• Published 29th May 2020
  • 1,750 Views, 158 Comments

Sunset Glimmer - Ninjadeadbeard

  • ...
1
 158
 1,750

5 - Ouroboros

Canterlot, in winter, was like a work of art. Its sweeping, marble and gold design was overtaken, first with a gentle carpet of white snow, and then the icy blues and silvers of ice as the weather deepened its frigid grip. The weatherponies had apologized for the chill, but it had been a warm summer.

And now, on the very eve of Hearth’s Warming, a further layer of brilliant colors brought a strange sort of warmth to the city atop the Canterhorn. Everfree Green was everywhere, in wreaths and gallant ballroom gowns, matched by Apple Red and Sky-Blue glass orbs mixed amongst the ever-present tinsel.

Everywhere ponies looked, a winter wonderland had truly taken hold. Even amongst the lower wards, where there was less to go around every year, cheer and merriment was strewn about the street on this night, this night that represented everything that was best in ponies.

Except for one block of buildings. A set of apartments situated along Gusty Way, just a block south from the corner of Starshine Avenue, sat dark in the snow and the evening gloom. Nouveau Riche was in the process of having the buildings renovated, but with the seasonal change, the work crews getting the holiday off, and his cousin Stinkin holding a big, Rich family Hearth’s Warming down in that hick-town Ponyville… well, the building was good and sealed up until work could resume.

Sunset Shimmer, however, had seen tougher locks, and had cracked them all.

“Are we s-s-s-sure this is the right building?” a green-hooded Sunburst chattered in the freezing wind.

Sunset, wearing a red and gold hooded cloak, considered applying a ‘steam’ spell the Sparkle twins had come up with to Sunburst, just to warm him up and calm him down… but she decided that she couldn’t afford any delays right now, especially not ones that could potentially alert somepony to their presence.

“D-don’t worry, Da- Sunburst!” she said as she pulled out a manepin and began working at the lock, “C-C-Celestia t-told me she went over the r-records last night-t-t. It was this building… Lower Wards, Gusty Way, Number 412… and tonight. I s-spent my whole foalhood thinking Hearth’s Warming was my birthday…”

The lock popped off easily. Sunset, though smiling at the sight of her old habits benefiting her in the here and now, noted her father’s disapproving look.

“Hey, you g-get trapped in a m-magicless dimension, and let’s see you survive w-without a little B-and-E!”

“I already regretted this whole thing the moment you knew, unprompted, how we could commit arson without leaving evidence…”

“A little arson never hurt any… shut up!”

The third cloaked figure, who was busy holding a thick bundle with one foreleg, shushed her co-conspirators, and fixed them both with a glare far colder than the weather.

“We don’t have all night,” Starlight snarled, “and I could really do without the Haybbot and Costallion routine!”

The other two ponies flinched at her sharp condemnation, ears down in an identical show of submission.

“Sorry, dear…”

“Won’t happen again, M- I mean, Starlight.”

“It better not!” the purple pony said with a noticeable vein bulging out the side of her neck. Starlight breathed in, slowly, through her nose, and then blew out a small cloud of steam. Instantly, the heavy rush of red in her face vanished, except across her nose, where the harsh wind was rubbing the skin beneath her fur raw.

She looked up and down the street, eyes peeled for any danger. When she saw nothing, she whispered, “I’ll keep watch. You two plant the… bodies… and set the fire. Let’s go.”

With that, Starlight trotted across the street and took up a spot inside the mouth of the alleyway her spell had dumped the three of them minutes before. She settled down there, baby tightly wrapped in her forelegs, and head down away from the wind.

Sunset watched all this, hardly noticing the door to the apartments was open until Sunburst came back and prodded her to follow.

“Sorry about that,” she apologized as she shut the door behind them, “Got a little distracted.”

Sunburst said nothing, at least until he took a moment to shiver in the cold entryway. The vestibule was thin and long, doorways into the ground floor apartments laid open to either side as though Daring Do herself had already looted the structure for its treasures. At the far end of the hall, there was a simple staircase that led up to the other floors.

“I think it might have been warmer outside,” Sunburst complained, huffing and blowing hot air into his hooves.

“Least we got natural coats,” Sunset walked in place to keep the blood flowing, “My first winter across the Mirror, I lived in the back of a warehouse, and slept under a whole pallet of unsold carpet swatches to keep warm.”

Sunburst glanced, uncertainly, at his daughter. “Um… sorry?”

“Don’t be,” the Alicorn began making her way to the stairwell, “I brought it on myself. Plus, I stole some space heaters as soon as I knew what those were, so it wasn’t so terrible. Oh, and that was also how I figured out the arson thing…”

“Sunset…” her father groaned, having only a faint idea about what a space heater was, but having a very good idea how something like that could have factored into Sunset’s story.

