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With the coronation’s reunion finished, and the sun finally lowering in the horizon, Sunset and the rest of her new friends were now surrounded by a beautiful and starry night. Some of them still hung around a bit longer, either for catching up more with Sunset, enjoying some of the leftover party food, or discussing ideas on where they could show her around in Equestria. However, since it was truly getting late, and some of them did have other responsibilities to take care of back at their own homes, Twilight’s friends slowly left Canterlot one by one. Each of them said their goodbyes while wishing Twilight good luck with her new royal responsibilities. After a while, only Twilight, Spike, and Sunset remained behind.
As Twilight finally waved goodbye to the last friend leaving past the castle walls, she turned her focus back on Sunset, whom she had expected would stay behind. While everypony else already had their own places to sleep, Sunset wasn’t so lucky, and desperately needed any help to avoid being homeless. Before Sunset could even acknowledge this issue, Twilight had already spoken up and offered a solution.
“Don’t worry about not having a place to hit the hay tonight, Sunset.” Twilight assured her. “I’m certainly willing to offer you a place in… well, technically now, my castle. You can take any one of the many rooms I have available. Honestly? This castle is huge, and if Spike and I are the only ones who will be living there, we’d feel bad about letting all this space go to waste.”
“We’ll have all the time in Equestria to figure out what we might end up doing with those rooms.” Spike added. “Maybe I could also give you a suggestion here and there, now that you’ve officially said I will be your royal advisor? How about a room completely made of delicious gems?”
Twilight only rolled her eyes at this idea, but smiled. “We’ll see, Spike. Right now though, we will reserve one of these rooms for Sunset. So, how about it, old friend, will you take my offer?”
Although Sunset really appreciated such a generous offer, she couldn’t help but internally feel there would be a place in Canterlot she’d much rather stay. Not necessarily because it was more luxurious than Twilight’s new castle, but due to sentimental reasons that really made her feel more at home. Sunset remembered what she had in mind earlier while arriving in Canterlot, approaching that familiar looking neighborhood. One of those houses definitely used to be her home shortly after she had moved out from her dad’s place. In fact, it was the same house Princess Celestia had given to her after she decided to take Sunset under her wing.
“Twilight, I appreciate this offer, I really do…” Sunset began. “But if it’s all right, if there is any vacancy within that small neighborhood here in Canterlot, I think I’d much rather take that instead. I used to live around that area back when I was Princess Celestia’s pupil, so it always held a lot of meaning for me.”
“Oh!” Twilight began to brainstorm what Sunset had described. “You mean the Canterlot rural area? That’s where we usually let students attending the School for Gifted Unicorns crash at, similar to an institution’s dormitories.”
“Yeah, that’s the place I was thinking of.” Sunset affirmed. “Would I be able to stay in any of those houses, assuming they’re not all occupied?”
“Earlier this week while I was filing the records of Canterlot to become familiar with everything, I noticed that all of the houses there already had tenants and leases.” Twilight recalled. “All except for… one. In fact, this is where it gets strange. While looking up the records for the vacant house, it appears that it had been empty for quite some time. When I questioned Princess Celestia, she only mentioned that it was always purposefully left untouched for a more personal reason.”
“Was it by any chance the house that’s located closest to the school?” Sunset inquired, as it all started flooding back. Her house here in Canterlot was the one on the far end of the neighborhood, as she also vividly remembered Celestia mentioning she specifically sought out for a home right next to the School for Gifted Unicorns. The princess had seen so much potential in her former student, and decided to go all out in making certain she had everything she needed to succeed in her studies. It felt a little bittersweet for Sunset to remember this, keeping in mind that making the right decisions later on during that point in her life could’ve possibly had her end up where Twilight was today. As a princess and good friend. Even if she couldn’t be a princess, Sunset was happy she would still always be the latter.
“Closest to the school…” Twilight tried her best to remember which house it was. “Wait a second, that WAS the house I was talking about! If what you’re saying is true, then that means you used to live at Canterlot Drive 216?”
