• Published 12th Jan 2020
  • 1,943 Views, 93 Comments

Distance Beyond Any Measure - Ice Star

How do you tell a child that she will never be enough?

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Chapter 4: Locks and Keys

“Why can’t I have a key?” Sunset asked, pouting. Her fiery waves fell around her face, sharply fracturing an even view of it. “It’s my bedroom, I think I deserve the key.”

“Sunny, unless Philomena creeps into your room at night and threatens to gobble you up, there’s no need for a key.”

Celestia’s attempt to tease was as lost on the filly as the foalish pet name. Eight days ago had been Sunset’s birthday, and the princess had a group of gifts she had given the filly: lip gloss, a hoof polish kit, one colorful compendium of magical sea creatures, a pre-paid year-long pass to a local arcade, a brand new calculator, and a fresh bouquet of sunflowers. The last item was a customary gift; every birthday her Faithful Student would get a bouquet of their favorite flowers freshly cut from Celestia’s gardens.

Sunset had been smiling when she had gotten her other usual gift: a scrumptious cake, just for them to share, made by the kitchen staff. It was Sunset’s favorite kind – Alicorn food cake with black cherry icing, sickly sweet and covered with sprinkles – and that hadn’t stopped Celestia from noticing the smiles Sunny had shown her didn’t feel like birthday smiles.

“That’s not fair!” the filly protested, crossing her forelegs and harrumphing.

“I think it is quite fair if you are going to be taking new things from other ponies. How else am I going to make sure you aren’t getting into trouble?”

She sulked all too obviously in her chair, with all the subtlety of her new makeup. ‘New’ because not all of it was from the small collection the princess had gifted her student. Sunset had managed to get an eyeliner pencil from somepony and apply thick rings around her eyes without poking herself. A smidgen of green apple chapstick was on her teeth.

(That, Celestia had gotten for her.)

There was no problem with makeup, but Celestia was of the opinion that fillies who wanted it should get into it gradually. Any filly under her care could paint themselves as much as they wanted and however they wanted when they were older. Sunset was an eleven-year-old filly currently putting a raccoon to shame in terms of eye-rings. It was absolutely ridiculous. At the very least, Sunset could have asked Celestia how to use the pencil properly if she felt mature enough to wear it, and Celestia would have shown her with some of her own makeup.

Sunset’s allowance could have certainly accounted for the purchase if Princess Celestia didn’t have Sunset Shimmer turn over all her receipts when she spent her bits (part of this incorporating financial responsibility into her lessons).

“Didn’t your other students have keys to their bedrooms?” Sunset asked, a whining edge in her tone. “Princess, what makes me so different?”

Celestia bit the inside of her cheek and discreetly took a deep breath with a sip of her tea. “You have been causing some trouble, and troublemakers aren’t rewarded in this castle. At least not until I start seeing some changes. And no, Sunset. None of my previous Faithful Students had a key to their rooms until they came of age and moved into the library tower for their full-time adult residence. We had a system of trust, and each of their guardians gave me their written approval for this. Sunny, your grandmother was very clear when she signed papers to transfer your guardianship to me that my rules were not going to be any trouble. Do you think your grandmother was wrong to trust me? Or that she was a foolish old gray mare by any means?”

“That’s still no fair! I shouldn’t have to wait years to get my key. Can’t I buy it? I get good grades!”

“I am not a mare who accepts bribes,” Celestia said, giving Sunset a stern look that her gentle tone lacked. “Even the bribes of fillies. Your marks are very good, Sunset. That isn’t what is going to get you more leniency around the castle.”

Sunset gave a heavy sigh too moody for her few years. When her ears swiveled, the clip-on phoenix feather earrings that she got last Hearth’s Warming jangled noisily. “Don’t I look nice?”

One of Princess Celestia’s eyebrows climbed higher. “If you feel nice, then you look nice. Though, if we work on turning some of your behavior around and getting that ambition under control, I will consider a shopping trip. Some nice, colorful new clothes could be some good motivation, don’t you think?”

Sunset looked away from her teacher’s smile. “Black is a very grown-up color. I don’t need a silly rainbow.”

What is it this filly could possibly want to make her understand what I’m trying to tell her?

“That may be, but you do need to-”

“Why are you always the one telling me what I need to do?” Sunset demanded, the hostility only found in brats sharpening her words. “I try too hard in lessons one day! The next day my clothes aren’t right for when that dumb Trottish king visits from Edinbridle. After that, I’m arrogant and con-dee-send-ing to the staff! Or, 'thrill-seeking’ and ‘disobedient’! We can't forget those!”

“Yes,” Princess Celestia said with a sharp breath. The taste of peppermint tea was still on her tongue and the paintings of her frolicking subjects were oblivious to the tension in the parlor. “I have told you some of those things, but never with the cruelty you see to throw back at me. I’ve never reprimanded you once in front of anypony else, even when you do not put your best hoof forwards, because I am not cruel. What I’ve had enough is you overstepping my boundaries and mistreating the ponies I care about by taking out your problems on others. Do you hear me, Sunset Shimmer?”

“Well.” Sunset sniffled heavily, her eyes squinted with too much petty anger to cry, “What I’ve had enough of is never being good enough for a mare farther away than the moon!”

Author's Note:

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This is currently complete, but if there are requests for an epilogue or fifth chapter I would consider it. This short story took off quite a bit, but it was still meant to be an aside from my longer upcoming and in-progress works.

I’m not sure what the specific content for another chapter would be. My other current running Sunset story and this one aren’t stories I want to retread any material with, and this has reached its end, so I’ll be back to updates on that one and it’s POV focus on Sunny.

Thank you for reading!