• Published 4th Nov 2018
  • 3,603 Views, 63 Comments

Supernova - NightCoreMoon



Starlight won. She prevented the sonic rainboom. She stopped the mane six from getting their cutie marks. Unfortunately she did so at the cost of her own life. Twilight managed to tell Celestia and a younger Sunset everything before fading away. AU.

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Chapter 1: New Beginnings

/x/x/x/

“Hey, uh... Klutz- er... Butter...shy?” Cried a tiny pegasus filly with rainbow-colored hair. “Or uh... Flutter...fly? Shutterby? Yellow coated pink haired filly! Hellooo~!”

She buzzed along through the forest, grumbling about her loss in the race and the fact that Hoops refused to acknowledge that bolt of magic. She was more concerned about the whereabouts of the young filly who started the whole race thing, but only by a slight margin.

“Hey, please don't be dead!” She called before slumping her shoulders and sighing, buzzing wings propelling her forward. “Oh man, mom is gonna kill me if you're dead... and then dad’s gonna bring me back and then kill me again. And then your parents are gonna want a piece of The Dash too.”

Out of the corner of her eye she could see a golden glow off in the trees. She gasped and proceeded to glide towards it, hoping it was that little filly. Or- even better- something totally super awesome!

By the time she made it into the clearing, the glow had dissipated, leaving only some thick and vibrant dust. Weirdly enough it was roughly in the shape of a pony laying down, but it quickly settled.

“Aw man...” she muttered, crossing her forelegs.

“Shhh. It's okay...” Came a quiet and timid voice. “You can come out... Everything's okay... There's nothing to be afraid of.”

“Oh thank Celestia,” she muttered to herself as she sought the source of the voice. Her search was short as through two of the trees, there sat the missing yellow filly, surrounded by some birds, rodents, and... weird bug things with pretty wings. Rainbow briefly shook her head to either side. They were weird bug things with colorful wings. There, that was cooler.

“Rainbow Dash?” She asked, standing up as the animals suddenly huddled behind her. “Is that you?”

Rainbow blinked and fluttered over, gingerly landing on the ground. Typically she reveled in attention but the peers, leers, and jeers from the animals were... unnerving, to say the least.

“The one and only!” She answered with a flourish, though slightly halted. “I'm, uh... heh... sorry about knockin’ ya down here. Thrill of the race and all.”

“Oh, it's okay,” she answered, before turning to address the animals. “She's a friend, you don't have to be afraid of her. She's nice.”

“Whoa!” Rainbow yelled, surprised. “Did you just get your cutie mark!?”

“What?” She asked, before looking down to see her flank’s new decoration. “Oh my goodness! My cutie mark! Yay!” She jumped up and down in glee, her smile so large her eyes were closed.

“So what happened?” Rainbow asked, excitedly leaning in. Her wings flared out. “What’d ya do?”

“Oh, I didn't really do much,” she murmured, blushing slightly. “All the animals just got scared of a flash of golden light, and when it was gone I told them it would be okay. And, um... I think they understand me.”

“‘Didn't do much’?” Rainbow quoted, jumping in place. “Talking to animals is, like, the coolest superpower ever!”

The blush deepened as the filly looked back at Rainbow under the veil of her hair. “Thank you, Rainbow...”

“And also that means you're the youngest filly in camp to have her cutie mark. You're gonna be the most popular pegasus around! Heh,” she flipped her mane. “Besides me, of course.”

“Oh, most popular?” She shrunk back at that. “Oh, I don't know about that... I hope not.”

“Why not?” Rainbow asked. “That would be super cool!”

“Oh, I'm sure it might be for you, but for me... it sounds scary. All those other ponies looking at me, talking to me... acknowledging my existence... eep.”

Rainbow stepped over and slung her foreleg around the filly’s shoulders. “If you don't want the spotlight, I’d be more than happy to take it off your hooves.” She swiped her other hoof as if she were an equipology teacher pointing out a giant ancient historical landmark of great significance. “The Dash and The... um...” she blinked. “The... what nickname do you want?”

The filly looked down at the ground. “My name is Fluttershy, by the way...”

“I knew that!”

Fluttershy looked at Rainbow in a way that clearly indicated she could tell that was a lie.

“Alright fine, I only know what the bullies call you,” Rainbow admitted, rubbing the back of her head. “But I'm not gonna call you that because those guys are a bunch of jerks. Look, don't tell anypony else this, but... a while ago, I was once the slowest flier in the competitive circuit.”

Fluttershy gasped. “But you're so fast!”

