• Published 12th Jan 2020
  • 1,940 Views, 93 Comments

Distance Beyond Any Measure - Ice Star

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

  • ...

Chapter 5: A Prodigal Sun's Beginnings

The harsh sobbing of Sunset Shimmer was an unfamiliar assault to Princess Celestia’s ears. But she knew it could be none other than Sunset who made the sound, even if she had never once heard Sunset cry. That was many of the peculiarities of Sunset Shimmer; she was the youngest Faithful Student that Princess Celestia had ever had, and yet she would never, ever cry.

Would she stamp her hoof? Absolutely. Whenever the filly fit so neatly in Celestia’s shadow, there was a way that she would paw at the ground and kick. It was always when her princess had a correction to Sunset’s form – or her Student’s everything – and that creativity was never to take the place of order, nor was deviance from rules a proper form of exercise in learning. Unfortunately, Sunset was always so very vocal about that.

Stamping aside, she had tantrums that Celestia could only presume were an inevitable phase for a filly her age. That was the only reason she tolerated them when they had their privacy – her Sunny was a teenager, and one that would outgrow all her harsh words and edges. Thus, Celestia let her Faithful Student have some inappropriate fire, knowing that she didn’t have to listen to the crueler nature of teenage complaints because they would all fade with time.

She approached Sunset’s door. The sounds of retching sobs only grew, disturbing her enough for her ears to slip back before Princess Celestia could control herself. Something deeply violent – and even worse, horribly passionate – was buried deep in those sounds.

How could there be all these tears? Celestia had been careful to give Sunset her space after the debacle and against her better instinct to be the hovering force that filly needed. Cadance had just needed her more.

Cadance had been the filly with reason to cry.

When the door was small before Celestia, she abandoned all pretenses of slinking about. It was a hard thing to do as a mare of her stature, and she was never one to be made small in her own home.

Her magic wrapped itself around the handle, bright and shining. Princess Celestia breathed a sigh of relief when the handle twisted easily. If there was one thing that was rooted too deeply in Sunset’s mind and words, it was the matter of her room key. She had taken to jamming her door shut with nuisance magic, even going so far as to weld previous handles and hinges to seal herself inside during previous outbursts, insisting that her music was never too loud, she hadn’t rolled her eyes, and that Celestia was smothering her – which was absolutely not true, as were the monologues about needing privacy. Young and moody fillies were not to be left alone. Heavens knew how neglected they could feel without supervision and guidance.

The tween’s pyromancy was a constant source of scolding, with Celestia ensuring that her Faithful Student wrote enough lines to fill two notebooks about not engaging in delinquency or wasting her talents – and using up the stationery meant for letters to her grandmother or mandatory apologies to the staff each time she had to be freed from her mistakes.

Sunset was well on her way to filling up her third notebook, which was stored neatly in Princess Celestia’s office with the others and copies of all of Sunset’s letters. Those were to be reviewed aloud whenever Sunset Shimmer went back on a promise to somepony, not limited to but including whenever another door had to be replaced.

“Sunset Shimmer?” Celestia called, keeping her voice between delicate and stern. That filly needed to know that she was still going to be in trouble after her tears were banished. “You’ve had a whole half-hour to yourself. I think that’s more than enough, don’t you?”

“Go away,” hissed the voice of Sunset.

Celestia didn’t need to poke her head past cheery, pale blue sheets to know that Sunset had her face pressed into her pillow. It muffled everything meant to be intimidating about her words, save for the unnerving contempt that oozed from them.

“You know that I’m not leaving until you fix what you did wrong. Cadance is still very distraught about what happened.” After ducking through the frame and pulling the rest of her mane through the comparatively narrow doorway, Princess Celestia shut the door. “That filly didn’t deserve your words.”

“I don’t c-care,” stammered Sunset from her lair.

