• Published 23rd Apr 2020
  • 1,258 Views, 58 Comments

Seeing the Light - SilverStar7

After a magical accident, Sunburst is in a parallel universe where he is betrothed to Twilight.

  • ...

A Lonely Library

At the entrance to the Crystal Empire's library, Sunburst was caught by how familiar the place felt. The seafoam green crystal griffons on either side of the staircase were totally identical to the ones he'd grown used to walking past every morning. As the group ascended, he counted 14 steps leading to the arched doorway, same as always. And upon opening the doors, the inside was just as magnificent, with its impressive staircases pointing the way to floors upon floors of ancient knowledge.

While the four walked though the Empire together, Twilight had kept close to Sunburst. The stallion was actually feeling a bit better now. Of all things, he had noticed it in his walk. Before he had admitted how he was feeling, it had been like he was walking through water without knowing it. Every step was marred by extra drag. It wasn't that he felt totally free now, but at least the weight of his circumstances were clear to him. And he knew he had somepony else in this with him.

Both Sunburst and Twilight paused for a moment at the entrance to the library, looking around at the seemingly limitless supply of books. Eventually, their gazes panned enough that the two met each other's eyes. They both smiled.

"It really is amazing," said Twilight.

"I'm glad to know I'm not the only pony who thinks this library is beautiful," said Sunburst.

"I was speechless the first time I came in," Twilight said. "We had some of our best dates here, too."

"Uh, so are we supposed to just stand here and wait for Starswirl?" Starlight said. "'Cause if we're gonna do some research, we should probably split up. This place is the biggest library I've ever been in."

"I know," Sunburst and Twilight dreamily said in unison.

"What sections should we be looking in?" asked Shining Armor.

Sunburst looked to Twilight, who also immediately looked to him. The pair's expressions then abruptly changed to confusion.

"You're the research expert," said Sunburst. "I figured you'd know where we should start."

"Sunburst, I don't know the first thing about this spell," said Twilight. "You're the one who designed it."

"Well, the real credit goes to Starswirl," he said. "All I did was help him find some books."

"I highly doubt that," said Twilight.

"No, really! I didn't do anything. All I did w—" Sunburst was silenced by Twilight pressing a hoof against his lips.

"Sunburst. Stop selling yourself short," said Twilight. "You may not think this applies to you, but like you said, our relationship status seems to be the only meaningful change in this world. You and my Sunburst are basically the same pony. You're humble, and I love that about you, but you really are capable of so much.

"You're the sort of pony who would never blame anypony else for his failures. You also need to stop blaming everypony else for your accomplishments."

Upon hearing those words, Sunburst felt a twinge in his chest. He was reminded of what Cadence had said about not selling himself short right before the accident. He knew he didn't exactly have high self-esteem, but having two ponies in one day tell him basically the same thing gave him pause. Then again, it wasn't like he didn't have good reasons to be skeptical of himself.

Ever since he had dropped out of Celestia's school, the stallion felt like he would never accomplish anything. After failing again and again at any advanced spell he ever tried, Sunburst had given up on any dreams of greatness. All he was good at was studying, all he enjoyed was studying, and so all he ever did was study. Of course, Celestia hadn't wanted him to leave her school, and then his mother complained about it endlessly. So, when the Crystal Empire reappeared, it had seemed like the perfect place for him. He could study away from any of the ponies that he was so constantly disappointing.

But had that changed? Was he still the same colt who had failed everypony who'd ever believed in him?

Either way, now wasn't the time for arguing with Twilight about if he was a capable pony or not. He needed to help her get her fiancé back as quickly as possible. And, to be fair, he probably did know more about the spell that brought him here than any pony in this universe.

"Well, the most important element of the spell was a book about thaumaturgy I found in the oldest section of the library."

"What's thaumaturgy?" asked Shining Armor.

"It means 'miracle working,'" said Twilight. "It's a rare form of magic that requires a sort of spiritual connection to be performed. To work a miracle requires a pony to put her trust in something beyond herself; it isn't a miracle if it's just something any old unicorn can do."

"But why would Sunburst's spell need some obscure type of magic to work?" Shining asked.

"The spell is intended to be used with the Crystal Heart," said Sunburst. "It's an object that was forged out of thaumaturgy in the first place. They don't call it a 'relic' for nothing. The Heart and the Crystal Ponies share a deep, spiritual connection. It's why the Crystal Heart was the only thing that could restore them when the Empire and Sombra returned."

Twilight nodded. "Then we'll want to gather some historical information on the Crystal Heart, too. I know Sombra got rid of most of the information on it, but I'm sure we can find some hints around here somewhere."

"Then let's split up," said Starlight. "We can meet back at the table down there afterwards." She pointed to the large table in the center of the library on the lower floor. "I'll go with Sunburst and look for books on magic. You and Shining can go to the history section and see what you can find about the Heart."

All four nodded and split into their separate pairs. Twilight and Shining heading to the right and down a flight of stairs, Sunburst and Starlight to the left and up one.

The library was quiet today. That wasn't out of the ordinary for a library, of course, but there were hardly any other ponies walking around. The section that Starlight and Sunburst were headed towards was likely to be totally barren. Few ponies needed to look up information on peculiar and odd types of magic, which is why such books were tucked away in an old, poorly lit wing of the library.

Of course, for Sunburst, that section was one of his favorites. He had spent hours upon hours digging through the books there and learning about all sorts of strange magical techniques. Which was why, when Starswirl and he were working together, he soon brought the venerable wizard to that place. Then, before either of them could've expected it, one of the books there had lead to the breakthrough needed for Starswirl's spell.

After Starlight and Sunburst had walked for a bit, and it was clear that the two were quite alone, Starlight said, "Sunburst, could we talk?"