This building doesn’t feel like a home, Sunset mused, as the two ponies wandered through the half-finished structure. There was open paneling and carpentry marks on everything, like some kid had been given markers and a spray can and told to go nuts. Stools and buckets lay strewn around the skeletal apartments, a few cans of oil and cleaners stacked in corners, awaiting their owners’ return.

I wonder, Sunset almost laughed, what would the opposite of tomb-robbing be, since this place isn’t even done yet? Bet Dash would know, being the biggest Daring fan amongst us…

“Is Starlight going to be alright?” she asked, though perhaps more to break the silence than anything else.

Sunburst glanced over his shoulder, as if he could see his wife through the closed door.

“I… don’t know,” he sighed, “She’s never been like this. I never thought she could be so… hollow. Defeated. Even at her lowest, at least that I saw, she always had a spark, a fighting spirit just behind her eyes. Now…?”

He left the rest unsaid, instead opting to continue onward.

Which left Sunset more than a little confused.

“You asked how I’m handling all this,” she said, softly, “But… how can you be so calm?”

“What do you mean?” he asked without turning around.

Sunset trotted up to Sunburst’s side, and made sure to place a wing in front of him, in case the stubborn stallion tried to press on.

“I mean, you seem super calm about losing your daughter to a time loop!” Sunset frowned deeply, and continued with a strained voice, “I know we talked a little about me, but what about you? What about… Mom?”

Sunburst’s ears drooped, and he closed his eyes. Sunset waited as he took a long moment to breathe and calm himself.

When he opened his eyes, they were crystal clear, and as sharp as the edge of a gemstone.

“Right now, your mother’s heart is broken,” he said, slowly. Then, he gently reached up with one hoof, and pushed Sunset’s wing aside, saying, “She’ll be… functional, eventually. But right now? I have a responsibility to hold it together for the both of us.

“We’ll be fine, Love,” he paused, and went to nuzzle Sunset’s cheek, which she happily reciprocated, “Just… let Starlight grieve. There will be plenty of time for us to catch up, and have parties… and make up for what we’ve lost.”

Sunset wasn’t sure what, exactly, calmed her more: Sunburst’s words, or his presence. She couldn’t help but wonder at the change. The last time she’d been through the Mirror, she hardly considered him at all, but now that she knew they were related…

Why would knowing he’s my dad make him feel… more dad-like?

She mentally facehoofed at the poor, poor use of grammar. She knew she was better than that. This whole situation was messing with her brain.

Sunset shook her head, clearing it of the intrusive thoughts. She’d have to chat with her friends about all this, once she went home. Fluttershy was practically a trained counselor, and Twilight and Midnight were used to headscratchers like this.

Getting back to the matter at hoof, Sunset carefully gathered a few cans of oil in her aura, and started looking around for any rags left behind. Arson was a lot easier with magic, but the spell she was planning on using still needed certain components.

“So,” Sunburst eyed his daughter’s firebug collection, “Where… er, what’s your place like? Not still… living in warehouses?”

The two ponies vanished in a flash of golden light as Sunset fired off a quick teleport.

Sunburst, it would seem, had gotten quite used to traveling via instantaneous magical transmission. He hardly looked frazzled as they rematerialized three stories up, where they planned on creating the fake bodies and setting the real fire. To his further credit, he seemed to keep his lunch down admirably, all the while only barely taking his eyes and attention off from Sunset.

Who was already looking into more rooms as she answered him.

“Oh, no. Not for a long time. Turns out, I’m a natural at faking paperwork…”

“This is an encouraging story, is it?” Sunburst scoffed.

The Alicorn smirked, before she knocked over a chair and pulled out a set of spare orange work clothes left behind.

“Anyway, with access to a public library computer and a few… examples I’d found in some unattended wallets, I whipped up a convincing ID, found work, and started making a little money while I kept plotting my revenge on Celestia,” Sunset’s smile faltered as she spoke, but she pressed on, cutting the grubby clothing into strips with her magic, “I live a few blocks from the school. You should come over sometime. It’s… small, but nice. We could hang out, get dinner, see a movie… you could meet my lizard, Ray…”

Sunburst was quiet as they kept moving through the building. Sunset could tell he wasn’t happy, but… well, so what?

It’s not like he has any say in the matter. He wasn’t there. He didn’t raise me

She internally winced. Though, that’s not his fault. He… they both wanted me, after all.

“I…” he cleared his throat, bringing Sunset’s attention back to the unicorn, “I don’t suppose you still commit crimes in your everyday life?”