“216… that address sounds so familiar.” Sunset insisted. “I’m almost positive that really is where I used to live. Do you think we might be able to go back there together, for a closer look at the place?”
“Okay, Sunset. But there might be a slight problem.” Twilight began to explain. “Since that house was left alone for all this time, to my knowledge, they never bothered changing the locks on the door. Unless you somehow still have the key to this supposed home, there’s no way for use to safely get in.”
“A key that looks like this?” Sunset said, after digging through her saddlebag for a while. She held a small, rusty looking key that was left untouched for ages. “Even if I abandoned my studies back then, it sure was a good thing I always somehow still felt I was making a mistake, and instinctively hoarded everything.”
“Oh!” Twilight exclaimed with surprise. “Well in that case, if that key unlocks it, then I can let you stay in that old home if you prefer. But you’ll still be welcome to stay in my castle if this doesn’t work out. I’ll come along with you to help if needed.” Before trotting away with Sunset, she turned to her dragon assistant. “Spike, think you could clear all the tables from the coronation?”
“I’m always honored to be a princess’s assistant!” Spike said with enthusiasm in being useful. “On it!” He began picking up all the dirty dishes from the tables.
As Sunset and Twilight went back through the castle from earlier that led to the main square, Twilight began striking up a conversation regarding something mentioned when Sunset was getting familiar with her new friends.
“So, Sunset?” Twilight began. “Earlier while you were getting to know rest of my friends, I was confused about one thing. You had a fear that the portal to the human world could one day shut down for good?”
“Well, to be honest, magic in the other world has always been unpredictable.” Sunset elaborated. She remembered that back when the human Twilight had a device that detects and absorbs magical energy, it rendered the portal at CHS inactive. “Let’s just say had an experience once where there was a device which made the portal’s magic disappear, and I was unable to go back to Equestria. I only found out what the cause of it was by luck though. And with how much of an effect magic can have on anyone or anything in the other world, it’s only a matter of time before one day, any outside source could remove the portal for good, and I wouldn’t have any clue what’s causing it.”
“I see…” Twilight began to internalize the situation. “I was thinking that this fear might come true if something happened to the old journal connected to yours. The one that I used to power the mirror in order to keep the portal open indefinitely. If someone stole, or better yet, destroyed that journal, then I’d definitely be worrying myself.”
“Yeah, I guess that’s true too.” Sunset agreed. “But for the most part, magic can be a lot more out of my control in the human world. I just know from experience that whether it’s a stone that erases memories, or a device that can make you relive the same day over and over, things always get weird when you feel like you’ve grown used to everything. That even goes for the portal itself. One of these days for whatever reason, I may want to go back to either one of these two worlds, and I won’t have the option to.”
“I can understand such a feeling.” Twilight comforted Sunset. “For the most part, you wouldn’t need to worry about something happening to the journal powering the portal here, since it’s always within a secure place. But as for the other world, you may not always know the cause of something magic-related immediately, but I know from experience you’ve always had the determination to pull through. Whether it’d be coming to me or your other friends for help, based on your friendship reports you’ve written to me, I saw that you never gave up. Dealing with unexpected Equestrian magic in a world that wasn’t meant to have it has never been easy, but you always have what’s most important. Perseverance and leadership, two qualities that I’ve rarely seen together in anypony else, and hey, I even used to struggle with them myself. If you ever find yourself in any predicaments in the future, be sure to remember that you are a strong unicorn, and you can always do what you believe in.”
“That’s a really beautiful message.” Sunset said softly. “Before I met up with you and your friends, I had little to no confidence in telling my human friends about my decision to stay for a longer period in Equestria. Now I feel like I have every bit of assurance on doing what must be done once I return for graduation. All I can say is, Princess Celestia certainly made an excellent choice for a new ruler. It’s no wonder wonder you’ve had the title, ‘Princess of Friendship’ for quite some time.”
