• Published 5th Feb 2021
  • 1,652 Views, 79 Comments

Hostile History - Jest

Sunset Shimmer's is happy for the first time in a long time. She's accepted, has wonderful friends, and a life many would envy. Or is it all an illusion forced upon her by the very people she trusted? Only time will tell.

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Chapter 21

Sunset remained curled up against the side of the limousine for most of the ride, her legs tucked in close to her chest. For hours it seemed she stared out the window at the dark wilderness beyond barely able to form a coherent thought. How long had she been in the sensory isolation tank? What had it been doing to her?

She had no answers. There was no one she was brave enough to ask. Maybe tomorrow she could go and see Perfect Tempo. He must have the answer. He had to know how the magic worked. But if she did, would she only be chided for her weakness?

Tempo was obviously on her side, Sunset Shimmer had learned that by now, but just because he seemed as sympathetic to her and wanted her abilities restored didn't mean that those goals couldn't be pursued in a way that was destructive. At this point, she wasn't sure how much longer she could keep things going.

Those visions were real. She could see them, feel them, touch them. It was as though she was back in Equestria all over again, ready to be punished for all the crimes she'd committed. She could practically hear the hooves of the Royal Guards pounding down the pavement behind her, ready to bring her in for treason. Yet, they hadn't done that. Even on the day of her betrayal, when Celestia had been in her greatest anger, no soldiers had ever been called.

Unless I've forgotten that part, or had it removed from my mind. Sunset Shimmer bitterly thought. Again, there was no one to ask. Twilight Sparkle probably knew the answer or had the scholarly resources to find it, but she hadn't responded meaningfully in what felt like days.

What could justify the leave of absence Twilight has taken? Has Equestria been conquered? Sunset Shimmer considered.

Maybe she was being selfish to think so much of her own problems. Maybe she should just go home, but she couldn't do that. She couldn't go through that portal again without facing Celesta and she wasn't sure she was ready. Or even if that was a good idea in the first place.

"You sure you don't want me to pull over somewhere and buy you a beer or something?" asked Sonata, expression dark and confused. “You look like you went through a lot in there.”

Sunset shook her head. "No, I don't have an appetite. Just take me home."

Sunset didn't feel much like conversation right now, certainly not with the semi reformed siren.

No. There was someone else. Someone whose company she very much missed. The human world’s version of Twilight Sparkle might not be as magically gifted, and she might not have the resources of the crown behind her, but given recent events Sunset Shimmer would take her every time.

Twilight. she texted as soon as she felt like moving her hands again. I need you to help me test something. Can you come over tomorrow?

It wasn’t the most direct way to admit what was really going on, of course. Twilight wouldn’t be expecting to test her. But more painfully, it would mean finally explaining all of Sunset’s failings on Earth.

Sunset hadn’t even counted to ten before Twilight’s reply appeared on her phone. Timber and I have a thing tomorrow after school. What’s the entropy on this information?

The human world’s Twilight might not be quite so gifted at magic, but that didn’t mean she was any dumber than the pony. You’re probably smarter than the real one. You didn’t have magic to lean on as a crutch, you’re only finding it now that you’re mature enough to use it. Sunset Shimmer thought to herself.

Sunset didn’t spend a minute staring at her phone because she was trying to think of a way to guarantee her reply would get Twilight to interrupt her plans with her boyfriend, nothing like that!

Ultimately, the best answer was probably the truth, Sunset Shimmer realized.

Perfect Tempo is doing something to me to try and unlock all my magical abilities. But it hurts so much I’m not sure it’s worth it. Don’t tell the girls. Sunset Shimmer replied.

Was she being too manipulative? Either way, Twilight’s little “typing” bubble appeared seconds later, and was soon joined with another rapid stream of text. Right after school it is. Timber and I can get together another time. You sure you don’t want to invite anyone else?

Sunset Shimmer shook her head, before she realized how stupid that was, though Sunset was incredibly tired, so it wasn’t her fault. For now. Depending on what we figure out, maybe I’ll talk to them then.

