• Member Since 6th Nov, 2012
  • offline last seen 7 hours ago

ArgonMatrix


I've never seen a place that's quite like this. Everything is turned around; this crazy world is upside down.

E

Sunset Shimmer has hated Cadance since before they even met. After working her tail off for so many years as Princess Celestia's personal protégé, striving for perfection and aiming to eventually earn a royal title of her own, to have some random, two-bit nopony fall out of the sky and steal her crown felt like a kick to the horn.

So you can imagine Sunset's absolute delight when Princess Celestia assigns her to be Cadance's private magic tutor.

While at first it seems like some cruel punishment, Sunset quickly sees a golden opportunity. If she does this right, she might stand to gain far more than a mere grade.

Chapters (9)
Comments ( 102 )

Cadance: is wholesome
Sunset: UGH

Houyhnhnm's Guide to Magical Arcana

A classic, especially the section on the care and feeding of Yahoos. Hope Sunset read that one carefully...

In any case, great stuff so far. It's honestly sad to see Sunset like this. Even from a more callous perspective, she's throwing away one heck of a chance to network. But she never really appreciated any kind of power that didn't come from a horn until she lost hers, and that's still years in her future. Looking forward to seeing where you go with this.

Yeah, the title laugh earned a Tracking. I'll probably check it out after a few more chapters are added.

Cheers.

I was kinda disappointed there wasn't a romance or comedy tag. This premise would make for a great ship-fic, or even just a buddy comedy.

Looks interesting. I can't help but wonder just how Sunset is going to screw this up.

I NEED more
This is so ridiculously good
All your Cadance stories are but this is a particularly top notch one

10026470
I 100% agree on how sad it is seeing Sunset with so much vitriol, especially knowing where she ends up. Getting in the right headspace to write her makes me feel miserable after a while. I actually almost swapped the story to Cadance's POV for that reason, but it would definitely lose something that way.

10026523
Thanks! This is one of the rare instances where the title came to me before anything else. I wrote it down like two months ago, but the story to match it didn't strike me so readily.

10026645
Appreciate that, thanks!

10027035
I definitely considered leaning heavier into the comedy angle, but I don't trust myself to write consistently funny material. There'll still be humorous moments, at least! As for romance, I can't say it didn't cross my mind, honestly.

10027073
Thanks! And yeah, that's the thing. We know where both of these characters end up, so this one isn't likely to have the happiest ending. Hopefully it'll be fun seeing how they get there, though.

10027172
I'm happy you think so! I definitely felt The Muse more strongly while writing this one than I have in a good while. Maybe something about a more familiar setting, or the characters' ages, or that I find the core concept really fun—probably some combination thereof. Hopefully I can continue to deliver!

Most of this comment's length comes from quoting the lines I liked. If you find they make it a chore to read, I'll remove them and copy them in a private message instead.

Thank you for writing this. Stories about Sunset and Cadance are extremely few and far between. And I found it so well-written too, a real pleasure to breeze through.

I enjoy the old Sunset so much more than the current one and that's whom I got here. Arrogant, selfish, probably entitled, with simply not a single instant to waste on things—or people—not worth her time... But at the same time clever enough to know to try to hold her tongue rather than paint a (bigger) target on her back for Celestia and with enough self-control to succeed most of the time.

For her part, Cadance was as adorable, cheerful and friendly as I expected her to be—and that meant she reacted to Sunset's harshness the same way. I've always loved the contrast between the two of them, this probable one-sided rivalry we never got to see in either the show or the comics.

I also liked the 'magic-building,' so to speak.

Moving on to more technical matters, the story was delightfully free from the noun groups I see so often, like 'the unicorn,' 'Celestia's student,' 'the yellow mare' and so on so forth. With one exception: "the alicorn." But seeing how bitter Sunset is about Cadance, it just makes sense that she'd occasionally refer to her as that rather than use her name.

In fact, I'm surprised there were so few insults thrown into her mental narration; just one instance of "tiara-wearing ditz," and even then it's more Sunset lamenting being stuck playing tutor than actually describing Cadance that way while focusing on her; and then some genuine whiplash with an outright "this sow."

I've also noticed there were many comparisons of the 'she scrunched her muzzle like she'd been force-fed something foul' variety across the story. Probably a quirk of Sunset's personality and not one I mind in principle, in fact I liked that kind of train of thought a lot, but there were enough such comparisons crammed in shortish succession in the first part to make me raise an eyebrow.

I found one typo; the line "Her eyes continued to wander, for a lack of anything else to do" misses either a period or an em dash at the end.

There were also two sentences that gave me pause.

"If you listened close, you could hear the gears at work in Sunset’s brain" felt like a sudden, jarring switch to an external point of view when the entire story is firmly described from Sunset's own mind.

"Grabbing the pitcher from the top tray, Cadance set about pouring two goblets of pink-orange liquid" also felt off, considering this is Sunset's favorite drink here and it struck me as strange to see her describe it in such a clinical, generic way. But the rest of the conclusion made it clear Sunset had become incredibly distracted, so it made sense that she doesn't register it as anything else than a liquid of which color she distantly notes.

Finally, the lines I liked start as soon as the description, with "felt like a kick to the horn." Surprisingly a sentence I've never seen before, but it just fits and conveys its message and the emotions it implies well.

Here's the rest of them;

Sunset half-knocked half-punched the door. It rattled companionably in its rose gold frame, the sound far too similar to snickering for her liking. Laugh now, door, she thought, irrationally. You’ll be mine one day.

the pretender, known to others as Mi Amore Cadenza: the pony as ridiculous and out of place as her name suggested.

Sunset shouldered her way into the room and gave it a once-over, her eyes straining from pastel fatigue. Sour apples filled her mouth at the sight of the plush violet carpet, the fuchsia four-poster, and the vanity overflowing with more beauty products than Sunset had awards on her Walls of Achievement.

a gaudy pendant in a glass case, its heart-cut gem the same sky blue as Cadance’s cutie mark—a blatant symbol of narcissism if she’d ever seen one.

Cadance gasped, verging on a squeak.

Sunset almost fell for the trap and blurted her answer: Skyspark, obviously. “What’s yours?” she countered.

“I’ll admit that I have a soft spot for Where the White Raspberries Grow, but it couldn’t be anything other than Skyspark.”

Figures you’d steal that too.

Scrunching her muzzle like she’d been force-fed Meadowbrook’s Tincture No. 9

Cadance’s smile fractured. “Oh. Okay. I suppose that’s fair, seeing as we’ve only just met. Sorry if I offended you.”

You offend me by existing.

Cadance’s cheeks pinkened, though it was difficult to tell since she was already a walking blush.

Cadance’s ears pressed against her head like they were afraid to be seen.

“I’m sorry. Like I said: pegasus.” She flared her wings as if Sunset wouldn’t believe her otherwise.

The black storm of a migraine thundered on Sunset’s mental horizon. “First, it’s called levitation. Second, I’m better than you were told.”

A little frown crossed Cadance’s muzzle. “Are you all right?” she asked. “You seem a bit on edge.”

I jumped that edge back at ‘Call me Cadance.’ Now I’m drowning.

“Would a nap help? You’re welcome to use my bed.” She gestured to the fuschia nightmare. “Arabian cotton, so I’m told. And I promise there are no feathers.” Her eyes went stark like she’d realized some horrible truth. “I think.”

In that moment, Sunset convinced herself she could melt Cadance’s horn if she glared hard enough.

“I don’t want to be here any longer than I have to, so please just”—shut your mouth and—“open to section one already.”

“You’re right,” she said, her bubbly tone dead and dry.

Sunset looked down her muzzle at Cadance like she’d told her the square root of four is heliotrope.

“To your credit,” Sunset said, hardly believing she’d said it, “it’s a bad analogy. It works well for foals, but it’s less useful when you’re older—once you get into real magic.”

Wisps of flame had risen in her voice. She smothered them and kept on.

By some miracle, Sunset almost found it tolerable. Without Cadance’s prattling, progress came remarkably quickly. No proper magic happened, other than a few miserable tries at levitation, one of which ended with Cadance’s mane covered in ink, a memory Sunset would cherish.

She didn’t have any other plans, but her patience was thinning by the minute. Frankly, if she had to answer one more of Cadance’s questions about how leylines worked, an ink-stained mane scrunchie would be the least of the alicorn’s problems.

“Actually, I need to get going,” she said, parading her supplies through the air and into her bags. “Got that big summoning exam tomorrow. And an astronomy dissertation due.” A paper she’d finished last week, but Cadance didn’t need to know that.

“I asked for sparkling guava juice,” Cadance said. Her eyes twinkled, persistent as trick birthday candles. “Auntie said it was your favourite.”

