• Published 18th Feb 2024
  • 1,299 Views, 33 Comments

The Return of Midnight Sparkle - DapperLilArts

Sunset Shimmer, in Equestria, Has to deal with being a part of Twilight Sparkle's team, per her request, despite her own feelings of inadequacy, regrets, fears, and worse of all, her newfound love for Twilight Sparkle. Can she ever earn it?

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CHAPTER 2 Until I Break

Author's Note:

Warning in advance this chapter is the longest. It takes place in around 200 days, and it's basically an entire season of the show. Good luck!

And quite importantly, if you enjoyed it, please tell me which day was your favorite! Id love to know, because i concider all of them bangers. personaly my favorite might be Cadance cameo, but you'll see why.


🔥Until I break🔥

Days until Midnight Sparkle returns: 187.

Running, at top speed, pushing herself. The wind on her face, her hair in a ponytail, her backpack tightly wrapped, all to facilitate the galloping. Grass and dirt beneath her hooves and the sun shining brightly, there wasn’t a better day to push yourself to your limits. Sunset focused only on what was absolutely necessary in the moment, momentum.

Rainbow Dash flew overhead, seemingly effortlessly guiding them, and Fluttershy flew behind, at a more leisurely pace. All of them were wearing backpacks suited for this run.

“You know, next time *pant* we should try a harder route.” Sunset took quick breaths in rhythm with her running.

Rainbow Dash was a bit weirded out. “Harder?? Dude, we've done this route for what, a couple days? You should start small!”

Sunset kept moving forward. “No, I’ve run here in the mornings *pant* a couple times alone. I'm getting too used to it, *pant* I think.”

Fluttershy chimed in, a bit concerned. “Um, by the way, Pinkie told me she saw you running here while… reading?”

“Yeah! *pant* I was catching up on some magic study. *pant* Why not do both? *pant* I want to use my time well. *pant*
Sunset deflected concern. She needed to push herself.

Rainbow Dash flashed her wings pointing ahead. “Hey, here comes a jump, ready?”


Sunset jumped over a small river gap, a quiet brook, but the gap was at least 4 meters, and failed to stick the landing, falling instead on the edge, immediately holding herself by the front hooves, trying not to fall on the river.

“Shit SHIT!” she felt the pain on her lower body from hitting the dirt so hard. Rainbow and Fluttershy immediately flew back to help her.

with a shout, Sunset immediately stopped them. “Wait, STOP! I need to get up on my own, hang on!”

The two Pegasi just looked at each other, confused and concerned. Sunset struggled for a little bit, the dirt constantly giving in when she tried climbing.

“Dude, don’t be silly, I can easily help–” Rainbow approached her.

Bucking the dirt with her lower legs, Sunset propelled herself forward, shoving herself upward and doing a clumsy roll off of the ledge onto the road. She spit a bit of dirt out. “Blergh. See? I got this!” Then she immediately continued running, ignoring the protests her body made. “C’mon we’re almost there!”

Rainbow Dash couldn’t help but smile, seeing someone working hard. “Damn, you’re chipper today!” Fluttershy tried expressing concern, but neither of them heard. Sunset continued. “Yeah! *pant* I can't believe I choked that jump though.” She tried to ignore the feeling of inadequacy she felt near them.

“Don’t worry, man! There’s always next time!” The Pegasus comforted her.

Fluttershy cleared her throat. “Sooooo Sunset. What made you want to practice running, with two Pegasi no less? Isn’t this a bit unfair on you…?”

Sunset laughed a bit “Hah, when you’re lifting weights you need a spotter, right? *pant* Someone stronger than you. If I want to be fast, *pant* I need to train with the fastest!”

With one of her trademark overconfident laughs, Rainbow snorted in delight. “That’s rich! A lotta Unicorn folk don't bother training their body, they just rely on magic for everything! No offense, of course. It’s radthat you’re trying, Sunset!”

Despite the immense effort, Sunset was in high spirits! “Thanks! And none taken. *pant* A lot of Unicorns are kind of stuck up. *pant* It’s rare you’ll see some of us being generous and giving like Rarity *pant* or kind and sweet and cute and caring like Twilight!”

Was the adrenaline removing the filter on her brain?

Rainbow Dash did not process that last part. “Haha, yeah! Have you guys noticed that a lot of the pony bad guys we fought are Unicorns?” Fluttershy only scratched her chin in response.

With a shrug, Sunset responded, trying to save her breath. “Wouldn’t know! *pant* I just joined you guys like two months ago, *pant* I haven't seen any bad guys yet!”

Rainbow Dash got jokey. “Oh dooon’t worry. They’re always around every couple weeks. None ever stood a chance though, Twilight usually wrecks ‘em, if we don’t all do ‘em in together!”

Sunset got a little distracted. “Hah… *pant* Yeah. *pant* She’s pretty strong, huh?”

Fluttershy chimed in with concern once more. “Sunset, are you sure we shouldn’t take a break? This might be a bit much!”

And once again, Sunset deflected that concern, not wanting to stop for anything. “Relax, Fluttershy! *pant* We’re almost there! *pant* Besides, what better way to practice than to keep up with the fastest flier in Equestria?”

Rainbow Dash chuckled. “Hah, Flattery isn’t going to make me slow down, you know?”

Sunset smirked. “Oh, this is supposed to be fast? I'm barely galloping!”

Lighting up in excitement, Rainbow Dash IMMEDIATELY got hiper. “HAH! Okay then!! you asked for it!!” and sped up even more.

Sunset, confidently pushed herself to go even faster. Everything hurt.

A little while later, they made it to a small clearing near the top of the mountain, with a really good view of Ponyville, the perfect place for a small picnic. Sunset laid on her back, taking deep long breaths, trying to get her heart to stop pounding. Fluttershy and Rainbow Dash both sat next to her, unpacking her things and trying to tend to her adrenaline rush.

With a tad of nerves and embarrassment, Rainbow freaked out a bit. “Oh no, I didn’t kill her, did i?? She’s not dying is she?? Augh Twilight would kill me if I killed the newest member of the crew…”

Fluttershy patted her gently with her wing while grabbing a bottle of water. “I told you we needed to slow down...! Sunset just started doing this! Here you go, drink some of this!” She offered some water to the fatigued Unicorn. “Splatter it on your face too! It helps!” Rainbow chimed in.

“It’s *pant* okay *pant* thank *pant* you *pant*“ Sunset said slowly, before taking a loooong drink of the water bottle, almost choking. She then splattered it all over her face to cool off. “Yeah that helps. *pant* thanks, you two...” she said, incredibly relieved that her adrenaline was stabilizing.

Rainbow helped her sit up. “Yeaaahh we’re definitely not taking the harder route next time. You haven’t done this often, have you?”

Grunting, forcing herself up, Sunset responded with an exhale. “I do this as much as any Unicorn would. Not much.” Still very tired.

“Hah, tell me about it. I did something like this with Twilight once; she had to stop muuuch earlier than you. Nowadays I just give her flying assistance! She would always rather levitate or teleport, though... Laaaame.”

Sunset didn’t answer, she was distracted by the imagery of Twilight being tired and needing help keeping up. She imagined herself helping Twilight push on, or taking care of her when needing a break. Those thoughts spiraled as her face got redder.

Fluttershy handed out snacks and sandwiches to both the girls, then took bits of hers and started handing bits and pieces of her food to nearby animals like birds and squirrels. She did continue to express concern, though. “Will you promise to take it easier next time, Sunset? You did push yourself pretty hard back there… ”

Sunset hesitated a bit. No, she didn’t want to slow down. Pushing herself was all that matters.

“Well… I don't know what to tell you, Fluttershy. I need to practice and get better at this, and I'm trying my best, with the best. As long as you guys are here, I'm not very worried about me!”

Rainbow interjected. “What my girl means to say is that despite it being really awesome that you’re trying cool new things like trying to be super fast and we support you, You have to take care of yourself too! No athlete or hero gets anywhere without taking a deserved break from time to time! Trust me, I know.” She said, confidently taking a bite of her sandwich.

Sunset knew what they were doing. They were doing this because they cared… But she couldn't afford to care like them right now. Even if it was wrong, she had to use them to get better, and that meant ignoring her own needs. “I’ll take that under advisement.”

“You’re also helping Applejack around her farm, right?” Said Fluttershy, while quietly giving a bit of food to a bird that landed near her.

“Yep. And fencing with Rarity, acrobatics with Pinkie, study with Twilight, meditation with you, etc. etc.”

Tilting her head curiously, Rainbow chimed in. “Wow, you’re really trying lots these days! What made you want to anyway?”

She only responded after taking another drink of water. “You guys all got your things, and I figured I needed mine; If Twilight's keeping me around for the long haul. Besides, spending time with all of you is always… nice.”

“Our things?”

“Y’know, you’re super fast, Applejack is strong, Twilight is… super powerful, that kind of thing! I don’t have a thing, so I'm… trying everything.” Sunset hid the fact that she really did want to be able to do everything. She wanted to, above all, be capable. Reliable. If she was going to stay in this group she needed to be better no matter what.

Fluttershy tried comforting her. “It’s okay, Sunset, I don't have a thing either!”

“Babe you can literally talk to animals.” Rainbow said, pointing at the squirrel nuzzling her with adoration.

They all chuckled a bit. Sunset once again ignored the feeling of inadequacy she felt near them.

“Besides. This is a pretty good way to start the day, don’t you think?” Neither of the Pegasus disagreed, in fact, they joyfully giggled.

Rainbow especially, chuckled. “You had me going though, with all this training, I thought you’d wanna enter the regional pony race that’s happening in Canterlot in a couple months! That woulda been craaazy!”

With her ears twitching in curiosity, Sunset paused for a bit. “Race?”

Now this was exactly up her alley, Rainbow fluttered her wings as she passionately explained. “Yeah dude! Ponies from all over are gathering to compete, and it's not even Pegasus exclusive anymore! They’re making the races specially catered to challenge every kind of pony! Makes it three times as hardcore and three times as fun!! You KNOW I'm signing up! Flying races are one thing, but I really wanna test myself in all terrain too, y’know?

“Huh… Isn’t that something…”

Staring at nothing, Sunset was lost in thought. A big event, every kind of pony was invited. A huge challenge, for sure. Very intense. She had never been interested in events like those, there was never even a reason to consider competing.