Sunset snorted, “Nothing too bad, I promise.”

He didn’t seem pleased by that answer.

“Uh, what I meant was, I don’t really do any of that stuff anymore,” Sunset said placatingly, “The worst thing I get up to nowadays is a little bit of ‘public art’. Which isn’t really illegal over there…”

Bit of a stretch there, but AJ’s the honest one…

Sunburst’s ears perked up as he listened to her.

“Wait, you… you’re an artist?”

Sunset stopped, and turned around to face her father, a slight blush working its way onto her face.

“W-well… I guess you could call me that,” she glanced away, allowing a bit of her mane to fall over eyes, “Really, it’s just a fun hobby. I mostly just draw, or work with spray-paint…”

“Still!” Sunburst beamed at his girl, clearly excited to hear about something a little more legal than her other activities, “That’s great! Can I see some of your work? Maybe when we come over to your place?”

“Sure! I’d love that! Hang on, I have some pics…” Sunset paused. One of her forehooves had reached, instinctively, to her side and found nothing but fur, “… oh, right. No pockets, no phone.”

From how she’d first experienced the devices, and how strange and difficult it’d been to subsequently teach Princess Twilight about them, phones were something that Equestrians had a very hard time understanding, at least at first.

Heck, Sunset thought, I had to go through that twice, once smartphones came out over there.

But, before she could bemoan not bringing her smartphone through the gate or giggle at how reliant she’d become to having human technology with her at all times, Sunset had a sudden flash of inspiration.

She looked around the area, and quickly spied a suitably blank section of wall off to one side. She led Sunburst over with an encouraging wave of her wings, the components for her next fiery feat floating beside them, and faced the wall directly. Then, she closed her eyes, and allowed her other senses to drift where she needed them.

“Just… watch the wall,” she intoned, “I think I can… recreate something from memory.”

She held her breath.

Then, the room became awash with color. Sunset’s horn lit up like a Hearth’s Warming tree. Brilliant reds, yellows, blues, and greens ran rampant through the air around her as her magic flared. Though Sunset couldn’t see it, she could feel the warmth of her magic flow, and she could feel it touching somewhere deep within her mind, even as it reached out to the wall before her.

Sunburst watched on, mouth and eyes wide in sheer awe at her prowess. He stood, rooted, as the rainbow of light began to lash out against the wall, leaving trails of color behind. Within the span of a minute, he could see shapes begin to form from the chaotic array of colors and light, and soon after that…

There it was. Her Cutie Mark. The spiraling red and gold sun, fire and life and balance. Sunburst hadn’t really bothered noting Sunset’s mark beyond mild curiosity the few times he’d met her before, but now that he knew of their true connection, it somehow left the orange stallion breathless.

The Cutie Mark sat amidst banks of grey clouds, surrounded and cut-through by lightning in every shade of the rainbow, all flying outward from the center of the wall to its edges. And with the painting’s conclusion, the light from Sunset faded away, leaving only herself behind.

Sunset exhaled, heavily, and wiped at her forehead.

“Phew! Wasn’t sure that would work,” she laughed, her breath coming a little harder for a moment or two, “What do you think?”

“I… I don’t know what to say,” Sunburst ran his eyes over every stroke, every line, his senses almost hungry for more.

He smiled, finally, and looked to the artist next to him.

“I love it. It’s… beautiful…” he said, though his eyes instantly clenched as another thought came to him, “It’s, ah… also evidence…”

Sunset’s eyes widened, to the point where her eyebrows nearly left her face. Then, she delivered a hard facehoof to herself, and groaned, “Oh… ponyfeathers.”

“Well…” Sunburst glanced around, appraisingly, “I suppose we found our Ground Zero.”

Sunset looked about as well, trying to force the building into a mental map. From what Celestia had said…

“Huh,” she chuckled, “Guess time loops just sort of work out, don’t they?

“Alright!” Sunset raised her head, and squared her shoulders as silver and gold light began to spiral around her horn, “Let’s make some bodies!”


Sunburst pursed his lips, possibly a mistake, what with the cold air nipping at him. “You sure that’s going to work?”

“Positive,” Sunset glanced up at the still-dark windows, “Day Harnesson’s Delayed Fireball is the perfect spell for causing a slow, controlled burn.”

Her father furrowed his brow, and looked over at Sunset.

“Um… fireball?”

Sunset shook her head, “Don’t worry! I threw in a Thaumic Choke, and made sure to ablate the pressure with Stallzel’s Valve.”

“Ah, I see!” Sunburst nodded exuberantly, “That’s quite a spell, then! I’m very impressed!”