Sunset had half a mind to chew her out for asking Princess Celestia for such invasive information. But on the other hoof, it was her favourite, and her mouth had gone drier than the San Palomino after answering so many inane questions.

The heart also looked to be glowing—dimly, but definitively—and it instantly went from some prissy noble’s jewelry to the most interesting object in the room.

Sunset flinched. Cadance had stepped up beside her, silent as a librarian.

And suddenly, nothing else mattered.

“I hope you’re hungry, because I also managed to please-and-thank-you my way to two helpings of rarebit, which is my favourite.”

10027691
Not a chore to read whatsoever! As a matter of fact, this is one of the loveliest comments I've received on any story I've written. The sheer amount of feedback, both on the positives and the negatives, is very welcome. It's rare that readers give insight into exactly what they did and didn't like, especially down to the granular level of their favourite lines. I sincerely thank you for taking the time to do all of that! I appreciate it more than I can appropriately put into words.

Now I'll do you the courtesy of addressing a few of your points!

I also noticed the dearth of fics involving Sunset and Cadance. The few I have come across weren't as gripping as I hoped they'd be, and they didn't quite get into the potential that I (and you) see, given their unique relationship. So I figured I'd just write my own! I'm glad you've found it enjoyable thus far.

Getting the characters right is one of my top priorities in any story, so I'm happy to hear that you thought both Cadance and Sunset were recognizable and played off each other well. I can't say that I personally enjoy this version of Sunset more than her reformed personality, but this side of her didn't get explored all that much, so it's interesting trying to think how she got to be this way and how she would react to things. It's kind of emotionally draining to write her given how vitriolic her mindset is, but I'm happy that it seems to have paid off!

As far as magic- and world-building goes, I had a lot of fun with that. I feel like it helps to throw in those little details to make the world feel larger and realer. I also learn a lot through researching the stuff to throw in there, so that's awesome.

The mild overuse of "the alicorn" was a conscious choice, primarily for the reason you already pointed out. Same goes for the more detached flow that the narrative took towards the end, once Sunset got distracted. I toyed with working the distraction itself into the narrative to better illustrate the point, but it bogged things down too much. I feel like this was a good compromise, and I'm glad it's something you noticed.

In the original draft, Sunset was throwing a lot more insults Cadance's way throughout the narrative. But at a certain point it just felt needless and repetitive. My mind was saying, "We get it. Sunset doesn't like Cadance. Move on with the story already!" So I opted to sacrifice some of it and focused more on showing her contempt through her actions and the occasional dip into insults. That way they really hit you hard when they happen and remind you just how bitter Sunset really is—see: "this sow."

I am aware that there's an overabundance of comparisons and similes—murder by metaphor, if you will. It's a bad habit of mine and a tricky one to break, since I love them so much! I'll likely go through and pare them down a little, and I'll try to use them more sparingly going forward.

Thanks for catching the typo! I'm usually able to weed them out by listening to the story with the text-to-speech function, but punctuation sometimes slips through the cracks. I'll also be changing that perspective shift, since it is especially jarring.

All in all, thank you greatly for so much feedback. I'll do my best to keep it all in mind moving forward, and I hope it makes the story that much better!

10026470

I think it's kind of expected for Sunset to be envious.

Sunset's been studying for years to get the power of being a princess.

Then comes along Cadence, a Pegasus who suddenly got the power Sunset has coveted. And now Sunset has to tutor that pony.

Even a non-megalomaniac would be somewhat annoyed to be in Sunset's position.

10028303
Thank you very much for replying.

I assume it's rare for people to write such extensive comments because they take a lot of time and effort—they're genuine homework. Homework spent away from one's own fanworks, and those won't complete themselves.

I can't say that I personally enjoy this version of Sunset more than her reformed personality, but this side of her didn't get explored all that much, so it's interesting trying to think how she got to be this way and how she would react to things.

That's the thing with the old Sunset; she's pure, unbridled storytelling and character-building potential. The new Sunset is just one redeemed antagonist among so many others in Friendship is Magic.

I feel like it helps to throw in those little details to make the world feel larger and realer.

"Realer" is appropriate, Equestria felt a little bit more like a genuine place with its own history rather than just a medium for the protagonists to have their adventures in, only dug into more deeply when said protagonists require it.

I'd say you've succeeded in making it larger too, by the simple virtue of not mentioning Starswirl at all. If I remember correctly, he was literally the only pony of the past worth bringing up for a long time in the show, which inevitably makes Equestria feels much smaller.

In the original draft, Sunset was throwing a lot more insults Cadance's way throughout the narrative. But at a certain point it just felt needless and repetitive. My mind was saying, "We get it. Sunset doesn't like Cadance. Move on with the story already!"

I think it would indeed feel repetitive and even more needless, seeing how well you've managed to convey Sunset's absolute, depthless contempt without any of these insults. "You offend me by existing" will be a very hard line to top, I feel.

I am aware that there's an overabundance of comparisons and similes—murder by metaphor, if you will. It's a bad habit of mine and a tricky one to break, since I love them so much! I'll likely go through and pare them down a little, and I'll try to use them more sparingly going forward.

"Murder by metaphor" is a great line.

As I mentioned, I've enjoyed them a lot. And it's plausible and even natural for someone to think that way, to throw as many similes as they can back at what life saddles them with. It's just that, this is a story, so some realism probably needs to be cut down; it's easy to think repeatedly, to not vary one's vocabulary in one's mind, but so much repetition likely just won't do in a story.

I also suggest getting a second opinion about this "overabundance" before you start paring down; I myself only raised an eyebrow at them and others may enjoy them one-hundred percent.

Being a blank canvas, the old Sunset makes this "murder" work, incidentally. I feel that similing the world to death could suit Rainbow Dash's voice, for example, but I'm not so sure it'd fit Twilight's. Or the current Sunset's, for that matter.

All in all, thank you greatly for so much feedback.

You're welcome, and thanks again for taking the time to reply.

This is always a fascinating bit of fan-lore; watching the ambitious, frustrated Sunset square off against the very embodiment of all she wants but cannot have is extremely engaging. I'm so glad to see you taking a crack at it. Looking forward to more!

10031952
Thank you! It's such a unique dynamic—one that's been on my mind since way back when—and it's so ripe for potential stories. This particular idea struck me while working on If It Takes a Lifetime, and I just had to run with it and see where it took me. Hopefully the rest of the story will live up to expectations!

10031952 Happy obliviousness squared against brooding malice is always a wonderful combo, a little like Pinkie Pie accompanying Batman on a nightly patrol.

As I was reading this chapter, I connected with Sunset on a spiritual level. Namely because my mother showed up to interrupt me, much as Cadance did, to bombard me with pleasantries and things I already knew. She won't even let me sleep.

Oh, Sunset. She'll learn. Eventually. For now, at least she's capable of forcing herself to interact with other ponies.

It's telling that Celestia really doesn't know how to manage either her student or her niece. Too soft and subtle with one, and insisting on calling the other by her full title at all times.

I quite enjoyed seeing Celestia's problem children bounce off of one another. I do love the idea of Sunset having a history with Philomena.

As for Cadence's code phrase... well, I trust we'll see what's going there soon enough.

10057521
I personally relate to Cadance more, as I’m often the one inundating people with niceties to an excessive degree. Hooray for crushing optimism!

10058153
Sunset and Philomena having a close relationship just made so much sense to me, and I’m glad you like the idea too! Can’t wait to explore it more throughout this story.

And don’t worry. You won’t have to wait too long to find out what Cadance was going on about there. :raritywink:

Was that something out of a book? I feel Cadence just made reference to a book.

... nah. I'm probably wrong.

10058832
It does admittedly sound like it could be a quote from a book!

10060319
Don't want to share too much too soon! :raritywink:

Scrolling warning: this comment is over 1700 words.

I'm loving this Sunset so much. Studious and committed to her goals, scornful and opportunistic... but her edge is shown in a slightly lighter shade of steel in this chapter, thanks to Philomena.

I'm doubly glad to see her included, incidentally. First, because it's nice to see her at all after she ceased to exist altogether in the show after A Bird in the Hoof.

Second, because that way, Sunset is given a friend (or as close to that as she can consider anyone, obsessed as she seems to be with "her legend") before her fall. It's a welcome change from Friendship is Magic's usual route.

Cadance is as adorable as ever, to the point of seeing Sunset as "passionate and inspiring" And, true, "a bit brusque" too.

Celestia, for her part... well, this was her first appearance and I can already see the seeds that will grow into Sunset's contempt for her. She just doesn't take no for an answer, does she? And considering her suspiciously specific question—“Did anything noteworthy take place?”—I can't help but look at a line from the previous chapter in a new light: “That’s why you’re here. Partly, anyway.”