“Thanks, Sunset.” Twilight replied with glee in her voice. “I’ve always been happy to help, and now feel accomplished in knowing we’ve all given you the best advice possible once you go back. I have been meaning to ask, however. Often when we discuss magic leaking into the other world, I’ve noticed you looking down and somewhat guilty. Is something else troubling you?”
“It’s just that…” Sunset began. “I always feel like it’s been my fault that the other world has to deal with Equestrian magic at all. Because I entered the mirror, and being a source of natural magic myself, I might’ve attracted other bits of magic that got lost and now linger around there. I’ve definitely been in and out of there enough times to have had some effect regarding this. Heck, I was the one who brought your Element of Magic crown there and turned into a raging she-demon. Who knows how much magic traveled through the portal because of me?”
“Don’t feel bad, Sunset.” Twilight put a wing around Sunset as they trotted out the castle and into the rural area. “I may not be an expert at how magic can travel between different worlds, but I know for certain that any bit of magic in the other world wouldn’t be your fault. Remember the time we researched the Memory Stone, and read that in ancient history, Clover the Clever chased the sorceress wielding it into the other world? Over thousands of moons ago, the portal was always open, and I’d imagine if Clover and a magical sorceress ended up there, then it’s a safe bet that if anypony could’ve prevented magic from entering the other world, that ship definitely sailed long before you entered the portal yourself.”
“I haven’t really thought of it like that.” Sunset said with a little relief. “I guess it was also partially my guilt from the past talking there. To this day, I’ve always felt bad for what I did to Princess Celestia, so I’ve always internally believed everything on my path up until I had accepted and embraced friendship was my fault. Thanks for always seeing the best in me, Twilight.”
“Hey, what are friends for, after all?” Twilight replied jovially. “And hey, now we’re in that neighborhood! 216 should be… just on the right.”
Twilight and Sunset had finally arrived at the house they were both thinking of. It didn’t look damaged or abandoned compared to the other homes, but they could both get the vibe that nopony had lived here for quite some time. With the moment of truth, Sunset took out her key and turned it on the door. By some miracle, the door had unlocked and opened, as the two ponies entered. Switching on the light revealed a normal looking household and a table with books and notes in the corner. Sunset had began to remember everything as she looked around.
Approaching the table, Sunset eventually recognized it was the same study space she spent countless hours at, reading up all kinds of spells and perfecting her magic. She found it amusingly ironic that for such a perfectionist back in the day, she would be the one who’d end up made a ton of huge mistakes later down their path. As Sunset looked through the papers, she mostly saw old notes from magic lessons with Celestia, giving her the idea that these could help her relearn the skills she had forgotten after so much time had passed. One of the papers stood out for looking different, and while picking it up, Sunset realized it was actually an envelope.
Sunset read the labels and saw it was from somepony named Moondancer. The name instantly sounded familiar, without counting the earlier mention from the human Sugarcoat. She began thinking back to her school days where she was around freshmares who had attended the same school, who were impressed with her magical skills. They had always complimented how exquisite she was in her spells, and were willing to have lunch with her, to where Sunset never cared much for. In fact, she had remembered only telling them she only had better things than to do than socialize, and that being Celestia’s pupil, hanging with unicorns of their level would be demeaning. With this memory in mind, Sunset didn’t find it surprising at all that she had never even bothered opening this letter. She finally did so, just to see what Moondancer had to say back then. She read it aloud.
Hello, Sunset! Being a new freshmare here at the School for Gifted Unicorns, I wanted to say that I’ve been impressed and admired how much work you put into perfecting your magic. I’m looking forward to getting to know you a bit better if you ever have time to socialize, but I’ll mostly be hanging in the school library. In the meantime, I wanted to invite you to my birthday party next week. I’m right down the road at Canterlot Drive 229. Hope to see you then, I’m really excited to have you there, and I hope you write back soon!
