• Published 1st Jun 2022
  • 532 Views, 7 Comments

Mirrored Experiences - Knight of Cerebus

Sunset Shimmer meets another lost soul far from home

  • ...

Shining Through the Clouds


She turned around to see a local looking at her with concern. The door had partially popped open, and a hairless Yeti with a ridiculous colour scheme was peering through the door at her. She looked as though someone had poured out ketchup and mustard all over her head, red and yellow tresses of hair trailing down from her scalp in flowing streams. Piercing blue eyes stared out at her from a bright yellow face, the local's expression of shock turning into a smirk.

"Y'know," the creature began, stepping more fully into the room. Between the jarring feelings of shame and shock that Tempest was wrestling with, she dimly noted that the newcomer had an excellent taste in jackets. "Seven years' bad luck is nothing compared to getting the drama club mad at you. Trust me. Nothing cramps your style like someone following you around all day angrily miming at you."

Tempest blinked. Sunset motioned to the mirror. "I promise, it's not worth it." She said, smiling gently. "There're better ways to work out whatever's up." Tempest set the mirror down, not sure what to say. Her emotions screamed at her that this was a step backwards. That she'd let her temper take control, and that if not for the sudden intrusion, she'd have once again ruined something to sate some petty rage inside her. But the creature in front of her looked at her with a casual, friendly smile. There was understanding in her eyes. Maybe even a little bit of joy.

Tempest stiffened. Comedy was something that she still struggled with, excepting the very, very occasional moment of sass. Awkward silence hung in the air. Fortunately, she had picked something up in Appleloosa to help her with exactly these sorts of scenarios. She leafed through her jacket pocket for a moment, before procuring a pamphlet with a six-pointed star on the cover. "Good afternoon." She said, stiffly, reading from one of the recommended greetings. "My name is Fizzlepop. It is good to meet you. What's your name?" She looked up from the pamphlet and desperately hoped the pre-approved Friendly Greeting list would work its magic.

The creature gave a little smirk. "Not trying to be rude, but I didn't take you for a 'Fizzlepop'. Good to meet you, though! My name's Sunset Shimmer. Are you new?"

"More or less." She said, shoving the leaflet back into her jacket.

"To the school or the world?" Sunset asked, her tone still that odd mix of playful. Tempest stiffened. "I may have noticed Twilight's cutie mark. She's an old friend."

"Really?" Tempest blinked at that. "Where did you meet the Princess of Friendship?"

"Long story." She said, and her eyes said 'and one I wish was happier', and Tempest immediately knew something about this playful stranger. In some ways, Tempest had set down one mirror and found another.

"It's funny." Tempest offered, hoping to pull this 'Sunset' away from the past. "The cynical part of me never expected the Princess of Friendship to be any good as a friend."

Sunset gave a little laugh. "Right? It makes it sound like you're friends by royal decree. But...she's nice." Sunset smiled softly, rubbing her arm and focusing her attention on one of the drama club's hat boxes. 'Nicer than I deserve', Tempest's mind translated for her.

"Which tribe are you?" She asked, hoping to break the tension. "I'd hate to be a pegasus here. It's hard enough getting used to these things." She waved a hand. And then froze. Her right hand. She'd waved her right hand.

If Sunset had noticed the scars, she didn't say anything. "On the other hoof, most of the humans I know hate being earth ponies. Lots of strength and no dexterity to go with it. No, I'm a unicorn. And losing magic isn't fantastic, but y'know, these little fellas are surprisingly helpful anyway." She looked down at her own fingers. "It took me ages to get used to walking, though. Wanna come with? I can show you around the school."

"School?" Tempest blinked.

"What, you thought the town hall had a drama club?" Sunset smirked. She offered Tempest a hand, which Tempest took with less hesitation than she thought she would. Her left hand grabbed Sunset's right, and together, the two made their way into the hallway of what was unmistakably a school. Pimple-dotted teens carried books to classes, made pit stops at a water fountain and rifled through their lockers for supplies.

Some ponies stopped to stare at her, and Tempest bristled and drew closer. She could feel their eyes looking down, and she pushed her right hand behind her back. Sunset shot the offending teenagers a pointed look, and abruptly, they snapped their eyes away from the pair. Almost like they were scared of her..."Weirdly, this dimension has arbitrarily decided that if you are below the age of thirty you are a teenager and must therefore be looking to attend high school. Imagine my surprise. I'd just finished running away from a school, and boom! Executive-mandated high school dimension. I was thrilled."

