• Published 15th Nov 2018
  • 2,577 Views, 129 Comments

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 4 - Solar Flare

The Girl Who Orbited the Sun
By Dee Pad
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Chapter 4: Solar Flare

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A loud, high-pitched whistle rang through the Golden Oaks Library, a sound that was synonymous with the morning in pretty much any household. Steam billowed forth from the kettle on the stove, and the short dragon who was manning the kitchen hopped up onto a stool to reach it, removing it from the burner and turning the stove top off. The noise and the steam slowly died down, along with the low bubbling from within the kettle. Spike already had a pair of mugs prepared, teabags sitting at the bottom; ginseng for himself, and earl grey for Twilight.

Who was still in bed...

Spike huffed audibly as he looked at the clock on the stove. It was almost noon already. Twilight wasn't exactly what one would call a "morning person," but she still made it a point to get up at a reasonable hour every morning. Considering she was a mare who scheduled pretty much every aspect of her life, it was unusual for her to sleep in like this, especially now that she was a princess and had a lot of new things to get used to, not the least of which was learning how to fly straight with her new wings.

But if Spike were about to ask himself how much longer she could spend in bed, he didn't need to anymore. The sound of the kettle whistling must have been bothersome enough to wake the sleeping alicorn, as heavy hoofsteps could be heard clomping on the wooden floor above, not to mention some muffled grumbling.

After a surprisingly slow couple of minutes, the kitchen door finally opened to make way for one exhausted-looking, lavender alicorn. Twilight must have taken a step per second to make it downstairs as slowly as she did, and stomping as though weights had been strapped to her fetlocks. Her deep purple mane was a mess, there were bags under her eyes, and, most notably, there was a very crooked grimace on her muzzle.

Spike contemplated making a snarky quip about her disheveled appearance, but thought better of it. He knew she was going through a tough time right now, and in the short time that he had been with her in Canterlot recently, he had heard her complain a few times about how hard it was to get comfortable in bed with the two new appendages sprouting from her back. So, instead, Spike simply poured up the two cups of tea and placed them on the kitchen table with the cream and sugar.

Besides, he knew there was probably something else entirely on her mind right now.

"Morning, Twilight," Spike greeted, though not too enthusiastically. Given the expression on Twilight's face right now, she was likely in no mood to deal with a condescendingly chipper dragon this morning. He also figured he'd just come out and say what was on his mind. "You don't look like you slept very well."

"Try 'not at all,'" Twilight replied with a sigh as she sat at the table and prepared her tea.

Spike took a silent moment to observe her. She was stirring her tea rather slowly and much more than it reasonably needed. The grimace had left her face somewhat, leaving her looking lost in thought. The dragon had a feeling he knew what was up. "Were you up all night reading Princess Celestia's book?"

"Not all night. You know me, Spike; I could have finished that book by now if I read all night."

"You mean you haven't? I thought you wanted to get to the bottom of whatever secret was in there?"

"I do, but..." Twilight hesitated slightly, the spoon in her mug clinking against the side as she let it go. "To be honest, I'm scared. I've been taking my time because I'm worried about what I might discover."

"So I guess that means you haven't read enough to find out what that secret is yet," Spike surmised.

The alicorn shook her head. "No..." She dropped a couple of extra sugar cubes into her tea, stirring them around until they dissolved like the rest, and then took a quick sip. Her mood seemed to visibly lift slightly in that instant, though Spike doubted it was from the sugar alone. "But I think I may have found out why Celestia wrote the book in the first place."

Spike's brow rose in interest. "Really? Why?"

Twilight raised an eyebrow herself at the dragon. "I thought you didn't want to get involved in this."

Her reptilian assistant shrugged in response. "Who am I kidding? I've always gotta get myself roped into your problems, why should this be any different? Besides, you're gonna need somepony to bail you out when Princess Celestia locks you up in the dungeon for stealing her book."

As real as that threat may have felt to Twilight, she couldn't help but smirk at the dragon's loyalty. She stared back down at her tea as she thought about what she knew about the book. "I don't think I mentioned it to you, but it's about a filly named Sunset Shimmer, who was apparently Starswirl the Bearded's daughter."

Spike tilted his head in confusion. "I didn't know Starswirl the Bearded had a daughter."

"Neither did I, which is just another reason why I need to find out why Princess Celestia wrote a book about her. Which brings me to my theory: Sunset Shimmer must have been somepony very important to Celestia. I think she wrote the book as a way to always remember her."

"Seems logical enough," Spike commented. "But if she was so important, how come no pony's ever heard of her? And why be so defensive about people reading the book?"

"Exactly. See? Now that you know the premise, you want to know, too, right?"

Spike groaned a little knowing he had essentially gotten caught in the same trap as Twilight. "Yeah, I guess you got me there. So what are you gonna do now?"

Twilight took another sip of her tea, a resolute look on her face. "I'm going to take a shower, then get back to reading that book."

"You sure you don't want to take a break from it and get some rest?" Spike suggested.

"Even if I wanted to, considering how 'well' I slept last night, that probably wouldn't do me any good. Besides, I need to get this thing read before Princess Celestia gets impatient enough to come take it back by force."

"Which makes you wonder why she hasn't already," said Spike.

Twilight shrugged, getting up from her chair and making for the door with her mug of tea held in her pink aura. "Maybe she's given up and figures I might as well read it. Though I'm still not going back to the castle anytime soon just in case."

"Well, just hurry up and finish it, then. I know I said I'd have your back, but now I'm kinda nervous, too."

~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~

To most people, Monday was a day of the week that was dreaded more than others; the weekend was over, any relaxation was to come to an end, and everypony had to return to their weekly routines, whether it was adults groggily shuffling off to work, or pouting foals heading back to school.

But one young filly couldn't be happier.

Sunset Shimmer skipped gleefully along the Canterlot streets, her little hooves clipping and clopping against the cobblestone. The smile on her face was almost as bright as the sun rising above the horizon, and she hummed a cheery tune as she made her way to school.

"You're in a good mood."

Sunset slowed her pace slightly to look over her shoulder at the armored, pegasus stallion following her. "I get to ride a royal chariot to school! Do you know how cool that is?!"

Lance grinned at her upbeat attitude. "Can't really say I do. I'm not usually the one riding it."

True to Princess Celestia's promise, now that Starswirl and Sunset were living at the Castle of the Two Sisters, the princess needed to arrange for a chariot and a soldier to ferry the filly to and from school every weekday. Of course, a pegasus would be required, and it seemed like the obvious choice to pick Lance seeing as he was already acquainted with the little unicorn. Neither one had any objections to the arrangement, and Lance was more than happy to take up a job that didn't involve standing at the front door all day.

Although, Sunset and her father hadn't quite fully moved into the castle yet. They had spent most of their weekend either packing and moving their things from their house in Canterlot to the castle, or getting acquainted with the castle itself—the latter more for the filly's sake. As such, Starswirl didn't quite feel like he was really "living" there just yet. Sunset, on the other hoof, was already making herself at home, having hung her many Celestia-themed posters all over the walls of her new bedroom. She had dropped any sentimentality she may have had for her old house pretty quickly, not giving it a second thought as she trotted merrily to school.

"You know, we could've landed closer to your school, Sunset," Lance remarked as the two traipsed through Canterlot.

"I might not live here anymore, but I still enjoy walking to school," Sunset told him with a peppy grin.

"So, what's gonna happen to your old house anyway? Is your dad selling it?"

"Oh, he already sold it. Princess Celestia bought it."

"Really?" Lance responded in surprise.

Sunset nodded. "Mm-hm. She said if we ever wanna move back here, we can just buy it back. But I'd rather just live at the castle," she said with a giddy hop.

Lance grimaced a bit in jealousy. "Hm, that's quite a paycheck for one week of work..." he mumbled.

"Why don't you just sell your house and move to the castle, too?" the filly suggested innocently.

"Because I'm not the only one living there."

"So? They can move in, too."

The soldier couldn't help but smirk at Sunset's childish naïveté. "It's not that simple, kiddo. Whether you realize it or not, you and your dad are a special case. It's just the two of you, and you can't stay home alone. You're a package deal. As spacious as the castle is, there's not enough room to house every employee's entire family. Plus, the princess likes you."

Sunset stopped in her tracks, staring up at the pegasus wide-eyed. "Did... Did she say that?"

"Hm? Oh, I don't know if she's said it out loud, but she definitely seems to enjoy your company," Lance elaborated. He grinned down at the filly. "Can't say I blame her. Your are pretty adorable, and your enthusiasm is kinda contagious."

The unicorn smiled cutely at the compliment, blushing a little. "She did say I can try to raise the sun next time she's sick and can't do it herself."

The pegasus raised an eyebrow. "Really? Is that even possible for a little filly like you?"

The doubt in Lance's voice didn't bother Sunset in the slightest, and she shrugged in response. "I don't know. Princess Celestia said I probably couldn't, but she promised I can try anyway."

"Well, wasn't that kind of her," Lance laughed. "See? You've definitely made an impression on her already."