Celestia sighed, watching the writhing of sheets out of the corner of her eye. Distasteful posters and other decals had been plastered over what part of the walls Sunset could access without help. Desecrating their soft, elegant colors were a variety of drag racing carts, ghastly metal bands, and snarling sea monsters. Bottles of black hoof polish and mangled mascara sticks were crammed across Sunset’s vanity. Many were uncapped. The sight of a dark sweatshirt hanging across Sunset’s laundry basket so carelessly made Celestia purse her lips into a strained, thin line.

“You need to care because there is a filly alone in her room crying her eyes out over some very nasty words you said, young lady. Screaming and cursing in somepony’s face is never deserved. I need you to understand that and apologize to Cadance.”

“I don’t wanna.” The sheets writhed again from the hooves kicking under them.

“This isn’t about what you want.”

“It never is!” Sunset shouted suddenly.

The patter of Celestia’s heart rose and fell with the suddenness of her Faithful Student’s aggressive words. “That is a very selfish mindset to have, and I will tolerate no such conceited behavior in my castle.”

“Then why don’t you leave, huh? Everything’s always about you and what’s perfect—”

“First of all, that is unacceptable to say about your teacher. Second, none of that is true. I am not a mare for pride or stubbornness because I have spent centuries weeding out such things and learning differently. Ponies who act otherwise would not have friends, and I certainly would not tolerate their actions as a Faithful Student. Do you mean to tell me that I, who sacrifice everything for you and welcome you into my home, have somehow placed myself above you? Above anypony?”

Yes!” screamed Sunset, and Celestia had to dodge a pillow wrapped in her Student’s magic, as per usual. “Yes, yes, yes! You never let me—”

“I’m starting to think I let you get away with far too much,” Celestia said, clicking her tongue and stepping around another pillow’s path. She trotted coolly up to where her Faithful Student was making her display of temper and pulled back the canopy bed’s curtain.

“C-Cadance got to be a Princess...” spat Sunset, using her forehooves to rub her pillow into her hidden face. “Why h-her? You’ve never even met her!”

“And what is that accusation supposed to mean, hm?” Celestia stood with an unfazed mask of calm as she regarded the strands of firey mane angrily tangling the pastel pillowcase. She rarely showed anything less, and certainly would never face a child with anything suggesting true frustration or flaws. What young one could ever cope with knowing that they put a strain on their elders? It wasn’t right. “I put great care into introducing you two, and you scream these kinds of curses in her face. Such a display of emotion—”

It’s more than you ever show!

These were the remarks Celestia could never bring herself to dignify. “Cadance deserves an apology. You will give her one.”

“What?” Sunset spat gloomily into her nest of blankets. “I don’t get a choice?”

“How can you behave that way towards Cadance and think this is about you having choices? Sunset, I am here because your poor actions went against what a sweet young filly like Cadance deserves. Don’t you think she wants to be your friend? She has nothing against you, nor she has ever done anything to bring you down. Yet you have torn her down upon your first encounter. Can you not imagine the pain it brings me to see you disgrace her like that?”

“So what?” Sunset hissed, tone bordering on an unequine snarl. “You let her have everything!”

“That is where you’re simply wrong—”

Yes!” Sunset shrieked into her pillow, wadding it up to her face and kicking her hindlegs in frustration. Their angry thumps beat into her already messy bedsheets. “Because it’s me! I’m always the wrong one! Not you! Tartarus, why can’t it ever be you?! When do you ever get to be wrong?”

Princess Celestia inhaled sharply. “What did I tell you about speaking this way?”

Sunset’s hidden-faced, angry shuddering slowed, and with it, the motion of her twisted sheets lessened. “To never talk about my elders that way.”

“And do you know why I tell you that?”

“Age begets wisdom,” Sunset puffed, pawing at her unruly locks with a defiant gesture of her forehoof, “or something like that.”

“Apathy and anger suit nopony, my Faithful Student. They are poison in all ways, and no good heart has them.”

“Is that your way of telling me I’m t-terrible, Princess?”

Though Sunset did not look at her, Celestia kept her expression smooth of emotion as she shook her head. It was not the bit of formality wrapped in misbehavior that bothered her – Sunset always addressed her with title alone or her name following it, as the filly was instructed to – the idea that her Faithful Student had such little faith in her struck a poor chord in Celestia.