Besides, it wasn’t like any of the others knew half as much about magic as Sunset herself did. Rarity’s shields were powerful, but didn’t have much to do with undoing the mind-warping effects of the Elements of Harmony.

School was uneventful, aside from the constant conversations of colleges bringing Sunset’s attention back to the yawning abyss that was her deadline. But it wasn’t as though there was really any question left in her mind. Getting into Twilight’s school was an opportunity she would never give up.

All she had left to do now was figure out how she would tell everyone without making it obvious why she’d made her choice.

Sunset had already taken to avoiding accidental physical contact when she could, thanks to her always-on abilities. But school was a different experience when there was a well of unicorn magic frothing about in her chest.

Is he looking at me funny? Should I have a spell ready? What if she attacks me? Sunset Shimmer wondered despite knowing how ridiculous that was. The questions were low in her mind, barely conscious—but it felt fantastic to have the option.

Even so, Perfect Tempo had been right about the limitations. She didn’t just grow her horn back—her supply of magic didn’t refresh the way it did when she was a pony. She woke up with exactly as much in her as she had when she left Platinum’s mansion.

“You wanna ride back with me?” Twilight asked, as they made their way out of campus together. “I think I know where to find that building.”

“That would be great. I’m a little sick of the city bus these days, with the way people look at us,” Sunset Shimmer muttered.

It isn’t our fault people died. How can they really believe what Foxtrot said after seeing us save their lives so many times? Sunset Shimmer thought, her resentment piquing briefly before being pushed aside.

She hopped in the passenger seat of Twilight’s purple Beetle. As she started driving, soothing classical music began playing in the background, the sort of thing Sunset would’ve chosen while she was studying.

But Twilight is always studying. She would probably read and drive if she could. Mercifully, Twilight was watching the road, though she did notice Sunset’s attention and turn to frown at her.

“So now that we’re alone, you want to tell me exactly what Perfect Tempo made you do?” Twilight asked sternly, using the exact same tone an angry mother may use with a disobedient child.

“Nothing,” Sunset Shimmer retorted, raising a hand defensively. “He didn’t make me do anything against my will. He offered Platinum’s help to try and… fix something wrong with me. I accepted.”

“What?” Twilight asked, indignant. “Sunset, don’t turn into Rarity. You’re gorgeous, you’re brilliant, and it doesn’t matter that you’re from Equestria. Canterlot understands how much you’ve done for everyone.”

“I know, I know,” Sunset Shimmer replied, trying to keep the annoyance from her voice, though doing so took considerable effort. “Twilight, I want you to listen to me for a minute. I’m going to tell you some things that the others already know… and some that no human knows. But before I do, I want your word you don’t repeat any of this. All this stuff is in the past, and that’s where I want it to stay. Do you swear?”

Twilight was silent for a long time, letting the soothing classical melodies echo through the car around them.

Finally, she nodded. “I promise. I don’t think it’s good to keep things bottled up, but… I’m not going to make that decision for you. I’ll respect your wishes.”

Sunset told her. She didn’t bore her with hours of specifics, since of course the drive to her apartment was only ten minutes when they drove directly.

Even so, she couldn’t skirt around the painful details. Twilight needed to know about Celestia’s refusal to give her the magic she had promised. She needed to know about Sunset’s flight, and desire for revenge. Most importantly, she needed to know exactly what had happened to Sunset.

“I knew… something had happened,” Twilight finally stammered. “There are details going around the school, and Pinkie sure does like calling you a she-demon a lot. I guess that was… literal.”

Sunset nodded. They pulled into a parking lot, though neither of them was in any hurry to get out of the car quite yet. There was no one else lingering, so they could talk in peace without feeling too self-conscious.

“The thing you really need to know is what they used to stop me. It wasn’t like, uh… your experience with magic. They didn’t convince me. They used something called the Elements of Harmony. Skipping over all the complex Equestrian history, the important thing is what Tempo wanted to tell me,” Sunset Shimmer began.

“And what is that?” Encouraged Twilight, still sounding slightly unconvinced.