Again, Sunset grinned. But she went silent for a moment afterward before asking Lance a question. "How often does Princess Celestia get sick?"

Lance gave the filly a surprised smirk. "What, you're not actually hoping she does, are you?"

"No, of course not!" she blurted out defensively. "I'm just... curious, that's all."

The stallion continued to smirk knowingly, but obliged the little unicorn. "Well, I can't really say for sure, but I can tell you that she hasn't missed a day since I became a guard at the castle. She takes good care of herself. She might've made you a promise, but she might not actually need to follow through for a long time. So it's probably best that you not expect it to happen anytime soon."

"Oh. Okay." Sunset was a little disappointed to hear that, but like she said, she wasn't hoping for Princess Celestia to become ill. But she could at least hope that maybe some other kind of circumstances—something that doesn't endanger the princess's health—could provide an opportunity for her in the near future.

By now, the schoolhouse had come into view. Classes weren't to start for a few minutes yet, so most of the students that had already arrived were frolicking around the playground while Mrs. Honeysuckle stood by the door to keep an eye on them.

One silver, pegasus colt saw Sunset hurrying across the short bridge over the narrow creek in front of the school, and made to greet her, but was pleasantly surprised to see the armored adult that accompanied her. "Lance? What're you doing here?" Halberd asked his older brother.

"Escorting this young lady to school," he answered with a prideful smirk.

Halberd lifted an eyebrow. "Why?"

"Daddy and I are living at the castle now!" Sunset chirped, still riding the excitement of the notion.

The colt smiled widely in amazement. "Whoa, really?! That's awesome!"

"Yep, she's a lucky, little filly," Lance commented, eliciting another perky grin from Sunset. "Anyway, I'll be hanging around town until school's out, and remember: you don't have to go straight back to the castle. You can stick around Canterlot for a while. Just saying," he reminded her with a hopeful grin, clearly preferring to spend his time in town as opposed to being on guard duty at the castle.

Sunset acknowledged his suggestion, but with a rather dismissive and unenthusiastic shrug. "I know. Okay, see you after school, Lance!" And with that, she hurried off to the classroom to take her seat.

With the filly gone, Lance cast a sly smirk down at his little brother. "You didn't tell me you were friends with her, Hal. What's wrong? Embarrassed?"

"Huh? Wh-Why would I be embarrassed?" the colt responded, unable to keep the deep blush off of his sliver cheeks.

Lance's smirk only widened, chuckling knowingly and giving his brother a firm, encouraging pat on the back. "Nevermind. But if you ever need any... 'advice,' don't be afraid to ask your big bro, got it?"

Halberd stared at Lance with a slightly uncomprehending look. "Uh, sure. Anyway, I guess I'll see you later," he said as he, too, made his way to the classroom.

With his charge dropped off at her destination, Lance turned back towards the town proper. "Now then, one of the perks of this task: I get to have lunch at home."

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

Sunset stretched out in her bed, letting out a long moan before letting her muscles relax again and pulling her blankets closer against her neck. Her new bed was unbelievably comfortable, putting her old bed at her house in Canterlot to shame. It took no time at all for her to adjust to her new surroundings. If her father were to suddenly decide that they were moving back home, Sunset would probably have several sleepless nights trying to get used to her comparatively stiff mattress and thin sheets.

She's had absolutely no complaints about living in the Castle of the Two Sisters. While she and her father could still cook their own meals if they so desired, the castle's chefs were always on call to prepare meals for anypony—princess or employee—at all hours of the day. Sunset had access to most of the castle's facilities, though some were still restricted, mainly the soldiers' barracks, and she was only allowed in the princesses' chambers if given permission. But the most important facility was fully open to her, that being the royal archives. She and her father had been living at the castle for a week at this point, and Sunset had already borrowed over a dozen books from the archives, currently stacked up on the desk in her room. They were mostly history texts, but specifically ones detailing Equestria's founding and anything to do with Princess Celestia's past, learning about the feats she's accomplished and the villains she's defeated. Needless to say, she felt more at home in the castle than she ever did back in Canterlot.

As comfortable as she was in her bed, Sunset was awake. Not that she hadn't slept soundly, but her internal clock had woken her up as it does every morning. The sleepy filly opened her teal eyes and peered over at the clock on her nightstand. It was still on half past five in the morning. Princess Celestia wouldn't be raising the sun for another half an hour, so Sunset was fine with getting a few more winks. It was just a little unfortunate that she had to go out into the hall to find a window so she could watch the spectacle take place, but such was the sacrifice she had to make.

The small unicorn closed her eyes again, snuggling deeper into the soft pillow. However, she was suddenly jarred from her somnolent state by a light knock at her door, prompting her to sit upright in her bed.

"Ms. Shimmer?" a voice beckoned from the hall.

Sunset recognized Quill's voice instantly, rubbing her tired eyes. "Uh, come in."

The door opened quietly, and the mustachioed stallion peered inside. "I'm sorry if I woke you."

"That's okay," she said with a sleepy yawn. "What's wrong?"

As she asked the question, the door to the adjacent room opened as well, and Starswirl stepped out into the hall to find Quill standing at the threshold to his daughter's room. "Quill? Is something the matter?"

"Princess Celestia wants to talk to Sunset," he answered.

Upon hearing that, Sunset's sleepiness dissipated quickly. She threw off her sheets and hopped off the bed, staring expectantly at Quill. "Really?!"

"At this hour?" Starswirl questioned. "What for?"

Quill simply shrugged, a rather uncomprehending look on his own face. "I'm not sure, but the princess says she's not feeling well this morning and told me to fetch Sunset."

The filly's eyes widened considerably, realizing immediately what this summons was about. Without even waiting for any further explanation, Sunset took off down the halls to quickly make her way to Princess Celestia's chambers. Her sudden reaction only served to confuse Quill further.

Starswirl shook his head and let out a sigh at his daughter's behavior. "That girl, I swear..."

"Do you know what this is about, Starswirl?" asked a puzzled Quill.

"I do. May I go with her?"

"I don't see why not."

Starswirl nodded, making to follow his daughter, though at a much more casual pace. Out of curiosity, Quill decided to join him to see what exactly was going on.

Sunset was making a beeline for Princess Celestia's tower, nearly losing her balance as she haphazardly rounded corners in the halls. She rushed through the connecting breezeway, galloping up the stairs with a toothy grin so wide her cheeks could barely contain it. Once she reached the top, she was prepared to barge straight through the decadent doorway in her excitement. However, she managed to restrain herself, thinking of the repercussions. Princess Celestia was sick; she couldn't just bust in with a big grin on her face. Lance had told her some time ago that she rarely ever gets sick, so this could actually be pretty serious. As excited as she was to get her chance at raising the sun, now she was worried about the princess's health. Sunset gently knocked on the door, not wanting to startle Celestia when she wasn't feeling well.

"Come in," came the quiet voice of the princess from within.

Sunset slowly opened the door, peeking in to see that the room was illuminated by the lamps on the wall, and Princess Celestia was laying in bed, casting a soft, welcoming smile toward the filly. She certainly didn't look like her usual self. Although Sunset had witnessed the princess in an ungroomed state before, this morning she appeared more disheveled. She appeared tired, as though she couldn't even muster the energy to fully open her eyes, let alone raise the sun. Her colorful mane had become very pale, to the point where the colors were barely discernible. And if that wasn't enough to tip one off to her lack of wellness, she had a box of tissues sitting next to her, at the ready in case she needed it. Despite her condition, though, Celestia still managed to smile.

Concerned for the princess, Sunset hurried over to her bedside, placing her front hooves on the mattress and leaning closer compassionately. "Are you okay, Princess? Quill said you're sick."

Celestia nodded weakly. "Indeed. It doesn't happen often, but illness does take me on occasion. But you needn't worry too much, Sunset; it's just a common cold. I'll be fine."

At that moment, the door opened again, and Starswirl and Quill stepped inside to assess the situation.

"Are you sure?" Sunset asked. "If there's anything you need, I can get it for you. Do you want tea? Something to eat? When I'm sick, Daddy makes me marmalade toast."

Celestia chuckled quietly at the filly's eagerness to help. "While that does sound lovely, I have staff that can handle that." Her smile shifted slightly, becoming a small smirk. "But I do have another task you can try your hoof at."

Sunset's smile immediately returned. Now that any concerns over the princess's health had been quelled, she could continue being excited over the real reason she had rushed to Celestia's chambers and the reason she was summoned.

"Even though it is merely a cold, it is still debilitating enough to keep me from my duties," the alicorn explained. "So, I'm going to need somepony to raise the sun in my stead this morning."

Sunset let out a high-pitched squeal, beaming widely.

But before things could go any further, Starswirl stepped forward. "Excuse me, You Majesty, and please pardon the intrusion, but is this overly necessary? Sunset's just a filly. Not that I don't want her to think that she can do anything she puts her mind to, but don't you think this is a rather monumental task for somepony her age?"

"But where's the harm in letting her try?" Celestia retorted. "I've already made it abundantly clear that she likely won't be able to do it, yet she's still quite excited to make an attempt. Why not let her give it a shot? You've said yourself that she's a talented filly for her age, so who knows? She might surprise you."