“Only because my parents are so supportive. And very loud. And a little annoying but they mean well. And also I’ve got the work ethic and drive to be the best. And I'm pretty aerodynamic...” Rainbow trailed off before adopting a more prideful stance. “But anyway, I had to work my flank off to climb my way to the top. So I know that potential is there for anypony who wants it hard enough. So being mean to those who are slow isn't cool, and it won't help them be better fliers themselves. Hoops, and Dumbbell, and Score, they’re all just jerks who only care about themselves. They didn't even check to make sure you were okay after the race!”

“Oh, yeah!” Fluttershy said, gasping in realization. “Who won the race?”

Rainbow sighed and laid down on the ground. “I don't know or care, I lost. Some magic bolt shot out at me and knocked me out of the sky.”

“Oh, I’m sorry...”

Rainbow shrugged. “Don't be. Not like it was your fault.” She stood back up and stretched out her shoulders, flapping her wings. “Besides, I don't need to beat them in a race to prove that I'm the best. All that matters to me right now is that you're safe... how did that happen, by the way?” She asked, looking up at the clouds. “That was a really long fall.”

Fluttershy grinned as some of the weird bugs came out in a cloud around her. “They saved me.”

Rainbow blinked. “O...kay?”

Fluttershy put a hoof out and one of them landed gently on it. “I don't know what they're called, but they're just lovely, and so beautiful.”

Rainbow glanced at Fluttershy’s flank. “And they’re on your cutie mark, too. When we get back I'll help you figure out what those are called. Even though I hate reading.”

“I would appreciate that, Rainbow,” Fluttershy said with a warm smile. She closed her eyes and turned her head to the side, giggling lightly. “I feel these creatures will be very important to me in the future.”

Rainbow blushed slightly before turning away. “Yeah, yeah... it's not like I like them or anything. I just figure that now that we’re friends I should do stuff you like even if I might not like it. Just as soon as we get back.”

Fluttershy’s face froze. “Oh...”

Rainbow looked at her, then up, then back at her, then up again.

“Oh, right, that's... gonna be tough for you.”

Fluttershy sat on her haunches. “I’m sorry.”

“Don't be,” Rainbow said, shrugging. “I’ll carry you.”

“Can you do that?”

Rainbow strode over and bent down. “I’ll try.”

Fluttershy tentatively put a hoof out, and draped herself over Rainbow’s back. This threw her off balance and the two toppled over in a heap on the ground.

“Okay, that won't work...” Rainbow grunted, righting herself. She put a hoof out and pulled Fluttershy up. “Aw man, this is rough.”

“I can stay right here while you go back up and get help from a grown-up,” Fluttershy offered. “If you're okay with that.”

“I'm not leaving you alone down here,” Rainbow said, literally putting her hoof down. “We either go together or I don't go at all.”

“Then what do we do?”

Rainbow put a hoof to her mouth in though. “Well, we could walk to the west of here until we find the reservoir. My dad works there, and he can make sure we get back to camp safe.”

“You'd do that for me?” Fluttershy asked.

“Sure, why not?” Rainbow asked. “I can’t really leave you alone here without feeling bad for abandoning you, and I never abandon a friend.”

Suddenly a quick shadow flashed above their heads, and all of the animals ran off.

“What was that?” Fluttershy asked, cowering.

Rainbow stepped forward and flared her wings out. “Who’s there!?” She cried. “I know altai-kwan-do!”

A figure dived out of the treetops and into the ground, wings flaring out much larger and wider than Rainbow’s own. Same blue color, though. The mysterious figure stood up; he was a pony, clearly a pegasus, and he wore a long white silk scarf.

Rainbow gasped. “Wind Rider!?”

His long, sleek, jet-black mane flowed behind him as he flashed her a shining smile.

“The one and only,” he said, bowing and giving her a wink. His voice was rough and rugged, like hot coffee flavored with butterscotch. “And who might you two adorable little fillies be?”

“I'm Rainbow Dash!” She cried, jumping in place. Her eyes were full of stars.

“And I’m... um... Fluttershy...”

“I’m sorry,” he said, bowing his head apologetically. “I... didn't quite catch that.”

“She’s Fluttershy,” Rainbow said. “She’s... shy.”

“Aw, that's okay,” Rider said, stepping over to her and lowering his head to the ground. “I ain't gonna bite ya, sugarplum.” He leaned back up and proudly displayed a silver badge on his chest. “I work for Princess Celestia herself. Equestrian Black Ops, second division. You can trust me.”

Rainbow’s jaw dropped. “So...awesome!!!”

Fluttershy stood up and inched closer to Rainbow. “Not that I’m not glad to see a grownup right now,” she said, suspiciously. “But it's awfully convenient that you showed up right when we needed a big pony. What brings you to this part of the forest?”

