• Published 15th Nov 2018
  • 2,591 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 9 - Corona

The Girl Who Orbited the Sun
By Dee Pad
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Chapter 9: Corona

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Canterlot: the capitol of Equestria that was founded by the kingdom's two alicorn princesses. Since its founding, Celestia and Luna had sought to build it up from a humble town wedged in a mountainside into a sprawling city of marble and gold; a symbol overlooking their kingdom and acting as a beacon of prosperity, progress, hope, and inspiration. As such, the relatively small town was always changing, always growing. It seemed like every other week there was a new building erected, a new business opening, or new residents moving in. Over time, the town's boundaries expanded outward—or rather, downward—construction progressing down the side of the mountain, turning the humble mountain town into a multi-tiered city. While one would think that there would be those bothered by the drastic changes, insistent that things were fine as they were, one would be wrong. The citizens of Canterlot were always watching their town grow and evolve, and the more elaborate it became, the more they came to love their home. It felt exactly as the princesses had envisioned it.

And nowhere was that more prevalent than near the mountain's peak.

Jutting up into the sky as though attempting to reach out to the clouds above were tall, elegant spires of white, gold, and purple, attached to a flawless, marble building that appeared as though it were growing out of the mountain itself, like a tree whose roots gripped the cliff's edge; one side peering over the precipice above Canterlot Valley, the other overlooking the city in which it was built. It was a structure unlike any other in the city. Canterlot Castle: the new pride of the capitol. Years of planning and construction were finally reaching fruition, and while it was still not quite finished, Princess Celestia was more than satisfied with how it had been turning out. It was estimated that construction would be complete within the next couple of months, but even in its current state, the castle's beauty and radiance against the horizon served as a pillar of comfort and confidence, like a lighthouse guiding wayward sailors to safety.

But it wasn't just Canterlot that had changed over the years. So, too, had its people. New faces were always showing up to take up residence in the growing capitol knowing that one day the princesses would be moving there themselves to be closer with their subjects. So Canterlot had become a melting pot of people from all over the kingdom wanting to witness its splendor for themselves and have a chance at meeting the princesses who governed them.

However, there was one particular person who needed none of that, for she was already well familiar with both Canterlot and especially its rulers.

A young, unicorn mare entered the lower part of the city from the road leading down the mountain, having taken the scenic route through the Everfree Forest as opposed to having one of the royal guards escort her to the capitol by chariot as they had so many times in the past. She paused for a moment as she entered the city limits, taking the time to gaze up through her teal eyes at the castle looming above the city. It brought a smile to her face every time she saw it, as it was just as important to her as it was for the princesses; after all, it would soon be her home as well. The mare let out a short breath, brushing aside her flowing, fiery, red and yellow mane. She was admittedly not the most athletic pony in the world, and the walk from the Castle of the Two Sisters and up the mountain had left her a little exhausted, but she wasn't one to let a little shortness of breath take the wind out of her sails.

After a brief moment of rest, the young mare continued into the city, her sights set on Canterlot Castle—her destination for the day. As she trotted down the streets, she received numerous waves and affable smiles. She was a familiar face around the city, and only became more and more known among the populace as time went on. She was practically a local celebrity at this point, mostly due to her connection with Princess Celestia, but also just because of her air of energy and optimism.

As she approached the castle, crossing a small bridge across a shallow brook, she received a few waves from the construction ponies working on the gate wall leading into the castle's main courtyard. The doors of the gate had yet to be installed, so she was able to simply walk straight in. Normally, citizens were told to keep away from the construction site for safety reasons, but given who this mare was, they knew she had every right to be there. It wasn't just because of her relation to Celestia, but also because they knew they didn't need to worry about her safety.

As the main entrance of the castle was currently also being worked on and was rather cluttered with workers, she opted to walk around to a side entrance, where some more volatile construction was underway. Large blocks of marble were being hoisted up to the higher parts of the castle walls by powerful earth ponies operating pulley systems. It appeared that everything was going quite smoothly all around.

"Watch out!"

Eyes on the ground shot up immediately at the warning. A rope had apparently snapped, and a big block of marble, twice the height of a grown stallion, was careening toward the ground. Workers scattered to avoid being flattened, clenching their eyes shut and covering their ears to protect themselves from shrapnel and the crash of the impact.

However, there was no impact. When the construction workers looked back to assess what had happened, they were surprised and relieved to find the block hovering a few feet off the ground, enveloped in an aura of cyan magic.

One worker took off his hardhat, wiping the sweat from his brow with a grateful smile when he spotted the amber mare standing nearby, her horn glowing with the same cyan light. "Thanks, Sunset. You're a lifesaver."

"You guys are just lucky I happened to come by when I did," Sunset said with a slight smirk, still continuing to hold the marble block as though it weighed nothing. "But it's not like anypony would've actually been hurt. This time anyway."

"Well, hey, at least we won't have to have a new block carved," the worker chuckled. "You mind giving us a hoof while you've got that thing?"

"Sure." Sunset effortlessly lifted the block high up into the air, the construction ponies sitting atop the wall helping her guide it into place.

"Thanks a bunch, Sunset. Now, we just gotta get some new ropes."

"My pleasure. But be a little more careful, alright?"

The stallion gave an affirmative wave as he put his helmet back on, and Sunset went back on her way to enter the castle.

As the years had gone by, Sunset Shimmer had grown, and in more ways than one. She had recently graduated from high school, though to her that was merely a formality. Sunset had actually wanted to drop out of school, but not because she found it difficult or stressful—quite the opposite in fact. Given that she spent most of her free time studying anyway, she had quickly gotten ahead of the school's curriculum. She no longer found it challenging and felt she wasn't learning anything she didn't already know. It was only at the insistence of her father and the princess that she stuck it out until graduation.