“There’s no magical way to make someone good. What is good, scientifically? What’s evil? It’s not empirical, it’s just about perspective. The Elements of Harmony rewrite your personality—they write over memories, and suppress your abilities, so you aren’t a threat to Equestria again. It might be called Harmony, but it’s really just about conforming via force,” Sunset Shimmer stated.

Twilight reached out, touching Sunset’s shoulder with a comforting hand. “And you think… you think he might be right? You’re the only sample size we have you know.”

Sunset Shimmer, hesitated, turning her answer over in her mind and thinking back on her last few years with her new friends. They had come to care about her. They had forgiven her. But when she thought about it, did she want justice for Celestia’s betrayal any less?

Despite it all Sunset still wasn't sure she did.

“Yes,” Sunset Shimmer stated. “I didn’t at first, but now I know he was right. See… he’s collected a group of companions. One of them is a pony from Equestria, an ancient and powerful unicorn with an understanding of magic that even your counterpart in Equestria doesn’t have.”

Twilight nodded slowly. “And that's saying something.”

“She has a process to remove the effects of spells, even powerful ones like the Elements. Of course it’s gonna take a long time for something that strong, and hurt along the way. Last night was my first time trying it,” Sunset Shimmer explained.

“And you aren’t sure you want to go through it again?” Twilight pressed. “You think you’ve been pressured into this, and maybe you need help to escape?”

Now, it was Sunset’s turn to roll her eyes. “No, of course not. I think Tempo was eager for me to get my powers back, but he didn’t force me. This entire time, he’s never made me feel forced into anything he's offered.”

Though inviting me to dinner with the undead wasn’t my idea of fun. Sunset Shimmer thought to herself.

Worse, Sunset would have to go back there for her next treatment. Maybe she should tell Twilight about the undead part?

“I think it’s working. While I was going through the procedure… I swear I feel stronger already. Before it almost… hurt, to think about those memories, like I was going somewhere I wasn’t allowed. But now they’re clear again. Everything I did in Equestria, all the reasons I left. I’m getting them back,” Sunset Shimmer began, leaning back in her seat.

“So what is it you wanted to test?” Twilight asked. “If you’re looking to measure whether this makes you into a better or worse person, I’m afraid I agree with your previous assessment. There’s no empirical measurement of evil. There are objective units for shyness, but since you’re not Fluttershy… tracking that will probably not be helpful.”

Sunset chuckled weakly at the feeble attempt at humor. “Yeah, probably not. I was hoping we could… try the magic again. Maybe you can help me figure out if I’m getting stronger now that the Elements’ grip on me is weakening.”

Twilight grinned, retrieving a little notebook from a pocket. “I am always ready for an experiment. Why don’t you head upstairs and get things set up? I’ll be right behind you.”

Sunset twitched, looking slightly confused at the suggestion. But she nodded all the same, moving to exit the car. “There won’t be that much, Twilight. Are you… afraid I can’t control it? I’ve been using magic my whole life.”

“I know,” Twilight replied, smiling sheepishly. “I just need to tell Timber that we’ll have to reschedule. This is more important.”

Sunset nodded, hurrying out of the car and up the stairs to the apartment. If anything, that answer seemed to please her.

Twilight slumped against the seat, phone in hand. It was wrong to lie, Applejack would’ve disapproved even for something so important. But they had to know.

Twilight swiped through her phone, creating a group-text with everyone except Sunset. I’m really worried about Sunset. She just got back from another night with Perfect Tempo and his crew--she’s been saying some strange things. I’m going to try and keep an eye on her, but we should talk about this tomorrow at school. Don’t tell her.

Twilight sent the message, then promptly muted all notifications and tossed the phone into her glove-box. Her friends were lousy and keeping secrets, but it wasn’t like they’d have to keep quiet for long.

We’ll figure out what he’s doing to you, Sunset. And if we find out that he’s hurting you somehow, we’ll get you out of there. Even if we have to drag you kicking and screaming. Twilight thought.

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