Receiving a pleading stare from his daughter, Starswirl let out a sigh as he gave his beard a slow stroke. "I suppose... However, it's a little early yet, isn't it?" he said, pointing to the clock on the princess's bedside table, which still showed it to be twenty minutes to six.

Celestia simply shrugged. "Well, in case she isn't able to do it, we don't want the sunrise to be late. So we'd still have time to inform my sister so she can raise it on time. And if Sunset happens to succeed, well, the sun rises a little early. I don't think too many people would complain about that."

"Please, Daddy," Sunset begged with wide, guilt-inducing eyes.

Starswirl rolled his eyes. "I was never going to tell you not to do it, I just want you to promise you won't get dejected if you can't do it."

The filly smiled cheerily at her father. "All I wanna do is try."

"Then you better hurry," the princess urged her. "We don't have a lot of time."

"Oh, right!" Sunset skipped over to the glass doors, using her cyan magic to pull aside the transparent curtains, whisk open the doors, and hop out onto the balcony.

Starswirl and Quill walked closer to the door, though remained inside as they watched Sunset lean against the railing and stare out at the dark horizon.

With an eager smile, Sunset gazed toward the mountains in the distance from where she knew the sun normally rose. The exact spot was difficult to see through the dark of night, but she'd watched the sunrise so many times at this point, she pretty much knew where it was by heart. It was an odd feeling to her, knowing there was no way she could possibly raise the sun, but still being so excited to be given the opportunity to try. But she couldn't hesitate any longer; she had a job to do, and she had to do it on time. Sunset focused her magic into her horn, lighting it up as bright as she could with cyan light. She wasn't even sure how she was supposed to raise the sun—if it was a specific spell, or something like that—so Sunset was just going to try pouring as much magic as she could into it and hoping something happened, clenching her eyes shut and tensing her entire body.

Starswirl observed as the cyan light illuminated the balcony. He knew his daughter was talented with magic for a unicorn her age; perhaps not capable of performing complicated spells yet, but being much more articulate and precise with her levitation spell, and capable of using it to lift many objects at once, or heavier objects that would prove a challenge to other unicorn foals. But the sun? That was certainly a little out of her league.

And that's why it was surprising to see the sky over the horizon steadily shift color.

Starswirl's jaw dropped slightly. The sun's orange glow began to extend up from between the mountains, and the stars began to vanish in the presence of the morning light. Starswirl couldn't believe his eyes. It was inconceivable. As talented as his daughter was, and as supportive as he was of her and everything she wanted to do, he never believed for a second that she could actually raise the sun. Something was off. This couldn't be possible.

The bearded stallion turned back to the bedridden alicorn for an explanation. However, he didn't even need to say a word. Princess Celestia's horn was aglow with golden light, and upon being caught by the filly's father, she lifted a hoof to her mouth with a quiet, "Shh," accompanied by a sly wink.

Starswirl let out his breath. While he had the explanation he wanted, we wasn't sure how he felt about it, but let the rest of the process take its course.

Sunset's horn was starting to tingle almost painfully. She had never focused so much magic for this long before, and she was starting to get worn out, feeling the sweat beginning to form on her forehead. She couldn't take it much longer, and thought it best to take a break and catch her breath. The light dissipated from her horn, and she let out a long breath that she had been holding the entire time and finally opened her eyes again. And they opened even wider when her sight was met by the amber glow of the sun hovering above the horizon. Her teal eyes sparkled with wonder and amazement, her mouth widening into perhaps the biggest smile she's ever worn.

"I did it!" she exclaimed loudly as she bounded back into the bedroom. She leapt against her father's chest, hugging him tightly. "Daddy, I did it! I raised the sun! Did you see?!"

Starswirl hesitated slightly. As much as he wanted to tell her the truth, he couldn't bring himself to rain on her parade. She was a smart filly, so once her excitement over her "accomplishment" died down, he expected that she'd figure it out on her own, so he gave her a congratulatory grin instead. "Yes, well done, Sunset. You certainly put me in my place."

"That's incredible," Quill uttered in disbelief, clearly having not witnessed the truth behind the sunrise as Starswirl had. "Your father wasn't kidding when he said you were talented."

Sunset hopped over to the princess's bed, beaming ecstatically. "I did it, Princess! I really did it!"

Celestia gave the filly a look of mock surprise. "I can see that. Color me impressed. I think you have a bright future ahead of you, my little pony. And thank you for your assistance. I greatly appreciate it."

"I'm gonna go tell Lance!" Sunset declared, not waiting a moment longer to rush out of the room to brag about her success.

With Sunset out of the room, Starswirl looked to the princess with a concerned and disapproving expression. "I'm not sure how I feel about you deceiving my daughter, Your Highness."

Quill raised an eyebrow, but quickly made the connection. "Wait, that was you, Princess?"

The alicorn sat up in her bed, using her magic to return her mane back to its more recognizable radiance. She gave the bearded unicorn an apologetic look. "I'm sorry, Mr. Starswirl, but I just wanted to make her day. I'll be sure to apologize to her personally when she figures it out."

"I still don't like it," Starswirl grumbled. "I just hope she isn't too disappointed when she realizes." And with that, he took his leave, as well.

Quill looked to the princess once more. "So does this mean you won't be taking the day off, Your Majesty?"

Celestia nestled back into her bed comfortably. "If Sunset saw me up and about, she'd know I tricked her. Besides, I could go for breakfast in bed. Just be sure to let Luna know about my 'condition,'" she said with a wink.

Quill stood there for a moment saying nothing, a little puzzled by the princess's decision to just spend a day in bed without reason. But it wasn't really his place to argue with her choices, so he bowed respectfully. "Very well. I'll have the chefs send up your breakfast."

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

"Lance!"

Sunset's voice passed through the entry doors of the castle before the filly herself did, but she followed quickly afterward with an ecstatic grin.

"Guess what I—huh?" Sunset paused briefly and looked around the area at the castle's entrance. She spotted only Scabbard standing there. "Where's Lance?"

Scabbard quirked an eyebrow, unaccustomed to seeing the little unicorn quite this energetic this early in the morning. "Today's his day off. Why?"

Sunset's smile returned in full force. It didn't really matter if Lance wasn't there, she just needed to gush to somepony. "I wanted to show him what I did!"

"And what would that be?" the stallion asked curiously.

Sunset fervently pointed toward the morning sun, barely able to keep herself from bouncing in place. "That! I raised the sun!"

Scabbard looked out at the horizon, but didn't really bat an eye, looking back at the filly skeptically. "I have a hard time believing that."

Sunset knit her brow, insulted by his doubt. "But I did! Just ask Princess Celestia!"

"And how exactly is a little filly like you powerful enough to raise the sun?"

Sunset hesitated slightly, the question making her stop to consider that, but remaining insistent. "I don't know, but I did. Maybe it doesn't have anything to do with power. Maybe it's technique. Have you ever tried to raise the sun?"

"No, of course not. Why would I?"

"Just to see if you could!"

Scabbard's skepticism persisted. He didn't believe for a second that Sunset raised the sun on her own. "So why haven't you tried it before now?"

"Because that's Princess Celestia's duty," she stated matter-of-factly. "I only did it now because she let me."

Admittedly, Scabbard was getting a little tired of this topic already, discreetly rolling his eyes. "Alright, fine. You raised the sun. Great job."

Sunset grinned proudly, oblivious to the blue unicorn's disingenuous tone and just happy to think about accomplishing what she did. "Thanks!"

"What is all this commotion?"

The two unicorns turned their heads up to see Princess Luna fluttering down towards them, landing gracefully on the entrance steps.

"Oh, good morning, Your Highness," Scabbard greeted with a respectful bow.

The alicorn gave the two a stern glare. "It is not enough that Our sister sees fit to cut Our night short, but any attempt at rest is now disturbed by this noise. Thou'rt so loud We can hear thee from Our chambers," she complained, looking specifically at Sunset.

"Apologies, Your Majesty, but Sunset is just a little excited this morning," Scabbard explained in the filly's defense.

"And about what precisely wouldst thou be so eager as to speak at such volume?" the princess asked grouchily.

Despite the grumpy glower she was receiving from the alicorn, Sunset still wore her chipper smile. "Because Princess Celestia let me raise the sun!"

Luna's expression didn't change, but one of her eyebrows lifted slowly. "Beg thy pardon? Thou raised Our sister's sun? Thou shouldst know little fillies shouldn't tell lies."

"I'm not lying!" Sunset blurted out defensively, tired of all the skepticism she was receiving. "Just ask her! She was there! She saw me do it!"

"And why wouldst Our sister allow thee to do such a thing?" Luna interrogated.

"Because she has a cold and can't do it herself."

For a brief moment, Luna's eyes widened in slight concern. However, considering the topic of conversation, the alicorn continued to scrutinize. "A cold? Our sister hast not been ill with any sort of malady in decades. While We wouldst not be surprised if a rambunctious foal running rampant in our castle hath dragged germs in with her, We find it hard to believe that Celestia would succumb to illness so easily."