Still, even with her high school diploma, Sunset had no intention of enrolling in a college as her father had when he was her age. After all, there wasn't a college or university in Equestria that had courses to teach Sunset what she wanted to do. Only one person had the knowledge and skill to teach her, and that was Princess Celestia.

That being said, Princess Celestia had also recently completed a different project in Canterlot. After receiving the inspiration from teaching Sunset Shimmer, the princess had a new school built, one specializing in teaching young unicorns about magic. Granted, even that school wouldn't do much for Sunset, as it currently only offered basic courses for young fillies and colts; she was far beyond that at this point. But her father had already started working there as a teacher himself, though since the school focused on magic and didn't currently provide other elements of basic education, classes were limited to a couple of hours in the afternoon so any young unicorns could attend after their normal school day had wrapped up. Celestia intended to improve the institute to accommodate for things like that, but those plans were still in development, and the princess herself hadn't yet started teaching there like she wanted to due to being busy with the new castle, but has occasionally made appearances when she found some free time.

Regardless of her being unable to teach at her own school, Princess Celestia was still a teacher, and Sunset was her star pupil. Sunset Shimmer's own abilities had improved considerably over the years under the alicorn's tutelage. In terms of raw magical power, she had even surpassed Starswirl, her own father and talented spellcaster in his own right, at this point. But even so, she knew she still had a ways to go. Sunset had not yet been able to fully access the power she exhibited when she was a filly after being struck by the solar flare, and also still hadn't been able to move the sun again like she was hoping. But even though it had been a long time, Sunset hasn't let that put a damper on her spirits; she was confident she would accomplish her goals one day, and continued to work tirelessly toward them.

Right now, though, there were other things on her mind. A unique day was soon approaching, one Princess Celestia took rather seriously, and that was what Sunset had come to Canterlot to discuss. Celestia was currently at the castle, overlooking the work being done on it to ensure it went according to the plans she had laid out, and if Sunset knew anything about the princess, it was that she could usually always be found in the throne room.

Sunset made her way around the outside of the unfinished castle until she came to a clearing where the new statue garden was going to be located. A side entrance to the castle was located nearby, and there were few workers in this area, so construction wouldn't hinder her.

The inside of the castle was just as grand and expansive as the Castle of the Two Sisters, but the big difference between them was the color. While the current castle's walls were mostly browns and greys from the granite it was built from, the new castle was a pristine white from the marble construction. With the sunlight shining in through the windows—which still lacked panes of glass as of yet—one practically had to shield their eyes from light reflecting off the walls. It perhaps wouldn't be as much of an issue once the castle was complete, as the interior decorations, such as banners and the carpet, hadn't been placed yet; they would likely just end up getting full of dust and dirt from all the work still being done.

Sunset eventually navigated the halls to find the new castle's throne room. Honestly, she couldn't decide which one she liked better. While the old castle's throne room would always hold a special place in her heart, she couldn't deny the radiance of this new throne room. While it, too, was unfinished, the ground work had been laid, and all that really was left to do was decorate with banners and carpets, and insert the windows. The latter was something to which Princess Celestia was looking forward, as she intended to have elaborate, stained-glass windows depicting significant moments in Equestria's history, siting the two princesses' battle with Discord as an example.

The thrones themselves were fairly similar—one of gold and one midnight blue for their respective owners—but had a ramp leading up to them instead of stairs, and both thrones were now side by side instead of upon separate platforms connected by a small bridge; perhaps a small effort on Celestia's part to make she and her sister feel closer.

But as it currently stood, Sunset had to visualize what the final design would look like with everything in place, but she definitely liked what she was imagining. And, of course, any room was always made more wonderful by the presence of Celestia herself, and this room was no exception.

Princess Celestia was standing at the base of the ramp leading up to the thrones, having a discussion with both Quill and a burly, brown, earth pony stallion, who Sunset recognized as the foreman of the construction team.

What Sunset hadn't been expecting to see, however, was Princess Luna standing with them. Sunset knew that she had been pretty engrossed in her studies in the royal archives earlier, but she figured she would have at least caught wind of the knowledge that Luna was going to be heading to Canterlot today, as well. After a particular incident, Luna hadn't made much of an effort to even leave the castle very often, let alone travel to Canterlot. She'd pretty much just been doing what she normally did over the past couple of centuries and just stayed at home, monitoring the sky at night. If anything, she'd become even more anti-social in the interim, having hardly ever been seen out of her chambers during the day in the past thirteen years or so. And it definitely showed; the area around Luna's eyes were dark and sunken, and her expression was less than welcoming. Sunset figured the only reason that Luna would bother coming out to Canterlot was simply to see the progress on the new castle now that it was nearing completion, perhaps if only to have a gander at her personal quarters. Either way, Sunset had no intention on pressing her about it; that was her own business, and the amber unicorn didn't want to pry. Besides, she knew how touchy Luna could be. In her current state, it was likely that anything could set her off.

The discussion that the princesses were having was cut short once Celestia noticed that Sunset had arrived. The ivory alicorn beamed rather widely to see her student. She quickly turned her attention back to the foreman. "Anyway, everything's looking great. I'll let you get back to it."

The foreman gave a polite bow to the princesses before turning to take his leave, offering a tip of his hardhat to Sunset as he passed her by.

Princess Celestia practically skipped across the throne room to meet Sunset halfway, her grin holding firm. "Sunset, this is a pleasant surprise. I wasn't expecting you to come out here today." She punctuated her glee by bending her long neck down to give her student a happy nuzzle.