“Of course not, my Faithful Student. The only thing terrible to speak of has been your behavior—”

“But—” Sunset began, with hints of upset already pouncing in her cracking voice.

“I’m speaking right now, Sunset,” Princess Celestia chastised Sunset swiftly, “and I have told you that interrupting isn’t polite, now haven’t I?”

Sunset’s only reply now was to force her muzzle deeper into her pillow, with a manner suggesting she was clenching her jaw. The filly’s whole body was quivering with upset that would need time and lectures to defuse.

“You say that young Cadance has everything, but what Cadance hasn’t told you is how alone she is.”

“Why can’t she tell me that herself?”

“Young lady,” cautioned Princess Celestia, “who is it that was speaking? You, or me?”


“Ah, ah, ah!” Celestia waggled a forehoof primly in her Faithful Student’s direction, an errant beam of sunlight making the gold shine much more harshly. “I don’t want to hear any more protests. When I speak, it is with the voice of those who often cannot bring themselves to illuminate that which burdens them. Are those really the words you wish to squash, my Faithful Student?”

“Mmpfh,” harrumphed Sunset through a mouthful of her pillow.

“You forget empathy, and with it, kindness. Cadance is a filly much like yourself, young and full of feelings that are going to be telling you many confusing things – the kind of things that you will be laughing at many years from now. She needs friends as much as you, for she left her family and the only home she had ever known behind. When you arrived at my school all the way from Tall Tale, you were exactly the same. Showing her anything but the utmost respect is hypocritical on your part. She is hurt, Sunset, and deserves an apology.”

“Deserves?” Sunset sniffled loudly. “Why is it that you get to say who deserves everything?”

“She who bears the crown knows these things, my Faithful Student. I have spent my life looking out for all my little ponies, and you don’t think I know who deserves what and who does not, or anything of a good greater than even I? I do not reward poor behavior, and how you have been acting is absolutely unacceptable. Cadance not only deserves her apology; she will be getting one. What in the heavens’ name could make you think she has anything you don’t?”

“She has wings,” Sunset pouted.

“That filly was born with wings.”

“Yeah,” Sunset whined, a hiccup entering her tone. “Well, I don’t have any!”

“She is a very special case,” Celestia said, her words coming out with the care of spun glass. There were things too big for this filly to understand, and Celestia was not about to admit that she was not some breezie godmother who made every little filly a princess. Heavens only knew how such an ill-chosen answer could reflect on them both. “And you neglect to see that though Cadance stays with me, I still only have one Faithful Student.”

Years ago, those kinds of words so stuffed with warmth would have drawn Sunset to her as easily as a bird looking to eat seeds from her hoof. For reasons Celestia could not begin to understand, these very words now had Sunset Shimmer sobbing into the pillow she clutched all over again. The only thing Princess Celestia could find relief in was that Sunset’s obscured face meant that the filly could not see her teacher recoil, stunned and afraid by the reaction her words had received.

With the greatest reluctance, Princess Celestia inched out a hoof as though she were about to guide a baby breezie’s first steps. She patted Sunset Shimmer upon her wither lightly, but not without familiarity, and she felt far away from the filly’s emotions. The kind of odd, fluffy itch in her chest that rose during all these moments, knowing the barrier between Sunset’s teenage tempestuous mind and her own life was merely inevitable.

She couldn’t think of anything to say – so she put her energy into simple pats and screwed-tight composure because the creeping silence she detested was pressing down on her thoughts in one fell swoop.

The nothingness squeezed at Princess Celestia as Sunset’s sobs rose with her efforts to calm the filly.

“Princess?” Sunset squeaked after some time, her voice dry and choked.

Celestia watched calmly as Sunset Shimmer lifted her head to face her teacher, her Faithful Student’s face visibly smeared with runny patches of mascara as prominent as piebald splotches. Sunset’s eyes were a watery, red, and puffy mess.