Is giving Cadance the Everheart before sending Sunset off to her room another one of the tests you seem to love so much, Princess Celestia? I wouldn't put it past you, 'Destiny's Hoof.'

I also see other seeds, which may explain why she has apparently discarded friendship itself as something worth pursuing in the first movie.

As unimpressed as I am with canon Celestia, though, let me make it clear: I loved Sunset and Cadance to bits here.

Moving on to more technical matters.

I loved that you used "said" rather than 'lied' in "“It was fine,” Sunset said." It'd have been entirely unnecessary, redundant even, given the context, and so you settled for "said." Lovely.

A look at my earlier notes tells me you've changed some bits since this chapter was first uploaded. I'd say it was for the better; "candle glow" feels better than "lunar glow" and so does the "venom boiled on her tongue" sentence compared to the original.

Picturing Sunset standing at the end of a lonely pier, trying desperately not to be snatched by the waves, when you called Celestia's eyes "oceanic" was an interesting image, at least; I just couldn't reconcile her pink eyes with the ocean otherwise.

Speaking of eyes and adjectives, Philomena's "forge-coal eyes." I like it (although I liked what I originally misread it as, 'forge-cold,' more), but I found it out of place for two reasons. First, it's (as far as I remember) the only time the color of anything that's not an object is described in the story; in fact, it's the only time any character's natural features are described, period, if you ignore Sunset's dismissive thoughts about "the pink horror herself" and her "shiny amethyst bubbles."

Second, it feels off to me to describe the eyes of someone you've known for a long time. But this one goes back to my interpretation of 'internal narration,' so to speak, which I'll talk about now.

I've narrowed down why your "murder by metaphor" sometimes threw me off, even though I love it a lot, and that's for the same reason. Note that this isn't a criticism or even a suggestion, just an explanation of why I feel this way.

My 'in-character narration' can be described as 'first-person masquerading as third-person;' a character's thoughts, as they think them in their own head, except with "he" or "she" rather than "I."

A lot of this story is described from Sunset's point of view. I find lines like "For a razor-thin moment, Cadance’s eyes hardened into what could generously be called a glare" to work very well, for instance, because I can imagine her thinking 'that's what she calls a glare? Cute' as the event unfolds.

On the other hand, a line like "Sunset met the princess’s eyes, furrowing her brow like she'd been tasked with solving one of Erudite Enigma's infamous riddles" feels off to me, because the point of view shifts to outside her mind; this sounds like someone else describing what they see as they look at Sunset, again as the event unfolds. I also can't picture Sunset thinking 'have I just been tasked with solving one of these riddles?', perhaps because it doesn't fit the context, or maybe because of how the sentence is worded.

In contrast, I find "Cadance’s wings fluttered like party streamers" to work beautifully, because that's Sunset's description of something she's seeing. I can imagine her being reminded of party streamers.

This is also why referring to Philomena as a "divine bird" gave me pause; I wasn't sure Sunset would add that qualifier given the context and her familiarity with her. At the same time, it was kind of cute that there was one creature in all of existence which Sunset would genuinely call "divine" of all things.

Once again, though, this is an explanation. I'm not telling you to change your writing style. Just because I'm locked into mine doesn't mean others shouldn't exist. I sprinkle all these 'I found' and 'for me' in my comments for a reason.

One last thing about Sunset's perspective before I go into typos and quote the lines I liked; I noticed that she always, always refers to Celestia as "Princess Celestia" during the dinner between them; in fact, she's first introduced into the narration as "Equestria’s reigning monarch." This says a lot about what Sunset sees when she looks at her...

The typos;

Sunset snapped back the moment.

'to the moment' (as far as I can tell)

Cadance, by her own admission, knew horseapples about the amulet.

'didn't know horseapples' (again, as far as I understand the idiom)

“I almost flinched that time.”

'this time' (I think)

And the lines I liked;

not long after escaping Cadance’s tower

After all, if Equestria’s own Research Rodeo Queen—four years running—couldn’t pinpoint such a potent artifact given so many resources, it must not exist. But she’d already ruled out that possibility, having seen it herself, so it was only a matter of time.

Princess Celestia was always saying something, even with her silences. Especially with her silences. Not that Sunset could decipher their meanings most of the time, but being aware of the message at all was an acquired skill.

“Speaking of which,” Princess Celestia continued, “how did you find your first meeting with Princess Mi Amore Cadenza?”

Torture, thanks for asking.

The next bite froze at her teeth.

Another break, but brief—a silent exclamation point.

Sunset met the princess’s eyes, furrowing her brow like she'd been tasked with solving one of Erudite Enigma's infamous riddles.

Maybe because being forced to see her three times a week already makes me wish for stone sleep.

In a flash of gold, a quill and spiral planner winked into being.

Had Sunset not been so familiar with Princess Celestia’s many frowns, she would’ve needed a microscope to see the corners of her mouth dip.

The quill hovered over, and the aura holding it bled from gold to teal.

Sunset narrowed her eyes at the page before her. Small, colour-coordinated blocks filled the six rightmost day columns in a rainbow mosaic of academic perfection—the far left column an unbroken black streak that tied it all together. She took a few moments to admire the sheer beauty.

Already she felt the conversation slipping to the back of her mind and being replaced by the many articles and indices waiting in her suite—seeds of knowledge ripe for harvesting.

She would be one step closer to the end of her quest—the start of her legend.

The floor had become a wasteland. Tumbleweeds of balled-up notes littered the arid stretches between towering book-hoodoos. Traitors, Sunset thought as she scanned the crooked silhouettes.

Apparently the Everheart didn’t exist. Not on paper at any rate, which meant that it might as well have been adrift in Limbo for all she could learn about it.

She’d come up with two theories: either Cadance had lied about the name, or she had been lied to about the name and had never bothered looking into it herself. The latter seemed more probable for a dunce like her. Besides, she didn’t strike Sunset as a good liar.

Forget the books then, her inner pragmatist said. You have a primary source.

all the wrath of a supernova packed into two heartbeats

Ignoring the fact that it was physically impossible, Philomena smirked.

Ever since their bombastic first meeting which had earned Sunset her cutie mark, she’d understood that the phoenix harbored wisdom beyond her comprehension. And oddly enough, she was okay with that.

“Who is it?” she called, making zero effort to sand the edge in her voice.

Sunset’s eyes sharpened—daggers hot from the grindstone. She marched for the double doors, considering what sin she must have committed in a previous life to deserve this. Murder, probably.

“No, you certainly don’t,” Cadance said, her voice frustratingly even—a flaccid attempt at mimicking Princess Celestia’s tone, no doubt.

For a razor-thin moment, Cadance’s eyes hardened into what could generously be called a glare. It looked wrong among her soft features, like a butter knife in a bouquet. She hid it behind her eyelids, exhaled audibly, and her eyes came back as shiny amethyst bubbles.

A thousand biting retorts swarmed in Sunset’s mind, but she eventually settled on, “Why?”

“Not that,” Sunset said. “I really don’t care. Why are you inviting me in the first place?” What makes you think I’d say yes?

Some of the light drained from Cadance’s face, going from noonday sun to candle glow.

Window’s closing, Shimmer. What, you hoping to find something when cross-referencing The Unabridged History of Amulets for the twentieth time?

Cadance’s wings fluttered like party streamers.

Remaining on the threshold for a full minute longer, Sunset replayed the conversation in her head to see if she had missed something. She arrived to the conclusion that Cadance was insane, which actually answered more questions than it raised. She shook her head, plodded back inside, and finished her grand odyssey to the coffee pot.

She skipped the mug and chugged the whole carafe.

10065191
Another absolutely lovely comment. Thank you for taking the time to provide so much feedback! It will always be appreciated, and it motivates me to get the next part of the story out that much sooner. Not that I expect such in-depth comments on every chapter, but just knowing that you're so invested in the story is really phenomenal.

I'm doubly glad to see [Philomena] included. . .because that way, Sunset is given a friend (or as close to that as she can consider anyone, obsessed as she seems to be with "her legend") before her fall. It's a welcome change from Friendship is Magic's usual route.

That was my primary reason for including her, beyond the fact that the two of them having some kind of relationship just seemed logical. While pre-reform Sunset is indisputably a lone wolf, I think giving her someone she can realistically confide in and trust in some capacity resembling friendship is important, and it will become increasingly important as the story progresses.

I can't help but look at a line from the previous chapter in a new light: “That’s why you’re here. Partly, anyway.”

Very astute observation, but I think that's all I can say on the matter without giving too much away. :raritywink:

I also see other seeds, which may explain why she has apparently discarded friendship itself as something worth pursuing in the first movie.

Good to know that you see other seeds, because I've definitely planted a few! Hopefully I can nurture them in a satisfying way as the story continues.