Sunset had to stifle her amusement at the princess's behavior. "Wow, you're in a good mood today, Princess."

"How can I not be?" Celestia responded giddily. She swept her hoof around at the throne room. "I mean, just look at this place! It's turning out even better than I'd envisioned!"

"Than we've envisioned."

Celestia glanced back at the heavy eyes of her grumpy sister, waving her correction off dismissively. "Yes, yes, you knew what I meant."

"So, do we know when it's gonna be finished?" Sunset asked eagerly.

Quill approached to field the question, taking a look over a clipboard of papers he was carrying with him. "Judging by what the foreman's told us, construction should be one hundred percent complete within the next two months. However, it should be livable even sooner."

"I can't wait," Sunset expressed with a cheery and excited smile. "Moving into a new castle... I mean, I'm definitely gonna miss the Castle of the Two Sisters—I grew up there after all—but this place is just so beautiful."

"Not to mention more convenient," Quill chuckled. "Now we won't have to put the pegasus guards out if we need anything in Canterlot."

"On top of that," Celestia continued, "now that we're so close by, you get to move back into your old house, Sunset."

In contrast to the chipper grin on Celestia's muzzle, Sunset's smile had suddenly faded. "Oh... Um, I-I guess that's..."

A loud snort escaped from the ivory alicorn's nose as she burst out laughing. "Ha Ha! I'm just kidding! As if I would ask you to move out. The castle would feel empty without you around, Sunset."

The amber mare breathed a sigh of relief, her smile returning. "Whew, you had me worried for a second there. Geez, I don't think I've ever seen you this playful before, Princess."

Celestia giggled in response. "Well, like I said, I'm just happy to see that all of this is finally happening!"

"As though that's the only reason," Luna interjected gruffly.

Sunset, Celestia, and Quill all gave the moon princess quizzical stares.

Luna rolled her tired eyes. "Oh, don't look at Us like thou doth not know. We all know what day is approaching, and we all know how Our sister gets around this time of year."

Sunset giggled in amusement. She knew exactly to what Luna was referring. "Right. The summer solstice."

Celestia glanced back and forth between her sister and her student, suddenly feeling a little self-conscious. "Do I really act like this during every summer solstice?" She looked to Quill for confirmation.

The royal adviser grinned awkwardly. "You do."

"Yes, but doth thou not think this is a bit much?" Luna argued. "Thou only get an extra hour of daylight for one day a year. Big whoop."

Celestia scowled slightly at her sister. "If it's no big deal, then why are you copping an attitude about it? You get an extra hour of night during the winter solstice."

"Yes, but We do not make a whole song and dance about it."

Sunset stepped forward to interject and hopefully diffuse this argument before it could escalate. "Princess Luna, the summer solstice is more than just an extra hour of daylight. It's meant to be a reminder of the sun's importance to Equestria."

Luna narrowed her eyes. "As though they need to be reminded."

As sour as Princess Luna was being, Sunset decided to chalk that up to the lack of sleep. After all, the subject had shifted exactly where she was hoping. She looked up at Celestia with a grin. "Actually, the whole reason I came out here was to talk about the summer solstice."

The ivory alicorn tilted her head curiously. "Oh?"

"Yeah. See, I was thinking: I contribute who I am today to watching the sunrise everyday. Most of the energy I get in the morning is from watching the sun come up over the horizon. Aside from you yourself, Princess, it's my primary source of inspiration."

Celestia held a hoof to her chest, touched by her student's words. "Aw, that's so sweet of you to say, Sunset."

"Gag Us..." Luna muttered, sticking her tongue out in mock disgust.

"But it occurred to me..." Sunset continued. "Most people tend to sleep in later than I do, so they don't usually get to witness it."

"Oh, no. How terrible," Luna deadpanned sarcastically. "We can't imagine what that must be like."

"So what does this have to do with the summer solstice?" asked Celestia.

Sunset's smile widened eagerly as she was approaching her point. She straightened herself up, putting on a more professional air as she prepared to make a formal request of the princess. "I would like to propose that we make the summer solstice a proper event."

Celestia's ears perked up, listening in earnest. "Oh? How so?"

"We set it up like a festival. Decorate Canterlot Square, get the people to gather around, and we all watch the sunrise together. Everypony should experience the same sort of inspiration that I do everyday, even if they aren't willing to wake up early every morning."

"But isn't that where the problem lies?" Quill pointed out. "Do you think that we could convince every single pony in Canterlot to wake up early for the sunrise? And would a bunch of sleepy citizens be willing to all gather in the town square at such an hour?"

"Actually, I was going to suggest that we delay the sunrise to make sure everypony can see it," Sunset explained.

Luna finally managed a smile, casting a discreet, snide grin at her sister. "Interesting. We could get behind that idea."

"Of course, we'd have to keep the sun up longer to compensate," Sunset continued. "The summer solstice is supposed to be the longest day of the year."

Luna lolled her head back and forth as she mulled that over. "Mmm, well, an acceptable trade off, We suppose. At least this way our subjects can actually witness Our beautiful night for a few hours before the sunrise."

Celestia smiled at the change in her sister's attitude. "Well, it sounds like you have Luna's approval. You know what? Let's give it a go! It couldn't hurt to try, right?"

Sunset performed an excited hop in place to hear that the princesses liked her idea. "Yes! And since you're busy overseeing the castle's construction, I'll plan everything out myself. It'll be great, I promise!"