"Uh, sure. What about?" Sunburst continued to make his way toward the oldest section of the library, but soon realized that Starlight had stopped moving. He looked back and saw her standing quietly, looking at the floor. Sunburst walked back toward her and asked, "What's wrong?"

The pair stood in the middle of a row of bookshelves. Their voices were well muffled by the books on either side of them.

Starlight took in a deep breath. "I want to apologize. I think I was a little... let's say 'ill-mannered' toward you on the train trip. I think I misread your emotions about this situation."

"It's okay," said Sunburst. "Even I misread my emotions about this situation. It's hard on all of us."

"Well, I'm still sorry," said Starlight. "I know things have been weird between us—well, between me and the other Sunburst, but by extension with you—since that conversation we had in Ponyville."

"You mean during my visit when I met all your friends?"

Starlight blushed. She again stopped looking Sunburst in the eye in favor of looking down at his suit. "I know we haven't even mentioned it since then. Like, at all. And believe me, I'm not blaming you for that. I didn't want to talk about it either. But now, seeing as... well... I don't really know how you feel about it."

Thinking back, Sunburst remembered how he'd blown up at Starlight when she'd cast her spell to turn the pair of them into foals again. While he may have been justified in being upset, he could see how he may have really hurt Starlight's feelings. And, in retrospect, it had been a harmless experience.

"Well, I do forgive you for that," he said. "If I never expressed that clearly then, I'll say now: I'm not mad about what you did. Not anymore, at least. I know you just wanted to make it easier for us to be friends again. Your methods were a bit too extreme, but I know you had good intentions. I don't have any hard feelings about it."

Starlight's eyebrow rose. "That's... good to know..." Starlight looked Sunburst in the eye again. After a short pause, she continued, "Sunburst, I think there's another difference in your timeline. Something about that conversation we had when you came to Ponyville might have gone differently."

"Really?" Sunburst hadn't considered that possibility. Everything different so far had involved Twilight, but while Twilight had been indirectly involved in that situation, she wasn't even present when it happened. "Well, in my universe, you tried to have us bond over our shared passion for magic. Then you turned me into a foal out of nowhere, just so that we could play Dragon Pit like when we were little!"

"Uh... that actually went the same." Starlight's gaze fell down to Sunburst's hooves. "I was talking about the other conversation. The one we had after the full-sized game of Dragon Pit."

"Which one?" Sunburst asked.

"The one where you asked if we should try dating instead of just restarting our friendship."

The stallion's eyes went wide. "Then that's definitely a difference. I never even had that conversation with you."

Starlight's pink face became totally red and she put a hoof to her forehead. "Oh, wow, then I was totally out of line on the train! Sweet Celestia, from your perspective, I was a total bi—totally ill-mannered pony." Starlight shook her head and looked back at Sunburst's face. "I thought you were acting like that conversation never happened because you were mad at me about it. Like you blamed me for the fact that you didn't end up with somepony in your universe."

"So you rejected me? Eh... I mean, the other Sunburst?"

"It's not like that. There's nothing wrong with you, or the other Sunburst. You're both great." Starlight shook her head and shut her eyes. A pair of small tears became visible at the edges. "It's because there's something wrong with me."

Sunburst moved closer to Starlight and put a hoof on her shoulder. "What is it? Is it a health problem? Have you gotten a second opinion?"

"No, it's nothing like that! It's a problem with who I am as a pony."

Starlight pulled herself away from Sunburst and leaned against a nearby shelf. She ran a hoof along some of the books there. Her eyes were closed. She said, "It was a decision I made a while ago. After everything that happened with my village, I realized that I should never be in a committed relationship. I know it might not make sense to you, but I can't trust myself not to take advantage of whoever I end up with.

"If I were in a relationship, how would I make sure that I didn't turn into the same sort of manipulative tyrant that I was with the ponies in my village? Because you know, on some level, I actually cared about them. I thought I was helping them. I thought I was their friend, not just their leader.

"Who's to say the same thing wouldn't happen with a coltfriend or a husband—dear Celestia!—what if I did that to my own foals?! Turned them into my own little micro-village of whatever twisted ideology I happen to pick up in the next ten years?"

"Starlight, there's no guarantee that you'd do that."

Starlight turned back to him. Her muzzle was now soaked with tears. "But there's no guarantee I wouldn't! And there's plenty of evidence that I would. It'd be irresponsible to put myself in that position."

"Even with everything you've done since then? Saving Equestria from Chrysalis, saving Stygian, becoming a school counselor. How can you do all that and not think you've changed since you reformed?"

"But since my reform I also brainwashed Twilight's friends with a Fiducia Compelus spell and nearly got Trixie killed when the anger I'd literally bottled up about her got out and infected other ponies." Starlight shook her head. "If I'm so careless that I can put my best friend in that sort of danger, I have no business looking for a husband."

"That's ridiculous!"

The mare snorted. "Forget it. You don't understand." Starlight started walking again. "Let's just grab those books you were looking for and get to work..."

Sunburst opened his mouth to voice further objections, but quickly realized that Starlight was in no mind to debate the matter. When she rounded the corner ahead of him without even looking back, Sunburst simply sighed and followed her.

Author's Note:

This took longer to get out than I had expected. Firstly, I didn't do any work on it until the start of January to give me time to work on a non-MLP writing project. The other reason was that I just wasn't happy with how this chapter first turned out, so I needed to make serious modifications to it. I was done with the first version by January 31st, as I'd hoped, but I couldn't bring myself to hit "Publish."

On the plus side, I ended up splitting this chapter into two parts, so the next chapter should be out soon.

Thank you readers for your patience. I think the overall story will be stronger for the changes, even if it meant a delay in releasing this part of it.