I loved that you used "said" rather than 'lied' in "“It was fine,” Sunset said." It'd have been entirely unnecessary, redundant even, given the context, and so you settled for "said." Lovely.

Thanks! I've been trying to get better about that. I've never been especially bad with said-isms, but I'm working on making it a point not to use anything more complex than "said" or "asked" unless it adds something to the narrative beyond what's already provided by the context.

A look at my earlier notes tells me you've changed some bits since this chapter was first uploaded.

Indeed I have. I might still go in to tinker with a few things since I don't feel like this chapter is as strong as it could be, and probably not as strong as the first chapter overall, but I'm glad to know that you think the changes I've made were improvements.

Speaking of eyes and adjectives, Philomena's "forge-coal eyes.". . .I found it out of place for two reasons. First, it's (as far as I remember) the only time the color of anything that's not an object is described in the story; in fact, it's the only time any character's natural features are described, period, if you ignore Sunset's dismissive thoughts about "the pink horror herself" and her "shiny amethyst bubbles." Second, it feels off to me to describe the eyes of someone you've known for a long time.

This is something I have difficulty deciding on a lot of the time. How much narrative space do you dedicate to describing a character's physical attributes? I err on the side of "very little," especially since we know what these characters look like already, but sometimes it's definitely important to emphasize them if it adds to the story in an appreciable way. I think this particular description helps to expand upon Sunset's image of Philomena, albeit in a minor way, which is why I left it in, but thank you for letting me know that you thought it was a bit off.

On the topic of Sunset's internal narrative (not going to quote anything for this one since it would be a relatively long quote), I think you've touched upon an important point. By and large, most of the stories I've written in the past have been of the objective third-person variety, where the world and events are described in an entirely neutral manner and readers are left to interpret things their own way, and I've only recently been branching out into the realm of limited third-person, where the narrative is firmly locked in one character's head and the world needs to be described through that lens. The examples you've pointed out indicate to me that I still occasionally slip back into that objective narration because it's what I'm most familiar with, and while you're right that I don't need to radically change my writing style just based on one opinion, I will try to be more cognizant of this going forward. Colouring the world through Sunset's eyes is integral for this story to work to its fullest capacity, and I want to be as consistent with that as I can be. Thank you for the insight.

One last thing about Sunset's perspective before I go into typos and quote the lines I liked; I noticed that she always, always refers to Celestia as "Princess Celestia" during the dinner between them; in fact, she's first introduced into the narration as "Equestria’s reigning monarch." This says a lot about what Sunset sees when she looks at her...

Another very sharp observation! That particular line about "Equestria's reigning monarch" is actually one of my personal favourites, because it touches not only on her view of Celestia but also subtly emphasizes her views on Cadance. After all, Equestria is no longer a monarchy as of her coronation.

Thanks again for catching the typos and showcasing the lines you enjoyed. I also appreciate you using spoiler tags to keep the comments as safe for new readers as possible. I will continue to keep your feedback in mind as I work on the rest of the story. Hopefully it'll only get better from here!

Celestia likes to torture Sunset in this verse I see.

As far as back and forth passwords my favorite is still from The Shadow.
“The Sun is shining.”
“But the ice is slippery.”

Very interested to see what he did to warrant traitor.

Well, it looks like Sunset has gotten a subscription to some issues. And, perhaps, she'll receive a reality readjustment.

Also, Twilight is adorable.

Huh. What tag did you use for the font change?

I'm always a sucker for pre-portal Sunset interacting with young Twilight. Very interesting that the former has some intense history with Shining.

“What,” Sunset said, sitting with her back to the rest of the park, “were you cloistered away in a hidden fortress on the edge of civilization or something?”

Good guess, but wrong universe.

Yeah, trauma has a tendency to precede ascension. Tear them down to build them up anew. Hopefully Sunset will get a reality check in terms of what Cadence went through... if Cadence can even bear to relate everything. We'll see soon enough.

10095995

What tag did you use for the font change?

That would be the "[ mono ]" tag—short for "monospace." Found out about it in the BBCode Guide, among many other tags I never knew about!

“I’m not harassing!” the filly—Twilight, apparently—said. “She has a book!”

Geeze, Twilight. Ponies can't even enjoy the park without being assaulted by a obsessive bookhorse.

The book had a mottled black binding, and the cover depicted an ominous mountain beneath a glowing emerald sky. Smoke-grey clouds twisted above the landscape, loosely forming the title: The Drag.

She didn’t even manage one word before Cadance jumped back in. “If you’re a fan of Lord of the Reins, this one’s a no-brainer. It leans a bit more into horror since that’s Love Craft’s usual style, but I think you’ll still like it!”

Interesting.

Her gaze drifted over Sunset’s shoulder.

Sunset’s head whipped around like a wolf defending her territory. She caught Shining Armor staring their way from across the park. He quickly switched to look at Twilight, who seemed to be writing equations in the dirt. Sunset glared for a good few seconds, mentally scorching his horrible, deceptive cutie mark.

It begins.

Scrolling warning: this is Knight of the Raven.

Oh, and do tell me if you feel I haven't spoilered things you think I should have.

Skyspark's prologue was a nasty surprise to start this chapter with; it reads a little too close to a writing style I used recently and I really don't like what I'm seeing in the mirror.

I enjoy your regular writing style much more.

Twilight and Shining Armor were a development I could have gone without as well. I revel in this story focusing on the old Sunset and Cadance, with Celestia and Philomena somewhere on the far side (as per the character tags), so I'm not looking forward to these two showing up again, no matter how logical including them was.

And they'll show up again, considering the history implied between Sunset and Shining Armor.

Mind, I'm not telling you to change your story in the slightest. Especially that Sunset and Cadance still more than make up for what's not to my taste in this chapter. With a little help from the two students mentioned at the beginning, true;

“Yes, yes of course,” the colt said, dipping his head too. “Terribly sorry for the intrusion. We’ll let you get back to your…” His eyes ping-ponged between Sunset and Cadance. “…date?”

Twin volcanoes erupted in Sunset’s cheeks. The heat swelled up to her horn, through her magic, and incinerated the quill. “We are not—”

“We’re just friends,” Cadance said simultaneously.

This story isn't tagged Romance, but you spoil me nonetheless with this wonderful, wonderful tidbit.

I'll admit the fact that they were also a colt and a filly made me think it was Shining Armor and Twilight again until I realized Sunset wasn't burning one of them to cinders in her mind during the third readthrough, though. I'd missed them being specifically referred to as "the two students she’d noticed upon arriving in the courtyard" every single time, apparently.

Going back to our delightful Sweet and Salt duo, the title of Cadance's gift kills me. The Drag. If Sunset was just an itty bitty bit more paranoid, she'd feel the universe itself is pointing and laughing at her, because that's exactly what dealing with Cadance—Cadance as a whole, even—is shaping up to be for her, it seems.

I liked that the conversation between them during their picnic wasn't one of 'talking heads.' At the same time, what interests me is Sunset's opinions, thoughts and musings, so I only paid attention to the actions around their dialogue when they linked back to that: "she stuffed the bitter greens in her mouth" and the like.

Still on her 'internal narrative,' I also liked "Cadance frowned her stupid, condescending frown." On the other hand, even though I feel this might have come from one of my own comments, I found that "Cadance took a smug sip of her beverage" didn't work.

Perhaps because the context made it look like it came out of nowhere, perhaps because there wasn't the 'it's obviously Sunset's biased opinion' angle from the previous quote, perhaps because it's a single word about an impression that isn't elaborated upon, making it a little 'blink and you'll miss it.'

Again, though I suggest finding a second opinion if you can, since I also feel the line "the smile Cadance gave in return was different from her typical saccharine smirk, but Sunset couldn’t pinpoint how" was related in some way to Cadance's 'smugness' but I simply can't put these pieces together.

One last bit of 'internal narrative;' of course Sunset would refer to these two students as "the interlopers." And not even waste a single thought on describing them beyond "the colt" and "the filly." The only reason we even know the girl is a unicorn is because Sunset snatched her quill from her aura—the colt is only said to 'produce' a notebook from his saddlebag, not even a word spared on whether it was with his hoof, his wing or his magic.

Because they're not important. They're probably negative important as far as Sunset is concerned, in fact, however that would even work.

All in all, this remains my favorite Sunset in fiction. I'm really looking forward to the next chapter; seeing as the whole Everheart business apparently all but broke Cadance in the past, I'm extremely curious as to whether Sunset will kick her while she's down or if we'll see more of this lighter shade of steel I mentioned in my last comment.

If this is the former, I'll admit I'll be miffed if Shining Armor swoops in from the background to pick up Cadance's pieces, building up to their canon relationship. But, again, your story. I certainly wouldn't change the long-planned plot of one of my stories because they didn't suit someone else's preferences.


