Hearth’s Warming Eve is tomorrow! I’m hosting a party in the Canterlot Castle. Would you like to join? Please respond as soon as you are able to so I can make accommodations as needed.
I’d love to join! Thank you for inviting me. I’ll see you tomorrow.
Then tomorrow came.
Sunset Shimmer stepped through the mirror. She blinked a few times before landing on her rump. She shook her head to clear her mind and stood up on all fours.
“You’re here!” The sight of a purple alicorn filled her vision. The two embraced quickly before each taking a step back.
“I’m so happy to see you again! Everypony else is already here. Let’s head downstairs and I can introduce you to a few of my other friends as well.”
“Who’s on the guest list?” Sunset inquired as the two headed towards the door.
Twilight thought for a moment before replying, “Well, you already know Starlight and the girls from the other side of the portal, though there are a few differences between them. I think that Starlight also invited Maud, Trixie unfortunately, and Sunburst-”
“Sunburst? As in… H-He’s here?”
“You know him?”
“I… You could say that... I can’t face him right now. I-It’s… one of my mistakes that I could never go back on…”
Twilight put a firm hoof on Sunset’s chin and lifted it gently, “Sunset, all of us have flaws and made mistakes before. The best thing we can do is to make for our mistakes and go forward. We learn from them. I know that you don’t want to face Sunburst, and you don’t need to tell me why, but neither of you will ever move on if you never try to move forward.”
Sunset’s eyes trailed to the floor, “I guess it’s never too late to apologize. B-But can Sunburst and I meet privately? I-I think t-that I-”
“Of course, Sunset. Go to the room to the right of this one. I’ll ask Sunburst to go there.”
Sunset went into the other room. It was a smaller and more peaceful room. It seemed to almost be a private tea room, without the tea. The room was comfortable and there was precisely one couch there, with enough space for two ponies to sit on.
After a few moments of silent panicking, the door creaked open. A different pony walked in the room. Although it had been many years since they’ve seen each other, Sunset could recognize him anywhere. She remembered how cute he was back when he was a mere foal, when he asked for a bedtime story or an extra cookie. She recalled his pleading eyes for attention, and how he groaned about his curfew.
Sunset also recalled her cruelty to her little brother’s infinite love.
“Setty, I wanna ‘ther cookie in shelf. Cookie good! I wanna eat!” He couldn’t have been more than two years old. He gave her a wide smile that foals perfected during that age.
Sunset barely glanced up from her book, “Go grab it yourself, Sunburst.”
“Can’t reach! Setty, help me. Please.”
“Well, Mom complimented you on turning a page morning, didn’t she?” Sunset controlled her voice, not allowing the boiling anger to show, “Levitate the jar, open it, and get your stupid cookie. It’s not hard.”
“But Setty, you good at magic. Mommy say you don’t levitate ‘til you go school.”
“Well, she’s wrong. Get that cookie yourself. I’m going to go to someplace quiet.”
“S-Sunset…?” Present day Sunburst stammered, “I-What? I haven’t seen you since I was f-four years old.”
Sunset took a deep breath, internally panicking. She would rather face the Sirens head on than to have this confrontation, “We should talk. Close the door and sit.” The dumbfounded stallion did as she told.
“D-Does Mom know that you’re here?”
“Stellar Flare is not aware of my presence as far as I know. Nor is your father, though I read that he disappeared shortly… shortly after I… left.”
“Yeah… He did go missing… We… are still uncertain of his location.”
“Where have you been? Mom told me that you were as good as dead. You were on several newspapers about being a threat to Equestria and that you were gone, banished by Princess Celestia. Mom took it hard…”
“Did she?” Sunset raised an eyebrow, “When I was here with Twilight, I saw an interesting article about Stellar disowning me to salvage her own reputation.”
Sunburst looked down and his horn glowed, forming a vision panel.
“What do you mean she’s gone?” His mother hissed, “What did Sunset do? What did you do?”
The princess stood at the door. To those who did not know her well, which was almost all of the population, she seemed to be emotionally detached, regal even, “Stellar Flare, I must ask you to calm down.”
“I don’t care! She’s my daughter! I thought that she would be safe from you and learn how to control her magical abilities, how to prevent herself from unleashing magic on an emotional discharge, and how to use her magic responsibly.”