Rider blinked before chuckling. “Now where’d a cute little filly like you learn the word convenient? Anyway, the Princess heard that there was some unexplained magic goin’ on and that somepony was missin’. So, she sent the fastest Wonderbolt in the military out to figure out what’s what. Does that answer your question, sweetheart?”

Fluttershy looked down for a minute, hair covering her eyes, before looking back up, grinning and blushing.

“Yes, sir,” she said, standing more confidently and no longer leaning on Rainbow. “Do you mind if I ask you if you can take us back up to the clouds?”

He turned and sat his haunches down. “Only if I can ask you young mares some questions about that weird magic I mentioned. I'm sure that's a yes, right? Go ahead and climb aboard.”

She did so, and Rider turned to Rainbow expectantly. “You comin’ too?”

Rainbow flapped her wings and began to hover in the air. “I appreciate the offer,” she said, giving him a cocky smirk. “But I think I can keep pace with you.”

Rider chuckled once more. “You got guts, kid. I like that. Now come on, let's get you two back home.”

/x/x/x/

“Oh, what I wouldn't give for just one bite...”

A young blonde filly with an orange coat sighed as she rested her head on the windowsill. Her room in the luxury Manehattan apartment gave her an excellent view of the streets and the distant speck that was her definition of home: Ponyville.

Or, at least it used to be. It was home enough in her heart that it ached to return, but she’d decided to abandon the simple life of a farmer. Ever since hearing a schoolmate discussing the multiple fine intricacies of the upper class, she set her sights on a better and more civilized life with the Oranges, a high-profile family with close relation to her own.

“Applejack?” Came a lilting voice from outside her door. “I'm coming in, darling; are you decent?”

“Yeah,” she said in her country bred accent before screwing her eyes shut and shaking her head to either side, before co-opting her faux transatlantic one. “I mean, yes Aunt Orange. I am quite decent.”

The door swung open as a mare with a creamy coat and dusky orange mane done up in a tall and graceful style glided in.

“Oh good,” she said, brightly. “You're awake early, as always.” Her tone of voice grew slightly more neutral, and her eyes creased with concern. “Are you feeling well, dear? You seem terribly upset... are you still embarrassed about yesterday?”

Applejack sighed. “No, Aunt Orange, I... simply am experiencing a bout of homesickness. Typically at this time of the season, Grandmother Smith and Macintosh harvest the red delicious trees. Father harvests the greens, and Mother...”

Aunt Orange nodded and stepped over to her niece. “Ah, yes,” she said. “Buttercup always spoke of her exploits on the farm in her letters. I do miss my sister dearly...”

Applejack leaned into her. “I do as well...”

Aunt Orange wrapped a foreleg around her. “Do you desire to return home, dear? You know that I love you so, and I do so enjoy your company, but I simply loathe to see you unhappy.”

“I’m not unhappy,” Applejack said. “I have made my decision. I simply must make peace with my choices...”

Aunt Orange leaned over and kissed her on the forehead. “Why don't you and I spend a night on the town?” She suggested. “Just us girls?”

Applejack smiled melancholically. “That does sound like fun.”

“Oh, Marmalade,” came a masculine voice from outside the door. “Do I hear plans being made for a mares’ night out?”

“Uncle Orange?” Applejack asked, looking over her shoulder.

“You do indeed, Zest,” Orange Marmalade said, responding to her husband. “I trust there have been no last-minute changes to our schedule?”

He strode over and nuzzled her ear. “No, dear,” he said, reveling in the touch. “I was, however, hoping that at least some of our free time today could be spent... alone.”

“Oh my,” Marmalade whispered, hiding her laugh with a hoof. “Aren't you feeling devilish today?”

Applejack failed to hide an exaggerated roll of her eyes at the display.

“Gross...” she murmured, prompting her uncle to laugh.

“Perhaps one day you'll find romance to be a bit more to your tastes, Applejack,” he said, patting her shoulder with a hoof. “Then maybe you won’t find it so gross.”

“No! I changed my mind, Aunt Orange, send me home!” The young filly joked.

The three laughed in unison, as all thoughts of homesickness vanished as if into thin air.

Who needs Ponyville anyway?

/x/x/x/

“Who needs you anyway!” A unicorn filly exclaimed indignantly as she shoved a large boulder off of a cliff. She turned away and huffed, turning her nose up and sauntering in the opposite direction.

“Well clearly my horn is just broken!” She cried. “I get dragged all the way out here to the middle of nowhere right when I need to be working on the costumes. Oh, why oh why did I volunteer for this stupid play?”