Sunset tilted her head slightly. While normally she might be insulted that Luna was blaming her for Celestia's cold, she was more concerned with what she was insinuating. "What do you mean?"

"We mean that Our sister hath tricked thee."

Sunset was taken aback by the accusation, offended in her idol's stead. "Tricked me? Princess Celestia would never do that!"

Luna breathed a sympathetic sigh. "Thou hast not known Celestia as long as We hath. Our sister hath a somewhat mischievous side, though her japes art typically tame and harmless."

The filly scowled at the alicorn defiantly. "No! Princess Celestia wouldn't lie to me! Why would she try to make me think I could raise the sun? That'd just be cruel! She wouldn't joke about something like that, would she?"

"We cannot tell one way or the other why she'd do such a thing, but We see no other explanation," Luna argued. "A filly like thee could not ever hope to raise the sun on thine own."

"You're wrong!"

Luna found herself flinching at the small unicorn's outburst. Sunset's face had contorted into a furious glower, baring her teeth at the princess of the night.

"Princess Celestia is the kindest, most respected pony in Equestria! You're just jealous that she asked me instead of you!"

Before Luna could retaliate, Sunset stomped off angrily, galloping back into the castle and slamming the door behind her.

Scabbard cast a cautious glance at the princess, expecting Sunset's behavior to have further angered the alicorn. However, while her brow was knit in frustration, she appeared surprisingly calm. It usually didn't take much to offend Princess Luna, and Scabbard had never heard or seen anypony talk to her the way Sunset just had, so to see her still remain so reserved was unexpected. "Your Highness? Are you alright? You shouldn't let her words get to you; she's just a filly, she doesn't know what she's saying."

"It is not her that concerns Us," was all Luna said in response before lifting off and flying around to the east side of the castle.

The midnight blue alicorn flew up towards the castle's east spire, where her sister's chambers were. She gracefully touched down on the balcony of the tower, peering through the glass doors. Her sister was sitting up in bed, her pillows positioned behind her while she lay propped up against the headboard. Quill was present as well, leaving a tray of food on the sun princess's bed for her, but then promptly took his leave and exited the room. Just as well, Luna thought; she'd prefer this conversation be private.

The moon princess gently rapped on the glass door, distracting her sister before she could take a bite of her breakfast. Celestia was more than a little surprised to see Luna staring back at her—although "scowling" may have been a more accurate term.

Luna simply let herself in, not bothering to wait for permission to enter; she was going to say her piece one way or the other. "Good morning, Sister," she greeted, though the pleasantry was dripping with judgment.

"Oh, L-Luna, this is a lovely surprise," Celestia greeted back, though her friendly smile was rather forced and awkward.

Luna cast a look of mock curiosity at the tray on Celestia's bed. Her sister's breakfast consisted of a couple of slices of toast smeared with raspberry jam, a bowl of oatmeal, a chocolate chip muffin, and a glass of orange juice. "Breakfast in bed? Art we treating ourselves this morning?" she inquired, her judgmental tone persisting.

Celestia's ivory cheeks flushed red with slight shame, though she secretly hoped it helped the case she wanted to make. "Oh, yes, I..." She faked a cough into her hoof. "I'm not feeling well this morning, so you should probably keep your distance."

Luna raised her eyebrow suspiciously. "Thou'rt ill? And thou still raised the sun? Surely thou should hath asked Us to aid thee."

Celestia let out a defeated sigh, leaning back against her pillows and seeing no point it keeping up the act. "I'm guessing you're not here to console me, then. So, did you come by to lecture me about raising the sun early, or is there something else you need?"

"Lying is not becoming of a princess, Celestia," Luna started in a reprimanding tone. "Thou art in a position of great power, and trust is a very important quality for us to practice."

Celestia stared at the stoic expression in her sister's authoritative eyes. "I suppose you bumped into Sunset Shimmer."

Luna nodded. "Indeed. She seemed quite elated by the notion that she hath raised the sun."

The alabaster alicorn let herself sink down into her bed slightly, feeling a little ashamed of herself. "Was she upset when she found out?"

"She was upset, most assuredly, but not by the revelation that it wasn't her doing. Rather, she was offended by the very idea that thou wouldst lie to her, and rejected the notion entirely."

Celestia's eyes widened in surprise, but, admittedly, found herself feeling a little relieved. "So she still thinks she did it?"

Luna narrowed her eyes at her sister, stepping closer to the bed. "Celestia, what hast gotten into thou? Lying to thy subjects and finding enjoyment in it? This goest far and beyond thine usual jests. Thou hast a following of loyal citizens who hath not but the utmost respect for thee, and this is how thou treat them, with deception?"

"Luna, it was a harmless, white lie," Celestia argued defensively. "All I wanted to do was put a smile on her face."

"There art many other methods by which to do that," Luna told her.

Celestia glowered slightly at the lecture she was receiving. "And what would you know about putting smiles on people's faces?"

Luna's jaw hung open slightly, feeling the cut of that one in her chest. However, she grit her teeth and chose not to respond in kind given that she was supposed to be the prosecutor in this argument. "That is a low blow, Sister."

The ivory alicorn's expression quickly became remorseful, her ears folding back regretfully. "You're right, that was uncalled for. I'm sorry, Luna."

"Truthfully, We art not the one to which thou shouldst be apologizing. That filly now believes she can raise the sun. It won't be long before she discovers how untrue that is, and her heart will be broken to find out that thou lied to her."

"Sunset is a smart girl, Luna, and more mature than she seems despite her whimsical personality. I don't see the harm in letting her believe what she wants to believe for now."

Luna simply sighed in resignation, and gave a small shrug as she turned back toward the balcony doors. "Perhaps so. After all, thou were right before: thou wouldst know better how to make our subjects smile. Enjoy thy day off, 'Celie.'"

Celestia huffed at her sister as she prepared to leave, taking a bite of her toast. "Don't talk down to me by calling me 'Celie,' 'Lulu.'"

Luna simply rolled her eyes, stepping out onto the balcony again and taking off back to her own chambers to turn in for the day.

With her sister gone, Celestia let her toast drop back down onto her plate, letting out a deep sigh. She was starting to feel a little guilty about lying to Sunset Shimmer, with both Starswirl and her own sister being opposed to it. But she knew how smart Sunset was, and that little filly respected her more than anything. Just because Sunset thought she could raise the sun didn't mean she was going to try to do it all the time. Sunset knew better than that and would know that there would be repercussions to such a thing. Still though, Celestia was beginning to think that it might be best if she had a little talk with Sunset about it anyway, if only to assuage the concerns of Starswirl and Luna.

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

The halls of the castle were rather quiet, though that was fairly normal for most days. But Princess Celestia couldn't help but feel like the silence was thicker than usual; more tense. Of course, she knew why. Another day had dawned on Equestria, and the ivory alicorn was up and about with purpose this morning, though her pace was slow and apprehensive. She was seeking out Sunset Shimmer to discuss the events of the previous morning, a conversation she was not exactly looking forward to having. She would have spoken to the filly yesterday, but considering that she was supposed to be "sick," it wouldn't have been difficult for Sunset to see past her ruse if she had seen the princess out of bed. Or rather, that's what she told herself...

Celestia breathed a long sigh. Luna's lecture had stuck with her throughout the day and even disturbed her sleep last night. She was feeling a touch guilty about all of this and needed to lift that weight from her mind. She had a feeling she knew where Sunset was on this Sunday morning; a place where she spent much of her free time at the castle. The alicorn had arrived at her destination, looking up at the symbol of an open book over the doorway. Celestia took a deep breath before entering the royal archives.

Just as she suspected, the amber filly was seated at one of the reading tables, her back to the door with her nose in a book. Celestia approached cautiously, still a tad apprehensive. But it didn't take long for Sunset to detect the presence of another pony in the room. She glanced over her shoulder to see who it was, and smiled with pleasant surprise to see Princess Celestia, hopping off of her chair to greet her with a chipper tone.

"Princess! Good morning!" Sunset chirped. However, her smile faded for a brief moment and she stared up in mild concern. "Are you feeling better today?"

"Hm? Oh, er, yes, much better. Thank you," Celestia answered with a somewhat awkward smile.

Satisfied by the response, Sunset grinned back again, hopping back onto her chair. "Are you looking for a book? We can study together."

The princess hesitated momentarily, debating in her head one more time whether or not she wanted to do this. She knew that if she were to put this off, it would only make it potentially harder, so, ultimately, she elected to just swallow the pill and get it over with. "Well, no. Actually, I came here to find you." She sat down next to the filly, who was looking up at her curiously. "I want to talk about yesterday morning."

"About me raising the sun?"

Celestia paused briefly, but nodded. "Yes. Sunset, how do you feel about what happened?"

The unicorn beamed at the mere thought of it. "It was amazing! I actually raised the sun, even though you said I probably couldn't!"

Seeing the excited and proud smile on her face was only proving to make this more difficult for the alicorn, building on her guilt. However, she was still going to try and spare the filly's feelings if at all possible. It was just a matter of finding the right way to do so. "So, what do you intend to do now that you know you can raise the sun?"

