to its larger size.

Admittedly, Sunset always felt a rush of adrenaline whenever she went all out with her magic. It wasn't something she did often, though; as a kid, Celestia had warned her not to output too much power for fear she would hurt herself. But lately, it was more like a fear of hurting others. There had already been a couple of instances when she'd almost inadvertently caused some damage as a result of acting before thinking, but, thankfully, she had Halberd there to think for her.

But even so, that power—the fire within her—felt good. Whenever she'd focus that power into her horn, it sparked an odd sensation, one combining both pain and pleasure, not unlike the satisfaction one feels after rigorous exercise. The phrase, "Feel the burn," came to mind, and was surprisingly apt, all things considered. It was just a matter of making sure that she didn't "burn" anypony else in the process.

Now, though, there was nothing holding her back. Celestia had said herself to use as much power as she could manage, and she was looking forward to doing just that. She'd done so the last time she tried not long ago, but right now, she was wondering if maybe the rest she'd gotten would make any sort of difference. If nothing else, this exercise might be like a good, morning stretch for her magic.

Sunset began building power in her horn in preparation. She wasn't expecting to really get anywhere with this, but she saw no harm in trying. She felt her horn start to tingle as her aura shifted from cyan to red, the gentle waves becoming erratic flickers. She took a moment to experience that sensation of her magic flowing through her before turning her attention to the sun. The aura of her magic expanded outward as her power built up, casting a glow not unlike the sun itself, and generating enough heat that even Princess Celestia could feel it from inside as she watched. Then, Sunset clenched her eyes shut and targeted the sun.

The moment she applied her magic to the celestial orb, Sunset suddenly felt a pain in her horn. Not the same pain that normally came with using this much magic, but a sharp, intense pain that shot through her entire body. Sunset's muscles tensed up in response, barely able to keep her legs from giving out. Her magic suddenly sparked, her aura growing even larger in an instant.

This pain felt familiar to her...

Celestia took a step back when Sunset's magic flared up, watching as her horn lit up so brightly it was hard to look at directly. She felt a wave of heat hit her, like she had just opened the door to an incinerator. Sunset was really going all out. It looked as though she was in pain from just how much magic she was pouring into it.

Then, Celestia looked up, her eyes widening in shock.

The sun was moving.

It wasn't just a little either, like when Sunset had moved it as a filly. The sun was clearly rising higher into the sky, as though Celestia were moving it herself. The princess could only watch in awe as the unexpected happened before her very eyes. As shocked as she was, Celestia still felt a great sense of pride build within her. Out of nowhere, Sunset had accomplished the goal she'd set out towards all those years ago.

"Sunset! You did it! You're moving the sun!" Celestia called out with an ecstatic smile. However, Sunset didn't respond. The princess turned her attention back to her student. "Sunset?"

Sunset was struggling just to stand up, grunting in pain and clearly unable to move. Her aura flashed and crackled like a raging fire. "It... It hurts..." she uttered through clenched teeth.

Panic suddenly filled Celestia's eyes. This was all starting to look familiar. It was just like when Sunset was a filly. "Sunset, you can stop now!"

"I... I'm trying..."

It really was like when she was a filly. Her magic had spiked and went out of control. Last time this happened, it nearly killed her. The difference this time was that Sunset seemed to have at least some control over it. Her aura was intense, but it hadn't engulfed the entire balcony as it had the last time this happened. Sunset was struggling to keep her magic under control and prevent it from bursting outward, but she was clearly in pain.

Celestia dashed out onto the balcony, leaning down to eye level with Sunset. "Sunset! Look at me!"

Sunset managed to force one eye open. The teal of her iris was still visible, which gave Celestia some relief.

Celestia endured the blistering heat, sweat beginning to form on her forehead. But she stared into Sunset's one open eye reassuringly. "You're going to be okay. You're strong enough to handle this, and I'm here for you the whole way."

Sunset continued to gaze into her teacher's eyes. Despite the pain she was in and the panic and confusion addling her mind, Celestia was staring back at her with confidence. She could sense the faith that the princess had in her within her loving, pink eyes.

Sunset groaned as she attempted to keep her overflowing magic under control. Eventually, she felt the pain start to die down, and she was able to more easily keep her balance.

Celestia watched as the fiery aura began to subside, a wave of relief washing over her as the heat dissipated and Sunset began to relax.

Sunset let her body go limp, falling forward against Celestia, her teacher holding her tenderly. She panted in exhaustion, her horn throbbing. She felt like she had just run a marathon.