She harrumphed as she kicked at a pebble. After a few steps she caught up to it and kicked it again. She repeated this process a few times, falling into somewhat of a rhythm.

“Kick two three four kick two three four... well, at least I won't be bored on the walk home.”

As the back of her mind occupied itself with kicking the pebble, the forefront absorbed the world around her. Cumulus clouds hung low in the sky, and the earthy scent of the rocky biome filled her nose. If she squinted, she could just barely see the outskirts of Cloudsdale on the horizon.

Absentmindedly she began to hum, before she suddenly found herself sprawled out on the ground.

“What in the name of Celestia-”

“I'm sorry!”

The young unicorn climbed back to her hooves and beheld a small pink earth pony filly who was in tears for some reason or another.

“Are you okay?” She asked, annoyance forgotten in favor of comforting this pony who was clearly having a bad time of things. “You hit me at quite a high velocity.”

The earth pony’s face contorted in confusion. “What's that mean?”

The unicorn facehoofed. “It's a fancy word for speed. But is everything all right? My name is Rarity, what’s yours?”

She sniffed. “Pinkamena Diane Pie.”

Rarity blinked. “That's quite a mouthful... do you mind particularly if I refer to you as Pinkie?”

She shrugged.

“Very well then, Pinkie. While I can't say that I'm completely fine with random ponies careening into me at random, I can tell there was no malicious intent in your actions. As far as that goes, I don't harbor any resentment towards you. However, I am most concerned as to why you look so upset.”

Pinkie looked away as if in shame. “I ran away from home.”

Rarity slowly nodded. “And why might that be?”

Pinkie sighed. “My big sister went to school in Manehattan and my Granny Pie died. Life at home is just so sad, and I just couldn't take anymore. I looked at the sky and made up my mind that I was just gonna run, and... and then I got lost... and that made me sad. And scared. So I kept running. I'm sorry I hit you, I couldn't see through the tears.”

Rarity stepped forward and embraced Pinkie, holding the filly close to her chest.

“It's okay, I’ll help you. I'm sorry to hear that your sister went away and your grandmother passed away, and that you're sad, but I can help you find your way back home again. Take care of one problem at a time, that's my motto.”

Pinkie stood stock still. “I would really like it if you did that, but why would you do that for somepony you just met? I could be a changeling monster pretending to be a pony or something.”

Rarity chuckled. “You could be, but you aren't. I know that because if you were, then you would have invisible wings right where my hoof is. It's a trick I learned from Kevin, the changeling who lives in Ponyville.”

Pinkie’s brow furrowed. “Kevin?” She asked. “What the heck kind of name is Kevin?”

Rarity shrugged as she stepped back. “Some kind of changeling name I guess. I didn't ask him, and nopony I know really knows much about him. He mostly keeps to himself. But enough about Kevin: I'd feel simply awful if I left you all alone here in the middle of nowhere. Why don't I escort you back to Ponyville and help you find a grown-up who can take you back home?”

Pinkie pursed her lips and kicked at a rock on the ground in contemplation. After a few moments, a small, relatively unnoticeable but grateful smile graced her face.

“I'd like that... Rarebear.”

“Rarebear?” She asked, cocking her brow in amusement.

“You gave me a nickname, I just thought maybe I'd do the same... is it weird?”

Rarity nodded. “Not at all,” she answered as she began to walk. “I like it. Bears are wise and strong. And very big. Have you ever seen an ursa before?”

Pinkie shook her head as she followed. “I've never even seen a regular bear before.”

“That's a shame, they really are quite majestic. Me and my friends Applejack and Cheerilee went to the outskirts of Everfree one day and saw one in the wild... oh no!” She cried as she glanced down at what used to be her pure white coat.

“What's wrong?” Pinkie asked.

“Oh, that's just perfect. I’ll need to take another bath today... I'm all dingy and brown.” She sighed. “Oh, what’s the use... I’ll just get dirty again later.”

Pinkie shrugged. “I don't mind. Rock farming is dirty business. So what's the Everfree?”

“A ghastly place,” Rarity replied with a shudder. “It's forbidden, and it's scary, and it's dangerous. That's all I know. Now come on, it's a ways to go yet. Do you know any songs for the road?”

Pinkie put a hoof to her lips in thought. “Well... I know ninety nine boulders in the field. I'm not sure if you know that one.”

“How does it go?”

Pinkie took a breath and held it before exhaling and starting to sing in monotone. “Ninety nine boulders sit in the field, ninety nine boulders in the field. You take one down, roll it around, ninety eight boulders sit in the field.” She bowed slightly. “And then you count down.”

Rarity grimaced and offered a fake smile. “That sounds... lovely. But, do you happen to know any by Sapphire Shores?”