Sunset tilted her head, puzzled by the question, but also curious about it, taking a moment to think it over. "I don't know. Am I supposed to do something?"

"Well, you told me that you wanted to raise the sun someday, and that you wanted to be just like me. Do you still want that? Is that still something you strive for?"

Sunset shifted in her chair slightly, staring down at her hooves with uncertainty. "I don't know. I've actually been thinking about it a lot since yesterday. I thought raising the sun would be a big deal for me—and it was, of course; it was one of the greatest feelings of my life—but I thought it would at least be significant enough to get me my cutie mark, but..." She glanced down at her still blank flank. "It didn't..."

Celestia gazed sympathetically at Sunset. She knew how important a cutie mark was for a foal her age, and that was something the princess had not taken into consideration. "And what do you think that means?"

Sunset stared up into Celestia's eyes. She did not smile, but her expression exhibited certainty and, oddly, acceptance. "Just because I can raise the sun, doesn't mean I'm supposed to. Maybe there's something else I'm meant to do."

The alicorn smiled softly at the filly, admittedly feeling quite relieved to hear her say that. "That's very mature of you, Sunset."

The filly grinned back cutely. "Raising the sun is your duty. I don't want to take that away."

Celestia smirked with amusement. "Are you saying that you could very well take my throne if you had a mind to?"

Sunset immediately regretted her wording, backpedaling hastily. "What?! N-No! I would never do that! I-I don't know if I could handle being a ruler anyway. It seems like a lot of pressure."

"It's certainly not easy," Celestia said with a quiet giggle. However, her mirth subsided rather quickly, as she wanted to make absolutely certain that this matter was settled. "Sunset, I would like to request something of you."

"Hm? What is it?"

"As you said, just because you can raise the sun, doesn't mean you should. It is not an ability to be taken lightly, and if the people of Equestria were to suddenly see the sun moving at weird times or in strange ways, they may become concerned. So I would like to ask that you not attempt to raise the sun again unless I absolute need you to do so. Do you understand?"

The filly grinned and nodded. "Mm-hm."

Celestia smiled back. "Good." She gently brushed a hoof over Sunset's fiery mane. "You're a good filly, Sunset. Your father is lucky to have such a smart and mature daughter."

Finally feeling that weight being lifted, Celestia stood to take her leave and let Sunset return to her studies. It felt good to have reached a conclusion where everypony could be happy. Sure, Celestia was still perpetuating a small lie, but as long as Sunset kept her promise, it shouldn't cause any problems. The alicorn stepped back out into the hall, closing the door to the royal archives behind her.

"Well?"

Celestia was a little caught off guard by the voice, turning to her right to find Starswirl standing there expectantly.

"How did your chat go, Princess?" he asked, though somewhat skeptically.

Celestia smiled at him confidently as she proceeded down the hall, Starswirl following alongside her. "You'll be pleased to hear that we've reached an agreement."

The stallion quirked an eyebrow. "An agreement? Not exactly the answer I was expecting. You did tell her the truth, did you not?"

"The truth can be painful sometimes, and I admit that I probably shouldn't have deceived her as I did," Celestia said remorsefully. "At the time, I only wanted to make her smile, not thinking of the consequences that could follow. That was an error in judgment on my part."

Her admission only served to baffle and concern Starswirl further. "So what did you tell her?"

"I simply had her promise not to try and raise the sun again, an arrangement she was more than willing to accept. So, her feelings are spared, and my own guilt is assuaged."

Starswirl let out a long sigh as he shook his head. "It has never been more clear that you are not a parent," he muttered under his breath.

"I'm sorry?"

"Nothing. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have errands to run in Canterlot. I'll be back in an hour or so if you need me."

The pair turned the corner at the end of the hall, heading toward the throne room. However, the hall was not left empty. On the opposite end, a second alicorn princess watched as her sister disappeared down the hall, then began making her way to the royal archives herself.

Just as Celestia had, Princess Luna found Sunset Shimmer engrossed in a thick book, humming a cheery tune to herself. She wasted no time addressing the filly as she approached. "Were thou speaking to Our sister?" she asked.

Sunset turned and looked up, a little surprised to see the midnight blue alicorn standing beside her. Luna's presence also quickly soured the little unicorn's peppy mood, grimacing slightly, but turning her eyes back to her book. "Yeah."

"About what?" Luna inquired, though she already had an idea as to what the answer was.

Sunset turned to the princess once more, her expression somewhat haughty as she attempted to turn her nose up at Luna despite the alicorn's higher elevation. "She told me I have to be responsible now that I can raise the sun."

Now it was Luna's turn to grimace, however, not due to the filly's attitude, but rather disappointment in her own sister for perpetuating her lie. "Unbelievable," she groaned.

"What?"

Luna stared sternly at Sunset, determined to rectify her sister's mistake. "If Celestia cannot work up the nerve to tell thee the truth, then the task must fall to Us. As We told thee yesterday, Celestia lied to thee. Thou cannot raise the sun. Thou art just a filly."

Just like how their brief conversation went the previous morning, Sunset pouted angrily at the princess. "So? What does being young have to do with it? Maybe I'm just naturally talented. My dad always says I am."

"It took the two of us nearly one hundred years before we perfected the art of moving the sun and moon. We refuse to believe that a prepubescent unicorn such as thee could do what we could not. In fact, We know thou cannot, as We spoke to Our sister about this yesterday, as well."

"But she wouldn't lie!" Sunset argued again. "She doesn't need to lie and make me think I can raise the sun. I didn't really care if I could or not, so why would she do that?"

"Apparently to make thee smile," Luna stated simply.

Sunset went silent for a moment, but her frustrated expression never subsided. "She doesn't need to go that far to make me smile. Just being around her is enough to make me happy."

"Truthfully, We do not know either why Our sister seems so intent on pleasing thee," Luna admitted. "But to go so far as to lie to somepony who respects her so much is quite a betrayal of trust."

Sunset's brow furrowed even more, and the filly jumped off of her chair to stand up to the taller mare. "Stop it! Why are your talking about you own sister like that?! Don't you care about her?!"

Luna was unfazed by the filly's outburst, simply taking a deep breath through her nose to steady herself and make sure she didn't speak too harshly to one so young and naïve. She looked down her muzzle at Sunset. "Why dost thou think we art having this conversation? The only reason We art speaking to thee about this is because We care. We—" Luna paused, taking another deep breath. Her expression suddenly softened, looking much less stern and more concerned, and her tone became much quieter and gentler than Sunset had ever heard from her. "I love my sister more than anything else in Equestria. I just don't want her to make any unnecessary mistakes."

Sunset was admittedly a little unnerved by the alicorn's sudden shift in attitude. The softness of her voice and expression reminded her of Celestia. But that didn't mean Sunset was going to just start believing her. "She wouldn't lie to me," she reiterated quietly.

Luna let out a groan, growing annoyed by the unicorn's stubbornness. "Hast thou ever heard the phrase, 'Never meet thy heroes'?"

Sunset simply shook her head.

"It means that thine idols may not be exactly as thou envision them. Thou may not think that Celestia would lie to thee, but thou hast only known her briefly. She is not infallible. We all hath our foibles, and she is not exempt. It would be unwise for thee to view her as the picture of perfection."

Sunset's glower remained steady, clearly having no intention of taking anything the moon princess was saying to heart. Instead, Sunset used her magic to grab the book she had been reading and stomped angrily out of the royal archives without saying another word.

Luna didn't attempt to follow her. She knew that not all the blame lay with her sister. This filly was stubborn beyond belief. Luna was all but certain that Sunset's unwavering trust and Celestia's seemingly 'harmless' lies were going to cause trouble in the future, but it appeared that no matter how hard she tried to correct her sister's mistakes, nothing was going to come of it. All she could really do now was wait until she could say "I told you so."

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

Sunset Shimmer tossed and turned in bed, unable to find comfort in her new bed despite its soft and warm embrace. Since she'd first moved to the castle, her bed was more comfortable to her than her bed back in her former Canterlot home. However, as of late, she found herself unable to sleep soundly.

A week had passed since Sunset had first raised the sun, and she was super excited and proud of her accomplishment. She had bragged to her classmates and to the castle staff about it endlessly for the past week, and although there was some skepticism, the other foals at school seemed willing to believe her after she told them that Princess Celestia herself had requested she do it. She kind of felt like the soldiers and servants at the castle were humoring her when she told them, but at least they weren't trying to tell her she was wrong.

Unlike one particular alicorn...

And that was what bugged her night after night. Princess Luna's words had been echoing continuously in her mind since their conversation a week ago, and it was seriously eating into Sunset's sleep time. She didn't let it bother her too much during the day, her natural exuberance managing to help her power through her tired state. But any optimism she may have had would be drained in an instant whenever she crossed paths with the moon princess. Luna had not spoken a word to her since their talk in the royal archives, merely casting a stern look. Sunset never said anything back to her either, but their exchange of glances whenever they passed one another in the halls was like having that entire conversation again in the course of a couple of silent seconds. Sunset could tell from the look in Luna's eyes that she wanted to remind her of everything she'd told her, but the filly did everything in her power to push it from her mind.