Celestia noticed that, while Sunset had endured the worst of it and came out unharmed, the red glow of her horn never fully faded away, flickering like a candle's flame. Evidently she hadn't gotten it fully under control and was merely keeping a cap on it. But for the time being, she didn't seem to be having too much trouble with it.

"Are you alright, Sunset?" Celestia asked, holding her student gently against herself.

Sunset shakily rose to her hooves, still catching her breath. "I... I'm not sure..." She lifted a hoof to her head, massaging the base of her still-glowing horn.

"Do you have it under control?"

Sunset let herself notice the throbbing in her horn. "I... think I've got a handle on it... For now, anyway."

Celestia stood up, letting out a deep sigh of relief. "You should lay down for a while."

Sunset nodded, dragging herself inside to lay down on her couch again. Celestia briefly paused to look back at the sky. She could see several pegasi that had been flying about clearing the clouds just fluttering in place, likely wondering why the sun had suddenly moved as though a few hours had passed in a matter of moments. The princess quickly returned the sun to its proper position before heading inside herself, shutting the balcony doors behind her.

The alicorn observed her student on the couch. Sunset was rubbing her temple, obviously having difficulty getting comfortable. She should have been happy for her—they should both be happy—but neither of them expected the result of Sunset finally being able to move the sun to be laying her up like this. And it was just so unexpected that it was hard to be excited. Right now, Celestia knew what was more important. Celebrating Sunset's accomplishment would have to wait until they could verify her condition.

Celestia approached Sunset compassionately, laying down by the couch to comfort her. "Are you sure you're alright?"

"I think so," Sunset answered, though with no lack of uncertainty. "I mean, it hurts, but it could be worse, right?"

Celestia could tell by the look in Sunset's eyes that her student had made the same connection she had. "That was not unlike what happened when you were a filly."

"It felt the same, too, but it wasn't quite as bad, and at least I'm still conscious. What exactly was that?"

"I think..." Celestia hesitated a moment. There was a possibility her hypothesis was wrong, but given the effort Sunset was applying just to keep her magic under control, she had a feeling she knew what was happening. "I think you may have finally unlocked your latent power."

Sunset glanced up at her horn as best she could, the red glow of her magic more visible than the appendage itself. "You think so?"

"I have no reason to believe otherwise. You're struggling just to hold it back."

Out of curiosity, Sunset let up just a little bit. Her aura immediately intensified and a few red sparks flickered from her horn. She quickly reigned it back in, feeling that a burst of magic might inadvertently fire off if she didn't.

"This is exactly what I was afraid of when this happened back then," Celestia stated with concern. "If you weren't ready for it, this power could hurt you."

Sunset felt her heart sink. Those were the last words she wanted to hear right now. "You still don't think I'm ready to handle it?" she uttered, her voice shaky and dejected.

Celestia could see the pain in her student's eyes—not just the pain her overflowing power was causing her, but the pain of realizing that she still hadn't truly accomplished her goal. "The evidence speaks for itself. To be clear, Sunset, I'm very proud of you right now," she assured her, a smile finally managing its way back onto her face. "You've been telling me for a long time that you would one day move the sun again, and, being perfectly honest, there were times when I had my doubts. I felt you could reasonably do it within your lifetime, but I thought it would take much longer."

Sunset felt some modicum of happiness, pride, and relief, but kept her emotions tempered. She sensed another "but" coming.

"But for it to happen so soon... I'm worried about the implications. You're having to keep your magic in check right now. How long do you think you can keep this up?"

Sunset was silent. Celestia had a point. While it wasn't terribly difficult to keep it pushed down, this wasn't something she was going to be able to do indefinitely. "What do I do?"

Celestia mulled it over for a moment. Right now, she wanted to remain optimistic, mostly for Sunset's sake. Fretting and worrying over it could simply complicate things. If Sunset couldn't also keep her emotions in check, it would only make it more difficult for her.

But it wasn't as though this was unprecedented. Celestia had experience with this sort of thing, so it was just a matter of remembering what exactly she needed to help her get through this. "It's possible that this could simply be a surge of magic caused by all of this energy coming to the fore all at once. Luna and I had similar difficulties during our early years of training, particularly around the time we made our sun and moon."

Sunset was quiet, letting that sink in. That at least made this sound normal, though obviously Celestia must have been confused. "So what did you two do to deal with it?"

"It was really just a matter of riding it out. This mostly happened for me during solar flares, as the spike of magic would cause my own magic to become unstable for a while. Your magic may very well level out in time, but only time will truly tell. What's also concerning to me is what exactly caused this. As I said, it's normally solar flares that cause such extreme reactions in one's magic, like when this happened to you when you were younger. But there's no solar flare right now, so something else must have triggered this."