“Leave and don’t come back,” his mother choked back a sob, “No disrespect, Princess, but my precious little sunshine is gone and I don’t know how to bear it.” Princess Celestia seemed to hesitate once before giving a nod of acknowledgement and leaving. After the door closed, his mother glanced at the table and seemed to suppress a sob.
Sunburst asked, “Where is Setty? I thought she was supposed to come over for Hearth’s Warming! I miss her. She’s been at school for years and promised me that she would be here.”
“Don’t speak of your sister here anymore. She’s no longer part of this family.”
“Sunburst, I’ll make sure that you won’t be like her. I’ll make sure that you aren’t harmed anymore. I’ll create checklists and you’ll have a future, a good one, I promise.”
“B-But Setty is my sis! I-”
“I have a friend,” his mother said sternly, “Who has a daughter named Starlight Glimmer. I’ll introduce you two and you can be best buddies. Forget your sister, she’s no longer here anyways.” She swiftly turned and trotted out of the room, leaving dead silence behind.
The vision spell stopped.
Sunset looked away, “She still disowned me, though it is partially my fault… I was always arrogant, so used to getting my way.”
When Sunset was young, she loved fire. She would light toys up and watch them burn slowly.
Stellar did not approve of her using her magic that way, “Sunset Shimmer, what do you think you’re doing?”
“I’m setting this on fire. I’ll put it out, don’t worry.”
“Don’t do this.”
“Why not? It’s my special talent.” Sunset pointed at her cutie mark. She had earned it shortly after lighting an object on fire, hotter than the sun’s flames according to some. It had sent a massive heat wave in Sire’s Hollow, destroying some crops, but Sunset couldn’t care less. Besides, she could control the fire, including the temperature, which made her think it was entirely safe to experiment on.
“It’s extremely dangerous and remember the consequences you faced last time.”
Sunset frowned, “Well, I can just take this outside. I’ll unlight it afterwards, I promise.” She looked at the snow outside from the winter.
Stellar hissed, “No, you’re not going to set things on fire outside. Think of what others would think of us. You would get arrested!”
“No I wouldn’t. I’m smart.”
“If you’re so smart, then go to Princess Celestia’s school. Become her personal student,” Stellar shot back with a slight laugh that told Sunset that Stellar did not believe that it was possible.
Sunset growled, “You know what. I will prove you wrong.”
“I see. My little sunshine, I’ll always be your mother and guide you,” her voice becoming slightly softer, “Think of that when you come back to me after the exam.” Sunset stormed out, her horn glowing.
Sunburst replied, “It doesn’t excuse it… but she always remembered and loved you. She would keep mentioning you around her friends, and frankly, I began to get jealous. I decided to try to match your standards. When I got my cutie mark in magic, I was elated to have a chance to prove myself. I… even left my best friend, Starlight, behind.”
“Starlight was my replacement.” It was a statement, not a question.
“My friendship with her didn’t stem from a good place and she never truly replaced you, Sunset… but she’s still a good pony.”
“Starlight’s a good friend,” Sunset said with a nod, “She saved my friends and me.”
Sunburst frowned, “Why do you still look so young? You look almost exactly like when you left.”
“Time… runs differently across worlds. In that world, I’m still in high school.”
“I don’t think that Twilight would approve anypony to study the magic from the mirror.”
There was a moment of awkward silence between them as conversation died out.
Sunset finally said quietly, “I’m sorry. I was a horrible sister. I can never make up for your childhood. You deserve a sister who actually cares about you and I was never that. You were a really good foal back then.”
He sighed, “I didn’t do well either… I flunked out of school.”
Sunset replied, “Well, did you turn into a demon and mind control everyone in the school?”
“Did you ruin someone’s life just because they were running against you for school presidency?”
“Did you bully everyone into submission and made them give you lunch money everyday because you had none?”
“No… Why are you asking?”
“Because, that’s precisely what I did. Sunburst, trust me, you did not follow my hoovesteps.”
Sunburst sighed, “At least you have friends now.”
“You do too.”
“I have exactly one…”
“Twilight mentioned a few other names to me. Apparently, there’s somepony named Maud who’s friends with Starlight.”