Sunset blushed beneath the stallion’s praise. Being told by a professor, or even Celestia herself, that she’d done well at some bit of arcane construction had always been a favorite feeling for the Alicorn, but receiving it from her actual, literal, biological parent was something else entirely.

Definitely need to talk with someone about this back home.

The two ponies stood just outside the building they’d cased and set up to burn. The snow had gotten a little deeper, the wind a little colder.

And Starlight had yet to move an inch from where she was, at the mouth of that alleyway. Neither Sunburst nor Sunset wanted to force the issue. That would come when the flames began to consume the apartments. Why not let Starlight have her… last moments with her baby?

Still, they waited. Had to make sure the fire started. But, in the moments before the flames, two ponies, father and daughter, could allow themselves a quiet moment together, blissfully awaiting the beginning of their new lives.

Sunburst happily hummed to himself. Then, his ears twitched, as a thought occurred.

“So, how did you compensate for Kanter’s Antinomy?”

Sunset smiled, warmly.

Then, she licked her lips, and asked, “What’s that?”

There was a look in Sunburst’s eyes. It was a feral, worried, look. Quick and sharp as his mind was, it took only an instant for Sunburst’s mind to do some calculations, and realize that his daughter hadn’t read a modern, updated Equestrian Magical Journal, or treatise, or research paper, in about a decade.

And, just before he could clarify the issue, lecture his wayward daughter, or most likely, scream in animalistic panic, every single window on the block exploded as the pressure-cooker bomb that was her spell finally tore through its restraints, and nearly vaporized the building.


Princess Celestia, who had been staring at the moon this holiday evening, first noted how the sky seemed to become like day for a few moments. That was, to put it mildly, unusual. She hadn’t felt the sun rise, after all.

The windows of the Great Hall, also unusually, rattled in their frames. They were usually quite steady, as glass was wont to do.

Finally, an unusual amount of stucco and plaster dropped from the crumbling ceiling, and crashed down upon her royal head. Her ethereal pastel mane was slightly dusty now, which was a bit annoying.

As was the fireball slowly rising over the lower wards. Yes, that was quite unusual too.

“That can’t be good,” she said to herself.

Then again, talking to Grigori Blueblood was also quite annoying, due to him being a bit… unusual.

Checks out…


The guards on patrol that night would later swear they heard somepony shout, “Distraction!” just before they watched their Solar Sovereign sail over their heads, and into the icy gale that had enshrouded Canterlot that Hearth’s Warming Eve…


“I said I was sorry!” Sunset shouted over the cacophonic sounds of glass crashing, flames roaring, and an amber foal wailing in fright.

“You could have killed somepony!” Sunburst shouted back as they tucked into the alleyway where they’d entered this sordid mess from. He’d be red in the face, if not for all the ash soaking into his coat and muzzle.

“Nopony got hurt!” Sunset snapped back, “The fire is staying within the apartment we meant to torch!”

“Sure,” Sunburst rubbed the spot between his eyes with a hoof, “Nopony got burned. But did you even consider the pressure wave!?”

The distant sounds of sirens began to cut through the noise of the inferno, which seemed to snap Sunset back to reality. She glanced up and down the street, noting that nopony had appeared to inspect the explosion yet, and ducked back in to face her parents.

“Whatever, we did what we had to! Now, let’s leave little Me here, and get back to the future!”

“Great Trot!” Sunburst cried, and turned to run, “We got to get going! Quickly, down the alley!”

Sunset had only taken a few steps away from the conflagration when she noticed something. Her father was ahead of her, and she could hear his clattering hooves on the cobblestone well enough. But she couldn’t hear anything behind her.

And for good reason, it seemed.

“Starlight?”

The mare in question hadn’t moved. Backed by the burning building behind her, Starlight was a dark shadow, standing hoof-deep in the snow. She held her baby close to her chest, her eyes never once wavering from the crying infant.

Sunset would be touched, to see her mother so moved, so consumed by her child’s pain that she could not stand to part from her. However, the very real possibility of the time-space continuum collapsing on top of them all weighed heavily on her mind.

The Alicorn shot towards Starlight, coming up short by inches.

“Starlight, we have to go! You can’t keep her.”

“I know,” the unicorn croaked, “I know…”

Sunset watched, helpless, as tears poured out of her mother’s eyes. The baby that was and would be her reached out her hooves, the fear and panic in her own tiny eyes replaced by something else, something existentially terrifying.

“Uwaaa!” she cried, her little hooves clawing at the air, like she could tell what was about to happen.