I didn't notice any typo, so let's get right to the (several) lines I liked along with some comments on a few of them;

The east courtyard tended to be the busier spot by and large. Sunset didn’t particularly care why that might be, only that it held true today. The fewer distractions, the better.

Naturally, her hunch had been spot on. She saw only six other ponies in the park: two young students sharing a picnic table plus a family playing by the stream. Not ideal, but acceptable.

It had been on her mind recently, and she had a few minutes to kill, assuming Cadance even arrived on time.

Dormant memories glowed alive, complete with the illusory scent of her fillyhood home—candy apples and ozone—as the words stole her away:

Sunset went to speak, but her tongue tripped over her ears.

The filly shook her head exactly once, as though dictated by a metronome.

The filly leered over Sunset’s shoulder like a classmate trying to copy her answers.

She poked her horn nub against the disc like it might pop.

His image lay buried somewhere in her memory, but she couldn’t place it.

The name struck her like a cragadile from ambush, mangling her stomach into a knotted mess. She ripped her eyes away and flipped her mane strategically to hide her face.

“I’m not harassing!” the filly—Twilight, apparently—said. “She has a book!”

“I don’t care if she has a whole library. You can’t go around disturbing ponies just because they’ve got something you like.”

Nopony said anything for an agony of a moment. Sunset held strong and listened for them to leave. Eventually she heard a dull thump followed by the staccato rhythm of tiny hooves galloping away, but Shining Armor’s shadow still loomed at her side.

She turned a page despite not having finished reading it.

He trotted up next to her. Sunset craned her head away as if magnetically repulsed.

He lingered for a heartbeat longer.

The breath she’d been holding tumbled out like ice cubes. She hunched down and tried to get back into the story, but the rattlesnakes in her skull wouldn’t let her concentrate.

I'll take the time to mention this is the first time I've ever seen the trite 'character released the breath they'd been holding' cliché line I so despise used in a way that doesn't make me roll my eyes. On the contrary, I found this version nothing short of amazing.

Slamming the book shut, she shunted it into her bag and relocated to the far side of Firmament’s Font, blocking her view of all the other ponies. It also placed her in the fountain’s cold, damp shadow, but it was well worth the peace of mind. Once settled, she closed her eyes and let the trickling water and quiet birdsong take her somewhere else. Anywhere else.

She glanced up into Cadance’s candied smile, which would have looked fake on any other pony.

A vein pulsed in Sunset’s temple with the beat of a war drum.

Cadance frowned her stupid, condescending frown.

“Yes something’s wrong! You’re honestly telling me that you’re an alicorn who can’t use magic or fly?” She stomped a hoof in the mud. “What can you do?!”

Against all common sense, Cadance grinned at that. “I give really good moral support! Plus I’m a fantastic listener. Oh, and, not to brag”—she shrugged airily—“but I’ve been told that I give the best hugs.” She offered a hoof and fluttered her eyelashes like a succubus. “Do you want one?”

Cadance raised her hoof again, but defensively, like she thought Sunset might hit her. In fairness, Sunset couldn’t deny that possibility.

A protest had already formed on Sunset’s tongue, but she swallowed it. Cadance would get suspicious if she pushed the point, and the last thing she needed was Miss High-and-Mighty prying into her personal life. Besides, once she got busy with her mission, she would completely forget that he was even there.

An awful pink- and yellow-checkered blanket lay neatly on the grass, and an overwhelming assortment of snacks had been spread overtop, like she’d used a food pyramid as a packing guide.

She started searching through the dark wicker basket, which looked large enough to store a royal banquet.

Oh, so not insane. Just pointlessly cryptic.

Cadance produced a shiny, book-shaped present wrapped in red paper with a garish orange ribbon—it had clearly been hoof-wrapped, and shoddily. She held it toward Sunset with the care of an archaeologist handling a crown jewel.

Sunset levitated the gift over, fixing it with her stinkiest eye. It had considerable heft—at least five hundred pages, she estimated. “Why did you wrap it?”

“I like watching ponies unwrap presents.”

The stink eye switched to Cadance herself. “That’s weird.”

Cadance dropped one hoof but kept the other up, like she was nursing a black eye.

I'll mention here that I was so disappointed that Sunset didn't muse there that she'd love to give her said black eye.

“I hope you’re not expecting me to give you anything.”

Cadance giggled. “That’s not how gifts work.”

“You’ll be waiting a while. I have more important things to focus on”—like literally anything else—“and I’m not exactly bursting with free time.”

“I appreciate you spending some of it with me, then. Based on what I know about you, I’m guessing you’d rather be studying for your next big exam right now.”

What do you know? She’s not completely oblivious.

Now that she’d suffered enough small talk, she decided to move on to the next stage of her game plan. She chewed on her salad, considering how best to breach the topic she actually cared about.

Unfortunately, Cadance seemed intent on dominating the conversation.

Like a trained archer, Sunset saw her shot and took it.

Knew that would get your interest, nosy.

She flexed a grin—she’d spun that particular yarn during study hall.

The smile Cadance gave in return was different from her typical saccharine smirk, but Sunset couldn’t pinpoint how.

The pieces snapped into place—pieces she’d been trying to jam into the wrong puzzle entirely, it seemed.

A scream welled up in Sunset’s throat, so she took a deep swig of her drink to suffocate it. Her face twisted the moment the liquid hit her tongue. It was as sickly sweet as the pony who’d poured it, tasting of maple candy drenched in honey. At least it gave her annoyance a second target.

“Okay,” she said, her voice infused with steam.

Cadance’s smile dropped like a falling curtain.

The two students she’d noticed upon arriving in the courtyard stood there, gawking at Cadance like she was on display at Canterlot Museum.

Unsurprisingly, Cadance met them with all smiles and cheer, though her eyes looked wider than normal.

“It’s an honour to meet you!” the colt said, the words tumbling out like he’d tried to say them all at once. He pressed his face to the ground in an attempt at a bow, and the filly scrambled to follow suit. Sunset rolled her eyes over a scowl.

“Of course, Princess!” the filly squeaked, shooting back up. Her horn sparked cyan like a cheap firecracker.

“Today would be nice,” Sunset said, weighing the pros and cons of dumping her drink over these two.

Cadance’s ears threatened to droop, but they held firm.

Sunset intercepted it, overtaking the filly’s aura like a hydra stomping a mouse. “Yeah, no.” She got up and advanced a step towards the sycophants. “You two have a lot of nerve, wasting such an important pony’s time.” Namely, mine. “Clearly we want to be left alone, so take your notebooks, learn some manners, and get out of my face.”

She waited, ready to snuff out Cadance’s objection, but it never came. Looking over, she saw that Cadance had taken a newfound interest in her own hooves, staring down as she rubbed one over the other. “That’s a bit harsher than I would have put it, but we were kind of in the middle of something.”

Both of them stared at Sunset like they were gazing upon Nightmare Moon incarnate.

The quill spun in Sunset’s magic. “You never thought to—oh, I don’t know—ask her?”

“Well, it sounds like she might know something useful. Think you can uncomplicate it enough to get in touch with her? Write a letter? Leave for a visit?” Maybe don’t come back?

Cadance gave a tiny nod, chewing more than anypony in history had ever needed for a single grape.

“Better than nothing,” Sunset said. She jotted down: Cadance has mommy issues.

“You might not, but you’re talking to the pony who single-hoofedly uncovered the hidden properties of Myriad’s Mask before even losing all her foal teeth.” Really though, it hadn’t been surprising that an artifact based on changeling magic might be harboring some dark secrets.

Cadance’s smile tightened.

“Why would it spoil anything? I figured it would be a happy story, given the”—her eyes narrowed at Cadance’s horn—“outcome.” She stuffed the bitter greens in her mouth.

Her mouth dug into her cheek, like a chipmunk concealing nuts.

Her eyes unfocused as she trailed off, gazing at something a thousand yards distant.

“Look, you want to understand it better, right? I can help with that, but not unless you give me all the details. It’s tough to solve a puzzle without every piece.”

Besides, we’re still a long way off from when we actually have to worry about the Everheart.

That's pretty much a confession that the Everheart is something to genuinely worry about, and that they will have to worry about it, isn't it?

Blue light crackled on her horn. A red grape lifted from the bowl, wobbled in the air, and tumbled to the ground.

She paused, watching the tug-of-war between Cadance’s expressions

For a few seconds, Cadance just stared blankly at the page like she’d never seen paper before. She frowned, but it quickly twitched neutral.

A groan clawed from Sunset’s throat. “Come on. How bad could it possibly be? Whatever it was turned you into a princess, for pony’s sake!”

When their eyes met, Cadance’s were glistening like sun-dappled puddles.