Quill stepped forward, Sunset's declaration making him a touch pensive. "Uh, I think I'll help you out, Sunset. This castle's been a rather costly venture, so I'd prefer if we keep this 'festival' on a reasonable budget."

"Fair enough," Sunset agreed with a shrug. "But I wanna get started on this right away! I'll leave you guys to your work here and head back home to work all this out!"

Celestia frowned slightly to hear that. "So soon? You just got here."

"Unless she's actually going to help with the construction, there's little reason for her to be here," Luna pointed out.

The ivory alicorn hummed in thought. Perhaps her enthusiasm was merely a result of all the excitement surrounding the castle and the approaching solstice, but she was still very happy to receive an unexpected visit from her student. But as much as she wanted to let Sunset get a jump on these plans she was so eager about, she also wanted to find an excuse to keep her around for just a little longer.

Celestia's head suddenly shot up as an idea came to her. "Oh! Sunset, before you go, you should have a look at your room!"

Sunset's ears perked up, her interest suddenly piqued. "My room? You mean it's ready?"

"Well, it still needs your own personal touch, but the basic furnishings are finished."

The amber mare smiled, now thoroughly distracted by the suggestion. "Okay, sure."

"Alright, let's go." Celestia was about to head out of the throne room with Sunset, but quickly remembered they weren't the only ones there. "Oh, Luna. You can head home and get some rest if you'd like."

Luna breathed a relieved and exasperated sigh as she immediately started sauntering over to one of the open windows. "About time. We'll be off then." With that, Luna hopped up onto a windowsill and took off into the sky to head home.

"And, Quill, you stay here in case the workers need anything," Celestia told the mustachioed stallion, who promptly bowed in agreement.

With business in the throne room concluded, Princess Celestia proceeded to lead Sunset through the halls of the castle to take her to her designated quarters.

Unlike at the Castle of the Two Sisters, Sunset was receiving some special treatment at the new castle in regards to her living quarters. Whereas there was still a staff wing of the castle for servants and soldiers to live, Sunset had been given a tower all her own, much like the two princesses. Sunset honestly felt like she was being treated as royalty herself to receive such an honor, and that was only exacerbated by the decadence of her tower's interior. First of all, the tower's entrance was across an outdoor bridge, much like the breezeways of the old castle, but much more elegant in design. It was essentially a more traditional bridge as opposed to an enclosed hallway, with purple railings and a curved, purple awning overhead to protect from the elements. As opposed to the dimly lit, stone staircases, this tower's interior was quite well lit and the walls were bright white like the rest of the castle. A set of simple, yet elegant, spiral stairs coiled around in the center of the tower, leading up to the tower's peak where Sunset's room was.

After leading Sunset up the stairs, Celestia proudly introduced her student to her future home. There was no door leading inside, but instead lead right up into the room itself. Sunset's jaw dropped in awe as she looked around the expansive tower space. As Celestia had told her, it wasn't fully furnished yet, but there were already a couple of tall, but as of yet empty bookshelves, as well as a reading table and a plush, purple couch for lounging. There were also a couple of doorways: one was a set of glass doors leading out onto a balcony, while the other she assumed led into her bedroom—an assumption based on the fact that there was no bed present in the living room.

It only took a few moments for Sunset to take in the interior of the tower, briefly contemplating how she would decorate it when she prepared to move in. But her attention quickly gravitated to the balcony, throwing open the glass doors and letting the warm, summer winds blow back the transparent, white curtains. The view from the balcony was breathtaking. From this vantage point, Sunset could see all of Canterlot below her, even seeing the townsfolk wandering the street. And across the distant Everfree Forest, she could see the Castle of the Two Sisters. It was such a different feeling to be looking down over the landscape instead of up at the mountains, but as long as it had a clear view of the horizon where the sun rose every morning, she was happy.

"Wow..." Sunset uttered in amazement as she stared out over the countryside.

Princess Celestia walked out alongside her, smiling fondly at how grateful her student seemed to be for this gift. "I figured you'd like to watch the sunrise without having to leave your room."

Sunset stared up at the alicorn, disbelief in her teal eyes. "Princess, you didn't have to go to such trouble just for me."

"Says the pony who's planning an entire celebration for me during the summer solstice," Celestia responded with a smirk.

Sunset chuckled in embarrassment. "Touché."

"Now, I suppose you're eager to get to planning that celebration, but you can take your time to look around, even if it isn't much yet," Celestia said.

The alicorn suddenly felt something press up against her side. Sunset was lovingly nuzzling into her shoulder. Celestia couldn't help but smile, her student's affectionate response eliciting memories of when she was still a filly.

"I really appreciate this, Princess," Sunset told her, staring up at Celestia with unyielding gratitude. "You have no idea how much this means to me."

"I think I'm getting the idea," the princess giggled.

Sunset suddenly pulled away, blushing a bit as she realized how silly it must have looked for a grown mare to be cuddling up with somepony like that, despite nopony being around to witness it. She cleared her throat and straightened up. "A-Anyway, you're right. I'll head back to the castle to get preparations underway. As much as I'd like to take this in a little more, the summer solstice isn't far off, so I better get on it," Sunset said as she headed for the stairs.

"Looking forward to it," Celestia said with a smile.

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

Sunset wiped a hoof across her brow, cleaning the sweat from her forehead. She thought the trek back down from Canterlot would be significantly easier than going up, but she still found herself a little wiped out by the time she made it out of the Everfree Forest. She paused on the stone bridge spanning the shallow valley to the Castle of the Two Sisters to catch her breath for a moment, as well as take another look up at Canterlot.