Sunset swallowed, and mentally scanned the area. She could feel the sirens coming closer, and something else besides. There was a Power coming now. A light within the magical realm that burned every bit as hot at the sun.

They needed to be gone before the Princess arrived.

“Starlight…!”

“I can save her!” Starlight’s eyes, mad and lost, locked onto Sunset’s own, “I can save you! I just… I just need a moment, a few paradox-amplifier spells, and… and…”

Sunset shouted as loudly as she dared, “You can’t save me! There’s nothing to save!”

“No!” Starlight shook her head, and held her child closer, tighter, her eyes closed to the cold and the wind, and her tears, “I won’t leave Sunshine! I can fix this…!”

A fire wagon swung around the corner, a team of firefighter ponies frothing as they led the engine onward.

Time was running out.

Time was about to burn.

Mom!” Sunset cried out, then reached for the baby.

Starlight’s eyes snapped back open.

She flinched, and the arc of Sunset’s hoof met that of another.

A tiny, amber hoof swiped out at the darkness that was stealing Sunshine’s mother, and briefly, for the span of an instant…

Sunset realized, just as it happened, that she had touched her foal-self’s hoof.

A white light flooded out from Sunset and Sunshine’s eyes…


She felt cold. That wasn’t good. Cold was bad. All she’d known up until that moment was Warm. Why did it have to be Cold?

She cried. What else could she do? Her Light was gone. Where was the One? She was so beautiful, and kind. Where was Other? He was funny, and fuzzy. And warm. Very warm.

Why was she cold? There was somepony else there, wasn’t there?

Eventually, somepony was there, and they started to warm her again.

She still cried. What else could she do?

She was Alone.


She was Alone.

The other foals laughed at her when they went out to play. Nopony else had their Cutie Mark already, they said. You’ll never know what you’re supposed to do!

She loved the look of her mark. But she was starting to wonder if she should cover it up.

She missed showing off her little heart-birthmark. She thought it looked cool. Then Halter Twist called her names at recess. Now, she wore her mane different.

But she didn’t care. Because one day, someday, her mummy and daddy would come back. She knew it. They would come back, and they would take her away from this awful place, and these awful ponies. She even drew them, like she remembered.

She didn’t know if she remembered. But the colors looked right, so…

The Princess was coming tomorrow. She was very nice, and very pretty.

And she was a Princess. Maybe, if Sunset was very good, Celestia would make her a Princess too?


The Princess was so kind! Sunset had only been in the palace a month, and she already had a new room to explore!

Princess Celestia had given her a wonderful, big bedroom of her own, of course. It was colored just like her, all gold and white! But now, she also got to go to the new tower!

A tower of books! And telescopes!

And it was hers!

“I want you to be able to study here, whenever you feel like you need some solitude.”

“What’s stall-it-ood, Princess?”

The Princess laughed like sunlight, “It means, when you need to be alone to think, you can use this private library.”

“Oh…”

“Is there something wrong, my little pony?”

Sunset shrugged, “I… no.”

“Is that so?”

Sunset thought a moment.

“I don’t like to be alone. It… it scares me.”

The Princess wrapped her perfect wings around her, and laughed, “Well, you don’t have to be scared while you’re with me. I’ll always protect you, my little sunshine.”

“Sunshine?”

“… Do you not like it?”

“NO! I mean…” Sunset nuzzled into the hug, “I like it. I really like it. Thank you, Princess. But, it’s just…”

“Ah! That would be Kibitz. I’m sorry, Sunset. We’ll have to finish talking later. Oh! I should get you a magic journal!”

“A… magic journal?”

“So we can talk, even when I’m needed elsewhere,” the Princess explained.

“Oh… oh! That’s wonderful, Princess! Thank you!”

Sunset thought for a moment, and then, quietly, asked something that had been in the back of her mind for a while.

“Um… Princess? When you said you’ll always protect me…?”

“Yes?”

“What… what if my parents come for me? Can I… can I still stay here, and learn with you?”

“…”

“Princess?”

“I have to go, Sunset. But… I promise you, I will never send you away. Never.”

“… Thank you, Princess…”


She would draw her parents that night. And the next night. She wondered if she got the colors right.

It wouldn’t matter soon enough. There was only so long even a bright and hopeful filly could believe in fairy tales…


“My Sunshine! How wonderful!”

“I made it for you, Princess. Do… do you like it?”

“Why wouldn’t I love it? It was made by you, wasn’t it?”

“I just… since it’s Mare’s Day, I thought… maybe…”

“Sunset? Is something the matter?”

“…”

“Sunset, you can always ask me anything.”

“Princess?”

“Yes, my little pony?”

“Can… since I don’t… can I call you… Mom?”