“Yep! It’s gonna be that big stadium near the castle. Whole kingdom’s gonna be there! No better chance for glory. I loooove that stuff. You’ll watch me right, babe?” Rainbow nuzzled Fluttershy, while she giggled and answered “of course!” in which Rainbow would ask “riiiiight?” nuzzling and blowing raspberries on her, making her answer again, and then asking again, and again. It was a giggle fit!

Sunset stared at the distance. A stadium right next to the castle in Canterlot. No doubt all kinds of important people would be watching. Even people like the Princesses would no doubt observe the event. Celestia, Luna and…

“Rainbow, I want to sign up too.”


“To the race! I want to sign up with you. What better way to put my training to the test, right?”

Rainbow vibrated with excitement. “Oh my gosh, oh my gosh, that is AWESOME!! I always wanted a buddy to do events like these!! I'm all in!”

Sunset got a bit embarrassed. “Umm, one thing, though, a favor, if you don’t mind? This might be a big ask, I'm not sure…”

“Sure, ask away, man! We’re in this together!” She smiled.

“Could you help me make it to the top ten? I-I don’t care about winning, not really. I just want to make a good impression. I even want to try using magic as little as possible, you know? It’s going to be a big event, and I would appreciate it if I had somepony to watch my back… y-y'know, my old mentor is going to be watching, yeah?”

Sunset tried not thinking about Twilight watching her from the stands. She couldn’t care less about Celestia or even Luna watching her fail; In fact, she would avoid The Princess of the Sun like the plague. But if she could pull off a big win in front of Twilight…

That would be everything.

Rainbow tilted her head. “You’re asking me to not give it my all so that we can focus on helping each other through the competition?”

“Um, yeah you’re right. It’s a stupid Idea–” She started giving up on it; but the Pegasus interrupted her. “Dude of COURSE I CAN HELP! You think I care about golden medals? I got plenty of those already. I'm in it for the fun! And this time, I get to help a friend through it too! Don’t worry. I’ll get you in FIRST place, and that's a Dash promise!!”

With a look of surprise, the Unicorn exhaled in relief; Not expecting to get that far. “Thanks. I mean it. And d-don’t worry, I won't hold you to that. This is just me trying! I want to see how it feels to be in a big competition like that!” Truth was, she had no faith that she could win, but she also would not let that stop herself from trying.

Rainbow Held her by one shoulder and gestured at the sky as if to visualize it. “Picture this. You and me. You got a golden medal and I got a silver medal; Fluttershy in my arms and you with as many babes as you want– lotsa confetti and the Princesses personally bowing to us for being so AWESOME! That's your future, dude!!”

Sunset pictured a very different future. Crossing the finish line. Twilight gives her a golden medal, then kisses her on the cheek. No crowd, no competitors or other Princesses. Just them.

Fluttershy giggled, but chimed in anyways. “Sweetie, I think you should ease up, this is gonna be her first competition after all!”

Shaking the fluster that appeared in her own cheeks, Sunset tried diminishing the stakes. “Y-yeah! This is just threading waters, I don't need or even want to win, it’s fine!” She lied.

“Whatevs, my dude. Just know I'm with you all the way! This is gonna be so awesome!!” Rainbow fluttered her wings in joy.

Sunset smiled, and then started stretching, while putting her stuff away back in the backpack. “Well girls, I'm just about done! Want to get back to Ponyville?”

“Of course! But remember, we can take it slow if you need.” Fluttershy made sure to assert, hoping for her friend to slow down.

“Haha, yes, but consider this!” Then Sunset took off at high speed down the mountain.

“Heheh, she’s not messing around! C’mon babe!!” Rainbow Dash took off excitedly.

Sunset could get used to mornings like these. Despite the effort, and the tiredness… It was good. Pushing herself. It hurt, but it felt worth it.

The mornings got easier.

Days until Midnight Sparkle returns: 143.

Sunset lost her balance then fell on her face, right in the middle of the Sugarcube Corner, Pinkie Pie’s place of work, a cupcake store. The ball that the Unicorn balanced herself on flew back and almost hit a customer. Pinkie Pie stopped her act immediately and rushed to her aid. “OH MY GOSH ARE YOU OKAY??”

Sunset quickly got back up, shook the dizziness off and got back on top of the yoga ball, ignoring the pain. “I'm fine! Don’t worry, I'll get this right.”

Customers around them applauded, not sure if the fall was part of the show, finding it amusing.

Pinkie got on top of her own ball, balancing herself to be in Sunset's eye view. “Girllll it’s okay, we can stop if you want! It’s no worries if this is too hard for you, we can try something a bit easier! How about juggling?”

Sunset gave a forced smile, suppressing any rage she might feel from the pain and humiliation, while balancing herself a bit clumsily. She was getting the hang of it, but she sure got why barely anypony even tried stuff like this. “It’s fine! I'm fine! C’mon, let’s give them a show!”

Pinkie waved her hooves around, concerned. “Sunsun, there's no shame in doing this with magic to help you out, you know?? It’s okay if you use it to balance yourself!!”

Sunset swiveled in the ball, attempting to be confident. “There’s no point in doing this if I have to rely on magic for everything; it’s about training the body, too! C’mon lemme try that pirouette you showed me!”


Sunset did a flip, ignoring the fear of pain. She was going to try this, as many times as it took.

Then she slipped and fell right on her face again.

Days until Midnight Sparkle returns: 126.

”It’s the sport of kings and queens, darlings. Kings and queens! Not even just Princesses!”

Rarity joyfully proclaimed, while slashing with her horn swiftly and elegantly. She was wearing protective gear on her face and horn, a cover of wood that would prevent sharp contact with the tip of the horns on other ponies faces, and a foam helmet to prevent pain when hitting from the sides. The outfits would prevent pain, but not that much, if you’re losing.

Sunset was losing.

She was sweating on her attempts to deflect and block Rarity’s strikes, and she sure couldn’t even parry her. Rarity was agile and elegant; even if not very aggressive with her swings. She clearly knew what she was doing, which altogether surprised Sunset, who never expected a dainty Unicorn like her to be anywhere near combat, and yet...

Applejack amusedly kept them company sitting on the sidelines reading a magazine. Rarity’s home had ample space on the upper floor for practice, and she had all the gear she needed! This was a sport for her, if not just another artform for her to express herself, and she absolutely did so, all over Sunset, much to her dismay.

The Punk Unicorn imagined how much she could accomplish in a fight as a Unicorn if you concentrated your magic on your horn to make it into a blade to skewer and slash enemies; Definitely not an innovative technique, but applying all she learned and more, she could make it into an incredibly effective way of fighting; Another one to her collection, that would be another fighting style worth learning! She was holding her own, after having enough time to practice. She even managed to push Rarity back with her superior upper body strength, using her strong suits.

But that fancy Unicorn was not one to accept defeat lightly. Rarity raised an eyebrow. “Oof! By the way darling, how has been studying with Twilight? You’ll study more this afternoon, correct? It is so lovely to see you two getting closer!” She skillfully defended herself, saving ample energy for snarky commentary.

“Uh, y-yeah. I’ve been learning a lot from her! And it’s always fun to come to her with other new things I've learned…!” Sunset’s steps got a bit more uneasy, and Rarity did not let up, smirking. “It is very interesting to see how you’ve been trying to learn so much! Anything for Twilight, right?”

That commentary was enough to make her choke. “What?? What do you mean, no? I'm uhh–”

Ceasing the moment of unease, Rarity took advantage and swiftly whacked Sunset a couple times. “Your defense is waning, darling! Pay attention~”

“Sugarcube, you’re adorable when you’re posing and bragging, but do try and teach Sunset, will ya?” Applejack smiled while reading a magazine, half-watching them; Fully aware that her love would often lose herself on the prospect of showing off, specially when she was present.

Snickering mischievously, Rarity winked at Applejack. “Of course dear. Pay attention darling, I'm about to make it look easy!”
Sunset was like a deer in the headlights. “Wait what--”

Rarity locked their horns together, then spun her head on a circle twice; forcing Sunset to look to the side, knocking her off, and then spun herself around and Butt-bumped Sunset’s side, knocking her to the ground. Although Sunset could have tried rolling or standing her ground, but she wanted to see the full extent of the move; which kicked her ass. (almost literally.)

Applejack clapped her hooves. “Nice one, babe!”

“Ough. Okay my ass is kicked, you made it look easy.” Sunset removed her mask, with an exhale. Rarity giggled, removing her own mask so all of them could see her beautiful face. “It’s quite alright, darling. You spin your enemy, force them to not face you, and then take advantage! Now, I did hit you with my rump, but know you can go fiercer! Use the chance to BUCK them, Applejack style!”

And the Farmer tipped her hat, smiling. “Yeehaw. Personally I don’t really see the need any of that fancy dance for fightin’, I'd rather just use fisticuffs.”

Rarity scoffed and smiled. “Well dear, not all of us can be 900 pounds of hunkness.” She said, flirtingly. “But if you’d like to take me on, I'll gladly give you a dance.”

“I'm still here by the way” Sunset ached on the floor.

Smiling hard, Applejack blushed a bit. “Why I oughta…” before picking her magazine back up to cover her flustered face.

Sunset chuckled on the floor, trying to interrupt the flirting match. “Whew, you really showed me. This is pretty fun! But, ouch. Hard. How are you not even sweaty right now?” she said, sweating buckets.

Doing a seductive and prideful hair flip, Rarity maintained her unwavering composure. “Why, darling, it would be unlady-like of me to sweat and fluster, don’t you think? It would be uncouth! I am above such things.”

AJ didn’t even lift her eyes from the magazine. “Ya weren’t above such things last night”

“APPLEJACK” Rarity said, sweating and flustering.

Sunset seized the moment, bucked one of Rarity’s legs, knocking her on the ground, quickly got up and poked her with her horn. “Boop! I win. Victory by Applejack distraction. Thanks Applejack!!”

Tipping her hat, the Farmer smirked. “No problem, partner.” getting up to go help her girlfriend.

“Okay darlings I think I'm done fencing for today” Rarity said, dried up like a raisin after the devastating defeat. Applejack got her up, gave her a smooch, and her pony-manity was restored, doing another beautiful hair flip.

Sunset removed the rest of her gear. “Well girls, I'll leave you to it. Thanks for the lessons, Rarity! And less thanks for the utter beatdown. Same time thursday?”

“Of course darling! Let me show you to the door! Wait for me, AJ dear~” She said, looking back at Applejack, who tipped her hat with a knowing smile.

They arrived at the door, but Rarity stopped her before it was opened.