“Who?”

Rarity’s shocked gasp was loud enough to have frightened a nearby flock of crows.

“She's only the most fabulous pony in all of music! My friend Vinyl has all of her records. Maybe one day I’ll show you them. I can't let any of my friends go without knowing who she is, or at least giving her a try!”

Pinkie blinked. “I'm... your friend?”

Rarity laughed and placed a hoof around her traveling companion and new friend. “But of course!”

Pinkie smiled hard enough to show her teeth at this, and for a split second, Rarity could have sworn that she saw Pinkie’s mane curl slightly.

But it could have just been a trick of the light.

/x/x/x/

“I’m sorry I wasted your time...”

A small lavender unicorn filly slowly dragged her hooves out of the atrium, failure weighing heavily on her shoulders. Her eyes shined with unshed tears that were just waiting to leave the building before unleashing in a torrent, but she refused to cry in front of the judges. They'd already seen her fail to hatch the dragon egg; the inability to keep composure in the face of hardship would just be pathetic icing on the three layer cake of shame, disgrace, and humiliation.

Behind her the judges furiously scribbled away at their clipboards, as she heard two sets of rapid hoofsteps approach her.

“Twilight?” Asked the stallion, his azure coat filling her peripheral vision. “Are you okay, dear?”

“I'm fine...” she lied, continuing to trudge her way to the door. “I just wanna go home.”

“Why don't we go get an ice cream on the way?” Suggested the mare, purplish gray, on the other side. “You... seem like you'll need it, honey.”

“I don't deserve ice cream,” Twilight sighed, pushing the doors open with her hoof. “Ice cream is for ponies who do well and don't fail their entrance exams because they aren't good at magic.”

The two stopped as their daughter continued forward through the doorway, twin slabs of heavy oak slowly swinging shut behind her. The stallion took a deep breath and turned towards the judges, opening his mouth before he felt a hoof on his side.

“Vel.” He warned. “We can't just walk away as things are.”

“Yes, Night, we can. We can and we will. Yelling at them isn't going to help anything, okay? Getting thrown out of the building will only make Twilight feel worse. We need to be there for her and help to encourage her to find other ways to get into magic. Maybe find a nice trade school, or get into magic theory?”

“A dragon egg!” He cried, motioning towards it, the unassuming lump of purple just sitting there, silently mocking him. “They expected a child to hatch a dragon egg! That’s ridiculous! That's insane! I couldn't hatch a dragon egg and I'm a grown stallion. What kind of bullsh-”

“Night!” She snapped, gripping his ear in her magic. “This is Princess Celestia’s School For Gifted Unicorns, not Crimson Clover Junior High. Of course it’s going to be harder than what either of us went through at that age. Now, instead of complaining, we have a heartbroken little filly that we should be supportive parents to through this rough patch. Don't you remember what you did when Shiney didn't make Buckball tryouts?”

Night sighed. “Yeah... you're right, Velvet. As always. Let's just go.”

Velvet nodded sagely as she let him go and went through the door, frowning at her little Twilight’s slumped shoulders and dragging tail off down the hallway.

“That poor girl tried so hard to get here... it doesn't seem right that she gets turned away right here.”

“You're right.”

Velvet snapped her vision around at the incredibly familiar and regal voice from the other end of the hallway. Before she’d even fully registered who it was or that her husband was already prostrated, she bowed to the ground as Princess Celestia herself approached.

Down the hall, Twilight gasped and turned around, before moving to hide behind a nearby pillar. She would have been fully obscured from view if not for her tail sticking out and vibrating as she cowered.

“It certainly isn't right that such an intelligent young filly gets turned away at the door because she didn't pass one particular test of one particular school of magic.” Celestia and her small entourage stopped before the two citizens. “You may rise. Night, Velvet, good to see you two outside of the royal observatory and the high school buckball games.”

“Yes, Princess,” they chimed in unison as they stood back up again.

“It's an honor to see you in person today,” Velvet said with a hesitant glance behind her. “Although I do wish it was under better circumstances-”

“Nonsense,” Celestia interjected with a dismissive hoof wave. “I have other students in attendance who failed to pass this test. To be honest, this test is more of a grace under pressure type of situation more so than actually hatching the egg... Sunset, my apprentice here, also failed to hatch it.”

“Barely...” Sunset grumbled, falling to her haunches. “Let me at it again, that thing’ll be sucking its tail by the time you lower the sun.”

Night furrowed his brow. “So what does that mean for our Twiley?”

Celestia gave a cursory glance and head nod to Sunset before returning her focus to the question at hoof. “I always make it a point to speak to the parents after a situation such as this. I trust that either of you have met any of the Lemon clan at any recent events?”