-Sincerely, Moondancer
Sunset simply sighed upon reaching the end of the letter. She never even knew the other students admired her this much and wanted to invite her to their birthday parties, only for her to just ignore them, let alone even opening the letters they sent. It was beyond reasonable that Celestia talked with her about the many reports of Sunset not getting along with the other students, and always lecturing about personal relationships. Just like Twilight, Celestia had always been pushing to see the best in Sunset, only for her to just shrug everything off and take it all for granted. Sunset lowered her head, just imagining how crushed Moondancer was to see she never showed up at her birthday party, or even at the library.
“If it makes you feel any better, Sunset?” Twilight began as she put a hoof on Sunset’s back. “I got off on the wrong hoof with Moondancer too. I saw my studies more important than coming to a little get-together party, which crushed her. Even a princess can make huge mistakes, and it certainly took a while before I was able to amend my friendship with her.”
“It’s not just her though…” Sunset said, as she looked back at the letter. “This made me remember how much of an arrogant upperclassmare I really was. To think, these ponies wanted to have lunch, or even share their birthday cake with me, and this is how I ended up treating them. I used to think Princess Celestia was too hard on me when she removed me as her pupil, but now I can see that she was always quite lenient with the mess I was. The fact that she didn’t do so long before I had discovered her mirror, it really shows how much love, care, and patience she had truly put forward for me.”
“Well, we can’t change the past anymore, but what’s important is that you feel remorse for your mistakes and are willing to correct yourself.” Twilight insisted. “And hey, Moondancer does still live in Canterlot, so if you’re planning to stay longer in Equestria, there’s always an opportunity to make amends. Better late than never, even from my experience.”
As Sunset took Twilight’s words to heart and began looking around her old home, something else out of the corner of her eye caught her attention. A picture of Princess Celestia along with Sunset in her filly days hung from the wall. Sunset approached it and held the frame, beginning to have an emotional moment recalling everything Celestia had done with and sacrificed for her.
“I understand now why Princess Celestia specifically wanted to keep this house untouched.” Sunset said, beginning to tear up. “As much of a terrible pupil and friend I was to her, she wanted to keep everything from my home intact, for both sentimental reasons, and the possibility that I would someday return after going through the portal. That’s how big her heart is. She could’ve very easily torn down this house or given it to somepony else, but she chose not to, just for me. Even after I screamed at her to make me a princess, and disobeyed her orders to keep away from the mirror.”
“Princess Celestia always knew how to show care and affection to all her students.” Twilight agreed. “It’s also why she chose not to hide the mirror in a more prominent area, as she always wanted to remind herself of your existence, and be prepared to have you someday come back. I’ve even talked with her on the matter sometime after retrieving my Element from the other world. She mentioned that regardless of how far gone you’ve become, she would’ve still done anything just to see you again. Just like in her own words when you first reunited with her in Canterlot, she had always missed you, Sunset.”
“I…” Sunset tried to find the right words while letting all her tears out. “I’m sorry, Twilight, I need a moment. I need some time alone to process and take all of this in. And yes, I’ve decided, this is where I’ll be sleeping tonight.”
Twilight was taken back at this, but realized that after how much Sunset had been through her whole life, and to now be reminded of so many unpleasant memories, Sunset needed some time to herself.
“Sure thing, Sunset.” Twilight assured. “I know my friends and I agreed to take you out to explore Equestria together, but if you’re not feeling up to it tomorrow, I completely understand. I’ll go ahead and let my friends know we might have a slight change of plans. I really hope you feel better soon, it does also break my heart to see you in such an emotional state. Good night, old friend.”
Twilight had slowly trotted out Sunset’s house, still looking at her with worry. As she had exited, Sunset had still sat there on the floor, holding and looking that picture of herself and Celestia. She remained there on the floor for what felt like hours, still crying and feeling to need to atone for her past actions here in Canterlot.


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