“By the way darling, don’t think I don't know about you and Twilight.” And suddenly all felt quiet in the Carousel Boutique; The air froze, and Sunset felt like she just got smacked.

“W-what? There's nothing to know…!?” Quick Denial, but her tone did not hide her true feelings.

Seemingly through the blink of an eye Rarity was wearing a noir outfit, like a lady detective; and she carried herself like one, walking slowly around her subject. “Hahaha, I'm good at reading these things, darling. Just because it’s only in your heart, doesn’t mean it isn’t visible.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about” Sunset tried covering; This time with more composure. Rarity had no evidence, there was no need to panic, as long as she denied everything, she would be fine.

“EXHIBIT A. You have signed up to a Regional Race in Canterlot; and asked Rainbow Dash for help on getting far on it. Now surely you could chock that up to just wanting to win; but you’ve never participated in races like these before; And I recall you demonstrating very little interest in competition many times upon us mentioning these kind of events! But let’s not forget, who has a VIP front row seat to view your darling self crossing the finish line– our sweetheart Princess Twilight.” Rarity said, with perfect confidence and conviction.

“That means nothing a-and how’d you learn all that…!?” If that's all she had, she had no case. Keep denying everything!

“Nothing a bit of investigating doesn’t easily uncover, darling. You’re an open book! And Rainbow Dash doesn’t keep secrets very well. EXHIBIT B! You’re studying magic a lot on your own time, not just with Twilight! If all you wanted to was to learn, you could rely on her as a wonderful teacher; but no, you want to impress[/i] her! I’ve seen you showing off your teleportation, your casting, and even the other things we’ve been teaching you! Pinkie Pie’s pirouettes, Rainbow's speed, and even my fencing! You arrive on those study sessions prepared, and eager too; eager to showcase what you’ve learned! Eager for her to be proud of you!” She said, accusatory, smiling once more with unmatched confidence.

“I just like studying on my o-own time; that means nothing!” Okay. Rarity was onto something. Crap.

“Oh really? Well how about THIS; EXHIBIT C. You invite Pinkie Pie to your study sessions with Twilight half the times you have them! What’s wrong, Sunset… don’t want to be alone with your Princess?”

“P-Pinkie’s fun to be around–” Certainly a true fact, but Rarity was breaking her down.

“Oh please, of course. But inviting Pinkie to a STUDY session? The bouncy girl that never sits still and can’t even do magic? The girl that would easily go on tangents and be a good distraction, eh? She’s the perfect third wheel to put between you and someone you’re in love with; It will be much easier to not slip up and let your feelings be seen with a walking distraction nearby! Not to mention slow down your study progress, so you have to take even more lessons; No one in their right mind would invite Pinkie to study magic of all things; you’ve given yourself away merely by attempting to cover your feelings–”

Sunset put a hoof in Rarity’s mouth to stop her from talking. Her face was red over being laid out so easily. “OKAY. Stop. you got me okay? I'm in love with Twilight Sparkle! Okay!!”

“Well, that was easy. I had exhibits all the way to the letter K. Like how I easily beat you in fencing the moment I mentioned you and Twilight together, or how you only wear the dresses I made you if it’s in an event that Twilight is on...” Rarity smugly chuckled.

That embarrassment turned into frustration quickly for Sunset, while she tried controlling herself. “Look, she can’t know about this, okay? No one can. Can you keep a secret? Please.”

An estranged nod from the seamstress, being taken back by Sunset's utter disdain for her feelings for Twilight. “Well sure darling, but love shouldn’t be secretive! Much like our darling Applejack would say, honesty is worth it! You should talk to her.”

She shook her head definitively, not even considering it. “It doesn’t matter, she’s an Alicorn, I'm just me, I don't want to think about it much, alright? It's involuntary, and It's not going anywhere. I don’t want to embarrass myself in front of her. That’s all. Please don’t tell her.”

With a narrow of the eyes, Rarity looked as if she was trying to read her mind. "A what exactly is your endgame here, darling?"

The question seemed almost alien to her. "Endgame? No endgame. Twilight asked me to be on the team so I'm here. When she asks me to leave, I'll leave." And she wasn't lying; This was indeed her 'plan.'

"And where would you go?"

"Anywhere but here." She looked away listlessly, but with conviction.

Saying nothing, The fancy Unicorn looked at the other with an analytical gaze.

Sunset spoke akin to a whisper, almost. but there was no hesitation in her words. "You don't have to worry about me, Rarity. This is all temporary." She said that with conviction, utter belief.

Rarity was intelligent enough to understand that Sunset Shimmer had zero plans regarding her future. She was simply going with the flow, living in the now, and staying near someone she loves. And that she was only working hard to improve herself so as to come close to a chance of redemption; Which she evidently didn't seem to believe was even possible.

All of this, for just a chance, and yet, she herself didn't believe it was possible. As if her life was over.

She carried on, like a wraith, or an automaton, disregarding her own needs, as if she was undead.

“I… See. so this is why you were training so hard. It’s not just to impress her… it’s just to make yourself worthy of... This? All of us? ...Her?” Rarity regarded her with pity, which did not help.

Blowing air from her nostrils, Sunset suppressed anger. “I'm not going to BE worthy, okay? She’s Princess Twilight Sparkle. And I'm just– I'm just me. And that’s not about to change. Let it go.”

Rarity frowned a bit. “Well darling, have you asked her what she thinks about how worthy you are? My gut says she would likely have a very different opinion to yours…”

There was no hesitation, and yet, suppressed anger once more. “I shouldn’t and I won't. I'm sorry Rarity, but please just keep it a secret.”

The seamstress squinted, looking directly at her eyes. “And you’re just going to be friends with her? Permanently? No matter how much it hurts you? That’s enough for you?”

Sunset looked away again. “It has to be.”

"Well I don't think---"

"Let it go."

The fancy Unicorn couldn't help but be taken back by Sunset's unwavering nature, specially when it came to self flagellation. it was almost art in itself, really. But they had spent time enough as is doing this song and dance, and she would have to try again some other day. Rarity sighed. “Alright darling, if you must. I’ll respect your feelings; But let the record be known I don't agree with them in the slightest."

No response, Sunset just remained with her gaze elsewhere.

"Now get out of here, my sister’s outta the house and mama’s got a date with her Knight in Shining armor.” she said, while putting a rose in her mouth, and a tennis ball on her horn (for counter poking safety) and walking towards the stairs; intent on having an absolutely insatiable evening with Applejack.

“Yeah yeah please don’t say those words.” Sunset cringed, walking away.

She shook her head, trying to forget the last ten or so minutes, trying to erase how easily she was found out.

Then regret on lashing out, even if just a little set in, which led to more self deprecating thoughts.

With a shudder and a sigh, she knew It was going to be a bit harder to study with Twilight today after this.

Days until Midnight Sparkle returns: 99.

Sunset closed her book and put it away, and then reduced the speed of her run into a slight sprint so the little ponies could keep up. Applebloom, SweetieBelle, and Scootaloo all followed after her with great intrigue and natural nosey instinct.

Sunset couldn't help but be amused, though. She didn’t have much experience with kids, but wasn't repelled by them at all; Comically, the fillies of Ponyville seemed to be the least interested in holding grudges, even if it was for something like "Turning into a fiery demon Alicorn and almost razing Canterlot" She had met each of the Fillies already at some point, she figured it was only a matter of time that they’d hound her about this.

They were the cutie mark crusaders, after all...

“No girls, I'm sorry to say, but I don't really know the deal with my cutie mark for sure. I know I've had an affinity for fire magic since I was a filly, but otherwise… it’s just a sun.” She hoped that lie would be enough to avoid the subject. It was not.

“Aww c’mon, don’t be like that! I'm sure you got some deeper meaning! You’re a part of the cool crew, after all!” Applebloom cheered.

She smiled, not out of joy. “Pff I'm barely an actual part of the crew, girls. Not exactly a veteran member, and I'm sure it'll be temporary.”

SweetieBelle pondered. “Hmm it is a half-sun, maybe it has something to do with Celestia? You were her pupil before, right?”

Sunset stopped running and started just walking. Partially to let the girls accompany her well, but also… Because SweetieBelle was right on the money. Sunset did not want to think about her, but here it was.

“Well… yeah. Before… Everything, I was obsessed with being Celestia’s pupil. I wanted to be just like her. Her equal.”

She hadn’t reminisced about those days in a long time. She actively avoided thinking about Celestia altogether– it was a one-hop-skip-to thinking about her own failings. How often can you say you’ve betrayed and disappointed a god?

Scootaloo chimed in. “So when'd you get your cutie mark? Maybe if we know, we can better understand what’s up with it!”

Sunset decided to stop and sit in the shade to rest. The girls gathered in front of her, excited for a story; They were certainly a lot more excited than Sunset was

She let out a long sigh. “Okay, first of all, please promise you won’t just be sharing this story around, girls. It’s personal, and I don't need the… embarrassment.” It was about a lot more than just embarrassment.

The girls all nodded among each other. Sunset wasn’t sure if they could really keep a secret, but decided they were worth her trust anyway.

“Okay. It was near my hometown, me and my parents were having a picnic, and we saw a… castle sized monster? Eh maybe I was just small, but it was pretty damn– darn big. A giant, ferocious monster heading for our hometown. Oh, and I was a filly, like you.”

The girl's eyes lit up. Awesome huge monsters!

“My parents started gathering our stuff to run away, but since I was, well, still very young, I ran towards danger. I wanted to see what was going on, ‘cause it seemed epic, and I was certainly right about that. And that was the first time I met Princess Celestia.”

The girls were excited, asking what happened next.

“Well, the monster didn’t stand a chance. Celestia tore through it with incredible displays of magic and elegant wing strikes; managing to completely overwhelm it. The giant monster ran away like a little filly, licking its wounds, and the Princess wasn’t even touched in the whole fight. It was very clear that she was holding back, even, despite the amazing one-sided victory. It was incredible... A lot of people in town cheered for her, and I was among them. Little me was absolutely beaming, hehe. She was incredibly powerful, and incredibly loved. I remember thinking ‘I want to be that’ as I ran to meet her… and then boom, cutie mark.”

Sweetie Belle wowed. “Omg!! Did you get to meet her??”

The Unicorn smiled. “I did! Me and a crowd of other ponies. I tried talking to her, but she couldn’t hear me. Lot’s of ponies were around congratulating her and thanking her, so a small filly like me couldn’t really stand out. My parents picked me up before I could actually talk to her.” Sunset couldn’t help but be reminded of how bad it felt.