Princess Celestia knew that making any attempt to acknowledge the physical disarray so boldly presented from under bright tangles of mane would be a poor direction for her behavior.

“Yes, my Faithful Student? Do you feel any better?”

Sunset ignored the second question, only dignifying it with a raspy hum. She squeezed her teary eyes together for a few heartbeats at the sunlight brightening her room. “Could I ask you something?”

“Is it about Cadance’s horn?”

“No, I promise it isn’t.” Sunset opened her eyes again to rub at her snotty muzzle, and there were a dozen chastisements caught in Princess Celestia’s throat at the sight of snot hanging on Sunset’s coat in unsightly globs.

“If that is so, then you may ask me whatever you wish, Sunset.” Celestia tried to show the smile she thought would be soft and appropriate enough for the situation.

“Princess, do you love me?” Sunset asked, blinking her messy eyes directly up at her.

Celestia’s smile was too practiced to be caught off guard by the inquiries of the young – and really, a tween was only a taller child with moody phases and words they didn’t mean heavy upon their tongue.

“Why,” Celestia beamed gently down at Sunset, at last letting her mind ease itself into the pleasant tone Sunset was taking things, “of course I do! You are my most Faithful Student, and I have loved every little unicorn to bear that title most dearly. Whyever would you think I didn’t?”

Sunset didn’t blink, her eyes fixing Celestia with a sudden coolness beneath her face of ruined makeup. Something about the filly suddenly shrank into an owlish, unreadable state so solemn and odd.

“Because I had to ask you.”

Author's Note:

All prodigal suns have to run away first.

Enjoy this bonus chapter.

Comments ( 45 )

Oh god. Sunny please tell Celestia how you really feel:raritycry: and boy, do I wish Luna to be there, she’d at least talk her sister into some sense. Great chapter!

Thanks for the comment! I’m glad this update got noticed so quickly.

“Because I had to ask you.”


Thank you for being the first person I can remember to comment on one of my stories with ‘oof’.

Don't worry, it's a good oof. Like I know that had to hurt Celly. She kinda deserves it.

Ayyy I’m just glad I can finally check that off the list of comments to get.

That hurt a lot more than I expected it to.

I was just rereading this today, so it is to my pleasant surprise there's an update.

“Because I had to ask you.”

Those words hurt.

Another beautiful story that destroys your heart.

That’s the idea; thank y’all for reading!

“Because I had to ask you.”

That pretty much sums up their entire relationship.

Seconding the "oof".

More 'oofs' only make me stronger.

“Because I had to ask you.”

A burn hotter than the Sun. Oh no...

Oh man, such an interesting story.
Celestia Celestia, can't you see what you have done?

Two fillies, as different as day and night.
One of a nature so sweet and endearing that love comes easily, but with no part in the great plan (and how interesting that the focus on one prophecy has blinded Celestia to all other possible fates and futures?)
One with a heavy and troubled mind, but so bright and powerful that it has been put upon her to fulfill a grand prophecy.

And so, two fillies, one who is treated kindly, with simple goals and a plain future, is granted peace and love.
Another kept to the grindstone of fate, sharpened and honed to be the blade against nightmares, but with no knowledge of her true purpose, how is she to see any other goal in her life, than the one seemingly given for free?

Celestia, you are the instrument of your own pain.

For real, every single word out of Celestia's mouth this last chapter brought me pain. Darn it princess, I know the clock is ticking, but kids don't act out like this without a reason.

Thanks for reading and the comment! I'm glad that the story car across so strongly.

One with a heavy and troubled mind, but so bright and powerful that it has been put upon her to fulfill a grand prophecy.

Unless I'm reading this wrong, there's only one prophecy here.

artistic license, it sounded better.

Oh my goodness, how? This was completed a while ago!
As a writer; I can confirm that it often does have that effect.

Really, I thought they posted the feature yesterday?

Ohhhhhh gosh this twisted my heart in hurtful ways. Especially that last line. Celestia in this was really well done in that she's just so distant, which is the entire point, aaaaaaaaa

Bit my lip and tried not to cry, well done!

Thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment! I'm glad the story was so effective for you.

... You'd think that with a thousand years, or near... Whatever. You'd think that Celestia would've picked up some parenting tips in that time. Then again. The throne is a perilous position fraught with many distractions and threats.

There’s folks who haven’t learned parenting by their sixth kid, so not knowing how after thousands of years isn’t that much of a stretch.

This is a really good take on celestia's parenting skills and confidence in it. What's the saying? Parents think they know what they're doing until their second or third kid come along, then realize the rules they knew don't apply to every kid the same? Clearly, Sunset doesn't just want to be princess, she wants to be special, and for all of Celestia kindness and counsel here, she does not do that at all. See, it's easy to write Celestia telling Sunset exactly what she's doing wrong, because we know how she eventually gets better way down the line. You draw a picture of different good advice that doesn't stick, because Celestia is talking in terms of roles and virtues, not so much feelings of loneliness and worth, which might actually bond Cadence and Sunset.


Clearly, Sunset doesn't just want to be princess, she wants to be special, and for all of Celestia kindness and counsel here, she does not do that at all.

Ding ding ding. Here you have it. The ineffective parent has a child who wants to be special to them but is a problem child in the parent's eyes. (If you happen to be particularly interested in Sunset's perspective, I have a story running that's about her POV! It ties in with this one.)

Hi, I'm writing to let you know that I've selected your story from the main folder of the MLRF group. If you want to request a different reviewer or no longer want this story reviewed, do let me know. I also offer scoreless reviews, if you'd like one again let me know. Otherwise, I look forwards to reading your story!

I don’t mind! Though, how do the scored and scoreless reviews vary?


Scoreless reviews basically just don't have a score, if you don't want to attach a number to your story

I don’t mind a score.

Hey! This was reviewed here. I hope you find what I have to say useful. Thanks for submitting. Deuces!

Thanks for the review, upvote, and favorite. I'll be sure to leave a longer response on the review itself!

Beautiful story, god damn. Hope to see more Sunset stories in the future, although im pretty sure you said you weren't gonna make anymore of her and celestia which sucks, but I have no power here.

“Because I had to ask you.”

Yeah, Celestia in you're stories is kind of a fucking mistake when dealing with family, ngl. I mean seirously you'd think she'd at least take a single lesson from Luna, but nooooo.

I might write more with Sunset in them, but not about younger Sunset with Celestia like in the stories here.
In a way, she did learn it just wasn’t the right lesson. Instead of being neglectful she gets too obsessive. that’s just one example, though.

Considering Nightmare Moon and the thousand-year prophecy, Discord, and shenanigans with Cadance... yeah. She's very much a mom, just not the best at it.

Agreed, I do love momlestia and sunset fics though, they range from adorable to heartwrenching. I still love them all the same. :)

Thankies pogchamp.

Her magic wrapped itself around the handle, bright and shining. Princess Celestia breathed a sigh of relief when the handle twisted easily. If there was one thing that was rooted too deeply in Sunset’s mind and words, it was the matter of her room key. She had taken to jamming her door shut with nuisance magic, even going so far as to weld previous handles and hinges to seal herself inside during previous outbursts, insisting that her music was never too loud, she hadn’t rolled her eyes, and that Celestia was smothering her – which was absolutely not true, as were the monologues about needing privacy. Young and moody fillies were not to be left alone. Heavens knew how neglected they could feel without supervision and guidance.

Huh just realized how ironic that last part is. Because sunset felt neglect on a huge level.

I am nothing if not ironic.

I was wondering in this Universe does Sunset get blasted by Rainbow Deus Ex Machina (TM) Or does she get character dev on the other side of the portal, itd be pretty cool if it were the latter.

I use the first three Equestria Girls movies for the 'verse. So, while she gets blasted by the Elements of Harmony, she likely experienced something in there too that inspired her growth. It just wouldn't zap her 'good' per se.

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