“Ah yes, Lemon Zest.” Velvet nodded. “She was the caterer at the last Yearling convention. Lovely mare. Has a brother in Manehattan.”

“The very same,” Celestia affirmed as Sunset crept around their conversation and off towards the filly. “They have a daughter, Lemon Hearts, and she is the most recent addition to my attendance here. I believe she’s around Twilight’s age, and she didn't do nearly as well on the written portion of the entry exams... not that she did poorly, I simply mean that Twilight did exceedingly well. Not just for her age.”

“So there's a chance that she could still attend?” Night leaned in so far the mares were surprised that he didn't faceplant.

“Well...” Celestia sighed. “There is a simple matter of scholarship appeal. You see, because she did not pass the hatching, legally she cannot attend at the same rate as everypony else does...”

As the trio began to discuss financial plans, Sunset approached the wiggling navy tail that was sticking out from behind a pillar.

“Hey there... Twilight, is it?”

Twilight peeked out from behind the pillar at this mare she didn't particularly know. She had seen this mare before, though. Goldenrod coat, messy two toned scarlet and cadmium yellow mane, ice blue eyes that pierced one’s soul, cutie mark in the shape of the sun. She was in regular attendance at this school alongside Twilight’s own foalsitter Princess Cadance.

“Uh... um... yes...”

Sunset pursed her lips. Had this filly ever spoken to another pony? She slowly exhaled and made her face form a pinched smile. Clearly if this little filly had the power and potential to become yet another Princess of Equestria and defeat some alternate timeline version of Sunset, a significant portion of raw power must reside inside of her tiny lavender frame, so caution must be taken. Also, little fillies had a penchant for easily hurt feelings.

“My name’s Sunset Shimmer,” she said after a short time. She slowly, gingerly put her hoof out. “I'm Princess Celestia’s personal student. I heard you might be joining the school?”

Twilight looked down at the ground, scuffing it with her hoof. “You heard wrong... I failed the exam.”

Sunset fought the urge to rudely roll her eyes and tell this filly to quit throwing herself a freakin’ pity party already, partly considering that it wouldn't be conducive to a positive first impression, and partly because Celestia was watching.

“What, psshh, the dragon egg?” Sunset waved her hoof. “Forget that dumb thing. We all take the test and you don't see that many dragons running around, do you? Celestia told me- now, this is super secret Princess business, so don't go telling everypony this, but... she said that it's just to see if ponies will cry at the first possibility of failure. Did you cry?”

Twilight rapidly shook her head to the side so fast her face blurred.

“Well that's good!” Sunset felt disgusted by the sheer amount of bravado and false charm she put into her guise, but hey. It was necessary. “The judges all probably think you're strong in fortitude.”

“But they all looked disappointed in me...” Twilight sighed. “I know you're just trying to make me feel better. But I understand, I'm just not strong enough to do what's needed to go here.”

Sunset mentally facehoofed as she felt her soul leave and immediately return to her body through sheer willpower.

“You know,” she said, a sly thought creeping into her mind. “I'm pretty sure that it isn't even a dragon egg at all. Dragon eggs usually come in multiple colors. That one’s just purple with purple spots. I think that it's just a painted rock.”

“No, it's not a rock...” Twilight brushed a lock of hair behind her ear. “I probed it with a simple heat signature test, and to double check I ran it through an X ray field. And in case I did those wrong, to triple check I moved it around with my hoof. It was filled with fluid at a similar viscosity to amniotic fluid. And besides, what little we as ponies know about dragons is filled with enough inconsistency that relying on any commonly held conceptions would be insincere science. That's why I didn't consider the color to be of importance during my ascertainment. But it doesn't matter, I didn't hatch it.”

Sunset blinked.

‘What in Tartarus...? This kid’s a flippin’ genius. Even I never thought to do an X ray field test when I went. How am I supposed to compete with- wait a minute.’

“Okay, so I guess that it's not a rock. So that just means that when I failed it's because I didn't make it either.”

Twilight snapped her head up. “When you failed?”

Sunset nodded. “Yup. Like I said, we all take the test. Myself included. And uh, well, do you see a dragon in my saddlebags?”

Twilight actually craned her neck to look, prompting a small chuckle from Sunset in spite of herself. After her check was complete, Twilight nodded.

“Well, there you go.” Sunset place a hoof against her chest in a flourish. “If the Princess’s very own personal student didn't hatch the dragon egg and I’m still the top dog here, then I think a little filly like you will be just fine. Besides, there's more than just the egg hatching. Celestia had me proofread your essay, and it was really good.”