“…”

“Is… is that okay?”

“Sunset… I think it would be for the best if we kept… a little distance. Please, call me Celestia, when we’re alone together.”

“Oh… alright… Princess…”

“Is… I’m sorry, Sunset. It’s just… I’m not a good…”

“No, I understand, Princess.”

“I… I’m glad. I care for you, deeply, you know? But there are some lines I cannot cross.”

“…”

“Sunset?”

“I understand… Princess.”


She stopped drawing. The dreams were too vague now, anyway.

Who cared if she got the color right? They weren’t here. They didn’t want her.

Nopony wanted her.

Even the Princess…

Even the Princess.


“Sunset?” the Princess called, “Sunset? Are you in here? You missed our tea time.”

Sunset was hovering in the middle of the tower’s library, books drifting around her in quick, tight orbits. She actively read two books at once, one on the Elements of Sorcery, the other on the Fundamentals of Politics, while at least four passively wove in and out of her attention.

“Sunset? Have… have you been reading all night?”

“Have I?” Sunset hardly realized the sun had come up, “Huh… new record, I guess.”

“Sunset, that’s not healthy for a growing pony.”

The amber unicorn shook her head, “Sorry! I just got distracted. There’s so much to learn!”

Princess Celestia laughed, “And a great deal of it can be found outside of your books, you know?”

“I… I guess…?”

Celestia tilted her head.

“Sunset? When was the last time you went outside?”

“I take walks…”

“Besides physical exercise,” the Princess glanced around, noting the empty takeout boxes strewn around, “I thought we talked about you going out… and maybe making some friends?”

“How, exactly, are friends supposed to help me with my goal?”

“… I’m not sure I understand,” the Princess frowned, “Any goal you’ve set for yourself can be achieved if you have the aid of good friends!”

“…”

“Don’t give me that look,” Celestia pouted.

“Sorry, but this look is for anypony with that much cheese in them.”

The Princess tut-tutted.

“Besides,” Sunset continued, “I don’t need friends to achieve my goal!”

“Oh? And what goal would that be?”

“…”

“Sunset,” Celestia smirked, “I can’t hear you.”

“… To become a…”

Celestia’s ears perked up.

“I’m sorry? I… couldn’t hear you.”

“I said…”


Princess Celestia came to watch the performance. She always came, even when she had other things to do.

Sunset smiled at that.

She was worth the attention.

With practiced ease, she casually tossed the flames about her, nearly scorching the spectating professors. None of them wanted to be there. They all knew Sunset Shimmer was the best student they’d ever had at the School for Gifted Unicorns. They all knew she would win top honors, and that her final project would wow everypony in Canterlot.

Everypony that mattered.

Which was, beside Sunset, the Princess.

And what a performance it was! A flaming Phoenix, rising from the earth! It splayed its multihued feathers, and lit up the sky with lightning!

Oh, but she wasn’t done.

This wasn’t just a show of force, or of control!

Well, it was control… but of a different sort.

The Phoenix danced. It flew! It changed silver into gold, and mud into fresh hay. She even had it sweep over a filly’s broken leg, and heal her up as good as new!

Sunset had nailed it. Her final exam at CSGU was almost over, and no matter how much the professors might despise her, she’d won.

Almost.

Celestia wasn’t smiling. She hadn’t done that in a while. Sunset could get a ‘nice job’ out of her most days, but the smiles had vanished since Cadance had shown up.

Little upstart.

Thief, more like it.

Trying to steal my crown? Sunset thought.

The finale approached, and Sunset’s phoenix spell rose up into the air. This would be the tricky part…

The Phoenix wrapped the sun in its wings, and…


“How… how dare you…!?”

“Sunset, please…”

“I had it right where I wanted it!”

“Had what? The SUN?”

“Yes!”

“… How…? How arrogant are you!? Have you even heard the Hearth’s Warming story? I thought we covered it…”

“Aced the paper, and I played Princess Platinum last year.”

“Not my point. Sunset! You could have died!”

“Says who?”

“Even Starswirl needed a team of unicorn mages to move the sun…”

“Yeah, well, I don’t. Maybe if he tried harder…”

“You can’t believe that.”

“Come off it, Celestia! We both know I’m the most powerful student you’ve ever had. And yeah, I’m counting that pink pinup model you hoofed a crown to…”

“Sunset…”

“Oh, she beat a witch! Big whoop, I was the one who trounced that failure Prismia out of here to begin with!”

“That’s not something to brag about…”

“Well, what else?”

“… What?”

“What more do you want from me? When are you going to make me a Princess?”

“…”

“Well!?”