Obviously that wasn't working. Despite her efforts, Sunset was still losing sleep over it. The worst part was, the more she thought about it, the more doubt began to fester in her mind. During these sleepless nights, Sunset starting thinking about it logically. How did she raise the sun? Even if she poured as much magic as she could into it, it still didn't feel as hard as Celestia had made it out to be. She wasn't even exhausted afterward. Luna claimed that it took the two sisters one hundred years to learn to do it themselves.

Sunset tapped her hooves against her temples in frustration. She felt as though Luna was sowing doubt on purpose during their brief encounters; she was trying to make Sunset confront Celestia about it, to drag the truth out of her sister. But Sunset refused to give in. She refused to believe that Princess Celestia—one of the foremost and highly respected authorities in the world—would lie to an innocent, little filly. If Celestia told her she could raise the sun, then what reason did she have not to believe her?

It was jealously. That had to be it. Sunset's previous accusation when Luna had first claimed it was a trick had to be accurate. The sun was incredibly important to Equestria's ecosystem; a very source of life for the entire world. What purpose did the moon serve other than to look pretty during the night when everypony was asleep anyway? She was probably upset that Celestia would sooner ask a young filly to raise the sun before her own sister, or was simply envious that Sunset had picked it up quicker than she had, despite it being the two alicorns' special talents.

But even though Sunset was convinced that Luna was just jealous, she still found herself having difficulty sleeping. Her teal eyes cracked open, staring up at the ceiling through the darkness. She was getting tired of these thoughts plaguing her like this. Living at the castle was supposed to make her happy. She was practically living like royalty herself, and being able to see and talk to Princess Celestia everyday was more than enough to keep her happy. But just one short conversation with Luna had begun to undo that.

Sunset turned over onto her side, her horn lighting up slightly so that she could check the clock on the bedside table. Her lack of sleep recently had been messing with her internal clock, so she was a little shocked to see that it was almost six a.m. If she were to lay in bed any longer, she'd miss the sunrise.

As quickly as she could manage in her somnolent state, Sunset rose from bed and headed for the door, stepping out into the dark hallway. It was kind of inconvenient that she had to leave her bedroom to watch the sunrise every morning, but it was always worth it. Even with everything that was bothering her now, she knew that watching as Celestia raised the sun would help her find an equilibrium. It always cheered her up without fail, even during these long, weary nights.

Sunset found a window to look out at the horizon and waited, rubbing her sleepy eyes. It was only about five minutes to six when she looked at the clock, and it took her a few to find the window considering how tired she was. So she knew it wouldn't be long now. She preemptively smiled as she stared out into the darkness in anticipation, watching and waiting.

And waiting...

And waiting...

Sunset's smile fell. Something was wrong. She was certain it had to be six o' clock by now, but the sun was nowhere to be seen. Even its incandescent, orange glow was absent from the horizon, the pitch blackness of the night holding steady and the stars sitting comfortably in the sky. Even the moon hadn't budged from its position. Was this Princess Luna's doing?

Sunset was worried. Everything she knew told her that there was a problem. The sunrise was never late unless something was wrong, and she needed to find out what it was. The concerned filly took off down the halls, making for Princess Celestia's chambers to get to the bottom of this. She hurried to the castle's east wing, into the eastern tower, up the steps and to the door to Celestia's bedroom. However, she hesitated. Sunset felt like she always hesitated before entering the princess's room, but this time it was more warranted as she did not have permission this time. But this may have been an emergency. If something was wrong with the princess, she needed to find out what. So she ignored her concerns about breaking the rules and opened the door, more worried about Celestia's condition than about being punished.

Nothing appeared to be out of order. Princess Celestia was still sound asleep in bed. But that in and of itself was the problem; Celestia was supposed to raise the sun, but was still snoozing comfortably. Curious, Sunset quietly walked around to the right side of the bed to get a closer look at the sleeping alicorn's face. There was a small, blissful smile on her muzzle. She must have been pretty cozy, perhaps having a pleasant dream.

Sunset's gaze then turned to the clock on her bedside table. It read the correct time, and it was already two minutes past six. Could it simply have been a case of Princess Celestia forgetting to set her alarm? That didn't sound right to Sunset, though; if the amber filly's internal clock could calibrate itself to wake her for the sunrise after just a week, surely Celestia's was hardwired to do the same after thousands of years. But then again, maybe not. How was she to know for certain?

Now the question arose: what should she do now? The sunrise was late, and Celestia herself had said that the sun rising at odd times could worry the citizens. So perhaps it would be for the best if she were to wake the princess up before it got any later. Then again, considering nothing appeared to be wrong, waking the princess would result in her being caught trespassing in her chambers without permission. She was starting to think that maybe she should just let Princess Celestia sleep and raise the sun when she was ready, and began silently heading back for the door. Besides, Princess Luna was certainly still awake. When she noticed that the sun had not risen, she would probably take it upon herself to do it.

Or maybe that was exactly the point.

Luna had been rather fixated lately on the fact that Sunset had raised the sun. Was it possible that, in her jealousy, Luna had snuck into her sister's chambers and turned off her alarm so that she would grant herself the opportunity to raise the sun herself and steal the glory? On top of that, the moon was still out. All of this could have been premeditated by Princess Luna.

That was where Sunset's mind had wandered, which also begged the question as to what would happen afterward. Would Celestia be grateful to her sister, unaware that it was her ploy the entire time, or would she be cross with Luna doing it for her without her consent? Either way, no good would come from it. Either she would enjoy unjust praise, or it might put strain on the two sisters' relationship.

And that's when an idea struck Sunset Shimmer. She had the power to deny Princess Luna the satisfaction of stealing the thunder, and simultaneously prove to her once and for all that Celestia hadn't tricked her.

Sunset could just raise the sun herself.

The very idea made the filly grin widely, and she immediately headed for the balcony doors, opening them ever so slightly, just enough to squeeze herself through without allowing the cool breeze to disturb Celestia's sleep. She stared out into the distance, just as she had done a week ago when she did it for the first time. She did take a moment to think this over, however. Sunset had made a promise to Princess Celestia that she wouldn't try to raise the sun unless she had to. But certainly these circumstances would fall under those criteria. Princess Celestia had overslept, and the sunrise was late. Somepony had to raise the sun. What difference did it make who that was? If anything, Sunset was doing the princess a favor by doing it for her and letting her get some well deserved rest.

That was all the convincing she needed to go through with it. Without any more hesitation, Sunset lit up her horn, pouring all of her magic toward the horizon just as she had done the last time.

But she had barely even begun when she suddenly felt an intense pain shoot through her horn, then through the rest of her body. She instantly doubled over in pain, every muscle in her body tightening and convulsing as though she had been struck by lightning. Sunset was paralyzed, unable to even scream or make so much as a whimper to vocalize the agony she was in. And then, the bright teal glow of her horn shifted to reds, oranges, and yellows, bursting outward in a vibrant and forceful blast that encompassed the balcony.

Within the princess's chambers, Celestia stirred in her sleep. She opened her eyes to find her entire room bathed in shimmering, warm colors of red, orange, and yellow. Confused and concerned, she lifted her head from her pillow, turning around to the source of the lights. Her pink eyes widened in shock at what she saw. Her balcony appeared to be engulfed in flames, but although the fire looked violent, it had an ethereal feel to it. Celestia felt it in her horn; these flames were not real fire, but rather were a result of magic of some kind. Their flames ebbed and flowed too unnaturally, the colors pulsating like a beating heart and were transparent enough to see into.

To see what—or rather whom—was at the center.

"Sunset!"

In a panic, Celestia shot out of bed, rushing over to the balcony doors and wasting no time in throwing them open. The moment she did, an intense wave of heat hit the alicorn's face, forcing her to stop in her tracks and close her eyes instinctively. The fire may not have been real, but the energy they exuded was, and it was incredible. Celestia felt as though she had just walked into a giant oven, beads of sweat already beginning to drip down her face.

But her own well-being wasn't her main concern at the moment. Sunset was at the epicenter of this phenomenon, and she was clearly in pain. Celestia steeled herself and began trudging into the magical inferno. Just as she suspected, the fire did not hurt her, but the heat was unbearable. She knew she had to get Sunset out of there as quickly as possible. She cracked an eye open to make sure she knew where Sunset was, but noticed something strange: the brightest point of the fire appeared to be centered around Sunset's horn, glowing with an intense, white light. Sunset wasn't just at the center of the fire, she was the source of it.

That revelation meant that removing the unicorn from the flames was impossible, as she would bring them with her. Sunset was outputting an astounding amount of magical power, and Celestia feared that if she didn't do something to stop her, the filly may very well die.

Princess Celestia rushed to the filly's side, laying down beside her to assess her condition. Sunset was writhing in pain, the very force of her magic levitating her small body in the air ever so slightly. Celestia's own horn felt numb both from the heat and the extreme power flowing around her. She had to do something, but what?