Sunset’s head whipped around like a wolf defending her territory.

A touch of grit snuck into her voice at the end.

When Sunset didn’t reply, Cadance nudged a plate of brownies towards her. “Do you want to talk about it?”

Sunset shoved the plate back before Cadance’s hoof even left it. “Does it look like I want to talk about it?” she said, then cursed herself for admitting there was an “it” to talk about at all.

Pulling her hoof back, Cadance said, “No, but sometimes those are the things you need to talk about most.”

“Try taking your own advice, Princess.” Her quill skated across the parchment in mad spirals—the written equivalent of incoherent screaming.

Cadance winced and bit her lip—a small victory, Sunset mused.

Both of them fell silent. They picked at the food, and the minutes weighed heavy. Sunset kept a close eye over her shoulder, hoping to see Shining Armor and his family leave, but they stuck by the stream like burs in her coat. She occasionally glanced to the horizon, watching the sun fight its losing battle against dusk.

“You’re right,” Cadance said.

“Of course I am,” Sunset said—force of habit. “About what?”

She gave her best reassuring smile—she had little experience with them, but Cadance would buy it; she would trust a diamond dog as her financial advisor.

They finished the picnic in a colloquial haze as the sun set.

10130467
Just wanna say that this comment came at a great time for me. The editing process for this next chapter has been a rough one, and this is some really nice motivation to get through the last few phases. So thanks for that, first and foremost!

Skyspark's prologue was a nasty surprise to start this chapter with; it reads a little too close to a writing style I used recently and I really don't like what I'm seeing in the mirror.

I enjoy your regular writing style much more.

Fun fact: I almost outsourced that excerpt of Skyspark because I wanted it to have a very different writing style from the one I normally use, and I was afraid that I wouldn't be able to get it right. Good to know that it was dramatically different enough to warrant a reaction, even if it was in the wrong direction.

Twilight and Shining Armor were a development I could have gone without as well. I revel in this story focusing on the old Sunset and Cadance, with Celestia and Philomena somewhere on the far side (as per the character tags), so I'm not looking forward to these two showing up again, no matter how logical including them was.

Don't worry, I haven't lost sight of what I want this story to be. This is ultimately a sort of character study of both Sunset and Cadance, and how they relate to one another. Any ancillary characters will only be brought up in order to facilitate that goal. Even Philomena and Celestia, while they'll be more important than most other characters in the narrative, are secondary at best, and there's a reason I didn't put a Shining Armor tag. Establishing the history between Sunset and Shining Armor was necessary for elements of the story between Sunset and Cadance later on. Admittedly, Twilight was just too cute to resist, but she at least served as a good catalyst for the interaction. Hopefully the payoff for that aside in this chapter will be worth it.

This story isn't tagged Romance, but you spoil me nonetheless with this wonderful, wonderful tidbit.

I aim to please! :raritywink: It popped into my head while writing and was too tempting to cut out.

I liked that the conversation between them during their picnic wasn't one of 'talking heads.' At the same time, what interests me is Sunset's opinions, thoughts and musings, so I only paid attention to the actions around their dialogue when they linked back to that: "she stuffed the bitter greens in her mouth" and the like.

Thank you! I always try to avoid talking heads where possible—and it should always be possible. I played around with a lot of different options for what actions and descriptions to throw in during the conversation, and everything that's in the final draft has a meaning of some sort, even if it's not readily obvious. For instance (spoilered for those who don't want a peek behind the scenes): Sunset's first choice of food is a hollyhock sandwich. Hollyhock is a flower that's most often associated with ambition, but it also has a lesser association with love & happiness, depending on the colour. It also tends to have a notably sour and/or bitter taste, based on my research, which contrasts nicely with the sweet persimmons Cadance went for first. Little things like that are peppered all throughout. Of course, I don't expect most readers to dig that deep. Mostly just fun for me!

On the other hand, even though I feel this might have come from one of my own comments, I found that "Cadance took a smug sip of her beverage" didn't work.

I'd be lying if I said your comment didn't influence that line! I can see where you're coming from with it, and I definitely feel like it's not one of the stronger lines in the chapter, but I still think it fits. I might toy with it to see if I can find anything better if I do more tweaks in the future, though.

All in all, this remains my favorite Sunset in fiction.

Thank you so much! That is extremely lofty praise, considering how many incarnations there are of her both in canon materials and in fanfic. My number one rule in just about every story is that the tale is only as good as its characters. That I've done so well with Sunset's character in your estimation is one of the highest compliments I could hope for.

I'll take the time to mention this is the first time I've ever seen the trite 'character released the breath they'd been holding' cliché line I so despise used in a way that doesn't make me roll my eyes. On the contrary, I found this version nothing short of amazing.

When I wrote that line, I knew it was going to be hit or miss—glad that it seems to be "hit" for you! That whole cliché is terribly overdone, but I firmly believe that any cliché can be used correctly if given enough care.

Thank you again for all the feedback and another lovely comment. I expect the next chapter to be posted sometime this week, so you won't have to be waiting too much longer on that one. It's by far the most intense chapter so far, which opens the door for a lot of different opinions. Hopefully it'll be worth the wait!

10131135

Just wanna say that this comment came at a great time for me. The editing process for this next chapter has been a rough one, and this is some really nice motivation to get through the last few phases. So thanks for that, first and foremost!

You're welcome again, and I also thank you again for taking the time to reply to my comments. They take a lot of my time, and I enjoy writing my own stories much, much more than I enjoy writing these behemoths.

Fun fact: I almost outsourced that excerpt of Skyspark because I wanted it to have a very different writing style from the one I normally use, and I was afraid that I wouldn't be able to get it right. Good to know that it was dramatically different enough to warrant a reaction, even if it was in the wrong direction.

I have a thing for matching the writing style to the characters, so it'd have been genuinely embarrassing if I hadn't noticed.

That said, it probably "was in the wrong direction" only in a 'too close for comfort' sense.

Don't worry, I haven't lost sight of what I want this story to be. This is ultimately a sort of character study of both Sunset and Cadance, and how they relate to one another.

I'm still intrigued by Cadance's own side of this tale... but a look at your other stories makes me think that might just be already-charted territory for you.

Well, I'm not worrying anymore. And I'll admit I was worried, character tags or not, with the word Twilight managed to spell being "conscience" of all things...

Little things like that are peppered all throughout. Of course, I don't expect most readers to dig that deep. Mostly just fun for me!

That's probably the best way to look at these "little things." Writing for fun makes the writing fun.

And that was an interesting instance. I didn't actually pay attention to the specific foods and their possible meanings because that's just not my thing. It'd be nice to see someone else share their thoughts; different preferences should lead to different things being noticed.

I'd be lying if I said your comment didn't influence that line! I can see where you're coming from with it, and I definitely feel like it's not one of the stronger lines in the chapter, but I still think it fits. I might toy with it to see if I can find anything better if I do more tweaks in the future, though.

I've thought some more about it, and I think I've narrowed down what didn't work for me: it's not enough.

The one tweak that comes to mind would be;

"Cadance ended her sentence with a sip. It had no right sounding that smug, but then again the brat had no right barging into her life and snatching all her hard work from under her snout either and she'd still done it."

But that's so long it needs to be its own paragraph rather than an add-on to Cadance's previous line.

Thank you so much! That is extremely lofty praise, considering how many incarnations there are of her both in canon materials and in fanfic. My number one rule in just about every story is that the tale is only as good as its characters. That I've done so well with Sunset's character in your estimation is one of the highest compliments I could hope for.

I planned to say it was probably faint praise because I'm not actually familiar with that many other Sunsets...

But a big part of why I enjoyed your Sunset so much is, well, that your narration shows so much of her in the first place. I have a lot more material to know whether I like her or not.

The only other example I can think of at the moment would be The Albinocorn's Sunset in The Maker's Reject—I'd actually forgotten about her until now—but while I also love her to bits, I'm much more partial to the canon old Sunset and her ego big enough to anchor a small galaxy.

Thank you again for all the feedback and another lovely comment. I expect the next chapter to be posted sometime this week, so you won't have to be waiting too much longer on that one. It's by far the most intense chapter so far, which opens the door for a lot of different opinions. Hopefully it'll be worth the wait!

You're welcome and thanks again.

The one thing I've been wondering was whether Sunset would despise Cadance from start to finish or whether they'd form a genuine bond doomed to be irreparably smashed to pieces before the end of the story... It seems I'll have the start of an answer next chapter and I'm so, so looking forward to it.

And so everything comes roaring to the surface.

Yo, this is honest-to-oranges really well written. Why haven’t I read this before? I’m liking Sunset’s motives and inner thoughts, dialogue is good as well, and the prose is easy to read. I also like all of the technical magic jargon, like the names of the books.