Scootaloo pouted. “Aww man!! Bummer… I remember the same happened to me the first time I tried talking to Rainbow Dash… Darn our small statues!”
“Stature” “Stchature?” “Staturee” “Statue!” The fillies argued and joked among themselves.

Sunset looked away, lost in thought, in a quiet mumble. “I remember… crying a bit that day as we were leaving… My parents cheered me on for getting my cutie mark, but all I could think of was that I wanted to see Celestia again. I wanted to talk to her. Properly. Be like her.”

The girls quieted down, waiting for Sunset to continue.

“After that, I put my love for music on the back burner. I dedicated myself to magic only, and my parents were very happy to see me getting ambitious. I studied so, so hard for a year, so I could sign up for Celestia's school in Canterlot. I worked really hard. It was... Stressful.”

The kids pried more. They already knew what happened after, after all, it was hard to miss the news of a fight between Twilight and a raging demon pony. But they still wanted to hear Sunset's side of the story. “But you were Celestia's pupil at some point, right?”

Sunset exhaled shakingly, still looking away. “Emphasis on were.

The three fillies tilted their heads, waiting for more.

With another listfull sigh, she continued. “After working so hard to reach that point, I felt entitled to the position. And I also was really frustrated. I couldn't be… more. Celestia was right there, and I couldn't be like her. I was still just a tryhard, hard headed unicorn. I started arguing with her, and looking for shortcuts to power like hers… I broke myself. And then, well... Celestia booted me as her pupil. And thank goodness she did. I didn’t deserve that position, I never did. If Twilight wasn’t there to save me from myself after, when I tried to get ‘payback’ by stealing her crown…“ She shuddered.
Her hubris knew no bounds, neither did her arrogance, and neither did her regrets.

Scootaloo chuckled nervously. “Wow, that sucks!! I couldn’t live with myself if I disappointed Celestia, I'd be floored!! Absolutely crushed! I could never show my face again!!”

Sunset frowned. Yeah, that kid was a fan of Rainbow Dash, alright. “Well, regardless, I don't really know what my cutie mark means anymore, okay? It’s just a sun because my name is Sunset I guess. Let's just go with that.” She knew what it meant. It meant for her desire to be something more than she was; Her desperate, foolish desire. But it was over now. Permanently.

Applebloom pried a bit. “How come you don’t wanna be like Celestia anymore?”

The Unicorn let out a chuckle, but it wasn't exactly a happy one. “Applebloom, it’s not a matter of want, I hope you understand… It was stupid of me to even try to reach that high. I'm just me, and I've come to terms with that. How could any of us match a princess…? I was super entitled and cocky and I thought it was like. My destiny or whatever. It was stupid of me. Almost no pony is built for that, and that’s okay! I’ve come to terms with my place. It’s what I deserve.”

She said, truthfully, with a lump in her throat. It was easier to say that than to simply say that she wasn't worthy. That she was a spectacular failure. That no matter how much she had tried, it was all for nothing.

She did not think Celestia would ever want to see her again. Or alternatively, she thought that she did not deserve to see or even talk to her old mentor.

Truthfully, she didn't care if Celestia wanted it or not; The shame that Sunset felt was enough to discourage her from even considering seeing her old master again.

Applebloom could tell the Unicorn was hurting. “Well I don't think you’re so bad… even having become her pupil at all is pretty awesome, ain’t it?”

Sunset didn’t believe so. “Sure, kid.”

Sweetie Belle scratched the floor with her hooves. “Do you still write to Celestia? My sister does that sometimes when she learns a lesson and stuff! I’ve seen Princess Twilight do it a lot, too…”

Sunset sighed, not at frustration towards them, but herself. “No, I don't.”

“Why’s that?”

“Because I have nothing to say to her, I guess.” She lied.

“Do you think she’s still mad at you for the whole evil thing?”

Sunset shook her head. “No, I don't think so. She’s forgiven me, but I haven't– I'm still not very comfortable about it. I don’t talk to her.”

“Do you miss her?”

“Not really.” She lied again.

For a split second Sunset could perfectly remember what it was like to walk side by side with the queen of the sun. A fleeting feeling.

Sweetie Belle was gonna ask another question, but Applebloom stopped her. She could tell that Sunset seemed a bit uncomfortable with the conversation.

Sunset thanked the girls, profoundly relieved of the end of that particular subject. “Well, is there anything else? I have to get back to my run, but I'll see you girls at the next party Pinkie throws; I'm gonna be her magician again!” She said, trying her best to shake off the shivers that came with thinking of her old mentor.

Applebloom was peppy. “Oh sweet! Last party was so fun! And I loved it when that weirdo Trixie broke into the party and tried fightin’ you for some reason!”

Scootaloo was hyped. “Oh my gosh it was so sick to see that flip you did! And the way you kicked her outta window?? So cool.”

Sunset chuckled nervously. “Haha yeah that was totally a part of the show” She lied, remembering holding that weird blue Unicorn on a headlock and kicking her out.

Scootaloo couldn’t contain herself any longer, right as Sunset was about to leave: “Is it true you’re participating in the regional race with Rainbow Dash??”

Sunset paused. “Um. It is true, but it’s a secret…”

“I KNEW IT! Rainbow Dash bragged about having a friend to go with this time and I knew it was you!! You’ve been training like crazy!! C’mon girls let’s let her train some more!” The little Pegasus took off on her scooter gleefully.

Applebloom pushed Sweetie Belle to move away. “Bye Miss Sunset! Can’t wait to see you around the farm again sometime!!” Sunset waved back cheerfully, genuinely looking forward to a return.

“Wait, why is it a secret?? Who’s it a secret TO??” Sweetie Belle questioned. Sunset just walked away, amused.

The amusement turned a bit bitter shortly after, as Sunset's thoughts led her to Celestia again.

Would she ever be able to face her again…?



Days until Midnight Sparkle returns: 81.

Butterflies were landing all over her while she tried to meditate. Concentrating was very difficult… She was managing, barely, until she broke and had to sneeze. The insects took flight, scattering all over Fluttershy’s garden.

*oof.* Sorry Fluttershy, sorry! And sorry, Fluttershy's friends.” Sunset apologized profusely to all the little critters that scattered around her.

Fluttershy, sitting next to her, snickered. “It’s okay, Sunset, if they land on you It just means they’re comfortable.”

If it wasn't butterflies, it’d be squirrels or bunnies or birds, and for some inexplicable reason, that one bear. Fluttershy’s garden sure was something. Meditation was an interesting thing; Sunset definitely couldn’t say she enjoyed it, but she saw it more as a necessary annoyance in her routine, forcing herself to clear her own mind, if not just confront her own thoughts, and if possible, get some relaxation. But the company was the highlight, really. Fluttershy was a good friend to have if you didn’t ever want conflict or discussion. She was always kind and calm. It was nice to just unwind here.

She couldn't help but laugh a bit, with a butterfly still on her ear. “Sorry, heh. Can we take a quick five?”

Fluttershy nodded. “Of course...! You know, not many people can take meditation, my Dashie can never sit still, hihi. She’s always all over the place. She’s good at ‘chillaxing’ but meditating is a bit harder.” She said, with an affectionate smile, looking at the sky. It wouldn't surprise either of them if they saw that rainbow streak cross the sky.

Sunset decided to leave the remaining butterflies undisturbed. “Pff yeah. She sure is hyperactive. Come to think of it, don’t take this the wrong way, but how did two girls so different like you two get together?”

“That’s a funny story, not sure if you want to hear it though; it’s kind of cheesy.”

The Unicorn smirked. “Pff please. I'm friends with you guys. I'm getting used to ‘cheesy.’”

Fluttershy laid on her back in the grass and watched the clouds, and Sunset decided to follow suit.

“Well, this might be kind of surprising to hear, but I used to be pretty shy, and disinterested in romance; and meanwhile, Rainbow Dash was a heartbreaker! She was always going around dating mares and cutting ties in a month, or even just a week. She never wanted to get bogged down; always jumping from girl to girl, settling with no one.”

“Yeaaah, that sounds like her.”

“Here’s the thing too; me and her? We knew each other as kids. So I knew her. By the time that we came together on Twilight's team, it was very weird, seeing an estranged friend like that just be heroic and all. I guess she must have seen an opportunity for another heart to break, cause she did try some advances on me.”

“Hah no way, she was treating you like the other girls?”

The Pegasus took a stern look; Which looked comical in someone so soft and cute. “Yep! And I wasn't gonna have it. I declined all her advances. I wasn’t interested in a heartbreaker or in her idea of what ‘romance’ was.”

“What happened next? ‘Cause you two are together now, after all.”

“What happened next is we became actual friends again. We helped each other and met each other and saw each other as friends! Every time we met with Twilight and the gang, we were a part of something bigger, she was a part of something bigger. And she could notice that. She started mellowing out so to speak.”

“She definitely seems so!”

“So by the time I kissed her on my terms, it was less of a fixer upper. She's cute. I kind of know a lot of what goes beneath the Rainbow Dash hood now; her thoughts are simple but they are very much under the surface. By the time we were dating I could tell she was uncomfortable with spending that much time with only one mare and not flying off to another thing. But that was just her own insecurity with holding a relationship bubbling up. So I told her that even if we broke up, I wouldn't mind, as long as we were still friends.”

Sunset's jaw dropped. “WOW, that's cold, Flutters.”

She giggled a bit. “The coldest! But guess what. It was just the push she needed to realize that she not only wanted to be more than friends, she wanted to stay being more than friends! And we’ve been together ever since. And although I never really cared for the romance thing, I have to say, I'm pretty happy. Not everypony can say they are dating a superhero, basically. The fastest flier in Equestria!”

Sunset chuckled. “Hah that is a pretty big bragging right, yeah. And she does seem to be head over heels with you, which is a great plus. I'm happy for you two!”
Sunset couldn't help but think of her own losses in the love department, though. And swiftly tried ending any thoughts regarding that, mentally beating them away with a stick.

Fluttershy turned to her, still laying down. “Well? How about you, are you interested in love? Any fun dating stories?”

Sunset looked away nervously. “Umm how about we go back to meditating haha”

Fluttershy frowned and pouted, poking her with her hoof. “Aww c’mon, don’t be like that. I shared, you can share too, I'm sure it's not that bad…!”

With a frown and a sigh, Sunset considered it for a moment, then yielded. “Well... yes. I am interested in lovey dovey crap. I have dated before, and no I have not had much luck with it.”