"Sunset! Can you hear me?!" Celestia could barely hear her own voice over the loud humming of the magic swirling around them, but she had to keep trying to snap Sunset out of it. "Sunset! It's me! Celestia! Please, say something!"

Sunset must have heard her. With what little strength and control she had left, the unicorn laboriously turned her head toward the princess, her eyelids opening only a little. Celestia was taken aback when she saw Sunset's eyes glowing a fierce white, her teal irises and black pupils not even visible anymore.

Celestia wasn't sure what to do. Along with the sweat pouring off of her, her eyes began to well with tears, not from the heat, but from the fear that she would be unable to do anything. Her mind was racing, her panic, coupled with the pressure of the heat surrounding her, making it difficult to concentrate. She was going to lose Sunset if she didn't do something—anything to save her, and she knew it would be her fault.

So she did the only thing that she could think to do: Celestia wrapped her hooves around the filly, pulling her tiny body against her own and wept.

"I'm sorry, Sunset..." she sobbed helplessly. "I didn't mean for this to happen... Please, hang in there!"

Sunset managed to force her glowing eyes open again, staring up at the crying princess. "P-... Prin-... -cess?"

And suddenly, the flames began to die down. The intense heat dissipated, the loud humming vanished, and the light from both Sunset's horn and eyes dimmed, her bright, teal irises shining through once more.

Celestia stared down, still fearful that it was too late. Sunset was gazing sleepily up at her, as though she had just been woken up in the middle of the night. But her eyes drifted shut again, and she seemed to instinctively nestle herself into the fur of Celestia's chest like a sleeping baby.

The princess took a moment to quiet her nerves. Sunset was alive, that much was an immense weight off her mind. The filly had passed out in her embrace, but was breathing still. Celestia wiped the sweat from her brow, and the tears from her eyes, letting out a shaky, but relieved breath.

But something was still off. Although the ethereal flames were gone, there was still a soft glow shining upon the balcony. Celestia turned her sight out toward the distance, baffled and astounded by what she was seeing. Between the mountains past Canterlot Valley, a soft, amber glow shone up from beyond the horizon, the very edge of the sun poking up from its place of slumber.

Celestia gawked, bewildered by the sight, and turned her eyes back down to the unconscious filly in her hooves. And to add onto everything that had happened, the stunned princess found an image of a red and yellow, shimmering sun upon the unicorn's flank.

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

Celestia sat in silence, her head hung low and her mind wracked with guilt as she waited with bated breath. She managed a glance over toward her bed, barely able to focus her gaze on the unconscious form of Sunset Shimmer tucked within the sheets without feeling her heart twinge.

After what had happened, the princess summoned a doctor immediately to assess the filly's condition, who was currently examining her. Of course, it was imperative to inform the little girl's father, as well. Starswirl paced throughout the room in worry, wondering exactly what had happened to his daughter. Celestia would explain it all to him, but not before they could confirm that Sunset was alright.

After a thorough examination, the doctor finally stepped away from the bed, breathing a slight sigh of relief himself. Celestia and Starswirl wasted no time in addressing him for an answer.

"Well? Is she okay?" the concerned father asked desperately.

The doctor gave a reassuring nod. "She is. Given what Princess Celestia described, I believe Sunset Shimmer is simply suffering from magical burnout. She expended far too much magic at once, and her natural reserves have run low. It's certainly not a common affliction, and I've never seen a case quite this severe before, especially in one so young. But she should be back at full strength in a few days. Until then, I'd advise her when she wakes up to not use her magic at all in the meantime in order to speed up the recovery."

Starswirl's muscles finally managed to relax, giving the doctor a relieved and grateful smile. "Thank you, Doctor. I'm so glad to hear that."

The doctor nodded to both him and the princess. "You're very welcome. Then if there's nothing else, I'll take my leave. Fetch me again if you need me."

"Thank you very much, Doctor," Celestia bid him as he stepped out of the princess's chambers.

With the tension and worry in the room abated, Starswirl walked around to the side of the bed, sitting down and tenderly holding his sleeping daughter's hoof. But while he was relieved to hear she was alright, Celestia was still plagued by guilt.

"I'm so sorry, Mr. Starswirl," she apologized, her voice catching as though she were on the verge of tears. "This is all my fault. All I wanted to do was make a young filly smile. I never thought something like this would come of a simple, little lie."

As much as the stallion wanted to tell her otherwise, he knew she was right. This was her fault, but that didn't mean he was going to chew into her about it. It was evident from the sparkle of moisture in Celestia's eyes that she was beating herself up enough over it. That being said, Starswirl remained silent, not wanting to inadvertently say something that might make the princess feel even worse.

However, the silence didn't make Celestia feel any more at ease. "I should have listened to you. Even Luna warned me, but I ignored her, too."

"What could have even caused this to happen?" Starswirl asked, finally seeking an explanation for what Celestia had described to him.

"She raised the sun during a solar flare."

Starswirl quirked an eyebrow. "Solar flare?"

Celestia nodded, composing herself to explain in more detail. "The sun is a magical entity in nature, but the amount of energy it gives off can sometimes cause it to go into flux. This is what I call a solar flare, and attempting to use magic on the sun during this time can result in powerful magical feedback."

Starswirl was rather vexed by this explanation. "And yet you lead her to believe she could raise the sun? Even knowing about something as dangerous as that?!"

Celestia drew back under his accusatory tone, but attempted to defend herself. "Solar flares are very infrequent; there hasn't been one in almost a decade. And I usually don't know they're going to happen until the day before, when I feel the sun's magic becoming slightly unstable. The timing just happened to be unfortunate... Even if I didn't know it was coming, and even though Sunset had promised not to raise the sun without my permission, I should have warned her about solar flares regardless. It was a drastic oversight on my part, and I am truly, deeply sorry."

Starswirl let out a long breath through his nose. He had never known or heard of the princess being this irresponsible, and he was admittedly quite upset with her for letting this happen. That being said, it was hard for him to continue being mad at her considering how devastated she seemed to be when he had arrived in her chambers. "At least she's alright. That's what's important right now."

"I would completely understand if you wanted to return home to Canterlot after all of this, or even wished to resign from your position here on the staff," Celestia said quietly, her face full of dejection.

The bearded stallion shook his head. "No, I don't think there's any need of that. After all, I don't think even this would be enough to diminish the respect Sunset has for you."

Celestia's ears folded back, the comment only serving to make her feel even worse.

However, Starswirl gazed rather sternly and insistently at the princess. "But I just want you to promise me that you will not let something like this happen again. From now on, no more jokes. I want you to be completely honest with my daughter on all matters, regardless of if you think it might upset her."

The alicorn had no problem accepting those terms, having already told herself as much in her mind. "I promise. I swear I will not let anymore harm come to Sunset as a result of my own negligence."

Starswirl simply nodded. "Good."

It was then that the two heard somepony touch down on the balcony outside. It was Princess Luna, and she promptly entered seeing that her sister was up and active.

"Sister, We noticed that the sun was up earlier than expected," the blue alicorn commented, slight concern in her voice. "Thou did not try to raise it during the solar flare, didst thou?"

Celestia shook her head somberly. "I didn't, no." She looked back toward the bed.

It was only now that Luna had noticed an unconscious Sunset in her sister's bed. At first, she was deeply concerned for the filly's health, however, by reading the room and the expressions on both Starswirl and Celestia's faces, she could presume that Sunset was not seriously hurt. So, instead she decided to direct ire at her taller sister. "Did We not warn thee something like this would happen?!"

Celestia hung her head in shame and guilt once more. "You did. And I'm sorry I didn't listen."

"Now, we don't need to go down this road a second time," Starswirl interjected. "Princess Celestia has already received one lecture for the day."

Luna scowled at her sister regardless. She wanted to talk at her more and revel in the fact that she was right, but there were more pressing concerns at the moment. Her deep blue eyes fell back onto the filly in the bed, her expression softening. "Burnout, We presume?"

Starswirl nodded. "That's what the doctor said."

"Honestly, it's surprising that that's the worst of it," Luna said. "Last time Celestia attempted to raise the sun during a solar flare, she was laid up for a few days herself." She shot another glower up at her sister. "A good reason not to make an impressionable, young foal believe she can raise it herself."

Celestia was about to respond, but Sunset suddenly stirred in her slumber, letting out a long, tired moan as her eyes finally opened again. Starswirl was quick to speak to her.

"Sunset? Are you feeling okay?" he asked with tender concern.

Sunset rubbed her eyes as they adjusted. "My head hurts..." she groaned sleepily.

The exhausted filly looked around to find that she was still in Princess Celestia's bedroom, the princess and her sister both present, as well. She certainly wasn't expecting to have woken up in Celestia's bed for the second time, but this time was a little more confusing.

"What happened?" Sunset asked the three adults surrounding her.

"You raised the sun during a solar flare," Celestia informed her.

Sunset blinked, still a little out of it, and rubbed her eyes again. "A what?"

"Suffice to say it is simply the sun's magic becoming unstable and it forced your magic into flux," Luna explained.

"You won't be able to use your magic for a few days," the filly's father added.