This was, of course, a lie. Sunset had no idea what the essay was like. There were much more important things to have her do for Celestia to bother pawning off something as simple as doing a tier two spellcheck spell on. But if this tiny little filly said things like viscosity, insincere, and ascertain at the drop of a hat, surely her written exam would have been phenomenal at worst. And besides, it isn't like little Twilight would be suspicious of a tiny insignificant white lie like that.

Right?

“What was my essay about?”

Sunset’s heart clenched.

“You don't believe me?” She asked.

Twilight sighed again. “Even if you didn't hatch the egg, surely there was a different magical test that you went through. Like earlier this month... when a growth spell cast on a vine completely destroyed the west wing of the school. I couldn't do that either.” She turned and pointed her horn at a nearby potted plant, causing her to avoid Sunset’s brief smug smile at the mention of her earlier accomplishment. Some sparks fizzled out as she grit her teeth, but nothing happened. After a few moments of straining, she gave up and fell to the floor. “See? I'm just bad at magic.”

Sunset tilted the plant so she could see inside. It was a basic little fern, and it was indeed untouched by magic. However...

“This is made of glazed terracotta, Twilight. It's an aluminosilicate, it's immune to magic.”

“Alumino...what?”

Sunset chuckled. “Aluminosilicate. It's a specific kind of mineral that's in clay and the crystals lining the castle walls and down in the prison catacombs. It's immune to magic, that's why it's protecting Canterlot and kept our unicorn prisoners back in the olden days. Here, try casting the spell but aiming it directly at the plant.”

Twilight frowned but decided to humor Sunset. There was nothing to lose after all. She set her hoof on the ground and aimed her magic tendril directly at the plant, making sure to avoid the clay. She strained and conjured the specific field warps to allow rapid onset photosynthesis to occur. Her horn fizzled and sparked and she was right on the cusp of giving up...

“You can do this, Twilight...” Sunset muttered.

“No...”

‘I’m so lucky to have you as my foalsitter!’

‘I’m the one who’s lucky, Twilight!’

‘You're a princess! I’m just a regular old unicorn...’

‘You are anything but a regular old unicorn!’

“Sunshine, sunshine...” Twilight’s teeth clenched so hard it felt as if her jaw would tear clean off. “Ladybugs awake... clap your hooves and... do... a little... SHAKE!”

She collapsed on the floor in exhaustion, panting heavily.

“Oh my gosh...” Sunset murmured.

Twilight looked up and gasped.

The fern had doubled in size and grown an extra leaf!

“I did it!” Twilight cried, jumping up and down in place. “I did it, I cast a spell!”

“You sure did!” Sunset cried, laughing. “You just did a growth spell on your first go... it took me a few months before I did my first one with those results... wow.”

Her laughter faded from pride to nervousness. If she didn't even have her cutie mark yet and was already able to do that well on a fairly complex spell on her first try, what chance did Sunset have in the long run?

Unless...

“That really is incredible, Twilight...” Sunset glanced behind her as she realized she’d caught the trio’s attention. “I knew that you could make it grow a little bit, but those are seriously amazing results. In fact... you've got a lot of raw power in you. So, uh. Whether you make it into this school or not, I am as Celestia’s pupil technically allowed to have an assistant for my studies.” She bit her lip. Now or never. “You’ll have to ask your parents permission first, of course, but... Would you care to be my assistant, Twilight?”

Twilight gasped. “Are you asking me to be the assistant to the personal student of the Princess?”

Sunset blinked and slowly nodded... and then she was immediately deafened by the repeated screeching of the word yes.

“I’m... gonna assume that at least one of those yes’s is for me, right?”

By this time, Night, Velvet, and Celestia had arrived to the scene.

“What’s happened?” Night asked. “Twilight, are you okay?”

“She doesn't seem like she’s snapped.” Velvet looked to Sunset. “What did you say to her?”

Celestia’s eyes were glued to the plant. “Sunset, did she do this?”

Sunset nodded.

“I did it!” Twilight screeched. “I made it grow bigger! I can do magic! I'm not a failure! And Sunset asked me to be her assistant! ...oh.” She stopped jumping around for a moment. “Mommy, daddy, can I be Sunset Shimmer’s assistant? Pretty please?”

Her parents looked at each other, then Sunset, then Celestia, and after her approving nod they turned to their daughter.

“Yes!” They cried in unison.

“Yes, yes, yes, yes, YES!!!” Twilight continued as she jumped around the hallway.

As the family huddled, Celestia took Sunset aside.

“Are you sure you're ready for the responsibility?” Celestia asked. “Didn't you just tell me the other day that personal relationships were useless... that the most important thing in life is to be the best?”