“Go on…” Fluttershy nudged her.

She couldnt help but go on a bit of a tangent. “Okay so last time I dated was this guy named Flash. And boy, was it dumb. It was more than a year ago, when I was still studying under Celestia, and I literally only dated the guy to get a quick outlet; and maybe popularity, ‘cause he was a royal guard. I was really stressed at the time and y’know, was becoming straightup evil. I was a pretty bad girlfriend, as you can expect. And he was just. Kind of a simple guy? I guess I just found him hot enough, I don't know. It was dumb. I shouldn’t have used him. I shouldn’t have even been there in the first place. That position was not for me.” She paused. “Oh, and for the record, I broke up with him.” She lied.

Fluttershy listened attentively. “Uh huh, go on…”

“Honestly it was a pretty stupid mistake. I can’t believe I almost considered joining the royal guards with him in Canterlot, too. Though that would have been a better fate than being banished and then becoming an evil demon and having Princess Twilight Sparkle beat my ass. I guess I have had zero experiences with romance since, because why would I? I'm literally rebuilding my life from the ground up! All of this is new to me and I'm making it up as I go. And moving on from just a boring-ass guy to someone so incredible and just– untouchable is REALLY hard because how could I possibly deserve her after all I did??”

She nearly bit her tongue, realizing she might have overshared and overstepped.

“Wow… who are you talking about?”

Twilight Sparkle.

“I can’t tell you.” She looked away.

Fluttershy wanted to know, but decided to keep to herself. “Well… okay. I can respect your secrecy. I just hope that you can also see what’s good about you, Sunset. Whoever you’re talking about must see it too.”

The Unicorn scoffed. “Pssh, sure, whatever.”

But the Pegasus would not allow her to dismiss that, as she started counting. “You’re reliable. You’re dependable. You’re strong. You’re determined. You’re pretty. You’re cool. You’re kind. You dress really nicely. You’re always showing interest in what we–” Sunset stopped her. “Okay, okay, heh, I get it. Thanks Flutters. I guess I don't really… think about myself that way.”

Raising her muzzle with a pout, Fluttershy got high and mighty, which was cute for someone so wimpy. “Well you should. If any of the others heard you talking about yourself that way, why, they’d be livid, especially Twilight. It's not nice.”

Her ears twitched involuntarily. “Uhm why Twilight especially?”

“Well isn’t it obvious? She literally saved you from being evil, you're the only one that could understand her position; The tension and anxiety that comes with trying to live up to Princess Celestia! She helped you be friends with all of us, you’re the only member of our team that didn’t join on day 1, and that is not a coincidence! You’re one of her greatest accomplishments due to just how good you’re doing now! She's super proud of you, Sunset! You mean a lot to her. Doesn’t she tell you that too?”

“S-she does, I guess it just feels… It’s… Different when I hear it from someone else.” Sunset felt a bit flustered. It really was a gut punch whenever she was reminded of how kind Twilight is. Though it didn't mean more that a friendly bias from the Princess of Friendship.

“Hmpf. Well you better accept it. You’re nice.” She acted ‘tough’ but it just made them both laugh together a bit.

For a moment, they just enjoyed laying in the grass as friends, no other concerns.

“Ready to go back to meditation?”


Days until Midnight Sparkle returns: 73.

“This castle is so beautiful, right?? Have you ever seen anything like it??” Twilight cheerfully spread her wings wide, looking around. The castle of the Crystal Empire was indeed really gorgeous. The walls, the floor and the ceiling, all were different kinds of crystal, it really felt like an entirely different world. Sunset walked alongside her, distracted by how peppy she was, despite the gorgeous surroundings. “W-wow, yeah, I'm speechless. Thanks for taking me here, princess.”

Twilight ignored the formalities and did another of her adorable squeals, much to Sunset’s delight. “IIIIIIIII!! I'm so excited for you to meet Cadance!! She is the coolest. You’re gonna love her!!! Did I tell you my brother used to date her?”

“You did! And I've been meaning to ask. Getting dumped by an Alicorn, is he like... Okay? Is he alive?” Sunset apprehensively asked, trying not to imagine Celestia ‘dumping’ someone by literally dropping them in the sun.

Twilight didn’t seem very fazed, she clearly cared for her brother; and trusted and respected his willpower. “Oh, Shining Armor is fine. It was a mutual agreement thing! B-but yeah, he did spend a few… weeks recovering. It’s pretty rough, ending a relationship with a princess of love, no less.”

Sunset tried not to think of herself in that position. Heartbreak. Or more like heartshatter.

She shook her head, swiftly removing those thoughts, snapping out of that funk. “He must be pretty tough, having survived that. I guess it runs in the family…”

“Hihihi, thank you! And you know it!” The princess of Friendship was as giddy as ever, making for wonderful company.

Sunset wasn’t minding this little weekend getaway. It was her first time in the Crystal Empire, the furthest she had ever been from home. It was either this or Manehattan, and she did have a particular interest in meeting another princess, especially the Princess of Love, so why waste time with skyscrapers and busy streets? Maybe she’d visit with Rarity, when helping her with her franchise sometime.

Besides, Twilight needed as much break from princess duties as she could get. If Sunset could help ease her burdens, she would, without hesitation.

They crossed more and more regal and beautifully decorated rooms, and passed by various crystal pony guards. As they walked by a beautiful balcony, a crystal heart floated above a podium. Twilight cheerfully gave trivia. “Did you know that if you stare into the crystal heart for too long, you might see your future?”

Sunset didn’t even give it a glance. “Soooo, the Princess of love… What am I supposed to expect here? Cause i’ve had 3 experiences with Alicorns and like, two out of three were ‘fine’ so far, you being the best one…”

Twilight knew who the one unpleasant princess experience was, and didn’t want to pry. She knew enough from her own mentor’s account and Sunset. Part of Twilight really really wanted to take Sunset to her mentor so that they could see each other once more. But it’s not what the Unicorn wanted… Celestia and Sunset hadn’t talked in ages, despite having no quarrel. Well… maybe some quarrel.

Twilight cared a lot about both of them. But she didn't know how to fix their broken relationship; She hoped time would heal those wounds. She shook it off and went back on subject.

“You’re gonna be fiiiiiine. Cadance is really fun!!! She can be a bit… distracted, focusing on Love stuff a bit much, but still, it shouldn't be a problem to us!” The Alicorn cheerfully approached a big set of doors, where guards bowed to her, and she bowed back. They opened the large throne room doors, and the two friends entered.

Sunset couldn’t help but be a bit nervous. “So you’re positive there’s nothing to worry about here?” Which Twilight just shook her head, gleefully. ”Nope! We should invite her to get snow cones with us!”
“Alright, princess, I'll follow your lead.”

It was a large room with beautiful tapestries and crystals hanging from the ceiling. Guards were ordered to wait outside and give them privacy. Sunset did not feel as intimidated as in Canterlot. Not that this was much more inviting to someone like her, but there was less pressure. Princess Cadance got up from her throne and walked to them. Sunset noticed that she was much like Twilight, someone who became an Alicorn. She was about to bow to her…

And then Twilight and Cadance started doing a little dance together.

“Sunshine, sunshine, ladybugs awake, clap your hooves and do a little shake!”

Sunset watched the two Alicorns do a little dance they were clearly accustomed to. She tried keeping a poker face when seeing Twilight once again one up herself in the area of doing one of the cutest and strangest things she had ever seen. Don’t freak out.

Both of the Princesses giggled while Sunset attempted to be normal about this. Maybe failing at it a bit. “Um. is this a custom Alicorn greeting or…?”

As peppy as ever, Twilight giggled. “Hihihi, no, silly! Remember? I told you she used to babysit me. We go way back!” She fluttered her wings joyfully.

Cadance approached the Unicorn with a professional smile. “So you must be Sunset Shimmer! I was looking forward to meeting the one friend of Twilight’s I didn't know yet… She has told me a lot about you.”

Sunset was playing it cool, trying to keep professional as well. Unfortunately for her, Twilight put a friendly wing over her, which increased her nerves tenfold, and her heartbeat. “Yep! This is Sunset! One of my closest friends. It’s her first time in the Crystal Empire, I'm so happy you finally get to meet her!!”

Twilight's wing over her was nearly all she could think of, but she conjured all of her composure and decorum to maintain the formalities. She bowed. “It is a pleasure to meet you, Princess Cadance. Your kingdom is beautiful. I am pleased that you’ve allowed us to stay for the weekend–” As she finished her bow, she looked up and saw the Princess of Love staring directly into her, wide eyed and blank faced. The Princess's eyes glowed; and Sunset could tell this meant some form of magic was at work, intimidating and confusing her.

A small moment of awkward silence as the Princess of love stared directly at her. Twilight was about to break the ice, but that’s when Cadance spoke up. “Well, Twilight... You sure have brought me an interesting case here…” She said, still staring directly at the confused Unicorn with an analytical glare.

Both of the ponies expressed confusion, And Cadance simply smiled and approached The Unicorn, which in turn made her recoil slightly.

“Sunset Shimmer… Your heart is full, but it’s aching. The fullest it has ever been, As if you’re about to burst. You don’t know what to do, do you?” She smiled, but that smile held concern and pity.

“What…?!” Sunset could tell that Cadance was reading her. Could she literally tell that Sunset was in love? Was that her weird Alicorn speciality?? She started panicking. Twilight was literally standing right next to her. This could be bad.

Twilight chimed in, a bit puzzled. “Umm, excuse me? Cadance what are you talking about…?”

The Princess of Love looked at Twilight. Then back at Sunset. Then back at Twilight. Then back at Sunset. “Oooooooooohhh ~” She knowingly smiled, much to the Unicorn’s dismay.

She addressed the Unicorn, with full confidence. “I see… It makes sense then. I understand your plight, after all, being in love with–”

Sunset was quick on the draw. She zapped Twilight, teleporting her out of the room, the fastest horn in the west. Right before Cadance finished saying “...Twilight. Oh. You’re no fun ~”

Sunset let out a massive exhale, happy to know Twilight didn’t hear that. She tried not being angry at Cadance, but it was very hard under the circumstances. Even harder to formulate a thought. “H-hey!!! What the hell are you doing?? Are you just reading me and saying what I'm thinking?? Well STOP IT!” It was not a threat, but a desperate request.