“I know Maud but she’s busy with geology. We did click the first time we met but we mainly hang out only if Starlight is around.”
“What about the other pony named Trixie Unfortunately?”
“Trixie is… well, you’ll see when we go downstairs. I-I mean if y-you go downstairs.”
Sunset took a deep breath, “Before we go downstairs… Sunburst, do you forgive me?” Their eyes met but Sunset quickly broke eye contact.
Sunburst gave a soft smile, “Sunset, I’ve already forgiven you. Though, do you forgive me?”
“You have nothing to be sorry for.”
“I was a greedy brat back then. I always sought Mom’s compliments and ways to make you jealous.”
“You were trying to get my attention.”
Sunburst stayed silent.
Sunset sighed, “Well, I have one afternoon of being here - being your sister - before I have to go back to my world. Let’s enjoy this moment before we part ways.”
“Why can’t you stay here? I don’t want to lose you again.”
“Sunburst, I don’t belong here anymore,” Sunset waved her hoof around, “I belong with my friends.”
Sunburst said quietly, “You belong with your family.”
“I don’t have a family anymore.”
“Family is past what’s on documents. You will always be my older sister, and I will always be your little brother. We’re bound by blood.”
Sunset gave a small smile, “I’m sorry, Sunburst, but my choice is already made. I’ll try to visit you when I come around Equestria. I’m afraid that I can’t make more promises than that.”
“I-I guess… I don’t want to lose you again.”
“You won’t, I promise. I will remember you.”
Sunset motioned to the door, “Let’s join the celebration now, make the most of the afternoon.” Sunburst gave a slight nod and they went downstairs.
On the way downstairs, Sunset asked, “So what’s been going on with you ever since I… left?”
Her brother sighed, “I got my cutie mark and went to Princess Celestia’s school. I flunked out since my magical abilities weren’t enough and after the Crystal Empire was re-established, I lived there. I’m the Crystallizer of Flurry Heart. Other than that, I’ve been doing odd jobs here and there. I finally settled down as Flurry’s babysitter. I still help with the library here and there when needed, and am able to read and research a lot of books. If I find anything very interesting, I send it to Starlight and we communicate about it over several letters.”
“Sunburst!” A slightly lighter purple unicorn teleported over, “Oh, and Sunset! Twilight did mention that you were coming today. Welcome to the party. Trixie and Maud are currently getting some food. Trixie is going to perform in a bit, and Maud is… studying the walls of the castle with her boyfriend.”
Sunset waved a hoof, “Hi Starlight. It’s nice seeing you again.”
“You as well. I have to go now though, to prepare Trixie for her performance. Would you guys like to come and see a preview of it? You can tell us your thoughts. I know that Trixie is usually some of what you showed her last time, Sunburst, so you might be able to give a few pointers.”
Sunburst hesitated, “Actually… Sunset and I were going to uhhh, hang out a bit at the gaming stations since she has to go tomorrow.”
Starlight narrowed her eyes, “Wait, you two know each other?”
“Yeah. She’s my sister.”
“Oh, thank Celestia that she isn’t your mare-I mean, never mind. I’ve got to go.” Starlight teleported away.
Sunset laughed before shaking her head, “Let’s go. You’re going to have to explain some games to me though, I honestly don’t remember the rules of a few games, and definitely not any games where there’s an age requirement.”
Sunburst thought for a moment, “I remember the game, Pin the Tail on a Pony, though I haven’t played it much. I’m sure Pinkie will explain it.”
“I’ve played that when I was a filly before and remember it quite well. Though, let me guess, Pinkie organized this?”
“Y-Yeah, do you like it or…?”
“Of course! Pinkie plans the best parties. Well, the most enjoyable ones anyways. I doubt that she would do well at Grand Galloping Gallops or any major noble social events.”
“I’d have to agree with you there.”
“Why don’t we ask Pinkie what to play?”
Pinkie popped up next to them with a booklet on how to play, “I heard games! Here and here, oh my god are you Sunset Shimmer I saw you before on the other side I mean never mind I didn’t see you here are your booklets oh and Sunset if you are staying tell me so I can plan your Welcome to Ponyville party. Let me know if you have any questions on the games my favorite ones are Pin the Tail and Applebobbing and well I like all the games so I dunno what to choose so I sometimes use a wheel and-”
Pinkie’s ear, left eye, and tail twitched at the same time, “Oh no! A confetti emergency!” She disappeared, leaving the book behind.