Sunset shrugged. “I figure I can learn a thing or two from her. And besides, I figure if she’s gonna grow up to be the savior of Equestria, the safest place she’ll be is right by my side. Right?”

Celestia’s face was impassive for a few moments before she began beaming.

“I’m proud of you, Sunset... I believe you'll do well with the opportunities given you. In time, you may yet discover the secrets of that mirror.”

Sunset shrugged again as the filly before her danced joyfully. Badly, but she was happy.

“Eh. It's just a mirror...”

There was no point needling Celestia about it. It had stood there for a thousand years, and it will stand there for a thousand years yet. Right now, discovering its secrets would do nothing. Much more important was ensuring that she could learn as much as she could from Twilight.

Then and only then would she resume her conquest.

After all, once she eventually became an alicorn, she would have all the time in the world to ascend the throne.

Not like she’d ever have to share it with anypony else.

/x/x/x/

Sire’s Hollow was a dot on the map, massively overshadowed by its neighbor Manehattan. To most ponies, it was a podunk little pit stop one made during a trip to Hollow Shades, and only for those who felt too unsettled by the hometown of batponies to sleep. However, the citizens would claim it was a wonderful place to live.

For some, it was a wonderful place to visit every once in a while.

Stormy Flare counted herself as some. Some days she would come visit her overbearing but still well meaning sister, and her nephew. Some days such as today.

However, today was not a day for visiting family. Well, not expressly so. Stormy had a mission today... a very important mission concerning the fate of Equestria. It was one she couldn't divulge much information for as the leader of Equestrian Black Ops, first division.

Still, embarking on her mission without so much as popping in to see her sister would result in a dozen passive aggressive guilt trip letters every day until she took time out of her busy schedule to come again. And Stormy sure hated taking time out of her busy schedule almost as much as she hated receiving passive aggressive guilt trip letters. Much less a dozen of them every day.

“Stormy!” She cried, rushing out to embrace her Wonderbolt of a sister. “It's been so long!”

Stormy pat her sister’s back. “Yes, it sure has, Stellar. Almost an entire month.”

“I'll have a pot of coffee put on. Do come in, come in, make yourself at home. Never mind the mess, I’m campaigning again. Sunburst! Come say hi to your aunt Stormy! Please excuse him, his little friend is over.”

“Little friend?” Stormy asked, making her way to the kitchen table. “Ah, to be young again. Do you remember when you and I and Firelight had our little gallivants?”

Stellar froze in her tracks. “Yes...” she murmured. “I remember. Here you go.”

“Thank you, Stell... oh, it's a bit hot.”

Two sets of hoofsteps came running down the stairs as a colt and filly made themselves present.

“Hi aunt Stormy.” Said the colt, who adjusted his glasses.

“Are you Sunburst’s aunt?” Asked the filly, who turned her head to the side. Her pigtails rustled cutely.

“I am indeed,” Stormy said, nodding. “And, little filly, what's your name?”

“Starlight Glimmer!” She said, sticking her chest out.

Stormy dropped her coffee, and the mug shattered everywhere.

Celestia’s orders had been to find a pony named Starlight Glimmer, an evil unicorn who was plotting to develop a cult and steal the cutie marks of ponies, and bring her to justice by any means necessary. Even including lethal force.

This... obviously complicated matters.

“Hello Starlight Glimmer...” she murmured absently. “Would you like to meet Princess Celestia?”

/x/x/x/

Author's Note:

Okay so I decided literally while writing this that Lemon Hearts' mom Lemon Zest is Uncle Orange's sister and Aunt Orange is Applejack's mom's sister so all the fruit ponies are linked at some point, and that Stormy Flare is Stellar Flare's sister. It gave me reasoning to have them meet each other 'because fate decreed it', but make no mistake, literally none of the Elements of Harmony will match canon. This is an AU after all. The problem is that the story arcs are being developed as I write and I have no clue where I'll be ending up. Luckily this is my forté, because planning things has had me stalled out in 5 different WIPs. So here we go, the product of sleepless nights, ignoring all my responsibilities, staying in my room like a hermit, and writing short segments on my phone in the bathroom.

To any readers of my other fics, there are incomplete chapters for literally every single one of them. This is just the first one that I finished. And right after I hit publish I'm getting right back on them. It's 4 am right now, if that gives any backstory.

Please enjoy, and if you hated it, please let me know how to make it less terrible. And if you liked it please for the love of god tell me that you liked it. For me, positive feedback is like freaking heroin to me. If you would pat me on the back and tell me that you were glad I existed I would literally start crying. And if it was meh, please be merciful. Thank you.