Cadance, amused, sat down. “Not what you’re thinking, dear. What you’re feeling. And forgive me, but your love was loud. So you’re hiding it from her, aren’t you? How dreadful… Do not worry, Sunset. I will cover for you… for now.”

“What are you even talking about–” Then, Twilight entered the room, even more confused. “Hey girls, what happened? Did one of you just zap me outta here?”

Sunset had no excuse. Cadance, however, made quick on her deal. “Don’t worry, Twilight. Your friend was just showing me her magical prowess! I'm impressed!” Sunset mustered an awkward smile and a nod, as the Alicorn continued. “Could you give us some time to talk in private? We’ll see you outside in a bit! Your friend is delightful ~”

Twilight pouted. “Aww but I wanted to– Well, okay… Have fun you two!” She said walking out of the room again, looking back.

Sunset exhaled the moment her princess was out of sight. “Ugh… Nice save.”

Cadance snickered. “Twilight can be quite gullible at times. And oblivious, too…” She said, still staring at Sunset. “So… You don’t want to talk about it, do you?”

Sunset frowned, Trying to remain cordial towards the Alicorn, and unmistakably failing. “Do I want to talk about how the Princess of Love nearly spilled my guts in front of the Princess I love, a Princess who will never love me back? Not particularly, no.”

Paying her no mind, Cadance delightedly rolled her eyes, used to all kinds of reactions when talking about love, this included. “Never say never, dear Sunset. No, Twilight might not love you, but it’s because she doesn’t know what loving like that is; And she's desperately in need of it, if I may add. She has always been so oblivious…”

Sunset sighed. “Great.”

Cadance looked at her intently. “But it doesn’t mean you couldn’t teach her.”

Sunset’s heart beat faster, but she kept her cool. “Alright, hold your horses. I'm just a Unicorn, okay? I'm not worthy of a princess. My feelings are involuntary and inconsequential. I love being her friend, and I'm not about to ruin that, or me, for that matter…”

Cadance sighed lovingly. “Ah, but even love that is fragile is still important… Even if it were to end, it would still be worth it to be honest with her, don’t you think? Flings, summer romances, even just a week, it’s all beautiful.”

Sunset tried turning the tables. “Is that what happened with you and Shining Armor?”

Turning to lounge on her throne, Cadance was quite amused, ignoring the Unicorn’s tone, delighted with the conversation.

“Ah, my dear Shining Armor... What happened between us was beautiful, even if it was temporary, I have no regrets. We will both always cherish the time we spent together, even if it had to end. Don’t you think that’s important too?”

Sunset looked away. “I'm not interested in heartbreak. I’ve had enough.”

Cadance stared directly into her, once again reading her like a book. “Your feelings betray you, Sunset Shimmer. You would fight your worst fears, You would gladly lay down your life, You would change your entire being, all for Twilight Sparkle.”

That much was obviously true, even Sunset was internally aware. but it did not change her tune, as she scoffed. “So what? It will never be enough. I will never be enough.”

Cadance sat up, and the room started… changing. Crystals on walls, ceiling, and even the floor started taking a red hue. She stared at Sunset with a blank, yet stern expression.

A gust of wind started surrounding them as her horn glowed.

“Hm. If your feelings don’t matter, why not have me take them away?”

Sunset's body tensed up, looking around, but focusing on the Princess. “What?!”

Cadance spread her wings wide, menacingly. “Like I said. Your heart is full, but it's aching. I can take that ache from you, Sunset Shimmer. No more painful love. You’ll be just friends. Isn’t that what you want? No more heartbreak?” Her magic was enveloping the Unicorn fast.

Anger exploded within Sunset instantly. She put her hoof down, and shook her mane and horn, blowing any magic around her away, as she glared back at Cadance, fully ready to fight if needed, blowing steam from her nostrils as flame magic built up on her horn, ready to incinerate the entire room if necessary; ready to go berzerk. This time it *was* a threat.


Cadance immediately lounged back on her chair again, giggling a bit. The room returned to its normal hue, and the magic faded. “See? That, right there. That conviction. How quickly you fought to maintain your love, even with its possibility of heartbreak. Perhaps it’s not so bad, is it?”

Sunset’s adrenaline was still a bit high.

“I… What?”

Cadance giggled some more. “Dear Sunset, you were just about to attack an Alicorn Princess, just for the chance to keep loving Twilight Sparkle. Need I say more?”

Sunset covered her face with her hooves, flustering with profound embarassment. She really was about to pick a fight with an Alicorn, just for her love of Twilight. Without hesitation.

Love made her really, really stupid.

“Oh, for the love of Celestia…”

Cadance snorted. “More like for the love of Twilight, am I right?”

“Gah!!” Sunset flustered even more.

Cadance got up from her throne, approaching her kindly. “It’s okay. I know you are not ready yet. But considering how much you are willing to fight for her, I'd say you’re on the right track. These feelings are not going away… They’re only getting stronger. This is real, Sunset. It’s real and it’s good.” She smiled warmly.

Sunset looked down, unable to accept it.
“Look, she… I… how can it be worth it? My love wouldn’t mean a thing, if…”

Cadance looked at her, warmly, and calmly. “Even if it’s temporary. Even if it’s fleeting. Even if it ends in heartbreak. Even if there is a countdown until it all ends. You were still ready to fight for it, moments ago. Can’t you see how beautiful that is?”

Sunset frowned, giving in with an exhale, not wanting to fight her on the subject anymore. “How are you so good at this? Oh, right, princess of love. Duh.”

The Alicorn snickered in amusement. “Oh please, I can't have been the first one that could see it, plain as day.”

Sunset sighed, reminiscing on her comical humiliation. “Yeah, you weren’t, Rarity found out first.”

The Princess giggled further. “Oh, that Unicorn is wonderful. She could very much be in my position… but it would likely keep her from her job, and a certain farm girl she loves dearly, so I think that it is for the best… They are wonderful together.” Cadance reminisced, likely on a time that she read Rarity and Applejack just like she had just read Sunset. Those two were entertaining.

“And horny.”

“Oh, very horny.”

They both laughed together a bit.

Twilight peeked in the room again. “Hey Sunset!! Ask her if she wants to go out for snow cones!! I forgot to ask before!! Sorry to interrupt, have fun!!” She closed the doors again.
Sunset let out a sigh of relief. “Well, you heard her. Snow cones?”

Cadance smiled, turning around and walking towards her private quarters. “Surely! Go be with your beloved, Sunset. Tell her I'm going to get ready and then we can go out together.”
And then she paused. “Oh, and Sunset?”


The room flashed red, as her eyes glowed. “Do not break her heart. Or I will break yours.”

Sunset smiled. “Not a problem.”

The Princess continued her walk, smiling too. “I know.”

It was a pretty wonderful weekend, there were a lot of beautiful sights to see in Cadance's empire. Sunset kept her words in mind, while trying just to enjoy her time together with Twilight, even if it might be fleeting.

“Your friend Cadance is nuts, princess.”

“Hihi, yeah, she’s pretty out there. Better or worse than Celestia?”


Days until Midnight Sparkle returns: 61.

Farming was rough sometimes. Applejack’s routine was quite intense! They were almost done, though. Applejack promised to help Sunset build up a strength routine, and that also involved farmwork, which was fine by Sunset, considering it a favor for a favor; Chores were a small price to pay for building up strength, besides, it was good company regardless.

It was especially interesting seeing the dynamic on her farm. A grandma, two big siblings and a little one. And all of them apple fanatics, they were quite amusing. Not to mention Rarity would often stop by just to watch her work, like how she was now; with a big gorgeous sunhat and lovely glasses she sat on a spread chair. She had helped with the chores a bit, but in general Sunset didn’t mind her slacking, she needed more workouts for herself after all. Sometimes, if they were on a muddy field, Rarity would climb on Applejack's back and lounge there, and the Farmer would continue her chores effortlessly, helping her girlfriend avoid getting mud on her hooves.

It felt good to work on chores with friends like these; and watching the gun show that was Applejack working was always entertaining, with the added bonus of the Apple household in general was kind and inviting.

Sunset hadn’t been surrounded by family for a really long time.

“C’mon Sunset! We nearly got it! Keep pullin' partner, yer doing great!” Applejack was as eager as ever. This work was effortless to her, she was pulling a loaded cart really damn easily.

“T-thanks.” Sunset couldn't muster that much more coherency; this was taking a lot out of her. It definitely had gotten easier compared to the first times, she had built up a lot more strength, but still wasn’t all there yet. She certainly wasn’t expecting to match Applejack, but she was already pretty happy to have reached this far.

Sunset got lost in thought, looking at the Apple household… she realized then that she had never really seen Applejack’s parents.

“Hey AJ! If you don’t mind me asking, where are your parents? Haven’t seen 'em around, and family’s a big thing around here…”

Applejack didn’t seem to be very fazed. “Not much to say, Sunset, they died when I was really young.”
the Unicorn felt a sting on herself, Way more than Applejack did.“O-oh, I'm sorry to hear that. I didn’t mean to pry...”

The Farmer chuckled a bit, not because it was funny, but because this was a wound that had healed a long time ago, it didn’t hurt anymore.

“Nah, it’s okay, partner. It is, really! And yer right, family is a big thing around here. Don’t you worry, we don't spend our time mournin'. My parents were really kind folk and well, with this farm, my sister, my brother, and my granny, I got nothing to complain about. Besides, I remember their voices and I remember their faces; their love stays with me! That'll do.”

Rarity teared up a bit. “Oh, Applejack, dear… you are so strong…!” making both of them laugh and the loving emotional outburst.

“Well, ya asked me, now I ask you. Where’s yer parents, Sunset?” Applejack put her on the spot; but Sunset owed her an answer well enough.

Her own wound hadn't healed as well. “Oh, well… I haven't talked to them much since… everything. When I signed up to Celestia's school, they were proud. But when Celestia took me as a pupil, the pressure got to me, and I started doing badly. I wanted to be just like her, and I was fully aware that there was no way in hell I ever could be. That’s when I started looking for shortcuts, until, well… she justifiably booted me. And then the rest is history, Twilight kicked my ass after I became a demon, then kept me around for no reason, bla bla bla…”

AJ was confused. “That’s fine n' all, but what about your parents? Did ya just– did ya just not talk to them after??”

Sunset looked at the ground while pulling the cart. The weight felt less heavy than the subject. “It’s complicated, I guess. I sent them a letter, they don’t live in Ponyville or Canterlot. They’re out of the way, and well… I don't know. I’ve broken their trust– and Celestia’s trust no less. I can’t walk back from that. Last time we saw each other it wasn’t on good terms.”