Who knows. If you play your cards right, this may just be your best story yet.

10135811
Thank you so much! I'm in love with writing this story right now, and I'm taking my time to make it the best it can be. Whether it'll be my best story yet remains to be seen—also difficult to compare, since the bulk of my stories are one-shots—but I also believe the potential is there. And now that the groundwork has been laid, the story's really gonna start picking up. I can only hope people enjoy the direction I take it as much as they seem to have enjoyed it so far!

Celestia continues to be careless with ancient magical artifacts/entities.

10138655
At least this one comes with the caveat of not necessarily being ancient! Not according to Cadance, at any rate.

This is taking a more adventurous turn than I expected. I'm not looking forward to Sunset's and Cadance's private conversation involving Celestia in the next chapter either.

But even if I don't care for a development that makes me foresee a 'Midnight Cadance' in the future, there was something I really enjoyed here. Don't think I didn't notice how the narration shifted when Sunset was turned to stone.

Yes, the events meant that Sunset's bite stepped back, what with being too busy trying to not die. But it was replaced by the voice of someone losing all hope as she believes she's doomed to a fate worse than death, then sees her only friend in the world leave her in the dust to help the most-definitely-not-petrified Cadance, then fears Celestia is doing the same when she turns away from her to focus on the same still breathing Cadance.

It went beyond a simple change of tone. Sunset's vocabulary turned much simpler, commas were thrown to the wind, desperate pleas in a sudden present tense in italics are squeezed inside sentences that just go on and on and on because her brain's the only thing that's still working she's lost lost lost somebody anybody please help

It was a little brought down by much of the internal narration in the same scene sounding level-headed and collected right afterward, like with "Highly debatable" and "Finally, something we can agree on," I'll admit. If that was supposed to represent Sunset clinging to what little left she could control, it didn't read that way for me.

Even then, this little shift was absolutely delightful to watch.

I also loved the interaction between Sunset and Cadance, with Philomena being a nice detail on the side. I don't doubt the bird would have had some choice chirps for Sunset if all hell hadn't broken loose, considering how utterly uncaring and dismissive she was towards Cadance's pain as she told her about her life before becoming an alicorn.

One more thing I loved was the similarity between them. All three of them, and I don't mean Philomena here.

First, it appears ponies weren't exactly pleased to have Sunset around when she was a foal, according to her flashback attack. Probably not to the point of throwing stones at her whenever they saw her, though, but at the same time this would suit very nicely a certain, aptly-named knight in shining armor leaping to the rescue.

Second, and best as far as I'm concerned, the similarity between Sunset and Prismia. I'll let the quotes do the talking;

“Do you know what the worst part is?” Cadance said, as if she hadn’t even heard. “I knew she was using me. Everypony told me not to trust her. But I… I-I convinced them to give her a second chance and… a-and…” She buried her face in the plush carpet and punched the floor. “I’m so stupid!

“I trusted her. Even after all of that, I still trusted her. I wanted to believe she was good. That she’d changed. That she actually wanted to be friends.”

One more quote, with a little bit of extrapolation true, this time about the first similarity;

“It was. They were the only ponies who had ever really loved me. And it took me a long time to accept that it wasn’t just pity.”

Sunset's and Cadance's relationship is set on an inevitable crash course, and it's going to be glorious.

Especially that, so far, Cadance is shown to be the kindest and fairest to Sunset out of all the characters in this story. She doesn't show to someone else where her friend—'practical sister'—who just wants to be left alone lives, unlike Philomena. She asks for her permission and is willing to take no for an answer, unlike Celestia who, just in this chapter, can't even conceive asking Sunset if she's interested in staying with Cadance and, apparently, actually genuinely believes she is the one who decides what Sunset does with her time.

Speaking of whom, it certainly helped that Cadance didn't stride in from on high with a presumptuous, watery speech about the marvel of family as well.


I don't have any criticism, other than I see some good breaking-down points in some long paragraphs throughout the chapter. The very first one after "about the process," mainly. The clashing registers between "perused" and "knickknacks" in the same sentence some while later also threw me off for a second, although I really like that second word.

Two typos as well;

And on the far side of the chamber, the Everheart floated in the air on its own Sunset assumed it was the Everheart anyway—she couldn’t see past the searing pink light.

anyway;

“If you want to, that is. I would understand if you want to be alone

alone.


Finally, the usual truckload of lines I liked;

Cadance obviously didn’t have any special skills, but her ability to stretch mundane conversations to their breaking point was at least noteworthy. Despite Sunset’s best efforts, the picnic had droned on for a full hour longer. How anypony could go on for so long about the intricacies of cultivating grapes for icewine was beyond her, let alone how Cadance even knew so much about the process.

And that was to say nothing of the targeted questions Sunset had been forced to dodge and deflect like spells in a magic duel. Honestly, who asked somepony they’d known for barely a day what their birthstone was? Or how many siblings they had? Or anything beyond a simple: “How are you?”

But she had endured, and they finally reached Cadance’s chambers by the final needles of daylight.

“All right,” she said as the wall sconces flickered awake.

She laid her scribing instruments across the table like surgical tools.

“My village elder, Elder—that’s his name. Confusing, I know.”

She tipped her head to the balcony, where a small jungle grew in ceramic planters.

“Not a chance,” Sunset said—the response had been on her tongue before the offer was even made.

Moments later, she trotted back inside.

Only now she wasn’t alone.

Sunset’s eyes softened. “Philomena?”

The phoenix turned to her and chirped brightly. She launched from Cadance’s back and landed at Sunset’s side, leaning in for their usual greeting. Sunset paused to shoot Cadance a dark look—which she correctly took as a warning to avert her eyes—before returning the nuzzle.

“She was on the railing when I finished meditating,” Cadance said, her smile oozing mirth. “I’m really glad she’s here, to be honest.”

“Why are you happy to see her?” Sunset said, sidling closer to Philomena.

“Oh, she’s been just great in helping me adjust. She always seems to know when I need some company—sometimes she’ll even spend the night when I’m homesick. It’s almost uncanny.”

“Is that right?” Sunset said. She turned a cool stare on Philomena, who nudged her side with a wing. Sunset rolled her eyes and huffed. “Well, she’s been my friend since I was a filly.” Way before you showed up.

Practically sisters, Sunset nearly said, but Cadance didn’t deserve to know that.

Tension cascaded down Cadance’s face. Her smile held strong, if wounded.

A few moments passed, punctuated by the tedious tick of the wall clock, as Cadance chewed on her words. Eventually, Sunset’s patience ran out. “Just start with the main event. What did you do to get that?” She flicked her quill towards Cadance’s horn.

Cadance crossed her eyes up, and her mouth formed a little “o” like she was just noticing it for the first time.

Sunset waited for Cadance to continue. When she didn’t, Sunset said, “That can’t be it.”

Cadance sighed, her body buckling. “You’re right. It’s not. I suppose you need to know more about Prismia for it to make sense. She, um… I told you how the Everheart amplifies the wearer’s emotions, right?”

“Duh. That’s literally the only thing I know about it.”

“Oh.” It was all Sunset could say. She coughed, pretended to make a note, and rolled straight past the ursa in the room.

Its light sparkled the dark blue of final twilight.

Don't think I'm not going to get paranoid about this specific line.

As she spoke, yellow pinpricks stabbed out across the Everheart’s facets like blinking stars. The navy light swallowed most of them as soon as they appeared.

Tied to your emotions? Geez, how long’d it take to figure that one out, Shadow Spade?

So they gained common sense? Sunset stifled a snicker.

I feel these two sentences would read better if they were swapped, I'll admit.

Cry me a river, Sunset thought, with only the thinnest sliver of regret. “Sounds terrible,” she said, emphasizing the deadpan in her voice.

I'm usually not one for 'italicized thought + s/he thought,' but here I found it to work because it goes with the rest of the sentence.

Cadance’s face crumpled. “It was. They were the only ponies who had ever really loved me. And it took me a long time to accept that it wasn’t just pity.” She chuckled harshly. “It might sound silly, but I started to think of us like… well, like a family. And… all of a sudden…” She took another sip—likely trying to hide her sniffle. “Palm Heart just… she just—” A hiccup cut her off. “She kicked me out one night. Sh-she told me to… t-to…” The tankard trembled in her hooves.

A warm gust blew through Sunset’s mane as Philomena took off, landing atop the picnic basket. She leaned down and gently pecked Cadance’s withers. Cadance offered a flimsy smile but didn’t otherwise react.

Sunset shot daggers at Philomena—sheathed, but daggers all the same. She made to interrupt, but pins and needles suddenly hammered down her back like stampeding buffalo. She threw a deadly look over her shoulder, which was instantly washed slack.