Sunset's pupils narrowed, a chilling thought occurring to her.

Celestia stood up calmly, taking a deep breath. "I suppose it could simply be a result of you using so much magic before your body was ready to handle it, but I guess we can't know for sure. I think it may be best to have a doctor examine you to see if we can shed any light on this. We may be able to get you some medication for suppressing magic to make this easier on you, as well." The princess made for the stairway, glancing back compassionately. "I'll be back shortly. Try not to exert yourself in the meantime."

Sunset watched as Celestia descended the stairs. The moment she heard the door to the tower close, she leapt from the couch, the sudden movement making her a little lightheaded when combined with the pain in her horn. But the pain wasn't her concern right now, not anymore. The implications of this were incredibly worrying, not to mention that it shouldn't be possible based on what the princess had told her. It was imperative at the moment that she get to the Castle of the Two Sisters as quickly as possible, but Celestia was only going to be gone for ten minutes at most; she didn't have time to get Halberd and a chariot to fly out there.

Sunset rushed out onto her balcony, staring off into the distance toward the old castle. She'd have to go herself and get back as quickly as possible. Teleporting was the only way, but could she even cast spells in her current state? Was it even safe to try? Regardless, she didn't have a choice. She was going to have to try.

Sunset took a deep breath, preparing herself to cast the spell before letting her hold on her magic loosen. She felt her power flare up instantly, and the spell went off almost involuntarily, her magic flashing brightly and loudly and leaving her balcony empty as she disappeared into thin air quite abruptly.

When she opened her eyes again, Sunset found herself in the entry hall of the Castle of the Two Sisters. She was a little surprised to find that she had made it all the way there in one jump; no doubt made possible by the spike in her magic. Unfortunately, doing so when she was already under such duress left her more than a little disoriented, and her magic felt like it was trying to outright escape from her body, so she had to forcefully reign it back in to keep it under control. Casting spells was definitely risky in her current state if her magic was going to rebel like that, but that wasn't quite the biggest concern right now.

What was immediately concerning was the intense light filling the chamber. Sunset took a step back when she laid eyes on her sun, the panic she'd already felt only heightening when she realized her fears had been justified.

The room was filled with the sound of the sizzling and crackling of fire. Flames were bursting outward from the sun violently, arcing across its surface and spewing dangerous sparks into the air. The heat it gave off was much more than what Sunset was used to from it. If that weren't enough, it appeared to have grown about another two feet in diameter since she'd last seen it two days ago, making it now about twice Princess Celestia's height.

Sunset hesitated, trying to make sense of what was happening. It was a solar flare, there was no doubt about that. Everything that had just happened back at her tower was too similar to when she was a filly for it to not be a solar flare. But the truly worrying part was that, by all accounts, this shouldn't even be possible. Princess Celestia had told her earlier that day that a sun this young shouldn't have enough magic to trigger a solar flare.

She had to force herself to take a breath and try to steady her nerves. "Okay, Sunset. You just need to approach this calmly and rationally," she told herself, pacing back and forth. "Just because the princess's sun didn't experience solar flares for its first six months doesn't necessarily mean it's not possible. After all, mine is only the third sun to ever be created, so there's not a lot to use for comparison. Perhaps Princess Celestia's sun was an outlier."

Sunset glanced back up at her raging star, gulping nervously. She wasn't really sure if she actually believed the things she was telling herself, or if she was simply trying to keep herself from having a panic attack. For at least a little peace of mind, Sunset teleported her notebook to her, flipping through its pages quickly to find anything that might help. She also had to keep in mind that she was on a strict time limit and Princess Celestia could be back at her tower any minute now.

She stopped on one particular page. This was actually something she learned a long time ago, but made sure to note once she'd created her own sun: solar flares only last for a few hours at most, so perhaps this wasn't as big a deal as it seemed on the surface. There had been a brief moment when she first saw what was happening where she considered telling Princess Celestia about this to see if she could help, but there may not have been a need to resort to that just yet. Sunset could endure the pain in her horn and holding back her magic for a few hours, and if the solar flare persisted beyond that, then she would have to bite the bullet and tell the princess about this.

Sunset inhaled deeply, then let the breath out slowly. She just had to hope that this was something that would just blow over in time. And assuming that it really was nothing to be too concerned about, some good definitely came of this. Sunset now had full access to the reserves of power that had long lay dormant within her. This would also make the process of checking in on her sun so much less stressful since she knew now that she could teleport straight between the two castles; late night excursions would no longer be necessary. She also wouldn't have to put Halberd out as a result, though he'd still likely insist on accompanying her just in case.