Rarity was feeling sadness for both of them now. “Darling this isn’t about Celestia, it’s about you and your parents. Did they really cut ties with you??”

“Well, not exactly… I still know where they live. I wasn’t disowned. They did say that I should come visit when I feel like I can. Sometimes I miss them, I guess? My Dad used to do a mean garden party, some lovely barbecues… They used to call me “mustard” or “ketchup” depending on the mood, because of my hair, heheh. I used to dislike that, but… I miss it now, i guess. Mom’s the one that introduced me to playing guitar, too. The electric guitar, I mean. She used to play small time shows in my hometown. Come to think of it, I haven't played guitar myself, in a while…” Sunset couldn't help but smile a bit, even if remembering was sad.

Applejack detached her carriage and went to Sunset and hugged her. Sunset tried objecting, but… “Honey, ya need this, just take it.” Rarity galloped over and joined the hug. “Bwahh… I couldn’t ever take being that far from my parents even with our differences!!” Sunset just accepted their kindness. It did feel nice.

They finished moving the carriages to the barn and closed it up, then moved outside to stretch.

“Welp, we’re done, then! Carriages in their barns, all animals on their coups, day’s finished with flyin’ colors!” Applejack cheerfully celebrated.

“Allright. What’s next, AJ? I still have energy!” Sunset affirmed, while walking in place a bit, still fired up.

“Well what’s next is we were just gonna get some juice and rest in my living room; aren’t ya done for the day?” Applejack was a little surprised, and reasonably concerned.

Sunset started stretching. “Nope! How about push ups? I could do push ups.”

“Alright darling, if you say so!” Rarity sat on her leaning chair to watch, amused. AJ looked around. “Well I might as well get you some weights then. Where did Applebloom run off to?”

Sunset walked up to a tree and bucked it. Applebloom fell from the branches above and The Unicorn caught her. “Hey kiddo! You okay?” Applebloom was a little embarrassed.

Applejack walked over. “Lil’ sis there you are!! What were ya doing up there??”
Sunset chuckled. “I saw her eavesdropping on us when we were talking about parents before.”

Applebloom teared up a bit and hugged Sunset tightly. “SUNSET I'M SO SORRY ABOUT YOUR PARENTS YOU MUST MISS THEM SO MUCH!!!!”

Sunset couldn’t help but chuckle a bit. She had contained her feelings very fiercely, and the little filly was feeling it all for her. “Applebloom, it’s okay, really! I promise you I'm okay.”

The little pony sniffled. “R-really?”

“Yes. I promise. I’ll talk to my parents when I'm ready, you know? Yes, I miss them, and maybe they miss me too. But there’s no need to rush these kinds of things. Whenever I'm ready, I'll go visit them!” She smiled warmly.

“W-well, if ya say so…” Applebloom said, still hugging her. Rarity and Applejack both looked fondly, Sunset was surprisingly good with kids. She could really emphasize!

“It’s okay, really! Now giddyup, partner!” Sunset put the little pony on her back, and then started doing push ups. This wasn’t the first time, they tried various weights, and one that could not as easily slip off was more ideal. After a long day’s work, Sunset was feeling pretty sore, but she was getting much better at this. It wasn’t that hard. Applebloom started giggling.

She reliably passed 50 push ups, despite getting more tired and tired by the second. AJ nodded. “Hmm, hmm. This is gettin' easy for you, aint it?”

“Never better!” Sunset said, hiding the soreness, performing the pushups as best as possible.

Applejack thought a bit, then walked over to Rarity. “What’s going on, dear?” the posh Unicorn asked.

“Alley-oop!” Applejack effortlessly picked up her girlfriend, and carried her over to Sunset, making her blush immediately. “Applejack! Dear!! you know I like it when you handle me but umm”

AJ chuckled. “If it weren’t for her backside, Rarity would weigh as much as a pack of grapes. But she should still be pretty light. Besides, I sure ain't puttin’ Big Mac on your back! Ready, Sunset?”

“Huh??! Oh no” Sunset’s eyes widened. Applejack easily placed her girlfriend on top of Sunset, alongside Applebloom.

“There ya go, ya wanted a challenge, ya got it! Ya got this, Sunset!” Applejack amused herself a bit. Rarity remained flustered and scoffed about being used as a paperweight. Applebloom just went “Yeehaw!!”

After 15 more push ups, Sunset was starting to lose it, she sure as hell couldn’t feel her legs. This was heavy.

Applejack started telling her to stop, but she barely grunted a “no” trying to push herself once again. Things were starting to really hurt.

The Earth Pony didn’t let this go on any longer, taking Applebloom and Rarity off of her, which made Sunset collapse and get really dizzy, almost losing consciousness.

“*Huff*… *huff*… again” she tried getting up.

“Ohh no no no, partner. Yer done for today. We’re getting some apple juice and laying ya on the couch now.” Both asserted: “You’re resting now and that’s final, darling!”

Even Applebloom was concerned. “Please take a break, Sunset!!”

Despite the trembling, she still got up. “Hah… You can’t stop me… I'm doing more…”

Applejack placed a single hoof on top of her and easily pinned her down, raising an eyebrow.

The exhausted Unicorn conceded. “Okay… okay… you guys win. Take me to the juice pleaseee….”

She was gonna feel this one tomorrow.

Days until Midnight Sparkle returns: 53.

Pinkie egged her on to try again. “C’mon! C’mon!! It didn't sound so bad last time, you still got it!” She was bouncing a bit, in her usual Pinkie way, on the floor of Sunset’s room. The room was more tidy this time, though not by much. There was a new beat up sandbag hanging from the ceiling, and her calendar was packed with different schedules and appointments and friend gatherings.

The Unicorn sat on her own bed, strumming on her guitar. It felt frustrating to pick up this instrument again. Sure; wearing the jackets she always wore was easier; it didn't feel like trying to crawl back on old skin. But even trying to play this felt like lying. It felt like… it felt like trying to return to a version of her she could never be again.

“I don’t know Pinkie, I'm not sure it's–” Pinkie interrupted. “Nonono. Close your eyes. There is no crowd. There is no room. There is no Pinkie Pie watching you. Remember that time we put on our first magic show for Sweetie Belle’s birthday? You were nervous back then too! Same rule applies! It’s only you and your tools of art, girl! It's you and your music! Try that and go go go!”

Sunset sighed, with a smile that always propped up whenever Pinkie did her shenanigans. One thing was for sure, Pinkie was a mood lifter no matter what. It was certainly a surprise; The Pink pony would be the kind of girl that Sunset would have hated to be even near in the past; But she found herself getting along with Pinkie easier than any of the others. After all, this party girl was the most forgiving of all the crew, and in her own way, surprisingly dependable; Kind of ride and die. Sunset didn't fear slipping a bit into her old ways around Pinkie, knowing that they could comfortably get over any snarky commentary or quick burst of rage by laughing it off.

And even now, here Pinkie was, completely shrugging off Sunset's insecurities, egging her on to try things that would definitely make her feel better; She wasn't the element of laughter for no reason! Or was it joy?

With an approving and excited nod from the Pink pony, she tried playing once more.

In the past, Sunset would write violent or angry songs, a quick outlet for anger she suppressed often; or rather failed to suppress. This time it was different. She strummed on her guitar, connected to an amp, trying to play a new song she had been writing. With eyes closed, she tried feeling only the melody echoing. It was a slow and dragged guitar riff that played on sorrow and listlessness, while also being energetic at times. She felt the song and the song alone, singing alongside it, and it was like there was no bed, no floor, no walls, no ceiling, no castle, nothing. A familiar feeling.

She played guitar in the living room of her house when she was younger, before everything. She played a pretty bad solo, but her parents found it amusing and applauded it anyway. She knew she did wrong, but they accepted it regardless. It was nice.

Our little Mustard is going to rock the world…

It was her and the music. And then it was done.

Pinkie cheered and clapped her hooves. “YAY!! And you said you were rusty!! You’re out here rocking this castle, girl! And the song is coming along great!” Making her chuckle again.

“Thanks, pink. If you’re sure, I'm sure. It's a bit of a graduation, going from just magic shows at parties to playing together, but hey, I owe ya.”

Pinkie pouted. “You don’t owe me anything! We’re friends right?? Who’s keeping score!! We do this for fun!!! Besides, we’re only gonna play in small places like restaurants and parties and to our friends. No need to worry, girl!”

Despite minor worries, Sunset was chipper again; Pinkie had a way of doing that. “Hah, you’re damn right. Hey remember that time I choked Trixie out and kicked her out of a window in front of 14 kids hehehehe”

Pinkie Pie wheezed and they both did the motions of the badass scene, retelling its greatness, until they heard a knock on the door.

“Come in!”

Princess Twilight Sparkle came in with an air of curiosity. “Sunset, is everything okay? I heard– oh Pinkie you’re here too…” She struggled to hide a hint of disappointment. She liked Pinkie Pie, sure, but there were too many study sessions where Pinkie was present for what felt like a smoke bomb between her and Sunset. Couldn't fault the Pink Pony, but she felt a bit upset she couldn't get closer to the newest member of her team. Any of the nights where it was only her two together were really productive study sessions! –even if Sunset would often call it quits early.

The Princess scanned the room with her eyes briefly, being pleased that it was a bit more tidy than last times, at least.

Her eyes rested on the broken mirror, one Sunset had refused to replace, and had refused to explain how or why she even broke it in the first place.

Snapping her out of her trance, Pinkie waved. “Hiiiii Twi!”
Sunset smiled, ready to stop everything for her. “Princess Twilight! Hi! We’re not disturbing, are we? We can stop if you want.”

Twilight was a bit surprised to see her Unicorn friend holding a guitar; especially after hearing the melody echo on the halls of her castle; it was the first time she’d heard that. She was also a bit taken back by seeing Sunset wearing another one of her cool jackets. “S-sorry it’s just. I've never heard Sunset play before. It sounded pretty good even on echo!”

Sunset branded her guitar with pride. “Thanks, princess! Me and Pinkie were practicing to maybe play together at a small restaurant here in Ponyville! Did you know she plays drums?”

Pinke made a “badum tss” noise.

“Of course! It’s wonderful to see you girls working together! What are you playing, anyways?”

Pinkie giggled. “Sunsun is writing a looooove soooong!” The Unicorn froze for a second; As if the blood had drained from her body, she forgot that Pinkie was clueless about everything ever.