A thunderstorm raged in the Everheart. Grey magic roiled in thick swirls across the facets, and arcs of white energy sparked throughout. Sunset lost herself in the fathomless dark. Wicked memories she’d buried ages ago clawed to the forefront of her mind.

She yanked herself free of the hallucination because that’s all it is and squeezed her eyes shut. Tears rolled down her cheeks in thin streams.

Cadance lay on the ground, hooves clutching her head as waves of tears pressed out between her eyelids. Philomena attempted to nuzzle her, but she didn’t seem to notice. And despite how warm Sunset knew that gesture to be, Cadance trembled like a leaf on the edge of winter. She choked out a few haggard sobs.

“Uh,” Sunset said, “you okay?” A stupid question, but the only one that came to mind.

Cadance shook her head wildly, as if trying to escape a nightmare. “I trusted her. Even after all of that, I still trusted her. I wanted to believe she was good. That she’d changed. That she actually wanted to be friends.”

Sunset started, but a sudden icy wind whipped the words from her brain.

“We talked about personal things, Sunset,” Cadance said, meeting Sunset’s eyes through wet lenses. Have they always been blue?

A banshee in Cadance’s mouth screamed the last word.

The Everheart boomed like thunder in a bottle.

“Do you know what the worst part is?” Cadance said, as if she hadn’t even heard. “I knew she was using me. Everypony told me not to trust her. But I… I-I convinced them to give her a second chance and… a-and…” She buried her face in the plush carpet and punched the floor. “I’m so stupid!

More cracks spiderwebbed across the glass case, and Sunset took that as her cue to teleport out.

Cadance still lay curled up in the middle of the room, her sobs unnaturally loud in the roaring wind.

Sunset glared through her windswept mane at the blubbering, silhouetted heap.

Hundreds of thin tendrils snaked out behind it in a twisting, eerie mane.

She could duck under the bed, which would have been sheer genius for a foal.

Lustrous purple spirals spun in its eye sockets like angry, molten galaxies.

And they were aimed squarely at Sunset.

She tugged Cadance’s hoof, trying to make her stand, but she may as well have been attempting to lift a sleeping cow.

The serpent slithered into the air above them, hissing like compressed steam. It circled slowly, coiling lower and lower.

“I-I’m sorry,” Cadance stammered, her eyes halfway open. “I… B-but I…” She yanked her hoof free and covered her face like a filly afraid of the bandersnatch. “I-I can’t!”

“You have to! This is your fault!” Sunset stomped a hoof, her vision rimming red. “This never would have happened if you weren’t so sentimental! The Everheart amplifies emotions! Why would you want to be right next to it when talking about this?! Did you plan this?! Honestly, you deserve—”

Panting, she looked up to where the dragon, for lack of a better term, lorded over Cadance, radiant as a neon sign.

The monster released her. She still couldn’t move, but at least the burning sensation faded. The beast returned to Cadance, but Sunset briefly caught her reflection in the Everheart’s facets.

Rather, the reflection of a statue. Carved in her likeness.

A statue she remained, and Sunset discovered that there was no worse feeling than trying to cry through stone eyes.

Sunset had never been one for hugs, but she would have broken the world for one in that moment.

Turning away please don’t leave me, Princess Celestia called, “Mi Amore!” Her voice boomed over the pandemonium. “You are safe. There is nopony here who wishes you harm.”

Highly debatable.

Finally, something we can agree on. The thought rang in Sunset’s head like a funeral toll.

Long, dark shadows loomed on the edge of Sunset's mind. She ignored them.

Sunset tried to fold her ears. It wouldn’t have silenced the phantom voices in her head, but it was the best she could do.

“But with patience and faith in your friends and yourself, you will be. You already have three good friends here at your side. Embrace that feeling.”

It was probably best that Sunset couldn’t speak in that moment.

And just as the thought crossed her mind, warmth flooded her chest like hot spring water—a feeling greater than a thousand perfect grades.

The smile Princess Celestia wore looked off on her usually stoic face. Pleasant, but off.

Sunset’s focus broke away. Philomena stood on the floor next to Cadance, who had risen to her hooves. She resembled a swamp horror with her mascara-matted face and savaged mane—her mane scrunchie had gone loose at some point. She looked to Sunset with glistening eyes. Somehow her smile had weathered the storm.

Cadance snort-laughed.

Did you forget the part when I called you stupid and gullible?

Cadance fell into step beside her

Dozens of disjointed thoughts swam through the quagmire of Sunset’s mind, none of them quite breaking the surface before getting pulled back under. She fell back on her hindquarters, closed her eyes, and took a few long, slow breaths. A cocktail of sweet and earthy smells met her nostrils, sending a calming stream through her whole body.

10153517

This is taking a more adventurous turn than I expected.

Admittedly, this is a pretty intense chapter for a story labelled "Slice of Life," but it's a necessary cobblestone on the path I'm building. The next chapter will finish up what I consider the groundwork for the rest of the story, which will be much less adventurous than this segment. This chapter is likely to be the most action-packed in the whole story.

Don't think I didn't notice how the narration shifted when Sunset was turned to stone.

I'm happy to hear that you liked that part! I really wanted to get the panic and terror and helplessness of the situation across. I have to imagine that petrification is one of the most frightening things someone could experience if they're conscious for it, so I really had to drive the point home. It was a tough balance to pull off without the whole narrative just spiraling into chaos.

It was a little brought down by much of the internal narration in the same scene sounding level-headed and collected right afterward. . .If that was supposed to represent Sunset clinging to what little left she could control, it didn't read that way for me.

Yeah, that's one of the sections I've been meaning to go back and rework. I think it works fine, but you're right that it detracts from the impact of the situation, especially since the shift in narration is so sudden. And that is indeed the feeling I was gunning for. Appreciate the confirmation of my inkling that that section wasn't as strong as it could be.

Second, and best as far as I'm concerned, the similarity between Sunset and Prismia.

Well spotted! There's definitely a strong parallel between the two. Glad that came through clearly, since it's rather important to the story at large.

There are a lot of other points you brought up that I'd love to touch upon, but I don't think I can without giving away key elements as to how the story will progress. All I'll say is that I hope the destination where Cadance and Sunset will ultimately end up by the story's conclusion is worth the wait, and I think the journey there will be a satisfying one. The best is yet to come!

I hope.

Regardless, thank you for another great comment. I've gone in and fixed those typos, and I'll probably break up that paragraph, too. As always, your insight and feedback is extremely welcome! And even though you've said that you're not necessarily looking forward to it, I hope that you'll enjoy the next chapter all the same.

Cadance’s smile fractured. “Oh. Okay. I suppose that’s fair, seeing as we’ve only just met. Sorry if I offended you.”

You offend me by existing.

Oh my god! "You offend me by existing" is such a good insult!
I'm gonna need to pocket it, and keep it on hand when I need to bust out some insults.
Whether it be in real life, or in D&D.

I'm really enjoying old Sunset Shimmer!

Following her gaze, Sunset read the topmost title: Lichdom Through the Ages: Art of the Phylactery.

I love the hint of a potential plot twist of Cadance secretly being a lich. Though if we're going by D&D rules, then each lich has to research and create their own phylactery and their specific special way to die. As in, no two phylacterys or means of death can be the same between two liches.
So that book may not be that useful to any would be lich.

10173209
Glad you liked that line! It hit me like lightning when I was writing that scene, and it just fit too perfectly.

And old Sunset really is a lot of fun to write! She's such an interesting character.

10173242
Yeah, it probably wouldn't be super useful for anyone striving to be a lich. Then again, books that are useful for that process aren't likely to be found in a public library. This one would be more of a "History & Facts About Liches" style of book.

And I think we can all agree that Cadance is would be the most adorable lich ever.

I always liked the idea that Sunset is much older than Twilight. It explains why Twilight didn't know about Celestia's previous star pupil, and why Twilight didn't recognize Sunset when Sunset robbed Twilight.

I like that your making Sunset old enough to be Shining Armor's age.
Given Sunset's immense vitriol towards him, my immediate theory is that they were boyfriend and girlfriend in the times before Sunset became Celestia's student. Then Shining Armor betrayed or let down Sunset on accident somehow, which led to a breakup.
A breakup that left Sunset angry, and Shining remorseful.

I feel that this song fits the chapter once they began to talk about Cadence's past.

Especially when Celestia shows up.

*gets caught up happily devouring all of the posted chapters*
:twilightsmile::raritystarry:
*reaches the end of the final update, which is the most exciting chapter*
:applecry:
:fluttershbad: *Darth Vader "Nnnnooooooo!"*
:raritycry:

I look forward to future updates.

I can already tell that this will be a blast to read, really looking forward to it!!

Login or register to comment