Sunset smiled as she stared at the new castle in the distance. She was practically seeing it in an all new light now. Even from this distance, she could pick out the tower that Celestia had had built for her. She'd never get tired of this view, with Canterlot Castle looking radiant against the blue sky. It was just unfortunate that she wouldn't be able to see this view for too much longer before they all moved up there, but after seeing the new view she was going to have, she wasn't too disappointed by that.

The amber unicorn managed to tear herself away from the landscape and started heading for the castle; she had work to do after all, and wanted to make sure everything went perfectly. Sunset crossed the bridge, heading for the castle's entrance. No guards were present at the moment, as it was likely they were stationed at the new castle while the princesses were out, though Princess Luna should have been back by now; she must have been too distracted by the call of her bed to mention her return to any of the soldiers.

Sunset halted for a moment, the unicorn raising an eyebrow. Something felt off all of a sudden. She felt a slight tingle in her horn as though there was a powerful source of magic nearby. Suddenly, the wind began to pick up, despite the fact that today's weather was supposed to be mild all day. The grass began to blow erratically, and loose leaves swirled about in the air. On top of that, the wind appeared to be focused around one spot.

With concern and confusion, Sunset saw that the small whirlwind centered around a spot in the path to the castle, and was accompanied by white sparks of magic flickering outward. Sunset hesitated to approach it as it could have been dangerous, but before she could actually make a decision, a bright, white light appeared in that spot, growing larger and brighter as the wind picked up even more. Sunset had to shield her eyes from the blinding light, now accompanied by the building hum of magic until it all burst outward in a flash.

And just like that, it had all died down. The wind, the light, and even the tingle in Sunset's horn had disappeared in an instant, leaving only errant leaves to flutter gently back down to the ground. Sunset opened her eyes again, utterly baffled by this bizarre phenomenon.

But she was even more baffled still when she saw somepony now standing where the magic charge had originated. And not just anypony either: a slender stallion with a grey coat, but was even more recognizable by his bushy, white beard which had grown out quite a bit over the years.

Sunset was utterly flabbergasted by what she had just witnessed and understandably wanted answers. "Dad? What the hay was all that about? Was that some sort of new kind of teleportation or something?"

Starswirl shook his head, clearly a little dazed by what had happened. But once he laid eyes on his daughter, he suddenly started frantically looking about at his surroundings as though he didn't believe where he was. He quickly jerked his gaze back toward Sunset, hurrying over to her with a rather manic look in his eyes, causing her to take a cautious step back.

"Sunset! What time is it?!" he asked hysterically.

The amber mare hesitated. As though this weren't confusing enough, her father had to make it even more strange by following up with such an inane question. "The... time?"

"Yes! The exact time!"

"Uh..." Sunset was just going to play along at this point, as it appeared her father was too distracted to properly explain. She glanced up into the sky, holding a hoof over her eyes to shield them as she discerned the sun's position. Being an enthusiast of both Princess Celestia and the sun itself, Sunset had learned to be able to gauge the exact time simply by the sun's position in the sky. "It's five after four. Why?"

Starswirl paused quietly for a moment as he let that information sink it. Then, an enormous grin—bigger than any Sunset had ever seen from him—poked out from beneath his curly facial hair. "Ha hah! Success! I actually did it!"

Again, Sunset couldn't have been more puzzled by her father's behavior. "What? Dad, talk to me. What's going on? What did you do?"

"You'll never believe me if I just tell you! Come! Meet me in the royal archives!"

"The royal archives? Why do we need to go there?"

"What is this, twenty questions?! Just follow me and I'll sh—"

All of a sudden, Starswirl's body began to crackle with magic, and in just a few moments, he was engulfed in the same light as before. The difference this time was, when Sunset opened her eyes, Starswirl was now gone.

Sunset glanced back and forth, utterly bewildered by what had just happened. She'd never seen her father acting so eccentrically before. He had been buried up to his head in his research as of late, so it was possible that the exhaustion had finally gotten the better of him and he'd gone off the deep end. Still, she figured she should probably head to the royal archives anyway and see if he was okay. He'd probably just had a little too much coffee today.

Upon arriving, Sunset did indeed find her father seated at a table in the library. However, she found it odd that his disposition had suddenly shifted completely. Starswirl wasn't exhibiting the same exuberance he'd displayed a couple of minutes ago. Rather, he was quietly mulling over a messy pile of notes, looking somewhat exasperated as he leaned against his hoof.

But upon hearing somepony enter the room, Starswirl lifted his head to find his daughter staring at him as though she were waiting for him to say something. "Oh, Sunset. I wasn't expecting you back so soon."

Sunset raised an eyebrow slowly. "You... told me to come here."

Starswirl tilted his head in confusion. "Did I?"

"Yeah. Like, two minutes ago."

Her father blinked, a blank, uncomprehending look on his face.

Sunset's expression became a little concerned. "You feeling okay, Dad?"

Starswirl shook his head to help clear his mind. "I know I've started getting a few grey hairs here and there, but I don't think I'm at the point of senility just yet. Are you sure?"

"Pretty sure. You just teleported in front of me out of nowhere, asked me what time it was, told me to meet you here, then just vanished all of a sudden. You seriously don't remember that?"

Starswirl's eyes suddenly widened. "Wait. I asked you what time it was?"

Sunset gave her father another eyebrow raise. She found it odd that that's what he chose to fixate on. "Yeeeeeah..."

Starswirl immediately turned his focus back on his papers, frantically rifling through them and briefly glancing over specific pages.

Sunset's concern for her father only grew as she cautiously approached. Errant sheets of paper ended up getting flung onto the floor by Starswirl's hasty rummaging. One piece fluttered over and landed against Sunset's leg. She lifted the paper up and skimmed over it out of curiosity.