“Oh my!! That’s lovely! What's the inspiration?” Twilight covered her mouth with her hoof, blushing a bit. Writing a love song was just about one of the most romantic things anyone could do for her! Not that she had much experience on that matter.

On the opposite end, Sunset was having a minor panic, trying to find an out. “Well, I, uh,”
Pinkie stepped in again: “Some girl she’s pining for!” she said, cluelessly.

That certainly got a reaction from the Princess, who's eyes widened, getting excited, spreading her wings. “Oh my!! That's so romantic!! Who's the lucky devil?”

Sunset was looking right at her. “Um, I'd rather not say.”

“Ya know our girl likes her privacy!” Pinkie shrugged.

“Aww, alright, keep your secrecy. But I bet if I asked Rarity she’d know though! That girl susses out aaaaany crush or romance around. She's like a regular detective when it comes to lovey drama! It’s pretty impressive.” Twilight said, giggling.

“Don’t Ask Rarity” Sunset said with the voice akin to an undead wraith begging for mercy.

With a nod, The Princess let it be. “Alright, alright. But I do want you to do me a favor if you don’t mind, Sunset!”

“Sure, anything!”

“Play the song for me.” The Princess of Friendship sat down.


“I want to hear it properly! Is that okay? I couldn't hear it when I was passing by, and I'm curious about how good you are.” Twilight was genuinely invested.

With a long exhale, Sunset knew there was no out, despite considering jumping out of the window. “Okay, okay. This is a work in progress though, and I haven't worked out the lyrics that much. It’s small. Don’t judge too harshly, alright?” She said, smiling, knowing Twilight wouldn’t.

“Of course!”

Sunset inhaled, as she was about to start, but… Twilight was looking right at her. Her eyes were beautiful and reflected the afternoon light so well… The Princess was completely focused on her.. Sunset couldn’t start.

“Close your eyes. Trust me.” Sunset smiled warmly at the mare she loved.

Princess Twilight Sparkle closed her eyes.

What more can be said?

I couldn’t even make this rhyme.

I wanted to be honest with you,

But now we’re out of time.

My heart is full, but it’s aching,

I'm in for a rude awakening,

We move through the threshold together,

hand in hand we cross the line,

as we vanish, all I can think of

‘I want to kiss you one more time.’

She finished strumming on her guitar, exhaling. She heard Pinkie applauding excitedly again, and opened her eyes. Twilight’s jaw was wide open. “Holy Celestia Moly Sunset!!”

Sunset gave a modest smile. “What, did I do good? I rhymed ‘time’ twice, pretty amateur–”

Twilight stepped forward and put two hooves on Sunset's shoulders; Getting very very close. “THAT WAS VERY GOOD! It was super romantic and melancholic!! You’re so good at this!! Aaaah!!” she gushed. Sunset was flustering a bit, looking away.

Pinkie scratched her chin. “What did you call the song again?? I forgor”

Sunset looked directly at Twilight, still gushing in front of her. “It’s called ‘You and Me Eternal’.”

The Princess got down. “Awww… that's such a romantic title! Whoever you wrote this for is one lucky pony!!” Twilight fluttered her wings in joy, cluelessly.

“Haha you have no idea” Flustering even more, she let out an sigh of relief.

“Oh yeah!! Speaking of Sunsun doing cool things, show her the flip!!”

“Oh? Flip?” the Princess backed up to look better.

“Umm I don’t know if I should” Sunset scratched her own head.

Pinkie hyped her up. “Nonseeense pish posh and buggar!! You’re ready! Go go go!”

Sunset put her guitar away safely, made the two girls stay back, and did a flip in the middle of her room. She jumped with her back legs and landed with her front legs on a backward motion, and managed to stick the landing perfectly. She was worried she wouldn't make it, but she did it. “Ta-da!”

Both the ponies clapped and cheered. “Oh my!! I've never seen a Unicorn do that without magic!! That’s incredible, Sunset!!”

“Thank you, thank you. I’ll be here all week. You should thank Pinkie too, she’s been a great coach!” The Unicorn said, bowing.

“Awww stahp. You were a good student because you were okay with falling over and hurting yourself a lot! We got that in common :3” she said, shrugging smugly.

“Hah, yeah, no pain no gain.” Twilight, however, looked a bit worried at her; She could actually notice a few small scars and bruises on the Unicorn's body she hadn't noticed before; And more than one bandage. Sunset picked her guitar back up, to strum on it a bit. “Thanks for the visit, princess. I gotta get back to practicing now, if that’s okay! I work better with less people around...”

She would also work better with Twilight Sparkle’s beautiful eyes and beautiful everything not around.

“Oh! Of course, don’t worry, I'll get out of your mane. Thank you for the solo, Sunset! See you later Pinkie!” Twilight made her way out.

Pinkie waved joyfully. “Don’t worry, we won't bother you very long, I got a date with one of my girlfriends in an hour anyways! Byeeee Twilight!!”

“See you later, princess!”

Twilight huffed and pouted in disappointment walking on the halls of her castle.

“Twilight. Just call me Twilight…”

Days until Midnight Sparkle returns: 30.

The small dragon Spike arrived in The Princess’s chambers, pulling a cart with scrolls of all sorts. News, papers to sign, and letters.

“Twilight!! Hey Twilight! Got a buncha’ correspondence for you!” The little dragon excitedly waved.

The Princess barely averted her attention from her already busy work; lots of paperwork to review, and books to get distracted by. “huh yeah yeah”

He was used to it, so continued smugly. “Heh I know you’re busy, but I got one you’re deeeeefinitely gonna like! The bracket for the Regional race happening in Canterlot this week! Four days no less! Loooooot’s of interesting names in here.” he slid her the paper on the table.

She smiled a bit dismissively, eager to get back to work as usual, but indulging him with no issues. “Hah, sure Spike, I'll give it a read. I bet Rainbow Dash has already signed in!”

This kind of event was typical, just watching some good old fashioned competition was entertaining enough, and although it wouldn’t be the kind of thing that she did before being a princess, now it was a prime responsibility. A bit annoying to drag yourself out of wonderful books and studies, but necessary, on her position.

She calmly looked over the names, not many familiar ones, some she knew from Ponyville, some she thought she might know from Canterlot.
“Aha! There’s Rainbow Dash. I knew she’d– HUH???!?!?!!!?”

Twilight glued her face to the paper. She was NOT imagining it. “Sunset Shimmer” was written there. She knew that Sunset had been training, but this?? The Alicorn got a liiiittle concerned for her friend’s safety. And surprised. And also impressed, all of the above and more.

Spike giggled. “This one is gonna be a doozy huh? Not often we see two of our crew competing in something like this! I'm very excited!! Plus, it's nice to see Sunset trying something crazy. In front of Celestia, no less!” In front of Twilight, no less.

And the Princess was flabbergasted, staring at nothing. Sunset was participating in a regional competition, and she had VIP seats to it…

“Sunset, what are you doing…!?”

Days until Midnight Sparkle returns: 26.

The day of the competition.
Sunset did not find herself nervous that day. In fact, she realized how little she had to lose, and how much she had to gain. All her training and practice led her into a situation where fun was the outcome no matter what. Even if they lost spectacularly, Rainbow and her could always have a laugh about it. The whole crew knew about them both competing together at that point, so they were all watching and supporting.

All the girls hugged her and wished her good luck; Twilight especially stated a lot just how surprised she was, but proud of Sunset for even trying. Sunset managed to exude confidence and declare that she was just in there for a good time.

Sunset found herself smiling through the whole thing, even with missteps. Every time she had a chance she would glance at the VIP area just to see if Twilight was watching her; which she was, avidly. And at the same time, she avoided looking at Celestia through it all.

Rainbow Dash and her worked together the whole way; when there were obstacles for Pegasus, she cleared them, when there were obstacles for Unicorns, Rainbow gladly gave her support.

And not just that; Sunset found herself barely relying on magic. Galloping at high speeds, managing to jump on and over obstacles and dexterously circumvent threats, even pushing through with her new strength, she was feeling pretty unstoppable. And when she matched that agility with teleportation or levitation magic? She soared. They cheered each other on and joyfully faced obstacles at their own pace. Their friends cheered like crazy on the stands, and Twilight was mesmerized by how much Sunset had changed.

At times, when she got really exited, Sunset's magic would involuntarily cast flames and sparks around her; And despite that involuntary nature of the outbursts of joy, she still managed to control them perfectly, just being one more thing that drew eyes to her.

Sunset even managed to swing on a trapeze and propel herself forward during the competition; shouting “thank you Pinkie Pie!!” doing a couple flips before sticking the landing. Of all ponies, an unicorn to be capable of these physical feats was definitely a surprise. Pink, from the stands, went ballistic seeing her friend use what she taught her.

Rainbow Dash was absolutely joyful with having an athlete partner that enjoyed the thrill as much as she did.

There was a moment in which she choked, and almost hurt herself. Rainbow was there to cover for her, but unfortunately they both fell together, very near the finish line. The Pegasus got one of her wings and legs harmed, so she couldn't keep up at the same speed.

She begged Sunset to keep going; but she wouldn't have it. Sunset allowed other competitors to pass her as she grabbed and carried Rainbow on her back to the finish line, intent on them winning together, and even with the additional weight, Sunset pushed herself and maintained a very high speed, using all of her newfound strenght! (Much to Applejack’s delight.)

Rainbow kept suggesting that Sunset should drop her to get a bigger chance at first place, but she didn’t care; she wasn’t going to leave a friend hanging. A lot of people on the stands were surprised at this development, especially when Sunset put Rainbow down so she could cross the finish line first; and the Pegasus just smirked and shoved her through the finish line first instead.

In the end, they were in 5th and 6th place; not ranking high enough to get medals. But their friends congratulated them like they had just moved a mountain. This was Twilight’s biggest insight yet on how much Sunset had trained her dexterity and strength; she was beaming with pride over her friend, squealing. Sunset was over the moon.

Rainbow Dash bragged about this win as if she had gotten a medal encrusted with diamonds; even without a medal to remember the occasion, this was one she would keep in her heart forever.

And one of the best things about that day, Sunset managed to avoid meeting Celestia through it all, unaware of how proud of her progress her old mentor was, and unaware of how cathartic of a reunion that would be, having managed to avoid it completely.

Sunset and her close friends went to get dinner together in Canterlot after; it was the best damn pizza Sunset had ever had, surrounded by friends she never expected to have.

This had been pretty damn close to a perfect day.