There was a pause, and Sunset's eyes widened. Her free hand flew to her face for just a moment, and her smile went from easygoing to bashful, maybe even apologetic. Tempest could see some fear in her eyes. She gave Sunset's hand a squeeze. She didn't even know why. She'd just met this stranger. They could want anything from her, have a history even she would find horrifying. But some type of sympathy made her want to tell her everything would be alright.

"You seem to like it here." She said to Sunset. It was a guess, but she seemed very comfortable with the high school she'd ended up running to. By the shift in Sunset's expression, Tempest reckoned she'd guessed correctly.

"It's a really nice community." Sunset gave the passing crowds an almost grateful smile. "They can be a little judgmental at first, but they know a good pony when they see one. Or, uh, person. They say 'people', here."

"And the species is called 'humans'?" Tempest looked around. Getting a proper look at the species, they reminded her, perhaps a bit morbidly, of storybook depictions of Tirek that she'd seen when she was growing up. Smooth skin and long limbs, as if his top half continued all the way down, uninterrupted by equine body parts.

"That's right." Sunset nodded. Tempest spotted some students matching her stare, their eyes flying down towards her hands. Instinctively, she clenched it and pulled it behind her back, her curious expression turning into a stony glare. The students quickly fond they had more important things to do than stare at her, and she gave a satisfied smirk.

"I'm sorry about that." Sunset offered to Tempest.

"I'm used to it." Tempest's voice was blunt, and invited no further conversation on the topic. Maybe Sunset was different, but her school certainly wasn't. Just more shallow, judgmental creatures with shallow, judgmental lives. How did Twilight do it? How did Sunset do it? Maybe the Ursa Major had broken more than just her horn. Or maybe they had it easier, being able to keep what was broken inside of them hidden, instead of broadcasting it to the world. The sound of Sunset's voice cut through the gloomy thoughts.

"When I first came here, I used to be a very angry person." Sunset's voice was, uncharacteristically, both shy and soft, almost apologetic. "I didn't leave behind anything important in Equestria. I felt...betrayed, by the only person who cared about me. I wanted to make it everyone else's problem. And being angry I learned that you can make people care about you if you make them afraid of you."

Tempest looked over at the other girl, who was transforming before her eyes. Everything about her seemed to shrink. Her expression was distant and tired. Her hold on Tempest's hand was faltering and timid. Her shoulders bunched and slumped.

"When you're angry, really angry like that, you can do almost anything to anybody. Because you can just...convince yourself they don't have it as bad as you. And it made things so...easy. I could get anyone to do anything for me. I got some nerds to vouch for me being an exchange student, made them fill out the documents to match. I broke the school into little pieces, all bowing at my boots. I--"

Tempest put her right hand onto Sunset's shoulder, turning to face her. "You don't have to tell me this." She tried to force warmth into her voice.

The life came back into the girl at the gesture. She grabbed Tempest's broken hand, taking both hands into hers and looking Tempest in the eyes. "The point is." She said, warmth entering into her voice. "It was hard for me to stop doing that. I don't have all the answers--I'm still learning how to do this, too." They shared a smile at this, a small, almost shy thing. "But I don't have to be perfect, now. The respect that I got from fear relied upon my power. I needed to be strong to have anyone care about me."

"Weakness is opportunity." Tempest said, simply. As if she were explaining that gravity pulled things downwards, or heat caused things to rise.

"But it doesn't have to be." Sunset gave her clasped hands a squeeze and locked eyes with Tempest's steely gaze. "The hardest part of changing who I was was making that first step. Pulling back that tough shell that could take on anything and being the real me. Because when people know the real you they can hurt the real you. But...once you find people who will be friends with the real you, they'll help you up when you get hurt. If you can open yourself up, accept getting burned by the nasty person here and there, you can find friends who respect you however good or bad you are at something, whatever mistakes you make along the way."

Tempest bit her lip. "I don't...have anyone like that. Who would just vouch for me, if someone else was trying to use me."

"Well..." Sunset smiled warmly, if still a little shyly. "Now you have one person like that. If, y'know, you'd like to."