"Oh..." Sunset stared up at Princess Celestia, her ears folding back and a guilty look in her eyes. "Is that why the sunrise was late this morning?"

The white alicorn nodded.

Luna's eyes suddenly widened as a realization dawned on her, glancing up at her sister. "Hold on. Thou did not say 'try.'"

Starswirl stared across the bed with a puzzled look. "What do you mean?"

"Celestia said, 'You raised the sun during a solar flare.' She did not say she tried to raise it."

The stallion's eyes widened, as well, also looking to the taller princess for clarification.

Sunset, however, was more confused by their reactions than what Celestia had said. "So? We know I can raise the sun. I did it before, but Princess Luna wouldn't believe me."

Celestia turned away, a guilty look in her eyes. "Actually, Sunset... Last week, you did not raise the sun."

Sunset's heart sank, her mind struggling to accept that the possibility even existed that Celestia would lie to her. "I... I didn't...?" She chanced a glance at Luna, expected her to be wearing an expression that read of haughty superiority. However, the blue alicorn was still staring up at her sister in puzzlement.

Starswirl picked up on the shattered look on his daughter's face and rushed to the princess's defense. "Don't think ill of her, Sunset. She only did it to make you happy."

"It's true," Celestia confirmed with a regretful frown. "But that doesn't excuse the fact that I lied to you, and as a result, I inadvertently put your life in danger. And for that I am truly and deeply sorry. Can you ever forgive me, Sunset?"

The filly stared up into the remorseful and tearful, pink eyes of the princess. However, before she could respond, Luna interjected once more.

"Let us not skirt around the bigger issue. Celestia, what exactly happened this morning?"

Celestia took a breath to compose herself, speaking more evenly as she addressed the question. "I may have deceived Sunset when I told her she could raise the sun. However, this morning, she did just that."

Luna and Starswirl gawked incredulously, while Sunset stared with hope in her teal eyes.

The blue alicorn stared silently at her sister's expression, analyzing it for any hint of jest, but was thrown off by the dead seriousness in her eyes. "Thou'rt... not joking."

"Wait, you're actually saying that my daughter raised the sun?!" Starswirl questioned in disbelief.

The ivory alicorn turned toward the balcony doors, a very slight amount of amber sunlight streaming through them. "Barely, but most assuredly. What little sunlight you see now was Sunset's doing, not mine."

"You're not tricking me again, are you?" Sunset asked, her heart teetering on the edge.

Celestia could see that Sunset both wanted to and did not want to believe it for fear of having her dreams crushed once more, but she shook her head to assure her. "This is not a trick. And this brings me to another topic I wish to discuss with you and your father."

"Shall We... give thee some privacy?" Luna asked, still a little shaken by this revelation.

"No, you should hear this, too, Luna," Celestia told her. She then turned her attention to Starswirl, the utmost seriousness in her eyes. "What I witnessed this morning was unlike anything I'd ever seen from a normal unicorn, child or otherwise. As Luna said previously, a solar flare can easily incapacitate even us alicorns. That sort of magic feedback should have been enough to kill a young foal, yet Sunset not only survived, she won't even suffer any long-term effects."

"What does that mean?" Starswirl inquired, admittedly curious about where this was going.

"The shock she received from the solar flare must have triggered something within her; a latent, untapped power she didn't know she possessed. And from what I saw, that power is dangerous. Young unicorn foals often don't have full control over their magic until they get a little older, and most foals Sunset's age can barely utilize their magic. But Sunset's natural talent could be both a blessing and a curse. If she isn't careful, another shock like this could be dangerous not only to herself, but the people around her, unless she learns how to control it."

All of this information was starting to worry Starswirl. "So what do you suggest she do?"

"Us alicorns have to deal with a similar issue at a young age. Our magic is naturally powerful, so we were taught how to control it at a young age by our parents. I would like to suggest that Sunset become my pupil so that I can teach her how to not only keep it under control, but to harness it."

Sunset's eyes widened with a whimsical sparkle. She looked at her father expectantly. However, he hesitated, humming in thought and stroking his beard as he considered the offer.

Celestia took note of his prolonged consideration, looking away guiltily. "I understand if you wouldn't want to trust me with this. After all, we wouldn't be in this situation if it weren't for me... My poor judgment put your daughter's very life at risk, and I don't think I can ever truly forgive myself for that, let alone expect you to do so." She then leaned forward, a sudden determination in her eyes. "But consider this my way of atoning. I've witnessed first hoof the power that your daughter possesses, and she has astounding potential. With the proper tutelage, I strongly believe that she can use her magic for the good of Equestria as a whole."

Again, Starswirl hummed thoughtfully. "Do you truly think so?"

After all this time, Celestia finally managed a smile. "I do. After all, this entire ordeal was enough for her to earn her cutie mark."

"Huh?!" Sunset suddenly throw off the blankets covering her, looking down at her flank. Sure enough, the image of a shimming, red and yellow sun was emblazoned on her person, and the filly's mouth stretched outward in an ecstatic, beaming grin. "My cutie mark!" She leapt up into the air, throwing herself at her father in glee. "Daddy! I got my cutie mark!"

Starswirl was awash with pride, but was also still a little overwhelmed by everything that he'd just learned. With his daughter's hooves wrapped around his neck in an elated hug, he stared across at the white alicorn. Celestia was smiling happily herself, thankful that Sunset was not only okay, but that she had finally gotten what all young foals strive for. In light of Sunset's happiness, Starswirl couldn't help but smile himself, giving his little girl a congratulatory pat on the back as he returned her hug.

"Good for you, sweetie."

Sunset released her father, but continued to bounce excitedly on Celestia's cushy bed. "This is amazing I finally got my—oooh..." She suddenly teetered a little, having some difficulty maintaining her balance. "I'm kinda dizzy..."

"You should take it easy on the celebrations," Celestia suggested with a light-hearted giggle. "You're still suffering from burnout, so you might be prone to mild headaches for the next few days."

"You hear that?" Starswirl said, looking his daughter straight in the eye. "No magic until you're all better. Understand?"

Sunset nodded, her smile returning. However, she looked at her father pleadingly. "So? Can Princess Celestia be my teacher, Dad?"

With the topic having come around again, the bearded stallion glanced back at the princess, whose expression was much the same as Sunset's. "I don't suppose there's a choice in the matter. If this power you have is as dangerous as Princess Celestia says, then you need somepony with that kind of experience to help you get it under control."

Both Celestia and Sunset smiled with relief and joy, respectively. The ecstatic filly turned to her new teacher, trying hard to keep her excitement in check to avoid another bout of wooziness. "When do we start?!"

Celestia was a little caught off guard by the sudden question, but answered with a quiet chuckle. "Sunset, you're not exactly in any condition for that quite yet. Plus, I still need to finish getting the sun up over the horizon. No doubt people are wondering what's going on with that."

"We suppose We'll be turning in for the day," Luna informed, accompanying her sister out onto the balcony. "We certainly weren't ready for all of this today..." she mumbled to Celestia before taking off back to her own chambers.

"With that being said..." Starswirl said, addressing his daughter sternly. "You are to absolutely, under no circumstances, even think about raising the sun anymore. Do I make myself clear, young lady?"

Sunset shrunk back under her father's corrective glare and tone. "Yes, Daddy..."

Starswirl huffed at her response. "Don't 'Daddy' me. Despite all of this, you can be sure that you're going to be punished for disobeying the princess. And I don't want to hear any complaints." He then turned his attention to Celestia standing out on the balcony as she raised the sun properly. "We'll be taking our leave now, Your Highness. Sunset is going to be helping the staff clean up the castle."

The alicorn chuckled in amusement and gave the pair a friendly wave. "Sounds fine by me."

Starswirl guided his daughter to the door with authority. Sunset followed alongside him with her head hung low. However, even though she was being punished, she was still smiling. She had expected this to happen when she first came up to Celestia's chambers, but now she couldn't stop thinking about the fact that the princess was going to personally teach her about magic and how to harness and control it. She couldn't believe how well disobeying her had turned out. If helping the castle staff with some chores was the price for being Princess Celestia's student, she wasn't about to complain.

~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~

Twilight lay on her bed in silence, staring down at the book open in front of her. She was attempting to make sense of what she'd just read, but her brain didn't know how to properly react to it. A torrent of emotions swirled around in her head. All at once she felt confused, angry, disappointed, but most of all, betrayed.

This was it. This had to be it. The secret she'd been looking for, but it wasn't at all what she had been expecting.

Contrary to her theories, Twilight now knew that Celestia was not trying to hide something from her people, but from her specifically. And now she knew why.

Twilight's emotions were roiling, and it seemed her mind was gravitating toward one in particular: anger. How could Princess Celestia keep something like this from her? In her current state, she could think of nothing else but this new revelation. So, despite having tried to avoid Princess Celestia up until now, Twilight was going to finally confront her. She had some choice words for her former teacher.

With a furrowed brow and clenched teeth, Twilight's horn lit up. Her bedroom was filled with a bright light and a pop of magic. And with that, she was gone.

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