Upon realizing what it was her dad was currently working on, Sunset's jaw slacked slightly as she started putting the pieces together. "Hold on. This is your research on the time travel spell."

"Yes!" Starswirl exclaimed excitedly. His mood had suddenly lifted to match how he appeared when Sunset saw him outside, adding even more credence to their realization. "Do you realize what this means?!"

Sunset smiled enthusiastically. "That was you from the future?!"

"It must have been! Which also means..." He snatched the paper that his daughter was holding and quickly glanced at it. "This is it! This must be it!"

Without much more warning than that, Starswirl's horn glowed brightly with white magic. Just like when he had appeared in front of Sunset a few minutes ago, the air swirled throughout the room, and Starswirl was enveloped in a blinding light. And with a loud crackle of magic, he was gone.

Sunset was left alone in the royal archives amidst a shower of research papers that had been thrown about the room by the spell. However, before she could even contemplate what would happen next and even before the papers could come to a rest on the floor, the wind and light returned almost instantly.

"—ow you! Hm?" Starswirl had returned just as quickly as he'd disappeared, looking around the library in a state of frenetic confusion. "Oh. How'd I get back here?"

Sunset stepped forward in anticipation. "Well? What happened?"

Starswirl scratched his head, but smiled proudly and excitedly. "It worked! I traveled a few minutes into the past and ran into you as you were arriving at the castle! And it played out exactly as you recounted. I asked for the time, told you to come to the library..."

"And then vanished suddenly. So, what was with that?"

"I'm not sure. I didn't cast the spell again, but it seems I was simply... flung back to the moment I left involuntarily."

Sunset picked up one of her father's research papers and gave it a once over. "You think there's a problem with the spell?"

"More than likely. Even if this is my first successful attempt to use a time travel spell—a first for anypony, in fact," he stated with an ecstatic grin. "—it's certainly imperfect. There are bound to be hiccups in the testing phase."

"Why don't you just do it again? You can figure this out, right?" Sunset told him confidently, unable to hide the excitement in her voice.

There was a glint in Starswirl's eyes. "I can do one better. What if I go back and share this spell with past me? Then I'll—er, he'll—or whatever—will have even more time to perfect it!" Starswirl lit up his horn again as he prepared to venture into the past once more.

"Whoa, whoa, hold up, Dad!" Sunset interrupted. "Aren't there theories about your past self seeing your future self? Isn't that supposed to cause a time paradox, or something?"

Starswirl waved the warning off with a dismissive flick of his hoof. "Oh, those theories are baseless. Besides, I'm far too excited by this breakthrough to worry about consequences. Caution to the wind and all that!" And without any more warning than that, his horn flashed white again. But this time, he went nowhere. The magic didn't swirl and burst like before, but rather just fizzled weakly as a few white sparks sputtered out of Starswirl's horn. "Huh. That's odd. I'm certain I cast it correctly."

Sunset breathed a slight sigh of relief, but gave her father a disapproving glare. "Well, nice to know you're willing to put the space-time continuum at risk for the sake of scientific curiosity," she deadpanned. "So, what? Did it use up too much of your magic?"

"I don't think so. I feel fine." Starswirl lit up his horn again, this time to simply display the raw reserves of magic power he still had. The entire room was filled with white light, something he'd certainly be unable to do if he were actually drained of power. "It doesn't appear that the spell took much out of me at all, surprisingly."

"Maybe there's a cool down period."

"Could be. Another kink that'll have to be worked out, I suppose." Starswirl glanced at his daughter, casting a slight smirk her way when he noticed the gleam in her eyes; the same gleam that was in his own, no doubt. "Want to give it a go, Sunset?"

She smiled back, unable to hide her enthusiasm. "Like you even have to ask. Lemme just take a look at this..."

Sunset continued to read over her father's notes on the spell. Surprisingly enough, for something as revolutionary as a time travel spell, it didn't seem all that complicated. In fact, based on the research, it was very similar to a teleportation spell, but with the added step of imagining the exact point in time you wished to visit on top of visualizing the specific location. Given it's simplicity, it was hard to believe that it took this long for somepony to devise a time travel spell.

"Seems easy enough. But where should I go?" Sunset chuckled to herself. "I guess I should say when, huh?"

But before she could think it over for any reasonable amount of time, the room once more became a whirlwind of paper and blinding light. And when it died down, there was suddenly another pony in the room. Another Sunset, to be specific.

Sunset blinked as she stared at the other amber unicorn now occupying the royal archives with them, mentally noting how surreal it felt to be looking at herself without the aid of a mirror. "Well, I guess that answers that question."

"What happened to the whole 'time paradox' thing?" Starswirl mockingly asked the new Sunset that had appeared suddenly.

"Like you said, Dad: 'Caution to the wind,'" the future Sunset laughed.

"Does this mean I'm not an only child anymore?" the present Sunset joked with an amused grin. "Oh! Hey, what if you tried to back to a few seconds ago so there'll be three of us?!"

"Heh, that'd be pretty weird," future Sunset giggled.

"Now, Sunset—er, Sunsets—maybe we shouldn't be messing around with this too much," Starswirl warned. "The spell is still imperfect; I know this'll sound hypocritical, but warping about in time willy-nilly could have unforeseen consequences. Perhaps it would be best if you return to your time and let future me work on this. Besides, not that I mind having two daughters, but I wouldn't want future me to have to go without his."

"Fair enough," future Sunset agreed with a shrug.