Tempest blushed at this, but looked at Sunset's shimmering eyes with that same infectious hope. "I'd be honoured to call somebody like you a friend." Warmth crept into Tempest's voice as she spoke, and their expressions both changed to match. The clanging of the noon-time bell interrupted the warm moment. Sunset gave a theatrical eye roll, nodding in the direction of a classroom.

"Listen, I gotta get to class soon." She walked over to one of the lockers and pulled it open, beginning to stuff binders and textbooks into a denim backpack. Tempest caught sight of a journal with half of Twilight Sparkle's cutie mark joined to a fiery sun that was presumably Sunset Shimmer's own. "If you like, you can hang out here, maybe find something in the library to read--"

"I'd.." Tempest bit back the thought. It was an old dream. One she'd buried long ago. Not really worth bringing up.

"You'd...?" Sunset tilted her head.

"I never really...got to go to school." She said. "Or, maybe I did have the chance, but I didn't see the point. I wanted to, when I was little. I wanted to be part of Celestia's School, but..." She looked down at the ruined hand held in Sunset's. "Things got in the way."

Sunset smiled gently. "I'll tell the teacher that you're from the other side, that you want to learn. That sound okay?"

Tempest gave a little nod. Almost shy. Sunset pulled away, over to the class, and Tempest waited for the inevitable. Paperwork would be demanded. Money required. She'd need to find another odd job. Maybe, if she worked at it, she might earn the right to walk through the doors as a student--

"Okay." Sunset returned, her eyes lit up with embers of excitement. "So we're going to have to share a textbook, but if you promise to take it seriously, Mr. Cranky says that if I vouch for you you can come along."

"Really?" Tempest blinked, and a thousand possibilities rose before Fizzlepop's eyes. She felt...young. The world was, suddenly, impossibly, full of potential again. What did they teach in this 'human world'? What was there to learn?

"'I'm not going to turn down another student actually interested in learning, no matter what dimension they're from'. His words, not mine." Sunset elbowed her, and then pulled her along to class.

To Fizzlepop's relief, nobody stared when she entered the room. They were either busy following along with the lesson, or trying to escape its clutches. Sunset opened her notebook and set to work, and Fizzlepop looked for her place.

The topic she was trying to parse was wave mechanics. These humans had found out that not only how to calculate how fast and tall waves like the waves on the ocean could be, but that other things traveled in waves invisible to the eyes. Sound travelled in waves. Light travelled in waves. It was incredible! The teacher kept smiling at her eager expression, too.

It was hard writing with her non-dominant arm, but easier than writing with her mouth had been. She couldn't keep up with everything, but when she needed time to write more, Sunset would slide over her own notes so Fizzlepop could read them. Midway through the lesson, she raised her good hand. The teacher had picked her out, his expression a mix of curious and expectant. "So sound travels through different mediums at different speeds, right? Is that true for light, too? Is that why light becomes distorted underwater?"

The teacher gave her a knowing smirk at that. "That's the next unit." He winked, writing 'Reflections and Refractions' on the board. Fizzlepop felt a bit of satisfaction mix in with her curiosity.

"Also. Why does sound sometimes move slowly?"

"Move slowly?" He raised an eyebrow at this.

"If an explosion goes off, you see it and feel it before you hear it." Tempest explained. Some of the students began to stare at her in confusion. "Like, uh, with thunder and lightning. You see the flash before you hear the boom." The brief intrusion of tension in the room released, and Fizzlepop allowed herself some measure of relief.

"The sound is still travelling at its normal speed, but it isn't the only wave that's moving towards you when lightning strikes. Sound may be fast, but it isn't the fastest force out there. What you're experiencing is light travelling even faster." Fizzlepop gave a nod, returning to her seat.

The rest of the day continued with even more curiosities. In biology, she learned about the regeneration abilities of the body. How cells divided and multiplied. In chemistry they discussed something called super-suspension, when there was too much matter in a liquid it would produce a solid, like a crystal. Side by side, she and Sunset worked on the questions together.

At first, there was a prevailing sense that Sunset was stooping to her speed. That she was just slowing her down. But Fizzlepop caught her moving a decimal place between equations during their calculation of crystal stoichiometry, and Sunset made a sound like an engine running out of gas, pointing to her brain and rolling her eyes. The two of them shared a laugh, and Fizzlepop's worries fell away.