“Sunset… there’s something I’d like to show you…”


"I deserve to stand beside you and be your equal... if not your better. Make me a princess!"

“No. Being a princess must be earned. I have been trying to teach you everything you need to know, but you've turned from it. Every time you say you ‘deserve’ to get something without the effort just proves to me that you are not ready.”

“This is the biggest mistake you'll make in your entire life.”

“One of many…”


"Believe me... I've got everything I need to know about you."


"Twilight Sparkle thinks she can win Fall Formal Princess over me? HA! I'm going to rule this school once I get that crown!"


"Sorry it had to be this way... Princess!"


"I'm sorry. I'm so sorry... I didn't know there was another way…"


The Fall Formal.

The Sirens, and the Battle of the Bands.

Princess Twilight.

Rarity and Applejack.

Pinkie Pie.

Rainbow Dash.

Fluttershy.

Twilight Sparkle and her sister, Midnight.

Celestia.

Luna.

Time.

It all went back.

And forth.

She could see it all.

Feel it all.

Her whole life went past her at the speed of Time.

Sunset felt her soul being crushed as the Anon-a-Miss disaster swept by her again, every feeling and thought coming back as if it had just happened again.

There was Ray, and all the times she’d fed him, played with him, or just enjoyed the little lizard’s presence.

Flash Sentry.

One of Pinkie’s parties.

All of Pinkie’s parties.

The cruise ship.

That stupid rap video Dash swore she torched once they realized what they’d done.

Flash Sentry, again.

That second, better cruise ship.

Wallflower.

Juniper.

Dazzlings.

Disqord.

It was too much, too fast. Too slow. Too painful.

“Ouroboros,” she said to no one, to nothing, “The snake consuming its own tail…”


She was warm.

She was loved.

It was all a haze, except for the love. And the warmth.

But then… there was screaming.

What did the One want? Why was she mad? Sun…

Sun… She would do anything to stop her crying. She was everything to her.


Still warm.

Still loved.

She liked being loved.

Other was also warm. He had mane on his chin. He was funny like that.

There was still a lot of screaming. Ponies in white jumping around, and glowing. Was this a game? Were they playing a game!? She didn’t know if she liked games, but she wanted to try!

Oh… there was another pony. She felt so warm.

She was so beautiful! Not like One. No. Nothing could ever be so beautiful as One. She had a horn and wings though.

Maybe that counted for something?


There were lots of screaming. And crying. Why did One cry? Who made her cry? Didn’t they know she was the most beautiful, wonderful thing in the world?


Other is funny! He makes these faces! How wonderful!

He’s almost like the One. Maybe… maybe she would love him too?

Can she love more than One?

Huh…


Sunset awoke, and felt… warm. That was wrong. She shouldn’t have been warm.

Where’s the snow?

Groggily, she tried to open her eyes. But something held them shut. She was so tired. She hadn’t felt like this since…

There was… a song? Someone… somepony was singing? It came from above her. Somewhere up above. But who…?

“In the gloaming, oh my darling,
When the lights are soft and low,
And the quiet shadows, falling,
Softly come and softly go.”

It was beautiful. And so haunting. Sunset felt the song, less as a sound, and more like a pain in her heart.

Where have I heard that before?

She had to have heard it before. It was too familiar to just be a song!

Sunset opened her eyes.

She was pressed up to a mare’s chest. Soft, purple fur caressed her cheeks and tickled her nose. In a moment of utter bewilderment, Sunset could almost forget the fact that she was… was so tiny! This mare was holding her in her forelegs like she was a small loaf of bread!

No, what caught Sunset’s attention first, and foremost… was that she knew the mare.

Starlight Glimmer, eyes closed, continued to sing.

“When the trees are sobbing faintly,
With a gentle unknown woe,
Will you think of me and love me,
As you did once, long ago?”

“Starlight!” she called out, “Starlight! What’s going on!?”

Starlight’s ears twitched. She opened her own, tired eyes, and looked down at Sunset.

“Starlight?”

Her mother said nothing. The smile that stole over her face was so… calm. So peaceful. Even though she was tired, so clearly run down and exhausted, her smile was full of life.

As were her eyes full of tears.

“For my heart was tossed with longing,
What had been could never be,
It was best to leave you thus, dear,
Best for you, and best for me…”

“Starlight! Listen to me!”

Starlight leaned down, and it caused a shadow of fear to take hold of Sunset’s heart. Her friend… her mother was so huge! The whole ceiling looked like it bent around her!

But that fear dissolved as Starlight pressed her face into Sunset’s own, and kissed her little filly right on her cheek, and let their horns touch ever so softly.

She was warm.

She was loved.

Sunset’s thoughts raced. Where did that come from?