Sunset blinked, “Yeah, that’s Pinkie alright. At least we have this now.” She levitated it and flipped through it.
Sunset finally said, “Let’s just play Pin the Tail on a Pony. You good with it?” Sunburst nodded and began trotting to the direction of the game.
“I win!” Sunset shouted as she took off her blindfold to see that she had put the tail in the correct position.
Sunburst frowned, “I lost again?”
“C‘mon little bro, just ‘cause I came from another world doesn’t mean that I’ll let you win. Besides, I was a champion back when I was a student and was interested in defeating everypony in everything. This isn’t even perfect, I’m a centimeter off, though it still counts as ‘correct’ due to how well the average amount of ponies score.”
Sunburst noted, “Then I’m below average, aren’t I?” He had turned the tail into a mustache for the pony.
Sunset shrugged, “Guess so, though nopony could beat the champion.”
“Let’s play something else. What game on this list are you good at?” Sunset raised an eyebrow in Sunburst’s direction.
Sunburst scanned down the list and gave a slight frown. He had been looking for a trivia game on the list, as that was something he was good at due to all the books he read, but there wasn’t anything starting at that time.
Sunburst finally said, “Why don’t we go to Trixie’s magic show? It’ll be starting in a few minutes and you two could meet.”
Sunset gave a slight nod, “I did want to meet Trixie Unfortunately.”
“Unfortunately? If you don’t want to go, we don’t have to.”
“Isn’t that her name?”
“No, her name is just Trixie.”
Sunset bore a slight frown, “I wonder why Twilight said ‘unfortunately’ then.”
“Unfortunately, I might know why, but let’s go.”
The two quickly trotted to the small stage and sat among the crowd gathered, mostly contained of foals and a few adults.
A loud voice from behind the curtain spoke, “Welcome to the Great and Powerful show of Trixie, part of Trixie’s Holiday Tour around Equestria and Perhaps Elsewhere!”
Then the voice stage whispered, “It’s a working title.”
Sunburst chuckled and whispered to Sunset, “That’s Trixie alright.”
Sunset whispered back, “I regret this already.”
The curtains parted open and a light blue unicorn stood at the center of the stage. With Sunset’s Great and Powerful deduction levels, she assumed that it was Trixie who stood there.
The unicorn spoke, “Now I, Trixie, shall introduce her Great and Powerful assistant, Starlight Glimmer!” The other unicorn trotted out and waved.
Trixie addressed the crowd, “For our first trick, we will cut this newspaper and then crumple it together again. Watch and observe.” She took a newspaper out and did as she said before. There were polite stomps from the adults and the children cheered loudly.
Sunset frowned, “Did she cast a spell on the newspaper to reglue it? I didn’t notice any spell besides telekinesis before cast unless it’s a pre spell on the newspaper prior. However, there are some noticeable tells for that and I didn’t spot any.”
Sunburst chuckled, “Actually, I taught her that trick. Trust me when I say that there isn’t any spell on the newspaper nor did she use her magic to do that.”
“Hmph, I don’t suppose you can share?”
“A magician never reveals his secrets.”
Sunset raised an eyebrow, “You told her how to do it.”
“You caught me.”
“So will you show me?”
“I’m holding this trick hostage until you come back again.”
Sunset grinned, “Well guess I have to come back soon then.”
The three ponies, one alicorn and two unicorns, stood in the mirror room. The siblings faces each other as the alicorn stood their awkwardly, a silence spread across the room.
In an attempt to break the silence, Twilight motioned to the mirror, “Sunset?”
Sunset took a deep breath, “I guess I’ve gotta go.”
Sunburst looked down, “I guess so… When will you visit again?”
“I’m not sure yet.”
“...Do you have to go?”
“My life is there now. I’m sorry…”
“I’ll miss you. I feel like I’m losing you all over again.”
“Except this time, I’m coming back.”
“Cross my heart and hope to fly, stick a cupcake in my eye.”
Sunset took a few steps and stopped in front of the mirror. For a second, she turned back, “I love you, Sunburst.”
“I love you, Setty.”