The only issue that would remain from this—again, assuming the solar flare was normal and not dangerous—was keeping her newly-released power under control. Hopefully the doctor would be able to provide some insight, or at least the medicine that Princess Celestia suggested. Sunset wasn't entirely sure if she'd be able to keep a cap on her overflowing magic while she slept. Hopefully this, too, was only a result of the solar flare and would let up when it died down.

But speaking of Celestia, she needed to get back home. Sunset quickly, yet carefully, cast the teleportation spell again, zapping herself back to her tower in an instant. The moment she reappeared, she felt her magic trying to flood out once more, pulling it back in and trying to keep a lid on it again.

And not a moment too soon. Just a few seconds after she got back, she heard the door at the bottom of the tower open. Sunset hopped back onto the couch to avoid suspicion and waited, hoping that the princess would attribute the sweat on her brow to her struggle to maintain control of her magic.

Princess Celestia ascended the stairs once more, accompanied by a white, unicorn stallion in a similarly white coat whom Sunset recognized as the in-house doctor. He had a black satchel slung over his shoulder, no doubt containing everything he thought he'd need for the examination.

The doctor immediately took notice of the small sparks and electricity-like crackles around Sunset's horn. "This is to what you were referring, Your Highness?" he presumed.

"Yes, she's having to physically hold her magic back."

The doctor stepped forward to more closely examine Sunset. Just the closer proximity caused him to feel a tingle in his own horn. "Hmm... That's certainly an immense amount of magic. And for somepony as gifted as Sunset to be having difficulty with it is a testament to how alarming this is. Does it hurt, Sunset?"

"It's kinda painful, but I think I can put up with it for a while," the amber mare told him.

"But it will no doubt interfere with your normal routines, making sleep nigh impossible," the doctor theorized. "Assuming this lasts for that long."

"Can we do anything about it?" Celestia asked pleadingly.

"Well, outside of the sheer amount of magic she's exuded, it isn't too dissimilar from normal magical overflow. Younger unicorns who have above average magic levels can sometimes experience something similar, though perhaps not to such a degree as this. It usually results in the accidental casting of spells, though Sunset has had much more training in keeping her power under control." The doctor opened his satchel with his lime green aura, removing a small bottle of translucent, purple fluid. "This is a magic suppressant. Drink this, and it should temporarily reduce your magic levels. You may be unable to cast anything more than basic levitation spells, but I suppose that depends on how effective it is against such high levels of raw power like yours."

Sunset received the bottle, staring at the liquid inside. "How much should I drink?"

"Normally a teaspoon would suffice for an average pony suffering such a condition, though you may need more. Let's start with a quarter of what we have here, and if we need more, I'll simply fetch some."

Sunset didn't waste any time taking a sizable swig of the medicine. Her face contorted in disgust as the incredibly bitter taste of it assaulted her tongue and throat. But within moments, she suddenly felt the pain in her horn start to subside, and the hum and crackling of her magic died down.

Celestia breathed a sigh of relief. "It seems to have worked. Thank you so much, Doctor."

"That's what I'm here for," he responded with a gracious grin. "However, I'd recommend keeping an eye on it. We don't know if the medicine will last for as long as it should against her power. We'll need to determine the exact severity of her condition."

"I hope this is simply a spike," Celestia said with some concern. "Perhaps it'll ease up in due time, or Sunset's body can properly acclimate to the power."

"A distinct possibility," the doctor agreed, stroking his chin thoughtfully. "In the meantime, she should have some medicine on hoof just in case, and take a dose before bed. And I would recommend she have somepony at her side until her magic begins to stabilize."

"I nominate Halberd," Sunset quickly said with a raise of her hoof.

Celestia chuckled warmly. "I figured as much. That's why I was going to recommend him myself. Plus, I'm sure you would like to explain the situation to him. Alright, I'll go and fetch Halberd and also inform your father of this." She leaned down and placed a hoof to Sunset's cheek tenderly. "If you need anything at all, let me know."

Sunset managed a weak smile. "Thanks, Princess. Oh, and you, too, Doctor."

"Don't mention it," the stallion replied with a smile of his own. "And you can see me at any time, as well. I'll be sure to have more suppressant ready in case you need more."

The doctor then descended the stairs, taking his leave of the tower. Celestia followed suit, but paused as she reached the staircase. Sunset watched as she glanced back at her. Her gaze was both reassuring, yet concerned, but Sunset couldn't say she blamed her for feeling conflicted.

Once Celestia had gone down the stairs and exited the tower, Sunset let her head fall against the couch cushions with a long, exhausted sigh. It was relieving that she no longer had to forcibly hold back her magic, though the pain it had caused still lingered a little in her horn. That medicine may have been a literal lifesaver.