“I see you’re awake, my little Sunshine,” Starlight cooed down at Sunset, who could only bask in the radiance of that… that love.

It was overpowering. Like an aura of warmth, and light, and smell.

She couldn’t push it away.

Because I didn’t push it away, she started to think again, This… this is a memory. My empathy magic… why is it so hard to think…?

Deciding that… for better or worse, Sunset was now where she was at… she let herself float along in the moment, observing her own memory like she was watching a film.

What am I meant to see?

Starlight began to brush the wavy, ephemeral locks of her mane while she spoke.

“You’re so beautiful, do you know that?” she said, softly, “I don’t think I ever thought I’d say that about a baby. I… I never thought about having one, to be honest. The Great Work came first.”

She shook her head, a momentary flash of doubt, and guilt, marred her smile.

“But… your father wanted you. And… I wanted to make him happy. And now?”

She kissed Sunset’s horn, eliciting a giggle from the tiny foal.

“I couldn’t imagine a world without you.”

She looked away, and for a moment it was like the sun had vanished.

“But… I have to.”

She looked back, and there was the sun again.

“But…” Starlight licked her lips, and looked up. Her eyes watched the edges of the room, scanned them for any sign of movement.

Finding nothing, she returned to her baby, one hoof gently tracing Sunset’s face.

“But I could… I could stop it,” she said, her voice a whisper, “I didn’t really dream all that much last night. Luna came by… guess you’ll meet her eventually… and we talked. And we talked. And…

“I did a bad thing once,” Starlight’s tone shifted, slightly, “A bad thing I would never, never do again, because what I did was so bad… it was so terrible…”

She grit her teeth, and looked away again. Sunset’s heart trembled to see her like this, but so small, so helpless, she could do nothing.

“Please,” she said, “Don’t be sad. I’m here. I’m still here.”

“Sunshine,” Starlight’s voice, though a whisper, was deafening to Sunset, “My Sunshine… I spent my dreams planning on how I could save you. But every time I thought I had it… I lost you again. Time itself is my enemy. And that’s something I can’t do anything about.

“It will take you from me,” she snarled, “and would I… if I could, I would burn the very stars in the sky for you. I would shake the foundations of the earth, the very bones that the world rests upon…”

Tears flowed, in silence, from her eyes. Starlight took a deep, shuddering breath.

“I love you… Sunset,” she said, “I love you so… so much. But you’ll forget all about me…”


“No! Momma! I won’t forget you! I drew you! I know I did…!”

The lights had all gone out, and the warmth… the warmth was still there, but now a bitter cold nipped at her face. It didn’t matter how much Starlight pressed the little foal into her coat, the cold was still trying to claw its way in.

She cried. What else was she to do?

She was about to be Alone.

“Starlight…!” a strangely familiar voice called out, over the roar of flames.

“I can save her!” Starlight’s eyes, mad and lost, locked onto the other mare’s, “I can save you! I just… I just need a moment, a few paradox-amplifier spells, and… and…”

“Momma!” Sunset cried out, “Momma! I’m here! Don’t go! Please don’t go! Don’t leave me!”

“I can fix this…!”

An amber hoof reached out of the darkness. It was trying to take her mother away from Sunset. She… she needed to stop it…

“Mom!” Sunset cried, her heart shattering as she managed to pull a hoof free from her blanket, and made to push back…


“… Mom…” Sunset’s voice cracked as she recoiled from her younger self, their momentary touch…

Starlight had frozen, staring aghast as her… as her daughter was overtaken by the light. She’d heard, secondhoof, about Sunset’s visions, but to see it in action took the heart of her.

Her baby was in pain. There was nothing else, no explanation. Tears poured from Sunset’s eyes, eyes that had for a moment been like the sun itself in intensity. And Starlight knew, that pain was her fault.

Sunset’s eyes faded back to normal, as did… little Sunset’s. The baby fell away to sleep the instant that the glow went away, though to both mares’ eyes, it did not go completely. Though her eyes had cleared, the light flashed across the slumbering child, settling onto her flank.

Starlight, hesitantly, drew back the swaddling.

“Mom…”

There was the red and gold sun.

“Mom, please…”

Balance. Healing. Fire. Eternity.

“I can’t lose you again…”

Harmony.

In complete silence, Starlight Glimmer kissed her baby one last time, and set her atop a small bank of snow.

She turned around, and ran.

Starlight could never look back. Not when the sounds of sirens filled her ears, and the wail of her child assaulted her very soul.


She felt cold.

Author's Note:

I'll love you forever,
I'll love you always,
And even when you're not with me,
My baby, you'll be.