"Oh, before you go," present Sunset said, having to stifle a snicker. "What's the future like?" she asked in a joking tone.

Future Sunset gave her past self a playful smirk. "All the food's in pill form, and Equestria is ruled by giant, mutant—"

But just like when Starswirl had arrived from the future, this Sunset's body began to crackle with magic before abruptly vanishing in a white flash as well.

The remaining Sunset raised an eyebrow, turning to her father. "That's just like what happened to you. Gimme a sec..."

Now, finally, Sunset set to casting the spell, disappearing and—just as her father had—reappearing immediately after.

"—crabs. Oh, I'm back."

"There definitely appears to be a time limit," Starswirl deduced, looking over his notes once more. "Approximately thirty seconds, it would seem. Hmm... I wonder if I can work around this..."

"And do you think it's a coincidence that we both pretty much reenacted exactly what happened when our future selves came back?"

The stallion stroked his beard in thought. "There are a few prevailing theories in regards to how time travel should operate. On top of multiverse theory and the butterfly effect, there's also the notion that the events of the past and future are predetermined, and even if time travel were possible—which we've seen now it is—we can do nothing to alter the timeline. That sounds like what we just experienced."

Sunset frowned at the thought. "You think? I don't know if I like that idea. Knowing that the future is set in stone and you have no control over your own destiny sounds kinda depressing."

Starswirl nodded his head in agreement, but there was also a sparkle of optimism in his eyes. "True, but if we already know that, then what's to stop us from going back and doing something differently if we already know what's going to happen?"

His daughter's lips curled outward in a big grin. "Hey, yeah! I'll just pop back to that exact same moment and say something different! That'll prove that theory wrong!" With a goal in mind, Sunset cast the spell again, only for it to spark and fizzle out just as it had with her father. Sunset let out a groan of annoyance. "Ugh, you gotta be kidding me."

"It would seem there is indeed a cool down of some sort," Starswirl muttered in disappointment and with a shake of his head. "Well, nothing we can do about it now, as far as I can tell. As painful as it is, I suppose we can't do anymore testing until we're able to cast the spell again. Still, though, this is a momentous occasion!" he exclaimed, his vigor returning as he gathered up his scattered papers with his magic. "And I'll certainly be looking over my notes to see how I can improve it. In the meantime..." Starswirl turned to Sunset with an eager and curious smile. "How did your idea go over with the princesses?"

Sunset's ears twitched when she was finally reminded of the reason she came home in the first place. "Oh, right! They said yes!" she exclaimed with an ecstatic smile.

"Really? That's great, sweetie."

"Yeah, even Princess Luna was interested."

"Now, that's a ringing endorsement," Starswirl chuckled. "So, what are you going to do now that you have the go ahead?"

"Start planning, obviously. I'm gonna draw up plans for how to decorate the town square, see if any businesses wanna partner up to help cater and stuff, arrange to have a stage set up, maybe hire some musicians to entertain the crowd while they wait for the sunrise..."

Starswirl stared blankly at his daughter as she rattled off everything she wanted to do with this celebration, though he wasn't lacking in pride in her enthusiasm and work ethic. "That all sounds great, but just don't pile your plate too high, dear."

Sunset waved his words of caution off with a playful scoff. "Pfft. I can handle it. Quill is gonna help me balance the budget. I'm sure he'll probably end up doing most of the consulting; I just wanna handle the planning to make sure everypony can draw the same inspiration from the sunrise that I do everyday."

"Because you throw a big shindig whenever you watch the sunrise," Starswirl mocked with a sarcastic smirk.

"I would if I had the resources," Sunset retorted with a genuine grin.

"So, is there any way I can help?"

"Sure! I mean, probably. I'll have to get started on the plans first to figure out what exactly we're gonna need to make this thing absolutely perfect." Sunset moved over to the table her father had been working at, her cyan magic grabbing some blank papers and a pencil to use for her planning.

Starswirl hovered slightly over his daughter's shoulder as she began writing notes of her own. "Mind if I stick around and give you a helping hoof?"

Sunset smiled gratefully, yet apologetically. "I appreciate the offer, Dad, but—and I mean no offense—this is kinda my passion project. I've been thinking about this for a long time, and I have a specific vision that I want to bring to life."

The stallion backed off respectfully. "Noted. I don't want to 'cramp your style,' sweetheart. But could I at least have a look at it when you've done up a rough draft? I don't want you to go overboard with this, that's all."

"Sure thing. I'll let you know if I need your input on anything."

Starswirl nodded with a smile. He gathered up his stack of notes and research papers and made for the door, giving his daughter some peace and quiet so she could concentrate on her own work.

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

Princess Luna let out a long yawn as she traipsed through the halls of the castle. While she would take solace in basking in the gentle light of her full moon as it shone through the windows, she was a touch too aggravated to properly enjoy it. It had been some time since she'd been awake into the afternoon hours, so she was no longer accustomed to being so tired during the night. But she still had her duties as princess of the moon, and she was not about to ignore them, even it if meant losing some sleep.

As usual, Luna had no particular destination as she wandered the halls, simply passing the time and keeping herself moving to avoid drifting off to sleep. However, as she began approaching the throne room, she noticed the door to the royal archives was open, a faint light shining through the crack. Curious, Luna peered inside. She had been expecting to find Starswirl undergoing another all-night research session, but was a little surprised to find that it was instead his daughter.

Sunset was seated at one of the reading tables, illuminated by the light of a candle that had melted quite significantly. However, she was not occupied by study with her nose buried in a book. Rather, she lay with her head on the wooden surface, sound asleep and snoring rather loudly.