This was in no way what she had expected to happen today. She had finally gained access to her power—even moved the sun again after thirteen years—but, given the circumstances surrounding it, she couldn't be happy about it until she could determine things were safe. Hopefully having Halberd around would help reduce some of her stress.

***** ***** *****

"So, you're sure you're alright?" Halberd asked, staring with deep compassion and worry at his girlfriend as he sat with her on her couch.

"I should be fine as long as the medicine works," Sunset answered with a sigh.

"It's still pretty concerning, though, right? I mean, it's great that you've finally gotten past that threshold, but how long is it gonna take to get that power under control?"

"I dunno. Princess Celestia said it might just be a spike, or I just have to let myself get used to it."

"But she doesn't know for certain. Sunset, this could be serious."

"Look, just calm down a little, Hal," Sunset urged him in an attempt to diffuse his growing worry. "I'm sure I can learn to handle it in time."

"Hopefully. I mean, at least we know now that you can focus on your magic for the time being. You said the princess told you that the sun should be stable for a good while, right?"

Sunset rubbed her neck awkwardly, breaking eye contact. "Yeeeeah, about that..."

Halberd felt a sudden sense of dread come over him.

"See, the whole reason this happened is because of a solar flare..."

Halberd blinked. "Please tell me you're talking about Princess Celestia's sun." The apologetic look she gave him in response was not what he was hoping to see. This news instilled panic within him, his heart rate jumping up considerably. "Are you serious?! Sunset, this is bad! We have to tell—"

"N-Now hang on!" she interrupted defensively. "I don't think it's as bad as it seems!"

"How?! How is this not bad?!" Halberd argued hysterically. "You said it was supposed to be stable for a few months before something like this happened!"

"That's just what happened for Princess Celestia's sun. There's not exactly a lot of precedent for determining a sun's behavior. Maybe she just got lucky with hers."

"We don't know that! Sunset, you've got to stop basing your assertions on theories with no real basis! What if this is seriously, seriously bad?!"

"You don't think I'm in a panic over this?!" Sunset shot back, her own voice starting to match his in volume and nervousness. "I'm just trying to look for anything that might help so I can keep a level head about this!" She took a deep, yet uneven breath to steady herself. She lifted a hoof, staring down at it. For as much as she was trying to think rationally for her own peace of mind, her hooves were still trembling. Sunset looked Halberd in the eye pleadingly, her voice becoming quiet, but no less shaky. "Solar flares are only supposed to last for a few hours, so, hopefully, this will all blow over by then."

Halberd gave her a deeply worried and authoritative stare. "We have to tell the princess about this before its too late. She might be able to do something."

"What could she do? You can't use magic on a sun during a solar flare anyway, even her. So we have to wait either way."

Halberd fell back against the couch, running a hoof over his head with a deep sigh.

Sunset felt terrible. When she first decided to tell him about the sun she'd created, she thought it would be a memorable and even romantic moment. She'd never intended to put this kind of stress on him. Sunset shifted closer to him on the couch, doing her best to relay just how sorry she was for putting him through this with a deeply apologetic look. "All I'm asking for is a few hours. If it hasn't calmed down by then, then I swear I'll tell Princess Celestia about it."

Halberd looked her straight in the eye with a skeptical raise of his eyebrow. He analyzed her pleading expression for any hint that she was just saying that for his sake.

Sunset could see the doubt in his gaze, and she honestly couldn't blame him. Still, she gave him a reassuring smile. "I know you're worried about me, Hal, but remember: you're on the job right now. Your post today, and for as long as it takes for me to get my magic under control, is here with me. So if you feel like something's wrong, it's your duty to tell the princess, right?"

Halberd remained quiet, though his expression softened slightly.

Sunset nuzzled gently into his neck. "Just wait a few hours, okay? That's all I ask," she requested quietly. She smiled up at him from her comfortable position within the crook of his neck. "Besides, we get to spend this time together. So, if it turns out that we're worried over nothing, we get all this private time while you're 'on duty.'"

Halberd breathed a quiet sigh, letting his own head nestle into Sunset's luxurious, fiery locks. He couldn't imagine himself getting any peace of mind in these few hours of agonizing waiting. She'd given him her word, and even if she still tried to bargain after the few hours were up, he wasn't going to let her stop him from telling the princess if things didn't ease up. As she said, it was his duty. But if it turned out that she was right, and everything was actually fine, then the alternative of getting to spend so much time with her during work hours was admittedly appealing. They were both just going to have to be patient and hold out hope for the time being.