Luna let out a somewhat wistful sigh; Sunset was starting to remind her more and more of her sister when they were young.

The princess quietly entered the library, carefully approaching the sleeping unicorn. Luna glanced over Sunset's shoulder to see what it was she was doing before she conked out. The table was littered with papers; notes and lists consisting of ideas and materials, along with many drawings. Luna grimaced slightly as she looked over one of the pictures Sunset had drawn; they all looked like something one would find pinned on the wall of a kindergarten classroom. Sunset was clearly no artist, and even her penmanship was akin to chicken scratches. As concerning as it was that she had not improved in that regard after all these years, Luna couldn't help but find it a little amusing. Of all the things that Starswirl and Celestia couldn't teach her...

As cute or funny as it may have been, Luna felt it necessary to aid Sunset in returning to bed, but she wasn't about to pick her up and carry her there.

"Ahem."

"Snrk, whu-wha?" Sunset's head suddenly shot up, looking around through tired, half-lidded eyes, not even noticing at first the piece of paper stuck to her cheek. Though she was still rather groggy, she eventually noticed Princess Luna standing there and rubbed her eyes to try and help her vision adjust. "Oh, it's you, Princess Luna. I must've fallen asleep." Sunset yawned and stretched her legs. "What time is it?"

"Midnight. Thou must hath been quite engrossed in thy work; We hath not known thee to stay up so late," Luna commented.

Sunset looked a little confused at first, as though she couldn't remember why she'd fallen asleep in the royal archives in the first place. But once she looked over the table and saw all the papers she'd drawn up, she smiled as it came back to her. "Right. Guess I got caught up with all of this. Maybe this was what Dad was referring to when he talks about getting into 'the zone.'"

Luna nodded. "Yes, We know well the feeling of accomplishment when things seem to... 'click.'" The princess glanced over the papers once more. "We take it these are the plans for this festival thing thou were speaking of today."

Sunset leaned forward on her chair eagerly as Luna sized up her work. "Yeah. So? What do you think so far?"

Luna was tempted to make a snarky comment about the quality of the drawings, but chose to bite her tongue on that matter. Instead, she picked up several other papers and scanned each one briefly. "Hmm... Thou hath quite a lot in mind. Art thou sure thou'rt not going a tad overboard?"

"Well, this is just more of a first draft," Sunset admitted. "I'm gonna go over it with Quill to figure out a budget and what we can and can't do."

"Mm-hm..." Luna continued to analyze the work, looking for anything of interest. Her attention was grabbed by a few words written across the top of one sheet. Though it was sloppily written like pretty much everything else, Luna could still pick it out. "'Summer Sun Celebration'?"

"Yeah, that's the name I came up with," Sunset explained proudly. "It's got a bit more punch than just 'summer solstice,' don't you think?"

"Hm. Well, Celestia always did seem to have a soft spot for alliteration, so We're sure she'll be in agreement on that."

Sunset grinned ear to ear to hear that Luna seemed to like what she was seeing so far. But as much as Sunset wanted to continue working on this, another tired yawn reminded the unicorn how late it was. "I guess I should probably get to bed. Don't wanna miss the sunrise tomorrow." Sunset hopped off her chair, gathering up all of her notes with her cyan magic before starting toward to the door. "Good night, Princess Luna."

"One moment."

Sunset stopped, turning back to the princess. Luna was gazing at her rather seriously, as though something concerned her.

"Sunset, why art thou doing all of this?"

The unicorn raised an eyebrow at the question. "Um, didn't I go over that today? I want everypony to feel the same kind of inspiration that I get every morning when I watch the sunrise."

"And this has nothing to do with impressing Our sister?"

Sunset went quiet for a moment as she eyed up Luna. Was she trying to imply something? "No, that's not it at all. Why would I be trying to impress her?"

Luna shrugged. "That's what We were wondering. While We do not object to this 'Summer Sun Celebration,' We find it unnecessary to place Celestia on an even higher pedestal than the one she's on currently."

Sunset frowned slightly as she put the pieces together. Luna was clearly a little jealous, so Sunset wanted to help alleviate any concerns she might have. "Well, this whole thing is meant to be more about the sun than it is about Princess Celestia herself. Though, obviously she's gonna be there so everypony can watch her do it. But we could always do the same thing during the winter solstice, if that'll make you feel any better. A day to celebrate the moon, too. How does that sound?"

Luna closed her eyes in thought. She began to wonder if she was reading too much into this. "Perhaps. Our apologies, We don't mean to sound as though We art against this. And thou did say the moon could be up longer before the sun is raised, so it's hard to object. And with that being the case, if there is anything thou need Our aid with, We art willing to help."

Sunset smiled gratefully at the offer. "Yeah, thanks. I'll keep that in mind."

"And apologies still for keeping you. Thou should head off to bed," Luna insisted.

Sunset nodded, placing her hoof upon the door. "Right. Goodnight, Princess. Uh, again. And thanks for your input."

"Our pleasure."

The amber unicorn took her leave of the library, shutting the door behind her. Now alone, Luna simply remained where she was, breathing a deep sigh. She found herself unable to discern how exactly she felt about all of this. For every time she was reminded that this event was to benefit everypony, herself included, a small voice in the back of her mind was telling her it wasn't right. Luna shook her head, trying her best to shut it out. She hoped at least that perhaps helping out would push those doubts away, but only time would really tell how she was ultimately going to feel about it.

The candle's light eventually put itself out as it burned away what was left of its wick. Luna took this as her signal to return to her wanderings about the castle for the night. Hopefully she could keep her mind clear enough to at least enjoy what was left of it.

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